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Hurtful-Words-I-Needed-To-Hear

Hurtful Words I Needed To Hear

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Every Wednesday, I meet with a team leader and my colleague Abigail* for lunch fellowship. Though it’s just the three of us, we thought to heed the call in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Two weeks ago, our leader was on sick leave. Deep down, I was not very keen on meeting Abigail alone as I found her a rather defensive and self-centered person. But Abigail was keen to meet so I relented.

That day, Abigail brought food from home to heat up in our office pantry before fellowship. While she was in the pantry, another colleague, Jacqueline, asked if I wanted to join the rest of the team for lunch. When I told her that Abigail and I were getting ready for fellowship, Jacqueline said in a friendly manner, “No, you should join us for lunch. You don’t have to go for fellowship since your leader is not here. Anyway, both of you don’t really get along, and you always grumble about Abigail anyway. You should join us, learn about the other gods and be open.”

Jacqueline’s words cut like a knife. Yet, I knew exactly what she was referring to. For the past couple of weeks, I had been complaining about Abigail behind her back, telling others about her selfish attitude and lack of team spirit. Still, Jacqueline’s words hurt me and made me feel like a failure. Though I had claimed to be a Christ follower, I had given in to my flesh and neglected the Spirit.

A few days later, I came across John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The words struck me and I thought of the earlier incident again. I knew for a fact that God was using this passage to speak to me.

I needed to love Abigail and accept her, not just on the surface, but completely. I had to stop pretending to be friendly with her, and complaining about her behind her back. This showed disunity between me and Abigail, and disunity between my faith and my actions. How then could others see that I am Christ’s disciple?

I had to change and start speaking words of grace, words that reflected Christ. I needed to fight against my flesh and allow the Holy Spirit to work in me to produce fruits of love, kindness, and self-control.

As I remembered how gracious and patient God had been with me, how He didn’t give up on me no matter how self-centered, mean, and defensive I had been in the past (Romans 8:1), I repented and stopped complaining. I told my team leader honestly about the struggles I had, and she arranged for Abigail and me to talk about it.

Initially, Abigail was upset at me. She felt that I had misunderstood her, and said that she couldn’t trust me anymore. We did not speak for a few days after that. Our leader was very concerned and spoke to us individually on a few separate occasions. Eventually, we both reached a common understanding.

In all of this, I had been too quick to judge and condemn. I also began to realize that Abigail is actually a very nice friend to have, because she is quick to forget grievances and does not hold grudges for long. Subsequently, I also noticed how her attitude towards the rest of us changed; she is a more helpful person now.

I realize now that condemning and complaining had prevented me from seeing the good side of Abigail and learning more about the grace of God. But now I am free. I am glad that Abigail and I both have learned more about one another from this episode, and we are now able to love one another through the grace of Christ. We are sisters in Christ, we have the same Abba Father, and we have the same eternal home.

 

*Not her real name.

Making-a-Difference-this-Valentines-Day

Making a Difference this Valentine’s Day

Written By Hannah Spaulding, USA

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.

I understand dedicating a day to celebrating love, but somehow I’ve never been able to reconcile the ideal of love with the paraphernalia associated with the holiday. The deluge of teddy bears, chocolates, roses, and over-priced jewelry, all in alarming shades of pink and red, have often felt more like the trappings of a false and materialistic love rather than a symbol of true, authentic love to me.

Last year was the first time I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a special someone—not that I hadn’t cut out paper hearts, received chocolates and flowers, or exchanged gifts before, but the latter had always just been between friends.

I remember feeling an increasing sense of nervousness and anxiety about actually celebrating Valentine’s Day with a significant other. Approaching the day, I agonized over what I was going to get David, my boyfriend, and what I should write on his card.  We had only been dating a little over a month at the time, so this was the first exchange of gifts and cards for us. I was terrified of messing it up.

I finally settled on giving him a Lord of the Rings (LOTR) poster to spruce up his bare bedroom walls—a major contrast from my own poster-plastered room.  My card included a LOTR quote and a heartfelt message about the difference I had already felt in my life after one month of us dating. I received a bag of chocolates, fuzzy socks, and my own Nerf gun from David (for use in our frequent battles with his nieces and nephews). He also read me a beautiful poem that he had written, which I still have tucked away in the pages of my Bible.  My anxiety turned out to be unfounded; we both loved our respective gifts and cards.

