Smart Watching

swI was privileged last night to speak at our Church, Point Of Mercy, on the subject of Witnessing.  The following are my notes from that lesson.  I pray that it will be a blessing to you.

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” – C.S. Lewis

Colossians 4:5-6
5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
2 Peter 3:18
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Opening:
To start tonight, I’d like to read a quote by C.S. Lewis, a Christian writer who wrote some very practical things about our everyday walk with God. I want to read it now, but return to it at the end of the lesson. I think you’ll see why as we go forward.

Introduction:
Smart Watches are in the news a lot right now with the Apple Watch coming out. These combinations of fitness trackers and time keepers are interesting. My friend has one of the Samsung models, and it’s very impressive. What’s even more impressive is that God had something similar in place thousands of years ago.

I believe that God made two watches, one to prophesy of Global events, and the others to publish The Gospel. I believe the nation of Israel is the global watch, and the Church, the body Of Christ is the other. Israel’s hand is on the hour, pointing to the age of prophecy we are in. The Church’s hand points to the minutes that are ticking away. We have only a short time left to win souls before the alarm sounds!

As Christians, there are certain statistics we need to track that reflect both our own progress, as well as our influence in the lives of the unchurched. Two of these levels are our growth in Grace and in Knowledge. Grace is described in these verses as the Divine Influence upon the heart. How are we allowing God to influence us, and how are we allowing Him to use us to influence others?

Knowledge is the second gauge, specifically the Knowledge Of Christ. This isn’t only about what He did, but it’s also about how He interacted with others. To know Him, is to imitate His movements. To reflect Him, we must allow our light to reach out to those in darkness. To watch Him, is to walk like Him. To walk like Jesus, is to walk where He walked, into the same areas of life that He did.

The way we track these two levels come from two primary sources, our relationship with God, and our relationship with our fellow men. Particularly those who are not yet believers, how do we affect them, how do they affect us?

Health Tracker:
These smart factors, if you will, are exercise and walking meters with God and man. Tracking our relationship with God, in many ways, is easier. We are working with a Perfect person. When we are tired, He understands. If we have a bad day, He gets it.

What about those who don’t? Your co-workers, those family members who aren’t in Church, how would they gauge our Christian walk? The gauge of a Great Christian Witness is the influence that we have on non-believers.

As Christians, we are called to be like Jesus, one writer called it imitating Christ.  This isn’t an impersonation of him, no more than when a famous musician gives music lessons.  His students do not mimic him, but they do echo him.  To be like Jesus, we must walk not only where He walked, but how He walked, and into the situations that He journeyed into.

If I gauge my walk by how I present Jesus to those around me, what would they say?  If you asked my Supervisor, would she say I was patient, or would she say I get impatient? Would she say that he is caring, or abrupt? These are very painful, but valid questions that we must at least ask ourselves.

3 Ways We Track Our Growth In Grace And Knowledge:
1. Be Intentional:
One meaning of the word is to stretch your mind towards an object. In other words, to mentally draw close to something. You can get close to someone or something physically and still not be committed to it. Are we committed to those people we see everyday? Do we actively invest in their future? You can’t be intentional and not be committed.

In watchmaking any feature, other than telling time, is called a complication. What we call a feature, watchmakers call a complication. In reaching others, we will be called upon to stretch ourselves. These complications will reveal to others what is on the inside of us.

We will call these things complications, even trials, but God will use them as features to reach others. That’s why the series Pastor just took us through on our GPA is so valuable. We must pass the tests, not only for ourselves, but for others. How can they know what they can survive, if we haven’t in some way modeled it to them?

Ironically, the closer we intentionally draw to Jesus, the more intentional we’ll be about investing in others. “Growing is incidental, growing in something is intentional.”The more we seek to Grow in Grace and Knowledge, the more the effect of that growth will be evident to those around us.

Comedy writer’s fortunes depend on making people laugh. The story is told how the writers of the Sid Caesar show, known as “The Show Of Shows” spent hours arguing about the funniest number to use in a skit. Thanks to the comedian Imogene Coca, they decided upon the number 32.  It may sound silly and unnecessary, but that particular show ran ten years. How much thought do we put in our conversations with unbelievers?

