“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”1 Thessalonians 5:11
About a week or so ago I was eating dinner at a local restaurant with a friend. I was eating way too many wings, talking about life and just having a great time! While we were sitting at our table, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turn around to see a group of teenage guys at the table directly behind me all looking in my direction. They all had their Bibles and notebooks open on the table and it immediately became apparent to me that they were having a Bible study. This, admittedly, initially made me nervous. I wasn’t really in the mood to get thrown into a time of prayer. However, the conversation that followed ultimately took a route that I wasn’t quite prepared for.
One of the guys at the table began to share that as the group all saw me sitting there eating way too many wings with one of my best friends, they could sense that Jesus was with me. It was so apparent and so obvious to them. They all seemed to be genuinely glad that I was in that restaurant that night and encouraged me to keep fighting the good fight. Their words stopped me in my tracks. I was unsure of how exactly to respond. So, I thanked them multiple times and then slowly turned back to my table and attempt to catch my breath and process what just happened.
I needed to hear their words that night. I needed to be reminded that Jesus was still with me. It’s not because I had forgotten, but because life has a funny way of making me feel isolated and misunderstood as I traverse through the inevitable ebbs and flows. I needed to remember that I am not alone, and that group of guys helped me do just that. Their encouragement was the reminder that my heart and mind needed then and still need now.
When I see verses in Scripture that implore us, as followers of Jesus, to encourage and edify others like in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, it can be easy for me to feel inadequate. I immediately assume that I don’t have the right words to say, or that it isn’t the right time to proverbially step out. But, those assumptions are just that, assumptions. It’s not our job to make sure that our encouraging words are perfect, rather, it is our job to do the best we can with what we have and lovingly and graciously share the words that God has asked us to share. We never know what kind of impact our words can truly have.
Well, I know it’s a bit late but here is the Access-Life#AL3IN3 for the month of JUNE! Hope you are blessed by the words and be on the lookout for our JULY #AL3IN3 soon to catch us back-up on our jokes, verses and updates.
I struggle taking time to pray. It’s not because I don’t have time to do it, and I know that my lack of prayer isn’t because I don’t know what to say. If you know me well, you know that I rarely find myself at a loss for words. So, if I have the time and the ability, why do I struggle so much with prayer?
My ultimate struggle with prayer is rooted in a flawed view of myself and a flawed view of God and the divine love that has been extended to me through the person and work of Jesus. When I think about praying, my initial assumption is that God has more important things to pay attention to and more important people to listen to than me. But, it doesn’t end there. When I introspect and process, I realize that I have a fear that God will eventually grow tired of my prayers, tired of my words, and eventually move on, like others have in my life. It is easy to take my life experiences and allow them to subconsciously impact the way that I view and interact with God, and ultimately, with the world around me. Of course, the mentalities that I previously described are certainly problematic and rooted in lies. I know that. However, lies and past hurts often stay in the forefront of my mind and heart, and that makes prayer nearly impossible.
Over the past few days and weeks, I’ve really felt God reminding me that God is proud to be with me and wants to be in relationship with me. God does not simply tolerate me or wait for me to become a better, future version of myself. God loves me right here and right now. And it is with that unending love and relationship in mind that I strive to, as the verse in 1 Thessalonians says, never stop praying. I can always go to God because God always wants to be with me. I will never be pushed away or belittled, I will be met with a love, grace, and mercy that surpasses all understanding. I can have confidence and boldness when talking to God and that motivates me to pray more.
My hope is that anyone reading this would be reminded that God wants to be in relationship with each and every one of us. God desires to be with us and that should give us confidence and boldness when we pray. Divine love and grace is constantly being extended towards us. We are seen, we are loved, and we are cared for by the One who will never grow tired of walking alongside us. And it is because of these realities that we strive to never stop praying.
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands” -Psalm 90:17
One thing that I am learning in life is just how difficult trusting God can be, especially when life is difficult and expectations simply aren’t met. But, I’ve learned that my ability and willingness to trust God has to be rooted in who God is and not in what I can see or comprehend. Life and expectations are too fickle to be the foundation of my hope.
This verse has become a prayer of mine as of late. The past two to three years of life have, frankly, been really difficult for me. Life, along with its many obstacles, has felt insurmountable in many ways. Door after door after door has closed and that has led me to ask one single question, “God, can’t you see that I’m trying?” Of course, God’s answer to that question is a resounding yes! When life is hard and doesn’t make sense, I have to cling to what I know. I am loved, I am seen, and I am not alone, for the God who holds the stars holds my heart. The favor of God, is resting on me even when that doesn’t feel true. And my efforts, when rooted in Christ, are building towards something good. I can trust that when God establishes the work of my hands, God is doing a good work.
So, even when life doesn’t go my way and doors continuously get closed, my hope can remain unchanged because the source of my hope hasn’t changed. The favor of God is still resting upon me even when it doesn’t feel like it. And it is with that knowledge that I can confidently believe that God will establish the work of my hands, even when I don’t see it.
My prayer for all of us is that we continue to grow to trust that God is with us and working within us bringing to fruition all the good that our faith prompts us to do.
Thanks to some hard work by our Ministry Support Lead, Kendahl Hancock our 2022 Spring Newsletter made it into the mail on May 2, 2002. This is a bit later than usual but given all of our health challenges recently – WE’LL TAKE IT. As we cannot “snail” mail everyone, I’ve attached a copy of the front and back for you all to see, read and share. I hope you enjoy all the good things God is doing through Access-Life!
The April #AL3IN3 is here! It is full of funny jokes, Access-Life news and verses about #FAITH, #HOPE and #GODSPROMISES! Here is my favorite: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
It can be so easy for me to take verses in Scripture like John 3:16 for granted. It’s a verse that I have been incredibly familiar with from a very early age. I can recite it completely without much mental effort. And while I certainly view memorizing scripture as a positive thing, I think I can sometimes forget how beautiful and impactful its words truly are.
I know God loves me. I do. In fact, I often point to this verse as a reminder of that reality. However, my actions don’t always match this mental catagory. I have a difficult time taking it from my head to my heart. Instead of reading a verse like John 3:16 and applying it to my own life, I often only apply it to the lives of others. God loves the whole world, God loves everybody. But does God truly and deeply love me? Sometimes I am not so sure.
This doubt in the divine love that Christ shows is ultimately sourced in my inability to see myself as someone who is worth loving and worth sacrificing for. But, I often am perfectly able and willing to see the rest of the world as made in God’s image, loved, and worth sacrificing for. I often allow my familiarity with my flaws and imperfections to override my familiarity with the truth that is found in Scripture.
I am learning that I can’t let my own view of myself hold me back from experiencing the love and grace that God always offers. I naturally will assume that I am not worthy of that kind of a divine gift. But, I have to remember that God’s love is just that, a gift that I am not worthy of. Coming to terms with the fact that I can’t earn God’s gift of love is hard for me. I often want to try to pay God back or show God that I was a good investment. But, that isn’t how love works. It’s not dependent on me or how I feel. I have to trust that God loves me regardless. I am just as worthy and deserving of love, not because of anything that I have done or how I see myself, but simply because of who God is. That is what I hope to cling to and celebrate as we remember what Christ did for all of us on Easter. May we remember what Christ did and see the beauty of a divine love that could never be earned.
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