Living a Country Way of Life (Part 4)

country 4

In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about my humble beginnings and how it gave me an understanding of what country living is all about.  If you would like to read Part 1, you can check it out here.

In Part 2 of this blog series, we talked about how Jesus gave life-giving encounters to those He interacted with.  We also talked about using Jesus as a model for how we should treat others in our own lives.  If you would like to read Part 2, you can check it out here.

In Part 3 of this blog series, we talked about the consequences of not living a life that is true to yourself.  If we live fake lives, we are robbing ourselves of who we could be.  If you would like to read Part 3, you can check it out here.

 

When we are feeling tired, depressed, lonely, or aroused, it’s not easy to remember who we are and what we’re about.  We can easily start acting in a way that is out of our normal character.  If we’re consumed by greed or lust, then we can lose sight of the commitments we’ve made and the responsibilities we have.  When our appetites get the best of us, we often forget where we came from and where we are going.  It’s a lot easier to focus on the immediate gratification that comes from getting what will feel good right away.  We naturally want instant gratification.  The problem is that ultimately, it might not be good for us.

Too often people lose sight of the big picture for their lives.  They feel so overwhelmed by immediate pain or disappointment that they compromise and take a shortcut to get a few minutes of comfort or relief.  But God wants more for us than what we often settle for in the heat of the moment.

Eric Liddell, a Scottish athlete and missionary once said, “Have a great aim- have a high standard- make Jesus your ideal…make Him an ideal not merely to be admired, but also to be followed.”  If we are going to follow Jesus’ lead, then we need to make trying to think like Jesus and do what Jesus did a priority in our lives.  Settling for less than our best will keep us from living the full life that is possible for us.

1 Corinthians 10:12

The Message (MSG)

11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

As this verse in 1 Corinthians says, we need to learn from our ancestors.  We need to do the things that made them successful and avoid the things that made them stumble.  The greatest history book that we have available to us is the Bible.  We need to let this book be our guide for how we should live our lives.  If we stray way from doing what it says we should do, we will find ourselves in dangerous waters.  We need to learn what the Bible says and then live it out in our lives.  Doing this keeps us on “the straight and narrow path” and will lead us in a good direction.

God wants us to have a larger perspective in order to meet our soul’s deeper hunger.  Just as Jesus gave Living Water to quench the thirst of the Samaritan woman at the well, God wants us to remember who we are and not be distracted by the shiny objects we encounter along our path.

What “shiny objects” easily distract you?  I can think of several shiny objects that I am often attracted to.  What we need to do is figure out what we need to do to make sure that we are focused more on the “big picture” of life and faith.  Let’s challenge ourselves to not get so focused on the little things that we miss the big things that come along.

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Living a Country Way of Life (Part 3)

country 3

In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about my humble beginnings and how it gave me an understanding of what country living is all about.  If you would like to read Part 1, you can check it out here.

In Part 2 of this blog series, we talked about how Jesus gave life-giving encounters to those He interacted with.  We also talked about using Jesus as a model for how we should treat others in our own lives.  If you would like to read Part 2, you can check it out here.

 

In about whatever we decide to do in life, there will always be people telling us who we should be and what we should be doing in order to be successful.  As much as I love life and all the great things this world can offer me, I know that the things of this world do not define me as a man or as a husband.  We are defined by the world by earthly things, but we are defined by God by the heavenly things we focus on during our time on earth.

One of the hallmarks of a true country person is their ability to be genuine, down-to-earth, grounded, and authentic.  As crazy as it sounds, I’ve met people who have worked hard to fake being genuine.  In other words, they tried to come across as country, but only as long as it allowed them to get what they wanted.

These people were just putting on an act, and no matter what act any of us is putting on, if we are not living a life of integrity and being who we really are, then we are just missing out.  We are missing out on the greatness we have inside of us.  We are living a lie and depriving those around us from what we genuinely could give them if we weren’t so busy trying to be someone else.  I know there have been great portions of my life where I was only living an act and I lived a life that was less than what I was capable of.  Maybe some of you have done this very same thing.  Maybe some of you are living this kind of life right now.  Even if you are in a low place right now, it is not too late.

