A Spark in the Darkness.

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Shootings in Dallas. Riots in Charlotte. Explosions in New York.

Deceit in the debate hall.

Worry abounds.

When darkness prevails and our grief overwhelms us, how do we get through it? What do we hold on to?  Continue reading

Navigating the labyrinth of life.

Over an hour ago, I was preparing to add tags and hit publish on this post when…

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…this happened.

Continue reading

Finish strong (Day 26 of the #encourage marathon)

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Welcome to the finish line! We made it to the end of our marathon! Continue reading

Be diligent (day 22 of the #encourage marathon)

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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

Be Strong (Day 19 of the #encourage marathon)

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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)

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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)

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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

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

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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)

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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

Do not shrink back (Day 11 of the #encourage marathon)

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Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

~ Hebrews 10.35-39, NASB

Welcome to mile-marker 11 of our 26-day #encourage marathon. (You can read yesterday’s post here.)

Someone out there is tempted to shrink back to the world. I hope that it isn’t you! If you are so tempted, I hope this short article will encourage you to keep moving in the right direction.

Today’s passage begins, “Therefore, do not cast away your confidence…” As you read through the Bible, take note of the word, “therefore.” Whenever you spot it, back up a few verses and figure out what it’s there for. In this particular passage, the preceding verses list some of the trauma those Christians had already endured because of their active faith in Christ. The Hebrew writer urges them not to cast aside their confidence/hope because they have already lost so much. He pleads with them to endure and not “shrink back.”

To shrink back is utter failure. To shrink back is forfeiture of the prize.

To “shrink” from something connotes fear coupled with backward motion. Visualize in your mind’s eye a person leaning away from a burning building or stepping slowly backwards from a deadly enemy.

Consider with me, for a moment, the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego In Daniel 3. Nebuchadnezzar afforded them with two options—worship an idol with his favor or burn alive under his condemnation. These men had firmly followed God already, and the Lord had blessed them abundantly. Now, they were faced another, far greater challenge. They could have chosen to shrink from the fire and do the easy thing. They did not shrink back, but walked resolutely toward their fear—straight into the fire for the sake of the Lord.

Did God abandon them in the fire? Did he allow it to consume them?

The scripture tells us that an angel was with them in the furnace. When the three men emerged from the fire, their clothes were not singed, and the ropes that bound them had vanished. (There is another lesson in that as well—sometimes our times of trial and testing remove earthly bounds that keep us from the Lord!) They had faith in spite of their fear. Oh, that I and all believers would possess a faith such as theirs!

If there stands in our narrow path fire in front and mountains on either side, we have but two choices—turn back or walk through the fire. Do not shrink back, but look toward the reward that you see flickering beyond the flames. Keep running forward. You will not have to go through the inferno alone. Recall that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before you. They survived the blaze, and, through Christ, you can too.

Don’t shrink back. Press ahead toward the prize. It is a prize that demands everything, but is worth far more than anything.


I hope you’ll 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.

Here is my handwritten rendering of yesterday’s passage:

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[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.

Here is a list of the days we’ve covered so far:

Not destroyed (Day 1)

Do not lose heart (Day 2)

More than Conquerors (Day 3)

Joy will come (Day 4)

Renewed Strength (Day 5)

Coming Glory (Day 6)

Run with Endurance (Day 7)

Lift those drooping hands! (Day 8)

Run with Discipline (Day 9)