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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and the Green-eyed Monster

Envy is not a new emotion invented by our self-centered, materialistic society.  It has existed since before the creation of man (and social media). Satan, who was not content with his position as the perfectly beautiful guardian cherub, envied God’s sovereign position as Lord of the Universe. He was thrown out of heaven down to the earth. Misery loves company, so he schemed with doubt and deception hoping Adam and Eve would want what God had and what they were not to possess, the knowledge of good and evil. They did not disappoint. This led them to disobey God and eventually led to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The very first children born of Adam and Eve were not exempt from this sin. Their firstborn son Cain killed his very own brother Abel out of envy of God’s acceptance of his offering, and the downward spiral of the sin of envy continues to this day.

Shakespeare may have been the first to refer to envy as “the green-eyed monster,” but he was not the first to write about it.  The Old Testament of the Bible not only tells of the horrific results of envy on the first family, but also contains numerous teachings on the subject. Job’s friend Eliphaz the Temanite wrote, “envy slays the simple (Job 5:2).” King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:30 that “envy rots the bones” and in Proverbs 27:4 he states, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” He even went so far as to say that “all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4).

Not even God’s chosen people were immune to envy. It was jealousy of their younger brother Joseph that drove Jacob’s older sons to first try to kill Joseph then sell him to merchants heading to Egypt.  In Warren Weirsbe’s commentary book on Genesis he quotes an author of a fourteenth-century preacher’s manual which said that envy was “the most precious daughter of the devil because it follows his footsteps by hindering good and promoting evil.” These sons of Jacob acted like the daughter of the devil in their envious relationship with Joseph.

When Jesus walked this earth he was not immune to the affects of the envy of others. The Pharisees who were jealous of Jesus were always trying to trip him up by asking ridiculous questions concerning man-made laws.  On one such occasion Jesus called them hypocrites and then taught the crowd that it’s what comes out of someone that defiles them not what they put into their body. He was speaking of the heart where evil thoughts originate (Mark 7:1-23). He then listed the evils that come from within a person:

sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, ENVY, slander, arrogance, folly

Whew! What a list!  Did you catch the one four-letter word tucked toward the end of the list?  (I kind of made it obvious!) We don’t often think of envy in this way. We think and sometimes out of ignorance say, “After all it’s not one of the BIG sins like murder.” But Jesus called it evil, so that’s what it is!

Lately, a great deal of the devotions I have read deal with this very evil.  I believe God is trying to get my attention.  I am always telling myself and even God that I am content with every part of my life.  After all, I have all I need – a loving husband, an adult son who still calls, a part time job I love, food in the pantry, a house, cars, and a boat that we own, not the bank.  So why does the green-eyed monster show up at my door uninvited? God’s been showing me ways I’m envious that have nothing to do with material possessions. I can’t fool God. He knows my heart better than I do.

Do you remember the story of Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved him (John 21:15-23)?  Once Peter answered affirmatively, Jesus told him to feed his lambs, take care of his sheep and feed his sheep. Then he gave Peter a look into the future by revealing in a round about way that he was to die in his old age a martyr’s death, possibly by crucifixion.  Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” You may be asking yourself, what in the world does this have to do with envy?  Stay with me.

Right then Peter turned and saw John following them and he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” He told Peter “If I want John to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Basically Jesus was telling Peter to mind his own business and don’t worry about his plans for John. It’s just possible that Jesus knew that Peter would be envious of his plans for John. If I were Peter I would have said, “But Lord, why can’t I die of old age, naturally? That’s not fair.” Oh, Peter… (Oh, Cindy…)

Here’s where God has been speaking to me about envy.

I see and hear of godly women working in ministry, writing for and speaking to women in amazing ways and it dawned on me (or Satan put this thought into my head) that they all seem to have had some horrendous tragedy in their life such as rape, sexual abuse, abortion, divorce, debilitating disease or even the death of a child. Then I start questioning whether or not God has really called me to write since my life experiences have not been so tragic. The green-eyed monster rears it’s head again! I realize that I envy the fact that these women have awesome God-delivering personal stories to reach others. Let me make it clear that I am not asking God to give me a tragedy!

Then…

The Lord spoke to me through a dear, sweet friend when I shared my doubts about writing.  She said that there are many women out there who like me have not had terrible life experiences, but they may think they are saved because their life has sailed along smoothly and they don’t realize that they need Jesus. Wow! What a revelation!  Just like Jesus had a different plan for John, he has a different plan for me.  These are the women I can reach for Christ! So when I ask God, “What about all those other writers?” He says, “What is that to you? You must follow me.”

One last thought about envy to really shake us up (as if Jesus’ words are not enough)! Not only does the apostle Paul include envy as one of the traits love is NOT (1 Corinthians 13:4), but he also includes it in the list of the sins of those who did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. The result was that God gave them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28-31). Depravity is not my life goal, therefore, I do not want to give God any reason to ever do this to me!

Love does not envy and through my daily prayers asking for the Lord’s help, I will not either!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Really Kind?

Love is kind. Of course it is!  We all know what “kind” means, right? So, why do I feel the need to write anything about this description of love? I’ll admit, this topic put a halt to my attempt at defining love as depicted in 1 Corinthians 13 for several weeks. (See previous posts regarding the abundant life). And of course, I started in February, the universal month of love! The subject matter had been front and center as I had been planning an activity on kindness for young children who participate in Chick-fil-A Kids Club. Yet I was still stomped in my writing!  I put it aside thinking that I might get some valuable material at Kids Club because kids can say the darndest things, right?  Wouldn’t you know, that night they weren’t very chatty.

When I taught vocabulary words to elementary school students I would first ask them what a specific word meant and most of the children in the primary grades usually answered with the same word. For example, if I asked, “What does the word “kind” mean?”  They would say, “It means when someone is being kind.” I did get that same response with one little girl at Kids Club. I bet if I asked any adult what “kindness” means, I’d get a similar answer.

Since this seems so obvious, I decided to research the original Greek language used in this passage.  The Greek word for “kind” that Paul used here is “chresteuomai” which means to show oneself useful, i.e. act benevolently- be kind. The words “to show” imply there is some type of action involved. This puts a damper on the phrase, “He/She has a kind heart” if there is no display of useful actions.  I find it interesting that the definition for “kind” in Dictionary.com gives the first definition as “of a good or benevolent nature or disposition” with no mention of acting out the good nature.  The step of showing oneself useful is not mentioned until the third definition which states, “indulgent, considerate or helpful, humane.”

Who comes to your mind when you here the word “kind?” I’m sure we all have an image of someone who has exhibited kindness in one way or another, but did you consider God?  In the Bible the disciple John wrote that God is love (1 John 4:8).  He is the “agape” type of love which means affection or benevolence, feast of charity, dear, love.  This is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 13. So if God is love, He is kind.  God does have a “good or benevolent nature or disposition,” but he displayed His love by doing what no one else could do. He made a way for all of his creation to be saved from eternal death by sacrificing his only Son, Jesus to take the punishment that all of humanity deserves. There is no higher kindness than that!

Even before sending His son Jesus to this earth, God was showing kindness to his chosen people. He spoke of this through the prophet Hosea when He said, “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.” (Hosea 11:4, NIV) The New Living Translation says, “I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love.” I believe God is comparing his treatment towards the Israelites in the wilderness to that of the Egyptians. While in Egypt the Israelites were nothing but a means to build storehouses for Pharaoh and he oppressed them with harsh labor. I imagine that the Egyptians used cords (ropes) of human punishment on the backs of the Israelites rather than cords of human kindness.

Did you know that exercising his own kindness is something in which the Lord delights? In Jeremiah 9:24 he said, “I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” He revealed his kindness to all of his creation, not just his chosen people. The apostle Paul spoke of this when the people of the ancient city of Lystra tried to offer sacrifices to him and Barnabas. He reminded them that it is the living God (not the worthless things they were worshiping) who has “shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17).  He delights is doing this!

We think we know what kindness is, but human kindness only touches the surface of the true kindness of God. We who are Christ followers already have God’s kindness within us.  Our own selfish desires have to take a back seat to the desires of the Spirit.  That means sometimes we have to be kind when our flesh doesn’t want to. Being kind is beneficial for all involved, but did you know that God has a specific reason for his kindness?  It is intended to lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4).  For all we know, his kindness exhibited through us might just lead someone to Christ.

