A Truth That Can Keep You Going, Every Time

“He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

How many items have you left unfinished? A book? A house repair project? A diet? A good intention? An exercise regimen? A New Year resolution? I’m not jumping on you. I have my share of loose end, too. I could list many “could-have-beens” and “should-have-beens” from my own life.

Folks like us don’t always finish what we start. God, on the other hand, always finishes what He starts. Can you imagine what this world would be like if He didn’t? One pastor has said,

  • The world would only be partially created.
  • The death of Jesus would be partially finished.
  • The Holy Scriptures would be partially written.
  • The resurrection of our Lord would be partially fulfilled.
  • The Holy Spirit would be partially given.
  • The reality of Christ’s return would be partially true.

The world would be an awful place to live in if God didn’t finish what He started.  Our faith would be built on nothing, and our hope insecure.  That is why I hold tightly to the promise given us in Philippians 1:6. God finishes what He starts, and that includes us.

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Have you ever seen these initials? P.B.P.G.I.N.F.W.M.Y. They stand for, “Please Be Patient God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.” The moment you placed your faith and trust in God, He started a work in you that will not end until Jesus returns one day. Do you understand how encouraging this truth is?

God is working in your life to conform you to the image of Jesus. God’s goal for you is to be more and more like Jesus each day. I know what you are thinking. I have moments in my life when I am anything but “like Jesus.”  But my bad behavior does not negate God’s work in me. He will finish conforming me, and you, into the likeness of Jesus.

Have you ever experienced a failure and thought to yourself, Will I ever be the person God wants me to be? Yes, you will if you continue to love Him, trust Him, and submit your life to Him. Remember, God finishes what He starts.

Have you dealt with a problem, a big mess, and wondered, Does God know what I am facing? And is He even doing anything about this problem? Most certainly, because He has this amazing way of taking our problems, using them to build our character, and make us stronger. Yes, God finishes what He starts, even in our messes.

Have you ever asked, “Is there a plan, a purpose, for my life?” Yes, and God is working out those  purposes and plans. In God’s mind is a completed version of you, and a completed plan just for you. And God is bringing that plan to completion. Trust Him on this one.

This great work God is doing in your life takes time, it requires God’s special tools, sometimes it takes problems and difficulties, but most of all it takes you placing yourself in His hands.

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When I served as pastor of an Alabama church years ago, 5-year-old Stephanie sang this song in church one day:

“He’s still working on me.

To make me what I oughta be.

It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the earth, and Jupiter and Mars.

How loving and patient He must be.

He’s still working on me.” (Sung by the Hemphills)

This really is a truth that can keep you going no matter what life throws at you. And that is hopeful!

 

 

 

2 Words That Bring Hope, Every Time

“Life is hard,” reads the opening line of Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. We could also add, “And the world isn’t fair.” We learn these 2 lessons at some point. Yet, we can still live abundantly even in the face of hard times. How? 2 simple words. “Choose Joy”

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The New Testament apostle and missionary, Paul, wrote, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). 1 Thessalonians 5:16 adds, “Always be joyful.” The 2 words? Choose joy. That’s the instruction of these lifechanging Bible verses.

What Is Joy?

The word joy can be found in the Scriptures 242 times; and when you add the related words rejoice, joyful, and rejoicing, the number swells to 550 instances of joy in the Bible. That’s a lot of joy!

This great Bible word is not an emotional feeling. Nor is joy something you create or work up. Joy does not mean that you were lucky. And joy is more than happiness. The word describes the inner delight that comes to us when we trust God. Joy is the inner experience of hope, delight, gladness, blessedness, and peace that is real in spite of what might be going on around you. Yes, you can experience God’s joy no matter how dreadful your circumstances.

Many people think that God is the great Kill-Joy. Nothing could be a bigger lie. God Himself knows joy, and He wants His people to know joy. Psalm 104:31 speaks of God Himself rejoicing in His creative works. Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God rejoicing over His redeemed people who will be to Him “a joy.

The Bible teaches us to “choose” this joy. It is available to anyone who will believe God’s promises and trust Him. Even more, when you fully believe and trust God, joy finds you. Joy is the result of seeking, knowing, and trusting God.

Two individuals can experience the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust God and to believe that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. The first person’s response is the response of choosing joy.

