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 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. 

Building Healthy Relationships – Part Four

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

4> You want others to listen to you and respond

I spend a lot of time listening to people and responding to what they are saying. That is not only part of my ministry but it is also what people must do if they want to have healthy and vibrant relationships. I was recently sitting in a coffee shop reading and there was a man siting there talking to a younger lady across the small coffee table that separated them. Recognizing me he said, “Pastor, we are having a great conversation. I have been telling her my story.” I realized at that point how important it was to him that she was listening attentively and showed interest in what he had to say. It made him feel that he had value.

There is a difference between hearing people and listening to them. Listening is wanting to hear. As believers we are to love people as God loves us. And because we love people we should want to hear from them. We need to learn to listen with our heart and not just our head. People will respond in a very positive way to that kind of loving and visible, real caring.

As people people gain more authority, they often develop a lack of patience in listening to those under them. A deaf ear is the first indication of a closed mind. The higher people go in management and the more authority they wield, the less they are forced to listen. The same is true in the church and in ministry. Yet their need to listen is greater than ever. The farther they get from the firing line, the more they need to depend on others for correct information. If they have not formed the habit of truly listening and actually hearing what is being said – listening carefully and intelligently – they aren’t going to get the facts they need, and the people will resent their decisions.

I saw a television sketch which, in some variations, might seem familiar in many households. A husband is watching television and his wife is trying to engage him in conversation:

Wife: Dear, the plumber didn’t come to fix the leak behind the water heater today.

Husband: Uh-huh.

Wife: The pipe burst today and flooded the basement.

Husband: Quiet. It’s third down and goal to go.

Wife: Some of the wiring got wet and almost electrocuted Fluffy.

Husband: Darn it! Touchdown.

Wife: The vet says he’ll be better in a week.

Husband: Can you get me a coke?

Wife: The plumber told me that he was happy that our pipe broke because now he can afford to go on vacation.

Husband: Aren’t you listening? I said I could use a Coke!

Wife: And Stanley, I’m leaving you. The plumber and I are flying to Acapulco in the morning.

Husband: Can’t you please stop all the yakking and get me a coke? The trouble around here is that nobody ever listens to me. 

A couple of side notes:

When someone shares with you it is good to respond to what they are sharing. Let them share, listen thoughtfully, and then dialogue with them about what they have trusted you with. Tell them what you are thinking and feeling about what they have shared. Otherwise, you may say you care and that you are listening, but there is no real proof that that is a fact. Your silence can be read as not caring and not interested.

When someone shares something that seems important to them, don’t use it to jump off into something you want to share. Keep the focus on them and don’t use what they have shared to turn the focus onto yourself.

When someone shares – they are wanting you to listen and care. They are not looking for you to fix it. Most people know what to do to fix a problem or get out of the situation they are in. What they want to know is that you are really listening and that you care. Yes, maybe you can help and ‘fix it’ but that will be later. Caring before fixing.

Remember, most of us are very poor listeners. You will need to learn how to listen with your heart and not just your head. 

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. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Six

Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

Matthew 5:43-45, 48 “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So far we have seen the circle of love expand step-by-step. First we love God, then ourselves, then our fellow believers, and then our neighbours. Now Jesus tells us to take one more step and love our enemies. This is where it gets interesting. For many, it is a step too far.

Knowing the difficulty in loving our enemies, Jesus gives us an excellent rationale for the command. He says that if we love only our friends and family, we are no different from unbelievers who don’t know Jesus or His commandments. What we can offer that they cannot is love for our enemies.

If I knew the name of your worst enemy and suggested that you go serve that person in some good way, you might say, “I just can’t!” But Jesus knows it can be done because He did it. He found a way to love that race of enemies known as humanity, and we must be eternally grateful that He did.

Christ could have said, “Those men are driving nails into My hands. They’ve beaten Me, gambled for My clothing, and deeply grieved those who love Me. I just can’t love them!” No one would have blamed Him — or remembered Him.

Instead, from the agony of the cross, Christ looked down on those who had brutalized Him and asked Good to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Stephen, the first Christian martyr, did the same (Acts 7:60). Peter points out that Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Because Jesus loved His enemies, we live forever. Because Jesus loved His enemies, we can love ours.

As Jesus pointed out, God sends sunshine and rain to both the good and the bad — to those who love Him and those who don’t (Matthew 5:45). It’s known as God’s common grace. He does not shut out people who might be deemed unworthy, so we don’t have that right either. We love people not for who they are, but for who they can become — not for the value of their behaviour, but for the value of their souls. That’s when the world knows we are serious.

Paul, who built friendships with his prison guards, wrote: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:14, 20). It may seem that Paul is urging us to be “passive-aggressive,” until we understand a certain custom of the day. As an act of public contrition, some Egyptians wore a pan of burning coals like a hat to express their shame and guilt. Paul is simply urging a bit of human psychology: Return gentleness for aggression, and your persecutor will be shamed into being contrite. It will be as if he is wearing such a hat.

Because God loves us, we can, we must, love our enemies.

