Rise Up

The Best Words

I once worked for a leader who was quite the wordsmith. He was not nearly as loquacious as me. He was simply very attentive to learning new words and using them effectively in conversation and public speaking. He had one of those “word-of-the-day” calendars on his desk, and he would often regale us with the words he had learned that day. It seemed he always knew the right thing to say in every situation, and always had the apropos word to make what he was saying clearer, or more powerful, or more heartwarming. With my own love for an expansive vocabulary, I have always been amazed and mesmerized by his command of our language. I suppose I’d like to be like him when I grow up.

Apparently, he was familiar with the words of Solomon found in the tenth chapter of Proverbs. Solomon paints a picture in those powerfully pithy statements of how godly people speak. He writes of the words they choose to use. In fact, he lists five types of words they choose to use:

1) Life-giving words – verse 11

2) High-quality words – verse 20

3) Encouraging words – verse 21

4) Wise – verse 31

5) Helpful – verse 32

I’d say that is a pretty good selection of words. Anyone who speaks that way is certain to be loved and appreciated. Someone who chooses their verbiage based on that list would most certainly sound more like God, and would make me want to listen.

What’s interesting is that Solomon doesn’t say that we need to know a lot of fancy words. He doesn’t say our words need to sound impressive the members of MENSA. He simply points out the kinds of words any of us can use in our everyday lives to reflect God’s character… and benefit others.

So, while I hope to learn some new words on a regular basis, I’m going to be sure to make my higher goal to elevate my speech to level Solomon outlines in Proverbs 10.

If each of us reading this today will make an effort to use these kinds of words on a daily basis, I believe and declare that we will soon see a difference in how people respond to us. In fact, they just might want to hear what we have to say.

You Get What You Order

When you go to a restaurant to eat, and you place your order with the server, they typically bring you exactly what you ordered. You asked for it and expected it, so that is what they brought you. What’s interesting is that you can also tell that server you believe they are going to do a great job serving that meal… and they will do just that.

People will rise to the level to which they are challenged to rise. It’s because they believe that someone else not only believes they are capable, but that someone believes in them.

We all struggle from time to time in believing in ourselves. It’s part of the human condition. Yet, within each of us, there is this ability to help others rise out of that struggle and achieve all they are capable of being and doing.

I have chosen to believe the best in people… to hold them to high standards… to cheer them on and believe in them… to let them know all the potential I see in them. And you know what? They typically respond by becoming exactly that… or more.

This is what Jesus did with the disciples He selected, and with basically anyone He met. He called them to a higher standard. Those who were genuine may have faced challenges and struggles along the way, but for the most part they rose to the occasion and became more than anyone else expected.

Whose challenges will you look past today in order to see their potential? And what will you call them to? How will you cheer them on and celebrate them as they begin to make progress? And how will you both feel when they reach that potential?

It’s time to stop reading for today and start reaching. You get what you order!

Wondering In The Wandering

Note: Straight-Up Spiritual Post

God may lead you into the wilderness, but He won’t leave you in the wilderness! Check Matthew chapters 3, 4 and 5. God publicly declares that He loves His Son, Jesus, at His baptism. Then the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. Wilderness in Scripture is not necessarily a desert, but rather an uninhabited place… a place of isolation, solitude and maybe even loneliness.

But God the Father doesn’t stop loving Jesus while He is in the wilderness. And He doesn’t leave Him. He remains with Him in His Word, giving Him the ability to overcome temptation. And when the time of testing in the wilderness comes to an end, the Father sends angels to minister to and strengthen Jesus. Then He leads Jesus out of the wilderness to live out His purpose.

Perhaps today you feel like you are in a wilderness of sorts. Know this… even if God led you there, He won’t leave you there. He will go through the time with you. He will give you power to endure and overcome. He will strengthen you. And He will lead you out to live in your purpose!

In the middle of this week, don’t let your wandering in the wilderness make you wonder if God loves you or knows where you’re at. He loves you… He’s with you… He’s leading you. Keep walking with Him, and He will lead you out soon enough!

Stretched

When I was a kid, I thought Stretch Armstrong was one of the coolest toys in existence. To my small arms, it seemed like he could be stretched as far as I wanted. His arms stretched. His legs stretched. His whole body stretched. You could even tie him in knots. It was like there was no limits to his ability to be stretched.

Obviously, as I grew up, I came to learn that Stretch Armstrong had his limits. People pushed him to his limits to see how far he could actually stretch. In fact, they stretched him till he snapped.

I suppose we all see ourselves like human versions of the toy… We think we can only be stretched so far, and then we will break. We feel like we have our limits. We try to roll with life’s punches. Stretch. We deal with hurts. Stretch some more. We watch those we love suffer for no apparently good reason. Stretch a little further. Financial challenges come along. Strrrrrreeeetttccchhh. And we begin to think to ourselves that we simply cannot be stretched anymore… that we don’t have it in us… that if one more pressure in life tugs at us, we will snap clean in two and all our stretchy insides will ooze out.

The Apostle Paul knew that feeling. He begged God to make the stretching stop, but God told him that he could be stretched further than he thought because it wasn’t about Paul’s ability to stretch… It was about God’s grace giving him the ability to stretch some more.

