Stepfamily Rewards #Blended

Luke 4:18 tells us that he was sent to proclaim good news to the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed. Jesus came to turn spiritual outsiders into insiders. All of us—you and me—were outsiders until his grace found us and made us his sons and daughters. One response of embracing this good news is humble gratitude.

 

 

When gratitude takes root in stepfamily members it can result in insiders (biological family members) making the powerful choice to embrace outsiders (stepfamily members). For example, when stepparents and stepchildren emulate Christ and invite one another in, something powerful happens. The uncomfortable outsider finds belonging, jealous and hardened hearts soften, selfishness dissipates in the face of sacrifice and love, and God is made central in that home. This is a profound reward every blended family would relish. But there’s more.

 

 

Healthy stepfamilies can experience many rewards including some of the following:

 

 

 

 

  • High quality marriages. Couples can create mutually satisfying, intimate, God-honoring marriages within stepfamilies.

 

 

  • A new marital heritage to celebrate. For children of divorce a healthy marital relationship can counteract the negative and destructive patterns of marriage they witnessed in their parent’s divorce.

 

 

  • Healthier kids. A loving, well-functioning stepfamily over time can negate many of the detrimental psychological impacts of divorce on children.

 

 

  • Shared respect and care between stepparents and stepchildren. Children, once empty due to the abandonment of a parent, can bloom under the loving care of a stepparent.

 

 

  • Experienced love, extended grace. When stepfamily members extend love and grace to one another and “bring the outsider in” they are emulating God’s grace to them. In so doing, children are blessed, hurts are healed, and the family is redeemed to God’s glory.

 

 

 

 

This is good news!

 

The Lord’s Spirit

has come to me,

because he has chosen me

to tell the good news

to the poor.

The Lord has sent me

to announce freedom

for prisoners,

to give sight to the blind,

to free everyone

who suffers

Helping Kids Caught in the Middle #Blended

To understand the behavior of children in stepfamilies (including adult stepchildren), you must understand loyalty and the natural tug-of-war it creates.

 

 

Cameron’s mom has been asking him for a month whether he wants to spend the majority of his summer vacation at his dad’s house or with his mom and stepdad, but she can’t seem to get a definite answer out of him. He talks in circles about where he’d like to be but won’t give her an answer. She’s growing impatient with him.

 

 

Loyalty refers to our devotion and attachment to the people we love. It refers to where we choose to put our allegiances. In stepfamilies, people generally place their first loyalty with their biological family members. Cameron feels caught between his biological parents and wants to spend his summer vacation with both of them. But to choose one means he can’t be with the other; it also it means jeopardizing the feelings of one parent should he choose to be with the other. For Cameron, choosing is a no-win tug-of-war.

 

 

Feelings associated with the loyalty tug-of-war often include feeling protective or defensive of one parent while spending time with the other, guilty for enjoying a stepparent knowing their biological parent feels left out, or sorrowful when embracing a new family means letting go of a deceased parent.

 

 

If a spirit of fear, that is, believing that loving one person will hurt another, places children in the tug-of-war, a spirit of love will take them out of many of their loyalty battles. Fear in adults dishonors the attachments of children, love honors them. Fear strives to keep children emotionally near for personal benefit (often an act of aggression toward an ex-spouse); love confidently gives them permission to love others knowing that they have enough love to go around. Fear pulls harder on the tug-of-war rope while love releases it. This is how you help your children find relief from the tug-of-war.

 

 

Biological Parents:

 

 

 

 

  • Give your children permission to like, respect, and love the many different members of their stepfamily. A mom might say, “I’m so glad you enjoyed your time with your dad and stepmom this weekend. I think that’s great.”

 

 

  • Ex-spouses should act civil toward one another. Criticism of the other parent, court battles, sarcasm, and an uncooperative spirit implicitly asks children to choose which parent they prefer or agree with.

 

 

 

 

Stepparents & Grandparents:

 

 

 

 

  • Don’t try to “replace” biological parents (living or deceased). The more you try to force your way in, the more resistant children tend to become.

 

 

  • Grandparents: affirm the new couple and family. Showing partiality to the original family signals to grandchildren that they should remain loyal to the previous family and not open themselves to the stepfamily.

Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.

Dear friends, don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says,

 

“I am the one to take revenge

and pay them back.”

 

The Scriptures also say,

 

“If your enemies are hungry,

give them something to eat.

And if they are thirsty,

give them something

to drink.

This will be the same

as piling burning coals

on their heads.”

 

Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.

 

Step-by-Step Stepparenting #Blended

Stepparenting can be tough. Stepparents frequently report feeling confused about their role, displaced from their spouse when the stepchild is around, helpless to change the situation, and guilty because they know that God is expecting them to love their stepchildren, even though they sometimes don’t.

 

 

Finding an effective stepparent role is a challenge—you must persevere to find success. Here are some practical tips for the journey.

 

 

Relationship Building Tips for Stepparents

 

 

 

 

  • Play! Having fun is a great way to connect.

 

 

  • Track with them. Know what activities a child is engaged in and enter that world. Take them to practice, ask about an activity, and take interest in their interests.

 

 

  • Share your talents, skills, and hobbies.

 

 

  • Communicate your commitment. Let the child know you value and want a relationship with them.

 

 

  • Share the Lord and your walk. Shared spirituality can facilitate connection and a sense of family identity, but don’t be preachy. Instead share with humility your faith journey so they will experience you as a safe person.

 

 

  • The cardinal rule for stepparent-stepchild relationships is this: Let the children set the pace for their relationship with you. For example, if your stepchildren are open to physical affection from you, don’t leave them disappointed. If they remain aloof and cautious, respect their boundaries. As time brings you together, slowly increase your personal involvement and affections.

 

 

  • It’s important that stepparents not consider themselves failures if they do not form deep emotional bonds with every child. The length of time required to move into this role depends on multiple factors, most of which are beyond the stepparent’s control. Enjoy the relationship you have now and trust that investments made over time will increase affection and respect.

 

 

 

 

Do’s and Don’s for Stepparents

 

 

 

 

  • Early on biological parents must pass power to stepparents so that children understand that stepparents are not acting on their own authority

 

 

  • Parents and stepparents negotiate rulestogether behind closed doors and seek unity in leading the family. The biological parent then communicates the rules to the children with the stepparent’s support.

 

 

  • Stepfamilies, where both parents bring children to the stepfamily, still negotiate rules together, but each takes the lead role with their own children.

 

 

  • Over time as emotional bonds with stepchildren deepen, stepparents can become more authoritative and shows of affection can become more common.

 

 

  • Don&’t be harsh or punish in a way inconsistent with the biological parent. This tends to polarize parents and create marital discord.

 

 

  • Do focus on relationship building with each child. This is your long-term strength as a parent-figure.

Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.

