A toenail doesn’t have to be friends with an eyeball

Who is that person in your life that you just don’t understand? Is it a family member or a coworker? I know people who just bug the fire out of me, and I really want nothing more than to shake them or throw something at them or pop off and tell them what I really think of them.

Of course, when it comes right down to it, I’m not nearly bold enough to do any of that. So I resort to creating characters like them in novels and making them look dumb. Yes, passive aggressive. I know. I’m working on it.

But do you ever wonder why you have to put up with it? The Bible is so full of examples of Jesus’ patience and goodness toward stupid people, and it frustrates me. Because I don’t want to be nice to stupid people. I want to be angry at them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday’s verses are 2 Timothy 2:23-26.

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up in the church, it’s that not all Christ-followers agree. When I was younger, that bothered me, because I thought everybody had to agree. We all have to believe the same thing, don’t we?

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, friends, but you’ll never see a time when everyone in a church–or any gathering of people–believes the same thing. Sure, you can agree on the basics. You can find common ground on the important things. But everyone sees life differently or has lived a different kind of life.

Those differences are valuable if you harness them, but if you let them drive a wedge between people, they can tear everything you’ve built down.

As you follow Christ, you’re going to encounter other Christ-followers who come from different cultures and different traditions and different perspectives. If they truly follow Christ, you can have a deep relationship with them because you have something in common with each other, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to agree on every subject. And that’s okay.

A Christ-follower from Africa is going to have a very different view of life and living than a Christ-follower from Canada. That doesn’t mean one is wrong and the other is right. What matters is that both people believe in Jesus for their salvation. But for some reason people love to point out things that are different, and once they see something that’s different, if it threatens them, they’re likely to decide it’s bad.

But if the Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong, who are we? If God doesn’t have a problem with it, why do we?

Our differences make us stronger. It all comes back to the Body of Christ. We all have different jobs, different loves, different passions, different talents, and we all come together in the name of Christ to serve Him. But if you’re the hands of the Body, don’t be telling the lips what to say, and vice versa. If you’re the feet, you don’t know how the eyes work. If you’re the ears, you’ve got a different job than the nose.

Because we’re different, we complement each other. Because we’re different, we are stronger together than we are alone. But because we’re different, it’s hard to remember that sometimes. Being different is difficult. We don’t communicate the same way. We don’t see life the same way. And if we aren’t careful, all we’ll start to see is the differences, and before long, we’ll convince ourselves that we’re too different to work together.

What would happen if your body parts decided they were too different to work together anymore? Yup. You’d fall apart. And the same thing will happen with the Church.

So give each other a break. Yes, we’re different, and that’s the point. You’re going to run into members of the Body that drive you crazy. And you’re not going to understand them, and they’re not going to understand you. Imagine a toenail trying to comprehend an eyeball. One is hard. The other is soft. One protects, and the other is protected. They have absolutely nothing in common, except that they are both in the Body.

Maybe that’s all you have in common with that person in your life that you don’t understand. And if that’s the case, that’s fine. A toenail doesn’t have to be best friends with an eyeball, but they do need to recognize that they each do an important job–and they have to do it their own way.

If you focus on what makes you different, you’ll be frustrated and angry because how are you supposed to get along with someone you don’t understand? But if you focus on the things you have in common, understanding each other won’t really matter. Instead, you’ll enjoy getting to see the other person’s point of view.

Yeah, they might learn something from you, but you might learn something from them too. We’re different for a reason. And that reason isn’t to destroy each other. It’s to learn from each other.

Advertisements

Do your loved ones know how much they matter?

I usually avoid a lot of current events when I’m putting a devotional together in the mornings before work. Mostly, news I hear about is so depressing it’s just not worth bringing up, but something happened this week that I just couldn’t stop thinking about.

Robin Williams died.

I know of many actors who have passed away. Many comedians who graced the stage and made people laugh, dramatists who made people cry, artists who brought the fantastic to life. But I really think this is the first time an actor who I really liked has died–not of old age, not of natural causes, but apparently by taking his own life.

I can’t even tell you how many Robin Williams movies I’ve seen. I own lots of them. The man just made me laugh. And it’s heartbreaking to think that someone who brought so many people so much joy couldn’t find enough meaning in his own life to keep living it.

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

I know it’s probably understood. I know it’s probably something that everyone has already thought of. But when was the last time you went out of your way to tell someone important to you what they mean to you?

I’m not talking about strangers on the street. I’m talking about people in your family. People in your home. People you go to church with. People you live life with.

