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Five Important “One Anothers”

Sep 21, 2018


The final “one another” I want to share is this one—and it’s so critical! Encourage one another.

Hebrews 3:13 says we are to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

In Hebrews 10:24-25, we read this:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of encouragement, and how desperately we all need to be intentionally and daily encouraging other people. These passages teach us that encouragement is important to help our fellow believers avoid sin—and we are to do this daily, because time is short.

Imagine if every Christ-follower started every day with the intention of encouraging other people. They could be family members, like your children or your mate. They could be co-workers. They could be strangers you interact with as you shop.

We encourage others with words of sincere praise, compliments on work well done, and words that help others see and reach their potential. There are so many ways to encourage someone—it’s absolutely amazing how powerful encouragement is!

My friend was a teacher in Chicago public schools, and she tells of one student who was simply a trouble-maker and no amount of discipline was helping. Finally, one day she asked him to do a simple thing for her and, when he did it, she poured the praise and thanks on him. She said he was a different boy from that day onward, always looking for things he could do for her in order to please her. One simple act of intentional encouragement was life-changing for this one boy.

Whose life could you touch today with some encouragement? Look for that person. Ask God to show you that person, and then become God’s instrument of love and peace as you offer sincere encouragement.


Five Important “One Anothers”

Sep 17, 2018


Among many others, there are five super important “one anothers” in scripture which will help our relationships thrive, and help us be more like Jesus. These “one anothers” are specifically directed to those who have been born from above—those of us who are Christ-followers.

Here is the first “one another”: Love one another.

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Notice, this was a new command—you must love one another. You won’t find “Love one another” in the Ten Commandments. Jesus’ new command goes much deeper: we are to love one another, just like Jesus loves us.

Here’s my question: Can you force yourself to love someone? Not everyone is lovable, are they? So, how do we fulfill Jesus’ command to love one another—no exceptions? It begins with an understanding of the kind of love Jesus has, which is not based on feelings. Loving like Jesus means you make a decision to love the people in your life even if you don’t necessarily like them. We determine to do this because loving like Jesus loves is an action, not necessarily a feeling. These actions are clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

You can choose to be patient and kind. You can decide not to dishonor someone, not to be easily angered. You can determine not to hold grudges or keep remembering wrongs done to you. Jesus’ love is an action you decide to take—a new path to walk—and we can love one another as Jesus loves us because we have His Spirit to empower us to do that.

Who is it in your life right now that you find troubling—not easy to like? Remember this: You don’t have to like them, but you are commanded—by Jesus—to love them with his kind of love. The good news is that through Christ, you can do this. As Christ-followers, let’s determine to love one another.


The Power of Asking

Sep 14, 2018


 Ask and keep on asking. That is a principle which we see in Scripture. We are to be askers—persistent askers, at that. Have you learned the power of asking? Effective asking requires that we ask with right motives, we are specific when we ask, and we don’t give up easily. These are true if we’re asking something from God or from our boss—or anyone else for that matter.

Here is an important biblical teaching when it comes to asking God for something:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)

The Apostle John gives us a really startling principle—one that almost seems too good to be true—whatever we ask, we have! Is that what he said? Yes, that’s what he said. However, there’s a qualifier—if we ask according to his will. This means our motive has to be for the glory of God, not just for our pleasure. It also means that we need to know what God’s will is so that we can ask in accordance with it.

You can’t short-change God’s Word in your life because knowing God’s will in any particular situation is a function of knowing the Word better and better. God reveals his will through his Word and through his Spirit—who usually reveals his will to us through the Word of God. So, how much time do you spend in God’s Word?

Romans 12:1-2 says that we can know what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is by offering ourselves as living sacrifices and being transformed by the renewing of our minds. That transformation happens more and more as we immerse our life in the truth of God’s Word.

