Day 13 – 23 Days of Thanksgiving – Be careful

I’ve been talking a lot during this series about the small things. About how we can do very little things that could change the world. At church this weekend (sermon isn’t posted yet, I will link to it when it is), God spoke to me in a way he often does, giving me information or a word right when I needed to hear it. I think it’s a message we should all heed especially as we get more and more into serving.

Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. -Matthew 6:1-2

In simple terms, when we serve, God lifts us up. When we are humble, God holds us in high regard.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. -James 4:10

And the more God lifts us up, the more others will see. And when we start craving the praise of others more than the praise of God, that is when we run into trouble.

The word hypocrite that is used in Matthew 6:2 comes from the Greek word hupokritēs which means actor. When we act are acting in hypocrisy we are claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which our own behavior does not conform to…we are acting.

The money quote I got from our pastor during the sermon was this:

Don’t spend so much time trying to act like a good Christian that you’re not one.

So in simple terms, how can we live this out?

Do the small things.
So here I go with the small things again. The small things we can do often very much under the radar and they will have a huge impact. On my white board I have on the wall in my home office, I have the lyrics to the Newsboys song That’s How You Change the World written there (been there for a few years now, may be more permanent than I imagine)

It’s the prayer in an empty room
Little things we do when nobody’s around
A hand reaching out to heart in doubt
It’s the smallest spark that can light the dark
That’s how you change the world!

Don’t blab to the world
So you’re out there doing good things for people. Well today we won’t blast the announcement with trumpets, but we do something that is even worse. We share it all over social media. We make posts on these different venues, probably multiples of them and we are essentially saying “Look at me, look at what we did for these people.”

I am very conscious of this myself. I love to write, I love God, thus this blog. This is my personal outlet of those passions. But guess what. I write a lot about doing these small things, helping out others…but am I actually doing them? Am I really out there doing the things I’m writing about? God convicts me almost every post I make. Am I keeping the focus on God? Am I focused on the glory that posts may or may not give to God? Those are the things I think of every time I write.

Be Careful
Lastly, just be careful. Be careful that we are giving God the glory. It really doesn’t matter that people may look at you, it matters if you start craving that more than you crave God’s favor. As I mentioned earlier, the more you humble yourself and serve, the more you are lifted up by God. This puts you in sight of others. Are we more worried about being an actor, to be seen by others? Or are we focused on how we are seen by God? For God sees the inside, our motives and those will make an eternal difference.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

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Day 12 – 23 Days of Thanksgiving – Training is Everything

I talk about the small things a lot on here. It’s a revelation I came to about myself a year or so ago. I tend to think big, I have an idea and it has suddenly blown into a major event. I have good intentions through it all, but because I’ve set my sights so high, I have a tendency to get discouraged when things don’t quite go where I had planned.

Instead, I’ve come to realize that God often moves in those small and everyday events. A smile, a chat over coffee, a silent prayer, things that in the past I would have blown up and tried to make a major event.

The above video, a montage from one of the later Rocky movies showing the training. We think of the main event and that is the big conclusion of the movie. The big fight. But where would he have been if he hadn’t gone through the training. The movie glosses over the training, because it’s boring. It’s just mundane activities to prepare us for the big event. But without it. Rocky would have failed.

It’s during this training montage that greatness is built. The big event simply reveals the greatness created during those long, boring moments in between.

How are we training for God?
God puts these training moments in every moment of every day of our lives. How we react to adversity is a training moment. How we treat the least of us, is a training moment. How we give from the best of ourselves is a training moment. Our relationships with our families is a time of training. Every day at work in our ethic of hard work and how we treat our colleagues and customers are all training moments. How we act on our drive home when we are stuck in traffic, is a training moment. Every moment of our lives we are in training for what God has planned for us.

