A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT - This page is being designed for those who may need a tad of encouragement in the daily crucible of life. There is much in Scripture that has to do with the encouragement that is available in Jesus Christ. You may be a believer or one who is in the process of coming to faith in Him. I pray that you will continue in that direction. As I read Hebrews 10:25, we are to encourage one another increasingly as the return of Christ approaches. The word "encourage" means to speak words of encouragement, comfort, cheer, and more. Who among us has more of this than we need? We will try to brief and to the point with some biblical truth that will help you in your walk with the Savior. While you are thinking about it, why not speak a word of encouragement to someone, today. Who knows? It might just cheer you up a bit, as well.
God bless you as you daily walk with Him,
A Word of Encouragement - Life is a Battle
My friend, the Christian life is a battle. We all need help if we are to win. The Christian life requires courage to effectively face the world, the flesh and the devil. The enemy is real. There are times in our lives when we wonder if it is worth the effort. Where can we go for encouragement?
The second chapter of Philippians begins with, “Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ.” Our English translation conveys the possibility that there may not be. However, the original language clarifies with a first class condition which removes any doubt. It assumes that there is encouragement in Christ. It could be translated, “Since there is …”
The phrase “in Christ” is one of the Apostle’s favorite expressions. It speaks our union with the Savior that takes place once we place our faith in Him for salvation. It is a relationship with Jesus that enables us to receive all the resources that He has to offer. Encouragement is one of those resources.
Chapter one ends with an acknowledgement that the world is in conflict with the Christian and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul experienced it when he went to Philippi and so did the Philippians. In this battle, there is need for courage. Sometimes, I wonder who is winning. The world, the flesh and the devil are in full force against the Christian and his/her desire to live for God. It is only through Christ and His indwelling Holy Spirit that we find hope and encouragement to move forward. When we try in our own strength, we fail every time.
Could it be that today you have lost some of your courage and wonder if it worth living for the Lord and obeying Him? The world is constantly alluring us to follow its moral standards instead of God’s. It could be that you have allowed yourself to be influenced by the world around you instead of seeking God’s help. Go to Him in prayer, confess your sin (1 John 1:9) and ask Him to supply His encouragement as you face today’s challenges. You will find great encouragement in Him. Remember, without Him we are incapable of doing anything of value in His sight (John 15:5).
So, the next time you feel discouraged, go to the One who can and will supply the encouragement that you need. Trust Him for His help and strength to face your challenges and recommit yourself to a life of obedience to God. That is the only way to win the conflict.
If you are in Independence this next weekend, I invite you to join us at Sierra Baptist Church this Lord’s Day at 11:00 am. We will continue in Philippians chapter two. You will find encouragement as we consider the example that Jesus left us. His life shows us how to live and sacrifice for one another.
If you do not live in this area, find a good church home where the Bible is taught and people are learning to love the Lord and one another. Commit yourself to attend regularly. Remember, it is the Lord’s Day. Put Him first. You will find help to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Savior (2 Peter 3:18). God bless you.
Continuing in the battle,
A Word of Encouragement – Relationships
Relationships with people are important. People who have touched your life in a positive way are usually included in your list of “friends.” Those friendships are made by sharing life experiences. The Apostle Paul had served in Ephesus for three years and had experienced good and difficult times with them. He was headed toward Jerusalem on his third journey when he stopped at “Miletus Beach” and called for the Ephesian church leaders to join him for a final farewell. Farewells between friends are usually not easy. This was no exception. Luke gives us Paul’s evaluation of his relationship with them.
"You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials…” (Acts 20:18-19 NASB) .
Note three things:
1. He was with them.
2. He was serving the Lord with them.
3. He had experienced “tears and trials” with them.
The time we spend with people walking through the uncertainties of life are often those with whom we have a strong bond. It is that person you go to when your heart hurts and you just need someone to talk to. It is the good and bad times spent together that tend to build relationships. Do you remember a family outing when Johnny broke his leg or Sally almost drowned in the creek or . . . ? You recall your experience. It is likely one you will never forget. You value the people involved.
It is experiences we have serving the Lord with others through “tears and trials” that cement relationships. Do you have someone in your life that fits? Perhaps it is someone in your past that needs a call or a “text” just to tell them how much your relationship with them means to you. You just might find yourself being an encourager. God only knows how much we need each other.
Remember, there is a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). You can be sure that Jesus is one of those friends who sticks with you through thick and thin. You might want to talk to Him and thank Him for the relationship.
