encouragement

Connecting the Dots: How to Trust God in This Dark World

Are you struggling? Becoming overwhelmed? Connect the dots in your own life of how God has been faithful to you. Connect the dots and let your heart be encouraged, let your faith be strengthened. Let your walk be dramatically empowered as you look at His faithfulness. This is what Habakkuk did. 

Habakkuk looked upon the nation of Israel, and Israel was in trouble. He cried out to God and God said, “I see, and I'm going to wipe them out.” Habakkuk was thinking more along the lines of revival but God said no. He was going to wipe them out and use the wicked Chaldeans to do it. 

Habakkuk continued to ask God questions, but there was silence. He decided to go up into his prayer tower, and he told God that he wouldn’t come down until He answered him. Two weeks went by and God said, “Trust Me.” That's it, that was all Habakkuk got. The just shall live by faith. 

So, he comes down from his prayer tower and he begins connecting the dots: God, you parted the Red Sea, you made the sun stand still, you knocked down the walls of Jericho—Bring on the Chaldeans. Though the fig tree doesn't blossom, though there's not going to be any fruit on the vine, yet I will trust you. 

Father, Your Word is great, because it's the truth about You and all that You want to be to us. May every one of us put our faith in You, may our hearts be encouraged today, our faith strengthened, and our walk transformed, because of who You are. In the midst of this very dark world, we cling to you Father because we know You're going to cling back to us. In Jesus name. Amen.

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Each week, Pastor Frank sends several short, encouraging videos to his circle of friends.
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The Encouragement You Need to Run the Race

The race can be long, and the heartaches we face cause us to cry out for Christ's return. In this short video, Frank tells us to get excited! The Lamb who laid down His life is coming back as a Lion with a mighty roar, to slay His enemies and make this place right.

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Each week, Pastor Frank sends several short, encouraging videos to his circle of friends.
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The Heart Behind the Name

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Barnabas is a name that is very often found on the lips of believers, and with good reason.

From what we read of him in the New Testament, he was a pretty amazing man. He was one of Paul’s travelling companions and is listed often as one of the faithful brethren. Perhaps, what sets him apart most of all though, is that in the book of Acts he is called the “son of encouragement.” What a wonderful description for this man!

The Bible uses the word “son” to refer to a source or sphere, but when used with the word “of,” it is used to refer to that which identifies a man. This man Barnabas, was known as an encourager, he lived in encouragement to others.

Here is the amazing thing though, the name by which we know him, Barnabas, is not really his name. In Acts 4:36 we are told that his given name was Joseph. The apostles are the ones that called him “Bar–Nabas” – a compound Hebrew word that means “son of encouragement.” In other words, this man Joseph, lived such a life of encouragement to others, that his encouraging life actually became his name. He was such a son of encouragement, that his name became son of encouragement – Barnabas.

Oh if only all of us in the church would seek to live such an encouraging life to other! What would it look like if we all sought to be such encouragers? What if we so lived that the world changed all of our names to Barnabas? Wow! We would really turn the world upside down, wouldn’t we?

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Each week, Pastor Frank sends several short, encouraging videos to his circle of friends.
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Exchanging Our Strength

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I have found over the years, that so many people have been comforted by the words of Isaiah 40. There we are told that, "young men stumble and fall" and that even "the vigorous young men grow weary and stumble." BUT – "those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, mounting up with wings like eagles, to run and not grow weary!" That is glorious, but it is even more glorious than it sounds. Let’s dig deep into some of the individual words and watch this glory be magnified.

"Young men stumble and fall," that is true for all of us. I take this to be a reference to the average guy. We live in a tough world and for most of us, our strength is very often, not up to the demands of life. There are, however, living among us, the elite ones; the strong and the mighty who seemingly have the fortitude of personal resources that enables them to conquer this world we live in. Uh-oh, this text tells us that they too grow weary and stumble.

This world can stand ominously against us with the demands that it places on our lives, and when even the strong and mighty are not up to the task, we could easily find ourselves overwhelmed and frustrated. Fortunately, we find one of the great words of the Bible intervening in our desperate situation… "BUT!"

"But those who wait upon the Lord." Now, if we take an honest look at that phrase, it is really not all that encouraging. We are stumbling and falling, so we need to “WAIT”… WHAT?! For how long must we wait? When will the Lord show up? Will He show up? It is an encouraging phrase, but not encouraging enough! Wonderfully, that word does not mean “wait” at all. It really means “to braid.” Think of a girl braiding her hair, intertwining, placing individual hairs into “one” – DO YOU SEE THE GLORY? It is not calling us to "wait" for God to show up, but in the moment to recognize our “oneness” with Him. It is really the Old Testament word for abiding. So as we are growing weary, and as we are stumbling, as we are in great need, in that very moment we can recognize our “oneness” with God, and “renew” our strength.

That is so awesome, but it gets even better!

