by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church Once upon a time, a preacher accepted a call to a new church in a large city. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the bus driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As the preacher considered what to do, he though to himself, “I’d better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.” But then he thought, “Oh, forget it! It’s only a quarter. Who would worry about that little amount? And, besides, the bus company gets too much fare as it is. They’ll never miss 25 cents. Just keep it.” When the preacher came to his stop, however, he paused at the bus door and then handed the quarter to the driver. “Here,” the preacher said. “You gave me too much change.” The bus driver smiled and said, “You’re the new preacher in town, aren’t you?” “Yes,” the pastor replied. “Well, I’ve been thinking about coming to your church for worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. Now I know. So I’ll see you at church on Sunday!” When the preacher stepped off the bus, he grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and prayed, “Oh, my Lord God, I almost sold-out your Son for a quarter!” Often, our lives are the only “Bible” that some people will ever read and, therefore, how we live-the kind of life we live-is absolutely crucial. As the Apostle Paul said, “Live in harmony with one another so that you may glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 15:5-6). So watch your thoughts – they become your words. Watch your words – they become your actions. Watch your actions – they become your habits. Watch your habits – they become your character. Watch your character – it becomes your destiny! Stay faithful and be grateful!
by PASTOR MATT PUETT Faith Bible Church The Bible clearly teaches that the world hated Jesus without a reason (John 15:25). We are further taught that if the world hated Jesus then it will hate His followers (John 15:19-20). A natural response to this hate from the world is to hate back, to stand up for our rights, and to make everyone realize that we deserve to be treated better. While I want to act this way, the Bible teaches me something quite different. Luke 6 teaches the Christian how to respond to the world. Verse 27 tells the Christian, “Love your enemies.” How am I supposed to do this? Do I just have to say “I love you”? The answers come in the verses that follow. When someone hates you, you are to do good things for her. If someone curses you (wishes bad things to happen), you are to bless him (wish good things to happen). If someone uses you for their own personal gain, you are to pray for that person. Most Christians either don’t know these verses are here, or they simply choose to ignore them. The next verses (29-31) teach us to love even if someone is humiliating us or stealing the clothes off our backs. We are to be willing to lend everything we have, even if we know we will never get it back, and to treat others as we would want them to treat us. Am I really supposed to do these things? Yes, this is a command. Why would I want to do these things? Verse 35 says, “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” You do these things because you will receive eternal rewards.
by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church Lately I’ve been driving like someone who would have driven me crazy just a while ago. I am a few weeks post-surgery and still moving in slow motion more than I realize. I look in my rearview mirror to see someone on my tail and think, “What’s your rush?” Just six weeks ago I would have been that one riding the tail of someone barely going the speed limit. My time was booked beyond capacity. I had places to go and people to see in a short period of time. So time was of the essence. Now, my job is to heal. It’s good to experience times that force you to get out of the fast lane. I find myself surprised at the rush attitude of others and realize that I’m usually in that mode. Right now I’m being cared for by others and have time to write thank-you notes for their gifts of kindness. I’m playing games with my children and reading books that have collected dust on my nightstand for several years. As I gain strength, I find my thoughts and energies returning to my job and the creative juices start to flow into my professional return. As I spend more time alone at home healing, I wonder why it is in my ministry that I find it so hard to carve out time for home visits. Wouldn’t this be an obvious priority? Surely, I resolve, when I return I will make more time for visiting others who are struggling with one of life’s bumps. And some of the less important stuff will remain undone. The right lane of traffic isn’t such a bad place to be. As people are lovingly the Body of Christ for me, I am invigorated to reach out more fully from the gifts God has given to me. Isn’t this what Jesus said to his confused disciples long ago? “As you have done it to one of the least of these in my family, you have done it unto me.” The person on your tail has the passing lane, after all. So slow down and connect with those in the right lane, for Christ’s sake.
by MARCIA HUFSTADER member, Third Church of Christ, Scientist A few years ago I was having a tough time working with a particular group of people. We just weren’t seeing eye-to-eye and the communication was very poor. I turned to God, divine Mind, to see what I was supposed to learn from this. The lesson came while shoveling snow late one night. The snow was really heavy; it took a lot of strength time and time again to lift the snow off the driveway. After a while it occurred to me, if the snow melted it would fall right off the shovel and none of this would be a chore. I likened the snow to the load of concern I felt burdened with by not getting along with all these friends – it laid heavy in my thought and life. Melting the snow would be loving each of those individuals so much that the anger would melt and fall away. Just like snow melts with the warmth, anger can’t be in the same place as love. A couple nights later I was out shoveling again. This time I was using a shovel that had high edges. Not only did it hold more snow, but it stayed on the shovel longer. If this snow melted, it would stay on the shovel. Naturally, I then thought about getting rid of the edges in my thought so I wasn’t holding any hatred, frustration or bitterness within. I knew as I got rid of the “edges” in my thought, all those negative feelings would just fall off. I’m grateful to say the bad situation cleared up, first in my own thought, then with those involved. I’ve thought about this many times since while shoveling. It reminds me to love as purely and simply as Christ Jesus loved. His love was so pure and unconditional it healed (melted away) sickness and resolved off-the-mark thinking. It’s the love of God that melts the wrongs of the world and it starts at home.
by PASTOR LARRY ROWLAND Rockford Baptist Church Almost 300 years ago, an English child was named Jonas in the Hanway family. Jonas did not have an easy childhood. His father died while he was just a boy, forcing him to go to work as an apprentice for a merchant. As he grew older, Jonas was able to do a great deal of traveling throughout the world, buying and selling merchandise for his company. On one of his business trips, Jonas discovered a device that had been designed to shield a person from rainfall. He thought this invention to be perfect for his rainy homeland, so he brought one back with him to London. For 30 years, Jonas Hanway used this invention that he called an “umbrella,” carrying it around with him wherever he went. Words fail to describe the ridicule that he faced. Almost everyone who passed him on the street called him names. Young boys often pelted him with eggs or cabbages. He was written about in the paper as “the umbrella man.” Yet Jonas persisted in carrying his umbrella with him. Finally, after three decades of ridicule, some other brave souls began to carry umbrellas. Today, it’s difficult to find a person walking in London without an umbrella on a rainy day. It was Jonas’ persistent example – enduring ridicule for decades – that has made a practical difference in the lives of millions of people even to this day. And in the process of enduring the humiliation necessary to introduce the umbrella to his country, Jonas developed generosity and character. The opening line of his Wikipedia article describes him as “an English philanthropist.” Depressed economic conditions are causing hardships for many families. At this time of year, the winter seems to be lingering on and on. Perseverance is a needed virtue. But persistence not only helps us to endure hardships. It can also produce beautiful character in our lives and bless the lives of others around us.