Revive Me #32–Light Up Your World

Revive Me, Week 32– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Light Up the World

This year’s theme at Higher Ground was “A Dark World Needs Bright Lights,” but it’s easy to get discouraged when we think in terms of the whole world.  It’s big, dark, and seemingly determined to reject God.  There are some simple ways, though, that we can light up our world.  We can make a difference in all the places we are this week…our homes and our communities.  And imagine the difference it can make when  we’re all lighting up our own little corners together!

We can light up our world by smiling.  Such a simple thing, really, but what an impact!  I have to remind myself that my face doesn’t naturally fall into a joyful expression.  Instead, it looks rather annoyed, or “long,” as someone recently pointed out.  But I know many who are smiling every time I see them.  It lifts me up, and makes me want to smile in return.  I imagine all who come in contact with them are blessed, simply because the joy in their heart is reflected on their face (Phil. 4:4; Psa. 16:9; Prov. 10:28).   I can smile more.  Surely I can do that.

We can light up our world by having a positive outlook.   You probably know someone like this.  Their life isn’t easy, but you wouldn’t know it from their words.  They talk (and post) about the good in life, and the Source of their blessings.  They keep looking up.  Their trust in God permeates their attitude and demeanor.  Because of their serenity, others are drawn to them, and want to know the secret to their peaceful confidence.  How are they living brightly?  Their lack of pessimism and complaint stands out, and points the way to Christ (Phil. 2:14; 4:11).  If being optimistic helps others see Jesus, what does my grumbling do?  I need to remember that.

We can light up our world by encouraging others to see the Word.  I’m thankful for the people in my life who do this.  Their posts contain Scripture.  They turn their life experiences into  teaching opportunities.  They remind us why we’re here, what the Bible has to say, and how we can make it real.  With all of the worldly messages swirling around us, I am especially grateful for those who combat it with glimpses into the eternal, hope-giving Word.  We can never get enough of that.  They shine by turning simple, daily rituals into opportunities to plant the Seed (Mark 16:15; Psa. 96:3; Rom. 1:16).   What if each day I look for at least one way to share the Word.  Will it make a difference?  Oh yes.  God’s Word is living and powerful (Heb. 4:12).  All I have to do is remember to help others see it.

None of the three ways I’ve mentioned involve money or a great deal of time.  There’s no fear of embarrassment or persecution, usually.   It’s just letting God’s love shine through the darkness in simple ways.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Smile.  Smile at your spouse and your children.  Smile in the checkout lines.  Smile in traffic.  Smile instead of scowl.
  2. No complaining, grumbling, mumbling, or sharing aggravations in the office, at the ball field, or on social media.  Just don’t do it, at least for this week.  Remember, your goal is to light up your world not sound like your world.
  3. Share, post, or tweet each day something about God’s Word.
  4. Become a name-dropper.  God’s name, that is.  In your casual conversations, look for ways to insert ways that God blesses, protects, and strengthens.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me #31– Get the Message

Revive Me, Week 31– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Get the Message

About 6 weeks ago, I bought a little bracelet and I’ve been wearing it nearly every day since.  Just yesterday morning in Bible class, I discovered that it has something written on the underside.  It says, “Never forget how much you are loved.”  I was so surprised and couldn’t believe I never saw it before then.  All this time that bracelet has been right there on my wrist yet I had no idea that sweet message was waiting for me.  Now I like the bracelet even more!

I wonder how many other things I’ve missed out on because I wasn’t paying attention?

  • Bible study.  I always have a Bible nearby.  I try to read it daily.  But am I paying attention?  Am I examining it closely and focusing on the details?  Am I seeing God’s message?
  • Relationships.  I have family and friends all around me.  But am I paying attention to them?  Do I see their cues, hear their hints?  Have I been so distracted by my own schedule or constantly checking messages that I’ve been missing the needs of those most dear to me?  Have I missed out on some friendships because I’ve been blind to efforts to reach out to me?
  • Blessings.  They’re everywhere, everyday.  But have I taken them for granted?  Have I even seen the blessings, big and small, that God sends me so that I will get His message, “Never forget how much you are loved”?

“Oh taste and se that the Lord is good” (Psa. 34:8).

