Tag Archives: encouragement

May 31; Joy and Health

Proverbs 14-15

My prayer for you today is Proverbs 15:30. May you have joy in your heart regardless of circumstances. May you be surrounded by people who love you and love the Lord. May their smiles put a smile on your face. And may you be encouraged and strengthened with the Good News that your sins are forgiven, that Jesus is your Savior, that God is your Father, and that His Spirit lives in you.

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

Job 3-7; Eliphaz

I have to believe Eliphaz meant well. But sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. Here are some things that spoke to me about the exchange between Eliphaz and his friend, Job:

First of all, if you want to encourage someone or support them during hard times, I wouldn’t start out by saying, “Practice what you preach.” Sometimes godly people, people who have encouraged others in the past, need encouragement for themselves. It’s not a sin. It’s life.

Secondly, telling a hurting person they must be guilty of SOMETHING or God wouldn’t be punishing them is a theology straight from hell. This whole, “God wants you to be healthy and successful” lie does as much harm as anything I can think of to keep Christians from a right relationship with God. Satan loves that.

I went to Dr. Wiersbe’s “With the Word” again today and he pointed out something I hadn’t seen before. Eliphaz proceeds to tell Job and anyone within hearing distance about his “encounter” with God. Red flag!

“Avoid those who make their experience the only test of truth.” (p. 285, WTW)

I know Eliphaz didn’t have a Bible on his bedside table. But most of us do. God is not going to speak to anyone any other way than through Scripture. His words are written there. Test everything you hear or read by what is written in the Bible. And I would say, be skeptical when you hear someone tell you God gave them a special message, if it doesn’t come from Scripture.

Lastly, there is something about the exchange between these two friends that makes me sad. Read 6:26-28. Job says, “look at me…”

Look at me. Hear me. Empathize with me. Love me. See me.

Too often we think the person who is hurting needs answers, or direction to fix things. We come up with great sounding words, maybe quote a Bible verse or two, because we want to say the right thing that will relieve their suffering. Good intentions. But…

Job reminds me to stop talking. To take a breath and just look at the person who is hurting. I hate it when someone says to a person who has lost a loved one, “God needed another angel,” or “It was his time,” or even “She’ll always be with you, looking down from heaven,” or with any hardship: “It was God’s will.”

If that’s the only encouragement you have, just be quiet. Sometimes there are no answers. Throwing out meaningless platitudes do nothing to let the hurting person know you are seeing them, really present with them in their agony.

And as I read these chapters today, I realize that is what Job really needed. He needed Eliphaz just to be present with him in his suffering. Sometimes there are no words that can take away someone’s hurt. Maybe it’s not even our place to try.

I’ll look at what Bildad has to teach me tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

Hey, Happy New Year! I pray that 2018 will find you walking with the Lord, being used by Him to lead others to the Savior, and growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus. Be in the Word every day. Pray every day. And expect to see God work mightily when you are obedient. It’s going to be a great year, my friend, as we move ahead as He leads.

 

April 6 – Safe Places

Judges 19-21

Where do you turn when you feel lost, or afraid, or overwhelmed by the circumstances of life? I hope you all can answer that question by saying you go directly to God in prayer.

But I’m talking in addition to that. When you get up off your knees, where do you go to feel safe? Who in your life represents that safe place we all need from time to time?

Judges 19 tells of a Jewish man traveling with his wife and servant. It was getting late in the day, and they were close to a town of non-Jewish people. The man decided to travel a bit further because he did not want to stay with foreigners. They went, instead, to Gibeah, a town of the tribe of Benjamin.

First of all, the travelers were ignored by their fellow Jews. No one offered to take them in until an old guy showed up and invited them into his home. Read the account for yourself. It’s horrible what happened.

Shouldn’t we be able to feel the safest with our families? Shouldn’t we be welcomed and cared for by those related to us? And shouldn’t the same be said for our churches?

This story made me think of those who have been hurt or betrayed by people in their homes, or in their churches. We probably all know someone who tells of mistreatment at the hands of those who they trusted to care for them. Maybe you have experienced that pain yourself.

If you describe your home as a Christian home, is it the one place on earth your children feel the most welcome, the safest, the best loved? Even when discipline is required?

Is your church fellowship warm and caring and forgiving? Or is there gossip and jealousy and pride running rampant? Do your members have reason to trust and support each other?

If there is hurt going on, don’t just stand by and let it happen. That makes you just as guilty as the one inflicting harm. Let’s put our homes and churches in order and set them as the standard for which everyone else strives.

Our Christian homes and our churches need to be the safest, most caring and loving places in the lives of our fellow Christians. And making that a reality is something you can do.

