We all would like to think that we are special in some way before God. We want to be sure of His love for us and His guiding hand in our lives. For most of us, being special translates into a feeling – an emotional response that produces a sense of security. But is that all there is to being special? For the Christian at least there is much more to it. We know that everyone is not called to follow Jesus and we also know that according to the Bible, God does specifically call some to follow. How does this work? How does God get your attention and touch your heart and mind? What makes us want to respond to God and what might make us shy away from responding to Him? Is it easy to recognize when God is seeking us out and trying to touch our hearts?
Last week we began our conversation by saying that pride can be a tricky thing and prejudice can be an awful thing. We focused our attention on the pride side of the matter and its insidious way of taking over our lives. Now it’s time to talk about prejudice, and this is a hard conversation to have. For most of us, we can observe what we think is prejudice in others. We see a skewed view on some group or approach and we think about how unfortunate it is and wonder why they cannot see a bigger picture. Well, the bigger picture begins with these questions: How prejudiced am I in my view of the world and of others approach? Am I willing and able to recognize prejudice in my own thinking, and when I see it am I willing to attack it with the same passion that I feel about the prejudice of others? Prejudice needs attention and eradication, no matter where it’s found. How do we do that?
Pride can be a tricky thing and prejudice can be an awful thing. Let’s focus on pride right now. On the one hand we are told to take pride in our work – well, at least when I was a kid that’s what I was told! We want to be proud of our children and to be proud of our country. We want to take pride in the things we own and we want to leave a legacy that we can be proud of. So, pride is good! Well, on the other hand, we can see how pride comes before destruction, how pride can skew our view of others and how pride creates temptation to be dishonest. We can see pride becoming obsession, and we can see how pride can create a lack of trust in others, a lack of compassion for others and a lack of credit to others. So, pride is bad! Obviously this is a subject that needs not only clear definitions but clear principles to establish clear thinking. There is only one solution – let’s see what the Bible says!
Failure as everyone knows is an unlooked for and unwelcome commodity in life. It disrupts our plans, impedes our progress, upsets our feelings and is generally intrusive to our lives. As a result of failure’s glowing resume, we often do whatever we can to avoid it, and when we experience it we often try to soft-pedal its impact or even hide its presence. All in all, these descriptions of and reactions to failure are really quite unfortunate. Failure gets too bad a rap. It is judged too harshly. A few weeks ago we began a journey towards a better understanding of failure. In that journey we began to see the place that failure holds in our lives and the value that it can bring us. Let’s get back to it, for success begins when we understand our failures!
241 years ago the course of world history changed, for on July 4th, 1776, the 13 colonies adopted “The Declaration of Independence” and proclaimed themselves to be The United States of America. Since then these United States have risen to become a world power and have been the source of many amazing world innovations. One innovation that seems to never be talked about or even noticed is this country's profound contribution to recognizing, appreciating and preserving the wonders of the natural landscape. Nature. It covers the world with its intricate complexity, its unfathomable beauty and its breathtaking majesty. For most of us, our park system doesn’t feel like an innovation; rather it feels like a common, scarcely noticed commodity – yeah, we have National Parks – cool! Today we stop for a moment and ask how did these National Parks come to be, what was the motivation for their existence and what does all of this have to do with Almighty God?
Nobody likes failure. Even when we have been told that failure is good for us, that it is a stepping stone and that you don’t learn from success nearly as much as you learn from failure, we still don’t like it! For many of us, failure can be discouraging, debilitating and even depressing. So, what do we do with this? We learn from it. We look into the lives of those whom we consider successful and study their failures and their reactions to those failures to see how we can use their experiences to help us navigate our own experiences. The Bible is full of great examples of faithful ones who had many failures, and the Bible is also full of their success stories afterwards. What are we waiting for? Let’s get started with this whole making-failure-work-for-me thing!
We all need to be heard, and we all need to be acknowledged. We all need that feeling of validation that comes with being personally recognized as having value, and all of this comes through the important tool of communication. The problem is that we have become terrible at both the giving and receiving ends of the communication spectrum. Somehow we think that posting, texting, tweeting and emojis can replace actual conversation, looking someone in the eye, feeling their emotions or touching their shoulder. Whether it is our lack of attention span, our need for convenience, personal laziness or simply not knowing what we are missing, we have seemingly deserted real true person-to-person communication and replaced it with cold and emotionless technology. So, what do we do? How do we relearn both the giving and receiving ends of this invaluable and necessary tool for a fulfilled life called "communication"?
We are not patient. Not anymore. It used to be just a few decades ago that when you needed to talk to someone far away, you waited until the day ended, went home, had dinner and then you tried to call them. Several decades before that, you thought about what you wanted to say, wrote them a letter, sent it and waited… Now we simply and instantly text them and usually get a pretty instant answer as well. Not only do we not have patience, we have a hard time teaching it to others. Our children have the privilege and problem of instant access, instant answers and instant fun which leads them to instant frustration when something doesn’t go as expected. Patience – Jesus told us “in your patience possess ye your souls.” Turns out that there is much more to that statement than meets the eye! What is the Bible’s real message regarding patience for Christians?
Revenge – the desire for it can be a powerful and even overwhelming emotion. Sadly, thinking about revenge can be a fun motivating and bonding experience, as it occupies our minds with creative and yet often diabolical means with which to carry out our purpose. It is amazing how the development of such a negative action can spur such positive feelings. So wait – if all of these positive feelings come from planning revenge then can we rightfully label revenge as wrong? Absolutely! Just because something makes you feel good or empowered or focused doesn’t mean that you are becoming a better person because of those things. Remember, Satan felt good and was empowered and was focused when he rebelled against God – and we all know how that will turn out! Can revenge ever be good? How do we recognize, manage and direct our feelings of revenge?
So, have you ever been or have you ever known someone who has been a victim of fraud? You know, had their credit card number stolen or their bank account hacked or their social security number breached? It is all quite real and it is all quite unsettling. Now, have you heard the term “fake news”? Think about it – fake news is fraud as well, since in its reporting we are led to believe something is true that isn’t. This phenomena is quite real and it is quite unsettling. Now, have you ever taken something from work that is not yours or “padded” an expense report or “forgotten” some income on your tax return? These things are also fraud – they are quite real and they are quite unsettling. The bottom line is, fraud is everywhere and we as Christians can be victims of it and we can also perpetrate it. So, what do we do? How do we keep fraud from being a part of our lives