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Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Jesus Sets A High Standard

Matthew 5:43-48

 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

            It is often said by those who are far from God, “I don’t see any real difference between the words/actions/attitudes of my friend who never attends church, and another friend who professes to be a Christian and attends church regularly.”  Jesus actually made a similar observation in the Sermon on the Mount.  How many times have you made that observation among the circle of contacts you enjoy on a daily basis?

In today’s Scripture passage Jesus notes that even pagans know how to be kind and courteous (loving) to those who are kind and courteous to them.  But Jesus challenges His followers to do more than extend everyday common courtesies to those who are kind and loving to us.  For if that is all we do, He asks this disturbing question: “What are you doing more than others?”  In other words, your behavior is not any better those who don’t profess to be His followers.  And in some cases, perhaps it isn’t even as loving!

As followers of Christ, Jesus not only calls us to love one another, but to love even those who might be considered as enemies.  Yet, He sets the bar even higher when He says in vs. 48, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  In other words, strive in every relationship to love as God loves.  Jesus knows we cannot perform perfectly, but he nonetheless calls us to continually strive to this kind of love towards others, not being content to simply love those who love us in return.

As you examine your own heart and life, could it be that someone would observe or say of you, “I can’t tell any difference between you and my pagan friends.”  Ask God to give you His help, by way of His Holy Spirit, enabling you to “do more than others” in loving the people around you, and demonstrating Christ-like words, actions and deeds.

 

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48)

N.B.

Pray for these churches:

Covenant of Grace Christian Church

First United Methodist Church of Bronson

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Love Is

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecyand can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

            There is a Knock-Knock joke out there which may get us thinking about this passage on love. It goes like this: “Knock, knock.” [“Who’s there?”] “Olive.” [“Olive who?”] “Olive you.”

            What is the Biblical definition of love? Certainly, we can see love defined in reality through the life—and the death—as well as the Resurrection of Jesus. But here in these verses and in the verses that follow (which should be read, too, by the way), the definition of love is put into words. They are classic words at that, these two millennia later, as we regularly hear this passage read at weddings and perhaps anniversaries, and shared on other occasions as well. The words are as powerful today as ever, just as they were so compelling and impressive, no doubt, to the Christians in the city of Corinth two thousand years ago when they received these words in a letter from the Apostle Paul, a letter we now call First Corinthians.

            Paul is saying that without love, we are nothing, unless a bunch of noise really is something. He also says that even the possession of super powers is meaningless without love—and he ought to know! If we read on, we see that love is described as more than an emotion, too. We need to hear that in a society such as ours, where way too often what we label as love is as trivial and silly as a Knock-Knock joke saying, “Olive you!” Paul further elaborates on what love is and what love is not, indicating that real love is more action than it is mere emotion. Finally, in the end, Paul says that love is eternal. In this regard, we should realize that everything else we accomplish in this world will one day be left behind, but love will endure. Indeed, love DOES endure. Simply put, and supremely so, love is . . . always . . . period.

            At the end of it all, in fact and in faith, only two things really matter in this world: 1) our relationship with God and 2) our relationships with others, all lived out in love –that true love which will never, ever end.

Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (Common English Bible)

S.Y.

Pray for these churches:

Coldwater United Methodist Church

First Congregational Church of Union City

The Supreme Inheritance

1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to thisyou were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

            Some of us know what it is to receive an inheritance from a parent or relative. However like most things in this temporal world, we often make foolish decisions and soon the windfall is gone and we are right back where we started … a dollar short and a day late.

From our text we are reminded that when we accept Jesus as Savior, we become a child of God and we also become brothers and sisters with all others believers. God our Father called us to inherit His blessings. Oh wow! I like that…but to qualify we must do what Father God says!

Each of us is to get along with each other.  God only has one family and He expects us to get along. Denominations were unknown in New Testament times and unbelievers observed… “See how they love one another.” We too are to be compassionate and sympathetic with those who are hurting and troubled.  “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” We are to comfort those in grief or pain; to help those who are weak and lift those who fall; to pray for each other and encourage one another. When insulted or evily treated we are not to try to get even but bless them.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do for one another you are doing for me.”

