Have you ever been part of a scavenger hunt, going from clue to clue to clue, only to realize at the very end of the hunt was a prize equivalent to something you would get out of a gum ball machine?  The joy is not in the prize, but in the journey!

Following Jesus is not just about getting the prize at the end (which is a lot better than a gum ball machine prize!!), it's about enjoying the journey he takes you on as you learn more and more about him, you, and life!  

We've learned in the weeks past that God may not duplicate a method in your life or in our church to accomplish a successful work (Principle #1) and that we must keep moving forward with God and resist ruts (Principle #2).  With that understanding, we embrace Principle #3:  God already has a plan, so use his!  

Whatever decision you are contemplating right now, God already has a plan.  It's okay to think, plan, discuss options, and seek advice from others when you have a decision to make.  However, in order to discern God's will for our life, we must be obedient to Scripture, for in God's Word is the solution to understanding God's will.  We read in Romans 11:33-36 a powerful praise to God for his sovereignty and wisdom.  In that doxology, a question is posed: who can possibly figure God out or know his will?  If we stop reading at the end of chapter 11, we miss the answer.  Romans 12:1-2 says if we 1) walk in obedience and offer our lives to be used by God however he sees fit and 2) renew our mind in God's word, God's love, God's character, then (and only then) will we be able to truly know God's will.  

The question on the table is not will God ever make his will known to you.  The real question is: will you remain in a position to know God's will.  That comes about by praising and worshiping him, obedience to him, and renewal of  your thought life.  When you renew your mind in the truth of God's word, you will see more clearly God's plan for your life.  

For more on this, watch the full message!  

What does traffic, toilets, and churches have in common?  None are pleasant when they're stuck!  Think about it, we never get stuck in traffic and rejoice!  We should never settle for getting stuck in our life, our family, or our church.  In order to experience the joy of following Christ, we must be willing to keep moving with God!  And that's principle #2 for a God-centered church (and life!).

We were designed for forward movement!  Our eyes are in the front of our head.  Our knees only bend one way which move us forward.  Walking backwards is doable, but awkward, and is never as productive as moving forward.  The same is true in your life and in your church.  God wants to bless us.  He wants us to have tremendous joy in our worshiping and serving.  He wants us to experience new things!  Getting stuck only leaves us to die in our complacency and apathy.  

However, there are two main reasons we avoid moving forward with God:  1) our need to "arrive" and 2) our longing to "stay."  How many times have you heard, "Are we there yet?" while taking a family trip?  We tend to miss the joy of the journey because we're so focused on the destination.  We need to arrive!  And when you're in a place you really like or are comfortable in, you've probably exclaimed, "I wish I didn't have to leave!"  We need to stay!  This desire was put in us by our Creator!  God created a  perfect place for man to live.  He then created man and put him in the Garden.  Man arrived!  And once he was in the Garden, man was designed to stay and never have to leave.  Because of man's sin he was banished from the Garden.  However, redemption was part of God's plan.  Jesus died on the cross for our sin.  If we accept his gift of salvation (John 3:16), we have the promise of spending eternity with him in heaven.  Our need to arrive and stay will be fulfilled in heaven, but never this earth!  When we look for that kind of permanency on earth, we will only get stuck!   Our longing to arrive and stay will not be satisfied and our “here” will never be permanent until God’s redemptive plan for all creation is realized, and heaven and earth come together under the rule of Christ, and we are with him forever!  Until then, we must be willing to move forward with God!

Jesus' call was to "follow" him, not "sit" with him.  He leads; we follow.  And when we follow, he leads us on an exciting journey!  We experience things that teach us more about God, ourselves, and others.  As we learn those lessons, we grow and mature and become more like Jesus.  This is part of God's plan!  But we'll never realize God's plan if we stay "stuck" in our own ways.  In I Kings 17 we read of God moving Elijah to a place alongside a brook where he would drink all the water he wanted and have food brought to him by the ravens.  Later, the brook dried up and God told Elijah to move again.  Elijah did.  Had he stayed, he would've died.  

Don't get stuck.  Notice when your brook is dried up.  Go when God says go.  Move when he says move.  As you move forward with God, you will experience all he has for you and you can be assured that what he has for you is awesome (Jeremiah 29:11; John 10:10).

For more on this, watch the full message!  

Special thanks to Jim Johnson (justapreacher.org) for his Godly wisdom and insight.  Check out his website and get a copy of his book, "8 Principles for a God-Centered Church" today!