The book of Hebrews gives us a great reminder that Jesus never waivered in who He was, what He stood for, or what He was doing.  He stayed true to Himself and His mission even when great adversity came His way.  He lived a life of integrity even though He could have had more earthly gain if He had compromised His and God’s values.  He could have avoided His death if He had decided to put on an act, but if He had, we all would have been in big trouble.  Because He did not choose to be fake, He sits in the place of honor in heaven and all believers are saved.  Putting on an act may not have such dire consequences as it did with Jesus, but we still need to understand that not being true to ourselves causes pain and destruction.  It can destroy our relationships with others.  We need to use Jesus as our example of how we can live a life that we can be proud of.

Hebrews 12:2

The Message (MSG)

12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

All of us face opportunities and temptations to be someone other than who we really are.  We need to ask ourselves this question:

What would my family, friends, and co-workers say that I value the most?

Would their responses match yours?  Does the life you live reflect what you value the most?  If you are living true to yourself, your values will be easy to see.  If people have troubles seeing what values are most important to you, it might be a sign that you are living an act and not being true to yourself.  If you want to be an actor, then go be an actor, but don’t try to play an alternate character other than yourself in your real life.

There is only one you in the entire world so focus your efforts on making the real you shine. Don’t settle for being someone else or a different version of yourself.  Remember, when you are who you really are, it’s easier to know where you are going.  You will not live a perfect life, but don’t compound the issue by not living your life.  Be true to yourself and let everything else sort itself out.

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Living a Country Way of Life (Part 2)

country 2

In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about my humble beginnings and how it gave me an understanding of what country living is all about.  If you would like to read Part 1, you can check it out here.

 

Jesus made it very clear during His time on earth that how we treat other people says a lot about who we are, how we see ourselves, and how we view God.  It’s very easy to get caught up in our world’s way of looking at life that we end up getting away from our country roots and losing sight of who we are and what we believe.  That is why we have to be reminded that every encounter we have with another person matters.  The young cahier at the grocery store, the gray-haired greeter at Wal-Mart, your kid’s soccer coach…they all matter.  While we don’t have to have a deep, meaningful conversation with every person we see, we never know when a simple act of kindness might have a huge ripple effect.

Chuck Colson, a famous Christian writer and speaker once said, “Jesus spoke to those to whom no one spoke; He dined with the lowest members of society; He touched the untouchable.”  I think that sums up Jesus pretty well.

Jesus knew how to treat people, and He continues to give us a model that’s as relevant now as it was a couple of thousand years ago.  Just like the Samaritan woman at the well, He continues to offer each of us a cold drink of water that quenches us way down deep beyond the cool trickle in our throats.  Jesus offers us something that will satisfy any and all of our longings in life.  What He offers will give us a sense of fulfillment that nothing else of this world can.

Jesus talks about this in the book of John.

John 4:13-14 (NIV)

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Just as Jesus can give us everything we could ever need, we have the same privilege of being Jesus to those around us and offering them the same life-giving encounters.  As believers, we are Jesus’ workers here on earth.  He lives inside every believer so that we can pass Him on to others.  It is something that is meant to flow out of us and we need to be sure that we do that every chance we can.

I want us to take on the challenge of focusing on treating each person we meet this week like we want to be treated.  Let’s start with this week and then work to make it a thing we do day in and day out.

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Living a Country Way of Life (Part 1)

country 1

As a boy growing up outside of Hudson, IA, I loved to wander around both the farm where my dad lived and the farm where my mom lived.  There were trees to climb, tractors to drive, fields and waterways to explore, and even animals to mess around with.  My dad had a creek down in the cattle pasture and I loved to go down there and go exploring.  I was, and still am, an unabashed, unglorified country boy.

We did not have an excessive amount of money growing up.  I knew we were on the poor side of life, but we never went hungry and we always had a roof over our heads.  As hard as things were at times, I appreciate the way it shaped me into the man I am today.

Growing up country, real country, I learned about God firsthand.  Not just from the beauty of His creation all around me, but from the influence of my parents and grandparents.  Whether I was staying with my mom or over at my dad’s farm, going to church on Sunday mornings was just something that we did.  The churches alternated between the Lutheran Church and the Church of the Brethren.  My family lived their faith.  They were kind to their neighbors, they cared for the animals, and they took care of the land, God’s land.  God was the thread that bound together everything we did.