 

Protecting Your Stepfamily Marriage #Blended

God’s design for the family begins with marriage laying the foundation for the home.  But stepfamilies are at a disadvantage when they begin because the couple isn’t the foundation. Because parent-child relationships predate the new marriage and are bonded by blood, history, and family identity, the marital relationship is often a secondary relationship in the home instead of the foundational one. Unless your marriage becomes primary, you will continue to experience distress and instability in your home.

 

 

The process of establishing the couple as the foundation relationship of the home can feel like a win-lose situation for biological parents and children. It’s not. It’s a matter of significance.  Not that a spouse matters more than children, but rather that the marriage matters more to the stability of the home, than do children.

 

 

Children will never suffer neglect because their biological parent makes a strong commitment to their spouse, the stepparent. Couples in biological families where the marriage preceded children naturally sit “in the front seat” with one another yet still make plenty of sacrifices on behalf of their children. Even still the couple maintains their first-love commitment to one another.

 

 

A similar balance is healthy in stepfamilies.

 

 

Tips:

 

 

 

 

  • Set a regular date night and keep it. Prioritizing time for one another helps children see the importance you place on your relationship.

 

 

  • Support your spouse’s parental role with your children. Back them up and insist that your children treat them with respect.

 

 

  • Biological parents: spend regular one-on-one time with your kids and remain involved in their activities. This reinforces that they haven”t “lost” you and paradoxically makes acceptance of your marriage easier. This is the both/and balance.

 

 

  • Stepparents should insist out loud that the biological parent spend time with their children. This communicates that you are not in competition with the kids.

 

 

  • When children show signs of stress or anxiety as you “move your spouse into the front seat of your heart”, be sympathetic, but don’t let guilt put distance in your marriage.

 

 

  • When children challenge the role of the stepparent, respond firmly and with compassion. “You’re just changing the rule because she wants you to,” is a common complaint. Acknowledge the child’s confusion and move forward. “You’re right. Things are different now that Linda and I parent together. And if I were you, I’d be upset about this, too. But this is the new rule and I’m in agreement with it, so please abide by it. Let’s go.”

One day, Sarah noticed Hagar’s son Ishmael playing,and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that Egyptian slave woman and her son! I don’t want him to inherit anything. It should all go to my son.”

Abraham was worried about Ishmael.

 

How to cook a step family #Blended

 

Whether you realize it or not, you have a set of assumptions about how to cook your stepfamily. By that, I mean your approach to how your stepfamily “ought” to come together.  Brenda was cooking her family with a blender.

 

 

“It happened again the other night,” she began. “My 14 year-old son, Braden, walked in the living room and started asking me to help him with his math homework when his stepfather, Tim, who is much better at math than me, was sitting right there. Braden never asks Tim for help with anything. It makes me so frustrated. I told him he had to ask Tim for help.”

 

 

Obviously Brenda’s goal is to help her son connect with his stepfather. Her method of cooking is to force them together, much like what a blender does to the various ingredients, by pushing Braden to ask Tim for help. There is nothing wrong with Brenda’s goal, but there is something misguided about using a blender to force the ingredients together.

 

 

This “blender” cooking method attempts to force people to love each other, rather than allowing them responsibility to apply Christ’s command to love one another—in a gradual manner that is tolerable for them.

 

 

That’s the problem with many common cooking styles used by adults in stepfamilies: they tend to create pressure which inadvertently builds walls between the various “ingredients.” Food processor parents chop up one another’s history when they demand that stepchildren call their stepparent “daddy” or “mommy.”Microwave parents avoid labels like “stepfamily’ because they don’t want to be any different than biological families while pressure cooker parents insist that family members celebrate the holiday in the exact same manner.

 

 

Smart stepfamilies understand that relationships take time and that the forcing action of “blending” creates resistance, not connection. As the video suggests, they cook with a crock-pot. For example, if we could rewind Brenda’s run-in with her son, a crock-pot mentality might have calmed her anxiety and reminded her that since right now her son feels most safe with her, she should respond to his dilemma.  Over time, that might change as Braden shares more of himself with Tim and their relationship matures.  Asking his stepfather for help at that time will more comfortably flow from their bond.  Until then, Brenda should be patient with her son, not push too hard, and keep reminding herself that they aren’t finished cooking yet.

But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you.

 

Children Are Definitely Part of the Package #Blended

 

Couples who marry and form a blended family are often surprised to discover that stepfamily living is far more complex than they anticipated. They soon learn that their expectations for how quickly the family will harmonize were unrealistic.

 

 

 

 

  • Love doesn’t happen instantly.

 

 

  • Being previously married doesn’t necessarily equip you to be married to someone new.

 

 

  • Experience as a parent doesn’t adequately prepare you to be a stepparent.

 

 

  • Children are sometimes slow to embrace a stepparent’s authority and the new family as a whole.

 

 

  • And falling in love as a couple doesn’t mean children want to be a family.

 

 

 

 

Yes, children are most definitely part of the package.

 

 

Becoming stepfamily smart is how you prevent the unforeseen aspects of blended family living from sabotaging your home. This involves learning all you can about stepfamily dynamics and connecting with others in your church for mutual support. The trick is to work smarter, not harder, and walk with God each step of the way.

 

 

Your home can be a place of warmth, love, and grace. This series will help get you there.

 

 

Based on The Smart Stepfamily by Ron L. Deal. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Get smart about your stepfamily. Visit FamilyLife Blended™ at FamilyLife.com/blended

God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.

 

Blended Family: Becoming Stepfamily Smart #Blended #AnchorFAM

 

Devotionals for the week of June 1st – 6th

The Blended Family: Becoming Stepfamily Smart reading plan provides practical, realistic solutions to the unique issues that stepfamilies face. Integrating a stepfamily is rewarding and at times challenging; but the odds of your success increase dramatically when you see a picture of how a healthy blended family looks and acts. Each day starts with a video clip of stepfamily expert Ron Deal speaking and includes scripture and written content.

Please join us each night at 9pm for this informational guide to being a part of a blended family. Watch for the hashtag Blended, or subscribe via email. You can also stay up to date with our social media outlets;

FB.com/AnchorMEN116 + @SoulAnchorMusic

Anyone can be saved #BeThe3 #Anyone #trrts

This week’s point is: I’m on a mission to go people fishin’. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point! Jesus Chooses Four Fishermen 

All who call out to the Lord will be saved.

How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them?

LG

Save the lost #BeThe3 #Save

This week’s point is: I’m on a mission to go people fishin’. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point! Jesus Chooses Four Fishermen 

The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost.

LG

Help each other #BeThe3 #Help

This week’s point is: I’m on a mission to go people fishin’. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point! Jesus Chooses Four Fishermen 

This is why you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing.

LG

People fishing #BeThe3 #PeopleFishing

This week’s point is: I’m on a mission to go people fishin’. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point! Jesus Chooses Four Fishermen 

(Matthew 4.18-20, Mark 1.16-20, Luke 5.1-11)

18 While Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw two brothers. One was Simon, also known as Peter, and the other was Andrew. They were fishermen, and they were casting their net into the lake. 19 Jesus said to them, “Follow me! I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish.” 20 Right then the two brothers dropped their nets and went with him.

