FOLLOWING JESUS @ VINEYARD COMMUNITY CENTRE

Sunday 31 May 2015 Pastoral Letter: En – Courage – ment

Dear family and friends – fellow followers of Jesus!

Last year a Vineyard missionary family visited our church from a Muslim nation. Jim ends his emails, without fail, with a simple ‘be encouraged’ – no matter whether he shares the joy of Muslims turning to Jesus or the sad news of believers killed in the name of Islam. I’ve been deeply struck by his words ‘be encouraged’ no matter what! Returning last week from Brussels was like coming down from the mountain of transfiguring glory into the valley of pain, demons and death (read Mark 9:1-29). Back to reality! I had to attend to a number of pastoral situations that left me feeling pained, crying to God for mercy. I realize again how much people are struggling relationally, emotionally, and financially.

Then the words came to me: ‘be encouraged!’ I felt God say ‘en-courage’ the people! Speak courage into them, as Isaiah says, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear, your God will come… he will come to save you’” (Is 35:3-4). God comes to us one way or another, sooner or later, but he comes! To be encouraged is to receive God’s courage and strength into your being, in your thoughts, emotions, body. It’s actually a decision! Be encouraged! David learnt to do it: when he was deeply distressed (some men were talking of stoning him) he “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Sam 30:6). We encourage ourselves by going to God again and again, laying it all down at his feet, receiving his courage and strength. And of course, we must encourage one another regularly – we really do need one another!

So, I felt pressed in my heart to give you pastoral encouragement, hence this letter:

– Slow down, pace yourself, rest a little… and take time for yourself with the Lord.
– Don’t carry your burdens on your own shoulders, give them to Jesus because the government is upon his shoulders – he’s well able to handle ALL your worries!
– Discipline yourself into being radically honest with yourself and God.
– Keep short accounts with people, especially in marriage and family; don’t let any shadow remain between you and another person without resolving it.
– Do not neglect or “give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – all the more as you see The Day approaching” (Heb 10:25). It applies to the 2’s & 3’s accountability groups, and to home groups, and church. I am amazed at how times have changed: people are busier and busier with less and less value for home groups, for relational community as a place of care and growth. The problem is life-style choices and priorities – most are in survival mode! Help us Jesus!! I pray constantly for God to help me help people to rise above survival… to enjoy…!
– Worship God by being regular and faithful in giving your tithes and offerings – trusting him for your needs. Last week reminded me how people are struggling financially. The crisis of confidence in the ANC government and national uncertainty is leading to deeper economic pain. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to read my teaching notes again on money (from 10 May 2015), especially my nine-point-plan on how to steward your money before God… and implement these steps!
– Lastly, as part of ‘fishing the world’ I encourage you to pray for friends and family as God shows you, that they may come to know Jesus – and share the gospel with them.

I, Alexander, have been personal here, because I’ve felt the hand of the Lord heavy on me! My prayer is that you (yes, YOU!) will receive en–courage–ment from the Lord, and that you’ll speak courage and strength to those around you. Bless you!