2. Seek Their Welfare:
Kindness is always appropriate, intrusion is not. There is a balance between the two, that’s why Simon Peter said to grow in Grace and in Knowledge. Everything in life has to be balanced. A great leap forward in accuracy occurred in watchmaking in 1657 with the addition of the balance spring to the balance wheel. You’ve got to balance the way you reach out to other people.

Caring for others and being creepy are two very different things. God called us to be walkers in others lives, not stalkers. A simple way of doing this, is by just being a friend. If someone is your friend, it’s natural to care about them, to care about what they’re going through.

They tell me that when you take a class on owning a gun, they don’t only teach you how to shoot, but when to shoot. More importantly, they teach you when not to, and that the majority of the time, it’s not the time to use your weapon. Learn when to ask about what they’re going through, and when to wait for them to share.

Listen to them, take mental notes about what they tell you. You’re not spying on them, but you should be retaining what they say. The people you come in contact with everyday are your Ministry. They are who you are called to reach, to enhance, and to add value to where and whenever possible.

The word add in 1 Peter 1:3 comes from a Greek root word that means Chorus Leader. According to history, to be part of a Greek Chorus meant that you were dancing to a song. It was said that the orchestra in which the chorus performed was literally it’s dance floor.

Why is that important? Dancing requires rhythm, knowing the steps, and grace. You have to first learn the beat, then the moves, then you practice how gracefully you perform the dance.

The role of a Greek Chorus was to explain the motives and themes of the play to the audience. They were the bridge between the world on stage, and the one in the stadium. We must know the plot to explain the role of The Savior in the lives of the unbelievers.

3. Walk through their cities:

  • Chorazin – Furnace Of Smoke
  • Bethsaida – House Of Fish
  • Capernaum – House Of Comfort

Jesus walked into cities, He didn’t invade, He didn’t push, He made Himself available. He advertised His presence, then waited for an invitation. Once received, He accepted and gave more than they ever imagined!

In Matthew 11:20-23, Jesus referred to having walked and healed throughout the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Chorazin means village of smoke, the others mean house of fish and village of Comfort. He walked into their problems, their jobs, and their recreation!

Jesus was a friend to Publicans and Sinners. He walked into their issues, blessed their businesses, and had dinner with them. Simon Peter was so affected by God blessing his business that He said, “Lord, I’m not worthy, depart from me for I’m a sinner.” After three and a half years though, when later the same draught of fishes happened, he ran towards The Voice on the shore, and not a way from it.

Commentators don’t know which works were done in Chorazin, it’s only mentioned by name in Matthew 11. What we do know, is without going into detail, Jesus was there for them. When someone trusts you, as much as possible make sure you honor their trust.

There is a painting that is so relevant to Chorazin, the furnace of smoke. It’s of a fireman and his son sitting in Church. At the front of the Church is a stained glass window, it has the three Hebrew Children and God standing in the fiery furnace together.

Then and now, He stands in people’s furnaces of trouble, the difference is today He does it through us. Who’s furnace have you stood in lately? Who’s tears have you wiped? Who have you made laugh that was sad? It may not seem like much, but before Jesus ever saved Zacchaeus’ soul, He made Him happy, He gave his mind rest, and then He was Rest to His soul!

The last city He mentioned was Capernaum, the village of comfort. Jesus brought comfort to a world of sin, are we doing the same to the world around us? We must echo Jesus’ voice to the world, broadcasting the hope of The Gospel with love and mercy.

Bethany:
If we are following the pattern of Jesus, then we must lead those we walk with on as far as He led them. Sadly, for a lot of people this isn’t Calvary. He appeared to people after His resurrection that were not at Calvary, but many of them found Calvary after this. The point is, you and I don’t have to save them, just walk before them.

After we’ve walked with them for a while, we do need to reflect Jesus to them. That doesn’t mean attack them, it means to reflect His light. When they ask questions, and many will, be ready to give an answer.

Finally, no matter who it is we walk with, we and they will end up together at Bethany. Bethany means two things, the House Of Misery, and the House Of Dates. You will come to a crossroads with everyone you know.

