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Encouragers

August 8th, 2014

May our Lord Jesus Christ . .  encourage your hearts” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV.

Encouragement is a gift anyone can give and everyone appreciates.

My thoughts and comments today are about “encouragers.”

Disappointment occurs when expectations and assumptions are “not as appointed.” If disappointment lingers or when multiple disappointments occur, discouragement results. Discouragement has an emotional element, but is much more. The emotion disguises a loss of courage to persevere. Inaccurate though such feelings may be, they temporarily persuade you that your current disappointment is predictive of your future. God has good news for you. “Therefore we do not lose heart . . inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV. Courage is the confidence that God has everything under control and all will be well.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV. When discouraged, read that slowly and frequently. Sometimes, God encourages you by sending an encourager into your situation.

Paul described his need for encouragement. “There was no rest for us . . outside there were conflicts, inside there were fears – have you ever identified with those feelings? – but God who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy . . so was the news he brought . .” 2 Corinthians 7:5-8 NLT. I remember my Dad saying, “Everyone makes others happy. Some when they come and some when they go.” Be like Titus, a joyful presence and carrier of good news.

Everyone needs an encourager, a friend who helps you feel, then believe, that there is reason to be hopeful. You can be a world-class encourager, if you will. Maybe you never assumed that what you could say or do would make any difference. But it does, and you can. The person who waits to only do great things, never does the ordinary things they could have been doing all along that make a difference. Joseph became so good at blessing others that they changed his name to Barnabas, “son of encouragement.” Acts 4:36 NIV.

Encouragement is a gift anyone can give and everyone appreciates. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV. Once you see a face brighten by a word shared or a heart lifted by a kindness shown, you will search for every opportunity to encourage others. The practice becomes a habit, then the habit becomes a lifestyle, and the lifestyle becomes contagious.  

There is someone nearby who needs you to be an encourager. The surest way to be perpetually encouraged is to practice the joy of encouraging someone else. When people see you coming, may they feel as Paul did, “At the sight of these men, Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” Acts 28:15 NIV. Good company always brightens a day and blesses a heart.

Today, my prayer is for you to live with courage, encouraging others along the way.

(Bible references are NKJV unless noted.) 11097

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Second Chances

January 14th, 2013

In Christ, God extends grace to all.

“Bring [Mark] . . he is profitable to me for the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11 KJV

I love the Bible’s true-to-life examples. Mark, a cousin of Barnabas, was a young man traveling with Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey. For unexplained reasons, Mark left them to return home. Acts 13:13. His departure was not acceptable to Paul, causing a strong disagreement when Barnabas wanted again to bring his younger cousin. Acts 15:36-40 NIV.

Paul’s feelings were strong indeed, Mark being described as having “deserted them and not continued in the work.” Vs. 38. Mark needed a second chance Paul was not willing to give, feeling further investment would be unprofitable. The Bible is silent about how reconciliation happened but later from prison, Paul asked Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for He is profitable [helpful/useful] to me for the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11 KJV.

Any of us may have felt disappointed in someone as Paul did, or felt as lost and alone as Mark might have. Do you need another chance, or is there someone who needs that from you? Paul’s writings are peppered with plentiful references to grace. I wonder if time and his growing discovery of the awesome grace God had shown him opened his heart anew to Mark and others. I love Paul’s endearing letter asking a second chance for Onesimus, Philemon’s run away slave, who met Jesus through Paul’s testimony: “Who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me . . no longer a slave but more . . a beloved brother.” Philemon 1:11/16 NKJV. I want it to be true of me that I was, “profitable for ministry.”

Second chances are not optional; they are necessities. Everyone needs them. Why? Because everyone has a flawed history. Of all the things common to us, imperfection is a certainty. Try as you will, sooner or later and usually sooner, you will make mistakes and when you do you will need a second chance, or a third or fourth. “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man.” James 3:2 NIV. Who would dare claim to be perfect?

