THE IMPORTANCE OF HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

WORSHIP REQUIRES HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.

Jesus said to people bringing their offerings with the knowledge of a broken relationship, “Leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24). We are a family. To worship in Spirit and in truth is to worship in unity. Corporate worship is out of order where disunity exists.  Jesus said to the Pharisees, strong on token gifts and weak on love, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desires mercy, not sacrifice‘” (Matthew 9:13). God does not find pleasure in what we give Him if what we offer to others does not come from a loving heart. A horizontal disconnect invalidates the vertical. And John wrote that “if anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must [that does not say “should”} also love his brother” (I John 4:20,21). Want to experience God’s presence? it comes more through relationship than through worship. “If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (I John 4:12,16). If you need an upgrade in your worship life, strengthen your relationships.

 

WITNESS REQUIRES HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.

It is not our doctrine that convinces the world.  Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34,35).  Our doctrine, in fact, has often convinced the world that we are uncaring, because we have used theology to prove that we are right and our brother (our family member) is wrong.  Division is slanderous in the household of God, and it discredits our message.  Jesus prayed, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).  This is because the Trinity operates in a relational paradigm. The Trinity is a “blessed community,” a fellowship of love. Before the earth was created, the Father, Son, and Spirit were together, enjoying the company of one another.  God is not a doctrine; He is a person—in relationship. Unity, such as is found in the Trinity, can only be accomplished where relationships are primary and functions secondary. Some church bodies stress the importance of their doctrine to the exclusion of healthy relationships.  Their doctrine becomes a wall to exclude them from other people. Consider this equation: good theology + bad relationships = bad theology. The Great Commandment precedes the Great Commission. It speaks to our relationships. The Great Commission speaks to our vision, and it is valid if it grows out of love.

 

UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS INVALIDATE MINISTRY.

Paul lists several ministries, especially important to the charismatic Corinthians: speaking in tongues, using the gift of prophecy to unlock mysteries (such as Daniel did), using the gift of faith to move mountains (such as George Mueller did).  Then he said that they are of no value without love, the kind of love that is not rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. I would have said “less value”; Paul said “no value.” And Jesus similarly said to people who claimed a ministry of prophecy, deliverance, and miracle working but disconnected it from relationship, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22,23). Learn to read the light on the dashboard. Treat it as a friend. It goes on when what should keep the church moving is broken. If the light goes on, deal with the issue if you want to keep moving forward. You’ll be glad you did–and so will the church!

THE POWER OF GRATITUDE

But first–

THE PROBLEM WITH INGRATITUDE

It closes the heart to receiving. The elder brother said, “You never gave me a kid so that I might make merry with my friends” (Luke 15:29), and he didn’t expect it from a stingy dad. Ingratitude brings two dangerous outlooks–victimization and entitlement. They will paralyze you! Guaranteed.

Ingratitude puts you in bad company. Jesus said that His Father “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). I wouldn’t put those two words in the same sentence—but Jesus did! Ingratitude brings you into a stinking crowd. Paul said that “there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful…” (2 Timothy 3:1-4). He concluded with a warning: “Have nothing to do with them.”

Ingratitude places you in the enemy’s camp. No one has ever shown greater ingratitude than Lucifer, the most beautiful creature God ever made. And yet he envied God and staged a coup on the throne. How stupid can you get?! Ingratitude turned him into the ugliest creature in the universe. And he’s never had a grateful thought since.  So would you agree with me that ingratitude is serious, not a little sin? On the other hand–

THE POWER OF GRATITUDE

It makes you shine. Thankful people are fun to be around and exude a radiant countenance. I don’t have to tell you that ungrateful and grouchy people are at the opposite end. Would your friends call you a grateful person?

Gratitude allows you to receive grace from heaven, because you don’t feel like you are entitled to it. When you have a grateful heart, you always feel like you are being blessed. You can’t help it—God simply pours it on. Think prodigal. If you don’t enjoy healthy, holy, happy relationships, ingratitude may be a root cause.

