When You Think You’re Really Something

We live in a society where being “really something” is relished.  We spend our days watching folks on television who are the “cat’s meow” whether it be a bigtime politician, a subject expert, super athlete, model, a “foodie” celebrity, movie/tv/screen stars and on and on we can go.  When we find ourselves in the presence of a high-profile person, we make fools of ourselves as we attempt to get close to these individuals.  If we can get a picture taken with them, our day, week, month and maybe forever is made.  “Oh, my gosh, an autograph would be heaven!” 

Please don’t get me wrong.  I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I idolize some athletes. My two favorite autograph pictures in my office are Nolan Ryan pounding Robin Ventura on the head with one arm as he had the other one wrapped around Ventura’s head, and Jason Witten autograph picture running down the field without his helmet fearlessly against the dreaded Philadelphia Eagles.  Both are cherished. Busted…I feel these guys are really something. 

Our society idolizes stars.

Paul the Apostles (called Saul by the Jews) started his career being idolized by the Hebrew nation.  There was an uprising in their country that had to be handled before it got out of control.  Saul was a brilliant man, a leader, a scholar, a rising star who had a powerful demeaner who could more-than-handle this problem for them.  Man, did he!  He went house to house throwing Christ-Followers in jail and had others murdered by his “hit men.”  One of these was recorded in Acts 7 when he had one of the popular leaders in the uprising church, Stephen, killed.  Here is how the Bible recorded Saul’s effort in Acts 8, On that day (day of Stephen’s martyr) a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.  Christ-Followers scattered to save their lives.  Saul was fixated on wiping Christ-Followers out and the activity of the church had been paralyzed.  The Hebrew leaders were ecstatic.  This guy, Saul, is an unbelievable enforcer getting rid of pest…good riddance.

H-O-W-E-V-E-R, something happened in Saul’s meteoric, hero worshipped career.  As he was receiving all kinds of kudos from his nation, he decided to move outside of Jerusalem (church was under wraps there) to Damascus where another uprising of these rogues must be squashed.  However, on the road to Damascus, Saul dramatically met Jesus Christ to the point that physically he was blinded by light.  The very first statements about this episode were recorded in Acts 9 Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  This powerful man was brought to his knees!  He recognized at that moment, Jesus, whose followers he persecuted, was Lord and verbally confessed that being saved.  Then, the voice of Jesus instructed him, “you will be told what you must do.”   This egomaniac Saul discovered that Jesus was now his Lord and Master.

After rejecting the Jewish law-based religion, Saul became known as Paul the Apostle and was no longer idolized by the Hebrew nation but despised and hated.  Many times incarcerated for long periods, he reached out to the world with the message of “Jesus saves by grace and mercy” and the world was turned right side up.  Here is how Paul explains it in Philippians 3 If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. Paul admitted that he was an up and coming star in the Hebrew world.  However, after meeting Jesus Christ, he recognized all of the notoriety, scholarship, profile, hero worship, fame, respect even reverence was “garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

As Paul stated in Galatians 6, If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.  When you think you’re really something, be careful! 

God’s Not Noisy but the Devil Is

The devil is a noisy dude!  1 Peter 5:8 explains his temperament, Be alert and self-controlled always. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  The lion roars to paralyze their prey isolating them from the herd.  Once isolated, the prey becomes an easy target.  The Apostle Peter experienced the devil’s noise firsthand when he was “paralyzed by fear” at the noisy trial of Jesus and denied Christ three times.  How broken and defeated he was after experiencing the loud viciousness of the devil!

H-O-W-E-V-E-R, the Bible states definitively that we stand victoriously together in Jesus.  John 16:33 declares, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Let’s go back and chew on this verse a bit:

  1. in me (Jesus) you have peace
  2. In this world you will have trouble” (noise!)
  3. But take heart!” (don’t be scared, discouraged, fearful, worried, depressed, isolated…)
  4. “I have overcome the world.”  Jesus kicked the devil’s butt!  Excuse me for my blue-collar background but what I just said is the truth.

1 John 5:19 clearly states the position that we as Christ-Followers have been placed, “19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  We live in a loud, noisy, confusing, selfish, self-centered, hurtful, lustful, tempting, viscous, boastful world under the control of the devil.  That is bad news…right?!  However, a couple of chapters in front of this verse, John gives perspective to the “children of God” in verse 3:8, The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”  Amen and Hallelujah!

So, what should we do?  Go back to the initial verse above in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and self-controlled alwaysnot fearfully but confidently.  Enjoy the encouragement of this forceful verse, 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid(John 14:27).

Rest and be at peace as you reflect on Proverbs 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Our God’s not noisy.

