Courage to Face Reality

By | Leadership, Personal Growth

(Adapted from The Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley)

As leaders, we want to believe that things are good. No matter how things are really going, we have a tendency to put up a front that says, “Everything is great in my life!” Not only to other people, but even to ourselves. We think if we ignore or downplay the negative aspects of our lives, they’ll either go unnoticed or disappear altogether.

Leaders worth following are willing to face and embrace current reality, regardless of how discouraging or embarrassing it might be. To be that kind of leader, you must be relentless in your quest to know the truth about yourself and what is happening around you.

Facing the painful truth requires courage.

Ask yourself… What is really up with me and my current situation?

What is it today that you need to face that will unleash the rest of your story?

Don’t let your yesterday keep you from having the courage to be the better version of yourself tomorrow. You can’t let your mistakes drive you to shut down. You must begin to look at what you have instead of what you don’t have.

It is impossible to generate sustained growth or progress if your plan for the future is not rooted in reality.

This means that you must take a real assessment of yourself.

“Leadership does not begin just with vision. It begins with getting people to confront the brutal facts and to act on the implications.” –Jim Collins

Facing current reality is often nasty, but always necessary. Nasty because it may entail acknowledging that you aren’t as far along as you thought you were.

To ensure that we are leading with our feet firmly planted on the soil of what is, we must live by the seven commandments of current reality:

  1. Thou shalt not pretend.
  2. Thou shalt not turn a blind eye.
  3. Thou shalt not exaggerate.
  4. Thou shalf not shoot the bearer of bad news.
  5. Thou shalt not hide behind the numbers.
  6. Thou shalt not ignore constructive criticism.
  7. Thou shalt not isolate thyself.

Be persistent. Take some initiative.

Today can be the day of change. Do something different. Don’t let those things continue to shut you down.

Attempted to lead while turning a blind eye to reality is like treading water: it can only go on for so long. If you don’t face where you are right now, you’ll eventually drown.

Whatever it takes, will you find the courage to get real with yourself?

Adapted by: Warren Jackson

Caught Up In The Details

By | Encouragement

In John 6:1-13, we read about the miracle Jesus performed in feeding over 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish. The story begins with a problem- there is a large crowd gathered, but not enough food to feed them.

In verse 5, Jesus asks Philip where they should buy bread to feed the people. Philip’s response was much like how ours would be. He starts assessing the probably cost. And of course, the price tag is far beyond his ability to pay.

Jesus was the master of teachable moments. He could have easily just solved the problem (John even notes in verse 6 that Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do), but instead he chose to include the disciples in the process and teach them something.

In verse 8, Andrew joins the conversation and he gets a little closer to a solution. He calls their attention to a boy with 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish. But he concludes, “how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9)

Whether the boy came forward and offered his lunch, or if the disciples merely used him as an example, the point is that they had the wrong mindset.

They were looking at what resources they possessed rather than who could provide.
Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed the food.

Gratefulness postures you to receive blessing from the Lord. Too often, we get caught up in
what we don’t have or how what we do have isn’t enough to make a difference, when we should be thanking the Lord for how much we already have.

After everyone has had enough to eat, Jesus tells his disciples to gather up the leftovers. He
goes on to say in verse 12, “Let nothing be wasted.”

There is a lesson in the leftovers. God gives in abundance.

I’ve struggled in the past with this very principle. I had a hard time believing in the abundance of God when I had barely enough money in the bank to pay my bills. It wasn’t until I realized that God only gives in abundance in the things that He cares about the most: things that are used in advancing His Kingdom.

If you only think of abundance in terms of money, you’ve missed the point. Remember, money only amplifies what it touches. If you are not doing anything to advance his kingdom with the money you’ve already been given, why would he bless you with more? If you can learn to live and give when you have nothing, you will be a better steward of what you have when you have something.

Like the disciples, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in the details of an impossible task and miss the whole point. If you keep reading in John, right after Jesus performed this miracle he tells the people that He is the Bread from heaven that gives life.

While Jesus was meeting the physical needs of the people in performing the miracle, what he really cared about was the people understanding that he was the Bread of Life.

Don’t let your tasks distract you from the bigger picture. If you only focus on the task, you’ll struggle to keep the big picture in mind. You’ll only see what you can’t do, rather than what God can do.

The whole point of your life is for you to become a fully devoted follower of Christ and your task is to advance the Kingdom of God.

Written by: Alice Lothman

Insanity

By | Leadership, Personal Growth

In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell states, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” He also says, “You cannot change your life until you change something you do everyday.”

