One of the best meals in the world--Pollo con Crema from Las Puertas, Flores, Guatemala

You can afford to be generous

Did you hear the news story the other day about the sports star who left a $.20 tip? I think it was a sports guy. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention. I just remember thinking that was pretty cheap.

Even if your service is awful in a restaurant, generally I think it’s a good idea to at least leave a 10% tip. I’m pretty sure 15% is standard in Kansas and 20% is expected in other cities. But I’ve never worked in service, so I don’t know for sure. I just know I’m glad someone is bringing me my food and I don’t have to get up and get it.

What I really hate to hear, though, is about some well-meaning Christ follower leaving a measly tip along with an invite to attend services the following week. I mean, I get what they’re doing, but if you’re going to invite a waiter or waitress to attend your church, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you give them a decent tip.

But why is that so hard to do? Why is tipping so difficult? Is it because food prices have gone up so high that adding that extra 10% or 15% or 20% onto the bill will break you? Or is it because you just haven’t received good service?

I can understand in both circumstances. But leaving a tip, especially if you intend to make it a witnessing opportunity, is more than just a tip. It’s a chance to be Christ to someone else.

One of the best meals in the world--Pollo con Crema from Las Puertas, Flores, Guatemala

One of the best meals in the world–Pollo con Crema from Las Puertas, Flores, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Philemon 1:4-7.

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.

I’m reading Philemon this week, and if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a little bitty book in the back of the New Testament. It’s only one chapter, and it’s jam packed full of awesome.

The back story? It’s basically how Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, encounters this runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul leads Onesimus to Christ in prison, and then he writes a letter to Onesimus’s owner, Philemon, who is a well-known Christ-follower. And Paul begs Philemon to forgive Onesimus for running away and welcome him back not only into his employment as a fellow man but also as a brother in Christ.

It’s a tiny little chapter. Go read it.

And what Paul says in this passage really resonated with me. If you have faith, you’ll be generous. It’s plain and simple. And it’s true if you think about it. The most generous people I’ve ever known have a boatload of faith. Why? Well, they believe that God will bless them when they give their resources away in His name.

I don’t know about sports stars, but Christians should have faith. If you’re a Christ-follower, if you’ve chosen to believe in Christ to save you from your sins so you can have a relationship with God, you have faith. Period. And if you have faith, you should learn how to be generous.

But how do you get there? Well, check out the verse.

You learn to be generous through faith after you understand and experience the goodness of God. Can anyone speak to that? I can. I’ve known God long enough to be stunned speechless when I think about everything He has done for me.

And if God can afford to be so generous with me, why can’t I be generous with other people? No, I don’t have a lot to give financially, but I can give what I can. God will bless it. I don’t have as much time as I used to have either, but what I have, I can give to people and causes that need it. And God will bless it. But most of all, I have what God has given me—and that’s love. And love is the most expensive, free gift in the world, and since the love I can offer others comes from God, my store is unlimited.

So don’t be stingy with the resources God has given you. You’ve had faith He would provide in the past, and He did. So put that faith into action and be generous with the people around you, whether that’s financially or emotionally.

Maybe you can’t afford it, but God can. And it’s His bank you’re pulling from in the first place.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Loving the differences in other people

Stop what you’re doing right now. Think about someone you know who you don’t understand. Not someone you get who does strange things. I mean someone who you genuinely don’t grasp the way his or her mind works.

We all have these people in our lives, and they come in all shapes and sizes. They’re in every kind of relationship. Close. Not-so-close. Distant. And they’re just puzzling. You scratch your head at them because no matter how you try, you just can’t figure them out.

But just because you don’t understand them doesn’t make them wrong. Have you ever thought about it that way? Sure it’s tempting to just write them off, but that’s not fair–to them or to you. Because if you write off someone with a different life perspective just because you don’t understand them, you’re missing the opportunity to see the world in a different way. And you never know. Maybe his or her different view of God can help you resolve the questions you didn’t even know you had.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Combine harvesting across the street from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Todays verses are 1 Corinthians 12:14-18.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

We are all different. All of us. Every one. Not a single person is the same. Find two people who think the same, talk the same, finish each other’s sentences (or sandwiches, if you’ve seen Frozen), and you can still put their brains side by side and their thought processes will be entirely different.

