7 habits to form in 2018, 5 things to stop doing immediately, 10 ways to live a happier life, or something…

Daily Readings: Numbers 13-14, Romans 15

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:1-6

If you read any self help article online today entitled “5 things you need to stop doing to be happier” or “7 habits to kick in 2017” or “I stopped doing these 10 things and became so much happier!” one of the most common items I read is to stop spending time with people that drain you. Remove relationships from your life that seem to bring you down. Stop spending time with those people who are just hard to be around!

Every time I read that bit of advice I think to myself, “Man is there a lot of truth in that!” It is easy for every single one of us to think about relationships in our life that make us feel drained. At any given time I always have a handful of relationships that would absolutely make my life less stressful if I was to just walk away. My life would be so much easier without them.

The unfortunate reality with self-help articles is in their title.

Self Help.

If you go back and read the entire message of Jesus throughout the gospel, he doesn’t seem all that pre-occupied with how to help us advance our career, have less stress, make more money, grow our brand, or increase our social status. If Jesus were to create a section in a bookstore it would almost certainly have a very different title.

Help Others.

I love what Paul writes today. We are not called to please ourselves. We are called to view others the way Christ did. Jesus sought out the broken hearted. He sought out the people that others wanted nothing to do with and were all too willing to cast aside. Jesus commanded us to do the same.

And yes, sometimes dealing with difficult people can take a great deal of the endurance that Paul spoke of! We frequently have to turn to God and pray for the encouragement and endurance to lock arms with folks who are struggling.

It is hard to walk with someone in all of their messiness. It is challenging to watch them make the same self-sabotaging mistakes time after time. It is maddening to have them push you away in the middle of their low moments even though you are one of the few people willing to walk alongside them during these times, especially when you would love to walk away as well!

It is so easy to want to jump on Facebook, read an article about removing those relationships from your life, and say, “Sounds good to me! This year is my year!”

Jesus asks us to see people the way he sees them. When we are feeling strong, Jesus wants us to do what Paul suggests and help those who are currently feeling weak and vulnerable. He wants us to be a source of encouragement and endurance for them as the run their race. He wants us to focus on serving them first instead of ask ourselves the question, “How is serving them impacting me and my life?”

This isn’t the message that we typically hear today in our society. Then again, neither was most of what Jesus taught!

Here is the interesting thing though; when we stop asking ourselves whether or not this relationship is really benefitting us in any way and make serving others the singular focus, life ultimately becomes way more rewarding for us as well! Even though the title hanging above the section Jesus creates in the bookstore is “Help Others” and most of his advice runs counter to what you are going to read in the Self Help section, the result is a more fulfilled life for us as well.

They key is motive. If we are helping others simply to “please ourselves” and feel good about what a great thing we are doing and what a great Christian we are, ultimately we will eventually say, “Man this is draining and not worth it!” If we are helping others just for the sake of helping others because the harvest is truly plentiful and the workers are few, encouragement and endurance will flow naturally from our father in Heaven.

Thought to ponder

Who is someone in my life I could really encourage at this moment in their walk, but if I am truly honest with myself, would rather simply let go?

As always, thank you for your comments, shares, etc. They are a constant source of encouragement! If you enjoyed this post and think others would as well, feel free to share it!

What stumbling blocks are we creating?

Daily Readings: Numbers 6-8, Romans 14

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

Romans 14:13-21

This passage today really spoke to me and to my role as a marketplace missionary. It is so natural as a Christian, when contemplating specific issues, to spend the majority of the time debating whether or not God would consider something right or wrong. It is easy to fall into a very “me centered” view on these topics. Does God approve of alcohol? How much? What about R rated movies? What about TV shows that are not exactly God honoring in their content? What about dancing? Is cursing wrong? Which words specifically? What about specific foods? What about…?

Paul tells us today to stop thinking so much about ourselves.

It is clear from this letter that there is a robust debate taking place in the young church in Rome about whether or not Christians were still called to abide by the Jewish laws on what to consume or if the new covenant that Jesus ushered in did away with those restrictions. I imagine this dispute probably got fairly heated between the folks that grew up in the Jewish tradition who believed that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for, and these “new Gentile Christians” that they perceived as running around acting completely against the teachings they grew up with. I imagine these traditionalists were probably even more upset with their fellow Jews who also supported the doing away with their traditional Jewish customs.

In today’s world it might sound silly to think about this early church being at each other’s throats over whether or not it was permissible to eat certain types of meat, but are we all that different? How many churches have ended up completely divided in our modern day with a large chunk ultimately leaving the church because of a small issue that is not central to the overall teaching of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?

Paul tells us today that we have kind of missed the point.

It is not about what we are “allowed to do now” because of our new found faith. As a Christian our chief mission in life is to share the good news and help others come to saving faith in Jesus as well. To this end Paul challenges us to not put stumbling blocks in front of others. He challenges us to stop thinking about ourselves so much when it comes to these issues and rather to ask ourselves whether our actions are going to act as a catalyst to bring someone to faith or potentially push them away.

As an example, lets say you are sharing the gospel with someone who grew up in a home with an alcoholic and abusive father. Alcohol destroyed their family. This person you are sharing the gospel with also struggled throughout his teenage years and early adulthood with alcoholism but has been sober for a year and half now. He firmly believes that alcohol ruins lives and is no way God honoring. He can’t understand why any Christian would possibly think it is ok to have even a single beer knowing the path it could potentially lead them down if it turns to addiction.

Do we debate this person who is still young in their faith? Is it our duty to set him straight and preach moderation and point out the multitude of examples in the Bible where wine was part of the celebration? Do we cite certain passages that to point to the fact that the only thing we are cautioned against Biblically is drinking to excess and drunkenness?

For this young Christian, just now developing in their faith and figuring out what they believe, Paul would argue our entire focus should be on removing any obstacles that keep this person from diving into a relationship with Jesus.

Many times, as marketplace missionaries, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to “help reshape someone’s perspective on an issue” so that we don’t have to change our habits around them, instead of doing every single possible thing in our power to remove any potential stumbling blocks that might be holding them back from giving their lives over fully to Christ.

The gospel is this: God loved us so much that he sent his only son to pay the ultimate price on our behalf so that we could have a relationship with him. We are all incapable of living a perfect life and earning salvation, so Jesus came down willingly and sacrificed himself paying the price for our sins that we could never fully pay ourselves. God loves us desperately and wants a relationship with us. He wants to dwell in us and help transform our lives if we would just turn our lives over to him and seek to discover his good, pleasing, and perfect will for our lives.

If there is someone you are helping learn about Christianity or someone you are currently discipling in their walk with Christ, helping them understand the full depth of the gospel message should be the primary focus. If you keep your heart and mind focused on them and know that there are actions on your part that could drive a wedge between you, set those actions aside for the time being. Even if you are convinced that, Biblically, your actions are in no way counter to God’s will in your life, remember that it is not about you. It is about them. It is about your ability to influence them for the Kingdom.

There may be a time in their walk with Christ where the conversation surrounding this topic may be appropriate to bring up, but Paul would argue we should always err on the side of not creating a stumbling block for a brother or sister instead of erring on the side of spending our energy justifying our actions, even if we feel strongly that God’s word is on our side of that moral debate.

This is so challenging and not at all where my mind naturally goes. I would much rather have that intellectual, biblically based, conversation about the issue, even if the person may not be at a place in their walk with Christ where they are ready to hear it. I don’t want to change my actions on issues where I feel that the Bible is on my side of the argument. I would prefer to dig my heels in and be stubborn on my position. I would rather think of this person in my sphere of influence in the way Paul wrote about as “having too little faith”.

But it is not about me. It is about having an eternal impact on the lives of others.

Thought to ponder

What are potential stumbling blocks that I may be unintentionally putting in front of people I currently disciple or have the ability to reach for Christ in my sphere of influence?

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