Tag Archives: encouragement

How to build others up in the faith – Jude 17-25, Part 2

1 Oct
Photo by Kate Kalvach on Unsplash

Are you building others up? What does it mean to build others up? In th previous post I mentioned that there are Christian phrases that we use but maybe don’t fully understand. Today we’re looking at the phrase “build each other up.” Are you building others up in the faith?

Yesterday we began our series on Jude 17-25, studying another Christian phrase Jude mentions: last times. As we continue in this post, Jude talks about what we will see in the end times. Take a look at what he says in verses 18-19.  There he briefly repeats a description of the ungodly impostors he talked about in verses 1-16, which we studied last week.

Jude describes them as scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires, divide the church, follow mere natural instincts, and who do not have the Spirit.  What Jude is saying is that the church should not be surprised by the presence of ungodly impostors among them because the apostles had predicted it would happen. 

When we discussed this in our sermon roundtable (a kind of weekly Bible study that discusses sermons 10 days before they are preached) a few weeks ago, one person asked an interesting question: “What might make a church vulnerable to people like this?”  Think about that.  You have a church filled with Christians, and those Christians allow ungodly scoffers to be a part of the church.  How can that be?

Last week I mentioned that perhaps we could question Jude by asking, “But shouldn’t we want ungodly people in the church so that they can learn about the Lord?”  On one hand I get that, and I would generally say, yes, we do want everyone to come to our fellowship to hear the good news about Jesus.  But there is more to the story. Look at the way Jude describes these ungodly impostors.  They divide the church.  They are malicious.  They are not genuinely interested in seeking truth.  Instead they are actively seeking to tear down the church.  So while the church should be a place where people can meet Jesus, there are some people who are simply malicious in their intent, and Jude is saying that the church needs to deal with them. 

With that said, are there aspects of a church that would make a church vulnerable to being infiltrated by people who are malicious?  At sermon roundtable we speculated that if church has spiritual boredom or apathy, or maybe poor teaching, it could be susceptible to this.  Thus that church would be showing that they are not ready for the last times, as Jesus taught us to be. And that is exactly where Jude goes next.  

In verse 20 we see how Jude begins to answer the question, how do we show we are ready for the end times?

First he says, build yourselves up in the faith.

Discipleship is all about building up yourself and others in the faith.  It requires regular immersion in Scripture, applying God’s word to your life.  Not just reading it or listening to sermons, but doing what it says, as Jude’s brother James writes in his letter (see James 1:22). 

We also build each other up through Christian fellowship and community, encouraging one another.  This is why it is so important that everyone in the church belong to a small group of some kind. In the old days of the evangelical church, they had weekly home gatherings called class meetings, and they would ask one another, “how goes it with your soul?”

Are you a part of a group like that? Here are some questions that a group could be asking one another:

  • What are you reading in your Bible?
  • How is your prayer life?
  • What is something you are thanking God for this week?
  • What is something God is convicting you of right now?
  • How are you choosing joy this week?
  • What can we pray about?

If this is totally foreign to your group, perhaps you could make it a goal to work towards, implemented slowly and gradually.  Additionally, group members could check in with each other at least once between meetings (text, call, email, face-to-face, etc.) to see how they are doing, again utilizing these questions as a follow-up to what was brought up at the face-to-face meetings.  Do you see how questions like these can encourage growth in discipleship to Jesus? Participation in a group like that is one of the best ways to build each other up in the faith. 

Be a Refresher of Hearts! Philemon 1-7, Part 5

23 Aug

How do people come away from interacting with you? Think about some of the recent times that you have interacted with people. Maybe it was your family members. Perhaps it was co-workers. Or even social media posts. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the people who were with you, or who were reading your posts or viewing your videos. What impression did you give them? Were you complaining? Angry? Joyful? Hopeful?

We started this series of posts asking, “Are you able to see yourself for who you really are?” In this fifth part in our series on Philemon verses 1-7, if you read verse 7, you’ll see that Paul really encourages Philemon, helping Philemon see himself for who he truly is. It appears that Philemon was a really great guy. But how so?

