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Boundaries and Codependency, Part II
"Not long after that, the younger [prodigal] son … set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but … when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you…."1

For the codependent person to overcome his/her problem the following steps will help:

First, the codependent person needs to see his problem and accept responsibility for his own actions and recovery.

Second, he needs to develop healthy boundaries and learn to say no to those who want him to do things for them that they can and need to do for themselves.

Third, he needs to stop blaming others for his unhappiness or for the difficulties he has. Blaming others is a way to avoid facing his own problem that he is in denial about—and not taking responsibility for his part in the situation he is in. Blaming others and avoiding personal responsibility is at the heart of so much unhappiness.

Fourth, codependents need to stop trying to change others. They have a compulsion to fix everybody except themselves. Trying to change or fix others only leads to frustration and anger for both parties. The only person we can ever fix or change is our self, and as we change, others around us are almost forced to change—not always for the best either, I might add. Over-dependent people don't want us to change because it throws them for a loop.

Fifth, the codependent needs to come to terms with his or her problems. While an over-dependent person is often addicted to some form of compulsive behavior, the codependent is addicted to the addict. In reality, both are over-dependent on each other. Both are being irresponsible.

Because codependents need to feel needed in order to feel loved, they suffer from love deprivation, usually from childhood, and have confused feeling needed for feeling loved. In order to feel needed, some codependents will go to any length to keep a needy person dependent on them. They can be loyal to the point of being destructive both to themselves and others.

On the surface, codependency can appear to be very loving, kind and Christian. However, at its core it is a confusion of responsibility. The codependent is so busy trying to meet the needs of and to fix others, he neglects taking responsibility for meeting his own needs and accepting and resolving his own problems.

In so doing, he short-circuits the natural consequences of somebody else's destructive behavior. For instance, as long as Janet keeps paying Phil's bills for him, and keeps taking him back without serious consequences after his affairs, he will never learn responsibility in financial matters or relationships. Only when Janet stops protecting and "saving" Phil and allows him to face the consequences of his irresponsible business and personal behavior will there be any hope for Phil to recover.

Regarding John, I said to Kym, "It is one thing to accept John. It is another matter to accept his transvestite behavior. As long as you accept his behavior and keep protecting him, he will never get better and, as such, you are a part of his sickness."

Codependents need to allow irresponsible people to face the consequences of their actions, and, if necessary, to let them hit bottom—as did the prodigal son in today's Scripture. Only then did he come to his senses. Codependents also need to accept responsibility for themselves and work on their own growth and recovery. One effective way to do this is to join a twelve-step support or similar group. Here, you can learn to feel loved for who you are, and not for what you do for others.

Most of all, codependents need to trust their life to God—a power greater than their own—and daily ask him to confront them with the reality of their problem, help them to see the root causes of it, and lead them to the help they need and the courage to overcome. God can make a much better job of our life than we can. Why not trust it to him today and every day?

To be continued …

Suggested prayer: Dear God, please help me to be available to those who have a genuine need, and learn to say no to those I have been rescuing and taking responsibility for. Help me to see my need and be responsible for my behavior, growth and recovery. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name. Amen."


The worst thing
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 28:18-28
"He whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but he whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall." (v.18)

We said yesterday that both we and the universe are made for integrity and that both the universe and we are alien to untruth and dishonesty. The whole thrust of the universe which God designed and created is simple, uncomplicated, and built on truth. There are great mysteries, of course, but no lies. Scientific laws are upheld by truth. Gravity, for example, will not lie; it is as true in one country as it is in another, as reliable in Jerusalem as it is in Japan.

It has often been pointed out that the word "evil" is the word "live" spelled backwards. Satan delights to take what God does and try to reverse it - to move life in the opposite way to that in which it was designed to go. Satan is a liar (John 8:44), and lies are always roundabout, complicated and deceiving. The fact that the universe is built on truth can be verified by the simple device known as a "lie detector." The lie detector test works on the basis that people who tell lies and know they are telling lies become extremely anxious and uncomfortable, and this anxiety is then picked up by the machine.

