Be diligent (day 22 of the #encourage marathon)

image

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

~ 2 Timothy‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Welcome to mile marker 22 of the #encourage marathon! I can’t believe we are almost to the end! I hope you have thus far been uplifted. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is discouraged. It might even be you.

When I was twelve, I was seized by a strong desire to be a medical doctor. I wanted to help people, write legible prescriptions, and treat nurses with the professional respect they deserved. I made it my goal to graduate at the top of my class with a impeccable grades. I wanted to my transcripts to be so irresistible that top schools would snap me up in an instant. I worked myself raw, often staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning to produce the best work I possibly could.  Continue reading

Never go into a fight without these 5 things… (Day 21 of the #encourage marathon)

image

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

~ Ephesians‬ ‭6:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to mile-marker 21 of our #encourage marathon! If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.

Someone out there is defenseless. It might even be you.

Do you ever yell at people in movies, even if it’s just in your head? “Don’t leave your weapon on the ground!” Or “What are you thinking going into that place alone? You need backup!” It’s almost like the person in the movie has lost common sense. Anybody with two eyes can spot the danger. These scenes are suspense winders, designed to heighten your sense of anticipation so that you will jump at the right moment.

(Honestly though, why would you drop your weapon when you know that the likelihood of attack is high?)

As Christians, we have 5 things we absolutely need to use everyday. Unfortunately, there are times we cast one aside or simply forget them—to our peril. Continue reading

Prepare yourself (Day 20 of the #encourage marathon)

image

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Stand therefore,

having fastened on the belt of truth,

and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.‭

~ Ephesians‬ ‭6:13-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to mile-marker 20 of the #encourage marathon! We are in the home stretch! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is unprepared. It might even be you.

When a soldier prepares for battle, he or she “suits up.” They go through a process (usually the same process they’ve established each time) of putting each piece of gear in place—Undershirt, uniform shirt, pants, duty belt/gear belt, boots, bullet-proof vest, ammunition, helmet, and weapon(s). This process of preparation is vital, as each battle brings different challenges. A soldier must be in constant readiness.

Each morning, as we awake to face a new day, we are entering into a battle zone. We have no idea what that day’s battle will bring, though we usually have plans. We do not know what temptations, trials, or challenges our enemy will throw at us.

In the previous post, I noted that Paul encourages the Ephesians to take up the “whole” armor—not just selected pieces. He repeats this encouragement in today’s section in verse 13. “Take up the whole armor… that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” We cannot withstand in the evil day if we haven’t readied ourselves. Continue reading

Be Strong (Day 19 of the #encourage marathon)

image

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

~ Ephesians 6.10-12, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 19 of our #encourage marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is weak. It might even be you.

We can be strong in all the wrong ways, making us weak in the struggles that matter most. One may be strong in knowledge, but have no clue as to how to apply it. One can be a strong drinker, corroding their liver and slowly killing themselves. One can be strong in body, but unable to control their temper, making them a bully. Continue reading

Hope is rising (Day 18 of the #encourage marathon)

image

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

~ Lamentations 3.19-24, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 18 of our #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there needs the Lord. (That would be all of us…)

If you look back at your life, do you ever recall a day in which the sun did not rise? You may not have seen it, or a storm may have been so dark that you barely registered it, but did the sun fail to rise?

I’ve been alive since 1981, and I’ve never failed to see a new day. The sun always rises. It is even more dependable than death and taxes.

Who created that flaming orb? Who ordained the seasons and the earth’s rotation? What does it reveal about Him? The only thing more constant than the sunrise is the Lord who made it. If He is more dependable than the sunrise, can we count on Him to fulfill His promises? Can we trust Him to be there for us when we face trouble? Can we rely on Him to be present in our despair?

Yes. A thousand times, yes. Continue reading

What would you do without your Bible? (day 17 of the #encourage marathon)

IMG_1181

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

~ Romans 15.4, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 17 of our #encourage marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there has a starving soul. It might even be you.

What is your reaction when you misplace your cell phone? What do you do when you leave home without it? Do you feel a spike in your stress level?

Why?

Because we use our phones for everything. It’s a source for music, books, news, communication, information, weather, and navigation. We can get help instantly in an emergency (as long as we have a signal). We can even monitor our home security systems. It’s become a valuable tool and a lot of people would feel lost without it… unfortunately.

Now, what would happen if your only bible went missing? Continue reading

What are we holding on to? (Day 16 of the #encourage Marathon)

image

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.

You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

~ James 5.10-11, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 16 of our #encourage marathon! (If you missed the previous post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is barely holding on. It might even be you.

Walking on a boat in the middle of the ocean takes some getting used to. The constant rise and fall of the waves, however gentle, rocks the boat to and fro. In a storm, however, that rocking turns unpredictably turbulent. People and objects become projectiles. Walking demands deliberate effort. Sometimes, the best you can do is hold on tightly to something solid until the storm passes. Passengers with nothing to cling to are violently thrown overboard and lost at sea.

