Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category
Wendy keeps bottled water and peanut butter crackers in her car—not for herself, but for those who stroll the medians at major intersections: Hungry — Laid Off — Will Work for Food.
Wendy isn’t comfortable dishing out cash to strangers, fearful of feeding an addiction. But neither is she comfortable turning a cold shoulder to one of God’s children who is hungry or thirsty. So she rolls down the window of her Chevy and offers a bottle of water, a package of crackers, a smile, and a “God bless you.”
How about you? Give a helping hand. Join a Habitat for Humanity chapter and help build a home for the homeless. Or step up and pay the hospital bill for a single mom who lost her job, and almost lost her child.
Not physically able to climb a ladder and swing hammer? Not financially able to cough up the clams to build a new wing on the pediatric ward?
Then do something small. How many big contributions do you find in your New Testament anyway?
The collection Paul gathered for suffering saints in Jerusalem may be one. We don’t know the amount, because no goal was mentioned; no fifteen-foot thermometer displayed to gauge how the campaign was going; not even a victory shout in the church bulletin trumpeting the final tally. But Paul asked a lot of churches to participate, so I’m guessing it was big. Whatever the total, it wasn’t underwritten by a big grant from The Gentile Foundation; it was made up of a lot of little gifts from a lot of big-hearted people.
Then there’s Barnabas. The magnitude of his largesse isn’t given, but chances are he ponied up some serious shekels when he sold his property and gave the money to the church. That’s about as close as you’re going to get to big ones. Most of the things we read about are little things, not big things.
God doesn’t ask many of us to do big things, because most of us aren’t capable of that. But he asks all of us to do little things, because all of us are capable of that.
Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward (Matt. 10:42 NASB).
I think God smiles when Wendy rolls down her window.
When Russian writer Leo Tolstoy encountered a beggar, he reached into his pocket for coins. Finding none, he looked the man in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, my brother, I have nothing to give.” The down-and-outer said, “You gave me more than I asked for . . . you called me brother.”
People need to be acknowledged; need to know they have worth.
Discipleship isn’t a big, flashy production. It’s played out in the everyday bumps and bruises of life in little things, thoughtful things, loving things—a handwritten note, a hug, doing lunch with someone who needs to talk and needs a non-judgmental friend to listen. In the Bible it’s found in simple phrases: “Encourage one another;” “Be kind to one another;” “Build each other up.” Things like that. As the song has it …
Give me a hand when I’ve lost the way
Give me your shoulder to cry on
Whether the day is bright or gray
Give me your heart to rely on
Little Things Mean a Lot
Lyrics by Edith Lindeman
You make a donation, lend a helping hand, give a shoulder to cry on. “It’s no big deal,” you say. Yes it is! Kindness, compassion, understanding, concern, acknowledgment of worth is always a big deal.
So, what is the cup of cold water that you will give today? To whom will you give it?
Don’t leave this piece without answering those questions—because you and I write this message together. The words I’ve written are the least important part; the deed you do writes the most important part—for it is not my words but your deed that is the cup of cold water that counts.
Mark and Katy were living a happy life in our community and church when they were abruptly uprooted and transferred to a remote, thinly-populated outpost in Alberta, Canada.
I stopped by to spend a night with them when a trip took me that way. We talked and laughed late into the night. But out of the corner of my eye I saw a tear trickle down Katy’s cheek.
Before going to bed I stepped outside and was mesmerized by a breathtaking view of a pitch-black sky festooned with a thousand shimmering stars. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t alone; Katy was leaning against the porch railing, gazing at the same sky.
“Homesick?” I asked.
“Terribly!” she said. “I miss my friends and my church. This is so far from home; sometimes I feel like I’m on a different planet.
“I come out here most every night,” she said. “I like it when the stars come out; they connect me with my closest friends back home, because they are the same stars I used to look at with them. I have a pact with them that we will still look at these stars together—they there, me here—and think of each other.”