Speak the Truth in Love

I am a recovering “people pleaser.”  For years, the gage for personal satisfaction was based on my relationship with others.  In most cases, I was considered an all-around nice guy.  It was important for me to be popular at home, at work, as a youth sports’ coach, at the grocery store and wherever else I went.  My reality of personal truth and subsequent speech passed through my pleasing-others filter.  For years, with a wife and two daughters (three strong women…😊), I felt my job was to keep peace.  So, my words were an attempt to console. Frequently, this led me to not support my wife’s stronger views of discipline.  Why?  I prioritized my daughter’s approval.  “Hey Rick, not exactly how God says a man should act,” you may be thinking.  And, you are right!  For years I based relationships and speech on fear rather than on God’s word.

God through Paul the Apostle describes how to speak to one another in Ephesians 4:15, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  Let’s pull the pieces of this verse apart so that we can get to its full meaning.

  • Speak the truth.”  Truth is fundamental and all powerful in relationships and in the spiritual world.  Let’s make sure that we have a clear definition of what truth is not and what it is.  Truth is not based on your reality and what’s best for you.  In this scenario truth becomes relative and self-centered.  It is not that at all.  The bible speaks clearly on this in John 17:17, Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Doesn’t get any clearer than that.  The truth is God’s word.  Speak the truth based on scripture to one another; then, your relationships become rock solid.  Never forget this.  The one word that terrifies the devil is “truth.”  Why? Because he has been selfish from the beginning and has propagated a “truth-based-on-me reality.”  He cannot handle truth founded on God’s Word.
  • In love.”  Speak the truth in the sphere of agape love, the love of Jesus.  There are 15 characteristics of agape love shown in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres).  I encourage you to commit these characteristics to memory recognizing that this will take some work.  What two of these are you the weakest?  Work with the Lord to make these a reality in your behavior.  Select a weekly accountability partner who will hold you to this.  Once these become a habit, your character will look more like Jesus.  Then, tackle two more!
  • We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him.”  If you and the folks around you base your speech to one another on the 15 characteristics above, you will grow and mature looking like Jesus whether it is your marriage, your family, your Life Group, your recovery group or your fellow employees.  Will it all happen at once?  No, it may take time.  Looking back on your life you will be grateful. 

Speak the truth in love

Walk In Wisdom

On Sunday, my wife and I decided to do a scavenger hunt! Unfortunately, it wasn’t for fun things like hidden treasure, pirate’s booty or accessories for my truck! We were search of the elusive … toilet paper, hand sanitizer and eggs!!! We literally went to every store in our area and found NONE! We did make it our goal to buy something from each store which was fun! At one of the stores, my wife asked the 16 (or so) year old cashier when their trucks came in and if they would have toilet paper because, she explained, she can go without food, but toilet paper is a whole other issue!!! The cashier, looking over each shoulder like he was going to provide us with some piece of classified information, whispered, “6am, everyday, there will be toilet paper!” As you can imagine … I was up at 0-Dark-Thirty on my way to the rendezvous under the cover of darkness!

We have seen the videos of people fighting over items like toilet paper and couldn’t believe that this is what our country has come to! Covid19 doesn’t even cause symptoms consistent with requiring 400 rolls of TP! God NEVER ceases to amaze! In the midst of all of the chaos, He provided peace. When our country, even the world, is fearing scarcity, He reminds us that He is Jehovah Jireh, “the Lord will provide”!

The Lord reminds us many times in his Word that He is in control and we are to trust in Him:

Psalm 20:7 – Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Proverbs 11:28 states, “Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. And in Proverbs 28:26 we are told, “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”

Let us keep our eyes where they belong … on Him … and keep lifting up those around us who do not believe and are fearful! I believe the Lord will use this time to grow the church and I believe He is wanting me specifically to do something to grow from it! I pray we each hear from Him and follow through with His leading!

A Slow Clap Not a Fast Clap

On Monday of this week I wrote a blog called “Push the Pause Button.”  It is an encouragement to learn to “listen.”  You discovered in James 1:19&20 that James the brother of Jesus challenges “everyone” to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.”  As believers in Jesus, listening before speaking is becoming a servant placing another’s needs before you own.  As you begin to practice “active” listening, you discover that you have to choose to “push the pause button.”  You want to speak quickly yet James tells us to be quiet and listen.  Developing this habit is a huge step in your relationships and ministry to others especially your spouse and kids.  And, by the way, it is tough to do!  Why?  Because listening makes you vulnerable and requires patience and kindness.  The purpose of true, sincere, compassionate listening is a genuine attempt to hear another’s viewpoint, feelings and hurts.  And, active listening is giving an ear even if you don’t agree.  Let me assure you, that’s tough!  You have to be courageous when you feel misunderstood by the speaker (sender).  However, another does not want to hear from you until they have been heard.  And, don’t forget, it may not be the right time for you to rebut their comments.  The sole purpose is to hear them out.  Be “quick to listen.”  When you choose to not speak your views, it will impact the sender.  This impact may be small because they may feel that this is an attempt to manipulate them.  However, you make it a habit and you will most likely fundamentally see a positive change in the relationship.  Be patient and kind…the 1st two characteristics of Jesus’ listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

When it is time for you speak, don’t forget James says, “be slow to speak.”  It does not mean to come flying out the gate with strong even harsh words.  Your words should be a “slow clap” not a “loud clap.”  Think about the energy differential and the resulting reaction between a “slow clap” and a “loud clap.” 