In my own life, I have put those principles into place and have seen incredible results! Because they are so true! Growth cannot happen without change. Transformation cannot occur without change.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I’ve also heard it said that if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.

Which brings me to my point. If you are not satisfied with the way your life is right now, then what changes do you need to make to get to where you want to be? Because if you don’t change anything, nothing will change.

It begins with a decision to change your direction. You must decide where you are heading in life.

Then look at the things you are doing each day and start making changes. What is something small you could change that will eventually lead to big results? It could be something as simple as watching TV less and reading your Bible more. May seem small, but it will make a huge difference.

Your circumstances will not change until you are willing to change yourself.

Wherever you are in life, I challenge you to take a moment to stop and reflect on the direction of your life. Are you headed in the direction that will ultimately lead to the destination you desire? If so, keep going! Don’t stop! It’s not over yet because you’re not dead yet!

But if it’s not, then what is it going to take for you to shift course? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start now. Get going. And stick to it!

Written by: Alice Lothman

The Nine

By | Discussion, Leadership, Personal Growth

When men and women demonstrate the love of Christ and the fruits of the Spirit, people can see it. It is in the fruit that people know where it came from. The draw of a beautiful, shiny apple, a large orange, or a fuzzy-skinned, perfect peach are all indicators of how healthy and alive the tree is. The fruit really does sell the tree.

I love Teddy Roosevelt’s statement, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” I will always trust the one I know more than the average person speaking. I believe what people can see IN and FROM your life really is what is going on inside – our “fruit” represents our character.

Galatians 5:22 – 23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” I call these the nine!

I don’t think anyone has ever gotten mad at someone who loves, who is joyful, a peaceful person, who is kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. These “fruits” in our character are very noticeable in this generation because they are not the norm.

Let’s take a minute and check our “fruit” …
Are you a loving person?
Are you a joyful person?
Are you a peaceful person?
Are you kind?
Are you good?
Are you faithful?
Are you gentle?
Are you self-controlled?

I believe that Leadership begins and ends with character – who we are precedes what we do!

There are 3 takeaways for living out the NINE …

  1. We are BEING like Jesus!
    Think about it. When we are loving, kind, and faithful we will talk to and love the forgotten like He did; we will be kind to the sick like He did; and we will be peaceful and calming like He was in the boat during the storm.
  2. God is the one who grows the fruit, not us
    God produces the fruit. We just reflect the “Gardener.” I don’t know much about gardens, but I do know that seeds planted become deep roots. There sometimes takes some pruning and some compost, but the actual growth of the fruit has nothing to do with me. So, my job is to share the Gospel (James 1); water and develop roots for growth (Jeremiah 17); experience some pruning (John 15); and even spread some compost (Romans 5:3-6).
  3. We don’t get to pick which ones we want based on our personality
    There isn’t a filter on this list of nine. I believe that God wants to grow all nine fruits in our lives. The NINE fruits of the Spirit are proof of His character in our lives. I want my character to look like Christ, therefore I must work at it.

Last thought, I have always said character is built in the “small things.” The “small things” aren’t really that small. Taking the trash out every day is consistency. Loving people just the way they are is acceptance. And so on …

So, what are we doing with the NINE?

Do those who know you see the fruit of the Spirit lived out in your life?

 

Written by: Warren Jackson

Confidence or Pride?

By | Discussion

As a musician, I have waged a lifelong battle with pride. Anyone with a talent or skill that is most often utilized on a public platform has inevitably dealt with this issue. And knowing that the Bible warns so strongly against having a prideful spirit has caused me to constantly be on guard against it, almost to the point of being fearful that I’m going to cross the line between confidence and pride. I used to use self-doubt as my tool of choice in determining whether or not I was being prideful about my abilities. I feared that if I grew too confident, it would allow pride to creep into my heart and rule my mind.

But what I realized was that by allowing self-doubt to be my gauge, I was making myself miserable and preventing any true momentum.

So how do you tell the difference between a prideful spirit and confidence?

I think the first thing to do is distinguish exactly what it is that we are referring to when we use the word, “pride.”

Here’s the tricky part. Pride is not always a bad thing to have. Yes, you did read that right. Pride isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Pride at its core is simply “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated.” It’s completely normal and acceptable to feel pleased (have pride) when you or someone you love achieves something great.

When the Lord was giving Moses instructions for the Tabernacle, God said to “tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron.” (Exodus 28:3) If those workers didn’t feel confident in their ability to complete the task, then they would have invariably questioned the Lord’s instructions and struggled with completing the task set before them by the Lord. And if they weren’t satisfied with a job well done, then what would be the point in having the skill in the first place?

