Assumed Motives

2015-09-04_16-19-24Why do we assume we know someone’s motives?

We think they’re irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, disorganized, or a myriad of other motives. When we don’t like the way someone responds, we can quickly assume we know his or her reason. And rarely is that assumption positive. We can slowly think we know someone in ways that we really don’t.

And that’s dangerous to a relationship, whether it’s at home, work, ministry, or in friendships. We need to be patient enough to clarify through observing patterns over time or simply asking, “Just so I don’t take this the wrong way, can you let me know if you’re (irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, etc.)?”

Much of the time, if we’re willing to honestly listen and change our assumptions, we’ll find we’re wrong. And in the process, we’ll let others know we care enough to listen. We’ll try to understand them even when we wouldn’t do things the same way. We’re willing to let someone change what we assume.

And in the process, we’ll deepen our relationships. After all, people are more important than assumptions. People are more important than being right or having things our own way. Listening and being challenged isn’t comfortable, but it’s essential if we want to grow, both personally and relationally.

 

The Christmas Magnifier

8840292-christmas-magnifying-glass-over-background-with-different-association-terms-vector-illustration-stock-vectorChristmas is a magnifier. Whatever is going on in your life is probably amplified right now. That can feel positive, and it can feel negative. Regardless of how it makes you feel, you can choose to respond with honesty, humility, and a willingness to change. Our joy doesn’t come from our circumstances, so what feels like a magical Christmas or depressing Christmas doesn’t define your Christmas, and it doesn’t define you. It’s not time to place blame, dwell on the inescapable, or compare with others.

Our joy and blessings can be permanent. Yes, they seem to shift from time to time, and they certainly change us. The permanence doesn’t mean we feel the same all the time. It doesn’t mean all is happy and wonderful. It means we have a foundation, and when we let the magnifier be about the source of our faith, we amplify the right focus.

What are you magnifying today?

 

The Benefits of Tearing Down

37d512784031dedf5a653be28a66399dFor though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:3-6)

Do you consider “tearing down” more positive or negative? Why?

What is your confrontational style? Are you more of an avid confronter or avoiding confronter?

What would it take for you to “take every thought captive to obey Christ”?

Tearing down may seem like a bad thing. To be sure, we’ve all been torn down and apart to varying degrees. We’ve all torn down others, too. But when we’re told in Ecclesiastes that there’s a season for tearing down, that’s not the direction God intends for us. Tearing down refers to demolishing the kind of fighting that is selfish and doesn’t honor God, using weapons He never intended for us to pick up. Tearing down is what we have to do with what doesn’t fit into His ways.

Tearing down isn’t about the other person. It’s about yourself. And it’s not about negative self-talk. It’s about humility, a willingness to see as God sees. He will never demean you. He will challenge you to grow and change but never in an unloving way. It’s not in His character to do so. You can trust Him.

Tearing down includes taking the high road with humility. It’s where we often find common ground with others. When we’re humble, we are willing to look someone in the eye and respect them if for no other reason than they, like us, were created by God. If we choose to tear someone down made in God’s image (no matter what distortion we perceive they are representing), we tear down God, too. Instead, let Him discern what strongholds need to be demolished and what thoughts need to be taken captive. Only He has the insight the ability to do so.

What needs to be torn down in your life so that you can confront someone the way God intends, set aside an argument (not because of avoidance but because God is telling you to humbly set yourself aside), or abundantly forgive someone? Write what you need to tear down on a sticky note. Carry it with you throughout the day. When you’re ready, tear it in half. If you aren’t sure that you can completely demolish the idea of what you need to tear down, keep one half of the paper. When you’re ready, tear it again. Repeat the process until you are ready and willing to completely tear it apart and give it up, letting God have control of you and the situation.

The Process of Death

a00d8978bbbaa9bbd45840020f0e4c0bWhoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

How have you experienced death in your life?

What feelings do you associate with death?

