A Psalm of Life

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was “one of theFireside Poets,” who wrote lyrical poems about history, mythology, and legend that were popular and widely translated in the 19th Century, making him the most famous American of his day.” (Quote source here.) He was also a professor at Harvard, and a fascinating short biography titled, The many lives of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,” can be read at this link.

The quote in the image above (for those who might not be able to view the image) states, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. To phrase it in today’s vernacular since in his time (19th Century) “man” meant all human beings, we could extract that one word to include everyone in today’s language–“we should find in each life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

How often do we think about our enemies in that manner? More often then not, we don’t. But think about the hostility going on around the world today and in our own daily lives, and what it would be like if we could disarm big chunks of it, or even just a small chunk would be a start. For example, being kind instead of mean–that’s a good start.

One of the poems that Longfellow is famous for is titled, A Psalm of Life.” This poem “carries a message of hope and encouragement. It encourages people to live their lives to the fullest, using the short time we have here on Earth as a gift. The poem is a message to future generations to find work and action that gives them purpose and passion.” (Quote source here.) Here is that poem:

A Psalm of Life

What the Heart of the Young Man
Said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
“Life is but an empty dream!”
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
“Dust thou art, to dust returnest,”

Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Finds us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.
(Quote source here.)

In a reflection on this poem published on February 19, 2013, titled, A Psalm of Life: My Reflection,” by Don Meyer, Ph.D., (retired) President of the University of Valley Forge (formerly Valley Forge Christian College), he writes the following regarding stanza seven in the poem (click here to read his entire reflection from the beginning):

My favorite stanza is number 7. It is perhaps the most quoted from this entire poem: “Lives of great men all remind us; We can make our lives sublime. And, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.” Around us are countless examples of men and women who refuse to let life beat them down. Through the most horrific circumstances, they refuse to surrender their resolve. 

Malala Yonsufazai is someone like that. On October 9, 2012 this little 15-year-old Pakistani girl on her way home from school was shot by two Pakistani Taliban men once in the head and once in the neck as she got off her school bus.

In 2008, the Taliban decided to prohibit girls in her area to acquire an education. With her father’s permission, she began a blog under a different name. But when her father nominated her for a peace prize in 2009, Malala’s identity was revealed. The Taliban went on a rampage destroying hundreds of schools with the leader denouncing education for girls. In spite of that, Malala’s never wavered in her belief that girls had a right to an education.

In spite of early ominous reports, it appears she will make a full recovery [reminder–this article was published in 2013]. Who can hear that story without being inspired? Millions around the world see her footprints on the sands of time. [Malala’s website is available here: “Malala’s Story.”]

Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Billy Graham, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa and so many more have made footprints for us. Longfellow also knew the responsibility we have to leave footprints of our own. He calls for a kind of bifocal vision—before and behind—if we are to live life with meaning. 

With boldness he ends his poem: “Let us, then be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.” We must not sit on the sidelines. We must not slumber. We must not stop.

We must be up! We must be doing! We must have heart! We must achieve! We must pursue! We must be up and doing in the workplace! We must be up and doing in our homes!  We must be up and doing in our communities! With a heart for any fate, we must be up and doing! 

We must!

Think about it. (Quote source here.)

The Apostle Paul stated something similar in Philippians 3:13-14 when he stated:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

In an article published on May 6, 2021, titled, Philippians 3:13-14: Forgetting What Is Behind,” by Mary Fairchild, Christian minister, writer, and editor, she writes:

In Philippians 3:13-14, the Apostle Paul is laser-focused on the race, the goal, and the finish line of his journey of faith. Like an Olympian runner, he does not turn back to dwell on his failures. Forgetting what is behind, Paul looks forward resolutely toward the final victory lap when he will see the face of Jesus Christ

Now, remember, Paul is Saul, the man who persecuted the church violently. He played a part in the stoning of Stephen, and he could have let guilt and shame cripple him for that. But Paul forgot what was in the past. He didn’t let it haunt him or trip him up in the present.

Neither did Paul dwell on his sufferings, beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment. He forgot the disappointments and challenges of rebellious church members, false teachers, and persecutions. Instead, he trained his eyes on a vision of his Master welcoming him home to heaven saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward!” (Matthew 25:21). (Quote source and complete article here. Citation: Fairchild, Mary. “Philippians 3:13-14: Forgetting What Is Behind.” Learn Religions, May. 6, 2021, learnreligions.com/forget-the-past-and-press-on-philippians-313-14-701886.)

Inspiring, isn’t it? In one of the parables taught by Jesus found in Luke 18:1-8, which is often referred to as The Parable of the Persistent Widow,” he opens that parable by telling his disciples “that they should always pray and not give up” (you can read this parable at this link, and read the meaning of this parable at this link). And later after Jesus had risen from the dead, he gave them what is known as The Great Commission,” found in Matthew 28:16-20, and he ended it with these words to remind them (and us, which will be the last words of this post) of his continual presence in our lives: And surely…

I am with you always . . .

To the very end . . .

Of the age . . . .

YouTube Video: “Help Is On The Way” by TobyMac:

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Being Teachable

In the midst of such a challenging year as 2020 has turned out to be, we can grow weary and think things are just too big for us to handle. And, for the most part, they are. And that’s exactly the time we need to be encouraged and reminded that it is God, and not us, who is in control.

In a message (sermon notes) published on July 21, 2019, titled, Psalm 86: A Humble, Confident Cry for Help,” by Matthew Breeden, Elder and Teaching Pastor at Southern Hills Baptist Church, he states:

When People are Big and God is Smallis the title of a book that I read many years ago but that I still think of often. The premise of the book is that we are prone to giving more weight to what other people say rather than to what God says. In our thoughts we make people big and God small.

In a similar way many of us are guilty of seeing our situations and thinking they are too big or too complicated while at the same time minimizing the power and care of God. We are guilty of believing that our situations are big and God is small.

In Psalm 86 we see a prayer of a man who has a proper perspective. While he finds himself in a difficult situation he remains confident that God hears and is able to save him. He’s sure that even though his situation is dire, his God is bigger and desires to show mercy to those whom He loves.

A common feature in ancient literature is the use of structure to highlight a main idea. In Psalm 86 David uses a distinct structure to show what’s central to his thinking. While the psalm starts and ends with references to his situation and his requests for salvation, the center sections of the psalm are completely focused on God and David’s devotion to God.

This structure reveals David’s heart. He certainly wants to be saved from trouble (this is made clear in vv. 1-7 and 14-17) but above all He emphasizes the character of God (vv. 8-10) and his own devotion to God (vv. 11-13). The situation is difficult but He is confident in His God.

David’s Request: A Humble Plea to the God who Hears His People (86:1-7) 

  • David believes that God hears and answers prayers – In vv. 1-7 there are 8 prayer requests. At first read it may seem like David is trying to persuade God, but in fact these verses reveal David’s humble confidence in God. He is praying to God with confidence that He hears and responds. 
  • David appeals to God based on their relationship – Throughout this section David emphasizes his relationship to God as His servant. He doesn’t see God as a distant unreachable figure, but as his Lord who will care for those who are His own.
  • David is sure of the ways God relates to His people – In verse 5 David recounts the ways God relates to His people: God is good and forgiving and faithful in love.

David’s Praise: An Expression of Trust and Confidence in God’s Character (86:8-10)

  • If we read verses 8-10 in isolation from the rest of the psalm it sounds like it would be part of a psalm of praise. It’s remarkable to remember that this is included in a prayer for salvation as David is running for his life. But what’s clear is that David understands the “bigness” of God and trusts that God can save him from any situation.
  • Application: How quick are you to remember the truth of who God is in the midst of a difficult time? How dialed in are you to the truth when you are going to God in prayer? Do you tend to focus on the enormity of struggle rather than on the ‘bigness’ of God?When we are really conscious of who God is then it should enable us to pray with boldness.

David’s Devotion: A Humble Commitment to Obedience and Worship (86:11-13)

  • Without the context vs. 9 may seem somewhat ordinary, but the fact that this is included in prayer for salvation makes it more remarkable. In the middle of a prayer for protection David is asking God to grow Him and to teach Him so that He can walk in the truth.
  • Even in the midst of difficulties David is focused on the character of God and he is poised to give thanks and praise to God–trusting that He will hear and save him. 
  • Application: When life gets hard our spiritual growth and the praise of God may be the furthest things from our minds, but we should want them to be front and center. We should want to love and trust God so much that even in the struggles we are asking Him to hold us close and teach us.

David’s Request Restated: A Humble, Confident Cry for Help (86:14-17)

  • In many ways vv. 14-17 mirror vv. 1-7. Once again we see that while David is crying out for help he is confident in God and His ability to save him. David is also hopeful that God will be praised as others see God’s protection of His servant. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on BeliefNet.com, titled, 5 Things Every Christian Should Know About Psalm 86: There’s More to David’s Prayer Than You Think,” by Angela Guzman, Writer at Large for BeliefNet, she writes:

Psalm 86 is a prayer of David. Before we look at what is said, let’s revisit the scripture.

Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God;

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long.

Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.

Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.

When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.

Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me–they have no regard for you.

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother I did.

Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

It’s thought that Psalm 86 was not penned upon any particular occasion, but was a prayer that David himself often used. It’s also presumed that he often recommended the prayer to others that were battling an affliction within their lives. After re-reading the psalm, it’s evident that the language is very plain and lacks any poetic flights or figures in comparison to other psalms.

David is very passionate with his words and at times can sound somewhat preachy; however, when someone is driven by their faith, sometimes passion can be misconstrued as being overly preachy. This passion and desire for real resolution and understanding is visible through David’s pleads. He pleads his relation to God and interest to him; he pleads his distress, he pleads God’s good will towards all that seek Him, and he pleads God’s good work in himself, by which is qualified.

The elements to keep in mind and take a deeper look at include:

Label of David

Psalm 86 is a very in-depth lesson on prayer. Interestingly enough, Psalm 86 is Book three of the Psalter and is the only one labeled as written by David. Many readers will say that this indicates that it’s not an original psalm. Instead the psalm pieces together verses and phrases from other psalms and scriptures, which causes people to believe that David didn’t actually write it himself.

Timing

It’s impossible to put a specific time in David’s life for this prayer because there are too many possible points where this connects with his overall circumstances. In addition, David calls God “Adonai,” master, seven times.

15 Requests

In Psalm 86 you’ll find a man who puts his faith in God while crying out desperately. The psalm is filled with 15 requests—some of them are repetitive. All in all, the requests break down into four sections. In 86:1-7, David cries out in great need for God to hear and act on his behalf. In 86:8-10 there is a deliberate request of praise when David declares God as the only true God—the Lord of the nations. Then in 86:11-13, David asks for God to teach him and unite his heart to fear God so that he can glorify Him forever. And then finally in 86:14-17, David appeals to God’s mercy and grace to deliver him.

The Lesson

The ultimate lesson and bigger picture that encompasses the entire psalm is, “Our great needs should drive us to pray to the great God, who alone can deliver us.” God is the only one who has control over the world that we live in. No matter how hard we wish, the Lord is the only one who can really provide us with the strength and hope to get where we yearn to be. Once we all learn to put God first, then everything else will fall into place. All in all, God is the key to everything.

Prayer

From time to time, an individual’s pride can become blinding and get in the way of the reality that God has put into play.

In Psalm 86:14, David mentions the band of arrogant, violent men that are seeking his life. David understands his need and this drives him toward prayer. Psalm 86 helps Christians to recognize their own selfishness and helps to shed light on the bigger picture of relationships within families and the church.

Throughout the entirety of Psalm 86, David gives glory to God. He praises Him throughout the prayer in the most humble and reverent adoration. Throughout everything he never takes away from God’s greatness or infinite greatness. Furthermore, he identifies his infinite goodness as well.

We all need the salvation of the Lord. There are so many trials and tribulations within the world, therefore, it is imperative that we pray to God for mercy and allow Him to help lead us away from potential sins. (Quote source here.)

With so many things going on in America right now to include a very divisive Presidential election taking place in eight weeks from now, may this psalm remind us of how much bigger God is then anything going on in America and the rest of the world, and may it drive us to pray as David prayed in humility and confidence in our great God!

I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 86:11Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me…

An undivided heart . . .

That I may fear . . .

Your name . . . .

YouTube Video: “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns:

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Hope Blossoms

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.”Psalm 119:114 I read a devotion this morning from Our Daily Bread that I thought would be an encouraging devotion to share for the times we find ourselves in right now more then half way through 2020 (e.g., Covid-19, riots, the shutting down of churches and other social gatherings where people were used to getting together and encouraging and enjoying one another, etc.) and with a Presidential election only 81 days away.

This devotion is titled, Hope Blossoms,” and  it is written by Patricia Raybon, award winning author and journalist:

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.Isaiah 35:1

In the city of Philadelphia, when weedy vacant lots were cleaned up and brightened with beautiful flowers and trees, nearby residents also brightened in overall mental health. This proved especially true for those who struggled economically.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that green space can have an impact on mental health,” said Dr. Eugenia South, “and that’s particularly important for people living in poorer neighborhoods.” South, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, is coauthor of a study on the subject.

The downtrodden people of Israel and Judah found fresh hope in the prophet Isaiah’s vision of their beautiful restoration by God. Amid all the doom and judgment Isaiah foretold, this bright promise took root: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:1–2).

No matter our situation today, we too can rejoice in the beautiful ways our heavenly Father restores us with fresh hope, including through His creation. When we feel down, reflecting on His glory and splendor will bolster us. “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way,” Isaiah encouraged (v. 3).

Can a few flowers rekindle our hope? A prophet said yes. So does our hope-giving God. (Quote source here.)

While the word “hope” does not appear in the following Psalm, there is a lot of hope found in the words of Psalm 103 (NKJV):

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness
And tender mercies,

Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is
From everlasting to everlasting

On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember
His commandments to do them.

The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

I don’t know about you, but after reading this psalm, I feel better already.

And here’s an encouraging article titled, When Life is Hard: 9 Reminders that ‘The Lord Fights for You,'” by Debbie McDaniel, writer and pastor’s wife, published on August 18, 2016:

Whether we recognize it or not, this truth daily confronts us, we face an enemy here in this life. It’s more than what we can see before us. It’s more than another person who we think has wronged us. It’s more than our own struggles and weaknesses we deal with, or the negative self-talk we sometimes battle.

This enemy is real and fierce. He will stop at nothing to try to bring you defeat and destruction. Maybe you’ve noticed too. Because if you’re a believer who is living like salt and light in a dark world, you won’t go for long without encountering obstacles and attacks he’ll hurl your direction. We can be assured, this enemy hates Truth. So if we’re living by it, standing on it, seeking after it, we will be targeted. God’s words are true, this battle is real, many times it feels intense.

But here’s the powerful hope that keeps us strong: God is greater than whatever we face here in this world, and He fights for us still today! 

If you’re in the heat of the battle right now, or if the enemy feels hot on your trail, please know you’re not alone, not ever. Neither are you left to fight on your own. Many of us are in the battle with you, and God is the One who fights on our behalf, constantly shielding, protecting, strengthening, even when we’re unaware. We never have to struggle to fend for ourselves, but He’s with us, always, covering us, in all of our days.

He’s given us His words that are powerful and true, so that we’ll have the wisdom to stand strong against the enemy. As I read these verses this morning, the reality struck me again that Paul wrote them while in chains, in prison. Yet the truth is–the enemy, no matter how vicious his schemes, can never chain our spirits that have been set free by Christ. Paul was not silenced by the cruel attacks from dark forces. Neither should we be.

Focusing here today, putting on His armor, staying alert, and praying, that God will equip believers everywhere to “stand strong.” Press on–courageous and free–never held back by fear or defeat.  For God has the final victory over our lives…

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Eph. 6:10-18

Remember, your battle today may be more about what is unseen than what you see before you. And when you resist the enemy, God’s word reminds us in James 4:7 that he has to flee.

Stand strong my friends, grace to you this day.

You’re never alone.

He loves you. He fights for you. He is with you.

9 Reminders from God’s Word that “The Lord Fights for Us” Today:

“For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deut. 20:4

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Rom. 8:31

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Josh. 1:9

“Through You we will push back our adversaries; Through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us.” Ps. 44:5

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:28

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

“Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.” Deut. 3:22

“Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Is. 40:31

“One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the LORD your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you.” Josh. 23:10 (Quote source here. She includes a prayer at the end of this article and you can read it this link.)

In Exodus 14, we find a story where Pharaoh’s army had chased and caught the Israelites by the sea. There looked to be no way out for the Israelites, and fear was overtaking them. However, Moses, their leader, told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:13-14 NLT). And guess what happened? The Lord parted the waters of the sea and the Israelites crossed. When the Egyptian army pursued them, they were drowned (see Exodus 14 for all of the details).

This year of 2020 has unfolded like no other year that we can remember in recent times. However, for believers, we have a hope that the rest of the world does not have, and that hope is found in Jesus Christ. It is He who fights for us, and in the last three words of Exodus 14:14 (NLT) are our instructions that we need to follow…

Just . . .

Stay . . .

Calm . . . .

YouTube Video: “Overcomer” by Mandisa:

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Where the Wind Blows

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” –Jesus speaking to Nicodemus in John 3:8What is something that we all know exists, yet nobody can see it? It’s the wind. We can see it’s effects and feels it’s breeze, but we can’t actually see the wind.