But why does telling a lie make a person anxious? Because we are built for truth, and any departure from it registers on the inside in a way that can be picked up on the outside. A lie detector is not infallible and can sometimes (though not often) be fooled. But what cannot be fooled is the soul of the person who is lying. The worst thing about being a liar is to be the person telling the lie.

Father, help me lay hold of the fact that a lie demeans me, but the truth develops me. I cannot live successfully by a lie any more than I can fling myself out of the window and defy gravity. May I be a person of truth. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.


Boundaries and Codependency, Part III
"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load."1

There was a lady I knew who grew up in a very dysfunctional home where there was alcoholism and severe abuse. And now, as an adult, like thousands of others, she is unable to say no to her children and to all who come to her for help. Consequently, she struggles with false guilt, feels hurt and angry because of people who use her, and, among other troubling issues, is deeply in debt.

When our lives are in chaos, it's normal to feel depressed and troubled. As one counselor said, "When we have unresolved problems, God is merciful—he gives us symptoms. The purpose of miserable symptoms is to motivate us to seek help.

So Mary's first step for healing and recovery was her admitting, "I have a problem. I need help."

Many of us have a hard time saying no because we want everyone to like (love) us and that is an unrealistic goal.

The truth is when we don't have healthy boundaries (the ability to say no), people use us because they know we are a pushover and, as such, they don't respect us, let alone love or like us. Wanting everyone to like/love us comes from our own love-deprivation hunger (mostly from our family background) and our subsequent insecurity. Consequently, we need to work not only on building healthy boundaries but also on our self-concept. In fact, it is nigh on impossible to maintain healthy boundaries unless we also work on rebuilding a healthy self-concept and good old-fashioned self-respect.

Realize too, that when we do too much for others or do anything for anybody that they can and should be doing for themselves, we are not being loving, but codependent, and are keeping these people over-dependent on us. Furthermore, we are doing it unconsciously to meet our own need (for love)—not the other person's.

As I said to Mary, to rebuild your self-concept is the challenge and we don't do that by reading books. We do it in relationship with other people. We get damaged in damaging relationships and get healed in healing relationships. With the intensity of your codependency, I would urge you to start taking care of yourself (this is probably the most loving thing you could do for your kids), and get into counseling with a good Christian counselor. Also, get into a 12-step CODA (Codependent Anonymous) group.

Also, ask God to give you a soul-sister or soul-brother whom you can trust implicitly with your feelings and failures, someone who won't give you advice, tell you what you should or shouldn't do, but listen to and accept you as you are. It's only as we are fully known by a safe, accepting, non-judgmental, and loving person, and they love and accept us with all our faults, little by little we learn, though them, to love and accept ourselves. Remember, though, you took X number of years to become who you are so you don't change all of that overnight. To grow and become whole takes a lot of commitment, determination, and hard work as well as God's help.

Most importantly, be sure to commit and trust your life and way to God every day for the rest of your life. Ask him to give you the courage to face the truth about yourself that you need to see and resolve, and to lead you to the help you need to overcome.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you love and accept me as I am. Please help me to find a few people with whom I feel safe to let them know me as you know me. And through their loving acceptance of me, help me learn to love and accept myself so I will love others from a pure heart without strings attached. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Galatians 6:4-5 (NIV).


Can a lie be justified?
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 19:1-9
"A false witness will not go unpunished and he who pours out lies will perish." (v.9)

Will the universe sustain a lie? Today the Church is being inundated with a philosophy called "situational ethics" which would have us believe that sometimes a lie can be right. I think that is a deadly and diabolical doctrine. A lie is never right - no matter what attempts we might make to justify it. "God is not a man, that he should lie," says the Scripture in Numbers 23:19, and in 1 John 2:21 we read, "' no lie comes from the truth." God cannot lie and He will never delegate to you the task of lying for Him.

When we take dishonesties into our lives we take fire into our lives - here and hereafter: "' all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone" (Rev. 21:8, NKJV). "Situational ethics" proponents come up with all kinds of possible scenarios, such as: "What if someone came to your house to murder a member of your family and asked if that person was in. Would it not be right to lie in those circumstances?"

