Love is always the way

Bullying is something that has gone on for ages, but it just seems like it’s more prevalent nowadays.

That may or may not be true, but I do know that social media has certainly made it more visible to the general public. Social media itself can sometimes be a cesspool where bullying is at the most extreme.

It breaks my heart to see some of these videos that are floating around out there of kids, or even adults, being bullied and harassed.

My first thought is always “How could somebody do this to someone?” And not only how can they do it, but how can they do it AND record it while it’s happening?

Here recently, though, I’ve been having a follow-up thought as well:

“Surely I didn’t participate in this kind of behavior when I was growing up……right?”

The fact is that I don’t specifically remember a time where I bullied someone mercilessly and intentionally, but I’m also sure there were times where I was bullying someone, maybe without even knowing what I was doing. Maybe sometimes when I even did know what I was doing.

Lately, when I hear of these instances or see these videos, I just can’t help but try to think about what that must feel like….To wake up and just dread going somewhere or being around a specific group of people because you’re either afraid of what they might do or say to you or that you’re unable to do anything about it. To feel like you’re all alone.

Like I said before, it’s just heartbreaking.

Admittedly, bullying has never really been something I’ve had to deal with or work through. It happened from time to time growing up through school, but for me they were isolated incidents and I usually dealt with them there in the moment. As old as this may make me seem, it was a different time.

I’m not naive enough to think that’s how it is for everyone. Bullying exists and it’s a problem. And it’s not just a problem that kids deal with either. There are adults around us all, maybe even some of you who are reading this, that have to deal with a form of bullying every day.

It’s one thing to recognize what bullying is and that it’s an issue. But what can we do about it?

I’d like to address three groups of people in order to try and answer that question.

If you are the one being a bully or are a part of a group being a bully……why? That’s probably the first thing you need to ask yourself. Why am I doing this? What purpose does it serve? Is it really worth making another human being feel this way?

Particularly if you claim to be a follower of Jesus and you are bullying someone, which does happen……why? In 1 John 2:9 it says: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”

Jesus was all about love and kindness. If you profess to be a follower of him, it would stand to reason that you should strive to be the same way.

Secondly, if you witness somebody being bullied, lend a helping hand. That doesn’t necessarily mean go flying in there and physically fight off the bully, but it does mean that you can do what you can to stop them.

More importantly, it means making sure that the victim knows that they aren’t alone. That there are people out there who do care about them and who do value them. Sometimes standing up to a bully on behalf of someone else or befriending someone who is “uncool” isn’t the popular thing to do, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Jesus wasn’t about popularity. He did what was right. He healed the sick, ministered to the lost and hung around tax collectors, included women (which was abnormal at the time), gave his time to the poor and unclean. The least we can do is to be a friend, which is easy. And it could end up being one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

Finally, I want to speak to those who are being bullied. The simplest comfort I can give is that no matter how much it may seem like it, you are not alone.

There are people who care. There are people who you can reach out to. But most importantly, there is a Heavenly Father who knows you, loves you and created you.

There’s a passage in the New Testament that we call “The Great Commission” where Jesus said his final words before ascending into heaven after his resurrection.

It can be found in Matthew 28:18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore 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 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Those final words are just so encouraging to me. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is always with you and will not leave you.

Bottom line…..respect those around you and treat them according to that respect. It’s easy to be a follower and give in to peer pressure and be a bully. Sometimes it’s hard to be a leader and stand up for and stand with somebody else.

Do the hard thing.

Quick hits: The least among us

Jesus taught us that whoever is the least among us all will be the greatest.

He wasn’t talking about social status or economical status when he said this. He was referring to whoever made themselves the least before God and humbled themselves.

Jesus has just come off of the mountain after the transfiguration and had healed a demon-possessed boy. After this he had predicted his death for a second time to the 12 disciples.

That’s where we’ll pick up in Luke 9:46-48:

“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

Remember to always humble yourself before God and make sure you remember who is in charge of your life!

Quick hits: Enter into the peace of God

Just some food for thought heading into this weekend….maybe you’ve got some stressful issues going on in your life right now and you need some encouragement.