That’s the beauty and the brilliance and the sheer uniqueness of God’s creation.  We are all designed to fulfill different roles. We are meant to do different things, and if we start envying the roles of other people, we lose sight of what makes us unique.

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters--Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters–Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

I thought I’d add this photo in for a laugh. These are my sisters. Not by blood but by choice. The four of us are really odd, and for being so completely different from each other, we have a lot in common. We embrace what makes us different from each other. Where one of us is weak, someone else is strong.

That’s the key. Embracing what makes us different. So you’re good at speaking? Awesome. I’m not, and I’m fine with not being good at speaking. But I’m great at putting words together on a page so you can read them to a room full of people. We can help each other. We can work together to accomplish something awesome for God. Instead of focusing on how our differences separate us, maybe we should focus on how we can use our different talents to bring glory to the One who created us.

But it’s not easy. If you’ve ever tried to understand someone  else who is wired completely differently than you are, you know it’s not easy. And that’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the chapter in the Bible about embracing our differences is followed directly by the chapter about how to love each other.

1 Corinthians 13 is called the Love Chapter. Sounds like a cheesy romance book, I know, but bear with me. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, and it’s all about the kind of love that only comes from God. It’s the kind of love Christians are to have for each other.

We won’t make it without this kind of love. Without this kind of love, the differences between people will drive them apart. Without this kind of love, a person can’t live. Not really.

So what does this mean for us today? Well, consider that friend of yours, the one you can’t understand. Instead of getting frustrated that they can’t see things from your perspective, try to see things from their perspective. Be kind. Be patient. Love like it says to love in 1 Corinthians 13, and not only will you learn something about that friend, you’ll probably learn something about yourself.

Aspen leaves at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Even God’s family has responsibilities

Have you ever thought about your responsibilities as a Christ follower? Because we do have responsibilities. I don’t know if anybody really talks about it, but those responsibilities do exist.

I think it’s really easy to forget that God has a plan for each of our lives, especially because people don’t really talk about what He expects from us very often. And some of that may be fear of confusing salvation by works with salvation by grace through faith, but just because we’re afraid of confusing people with a topic isn’t reason enough to avoid talking about it.

In every family, each member has a responsibility. Sort of like in a body, where every part has something it’s designed to do.  When I was little and my family would go camping, each one of us had an assigned job at the campsite, and it was our responsibility to do our part, otherwise things just didn’t get done. So when we choose to join the family of God, why do we think it’s any different?

Aspen leaves at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Aspen leaves at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Luke 12:48.

When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

This is a verse I grew up with, but in thinking about it this morning, it took on new meaning to me. Every American Christian has been given much, whether you are the wealthiest person in the United States or the poorest. Americans have freedom and opportunity, and if we’re willing to work hard, we can better ourselves. That’s not the case in other countries.

So regardless of how you grew up or when you came to know Christ, as a Christian in America, you have a responsibility to use your resources to help others come to know God through Jesus too. You have a responsibility to love people.

But I want to narrow in on a certain group of Christians out there, one that I have a particular burden for. Because I’m one of them. We’re the Christians who started going to church in a baby carrier. We’re the Christians who grew up with the Bible in our homes and, in some cases, in our schools. We’re the ones who’ve known Jesus since we were children.

So what? What difference does that make? What difference does it make if you’ve known Christ since you were 7 versus 47?

If you’ve been given a lot, a lot will be required of you. But if you’ve been entrusted with a lot, even more will be required. The Amplified Version says: “required and demanded of you.”

If you’re a Christian who was raised in a godly home, who had access to a Bible from the earliest days of your youth, who had parents who taught you to respect God and love Him, who had a church that encouraged you to grow in maturity, you haven’t just been given much. You’ve been entrusted with much. And there’s a big difference.

Do you think it was an accident you were born in a Christian home with a Christian family? No. That was part of God’s plan (just like it was part of God’s plan if you weren’t born in a Christian home with a Christian family). There are no accidents. There are no coincidences.

So what are you going to do with that? I’ve known too many Christians who were raised in families that loved God–not perfect families but what family is perfect?–who decided the God-thing wasn’t for them. Too many people who came to know Christ at a young age are just sitting back and doing nothing with the opportunities God has given them.

That’s why long-time Christians find new believers so refreshing. Their faith is so new, so exciting, so alive. Well, guess what, Long-Time Christian? Your faith can be new, exciting, and alive too. You just have to work at it. You just have to keep testing it, keep pushing it, keep expecting God to do amazing things. And He will.

