Posted in Faith

Location Really Matters

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If you talk to a real estate agent, they will tell you about the importance of location. “Location, location, location,” they will say. A house can be beautiful, but if it’s in a bad neighborhood, it will be difficult to sell. An office building can be appealing, but it will be overlooked if it’s in the wrong part of town. Our location as Christians is vital to our faith, as well.

The Bible speaks of two different locations for believers.

First, Christ is in you. When we trust Christ as Savior and Lord, His Spirit dwells within us individually. This would seem impossible if the Scriptures didn’t say so.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NIV).

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

We are more than followers that are helped by Christ. He literally lives in us, empowering us by the same Holy Spirit present in the Resurrection. He dwells in us and is with us every moment. We have more than enough power to live for Him and accomplish the plans He has set before us.

Do you realize that Christ is in you? What difference does it make to know that He makes His home in you?

Equally important, you are in Christ. This provides an image of the greatness of Christ and the Church.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).

Sometimes I limit the power of God in my mind by the way I view my own humanity. I know the Holy Spirit dwells in me, but I also know myself—my weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. However, I also know there is something so much greater than myself. I am part of the fullness in Christ and share in the glory of His body. I am blessed to participate in beauty, diversity, and corporate strength.

Do you realize that you are in Christ? What difference does it make to know that you are at home in Him?

Location really matters. Christ is in you. You are in Christ. Let the truth of both locations sink into your mind and heart, and set you free.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that Christ is in me, and I am in Christ. Open my eyes to truly understand what that means. Let me believe the truth of Your Word. Empower me by Your Spirit to thrive in life, in my relationships, and as a leader. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Focus on Today

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Happy New Year! Most of us approach January 1st with hope and expectation. The new year signifies a fresh start and new beginnings. Social media is filled with New Year’s resolutions and advice for goal setting. In the midst of the excitement for striving for greatness, I would like to offer a different perspective. Instead of looking ahead to conquer thirty pounds or set action steps to achieve a goal in the next twelve months, simply focus on today.

This may seem odd coming from someone who believes in goals. After all, I’m pursuing a doctorate degree in Strategic Planning. Sometimes, though, the quest for success can suck the life out of us. We get so fixated on the future that we lose sight of the present. Worry, anxiety, and stress rule our lives rather than the peace of God. If you can relate, this blog post is for you. (I am taking these words to heart, too.)

Here are suggestions to help narrow the focus to today.

View this day as a gift from God. There are no guarantees that you will be alive tomorrow. I’m not being morbid or fatalistic. Our days are numbered. Approach the tasks in front of you as a blessing and a chance to be a blessing to others.

Remember that each day is an opportunity for a fresh start. You do not need to be defined by the shortcomings or failures of the past (or even yesterday). Learn from mistakes, but do not be chained to them. This day is a new day.

Identify one thing you can do today to help you thrive. I know there are dozens of things clamoring for your attention. It is better to do one thing important to your well-being than to get pulled in so many directions that you end up doing nothing. It is also more manageable to make wise choices today instead of thinking long term. You can more easily give up sugar today than give it up for the next twelve months.

Open your heart to God’s presence. Don’t allow yourself to worry about possible outcomes in the future, whether at work, with your family, or in your personal life. Stop going down the road of potential worst case scenarios. Acknowledge the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. Express your trust in Him to take care of challenges.

When we live today, taking opportunities to honor the Lord and love others, it reduces the pressure caused by straining to achieve goals.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never ceases. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for this New Year. Help me to live it one day at a time, making the most of each opportunity to love You and love my neighbors. Remind me that You are always near every moment in the midst of every situation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

What If Today Were Your Last Day?

calendar-82578Six months ago two masked men invaded my home and I was held at gunpoint. Through the Lord’s gracious work of healing and help from a wonderful counselor, anxiety and flashbacks have gradually lessened in intensity and frequency. One thing that hasn’t faded over time, though, is my awareness that life is precious.