A Word of Encouragement – God Starts and Finishes
Last Sunday in church, we sang Steve’s Green’s, He Who Began a Good Work in You. I have been humming it all week. The song is based on one my favorite Scripture verses, Philippians 1:6. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
It was sixty-seven years ago as a boy of seven (you do the math) that God began His work of grace in my life. The night is vividly etched in my memory. The green sofa material made indentions in my arms as I knelt with my dad at our living room couch and put my trust in Jesus to forgive me and make me His child. It was a life-changing moment.
That was only the beginning. The night of my rebirth has grown into a life of service for the Lord Jesus. There have been times my faith has wobbled a bit, things said and actions done that God has forgiven (1 John 1:9). But God continues to be faithful in working His grace in me on a daily basis. He has promised to continue that work until I see Him.
The song continues:
If the struggle you're facing is slowly replacing
Your hope with despair or the process is long
And you're losing your song
In the night you can be sure
That the Lord has His hand on you
Safe and secure
He will never abandon you
You are His treasure
And He finds His pleasure in you
Perhaps your recall a time when you received the Savior, but the struggles of life have dimmed the relationship and you wonder, “Has God forgotten me?” You can be sure that God does not forget. He will never “abandon” His own! What He starts, He finishes. You need to trust Him to finish His work in you. If you question the genuineness of your faith, renew it today. Be sure that your trust is in Him.
You may be one who has yet to trust the Savior to forgive you and make you His child. Trust Him now and begin a new life with Him. Trust Him to begin a good work in you.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16, NASB).
One thing is certain. The majority of my life on this earth has been lived. At least, I am working on the second half. The Apostle Paul realized that reality as he spoke to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.
But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God (vs. 24, NASB).
My prayer is that I will “finish my course” well. If I do, it will be because of God’s faithfulness in finishing the work He started sixty-seven years ago. When I see Him, I plan to say, “It was all because of Your grace. What You started, You finished!
Toward the Finish,
A Word of Encouragement – Faith in God
How is your faith as you approach the New Year?
Perhaps, you have heard someone say, “I don’t know what I would have done if it were not for my faith.” Is that really true? Are we to celebrate faith? I think not. Faith is important because without it we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). However, faith does not produce reality. A lady, in a church where I served, came to me on a Sunday morning and asked how I was. I mentioned to her that I was a bit “under the weather” with a cold. “Oh, pastor, don’t say it or it will be true.” I said, somewhat facetiously, “Okay, I do not have a cold, but my nose is running.” The “name it, claim it” teaching has been around for some time. Along with it is the teaching that faith produces reality. It says, “If you really believe it, it will happen.” That is very close to saying, “God, this is what I want and you are obligated to do it.” If I say it or believe it, will it happen? The reality is that sometimes what I believe or say does not come true. God has a different plan. Then, what happens to my faith?
James addresses this matter (James 4:13-15, NASB).
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
The reality is that we do not know what tomorrow will bring. God does know and His will is perfect (Rom. 12:2) because He is perfect. He is able to do more than we can ask or even think (Eph. 3:20). Faith is trusting our all-powerful and loving God to do what is best in any given situation. He is the One who always knows best. So, what about my faith? My faith is in God. I don’t know what I would do without Him (Prov. 3:5-6). What He does is for my good and for His glory (Rom. 8:28). That is reality!
I invite you to put your trust in Him for salvation (John 3:16). Then, live each day with your faith in Him. Celebrate Him and your faith will grow stronger.
Happy New Year!
A Word of Encouragement: Cared For
A little boy of nine lost his mother to cancer. His daddy was also in poor health and soon was sent to a hospital for tuberculosis patients. Following six months of rehab, the daddy returned to the home. The boy also returned from his loving grandmother’s home. Through these experiences, the little boy was told many times, “God will take care of you.” Bible verses were quoted to help ease the little boy’s concerns. However, he knew there was a real possibility that he might become an orphan. In spite of the fact that he was learning to trust God, there was the reality that he might have to say goodbye to his daddy too.
The year that followed his mother’s death, the boy and his father moved to a small town that provided a rental house and a very meager income. Soon, it became apparent that they would need to move. There was not enough money to continue. The new home did not provide a lot of frills that many kids assume. Yet, the boy and his daddy managed to make a new life together. As the boy grew, it was made possible for him to attend a Christian high school. During these years, his faith grew and he decided to go for training in a Christian college. He met and married a beautiful lady and together, following seminary training, began a life of service for God. For the next nearly fifty years, they served. They had two children who also learned to love and serve.
There is more thing. This is a true story. The little boy was me. My Daddy lived to be ninety-seven. Hard to believe? God did take care of me!