Those training moments are everything. It’s in those moments, these ordinary moments of everyday life that I think God does some of his greatest work. It’s when our greatest training and preparation happens. Just look around and do what God has put in front of us and let this time of preparation get you ready for the big (or small) things God has planned for our future.

Day 10 – 23 Days of Thanksgiving – Do Something

I’ve heard the argument many times, “How can God let these terrible things happen?” You may question why there are so many homeless, or sick, or impoverished, or enslaved or whatever. People shout at God in anger wondering, “God why don’t you do something.” What if he already did? What if you are his solution?

This song, Do Something by Matthew West seems to find me over and over again as I’m wondering many of the same things or I’m wondering what God’s purpose in my life is. What if God created us to help the homeless, even just one. What if our purpose in life is to give comfort to the sick or perhaps just to smile at someone who is severely depressed. Something so small, just doing something like that could change that person’s life. It could save his life, it could lead him to Christ.

What if God created us to just do something? What if God created us, not to just go to church and fellowship with other Christians, but to go out into our community and be the salt and light, to be that city on a hill? What if we are to change the world? Can we do that standing still?

What if you and only you were created to touch someone today. Did you pass by, waiting for someone else to do something?

This time of year we tend to be very reflective and thankful. We do a great job of giving thanks and letting everyone around us know how thankful we are…just follow social media over the next two weeks and you’ll see a plethora of “thankful” posts. Nothing wrong with this at all. But can we do something? Can we do something to make someone else’s holiday a little more special? What about that widow down the road who will be spending Thanksgiving alone? Can we invite them to dinner with us? That may be all it takes to give them hope.

I asked a lot of questions in this post, all of them I need to answer myself because I often find myself very convicted by this song. I do know this. It’s not always the big things that matter or that make a big difference in the world. It could be as simple as a prayer in an empty room, or a friendly hello to a stranger walking down the road. A simple cup of coffee could make all the difference to someone today. It’s often those little things that will change the world.

Just Do it!

I’ve been trying to do everything other than write this post. Why? It’s not a great revealing post nor one that I will reveal a great sin. This post is nothing more than a statement of what I feel God is calling me to do. And by putting it down on virtual paper, it feels more real, more ‘official’ if you will. Something that know that it’s down on paper and out of my head, I have nothing left but to take action on it.

Why do I struggle even putting this out there? I’ve been looking for this for a long time. I’ve written many posts here about seeking God’s will and purpose for my life. I’ve spent a few years now seeking and waiting. I don’t want this to be just another one of those posts of “This is what I will or should do” and then never take action and a year from now I’m back looking for my purpose.

So that’s why I struggle. If I write it down, I will need to take action upon it. Two things happened recently that triggered this post (despite me writing different posts first in a unconscious attempt to avoid this one).

First, I’m just browsing around Facebook and stumble upon a person with whom I not even friends with on there. He is on a long journey across America seeking out the homeless, the down-trodden and helping where he can. That could be as simple as buying a meal, paying for a hotel room, or simply just a good conversation. Despite his own sinful nature, he is making an impact on people’s lives and planting the seed of Christ in many. Some of the stories I read, touched me in the few minutes I spent. I felt God asking very clearly, “How have you helped people lately?”

As I went to bed last night, still thinking about those stories I read and trying to contemplate what God is telling me, I do what I do most nights, I lay down to do a little reading before turning out the lights. Currently I’m reading a book (restarting it actually) by John Maxwell called The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. As I’m reading through the first chapter , called “The Law of Intentionality” it strikes me how I still can’t take my mind off the stories I had just read on Facebook.

This chapter is sub-titled “Growth Doesn’t Just Happen.” It talks about how you have to be intentional about personal growth. You can’t just sit back and wait for growth to happen. You can’t just say “I’ll do it tomorrow.” You know how easy it is to put off things. I’m a natural procrastinator…if I can wait to do something until later, I probably will.

