Did You Brush Your Teeth?

It can get pretty comical when one of my sons gets caught doing something, and he lies about it.

The other night I put my son to bed and I asked him, “Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes,” he said.

So I asked him, “When? When did you brush your teeth? Remember, I’ve been downstairs with you all evening. Then I walked you up to your bedroom. I put you in your pajamas, and you jumped in bed. In all that time, you never brushed your teeth. So let me ask you again: Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes!” he said. “I brushed my teeth!”

“Now,” I said, “I highly advise you not to lie! I’m going to give you a few minutes. I want you to think about whether you should lie to me, because I know you didn’t brush your teeth. If you lie to me, there’s going to be a consequence. You know I don’t want you to lie! So think about it.”

My sons know there are consequences to lying. They also know that the consequences don’t come from anger. They know it’s just because I don’t want them to lie. Lying is breaking trust! So I have to teach them to be truthful. I will take away an iPad, or whatever else I’ve got to do, to let them know that they can’t break trust. We have to trust each other.

Well, after a few minutes, my son said, “Dad, I didn’t brush my teeth.”

I said, “Okay! And remember, you don’t have to lie. You’re not in trouble. I just want you to brush your teeth.”

When it comes to our children, it’s best if we’re able to encourage them. We don’t have to condemn them and we don’t have to judge them. We don’t have to use fear tactics to manage or control them. We can just encourage them.

I try to constantly remind my sons of the leaders I think they are. I tell them I’m proud of them. And I teach them that they don’t have to lie. They can always be truthful. They need to be! A truthful leader will always attract more followers than a liar.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit encourages us. Maybe you’re not lying, but you might have something else going on. You might be looking at something you shouldn’t look at, or wanting something you shouldn’t want. Perhaps you are thinking about doing something you shouldn’t do. In those moments, there’s a feeling. There’s an intuition inside of you saying, “Hey, I wouldn’t do that. Here’s why.”

That’s the Holy Spirit!

I knew my son hadn’t brushed his teeth, because I’d been with him the whole time. It’s the same with the Holy Spirit.The Holy Spirit is always with you. The Spirit sees everything you do, or don’t do. My son couldn’t get away with not brushing his teeth, because I was there the whole time. It’s the same with us. The Spirit is there the whole time! And you know what? He forgives everything.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26

That’s what Jesus told the apostles about the Spirit, the Helper. I think that this is what families can do for each other. This is what it’s all about.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

When Pastors Become Pharisees

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3:1

James said teachers will be judged more strictly than others. Why? I think it’s because of the power they have. Teachers have authority because of their words, and words have power.

Have you ever been with a pastor who got on a power trip?

It’s a good thing to hear a pastor say, “Hey, through what I’ve seen and read, and through my prayers, I feel like the Spirit has given me peace by helping me see things this way. You could pray about this too.” It’s a good thing to hear a pastor say, “Pray about my message,” or, “Think about these things and see what’s good to you, in the Spirit.”

But you don’t always hear that. Sometimes pastors just insist, “I’m a pastor so you have to listen to me.” That sounds like a power thing.

This was the attitude of the Pharisees, too. We have a lot of stories about Jesus and the Pharisees. We know that Jesus ate with the Pharisees. We also know that He read their minds. Then He blasted them for the thoughts He found in there!

In our congregations today, we read the Gospels and talk about the Pharisees. We talk about how bad they made people feel. They really did, with their holier-than-thou approach, especially to outcasts and sinners. Then along came Jesus. “No, no,” He told them. “It’s not your place to judge.”

But shouldn’t we also take a look at how we make people feel? What if we are doing the same things as the Pharisees? If we are, then we need to take a time out, in order to reflect on that. If we treat people the way the Pharisees treated people, we need to rethink what we’re doing.

If you’re called to be a pastor, I believe this means that you are given wisdom, and that you are called to share it. And I genuinely believe that most pastors are very sincere about their calling. But I worry when I hear a pastor say, “I was praying the other day, and God told me to talk to you about this.” When he says that, he is basically telling people, “This is what God said.” Now he can say whatever he wants.

