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

Monday Motivation: Change Your Perspective

It’s been raining a lot lately. I guess that’s appropriate considering it is summertime here in Florida. And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill showers either. The storms we’ve been having brew up during the heat of the day until they unleash their fury in the form of a torrential downpour of nickel-sized raindrops and violent bolts of lightning.

Now of course when the weather is bad, it’s the first thing people usually talk about. I’ve heard all kinds of comments lately about the “miserable” weather or how hot and stifeling the temperatures are. And it’s true, it has been ridiculously hot lately. The heat index has hovered around 105-110 degrees almost every day for the past two weeks.

But have you ever taken the time to notice how beautiful and inspiring that kind of weather is?  I love the smell of rain on hot concrete or the scent of moisture on a freshly cut lawn. I relish the sight of powerful strands of electricity playing across a cloud-filled night sky. I enjoy the calm before the storm when the winds shift and bring with them a crisp, cool breeze and the clouds advance across the sky like an approaching army.

You see, it’s all about perspective. Where some see inconvenience, I choose to see beauty. And the reality is, just about all of life is that way. In every situation, we have the choice to wallow in the negative and focus on what’s wrong and even dwell on how the day hasn’t met our expectations. Or, we can change our perspective and glory in every circumstance God has put us in. We can see the good in the bad and the lessons in the struggle.

Want to find true happiness and the genuine wealth God has offered us through this life?  Just change your perspective!

-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

 

Sin Doesn’t Happen All at Once

“In the heat of the moment.”

That’s how some people describe their behavior after an act of immorality.  The murderer?  “I didn’t mean to,” he says.  “It was in the heat of the moment.”  The adulteress?  “I’m sorry,” she claims.  “It was a moment of passion that I couldn’t control.”

I’ve always had a problem with these type of excuses, for they never reveal the real motives and intent of someone’s heart.  The person who has commited murder is often angry and has very little respect for others.  The woman caught in adultery is many times inappropriately flirtatious and engaging in relationships with other men long before she has an affair.

All this is to say that sin doesn’t happen all at once.  In most instances, it is the culmination of us finally giving in to the temptations thrown our way from Satan.  It is our true selves, what lies within our hearts, that is finally making its way to the surface (Jeremiah 17:9).  When we sin, what we are really experiencing is the evidence of a sickness of the heart above all else.

“each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

(James 1:14-15)

One of the best ways to examine how temptations over time can expose our heart is to study the life of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus.  From what little we know of Judas, we can conclude that his heart was never touched by being in the presence of Jesus.  His heart was too full of greed and hypocrisy to have any room for Jesus to reside.  Our study can begin near the end of the book of Matthew:

“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”

(Matthew 26:6-9)

This act of anointing Jesus with this very expensive oil is our first glimpse into the heart of Judas.  While it seems as if he had a virtuous reason for wanting to sell the oil, the account of this story in the book of John shows us otherwise (John 12:6).  We learn that Judas’ real motive was driven only by greed.  All he wanted to do was steal some of the money for himself.  Here was this beautiful act of worship offered to Jesus, and all Judas could think of was padding his pockets.

What’s interesting to note is that immediately following this passage in Matthew, we see Judas leave to go see the chief priests in Jerusalem.  This would not have been a quick journey either.  Bethany, where the anointing took place, is about a mile and a half away from Jerusalem.  That means that Judas was so upset over his inability to pilfer the treasury that he immediately went and agreed to hand over Jesus for the price of a slave… 30 pieces of silver.  Judas’ true heart was finally beginning to show.

A while later, on the day of Unleavened Bread, Jesus and the disciples made preparations to eat the Passover meal (Matthew 26:17-19).  What’s interesting is that Judas is back with the group by this time.  He was so good at convincing the other disciples of his loyalty to Jesus that they didn’t suspect a thing.  Jesus, on the other hand, knew what was in the heart of Judas.  Satan had taken up residence in his heart (John 13:27) and Judas’ temptation had finally given birth to sin (James 1:15).  What’s so disgusting is the hypocrisy Judas showed while eating the Passover meal.  Jesus took off his outer garment and began to wash the feet of the disciples.  And what did Judas do?  He sat there and let Jesus wash his feet too!  Here was a beautiful act of service and humility, and Judas just sat there even after he had betrayed Jesus.

To make matters worse, when Jesus began to discuss his betrayal (John 13:21), Judas had the gall to ask, “Is it I” (Matthew 26:25)?  All this time while Jesus was sharing an intimate moment and meal with his closest friends and followers, there was one among them who went untouched by Jesus’ loving kindness.  Judas had once more proved that, although he was present with Jesus, his heart was far from him (Matthew 15:8).

