Poetry Saturday—Smiles

Smile a little, smile a little, 
    As you go along, 
Not alone when life is pleasant, 
    But when things go wrong. 
Care delights to see you frowning, 
    Loves to hear you sigh; 
Turn a smiling face upon her, 
    Quick the dame will fly.

Smile a little, smile a little, 
    All along the road; 
Every life must have its burden, 
    Every heart its load. 
Why sit down in gloom and darkness, 
    With your grief to sup? 
As you drink Fate’s bitter tonic 
    Smile across the cup.

Smile upon the troubled pilgrims 
    Whom you pass and meet; 
Frowns are thorns, and smiles are blossoms 
    Oft for weary feet. 
Do not make the way seem harder 
    By a sullen face, 
Smile a little, smile a little, 
    Brighten up the place.

Smile upon your undone labor; 
    Not for one who grieves 
O’er his task, waits wealth or glory; 
    He who smiles achieves. 
Though you meet with loss and sorrow 
    In the passing years, 
Smile a little, smile a little, 
    Even through your tears. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Overcoming Unbelief Before It’s Too Late

Unbelief can shut down the “Shalom Cycle” that God intends for our lives. Even worse, unbelief can put us on a slippery slope that could be disastrous for our future! So it is vital that we understand what unbelief is, how we can recognize it in our own lives, and the steps we can take to recover from unbelief. 

First of all, let me remind you of what the Shalom Cycle looks like—

Quite simply, when we are grateful for what God has already done for us it fuels our trust in God’s future grace to meet our needs. 

But when we forget to be grateful and gratitude turns to grumbling, unbelief displaces trust.

A good way to remember how unbelief works is thinking of it as an un-complete faith. An un-complete faith is lacking power to trust God because of one of two reasons:

  • Either we don’t know there is a promise available to us,
  • Or we know of a promise but don’t think it applies to our circumstance. 

J.C. Ryle pointed out that, “Unbelief has a power to rob man of highest blessings.” 

Hebrews 3 shows us that left unchecked and uncorrected, unbelief can turn into disbelief. You can remember this word by defining it as a complete disintegration of faith. Notice in Hebrews 3 how quickly the word unbelieving becomes turns away from God, and how closely associated are the words unbelief and disobeyed (Hebrews 3:12, 19-20). 

We need to correct and reverse unbelief as quickly as possible. We do this through capturing our thoughts—or thinking about what we’re thinking about—and identifying three warning signs: 

  1. Worrying all the time—God wants you to enter His rest, not wallow in worry (Hebrews 3:11) 
  2. Making contingency plans—the Israelites forgot to be grateful and they grumbled instead. The next step (since they didn’t trust that God’s future grace would take them into the Promised Land) was to disobey by concocting a Plan B: “Let’s go back to Egypt.” 
  3. An inward focus on self-preservation—we no longer encourage others but think only of ourselves (Hebrews 3:13). 

If you detect any of these warning signs, quickly repent (Revelation 3:2-3) and then run to Jesus for help. One of the most honest prayers you can pray—and one of the prayers Jesus answers the quickest—is “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24). 

“Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 

Take control of grumbling by gratitude
Take control of unbelief by repentance and running to Jesus for help
Then help others take control of their unbelief by encouraging one another daily

Join me next Sunday for the final message in our 4-part series on God’s Shalom. 

11 Quotes From “The Nehemiah Code”

All of us have opportunities where we need to rebuild something that has fallen apart. O.S. Hawkins uses the example of Nehemiah in the Bible to teach us highly applicable rebuilding principles. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“One never rebuilds until he personally identifies with the need and weeps over the ruins. … Sadly, there are many who are simply not grieved or burdened about the walls in their lives that are broken and in need of rebuilding. It has been far too long since some of us have ‘sat down,’ much less ‘wept, and mourned for many days.’” 

“Those who play the blame game never get the task of rebuilding completed.” 

“True rebuilders identify with the fears and failures of those around them. They take personal responsibility for the situation—even if the problems didn’t begin with them.” 

