Monthly Archives: May 2013

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 31, 2013

Read Romans 1:5

Critical to the process of crossing roads is leaving our circles of privilege and adjusting our perceptions of the world. For example, when many people look at youth in the inner city from the outside they think that they are violent, dangerous, lazy underachievers. Our perceptions have been shaped by what we have seen on television, read in the newspapers, heard on the news. But building relationships with young people from the city can reveal a completely different scenario – determination, vision, thrift, perseverance, and an understanding of how life work. Traversing a different social landscape helps us become more sensitive to issues of injustice – issues that keep the poor, poor. … When we dare to cross the borders, we change our social landscape, our view of life, and our understanding of others. Without embracing this kind of discipline it will be difficult for the church to make the needed adjustment to understand and hear the voices of those beyond their church walls. It takes both a personal commitment and a commitment from the body of Christ to accomplish it.

As you reflect upon the social landscape of your life, what injustices do you become sensitive toward? Do you need to expand your social landscape to learn to see the injustices? It takes work to expand our relational circles, what type of discipline could you embrace to understand and hear the voices beyond your social circle (or church walls)?

Written by Bruce Main

Originally published in 2011

May I Serve You – Devotional for May 30, 2013

I am so glad Jesus did not simply pray about race relations. I am glad Jesus lived with his feet on the ground and allowed his feet to take him place where others would not go. … So how do we, as followers of Jesus, deal with fear? How do we find the courage to confront road-crossing situations where we are called to stretch every fiber of our faith? [The] interaction in Gethsemane provides a model. … First, Jesus prayed honestly. He did not try to hide his fear, deny it, or repress it. Jesus put it all on the table, believing that God could handle his prayer. … Second, Jesus did not stop with prayer. Jesus confessed his anguish and fear to his closest friends. By inviting his community of friends to experience what he felt, Jesus rejected the idea that truly spiritual people have to be superhuman. It’s okay to be vulnerable and show weakness. … True people of faith confront their fears, cross their roads, and grow. p. 59, 119

Do you believe fear is part of our biological makeup? How do you think we can best overcome the fear of the other? What does the biblical command “fear not” mean to you? How could it be applied in your own life?

Written by Bruce Main

Originally published in 2011

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 29, 2013

Read Mark 12:28-31

As Christians, we are certainly accountable for the general well-being of those who are very close and dear to us – members of our family and friends. In addition, since we are members of the body of Christ, that is the Church, we are also required to exercise full accountability for others as well. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us of our responsibility towards others in a simple term…“Love your neighbor as yourself”. This commandment ties so much into the idea of living missionally, showing God’s love to your neighbor and being Christ’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In our busy lives, coupled with our desire to have so much more of everything for ourselves, how challenging is it for us to love our neighbors as Jesus commands us to do?

We have an opportunity to be true representatives of Christ here on earth by living missionally, wherever we are. You can spread God’s word to your neighbor, friend, co-worker, be a Good Samaritan to those in need, a gentle listener or a shoulder to cry on for those who are hurting or in despair. You can pray for and donate financial and material support to missionaries and outreach ministries that are ministering regularly to others in this country and in foreign countries.

Are you allowing God to use you as an instrument of His love by sharing the Word as well as your blessings with others?

Written by Fred Twum-Acheampong

Originally published in 2011

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 28, 2013

In the verse above, John is encouraging us to represent Jesus and his gospel, not only by sharing it in words, but by helping meet the physical needs around us. He understood that to tell someone that God loves them but not offer food, or shelter, when it was needed, would be counterproductive to God’s message.

Camden, NJ is considered to be the third poorest city in the country. According to United States Census Bureau 35.6% of the city’s residents live in poverty. Many of these people do not have a decent and safe place to live. Habitat for Humanity is sharing God’s love by helping these people build not only homes, but new beginnings. To this day Habitat of Camden has provided
houses for 49 families. In my work with this organization I have seen how a simple swing of a hammer can open hearts to Christ. It doesn’t take experience or carpentry skills, (although those skills are welcome), just a willingness to serve. In obeying God’s calling to serve others we can not only share his love with others, but develop a deeper understanding of that love in our own lives.

How will you be the love of God today? In what ways will yourespond to others so that they will see the love of God alive?

Written by Dave & Erin Cesare

Originally published in 2011

 

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 27, 2013

Read: Isaiah 52:7

This is for you young people. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much of God’s work in this world is being done by the young. It’s absolutely amazing to behold!

Here’s just one example: On March 11, 2011 Japan was hit with a massive earthquake and tsunami followed by an ongoing nuclear disaster. Within days the local teens, mostly missionary kids, produced videos and facilitated other social network campaigns that rivaled the work of professionals. They spread the message of the needs in Japan all over the internet via YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Within two weeks the relief organization here called CRASH had over 1.6 million hits on their homepage via Facebook alone. They raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and launched a massive tsunami of prayer for Japan. As one 16 year old put it: “I let the older guys do their older guy stuff, while I played on the Internet. I wanted to go to Sendai,” he said, “I’m not going up there, but I’m helping other people get up there by building awareness.”

