(NOTE TO MY READERS: Sorry for again falling behind. This time it was due to losing our power during a pretty fierce first snowstorm of the year. I worked at my laptop nevertheless, until the battery gave way! But here now I bring to you devotionals for yesterday, today...and tomorrow, having been blessed with some extra time to write (snowed in, I couldn't drive to work -- what a shame!), and the restoration of electricity and access to the satellites roaming the stratosphere for the sake of our mutual (yes mutual, I look forward to hearing from you!) communication).
Exhort one another (I Thessalonians 5:11); Exhort one another daily, as long as it is called “today,” lest any be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13); Encourage one another all the more, as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).
II Timothy 3:16 says that “all Scripture is profitable teaching, training and correcting.” But what about exhorting? How does this fit into the believer’s toolbox? Paul encourages us to “speak, exhort, and reprove with all authority” (Titus 2:15). These three levels of intensity used in building up the church, match the three uses of Scripture:
Level One: SPEAK (teaching): First, we read the Bible, out loud (I Timothy 4:13), a crucial. foundational step. Then we teach the Bible, “giving the sense” (Nehemiah 8:8). These are directed to the head – but information and instruction do not a sermon make. We air a subject, but we aim a sermon, and the target of God’s Word must always be the heart.
Level Two: APPLY (training): Now the exhortation begins. This word is parakaleo in the Greek, meaning, “to call near.” It can have a stern side, when we beseech, urge, entreat, implore, invoke, or advise our listeners. It also has a softer side, where we comfort, console, and encourage. This single word defines the dual role of the pastor when wielding the Word of God: to disturb the comfortable, and to comfort the disturbed! When we exhort, we invite our listeners to move in and take a closer look at the truth, to find personal implications and make practical applications, as seen in these Scriptural examples… “I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to make good on their promised gift” (II Corinthians 9:5). “We hear that some among you are leading undisciplined lives, doing no work, but acting like busybodies; such we exhort by the Lord Jesus to work in quiet fashion so as to eat of your own bread” (II Thessalonians 3:11-12). “By exhorting in sound doctrine refute those who contradict the truth” (Titus 1:9). “Exhort the young men to think and act with good sense” (Titus 2:6). “Exhort servants to be subject to their own masters, well-pleasing, not argumentative” (Titus 2:9). “While I was planning to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to exhort you that you should contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3). “With many words he exhorted them saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation’ ” (Acts 2:40). Proclaiming truth is teaching. This is vital, but not enough, for it is only by preaching that men are won to Christ, and preaching is exhorting: “So with many exhortations John the Baptist preached the gospel to the people” (Luke 3:18). “And after the reading of the Scriptures the synagogue official said, ‘Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it now’” (Acts 13:15). Yes -- Say it now!
Bits & Pieces from Japan
7 years ago