Aug 21

How do we argue? – Day 71

“A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.” -Proverbs 18:19

How true.

Immediately when we feel challenged there is something that rises up inside of us that causes us to want to fight.  We shut down towards the other person’s point of view and just wait for our turn to tell them why they are wrong.  In return, we are greeted by the same wonderful response from their end.

Rarely do disputes end well for either side.

So how do we combat this?  The first step is recognizing what is going on and stopping it before it even begins.

Whenever you listen to a dispute from the outside looking in, it is typically fairly comical.  Generally there is actually quite a bit more common ground then either party realizes.  If only they would first seek to understand the other person’s point of view before wishing to be understood, a lot of these issues could be avoided entirely.

So next time you catch yourself about to respond sharply to someone, pause.  Smile.  Then listen some more.  When you are finally ready to have a healthy discussion without the initial emotions attached, then it is time to share what is on your heart.  However, by taking a little extra time you will be far better equipped to have this conversation with a smile instead of a scowl.  You will be in a much better place to make it a discussion instead of a dispute.

Then at the end of it all you will still have a friend who doesn’t resemble a fortified fortress or barred gates of a citadel!

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Aug 20

“Go away from me, Lord!” – Day 70

“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

-Luke 5:4-11

I have read this passage so many times as a Christian but today it really hit me from a different angle.  Previously I had always read this through the lens of the miracle that Jesus performed or from the angle of Jesus calling us to all be fishers of men.  Today a smaller part of this story struck me.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 

How often do we do this in our lives when it comes to God’s blessings?  I know there have definitely been moments in my life where I have been far from Christ and yet for no apparent reason he continues to remain faithful and bless me.  At these times logic would suggest that we instantly turn back and cry, “Thank you Lord!  I am so unworthy and yet you love me so much!  Thank you!”  However, out of guilt I have definitely had times where I sounded a whole lot more like Peter.

“God, I don’t deserve your love.  You shouldn’t bless me.  In my shame I can’t even think of drawing close to you and you shouldn’t even want me to!  Go away from me!”

Out of guilt and shame we run.  We are unable to accept that Christ could really be THAT loving, THAT patient, and desire to pursue us THAT much!  So, we continue to engage in the exact same behavior that put us in the place of guilt and shame in the first place.

Jesus loves us anyway.  Despite how many times you have told him to go away, maybe not directly in prayer, but indirectly through actions and letting the relationship fade, he is still there waiting with open arms.  His love never diminishes. He wants you in his kingdom.  He wants you as an ally.  And he wants you to use your God given talents to become a fisher of men.

This time, will we get out of the boat?

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Aug 19

Understanding Christ’s Love – Day 69

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

-Ephesians 3:14-19

It is so hard to believe as a Christian that God could possibly love us as much as he does. I struggle with this constantly. We are always so far from perfect. We are always defying God’s will in one way or another. We are unable to keep from having an earthly focus at times. We can never fully avoid pride, anger, jealousy, etc. Yet God loves us.

He not only loves us, he loves us so much that he was willing to send his son for us. It truly is hard to fathom. So today, I am praying as Paul prayed for the Ephesians. I am kneeling before the father and praying for the ability to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. I am praying that I may understand and accept that this love surpasses all knowledge. I pray that even though I may never fully understand how it is possible, I am still able to grasp that his love is real.

Understanding that we will never fully understand is important. We do not need to fully understand something to fully appreciate it.

Today I pray that I can put aside my analytical side and stop trying to figure how God could love me this much. Today I pray that I can accept it fully and enjoy dwelling in this love.

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Aug 18

Taking advice – Day 68

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

-Proverbs 9:7-9

I have always loved this series of verses in Proverbs because I feel that it gives us a great look at how to deal with people more effectively. I have always viewed these verses through the lens of “How should I act towards others who need advice?” Today I got to thinking about it from the other side.

What does the way I respond to advice say about me?

Would an outside observer look at the way I handle criticism and say, “There is someone who is wise and righteous. They are becoming wiser still and increasing their learning!”?

Or . . .

Would an outside observer watch the way I respond to criticism and say, “Gosh, I need to make sure I never correct him! I will get nothing but insults, abuse, and hatred!”

I used to DEFINITELY fall into the second category all throughout my life up until about 4 years ago.  If you tried to give me advice I would get defensive, rationalize why you were wrong, and refuse to grow.  I was not a fun person to correct.  It took a truly humbling experience my first year in my career as a District Sales Manager to force me to grow up in this area of my life.  I still struggle from time to time as we all do, but I would like to think that people would now view me through the first lens.  I hope that people know that they can always be honest with me and that I am willing to hear constructive criticism with an open mind and open heart.

I still have a ways to go, but this is what God want for us in our lives.

God wants us to always strive to get better. He wants us to always attempt to grow closer to him and maximize our God given abilities for his kingdom. God does not want us stagnant as Christians counting down the days on earth until salvation. God does not want an army of Christians saying, “That is just how I am.” or “I have everything under control.” God desires growth.

So when you receive advice over this next year of your life take a step back and pause before responding and ask yourself, “Do I want to be a mocker or wise? Wicked or righteous?”

We all may find ourselves getting some really good advice!

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Aug 17

Never Shaken – Day 67

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

-Psalm 62:1-2, 5-8

Today I will live out this truth.  Who is with me?

