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 -

 

NEIGHBOR #Compassion #Justice

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NEIGHBOR

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?” Jesus responded with the command to love God and one’s neighbor just before uttering one of the most well-known parables: the parable of the Good Samaritan. Thus was coined the phrase: “good Samaritan”—someone who goes out of his or her way to aid someone in need.

Jesus’ listeners would have been shocked at this story, however. The person in need—a Jewish man—was aided by a Samaritan, someone he probably would have avoided had he not been in need. At this time, Jews and Samaritans were hostile toward one another. This story reminds us that sometimes the person most in need of help is someone with whom you might be at odds. Will you offer help anyway?

Why do you think Jesus responded with this parable, instead of merely giving the command to love? When have you seen a “good Samaritan” in action? What impact did that person’s actions have?

Who is your “neighbor”? How will you be a “good Samaritan” to someone this week? Is there someone with whom you’ve had a misunderstanding who is in need of assistance? What can you do to offer assistance or make amends? What will you do to learn more about people who are different from you, people you might have misunderstood? Pray: Lord, just as Jesus humbled himself when he came to earth, grant me the humility to be a “good Samaritan” this week.

And then a certain lawyer arose to try (test, tempt) Him, saying, Teacher, what am I to do to inherit everlasting life [that is, to partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah's kingdom]?

Jesus said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it?

And he replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. [Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5.]

And Jesus said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live [enjoy active, blessed, endless life in the kingdom of God].

And he, determined to acquit himself of reproach, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

Jesus, taking him up, replied, A certain man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him of his clothes and belongings and beat him and went their way, [unconcernedly] leaving him half dead, as it happened.

Now by coincidence a certain priest was going down along that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

A Levite likewise came down to the place and saw him, and passed by on the other side [of the road].

But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled along, came down to where he was; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity and sympathy [for him],

And went to him and dressed his wounds, pouring on [them] oil and wine. Then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

And the next day he took out two denarii [two day's wages] and gave [them] to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I [myself] will repay you when I return.

Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?

He answered, The one who showed pity and mercy to him. And Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.

- Luke 10:25-37 -

FOOD #Compassion #Justice

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FOOD

Built into the Law of Moses were practical ways to help those in need. Whenever crops were harvested, the people of Israel were commanded to leave some of the grain behind, particularly the grain that fell to the ground. This allowed the poor to glean—to gather the leftover grain.

In the United States we throw away over 30 million tons of food every year. Approximately a third of all the food in our shopping cart or what we order in restaurants will never see the inside of our stomachs. It will be scraped into trash cans or will just sit in a dark corner of the fridge until, years beyond its sell-by date, it starts to evolve into an entirely new life form.

Leviticus shows us a different way to deal with unwanted food. It was not to be wasted, but put to good use. When he fed the 5,000, Jesus collected the leftovers, too, so they could be given away (Mark 6.34–44).

Why do you think God gave his people the responsibility of providing for those in need, rather than miraculously providing for them? What is God asking you to “leave behind” for the poor? A portion of your paycheck? Your food? Your time?

Invite someone to dinner who may have trouble making ends meet. Find out what it costs to feed a family for a week in another part of the world. Send that amount to a charity that provides for the poor in that country. Pray: Lord, thank you for rain on the hills, grass for cattle, plants for our food, grain for our health, oil for our skin and sweet fruit to cheer us up. All this comes from you, Lord God, for all of us to share.

And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very corners, neither shall you gather the fallen ears or gleanings of your harvest.

And you shall not glean your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather its fallen grapes; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am the Lord your God.

- LEVITICUS 19:9-10 -

BODY #Compassion #Justice

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BODY

It takes many parts to make a whole body. God created our bodies in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important or hidden are valuable. Consider the spleen or colon and what each part does for the body.

The Corinthian church was divided by envy, factionalism and sinful behavior. But one of its main problems was the belief that certain members of the church were not very important, that these members could be ignored or replaced.

Paul pictures the Church as a body made of many parts, yet functioning as a unit. It is based on varieties of skills and gifts and on mutual interdependence. Even the “weaker” parts of the body are important and deserve respect.

Paul was not an impressive speaker (2 Corinthians 10.10,11). He seems to have had a disability or a recurring illness, but that didn’t stop him (2 Corinthians 12.7–10; Galatians 4.13,14). Sometimes people with disabilities are barred from participation, set aside, or hidden away, but God says everyone can play a part in the body of Christ.

