Archive for category #encouragement

John 2:13-22 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Signs and Fools

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. [John 2:13-22 NRSV]

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. [1 Corinthians 1:18-25 NRSV]


Foolish Signs

Think of the foolish things that Jesus did in his ministry:

  • Cut ties with his family
  • Entrusted 12 ordinary men to lead the church
    • He does not include a body guard
    • He does not find a promoter
  • He does not build building
  • He does not receive people at their very best, usually in their brokenness
  • He does not stay in one place for very long
  • He does not get a college education
  • He preached to the least, the last and lost.
  • He taught using simple stories

I recall one summer at the grandparents farm, my grandfather wanted my eldest cousin to cut his shoulder-length hair to be “clean and neat”. My cousin reminded my grandfather that even Jesus had long hair, (not something we know one way or the other, but tradition would suggest, but my 5th grade educated grandfather replied, “and Jesus walked everywhere he went.”

  • Only once in all the travels of Jesus do we find him traveling other than by foot and he rides a donkey.
  • Just when the crowds start gathering critical mass he leaves the spot light to be alone in prayer.
  • Most every action and example, Jesus lives out what the world and other leaders would identify as foolish.
[ Foolishresulting from or showing a lack of sense; ill-considered; unwise:

a foolish action, a foolish speech; lacking forethought or caution; trifling, insignificant, or paltry. ]

It was foolishness to think that one person could rebuild the temple in three days when teams of workers had been working straight for forty-six years

For all the world’s foolishness, God is working signs of power

Everyone of the sign of the world’s foolishness for Jesus is a sign of God at work, in the world, through people like you and me and the characters we see in scripture.

Think for a moment how the author of love and architect of the universe is reaching out to us through people, through struggles, through impossibilities, through life and death to connect with us and the whole world.

Awesomely foolish. Wonderfully divine!

The words of Jesus from John’s Gospel and Paul’s letter the church in Corinth call our attention toward God and not our own thoughts, success, triumphs and plans.

God is working through our brokenness, through our sin, through our failures.

When we focus on our labors, what we have earned, what we deserve, how we have figured and achieved we loose sight of God in exchange for our best.

In a very practical and plain fashion

Which is more powerful? Words of wisdom from our thinkers, theologians and politicians? Or words spoken by God, Jesus the Holy Spirit?

God continues to trust fools in the most important task for all humanity.

  • You and I are the witnesses.
  • We are the messengers.
  • We are the ones who hold the keys,
  • You and I have the first line of kingdom of God.

Why do we settle for the world’s foolishness, when God is all-in, relying on us?

One of the legs of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour is Mr Bill Engvall. His catch phrase is, “here’s your sign.”  When people say things that reveal they are not at their brightest moments.

  • Honey our plane hit a deer? Were you still in the air?
  • Dad, I’m going to play you the theme song from Harry Potter on the piano. From the movie? No Dad, from the book.
  • Covered in camouflage clothes head to toe, painted face and smelling of the woods, the Walmart Greeter asked, have you been hunting? No, I’ve been hugging trees.

Rather than worrying about signs of weather and rumors of wars and portents of end times, let’s be about sharing the signs of God’s power at work in our lives.

Signs of Foolishness

  • Taking Cleaning supplies to folks who have none in Jesus Name
  • Taking thread and material and covering people in prayer
  • Singing songs and breaking bread for kids who are hungry for Good News at home and at camp.
  • Taking the Good News we find when we gather in this place and sharing hope with the people we see at work, school, shopping and everywhere we go.
  • Hearing the worry, fear, division in the world’s conversation, and reminding each other that God shows up in our greatest failures and fears to teach us grace, love and power.

These are our signs, show the world!



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Phillipians 1:21-30 Share Faith: Progress in Joyful Faith.


For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them, this is evidence of their destruction but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. [NRSV]

I’ve Got my ticket, Who Cares if you have yours?

One of the reasons that we find to justify why to NOT share our faith is summed up in the thought: “I figured it out, they can too.”

“They have the bible to read.”

“They could have gone to church.”

“They should have made other choices.”

“It’s their choice/fault/responsibility/issue.”

Paul acknowledging an affirmation we need to remember: Through Christ, we have salvation. While salvation is a ticket to heaven, it is not a pass from suffering.

The joy of finding Salvation ourselves is that we have the most wonderful and appropriate gift to share with those who are suffering.

Even though life is not easy, we have hope beyond this life, we have encouragement in this life, and we know how to love when everyone else is [Hobbes:] is selfish, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. T

In Jesus Christ, we have Joy knowing our future is more certain than our past and present and that What God has done for us in Christ and what God’s Spirit is doing through us now.