“Opportunities most often come our way when we are knocking on the door and not simply waiting for an opportunity to knock.” 

“Nehemiah was able to convince the people to adopt his vision because he followed three vital rules in goal setting: they were conceivable, believable, and achievable.” 

“Note the repetition of the plural personal pronouns in his challenge: ‘we … us … we’ (Nehemiah 2:17). Nehemiah was smart enough to incorporate a lot of plural pronouns. He was subtly motivating his people to work with him and not for him.” 

“Nehemiah left us a stellar example to follow by laying out five important principles that are essential to the delegation process: set clear objectives with specific tasks, pick the right person for the right job, be an example yourself, hold others accountable, and be generous in giving genuine pats on the back.” 

“When it comes to personal relationships, we all need someone to whom we are accountable. Someone who will remind us of God’s standards and give a gentle nudge—or shove—when we stray from those standards. Without such a friend, the result is often self-reliance, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and self-centeredness, rather than God-centeredness.” 

“The fatigue factor is often at the root of our own failures. We simply give out and become too tired to go on, so we are then tempted to give in and to give up. When fatigue sets in during the rebuilding process, it brings along with it a loss of perspective, and little things often become much bigger than they really are. …Fatigue pulled their focus from their goal and placed it upon the rubbish, which led to frustration.” 

“People have a way of rallying around a cause if they are convinced that God is in the midst of it. Which voice do the troops hear from your mouth? Is it the voice of Sanballat and ‘We won’t’? Is it the voice of Judah and ‘We can’t’? Or is it the voice of Nehemiah and ‘God will!’?” 

“At last, the goal was in sight. The finish line. ‘Mission Accomplished’ just ahead. But be warned: this is the most dangerous point in any rebuilding process. This is when the enemy comes along with one final attempt to divert us from our goal. …It is not so much how long our personal race may be, nor even how difficult the obstacles we face along the way, but it is how we finish that matters most.” 

God’s Favor

What if I were to tell you that God is for you? 

What if I were to tell you that God wants to bless you? 

What if I were to tell you that God’s favor is constantly pursuing you? 

Well, here’s me telling you that it’s all true! 

“Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32). 

Why would God do this? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence? 

Knowing God’s favor is the key to living the abundant life Jesus purchased for you on the Cross! 

Join me this Sunday as we begin a new series exploring the wonderful depths of God’s favor. You can join me in person at Calvary Assembly of God, or tune in on Facebook Live at 10:30am Sunday morning.

11 Quotes From “The Heart Of A Leader”

As the title hints, Ken Blanchard makes the case that the heart of great leadership is a leader’s great heart. You can check out my full book review of The Heart Of A Leader by clicking here.

“Remember, the best leaders are those who understand that their power flows through them, not from them.”

“Many well-intentioned leaders wait to praise their people until they do things exactly right, complete the project, or accomplish the goal. The problem here is that they could wait forever. You see, ‘exactly right’ behavior is made up of a whole series of approximately right behaviors. It makes more sense to praise progress.”

“An effective leader will make it a priority to help his or her people produce good results in two ways: making sure people know what their goals are and doing everything possible to support, encourage, and coach them to accomplish those goals.”

“If you don’t take time out to think, strategize, and prioritize, you will work a whole lot harder, without enjoying the benefits of a job smartly done.”

“Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they are running in a different race.” —Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale

“Being too hard on yourself is counterproductive. Don’t expect instant perfection. Though self-criticism is healthy, it should not be destructive. It’s unfair to be hard on yourself the first time you attempt something new. It is also unfair to expect others to meet such an unrealistic expectation. Keep in mind that it’s unnecessary to do everything exactly right the first time.”

“Here’s a great rule for doing business today: Think more about your people, and they will think more of themselves.”

