Engaging those who need help

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The Lord brings people into our life who struggle. Walk with the Lord and you will have opportunities to minister to people. Someone comes to you with a problem. Now what? How do you help the person? Here are four steps I was taught, in order, to help him or her out.

First, get involved. Paul says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

A person comes to you with a problem. What do you do? Put this in perspective. The Lord decided it was time for you to minister to your friend so He orchestrated your friend to come to you for help. Helping people requires time, sacrifice, energy, and effort. It also requires compassion, kindness, mercy, grace, truth, and patience. Get busy helping your friend by getting involved with him.  A very important nuance here: you did not go and get yourself involved in a mess you were not invited too. “Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and meddles with strive not belonging to him” (Prov. 26:17). There is a difference between being a busy body and helping when asked!

Second, gather information. Your friend presents the problem. Before offering advice or solutions, are you sure you understand the problem? Can you rephrase the problem in your own words and have your friend say, “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!” There is nothing worse than giving advice to the perceived problem and not the real problem.

“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13

So ask questions. When you have asked questions, ask some more questions. When you have gathered much information on the problem, then summarize the problem to your friend.

What kind of questions do I ask? Ask questions probing the heart, motives, and provide clarity. If your friend says something not making sense, ask for clarification. Be patient and listen. Never hesitate to say, “That sounds odd, can you clarify?” Listen more than you talk.

In a conflict remember your friend is giving you his side. He will think he is right. He may be, but he may be wrong too. Also, in a conflict situation, you can only help the person you are talking too. You cannot counsel the other party involved through your friend. You can only counsel your friend. A husband comes to me about his wife. I cannot counsel the wife through the husband. I can only tell him how he needs to respond in a way that honors the Lord.

Before you give hope and counsel, determine what kind of problem and where the person fits into the situation. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 tells us of three different kinds of people and the type of help he or she needs: unruly, fainthearted, and weak. Each one receives different counsel. But no matter what the problem is and how the person responds, “Be patient with them.”

Third, give hope and instruction. If a person is a believer, remind him of the Gospel and show him what the Bible says about the situation and how we are supposed to respond to the situation. 

However, if the person is an unbeliever, the only thing you can tell him or her is the Gospel. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If someone does not fear the Lord then you cannot provide any biblical wisdom. Therefore tell the person the Gospel — the hope we have in Jesus Christ, His death on my behalf, his resurrection, and the hope of eternal life in Him. Point out the problem is really sin but God has a remedy for the problem.

With the believer, your counsel really begins. First, use the Bible. It is His Word for our edification (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Make sure the instruction is biblically accurate (2 Timothy 2:15). Finally make sure it is biblically appropriate to the situation (1 Thess 5:14).

God changes people and He provides hope to us. Make sure a person knows there is hope! God is conforming believers into His image and this can be a slow process. But He who begins a good work in people, He will complete it! (Phil 1:6)

Fourth, give homework. This is important. Give a person study material, prayer requests, and actions necessary for the situation. Our goal is help change thinking and living. Guide the person in necessary steps to do so. Provide biblical material to study, memorize Scripture, write out how to live out the Word in situations. The person should start discerning the situation biblically and know how to respond biblically.

These are very brief (probably too brief), but this is a good starting point and grid to help people in ministry. This list is not just for “trained professionals” but for born again believers. If your faith is in Christ, then you need to plan on doing ministry. It is a part of our calling (Eph 2:10). Prepare yourself now to help others.

hypocritical defenses

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There are two common expressions I hear from people used to defend a belief or action. In fact, most of us have probably encountered it, if not used it at one point in our life. For instance, your sibling is cheating on her husband and you tell her it is a sin and she needs to repent. What is the common response? “Stop judging me.”

The second common response I hear, “Well this is my experience and you cannot tell me I am wrong.” I have also heard, “The Lord told me in a dream the other night . . .”

Both statements, “do not judge me” and “my experience” are really defense mechanisms allowing the person to live as he or she chooses. The problem with both statements, aside from pride, is in reality, the person who makes either defense does not live by those standards. In other words, the moment either defense is levied the person has become a hypocrite.

First, does a person really believe it is wrong to question an experience? For the record, most of the time, we are not questioning the experience, we are questioning the interpretation of the experience. I have no doubt you had a dream. But I do doubt the Lord spoke to you in the dream because God speaks to us through His revealed Word (aka Scripture or the Bible).

Does this person really think it wrong to question interpretation of events? Probably not. Proof? He said their night together was consensual, she said it was rape. Should we investigate her claim? Who are we to tell him his experience is wrong? Obviously the act happened, but the interpretation of the act is up for debate. What if her definition of rape is wrong? What if he thinks no means yes? There is a standard of truth here, common definitions, and laws needing to be followed. Would the person who says, “Who are you to question my experience” really say, “We cannot charge him with rape because who are we to question his experience?”

Second, does a person accusing someone of being judgmental really live out this standard? No. To accuse someone of being judgmental is in fact a judgmental statement. The accusation requires, interpretation and charging someone with judgement.

Also, we make discerning judgments every day regarding people. If you know your sibling steals from purses, are you going to leave your purse, with money, out in the room while you go take a nap? No. Would we say, “How dare you, how judgmental?!?” No, most people would call this wisdom.

