All articles written by Joyce Jamerson
- Don't You Love a New Start
- Behind the Scenes Commitment
- Seen Any Cobwebs?
- A Good Spring Cleaning
an Opportunities Box
- Encouragement Through Writing
- Giving and Receiving
- How's Your Heart?
Don’t you love a new start?
Ready for those
New Year’s resolutions? Although we can be looking within at any time of year, New Year’s is typically
the time for re-evaluating and making new plans. It is said that the Romans named the month of January after the god
Janus, who was depicted with two faces; one looking forward and one looking backward. I like that. At times, we
need to look backward, considering what progress (or mistakes) we have made and to contemplate how we want to direct ourselves
in the future. A New Year is like starting again with a clean tablet and a new pencil.
The beginning of a new year is a time for celebration. Several other countries
celebrate their new year on a different date, but regardless of when the celebration takes place, the custom of making resolutions
for the coming year is a good one that makes us focus on self-improvement.
Compiled from two different web sites, the following list represents the top
reasons for resolutions. We generally want to improve in the areas of:
Education (learning something new)
(enjoying life more)
Improving bad habits
or improving family time
each of the sites, I found it interesting that there were no resolutions for becoming religious or increasing spirituality
with Bible study.
I’ve never been very good at keeping resolutions. Many times I’ve gotten a daily Bible reading schedule,
intending to be more diligent about reading, only to get behind and drop it in a few months due to a busy schedule.
I do better studying subject by subject rather than reading a daily passage. If I can’t link it to something,
it tends to go in one ear and out the other. Being overscheduled or having unreasonable expectations will also set us
up for failure.
challenge to have a quiet spiritual time needs to be scheduled or chances are, it won’t happen…or at least it
didn’t for me. Although I can get a lot done in the mornings, getting up earlier to have quiet time just puts
me back to sleep! All of us, regardless of age, position or occupation, have to give thought to whatever is best for
our schedule and plan accordingly.
had a lot to say in the Psalms about quiet times with God. We find, in Psalm 101, that David is making his own set of
resolutions. He begins by saying, “I will sing of loving-kindness and justice. To thee O Lord, I will
sing praises.” He is resolving to praise God ~ the glorious and faithful God who has guided his steps. David
well knew the mercies of God and loved to sing His praises. Recently someone told me that singing means more to her
now. Previously, when a song service had been planned at the church with which she worships, she would think, “Sing
for an hour? What’s the point?” The joy that is deep in our heart should spur us to sing. As
her spirituality has grown, she enjoys meaningful times, singing praises to God.
In verse 2, David declares to give heed to the blameless way (or way of integrity),
asking “When wilt Thou come to me?” He seems to be pleading, knowing his deepest needs include God.
We all know that David did not have a sterling record but his heart was the best. Importantly, he never forgot his ability
to sin. On the other hand, one commentator suggested that David was inviting God to come inspect his house at any time.
That would be a good policy, wouldn’t it! Be ready!
His next statement is to “walk within my house in the integrity of
my heart.” His desire is to behave wisely ~ consistently. Consistency is the key element; not part
of the time or most of the time, but all of the time, especially within his own household. Our families are
the ones who know us best and the ones who will be most influenced by our actions. We may make a good impression outside
our homes, but our families see us for what we really are. Is our holiness seen at home or only at church? Will
this be the year in which we make more of an effort to seek God?
Coupled with seeking God, David’s next challenge (v. 3) is to “set
no worthless thing before my eyes.” (Maybe we should tape this on our televisions and computers!) Resolutions
touch our daily lives and present constant challenges if we’re serious about them. Who better than David to present
admonitions about lust of the eyes? Do we rationalize about the content we take in? About the language we hear?
David is on
his own pursuit of holiness. He goes on to say that he hates the way of life of those who fall away and he will not
let their lifestyle influence him. He won’t put up with evil plans or thinking, haughtiness or arrogance.
He will seek out those who have integrity; not choosing his associations from those who lie or practice deceit. Obviously,
he is not comfortable among those who practice such things. How influenced are we (especially in the workplace) by those
around us? Surely, we can see the importance of being together with other Christians, especially when we are trapped
in a workplace with those who are worldly and care nothing about serving God. We may not have much choice in the workplace,
but we are in control regarding who comes into our home ~ either through the front door or via our televisions and
within makes us uncomfortable; points out too many flaws and yet it is a necessary part of our spiritual growth. Will
you be looking within in the New Year? Have more resolve? Are there goals that need to be set? Last year,
I set two goals; one physical and one spiritual. The spiritual goal has been kept ~ not perfectly, but working on it
daily has been beneficial. The other? Well, maybe I can be more steadfast (persistent, unwavering, dedicated)
this year and add something else, as well.
goes on to mention other situations that he would avoid; a headstrong or wicked person; those who would slander others or
have a proud heart. His motive, as king, was to make the land better for his people and he started that with his own
resolutions. Isn’t that the best place to start? If we want change to come about in others, wouldn’t
we first look inward?
