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Friday, October 20, 2006

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"Dependable Encouragers"

"Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas which means Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36).  "When he (Saul) came to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles" (Acts 9:26,27).

I remember a Bible College chapel speaker who challenged the student body regarding their service for the Lord.  He forthrightly pointed out that few were destined to have notable singing ministries and or would become famous worldwide as preachers or evangelists.  In fact the majority of listeners that day wouldn't even be known outside of their relatively small sphere of influence.

But with earnestness he spoke directly to our hearts and put forth this challenge: "One character trait that is greatly needed, and something that we can all be is dependable." That was many years ago and it was one of the simplest but most important challenges I have ever heard. Now I would add to his challenge that we can all be encouragers!

This is a special day for us.  This Daily Encouragement ministry began ten years ago (10/21/96). I had preached a sermon to our congregation in New England, where I pastored at the time, challenging them to encourage one another daily.  It was at the leading of the Holy Spirit that I wrote a brief email note of encouragement the next morning to two people.  I had no plans at that time to write additional messages but day after day I did and now have written over 2500.

Barnabas is one of my favorite Bible characters. Consider his influence; no book in the Bible was written by him. We don't have the text of any sermon he preached recorded in Acts as we do Peter, Stephen and Paul. In fact there's not a single quote attributed exclusively to Barnabas in Scripture.  All the information we have about him is biographical and brief.

A tiny glimpse into his character is seen in the second daily verse and is so typical of his ministry as an encourager. Before his conversion, Saul had a well-deserved vicious reputation. He was to meet the disciples but they were afraid.  His conversion could have been a mere ruse to get in with the disciples. 

Note just the phrase "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles"" His action is so characteristic of an encourager.  Barnabas believed in the power of Jesus Christ to perform the miracle of transformation. And Saul (who of course became Paul) was genuinely transformed. Consider the tremendous contribution he made to the church in his apostolic ministry and letters. I am sure thankful for Barnabas, who chose to stand up for him!

Barnabas is a dependable encourager and additional references in Scripture demonstrate this. Later he traveled with Paul and a summary of their ministry was "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith" (Acts 14:22).  We are all indebted to encouragers like Barnabas, even though it certainly is not considered one of the more prominent or "spiritual" ministries, such as a polished preacher, a dynamic worship leader or powerful vocalist.

For many years a subtheme of this ministry is "Everyone Needs Encouragement."  I still believe that. Now certainly sometimes we need it more than others, particularly when we are facing trials and are discouraged. Thankfully most of us don't live in an ongoing state of discouragement (depression).

But I am never aware of a time I would feel that I just don't need any more encouragement. I am always receptive to encouragement! So once again on the tenth anniversary of this ministry I want to be a dependable encourager and urge you to be a dependable encourager to others as well!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, if Your character traits were vacillating, limited, or available only to a select group of individuals You would not be the God I have come to fully depend on.  It is Your consistent nature that assures me that You are always as close as the mention of Your name.  Thank You for the recorded Scripture that shows us God in flesh so that we can see the man Christ as the model for dependable and perfect character.  As we continue in our spiritual development, we seek to love and encourage others even as You love and encourage us.  Help us to be Your voice, Your hands and Your feet as we represent You in reaching out to those who need encouragement this day.  Amen.

I never learned to type correctly. I was more interested in athletics when I went to Truman High School in Independence, Missouri in the early seventies and I still recall that there was only boy in typing class, who happened to be a friend of mine. He sure was ahead of the curve!

But I peck really fast with my index fingers, which is so inefficient that Brooksyne can't bear to look at me when I'm doing it. Anyway, over ten years the accumulative total of words typed is now over 1,000,000. (I keep a composite file of all the encouragements since the very first one and MS Word has a nifty word count feature.) For those who may be interested I direct you to a short personal ministry update in light of the 10th anniversary of this ministry.
Also a number have expressed interest as to just how we go about the process of preparing these messages each day so I prepared a page about this.

Yesterday I illustrated the message with a mystery photo. I challenged readers to identify where the photo was taken based upon the gps coordinates.  Many responded correctly but the most precise was from a reader in Nevada who nailed it precisely.  It was at Nevada Chachani, North of Arequipa, Peru in South America.  The featured photo was of a friend of mine who now serves as a missionary in Peru. Actually Doug grew up in the church we pastored in northern Pennsylvania and was only four years old when we started the church in 1977. He went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and his parents are among our best friends to this day.

Doug writes, "If you look on Google Earth, you will see our camping spot the night before our long day of hiking to almost 20,000 feet.  As you look towards the left in the google earth photo, you will see a zig-zag path going up to the first snow-covered peak. If you follow around to the southern side of that peak, about halfway down the snow, you will see a straight line through the snow.  That was our path along the side of that peak to get to the other peak farther west.  That “path” is only 1 foot (an actual person’s foot width wide) in other words you walked one foot in front of the other.  If you slipped, it was a long way to the bottom.  Eventually, by the other peak we had to chop a path in the side of the hill as we took each step, kind of crazy to say the least, considering we were exhausted from the work and the altitude and there is no search and rescue here."

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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