Love ’em or Leave ’em

No, I’m not talking about your spouse, I’m referring to your friends. I think it’s important for us to evaluate our relationships and, when necessary, step away from some of them.

How do you know who to love and who to leave?

Do they add value to your life, to your day? Do you feel better by being with them? Love ’em! Does the relationship drain your energy? Leave ’em!

Do they listen to your advice and respond in a way that makes them a better person? Love ’em! Do you have to repeat the same advice in every conversation to no avail? Leave ’em!

Do they see things from a perspective different from yours? Love ’em! Are they just agreeable to make you happy? Leave ’em!

Do they offer helpful advice and encouragement? Love ’em! Are your conversations with them filled with gossip, or negativity? Leave ’em!

Do they respect your boundaries regarding time? Love ’em! Do they take up time that would be better spent doing something else? Leave ’em!

Do they push you toward your dreams and goals? Love ’em! Do they distract you and pull you off track? Leave ’em!

I think you get the point. Regularly evaluate your relationships – not just the close ones, but you may need to rethink the people who in your outer circle too.

What other questions would you ask to determine who needs the boot?

Jesus is Coming

There are Christians who do not believe that Jesus will return to earth. But His disciples did. They posed a question to Jesus, “What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?” Regardless of what you may have read elsewhere, they did believe that one day life as they knew it on planet earth would change, and that change would be precipitated by Jesus returning.

Jesus did not chide them, rather, he answered their question with a list of things that would be commonplace at the time of his return. Here they are:

  • False messiahs and false prophets performing amazing, impossible feats and attracting followers.
  • Wars breaking out and nations threatening to go to war.
  • Famine across much of the world.
  • Earthquakes in unexpected places.
  • Jesus’ followers being hated, persecuted, arrested, and even killed.
  • Some of Jesus’ followers renouncing their faith, hating and betraying other Christians.
  • Rampant sin.
  • Tenderhearted, loving people becoming callous.

Jesus left no doubt as to what these signs precede, “Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.”

Later, when Paul wrote to Timothy about the last days, he also had a list.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people…” 2 Timothy 3:2-5

As I said earlier, some Christians don’t believe this word. If the disciples did, if Paul and Timothy did, if Jesus himself did, so do I. The signs are showing me that it’s true.

My hope is found in Jesus’ promise, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13

I Don’t Just Want You To Be Happy

You’ve heard your friends say it – over and over. You may have even said it, but I bet you didn’t really mean it.

“My son has moved back into our basement, but as long as he’s happy…”

“My sister decided to quit her job and start a band, but as long as she’s happy…”

Sometime in the second half of the 20th century, happiness became a life goal, and we won’t let it go. Let me say it, I’m ok with losing the phrase, “I just want you to be happy.”

It’s not that I don’t want you to be happy, I just want happiness to be a byproduct of better things. What I really want is for you to make a difference in your world. I want you to be kind to your fellow citizens. I want you to be productive with your hands and your mind. I want you to learn and teach. I want you to work hard and accomplish missions. I want you to reproduce yourself and your abilities. I want you to be curious and ask questions. I want you to explore and discover.

Those things won’t always be fun. They may even be painful, but they will produce moments of joy, and joy outweighs happiness by far.

I want you to love and find love. I want you to live in contentment. I want you to be dependable and establish a good reputation. I want you to slow down and see what others miss. I want you to take time to hear what others are saying to you. I want you to avoid anger and resentment. I want you to forgive and not hold onto bitter feelings. I want you to know the truth and not let your thoughts deceive you. I want you to avoid gossip and ignore stupidity.

I want you to hear God’s voice in the thunder and the rain. I want you to see his face in the sun and moon. I want you to feel his arms on the starless nights. I want you to see his artistry in landscapes and in yourself. I want you to experience for yourself his love and follow his direction.

Do I want you to be happy? Sure, but I don’t want you to be happy at the cost of what really matters.

I Love You, But I’m Not You

Fants Grove Cemetery, Anderson, SC
To my atheist and agnostic friends, I want to tell you why I will never be one of you. This also applies to my gloomy Christian friends, since I can never be one of you either.