Judas’ final act of betrayal occurred when he left the Upper Room to see the Sanhedrin.  He had been looking for just the right time to hand over Jesus, and he had just found one.  Judas knew of Jesus’ custom of prayer in the evenings (Luke 22:39-40).  Judas knew exactly where to find him and arrived with reinforcements as if Jesus were some kind of criminal or insurrectionist(John 18:3).  This detachment of troops would’ve numbered in the hundreds, yet Jesus stepped forward and allowed Judas to betray him with a kiss (John 18:4-5, Matthew 26:48-50).  The traitor in their midst had just betrayed the Son of God!

As you can see, Satan had won the battle over Judas’ heart.  He didn’t just one day wake up and decide to forsake Jesus.  He allowed the temptations of Satan to take root in an already rotten heart.  He turned a deaf ear to the words of life Jesus spoke and ended up sending him to his crucifixion.

Now, you may say, “I would never let that happen to me.  I would never allow Satan to cause me to sin in such a way.”  To those who think such thoughts, be careful!  “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).  “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  Judas didn’t heed those warnings and it cost him his soul.  Don’t let Satan convince you to hand over yours as well.

-Joe Butler

 

Mastered in Mediocrity

I love my job.  I love the fun my students and I have in class.  I love when they have those “Aha!” moments where they finally understand a difficult concept or lesson.  I love to see my young students move into middle school, then high school, and finally to watch them walk across the stage at graduation.  All of these reasons help to encourage me when the days get tough and the hours of lesson planning grow long.

There’s only one thing about my job that leaves me frustrated time and time again and to which I have yet to find an answer, and that is the growing tendency for students to settle for mediocrity.  It always breaks my heart when I’ve toiled over a lesson and spent a lot of time presenting it in a fun and engaging way, only to have a small handful of students react with little to no enthusiasm.  It’s even worse when I hand back graded assignments and some of the kids are completely content to have scored a C or D.  In their mind, as long as they didn’t get an F, they’re doing just fine.  It seems that many of today’s kids, and many people of the world in general, are mastering in mediocrity.

I wish this were a small, isolated problem, but I’ve noticed it’s becoming more prevalent in the church as well.  In the 31 years I’ve spent as a Christian and working with various congregations of which I’ve attended, I’ve seen many saints actively and lovingly seek to serve God in everything they do.  They want to spend time with other Christians and make God a priority in their lives.  But, I’ve also seen the prevalence of mediocrity trending upwards as well, and this is not just a new problem.  Jesus himself addressed this situation in the book of Revelation when speaking to the church in Laodicea.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

(Revelation 3:15-22)

As we can see from this text, this church had developed a lukewarm or even mediocre attitude towards God.  They were content to brag about their wealth in Christ and yet they lost their fire for Him.  We are especially drawn to verse 20 where Jesus says he is patiently knocking at the door to our hearts, hoping that we will invite him in.  We see that this is a very intimate invitation from God not to settle for mediocrity.  He wants our love for him to burn brightly, not out of compulsion or duty, but because we long to be in the presence of our Father.

This mindset must begin by how we view God and his instructions for us.  When we read the Bible as a policies and procedures manual, we may naturally find the easiest, most comfortable means to fulfill it.  On the contrary, we must view God’s word as a love letter written from a Father who desires communion with his children.  Mediocrity has no place in this relationship.

-Joe Butler

God Topples Walls

In 2003, hiker Aron Ralston was walking through the slot canyons of southern Utah when a large boulder came crashing down, pinning him against the canyon wall and crushing his hand.  For five days, Ralston remained trapped and in severe pain, using up what meager supply of food and water that he had on hand.  Only after that time did he realize that he would never get out of his predicament alive unless he did something drastic.  Ralston made the difficult decision to amputate his own arm with his pocketknife and rappel out of the canyon to seek help.  It’s an amazing example of how someone can stare at the impossible and find a way to survive.

I often wonder what those five days spent alone in that canyon were like for Aron.  Did he feel scared?  I’m sure he did.  Did he feel defeat?  Quite possibly.  No doubt, Aron looked at his situation and felt the weight of an impossible task bearing down on him (pun intended).  And in many ways, we are no different.  While we may never experience being trapped by a boulder miles from civilization and rescue, we are sometimes trapped by our own individual burdens.  Like the Israelites who had to face the walls of Jericho before they could claim the Promised Land, we too have our own walls to overcome.  Max Lucado, in his book “Glory Days,” summarizes this point for us quite well.  He says,

“Your Jericho is your fear.  Your Jericho is your anger, bitterness, or prejudice.  Your insecurity about the future.  Your guilt about the past.  Your negativity, anxiety, proclivity to criticize, overanalyze, or compartmentalize.  Your Jericho is any attitude or mind-set that keeps you from joy, peace, or rest.”