Gratitude connects you to important people–like parents. If you want to draw closer, express thanks for what they have done, not what they haven’t. (And if they are still drawing breath, it’s not too late). My friend Jacob did it as a college freshman. I asked why he was not looking forward to thanksgiving. He answered, “They don’t talk about spiritual things, and they still treat me like a teenager” (which he was). I told him to write a letter of gratitude, make it long, and write it out freehand, because Mom will treat it as a trophy. He did. I’ve seen the parents four times since. Every time they bring up the letter. It changed their home–for years. Way to go, Jacob! Gratitude is powerful!!

Gratitude and generosity are siblings. Generous people cause thanksgiving to rise to heaven: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous to every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). If you have learned generosity, you probably picked up gratitude along the way.

When? “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (Psalm 30:12).

Why? “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever” (Psalm 118.1).

How? “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4).

Who? “Surely the righteous will give thanks to your name” (Psalm 140:13).

YOU CAN GET GOOD AT GRATITUDE

I dropped my blind friend off at the airport and into willing hands Saturday at 5AM. He called four hours later: “You wouldn’t believe what happened. I’m in Charlotte on my way now to Palm Beach, and the flight is a different number, but it’s the same plane. I don’t have to change planes, just change seats. Isn’t that cool?!” I rejoiced with David, realizing that  I would not have called a friend to say, “I don’t have to walk off this plane and get on another –cool, huh?” But for a blind person, a change is a challenge, especially an airport change, especially walking off one plane and getting on another. The thought creates tension for a person who hopes he gets help, trusts he isn’t forgotten. He may ask for help, if anyone is around and interested.

Then he said, “Another cool thing–I found my cassette at the bottom of my bag.” He memorizes what he puts into his two bags–and where. We look for things we can’t find in a bag–but we can see!  After two trips to our home, David memorized the floor plan. He doesn’t want to be crashing into walls in the middle of the night. As we maneuvered our way up our walk, he said, “Oh, there’s the little bump in the pavement.” He was right!

Relationships are important to David. He remembered the names of the grandchildren he met–once. He was hoping he could see Shepherd–for the second time. He had met him a year before. He was thankful that two of my sons stopped by. Not a huge thing to some–huge to David.

I said on the phone, “I am going to start my sermon on gratitude with your plane story.” He responded, “Good. I want to keep the thanksgiving angels busy, the ones who bring our thanks to the throne.”

I’m not sure about his angelology, but I know one thing–he wants to get good at gratitude. He is not a victim, although he sure could be, a victim of the hospital that didn’t know excessive amounts of oxygen mess with the retinas; of his parents who split up the household that took dad out;  of bullies who made fun of him. He could be a whiner–blaming parents, the hospital, the God who saw it all and apparently did nothing. He could feel entitled to more because he has less.

We know what blue looks like. When I asked about colors, he said he associated the color blue with the ocean and the sky, neither of which he has ever seen.  His world is colorless. David doesn’t know what he looks like, or his mom, or his older brother, who sometimes tells him what he does wrong.  

When he leaves for the bank, he doesn’t want to go at rush hour, because he keeps cars waiting when he crosses the street. Oh!  He has been romantically involved with two different girls, not to the point of getting physical but to the point of feeling close. But he didn’t know what they looked like. They just felt special. One died–the other moved.

When David departs, I thank God for my life, my wife, my children, my eyes, the color green, lilacs, the Christmas tree. I too want to keep the thanksgiving angels busy, if that’s really what they do.

HOW TO DEVELOP GRATITUDE

What if…

…you thanked God when tested—and He turned it into a testimony?

…you thanked parents for what they gave and forgave them for what they didn’t?

…couples tossed expectations and chose gratitude?

…you changed your environment with gratitude and started an epidemic?

…you shed your whining, developed gratitude—and found it fun?

A STORY ABOUT GRATITUDE

“Now on his way to Jerusalem…” (Luke 17:11).  Jesus had set His face for the showdown. What could slow Him down? Ten lepers. His last miracle in this region. Those who said, “Next time,” lost their chance.

Outcasts in every way, they didn’t dare get close. They knew the rules and cried out: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”

One command changed their lives: “Go show yourselves to the priests.” “And as they went, they were cleansed.” Priests were the Department of Health. They needed to act in faith for God to act. It often works that way. They went—it happened. One returned, while nine kept going: “That’s what He said to do.”

“I know, but don’t you want to say, ‘Thank you?’”

