A Child’s View of Love

A group of children were asked the question, “What is love?” One little girl answered, “Love is when your mommy reads you a bedtime story. True love is when she doesn’t skip any pages.”

We often get into trouble when we try to take shortcuts in our relationships with others. True love often requires time and energy and extra effort. The Bible doesn’t say that loving others will always be easy, but it does say—over and over—that we must always strive to love those around us.

Let’s not be skipping any pages!

“Love is patient…”—1 Corinthians 13:4.

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That’s Who I Am

Christian Herter, pictured above, was campaigning hard for reelection as governor of Massachusetts, and one day he arrived late at a barbecue. He’d had no breakfast or lunch, and he was famished. As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate and received one piece of chicken. The governor said to the serving lady, “Excuse me, do you mind if I get another piece of chicken? I’m very hungry.” The woman replied, “Sorry, I’m supposed to give one piece to each person.” He repeated, “But I’m starved!” Again, she said, “Only one piece of chicken per person.” Herter was normally a modest man, but he decided this was the time to use the weight of his office and said, “Madam, do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state.” She answered, “Do you know who I am? I’m the lady in charge of the chicken! Move along, mister!”

Jesus continually teaches us the importance of remaining humble and putting others first. We would do well to remember who we are as his followers.

“…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:43-45.

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Where Your Treasure Is

One of the biggest news stories this month is the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank, the second largest bank to fail in U.S. history. This collapse has caused a lot of concern, not only in the U.S., but throughout the world.

As good stewards of our resources, we Christians should keep an eye on our finances. The Bible urges us to work to earn money, and to save and invest. However, we are warned against hoarding our wealth like the rich fool of Luke 12. He met with an unfortunate end because of his greed, and we are cautioned—“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (v.21).

The Bible also reminds us that earthly wealth can soon disappear, so we ought to focus on storing up heavenly wealth. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says— “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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Attention Span

“The Other Coast”, a cartoon by Adrian Raeside, recently made a humorous observation about the attention span of a dog. It’s about two minutes if the dog is in behavior training. It’s two hours if the dog has spotted a squirrel in a tree!

Sometimes our attention spans are woefully short. We can’t seem to focus for long on things that we say are really important to us. There are too many distractions. Our train of thought is too easily interrupted.

That’s why we need to be intentional about concentrating on those things that we deem most important. We need to be diligent in focusing on God.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”—Matthew 6:33.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”—Colossians 3:2.

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Taking Jesus Seriously

The New Testament book of Colossians is all about Jesus. Jesus is the God who created everything and holds all things together. Jesus is the head of the church, which is his body. Jesus made it possible for people to have peace with God through his sacrificial death on the cross (Col.1:15-20).

Our baptism united us with Jesus (Col.2:12) and placed us on a high spiritual plane with him (Col.3:1-4). The privileges we enjoy as Christians are indeed a wonderful blessing. However, there are some very important responsibilities that go along with being followers of Jesus Christ.

If Jesus is truly Lord, then he determines our morality. We must turn from sinful activities (Col.3:5-11) and embrace a lifestyle that reflects our new status as God’s people (Col.3:12-14). We can’t live any way we choose. If Jesus is our Lord, we must live as he chooses.

If Jesus is our Lord, then we must live in community with other believers. The idea that one can be a Christian apart from other Christians is completely foreign to Scripture. Consider all of the “one another” verses we find in the New Testament. Colossians 3:15-17 urges us to live in peace together, being thankful for what we have in Jesus and exhorting each other to allow the word of God to flourish in the church as we speak and act as representatives of Jesus.

The Lordship of Jesus Christ must also extend to the home and workplace. A spirit of loving sacrifice will greatly enhance the relationships of husbands and wives, and of parents and children (Col.3:18-21). An attitude of humility and a desire to serve with excellence will go far in showing a good Christian witness in the workplace (Col.3:22-4:1).

Paul the apostle brings his letter to the Colossians to a climax with these words: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (4:2-6).

Our mission to spread the good news about salvation through Jesus must be bathed in prayer. We should watch for what God is doing in this world and be thankful for the many ways that he answers our prayers for his kingdom to come and his will be done. We should pray for preachers, teachers, missionaries and all Christians who are faithfully proclaiming the word of God.

Our prayers must be followed by the proper actions. We need to be smart about how we interact with non-Christians. If we are too quiet about our faith, they may get the idea that it’s not important. However, if we are arrogant and overbearing, they may be turned off by our presentation of the gospel.

We need to make the most of every opportunity. God gives us chances to witness all the time, and we need to take advantage of these opportunities to impact someone’s eternal fate. Our speech should be winsome and attractive. We should have mastered the basics of the faith so that we can properly answer people’s questions about who Jesus is and how they must respond to his grace if they want to become one of his followers.

