Category Archives: Encouragment

A Prayer for Remembrance

Dear LORD,

I pray this prayer asking that you would use it to help me to remember life. This day please use and enable me to love those whom you have placed under my care.

By loving to protect. By loving to guide. By loving to remember. By loving to support. By loving to live unto You and die to sin. For to live is Christ and to die is gain.

The worst mistake I’ve ever made is one I least expected. To remember is to give. To forget is to take. I took and you LORD gave. And now your teaching me to do the same.

Yes, though in time of trouble I stumble and fall, Christ Jesus is always there to save.

Until my last breath I’ve taken to finish the life you have given. For my neighbor’s hand to touch thy side, that thou may be glorified. Yes, that thou may be glorified.

LORD Jesus, thank you for eternal life.

In Jesus name, amen.

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Learning to Walk

The voice of the Holy Spirit cries out; the voice of God calls out for the simple and youths to receive wisdom and instruction.

It seems that the pride of youth is in ignoring the possibility of failure, and by failure I mean not heeding wise counsel. We strive to look independent when we are completely dependent. We cover up failure because failure needs a Savior. We cover up failure with our strength and past victories, only to keep looking as Youth would have us look.

In a letter to me on my thirteenth birthday, my grandfather told me to pray and ask God to help me to never have to live with the regret of making wrong choices. At the time I remember thinking that this advice was strange.

“Regret of making wrong choices? I don’t think I’ll ever do that.”

I still did pray it when I remembered, but I never developed a habit of doing so. As the years have passed, I find myself praying that more often and not finding it strange at all. I realize now that I found his counsel strange because I had no fear of making wrong choices – I had, even while not fully realizing it, assumed I had no need of a savior.

Now, having my own pile of regrets, and by the mercy of God, I see my need for the saving grace of God. Thus, it seems that God matures us by letting us stumble – as a father lets go of his son’s hand as he is learning to walk. The boy’s legs tremble as he stands, and after taking a few steps he stumbles, falls to the ground, and begins to cry, until he realizes his father set him back on his feet again.

My brother-in-law occasionally asks a question of his kids during a dramatic scene that has stuck with me. “Did you hurt your pride?” Isn’t that the reason failure is so painful and devastating? Jesus crushes our pride, and it hurts. Yet our stumbling is His answering of our prayers for humility with a loud resounding “YES!” For the Holy Spirit fills the place of that pride, and God sets us back on our feet having created in us a spirit of repentance – a broken and contrite heart. This is how Paul could see Christ’s strength in the midst of his own weaknesses.

In closing, I exhort you to heed instruction, for that is the way of wisdom and humility. Whether that is the sharpening instruction of a friend, the loving counsel of parents, or pure honey from the Word of God, receive it and obey it with joy, for it is life to your soul and strength to your bones, as the Scriptures declare. And when you fail look to Christ and learn from your failure, instead of covering it up or becoming angry. Jesus Christ died, rose and ascended for you. Receive the gift of His salvation and “keep on keeping on.” One day you will fail no more.

A Word of Encouragement for My Student Friends

The alarm clock sounds at 6:00am and you roll over in bed to turn it off. Instead of turning it off you decide to hit snooze button for another ten minutes of rest. You know the day will be filled with challenges, and that makes it hard to wake up. But you do anyways, and you’re faithful because of it.

It’s 12:00am and you’re still trying to finish a chemistry assignment that’s due the next morning.

“Just a few more years and I’ll be a physical therapist,” you think.

But at the same time you wonder whether or not the title you will achieve is worth the present pain. You imagine that once you’re done you’ll find a good job, make enough money to be happy, pay off your debt and do whatever people have time to do when they’re not in school.

“Life will be better,” you think, and so you keep plowing along.

It’s 1:37pm and you just finished eating some lunch. Your test is at 2:00pm and you feel like you could have or should have studied more, but it’s too late now. The day is far from over. After your test you’re going to go and work wherever you work and then come home exhausted, only to wake up the next morning and do it all again.

“Eleven more weeks until Christmas break,” you think, and it makes you cheer up.

