Tag: Encouragement

Utensils in the kitchen drawer

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Okay, so I’m a guy. I look like a guy and act like one, as well. 

I do, however, ask for directions (sometimes).

Around the house my wife will hear me asking, “Where are the BBQ tongs? Where can I find our meat thermometer?”

“Right where it was the last time you asked me, and the thermometer is right next to it.”

Oh.

Yep, I’m a guy.

I can figure out which cooking utensil I want to use, but I don’t always know where they’re hidden.

If I knew which drawer to open, I would. I’d be the self-starter, take the initiative, reach into the drawer and grab the utensil best suited for the job.

You know what happens when I can’t find what I’m looking for, don’t you? I find something else to use; something not really designed for what I need.

For instance, using a butter knife for a screwdriver. A big ladle for a hammer. An empty paper towel tube for a funnel.

Ones who designed the butter knife, gravy ladle, and paper towel tube had specific purposes in mind. When used for what they were intended, they work quite well.

Did you know YOU were created for a purpose? 

On purpose, for a purpose. God oversaw your development in your mother’s womb, placed gifts, callings, and abilities inside your spirit, and is just waiting for you to discover who you are, and what you can do.

For the glory of God.

Whether or not you have ever accepted the Lord’s call of repentance, He has already prepared a glorious position for you in His Kingdom. You’ve been created in Christ Jesus for good works.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

When you turn to the Lord, allowing Him to be your Lord and Savior, the exciting adventure begins. You become one of His utensils, one of His SPECIAL utensils; one He’ll use for SPECIAL occasions.

And with God, everything and everyone is special.

Oh, and by the way, God isn’t too lazy to make sure He has the right tool, the right utensil, for the task at hand.

What do you and I need to do?

Be where He puts us. If He wants us in the drawer with other utensils, then we need to stay there until He picks us out.

Realize the need to be ready; clean, functioning, and prepared for every good work.

Set our minds on things above, and renew our minds with God’s word; so we may prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

It’s great to “dwell in the house of the Lord…” But to me, it’s even greater to be one of His utensils in the kitchen drawer.

“In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20 – 2:21 NLT)

Your pain can be a catalyst for hope.

I published a short post yesterday entitled, “When it hurts like hell.” In it I talked about pain that is so bad it feels like God has abandoned you. Pain so strong it’s impossible to make any sense out of it.

While I was in no way attempting to equate anyone’s pain with unimaginable conditions of the eternal place of the damned, there are times when the only way to describe what you’re feeling is to refer to a place out of this world. A terrible place, at that.

But I’d like to make one distinction between our worst possible pain and the place called hell.

Probably the one major difference between anyone’s pain and hell is hope.

Hell offers no hope whatsoever. 

Yet, even in our deepest, darkest pain there is hope.

You may have to search to find it, but if you’ll seek, you will find.

“But where should I look?”

The God of hope (Romans 15:13). He’s the only One who has been to hell, conquering it before rising from the dead.

“(I Am…) and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” (Revelation 1:18 NASB)

“But I can’t see God when I’m feeling great, let alone when I’m in deep despair!”

Search the scriptures, the Holy Bible, God’s written word. Within its pages are stories, examples of people like you and I who experienced tremendous pain, yet somehow made it through.

You will also find exceedingly great and precious promises from God; words He’ll speak directly to your hurting heart.

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4 NKJV)

God has NEVER promised a life (while on this earth) free of pain. He HAS promised to be at our side, and go through everything with us.

The very One Who conquered death, hell, and the grave can conquer our pain; all the while leading us in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.

So the next time it “hurts like hell”, let your pain be a catalyst for hope. Let it remind you of Jesus, Who has gone through the greatest pain ever known and yet says, “Come to Me…and find rest for your soul”.

Paul learned this truth, as he described in his second letter to the Corinthians.

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 – 12:10 NKJV)

Don’t allow your pain to bury you. And if you need help rising above it, reach out to the faithful God and a faithful friend.

Are Preachers Ever Guilty Of Jealousy?

