Character

Patience is proactive, not passive

Patience is simple, but not easy

Patience is one of the many things in life that can be simple to understand, but very difficult to put into practice. I read some advice on parenting which taught me to give definitions to words, concepts and expectations that I have for my children. As a result, my wife and I have tried to teach our son a very simple definition for patience, which he has learned to repeat. "Patience is waiting with a good attitude," is the answer we are looking for him to give. He isn't always willing to give us the right answer (even though he knows it), let alone the self-control to always act with patience. But he is learning. The definition is simple, only seven words long, but putting it into practice is much more difficult.

And I am learning right along with him. I may have the ability to understand an even more complex definition of patience, but I often struggle to be patient just like my son. As I have taken on more responsibilities in life and experienced more pressures, I have not always been able to remain patient in all circumstances. In some ways, I have behaved with less patience now than when Megan and I first got married. It is a genuine desire of mine to grow in my patience.

Photo cred: https://pixabay.com/en/walking-feet-people-shoes-footwear-690734/

Photo cred: https://pixabay.com/en/walking-feet-people-shoes-footwear-690734/

Patience is proactive

I recently read a couple quotes that have helped me to think more about my patience. In his book, Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders writes, "Often we think of patience in passive terms, as if the patient person is utterly submissive and half asleep. But this version of patience needs biblical corrective."

Additionally, William Barclay wrote these words in reflection on 2 Peter 1:6, which uses the word "patience" in the King James Version. Barclay wrote, "The word [patience] never means a spirit which sits with folded hands and simply bears things. It is victorious endurance."

Both of these quotes point to patience being proactive, not passive. An examination of Scripture supports this idea. In James 5:7-8, being patient for Christ's return is compared with the patience required of a farmer waiting for his crop. The farmer, while patiently waiting for the harvest, is also diligently working to weed the fields and help his precious fruit grow. James also exhorts his readers to "establish your hearts," in anticipation of the Lords' return. Both the farmer and the believer are meant to act, even while waiting patiently.

In Hebrews 12:1, we are told to "run with patience the race that is set before us (KJV)." Once again, the King James Version uses the word patience (the ESV translates this word as endurance). The sense of this passage is that even while we "run the race," which is far from a passive activity, we are meant to be patient and enduring.

The two quotes and the two Scripture passages all point to the same thing. Patience is not a passive activity, it requires a proactive posture. If we are going to grow in our patience, we cannot just sit back and expect it to happen. We must prepare ourselves and be engaged in our patience. This is what I am learning. This is what I am going to strive for in the coming weeks and months. I am going to be proactive in my patience.

Patience is not a passive activity, it requires a proactive posture.

5 ways to be proactive in patience

Proactive patience requires you to pray (for help)

The first place to start is on our knees. If we are going to grow in our patience, it will require God's help. Not just in the moment of need, but on a regular and ongoing basis. Pray with me for increased patience - for you and for me.

Proactive patience requires you to plan (ahead)

Like many areas of sin, impatience cannot be conquered if we only think about it in the moment. Examine your patterns and tendencies and consider what triggers your impatience (ie. time of day, location, when you are hungry, etc.). In response to this, make a plan that will help you to be more patient in those situations.

Proactive patience requires you to act (in the moment)

When you feel your impatience rise, you must act. Pray, take a breath, and remind yourself of your desire to grow in patience. Think through why you are getting angry, and respond with patience. Remind yourself of the grace you have been given through Jesus and extend that same grace to whoever is in front of you.

Proactive patience requires you to learn (from experience)

This step is essential if we are going to plan ahead for next time. We will inevitably fail at being patient, and we must learn from those experiences. As you reflect on previous moments of impatience, adjust your plans for next time so you can act with increased patience.

Proactive patience requires you to repent (when you respond in impatience)

If we respond with impatience, it will nearly always require us to repent. We will need to repent for the ways we acted in our impatience, and also for the impatience itself. Repent to God for your pride and impatience, apologize to the person you wronged through your actions and remind yourself of the gospel. God still loves you, that has not changed. Luther wrote, "the entire life of believers should be repentance." We should not shy away from this in the face of our sin. Repent, and believe in the gospel.

This is how I hope to grow in my patience - through pro-actively pursuing patience in my life. Will you join me?

Question: What has helped you grow in your own patience? Please share in the comments section below.

 

A key element that we often forget about love

Loving well

Loving well is not always easy. It is often quite difficult. We struggle with our own selfishness and prejudice, hindering us from loving others as we ought. Its like canoeing upstream when turning around to move with the momentum of the river would be much easier. Fighting the current of our own flesh often frustrates our more pure desire to love well.

Not to mention that the definition love has been molded and manipulated into many forms. We use the same word to represent how we feel toward our iPhone, our favorite coffee and our spouse. Dictionary.com lists 28 distinct ways that the word love can be used. It isn't necessarily good or bad that we have so many uses for the word love, what is important is that when we use the word love, we do not confuse what meaning is intended.

Even the Bible is not monolithic in its use of the word love. There are three different greek words in the Bible that we often translate as love. They are agape, phileo and storge. There is also a fourth greek word, eros, that is often associated with love.

The key element I want to focus on comes from the greek work agape. This is the love most often associated with the love of God because in 1 John we read that God is love [agape] (1 John 4:7-12). This is the sort of love that is grounded in the very character of God.

God's love as our example

When I consider how I ought to love others, the love of God is what first comes to mind. Jesus gave this instruction to his disciples:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35 ESV)"

Jesus instructs his disciples that they are to love one another. But this doesn't seem like a "new command." What is new about Jesus telling them to love one another? I believe that the new command is that Jesus grounds his command to love one another in the example of Jesus' love. Jesus says, "just as I have loved you..." We are to love one another in the way that Jesus loves.

John took this teaching from Jesus to heart. Elsewhere in the Bible he wrote, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11)." John appeals to the love of God as a way of pointing his readers to also conduct themselves in love.

Jesus is our example of love.

Photo Cred: https://stocksnap.io/photo/0D9713A6E0

Photo Cred: https://stocksnap.io/photo/0D9713A6E0

A key element to loving well - taking the first step

In his love for us, Jesus took the first step. "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)." We did not love God. He loved us. We did not initiate. He initiated. We did not take the first step. He took the first step. He sent Jesus. God demonstrated his love when he made a way for us through Jesus, even while we were still sinners and enemies of God (Rom 5:8-10). We did not take the first step. We were blind to the ways of God because of our sin. We would not have sought him out if it were not for his desire to seek us out first.