Can you see the thrust of this question? It is the argument, "This is what we ought to do because it makes sense." But once we view sin as an "ought," it is magically turned into something that is "good." The Bible does not teach that anyone in any situation ought to sin. 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches that because God is faithful, we will never find ourselves in a situation where we must sin, but there will always be a way of escape. God never calls upon us to break one of His laws in order to keep another.

O Father, in a world that seems to be always looking for excuses and exceptions, help me to steer my life by the clear statements of Your revealed will. I dont want to measure up to exceptions; I want to conform to the rules - Your rules. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


Light It Up . . . Right Where You Are

You are the light of the world—Matthew 5:14

The strongest evidence that we are where God wants us—in our jobs, in our careers, in our cities—is simply that we’re there. God Almighty knows where we are. He sees us (Luke 12:6-7). He is with us (1 Corinthians 3:16). There is a plan. King David sang to God, “in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). So, where we are—right now—is no accident. And until further notice (which may come), we’ve got to assume that where we are is where he wants us to be . . . for specific reasons, for his specific purposes.

High on that list of God’s purposes is that we’re his light in our existing regions of influence and impact (Matthew 5:14). Jesus tells us to not hide the light that radiates from us when we follow him: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Our lights dim, however, when we get too comfortable with the cultures of the places where we find ourselves—in our jobs, in our careers, in our cities. We must, therefore, resist adoption, whether conscious or subconscious, of the prevailing beliefs, codes, or values of those places. We follow Christ. We believe him. That’s our code. Our values are his values.

Look around. How would you describe the top two or three most apparent and distinct values/beliefs in your place of work or your city? What is the accepted “code” for someone in your career? Be specific and matter-of-fact. Now, give it some thought . . . what do you think about the answers to those questions?


Two important facts
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 6:12-19
"There are six things the Lord hates ' a false witness who pours out lies '" (vv.16, 19)

We return to the question we raised yesterday: What if someone came to your house to murder a member of your family and asked if that person was in? Would it not be right to lie in such circumstances? The "situational ethics" people would say "Yes." The Bible, in my opinion, says, "No." Situational ethics is notorious for coming up with hypothetical situations in which a person must sin because that is what ought to be done. But once we view sin as a "must" and an "ought," we are finished. A Christian view of ethics rejects every constructed situation which the situational ethics people advance because it fails to take into account two important biblical facts. First - God's sovereignty.

God will always make a way for His people to avoid sinning. Second - the Holy Spirit's power. The believer is encouraged not to worry about what to say in difficult situations. "At that time you will be given what to say" (Matt. 10:19). Also, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5). God is not ignorant or stupid. He did not fail to see that sometimes His laws would seem to contradict one another. He knew full well that there would be occasions when it might seem prudent from a human point of view to violate one of His principles, hence His promise to us in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Those who try to excuse the breaking of any of God's moral laws on the pretext that it feels "right" or seems "good" sow the seeds of disruption in their own inner being. It is not the way of wisdom.

Father, Forgive us that so often we prefer human wisdom to divine wisdom simply because it "feels" right. Help us to trust Your Word even when it runs counter to our own feelings. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.


No Fear—No Kidding
"Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you."1

A common question asked in motivational seminars is: "If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you do with your life?"

Participants imagine all sorts of things: take flying lessons … write a book … travel around the world … start a business … learn to play a musical instrument … make pottery, and so on.

Think of Martin Luther King's life-transforming, world-impacting statement: "I have a dream." And while King didn't live to see his dream fulfilled, his dream and what he started made a powerful impact on his world and helped change the world for every American. The fears he and his family faced from constant harassment and threats on his life would have overwhelmed all but the bravest of souls. However, it was his dream that overcame his fears and caused him even in death to triumph.

Remember, it's normal to be afraid. Most of us struggle with fear from time to time. It's part of the human condition. The important thing is not to deny one's fears but to acknowledge them, and not allow them to control us. As one author put it, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

If the fear of failure were removed, what would you really like to do? Whether it's something small or something major doesn't matter. What is your dream, or better still, what is God's dream for you? And what will you do about it? Will you choose to allow your fear to control you? Or, with God's help, will you allow your dream to control your fear?

