The Know-A-Lot-A

Better Late Than Never is a hilarious “reality” television show chronicling the travels and antics of celebrities William Shatner, George Foreman, Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, and funny man Jeff Dye.  In a recent episode, the group gave William Shatner a hard time for seemingly knowing everything about everything.  Winkler called Shatner a know-it-all.  Shatner replied laughing, “I’m not a know-it-all…I’m a know-a-lot-a.”

The laugh out loud moment underscores an important principle for our lives, especially our spiritual growth.  Too many believers, as they grow up in the faith, begin to act just like adolescents knowing everything and no longer respecting and receiving from the adults entrusted with their care and development.  They sound a lot like a know-it-all forgetting that being correctable and teachable are keys to breaking out of adolescence to become a steady, mature, and productive adult in the faith. The day we stop receiving is the day we stop growing.

It reminds me of a man in the Bible named Gehazi.  Gehazi was the servant of the prophet Elisha who was the servant of the prophet Elijah.  Elisha followed and learned from his mentor Elijah and received a double-portion of his anointing.  Elisha would go on to do great things just like his father in the faith Elijah.  But somewhere along the way of Gehazi’s training and development, he began to reject Elisha’s influence, guidance, and instruction.  The day Naaman was healed of leprosy, Gehazi wanted to receive a reward from the Assyrian general, but Elisha made it plain this was not a time to do so.  Gehazi rejected the counsel of Elisha, took the goods and money from Naaman, and instead of enjoying an even greater anointing and ministry, became leprous himself.  His future, his life, and his call were all compromised because he developed an unteachable spirit.

As growing believers, we should get to the place where we know a lot, but we should never get to the point where we know it all treating our fathers and mentors in the faith with contempt, and ignoring their counsel.  I have found in working with hundreds of young converts and disciples over the years, the most dangerous stage of the seven stages of spiritual growth (newborn, infant, child, adolescent, young adult, adult, and senior adult) is the adolescent stage.  Newborns need the milk of the Word, infants need great mercy and grace as they attempt to walk, children need strong doctrine to protect them from deception, adolescents need humility, young adults need faithfulness, adults need balance, and senior adults need to stay in the game.  Like Gehazi, if a believer is going to wash out, they most often wash out at the adolescent level becoming stiff-necked and uncorrectable. Ironically, most adolescents don’t even discern that they are in fact adolescents in the faith.

Make up your mind you’re going to continue to grow at every stage and level of your spiritual development.  Continue to learn, be used of God, and follow his path for your life, but do not allow yourself to become a could have been man or woman of God like Gehazi disqualified because you traded in your destiny for an adolescent chip on your shoulder.   A few years back, a great man of God called his sons in the faith to a special meeting to correct certain doctrinal and behavioral issues in those that counted him as a spiritual father.  One man refused to attend the meeting saying simply, “Let him teach what he wants and I’ll teach what I want.”  You don’t hear much from that man these days for it seems his upward trajectory was compromised by his know-it-all attitude and disrespect for the man of God.  Stay humble, teachable, gracious, and respectful.  Become that know-a-lot-a without becoming a know-it-all.

The Octopus of Offense

I don’t regularly repost the blogs of others, but the article by Ryan Johnson on the Spirit of Offense is too important not to share.  In the article (link below), he explains that, like an octopus, offense attaches itself to eight vital areas of life to control and destroy them, including the mind (can’t think correctly), vision (sight is distorted, filtered, and compromised), heart (actions become toxic), relationships (ones unrelated to the offense are destroyed), hearing (difficulty discerning God’s voice and direction), health (physical consequences of strife), time (life is cut short due to dishonor), and finances (attacks your financial situation).  Strife and offense are just not worth the cost.  You can find the article HERE.

 

Attitude Adjustment

The attitude on an aircraft is the orientation of the plane with respect to the earth’s horizon.  The plane can be banking left or right, and its nose up or down.  The attitude of the plane can be adjusted by the pilot regardless of the circumstances.  In other words, the attitude of the aircraft is dependent upon the action of the pilot rather than any storm or turbulence it may pass through.

