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: Seeing God

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:20)

The countdown has begun!  My spring break is right around the corner and I can barely contain my excitement!  Being a teacher, there are several breaks from school that we look forward to and Spring break is one of them.  Mostly because it’s Spring, the weather is changing, and I usually go to the mountains for a little hiking and vacation time.

This year, my family and I are heading up to my brother’s house in north Georgia and then going to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.  I’ve been there countless times and I never get tired of the endless mountain vistas, the crisp, cool air, and the peace and quiet that being in the mountains provides.

Another wonderful blessing of taking trips into nature is the closeness I feel with God and his beautiful creation.  As the verse above mentions, we can see God in the world around us.  We can see his wisdom in the order of the natural world.  We can experience a fraction of his creativity when we examine the tremendous differences in plant species such as trees and wildflowers, or the wonderful variety of animals in existence.  We can even gain some insight into his love for us that he would create such a beautiful world for us to reside in.

As Spring begins to blossom in your area of the world, take time to look around and relish in the perfection of God’s creation.  Take time to meditate on his immeasurable love for you.  Allow the truth of God’s existence to be seen in the natural world around you and use that time to worship him.

-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

“What Do I Need Church For?” (Blogs Revisited)

What Do I Need Church For? (Originally Published April 1, 2013)

“God never intended for us to live out our spiritual lives on our own.  When someone is connected to Christ through baptism, they are also connected with the saints… everyone else who is in Christ.  We need each other and we need to be faithful to His church.  We must not forget that the “church” is not the meeting place where we gather on Sunday mornings to worship God.  We are the church and we are the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27).  It’s unacceptable to God to say we love Him and yet not participate fully in a local church.  Admittedly, people are turned off at times by a church because it is full of sinful people.  It’s so easy to look at the faults of others as an excuse to give up on church or not get involved.  On the other hand, how beneficial would it be if more people would examine themselves and their motives for a lack of church participation?

Following are some ideas for sparking our desire to spend time with Christ and His church:

1.Attend and get involved:  Don’t expect to grow closer to God and other christians if you’re never at church.  It’s important to consistently attend and not just sit in the back where you can make a quick exit.  Get involved, find a place to serve, and don’t wait for an invitation. 

2. Focus on Jesus, not on others:  Jesus is perfect, people are not.  If you’re looking for a perfect church, let me know when you find one because they do not exist.  Be forgiving of others just as you would expect forgiveness for yourself.

3. Be a blessing:  Are you known as an eternal pessimist?  Do you just take and never give?  God gave each of us unique gifts not just to serve ourselves, but to use to give, serve, and encourage others.  Look up the word edification.  It is one of the most important functions of the church.

4. Share God with others:  This is God’s ultimate mission for us.  If we really love Him and are grateful for everything He has done in our lives, we should be bursting at the seams to share Him with others.  And after they become a part of God’s family, look for ways to love, serve, and help them.

As a final word, although I’ve been a Christian for a while, I need you.  I need to see you at church.  I need to know you’re praying for me.  I need your encouragement.  I need your forgiveness and your patience.  I need your love.  But most of all, I want to join hands with as many saints as possible as we seek to know and serve our God from now into eternity.”


I have written many posts over the last few years referencing the importance of the church, but this was the first one I penned for this blog.  To be honest, part of me understands the discontent some have with the church.  Have I been hurt or let down by my Christian brothers and sisters before?  Have there been decisions and situations that I have not entirely agreed with within my church family?  Sure, but by in large, my spiritual family has provided a great amount of support and encouragement during my Christian walk.

It’s not difficult to look into God’s word and find a major importance placed on the church.  It baffles me to think that some Christians want to have a relationship with Christ without having a relationship with the church.  That is impossible because the church is the bride of Christ, the bride he died to save. It would be like trying to grow a plant without the sun.  We cannot completely grow as Christians without the nurturing of the church.

It really boils down to the attitude we have.  Do we love God enough to love his bride as well, even with her imperfections?  And if we are not loving the church as we’re called to do, are we really loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

I’ll end the revisit of this post the same way I ended the last one.  “Although I’ve been a Christian for a while, I need you.  I need to see you at church.  I need to know you’re praying for me.  I need your encouragement.  I need your forgiveness and your patience.  I need your love.  But most of all, I want to join hands with as many saints as possible as we seek to know and serve our God from now into eternity.”