“When you ask people about the best leader they ever had, one quality is always mentioned: they are good listeners. These leaders have learned to ‘sort by others.’ When someone says, ‘It’s a beautiful day,’ they respond by keeping the focus on the speaker. For example, they’ll respond, ‘It sounds like you’re pretty happy today.’ Poor listeners ‘sort by self.’ If you express a concern you have, they will express a concern they have.”

“Leading people is the opposite of trying to control them; it’s about gaining their trust through your integrity, developing their potential through your partnership, and motivating them through your affirmation.”

“Consistency does not mean behaving the same way all the time. It actually means behaving the same way under similar circumstances. … When you respond to your people in the same way under similar circumstances, you give them a valuable gift: the gift of predictability.”

“Remember that the primary biblical image of servant leadership is that of the shepherd. The flock is not there for the sake of the shepherd; the shepherd is there for the sake of the flock.”

The Christmas Candle (book review)

Max Lucado is a storyteller par excellent! His craft is on full display in the engaging short story The Christmas Candle.

Lucado takes us back to Victorian-era England, to the small village of Cotswolds. Nothing much seems to happen in this little village, except for a visit from an angel every 25 years to one specific family. The Haddington family have been candle-makers for as far back as anyone can remember. Every quarter-century, just before Christmas, an angel appears in the Haddington’s shop and points out one special candle. When this unique candle is given away by the Haddingtons to an individual, they can pray for a miracle and expect that God will answer that prayer.

Lucado’s story centers on a time when the angel should be appearing soon. But Mr. and Mrs. Haddington are older now, and worried that they don’t have an heir to which the candle-making trade can be passed on, the townspeople are in more desperate need than ever before, and the village’s new pastor is highly skeptical about the so-called “miracle qualities” of an ordinary looking candle. And all the while, the time of the angel’s appearing is getting closer and closer.

The message Lucado is able to drive home through this story is truly a God-given gift that will encourage your faith. Whether you read this book at Christmas time or not, you will be uplifted in your faith in God’s power to do the miraculous!

The Advent “Nicknames” Of Jesus

Most of us who have nicknames didn’t receive them at birth, but they were given to us later on. It might have been because of a memorable incident, or even a character trait that we are known for.

But think about Jesus. Even before His first Advent, He was given numerous “nicknames” or titles that foretold what He was going to do. In the Christmas carol “O Come O Come Emmanuel” four of Christ’s nicknames/titles are key for us today.

It’s so important for us to look back at these First Advent titles because they give us perspective for today and hope for Christ’s Second Advent.

Paul makes it clear that we are living in a time of both already and not yet. We have redemption (Ephesians 1:7), and we are waiting for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Jesus has already paid for our freedom (First Advent), but we are still awaiting the rewards that will come with His Second Advent.

O come, O come…

  1. …Emmanuel

Literally, this means “God is with His people.” The prophesy was originally given to the prophet Isaiah (see 7:14 and 8:6-10), but it was repeated when Jesus was born (Matthew 1:23). Only One Who was fully God and fully Man could pay the price for our ransom from sin.

  1. …Rod of Jesse 

David, the son of Jesse, prayed, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that You have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18). Yet God was going to continue to keep David’s family line alive (although at times it looked like the dead stump of a long-forgotten tree) to give a throne to Jesus as the King of kings that would once and for all crush satan’s tyranny.

  1. …Dayspring 

When I think of Dayspring, I think of light exploding immediately into the darkness (Isaiah 9:2 and Luke 1:77-78). Jesus Himself told us of His victory over the darkness: I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you] (John 16:33, AMP).

  1. …Key of David

Only Jesus holds the key to open wide our heavenly home (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 1:8)!

What do you need? 

  • Ransom? Emmanuel paid it! 
  • Power to defeat satan? The Rod of Jesse gives it! 
  • Encouragement to press on? The Dayspring lavishes it! 
  • Assurance of your eternal home in Heaven? The Key of David opens it! 

All our longings—all our O come! O come!—are satisfied in Jesus. His First Advent is the already, and His Second Advent gives us hope for the not yet.

Check out some of the other Carols of Christmas we are looking at this year.

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