A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

I am thankful my parents taught me that a little kindness goes a long way. That was a long time ago when life seemed simpler. But their advice continues to serve me well these many years later.

Recently, my husband and I witnessed the impact of even the smallest demonstration of this attribute. As owners of a rental house, we were privileged to have a wonderful family from India rent our home. When they became more established, they later purchased that home. We continued to maintain a relationship with this lovely immigrant family. We supported and encouraged each other in the things that mattered the most to us.

Prior to opening their second business, they invited us to celebrate this new enterprise along with their family and friends. We were surprised to be the only non-immigrant people present. They genuinely welcomed us into their midst with open arms. We were humbled by such undeserved kindness and generosity.

What extra kind-heartedness had we shown? None, that we could remember. Yet, somehow we had made a impact on their lives. We were astounded!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”
1 Corinthians 13:4

Kindness of God

Yes, a little kindness goes a long way. But God’s great kindness transformed us from foreigners to His chosen sons and daughters. Our best efforts demonstrate a miniscule portion of His immense kindness. Something He offers to us all!

Do the riches of his extraordinary kindness make you take him for granted and despise him? Haven’t you experienced how kind and understanding he has been to you? Don’t mistake his tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?”
Romans 2:4 TPT

Whether we realize it or not, every kind act reflects God’s extravagant kindness — a kind-heartedness this world desperately needs. Too many people believe God to be cruel and distant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“… with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.”
Isaiah 54:8

Fruit of the Spirit

God desires that we water the seed of kind-heartedness which He has planted in us so it may produce an increased abundance.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Every word of Scripture is significant. The word order also holds purpose. Here, kindness occupies the central position of all the fruit of Holy Spirit in us. Four attributes precede and four attributes follow. It is central to all other fruit.

Kindness to All

Sometimes, kindness comes with a cost. God calls us to show kind-heartedness to everyone — even our enemies. He calls us to more than an outward display, but rather to an inner attitude of generosity that comes only from the pure kindness God has shown to us.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

Perhaps such basic courtesy shines the brightest in the darkest places and at the most difficult times. I only need to be reminded of the desperate condition God pulled me from to understand what incredible kindness He offers. Perhaps the most unworthy of candidates, I too once lived as an enemy of all He represented.

Is there anyone to whom we find it difficult to show kindness? Does anything compare with how far God reached for us? Hardly! But kind-heartedness doesn’t always come easily. However, even a little kind-heartedness contains the potential to grow, impacting many people in our spheres of influence.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
Luke 6:35

A Little Kindness

Everything we choose to excel in takes practice — lots of practice. Today, let’s look for opportunities to practice a little kindness. Who knows what God might do with it!

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Colossians 3:12-13

Perhaps, you have experienced the abuse of those who withheld even a little kind-heartedness. It is interesting how many verses connect forgiveness with kindness. Perhaps forgiveness stands as the grandest form of kindness — God’s and ours.

May this prayer form a starting point for our forgiveness.

Father, please forgive me, and us, for withholding your kindness from others. We repent for ignoring, judging, or neglecting the people who have needed a simple act of courtesy to encourage them. Whether out of ignorance or pride, forgive me, and us, for failing to give to others what You have so extravagantly given to us. Heal the pain our lack has cause in their lives.
Lord, help us to see everyone through Your generous heart of love and courtesy. May kindness not just be a self-inflating act we do, but may it flow from a sincere love and compassion for our neighbors — near and far. And may the immeasurable riches of Your grace through kindness toward us be revealed in Christ Jesus in our day (Ephesians 2:7). May the kindness and love of God, our Savior, appear through our own little demonstration of kind-heartedness to others (Titus 3:4).
Father may Your kind-heartedness spread like wild-fire throughout our land, impacting many more lives.
Amen.

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You Belong Here! The Essential Need to Belong

We all possess within us the essential need to belong — to know beyond all doubt that we fit and that others deeply care for us.

Perhaps more than ever before people feel alienated and disconnected. Marriage and family breakdown now represents the cultural norm. Homelessness creates huge concerns in many nations. Increasingly, we see people drift toward subcultures of gangs and alternative communities. Why? Because we all need to belong, even if the belonging comes with destructive and damaging lifestyles.

No matter your age or social status, you belong here.

In the Genesis account of creation, we find a beautiful rhythm and flow. God said. It was so. God saw that it was good. Except for one time! One exception stood in stark contrast.

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis 2:18

The Hebrew word for “helper” is ‘ê·zer, meaning counterpart or a part opposite. The word also describes God when He comes to our aid as a help and shield. It expresses a sense of caring community and belonging.

Belonging

A few years ago, I was offered a position where I could utilize my gifts and further stretch my abilities. After a year of minimal input, I resigned. Why? I felt no sense of belonging. These were my people, my clan, but they were too busy to allow for the inclusion of others.

Have you been a part of a group but never felt like you belonged? I think we all have. Perhaps it was your family, a business, an organization, or even a church? Loneliness within a group induces more pain and alienation than the loneliness of actually being alone. God still speaks! His Word has not changed. “It is not good for (anyone) to be alone.”

God designed marriage and the family unit as the primary context for belonging. Despite natural family breakdowns, God secures us into His own eternal family.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
1 John 3:1-2

All who believe may have different mothers, but we all have the same Father. God has adopted us as His own children into His family.

The Price of Belonging

God fulfilled our essential need to belong through His Son, Jesus Christ.

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
1 Peter 1:18-19

As proof, God deposited the Holy Spirit in each one of us. His Spirit continues to reassure us that we belong to Him forever.

“Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come.”
2 Corinthians 5:5

Few things seem more incompatible than the Holy Spirit dwelling within corrupted humanity. Why would God — the perfection of holiness — choose to live in us and desire fellowship with us? Why would He go to such extreme measures to adopt us into His own family?

Met Us

God meets us where we are and as we are despite the wretchedness of our condition. With intense love and grace, He welcomes us. He sees in each face a reflection of beauty and worth — someone of value and dignity. Every person, no matter where they have come from or what they have done, was created by God, for fellowship with God, and for community within His family. Everyone! No exceptions!

