Become an ENCOURAGER!

Friends

Have you ever had a day where everything goes wrong, and suddenly, God speaks comfort and hope to your weary soul?  It is exactly what you need in that moment.  Perhaps it is a realization that your bad day is not nearly as rotten as somebody else’s.  It may come in the form of a song, a Bible verse on Twitter, or a reassuring Facebook post or a Text of care.

Words are powerful.  We have all, no doubt, been wounded at some point by careless, unkind or mean statements.  Their effect on our lives, even years later, is undeniable. No matter how much we deny it, it still makes us cringe to remember the taunts of the second-grade bully on the playground and makes us want to crawl under a rock to think of that rumor spreading through the high school hallways.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”  Mark Twain once said, "I can live two months on one good compliment."

I just love when others encourage me.  Isn’t it great to be around someone whose words are encouraging and edifying?  Someone who makes you feel good because of their words that build you up and bring you grace just when you need it?

One of the most attractive and healing personalities in the world is an individual who can spread grace, and blessing, and build up others with encouraging words.  You see, anybody can tear down with destructive words, but God’s people should build up!

I was in line at a grocery store one time and there was a lady there with several small children.  I guess those children had gotten the best of her because she got so angry with them.  She lit into those kids with her words, just damaging them and cursing them.  And I thought, “Those little children are growing up with words that tear down instead of build up!”

With your children, with your spouse, or with anyone, use words that encourage.  Even when you have a disagreement, you can disagree agreeably.  Don’t let your emotions control your reactions but be intent on showing restorative grace to others just as God shows it to you!

People need your praise and affirmation.  Be generous with your gift of encouragement and always be on the lookout for opportunities to lift someone’s spirits. 

I often think about Life as a team sport, and all of us need occasional pats on the back from our teammates.  As Christians we are called upon to spread the Good News of Christ, and we are also called to spread a message of encouragement and hope to the world.

Whether you realize it or not, many people with whom you come in contact every day are in desperate need of a smile or an encouraging word.  The world can be a difficult place, and countless friends and family members may be troubled by the challenges of everyday life.  Since you don’t always know who needs our help, the best strategy is to try to encourage all the people who cross your path.  We do have the ability to encourage or discourage each other with the words we say.  To maintain a positive mood, our hearts must be in good condition.

I recently went through a season of discouragement.  Just at the point where I thought I would break, there was the Holy Spirit with just the right word or phrase, the perfect Scripture or song.  It felt like the Lord had just wrapped His arms around me.

It’s wonderful when our spirits are lifted by others, but when the Holy Spirit, Himself inspires us, it is precious.  What an honor it is when He makes a point to lift me up.  In those moments, I feel especially loved.

Christian, the same Holy Spirit dwells within each one of us.  He will tenderly nudge you with comfort, peace and joy.  Keep an eye out for those special instances of grace and mercy.  Let’s show our gratitude by extending that same gift to others.

As vessels of the Spirit, we should overflow with the very same support to others.  Words of encouragement and hope should spill over onto those who are near.  We don’t want to miss any opportunity that God gives us to bless our brothers and sisters with Spirit-filled kindness.  The hope I need is the hope I need to share.

So, I want to share three things you can do to become an ENCOURAGER:

• Commit to encouragement!

Starting right now, decide you are going “buildup” other people around you.  Can you imagine the impact that would have in your life?  Let me give you an example of this.  The name of Pau’s companion, Barnabas, literally meant “son of encouragement.”  Think about what kind of influence would you have if you committed to be a son or daughter of encouragement.

Value other people!

People are valuable to God.  Then people should be valuable to you.  An encourager works hard at bringing out the best in others.

•Focus on what is really the question!

To become an encourager, you may have to change your priorities, adjust your agenda, and focus on the fact that people are more valuable to God than our crammed - up schedules.

So, start today by saying words like” “I believe in you...”  I am grateful for you...”  I see God using you...”  “I appreciate you...”  “I am glad you are in my...”

So today, be a world-class source of encouragement to everyone you meet.  Never has the need been greater.

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Come start the Summer with us and become an ENCOURAGER!

John 21

Friends

I hope you have had a great week.  We have been praying for you this week.  This coming week we are going to be talking about Jesus eating with the disciples in John 21. 

The earliest memories of my childhood include fishing.  I was not particularly good at it, but I remember what it felt like to catch something on the other end of the line.  It was an exhilarating feeling—even if it was just a can or an old boot.

John 21:1-14 tells a different kind of fishing story: the story of Jesus' third appearance to the disciples after His resurrection.  While waiting for Jesus at Galilee, Peter decided to go fishing, and the other disciples joined him, but they did not catch anything.  The next morning, Jesus appeared on the shore and told them to cast their nets on the other side of their boat.  They ended up with a huge amount of fish—and an intimate breakfast with the risen Lord.

This was not the first time we see Jesus eating with people.  

The first time I ever heard “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns, I could hardly breathe.  I suddenly had the heavy realization that we Christians often become the stumbling blocks rather than the stepping stones to Jesus.

The song caused me to think about Jesus’ interactions with sinners and the religious leaders of His day.  No matter who they were.

