Monday, September 12, 2011

Coming In By the Back Door

Many people feel their lives are ruined because of some failure in their past. Ruined might be too strong a word, but relentless shame or a feeling of disgrace may plague them.

I remember when I failed terribly in front of some of my peers in a business meeting. My behavior was unkind and out of control—truly sad. Even worse, one of those peers was a man who I had been trying to help in his walk with God.  

As I thought about what I did, I wanted to run away. But the Spirit of God led me not only to go back, but to share my feelings of failure with my friend. The next day I told him how sorry I was that I had failed to be Christ-like in my actions. I also shared that I had been forgiven by God and that the failure was not fatal in God's sight. Then I learned that one of my friend’s greatest struggles was dealing with his own failures, and from that experience he began to understand that his own failures were not fatal either. 

God specializes in taking our failures and turning them into avenues of blessing and growth if we will allow him to. The Apostle Peter is a good example of how God can turn our failures into stepping stones.  

Just before Peter failed Jesus by denying him, Jesus said to him, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail." Yet, knowing the great failure Peter was to face in just a few short hours, Jesus did not treat him with contempt.   

People hold our failures against us; Jesus doesn't. People refuse to give you second-chances; Jesus doesn't. People look at failure as the end of the road; Jesus sees it as a place of new beginning. 

Jesus told Peter he had already prayed for him, that "when you have turned back," he would strengthen his brothers. Jesus believed that even though Peter was going to fail miserably, he could have a comeback. As a result of failing and coming back, Peter would be able to strengthen his brothers. Though it wasn't right for Peter to fail Jesus as he did, nonetheless that failure was used by God to help Peter become the mighty apostle we read about in Acts. 

Do you see what I mean about failure? God is able to use it for good in our lives. God can even turn it into an avenue of service. 

Do you feel totally guilt-ridden, as though you've had a fatal failure? Please understand this marvelous truth:  Jesus is in the business of restoration and recovery. Your failure can be your back door to a new beginning.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What’s Your Score?

Many people think the Christian motto is “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31. People often evaluate a Christian’s sincerity by how well they live this out. Whether or not it is a valid measure, and whether or not we are conscious of it, this verse is a key factor in our testimony. Based on that, if you were under the scrutiny of an official critic, what kind of a rating would you receive?

This question becomes a grim thought as I observe behavior in the church parking lot, or eavesdrop on a phone conversation in the church office, or watch as committee members gather for a meeting, or watch myself getting in line to board a plane. It is disheartening to see that Christians are often unkind, belligerent and inconsiderate. It makes me stop to think through my own conduct. In specific terms, what would happen if I really began to treat others the way I would want to be treated? How about you?

Well, imagine that you’re driving to work, and a person is trying to move over into your lane. Instead of getting angry, you would think, "You know, I'm going to do for this person what I would want this person to do for me." So, you slow down and let them in the lane. 

Now, you're pulling into the parking lot on this rainy morning, and you see a co-worker without an umbrella. You remember how miserable it is to start the day rain-soaked, so you rush over and share your umbrella, and in the process you get to know them a little better.

Imagine you’ve just arrived at work and you get a call from a very upset customer. Normally you might feel you’re getting treated unfairly and you would get defensive. But the Holy Spirit reminds you to put yourself in their shoes. That will help you respond with the thought, “I can understand how this might upset that customer." By putting yourself in that customer's shoes, you're going to say the right words and try to solve their problem. Otherwise, if you had gotten defensive, your tone of voice might have been harsh, you might have been abrupt, and the problem could have gotten worse.

Have you ever put yourself in your manager's shoes? I notice that employees tend to blame their managers without ever stopping to think about what that manager has to deal with. Think about who they report to, the budget problems they're facing, the reduction in staff they're trying to cope with, etc. If you were in their shoes, how would you want your employees to treat you?

When we develop this ability to put ourselves in the other person's shoes, we reduce our own stress. For example, if I'm dealing with a co-worker who is negative, complaining and irritable most of the time, I can reduce the stress they bring into my life by stopping and thinking, "Yeah, but if I didn't know Jesus, I'd be that way, too, or worse." That allows you to be compassionate, even with a person who is less than pleasant.

Your kindness will result in people responding more positively to you. You will discover new friendships, you will gain a greater sense of peace, you will have wider influence, you will be more successful. But the real benefit is, it will make you a better representative of Jesus Christ. Your testimony will ring true. Who knows what impact that might have on others.

I want to remember to pray Luke 6:31 into my life daily. You, too, may want to ask God to empower you to treat others the way you would want to be treated. It's a very simple approach to life, but it could score you a ten and change your life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It’s All Tied Up

Remember when Jesus asked two disciples to get him a donkey for a ride into Jerusalem? This donkey was tied up, and Jesus instructed them to untie it and bring it to him. It had to take a little bit of nerve to walk up to this colt and start untying it. It wasn’t their colt.

When they started to untie it, the owners asked them what they were doing. I can imagine that they were a little perturbed to see two strangers taking their prized colt. But when the disciples explained that Jesus needed this colt, they were more than willing to let him use it.

They must have known Jesus in some way. Maybe they had heard Jesus speak; maybe they'd seen him heal someone or cast out a demon. I don't believe they would have let that donkey go if they hadn't met and known Jesus. But once they knew the colt was for him, they were okay with it. As was true for them, when we've met Jesus, it is also a great joy for us to give something back to the Him. But often we miss God's blessings because what he wants to use, we have all tied up for ourselves.

As I read this, I thought, "What do I have tied up that the Lord wants to use?" I think many times we've got resources and abilities that God would use in his service, but they're all tied up. It may be time, or money, or a home, or other things.

When we hoard those things for our own use, we miss out on one of the greatest joys in life—that is to see how God would use us and what we have if we were willing to let him have access to it. If we would simply untie our treasure, we would be humbled and grateful for the experience of being used in some specific way to accomplish God’s purpose. That kind of fulfillment cannot be matched.

What we offer doesn't have to be fancy or splendid. All that God asks for is availability.

What have you got tied up that Jesus wants to use?