“This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s‘ … And another will write on his hand, ‘Belonging to the LORD …”
Isaiah 44:5

He is our Helper, our ‘ê·zer, who comes to our aid, and fulfills that essential need to belong that is rooted in each of us. In Him, we live secure.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 10:28-30

You Belong

As I write, I am reminded of seasons (some very long seasons) in my own life story where the cup of belonging felt empty. I remember well the pain of feeling abandoned and rejected. Many of you understand the disorientation, grief, and loneliness I’m talking about. Today, that can change!

Others may prove fickle, but God will never leave you.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8

Father, I ask that every person reading this blog would find the essential need to belong fulfilled through You. May they personally sense Your ‘ê·zer — that You are present to aid, help, and shield them. Plant each one in communities of love and compassion. Holy Spirit speak gently to everyone, bringing them to health and wholeness. Give them courage to abandon unhealthly communities that will ultimately produce increased pain and loss. Surround them with people who see beyond exterior facades, or roughness, and minister to their deep need to belong. Convince each one of their value in Your eyes. Root them in Your love and goodness.
Amen.

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Communication Failure: Resolving Communication Breakdown

Communication failure within any relationship always proves to be costly. How do we resolve breaks in our connections with each other?

Last night, we experienced a short power outage in our neighborhood. It was only a minor inconvenience on a relatively hot day in Saskatchewan. As electronic devices came to silence, people talked more with each other. Neighbors formed small groups, huddling under the welcome shade of mature trees. Children playfully milled around.

However, the outage caused a major disruption and communication failure between my computer and printer. Though they sit within arm’s reach of each other, they refused to connect and exchange information. Not a good scenario to discover on a busy Monday morning. It took many attempts and more than a little frustration to resolve the issue.

Whether the infractions come in minor blips or major collisions, every relationship experiences something similar. Too often little inconveniences turn into major disruptions with those the closest to us.

Thankfully, Romans gives us a step-by-step remedy to resolve conflict and mend any breaks in our connection with others.

#1 – Humility

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.”
Romans 12:3

The moment any of us looks down on someone else, we all lose! If we determine to look up to God for solutions, we will refrain from looking down on others. In every relationship, the focus can never be about “me” or “my side.” God has intricately connected us together in families, work groups, and churches for the common good — the benefit of all.

In humility, we become more capable of seeing ourselves and others through God’s eyes. The Message Bible translates this verse in a way I can relate to.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
Romans 12:3 MSG

Like my office technology issues, we all experience “power outages” in one area of our lives or another. As we grow in “pure grace” for each other, we acknowledge that any and all good in any of us ultimately comes from God.

It is worth saying again, “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” Strong and truthful words!

#2 – Love

It is no surprise that love is the key that opens the way to resolution. We also know that love comes with a cost. To love often includes choosing the hard way.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”
Romans 12:9-11

Easy said! Hard does! Loving well bridges any short-term or long-term communication failure. Love soothes the wounds caused by breaks in our relationships.

God challenged me several years ago with a practical way to love sincerely, hate what is evil, and cling to what is good. He powerfully illustrated to me the danger of entertaining even a single negative thought toward anyone. Again, easy said! Hard does! But as soon as any negative thought enters my mind about anyone, I must actively cut it short, replacing it with good and godly thoughts. If I don’t, I will quickly lose my spiritual fervor — being “aglow and burning with the Spirit of God.” That price is too much to pay!

Romans encourages us all to “keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” We are to keep it — to guard and protect it. The duty is ours. The responsibility rests on us.

Lovelessness quenches the Spirit! It extinguishes the Holy Spirit flame that God desires to burn within us. When we refuse to allow breaks in connection to separate us, the fire of God burns brighter and higher.

#3 – Approach Conflict

Sometimes, even positive changes in our lives may produce discomfort and conflict. Our views and principles change as we grow in the things of God.

Most often, communication failure results from differences of opinion or personal preferences. But those differences don’t need to divide us. We can view conflict as healthy and productive.

We all need to learn how to navigate conflict in positive ways. One of the prime methods to bring resolution during conflict is to avoid critical judgments.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”
Romans 14:4

God alone correctly judges each of our hearts and motivations. He made us free in Christ to follow His example and His Word. He calls each of us to maturity, discerning His will. But, it is important that we act in love as we endeavor to live like Christ.

Rather than judging other people and their motives, God invites us to consider our own actions and driving forces. How do my words, attitudes, and actions affect me? And, more importantly, how do they affect others?

#4 – Value Each Other

Romans 16 stands as one of my best loved chapters. Why? Because the author commends, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor. He acknowledges the worth and good in each individual — their hard work, sacrificial living, friendship, sharing in the hard times, standing the test of faith, and being like family. Co-workers extend their greetings to the church in Rome as well. Even the scribe uses the opportunity to send greetings.

Romans 16 emphasizes the need to consider every individual as of great worth — vitally important, not just to God, but to each other. We only value our family as much as we value each member. We only value our church as much as we value every person in it. Do I look at each person as essential? Valued? Precious?

Oh, how easy to resolve any breaks in connection when we truly value each other as God does. Any communication failure would be quickly mended.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.”
Romans 16:24b

It took several steps in the process to restore communication between my computer and printer. It also takes authentic, purposeful steps to resolve breaks in our relationships.

When the deepest desire and passion of our hearts is to fully express the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will not allow anything to sever our relationships and cause outstanding communication failure.

God is worth it! His people are worth it! He freed us to live by grace through faith in respect to others.

Prayer

Father, I repent of any attitudes, actions, or words that have caused broken relationships and communication failure. I choose humility and love over my need to be seen, heard, or acknowledged. Lord, I repent for expecting others to fill the areas of my life that You long to occupy. I repent of holding critical judgments toward others.
May humility and love lead me to live with others in harmony, holding them in the deepest respect. Give me both the grace and boldness to approach conflict in a way that will bring resolution — as much as it depends on me — to relationships. May I see others through Your eyes — those who are kind and those who are not, those who have a similar mindset and those who do not, those who are strong and those who are weak.
May the passionate fire of Your Spirit burn with increasing fervency. Lord, I purpose to guard my heart and mind with diligence, as I keep You as the focus and purpose of my life.

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Confidence Well Placed — Without Fear or Worry

We all seek to have our confidence well placed. Who can we trust? I mean really trust. Shaking markets and shady deals abound. Enticing offers bombard us at every turn, tempting us to try and buy the latest, greatest products. The internet has created a haven for scam artists. We answer phone calls with apprehension, not knowing if the caller is legitimate.

