Skip to content

Archive for

Just Say No – Too Good to Turn Down?

Prisoner of WarKey Bible Verses: Peter took him aside.  Jesus said to Peter very sternly, “Get away from me, Satan!” Matthew 16: 23.

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 16: 21-28

In 1968, John McCain, now a U.S. Senator, was a naval aviator who’d been shot down over Hanoi.  Already held captive for more than a year, he was still recovering from the broken leg and arm he’d sustained during his capture.  He was suffering from dysentery and heat rash.

That’s when the prison commandant made him an incredible offer.  “You can go home right now,” the commandant said.

Can you imagine McCain’s emotions?

But what he didn’t know was that his father had just been named commander of all forces in the Pacific.  The Vietnamese wanted to release John as a propaganda ploy, using his special treatment as a way to demoralize the other prisoners.  But there was a code of honor for the men in the prison camps:  First in, first to leave.

Five men had been there longer than McCain.  And so he thought about it, prayed about it, and finally said, “No. I’m not going home until they do.”  By saying no to the early release, he said yes to four more years of beatings, torture, and hardship.

Saying no to second-best isn’t easy.  But it’ll strengthen your character and your relationships. I t can even make you more like God’s Son.

– John Trent in “Christian Parenting Today”

 

My Response:  I’m stronger because I’ve said no to…

 

Thought to Apply:  To deny self is to become a nonconformist.  The Bible tells us not to conform to this world— physically, intellectually or spiritually.  – Billy Graham

Adapted from: Christian Parenting Today (1-2/00)

 

 

Advertisements

Just Say No – No Seconds?

No moreKey Bible Verses: You who lounge in luxury, eating the meat of tender lambs and choice calves.  Suddenly, all your revelry will end.  Amos 6: 1-7

After graduating from college, I was awarded a scholarship for graduate study at Clark University.  It carried a stipend that allowed for lunch and dinner six days a week.  Feeling the need for a breakfast as well, I used the little money I had to buy each week a box of shredded wheat, a can of condensed milk, and a pound of brown sugar.  For two semesters I had the same breakfast daily.

I confess it was some years before I could enjoy shredded wheat again, but the discipline dictated by my lack of funds was good for me.  I appreciated my education more.  And later I certainly valued the more varied breakfasts I could afford.

Yet if we can afford to eat lots of rich foods, should we do so?  Long before the medical profession urged moderation and balance in our diets, the Bible condemned gluttony.  Slowly we are learning that a proper diet contributes to our wellbeing, but overindulgence can give us serious health problems.

—- Hudson Armerding in The Heart of Godly Leadership

 

My Response: I’ll purposely limit myself in the area of…. …

 

Thought to Apply: Self-control may be defined as the ability to carry a credit card and not abuse it.
—- Anonymous

          Adapted from: The Heart of Godly Leadership (Crossway, 1992)

 

 

A Prayer for Memorial Day

Gracious, Sovereign God, Lord of all nations,

On this Memorial Day, we pause to reflect upon our blessings as a nation and the high cost of those blessings. We offer our prayers of thanks and intercession.

Thank you for the freedom we enjoy in this country, for opportunities to flourish, and for the security of our land.

Thank you for those who have served in the armed services of our country, risking their lives for our liberty.

Thank you for those who have given their lives in service to our country, sacrificing in such a costly way for the sake of others, including me.

Thank you for a day set apart, not just for celebration, but also for solemn remembrance as we consider the sacrifices of so many in our military.

O Lord, may we be more aware of just how blessed we are as a nation. May we be more grateful for our blessings, more faithful in stewarding them well, more eager to share them with others.

We pray today for the families and friends of those who have given their lives in service to our nation. May they be comforted in their sadness. May they be reassured that the sacrifice of their loved ones contributes to a worthy cause. May they be proud of those they have lost, entrusting their ultimate fate into your gracious hands.

Even as we remember those who have given their lives in the past, we also think of those whose lives are on the line today. We consider especially the men and women who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in other places of conflict and violence. Protect them. Encourage them. Bring them home safely…and soon.

Give wisdom to the leaders of our armed services, that they might know how best to deploy the troops in the cause of freedom. May their efforts be successful, so that peace with justice might be established in our world.

Guide those who lead our nation in international affairs. Help them to pursue diplomatic paths that prevent needless conflict. May they have your wisdom about when and how to use the military might you have entrusted to us.

God of peace, stir in the hearts of the leaders of all nations and in all who would use violence to further their cause. Change their hearts and minds. Give them a passion for peace. Bring an end to the pain, suffering, injustice, and violence in our world.

We know, dear Lord, that ultimate peace will not come until your kingdom is here in all of its fullness. Nevertheless, we pray for a foretaste of the future. We ask for the growth of peace throughout our world today, so that fewer and fewer men and women will have to risk and even to sacrifice their lives. We long for the day when people will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is. 2:4).

May your kingdom come, Lord, and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!

All praise be to you, God of grace, God of mercy, God of justice, God of peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords!

Amen.

 

 

Just Say No – Say No to Second Best

Just Say NoKey Bible Verses:  Then the Devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.”  But Jesus told him, “No!”  – Luke 4: 3-4

 

Bonus Reading:  Luke 4: 1-13

As I was walking across campus one afternoon, Dr. Howard Hendricks walked up alongside me.  “Hi John,” he said.  “How are your classes going?”

I told him the truth. I was struggling to keep up and scared I might not make it through my first year.

“Can I give you a suggestion?” he said.

“Absolutely,” I answered and waited for some study secret.

“John,” he said, “You need to learn to say no to at least one thing a day.  Even if it’s just a second piece of pie, or some mindless television show, if you learn to say no to the things that don’t matter, you’ll find the time to say yes to the things that do.”

Try it.  

  • Say no when tempted to gossip about your boss at the water cooler and watch your personal integrity grow.
  •  Say no to that extra late movie and notice how much happier and focused you are the next day.  
  •  Say no when that voice in your head says, “I know my daughter has a soccer game today, but my friend just called with a free tee time at that great course . …” or “I know I promised my wife I’d get that chore done, but there’s a web site I really wanted to check out,” and see your family grow closer.