Centuries ago, a prophet thought the stars provided good medicine for homesick hearts. He pointed an exiled and dejected people to the stars …
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name (Isa. 40:26).
The stars that looked down on those homesick captives in Babylon were the very same stars they had looked up at as they strolled the streets of Jerusalem in their beloved homeland.
The stars in the sweep of Katy’s view not only connected the lonely station where she was living with the hometown she had left behind; they also linked her with ages past, for they were the same stars that looked down on those who went before her.
Go outside tonight and look at the stars. Your father and grandfather looked at the very same stars.
And long before your grandpa lifted his eyes to look at them, Jesus stepped out the door of his Nazareth carpenter shop, raised his eyes toward home and saw the very same stars. Moses, too, saw the same stars as he trudged the desert sands between Egypt and Canaan.
When you look at the stars you’re gazing into a distant past. According to Benjamin Burress, astronomer at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California, the farthest star visible to the naked eye is a little over 4,000 light years away, in the constellation Cassiopeia. Travelling at 186,300 miles per second, it has taken the light of that star 4,000 years to make its way from there to here. Think of it! You are seeing the light from that star, not as it is now, but as it was the very day 4,000 years ago when God said to Abraham, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” (Gen. 15:5).
Stunned by the stars, the psalmist said …
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Ps. 8:3-4).
What are you that God is mindful of you? What are you that he cares for you? Simple. He thought of you and chose you before he created the world—and before he hurled the first star into space.
You mean more than the world and the stars to him. You mean everything to him.
I had a delightful meal at one of my favorite restaurants last night. Back home, emptying my pockets I discovered my credit card was missing. It hadn’t been stolen; I had just left my brain and my plastic behind at the restaurant.
As I drove back to retrieve the orphaned card, I began thinking about other things I’ve left behind. You see, I left more than my credit card at the restaurant last night; I also left impressions. Yes, I know, I left an impression of carelessness. But I hope I didn’t leave one of care-less-ness—one that said I couldn’t care less about the hostess, the waitress, the busboy. I hope I didn’t leave an impression of coldness, haughtiness, or rudeness.
Every morning when you walk out the door, you leave an impression behind. It may be a care-less impression that whispers, “I couldn’t care less about your day”—or it may be a care-more impression that shouts, “I care more for you than you can imagine.” The impression you leave on the other side of that door can make or mar the day for the person left there. Being ignored hurts almost as much as being abused. Being adored infuses a sense of worth.
Everywhere you go you leave an impression.
What impression do you leave when you walk out of the restaurant, the department store, the grocery, the cleaners, the bank, the office? Do you leave behind a harsh word or an encouraging one? A testy attitude or a cheerful one? Do you leave an impression that arouses a feeling of “I hope she comes back soon” or one of “I hope I never have to see her again”?
You go in with something that you leave behind. Every place. Every time. An impression.
The Golden Rule
“All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” Jesus charged.
Confucius put the Golden Rule in negative form: “Do not to others what you would not wish done to yourself.” So did Rabbi Hillel. Asked by a prospective convert to state the whole law while he stood on one leg, Hillel said: “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is only commentary.”
There is a big difference between the negative maxims of these gurus and the positive initiative Jesus taught. The negative can be fulfilled by inaction; the positive only by action. The person who resolves, “I will not hurt,” is worlds apart from the one who resolves, “I will help.”
When you follow Jesus’ Golden Rule you always leave behind positive impressions, never negative ones: always polite, never rude; always considerate, never harsh; always kind, never cruel.
All about Me? Or All about You?
He enters the room grandiosely: “Here I am!” (“Lucky you!”)
She enters the room graciously: “There you are!” (“Lucky me!”)
Back-to-back Prime Ministers Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone took the same lady to dinner—Gladstone one evening and Disraeli the next. Asked what impressions these prominent men had made upon her, she said, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.”
What impression do you leave behind? Do people come away impressed by how important you are? Or do they come away impressed by how important you make them feel?