Today, when I watch a televangelist strutting around the stage in his Armani suit, all the while begging for money, it really makes me wonder how they grew up.  It seems to me that it was very different than I did.  I think that there are many times those who we see representing God doesn’t represent Him accurately.

The truth, as I see it at least, is that when God decided to send His Son down to Earth, He didn’t set him up with a cable channel and a congregation of ten thousand people in fancy suits and dresses.

Jesus grew up just as country as I did, if not more so.  While the Jewish people at the time expected the Messiah to be born in a palace surrounded by royalty, the Son of God came as a baby in a manger surrounded by shepherds and their smelly sheep.

There is no doubt that I am probably biased in thinking that people who grew up in the country are more authentic than folks who are caught up in the rat race of more, bigger, and better.  But what I’ve found is that country doesn’t refer to where you grew up as much as where your heart grows down, where it takes root.  What ultimately defines being country is simple: a loving heart, a helping hand, an open mind, and being poor in spirit.

I would like you to take a moment and ponder the following question:

What are some ways I can cultivate the virtues of being country in my own life?

Jesus was the perfect model for how we should live our lives.  Maybe we need to adopt some of His characteristics as we go through this thing called life.

There is a great passage in the book of Philippians that speaks to this very thing.

Philippians 2:3-8 (NIV)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

The best way we can honor God is to model our own lives after His only Son.

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A False Honeymoon

same sex marriage

This past Friday, as many expected, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, ruled that under the Constitution, “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”  Brushing aside arguments about history and the purpose of marriage, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, wrote “No longer may this liberty be denied to them.”

This ruling should be no surprise to anyone.  All along, court-watchers knew that it would all come down to what Justice Kennedy thought about the issue.  The votes of the other eight justices were never really in doubt.  It was obvious that Justice Kennedy, as the author of Planned Parenthood’s infamous “mystery passage,” would have trouble excluding same-sex marriage from “the right to define one’s own concept of existence.”

Justice Kennedy’s opinion, along with the four dissenting opinions, will be dissected and analyzed for some time.  For all you Christians out there, who find yourselves really shaken up over this decision, I would like to console you a bit by stating what should be very obvious to you: Five Justices of the Supreme Court cannot redefine marriage itself, not any more than Roe vs. Wade could redefine the sanctity of life.

Just as Roe vs. Wade marked a new phase in the struggle for the sanctity of life and the dignity of new persons, Friday’s decision marks a new phase in the fight for the God-ordained gift of family.

Of course, that’s not what the majority of the Court would have us believe.  That is why Justice Kennedy framed his opinion as the next logical step in the history of our evolving ideas about freedom and equality.

The key word in that sentence is “evolving.”  In Kennedy’s take, our forebears who had moral objections to same-sex relations, never mind same-sex marriage, were unenlightened and cruel.  This idea that Kennedy is sharing to the American public is, at its very essence, chronological snobbery.  This idea was way too much for Chief Justice Roberts who, in dissent, wrote, “The Court today not only overlooks our entire country’s history and tradition, but actively repudiates it, referring to live only in the heady day of the here and now.  To blind yourself to history is both prideful and unwise.”

These are strong words, but Chief Justice Roberts was not the only one who felt this decision was a demonstration of arrogance at its very extreme.  Allan Carlson recently wrote, “same-sex marriage is merely the current enthusiasm of a relatively small number of deracinated, secularized, mostly childless, and largely white elites in ten percent of the world’s countries.”  He continues, “Despite intense forms of bribery and extortion now practiced by the United States and the European Union, few other nations are likely to join ‘the West’ in this latest surrender to the sexual revolution.”

Unfortunately as of last Friday, we now live among the ten percent.  While Carlson is correct when he writes that in the long run, as viewed from a Christian perspective, last Friday’s decision will “mean little,” in the short-to-medium run it poses challenges for believers.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of people with very strong opinions and beliefs on both sides of the issue.  If you would humor me a little, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on the issue.

