So I pulled up behind a car recently driven by a young person. This teenager was extremely zealous in informing me of their opinion on issues from abortion to world peace to their favorite local punk band. All messages plastered via bumperstickers to the back half of their car.
It reminded me of a time in the 80?s when everyone was wearing these little buttons that contained inflammatory or rude comments or just plain obnoxious statements.
I suppose every generation has some form of expression by which they try to exert their independence, their indiviuality, their manifesto. Tattooing has become the newest popular way to tell your story.
Churches do the same thing. Not with bumber stickers (although some churches do print their own bumper stickers) but more in the buildings we build and the way we decorate the places in which we meet.
What does the place where you worship say about your churches beliefs?
Does anyone else get the message other than the people who come on a regular basis?
Sometimes I think we live our lives thinking that “bumper sticker” statements are the way to introduce ourselves to others and a holy God.
My views of bumper stickers (and buildings) has been radically reshaped!
I have come to value getting to know people before advertising my beliefs in a way that may send that person headed for the hills.
It is tough to love others if your bumper stickers – no matter how right they are – actually cause people to avoid personal interaction with you at any cost!
Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. -Anne Lamott
I would add that the hope which “begins” in the dark has to have another starting place. There has to have been a time, a moment, a point in which the person in the dark can go back to a memory – or a collection of memories – on which hope can stand.
It’s that ethereal experience where the unseen and seen meet.
It’s the paradoxical moment when God’s voice is loudly heard by only your ears.
It’s the same kind of moment that Elijah had while tucked away in the cleft of the rock and the chaos of the external world gave way to the overpowering strength of the voice of God.
I have found my middle of the night concerns that can easily fill my heart and mind with paralyzing fears seem to melt with the display of God’s power we call “sunrise”.
What troubles you today? What has you close to giving up or giving in?
Push on God. Search out that starting place. Bug Him to meet you in a way that binds your heart to the power of His name. Become persistent like the friend in Luke 11 who finally gets his way.
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
In John 3:30, John the Baptist makes this statement,
He must increase, but I must decrease.
Sometimes we take this to mean that our personalities are of no use to God. I would encourage you to think differently about this passage.
John was a bit of an unusual guy – hanging out in the desert, wearing camel hair and eating off the land. My guess is that none of that changed as Jesus “increased” in his life.
So what did change? How can we measure our lives by his bold declaration?
John had a specific job he was to do for Jesus – announce his arrival! All of John’s life was to point people to Jesus as the awaited Messiah. He was not perfect. He was not the Messiah. He was the one to publicly announce Jesus’ arrival and ministry.
Jesus left me with a job as well – “make disciples”.
My personality, my hobbies, my likes and dislikes all need to fall under the rule of the Messiah! In doing so, I will decrease in how I see and promote myself while discovering something better than personal “likes and dislikes” on which to build my life.
How can Jesus increase in my life today? Am I willing to allow Him to use me to direct others to Him? Or am I too wrapped up in my own “likes and dislikes” to even consider what Jesus thinks about my life?
Everyone has a way they “measure” their life. How will you measure yours?
Last night at the Global Faith Forum at Northwood Church in Keller, Ed Stetzer proposed 4 “foundational agreements” for how people of different faiths could begin to dialogue and work together. It was one of the most refreshing moments I have ever experienced in a room with people from all different backgrounds. Here are Ed’s four points for your consideration:
1. We should commit to let each religion talk for itself. The old adage “never assume anything” comes into mind here – it tends to make an….(you get the idea). Go to the original source for your information – avoid the media like the plague!
2. We should talk “with” individuals and not “about” faiths. Stay away from generalizing – “all _______ believe.” We teach couples to stay away from extreme statements in their marriages – “you always___” but we continue to allow these extreme statements to become inflammatory comments in public discourse.
3. Understanding someone’s values and beliefs does not mean you accept them! We have got to stop comparing someone’s worst with our best – this is often not even close to true.
4. Grant each person the freedom to make their faith decision on their own.
Jesus had a way of turning things upside down. He would remind his followers that to be first was to be last – to lead was to serve – simply doing right was not enough if your heart was not right!
This past weekend, the people at Journey wrestled openly with turning our attention off of ourselves and pursuing the act of thinking about others first. This kind of thinking forces us to measure life differently.