As I read through to the end of the chapter, one thing stood out to me…the call to “Just do it now!” Start now. Schedule time in your day if you have to. Put it on your calendar. Whatever you have to do, just do it and do it now! Maxwell pulled this quote by Jennifer Reed in the April 19, 2011 issue of SUCCESS magazine;

Can there be a more insidious word? Later, as in “I’ll do it later.” Or, “Later, I’ll have time to write that book that’s been on my mind for the past five years.” Or, “I know I need to straighten out my finances…I’ll do it later.”

“Later” is one of those dream-killers, one of the countless obstacles we put up to derail our changes of success. The diet that starts “tomorrow,” the job hunt that happens “eventually,” the pursuit of the life dream that begins “someday” combine with other self-imposed roadblocks and lock us on autopilot.

Why do we do this to ourselves anyway? Why don’t we take action now? Let’s face it: The familiar is easy; the uncharted path is lined with uncertainties.

What a statement of my life. I seem to be waiting for stuff to happen. Meanwhile, the world keeps turning, lives go on and opportunities that God has put before me pass me by.

Dose of real life

Then not too long after, I received news that a young man of just 20 years old was killed in a motorcycle accident. This young man, whom I had coached in baseball and was friends with my daughter, in fact they even went on a date or two a few years back, had everything headed in the right direction for him. He was a good kid. He was studying to be a nurse and was on the path to graduating, being married soon and making a difference in many people’s lives.

However, in just an instance, his life ended. A senseless tragedy to be sure. But what was remarkable was how our small mid-western community gathered around the family and each other to comfort each other on the loss of this fine young man. God used this tragedy for good. It doesn’t necessarily take the sting from the loss, but we know that God can use a bad situation for His glory.

So what came out of this tragedy? Well to start, we know now that a community can rally around a family in the midst of their suffering. But also, on a more tangible note, a scholarship has been setup for graduating students at our local high school for students entering into nursing.

The world keeps turning, lives will go on, but this opportunity to take a tragedy and create something helpful out of it was not missed by the community. He will forever be remembered through this scholarship and the good that it does for others.

How do I start?

So how do I begin? Well I still don’t really have that answer. But what did I just learn? Just do it and do it now! My inclination is to wait until God has showed it all to me. But by then, it could be too late. I feel God calling me to step out in faith, even a small step, but step nonetheless into faith that God will guide my path. My Facebook friend may have had only a vague sense of direction and places he wanted to travel. But, he let’s the road take him where it takes him and be on the lookout for the God appointed opportunities that cross his path.

This post is putting me on notice. God I feel calls us to be more than just ‘good’ people. God calls us to so much more;

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:11-12

God is calling us to take action, to just do it. I will find ways, even small ones, to step out in faith each day. I will pay attention to the life that God presents to me every moment, the opportunities to help someone in need, to smile at someone or just to listen to a broken heart. I will resist the temptation to ignore those that I may percieve as more “troubled” as me. I will resist the urge to strike out at those that ridicule me, try to deter me or tear me down. I will make a point each day to do one more thing towards the growth of God’s kingdom. God doesn’t need me, but he wants to use me so why wouldn’t I want to be part of his work.

Welcome 2016

I’m not always a consistent blogger, but one thing I have been regular on has been my New Years post.  As many bloggers do, I like to take this post to reflect briefly on the year behind us and then look ahead to the new year.

2015

Last year, always feels weird to say that at first, was an interesting year to say the least as there were many highs and some lows, but I do feel I learned a lot about myself, my relationship with God and how that effects my daily life.

