Finding Value in Knowing

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All of us want to be valued.

There’s a little portion in all of us asking, “Do you see me? Am I important to you?”

When we’re kids, being valued should be part and parcel of maturing into emotionally healthy people. But, of course, the world’s not perfect.

Sometimes we receive the validation we’re looking for. Someone at work recognizes our long hours and attention to detail on a project and we get some praise. We may get an ambush hug from one of our kids or close family and friends, the kind of hug without words and all meaning.

When we do get what we’re looking for, we get this sense of validation which feels great. But, honestly, how many times a day or week do we get this kind of credit? Some of us can go for months or years without feeling valued.

And this can be a big problem.

Without this sense of value, we can become less than who we are.

I’ve heard some wisdom that says, “Feelings aren’t fact.” This is true. Feelings are real, but they’re not necessarily true.  If I feel undervalued at work or home, does that mean I’m not of value as a person? If my kids don’t hug me, I may feel unloved, but really, does this mean I’m not loved and valued as a father?

Feelings are powerful. We can get overwhelmed with a sense of not being valued and sink like a stone in a cold pond. One of the only defenses for our feelings is knowledge.

My current profession is a police officer. Under 830.1 PC I have the authority to detain and investigate criminal activity. Does this mean every person I contact responds in a polite fashion and respects the authority I carry? HA! Of course not. Can you imagine if I get my feelings hurt every time someone disrespects me? Feelings of value and appreciation aren’t a consideration when I’m working. Instead, I carry the knowledge of who I am. This is practicing knowing against feeling. The State of California gave me the authority and duty, I know this as fact.

How can we use this in our daily lives?

It’s important to remember who I am in Christ, because let’s face it, if I’m waiting to feel good about who I am as a person, I may be waiting a while.

“in Christ you have been brought to fullness.”-Colossians 2:10

This says I am complete in Christ. I am a completed jigsaw puzzle, there’s nothing amiss about me and I can sleep well at night knowing in Him I’m good to go. I’m a completed bag of treasure to him, with everything accounted for.  

Maybe I may not feel loved by someone, but I know I’m loved by Christ 24/7. I may not feel valued at work, but I know God is pleased with what I’ve been given to do.

Throughout the week, I may run into situations which challenge my sense of value. If you’re like me, we’re going to get our knees skinned when we don’t receive the validation we looking for.  But if I set aside my hurt feelings, I can remember who I am. Using the knowledge God offers can strengthen and encourage us. Or we can have a pity party about our feelings (which we do occasionally).

What are some of your favorite bible verses which speak directly to who you are in Christ?

No Ordinary People

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There was this older man who handed out evangelical tracts. These were small note card sized papers with bible verses and a short message about the good news of Jesus. One day, he stood at a bus stop and handed these out to people exiting the bus. A young lady took the paper and walked a few steps before reading what she had in her hand.

She turned back, walked back to the man, spit in his face and walked away with the crumpled piece of paper.

She was an atheist.

The older man handing out tracts seemed ordinary. I mean, what’s so special about handing out pieces of paper? He wasn’t on a stage delivering a sermon or addressing a crowd of important people. He was just standing somewhere and handing out tracts.

Ordinary, right?

The thing is, we don’t serve an ordinary God. There’s not a thing about him that’s ordinary. Ever look up into the night sky and see ordinary stars? Did the Hubble telescope take pictures of ordinary galaxies? Ever see ordinary Iceland? Hawaii? Sunsets at the beach or sunrise in the desert? Waterfalls in Alaska? Ordinary tropical fish in tropical lagoons? Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, or the Grand Canyon?

How about Jesus? Ordinary former carpenter just milling about between villages. Eating in people’s homes and talking about the true things of God. Maybe healing some leprosy, giving blind people the ability to see. Giving strength to a man’s legs so he could walk. Bringing dead people back to life. A smattering of commanding oration in the synagogue. Casting out a few demons. Ordinary?

Some of us go about our ministries or simply helping people and we may think it’s all ordinary. Some of us sit, stand, kneel, or drive the car while whispering ordinary prayers. Some of us hand out tracts without fanfare at a bus stop.

The young woman who spit in the man’s face walked home and went about her day.  At some point she found the tract crumpled up in her pocket or purse. Didn’t I throw this away? For some reason, she sat and read the garbage in her hand. And for some reason, God revealed himself to her there.

The young woman began going to church to find wrong answers, but she never found them. She found the love of God instead. After time, God put it on her heart to evangelize and she became responsible for spreading the gospel to thousands of people. All because an ordinary man did his ordinary task of handing out an ordinary piece of paper.

