The book of Proverbs has an abundance of helpful life advice. And conveniently, there are 31 chapters..perfect for one each day of the month! (And on short months, we can double up on some days). This is also a great start for those who are trying to make daily Bible reading a consistent habit. Instead of just checking off a to-do list each time a chapter is read, there are many benefits of reading and re-reading to really soak up all that is being said. Distractions aside, find a comfortable place and pray for guidance and wisdom. Ask that God will help you to apply what you are reading to your own life, as He would have you. Take notes, highlight, and really get into and I believe you will find that your love for the Bible and God will grow and grow.
Some of my favorite verses from the book of Proverbs:
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.”
“The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”
“Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”
“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.”
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet ofyour heart.”
Not that I don’t love a good home-cooked meal with people I love, but sometimes it’s nice to mix things up. Many congregations have a regularly scheduled fellowship meal, but sometimes it’s beneficial to plan other types of activities. Spending time together as a church family has many benefits. We will be able to learn more about each other and lead to closer and deeper friendships, one of the many benefits for which the church was designed. If your congregation has become stagnant in one way or another, these activities and more like them will undoubtedly benefit everyone.
Finding and being a part of these types of fellowship is good (and needed) for us as Christians. This also sets an example for the children in the congregation of how active and involved we should all be. If you have children, show them that being at every activity is a priority and they will be able to see what matters most in life by the standard placed in front of them
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6
Here are some activities and ideas to try:
Make of list of shut-ins and take baked goods to them. (If there are many on the list, assign groups, and divide and conquer!)
Take the youth group to the nursing home (if they’re allowing visitors at this time) and sing church songs to them.
Have a monthly craft night for women. (Bonus: take the crafts to the shut-ins as a gift!)
Family picnic at the park
Church league softball (if this is an option in your area)- the world needs to see Christians with good sportsmanship!
Trunk of Treat (this one has become a fall staple at many congregations)
Monthly or weekly family spotlight -Have a bulletin board for this- display photos of each family member with a few fun facts about each -Another option- mystery spotlight- don’t display the name & photo and have members guess who the person of the week is
Widow’s Dinner (have the youth plan a dinner for the widows of the congregation and have them serve their dinner- this will likely mean a lot to them!)
Community Heroes Cookout -Invite local police officers, firefighters, etc. to a church cookout as a thank you for their service. -Advertise on social media and with banners, etc. -This is a great way to get contacts for Bible studies and get the church’s name out there in the community.
Work day -Help the one who cleans the building by going the extra mile to clean the building -Plant flowers/update landscaping -Update bulletin boards -Clean out classrooms
Monthly singing and game night
-Ask for volunteers for members to open their home for this (different home each month).
-Guests can bring finger foods so the host doesn’t have to provide the meal.
My husband Dale spoke at Polishing the Pulpit recently on the topic of pessimism and its effects on the church. As he ran through some of his points out loud, it got me thinking about how much can be paralleled with this topic and the design of the human body (I guess, as a nurse, I can’t help but make that connection).
For example, if the kidneys start actin’ up, if you will, the other organs will be affected. And if this isn’t addressed correctly and in a timely manner, it can wreak havoc on the rest of the body. The other organs will overcompensate to try and keep the body healthy, but they will eventually become damaged and not able to perform at their optimum levels. The body is an incredible machine designed by a perfect Creator but we live in a fallen world and sometimes we do things, even subconsciously, that can harm our own health. Likewise, the church was designed perfectly but sometimes we can also do harm to this body. When we as Christians display pessimism, either subconsciously or knowingly, we can cause major harm to the Lord’s body. Attitudes tend to be contagious. If someone voices several complaints and negative remarks, it can discourage others and lead to more negative attitudes. The church will not grow and thrive if pessimism is commonplace.
As we age, we must take care to treat our physical bodies with special consideration so that our health doesn’t deteriorate prematurely and we can enjoy a long life with those we love and in service to the Lord. In the same way, we must take care to treat the Lord’s body with special consideration, showing gratitude and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church may not be perfect, but we can do things to help it grow and become stronger.
