Encouraging Encouragement

encouragement, praise, love, charityIf there’s one single thing that all of us, no matter who we are, could stand to have more of in our personal relationships it is encouragement.  And this holds true no matter our socioeconomic status, age or occupation.  If we are alive and kicking then we need to hear and experience honest encouraging words from those around us.

And notice I said “honest” encouraging words.  Our encouragement must be genuine and heartfelt for it to be effective.  We might be fooled by empty flattery for a short time but once the truth is known those comments will have the opposite effect and in those cases it would have been better to have said nothing at all.  Encouragement should be real and true and however much thought or effort it might take it is always worth it.

Megan McArdle, a writer and columnist, wrote her 12 Rules for Life recently and rule 7 really had me sitting up and paying attention.  The full article can be found here and this is what she said:

Don’t just pay people compliments; give them living eulogies. Tell them exactly how great they are, in how many ways. Embarrass them. Here’s a funny thing I have learned by being just a little bit internet famous: it doesn’t matter how many times you hear them, the words “You are amazing, and here’s why” never get old. They do not go out of style. You will be wearing them to your 80th birthday party, along with a dazzling smile.

Although Mrs. McArdle’s article was not written from a Christian perspective it turns out that she is right on target with many of the things that she said.  After reading rule 7 I admit to coming under conviction by the Holy Spirit.  I realize that I am not the encouraging person that I should be and that I need to be far more expressive and intentional about telling the people around me just how amazing they are and why it is that I think they are amazing.  And do you know why that is?

It is because we have an enemy who spends 24 hours a day and 365 days a year telling believers that they are worthless and guilty and will never amount to anything for God and that they should just give up!  Our enemy is relentless in his assault on our family and friends and so we should be just as relentless in our kindness, love and encouragement to them.  We are commanded to bear one another’s burdens and we do that by opening our mouths (or putting pen to paper or pixels to screen) and communicating our concern and compassion and by testifying as to what God has done in our own lives.  By our witness we become the encouragement that someone else needs to make it through and to then become an encouragement to someone else.

While doing so we can also take Mrs McArdle’s advice and be specific and lavish in the types of praise and compliments that we give to our friends and family.  We need to be intentional in our encouragement and that means we think about it and plan it out a little bit before hand so that it is premeditated and purposeful. It is not the case that spontaneous encouragement is bad but that spontaneous encouragement should not be the only type of encouragement that we practice.  Intentional encouragement should go along with spontaneous encouragement and both should be present in our interpersonal relationships.

Will you join me in making a commitment to be a person who not only encourages others often but also encourages them in specific and intentional ways?  If so we can make a large difference for good and can bear fruit for the kingdom of God in our time.  I pray that we would all make that commitment and take the encouragement of our brethren very seriously.

Let Us Love

brotherhoodDivisions in the church and among God’s people are incredibly damaging and demoralizing.  They completely destroy our focus on God and His presence and allow Satan to separate us from each other and harm our testimony in the process.  We cannot be effective as ministers of the Gospel while we fight with our Christian brothers and sisters.

Mark 12:30-31 says “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. ’This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  It seems to me that if Jesus thought it important enough to call out these 2 commandments as the “greatest” then we would do well to listen.

Our interactions with each other should start and end with love.  While misunderstandings and mistakes are a part of the human experience, as long as showing and giving and experiencing God’s love are first and foremost in our hearts and minds then forgiveness and healing will be a natural result.  We must realize that we are all imperfect creatures who have been adopted into the family of God and no one is any more or less worthy of God’s grace.  In this we are all the same.   We have all come under the blood of Jesus and are the recipients of God’s great love and therefore have a responsibility to be ambassador’s to those who have not heard and have not seen.

That’s why it’s so harmful to our mission and our ministry when we fight and bicker among ourselves.  Instead of love and unity the world looks at the family of God and often sees a family that is just as troublesome and divided as their own.  Brothers and sisters, we must set aside our differences and come together.  We must recognize that our God and our King is bigger and far more important than any issue we might have and as long as we seek to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength then we won’t have any room left for division.

I truly believe that as people grow closer to God they grow closer together.  Unity and true brotherhood are a natural occurrence when people are focused on adoration, worship and submission to the Savior.  When we fight and get our feelings hurt and drift away from one another it’s because we’ve stopped looking at Jesus and have lost our focus.  Thankfully, it’s not too late to turn our eyes back on Him and restore the fellowship that has been broken.

I won’t tell you that this is an easy or natural thing.  In fact it runs completely counter to human nature.  It requires diligence and discipline and getting over ourselves and our pride.  Only by living and walking in the Spirit is such a thing possible.  My prayer today is that Christian brothers and sisters everywhere would set “self” aside and learn to live and walk in love.  Only then can we truly come together.

