How Rude

I was perusing a editorial by Scott Brown and liked what he had to say.  Thought you would too. 

A recent ABC news ’20/20′ survey suggested that rudeness is on the rise in America.  Have you noticed lately?  It seems that our society has forgotten about basic manners and general acts of kindness.  According to the report, the most cited transgression is annoying and loud cell phone conversations in public places.  Others that ranked high were being disrespectful, profanity, crude language and allowing cell phones and email to interrupt conversations.

It would do us well to remember what the apostle Paul had to say in the ‘Love’ chapter. 

"Love…does not behave rudely."  I Corinthians 13:4-5a

The love addressed here is the ‘agape’ love that is the love we receive from God himself.  Our love is fashioned around how we are treated by one another.  God’s love is more concerned about us than himself.  So it was no surprise that Jesus would ask us to do to others as we would like to have done to ourselves.  When we treat others rudely, we are wounding ourselves.

Mom would always say to ignore rude people because they wouldn’t care about what you had to say.  All you would get is more rudeness.  In fact, she told us as kids to pity them because all they would attract was other people like themselves.

Then I began to wonder.  Am I rude and don’t realize it?  I began with those closest to me and found the answer was ‘yes’.  I don’t always listen to Marcia.  I take it for granted what she will do.  I catch myself telling Megan what she should be doing instead of treating her like an adult.  I told myself it was because I am so busy but that would be an excuse.  I expect them to stop and take the time when I am talking to them.

Rudeness is not controlled by trying to stop it.  Rudeness is addressed by countering it with politeness and courtesy.  In fact, the same strategy works for dealing with people who are rude.  While it may not matter to them that we are kind when they are rude, it affects me and those around me.  People will remember your polite response longer than their crude remark.  There is power in that fact!

So watch for rudeness in yourself and those around you.  Don’t return rudeness for rudeness but reply with love.  Watch the difference it will make.

PS Please hit the alert symbol and you will be reminded automatically when I enter a new devotional or blog.  Also, will you invite one friend to join us on this site.  Even ask someone Sunday if they have checked the devotional lately.  Thanks.

The Least of These

Today I will conduct a funeral service for man who was what Jesus called the least of these.  His mind and body were ravaged by a fever as a child and he never fully recovered.  He had the strength of two men but the mind of a child.  He never had the opportunities granted to you or me.  No chance for marriage or children.  No chance for education or career achievements.  His life was limited to honest work done by the strength of hand and back.  But he did wonderfully.  He never missed a day of work and he never complained.  And he had the broadest smile of any man I ever knew.  Oh, he was dependent upon the goodness of his family and friends but I think that was providential.  He had a way of bringing the best out in you.  He could turn pity into compassion.  He could cast a light upon your own life and soul.

Jesus had a special love for the least of these.  He understood what they bring to our lives.  They cause us to feed them and clothe them and visit them.  They cause of us to love them and find love in return.  No wonder Jesus said what you have done to the least of these, you have done to him. 

We get confused about our purpose in life now and then.  For a while we think it is our career but career change and someday end.  We think it is in education or accomplishment but there is not end to those.  And then we run into those in our lives who cause us to deal with them, the least of these.  Whether they are aged, ill or just unfortunate, we cannot idly pass them by.  They bring the Jesus out of us.  They release his Spirit in us and move us to do acts of compassion and commitment we never knew were there. 

I have come to the point that I believe that the least of these are not accidents or sad misfortunes of life.  They are lights along the path to reveal our soul and show us what is really important.  They are sacred moments where we stop from the pace of this life long enough to see the hand of Jesus and to realize that he is watching.  No, more than that.  That he is living in us and through us. 

So look around you today and see the ‘least of the brothers’.  Look around you and let their light fall upon you.  Look close enough and you will see the very heart of our Savior and discover that it beats within your chest.

Look.

Not Yet

There is a quality of life that we too quickly overlook. In this world of immediate gratification, the concept of ‘hope’ is alien.  Hope speaks of delay.  Hope requires waiting.  Who wants to wait?  Who needs hope?

Ask the cancer patient who is enduring rounds of chemotherapy.  Ask the soldier who stands on the eve of battle.  Ask the parent who waits at night for their child to come home.  We may not want those times we need hope but nothing can replace good hope in those times. 