Over the next 8 weeks I will be blogging about the 8 principles for a God-Centered Life, taken from my sermon series, "8 Principles of a God-Centered Church."  The Church is made up of individual people.  Therefore, the principles for a healthy church apply to our individual lives.  

Let's look at principle #1:  God may not duplicate a method.  He never got in a rut.  He is the Almighty Creator, therefore he is creative!  Throughout Scripture we see where God accomplished the same tasks using different methods.    Here are just a few examples:

Exodus 14 - God told Moses to hold his staff over the Red Sea. The waters parted and the Israelites crossed safely over. In Joshua 3 we read there was another body of water the Israelites needed to cross: the Jordan River. This time God’s instructions were for the priests carrying the Ark to step into the water and it would stop the flow of water and the Israelites would safely pass through on dry ground.

Joshua 6 - God instructed the Israelites to walk around Jericho once a day for 6 days. On the 7th day, they were to walk around the city 7 times and the priests blow trumpets. At the sound of the trumpets, the army was to shout and the walls of Jericho would come crashing down, giving Israel victory. In all of Israel’s battles, God never had them walk around another city again.

Exodus 17:3-6 - When the Israelites were thirsty, God told Moses to strike the rock and water would flow. On another occasion when the Israelites were thirsty, God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would flow (Numbers 20:2-12). Moses disobeyed and struck the rock instead. Because of this, he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.  This may seem severe, but notice the symbolism here: The first time Moses was to strike the rock for water to flow.  Jesus, the Rock (Psalm 118:22; Acts 4:11) would be struck and Living Water would flow (John 4:14).  Jesus said those who drink what he offers will never thirst again. There is no need to “strike the Rock twice” for our salvation.

II Samuel 5:17-25 - King David faced the same army twice. The first time God instructed David’s army to march straight in. The second time David came up against the Philistines, he inquired of God again. This time God told him to go around behind the Philistines and wait for the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees. Different methods. Victory both times.

Matthew 9:29 - Jesus heals two blind men by simply touching their eyes. In Mark 8:22-26 Jesus spit on a man’s eyes, touched him, and then touched him a second time. In a third healing, Jesus spat on the ground and made mud. He put the mud on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:6-7).  Healing occurred every time, however, different methods were used.  I believe Jesus did this so we wouldn't put our faith in the mud!  The healing came from Jesus!  

Much of what we do in our life is simply a repeat of what we did previously.  Much of what we do in the church is simply a repeat of what we’ve done before. We plan budgets based on last year’s budget and giving. We plan programs based on years past. While we outwardly say we want to embrace the new and not do things the way we’ve always done them, much of what we do is simply what we’ve always done.  We fall into ruts and many times don't even realize it until it's too late.  We lose our passion.  We fall into a pattern of "doing" without ever consulting God. We learn to rely on what's worked previously instead of seeking God for his plan for the here and now.  

So what should we learn from this?  I offer a few takeaways:

  1. God knows best, so ask him first.  We're so quick to jump in and forge ahead without first praying.  Resist putting your faith in past methods that were successful.  Instead, pray and seek God first.  He may have another way of accomplishing his work in you.  
  2. God does speak, so remain in a position to hear from him.  Have you ever been in a restaurant and witnessed a family eating, laughing, and engaging with one another?  Then you notice that "one kid" who has his headphones plugged his ears and is in his own world, detached from everyone else.   Don't be "that kid" who misses engaging with God because you have your ears plugged.  Be willing to remove the "headphones" of ego, pride, busyness, unresolved bitterness, lack of forgiveness, past hurts you haven't dealt with, toxic relationships, etc.  
  3. Put your faith in God, not the method.  God is the ultimate source of provision, healing, strength and wisdom.  Remember, our faith is not in the mud!
  4. Stay flexible.  There's nothing pleasurable about being stiff and rigid.  Like a rubber band, you will be stretched when you get out of your rut and follow God's plan.  He'll take you to new and exciting places. He'll do whatever is necessary to keep you focused on him and not become self-reliant.  

For more on this, watch the full message!  

A special thanks to Jim Johnson (justapreacher.org) for his insight and Godly wisdom in writing, 8 Principles of a God-Centered Church.  

In his book, "8 Principles for a God-Centered Church," Jim Johnson (justapreacher.org) offers Godly wisdom from the Bible for both individuals and churches.  Over the next weeks I will be sharing some teachings from his book as well as offering some insight of my own.

