Saturday, October 15, 2016

An Encouraging Word

SPECIAL NOTE:  I wrote this devotion in 2013 but I felt it is important for us to think on how we can encourage one another especially during these dismal times in our country.  We need to encourage each other daily or we can be overwhelmed by our political situations at present.  Be encouraged as you read this today.

     One thing that I enjoy doing more than anything else in this world is to encourage someone.  I have always loved people, but when I became a Christian, the Lord enlarged my heart and vision to reach out and encourage others.  It fulfills my calling and gives me joy.
     We all have different gifts from the Holy Spirit it is true.  However, each of us is called to encourage, build up and edify one another in the Lord.  The Bible tells us that times will get harder and that we should  encourage one another.
     Paul, the Apostle, wrote a second letter to the Corinthians after he had chastised them in his first letter for all the dissension and problems they had allowed.  In this second letter, it is easy to see his love for these people and his concern for them.  He even opens his own heart and allows us to see how God used someone in his life to encourage him.
     2 Corinthians 7:5-7 reads:  "For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side:  conflicts without, fears within.  But God who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in  you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more."
     These are words of encouragement that Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  He wanted them to know that it wasn't just the coming of Titus that helped him through depression, and difficulties.  It was the words which Titus encouraged him with...that the Corinthians truly wanted to see Paul again.  What good news to this man who had taken them to task for their behavior in Christian matters!
     Encouragement has a ripple effect almost like throwing a stone into a quiet pond.  When we tell someone encouraging things, they in turn will spread this to others.
     To give you a personal example, I was talking with a friend recently, and she mentioned the name of another lady whom I had not seen in a while.  I told her how much I respected and admired this woman.  Some time later, she had a chance to see this lady and she passed on my words of encouragement.  I received a note in the mail a week later from this woman who thanked me for my kind words to our mutual friend.  What a pleasant surprise I had!
     By the same token, we can also pass along negative statements, gossip, or other things which I assure you will inevitably find its way back to a person being discussed.  The choice of either encouraging or discouraging others is always ours.  However, the results of each are quite different.
     In the Scripture, the Corinthians told Titus how much they loved Paul which encouraged Titus as he saw their changed heart.  Then, Titus told this good news to Paul which carried the encouragement on. The letter Paul wrote to them sent that encouragement and love right back to them to bless them.  It was a circle of blessing.
     Whom can you encourage today?  We have people all around us in our homes, neighborhoods, communities and churches.  We need to remember to lift them up with words that bring encouragement to their spirit and build their faith.  As we do this, encouragement will return to us as well.  Selah!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Sound of Silence

     Somewhere in my busy day with telephones ringing and people talking, I find myself thinking of the many times when I would sit in the pasture behind our barn on a large root-bench of a huge oak tree.  The only sound was the babbling of the Little Turkeyfoot Creek that ran through our property and the soft breeze blowing through the trees.  Even as a child, I cherished these times where I could sit and contemplate the beauty around me in silence.  No words.  Just the quiet rhythm of life and a time of refreshing quiet where I could actually hear myself think.  This is something very rare in our noisy world today.  Yet, I believe that God wants us to be able to have these moments where we cease talking and simply listen to Him.
     Psalm 46 talks about God being our refuge and our strength (vs 1) and ends with this powerful injunction from the mouth of God in verse ten:  "Be still and know that I am God...."  Throughout the short Psalm, the sovereignty of God is seen over all the affairs of men.  He holds the power of the Universe and we can find shelter under His wings.  There is nothing more to say or do.
      How wonderful it is to steal away if only for a few moments each day to sit silently in God's presence looking into His Word and allowing this to speak to our hearts.  Taking time to do this on a regular basis is far more refreshing than spending hours on our Facebook page or watching some empty TV drama.  Jesus made certain to take time away from the crowds to sit and commune with His Father.  In this way, He set an example for us to follow.
     Between our work world and the election campaigns, most of us are overwhelmed by the cacophony of voices all vying for our attention.  Even reading a newspaper can disturb our souls.  With so many different ideas pulling at us from every angle, it is easy to despair.  I often feel that the media enjoys stirring up controversy in order to sell their paper, but we must remember that our peace comes from God alone.  Why?  Because He clearly establishes His rule and reign over us we can trust and rest in:  "Be still and know that I am God."
     An all powerful, all knowing, everywhere present Creator is our refuge in this noisy, busy world in which we live.  He alone has the answers we seek, and He calms us with His tender touch.  The best picture of this is seen in Psalm 23 which tells us that God leads us beside the "still" waters and restores our soul in the green pastures.  Reminds me of our pasture area.
     Remember to take time out of every busy, noisy day and get alone with God.  Simply rest in His presence and enjoy the beauty of His holiness.  Confusion leaves our thoughts when we let God sort out all the details.  Reading the paper informs us but reading His Word transforms us into the likeness of His dear Son.  Selah!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Does It Really Matter?