Once this requisite exchange was conducted, we then set off on our planned adventure for the day. We had chosen roller skating for our inaugural Valentine’s adventure since we knew it would be an activity we would both enjoy.  True to our expectations, we ended our session sporting matching ear-to-ear grins.

I leaned against David as we sat on a bench taking off our skates, filled with warm fuzzy feelings and beginning to think my previous skepticism towards Valentine’s Day might have been misplaced.  Just then, we noticed an elderly man approaching our bench.

“Now,” the old man said as he held up his hand when he reached us, “I don’t want to offend your girlfriend or anything, but I just wanted to say that she has the prettiest smile I have seen in a long time.” David and I looked at each other in surprise.

“She does indeed,” David agreed, smiling at me.

“Don’t get me wrong or anything. I’m married, I ain’t a pervert, I promise.  I just wanted you to know that she has one of the prettiest smiles I have seen in a long time,” the old man said with a smile.

“She certainly does, sir, thank you.” David replied.

“Yes, thank you,” I added as the man shuffled away.

It touched my heart that a random stranger had taken the effort to compliment me on my smile, making that day just a little sweeter.

Reflecting on the episode, I believe that the old man embodies what Valentine’s Day should really be about. It shouldn’t just be a day for couples to celebrate; neither should it just be about the roses or the chocolates or the exchange of gifts, whether between lovers or friends. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone took time on Valentine’s Day to sweeten someone else’s day and spread more love in the world? After all, isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do—to love our neighbor as ourselves?

One year on, the old man’s kind comment still stands out in our memories when David and I reflect on our first Valentine’s Day together. And this Valentine’s Day, we want to pay it forward and sweeten someone else’s day as well.

5-Ways-to-Love-A-Stranger-This-Christmas

5 Ways to Love A Stranger This Christmas

Written By M.D Valley, Africa

Once again, it’s Christmas—the season of merriment, goodwill, and cheer. For most, it’s a time for family and friends, and a time to reflect on the year gone by.

For believers, it’s the time we commemorate God’s gift to us—the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ (Luke 2:11-12). And just like how God showed love to us by giving us His son, we show our love to family and friends by giving them gifts.

Growing up in a northern Nigerian community, we have a tradition of preparing delicious delicacies such as a crunchy deep-fried snack known as chin-chin, cakes, donuts, meat pies, fried chicken and beef and other dishes in the lead up to Christmas. To show God’s love, we would wake up in the wee hours of Christmas morning to cook rice or some other dish, and deliver the piping hot food to our non-Christian neighbors and friends. They, in turn, would share food with us during their religious celebrations.

But how many of us extend this kindness to absolute strangers? And why not? This Christmas, how about making a conscious effort to show love to a stranger? Sure, there are countless ways, but here are five “gifts” that I think could help get us started.

1. The Gift Of Grace

As Christians, we are called to be gracious at all times—what more during the Christmas season? After all, this is the season we commemorate Jesus’ birth, God’s ultimate gift of grace to us (Ephesians 2:8).

So let’s try our best to exercise more grace and patience. To the person who interrupts our sentences, hold our tongues and respond with words of kindness. To the one who cuts our queue at the grocery store or into our lane on the road, let them pass and let our grievances go. To those who have offended us, whether it’s at work, in public, or at gatherings—let’s be quick to forgive them.

2. The Gift Of Giving

Some of us may already be involved in donating to charities and the less privileged on a regular basis. But how about paying a visit to an orphanage or old folks’ home?

Get involved in your local church’s charity drive. Donate blankets and warm food to those who have none. Remember, Jesus himself cared for the physical needs of 5,000 strangers (Mark 6:30-34).

3. The Gift of Prayer

The Bible tells us to pray for each other, and that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Maybe you tried to offer a word of encouragement or a gift that ended up being rejected despite your best efforts. In such instances, we can still pray for that person.

