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Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank Proverbs 22:29

The difference between excellence and mediocrity can often be determined by our attitude about God, ourselves and others. Of the three, our view of ourselves is perhaps the most powerful adversary to our rising to excellence.

If we see ourselves as failures, we will most likely never rise to excellence. We look at past failures and say to ourselves “I’ll never amount to anything. Everything I’ve ever done has failed. The more we dwell on our failures the easier it is to become afraid to fail, complacent in what we do, or just give up all together. I wonder if even the Apostle Paul was near that point when he wrote in his letter to the Romans “The things I want to do I never do, the things I hate doing, I always do.”

The Bible is full of stories of people just like you who have failed in life. Time and again they’ve picked themselves up only to be knocked down. But God used them in mighty ways. Don’t let the past keep you from excelling into the future.

Another hindrance to our rising to the level of excellence is our view of what success really is. Often we measure success by what other people have done or are doing. This is true in the spiritual realm, the physical realm, and the emotional/relational realm. We look at someone else’s job, skills, ‘spirituality’, spouse, etc. and say, I’ll never succeed. Look at how well Mary prays or how well Joe does his job.

Excellence is a personal thing. Your Heavenly Father is the one that bestowed gifts on you. He is the one that gives you opportunities to use those gifts. Excellence in your corner of the world may never be seen by others outside of your own circle. That doesn’t make it less excellent. Stop comparing yourself to others. Be the very best you can be. Accept your flaws, work to correct what you can and do what you can to make your corner of the world brighter.

When our past gets in the way or we are surrounded by people who seem to have ‘made it’ it’s easy to play the blame game as well. We ask God why He won’t do for us what He did for them. We may even get angry with Him and doubt His wisdom, power or existence. That’s the time to step back and remember that God’s desire is for you to rely on Him, not to have a bunch of friends and be famous. Excellence to God is being godly parents, children and members of our community who walk in close relationship to Him.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t let the past act as handcuffs in keeping you from living the future to its fullest. Allow God to work through you to be the best you can be. He isn’t looking for cookie-cutter Christians. He’s looking for people of excellence.

PRAYER: Father, there are some many times when I’ve allowed my view of myself or the view others have of me to keep me from being excellent for you. Forgive me for basing who I am on what I see in others. Empower me to be excellent in everything I do today, in each life I touch and every task I do. For I exist to glorify You, not myself. In Jesus name, Amen.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

It’s amazing to me how much power we have to affect the lives of others as well as ourselves. We think of God as being all-powerful and we as being weak human beings and, comparatively of course, that’s true. The all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God is no match for our frailty as human beings.

The other side of that coin is that we are made in the image of God. As such He has given us the tremendous power to choose. The most important choice we make everyday is whether to believe what God says about us or to believe what we and others say about us.

This battle has raged in our lives since conception! There is research to suggest that the tiniest of embryo senses the love of its mother. Then, from birth the formation begins in earnest. Our parents love and compassion, or anger and frustration tell us (often unintentionally) that we are good or bad, smart or stupid, and while most parents would never admit this, worthy or worthless.

We enter school and learn quickly whether we are part of the ‘in crowd’ or not. If we are we have worth, if not, then destiny will take its course and most likely we will spend our lives wishing we could be something we are not and overlooking the jewel that we are.

Solomon tells us a cheerful heart is medicine for a crushed spirit. A cheerful heart is a heart that knows who I am and knows that although I may fail, I am a child of God. I have worth. I am just exactly how He wants me.

For many of us our spirit was crushed years ago. The phrase ‘dries up the bones’ has the word picture of the very marrow of the bones being dried up. When our spirits are crushed we wither away from the inside until we are nothing but a shell. No one sees dried bones. They are covered by the skin, the mask we put on every day.

Dried bones so often can start with a single, well-placed word of condemnation by a parent, a friend or a spouse. Jesus says, “If you speak in anger against your brother you are guilty of murder”; James says that “If we never stumble in what we say we are perfect.” Paul says, “Let no unwholesome word come from your mouth;” and the list goes on.

