Archive for category #encouragement
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” [NRSA]
This is a helpful passage to hear at a time of fear, want, and uncertainty. The Hebrews have been lead by Moses out of slavery in Egypt, through the miracle of the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, the find themselves thirsty in a dessert.
One of the key definitions of a dessert is that water is not readily available. The fruit of the land is extremely limited and especially when a multitude of people are traveling together.
Even as spectacular and life changing it must have been to cross the sea, evade the enemy army and find themselves on dry land while their oppressors drown. The daily need for food and drink challenge the best experience of faith. We were just remembering how Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness, a dessert place, having spent forty days and thirty-nine nights in the most defining spiritual experience of his life. At the very moment of dealing with the basic needs of life and death, we are confronted with the temptation to fear and doubt.
We look around today and find ourselves being tested by the effects of a virus.
Healthy humans ‘harbor an average of five viruses’ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282751
It is well established that our bodies possess gut bacteria that is beneficial for health. Now, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, have found that our bodies are also home to an average of five viruses responsible for numerous illnesses, although it is unclear whether they have positive or negative implications for health. Strains of HPV were found in around 75% of participants’ skin samples and 50% of nose samples, while new strains of the virus were found in both skin and nose samples. “Most everyone is familiar with the idea that a normal bacterial flora exists in the body,” says study co-author Dr. Gregory Storch, a virologist and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the university. “Lots of people have asked whether there is a viral counterpart, and we haven’t had a clear answer. But now we know there is a normal viral flora, and it’s rich and complex.” The findings, which form a part of the Human Microbiome Project funded by the National Institutes of Health, were recently published in the journal BMC Biology. The research team, led by Kristine M. Wylie, PhD, an instructor of pediatrics at the university, collected 706 samples of bodily fluids from 102 healthy adults aged 18-40. The samples were taken from participants’ [skin and all openings.] All participants were closely screened to ensure they had no viral infections, and they were eliminated from the study if they had had been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) in the past 2 years, or had a form of active genital herpes in the last 2 months. For each sample, the researchers used high-throughput DNA sequencing that enabled them to detect a wide range of viruses. Expect in-depth, science-backed toplines of our best stories every day. Seven families of viruses identified, including HPV and herpesvirus Among 92% of participants, at least one virus was detected, with some participants harboring around 10-15 viruses. On average, each participant harbored five viruses. The researchers say they were surprised to find so many. “We only sampled up to five body sites in each person and would expect to see many more viruses if we had sampled the entire body,” says Wylie. From the samples, the team detected seven families of viruses. These included viruses responsible for non-sexually transmitted herpes – herpesvirus 6 and 7. These viruses were detected among 98% of participants who were sampled from the mouth. Strains of HPV were found in around 75% of skin samples and 50% of nose samples, while new strains of the virus were found in both skin and nose samples. Around 38% of female participants had HPV strains in vagina samples, with many of these harboring strains associated with increased risk of cervical cancer, such as HPV 16 and HPV 18. The researchers also identified adenoviruses – responsible for pneumonia and the common cold – in the majority of samples. It is possible, the researchers note, that the viruses identified were lurking infections from years before. But Wylie says that dormant viruses usually reside in cells rather than bodily fluids, which is where the viruses were found in this study. Commenting on their findings, the team says: “This study is the first to use high-throughput DNA sequencing to describe the diversity of eukaryotic DNA viruses in a large cohort of individuals who were sampled at multiple body sites. This analysis demonstrates that there is a ‘normal viral flora’ in generally healthy, asymptomatic individuals.” They admit that it is unclear as to whether the viruses are beneficial or detrimental to health, but they hypothesize that the viruses may boost the immune system’s response to harmful pathogens in some cases, while increasing the risk of infection in others. “It’s very important to know what viruses are present in a person without causing a problem and what viruses could be responsible for serious illnesses that need medical attention,” says Dr. Storch. “While more research remains, we now have a much clearer picture of the communities of viruses that naturally exist in healthy people.”
That means that at any giving time we have from one to over a dozen virus at work in our bodies; some working to build up our immune systems and others might threaten our life.
How do we know when we are at risk? What are the risks? What does God plan to do with us as a global people in the threat of virus, thirst, or any other struggle that faces our mortal experience?
Look at the context of our present global circumstance:
SARS, AVIAN, SWINE, MERS, EBOLA, ZIKA, EBOLA, CORONA – These are not connected to politics, but when we politicize or look to blame the sin of infection, we will never find a cure, love our neighbor, much less love our enemies. Every epidemic has a tragic effect on those who are not able to survive and those who suffer through the effects of each occurrence. When obsess our time on the fear of virus and illness we are admitting that we have no faith, we have no hope, and we have no trust in God to provide.
Tragically, this virus has become infamous within the brewing global kettle of blame and rage that makes illness and suffering the main story rather than where our strength, hope, and help comes.
Pslam 121:2 [NRSA] I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
It’s a word that Moses and those afraid and thirsty in the dessert had forgotten since the parting of the sea.
My Help Comes from the Lord
It’s a word of encouragement the world needs to hear and trust. God is working through researchers and healers to deal with symptoms, causes and cures.
