Monday, May 4, 2009

Words of Encouragement

(let us keep our men and women in our prayers as we show care for them in this way)

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32

Commanded to Care. By being kind to others. As we talked last week about changing our unrealistic expectations in one another, we move to how to care for one another in a godly way. In this verse of scripture we are told to be kind to one another. We are given a mandate on how we are to treat each other. I cannot confess to belong to Christ and yet not be unwilling to choose to show the same things I have received from God to others.

God was kind to us. When you and I did not deserve fair treatment, God was more than generous in being kind to us. He was tenderhearted towards us. Our lives, our attitudes and our behavior warranted us to be sentenced to death immediately, but God showed us kindness by softening his hearts towards us and extending his mercy to us.

God was forgiving towards us. When he extended his mercy, he was willing to offer forgiveness to us for all that we had done against his will. We had wronged him because of our sinful nature. God was in a rightful place to demand payment immediately of our sins, yet he extended forgiveness instead of punishment.

This was all offered to us because of Christ. If God, who owed mankind nothing, was willing to offer so much, how can you and I be unwilling to offer so little compared to what we have received?

God tell us to turn to our brothers and sisters and show them kindness. He wants us to have compassion regarding their feelings and their situations. He wants us to tread gently on situations that involve others emotions, not to harm them with our actions and words. He wants us to be thoughtful in what it is we go to others. He tells us to be kind to others because he was generous with us so be generous with others. “I forgave you, so be willing to forgive others, extend mercy to them” is what God is saying to you and I. Even if your brother or sister has offended you, be willing to offer forgiveness to them. If they reject it, know that God will still honor you for the offering of kindness.

Today I pray that we follow the command of God and care for one another, first by showing that we can extend kindness, consideration and forgiveness to one another. I pray that we remember how at the hand of a merciful God we received so much. If we have been given much, surely do we not know that much is also required of us? Soften our hearts God to be tenderhearted. Give us patience with each other so that we can extend forgiveness, even if undeserved. Help us to keep your commands.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. – Acts 12:5

Commanded to Care. By bearing others burdens. While Peter was in prison the church did not give up hope for God to intervene in Peter’s life, so they did not stop praying. How many of us continue to pray for individuals in difficult situations? We sometimes become discouraged or sidetracked because we do not see the results quickly in the lives of those we are praying for, so we give up the fight and stop interceding for them.

Yet, we are encouraged to continue to pray for those in “bondage”. Peter was locked inside a prison where he had lost the freedom he once enjoyed. Some times people are in situations were they are not free and they are in need of intervention from the body of believers. They need us to pray until God releases them from the things that have them in bondage. What has the people in bondage? The sins in their lives sometimes have them in bondage where they are not free and are in need of deliverance. Sometimes people are in bondage because of the things people are placing on them and they are in need of release. Some times people are in situations where they are being held captive (hostage) by something, maybe a habit, a bad relationship or sins in their lives. Whatever the problem is, the person is in need of being set free.

God uses the body to care for itself. Do you know in your physical body it has what it needs to take care of common sickness? If you get a cold, you body sends signals that a foreign object has entered the body and it begin to set up the attack against those objects. That is what we as the body of believers should look like. When something strange, ungodly has entered into any part of the body we sense it and we set about the attack of ridding the body of that unwanted foreign object (sin).

If one in the body is hurting, the entire body should feel it, if not there is some “nerve damage” in the body. That means some vital connections are not connected. Are we connected to the Father? Then if we are, then we should be connected to one another, for we belong to the same Father. If our brothers and sisters are burdened in their lives for one reason or another, it is imperative that we stand in the gap for them and with them. What if you were in need and there was no one willing to pray for you? What if there was no one to encourage you? How would you feel if you had no one to trust in or lean on? It would be devastating. The good news is we are not along; we belong to a family that is mandated to bear each other’s burdens.

I pray for us today that we care as God does regarding our brothers and sisters and we stand with them in their situations that cause them to be in bondage. We don’t do it to discourage them, but to earnestly pray with them until the changes of oppressions fall away. For whom the Son sets free, is free indeed!

Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. – James 5:19-20

Commanded to Care. By guiding others to the truth. This scripture instructs us how important it is for us to care enough to know about our brothers and sisters walk. If I care about you, then I care enough to tell you the truth (in love) even if you don’t want to hear it. This is not always an easy stand to take. It is not always easy to tell someone they are going in the wrong direction and are heading for a spiritual death. Yet as hard as it is, we are instructed to do so.

We must look past ourselves to what this action will accomplish. It requires personal sacrifice. I must sacrifice my comforts and what is easy for me, for what is best for others. Now for a word of caution, this does not mean we have the license to tell people things because we “think” they need to be told. This is speaking to telling someone the truth of God’s word and not your understanding or your way of doing. Too many of us get in trouble telling people what we think they should be doing and because you are not doing things my way, then you are in error.

We cannot tell someone about living the truth, if we are not doing so ourselves. This means that we must be walking rightly before the Lord in our words, actions, and even our thoughts. I cannot be thinking thoughts that are unholy and then tell you that you are in sin because of what you are doing, when I’m thinking those things you are doing. Which one of us is right? Which one of us is wrong? I would have to say we are both wrong. Jesus warned that adultery for example started in the heart even before it became an action. That means if you allow yourself to dwell on unholy things too long, you are in fact sinning in your heart. So in order for me to help someone else I must place all my thoughts, actions and words into God’s hands so that when I need to help another I am able to do so in love and with a clear heart.

Today I pray that we understand what God is requiring from us when he instructs us to guide others to the truth. It is not done out of our selves but as the Holy Spirit instructs us. Help us Lord to do as you instruct so that we can show true love for others to help them find your way. Lord we are commanded to care so help us care enough to help someone miss eternal damnation.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. – Ephesians 4:25

Commanded to Care. By keeping our word. Members one of another. You and I are accountable to one another. I do not live only unto myself. God has given a mandate that we should speak the truth to each other. This first starts with our relationship with God. If we are children of God we should look like our father.

Our father is truth therefore we should show evidence of truth in our lives. That means we live by the truth, we walk in the truth and we speak the truth. Not truth relevant to me, but truth as God ordains it. In our time everyone has their own truth that is relevant to what is important to them, therefore some believe they can lie if it serves their purpose. Some believe they can omit truth from what they speak if speaking it would stop them from getting what they want. Whatever the reason for lying, God says it is not acceptable.

Instead, we are told to speak the truth with everyone. Part of this reason is when we speak the truth we keep our word and others can trust us. If we lie, then the truth is not in us and others will not trust us. You know how difficult it is to trust someone that has lied to you. You always wonder, are they telling the truth now? Can I trust what they say now? The joy is we never have to worry this way about God. He is always truthful and trustworthy. We never have to think, is he telling me the truth? Can I trust what he says? Oh, we know the devil comes to tempt you into believing that God will not keep his word, but we have assurance that God is trustworthy.

I pray today that we reflect this wonderful characteristic of our heavenly father. Lord help us today to be trustworthy and truthful. Help us to keep our word so that others will know whom we belong to. Help us to mirror you in our life today. And in that mirror let others when they look at us, see the image of your son, Jesus. Let us speak the truth at all times. Let us speak it to encourage, to help, to direct and to enlighten others. Let us speak your truth, your way.

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. – Matthew 18:19-20

Commanded to Care. By praying for others. I saw a movie about a month ago that was rather interesting to me. I was getting my hair braided and there was an African Christian movie on. The part of this movie that was most interesting was when different believers at different times began to see with spiritual eyes the situation that was at hand. There was a man that was under demonic influence and everyone was noticing how he was changing. The turning point in the movie was when one of the characters said, we have done all we can, what can we do now? And the answer came back, we can pray. Everyone began to pray because this was the urgency that God had placed on his or her heart and the bondage was broken.

That’s what this scripture reminds me of. We always think only of the last part of this scripture, where two or three are gathered…we look at it only as saying when we are all in the same place and praying then God will answer. That is partly true. It does say when we gather in his name he will be in our midst but when you go back to the first part of this scripture it says that if two of you agree on anything the Father shall do it. This lets us know that God covers our agreement when we are together or when we are in separate locations. What is important for both instances is agreement or unity of purpose. Just gathering together does not guarantee God’s presence, it is our agreement or unity with each other and with his Spirit.

God will begin to bother you in your spirit about individuals when they are in need of intervention. You might not understand why suddenly someone appeared on your mind and you could not shake it. That is because God does not want you to shake it. Instead, what he wants is for you to join in on the “fellowship” of prayer warriors that he has gathered from their perspective places to meet in unity of purpose. That purpose is to care enough to pray for someone else. God fixes is so that you and I join in the choir of prayers that are going forward for someone that is need. We might think we are the only one in prayer, but God has already gathered others to come and pray until the one in bondage has been set free.

God commands us to care for each other. He wants us to be kind, tenderhearted and loving because these are the things he showed to us when we did not deserve it. He wants us to bear one another’s burden, to help them carry the load that is too heavy for them to carry by themselves. He wants us to keep our word, especially to him. We told God we would serve him and obey him, so he expects us to keep our word and do that which he commands us to do. He wants us to pray together for others. He wants us to both come together in physical presence and pray for the needs of the people and he wants us to come together spiritually in agreement with the Spirit of God on behalf of needs in the body.

When you go to worship this week, go asking God to help you be more committed to having compassion on others. Ask him to help you walk in his way and in the understanding of his word. Seek his will for your life so that you can then show forth his love in your day-to-day walk.