Gossip-Free – Part Two

The second set of questions you should ask yourself to avoid gossiping online are equally important. Before sharing your thoughts, ask yourself, “Am I making private matters public? Am I about to share something that would be better handled privately?” In his wisdom, Solomon said, “It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbour; a sensible person keeps quiet. A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence” (Proverbs 11:12-13 NLT).

If you share what should be secret, you’re gossiping. 

Before you post anything online, be absolutely certain you’re not making something public that should be private. Do it to protect others. And do it to protect yourself. If you want close friends, you can’t be perceived as a gossip. The Bible says, “When arguing with your neighbour, don’t betray another person’s secret.” Others may accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain a good reputation” (Proverbs 25:9-10 NLT).

Be trustworthy!

Keep what’s private, private.

The third set of questions you’ll want to ask when gossip starts flying begins with this: “Am I permitting — maybe even encouraging — others to gossip?” It’s not only wrong to dish it out; it’s also wrong to eat it up. Scripture is clear: “Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander” (Proverbs 17:4 NLT). Notice that this verse doesn’t say that only gossipers are wrongdoers. No, it says wrongdoers are also those who “listen to gossip.” It not just wrong to spread gossip; it’s wrong to consume it. Why? Because what you permit, you promote.

Not only should you keep yourself from gossiping, you shouldn’t associate with those who gossip. What is true “in person” is also true online. Because I am a Jesus follower, I do not develop close friendships with gossips; in the same way, I choose to avoid those who continually spray venom online.

Remember, if someone gossips to you, then they’re likely to gossip about you. Stay clear of repeating gossip — and of hearing or seeing it.

If someone is gossiping in person or online, you can be subtle in your approach to avoiding it. You can explain politely that you are not feeling comfortable with the conversation. If that’s not your style, you can take a caring approach. Explain to the gossiper that if __________ (insert names) knew you were talking about them, you would hurt their feelings. (And if you’re talking about them online, there’s a pretty good change they’re going to know.)

Or you could help gossipers take an approach that is consistent with the teachings of Jesus. Remind them of Matthew 18:15-16, that if they have a problem with another brother or sister, they’re supposed to go directly to that person. And if all else fails to stop the gossipers, be direct and make the consequences clear. If they keep it up, you’re not going to hang out with them, anymore (or follow them, or whatever). 

Any time I talk about someone else, whether in person or online, I want my words to be something I’d be willing tp say in their presence. We should answer honestly, Am I about to make private matters public?” When talking or posting, “Are my words helpful or hurtful?” Finally, “Am I permitting or encouraging others to gossip?” What we say (or allow others to say) matters because our words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). I want my words always to be helpful;, not hurtful. You know that old saying: you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. By God’s grace, let’s be a part of bringing solutions, not increasing problems. 

Gossip-Free – Part One

God set forth ten commandments for His people. One of them states that we are not to bear false witness. In today’s terminology we might say that a person should not be involved in gossip. Gossip always involves speaking things that are not entirely true. And, even if the facts are accurate, you are only hearing one side of the story and thus missing perspective. And, believe me, perspective can make all the difference in understanding a situation accurately.

Interesting: the people being gossiped about hate it, and God hates it. So before you post an on-line posting, a comment, or a link, consider three sets of questions to keep yourself gossip-free online and thus not in sin. Breaking any one of the commandments is, according to James, a sin.

Before you comment on anything online, ask yourself the first set of questions: “Is what I’m about to say helpful or hurtful? Will this build up or tear them down? What’s my intention behind what I’m about to type?”

Paul surely never dreamed of the technological advances we have today. But he still directly addressed our tendency to gossip: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). If what you intend to communicate is unwholesome, don’t type it. Don’t tweet it. Don’t post it. As followers of Jesus, we want everything we say to build up others. The Bible tells us, “A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire. A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:27-28). 

We all hate when others gossip about us or someone we love, but we don’t always realize how quickly we can fall into gossiping ourselves. Sometimes we even think we’re being honest, but actually we’re disguising a dig. You know what I’m talking about. We start with something positive before sharing what we really think — the proverbial turd rolled in glitter.

      • “I’ve always liked this restaurant, except for the poor service last time.”
      • “She’s always been someone I’ve admired, but after what she said last week …”
      • “For years I’ve really respected him. But let me tell you what I just found our.”

