William Barclay

DARE TO BE A BLESSING IN THESE DARK TIMES

(November 29, 2022) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share …

It seems so obvious to many that we live in dark times, depressing days because again and again we hear of the latest sad news. And not just more about war between Russia and Ukraine, uncertainty about China and north Korea’s intentions, covid and other health threats, rising anti-Semitism, increasing crime… but now we learn more and more that kids – mere teenagers – are hitting the headlines as the cause of serious crimes,  and that youngsters are longing for help from someone from a Peer Chat type group.

Yes, some good news does come through that we’re glad to hear… huge drug bust, some new medicine breakthrough, our favourite footy team or other sports star winning. Or something that makes us smile like cute new born babies, or a happy well-presented TV show such as Better Homes and Gardens.

But… there is a darkness hanging around many individuals and it is so evident that many people need encouragement, even a meaningful thank you!

Even some in ministry will openly admit they’re troubled, that although they’ll readily confess God is still on the throne, something has happened that has ‘got to them.’ Some uncertainty, lack of assurance, disappointment, illness, something they can’t put their finger on… and they’re feeling low in spirit.

Everyoneneeds encouragement at times! Our blog is called Encouragement and we would encourage every Christian to be an encourager!

Friendship
Proverbs 12:25NLT reads, ‘Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.’ 

  • Paul knew that… he was a great encourager as he spread the gospel, and taught churches. A good example is 1Thessalonians 2:11-12Mge, ‘… we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own  children,  encouraging…’
  • Acts 20:2Mge is another: ‘Travelling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits…
  • Guess what he was asked for in Antioch synagogue on arrival? ‘…do you have anything you want to say? A word of encouragement, perhaps?’ (Acts 13:15Mge).

Encouragement here is paraklēsisto comfort, console, exhort. A major part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry – in John 14:16,26, 15:26 and 16:7MKJV Jesus referred to Him as the Comforter. Other versions name Him helper, counsellor or advocate. We particularly like what the Message calls Him… the Friend.

And what does a good friend do when someone is ‘going through the mill’ – experiencing harrowing times? Reaches out to comfort! And when they do, the troubled friend is usually blessed as a sense of relief wafts over them. No wonder comfort basically means ‘a pleasant feeling of being relaxed and free from pain.’

Encouragement
Dark times have always been around in one form or another, hence encouragement has always been a joy to hear! We Christians need to know that in this current dark time, we can bless individuals with a comforting word that even goes beyond the natural response to exhort someone with a heavy heart.

1 Corinthians 12: 6-10 lists nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit that Paul wrote about. In outworking, three spoken gifts link together… words of prophecy, wisdom and knowledge. The word gift itself is charisma… indicating a divine gratuity, that many times may not only be a verbal blessing but a deliverance from some danger.

Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 14:3 that ‘… the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.’ In simple terms, biblical prophecy is a word that comes from God and we speak it to someone for their benefit… and often about something about which we couldn’t possibly know.

Just recently we were counselling – consoling – some pastors who were going through a dark patch and Maureen shared an incident that happened many years ago when we were ministering in a Baptist church. Praying with those who had responded to the altar call, she was strongly laid to approach a particular lady who appeared lonely and harassed.

She looked at this person for a few moments, sensing that the lady needed to hear something from God… but what? Then Maureen said quietly and hesitantly, ‘I don’t know what this is about but all I’m sensing in my spirit is “Washing machine, washing machine, washing machine…”. Does that mean something to you?’

That lady gasped, then said in amazement, ‘Gosh! Why, all week I felt so depressed, all I could think of was putting my head in the washing machine!’

Maureen prayed over her and what joy filled her heart and mind to know that God cared so much for her to reveal that unusual scenario to a stranger. Her spirit had been lifted, freed… and she had indeed been strengthened with encouragement and comforted!

Back to those troubled pastors… we both shared other incidents of the goodness and supernatural of our loving God towards His children. And they were blessed and encouraged to soldier on for the kingdom!

Opportunities
No one is immune from troubles! Life is life and things go wrong for anyone! So let’s be aware of something important here… God can use this gift of encouragement to uplift strangers in the street as it were! Especially in these days when people don’t go to church as they used to.

We often talk about Jesus commanding ‘love thy neighbour’… but Christians can be as self-justifying as that Luke 10:29 ‘self-religious expert in the law’ who said, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

A neighbour can be some stranger in the very marketplace, someone who needs to know that God knows all about them and cares! Here’s an example…

At the back of an Asia bargain shop last week, Maureen spotted an item that she like to check – but it was way up high on a top shelf. As no assistant was around I asked a tallish lady nearby to reach up for it, which she willingly did.