My granddaughter stood with her toes curled over the edge of the pool. I waited below with my arms outstretched, prepared to catch her when she jumped. She leaned forward. Her quivering legs contradicted the smile on her face. It took more than a little persuasion to convince her to trust me. After several more jumps and successful catches, her confidence in me grew. Finally, she jumped with complete abandon. Confidence well place replaced her initial fear.

We have all taken turns at being the jumper or the catcher. We have learned through experience who we can and cannot trust. No one has proven more trustworthy than our God.

“Blessed [with spiritual security] is the man who believes and trusts in and relies on the Lord and whose hope and confident expectation is the Lord.”
Jeremiah 17:7 AMP

How wonderful! We may have perfect hope and confident expectation in the Lord.

Broken Trust

The wounds of broken trust pierce deep. When we have trusted someone to love, but they wouldn’t. When we have trusted someone to protect, but they didn’t. Broken trust makes it difficult for us to fully trust again.

Each time we trust a little less and then even less. Until finally, we trust only ourselves. Eventually, we realize we are as untrustworthy as everyone else. In the most complete sense of the word, there is only One deserving our complete confidence.

The Hebrew word for man in Jeremiah 17:7 means someone who is valiant, like a warrior. It represents a person of courage and determination. Confidence well placed in God for our security requires a measure of courage and determination to overcome the broken trust in people. But it is worth it!

“For he will be [nourished] like a tree planted by the waters,
That spreads out its roots by the river
…”
Jeremiah 17:8

When we have confidence well placed in God, we become like this tree — fully nourished and satisfied. Planted by an ever-flowing stream as God completely sustains us.

No Fear

Recovering from broken trust drains every fibre of our being. The pain of severed relationships cuts deep. Jagged wounds that refuse healing often become infected with rejection. Rejection oozes out through fear.

Only God’s perfect love brings lasting relief and complete healing.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
1 John 4:18 NLT

With confidence well placed in our loving Father, fear holds no ground. Jeremiah continues to paint a word picture for us.

“… And will not fear the heat when it comes; but its leaves will be green and moist. And it will not be anxious and concerned in a year of drought nor stop bearing fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:8 AMP

Moving Forward

I know beyond a doubt I can trust God with every aspect of my life. I have full confidence that He will never fail.

Unfortunately, in the day-to-day struggles, I resemble my granddaughter far too much. I stand on the edge of the pool of relational trust, holding tight with all ten toes. I lean toward God with every ounce of courage I can muster, but will others reciprocate my love “this time?” Will that person value our relationship “this time?” Or will repeat offenders surround me forever?

That is the human dilemma. Confidence well place in a God who stands apart from all human control requires every valiant warrior portion of this heart. Trusting my frail humanity into the hands of other frail humans sounds foolish at best.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34

Yet, God calls, even commands, us to love each other completely, regardless of the outcome. He desires us to become a similar life-giving stream for others as He is for us. He longs for us to love others so absolutely that it releases them, too.

The Call

God calls each of us to love. The love of God washes over us like a river to live worry free. His love flowing through us provides space for others to grow in faith — without fear or worry even in the toughest times.

When Jeremiah talks about a tree “planted” by the water. It literally means to be transplanted. No matter where we began, He has repositioned us, transplanting us by the stream of His grace and mercy.

We were planted in brokenness and rejection. We have been transplanted into Christ and He into us. Once we held misplaced trust in people, finances, positions of authority, and possessions. Firmly transplanted, we now maintain confidence well placed in Him.

Transplanted ones experience not only God’s blessing, they also

“… never fail to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:8

As we obey the call to receive and express love, continuous spiritual “fruit” comes through our lives.

Confidence Well Placed

Honestly, this process stretches me. Maybe, it stretches you too. Only with confidence well place in the love of God will we dare to risk loving and being loved.

Yes, people will fail us. But secure in the Father’s love, our roots spread wide and strong, nourishing us at every level, sustaining us through dry seasons, and securing us through every storm.

The more we trust Him, the more we confidently jump with childlike faith into His arms, willing to abandon ourselves to love others fully and deeply — with or without love in return.

A love that reflects Him will always make a difference. Always!

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The Power of Networking With People

The Power of Networking

Although connection and community have always been important, the power of networking with people is becoming increasingly significant.

We all seem to arrive upon the life’s landscape with an independent chromosome. Every parent has heard their little one unequivocally announce, “I do it myself!” Every parent has also watched the ensuing struggle to learn — often through scraped knees and bruised shins.

Hopefully, we all eventually realize life was never meant to be a solo journey. We overcome as we form strategic partnerships. We need others!

My natural introverted nature resists reaching out and developing the communities that God knows I need to successfully press beyond personal incapabilities.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Networking in the Workplace

As an author and communicator without formal training, I lean heavily upon pioneers who have paved the way. Old in years never guarantees wisdom or maturity. Those much younger may carry a wealth of knowledge and creative insight all would benefit from.

Pride might be the greatest inhibitor to developing strong workplace networks. Humility elevates and promotes each other for mutual benefit.

I have reaped the rewards from these workplace networks:

  • Enroll in courses and training modules.
  • Seek the critique of others.
  • Create support groups for mutual development and encouragement.
  • Openly and freely share knowledge.
  • Strive for team excellency.

Though it might seem counter cultural, our greatest success comes by advancing others. Let us develop a culture of promoting and applauding those around us.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:27

Jesus’ workplace revolved around ministry — ministry He could have easily accomplished alone. Yet, he chose to train and advance others, launching them into similar areas of ministry. The four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — could easily be viewed as a manual for elevating and promoting others in the workplace. In everything He did, Jesus demonstrated the power of networking with people, even messed up people.

I would be amiss to not mention the faithful group of women who sacrificially promoted Jesus’ work. They supported Him financially and practically.

