Encouragement

Love Builds Up

tumblr_m98r37c2F01qdxd12o1_500We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. – 1 Corinthians 8:1-2, NIV

As Christians, we might be well qualified to give the right doctrinally correct response in any given circumstance, but as Paul tells us, our response needs to be done in love. Do we genuinely care about the person we are giving advice to? Or are we only interested in how wise and clever our advice sounds? Paul tells us knowledge alone puffs us up and makes us proud. If we genuinely want to help someone, we need to do it in love.

Rick Warren often quoted as saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” One of the best ways we show we care is by listening. Mostly people can work out for themselves what they should or shouldn’t do. What people really need is a sounding board so they can talk through the issues with someone who is prepared to listen objectively and then allow the person to come to their own conclusions.

The Amplified Bible puts it like this: “Yet mere knowledge causes people to be puffed up…, but love…edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to full stature]. If we respond with love, not information, we encourage others to grow into their full potential.”

I Thank My God

Phil 1:3The pastoral team at SeaCoast Grace Church did this piece over three years ago as a part of our weekend worship service. It was our way of saying thanks to those who were making an eternal difference through the ministries of the church. Seeing it brought back special memories with this incredibly talented team. While most of us have now moved on, I thank God for the time we shared together…

 

Christmas Traditions

In the Old Testament, the Isrealites remembered God’s provision and faithfulness through feasts and celebrations. Several times a year, they’d stop what they were doing and celebrate how God brought them out of slavery, or how God protected them from their enemies. Additionally, several times throughout the Old Testament, men of faith would also set up memorial stones to remind all who passed by of God’s great provision.

In Genesis 35:14, Jacob set up a pillar, a type of memorial, in the place where God had spoken and revealed Himself. In 1 Samuel 7:12, Samuel took a stone and set it up saying, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” Every time the Israelites went by them, they would remember what God had done. How He had brought them out of bondage, healed their children, and supernaturally provided for their needs. Having those memorial stones helped it to stay fresh in their memory.

Over the years, our family has carried out a tradition of giving Christmas ornaments to one another. Our tree is laden with ornaments going back to my childhood. And Jennifer and I adopted this family tradition over 20 years ago when we first got married and have for over 20 years accumulated ornaments, that like the Israelites, bring back  special memories. As we were decorating the tree tonight, I was flooded with memories of years gone by. There was the “Our First Christmas” ornament, with a picture of a much younger Bryan and Jen (and as Zach jokes, with hair). We have ornaments that were given by missionary friends from Russia & China. And there are many that memorialize the 2010 SF Giants World Series victory!

However, several years ago, due to the increasing population of ornaments on our tree, Jen & I decided that we would only buy one ornament for each other. That ornament usually derives from our vacation destination, or signifies a significant memory from the year. We haven’t yet purchased this year’s ornament, since we really didn’t have a vacation this summer because of Zach’s broken leg, so we were laughing tonight about getting a moving truck ornament, or finding an ornament with a boy who’s in a cast. Whatever we find, it will remind of us some special memory we shared together as a family.

It was also fun to see Zach really appreciate the tradition we share this evening. He proudly hung most of his ornaments on the front of the tree. He talked about each one and together we remembered our time together with our dog Maggie. We talked about how we miss her and what a great dog she was. We talked about the fun we had in Hawaii during our sabbatical and about how we need to go back this next summer. We looked at ornaments he made in elementary school! It was a grand time and in about 10-12 years, many of the ornaments will likely move out when Zach charters his own course in life. We keep his ornaments boxed separately, so he can carry the tradition on, when he starts his own family. And we look forward to a day that we’ll be able to recall those special memories with his family.

Yes, celebrations and memorial markers help us to recall and remember God’s goodness in the land of the living. And I am grateful for the traditions that my mom started and that we now continue on, for they truly remind me of how full and blessed my life really is!

10 Things I’m Looking Forward To…

10 Things I’m Looking Forward to in NorCal…

1. Adventure Christian Church
– We’re excited to join the team of Adventure Christian Church in Roseville! God is doing a great thing there and I am thrilled to serve with some good friends and alongside a former seminary professor of mine.

2. Family – We’ve missed our family! And with our move back to Sacramento, we’ll be within a two-hour drive of most of our family!

3. Seasons – Instead of two seasons, I’ll get to experience four distinct seasons and appreciate all the beauty that these seasons bring.