I thanked her, and she commented that it was the right thing to do. So I thanked you again and as we started to move to the checkout, I added, ‘God bless you’ to which she smiled and thanked me.

As I turned to leave, suddenly I was led to turn back to this stranger and move in a prophetic word that included wisdom and knowledge. No one else was in that narrow isle so I did not embarrass her in any way.

Her face shone brightly as she listened to my quiet, assuring voice. Yes it was me speaking, but it was the blesses Holy Spirit directing me. As I continued encouraging her, the lady paused me, and said softly as she smiled widely, ‘Oh, you going to make me cry.’ Then I completed God’s encouragement for her.

As she thanked me, I added, ‘Now you know I’m a stranger. Only the Lord could have known all that about you and those circumstances and needs.’ She smiled again and nodded ‘I know.’ And there in that marketplace outside of any church, we chatted about Almighty God.

All that does not give all glory to me, but to the Lord! He set it up… our need was a material one, God used it to give a spiritual blessing to that dear lady!

So many need God in dark times that can cloud our thinking! May we take every opportunity to share Jesus!

Openings
Some words of that Greg Nelson and Phil McHugh hymn come to mind…
‘People need the Lord, people need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door.’

In keeping with what we’ve shared above, that open door to God could come about because you too dare to be a spiritual blessing, especially supernatural encouraging word, to some stranger in your local church or local marketplace. If they don’t know the Lord, the opening is there to share!

Dr William Barclay wrote of the Holy Spirit as the one who enables us ‘to stand up to the opposing forces, to cope with life and to conquer life.’ That the Holy Spirit is ‘none other than the presence and the power of the risen Christ.’ (New Testament Words).

We are not alone when such a key is with us! Let’s be bold, daring! Who knows where the role we play in someone’s life can lead? All glory goes to God!

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Dr Robert and Pastor Maureen McQuillan’s links: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook

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CELEBRATING THE LIGHT

(November 27, 2022) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, reflects on God’s light…

Ministering in England years ago, I was teaching about Jewish faith and practice. To help give my church members a better understanding, I asked a nearby rabbi if he would kindly give us a tour of his synagogue and explain various things done during their worship services.

Very pleased to do so, when we arrived on a suitable date, he was most welcoming, telling us to ask as many questions as we wished. We had a great time!

Later, a week or two before Christmas, he called saying that they were celebrating the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah and invited my church along. I readily accepted. The Jewish congregation sang some Hanukkah songs, and then the rabbi invited us to sing some Christmas carols which we did – with much enthusiasm! 

A wonderful meal followed that contained many delicacies that are traditionally eaten at Hanukkah.  It was a memorable experience.

Hanukkah 
This is celebrated about three months after the Feast of Tabernacles, and lasts for eight days. Another name is the ‘Festival of Lights’ and this year will be between December 18 and 26.

Although not mentioned in the Old Testament, a reference is in John 10:22, where it is called the ‘Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.’

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STUPIDIEST QUESTION EVER ASKED!

(April 07, 2022) Maureen McQuillan shares that Jesus truly cares…

When good friend Hope Flinchbaugh (Nehemiah-God’s Call to Build the Wall 2) enquired last month how Robert was going after several sleep-interrupted nights, he shared that he was now sleeping right through each night.

Hope then sent this note: ‘It sounds like you’ve learned to sleep in the boat when the big storm is on you!’ Robert had replied along the lines of ‘Not as restful as Jesus was… but I fully trust in Him.’

With various storms of life round us at this time, one needs to be at rest by knowing and trusting our Lord. Meditating on being at rest by trusting Jesus had me reflecting on Mark 4… Jesus asleep in a boat when a huge storm hit.

Jesus needed rest Himself
Verse 35 tells us that one evening Jesus had requested His disciples to take Him across the lake by boat.

He’d already had a very busy day teaching kingdom truths to crowds lined up along the shore. Now He was not only tired (Yes, ministry can tire us!), but maybe His mind was on the next day’s even busier one of supernatural ministry… finding and freeing that poor Gerasene man bound by many evil spirits, travelling dust roads, raising a little girl from the dead, and encountering that desperately troubled woman who would dare to boldly touch the hem of His robe believing to be healed, not to mention more criticisms (Mark 5).

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RESPONSES TO THE NEWS OF CHRIST’S BIRTH

(December 14, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, shares insights regarding Christmas…

Despite the Christmas trees, lights, balloons, parties, seasonal songs, Santa Claus, reindeers and sleigh bells, Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus Christ!

But I have noticed that increasingly the celebration is becoming less about Jesus.  For many he is now largely considered as an irrelevant and disposable component to the event. The many and varied responses to the message of the birth of Jesus is not surprising.  His coming to earth 2000 years ago was met with similar responses and reactions.

Let’s briefly consider some of them.

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