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The Best Kind of Honor

Who doesn’t like to receive honor? To be praised? I know I do. And I have yet to meet a child—or adult, for that matter—who doesn’t respond better to words of affirmation than criticism.

That said, our desire for praise can be a double-edged sword. Especially when it comes to standing for truth. There are times when my commitment to follow Jesus brings me face-to-face with a choice:  Will I try to win praise from people or from God? It’s impossible to always have the respect and admiration of both. Following Jesus doesn’t come with the promise of popularity.

Controversy always surrounded Jesus–especially during His time on Earth. Many religious leaders had secretly come to believe in Him.  But they wouldn’t openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be “put out of the synagogue.” We’re told, “they loved human praise more than praise from God” (John 12:42, 43). The Message Bible puts it this way: “When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God’s glory.”  

Ouch! Any approval addicts out there? The truth in God’s Word presses us into this question: Do I say or do things that make me look good in the eyes of those around me or in the eyes of God?  Do we love the praises of men more than praise from God?

The word translated “praise” comes from the word doxa.  It can be defined as “honor, respect, prestige, fame, or approval.” These are good things. It’s important to give and receive honor.  The Bible teaches us to honor God and one another. I talk further about why I believe our culture is desperately thirsty for honor in my recently released  Eight Great Ways to Honor Your Husband.

But sometimes the gospel calls us to risk losing the approval of others.  Recently, I sensed God nudging me toward an uncomfortable conversation with a friend.  She and I have markedly different views on a number of issues, including abortion. I tried to respectfully share how my beliefs about the sanctity of life are grounded in the Bible. Jesus is even referred to as “the author of life” (Acts 3:15).   And since we didn’t create life, I explained, I don’t believe we have the right to destroy a human life in the womb. My friend listened and paused to think. She asked questions and shared her thoughts. Inwardly, I prayed.  Our conversation became a little intense—but not hostile. My hope is that it opened the door to further discussion.

Bottom line is that following Jesus comes with a risk. I’m trying to become more alert to opportunities to share His truth.  To obey His calling to love. To give. And to serve. Sometimes my words are accepted. Other times, not so much.

Will you join me in praying that the Lord will open doors for us to speak of His grace and truth? To seize the moment for His glory? Let’s remember to listen for the quiet whisper of the Father’s approval—truly the best kind of honor of all.

“I will honor those who honor me…” declares the Lord (1 Samuel 2:30).

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:26).


30 Days of Hope: Day 23

My friend Sara has the special gift of looking at life through the lenses of God’s Word—and seeing magic.  So glad she took time to encourage us to have hope as we rest in the  Maker of all creation.  A timely reminder as we anticipate Christmas and the birth of our Savior.

GUEST BLOG: Sara Miller

I catch myself using the word hope a lot. But, I’m not always using it well.  I’m thinking, “I hope I can fit my jam-packed to-do list into today.” Or I’m saying, “I hope my son sleeps through the night.” According to the dictionary, I’ve got it just about right. Merriam-Webster.com says hope is “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.” (Yes to a good night of sleep!)

But isn’t there something more?

The Bible has a lot to say about hope. While enjoying this research on the word hope, I appreciated the reminder that “in the Old Testament hope is linked with ‘putting confidence in’ or ‘taking refuge in.’” It certainly is wanting something to happen and believing it can be true, but it’s also believing in the power of the One who created it all. I love this – “Hope is the proper response to the promises of God.” Continue reading


Becoming Simple Again

Have you ever been arrested?  Not by the police,  but by the Word of God.  It happened to me the other day.  I was reading through Matthew’s Gospel, my usual chapter a day.  But when I got to Chapter 18,  I was “arrested” by Jesus’s warning to His disciples:  Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3 NIV).

The word used in this verse for change means to turn in a different direction, or “to repent.” What keeps me from becoming like a little child?  In what ways do I need to repent?  I pondered the question.

The next verse gave me a clue. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom (Matthew 18:4 MSG).  If I truly want to see the kingdom of heaven and if I want to have kingdom impact here on Earth, I have to become simple.

I can think of a lot of words to describe my life, but simple isn’t one of them. Can you relate?  We live in an incredibly complicated world.  It’s busy and noisy with to do lists and deadlines.  But simple?  Who can afford to be simple?  Jesus knew His words would hit hard.

I decided to do a little “research” of my own.  I was sharing a cup of tea one afternoon with my four-year-old granddaughter, who was feeling quite grown up as she carefully balanced the delicate china cup and saucer on her lap.  “Guess what Jesus tells grownups,” I said to her.  “We have to be like little kids if we want to know Him better.  Why do you suppose Jesus likes kids so much?”  She just looked at me for a minute as if to say, You should know that answer.  And then she said matter-of-factly, “Because they are so fun to play with.”  It was that simple. Period.

In the eyes of a child, Jesus is not only God of the Universe and Savior of  souls.  He is also their friend. He actually likes children. They know it.  My granddaughter’s natural assumption?  Jesus likes her, not because she’s wise, or rich, or in control.  He likes her just because she’s who she is.  He likes her simple faith in Him.  And probably because she’s fun to play with.

In this busy, complex world, I must repent if I want to become simple.  Yes, it’s simple to believe in Jesus.  To depend on Him.  To trust Him like a child.  Simple, but not simplistic.  It takes courage to believe.  Humility to admit my need for His forgiveness. And I have to wrestle to the ground all the doubts and fears that attack my mind.  All the clutter that robs me of clarity.  So I can see Jesus.  I have to get back to simply believing in Him.  Like a child.

