A Word of Encouragement

Praise loudly... blame softly.     

Catherine II

My oldest daughter and I recently had the privilege of coaching nine beautiful young ladies in a team basketball camp. We had one hour of practice before playing eight games in two days. We spent the first five minutes of that practice explaining what we wanted to see in the girls - a team!

Since I had coached most of these girls a half a dozen years earlier, I had only to remind them of the most important rule that they had played under for four years: You will never criticize a teammate. If a teammate missed a critical shot, or turned the ball over, or blew a defensive assignment, they were to have words of encouragement instead of criticism. Further, should they forget that one, simple rule, they would have to leave the game and come sit on the bench next to me.

For two days (three actually, but I couldn't be there on the last day) the girls played their hearts out. Each had bad games and each had great games but, in 320 minutes of playing time, I did not hear one word of discouragement towards a fellow team member. Instead, they encouraged, they cheered, they consoled, they praised and they won. In fact, the only game they lost was by two points and that was primarily caused by their coach failing to make a proper adjustment at a critical time.

Now, you might be thinking that this article is about basketball - but you would be wrong. It's about the people you work with, it's about your marriage, it's about your family and your friends. In short, it is about life! In life, we have the opportunity to encourage or to discourage, to build up or to tear down, to love or to hate. It is only when we choose to support one another in worthy efforts that we are able to achieve great things and, by the way, to have an awful lot of fun in the process.

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.    

Ephesians 4:29, NIV


A Wealthy Woman

The surest way to remain poor is to be an honest man. Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon was a great tactician and general but, as the above quote indicates, did not always have a strong admiration (or understanding) of virtue. The fact is that without honesty, one cannot truly be considered rich. And, if one possesses honesty, he can never be considered poor.

As evidence, consider this story ran last December in the Canton News. It's about a 63 year old woman who found a cloth bag while on a walk one evening with her husband. In that bag was $12,000 in cash. What would you have done with such a discovery? Would it be "finders, keepers"? Would you have somehow rationalized that God was giving you a gift from above? Maybe you would think that to give up such a find is something only a "chump" would do, or maybe you would have just kept the money without attempting to moralize or justify your decision in any way.

This lady (and her husband), however, would have nothing to do with such self-serving arguments - instead, she turned the money over to the police. The police further searched through the bag and found some paper work that eventually led them to the owners of the money. They were from out of town, and this small fortune represented money that they would use to put in on a house purchase. 

The woman who turned in the money chose to remain anonymous. She did explain, though, why she turned the money in. She said that her father had taught her to do the right thing, so that's what she did. This woman, despite Napoleon's claim to the contrary, will never be poor,for she knows the secret to true wealth. It was taught to her by her father, also a very "wealthy" man. Are you passing along such riches to those you love?

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10, KJV


A Time to Remember

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Jesus Christ 


That's the number of innocent victims that died from the infamous attacks on September 11, 2001. It was a day that turned America (and the rest of the world) upside down, and a day that we are still suffering the consequences of. Since then over 6,000 U.S. troops have died, fighting a war that began that day. Well over 35,000 soldiers have been injured in this war. Thousands of allies, our dear friends, have also been killed or wounded. We need to pause occasionally, and take time to remember the cost of freedom.

I wonder if it has been worth it, to the terrorists who have been involved in their hateful pursuits since that day? I've watched with disdain the reporters who suggest that these war criminals are somehow "freedom fighters". They are not interested in freedom - they are interested in subjugation. They are interested in conquest. They are interested creating as much fear and disruption to the world as possible. Many to this day still do not realize that one of bin Laden's main goals was to destroy the U.S. by destroying her economy. Unfortunately, we would have to admit that he has succeeded to a certain degree on this goal.

However... if his goal was to dishearten men and women of faith, he failed miserably. Thousands of heroes have served since that fateful day. Millions more have supported these heroes - and are continuing to pray for their success. It's true that these terrorists have won many battles, but they can never win the war - in their belief of that possibility, they are quite deceived. The reason for this is that this life is not about hatred and cowardice and murder: It is about love and courage and life. Christians realize this and, while they must rise to the attacks of evil men from time to time, true Christians never forget what they are here for.

