Tag Archives: encouragement

Some Things Never Change (Guest Post)

Image by Engin_Akyurt from Pixabay

Some Things Never Change

by Steph Beth Nickel

Livestreaming church services. Economic upheaval. Social distancing. Self-isolation. Pandemic.

It’s what we talk about. It’s what we think about. It’s what we pray about—when we can muster the energy to pray.

It seemed like a very good time to focus on some of those things that simply never change. Here are 11 things to consider:

We are called to be outwardly focused.

As Christians, we’ve known this all along. But true confession time … Until recently, I didn’t realize just how self-focused I am. Am I really doing what I do to 1) honour God and 2) bless others? I want these goals to be my motivation, but too often they haven’t been. These days are the perfect opportunity to ask God to refine our motives. (All the while, we must extend grace to ourselves and remember that self-care isn’t necessarily selfish or self-centred. See below for further encouragement in these areas.)

There are always opportunities to minister to others.

Even now, there is so much we can do to bless others: post something encouraging on social media; pick up the phone and check on a senior who doesn’t have access to the Internet; offer to drop off groceries to someone who is apprehensive about venturing out. Even with social distancing, there is much we can do for one another.

Turns out our parents and Kindergarten teachers were right; it is nice to share.

This truth needs no explanation except to say there will be people who need financial assistance, a kind word, and/or a smile today. If we have the opportunity, let’s be generous with what we have and trust the Lord to provide for our needs.

We need one another.

Of course, this is another truth we’ve known all along, but it’s crystal clear with the current situation. Kindness and acts of service are crucial at this time. There may be restrictions as to how we can help, but we certainly need one another.

Our healthcare workers need our prayers—as do our government leaders.

There has never been a more important time to add our government leaders and healthcare workers to our prayer list. With the everchanging information about this virus that is circulating—even among the professionals—it’s difficult for them to know what the right thing to do is. They need the Lord’s wisdom and protection. (If you are either a healthcare professional or a government leader, thank you so much for your service!)

During difficult, uncertain times, we have Someone to turn to.

We’ve all gone through difficulty in our life: illness, loss, economic hardships … God was faithful then, and He’s faithful now. When we’re confused, overwhelmed, and struggling to make sense of it all, God invites us to draw near to Him, promising that He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

God loves us.

Don’t you love the fact that the Bible teaches not only that God is loving but also that He is love (1 John 4:7)? We can rest assured of His love when things are going well—and when a worldwide pandemic has changed so much.

God was not taken by surprise.

When the world changes overnight—and sometimes, hour by hour—we don’t feel equipped to keep up. Could any of us have seen ourselves in this situation a month ago? I know I couldn’t. Still, God wasn’t taken by surprise. And whether or not we feel prepared to face the days ahead, He’ll see us through.

No matter what happens in our world, we can rest assured that God never changes.

This is, perhaps, the singular truth that sees me through each day. While my life hasn’t changed all that much, I still sense the heaviness of this new reality. I can vegetate on the couch and watch Netflix and sleep more than usual—or I can trust in our unchanging heavenly Father and seek to accomplish the tasks He has set before me.

We are called to extend grace—to others and to ourselves.

The word should can cause big problems. Of course, the Bible lays out hundreds of clear Shoulds and Should Nots. However, when it comes to facing our current, unprecedented situation, we must be careful how we seek to impose our convictions—even God’s—on others. Even as believers, there are many times we’d be in big trouble if it weren’t for the Lord’s grace and Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf. We must remember that many of the people we interact with do not know Jesus as Saviour, which I believe provides the opportunity for us to show them we are Christians by our love—not our judgment.

There is a balance between self-sacrifice and self-care.

We can find several examples in the Scriptures that indicate that we are to put others’ needs ahead of our own. At the same time, we must remember that, unless we care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, we will soon have virtually nothing to offer those the Lord has brought into our life. May we prayerfully seek God’s perspective in this area, as in all others.

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Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

9 Years of Blogging

Cake with candle and caption: celebrate!Nine years ago today, I posted my very first devotional. So… it seems a good moment to announce the project I’ve been quietly working on for the past year:

A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions will be (you guessed it) a one-year book of daily devotionals, compiled from updated versions of the best of nine years’ devotional posts here.