He will take care of you too. How? I do not know. Your story will be different than mine. I do know that God loves you and cares for you in whatever circumstances you face. “You can throw the whole weight of your anxiety on Him, for you are his personal concern” (1 Peter 5:7, Phillips). He loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die for you.
The Lord Jesus promised to be with His believing children, always (Matt. 28:20)! He has promised His enduring presence through His Spirit who indwells us.
Every day we live is different. It brings challenges to our faith. There are bright sunny days and ones that include a cloud cover. We may sing with the sun and weep with the clouds, but God’s presence is certain. When your faith wobbles, ask God to increase and stabilize your faith in Him (Mark. 9:24). My faith has needed “propping up” many times. I have found that God’s grace addresses every situation that I have faced. When I am faithless, He remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).
God took care of me and continues to do so. Trust Him to provide His love and care for you, today.
A Word of Encouragement: Remember the Roses
Stop and smell the roses. Have you ever wondered why God gave us memories? “Remember” the familiar statement, “God has given us memories so that we can have roses in January?” Many times, the Scripture calls us to remember. God always remembers, but sometimes we forget. Our “forgetter” seems to mature as we grow older. Remember what God has begun in your life by saving you, He will continue and complete (Phil. 2:13; 1:6).
We all tend to have short memories in recalling God’s faithfulness. God called Israel to remembrance when He said, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you” (Deuteronomy 15:15). Even so, they forgot. Perhaps you have known the Lord Jesus as your Savior for many years and you need a reminder too. If so, I encourage you to remember that He has redeemed (purchased) you for Himself with a great price (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). “Stop and smell the roses” of God’s grace.
Perhaps you are one who has yet to trust in Jesus for salvation. He has already paid the full price for your freedom and forgiveness. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Salvation is not something you work for. God has already accomplished the necessary “work.” Jesus died for you! Salvation and forgiveness is a gracious gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). I encourage you to trust Him to forgive you of your sins and give you His gift of eternal life. If you do so, you too will have cause to remember God’s grace operating in your life. You will have beautiful roses to remember.
Stop now and smell the roses of God’s wonderful grace.
Grace to you,
A Word of Encouragement: Refuge and Strength
Martin Luther wrote a great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God a bulwark never failing.” A fortress is a place of refuge from enemy attack. A bulwark is a structure that is used to defend against pending danger. I read recently that in Old Russia every town was built around a fortress where the citizens gathered when threatened by attack. It was a place of refuge. They called the fortress by a term we know – kremlin. The psalmist acknowledged the need to trust God especially in times of danger. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
We live in a world threatened by terrorists, health and social issues, financial stress and much more. Is it not incumbent on us to seek the refuge available in God who is our refuge and strength? Take your fears (and you have them) and rest in God’s infinite strength and protection. He is our “never failing” refuge!
A Word of Encouragement: Prayer and God's Will
When it comes to prayer, does your faith ever wobble, just a bit? Be honest! Mine does. Does God really answer prayer? I confess that I do not understand all I know about prayer. However, I have found that staying in God’s Word daily is the best way for my faith to strengthen and my confidence in the Lord to grow. The Scripture encourages me to pray continually and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
God has promised to grant our requests when we pray according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). Really? According to His will (vs. 14)? Is that some sort of divine “cop out?” Then, I remember that God’s will is “perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Whenever I find something perfect, I can mess it up in a hurry trying to fix it, but I can never improve on it.
God’s will is the best that can happen to me. First, I trust God to help me to do what He has revealed in His Word as His will. Then, I pray and rely on Him to do what is best and He does. If He chooses to grant my request, that is best. If He chooses not to grant it, that is best too. Do I completely understand that? Not really! But I continue to pray and trust Him to fulfill His purpose in my life. When I do, things happen. My faith stabilizes. Through this process I am learning to lean on Him more completely. My prayer is that you are too. May God give us the grace to trust Him and pray for His will to be accomplished. That is ALWAYS best! I pray that you will learn to trust God for His best in your life.
Learning to lean,
A Word of Encouragement: Zealots for Jesus
Are you a Zealot? I am not referring to a group of first century political activists vying for the forceful overthrow of Rome. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples had been a Zealot before following Jesus. The word zealous means passionate, enthusiastic, and eager. The term, however, is used other ways than politically. Among them is the reference Elijah made concerning his commitment to God. He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts (1 Kings 19:10, 14).” Other places, I found that people were zealous for the Law of Moses (Acts 21:20; 22:3), for ancestral traditions (Gal. 1:14) and even for spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:12). However, the one that caught my attention and brought to mind my initial question is found in Titus 2:14. Paul writes that Christ has redeemed and purified us to be His very own possession, “Zealous for good deeds.” That passage is referring to our activism while we wait for His return, the “blessed hope.”