When the storms of life assault us, what are we holding on to? Is it something solid?

The following dialogue is from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Sam’s discussion of stories reminds me of those really strong people who came before us in the Bible:

FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.

SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?

But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something. 

FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?

SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for!

What are we holding on to?

We have been preceded by thousands of faithful men and women, and their stories are worth reading. The prophets the scriptures didn’t live in comfortable palaces with a retinue of slaves; they were not well-liked; few people actually listened to them. Their hardships did not prevent them from proclaiming the message of the Lord. They were steadfast. Those are the stories worth reading—Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Hosea,  John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and countless more—the ones that never gave up.

Today’s passage from James also lists Job as an example of steadfastness. There are not many who can claim to have lost everything of value in a single moment. Job was so devoted to God that God took pride in Him (“Have you considered my servant, Job? There’s nobody like him…”). The devil certainly had. He sought to attack Job in order to wound the Lord. Satan wanted God to lose this prized servant.

Consider what happened to Job for a moment:

  • The Sabeans killed his servants and stole his oxen and donkeys
  • Fire fell from the sky and burned up his sheep and servants
  • The Chaldeans stole the camels and killed more of his servants
  • All his children were killed at the same time when their house collapsed under a “great wind.”
  • He was assaulted with painful sores from head to foot.
  • His wife told him to curse God and die.
  • His three friends asserted that some hidden sin brought about his calamity.

What a brutal, painful and lonely place to be! Not only had he lost all of his stuff, the people who were supposed to support him had turned on him!

It isn’t a great shock to see Job question God as the story progresses. The Lord could have struck down Job for impertinence. Yet, the Lord is compassionate and merciful. He knew more about the situation than Job did. He knew the words that Job had uttered from the outset—“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” God knew what was in his heart.

How often do you say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” when calamity strikes?

After being rebuked by Elihu and then by God, Job repents of his errors and the Lord restores his health and his fortunes beyond what he had possessed before.

There is nothing saying that God will give us health or wealth in this life. It could be that, like the prophets, we will meet a dark and painful end here. The great truth is that we will be rewarded far beyond that in the life to come. If our end is not yet to be, God will often send what my friend Ida calls “a season of refreshing” to revive us for the long journey yet to come.

I do not know what storm is assaulting you this day. You may be in your season of refreshing or you may be losing your grip under the relentless pounding of the waves. You have every opportunity to let go and turn back, but remember the stories; the true stories. The ones that matter. The faithful ones could have given up too, but they didn’t. They were holding on to something.

Hold fast to your faith. Hold fast to truth. Hold fast to the Lord.


Please continue to join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share the image or verse reference on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.

 

3 Qualities We Gain Through Challenges (Day 15 of the #encourage marathon)

image

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations,
knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

and perseverance, proven character;
and proven character, hope;

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

~ Romans 5.1-5, NASB

Welcome to mile marker 15 of the #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here).

Someone out there is under pressure—the intense, transformative kind. It might even be you!

A diamond is one of the hardest materials on earth, highly resistant to abrasions. This mineral is a carbon structure formed in the mantle of the earth under intense pressure and heat (between 1,650 F and 2,370 F). These two factors transform the molecular structure of the carbon to make what we know as a diamond.

In short, a diamond is formed through darkness, depth, intense pressure, and consuming heat; becoming one of the strongest minerals on earth.

In a similar way, God is forming us into diamonds through the intensity of our trials.

Let’s have a look at the three qualities produced through tribulation:

Perseverance 

 

I recently listened to an audiobook of The King’s Speech, a historical narrative focusing on King George VI and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. It is far better than the movie (and doesn’t contain all the bad language!). King George was not supposed to be king; that designation had been intended for his elder brother, Edward. In their early years, Edward was easily liked, excelled at everything, and was dashingly handsome. For him, everything was effortless. By contrast, King George (known as Bertie in his youth) spent his entire young life struggling, primarily with his stuttering speech. Prior to becoming king, he consulted Logue to improve his speaking abilities. Logue noted that if all his patients worked as hard as the king, they would all be cured of their speech problems.

Edward had one of the shortest reigns in the British Empire. He could not handle the pressures and responsibilities of ruling a kingdom. He’d never had to do anything hard and therefore had no developed strength for such a challenge. Bertie, on the other hand, had struggled to succeed his entire life. When he took the reigns as king he was able to successfully fill his role during one of the darkest periods of the British Empire (World War II).

King George had learned perseverance, a rare quality which can only be formed under relentless pressure.

Proven Character

Character is made up of one’s moral qualities. We know what sort of character God expects us to have, but it is under trial that our true nature is exposed and beaten into shape. Trials prove our character or else show where it needs to be improved.

Hope

I used to think hope was wishful thinking. You ‘hope’ something will happen as you cross your fingers and wish on a star, but the likelihood is low. It was in college, however, that the preacher at our congregation changed my understanding of this common word completely. Hope, he said, was a confident expectation for good—quite the opposite of wishful thinking!