“People may forget what you say,” said Maya Angelou, “but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
“No man ever steps in the same river twice,” wrote Heraclitus, “for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” The river has surged on. The man has changed for better or worse.
These words are on a sticky note in my Bible …
This morning I woke up to something that never was before and never will be again. And the me that woke up was never the same before and will never be the same again.
Today Won’t Go as It Came
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).
The first half of that sentence belongs to God: he did the heavy lifting; made this brand new day, gift-wrapped it, and delivered it to your doorstep.
The second half of the sentence belongs to you. From the get-go you will greet the day with a smile or a smirk, be grateful or grouchy. You will honor God’s workmanship and consecrate the day by being glad, or dishonor God’s workmanship and desecrate the day by being grumpy.
A day never goes as it comes. It is well-used, ill-used, or unused.
This day will be filled with something, and it’s up to you to decide what that something will be.
You Won’t Go as You Came
This day won’t leave you as it found you. It will leave you stronger or weaker—with faith, hope, and love enlarged or diminished. It will leave you more congenial or more disagreeable, more thoughtful or more inconsiderate, more judgmental or more tolerant—more godly or more ungodly.
Your experiences, decisions, and attitudes change you. You never go back to being like you were before you read a certain thing, watched a certain program, met a certain person, went to a certain place, or did a certain thing. So keep a tight rein on what you read, what you watch, who you’re with, where you go, and what you do.
If what you’re watching or reading is filling you with negative feelings of hopelessness, despair, and bitterness, it’s time to change the channel or trash the treatise.
Those Who Rub Shoulders with You Won’t Go as They Came
We elect government officials to be our voice—trust them to represent us and speak for us. It doesn’t take long to learn if that trust was well-placed or misplaced, honored or violated.
God has chosen you to be his voice in your circle of influence. He trusts you to represent him, to speak and act for him. That’s awesome—and scary, given that he gives you freedom to speak and act however you choose.
Remind yourself with each encounter that this person is going to be different from having been in your presence. She will leave up in the clouds or down in the dumps, pumped-up or pushed-down, empowered or disheartened, blessed or distressed.
Family, friends, casual acquaintances, and strangers will come and go—but they won’t go as they came. When they go they will wish their time with you could have lasted longer—or be glad that it’s over.
If today got a little messy don’t despair. Just own up to its failures and say, “I’ll try again tomorrow.” For you see, first thing in the morning another brand new gift-wrapped day will be on your doorstep.
Rabbi Chaim Feld has launched a campaign to zap loshon hora (a Hebrew term for “evil tongue”). “Loshon hora,” says Rabbi Feld, “is any talk that causes mental anguish, tarnished reputation, or the lowering of someone’s esteem in others’ eyes.” He wants to put a stop to it.
Good luck with that, Rabbi—you’re declaring war on gossip, our favorite pastime; threatening to taint the taste of something we love. “There is nothing so delicious as the taste of gossip” (Prov. 26:22 CEV). Sure beats brussels sprouts.
Paul said that those God gave over to a “depraved mind” had “become filled with … evil, greed and depravity … full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.” Whew! Nothing there that we’re guilty of. Hold on—he’s not quite finished: “They are gossips, slanderers …” Uh oh!
He scorched some gals with too much time on their hands: “they get into the habit of being idle … and not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies” (1 Tim. 5:13).
“I’m going to tell you something,” she whispers, “but you mustn’t tell a soul.” She won’t—except her closest friends; and that only after they promise they won’t tell a soul. They won’t—except their closest friends. And there you go.
What you say is out of your control the second you say it. You can’t “unspeak” something that has been spoken any more than you can unring a bell, unscramble an egg, or put toothpaste back in the tube.
When you’re dumping garbage in her ear, she’s getting a subliminal message to be careful—“If she will talk to me about others, she will talk to others about me.”