LG

Forgive others #BeThe3 #Forgive

What conclusions have you drawn after this week’s study? Talk about what you’ve learned about this week’s point: Care, share, and just be there. How will you live differently because of what you’ve learned?

Rules for the New Life – Ephesians 4:32

Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.

LG

Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself #BeThe3 #LoveYourNeighbor

This week’s verse to remember is Luke 10:27. Take some extra time to read it, say it, and memorize it. Talk about how it connects to this week’s point: Care, share, and just be there. 

Luke 10:27

The man replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’ ”

LG

Care, share, and just be there #BeThe3 #Neighbors

This week’s Bible story is a story Jesus told to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” This is often called the parable of the Good Samaritan because a man from Samaria is the person in the story that shows us how to be a good neighbor. Talk about how this story connects to this week’s point: Care, share, and just be there. 

The Good Samaritan – Luke 10

25 An expert in the Law of Moses stood up and asked Jesus a question to see what he would say. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to have eternal life?”

26 Jesus answered, “What is written in the Scriptures? How do you understand them?”

27 The man replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’ ”

28 Jesus said, “You have given the right answer. If you do this, you will have eternal life.”

29 But the man wanted to show that he knew what he was talking about. So he asked Jesus, “Who are my neighbors?”

30 Jesus replied:

As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had. They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead.

31 A priest happened to be going down the same road. But when he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. 32 Later a temple helper came to the same place. But when he saw the man who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side.

33 A man from Samaria then came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him34and went over to him. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, “Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.”

36 Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?”

37 The expert in the Law of Moses answered, “The one who showed pity.”

Jesus said, “Go and do the same!”

LG

You have all the knowledge you need to teach each other #BeThe3 #Teach

 

ROMANS 15

14 My friends, I am sure that you are very good and that you have all the knowledge you need to teach each other.

LG

Accept each other #BeThe3 #Accepted

 

ROMANS 15

7 Honor God by accepting each other, as Christ has accepted you.

LG

Keep on encouraging each other #BeThe3 #Encourage

 

HEBREWS 10

24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have given up the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.

 

LG

You should do the same for each other #BeThe3 #DoTheSame

This week’s point is: Care, share, and just be there. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point!

 

JOHN 13:14

And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other.

LG

Anyone who doesn’t love others #BeThe3 #LoveOthers

What conclusions have you drawn after this week’s study? Talk about what you’ve learned about this week’s point: Sisters and brothers, let’s all love one another. How will you live differently because of what you’ve learned?

 

JOHN 4

8 God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him. 9God showed his love for us when he sent his only Son into the world to give us life.10Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven. 11Dear friends, since God loved us this much, we must love each other.

12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is truly in our hearts.

LG

Friends, we must Love #BeThe3 #EachAnother

This week’s verse to remember is 1 John 4:7. Take some extra time to read it, say it, and memorize it. Talk about how it connects to this week’s point: Sisters and brothers, let’s all love one another.

 

JOHN 4

7 My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows we have been given new life. We are now God’s children, and we know him.

LG

LET’S ALL LOVE ONE ANOTHER #BeThe3 #Love #OneAnother

This week’s Bible story isn’t really a story at all! It’s a song all about the “one anothers” found all through the New Testament. We are reading those verses throughout this reading plan. But today, spend some time talking about how those verses connect to this week’s point:

Sisters and brothers, let’s all love one another.

 

JOHN 13

34 But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. 35 If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.

1 PETER 1

22 You obeyed the truth, and your souls were made pure. Now you sincerely love each other. But you must keep on loving with all your heart.

1 PETER 3

8 Finally, all of you should agree and have concern and love for each other. You should also be kind and humble.

LG

Forbear one another in love #BeThe3 #Forbear #OneAnother

Ephesians 4

2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love

 

LG

Don’t Cause Problems for Others #BeThe3 #GuidedByLove

This week’s point is: Sisters and brothers, let’s all love one another. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point!

Romans 14

13 We must stop judging others. We must also make up our minds not to upset anyone’s faith.

LG

Your love for each keeps growing #BeThe3 #GrowLove

This week’s point is: Sisters and brothers, let’s all love one another. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point!

2 Thessalonians – When Christ Returns

3 My dear friends, we always have good reason to thank God for you, because your faith in God and your love for each other keep growing all the time.

LG

Get along and live peacefully with each other #BeThe3 #LivePeacefully

This week’s point is: Sisters and brothers, let’s all love one another. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point!

2 Corinthians 13 

11 Goodbye, my friends. Do better and pay attention to what I have said. Try to get along and live peacefully with each other.

Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you.

LG

Let love be your only debt #BeThe3 #LetLove #OnlyDebt

What conclusions have you drawn after this week’s study? Talk about what you’ve learned about this week’s point: I am better than nobody, but nobody is better than I am. How will you live differently because of what you’ve learned?

Romans 13 - Love

8 Let love be your only debt! If you love others, you have done all that the Law demands.

LG

Don’t think you’ better than you really are #BeThe3 #UndeservedGrace

This week’s verse to remember is Romans 12:3. Take some extra time to read it, say it, and memorize it. Talk about how it connects to this week’s point: I am better than nobody, but nobody is better than I am.

Romans 12

3 I realize God has treated me with undeserved grace, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you.

LG

When your friends are in need #BeThe3 #LoyaltyToRoyalty

This week’s Bible story is about King David and his friend Mephibosheth. King David had a lot more stuff than Mephibosheth so it’s easy to think about how he could help Mephibosheth. But this story also shows how Mephibosheth was able to help King David too. He was loyal to David at a time when other close friends turned their back on their king. Talk about how this story connects to this week’s point: I am better than nobody, but nobody is better than I am.

2 Samuel 9

3 David asked, “Are any of Saul’s family still alive? If there are, I want to be kind to them.”

Ziba answered, “One of Jonathan’s sons is still alive, but he can’t walk.”

4“Where is he?” David asked.

Ziba replied, “He lives in Lo-Debar with Machir the son of Ammiel.”

5-6David sent some servants to bring Jonathan’s son from Lo-Debar. His name was Mephibosheth, and he was the grandson of Saul. He came to David and knelt down.

David asked, “Are you Mephibosheth?”

“Yes, I am, Your Majesty.”

7David said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ll be kind to you because Jonathan was your father. I’m going to give you back the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul. Besides that, you will always eat with me at my table.”

8Mephibosheth knelt down again and said, “Why should you care about me? I’m worth no more than a dead dog.”

9David called in Ziba, Saul’s chief servant, and told him, “Since Mephibosheth is Saul’s grandson, I’ve given him back everything that belonged to your master Saul and his family. 10You and your 15 sons and 20 servants will work for Mephibosheth. You will farm his land and bring in his crops, so that Saul’s family and servants will have food. But Mephibosheth will always eat with me at my table.”

11-13Ziba replied, “Your Majesty, I will do exactly what you tell me to do.” So Ziba’s family and servants worked for Mephibosheth.