—- John Trent in Christian Parenting Today

My Response:

Today I’m saying No to…. …

 

Thought to Apply:

What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.   – Aristotle (Greek philosopher)

Adapted from: Christian Parenting Today (1-2/00).

 

 

Memorial Day Blessing!

Memorial Day 3As we reflect upon the blessings that we have as a nation, and the high cost that has been paid for the security of our land, please join us…

 In giving thanks for those who have served in our armed forces, risking their lives for our liberty.

 May God bless those who have sacrificed and the families of those service members who have done without in duty to our country.

 On behalf of Central Church, may you have a blessed holiday weekend!

 

Just Say No – What Tipped the Odds

JockeyKey Bible Verse:  “All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize”.  – 1 Corinthians 9:25

Bonus Reading:  1 Corinthians 9: 24-27

Laffit Pincay was the winning jockey at the Belmont Stakes in 1984.  I once overheard a group of men discussing his abilities.  One said, “Don’t ever bet your money against that fellow.”

It seems that Pincay was sitting next to him in the first-class section of an airplane once when a fine dinner was served.  He said, “The only thing he even touched on his plate was a sack of peanuts.  He opened the cellophane wrapper, took out a single peanut and set it on his tray. Then he took his knife, cut the peanut in two and ate one-half of it.”

Even a nongambler like me had no trouble understanding why you shouldn’t wager against a disciplined guy like that.  Pincay knows he must exercise self-discipline to keep his weight down yet be strong enough to manage and control a 1,500-pound thoroughbred in a racing situation.

Apparently, his efforts at self-discipline are still paying off.  I noticed in the sports section of a newspaper that Pincay recently won a million-dollar race at the Santa Anita Handicap.

—- Paul Faulkner in Making Things Right When Thing Go Wrong

 

Prayer:  Dear God, please empower me to resist all that would dilute my commitment to You and Your will for me.

          Adapted from: Making Things Right When Thing Go Wrong (Howard, 1996).

 

The Touch That Transforms – Lessons from Feet Washing

Foot WashingWashing the feet of guests upon their arrival was a menial task, normally performed by a household servant.  Apparently at this pre-arranged location for celebrating the Passover meal, there was no servant.  And no one else volunteered.  So later, during the meal, Jesus deliberately assumed this role to demonstrate humility and selfless service—the kind he would soon exemplify on the cross.

God’s Word:  John 13: 1-5, 12-17

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

13 It was just before the Passover Festival.  Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 1 7 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

 

Interact with God’s Word: 

  1. Twice (vv. 1 & 3) John mentioned that Jesus was aware that he was about to leave his disciples.  Why do you think he did this?
  2. Why did a stripped-down-for-work Jesus (v. 4) clash with his “Teacher” or “Master” status (v. 12)?
  3. Jesus asked (v. 12) if his disciples “got” the thrust of his acted-out illustration.  Do you think they did?  What was he trying to teach them?
  4. If the rabbi—God in the flesh—was willing to perform the most menial service for his disciples (v. 14), how should we relate to each other?
  5. Was Jesus just trying to get his disciples to be nice to each other?  How would moving into the world with a selfless, serving attitude extend his mission after his departure?
  6. Is a sympathetic feel for those who are hurting an adequate response (v. 17)?   How could you step onto this path of blessing?

 

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to make you not only willing to serve others in any way that would glorify him, but deliberately purposeful in finding a way to do so.

 

 

 

The Touch That Transforms – Soft-Drink Sell

Key Bible Verse:  “If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of these … you will surely be rewarded.”  Matthew 10:42

Child DrinkingBonus Reading:  Matthew 25: 31-46

While working alone one Saturday I stepped outside for a break.  I heard children playing beneath a tractor-trailer.  One saw me, yelled, “There’s the man,” and started running.

“Wait,” I called. “Would you like something cold to drink?” Four or five little kids followed me into the plant where I opened the soft drink machine and gave one to each.

On Monday afternoon I heard a commotion in the lobby. Walking down the hallway, I heard one youngster ask the receptionist, “Where’s the big man with the beard?”  Turning the corner, I saw 16 kids waiting for the man with the key to the drink machine.

By the end of the week, 35 unkempt, undisciplined, and often-hungry children, whose addicted parents left them to fend for themselves, were coming to my office every afternoon after school.  I worked at my drafting table, surrounded by kids on the floor busily coloring or doing other crafts I’d brought.

Thus began the journey that would change my world.  Ten years after I first reached out to the Cleveland Arms kids, I sold my share of the business to my partner and started Metro Inner City Sunday School.  When the kids got older, we started youth groups and teen programs.

—Terry Lane in Today’s Christian

 

My Response: Someone in my neighborhood I could reach out to with a kind act is ____.

Adapted from an article in Today’s Christian.

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.

 

 

The Touch That Transforms – Salvaging a Bad Move

Boy with BasketballWho Said It … Terry Lane

Terry Lane operates the Jacksonville, Florida-based Metro Kids Konnection, which feeds over 145 children—physically and spiritually.

Terry and his wife, Kathy, have gone from enjoying a six-figure annual income to subsisting on $12,000 a year.  But, Terry reports, “Nothing can replace the joy of having a little child crawl into my lap with a hug for ‘Pastor Terry,’ or for a young man who’s been rescued from a probable drug-dealing life shake my hand and say, ‘Thanks, P.T.'”

What He Said … Salvaging a Bad Move

My cabinet-making business with its 40-man staff had outgrown its building.  So we built a new plant in Jacksonville.  But every night the alarm sounded, revealing broken windows, bullet holes, and stolen equipment.

“What possessed you to build a plant next to the Cleveland Arms?” a policeman asked me.  He informed me that this subsidized housing complex, occupied by drug dealers, prostitutes, and felons, sold the most crack cocaine in Jacksonville.

As I stood on the loading dock one afternoon, glaring into the complex, a crystal-clear thought came to me: If you’ll love those who despitefully use you, I’ll take care of it.

Stunned at God’s gentle command, I sensed him add, Look past the drug dealers; look at the children.  I prayed for days about how to connect with the complex, then bought about $200-worth of basketballs, wrote “Jesus loves you” and “Mr. Lane loves you” on them, and threw them over the fence. […continued tomorrow in “Soft-Drink Sell”]

Adapted from an article in Today’s Christian.

