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Devotionals

Blogs about why we serve and the nature, glory and commands of God.

Who is Your Neighbor?

How do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves? That’s a complex question, and the answer plays out differently for everyone, but it requires that another question be answered first, “Who is my neighbor?”. Jesus encountered this exact question, from a lawyer, in Luke 10:25-34 (The Parable of the Good Samaritan). The lawyer was asking the question to determine, "What people can I exclude from the list and how can I limit my responsibility?"

Jesus responds with a story and a question back to the lawyer, which destroys his expectations and is staggering in its scope. Jesus shows him (and us) that anyone in need is a neighbor, and that the Samaritan in the story, who sacrificially helps a wounded stranger and shows mercy, has loved his neighbor as himself. Jesus then instructs the lawyer "Go and do likewise." What a challenging mandate! How do you love your neighbor as yourself? Please leave a comment below to let us know!


Categories: Devotionals, Mercy Tags:

The Power and Hope Behind Service Ministries

The triumph over death and resurrection of Jesus is the good news that drives service ministries like ours, and many of our financial supporters, to love our neighbor in practical ways. He also pushes back the corruption of sin where houses, lives and hopes are in decline, while offering the promise of a permanent new home where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV). This is good news for anyone still alive, as we have the opportunity to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and God. The resurrection does three things that can radically change our lives and perspectives:

1) It fulfills Jesus’ many prophecies regarding Himself: In the words of Matthew, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things . . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21, ESV)

2) The power of God over death was demonstrated: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV). Colossians 2:13-15 says it beautifully, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him (Jesus), having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him." (ESV).

3) We have the awesome promise that we, who believe in and follow Christ, will also be raised: “...For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.“
(1 Corinthians 15:52, ESV)



Categories: Devotionals, Salvation, Service, The Gospel Tags:

Connecting the Two Great Commands

I’ve heard it said that Christianity is simple, but not easy. That’s a very profound truth. You can boil the essence of the Christian life down to two commands:

1) Love God with all you’ve got.

2) Love other people as you love yourself.

Serving an Elderly HomeownerThat’s a paraphrase of an answer Jesus gave to a question posed by religious leaders of His day (Matthew 22:34-40), and there is a lot of important detail which goes behind each of those commands. For now, we'll just look at the "50,000 foot level". Here are two important principles - following the first command is often (but not completely) achieved by living out the second command, and caring for the hurting, marginalized and oppressed is a big part of fulfilling the second command (see Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 for more).

That should be an encouragement to those of you who are involved in service ministry, tying together Word and deed to minister to people who are hurting. That's right in line with the second command. If you're interested in some ideas for how to serve people in your community, please leave a comment below or send us an email. We'd love to connect with you.

If you do already have a service ministry, would you share some of the ways in which you help people in need? Just leave a comment below.



Categories: Devotionals, Mercy, Ministry Impact, Service Tags:

The Mercy Mandate

I love God for His mercy - His undeserved forgiveness of sins and unfathomable offer of a relationship with Him, to those who put their faith and trust in Jesus. God’s mercy is the reason HRM exists. In fact, we are called a mercy ministry, but what is our mercy supposed to look like and what are God’s expectations of us?

There are many passages in the Old Testament that provide guidelines for mercy. Some seem obscure in the digital age. Israel was told to leave “gleanings” (leftovers after crops are harvested or which ripen late) for the poor or alien (a refugee, perhaps?), whom the farmer was to let enter his field. It was an early form of social welfare, and it wasn’t technically a gift to the poor. It was a requirement of God’s Law.

Deuteronomy 15:4 says, “But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess...”. In verse 11, there seems to be a contradiction, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (ESV) I take these verses to mean, God will provide us the resources, so we should go and find the needy, and help them in a way that improves their prospects for the future. In the New Testament, Jesus equates our walk with Him, in part, to how we treat and serve the poor and marginalized. (Matthew 25:31-40).


Categories: Devotionals, Mercy Tags:

Service - A Call to Greatness

Throughout the Bible, God directs His people to service, both to those inside and outside the church. The mandate is clear:

  • 1 Peter 4:10“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace…” (ESV)
  • Mark 9:35 - “And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (NKJV)
  • Titus 3:14 - "And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.” (NRSV)
  • 1 Samuel 12:24 - “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” (ESV)


These are just a few of the many passages dealing with service. Volunteerism, clearly, is very important to God. Why? For one thing, loving service to God shows others His love for them, and brings Him glory (Matthew 5:16, John 13:35).

