As my mother would tell me time and time again, “Be careful who you associate with!” She was correct because as we have heard, “Actions speak louder than words.” We can all look back and remember these and many more sayings our mothers, grandmothers, and other important figures in our lives would say. I call them my “granny-isms.” I tell you, she was one wise woman.
Experts today validate what these women in our lives would tell us as we were growing up. It is said that 70% of all communication is non-verbal. This means our facial expression, our body language, and yes, those we are associated with communicate more than just words alone.
To experience this, I invite you to turn on any cable news program, especially the opinion segments, and turn the sound off. Even though we’ve eliminated the auditory words by lowering the volume, the body language of the broadcast journalist says a great deal. You can easily pick up on positive stories, those that touch your heart, and even those that spew negativity, discontent, and outright hatred.
Don’t think for a minute this is new. Pick up your bible and read in any one of the Gospels. But when you do, turn down the “volume.” What I mean by this is open the big screen in your mind and “see” the mood, the context, and the intent of those speaking.
The Pharisees confronted Jesus almost daily. I read the encounters and can see in my mind the bombastic and pompous attitude and body language they must have elicited. And when they couldn’t get to Jesus, they attacked those around Him in the same way.
Jesus healed the man who was blind from birth. The Pharisees were tired of getting nowhere with their attacks on Jesus, so they “commanded” this man (who could now see) to appear in their presence (can you picture their smugness?).
This man had been a blind beggar his entire life. They asked him what happened and he told them facts and facts alone: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes.” After he washed the mud off he could see. Then they asked him “where is this man?” This is a laughing moment. They just asked a blind man who had not seen Jesus, nor would recognize him, where Jesus was!
Try as they may, the man would not fall into the trap of saying something negative toward Jesus – something they could use in an accusatory manner to finally catch Him. Frustrated, they called his parents before them and followed up with a second summons for the previously blind man. They failed at every attempt.
Why do we despise that which we do not understand, or refuse to allow ways that are different from our own? God made us all different, but yet we are all in the same “boat”; we all fall short. God will forgive our sins if we ask Him. Let’s try to be more encouraging this week to touch lives for His kingdom!
What does it mean to be sold out? The best synonym I can think of is committed. When we put ourselves totally into an activity, relationship, or vocation, we are “sold out”. People see the performance of athletes or the love shared between couples and say the same thing.
To be really sold out requires a great deal of effort. Take for instance the sport of triathlon. This is the 3-event competitions where the athlete, or triathlete, swims a specified distance, bicycles, and then runs. The world championships were just held in Kona, Hawaii where the distances for the run, bike, and swim were 2.4 miles, 112 miles, and 26 miles respectively! Completing any one of the phases of the race would be monumental for most. But to cross the finish line after covering all three is an achievement relatively few will ever know. To be a triathlete at the professional level requires the man or woman to be completely sold out to their profession, mentally, physically, and emotionally. They must be absolutely committed.
Most of us will never compete in Kona, but we are called to be no less committed in some aspects of our lives. It’s hard to understand the effort of a triathlete and compare it to our activities, relationships, or vocations. But we need to look no further for an example than Jesus.
Jesus gave of Himself totally to the mission God the Father placed on Him. He was to be the perfect sacrifice, the Pascal Lamb, to atone for the sins of mankind. He spent almost three years trying to convince the leaders of the Jewish nation who He was with His teachings as well as with many signs and miracles. He even performed miracles that only the Messiah or God could perform according to the Levitical law. It forced the leaders to make the ultimate decision – was Jesus who He said He was, the Messiah.
One of the last things Jesus said as He hung on the cross was “It is finished.” He had completely poured himself out physically, emotionally, and spiritually for men and women, even those who sentenced Him to die in the most cruel manner imaginable. The task, the mission was done. Then He spoke these words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” All that Jesus was, all that Jesus had done, and all that He would be He gave to the Father – completely. Jesus placed Himself totally into the loving hands of His Heavenly Father.
For us to approach worship and service to God without following the example of the One who gave of Himself totally for us is a disservice. God will bless us because of His love and grace, but more so when we are totally committed to Him. This week let’s be “sold out” to God in everything we do – for His kingdom’s sake and not our own.
My earliest memory of glue is from kindergarten. The class would cut out shapes from the construction paper (only if we had the safety scissors which really wouldn’t cut anything!) and apply liberal amounts of glue to the cutout, a big sheet of paper, as well as to ourselves and our clothes. The cutout stuck to the paper, our fingers stuck together, and anything we touched became stuck to our hands!
Glues have evolved since my kindergarten days from the old white glue to a whole array of colors, consistencies, purposes, and strength. Descriptors like monster, gorilla, and super are used to identify some of the strongest glues around. Using these can solve a plethora of issues, but just like a child in kindergarten, unwanted items can get semi-permanently joined with your fingers, and painful to remove.
Some glues have even been developed by accident. In 1968, a 3M chemist was attempting to create a super-strong glue, but instead created a tacky adhesive. For six years the chemist tried to solve the issue and market it. It wasn’t until 1974 when one of his colleagues came up with the idea of using a bookmark with the adhesive applied to the back as a way to keep his bookmark in place in his hymnal did the idea take off. And the unity of a little yellow piece of paper and many book pages became a household name.
Unity is something we see every day. Sadly, these days we see a lot of disunity. Watching the news and seeing all the chaos of disunity reminds me of the creation story, when the Spirit of God moved over the formless void. He then said, “Let there be light” and the unity of creation took its first step, becoming one with each other and with its Creator. We think as intelligent people we understand the relationships between all of creation, but we have only scratched the surface. When we look at the earth from space, we see weather systems moving around the globe in unity with one another, as dancers move across the dance floor. And yet in the deepest parts of our ocean, we barely know much about the plant and animal life and how they live together and survive under the immense pressure of miles of water above.
