Tag Archive | encourage

Something New

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

Lately, I’ve been struggling in the area of discipline. Well, truth be told, I’ve been struggling for a long, long time. Most people who know me would never know or probably believe this to be true. I get things done on time, I appear to be organized and I carry a lot of information around in my head.

Honestly though, I procrastinate. And when I procrastinate, I lose control of my schedule.

I recently took a personality test and one of the statements made about me in my results was that if I say I will do something, I will. People know that and they count on it. I had to laugh a little when I read it because in the sixth grade, when we went around the room and had to say something about ourselves that made us unique, this was the very thing I said about myself. “If I say I will do something, I will.”

The problem I find is that I’m the one I cheat when I procrastinate. Because I feel such a deep commitment to others, an accountability to follow through, I will easily let go of the things I know I should do and have even said to myself that I would do. I don’t feel the same accountability to myself that I do others.

And so I lack discipline. Complete discipline. True discipline.

And worse, I cheat God because sometimes those things I need to do for myself are things He wants me to do for myself. They are things that He wants me to do for Him simply because He says so. They are things that may make a difference somewhere else along the line. As I take time to invest in myself, I’m investing in my future with Him, becoming who He created me to be.

I tend to make decisions based on what’s easy in the moment, convenient for my “rushed” schedule, or seems to be too much work and could interfere with commitments to others. I hold myself more accountable to people than to God.

But what God has been showing me lately, offering me, is a new way of doing things.

A new way to see things.

A new way to make decisions.

A new way to live.

With Him.

In Him.

When God sent Jesus as a babe in the manger born of a virgin, He was doing something new. He was making a new way to Himself.

“’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:31-32a

And,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

As well as,

(In Christ) “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore…” Ephesians 4:22-25a

Therefore.

We don’t simply add Jesus to our way of doing things. We stop doing what we did before we knew Him and we start doing what He shows us to do. We repent, change our thinking, and do what He moves us to do.

I think of life with Christ as more of “T” intersection than a fork in the road. There is a path you can clearly stay on, the one going straight ahead, or you can choose to go a whole new direction. You don’t veer one way or another; you intentionally choose a different path.

And you can’t take a little of this path and a little of that path and fudge your way. That doesn’t work. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried it and I don’t recommend it. It will drive you crazy, maybe literally.

But instead, there is a choice to make: Do I stay on the road I’m on or do I choose a new way?

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the paths of the world will intersect with your new path many, many times and each time, you will have to choose. Will you do what’s easy, convenient and expected or will you choose to be set apart in Christ, doing what’s hard, requiring effort and may even go against the grain of everyone around you? Will you give up what you’ve always done and who you’ve always said you were (who others say you are) and let Jesus renew, restore and redefine who you are in Him.

What new thing is God doing in your life? What new thing is God asking you to do in your relationship with Him? How might this new thing display a heart set on and committed to Him, to world that needs to know Him?

God remembered His people and did something new. Now, it’s your turn.

 

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

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I am (fill in the blank)

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“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

A Wise Leader (Part 1)

© Depositphotos.com/ robertprzybysz

© Depositphotos.com/
robertprzybysz

This is a multi-part blog based on my experience of learning to ask for, receive and accept feedback.

Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

I’m involved in a two-year leadership program at my church. It’s been both challenging and rewarding as we learn about leadership characteristics, church history and movements, and ultimately, what it means to be a Christ follower leading with a servant’s heart. We also break into smaller discipleship groups and talk specifically about what God is doing in our lives, how He’s teaching, loving and caring for us, as well as using us to show His love and compassion to others. Each week we set ourselves aside and soak up what the speaker has to say, what God wants us to hear and how we can move more freely in what He wants us to do. It’s truly a great opportunity to come alongside others who want to be living fully in God’s presence specifically in an area of leadership, wherever that may be.

