I’ve Been Watching You

Recently I had finished some shopping and was walking through the parking lot to my car. I spotted a man in the parking lot moving quickly to gather shopping carts that weren’t properly placed in storage locations. It was a very cold night and this man was moving pretty quickly.

I had a chance to talk with him and told him he should be commended for gathering all these loose carts on a cold night like this. In our discussion, this man said that he had been looking out the window of the store and saw the store manager in the parking lot gathering carts. This man said that if the store manager is out here doing this work he should be too. Now here is a lesson for all of us. A lesson not just in leadership but rather in our modeling of Christianity.

I frequently run into folks who tell me that they meet people who say they are followers of Christ but their life style says something different. People don’t want to follow poor examples of Christianity. You know what? I have to agree. I see these same people. People who profess to follow Christ but have no joy in their life. They complain about everything. They lie, tell off-color jokes, manipulate to get their own way, and the list could go on. In fact, with some of these professing Christians it’s hard to tell them apart from folks who claim no allegiance to the God of the Bible.

So let me take you back to the parking lot, the shopping carts, and the power of your example. When people see you do they notice something Christ-like about you? Like the shopping cart attendant watching his manager, do others see your Christian example and say, “I want what they have.” You see, when you claim to be a follower of Christ everyone is watching. Your co-workers are watching, your friends are watching, and your family is watching. You are the example and as a popular Christian song says, “you may be the only Jesus some people ever see”.

Am I saying you need to be perfect? Of course not. Nobody is perfect. Am I saying people should see Godly character in our lives? I sure am. Remember Matthew 7:16? Here is what is says:

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.

Together let’s make sure that people recognize us as followers of Christ by the way we act. Let’s not have others watch us and just shake their heads in disappointment. Instead let’s be examples of Godly character to everyone who sees us so that others say they want the power of God in their lives too.

Developing Godly Character: Patience

We live in a world where most people expect things right away. We have microwaves that make our meals in only a few minutes.  We enjoy fast food, express lanes in the grocery store, instant streaming of movies, we have instant foods ranging from instant coffee to instant rice.  We become frustrated when life isn’t so instant and we find ourselves in a traffic jam, delayed by road construction, waiting for a table at a restaurant or waiting in a doctor’s office. I wonder if we have forgotten a very important element of Godly character.  What is it?  It’s patience, which the dictionary defines as, the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

In Acts, chapter 7, we are reminded of the story of Moses.  At one point Moses killed an Egyptian who was mistreating an Israelite.  Moses fled the country and lived in the land of Midian.  Now…watch verse 30.  Here’s the first sentence: Forty years later, in the desert near Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to Moses in the flame of a burning bush.

Most of us focus on that miracle in the burning bush but miss the first part of the sentence.  Moses waited forty years between the time he left Egypt to the time we next learn of God speaking to him.  Don’t you just wonder if Moses questioned for those forty years whether God would ever use him after killing the Egyptian? There was nothing instant in this for Moses.  Even after his experience with the burning bush and being placed in leadership of the Israelites, Moses wandered in the wilderness with his people for another forty years.

Eighty years waiting upon God had to be a refining time for Moses to develop patience.  There is no mention in scripture that Moses tried to hurry God along during these eighty years.  Moses simply did what God asked him to do.  No pushing, no complaining, just dealing with the issues in life as they came up.  Moses had patience that comes only through trusting God.

So what does this mean for us today?  Let’s take some time and simply trust God and by doing so develop patience.  Let’s stop pushing God, begging for an instant answer to our prayers and understand that God doesn’t reveal all things to us instantly. We don’t need to always be in control.  Relax and allow God to develop more patience in you.  You will become a better spouse, employee, church member, friend, and community member.  Enjoy your relationship with God as a home cooked meal…not as a bowl of instant soup.

Trying To Develop Godly Character? How About Some Integrity?

Have you ever thought about what it means to have Godly character?  What are those characteristics that God expects us to posses as His followers? Today let’s talk about one of those characteristics…integrity. Most of us would simply call this honesty.

