“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Today I want to encourage you to encourage others. Why? Here are three epic reasons for starters.
Because . . .
1. You’re made in the image of the God of encouragement.
He intended for you to reflect Him to the world around you:
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:5).
What’s holding you back from imitating and “imaging” your Father, the God of encouragement?
2. Your encouragement is someone’s lifeline today.
Everyone needs encouragement—even leaders! The apostle Paul—the same guy who wrote at least thirteen books of the New Testament—wrote of a time he was desperately in need of encouragement:
“When we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more” (2 Cor. 7:5–7).
Who do you know who could use a good dose of encouragement right about now?
3. You have real perspective and hope to offer.
It’s too easy in this dark world to start living like Jesus is just a fanciful idea rather than our soon-to-appear King! The end is in sight. The best is yet to come. That ought to change the way we think and live right now. That’s why, for ten whole verses, Paul reminds believers that Jesus is coming back soon. He concludes,
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).
How could the truth that Jesus is returning soon encourage your friend in what they’re facing right now?
I’d love to hear your answers to these three questions. Then, check back next week for ideas of specific ways to encourage others. Because it matters. Epically so.
One of the saddest comments I ever read on this blog went like this:
I go to a Christian school, but we’re at the stage where Jesus is irrelevant and a joke.
After spending a week at a Christian school, I saw firsthand the kind of peer pressure (or is it persecution?) that takes place from other students at Christian schools.
I don’t share this with you to discourage you; I just don’t want you to be shocked or unprepared when you walk into your Christian school . . . or even your local church.
Because this is a fact: Lots of people who claim to be Christians aren’t. Jesus is clear about this in Matthew 7:21–23,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
So what can you do about this?
1. Make sure that you know that you are a genuine follower of Jesus.
If you’re not positive, begin by reading “Are You Good Enough to Go to Hell?” Then pick up your Bible and read the book of 1 John (you can do it; it’s just five chapters!). As you read, ask God to help you know whether you really belong to Him.
2. Don’t expect everyone in your class to be a Christian just because they’re at a “Christian” school.
In fact, I think it’s wiser to assume that “Christians” don’t know Christ—until the “fruit” of their life proves otherwise. (For more on that, check out “Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?”)
There are traffic laws to obey and consequences if you don’t.
Since that fateful day centuries ago when Adam and Eve decided God couldn’t tell them what to do, we’ve all been bucking authority.
Authority is as much a part of life as sunlight or toasted wholegrain bread. That’s because God has all authority (the right to control and command), and He’s the One who established human authorities:
There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Rom. 13:1–2).
Anyone else less than happy about this whole authority idea? Of course you are. Since that fateful day centuries ago when Adam and Eve decided God couldn’t tell them what to do, we’ve all been bucking authority. Including me.
Months ago I was invited to speak at a Christian school’s Purity Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I forwarded the invitation to my work supervisors and waited and waited and waited. When I finally received their answer, I wasn’t pleased.
They were thrilled for me to go, but they didn’t want me to travel by myself. This wasn’t easy to hear for a “big girl” like me who can take care of herself just fine, thank you very much.
I appealed, explaining that my hosts would pick me up at the airport, but my employers stuck to their guns.
It looked like I might not be able to go to Brazil. My hosts said they could only pay for an additional ticket if I could find another speaker.
I tried. No one could come.
Until one day I thought of a perfect fit. After several days of prayer, this speaker agreed to travel with me.
With God at the helm, authority is just another layer of His providence and protection.
And then, finally, it all made beautiful sense. God had worked through my authorities in order to send not only me, but another Spirit-filled speaker to Brazil. As a result, His kingdom work was at least doubled—maybe more.
And in the process, I was reminded of an important lesson: Authority is not something to be bucked; authority is not a bad word. With God at the helm, authority is just another layer of His providence and protection. In fact, He works out all His purposes through authorities.
How about you? Are you bucking authority, or do you trust God enough to submit to the authorities He has placed over you at this time in your life? How can you actively choose to submit to your authorities today?
I’ve been dating an amazing man for several months now (surprise!), and until recently, I’ve not enjoyed it.
Let me fill you in on some background info before I tell you more:
Before my boyfriend came into my life, I’d pretty much learned (by God’s grace!) how to live the single life with contentment.
My boyfriend built a solid friendship with me for over four months before we began dating.