Remember too, that it's okay to fail in attempting to reach a goal. Failures are par for the course. In many ways they are our greatest teacher. The only real failure is not to get up one more time than we fall down—and to give up on our dream. Remember, too, failure is an event not a person. Know your dream. Trust God and put your dream in charge of your fears and, in time, as you step out in faith to begin to fulfill you dream, you will be able to say, "No fear. No kidding. That is, fear no longer has control over me!"

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to know my God-given life purpose and to make that my dream. Please give me the courage to step out in faith to begin fulfilling my dream—today. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Acts 27:24 (NIV).


Dishonesty is doomed
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 14:1-13
"A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies." (v.5)

We need to fix it as an axiom in our thinking that nobody ever gets away with anything, anywhere, at any time, if that "anything" is dishonest or untrue. The whole history of humanity is a commentary on this. The first lie, uttered by Satan in the Garden of Eden, was this: "You will not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). And he keeps repeating that well-worn but discredited lie to every man and woman who comes into this world.

Something dies the moment you are dishonest or fail to be a person of integrity. Self-respect dies within you. Death begins to eat away at your heart the moment dishonesty comes in. You are not so much punished for your sin. You are punished by sin for sin. In one sense, sin is its own punishment. "Dishonesty puts sand in the machinery of life," says one writer. I would add: "And honesty and integrity put in oil." We can choose to live with sand, or oil, in our inner mechanism. I cannot say whether or not I would ever lie. I would like to think not - but I am fallible and human. I know this, however: my moral joints will creak if I am dishonest. I am made for integrity and I will not function well without it.

O Father, help me grasp this simple but important fact - I am designed in my inner being for truth and honesty. When I work with truth, I go leaping into life. When I work without it, I limp. Drive this truth deep into my being. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


Let's Show Them the Way
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on our hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."1

This weekend we will be celebrating Mother's Day here, and yesterday it was celebrated in a few countries around the world as well. Mothers (and Fathers) have been given the amazing gift of not only being able to have children, but also to be the most influential teachers that our children will ever have. Every moment we spend with our children is a teaching moment. This can seem like a daunting task at times, but when we look to the Bible as our "instruction manual", the load gets a little lighter.
At times we don't realize how even the most mundane things we do can leave the biggest impact on our children. I once heard the story of a mother who would read the Bible daily to relax and refocus.

Although she did this quietly and privately, her young daughter would observe her doing this day after day. One day the daughter asked, "Mom, are you ever going to be done reading that book?" The mother giggled and replied,"This book is the most important book you will ever read. It is not only full of great stories, but it will also teach me how to be the best mommy I can be for you, so that you can grow to be the person God wants you to be too."

Theodore Roosevelt once said that "Praying mothers are America's greatest assets." In today's world where we are surrounded by so many opinions that go against the word of God, this statement is truer than ever before. We can't be with our children every moment of the day, but the things they learn from us will be recorded in their hearts and stay with with them along the way.

Things like prayer, honesty, kindness, humility, respect, and a true love for God are best taught by example. As we model what being a child of God looks like, our children will begin to imitate us. For those of us who don't have children or whose children have already grown, just remember that there are eyes everywhere that are watching us. Even a person we don't personally know can be impacted by our actions. Let us show them the way and take advantage of every opportunity God gives us to teach our children (and others) to love and honor Him.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please allow me to be a positive role model, not only for my children but also for others around me. May I always be like Jesus, and in doing so, show my children the way to you. We pray a special blessing on all the mothers around the world. May you fill them with your peace and joy, and give them strength to do the great work you have set before them. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV).
Words that scar
For reading & meditation - Proverbs 12:11-28
"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (v.18)

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." It's not true. Names do hurt and produce emotional scars that stay within the soul for life. A woman could not escape the bondage of a name her father gave her when she was a child: "The devil's daughter." She was freed from it eventually, but not without hours of counseling and struggle. Unkind words are like deadly missiles that penetrate all the soul's defenses and blast a hole in the personality that may take years to repair.