I am incredibly grateful for each day, knowing that it is a gift. Life is short. None of us knows when we will take our last breath, and yet it is all too easy to live as if we are guaranteed tomorrow. Because of my encounter, the realization of life’s temporary nature here on this earth has been engraved in my awareness. Throughout each day I ponder the effects of my actions. Do they honor God? Will they lead, even in some small way, to make someone’s life better? I am mindful that I am here on purpose and I desire to make a difference.

My commitment to make each day count for God’s Kingdom powerfully influences the way I live.

As I imagine that today could be my last day (or that my next breath could be my last breath), it motivates me to…

Deal with difficult situations courageously.
I don’t like conflict, and talking about offenses is uncomfortable. However, life is too short to allow hard feeling to simmer under the surface. It is also too short to avoid asking someone hard questions, because it seems awkward or painful. I rely on the Lord for bravery and, as much as it depends on me, try not to leave issues unresolved.

Choose my words carefully.
I want to be remembered for speaking words of kindness and encouragement. I want my words to build others up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stranger, co-worker, friend, loved one, or my husband, I want the words I speak (and write) to help make their day better. Life is too short to tear others down and unleash pain. At any given moment, may my words be life-giving, because they could be my last words.

Focus on what really matters.
I have often heard it said that when people are on their deathbed, they don’t wish that they had made more money or had become famous. Their greatest regrets relate to their most significant relationships, not spending enough time together, not sharing how much they loved them, not reaching out to mend the hurts inflicted. When the barrel of a gun was held inches from my head, my only thought as I prepared myself to meet Jesus was, “Lord, please take care of my family.” Thankfully my husband rescued me, and I have had one more day 182 times to love my family and influence others in positive ways.

Friends, life is too short to avoid difficult situations, to be careless with our words, and to waste time on trivial concerns. What if today were your last day, how would you live differently?

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9

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.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ~Ephesians 4:29-32, NLT

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of today. Help me to use the time wisely and to honor You in all I do. Empower me to live by faith and not by fear, trusting You for the courage to step out and make a difference in this world. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

My Guidelines for Gossip

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When I was 11 years old, I met a girl named Lisa. She was my age, and she lived in my neighborhood. At first we got along famously. After a few weeks though, I started getting annoyed at some of her mannerisms. She talked too loudly, and I became increasingly critical of my new friend. I never brought Lisa’s irritations up to her. I was too polite for that, and I really didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

A funny thing happened. Because I was Lisa’s friend, my friends became her friends. They showed interest in her. To my chagrin, they invited her to spend time with us. Surely my friends didn’t see Lisa for who she really was. Somehow they weren’t aware of her annoying habits. If they were, they wouldn’t want to hang around her quite so much. It was my duty to shed some light on the situation, so I told them some of Lisa’s secrets. Not all of them, of course. Just enough to paint an accurate picture.

Incredibly, rather than heeding my warning, my friends told Lisa what I had said. Two days later, Lisa’s mother pounded on my front door. When I saw her standing there, I’m not sure which was louder, the pounding of my heart or the fists of Lisa’s mother on the door. She loomed large in the doorway like a mama bear ready to defend her cub. I gasped for air and mustered a smile, as I opened the door.

“How dare you!” Lisa’s mother exploded. “How dare you gossip about my daughter! You’re supposed to be Lisa’s friend. She trusted you, but you broke her heart. You are not allowed to spend time with Lisa ever again, you two-faced little gossip!”

My entire body shook with fear as I shut the door. I wished that my mom was home. She was either at work or attending a class as was typical in those days. I longed for the comfort of having her near, but I would have also been ashamed for her to find out about my incorrigible behavior. Perhaps it was for the best that she was away. I could keep the incident to myself.

Lisa’s mother made a lasting impression. Eventually I apologized to Lisa and her mother. Lisa’s mother expressed appreciation for my gesture. Lisa and I were never friends again, but I became more aware of the powerful effect of my words.

I wish I could say I completely learned my lesson from that event. Unfortunately the tendency to gossip runs strong in human nature. We have a hunger to know about others which is hard to satisfy. Nevertheless, in order to thrive in our relationships we must guard our words when we talk about others.