Psalm 51, after making some pertinent confessions, David asked for his steadfast spirit to be renewed. Are you ready
for some renewal? In our own private time we can be as David and do some inward searching; then ask God to help us be
more focused in developing our spiritual lives, as we go forward in this New Year.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” Psalm 51:10.
Behind the Scenes Commitment
By Joyce Jamerson
Let’s play off of last month’s article on
resolutions and continue the theme regarding commitment. Did you make one or more resolutions? Are you committed
to keeping them? (Hey, it’s early yet ~ there’s still time!)
What other words come to mind when thinking of the word commitment?
We might think of pledge, duty, and responsibility; maybe even restraint? Being steady, loyal, devoted and faithful
round it out a little more. Do particular Bible characters come to mind when you dwell on the word, either on the positive
or negative side?
could go on and on about the commitment of Abraham, Job, Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament as well as Peter and Paul
from the New (and many others, of course). Jonah was committed to his own thinking and needed some severe lessons to
bump him back into reality. Judas chose not to deal with reality at all, after succumbing to the temptation of money
and totally losing his commitment.
had a sort of super human ability to take things as they come, without getting stressed out, or at least that’s the
way we often think of him. He likens commitment to running a race in 1 Corinthians 9:24 and his motto is “run
it to win it.” If you’re going to run, then give it your best. In Hebrews 12:1, the writer says to
lay off the weights and run with endurance. Endurance is the staying power that enables us to be persistent over a period
of time. Paul could run well because he had a goal. How can we say we’re committed if we have no goals?
Now, look at Philippians
2:19-30. These verses tell us of two of Paul’s behind-the-scenes companions, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Timothy was Paul’s
student; his son in the faith ~ a kindred spirit. He was an enormous encouragement to Paul and served him like
a child serving his father. Paul trusted that Timothy would be a great helper for others and recommended him highly.
He noted how others would seek their own interest, but Timothy had proven his worth. Whatever the need, Timothy was
ready to serve.
was another behind-the-scenes worker, not as well known as Timothy but extremely important to Paul. He served Paul while
he was in prison, doing things that Paul could not; helping in whatever way he could to further the Lord’s work.
While doing this, Epaphroditus became seriously ill, so Paul sent him back to Philippi, recommending him as a brother, a fellow
worker and fellow soldier. Paul said to hold men like him in high regard.
Lydia, Dorcas, and Priscilla were also behind-the-scenes workers; Bible women
who helped in whatever way they could. They were not concerned with acknowledgement or title but faithfully served others.
Women today serve in the same way. Recognition of these efforts may never come about, but women all over the nation
give to those around them; studying, teaching, cooking, sewing, cleaning, nursing ~ whatever is needed and whatever it takes.
Many congregations would be lacking if it were not for women who sacrifice their time and convenience to see that classes
are taught, communion is prepared, bulletins are printed and others are encouraged, through visiting, studying together or
preparing food for a family in crisis. Their husbands, if married, may be unavailable because of their own obligations
so many women carry on alone, serving their congregation or community, caring for the family; doing what is necessary so that
God’s truth can be taught and others can be strengthened. Our daily commitment may be behind-the-scenes, but is
definitely not superficial. We want to see a task through so good can be done and God can be glorified.
unable to accomplish certain things, we can hold up the hands of those who might be able to do more than we can at
(I know we’d much rather be the one doing
the helping, but occasionally, we may be the one needing help!) Pride can stand in the way of graciously accepting what
another sister desires to give. Can we picture what Paul’s life would have been if he had the “I can do it myself”
mentality? He would have been miserable and alone with a heavy burden, fretting because of his lack of success.
What a shame, to miss out on the camaraderie that Paul felt with Timothy. Lesson: Do we feel alone, simply because
we will not let someone else have the joy of helping?
Helping others often comes with a price, but James said to “count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various
trials,” James 1:2. He then goes on to mention the endurance that is necessary. Commitment seems to
imply endurance, doesn’t it? Is a resolution only temporary; something to be soon broken?