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The Proper Grip

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”—Col.3:20-21.

Many books about raising children have struggled to express the wisdom contained in these two verses of the Bible. It is easy to emphasize one verse at the risk of excluding the other. Some parents are so focused on making their children obey them that their children become discouraged. On the other hand, some parents are so afraid of embittering their children that they never correct their children for any reason. Both approaches lead to unnecessary conflict in the family. A careful balance of these two verses is preferable.

Someone once pointed out that raising a child is like holding a wet bar of soap. Too firm a grip and it shoots right out of your hand. However, too loose a grip and it also slides away. A gentle but firm grasp keeps it under your control.

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The Bible often emphasizes the importance of families teaching faith to the next generation. The apostle Paul says this to his beloved disciple Timothy—“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Tim.1:5). Prov.22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Years ago a study of two very different families gave evidence to the fact that how children are brought up can have a profound impact on how their lives turn out.

Max Jukes lived in New York. He did not believe in Christ or in Christian training. He refused to take his children to church, even when they asked to go. Jukes had 1,026 descendants. 300 were sent to prison for an average of 13 years. 190 were prostitutes. 680 were alcoholics. His family cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years and made no significant contributions to society.

Compare that family legacy with the family of Jonathan Edwards, who lived in the same state at about the same time as Jukes. Edwards loved the Lord and served Christ to the best of his ability. He saw that his children were in church every Sunday. Edwards had 929 descendants, and of these 430 were ministers, 86 became university professors, 13 became university presidents, 75 became authors, 7 were elected to the United States Congress and one became vice president of the United States. Edward’s family never cost the taxpayers any money and have contributed immeasurably to society.

The study of these two families highlights the importance of teaching faith in our families. The devil knows this, so he is working overtime to try to destroy the family as God designed it, and our culture is beginning to see the tragic results of his efforts.

Families that pass along the faith tend to prosper in numerous ways, and they have a tremendous positive impact on the world around them. With so much at stake, let’s make a concerted effort to teach the faith to the next generation.

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Over the years baseball catchers have adopted a practice that is called framing. When a pitch is just out of the strike zone, the catcher will receive the pitch and immediately move his mitt into the strike zone, hoping to fool the umpire into calling the pitch a strike. This doesn’t work very often on major league umpires, but occasionally a catcher will pull off the trick. It works often enough that catchers will automatically try to frame every borderline pitch.

In life, God is our umpire. He is the one who calls the balls and strikes. God determines which behaviors are out of the zone for a Christian and which behaviors are permitted.

Some people try to “frame the pitches” for God. They try to take an action that God has expressly forbidden and move it into the realm of things that are permitted.

That never works with God. Ever.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”—Isaiah 5:20.

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Giving Your Body

Ron Hunt played major league baseball in the 1960s and ’70s. Hunt was a pretty good hitter, twice batting over .300 for a season. But he was best known for getting on base by allowing himself to be hit by a pitch. When Hunt retired, he held 3 major league records for getting hit by a pitch: 243 in a career, 50 in a season and 3 (tied) in a game.

Hunt had a great quote about his special talent—“Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball.”

Being a Christian isn’t easy. Living for Jesus daily takes a toll on your mind, body and soul. Let’s be willing to make the kind of sacrifices that leave marks on us.

“From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”—Galatians 6:17.

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God’s Pursuit

One evening a woman was driving home when she noticed a huge truck behind her that was driving uncomfortably close. She wanted to put some distance between herself and the truck, so she stepped on the gas. However, when she sped up, the truck did too. The faster she drove, the faster the truck went. She could not separate herself from the truck, so she became even more concerned.

At this point, she exited the highway, hoping that at last she would be free from the aggressive truck driver. But the truck followed her off the exit. Now the lady was getting scared. She turned up a main street, hoping to lose her pursuer in traffic. But the truck stayed right with her. At one point the trucker even ran a red light as he continued the chase.

Reaching a point of panic, the woman whipped her car into a convenience store parking lot and leaped out of her vehicle. She ran into the store screaming for help. The truck driver sprang from his vehicle too, but instead of coming after her, he ran toward her car. Yanking the back door open, the driver pulled out a man who was hiding in the back seat.

It turned out that the lady was running from the wrong man. She had no idea that a would-be rapist had hidden in her car and was waiting for an opportunity to do her harm. From his high vantage point, the truck driver had spotted the man and understood the danger that the woman was in. The purpose of the chase was not to harm the woman, but to save her, even at the risk of his own safety.

In the same way, many people run from God, fearing the harm that he might do to them. But God’s plans for us are not for evil; they are for our good. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God only wants the best for us. He wants to rescue us from the hidden dangers of sin. So, he pursues us, no matter what it costs him. And it cost him the life of his son Jesus, who died on the cross to rescue us from our sins!

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