Dear God, I pray for all of us today as we take a look at our homes and our church fellowships. Convict those of us who are guilty of holding grudges, or having a mean temper, or who gossip, or are jealous… I pray that you will help us to repent, to speak up against mistreatment of our brothers and sisters, and to demand that our homes and churches be the safest place for a Christian to be. May You be glorified as we love one another like You love us.

Not-So-Common Sense

The Proverbs are rich in common sense (or not-so-common these days). Today I read in chapter 16 where it says a whisper can destroy a friendship.

Why is it some people think they have to tell everything they think they know? Why do some stretch the truth or pass on an opinion as fact? Why is it some people are intent on stirring things up, living in drama every day? And how many friendships, even marriages, could be saved if we would learn to control our tongues? (Read what James has to say on that subject in chapter three of his book).

You might whisper the latest gossip into the ear of your closest friend, but once you do you have no control over where it goes from there. And you have no control over the hurt caused by your little whisper. The damage is already done.

It’s like the internet, social media. A hard lesson many people have had to learn is that anything posted can NEVER be completely erased. That picture will always be in cyber space, accessible to anyone. That email sent in private is not so private there on the server.

A whisper, a text, a post can destroy your relationships, can destroy lives. Are you ok with that? Are you willing to be a part of that?

It should be common sense to know that spreading gossip is destructive. It should be common sense to know that the less said, the better on most subjects, especially if the subject is really none of your business or the business of the person you are telling. But God knew we don’t always use the sense we have, common or not.

So he inspired men to write down some common rules of living. Like what I read today in Proverbs. Like what James had to say.

Next time you are tempted to pass on that juicy bit of information… zip it. Show a little not-so-common sense.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for our tongues. That amazing muscle helps us speak, taste, swallow, chew. It’s a pretty handy invention you have there. But God, may we be reminded the power we have in the use of our tongues. May we control them, whether tempted to whisper that gossip in the ear of a friend, or use our fingers to type out the words before we hit “send”. May the words of our mouths and the meditation of hearts be acceptable to you, Lord. And may we use our words to build up, encourage one another rather than be any part of tearing somebody down.

Stormy Seas

I’ve never been in a storm at sea. I don’t even want to imagine the fear of being that exposed to danger out there surrounded by water miles deep. I’ve never been in a tropical storm or lived through a tornado. In fact, there have been only a few times I’ve even come close.

But as I read about the terror the passengers and crew experienced in the ship carrying Paul to Rome, I can relate. (Acts 27) Not because I’ve been there, but because I know to an extent, what it’s like to face storms of life.

Getting laid off from my job, Mom’s cancer, financial struggles, my sister’s cancer, my nephew Geoff’s death, Dad’s death. I can’t hold my storms up next to anyone else’s and say mine were harder or that mine were less significant. I only know there have been times that I felt hopeless and lost, when I found it hard to breathe, when fear of the future (or present) caused me sleepless nights.

The account of Paul’s storm at sea reminds me that, no matter how bad the circumstances, no matter how hopeless the future appears, when I am tossed about and can’t find the sun, God is standing next to me.

My only hope is to stay in the boat, holding on to my Savior, riding out the storm together. In this account in the book of Acts, God didn’t calm the storm. But the people on board made it safely to shore. This tells me that my circumstances might not change. The cancer diagnosis might not be a mistake. A broken relationship might not heal. Whatever the cause of my anxiety, depression, fear, might not magically disappear.

But God can see me safely to the other side. I can trust him. And I will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Presence. You are stronger than any storm I have to face. And I find comfort in knowing that… knowing You. I pray for those reading this today who are being bounced around in a frightening storm. I pray your strength, your comfort, your direction will be evident in the midst. I pray they will hold on, that they will trust you to see them through. Thank you in advance for what you are going to do in the lives of those of us who are facing stormy seas.

Jesus’ Counsel For A Healthy Life

Our society has gotten so far away from what Jesus said when he was here on earth. Where in Scripture does it say, “You’ve got to take care of yourself,” or “If you want to be healthy you have to come first”? These are lies straight from Satan’s lips. That’s the lie that got him thrown out of heaven.

Mental illness is a rampant plague, and I believe one reason is that even some Christians, have fallen for the infectious disease of “self”. People try so hard to feel good about themselves, to pull themselves up, to convince themselves they are worthy, when Scripture tells us we need to let go of “self”, admit we are filthy, helpless, needy people. Dear ones, admitting that is so freeing! The reality is we can’t be good in and of ourselves. And trying to be is making people crazy.

Jesus tells us not to exalt ourselves, not to think more highly of ourselves than we should, to come to him like a child, give up everything to follow him.