Here are some practical ways we can each take it upon ourselves to combat pessimism in our own congregations:
If we hear someone complaining about someone or something in the church…instead of going along with the complaints and contributing to negativity, make it a point to verbalize something positive that you’re thankful for related to the topic.
Do a character study of Barnabas. He was known as a great encourager and we could probably all learn a thing or two from him.
If you happen to know a Negative Nelly in your congregation, make it a point to compliment them. This is not meant to be manipulative or dishonest, obviously. Find something you admire about them, anything really, and let them know. It could work wonders on this person, who may not often hear personal compliments. Take time to get to know them and I bet you’ll find there’s more positivity to be found by them, it just needed to be uncovered by someone who took the time.
Let’s all do our part to show positivity instead of pessimism so the church can grow and God can be glorified!
Twenty years or so ago I went to a Mary Kay party at a friend’s house. The seller did a satin hands demo, which I enjoyed immensely, and at the end of the evening I felt compelled to buy the set. The whole thing was an enjoyable, no pressure experience, after which for about 5 minutes I thought that maybe I should sell Mary Kay. I even purchased the $100 start up kit without giving the whole thing much thought.
The kit purchase was quickly followed with a meeting from a Mary Kay selling coach (definitely not the actual label, but you get the idea) who was supposed to be teaching me tips for selling Mary Kay. I became very uncomfortable when she told me to think of every person I’ve Ever Known and make a list of those people so I could reach out to to make connections that could lead to sales.
As I started thinking about all the people I’ve ever known and haven’t spoken to in years and the possibility of me reaching out with hopes of eventually selling Mary Kay, I told my “coach” how uncomfortable that made me, and, “What if people thought I was nice to them just because I was trying to sell something.” And also, I believed sharing the gospel of Christ with people was so much more important than selling Mary Kay, yet I’d never made a list of people to study God’s word with. I’ll never forget what the woman told me. She said, “You can use Mary Kay as your wagon to take Christ to the world.”
(I’m sure someone can actually do that, and I love Mary Kay and my friends who sell it, but in that moment, less than 24 hours after I bought my start up kit, I decided I was Not a salesperson, and no, I was not going to use Mary Kay as my wagon to take Christ to the world).
So. All of that being said. I ask myself 20 something years later, have I indeed done a great job of taking Christ to the world?
This past week I was in my kitchen cooking and the words to a song were going through my head, “…When in the better land before that bar you stand, how deeply grieved our souls will be, if any lost one there should cry in deep despair, you never mentioned Him to me.”
That song haunts me. I’m a people person. I literally LOVE people. I love my friends. I love the baristas at Starbucks. I love my employees. I love the cashiers and waitresses at any random grocery stores/ restaurants. I love people.
But have I shared the most important aspect of my life with them? As an admitted non salesperson, I’m also non pushy (I think… right?) so I think, “I don’t want to push my beliefs on anyone and I think people are good with that.” Lol
Well, something huge happened today that I needed to share…. With Everyone….. At least everyone within driving distance of my Kroger. Kroger has BLUE BELL HALF GALLONS ON SALE FOR 3.77!!!!! I threw away frozen vegetables to make room for SIX cartons!!! I was so excited, and I knew I had to tell EVERYONE, and then I thought about Mary Kay, and the song, and thought, “How can I tell everyone about Blue Bell without telling Everyone about Christ???”
So, here I am. I know Everyone wants Blue Bell, but maybe everyone doesn’t want Christ, and I have major holdups because I think I’m not good enough or prepared enough to share the gospel, BUT I do know exactly what a person needs to do to be saved, and I do know that every single one of us is lost without Christ. It doesn’t matter how big or “small” or pretty or ugly yours/ my sin is. Every single one of us is lost without Christ.
So, go get some Blue Bell from Kroger if you live in Texas and lmk if you want to study the Bible together. I apologize if I’ve never asked you before.
I also apologize if you don’t live in Texas, but we can still study together if you want. Better yet, you can come visit me. I bought six things of Blue Bell, and I’ll share (my waistline will thank you), and we can study together.
(Sandy Tipton lives in Fort Worth, TX, and is Neal’s first cousin.)
Did you ever have that one friend back in junior high that acted like your best friend at church but then when you saw her at school, she acted like she didn’t know you? Perhaps she was ashamed of you when she was with her other friends because you weren’t cool enough for the school crowd. Do you remember how that made you feel?