Is the meaning of kindness still so obvious?  I must ask myself, “Am I really a kind person?  Do I make myself useful and help others?” Am I a “cord of human kindness” that God can use to further his kingdom? Am I allowing the Spirit to work God’s kindness to others through me? If I’m honest, the majority of my day is spent on myself or at my job where I am encouraged and privileged to show kindness to those I serve. (Getting paid to be kind is an added bonus if the motivation of my kindness is to let others see Christ in me).

These are hard questions and with prayer and God’s guidance, I hope to become a kinder person day by day, not just in words but in actions as well.

Let Patience Work for Abundant Living

In my last several posts, I stated that I plan to delve into the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. I began with just listing the attributes of love as found in 1 Corinthians 13 because I believe that abundant living mirrors the love that Christ shows us and we are to show others.  As promised, this post deals with “patience.” I’m pretty sure we all know what patience is because we have either exhibited it or seen it in others. According to Dictionary.com patience is 1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance misfortune or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation or the like.  2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. 3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence. 

Ouch! Bearing anything without complaining or losing my temper?? Staying quiet when I am annoyed?? I need to borrow my husband’s steel-toed boots!

God must have a sense of humor to begin the meaning of love in 1 Corinthians 13 with the one characteristic I have the most trouble with – Patience.  Truthfully, there’s nothing funny about my impatience and He knows me so well.  I have always been an “on time” person and I am still learning how to deal with people who are notoriously late for everything. I won’t mention any names!

Losing my patience when unforeseeable circumstances cause me to be late is also a problem area.  Just a few days after I began this inquest about patience as it pertains to abundant living my husband and I were riding around in Atlanta trying to find the Emory University Lacrosse field. Our son plays for Coastal Carolina University which is five hours away, so when we found out they would be playing at Emory in Atlanta just two hours from home, we definitely made plans to be there. Even with the dropped pin on the smartphone and the directions on our Garmin GPS system, and leaving our house extra early, we were late! We rode around the Emory campus in circles with the field and the players in view from the road, but the entrance was no where to be found – on time that is.  I lost it!  I began saying things that should not have come out of my mouth and I took it out on my husband which resulted in him becoming angry with me.  My fear was that we would miss the game entirely! Once we found the entrance tucked away behind the baseball field, I calmed down and apologized to Bill, but the damage was done. We missed the first quarter which is fifteen minutes of the hour playing time.  But God is good! Not only did we get to see our son play, they won the game 12-0!

Have you ever noticed when we are dealing with a character flaw or sin, God has a way of bringing it to our attention in various ways and in his perfect timing?  The very next morning after my rant about missing 15 minutes of a lacrosse game, I read a devotion by Joyce Meyer about patience….well, what do you know?  She said, “Patience is extremely important for people who want to glorify God and enjoy their lives.  If we are impatient, the situations we encounter in life will certainly cause us to react emotionally.” Was she in my car the day before? Yes, I want to glorify God and enjoy my life (abundantly!), so I need to be patient and not react with my emotions.

She suggested that when we experience these circumstances that could cause impatience, we should say out loud, “I am developing patience as I wait, so I am thankful in this situation.” It’s similar to taking a deep breath or counting to ten before we react. I can honestly say that I have never done this in the heat of the moment. I have a lot of work to do.

 James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

The Greek word used for perseverance (patience) in this verse means “cheerful or hopeful endurance.”  I can say that my behavior on the “Emory merry-go-round” did not exhibit anything close to being cheerful or hopeful.  There was nothing merry about that ride! But did you notice according to James 1:4 that we have to let patience work? So, when I say I have a lot of work to do, it’s really the patience that will work in me.  Another nugget from this verse is when we let patience finish this work the result is…

Maturity

Completion

Not lacking anything!

Doesn’t that sound like the definition of the abundant life?

God is also revealing to me that He has had to be patient with me far more than I have had to be with others and circumstances. His word reveals that God our Father is patient with his children even after warning through the prophets (Nehemiah 9:30.) The Psalmist stated several times that God is slow to anger (Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8).  For this I am ever grateful!  He is also patient with all mankind because he does not want anyone to perish but he wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).