As soon as we started dating, though, I didn’t value our friendship. I expected non-stop romance . . . and NOW!
Romance Me Now, Please!
For most of my life I’d observed dating relationships in romance novels and watched them unfold on the screen. As a result, I expected to be fawned over and hotly pursued from my boyfriend’s first admission of liking me. Here’s a peek into one of my journal entries,
I thought dating would be all excitement and fireworks and distraction and butterflies in my stomach 24/7. (Thankfully it’s not, because then I’d really get nothing done!)
Sometimes it is exciting, but most of the time it’s simply comfortable and nice. It feels like real, everyday life instead of the stuff fairy tales are made of.
Suddenly I had a real, flesh-and-blood relationship . . . and I found myself mourning the loss of my long-anticipated fairy tale fantasy.
Who Says Fairy Tales Are Better?
One night, my boyfriend and I were having a playful conversation that opened to my eyes to the fact that fairy tale fantasies aren’t necessarily better than real life. It went something like this:
Me: And then, after getting married on the beach, I’ll ride my dolphin off into the sunset and live happily ever.
My boyfriend: That would put you in shark-infested waters in the middle of the night. (He’s so smart like that!)
Hmmm, I thought, maybe—just maybe—fairy tales aren’t so wonderful, after all!
Meet Prince Charming
A couple months ago, my boyfriend and I sought counsel from a wise elder in his church. After hearing the ins and outs of our relationship, this man spoke words I will never forget,
What I see when I look at you two is two young people who love Christ, understand each other’s shortcomings, have been honest about them, and are still willing to love the other.
That’s more to build on than, “When I look in his eyes, I see stars, and there’s this feeling in my tummy.” That may happen too. But long term, you want a more realistic picture of what you really need. Prince Charming is the grace of God ministering to your area of brokenness.
Oh, how grateful I am for my Prince Charming! How relieved I am that I chose to stick with this real-life relationship rather than rejecting it for some unrealistic, fairy-tale fantasy in my head.
And who knew . . . the romance/desire has developed naturally over time, rather than hitting like a ton of bricks from day one like I expected.
How about you? Have you thought about what expectations you might have for a future dating relationship? Where are these expectations coming from: God’s Word or the culture?
Check back in two weeks to see an exercise I worked through that helped me sort through my expectations for my boyfriend. You won’t want to miss it!
Over the years, people’s words have wounded my soul more times than I care to count. That’s largely my fault, as I tend to be overly-sensitive (and overly-proud!).
As I wiped my tears away after one such painful exchange, I picked up Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ four-week devotional, The Power of Words, and found my perspective changing as I read this:
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips (Ps. 141:3).
Nancy pointed out,
Notice where the guard is posted. Not at the ear—to protect us from being hurt by words we might hear, or at the heart—to shield us from the wounds that are sometimes caused by what others do.
Rather, the Psalmist asked God to post a sentinel at his own mouth knowing that the greatest danger he faced was not what others might do to him, but rather, what he might say that would harm others. (p. 32)
Really? Suddenly I began to wonder, “How’s my own speech?
Subtly put people down when talking about them to others, or
Build them up when talking about them to others?
Quick to hurry people along so I can get back to my schedule and tasks?
Fully engaged with people when they stop by to talk?
Assume the best about people’s motives?
Assume the worst about people’s motives?
Do I regularly:
Speak words that encourage those I live and work with?
Speak words that discourage those I live and work with?
If you feel like a giant failure in this area, know this: Love, kindness, and self-control are all natural fruit of the Spirit. You and I don’t have to labor to produce kindness on our own—it’s a natural outflow of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we crucify the flesh and allow Christ to live through us.
By His power, we can actively put Philippians 4:8 into practice by thinking thoughts that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” The result will be words that give grace, strength, and encouragement to others (see Eph. 4:29 and 1 Peter 3:8–10).
Nancy recommends trying these phrases out on the people closest to us:
I love you.
I’m praying for you.
I’m so proud of you.
I’m sorry I treated you that way.
Would you please forgive me?
I appreciate you.
You’re such a blessing!
Who can you encourage with a kind word today?
For extra encouragement in this area, listen to “Conversation Peace” with Mary Kassian on Revive Our Hearts.
You probably know someone who’s divorced. Maybe an aunt or uncle, one of the leaders in your church, or your own parents. If so, I’m so very, very sorry for the pain it’s caused—and maybe still is causing—you.