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Study the Bible intentionally.  Look closely.  Examine each word.  See how sweet and dear God’s message is for you!
  2.  Notice every thoughtful gesture by the people around you.  Acknowledge them.  Recognize it as yet another proof of God’s love and care for you.
  3. See the blessings, physical and spiritual.  Help others see them.  Ask God to help you keep your eyes open to them.
  4. Put your phone, laptop, iPad, whatever away.  Instead of looking down at your device, look around and SEE people.  Smile, connect, and see their messages.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me #30–Love the Unlovable

Revive Me, Week 30– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Love the Unlovable

I spent the past week with 50 teen girls at a Christian Bible camp.  During one lesson, they were asked to come up with a specific way they would be willing to shine their light.  One young lady wrote, “I will love the unlovable.”

The 50 girls were from different states and had different backgrounds.  They didn’t all grow up in sweet Christian homes.  They weren’t all at the same level of spiritual maturity.  And yet by the middle of the week, there was a unity taking place that was beautiful to behold.  They were reaching out to each other.  They were (mostly) patient with each other.  They were drawing in the shy, the awkward, and the scared.  They even managed to soften the one or two with a chip on their shoulder.  By the end of the week, as we sang in a big circle holding hands, they were family.

Most of us encounter many people each day.  We know we are commanded to love them (Mark 12:31) but not all of them will be easy to love.  Some will be prickly or grouchy or mean.  Some will look unapproachable.  Some will simply reject any attempt to reach out to them.  While we won’t be thrown into a camp situation where it will be easier to grow to love others, we must still determine to love the unlovable.  The outgoing, warm, friendly, happy people around us are probably receiving love and good attention.  It’s the ones who are edgy, odd, or giving off “leave me alone” vibes who most need us to show them the love of Christ.

“Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

(1 John 3:18)

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

(1 John 4:8)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Pay close attention to outsiders.  Reach out to them in a specific way.
  2.  Show warmth in your smile and your words to those who are not nice.  They need it the most.  Remember, “hurt people hurt people.”
  3.  If you are afraid, ask God to give you courage.
  4.  Don’t give up if your first attempts to reach out are rejected or even ridiculed.  And definitely don’t react in a hurt or indignant way.  That’s what they expect.  Instead, smile and try again at first opportunity.
  5. Pray for those who are unlovable.
  6. Instead of mentally tagging others with harsh labels, identify them as lost souls or lonely and outcast.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me #21- Long for Fellowship

Revive Me, Week 21– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Long for Fellowship

I have rolled my eyes at the idea of another potluck.  I’ve whispered “amen” to posts or comments about the fact that fellowship is not about eating a meal together.  Well, I’ve decided that I’ve been guilty of a bad attitude.

If I’m honest, I must get to the bottom of my lack of enthusiasm.  Is it the meal itself?  No.  Is it the effort it would take on my part to prepare a dish?  No.  So that leaves only two other reasons.  Either I don’t relish the idea of spending more time with my Christian family or I don’t want to cram another event into my already busy schedule.  Spelling it out like that doesn’t make me sound too good, does it?  What could be more important than spending time with God’s people?  What does it say about the spiritual condition of my heart when I lose the desire to do so?

God’s people are the best of people!  I never regret spending time with them.

What does God think about Christian fellowship?

  • The early Christians were devoted to it- Acts 2:42
  • He lists it as a blessing of walking in the Light- 1 John 1:7

There are commands we can only fulfill with time and togetherness:

  • We meet together to encourage each other- Heb. 10:25
  • We are to bear each other’s burdens- Gal. 6:2
  • We are to have the same mind and the same love- Phil. 2:2
  • We are to comfort one another- 2 Cor. 13:11
  • We are to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other- James 5:16
  • We are to look to the interests of others- Phil. 2:4
  • We are to do good to each other- Gal. 6:10
  • We are to love one another- 1 John 4:7
  • We are to exhort one another- Heb. 3:13

Only so many of those can be accomplished through social media.  Paul desired to see Christians so he could be encouraged by their faith (Rom. 1:11,12).

Busyness.  Introvertedness.  Isolation.  These may be the types of things that lead to a lack of desire for togetherness.  Or maybe the withdrawal comes from hurt feelings.  Maybe someone said something thoughtless or let you down.  Whatever the cause, let us remember that fellowship was special to the church of the New Testament.  Let us remember that fellowship is about more than getting, it’s about giving.  We encourage, love, serve, exhort.  We hug and laugh together.  We light each other’s fire to save souls.  We let others glimpse our faith.

The first century Christians were united and turned the world upside-down (Acts 17:6).  Certainly that is the desire of every Christian today.

