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: There’s no place like home

Going Home

Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” There’s no place like home. No matter how bad we mess up or how disappointing life gets, it’s the one place they have to take us in.

Jesus told of a wayward son who messed up big time, wasting all his dad had blessed him with. He became homeless and was so hungry he wanted to eat leftover slop fit only for animals. But when he came to his senses, he thought about home. He knew he didn’t deserve to go there, but he went anyway. And his dad was so overwhelmed with joy he welcomed him home.

The dad represents God, and the wayward son represents you and me. It’s Jesus’ way of telling us that we all mess up–but nobody messes up so badly that when he decides to come home to the Lord, the Lord won’t welcome him back to a right relationship with Him. Is it time for you to come home to the Lord?

So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently].

#GoodNews: You can Celebrate the Touchdown tonight!

The Touchdown

In most sports, there is one feat that galvanizes the fans. In golf, it’s a hole-in-one. In basketball, it’s the slam-dunk. In baseball, it’s the home run. But in football, it’s the touchdown. It always brings fans to their feet.

The objective is simple. The team with the most points wins and usually that means the most touchdowns. But the greatest and most exciting touchdown has yet to occur, and when it does, the players on the winning team will go wild with joy. Those on the losing team will be devastated with defeat.

The Bible tells about it in the Old and New Testaments. The Messiah will touch down on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem when Jesus returns.

Do you believe it? Will you be ready for the ultimate feat?

How you respond in faith to Christ determines whether you are on the winning team or losing team–forever.

It is my hope that you’ll be able to celebrate the touchdown, when Jesus comes!

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#GoodNews: Meaningful relationships are essential to real living

Pseudo Grief

A modern day phenomenon in the age of TV is the irrational outpouring of pseudo grief. People grieve more intensely for an image they’ve never personally known, than they do for a neighbor or family member who dies.

We saw this most dramatically with the death of Lady Di and JFK, Jr. Both represented what society saw as the best of their nation’s royalty. Both were young, glamorous, attractive and wealthy. They were the ideal in the world’s eyes. Yet, most of us didn’t know them. We just knew the image presented on the screen.

Do you care more for images than the real people in your life?

Who do you grieve for the most when they’re gone? If it’s an image on TV, you’re living a ‘pseudo life,’… not a real life. For real living comes with real relationships and sometimes, with loss, that involves real grief. But when that loss comes, a real relationship with God will get you through that grief. Real relationships have real pain, but they also have real meaning. Meaningful relationships with God and your fellow man are essential to real living.

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#GoodNews: Self-Control essential to successful living

Self-Control

Do you ever say, “It was just too tempting,” or “I wish I hadn’t lost my cool?”

A key to successful living is self-control–controlling our emotions, desires, passions, or our tongue. Self-control is about self-discipline. The Bible compares it to sports. It says, “Run your race to win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.” Self-control is essential to success in living, as well as in sports.

Let me suggest a few ways to learn it:

1. Clarify your purpose–what are you trying to accomplish? Is it to lose a few pounds? Then your decisions will be shaped by that purpose.

2. Be honest with yourself about where you lack self-control. Alcoholics who find victory over booze know the first step is admitting their inability to control the problem.

3. Ask God for self-discipline.

4. Take action on that discipline, one day at a time. Self-control is a real key to successful living.

Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].

#GoodNews: Three keys to victory for moms #RightFromTheHeart

Three Keys For Mom

It’s not easy being a mom these days. Whether you’re home full time or working outside the home, there are challenges. There’s a verse of scripture in Romans that contains three keys for moms and, really, anyone who wants to live a victorious life:

Be joyful in hope. Every mom has hope for her kids. When a mom trusts in the Lord and believes His promises in scripture, she can be joyful in hope for the future of her family.

Persevere in trials. There will be difficulties and trials for every mom (kids not doing well, times of feeling unappreciated, etc.). But when her hope is grounded in God, she can find strength to endure any trial.

Be devoted to prayer. Hey, moms, with so many trials and so much out of your control, be devoted to prayer. Turn your concerns, your fears, and your children over to the Lord. Prayer is the power source for being a great mom and a great person.

Hope, perseverance, and prayer–three keys to victory for moms and most everyone.

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#GoodNews: Black preacher forgives white community for bombing house #RightFromTheHeart

Forgiving Our Enemies

In 1962 in Montgomery, Alabama, a young, unknown Baptist preacher came home to find a large crowd gathered in front of his house that had just been bombed.

