grumble-banner-mpThose who are confused will gain understanding, and those who grumble will accept instruction. (Isaiah 29:24)

“Well, that would be nice!”

That’s what I wrote to the side of this verse in last year’s journalling Bible.

What if every time we grumble, we use it as motivation to shift to inviting and accepting instruction? I’m not pointing fingers; I’m including myself.

Wouldn’t be great if grumbling became something productive?

When we do it, we tend to get stuck. It’s as if the scowl on our face deepens, and we feel the need to infect as many people as possible.

But look at the word. It’s kind of funny-looking. Stare at long enough, and you just might smile or giggle. I start thinking about Pooh Bear’s rumbly tummy.

Oddly enough, when I search for an image of “grumble,” the results include many photos of puppies. I guess others are trying to find anecdotes for grumbles, too.

There is an anecdote (that isn’t alive and squirmy). It’s humility, a willingness to see outside ourselves and learn. And learning seems a lot more fun and worthwhile to me than grumbling.


Don’t Create Victims. Equip Survivors.

imagesIt doesn’t have to be a major crisis. It can be the daily wear and tear of life. We want to help. We believe we need to help. We’re certain God directs us to help. But what constitutes true help? It is often different for varying situations and people. What will equip one person demeans or overwhelms another. What boosts and motivates one person causes another to feel entitled to future help.

When we help, we need to equip survivors, not create victims.

It’s easier said than done. We may want to take control and feel as if we have all the answers. We don’t want to be generous in case someone takes advantage of us, or we want to be generous when we’ll set a precedent we can’t maintain. So, how do we know how to respond?

Let God lead, then trust Him with the results.

The results we see won’t be perfect. They will be messy, because life and people, including ourselves, are all messy. We may think we’ve failed someone when he or she needed to struggle through the situation in order to grow. We may think we’ve helped when we’ve started a ripple effect that negatively affects many.

But God can deal with it all. What we offer must be purely motivated, seeking to honor Him each step of the way. We need to give Him our strengths and weaknesses, humility and motivation, doubts and fears. We can trust Him to help us survive and thrive through the process of helping others despite, and perhaps because of, the difficulties.

The Selfishness of Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is not something we do for other people. We do it for ourselves…to get well and move on.”

“The first to forgive is the strongest.”

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”

It’s great to see so much encouragement on social media and in everyday conversations to encourage forgiveness, but how well are we representing what forgiveness is and should be?

I get the motivation behind it. Forgiveness is tough. We often feel the other person doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes they refuse it, and other times, we don’t even have the option of saying it aloud to them. So, we make it more about ourselves than the other person. The scales begin to slide, and we can justify finally forgiving someone, because it helps us, too.

Forgiveness does, indeed, take a weight off of us. Someone once explained it to me as taking someone off my hook and putting them on God’s hook. In reality, the person was already on God’s hook, regardless of what I did. Forgiving them was simply my acknowledgement of His authority, power, and grace. And a reminder of His mercy to me.

God wants my burdens, but He doesn’t want me to release them selfishly. He doesn’t want forgiveness to become about what I gain by it. He simply wants me to stand under His authority. My forgiveness is a mere shadow of His. And His forgiveness has always been and is completely unselfish. Letting His Son leave His side and live a messy life on earth and suffer rejection and a horrific death? No selfishness. Jesus asked for forgiveness on our behalf; we only have forgiveness because of Him. He didn’t live and die for Himself. He did it for us. Completely unselfish.

So, why do we forgive? Because God says that’s the way to respond. It’s a reflection of His love. It’s not easy. In fact, it feels tortuous at times. It doesn’t make sense. But neither does dying to ourselves to live with Him and humbly choosing last, which actually becomes first. Everything doesn’t make sense, at least, to us. And that’s okay.

Don’t buy the distortions of forgiveness the world is trying to get past you. They might sound good and make you feel good, but only truth sustains and endures.

If you’re going to walk in God’s Word, wear it well.

The parade was open to everyone, including a man who wore a homemade costume that resembled a Bible. As he walked, he waved a Bible in the air, emphasizing his words:

Who believes this book needs to be in the White House?

Yell, “Amen!”

I occasionally heard a few murmurs, but definitely no loud “Amens.” That’s not to say people don’t believe the Bible and it’s truths need to be lived out in our country’s leadership. It was just…simple…uncomfortable.

As Christians, we need to speak God’s Word. We need to walk it out in daily life. But we need to pay attention to how we speak it and how we walk it out.

I don’t know this particular man’s background or motivation, and I don’t want to judge him too harshly or quickly. Instead, I decided to let his actions prompt my own questions and reflection.

Can I imagine Jesus setting such an example for us?

How did Jesus motivate people?

How and why did He ask questions?

How do I speak God’s Word? Do I represent His character as I’m speaking, or is there any disparity between the my words and my actions (as I try to speak and live out God’s Word and His character)?

Is what I’m saying and doing having the impact God wants me to have, or am I like a clanging gong?

Am I attracting people to Jesus or repelling them?

Instead of focusing on what someone else is doing or not doing, instead of passing judgment, take time to ask yourself questions that can only challenge you to grow. Let God show you the truth, so you can live out the life He intends for you.

Stick with It…but Don’t Be a Pest

indexThere’s a fine line between pestering and persevering.

I recently heard results of a study that determined kids expect to have to ask parents something nine times before they get the results they want. From a parent’s perspective, it might feel like pestering. The parent finally gives in because he or she just can’t take it any longer. Or, perhaps the parent is so distracted and disengaged that it actually takes that long to fully process the request.