Someone talking trash about your child gets your dander up, right? Well, when you gossip, you’re bad-mouthing God’s kid, and he’s gonna to be miffed.
Gossip implies that you are better than the person you’re trashing. It may make you feel superior, but it doesn’t make you superior. Putting someone down doesn’t build you up.
Have you ever received an anonymous letter? Sleazy. Despicable. Cowardly. Disgusting.
(Do you have time for an aside?) Renowned preacher Henry Ward Beecher received a letter with just one word: “Fool!” Reading the letter to his congregation, he said, “I’ve received quite a few letters from people who forgot to sign their name, but this is the first one I’ve ever received from someone who signed his name but forgot the write the letter.”
Desire for anonymity is a warning to slam on the brakes. So here’s my suggestion—don’t say anything about a person unless you would be willing for it to be repeated with your name as the author. Still better, picture the person you’re talking about just around the corner, hearing every word you speak.
If you’re looking for a job, don’t scan the classifieds for mote-hunters. That’s a crowded field with more applicants than job openings. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us to get the two-by-four out of our eye before trying to flick the speck of sawdust out of our neighbor’s eye. Judging others is presumptuous, self-exalting, vain, and hypocritical. “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jas. 4:12).
Before spewing a juicy bit of scuttlebutt, ask these questions:
Is what I am about to say going to help me?
Is it going to help the person I’m telling it to?
Is it going to help the person I’m telling it about?
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
Let’s put the kibosh on loshon hora!
Mark Zuckerberg, head honcho at Facebook, is seldom seen in anything other than jeans and a gray T-shirt. He says that eliminating clothing decisions simplifies his schedule and keeps him centered on priorities. You may question his sartorial taste, but you have to admire his focus. Most successful people keep a tight focus on priorities—they take care of their business and don’t waste time prying into matters that don’t concern them.
You have God-given work to do: He chose you before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4); He created you for good works that he prepared in advance for you to do (Eph. 2:10); and He gave you the gifts needed to accomplish those works (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:7-8, 11-13).
If you don’t use those gifts and do those works they aren’t rolled over into inventory to be used by someone else at some other time. The work simply doesn’t get done.
Some are inept at taking care of their business, but expert at knowing how others should be taking care of theirs. They know what the president should do, what the minister should do, what the minister’s wife should do, what Jack and Jill should do—and how they should do it.
James asked bluntly, “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jas. 4:12). It was his way of saying mind your own business.
After his resurrection, Jesus showed up on the beach edging the lake where Peter and six of his buddies were fishing. He cooked breakfast for them, and after breakfast said, “Peter, let’s take a walk, I want to talk to you.” Three times he asked, “Peter, do you love me?” And three times Peter answered, “Yes, of course I do.” OK Peter, here’s what I want you to do: “Feed my lambs; take care of my sheep.” It was an assignment of enormous trust.
But Peter’s attention was diverted by the slap, slap, slap of sandals. John’s sandals. John had seen Jesus and Peter walk away from the breakfast bunch, and had followed them. Peter pointed at John and asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” And Jesus said, “That’s none of your business. Your job is to follow me. Mind your own business.”
Peter learned the lesson and passed it on—in a little letter to some of his friends, he wrote: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men’s matters” (1 Pet. 4:15). He dumped meddling in a nest with some bad eggs there.
In a note Paul jotted to the Thessalonians, he wrote: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business …” (1 Thess. 4:11). They ignored that advice, provoking him to take a swing at them in his second letter, calling them “busybodies” (2 Thess. 3:11).
Your business is too important to be polluted by side-trips that divert you from your work. You don’t have time to sit around chewing the fat, meddling in matters that are none of your business.
Here are seven resolutions will help you switch course when you catch yourself slinging judgmental mud …
1. I resolve that the moment I think critically of someone, I will say to myself, “Mind your own business.”
2. I resolve to refocus—away from the perceived flaws of others, to a mental scrubbing of my own mind and tongue.
3. I resolve to remember that I will be weighed on the same scale that I use in weighing others (Matt. 7:1).
4. I resolve to be aware that putting someone down doesn’t build me up.
5. I resolve to reverse direction, turning away from what I find distasteful in a person by forcing myself to think about some excellent quality in him.