Jobs end, relationships change, but at some point in time, you will say goodbye. This doesn’t necessarily mean Eternity, you don’t know who The Lord will have to hand off that person to. I’ve come in contact with people where I was just the next person that God had placed in their path.

The question is this, how will you leave them? Will it have been a productive relationship, have you added value to their lives? Or did the relationship go sour? If so, was it our fault? I’ll admit that I haven’t always handled things the way that I should have, but we must strive to leave people better than we found them.

Did they get a glimpse of Jesus in us? If you found your friend an atheist, did you at least leave him with doubts? We don’t have to save the world, but we must impact their world. If you do not reach them, but your influence reaches someone around them you may never meet, then you’ve made a difference!

C.S. Lewis Quote
The quote I read at the beginning of the lesson refers to the changes of time. You might not notice them right away, but over time you’ll look back to see incredible changes. If you are caring for others, you are making an impact. You are making a difference in their lives.

This lesson isn’t meant to say otherwise, but to rather encourage you to walk further in your journey with God and man. Smart watching, if you will, looking for those times where you can notify or remind someone who is hurting that Jesus cares, and so does His Church.

The Power Of Study

Wikimedia Image
Wikimedia Image

There are some skills that you learn in life that may seem small, but turn out to be truly important. One of those is the ability to study. It is made up of a collection of items that will advance anyone who learns them. I’d like to share three of them with you.  

 The first is how to listen well. As children, we can make the mistake of assuming that listening is being quiet when others are talking. If we’re not careful, we may dabble with this as children, and perfect it as adults.

Listening well isn’t only about paying attention, it’s about seeking to understand. This can involve asking follow up questions, and repeating back to the person what you heard. This way, if what you heard, and what they intended for you to hear is different, it can be clarified. 

Pastor Denny Livingston teaches a wonderful lesson on listening. In it he explains that most people aren’t listening to what someone’s saying, only listening for an opening. As soon as the opening presents itself, they say what they were planning to say while the other person was talking. This shows that they were never really listening to begin with. I think that we’ve all been guilty of that, but it’s advice that we can listen to and prevent.

The second point is how to take notes. In this case, it’s not so much that one system is better than another. It’s more that you need a system of taking notes. For some, an outline is the most effective way to retain knowledge. Others may use a form of shorthand they can understand.

Taking notes you comprehend is only half of it. You need to make sure your system is legible to others. This ability will be an asset from high school and college, to the workplace and beyond. Whether it’s a co-worker needing meeting notes, or a loved one helping you record a family history, they’ll need to be able to read your notes. This also will save you as you get older when that shorthand system gets harder to remember.

That leads into the third point in our post, making lists. No, this isn’t the same as taking notes. Notes are usually about research taken, lists are about items to be done. 

 This is more than a grocery list, or a set of resolutions, it’s about planning. Isn’t it funny, we plan vacations, but many don’t plan their everyday life? I’m not talking about control, life and lists aren’t about that, they are about being prepared for the unknown. 

 You can’t make a list to prevent a pipe from bursting, but you can have a list of repairmen in a drawer for when it does happen. Bloggers like myself have an idea box list. We write down little things on our phones, napkins, and post-its to use later. 

 All three of these tools are proactive things you and I can do to enhance our learning ability. This will help at home, in the work place, in studying the Bible, or even learning a hobby. Knowledge is a source of energy, and like electricity you need to know how to flip the switch. The power of study is the activator for your learning, and it’s never to late to develop it.

The Native: While You Were There

Wikimedia Image
 Wikimedia Image
The following is a continuation of our Bible Study, The Native.  It may seem out of season, but as that is the subject, you’ll understand the timing once you read it.

Luke 2: 6
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.


“While you’re here, could you?”  “We were on vacation and this happened …”  We’re used to these statements, although we cringe as we hear them.  Those unexpected events in life that we were hoping would happen at a different time.  Mary and Joseph had one of those moments when Mary first felt the labor pains.