Let me start by saying that I am a Christian, I believe in God, and I have an active, growing relationship with God.  Whenever I have a question about what I should believe or how I should stand on any issue, I go to the guidebook that God has provided to me, the Holy Bible.  When you look in the Bible, there are two different parts that discuss the idea of marriage and what marriage should be.  I would like to take a look at both parts and go from there.

 

Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

 

Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV)

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

 

It is clear, to me, from reading these passages, that God created man and woman, as separate, but both in His own image.  He created both male and female to rule over all the animals and creatures of this world.  God created male and female to be united as one and the two will become one.  Once, joined the two should not be separated.  At no point in the Bible does it state that man should be united with man or woman should be united with woman.  I believe that if God had any intention in His great plan for our lives thought that involved same-sex marriage, He would have discussed that in the Bible.  Since He did not, it is my belief that same-sex marriage directly violates God’s plan for our lives and is therefore, by definition, a sin.

With that being said, I also want us to go a little further and again look at the Bible and see what it says about the idea of us judging the sins of others.

 

James 4:11-12 (NIV)

11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[a] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.12  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

 

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

 

Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

 

John 8:1-7 (NIV)

 

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

 

I am not going to say that all sins are equal, but every single person who has ever lived on earth, with the exception of Jesus Himself, have committed sin.  This is clearly stated in the book of Romans:

 

Romans 3:23 (NIV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We all sin, but as we read in the above passages, it is not our place, as humans to judge the sins of others.  Only God has the right to judge our sins.

If Christians start getting angry at gays and start lashing out at them, they are just in the wrong as those participating in those same-sex marriages.  If people are going to pull out their Bibles to show people, in anger, where it says what they are doing wrong, they need to be prepared to look up in the Bible the parts that talk about judging sin as being wrong.

God tells us that we are to show love and forgiveness towards all our brothers and sisters on earth no matter what sin or sins they have committed.  We need to do this because God has commanded us to do so and He has done this for each and every one of us.

With that being said, I feel that, if 2 gay people choose to get married, during the ceremony, there should be no mention of God or any reference to the Bible at all.  Our country has declared that it is OK for same sex marriage, but God has not.  If one is to choose to engage in a same sex marriage, it is wrong to bring God into it.  That is my opinion so you can choose to agree or disagree, however you see fit.

To summarize, here is what I believe regarding same-sex marriage:

Sin is wrong.  Same-sex marriage is a sin.  Same-sex marriage is wrong.  Humans judging the sins of others is wrong.  Only God has the right to judge sins.  We are all called to show love and forgiveness to all people, just as God loves and forgives us.

This past Sunday, the pastor at the church I attend here in Ames, took the time to read a letter that the newly appointed president of the EFCA (Kevin Kompelien) wrote to the entire membership of the EFCA, talking about this very topic.  I thought the letter was very well written and I would like to share with you a portion of what it said:

The Word of God is clear in both Genesis 1:26-27 and Matthew 19:4-6 that marriage was established by God and is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman.  The EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee in a document entitled “A Church Statement on Human Sexuality,” gives the following suggested definition of marriage:

Marriage is the original and foundational institution of human society, established by God as a one-flesh, covenantal union between a man and a woman that is life-long (until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children), and it is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church.

The reality of the situation for us as the people of God is that today’s Supreme Court decision did not take God by surprise nor does it in any way change the Biblical definition of marriage.  Rather it is a call for us to clearly embrace our Lord’s definition of marriage and to respond to this recent development with grace and truth like He would (John 1:14).  It will be important that our responses reflect the character and heart of Jesus to the world around us.

We have moved into a time when our perspective on marriage is no longer supported by the law of our nation and is quickly being abandoned by a growing number of Americans.  However, this is not a time to wring our hands in despair or to respond in anger.  Responses of fear or anger will not honor the Lord nor will they demonstrate the redemptive power of the gospel.  Rather this is an opportunity for us to be the church and to live out what we say we believe.

Now is the time for us to commit to pray for the leaders of our nation as Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-7, to be gracious to those who don’t share our views and love them as people created in the image of God, and to engage the world around us on this issue in ways that speak truth and point people to the redeeming gospel of Jesus.

As these events unfold in our nation we must ever more clearly stand on the truth of God’s Word regarding marriage, demonstrate to the world around us the beauty of loving Christian marriages, and commit ourselves to teach and model Biblical marriage to our children and grandchildren who are growing up in a rapidly changing future.

