Power of Influence

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Have you ever considered the power of influence or ever thought about how much influence you have over people?

While researching a few women in the Bible, I noticed the amount of influence they had on the people around them, particularly their husband and community. Here’s one example I found in 1 Kings regarding Jezebel.

No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshipping idols just as the Amorites had done-the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites. 1 Kings 21:25-26 NLT

Other translations read; urged on by his wife (NIV), pushed by his wife (The Message), his wife incited him (ESV/NASB/HCSB). 

Jezebel influenced her husband into idol worship. I think Ahab knew better but allowed his wife to influence him. He should have seen it coming since Jezebel was all about Baal worship, the false god that her father worshipped. However, King Ahab allowed the influence of his wife and devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight. Later in 1 Kings 21:29, we see Ahab humble himself before God in true repentance.

Have you ever noticed that influencing begins in small forms and increases? You are either heading toward God with a godly influence or heading away from God with a worldly influence. Because the direction of the influence is a gradual process, you could be in way over your head before you realize it and heading in the wrong direction. Attitudes and addictions don’t happen overnight, it’s a process.

I recall a time in my life when I did not follow God. I followed the ways of this world and suffered the consequences of my bad decisions. Amazingly, God provided more grace than I deserved during that time since I made all my decisions based on worldly influences around me. I had accepted Christ as a teenager, but had gone my own way in my 20’s. Looking back, I can see where I suppressed the Holy Spirit and chose not to follow God.

This broke my mother’s heart. I found out after her death that she and my sister prayed for me during those years and I had no idea. Prayer is such a powerful tool so be encouraged to continue praying for those who need God in their lives.

I came back to God after 25 years and now my decisions are based on God’s leading and his Word. If you are a Christ follower, then you understand that we are here to further God’s kingdom and to be influencers for Christ.

Consider these three things with me regarding influence:

1. We have a great amount of influence. Influence over our households, children, work, church, and community. We need to be careful how we use our influence.

2. We are always influencing someone. Jezebel not only influenced her husband into idol worship she also raised a daughter, Athaliah, to be just like her.

3. Becoming a godly person is a process of allowing God to influence us. That’s why it’s so important to read your Bible and spend time with God daily so He can influence you and in turn you can influence others for God.

Spending time with God in the morning to start your day will have great influence on you for the rest of your day…and life.

In the morning Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I please my case to you and watch expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Mornings with God

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 O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:1-3

 

Like the Psalmist David, have you ever found yourself groaning and crying out to the Lord first thing in the morning? If you have, you remember exactly the time and place in which it happened. To wake up and already feel so desperate for God that you start with groaning and crying is a tough place to be. I recall a time when something was so heavy on my heart that I woke up each day burdened by it. I would give it to God before going to bed, only to wake and have it heavy on my heart again. I learned very quickly to survive the day, I had to give it to God first thing in the morning.

My son struggled in school during his first grade year. He was tested and the outcome was unknown for his future. I was desperate for God. I needed his guidance, discernment, and peace to survive each day. I sought God and prayed hard all during my son’s school days. I was in a Moms in Prayer group where I learned how to pray and pray is what I did all through the years. My son graduated high school and those days are now gone. He has grown up and turned out to be a fine young man. However, his future is still somewhat uncertain and I still get up each morning and pray.

This situation created a pattern of seeking God first thing in the morning and it is vital to my soul. Without my morning time with God, my day isn’t the same and rarely goes well. Some days I have time to sit and read for a long time and some days are a few moments in a devotional. I give all that I can give in the morning and pray for all that burdens my heart each day. Sometimes things work out well and sometimes they are not so well, but I’m well because of time spent with God in prayer.