 

There are so many valuable lessons to learn in life.  Wouldn't it be nice if we learned those lessons the first time they were taught to us?  Unfortunately we don't always learn the first time.  Sometimes we even have to suffer discomfort or pain on some level before we really learn.  We've all been there.  Jesus' disciples were no different.

Jesus chose 12 men to help him change the world.  These men were common and ordinary.  Some were fishermen and one was even a tax collector who worked for the opposing Roman government.  They all came from different walks of life but had several things in common: they were sinners who stood in the need of God's grace, they were all given an invitation to abandon the ordinary and follow Jesus, and they all had lessons they would need to learn.  In other words, these men were like you and me!

One such lesson they would need to learn is the lesson of the loaves.  In Mark 6 we read where Jesus sent his disciples out in teams of two.  He instructed them to take nothing on their journey except the shoes on their feet, the clothes on their back, and a walking stick.  No money, no extra clothes, no food, nothing.  Nada!  Zip!  Yet, he assured them they would have a place to sleep and food to eat.  Later, when the disciples returned to Jesus, they gave him a glowing ministry report and bragged of all they had accomplished (Mark 6:30).  Notice:  Jesus called them, Jesus empowered them, Jesus gave them his authority over evil spirits, and Jesus provided for them.  Yet when the disciples reported back to Jesus, they were quick to share all that they had done.  So how did Jesus respond?  He told them to get in a boat with him and they set off on cruise across the lake.  Oh did Jesus have a lesson to teach his friends!  

Supposedly heading to a solitary place to get some rest, Jesus led his disciples straight into a hungry crowd of people.  Jesus saw the needs of these people and he had compassion on them.  First he met their spiritual need by teaching them about the Kingdom of God.  Then he met their physical need of hunger in such a way as to teach his disciples the lesson of the loaves.  Noticing the hunger, Jesus' disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowd away to go get food.  Jesus had a better idea.  "You give them something to eat," he instructed.  "What?!  It's not in the budget!  We can't afford to feed all these people?"  Ok, the disciples didn't necessarily say it that way, but that's the idea (Mark 6:35-37).  

It was as if Jesus was saying, "You came back and told me all that you had done.  So feeding several thousand people shouldn't be too difficult for you."  You see, the disciples failed to realize they hadn't accomplished anything on their own.  It was Jesus who called them, empowered them and provided for them.  They stole his glory.  They took credit for what God accomplished through them.  But instead of rebuking them harshly, Jesus essentially said, "Apparently you don't me.  You can do this on your own.  So go ahead, you feed the people."  When the disciples saw the impossibility of accomplishing such a task, Jesus told them to gather what food was available: 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Jesus blessed it and fed the crowd.  Then he instructed his disciples to gather the leftovers: 12 baskets to be exact.  Hmmm...one basket for each disciple.  

Surely the disciples learned the lesson of the loaves by now!  Or did they?  In the very next set of verses (Mark 6:45-52) we learn that the disciples were in a boat when a storm blew up.  They were terrified and didn't recognize Jesus walking on the water towards them.  Jesus climbed in the boat with them, and the wind died down.  The disciples were shocked at this.  They still had not learned the lesson of the loaves because their hearts were hardened (v.52).

So what is the lesson of the loaves?

  1. God is sovereign.  Jesus calmed the storm.  
  2. God is our provider.  Jesus provided for the disciples when he sent them out in teams of two.  Jesus met the spiritual needs of the crowds of people.  Jesus met the physical needs by feeding the masses.  
  3. God empowers us to do all that we do.  Jesus called and equipped his disciples.  He sustained them for success.  
  4. We should never attempt to steal God's glory.  It's so easy to brag about the good we've done.  However, living with an awareness that it's God who empowers and provides for us keeps us humble, protects us from an inflated ego, and positions us to receive God's best.  

For more on this, watch the full message!

Do you want your life to count for something?  Sure!  We all do!  For most of us, we care about the legacy we leave.  Everything we do and say and the actions we take towards others leaves an impression.  As Christ followers, Jesus wants us to impact our world.  I don't mean the world, I mean your world: your family, friends, workplace, school campus, and your sphere of influence.  

So how do we impact our world?  Let's look at Scripture to learn:  Daniel 6.  Daniel was a Hebrew who, as a teenager, was taken captive into a pagan Babylonian culture to serve at the pleasure of the king.  He served faithfully while never compromising his faith and loyalty to God.  When Daniel was 90 years old, King Darius allowed officials in his kingdom to talk him into issuing a decree that everyone must worship him and anyone caught praying to another deity would be thrown into the lion's den to be consumed by the beasts.  Regardless of the decree, Daniel never wavered in his love and devotion to God.  He continued to pray 3 times a day with his face towards Jerusalem.  As a result he was thrown into the lion's den.  However, God shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel's life was spared.  When the king learned of Daniel's survival, he rejoiced and issued a decree that all must worship Daniel's God.  The men who conspired against Daniel were thrown into the lion's den along with their wives and children and were consumed by the beasts before their bodies hit the ground!

