Christian Living

Helpful articles to encourage followers of Jesus.

Serving The Lord Can Be Depressing If You Forget This

 

If you think you have ever faced a difficult task, listen to what Jesus told His disciples to do: “. . .you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, ESV)

Wait—to where?

How were 11 men and the other few faithful followers of Jesus at that time ever going to be able to accomplish that mission? They didn’t even know yet how large the earth was, let alone how to get to all of it!

If you think your work for the Lord is overwhelming or impossible, then you’ve forgotten that God’s mission is fueled by God’s Spirit. It is easy to begin working out of human strength to do divine work because we are naturally proud. We have the intellect or skills to get the job done. Or so we think.

If you keep reading in Acts, you will see how Acts 1:8 unfolded.

Jerusalem. The believers were in Jerusalem when Acts 1:8 was spoken, and once the Holy Spirit was poured out on them at Pentecost (recorded in Acts 2), they began proclaiming the good news about Jesus. Their ministry focused in Jerusalem until Acts 8, after Stephen’s martyrdom: “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1)

Judea and Samaria. So, ministry began in these regions when believers were dispersed from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:4–5, ESV).

It wasn’t like the disciples sat down one day and drew out a map of how they could get to the end of the earth—they didn’t even know where those places were! The Holy Spirit will orchestrate God’s plan better than you ever could.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I was really disappointed after my first Easter weekend at my current church. So much planning went into the events of that weekend several months before. The events were organized well, the promotion was catching, and the services were very thoughtful and designed for impact. Lots of time and work went into it and when it finally came around, less people attended that Easter service than what the attendance had been for the couple weeks before.

I spent days wondering why more people didn’t show up and why there weren’t salvation decisions and people coming forward for prayer. I realized with some help from godly men that I am not in control of the Lord’s work. I’m just the vessel he occasionally chooses to use, and the Holy Spirit empowers the work just like He did with the disciples.

It was the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit that moved God’s people out beyond Jerusalem, and it is the Holy Spirit who continues to empower the work of His servants in taking the gospel to the end of the earth.

It’s true—serving the Lord can be depressing if you forget that God’s mission is fueled by God’s Spirit.

Be That Somebody Else

Note: This article was written by Kelly Marsh, communications director at Central Baptist Church, Marion, OH, and used with her permission.

 

Somebody should, Someone needs to……

It’s a phrase I hear often today and it’s a phrase that tends to bug me when I hear it. It’s an attitude that so many take and it’s a frame of mind that is growing, and I don’t think it’s a good thing. As a mother of teenagers I would often get frustrated when I would find empty plates or cups lying around, clothes dropped in the middle of the living room carpet. I would gripe at the kids, “Who do you think is going to pick this up? “Do you think if you just leave it there and walk away, somebody will take care of it?”

It frustrated me to no end that they were so self absorbed, and disrespectful to not pick up after themselves and just assume they could leave things for someone else to take care of.

Last weekend my husband and I took the afternoon to ride the full Tallgrass bike trail. On our way down the trail we passed a much older gentleman on a trike bike, riding along and balancing a leaf blower at the same time. He was peddling down the trail blowing off the leaves. I was blown away (no pun intended) at his thoughtfulness of doing this.

It was amazing how much nicer the ride was with the path blown off for us and so many others. It was not for just a small section, but his path went on for miles. I thought of him my whole ride just how neat it was for him to do this.

Yesterday we again went to the trail to get a ride in, and not to my surprise we passed him on his quest to clear the trail. I tried to say hello and thank him as we rode by, but I felt a bit guilty because he did not hear us coming over the blower and jumped a bit when I said “thank you” as we rode by :).

Since yesterday I have not stopped thinking of him and his willingness and kindness to serve others in this way.

Two things strike me I feel compelled to write about.

First….at a stage in his life when some things are more challenging and frustrating, he is still finding a way to contribute and help others. How much easier and natural would it be for him to sit at home, feel sorry for himself, throw his towel in and say “someone else can take care of that.”  

He has seen a need and he finds a way to step up and serve his community. He may not be able to do all things he wants and would like to do, but this is something he can do, and he does it. He could resolve to thinking a task like this should be done by someone else, someone younger, someone more agile, yet he finds a way to still contribute and fill a role that is important and needed.

Maybe there are parts of things that each of us can’t do, that’s ok…find what you can do and be selfless enough to do it. Thank you sir for stepping up and doing a job that means so much to many. You are a fine example to so many and a reminder to me of the blessing you can be when you put yourself aside and serve others. You ARE a blessing to me and I appreciate you and your selfless heart.

