Don't Be Like These 5 People

God loves all people equally but not all people love him back in the same way. The Bible is filled with stories about individuals who sought to go it alone without God’s guidance. We might sometimes wonder why sinful people and their behavior is included in Scripture. But I think their stories are told to warn us about our own sinfulness and to remind us that God is in the business of redemption. Here are five people characters who serve as warnings to us to guard our spirits. Cain – Cain killed his brother Abel but the real problem was a matter of his heart. God didn’t accept his offering and Cain was offended by God’s high standards. He wanted to worship God any way he saw fit. He sulked for a while and then took his revenge on Abel. At times it is hard to understand God’s holiness but we should be careful to not take offense, God wants to help us but it requires that we yield to his ways. Absalom – As the son of the greatest Israelite King ever, Absalom had a privileged position. But he wasn’t happy with that. He wanted the top spot and he wanted it now. Absalom lead a rebellion against his father David that ended with Absalom on the run and hanging from a tree. Impatience and self-centeredness are dangerous qualities. Whenever we seek to put God on our schedule we run the risk of moving on without him. Michal – King David had a heart after God but not everyone in his family felt the same way. When he brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem David was so overjoyed that he danced before God and all the people. His wife, Michal, watched from a distance and was appalled at this ‘unkingly’ like behavior. She judged the worship of someone else who was right to express before God his passion and joy. Her narrow and judgmental spirit left no room for her to know and experience the presence of God for herself. Simon – He was a well-known man of tricks in Samaria and when we saw the ministry of the apostles he wanted in on the action. Although he heard the message of Jesus and believed, he was overtaken by a need for self-promotion and greed. He wanted to buy the ability to baptize people in the Holy Spirit, totally misunderstanding how God works. He loved a good show and the supernatural but only sought it for his own advantage and not for the benefits of others. The Smith Brothers – Okay so these guys aren’t actually brothers but they shared a common spirit. Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14) and Demetrius the Silversmith (Acts 19) both lead opposition to the gospel and the work of Jesus. There are people that just seem to like to stir up trouble for no other reason than watching it happen. Paul tells us in Galatians that strife is a work of the flesh and there is no place for it in Christian fellowship. We are to bring peace and reconciliation, not division.   Jealousy, impatience, a judgmental spirit, self-promotion and strife – we see it all in the Bible and we see it all today. We sometimes even see it in churches and among believers. We shouldn’t be surprised when Christians demonstrate these sinful behaviors but it should prompt us to examine our own spirits and ensure that we are producing good fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22, 23  

Small but Effective

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.”   I love summertime in Canada but hate those little mosquitos. I can’t remember how many nights I have gotten up, turned on a light and searched for that single mosquito that was making my sleep miserable. Although small they are powerful and have the ability to make people move. It’s a simple principle but an important one we shouldn’t forget. We aren’t too small to make a difference in the world around us. Small acts of kindness and support can make a big difference. Likewise small acts of cruelty and harsh words of discouragement can easily put people down. Our actions matter and affect other people whether we always think about it or not. We shouldn’t discount our ability to encourage or discourage others with our words and deeds. Perhaps many of us would like to be remembered for making a big difference in the world. We look for the right opportunity and the right position from which we can do big things in order to impress people and God. Let’s not forget that while we are looking for those ‘big’ opportunities in life we have hundreds of ‘small’ opportunities to impact and change the lives of other people, especially the people we care about. You can make a difference in this world. You have the chance each and every day when you interact with people around you. Make the most of it.  “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians  5:11  