The book will release in print and electronic formats in April, and I hope to do a cover reveal soon.

Does this mean I’m not writing more fiction? Definitely not! The first book in the Green Dory Inn Mystery series is well in hand, and I’m aiming for a late 2017 release. My newsletter subscribers will hear about it first, but I’ll be sharing here on my blog as well. Want to subscribe? Click here: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

An Encourager

Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul.
Acts 11:25, NLT*

Gentiles were coming to faith in Antioch, and the leaders in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to visit. He was excited to see what God was doing, and sometime after arriving, he left to get Saul. When they returned to Antioch, they stayed a whole year. Clearly, there was a lot to be done.

Paul had been sent away from Jerusalem for his own safety, because his preaching about Jesus was so powerful it made him a target. Perhaps Barnabas thought bringing him in to speak to Gentiles instead of Jews would be safer?

The New Testament shows Barnabas as an encourager, one who believed in people, saw their abilities, and who spoke up for them when needed. He also brought them alongside to work with him.

He saw an opportunity in Antioch, or perhaps a need, and rather than trying to do it all himself or even just recruit the locals to help, he went for Saul. Did he have to go personally because he thought he’d need to convince Saul?

Sometimes it’s easier to keep slogging by ourselves, especially if we have a certain way we like things done. Barnabas reminds us to be open to God’s leading about partnerships and about encouragement.

God who gives us different gifts and abilities, please help us to discern the abilities in the people around us, and give us willing hearts to involve them in our lives and our work. Help us to affirm in others what You have placed there, for the overall increase of Your Kingdom.

Matt Maher’s song, “Instrument,” affirms our calling to community in serving our Lord.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Guest Post: Just Say No—To Overextending Yourself

Just Say No—To Overextending Yourself

by Steph Beth Nickel

If you know me at all, you know that I’m eclectically-interested and eclectically-involved. For the most part, I thrive on having many different projects on the go at once.

But there are times . . .

This September my eldest is getting married in Scotland, which means not only will I be out of my office for the best parts of three weeks, but I also have “last minute” plans to get organized before we wing our way across the Pond.

I was hoping to get up north to visit with my friend and coauthor and also touch base with one of my favourite authors who has a summer home not too far from Deb. But alas, that is not going to happen.

And that’s okay . . .

In fact, it’s better than okay. Sometimes cramming just one more thing into our schedule—even something wonderful—is not the best option.

Are you busy?

You may now get up off the floor, wipe the tears from your eyes from laughing so hard, and continue reading.

Most of us are busy, but believe it or not, we can likely pare down our To Do list with a little concerted effort and the admission that superheroes only exist in the world of fiction. We also have to admit that not everything is as important as it may seem.

As Stephen Covey says, “We must not confuse the urgent with the important.”

"Just say no to overextending yourself."

Click image to tweet. (Photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel)

Here’s my challenge to you:

  1. Grab your To Do list.
  2. Make sure it’s complete.
  3. Take a deep breath.
  4. Offer a prayer for wisdom and guidance.
  5. Pick up your pen.
  6. Cross off—or reschedule—at least two items from today’s list.
  7. Continue to do so well into the future until you become comfortable admitting that you just can’t do it all.

And guess what . . .

That’s a very good thing, for there are times the best option is to just say no.

Did you catch the most crucial step? If we made it a practice to not only add #4 to our list but also to bump it to #1, our lives would look much different.

Will we disappoint people at times? Sure we will.

Will we be disappointed? Absolutely! There are a lot of things we would like to do, a lot of things we feel we ought to do. But we need divine wisdom as we decide what to take on, what to postpone, and what to leave to someone else.

And if we make it a habit to include discretionary time on each day’s schedule, when something comes up that we weren’t planning on doing but feel we really ought to or want to, we won’t be stretched to the limit—or beyond.

For many of us, we have to watch out for our old nemesis, guilt. No is not a swear word.

Just remember, God has plans and purposes for us and we don’t want to be so overextended that we don’t recognize them when they come our way.

Just say no to overextending yourself. (Click to tweet)

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Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Messages that Encourage Me

Messages that have resonated with me lately:

“God has given you praise as a weapon to defeat despair. ” Victory Over Despair, by Nike Chillemi

The Weapon of Praise, posted by Grace Fox.