That guy was a Samaritan, the least likely to return to a Jew. Jesus asked three questions: “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Jesus expected people touched by love to show gratitude.  Saying, “But He told me to go to the priest” doesn’t settle the issue. Who is Jesus waiting for you to thank—parents, a teacher, coach, neighbor, relative, policeman, Holy Spirit?

INGRATITUDE IS SERIOUS

It doesn’t go unnoticed in heaven. It disconnects us from Jesus. While gratitude sets us up for a miracle, ingratitude closes us off. It suggests entitlement. The elder brother said, “You never gave me a kid so that I might make merry with my friends” (Luke 15:29).  The last days will highlight ingratitude (2 Tim. 3:2). Don’t you!

Ingratitude sets you on a path toward perversion: “Although they knew God they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

On the other hand…

GRATITUDE IS CONTAGIOUS

Thankful people are fun. They exude a radiant countenance. Gratitude allows you to receive grace from heaven, because you don’t feel like you deserve it. Think prodigal. Gratitude connects you to the people for whom you express appreciation. If you want to grow relationships, develop gratitude. Works every time.

Far better to join the Samaritan who returned than the presumptuous group who just kept walking. They got the “please” down but not the “thank you.”

You are most likely a grateful person. As you read, you may think of areas where you can walk in greater gratitude. Suggestion: try “thank-you” in difficult times and wait for miracles—when you’re being tested, when temptation presses in, when irritation is rising, when pressures at work escalate, when tension at home mounts, when conflict in relationships bring extra frustration. Thanksgiving shows that your God overturns evil with good. Hardship either discourages us or forces us to upgrade our confidence in the sovereignty of God.

YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A GRATEFUL HEART IF…

…your prayers sometime don’t get beyond thanksgiving.

…you often reflect on those who have impacted your life.

…you manage to give thanks in the midst of pain.

…you can only stand in awe of a God who has been so kind and faithful to you.

 

GRATITUDE INVENTORY

(Suggestion: print and use for your Thanksgiving time together. Happy Thanksgiving!)

  1. Have I expressed enough thanks to my mother and father?
  2. Have I thanked teachers who made a positive contribution to my life?
  3. Have I thanked coaches, pastors, siblings, people who serve me, like mail carriers?
  4. Do I give thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances?
  5. Do I resist the temptation to complain because my situation is not better?
  6. Have I chosen to give thanks for a hardship rather than holding onto a wound?
  7. Do I give thanks instead of expecting others to wait on me?
  8. Am I content with what I have or do I deserve more?
  9. Do I have a distorted picture of God that keeps me from thanking Him?  (The elder brother was angry and could not receive from his father).
  10. Have I chosen as an act of the will to be thankful rather than waiting for proof?
  11. Do I need to receive more before I will have a heart of thanksgiving?
  12. Would people close to me say that I have an attitude of gratitude?
  13. Has gratitude turned to skepticism because things turned out differently than expected?
  14. Am I generous with my money? Generous people are thankful (2 Cor. 9:10); ungrateful people are stingy.
  15. Am I happy? Grateful people are (Ps. 92:5).
  16. Do I live in the peace of God? Gratitude keeps me there (Phil. 4:6,7).
  17. Do I recognize that God is in charge? If so, I will be thankful (Ps. 97:1).
  18. Is life for me a matter of giving? “Thanks—giving” means both thanks and giving.
  19. Will I fit well with the atmosphere of heaven? It is full of thank-you’s (Rev. 7:12).
  20. Do I struggle with lust? Thanksgiving is a guard against sin that takes from others.
  21. Do I live close to Jesus who demonstrated a thankful heart? (Matt. 15:26, Jn 11:41,Lk 10:21f).
  22. Do I express gratitude every day?  (David appointed the Levites to give thanks twice daily: I Chr. 16:4, I Chr. 23:30).
  23. Do I thank God in hard times, knowing that He will bring good out of bad?
  24. Am I able to thank God even when my personal security is threatened? (Dan.  6:10).
  25. Am I thankful for people God has connected me to? Paul gave thanks for people he wrote to.
  26. Have I thanked God for healing and health? (“Where are the nine?” Luke 17:17).
  27. Have I grown self-indulgent? (They are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money.. ungrateful, unholy…” 2 Tim. 3:2).
  28. Am I thankful for God’s truth? (“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.” Ps. 119:62).
  29. Am I thankful for food ? (Acts 27:35; Ro. 14:6; I Tim. 4:3).
  30. Am I thankful that God is gracious? (I Cor. 1:4).
  31. Am I thankful for deliverance from death, even though I wasn’t aware that it was happening? (Angels attend to us and keep us from harm).
  32. Am I thankful for government leaders? (I Tim. 2:1,2).
  33. Am I aware that ingratitude can harden my heart? (Rom. 1:21).
  34. Am I humble? Thankful people are humble people.
  35. Am I modeling a thankful heart for my children and for others that I serve? (Col.3:15,17).
  36. Do my prayers often include thanksgiving? (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; I Tim. 2:1).
  37. Do I enjoy singing? (Is. 51:3; Jer. 30:19).
  38. Is my thanksgiving contagious? (Paul’s gratitude caused “thanksgiving to overflow” 2 Co. 4:15).