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I started writing this devotion few years ago when our family had a moment of grieving together. We had to put our family dog of 12 years down. I had never heard my son groan and cry with such emotion. I can’t tell you how many times I prayed for my son to have the same life experiences as his peers. This may not make sense to you if you’ve not experienced having a child who has struggled in these areas. However, I’m a happy mom because my son knows how to love well and grieve well. What more could a mother ask…well maybe for him to take his requests to God each morning then wait expectantly like the verse says so I’ll keep praying for that each morning.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love. Psalm 5:11-12

Life After 9/11

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Beam left standing in the form of the Cross

I realize we are past the 15th anniversary of 9/11/2001 and publishing this post may seem late. However, I beleive the timing is perfect for someone and I’m praying for the person(s) this is meant to encourage. For me, 9/11 it’s a constant reminder that I need a deep relationship with God. Last year I went to New York for the first time in my life and when I returned, I started this post. However, it has been sitting as a draft ever since. I knew when the timing was right, I would share. Here’s my experience and I hope you will come along with me.

Saint Paul’s Chapel was the only building that didn’t sustain damage on September 11, 2001. I recall hearing about this at the time but there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.

It was my first trip to New York and I was so happy to see the city with my precious step-daughter, Chelsea. She invited me to come along on a work trip so we took advantage of the opportunity and went early for the weekend to take in the sites and see a Broadway play.

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The whole weekend was amazing! We started day one with a tour of New York City. It was a rainy and windy cold day. It was Fall which is something Texas doesn’t do well. Our tour consisted of bus and boat and it was fantastic! We saw many sites such as the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial site and much more. Our tour guide, Bernice, was great! You could tell she loved her job and the city.

She shared wonderful details about all the sites and when she talked about 9/11, her story became personal. Seems like everyone has a 9/11 story if you were alive that day. However, her story really resonated with me and I want to share it.

Bernice had a dream the night before 9/11 of planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. She was scheduled to give a tour of the World Trade Center to a bus load of people at promptly 9:00 am on September 11, 2001. She called in to work and told them that she needed to cancel the tour and would not make it to work that day.

I don’t have to tell you what happened because you know the rest of the story of that horrible day. Bernice praised God for saving her life and others.

Bernice has had other dreams and learned to pay attention to them long ago. On another occasion she dreamed of leaving her apartment and being mugged and badly beaten. When she woke and left her apartment the next day, she was mugged and badly beaten. Bernice has learned something that some of us might want to think about. I believe she listens to God and this is how God speaks to her. He speaks to all of us and often times we are not aware or we choose to ignore.

God spoke to me loud and clear to me following that dreadful September 11th day. You see I had a relationship with God for eternity, but not a relationship for the here and now. The bible tells us that Jesus came they we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The Common English Bible translation says “…so they could live life to the fullest”. I knew he wanted me to find a place to worship and grow in the knowledge of who he was, is, and is to come. That day was a turning point in my life and I sought God with all my heart. Looking back, I’m grateful for taking the next step toward God and can see why he was preparing me for a better life…a life with Him at the center of everything.

Nothing can shake the foundation set in place by the One who delivered me from sin and death. I’ve been able to endure grief, sorrow, pain, and loss because God is my strength. I’ve also been able to experience joy, grace, peace, love, and life because God is my strength.

I believe God gave us a strong message by the standing and unaffected Saint Paul’s Chapel during the 9/11 attacks. There’s no explanation for why that building is still standing as it is literally across the street from where the Twin Towers stood. God purposely preserved this chapel and for me, it’s a message of hope and eternity. Don’t wait another second to follow after God and may you respond to the call he has on your life.

Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

 

 

 

 

 

Compassionate Disciples Seize the Day!

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Compassion always leads to action

I have to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel all that compassionate. I am on staff at Argyle UMC and part of my responsibilities under Congregational Care are to consider when it’s appropriate to help people with charity. When people come in to the church and need help (usually with financial assistance), I have to weigh the situation to see if it’s appropriate for the church to help. We have guidelines to help make the decision and sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. I pray every day for God to help me discern what He wants me to do and I take being prudent with church resources very seriously. I have to admit there are times when I can relate to what God said when speaking of the Israelites, he told to Jeremiah in chapter 15, “I am tired of showing compassion”. Sometimes I tire of the requests because there can be many and have to be very intentional to keep my mind focused on the task God has given me. It’s not always easy, but when I fix my eyes on God it gives me endurance to show compassion.

