They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. Psalm 35:12-14
There is a passionate prayer for our enemies. It rests in the recesses of our righteous soul. It is counter intuitive in our aggressive age of revenge and resentment. But it is intuitive for those who intercede indiscriminately to the Almighty on behalf of all people. As followers of Jesus, we do not have the right to only pray for those who love and support us. We are also called to crash the gates of heaven on behalf of those who bother us. People who do not pursue Christ, but who pursue us with malicious intent are intended to be on our prayer list. Our natural man wants to ignore those who ignore us, writing them off, but Christ commands us to inscribe their names on our hearts for prayer. And it is not an obligatory prayer that we get out of the way once and then move on. It is a persistent and passionate prayer for our enemies that Christ expects.
Jesus described well our attitude toward our enemies, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44). Your enemy can be anyone who is against you and/or against God. You feel a persistent push back from their personality. You have felt hostility towards each other and even malicious intent. They may have harmed you financially. Regardless of the degree of enmity, there is a relational disconnect and distrust. An enemy is not a favorite person of yours, and you do not enjoy their company. It may be your parent who seems to have zero interest in your affairs. They only contact you when they need something. It may be a spouse who has stacked layers of hurt into your relationship over the years and you can hardly stand to look at them. It may be a friend who has betrayed you. It may be a plaintiff in a lawsuit.
Regardless of whom we envision as our enemies, we are to pray for them and love them. Our prayers are to be full of passion and pleading on their behalf. We bombard the throne of grace asking God to pour out His mercy on their behalf. They may be blinded by unbelief and groping around life in graceless confusion. Our enemies need enlightenment from our eternal Savior, Jesus. We were once enemies of the cross outside of Christ’s care. We acted like we had it all together, when in reality we were poor and wretched souls lost in our sins. It is as through our fasting and prayers for those who are in the bondage of unbelief that God may choose to set them free. Passionate prayer persists.
Prayer is never in vain. If the one being prayed for is not blessed, certainly it blesses the one who intercedes on their behalf. Our prayer for our enemies changes us. It softens our hearts and speech with sympathy. It allows us to model our prayers after our master, Jesus, when He prayed, ”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Passionate prayer for our enemies is as much about us, as them. It changes us both.
“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” (Proverbs 12:16).
Fools are forever flailing away at an offense, while a prudent man or woman is patient to forgive. A fool is easily provoked to anger, always looking for an argument to win. He or she is combative without compassionate concern. However, prudence is careful in its response, not willing to be reckless, but to be right. Wisdom employs forethought and prayer; it answers with an attitude of respect. Prudence invokes patience.
Do you buckle under pressure saying things you later regret? It is better to keep quiet and cool down than to vent venomous words in the flesh. Make this a goal when disciplining your children. Avoid anger as the instructor of your punishment. We tend to speak harshly and to act unreasonably when driven by anger. Wait prayerfully for twenty-four hours; then revisit the infraction with your child. Use cool correction.
“This is what you are to say to Joseph: ‘I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.’ When their message came to him, Joseph wept” (Genesis 50:17).
Bridle your tongue by God’s grace. The Bible says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Your words can grieve another or give hope. They can hurt or heal. Therefore, submit to the Holy Spirit’s control of your conversations.
Lastly, you are blessed if you are insulted for Christ’s sake. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11). Reward awaits those rejected for righteousness’ sake. Have you died to the right to be right? Do you hold a grudge or have to get even? In Christ we are dead to sin, and the dead are not insulted.
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
Prayer: Whom do I need to patiently forgive for Christ’s sake?
Jay Payleitner is one of the top freelance Christian radio producers in the United States. He has worked on Josh McDowell Radio, Today's Father, Jesus Freaks Radio for The Voice of the Martyrs, Project Angel Tree with Chuck Colson, and many others. He’s also a popular speaker at men's events and the author of the bestselling 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, 52 Things Wives Need from a Husband, and One-Minute Devotions for Dads. He has also served as an AWANA director, a wrestling coach, and executive director of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Jay and his wife, Rita, make their home in the Chicago area, where they’ve raised five great kids and loved on ten foster babies.
Here are some things my bride likes: fireworks, parades, a company bathroom that’s welcoming, babies, cute babies, goofy-looking babies, well produced television commercials with cute or goofy-looking babies, scones, sparkly glassware on her Thanksgiving dinner table, hanging out with her children, bling for Christmas, warm feet, lying on a beach with a book, fresh flowers, fresh snow, frozen Cokes, lightly buttered popcorn, drinking straws, craft magazines, etcetera.
