To All Who Have Been Bullied (The One Where I Talk About How to Deal With Bullies)

nobullies

I grew up being picked on.

The first bully I ran into was in Kindergarten.  The very first day of school I ever had, he stepped on my hand while I was playing with blocks.  He continued to bully me all through elementary school and junior high.

As I got older, I got fat.  And then, I got acne…bad.  And then, I got glasses.  In fact, in sixth grade, I looked like a kid from “The Far Side” comic strip.  I was mocked and made fun of, daily.

I tried out for the basketball team in 7th grade, and didn’t make it.  I got made fun of.

I was still fat.  I was still covered in acne.  I had greasy hair.  Fortunately, I had gotten contacts.  That helped a bit.

Since I wasn’t the most athletic of folks, I ventured into the fine arts.  I was in the chorus and was in all the drama productions.  That ended up being a blessing.  I found an outlet where I could pour myself into, and found friends who cared about the same thing.

To be honest with you – from about 3rd grade till 9th grade, I was miserable.  I went to a private school, but only was able to go because my father worked there.  We didn’t have money like a lot of others did in my class, so I never had “designer” clothes, or the latest and greatest gadget.

The sad thing is – bullying is one of those things that never stops.  Even now, as a 37 year old, I get made fun of.  My weight, my bald head, they draw a lot of critiques.  Granted, the bullying is different these days, but it still is a shame that adults make fun of other adults.

I guess this hit a nerve with me the other day.  My sweet little girl honestly has one of the kindest, gentlest, sweetest spirits of any little girl I’ve ever known.  There are two young girls in her class that make fun of her.  They won’t play with her.  Its sad that even in the first grade, there’s already “popular” kids.  I hate that word – “popular.”

She has come home several times, saying these two girls made fun of her on the playground, at lunch, etc.  Of course, my wife and I try to tell her – “Just don’t pay any attention to them…”  But, I know better.  Its hard.  Its hard when you long to be accepted, and you’re not.  Its hard when you just want to be nice to everyone, but they don’t want to be nice back.

The thing that scares me is that this is only the beginning.  She is only 6.  If she’s only 6 and she’s already being put in this awkward position, I know we’re going to be holding her many times over the next 20 years, listening to her cry about how mean someone has been to her.

Some people say “that’s just how they are…”, or “their heart is in the right place…” but I’m don’t buy it.  A bully is a bully.  Whether its physically bullying someone, or verbally bullying someone, or just an attitude of overconfidence – its not fun to be around those people.  How a bully becomes the most popular person in their circle of friends is beyond me.

The bible tells me that I’m supposed to love my enemies.  Some of the hardest people in the world to love are bullies – the ones who hurt us.   I often don’t want to forgive them, much less love them.

But Matthew 5:38-41 (NLT) says “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.”

And when I feel like getting revenge, I need to remember this, from Romans 12:19-20 (NLT) “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,‘ says the Lord.  Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Its one of those lessons that’s a lot easier to say than do.

Remember, you will always have bullies in your life.  Oftentimes, the bullies in your life don’t even realize they are bullies.  Continue living for God.  Continue to remember the golden rule – to treat others like you want to be treated.  If someone is mean to you, treat them with kindness.  And above all else, remember that according to Matthew 7:2, Jesus says “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

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I Don’t (just) Believe in Jesus

Just-Believe

Do you believe in Jesus?

Tonight, a simple thought that I hope will challenge you as a Christian:

Belief in Jesus just isn’t enough.  There has to be behavior that follows.

Do you remember what James 2:19 says?  It reminds us “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”  Satan and his demons believe in God, believe in Jesus, and believe in the Spirit.

Believing is great.  I believe in Jesus.  But that is not enough.

There has to be action.  There has to be response.  How will you show you are a believer?  What will you do to show that you’re a follower of Jesus?  Belief is just a step.  Taking action is a big step – will you take it?

Dear God –

AndGodLa

I love this letter to God from a child –

“Dear God, I think about you sometimes even when I’m not praying.”