How can you use the gifts God gave you? What gifts do you see in other people? What opportunities do they need to experience to make the most of their gifts?

Do you know people with disabilities in your church or in your community? Talk to them. Find out about their lives. How can you help them? And, also important, how can they help you? Pray: Lord, help me to notice the gifts you’ve given to the people around me—my friends, my family, co-workers and people at church. Help me find ways to encourage them to use their gifts to serve you and others.

But if [the whole] were all a single organ, where would the body be?

And now there are [certainly] many limbs and organs, but a single body.

And the eye is not able to say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

But instead, there is [absolute] necessity for the parts of the body that are considered the more weak.

And those [parts] of the body which we consider rather ignoble are [the very parts] which we invest with additional honor, and our unseemly parts and those unsuitable for exposure are treated with seemliness (modesty and decorum),

Which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so adjusted (mingled, harmonized, and subtly proportioned the parts of) the whole body, giving the greater honor and richer endowment to the inferior parts which lack [apparent importance],

So that there should be no division or discord or lack of adaptation [of the parts of the body to each other], but the members all alike should have a mutual interest in and care for one another.

And if one member suffers, all the parts [share] the suffering; if one member is honored, all the members [share in] the enjoyment of it.

- 1 CORINTHIANS 12:19-26 -

ORPHANS #Compassion #Justice

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ORPHANS

No person is more powerless, more needy than orphans, especially babies and young children separated from or abandoned by their parents. When we see images of crying children standing in the rubble in a war zone or scavenging for food in a city dump, our hearts break. That’s how God feels, and throughout Scripture we find his expressions of concern for these precious creations of his.

He cares for them, and he wants his people to share his love and concern. He also wants us to realize that regardless of our earthly family history, we also were orphans—spiritually—totally alone and lost, save for his mercy and grace. Then, through faith in Christ, we were adopted into his family—brought home to our loving Father (see Romans 8.14–17 and Ephesians 1.3–8).

As we gratefully remember our former situation as orphans and present status as adopted sons and daughters in God’s family, we should translate that gratitude into action. At the least, this means praying for the orphans we see and learn about. It may also mean supporting a Christian adoption agency financially or with our time. And in some cases, it may mean welcoming foster children into our homes or expanding our family circles through adoption.

These children need us.

What difference does knowing you were chosen by God make in your relationship with him? What do you enjoy as God’s adopted son or daughter?

You can begin to reflect God’s love and care for orphans through your prayers and gifts. You may consider volunteering for a mentoring program. Check with your church about the Christian adoption agencies in your community and denomination. Think about how you can support one or more of them. Pray: Father, thank you for choosing me, for adopting me into your family. Help me to always remember your loving choice and that I can call you “Daddy.” And, Lord, show me what I can do to love the spiritual and physical orphans in my world.

O Lord, You have heard the desire and the longing of the humble and oppressed; You will prepare and strengthen and direct their hearts, You will cause Your ear to hear,

To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man, who is of the earth, may not terrify them any more.

- PSALM 10:17-18 -

External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.

- JAMES 1:27 -

 

 

#GoodNews: GOD IS NEAR! #GodIs #Near

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GOD IS NEAR: God wants us to know He is always with us. We never have to feel alone because God is everywhere we go.

The Lord Is Always Near

You have looked deep

into my heart, Lord,

and you know all about me.

You know when I am resting

or when I am working,

and from heaven

you discover my thoughts.

You notice everything I do

and everywhere I go.

Before I even speak a word,

you know what I will say,

and with your powerful arm

you protect me

from every side.

I can’t understand all of this!

Such wonderful knowledge

is far above me.

#GoodNews: GOD IS EVERYWHERE! #GodIs #Everywhere

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GOD IS EVERYWHERE: God wants us to know He is always with us. We never have to feel alone because God is everywhere we go.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This saying is true, and it can be trusted. I was the worst sinner of all! But since I was worse than anyone else, God had mercy on me and let me be an example of the endless patience of Christ Jesus. He did this so that others would put their faith in Christ and have eternal life. I pray that honor and glory will always be given to the only God, who lives forever and is the invisible and eternal King! Amen.

