Are You Known More for What You Hate or By How You Love?

31 12 2018

I was speaking with a friend recently about a specific governmental department that I obviously did not have a good word for.  Later in a text message, I apologized for my negative expressions.  And here’s the reason for my apology: Holy Spirit.

 

While I was driving to my next appointment, I found myself being asked,“Do you want to be known for what you hate or for how you loved?” Then, in my mind I could hear a future conversation, “Yeah, Steve has no lost love for  ________.”  Not wanting that statement on anyone’s lips I asked for God’s forgiveness as well.

 

Social media is full of rants and raves.  People who would have never had a platform or a voice to express their strong views toward a political candidate, a boss or a former spouse or girlfriend can now take to the Internet and tear others apart for their beliefs.  We can quickly pick out what someone hates or strongly disagrees with, but are left wondering what is good in their world.  Are you more known for what you disagree with or for how you love, reach out and serve others regardless of how they believe or vote?

 

Someone has said that we often have only one opportunity to speak something life-giving, something godly or encouraging and we use that one opportunity to tear apart those who do not believe as we do.  Let’s work at changing that and become more like Jesus, who “…Was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent so he did not open his mouth.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong…

If I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor…but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind…it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…

Love never fails.

As we enter 2019, could God be challenging you as He has me? Will those you interact with, will those who read your social media posts, will those you work with and will your family hear about what and how you love or more about what you hate? We may have only one opportunity to say something kind, life-giving or loving. Let’s not miss that opportunity.

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Three Very Wise Guys

24 12 2018

Three wise men traveled quite a distance to see the Christ child.  There is a bit of debate about the distance they traveled, as well as the time it took to travel those miles.  Some Bible scholars say He was a toddler and some say He was still an infant when they arrived in Bethlehem.

 

But faithfully they traveled until reaching their destination.  These three faith-filled and expectant kings followed the star until reaching the birthplace of the Savior.  They arrived bearing gifts for the newborn King.  They came to give, not receive.

 

How often do we come to Jesus to receive rather than give to Him?  How often are we making a request or sharing a need versus bringing Him a gift of praise, thanksgiving, honor or just a reverent and silent listening spirit?

 

Christmas is a time of giving because God first gave to us, His Prince of heaven.  Thank you, Father, for giving us Your very best Christmas gift, Emanuel (God with us)!





This Is A Serious Condition; Do Not Take It Lightly

10 12 2018

“People die from this infection; this is serious; do not take it lightly,” said the ER doctor to us before discharge.  My wife of 43 years was sick and in pain – bent over pain.  Showing up at the ER just after midnight on a Saturday (Sunday morning really) is a busy, if not overwhelming place to be.  I was so concerned for the woman in my arms who could barely stand up from the excruciating pain she was experiencing in her abdomen.

 

“What’s your birthdate, your phone number, your address?” All seemed to be questions that we really could do without right now.  “Please have a seat, we’re really busy with many trauma situations tonight,” was what we were told while being handed a small round pod as if we were waiting for a restaurant table.  I had the feeling we were going to be placed on a low priority list.  But it wasn’t long until an IV shot strong pain medicine into Mary and then later an antibiotic.  And finally, two hours later, a CAT scan.

 

Meanwhile I began observing the many people around us, none smiling, all needing immediate attention. I found myself not only praying for my wife, but those in the ER rooms we passed.  Sitting with Mary and holding her hand, I heard screams repeatedly. Then I heard a police officer reading someone his Miranda rights.  After that a police officer telling someone they were under arrest for DUI and refusing a blood test.

 

Wow, no wonder hospitals, medical staff, ER’s are so full of compassionate, Christ-filled called ones. Every patient needs immediate attention, medical care and a right diagnosis.  Every ill one needs patience, kind words, an advocate and a smile.  Hospital staff, all treating every human being with love and the very best care they’ve been trained to provide.

 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if human kind treated each other with the same understanding and compassion? No one asked us if we believed in medicine.  No one asked us our political persuasion.  No one asked us our financial status and not one asked us about our theological doctrine. No one was there to argue, just show care, compassionate treatment and kindness.

