From Guesswork to Guidance

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‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go…’ Psalm 32:8 NIV

You can know God’s will for your life. He promises, ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.’ (Psalm 32:8 NIV) His Word says, ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.’ (Proverbs 3:6 NKJV) God wants you to move from guesswork to guidance, but getting there requires four things: (1) Knowing that God’s will begins with surrendering your will. Jesus said, ‘I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.’ (John 5:30 NAS) You only recognise God’s will as you learn to lay aside your own will, and that gets easier with practice. (2) Keeping a spiritual mindset. It’s not possible to sense God’s will while you’re controlled by self–interest. ‘The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.’ (Romans 8:7 NIV) (3) Praying for God’s guidance. David prayed, ‘Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me…’ (Psalm 143:10 NIV) James also en-courages us: ‘If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.’ (James 1:5 NLT) (4) Reading God’s Word with a heart that’s open to hear from Him. ‘Your word is a lamp that gives light wherever I walk.’ (Psalm 119:105 CEV) Daily exposure to the Word of God will help you recognise His voice when He speaks to you. ‘…the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice.’ (John 10:4 NKJV)

Beyond the Myths of Parenting (2)

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‘Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…’ Psalms 127:5 NIV

Here are another two parenting myths. (1) Good parents always produce good children. If only that were so, but it’s not! Even when you do all the right things, your children get to make their own choices in life. Cain and Abel were raised in the same home by the same parents, but Abel’s choice pleased God while Cain’s led him to commit the first recorded murder. Even model parents have no control over the choices their children ultimately make. This doesn’t mean your attempts to be a godly influence on them are wasted; not at all! It just means that when you’ve done your best you should: (a) recognise and accept your limits; (b) teach your children wisdom, allowing them to be responsible for the consequences of their decisions; (c) trust God to do what you cannot do. Some kids get the message quickly, others like the Prodigal Son take detours—but God never gives up on them—and neither should you. (2) Good parents treat all their children the same way. The Bible says, ‘Teach your children to choose the right path…’ (Proverbs 22:6 NLT) Every child is wired with a unique set of needs and abilities, and wise parents recognise and work with these characteristics. Your responsibility isn’t to try to make them the ‘perfect kid’. It’s to try to discover the distinctive pattern God built into each child, and work to develop that pattern in them. The reward God promises such parents is ‘…when they are older [detours notwithstanding!] they will remain upon it.’ (Proverbs 22:6 NLT)

Beyond the Myths of Parenting (1)

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‘…Children are a gift from the Lord…’ Psalm 127:3 CEB

Here are two myths of parenting: (1) Good parents always keep tidy homes. We think our house should look picture–perfect, so we get upset when our children turn it upside down. However, an obsession with neatness can result in missing precious moments that never come again. Unintentionally, we teach our children that things—not people—are important. We instil the idea that keeping up appearances matters more than enjoying life together. The truth is, the house will be orderly sooner than you think, and quiet, and empty! So enjoy the disarray, the laughter, the spills and scrapes. Let the nicks and scratches on the furniture become memories of precious moments with little people who’ll grow up feeling loved and important to you. (2) Good parents must always be ‘right’. Writer and mother Ann Peterson shares an insight that struck while she was engaged in a run–in with her son. ‘Finally, through clenched teeth I managed to ask him, “Why must you always be right?” He responded through clenched teeth (must have learned that from his father), “Because you always have to be right.” I sensed God watching that moment. Words were unnecessary. I got the message loud and clear. From that moment on, being “right” lacked the lustre it once held for me.’ The relationship with her son became less resistant, ‘Something I’d have missed, had I not conceded the need to be always right.’ So choose your battles carefully! Good parenting isn’t about racking up ‘victories’ and dishing out ‘defeats’; it’s about enjoying your family.

