Monday, February 21, 2011: Encourage
Daily reading: Ephesians 4:25-32
To encourage is to be kind and tenderhearted, to forgive as we have been forgiven. Some might think this kind of behavior is equated with weakness. Yet it takes real strength to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving, to encourage one another. It’s very easy to make fun of someone, to gossip, or to tear someone down. The hard part is to encourage. To encourage is to give someone something, to not expect uniformity but unity. To encourage is to love as we’ve been loved, to live into a new humanity where we all are equals. To encourage is to allow someone else’s dream the space to grow. To encourage means that we invest in the success of others, even those with whom we become angry. Who can you encourage? How? Ask God to direct you to the right person to encourage today.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011: Dream
Daily reading: Isaiah 41:8-13
Isaiah 41 reminds the Israelites (whose imaginations of God have been squashed in captivity) about the true nature of God. “Do not fear, I am with you, do not be afraid, why? Because I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (10). These are powerful words that bring infinite hope to a people who have lost the ability to dream. Discouraging words have the power to deflate our dreams, but one encouraging word might be enough to help us dream again. God’s words of encouragement in Isaiah must have been startling to a people in captivity who might have felt abandoned by God. Where do you really want to dream again? Ask God to give you new dreams.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011: Yes!
Daily reading: Isaiah 41:8-13 again
We live in a trash-talking, dream-killing, winner-take-all culture. As Christians, we are uniquely positioned to speak about what it is to be held up with the victorious right hand of God, the cross of Jesus Christ. This is God’s embrace of humanity, a limitless, ultimate encouragement that moves outside of “winner take all.” The cross as the victory of God is the final “yes” in God’s promise. This is a proclamation, but we desperately seek confirmation. In faith, we realize that the “yes” is an unfinished “yes,” yet we have not been abandoned. God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is actively creating unity and community. Isaiah reminds us that God is here, and we are to strengthen and encourage one another. Our words matter. Are you experiencing God’s “yes” each day? Ask God to speak “yes” into the most troublesome times of your day.
Thursday, February 24, 2011: Angry
Daily reading: Psalm 4 and Ephesians 4:26
Sometimes people do things that we don’t want to encourage. In fact, sometimes we simply get angry and begin to tear others down. This is our cable news 24/7 reality. We are a culture of personal attack and tear-down. Yet the Scriptures don’t tell us not to get angry. Both the psalm and Ephesians say, “be angry, but don’t sin.” Anger is not the sin. The gossip, the tear-down, and the anger that turns to hate and bitterness, is the sin. The anger that refuses to acknowledge the truth of a diverse, new humanity characterized by a unifying love is the sin. There are times when rightly-directed anger can serve a useful purpose in the Kingdom of God. Are you angry with someone? Is this helpful or hurtful anger? Ask God to redirect your anger.
Friday, February 25, 2011: Truth
Daily reading: Ephesians 4:15-16
How is this diverse, new humanity, characterized by a unifying love, supposed to live together? Speak the kind of truth that is bound to a diverse, new humanity characterized by a unifying love. Far too often what we understand as speaking truth does not pass Ephesians’ smell test. Instead, the truth we speak is often simply evil talk. Just because something is true doesn’t make it truth. Think about where and how most of us find ourselves in “truth” talk. It’s gossip. We say what very well could be true things about someone. “They are too ____.” “They’ve done ___.” We may be speaking truth, but it may not be in love. The truest truth we can speak is when we encourage one another. Do you ever speak “evil” words? Ask God to help you discern what to say and when to say it.
Saturday, February 26, 2011: Speech
Daily reading: Colossians 4:1-6
We need to hold each other accountable for encouraging speech. We need to name gossip when we hear it, and stop it. We need to change our speech when it becomes cynical or hopeless. It might mean turning off that television commentator, and holding our politicians to a higher standard of speech. It might mean having a difficult conversation with a friend on Facebook who sends discouraging emails. Or it might mean not only talking to a teacher, parent or supervisor about someone being bullied, but also befriending that person and sharing some encouraging words. How is your speech? Do you ever fall into a questionable use of words? Ask God to show you better ways of sharing words with everyone in your life.
Sunday, February 27, 2011: Bullying
Daily reading: Titus 3:108
Bullying has become a major focus in schools and workplaces, and it comes in many forms. Bullying speech or behaviors are not just discouraging, but extremely harmful. If you were a bully, or have bullied someone, pray and seek guidance about the possibility of finding the person you hurt and extending an apology. You have the potential of sharing life-giving words, not only for them but for yourself. If you were bullied or are being bullied now, talk about it to someone you trust, who will encourage you. Words hurt, that hurt is real, and you are not weak for experiencing that hurt. You are not responsible, but you are experiencing a broken promise from your fellow human beings. For today, remember this: God is here, you have not been abandoned, and the promise of God is for you.