Let’s look at Acts, Chapter 5 and the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with the story, Ananias decided to lie to God.  He sold a piece of land, brought part of the money to the disciples, and claimed it was the full amount from the land sale.  Peter confronted Ananias on his lie and said this to Ananias, How could you do a thing like this?  You weren’t lying to us but to God.

Now here is the next sentence from this passage in the Bible, As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died.  Each of us should immediately realize the importance of not lying to God. Was there a warning not to do it again? No.  Was there a small punishment? No.  Did Ananias stop to explain his position on the issue? No.  Ananias instantly fell to the floor and died.

If you don’t yet understand the severity of lying to God, take a look at subsequent verses dealing with the wife of Ananias.  Peter confronted Sapphira about her part in the lie concerning the sale of this land.  Peter said, How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord?  The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door and they will carry you out, too.  What’s the next line in the Bible?  Here it is, Instantly, she fell to the floor and died.

How many times have you heard people say something like this, God, if you will just get me out of this situation I promise I will do (fill in the blank).  Let me say that each of us needs to be very careful about promises made to God and to others.  Ananias and Sapphira paid with their lives for lying to God.  God clearly expects integrity and honesty from his followers.

Let me challenge each of us today.  When you make a promise it is just that…a promise.  Situations don’t change your promise, people don’t change your promise, circumstances don’t change your promise.  Honor God and be a person of your word.

So, start developing a list of Godly characteristics that believers should possess.  The first characteristic for your list? Integrity.

Living Life At The End of a Rope

This week I attended a horse show.  This show involved young children and their horses competing in a variety of events.  What really grabbed my attention were not the riding events but rather another type of competition.  There were several events called halter class events where horses performed stunts while being directed by their handlers from the ground.  I watched ten and eleven year old children make their horses trot, go in circles, and even walk backwards…using only a lead rope.  In other words, these children were controlling eleven hundred pound horses with a small rope while walking next to the horses.

As I watched, I wondered why such a big creature like a horse would allow such small children to lead them when the horse could easily just refuse to obey orders and just stand still.  Those horses were so big and the children so small that the horses really could have done anything they wanted to do.  Yet, the horses allowed themselves to be led and controlled by children with ropes.  I can only believe that the horses just don’t realize the power they possess.  They don’t understand that they possess tremendous muscle that would allow them to do just about anything they wanted to do.  Instead, they follow instructions and are shackled only by a tiny piece of rope.

After watching these events, I found myself thinking about believers in Christ and thinking about some parallels to the horse competitions I just observed.  I frequently see people, who claim to be followers of Christ, being led through life by events, people, or circumstances that leave them simply following and responding to things of this world.  Like the horse on the rope being led by a child, these folks don’t realize the power they possess through Christ Jesus.  Rather than exercising the power of Christ, these folks are being led and directed by things of this world even when they possess the very spirit of God that allows them to break free of worldly pressures. As believers we don’t need to be led around following the mandates of today’s culture.  We need to realize the power we possess through Jesus Christ and break free of our rope to become the leaders Christ would ask us to be.

So when you are feeling out of control, helpless, unable to move on your own, and tugged by the ropes of the world, remember what the Bible tells us.  Romans 8:11 says, The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us, Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

This is a very powerful concept for all of us as believers.  We are not designed to be led through life at the end of a rope.  We are meant to show the world the power of Jesus Christ in our lives.  The world is watching to see how believers in Christ live their lives.  Let’s not be the horse with the undiscovered power led by a rope throughout their life. Instead, let’s follow what we see in 2 Timothy 1:7 that says, For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Let’s be strong in Jesus Christ and a witness to the world of the power of God!

Go Ahead. Open It!

According to KXTV in California, Chuck Kunellis was surprised this month when two letters his father wrote to his wife almost seventy years ago were finally delivered to Chuck’s home. Chuck’s father wrote the letters while stationed in Italy during World War II.  The letters had been lost in the mail and through the work of a Good Samaritan were finally delivered to Chuck.

