Sometimes I Am Not Positive

I am working at being much more positive

My personality is not naturally positive … But I am working to change my approach to life and daily circumstances

After all, with God nothing is impossible

I read the other day:

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort”    Herm Albright

So, I am working at ‘being a warrior and not a worrier’

‘A fountain not a drain’

A VPP and not a VDP … Very Positive Person / Very Draining Person

I have discovered that it takes a positive attitude to move forward

And, I don’t mean all the self-help, positive-thinking teachings that are out there

Most of the ‘Have a positive attitude’ self-help  preaching and teaching is not biblical

Conceive it, believe it, achieve it

Health and wealth

Name it and claim it

Blab it and grab it

Lots of motivational speakers and self-help preachers make lots of promises without preaching the whole gospel — or any of the true gospel

The self-improvement industry has become a kind of religion that says, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me”

We should guard ourselves against any self-help ideology that pushes God to the sidelines, magnifies human abilities, and doesn’t tell the whole truth

But there is a positive, hopeful, joyful, optimism that is totally biblical in its essence and comes from Christ alone

You can be a Christian and an optimist at the same time — and you should be

Faith adds a positive power to your life

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

That sounds pretty positive, doesn’t it?

The man who wrote those words was an optimist with a capital O

Read his story in the book of Acts and study his thirteen letters

 

They are packed with optimism

His words reveal to us his powerful secrets for resilience, optimism, and positive thinking and belief

By stepping into his story at critical moments, we can understand how he lived a life of positive accomplishment despite hardships and adverse life circumstances

1> Be Positive in Your Convictions

Paul’s optimism started with his positive convictions

He lived with “conviction”

A CONVICTION is a fixed belief

A deeply held set of certainties that lodges and lives in the center of your mind and heart

It is critical that your convictions be sound and true – in other words, biblical

Pauls’ certainly were!

He wrote his convictions down and his letters are a journal of his life and his belief system – his convictions

Paul’s core convictions were the foundation of his incredible life and ministry and the basis of his positive attitude 

Paul had two very positive core convictions that motivated him and provided directions for his life

A> Be Positive About God’s Love For You

The most basic conviction in life is rooted in understanding the nature of God

Because, without a good, powerful, loving creative, eternal God, there is no basis for optimism 

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Great reasons to be optimistic and positive in your life

Not only is God real but He loves us

Not only does God love us, but nothing we might experience in life can separate us from His love

The ten things Paul lists in these verses could each be a potential barrier between you and God

But Paul says, with absolute assurance, that none of them can separate you from God’s love

The loss of hope around us today is rampant – especially as we enter the second year of fighting the Covid pandemic

And lack of hope is lethal to a joy-filled, positive life

Added to the pandemic – hope has disappeared in many aspects of life because of a growing ignorance and even rejection of God’s love

Without an understanding of God’s love

Without an experience of God’s love 

Without an encounter with God’s love

There is little to be positive about in every day life

These powerful words in Romans 8 about God’s love are reinforced by a blessing Paul offered toward the end of the same letter

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13)

You can make that a personal prayer by switching a word or two…

“Now may the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

That prayer, prayed often, can adjust your mindset in any given season of life

Deepen your core convictions

Strengthen your belief

Allow you to be much more positive regardless of what is happening in your life

God loves you and wants you to overflow with hope and optimism!

Never forget that

Let that conviction dwell in the very core of your being

In his book The Wisdom of Tenderness, Brennan Manning tells the story of Edward Farrell, a man who decided to travel from his hometown of Detroit to visit Ireland, where he would celebrate his uncle’s eightieth birthday.

Early on the morning of his uncle’s birthday, they went for a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney. As the sun rose, his uncle turned and stared straight into the breaking light. For twenty minutes they stood there in silence, and then his elderly uncle began to skip along the shoreline, a radiant smile on his face.

After catching up with him, Edward asked, “Uncle Seamus, you look very happy. Do you want to tell me why?”

“Yes, lad,” the old man said, tears washing down his face. “You see, the Father is very fond of me. Ah, me Father is so very fond of me.”

In that moment Uncle Seamus experienced how much he was loved by his Father in heaven, an overwhelming sense of joy flooded his heart, and he began to dance along the shoreline.

Have you ever had a moment like that?

Have you ever awakened and said, “He really does love me”? 

 

Do you know what it means ti overflow with hope and optimism?

Hope, optimism, and joy – a positive outlook on life – can become a habitual attitude if we remember that God loves us 

A conviction: Be positive about God’s love for you

B> Be Positive About God’s Plan For You

The second core conviction or people who view life and live life positively — they are optimistic about their exciting future

They embrace tomorrow with enthusiasm and anticipation!

