If You’re Going To Give Away A Piece of Your Mind…

Why not give away a piece someone would actually like to have?  You know how when someone says that they are going to give you a piece of their mind, it’s generally not going to be a piece you want.  

Seriously though.  I know a lot of us probably have a few people in mind, who we would love to say a few choice words to on occasion.  Maybe you already have.  Hopefully, you bit your tongue and didn’t follow through!  

  It can be really hard to just keep your mouth shut and opinions to yourself.   Why is it we so often think we need to prove that we are right?  Or get in the last word.  Or we think,  well,  I’m going to tell that person why I’m right, and why I think they are wrong.  Because that usually goes so well, right?

We are told in Titus 3:9 “ But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. ”  Most of us know that if we are discussing something with someone, who has a very different opinion  about a subject than we do, no one is going to win the argument.  It is unprofitable and useless.  Neither of us is going to change the others mind, and in some cases, if we’re not careful, we can end up losing relationships.

James 1:19 says “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  That can be really tough to do sometimes.  Some people don’t take time to listen, and then they get angry before they even know what they’re  angry about.  At times, we might be those people. Attempting to follow that scripture  when we are  in our own strength, can be quite a challenge.  But, if we are taking the time to be slow to speak we can use that time to quickly ask the Lord how He would have us respond to whatever the situation is.  His response will very likely be different from what we may want to say.  

Facebook or social media can also be dangerous ground.  You post something that someone doesn’t like, and boom, in minutes you feel like you’re  body slammed to the ground by people expressing their thoughts to your post. Often, they respond in a way that they wouldn’t,  if they were face to face with you.   I’m sure some of us have been guilty of doing that to some degree at one point or another.  

Many times I’ve wanted to respond to something someone said, or did.   I’ve had it typed out, ready to hit send, but then I have to pause, and ask myself a few questions.  Is it helpful?  Is it gossip?  Do I know it to be true?  Will someone be hurt?  And most important,  would Jesus approve of what I wrote?  Most of the time I resist the urge to post because I know its  something I should not say.  

It can be easier to practice self control with the written word, than when we are in a face to face discussion with someone.  You can delete what you write, but once you’ve said something, it can’t be taken back.   I’ve found that if you know you are going to see those people who have very different opinions than you, it can be helpful to purpose ahead of time to avoid issues that cause arguments.  If they bring up those subjects, just smile. Change the subject.   Refuse to engage in arguing at all.  

Let’s face it.  While telling someone off or “giving them a piece of your mind” can feel really good in the short term, we  know its not worth it in the long run.  Sooner or later that remorse will kick in, because you really did know better than to react in anger.  And if it was a friend or family member, or a work associate, you know you will have to go back and make things right between you.  Otherwise, these are the kinds of things that can cause rifts for months or years or even longer.  

Though in our flesh we think it feels good to lash out and get into that verbal sparring match, we know that the Bible has nothing good to say about angry, quarrelsome people.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 tells us “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

That’s not to say that there aren’t times we need to speak the truth to someone.  Or that we should never speak what’s on our mind.  Especially if the Lord gives us something he wants us to speak out and share, we should be prepared to do it.  It’s the way we speak, and our attitude towards those we are speaking to that I’m talking about.  

 How about if we just hang onto those pieces of our minds?  Those are the kind of pieces no one else really wants to be given anyway!

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Search Your Heart

My church, as well as many others across the country, is taking some time at the beginning of the year, to participate in a 21 day Daniel fast.   For those who don’t know, it is named after a fast talked about in the book of  Daniel, chapter 10:2-3.  The purpose of the fast, for many of us anyway, is to set time aside at the beginning of the year to seek to get closer to God.  To allow Him into our lives to show us things that may be hindering us.  Perhaps to bring things to light that we may have hidden away or buried for years.  To seek to find out if our life is going in the direction He wants it to go, so we can make a course correction if it’s not.  

There are those who regularly take time to examine their lives, and ask the Lord to show them areas where they need change, or perhaps areas where forgiveness is needed for things done to us or by us long ago.  For some this is a new process.  I had been a Christian many years before I ever heard of taking time to do this.  