We live in the assurance of our place in heaven AND in the assurance that even though we might be experiencing hell on earth, we continue here to help each other progress in JOY and in FAITH.

We don’t want to be like Lot’s wife, don’t look back.

The tragedy in Las Vegas shows how broken one person’s mental illness can affect hundreds of others.

The tragedy of flooding in Texas, Peurto Rico, Culebra, Florida and again now in the gulf, the earthquakes in Mexico, Japan, and New Zealand; the nastiness in social media and divisive words, accusations and assumptions upon people’s character, the threats of war from

When the signs say run.

With melting glaciers, erupting volcanos, multiple hurricanes, and storms,

When we heart of attacks, wars, rumors of wars, and see people value political principle above God’s, when people would rather blame and attack rather than forgive and love.

It is no wonder we feel the call to be “traveling on”

I feel like traveling on,

My heavenly home is bright and fair I feel like traveling on
No pain nor death can inner there I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on I feel like traveling on
My heavenly home is bright and fair I feel like traveling on
Its glittering towers the sun outshines I feel like traveling on
That heavenly mansion shall be mine I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on…
The Lord has been so good to me I feel like traveling on
Until that blessed home I see I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on…

Written by J. R. Baxter, William Hunter • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group, Popularized by Loretta Lynn, All Time Gospel Favorites.

The Reason for Staying and Standing In (Why doesn’t Vanderbilt call the game at half-time?)

If everyone who believed in Jesus left and went to heaven how would those who doubt, question, reject and run the other way have a chance?

We remain to encourage others.

We remain to enjoy each other’s company

We remain to strengthen each other faith

We remain to be that light on a dark night

Stay without Standing Still

Paul see’s the importance of sticking with people who are difficult, sticks in the mud and working with persistence for some measure of progress.

Joy is the passion that we are making a difference in a broken world

I’ve not reached my goal, but at least I’m making progress.

Joy in the progress

Celebrate the advances in what is Godly

Remember where we see God is faithful

Highlight where we experience the Holy Spirit showing up

Continue to call and challenge each other to progress.

Progress in Faith, Progress in Joy, Progress in Sharing

If you go-to story of faith is over a year old, we have not progressed in faith since that time.

We affirm the historic ways we meet God, but let’s be about the business of progressing, even where it weary, dry and difficult.

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Romans 14:1-13 Share Faith: Encouragement and Accountability


Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. [NRSV]

The “E” Word

We are generally good at encouraging one another. Sometimes we are encouraged by fear. Examples:

  • The Hurricane is coming our way, it’s time to evacuate! or
  • There is a brush fire out of control next door, call 911 now!
  • I heard a gunshot outside, take cover and call the police!

Coaches motivate players by saying things like:

  • If you don’t come to practice you will not play Friday night
  • if you don’t play Friday night you are off the team
  • If you are off the team you will not be picked up by any college scouts
  • Now get out there and run stadiums until you remember why not to miss practice.

While this is motivational, it is never encouraging. (Even if you say you’re being helpful)

Encouragement is more than motivational

Paul offers us instruction and challenge to encourage one another.

The Bishop has motivated the clergy saying, if you want an appointment next year, you will baptize 3-5 new Christians each year.  [This motivates me to put an advertisement out in the paper and social media for unbaptized folks offering @ $100 to meet the requirement, but it does not encourage me to share my faith in transformative ways.]

To encourage someone with your faith sharing gift calls on you/me to

  1. Be Ready. be prepared to share: (Prayed up, studied up, practiced up, and looking for opportunities.
  2. Think about
    1. The difference of what inspires you and what motivates you.
    2. What is the difference between what scares you into action and what compels you to action?
    3. From that perspective of encouragement: write out these constructive ways to be supported.

Examples for John/Me

Deadlines, Requirements, Contacts, Leverage, Time, Money, Pier pressure, Approval are all motivators in my life.

When inspires me to share my faith is:

  1. When I do and see how God uses our conversations to open hearts and minds that were closed.
  2. When I ready and prepare to share my faith, God does not let that preparation go to sit still for very long.
  3. When I ask people to tell me what gives them hope, what they are passionate about that gives their life meaning and purpose, and they begin to talk about God it affirms my faith.
  4. If they realize gaps and holes in their foundations, then God uses those as places to share my faith.
  5. Songs, stories, and movies that capture a moment of for God encourage in the moment and become faith conversations in the future.
  6. Hearing someone say, I’d like to be baptized. I’d like to become part of the church. I’d want to learn more. I want to experience what my head know in my heart. These are open doors of affirmation and faith sharing.