Networking in Community

Jesus maintained several layers of community, refusing to function in isolation. His circles included:

  • His three closest friends and colleagues (Mark 9:2)
  • A slightly larger group of twelve shared ministry and life — eating and travelling together, even seeing Jesus exhausted, hungry, and pressured (Luke 6:12-16)
  • Seventy-two sat under His teaching and entered into ministry (Luke 10:1)
  • Finally, the crowds who followed were released from demonic possession, healed of diseases, and restored to relationships (Luke 14:25)

What are your community circles? Do you have a small group of close friends who walk beside you through ups and downs? Do you have a larger network of comfort and support among your family or church? Are you connected where you live, impacting the lives of others for the advancement of the Kingdom of God?

I recently read that the greatest human need is for connection. Without personal networks, we feel deprived and empty. Only in and through interconnected relationships will we achieve all God desires for us. The power of networking with people comes alive in integrated healthy community circles.

” . . . I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
John 17:20-21

Networking presents risks. As much as we need these networks, we have all been wounded or taken advantage of by communities that meant to assist and support. Within the context off community healing also effectively flows.

Networking in Prayer

I have vividly seen the value of many network communities. However, the greatest aspect of united agreement flows out of joint networking within prayer circles. Here again, we look to Jesus and those who followed Him.

  • Jesus took His eleven disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32)
  • Eight stayed prayed from distance (Mark 14:32)
  • Three followed closer, overhearing His prayers and seeing His travail (Mark 14:33)
  • About one hundred and twenty of His followers waited in the upper room, continuously in prayer after his ascension (Acts 1:12-15)
  • The early church devoted themselves to corporate prayer (Acts 4:42)

Prayer networks require commitment. I have learned to purposefully create prayer teams of support for the projects I work on. I also commit to network in prayer with women who mentor me as I mentor others. Our foundation is prayer. Christian churches and organizes also maintain local, national, and international prayer initiatives.

These prayer circles support while being supported. Nothing significant for God ever occurs apart from the power of networking in prayer.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Never too Busy to Network

One of the biggest excuses standing in the way of healthy networking is over-activity. To receive the full benefits of the power of networking, adjustments and prioritizing our schedules becomes essential.

The second hindrance to strong community networks might possibly be personal insecurity. One of the reasons I hesitated so long to begin a women’s group was the feelings of intimidation and insecurity. Gulp!!! By pushing aside our fears, past failures, and pride we will reap the benefits of amazing networks waiting for us.

Finally, everything Jesus taught ran countercultural. Networking is a prime example.

As application points, let’s look honestly (and without condemnation) at how we are personally interacting within networks.

  • Do I carry wounds from network communities that I need healing from?
  • What networks should I prioritize in work, community, and prayer?
  • Do I need to relinquish independence or insecurity to move into healthy communities?

“Lord Jesus, I ask You to knit us together into vibrant, healthy, thriving communities. Move us forward together so we all reach our ultimate potential and efficacy. I ask You to clearly demonstrate the power of networking Your way. Amen.”

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The Power of One: Become an Influencer

The Power of One

Media, in various forms, grabs attention and influences masses. God chooses the power of one, one person willing and available to step forward as His voice, His representation, and His reflection upon those around us. Have you experienced the power of one? Are you that one for others?

Moses lost his value and worth somewhere between Pharoah’s palace and the back side of the desert. When God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt, he saw only his inadequacy. But Moses’ brother Aaron came, willing to walk the journey with him. Only with his brother’s assistance did Moses agree to carry out God’s initiative (Exodus 3-4).

In her barrenness, Hannah appears to be the only one praying for a son. The power of one praying mother resulted in one praying son, Samuel, who listened to God’s voice and motivated an entire nation to love and serve God (1 Samuel 1-3).

One young woman, Esther, inspired by her brave uncle Mordecai, risked her life and pleaded for the redemption of her nation. The power of one resulted in many lives being saved (Esther 4-5).

God used a shepherd, a despised housewife, and an orphan girl to move in influence beyond all expectation. None of them realized the potential difference they would make. They aren’t alone. Biblical accounts of the power of one dot the pages from Genesis to Revelation.

Electric Power

One Man Sharpens Another

“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17

This familiar proverb speaks within the context of friendship. The Hebrew word for “another” means, friend, companion, or fellow.” I’ve heard people explain this verse as being like iron put to a whetstone, forcefully and abrasively grinding away at another’s dull edge. But the proverb more accurately speaks of the positive influence we have upon each other through living life in community.

People are being impacted by the way we live our normal everyday lives. How we deal with difficult situations, our attitudes, our values, and our choice of priorities affects others.

The caretaker-custodian of a church we previously attended was an retired elderly gentleman. He sang as he cleaned bathrooms, corridors, and sanctuary. He warmly greeted everyone who came through the doors of the little church. Often, after a few minutes in his presence, people no longer desired to meet with the pastor. His love for Jesus spilled over to everyone. He went from business to business in our small town, encouraging and praying for employers and employees. He travelled weekly to a smaller community holding services and praying for the handful of attendees. This humble man impacted multiple lives for the Kingdom of God. Through him, I, and many others, witnessed the power of one.

One Light

Though Heaven records this man’s influence of faith, few on Earth know his name. In some ways, he resembled Philip:

“Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there . . . so there was great joy in that city.”
Acts 8:4-8

The power of one ripples through towns, cities, and regions.

Looking For One More

Jesus said,

” . . . If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
Matthew 18:12-14

Wind Prayer

One Lamb Found!

“I grew up in New Age, discipled in meditating, automatic handwriting, and Ouija boards. I saw demons, heard things in our home, and was afraid of the dark.

During a retreat in Grade 12, I sat on my bed doing homework. I noticed my roommate reading a Bible. “Do you really believe that stuff?” I asked. That opened the door for her to share her faith.

We developed a weird friendship, debating spirituality. She was the only Christian open to talking to me. I looked for mistakes, wanting to find flaws in the Bible.

That year, she developed cancer. I regularly visited my “born again” friend, often finding her reading the Bible. “I’ve been praying or you,” she said one day. I didn’t understand how she could be so happy while extremely sick. There became less and less of her as she became more and more ill, but she had light, joy, and peace about her. What I didn’t know was that she and her whole family were praying for me, even during their trials.

She recovered, and we both went on to university. It took four more years for me to come to the Lord. I wrestled with understanding Jesus and what He did on the cross. In my final year of university, when I should have been the happiest, I was suicidal and depressed. Finally, I lay on the floor praying, calling out to God, accepting Him.

