Encouraging Words

Last week I started teaching an international women’s group over the internet. I thought my notes from our lessons might be helpful to others, especially to international students of the Bible. Here are my notes from last Saturday. I chose to use the New Living Translation, rather than the English Standard Version like I usually use, because NLT is easier for those who are learning English as a second language. Feel free to share them or send me a private message!

Today I want to talk with you about encouraging words. Speaking encouraging words is something I would like to see within this women’s group, as well as in our homes, schools, communities, churches and jobs.

Ephesians 4:29b NLT,
“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”

 以 弗 所 書 4:29b  “却要适当地说造就人的好话,使听见的人得益处。”

Let’s work together on saying this Bible verse.

First, I want you to listen carefully while I say it.

  • Pay attention to how my voice rises and falls and how I put words together into phrases.
  • See how my hands and my voice tone help you to understand the meaning of the verse. Using hand motions and stressing words will help you to remember and understand the meaning of the verse.

Next, we will say this verse together.

Then, I will give each person a chance to try saying it by themselves.

Ephesians 4:29  “Let everything you say …. be good and helpful… so that
your words will be an encouragement …. to those who hear them.”

Now, let’s talk about the word ENCOURAGE. The word encourage comes from en + COURAGE…
“en” – to cause to have” + COURAGE!

In Matthew 14, we read about some of Jesus’s disciples who were on a boat in the middle of the night. There was a terrible storm, and the men were afraid. They were “terrified.” They were so scared because they were sitting in their boat far away from land in the middle of heavy waves in a storm.

Then, at 3 o’clock in the morning, Jesus walked out to them! When they saw Jesus walking on the water, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 

“Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
Matthew 14:27

耶稣立刻对他们说:“放心吧!是我,不要怕。”  马太福音 14:27 CNVS

Let’s try saying that verse now. First, I will say it by myself. Pay attention to my voice pattern and pronunciation.

Jesus spoke to them at once … Don’t be afraid .. he said .. Take courage. …. I am HERE!

Now, let’s try it together:

Jesus spoke to them at once … Don’t be afraid .. he said .. Take courage. …. I am HERE!

I’d like to give everyone who hasn’t spoken yet a chance to try it first.

Jesus spoke to them at once … Don’t be afraid .. he said .. Take courage. …. I am HERE!

What do you think, “Take courage” means? Courage doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid. Feeling afraid, feeling fear is a normal emotion that comes into your heart when you are facing a scary situation.

When you have courage, you are choosing to take heart, to overcome fear. Courage is choosing to do what is right, even when you feel afraid. Courage is choosing to say or do what you should even, when it’s scary.

Riding a chairlift
to the top of the Great Wall

Last year, my husband and I visited China for the first time. We stayed with a Chinese family that we had never met before. My husband and I don’t speak Chinese. It was scary to go to an unknown land, but God gave me courage through the Words of Scripture. I remembered when God called Abram to go to an unknown land. God promised that He would be with Abram and show him where to go.

While we were in China, we visited the Great Wall at Mu Tian Yu. Our friends got tickets for all of us to ride on a chair lift up to the Wall. I was so scared! I didn’t want to do it. My stomach was upset, and my hands were sweating, but my Chinese sister encouraged me with a sweet smile and kind words.

We, too, can help our friends, our husband and our children to have courage. We can help our coworkers and our students and even people we don’t know. We can help them by speaking encouraging words, by en-courage-ing them!

We can speak kind words, uplifting words, true words. We can remind them that God is WITH them, like Jesus said, “I am HERE!” We can remind them of God’s power and goodness. We can remind them that God has a special purpose for them.

I want this women’s group to encourage each other. We want to speak words of love, truth and kindness. We don’t want to cause others to fear, to discourage others!

Just as ENCOURAGE means to “give courage,” “to cause to take heart,” DISCOURAGE  (dis+courage)  means to “take away courage,” “to cause to lose heart!” Our words can either encourage others, or discourage others.

Don’t discourage anyone
who is making progress,
no matter how slow.

When I was a new believer in Jesus, I didn’t know anything about the Bible. I didn’t know that the book of John was in the Bible. I didn’t know who Paul or Peter were. I didn’t know how to look for a verse in the Bible using chapter and verse numbers.

