Discourage or Encourage?

It’s interesting that the root for the words, “discourage” and “encourage” is the word courage, which traces to the Latin root for “heart.”  So when we are discouraged, this literally means, “away from the heart”.  And encourage, by contrast, means “into the heart”.  But the common ingredient for both of the words, encourage & discourage, has to do with the heart.

So let’s think about this:  what happens in my heart is only known between God and me.  People can observe the external results of that internal status, but the state of my heart and what happens there is known most clearly by God.  Maybe this is why Solomon said, in Proverbs 4:23, that we should guard our hearts, since this is where the wellspring of life starts.  With this verse in mind, let’s be certain that we are keeping our hearts wide open to God’s presence because this is how we can live in a state of encouragement rather than being discouraged by experiences, conversations and various other challenges that can arise.  Choose to live with God’s presence in your heart, encouraged and deeply loved!

Love Finds a Way

Genuine love seeps through the edges. It finds a way to be expressed, when it’s difficult & even unwelcome. I say this, having read Jesus’ Prodigal Son parable this morning. Despite the behavior of the riotous & righteous sons, the father’s actions were the same with each one – going out to reconcile & connect. Both sons had different reactions, but genuine love finds a way to express itself in ways that would be meaningful & transformational to the recipient.
So, will you let God love you today? Will you be available to experience God’s Love however God would choose to express this genuine love?
We are all prodigals in various ways, but genuine love seeps through the cracks & soaks into the hard spots because that’s what love does!

Doing the Easy

I like easy in all things: recipes, travel, exercise, conversations, studying, etc. In contrast, stuff that’s hard isn’t as appealing to me. So when Elisha told Naaman, the leper, to dip in the Jordan river to be cleansed from his leprosy, it was an easy solution to a long term painful disease. But Naaman was upset that Elisha didn’t do something different, maybe more difficult, complicated or rigorous. Ultimately, Naaman obeyed Elisha’s directive & was healed from leprosy.
Obeying God is often a matter of doing one easy step, realizing that coaching the mental game can be more challenging than the actual obedience.
When the dust settles, take the easy step of simple obedience to God, regardless of the mental games & gyrations.

Impulsive or Intentional

I’m really good at impulsive & sometimes that isn’t always a prudent thing. So learning to be intentional is very helpful. It seems to me that Moses was impulsive when he killed the Egyptian slave master, but he learned to be intentional. I say this because of his dialogue with God at the burning bush.
The upside of being impulsive is that we can be willing to take risks. The upside of being intentional is evaluating the risks & using wisdom to navigate the possible hotspots. I think the best way to be intentional is to walk with the Holy Spirit rather than letting our flesh make dumb decisions for us 🙂

Goodbye Before Hello

We’re rapidly coming to the end of this year & I’m sure this year has had some ups & downs for you – hopefully more ups than downs. Something I’d strongly encourage you to consider is saying goodbye to some things that are not helpful. There’s no sense in bringing unnecessary & unhelpful luggage into 2018. So this weekend is the prime opportunity to say goodbye & begin a fresh start. Here are some ideas for goodbyes:

  • hurts by forgiving,
  • unhealthy routines (replace w something constructive),
  • spending money / time in non-constructive ways,
  • negative mindsets / perspectives.

The only way that I can see me making these changes is by letting the Holy Spirit help me. Maybe that’s also true for you!! Feel free to pick up my newest book on the Holy Spirit to help you make a fresh start in 2018!

Late Wrappers

Wrapping Christmas presents isn’t in my top 5 thrilling adventures. So I’m a late wrapper. In addition to being a late wrapper, I’m also not a very good wrapper. I have the “get ‘er Done” mindset. But lest we miss the whole point, keep in mind that we’re endeavoring to express genuine love & generosity, regardless of the wrapping or when we wrap our presents
I’d propose that our Heavenly Father wants to let us a know a few things this Christmas to reinforce His genuine love & generosity to us:

  • Wrapping: Jesus, the Fathers ultimate gift to us, came wrapped in human garb, as a newborn
  • Timing: Paul says that in the fullness of time, Jesus became flesh to live among us. God’s timing is perfect!
  • Spectacular: despite being wrapped in human garb, Jesus’ arrival was announced with splendor, grandiose display & jubilant celebration.

It’s ok if you’re a late wrapper, a crummy wrapper or if you’re a timely & spectacular wrapper! No matter what, let’s keep genuine love & generosity our primary goal!

Provision By the Minute

Ravens, brooks & widows. These were three ways God provided for the needs that Elijah had. After reading about these resources this morning, it struck me about how creatively God works to meet & resolve the needs in our lives.
Let’s be wise stewards with the resources that we have while appreciating that God has some very creative & interesting ways to meet the needs that exceed our current provisions. And above all, let’s continue to remain grateful because God is always faithful!

