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Relationship Principles of Jesus

Mar 24, 2018

PROGRAM W-1720 – Part II

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). In his book, The Relationship Principles of Jesus, Tom Holladay asks the question: “Why did Jesus need to give his followers a new commandment? Weren’t there already plenty of commandments in the Old Testament?” (p. 95)

He then explains that Jesus is saying that they now need to love in a new way, the way he loves—not out of duty or by trying to keep the law, but from a genuine concern for the other person. Tom gives us a very practical way to keep this new commandment: “Rediscover the attitude of love in the everyday habits of your life.” I love that thought, because I can see how it works out in my life.

As Tom says, “Much of life is routine. If you don’t allow love to become a part of the routine of life, love will be missing from the majority of the minutes in your day.” How do we do this? It’s simple: As you’re doing whatever routine thing you’re doing, say to yourself that you’re doing it out of love.

For example, you’re cooking supper for your family. As you prepare, put new thoughts into your head. Instead of thinking about how tired you are, how unappreciative they are of what you do for them, or how much you don’t want to cook supper tonight, think instead, “I’m doing this because I love my family. I’m showing love by cooking supper tonight.”

I know. . .you’re thinking, what difference will that make? Try it! For at least a week, determine by God’s grace that you will do your routine tasks from an attitude of love, and see what happens! For instance, if you are a teacher, remind yourself that you are teaching the kids because you really want them to learn, and because you care about them.

If you will change your thought patterns and choose to think about the good of the others in your life, I promise you it will make huge improvements in your relationships. It’s the new commandment that Jesus gave us—to love like he loves—and when you obey Jesus, you cannot fail.

In fact, in 1 Corinthians 13, we are told that love never fails. It is the only guarantee we have for improving our relationships. Arguments rarely work; lectures won’t do the trick; you can try all kinds of ways to make a relationship better for you and to try to get others to do what you think they should do, but most—if not all—of those ideas will get you nowhere. But. . .LOVE never fails! Show love in whatever way you can, whether you feel it or not. Love never fails.

One issue Tom dealt with in his book is one I think many of us have struggled with and that is, what do you do when a friend or relative is doing something that is blatantly wrong? I think Tom’s comments are so important that I’m going to quote him exactly:

Jesus didn’t tell you to pretend there’s not a speck in your friend’s eye or to only be concerned about the plank in your eye. He urged you to get the plank out of your eye—and then you can see clearly enough to help your friend get the speck out of his or her eye. How are you going to help your friend if you can’t say, “I noticed there’s a speck in your eye. Can I help?”

We live in a society that believes the opposite of judgment is tolerance. And tolerance is falsely defined as accepting without opinion or comment whatever choices another makes. But Jesus told us the alternative to judgment is not tolerance; it is mercy. The alternative to being judgmental is not ignoring other people’s faults; it is showing that Jesus has forgiven all our faults.

Being biblically nonjudgmental does not mean we pretend we don’t see another person’s sin. To do so would be living in denial. . . . The question is this: “What will we do about it?” Being nonjudgmental means we recognize that we all face the same temptations. It means we don’t see anyone as outside the circle of God’s grace, as beyond the bounds of our forgiveness, as outside the limits of our love.

Jesus is teaching an advanced degree course in relationships. This isn’t easy. . . . It’s easy to be judgmental and end up gossiping about someone’s problem rather than offering care. It’s just as easy to settle for a false “mercy” that offers care but lacks the courage to tell the truth.

I find this so helpful in dealing with the whole issue of tolerance. Let’s face it, we live in a society that has become obsessed with being tolerant, and I think many of us are intimidated to express any kind of objection to the behavior or lifestyles of others because we fear being labeled “intolerant.” Tom points out that tolerance is falsely defined by our culture as being accepting of almost anything!

This biblical principle Jesus taught us—to take the plank out of our eye before we point out the speck in someone else’s eye—is a principle of showing mercy, a principle of humility as we recognize our own failures and weaknesses, and a principle of loving and caring about that other person. But it is not a principle of unlimited tolerance or never helping a friend see the speck in their own eye.

For example, if you have a close friend who is indulging in some bad habit that is clearly wrong and sinful, your love for that person should cause you to want to help them see that wrong and forsake it. First, you examine your own life for anything that you need to deal with; ask the Lord to show you anything you don’t see. Then ask for guidance on whether or not the Lord wants you to speak to that friend about the speck which you see, something that you know will eventually prove harmful and cause them to have regrets. As Tom points out, we are not to ignore the wrongs we see in others, but we are to confront them with tons of grace, love, and mercy!

