40 Days Devotional Thought

I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, or Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware.

When somebody is aware of the love that the Father has for Jesus, that person is spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We’re not joyful and then become grateful — we’re grateful, and that makes us joyful.

More than ever, we need each other.  Whatever the decision on our economic engines, we must remember what the Lord has given us versus what man has taken away.  We have joy if we remember what He has given.

Pray for our leaders and give thanks.

Michael

40 Days of Community Devotional

Jackson Rogers, ten, raised enough money to put up a house for the homeless. The young entrepreneur said he took on the fund-raising project for Habitat for Humanity in February when he accepted $100 and a challenge from his pastor at First Presbyterian Church.

“My pastor gave me a hundred dollars and told me to do something good to help someone,” said Jackson, one of several congregants who accepted their pastor’s challenge. They were told to use the money for good and then report on what they did.

At first Jackson’s father was hesitant about letting his son take up such a daunting task, but Jackson was determined. “I was discouraging him from volunteering because I didn’t know what the pastor intended. But he pulled away from me and ran down there,” the father said.

Jackson knew he wanted to help a homeless family. But he wasn’t sure how to do that, so he asked his dad. What they came up with was a letter-writing campaign asking for donations to raise $50,000 to build a house through Habitat for Humanity. Jackson then wrote a letter in his own handwriting on notebook paper. “I used the hundred dollars to buy stamps and paper,” he said. He then sent out letters to friends and family.

One woman was so touched by his letter that she passed it on to several of her friends and colleagues. Soon, people from Tennessee, Virginia, and Idaho were sending in checks. The 170 people who responded contributed a total of $43,000. When the congregation at First Presbyterian learned the little miracle-worker was $7,000 short of his goal, people chipped in the rest.

“A little person can do something really good. You don’t have to wait to be an adult,” said Jackson’s mother.

Let your children do something good, really good.

Michael

Day 15 – 40 Days of Community

I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, or Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware.

When somebody is aware of the love that the Father has for Jesus, that person is spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We’re not joyful and then become grateful — we’re grateful, and that makes us joyful.

Think today what you are grateful for today.  The joy will come.

Michael

Day 11 – 40 Days of Community

A significant increase can be seen in five of the seven core religious behaviors that the Barna Group has studied over the past decade.

• In 1995, 31 percent of Americans read their Bibles at least once a week outside of a church setting; in 2006, that number jumped to 47 percent.

• In 1996, 37 percent of Americans attended church in a typical week; that number jumped to 47 percent in 2006.

• In 1996, 17 percent of Americans attended a small group outside of Sunday school or Christian education classes; in 2006, 23 percent attended.

• Church volunteerism hit a low of 20 percent in the mid-nineties; in 2006, 27 percent of Americans volunteered in a church setting.

• Sunday school attendance hit a low of 17 percent in 1995 and 1996; it climbed back to 24 percent in 2006.

Somewhat surprisingly, the only two religious behaviors that did not reflect significant change were prayer and evangelism. The number of Americans claiming to have prayed within the last week remained steady — around 84 percent in the period between 1993 and 2006. Similarly, the percentage of born-again Christians who claim to have shared their faith with a nonbeliever remained at about 60 percent in the decade between 1996 and 2006.

With the world thinking that Christians are failure, I thought you should know the truth.

Michael

See you tomorrow at the Great Day of Service

Day 9 – 40 Days of Community

Text:  "…you are working together and struggling side by side to get others to believe the good news."  Philippians 1:27
 
Most of us remember our first day at work.  It was exciting and frightening.  We were energetic and a little clumsy.  Some of our co-workers welcomed us and others saw us as drag to the job.  New people take time to learn and some learn faster than others.  Most of us have been on the other side too.
 
Mayor Bloomberg of New York City spoke last week to the business school of Columbia University.  When asked for advice on beginning a career, he encouraged them to take a first job where they would find mentors so that they could learn the real world of business.  He saw the lack of communication between young and old as one factor for the financial trouble we are in today. 
 
Never think you know it all.  You don’t.  If you are younger, draw closer to a seasoned veteran of faith.  If you are older, take a younger believer under your wing.  It will benefit you both as we witness to the world.  It will also show the world that generations can work together and support each other.  That would be a nice message for the world today.
 