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.

 

 

The Touch That Transforms – Going for Broke

Key Bible Verse:  “I know all the things you do … You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”  Revelation 3:8

Couple Working in Homeless ShelterBonus Reading:  Revelation 3: 7-13

Our Willow Creek Community Church has partnered with several churches in Waveland, Mississippi, a Gulf Coast town hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.  Rick Long, pastor of Orange Beach, Alabama’s, small but dynamic Christian Life Church, realized God had opened a door for his Church to walk through in the wake of the hurricane damage.

They started organizing an incredible relief effort.  They even used the money they’d been collecting for a new building.  Needless to say, they quickly burned through all of it.

As Rick said, “Our little church [was] way in over its head.”  At one point they were feeding 6,000 people a day and providing all their supplies and clothes.  But this little Church’s relief effort is now being called one of the best the National Health Department has ever seen.

That’s the kind of Church Jesus was speaking to in the above Key Bible Verse.

The key to our effectiveness is to realize how little our strength is and stay dependent upon the one who has the strength—the holy and true one, the one who holds the keys.  You don’t have to be big, impressive, or well-known to be effective.  You just have to follow his voice.

—Mike Breaux in Preaching Today

 

My Response: A vision for service that could excite my church would be …

 

Thought to Apply: True heroism is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.  —Arthur Ashe (tennis pro)

Adapted from an article in Preaching Today

 

Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.

 

 

The Touch That Transforms – Riches-to-Rags Story

Key Bible Verse:  “Everyone who has given up … property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return”.  Matthew 19:29

Bonus Reading:   Matthew 19: 27-30Couple Working in Homeless Shelter

In the 1980s, Kevin Bradley was engrossed in the fast-paced, big-money world of a Baltimore stockbroker.  He and his wife Marilyn led a comfortable life.  But God was drawing him away from the rich to the homeless.

He’d seen them weekdays as he walked to the office, and began to occasionally take the people he met to breakfast,  “I got really interested,” he says, “in who they were and how they got to where they were.”

After much prayer, Kevin quit his job in 1991 to start the non-profit Outreach Foundation, dedicated to helping the homeless become independent citizens.  The foundation meets emergency needs and offers the Wings Life Skills Training Program that Kevin developed—teaching men and women how to channel their God-given talents and desires into productive careers.

At first, the Bradleys lived off their savings, but that became tough since they were raising less than $10,000 a year.  “At times we had less food in our pantry than some of the people we were helping” recalls Kevin. Eventually, their perseverance paid off.

Today, with many financial backers, the Outreach Foundation continues to grow, and the Wings program is being used nationwide.

—Randy Bishop in Christian Reader

My Response: A person I could listen to and care about is ____.

 

Thought to Apply: Life becomes harder for us when we live for others, but it also becomes richer and happier. —Albert Schweitzer (French medical missionary & musician)

Adapted from an article in Christian Reader

 

Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.

 

 

The Touch That Transforms – “Audacious Act”

Key Bible Verse:  Now he loved them to the very end… . he began to wash the disciples’ feet.  John 13:1,5

Bonus Reading:  John 13: 1-5, 12-17Foot Washing

In Portland, Oregon, the homeless gather under the Burnside Bridge.  For more than three years, carloads of Christians from Bridgetown Ministries have shown up on Friday nights to serve these needy men and women.

In addition to providing hot meals, shaves, and haircuts, some of the volunteers wash the homeless people’s feet.  Tom Krattenmaker, a writer for USA Today, was stunned by the display, calling it “one of the most audacious acts of compassion and humility I’ve witnessed.”

These outcasts of society had their bare feet immersed in warm water, scrubbed, dried, powdered, and placed in clean socks.  One man reported with a smile, “I can’t find the words to describe how good that felt.”

“Washing someone’s feet is an act best performed while kneeling,'” Krattenmaker commented.  “Given the washer’s position, and the unpleasant appearance and odor of a homeless person’s feet, it’s hard to imagine an act more humbling.”

In preparation for their outreach, the leader of Bridgetown Ministries said, “When you go out there tonight, I want you to look for Jesus.  You might see him in the eyes of a drunk person, a homeless person … we’re just out there to love on people.”

—John Beukema in PreachingToday.com

 

My Response: How might I “look for Jesus” in my community?

 

Thought to Apply: Christianity demands a level of caring that transcends human inclinations.        —Erwin Lutzer (pastor)

Adapted from an article on PreachingToday.com

 

Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.

 

 

The Touch That Transforms – The Little Church That Could

Small Rural ChurchKey Bible Verse:   And note this: “Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then”  – Luke 13:30.

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 8: 1-5

A Church in South Africa split; the pastor departed with most of the members.  The remnant couldn’t afford to maintain the facility, let alone pay a pastor.  

But God led John to them.  He asked his flock of fewer than 40 to consider what God wanted to do through them.  They focused on the massive Black squatters’ camp nearby that this Caucasian Church had ignored.  Unemployment was widespread, venereal disease epidemic, with a high percentage of residents HIV-positive.

They began by meeting the most pressing needs.  These programs gradually expanded to distributing AIDS medicines, an AIDS hospice, food and clothing pantries, a furniture bank, skills and nutrition training, childcare instruction, medical care, education, and a radio station.  The Church was soon filled with new members, excited to be part of a Church making such a difference.

Then the U.S. launched a campaign to combat AIDS in Africa, including grants to groups already dealing with the problem.  More than 400 groups applied, but only two were approved.  

This Church was one!  The U.S. government now provides $450,000 annually to support its AIDS efforts.  Even the White House wants to be involved with this once insignificant Church!

—Richard Blackaby in Unlimiting God

 

My Response: In engaging my community, do I focus on my limitations or God’s power?

 

Thought to Apply: The great thing about serving the poor is that there’s no competition. —Eugene Rivers (pastor)

Adapted from Unlimiting God (Multnomah, 2008

 

Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.

 

 

Returning Good for Evil: The Power of “Hot Coals”

Hot CoalsQ.  In Proverbs 25: 21-22, Solomon writes that if you give a hungry, thirsty enemy food and water, “you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  What does that mean?