John Bunyan wrote, "Hope is never ill when faith is well."  Hope is the thermometer of our faith.  It gives us an accurate reading of how much we really trust the Lord to work His will in our lives.  We can hope when we truly believe that God intends the best for us.

"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11  How fitting that this promise was recorded by the ‘weeping’ prophet.  Jeremiah was the delivery boy of bad news.  He told God’s people that judgment was inescapable and there was nothing they could do about it.  How would you like that job?

But people do it everyday.  Doctors give patients a terminal diagnosis.  Judges put behind bars  the greater portion of one’s life.  Teachers give failing grades and employers tell us our job is gone.  We need hope.  Oh, how we need hope because hope was built for the hard times. 

Hope has amazing powers.  It can literally save us in the worst moments.  "We were saved by this hope but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?" Romans 8:24  Hope does not need the physical.  Hope does not need to be rescued.  Hope does not require the doing of deeds. 

Hope requires only a promise.  As David noted, "Those who fear You will be glad when they see me because I have hoped in your word."  Psalm 119:74  All we need for hope is to believe in the good will of God.  Hope is what happens when we are convinced that God will work all these things out for our good.

So take those moments you cannot do anything about and search the promises of God.  See in His Word if he offers any hope for you.  There are over 600 promises of God for you in the Bible.  Maybe it’s time you start looking for one.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Some have noted that my devotionals are a day late because of the date noted in the devotional.  Actually, I write the devotionals a day ahead but when I post them, the reflect that date and not the day you read them.  So ignore the date and read the newest one or the ones you haven’t read.  You can also check the archives for older mediations.

If you watched the game last night, you have to be moved one way or another.  One of the best Super Bowls ever when it comes to football.  But I realized something while watching it.  It is as much a game about people as the sport.  We cheer for Brady or Manning.  We know the pro bowlers by name.  To be honest, you cannot enjoy any sport that you don’t know the players.

The apostle John understood the fact when it comes to faith.  He wrote: "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."  I John 4:11

He understood that the Christian life boils down to relationships: love for God and love for others.  You could call it a matter of the heart.  The stronger my relationships are, the greater my spiritual life.  Loving God makes me a better husband, father, worker, neighbor and friend.  It’s not rules but relationships that I seek to keep.

How are you at knowing your church family?  Do you keep to your familiar few or dare you reach out and get to know others in the church body?  Let me offer this challenge: Make an effort to befriend another believer with whom you are less familiar and find out if it doesn’t bless your faith.

Don’t forget to share these devotionals with those around you.  Someone outside the church would enjoy knowing this source exists.  Tell them.

P.S.  If you watch movies and want to know for sure what is in them, check our pluggedinonline.com and get the details of every move from Focus on the Family.

Here’s to the Everyday

Here’s to the average day, the humdrum and the usual.  Here’s to another cup of coffee, stopping by the post office and saying your prayers.  Here’s to those things, people and habits that define our regular lives.  Hidden in them is the stuff of miracles.

"It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God."  Thomas Merton

It is in God’s wisdom that he should engage us in the things that consume most of our lives.  He is not relegated to worship services or prayer closets.  Those are special times but few in number compared to the daily tasks of life.  Imagine what could happen to your relationship with God if the routine became a partnership with Christ.

Think of those things you do on autopilot.  Washing the dishes.  Taking out the trash.  Paying the bills.  What if you reserved a little personal time with God in the process.  Not a formal prayer but some reflections with him on the spur of the moment like pausing at the trash bin to look up at the sky and marvel.  Or snatching a few moments reading your Bible study while you wait in line at the store. 

Learning to enjoy life in the middle of it is as old as Solomon.  "That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil.  That is the gift of God."  Ecclesiastes. 3:13

"Nothing is too little to be ordered by our Father; nothing to little in which to see His hand; nothing which touches our souls too little to accept from Him; nothing to little to be done for Him."  Ed Pusey

Remember:

1. The more you allow God into your daily affairs, the easier you will find it to make the most of your busy day.

2. Opportunities for developing your relationship with God often lie in those unexpected places.

3. You sometimes hear God more clearly in the quiet and routine work of the day since it’s just you and Him.

The apostles were right.  "In Him we live and move and exist."  Acts 17:28  You can experience serenity in the midst of your busy life by inviting God into the mundane moments of life.