Second, when we serve out of thanksgiving and love for what God has done for us in Christ, we’re actually honoring God’s two greatest commands. “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NKJV). We mirror the Great Servant, Jesus, in a small way, when we serve others (Philippians 2:6-7), and service to the poor, the forgotten, the vulnerable and members of the church, is an evidence of saving faith (Matthew 25:31-46, James 2:14-26). To top it off, Jesus said we will be richly blessed when we serve and give (Acts 20:25).

If you live in metro-Atlanta and would like to join us in serving low-income widows, single mothers, seniors and people with disabilities, we need both skilled and unskilled volunteers. Sign Up To Serve Here



Categories: Devotionals, Service Tags:

Valentine Day God's Way

Valentine's Day affords us an opportunity to consider how we are viewed by the Author of Love. Consider what Jesus’ love compelled him to do.

Crown of Thorns

Image Provided By FreeImages.com/Patrizio Martorana

The abuse before the cross was horrific and the cross itself among the worst tortures ever devised by men. But there was something far more terrible. Having to face the righteous wrath of God for our sin. My sin and yours. He suffered wrath enough to pay for every person’s sin who has ever lived. Across all time… All the pain, murder, hate, greed, lust, and more put on one man in one moment. All so that anyone who puts their trust in Him, as Savior and Lord, might be forgiven of their sins and have a right relationship with God. Or, as the Bible puts it, “...so that he (Jesus) might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27, ESV). Truly, we are loved beyond comprehension. So let love overflow to those around us as exemplified by Christ himself — all year long.



Categories: Devotionals, Salvation, The Gospel Tags:

God is Not Fair, and Why That Should Make You Very Glad

In the Bible, in several places, it’s mentioned that “…cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree.(Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13). And several evil men received just that punishment:

“And afterward Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees. And they hung on the trees until evening. But at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set large stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day.” (Joshua 10:26-27)

“…So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.” (Esther 7:10b). “A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged.” (Esther 9:14b)



The hanging and cursing of the guilty makes sense to us, even if it might seem a little brutal now. But what about something like that happening to the innocent? That wouldn't seem very fair, would it? That makes the following all the more shocking:

“So he (Pontius Pilate) delivered him (Jesus) over to them to be crucified, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)

and

“Christ (Jesus) redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree...” (Galatians 3:13).


Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son and the only truly innocent and righteous person who has ever lived, took a shameful, scandalous and gruesome punishment, that every one of us deserves, to save sinful people. Broken, alienated, shameful, rebellious people, like you and me. We're all guilty. In fact, the Bible says that "...all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) and "None is righteous, no, not one..." (Romans 3:10)

What would have been fair is for all of us to receive the punishment Jesus did, and be separated from God forever (Hell), for turning away from the holy, righteous and loving God. But God chose not to be fair, but merciful, giving us a way to have a restored relationship with Him, which promises us an abundant life here on earth (John 10:10) and eternal life in paradise (Heaven) with God when we die (John 3:15). This is the good news (the gospel) of Jesus Christ!

If you would like to be forgiven of all of your sins and know and have a relationship with God, all you have to do is ask Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior. You can pray a simple prayer like,

"God, I know that I am a sinner and fully deserving of your wrath and punishment. I know that nothing I do could ever make me right with you, so I put my full faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His completed payment for all my sins on the cross, and commit to follow You the rest of my life. Thank You for saving me."



If you prayed that prayer sincerely, you are now saved and called one of the "...children of God" (John 1:12). The prayer itself doesn't save you, but it does declare your heart's intent to follow after God under His leadership. So, what do you do now that you are saved? If you are not in a church, or are in a church where the Bible is not taught as the infallible Word of God, it would be very helpful to find a Bible-teaching church. They can help you on your new journey with Jesus. If you are not sure how to find a good church, please contact us through our website. We would be honored to help!

God is not fair, and thank God for that!

*Note: All Bible references above were taken from the ESV translation.


Categories: Devotionals, Salvation, The Gospel Tags:

Delivering the Gift

Delivering the Gift.

freeimages.com/Charles Thompson

Have you ever given a special gift to someone, perhaps your child, and been so excited, it was all you could do not to give it away beforehand? I think that God finds great delight in providing the many blessings (His gifts to us - often spiritual) that He lavishes on His children (Matthew 7:11). Did you ever stop and think that there’s a sense in which God allows those of us involved in mercy ministry to be gift-bringers on His behalf?

