Romans 14:13 NLT
During the first century, cities like Rome attracted people from many different cultures, languages, religions, and customs. Consequently the early church’s mission to ‘make disciples of all the nations’ (take a look at Matthew 28:19) sometimes led to conflict and confusion. For example, they argued about which day of the week was the most holy, and what they could or couldn’t eat. It’s the reason Paul wrote, ‘Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue…about what they think is right or wrong.’ He didn’t tell us to just tolerate or put up with them, but to ‘accept’, welcome, receive, acknowledge, and make allowances for those who aren’t the same as us. Even though the issues we deal with today are different from those of the early church, it’s easy to become divisive and judgmental. But remember, ‘Each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other…instead…live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble’ (Romans 14:12-13 NLT). When genuine differences come up on fundamental issues and we can’t negotiate, we need to behave in a Christlike way without picking fights, criticising, or looking down on people. Satan’s goal is to sidetrack us into arguments and tension which means God’s kingdom suffers. Instead the Bible tells us to ‘Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves’ (Romans 12:10 NIVUK). We need to learn to respect other believers not because of who they are, but Whose they are. Paul writes, ‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify…God’ (Romans 15:5-6 NIV).
1 Kings 21-22; Mark 10:1-12; Ps 82; Prov 12:18-19
Exodus 4:12 NIV
What we say, and how we say it, is really important. We should be building other people up with our words. The Bible says: ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV). There will also be times when we need to confront people. But we need to remember that Jesus spoke with compassion much more often than He spoke with confrontation or condemnation. So, we too should always speak with compassion, grace and love. The Bible tells us that by ‘speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ’ (Ephesians 4:15 NIV). We often need to remember that there are times to speak and times to remain quiet. Our words, however we intend them, won’t always be helpful. We need to pray before we speak into people’s situations. We need to make sure we are speaking helpful, godly things that will not only build up, but bring life to situations which seem broken and dry. When Ezekiel was given the prophetic vision of the dry bones, he was given words to speak into the valley. God could have raised those dry bones in front of Ezekiel without his help. But God gave him the words to say. ‘Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life'”‘ (Ezekiel 37:4-5 NIV). God can give us the words to say to bring life, encouragement, and His Spirit into other people’s situations. Are we ready to speak His words?
Rom 12-14; Luke 6:1-16; Ps 104:1-23; Prov 3:9-10
Psalm 89:34 NCV
Sometimes we can find ourselves waking up in a cloud of gloom. Nothing in our day goes right, and we can’t seem to feel positive. We don’t want to do the things we have to do, in fact we’d rather just stay under our duvets all day, or just escape the pressures of life by jetting off to another country. But geographical cures don’t work. Escaping doesn’t solve the problem; it just relocates it. Instead, we need to be turning to a source of strength, hope, and encouragement that never fails – the Bible. God says, ‘I will not break my agreement nor change what I have said.’ What we read in the Bible is truth. It’s God’s promises to us that will never fail. It’s full of verses that we can use to help us focus on God rather than how we’re feeling. Here are some examples: ‘When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. (Psalm 86:7 NIV); ‘He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions’ (Psalm 107:20 NKJV). ‘I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living’ (Psalm 27:13 NIV); ‘I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD’ (Psalm 71:16 NKJV); ‘Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken’ (Psalm 55:22 NIV); ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). When we let Scriptures like these fill our minds and our hearts, we can remember our identity in Christ, that we have a God who is there for us every step of the way, and that we have better days to come.
Isa 58-62; John 9:1-12; Ps 15; Prov 29:4-6
Romans 12:10 NIVUK
Enthusiasts: Enthusiasts are the life and soul of the party. They’ve often got the gift of storytelling, but can fall into the trap of only talking about themselves. If we try to talk to them about their problems, they may listen to us at first, but it doesn’t seem to stick. They are the kind of people who are always saying things like ‘awesome,’ ‘wow,’ ‘fabulous,’ or ‘great.’ So they are great to boost morale and to give encouragement when someone does something well. But sometimes they can go for years without seeing the pain and darkness in other people, or even in themselves. If we’re enthusiasts, we have to make sure we also have some degree of realism. We need to be aware of the situations people are going through. Encouraging them is great, but sometimes it’s not what’s needed in that particular situation or at that particular time. The Bible says: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15 NIV). Sometimes we need to take the time to cry with people, to meet them where they are and to let them experience their emotions, rather than always trying to encourage them to keep going and keep positive. We need to be sensitive to the situation. When we’re enthusiasts, we can get quite down when we’re not receiving enough attention from others. But we shouldn’t always need to be the centre of attention. The Bible says: ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.’ If we’re enthusiasts, we need to grow in putting others before ourselves.
Ruth 1:8-18; Ruth 2:5-12;
Ruth 3:1-6; Ruth 4:9-13