Archive for the ‘Doing’ Category

Check Your Fruit

April 22, 2021

Jesus had been teaching. He pointed out a number of actions we should be doing. As he begins summarizing the teaching, he answers the question listeners may have had in mind–“how will I, or anyone observing me, know I am following your teaching?” He also answers the question, “Whom should I believe?”

So, he answers, you know people by their fruits. Good trees cannot bear bad fruit, and bad trees cannot bear good fruit.

Some people cannot gain insight through metaphor. I wrote recently about a chemical substance. Someone replied with the chemical formula and some actual physical effects. The concept of a metaphor is tough.

If you are an engineer and like things more concrete, then try substituting “results” for “fruits.”

Looking back on your life or that of someone who is trying to teach you, check out the results of what you’ve done and said.

Do you leave people better off than when you met?

Did you buy a hungry person a meal? Give a coat to someone cold? Provide transportation to a doctor? In your teaching, have you inspired people to help others or have you provoked people to harm others?

Your fruit is what you’ve left behind in others. Hope fully it’s a nice, ripe, juicy fig, not a rotten apple.

Love One Another As I Have Loved You

April 2, 2021

The thing about a good story, whether fact or fiction, is that it harbors truth in many layers.

When the first disciples of Jesus began telling the stories of this last week–the march into Jerusalem, the Passover dinner, the prayer in the garden, the arrest, trial, conviction, execution, and later the resurrection–there were of course many layers to the stories.

One layer begins with Jesus last command. Remember? Once he answered a scholar about the greatest command from God, and Jesus told him there were two. This time Jesus says, oh yes, I’m giving you one last command. Love one another as I have loved you.

In a bit, he goes to the garden to pray and takes a few guys with him. They are armed. We know for sure, at least, that Peter was. When the armed patrol comes to arrest Jesus, Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of one.

Jesus rebukes him. He heals the severed ear. He lets himself be arrested without a fight. He says he lays down his life for them.

Setting aside theology and looking just at the story–Jesus did lay down his life for them. Had he told them to fight their way out of it, they would all have died on that hilltop.

Then they looked at the story and we look at the story, and we put it all together.

Jesus gave a command. Then he lived it by example. And there it is for all who call themselves followers. Can you love one anther even as Jesus did? Even up to giving up your life so that they may live?

We Are Known By What We Do

January 11, 2021

Rather than go down the rabbit warren of Resolutions or Goals, I practice and teach the method of visualizing the sort of person I’d like to be.

  • I am the person who rises early to read and meditate
  • I am the person who eats a healthy diet
  • I am the person who exercises with intention every day
  • I am a helpful person
  • …(you get the drift…)

Another practice I’ve adopted for many years is to begin the year reading Wisdom literature. Perhaps it’s the Proverbs which just happens to have the same number of chapters as there are days in January. One-a-day. Sometimes it may be the study of James. Another good one is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. This year for no rational reason, I’m reading Wisdom literature from a different tradition.

But saying I am a certain type of person or studying Wisdom literature is only a foundation. Jesus knew that. His challenge was “hear my words and do them.” Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived. He did not live wisely. And his child and heir destroyed the united kingdom in just a few short years. All those wise words Solomon had about raising a child–they never made it from his head to his heart.

How many people who have learned a hundred or more Bible verses and can recite from memory do we know whose life would never attract someone to God? How many religious leaders do we know who fail at basic morality? How many people have we dealt with in business who talk Christian talk but fail in fundamental ethics?

So, this year:

  • Get off your butt and actually exercise
  • Actually eat those foods that you know you should
  • Do something for someone somehow
  • Act with intention

Here’s a question you can carry with you along with your wallet and keys–Are You Being Served? Actually, that was a cute British sitcom from the 70s and 80s that I used to watch at times. That visualization reinforces the question we should be asking all the time–Are you being served? Oh, and then, serve.

Will I Be A Sitter Or A Follower This Year

January 1, 2021

Already yesterday I saw threads on Twitter about posting your New Year’s Resolutions.

Don’t.

They don’t work. Before January is over, you’ll have forgotten them.

This year, maybe we just decide to stop sitting and complaining. We choose to get up and follow Jesus. The first groups around Jesus? They weren’t scholars so much as they were followers.

Try this thought from Søren Kierkegaard.

Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem. They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him. Similarly we may be able to explain every article of our faith, yet remain spiritually motionless. The power that moved heaven and earth leaves us completely unmoved.

What a contrast! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it spurred them to set out on a long, hard journey. The scribes, meanwhile, were much better informed, much better versed. They had sat and studied the scriptures for years, like so many dons. But it didn’t make any difference. Who had the more truth? Those who followed a rumor, or those who remained sitting, satisfied with all their knowledge?

Søren Kierkegaard

Maybe you were taught to be only a leader, never a follower be. But you follow something or someone. You follow those who promise riches. You follow those who promise power. You follow those who appeal to your insecurities and fears.

None of those satisfy in the end.

Make 2021 a year of choosing to follow Jesus who leads us (if we but do his teaching) to living a better life because we chose to live in God’s kingdom.

Maybe you will or won’t lose that 30 pounds. Or you will or won’t write that book. Or you will or won’t double your income.

But you can be a different kind of human.

Vocation

November 4, 2020

No, not vacation, something we all need right now. Rather, vocation refers to the work you do, your career, how you devote your skills and talents. My introduction to the word was in high school. There was a course of study called Vocational Agriculture. It was for the farm kids who were going to go into the family farming business.