* * * * *

As a college student it seems life consists mainly of this quite stressful, daily routine. If you were wondering, I’m not about to talk about test tips or study tips or getting by on coffee and five hours of sleep tips. Rather, I want to address the futuristic mindset of life getting better and easier than it is now. I have talked about this a little before, but I am coming at it here from a slightly different perspective – the perspective of wealth.

For me the idea of finding a good job that pays well is very motivating, and it is a healthy motivation. The Bible speaks in Psalm 128, that, of “everyone who fears the Lord” it will go well with them and they will be blessed and eat the fruit of their labor. This does not mean that the righteous will never go through hard times or will always be rich in material things. I am not preaching a “prosperity gospel.” But it does point to God’s faithfulness. As the scriptures declare, God will never leave us nor forsake us, rather He will provide for His people. We should desire God’s blessing and seek after it. Thus, in as much as finding a job is God’s blessing and provision for us, we should seek after it.

From another perspective, the idea of acquiring more wealth to trust in is an unhealthy motivation. Solomon declares in Proverbs,

“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle towards heaven.”

In the Old Testament we read of the Israelites growing wealthy and chubby and forgetting the LORD their God. In Luke we read of the parable of the rich man who had filled his barns with crops and goods and declared to his soul that he was wealthy enough to “relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” Yet God calls this man a fool, telling him that this very night his soul would be required of him. This man was rich to himself yet poor towards God. Thus, my point here is to warn of the danger of this mindset of trusting in riches or living only to acquire more – never being satisfied or content with what you have now.

I write these things because I am convicted by the scriptures. I write these things not to tear you down, but to call you on guard. Solomon warns of this danger in Proverbs 30 when he writes,

“Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

In closing, I exhort you to live everyday seeking God’s favor. I exhort you to be astounded by the wisdom of God and praise Him for it. Marvel at his creations even as you struggle to understand and learn about them. As Paul told Timothy, be godly and content, for in that there is great gain. And finally, remember that the LORD goes before you, just as he did for the Israelites in the promised land.

“Go. Go away! Read some books!” –Nacho Libre

 

As Simple as Eating a Doughnut – As Supernatural as Your Mother

For my part, I wish the word thing was more descriptive. Some days are just plain strange. And by strange I don’t mean anything particularly unusual about the weather, events, or food. I mean that in my head things feel awkward. And when my head does weird things, usually my body starts to feel sleepy and motivation seems to run wherever I am not. This day was one of those days, except for the fact that I am going to fight this feeling of discontentment, strangeness, or whatever it is inside of me. However, I shall not do it alone.

I guess I am not doing a particularly good job of describing what it is exactly that I feel. I am not mad at God, or angry with any of my neighbors. I am not even really feeling super sad or discontent. I am resisting being grumpy, but I have to do that just about every day. It is a feeling of lack or need of one crucial thing, upon which it seems so many other things are founded. It is lack of strength. This feeling of lack, and likely it is more than just a feeling, makes everything else a little rainy on the inside and the outside. It seems that if one doesn’t think one has the strength to do anything, then how will he accomplish anything? Thus, for sure, it weakens motivation. It seems that if joy takes any strength at all, then all we have strength for is just to work against a grumpy attitude. It seems that if the next move takes any of this remaining strength, then it would be better to rest a while from any small draining activities. It seems that if it takes any work to look at the world through God’s eyes and not our own, then it would be better to let the world be a dull, dreary circle of repetition without purpose or end.

Surely and truly this is a lack of strength. And this is a weakness that God delights to give strength to. This is the weakness that God plants in us to make us trust in Him. It is a weakness that points us to how small we are, and brings us to desire Christ’s strength. In Psalm 28: 1-9, David writes, “The LORD is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed.” Our weakness is where the gospel is found. Our weakness is what Christ came to die for. Our weakness is what Christ rose to destroy. Our weakness is what Christ ascended to reign over with his strength and through the Holy Spirit. Yet he did not do this so that we could be strong again by ourselves, but so that we could share in the everlasting strength of Jesus Christ, our LORD and savior.