Similarly, we control our attitude in life.  No matter what is happening or what we’re going through, we have the ability to choose our attitude.  Just like people have an IQ (their level of intelligence), an EQ (their dimension of emotional intelligence), an SQ (their level of revelation of spiritual things particularly the Word of God), they have an AQ, which is their ability to be aware of, take ownership of, and adjust their attitude.  We can be intelligent, be in touch with our emotions and the emotions of others, be growing spiritually, and yet be defeated because we refuse to tend to our negative attitude.

Paul told the Ephesians to “be made new in the attitude of your minds” (Ephesians 4:23, NIV), he challenged the Philippians to have the same selfless, humble, and obedient attitude of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5, NLT), and he questioned what happened to the positive attitude of the Galatians (Galatians 4:14, ISV). Paul understood that the attitude is a self-directed pattern or mental position that affects our expectation, energy, and outlook in life.   Attitude is not a reflection of what happens to us, but a reflection of what happens in us.  It is the greatest predictor of our success and failure in life.

The return of the twelve spies after being dispatched by Moses to scope out the promised land illustrates perfectly the impact of a negative attitude in life.  The spies, excluding Caleb and Joshua who had a right attitude, focused on the obstacles, talked the problem, spread negativity, and became self-fulfilling prophets of their own perspective.  The Bible says, “A man’s spirit (attitude) sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit (attitude) who can bear (Proverbs 18:14).  There’s nothing more powerful than a positive attitude, and nothing more devastating than a negative one. 

As a spiritual leader I’ve found that people, including Christians typically function in one of four attitude types.  First, some believers walk in a sweet spirit or an attitude that is tender peaceable, agreeable, pleasant, and edifying to be around.  Others are empowered and encouraged when they get around a sweet spirit.  Second, some believers have a salty spirit or an attitude that is opinionated, passive-aggressive, sarcastic, and critical.  Third, other believers have a spicy spirit or an attitude that is easily hot and bothered, reactionary, and frequently angered and offended.  Finally, some believers have a sour spirit or attitude that is prickly, bitter, downcast, and discouraged.

The good thing about attitude is we can, just like the pilot, adjust our attitude.  This requires first that we are aware of our attitude (sweet, salty, spicy, or sour), and that we monitor our attitude day-to-day because the attitude is not fixed or static.  Second, we need to analyze and honestly evaluate our attitude in light of the Word of God through self-accountability.  If you are having trouble with this, simply ask your spouse or good friend.  They can probably fill you in.  Third, we need to expose ourselves to spiritual disciplines and activities that foster an ongoing sweet attitude like time in God’s presence, His Word, public and private worship.  The Holy Spirit has a way of jerking us out of a lousy attitude when we spend time in the things of God.  Fourth, we need to give our attention daily to making a quality decision (one from which there is no retreat) that we are going to be positive and sweet and not salty, spicy or sour no matter what happens in life.

Contagious by Association

People influence one another for good or bad simply by being around each other.  Every person we come in contact with is both making and receiving a unique positive or negative impartation.  As we connect with people we are bestowing and conferring on others what is operating in our lives in abundance, and they are bestowing and conferring upon us what is operating in their lives in abundance.

Moses, for example, was told to lay his hands on Joshua so that an impartation of wisdom, authority, and honor could be made into his life.  Similarly, Elisha received a double portion of the anointing when Elijah graced him with his cloak.  Paul indicated that his special grace of divine protection and deliverance was available to his partners in ministry who prayed for him and supported his ministry endeavors.  In other words, we catch what people have, not what they simply say or want us to catch.  We don’t catch the mumps from someone who has the measles.

We all have something to impart, and we all have something that can be imparted into our lives from others.  They key is to be careful who we connect with, associate with, and align with because we all will imbibe or absorb, assimilate, and take in the spirit of our connections and associations, good or bad.  The Bible says, “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), and “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  We must be mindful of who we are giving the privilege of speaking into and influencing our lives.