That kind of juvenile behavior is unfortunate but not surprising. Young people can struggle with insecurities. They want to be seen in a certain light to be accepted by certain groups. And that objective becomes a stronger motivation than caring about how their actions might hurt or affect others.
Unfortunately, for most of us, that desire to be accepted doesn’t dissipate when we grow up. By the time we’re adults, we’ve honed our skill of reading the crowd and learning how to blend in to become part of it.
Some of that is natural and good. When we move to a new state or start a new job, we observe our new environment and learn how to find our place and fit in. We make friends by learning what others like and are interested in and then try to emphasize areas of common ground. A sense of community is important and we want to feel that our part in it is valued. Paul even said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). He observed people and found ways to connect with them.
The problem comes when our desire for acceptance becomes a stronger motivation than our determination to be Christlike. It’s a fleshly thing and I imagine that, even as Christians, we all struggle with it at some point or in certain situations. For example:
When our conversations around the water cooler at work are different than our conversations in the fellowship hall at church.
When we put all kinds of effort into befriending, helping, and hanging out with the “cool kids” at church but barely offer a nod to those who are on the fringe or those who were converted through benevolent outreach.
When we use edgy or worldly humor around some to get a laugh but present a more spiritual tone around an elder’s wife.
What’s the difference between these scenarios and Paul’s declaration? Paul had one clear goal and that was saving souls. He never compromised his faith or integrity. He wasn’t trying to be liked or fit in or gain a following (1 Cor. 1:10-15). In all of his efforts to reach others, He first determined to look like the Christ he was representing.
So how does one “become all things to all people” without becoming a chameleon (presenting a different face in different situations)?
Pray for pure motives. While being accepted is nice, our objective in all of our interactions should be, “What can I do to point the way to Heaven?” If we take the focus off of self, it will help remove the temptation to compromise in order to be liked (Gal. 2:20).
See people as Jesus did. Think about everyone He interacted with. The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Zacchaeus (Luke 19). The woman who was a sinner (Luke 7). Jesus wasn’t worried about what other people thought about Him, even when His own disciples questioned His actions. Jesus could have blended in, like a chameleon, for self-preservation. But He was more worried about what others needed. Who’s sitting alone in the pew where you worship? Who goes to an empty table at the fellowship meals? Who can you invite to lunch that probably isn’t being invited? Who is being ignored where you work because their life got messy and it made them mean? Jesus SAW people and went out of His way to get to them.
Be genuine. Paul was the same with everyone but Peter stumbled in this area. He was nice enough to the Gentiles until certain Jews came around. Then he snubbed them. He would “draw back and separate himself from them.” Paul rightly accused Peter of playing the hypocrite (Gal. 2:11-14). When others see us, it should be a given that we will be warm and friendly to them, every time, as often as we can, no matter who’s around. If we’re only thoughtful toward certain people, we’re not really thoughtful, are we?
Protect souls. Peter’s actions lead others to ignore the Gentiles, too. Even friendly Barnabas followed Peter’s example. I imagine this had to leave a bad taste of Christianity in the mouths of those Gentiles. If we’re interested in getting others to Heaven, we will be very careful of our own influence when it comes to how we treat everyone around us. We will be protective of others. This means we will protect the souls of the worldly by trying to influence them with Christlike behavior. We will protect the souls of the less fortunate by doing our best to make them feel wanted and worthwhile. We will protect the souls of those who are on the social fringe by widening our circle to include them. We must lead the way in this!
Jesus had an inner circle but He often left them to make His way to the those who were shunned. Jesus had a comfort zone but He left it to come to earth to reach us. As much as He loved others, He didn’t always feel like being the one to make the sacrifice (remember His prayer in the garden?) but He did it anyway. And the result? Saved souls, genuine relationships, eternal acceptance.
When I was a kid, there were a few words that I’d always believed were correct until I was a little older and found out they were, in fact, not actual words. A couple examples:
– “Wallago” — “a while ago” – Example of this word used in a sentence: “My brother went to his friend’s house wallago so he will probably be home soon.”
