That’s On You

I can preach from the Bible.

I can write blogs about all things related to faith. 

The Church can get teachers to lead classes on the Christian life. 

Leaders can put together groups for connection and opportunities for fellowship with other believers.

The people of the Church can provide childcare and godly instructions for young children within their care. 

We can purchase resources to give you, offer online training, and provide you with books to help you grow. 

The rest is up to you. 

If you are not learning, growing, and connecting. That might be on you. 

Didn’t Know It At the Time

Looking back on my life, I had no idea what God was doing most of the time. 

God used activities and people to shape me when I had no idea. I didn’t acknowledge any of his work, but I see it now. 

Even the little things like listening to my dad tell me stories from Church board meetings have proven significant. The pain and the joy I experienced through loss and victory have molded my emotions. Conversations with mom, the aloof kid in youth group, and both of my siblings helped prepare me for what I am doing today. I could not have imagined any of it was significant at the moment. 

God is shaping you today in the seemingly insignificant things in your life. He has something great in store for you and is using today to prepare you for tomorrow. So listen and learn because one day, you can use all of this for his kingdom.

Eliminating Other Possibilities

Recently I heard a woman describing her career path. She decided what she wanted to be in high school, chose a college to help her achieve her career goals, and then set out in full pursuit. She took internships that moved her in the right direction, part-time jobs to help her resume, and educated herself thoroughly in her field. Once she graduated college, she took her first job and started the career she had so long dreamed of for herself. 

Now she was a few years into her work, and she was unhappy. She was considering a job change when she said, “All the way along, I did not realize that I was eliminating other job possibilities with each step. Everything I did was to get me here and nowhere else.”

While they were words of disappointment for her, they also are encouraging words for many. The ruthless pursuit of their goals brought them to the current position of their lives. They are the doctor, accountant, lawyer, teacher, or whatever they dreamed they would be one day. This happened primarily because each step of their journey eliminated other possibilities. 

A life of faith is very similar. When we follow Jesus, each step should bring us closer to him and eliminate all other possibilities. The books you read, where you spend your time, the places you give your money, and the relationships you build should all be pointing you in one direction. 

Each life is the result of all the choices made along the journey. Are yours leading you closer to Jesus? 

Aftercare

Recovery is a process. Healing takes time. 

Whenever someone is hurting from anything, even their own sin or the sin of others, it is a painful experience. 

Once the initial pain goes away, then comes a period of much-needed aftercare. They will need follow-up visits, more prayer, open conversations, counseling, and the opportunity to heal emotionally. 

One failure I often see in the Christian community is that we are there for people when they hurt, and then we disappear. If the Church is like a hospital for sinners, then we need to understand there are levels of care. First, people will need an emergency room, then an intensive care unit, followed by a general population, and finally, some continued therapy. 

No one person can provide all these things, but people need all these things. The Church must work to bring people into a saving relationship with Jesus. Then we need to work together to provide the aftercare until they are able to return to independent living.

Needing Time Alone

One major characteristic of introverts is that they are re-energized by time alone. People deplete them emotionally, and spending time in isolation brings them back to equilibrium. 

I know this is 100 percent true of me. 

With that said, when an introvert wants to move away from people, it has nothing to do with how they think or feel about other people.    

If I say, “this is not a good time for me,” or “I just have nothing left,” it usually means I am emotionally drained and will not be the best version of myself around you and others. What I mean is, “I care about you, but I need time to recharge my battery before we interact.”

The need for time alone is not a personal attack on others. 

When I tell people this, people who are introverts like me nod in agreement. Non-introverts do not believe me and feel like I am emotionally unavailable. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am being honest when I say, “It’s not you; it’s me.” 

Time alone enables introverts to handle social interactions; please don’t take it personally. 

A Simple Act of Grace

The man began to talk with me about things of which he had no clue. He did not know that my background, education, and experience informed me that he was utterly wrong. 

His topic was not a big deal. It was not theology or Biblical truth. 

Still, he was severely misinformed about a topic that I knew well. 

I only smiled and said, “yes, huh,” and “wow.” I let him speak and never once got angry, corrected him, or made him feel bad about his ignorance. That may not sound like much, but it took everything within me to hold my tongue. 

One simple act of grace is treating people kindly when misinformed about insignificant things. 

Know Your Limitations

Jerry had come to the Church I was leading to preach a revival. He was a dynamic speaker and had some unparalleled success. He took over as a college president of a small Christian college. It had pulled itself out of debt under his leadership. Also, they had reestablished their priority of training ministers for the local Church and were doing a good job.

While serving as a president, he started working with a small group of believers. Soon it grew, and now he was also leading a growing Church.

So I was delighted when he willingly came to my little Church on a Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to speak each night at the revival and train the Church leaders at a couple of private meetings.