Suggestions for the Week:

1.  Look up the “one another” passages and list what Christians are to do together.

2.  If your desire to fellowship is waning, try to determine the cause.  Have you been hurt?  Are you so busy that you are burned out?  Have worldly pursuits distracted you?  Pray about it.

3.  Make sure the same people aren’t having to schedule fellowship activities.  Help brainstorm and create opportunities to be together.

4.  Pay attention to those who are missing fellowship activities.  Reach out to them and encourage them to join you.

5.  Be intentional in your fellowship.  While you’re with Christians, focus on giving, loving, encouraging, and listening.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me #20– Rise and Shine!

Revive Me, Week 20– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Rise and Shine!

“Rise and shine, friend. Everyone you meet today is on heaven’s Most Wanted list.”

(Charles R. Swindoll)

I love this quote.  It’s a reminder and a challenge for me.  It reminds me that my attitude affects my ability to impact others for Christ.  It challenges me to see each new day as an opportunity to think souls.  Rise and shine!

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”

(Phil. 2:14,15)

There are many reasons to grumble, I know.  Politics.  The high expense of health care.  Job insecurity.  Maybe Monday mornings are on that list for you.  We all have personal reasons to grumble.  But what are any of these in light of a soul?  Let’s lay aside our grumbles and look for ways to shine.  The people around us need Christ.  Does grumbling lift Him up for all to see?

Rise above the earthly annoyances (Col. 3:1,2) and shine the Light (Matt. 5:16).  May God bless our daily efforts to share His love this week.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Be mindful of your face.  It’s the first thing people see.  Smile warmly as you interact with EVERY person.
  2.  If your list of reasons to grumble seems overly long, remember that your list of reasons to smile is even longer.  Write down your blessings and keep adding to that list each day this week.  This would be a fun family activity.
  3.  Your cheer will be obvious in an unhappy world.  Some will comment on it.  Be ready to give a thought provoking answer for “the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15).
  4.  My son, Dale, said, “We can Think Souls all day long but we need to get beyond the thinking and start doing something about it.”  What specific way can you reach souls this week?

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me #19–Turn Your Regrets Around

Revive Me, Week 19–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Turn Your Regrets Around

We will be celebrating our youngest son’s graduation from high school next week.  For the past several weeks I’ve been fighting a slight panic, a nagging feeling that I’ve left some things undone and untaught.  How did this moment get here so quickly?  How have I run out of time already?

I shared these thoughts with Kathy Petrillo last night, a wise mother who is a few years ahead of me.  She promptly said, “There’s still time.”  I blinked, and then I smiled.  Of course!  Thank you, Kathy Petrillo!

There’s still time.  We’re not promised a tomorrow (James 4:14) but we have today.

I imagine we all have some regrets.  It’s encouraging to read about individuals in the Bible who surely had regrets but still continued to serve God to the best of their ability.  David sinned in his relationships but secured the best relationship of all by being “a man after God’s own heart.”  How?  God knew David would “do all His will” (Acts 13:22).  Paul went from persecuting the Lord’s church to loving the Lord’s church.  I can imagine a brother asking, “Paul, how do you deal with your regrets?”  Paul would answer, “One thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on…” (Phil. 3:13,14). He would go on to say, “Let us therefore…have this attitude.”

How can we turn our regrets around?

  1.  Do all God’s will
  2.  Forget what lies behind
  3.  Reach forward to what lies ahead
  4.  Maintain this attitude

I’m still not ready for my last son to leave the nest.  I know I missed opportunities and messed up many times.  Satan wants me to get bogged down in the “if onlys.”  God wants me to press ahead.

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”

(Pat Schroeder)

Suggestions for the week:

  1.  Paul said, “Join in following my example” (Phil. 3:17).  What “goal” was he pressing toward (v. 14)?  Write down what goal you’re pressing toward.
  2. Perhaps, like me, you have some things in your past you’d like to forget.  Is there anything you need to do before you can turn those regrets around?  Do you need to ask for someone’s forgiveness?  Do you need to make something right, if possible?
  3. Bible-mark “Haunted by the Past.”
  4. Ask God to help you let go of the past so you can pursue the opportunities you have in the present.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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What Carl looked like just yesterday.

 

Revive Me #18–Keep Things in Perspective

A few months ago I shared the photo below on my husband and dog on social media.  Several posted comments like:

“That’s not a dog…it’s a grizzly bear!”

“That dog is huge!  What kind is it?”