Looking back on my New Years post from 2015 is always interesting as I like to see what I was expecting and hoping I would do and then see how well I accomplished that.  Last year I wanted to focus on figuring out where God is leading me, I wanted to pursue God, not sit there waiting to see what happens.   The focus from last year was to see how to change myself.  There were three aspects I talked about, being more humble, reading more and to be still.  I really want to reflect more on the first one…being humble:

Being more humble.  I think I’ve always been somewhat humble, but I wanted to focus on thinking of OTHERS instead of myself.  I may not have truly discovered that until the end of last year, but in some ways I’ve succeeded.   But before I could do that, I had to learn one other thing…something I’ve always struggled with.  I had to learn to LOVE myself.  That was something I really hadn’t thought of, but if I thought less of me, that I wasn’t worthy of God’s love it actually made me dwell on myself…I couldn’t think of others, when all I thought of was how much I really didn’t like myself.  Well I learned, that God loves me no matter what.  And it’s not that he is just sitting on the sidelines thinking how much he loves me as I continue heading over the cliff…no he actively pursues us.  In a post that I’ve been writing, but have yet to post, I highlight a few verses that have taught me much.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever – Psalm 23:6

God’s love follows us wherever we go, he loves us unconditionally even when we continually reject his overtures of love towards us.  He continues to let us know, ‘I’ll be here when you are ready‘ and in fact, he goes one step more and reminds us constantly, sometimes forcefully, ‘Hey, I’m here and I still love you.

God has a plan for our lives and He will go to great lengths to complete his plan in us…in fact, nothing will stop him.

And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.  -Philippians 1:6

Life’s Journey

So in 2015, I went on a journey to find out what my purpose in life was, what I was meant to do and how God was going to use me.  I wrote a whole series of posts focused on this (and read them in reverse order to get the gist of my journey) and it was really quite illuminating, but it didn’t take me long until I actually believe I found what my purpose is, and it applies to all of us I believe.  I wrote about it in my post entitled, Come and See.

This was truly enlightening and I can say that it changed my life.  I learned that God has me where he wants me…and when he’s ready to move me, he will.  I was struggling to find out where I was going so I could prepare or perhaps try and talk God out of it…but I found that I’m serving God each and every day right where I am.  There is no need for me to do something “great” at least how humans define greatness.  God has me doing “great” things right where I am.  Someday he may call me to the human definition of “greatness”, but right now I’m exactly where he needs me.

Look at these lyrics from a song by the Newsboys song, How to Change the World.  This really epitomizes my journey in 2015.  It was the culmination of a year of learning, about myself, about God.  I learned that I’m serving him in every moment of my life.  When I’m at work, I’m serving him.  When I’m coaching my son’s baseball team, I’m serving him.  When I am grocery shopping, I’m serving him.  As I’m typing this post, I’m serving him.

It’s the prayer in an empty room
Little things we do when nobody’s around
A hand reaching out to a heart in doubt
It’s the smallest spark that can light the dark

That’s how you change the world!

2016

So what do I think 2016 will bring?  I’m not entirely sure.  I’m sure it will have it’s high points and low points.  I’m sure I’ll reflect back in a year from now and see things that I had hoped to accomplish, still sitting  undone…but as usual, I suspect that I’ll learn something completely unexpected, but it will be exactly what God had in mind for me all along.

God bless and Happy New Year!

 

How to Change the World Today!

So many of us what to go out and change the world.

We find the perfect job, make plenty of money, move up in status and say…now we can go make a difference in the world by doing big things. Maybe we start a foundation or setup a movement to help some disadvantaged people. Or maybe we purely use our wealth and donate much to groups already in existence. All in all not a bad thing, but my question is Why Wait? What I’ve heard people say, myself included, well when I get financially stable, I can do this or that to make a difference. Or when I reach a certain status or level in my company, I’ll then have time to devote to this cause or that group. But will it ever be enough? Will we ever reach that point where we can say, “finally, I’m there…I can finally change the world!”

Or how about another scenario. We are on the other spectrum. We’ve spent our lives just trying to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck. We think, if only we had some stuff or didn’t have to work so many hours, then maybe we could finally make a difference. We feel we spend so much time just trying to change our own world, that we don’t or can’t make a difference anywhere else. Do we say, “If only I had a little more, then it would be enough…then I could finally change the world!”