From the kid’s perspective, it might be manipulative: “If I just keep asking long enough, eventually my mom or dad will give in.” We don’t want to raise pesky kids. Yet there’s another perspective–that repeatedly asking is a form of perseverance. It shows determination and commitment, which can be positive.

God wants us to develop perseverance in our faith. He wants us to repeatedly go to Him, rely on Him, and trust Him. Yet He filters everything through His will. You can ask Him gazillion times for something that you never receive. You can ask once and immediately receive. So how can you know the difference between pestering and persevering?

What’s your motivation?

What’s your ongoing relationship with God?

If you’re trying to get what you want more than seek what God wants, it’s pestering.

If you’re wrestling with the difference between your will and His, it’s persevering.

Perseverance is about wanting God more than you want anything or anyone else in your life. You persevere through your needs and requests toward God. Pestering keeps you stuck. Persevering, even when it feels like you’re stuck, keeps you moving.

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

You Don’t Have to Share

cellphone-messageNone of us share everything on social media. We can’t type quickly enough to keep up with all the thoughts we have. But many of us share too much.

I’m not just talking about the actual things we shouldn’t share. I’m not talking about the filter we need to use that many don’t. There are some things I’d rather not see on my social media feeds, but I have to admit that while I can’t control what others post, I can control how much time I spend on social media, what posts I allow, and so on. And sometimes, while I might not be interested in a post, I know someone else likely is. It’s not simply about interest, offense, or impact. It’s about motivation.

I’m talking about the actual sharing process.

Perhaps instead of choosing who we follow based on content, we should choose based on motivation. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But we can start by keeping our own motivation in check.

  • Are you posting to brag? Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but when you have that “I look good! I need to share this moment!” or “What a great family photo!” (even if everyone was arguing just 30 seconds before the camera clicked) or “I just bought the cutest shoes!” when…really? Shoes are post-worthy with all the other needs and issues of the world? Buy a good pair of walking shoes and give them to someone who lives on the streets. Post a photo of that person’s feet in the shoes (if he or she allows it) and challenge your social media friends to do the same. Our world needs a lot less bragging and comparison.
  • Are you posting to get pity or support? Support isn’t a bad thing, but we don’t need to get it through “poor me” posts or “I can’t believe he would ever…” posts. If your goal is to tally the likes and favorites your posts get to prove yourself affirmed, admit that just about anything will be affirmed on social media, given the right audience and context. If there was a dislike button, some of that affirmation would be stolen away. Refuse to leave your affirmation up to the not-so-random sampling of people in your circles. Instead, go face to face to the people you most respect and will speak truth to you.
  • Are you posting out of boredom? There are better ways to spend your time. Read a book. Go for a walk. Meet with a friend. Breathe fresh air. Look around. Help someone.
  • Are you posting to help others? Now, here’s where it gets even more sticky, because what we think is helpful isn’t necessarily helpful. First, we’re all in different places with different issues and needs. Second, soundbites aren’t always as helpful as we want to believe they are. I struggle with this one in particular, because I post what I hope will encourage and challenge others. It’s not just about warm fuzzies. I can’t please everyone. I just pray that any offense someone takes spurs they toward a journey of mercy and understanding.

I’m not questioning your motives as much as I’m keeping my own in check. But hopefully, you’ll take a breath and hold your fingers over the keyboard for just a second longer next time. Check your motives before you post.

Recipient vs. Participant

How well do we provide for others?

For those who “do” ministry, we can struggle from time to time with this one. We want people to get involved, to participate, but there are so many who seem to be content to receive. We want to be generous. We want to be loving. We want to be giving. But, really? Can’t people step up and take responsibility?

Well, yes, they can. It’s not a simple if/then equation, but we need to consider what we’re doing that fosters people to receive instead of participate.

helpIt’s not just about church attendance. In fact, lets widen the circle for a moment and consider how well we serve people in need. I’m not talking about our numbers or programs, the how much and what of our service. What about the how well?

I have had this conversation multiple times at ministry events, especially among churches and organizations who are especially known for their focus on identifying and meeting needs in both short-term crises and ongoing support. But what are we supporting? Are we simply providing without equipping? Are we giving stuff and time but taking away something even more important, like dignity?

Let’s get a bit more personal. When you give away clothes or furniture because someone needs it, what is your attitude? Do you give away your best? Do you engage the person? Do you listen to their story? Do you insist on receiving nothing in return even when they really want to give something to you? Do you follow up? Do you care? Do you invest?

We like to solve problems, so if we have something or can buy something someone needs, we feel good about our generosity. We’re helping, and who doesn’t get warm fuzzies by helping others? But are we sure our giving is the best option? Have we even explored the options? Do we know the situation well enough to explore the options?

Let’s broaden the circle even wider. When we become aware of a need in another country, we often begin collecting what we think will solve the problem. We often avoid thinking about how our solutions might create more problems. For example, clean water. We want everyone to have it, right? Let’s pay for and install water pumps in every village so people have access to clean water. Sounds great, right? What if no one local is trained to fix the water pump? What if parts are not easily, affordably available? Are there other, better, longer-lasting options?

What if we donate all kinds of things because we have easy access to them, but in the process, we eliminate someone’s only way to make money in that community? For example, when we send cases of new shoes, what happens to the man who has repaired every person’s shoes for decades? I’m not saying we shouldn’t donate and provide, but I think it’s important to think through the how well of our service.

We accomplish something when we give and someone receives. But what if we focus on developing participants instead of recipients? What if we give dignity, ownership, and responsibility with our service? After all, it’s not really about us. If we care that much to invest in others, we need to make sure our how well is our best for God.