Drop the DIM :)

There’s lots of fun information, websites & youtube videos on how to do stuff.  Indeed, one of my children considered themselves to be an expert with turkey brining having watched a few instructional videos on youtube.  Alas, this child’s turkey brining efforts were less than expert on their first effort, even though this child was highly convinced about their proficiency.  They made it abundantly clear that my help wasn’t needed nor appreciated – until the disaster was in full execution mode.

This is also what I sense the Holy Spirit telling me.  Rather than trying to Do It Myself (DIM), it would be a brighter decision to ask for Divine Help.  This means I’m deciding to be open for the Holy Spirit to be my Help, Guide, Truth, Wisdom, Strength, Comfort, . . . .

Be sure to grab some copies of:

In Step with the Spirit

for Christmas gifts & a great resource to live the DIWH lifestyle (Do It With Help)!

When to Quit

“He’s too heavy.  This is a stupid idea.  It’s awkward to carry him.  There are too many people.  This won’t work.  I’m tired.  We might drop him.  We’d have to rip open the roof.”

There’s a paralytic dude in Luke 5 whom Jesus heals.  But this story isn’t quite that simple.  Indeed, when I thought about what happened to get this paralytic dude in front of Jesus, it pretty much floored me (no pun intended).  In these verses, some guys decided to carry the paralytic to Jesus for healing.  But it turned out to be more complicated than the simple steps of: pick up, carry & get him healed.

The men who set the paralytic dude in front of Jesus decided that nothing would deter them from getting the man in front of Jesus, NOT:

  • his paralysis which made him heavy & cumbersome
  • the crowds that made it impossible to get the paralyzed man in the door (or possible window)
  • hoisting the paralyzed man on the roof
  • tearing open the roof
  • lowering a paralytic from the roof to get him smack in front of Jesus

Perhaps it may take some extra effort to help get someone in front of Jesus, but be certain that an encounter with genuine Jesus is worth any effort, sacrifice or inconvenience 🙂

Managing the Unexpected

SURPRISE!!!! Some of us like surprises & some of us, not so much. It’s also true that our response to surprises can depend on what the surprise is.
With Jesus’ birth, there were lots of associated surprises:

  • angels appearing to shepherds at night in the field,
  • Gabriel’s announcements to Zacharias & Mary about the upcoming supernatural births,
  • wisemen showing up to give kingly gifts to a seemingly common baby,
  • Joseph getting the surprise announcement that his fiancé was pregnant.

Let’s consider that surprises can be incredibly good, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He loves us & is working in all things, even surprises, to work together for our Good, Romans 8:28-29.

Feeling Pain

If we don’t feel pain, we run the risk of being unfeeling, insensitive, cold & apathetic. But for the people who live with chronic pain, feeling pain isn’t good. It’s also difficult to see people who are in pain. So what do we do with pain? Anesthetizing pain with entertainment, booze, exercise & other stuff turns out to be a very destructive way to cope w pain. So rather than anesthetize pain or run from it, let’s consider that we can ask Jesus to take away the pain & help us know Him better through the pain & suffering. Consider what Paul says in Phil 3:10-11, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

skme of the greatest potential for intimacy can happen through the shared experiences of pain & suffering. Even though we don’t like the idea, it’s true nonetheless. Think Gethsemane. Pray when there’s pain & watch what God does.

Lemonade from Lemons

We all know people who have prickly parts & weaknesses. But oftentimes, what is a persons weak area, or what can make them prickly is exactly what is their strength, gift or talent. For example, I have a friend who is abundantly compassionate & kind. She can also get cranky when she is overextended or frustrated from not being to help. Some people think that she’s just downright cranky & they don’t take the time or effort to peel back the gruff veneer to see or hear the tender interior.
No matter if a person is prickly or cranky, let’s endeavor to look for the good & accentuate their strengths 🙂

Grace Seasoning

Edgy, sharp, cranky, churlish, frustrated. These adjectives can describe us at various times. Maybe you’re short on sleep. Maybe you’re stressed about money. Maybe you have a conflict with your spouse or friend. Maybe there’s a lot of pressure at work or school. Regardless of the reason, let’s be careful about our words & attitudes in these challenging times.
Here are some helpful ideas to keep our attitudes, actions & words seasoned with grace:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you
  • Chose self control over reactionary behavior
  • Take a 30second pause & look for stuff to be grateful for
  • Remember that we often prefer the consequences of grace rather than the outcomes of expressing frustration or crankiness 🙂

Good from Bad

I’m in Bangledesh at the moment, just beginning to explore the situation with the Rohingya, Muslim refugees who have very recently fled Burma to survive significant atrocities & even death. There are likely close to 700,000 Rohingya now in Bangledesh, living under plastic tarps & trying to make the best of a deplorable situation.
Admirable credit goes to the Bangledesh people for being gracious & generous with these displaced people. Everyone is trying to bring some good out of an horrific situation.
Here are some fundamental principles that are useful regardless of the atrocities:

  • Forgiveness isn’t optional – keep your heart poison free
  • Look for the positive
  • Keep your hearts tender to Jesus’ input.