Nothing we do for God is ordinary. The older man handing out tracts never got to see what happened to the young woman (yet).  And we may never see what happens after our “ordinary” prayers go up to our extraordinary God.

But I promise you this, there are no ordinary people in the kingdom of God.

Remember this, everything we do for God that matches his character of love, grace, compassion, and mercy, comes out irrefutably extraordinary.

Care to share what (extra)ordinary thing do you do for God?

 

 

 

 

The Night That Started It All

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Christmas decorations are everywhere and I love it! People wear colorful “Ugly” sweaters with blinking lights. Ladies wear Christmas bow earrings and pins that sparkle. Customers and clerks alike get to say “Happy holidays” and “Merry Christmas” with a warm smile. I love it! Hot cocoa and cookies at church. Christmas carols are on the radio. By the way, is it me or shouldn’t there be a permanent Christmas carol station on the radio? Can I get an amen on that? All of these things going on at the same time create an amazing experience most of us enjoy.

But the Eeyore in me says, “It’s all going to be gone next week.”

The kid in me doesn’t want the holiday experience to end. We know Christmas begins during the last of week of October and ends at the first of the year. At least that’s according to the local Home Depot. Instead of enjoying what’s happening right now, I’m looking at the end and shaking my head at the brevity of it all.

But God showed me why Christmas is not a seasonal experience, but an eternal celebration.

I was at our church and our worship team lead the congregation with carols. I’m used to singing along to the carols and I admit, I don’t always pay attention to the lyrics. Like many churches, the song lyrics appeared on big screens so we could sing along. This is where God grabbed my heart. Read these lyrics to O Holy Night (Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, 1847):

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,

Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;

In all our trials born to be our friends.

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.

And in his name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,

His power and glory ever more proclaim!

His power and glory ever more proclaim!

These are not the lyrics celebrating a one time event or even an annual get together by the fireplace with nog and sweets. This is a song celebrating a new life being brought into the world to give new life to the people of the world. This song was written onto paper to celebrate being able to know God’s love through the man Jesus, to be able to learn to love one another despite our labels, to know what freedom is through this man’s work on the cross and to be able to proclaim (sing out loud) Christ is lord!

This season isn’t a one time event. It’s an event we get to experience and celebrate starting in the morning and ending when our heads hit the pillow. That one night in church, I learned it won’t all be gone by next week, it will be in our hearts and minds whenever we need. 

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Love in Action

 

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I was going through Facebook and clicking on the button marked, “Add Friend”. As I’m clicking away, a funny thought ran through my head. What if there were similar buttons marked, “Add Enemy”? Well, no one would click that, of course. But I continued with the concept and wondered, who is my enemy? What would our definition of an enemy be? Sure, the natural definition would be someone who is against me. But then we add more to the mix and our enemies become people who vote differently from me, look different, people who like things I don’t like, people who believe different than I do, and the list can go on.

Every one of us has issues. All of us are prejudice to some degree. There’s always going to be a group of people or someone we really don’t like. And I’m not talking about mimes either. We know who it is we’re not interested in being around and we make sure we don’t click the “Add Enemy” button to stay away. But sometimes, we find ourselves in some sort of communication, whether it’s written or face to face, and our blood pressure rises. And then we react or act out. Hopefully it’s not on video.

God, in his infinite wisdom, knows we create our own enemies. Because believe it or not, those groups of people need to eat and breath and brush their teeth just like us. Ideas, moral beliefs and ways of living are the only thing that separates all of us. And so God, being the ever-present loving Father, drops a bomb on the high moral pride of our self-righteousness and tells his kids, “Love your enemies.”  But God! Are you kidding me? They’re with that other political party, I can’t show my love towards them! But God, they don’t even speak my language, are you serious? But God, they’re walking around with rainbow flags, how can you possibly ask me to love those people? Oh yes. I forgot to mention an important point. God is not asking. This is a command. None of what he says is ever a suggestion. In the truest definition, love is an action. God commands us to love in action, not just word. It wouldn’t have been enough for the good Samaritan to have expressed his well wishes to the traveler who was left for dead. “I hope you wake up and feel better, strange person! That’s a nasty cut on your head, you need to get that checked, not by me, but someone else of course! Have to go now, good-bye and well wishes!”

