the importance of honesty

honestyI read an article recently about how phone scammers are trying a new tactic on unsuspecting victims. They are calling and telling the person who answers that their friend/family member has been in a serious accident. Of course, when the person hears this, panic arises. During this vulnerable moment, the spammer makes his move. He tells the person that he needs money for this friend/family member who has been injured.

Many will see the scam for what it is, but sadly, many will also fall for this deception.

This is wrong on so many levels: cruelty, callousness, hatefulness, and insensitivity to name a few.

It’s also dishonest.

Dishonest in that it’s a lie – the person’s friend/family didn’t really have an accident. The spammer doesn’t even know anyone related to the person whom he called.

Dishonest in that if the spammer does succeed in retrieving a bank account number/credit card number/ cash amount wired, they are doing it under false pretenses. Such action will likely destroy the victim’s credit in the way of identity theft and loss of life savings.

The above was an extreme example. But what about everyday dishonesty?

Dishonesty about another person, sometimes otherwise known as gossip (for additional info, see The Importance of Avoiding the Gossip Trap);

Dishonesty in attempting to escape consequences for behavior (“Wow, Officer, my speedometer said I was going 35, not 55”; or, “No, You’re Honor. I had no idea I stole someone’s wallet”).

gavel

Dishonesty when completing a job resume;

Dishonesty to avoid conflict;

Dishonesty when participating in sports;

sports

Dishonesty about money earned on taxes;

Dishonesty about calling into work sick when you’re really not;

Dishonesty during a doctor’s appointment – or at the dentist (well, yes, of course, I floss after each meal!).

dentist chair

And on it goes.

So what’s the big deal about dishonesty, and why should it matter?

Here’s what the Bible has to say about it:

Do not lie to one another… ~ Colossians 3:9

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.~ Exodus 20:16

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord…~ Proverbs 12:22

Proverbs 10 9

Even though it can be difficult at times, we need to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, seek to walk in integrity and honesty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the importance of influence

influence

A new believer in the congregation mentions to a friend: “Our pastor watches that movie, so it must be all right to watch.”

Overheard in the workplace: “I may not agree with my boss on the way he treats those under him, but I’m learning from him that sometimes it doesn’t pay to be nice.”

A young boy mentions: “Dad never wears his seat belt. Why should I?”

Overheard at church: “In our Bible study class, a member mentioned enjoying reading a book that teaches beliefs contrary to the Bible. If she’s fine with it, so am I.”

A teenager in the hallway between classes: “My friends were talking today about  a cool fad they want to try. I think I might try it too. Who cares if people say it’s dangerous?”

A new believer mentioning something she’s noticed: “The piano player for our church gossips constantly about others. Maybe I don’t need to take the command not to gossip seriously either.”

Overheard by a player on a sports team: “I’ve never been one to cheat, but since the coach says it’s ok, why not do it since winning is important?”

football coach

And on it goes…

Influence. We all influence someone. If we are a parent, we have a critical impact on our children. They are watching us constantly, and whether we choose to believe it or not, they will mimic what we do. Our actions are powerful.

If we are a supervisor, our leadership has great clout over those whom we supervise, whether for the positive or negative.

A pastor is perhaps one of the most influential among a wide scope of people. His congregation and those in the community constantly look to him for guidance and the way they should live their lives.

Friends make a huge impact on the lives of each other for the good and bad. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of  the friendships we keep.

Movie stars, music artists, authors, teachers, and coaches are also influential.

Those of us who are seemingly “common” and not in any real leadership role still have influence over people. We all influence someone. Everything we do has an impact on someone. People around us are watching.

What does the Bible say about our influence and leadership over others?

2 Timothy 2 15

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness~ James 3:1

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. ~ Philippians 2:3

Galatians 6 9

Whatever is trustworthy… because whatever we watch or think comes out and whatever comes out is being viewed and watched by others, so it’s a domino effect.

We all sin – that’s why we need a Savior. We all are capable of misusing our influence over others.

Instead, we should take our influence seriously and seek to protect and guard those in our sphere of influence.

Who is influential in your life?

 


the importance of kindness

kindness

The elderly man in front of my daughters and me at the grocery store appeared a bit panicked. “I forgot the papaya my wife asked me to buy,” he said.

“Would you like to go get it and I’ll hold your place?” I asked.

