So, it’s been about 6 weeks since I’ve last posted anything. Life has been a bit overwhelming, but so much of it has been so amazing. There are many life moments over the past few weeks that’ll make future posts.
But, I hate to leave the subject of encouraging one another hanging. Previously, I stated that we should (1) answer the “who” questions and (2) see the good in those people. Since then, I picked up a great book, pictured above. Go to Amazon and get a copy. It’s a GREAT resource on the subject.
In addition to what I’ve said already, it’ll help you see the value of:
- Greeting one another
- Short, meaningful conversations
- Telling stories
- Praying for others
- Following up with others
So, get a copy. Check back soon for other posts about life, and hopefully, you’ll find some help here.
See the good.
In part 1 of this series, we asked (and hopefully answered) the “who” questions. What next? Three simple words: see the good. All too often, we overly focus on the things we like the least in ourselves and in others. I regularly meet with a guy, who, every time he comes into the office, he goes on and on about how bad of a person he is. He’s on the “bottom of life” as some say. And sure, he has his problems. Who doesn’t?
His biggest problem is that he just doesn’t see any good in himself. Now, let’s be clear. The Bible says that no one IS good except God alone (See Mark 10:18 or Luke 18:19). That’s why we ALL need a savior, a sacrifice from the only one who IS good. But, when we bring the language of “good” back down to our human paradigm, we can see some elements of goodness in everybody. At a minimum, every person is created in the image of God, and certainly that is good. Right?
Back to the man who doesn’t see any good in himself. He’s actually a Christian, in relationship with the God who created him. And, he loves his wife. And, he loves his kids. And, he has a soft heart of compassion for others. And, he regularly serves others. And, every time he comes in, I have to remind him of these things because he only sees his faults, and they haunt him.
What is good in you?
As you reflect on the people in your answers to the “who” questions, what good is in them?
Now that I’m at the end of this post, I feel like there are three more words that must be added. Speak the good.
Six simple words: See the good. Speak the good.
In that sermon that I preached a few weeks ago, I explained that the Bible tells us that we need to CONSIDER how we can stimulate others to love and good deeds. We need to CONSIDER how we can encourage one another. Those thoughts are right out of Hebrews 10:24-25.
When you CONSIDER how to do something, you make a PLAN. But, what are the components of an encouragement plan?
Step 1: Answer the “who” questions.
- Who do you have in your life that you can encourage?
- Who do you give voice to in your life to encourage you?
It’s most efficient when the answers to the above questions are the same people, but it’s not necessary.
If you can’t answer the questions above, do something about it. My recommendation is to commit to a church and meet with people until those questions get answered (Hebrews 10:25). If you are visiting churches, look to see if they help create environments for you to develop relationships of significance. If they aren’t, move on, and try a different place.
What are your answers to the “who” questions?
Ok. So, every now and then, they let me teach in “big church,” which gets recorded. That happened last Sunday, and I taught on the topic of discouragement and how we can be encouragers of one another. About minute 22:00, I started talking about making a plan. Due to time limitations, all I could say, was “we should have a plan.” I believe this is a good platform to dive deeper into what that plan could look like. That’ll be the topic of my future posts. The next one will drop in a few days. Check back. Alongside…
One guy that I have deep respect for, as he helps other people sharpen their lives, their marriages and their families is Paul Tripp (aka “the mustache”). He takes theology and makes it accessible and real for everyone. Here are two things you need to do:
- Connect with and glean from Paul Tripp. At a minimum, sign up to get his weekly email in your inbox. You can do all of that here: Paul Tripp
- Save the date for what, in my opinion, will be the best marriage conference in Baton Rouge this year. Find out more details and sign up here: Marriage Conference
What are other great resources that help you grow? I’d love to know your recommendations. Comment here, or send me an email.
A few times a year, I get the opportunity to preach “in big church” as I labeled it as a kid. And, for me, the process is fascinating, challenging and rewarding. I feel that way, mostly because of what it reveals about God. But, I also feel that way, partly because of what it reveals about me.
I’m preaching in the morning at Istrouma Baptist Church, and in preparation for doing so, here are the 6 things I noticed about myself:
- I love God’s Word. I realized this week, that the passage I’m preaching on tomorrow is one that I recently preached on. But, this time, I saw different things. God’s Word is deep like that, and I love it.
- I’m more confident in my head than I am in the real world. I thoroughly enjoy reading, studying, and praying over a text. And, in my head, it sounds great. Putting it on paper is where it gets hard. Courage issue? Clarity issue? Who knows?
- I love to draw from others who have already traveled the path before me. I do my own reading and studying, but when it comes to putting it all together in a communicable format with memorable illustrations, I need help. And, with the help of technology, there’s a lot of help out there. Thanks Tony Evans for some of the illustrations I’m using tomorrow.
- I still prioritize my family. It’s Saturday night, 11:00 PM, and I still have to go pick up my girl from her friend’s house across town. Part of me feels like I should be asleep so I can be at my best in the morning. The majority of me says, “Nah. It’s all good. Be a dad.”