Some people impart love, mercy, graciousness, positivity, and gratitude into our lives.  Others infect us with cynicism, dishonor, negativity, and compromise.  The Scripture plainly teaches we will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16).  Learn to guard your heart from being influenced by people who have little or no good fruit in their lives.  Are they faithful to the local church?  Do they faithfully participate in ministry?  Do they give faithfully?  Do they share their faith and invite people to church?  Do they actively walk in love, practice mercy, and control their tongue?  If not, be careful connecting with them because you will start to manifest what they have been manifesting.  You may just need to quarantine yourself from people like that unless and until they start showing signs of life and positive impartation.

The key is to make sure we are imparting life to others while maintaining diligence over what we are exposed to ourselves.  The reality is that we are all extremely contagious and we infect others with our spirit, our spirituality, our attitude, our thinking, and our behavior.  Let’s make sure our associations result in positive impartation for ourselves and others with the result that we get stronger as believers, grow in maturity, and become more effective as witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Dump the Trash

Taking out the trash when we lived in the city was simply a matter of rolling the receptacle 40 feet to the curb.  Now as a county resident with a house 400 feet from the road, the trash goes in the back of the SUV, and I drive it to the container.   

On a recent and short trip to Nashville, my wife discovered, as we were taking the bags out of the car, that I had forgotten to stop and dump the trash.  After we finished laughing about carrying that huge bag of trash with us, I asked the hotel manager for permission to use their dumpster.  She graciously agreed, biting her lip to keep from laughing.

What’s not so funny is all the garbage we accumulate in our hearts throughout our lives.  Trash in the car is kind of gross, and if forgotten would certainly begin to smell, but trash in the human heart is smelly, but also destructive and deadly.  I remember the story of the little boy who put limburger cheese on the mustache of his napping grandpa.  He awoke, sniffed the foul odor and declared, “This room stinks.”  He then went to kitchen and exclaimed, “The kitchen stinks too.” Barreling outside to get some relief from the stench, the old man growled, “The whole world stinks.” 

In reality, the source of the smell wasn’t the room, or the kitchen, or the world.  The source of the smell was literally right under his nose.  It’s the same way with our hearts.  If we’re not careful, we’ll walk around in life with a lousy attitude thinking life stinks, playing the blame game, and taking no responsibility for where we are in life.  The real source of the foul odor, however, is the trash we are carrying in the trunk of our hearts. 

Some people carry around the trash of wounds and offenses.  They just refuse to forgive and release others from real or perceived hurts.  Others have become jaded by the garbage bullying and criticism they received from people, often by people that should be encouraging and supportive.  Still other people are can’t get past the the rubbish of failures and regrets in life forgetting that every day is a new opportunity in the Lord.  Weighed down by the slop of sins and various strongholds, some people have lost the sweet aroma of Christ.

Let me encourage you to stop riding around in life with a heart full of garbage.  The longer you keep it, the more your attitude is going to stink.  Do a daily trash dump by forgiving others, by understanding the only opinion that matters in life is God’s opinion, by realizing failure is not final, and by confessing and repenting of your sin when you blow it.  God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) so be sure to extend that mercy to others and to yourself every day.  Life’s just better without trash in the trunk.

No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

Spiritual Kryptonite

imagesSuperman is an iconic and enduring image of strength in our Western culture and around the world.  We know about Metropolis, Clark Kent, the phone booth, Lois Lane, and Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luther.  We also know there is nothing that could take Superman down, except for one glowing green gem called kryptonite from his home planet of Krypton.  In the presence of kryptonite, the man of steel became mortal, weak, confused, and subject to attack and ultimate defeat. 

Believers and Christian leaders too have a kryptonite from our home planet that works the same, draining us of life, joy, peace, and victory.  Our kryptonite, however, is more of the carbon based variety than some precious element.  The kryptonite our arch enemy uses to defeat us is people.  You see, animals don’t offend us, the oceans, forests, mountain ranges, and skies don’t offend us.  People offend us. 