6 REASONS WHY YOU CAN BE GRATEFUL

1 YOU ARE DRAWING BREATH.

Life is a miracle. That the body functions as it does witnesses to God’s genius and creativity. The organs don’t compete with one another but assist each other, just as the body of Christ is meant to do. Your body is a picture of how the church is called to function. We complement each other rather than compete with each other, just like our bodily systems do. Take another breath–and thank God!

2 YOU HAVE ETERNITY IN YOUR FUTURE.

Scripture tells us to put all our marbles in the age to come: “Set your hope fully on the grace that is coming to you with the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13). We have the new earth to look forward to. The prediction for today may include dark clouds, but tomorrow promises to be sunny.

3 IN THE MEANTIME, GOD USES EVERYTHING.

He is an economist. He doesn’t throw out our failures–He uses them. In His creative genius, everything counts. So there is no room for regret. We repent–and move on, knowing that “where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” What a way to live. Regret is a useless emotion. Worse yet, it puts our engine in reverse and keeps us from walking into our God-appointed destiny. It doesn’t get us anywhere except on the road to discouragement. By contrast, we can know assuredly that God uses our bad decisions as well as our good. When Jesus showed up on Resurrection evening, He came to commission, not to complain. The greatest failure in the lives of the disciples was answered with the words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” I want to follow a King like that!

4 YOU ARE LOVED,

In your best times and in your worst. God is not in a bad mood today. He has not turned His back on you because you turned your back on Him last week. He has a good forgetter. With regard to our sin, the prophet tells us that “He remembers them no more.”

5 GOD HAS PLANS FOR YOU TODAY.

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). It doesn’t insult me that God has planned specific works in advance, and I get to step into them today and in the days ahead. Call it predestination. Look at the word: you have a destiny that has your name on it–planned ahead of time. God thought about you in advance and has gifted you specifically to do what He has designed for you. That brings peace and a deep sense of fulfillment. Today is not another random day where we throw the dice and see what number comes up. We are living out the purposes of the architect of our soul. Good reason for gratitude.

6 CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE–GOD DOESN’T.

He is teaching us all to live above the circumstances. We learn to not ride the roller coaster of up and down situations. We live above them, subject to a God whose plan is not conditioned by the weather report. His Word is sure and steadfast. We can count on it–today and tomorrow! Blessed Thanksgiving!

 

THE VULNERABILITY OF THE CROSS

Have you noticed? It’s football season–everywhere. Think of the mascots. The Vikings. The Norwegian Lutherans had a liturgy that read, “Spare us from the Vikings.” They were terrorizing. We also have the Timberwolves. Teams usually pick aggressive names, like the Bears, the Lions, the Tigers. Could we use something nicer? How about the Minnesota Lilacs?

Heres one: the Minnesota Lambs. Laughable? Then think of the Son of God, the one through whom and by whom all things were made, the King over all Kings, the Lord over all Lords. When he comes to the earth he created, he comes not as Lord but as Lamb. John saw it: “Behold! The Lamb of God.” Hard to think of an animal more defenseless. He came not to dominate but to die, “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

The cross is Jesus at his weakest–and God at his strongest. Foolishness to the wisdom of the world, but wiser than man’s wisdom and stronger than man’s strength. One cannot get more vulnerable than hands stretched out, nailed to a crossbar. There is the helpless Son of God, and there is the power of God unto salvation.