None of us knows exactly what challenges the future holds for the church and for us as followers of Jesus.  What we do know is that the Lord of the church is in charge and he has a plan that he will work to completion to His ultimate glory.  It will be important for all of us to be prayerful and wise as we lead the church and our families in the days to come.

I think that this letter is very well-written.  In essence, we need to leave the consequences of this decision up to God and His plan and put our focus into loving God, loving others, and a lot of prayer to and about both.

Now more than ever, we need to emphasize instructing our kids in the fullness of the Christian faith.  They have to learn what marriage really is, not what the Court and the culture would have us believe it is.

We need to be prepared for the inevitable impact this decision will have on how we practice our faith.

Like the pro-life movement learned to do in the wake of Roe vs. Wade, we’ll need to find ways to help those victimized by this chapter of the sexual revolution.  Every other chapter has had its victims.  This one will too.

Most of all though, we need to pray that God would equip us for and sustain us through these challenges.  As Carlson put it, “The twenty-first Christian century should actually be an exciting time to be alive for believers call to witness to the Truth.  Despair is useless.  Hope is certain.”

I say Amen to that!

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Choosing Forgiveness in Charleston

Charleston

Some acts are so terrible, it seems wrong to even talk about them.  Some acts, however, are so gracious, we marvel at them and must talk about them.

Today, I felt compelled to talk about the events of last week, the horrific killing of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Why you might ask.  The reason is that in that tragic event, we are seeing how light can overcome darkness.  How love can overcome hate.

As most of you already know, on June 17th, a man described as “white, with sandy-blond hair, around 21 years old and 5 feet 9 inches in height, wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans” entered Emanuel and participated in a Bible study led by the Church’s pastor, Clementa C. Pinckney.  At about 9 pm, the man, subsequently identified as Dylann Roof, opened fire killing nine people, including Pastor Pinckney.

Almost as quickly as the reports came out, the political pundits, both liberal and conservative, started using the shooting to further their pet causes, from banning the Confederate flag to the need to permit people to carry guns in church.  I guess that is to be expected in our society.

What is not what you would expect in today’s society, was the fact that the people of Emanuel church wanted to talk about something far more important: grace and forgiveness.

In an interview with the BBC, the children of Sharonda Singleton, one of the victims, told the reporter, “We already forgive (Dylann Roof) and there’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”

They weren’t alone.  Stephen Singleton, Emanuel’s former pastor, told NPR that “we’re people of faith, and people of faith know that we heal.  God helps us heal.  This doesn’t drive us away from God.  This drives us to God, and that’s why I’m here now.”  When asked what his former parishioners had told him, he continued, “There are a lot of broken hearts, a lot of sorrow and a lot of healing to be done.  And that’s what we’re going to work on, and that’s what we’re going to focus on because if we get bitter and angry, we just make a bad situation worse.”

A relative of another victim, Myra Thompson, said “I forgive him and family forgives him.  But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent” and “give your life to the One who matters most: Christ.”

Senator Tim Scott, appearing on Face the Nation said that while Roof may have intended to ignite a war between the races, he brought the people of Charleston closer together.

I think the apostle Paul may have said it best in the books of Galatians and Ephesians:

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NIV)

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

 

Ephesians 2:18 (NIV)

18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

We are all one in the eyes of God.  All nations, all races, all sexes are God’s children.  He created us, He loves us beyond our comprehension, and He wants to have a close relationship with each and every one of us.  We have come a long way since the last century, but do not be fooled; racism still exists and it is still a problem.  As long as there is sin in this world, it will always be a problem.  Racism is cowardly and hateful and is so far away from God and His plans for our lives.

But the people of Emanuel have responded in a way that is distinctly, if not uniquely, Christian: loving those who hate you, forgiving those who sin against you, and blessing those who would persecute you.  The way they are handling this goes against what our culture would say to do.  Their responses shine out like a great beacon in the world around them that is filled with darkness and hate.  Through these people and their responses, we see that Jesus does still live among us, in the souls of these brave victims.