Even Christians fall prey to deceiving ourselves in fairly elaborate ways. 

One young pastor writes: “When I was a new Christian in college, I never wanted to miss the Thursday evening prayer meeting because if you did, you were fair game. ‘We need to pray for Craig,’ other Christians would say. ‘He doesn’t seem as passionate about God as he use to be. If he was, he’d been here praying with us. And did you hear that he said another bad word during practice? Yep, we definitely need to pray for him.’ One time they were praying in my living room, and I had a test early the next morning. About 11:00p.m., I told them I was going to bed. I actually heard one guy tell the group they needed to pray for me because I cared more about my class than I did about God’s presence.”

Now in that same spirit of carefully disguising gossip as well-intentioned prayer requests, many make their “concerns” public on Facebook or some other form of social media. We’ve all heard or seen these kinds of prayers, if we have not been the person praying them.

      • “Please be in prayer for Megan. She’s doing things with her boyfriend she shouldn’t be doing”
      • “Pray that Bob stays away from that woman in accounting who keeps flirting with him”
      • “Hey, y’all, lift up Jenn in prayer NOW!! She was boozing @ the party last nite.”
      • “My dad lost his cool again with mom. Believe with me that God will do a work in him.”

While it’s always good to pray, not all prayer requests belong online. At least not with the kind of descriptions that imply something you may know very little about in someone else’s life. If you’re going to request prayer online, do it in a way that doesn’t make others look bad.

Maybe you’re inclined to push back and argue, “But, Ralph, it’s okay to talk about things if they’re true, right?” Not necessarily. Everything you say should be true, but not everything that’s true should be said. Before you type it, ask yourself, “Is this helpful? Or hurtful?

If it’s not helpful, don’t say (type) it. 

The Price of Peace – Part Two

The Bible is quite clear about how we can cultivate and enjoy God’s peace, as well as how we can lose it. When we worry and fret over what we don’t have, what we wish we had, what someone else thinks of us, or how jealous we are of others, inner peace remains elusive. Scripture tells us, “Worry weighs a person down, an encouraging word cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25 NLT).

Whenever technology increases our worry, whenever it helps us fragment our attention and compartmentalize our hearts, it also kills our peace. We worry when we rely on our own abilities rather than trust in God. But His Word tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

When we lack peace, we live stressed and afraid. We’re always wondering when the next problem is going to pop up, the next conflict arise, the next crisis hit. Even when things are good, we hold our breath, constantly expecting that other shoe to drop. (It always does, right?) It’s hard to be whole-hearted in our pursuit of God when our thoughts are polluted by worry and anxiety. Instead, we should, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Now is a great time to be brutally honest.

Are you addicted to something on line? Looking lustfully? Spending uncontrollably? Surfing endlessly? Playing continually? Gambling consistently? Scrolling incessantly?

Tell the truth.

While it’s never going to be fun or easy to kick an online addiction, you’ll be surprised how quickly your peace will be restored once you surrender the problem to God. Because if you’re serious about pursuing God’s healing, He’ll meet you wherever you are.

So if you find yourself overwhelmed with virtual temptations, remember that God isn’t surprised. He knows what you face, and He’s already made a plan to help you find freedom. Paul offers us this amazing promise: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Don’t miss the power of these words. 

God will provide a way out.

What’s your way out? I don’t know. It could be something dramatic. But be honest. You are a sharp person. If some small tweak would have fixed your problem, you would have done it a long time ago.

You way out may be confessing to your spouse, your best friend, your small group, or your pastor. It might be deleting an app and making sure you can’t get it again. You might need to lay down your phone, iPad, iPod, Kindle, Kobo, computer, television, and anything else so you can’t get to anything you shouldn’t see. I don’t know what you need to do. But chances are you have a pretty good idea.

God promises to give you a way out.

James tells us, “Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

If you want to be a man or woman of integrity, then maybe it’s time for you to submit to God like never before. That’s where you start. Then with Christ’s power, you can resist the devil and all his e-temptations. Tragically, so many people do just the opposite. They resist God’s promptings and give in to the temptations of the evil one. But that won’t be you. And it won’t be me.

Instead we will live with online integrity leading to holiness and righteous living. Because our lives are not about us. We will not gratify the self-centered lusts of the flesh because we’re born of the Spirit. We will not allow God’s loving trust to slide into the quicksand or popular opinion sink us into lower standards. We will guard our peace. We won’t allow how we use tech to rob us of our purpose, passion, and power.

