Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Selfless Love

There is a story about two brothers who enlisted in the Army during World War I and were assigned to the same unit. They were soon sent to the frontline trenches. In WW1 trench warfare, each side dug a network of trenches along the frontline of their territory, then laid siege to the other side’s trenches. From time to time, one side or the other launched an offensive to try to break through the enemy’s lines. During one such attack, the younger brother was mortally wounded in no man’s land—that exposed, deadly area between the opposing forces.
The older brother, still safe in the trench, saw it happen and knew instinctively what he must do. He worked his way through the trench, around other soldiers, until he came to his field commander. “I’ve got to go get him!” the older brother called out over the din of battle.
“That’s impossible!” his commander yelled as he grabbed him. “You’ll be killed the minute you stick your head out of this trench!”
But the older brother tore himself loose from the officer’s grip, scrambled out of the trench, and plunged into no man’s land to find his brother, amid withering fire from the enemy.
When he did, the younger brother could only manage a whisper. “I knew you’d come!” By this time, the older brother had also been seriously wounded. He barely managed to drag his brother back to their line, and they both fell into the trench, dying.
“Why did you do it?” demanded the commander. “I told you you’d get yourself killed too!”
“I had to,” the older brother replied with a final smile. “He expected it of me. I couldn’t let him down.”
Philippians 2:4 ESV – Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Luke 6:35 ESV – But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
1 Peter 3:8 ESV – Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Someone Is Watching

While rushing to an appointment, I passed a scruffy beggar with a baby in her arms. It’s a common sight in Caracas, Venezuela, where this took place.
Give her something. I recognized that inner voice as Jesus’.
But she looks like she would spend it on drugs, I protested as I kept walking.
Well then, buy her some food.
Just then I came to a hot dog stand. Okay, I’ll do it for You.
I hurriedly ordered a hot dog and took it back to her. As I handed it to her, I told her that Jesus loved her and offered to pray for her. She accepted, and we bowed our heads and prayed right there on the street.
Several days later I stopped for a hot dog at the same stand, but the vendor wouldn’t let me pay. “I saw what you did the other day,” he said. “You not only bought a hot dog for that homeless woman, but you also prayed with her. I’ve been on this spot for 15 years. Thousands of people pass my stand every day, but I had never seen that! You never have to pay to eat here again.”
Like that hot dog vendor, God is always watching, and “your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
2 Corinthians 9:6 ESV – The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Proverbs 3:27 ESV – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
Proverbs 19:17 ESV – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Going Broke? The answer could be here

For an increasing number of us, financial troubles are precariously close to home. With businesses and financial institutions failing daily, it’s no wonder so many worry that their own livelihoods or homes are at risk.
In such times of trouble and uncertainty it’s natural to worry about your own family foremost. If until recently you’ve been supporting your church or various charities, now, with gloomy future prospects, perhaps you question whether such giving makes sound financial sense.
The answer is that if you want God’s blessing, then giving is still definitely in! “God loves a cheerful giver” is one of the pillars of God’s financial plan. In fact, God’s way to plenty is to give it away.
His Word says, “The generous soul will be made rich.” Of course, those “riches” may not always be material. I heard a true account of a woman who gave $10 a month to help support an impoverished child in India through the Save the Children charity until the boy reached 18. Over the years he sent her thank-you notes and they exchanged occasional letters. Thirty years later she received a phone call from him. He was overcome with emotion as he told her how, because of her, he had received an education and become a successful businessman. In turn, he was now helping to support 1,000 poor children—all because she’d helped him with that $10 a month.
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”
And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV – Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Malachi 3:10 ESV – Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Proverbs 11:24 ESV – One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Breaking the Selfishness Cycle

Question: I get frustrated and upset when my husband acts selfishly, but I know I am selfish too sometimes, and that bothers me even more. What can I do to help us both in this area?
Answer: When such problems crop up between two people, whether they are married or not, honest, open, wise communication is very often the necessary first step toward solutions that will be good for both parties. Knowing how to tactfully bring up the subject and finding the humility to do so are often the hardest parts.
In your case, perhaps you could begin by giving your husband an example or two of how you yourself have acted selfishly, and then apologize for how that must have been difficult for him. By assuming rather than placing blame, you will be less likely to put your husband on the defensive. Instead, there is a good chance that he will respond by apologizing for times he has also acted selfishly. It’s human nature to have a more positive attitude about overcoming personal weaknesses when it’s our own idea than when they are pointed out by others, so don’t be too quick to supply his examples or add to his list. Also, you may need to give what you’ve said time to sink in.
If this approach doesn’t have the desired effect, you may need to be more direct when you try again later. Perhaps you could say something like, “It makes me feel unappreciated when you don’t help around the house. Is it because you’re too tired?” Giving the benefit of the doubt makes it clear that you are trying to fix the problem, not the blame. Also, explaining your feelings and needs could help him open up about his own, which is another important step in sorting out the problem.
Talking things out should help you better understand each other. You may find, for example, that a lot of the problem is not actual selfishness, but unrealistic expectations—trying to get more done than the two of you have time or energy for. When you better understand each other’s situation, needs, and limits, it becomes easier to do more than your share when necessary, because you want to do it out of love for the other.
Breaking bad habits is rarely quick or easy, but it gets a whole lot easier when you ask God to help, so “seal the deal” by praying together for the desired change. There are few prayers that He would rather answer than prayers for more unselfish love.
Philippians 2:4 ESV – Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
1 Corinthians 10:24 ESV – Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
Galatians 6:2 ESV – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

