Afraid of Being Despised

In my time with Jesus this morning, I was deeply challenged. First, today began for me a new start to prayer journaling. I've done it with some consistency at many points in my life. The past year or so has not been one of those times. I stopped journaling on purpose, because after some time, it had grown stale. But lately, I have sensed the Lord leading me to jump back into prayer journaling. Specifically, I am reading through the Psalms and Proverbs and using them to direct my prayers.

So this morning, in Psalm 1, I have been reminded of what happens to the righteous and what happens to the wicked. God, do I want to be the righteous man! He is like a tree firmly planted by streams of water. He is prosperous in all that he does, because he is a man of action doing what God would have him do. He does not waffle. He does not waiver. He does not sit on the sideline paralyzed by fear, afraid to move. He attempts great things and he accomplishes them, because a tree firmly planted by streams of water bears much fruit. Lately, God has been reviving a passion in me. I want to see people fall in love with Jesus. Now, I've been passionate about this for most of my life, but lately God has been stirring in my heart in ways that he never has before. I want to help people fall in love with Jesus. I want to be the righteous man who prospers in everything that he does so that I can accomplish the things that God has placed in my heart.

Second, I came across a statement this morning from an old hero of the faith that has caused me to do some self-evaluation. When talking about what other people say about us or to us (whether slander, reprimand, critique), Thomas a'Kempis asked the question: 

"Why do such small matters go your heart if not because you are still carnal and pay more attention to people than you should?" 

He then goes on to answer is own question with the following statement:

"Because you are afraid of being despised, you will not accept reproof for your faults and you try to hide in excuses."

Ouch! I have to admit, that many times this describes me all too well. What about you? Sometimes hurtful words from others bother us way too much. Why are we so focused on what other people think about us? If we are living for God, why do we even care what other people think? On the other hand, when others offer genuine critique or reproof, we begin hiding in excuses refusing to accept their assessment of us. 

Well, I for one, am done. I'm done hiding behind excuses. I want people to have open opportunities to correct me, to critique my actions, my ministry, and my productivity. Here's why: as I already said, God is stirring something in my heart. I want to do great things for God, not for myself, but for his glory and honor. I want to see people fall in love with Jesus, and I am passionate enough about that to allow other people the right to help me better myself and my productivity. And I'm done caring about what anybody else thinks about that.

a'Kemis also said that "it is a small matter to suffer a few words sometimes, since you do not yet have the courage to endure hard blows." So I'm ready to suffer a few words now, so that I can endure the hard blows later.

Cell Phone Fun – 1 Thing @ Starbucks

Okay. Here it is for all you "1 Thing I Need to Change" junkies. Here I am at Starbucks today continuing the campaign. If you can get your hands on some of our "fake" newspapers, they make great reading material at your favorite coffee spot. I dropped a few off today, as well as employed a few other tactics.

The volume is not that great as I was trying to be discreet, since I one of the things I was doing was posting a "1 Thing" flyer on their announcement board!

Books This Year

If you frequent my blog, you will have noticed that the column on the left of the screen has become significantly shorter. Here's why: every year my goal is to read 24 books. That's about one book every two weeks or so. In a perfect world I would like to read twice that much but time and money (I like to buy all of my books rather than borrow or check out from the library) do no allow. Additionally, I am on a five year trek through every major work of the early church fathers, which I don't count toward my 24 books. I use the "Books This Year" column to track my reading through the year. You probably won't see this column updated every two weeks, because typically I read multiple books at a time. The list may go a month without being updated, and then suddenly I will add three books to the list. 

I don't say any of this to brag, but only to explain a couple of things: 

First, on occasion I have had people ask me how I know so much about so many topics. Well, first of all, I live by the mantra: "If you don't know it, fake it" (just kidding). But also, it's not because I'm actually that smart, it's simply because I read. Erwin McManus has said that "even a fool can become a source of wisdom if he is willing to be a human sponge." That's me; I'm a human sponge. I read and soak up all I can from people who are much smarter, wiser, and closer to God than I am. The things I write about in my blog are almost always directly related to what I am reading. 

Second, recently I have been asked more and more to recommend books for reading. Last year, my list did not accomplish that. So this year I am making some changes. Rather than just posting the books I've read, my list will include a very short write up and a rating. The rating will be based on 5 stars and will be at the end of the write-up in parenthesis. Three stars means that it is worth your while to read. Four stars means that it is highly recommended, and you definitely need to add it to your reading list. Five stars means that it is a "must read," and you should pick it up as soon as possible. If the book rates at three or more stars, I will try to also do an extended write-up of the book in a post. On the lesser end of the scale, if the book receives no stars, don't waste your time. If it receives 1 star, that means it has some redeeming qualities, but not worth reading to get those few gems. If a book receives two stars, it probably has enough redeeming qualities to read if you have nothing else to do, but I would not spend money on buying it. Borrow it or check it out from the library if you feel so inclined. 

Third, I am always open to suggestions. I love it when people recommend books. So I'm inviting you to make recommendations. You can use the comments on this blog to recommend books, and if I haven't already read them, I may add some of them to my reading list for the year. 

Let the reading begin!