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.

Competition

Buddy Ryan on the sideline

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Competitioni3

 

 

 

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.

Godthis3

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Gotthis1

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!”

Gotthis2

 

Are We Lonelier Than Ever?

“God places the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6).

The Beatles sang these words in their song, Eleanor Rigby: “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”

lonely

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feelings of loneliness have been with us since the beginning of time. I have endured times of loneliness in my life, and I am sure you have as well. But I’m thinking that American people might be lonelier today than ever. You might be thinking, Why would you say that?

  • 67% of Americans say there is more loneliness in today’s society than there used to be.
  • Six in ten feel they have fewer meaningful relationships than they did five years ago.
  • While 80% feel it is easier to connect with friends and family today than it was five years ago (a result of increased use of email, text and social networks to keep in contact),
  • 60% say they have fewer meaningful relationships.
  • Facebook users report an average of 136 friends but only 6 committed confidants.
  • Only 29% of Americans feel conversations made via technology always, or almost always, make them feel closer to the other person.
  • Since 1985 the number of persons who said there was no one with whom they discussed important matters tripled.
  • Four in 10 people feel they now have less daily interaction with people they know than they did just 5 years ago, while only 1in 7 feel they have more. Even when people do interact with others outside of the workplace, it is more likely to be through a phone call, email, or text message than through direct face-to-face contact.

What’s the culprit for our growing sense of loneliness? I recently read a book that jolted me, Reclaiming Conversation: the Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle, a professor of social science and technology at MIT. Turkle wrote, “Our increasing use of mobile devices is changing our culture, perhaps making us lonelier and less able to form meaningful relationships.” I promise you that Turkle is NOT antitechnology.

But more and more of us have sacrificed real face-to-face conversation for connectedness through our mobile phones, laptops, and personal computers. The result: We are lonelier than ever.

I’m thinking that many of us have forgotten how to talk with others face-to-face. Instead of having close friends with whom we can share our lives we have digital Facebook “friends,” and Twitter “followers.” We don’t hug our friends, we poke them. The more “friends and followers” the less lonely we think we’ll feel.

Instead of doing things in person, we now do them online. Instead of sharing our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and feelings we express them through an emoji.

Lonely3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are some resolutions for our increasing loneliness?

  1. Remember that we were made for deep intimacy with God. As one person has said, “Friends and other companions may be a wonderful blessing, but they are neither ultimate nor adequate for a heart made for God. Loneliness acts like a divine sticky note that says, ‘Don’t forget for whom you were made.’” You might feel lonely at times, but you are never alone. Why? Jesus said, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). As the hymn writer said, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Turn to Him when you feel lonely.
  2. Battle feelings of loneliness with community. Take a look again at the Bible verse that begins this post, Psalm 68:6. Colin Sedgwick has pointed out that in ancient Israel the word families in the verse means much more than our Western concept of dads, moms, and kids. The word actually refers to whole clusters of people. For Christians that “family” is the church family. If you are not actively involved in a church, find a good Bible-centered church to attend. Participate in a small group at church. You will make friends. You will find community.
  3. Make a commitment to do more face-to-face interaction. How many people would you say you interact with on a daily basis? Not online, or in text messages or emails, but in real life? Invite someone to have coffee or go out to lunch. Put away your cell phone, and spend the time in face-to-face talking. I understand the convenience of texts and emails. But don’t sacrifice some human interaction for technology. In your home value face-to-face talking with your spouse and your children. Do more of it.

How to Trash Your Marriage

A popular story tells of 2 porcupines freezing in the winter cold. Shivering in the frigid air, the two porcupines moved closer together to share body heat and warmth. But then their sharp spines and quills pricked each other painfully, and they moved apart. Soon they felt they must come together once more, or freeze to death. But their quills caused too much pain, and they parted again.

MyWayWhat causes the most pain in a marriage? What tends to drive couples apart? And what is the single, best way to trash your marriage? Selfishness!

I define selfishness as “individualism gone to extremes.” Individualism is a historic American trait. We Americans advocate taking responsibility for yourself, achieving your goals, pursuing your dreams, and making your mark on the world. Individualism, when held in check, can be honorable.