God is working through the church to remind the world that God will provide a way through this struggle and all our struggles.
Our Challenge to one another and all those we can influence:
1. Only check the news once a day, and only long enough to find out if the overall plan of prevention has changed.
2. Spend the hours you might devote to news watching and social media reading to prayer, study and Christian fellowship.
3. When you hear or see someone obsessing on the news, call them out to spend their lives with greater care:
a. Live, Love and Share the Good News Christ is offering us everyday. GOD WILL PROVIDE
b. God provides through medicine, through governments, and despite governments.
c. Trust the Voice of God more than voice of those who are selling fear and promising death.
4. There is no diminishing those who have died, those who are suffering from this virus, but know there are
a. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from bad politics and ungodly politician agendas
b. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from heart disease, cancer, poverty, trafficking and self-imposed evils.
c. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from meth, alcohol, and all sorts of substances,
d. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from sin and separation from God and neighbor.
5. THE HOPE AND ANSWER IS THE SAME: God will Provide
LET THE WORLD HEAR YOU SAY THESE WORDS: God will Provide.
In our Text from the Exodus: God says to Moses, “Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” God has a plan, God has a way, God has a process, God is at work behind the scenes, AND God is at work in the People of God, those willing to listen, trust and carry out God’s instructions and message.
Footnote: Moses asks the faith question after the water flows: “Is the Lord among us or not?” This is our word!
Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. [NRSV]
What Mantle Are you leaving?
Elijah is leaving the work to Elisha.
- “It will take two of me to equal one of you.”
vs. Passing the Torch
- Money and possessions are valuable
- How to use these resources is most valuable.
What is a
- The touch-point of the witness of faithfulness.
What to hand
on to the next generation?
- Letters, stories, photos. or songs
- Art, crafts, textiles, or garments.
- Tokens, Tools, Table, or
Samples of Mantles that have shaped me and my faith:
- Pocket Watch – Story of Family and Generations of faith
- Cheese Biscuit Recipe – love of cooking and feeding people
- Guitar – love of music and craftsmanship
- Round Kitchen Table – Everyone has a place at a round table
- Bible – Treasure of knowledge
- 6oz Coke – Less is More
What is we leave nothing?
The next generation will have to start fresh with our mistakes and their own.
Not assuming that the next generation will figure out what our mantle means, we have to attach the meaning and lesson to the token itself.
(Drawn on Adam hamMilton’s Resources for Enough)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want. (Prvb 21:5)
Precious treasure remains in the house of the wise, but the fool devours it. (Proverbs 21:20)
Where Did All Our Money Go?
FROM LAST WEEK: We must allow Christ to work in us.
Christ works in us as we first seek his kingdom and strive to do his will. As we do, we begin to sense a higher calling—a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to look at ways we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources. By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. A key part of finding financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising restraint. With the help of God, we can
- simplify our lives and silence the voices constantly telling us we need more.
- live counter-culturally by living below, not above, our means.
- build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit.
- build into our budgets what we need to live generously and faithfully.
Living as prodigals
From Jesus’ description in Luke 15:11-16, we see that the prodigal son had the habits of squandering and spending. The word prodigal does not mean someone who wanders away or is lost. It literally means “one who wastes money.” Many of us struggle with that habit. We’re not worried about tomorrow; we want it today. The problem with that kind of thinking is that, for most of us, the “famine” eventually comes. It comes when we have spent everything we have and even a little bit of next year’s income. So we use the credit card and charge it, and we go a little further into debt. Finally, we come to a place where we have nothing left, not even credit, and we can’t figure out how we are we going to get by.
The more we make, the more we waste.
It seems that the more financially secure we become, the less we worry about spending money here and there. We waste a dollar on this or that, and we forget where it went. Money just seems to flow through our fingers. We’re not as careful with our money as we should be. There are many ways we waste money, but there are two primary money-wasters that many of us struggle with. It is not necessary to eliminate these two things altogether, but we should think more carefully about how we spend our money.
How to avoid impulse buying
- Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.
- Shop only for what you need.
- Don’t wander down every isle, only go where you need to go. Make a list and stick to it; buy what you need and get out of the store!
- Consult a trusted person and wait twenty-four hours before following through on an impulse buy.
Number One Area of impulse spending is Eating out
- The issue is frequency. The average American eats out an average of four times a week.
- By eating out less frequently, we will have more money to save, to spend on more important things, and to give away.
If you were to simply prepare all meals at home, you’d move 4.2 meals from restaurants to your home. At an average cost of $12.75 per meal, you’d save yourself $8.75 for each of those meals. In other words, the average American would save $36.75 per person per week by moving all of their meals from restaurants to home-prepared meals. If we are eating out more than 4 times a week, we need to evaluate our lifestyle.
Clarifying Our Relationship with Money and Possessions
We do not exist simply to consume as much as we can and get as much pleasure as we can while we are here on this earth. We have a higher purpose. We need to know and understand our life purpose—our vision or mission or calling—and then spend our money in ways that are consistent with this purpose or calling.
