An Evening with One of the Most Encouraging People I Know

For the “5th Wednesday Free-for-All” of the Encourager’s Devotional Series, I’d like to tell you about one of the most encouraging people I know. His name is Kent Sanders and I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for his new book The Artist’s Suitcase last night.The Artist's Suitcase

One of the things that makes Kent such an encouraging person is his positivity. I had the honor of working with Kent on the faculty at St. Louis Christian College and served on several committees with him. Committee work is seldom fun. The teams we worked together on often had to tackle some tough issues. In situations where there was much room for complaining, legitimate complaining, Kent has a way of looking ahead to solutions instead of focusing solely on the problems.

Kent’s not a “hide your head in the sand” kind of guy. He doesn’t white wash the situation. He’s realistic. But there’s something about his approach that makes you think, “We can do this. We can make things better.” Whenever I needed to assemble a team for one of my projects, Kent was one of the first people on my list (sorry for the extra work, Kent).

Another way Kent is encouraging is that he shows a genuine interest in others. A conversation with Kent is always affirming in some way. As he celebrated the launch of his new book last night, he took time to ask me how my book was going. And, as yet another illustration of why I find him so encouraging, he said, “Let me know if there’s any way I can help.” I know he truly means that. If you take a look at his blog (linked above), you’ll see he has a passion to help others do well.

Kent shared a story about how he even encouraged himself at one point in his life. I found that amusing, thinking, Wow, he’s that good at the gift of encouragement. To watch the video of Kent sharing that story, reading an excerpt from his book, as well presenting some beautiful music by his guest band BlackFolk, click here.

We can learn a lot about how to be better encouragers by studying the attributes of the people we know who display that gift. How about you? Can you tell us about someone you know who is an uplifting person and share a few examples of how they encourage you?

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September Wrap-Up for Encourager’s Devotional Series

Here are some encouragement project ideas for September and October. You might want to click these links to see how they correspond to the September Devotion and Bible Study for the Encourager’s Devotional Series.

*Is there someone who could use a dose of mercy from you? Someone you could try to see anew through eyes that “cover” their faults? If so, put the matter to prayer and then try to think of a way to encourage them.

Philippians 4 8

*Are you part of a group of people who always tend to grumble and complain? Perhaps you could be intentional about not joining in on those conversations for a month. As the devotion pointed out this month, we might even agree with the complaints but that doesn’t mean we have to participate in such “gripe sessions.” And if you really want to take this challenge up a notch, perhaps you could make it a goal to insert at least one positive comment about the situation or person who is the subject of the complaining.

*Looking ahead: October is Pastor Appreciation Month and some have asked how they might encourage their ministers. Here are some suggestions:

October is Pastor Appreciation Month

October is Pastor Appreciation Month

  • One of our churches used to provide us with meals throughout the month. Sometimes food was brought to us. Some people took us out or had us over. Others gave gift certificates to restaurants. We loved it!
  • The same church also did a “stock the parsonage pantry.” That was a great blessing. If you do this, it might be a good idea to ask what food items are family favorites.
  • How about having a “Handy-man at your service” emphasis and ask what repairs or home-improvement projects you might do?
  • Ask the minister’s spouse if there’s any “secret” dream or wish you could fulfill for the minister and/or the family. A vacation or get-away? A new study book or set of commentaries? A course of study they’d like to attend? A microphone headset or new pulpit? You might be surprised what a minister really wishes he/she could have that hasn’t been worked into the budget. One church bought my husband a leaf blower because someone heard him teasing that he was envious of the neighbor’s. It was a thoughtful gesture that made us laugh, too.
  • Card showers are encouraging (I’ve kept the cards and notes people have given us and still look them over now and then). Ministers are often the target of the speech sins mentioned in this month’s devotional (grumbling, gossip, etc.). It is always good for them to hear the things people appreciate.
  • Send them on a weekend retreat.
  • And finally, really knock their socks off and volunteer now to direct next year’s VBS, or Easter drama, or … you name it. Volunteers are always a blessing.

Can you add any suggestions to this list?

Encourager’s Devotional Series – September Bible Study Answer Guide

Here are the answers to the Bible Study for the September Devotional in the Encourager’s Series.

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James 1:26 says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

Read James 3:1-12 – In this passage, why is the tongue compared to a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder, and a small spark?

It is compared to a horse’s bit and ship’s rudder because it is small, but it has the ability to guide or steer us in a certain direction. Like a small spark, it has the power to cause great harm.