When I consider the initiation of God to love us first, I am compelled to believe that part of loving others well is taking the first step. In his love for us, Jesus took the first step. We are called to do the same with others. This has massive implications for all of life. Here are a few ways that taking the first step in love can impact our lives.

In his love for us, Jesus took the first step. We are called to do the same with others.

Initiating with our spouse

How often have you waited for your spouse to take the first step toward reconciliation after a fight? I am telling you that loving well means you take the first step. Even if you don't think you were in the wrong, take the first step. This is highlighted even more for men in the marriage relationship, because Paul calls the husbands to be like Christ (Eph 5:25). Christ took the first step to reconcile our relationship with him, so we should do the same in our relationship with others, especially with our spouse.

This also means that we are actively pursuing a deeper relationship with our spouse. We are thinking ahead to ask good questions and pursue a deeper relationship. Take responsibility to move toward your spouse today.

Initiating with our neighbors 

Jesus did not wait for us to come to him to begin a relationship. He did all the work to make it possible. If you want your neighbors to see the light of Jesus, do not wait for them to come ask you. You go to them. Do not wait for someone to stumble into your church to build a relationship. Do not wait for your neighbor to knock on your door with cookies. You take the step to meet them first. Initiate in relationship with the people around you. Jesus did. We should as well.

Initiating in reconciliation

I already discussed this in the section about spouses, but the example of Jesus regarding reconciliation is too great to not expand my exhortation. If you have a relationship that requires forgiveness and reconciliation, do something to initiate. Do not sulk to yourself about their lack of initiative while you do little to pursue forgiveness yourself. This will look different in each relationship because of various histories, pains and hurts. There is no one-size fits all, but because of the example of Jesus, I believe you are called to take a step in the direction of reconciliation. Even a very small step in love can bring about a miracle through the work of God.

Initiating to meet a need

Sometimes we observe a need in someone around us. Or maybe someone shares a prayer request in our small group about an area of need they have. One of the ways we can show the love of Christ in our communities is to initiate in seeking to meet a need. This doesn't need to be complicated. The first step can be to simply ask if there is a way that you can help. But don't ask if you are not prepared to follow through on their response. You don't need to wait for someone to ask you specifically. It also isn't always wise to assume you know the best way to meet the need. But you can always ask.

Take the first step with someone today

Here is my call to action for you today.

Pray and ask yourself who you might be called to love more intentionally today. Who is God inviting you to love well today? And then take a step that would be a clear expression of your love. It might be a step toward repairing a relationship. It might be a step toward deepening a relationship. Or it might be a step toward beginning a relationship.

Whoever it is, you take the first step. We would be lost if God had not done the same for us. Shouldn't we do the same with others?

And let us know how it goes in the comments section below.


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Loving the giver more than the gift

Abram and Sarai

At First Baptist Church, where I serve as the Adult Ministries Pastor, we are currently spending time looking at the life of Abraham. Our preaching series is taking us through the chapters in Genesis that tell the narrative of his life. This past Sunday, Pastor Matt preached on Genesis 16 and explained how Abram (that was his name before God changed it to Abraham in Genesis 17) and his wife Sarai grew impatient with God's promise of a son. They took a short-cut to try and fulfill the promise on their own by having a child through Sarai's servant Hagar. In the end, this ended up causing significant conflict for them and their decedents. Abram and Sarai wanted the gift of a son more than they wanted to honor and trust the promise of the giver. You can listen to the full sermon audio here.

It is tempting to look at the actions of Abram and Sarai and condemn them for their short-cut. They were more in love with the gift than the giver. They pursued their own means to satisfy the desires of their hearts. While we may want to validate ourselves by criticizing their choice, we are blind if we think that we are immune from this type of behavior.

The most powerful idols in your life are the ones you don't see and often they are fueled by a disproportionate love for some of God's most treasured gifts.

Moving beyond the less acceptable sins

It is not uncommon for a person to share their testimony of faith and for them to describe how they had formerly succumbed to a pattern of sin, but have now moved beyond the behaviors of their past. Especially when it relates to some of the most common sins we think about (ie. pornography, alcohol abuse, drugs, stealing, gambling addictions, sexual promiscuity, etc.). These are not sin patterns to take lightly. We must fight these with deep resolve and persistence.

Unfortunately, we have created a culture in which people feel lost after they overcome those sin patterns. Once we see consistent victory over these past behaviors, we don't know what comes next. Our definition of sin has become truncated and myopic. We can only see sin as those "really bad" things that we used to do.

The more subtle sins that creep into our lives are the worship of God's good gifts. These idols can become the most powerful and unnoticed sins. And they have the potential of being even more destructive than the more obvious sins we leave behind.

I experienced this process personally in my own journey of faith. As I grew in my commitment to Jesus, I walked through a process of fighting off one of these more "obvious" sins. Eventually, I came to see that I still had idols that I worshiped, only these idols were often associated with many of God's good gifts.

The most powerful idols in your life are the ones you don’t see

What is an idol?

We commonly associate the word idol with a trinket we might find in an animistic culture or the god of another religion. In the Bible, we see idols such as Dagon (1 Kings 5) that the Philistines worshiped. But idols in American culture are not often found in a god-like entity, but rather a material item, social status or emotional connection. In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller defines an idol this way:

"What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god [idol] is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children , or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving 'face' and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty and your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in Christian ministry (pg. xvii - xviii)."

Idols are anything that surpasses the level of our love and commitment to God. We are more committed to our idols than our God. We are more in love with our idols than our God.

Abram and Sarai were more in love with the prospect of a son than they were with their love and trust for God. As you delve into the story more, it is also apparent that Abram was more concerned about keeping Sarai happy than he was at being committed to trusting the promise he had heard from God. Abram elevated his wife's approval and happiness above his love for God. These are all ways that our idols begin to creep up and sap our love for God.

photo cred: pixabay.com

photo cred: pixabay.com

God's good gifts

The challenging thing about idols is that we often make them out of God's greatest gifts. As Timothy Keller delves into the danger of counterfeit god's, he examines some of our most common idols. He spends a chapter each on the idol of love/relationships, money, success and power. He also talks about how religion and morality can become an idol when we worship our own righteousness.

