Speak truth in love.

I know you have been on the wrong end of someone who is trying to correct you but with the seemingly most evil intention. As they reprimanded you, you saw the anger in the eyes, heard the demeaning tone of their voice and the self-righteous pedestal they stood on. You walked away from that interaction with a new realization. You made a decision to stay away from them at all cost. Instead of a friend or family member who had your back, you placed them in a metaphorical phone booth you’d never call if you ever needed anything in life.

Now they thought fear and anger and belittling would get your attention, make you change, transform your direction in life. But in fact, it did the opposite. And, by the way, that is not at all how Jesus calls us to interact with each other.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds us that the tongue is hard to control (James 3) and it’s so true. Paul calls us to a different way of living, the Jesus way in Ephesians 4:29-5:1. Paul reminds us in that text that kind of behavior is of the world and it brings sorrow to the Holy Spirit. That is an emotional response for the Spirit of God. I know God listens to our conversations and he’s hurt that his followers would speak to each other with anger, fear, loathing, and a belittling attitude.

Paul encourages the church (that’s us) to mature in our faith and be more like Jesus. He calls us to ignore cultural tendencies and cultural scripts in Ephesians 4:14 and says when we mature in Christ, we’ll be different. In verse 15 Paul says speak truth to one another in love. It’s so important we continue to speak the truth of how Jesus has called us to follow him but with the understanding first, I have the love of Jesus in my very soul…that my heart is full of love and grace and mercy for those with whom I’m interacting.

Paul shows us what this looks like as he writes the church in Corinth. This congregation had some issues and Paul is trying to get them to be the church that Jesus would want them to be. Although he is correcting them all through the letters, he uses phrases like “my beloved children” and “my brothers and sisters”. He’s reminding them of his love for them and his desire that they act and live like Jesus has transformed them.

So some questions you can ask yourself as you step into the lives of people you’re trying to influence for good. “Is my motive to help or to hurt?” Often we want to “pay back” someone for the way they spoke to us. We are called to help one another.

“Am I saying this because it will make me feel better or help them?” Sometimes, we just want to get something off our chest because we’ll feel better and say it in such a way we leave a train wreck in our wake.

Finally, “What does my tone communicate?” Body language and intonation make up as much as 93% of what we say. Our tone can build bridges or walls. If we truly want transformation, Jesus calls us to build bridges.

So be people who speak truth IN LOVE. Be Jesus. Be kind. Use every opportunity to change the world for the better. Blessings on your journey.

Overflow.

Have you ever been at a spillway after an incredible storm? The swell of the all the water moving over the spillway is mesmerizing. It can’t be held back. It will flow over the top of the spillway.

James says our tongue is similar. Our tongue is difficult to control which makes it important what we put in our heart. James, the brother of Jesus and early church leader knew how difficult it was to control what we say. He gives several visuals how powerful the tongue is in our relationships.

He likens our tongue to the bit in a horse’s mouth which is able to steer the large animal one way or another. He says it is similar to the rudder on a ship, able to guide it north or south. And he says it’s like a forest fire which is so difficult to control.

You know, we speak on average 16,000 words a day and have about 30 conversations a day. So, as followers of Jesus, we need to be careful and guard our words. How we speak has everything to do with what we put in our hearts. At least that’s what Jesus said. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus says out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. So it calls us to take a discipleship-type inventory of what we put in.

The call today is to limit your social media intake as well as what we’re watching on TV, Netflix, and the movies. Give it a try. For the next 3 days, or 7 days, or 10 days, replace those things with reading a spiritual blog, reading the Bible in depth, increasing your prayer life and journaling. Rather than sitting on the couch vegging out, find a ministry to plug into and serve someone else rather than your own needs. There are lots of opportunities at any church or in your community.

Our faith should be worth enough to CHANGE the way you do life. Jesus’ words should prompt us to plant positive, healthy seeds in our heart. We want to be people who are affirming, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and healthy resource for others to be around. Give it a try! Don’t wait another moment to getting your heart in better shape to look more like Jesus. Blessings on your journey.

The Power of Words

Each of you has a story about someone who encouraged you, built you up, stuck with you, and empowered you. You remember them and are so grateful for their influence in your life. Equally, you remember someone who degraded you, ignored you, tore you down, and made you feel small. You wished those moments hadn’t happened.

Words have power. Words are important. How you use them is equally important. Take a look at the creation story in Genesis 1-2. God simply speaks things into existence. He says, “Let there be light. and there was light.” That’s how powerful words can be and the person using them.