And most people in his congregation will say, “Amen! I guess I’ve got to do it then.”

That’s why teachers will be judged more strictly.

You’d think if anyone could tell people, “This is what God says you should do,” it would be the apostles. But they didn’t! Think about what happened in Acts, when the church was having a big fight over the question of circumcision. They gathered in council, and when they communicated their decision, they said, “It seems good to us, and it seems good to the Holy Spirit, that what matters is a circumcision of the heart, not of the flesh.”

The meaning here is very important. The apostles did not say, “Look, God came down and said to us, ‘This is what you need to do.’” They didn’t say, “We’re the apostles, so we know what God said about this.”

That’s not what they did at all. They simply said, “It seems like the Spirit was okay with our thought process on this.” For me, that’s a pure message. That’s the wisdom pastors are given, and then called to share.

We should all pay more attention to the words in red. You know, Jesus. We should focus on His words, because those are the actual words of God. Not the inspired words of God, but the actual words of the Almighty God. Jesus carried those words. He spoke them into the world. They are the most powerful words in the history of words, period. God’s words. You can read them over and over again, and feel good every time. I mean, the actual words of God!

Are we doing that as believers? Or are we saying, “My pastor says…?”

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

Words of Power

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3:1

Jesus ate with the Pharisees, read their minds, and blew them up for their thoughts. Nowadays we talk about the Pharisees and what they did, and how bad they made people feel. But shouldn’t we also look at how we make people feel? Are we doing the same thing as the Pharisees? And when we do, why do we do it? Do we need it to feel better about ourselves?

“I’m a pastor so you have to listen to me.” Have you ever heard a pastor speak some version of that? And when they do that, why do they do it? Is it a power thing?

If you’re called to be a pastor, I believe that means you are given wisdom, and that you are called to share it. And I genuinely believe that most pastors are very sincere about their calling. But I worry when I hear a pastor say, “I was praying the other day, and God told me to talk to you about this.” When he says that, he is basically telling people, “This is what God said.” Now he can say whatever he wants, and most people in his congregation will say, “Amen! I guess I’ve got to do it then.” That isn’t always the case.

The apostles didn’t even do that. You’d think if anyone could tell people, “This is what God says you should do,” it would be the apostles! But they didn’t do that. Think about what happened in Acts, when the church was having a big fight over the question of circumcision. They gathered in council, and when they communicated their decision, they said, “It seems good to us, and it seems good to the Holy Spirit, that what matters is a circumcision of the heart, not of the flesh.” The meaning here is important. They didn’t say, “Look, God came down and said to us, ‘This is what you need to do.’ No doubt about it.” They just said, “It seems like the Spirit was okay with our thought process on this.” That’s a pure message. That’s the wisdom pastors are given and called to share.

It’s a good thing to see a pastor say, “Hey, through what I’m seeing, and what I’ve read, and how I’ve been praying, I feel like the Spirit has given me peace by thinking this way. You need to pray about this too.” It’s a good thing to see a pastor say, “Pray about my message.” Or, “Hey, think about these things and see if it’s good to you with the Spirit.” But you don’t always hear that.

James said teachers will be judged more strictly. I think it’s because of the power they have. Words have power. We should pay more attention to the words in red. You know, Jesus. We should focus on His words, because those are the actual words of God. Not the inspired words of God, but the actual words of the Almighty God. Jesus carried these words. He spoke them into play. They are the most powerful words in the history of words, period. His words. You can read them over and over again, and feel good every time. Because you’re like, “Man! The actual words of God!”

Just the other day, I read Mark 9. It was so good! I read it via the Message Bible, because sometimes I’m struck fresh by the words. The last part of the chapter said that we’re going to be “preservatives” in this world. We are to preserve peace. And that meant so much to me. I’d never read it like that that before. “Preserve peace.”

Are we doing that as believers?

See you Thursday.

How to be Angry

Jesus calls us to follow Him and be His disciples. We are called to serve as Jesus served. Part of our service is helping people achieve greatness, whole and complete as the image-bearers of God. That’s what good servant leaders do. We let people become who they’re going to become.