God’s grace is sufficient for us… so we can be stretched as far as His grace can. That means we are actually unlimited as to how far we can be stretched. Now, it may not always be comfortable. We may not like being stretched that far or in that direction. We may think we have reached our limits and are going to snap, but we can always be stretched even further… to our own amazement, and to that of those watching us.

If you’re going through a time of stretching right now… if you’ve been going through it for a while… if you wish that it would end… if you’ve even asked God to put an end to the stretching… and yet you continue to be stretched…

If your bank account balance is shrinking… if your health doesn’t seem to be improving… if your relationship with that person you care about continues to worsen… if your dreams aren’t coming true… if you’ve prayed about it more times than you can count and it still hasn’t changed…

Know this….

You won’t snap. His grace is enough… all you need. His grace gives you some more stretchiness… and some more… and some more… and some more. Unending ability to stretch.

So, you can relax Stretch ___________ (fill in the blank with your last name), because God has put the right stuff inside you to stretch as far as you need to stretch!

Big Brothers

In 1981, Angela’s family moved from Adel, GA to North Hodge, LA. Angela was in first grade, and everyone knows that adjusting to a new school is hard enough, but then she started having less to eat for lunch each day. One afternoon, she came home from school hungry as she could be, and asked her mama why she had only packed her half a sandwich for lunch. When Mama informed her that she HAD packed her a full sandwich AND other food that morning, they realized something was afoot. With a little attention paid to the situation, they discovered that a little boy in Angela’s class was bothering her and sneaking into her lunchbox to take food from of her each day.

As good parents, they tried to do everything they could do to help her deal with the problem. They told the teacher. They told Angela to watch her lunchbox carefully. But still, tears came each day when it was time to leave for school.

That is, until….

Until one day when her big brother, Tim… who just happened to be nine years older and in tenth grade… took matters into his own hands! Tim is typically fairly reserved and relaxed. But he had had enough of his little sister being bullied. So, one morning on the way to school he told her, “You tell that little boy that your brother said that… if he bothers you today… in the morning when he sees this old yellow truck coming, he had better run and hide!”

And guess what… No more tears! Suddenly, Angela was emboldened. Suddenly, she realized there was a remedy for her situation. Suddenly, she realized that her adversary had been outsized, outsmarted and outmatched. Confidence was gained that day by her big brother’s words! Simply hearing him speak those words gave her the strength and confidence she needed that day… and each day going forward. She knew that all she had to do would be to mention to Tim that she was having a problem, and he would be there to set the situation right.

Here’s the good news… each person who gives their life to God has a big Brother in Jesus Christ. Scripture calls Him the first-born… and our older brother. And He spoke words which should give us the same confidence to overcome our enemies. He said in John 16:33 that when we have problems in life, we simply need to let Him know because He is big enough, strong enough, smart enough, and capable enough to take care of them for us. In fact, He lets us know that He has overcome this world and its problems.

Facing a challenge today that seems like you just can’t fix it? Can’t make it go away? Can’t beat it? Can’t stop it? Can’t overcome it on your own? Just take a moment to let your Big Brother know. When the enemy of your soul sees Him coming, he had better run and hide!

Stay With The Herd

If you’ve ever watched one of those nature specials about animals in the African wild, you’ve probably seen a lion chase after a gazelle. And the way the lions work is to identify one of the gazelles in the herd which is older, younger or somehow weaker. Then they work to get that gazelle separated from the rest of the herd in order to have a better chance of killing it. That’s because the lion instinctively knows that if it attacks in the middle of the herd, the herd… which outnumbers it… may turn on them, rally, counter-attack & somehow defeat the lion. So they weed one off, causing it to move away from the herd out of fear or thinking it can find a better way to escape the attack. But once the gazelle is by itself, it is no match for the lion.

Most of those type nature shows end with a narrator saying something like, “Such is the way of life in this African wilderness.” I’d like to say that it’s about the same in our lives.

The enemy of our souls employs this technique of dividing to conquer. He works to create fear, worry, anxiety and despair in us. Then he uses that to cause us to push away from the very herd of people who love us and could help us. No matter what your issue today… infertility… pornography… a broken heart… lack of purpose… your enemy wants you to feel like you’re the only one… like no one else understands… as if no one has ever experienced what you’re going through in just the way you’re going through it. And the more you feel alone, the more you push away from the herd. And then the more hopeless your situation feels.

But you have a herd. Run toward them instead of away from them. Run for your life toward them. They are not going to chide you for struggling. They are going to welcome you back into the herd. They are going to surround you and defend you. And even if someone did say, “Well, that wasn’t the smartest thing you ever did,” at least you’d still be alive.

The way to defeat this fear the enemy tries to use against us and separate us from our herd is to expose the struggle. The very thing that causes you fear… someone else finding out that you feel weak or that you struggle… is the very thing that will vanquish the fear. That’s because, when you open up and share about it in a right and healthy environment, others will acknowledge that they, too, struggle or have struggled with that very thing. Your aloneness will evaporate as you realize you are normal… that you are more a part of the herd than you ever realized.

And just in case you don’t know what I mean by herd, I’ll clarify… family… church… emotionally and spiritually healthy friends at work. Your herd is made up of those people who surround you who are healthy enough to help you. Truth be told, there are other weak and struggling members of the herd, but at least together you stand a chance against the enemy.

Let the lion go hungry. Stay with the herd!

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