Feeling Empty

“Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, and He saw two boats lying on the edge of the lake; but the fisherman had gotten out of them and were washing their nets.  And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land.  And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.” Luke 5:1-3

 I was listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer when she said something profound that struck a chord with me.  As a mother of only one child who has flown the coop and a woman who wants to serve Jesus with all my heart, I have felt useless for the kingdom of Christ these last few months-no, not months, but years. Every time I have tried to use my platform to serve Christ, whether it be at church or work, I have come up with “empty nets” just like Simon-Peter in the verses above. Feeling his efforts were useless, he got out of the boat after fishing all night and catching nothing.  Leaving the boat and washing his nets, signified he was done with this particular fishing trip.

But….

Just as Simon got out of the boat, Jesus stepped in.

Simon Peter’s boat was just the perfect place for Jesus to sit and preach to the crowds that were pressing in to hear him. Priscilla noted that this may very well be the reason Jesus did not allow Simon to catch any fish, because if he had, then there would have been no room for Jesus in Simon’s boat.

Sometimes in his sovereignty, Jesus allows the “boat deck” of our life- the platform of our life to be empty of what we want to fill it with because Jesus needs a place to do his work! When we fill it with our stuff, there’s no room for His stuff.

Priscilla then went on to say that like Paul, this should excite us, because when we are weak, then Jesus’ power rests on us and we become strong in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Have you ever worked hard in serving the Lord, thinking like me that you were using your gifts for his glory, only to realize your efforts appeared useless?

Don’t show up to the pity party that Satan has planned for you.  Rest in knowing that Jesus is working in you and through you, weaknesses and all.  Sometimes we have to step aside with all our own efforts and let Jesus do what only He can do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josie, Jesus and Me

Every morning when the weather is nice I sit on my back porch with hot coffee, devotions, God’s word and my prayer journal. For the last four months I’ve added another element to my early morning routine, our five month old Boykin puppy Josie. Most of the time, she is quietly lying at my feet, but this morning I had to coax her to come out of the kitchen and join me. My mother is visiting and Josie decided Mom needed company at the breakfast table.

Standing at the threshold of the porch door, begging in my sweetest voice for Josie to come out, I was suddenly reminded me that Jesus does this with me.  He too uses his sweetest voice- gentle and not demanding- asking me to join him before I start my day.

Josie finally surrenders and hesitantly ambles out onto the porch. (Isn’t that how we sometimes respond to Jesus? “OK Jesus, I’ll come but I really want to stay in bed,” or “I really have so much to do today.”)  As she draws closer, Josie nudges my feet and I bend down telling her how much I love her, how pretty she is and that she is a good girl. As I stroke her glossy coat of curls, I realize Jesus longs to tell me these same words every day.

He declares His love for me, not because I am smart, good, pretty or anything else, but because I am his child and He cannot help but love. That’s who He is.  “This is real love- not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. “1 John 4:10

He reminds me that He thinks I’m pretty because I am his. “Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your Lord.” Psalm 45:11

He reveals to me that I am a good girl even though I still mess up. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

 Along with all that affirmation, He lovingly points out areas I need to work on.  If I respond with confession and ask for forgiveness, He willingly forgives. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

 Wow! Why would I ever want to miss out on all of this?!

Josie calms down for a short while, then she’s back up misbehaving- jumping on porch furniture, knocking over water and food bowls, and chewing the potted plants.  Again and again, I have to scold her with a loud “NO!” or “STOP!”  I’m no different than my mischievous, disobedient puppy.  Many times as soon as I have been forgiven for a sin, I am up misbehaving again and Jesus’ Spirit convicts me, sometimes with a “NO” or a STOP!”  Like Josie, sometimes I obey and sadly, sometimes I ignore my master’s voice.

Oh, why can’t I just do everything the way God wants me to? Who will free me from this life in which no matter how hard I try, I’ll never get it perfectly right? Then I hear God’s voice reminding me that there was only one person that lived a perfect life and he’s the same person that has already set me free from this puppy-like journey.

His son, Jesus Christ.

Thank you Jesus for the realization that Josie will eventually become a mature, obedient dog and one day I will live in a perfect place with you.