Words can be a negative as well, even when they are not true. Like in Genesis 3 when Satan speak death into the life of Adam and Eve and all of creation. He questions God’s words and in so doing, the sinful, human condition comes into existence.

But then God sends “The Word” into the world in John 1. Jesus, the Word in the flesh, comes into the world. In Genesis, God speaks light into darkness. In John, God sends light into darkness. And Jesus’ words during his ministry on earth speak life and love and peace and joy and forgiveness to all his creation.

Now, we are made in the image of God which means we too can speak life and love to all those around us. Give is shot. Don’t say, “I’ve already tried it. It doesn’t work.” At least try for a month to live out the image of Jesus in your own life, building others up and not tearing down.

Start with the opening of your day. For 5 minutes each morning, speak the Word of God into your life. Write scripture on post it notes and put on your bathroom mirror to read each morning as you get ready. As you prepare for the day over that cup of coffee, open God’s Word and read the incredible things he’s said to you.

At the end of the day, take a word inventory. How did you speak to people today? If there was a negative, how could you have interacted differently? What attitudes did you experience today? Leaning into how God has called us to imitate his son can change your marriage, relationships with your kids, your work environment and yes, even your own spirit.

Words are powerful. Use them to bring life and love to those around you. Blessings on your journey.

Who's accusing who?

There have been moments in my life when I’ve been accused of something I did not do. Of course, there have also been moments I was accused and stood guilty. Like the time in fifth grade on Signal Mountain, TN when it had iced and snowed. At school, we were told NOT to run and slide on the ice but several of us did so anyway. When we lined up after recess, the principal asked who had been sliding. Several came forward but I was not saying a word until the class bully, Andy, pointed me out and said, “Tim was sliding!”. I got a spanking that day at school…I stood guilty.

You know, that’s what Satan does to you and me. He stands before God and accuses us of the guilt of sin in our lives. The sad thing is, we are guilty.

Satan whispers in our ear and lies to us about sin, encouraging us to give in to our carnal nature and do things our way. “God will understand.” “He would want you to have a good life and this (fill in your sin) will make it good.” But after we sin, we tells us we are worthless, pitiful, unlovable, unforgivable. While that is true, we are also loved beyond measure!

The apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:1, “…if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.” What an exciting realization!! Yes, we’ve made some poor choices but Jesus loves us so much that he gave his life for us. We have forgiveness and a relationship with God because of our advocate, Jesus.

So the next time you hear the voice of the enemy whispering you’re unlovable and unforgivable, remind him that he’s wrong. God loved us so much that while we were sinners, Jesus died for us. We have every reason to rejoice. We are brand new in God’s eyes, no longer guilty but his sons and daughters. Blessings on your journey.

But I want that...

Did you ever want something so bad you could taste it? I remember as a young guy watching Magnum, P.I. He drove that Ferrari Deno. It was sweet. I even hung a poster of it above my bed when I was at Harding University. I always wanted one of those and it is on my bucket list to at least to “rent” and drive one day.

But there are moments when what we want gets in the way of our relationships with people and God and our health. Jesus warns us in Luke 12:13-21, “Beware. Watch out…” Our selfish desires can sneak up on us. With sexual sin, the Bible tells us to “run”. But greed and selfish desire sneaks up on us. There are some things we learn from the story Jesus tells in the text.

Greed can confuse your self-worth. We have to remember “things” do not define us. Jesus does! We are sons and daughters of the Most High God. Jesus is our King and brother. We are made in his image. Nothing on earth compares to that.

Greed can ruin your relationships. Some of my closest friends and even relatives have ended up focusing on money. Every time we were together, it was always about money. And if I didn’t give them money or what they wanted in the moment, I did not love them. At least, that’s what they told me. So, because of greed, I’ve lost many relationships and some have turned into very shallow interaction.

Greed can harden your heart as well. If you’ve seen The Return of the King in the Lord of Ring series, you saw what happened to Gollum. He was a Hobbit that started out fishing with a friend. Before the day was over, they had found the ring and Gollum’s friend was dead. He lost everything after that because he only cared about himself and the ring. If we aren’t careful and live life with open hands, we’ll end up with a closed heart.

But what if your identity was all about what and how you give in your life, not about what you keep? Jesus says at the end of Luke 12, “Your treasure is where your heart is.” I’m not always good at it but I gave my heart to Jesus a long time ago. He is my treasure. Won’t you make him yours? Learning to let go of stuff is a tough one but as followers of Jesus, we learn to let go in order to hang on to him. Blessings on your journey.

