Living With the Saints

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Let’s face it, the saints aren’t always easy to live with.  If they were, St. Paul would not have to give us the instruction above from the book of Romans. They gossip and brag, complain and criticize (sins of the tongue are so easy to come by).  They can be stubborn, impatient, hypocritical and unreliable.  Some have personalities that just don’t jive with our own– maybe they seem blunt, controlling, demanding or unreasonable.  These things are all part of our “sinner” nature.

Funny, isn’t it, that Paul doesn’t tell us to change them  He also doesn’t tell us to give up and leave the church.  He tells us to be peaceful within ourselves. What does that mean?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Empathize with others as human beings.  You don’t always know what sort of day, or life, another person has been enduring.
  2. Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Something that offends you may not have been intended in the way you understood it.
  3. Don’t respond in anger.  You’ll probably regret it later.  Take time to cool down before you speak.
  4.  If you are truly upset by something another said or did, go and talk to them privately and nonconfrontationally.  You may be surprised at the results.
  5. Remember that everyone isn’t like you (my husband tells me this all the time!).  We all have different levels of spiritual maturity, different priorities, life experiences and interests.
  6. Remember your own sins.  I know I have my full share of irritating habits, so I should be willing to forgive as I have been forgiven, by other people and by God.
  7. Finally (and I should have put this first), pray.  Don’t ask God to change the person, but pray that they would be blessed, and that you will come to love and understand them.  Then leave them (and your hurt or anger) in God’s hands.

These are some things that have helped me, but I’d like to hear from others.  What are your strategies for living with the saints?

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With Sober Judgement

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  Romans 12:3

Paul puts this statement right before he talks about the differing gifts in the church, and how they are meant to be used together, to create a body, a unity.  I don’t think that’s an accident.  I believe what Paul is trying to tell us is that we should be aware of our gifts, and not be fearful about using them.  We’re not to become puffed up and proud, but rather realistic, knowing our own gifts, and appreciating the contributions of others as also necessary and valuable.

Now, we might discover our gifts through the normal course of daily life;  but then again, we might not.  Often we become caught up in the expectations and perceptions of others;  we don’t listen to God as carefully as we should.  We get caught up in what seems to be our “duty” and neglect the things that are really most important (shades of Mary and Martha!).  I can do this so easily.  There are so many good things in the church that need doing, how can I choose wisely?

One way is to know your gifts.  This has helped me tremendously, especially when I need to say no.  One author I read recently said, “Do the things that only you can do.”  At the very least, we should be giving those things priority.  I’m trying to apply this to my own life.  What are the things, at home, at church, in the community that I can do best?  What are the things that will probably go undone, if I don’t take up God’s challenge to get them accomplished?

If you haven’t taken a spiritual gifts assessment, I’m going to provide a link so you can do this.  It will help you say yes to the opportunities that are right for you.  The things God wants you to do in the body of Christ.  Think about your gifts with sober judgement.  You can start here:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/women-leadership-spiritual-gifts-growth-service

Then click on Spiritual Gifts Survey to find an assessment of your gifts.

Leaders Who Imitate Christ

In the apostle Paul’s letters to various churches, he often tells the believers to imitate him.  Our leaders should be examples to us, but why is that?  For Christians it is because leaders are to imitate Christ, who is the ultimate leader of our lives.  Here’s some more of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

In imitating Christ, Paul teaches other leaders to be unselfish, desiring always what is best for others, particularly when it comes to their faith and salvation. In honesty, I have to admit that I don’t always do this, but I should.  Who wouldn’t want to follow a leader who had their best interests at heart?  If we lead in this way, people will follow us to the one who can save them and give meaning to their lives.

Jesus Himself told his followers:

“And he sat down and called the twelve.  And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

And remember the last supper?  The scene when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples.  He tells them:

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you.”

Jesus gave us an example.  He wants us to imitate Him as a servant-leader.  If you are a leader in any way (and you probably are), be unselfish and loving.  Think the best of those you lead, and desire God’s best for them.  It’s the least you can do as an imitator of Christ.  He loves you and so do I!

 

 

Problems or Blessings #2

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. Romans 7:15

Well, I almost blew it again.  Just like Paul in the book of Romans, I know the right way to act, but more often than not, I keep choosing the same old sin.  A little while back, I blogged about how most of our “problems” are really just annoyances or inconveniences, and instead of whining and complaining, we should focus on the actual blessings we’ve received.  Today I had a test of just this sort of situation, and I came close to forgetting all my good intentions.

