Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Influence, part 1

Although the size will vary with each person, everyone has a realm of influence. For you, it may be your younger siblings, friends or neighbors. It could be younger kids who enjoy playing with you. You might not even realize who and how you are influencing, but I guarantee you that in some way, you are. This may strike a little fear into your heart, because if you’re like me, you know that there are so many things you do that you don’t want others mimicking. But I’m not here to scare you or tell you to straighten up because others are watching you, but hopefully to remind you of the influence you can have and how to use that to build up the kingdom of Christ.

Watch how others imitate your actions. This is most clearly seen in younger siblings. When you see a sibling doing something wrong, ask yourself if they’ve picked up on it from you. You are silently influencing them. Does your own behavior espouse godly character or the opposite?

What is the purpose in influencing? Is it to gain more recognition or approval? Is it to have more authority? Is it to control others? No, no, no! It should be to lead others to Christ, allowing God to use you as a humble vessel to impact them. Your obedience to Christ, even in the little things, can be used mightily by God to influence others. Ultimately then your life will bring the honor and glory to God because of His work in you.

How are we to influence others by our words? By speaking gently (Prov. 15:4) graciously (Col. 4:6), lovingly, kindly, words fitly spoken (Prov. 25:11), with wisdom (Prov. 31:26) and by speaking words that will build up (1 Thess. 5:11).

Do things that you want to encourage others to do. If you exhort your siblings to obey your parents yet display a disobedient or reluctant heart when they give you an instruction, do you think they’ll take you seriously? If you want to encourage godly behavior you need to watch your own heart for evidences when you are not obeying the Lord. A change in your own heart and a desire to follow the Lord completely is the most likely way to inspire, encourage and influence those around you. Henry Blackaby wisely conveys:
“Your life should convince those around you of the wisdom of following God.  Do not underestimate the positive effect that your obedience will have upon those close to you.”

You never know who may be watching you, but your actions speak clearly for your character. What do people see when they watch how you act? Relate with others? Speak to your parents? Just by your actions, are you encouraging things like obedience and respectfulness to your parents and other authority? Are you inspiring others towards a deeper walk with God? Towards a love of holiness and godliness? Are you involved and supporting meaningful conversations, or are you always joking around? By your actions and behavior, do you encourage joyful serving, or is helping others a chore? Do you set the example by talking with or including those younger than you in games and discussions, or do you give the impression that it’s only fun to talk with people your age? Do you encourage language that honors and reverences the Lord’s name?
Don’t rely on others to set the standard—you set the standard! Set a godly example (1 Tim. 4:12).

I purposely didn’t answer all the questions I asked. I hope that you will think and pray through them. In addition to searching your own heart, pray that God would use you as a humble vessel to influence others for Him and encourage them in godliness. Also remember to pray for specific people that you feel you might be influencing.

*In my next post I hope to answer a few more questions regarding influence.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Honest Scrap Award/Tag

This award was given to me by Moriah, Katie and Caleb.  Thanks guys! 
  • Say thanks by giving a link to the person's blog who tagged you.
  • Share ten things about yourself--be truthful!!
  • Present the award to 7 others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
  • Tell those 7 people that you have awarded them.
 I figured that since I was given this by 3 people that I should do it.  ;)  However, I've shared 50 things about myself (they're all honest ;) and other facts in various tags, so I thought I'd twist it a little like Jasmine and Katie have done.  So I'm sharing 10 honest music related things about me... :)

1. I’ve always struggled with playing by ear. I need the notes in front of me!
2. In the past year though, I’ve worked on chords for worship songs and so can now play a little better by ear.
3. I teach 4 piano students that range in age from 5-15.
4. I love teaching piano, and it’s good learning experience for me!
5. I’m working on a degree in music via distance learning.
6. I don’t like music theory, but I’m about to start a distance learning theory course for college credit.
7. I can play the beginning part of “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin, otherwise known in our house as the “ice-cream man song”. It’s really fun!
8. I’ve played the piano for 11 years, but don’t really have musical gifting, so I’ve had to work hard at it. Lest you think that I’m some amazing pianist now, let me assure you that I’m not. I didn’t work as hard or quickly as I should have and so despite my many years of playing am not that great. I’m continually learning though…
9. I love singing harmony and playing duets on the piano with my brother. I also love playing harmony on instruments (with my siblings or friends)!
10. The guitar has a beautiful sound and I would really like to be able to play decently. I’ve tried teaching myself chords and will sometimes be found in my room “playing” and singing. But my siblings will attest to my incredibly poor playing. :P

I decided not to award anyone this time, but if you're reading my blog and would like to do it, feel free!  Just let me know so I can read it.  :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reformed Theology?