The Pharisee loudly prayed, “Boy, God. I’m glad I’m not like that guy over there. I tithe, I pray, I go to church, I don’t cheat on my wife, and people think I’m pretty awesome.”

Jesus said, “One day you’ll wish you were like that guy over there. He recognizes his sin. He’s bowed before me and repented. He’s wearing my righteousness, and what you are wearing is nothing but filthy rags.”

Don’t try to find those quotes in the Bible. Those words are mine. But if you read Luke 18, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Here’s the truth. I am a sinner, and so are you. I am incapable of being anything other than a sinner, and so are you. I fail. I make mistakes. And when I measure myself up against a holy God, I can’t come close.

But Jesus tells me I don’t have to. He wants to be that for me. And all I need to do is admit my helpless position, recognize my sin, and ask him to forgive me. He’s already got that robe of righteousness waiting for me because he bought it with his blood. I don’t have to try to be good. He puts his own goodness on me. I don’t have to convince myself I am worthy, he makes me worthy because he is worthy.

I pray Christians will recognize Satan’s lies in counseling sessions, on TV, in the books they read, the sermons they hear, and the conversations they have with friends. I would challenge you to do a study on the word, “humble” in the Bible. Use a concordance and look up the verses that speak about humility, about humbling ourselves, and find out what God promises when we do.

“… and HE will lift you up.” (I Peter 5:6)

The Show Must Go On

I remember, when Mom was dying of cancer, I would drive to work with a heavy heart. Most mornings I would cry as I talked to God about Mom. But when I got to the stop light a mile from school, I would dry my tears and take a few deep breaths. And before walking into the office, I’d put my hand on the doorknob, breathe again, put a smile on my face, and pray, “God, let’s do this. I need you to go in there with me today.” I didn’t want to be there. I wanted time with Mom. I wanted to be alone in my grief. But I was a middle school counselor, and I had a job to do.

It was hard. And listening to the familiar complaints of 11-year-olds tested my patience like never before. Suzie took my pencil. Billy made fun of me. Nobody likes me. The teacher yelled at me. Even the: Mom grounded me or worse, didn’t separate me from my own pain.

But I loved my job, loved those children, and it wasn’t their fault my mother was dying.

I realized today Jesus knows exactly how I felt. His cousin, John, was murdered. His heart must have hurt like mine did. And he needed to be alone. He needed time to grieve. So he went off to a remote place to be by himself.

But the crowds followed him. They had needs only Jesus could meet. So Jesus put a smile on his face, and preached, and healed their sick.

Did you know the feeding of the 5,000 from five loaves and 2 fish happened in the midst of Jesus’ grief? (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9) He had compassion on those needy, demanding, insensitive people, even when his own heart was broken.

I know some of you are going through hardships of your own. Sickness, finances, relationships can cause us to live with the burden of grief on our shoulders. Yet that doesn’t stop the “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy”, or “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” demands from your children, or the deadlines your boss gives you at work, or the electric from being turned off for lack of payment. Life goes on even when we want it to just stop for one minute.

Jesus knows what that feels like. Jesus shows us by example that sometimes the show must go on. Sometimes we have to choose to let God pick us up and help us meet our responsibilities even if we don’t feel like it.

But here’s something else Jesus teaches by example. He made time to get alone and pray. (Matthew 14:23) He didn’t go off to “find himself”. He spent time talking to God.

That’s where our society might be wrong. It says we’ve got to be happy before we can make someone else happy. Put yourself first and things will get better.

But doesn’t Jesus teach us something different? Didn’t he take “self” out of the picture? Didn’t he place God first, others second, and himself after that? I’m thinking if it worked for him, it probably will work for us, too.

Pray, dear one. Pour yourself out before God, give him yourself and your circumstances. Ask him to empower you to be who he wants you to be in the midst of your pain. Bathe yourself in prayer, then trust God to be exactly what you need him to be. Yes, the show must go on. But you don’t have to go on solo. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you have someone who has been there, to guide you, to strengthen you, and to love you like no one else can.

If we take the world’s advise and concentrate on ourselves, we are concentrating on the wrong person. Concentrate on God. Notice the opportunities he gives you to minister to someone else. Take him up on his offer to never leave or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5-8)

Is that a recipe for a trouble-free life? What do you think?

It is, however, a recipe proven by Jesus himself, to be exactly what we need to face the worse life hands us. And to be victors. And to let others see Jesus in us.

God, I pray for grieving people today. Some have burdens that are breaking them. Father, I pray they will come to you and lay that burden down. Give them strength. Give them purpose. Help them to look to you instead of looking within themselves. And may they find peace from allowing you to be exactly what they need to get through today. May they feel your love right this minute. And may Jesus be seen in and through them as they walk through this storm.