Sometimes I Don’t Enjoy Praying

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-dont-enjoy-praying/

Before I was born again prayer was non-existent in my life

Oh, I prayed the prayers along with everyone else from the book of prayers during the Sunday morning service

Prayers that 50+ years later I can still repeat by memory (head) – but not from my heart

Then I met Jesus and prayer took on whole new dynamic (November 9th, 1976)

It was a very personal and private conversation between Jesus and me 

A time for solitude and stillness when I reconnected with my own heart and the heart of the Father who loves me unconditionally

A very special – and sometimes quiet – time when I experienced God’s peace and His presence that was different than what I experienced during any other time  Read more

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Five

We have seen that to feel confident and appear confident in relationships and in life in general we need to:

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

4> Put a few wins under your belt

5> Quit comparing yourself with others

6> Find something you’re good at and then specialize until you are special.

It could be a sport, a task, a natural ability, or a personally developed talent and ability. Use that strength as much as you can to build your level of assurance and specialization. As you do a confidence will arise inside you. A successful person will play to their strengths and not focus on their weaknesses. And this is true when building solid, long-term relationships as well. Confidence comes from knowing what you are designed and wired to do and doing it to the best of your ability. 

6> Begin to develop a knowledge of people. 

Here is a humorous old story which points out the importance of knowing who you’re dealing with. A Baptist deacon had advertised a cow for sale. “How much are you asking for it?” Inquired a prospective purchaser.

“One hundred and fifty dollars,” said the advertiser.

“And how much milk does she give?”

“Four gallons a day,” the deacon replied.

“But how do I know that she will actually give that amount?” Asked the purchaser.

“Oh, you can trust me,” assured the advertiser. “I’m a Baptist deacon.”

“I’ll buy it,” replied the other. “I’ll take the cow home and bring you the money later. You can trust me. I’m a Presbyterian elder.”

When the deacon arrived home, he asked his wife, “What’s a Presbyterian elder?”

“Oh,” she explained, “ a Presbyterian elder is about the same as a Baptist deacon.”

“Oh, dear,,” groaned the deacon, “I have lost my cow.”

The deacon knew his product; he knew his cow. But his lack of people knowledge defeated him. To have confidence you will need to take the time to study people (be a people watcher), learn necessary relational skills, and develop a well-rounded personality so that you can confidently enter into any relationship within your season of life. 

So, you have developed confidence – what do you do with it now? Now that you have all this confidence, what should you do with it? Keep refuelling it! Confidence is not a constant; it fluctuates according to your success / failure ratio in life. We all have defeats and failures which occasionally and temporarily lower our level of confidence. If you accept the fact that you will not be outstanding in everything you attempt nor in every relationship you work to establish, you will not be devastated when your best is not good enough.

You will also find your confidence has a contagious quality. It will spread throughout your sphere of influence. The Bible provides some interesting examples of “confidence contagion” which we will look at next time. 

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Four

We have seen that to feel confident and appear confident in relationships and in life in general we need to:

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

4> Put a few wins under your belt

Another way to develop confidence is to put a few wins under your belt. Start with building on small successes and little by little you will tackle bigger and bigger challenges. 

A few successful victories under your belt gives you the impetus to keep starching your abilities. If you keep winning, you may see yourself as a no-limits person. Repeated failures produce the opposite effect. You begin to see yourself as a hopeless loser. The best way to develop rational, well-balanced confidence is to go after a few victories immediately following a failure. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in self-pity.

A great confidence booster is a personal victory list of past successes and achievements. This is a biblical concept. There are two Bible characters who practiced this: Samson, who became a total failure, and David, who became a great success.

In Judges 16:20 we see Samson’s victory list:  “And she [Delilah] said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ And he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”

Now let’s read David’s victory list in 1 Samuel 17:37: “And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the LORD be with you!’”

There are two strong similarities between these two men. They were both chosen, ordained, and anointed by God, and they were both leaders of Israel at a time when Israel was battling agains the Philistines. But this is where it stops; Samson and David also had three distinct differences. These differences made one a winner (and confident) and the other a loser.

The first thing we notice about Samson is that he wanted to please himself. He lived life in the flesh, depending on his own strength and felt no need to rely on God, even when going into battle. He chose the road that always leads to ultimate defeat. Unlike Samson, David desired to please God. He knew that, left to his own resources, he was already defeated. So he called upon the Lord and went to battle with divine help. His weakness became God’s strength and he was assured victory.

Samson’s alienation from God not only led to his defeat, it ended his leadership. For David, however, this episode with Goliath was the beginning of his leadership. It was the incident that brought him into a position where God could greatly use him. Victory lists should give us confidence, not cockiness.