Micah 6:8 tells us: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We always need to show mercy and humility in dealing with others. Have you noticed that often the people who show the least mercy and grace to others—who are the most judgmental—are the ones who are guilty of the same or similar wrong actions? Some people try to cover up or deny the sin in their own lives by denouncing it in others. Showing mercy means we readily admit our own failures, receive God’s forgiveness, and offer that same forgiveness to others. It doesn’t mean we overlook the sin in the lives of others any more than we do in our own lives.

Here’s the most important reason we should show mercy, given to us very succinctly by our Lord: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Goodness knows, we all need mercy and we all freely take God’s mercy given to us. I’ve never refused mercy, have you? So, it’s essential that we show mercy to others. That is one of the most important relationship principles that Jesus gave us!

Have you ever thought about how powerful human touch is? In Luke 5 we have the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy. Leprosy was the AIDS epidemic of that day, except it could be transmitted by touch. If you just touched a person with leprosy you could catch that dreaded disease. Therefore, a person with leprosy was ostracized from all society. Yet, when this man fell on his face and begged Jesus to make him clean, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. He didn’t have to touch him to heal him; he could have just spoken the words “Be clean!” But that touch said so much to that man, and Jesus took the risk of touching him.

Think about appropriate opportunities you may have to literally touch someone else. A pat on a shoulder, a sincere warm handshake (not a wimpy one), an arm around someone—you would be surprised at how a touch can speak volumes of love. Just recently I was talking with a young woman in my church who was so afraid of being touched when she first came to saving faith and joined our church. She had such baggage from her past that she simply didn’t trust anyone, and she was totally unaccustomed to what a loving touch was.

We remarked at how open and eager she is now to receive touches from us—hugs, pats, and loving touches—and how she reaches out to others now with touches of love. She completed a mission trip for a week at a Joni and Friends camp, where she spent the whole week helping someone who is disabled and showing that person such love. No doubt the love she has been shown through her sisters in Christ has opened her up so that she now can pass it on to others.

Rick Warren writes, “You never know how a tender word and a caring touch will make all the difference in the world to someone. Behind every smile is a hidden hurt that a simple expression of love may heal.”

I want to close with another quote from Tom Holladay’s book, The Relationship Principles of Jesus:

Remember the old playground chant “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? It’s just not true. Words can break a child’s confidence. Words can break a husband’s dreams. Words can break a parent’s heart. Words can break a wife’s joy. Or words can build up and give life. Do you realize the power you possess to strengthen another person with the simple words, “Good job,” to heal another by saying, “I’m sorry; please forgive me,” or to energize another with the words “I love you”? Think of the times just a few words have had a life-leveraging impact on you. . . . Through the words you speak, God has given you more power to build faith, hope, and love into others’ lives than you can possibly imagine.

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Relationship Principles of Jesus

Mar 17, 2018

PROGRAM W-1719 – Part I

Do you find that dealing with other people creates the majority of the stresses and frustration of life? I often say that relationships are the sandpaper of life—they rub us the wrong way. Yet they often serve as the refining fire of our lives, the way we learn to be more like Jesus.

Relationships are almost always our biggest challenge, and yet Tom Holladay points out in his book, The Relationship Principles of Jesus, that nothing is more important than relationships. He says, “A life without relationships may well be a simple life, but it is also an empty life,” (p. 27) and that is so true! Therefore, you and I should place a very high value on our relationships.

Do you value your relationships more than money? More than success? More than doing your own thing? In Philippians 2 we read, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). If we truly consider others better than ourselves and look to their interests, we will definitely be placing a high value on the relationships in our lives.

How do we live out this principle of considering others better than ourselves? Tom points out that “you have to get outside of yourself for your relationships to change.” For example, when someone interrupts you—maybe a coworker who asks a question—and you are irritated at the interruption, you have to get outside of yourself in order to consider their interest rather than your own.

I find that I can practice this principle a lot when I’m driving. For example, someone is riding on the shoulder and tries to push his way into the line of traffic in front of you, instead of waiting his turn. My blood starts to boil and everything in me wants to prevent that person from getting in front of me. But if I can stop and think, maybe he has a real emergency, or if I can remember a few times I’ve done something like that myself, then I can allow that person in line, lower my blood pressure, and put that person’s interest ahead of my own.