A.  My “enemy” is almost always a friend, colleague or family member who’s hurt me in some way.  An enemy is like a chisel God uses to chip away at the rough spots in my life.  God uses people close to you to expose the weak areas in your life.

Can a wife be your enemy?  Yes, because she sees the real you that no one else ever sees.  If she loves you, she’ll have to be your enemy from time to time.  Otherwise, how are you ever going to get better?

What would qualify as “hot coals?”

A kind word, a phone call, a brief note, a flower, a meal, a small gift, a letter of recommendation, running an errand, offering a ride, helping them complete a project, rewriting their report, stepping in to save a project that was failing, putting in a good word with their superiors, going bowling with them.

The list is endless, because “hot coals” refers to any act of kindness you do for an enemy.  Your only limit is your creativity.

How will God reward those who show kindness to their enemies?

It’s hard to say.  One obvious answer might be to cause your “hot coals” to turn your enemy into a friend.  Or He might promote you or pour out new blessing or grant you answers to your prayers or give you new spiritual growth.  Not to worry.  If you do your part, God will do His.  You can count on that.

          Ray Pritchard is pastor of Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois.

Adapted from The ABC’s of Wisdom (Moody Press, Moody Bible Institute, 1997).

 

 

Returning Good for Evil: Stumping the Investigators

InterrogationKey Bible Verse: If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  Proverbs 25:21

Bonus Reading:  Samuel 26: 13-25

It’s natural to respond to life’s difficulties with self-pity, focusing (often accurately) on the fact that we don’t deserve it— “Why me?”  Or we can easily become resentful either toward the person responsible for the suffering or toward God himself.

Middle Eastern Christians show us the necessity of developing a check-and-balance attitude.  I once spent time with a Protestant pastor of one of the largest churches in Egypt.  He’s an expert on the doctrine and beliefs of Islam, the majority religion in his country.  

For years he’s been summoned by the secret police for interrogation, often at the most inconvenient times, such as late at night or just before an international trip.  Yet as he recounted these frustrating occurrences, it was obvious how much he cared for the police and has sincerely befriended them.  

He knows his interrogators by name and is concerned about their families.  He even knows the desserts they like and sometimes, when summoned to the police station, takes them desserts his wife has made.  The police don’t know how to handle his kindness.  

In the midst of, or perhaps as a result of, these difficulties, he’s absolutely radiant and doesn’t have an ounce of anger or bitterness in him.

—- Paul-Gordon Chandler in “God’s Global Mosaic”

 

Respond:

Would you suffer for God?

 

Thought to Apply:

In taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior.

—- Thomas Fuller (author, 18th century)

Adapted from “God’s Global Mosaic” (InterVarsity, 1997).

 

 

Returning Good for Evil: Corporal Punishment

Praying SoldierKey Bible Verse: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21

Bonus Reading:   1 Samuel 26: 1-12

An army sergeant and his buddies were all “hard men”; none harder than one corporal.  But then the corporal gave his life to Christ and was baptized.  He was transformed: no more booze, foul language, brawling or lascivious stories.  The soldiers were first amused, then skeptical, then awed.  But eventually they began to provoke the corporal with insults, jeers, vile jokes, bawdy songs, drunken truculence and threats of violence.

One day the men returned from a long day’s march, mud covered and bone weary.  The sergeant pulled off his boots and collapsed on his cot.  Glancing across the tent, he saw the corporal down on his knees by his cot.  Irritated, he grabbed a muddy boot and flung it at the man, hitting him on the shoulder.  The corporal continued to pray.  

Now the sergeant, incensed, grabbed the other boot, and flung it hard at the praying man’s head.  It struck home, and the corporal grunted and rubbed and rubbed his head and prayed and prayed.

Later the sergeant wakened to find the corporal gone and his own filthy boots shined and polished, sitting by his cot.  That, said the sergeant, was the last straw.  He, too, turned to God.

—- Jim McGuiggan in Jesus, Hero of Thy Soul

 

Respond:

What compels you to love people who hurt you?

 

Thought to Apply:

If you hug to yourself any resentment against anybody else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you.

—- Peter Marshall (late Senate chaplain)

Adapted from Jesus, Hero of Thy Soul (Howard, 1998).

 

 

Returning Good for Evil: How Lincoln Destroyed Enemies

LincolnKey Bible Verse: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge. …I am the Lord.  Leviticus 19: 18

Bonus Reading:  1 Samuel 25: 18-42

At his inauguration in 1861, Abraham Lincoln said passionately, “We must not be enemies.”  For many, his unimpressive appearance didn’t match his impressive words.  Some, like Stanton, Lincoln’s political opponent in the election, made fun of his craggy nose and gaunt cheeks.

But after naming men he trusted to his cabinet, Lincoln chose Stanton to fill the critical post of secretary of war.  “Mr. President,” his advisers protested, “do you know the ugly things Stanton has said about you?  He’s your enemy.  He’ll seek to sabotage your program.”

Lincoln’s brusque response: “Yes, I know Mr. Stanton.  I’m aware of what he’s said about me.  But after looking over the nation, I find that he’s the best man for the job.”

Stanton, to his critics’ surprise, served the president and nation with distinction.  When Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton stood near the body of the man he had once hated and referred to him as one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Lincoln spoke kindly not only to his enemies but about his enemies.  Overhearing Lincoln say a kind word about the South, an infuriated bystander confronted him about it.  

“Madam,” he answered, “don’t I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

—- John Trent in Choosing to Live the Blessing

 

Respond:

Pray for someone you struggle to get along with.

 

Thought to Apply:

You can’t win by trying to even the score.

—- Anonymous

Adapted from Choosing to Live the Blessing (Conari, 1999).

 

 

Returning Good for Evil: Jerk Reaction

IntimidationKey Bible Verse: “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  Luke 6:28

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 25: 1-17

I was away from home and family, working on my doctorate at Duke University.  Another Christian student and I were belittled for our faith.  Once someone broke into my friend’s room; when he returned he found beer cans stacked around the room and pornographic pictures plastered on the walls and ceiling.