How Do You Choose Joy?

Joy won’t simply happen to you. Instead, you have to choose joy, and choose joy each day. Here’s how.

  • Give your life to Jesus. The Bible teaches that joy is a gift to those who belong to Jesus. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
  • Live according to the teaching of the Bible. “The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart” (Psalm 19:8).
  • Trust God, not only with your life, but also with your problems, needs, and daily activities. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace was you trust in him” (Romans 15:13).
  • Surrender your personal agenda to God’s agenda for you. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
  • Be generous. “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2).

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John Piper has said, “Sometimes we have to fight for joy.” When life hands us a setback, problem, difficulty or trial we can choose to be miserable, consumed by worry and despair. Or we can choose joy. The choice to rejoice always brings hope.

12 Ways to Help Almost Anyone with Almost Any Kind of Problem

Here’s a simple 2-question test. One, do you know anyone who has a problem? Two, would you like to help, but you aren’t sure how to get started? If you answered “yes” to either question, this practical article is for you. What follows are 12 ways to help almost anyone with almost any kind of problem.

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Listen, Listen, Listen

The ultimate caregiving skill is focused listening. Most people who have a problem need someone to talk to. James 1:19 in the Bible says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak.” That’s great advice for helping others.

Guard the Confidence People Place in You

People you help often tell you things that are extremely personal or confidential. Resist the temptation to blab to others what you have been told. The confidence people place in you is a sacred trust.

Give Advice Cautiously

Here’s why. You could become responsible for the advice given. Your better approach is to assist your friend in finding options for solving his or her problem, then allowing that person to make his or her own decisions.

Don’t Condemn People

Back off from saying, “I can’t believe you did something that stupid!” or “What were you thinking?” Hurting people feel badly enough. So, don’t add to a friend’s heavy load through critical judgment.

Be Alert to Warning Signals

“Warning signals” are signs of behavior that just are not typical in the person you are seeking to help. For example, your friend has always been jovial, positive, and upbeat. But lately you have noticed indications that your friend is greatly discouraged. That’s a warning signal that something is going on.

Be Careful Where You Help People

Be alert not to advise/assist people of the opposite sex alone, or in a questionable environment. Enough said.

Point People to Hope

I find that people who are overwhelmed by their problems tend to feel hopeless. They really think they have no way out. Not true! When Jesus is in your life you never are without hope. He can break down barriers, solve problems, and provide solutions—every time.

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Don’t Try to Defend God

Hurting people often question God, like, “Why has God allowed this to happen to me?” “Doesn’t God know we already have enough problems?” You might feel threatened by heavy theological questions. So, simply remind folks of God’s love and care, but don’t attempt to defend Him. He is capable of defending Himself.

Avoid Saying, “I Know How You Feel”

No you don’t! Better to say, “I know you are hurting” or “I am so sorry.”

Pray for the Person You Are Helping

God works in amazing ways in response to our prayers. Depend on Him to guide, strengthen, uplift, help, and motivate the person you are helping.

Refer When Necessary

You might find yourself in a situation that is over your head. It’s time to refer your friend to someone who has more knowledge about the problem than you.

Help Yourself Stay Strong

If you constantly find yourself helping others, but you do nothing to refuel and replenish yourself, you will burn out. Read your Bible for personal guidance and strength. Accept your limitations. Find a trusted friend you can talk with. Do something positive and uplifting for yourself.

Practice these 12 principles and you will be able to offer hope to almost anyone with almost any kind of problem.

South Carolina, Hope, and You

While watching the recent summer Olympic events on TV, I listened to an announcer introduce an athlete from South Carolina. The announcer went on to describe the state’s motto: “Dum Spiro Spero,” which is Latin for “While I Breathe, I Hope.”

That same statement could be the personal motto for every follower of Jesus: “While I breathe, I hope,” meaning there is never a time when a Christ-follower is without hope.

Yes, I understand that we live in difficult times. People lose their jobs. The stock market falls. Cancer takes lives. We still hear reports of natural catastrophes. Friends betray us. Couples divorce. Children disobey their parents, and sometimes, in awful ways. No wonder some people think they are without hope.