Buried Treasure

The 1985 movie, The Goonies, was incredibly fun, adventurous, and well worth the money spent on the movie ticket. It’s a story about some kids who find a map to buried pirate treasure in Oregon. The treasure is guarded by one-eyed Willy, the captain of the pirate ship. The kids need to find the treasure to pay off the foreclosure on their house so they stop at nothing to find it. Everything they do indicates where their treasure is located…on that pirate ship and in their home.

You’ve had moments when your heart was set on something. Maybe it was that first date with that girl or guy you just couldn’t stop thinking about. Or maybe it was the certain college you had to attend to get the degree that would launch your heart-felt career.

Jesus talks about our treasure as well in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. He says, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth…Store your treasures in heaven. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be as well.”

Jesus tells us truth about what we already know deep down. But if you’re a disciple of Jesus, it asks us to truly consider what we are pursing. Like the goonies who left everything to find the treasure, are you willing to give up everything, sacrifice everything, let go of everything in order to discover the treasure that Jesus wants to give you?

The write of Ecclesiastes reminds us in chapter 3, everything is meaningless here on earth. So if that’s true, and I believe it is, it calls us to set our mind on things above. It calls us to let go of any earthly treasure we are pursing to embrace the eternal treasure that Jesus calls us to hold on to. In the end, we’ll discover what Jesus offers is more valuable than any treasure we considered on earth. Blessings on your journey.

Parenting...sheesh!

We all had parents. Two people who did the best they could with the knowledge handed down to them. No baby comes with a handbook. I mean, what do you do if there’s diaper rash, what is diaper rash, what do I do when they cry for apparently no reason, how should I interact when they throw a fit in the middle of Wal-Mart? These are a sampling of the 1000s of questions parents have need to ask.

There are lots of stories in the Bible about parents and their kids. Any one of them could give you a picture of how to do or not to do the raising of your kids. But there is a sweet reminder in 1 Samuel 1-3 of a mom who did the right things to have a great little boy. Equally, in the same text, there is s a picture of a dad who failed at doing the things necessary to have terrific sons. In this story of God-fearing parents, we see at least three important things to do as we raise our kids to love a God who loves them.

We are called to pray for our children. Establish routines in the daily activities for prayer. Pray with your children at meal times, on their way to school, before testing, when you drop them at the Scouting event or the sporting event and when you tuck them in at night. Prayer changes things and it’s important our children see that we believe and pray to a God who is powerful but also personal.

We are called to establish expectations. Our kids need consistent rules and consequences as they grow. They never need to be guessing if today they’ll be in trouble for something they were not in trouble for yesterday. As parents, realize birth-5 years old, you are discipling your child to understand and respect your voice as the one who calls the shots in the home.

Ages 6-11, you are training your children to become experts in what you disciplined them in during their first 5 years. They become more empathetic and sympathetic during these years as well.

Ages 12-19, you are coaching your children. They are home less and less. As they get a car, start working and dating, they will be home less. So, you are on the sideline calling plays and cheering them on. There are moments when you have to take a timeout. You put your arm around them and remind them how they learned to live. Then, you let them get back in the game.

Ages 20+, you become friends. It’s a beautiful moment when your children call you friend. However, this will almost never happen if you haven’t done the hard work of the first three phases.

Lastly, we need to help our children hear and obey God. God can be heard in numerous ways including the Bible, prayer, worship, nature, and mentors in their lives. It’s important that you participate in each of these areas to show them how they hear God’s voice in every instance.

Being a parent is so rewarding but it is hard work. However, with the power of Jesus within you, you can do all things. Pour into your kids like you have limited time…because you do have limited time. Before you know, they walk across the stage and into living their own adult lives. But your hard, diligent work as a parent will pay off as your children become Christ-followers and productive citizens. Children are such a blessing and so is being a parent. Grace and Peace to you.

Davidic Mirror

I was just in Malibu, CA last week at Pepperdine University. What a gorgeous location to be renewed and refreshed. I’m not sure how students ever graduate there as the ocean is right there calling all the time. During our week, speakers focused on King David and his connection to life, love, and God. David was quite the man but not always in the most honorable ways.

David was a selfish man. You see that in 1 Samuel 17 when he fights Goliath. One of the first questions he asks in King Saul’s presence is, “What does the man get who kills Goliath?” We always hear the story of a man defending God’s honor when no one else would stand up and fight. While David did stand up to be counted, he first checked to see what was in it for him.

David was a lustful man. He wanted what was not his to take in the woman Bathsheba. She was married to one of David’s mighty fighting men, Uriah, who was off to war. David used his power as a man in a patristic society and his power as king to have his way with someone else’s wife.

