“Keep it secret, keep it safe.”
“You shall not pass!”

These are both examples of hortative phrases from Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings.
Def: Giving exhortation : serving to advise or warn.
Both words hortative and exhort are from the Latin word hortari, which means “to urge.”
We do not often shy away from giving advice and warnings, especially in a field which we are well acquainted with and feel equipped to do so.

As the New Year of 2018 has arrived, we are surrounded by hortative statements and ideas to urge us onward, to a new regiment, to try new things, to be consistent, to lose weight, to gain weight, to avoid bad foods,  to read more, and on and on the list goes…

In the midst of all these pressures and “urgent” adjustments, I think it should be of the utmost importance to seek out the hortatory advice that is primary. That is to say, what is the most urgent thing I need to do this year?
What exhortation calls me to greater things in my words and in my life?

2 of the most central exhortations for me this year are found in Paul’s epistles:
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
(Romans 12:1)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”
(Ephesians 4:1)

Paul’s 2 hortatory pleas are just as important to us today as they were to the churches in the first century A.D.

  1. Worship God.
    Paul presents here the same concept that Jesus introduced when He said to “deny yourself and take up your cross daily.” (Matthew 16:24) This simply means to place God in His rightful place in your life… the center. Worshiping God is not limited to a church service, or even in your morning devotions. While these times are important, we are to be “living sacrifices”; this means that at our jobs, in our interactions with others, on what we watch, every aspect of our lives must be lived in worship to God. That’s why Paul also points out that everything we do must be to the glory of God! (1 Cor. 10:13)
  2. Walk in love. 
    The next couple of verses in Ephesians reveals the heart of what Paul wants to communicate. He describes how we are to walk and what its purpose is, “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
    (John 13:35 “And they will know you are my disciples by your love.”)

    If there is anything that others need from us this year, it is the love that can only be found in Jesus. But how are we to demonstrate that love if we do not know it ourselves. I urge you to walk in the love of Christ this year, to know that He loves you and that He has everything under control. Will it be easy? No, but it will be worth the struggle and the adventure of your life will never be the same, you just have to have the courage to take that first step.

    “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

    My exhortation to you today is to take the next step. Even if your first steps into the new year were in the wrong direction, I pray you will worship God and walk in love in 2018. 🙂

    Much love in Christ,

    David Bunce

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