Christian Submission: The Attitude of the Unoffended

Christian Submission,Love,IctheusSubmit.  Submission.  Yield.  These are not popular words in our culture.  All three words have a negative connotation in the English language akin to giving up, loosing, or letting someone else have their way over ours.

And yet any study of the New Testament, and especially those books written by Paul, would show that submission and yielding are necessary and even desirable for a Christian.  Could it be that what Paul is trying to tell us is that submission is actually a good thing?  Could we, in this day and age, stand to learn what it means to be submissive in the context of God’s word?  Let’s look at God’s word and see if we can get a clear answer.

In First Corinthians we find chapter eleven which discusses head coverings, appropriate length of hair and contains verse three which says “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”.  Sounds like trouble, right?  Not necessarily.

The word “head” that Paul is using here could be more correctly translated as “origin” and in that context it makes more sense to English speakers.  Woman was created by God out of one rib from Adam’s body.  Christ was God put into flesh; literally the Son of God.  But what about all of this in the context of submission?  Hang on, we’re almost there!

Both of the Corinthian letters were written to the church at Corinth and contained some specific instructions for that church in that specific time.  They still contain wisdom and truth that we can apply to our own lives but they must be read with some knowledge of what was taking place in Corinth at that time if we are to really understand what Paul was saying.

Long hair on a man in the Corinthian culture was one sign of a male prostitute.  Likewise, short hair on a woman was one sign for a female prostitute.  Sexual immorality was prevalent in Corinth and Paul’s desire was for the men and women of that church to completely and visibly separate themselves from any appearance of evil.

Although hairstyles on both men and women in our day and time carry no such suggestions of sexual promiscuity we would still do well to distance ourselves from the appearance of evil.  People decide what they think about us long before they decide what they think of our message.  We need to be careful that our appearance does not become a stumbling block for someone else.

In other words, sometimes we need to yield our right to do what we want to do out of love and spiritual concern for someone else.

It is our right to dress and style ourselves as we fit.  However, it is always more important to let love dictate our behavior and attitude.  This is where submission comes into play.  Love yields, not out of weakness, but out of strength of character and concern for the other.

Jesus was our example in this.  Throughout his horrible arrest, trial, torture, and execution he never fought back or exercised his power as God to stop what was happening to Him.  He went to the cross willingly, out of love for us.  He submitted his body to be broken for the greater good of victory over sin and death.

The submission of our will to Jesus Christ is also done with the greater good in mind.  When we live in submission to God, He can then use us for His glory and for our benefit.  The most blessed that we will ever be is when we are living in submission to the will of our Heavenly Father.  And make no mistake, we will live in submission one way or another.

In the sixth chapter of Romans Paul addresses sin in the life of the believer.  16 Do you not know that to whom you yield yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

In three verses Paul shares a simple yet profound fact.  The believer can only live one of two ways.  Either we yield (submit) to flesh, to the old man and to sin or we yield (submit) ourselves to the Spirit and to obedience that leads to righteousness.  There is no middle ground here.

Some of us think (and I did for a long while) that we can be for God, that we can approve of Him and His church and we’ll even attend once in awhile as long as He doesn’t try and muck around in our lives too much.  We’re not practicing overt evil but neither do we want God intruding on our personal time and personal space beyond the minimum.  We’re saved, so isn’t that enough?

Believer, please do not believe that lie.  I know from experience that what Paul says in Romans chapter 6 is absolutely true.  If we aren’t yielded to God then we are yielded to flesh and you know who owns and glorifies the flesh, right?  Trying to pretend that we can get by as a Christian by not yielding to God is just making the evil one’s job that much easier.  We are either submitting ourselves to our Father’s will or we aren’t; it’s just that simple.

So then, I believe we are ready to answer our original question.  If we are submitted to God and His will then submission is a very good and necessary thing.  While submitted to God’s will we gain the strength and love to yield our individual rights for the benefit of those around us, which was what Paul asked the Corinthian believers to do so many years ago.

As for the title of this piece; what is the attitude of the unoffended?  Why love, of course.

The Lesson I Learned from a Tiny Frog

Tiny Frog in My Kitchen

Mr. Frog could comfortably sit on that quarter with room to spare.

One evening not too long ago as I sat in my recliner, laptop in hand and working, I decided that I needed a short break to stretch my legs.  I headed towards the kitchen for a glass of water and a snack but didn’t make it too far in the doorway before I stopped short.