That is only possible if you know your future is guaranteed to be exciting, eternal, meaningful, and useful

Only one Person can assure you of that — the Lord Himself

And only one Book can provide the sure and certain details — the Bible 

The apostle Paul constantly referred to the future

He put the past behind him and strained toward what was ahead

(See teaching: Sometimes I Lose My Focus)

Even when he was near death, Paul was excited about tomorrow

Think about it! While waiting on death row for his martyrdom, Paul was eager for tomorrow

The last known letter Paul wrote was to his friend Timothy, and it was written from a Roman prison as he awaited a certain death

Listen to what he said in the final chapter to his final letter (book):

2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Paul had an incredible perspective on dying

Years before, he told the Philippians, 

Philippians 1:21-24 NLT “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”

Perhaps Paul’s remarkable perspective flowed from the time he was caught up to heaven and glimpsed the glories that await us there (see: 2 Corinthians 12:4)

But we have a blessing Paul didn’t have: We have the Book of Revelation

Written after Paul’s death

The final two chapters describe our heavenly home in great detail for us

(See: Revelation, Chapters 21 and 22)

The more we study those chapters, the more excited we should become about tomorrow

How long has it been since you were really excited about the future?

When you went to bed last night, were you excited to see what today would bring?

          • Remember when you were a kid counting the days until your birthday?
          • Or a graduate looking forward to your next step in life?
          • Or engaged to be married and eager for your wedding day?
          • An expectant parent waiting for the baby to arrive?

A psychologist wrote:

“Although we often think the past dictates our behaviour, the future is what really motives most of our actions”

As a follower of Christ, I’m ready to die and willing to live

And in either case I can’t wait to see what God will do next

I live constantly curious about what God will do tomorrow …

Romans 5:2 TLB “For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.”

So, to be positive and excited about life:

1> Be positive in your convictions

A> Be positive about God’s love for you

B> Be positive about God’s plan for you

2> Be Positive in Your Conversations

If you are positive in your core convictions — you will become more positive in your daily conversations

In the book of Ruth, when the landowner Boaz went out each morning to check on the harvesters, he greeted them by shouting, “The Lord be with you!” 

And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!” (Ruth 2:4)

What a positive way to start the day!

Sometimes we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves, saying something like: “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24)

Try saying that aloud with enthusiasm when getting up each morning

It will make a difference

Outside of praying, your most important words are the ones you say to yourself

These words are silent but significant

Self-help advocates call this ‘self-talk’ but I want to skip the psycho-babble and go straight to Paul’s words in Scripture

Did Paul ever talk to himself?

He said, he strove to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

He said, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22 NIV)

He said, “I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12)

And, as we have learned, he also said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)

Paul is saying…. When it comes to negative thoughts:

      • Don’t curse them
      • Don’t nurse them
      • Don’t rehearse them
      • Disperse them

Push out your negative thoughts – worry, anxiety, fear, pessimism

Push out the self-talk tapes from your past – you dad, your family, a friend

A doctor a Christian – who has run double triathlons (two triathlons back-to-back with only a twenty-four hour break) six times … the last time when he was 59 years old

When asked how he did it, he said, “I have learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself. If I listen to myself, I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I’m too tired, too old, too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself, I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”

In Psalm 42 the palmist said to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11)

We don’t know the author of Psalm 42, but it might have been King David, because he knew how to preach to himself when needed

As a young man, a series of disastrous problems had befallen David in a town called Ziklag

His family and the families of his men had been kidnapped, and even his own men were turning on him and talking about stoning him to death

What did David do? 

He preached to himself — He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6)

And, in that strength he rose up to tackle his problems with a positive spirit that came from his belief in God’s watchful care for his life

Jeremiah did the same

After watching his city go up in flames and his nation go down in defeat, he said:

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-22)

This is what we must do

If we listen to the negative tapes looping around in our thoughts, we will sink into the pessimism of the devil  (depression)

We will hear ourselves saying:

          • How could I have been so stupid?
          • What is wrong with me?
          • Everything is falling apart!
          • This is a disaster
          • Why is this happening to me?

Stop the tape!

Here’s a better one:

“I know in Whom I believe, and I am persuaded He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. Why are you cast down? Hope in God. I’ll soon be praising Him again, for He is the health of my countenance. I’m going to recall something and keep it in mind — the Lord is merciful, and His compassions won’t fail me. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Dr. H. Norman Wright … a great believer wrote:

“Depending on how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. Whew! It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind.”

To complicate our minds more, noted Dr. Wright, not all these are conscious thoughts, and sometimes they pass so fleetingly we barely notice them

But listen to what Dr. Wright says next:

“Every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body … Each thought sets off a biological process — about 400 billion at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through the body, producing electromagnetic waves. Those setoff emotions, which affect how we behave … Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: We are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts.”

2B> Speak Positively to Others 

Learn to talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself

Learn to encourage yourself in the Lord

It will change the way you speak to others

Your mood and message will be different, even in the midst of difficulties

This was another of Paul’s secrets

Once he was caught in a vicious storm with a terrified crew on a sinking ship

The typhoon threatened to rip the ship into  matchsticks — and even the captain gave up hope of survival

But Paul rallied their spirits, saying, “Keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God” (Acts 27:25 NIV)

Nevertheless the storm grew worse

It was the deadliest storm the sailors had ever seen, and there were 276 souls on board

 

Two weeks of unbearable strain drained the crew of their last drops of hope, and none of them could eat or rest through the wild hours of the worst night

Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. (Acts 27:33-36 NIV).

