Encouragement for You!

According to my pocket calendar, today is the Day of National Encouragement.  To celebrate, please enjoy some uplifting Scriptures, quotes, and even a treat!

Scriptures for You

  • “As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him” (Psalm 18:30).
  • “In the world you will have trouble; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).
  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
  • “Now may the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Quotes for You

  • “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  –Anne Frank
  •  “Do you want to know who you are?  Don’t ask–act!  Action will delineate and define you.”  –Thomas Jefferson
  • “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  –Leo Buscaglia
  • “The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances.”  –Martha Washington, first First Lady of the United States

A Treat for You

“Warm Spiced Milk”

  • 2 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/3 c. apple butter
  • 2 1/2 T. real maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

-Whisk together all ingredients in a heavy saucepan over low heat until milk steams.  Do not boil.  Serves 4.  (Recipe from Gooseberry Patch Blue Ribbon Family Favorites)

-We enjoyed sipping this belly-warming beverage last night on a chilly, drizzly Colorado evening.  I used Pumpkin Pie spice in place of the cinnamon and cloves and simply heated  it all up in the microwave.

A Prayer for You

Bless each reader, Father, with strength, peace, and compassion as they reach out to those around them and influence all who know them.

 

 

4 P’s for Serious Bible Study

Denny Petrillo is the president of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.  One of the classes he teaches is “Biblical Exegesis.”  Exegesis in Bible study means to take out of the text what the text is intending to say.  An exegetical approach keeps us from bringing our own baggage or preconceived notions to the text.  What could be more important as we strive to gain wisdom (Col. 1:9,10) and seek God’s will for us (John 7:16-18)?

Dr. Petrillo looks for Four P’s when studying.  The following information about the Four P’s is from the notes I took in his class:

Prevalence 

If a word or phrase appears frequently in a book, it must be an important concept.  These “key words” help us understand the author’s focus.  They keep us on task and allow us to keep verses in context.  When we see a word that has a number of occurrences, we should ask, “Why does the author keep using this word?  What does it mean?”  From Genesis to Revelation, every book has key words.  The rule of thumb is if a word occurs at least one time per chapter, it’s probably a key word.  Color-coding the key words helps them jump out at you and remind you that they are important words in the book.  Here are some examples we were given in class:

  • “Faith” appears 63 times in Romans.  The serious Bible student will put together all of the faith passages to find out the meaning of the word and how it’s used in the book.
  • “Coming” appears 52 times in Matthew.  By paying attention to his word, the Bible student will learn that people have different reasons for coming to Jesus–some for healing, some to test, some to be a disciple, and some for teaching.
  • “Knowledge” appears 14 times in 2 Peter.  Since there are only three chapters in 2 Peter, it becomes apparent that “knowledge” is a major theme in the letter.

Purpose Statement

Sometimes an author will come right out and state why he is writing.

  • For example, John writes, “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ…” (John 20:30,31).    So the Bible student now knows the purpose of the book of John and will keep that in mind when studying.  Key words are often found in purpose statements.  In John 20:30, 31, there are at least five key words:  signs (15x), believe (99x), life (55x), disciple (79x), and Jesus (254x).
  • Another example of a purpose statement is 1 Tim. 3:15,16, “…I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God…”

Denny Petrillo likes to put the purpose statement on a 3×5 card and keep it where he can frequently look at it.  He said, “This reminds me of one crucial point–he said this is why he is writing.  Therefore, whatever I say should clearly and easily fit into that statement!”

Prayers

When a writer says, “This is what I pray about concerning you…,” he will logically include important points.  If the writer’s praying about it, it’s what the book is probably about.  Examples are found in Ephesians 1:15-19 and 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5.  Some questions to ask when finding a prayer:

  • What are the two or three main points of his prayer?
  • What seem to be the predominant words in this prayer?

Petition Verbs

When we want to emphasize an important point, we will use bold type, italics, ALL CAPS, or underlining.  In the Greek, they used petition verbs.  Petition verbs are “I urge,” “I beg,” “I beseech,” etc.  When we come across a petition verb, the writer is letting us know that what he’s about to say is VERY important.