5> Quit comparing yourself with others

Another way to increase your confidence is to quit comparing yourself with others. Comparisons always leaves you found wanting. If you are better than the person you are comparing yourself to, this makes you proud — not more confident. If you are not as good as the person you are comparing yourself to then you become depressed and, again, not more confident. 

The following little story illustrates the point. A milk truck passes two cows grazing in a pasture. On the side of the truck are the words, “Pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, Vitamin A added.” Noticing this, one cow says to the other, “Makes you kind of feel inadequate, doesn’t it?” I think we have all known that feeling of inadequacy when we compare what we can offer with what someone else offers.

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Three

To be comfortable with others and thus build great relationships that have depth and substance we need to be confident in who we are and what it is God has called us to accomplish for Him. So, how can we become confident and thus able to be transparent and vulnerable when building relationships with others?

1> Establish your worth according to God’s value system.

God demonstrated our importance to Him in two great acts. First, He created us in His own image, and second He — through Jesus Christ — died for our sins. God thought so much of you, believed in you, and saw you as a person of such worth, that He allowed His Son to die so that you could live. When we begin to see ourselves in light of God’s actions on our behalf, then we immediately begin to have more confidence. There is nothing more humbling than the realization that if you were the only person on this earth, Jesus would have died for you. That makes you priceless. 

2> Focus on God and not on our situation

Focusing on God — what He has done, is doing, and will be doing — brings you personal confidence in life. Try living according to Psalm 27:1-3…

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.”

We can make three observations from these brief verses.

A> Confidence is not the result of an absence of problems.

It is very clear that the psalmist encountered many problems and difficulties. He mentions his enemies, evildoers who want to devour his flesh, adversaries, and a host encamping around him.

B> Confidence is a result of trusting God in our problems.

In the midst of his difficulties, the psalmist kept focusing on God and not on his difficult situation. “The Lord is the defence of my life.”

C> Victories yesterday give more confidence for today.

In verse two the psalmist speaks in the past tense. “When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, they stumbled and fell.” He’s talking about yesterday. In verse three, he talks about today: “Though an host encamp against me, my heart will not fear.” Confidence today is a result of victories yesterday.

3> Develop friendships with confident people

The old cliché is true: Birds of a feather do flock together. A big man is one who makes us feel bigger when we are with him.

Many people are doomed to suffer the “Charlie Brown complex.” It seems that Charlie Brown just can’t do anything right. But notice that one of his problems is the fact that Lucy is always around him. Lucy does not make it any better for Charlie Brown because she is always quick to point out the error of his ways.

On one occasion Lucy puts her hands on her hips and says, “You, Charlie Brown, are a foul ball in the line drive of life! You’re in the shadow of your own goal posts! You are a miscue! You are three putts on the eighteenth green! You are a seven-ten split in the tenth frame! You are a dropped rod and reel in the lake of life! You are a missed free throw, a shanked nine iron, and a called third trike! Do you understand? Have I made myself clear?”

Do you have a Lucy around you? It’s safe to say that if you surround yourself with people like her, you will have a difficult time developing a sense of confidence. Every time you start out there will be someone to remind you what you aren’t, haven’t been, and never will become. If we want to be confident, we must surround ourselves with confident people, people who believe in us and will be encouragers. 

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Two

So, why do we need confidence?  Why do you need confidence in yourself as we saw yesterday from Hebrews 10:35?  “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” 

First of all, it will give you stability in every area of your life. Confidence equals contentment with self; contentment is knowing you have all you need for the present circumstances. This leads to confidence.

Philippians 4:11-13 provides the basis for this thought. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

These verses cannot be separated because there is an absolute relationship between experiencing life’s lows and enjoying its highs. The apostle Paul is resting on the assurance that his strength is in God alone. And, he understood that confidence and contentment gave him stability in every situation he encountered in his tumultuous life. 

Contentment is taking your present situation — whatever obstacles you are facing, whatever limitation you are living with, whatever chronic condition wears you down, whatever has smashed your dreams, whatever factors and circumstances in life tend to push you under — and admitting you don’t like it but never saying, “I can’t cope with it.”

Contentment means you may feel distress, but you may never feel despair. You may feel pressed down, but you may never feel defeated. Paul says there are unlimited resources, and as soon as you say, “I can’t cope, “ you are failing to draw on these resources that Christ has readily, by His loving-kindness, made available to you. Contentment, therefore, is being confident that you measure up to any test you face because Christ has made His strength available within you.

