Friday, April 24, 2009

Getting the Word Out

by Missy Milbourn

This Week's Verse: John 21:15-16, "After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' Peter replied, 'you know I love you.' 'Then feed my lambs,' Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' 'Yes, Lord,' Peter said, 'you know I love you.' 'Then take care of my sheep,' Jesus said. A third time he asked him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, 'Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Then feed my sheep.'"(NLT)

Over the past year I have watched as God has poured His love and compassion for suffering children into the heart of my husband, specifically speaking of children in poverty. I have watched Denny shed many tears as he has read factual stories and seen videos of these children who are in desperate need. To be honest, what God has done in the heart of Denny, and now is doing in my life too, has changed the way I view Christianity. It has expanded the way I view Christianity, and in many ways there has been a paradigm shift.

We live in an era of “prosperity preaching”. The popular claim is “Obey God and he will give you the home of your dreams, he will give you the car of your dreams, He will provide everything you ever wanted…”

Understand I believe that God wants to prosper you. I also believe that when we obey Him, He does prosper us. But I’m not sure the above scenario is what he had in mind.

In Luke 3:7-9, we see a sample of John the Baptist’s preaching, and what he talks about is that when we follow God, our life should change, our life should look different. Part of what he says is this: “Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God.”

At the end of his sermon, the crowd asked, “What should we do?” Good question. John replied, “If you have two coats, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

In Luke 12:33, Jesus says, “sell what you have and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven have no holes in them. Your treasure will be safe…no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.”

We dream of news cars, and new homes, while others dream that someone will come along to provide them clean water, a bite to eat, and clothing to cover their bodies.

This Sunday, at First Christian Church, you’ll have a chance to fulfill someone else’s dream. The dream of having a bite to eat…clothes to wear, as we join with Compassion International, and churches all over the nation for “Compassion Sunday”. May you prayerfully consider your role as we make an effort to “release children from poverty in Jesus name”.

Father, you have called us not to acquire more, but to give more. Help us to understand the specific call that you have on our individual lives, so that we might fulfill your will and your purpose for our lives. So that your Kingdom can come through us to others….

Check out this video link:
Prayerfully consider how God would like you to respond to His kingdom call.

Power Verses:
Luke 16:9,
“I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven.”(NLT)
Acts 4:32-35, “all the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.”(NLT)

Friday, April 17, 2009


by Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Genesis 1:27, "Then God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (NLT)

I have a confession to make (and know that this is very hard for me to admit). I am uncomfortable with my body. It has just been in the last several years that I have maintained this attitude. I am unhappy with my weight, my thighs, my belly, and anything that gravity has taken over. I would say that lately, the only things I have been happy with are the things that haven’t changed such as my eye color, my eyelashes, my hands and my feet.

I have been struggling with any attempts to ask God to help me correct this. I just want to go back to my glory high school days and be thin again. This past week I finally gave in and asked God what I could do to have a better image of myself…after all we are made in His likeness. At no surprise to me, God indirectly gave me the answers. They were tough to digest, and this will definitely be a work in progress, but he reminded me of how beautiful I am to Him.

I have read two separate books this week, both on completely different topics, and they both managed to touch the subject of self-worth. I will give you the take home messages of what I read. The first book explained how until we are truly comfortable in our bodies, we will never be happy. We will never thank God for our glorious bodies, but instead be jealous of others for their bodies. We will be ungrateful and therefore unkind to our Lord for what He has chosen to give us.

The second book talked about how in our culture, self-hatred is so common that we just assume it to be true. Other cultures can’t even imagine self-hatred because there is so much self-love. Self-what??? In a culture that tells us that eating nothing is “in” and being a bit on the heavier side is “out” – no wonder we all our so unhappy. Have you looked in a magazine lately? Beyond a certain brand of underwear, I don’t think I have seen one model that is even remotely close to my size.

After reading these two books God helped me understand two things. One, I was comparing my body to others. And two, I didn’t love my body like I should. So, setting out on a new adventure of this “self-love”, I am going to try to love my body. I am going to try to love me like God loves me.

I will set out today to the gym, a place where beautiful bodies walk through the door every couple of minutes. But, today is going to be a new day. One of those beautiful bodies is going to be mine. And I will be proud of what my Glorious and Massive God can do…make me in His likeness and in His image.

Thank you, Lord, for creating me like you. Forgive me for not appreciating my appearance as I should. Forgive me for yearning to have what others have. Forgive me for thinking that you should have made me different. I know you have a plan for my life, and I couldn’t do it without my body and my mind being the exact way that it is. Please help me to appreciate and understand all that I am with your eyes, Lord. Amen.

Application: Do you struggle with your image? Do you have any other struggles? Do you compare your house, car, and possessions to others? If so, thank God today for what He gave you. Ask Him to show you why he has given you these things and not others. Ask Him why He has asked you to struggle in certain areas of your life. He may not answer today, or it may not be the answer you were ready to hear, but He will answer.

Power Verses:
Psalm 86:4,
"Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you." (NLT)
Ephesians 4:23-24, "And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God's image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness." (AMP)
1 Corinthians 12:18, "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."(NIV)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Love Is A Verb

by Stephanie Niebarger

This Week’s Verse: 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” (NLT)

After I read the devotion from a few weeks ago, it stirred me to go a little deeper. I thought about love and what all it means. My first thought was the song by DC Talk, “Luv is a Verb.” While it is true that we are to love each other, what exactly does that mean? Love really is a verb because it requires action.

