Pat on the Back

pat-on-backBe careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

It’s difficult to walk the line of being an example for others without calling attention to yourself. We want to encourage and challenge others, but we need to do so humbly. And that’s difficult in today’s social media-saturated culture. There are so many voices screaming for everyone’s attention.

But maybe that’s not all that different from the past. Sure, the method of delivery, speed, and availability might be different, but the inundation of voices have probably been challenging in different ways through the years.

And no matter the specific challenges, humility will always be in style. Well, perhaps not in style, but a good goal to have.

Knowing It All

if-you-think-you-know-it-all-you-are-not-listening-quote-1There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read before the entire assembly of Israel, including the women, the little children, and the foreigners who were with them. (Joshua 8:35)

When we share what God says, we must try to keep it in its entirety and context as much as we can. Of course, we’re limited by time and understanding, but we can steward what we have well. We can never know it all, but we can be in the continual process of knowing it all. We should never come across as a know-it-all, but we can certainly rely on the One who does each step of the way!

Be a Witness to God’s Withness.

As Christians, we often talk about how available God is. He is always present.

But do we live as if that’s true?

Do we behave as if we truly believe what we claim to believe?

Not as often and as completely as we should. And I’m not saying “as we should” as a condemning judgment. It’s not about “ought have, could have, should have.” It’s about the invitation that God extends to us. It’s the truth that He really is present in our lives.

We just don’t behave as if He is.

We make sure we mention Him and give Him credit when things work out well. We cry out to Him when things aren’t going well. But what about all those in between times, the moments we go about our ordinary lives. Do we invite Him into those spaces, too?

People around us see us in all of those moments. Well, perhaps not the ones when we’re by ourselves in our homes, but what we do in those unseen (by everyone but God) moments bleed into our witnessed moments.

God’s presence isn’t dependent on our willingness, but He can certainly use us as witnesses. We have to be willing and available at all times to become a witness to God’s withness.

 

Same God, Different Christians

62e0069d78ce2f22a84bf424a23eccd2I took my daily walk along the beach, all the way to the turnaround point…the end of the property, marked by large rocks. I don’t know who owned the rest of the shoreline. It had no houses on it, and sometimes a few people were on the beach or in the water, but they looked local, not like me, a visitor.

This day, I saw a man and two dogs. At first, I saw only one dog in the water with him. I stopped to watch for a moment, because the dog was a lab and reminded me of my own. The lab stayed close to the man’s side as they swam into shallow water. That’s when I saw the second dog, a German shepherd, probably less than a year old. He was running back and forth along the water’s edge, very excited but also very unfocused. The shepherd met the lab and owner as they came out of the water. As the shepherd jumped around and played, the lab looked at his owner for instruction and affirmation. The owner leaned down and talked directly to the shepherd, then whistled and spoke a command that I assume told both dogs to follow him into the water again. He was training them. The lab stayed by his side. The shepherd began to follow but only made it a few feet into the water before deciding he’d rather run along the shoreline. I assumed the owner had brought along the older lab as a role model for the young pup in training. The lab stayed focused. The shepherd stayed unfocused.

They had the same trainer but were at different phases of their lives and training. I’m sure their dispositions were different, too. One had more experience.

I thought of how we as Christians must look to observers at times. We all talk about God, but our behavior is very different and quite confusing. When people look at some Christians, they might think they get an accurate picture of who God is, but then someone else responds to Him and represents Him differently. We know why. We know we’re different people; God created us to be unique. We’ve had different experiences, different amounts of training. We have different baggage and temptations. It makes sense to us. We can be different but serve the same God. But to others, our differences might seem confusing, as if we don’t respond to God well, or, as if He’s incapable of creating any kind of consistency in us.

Our faith isn’t just about our behavior, but we have to acknowledge that our behavior is often the only tangible thing people see of us. We have to be willing to show them more, to be authentic with our struggles and obedience. To answer questions and not get defensive when people seem to accuse us or God because of the discrepancies they see. God is a creative God. We are different. But He is the same God.

He knows who is watching us at all times, and He knows how to use us–our obedience and our distractions–to reveal Himself to others. Are you willing to follow Him through the good times and the messy times, not just for yourself but for others to see, too?

Share Your Perspective

The Church of Annunciation had beautiful stained glass windows that emphasized a lesson for me.

©2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

It was actually this particular set that made me pause.

©2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

I know they don’t look spectacular compared to the top photo. They didn’t fill an entire wall, floor to ceiling, and these were nearly too tall for me to capture in a photo. But the blues were so vibrant. The light filtered through them and sparkled across the floor. They seemed to invite the light into the room.

Then I stepped outside. I glanced at the outside of the windows.

©2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

Blah.

Same stained glass windows. Same colors. Different light.

Our light source matters. God is God no matter where we are. God is God no matter what our perspective. However, what we see can drastically differ based on where we position ourselves in relation to Him.

Life with Him might look pretty drab from the outside. You might wonder what people who follow God see in Him. They talk about how great He is and how beautiful life with Him is, but it all looks “regular” to you. Nothing spectacular, so you move on.

If you’re on the “inside,” you might be so busy soaking up God’s light that you forget there are people outside who might not see it the same way you do. You might be hesitant to leave the beauty to strike up a conversation with someone outside, which might lead to them walking with you inside to get a different perspective.

God doesn’t want you to stand and enjoy the light. He wants you to be the light to those around you. Going where there is no light is going to be drab, but the more we’re willing the share, the more we’ll see it around us and others.

Be the Straw

One of the greatest encouragers in my life recently sent me a message: “Be the straw to the soda.” (She was quoting Sam Dalton, a speaker she admires.)

Such a simple phrase, and yet it encourages me to “be the straw” to Jesus in so many ways…

Being the straw to the soda reminds me that I’m not the soda. I don’t have to be the soda. I just have to be the vehicle through which someone tastes the soda. I’m going to mess up, but that’s because I’m not the soda – only Jesus is!

Being the straw to the soda reminds me to stay grounded. If I’m out of the soda, what good am I? I’m just a piece of plastic filled with air. I’d rather be filled and useful!

Being the straw reminds me that I’m not the only means someone has to the soda. Again, it’s not about me…it’s about the soda! Some people prefer direct drinks without a straw, and I’m okay with not being needed sometimes.

Being the straw reminds me I need to stay true to my purpose. Straws are consistent in structure: a long hollow tube. Sure, they might differ in color, size…and some even twist or bend, but some designs just aren’t going to work…like holes all over or a sharp bend. I need to accept the way I’m designed – my purpose – and trust I’m going to be most effective in it!

What about you? How will you be the straw to the soda today?

And there are different ways that God works through people but the same God. 1 Corinthians 12:6