On Tuesday our church has a regularly scheduled Bible Study at 10:30AM.  I went over an hour early so that I could run off some copies needed for the Wednesday Prayer meeting and the next Fanning the Flame meeting.  I got there only to find a repairman working on the copier!  I got pretty cranky with my husband–after all, he could have called me to let me know what was going on, couldn’t he? I didn’t even bring a book to read (duh, what about my Bible?) and I didn’t have anything to do until class started. What a waste of my precious time.

Then it dawned on me — Joan, this gives you an hour to pray!  No interruptions, no phones, a beautiful sanctuary to sit in — what a blessing!  It calmed me down and I realized that not only did I have my Bible, I had my little Pilgrim’s Guide (a book of prayers of Bible verses from my Via de Cristo weekend) in my purse.  So I spent a peaceful hour thanking God, examining my conscience (something that I evidently sorely need to do), and reading over the chapter we’re studying (which I hadn’t found time for).  And you know what?  After class, I got the copying done, too.  Another first world problem solved!

 

 

Turn Around

“…I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds …” Acts 26:20b

Did you know that the word repentance, as used in the Bible, actually means to “turn your guts (or insides) around”?  Repentance doesn’t just mean saying “sorry” or even feeling sorry.  It means going forward in a different direction — doing an about face.  Many times, maybe most of the time, we really don’t want to do this.  Sometimes we think we can’t  do this, because the sin is so deeply ingrained.  Saying sorry often means we’re sorry we got caught.  We’re sorry our bad behavior was noticed.  We want to look good instead of being good.

In the verse, the apostle Paul is explaining to King Agrippa exactly why the Jews want him to be prosecuted and put to death.  He had the audacity to demand that they change their ways!  He expected them to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and it made them furious!

True repentance is a willingness to turn away from our sin (whatever that happens to be) and start walking in a different direction, walking towards God’s way instead of our way.  It’s difficult, and sometimes we’ll stumble or even fall.  When that happens we need to get up, get going, and stay focused on the goal.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Are you willing to turn around?

 

Be A Love Letter

I’ve heard people call the Bible God’s love letter to us, and it is.  However, did you realize that each one of us is a love letter to the world from God?  Listen to what Paul tells the church in Corinth:

“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.  And you show you are a letter from Christ delivered by us written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

See the source image

If you haven’t noticed, all the Greek words for love that we’ve been pondering this month deal with relationships with people.  When we love our families, our neighbors, our friends, our fellow church members, or complete strangers we are simply instruments, used by God, to deliver His love to the world.  That’s quite a responsibility.  God’s love may be perceived and experienced through us.  Everyone you meet won’t read the Bible, but they will read about God through your life.

What kind of letter will you be?

 

Good Stewards are Content

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.”  Philippians 4:11

Part of good stewardship is being contented.  After all, how can we share what we have, if we’re convinced it isn’t enough?  Everything about our society seems based on consumerism and having more, more, more.  Ads constantly barrage us with the latest or better new product we need to purchase.  The lifestyle of a family on the average television show would require an income of $200,000.  Styles change quickly so we feel compelled to add to or change our wardrobe.  Phones and other technology are constantly updated, so that older models become “obsolete.” We’re always sure we’ll be satisfied when we get one more raise, the next new car, the slightly bigger house, and so on.  Unfortunately as sinful humans, that little bit more doesn’t satisfy, it just whets our desire for the next thing.  We never reach the point of being content, so we’re never thankful for what God has given us, and we’re never willing to be generous with what we have.  We don’t have time to serve others, because we’re so busy chasing after the latest and greatest toy on our list.  According to the apostle Paul, this kind of discontent leads to disaster.

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”  1 Timothy 6:4-10

If you’re an older person, you’ve seen that money, jobs, hobbies, trips and all the fancy trappings we try to surround ourselves with don’t last.  When we’re gone, people won’t remember what we had, they’ll remembImage result for images of contentmenter what we did with what we had. Did you live a life of integrity?  Did you serve God?  Did you love others?  Those are the things that will be important.  So practice the art of contentment — it’s one of the keys to good stewardship.