Do you see the progression here? We need to know God’s will in order to ask appropriately and therefore get what we ask for. In order to know God’s will, we must know God’s Word and be sensitive to the Spirit of God who resides within us as Christ-followers. Then, as we are more and more confident of what God’s will is, the requests we make to God are more and more in line with his will—and he will hear and answer!

I want to learn the power of asking God for great things that bring him glory, and see the great and mighty things he wants to do. Will you join with me in asking God to teach us the power of asking?


The Power of Asking

Sep 11, 2018


If you made a list of all the things you’ve been given in the last year because you asked for them, how long would your list be?

A few years ago, I was stuck in an airport for two days because of weather-related cancellations, trying to get home, trying to locate my luggage, standing in long lines, and hoping to get on a flight soon. As I was standing in one long line with probably fifty other people, a woman who looked like she had some authority walked by. I nicely stopped her and asked her a question, to which she replied, “Come to my office.” I followed her to her office where, for about an hour, she made phone calls and arrangements. I walked out of there with a free hotel for the night and a seat on a flight the next day. I asked and got special treatment—not because I deserved it anymore than the others in that line, but because I asked.

Did you know that studies show that women are far more reluctant to ask things for themselves than are men? For example, men are more likely to ask for a raise than women are and, when they do ask, women ask for much less than men do. Women will freely ask for the benefit of others, but are reluctant to ask something for themselves.

Notice how freely children ask for things. They don’t hesitate to ask mom or dad for whatever it is they want at the moment, and they keep asking until we parents give in just because they kept asking.

Jesus told a parable about a widow who kept asking an uncaring and unkind judge for justice against her adversary. Finally, the judge decided to grant her request, not because he wanted to do the right thing, but because she kept bothering him. Jesus said, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:7).

In other words, we have a kind and loving God to ask—not a wicked judge—and yet often we give up asking him to meet our needs. Jesus taught us to keep on asking. Don’t quit! What have you given up asking for? Jesus taught us to be persistent in asking.

This is true in other areas of our lives with other people as well. We just give up asking for what we need and quit too easily. I don’t know about you, but this truly speaks to me and I want to learn the art and the power of asking.


Laughing at the Days Ahead

Sep 3, 2018


Proverbs 31:25 says that the virtuous woman is “clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” What does it mean to be able to laugh at the days to come?

For me, it means that as I look at my personal future, I know that regardless of what happens to me, my future destiny is secure. I’ve got eternal life right now because I’ve accepted Jesus as my Savior. Regardless of what the days hold for me, I’m not beset with the fears and worries of those who don’t know Jesus as their Savior; I can laugh at the days to come.

It means that I can face an uncertain financial future—and laugh at it. I can’t be certain that I’ll have an income next week, next month, or even next year. But because my safety net is Jesus Christ, I can laugh at that prospect and say, “Never fear! God has promised to supply all my needs. Laugh at the days to come!”

As I look at the trouble in the Middle East and see how tenuous things are in this world, I realize that it would only take a small spark to put us on the brink of another awful war. While that certainly isn’t a laughing matter, I can laugh at the fear and the oppression of those thoughts because my God is sovereign—nothing is going to happen in this world without his purpose being served.

Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” You may be facing many uncertainties and you don’t know what the future will bring. However, if your trust is in God—not in people, not in money, not in possessions or position—then you can laugh at the days ahead.

Paul put it another way: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). A great way to avoid anxiety and worry is to laugh at the days ahead—those days are in God’s hands, and he is perfectly capable of taking you through whatever they may hold.


The Ministry of Presence

Sep 1, 2018


Not long ago I was introduced to the term, The Ministry of Presence. A young couple in our church began a ministry to the homeless people they encounter on the streets of Chicago around where they live. It started simply by reaching out to one or two—talking to them, inviting them to church, providing Sunday lunch for them—and it has grown to over 60 homeless people they serve every weekend.

I love their story because it’s such a clear example of what Jesus would do. Jesus would see the needs on his doorstep, as Justin and Tara have done, and he would start helping them in any way he could. In telling us their story recently, Justin said that he has come to understand what The Ministry of Presence means.