Do you know someone struggling to keep their head above water?

Think of the power of saying to them — in the right way at the right time — “Kep uo your courage! I have faith in God. Take care of yourself. You’ll get through this storm. Believe God and His Word.”

There is power in an attitude that is positively biblical — and biblically positive

As London recovered from World War II, a prominent minister, Leslie Weatherhead, wrote a book to help his British congregation recover from the emotional trauma of the conflict.

He warned his people to avoid talking all the time about what was wrong with them

We all need a very few close friends, of course, to whom we can unburden our hearts and share our troubles, he said. But telling everyone we meet about our troubles gives our woes “persisting power.”

It’s tempting to share our difficulties, because we crave sympathy

“But we must realize that every recital of our woes and every brooding hour etches on our minds the picture of the weaker, not the stronger, self.”

The more we talk about our troubles, the more we rehearse and reinforce them, and the more we spread the pessimism that’s endemic to our culture

Instead, focus on others.

Spread optimism 

Help those around you to take courage

Help them to believe

“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Our world is wrecked, and as we work to accomplish what God wants us to do — the last thing we need are endless critics

Instead, we need to camaraderie of Christ-centered people who say what is good and helpful so our words will be an encouragement to many

We need people who believe and who inspire belief. 

3> Be Positive in Your Crisis

Only after you have learned to be positive in your CONVICTIONS and in your CONVERSATION can you learn to persevere with a hopeful attitude through CHALLENGES that will inevitably come

During times of conflict and crisis, you can be optimistic and positive — this was true of Paul the apostle

In fact, he was very positive and thus resilient — always getting up after hitting a crisis or a tough circumstance in his journey with Jesus

He said in Romans 8:35-37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

The apostle lists seven persecutions he had constantly endured

It felt like “being killed all day long”

But, he said he was “more than a conqueror”

The phrase more than conquerors is a translation of a Greek word: hypernikomen. 

Notice the letters “nik” are in the middle of the word — hypernikomen

‘Nike’ is the Greek word for victory, which is why a great company chose it for its name

It means “overcomer”

And look at the first part of the term — hypernikomen

You know the term ‘hyper.’

It means extra, obsessive, over and above, over the top

So the phrase more than conquerors is a super-term

It means super-overcomer

Paul isn’t just overcoming his difficulties

He kept overcoming them again and again through the power of Him who loved him — the Lord Jesus Christ

We can’t control everything that happens to us

We have little say in the affairs of the world

But we can choose our response to what happens

We can mope, cope, or hope

I’m here to tell you that biblical hope is the greatest source of optimism in the world

It is relentless, rewarding, and bring new life to our heart and soul

At this point I want to shout:

On the authority of Scripture and because of the love of Jesus Christ, be an over-the-top overcomer

Believe! Trust Him!

And, be positive in your CONVICTIONS, your CONVERSATIONS, your CRISIS, and #4 – in  your COUNTENANCE

4> Be Positive in Your Countenance

Your mood is always reflected in your countenance

When optimism is in your heart, a joyful countenance is on your face

Someone said, “What’s down in the well comes up in the pail.”

The Bible states:

“Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11)

Unfortunately, we don’t have a photograph of the apostle Paul, so I can’t prove his face was radiant

But it would be hard to doubt it

His positive attitude infiltrated all of his writings

For example, he told the Corinthians, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV)

People see your face before they know your heart

Psalm 34:5 “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faced were not ashamed”

“A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance” (Ecclesiastes 8:1 NIV)

That inner wisdom comes from believing

It’s not believing in positive thinking or the power of a positive attitude

It isn’t even believing in ourselves

True optimism comes from deep biblical convictions about the nature of God

Knowing He loves you and has an exciting plan that is uniquely yours

It comes from reminding yourself and others of His goodness and of the incredible future He has for those who trust Him

A firm belief in the God of Scripture will bear you through the crises of life and put joy on your face

Your faith will make you radiant.

Some wise advice as we conclude …

A smile is an asset; a frown is a liability

Some people grin and bear it; others smile and change it

Being happy and enthusiastic in life is always a choice

Both enthusiasm and pessimism are contagious

How much of each do you spread?

Story to end the teaching…

In November 2007, a tough old Alaska fisherman named Alan Ryden took a month-long trip at sea in his forty-two-foot boat

The trip became a nightmare when the boat capsized in a terrible storm

Ryden managed to get into a raft wearing his survival suit and fleece jacket, and he got off a Mayday signal to the Coast Guard. But the weather was wicked, and the little raft tossed around like a cork.

Shivering in the buffeted raft, Alan felt himself losing hope. His mind panicked and quickly sunk into deep discouragement and hopelessness. He began wondering if his life insurance would provide for his family. 

Suddenly, Alan realized his own thoughts were pulling him under more than the seas, and he made one of the toughest decisions of his life. He determined to cast out negative thoughts and to toss them out of the raft like weights.