#GoodNews: GOD IS LIKE… #GodIs #Like

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GOD IS LIKE: God wants us to know his character. The best way to display this is to show us what He is like. We find the reality of who He is in the Word, and in the Human form.

 

The Word became

a human being

and lived here with us.

We saw his true glory,

the glory of the only Son

of the Father.

From him the complete gifts

of undeserved grace and truth

have come down to us.

John spoke about him and shouted, “This is the one I told you would come! He is greater than I am, because he was alive before I was born.”

Because of all that the Son is, we have been given one blessing after another. The Law was given by Moses, but Jesus Christ brought us undeserved kindness and truth. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like.

God Is

Discussion Questions: 1) How can we know that God is real? 2) What is something in nature that reminds you that God is real? 3) What did you learn about who God is this week?

#GoodNews: GOD IS THE WORD OF LIFE #GodIs #WordOfLife

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GOD IS THE WORD OF LIFE: God wants us to know He is The Word of Life. John is the forerunner of Jesus and lays down the facts about our awesome creator. Even before the foundation of our world, Elohim was. In fact, Christ is the glue of the universe. Everything is held together by Him. Haven’t you read?

In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. And with this Word, God created all things. Nothing was made without the Word. Everything that was created received its life from him, and his life gave light to everyone. The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out.

God Is

Who is God? What is He like? How can we know more about Him when we can’t see Him with our eyes? This series explores the truths that God is real, God is everywhere, God is strong, and God is love.

#GoodNews: GOD IS PROMISING! #GodIs #Promising

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GOD IS PROMISING: God wants us to know He is promising His people that His goodness awaits them. See how he shared this truth with Moses and His followers. His plan is unfolding as we speak.

Moses said to the Lord, “I know that you have told me to lead these people to the land you promised them. But you have not said who will go along to help me. You have said that you are my friend and that you are pleased with me.

If this is true, let me know what your plans are, then I can obey and continue to please you. And don’t forget that you have chosen this nation to be your own.”

The Lord said, “I will go with you and give you peace.”

Then Moses replied, “If you aren’t going with us, please don’t make us leave this place.

But if you do go with us, everyone will know that you are pleased with your people and with me. That way, we will be different from the rest of the people on earth.”

So the Lord told him, “I will do what you have asked, because I am your friend and I am pleased with you.”

God Is

Who is God? What is He like? How can we know more about Him when we can’t see Him with our eyes? This series explores the truths that God is real, God is everywhere, God is strong, and God is love.

#GoodNews: GOD IS WITH HIS PEOPLE! #GodIs #WithHisPeople

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GOD IS WITH HIS PEOPLE: God wants us to know He is with His people. See how he shared this truth with Moses and His followers. By faith God guided them through a lot.

Moses used to set up a tent far from camp. He called it the “meeting tent,” and whoever needed some message from the Lord would go there.

Each time Moses went out to this tent, everyone would stand at the entrance to their own tents and watch him enter.

Then they would bow down because a thick cloud would come down in front of the tent, and the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, just like a friend. Afterwards, Moses would return to camp, but his young assistant Joshua would stay at the tent.

God Is

Who is God? What is He like? How can we know more about Him when we can’t see Him with our eyes? This series explores the truths that God is real, God is everywhere, God is strong, and God is love.

#GoodNews: GOD IS REAL! #GodIs #Real

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GOD IS REAL: God wants us to know He is real, but we can only know God is real by faith. When we put our faith in God, He will show Himself to us in all kinds of ways.

Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.

It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God.

Because of our faith, we know that the world was made at God’s command. We also know that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.

Because Abel had faith, he offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. God was pleased with him and his gift, and even though Abel is now dead, his faith still speaks for him.

Enoch had faith and did not die. He pleased God, and God took him up to heaven. This is why his body was never found.

But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and rewards everyone who searches for him.

Because Noah had faith, he was warned about something that had not yet happened. He obeyed and built a boat that saved him and his family. In this way the people of the world were judged, and Noah was given the blessings that come to everyone who pleases God.

God Is

Who is God? What is He like? How can we know more about Him when we can’t see Him with our eyes? This series explores the truths that God is real, God is everywhere, God is strong, and God is love.