I casually told my friend and couldn’t understand why she jumped around beaming with excitement. God answered the prayers that she and her family had been praying for six years.”

This testimony tells how one young person experienced the power of one!

The Unknown Ones

Most people know Billy Graham’s impact on 2.2 billion people with the Gospel. Few know about Edward Kimball.

Edward taught a ruckus Sunday School class of teenage boys. Concerned about their eternal destiny, He visited a shoe store where one of his students worked to lead him to Jesus. That young man, Dwight L. Moody, affected thousands with the Gospel, including Wilbur Chapman. Chapman became an evangelist, leading thousands to Christ, one of whom was Billy Sunday. Billy Sunday led Mordecai Ham to faith. Ham held his own street meetings and crusades, where a young man named Billy Frank received Jesus Christ as his Savior. Billy Frank is better known to us as Billy Graham. Every one of these powerful men of God trace their faith and ministry to a single faithful Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball. Did Edward realize the power of one? Or did Edward simply love well where God planted him?

Lightning Power

Do you know who brought the Apostle Peter to Jesus? We continuously find him introducing someone else to Jesus.

” . . . ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus . . . and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him . . . Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said, and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell Him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus . . . ”
John 1:35-42

I will never be a “Peter,” but like Edward Kimball and Andrew, I can bring people to meet Jesus. The impact and influence of the power of one unknown, unacclaimed, unacknowledged, everyday you and me cannot be underestimated.

Thankful for the One

My heart overflows with gratitude for the ones who guided me into the Kingdom of God. I look forward to meeting each one in Heaven. The camp counselor who led me through the sinner’s prayer while kneeling beside a steel-framed bunk on the cold concrete floor. Those who didn’t give up but continued to pray as this lost sheep wandered far from the fold. Others who patiently discipled this over-confident, zealous, fire-cracker toward the steadfast path of humble faith. They applauded my stumbling efforts and over-looked my blundering mistakes. Many have gone on to Glory. I wish I could publicly name you, but I can’t.

Power

Saul of Tarsus posed the greatest threat to the early church. Saul, the assassinator and persecutor! Heading toward Damascus, Jesus brought his devilish mission to an abrupt end, leaving him blind on the road. One man risked reaching out.

“In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ “Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him,Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying . . . ‘”
Acts 9:10-11

Though afraid, Ananias responded to God’s call. Placing his hands on Saul, he prayed. Through the power of one relatively unknown faithful follower, Jesus healed Saul of blindness and filled him with the Holy Spirit as a bonus.

It was also through the power of one other that Saul gained traction in the Christian community. Do you know his name? The one who stood in the gap while the Jews plotted Saul’s death and Christians cowered in fear?

Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.”
Acts 9:27

The Silent One

Often the power of one goes unnoticed, as they applaud the achievements of others, hide behind the curtain of obscurity, and diligently perform menial tasks. They remain the silent ones, without podiums, credentials, or microphones. Yet this chosen multitude impacts billions! Their influence in eternal destinies receives the highest heavenly accolades seldom, if ever, echoed on Earth. And with that, they are pleased!

The Power of One

I encourage you to think about, and if possible, thank your “one,” remembering who stood with you when you were alone, comforted you when you felt broken, encouraged you when you wanted to give up, and sacrificed to meet your need despite their personal pain. Remember again the one who prayed, who shared their faith, and who walked beside you.

Let’s thank God for the power of one.

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Superhero? Stash the Cape and Walk with Humility

Walk in Humility

Do I stash the cape or keep it? It’s fun designing characters for a children’s book. Artists and authors often use attributes they see within themselves or others for character development. Though superheroes in flowing capes make great comic heroes, they are hard to live with in daily life.

Recently, everything coming my way (videos, sermons, personal studies) focuses on the element of humility — an attribute I possess too little of! As much as I desire less pride and more humility, achieving that goal often requires time and effort.

Paul wrote to the Philippians,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Zap

These wise words establish godly perspective. In both artistry and life, perspective is everything. How we position ourselves in relationships determines how vibrant those relationships become.

Looking Down

When artists portray a character struggling or defeated, they view the image from a high angle looking down. The reader will automatically perceive the character as being fearful or shy. Even slight variations, like a hand turned upward, give the subject a subordinate position.

For most people, deliberately assuming this lower position creates internal struggle. For most people, only rarely do we willingly desire to appear inferior to others.

Superhero

Jesus noticed this propensity to choose the best seats, highest places, and honored positions. In Luke 14, He tells His followers,

“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor . . . take the lowest place . . . “
Luke 14:8-11

Sooner or later, self-promotion ultimately leads to humiliation! Most of us consider ourselves too cultured and dignified for such brash behavior. But I honestly need to ask myself a few straight questions: How willing am I to seek advice? How readily do I receive correction, especially if it is from someone not in authority? Do I ask others for help or do I find my own way?

For me, these are all difficult. I would far rather be the teacher than the student or the one who provides than the one receiving. Most of us gladly halt what we are doing to help others, but stutter when asking for similar assistance.

Boom

For relationships to grow and mature, they must be reciprocal. Lopsided one-upmanship disappears when we let go of pride and perfection, offering permission to stash the cape. Reciprocal means giving and receiving — a willingness to take the lower position.

Eye to Eye

I hope many genuine relationships fill your life. Paul says,

“Therefore if you have any encouragement for being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Philippians 2:1-2

The strongest relationships I enjoy are those “united with Christ.” Though natural families form incredible bonds, spiritual ones become even stronger. When our natural family also becomes our spiritual family, we possess the best of both.

Hero

What propels relationships grounded in Christ? The first two attributes Paul mentions are the comfort of Christ’s love and sharing in the Spirit. To know how loved we are, despite our weaknesses and failures, releases us to love others — not as superiors but equals. Eye to eye! The Spirit dwelling within us, leads us into a fuller re-presentation of Christ in the world.

We can stash the cape, leaving any superhero facade behind. Walking on a common level, we experience tenderness and compassion, similar mindsets, and mutual love for each other.

Looking Up

Every picture book or movie presents a hero by looking from what is called the “worm” view. With a few artistic strokes the hero looms large, powerful, and independent within the scope of their surroundings.