“How do we most glorify God? By being completely satisfied in Him, realizing that the neediness we have is designed by our Creator in order to be fulfilled by Jesus. ” Satisfaction for a Thirsty Soul, by Jake Riddle

“Wait on God and He will work, but don’t wait in spiritual sulks because you cannot see an inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our spiritual hysterics to wait on God? To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told.” (Oswald Chambers, quoted at ochristian.com)

“Inadequacy can be one of the best blessings in your life if you respond properly.” The Good Side of Inadequacy, audio message by Dr. Charles Stanley (Do take 25 minutes and listen to this…)

Offline, what is God using most to speak to my spirit? Matt Maher‘s newest album, Saints and Sinners, and Eugene H. Peterson’s classic, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

Waiting as Worship

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14, NIV*

Waiting. It’s a challenge. We who hope in God wait for Him to act, to speak, to comfort.

There’s an element of strain in that. “When, Lord? How long?”

When we give in to that strain, we miss part of the waiting. We miss simply waiting for (or with) God. Being with Him, even when we can’t sense His presence. He’s with us – He promised, and we can depend on that, whatever we feel.

His timing won’t speed up if we’re peering at the horizon and begging, “Are we there yet?” I’m learning that when I do that, I miss what He has for me in the now. Maybe it’s rest. Maybe it’s a quiet word He wants to drop into my spirit. It could be an opportunity I’ll miss if I’m looking too far ahead.

Most of all, I miss His presence. Especially in the stressful times, His presence is subtle, easy to miss. And it’s what I most need.

Quieting ourselves before God, entrusting our needs to Him and abiding in Him, is trust. It’s an act of worship. It honours Him for who He is, not for what He can do for us.

Our God, You see our hurts, needs and fears. Yes, we need Your intervention, and we pray for Your help. Forgive us when we come clamouring to You with requests without taking time to appreciate You for who You are. Whisper into our spirits and teach us to worship You in trust and adoration. Help us set our hearts on You, no matter what goes on in and around us. You are our greatest treasure and our deepest need.

Here’s a simple prayer of longing for God’s company: “If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile,” sung here by Todd Agnew.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Bring Out the Best

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
1Thessalonians 5:15b, MSG*

Most translations render this verse as “always do good to one another” or “always follow after the good for one another.” I’m not entirely sure looking for and bringing out the best in one another is the same thing, but it’s definitely one way of doing good to another or working for his or her good.

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.

This begins with a Christian’s responsibility to pray for open eyes and ears to see and hear what God wants to reveal.

Look for the best… for God-given potential, even if faintly visible. For spiritual gifts and natural talents. For signs of Jesus living inside.

Bringing it out in the best way starts with prayer: asking God what to say (or what to pray without even approaching the person). Asking God what He wants to do, and waiting for His timing.

Then, maybe pointing out the ability or potential we see, and encouraging the person to volunteer at the level of his or her ability. Maybe introducing a beginner to someone experienced in that area.

Beginner or seasoned worker, everyone is still a work in progress. How do we bring out the best? We celebrate the good, we are careful in correction, we encourage growth.

“The best” here doesn’t mean perfection in performance; God is more interested in the heart. Quality of work matters, but a genuine and God-serving heart is an essential part of “the best”. So let’s encourage one another’s hearts, spiritual lives and attitudes as well as the outward working of one another’s potential.

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.

In our relationships with non-Christians, this would also include being alert to signs of spiritual seeking or longing for truth. The best way to bring it out will be by living our own faith authentically and sharing a word or two as God makes a way.

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.

What better way to follow Jesus in our daily lives?

God who formed each one of us and who planned a good purpose for us, who gives talents and gifts according to Your own wisdom and for Your glory in building up of the body of believers, thank You for what You want to do in and through each of Your children. Open us to recognize the best in one another, and show us how to best bring that out. Forgive us for the times we look at one another through human eyes, short-sighted and biased – and sometimes grumpy. Help us to see what You see, and to desire what You desire.

Russ Taff‘s song, “We Will Stand,” celebrates the unity of believers working together.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

“Use This”

Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.
Psalm 55:22, NLT*

Attitude. Heaviness of spirit. Frustration. Sadness. Some days I struggle with these things. They rise up, make it hard to live a life worthy of the gospel. Even minor situations amplify them, and I don’t want to have a meltdown or snap at (or cry on) the people around me.