Sooner or later we all have our own encounters with kryptonite.  Sooner or later we all have our stories of spending years investing in people only to have them turn on us, bending over backwards to make sure a family in need is taken care of only to get mad at you for some unspoken reason, experiencing disappointment in some bold endeavor, trusting a good friend only to find out the friend is one of your biggest critics, making great sacrifices with little to no appreciation, watching church members get in conflict with one another and take it out on the entire church, experiencing a crushing loss in life or ministry, or navigating the sting of a Judas kiss from a coworker or staff member. How we respond to the these kryptonite encounters determines whether we will reach our destiny or fold under the hurt, betrayal, and cynicism.  

I know what that’s like after nearly 30 years of ministry service.  Ministry does not exempt a person from kryptonite.  On the contrary, ministry just gives the minister more exposure to kryptonite – more opportunities to get offended.  One pastor I served slammed his hand in anger against his canoe during and outing breaking his hand and then blaming me for the injury.  Another church leader invited us to serve as his associate pastor, promised that we would soon transition into the lead role at the church, and then weeks later informed the people, after we had moved across the country, that he would have to let us go if the money did not start coming in.  My home church voted me down as their pastor, twice, after a spurious search process that included drawing names out of hat (no, I’m not joking), putting my name back into the hat, realizing the other man wasn’t going to come, and finally submitting my ministry to the church for a vote.  Rejected and dejected, we walked back into the church to face the people with a warning from the loving Holy Spirit: “Be very careful what you say next, for what you say will impact your destiny and their future.”  It’s not what happens to us, but how we respond to it that matters in life and ministry.

In each situation, and countless other encounters with kryptonite through the years, I had to make a decision whether to let it poison me or move forward trusting God.  Our failure to perceive what the enemy is actually trying to do with the kryptonite of people is his greatest weapon.  Paul admonished Timothy to stay out of strife with people because strife is the doorway to becoming captive to the devil to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24).  Imagine claiming Christ and yet living your life as a tool for Satan.  If we go through things without letting that kryptonite get inside of us and affect us, the devil cannot have his way with us.

Psalm 55 provides special insight for identifying kryptonite and overcoming its power in your life.  The Psalmist cried out to the Lord for help saying, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.”  When we are distraught we are deeply agitated, upset, unable to think or behave normally, and extremely distracted.  In reality, however, the Psalmist was distraught and close to imploding from the kryptonite because he was thinking about all the things people were saying about him, all the things people were thinking about him, and all the things people were doing to him.  There’s nothing we can do about what people say, think, or do, but we have the power to choose not to think about it. “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).  The key to defeating the kryptonite is to not even touch what THEY are saying, thinking, or doing with your thoughts.

I heard a preacher once tell the story of a jet airliner beginning to make its initial decent.  As it flew below 10,000 feet, the electronic and communication systems began to go haywire. After aborting and pulling back up to 20,000 feet the systems became normal.  After flying back down and pulling up several times with the same results, the co-pilot went below to find out what was happening.  He discovered there were rats chewing on the power conduits.  At the higher altitude the rats couldn’t function, but at lower altitudes the rats would come to and begin chewing on the cords disrupting the systems of the aircraft. 

As believers, God has called us to a SUPER life, but if we choose to live at the lower altitudes of hurt, offense, and bitterness, we will be short-circuited and defeated every time.  We need to habitually live at the higher altitudes where the kryptonite infested rats can’t affect us.  Our spiritual altitude is set by our time in prayer, time in the Word, and practically by what we choose to think about.  “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).  Our lives tend to go in the direction of our most dominant thoughts. Whenever you are given an opportunity to get offended with people just tell yourself it’s kryptonite, and then choose to go up even higher where the rats can’t play in your head.

Oh the Humanity

gracePerhaps the greatest paradox in Christianity is the realization that the Lord sovereignly chose to use imperfect people to preach a perfect gospel and lead people to a saving knowledge of the one true perfect God.  Besides the one flawless example of Jesus, every man and woman charged with speaking or acting on behalf of God throughout history has been flawed.  Abraham was a chronic liar.  David couldn’t keep his zipper up.  Moses needed anger management.  Jeremiah could use some Prozac.  An arrogant Peter sounded a lot like Donald Trump.   Paul was quick to write people off at times.  Despite the flaws and failures, the Lord did amazing things through them and so many others because the anointing is God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do.