     At our office the other day, an acquaintance came by and as we were chatting, he made some astounding statements.  He said that he does not understand why we have all these different churches around town.  After all, he continued, we all believe in Jesus and are saved so why do we have to have to be concerned about doctrines?  They don't matter in the scheme of things.  I was somewhat taken aback by his comments.  Didn't he know that the Bible is the foundation for our belief in Jesus Christ?  Didn't he realize that to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that salvation in Him alone is doctrine? defines doctrine in this manner:  "Doctrine means a belief or set of beliefs. The idea that a man named Jesus was the son of God is part of the Christian doctrine."  Doctrine, then, is a critical component of our faith.  It is a set of beliefs and establishes for us our worldview.
     In his sermon series on the book of Ephesians, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke about how the new testament letters were written to correct errors and false teaching even at the beginning days of the church.  He quotes from I Corinthians 15:33 and goes on to elaborate.  "'Evil communications corrupt good manners,' by which he means that if we go astray in our doctrine, eventually our life will go astray as well.  You cannot separate what a man believes from what he is.  For this reason doctrine is vitally important....We are to guard ourselves against being 'tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine', for if doctrine goes astray your life will soon suffer as well" ("God's Ultimate Purpose, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pg 118).  He goes on to encourage us to be students of doctrine so we can keep ourselves free from erroneous teachings.  So how do we go about learning correct doctrine?
     For believers, the answer to that question is the Holy Bible.  It is the foundation of our faith and the only true and infallible rule of faith.  Reading, studying and making God's Word a part of each day strengthens us to do combat with worldly ideas and temptations.  Leaning on our own opinions proves nothing.  The Holy Spirit inspired writer of Hebrews had this to say about it: " For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).  If we really want to have a powerful weapon that can get to the heart of truth, then, we must embrace God's Word.  This book reveals who God is and who we are and how we are to live.
     In another passage, the Apostle Paul penned these words:  "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness"  (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Bible gives us the words of life, and yes, it is filled with doctrine.
     Likewise, the Westminster Shorter Catechism offers us a summation of the teachings of the Christian faith.  Question 2 says:  "What rule hath God given us to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?"  Answer:  "The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him."  The Scripture proof for this question is 2 Timothy 3:16 among others.  Then, if we move on the question 3, we read:  "What do the Scriptures principally teach?"  Answer:  "The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man."  The proof verse for this is found in 2 Timothy 1:13:  "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
     By reading, first, the Bible and studying The Westminster Shorter Catechism, we can learn the important teachings of our faith (also known as doctrine).  We cannot say that doctrine is unimportant.  As Dr. Lloyd-Jones clearly states, we open ourselves to erroneous teaching if we do not know what we believe and why we believe it.  This is how a cult is started when men lose sight of God's Word.  We are not to add nor subtract from it.
     Unfortunately, there are many today just as there were in the early church who will not abide sound doctrine.  They are biblically illiterate and prefer the soft, feel good messages that are abundant in many places today.  These feel good messages, however, will not guide you into truth or keep you from stumbling when life becomes difficult.  We cannot build on any other foundation other than that laid by our Lord, and this is found in the finished book called the Bible.  Let us be good students of our faith so we are not tripped up by all the false ideas in our world today.  This is how we grow and how we can glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Selah!