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Word For You Today

Dealing with Others well 2

'Go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.' Matthew 18:15 NIV So what should we do if someone in our church is behaving in a really destructive way? First off, the advice that Jesus gives in Matthew 18:15 is this: go to the person in question and discuss it with them privately. That, right there, is the immediate challenge. No one enjoys controversy, most likely because we don't want to put a relationship, or our niceness reputation, on the line. Part of the issue is that, generally, we'd rather go behind that person's back and explain our annoyance to everyone else but them. They don't deserve that, though, no matter what happened. So, dealing with it correctly... Let's continue to follow the model of Matthew 18:15-17. Let the practicality and gentleness of it sink in. Follow the step-by-step cues, from a one-on-one conversation (Matthew 18:15), to two or more addressing the person (Matthew 18:16), to taking it to the church leaders (Matthew 18:17). It's good to take an issue to leaders before addressing it, but let's not use this as a dumping ground for what is... essentially... gossip. Let's remember to, like Jesus, deal with people with a loving attitude in all circumstances. So what now? How good are you at talking to people about when they've upset you? When someone next upsets you, gently, graciously, see if you can go and tell them (them - not your mates or online followers...) about it.

Soulfood: Amos 5:18-9:15, Matt 14:22-36, Ps 121, Prov 14:13-16

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Dealing with Others well 1

When Miriam criticised her brother Moses because of the wife he chose, God gave her leprosy. Ouch, but was it out of the blue? What did Miriam do wrong? It started with her and Aaron making fun of Moses' foreign wife (real classy attitude, guys - not!) but it seems that this wasn't even her actual problem: '"Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us"' (Numbers 12:2 NIV)? Her real issue was jealousy. She wanted just as much recognition and honour as her little brother. She wasn't happy with the role God had given her and that led her to greed.

When other people around you succeed it can be easy to think: 'Hey! I'm just as good as them. Maybe even better. It should be me standing at the front, leading/teaching/getting some praise.' Are you being disrespectful of your church leadership because you think you could be doing a better job? Even if you do think there's real room for improvement, that doesn't give you free rein to disrespect your leaders. Given the amount of hard work that goes on behind the highlight reels for most in-the-spotlight folk, it's probably not fair to assume we deserve their place instead.

Leadership is a role that needs God's blessing to be done well. Let's drop unnecessary criticism and pray for some more blessing instead.

Soulfood: Amos 1:1-5:17, Matt 14:13-21, Ps 117, Prov 14:9-12

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Work Rest Recharge Repeat

'Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' Mark 6:31 NIV Picture a dense forest: trees and undergrowth and birds and other creatures scurrying about. Two men walk into this forest, harvesting wood for things like paper and log homes and those little blocks with the ABCs on them. To make time pass quicker, the younger one challenges the older one to see who can chop down the most trees. The older man takes a break every hour to drink water, kick his feet up and sharpen his axe. The younger one powers through, thinking he'll come out on top. But at the end of the day, the older man chopped down forty trees, the younger guy only twenty-five. Why? The younger one never took a break, he exhausted himself and his axe got dull because he never sharpened it. The same is true for us. If we want to succeed and do our best for God, we need to rest. That's not us failing or being weak, that's how He planned it to be. Ever heard of the 'Sabbath'? Jesus Himself said, 'Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest' (Mark 6:31 NIV). Regularly, throughout the Gospels, Jesus went off to recharge His spiritual (and mental) batteries. He knew it was important to go to a quiet place and spend time with God. If we don't rest, not only will we get worn out, we'll only do half as much as we could if we had. So what now? If you haven't taken any time out today, find a quiet place and get some soul-strengthening rest.

Soulfood: Lam 3:40-5:22, Matt 14:1-12, Ps 82, Prov 14:5-8

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Encourage

Gossip is nasty. Backstabbing is messy. Talking rubbish about others hurts. All of those things drive the people we care about away from us. Encouraging them, though, will build those relationships. We know all of these things, so why do we still struggle to do it sometimes? Maybe we still struggle with being a positive, encouraging force with the people around us because we're focused on exactly that... people. And... people ain't perfect. It's hard to encourage someone who's hurt us.

But, what happens when we shift focus? In today's verse above, look at the first word. 'Therefore'. Well, therefore what? Jesus, is what. 1 Thessalonians 5:10 NIV says: '[Jesus] died for us so that ... we may live together with Him,' followed by... 'Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing'.