#GoodNews: Angel sent to virgin

One month later God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David. The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.” Mary was confused by the angel’s words and wondered what they meant. Then the angel told Mary, “Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.” Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen? I am not even married!” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God. Your relative Elizabeth is also going to have a son, even though she is old. No one thought she could ever have a baby, but in three months she will have a son. Nothing is impossible for God!” Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.” And the angel left her.

(Luke 1:26-38 CEVUS06)

#GoodNews: We can put off the old rusted lifestyle

Put Off Your Old Self

• What does it mean to “put off your old self”?

• How can you avoid temptation?

When we invite Jesus into our lives, we repent of our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. To repent means not only to be sorry but also to turn completely away from sin. To repent means to turn our backs to sin and our faces to God.

The minute that we invited Jesus into our lives, we became a new creation. But this doesn’t mean that our work (or his) is done. “Putting off your old self” is a continual process. We need to continue to turn away from sin and work to put evil out of our lives completely.

Sometimes this means that we need to break bad habits. Sometimes it means avoiding activities and situations that can lead us to temptation.

The Bible tells us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Evil is very real, but Christians don’t have to fall victim to it. By relying on God and resisting evil, we can have peace in our lives and rest in God’s love.

 

Dear God, thank you for saving us from sin. Please help us to put off our old selves every day. Please protect us from temptation and help us to serve only you. Amen.

 

 

Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old un-renewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion;

 

Being compared and judged in Christian Hip-Hop

When I 1st performed in Church,

they compared me to KJ-52.

When I 1st performed in Oregon,

they compared me to Braille.

I was offended by these comparisons. Mainly, because I didn’t want to be labeled a white rapper. Unfortunately, if you are a Christian that uses Hip-Hop culture and Rap as a tool to share the gospel, love & life, you are going to be labeled forever more. I had to get over it.

I then studied these two individuals after the claim and found out this wasn’t an attack on my character or style. This was a compliment. Since 2006 both of these artists have been the hardest working emcess in the industry. They have been through a lot. They have paved the way. They have knocked down a lot of doors and walls in the music scene which I have unknowingly benefited from.

The thing I admire the most about these two artists is their business mind. How they share music and how they approach the industry just astonishes me. Not just because of their methods, but because they are successful in mostly every thing they do.

They impress me. They inspire me.

So the next time you are compared to someone else, don’t be quick to deny the claim. Instead, sit back and think about it for a minute. Realize, we are not in a competition. We are in a community. Let’s continue to build one another up!

Blessings family!

Chris Treborn | AnchorMEN

2 Corinthians 5:17

#GoodNews: Wisdom found at the source

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The Source of Wisdom

• How can you tell if someone is wise?
• What is the wisest thing anyone has ever said to you?

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent — ​the devil — ​had a specific strategy for getting Adam and Eve to sin. Look at his words to Eve in Genesis 3:1: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Notice how he tries to make Eve question God’s words.

Satan knew that whatever useful knowledge Adam and Eve possessed came from God. He knew that if he could plant doubts in their minds about God’s words, he stood a good chance of making them sin. Unfortunately, his strategy worked. In fact, it worked so well that he still uses it today.

For us, the Bible is the source of wisdom. God’s Word helps us distinguish right from wrong and equips us to make the best choices for our lives. Naturally, then, that is Satan’s target. He tries to get us to doubt God’s Word and underestimate its importance. He tries to convince us that it’s boring or too hard to understand.
The way to defend yourself against Satan’s attacks is to meditate on what the Bible says. If you fill your mind with God’s wisdom, you will have the confidence to shoot down temptations and doubts.

Dear God, thank you for giving us your wisdom in the pages of the Bible. Please bless our efforts to meditate on your Word and let it make a difference in our lives. Amen.

#GoodNews: Who is worthy of your trust?

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Trustworthy
• Who do you trust? Why?
• What does it mean to be trustworthy?

For thousands of years, people have tried to prove the Bible wrong. They argue that its stories are fiction. They claim its teachings are narrow-minded and outdated. Ultimately, though, their arguments don’t stack up. After all this time, the Bible’s reputation stands. The life principles it teaches are just as relevant today as they were a thousand years ago. Billions of people have built joyful, fulfilling lives on its words.

Like those people, we can trust God’s Word enough to base our lives on it. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” It’s one thing to say you trust the Bible; it’s another thing to live as though you trust it. That’s the kind of trust God is looking for — ​the living kind.

