Many years ago I came to a conclusion that I’ve found helpful as well as painful with regard to offering advice.People have often asked my opinion about all sorts of things- their personal lives, marriage, ministry, on and on. I learned as many have that not every one who asks really wants input. Certainly there is a time to be silent or simply keep the reply basic and above all non-threatening (at least sounding!) to the individual. But sometimes there is no way around the tough answers.Early days of ministry I took people at face value. That is, I thought they really wanted an un-varnished, straight answer. Over time I realized that some did, some did not. Sometimes what they want is an honest, biblical (to the best of our ability of Bible knowledge and experience) reply while other times what they want is to feel good about the answer.Sometimes they already know the answer they want and unless you can affirm the same to them, you get into trouble.Town after town, church after church, ministry group to group I have been approached by both leadership and non-leadership from congregations of all sorts. Again and again I ask if they are praying, humbly attempting honest face-to-face discussions about the issues that at times separate them, or applying Matthew 18 principles or if they are rather looking for me to “side” with them this way or that.But the key issue is the Word of God connected with the truth of individual motives, goals and intent to love, unify under the lordship of Jesus and to serve others… or rather, demand (as one did before Jesus) “Lord, tell my sister to get in the kitchen and help with the serving”. Of course, Martha had a heart for the Lord too, but she was ticked at Mary and simply wanted Jesus to affirm what she wanted.One boil-it-down key for me is simply this: can I in good conscience before God help you get what you want or not? If I can, I will. If for what I believe to be scriptural, honest reasons I cannot, I cannot. Sometimes that makes me the great friend… sometimes it makes me the enemy.While all of us want to be liked and respected, I cannot sacrifice what I believe to be honest, biblical input simply to maintain the status quo. At the same time, there are people and times when silence and a great deal of prayer serves both them and myself better than direct answers- even though I may have a strong sense of what the most solid, true, needful answer might be for them.Not mere knowledge but wisdom, discernment and timing are all part of the process.God help us feed the sheep with love and grace and by all means to encourage one another when we can! God give us grace to take the heat when affirmation of a given desire is not what seems to be on His agenda.Sometimes love speaks. Sometimes love remains silent. God is faithful all the time- and notice that He Himself sometimes speaks to us and at other times refrains from speaking –whether we like it or not. The issue is what -He- knows is best.I don’t pretend to always know what’s best for anyone, including myself. What I do know is that God’s desires must be tended to first and last, not mine or any other’s.For God… IS God.