How to Find Real Love

To be genuine and lasting, romantic love must be based on a more enduring foundation than mere physical attraction or fleshly gratification.
It must include an unselfish desire to protect and help and make someone else happy. It must also involve admiration for the other person’s finer qualities. A person can be in love with their partner’s mind, spirit, sentiments, and bearing—all of which have little or nothing to do with physical beauty. Real love is a spiritual thing; it’s not merely physical. It’s mostly manifested in spiritual and mental companionship and compatibility, the likes and dislikes and habits that the two people have in common.
When I was a young man, my mother once told me not to put the physical features first in my quest for a soul mate, but to seek something more in a woman than that. “Most of all,” she advised, “seek that indefinable thing called personality. Seek the liveliness of the spirit, the fascination of the mind, the irresistibility of the heart, the magnanimity of the soul.” The things of this earth can satisfy the body, but God has made us so that our spirit can only be satisfied by the things of the spirit.
God’s Word tells us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” God didn’t say we wouldn’t or shouldn’t need or desire or enjoy the things of this life, but He admonishes us not to have an inordinate love for them to the point that we put these things before the even greater needs of our spirit.
If you put the desires of the flesh first, then you’ll find that nothing ever satisfies, not even the most total indulgence. Those who seek only to gratify their flesh will never find complete satisfaction and happiness. The things of this earth can satisfy the body, but only God and His true love can ever fill that aching spiritual void in the heart, because He created that place for Himself alone.
True happiness comes not in your personal pursuit of selfish pleasure and satisfaction, but in finding God and giving His love and life to others, and bringing them happiness. Then happiness will pursue and overtake and overwhelm you, personally, without you even seeking it for yourself.
I once knew a woman who was always seeking the man of her dreams but never finding a relationship that satisfied or lasted because she was always seeking to get love, to receive love, to be loved. When I suggested to her that perhaps she needed to learn to give love and to love unselfishly for the benefit of another, this struck her as an entirely new thought. It had never even occurred to her before! She went out and soon found what she had been looking for all the time—by finding a man she could make happy by giving him her love.
That’s the secret: Look for someone to make happy, and then happiness will find you! “He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”4Those are God’s laws of the spirit and are just as definite as the laws of physics, such as the law of gravity. God’s laws of the spirit never fail. They always work for you or against you, depending on your actions and motives. And the first law is the law of love—unselfish love for Him and others. If you will obey that law and give the love that is His and others’ due, you will also receive love, “for with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Life, liberty, and the giving of happiness to others—these are things that only God can give and the only things that will ever satisfy your spirit. So if you want to be happy and make someone else truly happy, seek the satisfaction of the spirit that can be found only in God and His love!
1 John 4:8 ESV – Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
John 13:34-35 ESV – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
1 John 4:7 ESV – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Walk a Mile in His Shoes

“Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”If there was anyone who knew all about that, it was probably Mother Teresa. After having lived among the poorest of the poor in India for nearly 30 years (and she would continue to do so for nearly 20 more), she was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She began her acceptance speech with the words, “Life is life.” She went on to explain that all human beings are special and of great worth, no matter who they are, and that only when we have learned to respect that fact can we begin to help them improve their lives.
Most people would be happy to walk a mile in a pair of plush designer shoes or top-of-the-line athletic shoes, but how many would want to step into a poor laborer’s shoes? When I was living in Uganda, East Africa, I found a discarded pair of shoes that became to me a symbol of Africa and its sweet-spirited but struggling people.
It was apparent from the cement splatters that their last owner had been a construction worker. Like many others I observed there, he no doubt worked long days in sweltering heat with no protection against the sun and had only a couple of sticks of raw sugar cane for lunch. He had worn those shoes until the holes in the soles had gotten so big that the shoes no longer served their purpose. When there was no point in wearing them one more day, he left them for me to find. It wasn’t his intention, of course, but those shoes put my own petty problems into perspective.
There wasn’t any question in my mind when, some time later, a young man knocked at my door, asking for help. He had won a scholarship to a boarding school, but there was one requirement he couldn’t fulfill—he didn’t have any shoes. He asked if I had an extra pair I could give him. The ones I was wearing at the time fit him quite nicely, and that was that.
No, one simple act of kindness didn’t make me a saint on the level of Mother Teresa, but I do believe that in that moment I experienced a touch of what motivated her all those years: “The love of Christ compels us.”
Proverbs 18:2 ESV – A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 14:29 ESV – Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
Proverbs 17:27 ESV – Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Let Me Be a Little Kinder

A popular song that made a big impression on me as a teenager seemed to be a prayer. I say “seemed” because the song didn’t mention God or prayer. It also didn’t sound like any religious music I’d ever heard. The lyrics were deceptively simple—big truths about character and success in life expressed humbly and winsomely. I wanted to be like that, I remember thinking. It was the best sermon I’d ever heard.
Let Me Be a Little Kinder
Let me be a little kinder,
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me;
Let me praise a little more.
Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery,
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me.
Let me be a little braver
When temptation bids me waver;
Let me strive a little harder
To be all that I should be.
Let me be a little meeker
With the brother that is weaker;
Let me think more of my neighbor
And a little less of me.
Let me be when I am weary,
Just a little bit more cheery;
Let me serve a little better
Those that I am striving for.
Let me be a little meeker
With the brother that is weaker,
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me.
—Glen Campbell
If that was what religion was all about, I also remember thinking, it wasn’t so bad. It would be a few more years before I read from the Bible for the first time, but when I did I was pleasantly surprised to learn that was what true Christianity was all about—loving God and others. I was also pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to muster that love from within myself. It is a gift from God, freely available to anyone who asks for it. All it takes is a simple, sincere prayer. Like that song.
Genesis 21:23 NIV – Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.
Ephesians 4:32 ESV – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Proverbs 11:17 ESV – A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.