Commitment to resolutions 6 and 7 alone will go a long way
toward eliminating negative thought and talk.
6. I resolve that when I think or say something critical about a person, I will immediately spend an equal amount of time praying for her.
7. I resolve, above all, to live in such a way that no one will ever have reason to say to me, “Mind your own business!”
Their father was dead. Of the left-behind sons, Bunyan’s Greatheart said:
If they see any place where the old pilgrim hath lain, or any print of his foot, it ministereth joy to their hearts, and they covet to lie or tread in the same.
Perpetuating the principles of the “old pilgrim” is a tribute of gratitude for the values he held and instilled.
When word comes that “Moses my servant is dead,” hopefully a Joshua will step up, plant his feet in the prints left behind, and take up the work where Moses left off. When Elijah is translated, hopefully an Elisha will step up, don his mantle, and continue his work.
In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews—the Westminster Abbey of the Bible—the writer reels off a memory-jogging list of names whose work has ended, and who now watch those who carry on where they had called it a day. With those names in neon-glow, chapter 12 begins: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses … let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us.”
That great cloud of witnesses—“a sky full of eyes” someone called them—are now spectators. They who fought in the arena yesterday, take their seats to observe those who are fighting there today. Having done their part, they now watch to see how those who follow them do theirs. When Napoleon pointed to the pyramids and said, “Soldiers, forty centuries look down upon you!” he was challenging them to honor the past by making sure it had a future.
A dying generation is apprehensive about the next one:
I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? … a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it (Ecclesiastes 2:18, 21).
More tormenting is a dying generation’s concern about how the following one will treat their religious heritage. The greatest grief of many a parent is that their children attach little importance to what was to them of utmost importance—and have no interest in perpetuating it. Their spiritual life-work dies without a successor. The standard-bearer’s heart aches in knowing that there is no hand to catch the flag as it falls from his grasp.
We have been blessed by a generation of men and women who were committed heart and soul to the Lord. Their fervent devotion built a church that is endangered by a generation of whom Christ may say, “You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Revelation 3:2).
Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg portrayed a price paid and a debt owed:
We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men who struggled here have consecrated it far beyond our power to add or detract. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honoured dead we may take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.
Kingdom work, to borrow Lincoln’s prose, is an “unfinished work” that a previous generation “so nobly advanced.” And it is for us to be “dedicated to the great task remaining before us.” Let us not by indifference snuff the fire that was kindled by those who went before us. Let us gratefully plant our feet in the prints they left behind, and take up the work where they left off.
F.W. Boreham somewhere wrote about a family that lived in a comfortable house, with a delightful river running nearby. One day the river overflowed, the basement of the house flooded, and the chickens that roosted there drowned.
The man of the house stormed off to see the landlord and told him he was giving notice that they were vacating the house.
“Why?” he asked. “It’s a nice house, at a good price. I thought you were happy there.”
“All true,” said the tenant, “but the river overflowed, flooded the basement, and drowned all my chickens.”
“Oh, don’t move because of that,” reasoned the landlord. “Try ducks.”
Waking up to find all your hens under water is a bad way to start your day. But take a deep breath—making a snap decision when you have a mad on may multiply your problems; you may forfeit many pleasant things because of one unpleasant thing. If you have good friends, good schools, a good church, and your family is happy, think twice before cutting loose.
You have no guarantee that you won’t confront equally exasperating problems in your new nest. If you’ve ever moved, you know from experience that you’ll probably be swapping one set of problems for another. And that will likely trigger another move, and another, and another—and there you go.