There is little doubt that she would have preferred to feel those first signs before or after the trip, or at least after they were in a room at the inn.  As often in life, even with the most blessed event of all time, it didn’t happen that way.  The Lord Jesus was going to arrive, whether they were ready or not.  Whether the room had been prepared, or the water was boiling, or the doctor was at hand.


It’s the same way with our situations today.  At some point in your life, you’re going to find yourself receiving or giving in what appears to be the off season.  That’s why The Lord counseled us to be instant in season and out of season.  I submit to you that the timing of Christ’s arrival was as in season as possible, even though they may not have known it.


We look at the unexpected, or the untimely as a punishment.  Our thinking is, if it arrived without warning, there should have been a warning attached.  Obviously, in the case of The Master, that wasn’t true. 

 At the same time, if we’re not serving Him, the thoughts of His return today can be scary, not because of His condition, but our own.  He stated that He is returning for a people that have made themselves ready. However ready doesn’t mean a perfect people, but a Church that is watching for Him. You can be prepared for surprises, even if you don’t know when it’s exactly going to happen.


Our hearts can still be prepared, even if circumstances throw us.  The surprise may shake us for a minute, but if our souls are aligned with His, then all will be well.  Later, Jesus tried to teach the Disciples on the boat this principle.  If Jesus is present, the journey will be successful.


That doesn’t mean your unexpected, blessed events won’t be painful. In birth, it’s the absence of pain that is abnormal.  If we will be faithful in the inconvenient, the untimely, and the unanticipated, the joy of the birth will eclipse the anxiety of the moment.  The same is true of Our King’s return, If we’re watching for Him.


Mary and Joseph would have preferred the birth to happen when they were settled, but they were ready when it happened.  Their circumstances weren’t settled, but they were.  Mary knew that she had to give her all.  Joseph knew that he had to be there for her and Jesus.  As a result, although it was in a barn far from home, it was an ordained part of their story and ours.


What ever you’re experiencing right now, whatever the unexpected circumstance in your life, take heart.  He saw it coming, and with His help, you can make it through it, and come out on top.  You may even reach souls you didn’t know you could win. They may one day begin their story with this statement.  “I came to The Lord, while they were there!”

The Sea Horse: Corporate Shark

  

He found himself in the middle of another fight with a new foe.  This one had an ice blue face mask, silver costume, cape, and boots.  He also had some sort of a punch fighting like a small one man army.  Calling himself Carbuncle, he had gloves that produced a stinging smokescreen.


It not only engulfed those around him, the effect caused pain as well.  Sea Horse had to alter his blows, attacking, then repositioning to attack again.  The surge sent shockwaves through his body, but his mask was able to adjust and channel away the energy.  


The Sea Horse went in for the capture shot, caving in the ground underneath Carbuncle with his double fisted blow.  This stunned the villain long enough for Sea Horse to emit his sonic kick, knocking the man unconscious.  He deposited Carbuncle at police headquarters and headed back to base.  


The morning was supposed to start with the villain’s arraignment, not his release.  An yet, Isaac Robinson walked out a free man.  It was amazing what a 100,000 would do.  He liked this city, and it’s perks.  The con man turned megalomaniac decided he’d stay. ‘After all’, he thought, ‘every ocean needs a predator, and I’m the shark this city needs.’

Hope Crafted

  

Romans 5:5

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Hope produces confidence, first in God, and then in us.  It’s not a factory, this doesn’t happen on an assembly line.  Hope is handcrafted, I know this for two reasons.


First, it is a product of God Himself.  Anything that is created by The Master is a work of art, something formed by The Creator of the Heavens.  After all, this is The One who created Rembrandt, Edison, and Michael Jordan. He creates beauty and brilliance, making individuals as unique as snowflakes. 


Second, because according to this verse, Hope is a product of the heart.  It is here that it is born through The Spirit Of God bathing our hearts in His love, this is our Hope. This is our strength, knowing that The God who loved us enough to rescue us is strong enough to carry us through.


To hold us, not only until the end of our days, but to the end of days.  He was powerful enough to redeem you, He’s merciful enough to keep you, and He’s promised to return for you.  Take heart today, for there is where your Hope is produced.  