A Prayer for Overcoming Self-Pity

Even for those who aren’t fans of the World Cup it is hard to escape today’s headlines about last night’s game between Germany and Brazil. In a sport that usually sees low scores a 7-1 outcome means it was painful and embarrassing for one of the teams. The silence we hear is the nation of Brazil trying to absorb the shock.   Once the shock wears off there is bound to be a flurry of explanations and accusations as to what went wrong. My guess is that the players will be harder on themselves than others will be. In such a high level sport your personal performance can come to equal your personal value. Does failure on the pitch mean failure as a person? How will these players work through this loss? If they are like most people they might feel self-pity at some point. Self-pity is seldom an attractive virtue. After a bad day or a particular set back we feel sorry for ourselves, we feel unloved, and we feel forgotten. “Woe is me” becomes our motto. Our feelings are important but they shouldn’t control our beliefs or color truth. We need to take seriously what God says about who we are and our value to him. A few years ago someone gave me a little prayer book for all occasions. I came across this prayer for overcoming self-pity and thought it was worth passing on. It was written many years ago and so the language isn’t up to date but the prayer is right on. From time to time we all need to pray this way: Lord, I know that I am easily hurt and feel myself slighted and passed by as I meet associates at church and at the many social gathering in the community. It seems as though no one cares for me. Therefore I feel sorry for myself and think that I am mistreated and ignored. Lord, help me to conquer this morbid outlook on life, and create in me a deeper interest in my fellow beings, looking away from myself and seeking to be useful to others. Grant me the grace to be less self-centered and self-conscious. Forgive me my murmurings, and make me cheerful and friendly. I know I am precious in Thy sight, for Thou hast given Thy Son as a sin offering for me. Thou, O Lord, art thinking of me and of my eternal welfare. Grant that this truth will help me to conquer my self-pity. Let me not continue to bemoan my lot in life. Open my eyes to see that where I am I can serve Thee and be of real service to mankind. Thou hast called me by name. I am Thine own. May I rejoice daily to know that my name is written in the Book of Life. Let me count my blessings as an heir of salvation. Give me the satisfaction of sharing with others the saving truths of the Cross and telling them of Jesus, the Savior, who sacrificed His life that they, too, might be Thine through all eternity. Amen.  (My Prayer Book. Concordia Publishing House. 1957)

When we don't like the messenger

Was Jesus ever frustrated with people? He was. He was frustrated by the attitude of many in his day who couldn’t or wouldn’t hear the truth no matter how it was presented. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day felt they had everything figured out about God. They weren’t going to listen to anyone who didn’t fit their mold; they didn’t want to have to change their understanding or their lives. John the Baptist arrived on the scene and called people to repentance of sins. But his odd lifestyle, living alone in the desert and wearing animal skins, put people off. He had an Old Testament ‘fire and brimstone’ kind of preaching and folks thought he had a demon. When Jesus began his ministry it was kind of the opposite from John. Jesus lived and moved among ordinary and sinful people. His preaching was kind and gentle calling people back to a loving God. But the critics didn’t like that either. They accused Jesus of being a glutton and drunkard because he hung around with the wrong crowd. There is no pleasing some people: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” (Matthew 11:16) Jesus was frustrated because no matter how the truth was presented to them – they refused to listen. If the messenger wasn’t to their liking they didn’t want to hear what was being said. I have my own personal preferences, the way I like things to be. I ‘hear’ people better in certain situations than in others. What I need to watch out for is limiting my sources, only listening to people that I like. The kingdom of God is made up of people and we are all different. We relate and interact with each other and with God in different ways. We need to make room for that. We need to remember that we can learn from people who are different from us. God uses a variety of different people and different methods to get his truth across. Some days I need to hear from John the Baptist; I need to be confronted about my sin and how I’m living my life. If I refuse to listen I do so at my own peril. Other days, I need to hear from Jesus. I need to be reminded that I have worth, that he loves me and will help and strengthen me. If I only listen to the good stuff I can easily become lead astray. If I only listen to the hard stuff I can become judgmental and hardened.   We may not always like the messenger who brings us the truth we need to hear. But if we close our ears to God’s servants then we are in danger of developing an unhealthy spirituality. “Lord, help me to listen with open ears and discernment so I that won’t miss anything you have for me.”