Even older men and women can demonstrate their
behind-the-scenes commitment. Years ago, my husband held a Gospel meeting in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Every night,
an old man slowly made his way up to the front of the auditorium on the right hand side. He listened carefully and when
he was slowly exiting the building, he told Frank, “Brother Jamerson, that was a wonderful lesson, and I hope I’m
here tomorrow night to hear another one just like it.” You may think what is an old man like that good for?
He can’t do anything! Can’t lead the song service, can’t teach classes any more, and can’t pray
publicly because of his weakened condition, but he still had spiritual strength. What he did ~ and did well
~ was encourage a young preacher. Every night.
Who could possibly know the end result of a little behind-the-scenes encouragement?
The women in Mark 15:40, 41 were probably unaware of the importance of their presence, but their presence was extremely important
to our Lord and probably to others as well.
“And when He was in Galilee,
they used to follow Him and administer
loyalty! What commitment!
can be tiring but life is short and heaven is waiting. Don’t give up on your resolutions. If you haven’t
yet made any, it’s not too late. Keeping a resolution is not for the faint hearted. Doesn’t endurance
imply determination and staying power?
Commitment plus endurance ~
Two of the keys to crossing our spiritual finish line.
run with endurance the race that is set before us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,” Hebrews 12:1,2
(If you have a favorite
behind-the-scenes worker in the Bible or a friend or relative who fits this description, please send me a note. If there’s
enough interest, I’ll compile them for a future post.)
Seen any cobwebs?
By Joyce Jamerson
Even though there is snow on the ground today, before long we’ll be seeing
signs of spring. Crocuses and buttercups will appear soon, letting us witness the awakening of another season.
As I went outside to feed the birds this morning,
the windows in the sunroom revealed a lot of smudges and fingerprints (some were great-grandbaby fingerprints and they are
kind of cute ~ for a while anyway). I’m resisting the urge to clean them right away, in order to do some
cold weather things, but soon we’ll all begin the task of freshening our living quarters, inside and out; cleaning windows,
weeding flower beds and planting new flowers. We’re inspecting ~ inside and out ~ what needs to be done, perhaps
even cleaning out a few closets and dresser drawers. Ahhh. Accomplishing this task feels good!
As we look within, at our spiritual cobwebs, what do we find? Will
we inspect our lives as carefully as we inspect our homes? An orderly home is a blessing to those within, as well as
to visitors. Home should be an oasis; not a place of stress. What are the benefits of an orderly life? Just
today, a friend told me she once met a Peace Corps volunteer, assigned to Fiji, who said there was very little stress on that
island. Once a week, they would hose out the hut and that was it! The sheer simplicity of that may seem appealing
for a while, but we would soon miss our fridge, stove and microwave ~ and the many comforts with which we’re privileged.
And yet, order in the midst of chaos is hard to come by. Let’s look at a few cobwebs together ~ the spiritual
The cobweb of preoccupation
It’s not unusual in times of recession, to be
more focused on physical things: Will there be enough money? Will my job be secure? Will I be able to continue
to stay home with our children? Etc. Perhaps your mind has been burdened with a particular problem or perhaps you’re
trying to manipulate a situation to make it turn out your way. Do you rationalize that a thing is good when it is not?
(Break down this word and look at it: rational – lies and then tell yourself the truth). How many cobweb
ridden Bible characters can you list? I’m starting with Haman in the book of Esther. Talk about manipulation!
He had lots of cobwebs: preoccupation with power, resentment of Mordecai, hatred for another race (in this case,
the Jews), manipulation of facts and evil scheming. Sadly, he went to his death clinging to his cobwebs. Esther’s
courage and dedication saved her people. She was convicted; preoccupied in the best sense of the word.
The cobweb of toxic thoughts
At the top of the list is negativity, insecurity, anxiety, and excuse making.
“I can’t.” If you believe you can’t,
then you can’t! When our daughter was in the third grade, she had a remarkable teacher, who on the first day of
school created a tombstone with “Can’t” inscribed on it, along with the date of cant’s death.
Every day, the children had to say “I Can” as they entered her room. They made a game of it, trying to fool
her, sneaking behind her in order to enter without making that statement, but she prevailed all throughout the year.
“Can’t” died at the first of the school year, she reminded them, if they ever reverted to saying “I
can’t.” Did she realize how much security she was fostering in these children?
Being confronted with anxiety and stress is common and Job so adequately describes
the accompanying feelings. "I am seething within and cannot relax; Days of affliction confront me,”
Job 30:27. Sadly, we can identify with that passage all too well and have to look for answers, just like Job.
Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive
Thinking, had these thoughts on destroying mental cobwebs in the Ottawa Citizen, August 12, 1961. Google
“spiritual cobwebs” and choose “Clear your spiritual cobwebs in church” if you’d like to read
the entire article.