Paul says that Philemon’s love has given Paul great joy and encouragement, because Philemon has refreshed the hearts of the saints.  I wish I knew what Paul meant by that, but it would appear that Philemon was a very loving, encouraging person.  He was full of faith, to the point that when people visited Paul in Rome on house arrest, they talked about Philemon. Paul was overjoyed to hear how Philemon was living out his faith.

It is amazing to consider that Paul would be able to say this while in prison!  Paul really wants Philemon to be happy to be holding that letter in his hands and reading it.  Why?  He’s getting there. Next week in the series on Philemon 8-25, we’ll get the answer to the question of “Why?”

For now, let’s consider what we have heard in verses 1-7.  The character of Philemon is quite impressive. If you want, go back and read the previous parts of this series, starting here.

What we saw is that Philemon has qualities that are worth emulating: faith, love for all the saints, love that gave Paul great joy and encouragement, and finally, because Philemon was a giver of joy and encouragement, he refreshed the hearts of the saints

In other words, Paul sees Christ in Philemon. 

Therefore I have a question we all should ask: do others see Christ in me?

They will see Christ in you if you are like Philemon.  Full of faith, having a love for all the people in the church family, love that gives joy and encouragement, so that people’s hearts are refreshed after spending time with you.

Think about that.  How do people react to you?  Do they come away from their interaction with you encouraged, joyful, feeling loved?  What about your social media posts?  What about your interactions on the phone?  How do you handle yourself in meetings? Would people say that you refresh their hearts?

If not, what do you need to confess? How do you need to repent? And what do you need to change in order to become more like Philemon, who was a refresher of hearts?

Note, Christmas Cards – Monday Messy Office Report – 10/27/2014

27 Oct

After a few months off, it’s back!  The Monday Messy Office Report.  It’s not that my has been clean all this time.  I’ve been busy or lacked the motivation to write.  Part of me doesn’t want to start back up again, so I’m compromising with myself and keeping it short.  Here’s what I found in my office today:

1. Note…of encouragement!  It was great to receive this.  A person from the church just wanted to encourage me!  When is the last time you gave someone a note of encouragement?  Maybe you could send an encouraging note right now?  Handwritten notes are still supreme in my book, but a quick email, Facebook message or text could do the trick!  Years ago I read a great book called The Church of Facebook, and the author suggests that we use Facebook to encourage people. So, how ’bout it?

Love146_Cards_Front_Page_medium2. Christmas Cards…from halfway around the world.  I know it is not in vogue to talk about Christmas too early, but I ask you to give this a listen.  For the second year, Imagine Goods is selling Christmas cards hand-made by survivors of sex trafficking.  You can purchase them here.  Since the Imagine Goods Fulfillment Center is just down the hall from my office, someone from Faith Church had graciously worked on assembling card packs at home (thus getting them ready for sale) and then brought them here.  Check them out.  Not only are they hand-made on recycled paper, but proceeds benefit survivors of trafficking!

3. Bag of Bean Soup.  Admittedly this has been on my shelf for weeks.  A neighbor of the church graciously brought it over for me.  I am so thankful for that!  But I am not going to use it, so I’m now looking for a loving home for it.  Do you like bean soup?  Want it?  Let me know!  With the weather cooling down as we head deeper into fall, this soup looks like a wonderful lunch for someone.

4. Cards for Missionaries.  The children of Faith Church made cards for our missionaries a couple weeks ago!  Their artwork is awesome!  We’re going to send these cards to Spain and Kenya soon.  Whitakers and Stoltzfuses, if you are reading this, look for a package soon!  We love that our kids can make connections with our friends who are serving the Lord around the world. As I write this today, I’m also exchanging emails with our travel agent in preparation for a summer 2015 trip to Kenya!  It has been too long since Faith Church had a mission trip, and so we’re quite excited to travel to Africa next year.  keny-LMAP-md

Now it’s time to clean up this mess!

