The Golden Rule can tell you what matters to others

Is there a standard for how a Christ-follower is supposed to treat people? I mean, we’re supposed to love each other. That much is obvious. But there are different ways to demonstrate love, and it varies from person to person.

The Bible has so many practical solutions in its pages, and I’m so thankful. A cerebral answer to a question like that wouldn’t help much. And what’s interesting is that just about everybody knows this particular standard, whether they read (or even believe) the Bible at all.

bench-sea-sunny-man_1473x976Today’s verse is Matthew 7:12.

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Everybody knows the Golden Rule. It’s one of those cultural things we talk about all the time, but even though we talk about it a lot, we don’t always keep to it. Why? Because it’s hard!

It’s really difficult to treat other people with the same regard that you have for yourself. I mean, it’s easy to give yourself another chance when you screw up. After all, you know your own heart. You know you didn’t mean to do it. But when someone else screws up? That’s unacceptable.

We’ve all been there.

But there’s another aspect to the Golden Rule that I hadn’t really considered. The Golden Rule can tell you what matters to other people. It’s not just how you’re supposed to act, but it’s also about how you should treat other people. Maybe those revelations sound identical, but they’re very different.

Let’s say that you are having a really bad day, and your friend brings you flowers to cheer you up. And you appreciate it. It’s thoughtful, but quite honestly, you don’t do flowers. You don’t really like them. And they make you sneeze. So while you are grateful for the thought, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to you.

But stop for a minute and think about what just happened. Your friend wanted to cheer you up, so he/she brought you flowers because flowers mean something to him/her. What does this have to do with the Golden Rule? Well, your friend would want someone to bring him/her flowers on  a bad day, so that’s why he/she did it for you. Now you know that. So tuck it away. Maybe you’d never give someone flowers ordinarily because you find them annoying, but your friend likes them.

People aren’t mind readers, you know, and many times I think we do things for other people based on what makes us happy.

Now, we shouldn’t only do kind things for other people because we want them to be kind to us. We should be kind because God says it’s what we should do. And, truthfully, it’s better if you just communicate with each other. But people don’t really communicate anymore. And even when we do, there’s still some kind of disconnect that prevents us from saying what we really mean. So you have to learn to listen to the things people don’t say.

Maybe what that person in your life did for you doesn’t resonate with your desires. Maybe it wasn’t anything close to what you would do for someone else or what you would expect someone to do for you. But the principle of the Golden Rule is that it’s not about you anyway.

So pay attention to how others treat you and what others do for you. They may be telling you without words how you can be a blessing to them. And there’s really nothing more awesome than being a blessing to someone else.

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Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

What does boldness before God look like?

Are you bold? Would you call yourself a bold person? I’m not really. People think I am, but that’s mainly because when people really see me, it’s in a place where I’m comfortable. And when I’m comfortable, I can be just as bold as the most extroverted extrovert in the world.

Sometimes I wish I were more bold because then I could ask all those extroverted type questions I’m never brave enough to ask. If you’re an extrovert, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. If you’re an introvert, we’re on the same page exactly.

Being bold is good. It’s great and healthy, as long as it’s tempered with a fair amount of humility, kind of like everything else in life. But for me, the danger in my lack of boldness doesn’t affect my relationships here. For me, the danger comes when I lack boldness when I talk to God.

Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:19-22.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have access to God Himself. We have a relationship with God the Father through Christ. We can be bold.

What does boldness before God look like?

Well, we shouldn’t doubt what God has promised. If God has promised us something, we should approach Him with confidence, knowing and fully believing that He will do it. No, it may not look like what we expect, but if He’s promised it, God will deliver in His time.

We should trust that God knows what He’s doing.

We should expect God’s answers. When we ask Him for an answer, we shouldn’t forget that we asked for it. We shouldn’t be surprised when He responds. If we ask Him, He heard us. Granted, He usually doesn’t answer when we think He should, but He always answers.

Do you have a friend you can be bold with? Someone you can be direct and assertive with? Someone you trust, someone you expect great things from? If you know anyone like that, you know what I’m talking about. Those people deliver. Those people can be trusted.

How much more can you trust and expect from God?

The point is this: I’m timid sometimes. I’m afraid to ask for something because I’m scared God will say no. I’m afraid to expect things because I’m afraid that I won’t get my way.

If I’ve learned nothing else in my life it’s that God never answers my prayers exactly as I expect. But every time He says no to one thing I’ve asked for, He gives me more than I expect later on. Most of the time, God doesn’t tell me no. He just tells me to wait. And if I honor that and wait, He blesses me beyond my wildest dreams.

I know that. I know that God can be trusted. I know that He knows what He’s doing. I know I can expect great things from Him.

So what am I afraid of? I don’t know what it is, but I’m learning how to overcome it a day at a time. It won’t happen overnight. Fear is a difficult thing to conquer. But God has told me I can be bold. God has promised me I can approach Him directly and ask for what I need. So I’m going to.