With divorce so common, I wonder, What’s to keep you from heading down that same road someday?
My desire in writing this post is to save your marriage before you even meet your future husband.
Before we go any further, do me a favor, and don’t rub what you’re about to read in any divorced person’s face. That’s not the point! My desire in writing this post is to save your marriage before you even meet your future husband by introducing you to God’s thoughts on marriage and divorce.
Oh, I know you’re not married yet. But someday, you probably will be. And there may be days—possibly even long months that turn into even longer years—when you shake your head and mutter to yourself, This is no marriage. I didn’t sign up for this.
So I wonder, If the going gets tough for you, will you choose to divorce?
I’m afraid you will—unless you get ahold of the mind-blowing truths found in Mark 10:2–12. This passage finds the Pharisees (think “the squeaky-clean, religious, we’re-something-special leaders of Jesus’ day”) trying to trick Jesus with a question:
“Jesus, is it allowed—is it kosher—for a man to divorce his wife?”
“You tell me,” Jesus answered. “What did Moses command you?” (These guys knew the law of Moses like junior highers know their A-B-Cs!) Immediately they rattled off, “Yup, Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife and send her away.”
Doesn’t sound much different than today, huh? A lot of people in the Church will encourage you to get a divorce when the going gets tough.
But not Jesus.
“Moses (not God!) wrote this commandment because your hearts were hard.” In other words, you wanted a divorce so bad, he let you have it.
But . . .
“But from the very beginning of time,” Jesus dug in, “God made humans in two varieties: male and female. Man and woman. And He designed them to leave their parents and hold fast to each other, so that the two would become one.”
Then, just in case they missed this mind-blowing math, Jesus repeated Himself,
“Married people are no longer two people but one person.”
“So,” Jesus concludes, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”
You would never think of cutting yourself in half. God has joined you together. Don’t let others—or yourself—separate what God has fused together.
Did you catch that?! Marriage has always been God’s marvelous plan for one man plus one woman. And when they marry, it’s ultimately God who’s turned two into one.
So, sweet girl, when your marvelous, God-designed marriage starts to seem mighty un-marvelous due to your sin or your hubby’s sin, remember these marriage-preserving truths. You are no longer two but one.
You would never think of cutting yourself in half. God has joined you together. Don’t let others—or yourself—separate what God has fused together.
Okay, your turn to talk back to me. Does divorce seem acceptable to you? Would you consider it if your own marriage got tough? How does Jesus’ teaching crack the way you naturally think about divorce?
Your paper plate is about to fold from the weight of glazed carrots, stuffing, turkey and gravy, and cranberry sauce, so you quickly sit down across from those relatives you only see about once every 365 days. You make eye contact . . . and your brain goes to mush—just like those mashed potatoes piled high in front of you.
You know you should talk about something deeper than who just got the boot on Survivor, or who sang what on The Voice, but you’re about as empty as that basket of your aunt’s award-winning croissant rolls.
That’s when you either:
Stare at your plate while shoveling pumpkin pie into your mouth to the tune of strained silence, or
Whip out your iPhone and ask a few meaningful (but not too awkward!) questions I cooked up for ya.
Your pick. (Just prepare to answer these questions yourself! It’s not terribly fair to ask others a question you’re not willing to answer as well.)
What’s one of the most meaningful ways someone has thanked you? (Ever, or this past year—you pick.)
What’s one of the most creative ways you’ve thanked someone else?
What difficulty from this past year are you most thankful for, and how did the lessons you learned through it change something about your life?
Who’s one of the most consistently thankful people you know? Tell me about them.
What’s one of the most meaningful gifts you’ve received? (Ever, or this past year—you pick.) How did you respond?
What’s one thing you’ve found yourself saying thanks for over and over and over and over? Like, you just can’t hold your thankfulness in—it insists on oozing out!
What’s something you struggle to thank God for?
Tell me about a time you pretended to be thankful but really weren’t.
What’s one thing that you think keeps you from expressing gratitude more often?
Is there anyone you’ve been meaning to thank, but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Who? (Can you do it today?)
Let me know how it goes! Did you learn anything new about your relatives? Have any meaningful conversations? I hope so!
I got some mail this week that I can’t keep to myself. Read on to hear what one young mom has to say as she looks back on her own singleness from the other side of marriage and motherhood. Then, would you post a comment below thanking God for one tangible gift of singleness today?