On the other hand, words that are encouraging can lift and cheer the soul in a way that is quite amazing. C. E. Macartney tells how he saw sitting on a bench a minister whom he had known. The man was well advanced in years and broken in health. As a result of his condition, he had given up his church and was unable to participate in any kind of pulpit ministry. Macartney says, "I turned to speak to him, expecting to hear from him some word of melancholy, reminiscence or present gloom, but I received a pleasant surprise.

He told me that a woman going by had just spoken to him and told him that a message he had given many years ago had been the means of bringing her to Christ. The glow on his face was something I shall never forget." How wonderful it will be if today you and I can say a cheerful and encouraging word to someone that will lift their burden, lighten their darkness and minister the life of God into their soul. At least let's try!

O Father, help me not to be like the person who looked into a mirror and then went away forgetting what he looked like. I have looked into the mirror of Your Word and see what I should be. Now help me be. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
We know that, when He [Jesus] shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. —1 John 3:2 NIV
The eyes of God and the spotlight of heaven continually search for hungry hearts willing to surrender to the Person of Jesus Christ and thirst to be with Him.
Christ has determined that we will rule and reign with Him. It’s His mission, and not just when we get to heaven, but on this present earth.
Satan’s two greatest goals are (1) to convince you to live the Christian life yourself, in your own strength, and (2) to make you believe that you must be “worthy” and “righteous.”
Trust today in the One who can quench all the fiery darts of the Enemy, no matter the circumstances, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Satan has no power over us when we allow the Person of Jesus Christ to live through us.
Truth is truth is truth
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 30:1-9
"Keep falsehood and lies far from me '" (v.8)

In today's world integrity is in short supply. I asked a successful businessman: "What would you say is the greatest need in your field of business?" He thought for a moment, looked me straight in the eye and said, "Integrity." I asked him why, and he said, "Almost daily I am faced with dishonesty and duplicity and whenever I confront it people take the view that dishonesty is only a problem when it is found out."

It's interesting, however, that those who laugh at dishonesty get deeply upset when they are victims of it. I caught sight of this statement in one of my grandson's books: "An honest fisherman is a pretty uninteresting person." Another statement said, "There are two things essential if you are to succeed in business - integrity and sagacity. Integrity is keeping your word and sagacity is never giving your word." Is it any wonder that our young people find situational ethics so appealing? It is only fair to say, though, that despite the present-day trend away from honesty and integrity, there are still millions of people who would not claim to be Christians but nevertheless see it as their task to be honest, upright and decent.

May their tribe increase! Christians who lack integrity hinder the progress of the gospel in this world and set the Christian message in a false light. Determine to be honest in thought and speech and act. Lay this down as a cornerstone of your life, especially you who are young, and begin building from there. Whatever you do, shun like a plague the teachings of the situational ethics people and admit no exceptions. Truth is truth is truth.

O God, You who are the Designer of the Great Design, help me to fit into it, mold my life by it and be fully surrendered to its purposes. If I run from truth, I run from myself, for I am made for truth. Keep me true, dear Lord. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. —Psalm 31:7 NIV
Bad news! The headlines are filled with it daily. Do you ever wonder just how much bad news a person can take and still retain an attitude of gratitude and a spirit of joyfulness and faith?

It is apparent that we live in a dangerous day. A restless spirit prowls about, and people everywhere are full of ingratitude and discontent.
The apostle Paul didn’t complain in the midst of bad news, not to mention persecution. He said in Philippians 2:14-15: “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (NKJV).
If we can develop an attitude of gratitude in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation, we will shine as lights to the world. What a marvelous thought in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and pressures!
Self-exploratory surgery
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 23:15-25
"Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding." (v.23)

Charles Swindoll tells how many years ago in New York a doctor by the name of Evan O'Neill became convinced that most major operations could be performed while patients were under a local anesthetic, thereby avoiding the risks of general anesthesia. On February 15th, 1921, he operated on himself and removed his appendix while under a local anesthetic.