“I’ll just pay for this stuff and go back through the line.”

I took a glance at the long line behind us. If the man wanted to get home before his perishables perished, his plan wouldn’t work.

“Why don’t you go get the papaya? We’ll wait for you.” I hoped I hadn’t alienated anyone by being the spokeswoman for all grocery shoppers in Line 4. No one seemed perturbed.

“Ok,” he said, and dashed off toward the produce department.

Moments later he returned and profusely thanked all of us in Line 4.

Such a small act of kindness meant so much.

Kindness. The Lord tells us to treat others as we’d like to be treated. So, how can we show kindness to others the way the Lord commands us? And why is it important?

1.We don’t know what another person is going through or what they may be facing at this very moment. We never know if a stranger just lost a loved one, is struggling to pay their bills, lost their job, is struggling with chronic illness, and the list goes on… An ounce of kindness can make their day brighter.

What storm

2. Kindness doesn’t have to be big. Each morning, our family prays for someone to bless that day. God’s answers have come in all sizes…sometimes we find ourselves in lengthy service projects, other times, it’s a seemingly miniscule “assignment.” Either way, those kindnesses matter to the recipient and, more importantly, to God.

Colossians 3 23

3. We are examples for our children. Who better than parents to show their children by example what it means to treat someone with kindness? Even when we don’t realize it, they are watching us – and mirroring our actions.

4. What if your kindness isn’t returned? One of my daughters’ friends (I’ll call her Misty) smiled at a man in the library the other day. A simple act of kindness, right? The man asked her what she wanted. Misty told him she was just trying to be polite and friendly. He sneered at her and said, “Well, I wish you wouldn’t.” Although caught off guard by the man’s comment, Misty responded in kindness.

Tough when people deflect our kindness, but, like Misty did, we must keep on treating them the way Jesus would.

Ephesians 4 32a

What are some ways you show kindness to others?

 

 

the importance of avoiding the gossip trap

gossip trap

Gossip. If we’re honest, we’ve all either done it or have been tempted to do it.

But it’s ok, right? After all, it’s just a few “harmless” words shared with another.

That’s not the way God sees it. As a matter of fact, gossip and slander are more serious than we may have previously imagined. Several verses in the Bible command us to steer clear of this misuse of the tongue:

Proverbs 6 16-19

Wow! If you want a lot of bang for the buck, this is your verse. Of the seven things that are an abomination to God, three of them are tied to gossip. Gossip can and does cause strife among people. It can, and often does, become an embellished outpouring of words that can quickly turn into lies.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless ~ James 1:26. When we seek to use our tongue to spread “information” about others, we show the true condition of our hearts. For those watching, this is anything but an effective witness for Christ.

Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy ~ Psalm 101:5. God is serious about what He thinks about slander and the slanderer.

…Whoever utters slander is a fool ~ Proverbs 10:18.

Ever been betrayed by a close friend through gossip? Gossip ruins friendships.

Proverbs 16 28

Gossip isn’t something that just affects others superficially or minimally. It is something that affects others to their “inmost parts.” It’s hurtful and painful. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. ~ Proverbs 18:8.

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler ~ Proverbs 20:19. This is one of my favorites on the topic because it lays it out like it is…we aren’t to even associate with a “babbler.” How many times have we found ourselves listening to someone sharing gossip?

Perhaps this verse says it best: You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness ~ Exodus 23:1.

Finally, James 3:9-10 is perhaps one of the most humbling verses on the topic. With the same mouth, we both bless and curse people.

James 3 9-10

Beware of these gossip traps and seek, with the Lord’s help, to avoid them:

1. “Guess what I just heard…” these five words are usually a precursor to juicy information about someone. Information that can destroy a reputation, harm someone and/or their family, and even ruin a life.

2. “We really need to pray for ______. She’s…” Gossip can come disguised as a prayer request. But God knows our hearts – better than we know them. He knows if we are truly concerned about someone, or if we’re sharing with itching ears the latest “news” about someone, declaring in our judgmental attitude, that they need prayer.

3. She deserves my slander after what she did to me. Revenge. A topic for another time; however, super pertinent for this post as well. Sometimes people spread lies as a form of retaliation. When someone has hurt you, let that be their issue, not yours, as you seek the Lord’s assistance in forgiving them. Don’t become just as sinful as they are by seeking retribution with the sharing of spiteful words.