As we pray, God will give us wisdom to set up pleasant boundaries and safeguards to keep temptations as far away from us as possible. And when we are tempted, we know that Jesus has already given us an escape route.

We will seek Him, see His way out, and take it.

We have His power to overcome sin. We have His Spirit to lead us into righteousness. We have His presence to keep us pure.

We will be whole.

We will be complete.

We will know the peace of the Lord. 

The Price of Peace – Part One

When you think about it, no one stumbles into righteousness. People fall into sin every day. But no one just falls into holiness. It requires making deliberate, prayerful choices and walking an intentional path. Which bring us around to thinking of the peace that being right with God brings into our life. When we are born again, we finally have peace with God (Romans 5:1) as the war is over. And then as we walk with Jesus we have the inner peace that passes all understanding just as He promises.

However, there is a stress point here in our lives. Because of modern technology we see this peace that is specific to being a believer destroyed by the constant need (or what we think is a need) to respond to every sound that our phones and laptops make when messages are being received. 

Peace is a funny thing. We tend to think of it as the absence of conflict, the period between wars and military battles where opposing sides at least pretend to get along. (Does that remind you of some marriages?) Whether it’s “peace and quiet” longed for by a stay-at-home mom with young children or something negotiated among world political leaders, we all tend to think of peace as this quiet, calm, serene state of being.

But in the Jewish culture, the word peace, shalom, has a much richer, fuller meaning than just “getting along” with everybody. In fact. Shalom is one of the underlying principles of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that Jews consider foundational to their history. Shalom means not only the kind of personal peace we often crave but also a harmonious environment and a sense that everything’s right with the world.

Shalom is about living out the fullness of who God created you to be and enjoying the abundance of blessings God showers on you. This kind of peace includes a feeling of confidence and blessing because you know who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. It also encompasses a sense of security, an ability to relax and not have to try to control everything because you’re able to trust in God’s goodness as well as His plan. What’s interesting is that peace, shalom, cannot be earned like a paycheque after a week’s work. It comes as a free gift if we’re just willing to receive it. 

We all say we want more peace, but I wonder if we recognize what we do that often robs us of God-given peace. Like checking our email obsessively because we’re afraid we’ll miss something, when we should be enjoying time with God, our family, or a close friend we’ve been missing. Or like responding to emails to make sure everyone views us as the hardworking, super-efficient people we are, when we should be focusing on more important priorities. Like killing time surfing for an hour or so because we are avoiding a difficult conversation. Like obsessing over the latest hot app game when we should be playing with our kids. Like numbing the paining of life by clicking to the “wrong sites” for a lustful escape from reality.

Here’s what many people miss: when we misuse technology, we’re robbing ourselves of the peace we so desperate crave, because even the momentary escape is followed by waves of intense guilt. We want to numb the pain, but on the other side of our binge, the pain is still there, only worse. We love the momentary distraction, but then reality screams at us and our responsibilities pile up. We love the thrill of the lust, but the fear of getting caught haunts us and robs us of sleep and peace. Like a person dying of thirst who gulps salt water, that which is supposed to satisfy only intensifies our need. So life goes on as usual. More stress. More anxiety. More worries.

And less peace.

Everyone talks about being so busy and longing for more rest, but not many of us are willing to guard our integrity by unplugging and protecting our personal peace.

One way to measure the peace in your life is to think about your level of satisfaction and contentment. Are you always striving for more, trying to keep up with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers? Or can you appreciate the enormous blessings you’re enjoying today — a bed to sleep in, food to eat, a family to love, friends to enjoy, a car to drive, and a job that provides income?

I’m convinced that our peace (or the absence thereof) is directly tied to what we focus on each day. We don’t need a lot of specialized knowledge or superhuman will to achieve peace. We simply need to keep paying attention to what we are doing with our time. If we’re focused on escaping the pain of life, avoiding problems, and trying to control our image to the rest of the world, then we won’t have much peace. And the more we seek to surf porn, feed a shopping or gambling addiction online, or envy others for all they appear to have online, the more miserable, restless, and anxious we’re going to feel.

Guaranteed.

More next time….

Moved To Action

The Greek word that the New Testament translates “compassion” is splagchnizomai. It is pronounced “splag-ch-NEE-zo-my.” It means “to be moved as to one’s bowels.” It means to have your bowels yearn. It’s a passion arising from a place so deep inside you that you can feel it, that it sounds like your intestines are working, doing something inside of you.