Or how about a third scenario. We have good jobs, we’re not wealthy but we live comfortably in our small town. We provide for our families and while we don’t have much, we have enough. So we come home from work, eat dinner, and sit down to watch the news and we see the troubles around the world or even just in our own community and say, “If only there was something I could do…but I’m really no one important, so there’s not much for me to do.”

Well, if you haven’t watched the video above, watch it now. I’ve had all the excuses I listed above. Those have all been me at some point in my life. The last few weeks, I’ve been reevaluating how I’m trying to make a difference for God, but trying to find out what Jesus really means to me and what his plan for me really is. I’ve been slowly realizing that while I’ve felt that the only way to make a difference was to do something BIG, the way God tells me I can change the world now is by Going Small.

The other day when I was listening to some music on the way home from work, these lyrics from the Newsboys song “That’s How You Change the World” jumped out at me and really smacked me across the face.

It’s the prayer in an empty room
Little things we do when nobody’s around
A hand reaching out to a heart in doubt
It’s the smallest spark that can light the dark

That’s how you change the world!

You don’t know when God will use the small gesture, the smile, the simple “How you doing?” to change someone’s world. To make a difference in someone’s day, perhaps in their life.

Somewhat coincidentally (well God driven to be sure) I’m reading through the book “Go Small: Because God Doesn’t Care About Your Status, Size, or Success” and starting off in Chapter 1 is this little snippet, that I read just a day before God sent the Newsboys song my way.

There was a suicide note collected a few years ago that was written by an anonymous person as they made their way to the Golden Gate Bridge. The writer remarked that they were walking to the bridge with the intent of ending their life; but one sentence of the note immediately leapt out at me.

“If one person smiles at me on the way,” this person wrote, “I will not jump.”

They jumped.

It’s the small things that God can use in big ways to change the world. Go out and change the world today, I am.

Build something small

By day I’m a software developer, website builder, and general computer consultant.  Just the other day I read an article on a software blog I follow called Stop Giving Lousy Excuses And Start Working On A Small But Genuine Story.  This article, while it talks from a perspective of software development, leaves us with a message I think we all can relate to in life.

If we look at the world around us and see the struggles and troubles that we or our neighbors and friends are going through, we may think it’s just too large for us individuals to fix or even make a difference.  In fact the prevailing thought of many around the country is that “only the government can fix it.” 

We sit around in our homes, happily (or not so happily) paying our taxes and say “What can I do, I’m only one person?”,  “I’m just too busy to work on it.” or “I’m really not smart enough to do anything about it.”  

Well I say, drop the excuses, do something small.  None of those excuses work when you do something small.  They don’t take a lot of time, nor a lot of money.  They don’t take a lot of brain power and you can keep your day job.  You just have to take a little initiative, do something to make a difference and then do it consistently.

What type of things am I talking about?  Nothing real complicated.

  • Pay for a stranger’s coffee in a coffee shop.
  • Give a young mother a coupon for free milk if you see her in line in front of you at the grocery store.
  • Tell a soldier “Thank you!”
  • Hold the door for the person coming out of the store behind you.
  • Send $20 to a family in need anonymously.
  • Invite an elderly person over for dinner if they’re alone for the holidays.

Little things that we all can do (and things I need to improve on myself), that would make such a huge difference in people’s lives.  Each taking as individual act of kindness really is nothing big, takes so little time, effort or money, but can pay such dividends to the everyone involved.  And if everyone would do something small each day, think what a difference it would make on a large scale when you consider them all together.

It doesn’t take the government to spread kindness and charity.  In fact, forced charity is not charity at all.  We all, no matter how rich or poor we may be, can spare some small piece of ourselves to give to another.  That small seed of kindness will take root and grow if nourished.  I’m going to strive in this new year to make small sacrifices each day to help make someone else’s life just a tad bit brighter.

Go do something small and celebrate!  I dare you!