Developing a New Attitude for People (Blogs Revisited)

Developing a New Attitude for People (Originally posted August 29, 2014)

“People.  All those other beings that we share the planet with.  How do you look at them?  If you’re a people person like my wife, then you look at others as a gift.  You find the value in others and would like nothing better than to spend your day with as many friends as possible.  Others look at people as a tool.  They use those around them to get what they want.  Still others are solitary individuals, walking through life in their own little world, oblivious of those around them.

I would propose that as we walk through life we should develop a new attitude for people, one which Jesus adopted when he was on earth.  Jesus was definitely a people-person, one who saw the value in everyone he met.  But more than just meeting the needs of others, he loved what we cannot see in others… their soul.  Unlike some of us who are polite and concerned with those we know or easily get along with, Jesus showed love to all.  It’s amazing how we humans think we’re such good judges of the heart.  We like to decide who deserves our love and who doesn’t.  But Jesus didn’t look at others that way.  He loves all of us whether we deserve it or not.  He loved the people who wholeheartedly followed him as much as the ones who would deny him.  He cared for the sinner’s soul more than the opportunity to condemn them.

If we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must have his attitude towards others.  Colossians 3:12 reminds us, “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  The words “forgive” and “love” are added later on in the passage.  Did you notice something about all of those words?  They are all people related.  They are all ways that we can change our attitude for people.  It’s pretty obvious what effect we would have if we daily wore these Christian graces.  Just the act of forgiveness would drastically change our world.  And, when taken together, these attributes help us to show the love that God shows us every day.

Let’s begin to see people around us in a different way.  Let’s begin to fulfill the greatest command of loving God by loving others.  It’s what we were created to do.”

I’ve recently returned from a family vacation to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and boy were the crowds insane!  I, of course, expected as much considering it was the start of summer break for kids around the country.  I never let the crowds bother me though.  You have to expect to deal with long lines and irritated tourists at times when visiting a place as popular as Disney.

What it did remind me of though was the post above, which I wrote in 2014, and which mentions the importance of the people around us every day.  Each day, whether it be a workday, a weekend day, or a vacation day, we are privileged to share our time on this earth with other people.  I say privileged because we must remember that the people we interact with on a daily basis are also creations of our Almighty God.  Each and every one of them matter in the mind And heart of God and they should matter to us as well.

Each interaction with another is an opportunity to be a light for the kingdom of God.  It’s a chance to show patience and love.  It’s an occasion to forgive and minister to their needs.  God specifically told us that we are to love the neighbors around us as we would love ourselves.  And not just the ones that are lovable.  We are to love them with a godly love, even the ones who we feel may not deserve it.   Only then can we see others for who they really are… a person of value, created in the image of God.

-Joe Butler

Never Forget Where You Came From (Blogs Revisited)

Never Forget Where You Came From (Originally published June 7, 2013)

I had a college professor who had an extremely tough childhood.  Growing up around the gangs of south Miami, he was to see his dad murdered at a young age and all of his siblings imprisoned or dead from drug use or AIDS.  He constantly reminded us about not letting your circumstances keep you from better things but at the same time remembering where you came from so you could better appreciate where you are now.

A passage in Titus reminds us that, as Christians, we are to remember where we’ve really come from.  Titus 3:3-7 says, ”At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Just typing that passage touches me.  God’s immeasurable grace and mercy have rescued me from my circumstances, from where I’m from.   His son has given me hope and a promised place in heaven as an heir to eternal life.  When I’m reminded of where I’m from and how easily it would be for me to be there again, I’m much more appreciative of where I am now… in the loving arms of my God and Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”

Cleansed.

Justified.

Forgiven.

I’m so grateful for reading this old post of mine this morning.  It was such a poignant reminder that the grace of God and the blood of Jesus Christ has erased the sins of our past and saved us from our circumstances.  It’s amazing to think of where we’d be if it wasn’t for the grace of God.  We would be lost.  We’d be spiritually dead even though we would be physically alive.  It’s good to remember where we came from, if nothing else but to be reminded of how amazing the love of God really is.

-Joe Butler

Monday Motivation: Unending Love

“I love you.”

Without a doubt, the three most powerful words ever known to man. When spoken with sincerity, these simple words can literally have us floating on air and feeling like anything is possible.

Have you ever stopped to think why these words hold so much sway over our hearts?  Have you taken the time to think why we humans are able to relish in the most beautiful of human emotions?  I firmly believe it’s because we were purposefully created to enjoy that which God is at his core (1 John 4:8).

It was his love that spurred him to make mankind (Genesis 1:27).  It’s his love that sustains our daily needs and causes our cup to overflow with blessings (Psalm 23:5).  It was his immeasurable love that sacrificed his only son on our behalf (John 3:16).  And it’s his love that provides us peace and understanding during our overwhelming anxieties (Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7).

Whatever you face…

Wherever you are…

Never forget about the unending love of God.

-Joe Butler

This is Personal (Or at Least it Should Be)

Have you ever met someone who only showed love to you or others out of personal responsibility?  Whether you’ve experienced this yourself or have seen it manifested in the relationships of others, we are all too familiar with a fake version of love.

