Categories
Personal Growth

Tragedy has Struck How can God be Both Good and All Powerful?

How can God be both good and sovereign, when there is tragedy in the world?

How do you reconcile those three things? How do they work together? These are often posed as a question that acknowledges realities that seem to conflict with what is taught in the Church and in the Bible.

This has been a question I’ve dealt with academically, through my schooling; clinically as a counselor. And now, personally, at a much greater level than I had in the past.

Tragedy Strikes

For anyone is not aware, I lost my brother Jon in August of 2016, and in particular I lost him to suicide. Jon chose to take his own life.

Tragedy is Evil

That is an evil thing, that is a tragic thing that has caused me a lot of grief. It has caused my family a lot of grief. A lot of pain. I have dealt with depression in a way that I have not dealt with before that. And anger, I’ve dealt with anger in ways that I have not dealt with for a long time after losing my brother.

I’ve had some challenges personally that came out of that. That have made it very difficult for me to make these videos consistently. That has made it very difficult for me to write consistently or do anything for the blog consistently.

There have also been some really great things that have come out of that. Some good things. So here’s what’s going on. Right now, for the blog, for the website, I am in the middle of a series, or towards the end of a series on the fruit of the spirit, how to cultivate the fruit of the spirit in your life and your relationships. I’ve been going through those one by one, and I’m due for the video on gentleness. I haven’t done it yet. Because I’m taking a break to work on a project with my mom.

Healing from Tragedy is Real

There have been two more suicides in our community recently. The pain of this type of loss is fresh in our community, in our town. Now, my mom and I, my family and I, we do not want to presume that we have any right to speak into that pain. But, to the extent that we can bring hope and healing to the hurt of others, we want to do that, and we believe that we have a responsibility to do that.

So we have been writing down some of the things that have encouraged us through this journey. And the main product that is going to come of that is a devotional that goes through John Chapter 20. And what’s going on in John Chapter 20 is that Jesus has died and the disciples are not yet quite aware of His resurrection, the fact that He has come back to life after being killed. And Jesus comes to them in a locked room and He speaks to them, He encourages them, He shows them His hands, the wounds in His hands, and He shows them the wound in His side.

Initially you would not necessarily expect that that Scripture is something that you would use to encourage someone on a grief journey, or who is grieving a loss. Or recovering from a trauma. But my mom especially, and with the help of some of her close friends, did a lot of meditation on this this part of Scripture and drew a great deal of encouragement from it. And she developed a talk. She developed a little message from it, and I saw that, and so we’re writing some more. We’re developing that a little bit.

So here is, kind of the crux of the message, the main thing that we’re trying to answer in a way. Walking through tragedy with victory is possible because God is good and sovereign even though there is evil in the world. It deals very much with that question I opened this video with.

This is, an academic question. It’s dealt with by pastors and theologians and apologists, all throughout Christian history. It is a clinical question that counselors, and especially Christian counselors, deal with with their clients.

For me it is a personal question. For my family, it is a personal question because of the depth of loss that we have experienced and knowing that it is an evil thing. And we also know that God is good and God is sovereign in spite of that evil that we have experienced.

So just broadly, basically, here are some of the things that I want to share. Now, different streams of Christianity think a little bit differently about this question. Here’s where I’m at, from an academic level, from a clinical level and from a personal level.

God is Good, God is Sovereign, Even in Tragedy

God knew that Jon was going to die by suicide. God knows that evil things are going to happen in this world. He did not plan for them. They are not a part of His plan, but He allows them. Both in His sovereignty, in His all-powerfulness and in His goodness, He allows us to make some really stupid, really sinful, really hurtful and really tragic choices.

Those choices hurt us, they hurt others, they hurt people that we don’t even know. God allows sin for reasons that we don’t know, we don’t understand. But, God reserves, in His sovereignty, He reserves the right and the ability for Himself to redeem, or restore, good, and glory and righteousness and healing.

God reserves the right to redeem tragedy and to bring restoration, to bring healing to those things, to the pain that people have experienced.

The best example of that is Jesus Christ on the cross. The best person who ever lived had the worst thing possible happened to Him, and God redeemed it. That one in particular was part of God’s plan because that is what made salvation possible. That is what made the forgiveness of sins possible, but for all of the other sins, all of the other evils and all of the other tragedies that we experience, those are things that God allowed, and then over time redeems. He changes them. Takes the purpose of them from being an evil thing to being something that is good.