The operation was a success and it was said that he recovered faster than usually expected of patients who given general anesthesia. Today I invite you to undertake some self-exploratory surgery of the soul. While fully conscious and fully aware, allow the Holy Spirit to assist you by handing you the only instrument you need for soul surgery - the germ-free scalpel of Scripture. "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).

This is not just an interesting idea, it is a required command of Scripture: "But let a man examine himself '" (1 Cor. 11:28, NKJV). In God's presence right now, ask yourself: Am I honest? Am I a person of integrity? Can my word be trusted? Remember, only you can do this surgery on your soul - only you. No one else but you knows the truth about yourself. You can rationalize and twist the facts and no one will know the difference - except you. And remember, too, there can be no wisdom without morality, no expertise in living without truth and honesty. The wise are those who have integrity.

Father, I realize that when truth is not within me there is as much pain as with a diseased appendix. Help me see this tension as Your protest. By Your Word, and through Your Spirit, right now cut away in me all that is untrue and dishonest. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. —Romans 12:3b NLT
The opinions of others are not as important as God’s. That means you must have a pure heart. Sitting on the side of a mountain, teaching those spread out below Him, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8 NKJV).
Don’t allow past guilt to drain your hopes for the future. Make a firm decision to deal with the past on a daily basis. When your past invades your present, if it is negative, reject it. Paul wrote to the Philippians in chapter 3, verses 13-14:

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (NLT)
You have not been born to lose—you have been born to choose. Walking with God is a choice. Happiness is a choice. No one can make you unhappy. Choose today whom you will serve; join forces with Joshua who said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15 KJV).
Honeysuckle Christians
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 11:25-31
"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." (v.25)

We come now to what I consider to be a third pillar of wisdom - generosity. This subject, too, is a favorite theme of Proverbs. Today's text tells us that when we move out of ourselves and give to others, we too are refreshed. An old Welsh proverb says: "The greatest joy in giving is to be the one who gives." We must not take this to mean that we ought to focus on generosity because it brings rewards.

Generosity that is exercized simply for the purpose of reward is not generosity. The reward comes as a by-product of giving. I have heard those who study questions of right and wrong pull today's text to pieces. They say that this (and similar statements found in the Word of God) make Christianity a form of sophisticated selfishness. Christians, they say, give to others because it makes them feel good, not because it is the right way to live. Christianity, they conclude, is an indirect form of selfishness. Well, we must admit that some Christians might look at things in this way but I imagine they are few and far between.

I love the way Charles Harthern, a preacher of a bygone generation, described giving: "Some give like sponges - only when they are squeezed. Some give like Moses' rock - only when they are hit. True Christians, however, give like the honeysuckle - because they delight to give." That's the secret - giving because one delights to give. The generous hand must comes from a generous heart. If the heart is not generous, then however much the hand gives, there is no true generosity.

Gracious and loving heavenly Father, I ask for the blessing, not only of trust and integrity, but of generosity also. And I ask not just to get a blessing, but to give a blessing. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
With Whom Do You Gather?

For where two or three are gathered . . .
there am I among them—Matthew 18:20

We men often find it hard to gather with other men in Christian community. Calendars are full: “I just don’t have time for one more thing.” Pride is high: “I’m good . . . I’m doing fine on my own.” Aversion to vulnerability is strong: “Oh, man . . . I’m just not that good at opening up.” If we are followers of our King, Jesus Christ, though, we must gather—“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:25).

But . . . why? Why is community so important for men? Well, a couple reasons. “Two are better than one,” Scripture tells us—we are stronger, less vulnerable, together (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

Even more important, though, Jesus tells us that he is uniquely present when we gather in his name (Matthew 18:20). You see, God the Holy Spirit dwells within each follower of Jesus. (John 14:17) Therefore, when we gather, the power of the Spirit flows from one to another and back. When we gather, the work of God is done: confessions are made; sins are repented; love and compassion are expressed; hearts are healed; encouragement is given; lives are transformed. Men are lifted up, up out of sin and rebellion, into life and identity and calling. Work is done that just cannot be done in isolation.