When a preacher becomes the target of the church’s critic-in-residence, he’s on cloud nine when a search committee that thinks he’s the greatest thing since Mac and Cheese comes calling. But he’ll find carpers among his new flock before he gets his books unpacked. The parson that calls for the moving van the first time some snarly parishioner starts taking shots at him isn’t going to be any place long.
Some of the squawking may be his own fault: it may be that his misreading of the weather is the cause of the basement flooding. In any case, he won’t reach his first-year anniversary before he has ruffled the feathers of some of the church’s best birds.
Things sometimes go wrong. That’s the world we live in. The day will come when the river rises, the basement floods, and the chickens drown.
Before you throw in the towel because of an annoying problem, I have a suggestion. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left, list the things that are favorable where you are; on the right, the things that are unfavorable.
The left column might run like this: 1) River is usually tranquil, providing pleasant scenery, refreshing breeze, good fishing. 2) River overflows, on average, only once every 15 years. 3) House is well-built and comfortable. 4) Wife is happy. 5) Children are happy. 6) Good neighbors. 7) Good friends. 8) Good schools. 9) Good church.
And in the right hand column: 1) River overflowed. 2) Basement flooded. 3) Chickens drowned.
You get the idea. It’s an exercise worth trying any time you face a decision regarding your home, your job, your marriage, or your church. There’s a lot to be said for loving life as it is, where you are.
Sometimes, of course, change is unavoidable. But approach it cautiously, for not all change is good. It may be that changing your attitude is a better solution than changing your location, your job, your marriage partner, your church, or whatever is flooding your basement and drowning your chickens. Before calling it quits and sulking off in a huff, try ducks.
“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there … Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it’” (Luke 19:30-31).
What do you do when you catch a couple of rustlers red-handed, stealing your donkey? Roll up your sleeves and teach them a lesson they won’t soon forget? Not this guy, because he had heard about the man who wanted to borrow his donkey. Word on the street was that he healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, pulled off all sorts of miracles. So he was glad to loan him his donkey, even though he couldn’t imagine why he needed it. After all, he was the miracle man—he could make a donkey out of dirt if he wanted to. And he’d been known to materialize in places without warning—boom! Just like that. So he could have miraculously popped up in Jerusalem—he didn’t have to ride a donkey to get there.
But he was proud as a peacock when he saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem astride his donkey. (I wonder if anyone pointed him to Zechariah’s prophecy: “your king comes to you … gentle and riding on a donkey.”)
“Wouldja look at that?! Jesus. Riding my donkey. And just listen to that crowd.”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
The Bible displays an impressive exhibit of donkeys by other names. Moses’s staff. Rahab’s rope. David’s sling. Mary’s jar of perfume. Joseph’s tomb. Dorcas’s needle.
What’s your donkey’s name—your gift to Jesus? Have you ever thought of your gift as the means of transporting Jesus from one location to another—as something he needs to get to another place, to enter another heart? You do have such a gift, you know. “Christ has given each of us special abilities—whatever he wants us to have out of his rich storehouse of gifts” (Ephesians 4:7 TLB). “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others” (2 Corinthians 12:7 CEV). Don’t overlook that “each of us” in those two sentences. Not some of us, or a few of us, but each of us.
Can I make three suggestions? (Of course I can, I’m the one writing the piece.)
Suggestion Number One: Identify and take ownership of your gift.
There’s a good chance that you will find your gift—or gifts—in Paul’s list in Romans 12:6-8. However, Paul’s menu is suggestive, not exhaustive—so if you don’t see your gift here, you can find it through prayerful reflection. Think about what you enjoy doing, and do well.
It isn’t arrogant for you to admit your giftedness, for you recognize it for what it is—a gift, a God-given gift.
Find it. Claim it. Own it.
Suggestion Number Two: Commit your gift to God.
Have you ever gone to your knees and consciously committed your gift to him?
It could go something like this: Father, you have given me the gift of ____________________. I now commit it to you to be used in your service. From this day forward I pledge to use this gift to bless people and to glorify you. I offer myself and my gift to you to use when you please, where you please, as you please.