Redemption from sin is possible because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. And redemption from tragedy is possible because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is experienced as a process.

Triumph through tragedy is not a one-time thing. Walking through tragedy with victory is not a one-time thing. It is a process, it is something that happens continually. It is a daily choice in some cases, a daily prayer in some cases, and it’s a daily experience.

So that’s what I have to share for right now. There’s a whole lot more in this devotional that’s coming up. I hope that by hearing some of where I’m at, some of where I’ve been recently, that you are encouraged wherever you are at in your life. Whatever you’re going through.

Some of you have been through much worse things than me. Some of you have not been through something so hard. Either way, I hope that you were encouraged.

If you have a comment or a question, if you’re interested in getting a copy of this devotional, please leave a comment or a question below. Make sure you’re subscribed to the email newsletter, and I’ll make sure that you get information about the devotional when it is released. Thank you for reading.

Categories
Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Faithfulness in Your Life and Relationships

How do you cultivate faithfulness in your life and relationships?

Faithfulness is absolute loyalty, reliability, and consistency in your commitments. In the Bible, God’s faithfulness is to His name, to His character, and to His word.

If we are bearing the Fruit of the Spirit; if we are becoming more like Christ; if we are growing in Christ; then we will also be faithful to God’s name, God’s character, and God’s word.

Faithfulness to God’s Name

In the west, in the modern world, we don’t put a whole lot of stock in names, we don’t treat them like names are treated in the Bible. We treat names mainly as a way of distinguishing one person from another, it’s mainly an identifier. But in the Bible, names are also a description, not just the identifier of the person but of the person’s essential character, their essence. Not just who they are in terms of their name, but who they are deeply as a person.

For us to be faithful to God’s name means to put our identity in Him first. The wholeness of our identity, not just,  “my name is Dan Stephens,” but the wholeness of my identity, everything, the definition of me is in God first. It’s above my family, it’s above my country, it’s above my profession, it’s above my resume, it’s above my education. My identity is in God first. As a child of God created in his image, and even though I have sinned and I have damaged that relationship with God, He has forgiven me, and because of that forgiveness, I am becoming more like Him. That’s my identity. Not, “Dan Stephens, the former marine that’s now a counselor, that lives in the United States and he’s a loyal American citizen.”

Your identity, if you are a Christian, is in God first. That’s what it means to be faithful to God’s name.

Faithfulness to God’s Character

God has a number of character traits that are mentioned throughout the Bible, a number of character traits that many different theologians like to emphasize, and just to name a few, God is holy, God is just, He is righteous, He is sovereign, He is loving, He is joyful, He is peaceful, He is patient, He is kind, He is good, He is faithful, He is gentle, and He is self-controlled.

Now, throughout all of the variations of Christianity, Christians are divided as to just how God acts in light of those character traits. I don’t want to argue for any particular stream of theology right now, but however God acts in light of that character He does so consistently. And reliably. And absolutely so.

We as sinful human beings do not act so consistently or reliably. When my daughter is misbehaving, I like to remind her of her character, the things that I know about her. She is kind, she is sweet, she is loyal, and she is respectful. But right now her behavior doesn’t reflect that. Even I as her father, while trying to train her and teach her and help her make wise choices, I don’t act consistently all of the time with my character.

I do not always act consistently with my identity as a child of God created in His image, forgiven by Christ, and being slowly conformed to the image of Christ. I don’t always act in line with that. But faithfulness means that we are acting in line with that character more and more often. We learn about that character, we learn about those attitudes, those deep down traits of that new identity through Scripture.

Faithfulness to God’s Word

2 Timothy, 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God “and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, “for correction, for training in righteousness, “that the man of God may be complete “and equipped for every good work.”

Faithfulness to God’s word means several things:

  1. We treasure all of Scripture, not just the parts that we like.
  2. We teach from all of Scripture, not just the parts that we agree with.
  3. We rebuke and reprimand sinful behavior from all of Scripture, not just the pet behaviors that we particularly don’t like. And when we do that, (this is not in the verse that I was just looking at, but this is a part of the whole series), we do so after we have cultivated in ourselves character of being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled.
  4. To be faithful to God’s word we correct false doctrine, false teaching, from all of God’s word, not just the pet doctrines and the pet scriptures and the pet proof texts that we like to use. And again, that’s after cultivating that character that reflects the Fruit of the Spirit.
  5. We train for righteousness from all of Scripture, not just in the simple things that we like that are easy.