  • Rom. 12:1- “I beseech you therefore…that you present your bodies a living sacrifice…”  The petition verb clues us in to the importance of this statement and lets us know it’s a key thought in the letter.
  • 1 Cor. 1:10- “Now I plead with you, brethren…that you all speak the same thing…”
  • Phil. 4:2- “I implore Euodia and I implore Synteche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”  Two petition verbs in one verse means what he is about to say is especially significant!  The letter to the Philippians is about being of the same mind.  What mindset does Paul want them to have?  “Others about self” according to 2:3.  “Mind” appears 11 times in the book.  The serious Bible student will consider this while reading through the entire letter.

A list of petition verbs in New Testament letters can be found here.

Looking for these four P’s is one easy way to make sure we are striving to be serious students of the Word.  “Be diligent to present yourself to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for those who show us how to keep learning and growing in Your Word!

 

 

Today is the Day

TODAY is the day to wake up from spiritual stupor if you find yourself just going through the motions.  Engage your heart and awaken your senses as you really live for Christ.

  • Read Psalm 103

TODAY is the day to make sure your loved ones know they’re your loved ones.  Has it been awhile since you’ve been intentional with your love?

  • Read James 4:14

TODAY is the day to open your eyes to the lost around you.  Pray for opportunities, carry your Bible, speak the name of Christ, and something will happen.

  • Read Matthew 28:18-20

TODAY is the day to let go of grudges.  With God’s help, forgive those who have hurt you or disappointed you.

  • Read Matthew 18:21,22

TODAY is the day to step out of your comfort zone.  Throw away the excuses and do hard things.  Make a difference to someone somehow.

  • Read Philippians 4:13

TODAY is the day to give up selfishness.  Be inconvenienced and remember the blessing of putting others first.

  • Read Philippians 2:4

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

–Prov. 27:1

Prayer for Today:  Help me see this day as you do, Lord.

How to have a Real Conversation

Yesterday, Neal and I enjoyed a great conversation with a 95-year-old man.  In the course of our brief time together, he said things like:

  • I celebrate our relationship.
  • A Scripture I read the other day reminded me…
  • In Romans 12…
  • Have you seen this great article in the Gospel Advocate?
  • Let’s sing a couple of songs.
  • May we pray together?

Anyone who knows this man knows that his speech is often seasoned with spiritual substance.  Sprinkled throughout talk of the Rockies, our boys, and his grandchildren, this sterling gentleman naturally referenced God’s Word, the Lord’s church, and the beauty of Heaven.  We did sing together, just the three of us.  “Angels are Singing” and “Be with me, Lord” never sounded so sweet!

I keep thinking back over that conversation.  It was so REAL because it was filled with eternal matters.  I’ve known and admired this man for over eight years, but I was still caught off guard a couple of times by his seemingly unorthodox requests.  “Let’s sing a couple of songs.”  What, right now?  “I’d like for you to read these two paragraphs I found about Ephesians One.”  If we’re reading, no one is talking.  But the silence was only mildly uncomfortable at first.  Then it seemed natural and right and beneficial.

I’m grateful for the example of how to have a real conversation.  Too often I get caught up in going through the polite motions, saying what’s expected, or neglecting opportunities to encourage.  I loved the multiple references to God’s Word and I was especially drawn to how naturally they flowed from this Christian man’s lips.  I saw him as a real man who knows how to talk about real things.

Neal and I left smiling and refreshed.  One conversation did that for us because of its substance.  I’ve been thinking back over the interactions I’ve had this week and I’m challenged to engage in more REAL (face to face) conversations with my husband, my children, my church family, close friends, and with my neighbors.

For those who live according to the flesh

set their minds on the things of the flesh, 

but those who live according to the Spirit, 

the things of the Spirit.

–Romans 8:5

Prayer for Today:  Help me, Lord, to have a mind so set on You that my words more often mirror Yours.

*This post can also be found at http://proverbs14verse1.blogspot.com/2014/08/wise-woman-linkup_13.html.

 

Serious Bible Study is Not Just for Men

The title of this post is one of the assignments I’ve been given for Polishing the Pulpit, and what a great study it has been!  I knew I would love it and need it.