I remember many years ago I was having a hard time dealing with some family issues.  I read a couple books at the time, that were about things like forgiveness, judgement and generational issues with families.  After reading those books, and talking to some friends, I realized I needed to start on this journey.  Both books talked about this process being like the layers of an onion.  You take care of one layer and then when you peel it back there are more layers underneath.

With the help of a friend I started walking through some of these layers.  Forgiving people in my life from things of the past, and also asking forgiveness from those I may have hurt.  I remember taking a walk one day, shortly after peeling back some of those layers, and actually feeling almost disappointed as I thought to myself, well, that was quick, I guess I’m done.  Because, deep down although I did feel better having done what I did, I still felt like I was not nearly as close to God as I wanted and I felt like there was a barrier between us still.  I knew I didn’t want to be done if I was still struggling with these things.  

 As I’m sure you can imagine, though I might have thought I had finished the process, I was really just beginning.  After all these years it is still an ongoing process. This should be something we do on a regular basis until the end of our life here on earth.  We will never finish being perfected until the end.  And obviously, the more years you have been alive the more stuff you have to deal with.  

God is so good. When we give the Lord permission  to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;  And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” like the Psalmist did in Psalm 139:23-24, He will.  And He does it in such a kind and loving way.  If He were to tell us all at once, everything we needed to hear, or to change, we would be overwhelmed.  He’s a gentleman and He waits till we are ready to ask Him to help us.  

Anytime the Lord has revealed something to me, and helped me overcome it, it has felt like a burden has been lifted from me.  It can be painful while you are going through the process, but the end result is so worth it.  

Why then do we sometimes find it so hard to just get still and ask the Lord the hard questions about our lives?  Often it is out of fear.  We are afraid to deal with those things that have been hidden so long.  We are afraid to ask the Lord to show us what we may be doing wrong.  We are afraid of change and we are afraid it could be painful.  So we stuff it down a little further and pretend all is well.  

The Lord already knows everything about us anyway.  He doesn’t want to bring these things out to harm us or shame us.  He knows that the enemy would rather let these things lie in darkness and not be dealt with.  He knows that often these are the chains that have kept us bound.  He wants us to be free from anything that keeps us from being close to Him.

In Isaiah 61:1 Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus. He said ““The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”  The Lord does not want any of His children to be in bondage.  

There have been a lot of books written on these subjects.  By people a lot smarter than me.  Here’s the thing.  You don’t need to read a lot of books or take a college class to get started.  You can start right where you are at.  All you need is a heart open to the Lord.  A longing to know Him more and get closer to Him.  An openness to be willing to change, if He tells you something to change.  To forgive if He shows you you need to forgive.  And to be willing to repent if He shows you something you did, or are doing that is not pleasing to Him.  He loves you so much.  He’s just waiting for you to turn to Him.  

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Questions

I was thinking this morning about a question we need to ask ourselves from time to time.  Are we the same person to our families, and those close to us, as we are to people we  work with, or go to church with, or our neighbors or friends?  Do we respond the same way to all?  

Let’s face it.  Most of us have times when we may be grumpy.  And we all get angry sometimes or perhaps even snippy or sarcastic. Or, maybe its just me. Not good ways to react.  But, in this case I’m not talking about the occasional grumpiness or bad mood.  I’m talking about the way we treat others on a day to day basis.  

Are we the kind of person that shows one side of us to people we interact with outside our home, and then  when we come home we show the side where people are afraid to even talk to us?  Do we treat our bosses and fellow employees with respect, crack jokes and show concern for people, then come home and act surly and growl at others who don’t jump to meet our every need?  

I would hope that most of us are not like that.  In fact, shouldn’t we  be kinder and more loving to those we are close to?  After all, they are the ones that generally put up with us, and our sometimes bad moods, and hopefully, love us in spite of our faults.  It should matter more to us what they think of us, than what those at work or school or church think of us.  

Here’s another question.  Do those we love know that we love them, and that they are important to us? Do we make it a priority to tell them or to show them?  If something were to happen, could you be at peace knowing that all was well between you?  So often you hear of family members and friends who get into fights and arguments and don’t talk for years and decades.  In some cases they never resolve their issues before one of them dies.  How tragic is that?  