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Aug 16

“Take this cup . . .” – Day 66

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

-Luke 22:39-44

Jesus did not want to die on the cross. He did not want to have nails driven through his hands and feet. He did not want a lance to stab him in the side. He did not want to be beaten, whipped, and tortured. He did not wants to ultimately hang from a cross until his strength gave out entirely and he surrendered himself to death. Jesus did not want any of this.

The night before he gave himself up he prayed that God would take this cup from him. He was under so much stress knowing what was about to take place that he sweat blood. This is known to take place when people are under unbelievable mental, physical, and emotion duress. Jesus wanted to run and hide.

But ultimately he wanted God’s will to be done more.

I think it is important to remember these facts as we consider the sacrifice that was made on the cross. Sometimes as Christians we can have a tendency to loose proper perspective when thinking about the cross. As Christians we profess to love Christ more than anyone in our lives. Imagine the person you love most here on earth. Imagine them taking on this sacrifice. Imagine them being the one asking you to take the cup away from them.

I would have been the disciple with the sword cutting off the ear when the soldiers came. I could never let that happen to someone I love.

Jesus was willing to make the sacrifice . . . but he did not want to.

However, his desire for God’s will to be done was greater than his desire for comfort.  He went willingly.

How about us?  When God puts something in our path, do we take it on willingly?  I know that I frequently pray the prayer, “God, if you are willing take this cup from me . . .” but I think I probably have a much more extended pause than Jesus before saying, “. . .but your will be done.”  I often will leave that part of the prayer off entirely.

I think we all struggle with this from time to time when we do not want to be present and fully engaged in the current ministry that God has us in.  When struggling with something we would much rather God just take the cup from us.

God wants us to fight this human nature and work joyfully towards his purpose for us in the moment we are in.

Today I will pray with conviction,  “Your will be done.”

God has amazing things in store for your day if you fully embrace living for him!

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Aug 15

Accepting Christ’s Yoke – Day 65

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

There are so many times in my life when I want to be off.  I want to be frustrated.  I want to be stressed.  I want to be sad.  I want to be emotionally worn out.  I want to be worried.  I want to be self conscious.  I want to be nervous.  I want to dwell.  My soul is experiencing anything other than rest.

Yesterday felt a lot like that for me.  So many circumstances out of my control.  So many challenges in the lives of people I care about.

Christ says, “Come to me.”

We say, “No.”

Christ says, “You are worried and burdened, I will give you rest.”

We say, “No thanks.  I got this.”

Christ says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We say, “Listen, Christ, thanks for the thought, but I have had a lot of tough stuff going on.”

Christ says, “I already know, but I am here.  You don’t have to do any of this alone.  I really do want to give you rest for your soul.  That wasn’t just something nice to say.  Let me help.  The battle is already won.  Go live joyfully today in the knowledge of that victory!  Go let your light shine!  Take my yoke!”

What will you choose to say today?

I am going to take his yoke!

 

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Aug 14

Where is our refuge? – Day 64

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

-Psalm 118:8-9

These verses in the Psalms today are completely on target.  When we put our faith in mankind we will inevitably be let down.  No one is perfect and we all make mistakes on occasion.  When we put all of trust in human beings we are simply opening up ourselves to heartache.  We have all probably been on the emotional rollercoaster from time to time in life when we feel like there are few people we can count on.  People let us down, do not do what they say they are going to, or decide not to do the right thing.  People do not take responsibility for their actions and will not always work to make things right when we have been impacted by their actions.  The question is how do we respond?

When faced with someone’s actions that are adding stress to our lives do we allow it to consume us?  Do we allow that to be all that we are able to focus on?  Does it ruin our mood and make us live our lives differently?

God wants us to put our trust in him.

Human beings will let us down.  We will let others down.

God is always faithful.

Ultimately it comes down to where we choose to take refuge.  It comes down to where we place our trust.  Princes? Humans? Or the Lord?

If you truly want to step off of the emotional rollercoaster you need to trust in the Lord.  He is the only one who will never let you down!

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Aug 13

His love endures forever! – Day 63

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

-Psalm 136:1-9

Sometimes it is incredible to think that God’s love for us always endures despite all of our shortcomings. We can never fully keep ourselves from our inborn sinful nature, and yet his love endures forever. This Psalm really put me in a mood for praise today.

It is incredible to think about all of the amazing works of God, and then to remember that he loves us all as individuals. He loves me. He loves you.

This is the Lord of Lords, and he loves us.

This is the creator of the heavens and the earth, and he loves us.

He is the author of all great things, and he loves us.

It is a pretty powerful thing to consider.

I know that I struggle at times to maintain my own level of love for even those closest to me. When they frustrate me, it is so easy to let my love for them slip. Imagine if we all knew ALL OF EACH OTHERS FLAWS! Loving each other would become even harder!
God does know all of these things. He knows ever thought of our mind. He knows our every action. Despite all of this, his love endures forever.

That is something that truly deserves our praise!  Go live out of this excitement today!  Go live a life that praises God with every moment.  His love endures forever!

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Aug 12

Keeping it simple – Day 62

Praise the LORD, all you nations; 
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

Praise the LORD.

-Psalm 117

Reading Psalm 117 made me smile today. The passage above is actually the entire chapter! Psalm 117 happens to be the shortest chapter in the entire Bible. Sometimes though you can say so much with so few words.

His love truly is so great.

His faithfulness really does endure forever.

We should live in a state of constant wonder and desiring praise God for this fact!

It was a great reminder for me this morning to keep things simple.

Keep it simple today.  God love you like crazy.  He will always be faithful.  Go praise him with your words, actions, and heart!

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