But you can’t sit back and just wait for it to happen. You have to get up. You have to get moving. You have a responsibility to use the knowledge and experience and the life that God has given you to help others.

Imagine what our churches would look like if the experienced Christians actually stood up and did something instead of expecting to be served. What I’m seeing is that the new Christians are the ones jumping up to participate in ministry, and that’s spectacular! That’s the best way to keep growing in faith. But what about the folks who have grown up with their faith? What about the people who’ve known Christ for 20, 30, 40, 50 years? Where are they? What are they doing for Christ today?

I don’t want to pick on anyone. I just want to ask the questions. And I want to hold myself to the same standard. If I’m not doing anything for Christ today, then I’m wasting the life He gave me. I’m wasting the knowledge of the Bible that He gave me. I’m wasting the relationship He gave me. And I’m missing out on a HUGE opportunity to witness the impossible.

Maybe you grew up in a Christian home and you think this God-thing isn’t for you. Can I respectfully urge you to reconsider? You don’t have to have your parents’ faith for God to be real in your life. Actually, you can’t have your parents’ faith. You have to have your own.

No, you can’t lose your salvation. No, God will never reject you. But I can pretty much guarantee you that He won’t be happy with you if you treat His gifts like they aren’t important.

If you grew up in a Christian home, if you’ve known Christ since you were a child, and you aren’t actively involved in serving others today, you’re in trouble. Because you’re part of a family. You’re part of God’s family. And you have a responsibility to that family. You’ve been entrusted with the greatest responsibility there is–loving people, helping people meet Christ–and if you throw it away or ignore it because it makes you uncomfortable or because it’s too much work, God is going to have something to say about that.

A pink saddle at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Being kind to people who you really just want to smack

Loving people is hard work. Have you ever noticed that? I mean, some people are easy to love. They’re those people who make you better. They’re the people who brighten your day when you see them. And I am so very fortunate to be surrounded by people who encourage me and make my life bright. But then, there are the other people. And they are everywhere. You know who I’m talking about. Christian or non-Christian, old or young, at work or at school or at home or even on the street, the other people take your happy mood and stomp all over it. And they almost seem to enjoy doing it. Maybe they would enjoy doing if they enjoyed anything.

Don’t pretend like you aren’t thinking of someone right now. We all have them in our lives. Those people who we cringe when we see coming. I’ve got a couple (no one in my close inner circle though, thank God), and I wish I could tell you I was a good enough Christian that I embrace them with loving, open arms. But that would be a lie. More often than not, I hide. Because hiding is so much better than having to talk to them. Because talking to them runs the risk of me saying something regrettable out loud.

After all, why not? What if they deserve it? What if that extraordinarily irritating person really just needs to be put in his or her place? What if that obstinate, arrogant moron needs a good talking to so that they understand they’re the ignorant ones?

A pink saddle at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

A pink saddle at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS (because I’m going to get on my horse and ride, this morning, folks)

Today’s verses are John 13:34-35.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

This passage makes me clench my teeth because there are days–so many days–when the last thing I want to do is love people. I don’t want to love people, especially stupid people. But guess what? Do you know who said this?

Yup. Jesus Himself said this. And there’s no misunderstanding this, no matter what language you read it in, no matter what translation you read it in (yes, for any of you who might be wondering if I’m a heathen, I read multiple translations at the same time! *gasp*). And I believe if Jesus says it, I should do it, whether I want to do it or not, whether I feel like it or not, whether I even like it or not.

Jesus says to love people. I’m supposed to love people like He loves people.

Really?

Yes. Really. (Yes, I’m talking to myself right now.)

But Jesus isn’t telling us to roll over and let people walk over us. He isn’t saying that we’re supposed to walk around with our heads hanging low, sighing unhappily about how we’re supposed to love everyone. “Ho-hum. I have to love that idiot who told a lie about me.” News flash, folks. That’s not love.

Okay. I’m a little snarky this morning. Maybe I should apologize. But there’s a reason.

See, I had planned to do this post anyway because there are just certain people I encounter in life who I have a hard time being kind to. I have a hard time loving them because they just make it so dang hard. So I was going to post about loving each other anyway–and then I discovered that another WordPress blogger decided to repost something I said yesterday and proclaim to all the Internets that I am a Christian Infidel. And most of it stemmed from the fact that I made a somewhat derogatory comment about the King James Version of the Bible.