He makes it a habit to invite one of his homeless friends to run errands with him, when possible, as he goes about his everyday work and routine. One day, he invited one of the guys to join him. He took him along, stopped for coffee and a donut, and generally spent the day together. No agenda, no specific purpose—other than to be with this man who was homeless. As they made rounds that day, the homeless man said to him, “All my life I’ve been told I am worthless and no good; they told me I was stupid and nobody would ever like me. I don’t believe that anymore.” Justin asked him why, and he said, “Because if I was worthless, you wouldn’t hang out with me.”

Justin’s willingness to simply be with this man gave him a new understanding of his worth as a person. Justin went on to say that what homeless people need more than anything else is not money or food, but it is a relationship—someone to simply be with them and care about them.

That’s true of most of us, isn’t it? You and I need other people in our lives just to validate our worth. Can you imagine how you would feel if you believed that other people did not want to be with you? The Ministry of Presence is real—and it’s just what Jesus would do, what he did do when he was on earth. Think of the many stories in the Gospels where Jesus was just “hanging out” with people—some of whom were considered undesirable. There was Zacchaeus and Mary Magdalene and the woman he met at the well, to mention just a few.

This is one ministry you can embrace—The Ministry of Presence. You and I can simply choose to be present in the lives of people who need to know that they are loved by us and by God. You don’t have to preach or teach or solve their problems. You simply need to be there for them—and then see what God will do through you. This is a ministry that every Christ-follower should take seriously, for every one of us is qualified and equipped for this ministry.

Galatians 6:2 describes it this way: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” When we care enough about someone to carry their burden, we are practicing The Ministry of Presence. Simply being there for others, sharing their sorrows as well as increasing their joys by our presence—this is the fulfillment of the law of Christ, the teaching of Jesus.

In John 13:34 Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The disciples knew the old commandments—the law which included the Ten Commandments. But this was a new commandment—note, not a suggestion—that Jesus gave them and us, and it should be a hallmark of our lives as Christ-followers.

In order to fulfill the law of Christ—this new commandment—you and I need to know and practice The Ministry of Presence—being there for people and showing them love in action. Love that comes from Jesus through us to them.

What I want to ask you is this: What person in your life right now could use your presence? What person needs to know that someone cares and hasn’t forgotten them? Stop right now, if you can, and let God’s Spirit reveal that person to you. Perhaps a name popped right into your mind. If not, ask God to reveal that person to you. It may be someone very close to you—a relative or close friend. It may be someone you just met. Could it maybe be a stranger you haven’t yet met, but who is somehow in your life—the beggar on the street or your next-door neighbor?

Recently, God has made it clear to me that I need to do a better job of staying in touch regularly with some dear single women who have gone as missionaries to foreign countries. I’ve visited many of them and I know how lonely and tough their lives can be. I know that they need The Ministry of Presence. They don’t necessarily need to read my books or listen to my talks; they simply need to know that I have not forgotten them, and I can be present in their lives by way of the internet.

The Ministry of Presence is not hard to do. You don’t need a degree from a Bible school to do it; you don’t need to be able to quote Scripture or teach a Bible study lesson to be qualified. You simply need to make a commitment to be present in a person’s life—simply be there for them and, by your presence, you will communicate God’s love. That’s what people need more than anything else.

The Ministry of Presence is about being a servant—putting others’ needs ahead of our own. Jesus calls us to come alongside others and become a part of their lives. It means that we will serve people even when it might make us uncomfortable. It means we stand with people in the midst of their anxiety and fear, in their difficult times.

I’m challenging you and myself to take this ministry seriously, to actually ask God to show us what person in our lives needs our presence—simply needs us to be there for them.

For example, let’s say you work with a person who is going through something emotionally difficult—maybe a divorce or a recent death in their family. I find that when people are in these kinds of traumatic situations, they simply want a listening ear. Could you invite that person to lunch or coffee and simply listen? Not on company time, of course, but at a time and in a place that is appropriate, to be truly present with them, giving them your undivided attention.