The wind is one of many symbols used to describe the Holy Spirit. Regarding the Holy Spirit, Wikipedia states, “For the majority of Christian denominations, the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, is the third person of the Trinity: the Triune God manifested as God the FatherGod the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; each entity itself being God.” (Quote source here.)

GotQuestions.org gives a more detailed description of the Holy Spirit as follows:

There are many misconceptions about the identity of the Holy Spirit. Some view the Holy Spirit as a mystical force. Others understand the Holy Spirit as the impersonal power that God makes available to followers of Christ. What does the Bible say about the identity of the Holy Spirit? Simply put, the Bible declares that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, a being with a mind, emotions, and a will.

The fact that the Holy Spirit is God is clearly seen in many Scriptures, including Acts 5:3-4. In this verse Peter confronts Ananias as to why he lied to the Holy Spirit and tells him that he had “not lied to men but to God.” It is a clear declaration that lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God. We can also know that the Holy Spirit is God because He possesses the characteristics of God. For example, His omnipresence is seen in Psalm 139:7-8, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Then in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, we see the characteristic of omniscience in the Holy Spirit. “But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

We can know that the Holy Spirit is indeed a divine person because He possesses a mind, emotions, and a will. The Holy Spirit thinks and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27). He makes decisions according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Trinity. As God, the Holy Spirit can truly function as the Comforter and Counselor that Jesus promised He would be (John 14:162615:26). (Quote source here.)

The Holy Spirit has many roles in the life of a Christian, and “the Bible is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is active in our world” (quote source here.) A listing of those roles includes: Author of Scripture; Comforter/Counselor/Advocate; Convicter of sin; Deposit/Seal/Earnest; Guide; Indweller of Believers; Intercessor/Revealer of Truth; Spirit of God/The Lord/Christ; Spirit of Life; Teacher; Witness (source here including a brief description of each role).

In an article titled, Symbols of the Holy Spirit,” by Dr. Jack Hayford, founding pastor of The Church On The Way and Chancellor of The King’s University, he states that the Holy Spirit comes as (1) Rain, (2) Rivers, (3) Wind, (4) Oil, (5) Wine, (6) Fire, and (7) as a Dove (see descriptions for each at this link). For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll focus on the Holy Spirit described as “Wind.” Dr. Hayford writes:

The Holy Spirit, coming as wind, depicts His power and His guidance. When Jesus tells Nicodemus about the new birth experience (John 3:8), He tells him that it is not like a tangible birth where you can see the baby is born and check the clock for its time of arrival. The work of the Spirit breathes into a life, and something transpires that people cannot recognize. There’s a dynamism but also a gentleness, like the wisp of a breeze. You can’t necessarily see where it came from or where it goes, but all of us can attest to times when God has come and dealt with us, and no human being knew how it happened.

At Pentecost (Acts 2:2-3), it wasn’t a wind that blew in; it was the sound of a rushing wind—like a hurricane. That sound, not the sound of the people speaking in tongues, is what drew the crowd in. The Holy Spirit as sovereign God is dynamic, irresistible, and unstoppable. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, The Holy Spirit Is Like Wind,” by Rick Renner, author of over 30 books, who along with his wife, Denise, pioneered three churches, a Bible school, and a ministerial association that serves thousands of Russian-speaking pastors throughout the former USSR as well as parts of the Middle East (source here), he writes:

We’re all aware of the potentially destructive power of wind. But if properly harnessed, wind can also bring tremendous benefits. Think how much it would impact the world if there were no wind. The earth would be stagnant, stinking from pollution and from the normal decaying process that is occurring on the planet.

Just think how essential wind has been to the very development of civilization. For example, if there were no winds, exploration never would have occurred. Consider the great ships of the past that had no mechanical or nuclear energy to drive them, yet they glided across oceans with ease as their great sails caught the winds. The world was explored and conquered by men who “set sail” and traveled the globe, fueled by the force of the wind.

In fact, if no wind were blowing, there would be no movement. Windmill blades would never turn—and the production of materials would be slowed and diminished. Wind is essential for progress to be made. Without wind, we would be hundreds of years behind where we presently are in history.

Wind cannot be seen, but its effects can be felt and heard—just like the Holy Spirit. We cannot see Him, but we can feel the effects of His presence and His power. On the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:2 says, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” Today I want us to look at the comparison of wind to the Holy Spirit in this verse to see what we can learn about why the Spirit came in this manner on the Day of Pentecost and what this means to you and me.

In Acts 2:2, 120 disciples were gathered in the Upper Room, waiting for the promise of the Father as Jesus had commanded them (see Acts 1:4). The Bible says that as they were waiting, “suddenly” there came from Heaven a certain sound. The word “suddenly” was translated from the Greek word “aphno,” which carries with it the idea that something took them off-guard and by surprise.

Acts 2:2 goes on to say, “…Suddenly there came a sound….” This phrase “there came” is a translation of the word “ginomai,” which in this case describes something very similar to the Greek word “aphno”—something that happens unexpectedly or that catches one off-guard.

The word “sound” in this verse is the Greek word echos. This is the very word that is used in Luke 21:25 to describe the deafening roar of the sea.

Verse 2 continues, “…A sound from heaven….” The phrase “from heaven” is from the Greek words “ek tou ourano.” The word “ek” means out, and “tou ourano” means of Heaven. This leaves no doubt that this sound had originated and emanated from Heaven itself.

Then Luke compared this sound from Heaven to a “rushing, mighty wind.” The word “rushing” was translated from the Greek word pheromones, the present-passive participle of “phero,” which means to be carried, borne, or driven and agrees with the idea of something borne or driven downward very loudly. When this sound from Heaven came, it was loud—so loud that the writer used the word “rushing” to describe what Jesus’ disciples heard that day in the room where they gathered.

Furthermore, the Greek text also uses the word “biaias” for “mighty,” a word that could be better translated as violent. Hence, this “sound” thundered like the roaring of a sea or a mighty wind that swept downward very loudly and violently.

The word “wind” itself comes from “pnoe,” which describes wind so loud that one may be tempted to cover his ears from the overpowering noise of it. This means when the Spirit was poured out, it was no quiet affair. It was loud, noisy, and violent—not violent in terms of destructive, but rather it was strongly felt.

Just as wind moves ships, empowers engines, drives windmills, and disperses pollution from the earth—when the Holy Spirit moved on the Day of Pentecost, He released power strong enough to transform 120 disciples into a mighty force for God!

When the wind of the Spirit blows upon a near-dead church, it can blow life back into that congregation again. When all of our organizing is done and is nearly perfect, yet we still lack power, it is the wind of the Holy Spirit that can blow strongly upon us and cause a vision or organization to come alive with the life of God.

If you are someone who desires a “quiet” relationship with God, I must warn you that when the Holy Spirit’s wind blows, it is rarely a quiet affair. It is usually noisy and attention-attracting—or as we’ve seen, it’s a powerful force that sweeps downward from Heaven like the roaring of the sea.

When God formed man, He formed him perfectly. But man had no breath in his lungs until God breathed the breath of life into him (see Genesis 2:7). Likewise, when the Church was assembled on the Day of Pentecost, it had no power until the Holy Spirit breathed into that assembly. When that loud “boom” exploded overhead in the room where they were gathered, the power of God came upon 120 disciples, and they became an empowered, mighty force in the earth as a result.

Wind is a good word to describe the power of the Holy Spirit. Change happens when winds blow—and when the Holy Spirit moves, He brings change like wind. Energy is produced by wind—and when the Holy Spirit moves in this manner, He supplies supernatural energy. He empowers us to do what we could not naturally do on our own. Oh, how we need the supernatural wind of the Holy Spirit! (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, How is the Wind like the Holy Spirit?” (author’s name not mentioned) on ChristianAnswers.net, the author states:

This question brings to mind John 3:8: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The word spirit in both Hebrew and Greek means “breath” or “wind.” Both a breath of air and a breeze are appropriate images for the Holy Spirit.

Consider several properties of the wind:

  1. Wind is moving air, and this fresh air is needed continually for life itself. Even seeds often require wind for their dispersal and subsequent growth. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is the presence of God, the source for all life.
  2. Wind has no material shape or form. It is invisible; we cannot see the source or the destination of wind. It is a mysterious, unseen force. Nevertheless, its presence is known by its effects.Likewise, the unseen Holy Spirit can be experienced in a refreshing way. His presence is displayed in the work he does in human lives by transforming, sanctifying, encouraging, and teaching.
  3. Wind is a powerful force. It cannot be stopped or controlled by people. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is not subject to human control. The moving of the Holy Spirit is God at work.
  4. There is great variety in the wind. It may be a soft whisper gently rustling the leaves on the trees, or it may be a hurricane uprooting trees.Likewise, the Holy Spirit may gently bring a person to Christ, such as a little child raised in a Christian home, or he may work in some climactic, dramatic way to bring conviction and conversion to the hardened sinner. In Acts 16, contrast Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened (verse 14), and the jailer, who needed an earthquake to jar him to his spiritual sense (verse 30). In both cases, the Holy Spirit did the regenerating work. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the same words from John 3:8 that I began this post with which is Jesus speaking to Nicodemus in John 3: The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going…

So it is . . .

