Ecclesiastes 4:10 NIV
God never meant us to “fly solo.” We all need help and encouragement from time to time, but be careful who you turn to. (1) Don’t go to someone who can’t handle your problem. By sharing your situation with them you may experience temporary relief, but what if they’re not mature enough to handle it? Jesus said, “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me…better…a millstone were hanged about his neck, and…he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). (2) It’s okay to turn to a proven friend as long as they’re spiritually mature. The Bible says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). But you must know they’re a true friend. Peter writes, “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV). Someone who truly loves you will pray for you, and walk with you until you have the victory. And when you’re on the wrong path, they won’t cover up or make excuses for you – they will hold you accountable. (3) When possible, turn to a spiritual father. Paul says, “You might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers” (1 Corinthians 4:15 NKJV). Think of a good father’s attributes. He corrects, but never condemns you. He won’t give up on you. He evaluates you based on your best qualities rather than your worst. Instead of reacting negatively to your failures, he recognizes your potential and keeps on working with you. So ask God today for a spiritual father, and stay in regular communication with him.
Soul food: Gen 17-19; Matt 19:1-14; Ps 66:1-12; Prov 6:20-22
Psalm 39:1 NIV
The psalmist has a lot to say about the dangers of the tongue. Apparently he had to guard himself in that particular area. “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 NIV). “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord” (Psalm 19:14 NIV). Just because a thought comes up doesn’t mean it should come out! “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11 NKJV). You say, “But I didn’t really mean it. I was just sounding off!” You may not think you meant it, but the Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 NKJV). What’s harbored on the inside inevitably shows up on the outside. Put yourself in the other person’s place, listen to what you’re saying, and ask yourself how you’d respond. When you’re talking to someone, their acceptance doesn’t come from your heightened decibel level, but from your ability to listen, understand, care, empathize, and respond with wisdom. And if none of those things work, do what Jesus did when He stood before Pilate: “He opened not His mouth” (Acts 8:32 NKJV). Amazing! He had the power and authority to call twelve legions of angels (72,000 plus) to His defense, but He didn’t. That’s strength, not weakness! Another word to the wise: Never resort to profanity. “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT).
Soul food: 2 Chr 16-18; John 11:38-57; Ps 81; Prov 27:1-3
Ephesians 4:15 NIV
Before you confront someone over an issue, stop and examine your motives. Is your goal to help or humiliate them? Jesus was in the business of lifting and restoring people, and you should be in that business too. Ask yourself, would you approach things differently if you weren’t so personally involved? Are you confronting this person to make yourself look better? Cutting someone else down in order to lift yourself up is the lowest form of ego gratification. Poet Kahlil Gibran said, “To belittle, you have to be little.” Don’t do it! It’s a sign of insecurity. Remember Nehemiah’s response to those who tried to discourage him from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls? “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Don’t allow your critics to break your stride. Don’t give more credence to the sentiments of a critic than you would to the encouragement of a friend. Before you put somebody else’s life under the microscope, stop and examine your own. Are you grappling with the same issue, or one just as bad? Have you succeeded where you’re accusing somebody else of failing? In other words, have you earned the right to be heard? Paul writes, “Speaking the truth in love we will grow…in every respect.” Could it be that the situation you’re dealing with right now is an opportunity to measure your own maturity and make it a spiritual growth experience?
Soul food: 2 Pet 1-3; John 4:27-38; Ps 87; Prov 24:1-4
Philippians 2:3 NIV
Sometimes we can find ourselves being ‘me first’ people. We want to ensure our needs are met before others. But the Bible says: ‘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 mind-set as Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:3-5 NIV). That’s how Jesus treated people, and we have been called to do the same. Living this way isn’t easy, or convenient. It requires sacrifice. And it goes against everything our self-centred natures tell us. Each day we have to choose to show grace and value the needs of others. Grace and humility are like items of clothing; we have to put them on each morning and wear them all day. In fact, Colossians 3 actually uses this analogy: ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’ (v.12 NIV). We might wonder how we can possibly live like that, but if we draw daily on God’s grace, it will help us to be able to put others first. Everybody we meet is fighting a battle of some kind, and we may be the one person that crosses their path who is able to speak a word of encouragement to them. The Bible says: ‘Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’ (Proverbs 16:24 NIV). We need to actively be looking for ways to support and encourage others. Let’s be a generation who cares about those around us, and let’s admit that we don’t always have to be first.
Est 4:9-5:3; Heb 4:7-16
Exodus 27:8 NCV
The altar in the tabernacle was a place where sacrifices were offered in worship to God. And He knew exactly how it was to be built: ‘Make the altar out of boards and leave the inside hollow.’ A stone or metal structure would have been heavy to transport, whereas a hollow wooden altar could be carried on poles and travel along with the Israelites. The image of a moveable altar is a reminder that while we should be part of a local church, we are not restricted to worshipping God in a particular location. We can do it anywhere. The Bible tells us to ‘continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise’ (Hebrews 13:15 NIV). Wherever we are we can worship Him. And that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to sing; we can worship Him by making sure the attitude of our heart, no matter what we are doing, is positive and that we are focused on Him. Whether we are at home, at work, in the supermarket, at the gym, or in the classroom, our everyday activities can become ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:5 NIV). By sharing a word of encouragement, giving our time and money to help someone in need, or making a decision based on integrity instead of what will make us popular, we are honouring God. Jesus said, ‘Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16 NIV). When others see that we are willing to do the right and godly things in a world that often does the opposite, they will see God in us. His glory will shine through our worship.
Ezek 40:10-42:20; Matt 24:15-25; Ps 78:17-31; Prov 20:15-19