Curiously enough, all of humanity were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10) once. And he didn’t send his well-wishes to us, hoping things pick up in our predicament of being lost. “Hope everything works out with that whole sanctification thing!” No. He acted out his love and sent his only son to be born as a wet, sloppy infant laying in a place where animals eat hay and alfalfa. To grow up in a region of the world where there’s always been strife and his people surrounded by enemies. To bring hope to a dark world. To teach us there’s a better way to live. To bring freedom to those in captivity. To die in our place, so we could know the love of God AND to bring this love to everyone we meet. To bring this love to who? Just to those with similar ideals as me? Nope. Say it with me, out loud so the neighbors can hear it: Everyone!

Let me give you an excellent example of showing love to your enemies.

Miles McPherson is a pastor of The Rock Church, in San Diego. The building is in a really nice part of town and has about 20k members. As such, huge churches are usually the target of protests and the like. During Gay Pride week, a group of people brought a really big rainbow flag and held it up across the street to display what they believe in and protest the Rock Church. Opposing beliefs, yes? The church and homosexuals have always seen things differently, yes? Would these two opposing parties qualify as enemies? Pastor Miles is watching them hold their flag up and listening to their chants. But he also sees something that needs attention and he acts out on two of Jesus’ commands: “Love your enemies” and “do to others as you would have them do to you”. He notices the people with the flag are having trouble holding their flag up. It was getting windy and they didn’t bring enough people. If you’re a Christian, what would your reaction here be? “Haha!” or “Praise God, it looks like they’ll leave soon!”

His reaction was this: Get some of our people together and help them out.

Love is an action. This pastor acted on it. But he wasn’t through. Eventually, the sun came out and it became hot. One the Christians (helping people who held opposing views by waving a huge rainbow flag, by the way!) called the pastor and mentioned their group didn’t bring water and they were getting thirsty. Did the pastor respond with, “Haha!” or “Praise God, it looks like they’ll leave soon!” Nope! Pastor Miles sent cases of ice and bottles of water.

Love is an action. Loving your enemies need to be an action, not a concept. We need to think of this command next time we run into our “enemies”. And believe me, Jesus will make it happen again and again and again until we resemble the love we’re carrying and not the hate we hold on to.

Looking at Tough Situations

 

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I read an incredible story about a newly converted woman in China. She immediately began to share the good news of Jesus Christ with her friends and family. In doing so, she learned the secret police were looking for her. Non-government controlled religion is illegal in China. She knew there was no point in hiding and she would go to jail soon. She prepared herself by digging through the trash to find food. Why would she do that? Because the jails in China are not like here in the US, where the prisoners get “3 hots and a cot”, instead the prisoners get whatever they’re given, which is often leftovers. After a time, she was taken to prison for the crime of sharing her faith. There wasn’t enough room for her to be in a prison cell, so they put her in a broom closet and once a day would shove a handful of rice under the door for meals. Living in those conditions would be rough for anyone, but she never complained. Instead, she looked for ways to share the gospel from her broom closet.

What’s our first reaction when we get into a tough situation?

Mine is usually, “Get me out of here, God!” Or sometimes we hear each other share (or complain?), “What is God trying to teach me while I’m going through this?”  We can get so busy looking at the situation we’re in that we won’t see what we can do for God while we’re there. Both of these responses are focused on “us” instead of God. “When am I getting out of this?”, “What am I getting out of this?” or “How am I getting out of this?” But we don’t ask ourselves, “Who can I reach while I’m here?” 

Read this portion of Paul’s letter to the Philippians,

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.  And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Does this sound like someone who’s sitting in jail and always being threatened with death? “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” Wow! Paul’s not thinking of himself at all, is he? The Chinese woman in jail had the same mind too. She may have been thinking, “Since I’m going to jail, who can I reach for Jesus?” Believer’s often forgot (pretty much on a daily basis!) we were chosen for good works that God had prepared for us. And we go about our day looking for ways to bless or love others, but that line of thinking usually stops when things get uncomfortable.

So how can we change this?

The simple, yet not easy, solution is to remember we’re not here for us, we’re for God.

Jesus told his believer’s, “You are the light of the world” and we’re to shine bright for the one who gave us this light. This means we get to share Jesus when we’re at home on our computers, when we see the neighbor needs help with something, when we’re in jail and when we’re dying. God always has ways to work through us! We don’t have to be in a position of wealth and health to be used of God, we just have to be in a position of obedience.

I know what I’m saying seems impossible.

I’d much rather God use me while I feel comfortable. Hmm. How many times did I use myself as the main subject in that last sentence? Let’s rewrite that.