Some of the benefits of being faithful to God’s word include these:

  1. We will be complete or whole and content, we will be finished works, we will become finished works.
  2. We will be equipped. That means having the tools and the resources that we need.
  3. And specifically, we will be equipped for every good work. Not just the good works in easy times, in easy places, with easy people, in easy circumstances, but also for those good works that are in difficult times, in difficult places, with difficult people.

This is what it means to be faithful to God’s word, to God’s character, and to God’s name. It starts with being faithful to His word, it starts with a high value of Scripture.

 

Categories
Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Goodness in Your Life and Relationships

How do you cultivate goodness in your life and relationships?

When you’re reading through the list of Fruit of the Spirit, it would be very easy and very tempting to just totally skip over the idea of goodness because it sounds bland and it sounds generic and it sounds like you’re being kind of patronized, just being told like a little child, “Well, be good because that’s what’s expected of you.”

But if you reflect on this and you think about it, to be a person characterized by goodness is a much higher compliment than just to be a good person.

To be a person characterized by goodness speaks to the consistency with which you are good, and it speaks to the consistency with which you choose, rightly, between the good thing or the wrong thing.

To be a person characterized by goodness means that you consistently choose:

  1. love over hate,
  2. joy over despair,
  3. peace over passivity or unneeded conflict,
  4. patience over anger, giving up or entitlement,
  5. kindness over neutrality,
  6. faithfulness over infidelity,
  7. gentleness over harshness,
  8. self-control over self-indulgence, self-righteousness, or self-promotion.

When you really think about it, goodness is not just an additive thrown into this list of otherwise good things. Goodness is a multiplier of all of these things wrapped together.

I hope that you find these articles helpful.

If you do, please:

  1. Leave a comment below,
  2. Share this article on social media,
  3. Subscribe to the YouTube channel or the email newsletter.

Thank you, see you next time.

 

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Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Kindness in Your Life and Relationships

Kindness is a little bit like patience. It’s something that God gives to us that we then pay forward to others. But it’s also more than patience because patience is holding back on something negative, like holding back your anger. But kindness goes further than just holding back on negative, it goes towards freely giving of something positive.

For example, Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind to one another, be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Kindness is paying forward what we’ve received from God, what we have received from Christ.2

In that comparison between patience and kindness, they are two sides of a coin. One big part of patience is restraint, holding back anger, even anger that is deserved. And kindness is giving something, it’s doing something nice, but it’s more than that, it’s also doing something nice that is not deserved. It’s like mercy or grace. It’s giving something that there is no reason that you should give it.

That being said, to call something a random act of kindness is kind of repetitive because kindness is, by practical definition, random. It’s not earned, it’s not deserved, it’s just freely given.

If you want to be known as a person of kindness:

You will probably already be friendly, you will probably already be doing nice things to those people who are close to you and for those people who are close to you, just because.

You’re probably already known as generous. You give freely of your time, your energy, your money, and your resources even to total strangers.  You might be the kind of person who would give the proverbial shirt off your back to help a stranger.

You’re probably also more considerate of people’s backgrounds. You’re more understanding of the hurts, the hangups, the habits that predisposed them to acting without kindness, to being unkind and themselves being inconsiderate.

Hopefully, you are also more merciful. Now, this is going beyond just being considerate. This is saying not only do I understand why you’re acting in this particular way, I’m choosing not to hold it against you, I’m choosing not to hold it over your head.

That raises the idea of forgiveness and yes, forgiveness is something that is very difficult, especially if the offense is great. It may not be safe in some situations to say, “well, I don’t hold this against you,” because that could put you in a dangerous situation. So there is a difference between forgiving in a broken relationship and restoring a relationship because restoration depends on it being safe to do that. But you can be merciful, you can be forgiving without expecting the relationship to be restored.

Categories
Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Patience in Your Life and Relationships

How do you cultivate patience in your life and relationships? You need to understand it. There’s more to it than we often think there is.

We’ve all heard the saying that patience is a virtue. Not many of us have actually heard the rest of that saying. “Patience is a virtue that everybody admires but few people attain.”

Within Christianity there’s also an idea that God teaches us patience, he doesn’t just give it to us. Isn’t that frustrating?

In the Bible there are a couple of different themes of patience. Any time that patience is used to describe to God, it’s describing God as putting up with sinful people who keep doing the same stupid things over and over and over again. Kind of like a parent that puts up with an unruly child doing the same stupid things over and over and over again.