His insights were phenomenal. I took copious notes on leadership, organization, evangelism, and future planning. Finally, on Wednesday, I sat down with him and talked before he left town.

I asked question after question about things he had said during those days. He would frequently say, “I have a great article about that topic for you.” Then he would say, “Our Church has that implemented, and I will send you the paperwork.” Finally, I asked, “Would you like some paper to write all this down.” He declined and responded, saying, “I have a near photographic memory. I will remember to send you all this information when I get home.” I gave him my business card with my email and mailing address, confident in his reply.

I waited a week, and nothing came. “Oh well, he is just busy.” I thought. Then two weeks, a month, two months, and still nothing arrived. Six months passed, and then a year before, I finally gave up hope of receiving anything.

I have often wondered why he was unwilling to write down a few notes. I honestly think he was a good man who didn’t know his limitations. Unfortunately, he took on too much with all his presidential and preaching responsibilities to remember my questions. The result was that I was disappointed, and my Church may have missed better leadership resulting from his instructions.

It seems like a small thing, but even if you are good at something, you need to know your limitations. Relying on your talent will only take you so far. You will miss opportunities, disappoint others, and often limit God’s work through you.

Most people I lead do not claim to have a near photographic memory, but many rely on their talent and do not use the available tools. As a result, their spiritual growth is stagnant, their marriage is stuck, and their service is limited because they refuse to use something to make their work easier and better.

So my simple question is, “What tools are you using that will help you have a greater impact for the kingdom of God?”

Know your limitation, and then find the resources to help you move beyond them.

Delayed Returns

You will not receive your reward until …

Waiting is difficult to do. 

And yet, in most of the significant areas of life, the rewards or consequences for our behavior are not immediate. 

The best illustration of this is our health. A good diet and exercise may have a limited impact in a year, but doing it every day for 40 years will have a cumulative effect. On the flip side, neglecting your health will result in complications in old age that can’t be undone. 

People who commit to living for Jesus must clearly understand delayed returns. Our obedience to him rarely produces any immediate gratification. Instead, the rewards are seen after serving him in love for a lifetime. And many will not be experienced until after we die and we stand in the presence of Jesus.

Understanding this will enable us to walk through some uneventful seasons along with some dark nights. The light is always at the END of the tunnel, and it takes a long journey before we experience the joy of our destination. 

Messy Stories

When I first heard what happened, the situation was clear. It was easy to understand what transpired. The words and behaviors at that moment made perfect sense in my head. I thought everything was clear and easy to understand, but I was completely wrong. 

We all want the good guys in white and the bad guys in black. People who have an ugly attitude should do mean things, and seemingly friendly people do good things. Intelligent people should consistently make wise choices, and foolish people will frequently be in trouble. The people we like should always be kind to us, and the ones we don’t are expected to harbor evil intentions. 

Unfortunately, people and their behaviors do not always fit in nice clean categories.

To make things messier, the stories we make up in our heads are usually wrong. 

Our spouse might be trying their best to make us happy, and we assume they purposely try to make us mad. The person viewed as a selfless saint is more narcissistic than we imagined when we hear their motivation to serve. 

Life is messy, even a life of faith. 

Good people will make poor choices. People whose lives are chaotic and unkempt will show kindness in ways you never expect. Some brilliant people will ignore the inevitable events of life and pay the price for them. 

Life is a complex web of emotions, experiences, and expectations. Simplistic answers are rarely correct. Clear and easy-to-understand stories are usually wrong. 

It is easier to caricature people than deal with their multifaceted problems. Christians are called to bring grace, rather than judgment, to life’s messy situations. We do not ignore the troubling questions but embrace them with the forgiveness of Jesus. Even when we don’t completely understand the behaviors, our lives are beacons of love. The followers of Jesus point people living in a mess to the Messiah who can bring hope even to the most complicated dilemmas.   

Not Feeling It

I am often reminded of the boy scout who asked another pack member, “Do you ever have days when you feel just a little untrustworthy, disloyal, unhelpful, unfriendly, discourteous, unkind, grumpy, wasteful, cowardly, dirty, and irreverent?”

As a Christian, I know there are days that I don’t feel good, kind, righteous, joyful, giving, or loving. So what do you do as a believer when you do not feel very godly?

The answer is, “Keep doing the right thing anyway.”

Allow your actions to flow from your faith and not your feelings. 

Whenever you don’t feel like being kind, do it anyway. Whenever you don’t feel like giving, give anyway. Whenever you don’t feel like being a godly Christian person, stand up and do it anyway.  Everyone has days when they do not feel like being the person God is calling them to be. A sure sign of Christian maturity is when you do it anyway. Soon your feelings will change, and you will be much happier knowing you did the right thing from the beginning.