So, should I read these verses and think “That’s all well and good for God, but I’m not God so how can He expect me to be patient?” That’s the easy way out, because if we are truly a child of God, His Spirit lives in us (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13-14), and the fruit of the Spirit includes patience. Notice it says “fruit” not “seed.” It’s already in us, we just have to use it and we are given numerous opportunities to mature in this area. (Let it work!) We tend to think that we have to pray for patience, but we already have it. We must remember that God might just allow situations to test us, and we can be sure that our enemy Satan will tempt us to react in ways that do not reflect the love of Christ.

I realize that for some of us being patient is also long-suffering, much more so than the situation I was in trying to find a field entrance. We may be dealing with family members who are sick, physically and/or spiritually. Our own health may be the cause for impatience to rear its ugly head. We may be experiencing a long wait for the will of God to be realized in our children or our own lives. The psalmist tells us how to do this. We have to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). This is not easy in our microwave – “gotta have it now” world. But this is God’s way. I can honestly say that the more I spend time being still before the Lord, His peace calms my heart and mind so that patience is truly working.

There is so much more written in God’s word about patience.  If this is an area that you, like me need to work on, I would suggest using a good concordance and study every area that God mentions long-suffering, endurance, steadfastness, perseverance and patience. One last word of encouragement – be patient with yourself as you learn to exhibit the Spirit-taught patience that leads to abundant life.

Abundant Life Mirrors Love

Wow!  God didn’t waste any time speaking to me about what the abundant life looks like! It was just yesterday that the question kept surfacing in my thought life.  It seems that God wants to keep the topic fresh in my heart and mind. Our pastor spoke these exact words just today in the sermon about connecting with other believers, “There is no abundant life if we aren’t living life together.”

Not only were my pastor’s words a confirmation that God is leading me to study this topic, but also the words in one of my daily devotions. The author stated that abundant life must be mirrored by love, the type described in 1 Corinthians 13.  So of course I went directly to that famous chapter we so often hear read at weddings. The first three verses are the “if I do (fill in the blank)” without love, then I am just a loud, obnoxious noise that is nothing and gains nothing. The next five verses give a clear description of what real love is. Are you ready for this?

Love is patient.

Love is Kind.

Love does not envy.

Love does not boast.

Love is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others.

Love is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered.

Love does not keep a record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil.

Love rejoices in the truth.

Love always protects.

Love always trusts.

Love always hopes.

Love always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Uh oh! I would love to be able to say that my life mirrors all of these attributes, but sadly I cannot.  I have a lot of work to do! But praise God I do not have to do it on my own.  I have His Holy Spirit residing in me.  He is my Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, and Standby who will teach me all things and help me remember everything that Jesus taught (John 14: 26 Amplified Bible).

I don’t’ want to overwhelm myself or anyone else who may read this, so my next blog post will  focus on the first trait of love listed here which is patience because I definitely want an abundant life.  Can’t wait! LOL!

Abundant Life

Have you ever read or heard something early in the morning and then a word or phrase gets stuck in your head all day? I’m sure you have experienced a time when you heard a song or jingle and you were singing it either out loud or in your head every waking minute.  Sometimes a person says something in such a way that it resonates with you and it’s right there in the forefront of your thought life. Sometimes expressions on social media or more importantly from God’s word stick with us and we can’t escape them. Today is one of those times for me.

The constant presence of this phrase started this morning when I listened to the First 5 teaching from Proverbs 31 Ministry. The two teachers were wrapping up chapters 16-20 of the book of Joshua and focused on the “Covenant Keeping God.” The phrase came about midway through the lesson when the teacher read a very familiar verse, John 10:10.  Here Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Some translations such as the New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version use the word “abundantly” to describe this full life.  I’ve heard and even quoted this verse many times, but today the words “full life” triggered this all consuming phrase….

Abundant Life

 What does the abundant life look like?

How does one get this abundant life?

Am I living it? If not, why not?

Does Jesus have different levels of abundant living for different people?

These questions have stirred in my heart all day, and I realized that the Holy Spirit is prompting me to read more and find out what Jesus meant and what “abundant life” looks like for me.

