Leave Them Better Than You Found Them

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I remembered something.  Actually, I was just about ready to fall asleep and I had a thought pop into my brain.  As a side note, that is a strange place for that to happen for me, usually it is when I am taking a shower that I think the clearest.  But anyway, I got to thinking about how in many different places in my life I have been told to “leave it better than you found it.”  This is easy to understand when you are given something to borrow, or you are in someone’s home.  But what about if we thought the same about the people we encountered everyday?

Encouragement comes in many places.

I was at a hotel with my family some months ago and I noticed an older couple strolling around the lobby.  The older man was in a wheelchair and his wife was pushing him around.  Immediately I had compassion for them because they looked tired to me.  She loved him and would do anything for him.   He had some sort of health problem that limited him to the wheelchair.  I noticed they wanted to go into the pool area to see what was going on in there, but holding the door was challenging.  I went over a held the door so they could come in and then when they left again.  They both smiled at me and thanked me for my help.  I didn’t do much, but I hope I left them better than I found them.

Words have the power to hurt and heal.  Of course working with people can be a challenge.  If I chose to be negative or grumble about others, I will just add negativity to an already negative situation.  People don’t always do things like I do them.  Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes other people make mistakes.  We are all human.  One thing that helps make things better is gratitude. I can say thank you.  In fact, I have found that one way to counteract negativity in the workplace or in the home is to say thank you, even to that person that can rub you wrong.  Actually, this is probably something we all can do better at.  It doesn’t hurt and it is free.

What can you do today to leave them better than you found them?  Someone needs you to lift them up today. 

Who can you lift up today? 

It is time to write a note to someone!

Everything seems to revolve around social media now.  We send messages on Facebook and text messages for everything.  Phone calls are rare and handwritten notes are fading away.  The personal touch seems to be lacking at times.

wpid-IMAG0311.jpgSo this morning I wrote my three boys a note.  There was nothing all that earth shattering about any of them.  I just told them about how much I loved them and how I am proud of them.  I shared something about how I pray for them and left it at that.  This is so meaningful for them.

Therefore I want to encourage you to do the same for people you love.  This week is Thanksgiving.  Maybe there is someone you have been taking for granted.  It could be that a handwritten note would encourage someone’s day in ways you don’t realize.  This is true even if you have horrible handwriting like me!

Pick up that pen and write one to someone and watch how God blessing in that!

Presenting God’s Word in its Fullness

Summer is here...almost
Summer is here…almost

Just like that it feels like summer for two reasons:  1) The tourists are in the stores again with their khakis shorts and 2) the weather is warm.  While true that we still have about a month of school left; we are starting to do more outdoors.  Let’s be honest, the last few weeks of school are a little silly anyway.  

This time of year brings about evaluation for ministry.  We don’t stop for the summer, but we do change what we do.  This weekend, in fact, is our youth group boys camping weekend.  This is a highlight of the year because it gets guys together in the great outdoors.  What is better than that?  

As I prepared the teaching portion of the weekend I came across a verse that resonated with me.  Youth ministry can be a real challenge and sometimes discouraging.  There are times we put a lot of effort into something and then have no one show up.  It is hard to figure out how effective we are actually being.  Yet, we press on. 

In fact, as I write this I am thinking about the following verse: 

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— Colossians 1:25

As I read that I thought – “yes!”  That is exactly what I want to do.  I want to be faithful to present the word of God in its fullness.  It is about being a servant to the call of God on my life.  It is not about me!   This is amazing because he goes to describe this more fully.  This word of God is Jesus Christ in whom riches we can never run out of.  

This is an encouragement for all of us.  We have opportunities everyday to present the word of God in its fullness to the world.  Let’s not waste the opportunities because we just don’t know what will happen next.   That means being intentional in relationships and ministries alike, whether you are camping or talking a walk in your neighborhood. 


Enormous Problems, Small Problems — No Problem for God

As the events in Boston unfolded last week, I was amazed at how much chaos one individual on the run could do to a city.  There was a 19 year old hiding somewhere in or around Boston causing an unprecedented manhunt.  It was one man verses the city of Boston.  We all knew it was just a matter of time before he was caught.

Can you imagine the despair in that situation?  What do you think about while hiding from a massive police force after committing such horrific crimes?    Would he really have thought that he might actually escape?  I certainly don’t know the answer to that.  What I do know is that when there is such a show of force demonstrated, I would not want to be on the receiving end of it.  We don’t willingly jump into battles where we are outnumbered or under-resourced.  It makes no sense rationally to do that.