That event allowed us to see David as someone trying to hide and using murder to make his problem go away. Bathsheba’s husband was called home from the war. You see, Bathsheba was pregnant with David’s baby and David wanted to hide what he did so he invited Uriah home to sleep with Bathsheba. Once that happened, David would have no worries. But Uriah would not sleep at home because his men were out in the field fighting. So, David wrote a letter to the general of his army which Uriah delivered on his way back to the front. The letter put him at the front of the fighting which led to Uriah’s demise. David is guilty of committing adultery and murder in this one family.

Yet, we read in the Bible that David was a man after God’s own heart. How? As we look at David closely, we see a flawed man who has sin in his life. But even though he makes poor decisions, God still pursues him and David pursues God. While making major mistakes, we see David never ceases to want to be near God, always seeks God, never rejects God.

And as we watch the life of David, we see ourselves in the story as well. People who have made some poor decisions and made major mistakes. Even so, God still pursues us. He loves us. David is much like the rest of us. We are much like David. So take comfort in knowing God loves you although we are far from perfect. And how are we perfect? Through Jesus Christ his son. Romans 5 reminds us that “while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Don’t get down. Don’t be anxious. We have a real king…the most high king who loves us more than anything. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less than he does right now. Blessings on your journey.

Love and Marriage

“Marriage is what brings us here today…” This quote from the famous marriage scene from “The Princess Bride” is absolutely hilarious. If you haven’t seen this scene before, pull it up on YouTube.

Marriage is one of the constants in my life that is calming, refreshing, and soothes my soul. It’s because my wife understands me, like no one else. I can come to her with any given issue or celebration and she’s right there with me brainstorming ways to reduce the problem to ashes. She is also my number one cheerleader.

The first marriage is found in Genesis 2 with Adam and Eve coming together. The text reveals that God saw it was NOT GOOD for Adam to be alone. Adam had named all the animals and no one was a good match for him. Thank God that was observed. Who knows how life would look if woman had not been created.

God took a rib from Adam and created Eve. Not a bone from the foot or head. I think that is important to see. A companion walks side by side through life. She is not domineering nor walked upon. We both are created in God’s image. We compliment each other. I think of Sid from “Ice Age” when he says, “She completes me.”

We are called to be spiritually united as we walk together in life. If we call ourselves disciples, we must imitate Jesus in our marriage and our family life in the way we treat one another. We are called to be emotionally available to each other to help and support one another. We are called to be physically connected as well. Plan events to do together, share ministry together, turn off your phones and social media and just be together listening to dreams and hopes and fears.

Marriage is more than a piece of paper. It’s two people fully committed to each other and giving God the glory in all of life. May you feel the love of Christ in your marriage. May you desire to lift up your partner in marriage. May your love and life be a real blessing for your spouse and best friend. Blessings on the journey.

It's Monday...

Can you imagine the Monday after Resurrection Sunday? Followers of Jesus up early at the local cafe, drinking coffee and discussing what is going on with Jesus and the empty tomb. Did the Romans take his body? Did the Pharisees decide to move it somewhere else? OR, did Jesus actually do what he said he’d do?

There are two things for certain they say, “Death and taxes.” On the later, I just paid mine. If you haven’t, well you might want to file an extension…they’ll be coming after your first born otherwise. On the first idea, death, well, it seems everyone experiences it. Some fall in combat. Others to disease. Still others live well into their upper 90s but in the end, death will come knocking. No one has ever escaped death.

There is a story in John 11 about a guy named Lazarus. He was the brother of Mary and Martha. He got sick and the sisters called for Jesus to come but when he arrived, Jesus was too late. Lazarus had passed and already been buried. He had been in the grave four days.

Decomposition would have been quick in Jesus’ day. The break down of tissue and blood would have created a smell so incredibly pungent. No embalming process existed except to apply oils to the body skin. But Jesus comes on the scene and asked that the stone be rolled away. And when the Son of God commands Lazarus to come out of the grave, he does just that, still in his burial clothes.

I’ve often wondered about the stories Lazarus told. What did he experience in those four days? What was his relationship like with Jesus after being resurrected? What urgings did he give family and friends about “being ready” when their time came?

You see what we find in the Easter story is that Jesus has conquered everything. Not even death has sway over Jesus. Jesus goes on to say in that Lazarus story, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.”

So, after Easter is over, the stage is torn down, the Easter eggs are found, the incredible family lunch has been eaten, how will you live? The call is to put your life IN Jesus, who is the antidote for death. Put your life in the hands of a savior who can give life even in death.

Grace and Peace on your journey!