Love this … and most stuff by Prince Ea

If you don’t have something in this video challenge you or convict you, I just don’t know …

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Encourager’s Devotional Series – March Wrap-Up

To wrap up this month’s Encourager’s Devotional theme (Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos), I thought I’d give you a list of ideas for ways to maintain a personal sense of peace and/or encourage others. This is a list I included, along with other support materials, in the Leader’s Guide for the March devotion. If you would like to receive the Leader’s Guide for each month’s theme, email me at pullupachairwithlisa@gmail.com.

  1. Help someone whose loved one is away for military duty. You can tie this into the theme of “a world in chaos” and how this puts added stress on military families.
    • People whose spouses are away suggested the following: stamps, packing materials, offer to babysit or organize a “spouses night out.”
    • Remember that some have basically been thrust into the role of single parenting. Any help with errands, home repair, carpooling, etc. is sure to be helpful.
    • Those who are actively serving also need support. One friend said her husband loved getting care packages, especially cookies.
    • Letters from children in Sunday School classes or other groups are encouraging.
    • I also really liked one idea I heard where someone bought two copies of a daily devotion book. They gave one copy to the wife and sent the other to the husband in Iraq. That way, they could have a daily “connection” by reading and thinking on the same things.
  2. Plan an event to make or view Christian artwork. Below is a picture from a mosaic making night we had at my church. Several of the people who came told me how relaxing the night was for them.

    Mosaic by Me Night @ The Merge

    Mosaic by Me Night @ The Merge

  3. Visit a Christian bookstore. The atmosphere is usually wonderful and you’ll find much to lift your spirit. You’ll also find things to help you minister to others. (Teacher: You could plan a group outing and then share what you each discovered over lunch. You might also give everyone the assignment to find at least one item they will purchase to give to someone they want to encourage.)
  4. Organize a prayer walk, set up a prayer room, or set a time of day you will pray with others even if you are not in the same location.
  5. And finally, how about supporting a local Christian radio station? The positive message they put out daily is a blessing to many. Most Christian radio stations do some form of fundraising during the spring. Your participation would not only be an encouragement to the people who run the stations, but also to those who benefit from listening. Here’s a link to a new Christian radio station that I highly recommend, The Rock. It’s based in the St. Louis area but you can listen online. Update May 15, 2015: The Rock is currently raising funds to create an app for their station. For more details, or to support this cause, click here.

Given our current situation in St. Louis, I’d also like to create a list of ways we can support local law enforcement families. While many are working to right the wrongs of those in law enforcement who have contributed to the problem here, we must remember that there are also many good people serving our communities in local police agencies. Recent events have put an incredible strain on their families. If you have any ideas on ways we can support them, please post them in the comments.

Encourager’s Devotional Series – March Bible Study Answer Guide

These are the answers to the Bible study for the March devotional in the Encourager’s Devotional Series. Where responses may vary, I have not listed specific answers, but I would love to hear some of yours in the comments.

Information 

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

This passage is set in the midst of a long discussion that Jesus had with his disciples, in which He was trying to prepare them for future events. What did Jesus know was about to happen? (see John 13:1,21,33; 14:2,19-20,28; 17:1-5,11)

  • He was going to leave this world and go to the Father.
  • One of the disciples was going to betray Him.
  • He would not be with them much longer.
  • He was going to prepare a place for them and would return to take them with Him.
  • They would see Him even when the world could not because He would be in them.
  • He would be coming back.
  • He would be glorified.
  • The Father would protect them.

Read the entire discussion (John 13:1-17:26). What things in this passage let us know that “peace” according to Jesus does not mean absence of trouble? (see 15:18-20; 16:32-33; 17:14-15)

  • They would be hated and persecuted just as Jesus was.
  • Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble.”
  • Jesus prayed they would be protected from the evil one, suggesting that the evil one would be out to harm them.

You may remember from January’s study that the word for encourage in Greek is parakaleson (parakavleson). In that case, it is used as a verb and has a broad range of meaning – from exhort, admonish, and urge strongly to comfort and come alongside someone. The same word is used as a noun (parakletos) in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7. Depending on your translation, the word may be interpreted as advocate, counselor, comforter, or helper. In these passages in John, the word is being used in reference to the Holy SpiritContinue reading

A Hint of Life, but Death Is Still in the Background

Reflections from time with God at Zion UCC Labyrinth, Florissant, MO

Reflections from time with God at Zion UCC Labyrinth, Florissant, MO

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

This scripture kept going through my mind after my sister’s death (Janell Joy Bartz, June 5, 1966 – September 19, 2012). Two weeks after her passing, I plugged earphones into my digital Bible to help feed myself the Word at a time I was not feeling prone to read it. I thought it might help me get to sleep (another thing I was not prone to do at that time). Later in the night, I woke up at the exact moment this passage was being read.

A few days later, I was at a labyrinth that I go to for prayer walks. Before going onto the prayer path, I sat on a bench for a while. A line of trees surrounds the labyrinth. I noticed a purple flower bud (Janell’s favorite color) on one near me. For a brief moment, I was comforted. Then, almost immediately, I noticed the very next tree in line behind it was already browning for fall and the coming winter. I thought, “A hint of life, but death is still in the background.”

When I got to the center of the labyrinth and stopped for contemplation, the dead tree was directly in front of me and I became overwhelmed. You see, Janell’s death was preceded just a week prior by the death of a 22 year old cousin who died in a car accident. That death alone had been very difficult to take, not only because he was so young, but also because it was yet another tragedy in my family which has a long history of young deaths, and violence and many forms of chaos and heartbreak.

While standing there, staring at the dead tree, I also thought of the many people I was praying for who were dealing with depression, and addictions and … well, many forms of chaos and heartbreak. For many of them, I had been praying a long time.

At that moment, the only prayer I could muster was, “Lord, I need to see someone overcome! To continue to believe it’s possible.”

Then, I remembered the meeting I’d had just that morning (how soon we forget) with the friend I am partnering with to write his life story. His is a story of someone redeemed from the worst of life’s circumstances. It is a story of true transformation that can only be brought about by the power of Christ.

I was gently reminded by God that there are many stories of redemption and transformation out there. And there are more to come. I WILL see the goodness of the Lord – in the land of the living. All of our hope is not just found “in the sweet by and by.” We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to see the heaven’s move on our behalf. There is still hope for deliverance, here among the living, even when death is seemingly mocking us in the background.

Encourager’s Devotional Series – March Bible Study

This is the study guide to accompany the March devotional for the Encourager’s Devotional Series.

Information 

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “______________ I leave with you; my _________ I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be __________ and do not be _________.”

This passage is set in the midst of a long discussion that Jesus had with his disciples, in which He was trying to prepare them for future events. What did Jesus know was about to happen? (see John 13:1,21,33; 14:2,19,28; 17:1-5,11)

Read the entire discussion (John 13:1-17:26).

What things in this passage let us know that “peace” according to Jesus does not mean absence of trouble? (see John 15:18-20; 16:32-33; 17:14-15)

You may remember from January’s study that the word for encourage in Greek is parakaleson (parakavleson). In that case it is used as a verb and has a broad range of meaning, from exhort, admonish, and urge strongly to comfort and come alongside someone. The same word is used as a noun (parakletos) in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7. Depending on your translation, the word may be interpreted as advocate, counselor, comforter, or helper. In these passages in John, the word is being used in reference to the ____________   ______________.  Continue reading

Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos – March Encourager’s Devotion

March Encourager's Devotion

Just a quick scan of news headlines can be very discouraging, even downright frightening.

Justice Department finds racial bias in Ferguson police practices

Netanyahu Says Iran Poses ‘Threat to Peace of Entire World’

Iran calls Obama’s 10-year nuclear demand ‘unacceptable’

Target to cut thousands of jobs

Get ready—Fed to cause major turmoil this month

It is hard to maintain inner peace when our world is in such chaos. Yet that is exactly what Christ came to bring us – a peace that the world will never be able to offer us (John 14:27), a peace that defies human understanding and guards our hearts and minds no matter what is going on around us (Phil. 4:7).

I remember a time when I experienced that kind of peace. I was pregnant with my first child, but had been put on 24 hour bedrest due to complications. I was fearful, worried I might be losing my baby. Lying in bed, I read Psalm 91 (NKJV):

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. … He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge … You shall not be afraid.”

Things like this are hard to explain, but as I read that passage, I could just picture God “covering me” and I felt peace in His presence.

My father once shared a story with me about God ministering peace to his spirit when he was going through a bout with cancer. He was driving down the road worrying about life, death, and his family. He had a Christian radio station on and a song called “Silent Partner” by Jessy Dixon began to play. Dad said he started to weep as he was comforted by the idea that God was his partner during that difficult time – a partner you might not always see or hear, but you know He’s there giving you strength and seeing you through.

A few years ago, I discovered prayer labyrinths (you can see prior posts about labyrinths and an explanation of what they are here). The image for this post includes a picture of one of my favorites at Mercy Retreat Center in St. Louis, MO. When my sister passed away in 2012, I was so glad I had found these beautiful places to pray. My time there brings me peace.

I share these stories with you because they show various ways to draw closer to God and attain the peace He promises – Bible reading, Christian music, prayer walks. Other means of finding peace might be through the company of friends and family, through worship services, or through inspirational reading. I have also had art minister peace to me. We might do as Paul suggested in Philippians 4:8-9 and think on anything we can that is good, or lovely, or praiseworthy when we are bombarded with negative news images. Paul also says in Philippians that when you do the things you know are right “the God of peace will be with you.” It is interesting that Paul wrote all this while he was in prison. He had discovered how to have peace regardless of his circumstances (4:11-13).

OUR PEACE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT’S GOING ON AROUND US.

IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

Now, what does all this have to do with being an encourager? Well, this is a time when those around us are worried and fearful. We will only be able to encourage them if we are at peace ourselves. You cannot lead someone to a place you  cannot find yourself. So, build yourself up in the faith and then go minister to others who need peace.

MAY YOU SHINE AS LIGHTS IN A CROOKED AND PERVERSE WORLD! (Phil. 2:15)

This post is part of the Encourager’s Devotional Series.

Accompanying materials for this month’s devotions: Click here for the Bible study for March and here for the answer guide.