Encouragers I know and 7 ideas for being one

When I think of encouragers, the first people who come to mind probably don’t have any idea how much good they do. Let me introduce you to a few of them.

Barbara, Sandy, Lenora, and Diana post beautiful flowers and nature scenes on social media. Many of these include Bible verses or positive messages.

Ellen types a Bible verse and just leaves it there for people to think about.

Maribel posts a series of ladies’ Bible studies in Spanish, free and accessible.

Karen, Adam, and Holly are my funny friends. They put clean, wholesome comics, personal experiences, and hilarious faux pas out there for everyone to laugh at. Holly poses for selfies, where she dresses up as an animal, usually using only a change of hair and facial expression, displaying the inspiring animal photo beside her. Adam posts Far Side comics, which have something to do with real life at the moment. They’re wry humor, but more than once I’ve laughed out loud.

Tim, Jess, Barbara, Patti, and Jonathan write thoughtful, helpful, and edifying blogs. They always encourage me in some aspect of my walk with the Lord.

Lisa, Vicki, Luba, Patti, and Ruth take pictures when they’re out on walks. They find beauty wherever they go.

And, there are those people who make the most of any situation. Ester and her family held a special picnic on their tiny balcony—since they can’t leave home during the quarantine.

These are some of the real people who make my day.

How can you encourage others?

Your choice will depend upon your particular personality, familiarity with technology, and talents. Let me offer some ideas. Since we can’t leave the house these weeks, I’ll try to make these practical for now. Maybe some of these will spark you into adding some sparkle to your online presence.

  1. Spread the Word. Think of different ways to share Bible verses, thoughts, and messages (maybe your church’s streaming) with your friends.
  2. Share happiness. I guess it’s obvious, but just in case: happiness means happy news, positive thoughts, and pretty things. What makes you happy? You can start there. Think of options like: memes, photography, quotations, poems, sayings, praise verses.
  3. Show beauty. This means sharing God’s glorious creation, a beautiful garden, any scene from nature, your pet being cute, a lovely family photo, colorful travel scene—anything that will inspire others to smile.
  4. Write about themes that are appropriate today. I had a few blog posts all ready to go about subjects that were rather dark and serious. I’ve put them off for at least a few months. Today, people need peace, security, laughter, and of course, the gospel of salvation. Write about Truth. By the way, the Psalms are a wonderful place in which to dwell for these few weeks.
  5. Play music for others. I don’t think you have to be Pavarotti to sing or Van Cliburn in order to play the piano. However, I do prefer that the musician on social media would display at least a minimal level of proficiency. Don’t post your kid singing along with a howling dog, for example–even if they’re both cute. I can hear that in a back alley. Share music that uplifts the spirit, especially Christian music, encouraging the soul. Last week, one of my friends shared Ethel Waters singing, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Brought a happy tear to my eye.
  6. Share clean humor. The Bible says, A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (Proverbs 17:22a). If it’s funny to you, it’ll probably provide a chuckle for someone else.
  7. Avoid negative stuff. Especially now, when much of the world is quarantined at home, we don’t need to hear about deaths* (*unless in your family. We want to pray with you and for you.), accidents,* the virus,* murders, and horrors. I personally don’t enjoy reading about those things at any time, but now is the time to encourage. Avoid the rottenness, and present Truth, beauty, fun, and happy.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Be an encourager today!

For more articles about encouragers, consider these: Joses Barnabas, the Encourager, here, and Five Ways to Encourage Others Using Social Media, here.

Thoughts on Jesus’ model prayer

The Lord’s Prayer provides a model, and I hadn’t looked at parts of it the way I do now.

As we know, prayer is communication with God. It involves petition, praise, sharing, baring the heart, pleading, groaning, interceding for others, and more. Prayer also involves listening to what the Lord has to say. Prayer is supposed to be two-way communication. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah (Psalm 4:4). I personally like the word “communion” for prayer. It’s us sharing with God and God sharing with us.

God’s part includes Jesus interceding for us and the Holy Spirit interpreting our prayers to God the Father. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).

He also provides guidance. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5). I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8).

Let’s look at the Lord’s Prayer again, and examine the “new” concepts in it. Jesus is speaking to His disciples: After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13).

How many times do we think about God the Father, His name, and His kingdom? I don’t know about you, but I usually crank up my prayer time with talking and asking instead of meditating on God Himself. I confess I’ve seldom prayed for His kingdom to come. How about you?

Thy will be done. I read a book about a grandmother known for her effective praying. One of the things she did was make sure she first knew God’s will about the object of prayer and then pray for that. (You can read my review of that book, here.) God still wants His will done in the earth.