Remember Wayne Gilbert this morning.  He is at Methodist Hospital due to a chanin saw accident yesterday.  He damaged at least two fingers.  Will update you more later.  Remember to reach out this week.
 
Michael

Day 7 – 40 Days of Community

 

The Message – John 13:35

35 This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."

     Jesus was laying down his farewell commandment to his disciples. The time was short; if they were ever to hear his voice they must hear it now. He was going on a journey on which none might accompany him; he was taking a road that he had to walk alone; and before he went, he gave them the commandment that they must love one another as he had loved them. What does this mean for us, and for our relationships with our fellow-men? How did Jesus love his disciples?

     (i) He loved his disciples selflessly. Even in the noblest human love there remains some element of self. We so often think–maybe unconsciously–of what we are to get. We think of the happiness we will receive, or of the loneliness we will suffer if love fails or is denied. So often we are thinking: What will this love do for me? So often at the back of things it is our happiness that we are seeking. But Jesus never thought of himself. His one desire was to give himself and all he had for those he loved.

     (ii) Jesus loved his disciples sacrificially. There was no limit to what his love would give or to where it would go. No demand that could be made upon it was too much. If love meant the Cross, Jesus was prepared to go there. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that love is meant to give us happiness. So in the end it does, but love may well bring pain and demand a cross.

     (iii) Jesus loved his disciples understandingly. He knew his disciples through and through. We never really know people until we have lived with them. When we are meeting them only occasionally, we see them at their best. It is when we live with them that we find out their moods and their irritabilities and their weaknesses. Jesus had lived with his disciples day in and day out for many months and knew all that was to be known about them–and he still loved them. Sometimes we say that love is blind. That is not so, for the love that is blind can end in nothing but bleak and utter disillusionment. Real love is open-eyed. It loves, not what it imagines a man to be, but what he is. The heart of Jesus is big enough to love us as we are.

     (iv) Jesus loved his disciples forgivingly. Their leader was to deny him. They were all to forsake him in his hour of need. They never, in the days of his flesh, really understood him. They were blind and insensitive, slow to learn, and lacking in understanding. In the end they were craven cowards. But Jesus held nothing against them; there was no failure which he could not forgive. The love which has not learned to forgive cannot do anything else but shrivel and die. We are poor creatures, and there is a kind of fate in things which makes us hurt most of all those who love us best. For that very reason all enduring love must be built on forgiveness, for without forgiveness it is bound to die.

For those in small groups, review this week’s devotions and pick out the one or two insights or questions you discovered this week.  Loving one another is much more than we thought.  It is the highest and greatest challenge of life.  It is the only thing that crosses over.

Think well of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Michael

Day 6 – 40 Days of Community

Hebrews 6:11 MSG

11 And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish.

     There are two interesting things implicit in this passage.

     (i) We learn that even if these people to whom he is writing have failed to grow up in Christian faith and knowledge and even if they have been falling away from their first enthusiasm, they have never given up their practical service to their fellow Christians. There is a great practical truth here.

Sometimes in the Christian life we come to times which are arid; the Church services have nothing to say to us, the teaching that we do in Sunday school or the singing that we do in the choir or the service we give on a committee becomes a labor without joy.

At such a time there are two alternatives. We can give up our worship and our service, but if we do, we are lost. Or we can go determinedly on with them, and the strange thing is that the light and the romance and the joy will in time come back again. We keep right on loving each other and the joy returns.

     (ii) He tells his people to be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherited the promise. What he is saying to them is: "You are not the first to launch out on the glories and the perils of the Christian faith. Others braved the dangers and endured the tribulations before you and won through." He is telling them to go on in the realization that others have gone through their struggle and won the victory. The Christian is not treading an untrodden pathway; he is treading where the saints have trod.

Has any part of your Christian journey become boring?  Have you lost some of the joy?  Love your brothers and sisters and hold firm.  The joy is there.  The purpose is there.  We just have to get our heart back.

Michael

Day 5 – 40 Days of Community

I Peter 2:17

     Here is what we might call a four-point summary of Christian duty.

     (i) Honor all men. To us this may seem hardly needing to be said; but when Peter wrote this letter it was something quite new. There were 60,000,000 slaves in the Roman Empire, everyone of whom was considered in law to be, not a person, but a thing, with no rights whatever. In effect, Peter is saying, "Remember the rights of human personality and the dignity of every man." It is still possible to treat people as things. An employer may treat his employees as so many human machines for producing so much work. Even in a welfare state, where the aim is to do so much for their physical welfare, there is a very real danger that people may be regarded as numbers on a form or as cards in a filing system.

