Who Will Encourage You – Who Will You Encourage?

1 Thessalonians 3

Who has God placed in your life to encourage your faith?

For me, the list is long. It starts with my parents and grandparents. It continues with Sunday School teachers. Mike Taylor, Mike Compton and Rodney Salmon are like my fathers in ministry. James Lankford believed in me and gave me an opportunity to grow in ways I never imagined possible. And then there are pastors, Paul Box, Bobby Boyles, Walter Mullican, Dan Campbell, Roger Ferguson, & Chris Wall. Each in their own way helped me take my next step of faith.

There are friends I don’t get to spend as much time with as I would like because we live so far apart – Brian Waddell, Dustin Whitten, Eric Rogers, John McGee, Chris Mayfield, Johnny Baxter, Earl Donor, the Swans.

There are friends I’m honored to serve with everyday – Brent Andrews, Brad Aylor, Keith Davis, Joe McKeen, Kolby King, Ryan Hulseberg, Susan Helm & the rest of the staff at FBCO.

There are people I attend church with – these are too numerous to count.

Who has God placed in your life to encourage your faith?

Paul sent Timothy to the church at Thessalonica for two reasons. He wanted Timothy to encourage them in their faith. Paul wanted to be encouraged by their faith. And that’s exactly what happened. Timothy stepped into the lives of the Thessalonians. He encouraged their faith. He delivered the letter from Paul. He spoke words of life.

And the Thessalonians did the same.

I meet a lot of people who say they like Jesus but they don’t like the church. These people miss out on so much. God gave us one another. The church is filled with people I want to grow with, be accountable to and partner with in ministry. We encourage one another in our faith. We support one another in times of crisis. We serve together to accomplish our mission. Their strengths complement my weaknesses and my weaknesses complement their strengths. We’re far from perfect. We don’t always get along. Sometimes we get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes we argue and fight. Sometimes things get a little weird, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it because having these friendships is better than not having them. It’s worth it because they see things in our world I don’t see. They know things about God I don’t know. They have resources I’ll never have. And the same is true for me. When we come together, to share what we know, do what we do and use what we have something remarkable happens.

We become something more.

Your church and your friends are the family you choose. They should encourage and challenge your faith. You should encourage and challenge theirs. You should pray for one another something similar to what Paul prayed for the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, “May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.”

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for my parents and grandparents, my friends, mentors, teachers, coworkers & the churches you’ve placed in my life. My faith is strong because of their influence. My life is better because of them. Whatever the circumstance, Father, you’ve used these people in my life for my good. May you encourage them in their faith. I pray that today each of them would know your favor. I pray for them what Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, “May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us together very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.”

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Parents: Making Kids Believe You


parents1 Thessalonians 2

One of the most challenging parts of being a parent is learning how to navigate those areas of life where you and your child disagree. Because my wife was leading an event at church I was Mr. Mom last night. After we played outside I looked at my boys and said, “Bath time!” When mom says that there’s not usually an argument, just simple obedience. They hop up and get in the bath. But last night we enjoyed a guy’s night together and they weren’t done playing. My oldest son whined, my middle son pouted. My youngest son informed me that the Hulk doesn’t take a bath! Clearly that’s reason enough for him to skip his daily splash down!

When children are young parents can get away with influencing their kids using flimsy reasons like, “because I said so”. We can enforce our will by restricting privileges, removing certain toys and activities or using some form of loving corporal punishment. But as children grow older the effectiveness of each of those tools is diminished. There comes a point where our children begin to make a choice. They either believe we know what we’re talking about and follow our influence or they don’t.

In the past I’ve asked the question, “Is the quality of my parenting measured by the character of my kids?” To learn more read, “The Parent Trap“, a brief look at some of my answers to that question. But there’s another question here that is more practical. “How do I get my kids to believe me?”

There’s a pattern in Scripture. In some places we see the Bible say, “Children obey your parents.” In others we read, “Honor your father and mother.” I believe these instructions represent stages in the life of a child. When a child is young the goal is, “Children obey your parents.” When kids are young there is so much they don’t know. They need instruction and guidance. They need protection from the harsh realities of the world. They need the filter of their parents to help them understand right from wrong, good from bad, safe versus dangerous. When a parent yells, “STOP!” at a young child about to run into a busy street instant and complete obedience is necessary to save their life.

But as children grow older the goal changes. Today, I’m a father, but I’m also a son. I have incredible parents. I am blessed by them in ways too numerous to count. There’s never been a time in my life when they’ve failed to support and encourage me. I know I can trust them to provide wise, godly advice for any decision I have to make. But because I am an adult ultimately the decision is mine. At this point in our relationship together the significance of the Biblical instruction has changed from, “Children obey your parents”, to “Honor your father and mother.”

And that’s the goal. When children are young we want them to obey their parents, not for the ease, comfort and pleasure of the parent, not because ‘father knows best’, not because ‘I said so’, but because children who obey their parents when they are young grow into adults who honor their father and mother when they are old. As children grow older and eventually become adults our relationship with one another matures. What once was a matter of simple obedience now is a matter of mutual respect. What began with the hard and fast rule now is the guiding principle and precept.