A child running through the yard with fabric flowing off their shoulder’s announcing the world will soon be delivered, brings smiles from adult onlookers. Unfortunately, many of us carry our imaginary capes into adulthood, viewing ourselves with superhero status: superior and strong.

Pow! Bang!

We pull invisible capes from who-knows-where and masquerade as someone significant. Oh, don’t worry, we maintain our “Christianese” behind the polished mask of false humility.

Jesus’ words echo in my heart as a warning,

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Matthew 23:11-23

Scripture gives no room for “might” or “maybe.” They will be! Experience has taught me, the sooner I choose the low position and look up, the better for everyone!

One Hero

When I’m willing to stash my cape, refusing to pretend super Christian status, I clearly see the real Hero — the only Hero, the true Hero worth looking to. What made Him so heroic? He lowered Himself lower than I could imagine, becoming nothing, so we could become everything He designed us to be.

” . . . he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus became Superhero #1, for all time, for all people. He didn’t just stash a phony cape; He left Heaven, descended from the highest place of glory and power, to become like us — dust. Talk about a giant step downward!

Kapow!

Only when we see our glorified Lord will we fully understand how low He came. And the result? He snatched a dying world from eternal hell, trampled the head of that slimy serpent, and declared victory over every oppressive dis-ease the enemy once unleashed.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

Stash the Cape

Jesus set the ultimate example, showing us how to restore relationship. The One who could have come like most comic strip heroes, looking down on the world, didn’t! He could have dominated, intimidated, and controlled, but He wouldn’t.

Jesus came — looked humanity in the eye and walked at our level. He allowed people to pay His way, wash His feet, and serve Him, without feeling demeaned. Jesus also lifted people (demon possessed, adulterous, wicked, sketchy, diseased, contaminated people) from low positions. Each time, He demonstrated honor and value.

Stash the Cape

So why do we struggle to stash the cape, to show our flaws, and be real with each other? Why do we obstinately refuse the low road?

Jesus chose a different way.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;”
John 13:3

Because Jesus KNEW — understood completely His identity in the Father and His ministry — He was secure. The same possibility is true for us! Insecurity causes us to reach for superficial capes and earthly titles. Insecurity motivates us to look down on some, compare ourselves with ourselves, and desire the accolades of others. Security allows us to stash the cape and relate honestly.

The Frame

Every artist or illustrator considers how to “frame” their characters. Wide angle, or close-up? Left, right, or center? Through reading Daniel, God reminded me of the “frame” I need to walk in humility.

A dream disturbed King Nebuchadnezzar. He called in all his astrologers, magicians, enchanters and sorcerers — his full arsenal of dream interpreters — demanding they both tell him the dream and interpret it. They panicked, “You’re asking the impossible! No one on earth can do what the king asks!” (Daniel 2) True story!

Daniel quickly solicits the prayer support of his friends. As a result, God reveals both the dream and meaning. When he approaches the king with the answer, Daniel clearly says, “God in heaven reveals mysteries. It isn’t about me or my wisdom. I’m no better than anyone else, but God wants you to know and understand.” (Dan 2:28-30)

Daniel showed complete humility. He responded to situations by taking the low road, seeking the help of his comrades, claiming no credit for himself, and desiring the good of others.

Supermom

That’s our frame for humility. God exalted — first, last, and middle — and others honored as better than ourselves.

So when you see the evidence of pride (no matter how subtle) in my strut, carried in my continence, or waffled in my words, I give you permission to tell me plainly, “Stash the cape, girl! Be real!” Please help me swap my phony cape for the legitimate cloak of humility.

**********

Thankful for Friends — The Friendly and the Not-So-Friendly

I’m thankful for friends I’ve brushed shoulders with briefly and those I’ve walked beside a long time — the friendly and the not-so-friendly. Their diversity amazes me! Who but God could connect my life with theirs.

Have you heard it said, “It isn’t what you know but who you know that counts?” Both the what and the who are important, but I’m holding closer to the who, than to the what.

If I sat down and made a list of those who have positively impacted my life, the page would be long and the pen without ink. I’m sure you would discover the same. To be known sometimes feels risky and perhaps even dangerous.

Several years ago, our son skidded off the icy road onto a frozen river. Someone seeing his predicament stopped to observe and help if necessary. “You’re a Ward, aren’t you?” he asked with a grin. As our son put the vehicle into four-wheel-drive and pressed the accelerator to mount the riverbank, he wished to be unknown rather than known.

I’ve had more than my share of embarrassing moments as well.

The Friendly Friend

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend spring from their heartfelt advice.”
Proverbs 9:9

I hope your basket is full of friends you can turn to for “heartfelt advice” — those who stand with you no matter what you’re going through. Even if sometimes their words are directive or corrective.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 9:6

Close Friends

Many times loyal friends loved me enough to instruct, even if it was with painful words. Their truth simultaneously stung and healed. Their correction brought me back on course, showed a better way, and challenged me to dig-deep and not give up on myself, God’s calling, or others.

Unfriendly Friends

We’ve all experienced those who have wounded us.

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend.”
Psalms 55:12-13

No wound goes as deep as the wounds of betrayal, whether intentional or unintentional, from those we’ve trusted. The psalmist David knew the pain, so did Joseph. Sold into slavery and imprisonment for fifteen years, he had ample time to think about how his own brothers sold him out.

Friends Help

Yet, he said,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

When those who should have been his protectors turned unfriendly, Joseph recognized the sovereignty of God. He leaned heavily into God’s plan and trusted His sufficiency. Through forgiveness, he counted even unfriendly friends as part of God’s infinitely wonderful purpose.

Job showed another example of genuine friendship, in spite of harsh treatment in his most vulnerable hour.

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
.Job 42:10

Only after praying for those who wounded him did God release a double blessing.

Good Friends

Becoming a good friend doesn’t happen accidently. Friendship costs! The “art” of friendship developed slowly for me. As a child, I preferred the company of animals over people and solitude above crowds. Trust came gradually.

Friendship

I honestly wanted friends, but severely stumbled in my efforts to become a good friend. Friendship requires loving at all times (Prov 17:17), living sacrificially (John 15:13), dedication (Ruth 1:16,17), helping, forgiving (Col 3:13), patience and kindness (1 Cor 13:4).

