Speaking Love and Life to Others

Every week I take about 30-45 minutes for what I call margin time. It’s a time where I go for a walk or a hike with the sole purpose of clearing my head and casting all my cares upon the Lord. I generally do it before I sit down and begin to type out my message for that week.

This week, I was walking through our city park on a beautiful fall morning. It was a little cool, but the warmth of the sun made it absolutely perfect. I sat down on a bench there in the morning sun and closed my eyes and listened to the sounds that surrounded me. I heard the sounds of the creek, the squirrels and a handful of birds.

There were two distinct bird sounds there in the area. One was a squawking sound that was quite a bit louder, while the other was more of a chirping or a song like a melody. Needless to say, the bird with a song to sing was much more pleasant.

As I sat there listening intently, I wondered: “Which one of these am I?” When I open my mouth, do others hear squawking or a song? And I’m not talking about singing ability, because I know I’m more of a squawker in that case.

I’m talking about how people hear and receive the words I speak. Am I a squawker that is constantly and loudly spouting out negativity and words that may be hurtful or annoying? Or am I one who speaks life and love in the words that come from my mouth?

Now, I honestly know I’ve been both, but my desire is to be someone who speaks life. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” The words we say make a difference.

We live in a world that is constantly looking for the negative in everything, but I want to be someone who looks for the positive and who speaks encouragement to others. I don’t want to be the squawker. I want to be a person who speaks love and life to those that God puts in my path.

Embracing His Grace and Showing It to Others

This week, I had the privilege of sharing a little devotional with one of our ministry groups here at the church. As I pondered what to share, the Lord put on my heart this idea of embracing and showing His grace.

The scripture that the Lord led me to was the story of the woman who had been caught in adultery. If you aren’t familiar with it, I would encourage you to take some time to read it. It’s found in John 8:1-11.

If you are familiar with the story though, you know that this woman obviously understood grace. One minute she’s on the verge of losing her life and the next she’s walking away with an opportunity to leave her old life of sin behind.

I am someone who can relate to this woman. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, when I was in the Marine Corps I fell hard in my relationship with the Lord. So much so that I actually had a roommate say to me, “It’s hard to believe you were ever a Christian!”

Talk about a wake up call. It was those words that helped me, over time, give my life back to the Lord. And after realizing how far I fell, I have embraced His grace with everything I have.

Now my wife’s story is a lot different from mine. Stacy was one of those who grew up in church and pretty much served the Lord her entire life. She was a rare teenager that often obeyed her parents and never really caused them trouble. As a matter of fact, her mom would tell you that she was the easiest teenager of all 5 of her kids.

The thing is, Stacy will tell you the challenges this brought for her when it came to embracing grace. Since everyone always told her what a good girl she was—she actually began to believe it.

She knew she wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t until she was in her mid-twenties that she realized that her sin was no different than anyone else’s sin: that regardless of how good a person she had been: she was still a sinner and she needed God’s grace just as much as the adulterous woman in John 8. If we want to be people who embrace God’s grace, we must first realize our need for it. Romans 3:23 reminds us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the Lord. When we understand this truth, it enables each of us to embrace His grace and then show that same grace to others.

What Do You Think Jesus Thinks?

Two weeks ago my wife spoke at church and shared a very raw and authentic message that I know was impactful for many people. In her message she was vulnerable and honest about taking on an offense that wasn’t hers to take on.

It was a great reminder that all of us fall short at times. We all make mistakes and can easily get caught up in the emotions that entangle us. This is why it’s important that we walk in humility and seek to identify those areas in our lives where our vision may be skewed.

One of the questions Stacy talked about that helped her see things more clearly, was the question: What do you think Jesus thinks? It’s an interesting and challenging question. I think many of us would desire for God to be proud of us and for Him to support the decisions we make. But have we actually taken time to pray and ask Him?

1 Corinthians 10:31 talks about doing all things for the glory of the Lord. But how often do we ask ourselves these kinds of questions: What does Jesus think? Is what I’m doing glorifying Him? Is this really what He would have me do? Is this how He would have me respond?

How often are the decisions we make based on our own thoughts or desires? Are we taking time to think through our decisions and seeking to truly glorify God in all that we do? I know these are challenging questions, but I believe if we want to truly glorify God in all that we do and live the lives He’s calling us to live, we have to be asking these questions. And, more importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves about the answers.