Take a look at this passage written by Paul from Philippians 4:4-9:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Jesus is counter-cultural….and we should be too

Our world today teaches us to be spiteful, negative and many times just downright hateful. That’s why being a follower of Christ is so counter-cultural.

Jesus teaches us to be loving and accepting of all people. That can oftentimes be the hardest thing to do, particularly when those people are not being kind to us in return.

I’ve been going through the gospel of Luke lately, and it’s always interesting to me how different passages that you’ve read before seem to connect with you in ways they previously never had when you read them again.

One passage of particular interest to me of late has been Luke 6:27-38 where Jesus is speaking to a large crowd who had come to hear him speak and to be healed. During that teaching, Jesus spelled out to us how to love our enemies and how that makes us more like God.

“But I say to you who listen: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Pretty much everything about what Jesus said in this passage goes against what our everyday norm in today’s world has turned into.

How often do you see cordial conversation, much less compassion, being shown between two people who disagree with each other politically? Have you read a comment section of pretty much any news article on Facebook lately? It’s a horrifying place to be. Imagine how difficult it would be to show love toward someone who is bullying you or mistreating you on a daily basis?

Yet, that is one of the many things that makes Jesus so incredible. Following him and putting his ways into practice is rarely the easy thing to do. But it’s always the right thing to do.

It’s not difficult to love the people who love you. As Jesus said, anybody can do that. But it is difficult to show love and compassion for people who treat you poorly.

At the end of the day, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior and walk with the Holy Spirit, we all have the ability to learn from what Jesus has taught us in this passage and watch how it will transform our lives.

Do not judge. Do not condemn. Just love. That’s what we’re taught to do, and that’s how we can change the world around us on a daily basis.

Quick hits: Don’t grumble about Monday

Here’s a quick little reminder on your Monday to help get you in the right mindset for this week!

It comes from Philippians 2:12-18, written by the apostle Paul:

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘Children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

God seeking man; man seeking God

I was in church this morning at Long Hollow Baptist and pastor Robby Gallaty illustrated two connecting passages in the Bible that I had never thought about before.

And once you see it and fully connect the dots… sure has a nice way of summing everything up.

What was the first question God asked in the Bible? Most of us know the story of Adam and Eve in the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden. God had instructed Adam and Eve not to eat anything from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Of course, we know that Adam and Eve eventually did eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After this happened, God was walking in the garden looking for Adam and Eve.

Genesis 3:8-9 reads:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 

The first question God asks in Genesis is “Where are you?” In other words, it’s an illustration of God seeking out his people that he has created.

Fast forward to the book of Matthew in the New Testament. Jesus had been born and the Wise Men, or Magi, had seen the star and were seeking to find Jesus and worship him. They came to Jerusalem, where King Herod was, and asked where to find Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-2 says:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him?” 

The first question asked in the New Testament basically boils down to “Where is Jesus?”

God’s first question in the Old Testament was “Where are you?” Man’s first question in the New Testament is “Where is God?”

That’s a powerful way to sum up and illustrate the foundations of living a life following Jesus. God has been seeking out man since the creation of the earth. In turn, he wants man to seek him out as well through Jesus, who made a sacrifice for every person.

That’s what the Wise Men did. They went after God by seeking out Jesus.

God has been seeking you out ever since he created you. If you haven’t made the decision to seek him out, what’s been stopping you? I encourage you to listen to him and make the decision to pursue Jesus today.


Where has God changed your plans?

What’s a time in your life where you can look back and specifically point to God moving in your life?

Maybe you had a plan for how you wanted things to go, and it didn’t go according to plan at all. But then you look back and the way it worked out was far better than you could have possibly imagined.

I had always wanted to go to the University of Tennessee ever since I was a child. But as I got closer to the end of my senior year of high school, I was drawn toward MTSU because I had a bunch of friends going there.

It turned out to be a great thing. Even though I didn’t really enjoy MTSU, I started a hockey blog and was around the Nashville Predators enough to where it turned into a career.

Even though I had planned a different route my entire life, God worked things out perfectly how they were supposed to be.