For over 30 years, I have served in ministry that requires confidentiality. Throughout this time, I have developed a guideline for gossip. Here it is.

DO NOT GOSSIP!

All joking aside, we know that gossip is harmful. Many Scripture verses instruct us to avoid gossip.

A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret (Proverbs 11:13).

A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28).

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends (Proverbs 17:9).

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy (Romans 1:29-32).

Gossip is serious and dangerous business.

For some reason we don’t really know what gossip is. Gossip is sharing about other people’s behavior or personal lives, often excluding information that is either known or unknown. It is tattling or idle talk about their private affairs.

Or if we do know what gossip is, it’s easy to start an innocent discussion about someone that quickly degenerates into gossip. Here are three questions I ask myself to identify gossip and then to stop gossip immediately.

  1. Would I say this directly to the person? This is a time to be brutally honest. Have I already spoken to the person? Would I say the same words with the same tone of voice and body language to the person’s face? If not, then I am gossiping.
  2. Does this build others up? (Ephesians 4:29) How does this benefit others hearing the information? What positive effect does this have on the person that is the subject of conversation? It is not a prayer request if I talk about a situation and give specific details, even if I end up praying for the person. Sorry, it is gossip.
  3. What is motivating me to talk about this person? Do I care 100% about him or her? If something else is at play, like elevating myself or subtly discrediting another, my motives are impure. I have fallen into gossip.

When I realize that I have been involved in gossip, I ask the Lord for forgiveness and apologize to others when appropriate. I determine to be more careful and loving with my words.

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to the Lord. As leaders, we must safeguard the health of our families, friendships, and ministries by doing everything in our power to avoid gossip.

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless (James 1:26).

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You created the heavens and the earth by speaking words of life. Help me to remember that the words I speak have the power to build up or tear down. Empower me to avoid gossip and follow Your example by speaking life into situations. May my words be a source of encouragement and healing. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith

Easter Every Day

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I love the glorious Easter season. There is such joy in celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, worshiping Him for His supreme sacrifice. He paid for the penalty of sin by dying on the cross. I marvel at the miracle of new life. Christ defeated the Enemy and conquered death when He rose from the grave on the third day.

Around the world the Church proclaims, “Hallelujah! Christ is risen!”

“He is risen indeed!”

It’s effortless to join the multitudes in declaring praise to our God on this pinnacle holiday. It’s easy to embrace the truth of who we are in Christ.

  • The power of sin is broken over our lives.
  • We are no longer slaves to sin.
  • We are made new and walk in the freedom from the past.
  • We stand in victory over darkness and evil.
  • Eternal hope springs from our souls.
  • We are royalty, adopted into the Family of God.
  • We are deeply loved by our Heavenly Father.

There is so much more. I’m sure you could add to this starter list.

It feels natural to rejoice as we participate in the splendor of Resurrection Day.

But then, what happens on Monday and the days that follow? Is it life as usual, back to normal?

And, what about the truths that seemed so real on Easter? Are they placed on the back burner until Easter rolls around again?

Here is a challenge for myself, as well as those who read this blog:

If Easter is real, then let’s live like it is. Every day. Sunday through Saturday. January through December.

I don’t have to try harder or be stronger. I embrace the truth of Easter and live by Resurrection power.

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you (Romans 8:11, NLT).

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

Jesus is alive, and His Spirit lives in me. Come what may, He makes all the difference! Now that’s Easter every single day.
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for showing Your great love by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. My faith is based on Your Resurrection and the power You provide. I believe that Easter is true. Help me walk by Your Spirit and live in Your Spirit today and every day. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Don’t Take Life for Granted

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Have you ever faced your own mortality? Have you gazed upon the nearness of death? Have you suddenly been awakened to the preciousness of life?

This happened to me a week ago when I stood before one of the masked men that invaded my home and ordered me by gunpoint to get on the ground. As he moved to my back, still aiming his gun to my head, I wondered, “Is this the way my life will end?” Within moments, my life was spared. The Lord used my husband to bravely rescue me and protect our family from harm.