Love and relationships are good gifts. The opportunity to invest in a loving marriage is a beautiful and sweet gift. Having children who we can care for and see grow into mature adults is a legacy worth leaving. Loving relationships are not bad. They are actually something God has given to us to enjoy and celebrate. Unfortunately, we can twist these relationships into idols. This happens in the person who sacrifices their own integrity in order to receive affirmation from another person. It happens in the sexually promiscuous life that pursues meaning through fulfilling lustful desires. It happens in the young man or woman who spends their time looking for significance in internet pornography instead of developing meaningful relationships with real humans. We begin to love God's gift more than we love God. We make an idol out of it, and idols can be cruel masters.

Money and material possessions are good gifts. Through money, we are able to purchase food, shelter and clothing. With money we are able to enjoy many other elements of God's creation. We can travel to visit family or go to a conference. Through money, we can support the mission of God in the world through churches and ministry organizations. Money is a good gift. But it can easily become an idol. We can quickly become consumed by getting a bigger paycheck, so we can buy a bigger house and nicer car. It does not take long before we love our money and our things more than we love our God.

The most elusive idols come when God's good gifts become our ultimate desires. We begin to love the gift more than the giver.

How do we overcome our idols?

If you read Keller's book, you can get a far more comprehensive solution, but allow me to suggest a few quick steps that can help to remedy your idol worship.

1. Identify your idols

The first step to overcoming your idols is to see which ones exist in you. You can ask yourself some questions: "What thing in my life, if I lost it, would utterly devastate me?" or "Where do I spend my resources of time, money, emotions and mental energy?" or "When I feel sad or hurt, where do I turn to for comfort?"

You can also ask God to help reveal the idols that exist in your life. Ask God to help you see where you are loving his gifts more than you are loving him. You can also ask the people closest to you. Ask them to tell you where they see idols in your life (this might be hard, but also very helpful).

2. Repent

Once you begin to see idols surfaced in your life, you need to take the time to confess them and repent. Confess them to God and repent of the way you have been worshiping these counterfeit gods instead of the one true God. Repentance is not just acknowledging sin through confession, it also includes a desire to change.

3. Remember the Gospel

Once you have repented, remind yourself of the gospel. Tell yourself that "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rm. 8:1)." Remind yourself that "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Ps 103:12)." Remember that the grace of Jesus "is sufficient for you (2 Cor. 12:9)." God has set you free through Jesus. He has given you new life through Jesus. Repent and acknowledge the weight of your sin, but do not stay there. Remember the gospel of Jesus and live in a way that is consistent with the new life Jesus has purchased for you.

4. Elevate the giver - don't minimize the gift

We may assume that in order to not worship these idols we need to minimize their goodness. That will not actually help us much. Because the gifts truly are good. They are God's good gifts for his people. Love, relationships, success, money and righteousness are not bad. We do not need to villainize that which God has given to us as good. The solution is not to minimize the gift.  The solution is the elevate the giver. Increase your love and affection for Jesus. Remind yourself of the gospel. Get into a community that helps to cultivate your love and commitment to God.

At times, it may mean that you need to actually remove the barrier that an idol has created by selling the thing you idolize. It may mean that you need to give up an unhealthy relationship or that you need to change careers. Increasing your love for Jesus may require a more radical change. Although, it should be in the service of helping to grow your love and affection for Jesus, not because that good gift is necessarily bad.

5. Ask God for help

You don't have to do this on your own. In fact, you can't do it on your own. Ask God for his help and trust in the work the Holy Spirit will do in your life.

What about you?

I would love to hear from you. What ways have you seen God's good gifts turned into idols? And how have you been able to battle the idols that seem to weasel their way into your life?

4 qualities to look for when investing in a future leader

Are you thinking about growing new leaders?

If you are leading a church, a small group or any other small team, one thing you should be doing is looking for future leaders to develop. If you are helping to lead anything, I hope you are planning to invest in a future leader who can take your place or lead something new in the future. If you are not, then you should. For example, if you are leading a small group, there is likely someone in your group who could one day lead a group themselves. Ask yourself how you can help them grow into that role. If you are leading the greeting ministry at your church, consider who might be able to help lead the ministry one day - or even take it over.

This is important for two reasons. First, you will not be around to continue in leadership forever. Either through unforeseen circumstances or through a planned transition, someone else will take over leadership. Second, if they do not take over for you, they might be able to put their leadership to use in another area of life.

This is especially important with small groups. As a pastor who works with our small groups ministry, I know first hand that having even more qualified and capable leaders would be a gift to our church. We would be able to create more new groups that people can join to help disciple them toward maturity in Christ.

It is also important to note that no area of leadership is too small to consider how you can invest in future leaders. You may not feel like your role is that significant, but whatever pocket of life you have leadership within, you can invest in others who can grow in their own leadership as well.

Great leaders invest in future leaders.

Great leaders invest in future leaders. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins distinguishes between what he calls a level 5 leader and a level 4 leader. There were  a few different qualities that distinguished them, but one of them was their willingness to grow and invest in future leaders.

Photo Cred: Pixabay.com

Photo Cred: Pixabay.com

I have limited time - who do I invest in?

We have to acknowledge the fact that we all face the challenge of the limited resource called time. We do not have endless amounts of time, and a good portion of our time is already devoted to other commitments. If we are going to intentionally invest time in growing future leaders, we need to have some way of evaluating where to invest that time.

Ultimately, every human being is worth the investment of our time, because every human being has intrinsic worth and value as men and women who were created in the image of God. It is entirely possible that God may call you to invest time in someone who doesn't seem to fit all the qualities of a leader that we typically consider. If so, then be obedient to God's call.

If you are asking yourself how to evaluate whether you should invest in someone as a future small group leader for example, I would suggest that you consider four particular qualities. These four qualities are not comprehensive, and other qualities must also be considered. Each role may require different skills and experience. For me personally, these four qualities need to be present if I am going to spend a considerable amount of time in helping to train a new leader.

