By Cheri Cowell –
Marketers utilize a wide range of strategies to convince consumers to make purchases. Some are straightforward such as sales, coupons, and special promotions. Others are subtler and make use of a principle of human psychology called the Rule of Reciprocity. This rule operates on a simple principle: We tend to feel obligated to return favors after people do favors for us. For instance, when a friend takes you to the airport, you feel obligated to return the favor the next time they ask. And when they refuse to react to a perceived insult it is easier to overlook theirs.
This is not hard when other people are deserving of fair treatment. When they treat you well you want to return the favor. However, practicing this rule becomes difficult when the person isn’t deserving. In these instances, the Bible tells us we are to practice the foundational rule for peacekeeping. Often referred to as the Golden Rule, it tells us we are to treat others the way we want them to treat us—not the way we are treated.
“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31 NASB).
Prayer: I respond easily to someone who does a favor for me, but agree it is more difficult (and more Godly) to treat others the way I want them to treat me—not the way I’m treated.
By Rachel Indihar –
We’ve all had days where trials and problems seems to pile on top of each other. Whether it’s a million “smaller” problems or one large and overwhelming problem, the world sometimes seems to be working against us. Frustration builds, anxiety increases, and soon we lose the presence of God in our lives.
I heard it said once that if we are not in the middle of a storm, then we are preparing for the next storm. Whether or not this is a healthy way to look at life, the reality is that God sends a variety of problems into our lives for His own purposes. Sometimes we recognize the meaning behind a problem right away, such as knowing that God is teaching us patience when we’re trying to parent a crying child. Other times it is a mystery as to why a certain dilemma confronts us, as in the case of a loved one dying.
Is it true that to live means to suffer? Is it true that we will have problems facing us for the rest of our lives? Truthfully, I believe it is so. We live in a sinful, fallen world. We will never be free of trouble until Jesus returns and makes the world (and us) perfect again. So how should we deal with the problems that face us now?
A popular verse of Scripture is John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV).
An important emphasis is at the beginning of this verse: “so that in me you may have peace.” We do not find peace in the world, for “in this world you will have trouble.” But in JESUS we will have peace! And when Jesus makes a promise in the Bible, you can be certain it will be as He said.
God’s children are to be different from the world in many ways, and one important difference is that we are to be peaceful people in an anxious, chaotic world. Christians often have the most influence over society when they respond to terrible circumstances in a peaceful, loving manner.
A profound true story I heard once involved a mother whose child was murdered. I don’t remember any of the details except that after learning who the murderer was, she spoke directly to him and – get this – forgave him! And it was her Christian faith that helped her make that incomprehensible step to forgive the man who destroyed her child’s life. If that kind of faith and love doesn’t impact the world, I don’t know what will.
I believe that everything that happens to us in our lives is scripted by a loving God, even the worst parts of our lives. God is in control even when He seems to be absent. He brings us to the end of ourselves to prove that He is enough and if we have Him we have life, joy and peace. The world may think we have nothing, but we know differently. We live not for ourselves but for a God who understands and directs us and our lives in a way we never can.
By Connie Cavanaugh –
In Canada the busiest shopping day of the year isn’t the day after Thanksgiving, it’s Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. Boxing Day sales are legendary. Lately Boxing Day has become Boxing Week. Some money hungry businesses now promote Boxing Month!
A few years ago, long before dawn on a clear, cold Boxing Day, my husband, Gerry, headed for Future Shop, an hour’s drive away. He found an empty parking lot when he arrived at 5:30 a.m.
“I’ll be first in line!” he thought. Taking a chance, he sped off in search of a large java to keep him warm while he waited for the doors to open at eight a.m. That was a strategic error, bumping him to third place. He leapt out of his warm car into the Arctic blast of a winter morning and ran to line up outside the locked doors.
Gerry knew there were exactly three TV’s at this store for $499 — a saving of $200. The first three customers to physically lay hands on them could buy them. Gerry sized up the two guys in front of him and asked what they were buying, “the TV” they replied in unison. They looked fit. And young. And fast. Gerry hopped from foot to foot.
Standing in line for over two hours after a large coffee only increased the intensity of his hopping. He read his pocket Bible in an effort to take his mind off his urgent need to “hop.” Hundreds more bargain hunters lined up as the minutes ticked by.
When the doors were flung wide Gerry took off like a shot. He got his hand on the third and last TV without hurting anyone or compromising his Christian witness.
