August 23: Admonish and Own

Read 2 Samuel 12:1-39

There is a dimension of the providential relationships that God wants to build into our lives that is less comfortable.  Those relationships, you see, are not always marked by rainbow words of hope and encouragement.  The conversations cannot only be punctuated with encouraging statements like “I’m sorry to hear that!” and “Wow!  That must have been difficult!” and “I am praying for you!” No, sometimes difficult things must be spoken.  Occasionally, words of admonition and correction must be heard.

But both the speaking and the hearing of those words require sensitivity.

Nathan sensitively introduced the subject with a story that caught David’s attention and emotion before he said, “you are the man” (v. 7).  Nathan did not remain silent and just let David’s sin go unnoticed.  We do not serve others best when we just look the other way.  Or, at the other extreme, we can blast others out of the water if we jump down their throat with voluminous, finger pointing accusations.  No, we must sensitively speak the truth and do so in love (Eph. 4:15).

Meanwhile, David’s response required a sensitivity as well.  He readily owned his transgression by saying, “I have sinned against the Lord” (v. 13).  Our natural inclination is not to take correction well.  We may respond by defending our actions, somehow justifying them.  Or, in some instances, we respond by attacking our accuser.  “Who are they to say that to me?  They are not perfect!”  But, instead, we must sensitively receive the admonition, honestly evaluate its accuracy, and humbly own our failure.

Neither end of the conversation is easy to be on.  Both require that we are sensitive to each other, to the situation, and, ultimately, to the Spirit of God!  Having the kinds of providential relationships in our lives where someone loves us enough to sensitively correct is important.  Having the kind of relationships where we can be a voice of correction is key.

sbk

Posted in 2 Samuel, Fully Alive

August 22: The Giving and Receiving

Read James 5:13-20

Have you ever been that person?  The one who was down but had no one with whom to share his feelings?  The one who was ill but had no one to pray or care for her?  The one who was ecstatic about life but lacked a person with whom to share the electricity.  The one who was wandering off track but has no “GPS person” in his life to bring the course correction?

If you have been that person, you know how dangerous, lonely, and discouraging life can be.  God never intended your life to be that way.  He has designed us for community…especially as Jesus followers.  Ours are to be lives lived not only in harmony with one another, but also ones that genuinely care for one another, weeping and rejoicing together (Rom. 10:15, 16).

When I live life like that, my trouble is not only voiced, but it becomes someone else’s concern.  The other person helps to bear a burden that was all too weighty when I was carrying it alone (Gal. 6:2).  They direct me to my divine source of help.  They demonstrate support.  They help me find solutions!

When I live life like that, my joy is neither contained nor is it merely a celebration between me and my Father.  Others join me in the festivity of giving praise to God.  They sing happy hallelujahs with me!

When I live life like that, my sin is no longer something I conceal in shame.  Instead, I confess it to God and to a caring brother/sister, who lovingly prays for my healing and holds me accountable in areas of powerful struggle.  They are interested in my rescue, not my ridicule!

But I also dare not forget that living life like that requires that I am not only on the receiving end.  I am the one bearing a brother’s burden.  I am the one sharing in a sister’s joy.  I am the one pointing a person towards righteous living.

Not only do I have the opportunity to experience the blessing on the receiving end of a providential relationship, but I am also called to the responsibility of being the one giving that blessing to others.

sbk

Posted in Fully Alive, James

August 21: Spontaneous, Providential Relationships

Read Acts 8:25-40

Now that was a providential relationship that catalyzed a man’s faith!

Seat yourself in the Ethiopian’s chariot for a moment.  Next to you is a high ranking official in the service of the queen of Ethiopia.  He was a treasurer…at least for the queen personally, if not for the entire nation.  Perhaps he received for his work a healthy salary.

But, in spite of the high profile job and all that went along with it, something was missing in this man’s life.  (You know, prestige and possessions just can’t fill the voids in our lives.)  Though he was not likely a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he had apparently converted to Judaism.  He was willing to travel long distances to Jerusalem in order to worship at the temple.  And even now, on his return trip, on a desolate desert road, he was reading the Scriptures.  It was a statement from Isaiah the prophet:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”  (Is. 53:7, 8)

It was all so confusing.  Was Isaiah talking about himself?  Someone else?  If someone else, then whom?