 

 


Day Fourteen: No More Bad Days

I talked to a friend the other day who lives in Michigan. He works for an international missions organization and travels all over the world. He’d just returned from sunny California back to the Michigan cold. I told him that here in the South, we’re enjoying our first weeks of Spring. “Well, the good news here in Michigan,” laughed my friend, “is that all the snow has finally melted.”

I’ve found most Midwesterners to be unusually cheerful. “Why is that?” I asked my friend. He answered matter-of-factly, “ I guess we just learn to be thankful for small things. Like the sun shining.”

Thankful for small things. Easy to say. Harder to do. That’s why I’ve tried to become more grateful for small things during our 21 Day Watch. The Bible says we are to devote ourselves to prayer, being “watchful and thankful.” Perhaps watchfulness and thankfulness come in pairs. If I am more watchful, then I’ll notice more answers to my prayers. Which makes me more thankful. So then I become more watchful. You get the point.

There’s daily evidence of God’s grace all around me, if only I take the time to notice. I had a friend whose teen-aged daughter did just that. Molly kept a gratitude journal, her “thank you book,” she called it. Molly said at first she could only find a few things each day for which to be thankful. But as she continued to practice thankfulness, her list began to number in the hundreds. I watched her personality blossom and grow until the young lady radiated joy.

During this 21 Day Watch:

1. I’m listing my prayers in a journal.  I’m keeping watch for answers to these prayers, but also for the little unexpected blessings that come my way. Things I would never think to pray for.  When they happen, I take a few minutes to jot them down and thank God for these surprise gifts.

2. Each day, I also take a few minutes to thank God for protection or correction.  I’m learning to thank Him for warning me about sin or danger.  Sometimes, I find He provides correction before He gives direction.

It warms my heart when my own children are thankful. I hope my thankful heart blesses God. I’m giving my gratitude to Him as an offering.  As worship.  As a kind of prayer. I’d like for this thankfulness to become a permanent part of my character.

I read a story about a young man returning home after World War II. He had endured countless hardships, fighting in fierce combat. Now in his eighties, he still remembers bending down to kiss the ground when he reached home. Overflowing with gratitude that day, he resolved this one thing: “I will never have another bad day.” Friends, if we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have been bought with His blood and rescued from an eternity in Hell. We now have a relationship with the Lord of the Universe and the constant companionship of His Comforter and Helper, the Holy Spirit. Life is filled with daily blessings, large and small. Perhaps, like that soldier, we should resolve never to have another bad day.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2).


Day Nine: Five Life-Changing Minutes

It’s Day Nine of our 21 Day Watch.   Many today wrestle with anxiety, a sign of the troubling times in which we live.  A good way to calm anxiety is to watch for signs of God at work.  We grow in our faith as we enlarge our view of God.  Sometimes it helps to look at God’s “big picture.” My friend Rebecca was pouring out God’s love to the hurting and broken in a small village in Haiti, when God surprised her with a glimpse into His larger purpose. As she was serving others, He brought healing to her own heart and renewed her hope.  As you read Rebecca’s words, I pray your hope is restored, too.

GUEST BLOG: By Rebecca Bradley

Over Thanksgiving 2014, my eight-year-old daughter and I traveled with a team from our church to serve the amazing people of Haiti. I experienced a life-changing five minutes on that trip. On day three, we ventured into the heart of a village to pray over the people and simply give away God’s love. We wandered through the dirt-clad streets filled with beautiful brown people with the biggest smiles you have ever seen. We happened to come upon one particularly special corner of the village.

A strikingly beautiful woman came out of her home. We sensed that she wanted to talk. She told us that she could not go to church because she did not have the right clothes to wear. Uninformed about the local customs, we were quick to reassure her that God was not concerned with clothing. But our translator began explaining that in the Haitian culture, it does matter that you have the appropriate garments to wear to church. So, the prayer then became that God would provide the necessary clothing. After more conversation, she told us that she wanted to know Jesus completely. This lady then got down on her knees and prayed the prayer to ask forgiveness of sins and for God to fully reign in her heart and life. Our hearts leapt with joy!

Haitian+woman

As if that mountaintop were not enough, I began to stand up, wiping the tears away just as three Haitian children started pulling on my skirt and leading me over to another woman.  We walked up to this dilapidated fence and she begins to hand her infant son to me. Of course I am utterly confused by this gesture, so I ask the translator, “What are these children trying to say to me?” He says, “She wants you to have her baby.”

Haitian+baby

She wants you to have her baby.” My husband and I have longed to adopt since first meeting in college. We have always believed that we would one day have an African-American son through adoption.  But our journey has been very confusing for us, filled with much loss and trauma. After three easy, healthy pregnancies with our daughters, we delivered our first stillborn son, Owen Charles, on February 21, 2012. Medical personnel had no explanations. Then, several months later I became pregnant with another child. It seemed that it could only be God when we learned that it was another boy and he was due one year later to the day of Owen’s due date.

We prayed fervently and had a community surrounding us who believed that this second pregnancy was part of God’s redemptive story. God had different plans that we still don’t necessarily understand or like, but that is what faith is all about. We delivered our second stillborn son, Levi Bradley, on February 7, 2013.

We now step back and continue to process what God may have desired for us to understand through those very powerful five minutes in Haiti. We believe He was pulling back the curtain to reveal that somewhere He does have a baby for us to adopt. Knowing that our dream/calling was to adopt a dark-skinned son, the gesture of this woman holding her son up for me symbolized God’s promise that He would provide a child one day who would be handed to us in love. And, if we are incredibly blessed, it will be a dark-skinned boy just as our hearts desire. We believe in faith that there will eventually be a son who shares our name and we are able to live out the gospel in our living room, all because of a life-changing five minutes in Haiti.

Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see {Hebrews 11:1}.

*To read more about Rebecca’s journey, click here.  Follow her on twitter @becwoodman