As you face the day ahead for you, ask God to help you practice this principle of getting outside of yourself and being willing to put someone else first. Whether it’s in traffic, in the office, or in your home, you could see some dramatic changes in those relationships because you put the other person first.

I love this quote from Linus: “I love mankind! It’s people I can’t stand!” Linus discovered that it’s easier to talk about loving mankind than it is to love your neighbor as yourself. In his book, Tom asks,  “How did Jesus love?”

He didn’t spend all night making to-do lists of which people he would show love to the next day. He didn’t have some kind of prioritization grid though which everyone who wanted his love had to pass. He simply loved people as the opportunity arose during the normal traffic patterns of his life. (p. 74)

This is a powerful relationship principle from Jesus, if you and I would just practice it. I often remind myself that no one is in my life by accident, and yet far-too-often I treat some of those people that come into my normal traffic pattern as though they are a nuisance and an interruption. Loving the people who come into our normal traffic pattern each day is something we can do by God’s grace, and by asking God to help us see them as he sees them.

This doesn’t mean we hug everyone’s neck and have lengthy conversations with everyone in our traffic pattern. But it does mean that we see beyond the outward appearance and we intentionally remember that they are important to God, they are created in God’s image, they have souls that will spend eternity somewhere, either heaven or hell, and they deserve our respect. They deserve a smile, a kind word, and recognition from us that they are not a nuisance; they are important.

Tom says, “Make the choice to love the few you can love today, trusting in the greatness of God that he will put the right people in your path on the journey of life.” (p. 75). We have to make a daily choice and pray this principle into our lives. Then God’s Spirit will remind us and empower us to simply love the people who come across our paths during the normal traffic patterns of our lives. Can you even imagine the impact this one simple principle would have if we lived it out every day?

Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, but the question is, how can you just love someone on demand? Tom begins chapter 9 in his book by stating, “You cannot command an emotion, but you can command an action.” He goes on to say that “Understanding the difference between emotion and action—between what you feel and what you do—empowers every relationship you have.” (p. 89)

Have you ever fallen “out of love” with someone you once loved? I’ve known married couples who were getting divorced because one of them simply declared, “I don’t love you anymore.” A counselor might say, “But you should love your mate.” Will that solve the problem? No, probably not, because you can’t command an emotion from anyone.

Tom says in his book, “You can’t command an emotion, but you can command an action. When Jesus says, ‘I command you to love one another,’ he’s not saying, ‘Feel this way’; he’s saying, ‘Act this way.’  Act with love toward another person.” (p. 90)

Is there someone in your life right now that you should love, but you don’t? Here’s what you do: Ask yourself what you would do for that person if you did feel lots of love for them. Maybe it’s a mate, a parent, a child, or a sibling—someone close to you, and yet you feel no love for that person. But if you did, what would do? You’d say nice things, you’d do something for them, you’d be interested in what they are doing, and you’d spend some time with them. Pick an action that you would do if you felt like you loved that person, and do it. You can command an action, so do it out of obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sake of the relationship. Then trust God to bring back the feelings that made it easy to love them before.

What about other relationships that aren’t so close—like bosses, employees, or co-workers? They’re your neighbors, right? You’re supposed to love them as you love yourself. Even though you may not like them, what would you do for them if you did really like them? Help them do their work, be willing to go the extra mile, or give them some appreciation? Pick an action and do it. You can command an action, and it could make profound differences in your relationships if you did. If you do what you’re supposed to do, regardless of your feelings, you will find that usually those feelings eventually return.

Did you know that what is going on in your mind is affecting your relationships? Tom Holladay’s book, The Relationship Principles of Jesus, makes the point that “What’s happening in your heart is serious business. You may think that the self-pity you heap on yourself every day isn’t affecting your relationships. But it is.” (p. 114)

Maybe you’re thinking that you cannot change the way you feel, and you’re probably right about that. But as Tom says, “You cannot change the way you feel, but you can change the circumstances that are causing the way you feel. And then the feelings will change.”

Let me give you an example. Suppose you work with a person of the opposite sex and your relationship has become very close. In fact, though you are single and he is married, you’ve allowed this relationship to go way beyond the boundaries of friendship, you’ve spent much alone time together, allowed the conversations to become quite intimate, and you’re only a step away from beginning a physical relationship—committing adultery.