Suggestion Number Three: Pray this prayer.
If you have followed the first two suggestions, I think you are ready to pray this prayer, written by Lois A. Cheney:
For what I am that I ought not to be,
For what I am not that I ought to be,
Be with my mouth in what it speaks.
Be with my hands in what they do.
Be with my mind in what it thinks.
Be with my heart in what it feels.
Work in me
in spite of me.
Approval rating of politicians is at an all-time low. When Americans were asked to rank 22 professions for honesty and ethical standards in Gallup’s latest survey, Congress scored next-to-last. We long for integrity in our elected leaders; but sadly, it no longer surprises us when a politician is caught lying, discovered taking bribes, exposed as a philanderer, or has his obscene language picked up by an open microphone.
We’ve come to expect some bad apples in politics. Is there any rotten fruit in the church?
“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Those were the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before returning to heaven. He charged them to “Go and make disciples.” Imagine the heartburn that caused the early church—if we do what he told us to do someone is going to bring up Judas: “Who are you to be talking to me when Judas was on your original board?”
Or someone will bring up Peter. “We know about Peter. He denied this Jesus you want to talk to me about—said three times that he didn’t even know him. And you had the gall to put him front-and-center as chief spokesman for your bunch on Pentecost.
“In fact, didn’t all of the apostles abandon Jesus and hightail it out of Dodge when he was arrested? Wasn’t a stranger strong-armed to carry the cross because none of his disciples hung around to help? Is that the best you can do—showcase a bunch of cowards that couldn’t be counted on when the chips were down? And you want to talk to me about becoming a part of your crowd? Save your breath.
“Oh, and didn’t your church get into a squabble because the Hebrew-speaking widows were elbowing their way to the front of the line, stuffing their faces with pot-roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, leaving the Greek-speaking widows to make do with turnip greens and black-eyed peas? And what about Brother and Sister Ananias lying about their offering? You have the audacity to say that I should listen to what you have to say when you have these kinds of people in your church? Give me a break!”
Twenty centuries later we’re still skittish about witnessing. First rattle out of the box we feel the need to disqualify ourselves. “Who am I to be talking to others about the faith? I have enough trouble keeping myself on the straight-and-narrow, without presuming to tell someone else how to live.”
Then there’s the unnerving fact that our house isn’t all that clean. It wouldn’t be so unsettling if we could hold our churches up as models of morality—if there was never any misconduct, infidelity, or scandal among us. If no one on our rolls was addicted to pornography, drugs, alcohol, calories, credit cards, or TV, then we could feel comfortable talking to people about committing their lives to Jesus. But we’ve got trouble right here in River City; we know it and they know it. So what right do we have to witness and disciple?
And there’s that unity thing. Jesus prayed, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.” If our attitudes and actions were an answer to that prayer we could easily talk to people about him. If we loved one another, got along, didn’t split into contentious, antagonistic, quarreling camps over opinions and personal likes and dislikes, we would have the right to witness and disciple. But with a half-dozen churches in our town wearing the same name, none of which would be caught dead fellowshipping the others, do we have that right? And—forgive me for calling it to your attention—whether you’ve pitched your tent in the camp on the left, on the right, or in the middle, if you go about your religious business with a judgmental and hostile spirit you’re helping create the mess that causes people to question our right to witness.
With all these flaws and foibles, do we have a right to be his witnesses, to urge people to discipleship?
Yes, yes we do. Because witnessing isn’t about us, it’s about Jesus. How do we justify our failings? We don’t. We can’t. The blemishes are in plain sight, and any attempt to whitewash them is a sure-to-fail effort to defend the indefensible. The Bible spends no coin trying to cover the sins of church members. Neither should we. But we must never permit the exposure of our weaknesses to get us off message. Our job is not to defend the human element, but to exalt the divine. It is Jesus that we preach, not us; only Jesus. For it is Jesus that saves, not us; only Jesus.