On my floor, a group of medical students would regularly go out drinking late at night.  After midnight they’d pound loudly on my door and shout obscenities.  I’d lie in the dark praying, but with growing resentment.

I was home one weekend wondering what to do.  During my quiet time, I read Luke 6:28.  Love those jerks?  I couldn’t stand them, but I prayed God would not only change my attitude but maybe even the attitude of my dormmates.

I brought back from home a box of my wife’s chocolate chip cookies and took them across the hall to the ringleader.  He looked shocked to see me at his door.  “My wife baked a batch of cookies and I thought you’d like some.”  Struck speechless, he took the box, mumbling something I assumed was a “Thank you.”  The bashing on my door and the obscenities stopped.

—- Anonymous in “Christian Acts of Kindness”

 

Respond:

What’s a simple way you can show kindness this week?

 

Thought to Apply:

Repay evil with good and you deprive the evildoer of all the pleasure of his wickedness.

—- Leo Tolstoy (Russian novelist, 19th century)

Adapted from Christian Acts of Kindness (Conari, 1999).

 

 

Returning Good for Evil: Where There’s a Will…

Last Will and TestamentKey Bible Verse: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven”   Matthew 5:  44b-45a

Bonus Reading:  1 Samuel 24: 8-22

An old movie, “Stars in My Crown”, portrays life in one frontier community where a valuable deposit of copper was discovered.  It ran straight under the little parcel of land on which an elderly black believer lived.  

It was the only home he’d ever known.  So when several local business leaders offered to buy the man’s property, he refused.  When they couldn’t buy out the old man, the businessmen resorted to intimidation.  They posted a note on the door that if he wasn’t off the property by sundown the next night, members of the local Ku Klux Klan would hang him from the nearest tree.

The minister got wind of this.  The next night he was there at the house with the old man when the hooded figures arrived.

He told them his friend had asked him to prepare a will to read to them before they hung him.  The old man willed the property to the businessmen – left his rifle to another person, his fishing rod to a third and so on – lovingly relinquishing everything he had to those who’d come to take his life.

One by one, in shameful silence, the lynching mob members slipped into the darkness.

—- John Claypool in Mending the Heart

Respond:

Take courage as you risk to love others.  God is watching over you.

 

Thought to Apply: Abashed the devil stood, and felt how awful goodness is.

—- John Milton (English poet, 17th century)

Adapted from Mending the Heart (Cowley, 1999).

 

 

Community Pentecost Service – Sunday, June 4, 2017

Instead of having its regular Sunday worship service, Central Church will join with other area Churches for a Community Pentecost Service in the LGI at the Beaver Falls High School at 10:30 am on Sunday, June 4.

See you there!

 

Baby Shower!

You are invited to a Luncheon & Baby Shower on Sunday, May 21, 2017 in honor of mark Deltondo, who will be baptized during our morning worship service that day.

The Church will provide meatloaf, cake and punch.  Please bring a dish to share and a gift for our newest little one!

Returning Good for Evil: Deion Gets Personal

BaseballKey Bible Verse:  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  1 Peter 2: 23

 

Bonus Reading:  1 Samuel 24: 1-7

Deion Sanders recalls the following incident from his life:  I remember playing in the outfield during a Reds game down in Houston, and there was some loudmouth out there yelling at me, “Deion, you *#*!*?* jerk.  You garbage.  You suck!”  

I didn’t know if I was going to be able to take much more of that, so at the end of the inning I ran over to the wall where this guy was sitting, and when I was about ten feet away I just said, “Hey, man, you know what? God loves you. God bless you!”  After that I didn’t hear a peep out of him the rest of the night.

But we had another game down there the next night, and this time there was a whole group of them screaming obscenities and acting hateful, and I went over to where they were sitting and I said, “Man, I’m just so thankful to be here.  God is good, and He loves you too.  God bless y’all!”

As I trotted back to my position in the outfield, one of those guys stood up and yelled at me, “Hey, Deion, you don’t have to get personal!”  That really got to them.  I never heard another word from them after that either.

—- Deion Sanders in “Power, Money, & Sex”

Prayer for the Week:

Father, give me a heart of love for the people You died for.

 

 

 

Answers to Key Tithing Questions – The Widow’s Mite

The Widow's Mite by James TissotThe passage for today offers a stark contrast between the giving practices of the rich and a poor widow.  

In commenting about this passage, The Handbook of Bible Application says, “In the Lord’s eyes, this poor widow gave far more than all the others put together, though her gift was by far the smallest.  The value of a gift is not determined by its amount, but by the spirit in which it is given.  A gift given grudgingly or for recognition loses its value.  When you give, remember—no matter how small or large your income, your tithe is pleasing to God when given out of gratitude and a spirit of generosity.”

 Key Study Passage:  Mark 12: 41-44

The Widow’s Offering

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

 

  1. What’s the biggest monetary gift you’ve ever given?  Why did you give this gift?  What kind of a strain did it put on your budget?

 

  1. Why are we often impressed by—or envious of—the biggest gift-givers of a major church building campaign or other major fund drives?  What “course correction” does today’s passage offer for this kind of thinking?

 

  1. List several attitudes that you think reflect the rich in this passage.  List several attitudes you think reflect the poor widow.  Compare the two lists.

 

  1. If you are fairly well off, what is one lesson you can take from this passage? I f you struggle to make ends meet, what is one lesson you can take from this passage?

 

Spend Time in Prayer: Thank God for taking care of your day-to-day financial needs; confess any sins related to your own attitude toward money and giving; ask God to help you develop the generous heart of the poor widow.

 

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Provider, speak to my heart about giving more generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9); even during difficult financial times, may I learn from the example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44).

 

 

Mom, This Is for You

Mother's Day 2This is the special occasion little ones use crayons to write “I Love You Mommy,” Dad slips mom a mushy card on her pillow, and the family gathers for an all-you-can-eat buffet honoring Mom.

On this Mother’s Day, we encourage you to “grab a hankie” and watch a video greeting card featuring real moms, real families and real stories about moms who have chosen to help the world by raising children to be good human beings.

As the photographer flips between a myriad of memories, you’ll hear these words repeatedly, “Without my mom, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”  

Share this Mother’s Day tribute with the whole family.

