Being there (4)

2018-05-28
Galatians 6:2 NLT

Dr. Raymond Vath said, “We must do for others what they cannot do for themselves, but we must not do for them what they will not do for themselves. The problem is finding the wisdom to know the difference.” You can be too helpful! By doing for somebody what they can do for themselves, you undermine their self-reliance and create an unhealthy dependence. So instead of rushing in and taking over: (1) Show them manageable action steps. By helping them take charge of their life you’re arming them against despair and powerlessness. And by validating their efforts you’re helping them to rebuild their fragile confidence. A word of caution, however: When the crisis involves irreversible loss like divorce or death, the work of simply getting through one day at a time is action enough. (2) Give them hope. In the depth of crisis there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel – a sense that the suffering will go on endlessly. Growth and improvement can’t happen without hope. Hope provides energy, and brings relief based on the conviction that things will improve. God promises, “I will bless you with a future filled with hope – a future of success, not…suffering” (Jeremiah 29:11 CEV). (3) Be sure to follow up. Crises are seldom resolved quickly. Although life may eventually take on some semblance of normalcy, there may be episodes of relapse into sadness, helplessness, or loneliness. Your words may bring comfort, but your ongoing attentiveness will help the hurting person maintain faith and progress in their journey to healing.

Soul food: Judg 19:16-21:25; Mark 11:27-33; Ps 45; Prov 13:13-16

Take the right approach

2018-04-28
Proverbs 17:27 NIV

It’s not enough to have the right answers; you need the right approach. Good ideas and sound advice are wasted when you use a ram-it-down-your-throat approach. Wisdom means saying the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.” Your efforts at helping someone to change will fail, or worse, alienate them, unless you approach them in love and humility. Most people already know what their problem is. Chances are they’ve been grappling with it for a while, and deep down they want to do better. And unless you’re prepared for a “Who-are-you-to-tell-me” response, you’ve got to approach them in the right way. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24 NIV). Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 NIV). So if people won’t receive the truth in the way you’re sharing it, maybe the problem is partially yours. Former U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson writes: “You can offer your ideas to people as bullets or as seeds. You can shoot them or sow them. Ideas used as bullets kill inspiration and motivation. Ideas used as seeds take root, grow, and bear fruit in the life in which they are planted. But there’s a risk: Once it becomes part of those in whom it’s planted, you’ll probably get no credit for originating the idea. But if you’re willing to do without the credit…you’ll reap a rich harvest.” So the word for you today is: Take the right approach.

Soul food: Acts 22-23; Mark 5:11-20; Ps 144:9-15; Prov 11:12-13

Respect, don’t reject

2017-10-25
1 Corinthians 9:22 NLT

For any relationship to work, we must accept each other’s differences. Within our family we must respect each other’s unique perspectives. We don’t need to agree on every issue, but we must always honor where the other person is coming from. Paul did that: “I try to find common ground with everyone.” Some of us who claim to follow Christ have a hard time with views and values that differ from our own. We think “compromise” is a dirty word. Some of us have turned from the most immoral lives to faith in Christ, yet after our conversion we won’t associate with anyone who doesn’t agree with us and adopt our newfound values. Sometimes our families fall apart because we try to force our opinions on the people we love, and set boundaries to keep nonconformists out. What a terrible misuse of Christianity! Jesus didn’t condemn the people who crucified Him; He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV). He didn’t view them as morally bad, but spiritually blind. He told His disciples, “No one can come to Me unless the Father…draws him” (John 6:44 NKJV). It’s your job to love people, and it’s God’s job to change them! So stop trying to do what only God can do! If you invest patiently in your relationships, respect other people’s perspectives, and sow good seed, you’ll reap a pleasant harvest in the long term. Your love, not the force of your argument, can give hope to the most severely damaged among us that there’s healing for the broken places of the human soul.

Soul food: Isa 17-21; John 6:1-15; Ps 127; Prov 27:25-27

Choose gratitude

2017-07-19
Psalm 103:2 NLT

He sat on the park bench so depressed-looking that a policeman tried to console him. “Something the matter?” “Yeah,” he replied. “A few months ago my grandfather left me $500,000 and some oil wells.” The policeman responded, “That doesn’t sound like something to be upset over.” “Yeah, but you haven’t heard the whole story. Last month my uncle left me $1,000,000.” The policeman shook his head. “I don’t get it. Why are you so unhappy?” He replied, “So far this month, nobody’s left me anything.” Seriously, he’s part of a group of people who are unhappy no matter what they have. The Psalmist shows us how to overcome an ungrateful attitude by cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Thinking and thanking go hand-in-hand. Memory is a catalyst for worship. An old hymn declares, “Count your blessings, name them one by one…see what God has done.” The Psalmist encourages us to do three things: First, think about what God has given us – His forgiveness, healing, protection, redemption, love, and compassion (See vv. 1-5). Second, think about what God has not given us – the punishment our sins deserve (See vv. 8-12). Third, think about what God is yet going to give us. “From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him” (v. 17 NIV). God accepts you when you trust in Christ’s performance, not your own. So each morning look in the mirror and say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”

Soul food: 2 Sam 22:31-24:25; Mat 26:47-56; Ps 146 Prov 18:23-24

When Jesus prayed (2)

2017-06-27
Mark 1:35 NKJV

By failing to pray – you set yourself up to fail. The reason Jesus never failed is because He never failed to pray. Note the times when He prayed: When His heart was heavy. During His ministry on earth, His cousin John the Baptist was arrested and publicly beheaded for confronting a king about his sin. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew…privately to a solitary place” (Matthew 14:13 NIV). Disappointment, desertion, divorce, and death will write their chapters in the book of our lives. Thank God for therapists and doctors, but ultimately there’s no one who can heal a broken heart like God. “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power” (Psalm 147:3-5 NIV). Whether placing stars or healing scars, no situation is too big or too small to get the attention of our loving God. To understand God’s healing expertise, look at the life of Job. No one in history lost more than Job did, yet God brought him through it all. In Job chapter eleven we read: “You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away. Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help” (vv. 16-19 NLT). Are you sad and heavy-hearted today? Do what Jesus did. Take time to pray about it.

Soul food: 1 Sam 1-3; Mat 21:33-46; Ps 59:9-17; Prov 16:23-26