The Best Friend

Several years ago, my very young granddaughter walked beside her mother down the street of a small city. A homeless man silently approached and passed them. With sadness in her voice, she softly said, “He doesn’t have a family.” Her little heart recognized the absence of loving support in the face of a stranger.

Even children sense that God has designed our lives to thrive in healthy interaction with others. For too many, such luxury remains absent.

Jesus made this remarkable statement,

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
John 15:12-15

Jesus, God incarnate, chose to call us His “friend!” Not because we are worthy of such favor, but because of His love and grace. His incredible gift of friendship gives us the ability to befriend others with similar love and grace.

Best Friend

How amazing is that?

Whether you’re surrounded by many or few friends, don’t dismay. Jesus calls you friend! No other friendship compares to His; He will never leave you or do you harm; He sticks close, never abandoning or disappointing. You can fully trust Him.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24

That “closer than a brother” Friend is none other than Jesus Christ.

Friends Protect

Jesus, a Friend to All

If you’ve never experienced the closeness of His friendship, my heart aches with understanding for you. Today, in the quietness of where you are, ask Him to come, not just to be your Friend, but your help, source and strength for all you need. Take this moment to turn toward Him, surrendering your life to Him completely. There’s no magic formula — just sincerity of heart.

To get to know Him more, download a Bible app for your phone or begin to read a standard hard copy, starting in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. By reading these portions of Bible, describing the life of Jesus on earth, you will discover more fully what an amazing Friend He is to all.

Blessings, my friends, I’m thankful you share your life with me.

Speak Blessing, not Cursing! Love is a Verb!

Paul boldly challenges the Roman Church, and us, to “speak blessing, not cursing.” All of us, from every generation, need the reminder that love without action is not love at all. Love is a verb!

Though many themes ebb and flow through his writing to the Roman church, personally none pierces my heart more than the theme of grace. The study of this epistle a few years ago reformed my thinking and rearranged my heart to love in a new way.

Love is a verb, not a thought or emotional response.  As a new Christian, I prayed, “Lord teach me to love.” I knew as clearly then, as I do now, that love requires a breaking of my self-centered, self-righteous, independent motivations. God alone gives the ability to love in a genuine, transforming way.

Grace and love flow outward to the deserving and undeserving.

Mankind prefers rather to

crush and control,
condemn and judge,
manipulate and intimidate,
strong over the weak,
healthy over the sick,
wealthy over the poor.

This ungodly propensity exists in every culture — Christian and non-Christian. Paul calls for an intentional turn-around in these natural tendencies, no matter how justified we may feel.

Transformation

Transformation starts from the inside infiltrating attitudes, words and actions. Paul sets the defining tone of love and grace in action.

“Let the inner movement of your heart
always be to love one another,
and never play the role of an actor wearing a mask.
Despise evil and embrace everything that is good and virtuous.
Be devoted to tenderly loving your
fellow believers as members of one family.
Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another.”
Romans 12:9-10

“Lord, teach me to love,” remains a key prayer decades later. Why? Love is tough!

I once read Neigel Bigpond’s story:

“My mother was sick in the hospital, and I went to visit her one day. When she opened her eyes, she looked at me and said, “Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means I love you,” she replied.

“I love you, too.”

My mother responded, “No son, you don’t understand. Our Yuchi word for “I love you” is not like English… “Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot” means, “You are like a river that brings me life, and without you I cannot exist.”

That’s loving like God. Surrendering to Him so completely that others “are like a river that brings life and without them we know we cannot exist.” Quite frankly, God is asking for the impossible.

The Key

God knows I can’t! I know it, too! So He gave us the key to loving fully.

” Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord,
keeping your passion toward him boiling hot!
Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and
let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”
Romans 12:11

Love comes from God through the Holy Spirit. God is love — strong, unmasked, raw, pure. Only in passionate, “boiling hot,” relationship with Him will that love be evident in any of us. The dissipating of love in any dimension should drive us to our knees, “Lord, set us ablaze! Holy Spirit burn in us!”

Love is a verb! Active and powerful!

Circle of Love

Paul identifies the elements found within the larger sphere of love.

“Let this hope burst forth within you,
releasing a continual joy.
Don’t give up in a time of trouble,
but commune with God at all times.
Take a constant interest in the needs of God’s beloved people
and respond by helping them.
And eagerly welcome people as guests into your home.”
Romans 12:12-13

Another version says, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.” Love hangs in there faithfully praying. At the same time, a season of withdrawing from gross dysfunction or severe abuse may be absolutely necessary.

I have helped people recede from unhealthy relationships, giving individuals time to regain personal health and wholeness. The goal of the separation isn’t to harm, but rather to restore.

Unbroken fellowship with God remains essential for individual and corporate relational health. In Him, we regain godly perspective and the ability to love genuinely and radically.

“Freedom is not the license to do whatever we want;
freedom is the choice to love.”
– Danny Silk

Love is a Blessing

I cannot imagine a life without love — either the pure joy of loving others or experiencing being known and loved. Love is a blessing, a grace gift from heaven.

“Speak blessing, not cursing,
over those who reject and persecute you.”
Romans 12:14

The things that come from our mouths disclose the reality within our hearts. When communication becomes judgmental and negative, we can be sure we have a serious heart condition.

Words are indicators and predictors!

The words of our mouth create the highway of our future — whether the way of blessing or cursing.

When David became an object of cursing and scorn, he appealed to God for help and strength. He gives a warning to his mockers.

“He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.”
Psalm 109:18

Negative talk about others deeply affects our own health — spiritually and physically, individually and corporately. How important to speak blessing!

Bless Actively

Just like love is a verb, so is blessing. Blessing goes far beyond the words of our mouths spilling out through active care for others. Paul lays down concrete ways to demonstrate a heart that releases blessing.

Celebrate with those who celebrate,
and weep with those who grieve.
Live happily together in a spirit of harmony,
and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own.
Don’t live with a lofty mind-set,
thinking you are too important to serve others
but be willing to do menial tasks and
identify with those who are humble minded.”
Romans 12:15-16

Paul calls for a sensitivity, wisdom and humility to mark our relationships. Every word challenges me! Every action is to be focused on the needs of others:

promoting others when we would rather be promoted,
serving from a state of fatigue and personal need,
setting aside personal agendas to elevate those around us.