The biggest day of the year for church attendance has come and gone. Easter Sunday, the number one day of the year when pastors and church leaders around the globe attempt to woo the masses into visiting their church, and hopefully, become a regular member.

Although I’m no longer a pastor, haven’t been for over five years, I can still recall some of the feelings I’d have to deal with on Easter; and especially the day after.

Through the years I’ve had the privilege of pastoring two churches for a total of about eighteen years. Both churches were growing churches; one grew upward in attendance, the other, downward. Try as we might to reach out to our community, I’d many times feel embarrassed and cheated by a low Easter attendance.

So I ask the question: are preachers ever guilty of jealousy? 

Yes, they are. Is it good? No, but it happens. Has it happened to you? Is it happening to you?

Yesterday I looked at a number of Facebook posts from area churches, their pastors and members. I’ve divided them into two groups. One group told of the number of salvations, visitors, baptisms, etc. Very exciting to read. The other group posted a much more simple message; nice, but I’d hardly call it exciting. “Had a great Easter Service and breakfast”, pretty much defined the whole day.

I’m not putting anyone down for their Facebook post. Not at all. But as I read the first group’s gloriously glowing posts, I couldn’t help but think back to the days when Easter didn’t end up like I’d envisioned. For whatever reason, it wasn’t the “breakthrough service” I had prayed, planned, promoted, or preached for.

And before twenty four hours would pass, I would be filled with jealousy and resentment.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to burst your bubble.

Actually, a person doesn’t need to be a pastor, or even “in the ministry” to be guilty of jealousy. But just because a person is a spiritual leader doesn’t make them immune to those terribly sick feelings.

We need to recognize those feelings, call them what they are, and get rid of them. I know it’s hard to do, especially with the adversary whispering all the reasons why you deserve much more than you’re receiving. But something which might help you beat the jealousy demon back into its hole is to give thanks to God for the people you’re jealous of.

After all, shouldn’t each of us, regardless of the scope of our leadership influence, have just one primary focus? Aren’t you and I called to be faithful?

Faithful to our individual calling, not someone else’s.

I thought about adding a number of scriptures pertaining to jealousy and envy, but that’s really unnecessary, don’t you think? We all know it’s wrong to wish for something another person has, or maybe even worse, wish the other person or preacher wasn’t doing as well as they were. It only causes us to forget the things God has called us to do.

I remember the wonderful pity parties I used to throw for myself. I could sit for a couple hours “meditating” on how unfair ministry is; and instead of doing something creative, I’d end up wishing my life away.

I hope your Easter Sunday went well for you. I hope you were in the first group, the one with all the glorious pictures and comments. God’s good, all the time, and Jesus is still alive!

But if yesterday was kind of a drag, and all your effort seemed wasted, the Lord has a word for you, as well. He’d like you to remember He’s good, all the time, and Jesus is still alive.

Jesus is the One Who builds His church. Yes, we’re workers together with Him. Yes, it’s His desire to see everyone born again. Yes, yes, yes.

But He’s only requiring one thing from us. Faithfulness. Faithfulness to His call, direction, and everyday opportunities. Nothing more, nothing less.

So please don’t waste any part of your life giving in to feelings of jealousy. You’re part of something far greater than your own little world. You’re part of the glorious kingdom of God.

And God is just as much God in your neck of the woods, as He is in someone else’s. He’s STILL able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all you can ask or even think!

All You’ll Ever Need Is Found At The Mercy Seat

There’s a place in this universe, though it was created for every man, woman, and child who’d ever grace this planet, far beyond the reaches of the most powerful telescope.

A place not made with human hands, but a place where every sin-stained hand can find complete cleansing.

A place ignored by some and cursed by others. Yet it’s a place where never once has anyone been turned away.

Throughout the generations, many have attempted to destroy the very mention of its Designer. But those attempts have not frustrated Him, nor have they diminished His great love for each one.

A picture of that precious place was painted for us with words spoken by the author of Genesis, when recounting the events of man’s first transgression.

Moses wrote, “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21 ESV)

The picture was further developed when the Lord told Moses, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony…” (Exodus 25:22 ESV)

Moses knew it as the Mercy Seat. The place created by God, for man. The place where man could meet with God; sinful man communing with a Holy God, at the seat of mercy.

