If You Want to Live as an Encourager

Part 3

20.  An encourager may encourage another in important ways and yet be completely unaware of the significance of his/her actions.   In other words, our capacity to encourage may be much larger than our awareness of what is actually happening in the relationship.

21.  An encourager has learned that paying attention to another’s successes and failures is critical.  These are special moments for people.  Both can offer significant opportunities for others to encourage.

22.  An encourager communicates value that may be long remembered by the hearer.   In some cases, these words are the only positive, encouraging communication that person may have received in a long time.

23.  An encourager understands that many people grow up hearing disparaging, insulting, vile remarks directed toward them.  Meanwhile, an encourager’s words may feel like a drink from a fresh, cool mountain stream.

24.  An encourager pays attention to the details of another’s life.  The encourager notices what another person is doing that might be noble, good, or worthy of imitation. She takes nothing for granted.  Rather she might express her appreciation to a person who has worked hard to do a task right.  For instance, someone may have gone to a great deal of trouble to prepare a meal or to purchase a gift.  An encourager will express gratitude to that person for what they have done.

25.  An encourager understands that one size does not fit all.  What encourages one may not encourage another.

26.  An encourager is sensitive to other people and does not wish to discourage or demoralize another.

27.  An encourager is very careful with humor.  Many people have been embarrassed by someone who said something that was insensitive and even humiliating.   When a person cringes upon hearing such a thoughtless remark, the person who uttered the remark becomes defensive and says, “I was only joking.”  (Often this means, “Don’t hold me responsible for what just came out of my mouth.”)  Meanwhile, an encourager uses humor that is self-deprecating or is in some way safe.

28. An encourager steps in when someone is discouraged.  Perhaps a high school student has run for student government president and wasn’t elected.  Perhaps another person interviewed for a new job and wasn’t chosen.  These can be very discouraging moments.  An encourager is sensitive to these moments and seeks to encourage.

29.  An encourager remembers the forgotten people.  Is someone in the hospital?  Is someone in a nursing home?  Is there someone who rarely gets included at social gatherings?  An encourager encourages the forgotten. 

If You Want to Live as an Encourager

Part 2

11.  An encourager often doesn’t realize how much he or she might actually be encouraging another. Rather, this person is fully present in another’s life, fully engaged with that person.  Never underestimate the power of God working through your presence with another. 

12.  An encourager builds another up instead of focusing on how that person does not measure up. The encourager does not communicate empty, flattering words.  Rather the encourager focuses on behavior that is good, right, and even exemplary behaviors and actions.  

13.  An encourager has a way of communicating real value to another instead of communicating a critique reminding that person that she or he is inadequate or “less than.”  

14.  An encourager never loses sight of what another might be doing that is noble or virtuous.  Some people become so focused on another’s failings that the person is left feeling hopeless.  

15.  An encourager can help another  make a comeback long after that person has failed.  So many people fail and then assume that they are permanently disqualified from ever being cherished and valued by God again.

16.  An encourager understands that people are often encouraged in various ways.  For example, sometimes the most encouraging thing one can do is to really listen to another.  At other times, it might be especially encouraging for a person to be present at a significant event, such as a funeral, wedding, shower, retirement reception, etc.

17.  An encourager may be outgoing and gregarious.  Or, this person more introverted and a person of few words.  God can use a person to encourage through his or her own personality through a word, a smile, a hug, or in any number of ways. 

18.  An encourager knows the value of paying attention to another.  In a culture that is distracted through technology, social media, etc., this can be huge!

19.  An encourager communicates hope.  Some live with constant verbal abuse, put downs, insults, and words of contempt.  Far too many people live in environments that are discouraging, demoralizing and toxic.  Many people need a word of hope.

When a Minister Helps to Kill a Ministry

(How to end your ministry prematurely)

Does your congregation have a good minister?  Hopefully so.  A congregation really ought to encourage and value such a person.

Unfortunately, many other ministers start out well but then make one of three fatal errors which often brings a ministry to an end.  In this case, the problem wasn’t a cantankerous elder or harassment from a segment of the congregation.  Rather, in this case, this minister made three mistakes which are often fatal to to a ministry.

