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Posts Tagged ‘Encouragement’

For my 30th birthday, my friends set up a surprise scavenger hunt for me. As much as I HATE surprises, I loved seeing friends from all seasons of my life.

One of the challenges I had to do was hold up a “Free Hugs” sign on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in downtown DC. I loved it. I’m a hugger. Affection is one of my natural languages.

Although I shouldn’t have been, I was shocked at how many people wanted a hug. People of all different faith, size, age, color, and background came up to hug me. I loved seeing their smiles, not to mention the joy that filled my heart hugging all of these people.

I was just looking back over those pictures with the words, “are you willing?” running through my head.

Are we willing?

Are we willing to hug someone’s heart? Are we willing to be interrupted with the stories and needs of others? Does your life speak of invitation and willingness to others?

My heart melts every time I read the story of the man with Leprosy in the bible. Here was a man who was given up on by everyone close to him, as well as his culture. This was a man sent to spend life quarantined from the willingness of anyone else.

Then one day Jesus passed through his town. This man took a risk and knelt at the foot of Jesus–the closest to another person he has been in a long time. With quivering voice, teary eyes, and shame filled words, he asked Jesus to being willing.

Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.

Jesus touched this affection starved man and said, “I am willing.” The man looked up with life’s first redeemed touch and eye contact. He was clean.

Life just needs willingness.

We are filled with scars and wounds that are in need of willingness. This poor-in-spirit girl is in desperate need of His willingness. I also desire to be a person who is willing to reach out and hug another’s heart.

Be someone’s willingness. Risk to hold up a sign that says, “I am willing.”

Help someone feel seen and known today.

It matters deeply.

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Paul was a man who knew how to lead, encourage, and discipline the body of Christ. The New Testament is full of letters he wrote to the body of believers every where. I have been wondering what He would write to the believer’s of today.

My challenge to you is to write and post a letter you would write to today’s believers like Paul. Here is a letter from heart.

To all the believers in the United States, the faithful in wanting to follow after Christ Jesus.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ cause your hearts to over flow more and more for one another.”

I am so thankful when I think about how many believers are wrestling through an authentic and real relationship with Him. I am thankful for how many people I hear about who are pursuing intimacy more with him. I love hearing stories about how people are coming to know God more and making him known to others. I exhale when I hear about people experiencing real forgiveness and grace. God is real and has real forgiveness to be known.

I too often forget that Jesus came to this earth so that we might know new life of redemption and hope. Jesus surrendered his whole life to die for our sins. He died so that we might know different and better life than the world around us knows. Jesus addressed the darkness that fills the earth because of sin. We as believers know different. We know a God who is alive and desperately wanting a relationship with us forever.

When Jesus died, he prayed that we, as believers, would be one as he and the father are one. There is a lot of division going on in our culture. We lack community when life is meant to be shared and edified together. We are meant to be one body built up of many parts that work together to make Christ known. We know God, and our lives are meant to make him known.

I want to encourage you not to choose silence over standing up for your faith. Jesus stated that we all will have trouble, but with him there is different in how we know and deal with that trouble. Our lives will look and sound foolish to those who do not know God. Decisions we make should resemble our faith and beliefs. I guarantee that both your faith and beliefs will be challenged. Please remember that our times of hardship and darkness have an answer and a hope that look foreign to those who don’t know God. We do. Let’s choose to take steps to act like it.

Do not want what the world wants. Do not follow the ways that look like short cuts. Choose the hard, because the process is what builds character and dependence on God. Apart from him we can do nothing. Want a life that looks like integrity, forgiveness, and love. Be a person who is faithful and committed. These two characters are almost extinct in our culture. Be the different.

Speak up and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Make every effort to own your relationship with God not matter what the cost. Love no matter what, because unconditional love comes too often with a price tag.

There are so many options and distractions to silence God’s voice. There are a million messages that solicit and entice you to remove the deity from God. Our world is full of images and people to worship. None will ever satisfy or be enough compared to who God is.

As believers, believe different and live different. Surrender your life to him who saved it. Always want more of him and less of the tangible. Don’t choose the easy, because there is life and freedom to be known in the hard.

As believers, we know a real God and have the real answer for what the world is missing. Be the answer.

What do you have to say to our culture?

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I remember the days where my friends and I would write letters to one another. I could not wait for the mail after summers at camp. I will admit that I was not the best responder to letters, but I loved receiving them. Letters were rich and I read each one a million times.

Today, there is no need for snail mail on a personal level. We can “talk” to one another instantly. Email is the new snail mail and texting the new telegram.

There is such value in messages given. There is a lot of responsibility and weight in everything written.

I have been intrigued lately by the letters that Paul wrote in the bible. Each one of Paul’s letters carried intense weight.

The church needed those letters from their leader. The church was much more recognizable in Paul’s day. There was only a small percentage of people who made up the church in each place Paul traveled to.

The church was named for the body of believers in each place Paul ministred to. Paul church planted all over the place. Each letter served as a reminder of what he taught them about who Christ is. Each letter spelled out what following after Christ would really mean. Choosing Christ is hard and looks foolish to those who did not believe his message.

Each church faced different problems and temptations dependent on the culture. Paul cared so deeply about people really believing in Jesus. He poured his life out in every way so that all would not only just know who God was, but that their life would be changed forever in following after him.

I have been asking myself the question of if I were Paul, what would I have to say to believer’s today? What would I write in a letter to believer’s that made up the church of today? What are today’s issues that Paul would address? What encouragement and discipline would he include in his letter to today’s body of Christ?

I would love to take on this challenge with you.

Challenge:

Write a letter to believer’s of today’s culture or where you are locationally. Post it on your blog and extend the challenge.