How about you? What are you afraid of? What are you waiting for? God has told us how to live. He’s told us what He expects. He’s showed us who He is.

So what’s stopping you? Be bold.

Swan at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Too much to ask?

Is it wrong to have expectations for people? Is it bad to expect certain behavior from certain people? For example, if you proclaim Christ — if you say that you believe in Jesus and that you are following Him, I would expect that you would behave like a Christian. You would put others first. You would love God more than anyone else (or at least you would try). You would read the Bible and obey what it says. That’s the very bottom line of what I would expect. But anymore, I really feel like maybe that it asking too much.

Many of the “Christians” I know live for themselves, give God a nod on Sunday and even though they own a Bible, they have no idea what’s in it. And even of the Christians I know who do , who manage to grasp one of those three basics, usually let down in the other two. Some know a lot of Scripture, but they don’t care about people. Some care about people, and they couldn’t care less about obedience.

Is it wrong to expect them to behave like a Christian if they say they are one? Obviously, I can’t change their heart and anything I say is going to pass through their filter that tells them that I’m a goody-two-shoes. But what am I supposed to think? What am I supposed to do? Should I lower my expectations?

Swan at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Swan at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.

It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”

The whole book of 1 Corinthians is really a letter from Paul to the Church in Corinth. Paul started the Church, stayed there for a year and a half or so, and then he moved on to other works, but then he got word that things in Corinth had fallen apart. In a major way. So he sent them this letter, which is basically a kind but harsh reminder of who they are, who they serve and what their purpose is.

Paul is saying that it’s not his job (nor is it the Church’s job) to judge people on the outside who are sinning. If you are a Christian and you are judging people who don’t know Christ, what are you doing? Of course, they’re sinning. They don’t know Christ!

But if you are a Christian and you know someone in the Church, a fellow Christian, a God-follower, who is sinning — judging is your responsibility. Part of the reason for the Church is to help keep Christians on the path. The world is so easy to fall into. It’s alluring and it seems wonderful for the moment, but it’s dangerous and deceitful. And part of the reason God gave us each other is to help us stay accountable. The Church is there to keep us honest. And if you can’t find accountability at your church, why are you going there?

Everyone hates the word “judging” and with good reason. Judging has a connotation of someone standing from a far distance looking down their nose at you thinking that they’re better than you. That’s not judging, at least not in this context. That’s arrogance and pride. Judging, in this context, is recognizing that a fellow brother or sister is sinning, and that they need help.

So help them.

Ask them about it. Be concerned for them.

I’m kicking myself because I had the opportunity to do this last weekend, and I didn’t. I saw someone (someone I know; that’s important) who I know has gotten into trouble and who doesn’t really seem repentant about it as far as I can tell, and I didn’t stop to talk. I didn’t stop at all. Granted, I was in between services and probably would have been late. But all I would have had to do was ask her to wait until the service was over so we could talk … because I was worried about her … because I wanted to make sure she was okay and that she had her head on straight.

Now … that Christian will either accept your concern with grace … or they’ll hate you. Actually, I this one would have hated me. But has anyone bothered to talk to her? Or is everyone just shrugging it off as a mistake?

And I’m certainly not saying that I’ve got everything put together yet. I don’t. But I’m tired of seeing Christians passing through the Church, living their lives as though Christ means nothing to them, and no one saying anything about it. If it were me, I really do think I would appreciate someone loving me enough to point out what needs to change in my life, as long as they do it in love. With kindness and compassion. With the heart of a servant.

It’s not wrong to expect Christians to behave like Christians. It’s not asking too much. If the Corinthian church could ask it of themselves, why can’t we? So don’t lower your expectations; just learn how to communicate. And remember that nobody’s perfect. None of us have this figured out. But that’s why we have each other.

Two tea cups in the hotel cabinet - Old Towne Hotel, Wichita, KS

Staying sharp

A knife can only cut something so many times before it gets dull. When I was growing up, we had sharp knives that we used to chop onion or celery, but they were so dull they did more smashing than cutting. I remember that my mom took them to be sharpened once, and when they came back we had to be very careful when we chopped with them.

What is interesting about knives is that you can’t expect to sharpen them using a material lesser than what they are made from. Anything less than the material they’re made from, and the knife will cut through.

Two tea cups in the hotel cabinet - Old Towne Hotel, Wichita, KS

Two tea cups in the cabinet – Old Towne Hotel, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 27:17.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

I’m a pretty independent person, and I’m an introvert to boot. So I’m not one of those people who runs around looking for new friends all the time. I’m not against making new friends, but it’s not my first priority.

And although there are times when I love to be alone, I recognize fully that I need people around me at other times.

No one person is an island. We weren’t created to be on our own all the time. God made us with the concept of community in mind. We need each other. We need each other to keep each other honest, to help us stay accountable to the promises and the choices we’ve made, and to help us get up again when we fall down.

There’s another verse that I blogged on some time ago about how two people are better than one because when one falls down the other can help them up. And that’s very true. But what kind of people are you choosing for your friends?

That can make a major difference in how you live your life. Friends are a huge influence. The people you spend your time with will determine a lot about you and about the choices you will make.

Friendship is just like trying to keep a knife sharp. If you choose a friend who is at a different place in their walk with God than you are and you decide to make that friend the closest one in your arsenal, you’re going to struggle. I’m not trying to be snobbish here. This is just a fact.

If you have one knife made out of steel and another knife made out of wood, what’s going to happen to the wood knife? The wood knife is going to be destroyed, and the steel knife will only get duller.

But what happens when you put a steel knife with a steel knife? They sharpen each other. They turn out better than they were before you started sharpening them. That’s what happens with friends who are walking with God the same way you are. You can point out the places where you’re struggling. You can help each other understand (or at least deal with) the things God is doing in both your lives. You can encourage each other to keep going.

Iron sharpens iron. Steel can’t sharpen itself. It will just get duller and duller. And it will cut through anything of a less quality material, but if you match it against more steel, it will be stronger than it was before.

If you want to maintain a solid biblical walk, get yourself a solid biblical friendship and hold on to it. There will be times when it’s not fun, especially when you need to admit you’ve done something wrong, but more often than not, you’ll build a relationship with another believer that will last through your lifetime on earth.

There is nothing more awesome than staying out with a cup of coffee and a friend you know you can trust, encouraging each other and reminding each other that God is still working even if you can’t see it right now.

Sunset at the farm

What God expects from us

I am a people pleaser. I like to make people happy, and I like people to be happy with each other. But in order to please people, I have to know their expectations. It’s impossible to please someone until you know what makes them happy. And that holds true at work, at home, or wherever else you go, no matter what relationship you’re in. If the other person in your relationship, whether it be a friend or a family member or a coworker or a boss, never expresses his or her expectations for you, you’ll never know how to please them. You’ll never know how to meet those expectations.

Sunset at the farm

Sunset at the farm - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Micah 6:8.

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Have you ever been frustrated with God because He can’t talk to you? Or because you can’t see Him? There are days when I really wish He would just appear so that we could talk face to face and get a few things out in the open.

Some days I just want to get a clear answer from Him so I know what He is expecting from me.

Does He just want me to have faith? I know that having faith is what pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6). But there are many different ways to have faith. Does He want me to keep working where I’m working? Does He want me to keep living where I’m living? Does He want me to pick up everything, sell all I own, and go somewhere else? All three options require faith, so which one is the right one? Which one will make Him happy with me? What does He want from me?

Micah, who wrote the Book of Micah, was an Old Testament prophet. And if you’ve never studied the Old Testament prophets, you should that these guys were hardcore. They usually ended up in really dangerous situations because of the things God commanded them to say. They faced kings and queens and delivered messages of doom from God. They stood up for what was right in the times when doing right wasn’t popular. Well, beyond that, I guess. They just stood up for what was right, even facing down kings who usually did the right thing but sometimes strayed. Like David and the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:7).

We live in a world where doing the right thing is difficult. We live in a culture where good has become bad and bad has become good. I laughed at something I saw on Facebook yesterday about one of the presidential candidates, a list of six things people needed to know about him. It was presented as though every item was evil, and I have to say I probably agreed with every one of them. Maybe that makes me a “bad person” as far as the world is concerned, but each item on that list was a biblical response to something in our culture that the Bible says is wrong.

And it’s getting worse every day. The world and our people and our culture are all slowly circling the drain. We aren’t going to go on like this forever. And when we’re all called to account after everything is over, we aren’t going to be able to tell God that we didn’t do what was right because we didn’t know.

We all know. Because God has told us what is good. He’s told us what’s right; He’s told us what wrong; and nobody has an excuse.

No, God hasn’t appeared to anyone I know and explained the intricacies of His expectations, but He did give us the Bible. And as much as possible, He presented it to us in a way that leaves no doubt of its authenticity.

I have encountered many people who want to argue about the Bible. They want to discuss it and disprove it — but they’ve never read it. How can you discuss something you’ve never read? How can you disprove something if you’ve never studied it? Maybe this is wrong of me, but I refuse to have a discussion (let alone an argument) about the Bible with someone who won’t read it. Because until they read it, they are merely regurgitating other peoples’ opinions about it.

Evidence is abundant that the Bible is true. If you doubt that, go study it. But you can’t deny that God is clear in Scripture. He tells us what He expects from us in Scripture, over and over and over again. It’s our choice to read it and hear it and do it.

Do right. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God. That’s what God expects.