Have you ever been to a ladies’ day or ladies’ retreat where the topic was fluffy?  Where it seemed like the decorating theme must’ve taken precedence over the study theme?  It’s all cotton candy and no meat (but it’s pretty!).  Well, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Ladies’ days and retreats are extras.  They’re sweet times of fellowship meant to encourage and uplift.  However, I think we sell ourselves (and our teen girls) short.  I think we need to thirst for deeper waters so that we can be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that we may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him… and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  That was Paul’s prayer for the saints (Col. 1:9,10).

Knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding.  We won’t gain any of those unless we become serious about Bible study.  Do you consider yourself a serious student of God’s Word?  If not, why not?  What could be more important?  What could possibly take precedence in our lives over “increasing in the knowledge of God”?  Believe you me, these   are questions I’m asking myself, too.

Let’s encourage each other and let’s challenge each other to study for ourselves instead of just relying on the study that others have done.  Serious Bible study is for all of us.

Prayer for Today:  Your Word, Lord, is living and powerful.  Help me be more convicted to spend quality time every day discovering its truths.

 

 

Status Accountability

If it’s true that encouragement can change people, then it must also be true that discouragement can as well, only not for the good.  Discouragement removes joy, causes doubt, questions abilities, and can make one want to give up.  No doubt we’ve all experienced it.  Certainly none of us want to be the cause of it.

Social media has increased our accountability.  Consider the words of Jesus:

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36, 37).

Our words impact others and we are being held accountable for each and every one.  With every posted status or comment, we must ask, “Will this bring sunshine or gloom to the reader?”  Of course I’m not talking about prayer requests.  It is blessing to be able to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  I’m talking about ways we might negatively impact others.  For instance:

  • If the very first time we contact someone is to object, criticize, or point out a perceived wrong, it probably won’t have the kind of effect we hope it will.  Relationship is necessary.  Just because we are “friends” or followers on social media doesn’t mean we’ve built the kind of rapport essential to any kind of admonishment being well received.
  • While venting may temporarily relieve our own frustration, it really doesn’t do much for the reader no matter how wittily we word it.  Everyone experiences bad customer service, careless drivers on the road, messed up orders, or any number of life’s daily annoyances.  What do we hope to gain by sharing it?  Sympathy?  The comments generally show that all we’re doing is reminding others how frustrating life can be.  Surely we want to accomplish something better than that with our words.  Complaining is just a bad habit (Phil. 2:14).
  • We’re not going to agree with everything written or posted, but let’s choose our battles wisely.  And let’s consider our influence as Christians with the tone we use.  No matter how “right” we may be, sarcasm still sounds obnoxious.
  • And finally, we really are not meant to be the Police of Social Media.  Let’s not be Facebook trollers out to catch others doing bad.  Let’s catch others doing good.  While there may be times when we can and should offer a gentle word (in private) of admonishment, more often than not we can and should offer grace.

We know that we should think before we speak.  Sometimes we need to be reminded to think before we post as well.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Prayer for Today:  Help me use my words, Lord, to draw others closer to You.

Image credit: Facebook (mslk.com)

Weary and Discouraged in Your Soul

I’m almost afraid to write this because I know I won’t do it justice.  This morning I felt like I needed to study the subject of faithfulness and landed in Hebrews 12.  The rich text spoke directly to my heart.  I became still as I absorbed some timely truths and reminders.  Truly, “the word of God is living and active…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Are you weary and discouraged in your soul?  Weariness and discouragement don’t claim us after minor incidents, brief trials, or single slip-ups.  They are the result of time–an extended period of time dealing with something weighing.

