Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Equip us with everything good...

Week 48:

Hebrews 13:20-21 20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Equip us with everything good.  The writer of Hebrews gives us such an encouraging statement of the work we do in the kingdom.  All of the good comes from above.  I, like the writer of Hebrews ask that God give me His measure of goodness to do the work He calls me to do.  I ask that God not only equip me, but give me equipment for good. 
Notice the two places from where God grants this goodness.  First of all, God comes from a place of peace.  The writer calls Him the “God of peace”.  The people of the Old Testament had several names for God depending on the work He had done in their lives.  It appears that the writer follows this path to some degree and labels God the “God of peace”.  My good works come from the peaceful side of God.  I don’t always see work as peaceful.  However, when I think about work in the kingdom, I realize that I have an underlying peace about me as I go about His good works.

A second place from which God grants His goodness is mentioned twice.  It really is not a place but a person.  All goodness comes through Jesus.  First of all, the goodness is related to the eternal covenant we have promised through Jesus resurrection.  And it is neat to notice that Jesus is the “great Shepherd”.  Secondly, anything pleasing to God is through Jesus.  It is because of Jesus that I do good works.  Jesus is glorified through any good works I do according to God’s will.

I think about Philippians 4:7-9 when I reflect on the above passage.  This list of all the good things that we are to think upon, come through the God of peace and through Jesus.  From this I learn that the God of peace will equip me for the good I am to do and that He will do this through Jesus.  The writer speaks this blessing on his readers.  His hope is that God will continue to equip the saints with everything good.  That is my hope as well.  I hope this for myself and for those around me. 

Take this blessing with you this week.  God of peace, through the blood of the great Shepherd, Jesus; equip your servants with everything good in order to fulfill your will through your great son, Jesus.


1.      What good things do you see God working in you right now?
2.      Where have you noticed God being glorified through your good things?
3.      Who in your life might you speak this blessing over?
4.      Spend time this week in silence and reflection around the good things God has equipped you with.  Touch on your thankful heart and give God thanks. 
5.      Look for others to speak this blessing over. 

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Justice, mercy and humility...

Week 47:

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

For me it is hard to strike a balance of these three actions.  I might be able to pull two off at the same time, but to practice all three is difficult.  When I am interested in justice, I find myself lacking in mercy and humility.  When I am acting out of mercy, justice seems to fall to the wayside.  I can see myself mixing humility in with either of these two at times.  But, to balance the three takes some work on my part. 
So, how do I strike that balance?  I have been practicing some methodology around this balance.  When I rely on the Spirit’s leading and really work at being present with the situation I am dealing with; I see this balance at work. 

First of all, when I am dealing with an individual I am leading, I separate the action and choices from the core of the person.  For me, and for the person I am guiding, it is important to see him/her as a created child of God.  When I set up our encounter with this thought in mind, it creates an environment for applying the three actions.  If I do not do this, then two things happen:  One, I am out of balance, not present with the person, and I project my judgments onto the person.  Second, I put the person on the defensive because she feels an attack on her character.  When I acknowledge her as a person who is in the middle of a choice, I really take me out of the picture and she has a sense of being seen and heard.

Next, I begin to point out consequences and/or possible consequences for choices and actions.  This is the justice.  There is justice for the choice/action.  I am able to help him to see the natural consequences for the choice as well and structural consequences that may occur.  This justice is actually a gift for the individual.  By pointing out consequences, I have helped this person to look into his life and see where this might be a pattern that may need to change.  This can help him live life justly moving forward.

Third, is the practice of mercy as it relates to the justice she has experienced.  To me, this part is the compassion and empathy for the person experiencing the justice.  A reminder of the separation between her goodness and her choice is helpful here.  In some cases, any added consequence beyond the natural consequences may be waived.  The key to the mercy is a sense of, “We’re going to walk through this together.”  It is important for me to be her cheerleader as she walks through whatever she faces next.

Finally, the application of walking with humility:  Throughout the whole process, I will periodically point out how what the person is experiencing is in some way a mirror for me and how I live my life at times.  This is where I relate times in my life where I have taken part in similar actions and choices.  I may even summarize the consequences I faced.  The humble part of this is me telling on myself.  Why does this work?  I think of the part of this verse that says, “…walk humbly with your God.” creates that environment.  To walk with God and His holiness requires humility.  The expression of that God-driven humility; creates an authentic space for connection. 

I am sure there are other interpretations of this verse.  There may be some who disagree with my view.  However, for me, as I reflect back on recent application of God’s word in my life…I see this verse coming to life how I described it above.  My challenge to my readers is to ask you to leave comments on how this verse applies to your everyday life.  Where do you fall short in this application?  Where are you successfully applying this verse in your life? 


1.      What is your definition of justice?
2.      What is your definition of mercy?
3.      What is your definition of humbly walking with God?
4.      How has this verse made you think about these three actions?
5.      Take notice this week how these three actions fit into your everyday life.  What are you doing well?  What needs improvement?

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Monday, November 11, 2013

When to speak and when not...

Week 46:

Proverbs 17:28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.
My Grandmother used to say, “It is better to stay silent and thought stupid then to open your mouth and erase all doubt.”  That phrase has stuck with me for years.  There are times I am successful at the practice of this thought.  Sometimes I am not.  When I read this proverb, her words came back to me like the wind. 

How many times in my life could I have just stayed silent and stayed out of trouble or turmoil?  Notice how the verse says, “Even fools…”?  Many times I would be in the right with my response to someone; yet made matters worse by speaking.  My words would dig a deep hole that I may never get out of.  If I would have just kept my mouth shut and waited, or even never voiced what I was thinking at all, things would have been fine. 
James 3 talks about the tongue being a fire.  It is so untamed.  Even within our right to speak, silence may be a better option.  What are some of the reasons I speak when I should be silent?