Be clear about your purpose and calling.
Our society tells us that our life purpose is to consume—to make as much money as possible and then to spend it. The Bible tells us that we were created to care for God’s creation. We were created to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We were created to care for our families and those in need. We were created to glorify God, to seek justice, and to do mercy. Our money and possessions should be devoted to helping us fulfill this calling. We are to use our resources to help care for our families and others—to serve Christ and the world through the church, missions, and everyday opportunities. We have a life purpose that is greater than our own self-interest, and how we spend our God-given resources reflects our understanding and commitment to this life purpose or mission.
Set worthy goals.
Being able to accomplish the greater purposes God has for our lives requires some measure of planning. Taking the time to set goals related to our lives and our finances is crucial if we are to become wise stewards of our God-given resources. Each of us should think about our life purpose and goals and then identify two short-term financial goals, two mid-range financial goals, and two long-term financial goals that are aimed at helping us accomplish our broader life goals. At least one goal in each category should relate specifically to our faith. (Suggestion: Use the bulletin insert “My Life and Financial Goals Worksheet” in 3. Communication Resources.)
The Discipline of Managing Your Money
Adopt/Review your budget and spending plan.
Once we’ve set some financial goals, we need to develop a plan to meet those goals. A budget is a spending plan that enables us to accomplish our goals. Some people use an envelope system to help them manage their saving and spending and stay on budget. Others use a variety of different approaches. Many people find it helpful to seek the advice of a financial advisor. For those who find themselves in the midst of a financial crisis, a financial counselor can help arrange terms with creditors and develop a workable financial plan. Whatever approach you choose, the important thing is simply to have a plan.
Follow six financial planning principles. (Ramsey Model or others)
The following financial planning principles can help us manage our money with wisdom and faith:
- Pay your tithe and offering first.
- Create a budget and track your expenses.
- Simplify your lifestyle (live below your means).
- Establish an emergency fund.
- Pay off your credit cards, use debit cards for purchases, and use credit wisely.
- Practice long-term savings and investing habits.
What can we do? Simple Truths:
- Seek God’s wisdom,
- Listen to the wisdom of those who are trustworthy,
- hold one another accountable* (See Goal Setting Worksheet)
- Remember we are created out of generous love and
- We are called to live generously
God, you know all about us, even when we don’t. We don’t know where every dime went, but somehow you know what we did with all that we had, last year and every other year. You don’t forbid us from having joy in our possessions; in fact, you delight in our having joy. But what you know is that simply acquiring more stuff isn’t where we find joy. Lord, forgive us for being wasteful, for being prodigal. Forgive us for leveraging our future in order to have pleasure in the present. And help us to be good managers of the talents that you’ve given us. Help us to be generous and willing to share, kingdom-minded and focused on accomplishing your purposes for our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
My Life and Financial Goals
How would you define or describe your life purpose?
What are some goals that can help you achieve this life purpose?
What are some financial goals that can help support your life goals and purpose?
Short-term financial goals (next 12 months):
Mid-range financial goals (2–5 years):
Long-term financial goals (5 years to retirement):
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]
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.
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!
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.
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
- Be Ready. be prepared to share: (Prayed up, studied up, practiced up, and looking for opportunities.
- Think about
- The difference of what inspires you and what motivates you.
- What is the difference between what scares you into action and what compels you to action?
- 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:
- When I do and see how God uses our conversations to open hearts and minds that were closed.
- When I ready and prepare to share my faith, God does not let that preparation go to sit still for very long.
- 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.
- If they realize gaps and holes in their foundations, then God uses those as places to share my faith.
- Songs, stories, and movies that capture a moment of for God encourage in the moment and become faith conversations in the future.
- 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.
- 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.
My faith perspective might seem wrong/hurtful/different/old-school to you, I would be an encouragement to me to know:
- what brings you hope when you are depressed,
- how do you find joy when you sad,
- where do you find the strength to do what seems impossible?
- 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:
- Don’t judge
- Takes personal prayer, study and maturity of faith
- Act, think, speak in Christ-like ways
- List/Identify how Jesus treated people who struggle, sin, search and surround him.
- To the sinner, he invites into the fellowship, table, well,
- To the sick, he invites into wholeness
- To the separated, he enters their home
- To the closed minded, he opens convertations
- To the
- List/Identify how Jesus treated people who struggle, sin, search and surround him.
- Practice supportive examples and stay involved.
- Invite to Sunday School
- follow up. if SS is not for you how do you study/grow
- suggest studies, groups, others,
- ask to share with them in their disciplines
- set time/date to check in
- follow-up and try another suggestion,
Ways to encourage without judging:
- Send a card, note, email, text, phone call or face-to-face expression care for the person.
- Pray for this person and the need, struggle, concern truing God to open doors, hearts, minds and spirits.
- Discern how many people/relationships you can actively support. and
- try adding more than you can handle alone and
- replace new people/relationship when closure comes.
- 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)
- Do no harm: “Don’t lead with judgment” let God sort that our for now.
- Do all the good: “Encourage rather than just motivate.
- 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.