Talk is Cheap

The Bible tells us that we should profess with our mouths the love we have for Christ in our hearts. It also says that we should be ready at all times to give an account for this faith that we have. But we must not ever forget that we tell our story best by how we live our lives. (“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16) Do we honor God by our words only, or do we honor Him by our actions as well?

I’ve heard a few times recently a line that says, “People don’t always live what they profess, but they usually live what they believe”. The point being that talk is cheap. If we profess with our mouths that we believe in an eternal life through Christ, but live like this world is all that there is, then what we truly believe is demonstrated by our actions.

How many times have I told someone, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you”? I mean it, but I tend to say this as I am ending a conversation rather than starting one. What if Jesus had taken that road? He could have easily said as He walked away, “Let me know if you need me.” Thank goodness He didn’t go that route with us. No, Jesus died for us before we knew we needed Him. While we were still dead in our sin, He paid our debt so that we could one day have life eternal.

One of the coolest moments in my day is when I ask someone to meet a need I have and they say, “I’ve already taken care of that”.

I especially love it when my husband says that. He does that a lot, and it’s a wonderful example to me of how Jesus loves me. He often does things for me that I didn’t even know I needed to have done. That’s especially wonderful. You see, in meeting my needs before I know I have needs, he is demonstrating to me how Jesus meets my needs. That’s the role of a husband. To point his wife to Christ.

Remember, we may not always live what we profess, but we live what we believe.  Our example is Christ. Always.

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Today, as we think about Good Friday and the sufferings of our Savior, there has never been, nor will there ever be, a better example of love in action. Even while we were crucifying Him, He was giving His all for us. All that we can possibly do in return is offer up a life that honors Him and points others to His saving grace. Talk is good, but talk is cheap. It’s the doing that costs us.

Preparing for the Return of the King

It’s just a week before Easter Sunday. I love everything about this time of year, and I truly love that we celebrate Easter during the time of year that everything is beginning to have new life. I feel more motivated and energized this time of year than at any other.

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King (Matthew 21)

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday. I can remember on Palm Sunday, when I was little, that the kids always got to wave palm branches in church. It was a little thing, but we made a huge deal out of it. On cue, the choir would march into the church, and I would wave my palm until my arm was tired. As I got a little older, I couldn’t help thinking past Palm Sunday to what was to come for Jesus. I had a hard time understanding how we could make such a deal of Palm Sunday when in just a few days, the Lord would be put through so much pain and suffering. How could we ignore that which was to come and have so much fun waving our palms as if we didn’t know?

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But the day that Jesus traveled into the city of Jerusalem was truly remarkable. Not everyone, and I wonder if truly anyone, knew just what they were doing by the waving of those palms. Did they really know that the King was coming? Did they fully comprehend just who He really was? Maybe some. Maybe a precious few, but I’m suspicious that most were just caught up in the fanfare and had no real idea who was to come riding into town on the back of that borrowed donkey.

More than two thousand years later we wait for Jesus to, once again, ride into the city. It will be different this time, though. This time, He will not come humbly. He will not ride in on a borrowed donkey. This time, He will come in strength and power. This time, He will ride in to take His proper place. This time, the return of the King will be final.

His return will be forever, and this time, all at one time, the whole world will know. This time, every knee will bow. This time, every mouth will profess that He is Lord. It will be a day like none other in the history of mankind. The God who made us, will once again walk among us. Frankly, it’s a bit hard to comprehend. It’s not anything that my once palm waving little self could possibly understand. I can hardly wrap my grown up mind around it.

What I can wrap my mind around is the fact that I believe that day is coming soon. Am I preparing well for that day? Am I living as if I truly believe that day is imminent? Honestly, most days I am not. I don’t live my days with the anticipation of seeing my King. Why am I not straining, leaning in, to try and see His approach?

Not so much. I can easily become distracted by political campaigns, the latest fashion, or whatever funny video is making the rounds on social media. I’m not proud of that, but the fact is, I can be distracted. I want to live my life in anticipation of the return of the King. I want to live as though I truly believe I will soon see Him face to face.

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Holy week is a great time to refocus. It’s a good time to put things back in right order in our hearts and minds. We remember the days leading to the crucifixion. We think on the great and horrible sacrifice He made to redeem us. And next Sunday, we rejoice that death was laid low and new life is now available to all who call upon His name, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! It’s a great time to prepare for the return of the King.

One of the Biggest Relationship Boo Boos

Relationships are hard. If you have even one relationship, you know this is true. I’m not sharing any kind of new information here just yet.