Oh. How thankful I am for those inherited blessings that are mine in this life and for all the countless blessings I shall know when I arrive in heaven above!

 

Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters (1 Peter 3:8)

W.W.

Pray for these churches:

Coldwater Free Methodist Church

First Congregational Church of Bronson

What Have You Seen?

1 John 4:19-20

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

            Imagine yourself, for a moment, in these two scenarios:

            Scenario 1: You’re on a ship. It springs a leak and starts sinking. While everyone flees to life-rafts, you manage to grab a bag with a bottle of water and some canned meat before it all goes down. No one knows you have it. You are all huddled together in the life-raft, bobbing along the open sea. Eventually, someone spots an island in the distance. As you paddle towards it, you see that the island is incredibly bare – not a stick of shrubbery, no sign of fresh water, it’s basically a big rock in the middle of the ocean. Then one of your fellow travelers says, “Boy I’m thirsty.” What do you do?

            Scenario 2: Same deal, but this time the island you spot is luscious, luxurious and full of life. The trees are heavy with choice fruits and a gushing waterfall is in the distance. As you row towards shore, your fellow traveler says “Boy I’m thirsty.” What do you do?

In Scenario #2, you’d be much more likely to give away your water, wouldn’t you? In fact you might even throw the whole bag open and say, “Water and food for everyone!” In Scenario #2, you would treat your little bag of goodies a lot differently wouldn’t you?

Why? Are you a much nicer person in Scenario #2? Are you suddenly more moral? Is your conscience somehow stronger? What changed between Scenario #1 and scenario #2?

Your vision, that’s what. You saw an abundance of life and it liberated you to be generous. That’s the only difference between the scenarios. In both cases you are the same bundle of sins and selfishness you always were, but once you’ve seen, you’re assured that things are going to be ok, and you’re freer to share what you have.

It has nothing to do with the quality of your moral fiber; it has everything to do with what you see. If your vision is captured by a new reality – then you’re freed to be generous, even loving despite the sinful, selfish ball of contradictions that you are.

Life with Jesus is like that lush tropical island. There is abundance of life and infinite love. When we see what God has done for us and know that we are residents of a kingdom of overflowing life, we, who are loved, are freed to go and love others.

We love because God first loved us. ( 1John 4:19)

                                                                         K.N

Pray for these churches:

Coldwater Church of the Nazarene

First Baptist Church of Coldwater

The Deceptive Roots of Hatred

1 John 2:9-11

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Throughout his first epistle, John presents a litmus test for his readers to prove or disprove their salvation. Most of us would probably skim over the list of questions confidently: Do I love the world? Huh uh. Do I have the Holy Spirit? Check. Do I live in sin? Nope. Do I hate my brothers? All-caps, bold-faced, underlined: WHY, OF COURSE NOT! But what if we dared to go a little deeper? What if we dug down to the actual roots of hatred? What might we find? Would our answer, then, be as emphatic?

The Pharisees and other religious leaders were blatantly guilty of hating Jesus and ultimately sending him to his death. But the roots of their hatred?—poisonous self-love, pride and fear. They were afraid of the shift in people’s opinion against their favor (Matt. 21:23-27), personally offended at Jesus’ rejection of their self-imposed additions to the Law (Matt. 15:1-20), and envious of the rise of his acclaim which, subsequently, brought about the decline of their own (John 11:38-48).

Now, of course, when we look at extreme cases of hatred, it is easy to proudly slap an “I ❤ Others” sticker on our own chest and forget about the matter completely. And to ensure our flaws are concealed we hide behind excuses like, “Well, his and my personalities don’t really jive” or “You know, I’ve tried to interact with her, but, she is a little weird” or even “Hey, God doesn’t expect us to make a conscious effort to intentionally love everyone.” The real issue here is that what we are hiding behind these excuses is sin. Plain and simple. We are unwilling to humble ourselves and admit our own self-love, pride and fear.