Mephibosheth was lame, but he lived in Jerusalem and ate at David’s table, just like one of David’s own sons. And he had a young son of his own, named Mica.

2 Samuel 19

24-25 Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, also came to meet David. He had missed David so much that he had not taken a bath or trimmed his beard or washed his clothes the whole time David was gone. David asked him, “Why didn’t you go with me?”

26He answered, “Your Majesty, you know I can’t walk. I told my servant to saddle a donkey for me so I could go with you. But my servant left without me, and 27then he lied about me. You’re as wise as an angel of God, so do what you think is right. 28After all, you could have killed my whole family and me. But instead, you let me eat at your own table. Your Majesty, what more could I ask?”

29David answered, “You’ve said enough! I’ve decided to divide the property between you and Ziba.”

30Mephibosheth replied, “He can have it all! I’m just glad you’ve come home safely.”

LG

The most important commandment #BeThe3 #LoveGod

This week’s point is: The most important commandment. Love the LORD your GOD! Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point!

The Most Important Commandment

(Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 22.34-40; Luke 10.25-28)

28 One of the teachers of the Law of Moses came up while Jesus and the Sadducees were arguing. When he heard Jesus give a good answer, he asked him, “What is the most important commandment?”

29 Jesus answered, “The most important one says: ‘People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. 30You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’31 The second most important commandment says: ‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is more important than these.”

32 The man replied, “Teacher, you are certainly right to say there is only one God. 33 It is also true that we must love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and that we must love others as much as we love ourselves. These commandments are more important than all the sacrifices and offerings that we could possibly make.”

34When Jesus saw that the man had given a sensible answer, he told him, “You are not far from God’s kingdom.” After this, no one dared ask Jesus any more questions.

LG

I am better than nobody #BeThe3 #Nobody

This week’s point is: I am better than nobody, but nobody is better than I am. Each day talk about how the scriptures you read and the videos you watch connect to this point!

Matthew 22

36“Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.

LG

WOMEN

 

CJ

WOMEN

Midday. By midday, the sun is at its hottest. A Samaritan woman comes to the well to fetch water and finds a stranger sitting there—a Jew. He speaks to her. He asks her for a drink. A single Jewish man talking to an un-chaperoned woman! And a Samaritan at that! Doesn’t he know the rules?

That was probably what a lot of people in that area thought when they saw Jesus talking to the woman at the well. But Jesus didn’t often follow the rules. Throughout his ministry, he showed a special regard for women. Women were among his followers (Luke 8.1–3). They came to listen to him (Matthew 15.38). They supported him—even when his closest followers, men, had deserted him (Mark 14.50). He rewarded their faith (Matthew 9.20–22). Jesus gave women a value and attention that was radically different in the socially rigid hierarchies of first-century Israel. Why? Because the water of life was for everybody. Of that, Jesus was certain.

In some parts of the world, women are denied education and employment, status and respect; some are little more than slaves. But Jesus came to remind them of their beloved status. Those who trust him are his children, and therefore worthy of respect.

How did Jesus show his concern for the woman at the well? How did the woman respond to Jesus’ offer of living water? What does her response tell you about her thirst?

Consider the women among your family and friends. What are their goals and dreams? How can you lead them to the Lord and support them in their goals? Also, think about contributing your time and resources to aid oppressed women in other countries. Pray: Lord, you created every person in your image and you’ve given each of us special gifts. Help us to value ourselves and one another. Help us to ensure that no one is denied a chance to contribute to the great work of loving and serving you.

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

 

Jesus left Judea and started for Galilee again. This time he had to go through Samaria, and on his way he came to the town of Sychar. It was near the field that Jacob had long ago given to his son Joseph. The well that Jacob had dug was still there, and Jesus sat down beside it because he was tired from traveling. It was noon, and after Jesus’ disciples had gone into town to buy some food, a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well.

 

Jesus asked her, “Would you please give me a drink of water?”

 

“You are a Jew,” she replied, “and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink of water when Jews and Samaritans won’t have anything to do with each other?”

 

Jesus answered, “You don’t know what God wants to give you, and you don’t know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for the water that gives life.”

 

“Sir,” the woman said, “you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get this life-giving water? Our ancestor Jacob dug this well for us, and his family and animals got water from it. Are you greater than Jacob?”

 

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give will become in that person a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.”

 

The woman replied, “Sir, please give me a drink of that water! Then I won’t get thirsty and have to come to this well again.”

 

Jesus told her, “Go and bring your husband.”

 

The woman answered, “I don’t have a husband.”

 

“That’s right,” Jesus replied, “you’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband.”

 

The woman said, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. My ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the only place to worship.”

 

Jesus said to her:

 

Believe me, the time is coming when you won’t worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans don’t really know the one you worship. But we Jews do know the God we worship, and by using us, God will save the world. But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.

 

The woman said, “I know that the Messiah will come. He is the one we call Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

 

“I am that one,” Jesus told her, “and I am speaking to you now.”

 

The disciples returned about this time and were surprised to find Jesus talking with a woman. But none of them asked him what he wanted or why he was talking with her.

 

The woman left her water jar and ran back into town, where she said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?” Everyone in town went out to see Jesus.

 

While this was happening, Jesus’ disciples were saying to him, “Teacher, please eat something.”

 

But Jesus told them, “I have food you don’t know anything about.”

 

His disciples started asking each other, “Has someone brought him something to eat?”

 

Jesus said:

 

My food is to do what God wants! He is the one who sent me, and I must finish the work that he gave me to do. You may say there are still four months until harvest time. But I tell you to look, and you will see that the fields are ripe and ready to harvest.

 

Even now the harvest workers are receiving their reward by gathering a harvest that brings eternal life. Then everyone who planted the seed and everyone who harvests the crop will celebrate together. So the saying proves true, “Some plant the seed, and others harvest the crop.” I am sending you to harvest crops in fields where others have done all the hard work.

~ John 4:3-38 ~

 

ABUSE

CJ

ABUSE

Tamar is a Canaanite who marries into Judah’s family. When her husband dies, she marries the brother, as custom dictates, to “carry on the line.” This was known as a levirate marriage. Children born into this union are considered part of the dead brother’s family line. But Onan’s selfishness netted him a death sentence.

Tamar was trapped: an isolated, childless widow far from her own clan. Technically betrothed to Shelah, she cannot marry anyone else. She has been used and is now useless. So, disguised as a prostitute, she gained children through her father-in-law Judah. His seal and staff, the username and password of the ancient world, were proof as his identity as the father of her children.

This is the tale of a woman trapped into subservience and slavery. Lied to and betrayed by the men around her, the only option opened for Tamar was prostitution. The morality of this tale may be murky, but Tamar’s courage and ingenuity were praised in the story. Tamar knows her duty and does it.

Tamar is the forerunner of so many women and girls who are the victims of lies and broken promises. Yet she triumphs. This lonely, desperate woman became part of the family line of the Messiah (Matthew 1.2–6a).

How does Tamar’s situation help you understand the plight of many women in other countries? Have you ever been tempted to judge someone in Tamar’s situation without understanding her side of the story? Why or why not? Consider how Judah finally owned up to his part.

Be a good role model and advocate for healthy relationships, demonstrating your value of human life and respect for others. Consider donating to a home for abused women or a ministry that works to rescue women caught in the sex trade in other countries. Pray: Lord, people who abuse others behave as if you wear a blindfold. They rely on fear to prevent their victims from crying out for justice. Give your people boldness to expose the wickedness of abusers, and compassion to defend and support the helpless. Use your powerful arm, Lord God, to help those in need.

Judah and Tamar

About that time Judah left his brothers in the hill country and went to live near his friend Hirah in the town of Adullam. While there he met the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite man. Judah married her, and they had three sons. He named the first one Er; she named the next one Onan. The third one was born when Judah was in Chezib, and she named him Shelah.

Later, Judah chose Tamar as a wife for Er, his oldest son. But Er was very evil, and the Lord took his life. So Judah told Onan, “It’s your duty to marry Tamar and have a child for your brother.”

Onan knew the child would not be his, and when he had sex with Tamar, he made sure that she would not get pregnant. The Lord wasn’t pleased with Onan and took his life too.

Judah did not want the same thing to happen to his son Shelah, and he told Tamar, “Go home to your father and live there as a widow until my son Shelah is grown.” So Tamar went to live with her father.

Some years later Judah’s wife died, and he mourned for her. He then went with his friend Hirah to the town of Timnah, where his sheep were being sheared. Tamar found out that her father-in-law Judah was going to Timnah to shear his sheep. She also realized that Shelah was now a grown man, but she had not been allowed to marry him. So she decided to dress in something other than her widow’s clothes and to cover her face with a veil. After this, she sat outside the town of Enaim on the road to Timnah.

When Judah came along, he did not recognize her because of the veil. He thought she was a prostitute and asked her to sleep with him. She asked, “What will you give me if I do?”

“One of my young goats,” he answered.

“What will you give me to keep until you send the goat?” she asked.

“What do you want?” he asked in return.

“The ring on that cord around your neck,” was her reply. “I also want the special walking stick you have with you.” He gave them to her, they slept together, and she became pregnant.

After returning home, Tamar took off the veil and dressed in her widow’s clothes again.

Judah asked his friend Hirah take a goat to the woman, so he could get back the ring and walking stick, but she wasn’t there. Hirah asked the people of Enaim, “Where is the prostitute who sat along the road outside your town?”

“There’s never been one here,” they answered.

Hirah went back and told Judah, “I couldn’t find the woman, and the people of Enaim said no prostitute had ever been there.”

“If you couldn’t find her, we’ll just let her keep the things I gave her,” Judah answered. “And we’d better forget about the goat, or else we’ll look like fools.”

About three months later someone told Judah, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has behaved like a prostitute, and now she’s pregnant!”

“Drag her out of town and burn her to death!” Judah shouted.

As Tamar was being dragged off, she sent someone to tell her father-in-law, “The man who gave me this ring, this cord, and this walking stick is the one who got me pregnant.”

“Those are mine!” Judah admitted. “She’s a better person than I am, because I broke my promise to let her marry my son Shelah.” After this, Judah never slept with her again.

Tamar later gave birth to twins. But before either of them was born, one of them stuck a hand out of her womb. The woman who was helping tied a red thread around the baby’s hand and explained, “This one came out first.”

At once his hand went back in, and the other child was born first. The woman then said, “What an opening you’ve made for yourself!” So they named the baby Perez. When the brother with the red thread was born, they named him Zerah.

~ Genesis 38:1-30 ~

TALK

CJ

TALK

Shortly before the collapse of Judah, there was hardly a man who could be trusted. For a prophet like Jeremiah, there were enemies everywhere. Every conversation was a trap, every meeting—even among families—a potential threat. From top to bottom, society was corrupt. People had taught themselves to tell lies, heaping sin upon sin and deceit upon deceit, refusing to acknowledge God.

Fast-forward 2,500 years or so and, for many people, nothing much has changed. For millions of Christians in the world today, this is business as usual. Because of governmental or peer suppression, they cannot openly talk about their faith or invite people to meet Jesus. Endangered by their friends and families, the subjects of suspicion and lies, they trust in God because no one else is trustworthy.

How did Jeremiah express his frustration? Have you ever felt as cornered as Jeremiah? What happened as a result?

Many people in the world are denied free speech. Their media is not free; they have no independent press. Which places in the world are threatened by free speech? Why? Consider how you can help their voice to be heard. Pray: Lord, help me to build trust in my family, church, and community by first putting my trust in you, the One who knows all my needs and seeks my welfare. Guide my actions and my words. Help me to be honest and fair in all my words and deeds.

I wish that my eyes

were fountains of tears,

so I could cry day and night

for my people

who were killed.

I wish I could go into the desert

and find a hiding place

from all who are treacherous

and unfaithful to God.

The Lord Answers Jeremiah

The Lord replied: 

Lies come from the mouths

of my people,

like arrows from a bow.

With each dishonest deed

their power increases,

and not one of them will admit

that I am God.

 

Jeremiah, all your friends

and relatives

tell lies about you,

so don’t trust them.

They wear themselves out,

always looking for a new way

to cheat their friends.

Everyone takes advantage

of everyone else,

and no one will admit

that I am God.

- Jeremiah 9:1-6 -

REDEEMER

CJ

REDEEMER

Job lost everything except faith. Alienated from his friends and family, he scratched out a bare-bones existence on a rubbish heap outside the city. And he cried to God for some kind of explanation.

What he wanted was not revenge, but justice. He wanted to leave behind a true, permanent record. He cried out for someone not to forget him, to set the record straight. He was a victim and he wanted to have things put right.

The Hebrew word translated here as “Savior” is “goel” (“redeemer”). A goel had the duty to seek justice for a murdered kinsman (Numbers 35.12–28). He had the responsibility to buy back the inheritance of a dead relative, which could mean redeeming someone from slavery or even marrying the widow to provide her with an heir. God is depicted as a goel of oppressed individuals (Proverbs 23.10,11) or even an oppressed nation (Exodus 6.6; Isaiah 43.1).

There are millions of people who have experienced suffering like Job’s. In the slums of the world, in the garbage dumps outside the cities, in the prisons and the torture chambers, in the refugee camps, they need a redeemer. They need hope. They need someone to speak for them.

Why was the news of his redeemer encouraging to Job? When are you most aware of your need for a redeemer?

Who can you tell about the redeemer of all—Jesus? Of whom will you be an advocate this week? This is an excellent message to share with a prisoner, residents in a halfway house, or someone suffering in a hospital or a retirement center. Pray: Lord, defend and protect oppressed men, women, and nations! Keep your promise and save their lives.

I Am Forgotten

* God has turned relatives

and friends against me,

and I am forgotten.