Can’t wait to see what kind of things you see!

 

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One of my close friends got married a couple of years ago. Like most brides, she had a ton of things piled on top of wedding planning. Not only was she getting married, but of course she was moving. I mean moving and marriage go together, right? In the midst of the craziness of getting ready for the wedding day, moving came down to the wire, as in after the rehearsal dinner.

Moving is just hard and annoying. I don’t know anyone who likes it.

A bunch of our friends rallied around my friend and went to it. It was like a well oiled machine! Things piled into boxes all labeled “miscellaneous.” We lined up our cars, and like tetras, boxes were loaded up.

It is so much easier to move with help. It is so much easier to do anything when other people come along side us. It’s definitely more fun that way for me!

Jesus knew this truth more than anyone. In John chapter five, Jesus explains this truth to a group of Jewish people. Jesus was being reamed out for healing a man on the Sabbath. He then looked at the men and very plainly explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

Jesus’ answer leaves me with two questions. The first question is: what is the father doing?

My intial response to that question is that I don’t even know what I’m doing let alone what the father is doing! The truth is that the only way to know what he is doing is through intimacy. As I thought about it, I could tell you what my close friends are up to, as well as, what is on their hearts. This is only because I know them. The same is true for the father.

The only way to recognize his heart is to know his heart.

The entire bible is filled with what God is doing. All of scripture speaks to his heart and character.

The second questions is: How do we come along side what he is doing?

This is where it can get tricky. Jesus didn’t just see what the father was doing, or hear what he was saying, and then go off on his own. Jesus did everything WITH the father. I know my tendency can be to see/hear what the father is doing and then say, “thanks! I got it from here.” Then I wonder why I failed and feel completely exhausted.

God uses everyone uniquely according to how he has wired you. Jesus stated that the “father shows the son what he is doing because he loves the son.” God shows us who he is, and what he is about, because he loves us. Deep levels of intimacy come from deep levels of knowing.

Everyone is different. For me, I see what the father is doing by listening. Everyone has something to say, and I tend to gravitate towards what is not being said. I am a between the lines listener. People tell the stories they tell on purpose. There is always a reason for every story. It is in those reasons, nonverbal words, and masked thoughts that I see/hear what the father is doing.

Coming along side the father looks like encouragement, challenging, speaking truth, empowering, motivating, showing campassion, sitting silently, praying, and loving the other person.

My father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

What is the father doing?

How can you come along side him?

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Some times temptations can be blatant and in your face. Temptations can appear wearing masks of clearly identifiable things, but they can also be subtle and harder to spot. Acting independent from the one we are wired to worship can manifest itself in so many ways.

I have two blatant areas of temptation in my life. The first would be listening to music with lyrics that are hard on my heart. I gotta be honest, sometimes Christian music just doesn’t have enough beat for me . The second would be road rage. I seem to have zero ability to muster up patience and encouragement for other drivers. In the car, I have words that dull the blade of the iron that sharpens iron. EEK!

But what about those subtle temptations that go more unnoticed? I have talked about my identified temptations of self-sufficiency and taking my life in my own hands. I have spent too much of my life searching for things that do not satisfy. More often than not I rely on myself as authority, and my pride resembles a desire for glory. This makes for some long seasons in the desert.

The final card the devil plays in this game of poker is more subtle than the other two. The temptation is for Jesus to use other power sources other than God. 9The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

I think that there are subtle ways our culture taps into other forms of power. We are inundated with “self-help”options. We can practice Yoga to help us relax. Zen is used usher us into deep places with in ourselves. We also practice new age aspects of eastern religions to help us experience centering and meditation. These can be subtle ways of providing for ourselves.

Meditation and finding rest are great things, but how we think about these areas matter. Our power source is God. God states, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He also states, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Jesus’ response is so eye opening for me. He responds to the temptation by stating, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” In essence Jesus is saying, “do not ask God to prove himself or put him in a situation where he would have to prove himself.”

The take away from all three of these temptations is that life is not meant to work outside of God. Our constant temptations revolve around the theme of to making life happen on our own terms. These are temptations to keep us stuck in the desert. My hope is that this series has helped call out some areas of nudging God might be doing in you.

I would love to know what blatant and subtle temptations you have!

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Christmas is almost here. We have had at least one holiday a month since October. Three months of potential traditions floating around out there.

 There are Halloween traditions. This holiday tradition might include throwing a party, walking the kids around the neighborhoods, dressing up scarey, or maybe decorating your cubical. Thanksgiving has it own sets of traditions. Eating heavily could  be yours, napping, spending time with family, running a turkey trot, or whatever, but there are traditions you do. Christmas is no different.

The thing about traditions is that they might not all be a good thing. A tradition is something that you just repeat over and over again. That does not mean that what you repeat is a good thing.

Every year my family gets together. We open presents together, my brother plays “santa” when we wake up to exchange presents. Thanksgiving and Christmas look similar. We eat with my mom’s side of the family. It’s a classic night of the same five stories being told around the table. The past two years Guitar Hero has been inducted as a new tradition in our house.

Those things are all well and good, but I have  been talking to a lot of people about their holiday traditions and stories. Everybody has one. Those stories have not all been full of Yule Tide Caroling fun. Some families have the traditions of yelling at one another. Some families traditional five stories include something regretable another family might have done in years past. Some families celebrate one another through the gift process more than the sharing life together or enjoying one another.

Traditions are mixed with fallen routines as well as laughter and joy. Some things I want to encourage you to think about this year:

Have you looked at your holiday traditions in a while? 

What are the behaviors, things, and stories that you repeat from one year to the other? 

What are some new traditions you would love to start?

What are some traditions you would love to discontinue this year?

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