So simple, yet so overwhelmingly powerful.  But is it true for you?

How would your day be radically transformed if this statement was true for you?  So often, we only think about God:

1.  When we get ready for church
2.  When we are at church
3.  When we pray for a meal
4.  When we tell our child that God doesn’t like what he/she is doing
5.  When something good or bad happens
6.  When/if we pray, study the Bible

But how would it change your day if scattered throughout, you just stopped and thought about God’s love?  God’s grace?  God’s mercy?  God’s awesomeness?  God’s power?

There’s a difference between thinking about God and praying to God.  I think about my wife and my daughter often, but I’m not speaking to them.  I think about them because I love them so much, and they occupy my thoughts throughout the day.  Does God have that same impact on you?

Read this verse – and think about God.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8-14)

 

Model Christianity or True Christianity?

Today, our house went on the market.  We have lived in this house since April of 2009.  It has been a great home to us.  Josie learned how to do so many things here.  We’ll forever have memories of our lives on Coopers Post Lane.  The great thing about our home – its been lived in and loved.  When you walked into our house, you would see photos of family and friends, you would see Josie’s toys on the floor, you would see Christian verses on the wall, and you would smell something cooking in the oven.

So imagine if you would, how hard it has been the past few days getting ready to sell the home.  Since we have a bit of a time crunch on our hands, we decided to pay a little extra money and stage the home.  This is a common tactic and works very well.  Our realtor says she has much better results when a client will stage their home.  She recommended a lady, we hired her, and she came on Saturday to “stage” our home.  When she walked in the door, she was full of life, and told us in the most cheerful way “After I’m done today, you’ll hate me, but your home will sell if you let me do my job”…and it began.  She started taking pictures off the wall, moving things around, telling us that our home didn’t look like a “model” home.  She said buyers want to see it as a model home, not as a home that’s lived in.  That’s a challenge, because until we move, we still have to live there!

Our home now looks similar, but different than it has the past few years.  Josie can’t have toys out, I had to move my La-Z-Boy Recliner to the hall, we have to have place settings out all the time on the table so it looks like we’re always ready to have dinner, all in all…things are just not who we really are, but I have to tell you, it looks good.  When the photographer came to take the photos, I couldn’t believe it was our house.

The problem is that is not how we live.  Its a burden to always have everything looking “phony but real”.  For someone looking to buy a home, they will walk in and think it looks wonderful.  For someone living there, we sit there and think “this looks silly…no one would live like this”, and that’s the point.  No one would live like that, but the way it has been staged is set up to feature the best parts of our home and draw your eyes to those features.

I stop and think about how this works in our lives.  I try my hardest not to hide anything about who I am.  I am not perfect by any means, and if I tried to make people think I was perfect, that would take a lot more effort than its worthy.  How tiring would it be to always have to pretend to be someone you’re really not?  Its so much easier just to live your life truthfully to everyone, so they can always know who they get when they see you.  Don’t be one way in front of your church family, and a different way in front of your work family.  Eventually, the two sides may meet, and one of them is going to see your “fake” side.  Wouldn’t it just be easier to be true to yourself and to them all the time?

I don’t want people to see me and think, “I wonder if he’s being genuine, or if he’s just being that way to make me think he’s a Christian”.  True Christianity can’t be taken off.  It can’t be hidden, and it can’t be taken away.  Its who you are.  Its not a model home to show off, and once the people looking are gone you get back to living your normal life.  Its a 24/7 life that God has called us to live.  So which are you living?  A life of Model Christianity or True Christianity?

Love Without Limits

Recently, my grandfather passed away.  While at the visitation and the funeral, gathered around family, we were all reminded that he never had anything negative to say about others.  He didn’t speak in an angry way.  He loved life and loved others.  This was an excellent lesson he taught us, but one that Jesus taught as well.

Its easy to love people who treat you well.  However, how do you love someone who doesn’t treat you well?  The kid in school who makes fun of you?  The boss who takes credit for your work, or blames you for things going wrong?  Those people are a bit harder to love.