How you feel about yourself and others is shown in the words you speak. How you feel about yourself is often determined by your reaction to their words. The best cure for dry bones, the healing salve for a crushed spirit is Jesus. Don’t listen to the voices that have so long told you that you can’t, or won’t succeed. Stop believing the lies that have been impaled on your heart for so long.

You are God’s greatest creation. Jesus died for you because He loves you. Now that He sees how you turned out…He’d do it again. Listen to the heart of God concerning you. Today make the choice to believe what He says about you. Let the healing salve of His love soothe your crushed spirit and bring life to your dry bones.

PRAYER: Father, I’m brought to tears when I think about the lies I’ve listened to all these years. I’m ashamed of the times I’ve probably been responsible for crushing a few spirits of those I love as well. In Jesus name I ask that you would forgive me for the damage I’ve done and heal the damage others have inflicted on me. By the power of Your Spirit I’m resolved, starting today, to live in the awareness of Your love and presence in every aspect of my life. Amen.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Not a physical piece of shiny glass, what about the spiritual and emotional mirror? Who do you see when no one else is watching? What’s hidden beneath the surface that no one else can see and no one else can understand?

Most of us don’t like to look at ourselves in a mirror (or at least we don’t admit it!). We have a vision of what we want to be like, what we want to look like and all too often a mirror doesn’t ‘reflect’ the vision we’d hoped for.

How we see ourselves in our ‘emotional/spiritual’ mirror will affect how we see ourselves in a physical mirror as well as how we react to others, to adversity and even success. Our vision of self drives our emotions, our spiritual lives and our relationships.

King David knew how fickle each of us can be. Our vision is so affected by how we see ourselves that it can change by the day or by the minute. One adverse event can ruin our whole day or even our lives. That’s why David went to the source of all knowledge for an opinion about himself.

‘Search me’, he says and with that request he gives God ‘permission’ so to speak, to shine a light on every corner of his being. That’s scary stuff! None of us would dare ask that of even our closest friends because we’d be afraid of what they’d find. There are feelings, thoughts, attitudes and painful experiences buried deep within each of us. Some we have tried to cover up with toys, with drugs and addictions and with multiple relationships. Some of the pain we suffer from has become so much a part of us that we no longer even remember why we are hurting. The pain has become ‘normal’.

David went to God for the searching because he knew that God would look upon him with eyes of love and compassion. He will do the same for you. When we let God reveal our deepest, darkest secrets, those hidden pains and fears, we take the first step to true freedom. God doesn’t reveal our hidden places to condemn us. He reveals our hidden places to free us.

John tells us, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we can be at peace with who we are with all our blemishes, all our bruises and all the ugly scars that we try to hide with emotional make-up. God made you as you are. You are His child. Ask Him to reveal all that you are. Trust Him to do so with compassion, gentleness and love.

PRAYER: Father God. I come to you today with fear. I’m afraid of what you will find in my life if I invite you to search every corner of my being. There are times when I don’t like myself, my past and my present. But I believe you when you say you love me and won’t condemn me. Give me the courage to open every area of my life to you. Remove my feelings of fear, guilt and inadequacy. Forgive me for the harm I’ve caused to myself and others. Free me to live for you through your Spirit. Amen.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

The Bible has always linked the mind with our intellect and the heart with our emotions. In Psalm 19 David proclaims the magnificent Glory of God. He recounts the many blessings each of us have received as a result of His love. He’s in awe of the majestic beauty of God’s wonderful creation.

As he nears the end of his ‘praise session’ it’s as if in the midst of his words he is reminded of his own inability to live worthy of the love God has for him. Even in things that seem so small in man’s eyes, the words we speak and the way we feel.

It’s really no surprise that David links our words with how we feel. Jesus likens harsh language towards a brother as equal to murder. James comments that if any man is perfect in the words he speaks he is a perfect man. The implication is that even if we could be perfect in every other action in our lives, and hold every thought captive, it’s our mouths that get us in the most trouble!