Anytime patience is used to describe people it’s more about them reflecting God’s patience and being slow to anger with other people. You could say that the purpose of God’s patience is to bring us to repentance, to bring us closer to him, and then the purpose of patience between people is to bring us closer to each other, it’s to improve our relationships.

Patience improves relationships, whether with God or with people.

There are at least three components to patience:

  1. A restrained temper, being slow to anger, being tolerant and kind of keeping it in.
  2. A sense of being enduring, persevering, and persistent, even through the challenges of life.
  3. And then there’s just the plain old waiting…. For something…. To happen….In the Bible, there are several themes about waiting.
    1. Waiting for God to bring about justice and correct injustice.
    2. Waiting for relief from hard times.
    3. Waiting for God to deliver on his promises.
    4. Waiting for the return of Christ.

If you take those three components together, the restrained temper, the persistence and endurance, and the waiting, you get this idea that a patient person is poised, they’re composed, they’re steady, in seemingly any circumstance that life can throw at them.

Patience is one part Restraining Anger

How do you improve your temper? First off, when you’re angry, stop, pause, take some slow, deep breaths, get out of fight, flight, or freeze mode, get your heart rate under a hundred beats per minute.

There’s a popular meme on social media that applies to just about anything. It says, “THINK before you speak.” THINK being an acronym that helps us remember several questions:

  1. Is what I am going to say true?
  2. Is what I am going to say helpful?
  3. Is what I am going to say inspiring?
  4. Does what I am going to say need to be said? (I forgot that one in the video)
  5. Is what I am going to say kind?

So when you’re angry, hold your tongue and do the best you can to make what you say true, helpful, inspiring, needed, and kind.

Take a break, as long as you commit to come back. 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or schedule a specific time to come back and address whatever situation that’s making you angry.

Use I statements, say things like, “I think…” “I feel…” “I want…” “I need…” Focus on yourself in a positive way. Don’t try to mind read for the other person in this situation, don’t assign their motives.

Get some exercise, get your heart pumping for some reason other than being angry. Go for a run, do some jumping jacks, sit ups, squats, things that you can do right there wherever you’re at, maybe some yoga, whatever it is that you do to get exercise, that’s also helpful for managing your anger.

You can use humor to an extent. You don’t want to use humor as an escape from the situation and you don’t want to use sarcasm to cut down the other person, but you can use humor to the extent that it lightens the mood. It creates a relief, it removes some of the tension in the situation.

Always, always, always with anger: find the underlying emotion.

Anger is a secondary emotion, it is not a primary emotion. Underneath anger there is always some sense of guilt or shame, or perhaps some sadness or some grief, a sense of fear or worry or anxiety, or a sense of powerlessness, or feeling out of control, or you’re seeing some kind of injustice, whether it’s against you or someone or something that you care about.

Whatever is making you angry, be sure that you’re looking for the underlying emotion. Personally, I find journaling really, really helpful for that.

Patience is one part Enduring

How do you endure hard times? The four F’s: faith, family, friends, and fun.

Find the sources of joy in your life, and they are probably those four things, faith, family, friends, and fun, maybe work, as well.

Invest in activities related to your faith, go to church, go to Bible study, go to small group, do things that are involved with your faith. Spend time with your family as much as you can, family is a great natural resource for getting us through hard times in life. Spend time with your friends. Do something fun.

These are all healthy distractions that will help you to find the positive in whatever is going on, they will help you to choose joy, and they will help you to be patient in the sense that you are enduring through hard times.

Patience is one part Waiting

I found this quote from Howard Whitman, here is what he wrote about patience and waiting:

“Life is composed of waiting periods, the child must wait until he is old enough to have a bicycle, the young man must wait until he is old enough to drive a car, the medical student must wait for his diploma, the husband for his promotion, the young couple for savings to buy a new home, the art of waiting is not learned at once” …  you have to wait for it.

Some kind of frustrating irony there, huh?

Categories
Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Peace in Your Life and Relationships

Peace is not just about you. It’s not just about your personal tranquility. It’s not just about your inner peace. Peace is fundamentally relational and communal.

Neither is peace limited to the absence of conflict. It’s the proper handling of conflict when there is conflict. If conflict is absent, then peace is possible because the things that cause conflict are absent. Instead of poverty, you have a strong value of work and of developing economy. Instead of injustice, you have justice. Instead of competition for limited resources, you have cooperation and collaboration about how best to use those resources.

