Mask mandates, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

Tonight life changed again. Many families were excited by the news, many were upset. Mask mandates changed in my county and you see both sides of the issue are either angry and calling it child abuse, others are relieved by the news saying finally someone cares about people. Knowing people on both sides of this argument I can tell you this post isn’t about the merits of wearing a mask or not wearing a mask. What I am struck by today is how the news today seems to have such strong response from everyone. My thought today is why do we always go to the extreme in our words about others.

Recently I have noticed more and more that we all seem to use language that attacks people in as strong a way as possible. If you don’t like masks you are murdering people and you don’t care about my loved one. If you are for masks you are a child abuser… We seem to want to go the extremes when it comes to attacking those on the other side of an argument. This isn’t just about masks. We attack people about race, politics, parenting styles, and faith. These days extreme language is everywhere. Maybe we need to rethink how we speak and comment to each other. Maybe sometimes we need to turn down the heat not escalate the situation.

I don’t know about you but for me recently I feel like words are just dividing us. Our anger towards others isn’t helping us have any sort of unity in the spirit. Yes we have things to talk about. Yes we can have passion for our point of view. Yes their is a right and a wrong. Just because someone sees the world differently doesn’t mean they are evil. That is a truth we all need to grapple with.

Maybe today as you go to bed angry about others views or mandates or something else, you should stop and avoid the name calling, the over simplification of the others points and listen, reflect and pray for those who see the world differently. Maybe tonight you will pray for that neighbor, friend or coworker who has said mean things to you and offer forgiveness either to them or in prayer. Maybe we can find the right words to speak with each other tomorrow. Maybe tonight we can turn the temperature on our conversations down a bit and find peace with each other.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for a world with less conflict. A world where people can use words to ask questions, understand, and hope together. Maybe for our kids we can show some restraint in see the good God is doing in others. Be passionate about your point of view but speak the truth in love for your neighbor.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:19-27 ESV

Lessons from a Mission trip: Everyone needs a site coach

Group Mission trips, over the years have taught me many lessons about my faith and life. I learn from students, adults, and staff that I get the pleasure of serving with for the week. It is an intensive week of service that makes me slow down and listen to what God is doing in and around me. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be writing about things I learned this year.

I want to tell you that this week challenged me in ways I haven’t experienced in a lot of years. I had the privilege of meeting and serving a wonderful resident named Ellen. She was a great faithful woman who had a hard time getting around. She needed a wheel chair ramp so she could get up and down to her home and bring in her groceries. So on Monday we went to work. Things were going well. We got the previous steps out of the way and ripped out bushes in less than 10 minutes. I had a student on my crew who was a hurricane of energy. I thought to myself, we will bust this thing out in a couple days. I was excited for an amazing week. Then Tuesday came. We started digging holes with the post hole digger because the auger hadn’t arrived yet. We dug for 5 hours to make our first 6 holes in hard clay. The Auger arrived (yeah) to finish the last 10. Wow I thought now we are moving. This is all going to be great. Two days of things going right.

Then Wednesday and Thursday happened. Many of the holes we had dug were not straight. I wasn’t paying enough attention to the details and well we had to pull out shovels and post hole diggers to get the holes lined up Wednesday. Thursday was probably the hardest day I have had on a worksite in my 17 years of Work Camps. We as a team made so many mistakes that the whole day was spent screwing in things and then removing them because we messed up. I removed and installed 12 lag bolts. Holes had to be moved again. one of the platforms moved and had to be put back. By the end of the day we had a broken post hole digger and I was beyond frustrated. I took my crew and another back and thought I will need to go back out so I can cement the last posts. Then it started raining, and I couldn’t go back out.

I was so broken that afternoon that I believed that this would be the first time is 17 years that I wouldn’t finish a project. Ellen this woman who I promised to build a ramp for would be let down. I was so frustrated I took it out on a few students who I yelled at over reacting to something they did and then went back to seek their forgiveness. It was a rough day.

