It happens to me regularly after a worship program where I have preached. Someone will come up and say, “I enjoyed the message today. I really wish (fill in the blank) would have been here.” They tell me about their family member who is addicted or child who is straying from the faith, or a non-believer who needs a good dose of the truth.
One natural response to hearing godly instruction is to think, “Who else should hear this?” If someone is challenged, inspired, and helped by a sermon, I think it is wonderful that they want other people to receive the same information.
The problem occurs when we stop asking, “Who else should hear this?” and modify it to simply, “Who should hear this?” While similar, it is an entirely different question.
Some people come to Church not to change themselves but with the hope that others will change. They think, “I hope my children will listen and not be so self-centered.” Others contemplate how wonderful life would be if my spouse finally became godlier in their actions toward me. We muse, “Work would be so much better if my coworker would finally stop being such a jerk.” These people are no longer looking for anything in their life to change, yet they can clearly see where everyone else would benefit.
The first question of Bible reading, teaching, or preaching must always be, “How does this apply to me?” Once you have put on your own oxygen mask, only then can you help the people around you.
When I go to hotels, I don’t make the bed, clean the room, or care about how much water I use. It is a one or two night dwelling that I do not own. I am only a temporary user. As a result, I don’t show any pride in my living space or sense of connection.
My home is where I care about appearances. I invest in keeping it nice with my time and energy. It is my permanent dwelling. I take pride in how nice it looks and how well it is maintained. Home has emotional connections to the past and contains hopes for the future. The old saying is that “Home is where the heart is.”
The Bible teaches us that life here on earth is temporary, and our home is found in heaven. Grasping that truth will radically change how we approach this life and the things here on earth.
An old song states, “This world is not my home. I’m just passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
You are a mess. You sin and continue to choose sin. This leaves you feeling guilt, shame, and remorse. You are a failure who is flawed to your very core. God laid out what he wanted from all of us, and everyone fell short. All like sheep have gone astray.
You don’t need to be yourself. Even the best version of you. It is terrible advice to tell someone, “Go be yourself,” or to say, “be true to yourself.”
You need to become like Jesus. Christ living in you is the hope of glory.
The world doesn’t need you. It doesn’t even need a better version of you. People need to see Christ living through you. He is the only human worth becoming. He is what your life needs and the one for whom the world is searching.
It is always easier to deal with the sin “out there” in the world than it is to deal with the evil “inside here.” The sins of others are easy to see, label, and offer suggestions for overcoming.
The difficulty of faith is to address the issues inside of our hearts.
Before you try to change someone else, take a long look in the mirror. The world needs fewer people trying to coach others into righteousness and more people trying to be righteous themselves.
Start making adjustments with the person in the mirror. That should keep you busy for a while.
People often mistake wishing to God as being the same as praying to God.
A wish is defined as a desire to have something that will probably not happen. Often, people dream of a particular outcome, so they wish upon God and hope it will happen. They don’t expect it to occur, but it would be nice if it did.
Prayer is a request presented to God that will further his work and worship here on earth. A righteous person gives their needs to God and expects him to respond with power and grace. Therefore, prayer is rooted in trust and comes with a level of expectation.
Save your wishes for birthdays and falling stars. Believers are people who pray in faith.
This person told me a story of seeing an item in a store that reminded them of me. They looked at it and said how they thought about buying it but then talked themselves out of it. Their final statement was, “It’s the thought that counts.”
I have heard that expression since I was a child. Someone had a good idea and then didn’t follow through, and they say, “Well, it’s the thought that counts.”
Today I want to lay alongside that another phrase: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Having good thoughts and intentions does not count for anything. Just because you thought about doing something good, you do not get any credit for it. Likewise, feeling like you need to do something good and then not acting is worthless. Your good intentions, positive thoughts, and feelings of “someone should do something” are of no help.
What counts are words like; Service, Love, Do, Give, Help, Share, and Action. These are the words that count for something.
Saying to someone, “It’s the thought that counts,” might make us feel better in the moment. Unfortunately, it is a lie, and it is an easy way to fool ourselves into thinking we are living the Christian life when we are walking a different road.
One struggle for anyone in the Church and especially those involved in ministry is to keep from becoming calloused and hard-hearted.
Almost every day, I have people lie to me. Weekly, I deal with some type of ugliness from someone who calls themselves a believer. Regularly, I encounter people with a profound lack of faith in positions of influence. I have met people who abuse the systems for their laziness or addiction. The list of things that make me shake my head is long and painful.
So how does someone keep their heart from becoming hard and their words from being jaded? The typical answer I see across the internet is, “draw close to God through Jesus.” There is much wisdom in this thinking as God is the one who transforms us from the inside out through the power of his Holy Spirit. Spending time in prayer and reading your Bible are two ways to keep from a hardening of the soul.