We are here to serve... we are here to love our fellow man - even to the point of praying for our enemies... and we are here to go to Heaven. We need to take the time to remember this, as well. And... we need to remember the cost of our eternal freedom above all else. We owe a lot, do we not?

And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again. II Cor. 5:15, NIV


A Servant's Heart

The worth of a man cannot be measured by what he has, rather, it  can only be measured by what he does.


I just returned from our annual teen trip to the Rocky Mountains.  Our youth group takes one evening each week during the summer to mow the lawns  and take care of various needs for the widows at church. While these sweet  ladies often offer to pay the kids for their efforts, each offer is politely  turned down for we are trying to teach our young people something about  service. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is our young people  who are teaching us something about the heart of a servant.

Anyway… we just got back from our trip. We got up early in the  morning, played hard all day and went to bed way too late at night. Prior to  bed, we all sat around the campfire and enjoyed a devotional. We would have a  prayer, sing a couple of songs and then read a verse or two from the Bible.  Then we would go around the fire and each one would talk about the things that  were important to them.

Have you ever just sat and listened to an ordinary group of teens  talk about God and their duty as His servants? If you have then you know that  our young men and women are far from ordinary - they are extraordinary. Most  really do, with all their hearts, want to serve God.

After this year’s trip, one of these extraordinary young people  decided that it was time to become a Christian. So, he professed his belief  that Jesus was Lord and he was baptized for the forgiveness of his sins. And he  is saved today - not because of his service or even because he is somehow good  enough to be saved. He is saved by the grace of God and by the shed blood of  Christ. He is also saved because he did his part and now, he is ready for a  lifetime of service to the Lord.

It’s been a pretty good week. How has your week been going? If it  has not been going as well as you would like then maybe it is time for you to  regain the heart of a servant.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if serving the Lord, not men, because you  know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does.

Ephesians  6:7-8, NIV



Are You In Debt?

The servant fell on his knees before him, "Be patient with me," he begged, "and I will pay back everything." The servant's master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. Matthew 18:26-27, NIV

I like this parable. It's of a man who had gotten into so much debt that there was simply no way it could be repaid. We are told that the man owed 10,000 talents. Estimates for the value of a talent range between 3,000 and 10,000 day's wages, so this man owed the equivalent of 30 million to 100 million days of hard labor. Since this would take thousands of lifetimes to repay, it was literally a debt that was impossible to repay - yet, the master forgave him and let him go.

This lesson shows us just how massive of a debt we owe to God for our sins - it's too big to be repaid. But instead of sending each one of us to the Hell that our sins have earned, He cancels the debt for all who would accept His forgiveness on His terms. He did so by allowing His one and only Son to pay the debt for us. Since that is the case, shouldn't we be grateful? I believe that we would all insist that we are, until we consider how we treat others who have sinned against us.

Maybe their sin was just a petty injustice, or maybe it was a "great big" sin that caused us untold pain and embarrassment. But, whatever the case, we simply did not forgive them. How do you think God views such a lack of mercy? We don't have to wonder, for we are told the rest of the story in the parable quoted from above:

It seems that as soon as the man was forgiven his debt of 10,000 talents (30-100 million day's wages), he immediately went out and found a man who owed him 100 days wages. The man begged forgiveness but the man who had been forgiven much refused to have mercy. Instead, he had his debtor thrown into prison. When this evil man's master heard of this, he gave the following response:

"You wicked servant," he said, "I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had mercy on you?" In his anger, his master turned him over to the jailers until he should pay back all he owed. Matthew 18:32-34, NIV

Jesus' next point should give us all pause for consideration - He said that this is how God will treat anyone who does not forgive his brother from the heart. Is there anyone in your life that you have yet to forgive? Today would be a good day to do just that.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12, NIV