When the New Testament was being written, people believed that love and compassion originated from within your bowels because that was the deepest place in your body, right in your center. When they used the word splagchnizomai, they were describing an ache, an empathy for another person felt deep inside. But even more important, it means that you feel so strongly, you are moved to action. Don’t miss this. It’s powerful. Compassion is not just an emotion, not just some feeling you have that eventually passes.

True compassion demands action.

Let me put this another way. If you say that you care but then don’t act on that feeling, it’s the same as not caring at all. Please reflect on this, because It can be hard to process.

Let’s think about what this looks like in our everyday life. When we see something on Instagram that really connects with us, or something on Facebook that makes us feel some emotion., what do we do? We click. On Instagram, we may spring to double-tap on the picture, because that Likes it. Tap, tap. We can see that the person is going through a hard time, and that makes us feel bad for them. So we acknowledge their pain by giving them our Like or double-click. But clicking isn’t caring. Truly caring means taking some action. It’s getting ourselves involved so we can make a difference in a life. Clicking doesn’t change anything. Caring is not Liking a post; it’s loving a person.

As you might guess, Jesus is the best example of how this concept was lived out. In every verse in the Gospels where we see Jesus and the word compassion together, we immediately see Him perform some action. He was there, He felt compassion, and He did something. Every single time.

But don’t just take my word for it. Look for yourself. For example, in the gospel of Mark, a man approaches Jesus with a desperate need:

“A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed” (Mark 1:40-42 NLT).

Compassion. Splagchnizomai. Jesus felt, and immediately He acted. He touched the man. 

Here’s another one. When Jesus was leaving Jericho, two blind men heard Him going by and called out to Him, asking for His help (Matthew 20:29-30). “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him” (Matthew 20:34).

Jesus felt compassion; therefore, He acted. True compassion demands action. To say you care but then not act is not to care at all. We’re living in a society where we care less and less about other people. That’s even quantifiable: young adults care 40 percent less than they did just a few decades ago. It’s tragic. And I believe, it’s unacceptable for those of us who call ourselves God’s people, His Church, to just sit by and not act when we’re surrounded by people in need.

It boils down to this: the more I obsess over social media, the more I care about me and the less I care about other people. But the more I focus on Jesus — the more I try to get to know Him, to serve Him, to draw closer to Him — the less I care about me and the more I care about His people (John 3:30).

When I look at how Jesus lived His life, and when I allow the words He said to challenge me, something in me changes. I am compelled to deny myself, to take up my cross, and to follow Him (Matthew 16:24). I actually want to die to myself. I want to follow Him.

I’m going to ask you some potentially really difficult questions. When was the last time you gave an hour to serve someone else? What about a whole day? Have you ever spent an entire weekend just serving other people?

What about financially? When was the last time you really went out of your way to give financially? I don’t mean something obligatory, something people might expect of you. I mean that you gave just because you felt like it. You gave a significant, difficult amount for you that would genuinely make a difference in some else’s life.

When was the last time you missed out on doing something that you really wanted to do because you chose instead to invest that time in someone else? If you’ve done any of these things recently, then I praise God with you.

If you don’t remember the last time you did something like these things, could it be that you’re not really that close to Jesus? You might think that’s a judgmental question. Possibly. But here’s something I know for a fact: when people are really close to Jesus, their lives are no longer about themselves. They become about glorifying God and loving others. 

Mountaintop Experience – Part Two

We had a mountaintop experience with the Lord and now life has apparently settled back to “normal” and we are walking through a deep, dark valley. Faith does not seem to exist and you even question whether God really does love you and wonder if He seriously cares for you or even knows that you exist.

Sometimes the pain in these valley times is so intense that all you can think about is relief. Everything in you just wants it to stop. Because the immediate hurt is so extreme, instead of thinking about Jesus, you may just be thinking about getting out of the pain you’re in. But this can be become a pivotal moment in your faith journey. This is when you can experience the depth of God’s grace in a way that’s impossible during better moments. During mountaintop times. His presence is real in your pain. And it might become more real in this valley than it was on the mountaintop, if you can recognize that the way is through, not out.