Second…no matter what age and stage you are in life, try to BE that somebody else. Too many people sit back in the peanut gallery and constantly offer up their contribution statements of “someone should” or “someone needs to”. Who is that someone? Who is the somebody that needs to? Why can’t YOU be that someone?

It’s easier to sit back and pop shots on what all should be done than to step up and lead these needs. It’s like we think in every school function, church ministry, work project, and community need- there is a mystery staff of people behind the curtain that is responsible for making things happen. We offer our opinions of how it should be done, criticize how it is being done, and even suggest ideas of how it needs to be done.

Who do we think is responsible for DOING it and why aren’t we asking ourselves what part of this can I step up and help do? We are all busy and we are all stretched thin, I get it, I live in this same busy life too.

I’m not suggesting that we need to jump in and lead in everything, this can be very unhealthy as well. But I will be as forthcoming to say I’m tired of the attitude that someone else will do it. Someone else will lead that group, someone else will plan the meals, someone needs to pick up this conference room, and I wish someone would organize  _________ (you fill in the blank).

BE that someone else. Try switching your mind from thinking someone needs to step up and lead and fix or do something better, and accept that you can be that somebody else.

What You Worship Shows Where You Seek Satisfaction

When you are seeking, look in the right direction.

We were playing hide and seek as a family once a couple years ago and everyone had been found except four-year-old Sydney. All six of us were looking for her and after a while, we got a little panicked. Did she run off, did somebody grab her when no one was looking?  

We looked in the backyard, the neighbor’s yards, and the pond that was across the street until we finally found her–underneath a blanket in the garage, sleeping! We were across the street and she’s asleep in the garage!

When you are seeking, look in the right direction.

David shows us in Psalm 63 that we worship what we think will satisfy us. So when you are seeking satisfaction, make sure you look in the right direction. Or in other words, look in the direction of our Creator God; worship Him and you will find satisfaction for your soul, the innermost part of your being.

David paints a clear picture of his condition and desire for worship in Psalm 63:1: I seek you earnestly; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  

Get the picture? A desolate condition of searching for what will satisfy the innate longing in his soul.

What do you do when your soul has that kind of desire in a world that is full of earthly deserts?  Verse two gives the answer: Thus, I have seen you in the sanctuary, to see your power and your glory. This is a declaration of worship, and we will only find satisfaction in our souls when we are in the proper place of worship (sanctuary) and the presence of God (power and glory).

Regarding the place of worship, however, there is a difference between David and us. In David’s day, the sanctuary would have been the Tabernacle and later the Temple.

But in John 4:21-24, Jesus states that the time is at hand where we will worship in Spirit and Truth. God is spirit.

Today, worship is not assigned only to a certain space but is always possible because of God’s presence in you through His Holy Spirit.  

You can have the Holy Spirit  in you by repenting of your sin and believing in Him.

You do have the Holy Spirit  in you, then, when you are saved.

When you are seeking, look in the right direction. The natural desire in your soul will lead you to worship. We were created to worship. Make sure you look in the right direction, and then find satisfaction for your soul.

 

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

One Tip for Handling Criticism With Grace

Criticism can be difficult because it can be easily interpreted as an indictment on your competence and worth.

Last week I wrote about one idea in Amy Baker’s book on perfectionism and now i want to share and expand on another of her thoughts. Baker gives this tip for handling criticism: start with what God says about you, not what someone else says.

This reality can be a tough reminder because Psalm 14:2-3 says,

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

Now wait–why is this the verse offered and not something we might think is more uplifting? Here’s the point: God’s assessment of us is the most damning criticism we will ever receive, yet He has graciously made the way of forgiveness and freedom possible when we go to Him in forgiveness (see Amy Baker’s book, Picture Perfect, pg. 134).

Unlike some who just see our faults and condemn us, God sees who we really are and still sent His Son to pay the price for our sins (Romans 5:8). With that in mind, we can listen to criticism and not be completely crushed because we have hope since we will not stand in ultimate judgement before any earthly critic but before a loving God.

This is the message of Romans 14:10: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God”. Constructive criticism is possible and helpful, but I’m referring to destructive criticism in this post, which is what is in view in Romans 14:10. Some can’t seem to refrain from criticising for reasons that might be the topic of another post, but the focus here is on your response to criticism. The command to not pass judgment on your brother is rooted in the fact that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. In other words, be more concerned about God’s judgment than man’s.