It is so easy to throw up our hands when we see all the sinfulness around us: amorality, secularism, and many people who never consider God. But, look at the Lord’s model prayer: Thy will be done in the earth, as it is in heaven. That’s the way we’re supposed to pray. Looking toward perfection—heaven—and sinlessness, we’re supposed to pray for the world that way.

The truth is, God’s divine purposes will happen. They’re already programmed, and we’re instructed by God Himself to pray for God’s will on earth, just like it’s done in heaven. We look forward to Jesus’ reign and ultimately, the New Jerusalem when we pray this way.

The first petition comes next: Give us this day our daily bread. I’ve always found this fascinating. It’s not, “Give us this day a new pair of shoes, or a nice, new house.” It is the practical human need for food. It isn’t steak, fruit, or a salad, either. It’s basic: bread. The Lord promises to meet our need. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The Bible says we’re supposed to learn contentment and to be satisfied with two needs met: And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:8). I think it’s worth pointing out that it doesn’t mention a roof over one’s head. Consider Jesus. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head (Luke 9:58).

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. At first, this language may seem to be about business debts and transactions, but the Lord makes it very clear after the amen that it’s about forgiving—those hurts, slights, and words, as well as actual crimes against us. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15). God’s daily forgiveness after salvation is contingent on our forgiving others.

As far as I can tell, this forgiveness doesn’t have to be only if the offending person has asked for forgiveness—although that’s ideal. We are to forgive in obedience to the Lord. Just do it.

Some people say, “forgive and forget.” That, too, is an ideal. It’s great when you can actually forgive and never think about that offense again. I believe it’s possible in most cases. But, there are some awful hurts that we bear from time to time, and those are difficult to forget. Some hurts are like scratches. They heal easily and are soon forgotten. Others are like stab wounds. They hit nerves and cause scars. Those are hard to completely forget.

I would love to be more like God, who has put our sins away forever. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). He has a very good forgetter. Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 8:12b).

Let’s make forgiving others a regular part of our prayers.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Now, we know that God doesn’t lead anyone into temptation. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man (James 1:13). I believe this is speaking of asking for God’s protection from temptation and deliverance from evil and harm.

God protects His people, according to His will. I am not sure how this works, but we indeed have “guardian angels.” For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways (Psalm 91:11). This verse from Psalms is quoted two times in the New Testament, also. I’m not sure we always know when we’ve had divine protection, but the fact is, we do.

Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Jesus’ model prayer ends reflecting the beginning—acknowledging God’s power and glory and His kingdom, which is to come. It also speaks of God’s eternal authority over man.  

Amen. Let it be so.

Cheesy Christians

If there’s anything I don’t want to be, it’s a cheesy Christian. I want to be real.

Is it easy to be cheesy? I don’t know, but you’ve seen them, and so have I. They’re the ones that always smile, always have a platitude to share, have the answers for everything—but it’s all an act. Behind the veneer, there’s a needy person. Only, they can cover it up all the time. “I am the perfect Christian,” they proclaim to the world.

Thanks to Jesus, it is fairly simple to become a Christian. You have to be empty of every hope but Jesus and call upon Him for salvation. You have to believe in Him—put all your faith in His ability to save you. It is a huge heart decision. But, it isn’t complicated to do it. Surrender yourself to Jesus. Accept His payment for your sins, through His death on the cross. Believe that he died and rose again. It isn’t complex, but it cost Jesus everything—even for a time, when He bore our sins—fellowship with the Father.

The Christian life is not a bed of rose petals, though. “Believe and everything will be hunky-dory” is popular but not true. Every person on the earth experiences hurts, disappointments, the deaths of loved ones, pain, sadness, and sickness. Those things are the result of the first sin.

The “prosperity gospel,” that God wants you to be rich, isn’t true, either. That doesn’t mean that some Christians won’t be rich. Some are. Others—the majority of us—aren’t. I personally don’t think it’s a problem, since God promises to meet all of our needs according to His riches. I love what the Psalmist David said, I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread (Psalm 37:25).

The Lord gives a deep, abiding joy. No doubt about that. But, that doesn’t mean we won’t go through some extreme valleys. Psalm 23:4 calls it the valley of the shadow of death. The happy news is that, even there, Jesus goes with us and protects us. I love the way the Psalm ends: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever (verse 6).