The Bible is clear about our common history. “If we claim we have not sinned, we make [Jesus] to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives . . For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 1 John 1:10 NIV/Romans 3:23 NKJV. In Christ, God extends grace to all. To the Christ-followers in wicked Rome, Paul marveled at God’s grace: “. . being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:24-26 NKJV. Those words necessitate careful reading and thoughtful reflection.

Maybe you think you don’t deserve grace; well, you don’t and never could. Grace is freely given, not earned or deserved. Maybe you’re afraid to ask others to forgive you; or you can’t forgive yourself; or you won’t believe God would forgive you. Nothing you have done should disqualify you from a second chance, except refusing to accept it. It’s never the perfection of the clay on the potter’s wheel that guarantees success; it’s the wisdom and determined skill of the potter’s hands. Read Jeremiah 18:1-4 NLT.

Paul wrote of sinful and shameful behavior in Corinth that would make the average person blush, “. . [who] will not inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11 NKJV. There’s a reason grace is amazing! In Jesus, you are not what you were! Romans 5:1-2/Ephesians 2:1-10 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that your life is profitable to God and others.

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Encouragers

May 24th, 2012

“Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

Life requires courage and others who encourage that in you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “encouragers.”

I remember watching our grandsons play basketball, while our granddaughter was among the enthusiastic cheerleaders cheering for the team. Hearing those cheering voices must be a great feeling. Anyone can celebrate after the game has been won, but cheering is more inspirational while the game is still being played. In your life, someone in a tough time needs you to cheer for them. See Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT. Be a cheerleader for others, as someone has been for you.

There are things in everyday life that slowly deplete strength, dampen hope, or drain courage – times when you simply wonder if you have the strength to go on, feeling drained, even disheartened. You succumb to a pessimistic subjectivity. You need encouragement, the words or example of someone whose belief in you help recapture courage. Not anyone can do everything, but anyone can be an encourager. You can do this! Paul wrote, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV. That doesn’t sound like a suggestion.

There was a man in the young church in Jerusalem for whom encouraging others was so much a part of his lifestyle that those who knew him best changed his name to something that fitted him well. His name was Joseph, but his friends changed his name to Barnabas, “son of encouragement.” See Acts 4:36 NIV. Saul, the persecutor of the church, may never have become Paul, the great missionary, apostle, and author without the encouragement of Barnabas. See Acts 9:26-28 NKJV. Barnabas linked his good name with Saul’s name and reputation, introducing the new convert with a frightening history to a circle of faith that previously excluded him, settling unsettling questions the young church had about Saul.

Later, John Mark made a young man’s mistake and was deemed unreliable by Paul and others, but Barnabas saw good in John Mark that others didn’t bother to see. Acts 15:36-39 NIV. They saw his mistake; Barnabas saw his worth. The man whose lifestyle was to encourage found another life under God’s construction that needed encouragement. Did it help? Well, consider this. John Mark eventually wrote the Gospel of Mark, as had been told to him by Peter. Would he have done so, if someone had not encouraged him when he could not encourage himself? Mark would not likely have found the courage to try again without Barnabas’ help?

Someone says, “You can do this!” And your heart finds courage to believe you can. You will rarely need the size of courage that faces extreme danger or dares to attempt the impossible. But every day, there are those small but important moments when you need fresh courage – to trust a little longer, to walk a little further, to try a little harder, to believe a little more, to obey a little better, to bravely try again when you want to give up, and maybe when it counts most, to accomplish what you weren’t sure you could. You can encourage someone today, and make an eternal difference.

My prayer for you today is that you hear the cheers and have new courage.

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Words of Encouragement

March 25th, 2011

“Barnabas . . was glad and encouraged them all.” Acts 11:23 NIV

“When you encourage others, you are doing the work of God.”

My thoughts today are about “words of encouragement.”

It’s pretty simple, obvious really; you can’t give something to others unless it is first real in you. Out of your own experience, you best help others. Remember a time when you faced something unfamiliar and a friend who had walked there before showed you the right path? They were sharing what they had, and you became the beneficiary.