I’ve been sitting in on a series of messages from the pastors at my church on relationships, and how as believers, our relationships should be uncommon. That we should behave differently in relationships than how the world would suggest we behave.

Mostly the world would tell us that we should be getting something out of a relationship for it to be worth our while. Okay. The very definition of relationship implies that both parties get something out of it. But I think the pastors at my church have tried to say that it matters how we behave in a relationship, and if we are only concerned with what we get out of that relationship, then the connection will be flawed.

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One of the most frequent mistakes we make in relationships is when we employ manipulation. Manipulation is the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone. At least that’s what Dictionary.com says. It’s when we use our words or actions to get someone to do something that we want them to do, that they may not entirely want to do themselves, and likely would not do if we had not… manipulated them into it. Coercion is manipulation’s close cousin. Coercion is the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.

Relationships based out of manipulation or coercion are not healthy, but most of us employ those tactics from time to time. We think drastic situations call for drastic measures. I may want my husband to do something or act in a certain way. I can, with my words or actions, force the response I want from him, but our relationship suffers every time I do that. Any time I am manipulative, his first response is resentment. If I am honest, that’s my first response to being manipulated, too.

Manipulation and coercion are not tools of the Father, so they must be tools of the enemy. So what in the world are we thinking when we use those? What we display is our own mistrust of the power of the Holy Spirit to work in a person’s life.

Over the years, I have had to learn, especially in my marriage, that I cannot take the place of the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life. I do not have the power of conviction over another person’s heart. I can shame, condemn, and guilt people fairly well, but only the Spirit of God has the power of conviction and real heart change. So what do we do when we are in relationship with someone, and we want them to change in some way? We have to resist manipulation.

If I have a healthy relationship with my husband, I should be able to broach any subject that I think needs addressing. I do not need to plead my case, make threats, or guilt my husband into agreeing with me. On the surface, I may get my way, but the relationship underneath has eroded away a bit. Over time, the erosion from manipulation can permanently damage my marriage.

Instead, I begin to approach the subject with the Lord first. There is a slight, however slight, chance that I might be wrong. 🙂 I need to ask the Holy Spirit to check my heart. I need to deal with any selfishness or arrogance before I move forward. Am I seeking my own way in this issue? Am I only interested in what I am going to get here? Then, I need to give the issue to the Lord. And that might be the end of it. (If your spouse is a believer, the Spirit dwells in him and speaks to him. One word from the Holy Spirit can do, in an instant, what years of nagging will never do.)

Sometimes, though, I do need to talk something through with my husband. If he doesn’t jump to my point of view immediately, the temptation will almost always be to move on to manipulation. I want my way. After all, I’ve prayed about this, and I think God agrees with me. But when I resort to manipulation, all my prayers are wasted. I am essentially telling God that I’ve got this one.

When we have to use manipulation or coercion in a relationship, the relationship is not what it needs to be, and it in no way honors God. It only tends to show how little we truly trust in the Father’s ability to move in a person’s heart. Often we just have to learn to be patient and wait on the Lord to work. He really does know what He’s doing, even if He isn’t doing it on our timetable. The fact is, that when two people in relationship truly love God infinitely more than they love anyone or anything else, relationships actually flourish. When our focus is on God and not on what we want, as my mom says, “Our wants won’t hurt us.”

My Racism Theory

I have a theory. This is my theory.

Back in the Garden of Eden, and up through the great flood of Noah’s fame, all the way until folks decided to build a tower to heaven, we all pretty much looked the same. I don’t know what that look was, but I am suspicious that it was not the Irish/English look that I am sporting today.

Some say the Tower of Babel was built near a place called Shinar that was south of Mesopotamia, while others believe it was actually in today’s northern Syria. All that is really irrelevant except to say that the world’s population was all together, and somewhere in the Middle Eastern region of the world at that time. The survivors of the flood (Noah’s family) hung together, and you can see how prolific those folks were if you take a look at Genesis 10. They were all about post flood re-population!

The story of the Tower of Babel is found in Genesis 11. Noah’s descendants decided to build a tower to heaven in order to make a name for themselves. My question is, “Who were they trying to impress?” There was no one else!

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Anyway, God wasn’t having it. So he confused their speech, giving them different languages in order that they could no longer communicate well enough to complete the tower. Eventually, they grouped up by language, and set out to distant lands. In time, very different people groups emerged, depending on what region they inhabited.

Those who landed in hot, arid regions developed darker skin; God added the greater melanin content to help protect them from the harsh rays of the sun. Others landed in more northern regions where the climate was cooler, and there was no need for this added melanin. God gave them lighter, fairer skin. Those who stayed in the sandy areas that are now Syria, Iraq, and Israel developed that olive complexion they are known for today; a complexion God thought well enough of that He gave it to Jesus. You see where I’m going?