So I returned to the passages of scripture in Joshua that prompted the First 5 lesson. The Israelites had finally arrived into the Promised land and the dividing of this land for each tribe had begun. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, Judah, Manasseh and Ephraim had received their inheritance. For some reason the remaining seven tribes had not taken their promised inheritance.  This must have frustrated Joshua because he asked them, “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?” (Joshua 18:3)

Whoa! Is that what Jesus is asking me?  How long, Cindy, will you wait before you begin to take the abundant life I died to give you?”  I want it!  But what is it?  So, here is where my search begins.

Join me in my next post as I continue in this journey!

 

 

 

Even the Minor Things

Have you ever marveled at how God the creator of the vast universe knows the hearts, desires and hurts of every single person on this planet? Do you ever sit and wonder about the people in Africa who are living in poverty or the people in war torn countries living in fear and think “God knows everything about every single one of them?”  Even more so amazing is that He truly cares about each person and all that they are experiencing in the short span of eternity here Earth.

Our finite minds can’t comprehend the omniscience of God, so sometimes we wonder, “Why would He be concerned about my little problems? I mean really- I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and clothes on my back. Why should God care about my desires?” We tend to categorize our desires into groups and erroneously think God cares more about the major issues like caring for elderly parents, mortgage foreclosures, rebellious children and troubled marriages than other minor issues such as wisdom for daily work and school activities, or dealing with a difficult relationship.

My favorite verse is Psalms 37: 4-6 which says,

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

For some, their desire is just to have some food that day and for other it’s to be healed from a life threatening health condition.  So why are my minor desires important to God?  Because his word says so!

God reminded me of this as I was praying about a situation a few years ago that had caused me a great deal of grief when Satan interfered and said, “Do you think God really cares about your little problems?  Give me a break!  He’s got other bigger issues to deal with!”  What I should have done right then and there was rebuke Satan in the name of Jesus, but I just ended my prayer thanking God for loving me and all the while wondering if my “minor issues” were of importance to him.

As I opened my Bible to Psalm 20 a few minutes after praying the first two verses said,

 “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.” 

It went on to say in verse 4,

 “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

But the answer came in verse 6 which said,

 “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.”

I knew God heard my prayers that morning, but He knew I needed something more concrete to really believe Him.

Later that day I was driving my husband’s king cab truck to an appointment at a local medical center.  Bill had always instructed me to park his truck away from all other cars so that other drivers won’t ding it with their car doors.  (Men love their trucks!)  That particular morning there were no parking places “away from all other cars.”  I had to take what was available, which was one space between a van and a suburban.  As I began the turn into this small space a quick thought flashed through my mind that the truck would not fit between the painted lines. But I quickly dismissed it and kept going.  (There is a bit of history here.  I had unmercifully teased Bill that after six years of owning his truck, he still hadn’t learned how to park it.) Within seconds I heard the crunch before I realized what it was.  I had clipped the corner of the Suburban with Bill’s truck!  I panicked! What do I do?!  I called Bill at work, but he had no vehicle to come to my rescue because I had his truck!  (My car was in the shop.) He told me to call the insurance company, leave a note, and take lots of pictures. So I did as I was told.

After my appointment, I came out to the parking lot and the Suburban was gone.  Shortly after arriving home, my phone rang.  It was the owner of the Suburban.  I immediately apologized at which he replied, “Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I did the same thing not too long ago and the guy I hit was a real jerk.  So I decided if it ever happened to me not to make a big deal about it.  So just do me a favor and pass on the kindness.”  I was stunned to say the least.  I was prepared to pay the insurance deductible and repair the large dent I put in his vehicle.  He was more impressed that I left a note and said that it proved I was a person of integrity.

When I hung up the phone, I realized that God really did care about my “minor problems.”  Now I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was working on my other problems that I had been praying about that morning. I relayed the phone conversation to Bill at lunch and he said God was giving me a lesson on parking big cars.  You see, we had just ordered a Chevrolet Tahoe the day before from Carmax in Tennessee and were waiting its arrival any day.

God’s word and timing are perfect.  The next day, I was reading Psalms 21 and the first three verses said,

“O Lord, the king rejoices in your strength.  How great is his joy in the victories you give! You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips.  You welcomed him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.”

Guess what?!  Our gold Tahoe came that morning and it was $1000.00 less than originally stated on the internet!  God is awesome and he cares about every minor and major thing in our lives. That is why Paul said in Philippians 4:6,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”

 Even the minor things!