It’s a good list. And I’ll probably think of a few more things in the normal course of life. I’ll have to make sure my editor checks with me right before going to press to see if there are a few more things to add. Actually, just writing this list has been a valuable exercise. Th inking about what my bride likes literally strengthens my marriage.
A couple of things worth noting about this kind of list. It focuses on the positive. I could have included items such as “chili that’s not filled with cayenne pepper” and “kitchen countertops without a bunch of appliances.” But that would essentially be a list of things she doesn’t like (spicy chili and cluttered counters). Everything on the list gives off mostly positive vibes. Of course, we husbands should be well aware of what our wives don’t like, but that’s not the point of this chapter.
The other thing about this list is that these are not emotional needs or love languages exclusive to the husband-wife relationship. These are things Rita likes anytime, anyplace, no matter who provides them. If a scone, fresh flowers, or craft magazine mysteriously appeared on our kitchen table, she would enjoy that thing simply because she likes it. Sure, part of the fun of parades and fireworks is sharing them with others, but I’m pretty sure Rita would enjoy them in the company of strangers.
You probably know where I’m going with this. A wise husband will make a similar list particular to his own wife. Using it and updating it frequently. In random order, provide one of those items to your bride once a week for the rest of your life. Be intentional about it. Find a scone bakery on the way home from work. On movie night, make sure you have some microwave popcorn in the cabinet. Book a beach vacation.
Or better, keep the list at the top of your mind and allow it to trigger spontaneous moments when you provide your wife one of her favorite things. While you’re waiting for a prescription, if you notice a craft magazine, pick it up. If one of those cute-baby commercials comes on when she’s in the kitchen, pause the DVR and play it for her when she returns. If you notice the sun glinting off a fresh snowfall, stop what you’re doing and share the moment with your bride.
The goal here is not selfish. It’s easy to think, If I give her what she likes, she’ll give me what I like. That’s not it at all. The goal is to fully integrate into your marriage the “two becoming one” idea from Matthew chapter 19. Maybe think of it this way: If I give her what she likes, it gives me joy as well.
Making sense? No? It makes total sense to me, but perhaps that is because I started this chapter out with a list specific to my bride. I’m pretty sure that if you make a similar list for yours, it will all be clear. Don’t just do it in your head. Get out a yellow pad or open a new Word doc and just start thinking about what makes your wife smile. Your mind may start to wander to the stuff that ticks her off or launches an unwelcome bout of nagging, but don’t go there. Stay positive.
I promise, just making that list will give you all kinds of fresh insights, warm fuzzies, and a new appreciation for your bride. You’ll begin to see her as only a devoted husband can. There are things you know about her that no one else does. Which means only you can intentionally and regularly provide those moments of joy. Only you can prompt that intimate smile that makes marriage different than any other relationship in the world.
The longer you’re married, the more you know how to push your wife’s buttons. Which ones to push and how often is really your choice.
If you would have told the 15 year-old version of Jon Erwin that he’d end up creating a movie that would grace the cover of the New York Times – he probably never would have believed it. But that’s what his God does – the impossible. And he recruits people – like you, and the Erwins – to join that effort.
Family Christian: Could you give us a brief history of Jon and Andy Erwin?
Jon Erwin: (laughs) Well, we’re a couple of guys who had a hobby that went completely out of control. We were given an incredible opportunity in this business very early, as teenagers. When I was 15 years old, my dad was in Christian radio and I worked at a cable station and became a cameraman there. I was an apprentice under a guy that was a sports freelancer and worked for ESPN. So one day on a gig he was doing for a University of Alabama football game somebody got sick just a few hours before kickoff. They were scrambling, so Mike called me and said “hey get over here, I talked to the director and he knows you’re green, no one knows quite how old you are, but get over here and run this camera.” And so I did, this wide-eyed 15 year-old kid. I ran this huge camera and all I knew was that I could zoom into the moon (laughs). It was like a telescope. I think the first time that that red light came on my camera, I was just hooked. I knew that’s what I would do for the rest of my life. So I was freelancing for ESPN literally at the age of 15. When I was 16 my dad helped my brother and I get a $10,000 loan for our first video editing equipment and we started a video production company in our hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. We did commercials, weddings and church and ministry promotional videos.
FC: So you were 16 when you got the loan. How old was your brother?