Verse 6 says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body …” It goes further in verse 8 to say that “no man can tame the tongue.”

All of this makes it almost seem like there is no hope when it comes to controlling our speech. Yet, it must be possible, because we are commanded to do it. The point is that we cannot do this in our own strength, and also that we will never control what comes out of our mouths if we do not control what’s in our hearts.

Read James 1:1-27. Notice that speech sins are discussed in the context of the “trials of many kinds” (v. 2) which test our faith and develop our perseverance. Why do we have more trouble taming our tongues when we are in the middle of trials? Can you think of times when you’ve seen stress bring about speech sins?

According to verses 13-15, the temptation to sin in any area comes from our “own evil desires.” What evil desires might be in play when we have trouble controlling our mouths during trials/stress?

selfishness, doubt, anger, desire for revenge – Can you think of others?  Continue reading

Why a Writer Needs Solitude

When your writing gets interrupted.

When your writing gets interrupted.

Experts say it takes 20 minutes to refocus after a work interruption. I’d say that figure at least doubles when it comes to writing. In a previous post, I wrote about my hesitation to ask for help getting the time I need to finish the book I’m writingBut, I’m getting desperate for two reasons:

  1. I’m SO close to finishing the complete first draft of this amazing story. I’ve been saying for weeks, “I should have it done by this weekend.”
  2. After I get the draft finished, I want to travel to the city in which the story took place to do a last bit of research and some interviews. BUT … I have to get the draft finished first … sigh.

Encourager’s Devotional Series – September Bible Study

This Bible study accompanies the September Devotional for the Encourager’s Devotional Series. If you would like to receive the Leader’s Guide for the Encourager’s Devotional Series, email me at pullupachairwithlisa@gmail.com.

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James 1:26 says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his ________________, he deceives himself and his religion is _______________________.”

Read James 3:1-12 – In this passage, why is the tongue compared to a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder, and a small spark?

Verse 6 says, “The tongue also is a ____________, a world of ____________ among the parts of the body. It corrupts the ________________ _____________ …” It goes further in verse 8 to say that “no man can __________________ the tongue.”

All of this makes it almost seem like there is no hope when it comes to controlling our speech. Yet, it must be possible, because we are commanded to do it. The point is that we cannot do this in our own strength, and also that we will never control what comes out of our mouths if we do not control what’s in our hearts.

Read James 1:1-27. Notice that speech sins are discussed in the context of the “trials of many kinds” (v. 2) which test our faith and develop our perseverance. Why do we have more trouble taming our tongues when we are in the middle of trials? Can you think of times when you’ve seen stress bring about speech sins?

According to verses 13-15, the temptation to sin in any area comes from our “own ___________ __________________.” What evil desires might be in play when we have trouble controlling our mouths during trials or stress?

Besides the big section in chapter three on the tongue, note what other verses in James have to say with regard to speech:  Continue reading

September Encourager’s Devotion – No Evil

Hear No Evil - See No Evil - Speak No Evil

Hear No Evil – See No Evil – Speak No Evil

For encouragers, the habit of “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” is crucial. By this time in the effort to develop this ministry, you may be finding that one of the hardest parts of being an encourager is learning to control what you say. Hopefully, at this point in the journey (we’ve been working on it eight months now), doing things to help others and build them up has become second nature to you. And you may have found it somewhat easy to develop the habit of saying encouraging words more often. Unfortunately, though, the same mouth that blesses, all too often, is still quick to speak the negative – that we can do without even thinking!

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” ~ James 3:8-10, NIV (emphasis mine)

Scripture tells us that the mouth speaks “out of the overflow of the heart” (Mt 12:34). We Christians tend to minimize our speech sins. (Except for cursing. We all know cursing is just awful. No good Christian would ever use a cuss word.) We seem to ignore the fact that speech sins like gossip and slander are listed right alongside the “big sins” of murder and sexual immorality in Scripture. They are even put in the same category as God-haters (Rom 1:28-31; 2 Cor 12:20). Grumblers are said to deserve the same fate as idolaters (1 Cor 10:10).

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person …” Matthew 15:18-20

Since our speech sins are the result of our heart condition, any effor to control our mouths must begin there. Learning to cover our ears and eyes when necessary will help our hearts to be more pure, and that should help us with our tongues.