But what we are seeing today can be described as expressive individualism, a view that my personal fulfillment is the priority.  Any relationship I am in, including marriage, exists to make me self-fulfilled. My personal desires and my personal fulfillment, trump my marriage commitment. And when my spouse and my marriage cease to fulfill me and make me happy, I will be hesitant to stay in my marriage. My highest loyalty is to myself, not to my spouse.

Taylor Swift sings a popular song, “Out of the Woods.” The song is about a relationship on the rocks. I read an article by Trevin Wax recently in which he pointed out the main words in Swift’s song: “She lost him. But she found herself. And somehow that was everything.”

Did you get that? “She lost him.” The relationship ended. The relationship never made it out of the woods. But . . . “She found herself.” The broken relationship wasn’t all that sad because it was that broken relationship that allowed her to find herself. When the relationship died she became alive to her true self. “And somehow that was everything.”

This is expressive individualism. That the highest purposes in life are “to discover you, to fulfill you.” And all my relationships are subordinated to that goal.

MyWay3How can you know if expressive individualism, extreme selfishness, is hurting your marriage?

 

 

  • Your marriage has become all about you.
  • Communication between you and your spouse is poor.
  • You are hesitant to express love to your spouse.
  • You have become more demanding.
  • You harbor feelings of hurt and resentment toward your spouse.
  • You and your spouse are not “one.”
  • You feel you are competing with your spouse.
  • You think you are better than your spouse.
  • You believe your needs are more important than anyone else in the family.
  • You have become lazy about your marriage—you don’t give it the attention it deserves.
  • You believe your spouse is flawed.
  • You want things your way.

How do you break the hold of selfishness and expressive individualism?

  • Every day remind yourself of the things you love about your spouse.
  • Choose to have faith in your spouse.
  • Purposely show more respect, kindness, and forgiveness toward your spouse.
  • Be responsible. Admit you are extremely selfish.
  • Start thinking and communicating “we” instead of “I.”
  • Stop blaming your spouse for your lack of self-fulfillment.
  • Don’t put your spouse down just to win something for yourself.
  • Focus more on how to make your marriage successful.
  • Commit yourself to your marriage.

It is OK for you to have dreams, goals, desires, and wants. But don’t become overly-selfish for these things, and put your selfish desires ahead of your spouse and your marriage. Selfishness really will trash your marriage.

 

 

What to Do When You Feel Let Down

I recently ordered an item online. My receipt said I would receive the item in 5-to-8 business days. That time period was acceptable. But 12 business days passed and the item still had not been delivered. I called the company 4 times, and sent numerous emails before I got a response. According to the company my item “had been backordered” and would arrive in—you guessed it—5-to-8 business days. What’s worse is that at the time I wrote this post I was still waiting. Talk about feeling let down by this company!

LetdownPerhaps you, like me, have been let down by poor customer service from a business. Even more painful, you might have been let down by a friend or family member. Some people feel let down by their bank, their favorite team, a car repair person, a family doctor, their spouse, or their church. And a few people even feel let down by God.

So, how should we deal with the feeling of being let down? What follows are some ways you can get over the feeling of being completely let down.

  1. Remember that people are not perfect. People will let us down. People will hurt us. People will fail. People are human, and humans make mistakes. For this reason, we never can place all our hopes in fellow human beings.
  2. Tone down your expectations. I must admit that sometimes my expectations are unreasonable. That said, do not be like the poet Alexander Pope who said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” If you expect nothing from people you will close yourself off to the blessings that often come from others. Have your expectations, but just make sure they aren’t impractical.
  3. Focus on the positive. Sure, you’ve been let down, but there are worse things. If you have a roof over your head, and you had food to eat today, you are doing better than many people in the world. If you have friends, family, and church members who care about you, that’s something to be thankful for. Your job might not be your dream job, but if your paycheck helps pay the bills consider yourself blessed.
  4. Give others the benefit of the doubt until you hear their side of the story. Every person on planet earth has stressors to deal with.
  5. Find alternatives, and think in terms of solutions. What actions can you take to remedy your predicament? This approach is far better than wallowing in a corner, feeling sorry for yourself, or complaining to others about how unfair life is and how stupid people are.
  6. If a person has let you down, speak to that individual openly and in a non-confrontational way. Hear that person’s side of the story. If this person has let you down a number of times, that’s one thing, but if it’s the first time, show some grace. You can then decide whether to continue to invest in this relationship.
  7. Be willing to forgive. Again, people are human, and they make mistakes. Forgiveness releases your stored up anger, and prevents you from saying or doing something you might regret.