He began quoting Scriptures to himself, speaking God’s Word aloud. He started thanking God for any good thing that came to mind. He said to himself, “Well, at least I am in a survival suit. My suit does have a top-of-the-line strobe light attached … At least I am in some kind of raft, and at least I got that fleece jacket on … I am strong, a good swimmer, and have no fear of the water.”

Ryden’s mental struggle deepened as the darkness set in, but he remained committed to hanging on with all his strength to the anchor of hope. He later said, “There was definitely a grace from God … I had to fight for every inch in my thoughts.”

Ten hours later, Ryden was rescued. Tracie Miles, who wrote about his story in her book Unsinkable Faith, said the real rescue was inward. It had been achieved during the storm when, by grace, Ryden had “anchored himself in God and embraced positive thoughts, which helped him stay buoyant.”

She’s right

Believing and learning to be optimistic requires us to stay positive in our convictions, even in the middle of a crisis

It’s an essential skill you must develop if you want to move forward in life

So, anchor yourself in the hope of Jesus Christ

Cling to the promises of the Bible

Determine by God’s grace to keep your mind buoyant and your soul unsinkable even in the storms — Be positive!

 

Passive or Passionate

Killer Dana was the most notorious wave in California. When it was really ripping and roaring, the best surfers in the world gave it plenty of distance. Legendary surfers knew that given the traditional techniques of their sport, that wave was more than they could handle.
Then came a teenager to prove them wrong.
In 1953, a boy named Phil Edwards paddle out toward Killer Dana beside the best surfers in the business, and people gasped. Was this kid crazy? He wouldn’t last three minutes against the tightest wave the West Coast had to offer.

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The Lesson From a Group Of Monkeys

I am always astonished at what people believe. Not just in matters of the faith but in all aspects of life. Of course, with COVID-19 there are so many differing opinions and viewpoints. The most obvious currently: the mask or no mask debate and divide. We have people who believe that asymptomatic people cannot spread the virus when scientific and medical experts tell us the opposite. We have conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus…

People put their thoughts and opinions on social media and repeat them often enough that some people begin to believe they are true. And, of course, then they retweet or repost and thus spread them further ‘as truth.’ So we end up with large numbers of people believing something that is not true. 

The other day in a series of interviews with doctors and nurses they were sharing that people who they are ministering to in hospital and the ICU – people who are dying from COVID-19 – think the COVID-19 virus is not real and simply a hoax. They believe what they have been told and what they have heard over-and-over again … not checking the facts, just believing. Even when dying they still do not believe they were really dying of COVID-19. 

It reminds me of the scientific study done a number of years ago. I have reproduced it below….

Scientists once conduced a very interesting experiment

In the middle of a room, they hung a bushel of fresh bananas halfway up a pole

Then they let four monkeys loose in the room.

Immediately the hungry monkeys dashed towards the bright yellow bananas

As they climbed the scientists blasted the monkeys with icy-cold water

The monkeys backed off, regrouped, then made a second attempt. As they started to climb the pole, once again they received the discouraging dousing

After several unsuccessful attempts, the monkeys became convinced that failure was inevitable and finally stopped trying.

The next day, the researchers removed one of the four monkeys and replaced him with a new monkey.

What did the rookie do?

He went straight for the bananas

But before he even reached the pole, the three veterans pulled him away

Undeterred, the new money tried again. 

Again his compassionate roommates intervened

At last he gave up and adopted their fatalistic attitude

Each day, the scientists replaced one of the original monkeys with a new one

By the fifth day, four monkeys occupied the room, not one of whom had ever been sprayed with cold water

From that day forward, whenever a new monkey was traded in, the others would prevent him from going for the bananas … without even knowing why 

Four had failed, and then they conditioned the novices to not even try

This happens with more than a group of monkeys. 

This happens to us as believers more often than we care to admit

People hear what we are wanting to do and tell you all the reasons we should not. You hear it often enough and you decide that you likely were not hearing God or misinterpreted what you heard.

You were in a friendship that didn’t work – others tell you that friendships are always unpredictable and usually painful so you decide not to risk another attempt at friendshipwith someone else

You were married and the marriage failed. Others tell you to just stay single as it is not worth the pain to remarry

Your first child was a pain in the neck an totally upset your life – so you don’t ever have a second one

Once burnt – twice shy

Several people I know were told by their parents and teachers as they were growing up that they would never amount to anything. Born losers. And, having heard it often enough – they  live up to the negative expectation and never use their abilities, skills, and talents to build a life that they could be proud of; a life that would benefit others and be a blessing.

It seems that we can be programmed to believe anything if we hear it often enough. And, it seems that the source of the ‘belief’ matters little. What matters is that it is repeated over and over again until it “becomes truth” to the hearer although not based in any facts. 

Remember: just because you read or hear or see something on social media does not make it true

Remember: what others say about you is not near as important as what God has declared about you

Remember: what God declares about you is always, and I repeat, always true

Remember: it is perfectly alright to check out every thing you hear or read to see if it is based in fact and is not just someone’s opinion. This is true even with teachings and sermons you may have heard. Don’t believe it because someone said it; believe it after you check it out with the written Word of God – the Bible. 

