Being there (1)

2018-05-25
Philippians 2:4 NIV

When someone’s facing a crisis, we can end up saying, ‘It’s not my responsibility. I don’t want to get involved’. Sometimes it’s because we’re not willing to put ourselves out for others, other times it’s because we’re already dealing with a lot, or it’s just inconvenient timing. Or maybe we’re so wrapped up in our own problems and crises that we don’t even notice that someone around us needs support. But ‘being there’ for others is a biblical principle. The Bible says: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). Being there for other people is the practical application of loving God and our neighbour. There are three usual types of crisis. Situational crises like illnesses, the death of someone we love or problems in our relationships. Then there are developmental crises that happen over the course of life. These include leaving home, going to university or adjusting to married life. Finally, there are self-awareness crises where we discover things about ourselves. We may find out the illness we have is incurable or we feel rejected by others. All through the Bible, we see people struggling with crises. Job faced many situational crises, Abraham and Sarah had developmental crises and Jonah had a self-awareness crisis. And we can all probably think of times we’ve been through these too. In fact, we might be going through something right now. But we shouldn’t let that stop us from noticing when those around us are facing them too. Even when we’re struggling, we can still be there for others. It’s what we’re called to do.

Judg 12-15; Mark 11:1-11; Ps 97; Prov 13:9-10

Welcome the test (2)

2018-05-17
Genesis 22:9 NKJV

Abraham considered Isaac to be a special gift from God. But God-given gifts are wonderful things – and dangerous things. Why do we say that? Because as you cultivate the gifts God has given you, you can begin to rely on them more than you rely on God. And at that point your greatest strength becomes your greatest weakness. It was God who gave Lucifer a beautiful form and a beautiful voice. Those gifts were originally used to glorify God. Then Lucifer started looking in the mirror, started reflecting on his own beauty. He glorified the gift he had been given instead of glorifying God. The lesson in Lucifer’s fall is this: Whatever you don’t turn into praise turns into pride. And that’s a problem, because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 NKJV). Instead of deflecting praise to God, Lucifer let it feed his ego. It was his sinful desire to be lifted up that led to Lucifer’s downfall. What are your greatest God-given gifts? What are your most significant God-ordained opportunities? What God-sized dreams has the Holy Spirit conceived in your spirit? That’s your “Isaac.” And you should love your Isaac and celebrate him, but he must never be permitted to take the place of God in your life. Sometimes God-ordained dreams aren’t just born, they have to be reborn. If they become more important to you than God, you have to sacrifice them for the sake of your soul. You have to put them on the altar and raise the knife. Sometimes your dream must die before it can be resurrected for God’s glory.

Soul food: 1 Pet 1-5; Mark 9:14-29; Ps 49; Prov 12:20-22

Music

2018-05-06
Isaiah 30:29 NLT

The Bible says: ‘How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!’ (Psalm 147:1 NIV). There’s something about expressing our love for God in music and singing that helps us to reinforce our faith. When we’ve been singing praise and worship songs, we tend to come away feeling uplifted and closer to God. Paul knew the value of music. In 1 Corinthians 14:15, he wrote: ‘I will pray with my spirit; but I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding’ (NIV). Paul must have valued music as much as prayer in his worship time. And when Paul and Silas were in prison, they sang worship songs together to encourage themselves and show that in spite of the terrible circumstances, their faith was unshaken and they could still pour out praise to God (take a look at Acts 16:25). Music is powerful because it can reflect every one of our moods. We might find we can express our feelings more effectively through music than we can by just talking. God doesn’t ask for perfect, rehearsed, polished prayers or songs from us. He just wants us to bring hearts full of enthusiastic praise and worship to Him. We could turn even the most mundane, boring task into an act of worship if we include music – imagine some of the great times we could have with God if we sang worship songs while we did the vacuuming or washed the dishes. So whether you’re the world’s best singer, a mediocre piano player, or if you can barely manage to snap your fingers on the beat – God wants to hear your music.

Gal 5:22; Luke 6:27-36; Exo 23:1-9; Rom 12:14-21

The conclusion of the matter

2018-05-05
Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon talks about all the things in life he tried and found to be disappointing: the intellectual pursuit of knowledge, the physical pursuit of pleasure, and the material pursuit of wealth. In the last chapter of Ecclesiastes he bottom-lines it: “Everything is meaningless” (v. 8 NIV). In other words: “Been there, done that – and it’s just the ‘same ol’, same ol’.” Now, penning his last divinely-inspired thoughts, he wraps up his life’s message with these words: “Here is the conclusion of the matter.” This is big stuff! Solomon is about to give us his bottom-line evaluation of a life well-lived. What is it? “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment” (vv. 13-14 NIV). The words “fear God” simply mean to reverence, love, and serve Him, and live your life according to the precepts laid down in His Word. The songwriter put it this way: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Author John Mason writes: “Is more money, a higher position, or more influence your goal? These are not goals; they are the by-product of true goals…Seek not success, but truth, and you will find both. Work to become, not acquire. Measure wealth by the things you have which you would not exchange for money.” When you wake each morning, pray this simple prayer: “Lord, above all else help me to spend this day loving You and carrying out Your will. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

Soul food: Deut 8-10; Mark 6:30-44; Ps 37:8-15; Prov 11:27-29

What’s the point?


Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon talks about all the things in life he tried and found to be disappointing: the pursuit of knowledge, pleasure, and wealth. In the last chapter of Ecclesiastes he sums it all up: ‘Everything is meaningless’ (v.8 NIV). Most of us will, at some point, feel the same. When we chase things like money, fame, success, good grades, promotions, relationships, we can become disillusioned. We wonder why we’re here and what we should be doing, we end up asking ‘what’s the point?’ But Solomon carries on to say: ‘Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13 MSG). The words ‘fear God’ simply mean to respect, love, and serve Him, and live our lives according to what the Bible says is right. That is our purpose in life. The most important command is to love God. We’re called to: ‘Fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?’ (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 NIV). When we chase things that aren’t our calling in life, or put priority on things that aren’t loving and following God, we can end up in that ‘what’s the point?’ situation. But when we’re doing what God’s asking us to do, we realise that we have a purpose here on Earth, and are empowered to keep going and not give up.

Deut 8-10; Mark 6:30-44; Ps 37:8-15; Prov 11:27-29