Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't Expect Perfection!

"You are not suppose to dress like that."

"A Christian does not have tattoos."

"You say you're a Christian and that's the way you live?"

How often do we say or think that, as believers? Yet, Christ, never said anything like that to people. He had compassion. Yes, He did get upset with the money changers in the temple. Thank goodness He did show that emotion. It makes Him more human in our eyes.

He didn't condemn people. He loved them. He lived a life of perfection, but we cannot. Our goal is to reach toward perfection in Christ. The reality is, we will never reach perfection as Christ did; so make sure we do not make it our goal in life to try to make others perfect. Our goal is to live life with Christ in us by being compassionate and caring, loving people into the Kingdom of God.

We sometimes forget that concept in our churches. We want to reach out to our communities; yet, when someone that looks different than us walks through our door, we stare at them, we avoid them, or we ridicule them. It is important to ask ourself these questions: "Do I do that because I am uncomfortable?" Then ask God to help you step out of your comfort zone and reach out. "Do I do that because I expect them to look like me?" God help us! Some of us, I dare say, do not need little clones of ourselves running around.

Or, do we just not know how to relate and reach out? If that is the case, I would seek help in this area. The Great Commission is to reach out to those near us first. God understands our struggles and desires to help us. Some of us in leadership in our churches, need to ask God to help us open our eyes and accept people, for who they are; not what they are suppose to be.

I ran across a saying from Martin Luther I had written in my journal about four years ago. (That is why we need to get our journals out from time to time...nuggets of wisdom are in there.)

"This life therefore
is not righteousness
but growth in righteousness
not health but healing,
not being but becoming,
not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be
but we are growing toward it,
the process is not yet finished
but is going on,
this is not the end
but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory
but all is being purified."

Martin Luther (emphasis my own)

Remember, we are on a journey...Are we there yet? Not quite.

Friday, November 12, 2010

True Character is Shown by Our Actions

We get up and begin our daily routine...dress, get kids ready for school (if they're still school age), have a quick bite to eat for breakfast, kiss our spouse goodbye, and head off to work. Life seems normal and good. We arrive at our job or ministry and realize the things we asked to get done by today were not done the way we had asked. The people in charge had weeks to prepare. There just isn't an excuse for their lack of commitment to the task. We are clearly upset and let everyone know about it. In fact no one wants to be near us because of our reaction. It doesn't matter that we have talked about being an example to others and setting high expections for others to follow. Those around us cannot hear what we are trying to say because our actions are so offensive and clearly do not represent what we are trying to get across...

Our children cannot listen to what we are saying about life and representing Christ because our lives do not reflect what we are saying. We tell them to be committed to church, volunteer to help the needy; but, they just don't get it. Why? Because we have spent so much time in church and helping the needy that we have neglected our children.

Don't get me wrong. Ministry, participating in church and helping the needy are a must in our society; but, within reason. Make sure what we are doing is a healthy example of how to do ministry, church and helping the needy. When we do this our children and fellow colleagues or employees will have a desire to honor us by doing a good job and representing us well. This leads me to the passage of scripture I want to bring to our attention.

As I opened my Bible to read today, the page fell open to a passage I had underlined previously in Ezekiel. Once again it jumped out at me.

Just that one little passage says so much. I believe if more people would read Ez. 20:22 of The Message, we would all get along so much better, accomplishing so much more in our world that immediately surrounds us.

God was fed up with the Israel. He wanted to let His anger and frustration loose upon them. He had every right to. They had disobeyed. They were doing what they wanted without consulting God. They knew how to live their lives better without God. But God didn't "vent." He said, "I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out." Ez. 20:22 MSG

The next time something doesn't get done the way we wanted; or our kids don't want to do something we have asked of them, remember this passage. God thought better of venting. He ACTED OUT OF WHO HE WAS not by how He felt. For some of us we will have to work a little harder to not act out of how we feel. As we work on it we will find it will be worth it. People will respect and honor us more for acting out of who we are.

May we all be committed to working on our character. Allow God to shape us into someone that is honorable. Don't take the easy road. Becoming a man or woman of character takes work, but it is well worth the effort we put into it. Remember, our lives are being watched. What are our lives saying to others. Let's be challenged today to act out of who we are in Christ, not out of how we are feeling.