Friday, July 30, 2010

Where Did These Clouds Come From?

When I lived in Pueblo West, Colorado, I experienced clouds like I had never experienced in California. Even more, it could be clear at one moment, and then all of a sudden these clouds would come moving in, dark as could be, and start a rain storm that would last for a while, and then go away. I always wondered: "Where did these clouds come from?"
Of course, that is the nature of clouds; especially rain clouds. They not only bring darkness, by blocking the sun and the sky, but they also bring rain. While rain is good for the earth, it can at times dampen our spirit, and make it difficult to accomplish what we might have planned to do. However, in knowing that rain brings good, then we can persevere through the times of rain, and we experience the green and growth that it causes.
As I thought about our blog topic for this week, it reminded me of life in general. How often do the dark clouds suddenly appear in our lives? They come and darken our thinking for a time. Maybe they keep us unfocused for a time. Maybe they even dampen our spirits for a time. But the truth is, when understood rightly, they bring growth and blessing.
As the familiar verse in Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." We can know that God will take whatever comes into our lives, and turn it into good. Because of this, we need not worry, but rather trust in God. Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and minds in Christ Jesus."
And so it is good to regularly evaluate: What are the clouds in my life? Where did they come from? What is their purpose? Am I giving myself over to God, and not worrying, knowing that God will work out good through them? You see, where the clouds come from doesn't matter, as much as why the clouds are there, and how God brings fruit from the clouds. Be strong in the Lord, and the clouds become a blessing, not a deterrent.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Difference Does Commitment Make?

When it comes to commitment, our world is in a much different place than it was years ago. In fact, I was just talking with some people the other day about how not only people have changed in their view of commitment, but so have companies. It used to be that companies sought to care for their employees, and employees would work 20, 30, even 40 years and then retire. Now companies lay people off to avoid having to pay full pensions, and workers rarely work for the same company for a long time.
When talking about commitment, there are so many areas we could venture:
Divorce- It used to be a very low percentage of people got divorced. When people made the commitment to marry, they usually stayed married. It is said that currently the divorce rate in America of first marriages is somewhere around 40-50%, 60% for second marriages, and 73% for third marriages!
Church Attendance- It is said that up to 76% of people say they are Christians, but only around 40% of people go to church regularly. There has been a great drop off in church attendance over the last 100 years. Less and less people make the commitment to regularly go to church, much less involve themselves in church work.
Volunteerism- Just from 2005 to 2009 the percentage of people who volunteered dipped from 29% to 27%. In my son’s baseball league and daughter’s softball league they have had great trouble getting managers and coaches. In fact, they have made it a requirement for coaches to umpire because they can’t get volunteer umpires!
I could go on, but the statistics show us people are choosing to not commit to things as much anymore. What difference does this make? The difference is that more and more we are living in a world where people are more concerned about themselves than about others. We are becoming and ingrown culture. Instead, we should live by the words of the apostle Paul, who said in Philippians 2:4- “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Even Jesus, who was God in the flesh, took on this attitude, as we are told that He came “not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
I think it is tremendously important to be people who make commitments, and keep them. A commitment is really like making a promise to others. When people don’t make and/or keep their commitments, they have lost the understanding of what it means to be people of their word. Because our world has become so selfish, we have lost the whole aspect of community and working together. What do you think?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Attitude Check!

Last fall I was coaching Tyler’s baseball team, dealing with 13 and 14 year-olds. They all seemed to develop that “teen attitude.” You know the attitude? The attitude where they think they know everything and don’t need any advice from anyone (including their manager!). The attitude that makes them think they don’t have to answer questions that are asked of them. The attitude that makes them think they are super cool.
As I was thinking about the Blog topic for this week (Attitude Check!), my first thought was this attitude my son had. But then I was led to think about how we as adults have attitudes as well; attitudes that need to be checked on a regular basis. The attitude that makes us think that we are above the job we have. The attitude that makes us think that we have better ideas or answers than our spouse. The attitude that causes us to judge other people.
How is it that we come to have this attitude? Maybe in part it is the thinking that we live in America, home of the free, where we have the right to pursue happiness. Maybe it is our selfish attitude that causes us to really only be concerned with our own needs. Maybe it is because we get tired, or frustrated with life, and we gain an attitude.
While I believe it is all of these things in part, I believe even more it is about the expectations we have. More often than not we set expectations for how our life should go: a certain kind of job, spouse, and lifestyle. We set these expectations thinking they are goals, but they are not goals. A goal leads us to shoot for an outcome, but if we don’t make that outcome it is okay, because the journey is as important as the goal itself. But an expectation is something that we “expect” to happen. If that expectation does not come to fruition, then we come to have an attitude, because we didn’t get what we wanted.
Instead, we should live by what the Bible tells us in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make Your paths straight.” We will have the right attitude when we trust the Lord, lean on God’s strength, and look to walk the path God has for us!! Blessings.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

What is Humility?

I have talked to so many people who think that to be humble you must have a poor view of yourself, or think of yourself as weak. Being strong and being humble don’t go together in their thinking. So, because of this, people have trouble allowing themselves to be humble. Even more, living in a world that stresses independence and success, we feel that we have to go out and be better than others. How can you survive and thrive if you are humble?
It is important to have a better perspective of humility, especially if we are going to be followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself was humble, but no one would call Him weak. So how did He balance His strength with His humility?
He was one who knew who He was and what His purpose was. In John 6:38 Jesus said: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” And in Matthew 20:28 He said: “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” When we live out the purpose that God has for us, and live this with confidence, we will be both strong and humble.
Second, it is about being teachable. To think we know it all will not only distance us from people, but it will lead us to look foolish. In James 1:21 we are told, “Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted in you.” God implants His word in us, and through His word we are taught what we need to know. The word of God, the Bible, has the answers; we need to seek these answers out and regularly learn from them.
Third, humility is about being considerate to others. The other day I had an encounter with one of the all-stars on Tyler’s baseball team. He didn’t want to listen to me because I wasn’t an “official” coach. I told him that even though I wasn’t a coach, I was an adult, and he should respect that. He didn’t agree, and mouthed off to me. I am amazed at the lack of respect kids show to adults these days. But the truth is, so many adults aren’t very considerate to other adults. When we are not considerate to others, we have a self-centered attitude. This is not humility, and this is not how God would have us be.
Humility helps us to battle the pride and selfishness that is in us. It is a universal battle that we face every day of our lives. But if we can be humble, then we will think of others and not just ourselves, and we will be much more blessed for it.