HEAR NO EVIL – One thing we can do to become more loving, more positive, and thus, more encouraging is to lessen the effects that negative people have on us. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22 both say the words of a gossip go deep into our inner parts. We are warned not to lightly receive accusations against others (1 Tim 5:19) and to flee from people who promote strife (1 Tim 6:3-5,11,20). Matthew 15:14 warns us not to follow such people because it’s like the blind leading the blind, and causes both parties to fall into a pit.

In his book  Sticks and Stones: The Discipleship of Our Speech (p. 83), Dr. William Baker  says, “Our speech can be infected by our association with people who do not control their speech. Their bad speech habits will rub off on us. If we spend time with people who gossip, we will gossip also. If we pal around with people who get kicks out of making fun of others, we will find ourselves enjoying this kind of sinful speech, too.” We apply this when it comes to choosing our children’s friends and “… it makes sense to apply this principle to ourselves as well as we begin to work on our speech ethics.”

If we truly love each other, gossip and other forms of destructive speech should grieve our hearts because we would be thinking about the person on the receiving end. We should feel pain when others are hurt (1 Cor 12:26). 1 Corinthians 13 says love is kind – hurtful speech is unkind. It says that love always protects – we should protect even the reputations of others. It also says love does not delight in evil – true love doesn’t enjoy gossip!

SEE NO EVIL – One reason it is easy to listen to and participate in gossip and other grumblings is because we often agree, at least in part, with what’s being said. We are not blind. We see the faults in others. We see the parts of their ideas which may need to be revised or might not work. We see the wrong they do. It’s easy to see the negative.

Scripture never tells us not to recognize sin or evil. In fact, we are even told at times to expose it (Eph 4:15;5:11 – Note this is to be done in love, with the goal of building up, not tearing down, 4:29-32). But more often, we are told to lovingly “cover” one another’s faults (Prov 10:12,17:9).

This reminds me of what God does regarding our faults. He is not blind to our sins, but He chooses to cover them in Christ. So, when He looks at us, He looks beyond our flaws and sees Christ in us. Loving like God means we keep no record of the wrongs people commit (1 Cor 13:5).

1 Corinthians 12:22-26 says when we see unattractive, unpresentable members in the body of Christ we should treat them with “special modesty.” In other words, cover their faults; don’t expose or point out every defect. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8).

Besides knowing what not to focus on when we look at one another, the eyes must also be trained to see the good in people. In Philippians 4, Paul addresses the need for two quarreling Christians to stop fighting. It is there he tells us to think on anything we can that is positive about the other person instead of dwelling on our differences and the negatives.

SPEAK NO EVIL – The Bible sets very high standards for our speech. It says our mouths should be so controlled that we bless those who curse us, not repaying that kind of evil when in kind (Rom 12:14,17).

The book of James “… elaborates on the problem of the tongue. It is the most extensive treatment in the New Testament, and it does not draw a very pretty picture. In fact, this passage [3:1-13] is more negative than anything else written in the Bible” (Baker, 84). But, thankfully, James does point us to things that can help us: planting the Word in our hearts, praying for wisdom, drawing near to God, being humble, and remembering to apply the same standard we want God to judge us by to others (i.e., be merciful).

So, while the battle with the tongue is daunting, “We can decrease its range … We can hold it down. If we desire to grow in our Christian lives, this is the place to begin real change. We will not gain much control over this powerful force in our lives without access to a mightier power” (Baker, 87). And Psalm 141:3 tells us where to turn: 

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

August Wrap-Up for Encourager’s Devotional Series – A Sermon Excerpt

This sermon excerpt is the wrap-up for the August Devotional in the Encourager’s Devotional Series. Below the video, are some discussion questions we used when the sermon was originally presented.

TAKE-AWAY DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Note: These are just suggestions to help guide your discussion. You do not have to do all the questions and you do not have to do them in order.

  1. Give examples of how you have been fed by others in your spiritual walk.
  2. Talk about a way you’ve learned to feed yourself in the Word.
  3. Share a way that you have been able to help feed others in the faith (or a way that you can imagine yourself doing so in the future).
  4. How does it make you feel to think you are expected to become a “teacher of others” and help them grow in their faith?
  5. Where is one area you have definitely seen yourself become more mature in the faith?
  6. Where would you say you are in your maturity level at this point?
  7. You might want to practice using one of the passages mentioned in the sermon as a check list to see where you might need to grow. 1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5:22-28, 2 Peter 1:5-11, or Romans 12 (A handout is available for this one in the August Bible study.)