Journey, here are your scores from this past weekend…
59 man hours were spent in your community this weekend
25 patients visited and treated to Halloween goodies
13 boxes decorated to deliver meals to families in our area
487 pounds of food collected and over $500 with matching gift cards from Market Street!
Way to go Journey! May God continue to open our eyes to the opportunities to love and live the Gospel in bold and very public ways!
Most of my life, I have been around versions of Christianity that strive to help mecontrol my actions. While this may seem noble, it is exhausting!
The other end of the spectrum causes me to think of the “hushed” conversations that we sometimes have about “older” people. You know what I am talking about, the “under your breath” conversation that Uncle Tony has beenthat way his whole life and he is far too old to expect him to change at this point.
Why do we think Christianity is about simply controlling my behavior – modifying my actions. It seems to me that if this were true then we would easily become “better” Christians by simply learning which behaviors to change – then execute those changes. But our cultural love of therapeutic seminars proves that this is obviously harder than simply changing a behavior.
Why do we then seem to give up later in life and expect that at a certain point we are excused from any kind of significant life change? Did we just get too tired of our behavioral modification methods and decide to live out the rest of our day saying, “I made it this far, I can do what I want!”
In I Samuel 10:9, we read:
“When he (Saul) turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart.”
We miss one of the greatest truths in the Scriptures when we fail to understand that only God can change or give us a new heart. BUT there is another piece to this truth found in the verses leading up to this transformation of heart for Saul.
Prior to his heart being changed, Samuel pulled Saul aside at the end of chapter 9 and began to “make known” the Word of God to Saul. In doing so, Samuel began to unfold for Saul the person and character of Godthrough the Scriptures. The path to a transformed heart is by the hand of God. But if you have no idea of who God is, His mighty power, His omniscient presence, His perfect ways, then how can your heart ever be changed?
God gave Saul a new heart – he became a new person – and Saul was able to move forward with God because of his new understanding of the greatness of God.
Are you simply trying to control your actions today?
Are trying not to do bad things?
Or are you getting to know the God of the Bible in such a way that your new heart has the support and environment to grow in its ability to obey God?
I walked by a car today with the following bumper stick on its back window:
NOW, before you assume this is going to be a political post, please continue to read.
In Psalm 39:7, the psalmist writes,
7“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.” (ESV)
The bumper sticker struck a chord in me. I put too much emphasis on certain people. I put too much powerinto the hands of people who can only control my immediate surroundings. I put too much pressure on individuals for the things that occur in my life everyday – both good and bad. I put too much“hope” in people and things that were never designed to carry such a load!
Hope is the ability to have expectations with confidence. It is theassurance or trust that your expectations will happen.
Where does God fit into my thoughts? How does God fit into my “hopes”?
“HOPE” under the picture of our current president? That is too much pressure! That is misplaced “hope”.
“HOPE” associated with anything or anyone else other than God is misplaced “hope”.
The world is a mess, not because any one political power has control at the moment. The world is a mess because we fail to understand the confession of the psalmist…
What can I wait for that would offer greater “hope” than the Creator of the universe? There is only ONE in whom we can find true “hope”.
I have two confessions to make. First, I have never read a John Maxwell book! (So glad to get that out in the open – ha!) So when I had the chance to review his newest book, Everyone Communicates Few Connect, I jumped at the opportunity.
My second confession is that I am often very skeptical when it comes to “self improvement” styled books. They are usually long on lists and acronyms and short on reality!
In Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell takes up the issue of learning to really connect with people so that they will hear what you have to say. His approach is simple – focus on what I personally can do to bridge the gaps that may exist between myself and the person with which I am attempting to communicate.
Two things jump out at me in how Maxwell is attempting to help educate his reader in the skill of connecting with others. One is found in Maxwell’s ability to draw on years of experience. He delivers some great, yet simple, illustrations that prove he really has been a student of this art for most of his life.
The second thing that I really thought was helpful was how he would accentuate his principles with practices – giving the reader assignments to sharpen their skills along the way.
No one is going to become a great communicator overnight. But with practice and the implementation of some of John’s principles, everyone should be able to find some common ground with the people they are attempting to communicate.
Check it out for yourself – Everyone Communicates Few Connect
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.combook review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.