Can’t wait to read what you share,
PS: As a little extra credit, is there a young, sleep-deprived mom you could offer to help today?
I am writing this to you while it is still dark out because it is my only time of the day when the house is quiet and I have time to myself.
A few minutes ago I was reading in Exodus about how Moses found himself serving in Midian as a shepherd after having lived in Egypt in Pharaoh’s household. The devotional I was reading pointed out that these years of serving as a shepherd in the desert were also years of God preparing Moses to shepherd his people Israel through the desert for forty years.
I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.
I found myself wondering if though Moses may have despised being a shepherd at the time, in retrospect as he struggled to lead the Israelites if he often looked back on those shepherding years as “golden” and “restful” compared to the struggles he faced with the Israelites.
I found myself thinking of my own life as well and wondering what I would classify as my “golden years,” my years of “rest and preparation.” I think I can honestly say they would be my single years.
Please don’t misunderstand. I absolutely LOVE being married to my husband and raising my precious children. I would not trade this time in my life for anything. And yet, I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.
Today I don’t know that I will use my Keurig to brew a single cup of coffee. Today I will probably pull out the old coffee pot and brew a full pot. I have been up most of the night with a toddler who has a croupy cough and was struggling to breathe in the middle of the night.
By the time I finally got him to sleep my baby woke up and refused to go back down. Ten minutes before my alarm was to go off at five in the morning, I rolled into bed beside my husband and asked him to do whatever it took to get our baby to sleep so I could just sleep for ten more minutes before I had to get up for the day.
These are days that are hard, and I find myself looking back on those single years realizing I did not savor those moments as much as I should have: uninterrupted sleep, awakening truly refreshed and eager to serve the Lord, enjoying an uninterrupted cup of hot coffee while reading God’s Word without distraction. There was nothing wrong with longing for a husband and family of my own, and my God so generously blessed me with them. However, I was foolish not to fully embrace my singleness at that time and treasure it for the sweet gift from God that it was.
Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.
Sometimes in the middle of the night when the moon is out and I am rocking my baby while everyone else sleeps, I can see a shadow of myself on the nursery wall holding and rocking my sweet Ellie. In those moments it is as if I hear God speaking deep in my heart and saying to me, “Savor this. You will not always be rocking babies in the middle of the night, and one day you WILL miss this.” Oh, how I wish I would have heard His voice saying those similar words to me as a single person. “Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.”
Like I said, please do not misunderstand how much I love my husband and children and our little life together. It is so sweet and so precious! But like singleness, it has its moments where it can be rough. However, that does not mean that it should not be cherished as God’s perfect gift for me in this moment, just as I should have cherished more God’s gift of singleness to me as His perfect will for my life at that time.
This was heavy on my heart to share with you this morning, Paula, and I pray you can use it to encourage the hearts of other single people who may need to be reminded of how perfect and precious God’s will is for our lives.
We don’t want to miss out on enjoying His perfect gift for each of us today, because today will not last. Tomorrow is coming, filled with new gifts of its own for us to enjoy. But we can never get back today.
Before social media, my junior high friends and I used to write each other old-fashioned notes using lined paper and pencils—the kind they make from real trees! I still have some of those notes, so I’m going to share two of them with you today: the first from 6th or 7th grade and the second from college.
As you read these notes, look for the fruit (did their words build someone up or tear someone down) as well as the root behind the fruit of their words (what’s obviously in these girls’ hearts).
Will you go with me to talk to Megan? I want to tell her why we won’t tell her why we’re mad (because she’ll tell her mom and then we’ll get in trouble).
Her clothes are ugly.
She flirts (and denies it).
She thinks she is awesome.
She brags about her grades.
She brags about her brothers.
She brags about the ugly cars they have.
She said she has only gotten spanked once.
She thinks she is cool because she has a silver trumpet.
She tells her mom everything.
She copies us.
She thinks she is talented at running, drawing, and school work.
She thinks she is pretty.
She thinks she is cool because her dad is the preacher.
She thinks she is a good babysitter.
She thinks everyone likes her.
She thinks she is a tomboy (pink, teddy bears, mama’s girl, likes dresses).
She thinks she has a perfect life.
Oh yeah, when her mom asked what was wrong she said, “Are you jealous of Megan because of something she has or can do or does?” I stood there thinking, Yeah right!!