These pictures show some beautiful people & the gorgeous countryside here.

 

Slow Down

I️ don’t like slow, not in the least, so I’m always looking for ways to go faster & achieve more. But I️ find an internal conflict with the speed / achievement thing contrasting with my insatiable appetite for being close & intimate with God. I️ sense that for me, the desire to go fast & achieve heaps can be in direct competition with my passion to know Jesus better & walk with Him in increasing intimacy. So if I️ have to chose between speed / achievements or intimacy w Jesus, I’m choosing to be close to Jesus, even when that means that I️ need to slow down.
Practically speaking, this means that in my morning Bible time, I️ won’t be rushing to the next chapter, trying to read large quantities of content nor doing a daily plan for content optimization. It also means that my prayer time will be more about lingering & listening rather than talking & requesting.
Feel free to join the slow down adventure with me 😉

Doing Tough Stuff

There are lots of things that can be difficult: being consistent with exercise, missions trips, hostile or dicey conversations, regulating ones eating habits & lots more.  I don’t like to do tough stuff, nor did Jesus.  I say this because of His words in Gethsemane, “If possible, please take this cup from Me.”
So how do we go about doing tough stuff? Here are a few suggestions & I’d be keen to get your ideas in the comments as well!

  • Keep the end goal in mind: what is your desired outcome?
  • Be wholly present in the difficulty because often these struggles need our whole attention, energy & talents
  • Pray: divine help is always an upgrade!
  • Surrender to God’s will even when it conflicts with your desires 🙂

God Makes a Way

Hard circumstances, unknown terrain, impossible journeys – these are all things in which God specializes.  As you read this, maybe you’re in a financial crisis & Christmas looks impossible;  maybe you’ve received a medical report that’s disturbing;  maybe you have some toxic relational challenges that seem to be never ending;  maybe you’re discouraged or depressed;  maybe you have some work or school difficulties that are bigger than your abilities, time or energy.

Be encouraged today, that God can make a way when there seems to be no way.  Remind yourself of how God delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt:

  • providing a leader, Moses, who was educated & committed to their freedom
  • supernatural signs & wonders (10 Plagues) to break the slavery bondage
  • Passover to establish the relationship between God & the nation of Israel
  • plundering the Egyptians when the Israelites walked out of Egypt
  • split the Red Sea & drowning the enemies who were intent on dragging the Israelites back into slavery

God did lots more when He liberated the Israelites, so be encouraged that you’re not in a situation that exceeds God’s ability to transform nor redeem!  Feel free to share this with your friends to encouage them as well!

Redemption in Disguise

“I am Joseph, your brother.” I’ve been reading the story of Joseph in the last part of Genesis & I’m always astounded by the events that led up to these words. There are so many ways this story could’ve taken a bad turn.

  • Joseph could’ve let bitterness settle into his heart & he could’ve cruelly repaid his brothers for their malevolence.
  • Joseph’s dad could’ve died before learning that his son was alive & highly successful.
  • Joseph’s brothers could’ve continued to be the jerks they were with him when they sold him into slavery.

But none of these things happened & when Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, he was fully committed to keeping his family alive & healthy, redeeming his family in a time of famine & desolation.
Let’s follow Joseph’s example in our daily living & relationships – committed to being agents of redemption, even when others may not recognize the redemption.

Not My Strength

Stuff I’m good at, I prefer to do.  Stuff I’m bad at, not so much.  But life requires us to do stuff that’s both difficult & easy.  When you find stuff that you’re good at, generally you like to keep doing it & it can be very fulfilling.  In contrast, doing stuff you’re not good at can be draining & frustrating.

I say this having just filled out some rather meticulous paperwork that I hope I did right.  Suffice it to say that paperwork isn’t so much in my wheelhouse.  So the less I do, the better it is for everyone 🙂

But here’s the real deal:  my weaknesses provide platform for the Holy Spirit to help & be strong through me.  The tricky part for me is to acknowledge that I need Help – not just professional help, but even better, Divine Help!  Be sure to grab a copy of my latest book to see how you can walk with Divine Help!

In Step with the Spirit