Healthy relationships

Proverbs 18:24 NIV

Relationships of any kind can be challenging because they involve people dealing with people. None of us are perfect, we will make mistakes, say the wrong things, compare ourselves, and struggle to forgive. The Bible warns us against being around the wrong people. The Bible says: ‘Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character”‘ (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV). We need relationships with the right people in order for us to grow in our faith and fulfil God’s plans for our lives. God can introduce us to the right people and help us build a relationship with them. But He may need to do some work inside us before we can build healthy relationships and make healthy choices. He might need to help us find our identity in Him, otherwise we can look to other people to tell us who we are. God wants us to realise that we are His children, and no one can change that. The Bible says: ‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ (1 John 3:1 NIV). We also need to learn to forgive. We can’t have healthy relationships with others if we are carrying a load of bitterness and resentment around with us. God also needs to mature us so that we can love like He loves (you can read about His kind of love in 1 Corinthians 13). Healthy, godly relationships are Jesus-centred. Each person points the other to Jesus. In healthy relationships there’s no gossip, comparison, trying to fix other people’s situations, or trying to change people to meet our standards. Healthy relationships involve praying for each other, speaking words of encouragement, and forgiving each other.

Exo 20:1-17; Matt 5:1-12

Make it a personal growth experience

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

Gentle correcting

Galatians 6:1 NCV

When we notice an issue that someone has, sometimes we feel like we need to speak to them about it. But before we do, we need to stop and examine our motives. Are we trying to help them or humiliate them? Are we confronting this person to make ourselves look better? Jesus lifted up and restored people, and that’s what we should be doing too. We shouldn’t be trying to make people look bad in front of others, trying to make ourselves look holy, or shifting the focus to someone else because we don’t want people to look at what we are doing wrong. Before we put somebody else’s life under the microscope, let’s stop and examine our own. Are we struggling with the same issue, or one just as bad? Jesus said: ‘Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your friend, “Let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye”? Look at yourself! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye. You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye’ (Matthew 7:3-5 NCV). But if we are confident that we should be speaking to someone about something they’re doing, let’s ensure we are doing it with kindness, grace, gentleness, and love. In Galatians we are told, ‘if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again.’ We shouldn’t be judgmental or harsh. We should be ‘speaking the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15 NCV).

2 Pet 1-3; John 4:27-38; Ps 87; Prov 24:1-4

Enjoy your life!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NKJV

When did you last take time to laugh, to dance, and to love? Can you even remember? In the words of an unknown poet: “This is the age of the half-read page; the quick hash and the mad dash. The bright knight with the nerves tight; the plane hop and the brief stop. The lamp-tan in a brief span; the big shot in a good spot. The brain strain and the heart pain; the catnaps until the spring snaps…and the fun’s done!” Sobering words, right? But does it have to be that way? No, if it’s that way in your life today, chances are it’s because you made it that way. And you’re only one who can make it different! You say you’re busy? We’re all busy. Who says you can’t enjoy life even when the pace picks up? Certainly not God! Chuck Swindoll writes: “I refuse to force hilarity into the back seat every time responsibility takes the wheel. If the fun’s gone, it’s because we didn’t want it around – not because it didn’t fit…I don’t care if your ‘to do’ list is as long as the horizon, you need to get back in balance and take the time to laugh…to dance…and to love. Why? Because the Bible says so! Furthermore, your family and friends will enjoy you a lot more when you do.” The psalmist said, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV). So go ahead and enjoy your life the way God intended – it will be over before you know it.

Soul food: Ezek 43-45; Matt 24:26-35; Ps 78:32-39; Prov 20:20-21

Stop putting it off

Psalm 90:12 NKJV

In a 1985 newspaper essay, Anne Wells wrote: “My brother-in-law opened my sister’s bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. It was an exquisite silk handmade slip; the price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached. ‘Jan bought this the first time we went to New York…eight or nine years ago,’ [he said]. ‘She never wore it; she was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion.’ He put the slip on the bed with the other clothes we were taking – to the mortician. Then he turned to me, ‘Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you’re alive is a special occasion!'” Those words changed Anne Wells’ life. She continued: “I’m not saving anything anymore. Now we use our good china…for every special occasion – like losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom. ‘Someday’ and ‘one of these days’ are fighting a losing battle to stay in my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing, hearing, or doing, I want to see, hear, and do it now. I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes I tell myself this is a special occasion.” Makes you think, doesn’t it? Makes you want to drain the last ounce of joy out of every day and break free from the cement of procrastination that whispers, “You can do it later.” Wise up! Forgive that offense, tell that person you love them, take that trip, go back to school. Decide today to do the thing you’ve been putting off.

Soul food: Gen 2:7-25; 1 Cor 15:39-55