Jon: My brother was 19. He was at Bible college in upstate New York, so he came home and we started working together. The more we did, the more people called us the Erwin Brothers. [So it] literally was a decade-long practice track where we could refine our skills. And it just grew.
FC: And so how did you transition into the Christian world?
Jon: Michael W. Smith actually gave us our break into Christian music videos, where we [ended up having] our greatest level of success. I don’t really know why he let us, it was very low budget and he kinda put his name on the line for these two kids from Alabama, but it turned out great. It was a very emotional video. Oddly enough it was Rachel Hendrix’s (who stars in October Baby) first time on the screen. It was How to Say Goodbye by Michael W. Smith. We’d found her at a community college and one of our crew members had put her in a short film he had done, so we cast her in that video about a father saying good bye to his daughter, which is very ironic. The video did very well and propelled us into doing a lot of videos in the Christian space. We won a lot of awards for that video. [Then] we did documentaries and dramatic television. Ya know, I’d say we were the Hans Solo of the Christian world. If you had money, we had a ship. We were a hired gun. I went on to direct second unit on Courageous for the Kendrick brothers… I was responsible for a lot of the action in the film and we had a blast. It was so much fun working for those guys, and they really challenged me. Alex [Kendrick] asked me “Jon, what’s your purpose? What’s the purpose of your work?” And I had a hard time answering that question because I was raised a Christian and my faith has always been important to me – but there’s a huge leap between doing something for somebody and getting a paycheck, to being passionate about an idea and raising money for that idea… following it all of the way through. It’s just a very, very scary transition and I think Stephen and Alex really came alongside us and helped us be brave enough to make that jump. About that time we were thinking about using our gifts and how we hadn’t really tried to get into entertainment and film, God had just put us in it.
FC: So tell us a little bit about October Baby. How did the concept come about?
Jon: [Making the film] was a period of two years. We had worked decades to kind of refine a style working for other people. So we thought our first movie would be a football movie or something with lots of explosions because we love doing that kind of work. So lo and behold I went and heard Gianna Jessen speak – she is an abortion survivor. I had no idea that those two words could go together. And ya know, she has a lot of physical problems because she survived a saline abortion, [including] cerebral palsy but she’s such a beautiful person with a beautiful spirit. There’s this wonderful quality about her. I was mesmerized by her story and her angle and a section of our culture that I honestly didn’t know existed. It moved me so much that I started researching it with Cecil Stokes (one of the producers of the film). I’d dare anybody to Google “abortion survivors” and try to read the stories for 20 minutes and not have to walk away from your computer because it’s so tragic that this has happened, is happening. I could not stop thinking about it. We felt like we need to expose this – we need to share this. I took it to my brother and we started thinking about it. We thought, you know if we do a documentary it would be very difficult, maybe impossible to watch, but what if we told the story of this beautiful, 19 year-old girl that discovers this about herself, that she was adopted because she was a survivor of a failed abortion? So she has to go on a journey of discovery, to find answers, to find herself and to find the power of forgiveness – which I think is universal. And that’s the film that we set out to make.
At every stage [of making the movie], there were a lot of people who didn’t understand what we were doing – like, why is this your first movie? Why isn’t it an action or sports movie? A Christian abortion movie from two unknown movie guys from Alabama is not the easiest thing in the world to market. But at the end of the day we had that still small voice that this was what we were supposed to do and that this was the story God wanted us to tell. It’s a scary subject for the church; for all of us, but it needs to be addressed. [James 1:27 says] “True religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress…” and I think part of that is giving a voice to those who don’t have one. I think this represents a massive portion of our society that doesn’t have a voice and we thought we could give them one with this film.
October Baby trailer
FC: Give us some insight as to how you guys transitioned from sports TV into Christian music videos and then into cinematic releases.
