It’s the way God planned it

Matthew 19:5 NIV

Parents, read this letter. “Dear Dad: Thanks for all the times you held me on your lap so I could see the ball game, and times you took me to the carnival and bought me hot dogs. I’ll always remember the day you carried me through the snow because I was so cold. You’ve been a great dad and I’ll never forget you. Suzie and I were talking the other day and wondering how you’re doing. Since we moved away we don’t get to see much of you. But one of these days we’re going to come and surprise you. Take care. I love you, your son.” Nice letter, eh? Nice, if you’ve prepared yourself for the time when you’re no longer needed to do what you’re doing today. If not, you can grow resentful toward those you sacrificed so much for and feel like you’re no longer important to them. God gave you your children on a lease, with an expiration date. Poet Kahlil Gibran said, “They come through you but not from you…You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth” (See Psalm 127:4). Parenthood isn’t about ownership, it’s about stewardship. Your first assignment is to provide love to make them secure, laws to make them wise, light to walk in, and a lifestyle to follow. Your next assignment is to prepare them to go out into the world and put into practice the things you’ve taught them. So release them, celebrate the investment you’ve made, pray for them, and ask God, “What’s next?” It’s the way God planned it.

Soul food: 1 Chr 3-5; John 8:1-20; Ps 6; Prov 25:1-7

Meditate on God’s Word

Psalm 1:2 NKJV

To go deeper in our faith we need to go beyond just reading our Bibles and take the time to meditate on what we are reading. We can be frightened of the word ‘meditate’ but the word is defined as focusing our minds on something or thinking deeply about something. When we meditate on God’s Word, we are shutting out all distractions and fixing our minds on the truths we are reading. By thinking deeply about what the Bible says we can begin to gain understanding, wisdom, and start to hear what God wants to say to us through His Word. Peter was so dependent on the words of Jesus that he said, ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life’ (John 6:68 NLT). And Job said, ‘I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread’ (Job 23:12 NIV). As we meditate on God’s Word we develop a mind-set that enables us to rise above our fears. ‘My word…will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it’ (Isaiah 55:11 NIV). His Word has power to bring change to our lives, our minds, and our situations. His Word will accomplish His purposes in our lives. That’s why the enemy will battle us over finding time to read our Bibles. But we have to prioritise time reading and thinking about the Bible, even when we are really busy. And when we have made that time, let’s make sure that we are moving beyond simply reading passages. We need to be thinking and meditating on what we are reading. Let’s ask God to transform us and show us new things in His Word.

1 Chr 1-2; John 7:45-53; Ps 9; Prov 24:30-34

Keep learning

Proverbs 2:10 NLT

It’s really important that we never stop learning. We might leave school and university settings behind, but whatever age we are, we should still be open to learning. It’s important to learn more about God, more about ourselves, and more about others. We should be learning from the mistakes we make. We should be learning how to use the gifts and skills God has given us. Learning helps us to be prepared for whatever God wants to do next through us. The Bible tells us that God is always working, and that He brings about new things (take a look at John 5:17 and Isaiah 43:18-19). We need to make sure we are open to what He wants to teach us so that we are ready to step out into the things He has for us in the future. But learning goes beyond acquiring knowledge. We need to have wisdom. Wisdom helps us put our knowledge into practice. It helps us make godly decisions. The Bible says: ‘Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver…Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy’ (Proverbs 2:2-10 NLT). We can learn from a wide variety of sources, but the best source is God. James writes: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’ (James 1:5 NIV). Let’s make sure we are asking God for wisdom, putting our knowledge into practice, and continually learning.

1 Tim 1-3; John 5:16-30; Ps 5; Prov 24:8-9

Pray (1)

Romans 8:27 MSG

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is praying on our behalf. The Message version puts it like this: ‘God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in us and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves…and keeps us present before God’ (vv.26-27 MSG). Sometimes we struggle to be ‘fully present’ in prayer. Sometimes when we pray, we’re not really focused. Maybe we’re just repeating words, or listing things off that we always pray about. Our hearts are not really in it. One of the main things that stops us from praying is distraction. Someone might interrupt us and need our attention. Our thoughts might wander off, and we find ourselves thinking about something completely different and forget we were praying in the first place. We might even get a notification on our phones and we become tempted to check that rather than carry on in prayer. We’re not alone when it comes to struggling with distraction in prayer. The disciples struggled with staying focused too. When Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked the disciples to keep watch but they fell asleep. So Jesus said: ‘”Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”‘ (Matthew 26:40-41 NIV). But when He returned, they had fallen asleep again. When we’re praying, let’s try and put away all things that would distract us, and ask God to help us keep our minds firmly fixed on Him.

Exo 20:16; Deut 19:15-20; Rev 21:8

Helping the hurting (1)

Mark 1:41 NCV

If we want to be people who help those who are hurting, we first need to open our eyes and hearts. How can we help others if we don’t notice them, or we’re not moved by their suffering? It can be easy to get caught up in our own issues. Our problems sometimes seem so huge that we struggle to see God, let alone the needs of other people around us. Likewise, when we’re in a fun and happy season, it can be easy to overlook the unhappiness and pain of those around us. The Bible uses the analogy of the human body to explain how we’re linked as followers of Jesus. Each part is important, and each part is connected to the body. In 1 Corinthians 12 it says, ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it’ (v.26 NIV). Because we’re all connected in God, someone else’s suffering should stir us to help. In Mark 1, we read about a man who had leprosy. At this time, society called people with this disease unclean and didn’t associate with them. When this man approached Jesus, we’re told that Jesus ‘felt sorry for the man, so he reached out his hand and touched him.’ Jesus was moved with compassion for this man. He could see the suffering, and wanted to do something about it. He touched the man, despite the fact that it wasn’t an accepted thing to do. His compassion for this man was strong enough to overcome the boundaries society had created. Sometimes helping those who are hurting means we have to look past other people’s opinions of the person, we might have to associate with people that others label as ‘unclean’, and we’ll probably have to ask God for the eyes to see beyond our own lives too.

Titus 1-3; Mark 6:1-13; Ps 150; Prov 11:16-18