Friends in disguise

2018-09-23
2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT

When we’re insulted, we have a few options. We can retaliate with a stinging comeback, hold a grudge for ages or see it as an opportunity to grow. It can be easy to dwell in bitterness and self-righteousness when we’re hurt. We ask ‘Why us?’ and ‘How could they do that to us?’ instead of asking ‘How can we grow from this?’ It takes a shift in our thinking and our attitude to be able to consider growth in the face of pain. Paul reached a place where he could say: ‘I take pleasure…in the insults…I suffer for Christ.’ Most of us probably aren’t quite on the same wavelength with Paul yet, but with time and practice it can happen. We too can find the good in the bad, the positive in the negative. Speaking of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, one author writes: ‘God sometimes manipulates the actions of our enemies to make them work as friends in order to accomplish His will in our lives. He can bless you through the worst relationships, ones that are painful or negative. The time, effort, and pain we invest in them aren’t wasted because God knows how to make adversity feed destiny into your life. I can’t stop hurts from coming, or promise that everyone who sits at your table will be loyal. But the sufferings of success give us direction, build character, and in the end you find grace to re-evaluate your enemies and realise that like Judas, they are friends in disguise.’ So next time someone hurts us, instead of holding a grudge or retaliating, let’s see them as friends in disguise and take pleasure in the fact we can grow in our character through it.

1 Kings 17:1-6; 1 Kings 18:16-39; 1 Kings 19:9-18; 2 Kings 2:1-12

Friends in disguise


2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT

When you’re insulted, you can retaliate with a stinging comeback or see it as a growth opportunity. David said, “It is good… that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71 NKJV). Psychologist Dr. Brenda Shoshanna says: “The person who insults us is a teacher…come to help us reduce our ego, develop patience and compassion, practice unconditional forgiveness, and teach us about life and relationships. If you don’t perceive an insult as an insult, but as a teaching or a gift, it loses its power to hurt you. On a practical level, if you’re insulted, say nothing. Give yourself time. Much harm is created by lashing back, escalating the situation, and saying things you may not mean. Recognize it’s your ego – that false sense of pride acting up – and don’t go along with it.” Paul reached a place where he actually took “pleasure in…insults.” Most of us aren’t quite there yet, but with time and practice it can happen. Speaking of Judas, one author writes: “God sometimes manipulates the actions of our enemies to make them work as friends in order to accomplish His will in our lives. He can bless you through the worst relationships, ones that are painful or negative. The time, effort, and pain we invest in them aren’t wasted because God knows how to make adversity feed destiny into your life. I can’t stop hurts from coming, or promise that everyone who sits at your table will be loyal. But the sufferings of success give us direction, build character, and in the end you find grace to re-evaluate your enemies and realize that like Judas, they are friends in disguise.”

Soul food: 1 Kings 17:1-6; 1 Kings 18:16-39; 1 Kings 19:9-18; 2 Kings 2:1-12

Relationships and reflections

2018-09-10
2 Peter 3:18 KJV

There are two things that help determine personal growth: (1) Your relationships. The Bible says, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3 NLT). The company you keep will lift you, level you, or lower you. A lady wrote this letter to an advice columnist: “In my last year of school my English teacher took an essay I’d written and tore it apart in front of the class. I was humiliated – I felt dumb. That was years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it.” In a few short seconds the wrong person diminished this woman’s sense of self-worth for a lifetime. (2) Your reflections. When a Sunday school teacher asked a little girl, “Who made you?” she replied, “God made part of me.” The teacher asked, “What do you mean?” The little girl replied, “God made me little – and I growed the rest of myself.” God holds us responsible for our personal growth. The Psalmist wrote, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99 NKJV). The word “meditation” means “reflective thinking.” Like a crock pot, meditation allows your thoughts to slowly simmer until they’re done. Most of us would rather act than think. But as Socrates observed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Reflective thinking is uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. For instance, we have difficulty staying focused. We find the process dull, and we don’t particularly enjoy spending time reflecting on difficult issues. But if you don’t carve out time for reflection and meditation, you won’t mature. You won’t grow in the “grace and…knowledge” you need to succeed. It’s that simple.

Soul food: Num 29:1-6; Matt 24; Rev 11:15-19; 1 Cor 15:50-58

Make the first move

2018-07-22
Ephesians 5:33 NLT

Two of the most famous ‘marriage advice’ type of verses can shed some real light on how all relationships, not just the relationship between husband and wife, can work better: be considerate (1 Peter 3:7) and be worthy of respect (1 Timothy 3:11). In any kind of relationship, it’s about growing an environment where the relationship works to help both people become better people, and draw closer to God. And to build that kind of environment means giving a lot of encouragement and support. Not only when we feel like it, but also when we don’t feel like it. Jesus’ commandment to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39 NIVUK) sums it up perfectly. It means asking God to soften our sharp edges, and provide us with the strength, patience, and opportunities to show His love to those around us. Want to work out a difficult relationship, make long-lasting friendships or even just feel loved? Make the first move. When we’re prayerfully proactive in a relationship, and willing to drop our own petty disagreements or dislikes for the sake of blessing someone, God will add to it. That doesn’t mean we should let ourselves be walked over by someone who isn’t willing to show love back. Sometimes, there’s reason to find the way out of a relationship (and if you do feel as though you need to get out, then listen to yourself, you know your situation best), but a few steps before that, it’s worth considering if you can bless the other person in some way.

Matt 5:9; Rom 12:17-21; James 3:17-18; Matt 26:51-52

Discernment

2018-05-23
1 Kings 3:9 NIV

When God asked Solomon what he wanted, Solomon gave what we might think of as a surprising answer. Out of everything he could have wanted, he asked for the gift of wisdom. He prayed: ‘Give your servant a discerning heart…to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’ Solomon recognised the value of wisdom. We all need wisdom. From decision making to solving conflicts, we need to be able to make wise choices. And discernment fits in with this. Being able to discern between right and wrong, the truthfulness of a statement or the character of a person, helps us make those wise choices. The Bible says that discernment is a spiritual gift. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul shows us that people are given differing gifts (see v.10). So some of us have discernment as our spiritual gift. But for those of us who don’t, we can ask God to help us be discerning and wise in our everyday decisions, faith, relationships and workplaces. ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’ (James 1:5 NIV). And when we’re filled with God’s wisdom, the decisions we make will bring peace, justice and goodness. And that will bring glory to God. When Solomon received the gift of wisdom, he was soon put to the test when two women approached him both claiming to be a baby’s mother. He managed to discern who the real mother was and we’re told that the people were in awe of him because they could see God’s wisdom in him (see 1 Kings 3:28). Can people see the same in us?

Judg 7:1-9:33; Mark 10:23-34; Ps 93; Prov 13:7-8