encouragement

WHEN GOD CALLS

(January 12, 2023) Dr Jim McClure shares a personal experience, encouraging us to move ahead in God … 

When God called me to serve Him in the ministry, my initial response was, ‘No!’

For various reasons I considered the call unwelcome, unacceptable, impractical and untimely… so initially I pushed back! My response was in some ways similar to that of Jeremiah who, when God called him, expressed absolutely no enthusiasm for the task.  He replied to God, ‘Ah, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child’  (Jeremiah 1:6).  

The word translated ‘Ah’ is pronounced in exactly the same way in Hebrew!  It is actually more a sigh of distress and reluctance than a word.  Jeremiah really did not want to be a prophet and so he made his rather weak excuse.  But, however reluctantly, he agreed to submit to God’s call.

And so did I! I went to a theological college in Manchester for five years.

Brief testimony
However, about a year before I started my college course,  I preached my first sermon.

That was 61 years ago in my home church, Abbots Cross Congregational Church in Northern Ireland, and the sermon was based on Psalm 73.  I remember it well.  As I stood in the pulpit that Sunday morning and looked at the congregation, I was terrified! 

With shaking legs and trembling voice I raced through the sermon I had prepared. And it was terrible!  In fact, it was so bad that someone left me an anonymous note advising me never to preach again! But now, more than six decades later I am still preaching regularly.  (In case you are wondering – No, I never did discover who wrote that note).

My point is this – whether or not I personally wanted to be a pastor and preacher was irrelevant. As a young Christian, I had placed myself into God’s hands and so agreed (with some reluctance) to agree with His call on my life.  Do I regret the decision I made?  Not at all!  At times it has not been easy for many reasons but the journey has been amazing.  I could never have anticipated the things I have done, the congregations to which I have preached God’s Word, the students I have taught, the people I have met, the countries I have visited and in which I have taught, the friends I have made and so on.

And God has blessed me abundantly by giving me a loving, encouraging and supportive wife, Jean, to be by my side through all the hard times and the good.  How rich my life has been because I said, ‘Yes’ to God – however reluctantly.

God does not promise prosperity and success
In truth, when we follow God’s plan for our lives, prosperity and success in all we attempt is not guaranteed. Indeed God may lead us into difficult, uncomfortable and painful situations to further His purposes.  There are many examples in the Bible to support this statement. For example, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have been greatly concerned when they were sentenced to a fiery death (Daniel 3).

My point here is – when God calls us to do something, it is better to say, ‘Yes,’ even with reluctance! It is so much better to place our lives into God’s hands than to live outside His will.

King David wisely declared to God, ‘My times are in your hands’ (Psalm 31:15). The old hymn simply and magnificently proclaims –

‘My times are in your hand;
my God, I wish them there!
My life, my friends, my soul,
‘My times are in your hand;
my God, I wish them there!
My life, my friends, my soul,
I leave entirely to your care.’

Beware of discouragements! 
(i) Beware of discouraging others
 
You don’t know the full picture and are in no position to pontificate to others! Discouragement  can have unanticipated consequences for a person’s development and it may even hinder God’s plans for a person’s life.

I have noted during the years that, while churches should be places of encouragement, the spirit of discouragement is often all too active!

(ii) Beware of allowing discouragement to shape us
It can crush our spirit and damage our relationship with God.

Had I listened to and been crushed by the discouraging words of my anonymous critic all those decades ago, not only would God’s plans for my life have been unfulfilled but my life and that of my family would have been so impoverished.

(iii) Beware of surrendering to self-discouragement
Throughout his 40 years ministry Jeremiah experienced one discouragement after another as the people of Judah mocked him and the religious leaders rejected his messages from God.

He wrote about the people, ‘If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive’  (Jeremiah 13:17). 

But he remained committed to his calling, declaring, ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot’ (Jeremiah 20:9). 

Final thoughts
As we move on into 2023 and God is calling you, may you respond to that call – even somewhat reluctantly. May His word, His fire, so burn in your heart that you will achieve all He has planned for you – whatever that may be.

Don’t yield to discouragement, rather yield to encouragement!

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Dr Jim McClure has authored several books and Bible studies. Offered free in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, is highly recommended.

