Who Are You Listening To?
As an older teenager, I can remember clearly my invalid maternal grandmother calling me to her bedside. Her words have resonated through my thoughts for decades. She said, “Your mother tells me you’ve started running with the wrong people. You’re hanging out with the crowd that smokes, drinks, and has questionable morals. You’re allowing what they say impact your decisions.”
“But, Grandma,” I interrupted.
“Don’t Grandma me. I don’t want to hear you try to justify your choices. And don’t you dare say that you can be a good influence and Christian witness to them. That’s nothing but foolishness. It just doesn’t work that way. The Bible’s teaching is straightforward in this area. It says, ‘Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” 1 Corinthians 15:33(NIV)
“I told you to don’t but Grandma me,” she said. She then went on to tell me the story of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam became the King of Israel following his father Solomon’s death. Soon, the people of Israel came to him requesting he lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke King Solomon had put on them. They said if he honored their request they would serve him. 1 Kings 12:4 (NIV)
Rehoboam sought advice from two groups. The first group was the elders who had served his father. The second group was the young men who grew up with him and were now helping him.
The elder’s group advised him to serve the people, grant their petition, and speak kind words to them. In so doing they would serve him forever. 1 Kings 12:7 (NIV) The second group told him to increase the people’s labor, taxes, and for him to assert his control over them.
Unwisely, he did not accept the recommendations of the first group, the elders. Instead, Rehoboam took the counsel of the second group, the young men’s advice. So, he spoke harshly to the people and increased their labor and burdens.
Rehoboam’s listening to the wrong counselors had terrible repercussions for him and the nation he led. Although our wrong choices may not have such disastrous consequences as his wrong decisions did, we’d do well to learn from his folly by being very careful in our counselor selection. The goal in seeking wise counsel is to find someone who will tell us the truth based on what God says in His Word.
The writer of the Proverbs gives direct counsel in this area where he writes:
“remove wicked officials from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness.” Proverbs 25:5 (NIV)
We need to be careful in whose company we spend our time. We need to exercise just as much care from where we seek counsel. You will not receive Godly advice from non-Christians.
Making Godly choices includes looking at what God and His Word says, not on what your friends think. It will consist of praying for God’s guidance. Non-Christians dismiss the word of God and prayer as irrelevant to decision making. They may even suggest actions that are not Scriptural and may even violate God’s Word. They also may be critical of Christian leaders, godly people, and may even be living an ungodly lifestyle. Don’t listen to them.
Running with the wrong crowd and seeking and following ungodly never leads anywhere good. We have the choice of the people we associate with and who we ask for advice. Why not choose to associate with Godly people and seek Godly counsel?
The Power of Selfless Encouragement
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
While sitting at my computer on a Saturday afternoon, I received an unexpected text from a friend.
In her message, she said the universally dreaded words no one wants to hear: “I have cancer.”
I was shocked to read those words from her. She was a mother of two, a devoted wife and successful in her career.
It seemed so unfair. I wanted to rewind to just a few months ago when we casually chatted about family. Unfortunately, her words and her present journey were irreversible.
Before I finished reading her text, I purposed in my heart to offer some type of encouragement. I was prepared to plan a visit, bring a meal or text a few kind (but inadequate) words, given her circumstance. As I scrolled through her lengthy message, I was soon blindsided by the encouragement she offered to me.
We hadn’t spoken in months, and she was undergoing chemotherapy. Yet her focus was on me. Unbeknownst to her, she shared the very words I needed to hear at the exact time I needed to hear them. Rather than responding immediately, I just sat and sobbed, tremendously impacted by the love of God I saw in her. She offered selfless, thoughtful and kind encouragement to me despite her medical condition.
This is the type of exhortation Paul, Silas and Timothy describe in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, which says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” In Acts 16 and 17, we learn that Paul, together with his fellow laborers, wrote this letter to the people of Thessalonica after having been flogged, thrown into prison in Macedonia and forced out of Thessalonica.
At a time when Paul could have been discouraged by persecution and nursing his emotional and physical wounds, he was instead concerned for the Thessalonian believers. He modeled the personal and heartfelt encouragement he wanted them to offer others.