4. Churches can become Gossip Clubs. Unfortunately, churches, especially small ones, as well as Bible studies, can become clubs where gossip freely flows. Gossip shouldn’t be something we engage in period, and especially not in God’s house or at a function where we are learning about Him.

Gossip and slander are such an issue in today’s world that some homeowner’s insurance policies have “slander coverage.”

So, what if you are on the receiving end of gossip? Not an easy place to be. I’ll never forget the day we discovered someone was sharing hateful untruths about our family. The one good thing to come out of it was that it humbled me in knowing that was something I didn’t want to do to someone else. In a later post, I’ll discuss how to handle it when you are the subject of a gossiping tongue.

 

 

 

Thankful for the small things…

Psalm 107 1

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving was already nearly two weeks ago.  As I reflect on the past year, I think of the many things I am thankful for – Jesus Christ as my Savior, my husband, my children, extended family, friends, and health. Sometimes, though, we only think of the “big” things we are thankful for, like those things I mentioned above.

What about the seemingly “small” things we are thankful for that we sometimes overlook? Below are a few that came to my mind in no particular order:

  •  I’m thankful for water. According to an article titled World Water Day: A Billion People Worldwide Lack Safe Drinking Water “More than a billion people—almost one-fifth of the world’s population—lack access to safe drinking water.” How many times do we go to the faucet and grab a glass of water without giving it a second thought?water
  • I’m thankful I can breathe.  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, “Approximately 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma by a health professional during their lifetime.” My husband and youngest daughter are included in those statistics. How many times do we take it for granted that we can take that a breath?
  • I’m thankful for the ability to read. While doing research for 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, I discovered that “by age 17, only 1 in 17 seventeen-year-olds can read and gain information from specialized text” according to the National Institute for Literacy. Taking this statistic into account, there are a high number of people who cannot read. Yet, I read things everyday and don’t give it a second thought that some people don’t have that ability.
  • I’m thankful for those who risk their lives each day to bring the Good News to those around the world. We in the United States face minimal persecution when it comes to sharing our love for Jesus. Our missionaries in other nations are not so fortunate. I read The Voice of the Martyrs and my eyes were opened to the sacrifices our Christian brothers and sisters make everyday to share the hope of eternal life with the lost around the world.
  • I’m thankful for food to eat. A couple of years ago, my husband and I were both diagnosed with multiple food allergies. It has been a challenge to find things to eat.  Yet, so many people in the U.S. and in the world have no food to eat – AT ALL. They would love to only have allergies to a handful of foods  – if they still had food to eat. dinner
  • I’m thankful I haven’t been involved in a devastating hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. A few years ago, we suffered severe exterior damage to our home and vehicles during a bad hail storm. When we returned home from our vacation, our yard looked as though it had suffered a major catastrophe. Tree limbs were everywhere, our garden was ruined, the new siding on our house destroyed, and our SUV totaled.

A few days after the hail storm, our church was seeking volunteers to assist with the devastation caused by a deadly tornado in the southern part of the country. As our family discussed being a part of this outreach, I was overcome with gratefulness and humbleness that it was only a relatively minor hailstorm we were dealing with and not a horrific storm where lives had been lost.

  • I’m thankful for dirty dishes. Yes, you heard me right. I know, most people wouldn’t say “thanks” for the sinkful of food-corroded crusty dishes from last night’s dinner. However, I am thankful because if I didn’t have those dirty dishes, I wouldn’t have had food to feed my family. Same goes for dirty laundry. While it may not be my favorite task, I’m thankful we have clothes to wear, and therefore, clothes that get dirty.
  • I’m thankful for my church family. Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to belong to the Body of Christ and how thankful I am that I can walk through the doors of my church and learn about the Lord and share fellowship with other believers. While my husband was going through is open heart surgery and later his dangerous staph infection, our church body stood with us in prayer and support. What a huge blessing!
  • church
  • I’m thankful I can see and hear. As I sit typing this, my kiddos are in the living room playing a game with their dad. Thank You, Father, that I can hear their giggles! I’m thankful for sight too – the snow-capped mountains in the distance and the puffy white clouds in the sky are such a testament to His Creation. I’m also thankful that the Lord opened my eyes to see my need for Him! mountain 2

That’s a shortened version of “small” things I’m thankful for. As I look back on my list, I realize they’re not “small” things at all, but big and important things.

