The Words We Need Most

prayer, encouragement, Ephesians 3:14-19For just a few moments, I want to talk a little bit about prayer and a lot about encouragement.  We, as believers, need both prayer and encouragement to be spiritually healthy.  Prayer is our line of communication to God through the Holy Spirit and encouragement should make up a large part of how we communicate with each other.  In my experience, prayer is talked about and stressed as an essential spiritual exercise far more than encouragement is in our churches and homes.  In that, I think we might be missing opportunities for growth and fellowship as a body of believers.

For an excellent example of both prayer and encouragement working together, let’s look at the third chapter of the book of Ephesians.

 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3: 14-19 (NASB)

Can you read the above passage and not feel encouraged?  I know I can’t!  Paul is telling the church at Ephesus (and by extension, us) that he is praying for us.  And this prayer that he is praying is not a small prayer but is a bold prayer for power, for strength in the inner man and for us to be able to fully understand the love that God has for us.  What an amazing, encouraging prayer!

As modern day Christians living in troubled times, we need amazing prayers and we need strong encouragement.  Just as Paul did in the book of Ephesians, one of the best ways to encourage a fellow believer is to tell them that you are praying for them and then be specific in how you are praying for them.  It’s one thing to tell someone “I’m praying for you”.  And we should be saying that.  But it is altogether better to say “I’m praying that God would touch you and heal your body and encourage you in your spirit.”  That makes it personal and even more encouraging to the receiver.

Along with those prayers we need to make sure our words and our attitudes are uplifting to those around us, and especially to those who are fellow believers.  The people in our churches and homes should be the ones we treat the best and this includes our spouses and children.  They need to hear us speaking grace to them (unmerited favor) and they need to see that we love Jesus and are not ashamed of our calling or position in Christ.

As we go, unbelievers are watching what we do and say and the way we treat each other just might be the thing that convinces them that the love and grace of Jesus is real and necessary.  Our encouragement can be that powerful when it is done in Jesus’ name.

We have such an amazing and unlimited resource in the love of God and the more we give it away and share it with others the more we will feel it in return.  We have a responsibility to take that love and use it to shine light in to the dark places around us and to proclaim the good news to all.  Let’s make sure that we are praying big, bold prayers and that we are always looking for opportunities to encourage those around us.  It just might be the very thing that makes all the difference in the world to them.

 

 

Opportunities For Encouragement

encouragement, Thessalonians 5:11, teachingI have a tendency to overlook the small things, to miss their importance in the grand scheme.  I think I am fairly good at keeping the big picture in mind and I am definitely a goal oriented achiever but God is in the details; He says the minute by minute stuff matters and that each and every second of the day belongs to Him.

How does this effect my daily routine?  When I take a break from my desk and make a trip to the water-cooler, for example, do I make it a point to smile and say something encouraging to the folks I pass along the way or am I completely focused on the reason for my trip (the goal of reaching the water-cooler) to the exclusion of the people around me?

Opportunities for encouragement seem like such a small thing but I am starting to believe that they make a tremendous difference to our Heavenly Father.  The beginning of our mission here is to preach the gospel so that souls might be saved in Jesus’ name but the ongoing work is the teaching and the encouragement of those saved souls to continue to seek God’s face and God’s heart and to be like Jesus.

Even though we are saved we still have that natural man within us, that fleshly nature that unless we are taught differently, will continue to lead us astray and into sin.  I need daily reminders to do good and to be good.  We all do.  Without the renewing of our hearts and minds by daily prayer and Bible study the saved children of God will not grow and will never become mature and Christlike.  I need frequent reminders of this truth as I am sure you do as well.

Going back to the example above, if I have Christ’s love foremost in my heart and a smile on my face as I make my trip to the water-cooler then I can share that with others.  Instead of receiving, at best, no regard from me whatsoever and at worst a frown and a negative attitude they get a small taste of God then that can make a large difference.  God can take those seemingly small interactions and use them for great good because little is much when God is in it!

In this I am both the teacher and the student.  It is my sincere hope and prayer that I encourage others so that they, in turn, can encourage someone else.  I am the encourager and I hope to be the encouraged.  I believe that this is how God wants us to treat one another; loving the lost in such a way that they see Jesus and loving the saved in such a way that they are motivated to do good works.

Opportunities for doing good and for being an encouragement are plentiful.  Do I have eyes to see them?  Do you?

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another  – Thessalonians 5:11a (NASB)

 

5 Ways You Can Bless Someone Else This Christmas

Christmas, Blessing, JesusChristmas, at its heart, is about the love that Christ bore for us when He came to earth on His mission of salvation and deliverance from sin.  We give gifts at Christmas in honor of Jesus as a baby in a manger who was God’s gift to all mankind.  As you seek to love and bless others around you this Christmas, here are five ways that you can do just that.