One of the best verses regarding the manner that Christ-followers should speak to others is located in Ephesians 4:29 written by Paul the Apostle29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Let’s do a quick analysis of this verse.

  • The words that come out of your mouth cannot be unwholesome.  Wholesome means as it sounds.  It challenges or encourages another person to be or to become whole.  The ESV uses the descriptive word, “corrosive.”  Do not let any corrosive words proceed from your mouth.
  • Then, this verse tells you do something that you can only do if you have carefully listened and paid attention to another person.  Paul builds upon the word, “wholesome”, by telling us our words must be “helpful for building others up according to their needs.” 
  • Furthermore, Paul tells us what the purpose of our speech must be… “that it may benefit those who listen.”  It is for the benefit of the receiver.

This is so different than our current worldly power talk.  Often, we feel that we know what’s best for another whether they agree or not, and, “by George, I am going to give them the ‘what’s for’!”  How’s that working for you?!  You genuinely may know what the other one needs.  But, until they know that your words are spoken from a compassionate, edifying heart, the words will not get through the listener’s wall of feelings and will most times end up in anger or “whatever” spoken or absorbed.  You may find that kids or a spouse or others mechanically hear to get you off their backs only to discover later that it had little to no impact on their behavior.

Never forget the old saying, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!”  Slow claps not fast claps.

The Bible and Jesus

A new concept I am wrestling with is to know and obey Christ, not know and obey the bible.  From his book The Only One author Curtis Sergeant writes: “Scripture provides the first test in discerning the voice of the Spirit, but it serves as the beginning rather than the end of God’s conversation with us.”

Knowing Scripture is important and necessary, but it is knowing Christ and obeying him that is the ultimate objective.  Not to earn our salvation, but as a result of it.

Jesus points to this in John 5:39,40 when he chastises the religious “know it alls”: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

We all must study the Word of God but we must know and obey “the Word”, Jesus (John1:1).

This can be tricky but it is essential that we not miss the forest for the trees.  Jesus is our objective, our King, our Master who is to be worshiped, obeyed, imitated.  The bible is the all important source to THE source of life and the one to whom we are to be like.  We are to study, learn from, and spend time in the bible.  But we are to imitate, obey, be like and spend time with Jesus.

“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn:2:6)

Push the Pause Button

Speaking the obvious, I recognize that the coronavirus is having an enormous impact on our world, our nation, our state, our community and most importantly our families.  Whether we like it or not, our governmental leaders are demanding quarantine inside our homes except for emergencies and the necessities of life (medicines and groceries).  So, we are pretty much homebound.  Some of us are “stuck” at home with our family especially kids who are now being educated virtually feeling like we are the educators not their paid teachers.  Most of us are trying to keep up with our jobs and even more painful, trying to keep our jobs.  What a mess!

In our current family environments, let me suggest that each of us practice two very practical, descriptive verses found in the Bible.  James 1:19&20 declares, 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  Let’s take a close look at what James, the brother of Jesus, is trying to say here.  He prioritizes listening over speaking and reacting. 

Before I go any further in this blog, we must go back into the verses and see who James is talking to.  You will note that he is talking to E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.  God wants A-L-L of us to become good listeners.  We should listen not to win an argument, scream how stupid they are, hiss some hurtful expression under you breath.  James states that G-O-D wants each of us to become a good listener.

God wants us to be slow to speak and slow to become angry.  Do you know what James is trying to tell us?  Push the P-A-U-S-E B-U-T-T-O-N before you speak or get angry.  If you don’t, there is a high probability that your conversations will not be safe or healthy.  “How do I do that,” you may be asking?  You do that by putting yourself in your family members shoes by carefully listening whether you agree with them or not.  Remember, you are not trying to win an argument but trying to genuinely understand. 

The following bullets set “quick to listen” into action. 

  • Attempt to mirror back to the family member (sender) what they just said (“let me make sure that I got what you just said…” mirroring back to the sender their comments.  After mirroring, you ask a simple question…“I want to make sure that I got it right…is there more?”).  This may take several times before you accurately mirror what they are trying to say.  I recognize that you may be thinking how silly their comments are.  This is not about you, it’s about them.  By the way, the person you are listening to may be thinking that you have never listened before; thus, you are doing this for potentially hurtful reasons. Assure them that you are not.
  • Then, give a validating, empathetic statement.  “Hey, I now understand how you got where you are (validation) and recognize that this has caused you _________ (frustration, angst, hurt, misunderstanding, etc.) (empathy). 

As much as you may be at odds with your spouse, “hate” your dad or mother, disdain you siblings or frustrated by or disappointed with your children, start the “quick to listen” process.  You and your family members will be happy that you did.

Remember, this all starts by pushing the P-A-U-S-E B-U-T-T-0-N.