Nights with Jon E

The Word For Today

Give your love away

'Let us love one another, for love is of God.' 1 John 4:7 NKJV

One evening before Mary Martin, the great Broadway musical star, was to go on stage in South Pacific, a note was handed to her. It was from Oscar Hammerstein. He had written it to her from his deathbed: 'Dear Mary, a bell's not a bell till you ring it. A song's not a song until you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn't love till you give it away.' After her performance a number of people rushed backstage, exclaiming, 'Mary, what happened to you out there tonight? We have never heard anything like that performance! You sang with more power than you've ever sung!' Blinking back tears, Mary read them the note from Hammerstein and added, 'Tonight, I gave my love away!'The poorest person in the world has something to give others if he or she has love in their heart. Love's gifts take many forms - a smile, a hug, a gift, a note of thanks, a hand up, and just being there in tough times. Love is the one gift that always fits, is always appropriate and always in season. Jesus said, 'By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (John 13:35 NKJV). Paul wrote, 'May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all' (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NKJV). James writes, 'Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God' (1 John 4:7 NKJV).So the word for you today is: Give your love away.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 5:1 - 6:16, Rev 11:15-19


Be willing to pay the price

'I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.' Nehemiah 6:3 NKJV

Success usually comes at the end of struggle; if it came easily, everybody would be experiencing it. When it comes to success, there are no shortcuts, reduced prices or 'special deals.' The value of anything is determined by the price you're willing to pay for it. And when you truly value something, you won't easily jeopardise it because you remember what it cost you.What are you afraid of today? Failing? Your concern should be the opposite - regret that you didn't try. Are you afraid of criticism? Face it - as you move upward in life certain people will resent your success; that's true whether you're arrogant or not. We all want to be liked, but at some point you've got to ask yourself, 'How much am I willing to forfeit in order to be liked and accepted?' Nehemiah, the builder of Jerusalem's walls, said, 'I am doing a great work, so...I cannot come down' (Nehemiah 6:3 NKJV). Any time you defer to the opinion of people instead of the will of God, you are 'coming down.' Stay up on the wall! Keep laying bricks - or whatever God has called you to do.Advancement often brings isolation and criticism, and God may be grooming you right now for a new level of blessing by exposing you to both. Can you handle it? Not everybody can. But if you're the kind of person who can't sit in the bleachers and watch while others play the game - go for it! God will reward every step of faith you take and every sacrifice you make.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 7-9, Luke 16:1-18, Ps 135, Prov 7:21-23


How to bounce back

'He was moved with compassion.' Matthew 9:36 NKJV

One of the best ways to bounce back from grief and loss is taking your memories and turning them into motivators, then reaching out in love to others who are hurting. 'But I'm busy,' you say. Jesus was never too busy to show compassion to hurting people.After Ray and Judy Williamson's son David was killed in a fall, Ray said: 'I used to wonder if I should go to the funeral home when somebody had a tragedy, because I always feel so awkward and don't know what to say. But I'll never ask again. I'll always go. It's not what you say, but your presence that makes the difference.' When two teenagers died in a car accident, their parents decided to have a joint wake. Over a thousand people attended, some waiting up to three hours to comfort the bereaved families. When one man who'd stood by himself in line finally reached the front, he said, 'I don't know your children and I've never met you. But I came here tonight because I had a son who died two years ago. I know how it feels. In the days ahead you'll go through every emotion you can imagine. I just want you to know that I'm here for you if you ever need to talk.' Then he pressed his card into their hand and walked away. Think about that. A stranger gave three hours of his time to people he didn't know, because he wanted to help them through the most tragic experience of their lives.Understand this: It's in reaching out to others that: (a) we become more like Jesus; (b) we ourselves are made whole.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 4:18 - 6:33, Luke 15:11-32, Ps 27, Prov 7:10-20


Relationships 2

'Then the Lord God made a woman...and he brought her to the man.' Genesis 2:22 NIV