If the first thing confidence does is to stabilize you, the second thing it does is to stretch you. The moment that I have my foundation strong and stable, I am in position to begin stretching. Insecure people and those who lack self-confidence seldom stretch because they are not willing to live on the edge of adventure in life. They are too insecure to risk what they have for what they might achieve and gain if only they let go and stepped out in faith. 

Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” 

Think about a rubber band which is totally useless unless it is stretched. When insecurity and lack of self-confidence keeps us from stretching and growing, we end up with a life that is as unexciting and useless as a limp rubber band. 

We need confidence so that we can be stable in life not allowing neither want or abundance to control our response to daily circumstances and situations. Secondly, confidence allows us to risk stepping out in faith and in the process stretching and growing. 

Transferring this truth to the leadership level we see that confidence helps a leader to believe in other people because they are secure and confident. I mean, don’t we see others as we see ourselves? Show me a leader who believes in other people, and i will show you a leader who has a lot of confidence in their life. An insecure leader, on the other hand, believes neither in themselves nor in others. Insecure people are afraid to risk building up others with compliments, because they are constantly in need of compliments themselves.

A leader with confidence is a leader who brings about positive change in people. People must have affirmation, praise, and encouragement in order to believe in themselves, move forward, and maintain a high-level of excellence in the things they are called to do. Withholding negative or critical comments is not nearly as important as giving positive input through complements and praise. Again, the only people who can do this are those who feel positive about themselves. Work plus praise increases energy, but work without praise drains energy.

If you study the life of Paul, you will note he uses the word “confidence” in three distinct but related ways. Six times Paul refers to confidence in his relationship with Christ, six times to his confidence in himself, and six times he mentions his confidence in relationships with other people. There must be a balance because all three areas are related. Without confidence in Christ we could be tempted to become egocentric and cocky. Without confidence in ourselves we are defeated, powerless Christians. Without confidence in others we are suspicious and untrusting. 

Paul learned this lesson and it made him a successful motivator, leader, and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. The price tag the world puts on us is just about identical to the one we put on ourselves. Self-confidence is the first prerequisite to doing great things for the Lord and the Kingdom of God. 

    Sometimes It Is Hard To Be Civil

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimesits-hard-tobe-civil/

A pastor writes …

I received a message on Instagram from someone I didn’t know. Many people follow me who I don’t really know. And I follow many people who I don’t know hoping to have an opportunity to impact them with the Gospel.

One day he sent me the following message:

So umm… I see that you are following me, but I don’t understand why? I’m like a homosexual Satanist and I don’t believe in fairy tales — *cough, God, * cough

So, um yeah … unless you want something else from me … I would suggest blocking me.

If you had received this message, what would you have done? 

How would you have responded?

I wanted to say something that wouldn’t turn him away.

Something that would keep the conversation going.

I thought for a moment, started to type, and hit enter.

Why do you consider yourself a Satanist??

I just kind of skipped over the homosexual part and got right to the heart of the matter. And he responded by saying:

Just kidding. I’m an atheist.

Then I wrote:

So you are a comedic atheist?

He replied:

I guess … haha!

The next day I received this message from the guy:

What do you get from God? What does He do for you?

Wow, did I answer that question with joy! One of the many things I shared was:

I feel like I’m never alone. That I am blessed by God and that He has a plan, a direction for my life. I look up at the stars and think there must be a Creator; that none of this is an accident. And I just read the Bible, and it rang true. 

And then I challenged him to try to read the Bible. I figured he probably didn’t own a Bible, so I wrote:

Google “James 1” and read it, and you will see how cool it is — and wise.

He wrote back:

I said … I don’t read fairy tales

So then I prayed, “Lord give me the perfect answer to pique his interest,” and I sent him this message:

James is a history book! Try just one chapter. What would it hurt? What if it was a vast treasure just at your fingertips? If … after reading one chapter, you think it’s meaningless, then I’ll understand.

A couple of days went by, and I received a new message in my inbox from him. It read in all caps:

BEST READ OF MY LIFE!

This pastor was working hard to be civil … and it is not always easy

But, often the best way to open the door to sharing Jesus with someone is to begin a civil conversation

This means we maintain a sincere, kind, and respectful tone as we dialogue

Not preach at, not monolog as we share, but discuss and dialogue

It also means praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what to say, including when and how to say it

Many Christians fall into one of two categories – two different extremes

1> There are some who don’t engage with nonbelievers at all about spiritual matters because they feel afraid, intimidated, or ill-equipped

2> there are others who do engage with nonbelievers, but it can be in a manner that is obnoxious or argumentative; critical and judgmental

The solution or remedy to both of these extremes is found in 1 Peter 3:15

“… but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV)

“Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” (MSG)