Jesus tells the Pharisees in Matthew 5:43-48 they are to love their neighbor, but also love their enemy.  The King James goes on to say “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”  We know Jesus wants us to love our neighbor, that’s for sure.  He tells us over and over again.  However, the Jewish Rabbis taught that their “neighbor” only applied to fellow Jews.  This worked out well because the Jews pretty much hated everyone else.  The Romans actually accused and charged the Jews with hatred of the human race.

The problem is that the Old Testament, or no where in the Bible in fact, tells us to hate our enemies.  There are places in the Old Testament where God hates evil, and may not care for the evildoer, but he never commands his people to hate their enemies.  We are to shower them with unconditional kindness.

I heard a story about Wade Boggs, former third baseman for the Boston Red Sox.  He hated playing at  Yankee Stadium while playing for Boston, not because of the Yankees but because of one particular fan.  This fan would heckle him, yell out insults and profanities.  One day, Boggs had listened to this enough.  He walked over to the area where this guy was, looked at him, and asked “Are you the guy that is always yelling at me?”.  The fan responded “Yeah, what are you gonna do about it?”

Wade Boggs took a new baseball, signed it, and threw it up for the guy to have.  The guy never heckled Boggs again.  In fact, he became one of his biggest supporters.

That’s what we are urged to do with our enemies.  Find a way to show them love, especially the love of Christ in all we do.  God is going to bless everyone on this earth, whether they believe in him or not.  He sends the rain and the sun to bless even his enemies by common grace (vs 45).  We need to love people without discrimination like God loves us.  We also need to love our enemies because we need to show there is no greater love than Christian love.

Watch Out for Aliens

Ever since I was a little boy, I haven’t really been scared of much. I never really was all that scared of the dark. I wasn’t afraid of clowns or spiders. The only thing I was ever scared of was aliens. Yup, that’s right, aliens. I attribute that to a lot of episodes of Unsolved Mysteries on Wednesday nights after church, the show Amazing Stories which used to come on Sunday nights, and the fact that I swear there were aliens in our backyard.

I’ve always been scared of them as long as I can remember. Now of course, why aliens would come all this way to earth just to freak us out is beyond me. It just creeps me out. So on Wednesday night of this week, I did a class based upon my fear of Aliens.

You remember that movie Signs? I loved it, and hated it all at the same time. There were plenty of great spiritual applications though in that movie. Let me share my favorite.

Do you remember in that movie when they had boarded up their home, and headed down to the basement to tough it out? They placed a pick axe in front of the door, and hoped that would keep out the aliens (they can travel light years to earth but can’t open a door?). The little boy, Morgan, said that the aliens would be good problem solvers, and would find a way in. Sure enough, the basement used to have a coal shaft in it. As Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix looked around for it, Morgan was standing in front of the shaft, and an alien grabbed him from behind. Just as Morgan said, they found a way in.

You know, Satan does the same thing. He’s a great problem solver. Just when we think we’re safe, in the privacy of our own home, protected by locked doors, alarms, and whatever else we may have, Satan finds a way in. We protect our hearts by going to church, participating in small groups, reading our Bibles and praying, but Satan still finds a way in.

And you know what the sad thing is? We aren’t easily scared of the power that Satan has. We jump and scream at scary movies, but we don’t flinch at all when we read of the fact that Satan is alive and well in the world.

Remember what kills the aliens in the movie Signs? Yeah, Water. I though it was cheesy as well. These terrible aliens are hurt by water. They have poison gas flowing through their bodies, but water will destroy them.


About the only thing, however, that will destroy the presence of Satan in our lives is…well, water. Being buried in Christ in the waters of Baptism cleanses our souls, our bodies, our lives. That water, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, is the one thing Satan can’t deal with. It drives him away.

At least for a while. Remember, we said Satan was a good problem solver. Becoming a Christian doesn’t make you exempt from Satan. Satan can, and will find a way back into your lives. Be watchful, Satan goes around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Satan is real, but my Jesus beats him every time.

