After my Mom passed away I found a short letter she had written to me. Although I don’t know exactly when she wrote it or why she didn’t give it to me, nonetheless, it touches my heart every time I read it. In it, she expressed how proud she was of me as a son, as a husband to Nicole, and as a person. She used the words, “What more can a mother ask for?” And she reminded me to always put God first. I believe the Lord made sure I found the note.
I need a constant reminder of this.
I need to practice this all of the time.
Recently I deeply hurt a friend with my words and I didn’t even know I was doing it. We had grown so close that I would make fun of this person in jest, not even thinking about the words I was saying and how they might be received. Levi Lusko, Pastor of Fresh Life Church says the following about words: “Words are powerful things. They can build up and tear down. They can unlock potential and they can crush spirits.” Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (18:21). I have apologized and I am trying to learn from my mistakes. I have so much to learn.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica he wrote: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Mom was a great encourager to me. I try to be an encourager to others but fall short when I let my pride—wanting to be funny and make people laugh—overshadow my desire to encourage. This too I have to change.
Part of my Mom’s legacy is encouragement. On this, the third anniversary of her going to Heaven and spending eternity with Jesus, I want to try and encourage you with my words. Although I miss her greatly, her legacy lives on with this blog which I started one year ago today. I’m celebrating this first anniversary! All of you have been an encouragement to me, and this blog has helped me immensely, letting me synthesize my thoughts and culling them into one central place. It has worked as a healing place for me to give and receive encouragement as we all drive towards living the life God created us to live in Christ.
I am still convinced the best is yet to come and although life is full of challenges, I know Jesus is my greatest encourager and corrector, my ultimate source of joy, love and wisdom. I know that whatever pain or suffering we are currently going through, He loves us perfectly (John 15:9), and we are His treasure (1 Peter 2:9-10). ALL will be worth it, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
My prayer for us is that we can encourage one another, learning together to live the life God created us to live in Christ.
How are you doing with giving and receiving encouragement?
Chris was my friend, teammate and encourager the year I was MVP of my T-Ball league back in 1982. Although I lost contact with Chris, I still look back at our friendship fondly. I remember Chris as humble, happy, always friendly and a very good T-ball player as well. He was a great teammate and I know I would not have been MVP that season if I did not have him by my side.
Who is by your side? Who is the Chris in your life? Do you have a friend who is humble, happy, always friendly, an encourager and on the same team as you?
Life is meant to be lived in community. From the beginning, God modeled the idea of community through the Trinity of God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus.
Jesus also modeled friendship and community. He had three close friends—Peter, James, and John. “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1).
Among those three, Jesus also had a best friend, John. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26).
They supported Jesus, though not perfectly, to help Him accomplish his mission for His life.
They were on the same team, not always humble, happy nor friendly, but they were with Him and for Him and always willing to support Him. If Jesus needed community in life, don’t we all?
Whom do you have in your life as a friend, teammate and encourager, and how have they supported you to live the life you were created to live in Christ?
Isolation is one of the top tools the enemy uses to ruin our lives. As we know, the enemy comes to “steal, kill and destroy.” The Bible contains numerous examples, such as:
- Eve – she was probably alone or at least away from Adam when the serpent tempted her.
- David – in his solitude he saw Bathsheba and was overcome with desire.
- John the Baptist – he was alone in prison and started questioning if Jesus was the promised messiah.
Each one of these biblical characters is unique yet they have some things in common which helped them overcome the sin. Each one had friends or loved ones in their lives; and after they’d succumbed to temptation, they didn’t keep it to themselves; they talked about it with those closest to them.
My life significantly improved, and became more in line with what I believe God intended, when I started having real, authentic conversations with my close friends. This was—and still is—very hard. Having conversations about my sin, my painful struggles, and my temptations was almost impossible at first. But I took one step, not knowing the outcome, and God has been incredibly faithful.
We are so much better off if we refuse to allow ourselves to remain bottled up. When we take the risk of opening up to trusted friends and mentors, regardless of what they might think or do with the information, we have the tools to battle temptation and the opportunity to grow in our faith.
“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:41-42).
I often want to get my way so badly. Being an only child, getting my way came easily. My mother totally spoiled me.
The shock to my system after I got married and all of a sudden I couldn’t get my way all the time was epic. My desperation during that time was what started my prayer life. (Isn’t it interesting the things God uses to draw us to Himself?) Slowly, very slowly, I began praying sporadically, usually when I needed something, or when I was convinced I was right about something and Nicole was wrong. I was still pushing my way through life, more than praying my way through it. I was probably trying to push God to let me get my way!
In 2011, on my 39th birthday, prayer took on a different meaning when I was convinced to make Jesus the CEO of my life and seek him every day in every area of my life. I had so much to learn, and I still do, but this was a powerful step in the right direction. Praise God.
The energy I expend praying vs. pushing is finally shifting more towards praying. Pushing is hard. Pushing my agenda, beliefs, ideas, and thoughts onto someone is not only bad for relationships, it’s pointless. I’m learning more and more to turn to God in prayer, the true power. Turning to God in prayer makes pushing look like a weak alternative. I ask more questions of my friends, family, clients, and those with whom I interact – instead of telling them what I think.
Nowadays I try to only share my agenda or opinion in specific circumstances:
- After much prayer.
- When asked directly. Even then, I usually ask questions first. Jeff, my friend and mentor, modeled this for me.
- With those closest to me like Nicole, Luke, and close friends or family.
Thinking about this more, when I look at how Jesus interacted with those around him, I see him praying and questioning and gently teaching, never pushing at all. If I am to be like Him, I need to totally let go of the need to push, and instead pray, ask more questions, and gently teach when it’s appropriate.
I have so much work to do here. Pushing comes naturally; prayer does not.
Where are you in this journey of praying vs. pushing?
It Is More “Happy Making” to Give Than to Receive.