Grab some other guys . . . one guy, even. Start meeting on a regular basis, weekly is best. Fight for community, brother—against calendars, against pride, against fear. King David sang: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1-3). This is so very important.
Divine mathematics
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 11:16-24
"One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another with holds unduly, but comes to poverty." (v.24)

What all the passages in Proverbs which talk about generosity are really teaching us is that selfishness short-circuits human happiness and that the route to joy is liberality - liberality with our talents, our treasure and our time. Today's text is, of course, difficult for some to accept because it violates all the rules of mathematics. How can it be that the more you give away the more you have? It doesnt seem logical! Well, let Lord Bertrand Russell, one of the greatest mathematicians of the century, comment on that: "Mathematics and logic have nothing to do with reality."

David Rivett, a chartered accountant and one of the directors of CWR - Crusade for World Revival - says that since he has been with the organization he has found that God has a quite different arithmetic from what he as an accountant has been used to. For example - what do five and two make? Seven? Yes, in man's arithmetic, but not in God's. In God's arithmetic five and two make five thousand. How come? Well, five loaves and two fish - the little lunch which a boy once gave to Jesus - was taken by Him and turned into enough food to feed five thousand. And just to add to the point - twelve baskets of fragments were gathered up after everyone had eaten their fill! Nature, we are told, abhors a vacuum; it is the same in the spiritual realm. Liberality and generosity create a vacuum into which God flows, enabling us to give and to go on giving. I cannot explain it, but I have seen it happen again and again.

O God, You who are always reaching out to me in generosity and love, help me this day to do the same. May You use my generosity to touch the lives of others. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.
Water of Life
"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'"1

Brett Blair shares how, some years ago in South America, a crew of Peruvian Sailors heading up the Amazon River came upon a strange sight. A Spanish ship was anchored off the coast, and as the Peruvians drew closer they saw that the Spaniards were in terrible physical condition. They looked the picture of death itself, their lips parched and swollen. They were dying of thirst.

"Can we help you?" shouted the Peruvians.

The Spaniards cried out, "Water! Water! We need fresh water!"

The Peruvian sailors, surprised at this request, told them to lower their buckets and help themselves.

The Spaniards, fearing they'd been misunderstood cried back, "No, no we need FRESH water!

But they received the same reply from the Peruvians to lower their buckets and help themselves. They finally did lower their buckets into the ocean waters and when they brought the buckets on deck they discovered to their amazement fresh water. There at the mouth of the Amazon river, anchored for days, too far from land to see the coast, but not too far from the mouth of the river, they had fresh water in abundance.2

How like the blessings of God. They surround us everywhere we look and are new every morning—and he and he alone has the water of life. As Jesus said, "Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life'"

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for your endless blessings you surround me with every day and, above all, thank you for providing the water of eternal life. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
Giving with a warm hand
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 22:1-9
"A generous man will himself be blessed '" (v.9)

Does being a generous person mean you will always have plenty to give away? Not necessarily. This would be a naive interpretation of the principle we are discussing. Certain other texts of Scripture have to be laid against these verses in Proverbs if we are to get a more complete picture of the truth under discussion. Some Christians cannot be trusted with a lot of money or earthly goods; they just would not know how to manage them.

That said, it needs to be noted that you do not have to be rich to be generous. A pauper can give like a prince, providing he or she has the right spirit. An old Jewish saying puts it like this: "The man who gives with a smile gives more than the man who gives with a frown." It is the spirit of generosity that the Bible focuses on first of all - the spirit that gives, not because it wants to get but because it simply delights to give. Someone has defined generosity as "giving with a warm hand." I like that. Who likes to receive anything from a cold hand?

As you know, the opposite of generosity is selfishness, and just as generosity is a facet of wisdom, so selfishness is a facet of foolishness. A teacher said to a class: "Unselfishness means voluntarily going without something you need. Can anyone give me an example?" A little boy raised his hand and said: "Yes, sometimes I go without a bath even though I need one." We smile, but how many of us do the same thing and turn a truth on its head to take the pressure off ourselves?

O God, help me to be a person who gives "with a warm hand." Melt any coldness and iciness there may be in my spirit and make me a magnanimous and generous person. Fire me with a passion to give. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.