Forgiveness Begins the Healing Process

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The hardest offences to forgive are committed by the people who are closest to us. Why? Because we have to live with them every day! When we’re young, our emotions are so intense that wounds and injuries may stay with us for a lifetime. The pain is worse when the one who wronged us was a parent. Perhaps a mother rejected us instead of providing the love we needed, or a father was similarly absent when he was needed most. Victims of such horror may still be consumed with resentment and anger many decades later. This can cause you to ‘act out’, and hurt the people you now love and need most. What’s the answer? Forgiveness. Dr. Archibald Hart defines forgiveness as ‘giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.’ Only when you find the emotional maturity to release those who’ve wronged you, whether they have repented or not, will your wounds begin to heal. Jesus put it this way: ‘When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins.’ (Mark 11:25 NIV) Here’s something you may not have considered: God’s willingness to forgive you depends on your willingness to forgive others. You say, ‘But if I forgive them, I’m letting them off the hook.’ No, you’re letting yourself off the hook! You’re setting yourself free of pain and resentment, and positioning yourself to walk in God’s blessing. Leave the offence and the offender with God; He’s the only one who understands what they did and why they did it. As far as you are concerned—forgiveness begins the healing process.

Are You Afraid of Losing Someone?

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‘…You will be missed, because your seat will be empty.’ 1 Samuel 20:18 NIV

Who’s the one person whose death you dread most? Is it causing you anxiety? If so, begin to put these things into practice: (1) Ask God for the grace to accept death as an inevitable part of life. Both you and your loved one will eventually die, and no one but God knows who’s going to do so first. Therefore, worrying about something outside your control only robs you of your peace and joy. (2) Maximise each moment. If you knew the exact date of your loved one’s departure, what would you wish you’d done? Or not done? Would you take that trip you’ve always talked about? Would you be less critical and more complimentary? Would you spend more time with them, and tell them more often that you love them? (3) Don’t give another moment of your time to silly arguments and little irritations. (4) Make every effort to be sure your loved one is in right standing with God. Then you can be assured they’re at peace, and that you’ll spend eternity together. (5) Remember, your loved one is God’s loved one, too. And He loves them even more than you do. When the time comes, God will be right there with you. ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me…’ (Psalm 23:4 NKJV) (6) Try to picture your loved one in Heaven. Jesus said, ‘…I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am, there you may be also.’ (John 14:2–3 NKJV) The parting will only be momentary, but the reunion will be forever.

The Power of God’s Word (2)

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‘The commandments of the Lord are right….’ Psalm 19:8 NIV

Observe: (1) ‘The commandments of the Lord are right…’ When people like Plato and Shakespeare speak, the effect of their words on us depends on what we bring to the process. Some of us may be informed and entertained, while others may be indifferent or bored. Their words could be described as intrinsically neutral but this is not so with God’s words: they radiate! Like heat and light, they are sources of spiritual energy. They possess a dynamic power that produces change wherever it goes. Likewise, God’s Word is dynamic. It radiates transforming power that changes anyone who lives in its ‘environment’! (2) ‘…The judgments given by the Lord are trustworthy…’ (Psalm 19:9 NET) The Hebrew word for ‘trustworthy’ comes from ‘certainty, honesty and faithfulness’. With absolute confidence, you can stake your all on the reliability of God’s Word. It guarantees you that God says what He means, and means what He says. You can stand secure on every syllable of it. In other words, you can ‘…live…by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4 NKJV) (3) ‘By your teachings, Lord, I am warned; by obeying them, I am greatly rewarded.’ (Psalm 19:11 CEV) God’s Word is more than just a list of ‘dos and don’ts. It’s like radar that signals to you when you’re in danger of straying off course and getting into trouble. Your conscience alone is inadequate. ‘How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults…Don’t let them control me.’ (Psalm 19:12–13 NLT) By obeying God’s Word, you will be ‘greatly rewarded’!

The Power of God’s Word (1)

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‘The law of the Lord is perfect…’ Psalm 19:7 NKJV

Of all the words ever spoken, only ‘…the Word of God is alive and powerful.’ (Hebrews 4:12 NLT) So when you read your Bible, you tap into a life–changing force. Let’s look at some of the wonderful characteristics and effects attributed to God’s Word in Psalm 19. (1) ‘The law of the Lord is perfect…’ To understand the word ‘law’, think of governing forces by which things like gravity, aerodynamics and physics work. When you deny or defy these laws you suffer; when you operate according to them you succeed, but either way they are always in force! So is God’s Word. It cannot be improved upon, added to, or taken from. It is adequate and able to accomplish His purposes in your life. Additionally, it ‘refreshes the soul’! Why wouldn’t you embrace it? (2) ‘The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy…’ (Psalm 19:7 NIV) You can count on the reliability and accuracy of God’s Word in every circumstance of life. In a world of changing values, conditions and relationships, you can place your full weight on the Scriptures, confident they will hold up—and hold you up, too! Furthermore, it will ‘make wise the simple’—the ignorant and immature. It will produce in you wisdom far beyond what’s available through study and education. (3) ‘The precepts of the Lord are right…’ (Psalm 19:8 NIV) God’s precepts are accurate, correct and virtuous, and we are called to ‘…add to [our] faith virtue…’ (2 Peter 1:5 NKJV) or moral excellence. This cannot be accomplished through will–power, but through God’s supernatural Word–power.