Don’t let others “make a monkey out of you.”

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media

In the Old Testament, when God saved His people out of bondage, He saved them for a purpose. God led Moses to the top of Mount Sinai for forty days. During this time, God not only gave Moses detailed instructions for the tabernacle; He also gave Moses two stone tablets inscribed with special instructions we know as the Ten Commandments. Out of His love for His people, God gave them these moral and spiritual laws to keep them safe as well as set them apart.
In the same spirit, I want to suggest ten commandments for you to consider as you use social media. It’s pretty obvious these didn’t come directly from God. But the principles are definitely based on His Word. I borrowed these from a Christian author who I greatly appreciate and read all that he publishes. These are ten ways to protect your time, your heart, your body, and your soul, as well as deepen your faith through what you type, text, and tweet.
These are simply ten helpful suggestions for how you can use social media in ways that will show others your love for God while not allowing social media to define you or to take an unhealthy place in your life. Social media and technology are amazing tools, and with a little discipline and prayer, they can be a gift to connect with others and reflect your love for an amazing God. So just imagine they’re on virtual stone tablets. I will list the ten of them and then comment on them individually over the next few days.

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Let us be equipped for the coming days

An apostolic perspective from Raffi Shahverdyan – apostolic leader living in Armenia and ministering worldwide.

Let us be equipped for the coming days

Scripture gives us many examples of good administration.  Our Lord calls the Church both to pray, equip itself for times of crisis, and to minister to those who are in need.

1 – You have something to do today

“I sought for a man among them to build the wall and stand in the breach in my presence on behalf of the land so that it won’t be destroyed, but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30, ISV).

God relies on you.  There is no such thing as a retired leader.  That is, if you were ever called to be a leader, then you are called to be a leader now also.  Even if you’ve never been a leader before, you can start being one right now. Along the way, you’ll discover aspects of your own personality that you never thought you had.

“When will all of this end?” -This is the question that all of us ask in difficult times, but let’s just change the question and begin to pray like this: “God, what should I do?  How can I serve you in this situation?  How can I be effective with the gifts that You have given me?

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people” (Mark 10:45, ISV).

Depression conquers some people. It isolates them, and they become passive, but you must not be found amongst them. You must defeat depression and stand strong in the Lord by faith.

Don’t sit still.  Keep calm. Don’t slow down, don’t waste your time, but do something for God’s Kingdom and His people. Just one word of encouragement from you can change a person’s life. The Angel of the Lord once said to a very frightened Gideon: “The LORD is with you, you valiant warrior!” (Judges 6:12, ISV).

2 – Communication: the biggest need of the Church in these days

Someone needs you!

The Church is a body, whose parts are intimately connected to each other (see 1 Corinthians 12:12).

The Lord has said: 

“Where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20, ISV).

Moreover, the Scriptures command us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (see Hebrews 10:25).

While anti-Christian systems like communism and Islam forbid believers to assemble together by closing churches, today’s pandemic is an unseen enemy that is also working to prevent us from assembling ourselves together.  To meet the challenge, we ought to start thinking creatively about how we can communicate with one another, whilst still aiming to respect our governments’ health regulations.

To that end, we can communicate using these methods:

A – Managing all the projects of the church through the internet.  Download appropriate social networking apps on your devices such as WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook, Telegram, Signal, etc. Those of us who are tech-savvy need to help those who are new to technology and/or new to using these kinds of apps.  

B – Making phone calls (for those who don’t have an internet connection).

C – Communicating through printed literature and written letters.

D – Outside gatherings of small groups (maximum 5 people).

3 – Form and activate cell groups by using the internet

“I tell you that you are Peter, and it is on this rock that I will build my congregation, and the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18, ISV)

In other words, start a small Church.

Let us not be overwhelmed by this crisis, but let us find ways of communicating and building relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Church. Let’s not wait for “someone else” in the Church to do something.  Rather, let us be the ones who take initiative by the Word and Spirit of God – and act on it.

A – Take part in the group in which you are already a member.  Don’t stand alone.  You can join or form a group of intercessors, a youth group, a missionary group, a group from Sunday school, a home church group, etc. 

B – If communication has stopped for a while, don’t wait for someone else to start it back again.  Instead, you be the one to get things going again. Send invitations out and start new groups.

C – Make a new group with 5-10 members and have communication with each other via the internet once a week.

D – You can start with a few members and then add new members as you go. Seek out and make contact with those who are isolated and/or don’t have any means of communication.

E – Aim to have a mixture of ages – men and women, boys and girls, from different backgrounds, so as to keep the group both dynamic and persistent. You can start a conversation with some of your friends, and then your group may grow organically from there. 

F – The aim of the group can first be to establish communication.  Once you have a base of people connected, you will be able to add programs such as praying, preaching, teaching, and group Bible readings.

G – You can request study and ministry themes from the Church’s secretary or create them by yourself as you study various parts of the Bible.

H –For those who don’t have an internet connection, you can give them print outs of different Biblical lessons and themes.

