2012 – A Year of Opportunity

Now that Christmas is over, our thoughts quickly turn to the year ahead. The truth is January can be one of the most depressing months of the year. Credit card bills come in from all that Christmas overspending, and winter, if not already here, is rapidly approaching, which means that we have very few days over the next couple of months that will permit us to pursue all those outdoor activities that we enjoy.

Winter doesn’t have to be a dark, dreary time in our lives. In fact, the Apostle Paul in one of the last letters he ever wrote laid out some pretty good advice to his close friend, Timothy – advice that we should take, too.

Paul was in prison in Rome and he knew that the sands of time were running out on his life. Think about it. What would you say to a close friend with your last words? Any of us in similar circumstances would likely reserve what precious time we had left to deal with the most important priorities in our life. Continue reading

The Gift of Encouragement

But I considered it necessary to send you Epaphroditus—my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need.  (Philippians 2:25)

Some people know just what to say and do to encourage others who are going through difficult times. Their words give strength to those who are discouraged and comfort to those who are grieving.

These people are sensitive to God’s voice. They are not self-centered or unaware of the struggles of those around them. They are the ones we immediately seek when we enter a crisis. They are welcome visitors when we are in distress, for their presence sustains us.

Scripture testifies of many whom God enabled to encourage others.

  • When Moses was overwhelmed by his work, Jethro went to him and encouraged him. Jethro gave Moses wise counsel that eased his strain (Exod. 18:1–27).
  • When Paul was imprisoned far from those who loved him, Epaphroditus risked his health and safety in order to go to Paul and minister to him (Phil. 2:25–30).
  • Later, Paul urged Timothy to come and visit him, for Paul found strength and encouragement in Timothy (2 Tim. 4:9; Phil. 2:19–20).
  • Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark also. Mark was the kind of friend Paul needed when he was enduring hardship (2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24).
  • Paul also relied on Luke for encouragement. When everyone else was absent or preoccupied, Luke could be found with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11).

Paul experienced trials throughout his life, but God sustained him by placing godly friends around him who provided support in practical and sacrificial ways. God wants to develop you into the kind of friend who can strengthen others. The words you share and the things you do can bring comfort and encouragement to your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers.

I am thankful, because I have been encouraged this week by family and friends.  Think of someone in your circle of influence and search for a way to encourage them during this Christmas season.

Practical Ways to Live a Missional Life

Fact: You are not a mistake!

Fact: The Lord has a purpose and a plan for your life (Jer. 29:11).

Fact: You are to live on mission.

You reply: Ok, but how?  What does a missional life look like?

That’s a great answer!  Allow me to share with you 10 ways you can live a missional life without adding anything to your calendar.

1. Eat with other people

We all eat 3 meals a day. That’s 21 opportunities for church and mission each week without adding anything new to your schedule. Meals are a powerful expression of welcome and community.

2. Work in public places

Hold meetings, prepare talks, read in public spaces like cafes and parks. It will naturally help you engage with the culture as work or plan. For example, whose questions do you want to address in your Bible studies – those of professional exegetes or those of the culture?

3. Be a regular

Adopt a local café, park and shops so you regularly visit and become known as a local. Imagine if everyone in your church community did this!

4. Join in with what’s going on

Churches often start their own thing like a coffee shop or homeless program. Instead, join existing initiatives – you don’t have the burden of running it and you get opportunities with co-workers.

5. Leave the house in the evenings

It’s so easy after a long day on a dark evening to slump in front of the television or surf the internet. Get out! Visit a friend. Take a cake to a neighbor. Attend a local group. Go to the movies. Hang out in a café. Go for a walk with a friend. It doesn’t matter where as long as you go with Gospel intentionality. Continue reading