So where is the line between confidence and pride? When does pride shift from simply a feeling of satisfaction to something dangerous?

Pride becomes a problem when it takes the focus off God and puts it on us. It’s a problem when we begin to give ourselves credit for something that God has accomplished. The key part of Exodus 28:3 is “to whom I have given wisdom.” We must remember and acknowledge that the Lord is the one who gives us what we have.

But how do you really know if you are operating out of pride or out of confidence? Is it enough to simply remember and acknowledge the Lord? Is it possible to give credit to the Lord and still harbor pride in our heart?

I think if we changed our verbiage, we would be able to properly differentiate between the times we are feeling a healthy form of pride and the times we are not.

To help fight against the negative aspect of pride, let’s replace the word “pride” with “arrogance.” Pride is a feeling that occurs when a person feels satisfied with his abilities or possessions. Arrogance occurs when a person has an inflated opinion of his abilities or possessions.

Arrogance is based on external perception. It’s performing so that others will notice and acting in order to influence someone else’s perception of your skill level. Whereas confidence is operating out of an accurate assessment of your skill level and performing well regardless of other’s opinions or acknowledgment.

A good way to gauge yourself is this: if you ever do something well and it hurts your feelings that nobody noticed, you were operating out of arrogance. If you want your talent or skill to be acknowledged by others, and you do not feel successful without it, then you are experiencing the negative version of pride.

If you are an excellent speaker or teacher, go forward in confidence, knowing that you are able to complete the task set before you. If you have a talent for dance or music, then don’t let a fear of pride keep you from performing confidently. Self-doubt is not the antidote for pride.

If you have struggled with pride in the past or if you are afraid of becoming prideful in the future, then I encourage you to do two things. First, acknowledge the Lord as the source of your talent and skill. And second, evaluate yourself and determine if you have an accurate assessment of your skill level.

Sometimes the Lord sets a task before us that is beyond our own abilities so that we are required to depend on him. But that doesn’t mean that the Lord hasn’t given us any talents and skills to use for His glory. Don’t let fear hold you back from God’s call!

“Then Moses said to the Israelites, ‘See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers- all of them skilled workers and designers. So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.’” Exodus 35:30-35

 

Written by: Alice Lothman

Fully Devoted

By | Discussion, Personal Growth

I was recently reading John’s account of when Andrew, John, Peter, and Philip first followed Jesus and I learned something pretty incredible.

I learned that every lesson I’ve ever heard or taught about the call of the first disciples has not been entirely accurate.

If you read each account in the four gospels (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:14-20, Luke 5:1-11, and John 1:35-51), you’ll notice that while Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s accounts line up, John’s account is very different. I challenge you to take a few moments and go read each of the four stories.

At first glance, you might even think to yourself that the Bible is contradicting itself. How could their accounts be such a completely different set of events?

Well, since I believe that the Bible is true and that it doesn’t contradict itself, I started reading each story and what’s around those recorded events.

And what I discovered has radically changed my perspective of the call of those four fishermen. I’ve always been taught that when Jesus approached the four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee, that they immediately dropped everything for a stranger. That their faith and trust was so great that they were willing to leave their nets behind and follow Jesus.

Honestly, I’ve always had a hard time accepting that. What kind of person drops everything for a stranger? Not the kind who didn’t really understand who Jesus was until after He ascended. (John 2:18-22)

I could accept and relate to Luke’s account a little more because Luke records that Jesus performed a miracle at that event. That might compel me to action.

But still, it was a little difficult to believe and relate to if I’m being honest.

And then there is John’s account, which seems to tell the story from a whole different set of events.

So after reading and researching, I discovered that when Jesus told the 4 fishermen to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men, Jesus was not a stranger to them. In fact, those men had already been following Jesus for several months when He found them by the Sea of Galilee. We know this because John’s account actually occurs months before the event recorded by the other gospels.

The key point in the timeline is John the Baptist’s arrest. If you read Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there’s a key phrase that occurs: “After John was put in prison.” (Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14, Luke 3:19.) So, when Jesus approached the four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee, John the Baptist was in prison.

If you read John’s gospel, however, his story occurs the day after Jesus’ baptism (John 1:35). This means that when Andrew, John, Peter, and Philip first started following Jesus, John the Baptist was still preaching and baptizing. This tells us that the story John recorded was a completely separate event from the one recorded in the other three gospels!

