You’re invited (4)

John 15:16 NLT

Take a look at Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 15:16. It’s a personal message of encouragement to us too. God personally chose each of us. He wanted us specifically for Him. He has a plan for our lives. He helps us to keep going when we think we can’t do what He asks. He encourages us when we’ve run out of steam. ‘The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble…the Lord holds them by the hand’ (Psalm 37:23-24 NLT). He wants us to be successful for Him. ‘No weapon turned against you will succeed…These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord’ (Isaiah 54:17 NLT). That means any spiritual attacks directed at us, or obstacles designed to stop us fulfilling His plan won’t work, as long as we keep our focus on Him. But just because we’ve been chosen by God doesn’t mean we can go off and do our own thing. Paul said, ‘Do you think we should continue sinning so that God will give us even more grace? No! We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin? (Romans 6:1-2 NCV). When we’ve been chosen and appointed by God, we can be sure of our position in Christ, even if our condition isn’t perfect. It’s also why God sometimes allows tests and temptations to come our way. He knows that it’ll help us understand that we’re dependent on His love, and helps us keep ourselves deeply rooted in Him. He has an assignment for each of us, and He wants to see us do our best in that assignment. And when we realise that, nothing can stop us.

Gal 5:22; Isa 61; Heb 12:2; Isa 35:3-10

Friendship (2)

Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

In order to have a good friend, you must first try to be a good friend. An unknown poet wrote, “I went out to find a friend, but could not find one there; I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere.” Friendship doesn’t require having a dynamic personality. Even shy, quiet, and reserved individuals can learn to be friendly. It’s next to impossible to have no friends, if you yourself are friendly. And the opposite is also true. Psychologists asked a group of college students to jot down the initials of the people they disliked most. Some of the students could think of only one person, while others listed as many as fourteen. But an interesting fact that came out of the research was that those who disliked the largest number of people, were themselves the most widely disliked. You’ll find that the more likeable you are, the more likely you are to like other people and be liked by them. So here are five ways to make friends: (1) Maintain eye contact. When you talk to people, look them in the eye. (2) Smile! It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile – and a smile warms hearts and encourages conversation. (3) Call people by their names. Strangers are just that, strange, but a friend is known. (4) Talk to others about their favorite topic – themselves. (5) Find an occasion to give a word of encouragement, a compliment, or show an act of kindness. When you find a person with these five traits, you’ve found someone who has a reputation for being friendly.

Soul food: Exo 17:8-16; 2 Cor 1:3-7

Patience, love, and encouragement

Psalm 73:2 TLB

If you’d met Asaph, who wrote some of the psalms, you’d probably have thought he hadn’t a care in the world. But you’d have been wrong: “I came so close to the edge of the cliff! My feet were slipping and I was almost gone.” Then at the end of the psalm he does a one-eighty, and writes, “My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever” (v. 26 NLT). Despite his problems, he chose to speak words of courage. When you have an opportunity to encourage someone, do it. You never know what a person is going through – that’s true whether they live in a mansion or a mud hut. Here’s an important principle to keep in mind: People tend to become what the most important people in their lives think of them! So think the best, believe the best, and express the best toward them. You say, “But they need to stop making the same stupid mistakes!” Change happens by inches, not miles. Even when it seems simple, it’s rarely easy. The only way we can break old habits is to form new ones, and that takes time and practice – lots of it. You can’t tell people something once and expect them to get it; they need to hear it over and over before they can make the adjustment. And how you tell them can determine whether they freeze in fear or soar above the obstacles. Be persistent. Never give up trying to help them improve. Acknowledge every step of progress they make. The way to get lasting results is through patience, love, and encouragement.

Soul food: 2 Chr 22-24; Mark 7:1-13; Ps 119:129-136; Prov 22:8-10

‘Lord, Where Are You?’ (2)

Job 35:14 NLT

When you plant a seed, it can take ages before you see a little green shoot pushing through the soil. It stays in the ground until the time is right for it to emerge. If it’s too early or late, the conditions aren’t right and the young plant will struggle or fail. It’s like this with our God-given skills, dreams and visions. God’s planted certain things within each of us, and we have to wait for them to take root and grow. With God, a delay isn’t a denial. When Job was in despair, his friend Elihu said, ‘It is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned. You say you can’t see Him, but He will bring justice if you will only wait’ (vv. 13-14 NLT). Author Charles Trumbull said, ‘God knows when to withhold or grant visible signs of encouragement. It’s good when He sends confirmation, but we grow faster when we’ve trusted Him without it. Those who do, always receive the greatest visible evidence of His love.’ God answers every prayer; it’s just that sometimes His answer is ‘Not yet, the time isn’t right’. Waiting is frustrating, especially when we are going through challenges, or really enthusiastic about our vision. It usually feels uncomfortable the whole time. But that time of waiting is a time of preparation and growth below the surface, just like a seed. And if we are willing to trust God and wait while He works within us, eventually our prayers become less about getting answers and more about connecting with Him. By letting Him work: 1) we begin to realise that He’s always with us; 2) we develop a deeper level of intimacy with Him; 3) we discover we can trust Him for the entire journey.

2 Chr 8-11; Mark 6:1-13; Ps 119:97-104; Prov 21:24-27

Confiding in others

Proverbs 11:13 NLT

Ever off-loaded your situation to someone, only to find everyone now knows your business? It’s not a nice feeling. When we trust someone, open up to them and allow them to see our vulnerabilities, we don’t want it passed around. When that happens, it can break down relationships because we stop trusting and decide not to confide in that person again. Opening up to other people is always going to be a risk, but it’s something we should be doing. We need each other for support, advice and encouragement. So we need to make sure we’re thinking carefully about who we are choosing to confide in. The Bible says: ‘Those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.’ It also says: ‘A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much’ (Proverbs 20:19 NIV). We need to be on the lookout for trustworthy people who can keep what we tell them to themselves rather than telling others and spreading gossip. We also need to confide in people who we know will seek God on our behalf and who will give us wise, godly advice. In James 3 it says: ‘Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterised by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced’ (v.17 MSG). Not only should we be finding people like this to confide in, we should also focus on making sure that we are people like this. People who are trustworthy and will respond to others in a gentle and godly way. So when others have a problem, they will know that they confide in us.

1 Chr 3:1-4:23; Mark 2:1-12; Ps 119:1-8; Prov 20:15-18