Loved and Filled

I recently sat next to a stranger. Before we had an opportunity to introduce ourselves, we were instructed to pray for the person sitting next to us. The young man and I looked awkwardly at each other.

“I guess what I need most,” I confessed, “is encouragement in my spirit.”

“Yeah, me too,” I heard in reply.

It’s been a tough year. If we spend any time on social media and have a deep conviction to fight for relationships, discouragement can take up residence in our spirits. Why? We witness, and sometimes absorb, fear, weariness, confusion, self-interest, and divisiveness.

Is there hope? Absolutely. God, who gives endurance and encouragement (see Romans 5:15), is faithful and has called us into fellowship with His son Jesus Christ our Lord (see 1 Corinthians 1:9). This is good news! Let’s not forget who we are and what we have in Christ.

First, we are chosen and deeply loved by God. We are the Bride of Christ. Jesus is committed to us. He will never leave us. We do not have to fight for His attention or affection. I imagine myself sitting at the table He has prepared for me in the presence of my current enemy—discouragement. In my spirit, I declare, “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love” (Song of Songs 2:4).

Jesus invites us to abide in His love (see John 15:9). For a fuller understanding of how this can impact our well-being and witness, I encourage us to receive this message and allow it to take root in our lives.

Second, we are not alone. We have been given each other as members of the Body of Christ, and we have been given the Holy Spirit to fill and empower us. We embody the presence of God on earth! Does our culture and our world need the presence of God? Absolutely. In his book Beautiful Resistance, Jon Tyson writes, “God is looking for a people who want to be filled with his presence and live for his purposes in the world. He wants a surrendered body willing to express his heart and carry out his mission on the earth” (pg. 18).

Out of a place of being loved, we can love. Out of a place of being filled, we can give. May this embolden and encourage us to be present in our communities and with each other, allowing God to demonstrate His love, His character, and His gospel through us.

As a benediction, I offer this song. Be encouraged.

Reach Out

Truth time.  I procrastinate.  A lot.  There are so many things on my “to-do” list that I just don’t feel like doing.  So, I haven’t.  For a really, really, long time!

My motivation and desire to do anything had waned.  I didn’t want to hang with my friends, clean my house, laugh with my kids, chat with my husband, go to the gym, or spend time with my God.

Finally, there were a few things I couldn’t put off any longer.  I took a deep breath, put down the book I had buried myself in, shut my internet browser tabs, refused to turn on Netflix, and took out my list.  I think I did 2 things.  It was painful.  It took forever.

But here’s what I discovered: the best part of my day was the thing I was dreading the most.

I talked to some friends – new and old.  I had to.  It was on my list.  But, after we finished talking about the things we HAD to talk about, we chatted about life and what God has been saying to us.  We were honest.  We were vulnerable.  We prayed for each other.
The hard part wasn’t being open with people or even talking to people.  It was hard to reach out.

The longer I avoid relationships with God and others, the harder it is for me to think I need people.  I become more isolated. I have less joy in my life.  I drift from truth and love and grace, from God.  I’m stuck with my own thoughts.  My opinions of others lack light – lack grace – lack Jesus.  I become convinced that my views are right.  Suddenly, I am an island:  fierce and independent – but utterly alone – creating my own ideas about the world and truth.

It’s easy to isolate – to be AROUND people without really RELATING to people, to turn inward and let relationships slip – even your relationship with God.

Reach out.

God gave us sisters in Christ for a reason. Don’t shun them; don’t judge them; don’t avoid them.  Let them love you. Love them in return.  Let them speak to you about God.  Listen.  Be part of a community that loves Jesus together.

There are many people on the fringes that need a “hello”, a text, a cup of coffee. We all need reminders that love and grace exist, that we are loved for who we are, that God is gracious and kind and true.

My kids went back to school today.  The house was quiet.  I was determined to be proactive and tackle my list, again, but my motivation was weak.  I finally managed to start reading my Bible. My phone buzzed.  It was a friend texting me.  She shared what she had read that day, what God was saying to her, and asked how I was doing.

I’m SO thankful for her.  I’m thankful for the body of Christ that surrounds me near and far.  I’m thankful for technology that makes those who are far seem near.  I’m in awe of the way God builds his Church to be perfect and diverse and supportive and challenging.  I need them because they help point me to HIM.

So, family, REACH OUT.  Life is not a journey we’re supposed to take alone.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Article Submitted by: Laura Faltynski, GCW Director, Rocky Mountain District– (Reprinted with permission)