prayer

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!

Book Review: Just Do Something (Kevin DeYoung)

Most Christians ask, “What is God’s will for me?” at some point in their lives. It certainly isn’t wrong to ask that question; Christians should care about God’s will, but it is wrong when pondering it and/or looking for it causes the believer to take eons to make what really should be simple decisions. The millennial generation especially has seemed to master the art of agonizing over the litany of life’s questions, significant or small, and Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach To Finding God’s Will is an excellent tool that can help you get back on the proper decision-making track.

It’s impressive how, with such an intimidating subject matter that can be very difficult to dissect, Kevin manages to present a great number of effective illustrations and straightforward trains of thought to help us understand God’s will better and think more biblically about it. Kevin suggests that Christians waste immeasurable, unrecoverable amounts of time waiting for God to show them the way, and spend sadly little time actually doing anything. I tend to agree with that. Kevin makes it clear that God has a plan for each of us, but that it isn’t God’s plan for us to know that plan in its every detail. And it shouldn’t surprise us that because Christians want to know, we’re driving ourselves nuts choosing what to have for breakfast, or where to live.

DeYoung covers a variety of topics in Just Do Something, beginning with how the realities of God and His character actually shape the carrying out of His will (ch.2). He moves on to emphasizing reasons why believers want to know God’s will (ch.3), why some reasons are wrong (ch.4) how we should handle following God’s will (ch.5), the ways Christians manage to make decision-making such an arduous process (ch.6), suggestions for practical actions to take and avoid in disseminating God’s will (ch.7), how to apply biblical wisdom (Scripture, counsel, and prayer) to decision-making (ch.8), and much more. And I knew Kevin wouldn’t fail to nail me in my struggle of being a timid, analytic second-guesser with tainted emotions. Thanks for that brother.

Don’t misunderstand though. Kevin’s goal is never to encourage doing whatever comes to mind at any time regardless of the potential consequences, and he doesn’t do that. He absolutely does advocate, as he should, for Christians to apply Scriptural truth and principles when making certain decisions. The key there is certain. When it comes to non-moral matters such as where to live or attend college, what career path to take, whether to buy or rent, whether to serve your church in this way or that way, etc, God is never going to write in the sky what He ultimately determined for you. Almighty God did, after all, give mankind a fully functional brain to make choices.

Yet reality is that Christians in general don’t make decisions well, myself included. We want our ducks all in a row. We don’t want to take risks. We simply like to know if it’s what God really wants, and what the long-term ramifications will be. The problem is if that was reality, we wouldn’t depend on God at all, let alone fully. We would lean on our own understanding, not that of the God who knows past, present, and future, and predestined what He knows is best for each of us. Kevin pounds this home in each chapter, and I appreciate the necessary reminders. And of course he never fails to supplement the book’s great content with his trademark humor, and personal anecdotes. Apparently Kevin’s grandfather has influenced him much in this area, because you’ll encounter him several times throughout JDS.

In the end, while some of Kevin’s claims are perhaps debatable, overall I think he’s spot-on with his theology about what God’s will is, and how Christians ought to be walking in it. So, if you’ve wanted to understand better what in fairness is a difficult concept, Just Do Something is a very good resource that sheds further light on the teachings of Scripture. Is it God’s will that you read it? Well, that’s for you to decide.

Resolutions =/= Real Reform

There’s a simple reason why these ideas we call “New Year’s Resolutions” do not work. Perhaps even as you’re reading this very statement, something you wanted to try along such lines has already failed, or at least buckled? It’s of course not bad or wrong to desire…to resolve to change a personal behavioral pattern. That should absolutely be the case for all true followers of Jesus Christ. All should seek to change, to be more and more sanctified…more like the Son of God. But clearly the deceptive, sinful human nature tends to cause believers to begin journeys in the completely wrong way.

