HOW RESPONSIBLE ARE YOU FOR OTHER PEOPLE?

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV)

Before you can answer the question, you have to define responsible.

Suppose you define responsible as praying for other people.  You’re responsible for everyone God brings into your life.  Prayer is something we’re to develop into a lifestyle:

“Rejoice always,  pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

For instance, my husband and I drove on the interstate over Labor Day Weekend.  Traffic was heavy.  Several different times, young guys on fast motorcycles wove in and out of the cars.  Each time I did the same thing.  I covered my eyes with my hand and asked God not to let me see a horrific accident; then I asked Him to protect the riders and get them to their destination safely.  We carry each other’s burdens by first starting with prayer.

However, if you define responsible as taking care of a person’s well-being, it depends on the relationship.  If you’re married, spouses have an obligation to each other and their children. I’ve found, making my husband a priority in my life defines all other relationships.  Working on our relationship is my responsibility first and foremost.  All others come second.  Prioritizing relationships is up to the individual.

God takes responsibility for all.

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn in ministry, I’m not God.  In other words, my “job” isn’t to solve every problem.  Hurting people seek Jesus.  Some of the stories I’ve encountered since following Jesus bring me to tears at the thought of them.  Difficult questions have no answers.  Nothing I do or say can take away the pain and heartache.  But I’m not God.  Never did He intend for me to have all the answers or solve all the problems.  His job is to run the world.  Mine is just to love Him and love others to the best of my ability.

When life’s circumstances are overwhelming, trust Him:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

In truth, none of us are responsible for anyone.  God is the Creator; He has the plan.  We’re to seek Him and follow.  When we do, we’ll know whose burdens we are to carry.  Begin with prayer.  Lift their worries to God.  Watch as He answers in His time and way.

We are responsible to pray for others.  When we do, we carry their burdens.  God does the rest.

Question of the Day:

What burdens do you need to give to Jesus today?

Further Reading: Isaiah 37-38 NIV, Galatians 6:1-18 NIV, Psalm 65 NIV, Proverbs 23:24 NIV

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FREEDOM?

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIV)

Serve others with love.

In all things, we are to do them with love. Each of us are different; our differences are what make us valuable.   Using our talents to serve others is freedom.

Eric Lidell was a British Gold Medalist in the 1924 Olympics. Liddell refused to run the 100-meter race because it was on Sunday.  He ran the 400-meter race on a weekday and won.  In 1925, he returned to the life of a missionary in China.  When his sister challenged him for running instead of serving God, his reply is infamous.  “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

God made each of us for a purpose.  When do you feel God’s pleasure in what you do?  I feel God’s joy when I write.  Each time I stretch myself, looking within my heart to find the words, He pushes and grows me.  At the end of another month, I feel like another battle won.  

Your purpose is God’s pleasure.

For me, I’ve always loved to write, but I haven’t pursued it until now.  In second grade, I wrote my first “novel” for my mother.  A picture book was her gift.  Writing is something God created me to do.  Therefore, I serve others by writing about God.  My prayer is the same, “Lord, may my words help people love and know You.”

Misrepresentation of God is common in our world.  People view Him as mean, uncaring, and judgemental.  Why is that?  Because people do things in His name that are mean, uncaring, and judgemental.  They aren’t using the freedom they find in Christ to serve others in love.  If Christ-followers loved others well, non-believers would love God.

Use your freedom to spread God’s love to the world.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

As followers of Christ, if we did everything by the fruit of the Spirit, people would love Him.  But none of us do.  All of us have moments where we are Spirit-led.  If we are sincere, we probably miss more moments than we don’t.  Our struggle with the flesh deters us from sharing God’s love with His people.  

Eric Liddell won gold because he practiced.  His God-given talent refined with his efforts.  All athletes know, the more they practice, the better they become.

Practice:

Use your freedom wisely.  Love others well.  Serve them daily.  Rinse and repeat.  

Question of the Day:

What is your God-given gift you can use to serve others?

Further Reading: Isaiah 33:10-36:22 NIV, Galatians 5:13-26 NIV, Psalm 64 NIV, Proverbs 23:23 NIV

HOW CAN YOU EXPERIENCE TRUE FREEDOM?

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

Jesus gives freedom.

When we place our trust in Jesus, He releases us from our bonds.  His unconditional love accepts us just as we are.  However, we don’t honestly believe God loves us.  Every step of faith we take is another step of freedom.  As we begin to trust God more and more, our lives become freer.