-Joe Butler

 

 

Celebration

Yesterday was by far my most enjoyable day as a Father as I had the opportunity to baptize my daughter into Christ and watch her dedicate her life to being a Christian.  I thought I knew what it felt like in your heart to truly celebrate, but yesterday’s events gave new meaning to that word.  Words couldn’t begin to express how much God has blessed me through my beautiful daughter.  I’ve watched her grow physically, but more importantly, I’ve watched her grow spiritually as her love for God has blossomed over the last few years.

Psalm 118:24 has always been a favorite passage of mine for it reminds us that each day is truly a blessing from the Lord.  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Needless to say, I have much to rejoice about today, and every day for that matter, because my wonderful daughter Emma has been saved!!!

God is so good!

-Joe Butler

Filling the Gap

I drafted this post while sitting in the student services center on the campus of my town’s local college.  No, I’m not planning on going back to school any time soon, but I am here relaxing and reading while I wait for my daughter to get out of her activities for summer camp.

I remember vividly my years spent in college, shuffling back and forth between classrooms, the library, and the computer lab.  I also worked fulltime while taking a full load of classes each semester so, needless to say, it was a busy and stressful period in my life.  But I really enjoyed my time spent in there.  The goal was to get better.  There was the me at the moment and then there was the me that I wanted to become.  Going to school and getting a degree was not only going to open up a larger job market for me, but also hopefully provide me with a more well-rounded background and education.

And that’s the goal in my Christian walk as well.  There’s the me that I am now and the me that God wants me to be.  In truth, all Christians are in this lifelong endeavor of becoming more like Christ.  Now we can try to close that gap by working hard through our own way and our own will.  We can force ourselves to pray more and serve more and work harder in hopes that one day our behavior will reflect that of Jesus.  And those activities undoubtedly help us grow.

The gap really closes though when we realize that to become more like Christ means letting him have complete control over our life.  Only through a full state of submission can we become a new creation and reach our full potential in Christ.  The goal should always be to allow God to show us what it means to love like him, forgive like him…to effectively be a reflection of him.

Just remember, wherever you are right now is not the end result of where God wants you to be.  There’s always room to grow, to learn from your mistakes and become the person God created you to be.

-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

Seek the Welfare of the City

American politics disgust me.

I’m sorry if that offends anyone for I really don’t mean to be rude.  I know many people take great pride in the democratic functions of our government and love to take part in serving their community, state, or country in the political realm.  I guess I just have a jaded view of politics born out of the corruption we hear about literally every day in the news.  It’s just created a sense of distrust that those in political power commonly look out for themselves and rarely for the people they are serving.

But all of that aside, I still love my country.  I’m not into the popular idea of “worshipping” my country or our freedoms or some famous document like the Constitution because that would be worshipping an idol, but I do love my country and the people who live in it because it’s what God asks me to do.  Don’t believe me?  Read the following passage of Scripture and see if it changes your mind…

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

(Jeremiah 29:4-7)

Here, we read of God’s people who are exiled in Babylon and forced to live in a pagan culture which is a drastically different environment from how they were called to live.  What’s interesting are God’s instructions for how his people should conduct themselves while there.  They are to pray and seek the welfare of the country in which they reside.  They are told that their blessings will come through the blessings of the Babylonian empire.  God did not call his people to criticize or complain about their situation.  He didn’t ask that his people rise up in rebellion and show the Babylonians the power of the true and living God.  He called them to be light to the nation of Babylon.

Now contrary to popular opinion, God is not sitting up in Heaven right now only looking out for the welfare of the United States of America.  “We’re a Christian nation!,” is a common refrain heard from pulpits around the country, but the truth is, God is concerned about all of his children.  He wants all of humanity to come into a knowledge of who he is and how much he loves us.  Christ’s church is not limited to the man-made boundaries found on a map.  That’s why God would ask of us today the same thing he asked of his people during Jeremiah’s time.  We should still actively seek the welfare of the city, of the country, and of the world in which we live, even if it is a sinful one!

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,” (Acts 17:26-27)

 

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

As Christians, we should stop complaining about the condition of our nation and be active in promoting its welfare for the glory of God.  Is there evidence of sin around us today?  Sure.  Was there rampant sin in Babylon during the time of the exile?  Again, the answer is yes, but the people of that age were still commanded to honor God even in the midst of their enemies, and we should do the same.  Let us follow the advice of Jesus when trying to live in this world and not of this world…

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

(Matthew 5:43-48)

Let us always seek the welfare of the city.

-Joe Butler