Here are few examples:

·         Jesus willingly dined with sinners. When asked about this practice by the Pharisees, His answer was simple: “Only the sick need a physician.”  (Matthew 9:9-12)

·         Jesus made a straight forward statement to the scribes & Pharisees who had dragged a woman caught in adultery to the center of the temple court. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  (John 8:3-11)

·         When Peter sinned by denying Christ three times at the crucifixion, Jesus restored the relationship with him in John 21.    Peter denied Christ three times, and Christ asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?”

·         Zacchaeus was a deceitful tax collector who had defrauded many people. But as Jesus passed by the Sycamore tree where he was perched to get a good look at the Master, he was called down to a dinner that would change his life!  (Luke 19:1-10)  Of course, the Pharisees had something to say about Jesus eating with a crooked tax collector, but that is ok, because Jesus knew His mission – “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Now don’t get the wrong impression about Jesus.  Friend of sinners – YES! Tolerant of sin – NO!

What really matters is a RELATIONSHIP with God.  It’s not so much what you know as who you know.  The Gospel is about relationship.  The Gospel is about a Kingdom with a King (Jesus).  The Gospel is more about relationships than it is about ideas.

I’m going to share a story about how important relationships are with others. 

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.  The family ate together at the table.  But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor.  When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.  "We must do something about Grandfather," said the son.  "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor."  So, the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.  There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.

Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone.  Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

Their four-year-old son watched it all in silence.  One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor.  He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?"

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up."  The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless.  Then tears started to stream down their cheeks.  Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening, the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table.  For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family.  And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Is it amazing how God used a child  with a little wooden bowl to change the heart of a parent.  Their eyes ever observe, their ears ever listen, and their minds ever process the messages they absorb.  Relationships are key to a happy life.  You are made to be with others.  Just like Jesus meeting with a bunch of men (fisherman) He wants a relationship with you.  You might be surprised where Jesus might show up, He might meet you at the nearest fishin’ hole.  He might meet you at a home of an elderly person.  He might meet you at Walmart, who knows Just be ready!

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

 

Come Sunday and eat with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends

This coming Sunday is the last message in the series called “Worship.”  Over the last 5 weeks we have learned what “Worship” is: Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about.  This act of personal surrender!  You may have heard surrender called many things: consecration, making Jesus Lord, taking up your cross, dying to self, yielding to the Spirit.

We are going to look at a story that will empower you to realize that worship can transform your life and be the difference that worshiping God makes in your life.  This is a story that’s probably not familiar to many of you, about an encounter that two people had with Jesus.  A worship encounter!  Two people who seemed rather different, but they actually had a similarity.  What they had in common is both of them were untouchable.  One person is untouchable because of her unrighteousness.  The other person is untouchable because of his self-righteousness. 

We meet these two “untouchables” in a story is found Luke’s gospel.  SHE was considered untouchable by the Pharisees because of her sinful life.  HE was a Pharisees who, as we know, were notorious for their hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Simon, as we know he was called, would not allow himself to be touched.  We don’t know the woman’s name, her background, or even specifically what her sin might have been.  Many scholars suggest she was a prostitute, but all the text says is that she had lived a sinful life.  God has protected her privacy, Praise the Lord.  Whatever her story may have been, in this moment she risked all to ask forgiveness from Jesus.  As we dig into this moment, we will see that one of these “untouchables” was forever touched by Jesus, while the other remained unchanged.

The woman who worshiped Jesus was a sinner.  Our Lord neither denied this, nor minimizes it.  It is important to recognize that God draws lost people to Him through worship.  As you think through the complex rules and regulations of the Old Testament law, it becomes evident that God established worship for sinners.  Otherwise, it would not have been necessary to have all the complicated rules and rituals and sacrifices.  Worship, in the Old Testament, was for sinners.  Remember Worship is offering yourself to God.

The woman who worshiped at the feet of Jesus was preoccupied with Him, and Him alone.  The fact that there were those present who disdained her did not matter, for she cared only about what her Lord thought about her.  The fact that many present were hypocrites did not prevent her from worshiping, for her worship was focused on the Savior.

What we can learn from her:

•She KNEW:  that Jesus was nearby and accessible; and He is near you now –- look up Acts 17:27-28.

•She BROUGHT:   tells us that she brought to her Lord an alabaster box of ointment, which was the token of the love she was to pour out before Him.  Have you some token of your love for Him?

•She WEPT:   gives us indication of her contrition, her sorrow and her repentance –- look up Psalm 51:17.

•She KNELT:  she must have done, in order to wash His feet.  Here we have a picture of real humility –- a humble, sinful woman prostrates at the feet of her Lord, maybe even praying in the words of Psalm 51:9-10.

•She KISSED:  how wonderful that our Lord should allow her to kiss His feet, and how wonderful that we may come to Him just as she came to Him!

What we can learn from Jesus

•The Lord’s Approval: bring before us our Lord’s loving and gracious words of acclamation.  How sweet those words must have been to the woman!  She would feel overwhelmed with the sense of His deep understanding, His tender love and His gracious acceptance of her, despite her sinfulness.  And the Savior is still willing to receive us if only we will come to Him in our deep need.  How about you, have you come to Jesus?

