This last week has been a really crazy one. I traveled to New Jersey early in the week and when I finally got home, the workload didn’t decrease. Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do – it’s just that sometimes I burn the candle at both ends and don’t keep enough margin in my life. I need to do something about that – but I don’t know what. At times, I think that I can go on this way for a long time; but the truth is that I know better. And there have been certain things in my own mind that I notice are a little out of whack.
For example, I have become a little looser with my language. And that’s not a good thing. I don’t mean that I swear, or take the Lord’s name in vain. It’s more that I get annoyed a little easier, and when that happens, I tend to get a little short, and perhaps a little judgmental. Okay – not perhaps – I get judgmental….. then, I say things that I know I shouldn’t be saying. Not that any of these words or phrases are new to me. Believe me – years ago, they were a part of my everyday vocabulary. And I don’t mean to be overly dramatic – but I see little signs that I don’t like about myself right now. I have tried to push these little micro events into the background, but I know me. It’s time for an attitude adjustment.
Part of the problem is that I don’t spend enough time in the Bible; and in prayer. And I need to take care of myself and spend more time with my cousin, Dave, and Paul, my friend from seminary. I’ve been so busy lately, and so have they, that I really haven’t invested heavily enough in my life with them. Because Dave, and Paul, bring out the best in me. There’s something incredibly wholesome about being in the presence of either of these godly men. Don’t worry – I’m not going off on a tangent here – it’s just that I know that when I get out of certain habits and behaviors, my spiritual life suffers. And I am at my best when I spend time with these two friends. I feel closer to God; and am a better father, and spouse, and advisor, and friend, and………..a better everything, including a better ambassador for God.
I’ve never found it easy to have a devotional time each day. I have tried reading the Bible – and I have, in fact, read it cover to cover several times, but I tend to get fed when I write these posts – or when I prepare for my Thursday evening Bible study here at the house. But those things aren’t enough. Because part of the Christian experience is the relational aspect of engaging with other close friends. Because I get to see how others lead their lives. And another thing – having a pastoral demeanor all the time is a difficult thing for me to do.
No, it’s not impossible – it just seems impossible for me… Ever feel that way? Despite your best efforts, you just know that you are falling short of the standards of conduct that you have set for yourself? I’m going through that right now. Now before you tell me that maybe my standards are too high, or some other thing to allow me to get off the hook, the problem I see is that I sense my conduct is deteriorating from where I have come to expect it to be. I know the signs; and I don’t like myself when I see the cycle begin.
Saturday evening at church convicted me that it’s time for a change. The message was from the book of James, and how James lets his readers know that the two things that are windows to how you are doing spiritually are the words that pass your lips and your tendency to get angry. We can fake the rest of it – but those two things convict us as to our spiritual condition. And based on those two indicators, that I already know, I’m not doing so hot right now.
In truth, I have know this for several weeks. In fact, last week, I was with a friend of ours and I said something that I know was wrong. In fact, I was surprised that I said what I said. Not only was it embarrassing for me, it was a wake up call that I need to be proactive and change. And then, there’s Janet – she knows me better than anyone; and even when the rest of the world may not notice, or at least not say anything to me, she calls it as she sees it. Well, this past week-end, she called me out – and there was no denying that she was right.
That’s one of the many great things about Janet. We know each other so well that she holds me accountable. I hate it – but I admire, and love it, at the same time. She’s not judgmental – just honest. And I can depend on her feedback; believe me, she has withstood the test of time and rarely has she been wrong – in fact, she’s never been wrong when she has an inkling that I’m not as tight with God as I should, or could, be.
So there you have it. Confession time. The verse for tonight is from James 1:19-21,26, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you….. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
Tough, but necessary, words for me to digest….
Whenever I become convicted that I need to change, at least I know that I’m taking a step in the right direction. So, I commit myself, here and now, to a change in attitude and to becoming a better emissary for God. To listen better, to clean up my speech, and to concentrate more on God’s word.
My encouragement is to appeal to you to maintain a righteous life – God loves a righteous person. And my prayer is that if you are having a struggle, similar to mine, as to how you represent the God of the universe, you will re-double your efforts to heed the words of James and be the best that you can be. I, for one, want to honor the part God expects me to play in advancing His kingdom…