This amazing story shows us how to impact our world:

  1. We must have a good reputation (Daniel 6:1-4)
  2. We must form holy habits (Daniel 6:5-10)
  3. We must respect authority God has placed over us (Daniel 6:11-22)
  4. We must have an unwavering faith (Daniel 6:23)

When we do this, we will impact our world!  We will prosper (Daniel 6:24-28).  We will be blessed.  We will leave a Godly legacy for our children and future generations.  

For more on this, watch the full message!

We often say, "God bless you" when someone sneezes or needs comforting.  We say it perhaps without even thinking of what that really means.  God wants to bless you.  I mean really bless you!  In Psalm 23 we read where the God not only meets our needs but he overflows our cup!  In John 10:10 Jesus said he came to give life to the fullest.  So how do we realize God's overflowing blessings in our life?

For life to even begin, we have to have a rebirth.  Sin killed our spirit and without Jesus in our life we are a walking dead man.  We have a body, but our spirit that lives forever is dead.  Jesus said in order to truly live, and live forever with him in heaven, we must be "born again" (John 3:3).  Our first birth was a physical birth.  To be born again is to allow God's Holy Spirit to revive our spirit that is dead in sin.  Once we trust Jesus as our Savior, we are on our way to experiencing God's abundant blessings.  

Colossians 2:6-7 says, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught."  These verses tell us there is a 1) Spiritual birth,  2) Spiritual growth3) Spiritual maturity that follows our growth that ultimately leads to a 4) lifestyle of obedience.  This process is how we experience God's abundant, overflowing blessings!  

We have to make a choice to obey God.  We can't do it apart from God's Holy Spirit empowering us.  We have to die to self and choose to follow God's Word.  Just like we make the choice to obey, we can also choose to disobey.  However, when we walk in disobedience, we miss God's best and we gravitate to the worst.  

Choose today to walk in obedience to God.  Choose to be thankful.  You will have the peace of Christ in our life, and you will experience God's overflowing blessings! 

For more on this, watch the full message.

Did you ever play Follow the Leader in school?  Or how about this: were you ever blindfolded and had to navigate solely by someone's voice commands?  In both cases there is a necessary ingredient to being a good follower: you have to trust the leader!  

In my last blog I talked about being a Godly leader.  Whether you are in a leadership position or not, all of us have been called to follow Christ.  If you've answered the call to follow him, there are two things you must do: trust him and obey him. 

In Proverbs 3:5-6 the Bible tells us to trust God in all our ways and to not lean on our own understanding.  Our trust in God must move us beyond a casual approach to following Christ.  Because we trust him with our very life, we trust his motives.  We move when he says move and we stay when he says stay.  God, your will be done becomes the truest desire of our heart.  Our trust in Jesus steers our actions we take and the words we use; the places we go and the things we do.  We don't waste time doubting God's character.  We read God's Word for direction.  We do what it says, even when it challenges us and goes against our flesh.  

Secondly, we must obey.  A natural offshoot of trusting is obeying.  You see, all disobedience is sin, and all sin is rooted in an attitude that doubts God's Word and God's character.  Obedience is 1) the right way (attitude), 2) right away (punctual), and 3) all the way (100%).  Anything less than that is not true obedience. 

Jesus is the best example for one who lived an obedient life.  Philippians 2:6-8 tells us that Jesus became obedient to death on a cross.  Why?  Because he loved us!  As he followed the will of the Father, so should we.  

For more on this, watch the full message!

Arrogant.  Wealthy.  Powerful.  Unapproachable.  Intimidating.  Busy.  Perhaps these are a few words that come to mind when you think of leadership.  Many of us have had leaders in our life that displayed a less than honorable character.

Unfortunately, because of that, our mindset towards being a leader or following a leader may be more worldly than Biblical.  However, as Christ followers, we must have a Biblical understanding of leadership.  God has called many of us to lead, whether in our homes, our churches, our communities, or our places of business.  We're all called to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Good leaders are good followers of Jesus.  But what does that mean?  How does that look?  Maybe it's time we renew our mind towards leadership.  Here are 6 realities about Godly leadership:

First take a few moments to read Acts 20:17-24.