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Let me show you where real and never-ending hope can be found: Through personal faith in Jesus Christ, and through trust in God’s Word, the Bible. Don’t turn me off. Stay with me, please.

I teach a small-group Bible study on Sunday mornings at my local church. Last Sunday we studied some words of one of Jesus’ deeply committed followers, Simon Peter. In his letter found in the Bible, 1 Peter, we find these words. In Jesus, we have “a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3).

Jesus died on a Roman cross, and in doing so, took the punishment for our sins upon Himself, providing the way we can be forgiven of all our sins—through personal trust in what He did on that cross. He did that because He loves us so much.

Here’s even more good news. Jesus did not stay dead. After His crucifixion (death on the cross), God raised Him from the dead. Jesus is alive today. So, when we place our faith in Jesus we are given a LIVING HOPE. Our faith is not in some dead religious figure from the past. Rather our faith is in the living Lord Jesus.

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Now, understand something important. In the Bible, the word hope does not mean a kind of wishy-washy positive thinking. No, the Bible word hope means “confident assurance.” And what is it that we are confident and sure about? That God will keep every promise He has made in the pages of Holy Scripture!

This truth is explained in the Bible verse, Romans 15:4: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Did you know that your growing knowledge of the Scriptures affects your attitude toward your problems in the present and in the future? We never know what a day might bring, right? Trust in God’s promises helps you persevere through tough times. And when you know God’s promises, then no matter what life throws at you, you can face all those tough times with hope. God’s promises tell you that God cares about you, and that He will take care of you.

So, do you see, now, what I mean when I say that while you breathe, you can have never-ending hope? Remember, a constant stream of hope is always found in the living Word, Jesus, and the written Word, the Bible. People who push Jesus to the fringes of their life, and never open a Bible, don’t have much hope. That’s not harsh. It’s just the truth.

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Find Hope in the Scriptures Through Your Personal Study of Psalm 34.

EveryDayBook

Gary’s newest book. “Every Day Can Be a Great Day: Convincing Promises from Psalm 34.”

Order you copy by going to the link at the top of this post (or located in the “menu” on your smart phone), and click on “Gary’s Books.”

Don’t Be a Hypocrite

“And you must set an example to them by doing good deeds of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Let your teaching be so correct that it can’t be criticized. Then those who want to argue will be ashamed because won’t have anything bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8).

A man pulled his truck into a store’s parking lot. On the left rear bumper of his truck was the sticker, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). But on the right rear bumper was a different sticker: “Don’t tailgate me or I’ll flip a booger on your windshield.”

One major excuse many people give for not attending church or for not embracing Christianity is the charge that there are just too many hypocrites in the church.

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Are there hypocrites in the church? Yes, yes, yes. In all churches are folks who do not practice what they preach.

We hear news accounts of preachers who were caught in adultery, alcoholism, or some other inconsistency. Sometimes church volunteer leaders are not always people of integrity.

How, then, can we NOT be hypocrites? Reflect on the 2 Bible verses at the beginning of this post. A young minister named Titus had been assigned the responsibility to serve Christian believers on the Island of Crete. The people there had come to Jesus out of pagan backgrounds. Titus’ charge was to show them how to live like authentic Christians should live. These 2 Bible verses show us how NOT to be a hypocrite.

Set An Example in Everything You Do

That’s how the verses begin: “You must set an example.” None of us are perfect, but we must be the best examples we can possibly be, with God’s help.

What rating would you give your personal example today? I’m talking about the example you model in front of your children, at work, in front of your friends, and at church.

Always Do What Is Right

Our Bible text continues: “Doing good deeds of every kind.” This phrase speaks to what is ethically and morally good, always doing the right thing.

Would God approve of the methods you are using to accomplish some of your personal goals? Is there a persistent sin in your life? Are you taking ethical shortcuts in some area of your life?

Make Sure You Have No Integrity Gaps

“Let everything you do reflect integrity,” states our Bible passage. Integrity is not so much what we do, but who and what we are as a person. Your system of personal values is so much a part of you that you cannot separate it from who you are.

Are there any integrity gaps in your life today? Any gaps between what you are saying and what you are doing?

Earn the Respect of People

Our Bible text uses the word seriousness. That word does not mean that you walk around each day with a serious look on your face, or that you never laugh and have a good time. The word is a picture of a person who “has it together.” She knows her mission. Bible-based priorities guide his life. She is responsible. He keeps his promises and commitments. Does the way you live gain the respect of people? Or do people just laugh you off?

Bring Out the Best Through Your Spoken Words

Our verses speak of “teaching  so correct it cannot be criticized.” The word correct there literally means “health.” The idea is that the words we speak, the teaching, advice, and instruction we give, should bring health and healing to people. Our spoken words should bring out the best, not the worst, in others.

Among all the words you have spoken today, how many were spoken in anger? How many of your words were carelessly spoken? How many of you words did nothing to build up others?

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A recent report from the Barna Group noted that large numbers of Americans believe that religion as a whole is losing its influence. Let’s not be hypocrites. A consistent life with Jesus Christ at the center really does give people hope.

10 Statements Not to Say to Grieving People

Perhaps you recently went to the local funeral home to share your condolences when a friend’s spouse or parent died. You might have felt uncomfortable because you didn’t know what to say.

As a member of the clergy, I have conducted, and attended, hundreds of funeral services. I have heard people say some hope-filled words during these occasions, but I have also heard people say some awful things.

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“He (or she) is in a better place.” You don’t know; only God does. The problem with these words is that the grieving person wants that deceased loved one here, with him or her now, no matter how difficult the past weeks or months might have been.

Better: “I know you miss him (or her).” These words show that you are aware of the pain.

“I know how you feel.” Actually, you don’t. Sure, you might have lost someone by death, but remember that each person’s experience of grief and sadness is different. No two griefs are the same.

Better: “I have been thinking about you a lot. I hurt for you.” These words show that you do have some awareness of the pain, that in some way, you do have some understanding of the pain.

“It was God’s will” or “It’s what God intended.” This statement can make a person feel angry. The grieving person might think, “I don’t think God had anything to do with it.” Or “I think I could have come up with a different plan.”

Better: Just say, “I am so sorry.” That is enough.

“Don’t cry.” During the journey of grief, tears are therapeutic.

Better: Don’t be put off by another’s weeping. Be silent while the person cries.

“God will never give you more than you can handle.” This statement is a distorted interpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 (“He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear”). These words imply that if the grieving person is not handling things well then he or she must be weak, ineffective, or not capable.

Better: “This has to be hard for you.” Such a statement lets your friend know that you have some awareness of how difficult and burdensome the person’s loss has been.

“Time will heal all hurts and wounds.” Time only passes by. What has the potential to heal is not the passing of time, but what we do within that time.

Better: Just give the grieving person the time he or she needs. All people travel through the grief journey differently, and in differing time frames.

“Let me know if I can help.” I know that this common question comes from a heart of gold. However, a grieving person might feel so overwhelmed that he or she does not even know what can help at the moment.

Better: In the words of the athletic shoe commercial, “Just do it.” Say, “How about if I wash a load of clothes for you.” “Today is garbage day; I’ll take your can to the street.” “Who can I call for you?”

“It was his (or her) time to go.” How do you know? If the person died a nice, peaceful death in old age, then maybe this statement is accurate. But what if the person’s death was caused by an accident or a murder? Then it wasn’t that person’s time. The individual’s life was cut short.

Better: Say, “Your dad was loved by this community. He will be missed. These words acknowledge the reality of death, but don’t put pressure on the one who grieves the loss.

“You will feel better soon.” We say these words because we feel uncomfortable watching someone grieve. These words actually make us feel at ease.

Better: “I will be here for as long as you need.” Or “I will stay in touch with you.” These words show you aren’t here today and then gone tomorrow.

Any statement that begins with “You should,” You shouldn’t,” or “You will.” These statements are too authoritative and can make you come across as judge and jury. Some decisions a grieving person makes (like cleaning out the deceased’s closet, removing a wedding ring) are personal decisions only that individual can make.

Better: Say, “Have you thought about . . .?” “Have you considered . . .?” Again, you are allowing the person to make his or her own decisions.

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The next time a friend or family member experiences the loss of a loved one, recall these words of counsel. You can impart hope to grieving people.

The Power of Your Words to Give People Hope

“Your words have put stumbling people on their feet, put fresh hope in people about to collapse” (Job 4:4, The Message)

 I’ve heard Joe Stowell speak many times. In his book, “The Weight of Your Words,” Stowell tells the following story: “My junior high school had scheduled its annual theater production which included some opera-style songs. Talented students were quick to try out for the various parts. I was not so certain of my abilities and had decided that singing in an opera wasn’t really for me. Then Mrs. Wilson, my music teacher, asked me to try out. It was not a coveted role, but it did have three solos. I am certain that my audition was only mediocre. But Mrs. Wilson reacted as if she had just heard a choir of heavenly angels. “Oh, that was just beautiful. It was perfect. You are just right for the role. You will do it, won’t you?” I accepted. When the time came for the next year’s opera performance, most of the students who had played the leads the year before had graduated. And Mrs. Wilson had transferred to another school. In her place was a rather imposing figure who had an excellent singing voice and a sound knowledge of music theory. As tryouts began, I was ready. I felt confident that my talent was just what our school’s operetta needed. With approximately 150 of my peers assembled, I knew everything would go well. But if I live for an eternity I will never forget the words spoken on that day. When my audition was completed, the teacher asked, “Who told you that you could sing?” I felt totally destroyed. Harsh words are bad enough under any circumstances. To a young idealistic boy, they can be devastating. From the time those seven words were stated, it took eight years and coaxing from my fiancée before my voice was raised in song again.”

WordsThe words we speak are not just simply sounds caused by air passing through our larynx. Our spoken words have amazing power—words either destroy people or build up people. When the Old Testament man who suffered much, Job, sought wisdom for his problems, one of his friends, Eliphaz, said to Job: “Your words have put stumbling people on their feet, put fresh hope in people about to collapse” (Job 4:4, The Message. Job knew how to use his spoken words well.

For many years I have tried to let the teaching of a Bible verse, Ephesians 4:29 guide my speech: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” The word foul in the verse refers to rotting fruits and vegetables. We should not heap those kinds of words on anyone.

Audrey Marlene, a life coach, suggests a variety of ways we might use our spoken words to encourage others,  just as Ephesians 4:29 tells us to do.

  • Pay a genuine compliment or a kind word to someone who crosses your path.
  • Say something nice to build someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Your power of words can encourage and motivate someone by saying “you did a good job.”
  • Say words of comfort to someone sad or grieving.
  • Use your words to admit when you were wrong.
  • Use your words to say “I’m sorry”
  • Don’t forget to say “Thank You”
  • Use your words to show appreciation
  • Use your words to show respect for others.
  • Say thing funny to make someone smile and brighten up their day.
  • Use your words to help that special someone in your life feel secure with your love.
  • Use your words to speak to God from your heart to give thanks for the blessing in your life.
  • Use your words to praise your child for their efforts.
  • Say words to let your children know what a gift they are to you.

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Let the power of your spoken words be used by God to bring hope and encouragement to others.

 

 

Stop Comparing Yourself With Others

“Peter asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘What is that to you?’? (John 21:21-22)

I worked with a guy one time who was OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). He was just obsessed about the order and arrangement of things. He drove all of us crazy.

I want you to think differently about OCD. Think “obsessive comparison disorder.” Paul Angone, an organizational consultant, came up with this term a few years back. The term describes our compulsion to compare ourselves with others which produces unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us to depression, consumption, anxiety, and all-around unhappiness and discontent.

OCDObsessive comparison disorder is an especially difficult habit for today’s younger generations. Although us older folks do the comparison thing, too.

Comparison has been with us since the beginning, but today, with the Internet and social media, we have taken comparison to new heights.

I still remember some of my feelings when time came for our 10th and 20th high school reunions. I wondered if I would be worse or better off than my classmates. How would I look compared to them? Would I be less successful than some of them?

But with the invention of online social media you don’t need a 10-year or 20-year reunion. Now you have the opportunity to compare yourself with everyone. Every single day.

You know how it is. You go online and see photos and descriptions of your friends experiencing fabulous trips, eating beautiful food, enjoying material things you don’t have, or you see what others are doing and you wish you were doing that, too. And you begin to compare your life with theirs.