Or could it be that there is someone very close to you—a mate, a daughter, a sibling—who needs to know that you’re not too busy to spend time with them? I think sometimes we can fail to see that those nearest to us need our presence—our total attention to them and whatever issues they’re facing.

We hear people talk about spending “quality time” with their family, not “quantity time.” However, I would suggest that quantity time is quality time. It’s giving enough of your time to someone so that it may even be a sacrifice—you don’t get to do something you planned to do because you choose to simply spend time with that person. Don’t you think those close to you need some quantity time with you—just hanging out time—so they know you really want to be with them? That’s The Ministry of Presence.

You may have decided that you don’t have certain gifts or abilities, so you devalue the contribution you can make in the lives of others. I’m here to tell you that if you are a Christ-follower, you are totally capable and qualified to have The Ministry of Presence. It’s just a matter of becoming intentional about doing it.

Everyone in the body of Christ is qualified for this ministry. You do not have to be brilliant, persuasive, articulate, or experienced. You do not have to be anything but available to be a wonderful tool in the hand of God. In fact, often The Ministry of Presence is a ministry without words.

You know, sometimes we tend to use the Bible as though it were a band-aid. We stick a favorite verse on others who are suffering, and feel we’ve really helped them. But just as physical injuries take time to heal, emotional injuries do, as well. True, when people are suffering they need the truth of Scripture to help them heal. However, sometimes they just need it demonstrated through your actions rather than through your words. Your presence can communicate what your words will never be able to say.

Keep in mind that when you’re with someone who is hurting, you don’t need to have answers. Often I say to someone in pain, “I cannot explain this. I don’t know why this has happened.” That’s not terribly profound, but it’s often simply the truth. When someone is really struggling with why something hurtful has happened to them, trying to come up with an explanation usually just makes them feel worse. Simply be there; give them The Ministry of Presence without answers.

Someone has said that you and I cannot eliminate someone’s grief or sorrow, but we can share it, and in so doing, that will lighten their load. True believers, mature Christians, grieve. Jesus did, and we will, too. We can’t stop it with words, but we can lighten it by our presence.

Are you available today for The Ministry of Presence? I believe if you are, God will give you an opportunity today to simply be there for someone. God is showing me more and more how to practice being there for people and, for a person who is project-oriented, this is a new lesson for me. I’m truly learning the importance of The Ministry of Presence.

For example, often when I am praying for someone or thinking about them, a thought will come into my mind about what I could do to be there for that person. I’ve learned that when those kinds of ideas come into my mind, it’s most likely placed there by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, I should pay attention.

Many times, I’ll pause right then and write a note, make a call, or add something to my to-do list to remind me to do something for that person which will simply let them know I’m thinking about them and I care.

I have a friend who is struggling with a health issue. Obviously, I can’t do anything to help her resolve that issue, but I can let her know that I’m thinking about her and praying for her. Simply saying that to someone—whether in person, on the phone, or by written word—is an example of practicing The Ministry of Presence.

Inviting someone to your home for no reason except to let them be with you is an example of practicing The Ministry of Presence. One Thanksgiving recently, two people who didn’t have close-by family were invited to my daughter’s home to share that meal with us. It was an expression of caring and concern to them, though we never spoke those words. Words weren’t necessary. They were invited simply to share a nice meal with us. Their invitation to be with us was the ministry extended to them that day. And it was a delight to have them with us.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget what the homeless man said to my friend, Justin. He said he now knew that he wasn’t worthless or stupid like he had been told all his life because, if he were, my friend would not have hung out with him.

The Ministry of Presence is hanging out with someone, even if it might be inconvenient or push you out of your comfort zone. Who is it in your life that would love for you to “hang out” with them? Are you willing to answer the call of Jesus to show his love through the ministry of your presence?

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