God, use me.

There. That’s better isn’t it?

Clean

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When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.-Matthew 8:1-3

I taught grades 4-5 in my church and we read bible verses similar to the one above. I asked them a question, “How do you think this guy felt before getting healed?” The kids looked at the floor, their little hands, each other. I clarified by adding, “How do you think he felt inside his heart?” And then they started answering.

“He was probably lonely.”

“He felt shut out from the other people.”

“Like he didn’t belong.”

“He wanted to be together with other people, but he couldn’t.”

I agreed with all their answers and reminded myself, just because they’re children doesn’t mean they don’t understand how our hearts work.

This man with leprosy had no name. I wonder how long he had been wandering the outskirts of towns and villages with his disease. The law during that time stated anyone with leprosy must yell out, “Unclean!” when other people came near him. Dealing with leprosy would bring anyone to a state of depression. You had wounds and scars on your inside matching those of your skin.

So finally, after years of being labeled “unclean”, living in it, believing it, and walking it, here comes someone he had heard of. Someone who could change things in his life. Turn the things that were dirty into something shiny, new. Clean. Besides his own state of affairs, the leper believed this man called Jesus could do the impossible: Make him clean.

The leper kneeled and humbled himself. He addressed this man he had never met with a title, Lord. He recognized the authority this man held and what he could do. To me this would have been the hard part. After years of walking around and yelling, “Unclean!” I would have been asking God, “Why me?”.  Why would you let a disease like this in the world you created? What did I do to deserve a life like this? These questions are still in our hearts and minds today aren’t they? Why do I have to go through all this stuff?

But this man didn’t do that. He saw an opportunity for something better, not a chance to sling accusations. He looked for a way out of his situation, not for a set of answers to satisfy his hard questions.

Jesus, being the only one who could lift the humble, was willing to heal and made a different proclamation used for years by the leper, saying, “Be Clean!”

We may not be lepers where we have announce our presence, but I believe a lot of us have scars and wounds deep in our hearts. These wounds make us feel unclean. Unwanted. Left out. The results can leave us asking lots of questions and pointing fingers. Someone must be responsible for this. But what if we follow the leper’s example and seek God in humility? And who is willing to heal these wounds to make us whole again?

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

   because the Lord has anointed me

   to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

   to proclaim freedom for the captives

   and release from darkness for the prisoners-Isaiah 61:1

After the lesson was completed, I asked the kids, “How do think the man felt once he had been healed?” They answered:

“Happy!”

“Thankful.”

“Ready to go back to his family.”

How would you feel once God’s fully restored your heart?

What’s the attitude of Christ?

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Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”-Philippians 2:3-5

Can you imagine the king who designed and created the universe, rainbows, penguins, the human brain, coral, the colors of fall, coffee beans (yay!), and puppies bellies deciding to become a human and being born where, of all places, animals ate their breakfast?

Can you imagine this same king walking around the hills of Judea, telling people there was a God who loved them more than they imagined?

Can you imagine him asking his servants to sit down, wrapping a towel around his waist and washing dust off their feet?

Can you imagine this king choosing to experience tears running down his cheeks? The heartbreak of loneliness and rejection? To be accused of things he didn’t do?

Can you imagine this king being punched, slapped, whipped and executed for crimes he didn’t commit?

Can you imagine this king doing all these things because he knew there was a better way to live and he wanted us to purposefully live it? To experience everything he sacrificed himself for?

If this is the mind and attitude of Christ, why do we (especially church people! Paul was writing this to the church in Philippi) have a hard time being humble and not selfish? Why is it hard to think of others as better than ourselves?

It goes against our grain, against our nature. We want to think of ourselves. All the time. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but we know it could be. We know where our selfishness can lead us. So where could being humble lead us? What could we do with selflessness? What would it look like when we treat others better than ourselves?

There’s some single moms making sure their kids have more on the breakfast table than they did growing up. There’s teachers spending time with students who have a harder time than most. There’s a guy finishing lunch and leaving a hundred dollar bill as the tip. There’s a husband and father who’s exhausted from work, but wants to listen to his wife share her heart and read bedtime stories to his kids.

Experiences leave a deep impression don’t they? What would the world look like if everyone had the mind of Christ? Tons of good, deep impressions that we would treasure. But we’re not so concerned about the world. We need to be concerned with us. We need to start having the mind of Christ today, where we’re at and who we’re with. This means having this mindset with our significant others, our children, our neighbors.

Let’s start there and see what happens.