How do you know if you are living God’s Word and not merely hearing it? The Holy Spirit will let you know. Ask God to help you take a good look at your life. Ask him to show you how trusting his Word is obvious in the way you live — ​as well as how your trust is not so obvious.

Dear God, thank you for giving us something we can trust in our undependable world. Give us the wisdom and strength to keep trusting your Word, no matter what. Amen.

#GoodNews: Ultimate authority found in one guide book

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The Ultimate Authority

• Think of someone who has earned your respect. What makes that person worthy of your respect? If that person gave you an instruction, how would you respond? Explain.
• How would you respond if someone you didn’t respect gave you an instruction? What would be the difference?

The Bible contains a lot of really good advice — ​but it’s not a self-help book. It’s much more important than that. A self-help book may be a useful tool, but it’s not absolutely necessary. The Bible is an integral part of our relationship with God.

The Bible is more like an instruction manual. It shows us how we are constructed and what we are designed for. It tells us very specifically what we must do in order to run at maximum capacity. The more closely we follow what the Bible says, the better chance we have of creating a life that resembles God’s blueprint. Not only does the Bible give us instruction, the Scriptures are one means of grace by which the Holy Spirit works to transform our lives.

The Bible is also a law book. It is the final authority for what is right and wrong. The Bible, then, is the perfect yardstick for measuring the things that influence us. If an idea, teaching or piece of advice follows God’s Word, we should consider it. If it doesn’t, we should beware of it. It’s that simple.

Dear God, thank you for giving us the Bible as the authority to guide our lives. Help us keep a proper respect for your Word. Amen.

#GoodNews: Interpreter sent to help understand the biggest book

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God’s Interpreter

• Why do some people consider the Bible intimidating or hard to understand?
• What do you do when you read something you don’t understand in the Bible?

Are you comfortable with the Bible? Many people aren’t. Some are intimidated by its size. Others get lost in all the old traditions and strange stories. Still others have a hard time understanding the actual words — ​even in modern translations. Because the Bible is not like any other book ever written, some people have a hard time getting into it.

God understands the limits of our human minds. He should — ​he created them. And he really wants us to understand what is in his Word. So he sends his Holy Spirit to act as an interpreter for us. The Holy Spirit takes the words of the Bible and translates them in a personal way so that we understand not only what they mean but also how we can use them in our lives.

The secret to understanding Scripture is to pray before and after you read it. Before you start to read, ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of any distractions. Ask him to help you focus on the words in front of you. After you read, ask him to help you find ways to use what you read in your daily life.

Dear God, thank you for giving us your Holy Spirit to help us understand your Word. Give us the wisdom to understand Scripture and use it in our daily lives. Amen.

#GoodNews: Give praise where praise is do

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Praise God!

• Can you think of a time when someone praised you? For what reasons might you praise other people?
• How do you praise God?

We know that God is good. All we need to do is look around to see that. But it’s not enough for us to say, “God is good,” and leave it at that. We need to do something about it. We need to respond. We need to tell him how we feel about his goodness. And then we need to share our response with others.

When you go to a restaurant and the server takes good care of you, what do you do? You leave a tip to show your appreciation. If you find an awesome vacation spot, what do you do? You tell everyone you know about it and give them a chance to enjoy it too. We also need to show our appreciation to God and share God with others.

God gets a lot of bad press in our world. People blame him for the bad things that happen. They accuse him of being unloving or uncaring. We can work to change people’s perceptions. We can tell of his goodness and help people understand who he really is.

Dear God, we praise you for your goodness. You could treat us any way you choose, and you choose to love us, even though we’ve done nothing to deserve it. Guide our words as we tell others about your goodness. Amen.

#GoodNews: Good defined by subtracting ‘O’

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Oh Goody!

• What does the word good mean?
• Name five things that are good. What makes them good?

The word good is a bit vague in our language. We use it to describe everything that’s average in our lives. “How was your day today?” “Good.” “How did you sleep last night?” “Good.” “How was your peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich?” “Good.” So when we say, “God is good,” what are we really saying?

The Hebrew word that is translated “good” in this verse meant pleasant, agreeable to the senses, excellent, valuable, kind and morally correct. It was a word packed with meaning, not an empty one!

God is difficult to describe. He is certainly not average. He is perfect. He is all the goodness we can imagine — ​and even more. Nothing about God is bad, evil or impure — ​everything about God is good.