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31 (NIV)

A few weeks ago we heard a talk about feedback versus criticism (delivered by my wonderful husband, Craig, by the way). I admit this has been a very difficult place for me. I hear through the lens of criticism most of the time. I’ve realized over the last two years that I do not trust many people and even those I trust most, I am still hesitant with in certain situations and with certain topics. I don’t expect others to think the best of me. I also expect to be sacrificed for the sake of others.

God’s love, and the way we are to love each other, is a sacrificial love. It’s a love that gives, serves and even dies for another. But this sacrificial love requires a willingness on the part of the one sacrificing. It is a choice to put yourself in front of an issue and take a stand understanding the risk versus someone taking a step back or no step at all and putting you out in front to take the brunt of the problem.

What I’ve come to understand and am learning to accept is that God is my protection regardless if I’m “sacrificed” by my own choice or the decision of others. Regardless of what comes at me or what I’m thrown into, God has my back. He loves me unconditionally and I am safe, accepted, protected, and loved simply because I trust Him to do so. He is the One through whom all blessings flow, all good things come and He will never leave me to figure things out on my own. He’s in it with me. I just need to trust and obey.

So, back to the point of my message … feedback and criticism.

We were tasked with sending out a review to people who are over, under and next to us. In other words, those who we answer to in our work or volunteering, those we work or serve alongside and those who answer to us in some role or have experienced us as leaders. This can include at work, at church, in ministry, volunteering, family and even friends. (i.e., my husband and I are part of a small group and we’ve organized many functions together. They know how I operate in a group setting working together to accomplish a common goal.)

After I sent the survey, the first thing I did was make a list of every negative thing people could say so that nothing would surprise me. This way, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad to actually hear what a failure I’ve been. The next thing was to go through the list of rated questions and rate myself. I don’t know that I would actually recommend doing either of these things, but it’s just the truth of what I did at the time.

We received our responses this week. In my next blogs I’d like to share a few things I learned about myself and others through this process. For now, I wonder if you’d be willing to consider a few questions yourself.

Something to Consider…

  1. Do you understand the difference between feedback and criticism? Here is a simple definition of each:

Criticism – to find or point out fault

Feedback – to give evaluative or corrective information

Criticism tells you what you did wrong. Feedback helps you move forward. In The 360 Degree Leader, John Maxwell addresses this topic. I highly encourage you to check out this book if you are interested in growing as a leader.

  1. How well do you do at giving and receiving feedback? Do you dread hearing what others have to say about your quality of work or your ability to respond and interact with others? Or do you welcome counsel and advice about how to improve your skills both practically and relationally?
  2. How might God want to grow you in this area? How might God want to use you to help others grow in this area?

 

Why Do I…

W“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Sometimes, I imagine conversations with others. I’m not sure if it’s a writer thing, an introvert thing or just a strange habit, but it happens.

I’ve been struggling with the “why” of what I do. Everyone has reasons for what they do. Reasons that to them, make what they do worth doing.

There are a lot of really good things that I can be doing, but each day I need to choose certain good things over others. It helps when I see the end result of my work or receive feedback and appreciation for what I’ve done. There are also times I just need to do the good thing because it’s the right thing in the moment.

So I imagined someone specific asking me why I blog. This is what I said:

I believe God has laid it on my heart to share with others what He’s sharing with me. He teaches me about Himself every day. He shows me things about myself as well. Ultimately it’s all about my relationship with Him. And He has given me an opportunity and desire to share those things with others.

God knows us and loves us and He wants us know and love Him as well. He has really good things for us.

For example, there was this time when my dog was just a few years old. He was a bit temperamental and we were working with Him to help Him learn to trust us. One day, I just stopped and said to Him, “Why don’t you just listen to me? I give you everything you need. You have food to eat and a warm place to sleep. I play with you and take you for walks. I am happy to just be with you. I don’t want to have to put you in your kennel because you’re not doing what I tell you to do. Don’t you know I just want to love you?”