This discovery has shifted my entire perspective on what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. In Jesus’ day, it was very common for a disciple to maintain their vocation while studying under a teacher. This is exactly what Andrew and John would have been doing as a disciple of John the Baptist and what they continued to do for the first few months of following Jesus.

When Jesus came to the four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee and told them to follow Him and they would be fishers of men, this was the moment that they dropped everything and started following Jesus full-time.

My question to you is this: are you a pre-John’s arrest disciple or a post-John’s arrest disciple? Are you trying to follow Jesus part-time or are you all-in? Have you risked everything? Have you trusted everything to Him?

The good news is that you don’t have to completely understand or even fully believe everything Jesus says to be all-in. The disciples initially recognized Him as the Messiah, but they didn’t fully get it until after Jesus ascended. But that didn’t stop Jesus from using them to advance His kingdom.

I love the song, “Jesus Be the Center,” because of the perspective of Jesus being the center rather than the first. If something is first on a list and gets taken away, everything below it just moves up. It’s very easy to replace. However, if something is in the center and you remove it, everything falls apart. It’s a noticeable absence.

If I removed Jesus’ influence from your life, would everything fall apart? Would you even notice? How much of your life would be affected? How much of an influence does Jesus truly have in your decision-making?

Are you a fully devoted follower of Christ?

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

Written by: Alice Lothman

Begin to Dream

By | Encouragement

Did you know that God has a dream for you?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Joseph.  Joseph was the beloved and favored son of Jacob and Rachel who lived in the land of Canaan with his 10 older half-brothers and one younger brother.

And Joseph was a dreamer.

God had plans to use Joseph mightily for His Glory and gave Joseph two dreams suggesting that one day his brothers would bow down before him.  Already envious of Joseph’s favor with their father, as made evident by a gift of a “coat of many colors”, his older brothers instituted a plan for his demise.

God’s intervention through his brother Rueben allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery where the next years were spent being humbled by circumstances, such as prison, yet favored and prepared for His ultimate calling to save God’s chosen people.

In the end, God positioned Joseph with the “keys to the kingdom” and he saved his family and God’s people from famine through his planned provisions and preparation.  This came through the interpretation of yet another dream.

You see, God is always dreaming.

And did you know that God’s dream has never changed?  God still has a dream to save His people and He wants to use you to help fulfill that dream!  Your circumstances today do not determine your destiny!  Your destiny is a foregone conclusion!  Your calling is irrevocable!  And His plans for you are oh so GOOD!

So my challenge to you today is to begin to dream God’s dream for you!  To take your eyes off of your current circumstances and focus your gaze on the One who created you for His glory.  Because, my friend, God has always had and always will have, a dream for you! 🙂

Written by: Deb Brittan, Clear Board Member

Uninvited

By | Encouragement

The other weekend I found myself in a new group of people and for the first time in a long time I felt uninvited. I sat there watching everyone merge into their group to discuss the latest on their life. I watched my husband embrace conversation with others and glide smoothly into this new community. I found myself sitting there fighting back tears, pondering what everyone was thinking of this new human who had entered their community, wishing I could make an excuse as to why I needed to leave, and looking at my watch wondering why my husband was staying past the time we had chosen to leave.

These thoughts clouded my mind and skewed my view. This thought made me feel alone and it crippled me from embracing the people around me. Choosing to entertain those thoughts created me to be self-focused and to feel unwelcomed.

The feelings of uninvited are not one we embrace, but usually try to run from. Uninvited does birth the thought of “I am all alone.” And I was already feeling alone, since the mountain of changes that have occurred over the last few months, I was hit even harder. My thoughts were already struggling with friendships and feeling slightly important, so walking into this group was the icing to it all.

There are many times where we label moments as “uninvited” or “alone,” but those moments are not based usually off someone telling us that. They are based off our own assumption of a situation. My thoughts were solely based off a previous hurt and therefore when I walked into that group I felt even more uninvited.

There are a million ways in which we could receive advice on how to fix this feeling, but I will share what I am learning. When I feel uninvited it is not just with people, but I feel that same way with the Lord. I choose to distance myself from all things and find myself uncomfortable in most encounters with people, unless you’re a stranger. I do not care to spend time with the Lord, which is the One who is always welcoming me into His presence. It becomes a battle because I do not always “feel” that the Lord can fix all issues. So, what do I do? I keep fighting against the feeling. I push myself to sit with the Lord. To remind myself that I am invited, even when I do not feel like it. I create time to hangout, call, or text my friends because that helps combat the lies. And some days I cry because the thought is more overwhelming than what I can handle for that day.