4. Green Belts & Open Spaces – No longer will I be living in the concrete jungle. Instead I’ll be living in a land of open spaces, with real rivers and wildlife to appreciate.

5. Reconnecting with Friends – We have some great friends in Sacramento and I can’t wait to live close and reconnect with them!

6. SF Giants – I love my SF Giants! And while I won’t be able to afford to see them with the frequency I did with the Angels, I am looking forward to being at the crown jewel of MLB and routing on the Orange & Black!

7. Lakes – I am looking forward to warm days out on the lake with family and friends. Either skiing on Folsom Lake or house-boating on Lake Oroville with the rest of the clan! Also, looking forward to hiking to Rock Lake in Plumas Eureka State Park once again.

8. Cost of Living – What can I say? The dollar goes a lot further in Northern California. And I am looking forward to getting on board with Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps once again.

9. Proximity to Favorite Getaways – We’ve missed being able to drive to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Napa for the day. These are some of the most beautiful places in the world!

10. Our Home – Our offer was accepted on a home in Roseville! It’s a beautiful two-story home, near to the church, with a swimming pool and a dog run already built-in. We look forward to creating special memories in this home for years to come.

God Uses Imperfect People

Think God can’t or won’t use you? Well, you’re in good company! If you think about it, there are many reasons why God shouldn’t have called you, or me, or anyone else for that matter. But God doesn’t wait until we’re perfect to use us! In fact, the Scriptures are full of the stories of men and women, who in spite of their greed, lust, impulsiveness and imperfections, where used greatly by God to fulfill His purposes. Here’s a few examples, from the Bible’s who’s who:

Abraham lied
Sarah laughed at God’s promises
Moses stuttered
David’s armor didn’t fit
John Mark was rejected by Paul
Timothy had ulcers
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning
Jacob was a liar
David had an affair
Solomon was too rich
Jesus was too poor
Abraham was too old
David was too young
Peter was afraid of death
Lazarus was dead
John was self-righteous
Naomi was a widow
Paul was a murderer, so was Moses
Jonah ran from God
Miriam was a gossip
Gideon and Thomas both doubted
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal
Elijah was burned out
John the Baptist was a loudmouth
Martha was a worry-wort
Noah got drunk
Did I mention Moses had a short fuse? So did Peter, Paul and lots of folks!

Satan will tell you, “You’re not worthy!” But Jesus says, “So what? I AM.” Satan will tempt us to look back and sees our mistakes. But God looks back and sees the Cross. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. So say “yes” to God and watch him do something amazing in you and through you today!

Becoming the Person God Intended

The most important task of our life is not what we do, but who we become. Since we are God’s people, created for his plan and purposes, he knows what we are intended to be. And being in Christ and growing in him means we are moving towards God’s best version for us.

Peter’s full name at birth was Simon Bar-Jonah (Matthew 16:17), meaning “Simon, son of Jonah” (John 21:15-17). But as one of his disciples, Jesus gives Simon another name, Peter, which means “rock.” However, before God could do the work he desired through Peter, he first had to do a work in him. Over time God would take a fisherman with an ambivalent, vacillating and impulsive personality and shape him into a rock like leader. And in God’s training process, Peter learned that in spite of his weaknesses, the Lord wanted to use him and had great plans for him.

Similarly, as God grows you, he wants to use the situations of life to refine and shape us for the mission he has called us to. God made you to flourish and to produce blessing beyond yourself. Flourishing is God’s plan and gift, and when you flourish, you are in harmony with God, other people, creation and yourself. And it means you are becoming the person God had in mind when he created you. It is moving towards God’s best version of you.

Just like Peter, God has a purpose and plan for you, but he won’t discard the raw material. He just redirects it.

Encouraging Others

We can uplift and affirm one another in a variety of ways. Here are eight ways to consider…

1. Speaking – Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are … sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” The number of ways we can encourage one another through our speech is almost limitless. One pastor friend never leaves a conversation without saying one positive thing to the person he’s talking to.

2. Writing –  The New Testament epistles are proof of the power of written communication. Sometimes a short note to someone who’s discouraged can mean so much. Think creatively. For example, there’s a staff member on our team that randomly leaves encouraging notes on people’s desks. It’s his way of saying, “I appreciate you.”