Three fatal mistakes a minister can make:

When a minister fails to be trustworthy.  When a minister lies, plagiarizes sermons, or pushes a hidden agenda with the congregation, the elders, or both, this could be a short ministry.

After all, good ministers are trustworthy.  They tell the truth and live trustworthy lives.  You don’t have to wonder what they are up to.  They are authentic (no hidden agendas) and take seriously their own transformation into the image of Jesus.  This transformation includes their ethics (which impacts how they work with a congregation) and their morals (which impacts their decision making).

When a minister continually shows poor judgement.  When a minister continues to use poor judgement with his choice of words, sermons, relationships, behavior in the community, behavior in elders’ meeting, etc., this can cause a ministry to end prematurely.  Poor judgement can get a minister into trouble quickly.

Meanwhile, good ministers consistently demonstrate good judgement.  They don’t cause others to cringe when they preach.  They are not regularly pulling surprises on a church like a magician who might suddenly pull a surprise out of his hat.  You can depend on them to handle various situations in a way that is mature.  This congregation knows their minister will handle difficult situations with wisdom and grace.  Their manner reflects they are trying to work with the congregation.

When a minister is constantly looking out for himself instead of serving the congregation. Such a minister is always trying to figure out an advantage for himself.  Many years ago, I knew a minister who approached businesses in the small town where he lived and asked for a discount solely because he was a minister.  I cringed at the thought of going in a store and asking for some sort of favor simply because I preached.  While many of us would never think of of doing this, there are some who expect to be treated as extra special and not subject to the rules because this person is a minister.  When a minister takes certain liberties with the truth, with a church credit card, with an expense account, or with someone else’s wife, he is on dangerous ground.

Meanwhile, the really good ministers serve instead of looking for what they can get from someone. They choose to give to others instead of using others.

There are many good ministers working with congregations.  Many of these people are servants who use good judgment and are trustworthy.  Unfortunately, there are others who may see a ministry come to an end prematurely because they have violated trust, consistently used poor judgement, and were focused on themselves instead of serving.

 

If You Want to Live as an Encourager

(Part 1)

If you want to live as an encourager:

1.  Know that your smile really makes a difference.  God can use you to actually brighten someone’s day through your smile.

 
2.  Know that many people are just one step away from significant life change.  That difference may come as God uses you to encourage.

 
3.  Know that God uses encouragers who are single and married, rich and poor, old and young.  Never assume that God will not use you to significantly encourage someone because you appear to be so different from that person.

 
4.  Know that an encouraging word can make an incredible difference to someone who is discouraged.  Meanwhile, a negative or harsh word can crush another and be remembered for many, many years.

Avoid These 6 Enemies of Marriage

The following are enemies of marriage.  They have a way of chipping away and even poisoning a marriage.  Run from these enemies!

Bitterness

Bitterness has a way of souring most any situation and most any day.  A bitter person can take seemingly innocent remarks and find something devious and sinister.  Bitterness is a poison that can be fatal to a marriage.

Deception.

Withholding information can become a pattern that ultimately destroys a marriage.  Some people put great energy into withholding information about those whom they are texting, what they are saying in private messages on Facebook, and whom they are calling on the phone.

Passivity.

Some husbands and wives will not take the initiative in their marriage.  Children cry while dad sits in his recliner wondering why she doesn’t deal with them.  Meanwhile, she puts more energy into Facebook and commenting on blogs than she does her marriage.  Passivity breeds neglect. Consequently, this marriage may suffer from a lack of intentional action, time, and energy.

Absence of Adoration.

A husband or wife may go to great lengths to do what they want while ignoring their spouse.  For example, a husband can make a lot of effort purchase tickets to the big game.   However, when his wife says that she would like to see a play or musical, he makes little or no effort to respond to her desire.  These spouses communicate to one another that they do not value each other enough to make the effort to give what the other might enjoy.

Constant Criticism.

Some people constantly complain, whine, and gripe about their spouse.  They are silent about what their spouse does that is right while they harp on his/her shortcomings.  A critical spirit can be a joy killer in a marriage.

Repeating Destructive Patterns.

A husband declares that he doesn’t want to be like his dad, either in his marriage or as a dad to his own children. Perhaps a young mother says that she doesn’t want to be like her faultfinding, complaining mother.  Yet, if a person is not intentional about becoming a different kind of spouse or parent, they will often resort to their default in their family of origin.  This person then repeats the same immature and obnoxious behaviors disliked in his/her father or mother.