Christian ideas may no longer have the same power in our culture that they once had.  But they are not completely absent.  Against the kind of grace on display in Charleston, there is no argument that God does exist and He is evident through people who are willing to respond with love and forgiveness instead of hate.

We even saw this on display in Roof’s capture.  A North Carolina woman, at great personal risk, followed Roof’s car until she was sure it was him and then called the police.  When asked why, she replied, “I had been praying for those people on my way to work … I was in the right place at the right time that the Lord puts you.”

I think that this tragedy is reminiscent of the horrific event from years ago, the murder of five Amish girls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  The members of the Amish community forgave the murderer.  The families of the victims reached out to the widow of the perpetrator.  At that time, Chuck Colson asked these key questions: “How are we working, in our own communities, to build cultures of grace?  Are we teaching our children to forgive?  Are we actively working to restore offenders and reach out in aid to victims?  Are we overcoming evil in the world by good, as we are commanded to do?”

In this case my question to all of us is: If evil and tragedy come our way, are we ready to respond in love the same way our brothers and sisters in Charleston have?

I think it is important that we pray for those who are suffering from this painful event, but I also think it is important that we find it in our hearts to pray for the person who caused this.  We need to pray that through this event he can come to find God in his life and develop a relationship with Him.  If we can do that, then we are demonstrating God’s love and forgiveness in our own hearts and we are helping those who are suffering to heal.  If we are not able to do that, then we are letting the darkness win.  We are letting the evil associated with this tragic event win and that would be an even bigger tragedy.

Prayer is great, but we need to go beyond prayer.  We need to relate to these victims and use their response as a model for how we react to evil.  We all have the power within us to diffuse the effects of evil, but we have to make the choice within our own hearts, and choose how we respond, and if we can respond with love and forgiveness, know that we can make a difference in our world, even if it is a small one.

What happened in Charleston is a tragic reminder of the great darkness in the world.  But in the aftermath we see the truth that the “light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

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Service Please

service

A few weeks ago, someone shared a link to me that showed the Top 10 Service Phrases Anyone Who Works with Others Should Know.

I thought it was really good and served as a great reminder that we should all serve one another.  I think that these are words that we should all try to use more when dealing with other people.  They are important to say not only to customers you talk to through work, but in how you interact with all people at all times.  This list is oriented towards business, but it can be easily adapted to you non-business dealings as well.

I know there are times that I do a pretty good job at saying these things, but there are other times when I have not said these words and I really should have.  I wanted to share this list with you so that we can all be reminded of the things we should be saying to show people that we really do want to serve them.

 

Top 10 Service Phrases Anyone Who Works with Others Should Know

 

The Ten most important words:

“I apologize for our/my mistake.  Let me make it right.”

When something goes wrong, most people just want to be heard and acknowledged.  So listen, apologize, then ask what you can do to make it right.

 

The Nine most important words:

“Thank you for your business, please come back again.”

Repeat customers cost less than new customers and are often more loyal.

 

The Eight most important words:

“I’m not sure, but I will find out.”

It’s ok if you don’t know the answer; it’s not ok to make the customer keep searching for it.  That’s your job.

 

The Seven most important words:

“What else can I do for you?”

Be prepared to go the extra mile; there is less competition there.

 

The Six most important words:

“What is most convenient for you?”

Your customers will be pleasantly surprised when you ask what’s convenient for them.

 

The Five most important words:

“How may I serve you?”

This question reinforces your role in the relationship.  Play that role the best that you can.

 

The Four most important words:

“How did we do?”

Feedback is critical.  Your customers have a unique perspective and they appreciate being asked.

 

The Three most important words:

“Glad you’re here!”

Customers who feel welcome spend more time, more money and are more likely to return.

 

The Two most important words:

“Thank you.”

Basic manners, but how often do you get thanked when you’re the customer?

 

The One most important word:

“Yes.”

Become a yes person.

 

Are there any other important phrases you can think of when serving others?  If you make it a priority to serve others, your rewards will come back in a much greater proportion than the time and effort you put in to serving.  People want to feel appreciated and when you can show that, it goes a really long way.

Posted in Attitude, Money, Motivational, Opportunity, Purpose, Recruiting, Reinventing Yourself, Relationships, Serving, Thoughts/Mindset, Time | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment