Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Convince, Correct, Encourage



Among the instructions that Paul gave the young pastor Timothy are convince, correct, encourage with all patience and teaching (reprove, rebuke, exhort in KJV).

We love encouragement, and we like to be encouraged by pastors. Encouragement doesn’t ruffle feathers, and we like to see the smiles on faces when we encourage. But how much do we convince and correct?

Those two are more difficult because they assume the one being corrected is wrong and the one doing the correcting is right. The concept of being right is frowned upon thanks to post-modernism. But as believers we need to put cultural correctness aside and fulfill our biblical obligations to convince and correct.

What kind of doctor would I be if I chose not to tell you that you were sick because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings? Or what if I didn’t think there is absolute truth, so I just told you that everything was fine? I would be a bad doctor, but that is what we do when we keep the bad news from people. The word gospel means good news, and there is no good news without bad news. We need to convince people of the bad news (they are sinners separated from God) and correct their wrong thinking (they are not good enough to make it to heaven). Yes, encouragement is easier, but that only comes after they have repented.

The message of forgiveness, friendship with God, and heaven are all encouraging, but only in their right context. Talking about a lifeguard, floatation device, and CPR is not nearly as encouraging to a person on dry ground as it is to the person drowning at sea.

In the same way, telling an unsaved person about forgiveness means nothing until they are convinced they are sinners and in need of forgiveness. That’s not a cruel message because we are offering encouragement in the same breath: Jesus offers us the forgiveness that we need.

Most importantly, don’t miss the asterisk in Paul’s admonition: use patience. It’s not about winning arguments or being the best debater. If we do not show patience and love, then no matter how right we are, we are wrong. It’s not about us being right, it’s about Jesus being right. We can win the debate and lose the convert. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Anxiety




The word anxious is often used the wrong way. People will frequently say they are anxious when they are looking forward to something:

“I’m really anxious about getting my income tax return!”

What they really mean is that they are eager (unless, like me, you were worried that you would owe more to the government). Anxious actually means the opposite of eager. Like when people say, “I could care less” instead of, “I couldn’t care less,” they are saying the opposite of what they mean.

To be anxious means to have anxiety; the dictionary defines it this way: “full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune; greatly worried.”

Quite the opposite of eagerness, anxiousness is not something we like. Unfortunately, it is also something many people deal with on a daily basis.

An anxious mind is like a weight that drags us down, causing us exhaustion and robbing us of joy. But our Creator did not intend for us to live life this way. Most things we worry and fear about never come to pass, and even if they do, wait until then to deal with it. Don’t worry yourself sick.

Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” If someone you know is being weighed down by anxiety, search for a good word to make them glad.

A compliment can complement what God has already spoken. Remind them they are loved by God, that He demonstrated His love for them on the cross, and that if they are His followers they have heaven to look forward to. Their sins have been forgiven and there is now no condemnation for them. They are invited into a relationship with the King of the Universe, they are adopted as His child, and the good work that He began in them will be completed. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, never leaving or forsaking those who live for Him.

In addition to the theological truths, looks for a kind word to say to someone today. Even the smallest of positive remarks can lift the heaviest burdens. Come along side those with anxious hearts and bear their care; a simple word can ease their load, straighten their back, and give them peace of mind—a peace that passes all understanding and makes hearts glad. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ambassadors



The role of an ambassador is interesting. Ambassadors literally lose their identity while they are on the job because they officially represent someone or something else. The United States sends ambassadors to most countries, and these ambassadors speak on behalf of the President and our country.

Do you think an ambassador goes into a meeting with a king, president, or other form of government and just “wings it?” No, an official ambassador says only what he has been instructed to say. And his instructions come straight from the top.

Failure to properly communicate the message from the White House can result in confusion, strained relationships with allies, and greater distance between enemies.

Those of us who are believers in Jesus are His ambassadors. Colossians 3:17 instructs us, “and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Everything we do represents the Lord Jesus. This is why we cannot try to simply wing it when it comes to life; we need to follow our instructions, which come straight from the top. God’s Word, the Bible, tells us all that we need for a life of godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

When we fail to represent God the right way, we can confuse people. This can result in being a stumbling block for young believers, and it can be a turn off for non-believers.

Losing our temper, choosing not to forgive, using unwholesome language, being dishonest—these are all things the Scriptures forbid. When we are guilty of these things, we misrepresent our Lord.

I am not calling for flawless living. But what happens when we acknowledge our mistakes? When we go back and apologize, this models humility, love, grace, and a number of other things that God calls us to display. So even our mistakes, if handled the right way, can serve as a good representation of God.

Ambassadors, we have been given a clear mission: to represent the greatest Being in the universe. Get your instructions and go represent your Lord Jesus.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pour a Glass of God's Love




I usually only order water at restaurants, but occasionally I like to get a glass of sweet tea. When I do I want my server to be on top of the refills; if I’m paying for a drink, then keep it coming.

No matter what your beverage of choice happens to be, there is a subtle joy when it is being poured into your glass or cup. With that image of a pouring pitcher in your mind, think about God’s love. Romans 5:5 says, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Just as a large pitcher or coffee pot easily fills multiple smaller vessels, so God’s limitless love can fill many hearts.

As humans we show our love for one another with carnations, candy, and cards, but God showed His love for us a different way. Drop down three verses and read that “God demonstrated His love for us in this way: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

God’s love is not demonstrated in peace, promotions, or pleasure; we do not judge His love on how well life is going at the moment. God’s greatest act of love was on Calvary’s cross two centuries ago.

Still today, God’s love is poured into our hearts, warming us and reminding us of a better world to come—heaven.

If you have been feeling burned out, rejected, or forgotten, then ask the Holy Spirit to pour you another round of God’s love.