Love is a verb – selfless and fearless!

Conquering Love

Love conquers with blessing. God’s instruction through Paul becomes even more difficult:

“Never hold a grudge or try to get even,
but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.
Do your best to live as everybody’s friend
If your enemy is hungry, buy him lunch!…
Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.”
Romans 12:17-21

This is where I often feel overwhelmed. I hear within these lines a call to Christian extremism showing extreme love and compassion to our most oppressive enemies and most aggressive persecutors.

“Through the power of Christ’s blood,
we can exchange such things as curses for blessings;
guilt for purity; sickness for health;
lack for provision; sorrow for joy;
slavery for freedom; and death for eternal life.”
– C. & R. Wagner

How? In Christ and Christ alone! Unless the fire of Holy Spirit burns intensely within us, we will miss this incredible opportunity to live, love and bless. “Set us ablaze, Lord, and start with me.”

Trust is the Greatest Compliment We Give Each Other

Trust is the greatest compliment we can give each other. Trust securely glues every kind of relationship we experience together: parent and child, husband and wife, teacher and student, friend to friend, leader and disciple, employer to employee. We know the security of trust when it is present. Yet, trust is difficult to define. 

Every newborn baby comes explicitly trusting others to care selflessly for its needs. Yet, broken trust requires extra measures of responsibility, grace and time to restore.  

Love, honour, servanthood, and humility are just a few of the non-optional attributes we owe to each other. But not trust! In fact, Jesus didn’t trust everyone!

“Now while he was in Jerusalem
at the Passover Festival,
many people saw the signs
he was performing and believed in his name.
But Jesus would not entrust himself to them,
for he knew all people.”
John 2:23-24

What is this valuable asset, we call trust, in relationships? What allows trust to thrive? How can trust be restored once broken?

Five key elements must exist to create trust: empathy, motivation, ability, character, and history. 

Empathy

The dictionary defines empathy as an “ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. Far too often, our need to be understood exceeds our desire to truly understand others. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility
value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests
but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Instinctively, we sense when people are more concerned with themselves than with others. Developing positive communication skills, including listening well, has been a process for me. We can learn to hear beyond people’s words to their hearts.

I honestly have to ask myself, “Do I listen well?” So far, the response is “Not good enough!” I am learning, albeit slowly, how to listen with more than my ears. 

Often words mask the real message of the heart. Will I look into people’s eyes and honour their unspoken longing — taking the risk, though messy and uncomfortable? Will I focus on their circumstances, their struggles, and their needs?

“Nobody cares how much you know
until they know how much you care.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

Motivation

Motivation, the reason why someone acts or behaves in a certain way, usually conceals itself in wounded caverns of the soul. We may be ignorant of our own “real” motivation behind our words or actions. 

Dr. Henry Cloud says, “Whenever we meet someone — especially a stranger but also a friend, a boss we see every day, or even a family member — we unconsciously scan the face, read the body language, and assess the tone of voice to determine whether the person is with us or against us. It is just what humans do.” 

“But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:10

By allowing God to search our hearts, we become people others can trust. The only way to effectively invest in the lives of others, championing their causes and helping them to succeed, is through pure motives.

When someone has “dropped the ball”, failing us in some way, will vengeance cloud our vision of them? Do we value them and the relationship enough to seek restoration? Will we stand by them until they walk strong again?

Restoring trust is the greatest compliment we can offer. Trust says, “I want you to succeed.”

Ability

It is amazing to me, how Jesus drew His incompetent disciples into ever increasing levels of ability. They floundered and fought. Yet Jesus trusted them enough (after only three years of training) to launch the Christian Church off their backs. Astounding!

Ability unlocks trust.
Trust empowers ability.

We often chose people for positions of trust based on credentials, certification or even the recommendation of others. Jesus chose The Twelve in a different way.

“One of those days
Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray,
and spent the night praying to God.
When morning came,
he called his disciples to him
and chose twelve of them,
whom he also designated apostles.”
Luke 6:12-13

Would any of us have chosen to trust this team? Would we have considered any of them upper level leadership? As Jesus sought the wisdom of God, He saw in each of them potential. 

Relationships require trusting the ability of others to bring what is needed into the situation. Trust says, “This is no gamble! I know that you can do it. You will do well.”

Trust is the greatest compliment we can offer someone who questions their own ability.

Character

Character resembles the steel structure in a skyscraper. It is the invisible strength that sustains a person through time and adversity. As fire forms steel, suffering molds godly character.

“Not only so but we also
glory in our suffering,
because we know that suffering
produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3-4

Character includes far more than the moral aspects required to be trustworthy. Trust grows best among those 

who are optimistic,
know how to persevere through trial,
refuse to act impulsively or defensively,
are unstoppable by fear,
secure and tenacious.

People with these attributes possess character mature enough to trust.

“Character inspires others to trust them.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

History

Past successes and failures historically map our lives. Paul and Barnabas, after much prayer and fasting, were sent off to preach the gospel. I’m not sure anyone was at fault, but soon we see the team divided over John Mark. 

“They had such a sharp disagreement
that they parted company.
Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,
but Paul chose Silas and left,
commended by the believers
to the grace of the Lord.”
Acts 15:39-41

Paul’s impression of John Mark was clouded by previous experience — “history.” Mark once deserted him “in the work.” Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, embraced Mark in spite of past failure. Paul refused to trust again.

 

Later, Paul considered him a valuable brother. Obviously something changed, either in Paul’s heart or in Mark’s attitude.

“The best predictor of the future is the past,
unless there is something new.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

Broken trust necessitates change before it can be restored — often on the part of both parties. Such restoration develops over time, forming a new history. Trust is the greatest compliment we can extend to each other. It is the confidence to say, “I believe in you!”

Only One

Trust varies depending on the relationship. God is the only One we can completely trust all the time.

“Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.”
Psalms 62:8

For people, trust is a work in progress through grace and vulnerability. 

Though we might struggle to move past times of broken trust, it is far more beneficial to focus on how we can become trustworthy ourselves. Let’s allow God to reveal our empathy and inner motivation. May we increase in our ability to facilitate trust with strength of character. Then, over the duration of our lives, we will develop a “history” of trust.

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Recommended Read:
Dr. Henry Cloud – “The Power of the Other”