First, I feel like I have to be right.  There are times where a person is informing me about something I have done or someone close to me has done.  I become defensive and start to speak in order to put myself into a better light.  This does not help the conversation at all.  One, I am not allowing another to have an opinion or feel his/her emotion.  Second, I have made this conversation about me when most of the time it is about the other person’s expression.  This deep need to be right gets in the way and my impatience gets the best of me and I speak. 

Second, I feel like I have to fit in.  Many times I will interject myself into a conversation before my time.  I just feel like I need to belong and use other’s time to push my way in.  I especially do this by explaining a similar experience of my own in comparison to the person speaking and his/her experience.  In essence, I take away from his/her time and sharing.  I do all of this just to connect and belong. 

Third, I feel like I have to give advice.  I am a helper by nature.  However, I can take that gift to the extreme and at times become a “fixer”.  Most people do not want to be fixed and in some way resent my efforts to do so.  And, ultimately, I am not really fixing them.  I am just fixing my discomfort with his/her situation.  I need to keep my advice to myself until I am asked.  At the least, I need to ask permission before speaking further. 

So, what do we learn from this Proverb and James 3?   First and foremost, silence can be a virtue.  Just listening can be all that is needed in many situations.  Lately, I have been working harder at just listening and connecting with the person speaking.  Part of the challenge has been to listen without formulating my answer.  When I have practiced this, I have found that the conversation goes better and the person I am with leaves feeling like a person…not an object. 

Secondly, my wisdom does not have to be shared.  Until I am asked what I think, I need to keep my judgments and comments to myself.  There may come a time where someone wants to know what I think.  When that happens, then my words should fit the situation.  A practice to go hand in hand with this is to let the person I’m speaking with know that these are my words, and that he/she may not feel the same way.  This leaves it open for my opinion to fall back on me.  With this I am also acknowledging them as a person. 

Thirdly, to stay silent when needed is to practice discernment.  Notice how it says, “[the fool is thought] discerning if they hold their tongues.”?  This tells me that there is discernment about when to speak and when not for the wise in conversations.  The better part of wisdom is to know when and where to speak. 

As I take inventory of my conversations, I must watch my tongue.  I need to pay attention to when to speak and when not.


1.      What does this passage say to you?
2.      Which one or more of the reasons do you feel you need to speak when it is not warranted?
3.      How do you feel when you realize you have spoken where it was not wise to speak?
4.      Give an example someone you know does this.
5.      How does it make you feel?
6.      Where do you do the same thing when conversing with others?
7.      Pay attention this week to your conversations.  Notice when you have the urge to speak.  Challenge yourself to stay silent and reflect on how that goes for you.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Gifts from God...

Week 45:

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
As we begin this holiday season I just want to take time and note where all good things come from.  Over the next few weeks, many will be spending time in thankfulness around Thanksgiving.  Many will also be spending time thinking of others as we enter the Christmas holiday with giving on our minds and hearts.  And, as the year ends, many become reflective on what another year has produced; both the good and the bad. 

While we are in this mindset, I would like to take time to note the passage above.  All gifts come from God.  What gifts are we talking about here?  Are we talking about material gifts?  Are we talking about spiritual gifts?  Are we talking about abilities?  I look no further than the word “Every” at the start of the passage.  God is at the source of every good gift we are blessed to receive. 

First of all, there are the material gifts.  I have been blessed with more “things” than others.  Still, I have been blessed with less “things” than others.  Sometimes I have to stop in amazement and wonder why God allowed me to be born into the life I have.  I could have been born into some other society or culture that has little to nothing as far as materials.  I have never wanted for anything really.  This is a gift from God.  I had no choice over my birth or birthplace.  Why was this gift given to me?  God has a purpose in this life for me.  I need to acknowledge His gift to me and use that gifting for His kingdom.

Secondly, I have been gifted in certain ways spiritually.  As I read through 1 Corinthians 12, I recognize some of the gifts God has given me.  There are times where I am envious of other’s gifts and how they use them.  However, I need to recognize that I am gifted in certain areas where I can serve the kingdom of God.  These are gifts given me by God to use and glorify Him.  I am compelled to pay attention to what God has in store for my use of the spiritual gifts He has blessed me with.

A third part of us that God has gifted is in the area of ability.  I have both physical and mental abilities that are useful in the kingdom.  I share my abilities with many yet, my abilities are unique to me.  This is an area of my life where I tend to not always give the God enough credit or thanks.  When I rely on my abilities as if they are from me alone, I am reminded about the passage in Numbers 20 where Moses and Aaron did not give God the glory and misused the power and abilities given them when bringing water from the rock.  The result was neither man would lead the people or enter the promise land.  This is a sobering thought for when I have used or misused the abilities and/or power of God and have not given proper credit as to where I received this power.

These gifts that God has given us are that…gifts.  These are gifts from an unchanging God.  These are gifts to use for ourselves, for others, and for His service.  Let us use them to His glory being ever thankful that He has granted us whatever portion we have received.


1.      What are some of your spiritual gifts?

2.      What are some of your material gifts?

3.      What are some of your gifted abilities or power?

4.      In what ways do you use these gifts for God’s kingdom work?

5.      In what ways have you fallen short of using His gifts for kingdom work?

6.      What needs to change for you to move in a direction of using God’s gifts?

7.      This week, take time to write out a list of your gifts.  Notice where you have used them.  Notice where you need to use them more.  Be sure to pray a prayer of thanks to God over that list.

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