I Was Always on My Mind-Part 2

My last post about love that is not self-seeking touched on the problem we all face in putting others before ourselves.  Not only are we called to love selflessly in the family, but with others in our sphere as well. For the past several months Isaiah 58:6-12 has been a passage of scripture that the Lord keeps bringing to my mind with regards to helping others. These verses are the Lord speaking through the prophet Isaiah explaining the type of fasting that He has chosen for his people.  You may be thinking, “What does fasting have to do with love that is not self-seeking?” I’m glad you asked.  Take a minute and read the passage below.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be you rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen our frame.” Isaiah 58:6-12 (NIV)

Did you notice the things that define a fast are putting others’ needs above our own? This is love that is not self-seeking.  Read the passage again and notice that there is a pattern of what to do, then what will happen for us.  The small word “then” leads to the added bonus of God’s grace to us when we love others His way.

First, we are to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. During Isaiah’s time the rich and powerful of Israel exploited the poor to make themselves richer and more powerful. (Sound familiar?) Isaiah writes about their evil deeds in Chapter 59. To make things worse, they went off to their synagogues to worship God as if they had no sins in their lives. They were hypocritical worshipers. So, what exactly does this mean on a practical level in our day?

When I think of injustice today I think of the innocent being convicted and the guilty set free. I think of the rich getting richer off the backs of the poor. I think of those in real bondage being used for ones’ sadistic pleasure and wealth, sold in the human trafficking world. I think of children being left alone to fend for themselves or in orphanages because their parents think of them as a nuisance to their lifestyle; in spite of the fact there are childless couples that desire to care for these young ones.  I think of the starving people in war and famine ravaged countries dying while those of us in prosperous nations waste food on a daily basis.

Just typing these words trouble my soul. I feel helpless most of the time, but then I am reminded that God is in control and He has a plan in place.  This plan was foretold by Isaiah the prophet and then fulfilled in God’s very own son, Jesus Christ.  At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read these words in the synagogue of Nazareth his hometown.

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61:1-2-NIV)

If you are like me, you may be thinking, “Yeah, but that was Jesus! I’m just one person!” God knows that we can do nothing on our own. That is precisely why he sent his Holy Spirit to live inside of every believer.  Jesus even told his disciples that if he didn’t go away the “Helper” would not come to them, and with this Helper comes the very same power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead! (John 16:7-NASB, Ephesians 1:19-20 -NIV)

God doesn’t even expect one believing person to do it all, so why do we use this as an excuse? He knows what we are made of. After all He is our Creator. He gives every person a gift that will further His plan and kingdom.  According to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7(NIV),

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

 Did you notice the last two words?  The “common good.” God has placed his Spirit in us who will help us use the gifts He gives us to help the common good. So, no more excuses!  Ask the Lord to show you where He wants you to use your gifts.  If you have no idea what your gift is, ask him to reveal it to you, then use it.

The words of Isaiah are a good place to start.

 Share your food with the hungry.

There are numerous places to donate money, food and time to feed the hungry.  Google soup kitchens in your area and sign up to volunteer. On a personal level, do your best not to waste food.

Provide the poor wanderer with shelter.

Donate time and/or money for a safe, warm place for the homeless. The “Good Samaritan” gave of his own money to make sure the victim of robbery had a safe place to stay (Luke 10:30-35).

Clothe the naked.

This one is so easy!  Drop off clothes to a ministry that helps the needy or even buy clothes for someone in your sphere who has a need. For every new piece of clothing that your purchase for yourself, give one away to someone who needs it.

Do not turn away from your own flesh and blood.

At first glance, this seems like a no brainer, but we all have a family member who has needs.  Sometimes, this is the hardest one to act on, especially if by helping them we might actually be enabling a family member to continue in their sinful ways. Therefore, we must seek God’s specific will on this matter. When Paul warns us in    1 Timothy 5:8 that a person that does not provide for our own household has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever, he had been teaching on providing for widows and the elderly in our families. So, honor your parents!

God is so good!  He doesn’t just give us these commands and leave it at that. He gives awesome benefits when we follow his ways! Well, get ready for a shower of blessings!  The Message Bible puts it in a language we can all understand.

“Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way.  The God of glory will secure your passage Then when you pray God will answer.  You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.  I will always show you where to go.  I’ll give you a full life in the empties of places- firm muscles, strong bones.  You’ll be like a well watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.  You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” (Isaiah 58:8-12)

WOW!  Who doesn’t want all that?! Did you notice that God is ready to give us the full life, the abundant life as a consequence of helping others rather than ourselves? So, join me in changing my life song to “They Are Always on my Mind!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary and bowed down and worshipped him.” Matthew 2:11a

 Magi or wise men from the east had been following the star to find the baby who was the king of the Jews. How they knew all of this is a mystery. But according to Matthew’s writing, there is a hint of another mystery. After traveling for miles, this band of Oriental astrologers found the young mother Mary with her son Jesus in a house, not a stable or a barn. What?! A House?!  That’s not how it’s depicted in our Christmas manger scenes!

So, here lies the mystery. In whose house were they staying?

Was it the house of the innkeeper who had no room for them on that blessed night when they arrived in Bethlehem? Did he finally realize there was something special about this baby after the shepherds showed up to worship? Did he look up into the night sky and see the star leading him to worship Jesus as well and after doing so did whatever he had to do make room for them?

Was it the house of another family that God prompted to open their home to this young couple and their new baby? Possibly another young couple with a baby of their own who had all the things a young mother would need?

Was it the house of a long lost relative of a Joseph’s? After all Bethlehem was his family’s town of origin. Was he or she compelled to help a family member after they heard from the shepherds?

Or was it the house of a barren couple who longed for a child of their own? Or a widow with no grandchildren?

The possibilities are endless and we have no clue in the Bible as to who opened their home to this blessed family.

“Ok, it’s a mystery, so what’s that got to do with me?” you ask. Imagine you live in Bethlehem on that night just over 2000 years ago.  What would you do if after you heard about Jesus from the shepherds and realized they were staying in a barn of all places? Would you say, “What a shame” and do nothing? Or would you open your home to strangers from Nazareth, the town you had always heard was not so desirable? Could this possibly be the reason that Matthew did not include the names and details of the homeowners, so that we would put ourselves in that mystery position?

We may never know who God directed to open their home for his Son and his earthly parents, but one thing is clear, God is still in the real estate business. He’s searching for places in which his Son can dwell until he returns to take his children to the ultimate property in heaven. Meanwhile, Jesus has many homes because he now resides in every person who believes he is the Savior of the world and Lord over all. That’s the  kind of “house” he desires to live in, but he’s not going to force his way in. He wants to be invited in.

Have you invited him in? Or is there no room for him in your life? You can be sure the ones who opened their homes to Jesus as he walked on this earth were blessed beyond measure. And it’s the same today as it was all those many years ago. Open your home, your life to Jesus, the Savior and Lord of all and you too will be blessed.

 

True Gifts

It’s Christmas morning and the mounds of presents sit under the tree waiting for the family to open them.  Finally, the dawn breaks and the first signs of life appear as the family members awaken from the night’s rest and leave their cozy beds.

The much anticipated time to rip off the wrappings of the presents purchased for each person has arrived. But the family members head towards the kitchen for that first cup of coffee and some breakfast. Once the caffeine has kicked in, they slowly make their way to the room with the beautifully decorated tree. Then the strangest thing happens. Instead of passing out the gifts to loved ones, they turn on the ever glaring television and then check their phones for messages, tweets and posts.  They might grunt a word or two to a family member, but it’s not one that speaks of the joy of the day.  All the while the presents sit and wait to be noticed.

They wait and wait and wait.

If these gifts could talk, they would say something like-

“Are these people crazy?”

“Why aren’t they opening us?”

“What’s on that phone or tv that could possibly be better than us?”

“If only they knew what we have in here for them!”

But these family members are confused, distracted and numb. Much like those who call themselves Christians because they believe Jesus died for them just to give them a ticket into heaven one day and foolishly think this is all there is to life as a believer.  But Jesus didn’t die so that we could grab our “get out of hell ticket” and then spit in his face the rest of our lives on this earth.  But that’s precisely what we do when we tell Jesus, “I’ve got this” and we don’t open the other awesome gifts he has for us.