You know you need to end this relationship; you know it is wrong; you know God is very displeased with your behavior. But you’ve convinced yourself that you simply can’t break it off; it has become too important to you. Or perhaps you’ve convinced yourself that you can just back it down and keep it under control. Those are lies from your enemy, Satan, and you could not be more wrong!

What you have to do—if you want to avoid misery and heartache beyond belief, not to mention if you want to live a pure life to please Jesus—is to take whatever drastic steps you have to take to change the circumstances that are causing you to feel this great need and love for the wrong person. Change jobs, change churches, move to another city—whatever it takes! You can’t change your feelings, but you can change your circumstances that are causing the feelings.

Jesus said if your hand offends you, cut it off; if your eye offends you, cut it out. This is his principle of dealing drastically with temptation and sin and, believe me, you are well-advised to put it into practice, if necessary. You’ll never regret going God’s way.

Through the more than thirty years that I’ve been ministering to women—through my radio program, The Christian Working Woman, and my own church—I’ve talked to so many women who have allowed a wrong relationship into their lives and are now living with regret. I have often counseled a woman in a wrong relationship to cut the ties at once, and the response I get is “But I can’t; I love him.” That is simply a lie that the enemy tells us for, after all, he is the father of lies. That is his language.

You don’t have to be deceived by his lies! You can do what you know is right to do. There’s no doubt that God will give you the strength to do the right thing. Whether or not you love each other is not the issue; that doesn’t matter. If it’s a wrong relationship, you need to do the right thing. Change the circumstances no matter what it takes.

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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Failure

Feb 10, 2018

PROGRAM W-1714 – Part II

As we began this episode, Fran had started her week off very poorly. Fran is a single mom, having been widowed at a very early age when her husband was killed in an accident. She is raising her two school-age children alone and, at the same time, holding down a busy job in marketing.

In telling these stories, you’ll notice that Jesus speaks to Fran. We know that Jesus does not speak to us in audible words, as in these stories, but I use this to illustrate that Jesus is with us at all times because his Spirit dwells with every truly born-again person, and he does speak to us through his word and his Spirit. When you read dialogue spoken by Jesus, be assured it is all true to principles in Scripture, and it is used to help us learn how to practice the presence of Jesus in our everyday lives.

On this particular Monday morning, Fran felt very unmotivated and started her day late. Then she had heated words with her children in getting them off to school. As Jesus rode with her to the job, she was very uncomfortable having him there because his presence convicted her of her harsh tongue. Then Jesus asked her about her argument with her mother the previous evening.

Fran’s mother was unhappy because Fran was beginning to date a man who was not a believer. Fran had accused her of meddling, and hung up rather abruptly. Then upon arriving at work, she had very harsh words with a co-worker who phoned to say he couldn’t make a deadline—a co-worker she had been talking with lately and sharing her faith in Jesus.

After all this, Fran breaks into tears, shuts her office door and admits she has blown it. She asks Jesus to please forgive her. And of course, he does.

She shakes her head. “You always forgive me so readily, and it seems I have to ask for forgiveness a lot. I’ve hurt you; I know I have. I really am sorry. Please forgive me.”

“No need to ask again; you’re forgiven,” Jesus replies. “But it might be helpful to trace the root cause of all these angry outbursts and ask yourself how it happened. Can you remember when they began?”

“They began a couple of weeks ago, I think, about the time I started seeing…” The truth comes out slowly and painfully for Fran. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea for me to date Bob because he’s not a Christian. I know that. Yet, he’s very sophisticated and successful. I guess I was just flattered by his attention and it felt good to be treated so nicely,” Fran explains.

“But you knew in your spirit that I was not pleased with this relationship, is that right, Fran?” Jesus probes further.

“Yes, I knew. But I tried to ignore it. . .stay busy. . .rationalize it away. That’s why I was so angry at mother; she forced me to face it,” Fran explains to Jesus.

“Disobedience is so insidious, Fran. It affects everything else, like a cancer that spreads lightning fast. Do you see what this one area of disobedience has done, even in two short weeks? Your fellowship with me has been broken, and you’ve hurt quite a few people as well.” Jesus spells it out for her.

“Yeah, I know,” Fran says. “The thing is, although I was doing what I wanted to do, I was pretty miserable on the inside. I was determined to do it, but it didn’t really bring me any happiness or great thrill like I thought it would.”

“Well,” Jesus replies, “that’s because you have an enemy who is a great liar, and he will always lead you to believe that doing it your way will make you happy while doing it my way will make you miserable. He handed you one of his most common lies, and you fell for it. Lots of people have. It’s okay; you’re forgiven,” Jesus reassures her.

“I know you forgive me, but how do I undo all this damage I’ve done to others?” Fran asks with alarm. “I’ve really blown it. I mean, the way I talked to Al just now—and just last week I was sharing something about the Lord with him. He’ll never listen to me again. I’ve ruined my testimony,” Fran panics as she thinks about it.

“Well, you can’t un-speak the words you spoke, but you can try to heal the wounds,” Jesus advises her.

“You mean apologize? But what will I say? I feel so stupid!” Fran says.

“I know, but it’s very important for you to apologize. Why don’t you begin with your mother,” Jesus suggests.

“Okay, I’ll call her,” Fran responds as she dials the number. “Hello, Mom, this is Fran. Listen, I can’t talk long now because I’m at work, but I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for what I said to you last night and for raising my voice. That was wrong of me, and I really am sorry,” Fran apologizes.

“Well, I think you did have a right to say what you did. After all, you are my mother, and you’re right about Bob. I shouldn’t be seeing him, and I won’t anymore. My motives were all wrong and it could be a dangerous relationship. But I’m really sorry about how I talked to you. Will you forgive me?” Fran asks.

“Thanks, Mom. I’ll talk to you tonight. Have a good day.” As she puts down the phone, it feels like one mountain was taken off of one shoulder.

She smiles. “Thanks, Lord, for helping me get to this point. I know I’ve been stubborn, but thanks for being patient with me.” Before he can say anything, the phone is ringing.

Fran answers and discovers Bob is on the other end. “Oh, hi Bob. Yeah, kinda busy; what’s up?” she asks, feeling a little nervous.

“Friday night? No, I’m afraid I can’t make it Friday night, Bob. I already have a commitment at church.” She pauses for his reply. “Actually, Bob, that’s not the only reason I can’t see you Friday. After some careful thought, I’ve concluded that it would be wise to end this relationship before it goes any further. We can’t discuss this now, but quite simply, there are some basic things we don’t have in common that are extremely important to me. Let’s just say, it’s not a good fit.”

As she hangs up the phone, she says to Jesus, “He didn’t understand and I didn’t think this was the place to explain. But if he calls me at home, I’ll try to tell him about my commitment to you. You know, Lord, that’s kinda hard to explain without sounding like a goodie-two-shoes. Guess if I’d never let the relationship start I wouldn’t be in this spot right now, would I?” Fran verbalizes what she imagines Jesus is thinking.

“I must remember to call Karen and tell her I’ll be there Friday night, but right now, I’m going down to Al’s office to apologize. Will you go with me, Lord?” Fran asks, knowing the answer will be yes.

They find he’s in a conference with one of his people, talking about Fran’s job. He looks up at her and says, “Look, Fran, I’m doing the best I can do. Don’t start buggin’ me again; we’re gonna’ work overtime tonight…”

Fran interrupts him. “Al, please, I didn’t come to bug you, I came to apologize. I was way out of line talking to you like I did. I know they’ve cut back your headcount and you’re under tight budget restraints. It’s not your fault. I just took my frustrations out on you. I’m really sorry, Al.”

Al’s mouth is hanging open. He dismisses his employee, and invites Fran to take a seat. “Well, at least you apologized. Everyone else is jumping down my throat, but you’re the only one to apologize. Thanks, Fran.”

“Well, I just couldn’t let it go that way, Al. I knew I was wrong. You know, last week I was telling you about my commitment to Jesus. Frankly, it was Jesus that caused me to see how badly I behaved, and it’s because of him that I came to apologize. One of the great things about being a Christian is that when we blow it badly, as I did with you, Jesus gives us the strength to see ourselves, he forgives us when we ask, and then helps us to make restitution,” Fran tries to explain it to Al.

“Well, whatever, I appreciate it. I will try to meet the deadline, Fran. I promise you, I’ll try,” he says.

“That’s all I ask. Keep me informed and I’ll stay in touch with the client,” Fran smiles at Al as she gets up to leave.

“You’re different, Fran, even when you yell at me,” Al says with tongue in cheek.

As they walk back to her office, Fran says, “Jesus, you even use failure to bring glory to your name, don’t you? There you’ve gone and turned my ashes into beauty again. Thank you, Lord.”

“That’s my specialty, Fran, taking brokenness and failure and turning it around. I’ve been doing it for a long time, you know,” he says.

“Yes, and I’m sure you’ll have to do it again for me someday. But I hope I can get better at not causing you grief like this. I don’t want to be a perpetual problem for you,” Fran says.

“You’re getting better. Failure is not the end of the road. If you’ll just keep bringing the failure to me, not running away from me, your failures can become new beginnings. Who knows what will come of this whole episode?” Jesus says.

Yes, who knows.

Have you blown it lately? Do you feel as though your testimony for Christ has been irreparably damaged?

I remember one particular time when I wanted to run away and never go back to my job because I had made such a fool of myself the day before and had behaved so un-Christlike. I was especially ashamed because of a co-worker who had been talking with me a lot about trusting God and living for the Lord. I had been encouraging him and could see that he was growing in his faith. And now, right in his presence, he had seen me act like Mary, not like Jesus. I figured he would never listen to me again and this would set him back a long way.

But the Holy Spirit urged me to go right back and talk with my co-worker/friend as soon as possible and explain how I had failed, and how failure is not the end of the road. So, I did. I apologized to him and told him how bad I felt about my behavior. I went on to say that God had forgiven me and I hoped he would, too.

He was very touched as I talked with him, and he opened up to me to say that this was one area in his life where he had great difficulty—dealing with failure. He was so relieved to know that failure is not the end of the road, and to see in action that God restores us even when we stumble and fall.

I want to encourage you to remember that you’ve never blown it so badly to be beyond God’s help! He can salvage us, no matter what. Just go to him with a contrite heart and a willingness to obey and change, and you’ll find your burden is lifted and you can recover from failure.

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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Failure

Feb 3, 2018

PROGRAM W-1713 – Part I

Jesus often taught with parables—stories that illustrated his message—and it is a very effective teaching method. Because of this, for many years I’ve been telling an on-going fictional story of a woman named Fran and how she learns to turn to Jesus for wisdom and guidance in every area of her life.

Also, we need to learn how to practice the presence of Jesus in our lives on a daily basis. We know that the Spirit of God is with us continually when we’re born from above, but too many Christians don’t seem to be truly aware of his presence and the power available to them because he is right there beside us. I hope these stories help us to learn to practice the presence of Jesus all the time.

We know that Jesus doesn’t speak to us in audible words, but his Spirit within us can definitely give us clear guidance, which is always based on the truth of Scripture. So, the words of Jesus which I’ve written in this story are all true to Scripture.

Fran has had quite a few struggles on her job, but each time God has made a way and helped her do the right thing. This Monday morning, as she wakes to face another day, Fran is totally unmotivated. Nothing in her wants to get up and get going. So, she waits until the last minute, and then gets up in a rush. Getting her two kids ready to go to school turns out to be a bigger chore than usual, and she ends up raising her voice and arguing with them as she hurries them to get going. It’s not a good start for her week.

As she maneuvers through the bumper-to-bumper commute, she remembers that Jesus is there beside her, going to work with her again.

“Good morning,” he says cheerily.

“Morning,” Fran replies, hoping there won’t be any conversation. She’s not in the mood.

“Not a great Monday start, huh Fran?” Jesus asks.

She forces a smile, but still keeps quiet. She had intended, as usual, to spend some quiet time with Jesus early in her day, but she missed it today. Well, that happens sometimes, and Jesus will just have to understand, Fran thinks to herself.

“You seem a little angry this morning, Fran,” Jesus comments. “Do you know why?”

“No, I’m not angry; just tired. Guess I’m not in the mood to talk much,” she answers.

“Could it be the argument you had on the phone last night with your mother? There were some pretty strong words between you.” Jesus keeps pushing Fran to talk to him.

Now she is visibly angry. The last thing she wants to think about is the fight she had with her mother last night. But she tries to cover up her feelings, and says, “Well, we just don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, and sometimes Mom tries to tell me what to do. I’m a grown woman and I don’t like to be told what to do,” and even as she says the words, she’s knows how bad they sound.

“Do you think you treated her with respect, since she is your mother?” Jesus probes.

Fran doesn’t like it when Jesus starts asking these kinds of questions. She squirms a little as she weaves in and out through traffic, trying to be preoccupied with her driving and ignore Jesus. But he won’t let her do that.

“I’m sure you don’t always agree, but were those harsh words necessary, Fran?”

“Okay, okay, Jesus, I’ll call her today and apologize. It’s my fault; it’s always my fault!” Fran responds in frustration.

“I don’t think an apology will do you much good with that attitude, Fran,” Jesus replies, as they turn into the parking lot at the office. Fran is relieved they are there, because she really doesn’t want to talk about this anymore. She said she’d apologize; what more does Jesus want?

As they walk into the office, Fran finds a notice on her desk that a prospect has cancelled an appointment with her today. “Oh, good grief,” Fran exclaims, “I’ve waited two weeks for this appointment, got everything ready, and now he cancels.” She slams her attaché on her desk, and turns to take off her coat.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Lord, I forgot…” her voice trails off.

“You forgot I was here? That’s okay, Fran. But I am here, even when you forget,” Jesus says to her calmly.

Fran feels very ashamed, but what can she say? She’s just not in a good mood. She begins to think about what she said to her mother last evening.

“You know, Lord, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful to her, but she keeps giving me advice when I don’t ask for it,” Fran finds herself opening up to Jesus. She really hadn’t meant to, but somehow in his presence, she just has to be open.

“Was it that you didn’t like her giving unsolicited advice, or you didn’t like the advice she gave?” Jesus asks.

His incisive question catches her off guard, and she realizes Jesus won’t let her take a superficial, selfish approach. He peels off the layers and gets to the real core. He always does.

Tears start to trickle down Fran’s face. “Well, I’ve just been so lonely since Jim died, and this guy I met a couple of weeks ago—Bob—he’s been real nice to me. But my mother doesn’t think I should see him. It’s really none of her business, you know,” Fran hopes to win Jesus’ sympathy.

“You really think it’s none of her business? She has two grandchildren and a daughter to think about; she loves you very much. She has earned her right to state her opinion, don’t you think?” Jesus’ question reminds Fran of all that her mother has done during the years since Jim’s accident to help her and the kids. Of course, Jesus is right; her mother has a right to offer some advice.

“Well, she thinks it’s a mistake to go out to dinner with him because he doesn’t go to church or anything. But, she doesn’t even know him. . . ” Fran’s voice trails off.

“So, your mother doesn’t think you should be seeing a man who is not a committed Christian, like you, is that right?” Jesus asks.

“Well, I don’t know that he isn’t. . .” Again, her words seem feeble.

“You mean,” Jesus said, “after three dinners together, you still don’t know if he’s a believer or not? Haven’t you talked about me? Didn’t you ask? Can’t you tell?” Jesus is so direct that Fran is really uncomfortable.

“Well, the time just wasn’t right, you know, but I will tell him I’m a Christian. I did invite him to go to church with me sometime. I’m sure he knows what kind of a woman I am,” Fran replies.

“Fran, how long would you see a man and allow yourself the possibility of falling for him before you find out if you share a common faith? Do you recognize the dangers involved here?” Jesus directly confronts her.

Fran is struggling for an answer, when the phone rings. “Good morning, this is Fran, can I help you?” comes her standard greeting, and she is relieved to have the interruption. But as she listens, what she hears doesn’t go down well.

“What do you mean, you’re not going to make that deadline? Al, we had a meeting Friday on this very issue. You said it was no problem. I’ve made a commitment to the client. What’s the matter with you people over there in the art department? This is the second time you’ve blown a deadline for me, Al. You know, I work like crazy to get this business, and then you guys sit on your duffs and goof off and lose it for me. Do I have to come over there myself and get the job done? What is it with you people?” Fran’s angry words pour out at Al.

“Yeah, well, you haven’t heard the last on this one, Al,” and she slams the phone down with emphasis. As she does so, she remembers that Jesus is there and has heard what she said to Al.

“You seem to have angry words for a lot of people lately, Fran,” Jesus says to her with sadness.

“Listen, Lord, those guys need somebody to tell them off. They don’t care about the client; they don’t care about commitments. You can’t pussyfoot around and be effective in this business. It’s my job to see that my clients are served well, and I was just doing my job,” Fran says to Jesus defensively.

She opens her attaché, and laying on top is her Bible, which she carries with her each day. As she moves it out on her desk, the guilt moves in. “Oh, Lord, I can’t believe me. Listen to me. All I’ve done is hurt people with words lately, and you know what book I’ve been reading in the Bible—James, of course! ‘Behold, what a great flame a little fire kindles!’” Fran sits at her desk with her head in her hands.

“You really have blown it a good deal in the last two weeks, Fran. You’ve had some angry words for the children as well as your mother. You weren’t very kind to Karen at church yesterday, when she asked you to help her with the class party Friday night. . .” Jesus reminds Fran of yet another angry outburst.