“That can’t be a real dog.”

“That’s a wookie.”

“Is that real?  When’d he get so big?  (Your dog, not Neal)”

Chipper does look ginormous in the picture but he’s only a medium sized goldendoodle and weighs about 55 pounds.  Something about the perspective of the shot makes him look a lot bigger than he actually is, especially compared to Neal.

How are you at keeping things in perspective?  It’s easier to see when someone else has trouble because they’re approaching something from the wrong point of view.  We might think, “If only they would change their attitude concerning ______…”  It’s more difficult to recognize in our own life.

Thankfully the Bible is our mirror (James 1:23).  We can look into it and see if we need to make any changes.

  • What causes you to worry?
  • Do you have unresolved issues with someone?
  • Do you wonder what you’re supposed to do with your life?
  • Do you feel like you’re not good enough, your past is insurmountable, or Christianity is too hard?

Satan wants you to struggle and doubt.  He wants to discourage you from ever “getting it right.”  These types of questions can be more easily resolved when approached from a biblical perspective.  When we keep our focus where it belongs, the predicaments of life don’t loom as large.

“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above…Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

(Col. 3:1,2)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Study verses that have to do with spiritual priorities:  Luke 12:22-34; Col. 1:10; Matt. 6:19-24, 33; 22:37,38; Luke 10:38-42; Rom. 12:2; Phil. 3:13,14; 2 Tim. 2:22
  2.  List your concerns and pray about them.  Ask God to help you keep things in their proper perspective.
  3.  Consider the quote, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”  Have you allowed fear to control your decisions?  How can you strengthen your faith to help you see things God’s way?

Read it. Memorize it. Live it.

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Revive Me #16–Be Marvelous!

Revive Me, Week 16–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Be Marvelous!

“Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, ‘I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.'”

(Luke 7:9)

Reading about something that causes Jesus to marvel catches my attention.  What did that man do to amaze Jesus?  In the beginning of Luke 7, we read about a centurion whose slave was about to die.  He sent for Jesus.  When the centurion heard that Jesus was on the way, he sent messengers to Him to say He needn’t “trouble Himself” to come all the way under his roof.  He said, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (v. 7).  He spoke of Jesus’ authority and power.  Simply put, the centurion’s speech revealed his great faith.

Words can also reveal weak faith.  When the disciples of Jesus experienced a storm, they said, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” Jesus said, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matt. 8:23-26).

Peter took a few brave steps onto the water but then he “became frightened” and began to sink.  He cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:28-31).

What does your speech reveal about your faith?

Is it obvious to those around you that your faith is great?  No matter what life throws at you, you’re quick to speak of the authority and power of Jesus.  You happily turn control over to Him.  You exude confidence and peace because of your trust in the One who can heal the broken and calm the storms.

Or  does your speech reveal a little faith?  You’re a fretter.  You’re easily overwhelmed.  You allow the things of this world to intimidate you.  When you experience a storm, your words reveal your fear.  When you begin to sink, your cries reveal your doubt.

I want Jesus to marvel at my faith, don’t you?

This week, be marvelous!  Create opportunities to declare your great faith.

Suggestions for the week:

1.  Marvelous is a terrific word.  Look it up.  Just reading the definition and its synonyms will make you feel good.

2.  Study the accounts of the centurion and his great faith (Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10).  Also study the accounts of those who dismayed Jesus by their little faith (Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8).  What situations did these individuals find themselves in?  How did they react?

3.  Think of your specific storms.  How have you reacted?  Have you allowed fear and worry to weaken your faith?  What will you do and say to show your great faith?

4.  Be mindful of opportunities this week to cause others to marvel at your great faith.

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Revive Me #15–Call on the Lord

Revive Me, Week 15–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Call on the Lord

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

(Psalm 145:18)

The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

(Prov. 15:29)

I almost want you to skip to the end of this post and read the Homer Hailey quote.  It’s powerful and will renew your gratitude and awe over the blessing of prayer.  Can you imagine your life without prayer?

A “Revive Me” series would be incomplete without a emphasis on prayer.  Every healthy relationship requires two sided communication.  God speaks to us through His Word (1 Thess. 2:13)  and He has given us the avenue of prayer as a way to speak to Him (1 John 5:14,15).  This week consider your prayer life.  Is it weak or is it strong?

