Being there in the crisis (3)

2019-05-18
2 Corinthians 1:4 TM

In a crisis people often fail to see the resources that God has made available to them. Here are three types: (1) Spiritual resources. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). This “very present” God illuminates our darkness and confusion. His love is the source of all comfort (See 2 Corinthians 1:3). His presence addresses our loneliness, and His power addresses our helplessness. (2) Personal resources. People in crisis forget that God has given them strengths and abilities which include faith, skills, memories of past triumphs, empowering attitudes, and motivations. Reminding them of these encourages them to “take back their power.” (3) Interpersonal resources. Most people already have support networks; they just need to be activated. There are family members, friends, business associates, and neighbors willing to pitch in when asked. Community resources are also available for medical, financial, and material assistance. And the church can find ways to apply the “great commandment” in crisis times (See Matthew 22:36-39). Members can be invited to pray, give money, provide practical assistance like meals, help with the children, transportation, etc. People are reluctant to ask for help because they’re embarrassed and feel they should be able to handle their own problems, or think they’re failing by “accepting charity.” Help them to understand that others are happy to help, and that one day they can “return the blessing.”

Soul food: 1 Kings 6-7; Mark 8:1-13; Ps 97; Prov 12:1-3

Restoring damaged people (1)

2019-05-10
Galatians 6:1 NKJV

We are too quick to criticize people because of what they’ve been through in life. In some cases it’s because of what they have done to others, and in some cases because of what others have done to them. If you’ve been to a consignment store you know there are quality items at discounted prices; you just have to know what you’re looking for. Jesus does. In His eyes the down-and-out may be “down” but they’re not “out.” Peter’s sorrow over denying Jesus ran so deep that he decided to go back to his old job as a fisherman. Can you imagine the scuttlebutt around the harbor? “That’s him, the guy who turned his back on Jesus.” Peter eventually became the leader of the New Testament church. But be honest. Would you have voted him in as your pastor, or been willing to listen to anything he had to say? Yet the first person Jesus went looking for after He rose from the dead was Peter. Why? Because He looks beyond our immediate problem and sees our long-term potential. Jesus remembered the words He had spoken to Peter: “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32 NKJV). The foundational principle of practicing medicine is “First, do no harm.” When someone is damaged, don’t damage them further. Love them, pray for them, and seek to restore them.

Soul food: Titus 1-3; Mark 6:1-13; Ps 150; Prov 11:16-18

Testing times

2019-04-25
Job 23:10 NIV

We shouldn’t compare ourselves to other people, because God has a plan for us that’s unique and personal. His methods may sometimes seem strange and His training difficult, but His results are always worth waiting for. All He asks us to do is trust and obey – even when things seem to be tough – and He’ll accomplish His purpose in our lives. In the midst of unspeakable heartache and trouble, Job said ‘He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.’ This verse can be broken down into smaller parts: 1) ‘He knows the way that I take.’ The path we’re on today is the one God chose for us, and He never makes mistakes. And even when we don’t know where He is, God knows where we are because He never takes His eye off of us. 2) ‘When he has tested me.’ The word ‘when’ means God has established a set time for testing us, and a set time for bringing us out of the test. It shows that testing will happen, but also that it will end. How we view the test is our choice. We can see it as a tough experience, or a way of growing. We can pray for it to end, or we can pray that God would show us how He’s working through it. 3) ‘I will come forth as gold.’ When God finishes refining us and removing the impurities from our lives, we’ll shine like pure and precious gold. When the rubbish has been thrown out and the fear removed, we’ll be able to serve God so much better. We’ll be more Christlike, and our story can be a great encouragement to others.

Num 7; Mark 1:21-45; Ps 94:12-23; Prov 10:27

Boundaries

2019-03-12
Luke 5:16 NIV

Having boundaries for different parts of our lives can help us reduce stress and avoid burn out. Boundaries help us to say ‘no’ to things that we can’t do, to focus more on the things we’re called to do, and to develop healthy relationships with others and with God. But the type of boundary is important. Rigid boundaries can cause us to shut other people out. Permeable boundaries leave us defenceless against those who feel entitled to manipulate us and who expect to be taken care of at our expense. But flexible boundaries help us live our own life, with a balanced and healthy interest in others. We need flexible boundaries to help us determine when situations require us to get involved, and when we should stay away. Sometimes we can think that we have to be there for everyone at all times. And we can use verses like: ‘Carry each other’s burdens’ (Galatians 6:2 NIV) to justify why we’re saying ‘yes’ to helping everyone. But when we look at Jesus’ life, we can see that boundaries are important. The Bible tells us that ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ Jesus had a rhythm of life which was balanced between work and rest. He served, taught, healed, provided, socialised, but also ‘often withdrew’ so that He could spend time with His Father and rest. There were times when people were asking Him to help them, and He removed Himself from the situation to be with God. After He fed the five thousand, He sent the crowds away. ‘After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray’ (Matthew 14:23 NIV). Jesus knew when He needed to say ‘no’ and spend time resting in God’s presence instead. And that’s what we need to do too.

Job 5-7; Luke 16:19-31; Ps 26; Prov 7:26-27

Helping others (1)

2019-03-08
Jeremiah 32:33 NIV

Most of us like to help others. We hear about their problems and then we want to do something to help them. But sometimes we’ll come across people that we can’t help – at least not right now. So let’s take a look at the sort of people who we can struggle to help: 1) People who keep making excuses. We can’t help someone until they’re willing to take responsibility for their life and want to make a change. If people won’t take the advice in the Bible, then they probably won’t take ours either. Notice what God said about the Israelites: ‘Though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond.’ If they won’t listen to God, our opinion won’t make much of a difference. 2) People who move in the wrong circles. The Bible says, ‘Bad company corrupts good character’ (1 Corinthians 15:33 NLT). The company we keep influences our conduct and character, and those two things can affect our future. There can be people who simply don’t belong in our lives, and we can’t move forward until we break the link that connects us and get away from their influence. 3) People who blame God for their problems. When trouble comes, they ask, ‘Why did God allow this to happen to me?’ But the truth is, we’ll never see God as our solution until we stop seeing Him as the cause of our problem. When we come across people who don’t want to be helped, it doesn’t mean we should give up on them completely. We can still be there for them, love them, and pray for them, but it’s just important to recognise when we should stop trying to offer advice and solutions, and ask God to open their hearts to receive help.

Exo 36-38; Luke 15:1-10; Ps 27; Prov 7:10-20