1. Sit in a pew and deliberately
throw your mind into neutral.
2. Consciously relax your
body, letting all muscles go limp.
3. Think of the problem
as being lifted free of your mind; conceive of God as taking it over from you.
4. While the problem is mentally separated from you, conceive of your consciousness as being reconditioned
to receive it back.
5. Ask for and believe that you are
receiving guidance, that new insights will come.
stresses the importance of separating oneself from hustle and bustle to focus on being quiet when trying to find answers to
difficulties. Although he seeks answers by going to a church building for a quiet time, we know that Jesus often sought
time alone. How difficult is it to throw your mind into neutral? (Some might jokingly say their mind is always
in neutral!) Loosening and tightening muscles is a common relaxation technique as is practicing mind control.
Jesus led the way, of course, but Paul was the ultimate positive thinker! His inspired writings are the perfect positive thinking
manual. Those of us who are anxiety prone can meditate on the following:
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon
you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and
My burden is light," Matthew 11:28-30
“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul,” Psalm 94:19.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests
be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Jesus,” Philippians 4:6-7.
not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'
For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first
His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do notbe anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow
will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” Matthew 6:31-34.
Lack of focus can also be a cobweb. Earl Nightingale once
said, “All you have to do is know where you're going. The answers will come to you of their own accord.”
We do need to focus on what we want to accomplish and where we are going, but the apostle Paul said it much better in Colossians
3:1-2: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is,
seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
Know where you are going: Heaven. Heaven
is the focus and the answers are not of our own accord. Once we set our mind on things above ~ those cobwebs just seem
In the meantime, there
are still some busy spiders on the sun porch and I’m taking applications for window washers for those cute little fingerprints.
Spring will arrive soon, won’t it? Some recent weather has caused us to wonder! We cleared out
some spiritual cobwebs last month, so now it’s on to a thorough spring cleaning! Enjoy this good article by Bubba
Garner as we remember our “looking within” goals. JJ
A Good Spring Cleaning
The trees are starting to bud. Little green
blades of grass are peaking out where the lawn had gone dormant for the winter. People are beginning to notice pollen and
mold spores and other allergens floating toward their nasal passages. These are all signs of spring. Soon, even our clocks
will “spring forward.” And that means it time for a good spring cleaning.
When I was growing
up, I soon learned the difference between spring cleaning and just a normal Saturday cleaning. The curtains and drapes would
come down for washing. The eaves on the outside of the house would be swept for cobwebs and dirt daubers’ nests. Toys
and clothes that were no longer used or seldom worn were piled up and hauled off. It was just a sign of spring.
Perhaps it’s time that all of us to engage in a little spiritual spring cleaning, the kind that removes the buildup
and clutter. While the world around us awakens from winter, we, too, can spring back to life. It is not just a sign of the
season, but of seasoning, growing, and maturing.
As you gather your supplies, may I offer four quick
that you are renting. The reason we must keep our body, our earthly house, in good shape is because we are borrowing
it from the Owner. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from
God, and that you are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19)? Nobody has the right to say, “it’s my body, I can do
whatever I want to with it.” You belong to God. Everything you have is from Him. That means you’re going to have
to give it all back. So, “glorify God in you body” (1 Cor. 6:20). The best way to do that is by keeping it clean.
Start at home, not your neighbor’s.
Spring cleaning sometimes doesn’t go very deep because we start noticing what bad shape everyone else is in. We’ll
think, “I have weeds in my flowerbeds, but they’re not as high as his.” Or, “my shelves are dusty,
but look at the cobwebs in her closet.” Jesus said that you don’t have the right to criticize other peoples’
imperfections when you have not even addressed your own. “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s
eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matt. 7:3)? Stay focused on your own messes. If you’re
like me, that ought to be enough to keep you busy.
Throw out the junk drawer. Surely you have one, don’t you? That’s the one where
you put things that don’t have a place. Twist ties, used batteries, expired coupons, and little plastic pieces that
we have no idea what they go to. Why do we feel the need to keep stuff around that has no value or use? We are instructed
to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” only after we “lay aside every encumbrance and the
sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). If it’s junk, if it has no use, if it’s a piece from the
past, throw it away. Get rid of it. Just because you’ve found a hiding place for it does not mean that it’s no
a good finish. Discouragement is a big deterrent to spring cleaning. When you start pulling everything out, it can
look more cluttered than when you started. Progress is often slow. Before long, you get overwhelmed and just put it all back
where you found it. Paul commended the church in Corinth for the benevolent work they had begun. But a good beginning was
not good enough. “Now finish doing it also, so that just there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also
the completion of it by your ability” (2 Cor. 8:11). Any job worth doing is going to have its moments where you want
to turn back. But we must press through the difficulties and press along to our destination.
regret a good spring cleaning. It will bring seasons of refreshing. It will bring you back to life.