For His children, God makes many promises in the Bible. Some of them, relating to God’s mercy and love are:

• To be their Provider (Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:31-33)
• To bless them and watch over them (Jeremiah 29:11-13, Romans 8:28-29)
• To be a shelter in the storms believers face (Psalm 18:30, Isaiah 41:10)

Through common grace (God blessings to all mankind, such as restraint of evil, the basic requirements for life like air, water and food, other people, skills to do jobs, shelter etc.), God even gives tremendous gifts to those who have not given their lives to Him through Jesus.

How cool is it, then, when God allows us to be the bearer of the awesome gifts that He bestows on people? Maybe we even share with the homeowner God’s ultimate gift - salvation, peace, eternal life and life more abundant here on earth, and a relationship with the God of the universe through Jesus Christ!

Mr. or Ms. Handywoman, when you build a wheelchair ramp, remove rotten siding, replace a leaking roof or even fix a simple toilet flapper, you are personally delivering God’s love gift to that person.

If you’re a handy person, but have not formally gotten involved in ministry, how about using your skills and abilities to love and serve others, and be a “deliveryman” from God with the message, and the proof that, “He loves you!”. If you’re interested, send us a note and let’s talk through it. We'd love to help you get started. If you live in metro-Atlanta, why don't you help deliver the gift with us here on a local project.

Categories: About the Ministry, Devotionals, Service Tags:

The Most Important Ministry (For Husbands)

Marriage and ministry on the scalesToday I am celebrating eight years of marriage to my beautiful wife. But more about that later.

My wife and I like to read marriage books. Yes, our pace can be a little slow (three-toed sloth tip-toeing through a tarpit during rush hour slow), but we usually enjoy the exercise and learn a few things in the process. Right now, we are reading “Christian Marriage” by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is a deep study of the meaning, theology and purpose of marriage as laid out in Ephesians 5. It’s a pretty famous passage, especially verses 22 – 33. Maybe you have heard them read at a marriage ceremony or conference.

So what does this have to do with ministry and where is this going? Well, there are some amazingly strong exhortations for men in verses 25 and 31 that are broadly applicable across our lives.

Verse 25 challenges us to "...love our wives like Christ loved the church". Wow! Come again?

Just a couple words that are nine-months pregnant with meaning. Like Christ loved the church? As in, be willing to die for her? Lead her spiritually? Put her first in everything I do? Consider myself nothing so that she may be edified and served? Consider quality time with her more important than what I want to do? Really?

I’ve got some work ahead of me…

And this applies to our service life as well. Our ministry life should be robust as men (an area I am trying to also improve!). But it starts with our wives. That is our most important ministry. Believe me, I am not talking at you, but with a metaphorical set of eyes staring straight in the equally metaphorical mirror. All of our good ministry and service work (and anything else in our lives) can be counterproductive if we are not loving and leading our wives sacrificially. So, tool guys… You know who you are. Swing a hammer and help out that widow or single mom. But remember to save your best for your wife!

As for me, I’m going to enjoy a little anniversary trip with my wife and be thankful for eight great, exciting and challenging years of marriage. And be thankful to God that He walks through this with me 'cuz I cannot do this myself (cue "Lead me" by Sanctus Real - seriously!). I need His help to be the man He and my wife want me to be!

Happy anniversary to my wonderful wife!

Jim

Categories: Devotionals, Life balance Tags:

The Wrong Way, and the Right Way to Serve

Knight in shining armor

from freeimages.com / Kamila Turton

Are you a knumbskull like me? A while back, I had the chance to help serve a hurting family in my church by hanging out with one of the kids. And, on top of that, it was to help my wife out out, who was working with the mom. So Gallahad came riding in with a heart as big as Montana to save the day, right? Ummm, not so much.

See, I am not a “kid person”, and I didn’t want to have to deal with the potential aggravation after work. I did go, but I initially went into it kicking and screaming when my wife called asking for help. Nice, huh?

Well, God got my heart tuned the right direction, eventually, and I apologized to my wife on the ride over. The night went alright and some important work got done. But what a great (negative) lesson in our attitude in service. Too often, I don’t head into it with a heart of joy and grace. Unlike a terrific biblical model for responding to a need in the church, the Macedonians.

Here is the famous passage from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 5 (NIV presented here).

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.


Wow, talk about the heart of a servant and love for fellow believers! Even as they were undergoing affliction, they were, as my pastor described it, “giddy” with the privilege to support and help the church. How cool is that? And what a humbling reminder of the need to serve with the right attitude. Especially those in the church. As Jesus said in John's gospel (13:34-35) - "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 (NIV)."

May I, and we all, grow to be better Macedonians, first giving ourselves over to the Lord in service as we love our brothers, sisters and others.

Jim

Categories: Devotionals, Lessons Learned, Service Tags: