Friday, November 14, 2014

Be Encouraged and Be Encouraging

Be encouraged and be encouraging.  These are the words I hope everyone takes home from my sermon on Sunday.  The text for the sermon is 1 Thessalonians 5.  In verse 11, Paul says, “Encourage one another.”  And we also hear the words of Psalm 90 which I find encouraging, and I hope others do, too.  But you can’t say everything in a sermon.  There’s only so much time. 

So I wanted to talk some more here about being encouraged and being encouraging.  There are a lot of ways to do both.  I thought the suggestions at this website on how to be encouraging were good.  Check out 19 Ways to Be Encouraging.  We talk about a couple of these on Sunday, especially #2.  I also really like #13!  What do you think about these ideas?  Which ones do you like the most?  Which have you tried?  Which have encouraged you?

It’s hard to be encouraging when you’re discouraged yourself, so it’s also important to find ways to be encouraged.  I think having a daily prayer/devotional time is important.  That’s why I really liked this post from today about Advent:  The Advent of Advent in which we are challenged to spend some time quietly considering Advent.  Pondering, maybe, like Mary did.  Like this song encourages us to do.

One of the things about Advent that we don’t do so much anymore is Christmas Pageants.  I like them because they get everybody involved in the story, but I also like them because they help us to remember the story, and we’re forced, as polite audiences, to stop for a little while and consider what happened.  It is amazing to me how sometimes just retelling the story allows the Holy Spirit to work in people.
I also really like Max Lucado’s behind-the-scenes telling of what might have happened in his book An Angel’s Story (originally titled Cosmic Christmas).  You can read more about it here or get the book and read the whole story.  It made me look at the events of Christmas with a little more awe and wonder, and I think about this book whenever I read Paul’s words about how our struggle isn’t with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers and cosmic forces (Eph. 6:12).

One of the things we always talk about at Advent is joy, which sometimes seems funny to me because so often Christmas and the preparation for Christmas is anything but joyful.  It’s stressful and costly and tiring.  I find having joy to be an ongoing challenge.  Nehemiah encourages the people of Israel by saying “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and that is our theme at Westminster PC for the entire season of Advent this year.
And I hope getting together for worship and Bible study during Advent will be encouraging for us all this year.  I hope we’ll be encouraged to let God speak to our hearts and bring us joy in knowing that he loves us and that he is with us.  That’s what we always say at this time of year—Emmanuel means “God with us.”  Always with us.  And nothing can get in the way of that unless we let it.  Actually, the scripture says “nothing in all creation” can separate us from the love of God.  I think that means not even we ourselves.  God is always with us, even when we don’t realize it. (Romans 8:38-39)

So be encouraged! 
And may you overflow with faith, hope and love so that you may be an encouragement to everyone you meet.

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