Encouragement Note, PLACE books, CPYU Stuff – The Monday Messy Office Report – April 7, 2014

7 Apr

My Friday tidy office is mysteriously messy by Monday.  Here’s what I found today:

1. Encouragement note – It is simple, but very meaningful “Joel, Hope you have a great week!”  From, anonymous.  Isn’t that cool?  Someone placed that on my desk.  For as long as I can remember we keep encouragement note sheets on the mailslot shelves in our Fellowship Hall.  There are numerous times the biblical authors remind us to encourage one another, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:11.  Next time you are checking your mailslot at church, how about picking up a note and jotting off a few kind words to someone.  I think it is awesome that this person gave an encouraging anonymous note!  Let’s start a flood of encouraging notes.  Thanks, anonymous person!  You might have just launched a movement!

2. Stack of PLACE workbooks – Yesterday we started elective classes, something that I always think is fun. We pause all of our regular classes, and people get to choose a new topic to study. We have four going on during the month of April: Grief Sharing Group, Apostles Creed Video Class, Multiply Movement, and Spiritual Gifts. I am teaching the Spiritual Gifts class, and I was going to do a Bible study of the gifts passages.  But after a discussion with my friend Joseph, I decided to use the PLACE curriculum.  I love how it walks you step-by-step through learning about your personality, giftedness, abilities, passions and experiences, and how they work together to show how you are uniquely you, crafted by God for his glory and service.  My props to PLACE for having such awesome material.  Yesterday we did Session 1, all about personality.  If you missed the class, you can still join up!  Same goes for the other classes as well.

3. CPYU stuff – This past Friday night, my wife Michelle and I, and our friend Becka, went to the 25th Anniversary Banquet for The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. My wife met CPYU Founder and President Walt Mueller years ago, as she noted on Facebook “I sat there last night, thinking about 25 years ago…and the start of CPYU… And remember very clearly being a sophomore in high school (1991…23 years ago) and listening to this great speaker on my youth retreat. I remember a month or so later having a “boy issue/concern” and sitting down to write a letter about this to the speaker–a guy named Walt! It ended up being several pages long….a week or so later I got a letter in the mail. A response from this Walt. A response that pointed me to Jesus & that gave wise council. Thank you Walt for the work you, Lisa, and your team do. It was invaluable to me as a young lady, to Joel & I when we were youth pastor, and to us as parents of teenagers! Happy 25!”  I couldn’t agree more.  If you have kids, even if they’re not teens yet, please get to know CPYU.  If you have grandkids or if you work with kids, I can guarantee that CPYU will be a great encouragement to you.  Like them on FacebookAt the banquet, we received a copy of Walt’s book Opie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  Our world has changed, and I’m looking forward to reading this book.  

Now it’s time to clean this mess up!

On being in Christ – 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

13 Jan

As Paul gets set to start confronting the Corinthians for their less-than-holy behavior, he starts off with a couple reminders that frame the context.  First, what we studied in 1 Cor 1:1-3, that in Christ they are holy and called to be holy.  Second, yesterday’s passage 1 Cor 1:4-9,  a very encouraging section.  I think I ought to print it out and post it on my office wall.  In the sermon, we went line by line through it.  Take a look at the words, read them slowly, as they are awesome:

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Isn’t that excellent?  Take note at how many times he uses the words “in Christ” or “in him”.  Look at how he reminds them of God’s empowerment in their lives, giving them gifts, keeping them strong, and blameless.  And then he finishes with a flourish talking about God’s faithfulness, especially that they are in fellowship with Christ.

How often do you think about your relationship with the Lord?  The Corinthians needed a reminder of how they had a relationship with Christ, and that God was actively at work in sustaining that relationship.  I can imagine the Corinthians nervously receiving Paul’s letter.  They knew things had gotten out of control in the church.  They knew that they had allowed things to veer far from how Paul had taught them.  I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few of them were feeling convicted even before they read the first word.  At least they didn’t throw the letter in the garbage before reading it!

So what would God say to you?  Would you say your relationship with the Lord is close, distant, dry, thriving?  What God would say is pretty much what Paul says here in 1 Cor 1:4-9. Be encouraged!

If you need to confess and repent, do so, and be encouraged that you are in fellowship with Christ.

If you need to spend more time with him, do so, and be encouraged that he is actively involved in your life!