I would also add one more item to that suggestion. Draw close to Jesus through his body. One of the beautiful blessings of being a part of the local Church is that I also get to see people at their best too.
This past week we hosted a Vacation Bible School at our Church for ages four years old through eighth grade. We had well over a hundred and twenty kids and over fifty volunteers who helped pull everything together. Each night, I take responsibility for the trash and any odd jobs that occur. This allows me to walk around and talk to people, watch our volunteers, and observe the children.
Weeks like this soften my heart. I watched teenage young adults help children with projects and learn the lessons. With that – another callous falls off. I saw kindergarteners excited to learn the Bible each night. And another area begins to soften. I spent time with senior adults helping children have a snack, and the workers get fed. I saw the smiles of Jr. High students as they made gifts for the local police. Every night I saw something that transformed me and my view of people.
If you are not part of a Church, I hope you will pray and read. You need to draw close to Jesus somehow, but I am not sure you will ever be as close to him as when you are watching his body of believers show his love to others.
Sure this week was exhausting. It is always that way. But it was also fulfilling. It is always that way too.
Recently a person I know was challenged by a family member to run in a long-distance race. His first response was to purchase an expensive pair of special shoes for runners. He had not run his first step, and he has the nicest shoes on the market for his race.
By contrast, I was out walking at the local high school track, and a lady arrived who was also walking. She was wearing the cheapest flip-flops for shoes as she tried to walk fast around the oval. Flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop all the way around. All I could think was how hard that must be on her feet, ankles, and knees. She was walking and had the worst shoes for walking.
I think the goal should be somewhere in the middle. Get decent shoes and start working from there. Walk a lap, then a few, add a few more until you start running. Start with something adequate and work your way up to the nicer tools.
This type of thinking is played out when people come to faith. Some people feel like they need the best app they can purchase, the most expensive Bible software, and an oversized fancy leather Bible while they never read a page. Other people are trying to read an old Gideons King James New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. There is not a lack of effort on their part, but they struggle to grow because they have inadequate tools.
If you want to grow in your faith, you need a simple free Bible app like the “You Version Bible.” You might also want to get a paper Bible in either ESV or NIV without expensive binding or extensive footnotes. A paper Bible and a Bible app will get you started. All you must do is start using them. Read page by page and book by book until you become fluent in the scriptures. Then you can expand your toolbox.
With a couple of tools in your possession, you are ready to start. So get started and see what God is saying to you today.
Have you ever met someone who had a dream you knew was unattainable? They pictured themselves as sports stars or singers who would one day be rich and famous. They aspired to write, and their concepts and words were not enjoyable. They wanted to be something they were not gifted to become.
Everyone else knew it, but they didn’t know it yet.
Meanwhile, you sat back and waited for the day to come when they realized it. You knew there would come a day when their eyes would be opened, and the truth would become apparent. Until then, there would be an endless string of disappointments.
Self-awareness is difficult.
We tend to see ourselves with a distorted lens. Like a funhouse mirror, our image looks different from what exists.
One challenge for a follower of Jesus is to see both Jesus and ourselves accurately. We need to be clear about our flaws and shortcomings along with our giftedness. It takes an honest self-understanding to improve as a believer and servant of Jesus.
Everyone shoots each other unbelieving looks when certain people take the stage. They see what this person cannot see in themselves. You don’t want that to happen when you tell people about your faith.
I have never been a fan of using quotes. Friends in ministry love to place quotes in their writing, sermons, speeches, and blogs. Still, others share an endless supply of them on social media from every book they read and sermon they hear. They are only valuable for me when I know the source, the context, and the story behind them.
Sometimes people have tried to use quotes to teach me. There was the professor who continually said, “People don’t care what you know till they know that you care.” A lady I know likes to remind people, “Preach everywhere you go, if necessary, use words.” The list is long of all the statements people have made about faith regularly to me and others.
My caution is simple. Make sure they align with scripture. That quote that you love may be great, but it might not be Biblical.
Let me take my professor’s quote, for instance. Jesus went from town-to-town preaching. I know he healed people and showed compassion to them. But he also preached the truth. Some came to hear him simply for that fact. The Apostle Paul would stop in a town and immediately start teaching about Jesus. He spoke the truth of the resurrection, and lives were changed before he even knew the people. The problem with the quote is it creates a false dichotomy. You do not have to choose between caring and teaching. As a believer, we are called to do both.
Quotes can be great. But make sure they are not ever equal to the Bible in your mind. Then take them and run them through a grid of sound teaching of scripture to make sure they align.
It is okay to enjoy a quote because it underlines the truth. But, never allow it to replace your Bible. And never allow it to let you avoid the acts of righteousness we are called to do. Never, ever let it become a way to fuel your selfish agenda above God’s.