1. Presents – This is the obvious first answer but that doesn’t mean we should overlook it or take it for granted.  A gift given in thoughtfulness and careful consideration to the receiver is so much more meaningful than handing out pre-paid Visa cards to everyone on your list.  (Not that pre-paid Visas aren’t useful and appreciated!)  It will take more time and more care to pick out the right gift for each person but the amount of love you can show to that person is more than worth the extra effort.

2. Presence – You need to be there.  Wherever your loved ones are gathering and even with the hassle of the crowds, weather and holiday rush, nothing can take your place in terms of showing love to the people you care about this Christmas.  The gift of your time and attendance means a lot and giving your gifts in person whenever possible makes them all the more special.  Enjoy the time that you get to spend with your family and friends this holiday and remember that it  is a blessing that not everyone has.  Don’t take it for granted.

3. Attitude – This is a busy time of year for everyone and it can be very easy to lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing.  Christmas is about Jesus and should be a celebration of love and God’s favor towards all men.  Peace on earth and good will towards men should be our motto and our goal this Christmas and that’s impossible to do that when we are stressed out, over tired and just plain cranky.  Remember how very much that God loves you and remember that it’s not about the presents or parties, as nice and as fun as those things can be.  Let love and thankfulness rule your heart and mind and not a bad attitude.

4. Action – Get involved.  Nothing increases holiday spirit like giving of your time to a worthy cause in Jesus’ name.  Whether it be Operation Christmas Child, a special Christmas pageant or signing up to be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army, there’s nothing more precious or meaningful that you can give than yourself.  You’ve only been given one life and you are not promised another Christmas time on this earth.  Only the Lord knows how many days we’ve each been appointed and we need to be about doing good while we have the time to do it.  I promise you that you will be blessed and enriched by the time you spend giving and working for the Lord.

5. Obedience – Is there something that the Lord has been impressing upon you to do this year and you have yet to say yes?  Are you living each day in accordance with His word to the best of your ability?  Have you run from God in your lifetime and are you running still?  While the first four items on our list are ways that we can love other people, this last one is primarily between you and the Lord.  Giving yourself to Him in humble obedience is absolutely the best thing you can do this Christmas and will be the best thing you’ve done all year.  It will change your life for the better and it will have the added benefit of blessing those you come in contact with on a daily basis.

Remember, Christmas is about love and giving.  Let us resolve to be the kind of givers that God would approve of this Christmas and let us love others the way that Jesus loves us.  Merry Christmas!

The Perfect Solution for the Tired and Weary – Guest Post

encouragement, tired and wearyToday I am very pleased to introduce Mr. Denver Harris.  Denver is a senior at Excel Christian Academy in Cartersville, Georgia.  Denver has been called to preach and it is evident if you spend any time with him at all that the good fruit of righteousness is already being produced in his life.

I approached Denver a while back and asked him if he would consider writing a guest post for Matthew515 and he graciously agreed.  I am honored to be able to host this message and give Denver a chance to say what is on his heart.

 

First of I would like to thank Matt for giving me this opportunity to be a guest writer on his site. My name is Denver Harris, and I have known Matt for several years now and am blessed to be able to call him my friend.

Do you feel like you are ready to give up?

Most people have a set routine for their daily lives. We wake up, go to work, and go home to rest. Somewhere in this process we begin to feel tired. We slack at work, become irritable, and all we have on our minds is sleep and rest. Being a high school student I know all too well about feeling tired, and I also understand the urge to want to give up or quit when things do not go as planned. We all at some point in time have been tired; we are human and that is the way our body tells us to rest.

However, we as Christians must not grow weary; the harvest is plenty but the workers are few (Matt. 9:37).  There is a lost and dying world out there, and we want to complain about being tired?  We must run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1).  Isaiah 40:31 says “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  There are many more verses like these encouraging Christians to not give up and not be a quitter no matter how tired you may be.  The Lord will renew your strength and your desire to want to do His business and grow His kingdom.

Allow me to ask you a very serious question. What if Jesus would have stopped half way up Golgotha’s hill? What if during his suffering and agony He stopped and called the angel army to come and deliver Him?  The world is in bad shape as it is, but could you imagine a world without our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Friends, Jesus went all the way to Cavalry for everyone, for all kinds.

Max Lucado put it this way and I love this quote it says ” If you knew that only a few would care that you came, would you still come? If you knew that those you loved would laugh in your face, would you still care? If you knew that the tongues you made would mock you, the mouths you made would spit at you, the hands you made would crucify you, would you still make them? Christ did.”  That is love beyond compare.  Knowing He was going to die didn’t stop this beautiful creation, and He made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for all mankind.  So let me ask you the question again: are you tired?