- I still feel a sense of wonder about what God can do. And, that’s a big deal for me. As I’m getting older, I’m becoming more cynical. I’m just “over” a lot of things in life. I know I’m on a path to being Hank, the photographer on Parenthood (played by Ray Ramano). And, I know that’s not good. Thankfully, God and His Word still keeps me amazed.
- I am blessed! Not in a “see my toes in the sand on instagram kind of way,” but in a way that makes me so thankful that God can still use me, in spite of all the dumb things I’ve done in my life. I’m thankful for His grace, and that I was a full blown adult before camera phones and social media.
We don’t have to get set up to preach a sermon to allow God to use us. I hope you see how He can and is using you. And, in the process, I hope you learn some things about yourself.
Last week, I got to travel to Houston with a few other dads and our sons to see the Astros play the Yankees. It was a great experience, but what was even better was getting there early to watch batting practice.
The best place to watch batting practice at Minute Maid Stadium is in the right field stands. There, you are pretty close to the playing field and the players are cranking home runs into the stands, giving everybody there a decent chance of getting a baseball – the ultimate souvenir.
Reflecting back on our scramble for baseballs, here are 8 life principles reinforced by the experience:
- When you make a plan and stick to the plan, you achieve what you set out for. We are all busy. To make this memorable outing a reality, we had to look at available dates, pick a game, put it on the calendar, and commit to making sure nothing dislodged this from our calendar.
- Life is much more fun when seen through the eyes of children. Certainly, the adults wanted to catch a baseball, but the kids acted like catching a ball would change the world. Seeing this through their big, hopeful, expectant eyes was priceless.
- It’s better to be actively involved in life than just being a spectator. We were positioning ourselves for the “the prize”, leaping across rows of chairs, wrestling with others, and watching in expectation for the opportunity to beat out everyone around us. The actual baseball game was somewhat of a letdown compared to that.
- There’s a payoff in paying attention. Because the balls were coming off the bats in 3 second intervals, there wasn’t time to check Facebook status updates. Doing so could cause you to miss the prize or get smacked in the face.
- Sometimes, “no pain, no gain” is true. Those balls were coming fast. Unless you came with a glove (which is shameful for grown men) your hand stung from the smack of the ball. Most walked away with no pain and no gain.
- Sometimes we experience pain without gain. I watched one guy reach for a ball, get stung by it, only to watch it drop into the hands of the guy in the row in front of him.
- Sometimes we experience gain without pain. See the guy who got the ball in point 6.
- Life is just better with others. We laughed hard and made memories that’ll last a lifetime. I can’t imagine doing that alone.
I recently had the privilege to baptize 2 friends of mine, and their stories are powerful! As they worked through the loss of a child, God drew them to Himself. Now, they live in such a way that everyone that knows them, sees the grace of Christ in them. Watch and listen to Andrew’s story below:
And, his wife, Conitra’s take on what happened:
What does suffering and loss do for you? Does it draw you closer to God or farther away? How do you work through suffering and loss?
Staying too long “in your head” can kill the relationships you care the most about.
Constant contact doesn’t mean we have real relationships with anybody. And, some people have mastered the ability to stay isolated, even though they are often around others. How does this happen? It’s staying too long in your head. You are captured by your own thoughts, and your inner world really isn’t inhabited by others. Sure, you have lots of visitors, but you aren’t really doing life with anyone. People get reduced to distractions, or worse yet, obstacles to overcome.
Every now and then, I find myself in a meeting or in my home, and obviously, I’m not really there, because someone asks, “Are you okay?” And, I’m surprised by the question, because I feel fine, and I’m momentarily puzzled as to why they would ask such a thing. When I’m self-aware and honest, I realize that I was just somewhere else…lost in my world that they were visiting.
Those occurrences, when rare, can simply be comical. But, if that way of living is the consistent approach to life and others, then relationships get sabotaged, and we are no longer able to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Why? Because we barely notice they are even there. And, when this becomes true of our spouse, kids and co-workers, the effects can be tragic.
Are your relationships threatened in this way? What do you do about it? Just being aware of this tendency helps me work against it.
Finally, it also helps to recognize that there can be a direct connection to isolation and our online way of “living.” Rod Dreher addresses that dynamic here: Blog Post.
It’s simple, but not easy, to break down barriers with others, and it involves speaking the same language.
Last week, I was standing in a buffet line at a Chinese restaurant. The lady in front of me accidentally knocked her empty cup off of the food bar. She glanced back and saw me pick it up and return it. Then, she surprised me by not even saying, “thank you.” Upon further observation, I noticed that she looked like she was from a different country, and I rapidly concluded that she probably just spoke a different language. However, I then thought that she could have communicated using more common language…a smile and a nod, or a “thumbs up” perhaps. But, maybe even that language wasn’t common for her.
Later in the week, my 15 year old daughter sent me a recipe on my mostly dormant, rarely used Pinterest account. I opened that account years ago, but didn’t understand why I needed it. But now, my daughter and I have more common language. And, it started with avocado chicken salad with cilantro and lime. We also currently share the language of “Dancing With The Stars.” I know I lose some “man points” in all of this, but it’s worth it. In regaining some “man points,” you should know that it’s easier for my son and me. We regularly speak basketball, hunting, and weaponry.