Category Archives: Encouragement

Come Home

Maria and her daughter, Christina, lived in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of a Brazilian village. Maria’s husband had died when Christina was an infant and she never remarried. Times were tough but at last Christina was old enough to get a job to help out.

Christina spoke often of going to the city. She dreamed of trading her dusty neighborhood for exciting avenues and the city life. Just the thought of that horrified her mother, who knew exactly what Christina would have to do for a living. That’s why her heart broke. That’s why she couldn’t believe it when she awoke one morning to find her daughter’s bed empty. Knowing where her daughter was headed, she quickly threw some clothes in a bag, gathered up all of her money, and ran out of the house.

On her way to the bus stop she entered a drugstore and got one last thing. Photos. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all the time she could on making photos of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.

Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human being will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place Maria left her photo–taped to a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner telephone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note. Then her money and the pictures ran out, Maria went home.

A few weeks later young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her dreams had become a nightmare. But as she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on a lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was a compelling invitation, “Whatever you’ve done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.”

I am pretty sure this is a fictional story, but it has truth in it.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son ( Luke 15:11-32) we have a story that parallels this one. In v12, the son asks for his inheritance, which is saying to his father I am not waiting for you to die just give me what I want. He wasted it on reckless (sinful) living (v13) of which his father obviously wouldn’t approve. After squandering everything the son realizes that even being the hired servant of his father would be better than how he is living now. He returns to his father knowing that he is unworthy to be a son. But while he was still a long way off (v20), his father sees him and runs to him and hugs him. The only reason that his father say him a long way off was because he was anxiously waiting the return of his son. Even though he didn’t deserve it, the son restored to his place as a son (v22).

So what does this mean to you and me? If we have been forgiven, we are then restored to our place as a child of God.

If you doubt that, you doubt the power of the blood of Jesus. If you doubt that, you doubt the truth in the promises of God.

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

So release your doubt, release your worry, and release your pain and believe in the forgiveness and love of God.


During the holidays we often congregate with close family and friends. Gifts are exchanged, laughs are shared and large amounts of food are devoured. We are grateful for these times and show our appreciation and thanksgiving. Thoughts of thanksgiving flood our minds because we are given many physical things. The trinkets and toys we are blessed with are much less important than the spiritual blessings we are given through Christ. How much thanksgiving do we give for these spiritual blessings?
In Luke 17:11-17 Jesus heals 10 lepers on his way to Jerusalem. All ten lepers yelled “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” But how many returned to Jesus to show their gratitude for His act of love? Verses 15-17 of this passage tell us that “one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed. But the nine-where are they?” One returned. Just one. And a Samaritan foreigner at that. Matthew Henry writes in his commentary
“A sense of our spiritual leprosy should make us very humble whenever we draw near to Christ. It is enough to refer ourselves to the compassions of Christ, for they fail not. We may look for God to meet us with mercy, when we are found in the way of obedience. Only one of those who were healed returned to give thanks. It becomes us, like him, to be very humble in thanksgivings, as well as in prayers. Christ noticed the one who thus distinguished himself, he was a Samaritan. The others only got the outward cure, he alone got the spiritual blessing.”
Let us NOT be like the nine (the vast majority) and forget to give thanks for the blessings God gives us. He has blessed so much more spiritually than physically but we too often forget that fact. Our heart and our actions should be that of this Samaritan leper.

— Brian

Holes or Drill Bits

Theodore Levitt wrote Market Myopia where he argued that people become product oriented instead of customer oriented. There is an anecdote that is commonly used to explain this principle. There was a company that sold a million drill bits and not one of the customers wanted a drill bit. The customers wanted holes.

So what does this have to do with us and our spiritual life? We are not selling a product, but we are supposed to sow the seeds of the gospel. Personal evangelism is something that has changed and will continue to change the world. In this we are trying to teach people the gospel. The first thing that is required for us to successfully teach is a willing student. So why would someone be willing to listen to the gospel?

If you are selling rules and regulations, there are people who are interested. They may like the idea of having boundaries in their lives. They may like being different and living to some standard outside of themselves.

If you are selling multiple weekly meetings of the club, there are people who are interested. They will get the chance to see “good people” and sing and enjoy the sense of belonging.

If you are selling academic studies of an interesting book, again some people will be excited with the opportunity to participate. They can get different reference materials and study and teach classes and impress people with their knowledge.

Or we can offer to help them learn the true meaning of life, find a higher purpose, and most importantly salvation through Jesus Christ. This salvation will include conforming their life to a higher standard, meeting with the saints to encourage and edify, and studying the word of God to find out how to be pleasing to Him. These are the things that can and will be enjoyed by the saved, but they are not the end of the matter. They are the “drill bits” that bring us closer to God and salvation through Jesus Christ His Son.

Heaven – Where We Finally Fit

“This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all of these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you – you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good was, to utter satisfaction. The Brocken spectre ‘looked to every man like his first love’, because she was a cheat. But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it – made for stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand. (The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis pages 151 & 152)

In this excerpt Lewis describes heaven in a way that I understand. I have never really wanted to float around playing a harp, but I do have the desire to finally fit perfectly. We are made in the image of God. This aspect of our nature requires much of us. All of the animals were made by God but they are not made in his image. As such, they are not required to do or become anything, they are just animals. However, we are required to deny ourselves and strive to conform to the image of His Son. To be successful in this endeavor we have to change our desire from self to God. Only with this change can we successfully navigate this world. The traps that Satan has laid will get us, if our hearts are not focused completely on Him. Not only is the right heart required to get into heaven, it is required for heaven to be the perfect reward.

Heaven is wonderful because we stand in the presence of God and Jesus. Our faith becomes sight. When we get to heaven we will forget to ask all of the silly questions about science or theology. It will not matter if we see our aunt or grandfather. It will not matter who is there or isn’t there because we will be in the presence of our heart’s desire. GOD. We will finally be where we belong, where we were made to be.

Bothered in Christ?

No it isn’t a typo. Are you bothered by a brother in Christ? Does the continual lack of dedication and lack of attention of other Christians really annoy you?

This is a trap I get caught in occasionally and I can’t find a way to justify it by the standard of Jesus Christ. What do I mean by this? Find a time in Jesus’ life when he was annoyed or bothered by the lack of knowledge or the failings of his followers. This is different than the hypocritical Pharisees. We are talking about people who are trying but lose heart, lack knowledge, or are struggling to find their way. Jesus looked on them with compassion (Mark 6:34). He loved to help more than he needed physical food (John 4:32). He loved them enough to hurt his reputation among the leaders of the day (Luke 15:2). How did he do this? He never lost sight of the preciousness of a soul! He never lost sight of God’s will (John 10:25-30).

So when I am faced with this situation what do I do? I try to get back into the Christ-like mind set. I do this by asking myself which of the two descriptions best describe me:

1. I am worthy of anything and everything that God has done and will do for me. Since I am so perfect I have every right to be annoyed that others just can’t seem to catch up with my spiritual superiority.

2. I am unworthy of anything and everything that God has done and will do for me. He loved me as a sinner and only through the perfect sacrifice of His Son do I have any hope of seeing Him one day in heaven. Any spiritual heights that I may attain are the work of His grace and enduring love for me.

The obvious answer is that I am unworthy to be called by the name of Jesus Christ. So what would Jesus say to me in these moments of spiritual blindness? He would most likely tell me the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt 18: 21-35)

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (ESV)

Note: A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer.

This parable teaches me the attitude I need to have with my brother. I have to remember that God has forgiven me so much. My brother can do nothing against me that will compare to what I have done against God. So when my brother is stumbling, struggling, or sinning, what should I do? The simple answer is to respond with love. In I Cor. 13 we learn that love hopes, endures, is patient, and kind. So instead of annoyance, we should feel concern and sadness. Jude 22 & 23 gives us our directions: “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (ESV) I don’t see any indication that we should be bothered by a brother’s struggles.

Today’s personal challenge: I will have a more Christ-like attitude toward my brothers.

— Zane

A Heart of Faith

A friend of ours has given us a number of audio files with lessons that have been preached by Paul Earnhart. As I walk in the morning, I love to listen to those lessons—his words not only get my brain thinking but help open my heart first thing in the morning; for those of you who know me well, you know that is no easy task for me at that time of day! This morning, I was listening to a lesson about what it means to believe in Jesus. Brother Earnhardt makes a distinction within the lesson between subjective faith (one that is based on my own experience and feeling) and objective faith (one that looks beyond my own experience and to God’s instruction). As an illustration of this, he discusses the attitude of Peter and the others when they have fished all night with no success, and Jesus comes and tells them to go out again and cast their nets. Subjective faith would say: “What does he know? After all, I am a fisherman, and I know these waters—there’s nothing there to catch this day! I mean, He’s a carpenter! What does he know about fishing?” Objective faith would say, “I may be a fisherman, but He is the Lord. I will go.” That kind of heart of faith is so inspiring to see in the pages of Scripture, but why is it so difficult to cultivate day to day?

The one example of such faith that Brother Earnhart mentions has always struck me as well—the example of Abraham’s utter willingness to sacrifice Isaac—the son whom he loved, the son God has promised him. Would I, as Abraham did, be able to say, “Yes, Lord, I will do as you say”? My heart breaks for Abraham each time I read that account. Brother Earnhart points out that if you had encountered Abraham that day and questioned how in the world sacrificing the son that God had given him would ever lead to the completion of the other promises God had made, Abraham would have most likely said, “I don’t know. But God does.” Isn’t that the very basic heart of faith? I certainly don’t know, but God does. No wonder it is asserted that Abraham believed the LORD, and his faith was accounted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).

God has so graciously and clearly taught me His path in His Word, and in so many ways what He wants of me is so clear, but I struggle with daily application. I am struck by how often in my life I have “kicked against the goads” of the circumstances that have been put before me in life, knowing in my head the truth that God works all things to His glory. Knowing in my head that any challenge, any suffering will bring me closer to Him if I will allow His molding to take place, yet I battle. I want to know why I am the one who has to deal with these things, why life can’t work out the way I want it to, why there isn’t a less painful way of handling a situation, and on and on. But a heart of faith simply says, “Yes, Lord. You see the path I do not, so will follow your lead.” A heart of faith simply does what God asks, and leaves the rest to Him, knowing He is able to handle the rest. I am reminded of the plea the father makes to Jesus in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief!” I DO believe He can handle it all, but oh, how I long for the answers and the vision to see how it will all work out in the end. But that isn’t my portion. It is God’s to know, and mine to follow. His path is always right, even if doesn’t make perfect sense to me. My dear friend Dixie Goolsby once told me that before she goes to bed at night, she likes to read Psalm 23—that this is not a psalm of death, but a psalm of life, and how right she is. It teaches me the gentle heart of a trusting faith:

The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me by still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil.
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
They comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies,
You anoint my head with oil,
My cup overflows
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD, forever.

May we all grow to rest and trust in the love of the Good Shepherd in full, obedient, faith.

– Tracie

Sailing Too Close To Shore

This was submitted by Greg, hope you like it.

The following is an excerpt from a prayer believed to have been written by Sir Francis Drake:

“Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.”

~ Sir Francis Drake

I really like this quote and it reminds of a story from my childhood. During my teenage years, my family used to go to the lake for skiing and swimming. This was truly a family affair encompassing three generations, and oftentimes, there would be close to 30 of us there. It was my Grandpa’s job to drive the boat. He was a fairly strict man and liked going about his business with little fanfare. When it was time to ski, he would take one passenger in the boat, as a lookout, while he pulled the rest of us…usually one at a time. Which is another story for another time. Anyway, the lake we usually went to was a small lake, about 600 acres. As young men, most of us could ski a full lap before exhaustion made it impossible to hang on to the rope.

I remember one particular afternoon when one of my cousins had just completed a full lap and was bragging that he had made it all the way around without falling. At which time Grandpa turned to him and said, “if you don’t fall down, it means you aren’t trying anything new.” Now keep in mind that my Grandpa is a man of relatively few words and is not one to readily criticize another. What he was telling my cousin was that it’s not very challenging to stay in the wake behind the boat and definitely not worthy of bragging about. He was also wanted him to challenge himself by getting outside his comfort zone, the wake, and start working on his cutting and jumping skills.

When I reflect on his comments some 25 years later, I realize that his comments can be applied to all aspects of our lives, including our pursuit to strengthen our relationship with God. The quote by Sir Francis Drake says the same thing that Grandpa was telling my cousin that day. You will never truly be great at something if you don’t fall down a couple of times along the way, and I believe that it applies to our journey to become good Christians as well. You can’t get there by just doing the minimum amount required, like say…going to church on Sunday. You have to face your own weaknesses and work on them. You may have to get out of your comfort zone and help others. Whatever it is, you’re certain to fall down a couple of times…Greatness doesn’t happen without practice.

What honors God?

It is a Tozer kind of day.

If God gives you a watch, are you honoring Him more by asking Him what time it is or by simply consulting the watch? – A.W. Tozer

We struggle incessantly trying to find out God’s will for us. People attempt to accomplish this in many different ways. Some pray to God for wisdom (James 1:5) and diligently search the scriptures for guidance. Some pray to God for the answer and then have to assume that God has blessed whatever endeavor they are contemplating because God “made them feel at peace.” This “Godly” answer may contradict the scriptures but they assume that is OK since they “know in their heart” the truth. Which method is most pleasing to God? God has given us his written word and an intellect to search it. He expects us to work out our salvation (Phil. 2:12). Are we honoring Him by honoring His Word or are we honoring him by ignoring his Word?

Of Faith and Works

James 2:26: For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works id dead. ESV

Some interesting thoughts on this passage by A.W. Tozer:

Whoever said you could be a Christian without being a disciple? You cannot be a Christian without being a disciple. The idea that I can come to the Lord by grace, and have all my sins forgiving, and have my name written in heaven, have the carpenter go to work on a mansion in my Father’s house and at the same time I can raise hell on my way to heaven. I say it is impossible. It is unscriptural, it is not found in the Bible at all. You are not saved by your good works, no never are we saved by our good works, but we are not saved apart from good works. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone, but out of that, springs immediately goodness and righteousness.
Flowers do bring spring, but you cannot have spring without flowers. It is not the birds that bring the summer, but you have no summer without birds. It is not righteousness that saves me but salvation brings righteousness. The man who is not ready to live right, he is not saved; he will not be saved, and he will be deceived in the great day.

Tozer: Mystery of the Holy Spirit by A.W. Tozer page 117