As I marvel with gratitude at God’s deliverance, I am also struck with a profound realization that I have been given a gift. Along with this gift comes a huge responsibility. It is a responsibility to be a good steward of the days God gives me, whether it be many or few. Life is too precious to take granted.

We don’t have to experience a tragedy in order to examine our priorities. Hopefully we can take the time before a crisis to stop and make adjustments.

I am not sure what the healing process will look like for me in the days and weeks ahead, but I am trusting the Lord to help me thrive following this trauma. While on this journey with Jesus, here is what I will focus on:

Always say “yes” to the Lord. I want to live in willing obedience. Whatever He says, I will do. Wherever He leads, I will follow. His Word directs my steps and lights my way. I step out in faith as He empowers me.

Tell the ones I love that I love them often. I cherish my family and friends, and will frequently express my care for them. I want them to have fond memories of my devotion. I will do my part to deal with conflict and resolve unpleasant issues so that they do not infect relationships.

Spend my time on the things that are important. Saying “yes” to the Lord and investing in relationships are priorities to me. Proper self-care is essential for my healing too. My calendar must reflect my priorities. I must order my schedule accordingly.

Don’t take life for granted. What is the Lord speaking to your heart about priorities? What adjustments will you make to reflect what is really important?

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth (Psalm 115:1).

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of life. Help me to steward my time well and to place Your will at the center. Show me how to order my priorities, and grant me courage to make the necessary changes. I want to live a life of purpose on purpose, glorifying You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Rejoice in the Lord…Always?

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The last two weeks have been difficult. Within this time period, my family and I have faced pregnancy loss, an uncle’s surgery for quick-spreading aggressive cancer, and the unexpected death of a loved one. On a broader context, I am deeply concerned for the division and polarization of our country, grieved by the anger and violence displayed on both sides of the political fence. There also have been multiple deadlines at work. To top it off, the imbalance of hormones common to women my age has been toying with my ability to stay calm, cool, and collected as everything around me seems to be pressure-filled or falling apart.

It was in this environment that our staff devotions featured Scriptures on joy.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again—Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

As the boss, I figured I shouldn’t roll my eyes at these passages, but I was doing it on the inside. I like these verses. They are feel-good words…when I’m feeling good. But when life is such a mess, they sound superficial and even seem to mock my current reality.

As I kept myself in check, the Lord clearly and ever so gently challenged my thinking.

You don’t need joy when things are going well. You need joy when life is hard, and I am always there to supply it.

I tend to be black and white in my thinking. I want things to be “either-or,” rather than “and.”

Alas, James 1:2-3 throws a monkey wrench in my preference for linear order.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Sorrow and joy are not mutually exclusive. The Lord intended joy to be an ever-present feature in the believer’s life. Even in the midst of trials, in chaos, and in the messiness of relationships.

I am thankful that it doesn’t say, “Be happy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” There are trials and pain in life, and I’m not going to be happy about them. I don’t have to paste on a smile and pretend that everything is beautiful. I can acknowledge the struggles, and that’s okay. My happiness is an emotion that changes with my circumstances.

However, as a follower of Jesus, joy is independent of my circumstances. Joy is based on my trust in the Lord, my confidence in His constancy that gives me security and well-being. It focuses on the hope and future anchored immovably in Christ.

Unfortunately, we will all encounter trouble. Jesus said we would in John 16:33. We will be moved by tragedy, but it will not define us.

Job lost everything dear to him—family, wealth, and health. He was devastated and praised the Lord from the depths of his soul.

Paul instructed us to “Rejoice in the Lord” while he was in prison.

Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb and then raised him from the dead.

Joy comes from the Holy Spirit, not from us. As we walk in the Spirit and allow Him to flow through our lives, we will experience joy. We will be able to rejoice in the Lord. Yes, always.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I come to you just as I am. You know what I face and what I am going through. Thank You for always walking with me and for giving me the strength I need for every situation. Help me to trust You, so that joy is a steadfast presence in my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.