Christian Living

Helpful articles to encourage followers of Jesus.

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

Finish Well By Staying Focused

It has been amazing to hear the stories of Billy Graham’s impact on so many people in the last few weeks since his death. Billy Graham is a man who finished well.

I’ve been preaching through Judges some recently and we see a different story in Gideon. He didn’t end well. We can learn at least two ways to end well by looking at Gideon’s poor example. This post is the first way–stay focused. Stay focused on God’s ways for your life.

Two manifestations of Gideon not being focused on God’s plan:  

Pursuing his own desires

Gideon didn’t finish well because he became consumed by pursuing his own desires. In Judges 8:4, he leads his 300 men across the Jordan toward the east to pursue two kings from Midian. God won a large battle for the Israelites over the Midianites (recorded in chapter 7), and used Gideon as a leader in that work. In chapter 8, though, there is no mention of the Lord working–just Gideon.

First, he pushed past boundaries that seem unwise. He crossed back over the Jordan, which would go beyond the area of the Promised Land that God gave. His motivation is clear: retaliation. The kings killed his brothers, so he wanted to kill them (Judges 8:19). Nothing seemed unreasonable to Gideon in that pursuit.

Being harsh with God’s people

Gideon could be seen as a brutal aggressor in this passage, even to God’s people. Succoth was established by Jacob initially, and Penuel was the site where Jacob wrestled with God and God dislocated his hip (Gen. 33).

Gideon asks them to supply bread and both refuse. Gideon’s response to Succoth when he didn’t get his way: “So Gideon said, ‘Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.’” (Judges 8:7, ESV) Woah! If you have that response to people who don’t go along with your plan, there’s something wrong with your heart!

Gideon told Penuel that he would break down their tower, probably referring to the defensive tower of the city. In other words, I’ll make you vulnerable and defenseless. Sadly, these weren’t empty promises (Judges 8:13,17).

Gideon wasn’t focused on the Lord’s plan all the way to the end. The last records we have of his leadership over Israel is this debacle and what we’ll look at next week.

What is your motivation, and how do you love others?  Answering this will help you know if you are focused on the Lord’s plan for you.

 

Photo by Shane Drummond on Unsplash

God’s Commands Are Not Burdensome Because You Are A Conqueror

If the pressure of the world is mounting, remember that if you are in Christ, you are staring at a defeated foe. You are no longer under the control of the world’s ways. Don’t give up!

3For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden,  4because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. (1 John 5:3–4, CSB)

God’s commandments are not burdensome, contrary to what some might think. God’s commands not being burdensome is connected to the fact that those who have been born again have overcome the world. Do you see the first word of v.4— “because”?

Think about how the world impacts us. When the bible talks about the world in the figurative sense, it is talking about the ways associated with a sinful fallen world.

24The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient,  25instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. 26Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24–26, CSB)

Do you realize that we are born into sin, and therefore, are slaves to the will of Satan?  We are in bondage to sin. If you think God’s commands are burdensome, then you don’t understand the futility of the world’s ways.

It’s burdensome to pursue greed; lust; anger; wealth in order to find satisfaction because they will never bring lasting, eternal fulfillment.

Yet, while being in bondage to sin and burdened by the world’s ways, some ironically look at the way of freedom that Christ offers as being burdensome!

Here’s what John says: His commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. The burden has been released by Christ! His ways free us from the world’s futile ways and lead us into the way of righteousness. We have overcome the world, so the way of freedom is not a burden!

In fact, our slavery has been flipped around in a sense:

17 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over,  18 and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. 19 I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification. (Romans 6:17-19, CSB)

Photo by nour c on Unsplash

You Don’t Need Scripture & Your Fleeces To Trust God

What’s the deal with Gideon’s fleece in Judges 6:36-40? This passage is one of those strange ones in the Old Testament that makes you wonder how we are to apply it to our lives. Here’s the summary:

Midian and other pagan nations gather together, cross the Jordan River, and camp at the Jezreel Valley. The battle is set between this pagan nation and God’s people, Israel. The Spirit of the Lord is empowering Gideon and God’s people gather when Gideon sounds the trumpet and sends messengers to bring them in. This is going to be a big battle!

