Be Encouraged

 

Series of hand gesturesI like the word encouragement. It has that important word “courage” right in the center of it. The word “encourage” means to inspire a spirit of confidence and courage in another. I believe encourage carries hope with it a well. I love people who encourage me and inspire me. I find encouragement in friendship. I find encouragement in corporate worship at church as well as the messages from our Pastor. I find encouragement from my family and they continue to grow as adults. Encouragement can be found all over the place. I must be careful because the nemesis of encouragement is discouragement and he doesn’t give up easily. When I’m discouraged, I see everything differently. I can sink into despair. This can happen easily when being criticized and complained about. This negative force can take the wind out of my soul. I must guard against discouragement by digging deep inside my heart and knowing who I am and Whose I am.  I must return to the roots of my character and disciplines. Check this out…

I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. (Colossians 2:2-3;6-7 CSB)

There are lots of “Negative Nellies & Nelsons” in life who put others down trying to make themselves seem big. Be clearly aware of their presence and their tactics. There are also “Positive Petes & Paulas” all around. I want to lean into the positives and learn from the negatives, but I want to be encouraged and live a life of encouragement. I want to grow in my positive outlook on life.

I think the key to encouragement for me is found in the last part of verse 7:

-rooted in Him

– built up in Him

– established in the faith

– return to what I was taught

– overflowing with gratitude

I have been praying that the Lord continue to help me grow in gratitude. A grateful heart pushes out the hateful heart. A grateful heart grows from gratitude while an ungrateful heart wallows in misery. A grateful heart also pushes out fear and worry and welcomes faith and trust inside.

I’m encouraged by the Word of God. I’m encouraged by the Lord as I walk with Him each day. I need to seek Him all day every day!

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Lead Me

 

Follow The LeaderI believe the most productive thing I can do today is let the Lord lead me. I have a lot of things on my calendar and on the “to do list” today. The Lord is very capable of leading me through my day. He will improve my day if I will trust Him. He works behind the scenes of my day to lead and direct my day. My role is to listen and trust Him.

When I read the Psalms, I often gain perspective on God and on life. David often wrote some of his strongest stuff in the middle of a crazy and scary time. I find encouragement in his writings during these times because it showed his humanness as well as his simple but profound faith in God. Check this out…

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-4 NIV)

I underlined three important words in this passage. First, I want the Lord to lead me to Himself. He is strong and fully equipped to help me handle whatever the Lord throws at me. Second, I want to dwell with the Lord – wherever He goes I want to go. I want to hang out with Him. Third, I want to take refuge in the Lord. I want His Protection and His Provision. I am certainly not capable of doing anything of value in my own power. When I’m tired and weary – this Psalm gives me a plan that will work.

As I look toward the next 12-16 hours of my life, I realize more than ever that I need Him in the everyday routines of my life. I also need Him in the deep weeds and deep water of my life as well. If I will have the courage to let Him lead, hang out with Him and take shelter in Him – my day will “level out” considerably.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Contend Close By

Hope Words in Sky Faith Belief Inspire AspirationsI have never considered myself much of a fighter. I have learned that I will fight when pushed into a place where that is my only option. There are some people who choosing to fight is their first option. Some people even pick a fight with people who were on their side or in nearly the same position.  I like it best when others fight alongside of me on my behalf. Their presence on my behalf is strong and powerful.

This past week I witnessed a group of people who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death with their pastor. A local pastor’s wife died of cancer a few months ago and the city did a special plaque in remembrance of her service and impact on our community, our schools and our churches. It was a beautiful declaration and tribute. What struck me as I witnessed this event was the number of families who came just because they are contending on behalf of their pastor – they have his back as he grieves. I found myself giving thanks for those families who were there because they feel the loss and they want to be someone their dear pastor can lean upon.

King David was very transparent in the Psalms. If he was struggling, he penned it. If he was celebrating, he shared that too. He asked the Lord to contend on his behalf. Check this out…

22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.

    Do not be far from me, Lord.

23 Awake, and rise to my defense!

    Contend for me, my God and Lord.

24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God;

    do not let them gloat over me.

26 May all who gloat over my distress

    be put to shame and confusion;

may all who exalt themselves over me

    be clothed with shame and disgrace.

27 May those who delight in my vindication

    shout for joy and gladness;

may they always say, ‘The Lord be exalted,

    who delights in the well-being of his servant.’