Now, for 2 other situations. First, what if you are the one who let someone down? Realize your actions have affected someone else. Apologize. Make amends, where possible. Forgive yourself.

Letdown2Second, what if you feel God has let you down? Perhaps a painful circumstances has come into your life, and you feel God could have prevented it, but He didn’t, therefore, He let you down. Remember that God is good, and all the He does is good. So keep on trusting Him, loving Him. Your greatest reward is to thank Him in your weakest moment. This approach maintains hope in your life.

Finding Hope When Your Faith Is Broken and Your Dreams Have Shattered

Recently I set up a booth at the Berry (Alabama) Heritage Festival where I sold my 2 books. One person who came by my booth, Margaret (not her real name), opened up and told me about her situation. She thought my books would give some hope and encouragement to her, as well as to her husband. You see, 6 months ago they lost their 19-year-old son in a car accident.

I nearly broke down in tears listening to her story, and sensing the pain she felt. But I knew better than to do that. I listened to Margaret, and did my best to offer some comfort in the few minutes I had standing with her in front of my book table. As she left with books in her hands, she said, “We are just barely hanging on.”

broken-faith

Margaret and her husband have experienced shattered dreams and broken faith. I’m sure they had big-time dreams for their son. (Based on what she told me about her son, he was a model teen.) And, of course, Margaret and her husband are asking that huge one-word question, Why?

Maybe that’s where you are, too. Your plans might have crumbled. A dream you’ve had for years recently went up in flames, so to speak. A problem has sent your life spinning out of control. A bad decision might have put your finances into a pit. Perhaps, you, like Margaret, are asking, “God, why has all this happened to me?”

You aren’t alone. A servant of the Lord named John found himself in a similar situation. Matthew 11, a Bible text, describes John’s circumstances. John served as a preacher who prepared people for the coming of Jesus. He urged people to turn from their sins, and then to be baptized as an outward indication they had changed their life’s direction. John had been faithful to the Lord. He had fulfilled his calling well. But some time later, John found himself in prison because of his bold preaching. He sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, “Are you really the One? Or have I been mistaken? I mean, is this (prison) what I get for obeying you?” John’s faith was definitely shaken. His dreams had crumbled.

How did Jesus respond to John? For sure, Jesus did not condemn John for doubting, or for having a shaken faith. Jesus did assure John that he had fulfilled his calling, and that eternal rewards awaited him one day. Jesus also gave John the ultimate compliment. He said, “Of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.” All these words were Jesus’ way of assuring John, “I love you dearly. Trust Me, even in a dark prison.”

I think Jesus would say similar words to you as well. You might not understand what is happening to you, or why your dreams have shattered. But you can’t turn away from God in anger or fear. Be like John and go to Jesus. Tell Him your doubts. Bring your shaken faith to Him. Ask Him to help you see things more clearly. Don’t stop praying. Don’t drop out of church.

Do trust the bedrock truths you already know. God loves you. He hurts with you. The Bible remains God’s word to you. He will use your trials as part of His plans for your life. God is in control.

SolidRockShout with the hymn writer, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

(Gary wrote this article for The Post, May 1 edition, and is sharing it with the larger Hope Discovered audience.)

What to Do When You Feel Beat Up, and You Don’t See a Way Out

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

One time we opened our patio glass door, and would you believe, a bird flew into our house. We opened the patio door as wide as we could, then did our best to force that bird to fly back outside. We used a broom, we waved our hands wildly, we yelled at the bird. And, of course, the bird was scared by all our craziness. I did not understand why the bird did not see his way out.