Jon: A big part of it is that part of me (and my 3.5 year old daughter has inherited my DNA which makes me wife’s job so much more difficult) is I am so ADHD and hyperactive that I can’t stay in one place for very long (laughs), so I think there was a natural longing to… I’m telling you, beyond my relationship with God and my family (in the work world), there is nothing more gratifying than staring at a blank piece of paper and having a passion for an idea then seeing it come to life, in a collaborative way. Our team, our film crew is the best on earth. Our marketing team and our team at Provident are the best on earth. And when all these people work on this idea and then see it on a 40 foot screen with people enjoying and genuinely being moved by it… I can’t even describe what it feels like. I love sports but you don’t get that feeling. There’s no real higher purpose to what you’re doing. Moving to Christian music, I loved doing Christian music videos, and collaborating with all of those bands and being able to visualize their vision and build relationships – as fun as that is, there’s still an itch for something more. And I think that itch was to really use that skill for a higher purpose and calling. It’s like the first words in A Purpose Driven Life were “It’s not about you,” we’re all made for something more. It was that drive, that instinct that our skills could be used for something more, for some reason we just weren’t comfortable working for ESPN and understood it to be just a stepping stone, not a permanent place to stay. I think the permanent place is to stay in what we’ve found. There’s no going back to that after something like October Baby. It’s Peter Jackson who said “pain is temporary, film is forever.” It really is true in our culture. There’s no more effective way of communication today in our culture than entertainment and it’s very gratifying. It’s very nice to know that October Baby will outlive me. That’s what’s so exciting about movies like this. I think in 50 years Fireproof will still be changing marriages. I hope that October Baby will help people to value life more. So I think we finally found something that we can hang out in for a long time. What we did before was fun, but it wasn’t fulfilling.
FC: So when you boil it down, what do you hope people take away from this movie?
Jon: I hope that you get swept away in the love story and are entertained with October Baby, but I hope that it will really make you stop and think about how you value life. I hope it moves people like it moves me. I would consider myself like a “pro-life pacifist” before this film. My dad was a two-term Republican state senator so I was certainly a conservative but it was just not something that I thought much about. I think in a lot of our minds we think, well it’s a done deal. It’s not a done deal and there’s plenty we can do about it. You can stand up for them. It’s what we should be doing.
FC: So this topic is a weighty one. Not just politically, but also in the church. What have you told people when you’ve gotten some controversy over the film, or harsh critiques?
Jon: (laughs) Well, I guess I didn’t quite know what we were signing up for, so I guess on the front end, ignorance was bliss. We didn’t quite know the firestorm that we’d be entering. Having said that, the biggest thing was we didn’t want to necessarily make a movie that told you what to think as much as we wanted to encourage you to stop and think. To me, my interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan was – the three people that walked by the guy on the road weren’t necessarily bad people, they were just preoccupied people. We have never been more preoccupied, there’s never been so much noise in our culture before. Now we deal with Google and Facebook and bombarding entertainment it’s very difficult (if not impossible) for us to slow down and ask the big questions. But you get [people] into movie theaters, you can’t escape (laughs). So the idea was, can we make people stop and think about this issue? I’ve heard it said “films shouldn’t only give answers, they should ask very penetrating questions.” And so our goal with October Baby was to get people to stop, think and talk. I think no matter what your political or religious perspective is it’s a valuable conversation to have. So when the New York Times roasted the movie or when I’m on NPR Morning Edition and they ask me every possible controversial question (although the final piece was very positive), that means people are talking about it (laughs). It was great when we opened at number 8 and then a few days later we’re on the front page of the New York Times. That says that we had fulfilled our purposes and hopefully a lot of good was coming from it. And then when we started getting the stories back of the good, for every difficult review that was written on the film, or for every time we were roasted, there was 200 stories of someone’s life being changed from this movie. It became a lot easier to weather and a little bit easier to get over my own ego with the reviews when you heard of lives being changed. It was very interesting to see on RottenTomatoes.com where they aggregate the critics and also the audience, we have like the largest gap of any film we could find the site between the reviews and the people (laughs) our approval rating. I think Walk Disney said it best “I don’t make films for the critics, I make the films for the people.” It was cool to see our audience embrace the film and see lives changed.
FC: Tell us a little about the feedback that you are getting…
Jon: I remember these two moments that I’ll mention. I got an email from a Christian girl who had taken one of her friends to the film who had been to a clinic three times and was pretty set on having an abortion. After the movie she decided to keep her child and said the movie had given her the courage, faith and hope to have her baby. I was so blown away by that. Then I was in a screening and this little 12 year old boy said to me, your movie just changed my life and I thought he’d come out of another movie (laughs)… I think you’re mixed up buddy, my movie doesn’t have any pirates or explosions in it (laughs). But then I thought – oh maybe he’s adopted or something and he said my dad had an affair against my mom and I’ve been angry at my dad. But after seeing this movie I’m going home to forgive my father. And I’m just like (laughs) Thank you! I just didn’t know what to say. The biggest surprise is (if statistics are accurate) 4 out of 10 women have experienced an abortion. And that means that millions of men have experienced an abortion too, I mean, we all know someone who has. There were thousands of people who approached us that had had an abortion and had carried the weight. Something about the words “I forgive you” being written on the screen and being part of the story was very cathartic and healing to them and they would just come to us in droves.
