We’re all on the same team!

Luke 6:38 CEV

Jesus said, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults…That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging” (Matthew 7:1-2 TM). Think about it. Do you really want to live your life judging and being judged? One Christian author puts it this way: “We were created to be in community…[Not] treat each other with a spirit of judgment…There’s something in us that permits us to vie for a better impression of ourselves by belittling someone else. It rages through the teenage years, and should end when we ‘grow up,’ but instead it mutates…We judge each other’s relationships when our own are crumbling …or their parenting skills when our own are hanging by a thread…Someone who never exercises is ‘lazy’…Someone who hides their feelings is ‘cold’…we judge who has what job, who’s busier, who has more stress, who has it ‘rougher.’ Someone tells us bad news and we secretly rejoice that it’s not us…someone shares good news and we call them arrogant. But no one wins because we’re all on the same team.” Instead of judging and criticizing, Paul says, “When we have the opportunity to help…we should do it” (Galatians 6:10 NCV). So: (a) Look for a way to bless somebody who is not in a position to reciprocate. (b) Identify someone you can encourage today. (c) Go out of your way to make someone feel special. Jesus said: “If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return…The way you treat others is the way you will be treated.”

Soul food: Job 29-31; Luke 19:1-10; Ps 55:1-11; Prov 8:17-18

Stop judging

Luke 6:37 MSG

Ever thought you were better than someone else? Ever judged someone because of something they’ve done, or not done? We can probably all answer ‘yes’ to those questions. We can be quick to point out other people’s faults, talk behind their backs, or damage our relationships by criticising. But Jesus said: ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’ (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV). This whole story shows how we shouldn’t be judging others because we can also be judged for things. None of us are perfect, only God is. And He is the only One who can judge. In Romans, it says: ‘If you think you can judge others, you are wrong. When you judge them, you are really judging yourself guilty, because you do the same things they do. God judges those who do wrong things, and we know that his judging is right’ (2:1-2 NCV). In the Message, Jesus’ words are paraphrased: ‘Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticise their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment.’ Instead of judging and criticising, Paul says, ‘When we have the opportunity to help…we should do it’ (Galatians 6:10 NCV). So we need to be looking for ways to bless people, even when we know they can’t do anything in return for us. We need to be encouraging people and making them feel valued.

Job 29-31; Luke 19:1-10; Ps 55:1-11; Prov 8:17-18

Get up and try again

2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV

When we make mistakes, something goes wrong, or we’re just feeling discouraged, we have two choices. We can stay down, dwelling in our failure or disappointment, or we can get up and try again. But rising up can be easier said than done. Sometimes the first step towards getting out of discouragement is finding somebody who can lift us. The people we spend time with will either lift us up or pull us down. When we spend time with people who are always negative, always complaining, and are full of despair about their life, we can end up coming out of that conversation feeling negative and full of despair at our lives too. But when we’re around people who are bursting with positivity, it’s hard not to be encouraged. Their positivity is contagious. Paul wrote, ‘God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus’ (2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV). We all need a Titus in our lives, someone who comforts us and encourages us to keep going when we’re struggling. And we all should aim to be a Titus to other people too. When we see that someone is struggling, we should be quick to encourage, help, and build them up. The Bible says, ‘Carry each other’s burdens’ (Galatians 6:2 NIV). We also need to have the right perspective. When we become focused on our problems, it’s easy to be drawn into a downward spiral and to get more and more negative. But when we put our problems into perspective, and remember that God promises to be with us, to work with us, and to use everything we go through for good (have a look at Romans 8:28) then we can rise up in positivity.

Gen 17-19; John 13:31-38; Ps 118:1-9; Prov 31:6-9

Share your story

Acts 16:14 NLT

Lydia wasn’t a preacher, she was a successful businesswoman who became a Christian from Paul’s ministry. As a result, her home probably became the first church building named in Scripture where believers met. The Bible says: ‘She and her household were baptised, and she asked us to be her guests…When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more’ (Acts 16:15;40 NLT). Lydia’s story shows us that we don’t have to be preachers to spread the good news about Jesus. We can share our faith, whatever our profession and however confident we feel about it. God says, ‘Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass’ (Isaiah 46:10 NLT). God already has a plan; what He’s looking for are workers willing to help fulfil it. And we can be one of those workers. Sometimes we worry that we don’t know enough theology, and that we won’t know the answers to people’s questions. But the thing is, God will give us the words to say when we ask Him for help. And often, our story has power. It’s our testimony of how God has made a difference in our lives that can really encourage someone else to give God their life, too. The Bible says: ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). We should always be prepared to share our faith with others, whether we feel qualified or not.

Ecc 9-12; John 12:1-11; Ps 76; Prov 30:15-17

Kingdom success

Psalm 37:23 NCV

We are all called to increase God’s kingdom. Whether that’s by introducing people to God, or by living in such a way that more of God’s kingdom is seen on Earth, our purpose is to follow God’s call on our lives. God uses us all for His kingdom. Maybe it’s a calling to share our faith with others, encourage those around us, glorify God in our job or something else, God has a purpose for us. Kingdom success is not like earthly success. We are often told that success means money, fame and power. But in God’s kingdom it’s the opposite. ‘The last will be first, and the first will be last’ (Matthew 20:16 NIV). Kingdom success is not about money, fame or power. It’s about becoming more like Jesus. It’s about sharing our faith, our lives and our gifts with others. It’s about unity, not competition and comparison. It’s about putting others before ourselves. It’s a cycle of receiving and giving, resting and working, praying and doing. Basically, it’s about retreating with God, then advancing with what we have been taught and what God’s asking us to do. The Bible says: ‘When people’s steps follow the Lord, God is pleased with their ways.’ When we do what God’s calling us to do, He’s pleased with us. When we’re desiring to get closer to Him, He’s pleased with us. When we are trying to become more like Him, He’s pleased with us. In God’s kingdom, it doesn’t matter whether we are popular, rich or academic. It doesn’t matter how attractive we are. What matters is our heart. Our heart for God, our heart for others and our heart for the things of the kingdom.

Ezra 3-5; Luke 10:1-12; Ps 78:1-8; Prov 19:21-23