In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Acts 20:35
To become an encourager to others, we need to allow encouragers into our life. To encourage those who are weaker, we must identify our weaknesses. To feed the hungry, we should know the pangs of hunger.
Fasting has a personal purpose that emphasizes our dependent relationship upon God, but it also reminds us what it means to do without and experience genuine hunger.
I challenge you to fast; learn what it means to feel real hunger pangs. You will find yourself closer to God through the experience, which will allow you to better sympathize with others in genuine need. God can use you then to become a better encourager effectively reaching out and caring for others in need.
For stories that reflect the lasting benefit of being a genuine encourager, visit TMBrownAuthor.com and order a copy of Sanctuary or the sequel, Testament.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
Does your heart have God as its anchor and the words and example of Christ Jesus inspiring you? If so, the hope of dwelling forever with God is real to you. This eternal hope removes all doubt that God cares for you and you discover his encouragement, empowerment, and equipment to face every inevitable challenge in this lifetime. And, all this is God’s gift for the asking because he wants you to experience life with him, and to witness to all who may ask for the reason of the hope you have within you.
So these questions remain: Are you prepared each day to explain the reason for the hope that resides within you? Do you know the heartfelt words that will testify of Christ’s influence on your life?
Our testimony before others is not about quoting scriptures or singing hymns of praise but sharing in your own words what it means to have God as the anchor in your heart! “Being prepared” is not intended to be a motto, but a new way of life for every born-again, child of God.
A man cannot help others unless he can learn to help himself, and having God as the anchor of one’s heart is the beginning of always being prepared to respond to others in need.
Therefore, if you…remember that your brother has something against you, first go and be reconciled to your brother… Matthew 5:23-24
Okay, first of all, it is important that all our relationships are right before we can have a right relationship with God. Note in this particular verse, it is not that you have a problem with someone, but that someone has a problem with you! If someone feels slighted, cheated, or merely angered by something you have said or done it is imperative on our part to reach out to that person and seek reconciliation. Never walk away thinking it is their problem even if you are not angry. If someone is not right with you, God declares the responsibility lies with you to make it right.
More than likely, people develop issues with others due to misunderstandings or something failed to be communicated clearly. Any interpretation of the facts without your input only fuels the other person’s fears of rejection. Certainly, I cannot promise that all the fences may get mended by your earnest efforts, but the majority will. For those seemingly unmendable fences, allow time to do its work. Rest assured that you at least made a God-pleasing effort to make it right.
Remember we are God’s ambassadors and He too works daily to patch up broken relationships between people. Reconciliation is God’s goal with all His creation. It’s not that God needs our relationships for any ego purpose. He desires our relationship with Him and with all others to be right because we are His creation. So do as God is doing each day and go the extra mile when trying to make right our relationships that have gone astray no matter who is at fault or to blame.
“…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
What about your day-to-day living causes you to lose focus as a Christian? Are there choices you’ve made that continue to hurt you physically, mentally or spiritually? The Apostle Paul rightly proclaims an urgent request of all young Christians – STOP doing what you used to do. It is interfering with your new life being like Christ. Take away the idols that hinder you and sidetrack you from enjoying the fullness that God desires for you.
Who we are as a person begins with a thought that grows and sprouts like a seed planted in fertile soil into visible attitude and action. An incorrect notion may seem innocent enough, but it may prevent you from pleasing God, pleasing only yourself.
Consider all the areas of your life. Pray about the changes you need to make in your life. Some will be harder than others, but your decision to change will reap incredible rewards. You will also discover that there is nothing you cannot change about yourself if you allow God to be the impetus for change. He will become and provide his spirit of change.
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Grief is better than laughter, for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure. Eccl 7:1-4 (HCSB)
Being told you have a lot of promise to run the race doesn’t make it so. Being told you come from a great family does guarantee victory in the race either. Until we have competed in life and put forth the effort, we have not earned the right to claim honor for our name, nor the victory for a race we have not run.
Success and fame are not something you can claim – they must be earned and are received. Success and fame arrive after the crown has been placed upon you by those you have impacted and gained favor from during the race of life because no one attains success or fame while still at the start line of the race. What accomplishment can you claim before the race has even begun? You may certainly look good in your fancy track shoes and your uniform may make you look like a winner, but it is in the running of the race that earns the accolades once you cross the finish line.
The Teacher in this passage clearly makes the point that one’s lifetime of achievements become worth remembering after the results of the race are posted, and thus far more valuable and rewarding than the applause and back-slapping during the race.