One way to find the freedom offered by Jesus is to pray this prayer:

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

Search me, know me, test me.

Not an easy prayer to pray, but one that will lead to freedom.  We think we know what our problem’s are, but we don’t.  Every person you meet knows you differently from anyone else.  Their perspective about you depends on their relationship with you.  My tennis students only know me as “Coach Beth” because that is the only time they see me.  My husband knows me better than anyone because he lives with me.  God is the only one who knows all perspectives, all viewpoints, all things.  If we want freedom, we have to let Him search our hearts.

God gave me newfound freedom last week.  As I prayed a similar prayer, asking God to reveal what was holding me back, He answered.  He exposed a lie I had internalized about feelings.  “Your feelings are stupid and don’t matter,” is the lie I believed.  How did God show me this lie in my life?  An image from when I was a child flashed through my mind.  Someone who didn’t mean any harm was making fun of my feelings. Because I loved and respected this person, I believed what he said.  At that moment, God freed me from a lie I had thought for years.

I’ve learned that we like the comfort of lies more than the freedom of truth.  Unintentionally, we adapt to the lie.  For me, I learned how to suppress my feelings.   Now and then, the facade cracks, but not usually.  Right now, at this point, God is teaching me to talk about my feelings.  He’s given me opportunities to say, “Hey, you hurt my feelings.”  And I have.  But expressing myself isn’t easy.  However, if I don’t try to walk in truth, I won’t experience God’s freedom.

Jesus reveals the truth in our lives.  As we embrace His teachings, we find freedom.  Knowing and accepting the facts sets you free.

Embrace Jesus’s truth.  Find freedom.

Question of the Day:

What truth is Jesus trying to reveal to you?

Further Reading:Isaiah 30:12-33:9 NIV, Galatians 5:1-12 NIV, Psalm 63 NIV, Proverbs 23:22 NIV

WHAT MAKES ALCOHOL DANGEROUS IN YOUR LIFE?

“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Proverbs 23:20-21 NIV)

Portion is the problem.

How much alcohol you drink is what is essential.  Jesus’s first recorded miracle is turning water into wine:

“Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet…the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.  What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2: 7-9, 11 NIV)

One common myth is you can’t drink if you follow Jesus.  Where this thought comes from, I do not know.  The truth is Jesus’s first miracle involved alcohol.  However, too much of a good thing isn’t suitable for anyone.  Overindulging in alcohol is where the problems begin.

Moderation is key.

Alcoholism is a disease.  People’s bodies become addicted to the content.  To relieve the symptoms of withdrawals, alcoholics drink more and more.  When I was in college, I drank a lot. One friend I made during those years was the nephew of my professor.  His uncle informed him of how I dragged myself into class each day, looking hungover.  He wasn’t wrong.  Overindulging in alcohol is something college students do every day.  Newfound freedom is hard to manage at such a young age.

During my senior year of college, I worked on a project with a partner.  We drank too much one night after studying.  I drove home.  The next morning when I woke up in my bed, I remembered nothing of the drive.  That night changed my life.  Fear gripped me as I thought about what could have happened.  Praise Jesus,  nothing did.  God was pursuing me when I wasn’t pursuing Him.  One night, and I knew I needed to make changes in my life.

Moderation is still something I strive for daily.  No matter whether our battle is with alcohol, food, or something else, we have to monitor its place in our lives.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV)

Not everyone can drink.  For some people, alcohol is a poison.  They shouldn’t drink at all.  The more a person drinks, the more they lose their inhibition.  Whoever is drinking isn’t aware of how the alcohol is affecting them.  Poor decisions follow.  I know I’ve made mistakes because of alcohol.  By the grace of God, there go I.

Alcohol in moderation is permissible.  Portion is the problem.  None is better than too much.

Question of the Day:

How dangerous is alcohol in your life?

Further Reading: Isaiah 28:14-30:11 NIV, Galatians 3:23-4:31 NIV Psalm 62:1-12 NIV, Proverbs 23:19-21 NIV

WHY DOES THEIR LIFE LOOK BETTER THAN MINE?

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.” (Proverbs 23:17 NIV)

Why does their life look better than yours?  Because you’re looking through a dark lens. In no way can you completely understand someone else’s life. Impossible. What you see isn’t the full picture.  They are presenting what they want people to see, not what is necessarily true.  I have met plenty of people who drive fancy cars and live in fancy places in my lifetime.  Money doesn’t make you happy that I know.  A lot of those people I’ve encountered are miserable.  But they paint a pretty picture on the outside.