Gifts like His word and time with him pouring out our hearts desires and how we need him. Gifts of forgiveness when we mess up for the millionth time. Gifts of joy and peace no matter our circumstances. Gifts that satisfy like no earthly treasure can.

Gifts under the tree are special, but God’s gifts are far more superior and better than anything we could ever ask for or imagine.

Put down the phone, turn off the tv and open the awesome gifts from the one who truly knows what you need.

 

Horrible Hurricanes or Horrendous Hell

The warnings were issued about the dangers of Hurricane Irma.  The evacuations took place all over the state of Florida and even parts of Georgia and South Carolina. Businesses and homeowners boarded up windows and even stacked sand bags in strategic places to stop the flood from destroying their property.  The Weather Channel broadcasted twenty-four hours a day about this massive category 4 storm. Heeding the warnings even if a storm ultimately does not impact your area is wise.

As I watched the news videos of millions of people leaving the Sunshine state, I was struck by how many will heed the warnings from local and state governing officials, but not from the One who controls the very winds they are trying to escape. Hurricanes and other natural disasters can completely obliterate homes, towns and cities. I know from firsthand experience that what once stood can be gone in an instant.  On September 21, 1989 Hurricane Hugo totally destroyed our home in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Many people who survive these massive storms come home to piles of rubble and say, “It’s only stuff and at least we have our lives.”  While this is true for now, what about when the temporary house of our souls is destroyed or finally gives up its last breath? What will we say then?  Will you be able to say, “It’s only skin and bones but I have my new life forever with Jesus the Creator of all heaven and earth?” Or will you say, “I wish I had listened to those who warned me about my eternity?”

Hurricanes are terrible and disastrous and should not be taken lightly, but living in hell without Jesus and other believers is far more wretched.  Don’t wait til it’s too late to evacuate from the worst storm that will last forever.  Cry out to Jesus and He will bring you safely to your heavenly shelter.

I Was Always on My Mind – Part 1

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about the abundant life one experiences when he or she walks in true Christ-like love.  The last post on this subject dealt with honoring others by being polite and hospitable rather than rude and discourteous.  The next description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:5 is that “it is not self-seeking” (NIV). Other versions define this type of love as not demanding its own way or insisting on its own way (NLT and ESV).

There’s a reason I’ve delayed writing about this particular subject and it may come as a shock to some, but it’s because I am a selfish person. Oh, how that hurts to admit, but I believe this hits home for everyone.  If you are a believer in Christ, this is a battle that rages within your soul.  We are born thinking only of ourselves and the world teaches us to look out for number one- ME! But throughout scripture, we are told to put others before ourselves. Paul wrote about his own struggles in wanting to do what was right but sin was still present in his flesh (Romans 7: 15-25). As long as we live on this fallen planet, we will deal with this dilemma. But just as Paul realized this truth about himself, he also knew and declared that God delivered him through Jesus Christ our Lord!

There are so many avenues that I can be a selfless person and love others.  My immediate family is the first place to start. As a wife, I can put my husband’s needs above my own. I have been married to a man who understands putting others first in the context of marriage.  He always says, “I want to do what you want to do.”  I know that he really doesn’t always prefer my way, but he still puts his desires on the back burner for me.  After thirty-five years of wedded bliss (not really, but after this many years the hard times seem to fade into memories that the Lord allowed to make us stronger and grow closer to Him), I realize that God has gifted me with a man that I do not deserve. Even if my husband did not exhibit this type of love, I am called to love without demanding my own way.  This should be my daily prayer.

Being selfless seems to come a lot easier as a mother but as a young woman, I almost sacrificed this wonderful privilege due to my own selfish desires. For the first thirty-two years of my life what Cindy wanted was all that mattered. I could not see that sacrificing my hopes and dreams to become a mother was exactly what God had planned for me.  After twelve years of discontentment in the corporate and academic worlds, I left the workplace to be a stay at home mom with my then two-year-old son. I had never felt so in tune with being in God’s will for my life as I did during those seventeen years of caring for and serving my husband and son.  This was a hard lesson to learn, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything this world has to offer.