He ran inside to see if his wife and daughter had survived. He found they were unharmed. He comforted them before going outside to the large, angry crowd.

They had gathered with chains and weapons to retaliate against the white community for such a despicable deed. He told them there would be no retaliation saying, “Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to forgive those who persecute us. Now go home.” Thus began the legacy of an amazing man with a unique spirit, Martin Luther King, Jr.

What King did on that occasion isn’t natural–it’s supernatural. The ability to forgive our enemies who have wronged us is often beyond our natural ability, but it is the Spirit of Christ. It is true Christianity. It is a power available to us all and it can change the world.

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Traveling down The Romans Road To Salvation

trrts

Delivering Good News with his fellow AnchorMEN, Chris Treborn is back with the same mission, some new material, and a new target market.

His last solo effort was entitled ‘DemoGraphFix‘ – a project for tweens which was designed to be “Infiltrating Peer Pressure with Counter Culture”.  The project was inspired by his past few years performing for 10-14 year olds, realizing he couldn’t deliver the same message to them as he would 15-20 year olds. 

This time around, the Soul Anchor team is targeting a younger audience (4-14 year olds) with the new #AnchorFAM project entitled ‘The Romans Road To Salvation‘.  Perhaps you have heard of this Romans Road before.  The Romans Road is an easy tool using the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans about the wages of sin, and the gift of eternal life.   Using key verses in Romans, one can evangelize and direct one to Salvation.

The goal with this project is to reach a younger crowd with truth conveying messages and real life understandings.  By directing the focus on family first, we can reach out to the other families in the community and beyond.  As a part of AnchorMEN (Real CHRISTIANS living as real HUSBANDS being real PARENTS staying REAL! Because they always Man UP!), Chris Treborn is learning and growing as a husband and father and leader of his family which he calls Team Treborn.

Along the road, Chris is composing his own instrumentals and writing Biblical lyrics that meld together to create a beautiful reality of our nature and our spirituality at stake.  The music will grab kids’ attentions, and with his lyrics, he will bring to life the truth and reality we will all face.  He also plans to present illustrations that will better explain the (narrow) path down the Romans Road to Salvation.

Stay on the look out for New Music, as well as some spoken word, and various other social media resources presenting the Gospel to the youngest generations.

Find more information on the official site @ http://j.mp/trrts 

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#GoodNews: Teens still need growing up 12-18 #DrawNear #Intimacy #Parenting

TWELVE TO EIGHTEEN

The growing-up process is as difficult for parents as for children. Each has to learn as he goes. Usually the child fears that the parents won’t permit him enough liberty to become an individual in his own right. The parent fears, however, that the child with his new liberty will become so different from his parents that they will be strangers. Thence comes the age-old generation gap, especially a problem in the teen years.

From twelve to fourteen years, identity is acquired along with a need to learn fidelity. Important physiological changes occur rapidly during this period, thrusting the youth into a preoccupation with his body and physical appearance. At this age, the youth is seeking someone to believe in and someone to whom he can be true.

During ages fifteen to eighteen, the younger person acquires a sense of intimacy and avoids isolation. These years help prepare him to learn to love and work. If he has not adequately identified himself and found his reason for being, he may be frustrated and depressed. These are years of extremely powerful physical urges and diverse moods. The path from here to adulthood will be difficult to tread. Ideally, by the time of adulthood, the child will have developed from a self-centered individual into a valuable contributor to the world in which he lives.

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#GoodNews: Children most reachable 3-11 #DrawNear #Intimacy #Parenting

THREE TO ELEVEN

When a child reaches age three, he acquires a sense of autonomy and at the same time combats a sense of doubt and shame. The child begins to break away from his total dependency on mother and father. This is a trying time for the mother, who has carefully and tenderly held a baby for the past three years. Yet in God’s plan, the baby grows and must establish himself as an individual. After all, he is not merely an extension of his parents but another human being. As at an earlier age, the child learns more through attitudes than through teaching.

At four to five years, the child acquires a sense of initiative and overcomes a sense of guilt. He begins to intrude into the space of others and develops other friends outside his family circle, beginning the lifelong process of learning to get along in a crowded world. This really is the golden age of learning because at no other time is the child more ready to learn or relate cooperatively with others. His conscience increasingly assumes the role of his parents. He is asked to take on more responsibility in his family and his world. Consequently, this is an excellent age to teach responsibility and initiative.