Paul reminds the Corinthians of this fact in his first letter to them:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV)

Remind yourself of the whole.

Remind yourself you don’t know everything about the situation you are witnessing.   Yes, maybe your ex appears happy with whoever the new partner is, but are they?  Relationships take work from both parties.  The job is 24/7.  Lord knows I love my husband, but marriage is work.  If a couple has a good relationship, they are making it a priority in their lives.  Having a thriving relationship and smiling for a picture are two different things.  People confuse that fact when they see photos on social media.

One day, you will face God, and all of your unanswered questions will have answers.  But until then, you don’t know.  Accept the fact.  Stop assuming.  Instead, focus on Jesus.

Focus on His goodness in your life.  Stop right now and look around you.  Thank God for five things you can see without having to move.

When we start thanking God for what we do have, all we can see is Him.  We begin to see Him in everything we do.  His presence begins to overwhelm us as we start to connect the dots.

On the anniversary of my nephew’s death, I looked for a picture of him and my mom.  He died on her birthday; I was celebrating both of their lives.  My favorite photo is from my mom’s 75th birthday party.  The reason I had a party for her that year is because of my friend Lynda.  Her father’s birthday is the same day as my mother’s.  We were working together that year.  She was planning a birthday celebration with her sisters, which reminded me of my mom’s birthday.  As a result, I threw her a surprise party.  From that party came my favorite picture of her and Cody.  God connected the dots for me in that situation.

Don’t fall for the act.  No one’s life is perfect.

Question of the Day:

What story are you assuming you know?

Further Reading: Isaiah 25:1-28:13 NIV, Galatians 3:10-22 NIV, Psalm 61 NIV, Proverbs 23:17-18 NIV

WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT, YOUR WORKS OR YOUR BELIEFS?

“So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5 NIV)

Belief trumps works.

None of us can work our way into heaven.  No matter how good we are, we are still sinners.  Our good deeds aren’t what gets us into heaven; our faith in Jesus is.  Once we profess our faith and believe, God’s Spirit produces good works in us that the world sees.  He gets the glory, not us.

My car is a 2016 Prius.  A hybrid is an excellent car for living in the city; it requires little gas.  But once a month or so, I still need to put gas in it.  An electric battery is charged every time the car brakes.  This technology allows the car to use less gasoline, but it cannot operate without gas.  We’re the same as my hybrid.  We can get charged up from the good things we do in life, but without God’s Spirit in us, our engine won’t start in the first place.  Without an motor, we can’t run.

Belief fuels the engine.

When we place our faith in Jesus, it’s like filling our gas tank with fuel.  His Spirit enters us, beginning to crank the engine.  We instantly want to share what we have gained with others.  Our enthusiasm is overwhelming to those who haven’t had the same experience.  Often in life, I have to temper myself.  Jesus didn’t overwhelm people, He loved them.

Jesus’s presence in our life is what motivates us to get to know Him.  We learn about Him as we read the scriptures and begin to apply His teachings to our lives.  Good works happen when we take steps towards Jesus.

Forgiving someone who has hurt you is good work.  Rick Warren, in one of his devotionals, said forgiveness requires four things:

  • Recognize no one is perfect
  • Relinquish your right to get even
  • Respond to evil with good
  • Refocus on God’s plan for your life

Doing the four things listed above takes work.  When someone hurts us, we don’t want to see any good in them.  We only want to focus on the bad.  Letting someone off the hook is hard.  Accepting that God wants you to love them, even though they have hurt you is difficult.  But with God, we can do it.  He makes the impossible possible.  His Spirit within us creates the good works we do.  Without Him, we cannot truly forgive.

God’s Spirit fuels our good works.

Don’t get caught up in works.  They aren’t what fills your tank.  Time with God, in His word, will gas your engine.  Nothing compares to moments with your Creator.  His presence will overwhelm you, His good works overflowing from it.

Question of the Day:

Have you sat in God’s presence lately and let Him refuel you?

Further Reading:  Isaiah 22:1-24:23 NIV, Galatians 2:17-3:9 NIV, Psalm 60 NIVProverbs 23:15-16 NIV

WHY DISCIPLINE IS NECESSARY IN YOUR LIFE

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.” (Proverbs 23:13 NIV)

Discipline gives direction.