God created mankind to be in unity with one another. One of the earliest signs of disunity we find in the Bible is the story of Cain and Able. The scripture says Cain’s countenance fell; he took his eyes off the Lord. He became angry and murdered his own brother because of jealousy and anger.
Is a form of Cain’s anger inciting disunity in our nation and our world? I believe it is. Disunity is a destroyer and is authored by the author of lies and fear. We can however fight back against disunity, and here’s how. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love .” Jesus’ words are recorded in the Gospel of John when He said to His Heavenly Father “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity .”
There is one way to completely overcome disunity around us, and that’s with the love of Christ. Love is the glue that holds all things together. Let’s create a little “glue” between ourselves and our neighbors this week and show the love of Christ in unity!!
All of us must admit, it’s nice to be recognized for doing a good job. We feel good about ourselves as well as the accomplishment of a task well done. There are other types of recognition that can be difficult, while another can be invaluable.
In the work environment, scrutiny abounds. This scrutiny can come from the “higher-ups”, from those we serve, from our co-workers as well as those we supervise. Positive recognition can be the most effective and cost the company virtually nothing. A simple “thank you” or “job well done” from the boss can go a long way. But let rumors get started, and people begin to draw conclusions about what they believe to be true. Suddenly, we are recognized for some things that were either misleading or totally contrived. We could all use less of this type of recognition, as it tears down reputations, our sense of self-worth, and harms the company or corporation in the end.
Another type of recognition can be fun. Remember the last time you attended a high school reunion? Pictures from the Year Book are flashing across the big screen as you walk into the room, and your task is to try to match the youthful classmate with the, let’s say, more age experienced! Look at them in the eyes and their smile, and you still see friends from long ago. Even their laughs give them away. They’ve changed, but haven’t we all?
We all change as we go through this life, both in a good way and some not so good ways. We are a product of the environments we live in, work in, and play in. Our actions or behaviors are shaped by the experiences we have. If those are pleasant experiences, we develop a good attitude as a result. If those experiences are not as pleasant, our developed attitude is exactly opposite. Both positive and negative attitudes then produce an emotion, which then drives our behavior.
It can be easy to recognize people’s behavior from their experiences, e.g. a combat veteran. Wonderful bonds are formed through controversy, but they can also leave indelible marks on our spirits. To fully understand these and other marks, one must have experienced the same or closely related situations.
Another type of recognition which can be invaluable comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Does Jesus recognize the trials and temptations we go through daily? Yes, He does. Does Jesus understand what it’s like to go through them? Again, yes He does. Jesus felt pain, He felt sorrow, He felt joy, and He felt temptation directly from the father of lies – Satan. We might think we are in this world alone. However, Jesus not only recognizes all these things, He recognizes with us. As a result, we should be recognized along with those who have trusted Him to save us from this world as well as from ourselves.
Jesus told a group of religious elites who claimed to do His work, but did the works to puff themselves up, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.”
None of us want to hear Jesus say those words to us when we one day stand before Him. Regardless of the recognition we receive here on this earth, we should act, talk and walk daily in a way so we can hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant!” That is the type of recognition which should drive our daily talk, walk, and especially how we treat others. Amen!
Mankind cannot live by bread alone; we must have relationships! Or maybe you’ve heard this one – no man is an island. It’s a funny way to state it, but we need to have relationships in our lives. Even though some may dream of living all alone in the mountains in a little log cabin, isolation can be maddening. But we’ve seen the documentaries of men living alone in the woods or mountains, and how they interact with the animals! Ha! Gotcha! Relationships!
In the movie “Dances with Wolves” Kevin Costner plays a Lieutenant sent to a far western outpost. He alone in this small, one building camp with only his horse. He spends his days repairing the deteriorating building, writing in his journal, and talking with his horse. He befriends a wolf which he names Two Socks, and eventually develops relationships with members of the nearby Sioux tribe. Even though the Lieutenant was disillusioned by his experience in the Civil War and wanted to get away from it all, being alone was not the way.
We can search for meaning in relationships. We have relationships with new friends, life-long relationships with best friends, relationships with our favorite business, and relationships with our neighbors, as well as many more.
Each type of relationship fulfills a specific need in our lives. Our best friends fulfill the need of trust and honesty. We need to have someone in our lives with which we can tell all, whether that is that life-long best friend or a spouse. Non-judgmental confession and acceptance can only come from a person we trust. The business relationships also have a thread of trust within them. We trust our favorite mechanic to repair our car correctly, and not add a lot of unneeded repairs. We have our favorite restaurants we patronize knowing the atmosphere is good, the food is consistently good, and even a welcome smile from the owner as you walk in on your regular evening makes us feel good. We all have the need to not only trust and be honest in our actions, but to be treated in the same manner by others. Kevin Costner needed the company of Two Socks, and over time each trusted and relied on each other’s abilities to spot trouble on the prairie.
Were we created for relationships? God’s Word says we were. Man (Mankind) is the only part of creation that was created in God’s image. In the book of Isaiah, we find man was created to glorify our Creator. But exactly how do we glorify God? In Psalms, we are told to worship God with gladness and “know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Part of what it looks like to glorify God is to acknowledge who God is (our Creator) and to praise and worship Him as such.
The purpose of glorifying God is when we live our lives in relationship and faithful service to Him. If we keep the relationship with God first, the one for which we were created, all other relationships will be established, guided, and sometimes even tested through the revelations God gives us.