  • In your marriage.  Perhaps you’ve been working through some issues that seem to keep cropping up no matter what.  You are decades into your marriage but still face disappointment on a regular basis.  Your thoughts might run along the lines of, “You’d think after all these years we’d have this figured out by now.  I’m sick and tired of dealing with this.”
  • With your health.  You or your loved one might be dealing with chronic illness.  Perhaps you’re battling cancer or just trying to survive one painful day at a time.  You wonder when or if you’ll get better. You may be thinking, “What have I done to deserve this?  I just want one good day of strength and relief.  Is that too much to ask?
  • Trying to make a living.  Maybe you can’t seem to get a reliable job that will make enough to take care of your needs.  Or perhaps you’re trying to raise support to do mission work and can’t understand why many aren’t willing to contribute.  You think, “I’m a hard worker and believe in clean living.  Why do I struggle to make ends meet?”  Or, “I’m just trying to do the Lord’s work.  Doesn’t anyone believe in my efforts?”
  • In your spiritual walk.  Do the same temptations keep tripping you up?  Perhaps you find yourself praying for forgiveness again and again.  You look in the mirror and label yourself, “Weakling.”  You feel like a hypocrite.  You might wonder, “Why can’t I overcome this?  Is God fed up with me?”

In various areas of our lives, we can become weary and discouraged.  Some give up.  After decades of marriage, a spouse walks out.  After years of God’s faithfulness, a Christian turns away.  It’s heartbreaking.  A recurring theme in the book of Hebrews is “hold fast” (3:14; 10:23).  In chapter 12, it seems there are two different types of situations that can discourage us from doing just that.

1.  TRIALS (Heb. 12:1-3)

Do trials get any easier to bear when they’re longterm?  Does one become immune to weariness after months or years of struggle?  Just ask someone who’s living it.  Their battle is daily and as real as it was in the beginning, if not more so.  This is where “weary and discouraged in your soul” is used by the Hebrews writer, and he gives us ways to prevent it from happening.

Lay aside.  “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (v. 1).  Burdens and sins are sometimes companions.  Whatever is weighing on us can lead to anger, resentment, bitterness, and a waning of faith in God’s promises.  We must resist the temptation to think our prayers are useless and keep praying, keep asking God to lift the weight.  Each new day, try again to lay it all aside.

Run.  “Run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1).  Endurance is the key, isn’t it?  The question is, “What am I going to do?”  The answer is, “Keep going.”  We know where we’re going and that’s Heaven.  Even when feeling beat up on, we must just keep running, one foot in the front of the other.

Look.  Because God knows that endurance is easier said than done, He tells us where to keep our focus.  “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (v. 2).  Focus on Jesus.  Why?  Because He “endured the cross” (v. 2) and “endured such hostility from sinners against Himself” (v. 3).  Through no fault of His own, He suffered but He endured.  He put His faith into action and kept going.

2.  WEAKNESSES (12:5-13)

Children of God need the chastening of the Lord.  We have weaknesses.  After reminding us of the importance of God’s discipline, the Hebrews writer tells us how to endure when battling our own weaknesses (and this is the part of the chapter that caught my attention this morning).

Strengthen.  “Strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees” (v. 12).  What are hands which hang down?  The NASU reads “hands which are weak.”  To hang down or be weak comes from a word which means to release, to let go, to hurl.  What a visual!  This is when we just let go instead of holding fast.  The Hebrew Christians were returning to their old ways (Judaism) and don’t we do the same?  We give in to our weaknesses and old habits.  Feeble knees are those which have relaxed or loosened.  It’s the very opposite standing firm.  To strengthen means to make right again, to erect.  If we’ve let go, we need to strengthen our resolve to keep trying to do right.

Straighten.  “Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (v. 13).  I love this verse.  It’s encouraging to know that there are times when we’ll be broken but we can still be healed.  A broken spiritual life or even a broken marriage can be made whole.  To make straight paths for your feet means to create a way that is right, like wagon ruts that are safe to follow because they will lead to where you want to go.  “So that the lame may not be dislocated.”  The NASU reads “so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint.”  A more literal reading would be “that it be not turned out of the way.”  Giving in to our own weaknesses can cause us to go astray or be wayward.  Instead, we must make straight paths so we can heal, so we can keep going in the right direction, albeit a bit more slowly.

Whether through outside trials or our own weaknesses, there may be times when we feel weary and discouraged.  A very human response is to want to give up, but God tells us we can endure and we can be healed.  I trust that, don’t you?  Sometimes it’s just good to be reminded.