Creating an Opportunities Box
By Joyce Jamerson
Many years ago, when my brother and I would spend a few weeks in the summer with our grandparents
in Ohio, we would anxiously look for the mail, for a letter from our Mom and Dad. When the expected letter didn’t
arrive, we were rather forlorn for a bit but soon recovered. It was during the time that autograph books were popular,
and every new person I met just had to sign the book. Some would just sign their names and others would write a clever
saying or praise me in some way. (Of course, I loved that!)
My grandmother wrote: “There is nothing quite so empty as a mailbox
full of air, when the letter you expected simply isn’t….isnt’ there.”
I’ve never forgotten that little saying
and it is still a good one, although with our high tech age, texting and e-mail take the place of many letters. It almost
seems criminal to me, to send a thank you note through e-mail, but I do confess ~ I’ve done it ~ to close friends who
understand that handwriting is sometimes a chore. But still, there is a special feeling when one receives a note through
the mail. You can sit down to read it (sometimes over and over again), seeing the person’s handwriting and knowing
that they took the time to send their thoughts. It’s still special.
Recently a friend from Lakeland, where we used to live, called me a few days
after my birthday. He was a computer buff, who regularly sent personally designed cards to others on special days.
Now, he is up in years and not able to accomplish some tasks, but still able to pick up the phone and call. It was good
to hear his voice.
we’re looking within to find things we can do to encourage one another, there are many opportunities to praise
and build up, just through cards, letters and phone calls; guess I should add texting and Facebook in this techno age.
E-mails will be deleted, phone calls will be memorable for a while, but cards and letters stand throughout time. There
are several that I just can’t throw away, and you probably feel the same way.
At times, we fail to take advantage of our
opportunities because we don’t plan ahead, and the good intentions remain in our head instead of making it to our mailbox.
So, look for
bargains on note cards and greeting cards and gather them together with stamps, pens, an address book or membership directory
and a pocket calendar and find a special place for them. How about a special drawer or tote bag? All the essentials
will be together and you’ll soon be looking for ways to encourage others. Put special dates and events into the
calendar and then every week or so, sit down to decide who can be encouraged today.
Is it the young man who just started a public role where you worship? Would
it be the teen who is inviting younger girls to sit with her? How about clipping an obituary to send to the family or
clipping a newspaper column of a special event to pass on to a family member?
Did you see how quietly little Drew sat while his daddy was leading singing and
mom was busy in the nursery? Could you share with parents how much you admire their teenagers? (Believe me, positive
comments about teens would mean a lot to them AND to their parents!) How about the older lady who faithfully attends even
though she is in daily pain? Or the gentleman who leads such meaningful prayers, putting into words the feelings that
are in your heart?
someone is burdened with problems of any nature, a short note will lift their spirits. Hospital stays can become long
and dreary. Depression goes hand in hand with illness, especially heart problems; grief from loss of family members
is not lifted quickly.
Christians are truly the light of the world (Matt. 5:14-16), should these opportunities be neglected?
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility
of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which as also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians
I’ve noticed, Clay, that you’re always here on time. We never have to wait on you to begin class.
We miss your sweet smile, Shelby, when you’re
at home sick. If you’re taking any medicine, I hope it tastes good!
You crack me up, Polly. Don’t we wish everyone could face the day with your sense of humor?
Your prayers, Sammy, are so meaningful. They help me
to put things into better perspective.
Bryan, for the special effort you put into our song service. It must take some extra time, but coordinating songs and
sermons help us to get more out of our worship together.
I’ve noticed, Wylene, that you have had problems adapting since the death of your mother. Can we have
lunch together soon?
Search for opportunities ~ they’re all around us ~ and let me know how you’re progressing on that opportunity box!
Encouragement Through Writing
By Joyce Jamerson
We’re in the process of discovering writing
as a way to encourage one another, and last month shared ways to create an opportunities box. Since last week was an
extremely busy week (with opportunities!), collapsing and watching Pride and Prejudice was part of my weekend down
time. During the time period in which that story took place, important communications came to them by delivery
on horseback. They hung onto every word, and on one occasion, there had been a delay and two letters came at the same
time. (Hard to conceive of in this day of texting and e-mail). The agony of not knowing the outcome of a situation
would be almost unbearable.
my stash of precious things are postcards my grandpa received while he was in college and a few years after as he began to
teach. These pieces of insight into his life are over 100 years old. While reading, you learn how his sisters
loved and cared for him. They even sent a post card if they intended to write a letter the next day!
