Tag Archive | Encouragement

Contagious Joy

As we enter our third month of living with the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have become very familiar with the precautions being made to slow the spread of this disease. Washing our hands repeatedly during the day, social distancing, stay at home orders, no large gatherings, closed businesses and schools, online church services and using gloves and masks anytime we are in public are all a part of keeping this contagious disease from spreading even faster than it has.

This morning, I had an email from Grace Fox, one of the ladies who writes for Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 app. Her Connecting the Dots blog is one of my favorites, and today the title caught my attention right away: How to Spread Contagious Joy. 

Grace said this virus is just one of many negative things that have been contagious during this pandemic. She wrote,

“COVID-19 isn’t the only negative thing that’s contagious. Fear spreads easily, too. During this time of media saturation, we read or hear the news that scares us, and we tell others about it. Trouble is, the news might not be accurate, or we hear only part of it and assume the rest. Nevertheless, we pass it on to others believing it’s fact, and the fear grows.”

One thing I’m trying to learn in our current situation is to make sure I’m seeing what we’re going through with a healthy perspective, one that reflects the fact that God is still in control, that He has promised never to leave or forsake us, and that He’s good and always faithful to His children, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We may not know why God has allowed these circumstances, but we can know God has a purpose and it will be fulfilled. I’m not saying this is easy; it’s a struggle for me to not get so focused on the instability we are currently facing that I get overwhelmed. But with the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within each of us who have come to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, it’s possible.

Before I started writing this afternoon, I looked up the meaning of contagious in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I was surprised to find one of the actual definitions has to do with the power of our emotions and conduct. Yes, contagious refers to transmitting infectious disease to others. But a less familiar definition is exciting similar emotions or conduct in others. When we lean on God in the midst of our trials and choose to walk in joy and rest in the goodness of the Lord, our attitude is capable of being easily spread to others. In essence, we cause those who observe us to “catch” our attitude and behavior!

As we move into May, let’s make it our goal to rest in the Lord and choose joy in His presence. Let’s start this today, by focusing on how God has revealed His goodness and lovingkindness to us during this season. Remember, Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A joyful heart is good medicine…” Let’s draw close to the Lord, for King David wrote in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…”  Remember God’s presence brings joy, and joy renews our strength to keep moving forward. “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

Grace Fox ended her article with a challenge that I’d like to share with you.

“Choosing joy amidst the most difficult circumstances benefits us and blesses others. Our attitudes, words, and actions no longer breed fear. Now they speak encouragement and spark hope… Imagine how different the world might look if everyone spread contagious joy during this time. What’s one action you can take to start a ‘Contagious Joy’ movement in your home, neighborhood, and beyond?”

joy is contagious

Staying Connected During Coronavirus Social Distancing

As human beings, we were created for connection. God made this truth clear from the Garden of Eden when He said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Many verses remind us that we are never completely alone if we have surrendered our lives to God. His promise to Moses is one of my favorites: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:24). But this doesn’t eliminate our need for human connection.

One of the most frequently used phrases in the New Testament is “one another.” Here are just a few of the “one another’s” in the Epistles.

  • Romans 12:10 says we are to “love one another with brotherly affection.”
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 encourages us to “comfort one another.
  • Galatians 6:2 says we are to “bear one another’s burdens.”
  • Ephesians 4:32 tells us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says we are to “encourage one another and build one another up.
  • Hebrews 10:24 instructs us to “stir up one another to love and good works.”

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Without meaningful connection to God and others, our quality of life will diminish. But with the recent changes in our daily lives as we’ve walked through months of social distancing, quarantine and isolation, loneliness has been an even bigger issue for more of us to deal with.

From a physical health standpoint, these are necessary health measures, especially for those of us who are vulnerable because of chronic illness or age. But from a mental health vantage point, they have resulted in increased anxiety and greater loneliness.

I think one of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with since gathering in large groups became unsafe has been the fact that it is currently unsafe to meet in the church building. Our church has gone out of the way to keep us connected, with Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services, plus a variety of other ways for us to “get together” while physically separated.

Our church is big – many thousand members – so connection is an issue our leaders take serious. We have over fifty adult small groups to choose from, which we call iConnect groups, to help us “find the little church inside the big church” as we connect with God and others. Even though we can’t meet in person during this pandemic, our iConnect group has been meeting weekly via ZOOM for fellowship and teaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Social distancing has made it impossible to meet in person right now, but we are still able to find ways to stay connected.

What ways have you found during this COVID-19 pandemic to stay connected? Have you found ways to minister to the needs of “one another” as listed earlier? Remember, the church is made up of people, not buildings. How has this season affected your relationship with the Lord? Your church? Your family? Your friends? Consider these questions in prayer.