I – You can meet with the members of your group in open areas.  For now, this should be done with a limited number of people and with, of course, masks and proper social distancing measures in place.

J – Find and invite those especially to whom reaching out is difficult.  Those who have, for whatever reason, been left out of the normal means and methods of communication ought to be a special focus of our efforts. Make new groups and don’t get complacent with existing ones.

K –Talk to your pastor about your activities and be open and ready to receive direction, input, and advice.

L – Our main purpose is to feed and build the Church; to aid and arm God’s children to build His Kingdom and preach His Message.  Implementing measures to increase our communication and fellowship by whatever means available will not only help maintain the health of the Church, but it may also serve as an effective method of increasing evangelism and stimulating discipleship.

“…I kept them safe in your name which you have given to me: I took care of them and not one of them has come to destruction…” (John 17:12, BBE).

4 – Common means of communication and their potentials

Zoom – This is currently the most common app for video-calls.  It has the capacity to host large numbers of participants. A video-call up to 40 minutes is free.  After this expires, however, the connection may be reestablished to begin another 40 minute session.

Skype – You can have up to 50-minutes of video-calling, and it also gives other options not mentioned here.

Messenger – You can make hold a video-call with 8 members. There is an option to have a video-call with 50 members, but it is not available in Armenia yet.

Facebook / Instagram – Here you can share your messages with one another, individually or in groups.

Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram – These means of communication give you the opportunity to send large voice-recordings.  You can record and send your messages via these apps. You can communicate individually or create group-chats.  

SMS – This is the simplest means of communication, which is available on almost any kind of phone.  SMS messaging also allows you to correspond individually or in groups. Depending on the kind of phone that a given user has, you may be able to share voice recordings as well.  I would also like to utilize online Bibles and Bible apps, as well as implementing other methods for encouraging the reading and sharing of Bible verses.  Examples of some popular apps are YouVersion, Biblestone, and My Bible.  Most of these apps allow users to not only access, but download and synchronize information across multiple devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, etc.) so that everyone can read and share God’s Word effectively and conveniently.

God bless you all.

With love, Raffi Shahverdyan.

Integrity Deficit – Part Three

Let’s look at four serious benefits of living a life of integrity. While there are many more, these are some of my favourites:

1> You’ll walk closely with God.

Think of it like this: If I can clearly impart my family values to my children, and they choose to live their lives according to those principles and values, then obviously, this will increase our harmony with each other. On the other hand, consider what would happen if I clearly shared my important values with my children, and one or more of them decided to go their own way, contrary to what I had taught them. Now, of course, I’ll still love that child, but certainly their choices are going to interfere with our intimacy, our communion, and our ongoing fellowship. Our relationship with God follows a similar dynamic. When you live according to His values, you’ll naturally walk with Him, enjoying His presence daily.

2> You’ll have divine GPS.

Proverbs 11:3 says that “the integrity of the upright guides them.” When you allow integrity to lead you, you don’t have to guess what’s right. Decisions become much easier when they’re based not on what you think you can get away with but on what’s right in God’s eyes. It’s the difference between following your best guesses on how to reach your destination versus using a first-rate GPS that tells you how to proceed every step along the way. We must allow our integrity to guide us.

3> You’ll feel constant peace.

This is the benefit that means the most to me. When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I don’t ever lie there worrying, “Man, I sure hope nobody finds out what I’ve done today.” When you live with integrity, you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder, fearful of getting caught, wondering how long it will be until you’re found out. When you simply do the right thing, you abide in constant peace. There’s no fear, guilt, shame, or regret; just peace.

4> You’ll gain trust, respect, honour, and influence.

If you want to lead and inspire your family and friends, be a person of integrity. If you want great children, be a parent of integrity. If you want influence in the business community, be a person of your word. When you live with integrity, people will follow you and honour you. They’ll listen when you speak. Over time, they’ll even begin to seek out your wisdom and advice. Such is the legacy of integrity.

The benefits of integrity may seem obvious, yet they remain out of reach for many people, including those who should be the best examples — Christians. One of the most common complaints I hear from people outside the church is that Christians are a bunch of hypocrites, clearly a problem since a hypocrite is the opposite of a person of integrity.

Hypokrites, the Greek word that we translate “hypocrite,” means literally “an actor or stage player.” In the tradition of ancient Greek drama, each actor played several different roles. They used a different carved wooden mask for each of the various characters they were playing. Maybe you’ve seen the smiling comic mask alongside the frowning tragic mask used as symbols for the theatre or to represent drama in general. When an actor in ancient Greece needed to switch to a different character, he simply picked up a different mask and held it in front of his face. It was as simple as that.

I think many of us do exactly the same thing. For each social circumstance we find ourselves in, we present ourselves in the best possible light, even if it’s not honest, accurate, or authentic. We calculate who we think someone wants us to be, and then we select the appropriate mask to play that part for them. But it’s only a mask. It’s not who you really are; it’s just who you’re pretending to be.

