Encouragement Everyday

imageWe all appreciate being encouraged. Whether it’s a kind word, the proverbial pat-on-the-back, or even hearing a compliment from an unbiased third party, it makes a difference. Our confidence is renewed, we get an extra spring in our step and the challenges we face in life seem to momentarily fade away. However, encouragement doesn’t have to be a scarce resource, or a limited commodity. Rather, it can be a daily V.I.P. experience when our priorities and purposes are clearly defined and fixed on the Divine:

Valued: It has been correctly stated that our self-worth is not tied to our net-worth. For self-worth is determined by God, while net-worth is defined by man. We also know the value of many gifts can’t even begin to be measured by money. Likewise, we are priceless treasures to Christ, whose lives meant more to Him than His very own (Titus 2:14).

Industrious: A joyful spirit is not one that sits, soaks and sours. Rather, it is one tied to a righteous heart actively engaging in various opportunities to give for the glory of God (Ephesians 2:10). Just consider, when we give, our hands are open to receive the spiritual fruits that flow back to the generous. However, when we pursue accumulation, we tend to clinch and cling, resulting in clasped hands that are unable to share anything. Ironically, an abundant life is a giving life, and the spiritual gains we receive in return, far surpass anything this material world has to offer.

Purposeful: The day I realized my purposes were aligned with Jesus’, my entire reason for living was transformed. My priorities were also strategically positioned as follows: 1. Faith stewardship (God) 2. Family stewardship 3. Fitness stewardship (health) 4. Financial stewardship (job). As a result, making decisions became much easier and my devotion to each area greatly improved. For I no longer sacrificed my higher priorities for the sake of my lower ones – like I used to so naively do. After all, with God properly positioned as first and foremost in our life, He promises to lead and help us in effectively caring for all the rest (Matthew 6:33).

Application: “Career Calling” – Isaiah 58:6-9
So often, we struggle to find the perfect career in hopes of ultimately finding happiness. However, happiness is fleeting and every job has its share of troubles. Therefore, once we understand we are disciples of Jesus first, willing to go wherever He sends us, we begin to look less at our jobs, and more at the opportunities. We also begin to filter our career decisions in prayer, desiring God’s will for our life and trusting He will set our feet on solid ground. This serves as daily encouragement to embark on the career(s) Christ has called us to – resulting in earthly and even greater Kingdom impact.

Hard Made Humble

imageThere’s no doubt that the pains, problems and prickles of this world can cause us to be calloused if we allow them to overrule our Christian world view. However, as believers, we thankfully don’t have to fall victim to this depressed state of being. Rather, we posses the power through our relationship with Christ to overcome and avoid obstacles such as the following:

Hard-Living: A “hard” lifestyle can begin in a very subtle way – maybe it starts with a simple drink to relax, but in time, more drink is required. Then, perhaps even greater outlets are desired to let off steam. We begin neglecting exercise, indulging our appetites, watching too much late night television due to restlessness and before long, our activities catch up with us. For me, I became 50 pounds overweight, began to have asthmatic symptoms and was sent to the doctor due to chest pains caused by stress. Clearly, not a good state of being. How did I get this way? God hadn’t been my first priority in quite awhile. It was a time when I was too consumed living for myself and as a result, I was unknowingly killing myself. Thankfully, God used all this to get my attention, wise me up and get my priorities straight. Today, the excess weight is gone, the asthma is gone and there are no more chest pains! It’s true – God’s love is overwhelming, and He graciously welcomes all His prodigals back home with open arms (Luke 15:20).

Hard-Hearted: When we’re too busy thinking about ourselves, there’s little room to care for others, much less God. As a result, our heart begins to harden like clay in the scorching sun. Thankfully, there is hope. For Christ delivers the living water necessary to restore the hardest of hearts (Ezekiel 36:26)!

Hard-of-Hearing: When we’re preoccupied, it’s hard to hear God, which makes it even harder to obey His direction. Unfortunately, in such a fast paced world full of noise and distraction, it’s easy to become hard of hearing. Therefore, let us always be intentional in getting our alone time with God – and listening (Luke 5:16).

Application: “Called To Care” – Philippians 2:4 We are not islands designed to exist solely for ourselves. This reality however conflicts directly with our flesh’s natural inclination and with the world’s “have it your way” promotions. Rather, we are to serve and love one another with no other priority greater than God. However, only He has the power to change our hearts so that we can even begin to care for others to the degree He desires us to. Ironically, as this begins to happen, we soon realize we receive more than we give and could have ever sought.

Solutions For The Secular

imageEven though we currently live and operate in a secular world, that doesn’t mean we have to live and operate the same way it does. For we are called to bring hope and light into the world through Christ. However, as we know, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do.  For me, there was a time I only knew the world’s definition of happiness and success. Eventually, through the grace of God, I came to realize that a life filled with pursuing more possessions, positions and pleasures leads only to troubles, not triumph. It’s strange to even think back on those days, for it’s hard to believe I thought the way I did. The stranger thing is, I considered myself a Christian back then. I believed in Jesus, but I clearly wasn’t following Him, or surrendering my life to Him. Does this sound familiar? Do you believe in Jesus, but find yourself living more by the world’s standards than God’s? Thankfully, for all of us, there are Holy solutions for a secular world that involves us making impact for the Kingdom of God in the following key areas:

Leading: There are many leaders, yet so few lead by God’s standards. We see this everyday in the media. Heroes in the world’s eyes seemingly getting away with unscrupulous acts. However, this shouldn’t surprise us. Instead, I pray it inspires us to stand-out and lead the way the Bible teaches (Luke 22:26). We hear about servant leadership, but we get to truly see it in action when we study the biographies of those who went before us in the Word of God. For example, Moses has much to teach in the areas of delegation and prioritization. Joseph demonstrates giving one’s best no matter the circumstances. David illustrates the power of encouraging others, loyalty and repentance. And of course, these are only a few of the mentors and lessons revealed by God to better equip us as the leaders He desires to use to literally transform the world.