Though a preacher of righteousness and recipient of the revelation to build a vessel to rescue God’s creation and his own family before the flood, Noah was found in a compromising position after partaking of wine from the grapes he grew after the great flood waters receded.  The behavior of his sons upon the discovery of their naked and drunk father reflects two contrasting attitudes found readily in the Church today.

In Genesis 9, Ham discovered his father’s nakedness and couldn’t wait to tell his brothers.  When Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth were told they placed a blanket between them and walked backwards into the tent to cover their father’s shame making sure they did not so much as turn their head in the direction of Noah.  Notice the different reaction when the humanity of the preacher was discovered and observed.  Ham saw Noah’s humanity and broadcasted that humanity to others.  Shem and Japheth saw the same humanity and chose instead to cover the humanity because “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

So that I am not misunderstood here, Christians and particularly Christian leaders must have accountability in their lives.  But there is a difference between accountability to specific brothers and sisters who, in keeping with Paul’s command, restore the fallen and flawed with gentleness (Galatians 6:1) and others who observe the humanity and work to expose or broadcast the error with no heart for the restoration of the fallen.  Why is it we all want cover for ourselves and exposure for others?

There seems to be an unwritten rule some cynical believers follow that says if they witness the humanity of a Christian leader they do not have to respond in mercy, respect, or discretion, and they no longer have to receive from that leader. That “Ham” spirit, as in the days of Noah who was personally responsible for saving representatives of all of God’s created life on earth, forgets and diminishes the contribution that leader has had in his or her life and the lives of others choosing to focus instead on the imperfection of the leader.

Of course when Noah found out from Shem and Japheth what Ham had done (and understand emphatically here that just like Shem and Japheth, a godly believer does not hold confidences against the leader, but good or bad, keeps the leader informed) he was of course disappointed and prophesied a very different future for Ham in comparison to his brothers.  A simple reading of this story in Genesis reveals a powerful truth that all Christians can and should learn from.  The Hams in the body of Christ witness leadership humanity, broadcast that humanity to others, and end up cursed or empowered to fail.  In contrast, the Shems and Japheths in the Church are not blind to leadership imperfections, but in observing the humanity, choose to cover it with a garment of love and mercy and end up receiving the blessing or the empowerment to succeed.

If we spend any time around Christians and Christian leaders, we will observe imperfections, flaws, and their humanity (and they will observe our humanity).  Make a quality decision to be a blessed Shem or Japheth in the Church who sees, covers, and works to restore the humanity of others rather than a cursed Ham who sees, exposes, and cares little about restoration.  Remember that without love and mercy for others when they fail, we become more susceptible to temptation and failure ourselves (Galatians 6:1).  Without grace for others, we set ourselves up to reap the same when our humanity is observed (and sooner or later our humanity too will come out).

How to Be Miserable

ScroogeA friend of mine passed along an interesting list of ways to be miserable in life.  The original note written on old fax paper has all but faded, but the truths mentioned are timeless and life-changing for anyone wanting a fresh start and outlook in life.  Take a moment to read and think about these twenty ways to be miserable in life.  If they challenge you and you want to make a change…make a change.

How to be miserable in life…

      • Use “I” as often as possible.
      • Always be sensitive to slights.
      • Be jealous and envious.
      • Think only about yourself.
      • Talk only about yourself.
      • Trust no one.
      • Never forget a criticism.
      • Always expect to be appreciated.
      • Be suspicious.
      • Listen greedily to what others say about you.
      • Always look for faults in others.
      • Do as little as possible for others.
      • Shirk your duties if you can.
      • Never forget a service you may have rendered.
      • Sulk if people aren’t grateful for favors.
      • Insist on consideration and respect. 
      • Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
      • Always look for a good time.
      • Love yourself first.
      • Be selfish at all times.