My guests and my servants

consider me a stranger,

and when I call my servants,

they pay no attention.

My breath disgusts my wife;

everyone in my family

turns away.

Young children can’t stand me,

and when I come near,

they make fun.

My best friends and loved ones

have turned from me.

I am skin and bones—

just barely alive.

My friends, I beg you for pity!

God has made me his target.

Hasn’t he already done enough?

Why do you join the attack?

 

I wish that my words

could be written down

or chiseled into rock.

I know that my Protector lives,

and at the end

he will stand on this earth.

My flesh may be destroyed,

yet from this body

I will see God.

Yes, I will see him for myself,

and I long for that moment.

- Job 19:13-27 -

OBEDIENCE

CJ

OBEDIENCE

It’s interesting to notice how often the Christians of the early Church were imprisoned. Although Christians were told that they should “obey the rulers and authorities and not . . . be rebellious” (Titus 3.1), the apostle Paul was often falsely accused and jailed many times by those who opposed his teachings. Faced with unjust, ungodly laws, Christians sometimes need to follow the path of civil disobedience. Here, Peter and the apostles lay down the ground rules: we must obey God rather than people. When the two come into conflict, God wins.

In years past, the Church had played a prominent role in civil disobedience. Christians helped with the Underground Railroad that saved the lives of thousands of escaping slaves in America. In World War II, Christians organized shelter for Jews escaping the Nazis. Christians have been prominent campaigners against apartheid, discrimination, and war, and have worked to achieve prison reform, good health care and public education for all.

There are higher laws. The demands of God are to be given priority over the demands of people and human institutions. The apostles were tried, abused, beaten. Why? Because they obeyed a higher calling from God.

Peter said, “We don’t obey people. We obey God” and was willing to face the consequences of such a statement. Are you in agreement with this statement? How do you show that you place God’s law above that of people? On the other hand, how can someone who is obedient to God work within the system?

How will you show your choice (obeying God) this week? What would cause you to protest against an unjust human law? What steps would you need to take first? Go on, stick your neck out. Support a group with whose action or campaign you can wholeheartedly agree. Pray: Lord, sometimes people need to have courage to be obedient to you above all else. This is true for those with power, and those without. I, too, need courage. You are an awesome God. Protect the rights of all, especially those who are oppressed.

Peter and the apostles replied:

We don’t obey people. We obey God. You killed Jesus by nailing him to a cross. But the God our ancestors worshiped raised him to life and made him our Leader and Savior. Then God gave him a place at his right side,so that the people of Israel would turn back to him and be forgiven. We are here to tell you about all this, and so is the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to everyone who obeys God.
When the council members heard this, they became so angry they wanted to kill the apostles. But one of the members was the Pharisee Gamaliel, a highly respected teacher. He ordered the apostles to be taken out of the room for a little while. Then he said to the council:
Men of Israel, be careful what you do with these men. Not long ago Theudas claimed to be someone important, and about 400 men joined him. But he was killed, and all his followers were scattered. That was the end of that.
Later, when the people of our nation were being counted, Judas from Galilee showed up. A lot of people followed him, but he was killed, and all his followers were scattered.
So I advise you to stay away from these men. Leave them alone. If what they are planning is something of their own doing, it will fail. But if God is behind it, you cannot stop it anyway, unless you want to fight against God.
The council members agreed with what he said, and they called the apostles back in. They had them beaten with a whip and warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they let them go.
The apostles left the council and were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus. Every day they spent time in the temple and in one home after another. They never stopped teaching and telling the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

- Acts 5:29-42 -

PEACE #Compassion #Justice

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PEACE

Often it seems as if violence is the only solution the world trusts. We are quick to resort to violence, always looking for the opportunity to lash out, launch missiles, or blow up innocent bystanders. Of course, sometimes there is no other option; sometimes evil must be resisted and the vulnerable protected by force. But that has to be a last resort, not an immediate response.

Instead, we should look for peaceful solutions. This is not weakness; arguing for peace is hard work. Take the writer of this psalm; he’s tired, he’s disillusioned, and he has lived too long among these people. He just can’t take it anymore. “Love your enemies,” says Jesus (Matthew 5.44). “Do your best to live at peace with everyone,” says Paul (Romans 12.18).

So we keep on going. Where there is conflict—in our world, in our communities, in our homes—the Christian way is to talk, to bring people together, to understand and, if possible, address grievances. We must speak out for peace among people who often speak only of war.

It’s not going to be easy. It’s a tough struggle, as this psalm shows. Peace, ironically enough, is worth fighting for, but not only with guns.

Where in your community is peace needed most? Where in the larger world? What qualities are needed to be a successful peacemaker?

How will you be an advocate of peace in your community? Pray for God’s peace to reign where there is chaos. Pray: Lord, I want to be your child and live at peace with people, encouraging others to do the same. Help me to be full of kindness and truth.

My life has too long had its dwelling with him who hates peace.

I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.

- Psalm 120:6-7 -

CASH #Compassion #Justice

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CASH

There are many passages in the Bible on money. Let’s face it: many people have a strong interest in the subject. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautioned his listeners against being slaves of money. This caution has great relevance today. Many of us live divided lives. We are wage slaves, worshipers at the shrine of wealth, dreaming of lottery-sized windfalls, buying stuff we don’t need with money we don’t actually have.

The Bible is realistic. We need money to live. People need to earn a living. There’s a difference between working for a living and living to work. There’s a difference between earning money and worshiping it. Billions of people survive on less than two dollars per day. It’s vital, therefore, that we work out how much is “enough.” Our heart should be with God, not in the shop window, the savings account, or the investment portfolio. After all, Jesus reminds us that we can take nothing with us when we die, but we can store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6.19–21). We need to master money before it masters us.

Why do you think money is such a popular subject in the Bible? What are your views on money? How do your spending habits show your view of money?

Check out Psalm 119.36; Matthew 6.24–33; Luke 16.10–12. Take time to pray about your finances and your view of money. Does it have mastery over you or do you have mastery over it? Pray: Lord, you give yourself to me freely so that I can experience the richness of your love forever. Help me to serve you with humbleness and gratitude.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).

- Matthew 6:24 -

 

COMPLACENCY #Compassion #Justice

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COMPLACENCY

For many years, the statement “let them eat cake” has been attributed to Marie Antoinette, even though there is no proof that she ever uttered the statement. But the words are synonymous with a complacent attitude toward the poor. This passage in Amos shows a similar attitude in regard to the plight of the poor. Besides uttering an indictment against the people of Israel for their sins, the prophet Amos had harsh words for the pampered, wealthy women of Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel). By calling them “cows,” Amos compared them to the well-known breed of cattle in the land.

The old saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” is a fitting one for this passage. The women turned a blind eye to the needs of the poor, and instead focused on their own needs. They didn’t know what it was like to be in need, so God had bad news for them. They would experience firsthand what being in need was like.

What was God’s “case” against Israel in Amos 3? How did the women’s attitude (Amos 4) add to the case? When have you seen this type of attitude in our day?

