Tag Archives: encouragement

Love in Action | the Gift of Encouragement

20 Dec

nativity

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10: 24-25

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

Come along side your Sisters this Christmas season to teach, comfort, and strengthen. Lift those who are struggling under the weight of unfulfilled expectations that often accompany this time of year…

Continue reading here: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Love in Action | the Gift of Encouragement.

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Spiritual Disciplines for the Purpose of Godliness | WORSHIP | 4th in Series

2 Aug

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“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” — Hebrews 12:28-29.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “worship?” For many it’s the music and songs typical for a Sunday morning church service. While the music and singing can create great joy, the heart of worship is about magnifying God’s name and ascribing to Him the glory and worth that only He is due Psalm 29:2.“Worship is the specific act of ascribing to God the glory, majesty, honor, and worthiness which are His,” — Jerry Bridges.Derived from the Old English “weorthscipe” meaning the “condition of being worthy, dignity, glory, distinction, honor, renown,” “worship” denotes worthiness. It is the outpouring of grateful sincere hearts to our infinetly holy God; blessing Him, praising Him, thanking Him. “It’s the response of awe for God while reflecting on…

Please click here to continue reading: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Spiritual Disciplines for the Purpose of Godliness | WORSHIP | 4th in Series.

Grace Poured Out | Wash in the Waters Again

3 May
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“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” —1 Peter 3:21

The scope and magnitude of God’s love for us is most spectacularly displayed in the saving work of His own son, Jesus, on the cross. It is there in the torturous death of Jesus, blood spilled on behalf of humanity to satisfy the wrath of God (propitiation), taking upon Himself our sin and the sins of the whole world and giving us His righteousness (double imputation), conquering death when He rose from the grave (resurrection); His infinite grace is shown.

“…the aim of it all is to display the fullness of the glory of Christ, which is the glory of God. Everything that Christ did, and everything that he reveals about himself, and everything that Paul and the other biblical writers teach about Christ, aim at this—that the world would see and savor and show the fullness of the glory of Christ” John Piper, Justification and the Diminishing Work of Christ.

Mercy and grace at the cross highlight the glory of God, revealing His character. It is to this we are drawn. We come with empty hands, souls aching, laid bare, surrendered and through faith we are forgiven, made new, clothed in righteousness we could do nothing to earn or deserve, and adopted as sons and daughters of the King.

“Christ says, ‘Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.’” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

We celebrate the grace of Christ and proclaim His glory through baptism. We announce to our brothers and sisters we have trusted in Christ, our old self has died.

“It’s what happens spiritually when we baptise people we take them under the water, they die and they’re brought back up, and they have this visceral temporal experience of what it meant when they became a Christian” Pastor Bob Burris, It is Well with My Soul.

Baptism serves as a celebration, proclamation,and an illustration of what it means to be a Christian not just for the person immersed but for the church as a Gospel reflection.

“Where there is genuine faith on the part of the person being baptized, and where the faith of the church that watches the baptism is stirred up and encouraged by this ceremony, then the Holy Spirit certainly does work through baptism…” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

Reflect on your own baptism in when you need a reminder of the grace of God. The following article examines how baptism keeps God’s presence near, “…as a means of grace throughout our Christian lives as we watch, with faith, the baptisms of others and renew in our minds the riches of the reality of our identity in Christ…”

Wash In the Waters Again by David Mathis

Visible words. That was the Reformers’ term for baptism and the Lord’s Supper.In complement to the spoken words of gospel preaching, these twin rhythms of the gathered church are dramatizations of the grace of God. These “visible words” rehearse for us the center of our faith through images and actions in the God-given pictures of washing, touching, smelling, and tasting. Alongside preaching, they reveal to us again and again the very heart of the gospel we profess and aim to echo. They are enacted “signs,” pointing to realities beyond themselves.

But these ordinances are not just signs, but “seals.” They confirm to us not just that God has done something salvific for mankind, but that it applies to me in particular. The gospel is not only true in general, but specifically for me. And when a Bible-believing, gospel-cherishing church applies the seal to me, it can be a great grounds of assurance that I myself am included in the rescued people of Christ.

In this way, baptism and the Lord’s Supper serve to mark us out as the church, distinct from the world, and are part of what it means for the new covenant to be a covenant — with acts of both initiation and ongoing fellowship, both inauguration and renewal.

View the remainder of the article here…Wash In the Waters Again | Desiring God.

