It’s not fair!

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“It’s not FAIR!”

How many times we who are parents have heard these words from our children! As much as we try, they still find inequity, and they can be quick to let us know.

Not only children, but adults can also be prone to voice the same complaint. Using more mature terminology, of course, but just reading the news we find an abundance of discontent due to people’s perception of injustice done to them. Righteous or not, many causes are fueled by people’s feelings of entitlement. We have rights, you know!

The process of human maturity is simply our learning that we are not the center of the universe. A baby is born with no consciousness of others’ needs. As we grow physically, hopefully we will also mature emotionally and socially. Some children progress rapidly in their ability to respond to the needs of others, but unfortunately many adults have a hard time leaving selfishness behind.

I used to think that true maturity and unselfishness would be to accept the fact that life isn’t fair, and be able to bear a reasonable amount of unfairness toward us without acting out like a two-year-old. But I can see now that maturity goes a step further; “not fair” does have a place in our unselfish vocabulary.

  • It’s not fair that I have so much comfort when others around me have so little.
  • It’s not fair that children should be deprived of their childhood and education to help support their families.
  • It’s not fair that young girls suffer abuse that changes the course of their lives by becoming adolescent mothers.
  • It’s not fair that I should enjoy a right relationship with God when others have not even had the opportunity to meet Him.

And the list goes on.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the needy. Open your mouth, judge righteousness, and defend the poor and needy. (Prov. 31:8-9)

True maturity and unselfishness is more than just turning the other cheek when we are wronged.  May we grow in willingness to sacrifice some of our comfort to bring comfort to others.

Seeing life through the macro lens

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Although I am not a professional photographer, I find much pleasure in taking pictures. Some of my favorite themes have always been sunrises, sunsets, and panoramic scenery. I am amazed at the way that our Creator continues to paint our surroundings, and often only lasting a few brief minutes. It makes me sense my smallness in the universe, which sometimes is humbling, but always reassuring that my Father loves me and cares for me, yes, even me!

Lately, though, I have begun to enjoy taking shots of small wonders, close up. Focusing on what is very near me has shown me how much I miss, the details that I too often ignore.

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It seems that my life in general is taking on this type of focus. I looked up the dictionary definition of “macro lens” which is: a camera lens designed to focus at very short distances with up to life-size magnification of the image. 

I read recently someone’s comment that few people’s lives are changed by words spoken to a multitude, but more are changed by what is spoken to them directly one-on-one or in an intimate gathering. Considering the influence that others have had in my life, I have found this to be generally true.

Even Jesus had different results with the multitudes than with his disciples. The same multitudes that wanted to make him king changed their mind to crucify him, but his twelve received his word and were transformed. 

I would much rather make a bigger difference in the lives of a few than a fleeting impression on many. Seeing with a macro lens I can “focus at very short distances” and bring out the glorious detail of God working his plan in people’s lives. Then the world can see the “life-size magnification of the image” – God’s image – as we are changed from glory to glory.

Running on empty

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We don’t get too far on empty, unless we want to push the car.

1 Corinthians 13: http://tinyurl.com/nojtbd

If we love, it will be expressed in actions. We know what some of those actions will be; we know what love looks like in practice.

But it is so easy to fall into doing the works, without evaluating if we are motivated by love, or only wanting to “do what is right”. Apparently, from reading the passage above, it is possible to do all of the visible works that could be an expression of love, but do them without love: prophecy, sacrifice, speaking in tongues, mountain-moving faith and the rest.

All of these things can be empty, void of the most important ingredient. We do them as part of our routine, and run the risk of falling into self-righteousness. I see so many Christians get burned out, fall into discouragement and want to quit as a result of running on empty.

We can evaluate our “love level” by observing our complaints and frustrations:

  • Do we get frustrated if our efforts aren’t appreciated?
  • Are we becoming weary of doing what we are expected to do?
  • Does it bother us when situations seem unfair to us?
  • Is it irritating to us when others don’t do their part to help us in our work?
  • Do we complain about other people’s attitudes?

I’m not saying that if we love others that all these problems will disappear, but at least we will be able to deal with the source.