“Well, she always asks me, like there’s nobody else in the class that can do anything. And I told her I’m not sure I can be there anyway; I’ve got a busy week this week,” Fran defends herself, knowing how lame it sounds.

“Really? Is that the real reason? Or were you just keeping Friday evening open in case a better option comes along, like this man?” Jesus doesn’t have to say anymore.

“I’m sorry, Lord,” Fran gets up to close her door, as the tears start to come. “I’m really sorry. I’ve been rotten lately. I haven’t spent any time with you, and I get angry at everyone easily. Oh, I wish I could just fall into a hole somewhere. I’m really ashamed of myself. Will you please forgive me?”

“Of course. You’re forgiven,” his answer is immediate and kind.

Can you relate to Fran’s predicament? It seems she has failed on every front lately, in every role. But of course, Jesus always is ready to forgive and restore.

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Managing Your Emotions Under Pressure

Feb 2, 2018

PROGRAM D-8025

As we examine how to manage our emotions under pressure, most of us already know how we should act in certain situations. We should be cool in a crisis, positive when things go wrong, keep our voices calm when things get heated up, and don’t allow our temper to get out of control. We know these things—we just don’t always do what we know!

Jesus once said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). The blessing comes when we do what we know we should do. The major difference between most people and extremely successful people is the gap between what they know and what they do. Most of us have about the same knowledge base. But people who are successful, both spiritually and in every other way, are those who are better at doing what they should be doing. It really is just that simple.

None of us who know Jesus as our Savior has an excuse for not doing what we should do. We all have the same power available to us—the power of God’s Holy Spirit living within us. We have this great advantage over those who don’t know Jesus because he gives us not only the desire to want to do the right thing, but the power through his Spirit to make it happen.

However, like all power sources, we have to be plugged in and the Spirit turned on. This is possible only through prayer, filling our minds with the truth of God’s Word, staying in close fellowship with the Lord, and building the right kind of accountability into our lives.

Emotions are gifts from God and they are given to us for good purposes. But when they are out of control, they can be very destructive. Pressurized situations can drive our emotions to the edge, but we have the power, through Christ, to keep them from going over those edges.

As you go into your work-world each day—whether it’s in an office, a hospital, a school, a bus, a factory, your own home, wherever—you have an opportunity to be the living word of God to those around you. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they were “a letter from Christ. . .written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3). Others will “read” your letter from Christ as they see you in pressurized situations, responding in Christ-like ways, with patience, love, kindness, and wisdom. That’s how we truly let our lights shine before people, so they can see our good works, and then glorify our Father in heaven.

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Managing Your Emotions Under Pressure

Feb 1, 2018

PROGRAM D-8024

I wonder if you’ve ever thought about how much time and energy you spend feeling hurt, and how that affects your performance and your ability to succeed. In thinking about how to manage our emotions under pressure, hurt feelings can be a very debilitating emotion.

If it were possible to measure how much productivity is lost, how many hours are wasted, how many jobs are half-done because somebody got their feelings hurt, I think we would be shocked. Obviously, sometimes our feelings are hurt legitimately; I understand that. My guess, however, is that’s only about twenty-five percent of the time. The majority of our hurt feelings come from being way too sensitive and offended far too easily.

As we examine this emotion of getting our feelings hurt easily, we have to recognize that it is a result of thinking that everything is all about ourselves! If someone forgets to say good morning to us as they walk by and we choose to let that hurt our feelings, it’s because we think they’re purposely slighting us and trying to hurt us. We’re thinking it’s all about us, instead of stopping to realize they’re probably just in a rush—thoughtless no doubt—but intending no negative message to us whatsoever.

As I’ve often said, people are not thinking about us nearly as much as we think they are! They’re thinking about themselves.

I urge you to examine yourself and determine if you are a victim of your own overly-sensitive feelings. If so, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is to overcome this tendency. Start making allowances for others. Unless you have firm proof that it has something to do with you, assume that it does not. Even if the other person’s behavior verges on being rude, just let them off the hook. Imagine an excuse.

I’ve written this prayer in my prayer journal from a wonderful devotional called A Diary of Private Prayer: “May I be willing to make the same excuses for other people that I make for myself.” Isn’t that a great prayer? After all, we let ourselves off the hook all the time! Pray that God will help you make excuses for others like you do for yourself and, in the process, learn to manage your tendency to get your feelings hurt too easily.

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