Monday, January 29, 2018
This weekend I had the opportunity to go to Dallas to serve with a ministry called Metro Relief. It is a mobile outreach where they serve soup, hot chocolate, etc. to the homeless in the area. Besides the obvious nourishment, the food is a means of engagement to begin conversations to learn how we can be of help. We had arrived just a few minutes before when I saw a man who was walking away from our bus with a cup of hot chocolate accidentally drop it on the sidewalk. I got a fresh cup to bring to him and was walking his way when a lady stopped me and asked me if that was hot chocolate I had in my hand and if she could have it. Her name is Mary and she is about 60 years old with bright blue eyes and a radiant smile. She had a very sweet spirit about her, was clearly a smart lady, and yet was living in a shelter. We spoke for about 45 minutes as I learned more about her story of daily survival, illness, and faith. At the end of our chat I prayed for her and she assured me that she would be praying for my wife Bitsy too! I walked away from that encounter amazed by this woman of hope and resilience. It also dawned on me that I thought I was heading out to replace a dropped cup of hot chocolate but instead God detoured me to making a new friend in Mary!
In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord directs his steps
Things to think about:
· When has God redirected your steps to His divine appointment?
· Sometimes we feel tremendous pressure to make the “right” decision on some issue
o For example, Should I take this new job? Should I lend/give money to this person? Should I confront a situation?
· Do you ever suffer from Analysis Paralysis?
o Are you a deliberator or a person of swift action?
o Are there certain kinds of decisions that are harder for you to make than others?
o Isaiah 30:21 – Whether you turn to the left or to the right, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”
§ Sometimes we can agonize over making a perfect decision. While we should always seek God’s guidance, sometimes it may not be clear which direction we should take. In matters that aren’t illegal or immoral, it may be that you just need to GO! God is able to move in your circumstances, irrespective of the choice.
· In fact, inaction may be the worst decision
· Proverbs 3:27 – Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act.
§ God is bigger than any one decision we can make. Numbers 11:23 “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”
· The apostle Paul knew what it was like to move out in faith
o Acts 20:22 – And now behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.”
o Are there other biblical examples you can think of where people stepped out in faith not knowing if they had made the right decision? (HINT: There’s only about a thousand)
o Are you facing a decision today where the outcome feels risky?
§ Seek God’s direction
· James 1:5 – “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
§ Be alert to God’s voice
· John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
§ Obey what He says
· Luke 11:28, “Blessed are those who hear the word of the Lord and obey it.”
§ Trust His goodness and wisdom
· Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight.”
Monday, January 22, 2018
The problem with relationships is that they involve flawed people. And if it’s a relationship you’re involved in, that includes YOU J In fact, you may be in a situation now where there is a distance between you and someone you care very much about or who you used to be quite close to. The Bible says that it is incumbent upon us to seek to be peacemakers. We will look at three steps that will help provide the AHA! on how to bring about reconciliation God’s way. The ACTION we take, the HUMILITY we embody, and the ATTITUDE we adopt all work together in God’s system to bring about healing to fractured friendships. To give credit where credit is due, I have adapted this liberally from Day 20 in The Purpose Driven Life.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Things to think about:
· If you have been reading these notes for any length of time, you know that I’m a fan of the quote, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
o Being right and being in relationship don’t always go together. When the greater good is perceived to be winning the argument, it is almost guaranteed we will lose the person.
o Do you wrestle with this issue?
· Our verse says that it is our responsibility to see to live at peace with everyone, at least so far as it depends on us.
· This may seem obvious but the first step in all matters is to bring it to God in prayer.
o James 1:5 – 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.
§ Relationships are so tricky sometimes that without God’s wisdom we are almost assured of a poor outcome left to our own devices.
· Take the initiative
o Ephesians 4:25-27, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
o It is uncomfortable and it takes energy to address a conflict.
o Do you tend to procrastinate, “waiting for the right time” or are you more of a take-charge kind of person?
o Why is not letting something fester the best course of action?
· Two ears, one mouth: use them in that order! We are told in James 1:19 , “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”
o Listening is an act of humility. To seek to understand the other person’s perspective may give you new information that you didn’t have before. It may help provide empathy to the other’s situation that helps you understand their motivations and feelings.
§ Have you ever been in an argument where you or the other person is just repeating what has already been said? When we don’t feel like we are being heard, we just go on Repeat and dial up the volume!
§ What are other benefits of listening first?
· Admit your role in whatever the issue is that is causing division.
o James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to one another…”
o Rarely is a disagreement all one-sided. Admitting your part in it creates an environment where the other person loses their defensiveness and feels it is OK to admit their part in the conflict too.
o Have you ever experienced this?
· Focus on the problem, not the person
o Personal attacks, anger, name calling, etc. only serve to drive people apart. There may be some immediate “feel good” of blowing off steam but the damage inflicted is never worth it.
o Back to Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger do not sin…do not give the Devil a stronghold”
§ So who is the winner when we go off on someone?
· A spirit of cooperation
o Back to our verse for this study, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
o We are not responsible for what everybody else does but we are accountable for our actions. Our natural wiring is to be selfish and to get what we want. The Christ-like attitude is to seek to be at peace with everyone, so far as it depends on you.
· Reconciliation does not equal resolution
o Some issues will not be resolved as we would wish. We live in a fallen world with fallen people. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot be in relationship with people we don’t see eye-to-eye with.
· Especially within the body of believers, unity is paramount.
o John 17:20-21, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me”
o Moreover, He says that an unbelieving world is watching how we work things out within the Church and it is our primary evidence if this thing called Christianity is real and worth believing in.
· What does AHA look like from God’s perspective?
o Philippians 2:5-8, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by be obedient to death even death on a cross!
§ Who is God putting on your heart right now to reach out to and begin to repair and restore a broken relationship?
§ Is whatever might be holding you back worth the internal energy and turmoil that not addressing it is causing?
§ Is there anything that as far as it depends on you, you can do today to live at peace with everyone?