Our effectiveness for the Gospel begins with a reverence for Jesus as Lord in our hearts

And we are called to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask us the reason why we have hope

This must be done with gentleness and respect – in a civil manner -because it is coming from your heart which, as the verse states, is focused on Jesus

What the world needs now, more than ever before, is for believers to be open, engaging, and available to engage in civil conversations 

Often difficult in a culture where people are becoming more and more hostile to Christianity — and to each other — and there are so many different ‘camps’

Just look at any comments section of a social media post or news article online

It can be the simplest topic to the most controversial — It doesn’t matter

In just about every instance, you will have people who disagree with one another and begin labeling and attacking without a filter

Civil discourse seems to have left the building

Having a civil conversation with someone when you disagree seems almost impossible

And, I admit, “sometimes it is hard to be civil”

And, we Christians are just as guilty of this as nonbelievers

The truth is:

We are not going to win anyone or convince anyone of anything with our harsh and obnoxious Facebook posts over petty differences

We are not going to argue anyone into God’s Kingdom

Instead, we need to engage in civil dialogues and civil conversations with those who do not know Jesus … and those who do, for that matter!

Throughout Scripture, almost every conversion story began with some type of civil conversation

In Acts 8, Philip had a conversation with an Ethiopian who ended up getting baptized

In Acts 10, Peter and a man named Cornelius had a conversation, and the next thing you know, Cornelius and his family surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ

It was in Acts 16:13-14, during a conversation with Paul and his companions, that a woman named Lydia opened her heart to receive Christ as Lord

Jesus peached and taught the people but in His one-on-one conversations we see that He would often take on a different approach by being civil, conversing and asking questions

One of the best examples of this is recorded in the third chapter of John

A man named Nicodemus had an encounter with Jesus — and his life was forever changed.

John 3:1-15 “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Nicodemus was someone you might meet fo the first time and think, He’ll never become Christian

The guy had political influence and clout

He represented the status quo

He was wealthy

A guardian of the rules

A keeper of the laws

Nicodemus subscribed to all kinds of unwritten laws as a teacher of Israel

He represents the people who believe that by keeping all the rules they are somehow saved or made righteous

And yet Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he was very intrigued by Him

He wanted to learn more about Him and the things He had been teaching, the healings, the signs and wonders

So, Nicodemus said, “Rabbi,” which means “teacher, “ and the conversation begins.

John 3:2 “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Some things to note within Jesus’ and Nicodemus’s exchange that will be immensely helpful to you and me as we share our faithshare in a civil manner

1> Straight to the point

Jesus was willing to have a civil conversation with Nicodemus, but He also got straight to the point

John 3:3 “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

It could have been because it was late at night and Jesus was tired after a long day … and small talk was not something Jesus wanted to engage in

But it most likely had more to do with Jesus’s desire to see Nicodemus saved

He didn’t pull any punches

He did not shy away from this opportunity to speak openly and honestly with one of Israel’s most important and religious leaders

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

That’s pretty direct

“Truly, truly” means “Listen carefully, I’m not lying”

Nicodemus heard this phrase born again and he couldn’t figure it out

He didn’t understand it

So he asked the question:

“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4)

Jesus answered, and once again, He did not mince words:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…”

Of course, we know what this meant but Nicodemus didn’t…

What Jesus meant was that Nicodemus had already been born physically; he needed to be born spiritually

But Nicodemus did not get it

But to fair, consider where we are in history:

Jesus has not died on the cross yet

The Day of Pentecost was still three years away

The Church had not started yet

There were no pastors

No church buildings on the corner of the street

No crosses on church buildings

Jesus was speaking prophetically when He pointed out the truth about being born of water and the Spirit

No wonder Nicodemus didn’t understand

I’m not sure that at this point in the conversation he was suppose to understand

And Jesus might have been thinking ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ … But He laid everything out directly anyways

Sometimes when believers are talking with someone who doesn’t know Christ, we beat around the bush

We use too many words

We preface or sugarcoat or water down the message

Jesus’s civil conversation with Nicodemus teaches us that sometimes we need to get straight to the point.