WayOut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever felt stuck on the wrong side of the glass door, so to speak? You might feel that way now. You need money, but it’s not there. You need health, but it isn’t there. Your problems feel overwhelming, and you aren’t sure you have what it takes to make it through. It’s like your hands are tied. You are nursing your wounds. You just feel beat up, and it appears to you that you have no way out.

The greatest temptation in these situations is to give up. You know, throw in the towel and quit. But God calls us to refuse this temptation, even when we feel beat up. God actually calls us to respond forcefully. Our Bible verse, 2 Timothy 1:7, shows us how to do this.

Why is this verse so important when you feel beat up, and have no way out?  It was written by a New Testament missionary, Paul. At the time, Paul was in prison. He definitely saw no way out. But Paul did not cave in. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit he wrote some words that help us today.

  1. When we see no way out, God gives us courage. That’s the opposite of the word timidity in the verse. Instead of being intimidated by your challenges, face them with courage that comes from God. How is this possible? Isaiah 41:10 answers that question. “Do not fear, for I am with you.” We can be courageous because God is with us. What a difference His presence makes!
  2. Face your challenges in Jesus’ power. Our verse says, “a spirit of power,” speaking of the power of Jesus. Maybe you feel like a powerless victim. No pile of bills, no insult, no hurt, no problem, or no failure is too big for Jesus to handle.
  3. Keep on loving. Our verse says, “of love.” Often the problems and challenges we face are because someone made bad choices that affect us negatively. A coworker comes to work late habitually, and you are left to catch up the slack. A committee member doesn’t do what he or she promised, and you end up cleaning the mess. Someone impulsively spoke harsh words to you, and you want to strike back. You received terrible customer service, and you feel irritated. In situations like these, choose to love everyone. Look for ways to bless and help people.
  4. Stay on course, and keep going. Notice the last phrase of our verse: “of self-discipline.” The word carries the idea of self-control or a cool head or a sound mind. So don’t allow fatigue and all the headaches you face to stop you. When you feel knocked down, then get up. Don’t run from your problems. Stay on course. Conquer that temptation to quit.

WayOut2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope these words give you some hope to face your particular challenge. The next time you feel beat up by life’s challenges, and you don’t see a way out, I want you to reflect on a Bible verse, Romans 8:37: “We are more than conquerors through him (Jesus) who loved us.” You never are a helpless victim when you call on Jesus for help.

 

How Does God See You?

Have you ever wondered how God sees you? Not how others see you, but how God views you? Sometimes we see ourselves through the eyes of betrayal, hurt, or rejection. We might even see ourselves as someone who needs the approval of others. Sometimes we define ourselves by our  physical looks or by our accomplishments or failures. We might even believe that God is angry with us, or disappointed in us.

GodseesBut again, how does God see you? Did you know that a lot of our happiness is derived from how we think God sees us? What follows is the truth about God’s view of you.

  1. 1. God sees you as His crowning creation. God literally “spoke” the universe into existence, Genesis 1 tells us. And after creating various plants, animals, and other things He turned His attention to the creation of man and woman.

One day the writer of Psalm 8 lay in the grass looking up at the sky. He asked a big-time question: “What is man (and woman) that you would think of us?” In other words, “God how do you see me?” Next, the Psalmist answered his own question: “You crowned us with glory and honor.” That was his way of saying, “You see me as the crowning creation of your handiwork. In your eyes I am far more important than mountains, or animals, or trees.”

What does it mean for you personally that you are the crowning act of God’s creation? God cares about you. You really do matter to God.

2. God sees you as a person made in His image. “God created people in His own image; God patterned them after Himself,” states Genesis 1:27. This is one audacious Bible teaching. To be made in God’s image does not mean you are God or that you look like Him. Rather it means that God has built into you qualities that He has.

For example, God is love, and He has built into you the capacity to love like Him. God is a marvelous designer. We humans have amazing talents in creativity and design. Those talents come from God. God forgives. We can forgive, as well. God communicates, and we communicate. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

What does the image of God mean for you personally? Be fully alert to behave in a Godlike manner. Do your job as God would want you to do. Be the husband or wife God would want you to be. Be a Godlike parent. Treat others as God would treat them.