It is wise to listen for any truth in criticism and to repent of any sin if present. But let criticism stir you to a greater understanding of your worth by realizing that the One who truly knows you inside and out doesn’t hold that over you but chooses to forgive through Christ (Romans 8:1) and offer life to its fullest (John 10:10).

Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash

The Distortion of Perfectionism

I recently read Amy Baker’s book Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn’t Line Up and think you should too if you deal with perfectionism like she describes: “What I accomplished took on a life of its own, and I was in danger of seeing what I got done, rather than Jesus, as the source of my perfection” (pg.2).

She lists some trademark characteristics of perfectionism:

  • you want to be the best in everything you do;
  • you have very high expectations for yourself and others;
  • you are very upset with yourself if you make a mistake;
  • you feel guilty for relaxing;
  • you feel like you are never doing enough;
  • you are very particular about the details of tasks;
  • when you perform well, you analyze your performance for the weak spots and quickly gloss over things done right;
  • you want something done right or not done at all;
  • you are perceived by others as a role model;
  • you feel others are never satisfied by your performance;
  • you compare yourself to others;
  • you do not attempt things you know you cannot complete with excellence;
  • you are frightened by the thought of failure;
  • you procrastinate;
  • your relationships are often strained or difficult;
  • you feel like you will never be perfect; and
  • you rarely experience joy (ppg.8-9).

This list is exhausting! Just reading through these tendencies made me feel overwhelmed and I can see how a perfectionist will often feel paralyzed in any kind of fruitful work. I agree with Baker that there are positive and negative traits in this list. The struggle seems to come when a person easily crosses that line of not properly having her eyes on Jesus as the perfecter of her faith but relies on herself to bring about perfection—a never-ending quest!

When life doesn’t go just the way a perfectionist plans, then frustration, anger, and unhappiness can set in. Baker hits a high note when she reveals that perfectionism is distorted because a person would not quickly become angry or frustrated in situation because these are not “perfect” responses (12). The tension lies in the fact that God created people to reflect His image, but sin has created tension in this pursuit of reflecting the image of a perfect God. Not only that, but sin has led to a man-centered definition of perfectionism that focuses on performances and outcomes that glorify man and not God.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Stop looking to yourself as God and trust in the only One who can give you righteousness that is worthy to stand before the Lord.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, ESV)

Photo by Blake Richard Verdoorn on Unsplash

You Need To Use BlessEveryHome.com

Go to BlessEveryHome.com and sign up to receive a daily email with the names and addresses of five of your neighbors so you can pray by name for them. This ministry is incredible! Here are 5 reasons you need to use Bless Every Home:

You are praying by name for people.

This prayer ministry guides you to pray specifically. Imagine what the Lord would do if his people are praying for their neighbors by name. Real people. Real close to you. You might not know them or their needs but you can pray for their salvation, family, or whatever else comes to mind. When you sign up, you receive an email every day (or on whatever days you choose) with five names of families near you.

You are conscious of opportunities to pray, care, and share.

When you log in to your account, you will see 5 main metrics on your dashboard:  households adopted, households prayed for, households cared for, households shared with, households discipled.

You can click on the map option of your account and view the locations of your neighbors. When you click on a neighbor’s icon, you can record notes, or click on an icon to show that you prayed, cared, shared (the gospel), or are discipling that neighbor. Just having a system like this reminds you that your neighbors are there and that we need to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:39).   

You can see others in your neighborhood who are praying.

Called “Lights in Neighborhood,” you can see who else is praying (they must be sign up for this ministry obviously). Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit you are inviting by connecting with others in your neighborhood and praying together for your neighbors!

 

Go sign up! What do you like about Bless Every Home?

Delight in Understanding the Two Sides of Every Story

You’ve heard that there are always two sides to every story. Both sides are trying to win or at least trying to be justified in their position.

You might be on one side of the argument or you might be the mediator who is trying to discern the situation. It happens at work (some corporations even have mediation teams), at church, in families (parents with more than one child know this situation all too well!), and elsewhere. Proverbs 18 has great wisdom for navigating these situations, beginning with this ground rule:  “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2, ESV)

Don’t be foolish in conflict–take pleasure in understanding!

The fool is selfish.

He only is concerned about expressing his opinion. There is no desire to listen to or understand the other side. The fool will likely interrupt the other person if they give that person a chance to talk at all. The fool will aggressively correct parts of the conversation he feels are wrong.

The fool’s mouth is destructive.

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Proverbs 18:6–7, ESV). When you take selfishness into a conversation, it will easily escalate into a fight and lead to destruction.

                      It is destructive outwardly
                      It will involve others. “Invites a beating” indicates that other parties are involved.

                      It is destructive inwardly
                      The fool’s mouth wreaks havoc to his own soul. Proverbs 18:4 says, “The words of a man’s                          mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” Words come from                            our heart (Matt. 15:18), so imagine what is happening to the heart or soul of a person who                            harbors such selfishness and bitter words. All of his being will be affected.

Follow this Simple Rule

Listen before you answer and consider the other side in order to discern well.

The goal in a conversation involving conflict is in Proverbs 18:5: “It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.” And verse 13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

I say this rule is simple, but it’s not. Our pride will influence us to be the first to speak, to get ahead of the game and be the first to strike. But verse 17 tells us the problem with that: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Once we have heard the other side of the story, considered how the other person was thinking and how he was impacted by the situation that led to conflict, then we can begin to reconcile the situation in a godly way that seeks unity and not pompous victory.

There are two sides to every story; do you delight in understanding?

Is The Gospel Worth More Than A Nickel?

There are only 5 known 1913 Liberty Head nickels. One of them was thought to have been lost for a long time. By 1936, the set of 5 coins was auctioned off and then split up. Different collectors bought the different coins, and eventually one of them ended up in the hands of George Walton. He purchased it in 1945 for $3,750, equal to almost $51K today.

In 1962, on his way to a coin show where the Liberty Head Nickel was among his displays, he was killed in a car crash. The family was given the coins and put them up for auction in 1963. The Liberty Head Nickel was returned to them because the appraisers said it was not authentic.

So the coin just sat in a strongbox on the floor of a closet in his sister’s home, for over 40 years. In July 2003, the American Numismatic Association (ANA) were going to display the 4 known Nickels and they put out a reward for the 5th. The Walton heirs took the nickel to Baltimore, MD, to the ANA convention and there it was determined to be the 5th known Liberty Head Nickel. It eventually sold in 2013 at auction for $3,172,500.

For 40 years, the family possessed something of incredible worth but just hid it away in a box. Is this how you treat the gospel?

We have the most valuable, greatest message ever known to man! And probably the majority of those who claim to know Christ and follow His commands keep it hidden.

If you are a Christian today, you are under the mandate of the what we call the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV)

Are you doing your part to share the gospel or do you keep it hidden?

 

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1913_Liberty_Head_nickel

Photo by Kim Gorga on Unsplash

No, Don’t Be Colorblind: Practical Suggestions for Multi-ethnic Families

Some have commented on some gray hairs they supposedly see on my head. I usually tell them I’m sorry they are going colorblind. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about race.

And I’m asking you not to be colorblind.

Instead, celebrate it.

Nikki and I have five children under the age of ten; two by adoption and three biologically. Five of us are white, two of us are part black and part hispanic.

We have been a multi-ethnic family for almost two years now, and have not faced many challenges or had to deal with many difficult situations regarding race. The few ignorant comments we or our children have heard have been ones we could talk through with our children pretty easily. I expect it will get more difficult as they get older.

Opinions on race and diversity are in full swing with the 50th anniversary recently of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and because of numerous situations around our country. One of the statements I’ve heard come up again is God is colorblind or I don’t see color. This is so sad and wrong because it doesn’t recognize the beauty of God’s creation.

I understand the intention of those who say that, but I think it sends the wrong message that we don’t care to see the differences that naturally exist in humanity; and perhaps when we say we are colorblind, maybe we are just picturing everyone else looking like us. You can’t help but see the differences in people, and we shouldn’t strip people of those differences or the stories behind those differences.

I see color. And I celebrate it.

Others have written great pieces from a theological perspective on this idea of not being colorblind, like Trillia Newbell. But here, I want to specifically encourage multi-ethnic families to celebrate their diversity in practical ways.

Talk About It At Home

You can’t help but see the differences, so don’t be shy to talk openly about them. We do this in simple ways like when Nikki makes two different shades of sunscreen to protect all of our skin best. We have no trouble saying this one is for the darker skin and this one is for the lighter skin. We talk about why our children use different skin and hair products, and we recognize that some of our children get rosier cheeks than others when they’re embarrassed. We laugh when one of our sons sticks a comb in his hair and when the other makes a mohawk with his hair. We don’t get upset when they see a darker skinned video game character and say it’s Manny! They are recognizing differences. And differences are okay.

We talk about the statements our children hear at school from other children, like why that child might have ignorantly said Africans are weak. At this point, the depth with which we discuss the history of racial tension is getting deeper, and will continue as they get older. But we don’t shy away from discussing difficult topics to the degree they can understand. We want our home to be a safe place where questions can be asked and topics can be discussed.

