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

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Commitment to Christ Means Commitment to His Church (Blogs Revisited)

Commitment to Christ Means Commitment to His Church (Originally posted June 22, 2014)

“Is it possible to have a commitment to Christ separate and apart from a commitment to  his church?  Scores of today’s Christians apparently believe so based on the lack of attendance in worship services around the world. But the church, the body and bride of Christ, is far more than going to a worship assembly or attending the annual church cookout. If we are to identify ourselves as Christians, joined with Christ, we must also join our lives with Christ’s people. It is a privilege to be identified as a member of Christ’s family, but so many believers view it as a chore.

Part of the problem in today’s culture is how we view the church. We tend to think of the church as a building, a meeting place. We characterize churches based upon denominational leaning or what programs they offer. It’s common to hear people say, “I attend the church with the great singles program” or “I worship at the church that has unlimited resources and outings for retirees.”  We’ve created a consumer-driven mentality where we “shop around” for the congregation that best suits our needs.

But this is not how the Bible presents the church. Jesus nor his disciples never once refer to the church as a building or a series of programs designed to please the masses. The church of Christ is simply meant to be a body of believers sharing the life of Christ. We’re meant to care, love, serve, and teach one another. We’re called to forgive, encourage, pray for, and rejoice with one another (Read 1 Corinthians 12:25, John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:13, Colossians 3:16, Colossians 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, James 5:16, and Philippians 4:4).

So I must ask the question…How will you approach the church and your commitment to it?  Our only response should be total dedication to the bride of Christ because in doing so, we are also showing total dedication to Christ himself.”

It’s summer vacation time here in Florida, and I’ve noticed a lot more out-of-town visitors at our Sunday morning worship services lately.  I love it when we have visitors because I get to meet and talk to other Christians, but even more importantly, I gain a tremendous amount of encouragement by seeing the importance these visitors place on worship and the church itself.

We all have been there before I’m sure.  We are on a much needed vacation, one which we’ve have planned for months or maybe years, and we have many activities or hours of relaxation planned for our time.  A lot of times, our weekly worship time passes and we don’t give a second thought about missing.  Maybe that’s because we’re not home with our regular church family or we’re unfamiliar with the local churches in the area.

It’s always nice to live in a tourist area and know that Christians have made it a priority to assemble with a group of believers while on vacation.  It shows how strongly they view the church itself and the vital role it plays in worshipping God and strengthening the body of Christians worldwide.  The above post, which I penned almost 5 years ago now, is a reminder of what our commitment to the church should be.  If we are committed to Christ and then show no commitment to his bride the church, then we are really liars and not committed to him at all.  And it’s not just on vacation either.  Our lives should be an example of placing God and his church at the forefront of everything we hold dear.

I’ll close by echoing the words above.  How will you approach the church and your commitment to it?  Our only response should be total dedication to the bride of Christ, because in doing so, we are also showing total dedication to Christ himself.

-Joe Butler

Trust and Obey (Blogs Revisited)

“Trust and Obey” (Originally posted March 11, 2014)

“Trust and Obey.”  Many of us are familiar with this timeless hymn still sung in many churches around the world.  The refrain speaks to a simple truth about following God.  “Trust and Obey” is a truth I’ve found many unbelievers have difficulty with because they think Christians profess to have all of the answers.  Those Christians farther along on their walk with God know that, all too often, we don’t know why God has asked something of us or why something has happened.  Sometimes it’s necessary to just trust and obey.  With the technology of our modern age and our immediate access to information, we convince ourselves that we need to know everything.  Many things in our world try to encourage us to not trust God.  This is exactly how Satan works, creating distrust and skepticism towards what we know to be true.  He whispers to us during times of desperation, “Don’t trust God to take care of you.”  “Don’t trust anyone else; they’ll only let you down.”  “Just look out for yourself…you’re the only one you can truly trust.”

While Satan plants his poison in our minds, God responds by reminding us that He loves us.  He knew us before the beginning of time.  He has a plan for us through His son Jesus Christ.  In fact, Jesus himself reminds us of that plan in John 12:44-50.  He said, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only but in the one who sent me.  The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.  I have come into this world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.  If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.  For I did not speak on my  own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.  I know that his command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Jesus is telling us to trust him.  Obey his teachings for in doing so we are obeying God and getting to know Him.  Trust and obedience does not negate rational thought and physical evidence either.  The world would have us believe that followers of God blindly believe in something that makes no sense; that we are uneducated and naive.  The exact opposite is true.  Most Christians have dutifully examined scripture and compared it to what we see in the world and other physical evidences and have reasonably come to the conclusion that trusting and obeying God is not far-fetched after all.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

It’s been a rough week.  Not for me personally, but for some close to me and my family.  I’ve been reminded this week that it’s during the difficult and trying times in life that we must fully embrace the concept of trusting and obeying God.

As the above post teaches, I’ve recently witnessed Satan poison the minds of Christians and convince them to place their trust in their own understanding instead of in the wisdom and purity of our all-knowing God.  I’ve heard them make excuses for their decisions and sins and watched as they have thrown away every good blessing God has given them in the pursuit of personal happiness.

But I have also been witness to amazing strength being exemplified by other Christians when they faced the death of a family member or the tearing apart of their marriage and everything normal in their life.  I’ve watched in amazement as they have openly proclaimed their trust in God during the most devastating of times.  They have committed to serving and obeying God and they will continue to do so regardless of the difficulties that Satan or this world throw their way.