Step Into the Silence

If you’ve been around me at all, you know that I don’t have a problem carrying a conversation. My wife, on the other hand, struggles at times with conversation. That is: if I’m not around. If I’m at her side, she’s fine, because she knows she won’t have to worry about those awkward moments of silence.

Awkward moments of silence have never been a problem for me because I’m a talker. If silence occurs, I have a way of filling the silence with the sound of my own voice. I’m not really sure if this is a gift or a curse.

We live in a day and age where we fill every moment of our lives with noise: whether it’s the TV, the phone, our music apps, video games, podcasts, our own voices, or whatever. We have come to the conclusion that silence is awkward, but why? Why is it that so many of us struggle with silence?

I believe it’s something that has happened slowly over time. It’s something that has gradually crept into our way of life. And it’s something that I think we have to be intentional about changing.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” I am learning that silence isn’t awkward. It’s actually an amazing opportunity to quiet my heart and mind and allow God to speak to me on a deeper and more intimate level. I’m able to hear things that I otherwise might have missed.

We were created for this kind of connection and we have to be intentional about quieting the noise and seeking Him in the silence. So, I encourage you to take time to step into the silence and know that He is God!

In It For The Long Haul

Years ago, when I was in youth ministry, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a Foursquare pastor from Germany. During that lunch we talked about numerous things concerning ministry, but there is one part of that conversation that I still remember to this day.

We were talking about goals and accomplishments in ministry and he told me that they have a saying in Germany that translates to English like this: “We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year but we underestimate what we can accomplish in five or ten years.”

The truth is, we live in a society that seeks to accomplish things as quickly as possible and, if we don’t reach our goals as quickly as we hope, we often abandon them. We lack patience in our culture and, because of this, we often don’t see our goals fulfilled.

This week I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with our missionaries in Alaska. Our Church family has been supporting them since we planted our church and we have watched them lovingly and patiently do the work they set out to do a little over ten years ago.

The last three or four years have been extremely challenging as they’ve faced many hardships. There were times when they weren’t sure if their mission here would continue, but they persevered and pressed on, seeking to do the work God has called them to do.

This evening, as I sat talking with Rod Koop—our primary contact and liaison for the North of Hope mission here in Alaska—he received a text from an Alaskan tribal administrator asking for his help with a project. As he read the text to me, he said, “This is what we came here for. This is huge—they don’t ask outsiders to help with things like this.” Tears of joy and gratitude streamed down his cheeks as he shared these things with me.

This came after ten years of hard work, patience, and perseverance. And I believe they are only beginning to see what God will do through their faithful obedience! Galatians 6:9 tells us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Rod didn’t give up and now he’s beginning to reap the harvest God has prepared. And God wants to use all of us to make a difference in our world. The question is: Are we willing to be patient, walk in faithful obedience, and persevere to see those things come to fruition?

Let Him Be Your Deliverer

Today I read the story in Exodus 14 where the Israelites were finally leaving Egypt and the oppressive rule of Pharaoh. But if you’re familiar with the story you know that after the Israelites left, Pharaoh changed his mind and he and his army take off after them.

And so the Israelites find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On one side is the massive Red Sea and on the other side is Pharaoh and his Egyptian army coming to take them back into captivity. They have nowhere to run.

We can only imagine what was going through the minds of the Israelites.

In that moment their situation seemed hopeless. I wonder how many of us have found ourselves in similar situations. Where the walls around us seemed to be closing in. Where things seemed hopeless. Maybe some of us are even feeling that way right now.

If so, let me encourage you with the same words that Moses spoke to the Israelites, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today.” In this fallen broken world we are going to experience difficulties and challenges, but we don’t have to be afraid. God is with us and he will never leave us or forsake us. He is our hope in hopeless situation. So I encourage you to trust in Him and let Him be your deliverer.

Do You Love Jesus More Than Anything?

This week, I once again read a scripture that changed my life years ago. It’s the story of the rich young ruler found in Matthew 19:16-22.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, this rich young ruler approaches Jesus and asks Him what he must do to receive eternal life. Jesus responds by telling him to keep the commandments. He even names a few of them.

The rich young ruler quickly responds, saying, “All these I have kept, what do I still lack?” Jesus then responds saying, “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor….then come, follow me.”

And after Jesus said these things the Bible says the man “went away sad, because he had great wealth.” This rich young ruler walked away because he loved his money more than Jesus.