Impact of October Baby the film:
FC: With the release of October Baby you also created another site called Every Life is Beautiful where you incorporated other peoples’ conversations. How has that been received? And is it helping to propel the message of the film?
Jon: That’s a great question. Ya know, what’s funny is some things you just kind of discover along the way, and the tagline to the movie took a little while (laughs). There were all kinds of taglines tossed out. We did a limited release of the film in October of 2011 with American Family Association to sort of test the movie. It was just 14 theaters and that’s really where we discovered that the movie had an audience. That was also where we discovered the tagline because when we would show the movie people would tell their stories, about abortion survivor or someone that “shouldn’t” have lived or an adoption and it was like the aggregate of all of these stories. Some that were better than the movie in some cases (laughs)! And it was simple to find it. That was the whole point. “Every life is beautiful.” We’re celebrating the value of every person’s life, no matter your disability, your race, no matter who you are. You have value to God and to us. That became the tag. So then we thought, can we do something more? So we created that other site to follow up with web vignettes with people that you’ve heard of (Christian celebrities) and others. We just did one about this girl in Texas who survived an abortion and her story – there’s no way on earth she should have been alive and yet here she is; it’s just the coolest story. Bobby Downs, the producer, shared his story of adoption and so it just became a place that we could celebrate life. I think the movie is not just about what we’re against. This movie is also about what we’re for. And what we’re for is life. We’re PRO-life that’s the whole point. In the marketing of the movie we wanted a communal celebration of the value of life. We also wanted to put 10% of the profits of the movie into a fund. So before I turn a check from the profits of this film, a check will go to a pregnancy resource center or an orphanage, or a frontline organization that’s helping orphans or young girls navigate the toughest decision she has to make. I’m anxious to see what kind of life the site takes on. My hope is that we could propel it to keep going.
FC: How much of the movie (if any) involves your own personal stories?
Jon: I’m a big fan of [Director] Christopher Nolan who said that he believes the audience can tell when a filmmaker is taking an emotional journey versus if the filmmaker is using his bag of tricks to make the audience feel something that he himself doesn’t feel. He believes that a film has to be real first to the filmmaker. JJ Abrams said that you have to have an overriding confidence that if something is inspirational and meaningful to you, it will be to your audience as well. So at the end of the day I think you have to make a movie for yourself; a movie about things you’re trying to process emotionally. So October Baby really covers a time in my life where I was saying, like James, faith without works is dead, and ya know, we’re kind of defined by what we do. When it comes to the area of the sanctity of life, I hadn’t really done anything. Sure I go to a great church and I vote Republican, but I haven’t really done anything. So it was me trying to process that. I wanted to make a very honest and raw piece that was a part of my journey and something that I was struggling with answering for myself, so that’s what we did. It was intensely personal all of the way through. From writing the script to producing the movie, we put ourselves in it. That’s one thing about working in the music business as long as I did, I really gravitate to people who write their own music because you just get so much more of a sense of who the artist is, as opposed to someone who records songs that were written. So we wrote it, produced it, I shot it, Andy edited it, it really is us. It’s deeply personal and I hope that when you see it you get an idea of who we are and what we appreciate and value. Then also it started with the title. A lot of people have asked me about that specifically. My wife and I were driving down the road (and she’s a total planner, I am not a planner, I’m a delinquent creative) and we were talking about our second child. She said, if we have a summer baby, we can buy this type of clothes, if we have a winter or December baby, we can buy these type of clothes, but if we have an October baby… and that’s kinda when I snapped back into the conversation from daydreaming and said, that would be a great title for a girl just trying to find herself or taking life’s journey to discover who she is. But I just sort of shelved that idea away for a long time until I learned about the issue of an abortion survivor and I married the two. And then (our son) Ethan ended up being born October 28th and then my brother’s daughter Amelia was born the next October, so there’s kind of three October babies. It started that way and I hope the people can get to know Andy and I – who we are and that this isn’t just some script we read and wanted to direct. It’s something that was two years of our lives and something we’re deeply passionate about. I think the body of Christ and the Christian community does a lot, but we can do so much more of caring for the orphan and the widow, the ‘least of these’ in our culture. I hope that this movie is an encouragement to everyone to say, what can I do? as they enjoy it.