Perhaps that’s why Blackaby sees this crisis as so vital, a requisite part of the Christian’s faith. If we’re going to become stronger in our faith, more committed to God, more in love with Jesus, then our beliefs will be tested. They must be tested. Blackaby explains, “Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes, all the time!” People may tell you that God won’t give you more than you can bear. While they probably mean well, that’s simply not true. The Bible does say that God won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). But He often gives you more than you can handle, so you can learn to depend wholly on Him.. 

Those words can be difficult to read and digest when you’re hurting. Believe me, I understand. Remember: I’ve been there. As a father of 6, I have been there. And as a pastor for 50+ years, I often walk with people through the lowest points in their lives. It’s never easy. But God’s faithfulness is always evident. Often in hindsight. But He is always there and working on your behalf.

I think Christianity has gotten a bad rap in the last few decades because so many Christians try to pretend they have everything figured out. This includes the problem of pain in the world. I’m not against developing a theological understanding of evil in the world, of human suffering, and of the goodness of God. That’s very important. It’s just that when you’re standing in front of a father whose son has just be killed for his faith, or a woman who just learned that her cancer has returned, theology — or at least the ability or need to explain it — isn’t necessarily our first objective. When words don’t work, remember that presence does. Love does. An embrace does. It is time to embrace those walking through the valley and do the same thing Jesus did: love them, challenge them, accept them, forgive them, be there for them.

That’s the beauty and power of the incarnation. God didn’t shout His love from heaven or the mountaintop. He showed us His love on earth as He became one of us in the person of His Son Jesus. When someone is in the valley, rather than trying to explain what’s happening, sometimes we are better off listening. Rather than preaching, we focus on loving. And in those moments of quiet presence, God often reveals Himself in ways that go beyond our human ability to understand. 

Unless our own suffering draws us closer to God, it’s hard to offer genuine compassion — and hope — to others. When we aren’t connected to others’ pain, it’s tempting instead to offer them bumper sticker platitudes and pat answers designed to keep our own fragile faith intact. Some people even go so far as to tell those who are suffering that it’s because of sin in their lives or because they don’t have enough faith or because they’re simply getting what they deserve. What a terrible, dangerously, hurtful, unbiblical response! Nowhere do I see Jesus condemning people who are hurting; I see Him only allowing His grace to convict their hearts and convince them of their real need.

Our world is broken. Because we live in a world where our free will has opened the door to our spiritual enemy, we will all continue to experience painfully hard, terrible, unexpected events in our lives. It’s not that growing mature in our faith exempts us from these events. The opposite might be closer to the truth. It’s simply that we’ve experienced enough pain and grown so much closer to God — even in spite of our pain — that our faith has been strengthened, deepened, and matured for the next tough time in the valley.

Author and scholar C. S. Lewis explains it this way: “I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think He wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.”

So, remember, mountaintop or valley — God is with you and He never leaves you or forsakes you. Take His hand and walk through the valley. 

Mountaintop Experience – Part One

Most of us know what it’s like to have a mountaintop experience. For many of us, this is how we became Christians in the first place. We had an amazing experience in which we felt God’s presence in a real, tangible, all-consuming way. We sensed His love, His grace, His power, His Spirit. In that moment we knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives on this earth, as well as the rest of eternity, serving Him, pursuing Him, and making Him known.

That is certainly my story. The night that I was saved I actually saw Jesus ‘in the flesh’ and He physically hugged me and poured His love into me. I saw Him. I touched Him. I heard His voice speak to me (see 1 John 1:1-4). I experienced His forgiveness and an inner washing resulting in a supernatural clean feeling inside. And the spiritual transformation began!

It didn’t matter where I was; I believed that God was with me. I shared my faith with anyone and everyone I met or ran into while out shopping or just taking a walk. I especially spoke to other pastors and priests assuming that, like me, they had bought into religion and did not have a personal relationship with the living Jesus Christ. It seemed like God answered every prayer. Every Bible verse I read seemed to be written just for me. And everywhere I went it seemed like God gave me the words to say and showed me a difference that I could make.

Initially, being a Christian felt like this amazing experience. You have these powerful times of praying and studying the Bible. Each day the words of the Bible seem to jump off the page, ministering to you in just the perfect way. Sermons seem to be especially for you, directly addressing something important that you’re going through or thoroughly explaining a Scripture you just read. Then you see the same verse on somebody’s social media feed, and you know that God is speaking to you. When you get in your car, your favourite song comes on the radio, and it feels like God played it just for you. You feel an urgency to help your non-Christian friends, and God constantly gives you the right words to say. You know He’s with you. When you’re in a rush at the mall, a parking spot opens up right in the front row.

