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

What’s the point?

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 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

Relationships: Growth

2018-02-04
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

When we’re in a relationship, we’re one half of a team. And that team, through commitment, love and communication, can be really strong. We’re not two individuals competing with each other, but a team working together. We bring our own individuality, and we shouldn’t lose who we are, but we become part of a team which is all about support, comfort and encouragement. And that doesn’t only apply to our day-to-day lives and stresses. This also applies to our faith. In Hebrews it says: ‘Let us think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds’ (10:24 NCV). So how can we help each other to grow in our relationships with God? There’s the obvious answers like pray together, read the Bible together and go to church together. But we can also be honest and accountable about our faith, pray for each other and share what God tells us, lovingly point out where something is not quite God’s best and help them to look to God for answers to the things they’re struggling with. But we must remember that we’re not responsible for the spiritual growth of our partner, we’re only responsible for our own. God can use us to help them on their journey, but there should be no pressure and no judgement. The Bible tells us to ‘encourage one another and build each other up.’ So in our relationships, let’s be people who encourage and help people to grow in their relationship with God. But let’s also not forget that our relationship with God comes above everything else. Our relationships shouldn’t be preventing our own individual spiritual growth.

Exo 20:12; Jer 35:1-19; Prov 1:8; John 19:25-27

Relationships: Communication

2018-02-03
Matthew 18:15 NIV

For a relationship to be successful, we need to have good communication with each other. Without sharing our thoughts and feelings with the other person, we won’t get very far. In fact, we may just end up resentful and bitter because the other person didn’t do what we expected them to. But without telling them what we need, we can’t expect them to know. And if we don’t tell someone when something they’ve done has hurt us, we can’t expect them to apologise or change their behaviour. In today’s society, communication has reached new levels. We can now talk to hundreds of people through social media. And we need to be careful what we’re saying about our relationships when we’re online. Let’s not post about what’s going wrong in our relationships or what’s annoying us about our partner. That’s not helpful for the situation or honouring towards them. We need to make sure we’re raising issues in our relationships, and raising them in the right way. The Bible says: ‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you’ (Matthew 18:15 NIV). Sometimes we need to ask the advice of others outside of the relationship, but let’s be wise about when we do this and who we talk to. Once we’ve raised an issue within our relationship, we need to be willing to forgive. The Bible says: ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other’ (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). No one is perfect and no relationship is perfect. People will make mistakes. If we’re going to make a relationship work, and this applies to friendships too, then we need to be prepared to communicate and forgive others.

Num 16-18; Matt 12:15-21; Ps 107:33-43; Prov 3:27-28

Change your thinking

2017-10-12
Philippians 4:8 NLT

In order to change your life, you must first change your thinking. And that’s not easy when you’ve spent your life thinking a certain way. Minister and columnist Dr. Frank Crane said, “Our best friends and our worst enemies are our thoughts.” King Solomon put it this way: “As [a man] thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS). To change your thinking, you must do it – one thought at a time. That calls for discipline and determination. But it’s worth it. If you wanted to compete in a marathon you wouldn’t go on an all-candy diet, would you? The fuel you put into something determines its performance. Yet we disregard this basic piece of wisdom: What you feed everything else is nothing compared to what you feed your mind! Here’s a truth that will transform you: Think excellent thoughts! What enters your mind repeatedly, occupies it, shapes it, controls it, and in the end expresses itself in what you do and who you become. Your mind will absorb and reflect whatever it’s exposed to. The events you attend, the relationships you build, the materials you read or don’t read, the music you listen to, the media images you’re exposed to, the conversations you engage in, and the thoughts you entertain all shape your mind, and eventually your character and your destiny. So what should you do? Start each day by praying: “Lord, I want the kind of mind Your Word describes. One that’s filled with excellent, admirable, honorable, praiseworthy thoughts” (See Philippians 4:8). Can you imagine what your life would be like if you constantly prayed that way and programmed your thinking accordingly?

Soul food: Exo 22-24; John 2:12-25; Ps 89:15-37; Prov 26:20-22