Admonishment

Whom Did You Encourage Today?

I shall risk the assumption that like me, you [my fellow millennial Christian] are tempted to be concerned most about numero uno throughout a given week. You know who numero uno is (you!). Boy do we [naturally] make our days centered on our schedules, our needs, our desires, our feelings…or what? Me, me, me. It’s all about me. A sad reflection of the human heart, no? And when did we last stop ourselves to ponder how truly poisonous this is to the body of Christ? Obsession of self is part of the world’s system. And I certainly don’t ponder these truths as often as I should, but I did when I encountered Hebrews 3:13 recently.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today”, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Not the idea.

Not the idea.

Hebrews 3:13 is a straight up imperative for God’s people to encourage each other every single day. As long as the day is today, which it always is…Christians are to exhort one another to resist the deceitfulness of the human heart, and lean fully on the Lord’s grace in the fight against our unique temptations.

How are we doing in this area [millennial] believers? Have you today done anything to encourage a Christian brother or sister? Or are you only concerned about nursing your problems, your agenda, and your needs or desires? Certainly we’re all guilty of doing those things; but God’s word clearly teaches against this [wickedness] (Philippians 2:3-4), and we must repent! Yes, life is hard; no one has failed to figure that out. Jesus Christ assured us it would be over and over in the gospels and through His apostles. But instead of focusing on the chaos [of today, tomorrow, and beyond] that we personally deal with…allow me to challenge you to encourage others as I challenge myself nowadays. And it starts with picking someone.

Whom can you encourage? A brief list of certain people groups [and the individuals that compromise them] to consider is as follows…though of course it is not exhaustive. It is also in no particular order.

  1. Immediate family (spouse, children)
  2. Church leaders (your pastor(s), elders, and deacons)
  3. Church family (the Christians who participate in your local fellowship)
  4. Extended family (in-lawsaunts/uncles, cousins)
  5. Co-workers, non-Christian friends, strangers, etc.

Let’s takes this one step further. Rework the first word of this article’s title: How did you encourage someone today? Or how can you encourage someone today?

A [non-comprehensive] list of ways to accomplish that is below…

  1. Publicly share a Bible verse, lyrics, a [clean] funny, personal testimony, etc, for everyone associated with you on social media. It encourages more than you think.
  2. Revisit #1, but with a specific individual via private/text messages. Ask how you can pray. Ask how they’re doing! Volunteer a personal testimony; invite the same. You might be surprised by the encouraging relationship this can create!
  3. For those that don’t use social media, private messages, etc, do the same as #1/#2 but with an email to someone or a group of folks. Most people use email now, and can use your encouragements!
  4. When did you last dial someone to encourage them? There’s a lost art, eh? Yet I’ve seen first-hand how this warms a believer’s heart!
  5. That person you were praying for earlier today? Let them know you did in-person the next time you meet. What a blessing! What an encouragement!
  6. Whether at someone else’s home, or in yours, spend some time in distraction-free conversation. This is a great ministry for encouragement!
  7. There’s surely a place outside of home, work, and church that you can sit down with someone. Have lunch and encourage a brother or sister!

Will any Christian ever be the perfect encourager? No, but encouraging a fellow Christian in one of your circles is so critical to the healthy functioning of Christ’s body. Neglecting it will suffer you, and those not receiving your admonishment. So, encourage a fellow believer today. Just do it!

Without Books, My Growth is Stunted

In November 2013, I pointed out that without a [Bible-reading] plan, I’m not in the word of God. I wrote that because I know reading the Bible isn’t an option for the Christian, and I also know how my flesh likes to operate. It’s not that I would fail to read altogether without a plan, but using one aids me greatly in studying more effectively. There’s another side to that coin however, which I wish to tackle now for your admonishment: without books, my [spiritual] growth is stunted.

books

Read a good book lately?

The previous comment does not mean I allow books to replace the Bible. I won’t by the grace of God and neither should you. No amount of wisdom available in the books our Christian brothers and sisters publish, as wonderful as it can certainly be, will ever come close to working in our lives as does the inspired work of our almighty, all-wise God. Human words are mere human words, a reflection if anything of the God that gave us the ability to communicate; they are not divine, not able to pierce to the division of soul and spirit, or discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). If we ever wonder what book will help us grow, to become more like Jesus Christ in this way or that, I hope our first inclination is to peer into the Bible and study what God says. God’s all-powerful words change hearts, nothing else. You and I must never forget that.

Nonetheless… well-written, relatable, well-thought-out, biblically-sound books are one of our heavenly Father’s many grace gifts to us His children. As the limited beings we humans are, God does not nor has He ever expected us [individually] to understand, let alone apply, His Scriptures completely on our own. Otherwise there’d be no point to listening to sermons or attending any kind of Bible study. It would be silly for the all-knowing, loving, eternal God to burden broken, finite people with such an impossible task. But that’s why God’s given us books too, tools that enable the believers that use them effectively to understand Him, the teachings of Scripture, and themselves, better. Such books often cause me to think, “Wow, how have I missed this in the Scriptures for so long?!”, or, “No fair! How was [the author] able to pull that truth out of those verses?!..” The problem is, you won’t have such thoughts if you aren’t reading.

“But I hate reading!”, you might ironically respond. Yeah, it wasn’t long ago that I too hated the thought of reading a book. I could never get into the classic novels in high school, though we were required to write reports about them, and I allowed those sour experiences to bring any possible future reading I might do to a grinding halt. Thankfully that years-long cycle ended in 2009, though developing a solid habit puttered even still until just last year. In 2013,  I determined to read at least a chapter or ten pages in a book every single day. I praise the Lord for success in pursuing that goal, and I refuse to ever look back. The spiritual dividends are too precious to me, and so I’m not really tempted to ever hesitate again along these lines. And I’ve written this article to encourage you to read books and benefit similarly.

What are the benefits, you ask? There are many, but I think the list of three below boils them down fairly well.

  1. You see the truths of Scripture through the author’s eyes. God teaches us through other people, not ourselves.
  2. You learn from what God has taught an author through their experiences. After all, through many trials  do we enter the kingdom of God…and it’s great to learn how others handled theirs! (Acts 14:22)
  3. You are discipled by the author. Has it ever occurred to you that [Christian] book-reading is a form of discipleship? The author doesn’t need participate in your local fellowship; you can learn from what they write!

Now I’m not about to frighten you with the insistence that you do exactly as I, but if book-reading hasn’t characterized your life lately, I want to challenge you to go through at least one in 2014. It doesn’t have to be something difficult, or 300-pages long. Anything that seems like it may help you or at least be interesting will do. The key, as I’ve learned, is simply doing it. Why don’t you just do it too? You might be surprised how your attitude changes about reading after the fact.

I’m happy to recommend a book if you’re not sure what’s out there. By all means comment below or contact me on Twitter or Facebook (available on the right-hand side!). Regardless fellow Christian, I hope you are or will become motivated to help yourself grow, to increase in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). And you can do so by reading a book!