Honesty on Three Levels

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‘Each of you must … speak truthfully to your neighbour.’ Ephesians 4:25 NIV

Telling the truth sounds simple, but it takes commitment on three levels: (1) Verbally. When you’re found out in a lie, it undermines the confidence others have in you. For example, when a husband or wife denies blowing the family budget, or covers up a drinking problem, inevitably there’s trouble. But when each knows that the other ‘will hold firmly to the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15 PHPS), the relationship becomes stronger and more likely to weather the storm. (2) Behaviourally. ‘Unless you are honest in small matters, you won’t be in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.’ (Luke 16:10 TLB) Cheryl Richardson says, ‘Integrity is the key to living an authentic life.’ You become known as a person of integrity by keeping your word. So when you make a commitment, follow through—even when it costs you, and even when you get a better offer. (3) In actuality. Why is telling the truth such a big deal? Because every relationship in your life is based on trust. When you don’t deal truthfully: a) You end up losing your influence and the respect of others. b) You live in fear of being found out, which makes you insecure and forces you to live on two levels: public perception and private struggle. c) You have to worry about what you’ve said, and to whom. d) You get to where you can’t trust or believe others because ‘as you live your life, you judge your neighbour’. e) You make yourself feel better by rationalising, ‘Everybody lies.’ The trouble with that line of thinking is—you can’t trust them either!

The Peace Process

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‘Great peace have they who love your [Word], and nothing can make them stumble.’ Psalm 119:165 NIV

One of the last things Jesus told His disciples before leaving this world was, ‘In this world, you will have trouble.’ (John 16:33 NIV) And He was right, wasn’t He? We all experience stress, occupational demands, deadlines, expectations, personal pressures ganging up on us and constantly trying to rob us of the peace we desperately desire. No one is immune to stress, frustration, and the feeling that we’re on the ‘autobahn of life’. What is all this but the absence of peace? And the answer can’t be found in a pill, a possession or a pleasure. All those things wear off or wear out. The Bible talks about three different kinds of peace. Let’s look at them: (1) Peace with others. ‘As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ (Romans 12:18 NIV) This is external peace, and it’s necessary for human relationships to flourish. (2) Peace with yourself. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.’ (Colossians 3:15 NIV) This is internal peace, a rest of mind and soul that escapes most of us. (3) Peace with God. ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1 NIV) This is eternal peace, and it comes from knowing you’ve a right relationship with God. So here’s how it works: when you’re at peace with God you’ll be at peace with yourself, and when you’re at peace with yourself you’ll be at peace with others. That, in a nutshell, is the peace process!

Dealing with Difficult People

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‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’ James 1:19 NIV

The only way to avoid having to deal with difficult people—is to move to another planet. Human beings are a mixture of vices and virtues, and unless you understand that, you won’t be able to work or live with them successfully. The story’s told of a monk who joined a monastery and took a vow of silence. Once a year he was invited to appear before the abbot, and he was permitted to say one thing. After the first year when he was asked what he had to say, he replied, ‘The bed’s too hard!’ At the end of the second year when he was asked, he responded, ‘The room’s too cold.’ At the end of the third year he was asked the same question. He replied, ‘The food’s terrible. I quit.’ At that point the abbot smiled with relief and said, ‘Thank goodness! Because you’ve done nothing but complain since you got here!’ Think about it: even if you joined a monastery you’d still have to deal with difficult people! So what can you do? Learn from the farmer. He plants, pulls weeds, and cultivates, knowing the harvest will eventually come if he patiently keeps doing these things. It’s one of the reasons James writes, ‘My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.’ (James 1:19–20 NIV) There are no shortcuts. The only way to have a good relationship is to work at it and be patient. When you do, God will bless that relationship.

You Need a Vision

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‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.’ James 1:17 NKJV

If your vision in life is to become as rich as possible, hoard every penny you make, and indulge your every whim—your vision is not from God. But if your vision is to succeed, use your success to bless others, and fulfil the purposes of God in the earth, your vision is from God. When God called Abraham, He promised him three things: ‘I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing [to others].’ (Genesis 12:2 NIV) Understand this: every worthy vision comes from God whether or not it’s related to so-called ‘spiritual’ matters, and whether or not the person with the vision realises the source of their vision. The Bible says, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.’ We tend to compartmentalise our lives, to view God as having influence and relevance when it comes to ‘spiritual’ visions, missions, and goals, but little relationship to ‘secular’ visions, missions, and goals. St Augustine said, ‘Let every Christian understand that wherever truth is found, it belongs to his Master.’ God is the fountain of all truth, and the source of all worthy visions. And since He gave you your vision you must pour yourself into it every day. The psalmist said, ‘Let the Lord be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity [success] of His servant.’ (Psalm 35:27 NKJV) With God as your partner you must expect to succeed—and you will!

‘God is for me!’

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‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31 NIV

The question isn’t simply, ‘Who can be against us?’ That’s an easy one to answer: disease, inflation, corruption, exhaustion, calamities, and fears. The real question is, ‘If God is for us…?’ Let’s read these words slowly, placing emphasis on each of them: (1) God is for you. Your parents may have forgotten you, your teachers may have neglected you, your siblings may be ashamed of you, but within reach of your prayers is the Maker of the oceans: God! (2) God is for you. Not ‘maybe’, or ‘has been’, or ‘would be if’, but ‘is’! God is for you today, at this minute, as you read this sentence. No need to wait in line and come back tomorrow. He’s with you. He couldn’t be closer to you than He is at this second. His loyalty won’t increase if you’re better, nor lessen if you’re worse. He is for you. (3) God is for you. Are you too tired to continue? He’ll carry you. Are you too discouraged to fight? He’ll fight for you. Turn to the sidelines; that’s God cheering you on. Look past the finish line; that’s God applauding your steps. (4) God is for you. When you’re pushed aside, ignored, forgotten, He’s on your case—and He remembers you with delight. We already know He has a scar that says: ‘I have written your name on My hand.’ (Isaiah 49:16 NCV) So when you get up each morning look in the mirror and tell yourself, ‘God is for me!’

Recovering from Divorce (3)

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‘When there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping.’ Romans 4:18 NLT

Let’s examine the last three stages involved in recovering from a divorce. Stage Five is acceptance. Yes, acceptance can and eventually does come! And when it does, sometimes you’ll feel a twinge of guilt for not feeling depressed and sad any more. What’s happening? You’ve stopped fighting. The war within has settled down and you’ve begun to experience peace. And it’s God’s peace that transcends human understanding (see Philippians 4:7). Stage Six is hope. ‘When there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping … In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.’ (Romans 4:18–21 NLT) Something inside you rises up and says, ‘I will live again, and I will love again. My life is not over.’ This is when purpose is rediscovered, new friendships develop, and you start to grow stronger. Emotionally you age fast—and it becomes an advantage. Stage Seven is fulfilment. You say like David: ‘I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done.’ (Psalm 118:17 NLT) Whether it’s a new relationship, another career, or a particular achievement, God will see to it that you find fulfilment again. This is the place where complaining is never heard because you no longer need to rehearse old memories of failure or betrayal. The God who said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5 NKJV), is giving you a new future, and you refuse to trade it for the pain of your past.

Recovering from Divorce (2)

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‘I will restore to you the years.’ Joel 2:25 NKJV

Recovering from divorce and learning to live again takes time, so please be patient with yourself. Chances are you’ll go through the recognised stages of grief: (1) Denial. You try to ignore or minimise what has happened in hopes it’ll go away. You fear confrontation and refuse to face it. You won’t go for professional help because you think ‘it’ll all work out in the end’. (2) Anger. When someone rejects you, it affects your self-worth and you react the wrong way. You make wild, unchecked statements born out of emotional chaos—sweeping statements like, ‘Good! I’m glad it’s over! Just you wait! I’ll find someone who really loves and appreciates me!’ (3) Bargaining. Once you realise anger just robs you of joy and drives the wedge deeper, you resort to looking for a solution or a compromise. And when that doesn’t work you progress to the next stage. (4) Depression. It hits you at the most inopportune times like birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. Re-runs of ‘our favourite movie’ on television or restaurants where you made memories together depress you. At two o’clock in the morning you’re wide awake and can’t sleep. This depression is often the result of introspection, because you can’t think wrong and feel right at the same time. So what can you do? Learn to discipline your thoughts. Set new goals for your life. Focus on helping someone else. When Job prayed for his friends, God healed him and restored his fortunes (see Job 42:10). And He will restore yours too, so keep trusting Him and don’t lose heart.

