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Give your love away - SUNDAY MARCH 12

‘Let us love one another, for love is of God.’ 1 John 4:7 NKJV

One evening before Mary Martin, the great Broadway musical star, was to go on stage in South Pacific, a note was handed to her. It was from Oscar Hammerstein. He had written it to her from his deathbed: ‘Dear Mary, a bell’s not a bell till you ring it. A song’s not a song until you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.’ After her performance a number of people rushed backstage, exclaiming, ‘Mary, what happened to you out there tonight? We have never heard anything like that performance! You sang with more power than you’ve ever sung!’ Blinking back tears, Mary read them the note from Hammerstein and added, ‘Tonight, I gave my love away!’ The poorest person in the world has something to give others if he or she has love in their heart. Love’s gifts take many forms - a smile, a hug, a gift, a note of thanks, a hand up, and just being there in tough times. Love is the one gift that always fits, is always appropriate, and always in season.

Jesus said, ‘By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35 NKJV). Paul wrote, ‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NKJV). John writes, ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.’ So the word for you today is: give your love away.

Be willing to pay the price - SATURDAY MARCH 11

‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.’ Nehemiah 6:3 KJV

Success usually comes at the end of struggle; if it came easily, everybody would be experiencing it. When it comes to success, there are no shortcuts, reduced prices, or ‘special deals’. The value of anything is determined by the price you’re willing to pay for it. And when you truly value something, you won’t easily jeopardise it because you remember what it cost you. What are you afraid of today? Failing? Your concern should be the opposite - regret that you didn’t try. Are you afraid of criticism? Face it, as you move upward in life certain people will resent your success; that’s true whether you’re arrogant or not.

We all want to be liked, but at some point you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘How much am I willing to forfeit in order to be liked and accepted?’ Nehemiah, the builder of Jerusalem’s walls, said, ‘I am doing a great work, so…I cannot come down.’ Any time you defer to the opinion of people instead of the will of God, you are ‘coming down’. Stay up on the wall! Keep laying bricks - or whatever God has called you to do. Advancement often brings isolation and criticism, and God may be grooming you right now for a new level of blessing by exposing you to both. Can you handle it? Not everybody can. But if you’re the kind of person who can’t sit on the sidelines and watch while others play the game - go for it! God will reward every step of faith you take and every sacrifice you make.

How to bounce back - FRIDAY MARCH 10

‘He was moved with compassion.’ Matthew 9:36 KJV

One of the best ways to bounce back from grief and loss is taking your memories and turning them into motivators, then reaching out in love to others who are hurting. ‘But I’m busy,’ you say. Jesus was never too busy to show compassion to hurting people. After Ray and Judy Williamson’s son David was killed in a fall, Ray said: ‘I used to wonder if I should go to the funeral home when somebody had a tragedy, because I always feel so awkward and don’t know what to say. But I’ll never ask again. I’ll always go. It’s not what you say, but your presence that makes the difference.’ When two teenagers died in a car accident, their parents decided to have a joint wake.

Over a thousand people attended, some waiting up to three hours to comfort the bereaved families. When one man who’d stood by himself in line finally reached the front, he said, ‘I don’t know your children and I’ve never met you. But I came here tonight because I had a son who died two years ago. I know how it feels. In the days ahead you’ll go through every emotion you can imagine. I just want you to know that I’m here for you if you ever need to talk.’ Then he pressed his card into their hand and walked away. Think about that. A stranger gave three hours of his time to people he didn’t know, because he wanted to help them through the most tragic experience of their lives. Understand this: it’s in reaching out to others that

a) we become more like Jesus;

b) we ourselves are made whole.

Relationships (2) - THURSDAY MARCH 9

‘Then the Lord God made a woman…and he brought her to the man.’ Genesis 2:22 NIV (2011 Edition)

Adam lived in a perfect neighbourhood and had a perfect job - one God gave him. It doesn’t get much better than that. Nevertheless he was lonely; something was missing from his life. The Bible says, ‘But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God…made a woman’ (vv. 20-22 NIV 2011 Edition). God recognised Adam’s need for companionship and He met that need. However, this is where some of us acting on loneliness, frustration, or bad advice, rush ahead of God. There’s a reason one of the nine gifts of the Spirit listed in the Bible is ‘the ability to distinguish between spirits’ (see 1 Corinthians 12:10).

When someone comes into your life they don’t just bring their looks, talents, and financial assets; they also bring their spirit. If you’ve ever been around someone with a controlling spirit, a vindictive spirit, a resentful spirit, or a negative spirit, you know why this particular gift is so important. So make yourself a hard jury, one that’s not easily convinced, one that requires concrete evidence before reaching a verdict. And remember that it’s better to lengthen the deliberation process and ensure the decision you make is right, than to reach a hasty conclusion and end up with a broken heart. You may not feel wise and experienced when it comes to making such decisions, but hear this: it’s not how much you know that arms you with the tools of great decision making, but how much you ask. The first person to ask is God, and the time to do it is before, not after you get into a relationship.

Relationships (1) - WEDNESDAY MARCH 8

‘I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Genesis 2:18 NIV (2011 Edition)

Adam lived in a perfect world, yet he was incomplete. So God created ‘a helper suitable for him’. And since God made you with a core need for companionship, He can introduce you to the right person. But you must be willing to consult Him, follow His guidance, and wait for His timing. That’s not always easy. Some of us find it easier to be unhappy than to be alone. Driven by unfulfilled longings, we make rash decisions that end up hurting us. It’s impossible to make a good decision when you’re motivated by the fear of being alone or of being rejected. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the need to be needed by another person, or to share your life with someone. Don’t let anyone convince you that your need to love and be loved is a weakness. God created man to ‘multiply’, and it takes two to do that. We are incomplete without one another.

A respected counsellor writes: ‘We [must] become willing to open up and let ourselves be loved…let ourselves have needs. Today it’s more fashionable to act as if you don’t need anyone. But God says you do. And since He introduced people to one another throughout Scripture, that gives you a right to pray and believe He will do the same for you.’ So pray and believe that God has someone ‘suitable’ for you; someone who fits where you are and will fit where you’re going. When you find the person God has in mind for you, you’ll discover strengths and gifts in yourself you never knew existed.