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Relationships (2) - THURSDAY MARCH 9

‘Then the Lord God made a woman…and he brought her to the man.’ Genesis 2:22 NIV (2011 Edition)

Adam lived in a perfect neighbourhood and had a perfect job - one God gave him. It doesn’t get much better than that. Nevertheless he was lonely; something was missing from his life. The Bible says, ‘But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God…made a woman’ (vv. 20-22 NIV 2011 Edition). God recognised Adam’s need for companionship and He met that need. However, this is where some of us acting on loneliness, frustration, or bad advice, rush ahead of God. There’s a reason one of the nine gifts of the Spirit listed in the Bible is ‘the ability to distinguish between spirits’ (see 1 Corinthians 12:10).

When someone comes into your life they don’t just bring their looks, talents, and financial assets; they also bring their spirit. If you’ve ever been around someone with a controlling spirit, a vindictive spirit, a resentful spirit, or a negative spirit, you know why this particular gift is so important. So make yourself a hard jury, one that’s not easily convinced, one that requires concrete evidence before reaching a verdict. And remember that it’s better to lengthen the deliberation process and ensure the decision you make is right, than to reach a hasty conclusion and end up with a broken heart. You may not feel wise and experienced when it comes to making such decisions, but hear this: it’s not how much you know that arms you with the tools of great decision making, but how much you ask. The first person to ask is God, and the time to do it is before, not after you get into a relationship.

Relationships (1) - WEDNESDAY MARCH 8

‘I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Genesis 2:18 NIV (2011 Edition)

Adam lived in a perfect world, yet he was incomplete. So God created ‘a helper suitable for him’. And since God made you with a core need for companionship, He can introduce you to the right person. But you must be willing to consult Him, follow His guidance, and wait for His timing. That’s not always easy. Some of us find it easier to be unhappy than to be alone. Driven by unfulfilled longings, we make rash decisions that end up hurting us. It’s impossible to make a good decision when you’re motivated by the fear of being alone or of being rejected. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the need to be needed by another person, or to share your life with someone. Don’t let anyone convince you that your need to love and be loved is a weakness. God created man to ‘multiply’, and it takes two to do that. We are incomplete without one another.

A respected counsellor writes: ‘We [must] become willing to open up and let ourselves be loved…let ourselves have needs. Today it’s more fashionable to act as if you don’t need anyone. But God says you do. And since He introduced people to one another throughout Scripture, that gives you a right to pray and believe He will do the same for you.’ So pray and believe that God has someone ‘suitable’ for you; someone who fits where you are and will fit where you’re going. When you find the person God has in mind for you, you’ll discover strengths and gifts in yourself you never knew existed.

Increase your pastor’s effectiveness (5) - TUESDAY MARCH 7

‘Pastors…prepare God’s people for works of service.’     Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV (1984 Edition)

Here are two final principles for increasing your pastor’s effectiveness:

1) Don’t limit them by what happened in the past. The ‘ghost of pastors past’ can block what God wants your church to do now. Don’t say, ‘In the good old days when Pastor Smith was here we didn’t do it that way.’ That hinders your church’s growth and obstructs your pastor’s effectiveness. God is always on the move, and He requires us to stay in step with Him. Don’t expect your pastor to do things exactly like his predecessors. Appreciate what God did in the past but understand that His blessings - like His mercies - are ‘new every morning’! Yesterday’s manna won’t do for today; God will give your pastor fresh manna and fresh vision to take your church to new spiritual heights. The pastor’s job is to lead - yours is to follow.

2) Your pastor can’t do it all alone. ‘Pastors…prepare God’s people (that’s you!) for works of service.’ Paul writes: ‘Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us’ (Romans 12:4-6 NIV 1984 Edition). Who’s responsible for your church’s growth? You are! And if you don’t know where you fit, ask God and your pastor for direction. Until you know your place you’re an unemployed body-member. Get connected and help fulfil the vision God has given your pastor.

Increase your pastor’s effectiveness (4) - MONDAY MARCH 6

‘Make disciples of all nations.’ Matthew 28:19 NIV (2011 Edition)

Don’t tie your pastor’s hands when it comes to a budget. A church’s budget reveals its heart, and it should also reflect God’s values and priorities. Jesus said, ‘Make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I…commanded you’ (vv. 19-20 NIV 2011 Edition). Our responsibility is twofold: to evangelise sinners and to equip saints. Many churches tie the pastors’ hands by penny-pinching, preventing the church from fulfilling the great commission. It’s commendable to be wise about spending money, but fear-driven churches stockpile savings and investments for a rainy day. This not only hinders effective ministry, it discourages giving.

When people know there’s lots of money squirreled away in a bank account, they’re apt to say, ‘Why should I give from my limited resources?’ Mission-focused churches aren’t afraid to spend money on ministry, and as a result God moves people’s hearts to give generously. Remember the three stewards in Matthew 25 who were charged with administering their master’s money? Two put the money to work and earned his approval by doubling their investment. The third risk-averse steward held on to the money, returning just the original amount. Consequently the master said, ‘Take the thousand [from him] and give it to the one who risked the most…get rid of this “play-it-safe” [steward] who won’t go out on a limb’ (vv. 28-30 MSG). The church’s job isn’t to amass funds - it’s to ‘go out on a limb of faith’ by enabling God’s servants to do His work unhindered, and trust God for the ‘rainy days’.

Increase your pastor’s effectiveness (3) - SUNDAY MARCH 5

‘[Pastors]…should be considered worthy of respect.’     1 Timothy 5:17 PHPS

When it comes to your pastor:

1) You must pray for them. Nothing releases the power of a pastor’s ministry like the prayers of their flock. Paul recognised that his effectiveness in ministry depended on the people’s prayers: ‘Pray in the Spirit…Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me…that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel’ (Ephesians 6:18-19 NIV 1984 Edition). Satan targets pastors who preach the truth. The thing he hates and fears most is God’s Word: ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the powers of this dark world and…spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (v. 12 NIV 2011 Edition). Often when pastors are preaching, the spiritual struggle is so intense that afterwards they find themselves drained. Praying ‘in the Spirit’ for your pastor strengthens them and maximises their effectiveness when it comes to reaching the lost and bringing those who are saved into spiritual maturity (see 1 Corinthians 1:21).

2) You must respect them. In a day when church has become more ‘casual’, it’s easy to lose respect for God’s leaders. The Israelites did it: ‘The anger of the Lord…divided them; he will no more regard them: they respected not the persons of the priests, they favoured not the elders’ (Lamentations 4:16 KJV). And God’s standards haven’t changed: ‘Elders [pastors] with a gift of leadership should be considered worthy of respect.’ By respecting your pastor and church leaders, you act as a role model for the sacredness of God’s ministry to this generation and the next.