I have been a part of many funerals that have turned into a celebration of memories, a genuine testimony of a person’s positive impact on the lives of others. From another perspective, how sad would it be if no one attended your funeral? The tragedy in the Christmas Carol story is that Ebeneezer Scrooge gets to foresee that without a change in his miserly, lonely ways, no one will mourn his death. No one will miss him after he is gone except as the brunt of jokes and ridicule. What a legacy of a life wasted on selfish ambition and values that took from others and never shared with others. Scrooge became too enamored by his own idea of success and fame, he forgot to even compete in the race. He never lined up at the starting line. He chose only to compete with himself.
Consider which stage of the race you are running in this lifetime? Remember, the race of life is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, the course to run may not be clearly marked, but there will be plenty of others running the course with you. At every crossroad during the race, your life can be affected for good or for bad by the choices you make, so choose wisely. Just remember, there’s never a shortcut to the finish line. A moment to consult God’s will, ways and wisdom is always a good investment to avoid disastrous, hasty choices. And, never trust the crowd to always choose wisely either, because most often the crowd are like sheep and follow the herd, only to learn they have blindly been drawn down the hazardous and dangerous path at the crossroads.
Run the race that is set before you, knowing someone who loves you more than anyone is standing at the finish line, calling you by name, urging you to not quit and finish strong. He knows the way because he has run the race and knows the challenges and obstacles you will face along the way. But, he also knows the reward at the end! There’s the roar of all who finished the race before you encouraging you toward the finish line. Do not give up or give in, because eternal success and fame adorn the crown waiting for you.
For those, like myself, who are still running their race, there is plenty of encouragement along the journey. You will be encouraged and rewarded by those you have helped along the way as well. Run the race set before you and seek along the way to celebrate life with friends and family until you break the finish line.
Words of Wisdom: Women, Beware the Beauty Beyond the Buttons and Bows
Moreover, the Lord says: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton (seductive) eyes, prancing and mincing about as they go, tinkling their ankle bracelets. Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalps of the daughters of Zion with a scab, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will strip away the bravery of tinkling ornaments, cauls*, crescents, chains, bracelets, and mufflers (veils), headdresses, leg ornaments, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, signet rings, nose jewels, festive apparel, mantels (shawls), wimples (head and neck coverings), crisping pins (purses), hand glasses (mirrors), fine linen, hoods, and veils. It shall come to pass, instead of fragrant smells there will be putridness; instead of a girdle, a rent (torn cloth); instead of well-styled hair, baldness; instead of fine stomacher (decorative underclothing), sackcloth; branding (burn mark) instead of beauty. Your men will fall by the sword, your strength (might) in warfare. Then her gates will lament and mourn; desolate, she will sit on the ground. In that day seven women will take hold of one man, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel, only let us be called by your name. Take away our reproach.” Isaiah 3:16-4:1
The Bible focuses so heavily upon man that sometimes women appear mostly neglected, mere innocent bystanders, except whenever women get portrayed as convenient scapegoats for the missteps of men. However, some significant passages warn women of their unique godly responsibilities. Isaiah offers one of those passages which also reveals the reasoning behind the attitude and attire of nuns in the Catholic Church. The passage contrasts the worldly view of women versus God’s ideal for women.
This passage provides a timely relevant message for all young women to ponder. And here are a few questions for the young ladies reading this passage: First, do you feel God made a mistake when he created you? Do you believe all those buttons and bows make you more attractive and appealing than you are? Do you think God prefers you all decked out and gussied up, rather than the way he created you? Why do you invest so much time creating an image that is not the natural you? Do you only feel beautiful by adorning and gussying yourself?
I believe this passage reveals that all the rogue, eyeliner, blush, and fuss fixing your hair does nothing for the condition of a young lady’s heart and soul. Of course, one’s vanity smiles and sashays when you adorn yourself just to draw attention. And, for what purposes? Is all your effort meant to appease Go, man, or self? From which of these can anyone gain lasting peace and security in life?
Since the earliest days, we know for a fact that women of ancient Egyptian and Sumerian cultures began to adorn themselves with jewelry, bangles, and fine apparel, and even paint their faces. Many millennia later, women in almost every culture continue this practice, so maybe history argues that God intended women to go through all the fuss of wearing fancy buttons and bows to attract the man of their desires. But, is that what God says is the most important thing a woman should place her focus?