  1. Godly leaders have unwavering integrity that is constant.  One of the most valuable assets we have is our word.  One of the greatest gifts someone can give us is their trust.  When we are honest, people trust our word.  When our actions match our words, we have integrity.  Others under our leadership will pay way more attention to our actions than our words.  It's been said, "More is caught than taught."  That's so true.  When people observe our actions, they should see God's Word being lived out.  
  2. Godly leaders serve with humility.  The greatest model of Godly leadership was Jesus himself.  And how did he lead?  He served.  How did he serve?  With humility (Philippians 2:6-8).  On the night before he was crucified, Jesus shared a very special meal with his friends, his disciples.  At that meal, he assumed the role of a servant and washed their feet.  Then he told his disciples to serve each other in the same manner.  Godly leaders are not "too good" to do anything they would ask anyone under their leadership to do.  
  3. Godly leaders carry a burden for God's people.  Fact: if Godly leaders don't have a burden for those under their leadership, they won't lead effectively.  What motivates a parent to train and discipline her child?  A deep desire to see that child grow, learn and mature, and to learn lessons that will benefit her and protect her later in life.  In other words, a burden for the child motives the parent to lead!  When we have a burden for people, as leaders we resist the urge to become impatient and short-tempered.  When we carry a burden for others, we understand that leading is a process and we practice patience and understanding.  
  4. Godly leaders will be tested.  Leading is not easy.  For many it doesn't come naturally.  Leading is a skill and in most cases has to be learned.  Therefore, there will be tests along the way.  Some people will challenge your leadership.  Some will refuse to follow.  Others will mock you.  But in every test there is an opportunity to learn, grow and mature as a leader. Just as stress on our bodies builds strong muscles, the stresses of leadership can build us into strong leaders.  Resist the urge to take everything personally.  In most cases, others' poor behavior towards you usually has more to do with them and nothing to do with you at all!  Keep your focus on Christ.  And that leads me to the next crucial point:
  5. Godly leaders don't compromise God's Word.  God's Word is truth.  According to Jesus, if we put his words into practice we are like a wise man who built his house (life) on a foundation of rock so that when life's storms beat against the house, it would stand strong.  There will be times we have to confront those under our leadership because of something they are doing that is wrong.  Don't shy away from confrontation.  Lovingly and firmly approach them and point them to God's Word.  The truth is not always easy to communicate, but it always set us free!
  6. Godly leaders remember they belong to Jesus.  Any authority we have is because God has put us in a position of leadership.  We should never become arrogant about our position.  Ultimately, we have to answer to God for how we lead.  Every action we take and every word we speak to those around us should be wrapped firmly in love (I Corinthians 16:14).  Leaders are not defined by their role as leaders, but have willingly lost their identity in Jesus Christ.  That means God gets the glory for anything a Godly leader accomplishes.  Why?  Because without God, nothing is impossible; especially being a Godly leader!

For more on this, watch the full message!  

 

Let's face it:  we value good service above most things.  Think about it.  You can go to a restaurant that serves incredible food, but if the service is lousy, chances are you won't go back.  We appreciate good customer service no matter who we are doing business with.  As much as we value good service, Jesus values it more.  As a matter fact, he valued it so much, he did something radical, and then told us to do the same thing!

In John 13:1-15 we read where Jesus washed his disciples' feet.  As they were preparing to share a very special meal together just hours before Jesus would be arrested and eventually crucified, Jesus displayed an incredible act of love:  he took the role of a servant and washed the dirty feet of his friends.  Don't miss that!  The King of the Universe refused to grieve for himself over the agony he would face later that night and instead turned his focus toward serving.  After he washed their feet he asked them a simple question: "Do you understand what I have done for you?"  He explained that just as he, their Master, took the role of a servant and humbled himself to wash their feet, they were to do likewise.  