Just Add Water – A Look at Being a Christian

On June 10, 1992, I became a Christian.  There are many thoughts out there today as to how one becomes a Christian.  I believe the New Testament gives plenty of examples that the way to Christ and salvation eternal is through hearing the word of God, believing in what it says, changing your sinful ways, confessing that Jesus is Lord, and giving yourself over to him in immersion through baptism.  When you give yourself over to Jesus, you do it completely.

I remember the night I became a Christian.  My father baptized me after I walked down the aisle to the Church of Christ classic song, “Just As I Am”.  I remember making my confession before the 30 or so people at the Bethel Church of Christ that night, my father plunging me into the water, and re-emerging as a new creature buried in Christ, with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  I told God that night that I wanted to give my life to Him, completely.  While I have not even come close to being perfect, I have tried my hardest, and am committed to raising my family in a Christian home.

Recently, Billy Graham’s son Franklin was asked if he believed that Barack Obama was a Christian.  He stated “He has told me that he is a Christian. But the debate comes, what is a Christian? For him, going to church means he’s a Christian. For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith, and we have trusted him as our Lord and Savior. That’s the definition of a Christian. It’s not as to what church you are a member of. A membership doesn’t make you Christian.

A membership doesn’t make you Christian – there’s a lot of validity in that.  For a lot of us, we feel that just going to church makes you a Christian.  We believe that if our name is on the roll in a congregation of some sort, that we’re on God’s roll for entry into Heaven.

In an article challenging Franklin’s response of Obama’s Christianity, Roland Martin  a syndicated columnist for CNN and author of “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House.”, said “Any Christian will tell you: If a person verbally professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that person is considered saved. No ifs, ands or buts. That’s when the conversation should end.”

I can’t help but think its not that simple.  First of all, “any Christian” will not say that.  True Christians will say that there is more to following Christ than just saying Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  The apostles left their nets, their jobs, their families and their livelihood to follow Christ.  Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor so he could inherit eternal life.  Jesus never simply said “Believe in me, and that’s all”.  In Matthew 28, Jesus tells those of us who have given our lives over to him to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them everything I have commanded you.”

We see in the following years of the first Christians that they did this.  In Acts, we see that the Christians dedicated themselves to each other.  They helped each other out.  They committed to being together, in a “corporate” setting and in their own personal lives.  We can’t simply just add water to our spiritual lives and expect it to grow into a full, mature Christian.  We can’t expect to just add water, never commit to God’s church, and expect that he approves of it.

We’ve read of professional athletes being kicked off their teams, traded away, or even fired simply because they didn’t show up to practice.  Practice is an important part of being an athlete.  They can’t just show up to the games and expect to first of all be a team, but second of all, to be any good.  When you don’t practice together, you don’t know each other’s game, and therefore can’t be productive.  One or two people may be successful, but as a team you will not succeed.

Yet, for some people, they treat their eternal salvation, their identity with God, as a casual social club.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that if you fail to go to church services every time the doors are open, that you’ll be eternally condemned.  I’m not going to tell you that if you fail to meet with fellow Christians every day to encourage each other and to teach the lost, that God won’t have a place for you in eternity.

But I will say that you’re missing out on your full potential as a Christian.  This isn’t an argument for whether or not baptism is essential to salvation.  This isn’t an argument about what church you have to belong to in order to have eternal life.  Those discussions are for a different time and place.  This is a plea that we need to restore the community found in the New Testament church, so that we aren’t just Christians in name, but that we are Christians in every aspect of our lives.

A business person seeking to climb the ladder of success would never think of just phoning in their work each week.  They know that they have to live that life daily, as best as they can, so that they can succeed.  They are going to devote themselves to that company, so that the presidents and managers can see how much it means to them, and that they are committed to the cause.

Instant coffee is okay, but slow drip is better.  TV Dinners suffice, but are nothing compared to a meal someone prepared in love all day long.  When we commit to the Christian life,  instead of just pulling it all together once a week, or once a month, God will take note and reward our hard work, in this life and the next.  May God be praised as we all dedicate ourselves to Him.