  Sometimes I am Not Thankful (Grateful)

Sometimes I am Not Thankful

 

I am bothered by a response that you now hear when you say “thank you” to someone

Instead of “You’re welcome” we now mostly hear “No problem!”

As I checked out with two turkeys yesterday I wanted to scream – “Of course it’s no problem. I am a gentle person, I am not angry, what I have caused you to become involved in is part of your job for which you are paid and is not really that taxing on your abilities….”

But, the real issue is how seldom you even hear people say “thank you”

As I was thinking about this all week – mostly because we were approaching Thanksgiving – God said that this was true even in my relationship with Him

That I am not expressing thanks to Him for who He is and all that He does for me

When I do something for someone I always appreciate it when they thank me for my time, my work, my concern… Read more

A Side Order of Stupidity

I have been preaching the Gospel for almost 50 years and with every year that moves by (and they are going quicker these days), I am more and more convinced that too many of us, me included, fail to focus on the main meal and get sidetracked on a side order of stupidity. I believe the main course of the meal is the love of God and that I need to be focused on that instead of the many “side orders” that come along regularly and systematically like waves on the shore of the sea. 

I have seriously grown less interested in the side issues (orders), the niceties, and the doctrinal trivia. This world desperately needs for us to keep the main thing the main thing. So, I have determined that my central message must be God’s astonishing love. It is a message that is always new, never old, never dusty or musty.

In many ways I am inspired by John, the last living apostle or the original twelve. His great topic, needless to say, was love (see the daily blogs for the past ten days). He featured love in his Gospel, and love dominated his first epistle. They say that as he got older, he reached the point where he preached nothing else. Occasionally, some impatient member of the audience would interrupt him: “Brother John, you’ve already preached that one. Tell us something new!”

“Very well,” the beloved disciple would say with a smile. “A new commandment I give to you — that you love one another.”

John was not senile. He simply understood more deeply than the rest of us that there is one item of news that never stops being new; the life-changing love of God. 

God’s love should flow from us in practical and real ways. In every relationship we have — with God, self, friends, neighbours, and enemies — Christians have a foundational, non-negotiable responsibility spelled l-o-v-e. There is no person in the world — including God Himself — whom God does not expect us to love.

And that is why I can say that God’s love changes everything. Think of it: What is life except relationships? And what are relationships without love? If we lack the ability to love, we lack the ability to truly live. Or, at least, to live the “more abundant” life God wants us to enjoy (John 10:10b). 

So, let me note a few relational benefits of being loved by God:

1> Because God loves us, we can love Him

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins … We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10, 19).

2> Because God loves us, we can love ourselves

“You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 19:19).

3> Because God loves us, we can love one another

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

4> Because God loves us, we can love our neighbour

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

5> Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-45, 48).

So, let’s stop looking at all the somewhat stupid and pointless things that occupy our time and emotions and let’s go back to the main thing – that God loves us and then learn, as disciples of Jesus, to walk in love and give it away.

God’s Love – Part Seven

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.”

To review:

1> How John 3:16 came to be

2> That God’s love is extravagant

3> God’s love is extensive

4> God’s Love Is Expensive

5> God’s Love is Expansive

6> God’s love is Exclusive

Today: God’s love is Exceptional based on the words “should not perish.”

To perish does not necessarily mean to be annihilated — to cease to exist. The currently popular idea — annihilation of the soul or destruction of the individual — is not found in the Bible. What we do find is that every single human being has an eternal soul that will live somewhere forever.

John Phillips explains that we have all seen what the work of sin gradually does to a human life. Drugs, sexual promiscuity, and unhealthy living ravage both body and soul and, if unchecked, lead to death. When we reject God, we allow sin to continue its deadly work. The result may be the death of our bodies but not the annihilation of our souls. That part of us is eternal and accountable to God. The final effect is that if we die unrepentant, we carry our ungodly passions into eternity with us — our cravings, lusts, hatred, and fear. In hell these passions continue to rule the soul, They never satisfied us here, nor will they satisfy us there. Phillip concludes, “The word perished notes the final condition of the soul, the awful state of those who are ‘filthy still’ under the eye of God.”

Phillips is alluding to this verse from John: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Revelation 22:11). Heaven will complete our sanctification, or hell will complete our damnation.

To perish, then, is to remain aware of but separated forever from the loving God. Yet the Bible promises that once we receive God’s love, separation from Him will become impossible. As Paul gloriously put it, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). 

We choose. 

SOMETIMES I FEEL THAT I’M TOO OLD

Sometimes I Feel That I’m Too Old

 

Sometimes Series #6

A Christian hero – Dr. J. Vernon McGee – Pastor and Bible teacher – died in 1988 at the age of 84 …still preaching and teaching on a daily basis 

When Dr. J. Vernon McGee talked about the Bible, people listened. He was the most beloved Bible teacher of his generation.

In a sit-down conversation after he had preached what would be his last Sunday sermon he did not talk about the past

He did not mention the good old days and all that he had accomplished for the Kingdom – which was seriously substantial

The only subject that interested him was the future

He was fascinated by the technology of audio-tape and broadcasting

He was looking to the future and how to keep his ministry fruitful long after he was gone

He was correct about that Read more