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The power of motivating words

A story is told about a little girl named Mary who was born with a cleft palate. Mary had to bear the jokes and stares of cruel children who teased her non-stop about her misshaped lip, crooked nose, and garbled speech. With all the teasing, Mary grew up hating the fact that she was “different”. She was convinced that no one, outside her family, could ever love her…until she entered Mrs. Leonard’s class.

Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face, and shiny brown hair. While everyone in her class liked her, Mary came to love Mrs. Leonard. In the 1950’s, it was common for teachers to give their children an annual hearing test. However, in Mary’s case, in addition to her cleft palate, she was barely able to hear out of one ear. Determined not to let the other children have another “difference” to point out, she would cheat on the test each year. The “whisper test” was given by having a child walk to the classroom door, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, and then repeat something which the teacher whispered. Mary turned her bad ear towards her teacher and pretended to cover her good ear. She knew that teachers would often say things like “The sky is blue,” or “What color are your shoes?” But not on that day, Surely, God put seven words in Mrs. Leonard’s mouth that changed Mary’s life forever. When the “Whisper test” came, Mary heard the words: “I wish you were my little girl.”

In the same way sometimes the words from a father can powerfully set the course of a life. Words from God can pull us out of the pits of fear, despair and shame. God is whispering in your ear right now. “I wish you were my child.”

Joe

Words

I have often been accused of being picky with words and I plead guilty as charged. I learned this from Jesus. Four examples come to mind. One is when a Metro Council person asked me how she should introduce me when she was going to ask me to lead a prayer before a community meeting. She asked if I should be called “Reverend McKinney” and I replied “I would prefer to be called ’Joe’”. There is a dear sister in Christ who often calls me “Pastor Joe” and I have repeatedly reminded her that I am not “Pastor Joe” but I am Joe who “pastors” or “shepherds” the flock. Years ago when I taught the Bible at the School of the Bible in Recife, Brasil, I had a young teenage student named Wellington who, when he had a question would always say “’Professor’, what does this verse mean?”. I continually replied, “Please do not call me ‘Professor’ because Jesus said in Matthew 23 ‘The scribes and Pharisees love being called rabbi by others but you are not to be called rabbi. For you have one teacher and you are all brothers.’” Jesus taught against the use of religious titles and I thank God that the Joelton church practices what Jesus preached (usually but not perfectly). I wish I had the courage, when someone telephones asking to speak to the pastor, Jean and Darlene would answer simply “Yes! You may, He will always listen!” I don’t want to come across as a smart aleck. I just want us to practice what Jesus taught. This is referring to our present activity of recognizing more elders and deacons, of course. We will not be giving titles of honor to more people. We are actually just recognizing some men who are caring for and serving the church. This does not require or involve a title or even being recognized, necessarily. If you are caring for people, keep on doing what you are doing. If you are serving others, keep on serving. If you are not caring for or serving others, then start. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15, 16

Joe 

Ashamed?

Would you be ashamed to stand up for the playing of our National anthem? Would you be ashamed to confess that you believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Would you be ashamed to publicly confess that you love your spouse and your family? In the last few weeks we have celebrated Thanksgiving Day and Veteran’s Day. When I see on TV the pictures of wounded veterans who have lost arms and legs to roadside explosives, I feel sad for the sacrifices our military folks have made to preserve our freedom in this country and protect us from evil doers. Of all those who have sacrificed themselves for us, none are greater than Jesus Christ. He paid it all that we might live. Let us be thankful and confess our gratitude to Him who died to save us. Ask God to forgive us and give us strength to stand up for Jesus. Stand up for Jesus. He deserves our gratitude.

Joe

Are you thinking about throwing in the towel?

Are you thinking about throwing in the towel? Don’t do it! Pick it back up and look for somebody’s feet to wash! What made you consider quitting anyway? Was it because somebody said: it’s cancer or You’re fired or it’s twins or I don’t want you anymore or There’s nothing more we can do or I’ve had a wreck or We’ve been broken into!

Sure, things happen that may be out of your control and these may change everything. They may be out of your control but there is nothing that we can’t turn over to our Creator. You may have made mistakes but you have also been blessed by God more than you deserve and for that reason you are going to pick up that towel and look for somebody to serve. Say it clearly and boldly to Jesus, to yourself and to everybody else: I am a servant of the Lord and will continue to be one unto the end. Now how can I help you?

Don’t think that you can’t serve others while you yourself need help. Much to the contrary. On the very days that the disciples disappointed Jesus with their selfishness, the Sanhedrin plotted to kill him, Judas betrayed him for silver coins, Peter denied him with swearing and the crowds shouted in the streets We don’t want him give us Barrabas! Those were the days that Jesus took up a towel to wash dirty feet. So can we.

We can do all things who through Jesus who strengthens us.

Joe

Words

THE BEST WORDS are helpful words. They bring forth wisdom (Proverbs 10:31). They promote instruction (Proverbs 16:23). Words of wisdom, and knowledge, and instruction, and good counsel and sound advice are exactly the opposite of words of foolishness, and folly, deceitful flattery, slander and gossip, arguing and strife, profanity and vulgarity, bragging and boasting, talking too much, lying and exaggeration and perversity, and ignorance. A pretty good rule of thumb to follow is to ask ourselves this question before we speak. Are the words I’m about to say going to be helpful to somebody else?