4 qualities of someone to invest in as a future leader

1. Reliable

Are they going to do what they say they will do? When you ask them to read something or prepare something, do they get it done? It is important that they have good follow through and are people you can count on. If they agree to something, you want to be confident it will happen. For example, if you both agree to read certain chapters in a book and then get together to discuss them, you want to know they will come prepared. Or if you set a time to meet, you want to know they will actually show up. It is frustrating to invest time in someone who cannot follow-through. 

This will eventually hurt their own leadership as well. People have a hard time following someone who is not reliable. If I tell my small group that I am going to do something, and then consistently don't follow-through, I will begin to lose their trust. They may still like me as a person, but they will not be able to count on me. Especially in our Western-American culture, being reliable is a high value.

If you are going to take the time to invest in someone, you want to know you can count on them.

2. Available

Not everyone has the time to grow into a new leadership role. School, work, family and many other things require our time. If you are going to invest in someone new as a leader, you need to know that they actually have the time to do what will be required. Someone can have all the skills, talents and experiences necessary, but if they do not have the time to invest in their new role, then they will be ineffective. Before you invite someone to a new leadership role, or before you commit a large amount of time to help train them, be sure you have had an honest conversation about whether they are able to commit the time necessary.

3. Faithful

Are they committed and faithful? This is different from reliable in that it is less about their ability to follow-through and more about their desire to endure. Are they going to stick around when it gets tough? Will they be here in a year from now when the luster of a new role has worn off? Will they show up week in and week out, even if it isn't glamorous? Are they going to be faithful to you and to the team they are hoping to lead? We need leaders who will be faithful to their role and the investment we are planning to make in them.

4. Teachable

This is extremely important. If someone is worth investing in, then they should have a desire to grow and learn. Good leaders are humble and willing to learn. If someone thinks they have it all figured out, then they are not the sort of people you want to spend your time investing in. The Bible says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)." One of the qualities to look for in someone worth investing in as a future leader is a teachable spirit. It requires humility and an eagerness to continue growing.

Wrapping it up

These four characteristics can make a nice little acronym - RAFT. There are other acronyms that you can make with these letters as well, but this is the one I prefer. If you really want to keep going with the acronym, you can play with the word raft. You can ask yourself if this is someone you want to invite onto the "raft" of leadership with you? Don't overdo it though! This acronym/analogy could spin out of control pretty quick...

If you are serving in a leadership role, these four qualities should not only define the type of person you are going to invest in, they should also define you. Are these four qualities true of yourself? This would be a great question to consider over the coming days and weeks.

Authentic Worship: A lesson from my son

Worship can be very simple to understand. Worship can also be very complex.

I am not attempting to navigate the various complexities of worship in this brief post. However, I was given a fresh picture of worship recently that has shaped my understanding.

It began with my son. As a father, my eyes have been opened to new understandings of how we relate to God as Father. When Jesus instructed us to pray, he began "Our Father..." In Galatians, Paul tells us that we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. My experience as a father has helped me to have an increased understanding of how we relate to God. While my relationship to my children is far from a complete representation of my relationship to God, I have seen some things in a new way.

My birthday was a few months ago, and my wife and I went out to celebrate. We had a babysitter come over to watch our children so that we could go out. With two littles running around, dates are hard to come by, so we were excited to get out together. Unfortunately, our son had a very difficult time with us leaving that night. He really wanted us to stay home. It broke my heart to leave him as he asked us over and over again to stay home. Even though it was difficult to leave, it was necessary for the health of our marriage, so we went anyway. 

Our keen babysitter suggested that Liam and she make a birthday card for me while I was gone. He jumped at the opportunity to make a card for his daddy. They took out a blue piece of paper, folded it in half like a card and wrote "Happy Birthday, Daddy" on the cover. With colored pencils, Liam included some random marks and traced his hands a couple times. They also wrote Happy Birthday on the inside with the words, "I Love you Dad." Our babysitter gave me the card when I got home, and it was so precious.

The card was not anything special. It was actually sort of a mess. There were random marks all over, and scribbley-traced little hands. The colors didn't coordinate well, and there was a lot of blank space that had no real purpose. It was not aesthetically pleasing from a purely objective sense and I do not assume that Hallmark would duplicate this card in order to sell it anytime soon. But for me, no card that could be found in the endless racks of Hallmark or Target would be sufficient to replace the card that Liam made. It was priceless.

A short time after receiving the card from Liam, I was sharing about it when speaking to a group of students and it nearly brought me to tears.

Why would the card mean that much to me? From a design standpoint, it wasn't anything special. There was no poem. There were eloquent words. The value in the card came because it was an authentic and genuine gift from my son, whom I love dearly.

The value of our worship

My experience with the card that Liam made for me helps me understand the heart of God for His people. The value of our worship is not found in the eloquence of our speech. It isn't found in the harmony of our singing. Our worship is not valuable to God because we adhere to certain traditions. It isn't found in our ability to choose the correct songs or know all the words. The value of our worship is not in our physical posture. We are not better worshipers because we raise our hands or because we lay prostrate on the ground or because we shuffle our feet with our hands in our pockets. The value of our worship is not in the type of building we worship or the theological system to which we ascribe. It isn't because we know the definition of justification, propitiation or sanctification.

The value of our worship is found primarily in our identity as God's children, created in His image and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Our worship is valuable not because of how we do it, but because of who we are.

The value of our worship is found primarily in our identity as God’s children.

God desires our hearts

Flowing out of our identity as God's children, our worship is meant to be marked by hearts of humility and love. God says that he desires "steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6)." More than our sacrifices or our traditions, God wants our hearts. He desires for us to offer Him pure and authentic worship in response to His character. As we learn more about God and are reminded of His love through Jesus, we respond in worship. God wants our hearts. He wants our real, raw and authentic worship.

The card Liam gave me was not special because of its quality. It was special because Liam is my son. It was special because as my son, Liam wanted to give me a card to express his love and appreciation for me on my birthday. I have tried to remember this in my worship lately. My worship to God is special because I am His son. As His son, I want to give Him worship as an expression of my love and appreciation to Him as my Father God.

6 ways to intentionally pursue rest

Do you ever get tired? Do you ever feel stressed, stretched by life or emotionally drained? Do you ever feel like you need a little rest?