So, how can we avoid being cheesy Christians? Here are five considerations:

  1. Be real in your faith. Make sure you are born again. When Jesus talked to a man named Nicodemus, he said to him, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:3b, 5b-6).
  2. Be real in your Christian walk. Consistency in Bible reading, prayer, Bible study, and church attendance will help you to grow in grace and spirit.
  3. Be genuine in your facial expressions, reactions, and conversations. It is okay to reflect what is really going on. Yes, it’s great to smile. Everyone loves a smiling face. But, it is absolutely fine to be sad when the occasion calls for it. It is okay to care. The Bible says we’re to empathize with others: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15). There is a time and a place for everything. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-6.)
  4. Be willing to share that you have needs. Experience has shown me two kinds of Christians: those that share every single stubbed-their-toe needs and those that never share anything at all, even when going through serious problems. I’m not sure either extreme is best. Maybe the first group should limit somewhat the kinds of issues they share, and for sure the second group should share when they have needs. Transparency, especially in the church, helps others meet the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ. This goes for spiritual needs, as well. Are you struggling? Ask for prayer.
  5. Work on displaying the fruit of the Spirit. There isn’t one Christian on earth that doesn’t have a spiritual weakness somewhere. Anyone who is born again has some fruit of the Holy Spirit in his life, but we all can work on our weak areas. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25).

Cheesy Christian? I don’t want to be one.

I want to walk in the Spirit, and I’m sure you do, too.

Spiritual OCD

I was scrolling down my facebook feed, and all of a sudden, I wanted to change the décor in someone’s living space. The offense was in the background of the photo, on the wall. It hit me squarely. This needs to be fixed. I am like the fictitious perfectionist, Hercule Poirot. I can’t just leave a crooked picture, even if I’m in someone else’s house. (Actually, I have left them crooked a couple of times, when there was no way to straighten without getting caught. Oh, the agony!) In this case, the offending décor was two framed pictures, one on top of the other, not centered, and no space at all between them. I want to visit that place and set it right.

Right means my idea of right, which would be centered, probably on a smaller wall, and with enough space between top and bottom frame to make them look comfortable, probably at least one and a half to two inches.

I wonder how many of us have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) about other people’s spiritual lives. Unfortunately, I think we’re all guilty.

Did you ever:

  • Repeatedly think about someone else’s sin—however great or small—over and over in your mind?
  • Tell your friends how to improve their spiritual lives, who have exactly the same problem you have with yours?
  • Obsess about offensive words said to you?
  • Climb on a hobby horse about one spiritual issue?
  • Judge someone else by your own high, perfect standards?

We have all done these things.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Luke 6:41)

My imagination goes wild with that verse. “Hey, Bro., stand still. I see this tiny little black speck in your eye.” Then, I turn around and look in the mirror. “Woah! A whole whoppin’ beam! How did that get there? I’m gonna need surgery!”

Why is it so much easier to see the mote than the beam?

We can see others’ faults way before our own. And, you know what? Probably more than 90% of the time, others’ lives and faults are none of our business. If we’re in church leadership, we may be called upon to counsel and encourage, and in that case, it is our business. But normally, the “motes” we see in others’ eyes aren’t.

What about the beam?

“That huge, heavy, railroad tie thing hanging out of my face?”

Yes, that.

“Um, surgery?”

Maybe that would help, but you’ll need to see a doctor. No way am I moving that thing—even if I could.

The doctor says, “Beam-face, what seems to be the trouble?”

I point to the beam.

“Oh, you’ve been judging others again?”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“There’s only one cure for that.”

“Cut it out?”

“No. It’s inoperable.”

“So, Doctor, what’s the cure?”

“Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. You have to take it out yourself. Then, you’ll see just fine.”

I go home, look in the mirror of God’s Word, confess my sin of judging people through my obsessive-compulsive spiritual disorder, and I tug that huge, ugly hunk of wood out of my eye.

Voilà! I can see as clearly as if I were trying on new glasses for the first time.

“Thank you, Lord! And, help me remember this lesson.”

Straighten your own pictures. Space them the way you like. Let others hang theirs the way they want. It’s their house, after all.

We beam-faces have a lot to learn.

Lord, I need help

Step One: admitting you have a need.

Step Two: going to the Lord with it.

Step Three: telling God all about it.

Step Four: giving thanks.

I know you have a need. No, I don’t have mental telepathy, and I might not even know you personally, but I’m sure you are needy. Everyone is.

Going to the Lord with your need is natural when you actually know Him.

There are several kinds of personal necessities, but we’ll put them in two categories:

  1. Knowing the Lord personally—Is Jesus your Savior? Have you been born again? You can’t know God until you have taken this step. Acknowledge your sin, that He is your only hope, and trust His death and resurrection to pay for your sins and give you new life. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:9-10, 13).
  2. Going to Him boldly with any concern—Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Philippians 4:6 is an outline of how to go to God with our concerns. Be careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication (asking) with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

What’s your personal need today?

The Lord wants to help you. What’s more, He promises to. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). God’s resources are limitless. He has no problem supplying your need, whatever it might be.

Pour your heart out to Him. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:8).

Give your burden to the Lord. Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22).

Thank Him for taking care of you. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen (from Revelation 7:12).

What’s the result of this kind of praying?

Inexplicable peace.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).