So I exhort you to accept that you are weak. Don’t fight the feeling of lack. But one thing throw aside – that is the weight of sin which mocks you every step of the way. Throw yourself upon Christ. He came so that you could take his strength. This may seem absurd to some. How could we take someone else’s strength? And if you will answer me this, then I will answer that question. How can you take the energy of that piece of bacon you just ate, or of the cup of coffee you’re sipping on, or of the doughnut that you publicly ate three weeks ago? It is miraculous and supernatural we can say – like the daily, repetitive activities of life. We must not think that because something is repetitive, that therefore it is natural and not miraculous. If we truly believe in God, then why don’t we do as he says?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

(Matthew 11:28)

What Shall We Spend Now?

Fierce passion for the future seems to stunt the growth of the present time. Will we spend our lives constantly asking, “What’s next?” Will we ever be content to enjoy the present as if it were the current culmination of our entire lives? Does an old man wish only to see the grave?

We can’t slow or speed time, but we can choose to be grateful. We can prepare for the time to come and choose to enjoy each sunrise and sunset. We can choose to enjoy the transition from the womb to the world, from crawling to walking, from childhood to adulthood, from singleness to marriage, from little things and small tasks to big things and weighty responsibilities.

What is the joy in fulfillment if it only took a single step to run the race? What is the joy of marriage without knowing from where you have come? What is the joy of winning a battle against an enemy that you don’t know why you fought? What is resurrection without the cross? Yet we look ahead because, as the scriptures say, greater things are coming. But the cross was painful! Are we then to enjoy those painful moments? By no means! Yet we can live those moments with glory and strength, seeing their hidden beauty and concealed purpose. But we cannot live those moments gloriously if all we do as they occur is wish that they were over.

Look forward with joyous expectation. Live knowing that you have been called, placed, and by God’s grace are fulfilling your purpose. Live with all of your might now and tomorrow, not just when a desired time comes. But live with your might then, too. Fulfillment truly comes when you live every moment to the fullest. If you want to live a life of fulfillment, then, as the word seems to suggest, fill every moment full with what God has given you. Fill other people’s lives with your love and presence. Fill your own life by seeking Christ, by looking to the cross and the resurrection that awaits, and by looking to the grave and the eternal life that God has promised.

Enjoy life with the bride of your youth, as the scriptures command. Work mightily for God and others. You have been called. Be faithful. Don’t save your joy for later. Spend your love now. As the scriptures exhort, throw off the weight of sin that clings so close, and run the race with endurance, looking forward to the promised prize.

Finally, don’t ever forget from where you have come. Take time to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. You have come from nothing to eternal life, from dust to glory, from birth to death and new life, from being children to instructing children, from being married to giving in marriage, from hating to loving, from burying others to yourself being buried, from mourning for the loss of others to meeting Jesus Christ face to face, from the start of your old life to the beginning of your new life with and in Christ. Christ has done this for you. Christ has done this for us. Surely God is good! Praise the LORD!

A Brief Word on Characters, Culture, and Resolution

I have been thinking about this topic for some time, and Ant-Man, which I recently watched, provoked some more simmering in my mind. The problem: movie directors making heroes that have little moral regard and influence. It is like they are trying to get me to say, “Look, this is a good person,” despite his many flaws that are never mentioned. (Not that I should be expecting much from Hollywood) This may seem harsh, so let me clarify. I realize that there was only one perfect man that walked on this earth, and his name is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the ultimate character that, whether we realize it or not, we all desire to be like. He is love. He works through mistakes to make beautiful things. And while many of us struggle to act like him, we always fall short, because we are sinners. So I do not expect perfection in the hero of the story. However, I do expect resolution. And when I see faults in a hero that are never even bothered to be mentioned, the hero is spoiled. If I were to compare that character to myself, it would be like me living unrepentant of numerous sins and acting as if I were living like a perfectly righteous person. As the Bolt movie quote goes, “I am irked.”

Yet it seems that this type of character, which is becoming very frequent in movies, is a good representation of our culture’s moral groundwork today. Our culture’s moral groundwork is broken. Christianity use to be the backbone of this nation. I am sorry to say this, but that backbone has been ignored and mistreated, and that is visible through these types of characters. However, I am NOT a pessimist. I have hope for America and pray for her that God would lead her people to their knees in humble repentance and reliance on Himself.