So how do we overcome the enemy, far stronger than any terrorist? By the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11). How are we to walk in the world? Jesus said, “I send you out as lambs among the wolves.” Hey, thanks. We’ll get ripped apart. What’s up?

When Paul was Saul, he was aggressive and competitive. He had by his own estimation “advanced beyond [his] contemporaries, so zealous was I for the tradition of my fathers” (Galatians 1:16). But he learned a new way of living. He was given a thorn in the flesh. It was painful, so Paul prayed like he did when others were in pain. It didn’t work. He prayed again–and again. No change. Instead, a word from heaven: “My grace is sufficient for you. For my strength is made perfect in weakness.” So Paul concluded, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” The former all-star didn’t like being weak, but he came to understand how God worked through weakness. It became a strategy for ministry and a way of life. He found that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:16), not in our strength.

We don’t like being weak either, so if we are weak, we may pretend that we are strong. Fake it ‘til we make it, right? We give the appearance of strength, but that doesn’t help us to connect with people. The Pharisees pretended to be holy. In fact they were thieves and murderers, sinners in religious clothes. They had no idea how to walk as lambs. Do you?

So give me a “thumbs up’ if what you read shows appropriate weakness. Andrew, our first-born of six, wrote this email to his siblings a few years back: “I want to head into this New Year with no regrets…One of my biggest regrets is how I have not been gracious toward you…I know many times I have been harsh and I am sorry. I wish I had specific things to point out…I am sad and sorry and ask you to forgive me.   With love, Andrew.”   Way to be weak, Andrew. You helped to change the atmosphere in our home!

Go the way of the cross. Your weakness matches well with God’s strength.

 

THE POWER OF UNOFFENDABLE LOVE

“Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

“ABOVE ALL.” Love is the preeminent virtue. Let’s excel in it. “HOLD UNFAILING.”  If you don’t know what to do in a situation, ask, “What would love do?” Paul already told us that “love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:8). Hey, I could succeed every time–by loving!

“YOUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.” This is one of 59 “one anothers” in the Bible. Peter directs our love toward people, toward “one another.” Pretty simply–not always easy.

“SINCE LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS.” Peter learned how to live above offense, covering rather than correcting. Some people feel an obligation to uncover the sins of others. Peter recommends the opposite. Unoffendable people are non-judgmental, easy to live with, full of understanding. People who cover sins are full of grace rather than trying to make people feel guilty, like I sometimes did as a young man when preaching.

“He who covers over an offense promotes love…” (Proverbs 17:9). It takes the power of the Spirit to be consistently unoffendable. Solomon also wisely said, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12). One more: “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). People who need to comment on every offense are really busy getting offended. Takes a lot of time to be offended, less time to cover them.

Paul calls us to “lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). To forbear is to endure, refrain from. People who forbear keep their mouth shut. Some open theirs with every grievance. They don’t have a clue about unoffendable love.

Unoffendable Christians

.know that they need forgiveness, so they extend it to others

.show the love of Christ to those who don’t deserve it

.are champions of grace, which makes them fun to be around

.choose to look past peoples’ faults to their future

.put courage in (while others are draining it out)

.know that mercy triumphs over judgment

Jesus was full of grace and truth, but what rubbed off on people was grace: “Of his fulness we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Amazing that the Holy One of Israel saw into the depths of the human heart and yet beamed out grace and covered over offenses. Two examples: when the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned, Jesus was declaring, “Neither do I condemn you.” The one Man who could have sent her into a Christ-less eternity lifted guilt and shame with one personal proclamation.

Another woman may have felt shame when Jesus revealed her brokenness: “You have had five husbands…” By the end of the conversation she was drinking from living water, feeling acceptance from the Prophet of Israel. Her vulnerability back in town brought the single most effective evangelistic campaign of Christ’s earthly ministry, because He chose to “cover a multitude of sins.”

Broken people expect shame when they mess up. They are surprised when grace is extended instead of judgment. It’s hardest (and best) to do with the people we know–parents, siblings, children, bosses, co-workers. What would it be like if both spouses were unoffendable?