I have a tendency to think there are times when all of us struggle to show compassion. Jesus tells us there are signs of the end of the age and in Matthew 24:12, Jesus says, “Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.” I wonder if it’s possible that in the midst of so much terror and tragedy in our world today that we could become cold or numb. Honestly, it seems that daily we are waking up to another shooting or terror attack. It would almost make sense to put up a wall to protect ourselves of the daily violence happening in our world.

I don’t believe that we want to grow cold, but I could see us becoming numb and cold to the world around us simply as a way of coping. How do we keep that from happening when so much is going on around us?

How do we deal when another terror attack has occurred by those who hate Christians?

How do we keep our compassion for others and how do we honor what Jesus said when tells us to love our neighbor as our self when it seems our neighbor hates us?

Why is it important to be compassionate toward others?

What happens if we are no longer compassionate?

Well the good news is this…

Our God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15) and because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).

Could it be this is how we are set apart as believers in Jesus Christ? When we understand the compassion God had for us through sending his son Jesus, this motivates us to be compassionate toward others.

It’s no surprise that the Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” To be a compassionate disciple means you respond to the suffering and are motivated with a desire to help others.

Compassion always leads to action.

God took action showing compassion when He sent Jesus (John 3:16-17).

In the New Testament, we find Jesus exemplifying all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33-35).
  2. Jesus was moved with compassion for the suffering of others and went to all the towns and villages, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35-36)
  3. Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus had gone to a remote place by boat and when he came ashore, the people were waiting (a huge crowd). He felt compassion for them and healed them before he divided up the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5,000(Matthew 14:14).
  4. Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Mark 6:34). When He saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion for them, for they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he prayed for workers to send out into the harvest.

You see there are many people out there worn out and weary, they don’t know God and they are sheep without a shepherd. Maybe you are like the worker Jesus prayed for to send out into the harvest. People need to hear the good news that Jesus is the Great Shepherd who loves them.

When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, Then he added, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).

Love your God with all our heart, mind and strength means you have to spend time with God developing the same character of compassion as God. Seek God in asking what He wants you to do and realize that compassion has to be nurtured and practiced. Start by spending time in the scriptures and praying, being in church worship and community with other believers. If possible, seek one or two people to meet with on a regular basis and talk about the scriptures. You would decide before the meeting what book of the Bible to read before the meeting. Admit to each other where you have failed or sinned recently. Remind each other of God’s forgiveness and grace. Then ask each other some questions such as “where have you wasted time this week?” We are calling this DNA (Disciple, Nurture, Accountability) teams. John Wesley called them “Holy Clubs”.

What does the second commandment look like when it says to love your neighbor as yourself? Honestly, that is not all that hard unless you are not in a good place due to depression or anxiety. Most of us, love ourselves pretty well so when we think about loving someone else like our self, we should be able to imagine it.

In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law asked, who is my neighbor. I think we ask this same question. Like God, who is my neighbor? Is it literally my neighbor, my coworker, my friend at school, the person I’m standing next to in line at Starbucks or the grocery store?

Jesus took that question “who is my neighbor” and told the parable of the Good Samaritan and how a man was on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and how robbers stripped him and beat him up, left him half dead on the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. Then a Good Samaritan came along and had compassion on the man and took care of him, he bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal, took him to the hotel, then the next day, he gave money to the hotel clerk for the man to stay longer and said he would reimburse him for whatever the guy spent over what he gave. So who is our neighbor? Everyone?

God, who do you want me to love?

Everyone?

Those with a different lifestyle?

Different color?

Different culture?