3. God sees you as uniquely designed. Psalm 139:14 makes an awesome statement about the unique way God has made each of us. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This verse speaks of the uniqueness and complexity of our human bodies. Your bones, your eyes, your brain, your DNA strand all are a marvel of God’s creative genius. No mere human could ever duplicate the marvels of the human body.

What does being uniquely designed mean for you personally? First, God cares about your body. After all, He made it. Don’t abuse your body with drugs, alcohol, gluttony, or failing to get regular health checkups. Second, use your body for the glory of God, not for sexual immorality. Third, be happy with your body. You don’t have to feel undue pressure to have the physical appearance of other people. God made you the way you are.

Godsees2
4. God sees you as sinful. I know this word “sin” might make you cringe, but it is a reality. What is sin? The Bible defines sin as the breaking of God’s standards. And where do we find His standards? In the Bible, of course. Romans 3:23 makes this assertion: “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Our sin separates us from God, preventing us from being the people He wants us to be. This is the bad news about every human being.

Now for the good news. God, in love, has acted to do something about our sin problem. God sent His Son, Jesus to this earth to live has a human being. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life. Then Jesus willingly died on a Roman cross. On that cross, all our sins were placed on Him. Jesus willingly took upon Himself the punishment we deserve for our sin. Why? So that we could experience complete forgiveness for any and all violations of God’s standards that we have ever committed.

What does this good news mean for you personally? By an act of faith and trust in Jesus’ death on the cross, you can be forgiven and cleansed from your sin. God offers His incredible forgiveness as a free gift. You don’t earn or merit God’s forgiveness. He gives it to you freely when you turn from your sin (the Bible word is “repent”), and take Jesus into your life in a committed relationship with Him. Have you done this?

You will never know hope like that of living for Jesus.

_____________________________________________________

You can learn more about God and His work in your life. Psalm 34 contains more than a dozen convincing promises that show how God can make every day of your life a great day.

EveryDayBook

To purchase your copy of “Every Day Can Be a Great Day: Convincing Promises from Psalm 34” click on the link above, “Gary’s Books.”

5-Minute Caring

Giving some hope to people even if you only have 5-minutes to spare

5_minThis past Friday night I ordered takeout from a local restaurant. After placing my order, I sat down on one of the benches provided by the restaurant. In just a moment an older couple came into the restaurant. They spotted me, and spoke to me. I asked, “What did you folks do today”? The husband said, “We’ve been out of town all day. My brother-in-law is in hospice care. He’s not expected to live. He and I have always been close.”

Get the picture. I had placed my order, and was waiting for my food to be prepared. Then, this hurting couple shared a moment of pain in their lives. I had little time to console them, maybe 5 minutes at the most. If you had been in my shoes, how would you have shown your concern in such a short period of time?

We do live in a fast-paced, microwaveable, hurry-up society. Most of us have more on our plates than we can handle. Our to-do lists never get done.

Yet, God has this amazing way of placing hurting people in our paths, often as we are on the go. Our care and concern for these disheartened individuals can make a big difference in their lives. In fact, we have an opportunity to give some hope to hopeless people. How do we do this even when we have only 5 minutes or less to spare? I have several suggestions, and they are not necessarily in order.

  1. Maintain constant eye contact. Eye contact helps you connect with people. It shows sincerity on your part, and keeps you open to what the other person is saying.
  2. Observe the other person’s body language. Crying often is an indication of sadness or grief. Arms tightly crossed may reveal feelings of anger. If the person is fidgety, fiddling with the hands, tapping feet, or has jittery legs then you are seeing an anxious, worried person.
  3. Listen well before you speak. Proverbs 5:1-2 says, “If you listen closely . . . you will have sound judgment, and you will always know the right thing to say.”
  4. Use appropriate touch. I fully understand that the issue of touching others is a highly-debated topic. This is the reason for “appropriate” touch. Jesus often touched hurting people, and He did this appropriately. Touching helps people feel loved and accepted. Appropriate touch communicates warmth and care.
  5. Speak encouraging, hopeful words. Hurting people have the tendency to focus on the negative or even the worst-case scenario. Just one word of encouragement from you can change all that. Your hopeful words encourage hurting people to carry on in spite of their burdens.
  6. Ask how you can help. You will want to ask this question sincerely, and really mean it. If the person gives a specific way you can help, then follow through and actually do what is asked for.
  7. Assure the person of your prayers. Don’t be one of those who glibly says, “I’ll pray for you,” but never actually gets around to praying. I make use of a “note” app on my smart phone. Whenever someone asks for prayer I write the request on my note application, and then transfer the request to my prayer notebook. This way I don’t forget to pray.