As a Christian, our hope isn’t hanging by a thread. We are confident that God will save us. We are confident He hears us. We are confident He cares for us. We are confident in His promises.

Going back to the diamond analogy, a diamond is strong and hard. When we endure trials, it creates a diamond-like hope; one that cannot be marred by anything in this life. That hope inspires. That hope, like a diamond, leaves an impression on any person it touches.

Today, you might be in a dark place, surrounded by ashes, trembling beneath an intense load, and perspiring in the heat. The Lord will not allow you to be reduced to blackened rubble. If you place your trust in Him, you will emerge from this trial as an awe-inspiring diamond—a valuable treasure to the Lord.


Please continue to join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share the image or verse reference on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

Make a little time each day to write down these verses. Studies have shown that the physical act of writing increases retention far more than typing or reading. When I was in college, I used to recopy my notes—cleaning them up, adding things I remembered, and placing emphasis on important facts. Because of this effort, I rarely had to cram for midterms or finals. I encourage you to make a practice of copying Bible verses, it really does help in the effort of committing the word to memory.

[If you click on the link in the passage at the top of the post, it will take you to BibleGateway.com. From here, you can click a link which allows you to share directly to Twitter, Facebook or send an email.]

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.

Why we should find joy in suffering (Day 14 of the #encourage marathon)

image

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

~ James 1.2-3, NASB (click this link for multiple versions).

Welcome to mile-marker 14 of our 26-day encourage marathon.

Someone out there is suffering. It might even be you.

Have you ever cried out to God, “Why, Lord? Why is this happening to me?”

Continue reading

Keep on keepin’ on. (Day #13 of the #encourage marathon)

image

“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.”

2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to the halfway point of our #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.) **Please note, there is a typo on your PDF for today’s passage  it should be 2 Thessalonians 3.13 not 5.13**

Someone out there is wondering if all their hard work is worth it. It might even be you!

Do you ever wonder what it was like to be Jesus?

There is an old joke that has floated around for years highlighting the challenge of teaching:

Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain and gathered them around him. And he taught them, saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who are persecuted. Blessed are those who suffer. When these things happen, rejoice, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

And Simon Peter said, “Do we have to write this down?”

And Phillip said “Is this going to be on the test?”

And John said, “Would you repeat that, slower?”

And Andrew said, “John the Baptist’s disciples don’t have to learn this stuff.”

And Matthew said, “Huh?”

And Judas said, “What’s this got to do with real life?”

And then one of the Pharisees, an expert in law, said, “I don’t see any of this in your syllabus. Do you have a lesson plan? Where’s the student guide? Will there be a follow-up assignment?”

And Thomas, who had missed the sermon, came to Jesus privately and said, “Did we do anything important today?”

And Jesus wept.

It’s funny because students actually say those things and Jesus’ disciples were known for missing the mark a few times.

I can only guess how frustrating it must have been for Jesus to teach his disciples for three years, only to have them say things like, ‘what’s going to happen to this disciple?’ or ‘Are you now going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ or ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’

I can’t fathom his disappointment in their lack of faith, their shortsightedness, and their forgetfulness. It could be one of things he prayed about so often. Parents who teach their children about good behavior, good habits and manners feel a similar frustration when their kids repeatedly fail to adhere to what they’ve been taught.

Are these efforts futile? Not in the least!

Of the 12 apostles, only one went rotten and betrayed him. The other eleven committed their lives to Christ—preaching the gospel, teaching the church, and remaining steadfast in suffering and death. During Jesus’ life, it seemed as though they would never get it right, but the teaching and training obviously stuck.

Likewise, as a parent, the training is a constant effort involving relentless repetition and consistency. It may appear to be futile at the moment, but someday it’ll sink in! Before you know it, they’ll be responsible adults. There is always the possibility that they’ll choose to ignore your teaching (that’s called free will, by the way), but your job is to keep on teaching and to pray earnestly for them.

In whatever way you serve—parent, teacher, preacher, elder, deacon, mentor, friend—do not grow weary in doing good. Remember that you are working for the Lord who will not despise your obedient effort. We may or may not get to see the fruit of our labor a here in this life, but we will see it in the next.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

~ Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Keep on keepin’ on. It’ll all be worth it someday.


I hope you’ll continue to join me on Facebook, Twitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share the image or verse reference on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

Make a little time each day to write down these verses. Studies have shown that the physical act of writing increases retention far more than typing or reading. When I was in college, I used to recopy my notes—cleaning them up, adding things I remembered, and placing emphasis on important facts. Because of this effort, I rarely had to cram for midterms or finals. I encourage you to make a practice of copying Bible verses, it really does help in the effort of committing the word to memory.

[If you click on the link in the passage at the top of the post, it will take you to BibleGateway.com. From here, you can click a link which allows you to share directly to Twitter, Facebook or send an email.]

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.