Adam lived in a perfect neighbourhood and had a perfect job - one God gave him. It doesn't get much better than that. Nevertheless, he was lonely; something was missing from his life. The Bible says, 'But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God...made a woman' (Genesis 2:20-22 NIV). God recognised Adam's need for companionship and he met that need. However, this is where some of us, acting on loneliness, frustration or bad advice, rush ahead of God.There's a reason one of the nine gifts of the Spirit listed in the Bible is the ability to distinguish between spirits (see 1 Corinthians 12:10). When someone comes into your life they don't just bring their looks, talents and financial assets; they also bring their spirit. If you've ever been around someone with a controlling spirit, a vindictive spirit, a resentful spirit or a negative spirit, you know why this particular gift is so important. So make yourself a hard jury, one that's not easily convinced, one that requires concrete evidence before reaching a verdict. And remember that it's better to lengthen the deliberation process and ensure the decision you make is right, than to reach a hasty conclusion and end up with a broken heart.You may not feel wise and experienced when it comes to making such decisions, but hear this: It's not how much you know that arms you with the tools of great decision making, but how much you ask. The first person to ask is God, and the time to do it is before, not after, you get into a relationship.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 1:1 - 4:17, Luke 15:1-10, Ps 112, Prov 7:6-9


Relationships 1

'I will make a helper suitable for him.' Genesis 2:18 NIV

Adam lived in a perfect world, yet he was incomplete. So God created 'a helper suitable for him' (Genesis 2:18 NIV). And since God made you with a core need for companionship, he can introduce you to the right person. But you must be willing to consult him, follow his guidance, and wait for his timing. That's not always easy. Some of us find it easier to be unhappy than to be alone. Driven by unfulfilled longings, we make rash decisions that end up hurting us. It's impossible to make a good decision when you're motivated by the fear of being alone or of being rejected.There's nothing wrong with feeling the need to be needed by another person, or to share your life with someone. Don't let anyone convince you that your need to love and be loved is a weakness. God created man to 'multiply,' and it takes two to do that. We are incomplete without one another. However, our fear of vulnerability, of exposing our inner self to another person, makes us act as if we don't need anyone. But God's Word says we do. Not only that, throughout Scripture, He introduced people to one another.So pray and believe that God has someone 'suitable' for you; someone who fits where you are and will fit where you're going. When you find the person God has in mind for you, you'll discover strengths and gifts in yourself you never knew existed.

Soulfood: Rev 19-22, Luke 14:25-35, Ps 106:24-48, Prov 7:3-5


Increase your pastor's effectiveness 5

'Pastors...prepare God's people for works of service.' Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV

Here are two final principles for increasing your pastor's effectiveness:(1) Don't limit them by what happened in the past. The 'ghost of pastors past' can block what God wants your church to do now. Don't say, 'In the good old days when Pastor Smith was here we didn't do it that way.' That hinders your church's growth and obstructs your pastor's effectiveness. God is always on the move, and he requires us to stay in step with him. Don't expect your pastor to do things exactly like his predecessors. Appreciate what God did in the past but understand that his blessings - like his mercies - are 'new every morning'! Yesterday's manna won't do for today; God will give your pastor fresh manna and fresh vision to take your church to new spiritual heights. The pastor's job is to lead - yours is to follow.(2) Your pastor can't do it all alone. 'Pastors...prepare God's people (that's you!) for works of service' (Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV). Paul writes: 'Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us' (Romans 12:4-6 NIV). Who's responsible for your church's growth? You are! And if you don't know where you fit, ask God and your pastor for direction. Until you know your place you're an unemployed body-member. Get connected and help fulfill the vision God has given your pastor.

Soulfood: Rev 15-18, Luke 14:15-24, Ps 106:1-23, Prov 7:1-2


Increase your pastor's effectiveness 4

'Make disciples of all nations.' Matthew 28:19 NIV

Don't tie your pastor's hands when it comes to a budget. A church's budget reveals its heart, and it should also reflect God's values and priorities. Jesus said, 'Make disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey everything I...commanded you' (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).Our responsibility is twofold: to evangelise sinners and to equip saints. Many churches tie the pastors' hands by penny-pinching, preventing the church from fulfilling the Great Commission. It's commendable to be wise about spending money, but fear-driven churches stockpile savings and investments for a rainy day. This not only hinders effective ministry, it discourages giving. When people know there's lots of money squirreled away in a bank account, they're apt to say, 'Why should I give from my limited resources?' Mission-focused churches aren't afraid to spend money on ministry, and as a result God moves people's hearts to give generously.Remember the three stewards in Matthew 25 who were charged with administering their master's money? Two put the money to work and earned his approval by doubling their investment. The third steward was risk-averse and held on to the money, returning just the original amount. Consequently, the master said, 'Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given' (Matthew 25:28-29 NLT). The church's job isn't to amass funds - it's to 'use well what they are given' by enabling God's servants to do his work unhindered, and trust God for the 'rainy days.'

Soulfood: Rev 10-14, Luke 14:1-14, Ps 136:13-26, Prov 6:32-35


Increase your pastor's effectiveness 3

'Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour...' 1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV

When it comes to your pastor:(1) You must pray for them. Nothing releases the power of a pastor's ministry like the prayers of their flock. Paul recognised that his effectiveness in ministry depended on the people's prayers: 'Pray in the Spirit...Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me...that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel' (Ephesians 6:18-19 NIV). Satan targets pastors who preach the truth. The thing he hates and fears most is God's Word: 'Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against...the powers of this dark world and...spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms' (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). Often when pastors are preaching, the spiritual struggle is so intense that afterwards they find themselves drained. Praying 'in the Spirit' for your pastor strengthens them and maximises their effectiveness when it comes to reaching the lost and bringing those who are saved into spiritual maturity (See 1 Corinthians 1:21).(2) You must respect them. In a day when church has become more 'casual,' it's easy to lose respect for God's leaders. The Israelites did it: 'The Lord himself has scattered them, and he no longer helps them. People show no respect for the priests and no longer honour the leaders' (Lamentations 4:16 NLT). And God's standards haven't changed: 'Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour...' (1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV). By respecting your pastor and church leaders, you act as a role model for the sacredness of God's ministry to this generation and the next.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 21:1-6, Hosea 6:4-6, Matt 12:1-14, Matt 12:1-14


Increase your pastor's effectiveness 2

'Preach the Word...correct, rebuke and encourage.' 2 Timothy 4:2 NIV

Let's consider some other ways you can help your pastor be more effective:(1) Understand that it's your pastor's responsibility to enlighten you, not entertain you. Writing to Timothy, Paul says, 'Preach the Word...correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.' Encouragement we enjoy; correction and rebuke we must learn to accept. 'The Lord disciplines those he loves' (Hebrews 12:6 NIV). Your pastor is God's instrument for your spiritual growth, not for your entertainment. When you don't like the sermon, maybe it's 'scratching where the real itch is.' Don't resent the messenger; instead review the message in light of God's Word. Emulate the Berean Christians who 'received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true' (Acts 17:11 NIV).(2) Talk to - not about - your pastor. If you've an issue, you've a scriptural obligation to talk first to the Lord, then personally to your pastor - and always with love and grace (See Matthew 18:15; Ephesians 4:15). Remember, pastors are cut from the same bolt of cloth as you. They forget things, have 'off days,' make mistakes, and are occasionally insensitive. And a good pastor will receive the truth when it's spoken in love. They'll consider your concerns, admit when they're wrong, and seek to grow by it. On the other hand, talking about your pastor creates strife in the church. Like yeast, it 'leavens the whole lump of dough' (1 Corinthians 5:6 NAS). Bottom line: 'Don't touch [God's] chosen [ones]' (1 Chronicles 16:22 CEV) by talking about them behind their back, and don't give credence to those who do.

Soulfood: Rev 5-9, Luke 13:18-35, Ps 136:1-12, Prov 6:30-31


Increase your pastor's effectiveness 1

'[Pastors] who do their work well should be paid well.' 1 Timothy 5:17 NLT

Your attitude and actions affect your pastor and your church. When you bless your pastor you bless your church, and when you hinder your pastor you hinder your church.Let's look at some ways in which you can increase your pastor's effectiveness: provide a good salary. Once in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament, God holds us responsible to provide generously for our pastor. The old quip, 'Lord, you keep him humble and we'll keep him poor!' is no joking matter, and is contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Many pastors are hampered by inadequate income, causing them stress and worry over their family's financial needs. God established the law of compensation for those who provide for our bodies and souls - from oxen to pastors. An ox's strength and capacity to do its job effectively required that it ate as much as it needed from the grain it was threshing. 'But was God concerned only about an ox? No, he wasn't! He was talking about [his servants]' (1 Corinthians 9:9-10 CEV). And Paul applies the same principle when it comes to compensating those who minister to us: 'Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The labourer is worthy of his wages"' (1 Timothy 5:17-18 NKJV).When possible, free your pastor from financial worry. Allow them to focus on developing the potential God sees in you, your church and God's Kingdom in your community.

Soulfood: Rev 1-4, Luke 13:1-17, Ps 77, Prov 6:29

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