I recently asked my son, “Where is that enthusiasm you used to have?”
“Oh, it’s still there, but I don’t share it.”
Well, the reality was he didn’t share it with my husband and me. This is where the concept “breathe life” comes in.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us BIRTH through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created,” (James 1:16-17, NIV) Emphasis mine.
Where I am going may seem like a stretch for some of you, but stay with me for a moment. Prior to these verses James writes, “… each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives BIRTH to sin; and sin, when it is full-blown, gives birth the DEATH,” (James 1:13-15). Emphasis mine.
When I studied this section of Scripture several months ago, the concepts of “birth” and “death”, stood out to me. Whether or not theologians find any official legitimacy as to where these verses took my heart and mind, the concept I discovered changed my life and has become one of my guiding principles: Breathe life, not death.
According to James “every good and perfect gift is from above,” . . . from God. Truth is a huge part of God’s creation which includes us. God birth Truth and birthed us as well. He breathes life into all things. However, there is another birth that exists, and it originates from sin . . . our own desires. Oh my, this dangerous birth has it’s roots in many unhealthy things: pride, selfishness, impatience, and the list goes on. All of these stem from being lovers of ourselves and “gives birth to death.” Calling it evil sounds harsh, but if it isn’t God breathed, it isn’t good. This line of thinking challenges me to check my every word and action so that I breathe life into others instead of spewing death. Here are some of the areas I have been improving my desire to breathe life:
- Show an interest in what makes someone’s eyes twinkle. Remember the opening scenario involving my son? My husband and I lost track of the passions that lit up our son’s heart. What we, in our “old-school” mindset, thought were faddish-type wastes of times are actually pursuits that enhance our son’s knowledge of mechanical engineering. There was nothing wrong with our desire for our son to have a good grade point average and to keep him within financial boundaries, but when we lost sight of who he was, we crossed a line and breathed more death into him than we did life. What a blessing that God gave us that “good and perfect gift from above,” and we can tweak our parenting to breathe more LIFE into our son. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean we will spoil him (that would be like breathing more death), but we are going to broaden our horizons when it comes the things that make our son’s eyes twinkle.
- Psalm 69:6 says, “May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the LORD, Almighty; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me, O God of Israel.” This says so much when we consider our ability to breathe life or death into others. As Christians, according to this verse, our actions are accountable to God when it comes to how we deal with both believers and non-believers. When we go around spewing death, we make all Christians (and God!) look bad. When we judge others, criticize, wear rhinestone Jesus jewelry then act like miscreants we misrepresent God. Yes, we all make mistakes and breathing life doesn’t mean we sacrifice our standard, but we must remember love, grace, mercy, and compassion. When we breathe THOSE things on people around us, we don’t disgrace our brethren and we invite others into God’s world instead of chase them off. THAT IS LIFE!
- Communication is crucial. In our country today people are more divided than they have been in a long time. Liberals and conservatives are at each others throats. There is no civil discourse in the arena of religion and morality. Women are pitted against men. Gun control advocates are at odds with those who want to defend themselves. Death is being spewed everywhere. Are there going to be times when no one can agree? Of course because our country has become chaotic melting pot when it comes to what standard one follows. Some citizens follow God’s standard, while others dine at a worldly buffet picking and choosing what pleases their palates. There IS going to be discord. But, when Christians are offered an opportunity to share godly views it does no good, whatsoever, to spew them like poison on those who see differently. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1). Another way to say this would be “A considerate response breathes life, but vitriol spews death.” Know why you believe WHAT you believe and share it with considerate confidence, not condescension or arrogance.
- Be thankful. Nothing sucks the life from those around us than constant complaining. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When God delivered the Hebrews out of Egypt, they murmured. Read Exodus . . . it’s everywhere. What about us? Turn complaints about kids leaving their mess around the house into thankfulness that they are there to do it. I know too many mothers whose children have left this world prematurely. Believe me, it’s gut wrenching. Instead of griping when your spouse watches too much TV or forgets your things at the store, be grateful he or she makes a good living or assures that you always have clean underwear. When you are tempted to complain about your job, thank God that you HAVE one!! Murmuring puts US first. Gratefulness puts GOD first. Complaining drains life, thankfulness breathes life.
The areas in which we can breath life is limited only by our selfish desires. When we set “us” aside and put God first, we inhale all that is good. When our words and actions put others first we exhale the breath of God on others. Breathe in God’s love of others– inhale his mercy, grace, compassion, and exhale the Breath of Life on those around you.
©2013 Shona Neff