Questions seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives are welcomed. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com
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‘… AND A KIND WORD’

(October 17, 2022) Robert and Maureen McQuillan drop a hint…

In the midst of all that’s bad in our world or on the local scene, our everyday living, our seeking to achieve whatever we’re led to aim for – despite sicknesses, heartbreaks – or whatever is bugging us, hindering us, strife  that causes us to feel low, there’s one thing that always perks us up!

What, you wonder, could that be? Just three little words… so meaning and powerful – A kind word.

Thankyous
Such  encouragement may only be a simple thank you… which we were parent-taught to say when someone gave us something, or did something for us.

Acts of kindness and thankyous and encouragements are often missing today! For example, on purchasing a very inexpensive 2023 dairy this morning we said a meaningful thankyou at checkout. The young clerk had been smiling but stopped in surprise. ‘Too many customers forget to say that’ he nodded sheepishly.

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BARNABAS – ‘SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT’

(September 4, 2022) Brian Bell reflects on Barnabas’example…

‘Son of encouragement’ is a tremendous accolade for anyone to receive from their contemporaries. Not that it means a person is without imperfections, but it says something special about how other people find them to be in the general demeanour of their character and daily living.

As with other biblical characters, the life and witness of Barnabas has profitable lessons for us all to consider, and I share with you those which have spoken to me.

The disciple
We are introduced to Barnabas by Luke the writer of Acts, who tells us that the early believers were of one heart and mind. They freely shared their material possessions not considering what they each owned to be their own! Some even sold land or houses and gave the proceeds to the apostles to give to others in need (Acts 2:44-45).

Among those who sold land was a disciple named Joseph nicknamed Barnabas which means the Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36-37). Luke also tells us Barnabas was a Jew from the tribe of Levi and came from Cyprus. Clearly the Holy Spirit had done a wonderful work in the life of Barnabas since he had come to faith whether it was before or even among one of those 3,000 who responded to Peter’s message (Acts 2:41).

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‘COURAGE TO CONTINUE’

(July 26, 2022) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, challenges every Christian to be a role model…

One of the great world leaders many decades ago was Winston Churchill. Recently I came across a statement he made which made me stop and think. He said, ‘Failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’  

1. Present experience
One of the things that has encouraged me in my ministry has been the courage of the prophets. One of their principle roles was to remind the people to live faithfully for God and to reject any ‘moral’ standard that opposed what He had revealed. Often the prophets were vigorously opposed as they declared what God had revealed. They were prepared to confront the ruling powers that were leading people away from God and they challenged the people to be faithful to God’s revealed truth.

They never preached compromise!

  • Isaiah didn’t mince his words when he declared,  ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter’ (Isaiah 5:20).
  • Amos was told by the leading priest in Israel told Amos, ‘Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there’ (Amos 7:12).
  • Jeremiah, during his 40 years of ministry was physically attacked, insulted, imprisoned in a hole in the ground, and put on trial for the things he preached were not what the people wanted to hear. The king even destroyed the scroll containing God’s word that Jeremiah had written, but God told Jeremiah to rewrite it.

All those men were threatened and abused because their preaching did not agree with moral and religious values of their day.

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PROPHETIC WORDS

(June 17, 2022) Robert McQuillan encourages a Pentecost enquirer…

Dear Dr Robert

Thanks for sharing last month about Pentecost Sunday. Please tell me about what’s called either ‘a word of prophecy’ or ‘a prophetic word.’ Jonno.

Dear Jonno

Either term is acceptable. In brief, prophesying means boldly speaking an encouraging, timely word from God to bless people –
a) One on one, not just face-to-face but via phone/email/Skype.
b) To your church on Sundays (as was generally expected years ago!), or at other church meetings even business ones.

As one of the Holy Spirit’s nine supernatural manifestation gifts (1 Corinthians 12) it can operate anywhere, anytime. Like the accompanying gifts word of wisdom and word of knowledge, it’s spoken in faith (itself one of those nine ‘operational gifts’).

This means that you must know the Holy Spirit personally eg through an intimate relationship of prayer, reading God’s word, trust and experience, whereby you just know that know that you know it is the Holy Spirit taking over and using you to bless, encourage, challenge some individual, or your church in general.

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‘A MAN NAMED EZRA’

(May 07, 2022) Brian Bell challenges us to be a worthy servant like ‘a man named Ezra’ …

With these four almost inconspicuous words contained in chapter 7 of the book of Ezra, we are introduced to the character of Ezra.