I hope you have a good, normal and boring day. 

All or Nothing

There is a certain inequity to God.  At least from our perspective.  Most of us are conservative by nature.  We have based our lives on the strategy of playing it safe.  Don’t run with sharp objects and don’t take chances.  From investments to wardrobe, we keep it down the middle of the road.

The only problem with that philosophy is that you get run over.  The economy takes a downturn and your investments lose their value.  You save for retirement and your health fails before you cash in.  It’s like the deck is stacked against you.  Even our Lord gave a chilling warning to the strategy of playing it safe.

"So take the one talent from him and give to him who has ten talents.  For to everyone that has more will be given, and he will have an abundance.  But from the one who has not, event that which he has will be taken."  Matthew 25:28,29

It seems like those who have get all the breaks.  Those who have the money make more money and the little man gets left out in the cold.  Such is the language of the cynic.

What if I were to employ the phrase, "Use it or lose it."  You can understand that concept.  If the athlete doesn’t practice, he loses his edge.  If the vocalist doesn’t rehearse, their voice fades.  That which not exercised, dies.  That we understand.

And so did Jesus.  No one is alike.  We each have different gifts and blessings.  That isn’t the measure of our worth.  It’s what we do with what we have.  Do we grow it, strengthen it and multiply it. 

Faith is the same way.  It is living thing.  It must be exercised and used or it fades and dies.  Jesus knew that and he used the parable of the talents to make it clear.  Sit on your faith and do nothing and you will wake up one day with no faith at all.  At least none that will help you. 

Use your faith and exercise your trust in God and He will give your more faith and greater opportunities to serve.  When it comes to faith, it’s all or nothing.  Move forward or soon you won’t be moving at all.

Success Is Cumulative

It has been a busy day but a good one.  Filled with its share of good and bad.  Probably not much different than yours.  The question is:  Was your day a successful one?  There seems to be this incessant need to be able to quantify the value of the day.  We need those victories that can confirm the day was worth living.  How shortsighted can we be?

Consider an average rain.  Those who study such things say that five million raindrops fall in a typical rainstorm over just an acre of land.  But which raindrop is more important? The first or the last.  We tend to see the resurrection of Christ as the most significant day of His life but did He value one day more than another?  Jesus understood the cumulative value of success.  It’s not the last stride that wins the race but the culmination of every step before it. 

Remember what Jesus said as He gave up His life.   "It is finished."  How did Paul describe living the good Christian life?  "They ran the good race and fought the good fight."  Every single day of your life is important to your faith because success is cumulative.  How you live the bad days is just as critical as how you enjoy the good ones. 

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer."  Mark 4:3

Every farmer enjoys a good harvest but they also enjoy turning the ground and planting the seed.  They understand the harvest is shaped by the quality of each day before it.  Can you live with cumulative success?  Can you accept the equal value of every day you live whether it goes well or not? 

"This is the day the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it."

Show how is your day going?  Remember it is just as good as any other day.  They all add up so enjoy it the best you can.  Then rejoice that success is cumulative.

Hurry Up and Wait

Just got back from the hospital.  The patient was scheduled for one hour but it wound up being another hour.  So I thought this morning I would share a word about patience.  I hope it can speak to your life today.

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."  Leo Tolstoy

The apostle Paul spoke about being patient.  He encouraged Christians to ‘bear with one another in love’.  He knew that the impact of faith in Christ would have all sorts of ramifications in the believer’s daily life.  Life is tough enough.  So why would we add the demands of our faith tot he mix.  Because Paul understood that without the patience that comes with faith, we would wind up divided from those who see things differently. 

To deal with people and life, you need patience.  But understand that the world doesn’t have to dance in time with you.  Begin by accepting that few things in this life will work according to your timetable.  We live in a fast-food world but we don’t have to decide things at a fast-food pace.  If it is important, take your time.

"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him."  Psalm 37:7

Then be deliberate about talking to God.  Set aside enough time each day to ask Him not only for wisdom but also for patience.  God will give the answer but it will be according to His timetable.  You do not get ‘patience’ right now but it will come.  That’s why they call it patience.

"Patience means living out the belief that God orders everything for the spiritual good of his children."  J.L Packer

Take a moment now and look at the rest of your day.  There should be at least one spot where you will need a little patience.  Talk to God now and see what He gives.

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