You see, when I was a child, Jesus came to live in our house. I learned to talk with him by hearing my parents talk with him. He sat at our pink kitchen table, he rode in our green Chevy station wagon, and he sat by my bedside while I fell asleep. 

He provided us a place to live, he led my father into ministry, he sent angels to our house with groceries, and he healed us when we were sick. 

I can never be a doubter or an unbeliever when he has proved to me that he is real.

We talked to him as much as we talked about him. He wasn’t just a Sunday subject. But, oh the Sundays we had with him (and with our friends who knew him too) were wonderful. 

I can never be a gloomy Christian. I have experienced too much life and joy in my times of private worship and in times where I was one of a dozen, or thousands, of believers corporately lifting our hearts and voices in praise.

My memories from childhood are filled with lyrics that included phrases like “Jesus is a friend of mine,” “All to Jesus I surrender,” and “Each step I take my savior goes before me.”

These weren’t just words we sang by rote, they were the true sentiment of our relationship with Jesus.

Mama prayed the sweetest prayers, and Daddy prayed until God answered. Mama would raise her face toward the heavens, close her eyes, smile, and sing, “Oh, I want to see Him, look upon His face.” 

Tomorrow marks two years since that prayer was answered. I suspect she still isn’t tired of looking on his face.

So, no sir, I won’t be joining the ranks of the doubters and unbelievers, and I can never be gloomy about my relationship with a person who has been part of my entire life in such a real, powerful way. I hope you know him too.

Put Your Bible Away!

img_3035Have you noticed how everyone is so angry these days? There is so much animosity and even hatred being spewed from people I generally would consider meek and humble. No sir, not when they get behind their keyboards or smart phones. They become bold (read verocious) as a lion!

Here’s some of what I have recently read:

  • You can’t be a Christian unless you love the foreigner (Mark 12:31), or
  • Muslims are pawns of Satan. (John 8:44)
  • National borders are God’s idea, (Acts 17:26) or
  • Immigrants are the same as “us.” (Leviticus 19:34)
  • Don’t call yourself a follower of Christ if you disagree with me. (Amos 3:3)
  • I’m an independent woman, so don’t “put me in my place” (Genesis 1:26f), or
  • Unless you are submissive, you aren’t following God. (1 Cor 6:20)

Any one of these statements will cause an online storm. Not the gentle summer thunderstorm we’re accustomed to here in the South, but the full fury of a Midwestern spring hailstorm.

Truthfully, since each of these statements is accompanied by a “supporting” Bible verse, I could feel compelled to agree with them all. However, there’s the issue of context. I’m not referring to the context of a couple of verses before and after the ones listed, I mean interpreting each of these individual verses in the context of the entire Bible. These statements should be measured against what the BIBLE says, not what the verse says.

Some “Christians” have forsaken the Bible. I think I know why. Their favorite verses can be countered by another person’s favorite verses. Why should I take my cues from the Bible at all if someone can argue against me from another verse? Well, of course they can. It’s because you’re both picking selective verses rather than the complete Story the Bible tells.

You cannot have a clear view of God or his plan from one verse. One verse can be interpreted in a variety of ways and even can misrepresent what the entireity of the Scriptures teach.

From Genesis to Revelation, God is revealed, but you’ll only see a glimpse of Him in one book. For instance, God IS love, but He isn’t JUST love. So, if you’re going to use only one verse to describe God, you’ll likely get it wrong. If that’s your plan, just put your Bible away. You can come up with something as good as one verse on your own.

Here’s my suggestion: instead of searching for a verse to prop up what you believe, plan to read through the entire Bible this year. Go indepth. Anyone can be shallow, be different! Challenge your beliefs, check them against what you find in the Bible story. (There’s only one, you know?) Base your belief on what is revealed throughout the connected inner stories.

But if you’re interested in posting ONE verse, be sure your interpretation of it is a representation of the whole book. The Story is a fascinating one. It is life-changing and freeing when you get it. Let’s use it to speak life and freedom to everyone who will listen.