If we are honest with ourselves, most of the time our language gets us in trouble when we feel like we are being attacked physically, mentally or emotionally. Sometimes those feelings of attack are valid. There are people around us who use the subtle weapons of sarcasm, tone of voice and body language to tell us, in essence, that we don’t measure up.

As David pondered the greatness of his God he came to a point where his desire was that even in his words God would be glorified. People can’t see our minds and our thoughts. They can, however hear our words and see how emotions control us. Our words and emotions should reflect who we are in Jesus Christ. When we live according to the facts of who we are in Him then the attacks of other people won’t affect us because we know the truth about ourselves.

As we grow closer in relationship to Jesus through prayer, Bible study/reading and body life our words and feelings about ourselves and others will reflect the Glory of God and be pleasing in His sight. We will be a sweet aroma and soothing oil to God and others.

PRAYER: Holy God. I am in awe of your majestic creation. I see the lofty mountains and the fertile plains. I see the animal world in perfect harmony with your will. Your beauty and splendor is unmatched and I give you all the praise and all the glory. I ask that you would help me to better see who I am in you. When the attacks come against me I ask that I would respond according to who I am and not react the way my attacker has. Forgive me for the sarcastic words, the belittling comments and the other tools I use to defend who I am. As your child I realize I have no need to defend myself. I am yours and that is enough. Amen.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered! Psalm 139:17 (NLT)

Sometimes it takes just a word to completely ruin a day, an event or even an entire life. The Apostle James says that if we never stumble in our words we will be perfect in every way. Paul reminds us that the tongue is like a rudder on a ship. Small in stature but huge in effectiveness.

Oftentimes the words themselves aren’t the culprit. The voice inflection of the speaker and their body language can relay unintended or intended messages with more weight than the words themselves. Other times we may misinterpret what they are saying and feel under attack, or our mood of the day may cause us to take what was said completely wrong.

The most important thing we can do to guard against letting verbal attack affect us is to have a sure confidence in who we are and the power we have to determine our attitude. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

These words carry much wisdom. The story is told about a couple of business men who were walking the streets of New York. One stopped for a newspaper and some coffee. The proprietor was crabby, rude and angry. The business man was unaffected and pleasant. As they walked away his friend asked him, “How could you continue to be so pleasant to that angry, rude man?” The businessman replied, “I made a decision years ago that no person will ever change how I feel about life and about me.”

When we live with the realization that God thinks of us continually, it makes the attacks of other people fall meaningless to the side. We may feel like we are criticized for the work we do or the money we make. We may be made fun of for our hair or the clothes we wear. We can feel like we are fat or ugly or don’t match up to those around us. Those are all lies.

God thinks of you often and every thought He has is a pleasant one. He loves you just the way you are. Don’t let the negative words and actions of other people tell you otherwise. Don’t let the bad moods of angry or unhappy people change  you.

When  you feel attacked by others (or yourself) take action! First, remember that no matter what anyone else says, God loves you just the way you are. He loves your looks, your money, the work you do, the way you dress. He loves you.

Secondly, remember that no one can MAKE you feel bad about yourself. Only you can give them permission for that. Refuse to allow anyone anymore to make you feel  inferior. When you start to feel down about yourself check item number one! (God loves you and thinks pleasant thoughts of you often.)

Lastly, when criticism comes evaluate it. “Is there something I can do better or is this unhappy person just bent on making the whole world as miserable as they are?” Work to change areas that can be improved. Refuse to let false accusations or angry people change how you feel about  yourself.

PRAYER; Father God. I thank you for the promise of the Psalmist. What a fantastic thing to realize. You, the creator of the universe, love me so much that you think pleasant thought of me all day long. WOW! I’m so blessed. Please empower me to refuse to let negative attacks affect me. I’m your child. That’s all that matters. Amen.

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