It’s been a little over twenty years since I made that “selfless” decision to quit working outside the home.  Just as a succulent peach has its fruitful season, we all go through different stages in life. Presently, working part-time outside the home and making time for my elderly, widowed mother has brought on new challenges, but if I remember to walk in love that does not demand my way, l will once again be in tuned to God’s will for my life.

So, if you’re like me and can sing the song “I Was Always on My Mind” (I don’t think Willie Nelson will mind the addition to the title), press on because we have a “Deliverer” to sing about and his name is Jesus!

 

 

Still Growing

This is an update to the following poem that was posted November 9, 2016.

 

“A Planting of the Lord”

I was a new seed planted in old soil

Oh, the challenges that awaited me

I knew not the long hours I would toil

For a dream that was not meant to be

The sun was harsh, no rain came down

I became a dry sprout on rocky ground

I cried out to you to intervene

But my prideful heart had not come clean

Out of your mercy you heard my cries

With love my dry soil you fertilized

You brought out the SONshine that filled my soul

You gave me nutrients that would make me whole

My stems grew stronger day by day

As I plunged in your word and started to pray

I’m no longer a seed nor am I a flower in bloom

I’m still a bud with a lot of growth room

The soil around me can still get hard and dry

But I now look to the one who gave me new life

I know when I see him face to face

I’ll be a beautiful flower in a heavenly place.

 

It’s been seventeen years since I penned those words in response to the Beth Moore Bible study A Heart Like His.  A great deal has happened in those seventeen years, but I can honestly say these words still ring true for me today. I remember the words “planting of the Lord” jumped off the page when studying Isaiah 61.  Maybe that’s because every Spring I enjoy digging in the soil and carefully depositing the fragile, young plants in their new home whether it be pots on the deck or beds around my yard. Then for the next five to six months I water, fertilize and prune for maximum growth. This sounds exactly like what God does to us!

Recently, while reading Isaiah 61, I took the focus off of me as the planting of the Lord and began focusing on who God is and what he has done through his Son Jesus and what He will do through the Holy Spirit living inside of me. Isaiah 61:3 tells us all the things the one anointed by the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord will do. We know from Luke 4:18-19 that Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus. At the end of verse 3 we discover that the recipients of all these divine gifts “will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” I don’t think it matters if we are an oak tree or a gorgeous flowery plant as long as it’s God who plants us with his righteousness that comes only from Christ and we display His splendor.

There’s no question as to who these recipients are according to this same verse – the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners and all who grieve and mourn. As a middle class, baby boomer born and raised in a Christian family in the Bible Belt of the South, I have in the past erroneously concluded that I am none of the above. But as I pondered these descriptions I realized…

I am not poor economically, but I am poor spiritually when I spend all my energy on living like the world and not relying on God for wisdom and strength.

I am not brokenhearted like those who have been rejected by a spouse or close friend, but there have been certain circumstances that have broken my heart.

I am not a captive with chains around my neck, but I’ve been held captive by my greatest adversary way too many times to count and I am still breaking free from his many lies I’ve believed over the years.

I am not a prisoner waiting to be released from jail or living out my life in a 10’ x 10’ cell, but I was a prisoner sitting on death row until Jesus rescued me by taking my punishment on the cross.

I am not mourning the deaths of close loved ones because they are living with Jesus, but I have mourned over my own sins and what could have been if I had done things God’s way from the beginning.

Although Isaiah was speaking of Jesus, I too can do the things that Jesus did through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, helping others become a tree (or flower) of righteousness, a planting of the Lord.  I can “proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…. and comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve” (Isaiah 61:1-3). I don’t have to look too far in my world to find someone who needs to know there is hope and his name is Jesus.