I feel confident that most people would answer yes to these questions. I am often prone toward feeling this way as well.

According to MasterCard's clever commercial featuring children trying to convince their parents to take "one more day" of vacation, over 400 million vacation days go unused every year. On a fairly regular basis, I see an article on a news site or linked from social media that tells us we live in an overworked nation. For example, here is an article that tells us that "The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World.

People speak of their busy lives with pride. We wear busyness like a badge of honor. I do not believe that is how God wants us to live. I do not believe that God desires his people to overwork themselves and live under the constant stress and worry of a full schedule and never ending to-do lists. Do not misread what I am saying. God wants us to work hard. God does want us to set goals and pursue great things for His ever expanding glory. But God also wants us to rest. If we do not rest, we may end up like a $100,000 car that is out of fuel on the side of the freeway. It doesn't matter how beautiful or grand or breathtaking our work may be, if we do not have the fuel to sustain it, then it is like a beautiful hunk of metal on the side of the road with nowhere to go.

We need rest, but we are not alone in our need for rest. We have good company.

Jesus Rested

Mark's gospel records a series of events in the life of Jesus that display the value and necessity of rest. Leading up to Mark 6, Jesus and his disciples have been engaged in some intense ministry. Jesus has begun his ministry, caste out demons, healed people, proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom, confronted religious leaders and sent out the twelve apostles to do the same. Jesus tells his apostles, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile (Mark 6:31 ESV)." Jesus, recognizing their need to rest and invites his disciples away to a desolate place. Unfortunately, this does not happen. They are followed by a great crowd, and having compassion on the crowds, "because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mk 6:34)," Jesus teaches them and then feeds them.

After Jesus performs the miracle of feeding the five thousand, he sends his disciples across the sea and dismisses the crowd. Jesus had set out to rest, but his rest was interrupted. While his rest may have been high-jacked, it was still a priority. Therefore, "after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray (Mk 6:46)." Jesus still wanted to take some time to rest and commune with the Father, so Jesus made it happen.

Jesus prioritized rest. He was flexible when it didn't work the way he initially hoped. He still made it happen though, because rest was important to Jesus.

6 ways to intentionally pursue rest

1. Admit you need rest

The first step to pursue intentional rest is to simply admit your need. If you think that you are special and do not need it, you will never prioritize rest. Remember, even our savior needed to rest at times. Do not be so prideful to assume that you are immune to this natural human need. Your inability to admit your need for rest will catch up with you eventually. You will be like a Ferrari on the side of the road. Looking good, with no fuel to get you where you wanted to go. It will require some humility to admit your need, but we have a God who loves to give grace to the humble (James 4:6).

2. Invest in rest (don't just avoid life)

If you are going to take time to rest, be sure to invest in your rest. Your time is precious. The value of your time is one of the reasons so few people want to allocate this precious commodity toward rest. If you are going to take the time to give yourself some R&R, then do something that is actually refreshing. It is extremely common for people to do activities that simply help them avoid life, rather than those that bring new energy to their lives. For example, playing video games, watching a movie, scanning our Facebook feeds or any number of other activities may be considered rest for some people. Unfortunately, these activities don't often give us new energy or true rest, they merely help us avoid the stress and worry of life for a couple hours. But when we finish these activities, the same stress is ready to confront us again. Think about what activities give you energy and refreshment, and allocate your resting time toward those activities.

3. Create regular rhythms

Creating natural rhythms in life that help you rest is important. When something becomes a natural part of your rhythm, it is more likely to actually happen. These activities might include a daily time of prayer and reading your Bible, a daily walk with your family, a weekly Sabbath day to rest from the weeks work, or a monthly planning/retreat day to pull back from your normal tasks to plan and pray. I have eveb read about some people who take a daily power nap. Each person requires something different. For example, you may have read the "daily walk with your family" and thought to yourself, "that isn't rest!" It may not be physical rest, but for my family and me, it creates mental rest. When my wife and I put our kids in the stroller and go on a walk together, we have an opportunity to clear our minds, talk about important things and grow closer as a family. It is something I would consider rest. What about you? What sort of natural rhythms would create opportunities for regular rest in your life?

4. Plan it into your schedule

This is related to #3, but comes at it from a different angle. The previous way is more about creating regular habits, patterns and rhythms that create rest. Here, I am taking it one step further and telling you to actually plan rest into your schedule. Make an appointment slot on your calendar for restful and refreshing activities. Plan a vacation, and guard the dates you choose. Plan a power nap, and ensure that it happens. There is too much in life that wants to encroach on our schedules. Therefore, if you do not plan rest into your schedule, it will not happen.

5. Be flexible when it doesn't work out

In the life of Jesus, we see him flex when his rest didn't work out. He tried to get away for some rest with his disciples, but the crowds followed them. Jesus responded to the situation and flexed on his rest in order to prioritize the opportunities God had placed before him. Don't get so rigid with the rest you have planned that you miss an opportunity God might provide. This doesn't mean that we sacrifice our rest. Jesus may have flexed on the rest he wanted, but once the miracle of feeding the five thousand was over, he still hiked up on the mountain to pray. 

6. Get enough sleep

Sleep is important. The more life I live, the more I am convinced of the value of sleep. If I don't get enough sleep, my mental faculty is diminished, I am a more crabby person and I feel my intimacy with the Lord decrease. Part of resting well is getting enough sleep. It is imperative.

A disclaimer...

...and an opportunity to respond

Let me provide a quick disclaimer. I am not always intentional to rest well. In fact, I often do quite poor at resting well. I am writing this to myself as much as anyone. If you have any thoughts on how to rest well, please share them in the comments below. It will be helpful for both me and your fellow readers.

Do you befriend non-Christians?

Do you befriend non-Christians? To some, this may seem like an odd question. Why am I even asking?

For others, it is actually quite penetrating. If you have been following Jesus for awhile, then you might be intimately aware of what I am probing you to consider.