FC: What is your favorite movie?
Jon: Asking me what my favorite movie is, is like asking a cook what his favorite meal is!
FC: Ok, one that would qualify in your top 5?
Jon: Ok, I’m going to get myself in trouble here so I’m going to say that I do not approve of all of the content in these movies, but like pastor’s all over America, they’re favorite secret movie is Braveheart. And I’d put myself in that category. I think the line “every man dies, but not every man really lives” has to be the greatest line ever written in the history of movies (laughs) and every time I see that it moves me emotionally, it encourages me to chase my passion and dreams. I’m an epic guy who likes epic movies. I like The Lord of the Rings. I dream of a day when we can interpret the Bible in that way. We have the greatest book of all time and the rights are available. If we could translate the Bible into a movie like Lord of the Rings I think that would be my ultimate dream; goal in life. I was definitely in line for The Dark Night Rises, I also like Pixar. I love the experience of going to the movies. It’s one of my favorite things to do. In fact, my 3.5 year old daughter and I go to the movies together, we call them “daddy dates.” We just saw Madagascar, I love that experience and that we can use it for a greater purpose. I have a running list of my favorites and I go to the movies a lot. Great films stick to you like glue, you can’t get them out of your mind. And every movie has a world view, a message, a set of morals. Don’t tell me you can’t make a movie that’s overtly toward your view that doesn’t do great numbers, I mean, look at Avatar. That’s one of the more overt movies that I’ve seen, but it’s the number one movie of all time. It’s a great business we work in. We have a lot of work to do, a long way to go, but I think we have just scratched the iceberg of what can happen. We have the largest core audience in America and I hope we realize how powerful we are in rallying around a movie – it’s our nation’s largest export. I think it’s upstream to politics now, entertainment is, it’s something we say – we’re buying back our culture one movie ticket at a time. You have no idea how much good you’re doing when you buy a ticket to a Christian movie – it’s like a vote. Exciting times, I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.
“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).
What does it mean to be refreshed? It is to be made fresh, to revive, to enliven, to invigorate, to rejuvenate, to energize, to restore, to recharge, or to revitalize. A meager cup of lukewarm coffee comes alive with a satisfying taste when mixed with freshly brewed beans. A lukewarm life is warmed and encouraged when refreshed with words of encouragement and acts of kindness. Everyone we meet becomes a candidate for refreshment.
Our faith cools down when Christ seems silent and circumstances continue to crumble, but a sincere prayer from a righteous friend warmly restores our confidence. Our hope feels deferred in the face of disappointment and rejection, but we are energized by the acceptance and love of a community of believers in Jesus. Hope loves company. Seek refreshment from your Savior and His followers. Be refreshed so you can refresh others.
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint” (Jeremiah 31:25).
When your parched soul has been watered by dew from heaven, you can lead others to the Lord’s watering hole. People are frantically feeling robbed by insensitive institutions and greedy governments, but we can reconnect them to their generous God. Jesus gives us an abundant life to be shared with others who are absent of abundance. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).
Lastly, your refreshment reciprocates refreshment. When you refresh another financially, you are refreshed by faith and fulfillment. When you refresh another emotionally, you are refreshed by peace and contentment. When you refresh another spiritually, you are refreshed by the grace and love of God. Are you in need of refreshment? If so, receive Christ’s full cup of joy. Drink often with the Lord so you can generously refresh friends.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
Prayer: How can I stay in a routine of refreshment so that I in turn can refresh others?
“A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth. A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself” (Proverbs 11:16-17).
Kindness benefits everyone. It brings joy to the giver and peace to the receiver. The recipient reciprocates because respect is embedded in kindness. Kindheartedness facilitates respect as it treats others with dignity and honor. Even when offended or ostracized, a gracious heart takes the higher ground of humility and gentleness. It may not be liked, but it is respected. Kind actions attract the Almighty’s approval.
What is kindness? At its core it is a reflection of Christ. It is what we expect of the Lord when we desire good things. Listen to the heart of this employee’s prayer for his boss to experience God’s kindness in marriage: "O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham" (Genesis 24:12). In the same way your Savior shows you kindness in salvation and with His severe mercy.
Furthermore, because of Christ’s great kindness, you are compelled to compassionate action. Ruthless men and women use fear and intimidation to gain wealth and power, but considerate adults do not compromise their character for cash or influence. Indeed, God’s great kindness grants us the favor we need. “The Lord was with him [Joseph]; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (Genesis 39:21).