Is your life rubble?  God is able to rebuild it.
Is your life rubble? God is able to rebuild it.

In 1 Samuel 14 there is a story about Jonathan’s faith against a formidable foe.    Now, the scenario is different because Jonathan, while on the weaker army side, was on God’s side.  He had no reason to lose, unlike the terrorists who had no reason to win.

Jonathan was King Saul’s son.   We know that Saul was already on his way out as king because he was someone who did not honor God.  This story is interesting because it hits on a couple of important points for all of us today.  We are not likely going to be running into literal battle, but we do have personal battles all the time.  Here are a few things to consider as you face your own battles today, no matter how big they are.

Faith Matters

It was Saul and his servant verses an army.  I love the way he approaches this because he obviously had faith in God. He looks at his armor-bearer and says, “let’s go and perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf.”  I don’t know about you, but if the leader said something like ‘perhaps’ I would be saying ‘no thanks.’  We don’t see that here because Jonathan qualifies that with this: “Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many of few.”  He recognized that it made no difference how many people stood in his way because God was more than able to save.

I think this has a real application for many people right now.  God is not limited by your circumstances, no matter how grave they might seem.  We are to take a position of faith that says, “God you are able to save me from this in your way and time.  I trust you.”  We are safe there because we are with God and not out trying to make things happen on our own.

God’s Ways Are Not Ours

I don’t know exactly what Jonathan thought would happen.  I do know that God’s method was rather interesting.  It says that after they killed about 20 men, that panic struck the army.  Does that even make sense?  Can you imagine in any of the world wars that an army would panic after losing only a small fraction of their troops?  God sent panic and they ended up fighting each other.   It just shows in dramatic fashion what an all-sufficient God is to those who have faith in Him.

This encourages us to not just look at the scenario as impossible, but to look at our God as the doer of impossible things.  Whatever it is that you are facing might not seem possible to resolve.  God is able to resolve it in unexpected ways.  Look for God in both the expected and the unexpected.

Your Response Encourages Others

Saul was the king even if there was no reason to think it.  In this case he was late to the party.  After he saw the Lord at work, Saul went ahead and sent his army to battle.  The Lord got all the credit as the one who rescued them.

It is important to note that even thought Jonathan acted without his father’s permission, Saul was encouraged to respond because of his son’s faith.  It does show us how much people watch and will respond to a genuine life of faith.  Live it!

I recognize that there are seasons of life that are more difficult than others.  We need a posture of faith that encourages us to stay on God’s side and trust Him for everything because He has no limits.  


Good News: You are deeply loved by God!

The daily pressure to conform is on from the moment we get out of bed.  This is true for even the most confident individuals.  There are certain labels we place on ourselves and on others which start to shape our identity.  The truth is that none of those labels define who we are.  We have been created by a loving God.  We are His masterpiece!

My son's hand on my wall- A masterpiece
My son’s hand on my wall- A masterpiece

Immediately following the fire at our church, my children were upset because their art projects were lost in the fire.  This would seem like a small thing compared to an entire building.  To them the projects they had created for me represented a piece of who they are.  They spent time making a mess out of paint in order to give me those things.  Some of the pictures that hung on my office wall were not recognizable at all, but to them they were a masterpiece.  They designed them just the way they wanted and they knew exactly what they were.  They have since made me a few more items for my temporary office.  Each picture representing thoughtful, intentional, creativity.

What a powerful picture of what God does for each of us!  I know there are times I look at other people who seem to be more successful than I am, or seem to have things together more than I do, and I wonder what it would be like to be in their shoes.  Do you realize how completely out of line that is?  God has uniquely shape us all into the exact person we are.  There are no mistakes.  There is nothing to throw away.  You are not a bunch of spare parts.

And just like my children get excited over their projects, God gets excited about us.  I can picture God watching us in our specific talents doing what He has designed us to do and exclaiming “I made that person and I am so proud of who they have become.”

This morning I read Psalm 139 as a reminder of what this looks like.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ”  – Psalm 139:13-14

I pray that today, as you go about your daily life, that you would be increasingly aware of the hand of God in your life.  He loves us so much that He made a way for us to be with Him forever.  No matter what you think, feel, or what people tell you, know that God sees you as a masterpiece He formed.  Let Him define who you are today!