I wrote the above post as encouragement for those of us who’ve chosen to give our entire lives to Christ.  Sometimes, Satan or the world in which we live will try to convince us to trust in ourselves more than God.  Sometimes, we are fed lies and delusions that create distrust towards God’s word and what we know to be true.  Sometimes it’s necessary to just trust and obey, regardless the circumstances, and know that God wants the best for his children.

-Joe Butler

The Light of the World

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -Jesus (John 8:12)

One of the most easy to understand and yet stark teachings of Jesus was when he referred to himself as the light of the world.  It’s such a simple analogy that we can easily comprehend…that Jesus, in his purity and perfection, in his eternal love and wisdom, is the light that brings clarity to our entire existence.  Through an intimate connection to him, we can come to know God himself and his love for all of his creation.  We can be transformed into people of light ourselves, reflecting the glory of God to the world around us and bringing the light of love and truth to all the dark places in the world.

Jesus says that whoever follows him will not walk in darkness.  The apostle John echoes that sentiment when in his first epistle he writes, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).  This simply means that the light of Jesus should affect us in a drastic way.  It should cause us to live lives worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1) and walk in a way that brings honor to the one who has given us everything for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  It also means that the blood of Jesus, offered as a sacrifice on the cross for us, continually cleanses us of our mistakes if we are walking in his light.

True, there is much darkness in the world around us (John 3:19-20).  But we are to be people who live in this world but are not of this world (Romans 12:2).  People who are aliens in a strange country as we await the glorious return of our Savior Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:11-12).  Our lives should be lived in stark contrast to the worldly desires around us, so much so, that the world cannot help but notice the light of Jesus shining through our example.

This is the true meaning of Christianity.

-Joe Butler

Excuses, Excuses (Blogs Revisited)

Excuses, Excuses (Originally posted February 21, 2014)

“We are all guilty of making excuses at one time or another.  Sadly, one of the areas where we give excuses is in not doing the will of God.  Through the years, Christians have devised ingenious excuses for not doing what God would have them do.

Excuse making is as old as man himself.  In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve made excuses for their violation of God’s commands.  In Exodus 4, Moses gave excuses for not being able to lead God’s people (The excuses Moses gave are very similar to the ones some Christians give today for not teaching the gospel or for not developing their talents) (See verse 1 and 10).

In the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14:16-24, Jesus gave a great lesson on how to combat excuse making.  In the parable, people were invited to a banquet but they immediately began to make excuses for not being able to attend.  The first excuse was given by a man who needed to tend to his property (vs. 18).  People today use the same excuse.  They say, “Excuse me for not serving God, but I’m too busy building a home, or remodeling my house, or car shopping, etc…”  The second excuse given related to work and livelihood (vs. 19).  People today claim work and maintaining a lifestyle as more important than God.  The third excuse that was made dealt with relationships (vs.20).  How many people through the years have used family as an excuse for not serving God?  Many will not put God first because their spouse doesn’t believe or they don’t like the preacher or they are arguing with another Christian.

Today we have a new arsenal of excuses being thrown around such as, “I can’t help it” or “I was born that way,” “I’m not as bad as other people I know” or “Everyone else is doing it.”  Sadly, these are some of the very excuses given by those who profess to love God.  And the conclusion is not pretty for those who make excuses.  No excuses will be accepted on the day of judgement (vs. 24).

Please join with and help me work towards banishing all worthless excuses and making God a priority in our lives.”

As the post above says, we are ALL guilty of boarding the excuse train from time to time.  I’m not sure if it’s ingrained in our human nature or simply a matter of finding the easiest path through a task or circumstance, but we are very good at making excuses, especially in the arena of following God.

From the creation of mankind, we have adapted our excuses to make ourselves comfortable and make life as smooth as possible with the least amount of speed bumps along the way.  It would probably be safe to say that the society we live in now even outright breeds excuses when we see the most famous of men and women making them on a daily basis.

When I penned the post above, I was mindful of the excuses that I make in my own life from time to time.  Excuses not to try my best or to skips corners.  Excuses not to do the right thing when the right action is blatantly obvious.  Even excuses why I don’t have time to serve the Lord the way I should.  I can say that I’ve gotten better at not making these types of excuses in my life.  And that is what growing as a Christian is all about.  It’s about destroying all excuses and putting God at the forefront of our lives no matter the cost.

Joe Butler

 

Monday Motivation: Suffering for Doing Good

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)

“If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.  For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God;” (1 Peter 4:16-17)

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” (1 Peter 3:9, 13-14)

No one ever thinks it will happen to them.  You’re going along, doing your best to serve God and others when, out of nowhere, you face hatred or criticism or false accusation.  It’s even worse when those hurtful actions come from those within the body of Christ.

It’s comforting to know that your service and love to God and others is recognized and appreciated by those who know and have seen your spiritual fruit.  Jesus was blunt when he warned his disciples about the persecution they would most likely face (John 15:18-21).  He was also encouraging, telling them, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:11-12).

My advice to you if you find yourself in such a situation: Do not be discouraged or lose faith in your service to the Lord.  He will reward those who serve him faithfully (James 1:12).  Do not become bitter or repay evil actions in kind.  Stand above the fray, even if it means you stand alone.  And above all, rejoice in sharing in the sufferings of Christ.  Blessed are those who love their Lord enough to follow him even in the darkest of circumstances.

-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