– “Human beans” — “human beings” – Example of this used in a sentence: “Aliens live in outer space, but human beans live on earth.”
When I found out, at the age of about 6 (or maybe 16, but who’s counting?), what the words truly were, my mind was blown. How could I have been wrong for so many years on something I absolutely knew to be true? Well, as I have learned many times over, it is very possible to be wrong on something you believed wholeheartedly to be correct. This is just a fact of life. This fact matters most when it comes to our faith.
Have you ever believed something for as long as you can remember only to find out later you were wrong? I have. It can be a humbling realization and a hard pill to swallow. What we choose to do with that realization is what really matters. If this drives us to seek answers and find the truth, we will grow in more ways than we probably could have ever imagined. We will learn more about God, and in turn, ourselves. Our knowledge, faith, and assurance will increase.
I will admit that sometimes I read my Bible with a checklist type of mentality. While there is, of course, never any harm in reading the Bible, it won’t do near as much good to help my faith and knowledge grow as it would if I carve out time in my day for an intentional Bible study. (Side note: I have found that it’s easier to put consistent Bible study on the backburner if I see this as a task I must do rather than seeing it as a means of finding out more about who God is. Changing your mindset on why you are studying God’s Word can make all the difference if you are having trouble making this a priority in your life!)
In Acts 17:11, the author writes about a group of Jews known as the Bereans. We don’t hear a lot about the Bereans, but they set a great example for us in one single vese. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” A few things I noticed about this verse:
1. The Bereans were noble.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “noble” is defined as “having or showing very fine or admirable qualities.” These people were special.
2. They received the word “with all eagerness.”
If you are eager about something, you are excited! The Bereans were enthusiastic and ready to dig for a deeper understanding of God’s Word.
3. They examined the Scriptures.
They were not checking off a to-do list in order to get to their next duty. They were actively investigating.
4. They did this daily.
This is what I like to call a good ol priority. If something is not a priority, we may or may not get to it. But if it is, it is part of your day and is something that will occur without question. This text is not a command, but gives us an example that we would be wise to emulate.
5. They wanted to make sure what they were reading was true.
Sometimes as human beans, we can be lazy. As I have been guilty of, we can take a belief of someone we trust and accept it as accurate and true. But when we don’t examine these beliefs for ourselves to make sure they are correct, our very souls could be at risk.
We should try to be more like the Bereans every day because one day, we will be judged by what is in the Bible, according to John 12:48, which says, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” If we know that the Bible is the book by which our souls will be judged one day, maybe we should ask ourselves if we really know what it says. The only way to find out is by opening it and like the Bereans, “examining the Scriptures daily.” “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
These are a few examples of the kinds of things many Christians (myself included) often say or have said when referring to the place that we worship. Well-meaning, and probably due to habit or for the sake of convenience, we can often be heard descibing “church” as the building in which we meet each week to fellowship with other Christians and worship God. But what is the accurate description of the church, according to the Bible?
The topic of “church” is mentioned throughout the New Testament. In Ephesians 5:25-26, the apostle Paul, inspired by God, writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,”
So does this mean the church is a place or a people? If we were to replace the word “church” with “building” or “place of meeting,” would it make sense? Let’s find out..
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the building and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
It wouldn’t make sense. So, why does this matter anyway? It matters because Jesus died on the cross and paid for the church with his own blood (Ephesians 5:25, “..as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” When we obey the gospel, we are added to the church, not by our own doing, but by God’s, which we read about in Acts 2 where Peter was preaching at Pentecost:.
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
When we become a Christian through faith and obedience, we are added by God to the one and only church.
Romans 12:5, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Choosing to be a part of this family, the church, is the best decision you could make, and one that you will never regret. If you aren’t sure yet about this decision, but would like more information about the church, please reach out and we would love to answer any questions you might have!
My husband and I have been trying to take advantage of the warm days by going for walks. We’ve enjoyed the breeze and the beautiful scenery around us!
There are several places in the New Testament where writers use walk/walking as a metaphor. It paints a clear picture of what our Christian lives should be like, which I find very helpful as a visual learner. We are told to walk in the light and to walk in love. Paul even describes life as a race (2 Timothy 4:7).