What I look for in a hero is resolution. There are a few people I have met that I very much admire. One of them is my Father. He is a content man. There is something to be said about a man who strives after contentment and godliness. In that there is great gain, as the scriptures declare (1 Timothy 6:6). There are also some younger people that inspire me to act righteously. I have thought about what it is about these people that makes me gravitate toward them. I think it is that they have joy and motivation about life, and are also content with their portion. They are subduing the earth and enjoying themselves while doing so. That is a beautiful thing. No, they are not perfect. But there is resolution in their lives. Because these people strive to act like Christ, I strive to imitate them just as Paul told the saints in Corinth to imitate him and sent Timothy to them (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).

The way the problem of these unresolved, morally-wanting characters is being resolved: the church is dutifully striving to create Christian culture, and she has and will continue to succeed through faith by the grace and mercy of God. All of us, as part of the body of Christ, share in this duty. We must not be content with loose-thread, good characters. The next questions then, are how do we make Christian culture, and what is Christian culture? There are a lot of other people that would do a much better job answering this question, but, in short, Christian culture is one of life, death, and resurrection. Christian culture is one that is not afraid of failure, because we know that there is someone who is greater than all of the failures of this world. How do we create this culture? We continue in faithfulness to God. We keep worshiping God and fulfilling the great commission. Faithfulness is reformation. We continue in prayer. We trust in God and subdue and take dominion of this earth. We learn to create as God creates. We learn to write stories with fierce and frightening conflict that point to a God who brings resolution to all things.

In “Art at its most basic level,” John R. Erickson writes (the article is cited below) that his small-town church played an important role in his becoming a small-town author. After talking about the infiniteness of the universe, Erickson writes that he is left speechless after reading Psalm 8:3-4, which says, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him …?” It is the life of Christ and the beauty and magnitude of creation that leaves Erickson in awe of God, and inspires him to write. May all of us be inspired in the same way that Erickson is. May we all be inspired to create and love as God does.

As Christians, it is our duty to fulfill the great commission, and as we are faithful in doing so we will make an impact on the world culture. J.I. Packer (1993) writes, “As Christians thus fulfill their vocation, Christianity becomes a transforming cultural force (p. 236).” Ultimately, as we do this, we will bring glory to God and become more fruitful and resolved characters in the process. So may we be faithful.

References

Erickson, J. R. (2016, January 9). Art at its most basic level [Electronic version]. WORLD News Group. Link: http://www.worldmag.com/2016/01/art_at_its_most_basic_level

Packer, I. J. (1993). CONCISE THEOLOGY: A GUIDE TO HISTORIC CHRISTIAN BELIEFS. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Life Is Growing

I have not written a post in a while, and my lame excuse is that I have been too busy. I often find myself dreaming about the day when I will have finished some of my long-term goals. And then time forces me to return to the present, where everyday life seems to have turned stale, where time, along with my goals, keep rushing ahead of me. Now and then a change occurs, and life is fresh for a little while before my mind makes things look bland again. I hate it when I make things look bland.

The following is my advice and encouragement to others who have this problem.

At times when life seems to blur together into a bundle of emotions, we need to stop and breathe. We need to look at our lives as God looks at our lives—with eternity in mind. We need to see the bigger picture of God’s story, to look beyond our personal lives. Seriously, when we think that life is stale, it’s actually we who are stale.

One day everything will have changed. It sounds obvious, but we often lose sight of it. Everything won’t change in one day, but it will change—slowly and steadily. It will change meal by meal and smile by smile.

So let’s keep these things in mind as we go through each day. Life is growing. The sun is rising, and noon day is coming. Death has an end; eternity does not. God is good, and is worthy of all our praise. He is our Father and we our His children. Let us pray for strength to continue steadfast in Christ, steadfast in love and hope, steadfast in suffering, steadfast in rejoicing, steadfast in prayer, steadfast in our battle against the moral corruption of the world, steadfast in the Word, steadfast in every good thing. We have been called. So may we be faithful.