If a woman’s vanity is focused upon her outer beauty to capture the hearts of men, has she abandoned her most significant relationship with God, her Creator? Will the man of her desires only see her for the contrived, temporal outer image, and then become disillusioned by what he discovers beneath the facade? Rather than trying to appeal to natural, sinful man, why not seek to be desirous according to God’s will, ways, and wisdom?
Remember, at the end of the day, long after you have captured the heart of any man, you must eventually remove the buttons and bows and wash your face. Will he still see your genuine, natural beauty that God gifted you? What kind of glamour will hold fast the relationship God intended between a man and a woman? God brings a man and woman together through the mutual desire of their hearts and souls uniting them as one, not all the fancy buttons and bows.
*caul (cowl) – (literally, helmeted head) is a piece of membrane that can cover a newborn’s head and face. Though rare and harmless, it is removed by the doctor or midwife upon delivery of the child. There are various types of cauls from a thin film to more of a cocoon-like covering of an infant.
In medieval times a caul on a newborn was an omen that the child was destined for greatness. The midwife would rub a sheet of paper across the baby’s head and face to remove the caul, and then presented to the mother as an heirloom. In early European folklore, a caul carried good fortune to the bearer. (Additional research into some of the renown literature of the 18th and 19th Centuries would reveal its place as a talisman of value.)
1. Better a dry morsel with quietness within than a house full of sacrifices with strife. 2. A servant who acts wisely shall rule over a son who causes shame and shall have part of the inheritance among the brothers. 3. A crucible (refining pot) is for silver, and the furnace (smelter) for gold, but the Lord tests hearts. 4. A wicked person (evildoer) gives heed to wicked (malicious) lips, and a liar (falsehood) gives an ear to a destructive tongue. 5. Whosoever mocks the poor taunts (rebukes) his Maker, and whosoever rejoices over calamities shall not go unpunished. 6. Children’s children are the crown of the elderly, and the glory (pride) of children are their fathers. Proverbs 17:1-6
If truth be told, our progeny (offspring) reflect who we were as parents. Children begin life as an empty sponge eager to sop up what they see and hear. Every child always looks to their parents as the guide for their life, even when the parent displays questionable behavior.
Sadly, this truth is easier to understand from the perspective of grandparenthood. The lasting impact of parents on their offspring is hard to grasp in the midst of raising our children. But, oh my, a grandparent’s perspective on this generational phenomenon is entirely different. So, whenever an elderly family member or close friend comes up and says, “You’re the spitting image of your father (or mother),” they may be referring to more than just appearance. Mannerisms, habits, and attitudes are learned and ingrained as children embody what they see and hear during their formative youth.
In simple terms: How parents choose to behave in front of their children matters. And, it is a choice. Every generation has the innate ability to alter their behavior and attitude as they mature. However, for many of us, the decision is not apparent until our children begin to exhibit traits that upset us. But, it is not until we recognize that our children are merely reflecting the mannerisms, habits, and attitudes we portrayed before them.
I wonder, does God allow us to catch a clear picture of our children’s likeness to stir within us a desire to change our destructive or malicious ways and attitudes? I believe, we all instinctively want to become a positive role model for our children? And we all pray in our hearts that our children will choose to behave rightly and not copy our faults.
Not only does God test our hearts, so do our children. God tests us to reveal our most significant needs of change. However, our children test our hearts to understand how they should behave and respond to others in this world. And it’s a fact: A wicked child will rejoice and take pride in being like his wicked father if that is all he sees from his father.
Grandparents have a decisive role to play in this cycle and afford a unique position and résumé of experience to identify their children in their grandchildren. So when, as parents, we get annoyed at our parents for seemingly butting in and giving us advice, understand they do it out of love, and often are trying to fix what they may have mistakenly left undone or unsaid when they reared the parent.
Let’s face it; God is our Maker. And, he wonderfully created each of us for his glory and purposes, but that does not mean we always may have done it right. God is also the author of “change.” We can choose to be transformed by God into what he intended from our birth. God likewise uses the gift of family to nurture the transformation process. Do not be angry when family members come to you and identify what they may see in us that may require change for the sake of our children or our children’s children. They are usually speaking out of the love of family! Our progeny reveals how we allowed God to transform us into his child.
Take time to scrutinize your children. See if you find yourself looking back. Does that produce a grin or a grimace? Is what you see pleasing to your heavenly Father? If so, your children should affirm that blessing through their actions and attitudes.