What has changed in your life as a result of death?

No matter how sudden and jarring death might seem, it involves a process. There’s a process of preparation we may or may not see, and there is a process of coping, healing, and readjustment that many of us know well but are still confused by it at times. Just like birth, death isn’t as clear cut as we think it may be. It’s not just the biggies of physical death but is a series of smaller deaths. We sometimes inadvertently let things die in our lives because of our inattentiveness. And we sometimes intentionally let things die in our lives because we believe we must in order to move on.

Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are not. We let things die that need to live and keep things alive we need to let die.

As far as God is concerned, we need to give up ourselves so that He can prevail in our lives. We claim that we’ve put Him first when we determine we’ll follow Him, but that one claim is followed by many, many additional choices and opportunities. With each one, we can decide to maintain ourselves, put ourselves and our own interests and perspectives first, or set ourselves aside to yield to Him. We get to choose how thoroughly we become less so that He becomes more in our lives. Death is never easy, but just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not hopeful and productive. When in the context of faith in God, death makes way for life. Sacrifice gives way to hope. Humility gives way to faith.

What do you need to give up for God? It might be something tangible and measurable, or it might be an attitude, entitlement, position, or pride. Claim what it is. Let God challenge you. Then, make a decision. Maybe you’re uncertain about giving it up altogether, or maybe you simply don’t see how it can be done. Take a step. Just one step. Facing the long road ahead might seem daunting, but taking one step right now is doable. Sometimes you can’t see the next step until you’ve taken a step and are in a new place. Your perspective changes, one step at a time.

Uncertainty and Hypocrisy

photoWe can be okay with uncertainty but not hypocrisy.

When we’re not okay with uncertainty, we invite hypocrisy. When we’re not okay with uncertainty, we claim something just to seem or feel certain. We think a firm stand is better than no stand at all. But we can easily find ourselves on anything by firm ground. Just because we take a firm stand doesn’t mean where we stand is firm. We claim what isn’t true or right or correct, and we find others see us as hypocritical.

Perhaps what’s more important is that we begin to see the hypocrisy within ourselves.

Just because we’re confident in one thing doesn’t mean we have to have all the answers in everything. Just because we stand on a firm foundation at one time because we’re certain of a core truth doesn’t mean we can claim firm truth under our feet no matter where we step and what topics we cover.

Humility is essential to being a lifelong learner, and if we’re not willing to learn and change throughout our lives, not only do we lose, but so do others around us.

The Beginning and the End

love_endures_foreverPsalm 118 begins and ends with the same words:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1,29)

What if we bookended every day, every situation, every conversation with this reminder? How would this consistent claim give context to everything we do, say, and think?

We repeat things to ourselves all the time. We have favorite mantras we live by and repeatedly claim. We share them with others as we deem appropriate. But how truthful is what we claim to ourselves? How humble are we to seek the truth in what we live by?

How will you bookend today? How will you fill the in-between?

The Vastness of God

psalm_36_5_by_seconteen13Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains; Your judgments, like the deepest sea. Lord, You preserve man and beast. God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They are filled from the abundance of Your house; You let them drink from Your  refreshing stream, for with You is life’s fountain. In Your light we will see light. Spread Your faithful love over those who know You, and Your righteousness over the upright in heart. Do not let the foot of the arrogant man come near me or the hand of the wicked one drive me away. There the evildoers fall; they have been thrown down and cannot rise. (Psalm 36:5-12)

Sometimes we need to be reminded of God’s vastness: the reach of His love and faithfulness, the height of His righteousness, the depth of His judgment. He preserves, protects, fills, and refreshes. His light causes darkness to scurry.

He is nothing but faithful, loving, and just to everyone, because it is His character; He cannot be anything else. Yet to those who know Him, He spreads His faithful love over them. He fills and equips them to reflect His light well. Not because they are better or more worthy of others, but because they are willing. And willingness overshadows ability, power, and position in the long run. Always.