(-Max Lucado, “Glory Days”)

Aron Ralston’s Jericho was a physical rock weighing close to a ton that threatened to end his life.  An immovable object.  A barrier to his will to survive.  Luckily he was able to escape.  Many times we don’t have that option.  Maybe your Jericho wall is cancer.  Even the doctors see no sign of hope.  Or maybe your Jericho wall is despair.  Everything is falling apart around you and you think there’s no possible way to fix it.  Very likely, you’ve had the Jericho wall of anxiety or worry staring you in the face, and it’s so tall that you can’t even see the top.

That’s just like us you know.  We look at our problems as impossible.  We shackle ourselves with the fear of never being able to win or get ahead.  We view our problems as I’m sure the people of Israel viewed the citadel of Jericho, as a sure defeat, and we forget that God has already promised us victory.  It is God who can win any battle we may face.  It is God who stares at the impossible and says, “No problem” (Matthew 19:26).  It is God who has strength even in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).  We have to allow him to do the impossible, and our job is to have faith and live in his victory (Joshua 1:11).

God has the power to defeat anything that may get in our way.  Just look at the example of Jericho.  The impenetrable walls of the city were brought to ruin in a matter of seconds after the Israelites had circled them seven times (Joshua 6).  Was it the people marching around the city that brought the walls down?  Did they tread so strongly that the walls had no recourse but to crumble?  I think not.  The walls came down because God was in the middle of the procession.  The ark of the covenant was at the center of the march (Joshua 6:12-13).  A wall had been raised against God and his people and God specializes in bringing down walls.  With him, no wall or stronghold can stand against us (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

What are the walls that you face in your life?  Are you allowing them to cause you to lose hope?  If so, remember who goes with you to face the impossible.  Remember whose strength you’re meant to rely upon (Philippians 4:13).  Live in the knowledge that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37), and that we have nothing to fear.

God topples walls!

What a mighty God we serve!

-Joe

Become As Little Children

We have a great program at the congregation where I attend worship that caters to our youth and allows them to learn of God’s loving kindness through age-appropriate lessons.  The program is called Sonshine Parkway, and the children of the church absolutely love it.  Their classrooms are decorated with different themes to resemble things like a café, a library, and even a movie theater.  Needless to say, the children are excited to learn about God, and their parents know that their young ones are receiving fun, godly instruction while attending worship.

Recently, my 10-year-old daughter Emma was asked to be a tour guide for this program, leading kids to their designated classrooms and assisting with the instruction and activities for the day.  She was thrilled to be asked to fill such a responsible role and has taken the time to do her very best in honor of God.  What excites me as a parent and makes me more than a little proud, is her zeal for the opportunity to serve.  While it’s sometimes difficult to get adults to want to participate in church activities and service because of how busy everyone is, here’s a young person willing to step up and to do so with a positive attitude and a heart of love.

I think this is how Jesus felt when the little children were brought to him for prayer and the laying on of hands.  As soon as the parents brought their children before Jesus, they were rebuked by the disciples.  Now, why on earth would the disciples have a problem with some harmless children coming before their Rabbi?  Maybe it was just crowd control or maybe they had somewhere else to travel.  Most likely, they believed that Jesus shouldn’t be bothered by such trivial things like dealing with children.  Whatever the reason, Jesus’ response was quite interesting.

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

(Luke 18:16-17)

We gain a little insight here as to the kind of heart Jesus is looking for to inherit his kingdom.  What I hear him saying is, “Regain your innocence.  Rejoice in me.  Quit worrying about all the trivial arguments in life and just come and be in my presence.”  You see, somewhere between giving our life to Christ and dealing with our own problems in life, we forget what it was like to first hear about God.  We get sucked back into the “I must think this, and I must do that” mentality.  We lose our wonder for the beauty of God and our zeal to serve him with all of our heart.  There’s a reason why Jesus says,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.”

(Matthew 22:37-38)

He wants us to become like little children in the presence of their Father.  God wants us to approach him with a trusting, excited, curious, joyful, and carefree heart.

All of this has taught me a lesson as a father as well.  It’s not enough just to raise your child in the church.  It’s not enough to attend worship several times a week and then go back to doing your own thing.  If I want my daughter to remain zealous for God, to love Him with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength, I must model that behavior myself.  I must remember to become like those little children who are mentioned in the Bible and daily desire to sit at the feet of my Father and learn all that he has to teach me.

Have the heart of a child when thinking of and approaching God, because without that attitude and innocence, we’ll never enter the kingdom of God.

-Joe