My mother-in-law encouraged me. She helped me and was patient with me. Her encouraging words gave me courage to learn and study, rather than discouraging me by pointing out how little I knew.

We are all climbing English Mountain together. Some of us can speak and read English very well, but some of us are still near the bottom of the mountain. We can all help each other to climb to the next peak. You can help the person who is farther down on the mountain.

We are also all climbing Bible Mountain together. Some of us have lots of Bible knowledge, but some of us are still near the bottom of the mountain. We can also help each other to climb to the next peak. We can all help someone to climb to the next peak.

We can’t use a “chairlift” to reach the top of English Mountain or Bible Mountain. We all need to climb step by step, so let’s encourage one another as we do!

For more learning about encouragement, here are some Bible passages to read:

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11-15

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-25

“And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”
Romans 15:4-7

2 Chronicles 30 is a great example of how the Lord encouraged the Israelites through Hezekiah’s encouragement.

Chores for Homeschooled Teens

Hi! I love to make cool charts on the computer. We used one similar to this all summer, but I just updated it a little for the schoolyear. For perspective, I have a 16 year old daughter and a 13 year old son.

All three of us (that includes me!) choose chores from this list. The daily morning and afternoon chores are completed every day, but the chores on the bottom half are completed over a week. I hope this makes sense – I didn’t type any instructions on the chart.

I laminated the chart and put it up. Every day / week we mark off what we’ve completed until it’s all done. If we don’t finish something during the week, we will use Saturday morning to finish it. This means a clean house every week. YAY!

I’d love to hear your suggestions or questions. Feel free to comment below.

TWIG

You’re welcome to download a PDF copy here!

Counting rubbish

The other day when I was teaching English online to a student in China, our lesson was about taking care of the environment. This 11-year-old boy kept using the word “rubbish,” rather than “trash” or “garbage” like you’d usually hear in the United States of America.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this word as “useless waste or rejected matter, something that is worthless or nonsensical”

Though the word, “rubbish” sounded odd in my ears during that lesson, it is exactly what the translators chose for Philippians 3:8.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Philippians 3:7-9 ESV

What do we need to count as useless, as worthless, as waste, in order to gain Christ?

Whatever it is, it’s worth it.

The wind blows where it wishes

“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:5-8 ESV)

This week while watching the news coverage on Hurricane Delta, John 3:8 jumped off the page. We don’t know when, where or how powerfully the hurricane will hit. We are thankful for all the modern technology that allows us to track storms and make predictions, but moment by moment those predictions change. Ultimately, we don’t know … we can’t know … the future of a storm.

Likewise, we don’t know how the Spirit will move. We don’t know who He might call, or when.

When Simon Peter and his brother Andrew headed out to fish one morning, little did they know that would be the day they would be called by the Messiah to become fishers of men. (Matthew 4:18-19)

When an unidentified man suffering from leprosy left his house one morning, he couldn’t possibly have known that would be the day of his cleansing. (Matthew 8:2-3)

When Matthew was sitting in his tax booth one morning, he never could have known that was the day Jesus would invite him to follow him. (Matthew 9:9)

Just as I don’t know if today might be the last time I talk to my son or my daughter, my husband, my parent or my best friend, likewise I don’t know if today will be the day of salvation for a loved one I’ve prayed for faithfully for years.

For as much as we don’t know what exactly the future holds, there are some things we DO know.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10 ESV

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” – Psalm 100:3 ESV

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 ESV

The Ten Commandments Song

The TEN COMMANDMENTS song to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell.”

The Ten Commandments Song

I’m not a gifted singer, so please don’t leave me any comments about my lack of singing skills. 🙂 I just hope this song would help someone else like it’s helped me and my family. The hand motions really helped me, too!

(#1 – 1 God)
Commandment number one, commandment number one:
There is only one God, Commandment number one.

(#2 – Bow Down to idols)
Commandment number two, commandment number two:
Worship no one else but God, Commandment number two.

(#3 – W for Word by your mouth)
Commandment number three, commandment number three:
Use God’s name in special ways, Commandment number three.

