Thursday, December 29, 2011

FIVE WAYS TO BECOME AN ENCOURAGER

Encouragers are the oil of society
Name an encourager from the Bible. Was your first thought Barnabas? His real name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed him “son of encouragement”. What a joy he must have been to his friends. Can you name some others who served as encouragers? How about Mordecai, Jonathan, Timothy, Martha and Mary, Jesus.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…if it is to encourage, then give encouragement — Romans 12:6,8
Encouragers inspire hope, foster confidence, lift burdens, stimulate courage. Some possess the gift of encouragement. Some are “accidental encouragers” who surprise themselves when they’re given just the right word to share. Some want to be more encouraging, but are not sure how to go about it. But no one in the body of believers is exempt from exercising encouragement, for we are reminded to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11)
Turning to Scripture we find help for becoming an encourager:
1. Cultivate a positive attitude. Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Put this into practice and “the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8,9)
2. Use words of encouragement. Proverbs reminds us that our words can either kill or give life; we choose what we want to offer. (18:21) The book of Hebrews calls us to spur one another on. (10:25).
3. Be sincere. The book of James cautions us to back up our words with deeds (James 2:16). When we share stories of vulnerability and faith in times of hardship we can encourage others going through similar circumstances. (2 Cor 1:4)
4. Come alongside. When Moses became tired, “Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset… So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army” (Ex. 17:12-13) The New Testament names encouragers who worked alongside the apostles, such as Barnabas, Judas and Silas (Acts. 15:32) and Timothy (1 Thess. 3:2).
5. Be encouraged. Be humble and allow others to encourage you. Immerse yourself in Scripture’s words of encouragement. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you daily.
Karen Wilber serves as the Editor of the Jesus Boat Blog community.

Friday, December 23, 2011

THOSE CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS

     It’s a Christmas gathering. You might be at a company event with a hundred people, or church dinner with twenty-five faithfuls, or with your family of six. You hear chatter all around you, and you are in the middle of all of this. Topics of discussion can get stuck on one thing and sometimes they meander like a lazy river in a big flat valley. There you sit (or stand) among the others. Are you the one who tells your life’s story for forty minutes while others listen? Are you the one who holds a drink, says nothing, moving the weight of your body from one side to the other, impatiently waiting for someone else to break into the other person’s endless tale, or do you drift off and try to find meaningful interaction with one or two others in a corner of the room?
     These parties are not always a heap of fun. One thing I could guarantee, though, is that if you watch for and befriend someone by giving encouragement, you will leave the event feeling good about it. If it is like most gatherings, there will always be someone whom you can affirm in some way. Interesting thing, too, is that if you become known as one who is positive and affirming, you will always have someone to talk with. Although we should check our motives, you will notice that you will begin being affirmed, also. You can do this. Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

DO NOT ASSUME THE WORST

To make a friend you will not assume the worst about the one you want to befriend. "Love believes all things" or "always trusts." That's what the Living Bible says. Love expects the best to come from people. Most often people live up to expectations and how they are viewed by others. To believe in others as a basic approach to life is mostly viewed as being unrealistic if not na├»ve. Basic trust in people rewards you many times, whereas being suspicious blocks out potentially good relationships. Jesus Christ, the most perfect of humans and also the most maligned, selected and worked with Judas for three years. He must have known the inner thoughts of this hypocrite, yet he allowed him to hang around. We do not possess the insight of Jesus Christ. So our love must be willing to give the benefit of the doubt, because it is very harmful to relationships to assume the worst. Christmas, a time for generosity, would be an ideal season to stretch out to others whose relationships are meager. You would provide much cheer to their lives.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

HOLY, BEAUTIFUL, TERRIFYING NIGHT



Unrest and pillaging filled most days back there during the Russian Revolution when my grandparents tried to raise ten children. Christmas Eve, they prayed and hoped, would still allow them a quiet, intimate time for family and worship.

     Tradition established a pattern of gathering around a freshly cut evergreen tree, decorated simply but beautifully with real candles flickering. The very special feature, however, was the Christmas tree stand, which turned and played Silent Night.

     They all gathered round their tree, a fire blazing and crackling in the big brick stove. The music played and no one spoke and when they did, the occasion required hushed tones. Such a holy night deserved and demanded respect. The Bible story of Jesus’ birth probably was read, and perhaps a few soft carols sung. Everyone savored the moment of peace and beauty.

     They cherished those moments only briefly and then the door flew open and a gang with guns plowed into the room where the family all sat stunned and petrified. Many stories circulated in the village of such intrusions, of pantries being emptied and ravaged, horses stolen, women raped, and men being kidnapped never to be seen again. Terror replaced the tranquility and beauty instantaneously.

     Then something amazing happened. The marauders stopped in their tracks when they saw the family scene. The yelling and barking orders stopped as though a switch had been turned. Without a word, they backed towards the door they had entered, left and did not return.

     The evening remained forever fixed in the minds of the entire family. When they migrated to Canada a few years later, the one item they all agreed had to come with them was the Christmas tree stand that plays Silent Night. So it could not be snatched by greedy officers on the train, they tied the stand under the train car until they crossed the border to Latvia. The delightful tree stand still plays Silent Night in a great grandson’s home every Christmas.