(Although my statement was less about the KJV and more about people who carry them around clubbing others with them…. “I’ll leave you to your deductions.”)

And you know, I wasn’t even angry about it. It made me laugh more than anything else. But then I got to thinking about it when I started this post. If I had the opportunity to speak to this person, what would I say to him? Not that he would care about anything I say. Obviously, he didn’t read my post. He just pulled out the part he didn’t like and decided I’m a horrible sinner (which I honestly can’t deny). But what would I say? What would I think? Could I look him in the eye and tell him that I love him? In spite of the fact that he’s pretty much twisting my words?

Well, that’s what I need to do. That’s what Jesus does with all of us, if you think about it. How often have I twisted the Bible to suit my own preferences? I’m sure I have. Everyone does. I wish we didn’t, but we do. We don’t want to submit to God’s authority, so we take it on ourselves to rationalize God’s truth to make ourselves feel better about our actions, about our inaction, about the way we treat others. Jesus knows we do that, and He still tells us that He loves us. That’s what makes Him different. That’s what makes Him Jesus.

Christians, that’s what makes us different. When we can look at the people who hurt us, the people who use us, the people who make us so angry we could just scream and tell them that we love them, they can’t say anything against it. When we look at those people–the ones who deserve to hurt, the ones who we think should be punished–and tell them that we love them because Jesus loves us, it shows that what we believe isn’t just for show. It proves that what we believe is real.

And that’s what the world needs right now. The world doesn’t need a translation of the Bible; the world needs the message of the Bible. The world doesn’t need another religious person wandering around making everyone feel guilty; the world needs to know how much Christ loves them and what He did to save them.

That’s what will change the world. It’s not me and it’s not you. It’s Jesus and His love, and the most amazing, awesome, incredible gift He has ever given us is the power and the strength and the courage to love people who don’t deserve it.

So I’m going to march over to my new friend’s blog and thank him for the pingback. He can do what he wants with it, but because of what Jesus has done for me, I am determined to love people today, especially the ones who make me mad. So watch out! If you piss me off today, I’m going to hug you!

Linda Reazin's wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Look for the chance to do good

Why is it so much easier to criticize someone than it is to praise them? Have you noticed that? It’s a lot easier to find fault with someone than it is to recognize them for something they did right. Maybe that’s because I’m a perfectionist.

But then how does that explain the strange urge people seem to get when they sit around in groups—to point out anything and everything that’s wrong in their personal situation or in the world in general? Am I alone in noticing that the negativity in our culture seems to be spiraling out of control?

So how do we, as Christ followers, deal with that?

Linda Reazin's wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Linda Reazin’s wonderful toffee made every year for Judgement House, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:10.

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have the opportunity to do something nice for somebody else? I think we all have. But how many of us have done it? How many of us have seized that opportunity?

It’s easy to talk about being nice to others. It’s not as easy to actually do it. Being nice to other people takes effort, especially if you’ve had a bad day. But the Bible clearly says in more than one place that we need to be kind to each other, and it’s not just talking about Christians being kind to Christians. Christians need to be kind to nonbelievers. Christians, we need to be kind to everyone.

As followers of Christ, we are called to do good. What does that mean? Do good. If it will help someone, if it will make someone smile, if it will show God’s love to someone, do it. And when are we supposed to do this? Well, if you take Scripture literally, right up there it says whenever you have the opportunity.

Whenever you have the chance to do good for someone, do it. And I love how Paul emphasizes the part about doing good to other believers. Sometimes other believers are the most difficult to be kind to. But the way Christians treat each other is supposed to show the world that we’re different.

So be on the lookout for someone you can be kind to. Keep your eyes peeled for someone you can help. You can hold doors for people. You can help people carry groceries or take their cart to the return bin. You can smile at someone in line. You can speak kindly to the stressed-out college student in the drive-thru. You can watch for the opportunity to be an encouragement to someone else.

If you do that, if you spend your time looking for the opportunities to do good, you’ll find you don’t have time to give into the negativity. And soon you’ll find that you don’t want to. And the more time you spend being an encouragement, the more likely people around you will pick up on it too.

Negativity may be contagious, but the best way to fight it is to look for opportunities to brighten people’s lives.