I went to college and studied lots of things. Then I was introduced again to the word when I taught 7th grade at a Catholic school. Not being Catholic, I had to pick up on the specific meaning of the word as they used it back then–namely (I think) showing the kids the opportunities for “vocation” meaning becoming a priest, brother, or sister.

Most of us get a job of some kind and perhaps it becomes a career of some kind. Do we think beyond that? Like those Catholic kids I taught, are we encouraged to consider what God might want us to do with our time, skill, talent?

I saw this thought in today’s readings:

Vocation is not evoked by your bundle of need and desire. Vocation is what God wants from you whereby your life is transformed into a consequence of God’s redemption of the world. Look no further than Jesus’s disciples – remarkably mediocre, untalented, lackluster yokels – to see that innate talent or inner yearning has less to do with vocation than God’s thing for redeeming lives by assigning us something to do for God.

Especially American Baby Boomers, but also many people in the world, think about how much money we can make, or how much power we can exert over others, or retiring to a lifestyle of wealthy leisure such as portrayed in countless movies and TV shows.

But no, someday God will call us to account for our use of his gifts. It’s not to late to discover and go.

10 Things You Can Do Now

August 24, 2020

Here are 10 things you can do now that require zero talent.

  1. Being on time
  2. Work ethic
  3. Effort
  4. Energy
  5. Body language
  6. Passion
  7. Doing extra
  8. Being prepared
  9. Being coachable
  10. Attitude

Go out and change your world today. You can do it.

Get Up And Do What Needs To Be Done

October 9, 2018

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

I just love the language of the Proverbs. “You sluggard…” That is so blunt.

Yesterday I wrote about focus. Then I listened to an Eastside Christian Church podcast talk by Mike Breaux (pronounced bro for you non-Cajuns) on procrastination. Seems like a series brewing.

Sometimes we can’t focus because we just can’t get around to the work. We put things off. Dust the desk. Search on Google. Fix a cup of tea.

Go to the ant, you sluggard–it has no boss, yet it works constantly.

Get over the fear of starting.

Or maybe just plain laziness.

Sometimes you need a signal. Perhaps that cup of tea is the signal to sit down and write, or think, or draw, or make those phone calls.

I think of Garrison Keillor and the “sponsor” of Prairie Home CompanionPowdermilk Biscuits. Heavens they’re tasty, and expeditious. Give shy persons the strength they need to get up and do what needs to be done.

Consider the ways of the ant and be wise. Get up and do what needs to be done.

It’s Not Everyone Who Calls Me Lord

April 10, 2018

What if Jesus meant what he said?

I truly appreciate that group of teachers who began pondering that question some 45 years ago or so. It is much to our loss that their voices have been drowned by the hype of others.

What if Jesus really meant what Matthew recorded (7:21):

Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus also said (as reported by his good friend John):

I give you a new command, Love one another as I have loved you.

What if we lived today not simply repeating opinions of theology or calling the name of Jesus with empty hearts, but…

that we lived today doing the will of the Father.

Maybe like James teaches, we watch what we say lest we hurt someone rather than building them up.

Hint: perhaps we step back and look objectively at the tone of our opinions and social media posts–remember that the right to free speech does not absolve us from the responsibility of speaking in love.

Maybe like the apostle Paul teaches, such as the list he gives us (1 Corinthians 13) describing how to act with love.

Maybe Jesus really meant that we are supposed to do the will of the Father, not just call out his name.

Do This In Order To Understand

February 5, 2018

Søren Kierkegaard — Christ says: Do according to what I say – then you shall know. Consequently, decisive action first of all. By acting, your life will come into collision with existence, and then you will know the reality of grace. Nowadays we have turned the whole thing around. Christianity has become a worldview. Thus, before I get involved I must first justify it. Good night to Christianity!

Peter delivers a major evangelistic sermon reported in Acts 2. On the day of Pentacost when the followers of Jesus were given the power of the Holy Spirit, they attracted the attention of crowds of people who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

Peter preached about the resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. It was a moving and powerful sermon. It lacked one thing a great speech of this type needs–a call to action. There must be a “to do” or a “so what” to conclude. But the people listening supplied the question, “So what should we do?” they asked.

“Repent and be baptized,” Peter said.

There is something to do.

Paul wrote to the Romans (chapter 12) after talking about grace and the unity of Jew and Gentile, goes into a list 29 items long telling us how to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. A “to do” list.

I’m reading a psychologist currently. Just started the book. Chapter One–stand up straight. Change your posture and change your life.

We know that we can often act our way into believing, or act our way into changing our attitude. When we perform an action repeatedly, it becomes a habit. And a habit defines us. It pays rich dividends to choose our actions wisely.

Thoughts Are Nice, Actions Speak Louder

July 7, 2017

Be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

I like the little book of James. It is ancient Wisdom literature revisited in light of Jesus.

He talks about how we act and then again about how we should act.

We should accept people of different social classes and backgrounds and skin colors.

We should speak encouraging words being careful of how hurtful words can be.

We can be contemplative, but how we act with others reveals our heart.

I wrote recently about Christian business people. The problem is that they spent so much time outwardly “professing” their own faith that they forgot to care about others.

It’s sort of a Christian Narcissism.

It is not always the “big” acts that count.

Surely we need leaders. But I know a woman whose ministry is writing encouraging notes to people. She has more influence than the preacher. Or the guy whose ministry was hospitality and prepared coffee and cookies for people before and after worship for many years. There is the person who will drive people to doctor’s appointments. The person who will comfort those who are grieving. The person who slips some extra money to someone in need or gifts and orphanage with needed equipment.

We remember these people. The guy who talks a big self story–not so much.