When are you most tempted toward complacency? How aware are you of the needs of those around you? What will you do to find out what those needs are or help meet them? Pray: Lord God, you have given us so much. You are not pleased with complacency. Give me the courage to speak with boldness your word of truth. Give me eyes to see the needs around me.

 Hear and bear witness in the house of Jacob, says the Lord God, the God of hosts,

That in the day when I visit Israel’s transgressions upon him I will also visit [with punishment] the altars of Bethel [with its golden calf], and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground.

And I will smite the winter house with the summer house, and the houses of ivory shall perish and the many and great houses shall come to an end, says the Lord.

- Amos 3:13-15 -

HEAR THIS word, you cows [women] of Bashan who are in the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, Bring and let us drink! [Ps. 22:12; Ezek. 39:18.]

The Lord God has sworn by His holiness that behold, the days shall come upon you when they shall take you away with hooks and the last of you with fishhooks. [Ps. 89:35.]

And you shall go out through the breaches [made in the city's wall], every [woman] straight before her, and you shall be cast forth into Harmon [an unknown place of exile], says the Lord.

- Amos 4:1-3 - 

 

PENNIES #Compassion #Justice

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PENNIES

Jesus is sitting in the temple courtyard, watching wealthy Jerusalem landowners and rich pilgrims visiting Jerusalem for the Passover as they cast their money into the large, trumpet-shaped offering bowls. Then along comes a widow, her poverty obvious from her dress. She throws in two tiny copper coins—the smallest coins in circulation.

Not impressive. But she has given all she had. She has less money than the others, but is far richer in spirit and understanding. The story follows a stinging attack on religious leaders who were oppressing the poor (Mark 12.38-40). Yet the people they are cheating are godlier than the rest of them put together.

It’s not the money, but the motive; not the amount, but the attitude; not, perhaps, a question of how much we give away, but rather how much we keep for ourselves. This woman could have kept one of the coins for herself. She didn’t have to make a gift at all. But she chose to give all she had to God.

How does Jesus’ rebuke of the rich challenge us to examine those policies which bring us comfort at the expense of others? If you were present, how would you have responded to the widow’s offering? What comment do you think Jesus would make about a recent offering you made? Why?

Be generous in your giving. Think of how much God has given you and be willing to give it back to him in thankfulness. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9.7). Pray: I will praise you, Lord God, with a song and a thankful heart and will seek to do what is pleasing to you.

He sat down opposite the treasury and saw how the crowd was casting money into the treasury. Many rich [people] were throwing in large sums.

And a widow who was poverty-stricken came and put in two copper mites [the smallest of coins], which together make half of a cent.

And He called His disciples [to Him] and said to them, Truly and surely I tell you, this widow, [she who is] poverty-stricken, has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury.

For they all threw in out of their abundance; but she, out of her deep poverty, has put in everything that she had–[even] all she had on which to live.

- Mark 12:41-44 -

RESTORATION #Compassion #Justice

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RESTORATION

While the prophet Isaiah had harsh warnings for the people of Judah, he also had good news: after enduring punishment, God’s people would later be restored. Restoration means more than putting a bandage on a wound. The society Isaiah described was not “patched up.” Instead, in this passage, there is an emphasis on wholeness, permanent change, and on bringing people back into complete health—mind, body, and spirit.

Changing the lives of those devastated by poverty, illness, and other issues mean more than offering temporary solutions, as helpful as they may be. It means looking at employment, security, health—deeper issues, that when addressed, bring lasting changes.

So, don’t only provide a patch of land, but provide a well-watered garden. Help to build a home, not just a roof over someone’s head. Strive not only for the absence of war, but also for restorative, healing peace.

According to Isaiah 58.6, what does it “really [mean] to worship the Lord”? What do you think worship that helps restore lives looks like?How has the message of restoration helped you? How will you spread the message of restoration this week? Consider the lives in need of restoration in your community. How will you join in the ministry of restoration? Pray: Lord, bring encouragement to those in need. Show all who claim to be your disciples what is pleasing in your eyes. Make us truly grateful and show us how we can help the poor and give them reason to shout your praises.

I’ll tell you

what it really means

to worship the Lord.

Remove the chains of prisoners

who are bound unjustly.

Free those who are abused!

Share your food with everyone

who is hungry;

share your home

with the poor and homeless.

Give clothes to those in need;

don’t turn away your relatives.

 

Then your light will shine

like the dawning sun, and you

will quickly be healed.

Your honesty will protect you

as you advance,

and the glory of the Lord

will defend you from behind.

When you beg the Lord for help,

he will answer, “Here I am!”

 

Don’t mistreat others

or falsely accuse them

or say something cruel.

Give your food to the hungry

and care for the homeless.

Then your light will shine

in the dark;

your darkest hour will be

like the noonday sun.

 

The Lord will always guide you

and provide good things to eat

when you are in the desert.

He will make you healthy.

You will be like a garden

that has plenty of water

or like a stream

that never runs dry.

You will rebuild those houses

left in ruins for years;

you will be known

as a builder and repairer

of city walls and streets.

 

- Isaiah 58:6-12 -

DIFFERENCES #Compassion #Justice

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DIFFERENCES

Paul lived in a rigidly structured society. A person’s birth defined everything: status, family life and even his job. While there was some room for movement (for instance, a slave could become free), most people’s lives were set from the time they were born. Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the means for a new way of life. Believers could “put on” this new life and become part of a new, extended family.

The early Church did not abolish a person’s identity—Jews were still Jews, slaves still beholden to their masters, women still obliged to fill their limited roles within the community—but new roles and opportunities opened up for everyone who was part of God’s family. In a special way, all were now equal.

So we see the radical nature of Christianity: no room for racism, classism or sexism. There is only the family—each member being a part of the body of Christ, having a different function and having his or her own identity, yet all clothed by God’s love.

How does the status of a believer compare with the status into which one was born How does one “put on” Christ?

Find ways of reaching out to others in your church community. Where is the bridge-building going to start? How can you help it along? Pray for those in your church who are fearful of change and distrustful of people different from themselves. Pray for those who’ve been excluded or made to feel unwelcome. Pray: Lord, you don’t want anyone left out of your family. Keep us united so that the world will turn and worship you.

All of you are God’s children because of your faith in Christ Jesus. And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. So if you belong to Christ, you are now part of Abraham’s family, and you will be given what God has promised.

- Galatians 3:26-29 -

WATER #Compassion #Justice

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WATER

Planet Earth could be renamed Planet Water. Although 75% of the Earth’s surface is water, only 1% is drinkable. Nations battle to keep this resource to themselves, building huge reservoirs and constructing dams to divert it for their own needs. Even at home, drought restrictions remind us to think carefully about our use of this precious substance.

In this passage from Isaiah, God promises water: the barren desert will burst forth with growth. The prophet’s words show the importance of water and the difference it can make in people’s lives.