Enjoy “ A Mother’s Blessing: Real Life Reflections Message.

This Mother’s Day, give Mom something better than flowers or chocolate

Mother's Day 3Better than flowers or chocolate-how can that be?  Flowers are a treasured tradition and chocolate is, well  – chocolate – what more needs to be said?

You know Mom will appreciate these things, but there is something that would mean even more.

You already know what that is.  You know she would love it if every Sunday you were where you are now, with her in Church.

It isn’t simply your physical presence that is meaningful, although she loves to be with you.  What would make it meaningful is if you were coming as a faithful follower of Jesus.

There may be many reasons why “faithful follower of Jesus” does not describe your life today. Maybe:

  •  When you were young, you were excited about the Church and Jesus, but you feel you’ve outgrown it.
  •  You had questions the Church couldn’t answer, so you went looking elsewhere and never came back.
  •  Life is simply too busy and Church never was much of a priority.

Whatever the reason, take some time to consider Jesus.  Here are some websites that might be useful:

http://www.whoisjesus-really.com

http:1lwww.allaboutjesuschrist.org/who-is-jesus-n.htm

http:1lwww.christiananswers.net/jesus/home.html http://www.whosjesus.com

Mother's DayAfter doing that-tell Mom about it, talk about it and give her joy that won’t fade like even the most beautiful flowers do.

Answers to Key Tithing Questions – Tithe to Friends?

TithingKey Bible Verse:  “Bring to the storehouse a full tenth of what you earn so there will be enough food in my Temple.  Test me in this,” says the LORD All-Powerful.  “I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out all the blessings you need.”Malachi 3:10, NCV.

Dig Deeper:  Malachi 3: 6-12

 

Q:  Is it okay to give some of my tithe money to family and friends who need financial assistance?

 A:   God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house” (Mal. 3:10, NASB).  In the Old Testament there was a storehouse in the sanctuary, built for depositing the tithes and offerings of the people.  The New Testament counterpart of this principle is that the Church members give all their tithes to the local Church.  

“Storehouse tithing” means to bring your tithes to the Church where your membership is established, your spiritual life is nourished, and your Church privileges are enjoyed.

However, if you absolutely have no other funds from which you can help, say, a sibling in dire straits, I believe it’s okay to use some of your tithe money to assist them.  The assistance, though, should only be occasional and not a lifestyle.  You could actually be hurting them by always bailing them out financially.  

Sometimes, giving people money is not the solution to their problems.  However, I do believe that God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others.  Just be careful not to substitute what belongs in God’s house by putting it in someone else’s house.

—Lee Jenkins in Lee Jenkins on Money

 

My Response: What various charities and needy causes am I giving to?  What percentage of my gift money goes directly to my Church?

 

 

 

 

Thought to Apply: The world asks, “How much does he give?” Christ asks, “Why does he give?”—John R. Mott (Nobel Peace Prize winner)

Adapted from Lee Jenkins on Money (Moody, 2009)

Prayer for the Week:   Heavenly Provider, speak to my heart about giving more generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9); even during difficult financial times, may I learn from the example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44).

Answers to Key Tithing Questions – Tithe-Free Visits?

TithingKey Bible Verse:  I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give.  That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting.  God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. (2 Corinthians 9:7, The Message)

Dig Deeper:  2 Corinthians 9

 

Q:  Where should my tithe go when I don’t have a Church home?  We left our former Church and are looking for a new Church home.  Should we give our tithe to the old Church, the Churches we visit, or just wait until we join a new one?

 

A: By all means, go ahead and give your tithes to the Church or Churches you are visiting, until you find a new Church home.

I want to commend you for your desire to remain faithful to God in your giving, even while you are between Churches.  A lot of people cease their tithing until they find a new Church.  I know some instances where it took a family six months or even up to a year to find a new Church home, and they ceased tithing during that time.  I don’t believe that’s wise.

Always honor the man or woman of God who feeds you spiritually.  Wherever you’re getting fed is where you should tithe.  It could be a Church you are visiting or even a ministry that is impacting you.  “Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching,” wrote the apostle Paul (1 Tim. 5:17).

—Lee Jenkins in Lee Jenkins on Money

 

My Response: I will prayerfully consider making the following changes in my giving habits: …

 

Thought to Apply: You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.—Amy Carmichael (Irish missionary to India)

Adapted from Lee Jenkins on Money (Moody, 2009)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Provider, speak to my heart about giving more generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9); even during difficult financial times, may I learn from the example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44).

 

 

Answers to Key Tithing Questions – Is Time Money?

Tithing

Key Bible Verse:  “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  – Matthew 6:21, NASB)

Dig Deeper:  Matthew 6: 19-24

 Q:  Can I tithe my time rather than tithe money to my Church?  They say “Time is money” and I give a lot of time at Church; it ought to be worth something.

 

A:  Of course you can tithe your time, but not in lieu of tithing your money.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  Notice he didn’t say, “Where your time is.”  Money is an indicator of where our hearts really are.  The great evangelist Billy Graham said, “Our checkbooks are our theological documents.  They tell us what we truly worship.”

After I had preached about giving at a church one evening, one of the deacons of the Church drove me back to my hotel.  On the way he told me that he didn’t tithe his money to his Church but that he volunteered his time.  According to him, giving his time was just as good as giving money.  I said, “Hogwash!”  I told him he was just being stingy with his money and didn’t want to let any of it go.  After a couple of seconds of silence (which seemed like an eternity), he said, “Man, you know what?  You’re right.  I’m just looking for some excuses.”  The man even thanked me for challenging him.

—Lee Jenkins in Lee Jenkins on Money

 

My Response: When it comes to tithing, where is my heart right now?

 

Thought to Apply: There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind, and the purse. —Martin Luther (leader of the Protestant Reformation)

Adapted from Lee Jenkins on Money (Moody, 2009)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Provider, speak to my heart about giving more generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9); even during difficult financial times, may I learn from the example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44).

 

 

 

Answers to Key Tithing Questions – Reason to Refrain?

TithingKey Bible Verse:  They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor.   But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. – 2 Corinthians 8:2

Dig Deeper:  2 Corinthians 8: 1-8

 

Q:  Is it okay to refrain from giving to the Church if you don’t agree with where the money goes?  I disagree with how my Church leaders handle the money; therefore I choose not to tithe.