 

Daily we are faced with persons who are sick in their soul.  How compassionate am I?  How much time am I willing to take with them?  Do they feel accepted, comforted, listened to and important around me? “God, I pray I see the need in the lives of those around me and respond with loving, Jesus-filled care and compassion.”  As it is written, “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” (I Peter 3:8)

 

Mary is recovering now at home from a severe kidney infection and a kidney stone that needs to exit her body.  Praise God for hospitals, medicine, emergency rooms and those extraordinarily kind and understanding medical personnel who work tirelessly.





Eight Huge Benefits of Becoming Debt Free

26 11 2018

My wife and I have been practicing debt-free living for years now.*  I say practicing because it takes discipline to reach and discipline to maintain.  So here are eight encouragements or benefits that we have discovered when it comes to debt-free living.

1. Freedom: My wife and I feel so free – free to give, free to purchase and free to save for the future.  We have more money to do these things rather than being enslaved to and feeling the pressure of our debt.

2. Ownership: Owning your car or your house is an amazing feeling that continues the feeling of freedom.  You will have less stress in your life.  Who doesn’t desire less stress?

3. Agreement: You will have and discover a greater sense of agreement in your marriage and your family.  If you’ve agreed to become debt free and you reach that goal, what else can you agree about and reach?

4. Children: Your children will see you more often. You will not feel required to sign up for all the overtime you possibly can.  And besides, you’ll be an amazing financial example to your kids, your family, your friends and your neighbors.  If you can do it, you’ll be helping them to believe they can too.

5. Opportunity: Becoming debt free automatically provides better opportunities to give more money away, to help someone in need.  Rather than feeling that feeling of tightness, you will be looking for and watching for investment opportunity to increase your finances and have the cash to do so.

6. Security: You will be and feel far more secure. Debt increases the feelings of insecurity and rightly so.  You may be one last paycheck from disaster with an ongoing debt load.  While being debt free there is far less fear of financial disaster and crisis.

7. Servant: The Scriptures tell us that the borrower is a servant to the lender. Whose servant are you?  To be debt free is to not be encumbered by enslavement to another. You are literally no longer enslaved to your job or the next unexpected car repair or house repair bill.

8. Savings: You will grow a savings account and an emergency fund faster.  Your retirement savings fund will grow faster.  Your college fund for your children can grow faster.  Every savings fund can realize increase when you are no longer borrowing and having to pay back another co-owner with interest.

And if all that’s not enough to convince you, how about this?  You will have less arguments over money in your life.  If married, you and your spouse will enjoy less financial disagreement and more financial agreement.  You’ll have more resources for eating out along with short and long-term vacations or mission trips. Living debt free loosens what has been wound tight for so long.  Purpose in your heart today and begin taking steps to become debt free.  You’ll never regret it.

*A point of clarity concerning living debt-free is investment for growth. Some consider investments that grow in value, like real estate, to not be debt.  I would consider it debt with the opportunity for growth/gain in value or perhaps “good debt.”





Celebrating a Week of Thanksgiving

19 11 2018

This is the week that America sets aside as a time of giving thanks.  Why is that?  Two past presidents of the United States made very specific declarations.

The National Thanksgiving Proclamation was the first formal proclamation of Thanksgiving in the United States. President George Washington declared Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.

And then President Lincoln proclaimed in 1863 during the American Civil War, a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

What a wonderful heritage we enjoy from these important proclamations of honoring our Creator through a spirit of thanksgiving.

However much earlier, Paul the Apostle wrote in I Thessalonians we are to…”give thanks in all circumstances.”  He knew that giving thanks was a form of joyfulness.  That giving thanks actually lifts our spirits and that giving thanks connects us to God.  He knew that a spirit of thankfulness is healthy for our minds, our physical health and our emotional health.  I believe he also knew that thankfulness and gratitude help us in our relationship with God and others.  How so?

Someone once said when we lose our thankfulness toward God, we begin to focus on what we feel God has not done and ultimately miss what He is doing.  Could that also be true of our earthly relationships? When we stop being thankful for those around us, we could begin to focus on how they have disappointed us or how they frustrate us. 

A spirit of thankfulness is contagious.  What are you thankful for today and how can each of us maintain a spirit of giving thanks in all things as a lifestyle?  Let me begin with saying I am thankful for those of you who take the time to read my blog!