If you touch a hot stove, you get burned.  The discipline you receive is the burn on your hand.  When you scorch your finger on a stove, you don’t forget it quickly.  The pain from the injury lasts long enough you remember.  When you’re presented with a hot stove again, you won’t touch it.  The lesson learned quickly.

In today’s world, discipline is a highly debatable topic.  As a childless writer, I’m not a parenting guru, nor do I profess that I am.  However, the world is different from when I was in school; I’m not sure for the better.  When I was in school, every student knew what kind of paddle the teachers had.  Most were wooden with holes drilled in them for extra sting.  In sixth grade, I received a spanking from Mr. Morgan in front of the entire class.  My crime, clowning around on a day he wasn’t in the mood.  He taught me to respect him and authority that day over 40 years ago, a lesson I have not forgotten.

Discipline is good.

For some reason, in today’s world, people avoid discipline like the plague.  Understandably, having your hand slapped before you can raid the cookie jar isn’t fun, but it is necessary.  How are children to learn if we don’t discipline them?

My mom used a race track.  No lie.  Hot Wheels cars ran on an orange strip of plastic; the sides raised slightly to keep the tiny cars on the course.  We had plenty in our house since I had brothers.  My mother used it more than once on my backside when I was a child.  I’m grateful she loved me enough to discipline me.  Her efforts made me who I am today.  She taught me wrong from right, just as Mr. Morgan did that day in class.

Abuse is not okay.  Hitting a child in uncontrolled anger is not okay.  But discipline is.  A controlled, measured response that teaches the child a lesson is necessary to produce healthy adults.  What that looks like in your life is a decision you have to make for yourself.  I’m unqualified to offer such advice since it’s something I have never done.

One of my good friends who is currently raising three teenagers, has a philosophy I agree with completely.  Last week, she had a conflict with her eldest.  She informed her daughter that her job as a parent was to raise her to be a responsible society member.  As such, she was not going to agree with nor understand every decision she made.   

Spare the rod spoil the child is scriptural.  Parenting is a divine task.  Partner with God to know the best course of action to take.

Question of the Day:

How do you use discipline in your life?

Further Reading: Isaiah 19:1-21:17 NIV, Galatians 2:1-16 NIV, Psalm 59 NIV, Proverbs 23:13-14 NIV

HOW CAN YOU APPLY YOUR HEART?

“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12 NIV)

Gain wisdom.

The purpose of the book of Proverbs is to teach people how to live their life.  The writings, mostly by Solomon, are meant to teach us what to do and not do.  I read a chapter of Proverbs a day.  Usually, from those words, I find the easiest verses to apply to my life.  Their simplicity is easy to translate.

For me, I translate today’s verse as gain knowledge by listening to others.  Everyone has something they can teach us.  I’ve found, I never know who will teach me the most profound lessons.  If we close our ears to what others have to say because we disagree with them, we will never learn.

Ask questions to gain wisdom.

Jesus asked questions.  He engaged people in conversation:

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7 NIV)

Jesus knew this woman, but he wanted her to tell Him.  He made an effort to engage with her.  Often, we have to make an effort to talk to someone.   Life is busy. People get caught up in their daily schedules.  We’re navigating new routines because of COVID, but we’re still packing it in.  My heart is praying fervently for students at all levels as they begin school.  God help them all.  Now is the time to reach out to that friend you haven’t heard from in a while.  Check-in on them, see how they are doing.

Learning what is going on in the lives of our loved ones is wisdom.  When we understand what challenges they are facing, we can help them find victory.  If you know they lost their job because of COVID, you can be God’s hand and feet to them.  Drop off dinner.  Connect them to employment opportunities. Or just sit and listen.  Gaining knowledge of what someone is going through gives us the chance to love them like Jesus would have us do.

But if we don’t engage.  If we don’t gain wisdom by listening with open ears, we can’t apply our hearts.  Everyone needs the love Jesus has to offer.  If we don’t act like Jesus, some people will never know what love is.

People change the world because they gain wisdom about someone else’s circumstances.  Blake Mykocski changed the world because he learned about children’s needs for shoes.  He went on a trip to Argentina in 2006.  After seeing the need for shoes, he started Toms shoe company.  Each pair of shoes sold meant one pair donated to children.  The company now gives ⅓ of its annual net profit away.  During COVID, they’ve given $2 million to global relief efforts.   Blake gained wisdom; then, he acted like Jesus.

Question of the Day:

How can you act like Jesus today?