When all of those things are reality, then personal peace, personal tranquility, inner peace is possible. I think of it kind of like a pyramid where just trying to manage conflict correctly is the base of the pyramid. That’s where you’re going to spend the most time. Trying to create an abundance of work and an abundance of opportunity is going to be the next layer. The next layer being justice and collaboration. Finally at the top is your personal or inner peace.

Make Peace by Managing Conflict

Here are some guidelines for managing conflict (because that is where most of us will spend most of our time).

“If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all.” – Romans 12:18. So, recognize that it may not be possible. So far as it depends on you, take personal responsibility for it. Don’t be defensive. Don’t stonewall, don’t avoid conflict for the sake of avoiding conflict. Only avoid or take a break as a means of regulating your own emotions. If you need a break to cool off, go cool off and commit to coming back.

Think critically about whatever the issue is, but do not be critical of the other person or people. Reinforce and shore up their character. For example: saying, “I know that you’re a generous person.” “I know that you are a kind person.” “I know that you are a caring person.” Do not attack their character, even if you are thinking critically about their position on an issue or their behavior in a situation.

Do not be contemptuous of them. So, don’t call names. Don’t call somebody a neanderthal because they are more conservative or traditional. Don’t call somebody a wacko because they are more progressive or liberal. You’re not going to get anywhere doing that. Don’t point fingers. Don’t be accusing. Avoid using “always” or “never.”

To the extent possible, manage your emotions. Check your emotions. You can feel angry, you can feel sad, you can feel worried about a situation. That’s fine, that’s appropriate, those are your emotions. But do that and then don’t be a jerk? “Be angry and do not sin.” – Ephesians 4:26. You can have whatever emotions you have and then not be a jerk. Because you have self-control.

Articulate your position with eye statements. “I think…” “I feel…” “I need…” “I want…” Those are what you need, what you think about the situation. It’s not pointing the fingers at the other person. It’s not being critical of their character.

When you’re listening, reflect on what they have said. Summarize their position and then clarify it to make sure you have correctly understood them. One common source of conflict is just misunderstanding what someone has said and getting angry, or worried, or sad.

Make Peace by Creating Abundance and Opportunity for Others

The next level of cultivating peace, beyond just managing conflict, is to work to create abundance and opportunity. Have a strong value of work. Have a strong developing economy. In a fallen world, the purpose of our work is not just to make a buck. It is to facilitate peace, it is to bring about peace. Sure, we’re out there working, we’re out there trying to get our own needs met, provide for our own food, shelter, and clothing.

To the extent that it is possible, we also have a moral duty to provide food, shelter, and clothing for those people who cannot provide that for themselves. This is kind of interwoven with the justice layer of that pyramid, but not completely.

Make Peace by Seeking Justice

This is where, beyond what you’re doing at work, you are actively seeking the good of your fellow man.

The Bible is pretty clear. You have James 2, 1 John 3, and Matthew 25 that are all very clear that we need to care for the needs of our fellow man. And, we also have 2 Thessalonians Chapter 3 that is also pretty clear. If somebody’s just not working because they’re lazy, or distracted, they don’t eat. Somebody that chooses not to work needs to be held responsible to work. That’s when you’re back down to the second level of the pyramid where you need to work. You need to pursue your own opportunities, but then if you cannot work, then it’s a matter of justice, it’s a matter of peacemaking for me to do what I can for you.

Here, you also have cooperation and collaboration. In a capitalist sense, I kind of believe in competition. But then even in a capitalist sense, competition based just on price is a race to the bottom. If all we’re trying to do is offer the cheapest product or service, eventually we’re going to be offering the worst product or service. There are other ways to reduce cost, mainly efficient use of resources, and that takes a lot of collaboration and cooperation.

If we want to make peace, we’re not going to be saying “mine, mine, mine,” and using things ridiculously and inefficiently. We’re going to be collaborating and trying to use resources as efficiently as possible.

Finally, Seek Inner Peace

The final layer of the pyramid is your personal or inner peace. When we’re talking about the Fruit of the Spirit, when we’re talking about working on yourself, this is what most people are thinking about, because it’s self-oriented. But the biblical idea of peace is much bigger than working on yourself.

This layer of inner peace is this peak of the pyramid. It is only possible when all the other stuff is managed.

