Putting Out Fires

We are all busy people. There is just too much to do, too much to handle, too much to fix. It never fails that we cannot get ahead in our schedules. Why does this happen?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having too many “irons in the fire.” Today, let’s focus on why we feel like we constantly have “fires” to put out at work, at home, etc.

First of all, we should realize there is always stuff to do. There are always issues and problems to be taken care of. If we are constantly trying to fix everything around us, or even going behind people to make sure the job or task gets done, think of all the stress that will be on us. We were not designed to handle as much stress as we put upon ourselves. Stress will take a toll on us: physically, emotionally, relationally, and even spiritually.

It is recommended to prioritize what really has to be done. This way, we can constantly see what really matters. So when an issue or problem arises, we can see the tasks we need to work on personally and can find another person to take care of the problem.

There are also issues or problems that just need to “burn out.” By this, I mean these types of issues are not necessarily the ones we need to take care of right away. When you join a team or a committee, we can easily find what needs to be fixed and taken care of. Often times we focus on the minute details that do not matter as much as some people might think they do; but there are some things that just need to wait to be fixed. For example, if there is a policy that really and truly can wait, then create opportunities to examine the issue and find a time to have it set in motion after everyone understands (for the most part) why this policy change needs to happen.

Things take time to be repaired and to be fixed. We should not be in a hurry to try and fix everything. I have heard it said that when we started something, treat it like a marathon not a sprint. In other words, get in the mindset you’ll be there for awhile. Longer term planning and visioning will help to sort out which issues and problems need to be addressed right away and which ones can wait.

Above all, trust that God has equipped you to do the tasks at hand. You and I have been gifted in certain areas and this is where our focus should remain. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds the church in Corinth they are part of the body of Jesus Christ. You and I are part of this same body. We do not need to do everything; but we should take care of the tasks we are truly gifted to do.

Other people have been placed in our lives to help us accomplish, together, all that God desires done in our lifetime. We are not “lone rangers,” nor should we feel like we are. We have this incredible opportunity to join the Holy Spirit’s work in our world to build up and usher in the Kingdom of God.

May we evaluate what is important to take care of now so we do not get consumed with anxiety and stress which helps us forget we are working with God the Father through Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 12

Brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. You know that when you were Gentiles you were often misled by false gods that can’t even speak. So I want to make it clear to you that no one says, “Jesus is cursed!” when speaking by God’s Spirit, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, 10 performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. 11 All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink.14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted.19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. 27 You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.28 In the church, God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues. 29 All aren’t apostles, are they? All aren’t prophets, are they? All aren’t teachers, are they? All don’t perform miracles, do they? 30 All don’t have gifts of healing, do they? All don’t speak in different tongues, do they? All don’t interpret, do they? 31 Use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts. And I’m going to show you an even better way.

Fresh and Salt

James 3:10-12 CEB “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. 

Blessing and cursing. We have been given this incredible gift from God called communication. We have the ability to speak to each other and praise God for all the many blessings we have been given. It is so easy to praise God, and sometimes other people. Many times it is easier to belittle or to speak negatively about another person, about God.

This image of a spring and fig tree is pretty cool to me. Jesus is described as the water of life. He is the life that flows through us. The fig tree has been illustrated in the bible to be the people of God (namely Israel). Jesus cursed a fig tree because it didn’t produce what he wanted from it.

So, here is a question we can think of today, “If we’re made in the image of God and we have the Spirit of God within us, what else should come out of our mouths except praise and words to build people up?” As I write these words, I am convicted. Just this week, I found myself silently judging people, the very people I would normally help and speak encouragement to if I’m in conversation with them. Had my thoughts been found out, any words I said would be completely void of meaning. I would have lost all credibility. I would not be able to reflect God to them because I allowed myself to be closed off to seeing God in them, or helping them reflect God in their lives.