But if we do find that our love has cooled off somewhat toward those that we help, what can we do to rekindle it? I believe that as we focus on God’s love for us and for others, we will find that our love will grow. Considering the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and his unconditional love that is our source of love, we can tap into it and be renewed.

And as with many problems, when we realize that we have the problem we are halfway to the solution. 

What are your symptoms of burnout and how have you dealt with them?

 

Water balloons and hoses

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We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Today when I was meditating on this verse I was reminded of the water balloon fights we had when we were young . We would fill the balloons from the faucet; sometimes they would break before we managed to pull them off, but if we filled them just right and tied them off we had a great time drenching each other on those hot summer days. Occasionally someone would get smart and hook a hose onto the faucet. Then it turned into a fight to see who could grab the hose and blast everyone else.

I saw three situations regarding God’s love:
1. We connect with Him in order to fill ourselves with His love, but we don’t give it expression so it doesn’t touch anyone else but us. The experience is beautiful but short-lived, and we find ourselves needing to reconnect with God and start over.
2. We fill ourselves with His love until we feel like we will burst, and seek a target to receive this great blessing. Then we throw ourselves into service and sacrifice ourselves to bless others.
3. Or we can be like a hose and connect ourselves to God – and abide in His love. Then His love can flow from us continually and bless others, and we also get wet in the process!
Are you a balloon or a hose?
Let”s stay connected to the source of love, and seek His wisdom regarding the mission field that He has for us.
Who will you bless today?

Read between the lines

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Sometimes what God’s Word does not say is as significant as what it does say.

Colossians 4:2-4 HCSB (with my comments)

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison,

(…not that you should pray that I get out of this prison, this is my mission field. The closed doors here for me are open doors for the Gospel…)

so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak.

(…not as my theological training may have prepared me, but as God has prepared their hearts, He will give me the words…)

How many of us if in prison would send the request: “Pray to God that He would get me out of here!” Many of our situations are much milder than prison, but perhaps we are missing the open doors to the mission that God has for us.

Is there something that you or I are trying to escape from that may really be our most effective place of ministry? 

As the tree is bent…

Image“We need more security guards, more police protection.” “There should be more punishment for offenders.” “The police department is too corrupt.”

So many comments, solutions offered for the problems of crime that we live with daily in Guatemala. It has gotten to the point that I rarely bother to read the local newspaper any more; page after page of murder, extortion, kidnapping, robbery, rape. Perhaps in your city it isn’t much different. (I hope yours is different.)

And the solutions? Mostly band-aids, putting out fires, struggling to keep our heads above water and survive the onslaught of violence outside our door. For many, even inside their door.

The overcrowded prisons are just a breeding ground for more violence. “UC”: University of crime. If those convicted can’t pay the amount specified to avoid imprisonment, they return to society much worse than before. Obviously this is not a solution.

But these criminals are human beings, made in the likeness of God. What happened to them? When did it happen? How can we stop focusing so much on putting out fires and do something to prevent them?

I have an idea. I’m sure it isn’t original but it is possible.

A child is born as a blank page. What is to be written on their heart and mind is determined by their family, school and society. At what age does a boy become a criminal? At what stage of life does a girl turn into a kidnapper? These changes are not conscious decisions made when a person is grown, but a result of their experiences from birth on. “As the tree is bent, so grows the twig.”

I know that this is no great revelation. It seems to me more like common sense. But I do have a proposition to do something about it.

I am working on an idea, a way to instill scriptural character and values into homes, schools, and day care centers. Scriptural concepts are powerful whether or not the chapter and verse are quoted. These concepts can be packaged in a way that we can share them not only with children, but also teachers, parents, grandparents and other caregivers. Here, most schools would be open to this type of help. We can work to convince those responsible for children’s development to promote that which will develop good character and values, and avoid the negative influences that are so prevalent in the media. Academic study is not enough.

This will not be a fast or easy process, but an investment of time and energy is necessary to make a better future. I believe we can plant seeds that over the next generation will bear fruit. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt. 5:9)