Servant leaders lead through acts of service. That means we can hear what someone’s asking us to do, and then do it. For that, we need to have an open heart, right? We can’t be stubborn and pig-headed. We need ears to hear and eyes to see. We have to be moldable.

We have to be aware of that in our marriages. We have to be moldable in marriage. In marriage, if you disrespect each other, there is going to be anger. It feels like, “Hold on a second. You’re not respecting me. You’re not treating me like a human being. You’re not telling me who I truly am.” It’s frustrating!

And you’re going to disagree. There will be angry moments. It would be great if we could go into every relationship with no expectations. That’s how it should be. But there will be expectations.  It’s in our nature, right? And where there are expectations, there are failed expectations. If you have expectations — and you will — you’re going to be let down. When you love somebody, you’re so close to them. You’re transparent and you’re vulnerable. You become so open to them that it’s very easy to get your feelings hurt.

That’s why you have to be moldable. You can’t be stubborn and pig-headed just because your expectations weren’t met. That is not a time to get angry! Anger like that is selfish anger, and it’s uncontrolled. Selfish anger says mean things. It tears others down. It throws daggers. It brings up past mistakes. When you lose control, it’s usually because you’re trying to take control. You want your spouse to be a certain way, and when they’re not, you try using anger to control them. That is selfish anger. It lets you wound people with your words. You start tearing them down because you want them to feel your pain. That is a dangerous place to go.

Jesus taught us self-controlled anger. Self-controlled anger is being able to say, “I’m really upset right now. I’m mad, and I’d like to talk this out. What you did hurt me, and I’m kind of angry about it. I would like to tell you why.” And then you talk it out. You can talk it out with patience. Love is patient, right? Love is kind.

So when you’re angry or impatient about something, you’ve got to be able to tell your wife or your husband. And then you can talk it out. Love will always win. Self-controlled anger will always win, because it allows healing. When you can talk it through, the wound can be exposed and healed.

Love will always win because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us. He told us, “I don’t expect you to be perfect, nor do I expect you to handle everything like I do. That’s why I’m giving you grace. I will always love you. I will always be proud of you. You have my unmerited favor. But realize: Don’t judge. Don’t fall into selfish anger. Remember, you have flesh on your bone. Until I come back, you’re going to mess up just as much as anyone else. You’re no better than anybody else.Realize that, and don’t judge.”

See you Monday.

Getting Out of the Way

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John: 14:12-14)

Imagine what it must have been like to be around Jesus. It would almost be overwhelming. I think I can understand where the disciples were at. They must have heard Jesus say this and thought to themselves, “What?! How am I going to be able to do what He does? This guy is unbelievable. He’s a hero! I don’t even know where to start.”

Jesus knew that as long as He was here, the disciples wouldn’t be able to do the things He was doing. They couldn’t! As long as they were with Jesus, they were going to feel inferior to Him. Jesus understood that. “That’s why I’m going to leave,” He told them. “You’re going to do greater things than I’ve done. The only way is for me to leave.”

He said, “I know I’m going to overwhelm you by my ability to do what I do. You’ll think you can’t do it, so you’re just going to let me do it.” And that’s what happened, right? But Jesus wanted the disciples to do the works that He did. For that to happen, He had to get out of the way.

But here’s the cool thing. Jesus said, “I’m going to serve you, and I’m going to be the ultimate servant leader. I know you won’t feel like you can do it. So I’m going to send the Holy Spirit, and He’s going to guide you. My friend is going to come here, and He’s going to give you wisdom. He will guide you to do things the way He saw me do them. He’s going to say, look, this is what you should do, and this is how Jesus would do it.”

This is what servant leaders do. They convince people that they can do something, and then they get out of the way and let them do it. Jesus does this for us. We see what He did, and we want to do it too. We want to do our best to live like Him. So He sends the Holy Spirit. Then we can do our best, and we can become what He molds us to be.

Servant leaders know how to surround themselves with people that they can lead by serving. Then they get out of the way. You’ve got to know when to get out of the way. Let people become what they are destined to become, and achieve greatness. This is what Jesus did for the disciples. We can be like Him by serving each other. And we do that by loving each other.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

The Spirit Sees Everything – And Helps Us!