You shouldn’t be.  Spiritually you should be on fire and ready to do the good work that God has laid out for you.  This world will try and bring you down and try to make you weary.  Winston Churchill, during Britain’s darkest hours of WWII, said we shall never surrender.

Another famous speech along the same lines was given by Jimmy Valvano (famous college basketball coach who was dying from cancer at the time) and he had this to say about giving up:

So next time you feel spiritually tired and feel like giving up remember what Christ did for you. Do not surrender to this world, and do not give up. Don’t ever give up!

God Bless You and thank you for reading.

What Does Your Basket Look Like?

encouragement,faith,christianityIn this short video I ask a very simple question and discuss the best way to remove that which causes our light for Jesus to be dim.  I use Matthew 5:15 and 1 John 4:4 to illustrate how although sometimes we hide our lights under a basket of our own making, He that is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

I hope you are blessed by this video blog and I hope that if you are struggling underneath a basket that you pray and ask the Holy Spirit for help in removing it and becoming the light that the Father means for you to be.  Please let me know if I can pray for you in this area!

The very first video blog for Matthew515

encouragement,faith,christianityClearly, I still have much to learn.  Watch the video, you will see what I mean.  But, like the Chinese proverb says, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, this is only the beginning.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and this is where I’m starting.  Thankfully, through Christ in me, it won’t be where I end.

I cover three brief points in the video that I think are so very important.

1. You are not alone.  You are part of the family of God and a member of the body of Christ.

2. Be an encouragement and be a light, wherever you are.

3. Everyone has questions but that shouldn’t stop us from moving forward together in Faith.

Six short minutes for this first video.   Short videos are easier to watch anywhere and frankly easier to digest.  I sincerely hope that it blesses you.

I’m thankful for this life that God has given me and for this work that He is allowing me to be a part of.  I continue to hope and pray that God can use Matthew515 for His glory and for our benefit.

Please let me know what you thought of this very first video blog and if you have any suggestions for the future.  I would love to hear from you.

Miscellaneous Monday

daniel fast,encouragement,Welcome to Miscellaneous Monday!  First of all, I am glad you are here.  Monday’s can be difficult for the best of us, but if we encourage and pray for each other, we will get through it.  Let us put encouragement into practice today, just as it says in God’s word.  “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”(1 Thessalonians 5:11 NKJV)

Be encouraged.  God is for you and is working for your good even when it doesn’t seem like it!

Speaking of encouragement, this week begins a 21 day Daniel fast for my wife and I.  We are going to need a lot of prayer and encouragement!  We both feel like the Holy Spirit is leading us to undertake this fast, and although we’re not sure why, we’re both praying that God will speak to us in a special way.  I am excited to hopefully get to know my Lord in a new and more intimate way.  If you’d like to know more about the Daniel fast then please check here.

In Other News

I apologize in advance but today’s post is going to cover several topics, hence the title.  I have a few miscellaneous items to cover today so please bear with me.

As you may have noticed, there is now a “Subscribe” box to the right of the post area.  I am working on a weekly newsletter and if you leave me your name and email address I would greatly appreciate it.  The newsletter will allow me to summarize the week’s posts in a short email for folks who have been too busy to visit the site.  It will be a great way to see what’s going on throughout the week in a quick and easy to read format.

Just above the “Subscribe” box is the “Find Me On” widget which allows you to connect to my Twitter, Google Plus or Facebook profiles.  I post updates on Facebook regarding the site almost daily and that can be a great way to see what’s coming up while allowing for more personal interaction.  I use Twitter primarily to note when I have made a new post so that’s a great way to be reminded if you are a fan of the service.  Finally, Google Plus is a fairly new service by Google that has some Facebook like features but is in some ways, even better.

All of those services allow me to connect and communicate with you through Matthew515 more effectively, so I would appreciate your help with that.

New Theme Coming

Matthew515 is a site that runs on WordPress and that means the look and most of the functions of the site are controlled by what is known as a “theme”.  The current theme has some strong points but is not very flexible in terms of layout or fonts so I am building a new version of Matthew515 on a new theme.  The color scheme and logo will remain but I am experimenting with just about everything else.  My goal is to increase readability by using better fonts while also improving the look and layout of the site.  I don’t have an ETA on when it will be ready but I will make an announcement here and on Facebook before I do the final upload.  As Matthew515 grows, the new, more sophisticated theme will be extremely beneficial so I hope it is well received.

Words to Live By

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)  This is the way to get through Monday.  Make Philippians 4:8 your goal today and not only will it encourage you and help you through your day, it will also help you be an encouragement to someone else.

What verses and thoughts help you get through a difficult Monday or any other day?