Cultivating Relationship Through Conversation | Listen Quietly and Intentionally

5 Apr

 

Peanuts Listening_opt (1)“To answer before listening– that is folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13)

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Knowing we should listen and truly hear others does not make the concept simple to engage. It this me centered world we inhabit it seems antithetical to remain silent while someone pours forth their story, their needs, their fears. We may presume to know where the conversation is headed and instead of actively listening we connect halfheartedly telegraphing impatient distraction. Often a self centered one-up manship occurs wherein we desire to demonstrate vocally how we completely understand and we rush into their inhalation with what we feel is more impressive and important; shifting the focus, discounting the words, and projecting an attitude of indifference.

When others approach us with a need to converse we are in a unique position to bolster, encourage, and acknowledge by listening intently; truly hearing with our whole self ; loving others as we are loved.

The following article offers six important steps to tune our active listening:

Six Lessons in Good Listening By David Mathis

Listening is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do, and one of the hardest.

In a sense, listening is easy — or hearing is easy. It doesn’t demand the initiative and energy required in speaking. That’s why “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The point is that hearing is easy, and faith is not an expression of our activity, but our receiving the activity of another. It is “hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:2, 5) that accents the achievements of Christ and thus is the channel of grace that starts and sustains the Christian life.

But despite this ease — or perhaps precisely because of it — we often fight against it. In our sin, we’d rather trust in ourselves than another, amass our own righteousness than receive another’s, speak our thoughts rather than listen to someone else. True, sustained, active listening is a great act of faith, and a great means of grace, both for ourselves and for others in the fellowship.

The remainder of this valuable article can be viewed here: Six Lessons in Good Listening.

Additionally, click here for more tools for listening: How to Become a Good Listener.

 

 

How To Be The Friend You’d Want To Have | Reach Out in Love

22 Feb

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“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” John 15:12

We are designed to live in community within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) ; as daughters of the King (2 Corinthians 6:18), bonded together by our common belief and faith in Christ we are drawn to others made new in Him.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow” – William Shakespeare

As relational beings we need other women who encourage, comfort, guide, and listen in times of contentment and distress. Many of us have long established a circle of friends creating sisters of the heart, surrounded by deep love, intimacy, transparency.  This coterie may function so well it may inhibit inclusion others when instead of reaching out we dig in. Invite others in who may appear confident in their solitude, learn their story, see Christ in them, love them where they are.

How To Be The Friend You’d Want To Have by Laurie Wallin

C. S. Lewis, in his book, The Four Loves, said friendship begins when one person says to another, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one!”

Problem is, for that to happen,

We have to be around people—to allow space in our busy lives for real conversation and interaction with friends.

We have to be around people—to stay in the moment, instead of letting 1001 other thoughts boss our brains around and distract us from the person we’re with.

How can we be a good friend, and invite friendship in return?

Read on to find out: How To Be The Friend You’d Want To Have.

Related content:

A Friend in Need

10 Ways to Meet Women Where They Are

Disposable Friends

Multi-Generational Life Together | United in the Body of the Christ

8 Feb

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“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Monday evening Women’s Ministries hosted a Table Talk Event* focusing on Titus 2 as, “…a call for us to live differently, do relationships with others differently and speak and act differently because of God’s grace that saves us and instructs us to live in a new way” (Marcia Lichte). This multi-generational gathering focused on God’s transforming grace and the yearning to live in a way that is pleasing to Him and, “The realization that [our] daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on [our] own performance…” (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace).

The Gospel provides the gravity (Christ’s blood) that pulls us to our knees at the cross where we can mercifully cling; grounded, changed. The unifying force of the Holy Spirit creates an accordance with the Lord that transcends and overrides any propensity towards divisiveness as we are drawn to other believers (Ephesians 4:3). Knowing God gives us a desire deep inside to love one another as Christ first loved us, sincerely and deeply from the heart (1 John 4:19, 1 Peter 1:22).  Christ’s presence binds us into an intergenerational body enabling accessible, familial relationships, mentorships, and friendships to grow.

Titus 2 outlines the mutual benefit and blessing derived from life together where we support, serve, encourage, and learn from each other bound by the mercy and grace of our Lord (Titus 3:5-7). It is through these examples that we reflect the light of Christ as “God’s people not good people” providing an opportunity for those who do not know Him to see the unique way our shared joy in His presence unites us in community (1 Peter 2:12) and reflects His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). 