The place far beyond our casual reach, but as close as a simple prayer for help.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

Throughout the ages, man has attempted to erect a substitute for that special place. But even with all their logic and labor they’ve never created anything other than a false hope; a deadly delusion.

No, mankind can’t improve it, reproduce it, or make it go away.

The Mercy Seat; the Throne of Grace. The place where Heaven meets Earth; God fellowships with man.

Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them (John 14). He did. The place of mercy; the place of propitiation and atonement.

Jesus is the place of mercy. The Mercy Seat.

Every one of us need the mercy of God, because every one of us is guilty of sin and rebellion. Each one of us has filthy hands, and a wicked heart.

But to all who will acknowledge their need, Heaven calls out to them: “Come and receive mercy, and find grace to help for every need.”

All you need to do is believe, and call.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12 ESV)

Have You Allowed Your Dream To Die?

Boy on top of mountain enjoying the view

Every once in a while I listen to what the preacher says.

Oh, I always hear them, like a lot of folks. But I sometimes actually listen.

Today was one of those days.

He began with the scripture, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” (Proverbs 29:18 ESV) Another translation says it this way: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Even though the preacher soon moved on to another passage, I had already unpacked my mining gear. He had piqued my interest, and the Spirit of God let me know there was more for me to understand beneath the surface.

So it was time to dig, to excavate, and discern what I was supposed to find.

I eventually caught up to the preacher, but not until I had written myself a few notes; some thoughts I believe were from God. Allow me to open my valise and share with you my findings.

The phrase, “No prophetic vision”, can refer to a number of things: goals, dreams, and the like. The goals could be something for an individual or many. They could come as the result of planning and study, or prayer and fasting. How they come or appear doesn’t matter much; what does matter is their value. Are they worth the trouble and work necessary to see them become a reality?

If people devalue the goals and dreams, they will act as though they’ve never heard of them. They’ll reject them as unattainable, irrelevant, or not worth the effort. The result of such rejection is total chaos. No restraints. Wide open spaces where anything and everything can happen.

But not the original goal or dream.

Where are you these days? Do you have a life’s goal or dream? Are you guarding it as you work toward its fulfillment?

There have been times in my life I’ve looked at my dream of writing and ministering the gospel full time when I’ve thought, “Pie in the sky. Dreamland. I need to get back down to earth and take a bite of reality.”

I’ve almost given up on, what I believe, is a God-given dream. And to give it up means to throw off the disciplines and habits that have brought me at least as close as I am to the dream.

But I refuse to cast off restraint! I refuse to live without a dream!

And it’s how we must be with God’s word. His prophetic vision, His dream of what can happen if only… Let’s believe in “if only”. Let’s act upon the vision, the picture His word paints for us.

It is relevant. It is precious. It is attainable.

If only… Hold on to the dream. Let the dream give joy to your disciplines.

Your time is coming. 

 

Do YOU Have A Healthy Smile?

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Smile


I’ve heard it said, and maybe you have as well, that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. Many people believe it, but there are some who emphatically don’t.

Searching the Internet, I discovered quite an array of opinions. For example, there are those who believe the old adage, claiming it takes 43 muscles to frown, but only 17 to smile. One medical student debunked the theory by stating “there are only about 36 named muscles of facial expression.”  (Click Here)

At least one plastic surgeon believes it takes one more muscle to smile than frown.

So what do you believe? Who is right?

And one other question: if the only difference between a smile and a frown is the position of one’s mouth, why is a smile more pleasant to look at?

There’s more to a smile, or a frown, than just the tightening or relaxing of certain muscles. A genuine smile (or frown) originates in a person’s heart (inner being, spirit) and soul (thoughts and emotions). It’s one reason why, most often, you can tell if a person is happy or mad without even seeing their mouth. Just look at their eyes, listen to their voice, or watch the way they walk.