Loving: God loves and teaches us to love in the secular. He demonstrates what love is meant to be and what it can be. Then, He empowers us to love others and in the process, we end up reciprocating His love back to Him. It’s a cycle that transforms the hardest of hearts and the most damaged of souls. Love has the power to heal as it reveals Christ – all at the same time! What a powerful concept and what a gift this world so desperately needs more of (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Living: What do you do for a living? Immediately when asked this question, many of us first think of our occupation. However, what if we began viewing our jobs instead as divine gateways God uses to propel His workers into the world? For we are disciples first, and our lives when surrendered to Him, are used to promote His kingdom throughout the secular world, whether it be through our jobs, hobbies and/or any other way He may choose to send us out (Luke 10:2-3).

Application: “Words To The Wise” – Mark 8:35-36
In the search for satisfaction, we can easily be drawn to secular ideas. However, even if we acquire the very things we are told will make us happy, what good are they, if in the process of acquiring them we forfeit our souls? Instead, true satisfaction comes from living for God and in His blessings, where we get to enjoy His favor, impact the world and proclaim His glory. Of course, this can only be realized when we stop striving for ourselves. However, this involves a daily process of surrender – for the world, our flesh and the enemy will always be pulling to distract us from this devotion. Therefore, may we be diligent to not only believe in Christ, but be bold enough to surrender our lives to Him and wise enough to know we cannot live, love, or lead to our fullest potential without daily time with Him, His people and His word.

Held By The Holy

imageI’m very thankful for having had the opportunity to teach my kids how to ride their bikes. Those are memories we look back on fondly. However, what if rather than taking an encouraging approach, I had chosen a frustrated and ridiculing one? Both my kids may have never learned how to ride and if they did, it definitely wouldn’t have been a joyful and celebratory experience. Likewise, our Heavenly Father seeks to teach and develop us not in demeaning ways, but in ways filled with love and grace:

Direction: God desires to set the best direction for our life and when we allow Him to do so, He makes our steps secure (Psalm 25:12). Clearly, we’ll continue to face obstacles, but they are there intentionally in order to strengthen our faith, build our trust and promote our reliance on Him.

Deliverance: Through Christ, the shackles of sin that once entangled us are broken and we are empowered to walk confidently in our new freedom. For as His children, we are delivered from past strongholds and no mountain of temptation is too great to overcome when we reach out to His loving hands (Galatians 5:1).

Development: God promotes our spiritual maturity so that we will be more than “place holders” in this life (Titus 3:14). We may be saved, but once saved, we’re called to make impact for the Kingdom and to be “proactive helpers” in spreading the good news Christ offers.

Application: “Placed With Purpose”Romans 9:17
We are all created with intentionality and purpose – no one is an accident and falls outside of God’s providence. Therefore, we can be confident knowing that the people we meet, the places we go and the positions we hold are not based on luck, or coincidence. Rather, they are opportunities God prepares for us in order to deepen our faith and demonstrate His glory so that all may be without a reason to ever be separated from His love unknowingly.

Customized Ride

imageMy father-in-law is truly gifted at restoring and customizing antique cars. He has the ability to transform practically anything with four wheels no matter how rusted and ripped it may be into a jaw dropping work of art that’s desired by the most scrutinizing of collectors. Interestingly, he doesn’t ask the car what color it wants to be, how it prefers to be customized, or where it wants to be housed because he knows what’s best. He knows the market demand and he has the ability to bring forth its highest value. Likewise, God customizes each of His children and knows what’s best for us, even when we don’t understand why He allows, or does what He does. Through it all, we can trust He has our best interests at heart and knows how to bring the highest value to our life. Our daily experiences with this divine customization however are greatly determined by our attitudes:

Compare: Even though we know God knows best, how often do we compare our life with the life of other believers? We may question why God allows one person to have a nicer car to drive, nicer job, nicer family and/or nicer looks while we’re stuck with what appears to be less than. However, Jesus reassures us as He did with Peter when he sought to compare his life with John’s (John 21:21) that we needn’t worry about such trivial matters. For God customizes each of us to have the greatest impact specific to our unique situations and encounters.

Complain: There are also those times we tend to complain about where God has us. We may know we are exactly where He wants us to be, but we still grunt and grumble because we want more. We feel we’re ready for more, but God has us and seems to keep us in smaller conditions. After all, doesn’t God always expand our position, if He is pleased with us? Consider – if that were always the case, who would He use to disciple those in the smaller spaces, and who would go there if all His saints waited only for the prominent roles (Zechariah 4:10)?

Content: Then of course, there are those times we’re in the “sweet spot”. This is when we are seeking God, obeying God and content to be where He has us, giving our best to Him for His glory and ready to be moved whenever He decides the time is right (Philippians 4:11). However, how often do we truly allow ourselves to enjoy such contentment?

Application: “Gasping & Grasping?” – John 3:27
It’s not that we are wrong for desiring more, or wanting more, but does it disrupt our peace, steal our joy and distort our perspective? When we compare ourselves with others and complain about our conditions how can we possibly expect to be the “salt and light” He has called us to be? We’ll always be grasping for more until we learn to trust God and give our best to Him regardless of our circumstances. For when we find our joy in serving Him, the smallest and most unattractive duties begin to take on new life. Then, when He is ready – He moves us on to our next mission and we become the vessels He can use whenever and wherever there is need.