It’s a comical part of the child’s life when they get caught doing something, and they lie about it. The other night I put my son to bed and I asked him, “Did you brush your teeth?” He told me, “Yes.” So I asked him, “When? When did you brush your teeth? I’ve been downstairs with you all evening. I walked you up to your bedroom, I put you in your pajamas, and you jumped in bed. In all that time, you never brushed your teeth. So let me ask you again: Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes!” he said. “I brushed my teeth!”

“Now,” I said, “I highly advise you not to lie! I’m going to give you a few minutes. I want you to think about whether you should lie to me, because I know you didn’t brush your teeth. If you lie to me, there’s going to be a consequence. You know I don’t want you to lie! So think about it.”

My sons know there are consequences to lying. They also know that the consequences don’t come from anger. I just don’t want them to lie. Lying is breaking trust, so I have to teach them to be truthful. I will take away an iPad, or whatever else I’ve got to do, to let them know that they can’t break trust. We have to trust each other here.

After a few minutes, my son said, “Dad, I didn’t brush my teeth.” So I said, “Okay! And remember, you don’t have to lie. You’re not in trouble. I just want you to brush your teeth.”

When it comes to our children, it’s best if we’re able to encourage them. We don’t have to condemn them. We don’t have to judge them. We don’t have to use fear tactics to manage or control them. We can just encourage them. I try to constantly remind my sons of the leaders I think they are. I tell them I’m proud of them. And I try to teach them that they don’t have to lie. They can be truthful, and they need to be. A truthful leader will attract more followers than a liar.

I think encouragement is what the Holy Spirit gives us. You might be looking at something you shouldn’t look at, or wanting something you shouldn’t want, or thinking about doing something you shouldn’t do, and there’s a feeling or an intuition inside of you saying, “Hey, I wouldn’t do that. And here’s why.” That’s the Holy Spirit.

Obviously the Holy Spirit sees everything, because He’s with you the whole time. You’re not going to be able to get away with something, because He will see it. My son couldn’t get away with not brushing his teeth, because I was there the whole time.

The Spirit sees everything, and He also forgives. And I think that is what people inside the church can do for each other. Help and encouragement is what it’s all about.

See you Thursday.

You Can Handle Anything

Christians are taught to listen for God’s wisdom, and obviously I think that’s what we need to do. But I understand that the practice of listening sometimes raises a problem for theology. Doing theology in a systematic way will always lead us to ask, “How do we know that it is God’s voice we hear, and not the voices of our own preferences or needs?” Last time, I suggested that we can be sure we’ve received God’s wisdom when our actions make visible the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

If we don’t show self-control when we’re talking to other people, then we don’t hear God’s wisdom in our words. I’m not talking about controlling people, and I’m not talking about controlling situations. I’m talking about self-control. There are going to be times when people come at you, and you will want to take control. You won’t want them to win, not when they come at you. That’s natural! But we have to get past that.

It’s not about winning and losing, not when it comes to Jesus Christ and humanity. He has already won. He says, “You are in me, and I am in you. You and I are One with an O, plus I have won with a W. So you have to understand, when you are talking to other people, even when they are aggressive towards you, you have won already. You don’t need to be in control.”

This is your identity. This is you who are in Christ.

fruit of the spirit

There will be other times when you are talking to somebody or trying to help them, and all of a sudden something arises that is not written down on any of the pages of the Bible. I guarantee this will happen, and it can throw you! Wow, you say, he’s asking things, and she’s asking things, and the answer isn’t in my Bible. That’s when you’re going to say, “Holy Spirit, help me handle this the right way.” That doesn’t mean you’ll always have an immediate answer. But you can still handle it right. You can handle anything when you have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Sometimes as a believer, you have to have faith. Sometimes Christians fear that what they have from God won’t be enough. In those moments they reach for something else. They want so much to see an immediate impact or an immediate response. But sometimes, that’s not what you’re going to get.

You have to have faith. You have to trust that handling a situation with love and self-control is going to be enough.

See you Monday.