It may be hard to see it in yourself, but each of us lacks integrity at some point or other. But it seems like we can always justify our pet behaviours, whether it’s by calling them “little white lies” or telling ourselves that we’re protecting the feelings of others. But consider how God looks at our “little quirks.” While Jesus openly welcomed repentant prostitutes, adulterers, and other vile sinners into His Kingdom, He was relentless in condemning hypocrites. Here’s what He says in Matthew 23:25-28:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Jesus exposed them for what they were. He essentially said, “You fakers. You play actors. You have zero integrity. You put on your game face and you look religious. You look nice and righteous on the outside. But inside, your heart us absolutely filthy with sin.”

It doesn’t make any difference if people appear to be righteous. What matters is to be pure on the inside. Woe to you if you lack integrity, full of hypocrisy. We must start with what’s inside us, allowing Christ to transform us, and then our actions will follow suit. Through Christ, we clean the inside of the cup before we move on to the outside. We sacrifice our selfish, deceitful, ego-driven impulses on the altar of truth so that our behaviour reflects God’s righteousness. Integrity starts from the inside out, not the outside in. 

Integrity Deficit – Part Two

With integrity we see a consistency of character. A person of integrity is the same no matter where he is or who he is with. One of the best examples of a person of integrity is the biblical Samuel, from the Old Testament.

Toward the end of his life, Samuel recaps his record of faithful service before the Israelite people:

Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

(1 Samuel 12:3-4 NIV)

At the end of his life, Samuel stood before his entire community and said, “Have I lived a life of integrity? If I’ve ever wronged any of you, just tell me, and I’ll make it right.”

And they answered him, “No, you’ve always done the right thing. You are a person of integrity, Samuel. You’ve been faithful.”

At the end of my life, I want to be able to ask the same question and get the same response. I want my children, my grandchildren, and generations of Howes after me, to be able to do exactly as Samuel’s community did. At the end of my life, I want to be able to say honestly, “Here’s your free shot. Did I do what I claimed I would do? Did I practice what I preached?”

People may even answer, “Well, we didn’t like your sense of humour or the way you dressed or your style of ministry. But, yes, you are a person of integrity. All the things you said you believed you actually lived.”

Another biblical man of integrity was David, perhaps made more credible because he failed big time and tried to hide it but in the end couldn’t live with himself. He offers another picture of what integrity looks like. In one of his psalms, David asks, “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” And then catalogs the traits of such a godly person (Psalm 15:1-5):

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?

Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,

who does what is righteous,

who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander,

who does no wrong to a neighbour,

and casts no slur on others;

who despises a vile person

but honours those who fear the Lord;

who keeps an oath even when it hurts,

and does not change their mind;

who lends money to the poor without interest;

who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

will never be shaken.

David asks, “LORD, who gets to enjoy your continued presence? Who gets to walk with you and fellowship with you?” In each case, the answer is the person who lives a life of integrity, and the promise is that “whoever does these things will never be shaken.”

When we live this way, we will never be shaken! Do you realize what an incredible statement that is?

So, the question remains: Are you a person of integrity? Be really honest with yourself. And, if there are some areas where you could do better, where your walk and talk don’t line up … decide today to make some changes. You may be able to make the changes on your own or you may need someone to walk with you through them. But, the bottom line is simple: do what it takes to be a person of integrity.

Integrity Deficit – Part One

Isn’t it tragic that we live in a world where people are more shocked by a display of integrity than a lack of it? More and more often, people seem surprised when someone does the right thing instead of when someone fails the morality test. This inversion is a sad indictment of how corrupt and self-absorbed our culture has become. Our ethics are determined by what we want and when we want it. It is all about us.

Integrity is living what you believe. It is walking on the outside what you believe on the inside. As Tony Dungy so brilliantly stated, “Integrity doesn’t come in degrees: low, medium, or high. You either have integrity or you don’t.” Integrity is living with all aspects of your life lining up into one whole.

You don’t have to look far to find a story about people who lack integrity. Maybe it’s a professional athlete everyone looks up to. He’s the best at what he does, but on top of that, he selflessly gives of himself to some charitable organization that’s making people’s lives better. Then one day the news comes out: he had a whole other sordid secret life that we never knew about.

Some politicians do this same thing. They run for office on a platform to make things better, and one day we discover they’ve been living covertly s though they’re above the law. It even happens to Christian leaders – pastors, ministers, evangelists – who preach God’s Word but are taking drugs, visiting prostitutes, or embezzling from their churches. They are living without integrity. They are not ‘integrated’ or functioning as a unified whole. They live contrary to their beliefs. They say one thing and live another.

All of these things are so “normal” that they don’t really take us by surprise anymore. It’s only worse, it seems, when the same thing happens to a close friend. You thought you knew them. You loved them, trusted them, and then boom, the curtain falls and you see the mess that was going on all along behind the scenes.

So if the lack of integrity is clear, what is true integrity? Here’s a simple definition: Practicing integrity means that your behaviour matches your beliefs.