So my theory is that skin color is a matter of where your ancient Noahan descendants landed after the whole Babel debacle.

(“Noahan descendants” is my phrase. Feel free to borrow it.)

Differences in skin color have been an issue ever since… as if any of us had any control over where our nomadic ancestors wandered and ultimately settled. It is common to think one’s skin hue is superior to others that are different. But why?

I can appreciate those who fight hard against racism and say, “When I look at people, I don’t see color.” I don’t think they are lying exactly, but I don’t think they are being completely realistic. When I look at my black friends, I shouldn’t want to ignore their skin tone, or the unique shape of their eyes, noses, or the texture of their hair. When I talk to my Asian friends, how can I not see the beautiful smoothness of their skin and the shine to their straight, black hair? Why would I want to minimize all that diversity and unique beauty infused into them by their Creator?

When we deal with racism, we have to come to the place where we embrace the “different yet equal” truth. It’s no different than how we view the sexes. The trend today is to blur those lines as well. Shame on us! Yes, we are equally valuable, but we are not the same. That is okay. Each sex was created with beauty and precision to serve equally important roles in relationships. The same is true regarding race or skin color. They are different, yet equal. We shouldn’t try to ignore our differences. We need to celebrate them!

Whatever God intends to be a blessing, our enemy sets out to corrupt. Those people groups who went their separate ways were once family! And yet the enemy whispers in our ears that we are better than those who don’t look or act like we do. He tells us we are superior to them, and should not welcome them into our lives. Those people who, eons ago, were family. Separation is the enemy of community and cooperation.

If I am honest, it is often just easier to gravitate to those who look and act the way I do. But when I give in to that pattern, I miss out on so much blessing! Venturing into relationship with different kinds of people is risky. It forces us to address long held prejudices and myths about those who are not like us. Fences that were built by former generations have to be torn down. It’s those fences that keep us apart. We might feel a bit exposed without them at first, but little by little we can overcome our fear of each other and embrace the best in each of us.

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But hey, it’s only a theory.

If it’s not one thing, it’s ten.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27

It seems like the older I get, the busier life gets. There’s just always more. More activity. More responsibility. More opportunity. More, more, more. It’s enough to make a person go berserk. I’m not saying I’ve gone berserk, and I’m not saying I haven’t. But life is often enough to do that to a person. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there.

I was in Walmart last week, and heard this little kid have one heck of a fit. The whole store full of people could him screaming his little head off. I envied that kid just a little. No one seems to think much of when a kid hauls off and goes berserk. They just think, like me I guess, “Well someone’s not happy.”

But somewhere along about three or four years old, most of us are taught we can’t have our come-a-parts in the middle of aisle three at Walmart. So we just deal with it all somehow.

My husband and I have taken to watching The West Wing on Netflix. We never watched it when it ran originally several years back, but we really like it now. I would imagine that running the West Wing might be a little like it’s portrayed on the show. Lots of things going on at once. Many of those things being very important, and all of them needing prompt attention. Decisions must be made. Actions must be taken. Sounds like my life sometimes. But I notice that those who deal with the issues tackle them one at a time. They laser focus in on one problem, and leave the rest to marinate in line until it’s their turn for the attention.

That’s not what most of us women do, generally speaking. We like to multi-task. We’re women. It’s what we do. But I’m not sure that’s really so good for us all the time. I think it’s what gives us that haggard look at the end of the day. All that multitasking is bad for the complexion. And really bad for our general well-being.

So I’m trying out the laser focus thing. One thing at a time. Deal with it and move on. I know it’s kind of a manish thing to do, but men don’t seem to have that same haggard look in the evenings, so maybe they’ve got a good thing going. And just this week one of my co-workers noted that I was not as excitable as she thought I should be considering all we had going on that day. I considered that a good sign.

I saw an interesting meme this week. It said, “Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”

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I like that. I think we can let all those things we have to deal with seep inside us sometimes, and that’s what leads to the meltdowns on aisle three. Or the ones our kids and spouses have the misfortune to witness at home.

Whatever our strategy for dealing with the “more” in our lives happens to be, we must remember that we have access to the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7). The storms may rage around us, but we are in the boat with the Savior, and He’s got it all under control. The truth is, He’s the only one who ever has anything under control anyway. Any control we appear to have over our circumstances is just slight of hand or smoke and mirrors type stuff.

Learning to deal with the “more” in our lives will help us avoid those inevitable clean ups on aisle three. Finding peace in the midst of it all is the key.