And I stopped and heard God ask me, “Don’t you know I just want to love you?”

He has provided everything I need. He enjoys me simply because I am me. There is joy in our time together. He doesn’t look to give me consequences, but sometimes He has to. He just wants to love me. And that love requires a response.

And that’s why I write:  God loves me. And in order to experience His love, I need to be in a relationship with Him. That’s how we each experience His love – in relationship with Him. Which means we need to acknowledge Him, look to Him and trust Him.

I hope what I write encourages others to do that, to turn to Him and trust Him. I hope others don’t just know they are loved but experience His love in real ways every day.

I didn’t really consider His response in my imaginary conversation, but I realized it was again, a message worth sharing.

God loves you and wants you to know Him.

Something to Consider…

How has God shown His love for you?

Today, how will you respond to His love for you?

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a

Joy and Suffering

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

My daughter came home from her evening activities one night the other week. She stopped and turned, looked at me and I could tell she was looking for the right words. She is careful with her words and she doesn’t like to complain, but there was something on her mind and I don’t think she meant to complain as much as she was looking for someone to validate how she was feeling.

She started explaining her day; how everything had gone well for the most part: she had a good day at school, did well on a test, enjoyed her time with friends, had a good evening at her job…and then she got an email that something wasn’t quite how it should be. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible thing but it was something she would need to address and it was weighing on her mind a bit as to just how she would handle it.

Her overall question was basically, “Why does it always seem like when things are going well, something has to happen to mess it up?”

Welcome to adulthood and responsibility, my child. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

In a nutshell, this was my response. Just when I think everything is going well, something happens. And just when I think it won’t get any worse, it does. There will always be something that causes us to stop, turn and think about the change that just happened in our day, our situation, or maybe our life.

The truth is we all suffer at some level; some more often than others, but we all do suffer just the same. We all suffer in different ways and as we get older, we have more responsibility and become more practiced at suffering, not only for ourselves but for others as well.

In this world there is pain and suffering all around us. Each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to add to or increase the level of pain, discomfort, or struggle in our lives.  Everyone’s pain is just as important from the perspective of God and He has compassion and mercy for each of us in our own personal condition. This trouble we face has the ability to stop us in our tracks and keep us from an abundant life in Christ. The question is, at what point do we acknowledge our difficulties and turn to God and other brothers and sisters for help?

 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed (because God brings hope and healing); perplexed, but not driven to despair (because God gives knowledge and clarity); persecuted, but not forsaken (because God is always with us); struck down, but not destroyed (because God delivers us to life through Christ); always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (We live in victory, not defeat!) 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (Notes and emphasis added.)

Contrary to this world, in Christ, each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to increase our joy and happiness because we know He is with us and it will end. We already have victory! Regardless of how any current situation plays out in this world, one day it will be over and we will be without tears, without pain, and without sorrow. (Revelation 21:4) It is coming, do not give up!

The beauty of our victory is that we can experience and share it with people now. Do you believe in the victory enough to live it out? Do you share with others the reason for your joy in the midst of what others would consider unbearable? Are you willing to allow others to witness your hope even if they think you are crazy for really believing in that hope? The truth is that the idea of Jesus is crazy! It turns this world upside down and shakes it loose of all its preconceived notions and ideas of what it means to suffer and how to find true happiness and joy in spite of suffering.

Something to Consider…

As you consider 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, is there a situation that you feel afflicted or in pain; perplexed or uncertain; persecuted or abandoned; struck down or hopeless? Call on God with your whole heart, seek Him and His truth. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you how God brings healing, hope, clarity, knowledge, life and victory! God is faithful and trustworthy in all that He does.

It’s important to keep a good perspective regarding the significance of your pain and suffering. It’s easy to make something out of almost nothing and we can often try to downplay our problems not wanting to draw attention to ourselves. Don’t be afraid of letting Jesus and other brothers and sisters in Christ come along side of you so you can remember His perspective and be encouraged.