•The Lord’s Forgiveness:   The New Testament illustration of Isaiah 1:18, Her sins (like our sins) were literally “as scarlet” and “crimson”, but as she fell at the feet of her Lord and Sin-bearer she was made “white as snow” –- look up Psalm 51:7. The same gracious gift of pardon is offered to all humankind, everywhere–- read Acts 13:38-39.

•The Lord’s Assurance:  This is brought before us in verse 48.  Could she ever again have any doubt about the full forgiveness that the Lord had given her?  She had His sure word upon which to rest, and you and I have the same –- read 1 John 2:12.

•The Lord’s Commission:  The Lord said to her “Go…”  Yes, she was to go back to her friends, to her home, back to tell others of the wonderful grace of her Lord.  And as she went on this journey, back into a new life of fellowship with and service for her Lord, she was to experience Philippians 4:7. 

I want you to remember one thing; the best thing our church could hope for is to be filled with weeping sinners.

Dear God, I want confidence like this woman.  Confidence to push past my past and find expressions of love for You.  Thank You for loving me and empowering me to love You back.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Come Worship with us Sunday!

When Things Don't Make Sense

Friends

How is your Worship going this week?  I have talked with some of you who have told me you thought worship was the music before the preaching.  Well, that was what I was told too.  Worship is far more than just music, than just singing, than just praise.  Every aspect of your life can be an act of worship.  Literally every aspect of your life can be an act of worship to God.

“What is Worship”?  The answer is very simple: It is an act of personal surrendering, offering yourself to God.   Paul, the author of the book of Romans, shares in chapter 12:1-2 TEV “...Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him.  This is the true worship that you should offer.”

The goal of this series is for you to understand that worship is far more than lighting candles or singing songs.  Worship is a lifestyle.  Everything you do in life could be an act of worship if you understand the motivation behind it.  The Bible tells us to worship God continually.  You can’t sing continually.  But you can worship God continually if you understand the true meaning.

Last week we answered the question about what you do when you are wounded. Again, just as worship is the antidote to worry, worship is the antidote to when you are wounded – emotionally or relationally or any other way.  By a person or by a word or by a circumstance. 

In your life, you will be hurt by others; sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. How you handle that hurt determines your happiness.  When you bottle up hurt in your life and hold onto it - that's called resentment.  If somebody hurt you years ago and you're still holding onto it, it will poison your life.  For your own health and happiness, you must learn to forgive.

This coming Sunday we are going to ask a third question about worship, “What do you do when life does makes not sense?”  When God asks you to do something that you think makes no sense at all, and all you can think is “This is crazy.” 

Well, sometimes things happen in our lives that defy explanation.  I am reminded of a story about two little boys on a field trip with their class to an art gallery to see an exhibit of modern art.  They walked by a painting, and as they looked at it, they could see there was a nose over in one corner and an eye in the other corner, and it was all confused.  So, one little boy turned to another one and said, “Don’t you think we’d better get out of here before they say we did it?!”

Sometimes things happen in our lives that defy explanation.  No matter how hard we try we cannot make any sense out of the things God puts in our path.  Yet if we remain faithful and patient, God often puts all the pieces together and reveals His purpose. He truly works in mysterious ways.

Consider the case of Joshua and the battle for Jericho.  There are established ways to storm a heavily fortified city. For example, build siege towers and breach the walls.  So, imagine Joshua’s surprise when God told him to send the priests, not the soldiers, to march around the city and blow horns.  I can picture the taunts from the people of Jericho standing on the walls watching this absurd display.  It just didn’t make sense—until the seventh day, when the walls fell down.

Consider David, a man after God’s own heart.  After years of running from the man who wanted him dead, he discovered Saul alone and vulnerable in a cave.  David could have brought his private war to an end with a single blow from his sword.  Yet God did not allow him to kill Saul that day.  It did not make sense, but it taught David a valuable lesson. He learned to respect the will of God.

Consider poor Ananias of Damascus.  God called him to go and minister to Saul, the man who had come to Damascus to arrest, torment and even kill Christians like Ananias.  It did not make sense, yet it turned out to be the first step in unleashing the most powerful ministry the world has ever seen.

God is full of surprises.  He often asks us to do things that run counter to all common sense.  So, what would you do if God asked you to do something that did not make sense?  What if it was something so foolish that all your friends advised against it? Before you answer, let me tell you how my story ended.

Our world is coming to grips with the disorder that’s inherent in our fallen universe.    We see this disorder in our own suffering and pain, and in those seemingly random events that cause so much anguish in life.  Just watch the news, it is always something.

Yet throughout Scripture, we see God taking that chaos and turning it back into order. He takes our mistakes, our pain, and our anguish, and turns them around for our good and for His glory.  So, when suffering hits, we know it’s not random!

Everyone experiences hard times.  But in Christ, you can suffer with a purpose, knowing that God is taking the chaos in your life and will make it work for your ultimate good.  And we have faith that one day, all suffering will end as we live forever in His glorious presence!

Worshipping is focusing on GOD! 

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Come Sunday and see what God is doing!