Do they know what you feel?

Don’t just assume they know. Obviously, I can’t speak for Robin Williams or for anyone else who has taken his or her life. But I can speak from experience when it comes to feeling alone and isolated, like I can’t do anything right, like I’ve failed. I know what depression feels like.

And when somebody is so deep in depression that they would consider taking their own life, they need to know they matter. It’s not just love. It’s not just respect. It’s purpose.

We can have all the love and respect and success in the world, but it won’t give us purpose. God is the only one who can accomplish that. Sometimes God communicates purpose through Scripture. Sometimes He does it through the Holy Spirit. Other times, He does it through His children–us–who are called to love others.

So how are we doing on that one? Not with strangers on the street even. I mean in our own families.

Do you think someone you love is depressed? Do you suspect someone you care about is on the edge? Don’t assume they know how you feel.

When you’ve convinced yourself that you’re alone and isolated, you don’t know anything for sure. When you’ve talked yourself into believing that you can’t do anything right, a pat on the back isn’t enough.

Maybe you think it’s overkill. Maybe you don’t think they need it.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather annoy them than take the chance that they convince themselves the world would be better off without them.

It’s their choice. That decision is up to them. It’s between them and God, just like the condition of their heart is between them and God. But don’t leave it like that. Don’t just leave them alone to sort things out by themselves. People lost in depression think they want to be alone, but they don’t really. They don’t really know what they want.

It’s my experience that people lost in depression just need to know that they matter. And they need to hear more than just words. They need to remember that they’ve made a difference, and they need to see that the world really is a brighter place because they’re in it.

And I don’t know how to accomplish that. I think it’s different for every person. But it has to start somewhere. It has to start with someone. And it might as well be us, Christ-followers.

God didn’t give us His Light so we could use it to beat people up. He gave it to us so we could push back the darkness and the lies of our enemy and help the world see how much God treasures us and what God gave up so that we could have a purpose.

Wherever you go, wherever you are, whatever you do, keep your eyes open and recognize that our broken world is full of broken, hurting people who just need to know they aren’t alone. And remember that without Christ, we’d be right there with them.

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.

Momma red panda at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Say thanks before the joy fades

When you talk to God and ask Him for things, do you ever really expect a response? I mean, seriously, do you honestly expect Him to reply to you? Maybe not in an audible voice but in some way that you can’t deny it’s Him?

Momma red panda at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Momma red panda at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 28:7.

The Lord is my strength and shield.
    I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

When God has answered prayers for me recently, He’s done it in a specific way that tells me and shows me exactly who He is. And in the last month, even though it’s been difficult, I can tell you that I have greater trust in Him than I ever have.

And I can identify with David in this when he wrote, “He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.”

Has that ever happened to you?

It’s like a camera flash when you realize exactly what’s happening, when exactly what you asked for occurs. Warm and blinding but then kind of leaves you with a tingly feeling. Maybe that’s just me. For me, it takes a few moments to get over the actual shock of it but then, I can’t stop grinning. Or crying. Or both. Because knowing that God hears you and understanding that God hears you are two very separate concepts.

God, the inventor of the sunrise, the shaper of the universe, the genius behind the duck-billed platypus, listens to our requests and many times answers. And He doesn’t just answer; many times, He answers personally. It’s like getting the perfect Christmas gift from someone who knows you better than you know yourself.

I’ve got the joy part down. What I sometimes forget is the thanksgiving part. Sometimes it’s hard for me to move past the shock that He actually answered. Other times, I move on from the shock straight into action, like the nine lepers Christ healed who didn’t come back to say thank you (Luke 17:11-19). And I need to be like the one who came back and thanked Him.

Joy is great. And understanding the concept of Someone like God paying attention to our requests is beyond awesome. But let’s not take it for granted. We need to make sure He knows that we’re thankful.

So tell Him. Like you’re talking to a friend on the phone. My new car God provided me with has integrated Bluetooth so I can talk on the car’s connection, but I’m sure it looks like I’m nuts. But that’s sort of what it’s like, talking to God (not that you’re nuts; but that you’re just talking).

Tell Him what you’re thankful for. He wants to hear. Yes, He knows if you’re thankful, but something happens when you tell people you’re thankful. It’s a humility thing. It deepens your relationship because you’re admitting that someone else did something for you that you might not have done for yourself.

So tell Him. He’s waiting to hear from you. Don’t let that joy you felt when you realized the answer came from Him fade away. Do it now.