This does not mean you should be frantic, rude, or abrupt

Jesus was gentle and at ease as He shared the truth

It may not be comfortable to confront someone’s beliefs, but you can learn to do it

As we practice sharing our testimony and the Gospel message, we must learn to cut out all the hemming and hawing and get down to what’s most important

The simple story of Christ’s transforming love

2> The Spirit is there and is always moving (ministering)

Next Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Nicodemus ask, “How can this be?” (John 3:9)

The reason he asked this question is because he was convinced that the law was what saved a person

But since the law cannot save, there was a restlessness in Nicodemus’s soul

Despite the fact that he was a “law man” — and had money, fame, power, position, and religion — he was empty inside

He didn’t know why he was feeling what he was feeling

He was searching

He didn’t know what he was searching for

But, he was searching – or else he would not have come to Jesus in the first place

I think Jesus was trying to quiet all the noise in Nicodemus’s mind and heart by saying,

“Shh, Listen to the sound of the wind. The Holy Spirit of God is drawing you toward something that can save”

And here is the best part:

Even though Nicodemus came searching for Jesus that night, it was actually Jesus via the Holy Spirit who was searching for Nicodemus

Do you remember the story in the Bible about a man named Zacchaeus who was a short little guy?

He climbed a tree to look for Jesus, who was passing through the town of Jericho

Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5)

Let me ask you a question:

Was Zacchaeus searching for Jesus, or was Jesus searching for Zacchaeus?

Even though Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, a “sinner” by everyone else’s account, he was valuable to the Lord

Jesus was looking for him and wanted to be a guest in his home

After encountering the Lord, Zacchaeus repented of his sins, vowing to give half of what he owned to the poor and to pay restitution to anyone he cheated in the past

If there was any doubt that Jesus was in fact looking for Zacchaeus, what the Lord declared next should clear things up:

Luke 19:9-10 ““Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The Spirit of God moved in the heart of a wealthy tax collector to climb that tree in Jericho in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world

God’s Spirit also moved in the heart of Nicodemus to seek out Jesus for the answers to his questions

Behind the scenes, this very moment, the Spirit of God is moving!

He blows wherever He wants to

As you approach casual conversations with others, take comfort in the fact that God’s Spirit is always moving and wooing — even in folks you think would never be saved

John 14:17 “…He is with you, and will be in you

John16:7-11 “… convict the world (the unsaved) of sin, righteousness, and judgment”

There is a blogger named Russell Moore and he wrote:

“The next Billy Graham might be passed our drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now. But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so.”

Don’t ever doubt whom God can reach and whom God can save!

So, when speaking to anyone and everyone – be civil, polite, gentle, kind, and get to the point so the Holy Spirit can do His work

You share the truth of the Gospel 

The Holy Spirit convicts them of sin and moves in their heart to receive Jesus

Here is what I know is true:

Right now there are people in your life — and perhaps even folks you have not met yet — who are restless in their heart and soul just like Nicodemus and Zacchaeus

They are wondering what it means to be alive – what’s my purpose and reason for living?

There is an emptiness in their hearts that the law, or self-righteousness, or money, or power, or fame, or sex, or relationships, or drugs, or alcohol cannot fill

The Spirit of God could be reaching out to them through you

Let that amazing truth be your confidence as you initiate civil conversations with them about matters of the faith

1> Straight to the point

2> The Spirit is always moving

3> Patience — even when they don’t understand

After Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” Jesus continued to talk with him and explained Himself is quite some detail

Even though Nicodemus was a teacher of the law and should have been able to grasp these concepts

Even though, by all appearances, the conversation is going nowhere and his conversion is nowhere in sight

And what we learn from Christ’s approach and demeanour is that we must be patient with others, even when they don’t understand

Jesus patiently took Nicodemus back to a familiar story in Numbers, chapter 21 to explain salvation

The people of God were complaining when they should have been rejoicing because God had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and was leading them to the promised land

They questioned Moses’s leadership abilities

They didn’t like the monotonous and dry food God was supplying daily

They began to infect the camp with poisonous words

So the Lord sent real, live snakes into their midst, to do literally the very thing the people were guilty of doing figuratively: poisoning

Many of the Israelites died

Those who were left realized their sin and went to Moses to repent

They knew they were doomed and beyond hope

In recounting this story, Jesus reminded Nicodemus how Moses lifted up a bronze snake on a pole and whoever looked upon that snake would live

Just as He did with His “born again” statement earlier, Jesus was pointing out the spiritual with the physical

In fact, He told Nicodemus that He was speaking of heavenly things:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus was patient with Nicodemus as He led him to the truth of the Gospel

We are called to do the same in our civil conversations with others

It may look like they don’t understand

It may look like they are never going to receive the message

But God has called us to lift up Jesus so that He can draw all people to Him (John 12:32)

That is our only job

That is all we have to be focused on

More and more every day, our world is becoming so divided and confused and poisoned 

Like the Israelites who had snakes in the midst of their camp, it may seem as though we are all doomed

Our only hope is Jesus Christ

In everything we do

In every conversation we have

We believers must be loving, patient, truthful, and above all, lift up Jesus so that the entire world will believe.