(#4 – set aside one day)
Commandment number four, commandment number four:
Keep the sabbath holy, Commandment number four.

(#5 – Salute)
Commandment number five, commandment number five:
Honor your father and your mother, Commandment number five.

(#6 – Killing)
Commandment number six, commandment number six:
Don’t murder anyone, Commandment number six.

(#7 – Standing together at altar)
Commandment number seven, commandment number seven:
Love the person that you marry, Commandment number seven.

(#8 – Stealing, behind bars in jail)
Commandment number eight, commandment number eight:
Don’t steal anything, Commandment number eight.

(#9 – 9 people all agree, 1 person is lying)
Commandment number nine, commandment number nine:
Don’t tell lies at any time, Commandment number nine.

(#10 – Have sign)
Commandment number ten, commandment number ten:
Be content with what you have, Commandment number ten.

These are written that you may believe

I remember when I was about 14 or 15 years old and I was at a summer camp. One day, I had a few minutes by myself and I was sitting out on this big, grassy field looking up at the sunny, blue sky with the trees were waving gently in the breeze and in my heart, I thought,

“God, if you’re real, please show yourself to me.”

You might think that’s a strange thing for a teenager to ask, but unfortunately, I didn’t think that God was real, and I was quite certain that my plea would go unheard.

When I didn’t hear a voice speak from heaven or see a lightning bolt strike the ground in front of me, I left that field that day still believing that God didn’t exist.

And yet, my friends, God WAS showing Himself to me. In fact, I believe that God was who caused me to make such a request in the first place. Like Paul wrote in Romans chapter 1, God was showing Himself to me (and to all mankind) in the things that He had made – the sun, the blue sky, the wind and even the trees.

Again and again for millennia God has sent prophets and witnesses to speak His Words, including John the Baptist as we read about in John 1, telling people that Jesus was the Son of God, the King of Israel, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.

Again and again, God has faithfully manifested (made visible, shown) His glory so that mankind will be without excuse if they don’t believe in Him.

One way that God demonstrates His glory is through miraculous signs.

Right from the beginning of the Bible in Genesis, God has shown Himself through miraculous signs. God has often given man signs in the sky to prove His glory and power! When God created the sun, moon and stars in Genesis 1:14, we read, “God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and nights.”

And again, in Genesis 9, after the worldwide flood, God put a rainbow in the sky to be a sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood.

The Hebrew word for “sign” is “owth.” It can mean a signal, a distinguishing mark, a banner, a remembrance, a miraculous sign, an omen or a warning.

When God sent Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, God gave Moses the ability to perform miraculous signs to prove that God had sent him, SO THAT the Jewish people would believe Moses when he spoke to them. These signs included God causing Moses’s staff to turn into a snake and then back into a staff, as well as God causing his hand to be leprous and then healed, and even turning water into blood. (Exodus 4:6-9)

In today’s lesson, we read about the first of Jesus’s signs while He walked on the earth. This first sign was when Jesus turned water into wine. As John 2:11 says, this sign “manifested – MADE VISIBLE – His glory and His disciples believed in Him.” Again we see that signs are given to us by God that we would BELIEVE in Him, TRUST in Him, have FAITH that what He has promised is real – like Hebrews 11:1, that we would have assurance that the things we hope for, the things that we cannot see, are indeed REAL.

Later in John 2, verse 18, after Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and drove all the people and animals out of the temple, the Jews asked Jesus for another sign – a sign to prove His authority to do such a thing.

Jesus’s answer was, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

John 2:19

As you would expect, this answer confused the Jews at the time, but that’s because this sign wouldn’t come about until three years later when Jesus’s physical body had been killed and laid in a tomb to be resurrected three days later as we will read about in John chapters 19 and 20.

In the three years that Jesus conducted his ministry between this first sign at the wedding in Cana and His resurrection, Jesus did so many signs – feedings thousands of men, women and children with only a few fish and loaves of bread, healing blind men and deaf men and lame men and leprous men, walking on water and calming storms – and every one of those signs pointed to the fact that Jesus had all authority in heaven and on earth, that He was the only Begotten Son of God, that mankind should BELIEVE in Him as  the Messiah and King – just as John the Baptist had said.