I confess to being intrigued by some of Paul’s
writings and can only imagine how it would have felt to be on the receiving end of some of his thoughts. He had time
alone and could dig deeply into his thoughts – thoughts revealed by the Spirit. Is having time alone a barrier
for us? Do we not slow down enough to have deeper thoughts?
Some of his thoughts were encouraging; some were very pointed. His words
display his concern, his disappointment, as well as joy and encouragement. He mentions how he was comforted when Titus
came; reporting to Paul how much the Corinthians missed him. They missed him, even though his pointed words to them
had brought about their repentance, 2 Corinthians 7. His words helped them grow spiritually, therefore they loved him
Look at some of his positive
words in this chapter.
Make room for us
in your hearts.
You are in our hearts to die
together and to live together.
Great is my confidence
in you; great is my boasting on your behalf.
He is bursting with pride for them.
I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy (even
God of comfort had sent Titus to cheer Paul with a good report from the Corinthians and Paul thanked them for that comfort.
Titus encouraged Paul by his visit – motivated him. The Corinthians also encouraged Titus. Paul boasted
to Titus regarding the Corinthians and never regretted it. The bond shared by Paul, Titus and the Corinthians was tight.
Paul could depend on them completely.
a chapter! We could use the expression “what goes around, comes around” in its best sense. What a
lesson in encouragement!
can we gain from this chapter? Will Paul’s writings give us some ideas?
Most of the time, we don’t write because we don’t know what to
say. Paul used words of encouragement and praise freely, speaking of how he had been refreshed by those who cared
have a purpose; note the occasion for writing. Ever have a day when you feel refreshed? Look around, note the
events that surrounded that feeling and then write a word of encouragement and gratitude to those who may have contributed
to that good feeling.
you for pitching in when I was really struggling.
Your beautiful note came the other day at the best possible time.
My health is not the best right now. You are a dear for helping.
Second, set the tone, as Paul did, for optimism, and then build on it.
In Philippians 4, Paul is commending the Philippians for their concern and care for him. Many times, they sent what
he needed, and at the end of the book, he describes their care as a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing
can be that fragrant aroma for someone else. One little note of encouragement can make someone’s day.
Look around and focus ~ one at a time ~ on those around who may have a special need.
Am I ever glad my desk is next to yours! Your calm
& pleasant demeanor often helps to sooth the bumps
in my road.
give up on bringing those babies to church. Your presence (and that of those sweet little ones) brings so much joy to
those of us who are older.
are a wonderful teacher; the pathway of life is more
beautiful because of you.
Spend some time in solitude to gather your thoughts and plan the plan, using your opportunities box,
then head down the road of encouragement!
can do it!
different slant on encouragement
In the last two articles, we’ve talked of ways to encourage others, and the question arises, “How good
are we at letting others encourage us?”
Because of the love in our hearts and our desire “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians
1:10), we want to cherish and care for others. If we’re able to run errands, cook, and be busy doing good works for
someone who can’t get out, that’s great. But how do we react when a loving act comes our way? Accepting
a kindness from someone else may be a problem! Love, Paul said, is “the perfect bond of unity,” Colossians
2:14. Illustrating this, we may refer to it as “super glue” – we’re stuck together in unity! Being
able to do things for one another does create a bond, especially between sisters in Christ. The Greek word for encouragement
is parakaleo and literally means “to call alongside.” The word encouragement indicates that we
are under pressure and need help; having someone alongside to give us a boost. I like that and it is a two way street.
mom was fiercely independent, wanting to take care of herself as long as possible. Nothing wrong with that actually,
unless we carry it to an extreme. We’re in such a self-sufficient age, wanting to be independent as long as possible,
that we’ve forgotten how to receive goodness from others.
When it was needed, we took care of mom and she was a happy receiver.
Paul knew how to be a happy receiver. He had received from the Macedonians several times. Epaphroditus
was the errand runner (or camel express, maybe?) and Paul described his care as being “a
fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God,” Philippians 4:15-18.
Are you at a low point? Can you
recognize when someone is trying to encourage you? How do you react when someone praises you? Are you able to
accept praise? Actual encouragement (to accomplish a task) may differ a little from affirmation, when someone pats you
on the back for a job well done.