5-minutecaringYou might have only a few minutes to minister to someone by showing your care and concern. You can do it even if you have only a short period of time.

 

 

Give a Good Book to Those Who Hurt

EveryDayBook

 

This book, based on Psalm 34, shows God’s amazing ability to turn every day–good and bad days–into great days.

Order from Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Paperback or E-book

What to Do When You Receive Bad News

A church’s pastor reported one Sunday morning, “Congregation, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that our women’s softball team finally won a game. The bad news is that they beat the men’s team.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t like to receive bad news, and I’m sure you don’t either. And bad news painfully comes to us in a variety of ways. A spouse says, “I want a divorce.” The letter from a prospective employer reads, “Thanks for your interest in our job opening, but we have decided to go in a different direction.” Your physician says, “I’m sorry, but you have cancer.” Your teenage daughter says, “Mom, I’m pregnant.” A late-night telephone caller says, “Your father died.” Your boss says, “I’m giving you a low score on your performance review.” The auto mechanic says, “Your repair will be a costly one.” Yes, some bad news feels like a kick in the gut.

A man in the Bible, King Hezekiah of Judah, got some bad news one day. Wartime had come to Judah. God’s people were battling the mighty and evil nation of Assyria. Sennacherib, Assyria’s king, sent a message to Hezekiah urging him to surrender. Hezekiah described this moment as “a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace” (see 2 Kings 19:3).

Perhaps you, like Hezekiah, have been on the receiving end of some bad news lately. What should you do?

Be Honest About Your Feelings

If your bad news has left you feeling stunned, upset, disappointed, angry, or depressed, then you are only a normal person. Don’t take any actions right now, just feel. A bad-news moment is a time for emotional honesty. The more open and honest you are about how you feel regarding your bad news, the better you will know your “true” self.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

“Shooting the messenger” is a phrase used to describe the act of blaming the bearer of bad news. The truth is, when you shoot the messenger you are only taking out your anger on the wrong person.

Understand What’s Going On

Breathe. Find out as much as you can about the bad news. Gather as much information as you can. Take some time to reflect. Ask questions. Try to calm yourself, as hard as that might be. If you jump to conclusions, you’ll feel worse than you need to.

Talk Through Your Bad News With a Trusted Friend

Talking might be one of the best ways to work your way through bad news. Honestly, other people have walked the path you are now walking. Who you share your bad news with is up to you; but just know that internalizing your feelings, and never opening up to anyone, probably isn’t a helpful response. Give your trusted friend permission to walk with you through your journey.

Battle Your Fears

Your immediate response to bad news might be, “How will we ever have enough money to get through this?” “What if I don’t have what it takes?” “Am I going to be sick for the rest of my life?” These responses indicate feelings of fear. Whatever it is that has you feeling scared, confront it. God can give you the strength and tenacity to battle anxiety. Psalm 112:7, says, “He (the person who has received bad news) will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.”

bad-news

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take Action

After you have spent a period of time reflecting and gathering information, it’s time for action. Will you need legal counsel? Do you need to arrange for additional money? Do you need to obtain a second opinion? What are the first steps you need to be taking?

Bathe Your Bad News in Constant Prayer

Remember King Hezekiah I spoke about earlier? He prayed earnestly. In fact, the Bible states it this way: “He (King Hezekiah) spread it out before the Lord” (see 2 Kings 19:14). Prayer equips you to tap into God’s power and love. After all, He understands fully what you are going through. He cares about your circumstances. He knows the steps you need to be taking right now.

Bad news can reach us at any time. The next time bad news comes your way, remember these suggestions. You will find hope.