I’m kinda scared too because she’ll tell her mom, and then her mom will tell my mom, and I’ll get in trouble!
PS: Write back.
10 Things I Love About Paula
10. She delights in simple pleasures.
9. She gives great advice.
8. Her iron will when it comes to resisting sugar. 😉
7. She loves people.
6. She makes me laugh.
5. Her curiosity about people and life.
4. She’s my sister Resident Assistant.
3. Her beautiful smile.
2. She gives great back rubs.
1. Her boast and confidence is in Christ.
How about it? Did exhibit 1 and 2 build up or tear someone down? What can you tell about the writers’ hearts based only on their words?
And, more importantly . . . are your words more like exhibit 1 or exhibit 2? Maybe you say, I would never write a letter like Kelly wrote. But before you let yourself off the hook too quickly, take this twenty-question quiz from Mary Kassian.
Then, write someone a note (yes, on real paper from actual trees!) with the goal of building them up. Let me know you did so below by Friday, October 3 for a chance to win one of two copies of Mary’s Bible study Conversation Peace in our Freebie Friday giveaway.
“Two Letters; Two Hearts” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
I’m crazy about fruit: plump blueberries, juicy peaches, Honeycrisp apples . . . it’s one of the main perks of living in Michigan—they grow some mean fruit here!
In Matthew 12 we catch Jesus, probably as He’s walking by some fruit trees, using fruit to teach the cream-of-the-crop religious folks an important lesson about their words. Let’s join them now:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (v. 33).
(This isn’t rocket science. What’s the best way to recognize an apple tree? Right . . . by its apples!) Jesus continues,
“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34).
(Paul David Tripp says it like this: “The heart is the control system. Change doesn’t need to take place first in your words; change needs to take place first in your heart.”) Jesus goes on to explain,
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (v. 35).
Let’s break that down from the top.
Jesus is using an analogy of a fruit tree. For our purposes, we’ll call it an apple tree. Jesus is explaining that our words are connected to our hearts the way apples are connected to their tree.
Hockey Puck Apples
Pretend with me that there’s an apple tree growing in your back yard (and thank you, Paul Tripp, for the following illustration!). Every year the tree grows hard, brown, nasty, shriveled up apples you would never dream of eating. This happens year after year after year: the apples turn out as hard as hockey pucks. Finally you’ve had it; you decide to do something about it.
If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.
So you head for the garage and collect a ladder, branch cutters, and a nail gun. Then you drive to the local farmer’s market and buy three bushels of Honeycrisp apples. Now you’re ready. You climb the ladder and carefully cut off all those hockey puck apples. Then you nail three bushels of Honeycrisp apples onto the tree.
From a distance, people will think your apple tree looks lovely, right? But not up close! And time will soon reveal the truth. They’ll rot cause they’re not hooked to the life-giving source of the tree, and next year that tree will continue to produce hockey puck apples.
Paul Tripp comments, “Most of what we do in the name of Christianity is just apple nailing.” We try to maintain nice(ish) words on the surface but never think we have a big enough problem that would require us to dig down to the root issue.
We Need a Heart Transplant
But Jesus tells us clearly in v. 34 that we have a deeper, underlying problem than simply our words,
“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Here’s the deal: Our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem.
Jeremiah 17:9 says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
(By the way, when Jeremiah talks about our hearts, he’s not referring to our blood-pumping organ but to the very core of who we are. Our insides—the part of us no one but God can see: the home of our desires, decisions, thoughts, and feelings.)
We’re told that our hearts are 100% polluted from the day we’re born. All of us need a heart transplant. Because only when we have new hearts will we have new words.
Jesus throws in a second analogy in v. 35:
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Jesus says our hearts are either like spiritual treasure troves . . . or garbage dumps. Each of us can only “bring forth”—fling out—whatever treasures or junk is piled up in our hearts.
If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.
And if you’ve already been given a new heart but still have junk coming out of your mouth, you need to store up good in your heart, like stocking up your pantry before a big snowstorm. How? By memorizing Scripture, by thinking about things that are “pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).
So I need to ask . . . what are your words telling you about your heart?
Check back next week for a fun, practical exercise to see if you can spot what kind of heart someone has based only on their words. And stay tuned the following week to hear how to get a heart transplant!
“Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.