I’m not sure how many muscles it takes to smile or frown. But I do know this; smiling is healthier.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 ESV)

The person whose heart is filled with God’s love, joy, peaceful contentment, and thanksgiving, is someone who can sow seeds of encouragement into the lives of those around them. They look for ways to lift up the fallen, and those burdened with tremendous pain. They possess a simple, yet powerful, resource that God can use to make a difference in someone’s life.

The smile.

The genuine, from the heart, healthy smile.

It’s one of the reasons Solomon wrote, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the forces of life.” Proverbs 4:23

In this age of fitness facilities (seems like there are more of them than churches, nowadays) many have carved out time from their busy and hectic schedules to make certain they are physically fit; their muscles toned and their body trim. If you’re one of those people, great. I salute you for having the determination and discipline to see it through.

But don’t forget the most important part of your body. For whether or not it takes more muscles to frown than smile, never underestimate the power of a healthy smile.

Yours.

Encouraged By The Beaver

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Guest Author – Phyllis Grace

I came across this link on Facebook today from Jerry Mathers, who was the star of the old TV show that began in the 50’s, Leave it to Beaver.

He was sharing on the occasion of Gus the Fireman’s (Burt Mustin’s) date of birth. He told how he enjoyed working with him and how kind he was. The thing that really stood out to me, though, was when he mentioned that Burt didn’t begin his acting career until he was in his late 60’s.

Read “Gus the Fireman” article here.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Why? Because we are in our early 60’s and I have found myself at times questioning the dreams the Lord has given us. I look at our circumstances instead of God’s promises and start feeling that we are “unmarketable” because we are no longer young.

I question God and say, “How can You use us, and how are You going to make things happen?”

I’m not proud to admit it, but I have lost sight of what we feel He has told us to do. I have looked at things around me and not seen what I thought should be happening. Or I’ve questioned why it isn’t happening much quicker.

But today I found encouragement from an unexpected source.

Thank you Beaver Cleaver, for sharing about your old friend Gus the Fireman, and helping this sixty-one year old child of God see that age has nothing to do with it.

When God gives us a dream, it’s real. And He will bring it to pass. Even if we are in our sixties.

Or older.

What’s Your Nickname?

 

A lot of people have nicknames; names they’ve earned or possibly a name that describes them well. 

Some nicknames are funny, while others are given out of spite.

There was a guy in my army basic training unit they referred to as “chicken bones” because that’s how skinny he was.

I’ve had a few nicknames over the years. Most were fun, but some were not.

Have you ever had someone attempt to tag you with a name that is demeaning, or at least one that’s less than flattering?

Names like “Loser”, “Bum”, “Good-for-nothing”, and “Worthless”?

As a child, did anyone ever tell you that you’d never amount to anything good? Did you ever hear these words, “I wish you had never been born”?

Maybe you started thinking your real name was “Worthless”, or “Stupid”. And it’s just possible you’ve spent your entire life trying to live “up” to that name.

Joseph was a guy in the early days of Christianity. He wasn’t a big shot in the church; at least he didn’t start out as one. He was just an ordinary Joe (literally) who loved his God and God’s people.

He developed a reputation for being the kind of guy who always believed the best of others, who always had a good word to share, a go to guy if you ever needed some cheering up.

The Apostles nicknamed him Barnabas, which meant “Son of Encouragement “.

As if he had encouragement for a father.

Well, the name stuck like glue. And it’s the name the Holy Spirit used when He called him into an apostolic ministry (Acts 13).

I can just imagine how Joseph must have felt, hearing the church’s leadership team call him by his nickname.

I picture him being so pumped, he was determined more than ever to be an encouragement to others, whether they reciprocated or not. Whether they appreciated it or not.

Did you know that Jesus has a special name He calls you? No matter what you’ve done, or what you’ve gone through, He speaks that name to His Father as He prays for you.

He calls you, “Mine”.

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:9-10 ESV)

No matter how you’ve been labeled in the past, in Christ you are a new creation. Forget about the former failures. Let go of the nicknames that belonged to the “old man”, and embrace your Heavenly Father’s new name.

Can you imagine how your life would change if you remembered everyday what Jesus thinks of you?

I can. 

I am His and He is mine. I belong to the Lord, the Ruler of the Universe, the Savior of my soul. He has made me accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).