When I read this scripture years ago, I remember thinking: Is there anything Jesus could ask me to give up that would cause me to walk away sad? Is there anything in my life that I have come to love more than Jesus?

The interesting thing is that this rich young ruler failed to realize he wasn’t even keeping the first commandment. “You shall have no other gods before me (God)” is the first commandment. Money had become this man’s god and he had put it before the Lord.

Are there things that we have allowed to become our gods? Are there things in our lives that we love more than Jesus? God’s desire is that He would be first in our lives. As I mentioned earlier, this section of scripture changed my life. It forced me to think about my love for Jesus and ask those difficult questions. What about you? Do these scriptures challenge you? Do you love Jesus more than anything?

Approaching People With Love and Humility

This past week, I drove down to my parent’s house in Eugene. It’s a nice little drive that takes me through some beautiful farming country here in Oregon. As I was driving, I was actually praying about my devotion for this week.

Then on a yard sign in front of one of the houses was a scripture—James 4:6, which says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

This is one of those scriptures that stirs up a lot of emotions for me because it seems like we have a lot of people in our world who come off prideful and arrogant, many of whom identify as Christians.

We often take on this mentality that, because we’re Christians, we know how everyone else should live their lives. And we’re not afraid to let them know it. The problem is that this kind of pride is not God’s desire for His people.

We are seeing more and more division in our world and in the Christian community because of pride. But God’s desire is for us to walk in love and humility.

Jesus was born into the world in a time that wasn’t really much different than our world today. The Romans were prideful, arrogant people. Sin and corruption that completely went against God’s Word and desire for His creation were running rampant.

But He didn’t come into the world with a prideful, arrogant attitude, trying to put everyone else in their place. He knew that the world was broken and He knew that it would be His kindness that led people to repentance.

Jesus, the God of the universe who knew everything, approached people with love and humility. And I believe we are called to follow in His footsteps because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Radiating His Light

In Exodus 34, we read about Moses coming down from Mount Sinai after spending 40 days and 40 nights in the presence of the Lord. And at the end of verse 29 it says: “He was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.”

His face was literally glowing after spending so much time in the presence of God. It was something that was visible to Aaron and the other Israelites. Have you ever met someone or known someone that seems to glow or radiate the love of Jesus in a way that’s recognizable like we see here with Moses?

I had the pleasure of getting to spend some time with someone like this once. His name was Pastor Jerry Cook. He actually wrote a book called Love, Acceptance & Forgiveness that I read early in ministry. And he came and spoke at a youth pastors/youth leaders retreat that I attended several years ago.

At this retreat there were a handful of youth pastors who had the privilege of sitting down with Pastor Jerry and asking him questions. It was such an amazing experience, because he seemed to just ooze the love of Jesus.

It felt like we were sitting down with Peter or Paul as he shared his wisdom and amazing stories of life and ministry. It was obvious that he had spent a lot of time in the presence of Jesus.

Pastor Jerry was a very special man, but the truth is he was no different than you and me. The love and light that radiated from his life wasn’t his own, it was Christ in him. We all have the ability to shine in this way. As a matter of fact, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16 to let our light so shine.

We are called to be the light of Jesus to world. We need to be people who are radiating light. But this won’t happen if we aren’t plugged into the source. Jesus is our source and the more time we spend in His presence, the brighter we shine. Let’s seek to spend more time in His presence and let’s be people who let our light shine for those around us to see!

Waiting Quietly Before God

In my church I’ve talked frequently about taking time to pause. It is so important to take time in the busyness of our lives and days to stop and allow the Lord to be our strength and rest. I know my times of pause are life-giving and I realize that these simple times are helpful in ways that I don’t even understand.

In a “Pray As You Go” devotional I listened to this week, it talked about this reality. It said, “Waiting in silence for God can be very prayerful. It is our whole self that prays not just our lips, or our words. To want to be there with God is prayer.”

Do we want to be with God? I know that He wants to be with us. He wants us to make time in our busy schedules to pray, seek Him and to rest in His goodness.

Psalm 62:1-2 says: “I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.”

It’s important for us to take time to pause and to wait quietly before the Lord, because He is our rock and our strength in the midst of the challenges we face in this world. Are you stressed? Are you worn down and frustrated? Are you feeling like you want to give up? My encouragement to you is to stop and spend some time with the Lord. Be silent and let Him meet you in that place. He is your rock, your salvation, your fortress. Let Him be all of these things as you pause and rest in His silence.