Recovering from Divorce (1)

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‘Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.’ Isaiah 43:18 NAS

Divorce is one of the most painful things the human heart can experience. If it’s happened to you, you know that’s true. If it hasn’t, be grateful and show compassion towards those who’ve been devastated by it. Have you been crushed by someone you trusted? Does loneliness overwhelm you in the midnight hours? Do you feel as though your hands are completely tied? Does it upset you because your friends don’t seem to understand? Don’t despair—your present circumstances will change. You will recover; you will rebuild; you will not stay down. It will take time, and you’ll have to invest some effort. You will experience pages of sadness in your diary of success, but by God’s grace you will learn to live again and love again. As you draw close to God and search His Word, He will reveal to you the secret of inner peace, and how to take back your life. If you are the innocent party, read this Scripture and hide it in your heart: ‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.’ (Psalm 147:3 NIV) If you are the guilty party, remember you haven’t committed the unpardonable sin. So your failures are forgivable and forgettable. God’s promise to you is: ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.’ (Isaiah 43:25 NIV) Whether you are the innocent or the guilty party, the word for you today is: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past … I am doing a new thing! … I am making a way.’ (Isaiah 43:25 18–19 NIV)

Pray with the Right Motives

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‘Search me, O God, and know my heart.’ Psalm 139:23 NKJV

Here are two mistakes we make when it comes to praying. (1) We focus on our failures. Therefore we pray without faith and confidence (see 1 John 3:21–22). (2) We fail to examine our motives. The psalmist wrote, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart … see if there is any wicked way in me.’ (Psalm 139:23–24 NKJV) There are prayers God won’t answer for our own good—or at least not right now. Pastor Jerry Sittser writes: ‘Your cause may be right, but you may still be wrong: manifesting pride, gloating in victory, punishing wrongdoers with excessive severity … The great hazard for people on a crusade is … they become blind to their own faults. They fight for civil rights but treat janitors like second class citizens. They uphold standards of Biblical sexuality but show little grace toward their spouse. Unanswered prayer is God’s gift … it protects us from ourselves. If all our prayers were answered we’d abuse the power … use prayer to change the world to our liking, and it would become hell on earth. Like spoiled children with too many toys and too much money, we’d grab for more. We’d pray for victory at the expense of others … intoxicated by power we’d hurt people and exalt ourselves. Isaiah said, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you … therefore He waits.” (Isaiah 30:18NAS) Unanswered prayer protects…breaks…deepens and transforms. Past unanswered prayers which left us hurt and disillusioned, act like a refiner’s fire to prepare us for future answers.’ Bottom line: pray with the right motives!

Brokenness Produces Character

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‘The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.’ Psalm 51:17 NLT

When we submit to God’s dealings in our lives, He empowers us to reach our full potential by gently breaking areas of our stubborn will that need to be submitted to Him. As these areas are broken, His power within us is released and things begin to change for the better. Power and talent without character and direction, have destroyed many a man and woman. You probably know some of them. So be warned; unless your talent is governed by character, you’re headed for trouble. A horse may come from a line of blue-ribbon champions, but until its will has been broken its power endangers itself and those around it. You’ll notice two important things about a thoroughbred champion horse: (1) It hears many voices during the race but it has learned to respond to only one—the voice of its rider. And that’s God’s plan for you. You’ll get a lot of opinions, but to win in life you must be led only by God. And that calls for humility. ‘He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.’ (Psalm 25:9 NIV) (2) Its power is realised and its full potential released only when it can be harnessed and directed. So, is God breaking you in similar fashion? Is He putting His harness on you and saying, ‘You can’t live like that anymore, or do your own thing, because I have plans for you’? The word for you today is: ‘You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NLT)