During the period from six to eleven, the child acquires a sense of industry and fends off a sense of inferiority. He is pressured to become part of the adult world and assume more responsibility. Before a person can be a good parent, he must learn to be a worker. Thus, childhood is the training ground for the future, the golden age for learning skills and trying new activities. At this age, the child also begins to compare his parents to other adults. This is healthy because it gives him a view of the larger world.

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#GoodNews: Parents give children taste of satisfaction #DrawNear #Intimacy

CREATING A TASTE FOR GOD

Perhaps the key passage in Scripture to understanding the parent’s proper attitude toward children is Proverbs 22:6. However, we often misunderstand that verse because we do not really know what the verb ‘train’ means.

To the modern mind, the verb ‘train’ smacks of discipline. We can almost see the hard-boiled sergeant dressing down the new recruit, a strict teacher telling his student what to do, or a demanding father insisting a son do something right. However, in the original Hebrew that is not at all what ‘train’ meant. In that ancient tongue, “train” denoted the action of the midwife when she would dip her finger in the oil and rub the tiny palate of the newborn baby, causing that baby to have a desire to suck. Thus, what that verse really means is, “Create a taste for God in the heart of your child, and when he is old nothing else in life will satisfy his hunger.”

What a difference a correct understanding of this simple verse makes. As godly parents, we are not always to “straighten out our children.” Rather, we are to love them deeply and provide a climate of love and security that is a result of our relationship with God. The child raised in such an atmosphere is a lot closer to Calvary than one raised in a hostile or cold setting.

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† Devo † Lost and Found #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

In the parable of the lost son, the father restores the rebellious younger brother to his former position at a great cost to the elder brother. Why? His father had divided his property between them before the younger brother left. The younger brother spent his portion and the family estate now belonged to the elder brother. For his father to restore the younger brother meant taking something away from the elder brother and he was angry. His attitude reveals that he had served his father to earn a reward rather than out of love.

As parents, we often have the same attitude towards our Heavenly Father. We are resentful when we struggle with our kids while non-believing parents seem to be coasting along. We feel entitled to greater blessings and we remind God that we faithfully attended church, prayed, and read our Bibles. Ironically, obedience can be the biggest hurdle to experiencing grace because we tend to feel as if we’ve earned it.

There is a true elder brother, however. Unlike the elder brother in the parable, he seeks us and desires to have a relationship with us. He came down from heaven and willingly paid the cost to bring us home. Recognizing what Jesus was willing to do to “find” us makes all the difference.

Obey God in response to His blessings, not to earn them.

Because this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! And they began to revel andfeast andmake merry.

Luke 15:24

† Devo † Resisting Pressure #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

“You’re the only mother who isn’t letting me see the movie!” “Lauren’s parents are so much cooler that you guys.” “Dad, you’re a control freak.”

Hearing these kinds of statements can really sting. And sometimes, our hurt feelings can cause us to be overly harsh in our words and discipline.

But as Christian parents, we are called to carry out our responsibilities with humility and love rather than sarcasm and guilt. This is only possible when we are confident of our value in Christ and allow His love to hold us up and cover the pain of disrespectful statements.

Don’t let your hurt feelings result in ungodly parenting.

He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding has a cool spirit.

Proverbs 17:27

† Devo † Identity Theft #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

If you trusted Christ as your Savior, you have a new identity. You are like an adopted child. You have a new name, new family and new traditions. Your old customs have been replaced by new ones that set you apart from those of other families. Paul describes this as being “in Christ”.

Satan would love to steal your identity. He seeks to lure you back to the old identity by tempting you with his family’s customs and traditions — anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language (Col 3:8), but you can resist his identity theft by practicing the customs of your new family — compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12).

Your children were born into your new family’s traditions, and they should be raised that way. Your practice of the new customs will expel the old ones from your life. Your new identity based on your adoption into the family of God, is a powerful incentive for them to want to be adopted as well.

Protect yourself and your children from spiritual identity theft.

And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:2-3

† Devo † Fervent Prayer #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

As we tackle the details of life, we may neglect the most important thing; praying for our kids. Do you find yourself too distracted or exhausted to pray? Perhaps your prayers have become a bit routine? Paul gives us an example of a great prayer warrior in Epaphras. What does it mean to “labor fervently” in prayer? The Greek word used here is agoonizomenos (the English word is agonize) and describes the struggle of an athlete as he competes. It implores us to throw ourselves into prayer with persistence, discipline, and zeal.