The next eight verses (Isaiah 61:4-11) describe the results of these actions. They include rebuilding, restoration, and renewal as well as inheritance, everlasting joy and being blessed by the Lord.  I personally have experienced some of these and witnessed them in others. One such person is my eighty-five years “young” mother. For many years early in her marriage she dealt with a loving, God-fearing, depressed Christian spouse.  I know that sounds like an oxy-moron, but it can and does happen more than we like to admit.  I’m sure there were times she was brokenhearted and felt like a prisoner herself.  After fifty-two years of marriage, her husband, my father went home to be with Jesus.  She grieved and mourned and I am sure there are still days that she does this even though it’s been eleven years since his passing.  But her faith in what Jesus promised is firm, knowing she will see Jesus and her husband again. Not only has Jesus been her comfort, but he has provided for her. For nine years she lived alone in their house in the mountains surrounded by friends that God graciously put in her life.  Two years ago God made the arrangements for to move in with my sister and her husband and then sold her house in His perfect timing. The revenue from the sell of the house will equip her with the necessary funds to live for many years as she begins a new adventure in an independent senior living complex.  Isaiah 61:7b says, “And so you will inherit a double portion in your land and everlasting joy will by yours.” Mom’s house sold for just about twice the amount they paid for it twenty-five years ago!  God is so good!

Isaiah 61:8 says, “I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong doing.  In my faithfulness I will reward my people…” The end of the verse says, “All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” These words describe my mother has been rewarded and blessed by God in her body, mind and spirit.  Just this week we secured an apartment for her at the independent living complex for almost half the asking price!  Again, God is good!

So, whether you are a flower, bush or tree as a planting of the Lord, remember that you too have been anointed to help others become that planting to display God’s splendor. All you need is the Sonshine, Living Water and the fertilizer of the Word.

 

 

 

 

That’s Just Rude!

If you were asked to do a survey of service oriented businesses, which business do you think would rank the most courteous? As a Marketing Director for a local Chick-fil-A, I hope you would find it to be our dining establishment. In my position, I observe the interactions between team members and our guests and many times connect with them myself.  I am proud to say that most of the time, the team members are very polite and courteous to the guests.  This is because hospitality is of the utmost importance, so much so that each restaurant has a “Hospitality Director.” This person is responsible for making sure that the recipe for service is carried out by all team members at all times in the restaurant.  One of the basic ingredients is saying “my pleasure” instead of “your welcome.” I’ll admit that this did not come easy for me, but that may have to do with the fact that I started my job at Chick-fil-A at the age of fifty-two.  After a few months, it became more natural and most of the time I really mean it!

Now, think about that survey again. Which business would rank the least courteous? This is not a business bashing session, but what makes one group of people courteous and another group discourteous or rude?

The definition of rude in Dictionary.com is “discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way; without culture, learning or refinement; rough in manners or behavior; unmannerly, uncouth.”

The apostle Paul said that it all boils down to love.  In his letter about love to the Corinthians, he said “Love is not rude” (1 Corinthians 13:4, AMP). The New International Version and the New Living Translation of the Bible both say, “Love does not dishonor others.” Stop and think about that, when we are rude or discourteous to someone, we are dishonoring that person.

This letter was not the only time Paul mentioned honoring others.  In his letter to Titus he reminds the people to “be kind and conciliatory and gentle, showing unqualified consideration and courtesy toward everyone” (Titus 3:2 AMP).  He also reminds all believers that before “the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared” through Jesus Christ, we were just like those who are rude and do not honor others.  This message makes me want to put on my husband’s safety boots! As a believer I am to be this all the time, and I can’t use any excuses like feeling poorly, lack of sleep, being hangry (hungry and angry), or wanting to even the score.

It’s admirable when a person or company is hospitable and courteous, but for believers it’s more than that.  It’s obeying what Jesus our Savior taught when he said, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5: 39b NIV). Jesus also was the first one to come up with the concept of “second mile service,” when he said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41). As a follower of Jesus Christ, Truett Cathy the founder of Chick-fil-A was the one who put “second mile service” into practice in the corporate and restaurant world. And God has blessed him, his family and company for adhering to this principle. Jesus also taught “Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31 NIV). Many refer to this as the Golden Rule. I want people to treat me with kindness, courtesy and respect, so I too should treat all people this way.

I’ll admit that working at Chick-fil-A has made me more aware of how I speak and react to people no matter if I am in the restaurant, at the grocery store or out in the neighborhood.  One of the hardest things to do is stay calm and courteous when a guest is being rude for no reason.  Just a few days ago, the afternoon shift dealt in a professional and godly way with a guest who spoke in an impolite manner to several of the team members in the earshot of the owner/operator.  I was so proud of all of them!

Being rude to a guest at Chick-fil-A is not acceptable for a team member, but being rude anywhere is just not acceptable for a Christian.  “God’s people should be big-hearted and courteous” (Titus 3:2 The Message) even if they aren’t fortunate enough to work in a place of business that stresses going the second mile.

 

A Good Boast

“I’m not one to brag about myself, but let me tell you how I did it!”

“I’m not one to toot my own horn, but did you hear that I did this?”

Have you ever heard statements like this come out of the mouth of another person?  Unfortunately, I have way too often and I’m guessing your ears have also been subjected to this type of arrogant, self-admiration.  My first reaction is usually one of suspicion. I’m quite leery of people who brag about their own endeavors. It usually is a sign of extreme insecurity and most of the time they have embellished and exaggerated so much that you don’t know what part to believe. This leads us to the next characteristic of love defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4.

The NIV states that love “does not boast, it is not proud.”  Other versions such as the New King James Version and the New English Translation use “does not parade itself or does not brag” in place of “boasting” and both refer to pride as being “puffed up.” That latter phrase always reminds me of a pufferfish. Did you know that pufferfish contain a toxic substance that is deadly to humans? Do you know any “pufferhumans” whose pride is or will be that detrimental force that will eventually destroy them? After all, King Solomon reminds us that “pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18).

I’ve learned there are two types of boasting; boasting about oneself which is connected to pride, and boasting in the Lord, which is the acceptable and preferred typed of boasting. When God spoke to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah, he told them this,

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight…” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Did you notice that the three things the Lord admonishes not to boast about were the very same ones that we emphasize in our culture today?

Wisdom

Wisdom is often associated with accomplishments and higher education, but this is the world’s view of wisdom.  True wisdom comes from the Lord (Proverbs 2:6, James 1:5). God is not against wisdom, but against the boasting of wisdom.  After all, “Christ became for us the wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). I wonder what God thinks of man’s obituaries that lists all of his worldly accomplishments? Personally, based on what He told Jeremiah, if the deceased did not boast on knowing the Lord, I believe it displeases Him.

 Strength

Who doesn’t want more strength? Physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, etc. No one likes to admit they are weak in any area.  But like wisdom, true strength comes only from the Lord. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29).  King David wrote about the Lord giving strength and being our strength (Psalm 29:11; 118:14). Again, God is not against anyone having strength, He warns that the strong are not to boast in their strength as if it was something they attained on their own.  The apostle Paul said he would gladly boast about his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power would rest on him. Because when he was weak, then he was strong through Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Riches

As a Christ follower my life should not be about what I possess on this earth.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  God blessed many people in the Bible with earthly wealth (Abraham, Job, King Solomon just to name a few), but these men knew their riches were from God. Unfortunately, not all wealthy people give God the credit both in biblical times or today.  Haman in the book of Esther was the perfect example of such a person.  After dining exclusively with Esther and the king, he boasted to his friends and wife about his vast wealth, many sons, and his honored position with the King, but he only lived one more day to enjoy them (Esther 5:11-13; 7:10).

If you are thinking none of this pertains to you because you are not wealthy, strong or wise by the world’s standards, then boast about the fact that God chose you with his purpose to shame the wise and the strong of this world and to reduce to nothing the things that are, so that ono one can boast before God about themselves (1 Cor. 1:27-29). He did this through the gift of His Son and all we have to do is accept it through faith.

So what can we boast about? God gives us permission to boast about Him as the Lord, his character and what He has done.  Besides the greatest act of reconciling us to him through his Son Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has done awesome things! He created this earth with majesty and beauty for us to enjoy.  He sustains us, provides for us and blesses us with family and friends. But think about the less obvious things of God we can boast about such as orchestrating our circumstances.  For example, just the other day, we were in the midst of a situation that could have cost us at least one thousand dollars.  We stopped and prayed, praising God for being in control and asking Him to soften the heart of the person asking for the money.  Within, minutes of the prayer, this person’s heart was indeed softened and we did not owe a penny! Now that’s something to boast about! I’m sure if you stop and think about it, you will find numerous ways to boast about the Lord!

So go ahead and boast but only about God, and remember that any other type of boasting is evil and not of love.