“Spirit filled, multi-generational unity is a powerful witness to God’s work in our churches” (Daniel Renstrom, Multi-Generational Worship). As foreigners and exiles living in the world let’s endeavor to present a genuine closeness that defies logic outside of the unifying work of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 2:11-12, Titus 2:12)! 

*For those of you who were unable to attend the above mentioned event, click here for the evening’s Bible study: Titus 2 Study Handout.

Multi-Generational Worship by Daniel Renstrom

This is pure speculation, but it seems to me that when the modern worship movement came into town, churches became more and more age segregated.  There is probably a doctoral student somewhere in America working on this topic right now, so I’ll wait for that book to come out to tell me more about it.  But as a general observation, I do not remember churches in my youth having such radical age divides as they do now…

Continue reading here: Multi-Generational Worship – TGC Worship.

What Young Christians Can Learn From the Elderly | Life is Better in Community

Happy New Year!|Resolution or a Real Solution

1 Jan

tide“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:31.

According to Time magazine nearly 2/3 of Americans will make a New Years resolution. The top ten of these include 8 that emphasize some sort of a personal change designed to effect a transformation of sorts. The other 2 popular choices involve helping others and spending more time with family. Out of the myriad people making one of these commitments on January 1 2013, nearly 50% stopped pursuing their goal after the first month and only 8% successfully achieved their goal at the end of the year. This lack of accomplishment may emanate from a false hope. Pinning one’s expectation of success on the new year and unassisted effort will prove pointless.

“Believing that things will get better apart from Christ is a cruel deception. It truly is an exercise in futility. Even if bank accounts grow or fortunes appear to improve, the relief this provides is short-lived” (Jay Younts, Celebrating Insanity).

 Resolutions can be a good thing. Approach change with prayer (Philippians 4:6), wisdom (James 1:5), persistence (Galatians 6:9), and patience (Psalm 37:7a).

Lifeway Women offers the following 3 tips for a realistic approach:

Approach your goals with a healthy dose of reality. If you’re serious about making a true change, those goals have to be practical and reasonable.

Behavior modification won’t last. Only Jesus can bring true and lasting transformation…

Your own strength will ultimately fail you. …true success comes when you press hard into Jesus—through constant prayer—for a strength that only He can provide.

Whether you choose one word that encompasses a focused character change, ten thousand little moments of grace, or the typical dramatic pledge remember;

“…change takes place through faith…where our hearts lead, our emotions and behaviour will follow…look to God, to find hope and help and satisfaction in him” (Tim Chester, You Can Change).

Wait upon the Lord! Trust in His perfect timing. Do not attempt things in your own strength.

Additional Resources:

Don’t Waste Your Weaknesses in 2014 – Desiring God

On To The Next One… – Tullian Tchividjian

Hoping for the New Year | CBMW | The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

 

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 | Develop an Intentional Devotional Plan

30 Dec

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“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” Matthew 4:4

Feast on the Word of God and intentionally satisfy a soul craving spiritual sustenance. Make and keep a daily appointment with the Lord and experience the kind of fulfillment only He can provide. Pray before you begin that the eyes of your heart will be open (Ephesians 1:18) in order to achieve a fuller understanding of the Word. Incorporate the spiritual discipline of journaling into your plan and write down passages to pray through. Keep track of how God is working in your life throughout the year. Seek encouragement and share with others in your church family or life group. Fill up on the Word to quell the hunger and quench the thirst of a soul crying out for the Lord. 

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 by Justin Taylor

Do you want to read the whole Bible? The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.For those who like details, there’s a webpage devoted to how long it takes to read each book of the Bible. And if you want a simple handout that has every Bible book with a place to put a check next to every chapter, go here. Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

The remainder of the article, which includes great resources and tips can be viewed here: How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 – Justin Taylor

Additional resources:

Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Read the Bible in a Year

A Bible Reading Plan for Readers – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Want to Read the Bible through in 2014? – Mentoring Moments

Bible Reading Plans for 2014 by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog

God’s Bright Design for Your Bitter Providences|Taking Heart in Uncertainty

5 Oct

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 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” –Romans 8:28

 

It should be comforting to acknowledge the supreme sovereignty of our God who works exclusively for the good of those He has called and yet in the midst of suffering or life’s vagaries we are sometimes hard pressed to recognize His hand. What the “good” is or will be is often intangible, mysterious, and hidden to us but never to God. He knows exactly what He is accomplishing and we need to cast our fears aside and rein in our anxiousness by waiting upon, hoping in, resting with, and seeking out the Lord –in scripture, in prayer, in meditation. 