Imagine if we invested as much time and effort praying for our kids as we spend on their sports activities–buying uniforms and equipment, going to their practices, and cheering them on at games!

Follow the example of Epaphras in praying fervently for your kids.

Epaphras, who is one of yourselves, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. [He is] always striving for you earnestly in his prayers, [pleading] that you may [as persons of ripe character and clear conviction] stand firm and mature [in spiritual growth], convinced and fully assured in everything willed by God.

Colossians 4:12

† Devo † Power of Humility (Pt.II) #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Here we see how God accomplishes His will through a chain reaction of humble acts. First, Paul and Silas humbled themselves by refusing to run away after the earthquake opened the prison doors. Then the jailer humbled himself when he brought the very prisoners he was assigned to guard to his home where he washed their wounds and fed them! It must have been a powerful testimony because the jailer’s whole family believed in God and was baptized.

Where do you need to humble yourself today? Do you need to apologize to your kids for being sarcastic or harsh? Did you dismiss their feelings in order to defend your own point?

Let your example start a chain reaction of humble acts in your own home.

And he took them the same hour of the night and bathed [them because of their bloody] wounds, and he was baptized immediately and all [the members of] his [household]. Then he took them up into his house and set food before them; and he leaped much for joy and exulted with all his family that he believed in God [accepting and joyously welcoming what He had made known through Christ].

Acts 16:33-34

† Devo † Serving The One True God #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

This verse refers to the journey of the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land. God alone led the Israelites through the desert. They faced difficulties and trials, many of their own making, but through it all, it was very obvious that God was the only one that could protect and prosper them.

When we guide our children, we should follow God’s example and let them know that no foreign god should be allowed to come between them and the one true God. Keep in mind that “foreign gods” take a variety of forms in today’s world, such as money, power, beauty, and fame. We must be diligent to watch for the influence of these gods in our lives and the lives of our children.

Let your children know that the Lord alone is sufficient to lead your family.

So the Lord alone led him; there was no foreign god with Him.

Deuteronomy 32:12

† Devo † Fighting In The Spirit #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

When Saul turned against David, David was forced to run for his life. At one point, he and his men hid in a cave at the desert oasis of En Gedi. As Saul searched the area for David, he unknowingly entered the very cave where David and his men were hiding. Although David could have easily ambushed and killed him, he refused because he knew Saul was God’s anointed king. He left judgment to God.

When someone has wronged us or our children, we are often tempted to seek revenge. We may gossip, give them the “silent treatment,” or exclude them. We have a choice, however, to live our lives in the spirit or in the flesh. David refused to fight in the flesh, and left Saul’s judgment to the Spirit of God.

Live in the Spirit and allow God to be the judge.

May the Lord be judge and judge between me and you, and see and plead my cause, and deliver me out of your hands.

1 Samuel 24:15

† Devo † Thankfulness #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

It is so easy to take credit for the good things we acquire. But, we must not forget (or let our children forget) that all of our material possessions are blessings that God, in His grace, allowed us to have. And, the best things we have accumulated here on earth are nothing compared to the riches we will inherit as heirs of the Kingdom of God!

Despite what our culture may tell us, we have not earned our material blessings. There are others in less fortunate parts of the world who are far more deserving, but God did not choose to bless them as abundantly. Others have worked harder for less, yet still humbly accept the blessings God gives them as more than they deserve.

Humble yourself and thank God for the blessings He gives you.

And when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you, with great and goodly cities which you did not build, And houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and when you eat and are full, Then beware lest you forget the Lord, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

† Devo † Thinking Positively #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

The Israelites loved and trusted God as He led them out of captivity in Egypt. They had witnessed great miracles! It didn’t take long, however, before they began to grumble and complain about having to walk across the desert to the Promised Land. In the midst of difficult circumstances, they doubted Him instead of focusing on His faithfulness in the past. Ultimately, this lack of trust cost their generation the privilege of seeing the Promised Land.

Do you really trust the Lord? Most of us find it much easier to trust when things are going well, but when things are difficult, our faith in Him can be tested. In these times, it is important to remember when God sustained you through difficulties. Remembering those faith stories will help you and your family maintain an attitude towards God that is positive and anticipatory.

Negative attitudes lead to the “wilderness.”

The Lord your God Who goes before you, He will fight for you just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes.

But as for you, turn and journey into the wilderness by way of the Red Sea.

Deuteronomy 1:30, 40

 

† Devo † A Parent’s Comfort #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

These verses were written by King David during an incredibly turbulent time in his life. One son had been killed, his daughter had been raped, and another son was seeking revenge against him! David had just fled Jerusalem in fear after hearing that his son, Absalom, wanted to overthrow him as king. In David’s position, I doubt very much that the words “I will sing for joy” would come to my mind!

But David saw God’s protection and love as a safe place where he could be comforted. He knew from experience that when he humbly submitted to his Father, he would be upheld by the Lord. This did not mean that God would spare David from the consequences of his actions, but that He would walk with David through the consequences, providing hope and comfort even in the most difficult of circumstances. What an example for us as parents!

We should not rescue our kids from the consequences of their actions, but we can always offer a place of hope and comfort.

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice. My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:7-8

† Devo † Be a Light To Others #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

In these verses, Paul confronts the believers in Philippi because their complaining and arguing was harming their testimony about Christ. Instead of being “lights in the world”, they were behaving like unbelievers.

We may profess a deep trust in Christ, but what we truly believe will emerge in our words and attitude. Take a moment to consider your conversations. What characteristics would stand out to your children? Do you have a tendency to gossip, argue with others, or complain?

If so, you may want to reevaluate the source of your contentment. As Christians, we have an eternal hope in Christ that allows us to face the challenges of life with calmness and peace. If you find yourself relying on favorable circumstances or the actions of others to bring you happiness, ask God to strengthen your faith in Him.

Let your words and actions reflect the love of Christ in your life and be a light to others.

Do all things without grumbling and fault finding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world

Philippians 2:14-15

† Devo † Severe Consequences #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Jewish law provided that punishment should fit the crime, but also that it not be too severe. A penalty that was too light minimized the crime, but a punishment that was too severe degraded and humiliated the person. Penalties were required to be “just”.

This is the law of our country also, according to the Eight Amendment. Should the principles be any less effective in our discipline of our kids? Sometimes we overdo our discipline. Maybe we had a bad day or the offense was one that just got under our skin.

Regardless, when we discipline our kids too harshly, we have violated this principle. The best response is to demonstrate what a person of integrity does when they have wronged anotherÑapologize specifically and ask forgiveness. That does not mean there is no consequence for the original offense. It only means we recognize we have also offended and that we are not above the rules.

Discipline justly.

Then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a certain number of stripes according to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him but not more, lest, if he should be beaten with many stripes, your brother should [be treated like a beast and] seem low and worthless to you.

Deuteronomy 25:2-3

† Devo † Being Seen and Known #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Although she did not call out to him, Jesus saw the widow who had lost her son. How wonderful to be seen by the Son of God! Not only did He see her, but this verse says His heart went out to her. He connected with her suffering.

What encouragement for us as parents. Jesus sees us, too, but not in a casual, indifferent way. He feels our pain and He knows our struggles. You can take comfort in knowing that as you walk the sometimes difficult and painful path of parenthood, His heart goes out to you as well. Remember that you are not alone. He is walking alongside you this very day.

You are known and loved by the Son of God.

[Just] as He drew near the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large gathering from the town was accompanying her.13And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, Do not weep.

Luke 7:12-13

 

† Devo † Strength From Weakness #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

When raising kids, there are situations that make us feel inadequate because there is nothing we can do to “fix” the situation. Maybe our child’s feelings were hurt when they were excluded from a party. Perhaps a love interest “dumped” them or they were cut from a team.

One of our biggest obstacles in trusting God is our own sense of strength. The truth is we can never be too weak for God to use us, but we can be too strong. When we recognize the limits of our control, however, we are much more likely to embrace our need for God.

Let your weaknesses become an opportunity to point your kids towards the real source of strength; dependence on Christ.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for Mystrength andpower are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effectivein [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses andinfirmities, that the strength andpower of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased andtake pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities anddistresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

† Devo † Covering Shame #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

The Garden of Eden was perfect until Adam and Eve brought sin and shame into the world. God covered their shame, but that covering came at a cost. To provide the skin needed to make garments, an innocent animal was slain.

