Be a blessing

Genesis 12:2 NIV

We may not be able to see them right now, but God has given us all so many blessings. Some of these are material, everyday things, other blessings are spiritual and unseen. The Bible says: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3 NIV). God loves to bless us and give us good gifts because we are His children and He loves us. But when we are blessed, we shouldn’t become selfish. Being blessed by God means we are able to be a blessing to others. God said to Abraham: ‘I will bless you…make your name great, and you will be a blessing.’ The more we have, whether that’s money, time, skills, or authority, the more we have to share with others. The Bible says: ‘Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered’ (Proverbs 11:25 ESV). It’s important for us ‘water’ other people. That means we need to be encouraging and refreshing them. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: ‘Therefore encourage one another and build one another up’ (ESV). It’s important to be generous with our resources and our words. We are not blessed to store everything up for ourselves, but to share with others. We need to ask God to open our eyes to those around us who He wants us to share with. It may mean we donate to a charity, use our God-given gifts to serve, speak words of encouragement to someone who is struggling, or even just smile at someone to spread the joy God has given us. We need to look beyond ourselves and see who we can bless.

Mal 1-4; Matt 1:1-6a; Ps 128; Prov 31:10-13

Set goals (4)

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV

God has a unique purpose for our lives. He has things He has created us for individually. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need other people. When God calls us to do a job, He calls others to stand alongside us. So we need to be asking Him who belongs in our lives. In Exodus chapter 17, as long as Moses held his hands up, Israel’s armies prevailed in battle, but when his hands grew tired the battle went the other way. So Aaron and Hur stood by Moses and held up his hands until victory over the Amalekites was complete. We need people who know how to hold up our hands, strengthen us, and encourage us. Paul wrote, ‘I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves…But…Timothy has proved himself’ (Philippians 2:20-22 NLT). In fact, Paul took an entire chapter of the Bible to acknowledge and thank all those who made it possible for him to succeed in his calling. He writes ‘they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches’ (Romans 16:4 NLT). Some of us can struggle to ask for help, or allow others to come alongside us. We want to do everything on our own. But we all need people who will encourage us when it gets tough, and celebrate with us when we are successful. The Bible says: ‘Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up’ (NIVUK). When God sends gifted people into our lives, let’s acknowledge, respect, and thank them.

Gen 11:1-9; Phil 2:1-11

Spiritual warfare

Joshua 8:1 NKJV

After Joshua conquered Jericho, God said to him, ‘Take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king…his people…his city, and his land.’ These were warriors who were strong and equipped for battle. In a similar way, we need to take people who are strong and equipped in spiritual warfare with us when we are fighting spiritual battles. These are the people who are experienced in spiritual warfare and know how to deal with the enemy. They have strategies for victory that they know will work, and a firm faith that rises up and says, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31 NIV). The people of war are the people of the Word. They know how to take the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, and use it to defeat the enemy (have a read of Ephesians 6:17). Anybody can stand with us in the good times, but when we find somebody who can stand with us in the bad times, we need to make sure we don’t take them for granted and that we build a relationship with them. The Bible says, ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity’ (Proverbs 17:17). Real friends stick by us when we are struggling. It’s in those times that we need friends who are ready to enter into battle with us, who will declare God’s promises over our lives, and encourage us to keep fighting when we feel weak and discouraged. So next time we are facing a spiritual battle, let’s make sure we are surrounding ourselves with people who are ready to enter into spiritual warfare with us.

2 Sam 22:31-24:25; John 4:13-26; Ps 32; Prov 23:29-35

Are you a “me first” person?

Philippians 2:3 NIV

If you’re a “me first” person, here are some verses of Scripture that is designed to keep you on your toes, and your knees! “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but…to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5 NIV). That’s how Jesus treated people, and you have been called to do likewise. Is doing this easy or convenient? No, it runs contrary to everything in our self-centered natures. And because you were gracious yesterday, is no guarantee you’ll treat people the same way today. Grace is like a garment; you have to put it on each morning and wear it all day. “How can I live like that?” you ask. By drawing daily on God’s grace, and deciding to put others first. By looking for ways to support and encourage them. Everybody you meet is fighting a battle of some kind, and you may be the one person that crosses their path who is able to speak a word of encouragement to them (See Proverbs 16:24 NLT). Don’t let them down. Humility is an attitude that determines ahead of time: “I care about the people around me. I don’t always have to be first. I’m going to help somebody else win for a change.” Humility prays, “Lord, teach me to curb my competitive nature and turn that energy into loving and lifting others. Show me how You did it, and help me to do it too.”

Soul food: Est 4:9-5:3; Heb 4:7-16

Friends “in the woods”

1 Samuel 23:16 NKJV

The first African American to play major league baseball was Jackie Robinson. While trying to break through baseball’s color barrier, he faced insults and abuse in just about every stadium. One day at his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error and the fans immediately turned on him. While they jeered, Robinson just stood there at second base, humiliated. At that point shortstop Pee Wee Reese ran over, stood beside him, put his arm around him, and together they faced the crowd. Within seconds the fans grew quiet. Years later when Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he said, “Reese’s arm around my shoulder that day saved my career.” Jesus knew Peter would “strike out” and deny Him, yet He extended grace to Peter even before it happened. Here’s what He told him: “When you have come back to me, help the others” (Luke 22:32 CEV). When God restores you, you’ll want to reach out to others with His love. It will be as natural to you as breathing. You’ll live by the Scripture: “Strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong…for your God…is coming to save you'” (Isaiah 35:3-4 NLT). In Scripture “Jonathan…went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand.” When you feel lost “in the woods” you need a Jonathan. That’s when you prove the truth of the old adage: “In prosperity our friends know us, but in adversity we know our friends.” They’re the people we turn to in times of trouble. So if you think you’ll ever need such a friend, be one!

Soul food: 2 Sam 7:18-11:27; John 2:1-11; Ps 110; Prov 23:6-9