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Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

Today I sat in the homes of several of our members who are going through hard times at the moment.   When I get home after such an intense day, I sometimes look back in amazement at how I have been ministered to by being the presence of people who, despite their life’s circumstances, are not decrying God for what is going on in the lives, but continue to marvel at “how great is our God”.    As I reflected on this yet again, I was humbled to think that while they thank me for my visit and my time “because we know how busy you are”, the reality is that they have encouraged me in my ministry and indeed strengthened my faith.    So imagine my delight as I have thought about all these things, and how like those I have visited today, I continue to believe just how great and faithful our God is, that I receive a link to the video below – quirky “instruments” but the words have always been favourites and for the moment this is my new favourite rendition.    So thank you to one of our worship leaders – John, for forwarding this to me, and also to the Irish Worship Band – Rend Collective Experiment.

 

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Recently I was speaking to a minister friend who was feeling exceptionally low, and questioning why he was still in the ministry.   He felt he had no support from his congregation; that all the things he did, both seen and unseen, were taken for granted.  Nobody seemed to be encouraging him or looking after him and his family.   But I think the thing that was making it almost intolerable was the fact that the only time people wanted “a quick word” was to say something negative.  It reminded me of a story I used at the ordination of one of my friends …  

A new minister preached a sermon on the parable of the talents … He urged his people to place at God’s disposal the gifts and abilities given to them by God.  After the service a man came up to him and said “Minister, I’m not a particularly gifted man.  I don’t really feel capable of teaching in the Sunday School, or visiting the sick, or any of the other things you talked about this morning.  But I do have one talent that might be of use to the church.”

 “And what is that?” asked the minister.

“Well” said the man … “I have the talent of criticism.  I can criticise your sermons.  I can criticise the organist.   I can criticise the choir.   I can criticise the work people do for the church.   What should I do with my talent?”

The minister remained silent long enough to pray for wisdom then he replied … “Do you remember the man with one talent in the parable?   He buried his talent … I suggest you do the same.”

Part of me wanted to go to my friend’s church and (as they say) “give them a good talking to”.   To remind them they called this man and his family to be part of their church; that at his induction they promised him their “encouragement and support”, just as they promised to work alongside their “minister in Christian witness and Christian service”.

So if you are reading this and wondering what you can do to support your minster, why not ask this simple question – “What is the best way I can support you?”  Why not invite them and their family to your home for a meal? (Don’t assume everyone else is doing this).   Or why don’t you write them a letter telling them that you appreciate them and all they do?   

And here are a few things you can do that there should be no question about: Pray for them –  Ministry is a big job with big expectations and big stresses. Whatever strength your minister has, it will be unequal to the task.  They will need power from beyond themself.  Love them – The call of a minister is a covenant, not a contract.  A contact is when we hire someone. A covenant is – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.  Remember the concept of team ministry – the minister can’t do it all on their own.

Baillieston: St Andrews

Me, I’m off to write to the minister* who was leading the church I used to belong to as I was growing up, to thank him for his contribution to my journey of faith.  It’s never too late to say thank you.

*Rev Tom Houston (now retired) came to Baillieston: St Andrew’s in 1980.  His teaching, example, encouragement and quiet faithfulness influenced me greatly, and it was during his ministry, and through his Bible Studies that my understanding and faith began to grow.  

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Louis, was a rather awkward and sad boy. This was made worse by the fact that his parents did little to encourage his self-esteem. In fact, they all but came out and told their Rabbi that Louis was too stupid to learn the traditional Hebrew passages a boy recites for his bar mitzvah.The Rabbi was determined to bring out the best in this boy. He spent extra time teaching him the songs and prayers, and in so doing, he discovered that Louis was quite intelligent and also had a fantastic singing voice. On the day of his bar mitzvah, Louis performed beautifully. At the end of the ceremony, the Rabbi stood and spoke directly to Louis. He said, “Louis, this morning you met your real self… This is who you are. You are good, graceful, talented, and smart. Whatever people told you yesterday, and Louis, whatever happens tomorrow, promise me one thing. Remember . . . this is you. Remember, and don’t ever lose it.”A few years later, Louis wrote to the Rabbi. The boy whose parents predicted that he was too stupid to perform a traditional bar mitzvah was studying for his medical degree … Louis ended his letter by saying, “I kept my promise – I always remembered my bar mitzvah morning when you said that this is who I am. For this, I thank you.”   Having someone believe in him made a huge difference in Louis’ life.

You are unique: be who you are called to be

We have someone who believes in us and that someone is God. God has chosen us for great things. God has forgiven us all of our sins, faults and failings and declares us to be holy. God tells us we are his dearly loved. He also shows us that his love for us has no limits, and if we can just keep these simple truths in mind it will help us to accomplish the goals that Paul puts before us in Colossians 3:12-17:

Put on then, or clothe yourselves, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, with compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Be who you are called to be, but also do the things you are called to do.    And just in case you think that it is beyond you, I leave you with this declaration and promise from 2 Peter 1:3 to remind you that we don’t do it in our own strength:   ‘God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.’

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We all have people in our lives who seemed to have had a “joy bypass”;  those who seem to be faultfinding and dream-squashing;  those who want to suck the joy out of your life.  And we are called to love them.  The thing is, we need to guard our hearts against them too, because they want to drag us down into the basement of life where they feel we should reside, alongside them.  

The reality is that all of us have the potential to be “basement people” for others, yet we are called to BE ENCOURAGING.   Encouragement is the language of the New Testament: 

Encourage one another

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up …

Hebrews 3:13 Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…

Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another …

The exhortation “to encourage” is used more than 50 times in the New Testament, probably because one of the great things about encouragement is, that it always spirals up, never down.  So, who can you encourage today? Who can you lift out of the basement of life?

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