Miracle of Christmas – Today's Encouragement from getencouraged.blog
We pulled into the Bob Evans parking lot, and our daughter noticed a gentleman standing between the parking lot and street. He was holding a sign at the intersection of two busy roads. She read the sign and asked if we could give him some money. His sign was requesting money for food.
How were we going to respond to his request?
We didn’t know the man or s of his situation, but we were faced with a choice. This is just one example of an everyday occurrence; each day we are given the choice of how to respond to various situations. Whether it is the guy in the parking lot with a sign or the lady in front of us in line, we have to choose how to interact. We have to decide how to respond to that driver who cut us off in traffic or that grouchy person who bumped into us on the bus. Each day brings a new set of opportunities needing our response, and Psalm 37 gives us a pattern to follow.
Verse 3 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.”
The Psalmist encourages us to use these opportunities to do good. As we trust in the Lord, we should allow our faith to drive us to doing what is right even if others are doing what is wrong. We should allow our faith to guide us to do what is good. We may not know every detail of each situation, but the Lord does. When these opportunities come, our response should always be to do good.
As for the guy in the Bob Evans parking lot, we didn’t know his situation. All we knew is he was holding a sign asking for help, so we gave him enough money for a meal. He said thank you, and we went on our way. We’ll probably never cross paths again, but I hope by our doing good, the man at least saw a glimpse of Christ’s grace.
A touch cured a lonely soul.
Leprosy was a horrible disease. There was no cure, and the infection was easily transmitted. Individuals with leprosy were forced to live alone. As someone approached, the person was forced to shout “unclean” as a warning.
A person suffering from leprosy had to endure the physical pain of his or her flesh rotting. There was also the emotional pain of loneliness. Those with leprosy had to quarantine themselves, leaving their families and friends. The disease took its tole both physically and emotionally, and we find Jesus offering much compassion to those with leprosy.
Matthew 8 says, “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. ‘Lord,’ the man said, ‘if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Imagine the scene. Jesus is leading a large crowd, and suddenly enters a man with leprosy. He starts speaking to Jesus as perhaps the crowd backs up a little. The man’s faith is obvious. He knows Jesus can heal him. Jesus does heal the man, but the other action Jesus takes is just as powerful.
“Jesus reached out and touched him,” records Matthew 8:3. Jesus touched him!
We do not know how long this man had endured the pain of leprosy. We do not know how many days or even years it had been since the man felt the closeness of human touch. All we know is Jesus touched him. Yes, Jesus healed his leprosy, but Jesus also healed his loneliness. The compassion offered by Jesus in this moment was stellar.
The man with leprosy was lonely, and Jesus interaction helped him. You and I may have the ability to help someone who is lonely.
When appropriate, the embrace of a hug and the holding of a hand is powerful. The sharing of a smile and a friendly greeting are equally as powerful. A wave can go a long way.
Our interactions today may help someone who is lonely without us even realizing it.
Yes, because of its validity, value, and victory.
Hope can be found in Christ’s resurrection.
The Validity of the Resurrection
With courtroom-like precision, Paul builds the case for Christ’s resurrection. The eyewitness accounts are overwhelming.
1 Corinthians 15:5-8 states, “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time. Most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later, by all the apostles. Last of all, I also saw him.”
It is easy to dismiss one person’s testimony, and perhaps the 12 disciples could be written off as hallucinating. But it is not as easy to discount 500 people seeing the same event at the same time. Jesus appeared to all these individuals after his resurrection.
He ate with them. He talked with them. He walked with them. They could see and touch his physical body. He was there. Those who saw Jesus could factually say he was no longer in the tomb.
The resurrection was not a myth. It was a historical event which brought value and victory.
The Value of the Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15 goes on to explain there is much value in the resurrection.
- Our dying bodies are buried, and a body, which will live forever, is raised up.
- Our broken bodies will be exchanged for glorious bodies.
- Our weak bodies will be replaced with strong bodies.
- Verse 44 says, “They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.”
In other words, we will shed all the struggle and heartache in this life. Our physical and mental difficulties will no longer plague us. The value of the resurrection is a new body granted through Christ’s victory.
The Victory of the Resurrection
“Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But, thank God, he gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ,” says 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.
Death, which is man’s great equalizer, has been beaten by Christ. The day of Christ’s resurrection, he struck a death blow to death and brought victory.
As we search for hope in this life, we can find it in the validity, value, and victory of Christ’s resurrection.
Jesus gives a starting point for sharing hope.
The time from Jesus’ resurrection to his ascension was eventful for his disciples. He appeared to them numerous times, and they never knew when or where he would show up. They needed to be ready to learn from Jesus at any time.
John 21 records Jesus appearing to some of his disciples as they were fishing. It was the early morning hours, and the men had been fishing all night. They caught nothing though until Jesus guided them. While the disciples were about 100 yards from shore, Jesus appeared on the shore. He suggested throwing the net on the right side of the boat. They did, and it was filled with fish.
They came ashore, and Jesus was waiting with a hot breakfast. Jesus needed to have a conversation with the disciples concerning the future, but first, he wanted to make sure their needs were met. If they were struggling and hungry, they would not be focused on what Jesus had to say.
The Bible encourages Christians to share our hope, and I believe we find a starting point in this post-resurrection appearance.
We need to help a person meet his or her physical needs before we can have an open door to discuss spiritual matters.
If a person is struggling and hungry today, he or she is not concerned about tomorrow. A starting point for sharing hope is helping meet physical needs.
- It may be helping the person look for work.
- It may be helping the individual identify ways to advance his or her skills to improve financial stability.
- It may be helping a person navigate resources to find help.
- Mostly, it is investing in the person’s life to earn the right to share our hope.
People are more content to discuss tomorrow when today’s needs are met.
Jesus offers encouragement in two ways.
The doors were locked. The day had been eventful. The disciples learned of an empty tomb early in the morning, and two of them just returned from Emmaus saying the Lord had appeared to them. Though the sun was setting, the excitement continued.
As the two disciples from Emmaus were speaking, Jesus appeared in the room even though the doors were locked. At first, this startled Jesus’ followers, then they became overjoyed when they realized it was truly Jesus. Jesus spent some time with them, and he encouraged the disciples in two ways.
Encouragement to help with their doubts.
The Gospel writers recall the disciples still had doubts in their minds. Jesus understood their doubts, so he offered an opportunity to touch his hands and feet. He also ate in front of them. A ghost or figment of their imagination would not have hands, feet, or the ability to eat, so it really had to be Jesus. He encouraged the disciples through their doubts.
One of the ways Jesus encourages people with doubts today is giving them an opportunity to see his hands and feet, the church, in action. The church should help one another as well as the community. The church is a picture of Jesus and gives us an opportunity to see him in action.
I wish I could say this was a perfect picture; however, the picture is not always perfect. I can say I believe the world is a better place because of the lives of genuine Christ followers. Their love and work shined in the world around them.
Check here for more suggestions to overcome doubts.
Encouragement to share their hope.
Jesus helped the disciples with their doubts, then he sent them to share their hope.
John 20:21 says, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Jesus never intended for the disciples to keep his resurrection a secret. The Lord does not intend for Christians to keep our hope a secret. He desires for us to share it with those around us.
In many ways, these pieces of encouragement are connected. The person with doubts sees the Christian community sharing hope. Our sharing of hope allows the Lord’s love to shine brightly. What ways have you found to share your hope?
Guidance for every season.
Joshua was standing on the border of the promised land and was realizing he was now the leader of Israel. Moses was done; Joshua was starting, and God was giving Joshua some tips for success.
One of those tips was to remember God’s word.
“Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night, so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do,” the Lord says in Joshua 1:8.
As you and I are fulfilling our purpose, the Bible will guide us. There seems to be guidance for every season, every challenge, every question.
When we are hurting, we turn to the Bible for comfort, and its words hold our hearts gently as it comforts us.
When we are discouraged, we turn to Scripture to find encouragement. Its words encourage us and challenge us to push ahead.
When we need advice, we turn to the Bible for its wisdom. Its words give us answers to our questions and help for our problems.
Like Joshua, you and I will benefit if we remember the word of the Lord. As we turn to it, here are 3 things to keep in mind.
1. The Bible offers hope and encouragement.
Romans 15:4 says, “Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us and the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
2. The Bible is powerful.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
3. The Bible is eternal.
1 Peter 1:23-25 says, “For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, ‘People are like grass. Their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades,’ but the word of the Lord remains forever, and that word is the Good News which was preached to you.”
Spend time reading the Bible. Cultivate a deeper understanding of its principles to help guide you in life. Here are some tips to help you understand the Bible.
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Psalm 46 confidently proclaims the Lord is our refuge.
Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength always ready to help in times of trouble.”
Here are 3 reasons God is our refuge.
1. God is our salvation.
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ, our Lord, has done for us.”
2. God is our safety net.
Romans 8:35 asks, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity or are persecuted or hungry or destitute or in danger or threatened with death?”
Verses 37-39 answers, “No, to spite all these things overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us. And, I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God has our back. When everything else around us crumbles and falls, God stands strong and keeps us safe. Financial markets may crash, retirement funds may plummet, illnesses may come, but the Lord holds us safely in his refuge.
3. God is our strength.
Philippians 4:13 says, “For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”
It doesn’t matter where we are; whether we have plenty or are lacking, The Lord gives us strength to get through the situation.
“Be still and know that I am God,” the Lord says in Psalm 46, “I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.’ The Lord of heaven’s armies is here among us. The God of Israel is our fortress.”
With God as our refuge, we can have peace. This is a peace which transcends human understanding.
Philippians 4:7 says, “Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
As things shift and move around us today, we can enjoy the peace given to us by being in the Lord’s refuge.
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Don’t be afraid. God will personally go ahead of you.
Israel was about to go into Canaan. This was the land the Lord had promised to them, and it was time to enter the land. Many barriers still stood in the way.
For the Israelites, this may have been an uncertain time. What was going to happen? How would they move forward? What challenge would they face tomorrow? These are questions everyone seems to ask in uncertain times, and Moses reassured the people.
Moses says in Deuteronomy 31:6, “So be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid and do not panic before them for the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Moses reminded the people the Lord would personally go ahead of them. The Lord would create the path, and he would show the way to go. So, the people of Israel could walk into uncertain times with the confidence the Lord would be with them.
In the same way, we can have confidence the Lord is with us. He will personally go ahead of us. He will create the path and show us the way to go. We can have confidence following the Lord’s leading will get us through uncertain times.
We are living in a time and place which may be unsure, uncertain, and fluctuating, but the Lord is constant. He is never changing.
Hebrews 13:6 says, “So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.”
You and I can have confidence in the Lord; he is personally traveling ahead of us. He is creating the path and will show us the way to go.
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