Working with God

Today I’ve got a couple verses to share with you, verses of encouragement and challenge.

Encouragement: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  Ephesians 3:20
God has big plans for each of us: He doesn’t create us without ability or purpose, He’s always got plans for us.   But more than just having plans for us, they’re big plans, plans bigger than we could come up with, which is kind of both awesome and intimidating at the same time.

Encouragement: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
God doesn’t give up on people, He always has hope that they’ll turn things around, get back on track or be able to pull things through and finish what He has called them to.  He will keep working with us, guiding us, and providing for us until our mission is complete, and then He may have another one for us!

Encouragement: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17
It’s a serious question: does God hear us when we talk to Him or is it more like talking to someone on our phone without actually dialing the number (which means we don’t talk to them)?  Throughout the Bible God strives to answer this question because lots of people question whether He’s there or not.  After all, He doesn’t always take out a billboard or even send us a simple text or email confirmation to let us know that our prayers were heard or how our prayers will be addressed.  But over and over God tells us that He does indeed hear our prayers.  We just don’t always see how they’re answered, understand the answer or like the answer.

Challenge: “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” Luke 6:46
We’ve established that God has a point for each and every one of our lives, He’ll be with us every step of the way as we work on completing them and He really truly does hear us when we pray to Him.  But what we don’t always get is that we have work to do.  God doesn’t complete the tasks for us, make us get out of bed each day, or make us say our prayers, that’s up to us.  We have to take the initiative to follow through on what He has called us to do.

So this week I challenge you to look at what God has called you to and what you’ve been ignoring or slacking on.  God is after a partnership with each of us, not a one sided speech or lesson.  We’ve got work to do, are you doing it?

An Encouragement for Freedom

This month we’re talking about families, and I know as well as you do that family can be some of the most challenging, constricting, limiting, frustrating experiences! So today I want to share 7 encouraging verses to reflect on this week. check out the passages, talk them over with your family, share them with friends and spend some time working with God on releasing yourself from all that entangles you and discover the freedom God wants for you.

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” 1 Timothy 2:1

What verses encourage you?

Praying for People

A few weeks ago I shared about this verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 

As I was thinking about prayer and our discussion that week it got me thinking about what we use, for lack of better term, prayer for.  Often our prayer life centers around ourselves and others. People are a big part of our lives.  We talk with God about them when things go wrong or we’re concerned about them or when we can’t understand them.  We talk with God about people because our lives are built on interactions whether in person, on the phone or over social media. And so we bring the people in our lives to God through prayer.  Usually we ask Him to fix people or situations, maybe we ask for patience to help us work with that person.

But God has a bigger purpose for prayer, beyond just us telling Him about what goes on in our lives, although that is important to Him.  God wants us to see situations as He does, be open to His leading and guidance, and see people as He does.  God’s hope is that the time we spend in prayer over them won’t add more fuel to the fire but will open us up to His heart and plan for the people in our lives and their purpose for being there.

You may remember a time when someone revealed or you found out why they were being so annoying or what was going on in their lives that caused them to be so difficult and felt guilty for being so harsh on them.  The same holds true for people we pray about: if we knew the truth that God knows we would likely be open to a change of heart about them and the situation.

So this week in your prayer time I encourage you to be open to what God wants you to know.  Don’t forget that like any other conversation there’s time for talking and time for listening, that God knows more than you could about the situation and is just waiting for you to be open to hearing about it.

“…that when you pray for anyone, you tend to modify your personal attitude toward them.” Norman Vincent Peale

Peace and a Prayer

Every day we’re met with new challenges.  Some challenges we feel pretty confident about.  Other challenges we’re stumped as to how to handle them, or we fail in trying to conquer them.  Challenges, changes and choices can really stress us out, added to the goings-on around the world that have nothing to do with us but still concern us simply because things aren’t as peaceful, loving and supportive as we would like them to be.

I read a verse I hadn’t read in a while last week, a verse that reminded me that some things are still simple, despite the challenges and complicated lives we live:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

We have a choice as to how we respond to things in our lives. We can react in fear, panic, hate or learn how to work beyond our initial reaction.  Jesus was really good at responding beyond His initial reaction.  I’m sure there were times He would have preferred to throw a fit, throw people overboard or leave people to their own devices, but His giving heart wouldn’t let Him.  Instead, He was practiced in being patient, staying calm (most of the time) and most importantly checked in with God frequently.