Who doesn’t need kindness? The undeserving especially need your kindness as a reminder of God’s lasting love and infinite forgiveness. Be kind to the unkind, and they will see what really rests in your heart of hearts. Your kindheartedness will lead others to your source in Jesus Christ. Here the kindness of the Lord leads to repentance. “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
Prayer: To whom can I extend kindness that has been unkind to me?
“And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel.” 1 Chronicles 14:2
God establishes people for His purposes. What He establishes no man or movement can stop. Establishments energized by the Holy Spirit enjoy momentum that propels them forward in faith. For example, a church or ministry freshly challenged with a God-sized vision and a unified mission will move forward by God’s grace. A leader led by the Lord will persevere through rough patches, because his motive is the sake of God’s people.
Where has God established you? Are you honored to be at home for the sake of your family? Your faithfulness now in disciplining, training, coaching and mentoring your child will pay a lifetime of dividends in their adult experiences. Does the Lord have you in an influential role at work? Your ability to see the bigger picture of service to the people is what will sustain you to lead well. God established you for His people.
“Then people will say, ‘The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight.” 2 Samuel 7:26
Therefore, use your establishment as a platform for God and others. Your Kingdom opportunity may be a place, a position or both. Ask how as an organization and/or as an individual you can leverage your integrity for the Lord. You are blessed with moral authority to lift the morals of your community, maybe even the world. Your boat of honorable behavior lifts all boats of behavior. God established you for His glory.
Furthermore, do not treat lightly the deep pillars of honor that have settled onto a firm foundation of faith all these years. The Lord’s legacy over your legacy is a long shadow of influence that serves as a moral compass for your children, grandchildren and those you serve. Jesus Christ has established you to serve His people for His glory. What He establishes He sustains and blesses. He accomplishes His will through what He has established—thus make sure the neon sign on your life reads: ESTABLISHED BY GOD!
“The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.” Psalm 102:28
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may You establish me for Your people and for Your glory.
“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17).
Am I well pleasing to the Lord? Do I model a life of submission to my Savior? Do I defer all honor and glory to Him? For my heavenly Father to be well pleased with me is the heartbeat of humility. This means at times I displease others to please my Master Jesus. I will choose to embrace beliefs and behaviors that are other-worldly and can cause conflict.
A Christian, pleasing to Christ, first learns that to be raised high means to begin low. Jesus did not begin His ministry baptizing, but rather being baptized. He required of Himself everything expected from everyone else. Humble leaders do this; they follow the agreed upon guidelines, realizing no one is above the rules. It is with a humble heart that a leader discerns the Lord’s ways and then lives them out in front of the faithful and faithless.
Perhaps goodhearted people seek to place you on a pedestal of admiration and honor. It is at this point of recognition that you keep your spirit low, as your reputation is on the rise. The Lord sustains His blessing for those who defer honor back to Him. It pleases your heavenly Father to see you engage in humble acts, especially as your influence grows. The closer you grow to Christ, the more you see the need for His grace and forgiveness.
You can only deal with the soul of another if Jesus has dealt with your soul. It pleases Him when you first pronounce yourself needy before heaven, before pointing out the needs of another. Humility looks inward at the heart before it outwardly observes the issues of another. The Lord is pleased when you take the lead to repent.
Go public with your faith after you have been private in prayer. This solemn preparation pleases your heavenly Father. Moreover, have you proclaimed your faith publicly in baptism? It pleases God for you to go public for Him. It is an honor becoming your sacred accountability. Private intimacy with your heavenly Father leads to a public inauguration of your faith. He is well pleased with you when you publicly pronounce Him the Lord over your life. Humility pleases Him. Why? It listens and obeys.
“Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow” (Deuteronomy 4:12–13)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may I bring a smile to Your face in honoring You with my attitudes and actions?
"I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4
Prayer positions us to receive the peace of God. It is when we seek Him that we see Him. It is when we see Him that we are secure. As we travel across the choppy sea of life’s circumstances, we can become dizzy and fearful if we look down at the water of wonder. But if we keep our eyes fixed ahead on a stable object, we remain secure and feel safe. Jesus is our immovable object of belief. He is our secure Savior who is there for us when fear assaults our attitude and threatens to highjack our heart. When we seek His face He reciprocates by flooding our countenance with His peace. He replaces our furrowed brow of fear with a calm face of faith. He gives the righteous a radiant face that is never to be covered with shame. The Lord hears our prayers by extending His peaceful presence.
No one has ever been sorry for seeking the Lord. It takes time and effort but it is your best investment. Process your problems with prayer and you will be the most productive. We cannot come to the best solutions in our own strength. One dimensional problem solving only leads to average results at best. Why be satisfied with a perspective limited to your experiences, intelligence and giftedness? It is seeking the Lord that unlocks a treasure trove of truth that leads us to possibilities we would never imagine on our own. The fruit that comes from replacing fear with faith is unlimited. We can rest assured as the Almighty leads us down a new path. This is what may happen in the process of seeking your Savior. He delights in determining a better way for you.
This next season of your life is the Lord’s reward for your faithfulness all these years. You have sought Him unashamedly and obediently. Money has not been your motive. Pride has not prodded you. Fame has not been your forte. You have sought Him with your unselfish service. You have sought Him with your humble obedience. You have sought Him by ministering to the needs of others. Because of your faithfulness in seeking Him, He has grown your faith and marginalized your fears. Therefore, see this next season as an extension of His blessings. There is no need to fear because God is near those who seek Him. There is no safer or more secure place to be than in the process of seeking Him.
Moreover, God expects to hear from you before you can expect to hear from Him. If you restrain prayer; He may refrain grace and mercy. The more you think upon the Lord, and less of yourself, the better off you become. Seek Him, lose yourself, and you will discover the best way. Furthermore, there is no need to fear your next transition as your Heavenly Father has your hand and He is guiding you. There is no need to fear the cessation of this phase of your career as He is in control. There is no need to fear the breaking off of a relationship as He is in the business of mending broken hearts. There is no need to fear provision for your family as God is your provider. Seek Him and He will deliver you from your fears. Seek Him and you will be secure in Him. Seek Him before, during and after trouble comes. Then the process of seeking the Lord becomes second nature to your soul. Then fear fails its mission. Indeed, seeking Him fossilizes your fears!
Taken from Reading #23 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE
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“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)
Small things are big to God, so they are not to be discounted or despised. After all, our Savior is into the small things. Our pride wants to get on to the larger and more important opportunities. It dismisses the mundane or the monotonous. But success and significance are also found in the small details.
A quiet smile to a restaurant server is small, but significant. A little gift to an unsuspecting sanitation worker is small, but significant. Learning the names of a blue-collar worker’s children in your company, and occasionally joining him for lunch is small, but significant. Attention to small things makes people big. Celebrate an office employee’s birthday over breakfast, or an important personal milestone over lunch or dinner. When we give attention to small things, we say we care. Private acts of love foster public loyalty and long-term commitment. It is the attention to small things that builds great people and grows great companies.
This is also true with our children. If we want influence with them when they face big issues as teenagers and adults, it is imperative we show interest in the small things of their childhood. Parental investment in ballgames, recitals, school plays, scouts, church camps, outdoors, homework, shared hobbies, and church all add up to an invitation to big things. Little things like tucking them in at night will one day give them the trust to invite us into the dark night of their souls. Investment in the small things invites our having influence with the big things.
Therefore, do not despise this season of small things. They are like seeds that eventually grow into grand and glorious opportunities of influence. There is a definite sequence of seed planting, watering, fertilizing, and cultivating. The process can become boring and seem unproductive, but this illustrates how God works. Your Savior is into stringing together a sequence of small activities that lead to larger outcomes. So stay with the small things, for in due season you will reap the harvest.
God may allow you to harvest far beyond what you could have imagined in the beginning. How much is it worth for your spouse to become your best friend? It won’t happen overnight, but faithfulness to the small things will facilitate the reality of your hopes and dreams.
Furthermore, when you experience a string of small things with Jesus, your faith becomes large. So, be aware of the need for a little prayer to the Lord. Stay dependent on God along life’s path of small steps. When He sees you being faithful with His small opportunities, He can then trust you with the larger ones.
The small things you do honor God: bowing a head before a meal, showing up early for an appointment, memorizing a brief Bible verse, or giving a small anonymous gift. Any small expression with the Lord in mind goes a long way. The Almighty values small things because everything is small to Him. He is large and in charge, but His small tests lead to His best opportunities. Don’t miss this, or you may miss Him. Big things are often disguised as small things, so treat them with respect.
You never know when you might be serving Jesus or entertaining angels. Therefore treasure small things. They are big and they matter, and they may matter most. The Bible says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
Taken from September 18th reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE
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