There is a common pattern that emerges when considering the lives of people who have followed Jesus for many years. The number of genuine relationships they have with people who are non-Christians is quite small. Just so we are clear, I am writing this to myself as much as I am to anyone who is reading. As I have grown older, taken on more responsibilities and worked in a Christian context, it has become more difficult. At one point, I was living on campus at a Christian university, I was working at the same Christian university and I was attending class at a Christian seminary. I worked with Christians, I studied with Christians, I lived with Christians, I ate with Christians and I spent nearly every waking hour with Christians. Last summer, I took my first call as a pastor and so I continue to work in a context where I am constantly surrounded by other Christians. Lest I sound like I don't enjoy spending time with other Christians, that is not what I am saying. I am not complaining that I spent all my time and continue to spend my time with primarily Christians. I love the people I have spent time with over the past four to five years. I have developed real and deep and genuine relationships.

The reason I am asking the question, do you befriend non-Christians?, is because we are called to share the good news of Jesus with the world. How are we supposed to do that when we don't have friendships with anyone who doesn't already follow Jesus? Therefore, I have been challenged to consider how I can cultivate relationships with people who do not already follow Jesus. I challenge you to do the same.

But first, you may consider reading this post about what I believe it means to "follow Jesus." I use the phrase "follow Jesus" fairly often, and it may help bring some definition to what I mean.

Intentional in Relationships

If we are going to develop friendships with non-Christians then we must be intentional. The natural path of your life will be to drift toward relationships with people who look like you, enjoy the same things as you, dress the same way as you, and believe the same things you do. The friendships you have with people who share your faith are extremely important, and are not to be minimized. However, the reality is that unless you are intentional, you will probably not develop new friendships with non-Christians.

Ask yourself how you can create new rhythms in your life so that you can develop new friendships with non-Christians. You can also consider the current ways you spend your time. For example, are your kids involved in activities? When you go to those activities, do you engage with the other parents to develop genuine relationships, or do simply want to avoid the other parents? What about work? Are you actively trying to learn about your co-workers so you can love and care for them? Many of you already have natural ways to connect with non-Christians, while others will need to create new opportunities. However it works for you, be intentional to develop relationships with people who are not already following Jesus.

Develop genuine friendships

As you begin to develop these friendships, do not see them as simply a target to convert? That is not what we are after. Jesus calls us to truly love our neighbor. This means developing genuine friendships. The type of friendships that involve investment, caring, and sacrifice. If you are going to try to intentionally develop friendships with non-Christians, do not see them as a task to be conquered. They are a person to be loved. As you learn about who they are, what they cherish, what their hopes are and what they fear, you can be a true friend. As a friend, you also get the privilege of sharing the good news of Jesus. This may mean that they eventually follow Jesus too, or it may mean that they never do, but either way, we are called to love them just the same.

Relational Sphere of Influence

When I think about the relationships I have, I find the term Relational Sphere of Influence (RSI) helpful. I define my RSI as the people I have a relationship with as a result of my natural rhythms of life, including my family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, fellow parents, hair stylist, convenience store clerk, etc. These include both Christians and non-Christians. If you were to try to sit down and write out a list of everyone who is in your RSI, you might be surprised at how many people's names you scribble onto a sheet of paper. The depth of your relationship to each will vary, because we are naturally closer to our spouse than we are to our next door neighbor. Once you have written down the names, ask yourself how many of them are already following Jesus. How might you be more intentional to develop genuine relationships with non-Christians, so that you might have the opportunity to love them well and share the good news of Jesus with them.

Non-Christian friends won't make you unclean

I think that we can sometimes fear that if we spend too much time with non-Christians, they will make us "unclean." I do not believe we need to have this fear. In fact, I believe that Jesus made it abundantly clear that it is not the case. If you want to read more about this, check out my previous post about what makes us clean/unclean. We do not need to fear that becoming too close with non-Christians will somehow ruin our own faith or undercut what God is doing in our lives. We do not need to fear these friendships.

In fact, you may come to cherish and grow with your non-Christians friends more than you think. One of the favorite people I have known is a friend from the years I spent in Fargo. I developed a friendship with a co-worker who was not a Christian. We spent time playing games together, watching MMA fights and talking about faith. He actually initiated some conversations surrounding faith, because he wanted to explore it more. The questions he was asking helped me to consider things differently and forced me to answer questions I may have otherwise avoided. It didn't cause me to question my faith, but in many ways I grew more confident in the reasons I follow Jesus. Unfortunately, he and I don't interact much anymore, because we have both moved away from Fargo. If we both lived in the same city, I am sure we would find ways to hang out, but our lives just don't intersect much. I still pray for him, and I still hope that one day he will follow Jesus, but regardless, I will always consider him a friend.

Take a step

What does this mean for each of us? What is the next step that we should take?

For each of us, it may look different. Some of us simply need to intentionally invest in the relationships we already have. Others may need to restructure our lives to create space for building new relationships with non-Christians. I challenge each of us to take some time today to pray and consider how we can develop genuine relationships with people who do not already follow Jesus.

Listening is more than just hearing

Communication is central to what it means to be human. God has created us as men and women who communicate. In reality, we are always communicating. Whether through our non-verbals, through what we say or do not say, we are in constant communication with one another. Communication is also one of the primary ways God has chosen to include us in community with Him. God communicates through His Spirit, through His Word and through His People. God has humbled himself, and uses our modes of communication in order to have relationship with us. As we seek to live our lives in a way that is consistent with our love for Jesus, we must learn how to communicate well.

Miscommunication doesn't help

Miscommunication can be very counterproductive and even hurtful to people at times. One common way we short-circuit our communication is when we hear what someone says, but we don't really listen. When we listen to someone, we process the information in such a way that we can respond appropriately. If my wife asks me to take out the garbage before I leave for work in the morning and I call out "yeah!" from the other room, and then when I walk out the door for work without touching the garbage, I have most likely "heard" her, but I have not listened to her. I have not heard her communication well enough to process it and respond appropriately. Megan (my wife) can be gracious to me for this oversight, but a consistent pattern of me not listening will eventually become hurtful to her and harm our relationship. This is a small example, but it can communicate a great deal about how much I value my wife and what she tells me.

Listening well is important

Here is a great quote about the difference between hearing and listening:

"The one communication skill that is paramount to good communication is listening. Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is an involuntary physical act of sound waves impinging upon the ear. It is passive; it requires only healthy ears. We can hear someone talking without listening to them. Listening requires cultivation. Conscious thought must be given to understand what is said."