Perhaps he was ready to place that into the mental file of “things I will never know” or of “things I need to ask a rabbi or priest next time I am in Jerusalem.”  Instead, a man came along…on a desert road…right up to him…asking him if he understood.  God providentially provided a person who could answer his question.  Philip pointed him to Jesus.  And, on that day, because of this providential relationship, the Ethiopian came to faith in Christ!

Who have been the people that God has providentially positioned in your life to help you take significant strides of faith?  While some of them may have been unplanned, others may have been ongoing and predictable.  Regardless, recognize that God likely has other providential relationships waiting for you in order to push the gas pedal down on your growth!

sbk

Posted in Acts, Fully Alive

August 20: Parable of Providential Help

Read Luke 10:25-37

Who qualifies for help?  Most assistance programs of any kind have parameters that determine whether the applicant is eligible for the food, money, or health care being offered.  Given the limited resources, volume of applicants, and the non-relational approach, I suppose that such criterions are essential.

But what if the help comes from a person and not a program?  Now who qualifies?  That is the question posed by the lawyer that set up this familiar parable.  Who is the neighbor I am to love?  But, did you notice?  The lawyer already had his own list of qualifiers in mind.  He had made decisions in the past about those to love and those to ignore.  He had passed by some and helped others.  You see, he wanted to “justify himself.”  He was hoping that the list of criterion that Jesus gave would be a mirror image of his own.  He was wanting for Jesus to understand and accept the rationale behind his list that likely included things like reputation and side of the tracks a person grew up on.

Jesus didn’t really answer the man’s question in the parable.  In His story, Jesus didn’t really describe the person.  He was just “a man.”  Oh, yes, we do know that this man was beaten, naked, and half-dead.  Meanwhile, we don’t know his background.  We aren’t told his nationality.  Jesus didn’t describe his reputation.  His political leanings were not described.  Did he have tattoos?  Short hair?  Was he a senior citizen or a senior in high school?  We just don’t know.  Apparently, that information is unimportant.  Perhaps part of the message is that every person in need is a neighbor to love.  Perhaps part of the message is that every person must be willing to enter into a providential, divinely arranged relationship as one who offers what he/she has.

Instead of describing the man who was worthy of help, Jesus describes three people who had opportunity to help.  Two of them passed by.  Was it because of their busy schedule?  Was it because helping would complicate life?  Did their list of qualifiers dictate that the man was unworthy of help?  We aren’t sure of their reasoning, but the point Jesus was making was clear.  Be the person who lovingly helps! Rather than asking, “Who qualifies for my help?” we must ask, “What keeps me from helping?” How can you be used of God in a providential relationship today?

sbk

Posted in Fully Alive, Luke, Parables

August 20: Parable of Providential Help

Read Luke 10:25-37

Who qualifies for help?  Most assistance programs of any kind have parameters that determine whether the applicant is eligible for the food, money, or health care being offered.  Given the limited resources, volume of applicants, and the non-relational approach, I suppose that such criterions are essential.

But what if the help comes from a person and not a program?  Now who qualifies?  That is the question posed by the lawyer that set up this familiar parable.  Who is the neighbor I am to love?  But, did you notice?  The lawyer already had his own list of qualifiers in mind.  He had made decisions in the past about those to love and those to ignore.  He had passed by some and helped others.  You see, he wanted to “justify himself.”  He was hoping that the list of criterion that Jesus gave would be a mirror image of his own.  He was wanting for Jesus to understand and accept the rationale behind his list that likely included things like reputation and side of the tracks a person grew up on.

Jesus didn’t really answer the man’s question in the parable.  In His story, Jesus didn’t really describe the person.  He was just “a man.”  Oh, yes, we do know that this man was beaten, naked, and half-dead.  Meanwhile, we don’t know his background.  We aren’t told his nationality.  Jesus didn’t describe his reputation.  His political leanings were not described.  Did he have tattoos?  Short hair?  Was he a senior citizen or a senior in high school?  We just don’t know.  Apparently, that information is unimportant.  Perhaps part of the message is that every person in need is a neighbor to love.  Perhaps part of the message is that every person must be willing to enter into a providential, divinely arranged relationship as one who offers what he/she has.