You have something to share with those around you and you are invited. You do not need permission from some human, because the Lord has invited you. He has invited you and that my friend is enough. It does not always feel enough, but I promise it is. Because the moment I found myself embracing the Lord again, soon followed with me not walking away from people disappointed. I walked away okay because it was not based off what they could give to me, but what could be shared.

Written by: Kassie Cash, former Clear Summer Staffer

I Got Problems

By | Encouragement

I don’t like pain, stress, heartache, losing at Monopoly, or any other generally negative experience. Problems.

Do you?

If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty good at avoiding pain. Anywhere you look, advertisers are offering the new, improved way to live a problem-free life. There’s an app, pill, vacation package, or electronic for just about any issue you’re facing.

“Bored? This new show is soooo binge-worthy!” Come on, don’t pretend you didn’t watch at least one season of Gilmore Girls when it hit Netflix. In one sitting.

No one likes to tell you that no matter how many good things you get in life, problems never seem to go away. For every problem you solve, it seems like you always get a new one. For every new job, there’s new stress. Quit that job, and now you’re bored. And broke. Buy a puppy to cheer yourself up and there’s… well, poop. Puppy poop. They literally. Poop. Everywhere.

The truth is that we want a problem-free life. We want to be happy, comfortable, successful, fulfilled, and accepted. Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I only had this one thing, I’d be complete!” But if we spend all of life chasing this dream, we’ll end up jumping from one problem to the next only to discover that we’re no happier than when we first started.

There’s a better way to look at our problems. King Solomon wrote some wise advice in Proverbs 14:4 about this very thing:

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,

   but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

I raised cattle as a kid, and I’ll never forget the smell of a dirty stable. Cows, like oxen, stink. They’re messy and loud, and you wouldn’t want one walking through your kitchen. But Solomon knew that in order for the farm to be productive, the manger would have to get dirty. Farmers understand that fruit is only the result of the hard work and mess along the way.

The wisdom in this statement is that there is a connection between our purpose and our problems. We can’t expect to live a life of purpose and experience no problems along the way. No problems=no purpose.

Some of your greatest problems today are a result of prayers you prayed yesterday. That final exam you’re cramming for is a result of the education God is providing for you. Your kitchen may be a wreck, but it’s a product of friends, family, or roommates God placed in your life. You’re dealing with an impossibly difficult person, and it may God’s answer to your prayer for “ministry opportunities…”

You see, some of God’s greatest blessings in your life are messy, and sometimes painful. But don’t miss the fruit God has for you by complaining about your dirty stable!

Instead of trying to live a problem-free life, why not live with purpose and decide which problems are worth having?

Don’t ask God for a spouse thinking that a single person will “complete” you and fulfill your every need. But ask God for someone who you’re willing to sacrifice for, encourage, and challenges you to pursue Jesus. A marriage to an imperfect person is a problem, but it’s worth it when you’re both committed to loving God and helping the other to do the same.

Don’t ask God to use you in your school, workplace, family, or friend group without willing to get a little messy. It’s in some of the messiest areas in our lives that God does some of his greatest work.

And don’t ask God for a puppy without being willing to clean up the poop.

I’m not talking about positive thinking or trying to put a silver lining on every problem in your life. Some things just hurt, and there’s not much else to say about it. But God’s perspective for difficult situations is always with a purpose in mind. When we look for the purpose behind the problem, we can thank God for every difficulty because we know that he works all things for good.

Besides, Jesus never promised a problem-free life, but he did promise to be with us and encourages us that we can trust him:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b

 

Written by: Kyle Bickham, former Clear Staffer

They/Them/Me

By | Discussion, Encouragement

Hi. I am Warren’s mom and he asked me to share some thoughts I have had recently. My prayer is my journey will be helpful to you in your journey. I am so thankful to have been an eyewitness to many who have been involved in Clear. It has been a special privilege and opportunity to see the emerging of some amazing young adults over the years.

They/Them/Me has been on my mind a lot recently. I, like so many, have been in church for years and years. Some of you may not have been involved in the local church for a long time, but have seen some things that disappoint you. During the years I have been in the church I have seen many things within the church, and have been disappointed, dismayed, lost respect for some people I highly respected, been hurt by actions of others, the list could be quite long.

Recently, my mantra has become “I am Church weary and Christian tired.” When I first verbalized that statement, I said it to Warren. He said “Mom, that is a strong statement”. I told him that I could not, not go to church, but these were my feelings. “Church tired/Christian weary.”  Little did I know that two incidents would take place that almost sealed that deal for me on not going to church.