Later in 1 John we find that outwardly proclaiming a love for God while secretly harboring hatred toward someone is not only lying but, in essence, murder (4:20-21, 3:9-16). Be careful not to deceive yourself into thinking you do not hate anyone. Instead, inspect the roots of hatred in your own life and then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, expose those areas you so effortlessly ignore and dig them out.

 

“He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit in his heart” (Proverbs 26:24).

M.R.E.

Pray for these churches:

Church of Christ at Bronson

East Ovid United Brethren Church

A New Commandment

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

            The evening was filled with emotion and every gesture took on special meaning and enduring significance. Jesus prepared the disciples for the moment of His betrayal, arrest and crucifixion and wished to impart to them as much as possible in their remaining moments together. He had washed their feet, instituted the “Lord’s Supper” and then revealed that one of their own would betray Him. The foundations of their lives were being shaken. They desperately tried to comprehend what was happening.

Breaking the silence, Jesus spoke, and said: “I’m giving you a new commandment.” Immediately their attention was arrested and raptly focused on what He was about to say. After three years, at the very end He was about to give them something brand new.  Jesus declared to them: “You are to love one another as I love you and this shall be the authenticating mark of your discipleship.” This command was new and radical. They were to love each other with the depth and sincerity as He was about to demonstrate on the cross.

This command is not “new” to us. It is as old as the Gospel. It is, however, as radical as it was when it was first given. Read the text and allow the enormity of Christ’s command to wash over you and sink into your soul.

The Church has many critics who mercilessly pick at an apparent inability to fulfill this command. It is ironic how lovelessly lovelessness is attacked. But how can we successfully obey Christ and love one another as He has loved us?

First, we must know that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives it is impossible. But when a person has had a genuine and ongoing experience with Christ, they cannot do otherwise. Second, love is an act of will. We chose to love. Someone once asked how you eat an elephant. The answer provided: “one bite at a time.”

Let’s make small steps at first to obey the Lord in this regard. It is easy to love those you worship with regularly. Stretch yourself by warmly greeting fellow Bold Faith wristband wearers who go to other churches. When you see them, look them in the eye and greet them as fellow lovers of Jesus.

JMB

Pray for these churches:

Camp Selah Ministries

Crossroad Bible Church of Sherwood

World Harvest Assembly of God

Love Is

1 John 3-16-18

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.   And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them,how can the love of God be in that person?   18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

            I love God, I love my family, I love to fish, I love warm bread just coming out of the oven. How quick we are to use the love word! You may love French fries and you may love your mom but do you love your mom like a French fry? Of course not. (At least I hope you don’t.)         Love is such a powerful word. The first and greatest commandment is found in Matt 22:37-39: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second greatest commandment is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In his letter, John is quick to note that love is not just a feeling or an intention. Love is a choice that binds us to a distinct course of action. “We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers,” John said. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

This love is not only expressed as a feeling or emotion, but “with actions, and in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). So remember Love is not just a matter of words but also of acts.

“Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth”

  (1 John 3:18)

 B.W.

Pray for these churches:

California Presbyterian Church

Covenant of Grace Christian Church

Union Church of Quincy

Steadfast Under Trial

James 1:12

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.  (ESV)

 

Character was once defined by author Os Guinness as “What you do when no one is looking.”

Taking this idea further, one may consider that the test of godly character is evidenced by what you do “when no one but God is looking.”  The key to a knowledge of God is discovered when a person acknowledges the very revelation of the person of Jesus and then believes in His powerful  promise, “I will be with you always.”

With bold faith in Jesus, we all may come to know the watchfulness of God that inspires respect and faithfulness.

For those whose knowledge of God is remote or severed because of doubt or sin, it is far more difficult to remain steadfast and upright in character amidst temptations and trials.  The pressures of conformity will lead people to adopt the values and practices of those who they associate with.  The work of Satan is subtle to lead people away from God and toward self-satisfaction or rationalization of sin.

Many public figures who have been granted authority and responsibility have fallen from their position or rank because they did not remain steadfast under trial, or stand the test of moral integrity.  Jesus taught his disciples to be discerning regarding false prophets (Matt. 7:20-21): Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The key to living steadfast and blessed is to have Jesus Christ as the foundation, the rock of salvation.