I’m not implying that you should started preaching on-line, but I want to encourage you to think creatively about how you can use your wired lifestyle for the cause of Christ. I’ll keep on with my older guy stuff. You younger guys put your heads together and have some fun on the internet.

How beautiful in cyberspace are the hands of those who bring good news.

How can you use the internet and social media outlets for the cause of Christ?

Written by Bob McKemey

Originally published in 2011

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 26, 2013

Read: Acts 1:8

Acts 1:8, in the great commission tells us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We have all heard about the child who makes a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fills a backpack with clothing, grabs his pillow and announces “I’m running away” to his parents. This child is doing this in a spirit of disobedience or defiance. His parents respond, “OK, just don’t cross the street”. If we were in a society where our block was considered a safe haven, this would define the end of the earth for that child.

The question that’s critical to examine is, “Are we going in obedience or disobedience?” You see, we are all going somewhere. It could be to help a friend, serve at a soup kitchen or to watch our favorite TV rerun. We are still going. So where is “the end of the earth”? Oddly enough, I think most of us evaluate that in relation to where we are. We joke about digging to China, but that is only the other side of the earth. If we calculate it in terms of the furthest distance from where we stand, we end almost in the same spot by going around the globe. So the end of the earth in reality is the place where our Father through the Holy Spirit tells us to go and proclaim the good new of Jesus and His salvation.

Our Father will only ask us to go where He knows we will be able to go. We will have to be successful on our own block if we are to be trusted to cross the street. We will have to be our own neighborhoods, if we are trusted to go further out. His command starts close and then moves out from there. Each step prepares us for the next. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

And if our works remain consistent in giving God the glory as instructed in Matthew 5:16, and our works are focused on proclaiming the good news to other, then the Holy Spirit will enable us, as in Acts 4:33: “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”

Written by Fred Tahan

Originally published in 2011

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 25, 2013

Read James 2:14-17

Picture it, a single mother with a disabled child, a senior who worked all their life now struggling to live on a fixed income or someone who is suffering because they made a few wrong choices, maybe even mistakes we have or could have made ourselves, sits starving. They don’t know where their next meal will come from, or if it will come. They don’t know how they will feed their child. What pain, what horror.

Do I decide to walk by and say “God bless you, I hope you have a nice day.” on my way to pick up a $5 coffee? Shouldn’t I rather help them? Yet, this is happening everyday. Those that are hungry, that don’t have enough food to feed their family, they need to be shown the love of Jesus through our actions. As we profess our faith in Christ let us demonstrate it and not be accused of a faith that is dead.

Park Avenue Community Church Food Pantry in Somerdale, NJ exists for this reason. There are those facing hunger in our area. Unfortunately, when bad times hit, the food bill is usually the first to get cut because you can’t quite compromise with your landlord or mortgage company, you still need car insurance and a car to get to work in this area and you have to pay your utilities if you want to keep them, and so the food budget lessens and lessens. Limited government assistance is available to a few yet there are many who make too much too receive it but are still going hungry. There are more people signing up at Park Ave by the week. The demand is up and so the need for donations and help increases and we have yet more instances to live out our faith through this ministry.

Take a look around you. Do you notice those who are struggling? How can you help them?

Written by Janine Fleming

Originally published in 2011

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 24, 2013

Read: Mark 10:17-31, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Mark 14:1-9

Elyse and I went to an old Bradlees parking lot on a Saturday morning in late June, We did not know what to expect, Janine could not be there and asked if we would be there to represent Ashland. A large tractor trailer was parked parallel to the white horse pike and served as our anchor for the day. As it turned out many of the volunteers that day were first timers like us and were not sure what to do. We were there to help and soon found ourselves busy unloading all types of canned and frozen and fresh foods on a long row of tables, A fairly new church in our area who had organized this event had a plan. Soon we understood why we there. While we were preparing tables, a very long line of people had formed in the parking lot, All types of people were waiting, many in chairs to keep their place in line. At 9 am we started distributing food in a very organized fashion. Each person had one or several color coded cards which relayed to us what we could give them. We not only gave each recipient their allotted food but we also assisted and escorted many of them to their vehicles and taxis. This is where the kids came in, they placed the loaded boxes or bags of food on little furniture dollies and pushed them to the waiting vehicles, We served seniors, families, disabled, single moms,multi-generational families. And we stayed open from 9 am till 1pm. Some of the volunteers started leaving around 11 am. This is when the work and commitment really started. We could have left too but there were still many people to serve. It was fun and exhausting at the same time on a hot summer day.

Our bible is made up of many, many words on many pages that we need to ingest in order to get our spiritual food. But if we just know the word of God what good is that, It was never the intent of Jesus to come to this world and fill us with nice thoughts. He came to serve as our example. He fed the poor, healed the sick, challenged the religious all while he was discipling the Twelve. One thing that struck me in serving that day was that not all the people looked poor and needy, Perhaps many just came for the free food because it was there to take, I quickly realized that we were not there to judge people or their needs but to just offer what was given for them. Some had pretty nice cars! But, What if they were out of work or helping their own circle of friends or family, There was such a long line of so many people right in our back yard. Most were needy and it was such a joy just to fill their bags and escort them to their rides and engage them in conversation.

This is another reminder that it can take amazing time and effort to really help others no matter what the need is. We need to decide at some point in our lives if we are going to live Gods way, sacrificing for others, or simply talk about it but in reality just live for ourselves and our own pleasure. Jesus did say that the poor will always be with us – does that mean we just accept that fact and go our own way or does it mean that we will always have needy in our community? Full time ministry to the poor is not for all in our church but what about you? How will you know without getting involved? How can we support those in our church or community who are deeply passionate about the needs around you and me?

Written by Darrell Proctor

Originally published in 2011

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 23, 2013

Read: Philippians 1:27, Ephesians 4:11-12, 1 John 3:18

Living a life worthy of the gospel means taking and sharing the gospel wherever you might be, including work. If you work outside of the home you spend more time there than anywhere else and have access to many different people – coworkers, clients, cleaning staff, the people who work at the deli or restaurant where you eat lunch or meet for dinner or drinks. We need to be able to take our faith and live it in the world we inhabit when we leave our Sunday morning worship at Ashland. In order to share your faith, you need to connect with people first and one of the best ways to connect with others is to ask about them and really listen to their response. It’s so easy to say to Mary – “How was your weekend” and breeze on to work topics without really hearing that Mary’s husband was sick and the washing machine broke. This is an opportunity to offer Mary a few minutes to talk, maybe vent a bit and ask – “How can I help” and mean it. As you learn more about the people surrounding you on a daily basis you have the chance to share, serve and to pray for, and sometimes, with them.

Sharing your faith at work also means acting like a Follower of Christ and being an example to those around you – treating others as you would expect to be treated, quietly going out of your way to serve others, seeing a need and filling it, providing encouragement and support to those that are struggling. Spend some time praying over the above scriptures and asking God to show you how you can share his Gospel in your workplace.

Written by Peg Buckley

May I Serve You – Devotion for May 22, 2013

Read: Proverbs 16: 1 & 9

Before we dive into the word of God contemplate how you as the individual perceive the following questions/subjects:

When the topic of community service or serving within the church arises what exactly goes through your mind? Do you associate serving others only with certain activities such as visiting the elderly at the local nursing home, attending a church or community cleanup once a year, or financially supporting a friend in a run/walk for charity organizations? When specifically thinking about serving within the church do only the following positions come to mind: elders, deacons, trustees, financial bookkeepers, Sunday school teachers? Do you groan in agony when asked to be involved or to fill any of these position. Do you even run away turning the other direction doing all you can possibly do to avoid that one item of service you never want to do? Do you have a gift, talent, or knowledge of something in life which would benefit others, but you are withholding that ability only to the confines of your own home and/or place of employment?

If you would consider yourself someone who is highly involved throughout your community or within the church, consider these questions: Are you serving for your own gain and fame? Are you taking on too many tasks, stressing yourself out, thinking you must sign up for as many volunteer opportunities as you can, and in the end feeling overwhelmed more than you are at peace with yourself? Do you make sure every task is completed with such a high level of perfection to the point where those who are serving along your side are actually annoyed with you? Do you feel focused more on the act of serving rather than who you ought to be serving–God?

The point of the matter is this:

First, Self-Sacrificing service is not limited to certain generalized positions within the church or community; don’t ever be pushed away by generalized mainline positions of service and give the excuse: “I don’t fit in” or “That’s just not me”. If you recognize the talents Gods has given you approach your pastors, church elders, ministry leaders, and community members offering up your services. God has created you with those Gifts and talents. He isn’t a boring, creativity lacking, a mind without imagination type of God. We are made in the very image, the very mind of God: So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27 NIV). So use your talents in the face of others, don’t hide them!

Second, as you walk about your daily life, whether in school, work, church, around family & neighbors, with friends, etc. do it unto the Lord and He will put the desire to serve within certain areas of your life that were unimaginable before! Things so unimaginable not even I as the writer of this devotional can conjure them up in writing, literally! Well you may ask well how in world do I walk my daily life unto the Lord Jesus Christ? I have no road map but this, PRAY! Allowing your spirit to walk in accordance with God’s will is the ultimatum over walking this earth by your own plans apart from His. When you pray talk to God as you would your earthly Father, and what I mean by that is talk to Him like you would any human being on this earth; Pour out your heart to him with plain words and feelings. Whether it’s anger, stress, despair, or joy He is listening! ASK God for the strength to serve in light of fear, weakness, and selfishness. ASK God to turn your heart from your pride over to his desires and plans for you! ASK him to do the unimaginable: expose the sin in your heart and wash it away. When you find yourself feeling like a failure or full of pride even after reading this devotional, as Timothy Brindle says: “Hug the bloody cross!” Building your relationship to be in Him and NOT in yourself is where you will find the ultimate road map to a life of self-sacrificing service.

Written by Ryan Proctor