Galatians 5:1 tells us that Jesus died for our freedom!  In Galatians 5:13 we're told that we are not to use our freedom to indulge in our own selfish desires, but to use our freedom to serve one another!  This is contrary to the patterns of this world's thinking.  Many use their freedom for selfish gain.  Many use their freedom to say hurtful things or behave in cruel ways all the while flaunting their freedom to do so.  But as Christ followers we are to use our freedom to serve one another.  Let me give you three simple takeaways from this:

  1. You are FREE in Christ!  Jesus stated that he was the truth, and the truth indeed sets us free.  Freedom is the removal from illegitimate bondage so that you can maximize your full potential.  Sin entangles you.  Jesus sets you free.  Guilt entangles you.  Jesus sets you free because there is no condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1).  Sin leads to death.  Jesus sets you free and gives you eternal life!
  2. Because we are free, we need to help set others free!  Imagine you and a friend have been kidnapped, tied up and left alone to die.  Miraculously you slip out of the bondage of being tied up and are freed!  What's your next move?  Do you help free your friend or leave him or her there to die?  Of course you help set him or her free!  If you are in Christ, Jesus has set you free from the bondage of sin and guilt.  You should actively pursue opportunities to set those around you free who are still in bondage.  This is called ministry!  And the greatest act of serving someone is pointing them to the Word of God.  Jesus promised us that if we build our life on his words, we can withstand the storms of life and not be destroyed.  Do you have a friend hurting right now?  A family member in bondage? Serve them!  Point them to the Word of God, teach them, encourage them, and pray for them!
  3. Authentic serving happens when we are actively involved, not sitting on the sidelines watching others serve.  When we "sit in the stands" instead of being on the team that's playing on the field, it's easy to become very critical of the team and practice a good dose of "Monday morning quarterbacking."  When we sit in the stands, we don't see and hear what the team sees.  When we're not on the team, we don't have a relationship with the coach.  When we're not on the team, we don't take ownership and responsibility.  If you want to authentically serve others, you must get on the team and take ownership of what's happening in your church.  It's very difficult to become overly critical of that which you've taken ownership of.  Serving people are happy people.  Serving people are on the field.  Disgruntled people stay in the stands. 

For more on this, watch the full message.  And don't forget to "like" my Dr. Jeremy Gates Facebook page!  

A couple of weeks ago I was having "one of those days."  Nothing really bad was happening.  I was just tired, I had a lot on my plate, and feeling a little "blah."  That afternoon I received a card in the mail from a young lady who was a former youth of mine many moons ago when I was a youth pastor. 

In the card was written some of the sweetest and most encouraging things a person could say to me.  As I read the letter she inserted into the card, I began to tear up.  I called my wife and told her what a blessing it was to receive such encouragement.  

Encouragement.  We all need it.  The Bible even tells us to encourage one another.  Let's face it: life is hard.  And we all need a little encouragement from time to time.  It seems we are lacking that today in our busy and self-focused culture.  But encouraging someone is good for the other person and for you!  One of the most powerful ways we can be an encourager is found in Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."  That, quite possibly, could be so simple that we miss it!  So let's not miss it...let's look:

  1. Rejoice with those who rejoice.  Remember when you were a kid and you accomplished something you thought was amazing?  What did you do?  If you were like me you wanted to show someone!  "Look what I did!"  I was blessed to have parents who celebrated my victories and shared in my excitement.  It was encouraging to me for someone else to rejoice with me!  On the contrary, have you ever been enjoying your favorite food and had someone come along and say, "Ewww....you like that?!"  As someone once told me, don't yuk someone else's yum!  It's rude and not encouraging.  We much prefer it when someone rejoices with us when we are rejoicing.
  2. Mourn with those who mourn.  If you've ever been in the midst of grieving and had someone come along and sit with you, maybe even cry with you, you understand the power in mourning with those who mourn.  In other words, we are to help bear the hurt and pain of others.  One of the most powerful ways we can mourn with those who mourn is to share our own story of hurts and pain.  Some of the greatest moments when I've been encouraged is when someone would come alongside me and share with me stories of his or her own times of testing and hurts.  It relieved me to know that others have gone through pain just like me and came out victorious.  I've learned as a chaplain in law enforcement, after having delivered a number of death notifications, the greatest ministry I can do for the hurting family is to sit beside them and be with them.  I don't have to say much if anything.  There's value and comfort for the family in just my being there.  Don't try to solve all the issues or feel you have to answer all the questions when you're with someone who is mourning.  Just mourn with them and be.  There'll be time in the future to go deeper.
  3. You can't rejoice with them, or mourn with them, if you're not with them!  So build relationships!  We're created for relationships.  We need each other.  We need to laugh together, cry together, joke with one another, laugh at each other, tease each other, comfort each other, rejoice with each other, and mourn with each other.  We're not designed to go through this life alone.  So choose to connect to God's people.  Be part of a church where you can find encouragement and be an encourager!  

So who do you need to encourage today?  Live with an awareness that at any moment you may be called on to encourage a hurting person.  Rejoice with them.  Mourn with them.  Connect with them.  For more on this, watch the full message!