Ah. Got it? Jesus died for us. That context gives us a fresh set of eyes. Encouraging those who bug us is hard when we're focused on them and their actions. But encouraging them as a fellow human being, as imperfect as we are, as in need of love as we are, and as much a precious, struggling child-valued-by-God as we are... that's different. And that focus will help us when we're tempted to want to smack people with our words.

So what now? Find someone who can give you one of those looks when you start to be an un-encourager, leaning towards gossip, or unfairly bad-mouthing someone. Give them permission to call you out. Then encourage.

Soulfood: Gen 24:1-51, 2 Cor 6:14-7:1

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Stop Kicking Yourself

'...as far from us as the east is from the west.' Psalm 103:12 NLT You can hop in a plane on a quest to reach the beginning of the west, but you'll never get there. Likewise with the east. You'll just keep going around and around and around. That's why this verse in Psalms is so important: 'He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west' (Psalm 103:12 NLT). We know God forgets our sin when we ask for forgiveness but, more likely than not, we store the memory of it and may feel like awful, terrible disappointments. But the truth is: making mistakes is part of life. When God forgives us, not only does He forget, but He removes 'our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.' Ok. Then what? Well, just as we have no reason to remind God of the things we've done or keep asking for forgiveness when we've already been given it, we have no right to keep bringing up our failures and mistakes with ourselves. Woah, really? Stop kicking yourself. 1 John 1:8 NIV tells us that we'll 'deceive ourselves' if we act like we won't make mistakes in this life. So knowing how to get past those mistakes is absolutely vital. To deal with them healthily, focusing on moving forward with God (not hiding from Him) is key. Check out Romans 6:5-11. So what now? Stop kicking yourself! Your sins and your failures have been put to death, and you've been raised to new life. Ask God to help you grasp what that means.

Soulfood: Lam 1:1-3:39, Matt 13:47-58, Ps 113, Prov 14:1-4

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Short Accounts

'Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.' Colossians 3:13 NLT How many times have you heard someone say, 'I forgave them, but I won't ever forget'? Probably a few. But that mindset isn't exactly right. Paul wrote, 'Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others' (Colossians 3:13 NLT). When someone wrongs us, no matter what it is, we have to forgive them. Unforgiveness makes bitter, angry people. But when we forgive, we're letting that weight lift off our shoulders. It's like saying, 'Yes, it happened and yes it hurt, but it doesn't define me.' Just like Paul said in Colossians, we need to remember that people are not perfect and we are not perfect: sometimes, people just hurt each other. Forgiving someone isn't easy. It may take time. But we have to forgive and forget because if we remember and hold onto what someone has done to us, we're not forgiving like God forgave us: 'And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins' (Hebrews 8:12 NLT). God forgives us and doesn't remember our sin (not even a little bit). That's practically unthinkable, and shows the lengths that God goes to forgive us. In our reality, we will have memories of things people have done, but when we choose to keep short accounts with those people, then we can move on and be free to love them just the same. So what now? Is there anyone you haven't fully forgiven? A great way to start is to pray good things for that person.

Soulfood: Gal 4-6, Matt 13:36-46, Ps 108, Prov 13:24-25

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Asking For It

'...become like little children ...' Matthew 18:3 NIV Kids are not afraid to speak their mind and ask questions. Research says that kids ask between 144 and 390 questions on average a day (depending on their age). But they're still building up a picture of the world. And, most often, when they're told something that makes sense by someone that they trust or love, they accept and believe it because, to them, new truth is amazing and wonderful. And they're depending on those trustworthy people to help them build their idea of how life works. What's this got to do with anything? Well, in Matthew 18, the disciples argued who was the best and Jesus called them out over it: 'He called a little child to Him, and placed the child among them. And He said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven"' (Matthew 18:2-4 NIV). Ever shied away from asking God something? It's ok - ask Him. We guarantee He wants you to. That's part of what it means to come to God the Father as a child. To sit at His feet and unashamedly ask for what you need for the day/week/situation you're in, as if He has the answer to everything. Because, well, He does. So what now? Think about some kids you know. See if you can have a conversation with them about God in the next week. Try to find out what they think about Him.

Soulfood: Gal 1-3, Matt 13:24-35, Ps 101, Prov 13:20-23

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