Pray for the hearts of those who have not received the good news of salvation, pray for the man you saw crying on the street on your way home, pray for your friend’s boyfriend’s uncle that you heard about but have never met, and pray for your leaders and the peace of your nation.

4. The Gift of Service

While we can show love to strangers by giving physical items such as gifts and money, we can also show love by serving others. There are several verses in the Bible that encourage us to serve others (e.g. Phil 2: 5-7; 2 Cor 4:5; Mark 9:35; Gal 5:13). Jesus himself came to this world to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45).

Serving strangers can come in many forms. It can be as simple as helping an old woman cross the street, stopping at the side of the road to help someone change his car tire, or offering a ride to someone on your way home. It could also be helping out in church or joining a group of friends to hand out food and warm clothing to the homeless on the street.

5. The Gift of Time

Most of us know how precious time is—once it’s gone, we can never get it back. And with our never-ending list of responsibilities, no one seems to have time for anyone anymore.  Giving time may therefore be one of the most precious ways we can show love to a stranger.

It could be taking the time and effort to get to know our neighbors over the Christmas season, having a meal with a student we have seen on campus or a colleague from a different team, or inviting an acquaintance who has no family to spend Christmas with to your home. You could also be a listening ear to a distraught mother at the supermarket, or offer a shoulder to the person crying on the subway platform.

Jesus took the time to visit those despised by the religious institutions of His time. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and mourned with those who mourned. He prayed for His friends, enemies, and those He knew He would never meet during His brief physical sojourn on earth.

 

During the Christmas season, I have found joy in making the first move to start discussions with strangers—sometimes I use the opportunity to talk about the real reason for the season. Along with members of my local church, I’ve also visited homes for the elderly or the physically disabled to sing them Christmas carols.

To me, Christmas is the best time to emulate Jesus’ footsteps, as we give thanks for the Savior of the world who humbled himself to visit those who did not know Him (John 17:25-26), to make strangers His friends, and to reconcile the lost to God.

What-Would-Jesus-Post

What Would Jesus Post?

Written By Blake Andrew Wisz, USA

Most millennials (myself included) take immense pride in sharing their daily lives on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram to display or articulate who they are and what they stand for.

From “liking” a particular band, author, or organization, to “sharing” a news post, we show our endorsement for certain ideas or beliefs, which reinforces who we are to others. Instagram has also become somewhat of a digital diary, capturing not only what we eat, but what we think, since we often post our photographs with a quote, thought, or challenge.

As Christians, what we post online can affect what others think about our faith and our God. Social media can be an amazing tool for the kingdom of God, allowing us to share with all kinds of people our take on culture from a biblical perspective. Through a simple blog post, piece of art or song, we can share what God has taught us or how He has helped us. Who knows, that may be the very thing someone scrolling our newsfeeds needs to hear.

The message of the gospel is the same; the way we share it today, however, is different from Jesus’ time. Everyone can be a part of sharing the gospel online, especially for those of us with social media accounts. It is, after all, our mandate to preach the gospel in our world. (Mark 16:15).

Unfortunately, what I’ve seen a lot of on social media are heated debates between believers and non-believers about the reality of God. This usually arises when we feel that we need to protect our faith. When we are challenged, we feel caught and end up launching attacks on others.

In such times, it’s easy for us to just focus on the differences and opposing views that we have. Rather than using this digital space to speak love, we can become guilty of using words that don’t reflect the heart of a humble believer.

Words are weapons. We can bring a person from the heights of joy to the depths of depression with words alone.

Don’t get me wrong: I know the gospel can be offensive, and its truth is absolute. But I am also a strong proponent of saying what is true in a loving way. And as Christians, we need to work on conveying the truth accurately and lovingly, without getting into arguments.

Perhaps it would be useful to think of the classic line “What Would Jesus Do?” in the following way: “What Would Jesus Post?” Wouldn’t Jesus speak words that heal instead of damage to a person? Wouldn’t He speak life instead of death?

Let’s speak forth words of love and grace, that others may not view us as “enemies,” but be drawn to what we stand for and represent in this messy world. Let’s show the love of God in all the places of our lives, including social media.