Encouragement From The Word

Anonymous comments don’t edify

You’ve heard me say it before:  nobody gets too much encouragement.  That’s axiomatic.  Yet one of the most common ways to discourage a leader is through anonymous comments.  (That’s one reason why so many blogs and news feeds turn off the comments section – people find it very easy to be rather unvirtuous when they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.)

It’s surprising, but even though most people know that encouragement goes a lot further than discouragement, sometimes unsigned comments still come along from time to time.

My usual response to them is to ignore them; after all, if someone isn’t willing to stand behind what she or he writes, then it obviously isn’t worth pursuing.

I want to give you an example that isn’t personal, and so isn’t discouraging – it’s just disappointing.  Last Sunday, I received a connection card that didn’t have a name on it.  On the back, rather than responding in some way to the message (which was on having a heart to listen like Solomon, 1 Kings 3), the individual simply printed, “The NLT sounds gosh awful”.

I started preaching from the New Living Translation about a year ago, after the editors of the New International Version made significant changes to the translation.  The program we use to display the Scriptures on the screens moved to that new edition, thus rendering our pew Bibles different from what would be on the screens.  (Besides, I’m not a fan of the grammatical changes that were made to the NIV.)  Given all that, it seemed logical to change to reading and preaching from a translation that used good grammar and reads in contemporary language.  Most folks have just gone with the flow on this.

Had my anonymous connection card submitter affixed her or his name to the card, I would have explained all this, and given more reasons for why I have opted to use this translation.  But because the comment was anonymous, the individual lost the opportunity to benefit from that explanation, and any pastoral care I might have offered in the context of the conversation.  And I lost out on a chance to encourage another person.

Anonymous comments don’t build up.  Whether you’re saying something helpful or something that bothers you, when you deal with other people, always identify yourself.  It opens doors for effective communication, and even spiritual growth!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1.7 – yes, in the NLT!).

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Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Just a few words

Sometimes, just a few words is all it takes.

Have you ever thought, “I don’t know how to encourage people.”  Most of us have.  But in all likelihood, we have encouraged someone, and not even known it.  But there is value in being intentional about encouraging others.

On Wednesday night this week, our youth group had a different kind of scavenger hunt.  FullSizeRenderAmong the things on the list that they could choose to achieve in this hunt was to write a note of encouragement to the pastor.  And someone decided to take that seriously (see the photo).

I’ve been in a place lately where I might best describe myself as feeling like a dull blade in need of sharpening.  So you can imagine what this simple little note, written by a member of our congregation’s youth group, did for me when I came in on Thursday morning.  Sometimes, just a few words is all it takes.

What simple way, what few words, can you use to encourage someone else today?

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15.5-6, NIV).

Encouragement From The Word

The value of encouragement

Some folks just have a perfect, God-ordained sense of timing. Have you ever received a card or a phone call or a hug at just the right time? I can’t count the number of times this has happened to me over the course of my life and ministry. Even this week, after a particularly distressing few moments that had a more profound impact on my psyche than they should have, the Lord used two friends to encourage me: one with an “out of the blue” phone call that communicated just the right words, and another with a card that said exactly what I needed to read.

There is great power in the use of the spiritual gift of encouragement. Nobody gets too much encouragement, right? The Bible mentions this gift in Romans 12: “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well….If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging” (vv. 6 & 8, NLT). People who have this gift find it very easy to seek out the positive and reinforce it. And they are responsive to God’s little nudges, and his overall sense of timing.

George Barna recently reported that more American Christians report having the spiritual gift of encouragement, which – if they use it – should be really good news for churches. Hopefully, this is true for Canadian Christians, too! Encouragement, as I see it, is the fuel for ministry.

Is your church running on empty? Suggest to your church leadership that they engage in a survey of the congregation’s spiritual gifts (I can help you with that, by the way…). A spiritual gift discovery is often a real revelation for people, as they learn what God has equipped them to do in the life of the church. You can be sure that at least one person in your fellowship has been gifted with encouragement. Once you know who that person is (or who those people are), draw them into a nurturing of their gift. Help them understand that their encouragement will strengthen the leaders of the church, and will bring a positive spirit to the life of the congregation. Never underestimate the value of encouragement.

Just ask me. I know.

This edition of Encouragement From The Word was first published on February 13, 2009.

Biblical Messages

STAYING TRUE: You Are Very Precious To God

God’s passion, and compassion, for his exiled people seems chivalrous, so we opened the message with this old cartoon clip.  Daniel 10.1-11.1 gives Daniel, and us, a demonstration of the spiritual battle that takes place in the cosmos, whether we are aware of it or not.  The angel tells Daniel, “You are very precious to God.”  So are all of his people!  Listen and be encouraged for the battle.

Encouragement From The Word

Yes, the Bible *is* relevant today!

A lot of people wonder how a series of compiled documents that are thousands of years old can be relevant for today.  But the Bible is not like other documents, for God’s Spirit breathes through the words of Scripture to bring them alive for us at just the right moments.  Let me give you an example.

I was in a meeting this week during which we had a discussion about how God has prompted folks in our congregation to share generously.  I was reflecting on the story of the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14), noting how encouraging it was to see our people stepping up to the plate in a variety of circumstances.

One person in the meeting mentioned that he had just been reading in Scripture about Barnabas, a church leader who was appointed by God to serve as an associate of the apostle Paul.  Barnabas is otherwise best known by the meaning of his name:  Son of Encouragement.

Another person in that meeting took notes about this, in the hope of following up on it in his own devotional life.  He happened to have those notes with him at work the next day, and he wrote to me about how that affected his work day:

The next day, I was working with one of my staff, and after spending a very long time, he finally delivered a report to me, which was not the quality it should have been, especially given the amount time spent on it.  As I began my process of reviewing notes, I struggled with how to get him to perform at a higher level.  While considering this, I opened my work folder to take some more notes, and saw my note from Tuesday night:  “Barnabas – Encouragement!”.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this colleague’s name IS Barnabas, and that I’m being given a not-so-subtle reminder to provide encouragement rather than criticism.  

It might seem small, and to some it might seem a coincidence.  But this is one way God works in our lives when we encounter his Word; and when we spend time together discussing the Scriptures, and our experience of them, it’s amazing how a portion can become immediately relevant in an area where might not expect it.

I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness” (Psalm 40.10, NLT).

How has God’s Word been hidden in your heart as you have talked about it, only to find that it is revealed for a useful circumstance?

Spend time in the study of the Bible, and be amazed at how God uses it to encourage you – or someone else.