Daily decisions and choices need to be founded upon something more than our imperfect judgments, and the Word of life and Way of truth and grace are essential. Jesus told his disciples:  “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24 ESV).

S.T.A

Pray for these churches:

Burlington Church of God

Coldwater United Methodist Church

St. Paul Lutheran Church

Synergistic Combination of Love and Faith

Ephesians 6:23-24

23 Peaceto the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

            A remarkable thing happens when you pair some things together; it’s called synergy. The term “synergy” is probably overused. It is applied to chemistry, business, advertising, relationships, etc. We hear it often but we might not really grasp its meaning. Synergy occurs when the attributes of one thing are combined with the attributes of another and the resulting effect has a greater impact than the sum of their parts. It’s not addition; it’s multiplication.

Researchers tell us that some healthy foods are even better for you when you eat them in combination with others. According to an article published online in 2010 by Menshealth.com, tomatoes and olive oil have a synergistic effect when combined together. Tomatoes contain lycopene. Olive oil supplies healthful monounsaturated fat. Eaten together the benefit is much greater than consuming each alone. Plus they taste amazing! Creation is full of such synergistic possibilities.

In the valedictory blessing in the book of Ephesians Paul prays that the church be recipients of both love and faith. Eugene Peterson’s The Message renders the blessing this way: “Love mixed with faith is yours from God the Father and from the Master, Jesus Christ.” Love and faith mixed together; think of the synergistic possibilities.

The bedrock foundation of our relationship with God is love. The propositional truth of the gospel is; “For God so loved the world,” that He took action to redeem us unto Himself. Faith is the ability to grasp and see heavenly things (Hebrews 11:1). Combine love and faith together and we have a basis for accomplishing the extraordinary.

The preaching theme in the churches of Branch County this month is Bold Faith: True Love. Bold Faith suggests an intrepid reaching into the unknown, the taking of risks to undertake feats for God’s Kingdom. All who have made obedient, bold moves of faith have had this thing in common: an unshakable confidence in God’s love and the understanding that should they fall He will pick them up. Every church planted; every missionary sent; every tithe check written out of a meager means is a result of love mixed with faith. The synergistic effect of that combination is exponential and eternal. May you experience love mixed with faith in your personal life this month.

JMB

Pray for these churches:

Batavia Community Church

Coldwater Free Methodist Church

Snow Prairie Bible Church

Move Forward

John 21: 15-18

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”   16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

Have you ever felt that the toll of the bell sounds ominous in Hebrews 9:27? “And inasmuch as it appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” If the Lord tarries; we have a certain appointment with death.

And here’s a follow-up question. Have you ever moved beyond that thought to personalize it and ponder your own passing from this life? How old will I be? What will the circumstances be of my own death? And maybe you’ve offered the possibility that “I want to die peacefully in my sleep when I am ___ (fill in the desired age).

I wonder if Peter had ANY IDEA what Jesus was referring to in today’s text when He said, “… but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you and bring where you do not wish to go.” Verse 19 tells us Jesus was referring to the death Peter would experience.

Foxes Book of Martyrs tells us that Peter was crucified upside down as he considered himself unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.

But prior to His prophetic words to Peter, Jesus went to great lengths to assure the apostle of His enduring love for him. Peter had earlier denied His Savior three times and now Jesus asks him “Do you love me?” three times, giving Peter three opportunities to give heartfelt and affirmative responses. Jesus re-commissioned him to be faithful and engaged in ministry.

Much has been written about the forgiveness Jesus showed to Peter for his denials, and with each question from Jesus comes His encouragement to “feed my sheep.” Focus on the objective. Stick with the plan. Be faithful. Don’t be discouraged or distracted. You’re forgiven. Move forward.

In our desire to serve Jesus, let’s take hope from His encouragement to a failed servant to embrace God’s overwhelming love and trust Him for the opportunities and the days He gives us to glorify Him.

D.P.

 Pray for these churches:

Bethel Gilead Community Church

Coldwater Church of the Nazarene

Shepherd’s Heart Ministries

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