Now I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely not the kind of love that I want to experience in my relationships.  I want my wife’s treatment of me to be genuine and sincere.  I desire my daughter’s response to my parenting to be filled with gratitude and appreciation.  I hope that my friends truly enjoy their time spent with me and are not simply faking it in order to be nice.

The reality is, sometimes our relationships do experience these negative side effects and it never feels good.  None of us want to face the fact that sometimes our love for others is not always reciprocated.  Doesn’t it make you wonder whether God feels the same way at times?

You see, there’s a distinct difference between knowing God intellectually and knowing him personally.  We can have all the Bible knowledge in the world and not necessarily have an intimate relationship with God.  What’s interesting is that you can have knowledge of him without love, but typically, if you really love God, you will seek to know him more completely.  If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37-38), you would naturally seek to learn more about him.

Also, an unwavering commitment to serving God and submitting to his will usually only stems from a deep-seated desire to nurture an intimate relationship with him.  The more personal we make our walk with God, the more likely we are to trust and believe in him and his goodness.  The entirety of the Bible reflects God’s desire to be close to his children and for us to look at him as our Father and guide.  A Christian can only do that if they are committed to making their faith a personal one.  The most alarming evidence that God desires an intimate relationship with us can be found in the book of Matthew:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

(Matthew 7:21-23)

I can’t imagine how terrible it would feel if I were to hear those words from Christ.  “I never knew you,” says that we never took the time to really get to know God.  We never took advantage of the opportunities to speak with him in prayer or grow closer to him through his word.  It means that we were too busy being prideful and living our own lives when God just wanted us to feel loved like his dear children.

Ask yourself today whether or not you’ve truly desired and nurtured a relationship with God.  Resolve to make your walk with him more personal and I know you’ll soon enjoy the fruits of that beautiful relationship.

-Joe Butler

Adultery, Conspiracy, and Murder

I kind of had to laugh a little when I typed out the title for this post.  Not because I condone those actions, but because they could easily describe a number of movies or primetime dramas currently on television.  Sad isn’t it?  Sad that we as a society celebrate, or at the least, enjoy being entertained by such filth and debauchery.  Also sad because many people who claim the title of “Christian” watch such shows as well.  But I digress.

Well, this post is still going to discuss adultery, conspiracy, and murder, and it’s a story we are all too familiar with.  If you will, grab your Bible and open up to the book of 2 Samuel, the 11th chapter so you can follow along with our study.

It’s springtime.  The time of year when armies go out to battle and apparently beautiful women bathe naked in full view of others.  We have David, the rugged and good-looking King of Israel gawking at the very married wife of Uriah, Bathsheba.  He sends for her.  She willingly comes.  The result?  A shameful example of adultery and an unwanted pregnancy (2 Samuel 11:2-5).

But the story doesn’t end there.  After unsuccessfully trying to convince Uriah to lie with his wife to cover up his indiscretion (2 Samuel 11:6-13), our honorable King David then conspires to have Uriah killed on the battlefield.  It wasn’t bad enough that he was attempting to commit murder.  He even convinced Joab to go along with the plan (2 Samuel 11:14-21).  Maybe Joab was afraid to disobey the king.  Maybe he was a willing coconspirator.  Regardless of the circumstances, a marriage was ruined, sin was rampantly spread, and a innocent man was killed, all because David couldn’t control his wandering eyes on that rooftop.

Then along comes Nathan.  Not just any man, but a prophet from God.  He brings to David the story of a wicked rich man who steals from his poor servant.  The man in the story?  It’s meant to be David himself (2 Samuel 12:1-7)!  Nathan fearlessly tells the king that because of his sin, the sword will never depart from his house.  Because of his sin, evil will rise against him and his neighbors will plunder him (2 Samuel 12:11-12).  And David’s response?  He immediately confesses his sin (2 Samuel 12:13).

Were it so with all who claim to be Christians. Just take a look at David’s own words as he laments over his poor choices with a penitent heart:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:1-4)

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:9-17)

What an amazing treat it is to read the 51st psalm and witness the outpouring grief over committed sin.  I think my favorite verse in the passage is verse 17.  One of the most genuine ways to worship God is to offer him a ‘broken and contrite heart.”  It’s a heart that God has promised to forgive and restore.  Also take a look at the blessings David offers at receiving forgiveness:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:1-5)

When we don’t seek the forgiveness of God, we can literally waste away from our guilt.  We all know the feeling full well, for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  And yet David can confidently say that the iniquity of his sin has been forgiven because he had confessed his transgressions to the Lord (vs. 5).

Finally, read the words of Psalm 139 and see that David realizes God sees all.  David invites him to know his heart and to lead David into righteousness:

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:1-4)

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7)

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

These actions and this attitude should be the aim of all wish to be followers of God.  When sin occurs in our life, we should grieve over that sin to the point where we pour out our confession to God in the most transparent way possible (Psalm 51).  Next, we should rejoice that God offers us forgiveness, even to the most wicked of sinners (Psalm 32).  There is no sin bad enough that God has not offered to forgive and forget.  But we must let God have our heart and fully yield to his will for our life (Psalm 139).  We must invite him to guide us in the way we should go, and most importantly, submit to his divine leadership and wisdom.

Do you have king-sized sin in your life?  Rather, do you have ANY sin in your life?  Like David, go to God with a penitent heart and ask for his mercy and forgiveness because “blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:2).

-Joe Butler

 

Compelled By the Love of God

It’s a busy time right now at school for us teachers.  The end of the nine week grading period is upon us and it’s always a hectic time.  Kids are scrambling to get assignments completed, and I’m working to get grades posted in the grade book.  This is also the time of year where I try giving some extra motivation to my students, to encourage them to work harder for the next nine weeks and see if they can make any improvements.

It’s always interesting watching students react to their grades.  They always know what their grade is throughout their time in school, but when report card time hits, it becomes much more real for them.  The ones who have an A or B are usually pretty happy and proud and are looking forward to showing their parents how they did.  The students who scored a D or F usually begin to panic and worry about how their parents will react.  For an 8-year-old, the idea that they may punished for a bad grade is, in most occasions, enough motivation for them to try harder.

You see, my goal as a teacher is to try to teach students how to be intrinsically motivated.  It’s good to want to perform well for their parents or so they don’t get grounded, but it’s even better for them to take pride in their own hard work and have some ownership for how they did.  We’re all that way to some degree.  We work long hours at work to earn that paycheck.  We show love to our family and friends in hopes that they will reciprocate with actions of gratitude.  Athletes train consistently in order to win the game.  We’re all extrinsically motivated to some degree and need to find ways to be internally satisfied with our performance.

But it’s a little bit different in our relationship with God.  We don’t have to work ahead of time to earn his love and good favor.  In fact, he offers us more than we could ever want even before we realize who he is.  Does that mean there’s no response on our part to God’s love?  Absolutely not!  The love of God should compel us to react in a certain way.

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

(2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Because of God’s love, we die to ourselves.  Because of God’s love, we decide to dedicate our lives in service to Christ.  Because of God’s love, we change our entire mindset to be God-focused instead of me-focused.  We do this, not for his love, but because of his love.  We do it because he deserves it.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 2:1-5a)

-Joe Butler

What Will You Be Remembered For?

Abraham Lincoln.

What did you think of when you read that name?  16th President.  The Gettysburg Address and the Civil War.  Assassinated.  For such a historical figure as Lincoln, it’s easy to think of the major impact he had on our nation and on history.

Or how about Thomas Edison?  Of course we know him as a famous inventor, but are you aware of all the things he created that made life better and easier for us all?  With such creations as the phonograph, the light bulb, and the motion picture camera, it’s easy to see why Edison’s name will be remembered as one of the greatest minds of all time.

Some people are remembered for their achievements, some for their athleticism, and others simply for shining brightly during their fifteen minutes of fame.  But what will you be remembered for?  When (insert your name here) is written down after your passing, what will people think of?  That’s quite a sobering thought isn’t it?  Most of us will just live our lives with thoughts of how something might affect us or our immediate friends and family.  But our impact, especially if you’re a Christian, is more far-reaching than that.

Now, I don’t personally know every reader of my blog.  You may have great influence in your career or your community.  You may do great things amongst your small circle of friends, but I want to look specifically at the things all Christians should be remembered for that have the biggest impact on the world around us.

  1. LOVE– You can’t say the name Christian without saying the word love.  At least that’s the way it should be.  Those words are synonymous with everything it means to follow Christ.  Everything that Jesus ever did on earth, even down to his death on the cross, exemplified the true meaning of love (Matthew 22:37-40).  We too, should be known for the love we show, not only to God, but to others.
  2. FAITH– Another word that is compatible with the idea of Christianity is faith.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), so if your life is not remembered as a life lived in faith, you are an oxymoron.  You can’t be a Christian without it.
  3. BOLDNESS– Any brief study of the life of the Apostle Paul, or any of the other apostles for that matter, would reveal a life of boldness.  That’s part of the reason why we remember these obscure disciples to this day.  Their boldness in delivering the gospel message in their time allows us to practice our Christian beliefs today.  The world continues to need bold Christians to get out of the church pews and preach the gospel to a lost and dying world.
  4. PERSEVERANCE– Every Christian should count themselves blessed, if at the end of their life, they can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).  The Christian life, if lived according to the Bible, will be tough at times, and perseverance is needed to make it through.
  5. KINDNESS/ GENEROSITY– Sure, kindness and generosity are not only hallmarks of Christianity, but are highly sought after moral traits in the secular world as well.  Many people exemplify this kind of consideration to those around them.  But our ability to evangelize and bring people to Christ begins with kindness and generosity.  Meeting the physical and emotional needs of others is a stepping stone to meeting their spiritual needs as well (Ephesians 4:32, 1 John 3:17-18, Acts 20:35).

What will you be remembered for?  Let it not be about all the things of this world; the success, the money, the achievements.  Live a life wholly dedicated to the service of God and others.  Live a life, that by godly standards, really does matter now and for years to come.

-Joe Butler