Whatever your situation with your earthly father, you always have letters that are available to you from your heavenly Father.  Simply stated, those letters are found in the Bible.  God knew that throughout time all of us would need letters of encouragement, direction, and love.  Scripture provides us with God’s ageless, absolute truths.  Are you feeling discouraged?  Read Psalms.  Looking for direction? Read Proverbs?  Looking for love?  Go to the book of John and learn just how much God really loves you.

In an article from Christianity today, LifeWay Research surveyed more than 2,900 Protestant churchgoers and found that while ninety percent of those surveyed desire to please and honor Jesus in all they do, only nineteen percent personally read the Bible every day.

How about you?  How are you doing with the letters from your heavenly Father?  Are you reading daily? If you’re struggling with your reading, just remember that reading God’s word is not an obligation.  It’s not a chore that you must complete and cross off your list.  Your reading is a chance to learn more about God.  It’s a chance to hear Him speak to you through his letters.  The letters He prepared just for you.

Deuteronomy 7:9 tell us, Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.

Keep reading your Bible and see what God has written just for you. It would be a shame to leave a letter from God unopened.

Are You Sinking?

If you have watched the news this week you saw that this was a tough week for storms in the mid-west.  The tornados that develop from some of these storms are dangerous and frightening. Having lived in Oklahoma for six years I know first hand the feeling of fear when these storms roll into your neighborhood.  I spent many nights watching the radar and deciding whether to take my family to shelter from tornados.

In fact on one occasion my family and I were in the middle of a tornado that touched down in Missouri.  When people say a tornado sounds like a train coming through they are right.  It was about 1 AM when we heard various items bouncing off the walls of our hotel.  There was a terrible sound of wind, the power went out and we were in the dark in the middle of a tornado.

The next morning we went outside our hotel and many of the buildings next to ours were destroyed. There was shattered wood everywhere.  Power lines were on the ground. A large sign was found about two miles from where it used to stand.  Everything was a mess. That was a frightening night.

I am reminded of another frightening night.  In Mark chapter 4 we read about Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee when a terrible storm came through. We are told the storm was so bad that the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped.  The disciples were scared to death and finally decided to wake Jesus who just happened to be in the boat sleeping through the storm.  The disciples said this to Jesus, Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?

Jesus replied, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? Jesus immediately spoke to the wind and the waves and everything became calm.

Do you feel like you’re drowning in whatever situation you are facing? Are you in a boat you have made for yourself and seeing the waves starting to capsize you?  Are you terrified of what will happen next?  If you are a follower of Christ, Jesus is in the boat with you.  We serve a powerful God who can handle any storm you are facing.  I’ll ask you the same questions Jesus asked the disciples, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?

 

Why not let Jesus help you through your storm?  Have faith that our God can handle anything you are facing.  Jesus can calm the wind and waves you are facing. You never need to be alone in a storm.

Are You Stuck In Winter?

Spring is one of my favorite times of year.  After the long months of winter, trees with no leaves, no flowers, and brown grass, I finally have the chance to see a different kind of beauty.  It seems like the mountains and fields have exploded with greenery and wild flowers.  Outside my window is a new family of birds in the nest…new life is everywhere.

As I think about new growth I can’t help but think about spiritual growth.  Are you experiencing a spiritual spring season or are you still stuck in winter?  Are you growing in your walk with Christ or are you stuck in the snow?

God often talks about new growth in nature and compares it to our spiritual growth.  Matthew 7:16 tell us this, You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. What is God telling us?  He is saying that people should be able to identify followers of Christ by the fruit we produce.  People should be able to see our spiritual fruit…our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Our fruit should be evident to everyone as we go about our daily schedules. Remember, fruit grows continuously.  As followers of Christ we should always have our fruit growing, developing, and ultimately passed on to others.

So may I encourage you today to leave your spiritual winter behind?  It’s time to move into spring and allow God to create some new spiritual growth in your life.  Small, new spiritual growth can quickly turn to fully developed spiritual fruit.  Go ahead and take the first step today.  Welcome to spring!