Politics puts many people on edge. Political zealots exhibit great eagerness and enthusiasm for a candidate or cause. Could it be that we should seize this opportunity to strengthen our zeal for serving the Lord?
The next time you run into a political activist who is zealous for their view, use it as a reminder to turn up your enthusiasm for serving Jesus as we wait for His return. Whether or not you win a political debate, you will accomplish more for God’s Kingdom if you are a Zealot for Him. You can be sure, the benefits are long-term!
Zealous for your encouragement,
A Word of Encouragement: Magnifying God
Just how big is God? When should we praise Him? David says, “At all times” (Psalm 34:1). We tend to praise the Lord when things are going well. However, David wrote these words at a time of great pressure and fear. In fact, he feared the pagan king, Achish of Gath, so much that he pretended to be insane in order to save his own life (1 Sam. 21). One of the reasons we fear trouble is that our God seems smaller than our trouble. For sure, we wouldn’t say that, but is it true? That may be why David encourages his readers to “Magnify the Lord” with him. A magnifying glass does not change the size of an object, but it causes it to appear larger and gives us a clearer picture of it. Could it be that when we face times of fear God wants us to get a fresher understanding of His greatness and power? In that sense, we can magnify Him. He clearly is our God who is able to do more that we can ever ask or think (Eph. 3:20). We serve a great God. His greatness is beyond description. There is nothing in our lives today that can begin to challenge that greatness. Trust Him, magnify Him and you will find reason to praise Him today. Have a MAGNIFICENT day! Praise the Lord!
Serving a Great God,
A Word of Encouragement: What to Blush About
A friend of mine from days of yore (and I do mean yore) wrote an important message in his blog. We were high school buddies. Since those days this man has been well schooled with a Ph.D., served as a Christian university professor and president. I enjoy reading his thoughtful blogs. Yesterday, his grief concerned all the shame our society places on us concerning sins of the past (i.e. mistreatment of women, slavery, the Crusades and more). He candidly remarked, “I am tired of all this shame.” He continued with quotations from Psalm 73 and Isaiah 56 and gave the solution found in God’s forgiveness. I thought I would pass on to you my response to him with the following:
Could it be that our PC culture has called us to shameful feelings about the wrong things? You have mentioned several. God spoke through Jeremiah concerning his generation. "Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush" (Jer. 6:15). Obviously, there was plenty of shame to go around. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have been forgiven and continue to be (I Jn. 1:9). It is common for people to live defeated lives in a pile of guilt of sins past that have been forgiven. Shameful! I am in the restoration business, helping people to accept God's forgiveness. May God give us the ability the "blush" over the right things and accept His gracious forgiveness. Then, we can be free of shame and experience the fullness of His joy.
A Word of Encouragement: Guilt vs. Forgiveness
I woke this morning with news of rioting in the streets of our country. There is something shameful going on in our world. The answers are not easy. However, Jeremiah put his pen on the basic problem. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer. 17:9)? The prophet says it is the Lord that searches the heart. The problem is a matter of the heart. The nation of Israel had “forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.” He says that all who forsake Him will be “put to shame.” Pray with me that our nation will turn to God in whom we claim to trust. It is only there that we will find answers to the national problems we face.
How about you? Do you feel shame about anything in your life? If so, acknowledge it before the Lord (1 John 1:9), turn from it and accept God’s forgiveness. Don't waddle around in a pile of guilt. God delights in unloading guilt from those who come to Him. If you have yet to trust in Jesus as your Savior, you will find in Him the beginning of the solution.
It is only through Jesus that our problem of shame will be solved so that we will take delight today with His peace and joy.
Forgiven and rejoicing,
A Word of Encouragement: Birds on a Perch
My wife likes to watch birds. One thing that I have noticed is that birds usually do not come alone. They perch on tree branches in clear view of the feeder as each one vies for the remaining morsels. Do you ever feel that you are sitting on the branch all by yourself? The psalmist must have felt that way when He wrote, “I lie awake, I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop” (Psalm 102:7). Perhaps, you have felt that same loneness. However, God has promised, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). I encourage you to “perch” with others to be “fed” this Sunday. Sometimes, we do call the place we meet, the “sanctuary.” That is where we “birds” meet to remind ourselves that we are never alone. Your “perch” is waiting!
How is that for a “Tweet” word of encouragement?
On the perch,