Being there (2)

Galatians 6:2 CEV

When a friend or family member is in a crisis, your aim should be to help them cope with it and grow through it. Sometimes that’s easier said than done! As their hurting hearts adjust to new and unfamiliar circumstances, they might be skeptical about whom to trust. But being there for them is what the kingdom of God is all about! “Carry each other’s burdens” (v. 2 NIV). Your commitment can play a significant role in someone’s journey toward becoming emotionally healthy again. Here are three practical suggestions: (1) Don’t expect them to initiate contact. It’s common for people in crisis to withdraw rather than ask for help. Often they’re too distraught to know what they need, so you’ll probably have to make the first move. And please don’t feel like you have to be a professional. Two simple steps can make the hurting one feel valued and understood: (a) Listen carefully to their concerns and perceptions. (b) Maintain eye contact and show genuine interest. (2) Help reduce their anxiety. Offer a calming presence by inviting them to share their feelings. And if their viewpoint seems distorted, say something like, “May I suggest another way of looking at things?” (3) Help them focus on what’s important. They’re feeling overwhelmed, so help them sort out the issues that need their immediate attention. Instead of rehashing the past and worrying about the future, encourage them to concentrate on the present and “live one day at a time” (Matthew 6:34 TLB).

Soul food: Judg 16:1-19:15; Mark 11:12-26; Ps 47; Prov 13:11-12

Praying for your assignment

Proverbs 22:29 NIV

We should all want to be successful for God. His idea of success isn’t the same as the world’s idea of success, so it’s important that we take time to pray about our work and the tasks He’s assigned to us, so we can stay focused and on track. Here’s a prayer we can all pray, whatever our task is: ‘Lord, I thank You for the way You’ve made me, for all the gifts and talents You’ve given me, and I trust that I’m the best person for the task You’ve assigned to me. I’m grateful for all the people I work with and connect with, even the ones I don’t really like or understand. Please help me keep my focus on accomplishing the goals You’ve set for me. Give me wisdom and discernment, especially if I’m in a difficult situation. Help me to learn what You want to teach me through this task, and give me patience as You prepare me for the future. Help me to do my best, and to always remain positive and hopeful. Please soothe the complaints and disappointments of my heart with Your perfect peace. Help me to bring You glory and share Your love through the work I’m doing. Allow me to know my true identity, to walk in Your favour, and help me seek to please You. Keep me on the path You’ve laid out for me. Help me to be a peacemaker in times of conflict or argument. When others around me are being deceitful or untrustworthy, help me speak only the truth. Help me bring hope, faith and joy to places where there is despair, fear and sadness. Help me be a light in the darkness. I ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.’

Judg 9:34-11:40; Mark 10:35-52; Ps 129; Prov 20:25; Ecc 5:4-6

Welcome the test (1)

Genesis 22:1 NKJV

The Bible says: ‘God tested Abraham, and said…”Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham…went to the place of which God had told him’ (vv. 1-3 NKJV). When we feel like God’s testing us, we can end up questioning why. And the answer is that it’s so He can prove His faithfulness to us, and we can prove our faithfulness to Him. But also, it’s to help us grow. We can’t become spiritually mature without times of testing. They’re the times that show us where our trust lies, and how much of it we have. It reminds us of how much we need Him. That day when Abraham was tested, he proved there was nothing he loved more than God. And that was the day when God introduced Himself to Abraham as ‘Jehovah Jireh,’ which means ‘the Lord who provides’. God will also test us to make sure our identity and our security are found in Him alone. He should be priority in our lives, but it’s easy for other things to get in the way of that. We can get distracted by things we enjoy, other people and even serving God. We don’t need to fear that God’s going to take away what’s important to us, but we do sometimes need a reminder that God should be the most important thing. He loves to bless us with gifts. The Bible says: ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above’ (James 1:17 NIV). But the gift shouldn’t become more important to us than the Giver. Being tested isn’t fun, but it’s necessary. So let’s welcome the testing.

Deut 32:29-34:12; Mark 9:1-13; Ps 62; Prov 12:18-19

Trust your advocate, not your accuser (2)

Romans 8:33 NCV

Paul writes: “Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one, because God is the One who makes them right. Who can say God’s people are guilty? No one, because Christ Jesus died, but he was also raised from the dead, and now he is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us” (vv. 33-34 NCV). The accusations of Satan splutter and fall like a deflated balloon. Then why, pray tell, do we still hear them? Why do we, as Christians, still feel guilt? Not all guilt is bad. God uses appropriate doses of guilt to awaken us to sin. We know guilt is God-given when it causes “indignation…alarm…longing…concern…readiness to see justice done” (2 Corinthians 7:11 NIV). God’s guilt brings enough regret to change us. Satan’s guilt, on the other hand, brings enough regret to enslave us. Don’t let him lock his shackles on you! Remember: “Your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). When God looks at you, He sees Jesus first. In the Chinese language the word for righteousness is a combination of two characters: the figure of a lamb and a person. The lamb is on top, covering the person. Whenever God looks down at you, this is what He sees: the perfect Lamb of God covering you. Only once in Scripture is it recorded that Jesus wrote something. And He wrote it on the ground, saying to an accused sinner He’d just forgiven, “You are free from condemnation. Go, and sin no more” (See John 8:10-11). So the word for you today is: Trust your advocate, and not your accuser!

Soul food: Deut 14-17; Mark 7:1-13; Ps 37:25-31; Prov 12:1-3

Jabez (4)

1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV

Not only did Jabez have great ambition, he had a growing faith and a deep trust in God. He had enough faith to pray and expect an answer. There’s no mention of Jabez having any special ability or talent. The Bible doesn’t say he was wealthy or educated. We can often be worried that we’re not good enough or that we don’t have the right gifts or skills to be used by God. But if we have faith then we don’t need to worry. God will give us the necessary power. He loves to use ordinary people who are willing to trust Him. We’re all given different gifts and we all have different callings. But it’s God who equips us. His hand is with us. In the Hebrew language ‘Jabez’ means ‘painful’ or ‘sorrow’. Jabez caused his mother so much grief during childbirth that she named him Sorrow. Having a name like that may have made him feel unwanted and unloved. But that didn’t stop him looking towards the future and asking God for great things. His mother may have named him Sorrow, but in the Bible He’s called honourable. Some of us may have had words spoken over us that are actually lies. We may have been called names that aren’t the names God gives us. We may be in a challenging time right now or may be struggling to move on from something that’s happened in our past. Those things don’t disqualify us from God’s calling. And they don’t prevent us from being able to ask God for great things. Jesus said, ‘Everything is possible for him who believes’ (Mark 9:23 NIV). So let’s look to the future and ask God for amazing things to come from our lives.

Deut 5-7; Mark 6:14-29; Ps 37:1-7; Prov 11:24-26