The Hebrew word for “renew,” can actually be translated “exchange”. So, as we recognize our “oneness” with God, we can go way beyond having our strength "renewed," we can "exchange" our strength, for the strength of God. That is the reason we will be able to mount up with wings like eagles and run and not go weary because through faith we can experience the very life of God being lived out and expressed through our lives.

My prayer is that if these verses comforted you before, they will now comfort you more than ever as you realize how much God wants to offer Himself to you, and for you, as you walk in faith with Him in this dark and desperate world.

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Each week, Pastor Frank sends several short, encouraging videos to his circle of friends.
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The Balance of Love

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The great American entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller stated, “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.” The most powerful leadership tool available is the ability to get along with other people; to be able to relate to people and not only to understand people but encourage them. The apostle Paul certainly fit this bill.

In the second chapter of the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul states that he cared for them like a nursing mother gently cares for her own children. There is nothing so dear as the love of a nursing mother. Paul also went on though, to declare that he was like a father to the Thessalonians. In that context, he affirmed that in the role of a father he exhorted the Thessalonians; simply put, he spoke the hard words, the strong words that we all need to hear sometimes.

I love that he chose the word "parakaleo," which literally means to "come alongside." What a great lesson for us to learn! When we have to speak those hard words to the ones we love, those words are best spoken not with a finger in another’s face, but instead with an arm around them, communicating our love and acceptance of them, even if we do not necessarily accept their behavior.

Further, Paul instantly added that he encouraged them. It is not enough to just exhort others. If all we do is exhort people, we will soon have very few friends because they will run when they see us coming. Paul, however, balanced his hard words with loving words; words of encouragement. It is the same word used when Jesus comforted the family of Lazarus. It is the word "hekostan," and it means the "tender, compassionate, restorative empathy given to one who is struggling, burdened, or heartbroken."

Paul knew that in a very harsh world it's easy for someone when they hear a negative word, to become discouraged. He was quick to add words of encouragement, quick to play the role of a cheerleader and stress that he believed in them and anticipated that the best would be expressed by and through them.

Paul is a great example for us in terms of dealing with people. May we love others enough to say the strong words, but care enough for them to speak the encouraging words as well.

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Each week, Pastor Frank sends several short, encouraging videos to his circle of friends.
Interested in joining? Signing up is easy:
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A Very Real Word of Encouragement

So yes, as the ancient writers encouraged, "Be strong!"  That, however, is not really much of an encouragement.

So yes, as the ancient writers encouraged, "Be strong!"  That, however, is not really much of an encouragement.

In most ancient letters that we hold in our possession, the standard "good-bye" was erroso meaning "be strong." 

That was obviously intended by the writers of those letters to be an encouragement to their recipients. It is also though, a commentary on the world we live in. We need to be encouraged to be strong because this is a dark and scary world. We need strength to navigate our way through its savage twists and turns that it all too often brings our way. So yes, as the ancient writers encouraged, "Be strong!"

That, however, is not really much of an encouragement. At least, not to an honest man or woman who has encountered just how treacherous this world can be.

Why? Because the trials of life teach us that we are not really all that strong.

It is like we are on battery power and the demands of life all too easily burn out our batteries. I believe most of us use the time in between difficulties as a means of providing us with a way to somewhat re-charge our batteries for the next round of difficulty we are going to have to face.

The ancient New Testament letters, however, did away with the word erroso as a standard means of saying goodbye. They chose to use instead the word charis meaning grace. Now that is a glorious and very real word of encouragement. Grace is the offering to us, of the very Person of God. It is the new economy established by Jesus in the New Covenant, that God is no longer distant and unreachable, but actually, lives inside all of us who have placed our faith in Him.

Grace means that at the moment of faith, God will be all that He is, to all that we need. Because of grace, we no longer have to navigate through this dark and desperate world by ourselves and with our own resources. Wherever we go, God goes with us. Whatever we endure, He is right there offering His strength for us to stand victorious in the midst of the dark days that a fallen world can bring to us.

I bid you, His grace!

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To Come Alongside

The word in the New Testament is parakaleo. It literally means "to come alongside".

The word in the New Testament is parakaleo. It literally means "to come alongside".

EXHORTATION!

If you have had any church experience in your lifetime, you might be cringing right now at the very thought of the word. It is such a scary word, because it has been so misunderstood and therefore misused... and the misuse has caused so much abuse.

The word conjures up, for most,  a word picture of someone sticking their finger in your face with a very disappointed and angry look on their face. This is how it has often been used and it is no wonder that word is so scary for us.

But my how we have missed the heart of this beautiful word.

The word in the New Testament is parakaleo. It literally means "to come alongside". True exhortation is NEVER to be done with a finger in the face, but with an arm around the shoulder.

Exhortation should be done in such a way that the one being exhorted, walks away from the conversation knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are loved, and praising God that someone loved them enough to have spoken hard words with such encouragement.

Displaying such an attitude in difficult situations will go a long way towards fostering peace and unity in the church. Creating an environment that removes fear and replaces it with a spirit of acceptance and love... Oh what a beautiful community is potentially ours if we would express such love in true exhortation.