I had no vision for being able to write anything worthwhile, but God sent several encouragers that gave me the incentive
to at least try and then praised me for the effort. They were my “fragrant aroma.” He may be sending one of His
people just to praise and encourage you! 1 Thessalonians 5:14, NASV.
Paul encouraged Timothy, and Timothy profited greatly! What a servant he became! God’s Word has
great power for encouragement (Romans 15:4-6), so we can be of the same mind with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
You may be thinking right now of someone who has been special in your life; who has given you spiritual direction.
In addition to
spiritual encouragement, how do we accept having special things done for us? For every giver, there has to be a receiver.
Many times, I’ve taken a small gift or casserole to someone to have them react in such a way that makes me wish I hadn’t!
“Oh, you shouldn’t have done that!” Do we think because we are Christians, we should be beyond needing
anything? Are we so self sufficient we never need to receive? If a gift is sincerely given, don’t we need to be
Receiving doesn’t necessarily mean we are needy; it’s because the one delivering wanted to do
something special. We may hold back from developing really good friendships just because we don’t know to give,
wondering how the receiver will react or on the other hand, because we don’t know how to receive. And
that’s a shame.
We can get the most out of our relationships when we learn to accept graciously. I gave a friend a Christmas
ornament during that holiday. We don’t usually exchange gifts or anything, but I saw an ornament that was calling
her name! It was a little glitzy, just like she is and was the initial of her name. I didn’t want her to
run out and get me anything; just accept the little inexpensive trinket that I had given her. And that’s exactly
what she did. She smiled, kind of shrugged to indicate, “Well, I wasn’t expecting this!” And
then said a genuine “Thank You.”
I love being able to surprise a sister with a trinket at times, but hesitate because they’ll think they have
to reciprocate. Receiving is a talent – maybe we should work on it? I know I need to. We want to give
and it’s more difficult to receive, and developing humility will be part of the key to doing so.
Assignment? Live with appreciation and joy; be thankful for the day and any
gifts it may contain. It will be the glue – to stick us together in unity.
Do you ever
feel as if something is missing in today’s society? Things that ought to be there? This is a different time for
many of us; a time of uncertainty and economical change. Sure, we’ve always tried to be good stewards and get
the most for our money, but there was money to be had. These days, dollars have to be stretched and ways to save need
to be shared. When money is tight, it seems to bring out the true character of those around us, and as we take a look
within, we may or may not like what we see in ourselves. Jobs may not be plentiful; services are being cut and our dollar
has to go pretty far. How do we react? Will we trade our integrity for a few dollars in these difficult times?
Today, in the grocery
store, there was a sale on beef, particularly shoulder roasts. As I picked up one package to look at it, the price label
jumped out at me. It said: $0.61. No, the sale wasn’t that special. Immediately, I
knew something was wrong. Should I leave it there and choose another? Should I check out with it and consider
it my good fortune? Our missing quality (among many) in society today is integrity. What would integrity demand
of this situation? When I took the roast to the meat counter to be re-weighed, I told the clerk that it was a really
good buy, but I hardly thought the sale was that good. She blinked a couple of times while looking at the price
and took it behind the counter to be weighed properly. When it was returned, the label revealed what had happened.
Now the roast cost $4.61. No one caught the mistake when the 4 had been dropped. She thanked me for being honest
and I was on my way.
that was the trigger for the memories – memories of my parents telling me to sit up straight, stand tall, look others
in the eye when speaking, shake hands firmly, always tell the truth and all that…and I remember the word integrity.
Integrity isn’t about being perfect but about strength of character. Proverbs 24:10 in the NIV says, “If you
falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!” These days, if you stand firm with conviction and
can be trusted, you are among the few who have integrity. It’s a shame that employees are chronically late, pilfer
supplies and cheat their employers. Bickering and gossiping are common. Instead of being an example, high ranking
officials are publicly in the news because of their dishonesty and infidelities. Looting and lawbreaking are widespread
when there is some type of national disaster. What does that say about our society? Where is integrity? Where
is caring for our fellow man?
a life of purpose requires certain characteristics and we find these qualities in the life of Daniel. Even though he
was a captive taken to Babylon when Jerusalem was besieged, Daniel continued to make good decisions. I guess we could
say his greatest strength was his attitude. So much so, that God gave him (and his 3 friends) “knowledge and
intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom,” Daniel 1:17. We can see the source of Daniel’s
strength as he approaches God in prayer in 2:20-23.
How is our attitude? Even if we think we’re doing pretty well in
the attitude department, how high does it rank when we’re challenged? When we’re passed over for a promotion
or if the department evaluation doesn’t score as highly as we think it should? How dare that employer take points
off my score! When someone makes an accusation against us; how do we hold up?