Your Marriage Has A Relationship With Money; Five Tips to Contentment

29 10 2018

Does it sound odd to say or admit that our marriage has a relationship with money?  There is this amazing verse in the Bible that says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Most couples believe that if they had more money they would be more content. From that juncture, we can find ourselves fighting and arguing over money all too often.  But money in and of itself doesn’t bring contentment

Contentment is a state of the heart, mind and the spirit and not our level of income or the amount of savings we have accumulated.  Contentment certainly isn’t generated by the amount of stuff we collect.  Our possessions might bring convenience, but not contentment.  We can purchase a new car, but sure enough a new and improved model is just around the corner, making ours feel old and outdated.

Being content means we are satisfied, we are at ease of mind.  Our relationship as a couple with money can bring contentment or take us to discontent.  In reality, we can become consumed with the need for more.  Contentment, the scripture relates, is generated by godliness. Godliness is conforming to the desires of God.  And when God says He will meet all of our needs according to His riches, we can stop striving, stop living in discontent and begin being at ease with one another and ourselves.

How else can we arrive at contentment over finances in our marriage?  Here are five tips:

  1. Create a budget and follow it.
  2. Have a weekly money date and talk about your finances openly without argument.
  3. Give one another a spending allowance and be generous.
  4. Stop the name calling like “Spender” or “Tight wad.”
  5. Pray over your finances regularly.

If we connect lasting happiness with the accumulation of money or things, our happiness will always be short-lived.  If we connect happiness with godliness we will find ourselves becoming all the more satisfied with where we are financially and trusting God for where He desires to take us.

I just love this wisdom, “Keep yourselves free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13: 5)





The Devastation of Abuse and Teaching Your Children Responsibility

22 10 2018

I would be devastated, overwhelmed and heart-broken if my daughter suffered any kind of abuse from anyone in any fashion.  I would give my life to make sure that did not happen. Further, I would be equally broken and horrified if one of my sons was falsely accused of abusing another. Having raised my children with very clear values and boundaries, I would believe them if they told me abuse occurred or did not occur.

Whether there is alleged abuse or alleged accusation, I appreciate that these kinds of things, brought out and into the light, bring awareness to very destructive behaviors.

We are told that one in four girls endure or suffer from some form of abuse or molestation, which is simply horrific.  But it is also true that one in five boys suffer the same.  Having been a social worker and marriage and family counselor for many years, I witnessed way too much devastation in lives of youth and of adults in both females and males.

I heard stories from young women who had been molested in their family barns, a place that should have been safe for them and I heard similar stories from young men.  One young man told me that his female high school English teacher while on school premises repeatedly forced him to engage in sexual intercourse.  His pain over this was evident years later.

We are responsible to teach our children truth and how destructive sex can be outside God’s boundary of marriage.  My wife and I shared I Timothy 5:1 and 2 with our children, “Treat younger men as brothers…and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”  Your children’s school teachers, politicians, Hollywood or any news media will not be teaching these verses; it is your/our job to establish these boundaries and life-giving values.

Today we hand our children a smart phone to stay in touch with us. At the same time, we must realize these hand-held devices are a computer and they accesses pornography which teaches just the opposite of the values we are attempting to instill.  Are you aware that Hollywood produces around 600 to 700 films per year while the pornography industry produces 13,000 films per year? Children are accessing some of the worst, most horrific sexual smut available for free on their phones each and every day.

In these times we are hard pressed to find any moral guidance coming from Washington DC, even as governmental leaders call for morality.  And Hollywood continually puts out sexually provocative films and then expects morality among its ranks.  You cannot have it both ways…sorry.

So let’s take responsibility for our own lives and the lives of our family.  We need to have a zero tolerance of pornography and sexually explicit movies and television.

No matter the ill in our society, God’s word has already spoken on the subject and given us the most safe, most protective and life-giving answers. It is that same book that mentions not lying, not stealing, not committing adultery, not coveting and not murdering.  This is not a call to fight or resist our government, our schools or even Hollywood, but it is a call to remember who our enemy actually is.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (Ephesians 6: 12)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.(I Corinthians 10: 2)








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