People today think that their circumstances/problems are unique to their generation. Surely, people 200or 300 years ago did not face what we are challenged within our age! Don’t flatter yourself. King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived wrote, “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun; the future only repeats the past.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
Take, for example, conflict. Anywhere you have people you will have conflict. You will have conflict in families. Conflict occurs on the job. One of the biggest problems pastors face today is inter-personal conflict. You cannot avoid conflict but you can learn how to resolve it and that is not always comfortable. And since conflict resolution is unpleasant, we try to ignore it. We go to church not understanding that our relationship with others affects our relationship with God.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar [worship] and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
Did you notice who is to initiate the reconciliation process? You are! “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Roman 12:18 Care enough to confront.
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking? John 1:37-38
Jesus often led people by asking them a thought-provoking question. His very first question to His first followers was “What are you looking for?” What astounds me is that Jesus’ first question to those who would follow Him is not about God, sin, politics, or family history. It is a question that gives us a glimpse into the heart of Jesus. It is also a question that gives us a glimpse into ourselves.
Jesus’ question gives us a glimpse into ourselves because it forces us to examine what genuinely matters most to us. We are all looking for something. There may be no greater tragedy than a life spent looking for the wrong thing. Most of us are looking for good things—security, meaning, success, love, hope—but we’re not always certain where and how to find it. Jesus is aware that we can be distracted by the cares of the world, looking for even the right things in the wrong places and in the wrong ways. His question stops us long enough to take measure of whether the activity of our lives matches what genuinely matters.
The good news is that Jesus’ question also gives us a glimpse into His heart. In John 1:35–39 He offers these two men conversation and relationship. They answer by asking where he is staying. “Come,” Jesus replied, “and you will see.” He could have just given them the address of the house. But Jesus’ invitation shows them that He actually wants to be with them. In one short interaction, Jesus moves from a question that invites us to explore our lives and hearts, to an invitation to come and see if what we are looking for is ultimately met in Him.
Medical experts tell us one the best physical exercise is walking. It has many benefits without damaging your body. Many married couples find walking together is a great way to pray together, talk over situations that need their attention, and a way to take a break from the hectic pace of life.
Marriage is a great metaphor for our walk with Christ. Amos 3:3 asks us, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” When we invite Jesus to walk with us in this life, we become filled with His Holy Spirit and our journey together begins. He’s taking us somewhere and there will always be obstacles to overcome. We experience joy and pain, bondage and freedom, wounds and healing—but we’re on a course to victory.
In the Bible, God uses the language of walking to describe people in relationship with Him. Moses “walked” with God, Enoch “walked” with God, Adam and Eve “walked” with God in the garden, and Jesus’ disciples literally “walked” with Him throughout His earthly ministry. They walked with Jesus through the ups and downs, knowing eternal paradise awaited them in the end.
Walking with my wife is sometimes a challenge. Either she is a fast walker or I am a slow walker! Either, often she has to turn around to see if I have fallen too far behind. But God is always right there beside us.
Anyone up for a walk?
There is a new phenomenon that has occurred is changing our world. It is the big O word = Offense. Every evening the news reports another lawsuit because of a business, a person, a teacher has offended someone. Just this week the New York Times reported that the terms “fireman” and “policeman” will be changed to “firefighter” and “police officer.” The bill was passed to make the terms ‘gender-neutral’ to demonstrate our respect and appreciation for all of our first responders, regardless of gender.”
The list goes on and on. We have to walk on eggshells so we do not offend this one or that one. While I grew up, part of life was being offended, either intentional or unintentional but I got over it! Proverbs 19:11 You should not purposely offend or be obnoxious but if you live a consistent, God-honoring life you will offend someone. 2 Timothy 3:12 The Bible speaks of the offense of the Gospel. “…In that case, the offense of the cross has been abolished….” Galatians 5:11
You cannot avoid ‘offending’ people, so the secret to living is to live a life pleasing to God and not people. When you please the Lord, you can make your enemies into friends. Proverbs 16:7 GNT
The last several years the medical field has made tremendous advances in the area of heart health; proper diet, new medical procedures and the importance of exercise. Without exercise, our muscles atrophy. They become weaker and get stiffer at the same time. Without the benefit of regular exercise, our muscles deteriorate until they cannot perform the regular functions they once maintained.
Our heart muscles work the same way, both literally and figuratively. When we’re not praying, giving, serving, and loving on a daily basis, it becomes harder and harder to feel connected to God, to relate to other people, and to feel the joy that comes from serving.
The Bible warns us, “Guard your heart more than anything else because the source of your life flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 GW Stone hearts don’t harden overnight. They gradually atrophy until we find ourselves with a heart as cold as granite. Regular exercise allows us to love more deeply and serve more humbly. It keeps our hearts tender and compassionate, alive and grateful.
If someone from another planet were to visit planet earth and observe the behavior of the inhabitants, they would come to the conclusion that we are angry race! Every where we look we see anger or the consequences of someone’s anger.
- An Olympic athlete refuses to participate in the opening ceremony. Why? He is angry that HE was not chosen to carry the USA flag!
- Politicians refuse to stand during the State of the Union message. They are angry that THEIR candidate was elected and THEIR party is not in control.
- Road rage is a common occurrence on most highways. (And parking lots!)
For many people, anger is a default emotion. When someone embarrasses us, rarely do we feel embarrassment. Most of the time, that embarrassment also makes us angry! If you want to read a case study in anger, read the story of Samson in the Book of Judges. I do not have space to elaborate all the ‘incidents’ that caused Samson to be angry but in reality, almost everything that happened was his own fault. At any point, he could have backed off, even just a little. If he had taken a minute to cool off, maybe he could have turned things around.
If you are angry at those around you, where is your responsibility? I have often heard people say, “They make me so angry!” But the reality is we allow people to make us mad. We choose [sometimes unconsciously] to be angry. It is time to stop making excuses for our behavior and own our part. Ask forgiveness if you need to. And not just from God but from the people you may have hurt. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you.
While reading articles on the web; I could not help but notice the repeated theme about how families can handle the stress of family get-togethers. Why are family functions some of the sweetest times of our holiday, but also some of our most stressful? Well, every family has problems, tensions, and dysfunctions, and those don’t take holiday breaks. It requires a lot of energy to care for a crowd, no matter how much we love them. Even the godly Martha became overwrought when Jesus brought His disciples for supper.
Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Luke 10:40
Here are two suggestions to keep you from being swept away by the stress of family:
First, don’t be afraid to establish healthy boundaries. Give yourself permission to duck out of the room, escape the mob, and let them fend for themselves. If we’re the ones dropping in on others, sometimes it’s best to get a hotel room rather than crash in the spare room.
Second, make sure you don’t skimp on your devotional time with Christ. Martha needed to take a lesson from Mary’s book and sit at Jesus’ feet a while—and so do you. We love others best by loving Him more.