“In the life to come there shall be no more mixture; in hell there will be nothing but bitter; in heaven nothing but sweet; but in this life the providences of God are mixed, there is something of the sweet in them, and something of the bitter” –Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, 125.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

–William Cowper God Moves In a Mysterious Way.” 

God’s Bright Design for Your Bitter Providences

This is the will of God, your sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

The unexpected, unexplained twists and turns our lives take create all kinds of apparent uncertainties for us. And the profound pain we endure can be so perplexing. There is so much God doesn’t tell us — so much we think we would really like to know…

The secret things are the Lord’s for a very good reason. Trust him with the mystery. But the revealed things are yours and they are glorious. Believe them and one day you’ll share God’s holiness and all the forevermore pleasures he has prepared for you…

Excerpted from Jon Bloom’s God’s Bright Design for Your Bitter Providences – Desiring God.

Caroline Swithinbank’s Surprising Twist | Changing Seasons…Unchanging God

12 Jul

ice creamAre you single, single again, or spiritually single? Come and join other “somehow single” women for fellowship, encouragement, and ice cream Saturday, July 20, @ 2:35 PM–Click for more information or visit the Women’s Ministry cart for more information.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” –1 Peter 5:7

If, “…thoughts of becoming the reclusive “cat lady” plague your mind, or anxieties about the future economic demands of caring for yourself on one income begin to clutch at your throat…stir up your mind and heart to recognize the ways in which you, as a redeemed woman (who happens to be unmarried),…respond, speaks volumes on behalf of the church” (CBMW.org)

The following article shows God’s plans and glory are revealed in His time…

Caroline Swithinbank’s Surprising Twist3-21-13Wedding

In my mid-sixties, the Lord increasingly impressed Jeremiah 29:11 on my heart. As a lifelong single woman, my joy was in my professions—laboring in the Mustard Seed Christian bookstores and helping families raise their children. I felt God’s blessing in both occupations. I had the benefit of sitting under great preaching, Sunday school classes, mission conferences, and small-group Bible studies. I was happy . . . but still, in the recesses of my mind, I wondered: Didn’t God have someone—just one man—for me?

But life goes on. In 1999, I returned to England to care for my mother who had cancer. In spite of a one-year prognosis, she lived many more wonderful years during which we enjoyed a tranquil life together. While in England I participated in a local struggling Baptist church teaching Sunday School, ferrying “the oldies” to services and doctor’s appointments, etc. Very fulfilling, but still . . .

Then things became more challenging. After thirteen years, my mother quickly declined and in 2011 went to be with her Savior. My one surviving brother was hours away in Wales dealing with his wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer, so I had to tie up everything myself: executing the will, preparing the house to sell, and actually selling it. I had decided years ago that after my mother’s passing I would return to Pennsylvania, so I had to determine what treasures to jettison and which to pack.

While packing one day, Bruce—with whom I had been frequently corresponding—called from America. This was a man I’d known for thirty-eight years. We’d shared many experiences in the past, and I felt a unique spiritual and interpersonal kinship with him. He loved the Lord—and apparently me, too—because during this call he proposed marriage! I did what any sixty-seven-year-old-never-been-married-woman would do. I said, “Yes, yes. I accept, but I’m much too busy right now to think about it. We’ll talk later.” Little did I know how much busier I would get.

My mother died in August. I moved from England to Pennsylvania the following March. I broke my back in April. And in May, I got only a seven-hour reprieve from the rehab unit to get married, processing down the aisle of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in a wheelchair. (Don’t even ask about the honeymoon!)

Yes, the Lord knew His plans for me, and He does indeed want us to prosper—but in His timing and for His glory, with or without a spouse. My fundamental joy, contentment, and satisfaction in life reside in doing God’s will. I thank God for my husband, but he cannot bring me the ultimate sense of transcendent wellbeing that submitting to God does. I want to say with Paul that I am content in all circumstances and trust that He always has plans to prosper us—and not to harm us—to give us a hope and a future.

No matter your particular circumstances, be prepared for God to surprise you, too!

via True Woman | Caroline Swithinbank’s Surprising Twist.

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