My heart is encouraged, knowing how He loves me. Knowing He’s not ashamed of me.

Even though I’ve failed Him more times than I care to remember, He’s never once said to me, “I wish you’d never been born.”

And He’ll never say that about you, either.

What’s your nickname? Is it one others tagged you with to be hateful to you? Were they jealous of you?

Drop that name and use the one that’s spoken before Heaven’s throne on your behalf.

“They’re MINE.”

Cheering Them On 

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Lately I’ve come to realize that I haven’t always been very encouraging when it comes to the younger generation.

It’s not as though I’ve said bad things to them, or about them. But I’ve not always viewed them as worthy of my “praise”, if you know what I mean.

After all, how could they be as spiritual as my generation? 

This younger bunch doesn’t look like me and they don’t talk like I do. And they seem to understand technology like they invented it.

I’ve acted like “How can the Kingdom of God continue with all of the spiritual giants dying off?” Like my generation is the only one that ever walked with God.

But you know what? People probably felt the same way about my generation. Yes, we were once very young and inexperienced.

Lately I’ve spent time with some young kids. And my, do they seem young. But I started thinking how important it is for me to keep my negative thoughts to myself. In fact, I need to bury the negativity and start cheering them on!

The writer of Hebrews wrote a word that, I believe, was supposed to be encouraging to us all.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1 ESV)

“Since we are surrounded…” seems to indicate a group of spectators, fans, standing alongside a track where those in the race are running. The group isn’t screaming at them, “You’ll never make it!” “We ran differently when we carried the baton.” “I can’t believe God would ever trust you to carry the baton!”

No! The group, the great cloud of witnesses is CHEERING THEM ON! Cheering you and I on!

The cheering helps us run better, work harder, and be our very best for the King and His Kingdom. 

Don’t you think it would encourage younger generations if we became their cheerleaders and helpers (if they ask), instead of their know-it-all critics?

I sure do.

That’s why I’m gonna quit finding fault with people because they’re young. I’m cheering on this group of believers, and praying they accomplish much more than I ever dreamed of – for the Kingdom of Righteousness.

Hey, I’m not finished working. And I know how great it feels when someone tells me they believe in me and what I’m trying to accomplish.

So, call me a working cheerleader. Working with all my heart, while at the same time, cheering on my younger (some a lot younger) brothers and sisters.

Yeah! Go get ’em, kids!

TSA Security Officers and Preachers 

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Just recently I noticed a similarity between TSA security officers and preachers.

Maybe more than one. Yeah, more than one.

Besides the fact that both have a job to do, there’s something about TSA men and women that makes me think of preachers.

TSA folks are, at times, in your face. Why? Because they don’t like you, why else?

TSA security officers don’t have anything better to do than think of ways to make your traveling experience as bad as possible.

Yep, just like preachers.

TSA personnel are only concerned about receiving a paycheck, nothing more, nothing less.

TSA men and women stand around all day just looking to get into someone’s suitcase. Yeah, they get a real charge out of riffling through a person’s unmentionables.

And we all know how preachers can be. Preaching? It should be called meddling instead.

Yep, TSA security officers and preachers are quite a bit alike.

But maybe, you know just maybe, they’re neither one quite so awful.

Maybe they’re really just concerned.

Maybe they want you and yours to arrive at your destination in one piece.

Maybe that’s why they seem to be nitpicking when they inform you that you’re in violation of some regulation.

Maybe it’s a regulation for a reason.

I know, I’ve had those same ugly thoughts about TSA folk. Do you recognize any of these?

“Who does this guy think he is?”

“He must not know how important I am.”

“Who gave him the right to judge how I’m traveling?”

“Get out of my face, preacher; er, I mean, security officer.”

Think about it the next time you go through the security checkpoint at the airport. Maybe look at the agent in a different light.

While you’re at it, why not do the same with the preacher?

Because maybe, just maybe, they’re not trying to make you late, or uncomfortable, or prove what a worthless jerk you are.

Maybe they only want to see you arrive at the right place on time, and in one piece.

I know this preacher does.

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