These are six deadly enemies of marriage.  Anyone who is married and follows Jesus has been called to something higher.  Genuine self-giving love will cause us to avoid these enemies and not go near them.

(repost)

 

How Someone Like You Can Stay Fresh and Alive for the Long Haul

 

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Many of us are very busy, overcommitted, and burdened. Some of us feel as if we are carrying the weight of it all on our shoulders.  And yet, we want to stay fresh and alive for the long haul.

Taking steps to stay fresh for the long haul is important because too many people crash and burn. 

Perhaps there have been too many disappointments and too many meetings in which the unthinkable happens. After a while, you become angry, bitter, and cynical.

Some of us know what it is to be angry.  We are resentful of what happened behind closed doors in a church meeting, resentful of being treated unfairly, resentful of being underpaid, resentful of unkind words. Or, you are just tired. You are tired of being the point person.  You are tired of having to be the responsible adult.

Some of us know what it is to feel self-doubt. You went to seminary and worked hard, but your ministry just hasn’t gone the way you thought it would. You hear some of your fellow ministers say their churches are doing well. Yet, so many of us are ministers who are disappointed and confused about the way things have turned out.

Some people begin to feel entitled and complacent. We feel like we deserve a life better than this. We may begin taking some shortcuts. Maybe these are shortcuts to quick pleasure.  These moments of quick pleasure may become a secret.  We rationalize that we deserve this after all we’ve been through.  (Sounds like a rationalization from the father of lies.)

Some of us know what it is to feel lonely. To not have real friends. To feel as if no one in the church knows what we are going through or dealing with. In the meantime, some of us may realize that we really have not invested in our marriages in earlier years and we may not be that close to our wives/husbands.

Eleven Things Married People Need to Know

1.  We have been married for almost 39 years.  There is no magic formula.  Much of marriage is about a committed friendship that a man and woman have with one another.  Marriage may be more than simply a friendship but it is at least that.  It is building a history of friendship together.  It is so important that I treat her/him as I would treat a true friend.

2.  Know that marriage requires forgiveness.  Are there difficult and challenging situations?  Of course.  Such situations will mean that we will need to offer and receive almost daily forgiveness.  As a Christ-follower, I can’t store up instances of my spouse’s failures, mistakes, and sins only to spread them out on the kitchen table for review every time I get angry and resentful. Before I focus on what my spouse has said or done, I might first consider what I have done in my life that put the Son of God on a cross.

3.  Be committed to growing up.  It is tough when a husband acts like a 12 year-old boy instead of a grown man.  It is tough when one’s wife continues to behave, well into her 30s, as if the world centers around her.  Husbands and wives are called to grow up and mature.  Marriage is meant for grown-ups.

4.  Deal with the baggage that you have.  If you were hurt, abandoned, or abused as a child, no man can make up for what you experienced.  No spouse can heal the hurt or make up for the insecurities that one experienced as a child.  Such expectations put unrealistic pressure on a marriage.

Baseball, Bikes, and One Warning From My Mother

(Growing Up in Dallas)

I grew up in Southeast Dallas, the old Pleasant Grove area.  During those years (1960’s), most of my memories of living in our neighborhood are good.  I don’t remember my parents being concerned about crime in our neighborhood.  Things were relatively calm in that neighborhood.

In my memory, life was full.  Baseball in the summer and touch/tackle football the rest of the year. We had a field behind us that belonged to a nearby Baptist church where we played both sports.  It was the gathering place on hot summer evenings.

In the summers, when we were out of school, I would get on my bike in the morning (often with my friends Kip and his brother Dale) and stay gone most of the day.  I rode with friends to stores, to the park, to nearby streets, and to the community swimming pool.  These were different times. In fact, the one warning that I got from my mother (who would be working at a bookstore all day) was “Don’t be late for supper.”

5 Habits That Have Given Me More Energy Throughout the Day

(Starting the Day)

Your habits will either contribute to your energy or work to deplete your energy.