5 Reasons Comparison Is Not Good for You

  • Comparison makes you buy things you don’t need or you can’t afford. Comparison really is one of the leading causes of poor money management.
  • Comparison makes you feel depressed. As you look through your friends’ “My Life Is Awesome” Facebook posts, you feel depressed because your life looks nothing like you think it should.
  • Comparison creates big-time discontent and unhappiness. Truth is, you can’t be content and envious at the same time.
  • Comparison blinds you to God’s design for your life. Instead of seeing your unique design and giftedness, you see only the things you don’t have.
  • Comparison damages your sense of self-worth. It leads you to devalue yourself.
  • Comparison will not help you accomplish your goals. Chewing over how someone is better looking than you, more successful than you, or has more than you decreases your motivation to achieve your goals.
  • Comparison is a losing battle. In life there will always be many people who are smarter, better looking, richer, thinner, and more talented than you. So don’t use other people for your benchmark.
  • Comparison will deprive you of joy. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

OCD2The negative effects of comparison are real, and they are harmful. So, how can we break free from this habit of comparing ourselves to others?

 

 

 

Breaking Free From Obsessive Comparison Disorder

  1. Be truly grateful for what you have. Gratitude has the power to transform your entire outlook on life.
  2. Be wise when you read social media posts. When I post on Instagram or Facebook I don’t post my worst moments and my worst looks. And neither does anyone else. Someone on your social media account might appear to have an awesome life, but in reality, that individual probably has the same struggles and heartaches that you have.
  3. Celebrate what you do. What have been some of your accomplishments this past week? In what ways have you helped others? How did God open doors for you this week? Quit trying to be something you aren’t.
  4. Prayerfully determine God’s plans for your life. What is God uniquely nudging you to do? You can’t focus on your purpose while looking at other people.
  5. Name your strengths. Write down everything you do well. Make a list of what you are good at doing.
  6. Stop comparing yourself with others. Don’t do it anymore, period!
  7. Enjoy the journey. All of us are on a journey of walking by faith, doing the best we can, and being our best self. Some days we mess up. Other days we amaze ourselves. Accept the journey God has for you. This is where your hope is.

Is It OK to Be Competitive?

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

The sports world lost 2 legends this week: Pat Summitt and Buddy Ryan. Summitt achieved incredible success in her 38 years as the women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. In fact, Summitt became the winningest coach in Division I college basketball. Even more, she lifted women’s basketball from obscurity to prominence.

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Buddy Ryan achieved fame as the defensive coach for the professional football Chicago Bears. His defensive achievements for the Bears became so prominent that Ryan was nicknamed the “Monster of the Midway.” Ryan viewed the game of football as warfare, and told his players not to wait until opposing players did something to them, but to strike first.

I think you can see a dominant character quality in both Pat Summitt and Buddy Ryan. They were highly competitive.

This week as I listened to news reports about their deaths, I kept hearing about how competitive they were. These reports made me think. Is being a competitive person a good thing or a bad thing? Since I am a Christian I also wondered, Is it a Christian quality to be competitive? This blog post is my attempt to deal with the issue of competitiveness.

Most of us are probably uncomfortable with feelings of competitiveness. I know I am. As a kid, I never enjoyed competitive sports. Though, I can be competitive with myself. During my 20s to late 40s I was a jogger/runner. I kept up with my PB for a 10K run (personal best time), and I tried to beat myself each time I ran a 10K. So, I suppose everyone has a competitive streak inside.

Competition shows up in different ways. From competing for a job to competing for the attention of someone of the opposite sex to competing by wanting our favorite sports team to be Number 1.

The negative view of competition says we can push our children and ourselves too hard. Constantly wanting to be first and to be Number 1 can’t be good for us. And we never appreciate the lessons that come from losing. Highly-competitive persons can get into a mode of winning at all costs. If we are too competitive we risk becoming poor losers.

The positive view of competition says it promotes personal growth. Who of us would grow and stretch ourselves if we didn’t have rivals? In addition, competition makes us goal-oriented, and prepares us for the real world, a world filled with competition. The positive view says that life is more interesting and fun when some competition is involved.

Again, but what about the issue of competition as it relates to the Christian life? Should Christians be competitive people? Should they avoid being competitive?