Reformed theology magnifies God. I’m convinced of it. Last year in school I read parts of John Calvin’s Institutes in Christian Religion. While I don’t agree completely with every single thing Calvin believed, I’ve been so blessed to learn from this 16th century reformer. The reason I believe reformed theology magnifies God is because it reveals that without Him we would be swallowed up in the depth of our sins, unable to escape. When we begin to take that away by saying that man has some good in him with the ability to choose God, we lose that overwhelming gratefulness for all that God has done. Calvin explained it this way:
“Men indeed ought to be taught that God’s loving-kindness is set forth to all who seek it, without exception. But since it is those on whom heavenly grace has breathed who at length begin to seek after it, they should not claim for themselves the slightest part of His praise. It is obviously the privilege of the elect that, regenerated through the Spirit of God, they are moved and governed by His leading.”
Because God is the one who begins and works the process of salvation, HE is the only one who deserves the praise—we cannot claim any of it for ourselves as Calvin stated. God does not save us because He foresees anything good in us though, it is nothing righteous we have done! With this understanding we begin to realize that we should not complain about any type of suffering we face in this life, because we deserve nothing but death and the wrath of God.
“For if it had not been clearly stated that the wrath and vengeance of God and eternal death rested upon us, we would scarcely have recognized how miserable we would have been without God’s mercy, and we would have underestimated the benefit of liberation.”
To say that we deserve better reveals that we believe we have done something to merit favor. However, for an unbeliever, even the “good” things we do are sinful and wicked in God’s sight because they are done with selfish motives.
“As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder His nature, and how completely perfect are His righteousness, wisdom, and power—the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.”
What an amazing thought. What we claim to be "righteousness" compared to God’s complete and perfect holiness is nothing but filthy rags. And yet God loves us and draws us to Himself to save, justify and sanctify us. What a blessed thought!
*quotes all taken from Institutes in Christian Religion

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to Foster Unity Among Your Siblings

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity”!
Psalm 133:1

Becoming best friends with your siblings isn’t something that comes naturally, or at least for some of us! :) So how can you foster unity and friendship among your siblings?

Spend time with them. If you’re never with them, how can you expect to become best friends with them?
Talk to them. Communication is the key to developing relationships. :)
Ask questions. Find out what their favorite food is, know their likes and dislikes, ask how you can pray for them, ask how God is working in their life.
Listen to them. If you’re reading a book, typing on your computer or half-listening, your siblings will get the picture that something else is more important to you than they are.
Take interest. Demonstrate to your siblings that you care for them. Whether that’s listening to them tell something they think is important, describe their day or something they learned, or playing something they think is fun, show your interest in everything that happens to them.
Pray for them.
Pray with them.
Get to know them (really!). This sounds so silly, but do you really know your siblings? This is what flows from conversations and being with them.
Show love to them. Remember, true, biblical love is a choice, not a feeling. You may not “feel” like loving your siblings every moment of every day, but God commands to you love. By choosing to love our siblings even when we don’t feel like it, we are developing the godly character God desires for us, and the feelings will eventually follow!

I am no way perfect in any of these areas; in fact, as God began to reveal them to me I realize I fall short in many ways!

One last thought. Satan wants to destroy the family, so when you harbor bitterness, anger or just don’t enjoy being with your siblings, you are helping Satan advance his plan! He understands that a godly family is capable of so much in the kingdom of God, so his desire is to see it destroyed! Don’t join the enemy forces, study God’s Word and learn how to kindly relate and develop loving relationships with your siblings. You will be blessed!