You probably don’t recognize the name, “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus,” but you probably will know the name others soon called him – “Barnabas, son of encouragement.” Acts 4:36 NIV. Encouragement was not just what Barnabas did; encouragement was all about who Barnabas wanted to be, and who he became in the lives of others.  That can be true of you also.

Encouragement was both his character and his lifestyle. He encouraged the church to receive the recent convert, Saul. Acts 9:26-28. He encouraged Saul to join him in the revival at Antioch. Acts 11:25-26. He encouraged young John Mark, giving him a second chance and including him, when Paul would not. Acts 15:36-39. I have received second chances many times, and was encouraged to do better.

The incident when Barnabas was sent to encourage the new converts in Antioch evidenced his much deserved reputation. “The Church at Jerusalem . . sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” Acts 11:22-24 NIV.

Did you notice a sequence? “He was glad.” He was encouraged by the new life and sincere faith he found, and so he encouraged the new believers in what they were doing and how well they were doing so. “He encouraged them!” He gave them inner courage and confidence to continue in a job well done. Have you ever needed that, and receiving it made all the difference in your energy and persistence to continue? Are you being that point of encouragement to someone?

I would suggest that Barnabas, true to his nature, came expecting to find something for which to encourage these new believers. If they were anything like you or me, there were probably numerous things that could have been better, various things that could have been accurately critiqued. He wasn’t looking for those things; Barnabas was looking for whatever good things he could affirm and reinforce to encourage their continuing growth. The best way to correct the things that lack is to encourage a person who is trying to do better.

I have observed that people usually find what you are looking for. If you are looking for things to correct, you can find them. Look for things to commend; you can find plenty of those as well. People are usually better at the first of those two. “May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV. When you encourage others, you are doing the work of God. See Romans 15:4-8 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you learn the skill of encouraging others.

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Encouragers

March 9th, 2011

“They cheered me greatly . . a wonderful encouragement to me.” 1 Corinthians 16:18 TLB

“Everyone needs a friend to listen and care, and a place to be refreshed.”

My thoughts today are about “encouragers.”

Everybody needs somebody sometime. Some people seem to need somebody all the time. Most of us have times that we just need a friend to be with or talk to – a friend to listen and care, and a place to be refreshed. The Apostle Paul, prolific author and missionary, understood those times. His letters frequently name his companions, or those who were helpers in his journeys. Their names are mostly obscure, little known except to Paul and a few others at the time. But they were people that made a big difference in Paul’s life and ministry.

“I am so glad that Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus have arrived for a visit . . they have cheered me greatly and have been a wonderful encouragement to me . . I hope you properly appreciate the works of such men as these.” 1 Corinthians 16:17-18 TLB. Paul was cheered and encouraged by the arrival of his friends. I am so glad I have had friends like that; I can only hope that I have been a friend like that.

No one’s life is only about good times. Sometimes, the road you journey is hard and the concerns you carry are heavy. Friends can make the worst day a better day, the unpleasant bearable and the difficult possible. If you want others to be there in your tough times, be sure that you make time for them and appreciate them in the best times, and that you are there in their tough times.

Encouragement is a common New Testament theme. At the heart of encouragement is the idea of “courage.” Everyday life takes courage, and to keep encouraged you need the company and help of others. “When the (believers in Rome) heard about us they came to meet us . . when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15 NKJV.

God Himself is the greatest of encouragers: “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV. For encouragement, your best place to begin is God. He is there when others cannot be; His care for you is unchanging. And who could better inspire and instill courage in you than God?

You are to be a great encourager. You can make a difference in others’ lives; others will make a difference in yours. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing . . think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV/Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT.

You can encourage yourself. More than from others, discouragement often comes from you – what you choose to think, feel, or believe. People rehearse their discouragement. That being true, you can also encourage yourself by changing what you think about, managing your feelings more positively, and being firm in faith. “David was distressed . . but encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6 KJV. If David can do that, you can do that. Be encouraged in God today!

My prayer for you today is: be encouraged in God’s goodness and share that with others.

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