Different country?

Different political views?

I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. John 13:34-35 NIV

So when we love everyone that means people who are different from us, different lifestyle, different color, different politics, different culture, different values.

Understanding how important it is to reach others and being intentional about showing God’s love should move us to be compassionate disciples.

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32

If you have not accepted the forgiveness of sin through Christ, then you are not going to understand how important it is to forgive others. I invite you to accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ and start a new life with him.

Also, know that being compassionate may cost you something. It may cost you time which is a great commodity in the age in which we live. God may move you to a new place in serving or in mission. If you believe in what you are doing in following God’s call to compassion, you won’t mind giving up what’s necessary to follow Him.

Compassion always leads to action.

Imagine what our world would look like if we were all kind and compassionate toward others. We have to understand where people are that don’t know God, they are just doing the best they know how. I would like to challenge you to pray and ask God how you could show compassion to someone.

Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society was trying to inspire and move his students when he told them, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world!!”

We have a legacy left for us by Christians who have gone before us? Some of them, because of their words and ideas changed our world. What would the people who are in heaven say to us if they could communicate with us? What if we could see from their perspective on how to do life here?

I think they might say something like this to us…

Carpe diem brothers and sisters in Christ!

Seize the day and go live an extraordinary compassionate life in the Lord Jesus!!

 

A Closer Walk

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Cissy – 2 months old

In the spring we got a puppy! My sister and nephew went with me to the breeders to pick out a puppy and to everyone’s surprise, we both picked out puppies. We have sister puppies and they are adorable (most of the time).

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Cissy and Dixie – 2 1/2 months old

They are really sweet dogs but puppies nonetheless and if you know anything about a Labrador puppy, you know they do everything puppy on a much larger scale.

I decided to start walking with a friend for exercise and to help Cissy burn off energy. It was good to have a dog to walk. During the summer months, while it is so hot, my friend carried a collapsible water bowl and water bottle while I would try to control the dog on the leash, carry my phone, and the gate remote. The leash is a retractable leash and because she has so much energy, it seemed appropriate to give her some room to run in front of us and sniff EVERY living (or dead) thing on the ground.

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Cissy – 5 months old

As it turns out, too much leash is not a good thing. She gets distracted easily and moves off course by walking to the other side of the road, walking right in front of us to the point of almost tripping us or trying to pull way off on the grassy side of the road. Neither were good. Even though I want to give her leeway, it’s best if I don’t. If I pull her leash in closer to me, she stays with me and she stays focused on the walk.

You know our walk with God is really no different. When I am in God’s Word and I’m staying close to Him, I am focused and content. When I go too far ahead of God, I tend to get off course and stray. And when I stray, I sin and I bet you do too. We need God and we need to stay close to Him or we sin! Now I’m not saying that I am without sin, but I will say, I sin less because my eyes are on God and my heart is on God and my daily life is focused on what God wants for  me.

You see this is one thing you can not fake. You can fake almost anything else in this world but a relationship with God you can not. You may get away with it for a time and think you have a long leash but ultimately you will hang yourself with it because too much leash leaves you too far from the One who made you.

Stay close to God my friend and let’s pray for each other while on our walk with God.

Would you join me in asking God daily; Lord, what do you want to do through me?

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

 

 

The Word

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As the moon fades, the sun is rising in the East, I yearn for the Word with a hunger so deep.

What a perfect way than to begin with a feast, of God’s very Word to my soul shall I keep.

 My Lord wakes me each day just before dawn with thoughts of Him and a song I embrace.

Let your Word refresh me as I press on, and hold me Jesus for this day that I face.

 I tell you this dear friend of mine; listen closely so that your heart will hear.

God has a plan for you that’s divine; will you listen to Him or turn away in fear?

 He speaks to me in so many ways and satisfies a void that once was great.

God can change your heart this very day; just trust in Him for He awaits.

Kim Thomas

October, 2002