An Encouragement for You/ A Prayer for Each Other!

Have you ever agonized over what you could do to help someone or some situation? 

Have you ever felt powerless to effect change?

Have you ever wrestled with recognizing or knowing what your purpose in life is?

The following are a couple of things that are applicable to all the above…

First, let me remind you of the power and efficacy of intercessory prayer from James 5:16…

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”

We may or may not get the answers or help we are looking for, but with our prayers, we are focusing on the One who has the power to do everything! There is much strength and comfort in that knowledge—and even room for our prayers on behalf of others to change us!

Additionally, let’s be reminded of what Paul said in his prayer from Ephesians 3—specifically verse 20: “Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—”

Prayer unleashes that power! Never forget we serve a mighty God!

Second, here’s a thoughtful suggestion I read today to help focus our prayers, effect change (and maybe in each of us too), as well as find great meaning in our lives:

Take a simple prayer walk around your neighborhood, praying over each house; around your kids’ schools, praying over each locker; around your workplace, praying over each office and cube. Pray against pain, fear, and darkness. Pray for healing, peace, and light, all in the name of our King, Jesus Christ. (From the YouVersion Bible app—Lean In//Shape Your Faith Into Action reading plan)

I make no claim to have written the above on my own, but it surely resonates with me. You don’t have to do it just like this—as the old cliché goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Earlier today, a prayer request notebook was dropped off at the Sheriff’s office. Another identical notebook has also been provided to the recovery groups that meet at our building. The offer to pray with people—anonymously or specifically–will expectantly open doors of prayer and hope. Sometime in the next week or so, we will collect those and have the opportunity and privilege to lift real people with real requests up to the throne room of God!

Does prayer change things? Yes, sir and yes, ma’am. It changes things for the one praying and the one being prayed for—and the truth is quite simple: it isn’t necessary to have a written prayer request for us to pray healing, peace, and light into lives in our community. You don’t have to wait to have a written prayer request in hand!

Obviously, I’ve written this specifically for the Oxford Church of Christ here in Oxford, MS. But it is applicable for all who might read it wherever they are.

The quickest way to change/ redeem our culture begins with a change in our own hearts.

Will you pray with me?

God bless this mess and may He start with me!


Be an Encourager/ Be Encouraged 

His name was Curmudgeon (not really, but that’s a good descriptive term that allows me to protect his identity). He was irascible, irritable, petulant, and a grouch. And yes, I understand how synonymous those words are, but I’m trying to paint a clear picture.

As a teenager, I remember visiting the church where he was a member. During that service, he stood up and argued with the preacher in the middle of his sermon.

If you can imagine, it was quite the spectacle and shocking even for those who were not visiting, and it planted an undeniable vision in my young brain of his character and nature.

Fast forward some fourteen years and I was a recently discharged Sailor serving full time with the aforementioned congregation as their associate/ youth minister. That was a challenging work in several ways, but a work in which I have such good and fond memories.

During my tenure there, I was strongly encouraged (a nice church way of saying I was given a task and it wasn’t up for discussion) to go visit my soon to be curmudgeon friend on a weekly basis. And I did.

I dutifully went to the nursing home where he was a resident every week for several months. When I say this man was a character, there is no way to adequately describe how much of a character he was. He’d been a circus clown, an oilfield roustabout, and a subdivision developer—and those are just the things I remember almost thirty years later.

Some years before I began spending time with him, he lost both legs and thus he was wheelchair bound. That didn’t help his already irascible nature. Not at all. But nevertheless to use a couple of old King James Version expressions, I girded up my loins and determined to quit ye like men.

And so, I visited. Ostensibly, my visits were to be an encouragement to him. On some level, I suspect that I did however slowly. But over time, a relationship was made. I began to see him smile and brighten up when I walked into his room. And what’s more amazing is how quickly those have-to-because-I-was-told-to visits became a want-to high point of my week.

I went there to encourage, but found friendship, kinship, brotherhood, and much joy. It wasn’t long until our whole family was involved. Several years before my son Cole had the surgeries that allowed him to walk on his own, he would use our friend’s wheelchair (with him in it) as a part of his physical therapy. I have vivid memories of Cole working his way up and down the hall pushing that wheelchair as a walker.

And the incessant grouch (not me, the other one)? He blossomed with patience and love and the desire to be of help to my son. He had a purpose. He found meaning even without two legs. With a little encouragement, he became a consummate encourager.

My friend is long gone on to his reward. I had the privilege of officiating his celebration of life service. And it was a celebration.

I smile at the memories, because in so many ways, the encourager (me) became the encouraged.

Hebrews 10:24–25 says, And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching. (CSB17)

Encouraging one another is something each of us can and should do. And while we don’t encourage others from a what’s-in-it-for-me point of view, the benefits run both ways.

And the verses above? Look at them again, but this time from the Message:

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

See that word, inventive? Try another word in its place: Let’s see how creative we can be in encouraging love and helping out…

Look around you:

–Someone you know is struggling with something heavy—loss, heartache, etc.

–Someone around you hasn’t a clue what their purpose in life is.

–Someone you see regularly is lonely, depressed, and desperately wants a friend.

–Someone you know has a financial need.

–Someone you know feels guilt, shame, and unworthiness.

Exercise your creativity. Be inventive. Share good news.  Be good news. A little bit of encouragement may very well transform someone’s life–and that includes your own.

As I said in a sermon this past Sunday, I am cheering you on.

With God, good things happen!