The Matter of Respect

Respect imageSome people kill or engage in other illegal activities; trying to get it! Others do things they normally wouldn’t do; trying to get it! Still others buy things they can’t afford, to impress people they don’t even like; trying to get it! What are they trying to get? Respect! By definition, respect is the state or quality of being highly esteemed. We all want respect and we all want to be respected! We all want to be regarded and have a sense of worth and importance.

But think about it for a minute! Why does a person have to “do” something in order to gain or earn respect? Why can’t a person be respected simply because they are? In other words, why can’t respect simply be a given? Shouldn’t the very fact that a person “is” be enough for them to be respected? I want to encourage you to quit jumping through hoops, quit standing on your head, and quit turning backward flips trying to earn the respect of people! The very fact that you are is enough! And if they don’t respect you for that; that’s their problem not yours!

The bottom line is that many times people fail to exhibit respect toward others because they don’t respect themselves! Before you can respect others; you must first respect yourself! And in order to respect yourself; you must like and love yourself! Now, I’m not talking about the type of self-love that some people have where they are so in love with themselves that no one else in the world matters. (A prime example of this is a commercial I saw once where a man said to a young lady: “I’m tired of talking about myself; so I’m going to give you a chance to talk about me!”) No! I’m talking about having a healthy regard for yourself that promotes healthy self-esteem and self-confidence. If you don’t like yourself; why should other people like you? The first step in having the respect of others is to have respect for yourself!

And the first step in respecting others is understanding that every person is in a sense, an expression of the Divine! The Bible says that humanity was created in the image and likeness of God! Although that image has been tarnished by sin, faults, and failures, nevertheless, the image is still there! Therefore, the street-walker, the pimp, the prostitute, the gang-banger, the drug-addict, the homeless, and others that many in society do not highly esteem are indeed expressions of God! Every person is worthy of respect, not for what they do; but simply because they are! To disrespect them is to disrespect the God who created them! To disrespect them is to disrespect yourself, for at some level you and they are inseparably connected!

So, the next time you feel down because you think no one respects you, perhaps because of the mistakes you may have made in the past, remember the only people who have never made mistakes are the people who have never lived! Ask for God’s forgiveness and be sure to forgive yourself. Then, ask those you have offended for their forgiveness. And if those you have offended refuse to forgive you; don’t lose any sleep over it! Let it go and move on! The next time you are tempted to disrespect another person; remember that person is a creation of God! To disrespect them is to disrespect the God who made them and the God who made you! To disrespect them is to disrespect yourself! You can’t have one without the other! You can’t have respect for yourself without having respect for others! And you can’t have respect for others without having respect for yourself! Remember: People shouldn’t have to earn your respect and neither should you have to earn their respect! Respect should be mutually given! And respect should not be given because of what someone does; but merely because someone is! Our very existence is reason enough for respect!

Jesus: The “Model” for the Christian

Jesus in a suitBeside the fact that Jesus is the Lord and the Savior, I think many people who claim to be Christian forget that he is also the Model! Let me show you what I’m talking about! How many times (I’ve lost count!) have you heard someone who is supposedly a Christian say something like this: “Nobody’s perfect! The only perfect person who ever lived was Jesus!” They usually say this as an excuse for a failure or a mistake. Or they may something like this: “That was Jesus, but I’m just human!” The point of their excuses is that they don’t think they should be expected to live like Jesus! But isn’t that the whole point of being a Christian; to live like Jesus? By the way, although Jesus was and is the Son of God, he lived his life on earth as the Son of Man! Whatever Jesus did on earth, he did it as a man fully indwelt and controlled by the Holy Spirit. He did not use any of his divine prerogatives! In other words, whatever Jesus did on earth during his earthly ministry, we have the potential to do also! In fact, Jesus said in John 14:12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whosoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (ESV) The primary goal of Christianity is not a ticket to Heaven or a pass from Hell; it is to be like Jesus!

Luke wrote an interesting point in his introduction to the Acts of the Apostles. Luke wrote: “In the first book (a reference to the Gospel of Luke), O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. . .” (Acts 1:1 ESV) Do you see that? He didn’t say that his first work was about all that Jesus did and taught, he said it was about all that Jesus “began” to do and teach! The implication is that although the atoning work of Jesus was finished at Calvary and with his resurrection, there are certain aspects of the ministry and work of Jesus that were NOT completed! The work goes on! All that Jesus began to do and teach is to be continued by those who live in his name; by those who wear the name: Christian!

Just as Jesus did not live for himself, but was totally consumed and occupied with the will of his Father, so should the life of the Christian be today! The life of the Christian is a life lived in the name of Jesus! The Apostle Paul put it this way: “To live is Christ!” In the Greek text, there is no verb. Paul literally said: “To live, Christ!” The terms “live” and “Christ” stand in apposition to each other. For Paul and for the true Christian; life equals Christ! Therefore, everything we do and everything we say should be in the name of Jesus. The Christian life is a life in which Jesus lives through the life of the Christian. Just as the Father did His work through Jesus; Jesus does his work through the Christian. Therefore the life of the Christian does not belong to the Christian to do as he or she pleases, but rather to do the will of Christ! That is why the first requirement of following Jesus is that a person deny (that is say “no” to) their self! (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)

So, what should the “Christian” be doing today? They should be continuing all the things that Jesus began to do and teach while he was on earth! The life of the Christian is not just about preaching and teaching the Gospel, it also involves getting involved with people to make their lives better!  It is also about providing a physical and practical demonstration of the power of the Gospel! If every person in the United States who claims to be Christian would actually “be Christian,” many of the moral and social evils that are present in our society would be gone in a matter of years, perhaps even months or weeks! The ministry of Jesus was about relieving the suffering of people in addition to helping them establish a relationship with the Heavenly Father. He didn’t do one or the other; he did both! He preached to the multitude AND he fed the multitude! He preached the Kingdom of God AND he demonstrated the power and validity of the kingdom by casting out demons and healing the sick! Jesus was concern about and ministered to the whole person; mind, body and soul! Therefore, if we are to be truly Christian; we are to be models of him! We are to continue to do what he started in his name! We are to be the visible, physical, and practical agents and representatives of the invisible spiritual God!

The Owner’s Manual

Owners ManualHas this ever happened to you? It’s late Christmas Eve or perhaps early Christmas morning and you are rushing to assemble the toys before the children wake up! As you open a box, you notice a little booklet inside labeled: “Assembly Instructions” or “Directions” or “The Owner’s Manual” or something along those lines. But you really don’t have time to look at it! After all, you’ve assembled some things before and you’re no dummy! At this point, you really can’t afford to waste time reading directions! Well, after a frustrating hour or so, you finally finish; the product is assembled!  Just then, you notice a few spare parts and some extra screws and you think how thoughtful it was for the manufacturer to put in some extra parts! Well, later on in the day, after the Christmas meal, your child staggers into the house, all torn and dirty! “What happened?” You ask! After wiping the tears from their eyes, your child explains that the new toy that you put together fell apart and threw them for a spill! After you pick up the pieces, you try it again, only this time, you read the instructions! It is then that you realize those extra parts and extra screws weren’t really “extra” after all!

Just about every product comes with an owner’s manual or a set of instructions. And it is only when we read the manual and follow the directions that we can be reasonably sure to enjoy the full benefits of the product. And in many cases, it is only after we have carefully operated the product in a manner specified in the owner’s manual, that we can be assured that the manufacturer’s warranty will be valid, should we need to replace the product!

Well, did you know that life comes with an owner’s manual? But for many people, life simply doesn’t work out as well as they would like! For them, life is nothing more than a series of disjointed mishaps and misfortunes! I would like to suggest that perhaps the reason life is not working out for them is because they don’t read “The Owner’s Manual!” Instead of reading the manual, many people pattern their lives after their parents, other people, and the so-called experts who write their own manuals! As a result, their marriages and homes are in shambles and even society as a whole is in a mess! They don’t read the owner’s manual! Their children are rebellious, destructive, and headed for self-destruction! They don’t read the owner’s manual! They are even disconnected from their own selves: They are psychotic and neurotic! They don’t read the owner’s manual!

My friend, if you are among those whose lives are in disarray with pieces scattered across the floor, let me suggest that you stop and take some time to read the owner’s manual! The Manufacturer of Life did not leave its operation to chance! Life comes with a set of instructions! Whatever situation you might be facing, I can guarantee you that there is something in the owner’s manual that will give you some directions!

open bibleRight now, you might be wondering where you can pick up a copy of this manual. Well chances are, you already have one! It’s called, The Bible: “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth!” A wise old king once said of the Word of God: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105 KJV) Yes! The Word of God is the owner’s manual of life! Pick up your copy today and read it for a more fulfilling and enjoyable life!

The “Real” Purpose of Prayer

prayer bibleHave you ever wondered what God’s purpose was in instituting prayer? I mean, think about it! Surely God did not institute prayer and the practice of praying simply as a way for us to inform him of our needs! Jesus said in Matthew 5:6-7 “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (NIV)  And again in Matthew 6:31-32 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (NIV)  Clearly we can see from these passages that the Lord already knows our needs, therefore, the real purpose of prayer is not just to inform him of our needs. Now you might ask at this point: If God already knows what we need before we ask, then why should we ask? Good question! I think he wants us to ask because our asking helps us to recognize and acknowledge our dependency upon him. By the way, there is so much more to prayer than just “asking” God to fulfill our needs!

So, if the real purpose of prayer is not just to ask God to supply our needs, to rescue us from trouble, to heal our bodies, or to take care of whatever is wrong in our lives, then what is the real purpose of prayer? I think the answer can be found in the model prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray. In the prayer we know as: “The Lord’s Prayer,” the answer is found in the first words. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, saying “Our Father.” The word “father” implies relationship and the primary way to establish and sustain any relationship is with communication. And in any relationship, real communication is never just one-way! Therefore, real prayer is not just us talking to God; real prayer is also God talking to us! A real prayer is a conversation with God and no conversation is a real conversation if just one person is doing all of the talking! Have you ever been in any type of relationship in which the other person always monopolized the conversation? That relationship probably did not last because no real relationship can exist under such conditions! And there is no real relationship if the only time (or every time) you hear from the other person; they are asking you for something!

Therefore, I would like to suggest that the real purpose of prayer is communication, communion, conversation and company-keeping with God! Real prayer is God talking to us and us talking to God! By the way, I inverted the order on purpose! Real prayer is always responsive! It is God who always speaks first! God speaks to us through his word (the Bible) and we, in turn talk back to God through prayer! Therefore, real prayer cannot be done apart from the word of God. Often the failure of many in praying, in addition to a lack of faith, can be traced back to an ignorance of and an ignoring of God’s word. It is useless to ask God for an answer that he has already given in his word! Much of what many ask; God has already given an answer in his word, but people ask because they are ignorant of his word! The result is frustration because often they are waiting on God to do something he has already done, but they don’t know that he’s already done it because they don’t read and study his word! By the way, when we don’t read and study his word, we are like the rude person we use to be friends with that always monopolized the conversation!  Remember? We stopped being their friend because they were so selfish and self-centered that they only wanted us to listen to them while at the same time they wouldn’t listen to us! Well, we want God to listen to us; but do we listen to God? When we talk to God in prayer, do we get up immediately after we’ve finished and go on about our business, not allowing him to say anything?

And then, the real purpose of prayer is really not to “change things” but rather it is to change us! I’ve often heard people say: “Prayer changes things!” But when you really think about, in most cases, it is not so much a case of prayer changing things as it is of prayer changing people and changed people changing things! Neither is the real purpose of prayer to change the mind of God, but rather it is to change our minds so that we might have the mind of God.

Therefore, since the real purpose of prayer is about communication, communion, conversation and company-keeping with God, let’s stop being rude to God! Let’s quit monopolizing the conversation and listen to what God has to say! Let’s take time to read and study his word! In doing so, we will find that many of the questions we might want to ask; he has already answered and much of what we seek; he has already given! Try this: The next time you pray; don’t ask God for anything! Just thank him for what he has already done! Treat him like you should treat a good friend! Have your Bible open and just tell him: “I just wanted to say: ‘Hello, and to have a good conversation with you because I really enjoy your company! By the way; how are you doing today? Amen!”

Host or Hostage?

Every day, at any given moment, we live life as a host or a hostage. We live as a host to God or as a hostage to the ego. Sadly, the majority of us live our lives as hostages to the ego.

hands tiedThe ego is the “self” in selfishness! It is that part of our personality that is personified by the unholy trinity; me, myself, and I!  The characteristics of the hostage are quite easy to spot. The person who is a hostage to the ego is the person who insists on always having his or her way! That person is self-centered, self-absorbed, and is totally surprised when and if they finally come to realize (however, many hostages die as hostages) that the world really does not revolve around them. The hostage is unable to successfully relate to others because they are held captive by their own self. The hostage is easily offended and constantly feels the need to prove self-worth. Therefore, the hostage identifies with and measures self-worth by possessions and/or accomplishments. As a result of this attachment; loss and failure are seen as devastating and unacceptable results. Most marital conflicts, divorces, wars, and other human interpersonal conflicts occur because one or both of the parties involved are hostages!

The host is the individual who has come to the understanding that life is much bigger than the self! The host understands that the ultimate human goal (in the words of Stephen Covey) is not dependence or independence, but rather inter-dependence! The host knows that much more is accomplished with mutual cooperation and contribution. The host understands that each individual is an expression of God. Therefore the host respects and values each individual no matter what rank or status society has attached to them. The prince and the pauper, the king and the slave, the haves and the have-nots are equally respected and honored by the host because the host understands that a person’s real life has nothing to do with material possessions. The host is also comfortable in letting each person find their own way without imposing their own personal preferences upon them, understanding that freedom from the hostage situation can only be gain by the individual finding the way themselves. The host often seeks to teach, mentor, and advise, but is not offended when their efforts are rejected. The host lives life with a higher purpose than the accumulation of wealth and material success. However, because the host does not make those things their goal of life, often some degree of wealth and material success find their way into the life of the host.

Living life as a host to God is allowing God to live through the human personality. The Scriptures teach that to be the very reason for human creation and existence! According to the Bible, we were created in the image and likeness of God! We were created to be (like Jesus our ultimate model) physical and visible expressions of the invisible spiritual God! All of humanity was created to be individual hosts and the collective host to God! How about you today? Are you a host or a hostage?