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Coming Alongside

March 12th, 2019

Let us encourage one another… (Hebrews. 10:25)

We have a calling to follow Christ in this fallen world, and with our own sinful natures. We have been scarred and pushed around. We have each been tempted and have failed the temptation many times. We follow Christ, who is a Perfect Lord, with imperfect habits and attitudes. The New Self is given to us, but the Old Self still exists.

What would we be without the encouragement of one another! We often disappoint ourselves in our daily walk. Encouragement is the grace gift to come alongside one another in the midst of discouraging and even disparaging circumstances, and not just to come alongside – though mere presence is also a special source of encouragement – but to help and lift up one another.

Barnabas was the epitome of an encourager. He is introduced to us in the Holy Scriptures with these words:

When news of this reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to abide in the Lord with all their hearts. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:23-24)

Though the information about him in the scripture is brief, it paints a picture of someone who lived up to his name, which means “Son of Encouragement.” He saw the potential of Paul, who had been in the Christian family for more than ten years at that time, living in his hometown of Tarsus, but had not yet taken on any significant leadership. Barnabas, however, went to Tarsus, found Paul, and brought him back to Antioch as one of their teachers.

Encouragers see the potential in us that we cannot see ourselves. They not only lift us up, but they also often take concrete steps to get us involved in doing what we need to be doing. Patience and kindness are strong attributes of most encouragers. They are especially strong in being able to forgive others, and to promote the very idea of grace and forgiveness in the church family.  They are backed up, as Barnabas was, by a strong prayer life, knowing that the Holy Spirit is the greatest encourager of all.

Pray that God would put someone on your heart today that you can encourage in their faith. Take concrete steps to do so – make a phone call, write a letter, pray for them. And, it would also be good to take time to say “Thank you” to those who have encouraged you.

Encouragement

Moldable

October 15th, 2018

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:16)

We live in the day of instant success, technological advancement, and stellar marketing. And, I fear, the whole world seems to be in danger of developing very shallow souls – not just lostness, which is an eternal tragedy, but also shallowness that leads to social tragedies.

Our response should be to simply put ourselves in God’s hands and let Him develop us, to not be in such a rush for attention or “success” but instead to let the Lord develop in us the passions He desires we should have, and then move on to the things we are to do with these passions.

Passion, projects, and the positions is the order which is the healthiest and the best for long term fulfillment, and, thereby, more meaningful success. But instead, now we have reversed these things to seek positions and recognition first, and then look around for projects we can achieve, and only afterwards consider the true passions of our souls. No wonder there is such burnout in lives today. Burnout thrives in society – Christian or secular – when the human heart is left out of the developmental process.

I believe this is what God is seeking to do in our lives – to develop our hearts first. He is the Potter and we are the clay, and we need to be molded and re-made by Him. There is a reality to being clay, that we need to put ourselves continually into His hands to let Him shape our hearts.

Clay doesn’t have a will. Clay doesn’t expect, presume, or worry. Clay doesn’t resist or fight. Clay doesn’t have an agenda or a script. Clay has two simple jobs – sit still and stay soft. (Cary Schmidt, Off Script)

In our rush to find success – the kind of instant success we imagine comes with the modern talent shows – we find that often true talent is by-passed, and along with it experience and a deepening of skills and desires, as well as a tragic disrespect for the abilities of others.

Much better a singer who has learned to sing in a choir, to hit the right notes, to blend the right way, to listen to the other voices, and then become someone who can feel the music and love it – much better, in other words, a true musician, than someone who on the basis of a few auditions or a few recordings, backed up by “auto-tune” devices, suddenly experiences stardom – who learns only to love fame and fortune.

So, how do we experience the molding hand of God? We, as Cary Schmidt said, need to sit still before the Lord and stay soft in His hands. We need to spend time in His Word and in speaking with Him and in listening to Him. We need to let God mold our hearts, our thoughts, our values, our habits. We then should serve God in humble ways, until there develops in us a passion for something that is bigger than our egos. We need to listen to others who have served Him longer, and take their advice seriously. We can then let God lead us into the lives and the needs around us, putting all that we have to work for God.

And then we continually repeat the process – seeking to remain still and soft before the Master Potter. One of the ways we can check, and others can also, on whether we are soft and still is how quickly we get jealous over someone else’s seeming success. Do we respect the abilities of others? Can we recognize the hand of God upon another life, without being overwhelmed by jealousy and envy? The Master Potter has more than one vessel He is shaping upon His wheel. What He does in another life or through another life does not threaten what He is doing or will do through us.

Quick success can be a blessing – that is true – but more often than not it tends to be a curse. So thank God that He has kept you on His potter’s wheel. Stay still and soft before Him and let Him do His work.

 

 

Daily Devotions, Encouragement