 

Talk About It With Others

Sometimes other people aren’t sure what to say. I get it. They don’t want to be offensive. So it might help if we talk openly with those who are more reserved and help them realize that it is okay to ask questions or recognize the obvious.

I took the boys to their first baseball practice last week. I introduced myself to the coach while the boys were huddled up nearby. I was trying to point out my sons, and the coach reservedly tried to ask for a visual indicator of who they were exactly. He politely asked the one with the yellow on his sweatshirt? I made it easy for him: the one with the black sweatshirt and the one with the darker skin (my son was the only darker skinned boy there). Just that simple permission to recognize the obvious made for a brief okay, thanks from the coach and might open the door to other conversations.

Learn About It

You might not understand everything about a particular race or culture. You might not know how to do certain things. Don’t remain ignorant about it–be open to learning!

When we first found out that our adopted children were coming home, I called an African American friend of mine and said I don’t know what to do. What do I put in his hair and how do I use a hair pick? I hear that your skin is ashy–what do I do about that?  He was kind enough to tell me exactly what kind of brushes and picks and lotions to get. Now I know what I’m doing.

During the foster care status days before the adoption was finalized, I remember that our case workers were not permitted to initiate a conversation about some of the things they knew we wouldn’t understand, like how to care for African American hair. We had no experience with that kind of hair, but the rule at that time was that the social workers could not tell us about it unless we first asked. I remember thinking that was so strange–why is it taboo to tell us how to care for a specific type of hair?

Along those lines, I remember a great blessing we received when a friend of ours brought a basket of girl hair products to us within the first few days of the children coming home. She explained how she used them on her daughters who had similar hair types and even showed Nikki how to do some things. Nikki has gotten pretty good with all kinds of hair now, and I remember when she was learning how to do braids a certain way at first. At the pool, a group of African American women complimented our daughter’s hair to Nikki. That was very kind of them, and Nikki followed that up with can I ask you a few questions? They were very gracious to teach her a few things.

Take time to learn. And when you learn, marvel at the uniqueness of God’s creation.

Dream About It

I thought I’d end by telling you about some fun conversations we’ve had around the dinner table. Every so often the children will talk about the future–how many children they want to have, where they’re going to live, and what occupation they’ll have. Several times, the kids would say something like what if Sarina marries a white guy? What if Caleb marries an Asian girl?

Our response: how cool will our family picture be?

Dream about the future together, and celebrate your diversity as you do. Let your children (and others) know that we don’t need to fear the backlash that might come from some ignorant people in these situations. Let them know that they don’t have to be selective about their future based on some warped ideals that some might hold.

No, don’t be colorblind.

Celebrate it.

How do you celebrate your diversity?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

You Are A Preacher

For some reason, God chose to let us be part of his divine plan of redeeming sinners. Without the preaching of the Word of God, people won’t hear, and if they don’t hear, then they won’t believe and then they won’t call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:14-15).

Now this isn’t just talking about the formal preaching setting in a church worship service. The word kerusso that is used in Romans 10:15 means to preach, herald, or proclaim. Anyone who has been saved by Christ has the responsibility to proclaim that Good News to others.

You are a herald in your home;
a herald in your workplace;
a herald to your family;
a herald in a classroom at church;
a herald when you are at the store;

All of us are preachers in the sense that we are to herald the Good News.

Romans 10:15 asks how someone will preach unless they’ve been sent. I want you to know that if you are saved by Jesus Christ, then God himself has sent you to proclaim the Good News. This is how it has always been:

  • It was the Lord who directed the feet and mouth of Moses and Old Testament prophets as they heralded God’s Word.
  • It was the Holy Spirit who came upon Old Testament followers of God to empower them for a mighty work.
  • It was Jesus himself who called the original 12 disciples and taught them.
  • It was Jesus who told us that He has all authority in heaven and earth and then sent them out to teach all the nations everything he taught them.
  • It was Jesus who promised that the Holy Spirit would empower the believers to forever be empowered for the work of evangelism.
  • It was the Holy Spirit who came down on that day of Pentecost and indwelled and empowered every believer.
  • It is the Holy Spirit who will give you the words to say (Acts 2:15).

So yes, God sends us to proclaim the Good News of salvation to a lost and dying world.

So why are we often so silent?

What needs to change in your life so that you are actively fulfilling Romans 10:15?

 

Photo by Anna Vander Stel on Unsplash

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