Lack of water—or being forced to drink unhealthy water—is the biggest single cause of disease and death in the world today. Giving people clean water allows them to flourish. Crops can be grown, communities can be developed, families can bathe and children who otherwise would spend all day searching for water have a chance to get an education. Water can bring life to barren lives just as it can cause the desert to bloom.

What does God promise to provide in this passage? If you lived in a drought-impacted area, how would these promises make you feel?

What areas of the world are you aware of right now that are experiencing a drought? Consider donating money toward the construction of a well in a country that desperately needs clean water. Pray: You, Lord, can turn deserts into lakes and scorched land into flowing streams. Help us to work with you to channel water toward people who desperately need it.

The Lord Helps the Poor

When the poor and needy

are dying of thirst

and cannot find water,

I, the Lord God of Israel,

will come to their rescue.

I won’t forget them.

I will make rivers flow

on mountain peaks.

I will send streams

to fill the valleys.

Dry and barren land

will flow with springs

and become a lake.

I will fill the desert

with all kinds of trees—

cedars, acacias, and myrtles;

olive and cypress trees;

fir trees and pines.

Everyone will see this

and know that I,

the holy Lord God of Israel,

created it all.

 

- Isaiah 41:17-20 -

BIBLE #Compassion #Justice

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BIBLE

While fasting for 40 days in the desert, Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread. He countered the temptation with a quotation from Scripture (Deuteronomy 8.3). His fasting proved that humans can indeed live without food for a time. But we cannot live without the word of God. Only God’s Word can sustain us when we are in need.

Throughout the world, there are people who are hungry for the Word of God— a hunger resulting from not having Scriptures in their language, not having affordable Bibles, or because the Bible is banned in their country. People in such places treasure each scrap of the Bible they can get their hands on. They know what Jesus knew: “What God has said isn’t only alive and active! It is sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4.12).

Many of us in the U.S. have more than one Bible. They’re easy to obtain. Bibles weren’t meant to gather dust on a bookshelf. They’re meant to be used to bring life to the hopeless and the weary.

How has the Word of God helped you when you’re tempted or facing some other pressing need? How do you show that you treasure the Word of God?

One of the services we can offer people is to feed them with the Word of God, providing them with the spiritual nourishment they need. People need both bread and Bibles. How will you “feed” someone with God’s Word this week? Pray: Lord, thank you for revealing yourself through your Word. Your law is in my heart. I am happy and willing to listen and obey.

After Jesus had gone without eating for 40 days and nights, he was very hungry. Then the devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.”

Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:

 

‘No one can live only on food.

People need every word

that God has spoken.’ ”

 

- Matthew 4:2-4 -

TECHNOLOGY #Compassion #Justice

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TECHNOLOGY

Withholding technology as a means of controlling other nations goes back a long time. Ancient Israel’s neighbors, the Philistines, were cultured people, especially good at metalwork, an advantage that allowed them to oppress the Israelites for so long. Iron was valued for its strength and hardness and was used to make objects such as axes, chisels, hoes, ploughs, and weapons. The Philistines kept the ironworking technology to themselves and, therefore, Israel was dependent upon the Philistines for repairing their agricultural tools. The Israelites had no choice but to pay exorbitant prices.

People can be starved of technology, just as they can be starved of food. They can be denied the opportunity to develop the tools they need in order to advance. Technologically advanced nations with state-of-the-art computers, Internet access, and the like may well say, “It’s all ours and we’ll allow you some of it, but only if you can pay.” In this way, they seem to be saying to the poor, “This way we can keep you poor, and charge you high prices at the same time.”How do you think the Israelites felt, knowing that they had to keep going to the Philistines for tools? How would you have felt?

How often do you upgrade your computer or other technology? How do you respond to those in your city who don’t have the technology you have? What will you do to help provide technology for the “have-nots”? Pray: God, you desire the best for all people and you protect the poor. Use me to advance their well-being, further their plans, and to help them achieve self-sufficiency. Guide me in your ways. Make me like you, Lord.

The Philistines would not allow any Israelites to learn how to make iron tools. “If we allowed that,” they said, “those worthless Israelites would make swords and spears.”

Whenever the Israelites wanted to get an iron point put on a cattle prod, they had to go to the Philistines. Even if they wanted to sharpen plow-blades, picks, axes, sickles, and pitchforks they still had to go to them. And the Philistines charged high prices. 

- 1 Samuel 13:19-21 -

LAND #Compassion #Justice

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LAND

Throughout the world, land is highly valued. Good locations, fertile land, mining rights—whatever the attraction, people will do what they can to get hold of it. Some governments and powerful business interests think nothing of driving people from their land, bulldozing houses and redrawing boundaries. Even traditional lands are taken from those who have looked after it for generations.

Victims of land loss are usually the poor who cannot afford fees to fight their case. Who will defend their rights? We see that such helpless people have a defender in God. Proverbs warns against moving the stones that mark the boundaries of ancient Israel. As in biblical accounts, a person’s next of kin may play a redeemer’s role by buying back family land that had been lost. Similarly, God often acts as a person’s redeemer—fighting on behalf of his family to regain what was lost.

Why do you think the moving of an ancient boundary stone became an important piece of advice? When have you seen someone victimized by land loss?

How can you find out more about dispossessed people in other lands and their needs? What do you do to show your respect for the environment and the property rights of others? Brainstorm with your family about ways you can help the homeless this week. Pray: Our Lord, I know that you defend the homeless and desire that the poor are given justice. May I be someone you can rely on to help make your desires a reality.

Remove not the ancient landmark and enter not into the fields of the fatherless, [Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Prov. 22:28.]

For their Redeemer is mighty; He will plead their cause against you.

- Proverbs 23:10-11 -

CHILDREN #Compassion #Justice

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CHILDREN

In Jesus’ day, the practice of bringing children to be blessed by well-respected teachers was common. Jesus’ reputation as an excellent teacher had spread, so parents flocked to him with their children. Yet the disciples viewed this practice as an unwelcome disruption. Jesus was too important to be bothered, they felt. Jesus, however, rebuked their attitude. He was never too busy to welcome those others might overlook. Note what he told his disciples, “People who are like these children belong to God’s kingdom” (Matthew 19.14b).

Many adults have the “children should be seen and not heard” mentality when it comes to children. Like the disciples, they consider children a nuisance rather than a blessing. But Jesus modeled grace and love.

How do your recent actions reflect your attitude toward children? If you had been present during the incident recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew, how would you have responded to Jesus’ disciples?

You don’t have to have children of your own in order to pray for a child. Pray for the children of relatives, friends, and those in your community. Also, consider how you can help children in need in various parts of the world. Pray: Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of children: their singing, laughter, enthusiasm, energy, loyalty, and love.

Then little children were brought to Jesus, that He might put His hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

But He said, Leave the children alone! Allow the little ones to come to Me, and do not forbid or restrain or hinder them, for of such [as these] is the kingdom of heaven composed.

And He put His hands upon them, and then went on His way.

- Matthew 19:13-15 -