Instead of describing the man who was worthy of help, Jesus describes three people who had opportunity to help.  Two of them passed by.  Was it because of their busy schedule?  Was it because helping would complicate life?  Did their list of qualifiers dictate that the man was unworthy of help?  We aren’t sure of their reasoning, but the point Jesus was making was clear.  Be the person who lovingly helps! Rather than asking, “Who qualifies for my help?” we must ask, “What keeps me from helping?” How can you be used of God in a providential relationship today?

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized

August 19: We Need Each Other

Read Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

God never designed for us to go through life alone.  Already on Day #6 of creation, He observed the solitude of the man He created and declared that it was “not good” (Gen. 2:18).  Consequently, He sought to remedy that.

But the ultimate good life is not necessarily experienced in marriage.  Now, that statement may require some explanation…especially to Celeste, my wife!  What I mean is that God wants us to be connected to others in meaningful, encouraging, God-glorifying, accountable relationships.  Marriage is certainly a unique and important expression of that.  It is only in marriage between a man and woman that two people become one.  It is only in a husband/wife relationship that God’s gift of sexual intimacy is to be enjoyed.  Marriage is a unique blessing from God.

Meanwhile, the unmarried person is of no less value.  In fact, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that there are specific advantages to the single life.

Whether a person is married or not, Solomon points out the vanity, the meaninglessness of the life of one who has no meaningful connection with others.  This is the person with “neither son nor brother” (v. 8).  It is the man without friends.  It is the woman cut off from family.  One can argue, “At least this person can give himself/herself more completely to another biblical value…work.”  But the purposelessness of such a life is real.  His money doesn’t bring contentment.  Her life lacks joy.

But, oh the blessing of the life connected to another!  Those providential relationships offer accountability and more.  Together with others, our productivity increases (v. 9).  Friends are there to help us when we stumble in life (v. 10).  In close relatives, we find those who are there with us when we face the cold realities of life (v. 11).  With God’s help, we can stand with others against the temptations, challenges, and even satanic opposition (v. 12) we may face.

I am grateful to have people like my family, my Grace Group, and others in our pastoral staff who are there for me.  So, who are those people in your life?

The contemporary band “Sanctus Real” gives us an upbeat reminder of our need for others in their song “We Need Each Other.”  Check it out if you care to.

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized

August 19: We Need Each Other!

Read Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

God never designed for us to go through life alone.  Already on Day #6 of creation, He observed the solitude of the man He created and declared that it was “not good” (Gen. 2:18).  Consequently, He sought to remedy that.

But the ultimate good life is not necessarily experienced in marriage.  Now, that statement may require some explanation…especially to Celeste, my wife!  What I mean is that God wants us to be connected to others in meaningful, encouraging, God-glorifying, accountable relationships.  Marriage is certainly a unique and important expression of that.  It is only in marriage between a man and woman that two people become one.  It is only in a husband/wife relationship that God’s gift of sexual intimacy is to be enjoyed.  Marriage is a unique blessing from God.

Meanwhile, the unmarried person is of no less value.  In fact, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that there are specific advantages to the single life.

Whether a person is married or not, Solomon points out the vanity, the meaninglessness of the life of one who has no meaningful connection with others.  This is the person with “neither son nor brother” (v. 8).  It is the man without friends.  It is the woman cut off from family.  One can argue, “At least this person can give himself/herself more completely to another biblical value…work.”  But the purposelessness of such a life is real.  His money doesn’t bring contentment.  Her life lacks joy.

But, oh the blessing of the life connected to another!  Those providential relationships offer accountability and more.  Together with others, our productivity increases (v. 9).  Friends are there to help us when we stumble in life (v. 10).  In close relatives, we find those who are there with us when we face the cold realities of life (v. 11).  With God’s help, we can stand with others against the temptations, challenges, and even satanic opposition (v. 12) we may face.

I am grateful to have people like my family, my Grace Group, and others in our pastoral staff who are there for me.  So, who are those people in your life?

The contemporary band “Sanctus Real” gives us an upbeat reminder of our need for others in their song “We Need Each Other.”  Check it out if you care to.

sbk

Posted in Ecclesiastes, Family Survival Kit, Fully Alive, Uncategorized