If you’re anxious about things going on in your life don’t forget to turn to God.  Don’t forget to ask Him for His help.  Don’t forget that your first thought, your first reaction, doesn’t have to be your last or your only. Take your time in considering the situation, consider how God would react, and remember that a prayer and breath for patience can go a long way in diffusing the anxiety and making smarter choices, choices that are honoring of God and making a better future for all of us.

Compassionate Communities

I’ve been learning this month that compassion is really about learning to work together.  There are lots of things that challenge us in life, things that frustrate us and people that seem to intentionally try to hurt us with words or actions.  When we are compassionate with one another we not only are interested in other people’s lives, we support them as well.  We’re there for them when they’re struggling, we celebrate with them when they’re doing well, we work with them when they’re trying new things and listen as they sort through things.

Compassion is about supporting each other when things aren’t going as well, but it actually teaches us how things should work when they are.  If we knew that we wouldn’t be judged or criticized for asking for help would we ask for it a whole lot sooner?  Would we reach out a helping hand sooner if we knew we weren’t going to be yelled at and told they could handle it?  Would we work better as a team if we knew the boss would support us for prioritizing rather than yell at us for not doing our specific job?

I always try to come at a project, client, or experience with an open mind so that I can see the different possibilities for that situation, always looking for at least 2 different ways to see that situation.  As much as I trust my initial feelings and judgements, I try to always leave myself open for a second opinion and other perspectives on things because I know that there are very few things that are one sided in this world.

Jesus did a lot of mind blowing during His time on earth.  He was constantly challenging what people believed and how they lived.  Many times He did it because they weren’t supporting each other or treating each other well.  Other times He did it because He wanted them to see things differently.  But throughout His ministry He made one thing clear: we are in this together.  As much as Jesus knew there was a need for leadership, the leaders weren’t there to be high and mighty but to make sure everyone was cared for.

It’s no different today: we need leaders to step up and encourage us to support each other.  Will you be a leader or a supporter this week?

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2

Finding Strength

Life can really get to you.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been hearing an unfortunate number of bad customer experiences at what should be great businesses. I’ve been there, I know that there are lots of people who don’t understand what customer service really is, or how important it is.  But the truth is that there are some nasty customers out there too.  There are people who make it very difficult to provide good customer service.  You’re probably wondering where I am going with all this, right?

Well, let’s start with the fact that everyone has bad days.  But there are also some bad apples: these people don’t have just one bad day, they almost always have a bad day.  It’s not easy to be around those bad apples.  I usually want to start the day over when I connect with them so I can avoid them.  So what do we do when we have these bad apples in our lives?  Philippians 4:13 says:

“Christ is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever I must do.”

As Philippians reminds us, God gives us strength to do what we need to do.  When we need to tell a customer that we’re done working with them, He’ll be there.  When we tell a friend that we need to take a break, He’ll be there.  When we tell our boss that we’re tired of being pushed under the table and stepped on, He’ll be there.  When we choose to take the high road and not fight back with the person who just said rude things to us, He’s there.  When we choose to love our partners and our kids when they do things that aren’t so great, He’s with us.  When we choose to move on with our lives, He’s there.

There’s no situation we can go through that God won’t be there ready to support us.  God will be there to encourage us to do the best we can and be the best we can.  What encouragement do you need this week?  I invite you to share your needs and prayers in the comments.

Accepting Abundance

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

These verses speak about one of the hardest challenges we face throughout our lives: acceptance.  It’s very hard for us to accept the truth about someone, the truth about what we believe, the truth about ourselves and the truth about our future.  One of the hardest acts of acceptance is related to abundance and receiving what is given to us.  Whether pride gets in our way or we just refuse to accept good stuff when it comes to us, we’ve gotten bad at accepting reality when we’re approached by it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in hope and second chances.  I believe we all have the strength and ability to make drastic changes in our lives so we don’t need charity and we can be generous with others.  I encourage you to be able to be self sufficient, not needing others to provide for your needs.

The challenge then comes in when we do have needs and can’t meet them by ourselves.  I believe the one of the biggest blessings in this world comes from the people around us. It’s relieving, even thrilling, to know that I don’t have to know how my computer works when I turn it on in the morning, or how to fix my car if it isn’t working right, there are others who can take care of that.  But it’s up to me to accept that I need their help and ask for it when the situation arises.

Accepting who you are, where you are, what you are, and what you can and can’t change about life are challenging. It’s not easy to get past or through that pride and sufficiency to relying on others. But when you know they can be depended on and have built a network where it’s not a burden for you to rely on each other, but rather a joy, the abundance that will fill your life and theirs will be such a blessing.