Double talk interferes with our witness. When we bad mouth the opposing side, and say positive things about our side, how do people look at us? The point is that I could not show Christ if I did not see Christ’s potential in the other person. I cannot produce quality fruit in my life when I am praising God and degrading people. Thank You God for grace.

We have been given new opportunities each day to be like fresh water, something cool for the soul to allow God’s message to speak through us. We also have been given opportunities to stand out as a reflection for Christ in all we do. We can bring healing hope with our words or pour more salt on wounds.

Lord, You are praise worthy. Please continue to work in me to speak grace, mercy and hope to those I encounter. I pray people see your light through me. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Control

James 3:2-3 CEB “We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity. Like a bridled horse, they can control themselves entirely. When we bridle horses and put bits in their mouths to lead them wherever we want, we can control their whole bodies.”

I love the illustration James uses here about horses being controlled with a small bit. Isn’t it amazing how just a small instrument can control the direction of a large animal like a horse. It seems as if something larger might be needed; but a bit in the mouth of a horse is enough to control the animal.

James is comparing the way horses are controlled with a bit to humans who control their tongue (what they say). He even says that those who can control their words have reached full maturity, perfection. Is this possible to attain? It is easy to think that all we have to do is watch what we say. But there is more.

When we bridle a horse, the way the horse thinks has drastically changed. The animal doesn’t need to fight instincts to do what the person wants. Instead it grows to trust the person and know direction will be examined. I believe the same is true for people. It is not as much as what we say, or what we don’t say. It is about how our faith guides us and directs our actions, words and thoughts. Our thoughts are what come out of our mouth.

Jesus said it is not what goes into a person that defiles him; but rather what comes out. So, the bridle we should allow God to use in our lives in not necessarily on our mouths, but in our minds. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “capture every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Our direction is driven by our minds on so many levels. If we can control our thoughts, then our words will not be an issue. If we can control our words, then we can live up to the high standard we speak about. If we control our actions, then people will see our faith and the grace of God at work and alive in us.

Is it possible to attain perfection? With the grace of God, anything is possible. Today, we have the challenge to control what we say by allowing God to “bit” our minds so our thoughts comes from a new and higher direction. What we say shows what we think. What we think is a product of how we are allowing the grace of God to move in and through our lives.

Lord, Guide me today. Help me think about what you think about. Help me love others and say what needs to be said out of love. Amen.

Careful Career

What do you do for a living? Do you feel like you are scrutinized for your job? Does your job directly affect the well being other people? The passage we begin this week in James talks about a profession that has many judges and criticizers. This is a profession that many people may think they are equipped to do, but may not realize the undertaking it involves.

James 3:1 CEB “My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly.”

Why should this profession be under this much scrutiny? Teachers are among the few people in the world who have to be able to talk to many different people all at once. Everything they say, write or do is under constant criticism. People want to make sure they are being taught and lead correctly, and in a manner that will be the most benefit for personal growth.

Teachers are those people who have to be the non-anxious presence when things are not going as we want them to. They have to be the people to help us see a different perspective. They have to help us grow intellectually, emotionally, relationally, even spiritually. This is a high calling that carries a lot of weight to it.

Who would want to have this much pressure, face this much criticism, endure this much human grief and growth? I believe this is a calling, that the Holy Spirit of God places within a teacher. This is a profession a person is drawn to. Not because they want glory or recognition; but because this is a way of life that gives fulfillment and joy for the person to be a mentor and leader in another person’s life to help them achieve their full God-given potential.

This week, begin a discussion on the power of our words. Teachers have the added responsibility to maintain the language of learning, the language of faith so it is carried on to the next generation.

This is a high calling that is not taken lightly. Praise God for all the teachers, in all fields (especially faith), who have answered YES to this calling in their lives.

On some level, everyone of us is a teacher and mentor to another person.

Lord, you have tasked us with teachers and leaders to help us grow in our faith and become the people you have called us to be. Thank you for those who have been there for me. Thank you for the opportunity to teach and be an example to another person.