Here’s how this applies to 1 Thessalonians 2. Paul talks to the people of the church at Thessalonica as though they were his children. He doesn’t say, “Do what I say because I’m an apostle and I command you.” Instead, he pleads with them as a loving father would his adult son. He lays down clear principles and precepts. He doesn’t pull punches, but he also doesn’t demand blind obedience. On the contrary Paul takes the time to lovingly convince, persuade and instruct them in the ways of God. I believe the affect of this approach is clearly seen in verse 13.

1 Thessalonians 2:13, “Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.”

That’s what I hope happens with my children. To some degree I’ve already seen it. What began with “because I said so” is maturing into conversations about how we make decisions on our own, what guiding principles and precepts help us choose wisely and why some things are simply right and others completely wrong. Ultimately the reason they make the choices they do has to be bigger than pleasing mom and dad. It has to be because they are convinced it is the wise, the right and the best choice to make.

And that’s what God wants from us. Certainly simple obedience is important. God really does know best so we should do what he says. While God honors blind obedience I don’t believe that’s what he wants from us in the long run. I think he wants us to mature past “children, obey your heavenly father,” to “children, honor your heavenly father.” Obedience out of compulsion is fine. Honor out of respect is better. Choosing to follow God out of honor and respect for Him is more admirable than choosing to follow God out of fear of punishment. Both may lead to the same outcome, but one is an expression of character and love, the other an expression of submission and fear.

Paul finishes the chapter the way every parent wants to be able to talk about their children. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, “After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.”

Will you be the pride and joy of your Heavenly Father today?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for my parents. Because of them I am blessed beyond words. Thank you that they have given me a remarkable example and pattern to follow as I raise my own children. Thank you that as I grew older they didn’t settle for demanding that I obey them because they said so, but they took the time to help me understand the differences between right and wrong, wisdom and foolishness. Now, as an adult, I can make right choices that lead to my success, that honor them and help me follow God. I pray that today you would bless my parents with your favor and loving-kindness. Let them know they are loved and appreciated – not just by me, but by so many others.

Be with my kids. Protect them from sin, temptation and harm. Help me to train them up in the way they should go. Give me the patience to help us move beyond “Children obey your parents,” to “Honor your father and mother.”

More than all these things help me to follow your word. Help me understand your will for me and my family. Help us become your pride and joy.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Story: Does Your Life Ring True?


Leon Shearhart Story

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Everyone enjoyed being around Leon Shearhart. He was a big man with a big personality. As an owner, sales rep and DJ for KVOO Radio Leon spent much of his time talking with people on the air and off. When he wasn’t telling a joke he was laying down wisdom using his best John Wayne impersonation. It’s one thing about Leon no one will forget. When you were with him you were certain to learn something and laugh while you learned it. It’s been several years since Leon passed away, but I still hear his voice on radio ads that play on stations throughout Tulsa. I had the privilege of serving with Leon at the church we both attended. I miss him.

Leon loved to talk about sales and marketing. He would tell a story about some sale he made, laugh and then say, “He that tooteth not his own horn oft find his horn not tooteth!”

It was corny and he knew it. No matter how many times he said it I always chuckled and so did anyone who was listening. I was reminded of Leon as I read 1 Thessalonians 1 this morning. 1 Thessalonians 1:8 says, “And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it…”

What do people say about your faith? Does your commitment to follow the word of God have the ring of truth? When people think of you what stories do they tell? What’s your reputation? What are you known for?

When Leon made his corny statement, “He that tooteth not his own horn oft find his horn not tooteth,” he wasn’t suggesting you should be some kind of a self-obsessed braggart. Those kind of people are annoying, “I’ve talked enough about myself. Tell me, what do you think about me!?” Leon didn’t intend that to mean you should constantly talk about yourself. He would always follow that funny statement with an explanation.

You get to choose what you’re know for.

Have you considered what story you want people to tell about you? Andy Stanley once said, “Never make a choice in the moment that will make you a liar for life.” That’s about your story. Never make a choice in the moment that will make you have to or want to lie about the stories you tell others about yourself or the stories others will tell about you.

For the people of the church of Thessalonica word got around. They were a people of faith who willingly followed God even though following him cost them something.

Today you will write your story. Make it a story of faith. Make it a story about the remarkable work of God in your life. Make it a story worth reading and repeating.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for friends like Leon. I pray for his wife, Virginia. She is such a sweet and godly woman. I am blessed because of them. Today, may she and her family know your favor and loving-kindness. May you make your presence in her life crystal clear. For me, my family and my friends, I pray that we would make choices today that honor you. I pray that we would build a godly reputation and that when people think of us they couldn’t help but think of your love for your people. When people think of us I pray they couldn’t help but be reminded of the grace of God you’ve given through your son, Jesus Christ. When they think of us may they be convinced of your love, mercy and forgiveness and may they be convicted of the need to place their faith in you. May they think of us like I think of Leon. May they think of us and smile, for the joy we gave, the wisdom we shared and the God we honored.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad