Monday, November 19, 2012

Encouraging Today

Hebrews 3:13, calls on all followers of Jesus to “…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
When is it never “today?”
I remember my brother Bob, the youngest in our family, arguing with Dad over “tomorrow.” Bob had said he would do what Mom had asked “tomorrow.” Dad challenged him with, “But tomorrow never comes.” For five minutes – that was when Mom called a halt to the circular conversation – Dad would ask when is tomorrow to which Bob would say, “tomorrow” and Dad would say, “Then tomorrow will be today so you should do this today because today was tomorrow yesterday.” Obviously too much for a five year old to grasp in his very concrete world, but, Paul gives us another conundrum when he asks, “When is today not today?”
Today is always, today. We may have been encouraging yesterday, but, that is not today. We may plan to be encouraging tomorrow, but, we are called to be encouraging today. So when tomorrow becomes today, we will have been encouraging yesterday, which right now is today. I think I need an aspirin, and, a word of encouragement for someone in my life. Maybe that is why in 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 Pail writes, “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
When we are encouraging because it is today, then we can say, “I am going to encourage you just as I have been encouraging you.” Ah, that sounds much better.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dealing with the stress of the holidays

I have discovered that there is no deeper wound than the one that comes as a result of your greatest passion. I have mentioned many times in the past 20 years that the holiday season lends itself to the ‘perfect emotional storm.’ Putting these two together, especially for leaders, makes this time of year a time we can expect to feel the highest highs and lowest lows. So I want to share a couple ideas with you. 
General Ferdinand Foch, regarded as a World War I hero, sent the following dispatch to his superiors at a time when his army was in deep trouble: Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I attack.
Foch's words illustrate courage instead of fear, faith instead of capitulation, and resolve instead of paralysis. His counter-intuitive counter-attack successfully thwarted a strategic enemy advance. We can do the same.
The desire to be all God has called us to be while everyone around us is struggling with ‘too muchitis” (too much fun, too much spending, too much celebrating, and, too much recovery from celebrating) often lead us to one of two options. We could circle the wagons and pull in on ourselves or charge. Jesus chose both at different times.
He often went off by himself to pray which is a model we want to us even more than usual these next couple months. He also charged ahead with his mission, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
Be resolute in your personal mission to help yourself and your family to understand the reason for this season and to also get out and 'be' the reason for this season. Ask God for His guidance and grace to heal your hurts no matter how deep they may go.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bold in All Seasons

In each year we experience different seasons. Typically we call them Spring, Summer, Fall, and, Winter. In Zimbabwe, my home as a child and later with Judi as a mission family, there were only two seasons, wet and dry. Here in California one wag as commented we have four seasons, fire, floods, earthquakes, and, riots. Our days are planned according to the annual seasons of our local. As I write this I am preparing the sermon series to be presented during Christmas of this year and one to be presented for the New Year. Seasons help us be prepared.
Life too has its seasons that go from birth to death. These seasons seem too often to catch us unaware. It takes an experience to cause us to see our sweet infant has become a demon two year old. The first time we cannot read the menu in a restaurant we realize we have entered middle age and need “cheater” glasses or grow longer arms. But, the seasons that catch us most by surprise are the seasons of tragedy, hardship, separation, and, loss.
These seasons we seem to fear when we would be better served by preparing for them. These seasons we ask God to remove rather than accepting them as seasons through which we will learn, grow stronger, and even, benefit from. While God has given us seasons He did not give us fear of those seasons. Paul, in his last days, reminded Timothy that he had given us power to get through these seasons. He had given us love so we could share these seasons and not bare them alone. He had given us common sense so we could figure out how to use them for our strength, security, and, peace (2 Timothy 1:7).
Fear causes us to be self preserving, while God asks us to rely on His Spirit of power, love and common sense - with no safety net. I want a promise of no pain, that is my safety net. I want a promise of financial security, another safety net. Maybe you want a new job, house, degree, child, or, healing – those would be your safety nets. Whatever your safety net is, it is not enough to take you through your seasons ready to build on that last season.
It is when we tell God how we want a season to end that we become the most separated from the very power given by God to see us through the season. When we do not open our hands to God so he can take what He wants and give us what we need then our seasons become a way of life most miserable. My sister Pamela Markey stood at the bedside of her youngest child whose prognosis from a severe head injury was bleak. She told me it was not until she gave him to God did she find peace and the strength to face the coming challenges. He lived.
A decade later she sat by the bedside of her husband knowing she had to do the same thing again. Again she found peace and the strength to go through the many problems in getting George home to Indiana from Kyrgyzstan for special treatment. He died.
Did God forsake her? She testifies to the pain of that incomparable loss while confessing she could not have survived it had she not given that season to God.
Pray not to have the season removed. Pray rather to be bold for God during what ever season through which you are journeying.