In the book of John, we see that Jesus is the Light: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light which gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:4-9).
Jesus was there in the beginning, He created everything, and He is the light. Jesus lowered Himself to become human. He came to earth so He could give all humanity for the rest of time the choice to walk with Him.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
In 1 John 1:5-7, we see that God is light and there is no darkness in Him. We have to walk in the light as He is in the light if we’re going to be saved. If we choose to walk with Him, it’s a lifestyle change. It is a continuous walk. If you are trying to walk in the light, God’s got you covered. I love the walk metaphor because it reminds me that some days I just have to take it a step at a time. It can get really hard and you might not want to walk anymore, but God is with you every step of the way. Our Creator loves us and He wants us to succeed.
Ephesians 5:2 shows us that we need to walk in love, just like Jesus loves us and gave himself for us. This means we need to live a life filled with love. After all, we’re meant to be like Jesus. We need to reflect Him in our lives so we can bring other people to know Him. God is love, so that’s what we need to be.
In Romans 6, Paul tells us that once we’ve been immersed, we’ve died to sin. We have grace, but we need to be actively walking in the light to have that grace. Verse four says, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” All throughout Romans is an interesting contrast between life and death. We see death/sin on one side, and life with God on the other. Verse 11 says, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
We have the chance to live a new life! So, let’s go for a walk.
My mother-in-law and my mom both have the greenest of thumbs. It seems they can look at any plant and tell me what it is, when and how it grows best, and its favorite places to shop. I, on the other hand, do not have this talent. However, I have always found nature documentaries fascinating.
While all plants are truly incredible in their own way, one plant that is especially interesting is the Pitcher plant. This sly specimen has a way of attracting insects to its sugary sweet upper rim. The insect, while enjoying this tasty treat, has just unknowingly become a victim of a cleverly designed trap that will lead to its own demise. Once the insect has landed on the upper rim, it will become stuck, unable to fly away. Eventually, it will fall deeper into the “pitcher” area of the plant and will ultimately drown in the plant’s digestive fluids.
While the circle of life can seem sad at times, it also offers us an important lesson, if we are willing to listen and learn from it. Just like the insect, we as humans can be enticed by certain things in life. Some of these things may be sinful and some may not be. However, if we let them take over our lives, they can lead to sin and death.
I don’t know how much forethought the average insect has, but I doubt that before flying onto the upper rim of a pitcher plant, it knew it would be its final flight. But once it landed, the sticky sweetness had taken hold and it was too late to for the insect to change its mind. Sometimes, we think we are in control and if we do something we shouldn’t “just once,” it won’t become a problem.
It doesn’t seem like someone stuggling with alcoholism or drug addiction made their first choice to partake while also thinking, “if I play my cards right, soon I’ll be a full-blown addict!” I don’t think anyone who develops a sin problem, whatever sin it may be, started out by thinking that one day it would become what it has. That’s the trap of sin.
Something may seem harmless at first, but once we start, our brain has developed new pathways and soon, we will be enticed more and more. We would all be wise to learn from the trap of the pitcher plant. If there is something we aren’t sure, or even know we shouldn’t do, we should be more wise and insightful that the victims of the pitcher plant and fly far far away!
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
If, for whatever reason, your life is difficult and you have to gear up just to face each new day, remember the tremendous amount of hope you might be giving others. Those who know you well, and even those who barely know you, can be encouraged by your example.
If you lack general comfort but you are relying on the Comforter (Romans 8:26,27).
If you lost someone dear but you are leaning on the Giver of Life (John 5:24).
If your tasks are overwhelming but you trust in the promise of rest (Matt. 11:28-30).
If your struggles keep multiplying but your faith is unwavering (1 Peter 1:7).
If your body is weak but you know a better one awaits (Phil. 3:20,21).
If your nights are long but you go on because it is only temporary (Rev. 21:22-25).
Then even though you might feel like you can barely tackle one day at a time, rejoice in the fact that you are strengthening others. A conversation with you fills others with courage for whatever they might face and lets them see that all things are indeed possible with God (Matt. 19:26). What good you are doing in the kingdom! Thank you for your invaluable commitment and faithfulness. May God uphold you as you continue to encourage others.