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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 A Plan, I’m Not In The Word

Lord-willing, it’s going to be 2014 before we know it. The calendar seems to flip faster every year, and our to-do lists don’t seem to get any shorter. That’s why I hope Christians, millennials especially, are investing proper time in a relationship with the Christ they claim to follow. We’re never guaranteed tomorrow after all. As for me and this topic matter… In the past four years, God’s grace has enabled me to grow leaps and bounds. I use that terminology because my life prior to 2009 less than resembled a true follower of Christ. Sometimes I still think that’s the truth, but I shall refrain from self-pity. In any case, this growth hasn’t just happened; it’s required expending serious time and energy into studying God’s word.

How are you faring along these lines fellow millennial? Are you regularly spending time with God, gleaning from His Word and inviting it to examine your heart? Reality check. If you aren’t; you won’t grow. To be like his master, a disciple must learn from him. If you’re not listening, you’re not learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. Nothing can replace reading what God has said and revealed to us in the Bible with respect to experiencing spiritual growth. On a humorous note…I was skimming a blog piece recently about a similar topic. The author described a true scenario in which a young man (likely a millennial) approached him in church one day asking, “Can you recommend a good book that will help me grow spiritually?” The author pointed straight at the book already tucked in his hand. What do you think that was? It’s sad at times how we de-emphasize the word of God!

Please don’t lose heart if this isn’t a strength in your life right now. 2014 is ripe with opportunity to turn that right around! And what better way to get started than with a tangible, reasonable plan?

readingplan

I started with this!

I’m not afraid to admit that without a plan in front of me highlighting a portion of Scripture to read on a daily basis, my flesh will kick in and do its dirty business. I simply won’t spend any meaningful time with the Lord. I know myself too well to be willing to stop using a plan. I can be very lazy. I’m definitely selfish, and I certainly don’t have a stellar reading comprehension. Those facts and more wouldn’t combine for a positive result in light of the non-negotiable need for me to be like Mary…sitting at the Savior’s feet and listening. A plan helps me be accountable to myself. It gives me the nudge I need to keep going. With a plan, I don’t start doing things arbitrarily, and I learn about God’s wonderful plan and narrative for mankind so much more. If that’s shocking to you so be it, but I believe each believer must decide on his/her own what is necessary to do the right thing. I’ve decided that I need a pre-developed plan in order to be effective in studying the Scriptures.

This year I chose the tried-and-true cover-to-cover strategy. Genesis to Revelation, every verse in the order published. That’s a heavy dose of Old Testament doctrine I’ll tell you! And believe you me, I struggled as I always do in going through the Prophets. The Pentateuch, Psalms, and Proverbs? I love the stuff. The Prophets? I probably couldn’t answer a single Jeopardy clue on those books. Regardless, I’ve overall enjoyed my 2013 Bible reading. I will finish Ephesians tomorrow. I’m actually about three weeks ahead of the schedule, and should finish near the second week of December if I remain on pace. (Somehow I was able to push further when I was in Numbers?…)

prophetclue

Eh… lifeline please?…

Next year I already know what I’m using, and I’m pretty stoked for it. When I read The Disciplines of a Godly Man (a.k.a. “How I Fail” by <insert your name here>) I discovered a plan in the back that’s actually topical in nature. Why does that excite me? Well somehow I seem to learn better and apply truth better when I’m studying a specific subject matter. I don’t know how the author of the plan managed to break down the entire Bible in that way, but I’m really looking forward to it. It starts with the concept of Beginnings. I’ll be curious to see how the Spirit changes me to be more like Jesus Christ through the Word with this approach if the Lord gives mankind (and me) a full 2014.

Great resource!

Does every day using a Bible-reading plan result in tremendous fruitfulness? Oh how I wish. But if that was the case, it wouldn’t be the fruit of the Spirit, now would it? We’re sinful creatures. We daily rebel against our Creator God, and that includes times we think are our good days. If you read the Bible 24/7, you still wouldn’t have come close to being fully like Jesus Christ by the time He took you home. I don’t point that out to discourage, but instead stress how all the more critical it is to be regularly reading the precious word of God. Failing to do so only makes the moment-by-moment war with the spiritual forces of darkness, and the flesh, that much more precarious.

Is it easy to commit to a plan to read through the Bible in 365 days? No, but I’m very thankful that God has placed the necessary influences in my life, and showered me with plenty of grace, to be able to do so. And I wish to admonish you to do the same. What obstacle or obstacles are you allowing to come between you and your Savior in this way? Video games? TV? Movies? Sports? Something else? What are you choosing to do, or not do, that’s preventing you from consistent face-to-face time with the Lord that laid down His very life in exchange for yours? Don’t shy away from whatever self-examination you might need to do in order to get there. I certainly had to. Most of us probably have to at some point or another.

As far as what plan to choose… the options are many. Ask someone for a recommendation (pastor, friend, family member). Just try something! Ask someone to hold you accountable. And in 2014, God I know (because He promises) is prepared to bring many spiritual blessings into your life. He wants a relationship with you because He’s a relational God. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Read through the Bible in 2014!