This formula is guaranteed to work…

Real Faith for Real Trouble

prison-barsMost Christians have a basic understanding of faith that includes the principle of justification by faith, and that by the grace of God.  A smaller number have learned that faith is a lifestyle and the prescribed way of living for the believer: “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  It’s possible for a believer in the course of receiving teaching about the lifestyle of faith to come to the erroneous conclusion that if they simply had enough faith, no trouble would ever visit their life.  Unfortunately, the Scripture teaches just the opposite.  Jesus said boldly, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Mark chapter four states emphatically trouble comes because of the Word.  A balanced and accurate rendering of biblical faith must include the understanding that (1) faith attracts trouble into our lives, (2) faith sustains us in that trouble, (3) and faith delivers us from that trouble.  No, you are not a freak or an inferior Christian because you are going through a tough time.

The Bible is filled with stories of faithful servants who experienced trouble not due to a lack of faith, but because they were individuals of great faith demonstrating that faith through consecration to God and faithfulness.  Abel’s faith led to his demise at the hands of his own brother.  Daniel’s faith landed him in the lion’s den.  The three Hebrew boys were tossed into the fiery furnace because of their faith.  Joseph’s faith landed him in the pit.  David’s faith and the success it brought got him into trouble with the spear thrower known as King Saul.  While it’s true that our own behavior has often been the source of our trouble, it is also true that we can get into trouble for simply being faithful to God.

Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner core of prison and chained like violent criminals for bringing deliverance to a fortune-teller and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 16).  Imagine how you would respond if you were apprehended and jailed for doing nothing more than sharing your faith in Jesus Christ (foreign to American Christians but a very present realty around the world).  The amazing reaction and behavior of Paul and Silas in this story illustrate the proper way to handle the trouble that comes from being a person of faith.  When you find yourself in trouble because of your stand of faith, draw from their godly example.

First, make sure you maintain a good attitude in the midst of the situation.  It’s amazing we don’t see Paul and Silas whining, griping, or complaining over their situation.  In America today, Christians get put out if their latte is not made to their liking or if someone snatches their parking place at Wal-Mart.  The attitude is the best indicator of the present health of our faith and spiritual life.  I love the story of the little boy who visited his grandpa one afternoon.  As Grandpa fell asleep on the couch and the little boy thought it would be funny to smear Limburger cheese all over grandpa’s mustache. Later, when grandpa awoke, he couldn’t help but smell the cheese under his nose. Thinking the front room was the source of the smell, he headed into the kitchen to find the smell just as strong there.  Looking for relief from the stench, grandpa headed outside, took a whiff, and exclaimed, “the whole world stinks.”  Ironically, the smell was not coming from the front room, the kitchen, or the world, but from grandpa himself.  Our attitude is just like that – the source of a smelly attitude is never someone else.

Second, make sure you keep your song.  At midnight from deep within the prison walls, Paul and Silas began to pray and sing hymns.  It’s noteworthy that the other prisoners were listening to them because people around us are watching and listening as well to see how we will handle the adversity brought on by our faith.  The powerful praise and worship was followed by a prison shaking earthquake that caused all the prison doors to open.  We have to remember that the doors open after the praise and not before.  Don’t wait for the circumstances to change before you break out into song and praise.  Praise God in the midst of the trouble and watch His deliverance begin to flow.  It’ also noteworthy to mention that the deliverance of others (like the other prisoners) depends on our lifestyle of praise.

Third, regardless of the trouble and the setbacks you are facing, make sure you stay focused on your mission in the midst of the trouble.  Too often believers are oblivious to the needs around them because they are so dialed in to their own trouble.  Paul and Silas, despite their treatment, had the presence of mind to focus on the souls of the jailer and other prisoners.  Instead of killing himself in response to what looked like a jail break, the jailer found Jesus through the ministry of two men sensitive to the Holy Spirit despite the hardship they were experiencing.  How many ministry opportunities pass us by because we are consumed with our trouble, our challenges, and our hardships?  Let’s not teach the enemy he can shut down our ministry simply by stirring up a little trouble in our lives.  Choose to look for chance to bless others right there in the midst of your mess.