You would think that Gideon would be fully confident because God already told him that He would save Israel through Gideon. But instead, Gideon asks for another sign (God has already been gracious to give some) that God would do what He said He would do. He asks him twice to perform a sign with a fleece he lays down. First, to put all of the dew on the fleece and not on the ground around it. Second, all the dew on the ground but not on the fleece.

Gideon is testing God.  And that was a sin. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah” (Deuteronomy 6:16, ESV). Gideon must have known this because he asks the Lord in verse 39 to not be angry with him! In fact, there is only one time the Lord says it’s okay to test him, and that is with bringing in the tithe and seeing God’s blessing (Malachi 3:10).

This passage is an example of a descriptive passage (explaining what happened, not necessarily endorsing it), not a prescriptive passage (command). We know it is a descriptive passage because Gideon is committing a sin and he even knows it.

Some people ask the Lord for a supernatural sign of some kind before stepping out in faith. But He has already given us His Word! The whole time someone might be asking for a sign, the Lord has already given guidance for the right things that are to be done. Some believe that there will be a new revelation from God, something outside of his already-complete Scripture (the 66 books of the Bible), and they cherish that false idea more than the truth that God has already given to them.   

Just because Gideon put out a fleece and God answered his request to make it wet and the ground dry does not mean that this is how God speaks to everyone. Don’t think that you need the Bible and your fleeces (or just your fleeces) to hear God speak. God was gracious to Gideon–his was a very specific situation of a timid servant needing some reassurance.

Let’s put our trust in the Lord and His Word and not in signs.

Photo by Hisu lee on Unsplash

Two Reminders for Overcoming Timidity

A page in A.A. Milne’s book The House At Pooh Corner said,

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

Have you ever felt that way with God? You just want to be sure of His presence with you. In moments of weakness, we can be timid in obeying the Lord. Yet, Psalm 100:2 tells us to serve the Lord with gladness. How do you reconcile those feelings?

Let me encourage you: by God’s grace, timidity can turn to confidence.

2 Reminders For Finding Victory Over Timidity:  

You are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In Judges 6:34, The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon. He was completely covered and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God for his task. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit would empower people for specific purposes at specific times.

The difference now is that the Holy Spirit dwells permanently in all who have repented of their sin and believe in Jesus Christ.

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…” (Ephesians 1:13, ESV)

Christians are in the spirit, not the flesh. The flesh can become timid, but living by the Spirit can change that.

9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11, ESV)

You have the same Holy Spirit dwelling in you that dwelt in Gideon and even raised Jesus from the dead!  So when you look out at your task for the Lord and you feel timid, remember that you are not working out of your own power—take time in prayer to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s strength in you.

You have the truth of God to guide you (36).

V.36 is so interesting. Gideon starts by saying “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have said…”  When did God become a liar?  If He already said it, why would you question if He’ll do it?

Timidity comes when you don’t trust the words of God. If you don’t trust the words of God, then what are you going to trust-your words? The words of others? Everything becomes shaky at that point. God has spoken, it is true, and we can follow it faithfully.

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5, ESV)

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19, ESV)

To be guided by Scripture, you need to listen to what the Lord has said and obey those commands. As you’re faithful in those, you’ll grow in faith and gain more wisdom and discretion to be faithful in more specific situations in your life (Proverbs 3:21).

  • You might say I just don’t like this job and I hate going everyday.  The Lord has commanded that we work with all of our heart (Col. 3:23), so you need to be faithful to that command until another door might open.
  • You might say I just feel like I have no control of my children. God has given much instruction on parenting, so study those passages and put them into practice.

You have the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God to guide you! Be faithful and bold to be committed to the work God has for you.

Are there specific verses or ways that help you overcome timidity in your life?

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