I have been in the place of having a family member die unexpectedly.  In my case we had had some months of a somewhat strained relationship.  I’m so very grateful to the Lord that we were able to work that out before she died.  Loss is hard enough on its own.  We don’t need guilt on top of it because we didn’t take the time to show our love or to resolve our differences.  

How many agree with me that whether its the way we treat others, or the way that they treat us, relationships can be one of the most challenging things in our Christian walk.  If we are doing it right, and walking in love as we are called to do, that is.  

My Pastor was teaching on love this morning.  He made the comment that walking in love is the best way to have relationships.  For himself he uses 1 Corinthians 13:5 as a guide to how he is doing in his love walk.  “ It (love) is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

That can  be very challenging sometimes right?  Such as times when we are treated unfairly at work, or our family does not act the way that we think they should or we have that neighbors dog that barks and barks for hours on end.  Do we respond in love?  Or do we get angry, touchy or resentful?  Hmm.  I would love to say I have mastered this one, but I have a ways to go yet.  

To quote my pastor once more, he said “we can either respond in the flesh or from our spirit.  Your spirit rules you only when you choose love.”

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The good news is, if we have failed at this in the past, we can repent, move on and start fresh.  All we need to do is remember to choose love.

Oh, one last thing.  If you are one of those people who has been holding a grudge against someone and you have a broken relationship, do yourself a favor.  Let this be the year that you take advice from Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”  I promise, no matter how it turns out, you will be so glad you did.  

What Will Your Year Hold?

OK, so here it is a new year.  Hard to believe we are almost a week into it already.  The question is, what are we going to do with it? What can we do to ensure this is a great year?   Yes, there are things that will happen to us, and around us that we have no control over.  But, a lot of the time our lives go in a direction we don’t particularly want, because we are not doing anything to change it.  We’re just sitting back waiting to see what’s going to happen.  

Oh, I’ve been very guilty of that myself.  We “wait” for things to change.  We wait to get a step by step plan from the Lord, we wait for that perfect relationship, we wait for a new job to be offered to us or we wait to figure out what direction we want or should go in.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve generally found things don’t happen that way.  We have to be active participants in our lives.  Sometimes it seems like things just pop up suddenly and unexpectedly. A lot of the time although it seems that way, actually its  because we have been praying and planting seeds and making plans and taking a step in the direction we need to go. And “suddenly” something changes.

God has such an abundant life planned for us.  John 10:10 “ The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”  That does not sound like a ho hum boring life to me.  Why should we be satisfied with less than what the Lord wants for us?

The Lord knows what He created us to do.  He knows the gifts and the desires He put into us.  When He’s saying He wants us to have an abundant life, that may mean something different for each of us.  What one person considers an abundant life, to someone else that would be something they would never want in a million years.  That’s because we each have different gifts, different desires and different paths to follow.  

The last thing we should do is to watch other people and wonder why we aren’t doing what they are doing. Why we aren’t accomplishing the same as them.  Our job is to discover our gifts and to ask God how He wants us to use them.  And then to actually do something with what we have been given.  

Is it easy?  Not necessarily.  It can be scary.  What if we make a mistake?  What if we are going the wrong way? So what? At least we are taking a step in faith and doing something!  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to get to the end of 2017 and be in the same place I am  now, at the beginning of the year  wondering how another year went by so fast.  

We will make mistakes.  We may take some wrong turns.  Still, stepping out and doing something is better than sitting back and just waiting for life to happen.  None of us knows what tomorrow will bring.  We need to do the best we can with what we have today.  

We may think what we are doing is unimportant. It’s not. We are not all called to be the next Billy Graham or to be missionaries to a foreign country, or to be a preacher.   But all of us are needed.  All of us are called.  Each of us has our own part to play.  The Lord has so much that needs to be accomplished, and it won’t get done if we aren’t in our place doing our part.  

2017 could be an awesome year with wonderful surprises and new beginnings.  But we need to do our part.  We need to be attentive to what the Lord may be saying to us, or showing us.  We need to be willing to take a step, no matter how small it may seem.  Mostly, if we don’t like our life, or the direction we seem to be going, we need to stop complaining and thinking it will never change, and get up, get moving and make a change.  Do something for someone else and you just might find you are helping yourself at the same time.  We only get one life, how about if we live it to the fullest.