Choose Life

© DepositPhotos/ Klanneke

© DepositPhotos/ Klanneke

I’ve debated this blog and gone back and forth about it for a week now. I speak from my heart and out of my love for Jesus and His for me. I believe that based on my experience, God is bringing good from it by asking me to speak to this issue. There is hope.

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Moses is writing about the promises of God. God has given us a choice to trust and accept His promises or reject them. There is life in His promises. There is eternal life in heaven, but there is also a fullness of life in the kingdom of heaven on earth.

I heard Graham Cooke speak at a conference in April of 2013 and he said, “What is true in the natural is true in the supernatural and what is true in the supernatural is true in the natural.”

This is something I try to remember as I see and experience the battles I face and understand that there is nothing we go through in this world, the natural world that He hasn’t already dealt with in the supernatural, the spiritual world.

Here’s what Moses says about life and death:

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord you God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)

God has given us the free will to choose life or death. We can choose life in Him for all eternity or death separated from Him for all eternity. That is our choice to make; He has given it to us.

Now how we receive life in Him for all eternity is on His terms, not ours. He gives us the option to choose His terms or not. And His terms – it’s Jesus. Receive the gift of free grace by repentance and faith through Jesus. Do this and you choose life, not death.

Now, if choosing life in the spiritual world is a blessing, then choosing life in the natural world is also a blessing. What is true in the supernatural, the spiritual, is true in the natural.

Let me give you this example: Say I’m married to a wonderful man who has a great job. He provides all I need: a nice home, food on the table, heat, water, healthcare benefits, a 401(k), vacations, and clothing. He brings me gifts and gives me opportunities to take time for my own needs and well-being. There is one thing he does; He hits my daughter once in a while. It’s only once in a while, here and there. Compared to everything else he does and provides it’s really quite insignificant. And besides, my daughter is weak and believes this is really the best answer. She made some mistakes and she can’t really expect there to be a better outcome than this. She understands all the other good things he does for us so she just concentrates on those things while he hits her.

I hope and pray that if I really was in this situation and believed this, you would think I was nuts! You may even want to call the authorities on me and my husband for allowing this to happen. I hope you would tell me how wrong this is. I hope that you would encourage me to leave this man, at least until he received help and understood the evil that was present in his actions. I hope that you would not settle for this life for my daughter.

The truth is we settle for this type of action for our daughters every day. We live in a society that chooses death. It tells women, even young girls, that there is nothing wrong with death. God says death is a curse; society says death is our right and legal choice. They say death is healthcare.

I fully understand that there will always be people in this world who will choose the world’s system over that of God’s. They will believe the lies they are told, that they are weak and need to get rid of their mistakes, make up for their mistakes on their own terms.

But God says we can’t get rid of our mistakes, our sins, on our own terms. Our sin is only removed through the blood of Jesus and we can only receive the blood of Jesus by choosing life, not death.

So as I have opportunity to call people’s attention to the outrageous acceptance of organizations that provide abortions, that say it’s okay to choose death, I will.

Yes, they provide various healthcare options and services for women all across this country. Yes, they meet the needs of many women. But, on occasion, once in a while, they kill babies.

I mean, women are weak (that’s what one woman told me), they are weak and this is the only way they know to deal with their mistake, their accident. It’s completely reasonable that we would overlook this atrocity for all the other benefits these organizations provide. We can’t really be expected to choose life when it hurts, when our situation is difficult, when it’s inconvenient for our own life, can we?

I’m here to tell you this thinking is nuts! This is wrong! Why on earth would we support this thinking for our daughters? When do we stop looking out for our own benefits and comforts and realize the horrible position in which we have helped to put other women? Maybe ourselves?

I choose to stand here and tell you life is a blessing and when you choose life in the natural, you are choosing a blessing. Death is a curse. Death is the consequence of sin in our own lives and the evil actions of others. And while we can’t undo the curse of our own or others actions, Jesus can.