Three years ago, I made a huge change in my life.  For 35 years, I had served churches as a preacher.  My life was busy.  Rearing children.  Preparing sermons and classes.  Conversations with people.  Walking with others in our church through various crises.  Then in December 2013, we moved to Memphis where I would begin serving as Vice President of Harding School of Theology. That was quite a change in many ways.

What has helped me maintain energy more than anything is to establish certain habits that I do every day.   In other words, I try to cut down on the number of decisions that I make each morning related to time, and simply carry out the habits which have already been established.  In the past, far too often, I began each day by making numerous decisions about how I would spend that time. Even going to the gym to work out has become a habit.  (This has been far more effective than trying to decide every day whether I will go or not.)

The following are five daily habits that give me energy.

I begin every day by getting up early enough to read my Bible, pray regarding the day ahead, and thinking about what I plan to do this day. There is something about this intentionality that centers me and makes me ready to take on the day.  Ideally, I do this before checking e-mail.  I have found that when I begin by checking e-mail, there are often those surprise notes that have a way of preoccupying my mind and emotions.  I like to vary what I do during this time.  Sometimes I will read the morning reading from Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours.  On other occasions I will listen to the brief Pray as You Go podcast.  I find the variety to be very helpful.

I begin every day with a list of three things that I want to get done that day.  Typically, I will write these three things on a Post-it note and keep it in front of me in my office.  These are three important things that I really want to get done that day.  Now I also use Nozbe, an excellent organizer.  I have lists of action steps I need to take regarding a number of projects.  I also have a list of action items that are fairly urgent.  However, when it comes to the “must do’s” for the day, I have found a list of three to be very helpful.

5 Practical Ways Church Leaders Can Make a Difference

Church leaders sometimes wonder if they are really making a difference. Elders, ministers, and influencers in a variety of roles may wonder, “Am I really making a kingdom difference in my congregation?”  Others may even feel discouraged wondering if their service, as a part of a congregation, really matters.

Remember that we serve by faith, understanding that we might not necessarily see, or be aware of the difference we are making.  By faith, however, we believe that God uses our lives beyond our awareness and even beyond our time on the earth.

So how can you invest your time and life to make a difference?

Listen well.  Listen to fellow leaders and to the members of the congregation.  Listen for content and for the emotion behind the spoken words.  Let people say what they need to say.  Follow up with questions that reflect your genuine interest.  “How did you reach this conclusion?  Was there a defining moment for you when this became apparent?”  Or you might just respond with “Tell me more.”  Good listeners genuinely want to understand.

Pay attention.  If you are in a conversation with someone in your congregation, pay attention to them.  Use that person’s name.  Don’t know their name?  Ask–again.  Write it down.  Pay attention to the details.  Frances Hesselbein (former president and CEO of the Leader to Leader Institute) in her book, My Life in Leadership, writes concerning her grandmother “Mama Wicks” (p.12):

When I would walk into the room, I was the only person there.  When she talked to me, I still remember, she would look into my eyes intently.  For that moment she made me feel like the most important person in the world.

Follow through.  Did you agree to take care of a situation?  Perhaps you agreed to set up a meeting with a particular person.  Maybe there was a detail you promised to take care of.  Follow through on what you have promised to do.  Much time and energy are wasted as leaders find themselves dealing with fellow leaders who do not follow through on what they promised to do.  If you promised to take care of a situation, do it in a timely way.  We make a difference when others know that we will follow through with our commitments.

Multiply your influence.  Church leaders have some influence.  Some may have more influence than others. Nevertheless, we still have influence which can be invested in such a way so that your capacity for good is multiplied. One of the best ways to do this is through encouragement.  When you encourage another, you help to bring fresh energy to that person.  In far too many congregations, church leaders receive very little encouragement.  Some of these people serve for many years and only rarely hear a “thank you” or a kind word regarding their service.  You can multiply your influence by encouraging these people.

Likewise, look for opportunities to encourage a mom or dad in your congregation.  Encouraging a struggling parent could make a huge difference in what their children experience in that home.  Single parents, in particular, need such encouragement.

Wrestle in prayer for others.   Are there people whom you specifically pray for regularly?  Paul noted that Epaphras was “always wrestling in prayer for you” (Colossians 4:12).  As a church leader, you can make a significant difference by wrestling in prayer for those in your church.  Start with a list of five to ten people.  Be sure to include some of your fellow leaders.