The book of Ezra tells us about the return of Jewish exiles from Babylon, beginning with those who returned with Zerubbabel and at a later time with Ezra. Ezra and the other exiles who returned to Jerusalem with him, got there about 13 years before the return of Nehemiah and other exiles, described in the book of Nehemiah.

The primary action carried out by the returning exiles as described in Ezra, was the reconstruction of the temple led by Zerubbabel, Ezra’s role is what I would describe as leading ‘spiritual renewal’ or ‘revival’ while the focus of Nehemiah was the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls which is replete with spiritual applications.

I believe both Ezra and Nehemiah could be said to be men who were ‘directed’ by the Holy Spirit, while those words are not specifically used when speaking of them, I believe it is borne out in the scriptural descriptions given of them. In this meditation I will share only some thoughts about Ezra.

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STILL MUCH TO DO!

(January 25, 2022) Maureen McQuillan encourages all who feel unsure about the future… 

A lot of good folks at this time of worldwide troubles have been experiencing disappointments… not being able to do certain things, go places, catch up with family and old friends, getting hit unexpectedly with covid-19 (but, praise God, had been vaccinated and are getting through), job losses, short of ready finance, suicides, troubled minds… and so on.

And so it’s a joy when one hears good news stories, especially of God answering prayer and blessing in various ways. Mark Ellis GodReports regularly shares such testimonies, eg… Muslim Woman Dreams About Man in White With Bleeding Feet. And we ran missionary to Romania David McGuire’s excellent report Grateful for 2021 Successful Outreaching but Moving Ahead Into 2022 With Vision.

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However, one also hears of Christians who have had bad life experiences and my ‘heart goes out to them.’Some are so troubled that as they hear negative news reports from around the world, wonder what’s next, or think ‘the end is near: Is Christ coming back very soon?’

Encouragements from God’s word
To troubled saints, I would say this: Be encouraged! Be blessed by scriptures such as the following…

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MOVING ON FROM A BAD RELATIONSHIP

(July 28, 2021) Bonnie-Jane shares an encouraging word from her heart…

That 10 Year Challenge Photo/Image Meme phase was popular a while back, and had people reflecting on their past.

As I reminiscence myself, I feel to share some things from my heart and trust they will help someone else who has gone through similar hurtful and damaging experiences in the past as I did. So here goes…

Suffering from a broken heart
Just over some 10 years ago I met someone who at first seemed to be interested in me and a relationship began. But as the months went by he proved to be most insincere and the relationship became an abusive one.

It was a hard and grim time for me. Always considered a gentle-spirited person, easy-going, thoughtful and kind, able to deal with situations, my heart was being broken and even my very personality was changing.

I praise God for his strength to make a most important decision… with his help I decided that enough was enough and broke that relationship!

From depression to renewed confidence
That decision was so important… but now I was feeling that I would never find anyone who genuinely cared and whom I could trust.

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WORD OF PROPHECY

(March 14, 2021) Robert McQuillan responds to a young man’s question …

Dear Dr Robert
I have a question. Can you tell me what
is a word of prophecy?
Jono
(Not real name)

Dear Jono

Prophesying means a Christian (not necessary only a church leader or minister) under divine inspiration from God boldly bringing a word – a message, short or longish – to bless and encourage people. Paul mentions it in 1 Corinthians 12 as being one of the nine supernatural manifestation gifts of the Holy Spirit (Hence the divine inspiration aspect, not from one’s imagination ‘making things up’ just to please, win favour or misguide).

It’s a  gift that’s used in faith (itself one of the nine gifts), believing that we’re being directed by the Holy Spirit. (more…)

GOD SUPPLIES THE VICTORY!

(December 14, 2020) Norman and Margaret Moss share this encouraging Christmas meditation…

Such is the power of inspired scripture that when Charles Jennens gave the libretto of the Messiah to Handel, the composer was so moved and inspired that in 24 days he had completed the oratorio!

Handel said of the Hallelujah Chorus, ‘I did think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God himself.’

Victory lies in scriptureHoly Scripture can do that – and more! We were meditating on Isaiah 9:6…

‘For to us a child is born,to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’

Victory lies in Christ
Proverbs 21:31 came to mind: ‘Victory rests with the Lord’ and we felt the Lord was saying- (more…)