With everyone . . .

Born of the Spirit . . . .

YouTube Video: “Which Way the Wind Blows” (1974) by The 2nd Chapter of Acts:

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Simply Ask

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength…”Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)As the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate in communities around America, after four months since the “stay-at home” mandates started in March, and wearing face masks and social distancing have become a part of everyday life, it’s easy to start feeling weary about whole situation and wondering when life is going to return back to some semblance of normal. We’ve even heard it said that this could be “the new normal.”  Maybe, maybe not… at this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

The complete verse of Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV) (the first part of the verse is quoted at the top of this blog post) states the following:

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

We can all probably agree that there are days (perhaps many lately) where we could use a shot of renewed strength to get us through the day. In the midst of trying times, mount up with wings like eagles” might sound impossible to achieve. However, for us as Christians, the promise of receiving strength is there, but it’s not about us and our own strength.

So what does it mean to “mount up with wings like eagles”? GotQuestions.org gives us an answer:

The phrase “mount up with wings like eagles” can be found at the end of Isaiah 40, in verse 31, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (ESV).

During Isaiah’s lifetime, the dispirited nation of Israel suffered a period of great distress politically as oppressive Assyrian powers invaded and conquered their lands. Isaiah chapters 40–48 contain promises of redemption and deliverance from the suffering. That section of the book starts with the words “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). Israel had nearly given up hope, thinking God had abandoned them, yet Isaiah drives his point home in Isaiah 40:27–31, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (ESV).

Ancient Hebrew culture revered eagles as mighty warriors that also cared fiercely for their young. Eagles carry their eaglets to safety, away from the threat of predators. Eagles are also known for their strength and courage in dangerous, turbulent weather, soaring above storm clouds and to safety. “Eagles’ wings” was a figure of speech commonly used to attribute these fine characteristics to a person. The Lord references eagles’ wings in Exodus 19:1–6, which is a recollection of how God delivered Israel from the Egyptians. In this passage, the Lord gives Moses a message for His people: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (verses 4–5).

The prophet Isaiah uses “wings like eagles” in the same way, attributing the great characteristics of eagles to those who remain faithful to God and look forward to their heavenly reward. The phrase “mount up” is a translation of the Hebrew word “‘alah,” which means “to go up, ascend, to go up over a boundary.” Isaiah is communicating the promise that God will provide renewed strength and courage to overcome obstacles, if Israel would only have patience and trust in the Lord’s sovereign timing.

Upon reading Isaiah’s words, perhaps Israel recalled what God had said to them long ago as they fled Egypt, about how the Lord had delivered them “on eagles’ wings” with His great strength and power. Isaiah tells them that they, too, could have access to such deliverance. If they remained faithful to God, they would soar.

Christians today can apply the principle of Isaiah 40:31 by trusting in God’s sovereignty and waiting faithfully for Him. “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). God in His grace will provide power, strength, and courage to the weary, weak, and downtrodden when they are willing to be patient and wait on Him. God will cause us to mount up on eagles’ wings. (Quote source here.)

GotQuestions.org continues with a description of what the Bible says about eagles:

Eagles have always symbolized freedom, strength, and power. They are considered the kings of the sky and were adopted by several ancient cultures, including Rome, as a symbol of that country’s leadership and immortality. The United States declared the bald eagle its national bird in 1792, due to the eagle’s long lifespan and majestic presence.

The Bible’s first mention of the eagle is in Leviticus 11:13. Eagles, along with vultures and other unclean birds, were prohibited as food for the Israelites. God gave the newly formed nation of Israel dietary laws to help set them apart from the pagan nations around them. The dietary instructions were also given for health reasons as part of God’s promise to “put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians” (Exodus 15:26). Eagles are birds of prey that sometimes act as scavengers, eating dead flesh as vultures do. Eagles could carry diseases harmful to humans; God protected Israel at a time of limited medicines and inadequate sterilization procedures.

The next time an eagle is mentioned is in Deuteronomy 32:11 as part of the song God instructed Moses to teach the Israelites (Deuteronomy 31:19). In that song, God compares His care for His people to that of a mother eagle who spreads her wings to cover her young and carry them away from danger (cf. Exodus 19:4).

Throughout Scripture, eagles represent God’s handiwork, such as in Proverbs 30:19, which says that “the way of an eagle in the sky” is an example of God’s wondrous creation. Job 39:27 is another example. But eagles also symbolize power. God often used the imagery of an eagle in issuing warnings to Israel and other nations who did evil (e.g., Obadiah 1:4Jeremiah 49:22). He chose the bird they considered powerful and unstoppable to demonstrate His sovereign control over everything.

Isaiah 40:31 is the most familiar biblical reference to eagles: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (KJV). This verse is the conclusion of a chapter detailing the greatness of God. It reminds the reader that the strongest of men may stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord have a strength that this world cannot offer. When we see an eagle in flight, soaring on invisible air currents, we can be reminded that the Creator who supplies the eagle’s strength will also strengthen those who call upon His name (Psalm 50:15Isaiah 55:6–7). (Quote source here.)

After reading these two answers given at GotQuestions.org, I was reminded of a devotional reading in Our Daily Bread that I read a few days ago titled, Simply Ask,” by Patricia Raybon, author and journalist. She writes:

“Before they call I will answer”Isaiah 65:24 (NIV)

Her doctor said her detached retinas couldn’t be repaired. But after living without sight for fifteen years—learning Braille, and using a cane and service dog—a Montana woman’s life changed when her husband asked another eye doctor a simple question: could she be helped? The answer was yes. As the doctor discovered, the woman had a common eye condition, cataracts, which the doctor removed from her right eye. When the eye patch came off the next day, her vision was 20/20. A second surgery for her left eye met with equal success.

A simple question also changed the life of Naaman, a powerful military man with leprosy. But Naaman raged arrogantly at the prophet Elisha’s instructions to “wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored” (2 Kings 5:10). Naaman’s servants, however, asked the military leader a simple question: “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?” (v. 13). Persuaded, Naaman washed “and his flesh was restored and became clean” (v. 14).

In our lives, sometimes we struggle with a problem because we won’t ask God. Will You help? Should I go? Will You lead? He doesn’t require complicated questions from us to help. “Before they call I will answer,” God promised His people (Isaiah 65:24). So today, simply ask Him. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with a reminder from Paul found in Philippians 4:6-7: 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 . . . .

YouTube Video: “There was Jesus” by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton:

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Changing Our World

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”Robin Williams (1951-2014), American actor and comedian.

Dr. Jim Denison, CVO of Denison Forum, posted a news article on his news blog, Denison Forum, a few days ago titled, Holocaust survivor honored 75 years after his liberation: How people you don’t know change your world.” He writes:

Max Glauben was liberated from the Holocaust on April 23, 1945. His parents and brother were murdered by the Nazis.

He came to the U.S. as an orphan, served in the US Army, met his wife Frieda, and started a family that now includes three children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He helped launch the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. Since 2005, he has returned to concentration camp sites fourteen times, leading March of the Living trips.

Each time, he goes to a mausoleum that holds seven tons of human ashes and recites a prayer for the dead. “I look at the ashes, the seven tons of ashes, and I wonder how many of the owners of these ashes, how many diseases they could’ve cured,” he says.

Mr. Glauben intended to spend the seventy-fifth anniversary of his liberation back overseas on his fifteenth March of the Living trip. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the trip was canceled.

Last Thursday, he expected to spend the day at home with family but went outside to find an amazing surprise: a drive-by procession was held to celebrate him and his story of survival.

When asked how to move forward when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, Mr. Glauben said, “Never, never, never, never give up. Enjoy life and try to treat everybody that you are surrounded with the way you’d like to be treated.”

You may not have heard of Max Glauben before today. However, every person he teaches about the atrocities of the Holocaust who then works to confront anti-Semitism will benefit the world as a result of his efforts. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on October 2, 2014 titled, The Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated,” by Georgia Lee, FamilyShare, she writes on the topic Max Glauben stated above when he said, “…try to treat everybody that you are surrounded with the way you’d like to be treated.” Here is what she wrote:

Remember The Golden Rule?

“Treat others how you want to be treated.”

This saying goes far beyond simply being kind to people, or going out of your way to be available or helpful to those in need. Yes, you would want others to assist you in a bind or be pleasant even in an unfavorable circumstance. But there are many ways to create equality in your world that may go completely unnoticed by others. It’s really just about adjusting your views and attitudes.