And not only is God good, but he wants what’s good for us. And there’s nothing average about that either. God’s idea of good may not mean easy or comfortable, but it will get us to where he wants us to be, which is right where we need to be.

Dear God, we praise you for your goodness. Thank you for wanting what’s good in our lives. Give us the vision to recognize the goodness of your plans. Amen.

GoodNews: Dependability found in the faithful one

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True Dependability

• Which of your friends is most dependable?
• How important is dependability in a relationship?

You may have noticed that people are not always dependable. People make mistakes. People say one thing and then do another. People forget things. People break promises. Many people try to live good lives, but no one is perfect.

But God is perfect. God never has an “off” day. His rules are perfect. He is perfectly consistent. He’s never in a bad mood. He will never say one thing and then do another.

He is faithful to his Word — ​and he’s faithful to us. He was there when we needed him yesterday. He’s there when we need him today. And he’ll be there when we need him tomorrow. We can count on him to be exactly who he says he is and to do exactly what he says he will do.

Not only is he faithful, God is also just. He will punish all injustice. He will defend his people. Sometimes it may look as though people get away with sin. Sometimes it may seem as though bad people prosper while good people suffer. But ultimately, God will administer justice.

Dear God, thank you for being faithful to us. Thank you for never making us wonder whether we can trust you. Help us show that same kind of dependability to other people. Amen.

#GoodNews: Comfort found in the approachable one

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The Approachable One

• Who intimidates you? What is it about that person that you find intimidating?
• What’s the best way to make someone comfortable around you?

There’s a scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy and her friends finally get to see the Wizard, and they’re scared to death. They feel the heat from the fire shooting all around them. They hear the Wizard’s booming voice. They see his giant head in front of them. And for a moment, they’re almost too terrified to bring their requests to him.

Sometimes that’s how we approach God — ​with fear and trembling. After all, he is perfect. He is the source of all power. He knows everything about us (even the really, really bad things). We should be scared of him.

Except that we don’t need to be because God has made himself approachable. He makes himself available to us. In fact, he invites us to come near him. Because he loves us, we can have a relationship with him.

Dear God, thank you for allowing us to come into your presence. Let us never lose sight of what a privilege it is to have a relationship with you. Amen.

#GoodNews: We live in 1 of 2 tents – Contentment or Discontentment

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The All-Powerful One

• How would you define power?
• How does God show his power?

In the folktale “The Stonecutter,” a stonecutter wishes to be rich because rich men are powerful. Then he wishes to be a prince because princes are even more powerful. But the sun is more powerful than a prince, so he wishes to become the sun. He notices that the clouds have the power to block the sun’s rays, so he wishes for that instead. A raining cloud would be even more powerful, so he pours down rain, which destroys everything in sight except for a big rock. Finding that nothing could disturb the power of the rock, he wishes to be a rock. In the end, he realizes he is better off as a stonecutter. After all, nothing can chip away at the power of a rock — ​except a stonecutter.

The lesson we learn from this folktale is that people are to be content with who they are. But Christians take away an even more significant message. Who is more powerful than riches, royalty and nature? Our God. And our God has placed us in the exact time and place that we are in. He made us who we are, and he has created a plan for our lives. Christians have a great reason to be content because our power comes through God.

Dear God, you are all-powerful. Nothing can happen without your permission. Nothing can stop what you put in motion. Thank you for helping us to recognize what a powerful God we serve. Amen.

#GoodNews: There’s a guide who knows all the answers

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The All-Knowing One

• What do you know now that you didn’t know one year ago?
• If you could choose one thing to know a year from now, what would it be? In other words, what would you like to learn more than anything else?

Has it ever occurred to you that nothing new ever occurs to God? He already knows everything there is to know. This is a difficult concept for us because we learn something new every day. And we could learn a million new things each day and still not know what God knows.

God knows everything from the past, everything that’s happening in the present and everything that will happen in the future. He can read every thought we have. He knows more about how we feel than we do. We may be able to fool ourselves, but we can never fool God.

The fact that God, and God alone, is all-knowing makes him the only one we should entrust with our future. He knows the destination of every possible path we could take in life. He knows which ones end well and which ones don’t.