Daniel was a faithful worker. He performed so well that he was made a ruler over the whole province of Babylon
and at his request, his 3 friends were also promoted, Daniel 2:48-49. He was trusted! Faithfully doing his work. Employers
today would love to hire someone like that.
is a story about a wealthy man who had a friend who was a builder of homes. The builder was down in his business so the wealthy
man decided to help him out by having him to build a home for him. He gave the builder a set of plans and a hefty check for
$300,000. He then told him that he trusted his decisions and to do the best job that he could and if satisfied he would be
paid well. The builder was very excited to receive such a large check but even more excited that he would be able to cut expenses
which would enable him to keep a share of the money he had received. He went out and purchased the cheapest concrete that
he could find as well as the cheapest lumber, all the while thinking about the money that he was going to be able to pocket.
He did the same thing with the plumbing and wiring. When it was all said and done he was able to pocket $40,000 dollars.
Without his friend knowing about it, he deposited the money into his personal account. After completing the job he called
his friend to come to look at the completed job. His friend was quite impressed. On the surface the house looked
great, however the corners that were cut made the house much less than what it actually appeared to be. The builder
could not wait to see how much he would be paid for the job. After going through the home, the wealthy man turned to
his friend and told him that he already had a beautiful home and handed his friend the keys and said welcome to your new home.
The builder nearly passed out. Any idea why?
had the keys to integrity. But those keys didn’t keep him from being persecuted by others. We all know the
lion’s den story by heart, but read through the book once more and note how Daniel behaved during challenges in his
life and from where he received his strength. He was faithful and diligent in his everyday life, had personal purity
and was consistent in his walk with God. He was a man of prayer; diligent in his prayer life.
I remember seeing a sign that said:
When you’re faced with a busy day,
save precious time by skipping your devotions.
Ouch! Looking Within can
be painful! Lord, help us to be diligent in our daily walk with You, in spite of the challenges of our society.
How’s your heart?
was a man after God’s own heart. We know him as a shepherd, poet, musician and singer; two-thirds of the psalms
are attributed to him. He was inspired by God’s creation as he kept his father’s sheep. The visual
images that come to mind in Psalm 23 however, are quite different in another of David’s psalms. The green pastures
and quiet waters that calm our anxious spirits are not calming at all in Psalm 51. David is lamenting the filthy side
of sin and knows he needs to be cleansed. The description at the beginning of this chapter notes that this Psalm took
place after Nathan the prophet came to David to confront him about his sin with Bathsheba. He convicted David with the
familiar story of the poor man and his favorite little ewe lamb; a family pet. (Read this account in 2 Samuel 12.)
David readily admitted his sinful actions.
is now asking God for a clean heart and a steadfast spirit. His agony is clear in Psalm 51, considered the foremost
of 7 psalms of repentance (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). David accepts responsibility for his wrongs and doesn’t
try to excuse his actions or pin the blame on anyone else. While Psalm 23 praises God for the restoration of his soul,
Psalm 51 in contrast, paints the agonizing picture of separation from God. He wants his joy to return! This time
of looking within reveals a broken heart. He examined himself and didn’t like what he found. He
wants to use the return of his joy to teach others the joy of knowing God.
God wants a pure, clean, humble heart and He delights in mercy, so David had
to put away the lustful, self-centered, prideful actions that led him into the depth of sin. When that clean heart is
restored and lips are used for singing and praising, David can once again enjoy the calm and quiet described in Psalm 23;
the image of our Lord as a protective shepherd.
be happy to give credit if I knew who originated the analysis below. Each time I’ve seen it, it has helped me
to stop and reflect on this psalm that we’ve probably known since childhood.
The Lord is my Shepherd – that’s relationship!
I shall not want – that’s supply!
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures – that’s
He leadeth me beside
quiet waters – that’s refreshment!
He restoreth my soul – that’s healing!
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness – that’s guidance!
For His names sake – that’s purpose!
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death – that’s testing!
I will fear no evil – that’s protection!
For Thou art with me – that’s faithfulness!
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me – that’s discipline!
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies –
anointest my head with oil – that’s consecration!
My cup runneth over – that’s abundance!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life – that’s blessing!
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord – that’s
Forever – that’s
my heart ready to share eternity with God? How blessed we are to be able to examine our hearts; to see the consequences
of our faults through the eyes of another in Psalm 51, and through Psalm 23, to know the provision of forgiveness, rest and
healing as we continue to walk with God.
as David walked...in integrity of heart and uprightness..., 1 Kings 9:4.