If I’m not preparing and I’m not guiding conversations and relationship toward faith.. then I’m at best standing still, loosing time and opportunities.

  1. That becomes a movtivation.. to return to encouragement

Paul starts with don’t lead with judgment.

There is a time for decerning judgment and correction and accountability, but it comes after we are mature int he faith.

The gift for criticism.

Paul is challenging us to lead from the love of Christ.

  • Rather than I know you are a sinner! What are you at the well all alone in the heat of the day?
  • Rather than I know you have been taking advantage of people and working the system and calling it your job, I’m inviting myself over to your house.
  • Rather than sort out who is to blame, how can God be glorified in this broken situation?
  • Rather than stone the guilty, let’s talk about who is not guilty


PRACTICAL STUFF:  There is a part of me that might want to tell a young man with his pants hanging nearly to his knees, “Are you applying for the Universtiy of Sloppy or Thugs college this fall?” But that is neither a helpful motivator nor encouragement.

Encouragement: You can do it; keep trying; learn from your mistakes, let it go, keep up the good work, I appreciate you. I love you. I need you. We are honored to have you with us.

There are starting points. Resist the first response of pointing out the infractions, sins, failures, and shortcomings.

Motivational: If you want to get ahead in life, you need to stop playing video games and get a job.

Encouragement:  I’m sorry to interrupt, I know you have good eye-hand coordination from your video games, come help me rake leaves for a few minutes?

Motivational: If you don’t keep your things clean you are out of this house.

Encouragement:  I would like to know what it means to be a responsible part of this household.

Encouragement: After we establish who is to blame what, it would be most helpful to know what you understand each person’s responsibilities are in this household.

Faith Encouragement:

My faith perspective might seem wrong/hurtful/different/old-school to you, I would be an encouragement to me to know:

  1. what brings you hope when you are depressed,
  2. how do you find joy when you sad,
  3. where do you find the strength to do what seems impossible?
  4. who do you turn to when your friends turn on you





  • The “A” Word

Accountability is a word we too often excuse ourselves from invoking so that others will take it easy on us.

We are free to say whatever we want to say, but saying something will have consequences.

We are free to do what we want to do as long as we do not deny someone civil rights, but with those actions come consequences.

So much of the division of political parties, interest groups and fear-mongering individuals is the idea that we are not accountable for our words, thoughts and actions.

Paul is clear that our religious practices, our signs of spiritual growth differ among people and groups. Some express faith through rules about eating, some about which day they worship or which days are holidays. Don’t neglect encouraging all those in Christ despite our differences, encourage Christ’s in everyone.

Accountability to keeping the Rules or the commandment to love our enemies?

Pass on Encouragement to one another

Pass over Judging one another, leave judging to God.

Paul is writing from the experience perspective at the end of ministry which differs from his beginning in ministry.

Proclaim Jesus, Encourage One another

A plan to encourage:

  1. Don’t judge
    1. Takes personal prayer, study and maturity of faith
  2. Act, think, speak in Christ-like ways
    1. List/Identify how Jesus treated people who struggle, sin, search and surround him.
      1. To the sinner, he invites into the fellowship, table, well,
      2. To the sick, he invites into wholeness
      3. To the separated, he enters their home
      4. To the closed minded, he opens convertations
      5. To the
  3. Practice supportive examples and stay involved.
    1. Invite to Sunday School
    2. follow up. if SS is not for you how do you study/grow
    3. suggest studies, groups, others,
    4. ask to share with them in their disciplines
    5. set time/date to check in
    6. wait
    7. follow-up and try another suggestion,
    8. repeat.

Ways to encourage without judging:

  1. Send a card, note, email, text, phone call or face-to-face expression care for the person.
  2. Pray for this person and the need, struggle, concern truing God to open doors, hearts, minds and spirits.
  3. Discern how many people/relationships you can actively support. and
    1. try adding more than you can handle alone and
    2. replace new people/relationship when closure comes.
  4. Open our mouths, minds, and hearts to real conversations and relationship led by Christ.

As we prepare to be those who give the gift of faith: (Wesley Rules overlap)

  1. Do no harm: “Don’t lead with judgment” let God sort that our for now.
  2. Do all the good: “Encourage rather than just motivate.
  3. Practice Spiritual Exercises to keep us in shape for not judging and being ready to find the way to heart that doesn’t beat up the head and spirit.

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