There on the floor, just out from the fridge, sat something very curious looking.  Because of its small size and grayish color my first assumption was that it was a ball of fuzz (a dust bunny) that just happened to be in the shape of a tiny frog.  The only puzzling aspect of my conclusion was that I had been in the kitchen not two hours before and had since been alone in the house.  Since dust bunnies normally originate from underneath the refrigerator, I was confused as to how one had gotten to it’s present location which was several feet away.

Thinking that I should definitely tidy up before my wife made it home I took a few steps closer and was amazed to discover that the “dust bunny” was actually the smallest frog that I had ever seen.  Noticing his dusty feet, I guessed that he must have been hiding underneath the fridge until very recently.  And he was now sitting in my kitchen floor!

Not wanting to miss the chance to record the little guy for posterity, (mostly to show my wife later) I ran and got my digital camera.  After a couple of pictures in which the tiny frog posed obediently and without protest, I realized that without some sort of familiar object the sense of scale was lost.  There was really no way to tell just how small the frog was from the picture.  That was when I had the bright idea to introduce some spare change to the situation.

You can see from the picture that accompanies this post that the tiny frog would have comfortably fit on top of a quarter with room to spare.

Not wanting to endanger the frog’s life when we let the cat back in later in the evening, I decided to embark on a rescue mission.  I grabbed the smallest cup that I could find and gently placed my hand behind the frog with the cup in front of him.  Thinking the frog would jump into the cup I was very surprised when he suddenly jumped up onto the lip of the cup and seemed to be very contented to say there.

For the short trip through the kitchen and across the porch to the edge of the sidewalk the tiny frog sat very regally on his perch until I lowered the cup to the ground.  With a quick series of motions he hopped off of the cup and disappeared into the dewy dampness of the lawn.  Feeling quite pleased with myself, I turned to head back inside the house when I got the strangest impression in my mind.

I was just like that tiny little frog.

Like my little friend, in the trials of life I often loose my way and end up in places that I have no business being in.  How often had I been completely and hopelessly out of sorts, stuck somewhere unfamiliar after coming through dark times and dirty places?  How many times had I looked up and realized that I was so tiny and the situation that I was in was so big and so much beyond me that I couldn’t even hope to see the end?  And how many times has my Heavenly Father stepped in to pick me up and bring me back to where I needed to be, gently and with loving care?

Every single time.  That’s how many.


Consider God’s Most Special Creation

encouragement,faith,christianitySomehow I felt that this topic would be better addressed personally, in video format.  Please take a few moments and watch the video and then honestly ask yourself how you feel about you.  Do you consider yourself God’s most special creation?

For those of you who can’t watch the video or would like to read the scripture that I am using, here it is:

1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

(Psalm 139: 1-16 NASB)


Godly perspective.  We all need it, especially as it concerns ourselves.  I believe that if we could comprehend just a little bit of how much God really loves us then it would radically alter how we live our lives, how we treat other people and how we see ourselves.  Do you realize how special you are to Him?  I hope that you do and I hope you can share that with someone else this week.


Do You Speak the Language of God?

god's love,regeneration.salvationI’ll never forget what the man said that day.  It was an introduction to a church service quite unlike anything that I had ever heard before.  This man told a story about a funeral he had recently attended that held very special meaning for him.  This is what he said:

The deceased had been deaf and mute his entire life.  Despite this particular challenge he had lived a full life that was full of love with a wife and two daughters. During the funeral one of this man’s daughters got up to speak.  She said that she was several years old before she began to learn sign language and could begin to effectively communicate with her father.  She knew she was loved from the time that she was a baby because of the way he treated her but she never heard him say a single word in his entire life.  His type of speaking was completely different.

Imagine this man, this father, going three, four or even five years into the lives of his daughters before he could tell them how much he loved them.  Imagine all of the things that he wanted to teach them and to show them but was unable to because they could not understand his language.  But oh, what joy when the language barrier was finally broken and the children began to understand what their father had been trying to tell them all along.  “I love you, you belong in my family.  You belong to me”

We have a Heavenly Father who desperately wants to communicate to us how much he loves us.  He created us.  He knows us intimately and we are His children.  But so many of us don’t speak his language.

The natural man cannot understand the holy, perfect language of God.  (1 Corinthians 2:14)  Without the regenerating power of the blood of Jesus Christ we are lost and without hope and are unable to see or understand all that God has prepared for us.  When we accept the sacrifice of Jesus and admit and repent of our sinful state then the Spirit of God can begin the process of teaching us to understand that which is holy and perfect.