Good words are going to be few. Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

Helpful words are going to be calm words. Sometimes people speak with very inflammatory types of language. And maybe they speak with a lot of volume that displays anger, bitterness, and tempers begin to flare, and people say things that really they wish they hadn’t said once things cool down, and the writer of Proverbs, the wise man Solomon said, “Words at their best are words that are calm.” Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Words at their best are encouraging words. Proverbs 12:25, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Those are encouraging words you see.

There are enough discouraging words in the world. There are enough people who are trying to tear others down, what folks really need is encouragement. Mark Twain said, “I can live up to two weeks on a compliment.” Let’s try to polish and hone that skill of encouraging and helping others with our good words.

How do we learn to speak encouraging words instead of discouraging words? Jesus said that a person speaks out of the abundance of his heart so the first step is to pray, “Create in me a pure heart O God, Let me be like You in all my ways.”

Proverbs, chapter 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Joe

Persevere

There was a time in Israel’s history when they were surrounded by nations who wanted to destroy them and it seemed that they might succeed. Israel cried out to Jehovah: “O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.” The Psalmist listed the nations who formed an alliance to exterminate Israel: “Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre, and even Assyria joined them.” Ten nations, none of which you will see on a modern day map. Which nation can be found? Only the name Israel! (Psalm 82:17). Why would we ever imagine that God does not hear when His people go to Him in prayer? Let all the nations know that you, whose name is the LORD — that you alone are the Most High over all the earth. Let us also know that “the effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Let us persevere in prayer,

Joe

If we love…

If we love someone, we will surely want to motivate them to do and be the best they can. We will look for the good that is within them and build on top of that. People who like others and who believe that they have good intentions seem to inspire others to do their very best. On the contrary, people who are always seeking the worst in others will find it. Here is an example: In a certain school, a test was given at year end to every student and, at the beginning of the following year, the teachers were given a list of names of those who had the highest scores. At the end of that year, the children on the list of the best scores had increased their grades considerably. Actually, the names on the list of the best had been chosen at random. The only thing that had changed was the attitude of the teachers who treated those children as if they were the best students. The lesson was that to motivate people to do their best, we need to expect the best of them. Jesus did that to Simon when he gave him the name Peter before he became strong. He called Zacchaeus and Matthew to be apostles when they were still tax-collectors. He called the sinful woman in John 8 to a pure life on the day she had been caught in adultery.

Let us seek the best in each other and motivate them to do and be their very best. This includes our children, our spouses and our brethren.

Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Joe

Why Are You Here?

LAST WEEK’S SERMON AND LIFE GROUP PROVOKED SOME GOOD QUESTIONS: “WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?” OR “WHY ARE YOU HERE?”

On one hand, individually, the answer may vary from person to person according to their profession, family situation, age, sex, etc. On the other hand, there is one single answer for all of us. In this case, the question becomes “What is the meaning of life?” or “Why are we here?” “Why did God create us as human beings?”

No matter who we are, we need to understand the meaning of life. Philosophers have searched for the answer to this question for centuries and most of the answers are not only inaccurate but also too complicated for a common person to even understand. Until we understand what it is all about, we won’t really appreciate how everything in our lives has purpose behind it. I believe there is an answer that is so simple that even a child can understand it: Consider the little earthworm.

As earthworms tunnel through the soil, they ingest the soil and digest any organic matter in it. They create fertilizer and aerate the soil which helps the plants to grow.

What is the meaning of life for an earthworm? Why do they exist? What is the purpose of their existence? Why did God create them and place them on this planet? The answer to these questions can help show the meaning of life for us!

  • Why did God create earthworms? To enrich and improve the soil. To help plants to grow.
  • Why does God want good soil? So plants will grow
  • Why does God want plants to grow? To provide food for us.
  • Why does God want us to eat? So we will live and survive.
  • Why does God want us to live and survive? So we will have the opportunity to come to know and love him?
  • Why does God want us to know and love him? So we will decide to be a part of his family.

Here we arrive at an understanding of the meaning of life. God wants a large family, with many children to love and be with. The Holy Scriptures state it this way in the book of Hebrews 2:9 & 10:

“We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, IN BRINGING MANY SONS TO GLORY, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

There it is. God’s purpose for creating human beings is that He wants a large family of many sons (children) with Him in glory.

1 John 3:1-3:

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. I  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

The Bible’s one message: God loves you. Whoever you are, whatever you are facing in your life, Whatever is going through your mind right this minute, The great God of this universe – our Creator – loves you.

You may be young or old, male or female, black or white, college professor or illiterate, rich or poor – God loves you. You may have it all together or your life may be a total wreck – God loves you.

You may know who you are and where you are going or you may be lost in a fast paced society – God loves you. You may be strong and faithful or you may have fallen flat on you face in public disgrace – God loves you.

God, our Creator wants you to be His child.

Joe

Little Children

Can you think of a more spiritual activity than playing with a two year old child? Jesus said that we are to let the little children come to us because people who are like the kingdom of heaven are like them. They are pure and holy, humble and submissive. They don’t put on airs, are transparent, are not too proud to cry and aren’t afraid to get on the floor and play with toys. What could be more spiritual than spending good quality time with a God-like person? They give us opportunities for serving, showing patience and seeing things with simplicity’s eyes. We thank God for Sienna and getting on her level. Thank you God, also, for the little children around the Joelton church.

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