Further Reading: Isaiah 15:1-18:7 NIV, Galatians 1 NIV, Psalm 58 NIV, Proverbs 23:12 NIV

WHAT KIND OF SONG ARE YOU SINGING

“Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.” (Isaiah 12:5 NIV)

Your life has a melody no one else shares.

As we live our lives, we are singing a song.  Casting Crowns song, Lifesong, describes what I’m talking about perfectly in its lyrics:

Lord I give my life

A living sacrifice

To reach a world in need

To be your hands and feet

So may the words I say

And the things I do

Make my lifesong sing

Bring a smile to you

We all determine what type of song our life sings.  We are already singing one, whether we realize it or not.  The question is, who are we singing for today?  Are we singing for ourselves or God?

In all honesty, we probably do both.  Sometimes throughout the day, I’m singing for myself, others I’m singing for God.  The battle between flesh and spirit rages on daily.  However, the chords we sing to Jesus last much longer than any other we sing.

Sing loud and proud of God’s love.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

When we notice God’s presence in our lives, we have something to sing about each day.   We begin to see how intimately involved He is.  

Today is my 51st birthday.  As I peer back over the years of my life, I see God’s presence.  He was there the night my father died, as I stood with my family, watching him take his last breath.  He was there when I struggled through college, barely graduating.  He was there on my first job and my latest.   Whatever heartache I’ve experienced, He comforted me.  He celebrates every victory, fights every battle, guides every step.

“For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, And He sees all his steps.” (Job 34:21 NIV)

His eye is always upon us, but ours isn’t always upon Him.  If we don’t look for Him, we won’t find Him.  

My eye wasn’t upon Him during the ten years after my Dad died.  I directed my anger at God.  He had the power to heal my father, yet He didn’t.  Why not?  Why did I have to lose my father when other’s didn’t?  Why would I want anything to do with a God who took my father?  Because He still loved me, no matter how I acted.

The song I sing for the Lord grows louder each day.  As I seek His presence, I find Him.  He leads me where He wants me to go.  He teaches me what He wants me to learn.  And He helps me share it with those He loves.  

Question of the Day:

What is your life song singing today?

Further Reading: Isaiah 12-14 NIV, 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 NIV, Psalm 57 NIV, Proverbs 23:9-11 NIV

WHY THANK OFFERINGS ARE IMPORTANT IN LIFE

“I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you.” (Psalm 56:12 NIV)

Thank offerings keep your focus on God.

When we offer thanks to God, we remind ourselves who our Provider is of everything we have. They also remind us, what we have today, we may not have tomorrow.  For me, thanking God is an easy way to share Him with others.  When I thank God for my life in front of others, His light shines.  Thank offerings help us through difficult times.  When we focus on what we do have, God, hope is sprung.

Thankfulness, as a way of life, helps you keep stride with God.  “Thank God” is a phrase you will hear me use often.  Good days, bad days, in-between days, I always try to find something to thank God for each day.  Without a doubt, some days are harder than others.  One thing we can consistently thank God for is the people He gives us in our lives.  The people who are there for us on all types of days.  The ones who make us laugh, hold us when we cry, and pick us up when we fall.  God sends people into our lives whose task is to fulfill those roles.  Over my lifetime, many angels have come beside me at the right time.  

Thank offerings bring awareness.

One of the problems of our fast-paced world,  we overlook our blessings.  We don’t give thank offerings because we don’t think we have anything to thank God for in our lives.  But that statement is a lie.  We all have something to thank God for in life; we just have to look for it.

One of my young friends is having her twelfth surgery the week of this writing.  She hasn’t celebrated her 22nd birthday yet.  When I was talking to her mother about the current situation, she was praising God.  She thanked Him for health insurance, which allowed her daughter to get care.  She thanked him for the doctors who finally took their call.  She thanked Him for friends who keep showing up, time, and time again.  I have walked with this family through the past five-plus years of this journey.  In every step, my friend has found reason to thank God.  Her thankfulness has made her aware of God’s presence in every moment.  She notices the people who are helping them through these difficult times.

The benefits of thank offerings are many.  They bring hope into a dark world.  They encourage downtrodden souls.  But most of all, they keep our eyes on Jesus.  When we make Him our focus, He doesn’t disappoint.  He leads us through the darkest days.  He provides for us in our needs.  In Him, we find our hope.

Question of the Day:

What can you thank God for today?

Further Reading: Isaiah 10:1-11:16 NIV, 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 NIV, Psalm 56 NIV, Proverbs 23:6-8 NIV