Resolutions, let alone NYRs, in general are man-made ideas driven by the engine of man’s foundation-less processes. They originate in the sin-tainted minds of people who ignore the reality that they’re not as wise as they think they are. Motivation to stick with the actions required to bring about whatever change is desired is typically artificial at best. It doesn’t matter what the kind of change is either. Whether it’s something exercise-related, or spiritual, what believers need to remember is that God’s word never once tells us to make a knee-jerk, emotional decision based on a silly calendar day in order to become more like Jesus Christ. In fact, God’s word makes it very clear that change is a process, and trying to go about it apart from Himself is impossible.

John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Matthew 19:26
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I understand that in the Matthew bit, Jesus wasn’t speaking to behavioral resolutions, but I think the principle applies just as well.

And look at the many verses below that speak to the way of man, OT and NT.

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:22
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

Proverbs 3:35
The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.

Proverbs 12:15
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 13:14-16
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin. In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.

Proverbs 13:20
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 14:16
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.

Proverbs 15:7
The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.

Proverbs 17:24
The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.

Proverbs 18:12
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Matthew 7:26
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

I Corinthians 1:27
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

I Corinthians 3:18
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

There’s a clear repetition in the verses above. They certainly don’t all mean or discuss the same things, but nonetheless there’s a collective theme that trying to do anything apart from God is foolishness and ultimately won’t work.

What I want to help you understand as 2014 kicks in to full swing, as God has surely helped me, is that change is a process. It’s a process that involves understanding and applying what God wants, and how He says life ought to be lived. And it’s one that is arduous, oftentimes discouraging, frustrating, and requires a whole lot of day-by-day sin confession. Don’t forget the tools of God’s grace either. Prayer; faithfully reading God’s word; reading books from authors you trust and relate to; spending time with other believers and sharing your struggles with them; accountability groups; etc. These concepts factor in to real change, into real reform of sinful behavioral patterns (i.e. turning from your sin pattern to sound faith in Christ and His righteousness), and so many more could be included. Ultimately, change is supernatural, which is why the natural man is incapable of bringing it about, at least not in the way that God’s word describes. What man does can only ever be external and temporal at best. What God does is internal, and it lasts forever.

As you endeavor to change in 2014 millennials, don’t forget that if the process doesn’t start with Jesus Christ, it is guaranteed to fail. Let us encourage each other in what real change looks like.

John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

How You Can Pray For Me, 2014

I’ve used my Facebook page a number of times in the past few years to present personal prayer needs, but for 2014 I’m choosing the MfC blog. The more fellow believers that know about my struggles with sin and are willing to pray for me in any frequency and capacity as a result…the greater likelihood that I’ll experience victory. This isn’t a “magic bullet” of course, but prayers are absolutely powerful and working. Based on reflections in 2013, and knowing what my besetting sins are in general, the list below is how you might intercede for me. Use the information how you deem best. If you would like to share anything that I can pray for in particular regarding the coming year, please don’t be shy and offer a responding comment.

How you can pray for me, Justin, in 2014

  • That I would develop a more consistent prayer life.
    I Thessalonians 5:17a — Pray without ceasing,
  • Scripture memorization was basically non-existent for me in 2013. That needs to change in 2014.
    Psalm 119:1 — I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
  • That I would do a much better job of putting into practice the principles I encounter in daily Bible reading.
    James 1:23-25 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
  • That my words would build up, and love.
    Ephesians 4:29 — Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
  • That I would strive for purity in all things and interactions, especially in mind.
    Psalm 119:9 — How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
    I Timothy 4:12 — Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
    Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
  • This is very tough for me to confess, but I need to be a much better servant-leader at home…in basically every way. If you pray for any one thing, this is a biggie! Many struggles here. Lots of selfishness. So difficult to mortify! Desperate for grace!
    Ephesians 5:25 — Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
    Colossians 3:19 — Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

Yes, a lengthy list, because I am a filthy sinner. Suggesting anything less would be self-deception. You can choose one, or the whole lot. It doesn’t matter to me. Please just pray for something. I would be eternally grateful for your labor of intercession! And by all means, at some point in 2014 feel free to ask me how any of these sin battles are panning out. Accountability is key!

See you in 2014, and thank you for your encouragement!

In Christ,

Justin Joseph
Millennials for Christ