1> Straight to the point

2> The Spirit is always moving

3> Patience — even when they don’t understand

CONCLUSION:

As I attempt to put myself in Nicodemus’s sandals after this fascinating conversation with the Saviour of the world, her is what I imagine Nicodemus saying or thinking:

“Jesus, everything that You’re saying has completely turned my thought process upside down. Everything I have ever been taught since I was a child is that the law is what saves! You come along with these miracles and signs that force me to listen to You. You tell me I have to be born again of water and the Spirit. And that the Son of Man must be lifted up.”

I imagine him continuing, “Jesus, I’m an educated man, but I need You to simplify this for me. I’m very interested — but I don’t understand. I know the Scriptures front and back. I know what the rabbis have taught for thousands of years, but … I have no idea what You are saying.”

Then, in perhaps the greatest verse in John’s entire Gospel, Jesus really did simplify it all for Nicodemus when He declared:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

People can keep all the laws, but the laws can’t save

They can be leaders among leaders, but fame and recognition can’t save

They can be wealthy, but material possessions cannot save

Only knowing the Son Of God — Jesus — can save a person

Christ went to the Cross and died for the sins of the world

All who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life!

As Jesus spoke in a very civil and friendly manner with Nicodemus, we can can show others through patient, civil conversations that it was all part of God’s plan

      • God’s story
      • God’s love
      • God’s Spirit
      • God’s calling
      • God’s Son
      • God’s salvation

Any time you see people getting saved, lives being changes, miracles and signs, and people moving from darkness to light — it is all God

Anything good you see is because God is at work around the world to redeem humankind before Jesus returns

Unbelievers may not understand this, but we can help them. However, “Sometimes it is hard to be civil.”

How To Have Personal Charisma! – Part Five

There are, in each of our lives, roadblocks to being a person who is known to have charisma. Again, charisma is a trait or quality in our life that can be developed. It is not reserved for those who are extroverts and enjoy being in front of others. The potential to be charismatic lies within each of us, but first we must remove hindrances from the development of this important personality characteristic.

What are some possible obstructions?

    • PRIDE. A prideful person will have a tendency to look down on other people, feeling a sense of superiority. People will not follow or identify with a snobbish personality who is conscious of status and position.
    • INSECURITY. Insecure people are not willing to take a risk. They prefer to remain comfortable and probably, unexciting.
    • MOODINESS. This is an immature quality which is detrimental to personal relationships. Moody people are fickle and, thus, people who cannot be depended upon. Confidence is never built on a person who is subject to sullenness.
    • PERFECTIONISM. Perfectionism is an obsessive need to perform flawlessly. It stifles creativity and freedom and it turns people off and away. Perfectionists can rarely affirm themselves; therefore, it’s very difficult for them to affirm others.
    • OVERSENSITIVITY. Oversensitive people are constantly licking their wounds. They look inward and are not aware of the needs of others. Naturally, people don’t flock around them. 
    • NEGATIVISM. By definition, negativism is the opposite of charisma. A person with a constant negative attitude is depressing to be around. Their personality says no to life in general. Others will avoid a person like that. There is no possibility of being a charismatic leader or friend when no one want to be around you.

Charisma begins at the cross of Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at Philippians 2:3-11 where we see Paul using the humility of Christ Himself as our pursuit.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

There is no question that Jesus was and is highly exalted. He had charisma. But it began with the deepest of humility. Remember: Charisma is being more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are in making them feel good about you!

In review – Traits of a person with charism…

    • Concern – What they show
    • Help – What they offer
    • Action – What they provide
    • Results – What they produce 
    • Influence – What they do
    • Sensitivity – What they follow
    • Motivation – What they give
    • Affirmation – What they share

Building Healthy Relationships – Part Three

We are looking at what makes for a healthy relationship within the family, with friends, and at work. Of course, not everyone will be your BFF in real life but we all need to be involved in a number of healthy relationships so we can continue to grow and mature and become all that God wants us to be. God created us to be social creatures. We need other people. 

Within the realm of relationships we have seen:

1> You want others to encourage you

2> You want others to appreciate you. 

3> You want others to forgive you

Almost all emotional problems and stress come from unresolved conflicts, failure to have developed right relationships with people. Because of this, many people have a deep desire for total forgiveness. A forgiving spirit is the one basic, necessary ingredient for a solid relationship. Forgiveness frees us from guilt and allows us to interact positively with other people.  

Earnest Hemingway, in his short story, “The Capital of the World,” tells the story about a father and his teenage son who lived in Spain. Their relationship became strained, eventually shattered, and the son ran away from home. The father began a long journey in search of the lost and rebellious son, finally putting an ad in the Madrid newspaper as a last resort. His son’s name was Paco, a very common name in Spain. The ad simply read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.” As Hemingway writes, the next day at noon in front of the newspaper office there were 800 “Pacos” all seeking forgiveness.

