Encourage

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11*

How do we encourage each other?
By building each other up.
How do we build each other up?
By encouraging each other.

This is a 2-for-1 verse.
It also works in reverse.

How do we discourage each other?
By tearing each other down.
How do we tear each other down?
By discouraging each other.

I’ve seen a lot of slumped shoulders and downcast faces lately. Maybe it’s the pandemic/election/tension/isolation wearing us down. It’s daunting to think about a winter filled with more of the same.

So, how do we rise above it?
We build each other up.
What are our building materials?
Words.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph. 4:29

Wholesome words. Helpful words. Beneficial words.
It’s not that hard. Here are a few to get you started.

  • You look really nice today.
  • I’m praying for you in this challenging season.
  • You are so patient with your 2 year old — good job, momma.
  • All your hard work isn’t going unnoticed.
  • Keep going! You’re doing great things!
  • Your insights helped me understand that better — thanks.
  • I’ve seen a lot of growth in you this year.
  • The way you use your gifts has been such a blessing to me.
  • I feel so lifted up after talking with you.
  • We are in this together. You can count on me.
  • Share with me what God has been teaching you lately.
  • I left a pan of fresh cinnamon rolls on your porch.

In case you’re wondering how often we need to do this:
“Encourage one another daily…” (Heb. 3:13)
“and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).

The capital “D” Day of Christ’s return is drawing near!
Now, that’s an encouraging word!

Jesus, forgive me for tearing down others by speaking unkind, discouraging words. Help me to be a dispenser of positive, helpful and beneficial words to everyone I meet. Give me the desire to receive Your encouragement daily by reading Your Word and staying in fellowship. You created us to need each other. Help us, Your children, to encourage one another.

*Part seven in a series on “The One Anothers”

Greet

Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Romans 16:16*

Well, this is awkward.

In these days of social distancing,
I’m not about to promote puckering up in the pew.

Surely, the original language doesn’t mean an actual kiss, does it?

Philema:
Greek word meaning
to kiss.

Ok then.

In a sermon entitled “Let’s Bring Back the Holy Kiss”, Pastor Ray Pritchard said, “In the Bible the holy kiss was a sign of love, respect, friendship and honor. It was a mark of innocent affection.”

There is quite a lot of kissing in the Bible.

  • Fathers kiss sons (Luke 15:20)
  • Brothers kiss brothers (Genesis 33:4)
  • Sons-in-law kiss fathers-in-law (Exodus 18:7)
  • Grandfathers kiss grandchildren (Genesis 31:55)
  • Mothers-in-law kiss daughters-in-law (Ruth 1:9)
  • And then, of course, there is that unholy kiss (Matthew 26:49)

A little peck on both sides of the face was a culturally acceptable greeting in biblical times. In an effort to make this verse relevant to our modern age, some translations have replaced “a holy kiss” with “a hearty handshake”. But let me tell you, they are not the same thing. If PB had given me a hearty handshake after a dinner-and-movie date, I might not have married him.

For New Testament believers, a warm greeting expressed brotherly love and unity. The early Christians felt that the holy kiss signified innocent affection. There was no hint of sensuality or impropriety about it.

“During the worship service there was a time of greeting in which the men would kiss the men and the women the women–on the cheek or the forehead. It was a sign of the intense family relationship in the early church. They didn’t just talk about being a family, they were a family and the holy kiss served as a symbol of their love for each other. It was a holy kiss because it was exchanged between holy people. It was a holy kiss because they truly felt they were brothers and sisters in one big, happy family.” (Ray Pritchard)

So what are we to do with this rather bewildering “one another”?

Instead of focusing on the “holy kiss” part, let’s zoom in on the “greet one another” part. In this day and age, how can we offer a warm welcome and express acceptance to one another? Here are some ideas.