We do have in the Bible the words of Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Philippians 3:14 does tell us to “Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called” us. And Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Of course these Bible verses all refer to doing our best for the Lord, as well as doing our best to achieve Christlikeness. These verses don’t have anything to do with competing for a job or competing on the football field.

We certainly don’t want to be competitive like, “My church is better than your church.” Or “I know more Bible verses than you.”

I turn your attention to the words of Jesus in Matthew 20 (you’ll find these words at the beginning of this post). Jesus taught that our goal as His followers should not be to be Number 1 or “the best,” but rather to have a servant’s heart..

Yet note again what Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you.” The idea is that times are when we want to be great, when we want to do well, when we want to achieve. I don’t think Jesus condemned the desire for honest achievement or the aspiration to be our best self. Nothing wrong with this at all.

But I’m thinking that when it comes to competition as you and I see it played out today, a Christian should want to be his or her best for Jesus’ sake. That’s the best kind of competition, and what’s more, it brings us hope.

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What are your thoughts about Christians and competition. Use the “comments” portion to share your opinions.

God’s Got This!

“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2).

I felt a horrible wave of sorrow and sadness wash over me when I heard the news reports of the June 12 shooting in Orlando, Florida. Many heroic stories began to emerge. Joshua McGill was one of those heroes. When the shooting started, McGill ran out of the nightclub and hid behind a car in a parking lot, when he noticed a man with multiple gunshot wounds to his arms and back.

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The man was Rodney Sumter Jr., a 27-year-old bartender at the club. McGill, a nursing student, pulled Sumter behind the car and used his shirt to make a tourniquet on Sumter’s arms. Then he helped the man to a safe area and used the victim’s shirt to stop the bleeding on his back.

An Orlando police officer told McGill that it would be about a half-an-hour before an ambulance would arrive, and that Sumter was bleeding too much to wait. The office had McGill to get into the back seat of the police cruiser, place Sumter on top of him, press down on the gunshot wound on Sumter’s back, then talk to him constantly to keep Sumter awake.

“I told him ‘Everything would be OK,’” said McGill. “I got you, just calm down. I need to cut off as much blood as I can.’”

“I promise you, God’s got this. You’ll be OK,’” McGill recalled saying. McGill later learned Sumter was in stable condition.

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Most likely you were not a victim of the Orlando shooting, and your present troubles and difficulties might not be as miserable as those folks in Orlando are facing. Yet, you possibly are facing your own hard time right now. A hardship or trial has come into your life. Remember Joshua McGill’s comforting words: “God’s got this.”

That’s the message from Psalm 18 in the Bible. When you trust God for help during your tough times, 8 assurances, spoken about in this psalm, give you hope.

  1. God is your strength. When you trust God and look to Him, He never leaves you weak and helpless. He becomes the strong breakthrough you need.
  2. God is your rock. The word rock is a common metaphor used 24 times in the Book of Psalm with reference to God. Rocks were used to build walls, fortresses, and towers in Bible times. The idea of God as our rock shows that God is our solid foundation when life’s hardships shake the ground beneath us.
  3. God is your fortress. When you trust God during your tough times it’s like you are inside a fortress. And no enemy, no power, can penetrate God’s fortress.
  4. God is your deliverer. God is not your “preventer,” meaning that He never allows any bad circumstances to come your way. Instead, God is your “deliverer,” meaning He rescues you when those tough times do come.
  5. God is your refuge. He is your safe place when you need protection, comfort, and assurance.
  6. God is your shield. In ancient times soldiers used shields to protect themselves from the enemy’s penetrating arrows, swords, and spears. To say that God is your shield means that He screens everything that comes your way. Nothing can penetrate you until it goes through God’s screening process first.
  7. God is your horn of salvation. During battles the sound of a horn inspires the troops and gives them motivation for surging forward. The sound of the horn says, “We will win.” Each time God gives victory and breakthrough in your life, you have something for which to praise Him.
  8. God is your stronghold. A stronghold refers to something that cannot be moved nor shaken. God’s work on your behalf is a like a place in your life that has been so fortified that you are forever protected and assured.

So, the next time you find yourself facing discouraging circumstances, read the words of Psalm 18:1-2. The 8 images of God in these 2 verses give us hope during tough times, and remind us that “God’s got this!”

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