A:  No, it is not okay.  When you give your money to the Church, you are actually giving to the Lord.  God will honor your obedience to him, regardless of what happens to the money once it leaves your hands.

Yes, God expects you to give responsibly, and you should want to plant in good ground.  Here’s my first question for you: Are your concerns for real, or is this just an excuse to hold on to your cash?

If you really don’t trust your church leaders with God’s money, then ask yourself, Do my Church leaders need to repent of their greed (which is possible), or do I need to repent of my own attitude toward them (which is also likely)?

If you are truly concerned that your church leaders are living in willful financial sin, then approach them about it (Matt. 18: 15-17), instead of just withdrawing your money.  If you can’t get answers you can live with, then find another Church you can trust and start tithing.

—Lee Jenkins in Lee Jenkins on Money

 

My Response: How should I respond when I feel my church is making poor or unethical financial decisions?

 

Thought to Apply: The purpose of tithing is to secure not the tithe but the tither, not the gift but the giver, not the possession but the possessor, not your money but you for God.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Lee Jenkins on Money (Moody, 2009)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Provider, speak to my heart about giving more generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9); even during difficult financial times, may I learn from the example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44).

 

 

 

LET’S HONOR MOTHERS!

Praise her for the many fine things she does. These good deeds of hers shall bring her honor and recognition from people of importance. – Proverbs 31:31 (Living Bible)

Please join us in honoring the mothers in your life by commenting on our Mother’s Day post. Share some words of encouragement, a scripture or a picture of a mom who is special to you.

 

 

 

Answers to Key Tithing Questions – Is It Relevant?

TithingKey Bible Verse:  “One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy.”  Leviticus 27:30

Dig Deeper:  Deuteronomy 12: 5-11

 

Is Tithing Relevant:  Since Christians are under grace, not under Old Testament law, does the obligation to tithe still apply?  I’ve had friends tell me that tithing is Old Testament law and is not relevant to the New Testament.

A:  The distinction between law and grace is often misused, partly because the teaching is difficult to understand, but also because when it comes to money, most people tend to seek out ways to dodge obedience.

It is certainly true that Christians are under the principle of grace, not the principle of law.  In other words, we attain righteousness not by our works but by the grace of God.

However, being under grace does not mean living by lower standards or giving less to God.  On the contrary, it means giving and doing more (Matt. 5: 17-48).  In my experience, I have found that many people who argue against tithing use their arguments to justify their own lack of generosity.

Furthermore, where in the New Testament does it indicate that tithing is no longer valid?  Last time I checked, there is no such passage.  In my opinion, tithing is still relevant for the New Testament believer.  But it isn’t the finish line of giving; it’s the starting block.

—Lee Jenkins in Lee Jenkins on Money

 

My Response: What is my current perspective about giving/tithing to my Church?  How did I develop this perspective?

Adapted from Lee Jenkins on Money (Moody, 2009)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Provider, speak to my heart about giving more generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9); even during difficult financial times, may I learn from the example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44).

 

 

 

Answers to Key Tithing Questions – Cirrhosis of the Giver

The Widow's Mite by James TissotWho Said It … Lee Jenkins

Lee Jenkins has served in the financial service industry for 25 years and is the author of Lee Jenkins on Money—the book from which this week’s messages are adapted.   This week’s messages are handled in a Question-and-Answer format.  The questions are drawn from those Lee has been asked during his live speaking engagements.

What he Said … Cirrhosis of the Giver

Check out these statistics from the Empty Tomb and Christian Stewardship Associations:

  • The average Christian in America gives only 2.5 percent of his or her income to the kingdom of God.

 

  • The percentage Christians who give financially to God has been declining for the past 26 years.

 

  • Between 80 percent and 90 percent of Christians do not give 10 percent or more.

 

What’s up with that?  Cirrhosis Of the Giver (COG) is what’s up.  This disease is running unchecked through too many of our Churches.

Take this quick test to see if you have COG:

  • Do you experience sudden paralysis and inability to reach for your wallet when the offering plate comes your way?

 

  • Do you find yourself sweating or getting mad at the preacher for talking about money?

 

 

  • Do you pay everybody else before you pay God?

 

This Week’s Key Study Passage:  Mark 12: 41-44

The Widow’s Offering

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

 

 

Kindness Speaks Volumes – What Can I Do?

Act of KindnessKindness is love made practical.  It’s tangible and selfless, and it reveals a changed heart.  People may doubt what we say, or our intentions, but they are often moved to respond positively to acts of kindness.

In the words of Peter, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).  In other words, people who encounter kindness are moved to forgive and love in return.  In today’s study passage, Peter reminds us to regularly practice such acts of kindness.

Key Study Passage:  1 Peter 4: 8-11

  1. What are some unexpected acts of kindness you’ve received from others?

 

  1. What spiritual gifts do you have to offer to others?  If you’re not sure, ask someone in your Church who knows you well.

 

 

  1. Think of some people in your Church or community who could really benefit from acts of kindness in this particular season of their lives.  Think of ways you can serve them.

 

  1. Make a point this week of showing kindness to the people who serve you in your community (baristas, check-out clerks, servers at restaurants, landscapers, mail carriers, custodians, etc.).

 

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to cultivate kindness in your heart; pray that he would bring people in need of the love of God across your path.

1 Peter 4: 8-11:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

 

Kindness Speaks Volumes – The Final Apologetic

Mother Theresa 2Key Bible Verse:  Live such good lives among [unbelievers] that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  1 Peter 2:12

Dig Deeper:  John 15: 14-20

Francis Schaeffer was an apologist and an evangelist to intellectual seekers after truth.  Yet Schaeffer’s apologetics were about more than convincing the mind.  

He argued that it was wrong to separate apologetics from a life of love, and once famously described the love and kindness shown by Christians as “the final apologetic.”

In recent years, a book summarizing his approach has been published titled Truth with Love.  It describes how Schaeffer showed kindness to individuals, often at tremendous personal cost, and how his kindness toward them was a key influence leading them to respond positively to the gospel.