Philippians 4:4-7, “rejoice in the Lord always…” That means to have and express your joy. That’s what I talked about in the last article. “…Again, I say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” Your reasonableness is your willingness to not be in conflict. Your ability to appropriately handle conflict. “The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

When we’re doing these other things, when we’re cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in other areas of our life, the peace that surpasses understanding comes as a result of that. That’s why it’s at the top of the pyramid.

James 3:18, “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Jude 2, “may mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.”

Those are things that you’ll feel internally, that’s an internal sense of those things. So, keep in mind the pyramid. Recognize it’s just reality in a fallen world. You will spend most of your time managing conflict, but then try to get up into those other layers as well.

Categories
Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Joy in Your Life and Relationships

How do you cultivate joy in your life?

  1. You need to understand exactly what joy is and is not.
  2. You need to have your priorities straight.
  3. You need to try.

Understanding what Joy is and is not.

Joy is not happiness. Happiness is an emotion that you feel when times are good. Joy is a choice, and then it’s an emotion. Choosing joy when you’re happy is really easy. Choosing joy when you’re unhappy is really hard.

Full disclosure, this post is as much for me as any of you reading it, because the last six months have been really hard. And even the last couple of weeks, my whole family’s been sick. But we’re doing the best we can to have joy.

Hopefully, there are people and relationships in your life that make it easier for you to choose joy.

  • Your spouse,
  • your children,
  • your work,
  • your friends,
  • your faith and your worship,
  • your relationship with God himself,
  • and seeing people come to faith.

Hopefully, those are all sources of joy for you. And hopefully, those also reflect your priorities. Getting your priorities straight is one part of being able to choose joy.

John Piper asked this question: what is the deepest root of your joy? Is it what God gives to you, or is it who God is for you?

You can apply that to any of your other relationships. If the source of your joy is what they give to you, what they bring to you, then you’re making it about you. You’re not making it about the other person. If the source of joy is who they are, then it’s right, then your priorities are straight.

Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer.” To rejoice means to have and express joy. So “rejoice in hope” means to have and to express joy because you have a hope for a better future. This is future-oriented. It’s not now-oriented. Your circumstance right now might be really hard. The next part of that says, “be patient in tribulation.” Or be patient in hard times. And be constantly in prayer.

James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” One purpose of hard times is to make us stronger. This is also future-framed because it’s looking towards when you’re complete… when you’re full, when you have developed this thing called steadfastness through the testing of your faith. Through the hard time that you’re having right now.

It’s hard now, it will be better later. It won’t be better just because you have relief from the hard time right now. It will be better because of the growth that is happening right now. So take joy in that growth.

To choose joy: just try. When times are hard:

  1. Pause.
  2. Take a deep breath (maybe a few deep breaths).
  3. Force yourself to smile. There are lots of physiological, neurological, and even hormonal benefits of just smiling.
  4. Pray (hopefully, that is something that you do).
  5. And choose joy.
Categories
Personal Growth

What if you are the one thing holding your career back?

What if you are the main thing that is holding back your job, your career, your business from its maximum potential?

That may be a scary question, but it should also be very encouraging. It’s scary because it puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. But it also puts a whole lot of power and control right in your hands.

For the last couple of videos, I’ve been talking about taking responsibility for yourself, taking responsibility for your personal growth, cultivating Christ-likeness in yourself. If you’re a Christian, you know what that means, and that’s important to you. If you’re not a Christian, that’s fine. This still means to cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control in yourself, and then letting your circumstances and letting your relationships improve as a result of the things that you have done to grow in yourself.

So if you do those, if you cultivate those things in your life, there will be some changes in your work life whether you’re working for somebody else, yourself, as part of a team, or by yourself. Here are some of the changes that you can expect as you cultivate those characteristics in yourself.

You will be better able to serve and support your customers, your coworkers, your teammates, and your employer. The communication between you and the people who are impacted by your job will be better. The service, the spirit of wanting to help one another, will be better. You’ll be more focused. You’ll be more productive. Whether you like the work or not because you’re building these other characteristics, you’ll be more focused. And you’ll be more productive at work.

When you’re in a job or when you’re in the season of a job that you don’t like, you’ll be able to more effectively endure that season and just get through it. Put your head down, and get the work done.

When you’re in seasons that you do enjoy, when you’re in a job that you do enjoy, you’ll be more deeply connected to it. You’ll be more enlivened by it. And as a result, from that you’ll have better performance, better engagement with the work.