The book this quote comes from - The Couple Checkup - is about marriage. Certainly good communication is supremely important to our most important human relationship, our marriage. It is also important to all our relationships. Good listening is important to our relationship with Jesus. It is important to our relationships with our children, our fellow small group members, our co-workers and every other relationship we have. Listening is an important way that we grow together and help one another feel valued - because when we feel heard, we feel valued.

Remove Distractions

In order to practice good listening, we must first eliminate distraction. This means we set aside our phones, our social media or our own thoughts when someone else is talking. This can be hard at times. If we are with someone and they have something to communicate, then they are important enough to proactively reduce distractions so we can truly listen. If you are at home with your spouse, turn your phone off or commit certain time periods to engage in conversation. When you are in your small group, listen to what others are saying and seek to truly understand what they mean. If there is something on your mind that is distracting you, write it down on a sheet of paper so you will remember to come back to it. Get it out of your mind and on paper, so you can listen to the person across the room from you. There are a number of ways to remove distractions, we just need to see the priority of actually doing it so we can listen well.

Paraphrase

I know that it feels unnatural at times, and it can seem a bit cheesy, but paraphrasing what someone else said can be really important for effective listening. If they make a statement, try to rephrase it back to them so that you can clarify whether you understood what they meant. They can either correct misunderstandings, maybe alter what they intended to say or simply affirm that you heard correctly.

Ask questions

Asking good questions helps us understand the other person and clarify statements. Asking questions is so important. This does not mean that you ask questions in order to lead the conversation in the direction you want it to go. Rather, it is an opportunity for you to try discovering something new about them, come to a greater understanding of who they are and learn how God has made them. Remember, the transition from hearing to listening comes when we actually engage what the person says and try to come to a better understanding of what they meant. Asking questions is important to listening, because it helps us to understand what they want to communicate.

Listening helps people feel valued

Feeling like the people around you have listened to you and understood you is extremely important to feeling valued. According to research, feeling understood in a marriage is a high predictor of marital satisfaction (The Couple Checkup). This is likely true for all our relationships. If you are in a small group, I challenge you to be very conscious of how well you listen to your fellow group members the next time you meet. Remove distractions, use paraphrasing techniques and ask good questions. People feel valued when they feel understood. And we cannot be an agent of change in people's lives when we are not actually listening to what they say.

What about our relationship with Jesus?

Many of these principles ring true in our relationship with Jesus as well. While it doesn't function the same way as it would with people sitting around a room, we still should ask ourselves if we are actually listening to the voice of our Savior. Or are we just hearing him? When we read our Bibles, are we asking questions, analyzing the information and processing the message, or are we just reading/hearing it and then moving on with life? Jesus wants to have a relationship with you, and that means listening to his voice.

We are after life transformation not simply information transfer

We often practice the Christian life as though it is all about transferring information. Forgetting that the information is meant to transform our lives. Whether in our own personal practice of faith, in one-to-one relationships, group settings or when entire congregations gather, we must remember that we are after life transformation, not simply information transfer. The Bible often talks about the new life we have in Christ. We have been made new, and with that comes a new way of thinking and a new set of behaviors. We are called to live in a way that is consistent with our new life.

Are the relationships you have and groups you are part of supporting the transformation God wants for you? Are you helping to steer them in a direction that will bring about the transformation God wants?

Photo cred: http://pixabay.com/

Photo cred: http://pixabay.com/

Create systems, structures and models that support transformative experiences

One of the reasons we often focus on simply transferring information is because it is easy. It is clear and not muddy. It is simple and not complicated. We have seen it happen in our academic institutions and we have seen it modeled to us by others. It often takes the shape of sitting across the table from someone, sipping coffee and relaying information. This is not all bad. In fact, I have seen this setting contribute to changing the lives of people around me. It contributed to my life being changed. The problem is when it ends there.

Consider other settings in which people learn a trade or a new profession. Nearly all of them will include the transfer of information, but most of them will also include opportunities for that information to be put into practice. An electrician spends years as an apprentice before logging enough hours to take their test to become a journeyman electrician themselves. Someone trained in architecture will spend years logging hours before they can take their tests to become an actual licensed architect. As we invest in discipling relationships, we must not only create environments in which information is shared, but also put into practice.

This might simply mean that we talk about life when we meet. When I was working through some of my own areas of sin and struggle during college, I had an older man who was mentoring me cry in my dorm room over the sin that I could not seem to shake. He was not just sharing information, he was in my life. He cared about how I was doing, he asked questions, gave suggestions and followed-up with me. He was so invested in my life being changed, that he was moved to tears. This also might mean that we engage in living out our faith together. Serving together in our communities, spending time together over a meal or helping to create an environment in which we can invite our friends to experience the gospel.

This can mean so many different things. The important thing to ask is whether we are creating environments that support transformed lives? Or are just the transfer of information.

Engage and participate, don't just attend

If we want to see our lives changed, then we must be engaged and participate in the communities we form. It can be easy to just show up, but never actually engage. If this is the case, we will likely hear the information, we can even nod our heads in agreement, but we never actually process the information or relationships enough to change us. Being fully engaged will require something from us. It will make us uncomfortable at times. It will mean that we give up control of our own schedules or expectations. It can even get messy. It means that we ask hard questions. It means that we are vulnerable enough to share difficult things. It means that we are patient enough to listen to others. It means that we are open enough to hear what others have to say. It means that we are teachable enough to allow the Scriptures to inform how we live and what we believe - even when we don't understand it all. Life transformation requires us to participate, not just attend.

Ask yourself how this new information impacts how you live your life

In Paul's Letter to the Romans, he exhorts us, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rm 12:2)." There is an important connection between the information we learn and the transformation it brings. I hope you have not heard me saying that information is not important. When I read "renewal of the mind" in Romans, I think about cognitive things and about information. It is by the "renewal of your mind" that God wants to bring about transformation. It is through information and learning that we are often changed. Further, the word gospel means "good news." The message about Jesus is news. It is information. It must be communicated and heard and analyzed and processed and believed. Information is extremely important. I am not minimizing the sharing of information or deep intellectual study. Some of my most transformative moments have come through deep intellectual study of the Scriptures. But what I am saying, and what I believe Paul is saying in Romans 12:2, is that the renewing of our minds should also bring about life change.