Affair-Proof Your Relationship

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‘…Be careful not to fall.’ 1 Corinthians 10:12 CEV

Most people don’t plan on getting into an affair. They just happened to be with the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind. The Bible plainly warns, ‘Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall.’ When you think, ‘It couldn’t happen to me,’ you’re a target for Satan! So how can you affair–proof your marriage? By consistent communication. (1) Communicate regularly with God. Jesus said, ‘…when you pray, [say]…Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:7–11 NKJV). Daily communication with God arms you against marital mischief. He also knew you’d need to pray together. ‘Our Father…give us…forgive us our sins’ (Matthew 6:9–12 NLT) assumes we’re needy people praying together. Couples pray-ing together are harder to pry apart. (2) Communicate faithfully with God’s Word. Books about marriage can inform you, but only the Bible, God’s mar-riage manual, has the power to transform your life together. Shared Bible reading illuminates your understanding; it exposes, sensitises, and purifies your hearts’ intentions; it safeguards your relationship. (3) Communicate openly with each other. Build ‘relationship hedges’ so that temptation doesn’t get a foothold. Establish sensible guidelines for interacting with the opposite sex. Be open and honest with each other about your social, workplace and church relationships. Anything that makes your spouse uncomfortable should be noted, and, where possible changed. Next to God, you are each other’s best protection against failure. So, listen, learn, and love!

Lead With Your Strengths

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‘…I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit…’ Isaiah 48:17 NKJV

In case you’re wondering whether or not God wants you to succeed, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ He told the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.’ (Isaiah 48:17 NKJV) But you’ll only succeed if you know and do the right things. Only as the leader grows, will the company or ministry grow. It’s amazing how much time, money and energy we spend on things that can’t produce growth. Logos, websites, brochures and slogans are all important, but they’ll never make up for incompetent leadership. So what should you do? Once you know you’re walking in God’s will and your private life is in order, the keys to success are priorities and concentration. John Maxwell offers the following guidelines: (1) Focus 70% of your energy on developing your strengths. Effective leaders who reach their potential spend more time on what they do well than on what they do badly. (2) Focus 25% on new things. If you want to get better you have to keep changing and improving. That means stepping out into new areas. If you dedicate time to new things related to your strong areas, you’ll grow as a leader. (3) Focus 5% on areas of weakness. Nobody can entirely avoid working in their areas of weakness. (Note: we’re not talking here about sin or character weaknesses that must be dealt with.) The key is to delegate to gifted people the things that you’re not particularly good at. That way you’re free to concentrate in the areas of your God–given

Dealing With Change (3)

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‘…Tell the children of Israel to go forward.’ Exodus 14:15 NKJV

With the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s chariots behind them, Moses told the Israelites: ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians, whom you see today, you shall see again no more, forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. And the Lord said to Moses…“Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”’ (Exodus 14:13–15 NKJV) Notice, God told the people of Israel two things. First, that He would fight for them. Second, that they must go forward in spite of their fear. When you face the unknown it’s normal to feel fear, but that’s when you need to put your trust and confidence in God! In order for Him to fulfil His promise to you, you must obey what He has told you to do. How should you deal with change? In three ways: (1) Focus on its long–term benefits instead of its short–term inconvenience. (2) Be honest with yourself about what you really feel and fear about the change, and take it to God in prayer. (3) Keep an open attitude toward new ideas, and refuse to be influenced by rigid thinkers. Stand on this Scripture: ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left…’ (Isaiah 54:2–3 NKJV) God doesn’t change, but He moves! In order to succeed, you must move with Him.