What’s an example in your life where you have seen God intercede on your behalf?

Encouraging one another through sin’s deceitfulness

The writer of Hebrews in the the Bible communicates to us a warning against unbelief in Hebrews 3 that I think gives us a good reminder.

We are to rely on other Christians as a source of encouragement, and we are also to encourage other Christians daily as well.

Hebrews 3:12-15 reads:

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. as has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 

We don’t have to go through our daily lives, with all of the different twists, turns and challenges that brings, alone. Not only do we have God to communicate with and to put our full trust in, we also have each other to confide in and to encourage.

The first example that came to mind for me when reading this passage was “small groups” or “discipleship groups” within the church. I think a good way to make sure you have a consistent source of encouragement and accountability in your life is to have a small group of people that help you walk through life.

What does that look like? Form a small, core group (maybe four to six) of people that you go to church with, or maybe a group of Christian friends that may go to a different church, and develop an intentional plan to get into God’s word and have discussions about your daily life and challenges each week.

Having a core group that you can trust will help you be accountable with your actions, encourage you to keep listening to God and what his word tells you and will help shoulder some of the burdens you face throughout your daily life.

Remember to be an encouragement for other believers, as well as rely on other believers to encourage you. And prayerfully consider starting or joining a small group or a discipleship group to help you grow closer with the Lord.

Following Abraham’s lead

What would your response be if God asked you to do something that was way out of your comfort zone?

Sometimes God tests us and our faith that we have in him. And sometimes he does that by asking us to step out in faith and show how far we are willing to go for him and his will.

It’s hard to imagine much more of a challenging test than the one God gave Abraham in the Old Testament. God had made a covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that he would be very fruitful.

God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:9-14 proclaimed:

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner — those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

The Lord was faithful to Abraham and his wife, Sarah, and bore a son to them at a very old age named Isaac. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. Isaac was to be used by God to fulfill the promise he had made with Abraham.

And then God tested Abraham in an incredible way in Genesis 22:2:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love — Isaac — and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Imagine how difficult this must have been for Abraham. God had delivered on his promise to provide him with Isaac, his only son. And now God was instructing Abraham to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice to him.

In Genesis 22:9-18, Abraham remained faithful:

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” 

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

The angel of the lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

God asked Abraham to go way out of his comfort zone and do the most difficult thing any parent could do: Sacrifice their child’s life. Abraham was willing to do this because God had told him to do so.

If Abraham can do that, what is stopping us from stepping out of our comfort zones and doing what God is calling us to do? Most of the time what God is asking us to do is not going to be as extreme as offering up your child as a human sacrifice. So there’s really not an excuse for us not to follow him and listen to what he’s commanding us to do.

Spend time with God in prayer and ask him what he wants you to do with your life. Listen to how he speaks to you, and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone like Abraham did.


Be ready to act for others

How many times do you think we’ve all had opportunities to help other people and show the love of God but have failed to act?

So many times I find myself praying to God and asking him to help a person get through a situation they’re going through without stopping to think and pray on what I can do to help them through that situation.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing in the world wrong with prayer and it’s a vital part of building your relationship with God. But sometimes I think we fail to consider that perhaps part of God’s answer to a prayer can be to use us!

Sure, it’s great to pray and rely on God to help a family struggling with financial hardship. But wouldn’t it also be good to bring that family a meal ourselves during a time of need?

Sure, it’s great to pray and ask God to comfort someone who has experienced loss. But what could you do to help those people during hard times?

God wants us to pray and communicate with him constantly, and he’s proven that he will be faithful and he will guide us when we seek his help. I also believe there are times when God wants us to be the instruments by which he performs his miracles and his help for other people.

I’m sure some of you are familiar with taking prayer requests for people at church or maybe in your small group of friends. How much of a difference could be made if we prayed to God and asked for his help but also asked for his guidance on how we could best help meet the needs of those prayer requests?

As you go out this week, be on the lookout for ways that you can minister to other people through your actions. Never hesitate to pray and ask God for help, but never fail to realize that sometimes God calls us to action to help meet other people’s needs.