That’s all there is to it. All the parts of your life seamlessly form one united whole. There are no secret compartments or double lives. What you say actually matches what you do. Your lifestyle is integrated. Your private life matches your public life, with no surprises. What other people see is that they get no matter what the setting in which they meet you. You may have heard the term defined  this way: “Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.”:

Just to clarify, personal integrity is not the same thing as your reputation. No, your reputation is who other people think you are. Your integrity (or lack thereof) is who you really are.

God’s Word tells us, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3). How true. Just think of all the people who were destroyed when their house of cards – built on the shaky foundation of deception – came crashing down. I think many segments of society are being destroyed today by the duplicity of leaders, even entire organizations, who claim to believe one thing, yet practice something else. 

Some biblical examples next time (Part Two)

There Are No Part-Time Disciples 

If you claim to be a Christian, then the questions of “the meaning of life” is already solved and answered for you! The purpose of your life is to share the Gospel of the Kingdom and the redemptive qualities of Christ (Matthew 28:19). You ARE in the ministry. 

Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” There is a vital truth to what this verse states. It is no longer YOU who lives, but Christ who lives IN you. Meaning, it’s no longer about your agenda, your desires, and your needs. If you call yourself a Christian your agenda is now filled with an all-consuming calling from Christ Himself.

So, your current situation and workplace are your personal mission field. Why? Because you can reach people a church can’t. You’re on the front lines! You might even have a better opportunity to reach people than a missionary or church professional does. Don’t let anyone tell you that full-time ministry can only be found within the confines of a church building. God is bigger than four walls and a steeple. 

God has put the people around you in your life for a reason. Find out what that reason is, and make it your mission to empower their lives with Christ. Jesus will always supply you with the necessary tools and weapons needed to conquer anything that comes in your path. 

Work at a grocery store? Perfect. You have the opportunity to share and reflect the love and servanthood of Christ to dozen of customers a day. Work for a restaurant? Awesome! Use your time at work to share your testimony with your coworkers, or even share a reflection of Jesus’ kindness to each person who walks through your doors. If you really look, there are endless possibilities for anyone who is looking to be a full-time disciple of Jesus Christ.

Your job title doesn’t matter, but the way you use your time does. Stop letting people tell you that working for the government or for your company isn’t God’s plan for you. Stop allowing the opinions of man to keep you from being a light to your current workplace (Matthew 5:14). Just because you may not have a seminary degree and a position serving in a local congregation doesn’t mean you’re not in full-time ministry.

Jesus Himself wasn’t paid by a church. He was a carpenter who used His everyday knowledge of work and carpentry to relate to the people He was surrounded by. Yes, men like Paul and Peter dropped everything to follow the plans of Jesus, but don’t forget about the thousands of other people who stayed where they were in order to be a light where it was needed.

The New Testament couple Priscilla and Aquila are perfect examples of this. Acts 18:2-3 tells us:

“And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.”

We see that both Priscilla and Aquila were tent makers who helped Paul on his apostolic journey by allowing him to live and work with them in order to provide for himself. Their regular work flowed seamlessly into their ministry – a ministry that happened to help during one of the most critical points in Christian history. Tent makers, Yes! But, history makers as well!

So, step out and start vocalizing what God has put on your heart. If you’re not willing to do it where you are, what makes you think you would do it somewhere else?

This ideology of every Christian embracing a lifestyle of full-time ministry has the potential to transform the world from the inside out. It’s a possibility that could truly reach the far ends of the world for the sake of the Gospel. Imagine if everyday people, working everyday jobs, meeting everyday customers, all shared the extraordinary salvation given through Jesus Christ. The potential is limitless.

In order to embrace the fullness of what Jesus is calling us to, embrace the mission of using every moment available to share your faith in Christ. There are no limitations on where God can work.

So, know this: Jesus is not hiring part-time disciples. While this may discourage you in the beginning, I would encourage you to allow it to fuel your purpose in life. Stop, take a deep breath, and make today the day you start using every avenue available in every place, no matter how mundane, as a way to share the hope, grace, and salvation of Jesus Christ. Trust me, it’s worth every moment. 

Choosing a Mentor

Personal growth should be the number one priority of all believers who are serious about following Jesus and reaching their divine purpose in life. Since I began my walk with the Lord over 43 years ago I have had a series of mentors.
At first, I simply grabbed hold or anyone who was willing to impart information into my life. This was good as I was a young believer and gained a great deal from other more mature believers and leaders. But this was a scattershot approach. Although I learned a lot I did not achieve the traction that I had hoped for. Then I figured out that I needed to focus my growth on my areas of personal strength: relationships, communications, teaching, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When I did that, my effectiveness in growth started to increase. Most of my early mentors were authors whose books I devoured.
Through one of my mentors I started to learn to glean from what I was studying. Resources have little value unless you can pull from them the essentials that you need. That meant learning that I didn’t have to finish a book simply because I started it. I could read only the portions that I needed and deemed important at the time. I learned how to take useful notes, gather quotes, and, most importantly, reflect on what I was learning. I often summarized what I learned and wrote follow-up points inside the front and back covers of a book that was significant and life-changing for me. And, I learned to collect, categorize, and file stories and quotes every day. I also put into practice anything I learned at my earliest opportunity.

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