When we stop choosing death and choose life in Christ, He alone removes the curse and gives us abundant blessings; life that never ends.

“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…” Deuteronomy 19b

Life is a blessing. Life is a blessing when it hurts, when it’s difficult and even when it’s inconvenient. Even what we think is an unplanned life is a blessing because God planned it.

“For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 (NIV)

Something to Consider…

Through Jesus, God redeems completely. If you have experienced the pain of an unplanned pregnancy and have chosen an abortion, I want you to know that God loves you and understands your pain. He wants to bless you through your choosing life in Jesus. If you are sorry for having chosen an abortion, tell God. He will forgive you. It’s a promise. You can know the full and abundant love and life found in Christ.

If you believe life is a blessing and death through abortion is not okay, help stop the lie and share the truth of the life found in Christ. He alone can right the wrongs and bring blessings when all that is seen is a curse. Help others understand and know they can choose life!

Let’s Go!

Bobo What's up (2)“‘Master,’ Simon answered, ‘we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down.’” Luke 5:5 (CEV)

I am on a health kick struggle. Some call it a journey, but for me it’s a constant battle of the will to even decide how I’m going to tackle the food and exercise choices each day. Is variety the answer or a consistent planned out routine?

The other day, I chose to walk my dog. He needs to get out more often so it was a twofer. The best part of taking him for a walk is the moment I tell him we are going. Actually, I ask with excitement and anticipation in my voice, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

His head lifts and tilts, his ears perk and his body is at attention. I ask again, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

He turns, stops, and looks at me as if to ask, “Now?”

And then the moment he’s been waiting for, “Let’s go!” He bolts for the door, tail wagging while pacing back and forth as he waits for me to catch up. I love every minute of it!

And if there’s anything he loves, it’s taking a walk. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he drops everything for this one thing…even though he’s on a leash and never more than four feet from me. Even though he never gets to stay and check out a scent for too long. Even though he doesn’t get to choose the direction or the pace, he joyfully comes with me whenever I call.

His excitement, energy and joy made me wonder. What call do I willingly, joyfully drop everything to answer and follow? Is it an activity, a person, or a purpose? Does it matter if I get to choose the destination or the route to get there? Does it matter how fast or slow we go? Do my desires get in my way of being able to stay close, stay focused or continue in excitement? Do I see it as a burden rather than a gift – a gift of spending intentional time with another for a specific reason because I’ve been asked to join in and be part of what’s going on, take part in what this other person is doing?

I love the way Luke 5 tells the story of Jesus calling Peter to come and follow. Other versions simply say he dropped everything and followed. But here in this version we see the real thoughts and emotions of a person who is going about his day, tired from his work, and struggling to follow instructions that seem from his perspective and experience a waste of time.

 “They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.” Luke 5:6-7 (CEV)

After, out of obedience, doing the very thing he didn’t want to do, Peter sees the results that come when working with Jesus.

God is at work in this world. He is everywhere at all times and while He could go alone, He doesn’t. He calls to us to come with, to follow Him and to be part of what He’s doing.

God has made me an offer better than anything I or anyone else could imagine. I know who He is, I know what He’s done, and I know who I’ve been, as does He, which makes the offer all that much more incredible. He wants me to see what He’s doing, listen for His call, and be ready to act when He says, “Let’s go!”

That is my prayer today: that I would be aware of what God is doing, in tune with and listening for His voice above all others and in that moment when He calls I would willingly, joyfully and with great anticipation drop everything in response to His invitation to join Him in His work.

Something to Consider…

How has Jesus called to you and invited you to join Him in what He’s doing? What activities do you struggle to drop so you can follow Him fully?

What results have you seen in your work with Him? What actions do you hesitate to take because you don’t understand how it will play out?

How does knowing God doesn’t need you, but wants you to join Him encourage you to follow Him in whatever way He calls?