Finding Your Encourager

I’ve always heard that each of needs someone in our life who is mentoring us to help pull us up to that next level. I’ve also heard that each of us needs to be mentoring someone who needs help getting to where we are now. What I really don’t hear much about is having someone in your life who is at the same place in life as you. All three roles are important, but I think this role is the most important. This is the person you do life with. They’re the one who is in the trenches with you when life gets ugly. They’re the one who won’t let you give up because they know your potential and challenge you to fight another day. They’re also the one that sharpens you by disagreeing with you at times to help you see through other lenses than your own.

This kind of relationship isn’t easy to have, which is why many of us don’t look for one. This person is more than a friend. They’re a pusher. Friends usually avoid conflict of any kind with you and keep the peace. This person isn’t afraid to speak the truth in love that you need to hear. They’re not going to disappear when times get tough or be too busy when you fail. They hold a mirror up to you, not to embarrass you, but to challenge you to be all that God created you to be. They don’t just cheer you on either. They remind you of why you do what you do.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” (NLT). This isn’t just talking about a friend. This is talking about your encourager, the one I’m describing. If you haven’t identified your encourager, ask God to show you who it is. Look at the Kingdom connections around you and find that person. If you know who it is, thank God for putting them in your life. Make sure they know you’re thankful too. They’ve helped you succeed when you’ve felt like quitting and stood by you in the hard times. In return, be the encourager that they need as well and fill that role in their life because we all need that person in our lives.

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Changing Seasons

As I stood on top of Mount Carmel overlooking the fertile valley below, I couldn’t help but think of Elijah where Israel had started serving Baal and God was upset. Elijah prayed and it didn’t rain for over three years. Looking at that valley, I tried to imagine what it must have looked like after not getting any rain for years. I’m sure it was dry and barren instead of lush and green. The people must have been hungry and desperate. There was no telling how long that dry season was going to last. Eventually, Elijah prayed and the rains returned. The valley became fertile once again as pictured above.

Have you ever gone through a dry spell or a season that seemed like it would never end? Maybe you’re going through it now. When you’re going through it, you get hungry and desperate for God to answer and rescue you. Quite honestly, it can be embarrassing to go through these times. You start to wonder what you did wrong, and eventually begin the blame game. The good news is that these seasons don’t last forever. They may leave permanent reminders in your life, but those reminders should also point to God’s faithfulness in changing your season and carrying you through it.

Song of Songs 2:11 says, “The season has changed, the bondage of your barren winter has ended, and the season of hiding is over and gone” (TPT). I hope that speaks to you the way it did to me. God is working things out for your good even in the barren times. He is calling you out of your hunkered down mentality into a place where you can walk freely. You may carry the scars and effects of this season with you for the rest of your life, but don’t let them carry a root of bitterness. Instead, let God use those dry seasons of your life to provide hope and healing to others who will go through them too. When you leave the bondage behind that comes from those seasons, you’re able to produce more fruit in your life than ever before.

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Losing Sight Of Jesus

On any trip to Israel, visiting Galilee is a must. One of the places I enjoy most is the Mount of Beatitudes. As I was sitting up there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I watched boats crossing back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of when Jesus sent the disciples to the other side while he went up the mountain to pray. While they were making their way across, a fierce storm overwhelmed them. Their focus was on surviving the storm, and not on Jesus who sent them across the sea by themselves. From where Jesus was sitting, He never lost sight of them. So when He walked on water, He knew right where to go.

It’s not hard to lose sight of Jesus in our lives. Life gets hard and rarely goes as planned. We can get rocked by a diagnosis, our spouse walking out or something happening to one of our kids. In those moments, life often becomes a battle for survival. We can lose sight of Jesus and wonder where He is in the middle of our chaos. I can tell you that He’s never taken His eye off of you. If He doesn’t come walking on water to save you, keep rowing, but also make sure you take the time to find Him. We know that if you seek Him, you will find Him. I’ve found that the times I’m most overwhelmed by the things happening in my life are the times my relationship with Him is strengthened because I realize I can’t do it without Him.

Song of Songs is an allegory of Jesus and us. In Song of Songs 1:8, Jesus calls out to us, “Listen, my radiant one— if you ever lose sight of me, just follow in my footsteps where I lead my lovers. Come with your burdens and cares. Come to the place near the sanctuary of my shepherds” (TPT). The beautiful thing about Him is that He’s waiting for us, chaos and all, to find Him. He loves us no matter how crazy our life is or how far away from Him we’ve gone. It’s always a shorter journey back to Him than it was leaving Him, and He’s never taken His eye off of you. If you’re burdened down today, or blinded by your worries, take them to Him and rest in the fact that you are loved and His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

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Building Your Life

When I was 16 years old, I took a job working in new home construction. I remember it being very hot that summer. As we would begin a house, we would go back to the blueprints nonstop in order to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be. I started out being the stud guy. I had to go around all the base boards, measure out 16 inches and put an “X” on the board. Later, as the frame was being finished, the guys had me look at the boards they were using on the roof to tell them if the crown was up or down. Everything we did as framers mattered because the other crews were going to be using the same blueprints to do their jobs in order to complete the house.

God has put it in each one of us to be builders. Most of us are never going to build a house, but we build businesses, families, a life, etc. It matters how we build those things more than it does in building a house. The materials, the layout and the quality with which we build our lives on will one day be judged. Are we building with eternity in mind? If not, the things we build won’t last. We are to build our lives using God’s blueprints found in the Bible. We are to build on a strong foundation otherwise the things we build can be wiped out by life’s storms. It’s no fun starting over, but I’d rather have the opportunity to rebuild here than to wait until eternity to see if the things I’ve built are structurally sound.

Here are some Bible verses on building your life with quality materials.

1. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.

1 Corinthians 3:12-13 NLT

2. So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

MATTHEW 7:24-25 AMP

3. Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving.

Colossians 2:7 GNT

4. Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

Luke 6:46-47 MSG

5. But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!

Jude 1:20-21 MSG

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Elaborate Plans

A friend of mine recently called me to invite my wife and I to go somewhere with him. I said, “Sure! We’d love to.” He paused for a moment, then nervously asked, “Are you going to check with your wife first to make sure she doesn’t have any plans for y’all?” It was a good question with much wisdom behind it. I was about to make plans without checking with her first, much like many of us make life changing plans without asking God.

A friend of mine recently asked on Facebook, “Where in Scripture does God, or any of His prophets, tell us to follow our dreams?” Many people attempted to put verses from the Bible in there, but none could give one. His point was that we’ve become people who teach our kids to follow their dreams and to become anything they want, but we haven’t taught them to ask God what plans and dreams He has for their life.

There’s a saying that’s been changed through the ages, but the current one says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Too many times, we are making plans and telling God our plans without consulting Him first. Proverbs 16:1 says, “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word” (MSG). So many of my plans in life have changed because God’s plan overruled my plan. Thank God too because His plan is much better.

If the plans you’ve made for your life are falling through, don’t despair. Pray and seek God for what His plans are for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord” (NLT). God knows the plans He has for each one of us. It’s time we stopped what we were doing and asked for His plans. Until then, our plans will continue to fail. Trust me. I’ve been there and have had to start over a few times. It’s better when we ask for His plans. They’re more elaborate than ours.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Following God’s Lead

Driving through Houston can be complicated. I had a customer once call me to tell me where they were on their way to training. I told them it should only take about ten more minutes to get to the location. After 20 minutes past, I wondered where they were. After 30 minutes I began to worry. When they finally arrived, I asked what happened. They had tried to drive to me without their GPS, started talking and missed the sign that had the exit they were supposed to take. Instead of coming right to me, they ended up passing me, but then took the loop around instead of making a U-Turn. They got caught in traffic, but eventually made their way to me.

Life can be complicated too. God has a purpose and a plan for each of us. He’s given us to Holy Spirit to be our GPS to guide and direct us, but we don’t always listen to Him. He’s also put up sign posts in our lives to help us know where to go, but sometimes we’re too distracted to see them. As a result, most of us take the long hard road to get to where He’s trying to lead us. We think we know better than the Holy Spirit’s GPS, so we keep going when He’s trying to help us avoid traffic and distractions. He has cleared the way for us, but we must learn to follow His leading.

After King Solomon prayed for wisdom, he built the Temple that God had told his father he would build. While dedicating it in 1 Kings 8, he prayed, addressed the people there then blessed them. In verse 58, he blessed them said, “May he (God) keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors” (MSG). I pray today that God will keep you centered in the chaos around you. That He would give you direction with the decisions you are having to make. That He would keep you alert so you can see the signposts He’s put in your path. Also that you would be able to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice above all the noise, and that you would have the wisdom and courage to follow where He leads.

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Having Enough

Every year, Americans spend over $80 billion on lottery tickets. It’s hard not to spend money on a ticket when lottery prizes are upwards of $300 million. However, nearly 45% of lottery winners go broke within 3-5 years. The problem is that we are trying to get wealth without earning it. When that happens, we don’t have an understanding of money, thinking it is an endless supply. You can search for “The lottery ruined my life” to see the countless stories of people who are worse off after having won the lottery than before. I also think there’s a heart problem here for most people. Who are you trusting to care for your needs? God or the lottery?

Each of us have prayed The Lord’s Prayer thousands of times. In it we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s interesting that Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread, but we are always seeking more bread. When the Israelites were in the desert, God told them to gather just enough manna for one day. If they gathered more than a day’s worth, it rotted and became full of maggots. God has always been about making sure we have enough. He’s not against us getting rich or trying to make more money, but He is concerned with our motives. Are we trying to replace Him as the source for our lives?

In Proverbs 30:8-9, there is a great prayer by Agur. He prayed, “Empty out of my heart everything that is false— every lie, and every crooked thing. And give me neither undue poverty nor undue wealth— but rather, feed my soul with the measure of prosperity that pleases you. May my satisfaction be found in you. Don’t let me be so rich that I don’t need you or so poor that I have to resort to dishonesty just to make ends meet. Then my life will never detract from bringing glory to your name” (TPT). We need to find our satisfaction in Jesus, understanding that He gives us our daily bread. Jesus said that when we seek His Kingdom first, all these other things would be added to us. Is He enough in your life? Are you satisfied with Him? Or are you trying to replace the need for Him?

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