LEARNING TO ENCOURAGE

…like Jesus. What did the resurrected Christ do when He paid a visit to the disciples, hiding behind locked doors? He could have said, “Way to desert me at my darkest hour.” Instead of a complaint a commission:  “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They had lost their “sent,” but Jesus restored it without blasting them. He appeared personally to Peter, not to rebuke but to reinstate. It worked.

Two years before, John the Baptist was arrested for coming against Herod, and he never saw daylight again. Looking at life from a dungeon was difficult, and doubts rose to the surface. Jesus responded not by criticizing His forerunner and friend but by affirming the man who boldly led the charge: “Among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). How kind.

When Jesus was baptized, God spoke from heaven and said, “You are my beloved Son. With you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). It was like the proud Father could not keep silent. At the transfiguration, the Father spoke to the disciples, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt. 17:5). It must have been encouraging to the Son, a man, to hear these thunderous words from the sky. Enabled Him to keep encouraging others.

Christ’s encouragement to people often came during times of tension, when it was most needed. The disciples were grumbling about the woman who wasted the perfume on Jesus. He responded, “She has done a beautiful thing to me…She has anointed my body beforehand for burying. And truly, I say to you wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-9). Quite a remarkable statement.

Simon, a Pharisee, judged the woman under his breath who crashed the party at his home. And he judged Jesus, who should have known that she was a sinner. Jesus took up the challenge and said, “I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet…Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much, but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:44-47).  Ouch! Imagine what that meant to the sinner woman!

When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary, He said, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). I hope Mary didn’t go to Martha later and said, “See, I was right.”

It must have been deeply satisfying after working hard and taking big risks to hear the boss say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). I want to encourage people like Jesus did! Don’t you?  The way you can tell if people need it is to find out if they are breathing. If they are, they need it!

 

7 LESSONS FROM AN OLD MAN

me. Slow to learn, but getting it–sort of. I want to learn to…

BE THANKFUL.

Gratitude overcomes an attitude. I’ve watched it happen with young adults who badmouthed parents. When they did the assignment of writing a letter of appreciation to Dad and Mom, it changed their outlook. Also changed some parents. Gratitude opens the door to richer communication. Complaining shut the door. The more often I thank God for the special gift of Karen, the more I am able to enjoy who she is.

BE PRAYERFUL.

My friend Kevin said that he prays for the North Korean leader. It never occurred to me. I blogged about how crazy he was, not about how broken.  What if all his citizens prayed for him? The Bible tells us to pray for those who abuse us. Use prayer for people close to you. Let your spouse, your children, your friends know you are praying for them. Use it for people far from you–like presidents and kings.

BE GENEROUS.

Don’t wait until you make a lot of money. It is not how much you give but how much you have left. The widow who got the attention of Jesus gave a small offering, but it was all she had. Impressive to the Son of God. Generosity is fun. Loren Cunningham said, “We shovel it out the front door, and God shovels it in the back door. And His shovel is bigger than our shovel.”

BE ON TIME.

It says to people that you value them more than your own time. Servants come early. Sometimes important people come late. Be a servant. Don’t make people wait for you, but be more than willing to wait for them without grumbling. If you complain, you are showing that you are important rather than a servant. God, forgive me!

BE GENTLE.

My father and mother were. They never used the leverage of loud to make their point. Yelling uses an illegitimate force–volume. I like the word “gentleman.” We’re told who we are right in the title. Paul tells us to be gentle even with those who oppose us, a great test of our gentleness.

BE HARD TO OFFEND.

It had never occurred to me as a young man. Sorry about that, Karen. I took up offenses when I thought I deserved to. Living above offense is a lot more healthy. To be unoffendable means having a good forgiver. I have learned to forgive before the offending one comes to me and asks–well sometimes. It is remarkable that Joseph forgave his brothers after what they did. Way to go, Joseph!

BE LOW.

It’s not how high you can get but how low you can go. No one has ever gone lower that Jesus. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” I told my kids when they were invited over to a friend’s house, “Do the dishes. Don’t expect to be waited upon. Wait upon others.”

ASSIGNMENT:  Rate yourself on each quality with a 10 to 0, ten being like Jesus and zero being like the devil. Then rate yourself in three months and see if you are growing.