That’s when you know you are on the top of the mountain. 

Then, at some point, life starts to creep back in. And God’s presence seems to fade. Without even realizing it, you have come down from the mountain, back to the real world, and your faith doesn’t seem quite so amazing anymore. You still believe in God, still go to church, still try to read the Bible and pray when you have time. But the sermons aren’t always just for you. Your favourite song isn’t on the radio anymore. And the best parking spots are all taken.

Suddenly life isn’t going as you planned and hoped. Your prayers feel flat and stale. Like God has stopped listening. Someone betrays you. God doesn’t feel as close as He once did. You feel disoriented, uncertain where you stand with God, or whether you’re still standing at all. You were up on the mountaintop, and now you’re down in the valley.

If you’ve never been there, I hope you never are. But I suspect you might know something about what I’m saying. You woke up one day only to realize you were burned out. Discouraged. That little orange light comes on, telling you that your faith tank is dangerously low. It’s at this time that we hit the valley. You have come off the mountaintop and are now walking through the dark valley 

In his book Experiencing God, author Henry Blackaby describes this valley as a “crisis of belief,” a season of struggles and doubting God and His goodness in our lives. Usually, this crisis is ignited by a specific trigger, such as a serious physical challenge, a financial setback, or a relational disappointment.

Often the trigger is something unexpected or even unthinkable. Sometimes several smaller but challenging events overlap, and the combined burden becomes a crushing weight that causes a person’s faith to collapse. Didn’t Christ say that His burden is light and His yoke was easy (Matthew 11:30)? Suddenly, getting out of bed in the morning feels intimidating. You can’t imagine how you’re going to get through the rest of the morning, let alone an entire day. Where’s God now?

In those moments, faith seems irrelevant. When the Titanic is sinking, it’s hard to enjoy a game of shuffleboard on deck or to appreciate the string quartet playing music on the bandstand. When you don’t know whether the radiation and chemo will work or where the money’s going to come from or when you’ll see your child again, it’s hard to believe that praying, trusting and hoping will make a difference. It’s hard to keep the faith when you have so little control over everything else in your life. Yup, you are in the valley. 

More next time…

It’s All In Your Perspective

I was reading the other night. Not usually as I read a substantial amount of written material on a daily basis. I was reading on having a Christian perspective and how a lot of what transpires in our walk of faith is a matter of perspective. In other words, how we view something determines how we see it and what we see. The old glass being half-full or half-empty type of thing. To emphasize the point the author was making about perspective he shared a little poem that helps us see how perspective can change our view of what is really transpiring and taking place. 

These verses were written by a young man names Kyle McCarthy and, when written, he was only fifteen.

Kyle’s Poem

God doesn’t love me

You can’t force me to believe

God is good

This is the One Truth in life

This world is a product of chance

How can I believe that

God will use my life

I know with certainty that

God has left me

Never again will I say that

Christ is risen from the dead

I know now more than ever in my life that

Man can save himself

We must realize that it is ignorant to think

God answers prayers

Christians declare that

Without God this world would fall into darkness

This world can and will meet my needs

It is a lie to say that

God has always been there for me

I now realize that

No matter what I do

The Truth is

He doesn’t love me

How can I presume that

God is good

Okay, remember that this is about perspective – the way you view life, God, circumstances, situations, and yourself.

So, I’m going to ask you to read this poem one more time. Only this time, as you read it, I’d like to ask you to make one slight change and read it backwards.

Begin at the last line and read backwards to the first line.

Wow, that makes quite a difference, doesn’t it? 

So much of what we go through works just like this poem. All we can see is what’s right in front of us. But how we see it — our perspective — makes all the difference to the message we receive and the message we live out as believers.

But with time, with patience, with perspective, we begin to see things differently. Perspective – how we view our situation and circumstances – determines what we really see. So, I for one, am working to see life through eyes of faith and hope.

Youth – Part Twelve

Every young person, once they have journeyed enough with Jesus to discover who they are “in Christ” and are discipled so that they are mature in the faith and moving forward into embracing a ministry as part of the “priesthood of all believers,” needs a mentor. Usually the young person needs to go looking for a mentor. At times, a mentor will come looking for them.

When looking for a mentor a young person needs to find someone who they like and who is favourable to the idea of getting to know them and then investing in them. This person will not be easy to find because they will be unique qualities that they will need to be able to help a person grow in the faith as they are mentored. And, because each young person is unique you will need to find a mentor who can work with your uniqueness.

When you find a mentor and begin to work one-on-one with them it is good to remember the following “rules”…

1> When meeting you have a one hour appointment so keep the small talk (often called fellowship) short and get right to the things that need to be discussed. You are not there to “chat.”Sharing more of life and general fellowship can happen if and when you begin to travel with your mentor or visit with the mentor in their home specifically for fellowship. This hour is for you to learn and grow.

2> Come on time – in fact, come ahead of time to pick a quiet corner or table out of the general flow of traffic at the coffee shop or restaurant. You want to have a place that is quiet and conductive to talking and sharing.

3> Come with 5 to 10 questions through through, written out, and ready to ask. Keep the conversation moving so that you actually get to ask the majority of the questions that you have written down. And, remember to bring a digital recording device to record the conversation so that you are not having to take notes during the discussion.

4> Remember, you are having the meeting to learn from your mentor – their wisdom and their experience in life and ministry. So, don’t slip into trying to impress them with “I said,” “I did,” God showed me.”

5> Pay for the coffee or the meal. Remember, the mentor is helping you and is not being paid for his time. So, make sure you cover the costs at the meeting.

6> If there was something that was to be worked on before the meeting, have it accomplished. And, do a good job of whatever it was that was assigned at the last meeting. This way you are not wasting their time and are getting maximum benefit from your time with your mentor. It also shows your mentor that you are interested and engaged in the process of mentoring and that you value their time and effort on your behalf.

7> Always end on time.

8> Always thank your mentor for the time he or she has invested and the interest that this shows in your development and future ministry.

9> Set the date and time for the next meeting and determine any pre-meeting work that needs to be accomplished.

 

Youth Today – Part Eleven

 

As we continue our look at the “youth today” – some warning to the youth. Things they need to be cautious about…

1> Don’t give up on the “Church.” First, it has been founded and established by Jesus, whom we love and serve. Secondly, He is returning one day for His Church and so we need to be a part of a local church. Thirdly, according to 1 Corinthians 12 every believer needs to be a member of the Body – a local church – connected to others in the local church relationally in such a way that you are engaged with the life of the body. And, never forget, Jesus is able to bring change to His Church through you, the young people.

So, find a church that believes the Bible and teaching the Scriptures and become a member. You can be God’s instrument to bring change to His Church – changing it from the inside out. You can be leaven in then loaf. So, become involved and embrace the life of the local church and do your part to bring the needed changes. And, don’t give up when disappointed or hurt. Deal with the issues and grow.

If there is not a Bible-believing church in your area. Great! Start one.

 

2> Guard your heart against the spirit of tradition and the spirit of religion. Both can defeat any semblance of life and vitality in a local church regardless of the size of the assembly. And, can defeat life in the walk of the believer. God is clearly cleaning house – His house, the Church – and shaking everything that is wrongly connected to religion and tradition. Listen to the author of Hebrews as he writes,

“So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time— he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.” (Hebrews 12:25-27 The Message Version)

3> Don’t like the world influence you and squeeze you into its mould. Romans 12:1-2 states, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

And, may I add, don’t let the Church squeeze you into its image either. Be yourself because God created you to be unique. This leads me right into the next, and last, point.

4> Be the best you that you can be. This means you need to discover who you are “in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). As you begin the journey to discover who you really are “in Christ” there are some things to remember:

A> Remove the baggage you are carrying – the hurt, the unforgiveness, the bitterness, even any resentment.

B> Remove all cultural, generational, and religious baggage that you are carrying. Ask God to show you what needs to be removed and how to become free of all that hinders you as you take a good and honest look at who you are, how you got to this point, and what might be hindering you from moving forward, seeing the things that are anchoring you to your past in some way.

C> Journey with Jesus deep inside and face who you are at this point. He will pour out His grace and bring healing, release, and freedom.

D> Discover the “real you” and who you are “in Christ” and learn to express “the real and new you” regardless of what people think or say. This can be a fight because others want you to be a certain way and live according to their standards.

Discover the real you, express the real you, be the real you regardless.

Next time – youth and relating to your mentor