There are countless Pacos in the world who want more than anything else to be forgiven. The two great marks of a Christian are that they are giving and forgiving. Show me a person who walks with God, and I’ll show you a person who has a giving heart and is forgiving of others.

The unfortunate truth is that many of us, instead of offering total forgiveness, pray something like this Irish Prayer:

May those who love us, love us;

And those who don’t love us

May God turn their hearts;

And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,

My He turn their ankles,

So we’ll know them by their limping.

People who find it difficult to forgive don’t see themselves realistically. They are either terribly arrogant or tremendously insecure. Though hanging onto a grudge gives some people a feeling of satisfaction, the truth is people who do not forgive are hurting themselves much more than they’re hurting others. A person who possesses this characteristic and keeps score in relationships is a person who is emotionally and sometimes physically under stress. We just are not wired to carry all the stress that goes with carrying grudges.

Too often people wait too long to forgive other people. Forgiveness should be given as quickly and as totally as possible. Do it now. It does not get easier over time, so the sooner you go and deal with the issues and become reconciled through offering forgiveness, the better off you will be. 

Over my years in ministry there have been a number of times when I’ve experienced strained relationships. I have had people swear at me, tell me where to go, how to get there, and offer their assistance. But I have never knowingly let them walk out the door without telling them I love them. I don’t hold any grudges or carry any resentment against anyone. I cannot stress this enough: if you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you. 

A side note or two: 

Many years ago I learned a truth from a book I was reading: “Unforgiveness is like you drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” The only person unforgiveness really hurts is you.

Sometimes when we are in a long term relationship – a deep friendship or a marriage – and something goes wrong we see the other person go “historical.” Not hysterical but historical. They throw back in your face all the things that you did wrong over the  last number of years. This is a sure sign of unforgiveness. 

Often, like the story of Paco and his dad, there is a need to make things right with a parent. Trust me, it is far easier to do that while they are alive than after they die. I became a believer a number of years after my father had died and there were some outstanding issues that had never been dealt with. As a believer I still needed to deal with them but, of course, without being able to talk to my father. Much easier to deal with issues while a parent is still living.

Building Healthy Relationships – Part Two

In building a healthy relationship we want to relate to others who will encourage us (see Part One – July 5, 2021).

Secondly, you want others to appreciate you. So, when looking to build a healthy relationship (marriage, friendship) you are looking to connect with people who appreciate who you are and not just appreciate what you can do. 

William James said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

Have you heard the story about the young politician’s first campaign speech? He was very eager to make an impression on his audience, but when he arrived at the auditorium, he found only one man sitting there. He waited, hoping more people would show up, but none did. Finally he said to the one man in the audience, “Look, I’m just a young politician starting out. Do you think I ought to deliver this speech or dismiss the meeting?”

The man thought for a moment and replied, “Sir, I’m just a cowhand. All I know is cows. Of course, I do know that if I took a load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow came up, I’d feed it.”

Principle: We cannot underestimate the value of a single person

With the advice from the cowhand, the politician began his speech and talked on and on for two hours as the cowhand sat expressionless. Finally he stopped and asked the cowhand if the speech was all right.

The man said, “Sir, I am just a cowhand and all I know is cows. Of course, I do know that if I took a load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow came up, I surely wouldn’t dump the whole load on him.”

Principle: Don’t take advantage of people 

Surveys have found that the principle causes of unrest among workers were the following, listed in order of their importance:

      • Failure to give credit for suggestions
      • Failure to correct grievances
      • Failure to encourage
      • Criticizing employees in front of other people
      • Failure to ask employees their opinions
      • Failure to inform employees of their progress
      • Favouritism

Notice that every single item has to do with not appreciating others and the failure to recognize the importance of the individual person (employee). We are talking about people needing to be appreciated. I try to do this every time I meet a person. Within the first few minutes of a conversation, I try to say something that shows I appreciate and affirm the person. It sets the tone of the rest of our time together. Even a quick affirmation will give people a sense of value and that you appreciate who they are.

Treat others as you want them to treat you. Treat them as if they are important; they will respond according to the way that you perceive them. Most of us think wonderful things about people, but they never know it. Too many of us tend to be tight-fisted with our praise and appreciation. It’s of no value if all you do is think it; it becomes valuable when you speak it and impart your thoughts and feelings to the person you are building relationally with. 