28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,

    your praises all day long. (Psalm 35:22-24,26-28 NIV)

I need the Lord to contend for me daily. I need Him to contend for me against me – sometimes. I need Him to contend for me against those who want to harm me. I need Him to contend for me again the enemy – satan. I am not afraid when the Lord contends close by on my behalf. His Presence is a “game changer” for sure. I can lift my head and face anything or anyone knowing the Lord is contending close by on my behalf.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Strength

Smiling sport child boy showing hand biceps muscles strengthI have seen people lift things with their arms and legs that seem impossible. I used to lift weights and work out very regularly, but it’s hard to tell now. I work out now by riding a bicycle or walking. I certainly would benefit to fitting more exercise into my schedule. We now have fitness apps on our watches and fitness trackers to help encourage exercise. I got a chuckle out of the “breathe” feature & the “stand” feature on the apple watch.

While physical strength is very important, inner strength is quite powerful too. I’ve seen people who face impossible odds have a great attitude and show great inner strength in the middle of adversity. I’ve noticed the tremendous inner strength of Job. This man had suffered tremendous loss and was suffering intensely, but he refused to curse God. Check this out…

8 The upright are appalled at this;

    the innocent are aroused against the ungodly.

9 Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways,

    and those with clean hands will grow stronger. (Job 17:8-9 NIV)

I am profoundly concerned about the election process that I’ve witnessed here in the US the past year and a half. Our country is a sharply divided people. There were two very different ideologies to choose from in the Presidential race. I’m like most people in the country who weren’t sure we had the best candidates to choose from. I had decided that however the vote went, that God would still be in His rightful place as leader of my heart. This simple passage in Job reminded me to hold on for sure. I am praying for healing in our country as this will go down in history as one of the most vicious campaigns. I am praying for peace. I am praying for wisdom and discernment. I am praying that love settle over us once again.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Leaders Don’t Need Titles

 

Leadership Tools Skill Management Experience TrainingI’ve had the privilege of serving under some incredible leaders over the years. I have learned much about their lives and where their heart is by the way they lead. I believe that we have all kinds of unnoticed leaders in our culture. We have elected leaders and self-appointed leaders, but sometimes it’s hard to follow a leader who seems to lead without certain characteristics.

Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate each day watching the activities there. I believe he was there because his niece, Esther, whom he had raised as his own daughter, was now Queen Esther. He just wanted to be close by. He overheard a plot to assassinate the king and he reported it. He also helped encourage Esther to speak up for her people. He exhibited leadership qualities that caught the eye of the king when Haman’s wickedness was discovered. Check this out…

1King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores. 2 And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? 3 Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews. (Esther 10:1-3 NIV)

I noticed some important character traits about Mordecai’s leadership that was valuable:

Humility – doesn’t think more highly of himself than he ought.

Consistent – he was dependable and faithful to his post.

Wisdom – he was knowledgeable in the things of God as well as Persia.

Courage – he led from within his faith – the Lord gave him great courage.

Memory – he never forgot who he was and what he was there for.

Work Ethic – He worked for the good of all his people.

Loyal – he was loyal to King Xerxes who gave him his position.

I don’t like to follow leaders who don’t lead with most of these character traits. I do believe the Lord calls me to honor our leaders and respect them. He does not call me to blindly follow them when their leadership conflicts with His Word. I believe that leaders should seek the wisdom that only the Lord can give to lead and serve the people entrusted to their care. Mordecai was acting like a leader long before he was given a title and a position.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Bravery

 

Courage Vs. Fear Bowling Ball Strike Pins BraveryI would consider myself brave for the most part. I’m not super scared of the dark, although I can be startled by something I didn’t expect to see or hear in the dark. When I think of bravery, I think of much more than simply not being scared. I think of our military men and women who are fighting an enemy that they often can’t see or haven’t met to protect our freedom. I also think of our firefighters and law enforcement who stand up to incredible odds to protect the citizens of our great country. Bravery is also the person facing death from cancer or some other debilitating disease and keeping their head up as they try to finish well. I would like to consider myself brave, but I also know that there’s a part of me that gets scared to death. I’m still learning to trust the Lord with my fears and failures.

The army of Jerusalem took on the Ammonites and the Philistines quite often. Evidently, Goliath came from a family of giants. Check this out…

5 In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.

6 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 7 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.

8 These were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men. (1 Chronicles 20:5-8 NIV)

 

I’ve figured out that if I’m brave, it’s because of the Power of God living in me. I can honestly face anything that comes my way. Please note that I didn’t say I want bad stuff to come my way. I didn’t say I wouldn’t be afraid if something big and bad threatened me, or someone I love. I’m learning that Lord can calm my fear with His Presence.

I love this song by Amanda Cook and Bethel Music called: You Make Me Brave.

I’m taking on today with His Presence in me as I face any giants that come my way. I have no intentions of being paralyzed by fear because His Presence in me changes everything about my perspective.

Pressing On!

Dwayne