Who else, then, should be our guide? If we ask him to, God will use his perfect knowledge to steer us in the way we should go. Able to see what we cannot, he will lead us along the paths that bring us ultimate fulfillment and joy.

Dear God, we speak this prayer out loud to you even though we don’t need to. You know our hearts. You know our thoughts. Help us understand that you know what is best for us. Amen.

#GoodNews: Warrior King is already victorious

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The Warrior King

• If you were in a battle, who would you want by your side? Why?
• How does God want you to respond to the evil and suffering in this world?

When we hear the words, “God is love” or “God brings peace to our hearts,” we get a sense of God’s gentle, healing nature. But if we stop there, we don’t get the whole picture of what God is like. In this psalm, David describes God as a King who is “mighty in battle.”

That’s not just a poetic description, either. The fact that God is a warrior King has very real meaning for us, his followers. If God leads the way into battle, we must be prepared to join him.

Who is the enemy? Satan is God’s enemy. So is sin. The Bible says that anything that is not for God is against him (see James 4:4). This means that he has a lot of enemies!

Our battle armor is God’s truth, righteousness and faith. We fight for God with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). We join this King of glory by obeying his commandments and by loving others.

The battle will not be easy, but we already know the end of the story. God wins. And so will we.

Dear God, we praise you for your love and your willingness to fight for what is right. With your truth and love, prepare us for battle against the evil and suffering all around us. Amen.

#GoodNews: Appreciation for designer well deserved

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The Creator

• What’s your favorite — ​whether it’s an animal, plant, rock formation, beach or something else — ​of all the works of creation?
• How do you feel when you think about everything God has created?

Think about what it’s like to bring an art project home from school — ​something you’ve worked hard to make, all by yourself. You’ve poured your own unique creativity and skills into designing your masterpiece.

How would you feel if you brought it home, hung it in the middle of the living room, and then watched as everyone completely ignored it? Think about it. Not one gasp of amazement. Not one “Wow, how did you do this?” Not one comment about the colors you used or the skill of your design or the amazing talent behind the work. How would you feel?

Do you suppose God feels the same way when people ignore his creation? After all, he created the world and everything in it. Every day we are surrounded by the beauty of his work and the incredible detail of his design. But how often do we mention it? How often do we even notice it?

Let’s start a habit of giving God his due. Let’s make a commitment to noticing something new, something beautiful, something incredible in creation every day and thanking him for it. Let’s see what that does for our relationship with him.

Dear God, we are in awe of your creation. Every day we see something incredible that you made. Let us never lose our sense of wonder at your creative power. Amen.

#GoodNews: Best route not found in a GPS

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Better Than a GPS

• Has God ever led you anywhere that surprised you? Explain.
• What’s the best thing to do when you don’t understand why the Lord is leading you in a certain direction?

While God gives us direction through the Bible, he is not a GPS that we can stick on the windshield. God won’t say, “In three and a half years, turn left and attend this college.” God leads us in a more subtle way, through our hearts.

God’s leading may not always make sense to us. For one thing, his choice of route may not be a straight line. He may lead us off the highway, against traffic or through a random desert. He may take us in a complete circle and bring us right back where we started. He may lead us out into the middle of the ocean and then tell us to make a U-turn.

The GPS only considers where we want to go and the shortest way to get there. God considers an infinite eternity that includes where we begin, where he wants us to go and what we need to learn along the way.

If we trust God to guide us, one day we’ll look back on our life and see just what an incredible journey it was.

Dear God, you are amazing because you know the best route for every person’s life. Guide our steps so that we go exactly where you want us to go. Amen.

#GoodNews: The dilemma of a divorce can be prevented

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The Divorce Dilemma

I read this story [ http://j.mp/divorcedilemma ]months ago. It might have been last year. But it is a good lesson. We don’t know what someone is going through unless we are intimately interested and investing in them.

One of us might be fighting depression at home or one of us might be overworked at the new job and instead of burdening our spouse we bottle up our battles in order to protect our loved one.

That only works for a season. Eventually you are swallowed whole from the inside out emotionally, physically, & spiritually.

By the time you notice there is no romance, connection, or intimacy it feels way too late to begin sharing deep down feelings and emotions which you have harbored for so long.

The only stat that strikes me is not that 50% of people divorce (they say 45% & 50% of Christians), but the stat of 99% of married couples that pray together stay together.