Therefore, when you learn something new or are reminded of a piece of information from the Scriptures, I would encourage you to ask yourself, "How does this new information impact the way that I live as a follower of Jesus?" It cannot be just information, it must also change our lives.

Always remember where the change comes from

Finally, we must always remember where our new life and the transformation it brings comes from. While reading this post, you may have experienced some guilt over not doing well enough at seeing transformation in your own life or in the lives of others. Before you dig your heels in, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work tirelessly at the things above, I want to encourage you to remember where it all begins. Our new life has come through Jesus. Our desire to see changed lives flows from our love for Jesus. The power we have to see lives changed comes through the Holy Spirit. It is important that we ground ourselves in the gospel of Jesus first. We have been made new. Jesus makes people new (2 Cor 5:17). Our desire for transformed lives is because we want to see ourselves and others live in such a way that it is consistent with our love for Jesus, because he first loved us and gave us new life.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these [the Scriptures] that testify about me (Jn 5:39)." First and foremost, Jesus says that the Scriptures testify about him. If we miss Jesus in the Bible, no amount of life change will matter. The first bit of information that transforms is the gospel of Jesus - that God loved us enough to rescue us from darkness and give us new life.. We cannot miss this. We must remember where it all begins, and then pursue a transformed life in response to the love Jesus has for us in the gospel.

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below with your own reflections. How have you seen your own life transformed as a follower of Jesus? And what particular experiences, habits, life rhythms, communities, etc. have supported that transformation?

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Jesus loves to invite people to follow him

Jesus loves to invite people to follow him. Jesus often uses this phrase, "follow me," when he invites people to be his disciples. When he calls Simon and Andrew, a couple of fisherman, he says "follow me... (Mk 1:17). When he invites Levi, a tax collector, he says, "follow me (Mk 2:14)." On numerous occasions within the life of Jesus, he invites people to follow him. This is not merely a physical following, like we might follow someone from one location to another because we don't know the way. It is not merely being starstruck and following him like we would a famous celebrity. It certainly isn't like following someone on Twitter. When Jesus calls someone to follow-him, it is an all-of-life sort of following. It will require all of us. Jesus loves to call people to follow him, no matter their race, ethnicity, culture, sex, age or any other identifying feature. No matter their past sin, or present status in society. Jesus invites every type of person to follow him, but it will require every part of the person who does.

When I talk about being a disciple of Jesus and following Jesus, I use them as synonyms. If we follow Jesus, we are his disciples. If we are his disciples, we follow him.

SO... What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be his disciple?

Three marks of a person who follows Jesus

They love Jesus above all things

First and foremost, a person who follows Jesus must love him above all things. Recognizing that we are imperfect, and therefore cannot perfectly love Jesus, it may be more accurate to say that we are always growing in our love for Jesus, over and above all things. Jesus says that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him (Mt 16:24). This does not mean that we do not enjoy the good things that God has created, but they must always be secondary to our love for Jesus. Often, the most elusive sins and idols in our lives are those that come from good things - from loving material things too much, from worshiping our spouse or our children, or from pursuing the praise of others as our primary goal and motivation. Loving Jesus above all things means that he is more important to us than the many good things we have the privilege of enjoying in life.

Paul talks about his desire to boast only in the cross of Jesus (Gal 6:14). There is nothing more worthy of our pleasure and joy than Jesus. All things flow from and to our love and commitment for Jesus. If we follow Jesus, then we must be growing in our love for him and incorporating regular rhythms and patterns that help us grow in that love. 

What raises your affections for Jesus? What helps you to grow in your love for him? Pursue those activities, so that you will grow in your love for Jesus.

They live in a way that is consistent with their love for Jesus

The second mark of someone who follows Jesus is that they live their life in a way that is consistent with their love for Jesus. This means that their character flows from their love for Jesus - it is in response to their love for Jesus. They are not trying to live with Godly character so they can earn the love of Jesus, but because Jesus has already loved them. Living consistent with their love for Jesus means obeying God's commands as found in the Bible. This can mean many things. It means that they exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 6:22-23). It means that they love God and love others (Mk 12:28-31). It means that they change from their earthly desires to those more consistent with the heart of God (Col 3:5-17). Living a life that is consistent with our love for Jesus can mean many things and the person who follows Jesus - because of their love for Jesus - seeks to bring their character into alignment with what God says in His Word.

They multiply their faith by actively making new disciples

Jesus calls his followers to be witnesses to his Good News (Acts 1:8). The person who follows Jesus does so because they have experienced the greatest of news. Jesus brings new life to dead souls - that's really good news! At the cost of his own life, he gives life to those who follow him as his disciples. Jesus wants us to share this with others, so that they can also follow him. When he first called those fisherman on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mt 4:19)." Jesus' call to follow him means that we will catch men into the net of his Kingdom. Some of his final words to his disciples have become known as the Great Commission - "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19)." The person who follows Jesus multiplies their faith by actively making new disciples. This happens with our friends, our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates and anyone else we come to know. We share the good news of what Jesus has done and invite others into the joy of following Jesus.

Learning from your children

The setting

I recently experienced some unintended reproof from my son. As I was trying to get my daughter and son prepared to leave the house, I was beginning to grow frustrated. Getting out the door with two children under the age of three can be challenging. It is not a quick ordeal.

As I attempted to push my daughter's tiny fingers through her coat sleeve, she was not cooperating very well. She has grown past the point where her arms simply go where I put them, but not to the point where she can help me get her dressed. She was putting up a bit of a fight, and I was growing impatient. I expressed my frustration verbally by saying, "goodness!"

The Lesson

All the while, my son was sitting near us waiting for me to finish getting him ready as well. I hear him chime in...

"faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (in a sing-song tone)

My wife has been teaching our son the fruit of the spirit and has employed a short song to help. When I remarked "goodness," it was only natural for him to continue the song with the final three fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.

Upon hearing his response, I was immediately struck with the lack of patience, gentleness and self-control I was demonstrating. God's Spirit brought conviction nearly immediately.

The Response

I said a quick prayer to confess my own impatience and harshness, asking God to help me respond better to my children and grow in obedience to Him. Praise God for the ways He helps us see our own sin and our need for Jesus. May we all be a bit more open to hear from God today. Even when it comes from unlikely places.