The believers were admonished to couple this encouragement with building one another up. The Greek word used here for “building” means “to build a house.” This single act of using our words to encourage and edify fellow believers is likened to building a structure: the universal church.
This type of purposeful encouragement is vital for a believer’s faith, both individually and collectively. For the believers in Thessalonica, this was especially true because they were a new church facing persecution from nonbelieving Jews.
A commitment to encourage others like this challenges us all to selflessly lift the countenance of someone else — no matter what we might be facing ourselves. As we offer soul-deep encouragement to others, we can trust that God, in His sovereignty, will encourage us.
This is the principle described in Proverbs 11:25, “… whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (NIV). I saw this time-tested truth in my friend’s text message and in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian believers. Through their noble examples, we are inspired to selflessly offer encouragement to others in the same way.
Community Is . . . Hospitality
Scripture Reading — Genesis 18:1-10
“Wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat. . . .” — Genesis 18:3
Caleb wasn’t looking for a mentor or a friend when he went to work for Joe. He simply wanted to learn about woodworking. But the relationship became much more than that. Instead of assigning tasks, Joe asked Caleb what he wanted to learn through this experience. That set off a years-long friendship that went much farther than simply working together. Joe and Caleb shared meals and books together. Joe introduced Caleb to the details of selling his house so that Caleb could learn. Joe also introduced Caleb to his friends. Joe invited Caleb into his life and included him in all kinds of ways.
Community is about more than just a surface relationship. It calls for hospitality, and that often means putting oneself in a place of risk and vulnerability to include others. It means inviting others into your space to include them in what is going on.
Abraham and Sarah invited three strangers to rest, wash up, and eat. It might not seem like much, but this is an example of inviting strangers into our space so that they are not strangers anymore. Abraham and Sarah gave of themselves in order to make the strangers feel welcome, and they were blessed in amazing ways.
The ways we make room for others in our community is important.
The Key of the Winds – Streams in the Desert – May 2
The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all (Ps. 103:19).
Some time since, in the early spring, I was going out at my door when round the corner came a blast of east wind–defiant and pitiless, fierce and withering–sending a cloud of dust before it. I was just taking the latchkey from the door as I said, half impatiently, “I wish the wind would”–I was going to say change; but the word was checked, and the sentence was never finished.
As I went on my way, the incident became a parable to me. There came an angel holding out a key; and he said: “My Master sends thee His love, and bids me give you this.” “What is it?” I asked, wondering. “The key of the winds,” said the angel, and disappeared.
Now indeed should I be happy. I hurried away up into the heights whence the winds came, and stood amongst the caves. “I will have done with the east wind at any rate–and that shall plague us no more,” I cried; and calling in that friendless wind, I closed the door, and heard the echoes ringing in the hollow places. I turned the key triumphantly. “There,” I said, now we have done with that.”
“What shall I choose in its place?” I asked myself, looking about me. “The south wind is pleasant”; and I thought of the lambs, and the young life on every hand, and the flowers that had begun to deck the hedgerows. But as I set the key within the door, it began to burn my hand. “What am I doing?” I cried; “who knows what mischief I may bring about? How do I know what the fields want! Ten thousand things of ill may come of this foolish wish of mine.”
Bewildered and ashamed, I looked up and prayed that the Lord would send His angel yet again to take the key; and for my part I promised that I would never want to have it any more. But lo, the Lord Himself stood by me. He reached His hand to take the key; and as I laid it down, I saw that it rested against the sacred wound-print.
It hurt me indeed that I could ever have murmured against anything wrought by Him who bare such sacred tokens of His love. Then He took the key and hung it on His girdle. “Dost THOU keep the key of the winds?” I asked. “I do, my child,” He answered graciously. And lo, I looked again and there hung all the keys of all my life. He saw my look of amazement, and asked, “Didst thou not know, my child, that my kingdom ruleth over all?”
“Over all, my Lord!” I answered; “then it is not safe for me to murmur at anything?” Then did He lay His hand upon me tenderly. “My child,” He said, “thy only safety is, in everything, to love and trust and praise.”
–Mark Guy Pearse