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True Love Bible Reading Challenge: Week 4 Summary

February, a month when my thoughts have been focused on love with both this True Love Bible Reading Challenge and the Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book I Am Loved, is drawing to a close. But first, seven more passages to reflect upon God’s love for us and our appropriate response to that love.

Day 22 – Philippians. 2:1-11

Reflecting upon the love of God has brought encouragement, comfort and joy to our lives during this month. Today’s passage focuses on the ultimate picture of God’s love for us, as seen by Jesus’ willingness to empty Himself, take on the form of a servant, and become obedient to the point of death on a cross. God’s call to us in response is to have the same mind as Christ had, in humility loving others as He loves us.

Day 23 – Colossians 3:8-15

Acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the first step in the process of our lives being transformed into the image of Christ. With the Holy Spirit within to empower us, we are then equipped for the disciplines of putting off the old self of our former manner of life, renewing our minds through the Word of God, and putting on the new self made in the image of God. We must put off (or put away) the practices that are rooted in sin, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to them. But to put off without putting on leaves a void. Replacement is a necessary part of transformation. Put off. Put on. Both are essential for us to be changed into the likeness of Christ. And the most important thing for us to put on is love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Day 24 – John 14:21-27

Loving God is closely linked with obedience to His Word. In these verses, Jesus made this truth clear to His disciples. And He also reminded them that the words they heard Him speak are not just His words, they were also the words of the Father who sent Jesus. Just as Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19), this passage tells us He only said what He heard the Father saying. Therefore there is no separating God’s Words – which we often think of as the Old Testament Scriptures – and the Words of Jesus which we read in the New Testament. If we truly love Jesus, our desire will be to obey all of God’s Word, both the Old and New Testament. But we also need to balance this truth with the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness, with the fact that our obedience during our days on earth will never be perfect. As Beth Moore says, “Obedient lives are not perfect lives. Obedience does not mean sinlessness but confession and repentance when we sin.”

Day 25 – John 15:9-13

How does Jesus love us? The same way the Father has loved Him. The Father’s love for Jesus is deep, tender, sacrificial, eternal and unchanging. Jesus’ love for us is a clear reflection, a mirror image, of the Father’s love for His own perfect Son. What an amazing thought! The Father loves the Son so much that He “has given all things into his hand” (John‬ ‭3:35‬).‬‬ The Father loves the Son so much that He “shows him all that he himself is doing” (John 5:20). The Father’s love for Jesus is perfect love. And this is the same way Jesus loves us.

And the response Jesus asks of us? We are to abide in His love, having an intimate, close relationship, not just a superficial acquaintance. When we do this, two things happen. We find delight in keeping His commandments and His joy fills our lives. And as we are filled to overflowing with the love of Christ, we love others in the same way He has loved us, even to the point of laying down our lives for them.

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Day 26 – John 15:14-21

In this next section of John 15, Jesus says to those who abide in His love, as seen by laying down their own will and walking in obedience to God’s will and ways, “You are my friends.” What is the difference between a servant and a friend? A servant doesn’t know his master’s business. He simply does what he is told. But to His friends, Jesus says, “everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” One of the ways the Father loves the Son that I listed above is by showing Jesus all He is doing. And if we are His friends, Jesus passes this information on to us.

So how do we know if we are living as a friend of Jesus? If we belong to Jesus, if we are His friends, there will be lasting spiritual fruit in our lives. And the primary fruit will be our love for one another. Plus an added benefit of this lifestyle: answered prayer.

Day 27 – 1 John 3:1-5

Sometimes I think we miss the fullness of all Jesus accomplished on the cross. Derek Prince has identified ten things from Scripture that Jesus achieved by His suffering and death on the cross. Today I’m just going to share three of those.

  • Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.
  • He tasted death for us that we might share His life.
  • He endured rejection (because of our sins being laid upon Him) that we might have His acceptance with the Father.

When we think of Jesus’ death on the cross, we usually focus on Him paying the penalty for our sin that we might be forgiven. That is a major truth, one I am eternally thankful for. But I’m equally grateful that His death made the way for me to share His life. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, I am a new creation. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Now I am one of God’s beloved children, fully accepted into the family of God. And that is good news today and for eternity.

Day 28 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Love is Who God is! God is the heart of true love. The characteristics of love are the characteristics of God. By knowing the heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the Son, we learn what love is all about. The characteristics of love are also the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us expressed to others. As this “Love Month” of February comes to an end, this is my take-away from this month’s study of LOVE. It’s what I want to remember when circumstances feel overwhelming, when I’m tempted to lose heart. God is Love, and because this is true I have hope for the future!