     John Lawrence in his book, Hard Facts, A Christian Looks at the World, says that one of the greatest needs in the welfare state is "to see through the files and forms in triplicate to God’s creatures who are at the other end of the chain of organization." The danger is that we fail to see men and women as persons. This matter comes nearer home. When we regard anyone as existing solely to minister to our comfort or to further our plans, we are in effect regarding them, not as persons, but as things. The most tragic danger of all is that we may come to regard those who are nearest and dearest to us as existing for our convenience–and that is to treat them as things.

     (ii) Love the brotherhood. Within the Christian community this respect for every man turns to something warmer and closer; it turns to love. The dominant atmosphere of the Church must always be love. One of the truest definitions of the Church is that it is "the extension of the family." The Church is the larger family of God and its bond must be love. As the Psalmist had it (Ps 133:1):

Behold, how good a thing it is,
     And how becoming well,
Together such as brethren are
     In unity to dwell!

     (iii) Fear God. The writer of the proverbs has it: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov 1:7). It may well be that the translation should be, not that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but that the fear of the Lord is the principal part, the very foundation of knowledge. Fear here does not mean terror; it means awe and reverence. It is the simple fact of life that we will never reverence men until we reverence God. It is only when God is given his proper place in the center that all other things take their proper place.

     (iv) Honor the king. Of the four injunctions of this verse this is the most amazing, for, if it was really Peter who wrote this letter, the king in question is none other than Nero. It is the teaching of the New Testament that the ruler is sent by God to preserve order among men and that he must be respected, even when he is a Nero.

Show a little love today.  Michael

Day 3 – 40 Days of Community

John 14:24

24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me

Tap into the Power

Jim Davis tells the story of a lady who owned a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the century. She was wealthy, but frugal. When electricity was offered along the coast, some of her friends were surprised that she had it installed in her home. Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader came to her door, and asked if her electricity was working okay. She assured him that it was. He then said, “Could you explain something to me? Your meter shows hardly any usage. Are you sure everything is okay?” “Certainly,” the woman said. “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles, then I turn them off.” The woman had tapped into the power of electricity, but wasn’t using it. Her house was connected, but her habits had not changed to draw upon that power. If you know Christ, the power of Christ has saved you. Will you let the power of Christ now transform you?

Who Is the One?

When my wife and I got married, we knew we were supposed to be one, but the problem was figuring out which “one” it was! I say that with a twist of humor, but in all seriousness, we had to learn quickly that Christ is the One. He is the decision maker, the head of our marriage, and the head of our family.

Ask God to touch you in these 40 Days.  Michael

Day 4 – 40 Days of Community

I John 4:20

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?

Double the Dose

Evangelist Michael Guido told of a wise physician who once said to a young doctor, “I’ve been practicing medicine for a long time. I’ve prescribed many things. But in the long run, I’ve learned that the best medicine is love.”

“What if it doesn’t work?” asked the friend.

“Double the dose,” he said.

Honored

F. E. Marsh observes, “Love has not an irritating thorn in its hand, nor a jealous look in its eye, nor depreciating words on its lips, nor sore feelings in its heart. Love sees the best in others, and the worst in itself. Love will wash another’s feet, and think it is honored by so doing.”

In Footsteps of a Pilgrim, Ruth Bell Graham began this poem for her mother when she was nineteen—on Mother’s Day, 1940, and finished it thirty-four years later—November 8, 1974, the day she died.

As the portrait is unconscious

of the master artist’s touch

unaware of growing beauty,

unaware of changing much,

so you have not guessed His working

in your life throughout each year,

have not seen the growing beauty

have not sensed it, Mother dear.

We have seen and marveled greatly

at the Master Artist’s skill,

marveled at the lovely picture

daily growing lovelier still;

watched His brush strokes

change each feature

to a likeness of His face,

till in you we see the Master,

feel His presence, glimpse His grace;

pray the fragrance of His presence

may through you seem doubly sweet,

till your years on earth are ended

and the portrait is complete.

May God paint a beautiful picture with you today.

Michael

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