Instead of just treating others the way you would want to be treated, think about others the way you would want to be thought of. Feel about others the way you would want others to feel about you. Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to or spoken of.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Focus less on punishing those who cross you or others and choose to guide them into a better frame of mind. Teach them not only the error of their ways, but the error in their thinking. This is not a lesson in condescension, or even conversion, but a way to understand the progression from thought to action. If someone believes he is doing the right thing by trying to control another or become invasive in another’s life, first try to understand how that person feels his actions will get him from a desire to a result. Then, help him evaluate the consequences and perhaps choose a better way to achieve his goals and consider the goals of others. Always be open to seeing the other side as well, you may learn something.

Speak to and of others how you would like to be spoken to, and about. We all talk about other people, but assigning roles to those in our lives and trying to cast a melodrama is unnecessary. (Although it occurs frequently.) Everyone is multifaceted and cannot be fit into the box we would like to crop them into. When you retell a story, make sure to tell the unabridged, objective version, where all the characters have depth and empathy. Do not speak disparagingly about someone just because you disapprove of him.

Feel about others how you would have them feel about you. Holding onto harsh feelings will only harm you and make you hardened to feeling love and compassion. Whether or not you bear responsibility in another’s harsh feelings toward you, knowing these feelings remain is unpleasant. Especially if you feel they are unjust.

Think of others the way you would like to be thought of. Refrain from thinking, or speaking, pityingly of someone — particularly if you feel you are better off than she is. Things may seem disparate, but just as you may feel this way, others may think they are in a better position than you. Thinking of yourself as superior, more or better than another is not a beneficial way of thinking. Given or received. If you would like to help someone you think is less fortunate, do if from love, not pity.

Make an effort to respect even the unrespectable. Find something in a person or experience that was positive or beneficial and focus on that. There are inevitably circumstances in which you were or were made out to be the bad guy, and others made no effort to respect your role in the matter, or went out of their way to demolish your integrity or reputation. Do not follow in the same order, even if you feel it is just or deserved. You do not know what goes on in the mind of another or what motivates another’s actions. All you can do is take responsibility for your response to this situation, and choose to show ultimate compassion and respect when it is hard to find. Not only will this make you a better person, it will show others your true integrity and make it nearly impossible to doubt yours if it is threatened or attacked in the future. It may even redeem it in the past.

I have made a conscious effort to see everyone in my life as equal. I have come across certain people, generally of a particular faith or non-faith, who make clear through their conversations with me, and about others, that they feel a distinct superiority to others who disagree with their ideology. In the conversations I have admittedly had myself, I’ve discovered that I do not appreciate being looking down on, by believers and non-believers alike. So I’ve decided not to look down on anybody, or try to convert anybody to any ideology. I simple sit and talk with people, ask questions, listen to different schools of thought, and share my wisdom as I see fit. I’ve learned to enjoy conversations as a way to connect, instead of using them to push my agenda.

Even the Messiah sat down and ate dinner with the sinners. And if only in your mind, you can do the same. Whether others treat you with kindness and compassion has no bearing on how you treat them. Become the compassion and respect you want to receive. It’s easy for someone to be nasty to you if you’re nasty to them. Don’t give them that chance. Make it hard for people not to see you in the radiant light you portray. Make them work to hate you, disrespect you or be ugly toward you. Make it easy for them to love you, respect you, and see you as the magnificent being you are. (Quote source here.)

Those are some very important suggestions to consider. As we all know, it is hard not to want to be nasty back to people who are nasty to us, especially if we have no idea why they are being nasty. But how many of us today have had to endure what Max Glauben endured and survived during the Holocaust, when his parents and brothers were murdered by the Nazis. So let’s take a look at some ways we can change our world for the better since it really does start with us.

In an article published on July 27, 2017 titled, Nice ways to deal with mean people,” by Amy Sciarretto, writer at TheList.com, she writes:

Dealing with mean people is a fact of life that is often unpleasant and is something many of us would prefer to avoid. These not-so-nice folks can be varying degrees of nasty, ranging from prickly to semi-cranky, to straight up grumpy and ornery in either work, life, or both. Mean people can be passive, aggressive, passive aggressive, or loud, confrontational, and in your face. 

Whatever the case, you have to come up with effective ways to address a personality conflict and to co-exist with a mean person, ultimately preventing them from ruining your day or interfering with your ability to function as a happy, productive human being. 

Here are a variety of nice ways to deal with mean people, that can lessen or diffuse the meanness [Note: Only a few of the ways she lists in her article are listed below. For the complete list click here.]

Swap negativity for positivity

Rather than let someone else’s nastiness consume you, especially after you’ve had an unsavory interaction with them, Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, recommends making a daily gratitude list so that you substitute their negative energy for your own positive thoughts and vibes. Yes, it’s that simple.

Hershenson suggests writing down ten things you are grateful for. “Anything from your family, to legs to walk on, or to reality TV,” she tells me. “Focusing on what is good in your life as opposed to what the mean person said or did today helps relieve anxiety around the situation.” Rattling off positives is a brilliant, easy way to keep the other person’s negativity at bay.

Know when to fold ’em

Mean people can feel endlessly frustrating. Most of the time, they want to get a rise out of you or use their nastiness to leverage themselves. But rather than scream, yell, or stoop to their level, you can make like Kenny Rogers in “The Gambler” and know when to fold ’em. Realize when it’s best to just bail, especially when you know you’re never going to get a resolution. Executive coach Debra Benton says the most simple way of dealing with mean people is, “Smile. Ignore. Walk away. Repeat.” 

This is a low key way to deal with a high stress interaction, but it’s also very effective. You can leave the situation with your head held high and with no shame over how you handled it.

Be the change

One of Ghandi’s most famous sayings is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” You can apply that sentiment when dealing with nasty people. Rather than being passively kind, you can show that you really do care about what is making this person so unpleasant.

“If you’ve ever encountered a mean salesperson or co-worker, then you know it’s easy to be turned off immediately by their behavior,” says Weena Cullins, M.S., a licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship therapist. “However, taking the time to ask, ‘How’s your day going?’ or ‘Are you okay?’ is an extremely effective way to disarm someone whose bad attitude is currently on autopilot. It’s rare for people to fight meanness with concern, so don’t be surprised if they seem a bit disoriented by your question. Take the time to listen and offer a word of encouragement. You might just turn their mood around.”

Keep your enemies closer

Alison Blackman, author of six books about relationships and communication and who runs a his-and-her advice website, offers a twist on the “keep your friends close, but enemies closer” concept. She tells me, “If someone is a mean person and you can’t avoid them, mirror the opposite of what they are. Be as nice, polite, considerate, and pleasant as you can muster and limit your interaction as much as possible.”

This requires you to go out of your way a little. She finishes, “As much as it makes you want to gag, say something nice about them where it is genuine, like, ‘That’s a beautiful necklace you are wearing’ or ‘I really liked what you said at the meeting today.’ Chances are they will stare with hostility or say something nasty. Smile as if you didn’t hear it. The fact that you weren’t nasty to them will still register somewhere deep in their dark souls.” 

Or maybe, they’ll even realize the errors of their ways, and apologize….

Dealing with mean people is a part of every day life. You have to amend your behavior, walk on eggshells, and try to be considerate of the mean person’s feelings when, oftentimes, you just want to flip them off. But cooler heads prevail. Try kindness. Set boundaries. Attempt to diffuse the situation and make it better. Work to improve your repeated, or even future interactions with a mean person…. (Quote source and complete article is available here.)

Hardly a week (or maybe even a day) goes by that we don’t encounter someone who is being nasty, mean, or confrontational. But don’t give in to their meanness, and, in the words of Max Glauben…

Never, never, never . . .

NEVER . . .

Give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Miracle” by Unspoken:

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The Singing Revolution

“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth” Isaiah 42:10 and Psalm 96:1
A couple of days ago the following devotion showed up in Our Daily Bread titled, The Singing Revolution,” by Bill Crowder, Vice President of ministry content at ODB Ministries. It makes for a good “follow-up” post to my last blog post on this blog titled, Singing in the Rain.” Here is what he wrote:

The Singing Revolution

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Psalm 42:1–5

What does it take to ignite a revolution? Guns? Bombs? Guerrilla warfare? In late-1980s Estonia, it took songs. After the people had lived under the burden of Soviet occupation for decades, a movement began with the singing of a series of patriotic songs. These songs birthed the “Singing Revolution,” which played a key role in restoring Estonian independence in 1991. [Information on the Singing Revolution is available at this link].

“This was a non-violent revolution that overthrew a very violent occupation,” says a website describing the movement. “But singing had always been a major unifying force for Estonians while they endured fifty years of Soviet rule.”

Music can also play a significant part in helping us through our own hard times. I wonder if that’s why we so readily identify with the psalms. It was in a dark night of the soul that the psalmist sang, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). It was in a season of deep disillusionment that Asaph, the worship leader, reminded himself, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (73:1).

