Encourage Blog2023-04-28T16:33:25+00:00

Encourage-[en-kur-ij] to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.

The enCourage Blog is weekly dose of encouragement in a world that is often filled with bad news. We offer life-giving entries each Monday and Thursday written by gifted women from across our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). You can subscribe below to have them delivered to your inbox. With hundreds of blog pieces, you can search on a variety of topics in the search bar above to read and share with friends. Christina Fox, a gifted author, serves as our enCourage General Editor. If you are interested in submitting a piece, you can contact her at cfox@pcanet.org.

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Summertime Discipleship with Your Family

LISA UPDIKE|GUEST “Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” Well, that’s how the song goes anyway. Although I’m not quite sure that summer is all that easy for a mom with kids wanting to go to the pool, have a friend over, visit the park, and build forts in the woods, I do realize that summer is a more flexible time of the year. The long, unscheduled days present opportunities to engage in fun activities, making special memories as a family. That’s what we love about summer, isn’t it? Although my kids are grown, I know that I treasure our picture albums full of smiling, sun kissed faces squinting into the sun next to carefully constructed sand castles. Summertime “easy livin’” also presents us with numerous opportunities to engage our children with the gospel, and that is even more precious than a well-crafted memory album! Memorize Scripture Together Because summer offers a reprieve from the rigors of schoolwork, it is an excellent season to start a Bible verse memory program for your whole family! Choose a verse or passage to learn. Introduce it to the family during dinner, discussing what it means and how it applies to life. As a family, choose an award. Perhaps this could be a trip to the ice-cream parlor, an outing to the lake, or a night by the fire-pit toasting marshmallows for s’mores. Anything can work as long as everyone agrees. Then start memorizing, just a few words at a time, adding to them daily. Have the kids make posters with your family verse, and tape them up on the fridge, in the bathroom, and on your doors. Say it together in the car, in the morning, before bed, or at random times during the day. Once you’ve all learned it, enjoy your reward! You could even make a goal to memorize several passages and have a great big end of summer celebration!...

A Reason for Pain and Suffering

SHARON ROCKWELL|CONTRIBUTOR Now in the winter of my life, I have witnessed many friends and family members deal with hardships that resulted in physical pain – miscarriages, a stillborn child, loved ones taken too soon, those who have had to endure cancer and heart disease.  Whenever I encounter someone in physical pain, my first inclination has been to pray that the pain would be taken away.  Secondly, I would offer help where needed.  Finally, I would make a deliberate effort to be grateful for all my blessings and for God’s goodness to me.  My feet have landed in pleasant places in comparison.  Psalm 16:5-6 reminds me of God’s goodness; “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Never have I looked into the eyes of a friend who was in pain and thought to myself this is a reminder to repent.  But that is precisely what John Piper tells us is a reason for physical pain in the world.  In his book Providence, Piper presents a convincing argument that God uses our pain as a call to repentance.  He reminds us first that our fallen world is under God’s judgement.  He permits the physical pain, the tragedies, and death itself.  But why?  Why does God judge the world with physical pain?  His argument goes back to the fall.  When Adam rebelled and ate the fruit of the tree which he was not supposed to eat, he was essentially taking a stand.  He decided that his ways were better than God’s ways, that God’s law did not matter, arrogantly thinking that there would not be consequences.  It was a mockery of God, completely out of step with what he owed God, which was glory, praise, honor, and obedience. We are still like Adam, completely unaware of how much our sins grieve our holy God.  God has become so insignificant in our daily lives that we don’t realize how much we hurt Him.  Piper suggests this is “one of the reasons God judged moral evil with physical pain.  While fallen people do not value God, they do value being pain free.  Therefore, to point them to the outrage of belittling him, God judges that belittling of God with physical pain and sorrow.  He subjected the whole creation to futility and corruption.  In other words, God puts the call to repentance in the language everyone can understand – the language of pain and death.”[1]...

Making Prayer a Priority in Ministry

MEAGHAN MAY|CONTRIBUTOR Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Better Together: A Team Based Approach to Women’s Ministry. Get your free copy here. We live in a culture that celebrates self-reliance and ingenuity, and this pressure extends into our ministry lives. We become reliant upon instant fixes to what our hearts desire, and our dependence upon the Lord diminishes. We depend upon our own wisdom and skill to accomplish the next task. In love, God uses prayer to shape us to be patient, expectant, and others-oriented. Prayer in the Bible has a communal dimension, which reflects our interdependence. Beginning with the family of Seth in Genesis who called upon the name of the Lord, Scripture shows us that God’s people pray together. In Acts we read that the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”[1] Prayer as a Priority When we pray with one another, we will learn things about the Lord that we did not understand on our own. As often as we are able, we should prioritize prayer in community. C.S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, points out that the angels in Isaiah 6 are crying out “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another. Each angel is communicating to the other angels the part of God’s glory that they see. As we pray and praise the Lord together, we get to know Him better and deepen our delight and dependence on Him. When we pray in community our lives and ministry agendas are pried out of our own hands and return to the One whose glory we seek. The beginning of prayer (and truly the whole thing) is all about God. “Adoration” and “Thanksgiving” are God-oriented and heal the heart of self-centeredness. Augustine taught that one of the chief benefits of prayer is that it addresses our “disordered” loves. [2] He believed that if we do not let God change these drivers inside of us through prayer, they would be “part of the problem, not agents of healing.” When God is our greatest love and deepest delight, every other aspect of our prayer life is transformed...

Parenting in the Age of LGBTQ+

KELLY URBON|GUEST An “age” is a cultural period marked by the prominence of a particular item or a particular way of understanding the world. By that definition, our current cultural moment certainly represents a new age with respect to identity, sexuality, and gender. Never before have sexuality and gender been so persistently centered, and so drastically redefined. The numbers related to this change can be a bit shocking. According to a recent Gallup poll, the number of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or by some description other than heterosexual and cisgender, doubled from 2012 to 2021. By far the biggest change is seen in those who have come of age as a member of Gen Z. A surprising 20% of those born between 1997 and 2003 self-identify as LGBTQ+. Given these statistics, it is no surprise that there has been an enormous increase in the number of parents who have a child sit down with them to reveal that they are gay, bisexual, nonbinary, trans or queer, to name a few. Many parents struggle to respond. Especially for parents whose firm theological convictions are in conflict with outright acceptance of these identities, this part of the parenting journey can be especially challenging. While there are no cookie cutter responses sufficient to meet all of the questions and tasks before these parents, the following are a few suggestions that will lay a basic foundation for a godly response. Cultivate compassion and patience Several months ago I came across a quote by Christian author Tim Challies. It has become a foundational principle in my current parenting. Challies wrote, “Remember that your children are sinners who are beset by the fierce enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Be gentle with them and have pity for them. Don’t be yet another enemy to them.” Colossians 3:12 immediately comes to mind: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”...

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