This is work, right? We do this to earn money. We do this to pay our bills. So as all of those things work together, there are usually going to be financial benefits from all those things. It might be small benefits. It might be major benefits. Who knows? But you will be able to increase your income as a result of taking responsibility for your personal growth first. You’re not doing this to get rich, but hey, money pays the bills. If you want to live indoors, if you want to eat food, if you want to take your family on vacation, you need money. So grow yourself. Grow your income. That’ll happen.

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Personal Growth

What if you are the main thing that is holding your marriage back?

What if you are the main thing that is holding your marriage back from its greatest potential? Sounds scary, right? That’s a lot of responsibility. It should be encouraging because that’s also a lot of power and control that you have right in your own hands.

I have said before that you could change your life by changing one thing: yourself.

By taking responsibility for your:

  • personal growth,
  • improvement,
  • strength,
  • maturity,
  • attitude,
  • choices in the face of difficult circumstances, difficult people and difficult relationships

…You can change your life and the same thing applies in a more specific context to your marriage. If you choose to (as a Christian) be more like Jesus in your relationship… If you choose to cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your relationship…Christians call those the fruit of the Spirit. Even if you’re not a Christian, I doubt that you will object to having those things in your life. If you choose to cultivate those things in your marriage, there will be a lot of benefits.

Christians call those the fruit of the Spirit. Even if you’re not a Christian, I doubt that you will object to having those things in your life. If you choose to cultivate those things in your marriage, there will be a lot of benefits.You’ll be more trustworthy. You will be more worthy of commitment. You will be able to more safely, more discerningly extend trust and commitment. If you’re not married yet but you’re dating, as you grow, as you become stronger and more mature. You will be able to do a better job deciding whether this person is somebody that you can spend the rest of your life with.

You’ll be more trustworthy. You will be more worthy of commitment. You will be able to more safely, more discerningly extend trust and commitment. If you’re not married yet but you’re dating, as you grow, as you become stronger and more mature. You will be able to do a better job deciding whether this person is somebody that you can spend the rest of your life with.Wherever your relationship is, your expressions of closeness to that person will be more receivable. You’ll also be more open to things that they do to try to express closeness. One of the bestselling books on marriage and

Wherever your relationship is, your expressions of closeness to that person will be more receivable. You’ll also be more open to things that they do to try to express closeness. One of the bestselling books on marriage and relationships is The Five Love Languages. It’s often challenging for couples who, where one person has one love language, let’s say it’s touch but the other person has another love language, let’s say it’s spending time together and they’re trying to express their affection for each other in their own native love language and things get lost in translation. As you grow the fruit of the Spirit your own life, you will be more open to expressions of love that aren’t your normal expressions of love.

As you grow the fruit of the Spirit your own life, you will be more open to expressions of love that aren’t your normal expressions of love.When you have difficulties, when you have challenges, you will be able to do more of turning towards the other person. To share your emotions with them. To share your thoughts with them. You will figure things out rather than turning away from them, stonewalling them, or turning against them and being critical or contemptuous of them.

When you have difficulties, when you have challenges, you will be able to do more of turning towards the other person. To share your emotions with them. To share your thoughts with them. You will figure things out rather than turning away from them, stonewalling them, or turning against them and being critical or contemptuous of them.You’ll be able to communicate better because you’re doing those things. You’ll be a better listener. You’ll be able to express yourself more clearly.

You’ll be able to communicate better because you’re doing those things. You’ll be a better listener. You’ll be able to express yourself more clearly. There are both sides of communication. If you can express yourself more clearly and listen more effectively, you’ll be a better communicator.

When there’s conflict, when there are challenging things in the relationship, you will have more self-control because of having the fruit of the Spirit in your life. You’ll have more self-control so that you don’t blow up and so that you can help yourself to cool down and be calm, cool and collected in the face of that conflict. You’ll be able to more genuinely, more honestly hear the opinions and the values of others. You will be able to make a greater and more impactful contribution to the life goals of your spouse and perhaps of your children.

You’ll be able to more genuinely, more honestly hear the opinions and the values of others. You will be able to make a greater and more impactful contribution to the life goals of your spouse and perhaps of your children.

In sum, bringing all those things together you will get to take part more deeply in a meaningful life together. So, what if you are the main thing that is holding back your marriage from its greatest potential? Take courage, because if that is the case then you can change your marriage and you can maximize the potential of your marriage by choosing to cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control in yourself first and then you get all those other things in your marriage.

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Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Love in Your Life: Cultivate Relationships

How do you cultivate love in your life? You cultivate relationships. You do that by building closeness, communication, and conflict management.

Happy Valentine’s Day! This post won’t come out on Valentine’s Day. But it is Valentine’s today as I write this.
And the topic is love, so go figure.

Of all things to be doing on Valentine’s Day, our date plans got kiboshed. Instead, I ran an errand for my wife, and I went to the pharmacy. I got her some antibiotics because she’s got an infection that has pretty much knocked her out. Sometimes, love is taking care of each other, supporting each other. It’s not always the fun, fiery, passionate, awesome, romantic date that you go on that you want to tell everybody about. It’s, “Hey, today we’re sick!” I’m getting over a cold, and Skylar has an infection, but we’re doing life together. That’s how things work sometimes.So how do you cultivate love in your life? How do you cultivate love in your important relationships? Well, love is, of course, centered around relationships. And there are different types of love for different levels of relationships. Marriage is the closest relationship that you can have. The most types, the most forms of love are experienced in marriage. Up to and including sexual love and the physical relationship. But there are other types of love that you can experience in other relationships.

So how do you cultivate love in your life? How do you cultivate love in your important relationships? Well, love is, of course, centered around relationships. And there are different types of love for different levels of relationships. Marriage is the closest relationship that you can have. The most types, the most forms of love are experienced in marriage. Up to and including sexual love and the physical relationship. But there are other types of love that you can experience in other relationships.Using the Greek words from the Bible, there are:

Using the Greek words from the Bible, there are:Agape love, which is the unconditional acceptance and commitment that God has for us. One great way of describing that is agape love “loving you enough to accept you where you are, and too much to leave you where you are.” So this can be your love for your fellow man, to an extent. It recognizes that we’re all human beings. We’re all worthy of dignity and respect. And to the extent that I have resources, I’m going to serve you, and I’m going to help you in some way.

  1. Agape love, which is the unconditional acceptance and commitment that God has for us. One great way of describing that is agape love “loving you enough to accept you where you are, and too much to leave you where you are.” So this can be your love for your fellow man, to an extent. It recognizes that we’re all human beings. We’re all worthy of dignity and respect. And to the extent that I have resources, I’m going to serve you, and I’m going to help you in some way.Phileo love, which is the brotherly love, the friendship, close friendship, kind of love. “Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.”
  2. Phileo love, which is the brotherly love, the friendship, close friendship, kind of love. “Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.”Storge, which is the family love, the parent-child love, the sibling love. It’s a close, loyal bond. C.S. Lewis said, “it’s the humblest and most widely diffused of loves.”
  3. Storge, which is the family love, the parent-child love, the sibling love. It’s a close, loyal bond. C.S. Lewis said, “it’s the humblest and most widely diffused of loves.”Eros, which is, of course, the hot, the passionate, the sexual love that you get to have between you and your spouse.
  4. Eros, which is, of course, the hot, the passionate, the sexual love that you get to have between you and your spouse.

So how do you cultivate each of these different types of love in your life? By cultivating those relationships. When you’re serving other people, you are showing them love in some way. When you are lifting somebody up into better circumstances, you are showing them love in some way.To cultivate love, we need to cultivate

To cultivate love, we need to cultivate:

  • closeness
  • communication
  • good conflict management.

Conflict is a part of life. It happens in every relationship. The question of whether a relationship is healthy is not about if conflict happens, but how conflicts are handled. So we need to be able to manage those things. Closeness, communication, and conflict management.

Those are going to look different in every relationship. When it’s conflict with your fellow man, conflict management looks different at than it does to manage conflict with your spouse. But you’ll use some of the same basic things, like actually trying to listen and being reflective. For example, saying things like:”Am I hearing you right?”

“Am I hearing you right?””Do I understand you correctly?”

“Do I understand you correctly?”You’re summarizing what they have said and then responding to it after you know that you understand.

You’re summarizing what they have said and then responding to it after you know that you understand.Love feels fullest and deepest when it goes two ways between both parties. But in some sense, it’s

Love feels fullest and deepest when it goes two ways between both parties. But in some sense, it’s truest, and it’s most authentic even when it’s only one way. For example, first John 4:19 says, “we love because he first loved us.”
This is speaking of the love of God for the people who come to believe in Jesus as Savior. We love because he first loved us. Being loved incites love. So even when love only goes one way for a time, it does eventually incite love.

So cultivating love in each of our relationships is going to be serving other people, hearing other people, and being available to help and to serve them, to the best of our ability.