What a foreshadowing of Christ’s work on the cross! Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed His innocent blood for our sin so God could cover our shame as well. And, although the Bible does not specify, would anyone be surprised if the animal slain in the Garden of Eden turned out to be a lamb?

God demonstrated the response of a loving Perfect Parent; He covered the shame that caused Adam and Eve to hide. Then, He delivered consequences for rebellion in a way that Adam and Eve (and their descendants) were taught a powerful lesson about His provision of righteousness in the future.

Had God not first covered their shame, Adam and Eve may not have received the lesson. God’s act of covering them demonstrated He would never leave or forsake His children. Adam and Eve could receive the lesson because they loved and trusted the Teacher.

Covering shame makes teaching possible.

For Adam also and for his wife the Lord God made long coats (tunics) of skins and clothed them.

Genesis 3:21

† Devo † God’s Example of Empathy #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Eating from the tree did not have the result Adam and Eve hoped. While they became like God in their ability to recognize both good and evil, they soon realized it was their own evil that was revealed. The result? Shame entered the world for the first time.This single verse from the Bible has astounding ramifications! Despite Adam’s and Eve’s blatant disobedience, and the fact that incredibly significant consequences were going to be delivered, God responded with perfect empathy. After they committed the most significant sin of all time, God acknowledged their feelings and made garments of skin to cover their shame!What an amazing and loving Father we have! As parents, we must try to model that same empathy to our kids, even in the midst of their disobedience. How? By soliciting their thoughts, feelings, motivations, and insecurities even as we deliver necessary consequences and grieving with them over the tough, but necessary lessons of life.

As you experience God’s incredible love, let the overflow of a grateful heart motivate and guide your parenting.

 

† Devo † No More Hiding #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

After Adam and Eve ate from the tree, they realized they were naked. In response, they hid from God and sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. God’s response to Adam’s sin was a question: “Where are you?” Now, you can be certain that God had not misplaced Adam! He asked the question for Adam’s benefit, not His.

The legacy of Adam and Eve’s act is that we are still hiding today. Shopping, food, drug and alcohol abuse, and sometimes even exercise represent our “fig leaves.” Still, God continues to ask us, “Where are you?” He is calling for us to come out of hiding and into a relationship with Him.

What an example for parents! Call your kids out of hiding by asking open-ended questions and listen to their answers with understanding, rather than meeting them with judgment and shame. If you need to give consequences for their disobedience, choose to give those consequences with empathy.

Meeting your kids with empathy helps them come out of hiding and into relationship.

But the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you? 10He said, I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.

Genesis 3:9-10

† Devo † God’s Design #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

As Christians, we should spend our lives discovering and using our spiritual gifts, and the same is true of our kids. This pursuit is essential if we are to accomplish God’s purpose for us, because we can’t do anything for Him without the gifts He gave us. With those gifts, however, we can accomplish a lot!

Isn’t it encouraging that God equips us specifically to do the things He has called us to do? That is the beauty of spiritual giftsÑthey enable us to minister as God intended. Of course, the reverse is also trueÑwhen we try to do anything other than what God has enabled us to do, we fall outside His design for us and we are destined to fall short.

Help your kids uncover their God-given gifts, cultivate them and help them put them to work, for the glory of the Lord.

Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith.

Romans 12:6

† Devo † Moms and Dads #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

These verses describe the qualities necessary to raise well-rounded children in a spiritual family. Some of these qualities are associated with moms, such as patience, gentleness and a devotion for her children that makes her want to spend time with them and nourish them, physically and spiritually. Other qualities are associated with dads, such as encouragement, comfort and urging their children to live lives worthy of the Lord.

Paul and the other missionaries supplied these qualities to the believers in Thessalonica so that they could grow spiritually. He filled the role of both mom and dad, and he also gave us a beautiful picture of the needs of kids and the roles of parents in meeting those needs. Whether you are in a one- or two-parent family, the kids’ needs are the same. But take heart, God will equip each of you to do the job He has called you to (Heb. 13:21).

Trust God for the strength and qualities necessary to raise your children.

For you know how, as a father [dealing with] his children, we used to exhort each of you personally, stimulating andencouraging and charging you12To live lives worthy of God, Who calls you into His own kingdom and the glorious blessedness [into which true believers will enter after Christ’s return].

1 Thessalonians 2:7,11-12