Would you leave your child with a child rape sex offender for babysitting? No. Does it mean you are condemning the sex offender? No, but to be wise, and even help him not stumble, you would leave your child with another person.

Both scenarios require making a judgment call regarding a person and acting on it. The church is commanded to make judgment calls.

There is a man in your church who shepherds, loves, and teaches people and he desires to be an elder. Do we just take him at his word? No, we must evaluate his life and determine if he meets the qualifications found in Scripture and determine if he is above reproach. We must judge him to see if he fits the qualifications.

This practice is standard in the work place too. Would you step onto a plane with a company who does not vet the pilots before flying? He says he is a pilot, therefore let him fly the passenger plane. No, if this happened CNN would have it printed on the front page! In fact, airline companies judge their employees to see if he or she qualifies as a pilot.

These are common scenarios and situations in everyday life proving both lines of evidence or defense faulty. The reality is we make judgement calls every day. We also question people’s experiences too. So why, when it comes to sin, truth, false teachers, and obedience do we use these lines of evidence? Probably because we are being defensive. In other words we manifest our pride.

Still not convinced? Let me ask one question. Which biblical line of truth do I need to consider? How do I follow all of these?

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

“You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16, 20).

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim 5:19).

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of God . . . [why?] I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you,” (Acts 20:28-29)

Finally, Jesus tells us to judge Him according to His deeds, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)

Thoughts on Son of God, Noah, and Frozen

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A few movies have come out recently receiving reactions from the evangelical community (or just my friends on Facebook who post articles about them). Generally I do not care to enter into the blogosphere discussions but these movies and the discussions got me thinking. Why all the hype?

I am not sure why Frozen received so much attention but figured I’d include it in the discussion. . . . In fact, you could replace Frozen with any movie and my views would be applicable to any movie.
Continue reading

My feelings changed, did God’s?

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I think it safe to say every believer has good and bad days. There are days where we are more aware of our sinfulness, struggles, bad attitude, or disobedience (despite a normal desire to obey). When having a bad day or struggling, how is your relationship with God? Is God far from you? Did He pull away from you?

I think many have or still do believe that God’s presence is based on personal performance. Bad days or sinful struggles means God is not near, He’s in the other room just waiting for our attitude to change. While your perceived good days produces a joyful relationship with Him where you both sit, drink coffee, and laugh together. Continue reading

Time: what should you do with it?

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I am going to keep this brief. The Lord has instructed us on how to spend our time.

Grab a note book, Evernote, or whatever you use to take notes.

Now, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24 and 25).

I repeat, Write down, pray about, contemplate, consider, dwell on, and think about what you can say or do to encourage those in your church to love, service, obedience, and faithfulness to our Lord.

Now go!!!!

Psalm 29 under a new light?

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If I understand Thirtle’s theory correctly, the prescripts that begin a psalm are in fact the postscript from the previous psalm. In Habakkuk 3:19 the psalm ends, “For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.” Psalm 31 begins, “For the choir director. A Psalm of David.”

But what if Psalm 30 ended, “For the choir director.” and Psalm 31 begins, “A Psalm of David”? Why would this mistake happen? The OT manuscripts do not have chapter and verse. The Psalms are run together. The reader discerns a new psalm most often when “A Psalm of David” appears. Continue reading

Why the Law?

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The Law confused me for a few years. The laws within the Law do not always confuse me. Some are pretty clear, “You shall not murder.” If I buy a Hebrew slave, he serves for six years, but on the seventh he goes free (Exodus 20:13 & 21:2). Yet because of the volume, understanding the Law requires (and would have required) a lot of study in order to rightfully interpret and apply it. What confused me was my relationship to the Law and how I, a Gentile believer should view the Law?

This is a simple article, intended to keep the Law and a believer’s relationship to the Law simple. Books have and could be written to explain every point discussed in this article. Brevity is intended. Continue reading

When should we address error?

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Any given day we can find something heretical and dangerous on the internet (do we even call it the world-wide-web anymore?). An exhaustive list of heresies would fill more pages than Scripture. Some of those errors are obviously wrong — for example an article claiming Jesus is not God. There are other doctrines that seem to skew Scripture ever so slightly and yet reek havoc on the soul like the family integrated faith movement. So how should we respond to error? Continue reading

Read your Bible in a Year program

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I love the concept of reading through the Bible in a year. January is a fun month among the church as we talk among ourselves regarding our reading program. Somewhere around late February and early March the discussions turn sour as the reading program sputters through Leviticus. By April any attempted discussion seems more like a rebuke than a harmless conversation starter. Then in December blog articles and what not start popping up about how you should read through your Bible next year with different plans — some of which will get you to read your Bible three times in the year. Continue reading

God summarizes His Word

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Periodically a passage in the Bible provides summaries regarding previous material. Sometimes it is a thesis sentence or a quick reminder to a previous story. Hebrews 3:1 seems to summarize chapters one and two. Psalms have been composed reminding Israel of their past (Psalm 105 and 106). When encountered, should more weight be granted to these sentences to understand the significance of a passage? For example,

Genesis 5:1-2 summarizes the creation account. The Lord draws the reader or listeners attention to one fact about creation. “In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.” Man was created by God in His likeness (or image). Continue reading