What are you thankful for?

 

7 ways to make a difference in November

It’s hard to believe that it’s already November! So what are some ways to make a difference this month in the lives of others? Here are seven suggestions:

Combine chocolate with cheer. When our church announced it was looking for volunteers to serve in the hot chocolate ministry last year, our family immediately volunteered. What is a hot chocolate ministry? It’s a stand where we handed out free hot chocolate (with a spoonful of mini-marshmallows) to those who attended our town’s annual outdoor Christmas event that happens each year on the day after Thanksgiving. What a fun way to spread Christmas cheer!

hot chocolate

Remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Engage Magazine offers a way to write to persecuted Christians in North Korea to encourage them.  According to the website, in this unique ministry, letters will be delivered one of two ways: “hand-delivered to several Christians who have escaped North Korea” or “with broadcasters in South Korea who will periodically read letters, or passages of letters, to Christians across the 38th parallel.” All of the details can be found at Engage Magazine’s website.

Also included are tips on things to say to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, and also the super-easy form on which to write your letter and submit online.

 

1 Thessalonians 5 11

Make a terminally ill boy’s wish come true. Little Jacob Thompson is battling cancer and will be celebrating Christmas early this year. His one request? To receive as many Christmas cards as possible. He especially loves homemade cards. Have your kids decorate homemade cards and include a little tidbit about Christmas, their home state (Jacob lives in Maine), and a thoughtful Bible verse or prayer for he and his family. The full details, including Jacob’s address, can be found here.

christmas card

Ring the bell. It’s that time of year again…time when the Salvation Army bell ringers will be wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and collecting funds to help poor families during the holiday season. Why not partner with your spouse, child, or a friend and volunteer your time as a bell ringer this year? Check out the details at the Salvation Army website.

Share with those who have no one. Sometimes while we are enjoying our Thanksgiving dinners, we forget something very important…the fact that many people don’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner. Is there a widow in your church that will spend her first year alone? An elderly couple with no family nearby? A neighbor who lives alone? Why not make a difference in their lives and invite them to your home to share in your family’s festivities.

dinner

Learn CPR/First Aid. As part of my daughters’ curriculum for homeschool, they recently joined me to take a CPR and First Aid class. It was my fourth time taking CPR and First Aid, but things have changed a bit, even since the last time I took it. What better way to make a difference than to have the knowledge to have a role in possibly saving someone’s life? For more details on how to find a CPR/First Aid course near you, check out The American Heart Association’s website.

Share the love of reading with others. Our family recently boxed up several Christian adult fiction books in excellent condition that we no longer needed or read. I called a local assisted living center and asked if they would be interested in some books for their residents. They were ecstatic! Remember to always call first before making any donations.

books

Speaking of books, for more ideas of year-round difference makers, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

What are some ways you and your family are planning to make a difference in the month of November?

 

 

 

the one prayer policy

As I do each morning, I spend quiet time with the Lord praying and reading the Bible before embarking on my day. Sometimes the prayer lists are extensive, especially when the Lord brings to mind those people I need to pray for due to health issues, financial struggles, relationship issues, natural disasters, comfort due to a loss in their lives, or for the salvation of an unsaved loved one.

praying girl

“Oh, and Lord, could you please help…”

“Oh, and please come alongside…”

“Oh, and also, can you give peace and comfort to…”

“Oh, and…”

The list goes on and on. As an avid prayer warrior, I have found that there is no shortage of prayers needed for those around us. Whether it be those we know and love or those we have never met.

I am so grateful that the Lord doesn’t say, “Now, Penny. You’re prayer limit has been reached. Please reserve the remaining prayers for another day.”

Or…

“Sorry, Penny. Your one prayer is all you are allotted for the day. Pick which prayer that will be, pray it, then return tomorrow with another prayer.”

No, instead, God tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and to be “faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Psalm 17 6In Ephesians 6:18, He tells us, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.Psalm 145 18aJeremiah 29:12 says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” It doesn’t say, pray only once or twice and reach the prayer quota, then be done.

No, the Lord welcomes our prayers. Prayers throughout the day. Prayers on any topic or for anyone.

No limits.

No maximum.

No one-prayer policy.

On that note, I think it’s time for a prayer of gratitude!