The more we seek that which is of the Spirit the more we will begin to understand His character and His great love and great grace as He draws near to us. (James 4:8)  Learning to understand the language of God happens when we get to know Him as our creator, deliverer, savior and friend.  I hope that you are learning the language of God even now so that you can hear him say, “I love you, you are my child and you are my treasure”.

I would love to hear how God has been speaking to you lately and telling you that He loves you!


The God that Meets Us

God, seek, meetsHave you ever stopped to consider why God pursues us like He does?  I have, and it amazes me more and more all the time.  In fact, whenever I think I have gained a little bit of understanding about God’s great love He shows me something else that astounds me all over again.

God is love.  We say it all the time.  And we even think we know what it means.  But we don’t; not really.  We try to impose our idea of love and companionship on what God is doing with us and that of course leads us to a very imperfect understanding and a very distorted picture.  I believe this is why Paul wrote “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Matthew Henry, the respected 17th Century theologian, said it like this: “All things are dark and confused now, compared with what they will be hereafter. They can only be seen as by the reflection in a mirror, or in the description of a riddle; but hereafter our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. It is the light of heaven only, that will remove all clouds and darkness that hide the face of God from us.”

One day we will understand that God is love.  We will see Him face to face and I believe that first glimpse will far surpass the sum of every happiness and joy that we have ever experienced.  It will be worth the wait. It will be worth all the work. And it will far surpass the world that we have forsaken.

Even so, God is drawing us to know Him now.  Notice the last part of 1 Corinthians 13:12.  “Just as I also am known.”  God knows us.  He knows us completely and totally.  And yet He still loves and accepts us and invites us into a relationship with Him.

No matter how far we run, no matter what we do or what we become; God comes to meet us.

We see this illustrated in the parable of The Lost Sheep in the 15th Chapter of Luke.  The shepherd, who represents Jesus, looses 1 sheep out of his flock of 100.  He goes and searches for His lost sheep and when he finds it He picks it up, puts on His shoulders (can you imagine being in a better spot than carried on the mighty shoulders of our God?) and returns to the flock.  When he arrives home, all of His friends and neighbors (the heavenly host) rejoice that the one lost sheep has been found.

There is joy in heaven and on earth when God comes to meet us and we let him carry us home.  The desire of our Lord is to carry each and every one of His precious children home but he always gives us the choice.  It is our decision to make.  Just remember, the journey home starts when we allow God to meet us right where we are, just as we are.

Have you allowed God to meet with you?  Are you already on the path that leads to a home eternal?

Go With What You Know: Know All You Can

Bible study,learning,faith in actionAs Christians, we are called to act on our faith.  Certainly, what we believe is very important, but it is our speech and our actions that ultimately show the world God’s love in a personal way.

Go with What You Know

I have been in more than one conversation lately where the speaker expressed some confusion over finding God’s will for their life.  This is something we all struggle with from time to time.  Regrettably, it is all too easy to become anxious in our searching and to let the search become our focus.  In doing so, we overlook God’s provision and blessing that is sufficient for today.   We lose our joy and our simple moment by moment dependence on God because we’re looking in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

God reveals His plan as we are ready to receive it and on His timetable.  Our God is a God of order.  His order always includes our surrender and obedience first and then His word to us second.  He will not give us a fresh word until we’ve been obedient with that which He has already given us.  If there is something that we have not dealt with, some sin or matter of faith that we are not acting on, then we can’t expect God to speak beyond the place that we have stopped.

God is pleased when we seek His plan for our life.  Even better, however, is when we seek God Himself above anything and everything else.  The moment we try to get away from “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33a) is the moment we take our eyes off of Him and, like Peter, start to sink in the waves of our circumstances.

Go with what you know.  Live each day in simple reliance on our Heavenly Father and seek Him above and beyond anything else.  “and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33b)

Know all You Can

Even as we seek to live in simple reliance on God we never have an excuse to stop learning, cease growing or stand still in our faith.  I believe an honest and true search for the face of God will encompass as much study, prayer and learning time as we can muster, and will continue even into the next life where finally see Him face to face.

That’s why we simply don’t have time to be distracted.  God is so big, so wonderful and so amazing that spending the time to get to know Him is always to our benefit.  God wants to bless His children by using them to bless others and by giving them more of Himself.  That can only happen as we strive to know Him ever better and understand His love ever greater.

No matter where you are in your journey of faith, the principles remain the same.  Seek God first and above all.   Love Him with your whole heart and let nothing stand between you and Him.  Learn all you can about your Heavenly Father by spending time with Him and His children and grow strong in your faith and your knowledge of God.

Are you searching for God and His will in your life right now?  What obstacles seem to be in the way?  What’s keeping you from being exactly what God would have you to be?