After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to many of His disciples in person. These disciples told Thomas (another of Jesus’s disciples) that they had seen Jesus in person. Like John the Baptist, they bore witness to what they had seen and heard.

Yet, Thomas refused to believe their eyewitness testimony. Thomas said to them, in John 20:25 “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then (Jesus) said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28)

Because Thomas saw these physical signs of the resurrected Jesus, now He believed! Praise God for His faith. But let’s keep reading to see how Jesus answered him, in John 20:29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

God wants us still today to be His faithful witnesses with eyes and ears and hearts and mouths wide open, wide open to His Word and His ongoing works in the modern world, telling other people the good news that they, too,  can receive eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

God has given us His precious written Word, a record of the countless signs that Jesus did on earth. As John continued in the next two verses,

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 20:30-31

And again, in the final words of the book of John, John 21:25, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

I’m praying that each one of you would place your faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.

The “I do, We do, You do” Principle

For two and a half years I’ve followed the ‘I do, We do, You do” principle when teaching English as a Second Language classes online.

First, I model what I expect my student to do.

Then, we do it together.

Finally, my student does it on his own.

In teaching my daughter to drive, I am also following this same principle. First, she watches me drive. Then, she drives while I sit alongside her, giving lots of instruction. Next, she drives while I sit quietly, only offering suggestions when it is absolutely necessary. Finally, after months behind the wheel, she’s ready to drive on her own.

A good master craftsman ought to follow this very same principle with their apprentice. My aunt and uncle are expert potters. When I spent the summer at their home many years ago, they encouraged me to watch carefully while they told me what to do. Then, they gave me some clay to work with while instructing me every step of the way. And, at last, I was free to create my own work of art.

In our modern American society, I see so many ways we’re forgetting this wonderful principle, both as parents and as disciple-makers. As parents, we often turn the reins over to our children way too early. We let them pick what they wear, what they eat, and what they do as soon as they can squawk out their wishes. We fail to train and model for them properly. On the other hand, we might spend all our time lecturing our kids, without working alongside them, modeling for them how to make good decisions or accomplish household tasks. Rather than spending time doing household chores with our kids, we’re busy working in the kitchen or the yard, while they’re busy doing homework, playing sports or hanging with their friends.

As disciple-makers, we need to be careful to begin by modeling how we pray, how we study the Bible, and even how we share the gospel. Then, we pray together and study together and share the gospel together. Initially, we share lots of instruction and do most of the talking, gradually decreasing our input and encouraging them to increase their output. This is the best way to train our children to train their children. And, this is the best way to train new believers in how to walk the walk of faith.

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet Himself first, then urged them to do likewise. Paul poured faithfully into Timothy and Titus and many others, modeling for them and training them, and then sent them out to do likewise.

We, too, can go and make disciples! We, too, have been called to be integral leaders in the multiplication of the kingdom – whether at home or in our world.

“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

John 13:13-17 ESV

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Matthew 28:19-20a ESV

“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”

1 Corinthians 4:14-17 ESV

“Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Titus 2:3-5 ESV

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 1:15-17 ESV

For more study, search the words: imitate (imitat**) and example. Read through Paul’s letters in the New Testament paying special attention to how Paul encouraged and admonished those who were following him to follow Jesus and to set an example for others. (such as 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, Philippians 3:12-17, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)

What a difference a year makes

Oh, what a lot can happen in one year.

One year ago, September 15, 2019, I was watching my kids on the shores of Pensacola Beach. My oldest had a new love interest and we were there visiting him. They’d met online that summer. He’d come up to visit us once and now it was our turn to go down.

Somewhere in the last 365 days, that love interest turned into husband, and that oldest daughter moved south to be with him, and that idyllic seashore turned into a hurricane landing spot.

We never know what the future holds, whether abundant blessings or heartrending tragedy, but we can be sure of this: Our Heavenly Father is good. Our Heavenly Father is all-powerful. Our Heavenly Father is listening and watching and taking care of us every single day of every single year. He is worthy of our trust and adoration.

Come Worship the Lord with me.

-TWIG