Some questions to consider:

  • Do you know how to pray?  Luke 11:1-13
  • Do you believe God hears your prayers?  Psa. 18:6; 34:17
  • Do you pray in complete faith?  Or does doubt creep in?  James 1:6,7; 5:13-18
  • Does your prayer life consist mostly of routine prayers at meals and bedtime?  Or do you pray throughout the day and make time for fervent prayer?  Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2
  • Do you pray for others and with others?  1 Tim. 2:1-4
  • Do you pray with worldly motives?  James 4:3
  • In addition to petitions, do your prayers contain praise and thanksgiving?  Matt. 6:9; Psa. 95:1-6

“To the believer prayer is a sacred privilege as well as an obligation.  When he prays, solemn thoughts should fill his soul; for the finite creature is before the infinite creator, ruler, and sustainer of the universe.  He is before the Lord of heaven and earth, communing and talking with Him, seeking His fellowship and casting his anxieties upon Him, believing that He cares for him.  It is indeed a blessed favor bestowed upon us when the eternal God invites us to share a joyous fellowship and communion with Him; this is the glory of prayer.”

–From Prayer and Providence by Homer Hailey

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Study Bible characters (like Hannah, Nehemiah, Daniel, and Jesus) who had a strong prayer life.  When did they pray?  How did it help them?
  2. Look up and write down the blessings that come from prayer:  Phil. 4:6,7; Rom. 8:26; Matt. 26:41; Luke 11:9-13; Psa. 145:18,19; Heb. 4:16
  3. Bible-mark “The Power of Prayer.”
  4. Read a good book about prayer (like “The Begging Place” by Becky Blackmon or “Prayer and Providence” by Homer Hailey).
  5. Set aside time each day for private, fervent prayer.
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Photo credit: Michael Hite

Revive Me #14- Speak Tenderly

Revive Me, Week 14– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Speak Tenderly

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).

Death speech:

  • Attacking instead of defending a position with dignity— We are to “be ready to give a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15).  We are to be passionate about the Truth (Jude 3).  But in that passionate defense, we need to make sure we are not neglecting to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
  • Overusing sarcasm– When speaking to or about others, sarcasm can smack of arrogance.  Just because we’re quick-witted enough to use it doesn’t mean we should.  Let’s not be snarkastic (to borrow my husband’s word) when a gentle answer would be more powerful (Prov. 15:1).
  • Making disparaging remarks— When someone is struggling with personal battles, the last thing they need to hear when they show up for worship is, “What?  You don’t own a tie?”  We assume that others are strong enough to bear whatever we dish out but we don’t always know their spiritual state.  Our innocent but thoughtless remarks could cause someone to leave feeling beat down instead of built up.
  • Speaking in exasperation— Since we spend the most time with our families, we can have more moments of irritation and annoyance with them.  Let’s be sure to cherish those relationships by interacting with patience and respect.

If a loved one is the one being discouraged by the words of another, we feel very protective and indignant. We wonder why someone didn’t think before they spoke, why they thought it was okay to be so free with their careless opinion.  We need to feel that same level of protection toward everyone.  We will be held accountable for what we say/ post to or about others (Matt. 12:36).

Life Speech:

  • Building others up— It doesn’t take much effort but oh what good can be done by thoughtful words (1 Thess. 5:11)!
  • Commending/ praising/ blessing others– This is one way we can look to the interests of others (Phil. 2:3,4)
  • Loving others— We’re commanded to love one another (1 John 4:7,8) so why shouldn’t we tell each other we do?
  • Sharing the good news– The best way to give life is to tell about the One who is Life (John 14:6).
  • Expressing gratitude— I don’t think it can be overdone.
  • Encouraging others– Many are quietly serving.  We can encourage them by telling them they make a difference.

To speak tenderly means to speak lovingly and gently.  Let’s determine to speak tenderly in every interaction.  We represent Christ.  Our life-giving words will clearly demonstrate that.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

(Eph. 4:29-32)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.   Use the power of your tongue this week to encourage:
  • Face to face– Make it your mission to encourage at least 15 different people
  • Social media– 10 posts that will encourage the church as a whole or a specific person
  • Email– send to 5 different people pointing out their strengths
  • Traditional mail– Write to 3 different people thanking them for their service
  • Phone– Call a shut-in to brighten their day

2.  When communicating in whatever form, remember the words of  Thumper.

3.  Focus your personal Bible study this week on the power of the tongue.

4.  Ask God to help you see when you are being thoughtless or careless with remarks.

Study it. Memorize it. Live it.

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