I have a friend who used to call me every so often for no reason at all other than just to say Hi and that she was thinking about me. The conversations hardly lasted five minutes, but that was the best five minutes of my day because it reminded me that she loved me.

This past week I was reading a newsletter from my church back in Iowa, and it mentioned a soldier being killed by “friendly fire.” It was not the enemy who killed him but some misguided weapon. I see on the news all too often the mass shootings in our own country, and I can’t help but wonder if this is a result of friendly fire, too. Could some of them have been prevented by a word of encouragement to the assailant? Sometimes harsh criticism can cause wounds which are too difficult to heal and push people away. We are told in Philippians 2:3: “Think of other people as more important than yourself”(NLB).

Sometimes love requires us to get out of our comfort zone. Jesus said in Luke 14:12-14, “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be – and experience – a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned – oh, how it will be returned! – at the resurrection of God’s people”(MSG).

Jesus also tells us in Matthew 25:40, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me” (CEV). Love most definitely requires action; Love also requires sacrifice. Sometimes we may not always “feel” like doing something because it may make us uncomfortable, but I don’t think that ever stopped Jesus. Love is a Verb!

Father, Thank you for loving us by Your actions. Thank you for sending a Perfect Example of love. Father help us to show more love to others by our actions. Help us to reach out to others in love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Is there someone you need to show love to? Do you have five minutes for a phone call? What are some of the ways you can show love and encouragement to others? It doesn’t take much. Just a little time. You never know what it might mean to that person.

Power Verses:
Galatians 6:10
, “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.” (NLT)
1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just an in fact you are doing.” (NIV)
Hebrews 10:24, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. (NLT)
Proverbs 12:25, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” (NLT)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Suzy Sunshine Smackdown

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Proverbs 25:20, “Singing cheerful songs to a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing someone’s jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in a wound.” (NLT)

I have a friend from my high school years that I rarely see or communicate with anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s because every several years or so, we’ll somehow reconnect, vow to keep each other updated via email, and then after exchanging a few “catch up” emails about what’s going on in our lives, she’ll just stop responding. Cold turkey. And I take it very personally and get my nose all out of joint about it. I start to wonder if she even likes me.

At Christmas I was expressing my frustration about this to my husband’s step-mom, Pat, who is acquainted with my friend. I told how I’d answer questions about what’s going on in my life with long paragraphs, trying to fill in the gaps of years since we’d last kept in touch, and then I’d get back nothing…NOTHING! Whew. I couldn’t wait for Pat to validate me with a sympathetic “Yeah, that’s weird. I wonder why she’d do that?”

But that didn’t happen. Pat kind of laughed and said, “Well, Miss Suzy Sunshine, maybe she just feels like she can’t compete with your life.”


I was stunned. That couldn’t be it. Could it?

I still don’t know if that’s the real reason for the lapse in communication, but Pat’s words pierced my soul so deeply that I really had to stop and consider how I’d summarized my life to this friend in those few emails. I’d caught her up on cool ways God was working, on the kids’ activities, on Shane’s job and my job. I’d probably included some really cute stories about the kids.

No doubt about it, I’d glossed over the imperfections and the battles I face daily to focus on what’s good in my life. It was unintentional—I sure didn’t do it to compete, or to flash a big neon sign saying “Kathy’s life is perfect” in her face. I think did it because I felt our relationship had slipped from what used to be a close one into what was now a superficial one. So I gave her a superficial account. I’d hoped for our messages back and forth to get more personal, to expose more vulnerability, and to take us back to a more intimate level where I felt safe in sharing more. The real more. The messier more.

Would she have responded if I’d opened up about my frequent struggle with anxiety and depression? And that I have to repeatedly give those over to God or I’d be an even bigger mess?

Would she have responded if I’d mentioned some bad parenting moments? Some stupid fights? Some wrong decisions?


See, I’d broken one of the cardinal rules of effective communication: know your audience. In an over-eager attempt to catch up, I plowed ahead without gauging my friend’s “place”. This week’s verse clearly shows the importance of being aware of your friend’s status so that you know how to respond accordingly. If she was in a low place and I made it sound like I was in a high place, well…I might have been stealing her jacket or rubbing salt in a wound.

Every exchange any of us has with others is an opportunity to gauge where they are and respond appropriately. Romans 12:15 advises us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”(NIV)

That’s what a good friend does…

Now, excuse me. I need to go send an email. It’ll be short and it won’t focus on so much on me.

Father God, give us your empathy for others. In our conversations—whether in person, via telephone, or through electronic means—give us wisdom to know when to listen and when to speak. Guide us in discerning how to best meet the needs of our friends and develop our relationships into ones that are meaningful, real, and glorifying to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Try to envision different reactions you might have if you’re talking to a friend who seems …tired, distracted, joyful, quiet, angry, goofy. How can you meet her where she’s at? What if her kids are interrupting and pulling at her? Does it matter if you’re in public or private? How might communicating electronically change the dynamics? Asking questions shows you are interested and you care. It also tells you more about “where” she is, allowing you to respond in the best way possible.

Power Verses:
Job 16:1-5
, “Then Job defended himself: ‘I've had all I can take of your talk. What a bunch of miserable comforters! Is there no end to your windbag speeches? What's your problem that you go on and on like this? If you were in my shoes, I could talk just like you. I could put together a terrific harangue and really let you have it. But I'd never do that. I'd console and comfort, make things better, not worse!” (MSG)
Proverbs 12:18, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (NIV)