The next morning I was getting breakfast and I saw my site coach. These are the red shirt people who are there to help you get your project done and figure out solutions. They are amazing people who go from site to site helping people problem solve. Jeff said to me “So did you get the posts cemented in?” I said “No we didn’t because of issues and rain, and I said their is no way we are going to get it done today.” That is when he did something that changed me this week. He looked me right in the eyes, and smiled, a smile I had seen all week. He said Steve I guarantee we will get it done today I promise you. It was what I needed in that moment. His confidence in what Jesus could do in this moment is what I needed to push with my crew and, another who would join us, and get it done.

For me in that moment Jeff was Jesus. He may never know it, but he had a profound impact on me this week. I don’t know about you, but maybe you are in a place where you feel you can’t keep going and everything you thought you know is falling apart. Maybe it is your marriage or your faith, or your job, or whatever, but you don’t think you can keep going. I pray God brings you a site coach to be Jesus in your life. A site coach like Jeff who walks along side you and picks you up in the hard days. We all need people in our lives who will be Jesus when we need them.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.

Romans 15:1-5 ESV

Pray for your enemies…This is hard

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

Matthew 5:43-46 NIV

Have you prayed for your enemy? These are words I was convicted with this week. Life in ministry can be hard and sometimes it feels like enemies are all around. In days of stress and struggle it is easy to just be angry or irritated by many different things. These can be things you would normally brush off your back but now get bottled up and you eventually explode. It can be people you never met, people in the news, people your work with, people you are related to. We can have enemies in all corners of our lives. So are you praying for your enemies?

I have had people in my life that I have been frustrated with. I have people in my life that our relationship is broken and I have probably spent too much time being frustrated by their lack of change instead of reaching out to the one who can bring that change. Am i praying for them? You see one of the hardest things that we can do as Christians is pray for those who have hurt us. Pray for those who are hurting us. Pray for those who are hurt. Pray for those in power over us.

I was convicted to pray for my enemies. So here is what I am doing for the next week. I am going to pray for my enemies by name. I am going to pray for a softening heart. I am praying for wisdom for them and myself. I am praying for peace in our lives. I am praying for forgiveness. I am praying for repentance. I am praying for Gods mighty hand in all this. So join me as we pray for our enemies.

Gym floor moments…Do you give yourself time to allow Jesus to be real.

MVIMG_20190721_193359

Last week I was privileged to be on a group mission trip in Knoxville Tennessee.  I love these trips.  l love what they do for students and for me personally.  One of my favorite parts of Group mission trips is what I call “The gym floor moment.” This year was no different and I would say we all need these gym floor moments. Too often we are so busy or preoccupied with life that we miss them.

So what is the gym floor moment?  A gym floor moment is the moments where you sit on the floor and allow yourself to drown out the noise around you and see Jesus in your life.   It doesn’t have to be a gym floor in fact the point isn’t the location, how you sit or even where it happens.  It is merely a moment in faith where you try to drown out the noise of life.  You see for me one of the most powerful moments in life are when we can slow down and allow Jesus into our lives.  Often in our lives we are so busy, overwhelmed, and broken that we miss seeing Jesus.  We miss seeing him walking along side us.  I love the gym floor moment because it gives me an opportunity to speak Jesus in the lives of students or to receive Jesus myself.  When we allow ourselves to be still we can have these moments.

So the question is are you sitting on the gym floor?  Are you allowing yourself to see Jesus holding on to you?  Are you too busy, broken, or overwhelmed that you have pushed him aside and missed it?  Have you focused on everything else and missed Jesus in your life?

I was struck this week, as I took time to be in the word, that Jesus did this very thing. Jesus took time to listen to his Father.  He often spent time in prayer resting so the Father could speak into him,  So here is some advice for you.  Take the time to slow down.  Take the time to have the gym floor moment so you can hear Jesus.  Take the time to slow down and let Jesus be real.  He is always there we just need to slow down sit and see the real Jesus.

34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him,

Mark 1:34-36 (NIV)