Acts 3:6 NKJV
Notice two things in this story. First: It’s important to know what you have and don’t have. “Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.'” You must become comfortable in your own skin and confident in your calling. Paul writes: “Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without…trying to be something we aren’t. If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it” (Romans 12:6-9 TM). Second: Learn to recognize the difference between what people want and what they truly need. Sometimes they need to be strengthened; other times they need to be stretched. Sometimes they need comfort, not correction; other times they need correction, not comfort. This lame man didn’t need a handout – he needed a hand up. And that’s what Peter gave him. “He took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength” (Acts 3:7 NKJV). So in order to help people you must love them, recognize what they need, know what you have to offer, and connect with them at the point of their need.
Soul food: 2 Kings 18:17-20:21; Matt 25:1-23; Ps 115; Prov 8:1-3
Acts 3:6 NCV
When we’re wanting to help others, it’s important that we know ourselves. We need to know what we’ve got to offer, what our gifts and skills are and the kind of people we’re called to help. ‘Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”‘ Peter couldn’t give the crippled man the money he was asking for, but he could give him something even better – the ability to walk. We can’t do everything, and we can’t help everyone. We need to become comfortable in our own skin and confident in our calling. Paul writes: ‘Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without…trying to be something we aren’t. If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it’ (Romans 12:6-9 MSG). Let’s not pretend we’re someone we’re not, or that we can do things that we can’t. God gives us all gifts and skills, and calls us to use them. That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and grow in other areas, but we’ve got to know our own strengths and limitations. In order to help people we must love them, know what we have to offer, and connect with them at the point of their need.
2 Kings 18:17-20:21; Matt 25:1-23; Ps 115; Prov 8:1-3
Galatians 2:21 MSG
While grace doesn’t give anyone a license to live as they please, the judgmentalism that comes from insisting that others live by our standards has caused untold damage. Chuck Swindoll writes: “Legalism spreads a paralyzing venom…blinds our eyes, dulls our edge and arouses pride in our heart…love is overshadowed by a mental clipboard with a long checklist requiring others to measure up…soon friendship is fractured by a judgmental attitude and a critical look. And before you conclude that you’re not guilty, observe your reaction when you meet another believer who doesn’t think, act, or dress the way you do. Even when you think you’re sophisticated enough to disguise your real feelings, they come out in the ‘stony stare’ and the ‘holier than thou’ attitude.” Jesus said, “Don’t judge others, and God won’t judge you. Don’t be hard on others, and God won’t be hard on you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you” (Luke 6:37 CEV). A judgmental Christian acts as though blowing someone else’s light out will cause their light to shine brighter. But it’s not so. Paul writes, “If a…relationship with God could come by rule-keeping…Christ died unnecessarily.” You say, “But what if someone is getting off track, or sinning intentionally?” The Bible says, “If another believer is overcome by sin…humbly help that person back onto the right path…be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1 NLT). When you take it upon yourself to condemn others – you are denying them the same grace you may need before the day is over.
Soul food: 2 Kings 16:1-18:16; Matt 24:29-51; Ps 26; Prov 7:26-27
Psalm 40:8 NLT
We can often think of obedience as something negative and restrictive. We might associate it with being told to do things we don’t really want to do, or we might feel resentful towards those who have some sort of authority over us. But obedience to God is totally different. Following His commands and guidance should actually feel completely joyful. Ever watched the dogs taking part in agility competitions at a dog show? (Have a look at some videos online if not.) Notice the ecstatic reaction of the dogs at the end of their run when they get back to their trainer. Left to themselves, they’d rather be off chasing things or seeking out the nearest hot dog stand. But they’ve learned to suppress their will and submit to the will of their trainer. And a good trainer achieves this by showing love to their dog. The trainer’s overjoyed when the dog’s tried its best and done what it’s been asked (even if it hasn’t been successful), and the dog’s delighted that they’ve made the trainer happy. It prefers to share in that joy that to follow its natural instincts, because that joy is just so amazing. And that’s very much like the way we should feel when we’re obedient to God. We could go off and do our own thing, but we’ll be much happier knowing we’ve followed His guidance. The psalmist probably knew this, as he wrote: ‘I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart’ (Psalm 40:8 NLT). Obeying God wasn’t a chore to be miserable about – it was something he desired to do above everything else. Of course, we may not like the task God’s asked us to do, but we can take our joy from knowing we’re doing our Father’s will.
2 Kings 13-15; Matt 24:3-28; Ps 24; Prov 7:24-25
Ephesians 6:4 KJV
We keep being shocked by stories of children killing teachers and other children in school, and then turning the gun on themselves. Two boys, aged twelve and thirteen, beat a man to death outside a convenience store just for the pleasure of watching him die. Another boy shot a man sitting in a car at a stop sign. When asked why, he replied, “Because he looked at me.” What is causing this? Easy access to guns? Hours spent watching violent videos? Those may be factors. But after extensive research, scientists are concluding that violent behaviour is often related to early childhood abuse and neglect. When a baby spends three days or more in dirty diapers, or when children are burned, beaten, or ignored, their blood is filled with stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline among others. These hormones bombard and damage the brains of those children. So for the rest of their lives they will not think and feel what others do. They actually lose the capacity to empathize with those who suffer. The same research has concluded that babies and young children are incredibly vulnerable between birth and three years of age. If their families don’t protect them, love and care for them, society will pay a terrible price for it in years to come. The Bible uses the word “nurture.” It means to love, protect, encourage, compliment, and try to bring out the best in your child.
Soul food: Rom 15-16; John 9:24-41; Ps 50; Prov 30:7-10