Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.
(He spoke this verse referring to Judas who would betray Him).
I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3
The familiar bing of an arriving email caught my attention while I wrote at my computer. Usually I try to resist the temptation to check every email but the subject line was too enticing: “You are a blessing.”
Eagerly, I opened it to discover a faraway friend telling me she was praying for my family. Each week, she displays one Christmas card photo in her kitchen table “Blessing Bowl” and prays for that family. She wrote, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3) and then highlighted our efforts to share God’s love with others—our “partnership” in the gospel.
Through my friend’s intentional gesture, the apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians came trickling into my inbox, creating the same joy in my heart I suspect readers received from his first-century thank-you note. It seems Paul made it a habit to speak his gratitude to those who worked alongside him. A similar phrase opens many of his letters: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world” (Romans 1:8).
In the first century, Paul blessed his co-laborers with a thank-you note of prayerfulness. In the twenty-first century, my friend used a Blessing Bowl to bring joy into my day. How might we thank those who serve in the mission of God with us today?
Father, help us to intentionally bless those who serve alongside us.
Who can you thank today?
|February 13, 2018
Stopping the Cycle of Insults
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
After our third baby was born, my husband James wanted to help me in my determination to lose the baby weight. Can you see the fight coming? He talked me into becoming his early morning exercise buddy. But I’m not a morning person … I hug my pillow until the last possible second.
About a month into this, James concluded my lagging meant I wasn’t interested anymore. Nothing was further from the truth. I knew I needed someone to kick me out of bed, or else I would never exercise.
We were at a birthday party when, to my shock, I overheard him ask a friend, “Do you want to work out with me in the morning?” He was ditching me — his wife — for a friend! I was so upset. I had an appointment after the party, so I drove off alone, angry at my husband for breaking our exercise commitment without even talking to me.
I wish I’d thought of today’s key verse in that moment, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
This verse is similar to Matthew 5:44 which says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (NIV).
Now if we’re to bless our enemies when insulted, how much more should we bless our family members and friends who love us? Yet it can be so easy to return fire with fire, rude comment for rude comment … especially with the people we see the most.
When we stop the cycle of insults by our silence or with a kind response, we are putting these verses into action. It’s natural to fight back with my words when I’m hurt or disappointed. It’s supernatural to bless and pray instead, letting God do the fighting for me.
Before confronting my workout buddy, I prayed in the car. “Lord, help me calm down. Help me see things from James’ perspective.” Maybe he was being nice to his friend because his friend was going through a hard time? My feelings of anger began to lessen, and when I got home, we talked about it right away.
James realized he made a mistake by asking his friend to replace me in the morning workout routine without consulting me. He thought I wasn’t interested in exercise anymore. His friend never accepted the offer, and I tried to be more awake in the morning.
Our key verse directly follows the instructions the apostle Peter gives wives and husbands. If you’re married, you probably know it’s tempting to deliver the knock-out punch instead of extending a handshake of peace.
When I’m tempted to be mean instead of compassionate, I’m learning to try these steps:
Seek God. Pray before losing control. I find a sincere, quick prayer for wisdom does wonders. You may only have time to think, Help, God! Other times, you can pray longer about what’s bothering you.
See the other point of view. Play the scene from his perspective. Instead of focusing only on what your spouse did to offend you, be mindful of the ways you might have offended him.
Remind yourself that sometimes silence is the best response. Have you ever yelled at your husband or someone close to you in the heat of the moment, only to regret it later? It’s the ugly words spoken in anger that resurface years later in front of a marriage counselor. If you can’t say anything constructive, walk away until you can.
These steps don’t just apply to husbands and wives, but relationships with co-workers, parents and friends. What are the results of following God’s Word and not repaying evil with evil? The Bible says you inherit a blessing — both in this life and also the life to come. How wonderful to reserve blessings in heaven by acting humbly and kindly on earth. That’s even more exciting than resting after a morning workout!
Lord, I don’t want to repay evil for evil. I especially ask for Your grace to act kindly to my immediate family and closest friends. Help us be like-minded, sympathetic and loving toward one another today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Just because I have listened carefully and intently to one thing from God does not mean that I will listen to everything He says. I show God my lack of love and respect for Him by the insensitivity of my heart and mind toward what He says. If I love my friend, I will instinctively understand what he wants. And Jesus said, “You are My friends…” (John 15:14). Have I disobeyed some command of my Lord’s this week? If I had realized that it was a command of Jesus, I would not have deliberately disobeyed it. But most of us show incredible disrespect to God because we don’t even hear Him. He might as well never have spoken to us.
The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. God may say whatever He wants, but I just don’t hear Him. The attitude of a child of God should always be, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” If I have not developed and nurtured this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times. At other times I become deaf to Him because my attention is to other things— things which I think I must do. This is not living the life of a child of God. Have you heard God’s voice today?