In our own challenging times, may we join the psalmists with a singing revolution for our hearts. Such a revolution overwhelms the personal tyranny of despair and confusion with faith-fueled confidence in God’s great love and faithfulness. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on October 9, 2019, titled, 3 Spiritual Benefits of Singing in Church, by Daniel Darling, Vice President of Communications at ERLC, he writes:

Singing in Church Matters

When I was a kid, singing hymns was not an option. The Baptist church we attended had hymns so thoroughly woven into our common life together. From the age of five, I was required to attend adult church services, clad in suit and tie, three times a week. And every service began with at least three, sometimes four hymns. And on Sunday nights, half the service consisted of people picking their favorite hymns.  As a child, you really don’t understand what’s happening when you are singing hymns. I mean sure, you understand “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But others are hard to get your head around. What’s an Ebenezer, for instance? 

But in my adulthood I’ve come to treasure, so deeply, the way our singing together burrowed God’s truth into the deepest recesses of my heart. And now, those words I sang as a seven-year old on a hot summer night in Chicago or around campfires in northern Minnesota or in Vacation Bible school now speak to me, every day. In fact, I can hardly finish singing a hymn without my lips quivering and my heart full of emotion. When I hear “Jesus keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain, free to all a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s Mountain,” I’m transporting to that dining hall at camp where I first committed my life to Christ. When I’m struggling to see God’s goodness in a difficult season, Fanny Crosby’s words, “Summer, winter, springtime and harvest, sun, moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness, to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.” When I’m enduring a trial, I always go back to the lyric, “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds, within the vale.” 

Our singing matters, which is why the Bible is full of rich examples and powerful instruction to the people of God to not only recite and read and study God’s truth but to sing it, over and over again, to each other. The Old Testament contains a rich treasure of hymns in the Psalms and in the New Testament, contains the hymns we read in Colossians and Philippians, contained in letters written by Paul to the church while both church and he were under duress and the great hymns of praise in Revelation, a vision of that great eternal worship in the New Jerusalem. 

Singing, then, is not an accessory to our worship every week. Singing is not filler in a service. Congregational singing is essential to our life with Christ. To the Ephesians, Paul urged them, based on their identity as the new and redeemed people of God, to “sing to yourselves songs, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in your hearts to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). There are really three important spiritual benefits to congregational singing. 

1. Congregational singing teaches our hearts. 

Humans are created in such a way that repetition and rhythms help cement ideas in our minds. This is why certain song lyrics bring you back to moments in your life or can stir the soul so powerfully. This is why hard facts are often set to music. Educators use song to teach math and science and history. And so it is with our singing. You don’t always have to feel good when you are singing congregationally. Sometimes life is so hard you can barely mouth the words. But something is happening when you sing rich truths about God. It burrows these truths deep into your soul so they can be retrieved when the Spirit knows you need them. God has done this for me so often in the last several years, when I’ve encountered difficult and trying seasons or seasons of doubt and discouragement A lyric, a line, a hymn just brings back the heart prone to wander. 

2. Congregational singing helps us disciple others. 

When we sing we are not just singing to ourselves, but we are joining with our new family, the body of Christ, to each and declare to others the truth. And we are declaring to the world what we believe so strongly. Our singing is a witness. This is why our music shouldn’t be so watered down that it is immediately understandable to those who don’t know Christ. There should be a kind of gospel language that is both different and appealing to those God is pursuing through the Spirit of God. I’ve attended college football games with friends and have watched the unique rituals each school engages in as part of this shared communal bond. As an outsider, their rituals are foreign to me and yet I’m not offended. I’m intrigued. Similarly when I’m at Wrigley Field with tens of thousands of Cub fans, singing “Go, Cubs, Go” after a thrilling win, I get goose bumps. There is something human about it all. And so much for our corporate worship practices. This is why I’m often brought to tears singing a familiar hymn in church. We share something. When we sing about this glorious gospel, we are teaching ourselves, we are teaching our fellow believers and we are witnessing to outsiders.

3. Congregational singing offers praise and worship to the Lord. 

“Singing with your hearts to the Lord,” Paul urges. We are offering back praise to the One who is worthy. In the new covenant, we don’t bring animals to the altar, but we bring ourselves as a sacrifice of praise, rejoicing in our reconciliation to God through Christ. This is why it is imperative for us to always sing in church, regardless of our voice sounds or if it makes us uncomfortable to sing with others. God is not interested in the quality of our voices. Some of us are extraordinarily gifted, gifted enough to be on stage leading with excellence. But most people in the congregation are not great singers, but their heartfelt worship comes to God as a sweet and special music, the sounds of his children abandoning themselves in praise to him. So, next time you are in church, don’t stand there and stare. Sing, praise, let God move in you. The one who gave himself for us is worth embracing the awkwardness of worship. 

When you do this—faithfully attending church and singing with brothers and sisters in Christ over a lifetime—you will see how much God uses this to sanctify your heart and draw you into intimacy with him. You will experience a grace greater than your sin.  (Quote source here.)\

And as if that’s not enough reason to sing, singing also has many physical benefits. In an article published on May 19, 2016, titled, 6 Reasons to Sing Your Heart Out for Health,” by Emily Lockhart, a personal trainer and contributor on ActiveBeat.com, she writes:

Do you sing your heart out whenever a favorite song comes on the radio? Or do you reserve belting out a ditty to the shower or confines of your car? According to Chorus America, a U.S. advocacy, research, and leadership group that promotes signing in choruses, singing has some little known harmonious health benefits. So let’s “do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do” over these six singing health perks…

1. Singing Soothes Asthma Symptoms

If you sing, really sing, from your belly, you’re already well aware that singing is a lot easier if you breathe properly. Well, a 2014 review published by the National Institutes of Health touts the many benefits of music therapy, particularly for asthma patients.

The NIH study reveals that the slower, purposeful breaths taken while belting out a tune helps to lessen the symptoms of mild asthma and improve overall lung function.

2. Sing for Better Heart Health

Some might say you put your whole heart into karaoke night, however, it turns out that singing actually has rocking (in a good way) affects on your cardiovascular health. Much akin to yoga, a Swedish study found that singing improves heart function essentially by forcing us to take larger, slower, more purposeful breaths.

The 2013 study, published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, found that choral singers had slower respiration, which in turn improved their heart rate variability (HRV) and had a biologically soothing effect on overall heart function.

3. Sing to Snore Less

Do your nightly snores, sputters, and sleep apnea have the dog (and your spouse) howling for respite? Luckily, you may find some sleepy solace (for you, your spouse, and the family pet) if you take up singing.

According to a 2008 snoring study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine those who sing, snore far less. The study monitored the snoring of a group of choral singers and compared them to non-song birds. The study concluded that singers had stronger airway muscles, which drastically reduced the music in the tune of zzzzzzzzzzzz (aka: sawing logs) during sleep.

4. Sing a Tune to Boost Immunity

Even though we are not Disney princesses who sing to cure all of our troubles. Wouldn’t that be nice? However, in real life, research published in the journal, eCancer Medical Science, claims that singing can improve immune function and the body’s ability to lower stress and fight off disease.

The UK study took samples of saliva samples from cancer patients and detected increased cytokines (immune system molecules) and decreased cortisol (stress hormone) in patients who’d recently sang a tune or two. The researchers consider this positive preliminary proof that singing can strengthen immunity.

5. The Bond of Song

Personally speaking, I have to really like someone in order to break into song in front of them. However, a study published by the Royal Society of Open Science claims that singing creates tight social bonds between individuals.

Study researchers claim it’s all thanks to the “ice breaker effect”, a bond that was common among new-established singing choir and band members. The findings note that in new-formed non singing groups (i.e., book clubs, writing clubs, and quilting clubs, etc.) the bonds were not as strong.

6. Singing in Praise of Positivity

You might believe you need a pretty high opinion of yourself to sing in front of a group of people. However, this National Institutes of Health study from 2004 claims that the more you sing, the more improved your positivity and self image will become.

The study monitored a group of amateur choral singers and found that the very act of singing reduced cortisol (stress hormone) while improving overall mood and emotional states (by measuring S-IgA) levels in saliva samples. Overall, the singers enjoyed positive boosts to their emotional and immune health. (Quote source here.)

So sing your heart out with great zeal and enthusiasm! I’ll end this post with the verse at the top of this post from Isaiah 46:10 and Psalm 96:1Sing to the Lord a new song…

His praise . . .

From the ends . . .

Of the earth . . . .

YouTube Video: “Amazing Grace” sung by Judy Collins and choir:

YouTube Video: “How Great Thou Art” sung by Carrie Underwood with Vince Gill:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Singing in the Rain

“Singing in the rain, I’m singing in the rain. What a glorious feelin’, I’m happy again.”Gene Kelly in the musical film, “Singing in the Rain” (1952).
I thought the above painting was such a cool painting when I came across it while doing a Google search this afternoon that I just had to find a reason to include it in a blog post. It turns out that today is the perfect day as it is definitely raining outside during our current stay-at-home order in the city where I live concerning the coronavirus pandemic that is going on right now around the world and here in America.

Here are the words to the first verse in the song Singing in the Rain:

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just singing,
Singing in the rain
(Lyrics at this link)

You can find Gene Kelly singing this song in the YouTube video at the end of this blog post (or you can click here to go it now, too). Tell me if that doesn’t put a smile on your face while watching and listening to it.

While there isn’t anything any of us can do to make this time during the coronavirus pandemic go faster and to get it over with, we can keep a check on our attitude to keep it going in the right direction during this time (and after, too). In fact, my previous blog post on this blog was written about a week before the pandemic really took hold here in America, and it is titled, The Right Attitude.” You can check it out at this link.  Also, yesterday I published a new blog post on my regular blog titled, The Power of Silence,” that might lend a hand in helping us get through this pandemic. too. Click here to read that blog post.

The following article was published on Crosswalk.com a decade ago on April 15, 2010, and it is titled, Alter Your Attitude to Change Your Circumstances.” Granted, this coronavirus pandemic is nothing we can alter on our own other then by following the social distancing guidelines and “stay-at-home” orders established while we are going through it, but we can still keep our attitude in check during this time. The authors of the article mentioned above are Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors and authors of “Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life.” Here is what they have to say about altering our attitudes:

How long does it take for your attitude to plummet into the “zone of negativity”? Just a few seconds of looking at news headlines or listening to TV news sound bites is all it takes for most of us to feel a new tsunami of fear, discouragement, and even depression wash over us. And if that’s not enough, the pessimism and worry of people around us is contagious, threatening to infect us to the depths of our being.

The fact is that there are lots of things going on in our world that can tempt us to develop a negative attitude about life. If you are looking for work or seeking to make a career change, however, negativity (or as Zig Ziglar aptly describes it, “stinkin’ thinking”) can sabotage your efforts!  When you get caught up in negative thinking, you lose. Not only do you lose momentum and energy, but you also can lose your ability to think creatively, make positive connections with other people, and demonstrate faith and trust in God.  Negative thinking is a “calling blocker” because it hinders us in living the life God calls us to live.

Confronting Our Stinkin’ Thinking

We are living in some of the toughest economic times many of us have encountered, and each of us is challenged with how we will respond. John Homer Miller said, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” One of the keys to living your calling–that is, doing the things God is calling you to do with your life–is learning that you are in control of your attitude.

Each of us has conditioned ourselves to think in particular ways. Our thought patterns have become so ingrained and habitual, however, that we don’t “feel” like we are making choices in how we react to life experiences-but we are. If you want to fulfill your God-sized calling, you will need to master your attitude. Charles Swindoll has important words for each of us to heed:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill… The remarkable thing is you have a choice every day regarding the attitude you will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. You are in charge of your attitude.

Attitude Affects Outcomes            

Joan (not her real name) was working with a career counselor, and really wanted to make a career change. She was researching the field of meeting planning as a possible job option. Her next step in investigating the field was to conduct some “informational interviews” with people who worked as meeting planners, asking them questions about their jobs and the career field in general. When her career coach asked how her assignment had gone, she said, “I can’t find anyone to talk to. No one is willing to meet with me. I’ve tried doing this before and I didn’t get anywhere then, either. This just isn’t going to work.” Some gentle probing uncovered the fact that she had become discouraged after not hearing back from the first two people she called. She then had decided that the task was impossible and had chosen to give up.

Interestingly, the career counselor’s next client was exploring the same field. Kathy, however, had a very different experience with her informational interviewing assignment. “It wasn’t easy because everyone is pretty busy in this type of work. But I kept at it. I knew there had to be a way to find some people to talk to. I had to ask about eight people I knew before I finally found someone who had a good lead. His cousin, John, works at a convention center. He was willing to talk with me, and then he gave me the names of some of the meeting planners he has worked with. So now I’ve met with five different people!” Her positive perspective enabled her to accomplish her goal.

The Power of Self-Talk

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Joan and Kathy bring Henry Ford’s words to life. Joan thought she couldn’t complete the task, and she didn’t; Kathy thought she could, and she did. They both were right about the outcome. Each of the women shaped their attitudes–and their eventual results–by the messages they told themselves as they were in the midst of the experience. During all of our waking hours, we have a continuous stream of “self-talk” going on in our minds. It happens automatically, and we are usually not even aware that we are doing it.

Our self-talk interprets our experiences, which in turn shapes our attitudes. Joan’s self-talk had been a litany of “I won’t be able to find anyone to talk to…no one wants to meet with me…this didn’t work before and it won’t work now…I’ll never be able to do this.” No wonder she gave up! From the perspective she had created with her self-talk, it would be a waste of time and energy to continue on with an impossible task.

Kathy, on the other hand, was optimistic that she would succeed. The messages she mentally reinforced were things like “I know this is challenging, so I’ll just have to keep at it…I need to be resourceful to connect with people…it will be great to talk to people in the field…I can do this.” Her self-talk created a positive “frame” through which she viewed her experiences. The first seven people she talked to had no helpful leads for her. Instead of interpreting this to mean, “I’ll never find anyone to talk to,” she framed it as “I’ll have to work harder to find contacts.”

Reframing Your Experiences

Taking charge of your attitude often means that you have to “re-frame” experiences. Reframing is changing the way you look at an experience. Joan viewed her experiences through the frame of “It will never work, so there’s no point in trying.” Had she instead been seeing the unreturned phone calls through a frame of “I may have to work at this awhile before I succeed,” she would have called back or contacted additional people. A negative frame on our experiences and life will hold us back, while a positive frame will motivate us to keep going until we accomplish our goals.

A positive frame on life doesn’t “just happen,” however. We have to create it intentionally on a daily basis. Developing a positive, optimistic attitude is challenging. We have to work at monitoring and changing our self-talk, and may have to re-frame how we see ourselves as well our perceptions of past, present and future events in our lives. We do have the power to change our lives by changing our thinking.

Each of us is the most limiting factor in our own lives. We will only attempt what we believe is possible. What we do in our lives-or don’t do-is a reflection not only of our self-image but also of our faith in God. Shallow faith produces limited results; deep faith produces miracles. No matter what has happened in the past or what weaknesses we may have, God is greater. Neither our past nor our present hampers God. The opinions and perspective of the other people in our lives do not affect or limit God. He can transform and empower you to accomplish everything he calls you to do.

Calling Catalysts for Taking Charge of Your Attitude

More than anything else, your attitude–how you think–will impact how far you go in discovering and living your calling. Our book, Live Your Calling, contains several “calling catalyst” strategies to help you enlarge your faith, change your thinking and live your calling. Here are two of them:

Exchange limiting “self-talk” and “frames” for motivating messages and positive views on life. We choose how we think and see the world. The Apostle Paul illustrates this truth when he exhorts us to choose to rejoice always; to pray with thanksgiving rather than choose to be anxious; and to choose to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:4-9). Ultimately, the power to think positively comes from having faith in the One with whom all things are possible (Phil. 4:13).

Intentionally work on changing any “limited thinking” habits you have developed. They won’t change by themselves. To get rid of a bad habit, you have to replace it with a good habit. For example:

    • Ask yourself “How CAN I…?” instead of thinking “I CAN’T…”
    • Ask “In what ways CAN I make this work?” instead of “It will NEVER work.”
    • Respond with “Let’s figure out how I/we CAN make this happen! instead of “Yes, BUT (here are all the reasons I can’t do this thing).”  

Trying to think this way may feel very foreign to you, especially if you have well-developed negative thinking habits. You can make major progress just by taking sports psychologist Bob Rotella‘s advice: “If you don’t want to get into positive thinking, that’s OK. Just eliminate all the negative thoughts from your mind, and whatever’s left will be fine!”

Choosing to see the positive in ourselves and in the life situations we encounter comes down to a matter of faith. For Christians, our optimism is founded on trusting that God is in control, and regardless of how bleak or hopeless circumstances seem to be, He is using them for our good and His glory. (Quote source here.)

Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help us get through this unique time we are all going through right now, and it doesn’t hurt to keep on “singing in the rain,” too… I’ll end this post with these words of comfort from Jesus found in Matthew 28:20 (NLT)–And be sure of this…

I am with you always . . .

Even to the end . . .

Of the age . . . .

YouTube Video: “Singing in the Rain” sung by Gene Kelly (1952):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Right Attitude

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”Proverbs 17:22When I opened Facebook two days ago, I found the following list of “ten attitude busters” posted by a friend that were mentioned in a recent sermon she heard at Victory Church in Lakeland, FL:

Ten Attitude Busters

1. Never take opposition personally.
2. Never speak when negative thoughts loom.
3. Maintain an attitude of grace and mercy.
4. Run from the pity party.
5. Pray and allow the person of God to show through.
6. Choose your battles carefully.
7. Understand the nature of opposition.
8. Choose to be a victor, not a victim.
9. Be compassionate.
10. Always honor God first.

As I read through that list, I was reminded of just how important our attitude is no matter what is going on in our lives at any given moment. And considering that this is an election year here in America, our attitude can definitely get bent out of shape. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be an election year for our attitude to get bent out of shape. It can start as soon as we get out of bed in the morning.

In article published on July 2, 2011, titled How Important Is Your Attitude?” by Jan Coates, international speaker and author, she states:

Your attitude is one of your most valuable assets! Stanford Research Institute reports that only 12.5 percent of our success in life is determined by knowledge; the other 87.5 percent comes from attitude. More than skill, knowledge, or aptitude, our attitude dictates our success in life.

Did you know that? Perhaps you’ve never thought of it that way before. Chuck Swindoll, bestselling author, writes, “I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. The attitude I choose keeps me going or cripples my progress. When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme.”

Most of us believe we possess a positive attitude. But what would happen if we asked our best friend or spouse for a no-holds-barred honest assessment of our attitude? Chances are high their comments might include:

*Not too bad after three cups of coffee

*Little things get blown out of proportion

*Irritable and moody

*Overly sensitive

*Whiny

*Frets and worries over everything

*Unforgiving toward certain people

In the midst of foreclosure notices and layoffs and personal and professional pressures, it is hard to maintain a positive attitude 100 percent of the time. Why? Because we’ve become reliant on outside influences, such as friends, family, teachers, bosses, and media to color our perspective. We wrongly believe attitude is something we’re given or born with, rather than a choice we make.

That was the mistake I made in my early life.  Due to many factors, including abuse, my childhood lacked a positive, healthy environment. Bitterness, anger, and envy hovered over me like an unwanted black cloud. I made major wrong decisions and bad choices and lived with the consequences. In other words, my past circumstances contaminated my attitude.

Then I discovered that a positive attitude is not something that goes on around you, but rather, it resides within you. A healthy, positive attitude comes from within your heart, mind, body, and spirit. It can’t be bought. It can’t be manufactured. You can’t inject it, transfer it, or swallow it because you already possess it. It begins with a decision—one that you make.

The Bible clearly says, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart” (Matthew 15:18, NIV). The English word “heart” referred to in this scripture translates to the Greek word “kardia”—the fountain seat of thoughts, passions, desires, purposes, and endeavors. These components interrelate and produce:

*Positive or negative words.

*Positive or negative actions.

A from-the-heart positive attitude requires a lifelong commitment to change the way we view everyday experiences as well as the challenges we encounter. It can only happen with a sincere desire to experience a new, positive you. I know that was the only way I ever made it out of any of the deep, dark pits I was in—and it’s the only way I stay out of them today.

God filled me with a desire and the power to transform my attitude from negative to positive.  I’ve discovered the honest-to-goodness, power-filled benefits of a positive attitude, including:

*More energy

*Less stress

*Ability to rebound from defeat

*Better physical and mental health

*Improved coping skills

*Flexibility in day-to-day living

*Enhanced relationships

When you’re willing to honestly look into your heart and do something about what you discover, then with the help of Jesus Christ, you can begin to experience godly, positive change from the inside out. (Quote source here.) (Additional information from a book by Jan Coates that was published in an article on August 20, 2011, titled, “How to Change Negative Attitudes to Positive Ones,” is available at this link.)

That list of ten attitude busters as well as the article above should inspire us to check our own attitudes on a daily and maybe even an hourly basis. I’ll end this post with a reminder from Romans 8:28 that will help us in adjusting our attitude in the right direction no matter what is going on in our lives. That verse states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And that is a . . .

Very . . .

Good . . .

Reminder . . . .

YouTube Video: “Intentional” by Travis Greene:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

The Royal Rule of Love

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you…” Jesus Christ, John 13:34 The following article titled, Love One Another–The National Day of Prayer,” by Nathan Nass, a pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church, was published on the National Day of Prayer on May 2, 2019.  Here is what he wrote:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Jesus makes it sound so simple. Sometimes we think being a Christian is complicated. It’s not! “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” So what’s being a Christian—or a Christian Church—all about? “Love one another.” Simple! Christianity is not about buildings or programs. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So how’s that going? May 2nd is the National Day of Prayer. Christians are encouraged to pray for our country. What a great idea! But if being a Christian hinges on loving one another, how’s that going in our country? Division on all sides. Lies spread. Churches burn. Students die. Immigrants suffer. Hatred grows. Right? Here’s the saddest part: Christians, or should I say “Christians,” are often right in the middle of it. Gathering around their “tribe.” Mocking others. Spreading rumors. “Love one another.” Is that what we see? How often aren’t Christians known more for political parties than for love? Why don’t people just love each other?

Well, why don’t we? The devil loves getting us concerned about everybody else’s sins, as long as we don’t think about our own. “Love one another.” Is your heart filled with love for everyone else? It’s simple, right? But Jesus’ simple command shows how sinful we are. If Jesus had said, “As I have loved you, love yourself,” I’d be doing a lot better. I want other people to love me. I want other people to sacrifice for me. What about you? As a church, how often don’t we expect other people to become like us? To act like us? To change for us? But loving them? Sacrificing for them? We don’t have time for that, do we? What sounds simple isn’t so simple!

In the Bible, God repeatedly convicted his nation—the Israelites—of not loving others. Do you know whom the Israelites most often refused to love? The foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. Over and over again, God rebuked his people for refusing to love the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. In fact, this was a sure-fire sign that people had fallen away from God—when they refused to love the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. Does that sound familiar? “They don’t belong here! Get them out of our country!” How far we’ve fallen! You still hear people say America’s a Christian country. If that’s true, then Jesus is a liar, because Jesus says that Christians will be recognized for their love for each other. That’s not our country!

So the solution seems simple: “Choose love!” A group of well-meaning Christians have put together some nationwide materials for the National Day of Prayer. That’s what those materials emphasize: “Choose love not hate!” That’s really what everybody’s saying, right? “Choose love not hate!” Sounds great! But how’s that working? I can’t! I can’t choose to love everyone. Not when my heart is filled with pain and bitterness and hurt and hate. Not when our world is filled with pain and bitterness and hurt and hate. When are we going to realize that we don’t have the power to fix things? It’s not a matter of just choosing love, not hate.

A slogan can’t save us. Government can’t fix it. Politics aren’t the answer. Do you know what is? Five little words. There’s a little phrase we’ve skipped over. “As I have loved you…” “As I have loved you…” Nothing starts with you. Nothing depends on us. If you want to find love, don’t look inside your heart. Look to Jesus. “As I have loved you…” What do you see? On the night before his death, Jesus wrapped a towel around his waste and washed his disciples feet. In the Lord’s Supper, he gave them his own body and blood. Then he let himself be arrested and tried and crucified. Why? Because Jesus loves you. That much! “As I have loved you.”

There is only one source of real, unconditional love—Jesus! Our country needs a movement—a movement back to Jesus! Jesus didn’t say to us, “You need to change and become like me!” When would that have happened? Never! Jesus gave up all that he had to become one of us and live for us and die for us and save us. Jesus didn’t see people who looked different and say, “Get them out of here!” His Word says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). He made us part of his family!

And Jesus turned to his disciples, and to you and me, and said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” A “new” command. There’s nothing new about the idea of loving each other. Here’s what’s new: Before Jesus, no one knew what love really is. The world had never seen love like Jesus’ love. We’re used to give and take. To love in order to be loved. But grace for sinners? Love for the unlovable? Unconditional love? Self-sacrificing love? That’s new. That’s Jesus! But that love doesn’t end with Jesus. It’s a chain. We’re part of it! “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

This is what America needs. This is our community needs. Christ-like love. What if we loved like Jesus? What if everybody loved like Jesus? Wouldn’t that be a great prayer? May Jesus and his love lead Christians everywhere to love like him! Because this is what Christians do—“Love one another.” Christians enter into other people’s lives and care about them—body and soul—like Jesus for us. Jesus set the bar of love pretty high, and then he tells us: “Go for it! I’ll help you love like me!” And do you know what? People will notice. They will notice you. They will notice our church. But most of all, they will notice our Savior Jesus. And they and our country will be blessed. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Quote source here.)

James 2 in The Message Bible tells us how to live out this  “royal rule of love,” and follows it up with “faith in action”:

The Royal Rule of Love

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.

Faith in Action

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

I’ll end this post with the same words of Jesus that opened this post: A new commandment I give you . . .

Love one another . . .

As I have . . .

Loved you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Love One Another” by the Newsboys:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here