A side note or two:

What you share does not need to be something deep or amazing. Just something that says you noticed them and appreciate them. I was shopping for a few groceries the other day. At the checkout counter I noticed that the young man who was about to help me was named Dmitriy. As that is a common name in a number of countries where I work I asked him if he was born in Russia or Central Asia. As we chatted I got to know him a little and I also thanked him for his help and for the conversation. He felt appreciated. It is as simple as that. 

You want to be appreciated first for who you are and not just what you do and what you are good at. It is the person you want to appreciate, not the skill or ability, the profession or achievements connected to who they are. Many times people appreciate what I do when I minister to them. That is good and it is always encouraging. But what really helps is when someone wants to get to know me as a person (separate from what I do in ministry). I want to be appreciated for who I am and not just what I can do. That’s ‘person’ and not just ‘profession’. 

We can appreciate a person for who they are and recognize that they are important but still not develop a long term relationship with them. Every individual is important. Not every individual should be a friend or close associate. 

Building Healthy Relationships – Part One

I am a people person and I am an introvert. That may sound like a contradiction but really it is not. As an introvert I need personal time and personal space. I need to be away from others so that I can think, feel, and process. However, I like being with people simply because I enjoy relating and realize that I cannot journey successfully through life – and especially as a believer – alone. But, as an introvert I prefer one-on-one relationships and simply don’t do well in a crowd. 

The basis of life is people and how we relate to one another. Our sense of fulfilment and happiness depends on our ability to relate to others effectively. So, believing that, I have worked at developing the character and the personal characteristics that others are drawn to. I did this by studying the people who I am attracted or drawn to and determining what it was about them that encouraged me to come to know them and relate to them. In other words, I determined the qualities that I found attractive in others and set about to develop those qualities in my own life.

So, we are going to look at the qualities that we need to develop in our lives so that we can relate to others in a healthy and mutually beneficial manner in the process of building lasting, healthy, long-term relationships. 

What is the key to relating to others? It is putting yourself in someone else’s place instead of putting them in their place. Jesus gave us the perfect rule for establishing quality relationships. We call it the Golden Rule, a name it got sometime around the seventeenth century. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summed up a series of profound thoughts on human conduct by saying, “Therefore whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them.”               (Matthew 7:12). 

In this brief command, Jesus taught us a couple of things about developing relationships with others. We need to decide how we want to be treated. Then we need to begin treating others in that manner. It is not complicated. The qualities that make for good relationships aren’t complicated at all. Everyone of us needs, likes, and responds to five qualities that touch our hearts and help bond us to others relationally.

1> You want others to encourage you

There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart than reaching down and lifting people up. Think about it: most of your best friends are those who encourage you in one way or another. And, you don’t have very many strong relationships with people who don’t take the time to encourage you for whatever reason. And you certainly do not bother to build relationally with someone who puts you down. In fact, you avoid these people and seek out those who believe in you and lift you up. 

The happiest people are those who have invested their time in others. The unhappiest people are those who wonder how the world is going to make them happy. Karl Menninger, the great psychiatrist, was asked what a lonely, unhappy person should do. He said, “Lock the door behind you, go across the street, find someone who is hurting, and help them.” Forget about yourself to help others. 

A side note: Why is it that people you would like a decent and in-depth relationship with don’t encourage you? 

Well, maybe they never learned how to do that and so simply don’t know how to encourage. This could be the result of the fact that they were never in a relationship growing up that was encouraging. So, they have never had an example to follow. 

Another reason might be that they simply don’t value relationships in the same way that you do and so are not willing to invest the time and the emotional energy that it takes to encourage another person and thus build a healthy relationship. They simply don’t care to even try.

And, a third reason could be that they have simply decided that the relationship with you is not valuable or important enough to respond to you in a way that would encourage you. They like what you do for them but they are not willing to respond on the same level. You think that the relationship could be valuable so your encourage them but they don’t share that outlook and so they don’t encourage you in return. They simply make a decision not to encourage by not responding to what you share and not sharing their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. 

Of course, it could be a combination of all three reasons. But the bottom line is they are not willing to learn and to try. They are not willing to invest in the relationship at a meaningful level. They are not willing to put the needed effort into having a healthy relationship even after you express to them what you are looking for and needing from the relationship. 

If this is the case then you need to either limit your time with that person knowing it is never going to improve or simply end the relationship. Of course, you communicate with them as you think through your decision and resulting actions. Why? Because you still value them as a [person even if the relationship never becomes what it could have been.   

Two books that are helpful in this regard:

“Never Go Back – Ten Things You’ll Never Do Again” by Dr. Henry Cloud

“Necessary Endings” by Dr. Henry Cloud