Prayer is one of the most intimate tools God has given us. It allows us to open our hearts and share what we have on them. If we do this with our spouse we can remain intimate and we can be there for one another like we should be.

After all, marriage is a spiritual and sacred bond and triunion of two flesh becoming one with our Father God as the apex.

So let’s keep Jesus the center of our marriage and continue to keep all the communication open to prevent any battles that may afflict us when we are not together throughout each day.

#GoodNews: We were not designed to be “know-it-alls”

Your Will Be Done

• What do you think God wants you to do with your life?
• What happens if you ignore God’s will?

Have you ever gotten lost? Even though you really thought you knew where you were going? Would you have gotten lost if you had had good directions?

We can get lost in life if we don’t use the guidebook God has provided us with — ​the Bible. We were not designed to be “know-it-alls.” None of us were. We were designed to rely on God’s instructions and on his will.

This isn’t always simple. God’s will isn’t always obvious, but that doesn’t mean that we should put our lives on hold while we wait for him to reveal his plan for our lives. God’s Word gives us plenty to go on. The Bible tells us how to behave, how to treat others and how to live wisely. When we follow the instructions God has already given us, he will further reveal his will to us.

Dear God, thank you for caring enough about us as individuals to create a plan for each of our lives. Guide us as we strive to determine your will. Amen.

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#GoodNews: Best medicine found in Joy

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Joy

Do you need a good dose of joy? It really is good medicine.

Years ago, Psychology Today magazine published an article, “Laugh and Be Well.” In the article, Norman Cousin wrote about a remarkable recovery from a disabling condition through massive doses of Vitamin C and comedy clips. His experience spawned a new field of scientific research studying how the brain influences the immune system.

Funny, the Bible has said the same thing all along. In Proverbs, God’s Word says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Do you need a good dose of joy; yet nothing seems to ease the pain?

I have good news. You can find joy. It is found in a person who is the source of a lasting joy that overcomes the heartaches of life. His name is Jesus.

Jesus says, “I’ve told you these things, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

We all need to enjoy laughter. It’s good medicine. But lasting joy is only found in Jesus.

#GoodNews: No hypocrisy found in leader #HereIsYourTip

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Hypocrites

Of the major objections to Christianity, this one is still at the top of the charts: “I’m not interested in Christianity or the church because the church is a bunch of hypocrites and I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

It might surprise people who’ve made a statement like that to know that they are right. The church is full of hypocrites, but I can’t think of a better place for a bunch of hypocrites to be than in church. You see, the church is not a hotel for saints; it’s a hospital for sinners. It’s a place where people go when they recognize they need help.

Let me encourage you to do this: instead of blaming Jesus Christ for the shortcomings of His followers, I challenge you to look at the person of Christ in Scripture. You’ll find no hypocrisy in Him. Look at the person of Christ and you’ll find the most genuine person who has ever lived.

#GoodNews: We’re created for relationship

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Meaning of Man, Part 2

The first two chapters of the Bible explain the meaning of man.

* Man is distinct from the animals. We’re made in the image of God. We can think abstractly like God. We can reason, create, and appreciate beauty and moral order.

* We’re to be fruitful and multiply in the context of marriage. Sex is a great gift invented by God for mutual enjoyment and procreation, but for marriage only.

* We’re called to rule over creation. We are to care for the environment and all of God’s creation. We are His managers, with a great responsibility.

* We’re to maintain balance between work and rest. Work is a gift–a key to fulfillment–to be done for God’s glory. But God initiated a day of rest as well.

* We are created to have a relationship with God through trust and obedience. When we don’t, we mess it up big time.

#GoodNews: Man in the mirror finds reflection

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The Meaning Of Man

What is the meaning of man?

The answer is on page one of the Bible. It says “and God created man in His own image.” What does it mean to be in the image of God? It doesn’t mean physical appearance, but it does mean in God’s likeness.

We can think like God. We can reason. We are creative.

We are to rule over creation. We need to care for it, protect it, and use it in a way that is pleasing to God.

We are spiritual beings. Unlike the animals, we can worship God. God desires a personal relationship with us.

We are moral beings. Man deals with right and wrong. The best way for us to do this is to obey God’s Word in faith.

If we submit to God, we reflect His nature. But when we don’t, we look more like beasts. Understanding this, does your life reflect the image of God or are you more like an animal?