Today, many evangelicals are branded as arrogant and unkind because of their convictions.  Christian beliefs about sexuality and the uniqueness of Christ run counter to the popular consensus.  Though people may reject the truth and feel enmity toward what we believe, we must not forget the teaching of Jesus about our enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44, ESV).

I am convinced that servanthood is one of the best ways to answer the objections people have to our unique beliefs.  They may dislike what we believe, but they cannot help but be impressed by the way we live.

—Ajith Fernando in Reclaiming Love

My Response:  I will consider what my actions communicate to the people around me.

Thought to Apply:  What [others] most need is to see in you a reflection of what God is like and of the transforming power of the Gospel.—Nancy Leigh Demoss (radio host, writer)

Adapted from Reclaiming Love (Zondervan, 2013)

 

 

Kindness Speaks Volumes – Caring for the Sick

Mother TheresaKey Bible Verses:  But those outside the church had respect for the followers.  Many more men and women put their trust in Christ and were added to the group.  Acts 5:13-14

Dig Deeper:  Acts 5: 12-16

You may have read that Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century through the edict of the emperor Constantine.  

In reality, however, a combination of factors led to the spread of Christianity across cultures.  Sociologist Rodney Stark has written a helpful book, The Rise of Christianity, in which he looks at how Christianity spread throughout the world.

He demonstrates how two great epidemics affected large portions of the population during those first centuries.  If people affected by the disease were cared for properly, there was a good chance they would survive the plague.  

Unfortunately, because people feared the disease, when a member of their family would contract it, the other members often abandoned the sick person.  But the Christians did not leave.  

The willingness of Christians to show kindness toward their sick family members, caring for them in their time of need, naturally led to a rise in the number of Christians who survived.

In addition to caring for their own, many Christians also chose to care for those left behind by their non-Christian family members.  Christians caring for the sick was one of the main factors that contributed to the conversion of large numbers of people in the Roman Empire.

—Ajith Fernando in Reclaiming Love

My Response:  Who is a neglected person or group of people to whom I can show kindness?

Thought to Apply:  Into this discouraged world came Christ and his Spirit-transformed disciples, filled with holy joy, motivated by a love which the pagans could not grasp, and proclaiming Good News.—J. C. Wenger (theologian, professor)

Adapted from Reclaiming Love (Zondervan, 2013)

 

 

Kindness Speaks Volumes – Love is Persistent

Persistent LoveKey Bible Verse:  Christ’s love has the first and last word in everything we do. 2 Corinthians 5:14

Dig Deeper: 2 Corinthians 5: 11-21

In today’s devotional, Paul explains why “a life of self-pleasing” was impossible for him to live, for “the love of Christ controls us” (today’s Key Bible Verse, ESV).  The word “controls” can communicate two ideas.

On the one hand, it can mean compulsion, in which case Paul is suggesting that love somehow pushes us or motivates us to action on behalf of others.  On the other hand, control can mean a form of restraint, in which case it suggests the idea that love somehow restrains us from being selfish.  Murray Harris writes, “Christ’s love is a compulsive force that leaves believers with no option but to live for God and Christ.”

I have encountered devout Christians who had once been active in Christian service but then suffered a deep disappointment or a setback, such as the inexplicable breakup of a relationship.

In their pain they say something like this to themselves, “I have served others long enough, and now I must look after myself.”  Yes, there can be value in refraining from active service to take time to heal and restore your emotional strength.  But at some point, the path to health and healing leads a follower of Christ to return to serving others.

—Ajith Fernando in Reclaiming Love

My Response:  This week, I will seek to be aware of times I act selfishly, putting my own needs ahead of the needs of others.

Adapted from Reclaiming Love (Zondervan, 2013)

 

 

Today in Christian History – May 3, 1675

May 3, 1675: A Massachusetts law goes into effect requiring church doors to be locked during services.

Officials enacted the law because too many people were leaving before sermons were over!

Kindness Speaks Volumes – Why Be Kind?

Kindness 1Key Study Passage:  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 4: 8-11

Who Said It … Ajith Fernando

Ajith Fernando served for 35 years as the national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka and now serves as its teaching director.  He is a Bible expositor with a worldwide ministry and spends much of his time mentoring and counseling Christian workers.  

He is also a visiting lecturer at Sri Lanka’s Colombo Theological Seminary.  He is the author of 15 books including Reclaiming Love.  He and his wife, Nelun, have two adult children, both of whom serve on Youth for Christ staff.

What he Said … Why Be Kind?

Kindness is easy to receive, but it is hard to practice.  Kindness is costly.  Showing kindness to others can get in the way of our plans.  That is why it is necessary for us to understand why it is worthwhile to be kind.

One of the most popular commands to love others in the Scriptures occurs in 1 John 4:7: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (ESV).  John immediately follows up this way: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Because God is love, and we are made in the image of God, loving others gives full expression to our humanity.  A lack of love makes us subhuman.

Some people say that they can’t be bothered with showing kindness to others because they must look after their own personal concerns.  But selfishness is always unfulfilling because it denies an essential aspect of our humanity—the ability to love.

Kindness Speaks Volumes – What Jesus Taught

Prayer 3Key Bible Verse: Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins.   1 Peter 4:8

Dig Deeper:  1 Peter 4: 8-11

Loving our neighbors is one of the most important behaviors for a Christian.  Consider a sample of references from the teaching of Jesus:

  • “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you …. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”  Matt. 5: 41-42, 44

 

  • “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward”   Matt. 10:42

 

  • “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”   Matt. 19:19   This command is repeated eight times in the New Testament.

The fact that God has commanded us to be kind to people is itself a sufficient reason to do it.  We know that God will never ask us to do something that is ultimately hurtful.  

There are times when kindness may feel costly, but often the very things that are most costly to us God transforms into a means of blessing.  Is this not what Jesus taught when he said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” in Matt. 16:25?

—Ajith Fernando in Reclaiming Love

 

My Response:  Who do I find most difficult to love?  What small step am I willing to take to demonstrate God’s love for this person?

Thought to Apply:  Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can and as long as you can. —John Wesley (Methodist founder, theologian)

Adapted from Reclaiming Love (Zondervan, 2013)