My husband and I talked about just not going to any church for a while or going to the “big” church in town and getting lost in the crowd. My comeback to the last one was we would probably sit in someone’s seat and they would tell us to move or at least say something. Did you know Christians actually do things like that?!? It also seems that the election last year gave people, even Christians, the feeling of freedom to be rude, call people names, yell at one another, and even be outright mean. Also, I had been guilty of doing what was expected of me, rather than what God has called me to do, which also leads to frustration.

Personally, I had to get to the point of just hearing from God and seeking His will and guidance in the whole scenario. Lord, I am Church weary and Christian tired!

Thus, I came to the realization that I was going to have to come to terms with They/Them/Me.

First of all, He would not release us from the local church. I was reminded to not forsake the assembling with fellow Christians even when some of those have disappointed me. A Facebook posting from Rehabs America says “When you hang out in the wrong places with the wrong people, you will soon do the wrong things.” Put that quote in reverse – “If you hang out in the right place with the right people, you will soon do the right things.” Why do we go to church? Why do we hang out with fellow sinful Christians? We go to worship Him, to praise Him, to encourage one another, to let His Word soak into our soul. If we attend the local church, we will be more apt to do the right things rather than the wrong things. “The closer we are to the Shephard, the safer we are from the wolves.” (-Toby Mac)

In one of the situations I mentioned earlier, it was a situation of “Who are they?’ “What will it take for them ….?” “What are they doing to fix this?” A lot of questions.

During this time, I repeatedly have heard the scripture in II Chronicles 7:14 “IF my people will humble themselves, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” I would hear humble us Lord, heal our land…

Well, if you go back up to verse 13 it says, “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain or command the locusts to devour the land or send pestilence among my people vs 14 IF my people

That is a big IF my people. Well in the context of this scenario, who is the “my people”? It is the church and yes, this is a corporate plea, but you know what? The church is made up of they, them, and guess who? – Me! To be corporate, it needs to start with Me!

They/Them…One of life’s lessons is that you cannot hide behind other people.

Another life lesson I have learned that has gone a long way with me in relationships is: “We ruin more relationships by expecting others to be what we think they ought to be…” When we have high expectations of others, we enslave ourselves, open the door to disappointments and frustrations. We forget how that also happens in reverse. That people will have expectations of you being what they think you ought to be. The important thing is to be who God designs you to be, and we are all on a journey to become more like Him, and no one walks in the same shoes on those paths.

So I began on a journey of “Lord, show me”! Reveal to me!

IF…humble means “a modest low view of one’s own importance”. Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” My daughter-in-law, when we were discussing this, said “No, No, NO! I don’t want to get to the point God has to humble me; I want to be there before He has to do it. Because if He has to do it, it is always ugly and always public.” Wise words and advice. Don’t I want God’s wisdom and to be absent of pride? Surely I would not disappoint anyone or anyone in the church! Oh yes I will.

Seek His face…a Holy God. Seek His radiance! His will! Not my will Lord, but Yours. You are a big, Holy God Who wants me to be in awe of Your Holiness.

Uh oh! Turn from their (my) wicked ways! SIN! REPENTANCE! Words you don’t hear often anymore and not the actual confession and repentance part. When was the last time you fell on your face, confessed your sin, and prayed for forgiveness? A quote that will shake your world is by John Snyder, “Sin will be seen in its true light-a thief of the glory we owe to God.” We get very comfortable and complacent with our sin, or the way we are doing things, and want God to be happy with our ways. A holy God is not happy with our ways that do not honor Him. Pride creeps in – I am doing ok. Judging their actions (remember they/them) and not repenting of my critical spirit. Letting fear overtake rather than being obedient to His design for my life. Actually I was kind of appalled at the things He began to show me about myself.

THEN, I will heal their land…Hope and Promise! Heal those dry places in our hearts! Heal past hurts! And being obedient to what He has called me to do is freeing.

This is a big lesson from the heart of God; He allows things to happen to give each of us the opportunity to humble ourselves, to pray and to seek Him, turn away from our sin and He will heal. It takes personal response.

Christianity costs. It costs obedience, repentance, humility, uncomfortableness, disappointment, sacrifice, and growing pains.

They. Them.

Me.

Ultimately it is about a Holy God!

 

Job 26:14 “Indeed these are mere edges of His way, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of HIS power who can understand.

 

Written by: Linda Jackson