encouraging one another in our faith

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 3:13

The word translated “encourage” in the NIV might better be translated “exhort” (as in the NRSV) except for the fact that we don’t use that word today. “Warn” (NLT) fits the context, yet might be too strong. And there’s another Greek word which means to warn or instruct. Perhaps a good rendering might be to “strongly encourage.” (See Bill Mounce to consider that word in the New Testament transliterated parakaleo.)

The book of Hebrews was not written to us, but is definitely for us. It was for a group of either Jewish believers, or believers who as Gentiles had previously been God-fearers in Judaism, now under pressure, being persecuted for their faith (at least the beginnings of it), and tempted to go back to Judaism. But no one should think they are signed, sealed and delivered, as to their faith. We need according to the text, daily encouragement, mutual encouragement in our faith (Romans), but also some pointed loving words, to help us stay on track. When we see faith in others which encourages us, we should let them know, so that they might be encouraged by what we see.

The nature of scripture is– what had application for others, now has application for us. We have to consider the writings in their original context, but we must look at it in our setting, circumstances, and situation of life, as well. There has to be a measure of contextualization. But in that process, we have to be careful not to think that their needs were different than ours. At the heart of it, the need is the same. Wherever we find ourselves, or more precisely in this context, others, we need to take this seriously, and apply it to our lives. We need each other in Jesus to help us along, especially through the most difficult and potentially dangerous times. To not turn back, or drift away, but go on in Jesus toward full maturity in him. To the very end.

a simple word

I appreciate people who listen well, and try to say something encouraging and helpful in a given situation. The listening well part comes first, after which they might say nothing, except perhaps pray, or say they will pray. After that, some informative, constructive word can be uplifting, at least checking what might be a bit of a downward descent, giving us hope to not give up, perhaps find the silver lining, or move on and let it go, as well as seek to learn from it.

We need each other, certainly an ecomony in place within Christ’s body the church. We’re very much interdependent; we’re not meant to go it alone. And of course, we are completely dependent on God.

All of this is true, whether we recognize it or not. But it is to our loss when we fail to either recognize and acknowledge that. We need to put it into practice.

Above all, for me, I need to hear a word from God. And what I mean by that is something from scripture, from my daily, even hourly perusal or time spent in meditating on scripture.

Sadly, we oftentimes deny by our actions God’s word, and by that, fail to help anyone else. We need both God’s word to us, and we need to reinforce that word to each other. The book of Hebrews tells us that we’re to regularly, even daily encourage each other. Of course to do that, we must be encouraged ourselves with the encouragement that comes from God through his word to us found in scripture and through Christ.

A faith giving us a hope that enables us to carry on in love, in God’s will in Jesus.

taking off the edge

17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another. 

Proverbs 27

We value those who keep us on our toes so that we improve as people. Maybe in our work, and certainly in life, both would reflect what this proverb is getting at. As our Pastor Sharon said recently at her book launch at Bakers, it is indeed a blessing when friends in Jesus willingly open themselves up to feedback from another friend or group of friends, as to anything in their life which may be hindering their walk with God and with others (my words and thought of what she was saying).

There are well known, popular Christian leaders who in Christian circles seem to have a rough edge about them. Maybe one would argue that Paul did, and indeed that may well have been when Paul, right or wrong, refused to take John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin on another missionary journey, the dispute being so sharp that Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways on mission, Paul being commended by the church to God’s grace. We read later that Paul had a change of heart and mind toward John Mark, probably the one who wrote our beloved Gospel of Mark. Finding him useful for the ministry. Without Barnabas, John Mark may have never made it, and perhaps we wouldn’t even have the gospel he wrote.

While we need to be open to the receiving and giving, the give and take of mutual spiritual edification, which may well involve some exhortation and even warning at times, along with encouragement (and may the tribe of those who do this, increase; it seems rare to me), we do need to be aware of rough edges we ourselves may have which can blunt the sharpening.

I would think a key element here would be to learn to be in tune with, or maybe more realistically put, aspire toward being in step with the Spirit’s moving and working. The more clearly this is evident, the less personal it is in regard to the human relationship. The personal aspect is then with regard to God, perhaps both friends included, and especially the one to whom God is ministering.

Grace, grace and more grace from beginning to end is necessary. In this exchange there is never one above another, or one person in a higher place, though one may be further along in their walk in the Lord than the other. Rather we are in this together, on common ground at the cross, one as much in need of God and his grace as the other. In fact the closer one is to God, the more they realize their need of God.

We Christians need to be careful over our theological squabbles, along with others such as political, etc. Not only can we fail to be the witness before the world of what we are in Jesus, in his light through loving one another in the truth, but we can lose out in the process of change through the dynamic of relational, spiritual exchange as friends.

God calls us in Jesus toward love in the form of gentleness, humility, patience, and more of the same in his grace to us in Jesus. We need to work at a deep level love and concern for each other, so that we are more and more family in Jesus before the Father in the love of the Spirit. And for the world for whom Christ died.