Then there are the bigger situations—actual crises—health, obstacles, bad news. External things I can’t do anything about to help the people in pain or to salvage whatever plans have been overturned.

God is teaching me to pray Use this—to give these burdens to Him, repeatedly, with the plea that He will use even these to reveal His glory.

The Bible, and the personal stories of believers through the centuries, prove God can do this. Instead of rolling over and giving up in these experiences, we need to keep our eyes on the King and look in faith to see what He will do.

God, we know and believe there is none like You, none more powerful, wise or loving. We believe Your promise to sustain and care for us. You can do more than we can ever imagine. Help us trust You to use every aspect of our lives for Your glory. Let us not hold back or give up, but strengthen our faith so we can stand.

Here’s a faith-encouraging song from Kutless: “What Faith Can Do.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


When Life Piles Up Around Us

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.
Psalm 57:2, NLT*

In my life, this verse gives me hope. God hasn’t revealed a great purpose for me, like He did for David the shepherd boy to become king. Nonetheless, God has plans for my life—and for yours.

We’re each to live for His glory, and therefore it’s reasonable to pray that He be glorified through our lives and in (or despite) our circumstances.

I have a family. His purpose there? That I love, care for and support them.

A home? That requires care too.

A gift to write? I need to use it God’s way.

When you look at what He’s given you, does it feel overwhelming? Like there’s more to do than time to do it? Sometimes the pressures pile up and threaten an avalanche.

But God will fulfill His purpose despite the opposition—be it Saul’s soldiers chasing David, or my crowded schedule. Like David, I need to trust and pray—and act as led—not to cower, whimper and give up.

God who holds our time in Your hands, give us faith to believe Your promise to never leave us and to fulfill Your purpose for us. Grant us wisdom in how to spend our days and meet our responsibilities. Help us obey Your leading instead of going our own ways. Help us to focus and to serve You in all we do.

Peter Furler’s song, “Greater is He,” is a good encouragement song for those times we feel overwhelmed.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

What’s in the Heart

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Matthew 12:34b, NKJV*

Other translations essentially say, “what’s in the heart is what comes out.” I like the imagery of abundance here, because we have good and bad and all manner of in-between things in our hearts.

As Christians, we work on guarding what comes out of our mouths. We’ve read the passages in James about controlling our tongues, and we understand the danger of harsh or inappropriate words.

Choosing our words with care isn’t about hypocrisy or pretending to be perfect. We’re saved, but we’re still being saved. Still in the process of being cleaned up. It’s a lifetime job that only God would ever dream of tackling.

If the pressure’s on, or if we’re tired or distracted, sometimes we slip. When we do, it reveals what’s inside.

  • Nothing ever goes my way.
  • Why should anything good happen, anyway?
  • I knew it was too good to be true.
  • I should have known it wouldn’t work out.

Ever said—or thought—anything like that? I have, and I’m learning that it reveals things I don’t want in my heart: doubt, lack of faith, negativity, discontent, a complaining attitude… and at the very root, a suspicion that God isn’t such a good Shepherd after all.

Nothing I’d espouse under ordinary circumstances, but when push comes to shove, the thoughts are there. Clamping my lips shut saves others from hearing it, but Jesus is right. It’s a heart matter.

We don’t have to believe the lies, the fear and the negatives. We can choose to believe God’s promises and rely on His love. But it takes work. It takes catching these unwanted thoughts and replacing them with truth. In New Testament language, it takes putting on the armour of God: especially the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit and belt of truth to hold the breastplate in place.

And it takes speaking God’s truth aloud to replace the negatives we’ve whispered so long.

God our loving Father, You see our hearts and yet You work to save us. We rely on Your promise to forgive us when we confess, and to make a way for us to escape temptation’s power. Grant us faith to truly rely on You, to fully believe Your love and Your care, to live in such a way that others will see we do indeed have a Good Shepherd.

TobyMac‘s song, “Speak Life,” calls us to use our words for good for others, but I think speaking life is also good for our own faith. Enjoy.

*New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 byThomas Nelson, Inc.