Faith Isn’t A Race

Posted by Melissa

I love to watch baseball. I love to watch big league games on TV and the Internet, and I love to go to the local stadium to watch the minor leaguers, too. But those are two very different experiences. The minor league games are great because the tickets are cheap, the seats are close to the field, and it doesn’t take a long time to find a parking space. But the minor league players are simply not good enough for the big leagues, and it would be silly to go to minor league games expecting to see major league talent.

Read Romans 14:1-4, thinking carefully about verse 1.

At the end of chapter 13, Paul had instructed believers to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” How does that instruction apply to these verses?

In these verses, Paul instructs us to accept believers who are weak. Why should we accept weak believers?

Christians are described as household slaves. Whose slave are we? Does it make you uncomfortable to think of yourself as a slave? Why or why not?

What do these verses teach you about treating others who aren’t as strong in their faith as you are?

Have you ever met another believer and been surprised by the way they acted? Maybe they only used a certain translation of the Bible or thought that watching TV or listening to rock music was sinful. While we ought to hold one another accountable and encourage each other toward Christlikeness, keep in mind that while as believers in Christ we are all walking the same path, not everyone is at the same level. Just like those minor league players shouldn’t be expected to play like big leaguers, new and immature Christians shouldn’t be judged for being immature. Instead we should come alongside them and encourage them to grow in their faith. Whom can you encourage today?

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Say What

Posted by Melissa

Read Proverbs 18:19-21.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me! Have you heard that one before? Have you said it?

I know I have, but it never really sounded right to me. If it sounded hollow and false to you, too, that’s because it is simply not true. According to Proverbs 18:21, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” That’s a long way from “words can never hurt me!”

The truth is that the wounds caused by harsh words, unthinking comments, and put-downs can stay with people for a long time—maybe even a lifetime.

The glorious good news is that edifying, encouraging, and kind words can carry us through very hard and trying times. Knowing the power of words should encourage us to prayerfully consider our words before we speak them.

It’s time to take stock of how you’re using your words. Are you speaking life or death? Are your words full of light and truth or darkness and pain? You get to choose whether your words build others up in Christ or tear them down.

This month we’re going to be looking at some Scriptures that instruct us to build one another up instead of tearing one another down. While there is a time and place for correcting a brother or sister in Christ, that correction should always be done in a spirit of love and grace that seeks his or her good and doesn’t just try to prove that you are right and they are wrong.

The love of Christ compels us to build up others, and the great news is that the spirit of Christ empowers us to do it!

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Step In

Posted by Melissa

There are times when we have all wondered if we should stick our nose into somebody else’s relationship issues. When you’re on the outside looking in, you see things from a different perspective—but is it really your place to butt in?

Read Philemon 20-25. Focus on verse 21.

What was Paul confident about?

What was the obedience Paul talked about in verse 21?

What are some ways that people try to “help” relationship conflicts that only make them worse?

What are some positive ways that people can help others who are struggling with conflict?

Do you have friends who are struggling with conflict? Explain.

Is there a way that you could step in and encourage forgiveness to take place, like Paul did in these verses?

Paul did everything he could to bring peace and encourage forgiveness between Philemon and Onesimus. He was confident that Philemon would do the right thing and welcome Onesimus with open arms. Paul loved both men so much that he couldn’t keep quiet; he had to butt in. If he wouldn’t have, it could have had lifelong consequences.

If you have friends who are struggling with a conflict, don’t immediately throw yourself in the middle of it and try to fix it. First take it to the Lord in prayer. Then, wait for an opportunity to encourage forgiveness and reconciliation. Whatever you do, don’t get drawn into the drama! Remain neutral and encourage both sides to do the right thing. Sometimes it’s right to step in and help reconciliation along!

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Make The Call – Forgive

Posted by Melissa

All it took was one phone call. A minor miscommunication occurred, and before I knew it, the words started flying, the volume began to increase, and the fight was on. I didn’t start it, but I was going to finish it. She can’t get away with treating me like that, I thought. I know I should forgive her, but only if she apologizes first.

Read Philemon 17-19. Meditate on verse 17.

How did Paul want Philemon to treat Onesimus?

Why do you think Paul was trying so hard to bring reconciliation between Onesimus and Philemon?

What did Paul say about how to handle anything Onesimus owed Philemon?

What are some conditions people set before they forgive others?

Paul wanted Philemon to forgive Onesimus. Why might that have been difficult?

Why is it difficult to forgive someone if he or she hasn’t asked for your forgiveness?

How does unforgiveness hurt your relationship with God? Explain.

Paul desperately wanted Philemon to forgive Onesimus’ betrayal and open his heart and home to him again. Paul knew that forgiveness would free both Philemon and Onesimus to serve God together, and he also knew that if unforgiveness were to prevail, then their ministry would be weakened.

If you are a believer, it is your responsibility to forgive others—and to make the first move to bring restoration to the relationship. So what relationships in your life need a little restoration? Are you ready to make the call?

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Posted by Melissa

He said he had changed. This time it would be different. He had found Jesus, and he wasn’t the same person anymore. However, Jamie didn’t know if she could trust her father. All she could remember was the fighting, the drinking, and the abuse. Could she really forgive him?

Read Philemon 8-16. Camp out on verse 14.

What did Paul want Philemon to do?

How did Onesimus become Paul’s “son”?

Why would it have been difficult for Philemon to accept Onesimus again?

Why is it difficult to forgive someone who has betrayed you?

How can Christ’s love help you forgive that person? Explain.

Onesimus was Philemon’s runaway slave who had become a Christian through Paul’s help. Paul knew that Onesimus’ betrayal had hurt Philemon and forgiveness would be difficult. But Paul also knew Philemon’s character and believed that once he heard how Onesimus’ life had changed, Philemon would welcome him back because of his love for Christ. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it is completely possible through Jesus’ love. When you remember how much you have been forgiven and what it cost Jesus, it should compel you to forgive others. When you forgive, it screams to the world, “I belong to Jesus!”

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