3. Being Present –  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” says Psalm 34:18. Sometimes God asks us simply to be with others in person on his behalf. I have learned that you don’t have to say much. In fact, sometimes it’s better to say nothing. Our presence itself can be a deeply encouraging gift.

4. Touching – Jesus often touched people. Scientists are just starting to document the positive effects of touch, which God has known about all along. From a light touch on the forearm to a tight hug, these gestures encourage others wordlessly and are best expressed by those who have the love language of touch.

5. Praying –  The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:11, “You help us by your prayers.” Everyone can have this ministry. My wife Jennifer has this gift of encouragement. She’s a prayer warrior! My friend Jason, also asks the question, “How can I pray for you?” on his Facebook wall each week. What a great way to encourage someone by praying for them.

6. Showing Hospitality – “Practice hospitality,” says Romans 12:13. I recently attended a mixed small group leaders appreciation event for our leaders at SCG, hosted by our Mixed Groups Coordinators Jeff & Pam! It was in the small touches of decor, food and entertainment that they communicated that they appreciated their leaders.

7. Giving –  Proverbs 22:9 states that, “A generous man will himself be blessed.” God wants his people to share their lives with others—their time, their money, their possessions. Any of these can be used creatively to encourage others.

8. Helping – Common jobs and chores—housework, shuttling a friend to the airport, baby-sitting—are so appreciated in the ministry of encouragement. “Whatever you do,” says Colossians 3:23, “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

So, what’s your encouragement style? And while we’re talking about it, thanks for taking time to read and interact with my blog. Your comments, Facebook likes and shared links are always appreciated.

Iron Sharpens Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  – Proverbs 27:17, NIV

Last night was a great night! I got to reconnect with my college buddies from UC Santa Barbara. These are friends I’ve known for over 25 years. And as we sat and talked together, I was reminded of God’s goodness and grace in my life. My life has truly been blessed, in that I have been surrounded with so many great people, who reflect Jesus in beautiful ways. People who have helped me grow spiritually and experience a quality of life that is exuberant and life-giving. These people have spurred me on in the Christian race and have inspired me to be my all for God. However, as I sat with my college buddies last night, I recalled how special these friends were in particular.

From my group of friends at UCSB, six of us went on to serve in vocational ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ, and that’s not counting some of our friends from other area schools. I guess you might expect to find that from a Christian university, but this was my experience at university with a “reputation” of being a “party school”! What brought us together, is the same thing that has kept us together, our common faith and commitment to living that out in our world.

As I sat there with my friends, I was thankful, because I realized that God had used my friends to help shape me into the person I am today. It reminded me of the principle, “who we spend our precious time with, will in part affect the direction we go in”. And in this circle of friends, we were all committed to loving Jesus and living according to His plans and purposes for our lives. Therefore our lives took the trajectory of those with whom we had associated with.

If you want to grow into a solid and faithful follower of Jesus, it’s important to spend time with others who are just as committed to spiritual maturity as you are. As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat!”. In other words, you become what you take in and accept into your life. So choose to connect with others who are looking to grow in their spiritual maturity and you will find yourself maturing and becoming the person God wants you to be.

I’m thankful for my friends and for the many others who inspire me to become God’s best version of myself!

Bearing Fruit

This past weekend, I had the privilege of co-teaching with our Senior Pastor Doyle Surratt! In our current series, Grow, we’ve been talking about how to grow spiritually, by unpacking many of the verses that refer specifically to bearing fruit and that barrow illustrations from agriculture. In the video below, I unpack the Parable of the Fig Tree in Luke 13:6-9 and discuss the conditions necessary for greater spiritual fruitfulness in our lives. Have a listen and rejoice in the reality that God is for you!

Things You Can Count On

A grace that’s sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9);
a mercy that endures (Psalm 136:1);
an atoning blood that cleanses (1 John 2:2);
a hope that doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:5);
a love that never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8);
a purpose that works all things together for good (Romans 8:28);
a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7);
a joy unspeakable (1 Peter 1:8);
a kingdom that’s unshakable (Hebrews 12:28);
a foundation which is indestructible (2 Timothy 2:19);
a High Priest who prays (John 17);
a Savior who lives (1 Corinthians 15:1-11);
a Spirit who comforts (2 Corinthians 1:4);
a Father who cares (1 Peter 5:7).

– Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cards

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