Loving others in the church (3)

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

A key way of loving others, and promoting unity in our churches, is to encourage people. When we criticise others, we can make them feel inferior or cause resentment to develop. That doesn’t mean we should let ungodly behaviour go unnoticed; there’s a place for discipline and constructive criticism, but it should be done with love and sensitivity. We should be aiming to be positive with our words, to tell people when they’ve done something right and to speak positivity into people’s situations. The Bible says, ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.’ Encouragement can go beyond words. We should be encouraging people to try something new, step out of their comfort zones and bring new ideas. Sometimes we can be wary of change, afraid that it will mess up our traditions and our routines. But when we invite people to start to use their gifts, they can bring freshness and creativity. We should be encouraging people to get involved and use what God has given them to develop the church. Forgiveness is another important part of having a loving and united church. When someone hasn’t been encouraging towards us, we have a choice. We can either let bitterness take root, or we can forgive them. If we don’t choose to forgive, bitterness and resentment can start to affect how we respond to that person, and to others. And if we choose to talk to others about what that person did to us, it can cause resentment and tension to spread around the church. The Bible says, ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). Let’s choose to live by that verse, and love others with encouragement and forgiveness.

1 Kings 6-7; Mark 8:1-13; Ps 97; Prov 12:1-3

Being there in the crisis (1)

Romans 12:8 TM

You say, “It’s not my responsibility. I’m not getting involved!” Psychologists call this “compassionate disengagement,” the tendency to avoid helping someone in trouble. Whether your motivation is inconvenience, self-protection, or indifference, it’s wrong. “Being there” is how you demonstrate your love for God and your neighbor. And helping requires recognizing three kinds of crises: (1) Accidental or situational crises. These involve things like sudden threats to our well-being, disruptive events, unexpected losses, the discovery of a serious illness, the death of a loved one, a family breakdown, the loss of livelihood or security. Job experienced all these events together and wondered why God allowed so many bad things to happen to him. (2) Developmental crises. These occur in the course of everyday life. Moving houses, going away to college, adjusting to marriage, parenting, retirement, aging, declining health, and the loss of friends. Abraham and Sarah moved many times. They also endured years of childlessness and family stress, including the challenge of sacrificing Isaac. (3) Existential crises. These are when we face disturbing truths about ourselves. We may see ourselves as failures, grapple with being divorced or widowed, learn that our illness is incurable, experience rejection because of our race, class, age, or gender, or realize we may be getting too old to fulfill our life goals. True “helpers” understand, get involved, and encourage. They keep their eyes open, and are quick to “give aid to people in distress.”

Soul food: 1 Kings 1-2; Mark 7:14-23; Ps 88:9b-18; Prov 11:27-29

How to get back up (2)

1 Kings 19:11 NIV

When Elijah reached his lowest point, God told him two things: (1) “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord.” He helped Elijah to quit thinking about himself and his problems and start thinking about God. When God has your ear, He can speak into it. When He has your heart, He can minister to it. That’s why Scripture reading is so important. If life is dragging you down and you’re ready to stand back up, climb into God’s Word, claim His promises, ask for His help, and talk plainly to Him. (2) “Anoint Elisha…to succeed you as prophet” (v. 16 NIV). Take the focus off yourself and look for someone to minister to. You’re not the only one in the world who has problems; there are people worse off than you are. They need someone like you to come alongside them, and, if nothing else, let them know you can relate to how they feel. They need someone like you to minister to them, to encourage them. If you want to see the fog of depression lifted, quit looking in the mirror and start looking out the window. The famous psychiatrist Karl Menninger was asked, “What would you advise a person to do who is experiencing depression and unhappiness?” He replied, “Lock the door behind you. Go across the street. Find somebody who has a need and do something to help them.” It’s so simple, yet we keep missing it! The truth is – by helping others you help yourself.

Soul food: Num 22-24; Mark 4:1-12; Ps 37:25-31; Prov 11:5-6

Think unselfishly. Give anonymously.

Philippians 2:4 TLB

Paul writes: “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing. Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus” (vv. 3-5 TLB). Becoming more unselfish begins with the decision to stop thinking about yourself so much and start looking for ways to help others. If you want to become more Christlike and unselfish, start doing these two things: (1) Put yourself in situations where people have needs. Is that risky? Sure. You risk rejection. You risk being misunderstood. You risk making mistakes. But becoming unselfish requires putting yourself in a position where you can see a person’s need and do something about it. In other words, get involved! (2) Give quietly or anonymously. Jesus said: “Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired…for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven…Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4 NLT). It’s easier to give when you receive recognition than when no one knows about it. But those who give for recognition and applause have already received any reward they will get (See Matthew 6:2). There are spiritual, mental, and emotional benefits that come to those who give anonymously. Try it. The fulfillment you’ll receive will encourage you to make it a lifestyle.

Soul food: Num 16-18; Mark 3:7-19; Ps 37:8-15; Prov 11:3


Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NCV

We often find it easy to talk about things that don’t really matter. But when it’s time to talk about our fears, our loneliness, our guilt, or our need to be loved, we struggle to get the words out. Maybe it’s because we struggle to trust other people, and we don’t want to let them know what’s really going in our lives. Maybe it’s because we’re ashamed of what we’re struggling with, and we want to avoid the judgment of others. But God created us with a need to feel and express emotions. He created us to live in community with others. The Bible says: ‘Two people are better than one…If one falls down, the other can help him up.’ It’s right to be cautious about who we share our emotions and struggles with. But when we know we can trust someone, it can be helpful for us to take off the mask we’re wearing, move on from the small talk, and tell them how we’re really getting on. By sharing with others, we gain support, whether practically or physically. It also helps build our relationships with others and encourages them to open up to us too. The Bible says we should be carrying each other’s burdens (take a look at Galatians 6:2), and the only way we can do that is if we’re willing to be vulnerable and share those burdens. David wasn’t afraid to share his emotions. He said to God, ‘I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed’ (Psalm 61:2 NKJV). If we’re struggling to open up to other people, we can start by opening up to God. He’s always prepared to listen, He can help us deal with things, and whatever we tell Him doesn’t affect how much He loves us.

Est 1-4; Luke 19:45-48; Ps 69:19-36; Prov 8:30-31