You’re story, though it may seem messy right now, is a work of art in the hand of The Master.  He knows how to fix that black mark you left on the canvas.  He’s fixed my mistakes so many times, I know He can fix yours.  You and I are products of Hope, crafted by Genius, made with love. 

It’s because of God that we can be confident, not only in Him, but in ourselves through Him.  On our own, we would surely mess things up, but when God is in your corner, anything is possible!  He is not only who we hope in, He is working in us. 



Hope today because God has enabled and empowered you to accomplish your goal.  There is a bridge you must cross, and an enemy who stands in your way, it looks difficult. Until you remember that The God who gave you the map, built the bridge, trained you, and is standing with you.  Then you start to feel a little sorry for your opponent, he’s the one who has no hope.

Second Acts

  

In a play, the first act sets up the second one.  In the second act, surprises are revealed, answers are found, and happy endings are established. There are three act plays, but they’re more rare. In life, many people ignore the opportunity for a second act, much less a third, but they don’t have to.


The most famous men and women in our history are renowned for their second acts.  Kings, Queens, and Presidents come to mind, all of which whose hair is a little grayer, and there resumes listing a number of starts and stops.


What are you wanting to begin that you’re looking for permission to try?  It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, you don’t have to have a midlife crisis, but you most certainly can start a second act.  It can be as small as a hobby, or as large as starting a second business.  


Either way, it doesn’t have to be scary.  Unlike the fantasies, no one is advising you to sell out and hop a boat to the Bahamas.  A second act isn’t about erasing everything you’ve accomplished up until now.  It is about staying relevant at every stage of your life.


How do we do this?  The first way is to evaluate your why.  If it’s a desire born out unhappiness, then proceed with caution.  Don’t allow emotions, no matter how real, to make your decisions for you.  Unhappiness may begin your journey, but it should never plan your itinerary.


The next step is the same whether your seeking comes from unhappiness, a desire to make an impact, or in answer to a need. The next point is to seek advice, you and I will always need input.  Take some time, talk to the important people in your lives, your Pastor, you’re spouse, a best friend.


Let someone know you’re hurting, or longing for relevance, or even seeking a hobby.  If there’s something you want to try, look into it, but not in a vacuum.  The people in your life need to know your process, if for no other reason than to understand your journey.


The third point is similar to the second in one way, realize in your new adventure that you are again the student.  Even if your second act involves teaching about your first, you’ll need new skills that you’ve yet to learn.  Taking this approach will secure you from the  prejudice of knowing too much.


When you’re a student, no matter what age, then you’ll accept input from anyone with a good idea.  To put it bluntly, if you accept that you don’t know it all, then you are free to take good advice from younger people.  This very website would not have been possible without the expertise of some intelligent people who just happen to be younger than me.


The fourth and final point for this article is this, will your second act benefit others?  It doesn’t have to feed third world countries, but it should add value to someone.  In the case of something small, like taking up painting, the finished product can be at least a Christmas gift.  If it’s volunteering, then others will reap the reward of your new experience.


Don’t get me wrong, your second act should make you happy, but if it only makes you happy something is wrong.  Second acts need not be selfish or self serving.  They should be about investing in life, and that brings dividends to multiple people.  


So pick up that brush, start that novel, take that class, but do it with this thought in mind.  Like any actor in a drama, real or imagined, I have an audience.  My actions can either make me the hero or the villain, it’s my choice. Just know that most plays are revived, and the way you play your second act, could be the pattern one day for your son or daughter’s act two. 

PruittWrites Book Club: Third Edition

tfacIn the third installment of our book club, we want to focus on one of our favorite books.  It also happens to be a second John Maxwell book, Thinking For A Change.  While we won’t always have a repeat author, this book is so special I couldn’t wait.

It’s one of the most inspiring volumes on purposeful thinking that I have ever read.  If you plan on doing anything in life, it’s a must read.  I hope that you take the time to pick up this very special book.  The investment will be far less than the enormous returns it will give back to you.

This isn’t only a book for those in what some would consider a creative field.  The principles in this book can be applied to all areas of life, and have been.  I hope you enjoy it half as much as I have.