  • Use your words. “I’m so happy to see you here at church this morning. How have you been?”
  • Use your eyes. Look at people in the eye and hold their attention long enough to let them see your genuine care and affection.
  • Use your legs. Instead of standing around with the same group of people after church every week, walk over to someone you don’t know very well and show some authentic interest by asking them a question.
  • Use your ears. Listen attentively and respond with kindness.
  • Use your fingers. Punch in a phone number and check in with someone who has been noticeably absent. Don’t send an email or text; don’t substitute technology for a real human voice.
  • Use your lips. Give people a holy smile.

We all want to know someone cares.
We all need to know we’re not alone.
We all long to find a place to belong.
It starts with a greeting, in Jesus’ name.

Lord, help me to look around and see who is being overlooked or ignored. Give me the courage to initiate meaningful conversation with people I don’t know very well. Use my hands, my feet, my voice to make someone feel cared for, included and accepted. Help us, Your children, to greet one another with holy intention.

*Part six in a series on “The One Anothers”

Accept

“Accept one another, then,
just as Christ accepted you,
in order to bring praise to God.”
Romans 15:7*

Accept: to receive with approval or favor, to welcome

Paul told the members of the church in Rome
to accept each other.
Which implies that the members of the church in Rome
were not accepting each other.

What was their problem?

To find out, we have to backtrack a bit, to Romans 14. It seems everybody was caught up in a debate about meat. Yes, meat. Specifically, meat that had been sacrificed to idols and then put up for sale in the marketplace. To eat this meat, or not to eat this meat — that was the burning question. The issue was dividing people and harming the church’s testimony in the community.

Paul called the believers out and said,
“You meat eaters, don’t look down on the ones who don’t eat meat.
You non-meat eaters, don’t condemn the meat-eaters.
Here’s the deal: God accepts both. So accept one another.”
(Romans 14:3, my paraphrase)

We don’t squabble about meat that is sacrificed to idols in our day. But we have our own “disputable matters” (Ro. 14:1). Plenty of them. Does Paul’s advice work if we substitute in our issues? Let’s put it to the test. (Words in italics are subbed in to the actual passage.)

The one who doesn’t wear a mask must not look down on the one who does, and the one who does wear a mask must not condemn the one who doesn’t, for God has accepted him. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. If your brother is distressed because you don’t wear a mask, you are no longer acting in love. Do not, by your choices, destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of masks. (Romans 14:3, 13, 15, 20)

Yep, it works.

Paul leveled the playing field with the reminder that
every one of us has been accepted by Christ.
In all my sin and shame and stupidity,
Christ welcomed me in.
In that spirit,
we are commanded to accept each other.

But if we insist on digging in our heels
and disputing over opinions,
we rob God of the praise He is due.
Father, forgive us.


Help us, Your children, to accept one another.

*Part five in a series on “The One Anothers”

Harmonize

“Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:16*

#1) Harmony: pleasing arrangement of parts, melodious
Go ahead. Enjoy a few minutes of soul-melting harmoniousness.

#2) Dissonance: harsh discord, cacophony
Listen to this now. It’s only 55 seconds long.
It sounds a lot like my 2 year old granddaughter at the keyboard.

Any questions?
Be like #1.

Harmony is not unison. You don’t get harmony by everyone playing the same note. Harmony does not mean everyone thinks the same nor does the same. To live in harmony with one another is to live in such a way that you enrich and complement each other. Together you are more than any of you would be on your own. There is a display of beauty that comes from taking what is distinct and different and making it one.

Is there anything that is more desperately needed in our world today than this? Our country is tired of polarization, division and conflict. The world desperately needs to see something different, and God says, “Let it be seen in the church!”

Colin Smith @ http://www.unlockingthebible.org

Dear God, I want to be a harmonious contributor to the body of Christ. Help me to celebrate our shared purpose of bringing You glory. Equip me and empower me to add to the beauty of Your Bride, the church. Put a guard over my mouth when I’m tempted to spew out cacophony. Help us, Your children, to live in harmony with one another.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6

*Part three in a series on “The One Anothers”

Honor

“Outdo one another in showing honor.”*
Romans 12:10

When I was in 2nd grade, I was a Brownie. My friends and I walked to the Methodist church after school on Tuesdays. We put on our beanies and brown sashes and gathered around tables in the musty basement. We proudly stood, raised our three fingers and recited the oath:

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
to help people at all times,
and to live by the Girl Scout Law.

Honor.
It’s not a word that gets much attention these days.
So how do we honor each other, as commanded in the Bible?

The word honor in the original language is “time” (pronounced tee-may). It means:

  • to value the worth of every brother and sister in Christ.
  • to show genuine appreciation and admiration for fellow believers.
  • to give preference to one another, putting them first.
  • to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, without jealousy.
  • to extend to another the first opportunity.
  • to serve someone else, even at personal expense.
  • to value the relationship over being right.

Paul gave the same message to the believers in Philippi:

Put yourself aside,
and help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Phil. 2:4 — The Message

Get beyond yourselves
and protecting your own interests; 
be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.

Phil. 2:4 — The Voice

That’s why it’s so hard to honor one another. It doesn’t come naturally. It takes great humility and unselfishness. We need the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in us to pull this off. But can you see how amazing it would be if everyone in the faith community honored each other?

“Take the lead in honoring one another.”
Romans 12:10 — CSB

Who will take the lead?

“Practice playing second fiddle.”
Romans 12:10 — The Message

Second fiddle, anyone?

Lord, help me to overflow with respect and genuine appreciation for others in my community of faith. Forgive me for putting my selfish desires ahead of others’ needs. Give me Holy Spirit power to take the lead in honoring my brothers and sisters. Show me how to play second fiddle with joyful abandon. Help us, your children, to honor one another.

On my honor, I will try.

*Part 2 in a series on “The One Anothers”.

Devoted

When I hear the word “devoted” I can’t help but think of Sandy, in her white nightgown, sitting on the porch, lovesick for Danny, singing “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” If that’s not your first thought, then I guess maybe you weren’t a teenager in the 70s listening to the new musical “Grease”. I guess maybe I was.

What does it mean to
“be devoted to one another in love”? *

Devoted: zealous or ardent in attachment, loyalty, or affection; faithful, constant, loyal.

Those are good definitions, but when Paul wrote this, he had something more in mind. Finding the right word was so important to Paul that he invented a brand new word, used only this one time in the Bible.

We make up words all the time.
Have you ever been hangry (hungry + angry)?
Have you ever used a spork (spoon + fork)
when eating brunch (breakfast + lunch)
while glamping (glamorous + camping)?

Paul was a master wordsmith who took two words, mashed them together, and created an expression that was revolutionary.

Here it is:
Philos + Storge = Philostorgos

Philos means intimate, authentic love between friends that wants what is best for the other person.
Storge means unconditional, protective love experienced between family members.

When mashed up, philostorgos means:

  • you can count on me to show up.
  • you can trust me with your truest self.
  • you are a sister/brother to me.
  • I will not undermine, criticize or gossip about you to others.
  • I will encourage you to grow in your faith.
  • I will open up my heart to you and give you my truest self.
  • Our friendship is based on loyal commitment.
  • Our relationship is mutual and life-giving.
  • Our devotion to each other will grow a strong, warm community.

Far from being hopelessly devoted,
this kind of devotion between believers
is filled with hope.

Father, forgive me for my lack of devoted love for those in my community of faith. I confess my flagging commitment and complacent attitude. Show me where my devotion is misplaced and increase my desire to be an enthusiastic, consistent member of my church family. Help us, Your children, be devoted to each other in love.

*Part 1 in a series on “The One Anothers”.
Related post: The One Anothers

The One Anothers

The phrase “one another” is found over 50 times in the New Testament. These words were written to churches, giving practical instructions to the community of believers on how to get along. Evidently, they needed help.

In the original language, the word for “one another” is “allelon” and it’s a plural, reciprocal pronoun. Which means Barney had the right idea:

“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family….”

The first century church was an eclectic mix of slaves and masters, Greeks and Jews, men and women. Congregations consisted of people who would not have associated with each other under any other circumstances. You could say they were people from both sides of the aisle.

The focus of the “one anothers” was on relationships between fellow believers in Jesus. It was crucial for members of the early church to do some really good “one anothering” to maintain their witness.

Around 200 A.D., church leader Tertullian wrote, “It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See how they love one another’, the pagans say.”

That kind of church could change the world.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

I think we’re supposed to love one another.
Plural. Reciprocal.
Allelon.

In a world of division and mean-spiritedness,
the body of Christ has the privilege and responsibility
to display unity and warm-heartedness.

You’re my “one another”.
I’m your “one another”.
Let’s find out how to “one another” each other, shall we?

Two Thumbs Up

I’m back in business.

On September 10th, I strolled into the operating room, chatted with the surgeon about football while he fixed my stuck ligament, and then I strolled back out with three little stitches holding me together.

I did milk it a bit by spending a whole day on the couch watching cooking shows. And I did convince PB that I couldn’t wash dishes for two weeks.

Now that the stitches are out and my thumb is moving every which-way without pain, the gig is up. No more lolly-gagging. Life is good.

I’ll be starting a new series soon!
“The One Anothers”
The Bible has over 50 “one another” statements.
They were given to teach the early believers how to live with each other
in such a way that the church would stand out in their culture as a place of
joyful hope, compassionate healing and warm fellowship.

Seems like now would be a good time for a refresher.

Related posts:
Two Thumbs Down

So Long

Psalm 119 is so long.
It’s 5 months of study long.
It’s 98 blog posts long.
It’s 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet long.
It’s 47,725 words of reflection long.
It almost outlasted a pandemic.
Psalm 119 is a long song.

My thumbs need a rest so I’m going to say
“So Long”
for a couple of weeks.
Thanks for joining me on this amazing journey.
I hope we all come back to Psalm 119 someday
and remember this sweet time in the Word.
And find more treasure.
There’s always more.

sound-of-music-goodbye_thumb[2]

Y is for Yes

Another one of David’s favorite phrases in Psalm 119 was “according to your promise.” When David read the Torah, he saw loads of promises, and he wasn’t shy about reminding God about them.

“Be gracious to me, according to your promise.” (V. 58)
“Comfort me, according to your promise.” (V. 76)
“Sustain me, according to your promise.” (V. 116)
“Preserve my life, according to your promise.” (V. 154)
“Deliver me, according to your promise.” (V. 170)

Along with all the “regular” promises, God made David a “special” promise. In fact, it’s called the “Davidic Covenant”. It went something like this: “David, I promise you that the Messiah, the Savior of the world, My Son, will come through your family line and He will be a King over My Kingdom forever. There are no conditions on this promise, it’s all on Me. You can’t screw it up. Signed, God.”

David had his eye on his son Solomon, wondering if his boy was the fulfillment of that promise. God had His eye on His Son, Jesus, who would come from David’s line one thousand years later. Jesus came the first time to suffer and die. He will come again one of these days to rule and reign.

We have a promise-keeping God. How many promises did God make, exactly? Well, that depends on who you ask. According to Everet R. Storms, there are 7,487 promises in the Bible. (He counted them on his 27th time reading through the Bible.) Biblegateway.com tallies 5,467 divine promises. Another source counts 3,573. But you know what? It doesn’t matter! God knows and He can’t screw it up.

David stood on the promise God made him. We also stand on a whole boat-load of promises. The reason we can be sure about every single one is because of 2 Corinthians 1:20. (And now I’m finally getting to my favorite word.)

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.”

yes

Me: Is it true that if I lack wisdom, I can ask and it will be given?
Jesus: Yes!

Me: Will You really work all things together for good?
Jesus: Yes!

Me: If I resist the devil, will he actually run away from me?
Jesus: Yes!

Me: If I confess my sins, will you truly forgive me and purify me?
Jesus: Yes!

7,483 to go….

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with Y is YES.