“Belated Merry Christmas!” He hollered when he got home, catching us all by surprise. The kids went nuts. We set up the new TV in the family room.
Every few minutes Gerry gave a low whistle, “We saved $200.” He couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. He watched sports all day.
That evening, we rented two movies, made popcorn, poured drinks and hunkered down. The proud hunter-and-gatherer doused the lights. It was pitch dark. He reached for the remote that rested atop the TV, beside his drink. He miscalculated.
Crash. Tinkle. Fizzle. Zot! Sparks flew out of the back of the TV. I rushed for the lights. Within seconds, there was a gradual dimming of sound and pretty soon, no sound at all. The color went sickly green and fuzzy before the screen went black. Gerry’s grin slid off his face, but not for long.
Ever the optimist, always the preacher, he burst out laughing. “Now I get it!” he chuckled. We were all ears when he quoted the verse from Corinthians he had read mid-hop that morning: “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The disappointed kids didn’t see the humor or appreciate the lesson as much as we did, but they listened.
“Boxing Day sales come and go,” Gerry reminded us. “And we can get pretty smug about the great deals we find. In fact, it’s pretty easy to get all puffed up with our latest great accomplishment, no matter what it is. But God wants us to remember that whatever’s good in us comes from Him. Everything else dims pretty quickly in comparison with knowing Him.”
We opened up the games cupboard and spent a great evening laughing and enjoying each other.
Oh, and by the way, we were able to get the TV repaired. The cost? You guessed it — $200.
By Brenda W. McIntyre –
Keith was one of my favorite cousins. It didn’t matter that I suffered endless teasing from him when I was a child. In spite of his pranks, I looked up to him.
I was startled and scared when, as a teenage boy, he threw cherry bombs under the trampoline while we girls were jumping. I was frightened when he locked my sister and me in the kitchen and told us someone died in that room. But I was amazed at the new gadgets he always seemed to have—a self-inking stamper disguised as a little tube, magic plastic he made into elastic balloons, and a real American flag that took up an entire wall in his room. I quickly forgot about being mad at Keith whenever he shared his hot toothpicks or made an elastic balloon for me.
I was proud of Keith when he began racing cars at the local race track. More often than not he was the winner. Then, I was overcome with grief on the day in August, 1992, when I received a phone call about his death. Keith was the victim of a heinous murder; killed in the prime of his life.
I waited breathlessly for Keith’s killer to be sentenced for the murder. Manslaughter. The verdict was manslaughter with the possibility of parole after 18 years. I was flabbergasted.
When the man responsible for Keith’s death came up for parole a few short years later, I wrote a letter to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that he not be paroled from prison. I wanted him to serve his full sentence. I wanted him to pay for his crime. Again he came up for parole and I wrote another letter. Finally, after spending 14 years behind bars the man was released from prison.
I wondered how I would react if ever our paths crossed. What if he became a Christian? What if he started going to my church? The words to Fannie J. Crosby’s hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” rang out in my mind. The touching words say, “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” If that man cried out to God and asked for forgiveness, he was free from his sin. Regardless of the magnitude of his sins, all he has to do is simply believe in the Son of God and ask for forgiveness and he will receive pardon from Jesus. Salvation is provided as a gift from God regardless of one’s sins.
The man responsible for Keith’s death was living in a world of sin and darkness when he took my cousin’s life, but Jesus atoned for that sin. John 12:46 says “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
That same grace is available to you and me. Maybe we haven’t taken a life. Maybe we haven’t participated in criminal activity as defined by laws that govern us, but I can assure you we have sinned against God as outlined in the Bible. No one is free from sin. The wonderful news is stated in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
By Brenda W. McIntyre –
“Tara!” The vivacious student approached me with a hand full of fliers when someone called her name. “Hi!” she said, handing me a sheet.
I was moving into my dormitory at college. The flier was an invitation to visit the Baptist Student Union, which I had no desire to do. Religion was for people with nothing else to believe in. I had something to believe in—graduating from college. With a degree, I would be self-sufficient and never rely on anyone. Inside my room, I tossed the paper into the wastebasket.
Not long into the quarter I began slipping into a depression. I went to bed early one evening, going into a deep sleep. It felt like I was plummeting into an abyss, sinking deeper and deeper into a black void. I awoke when my roommate came in, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been dying. I became convinced I would die if I stayed at the dismal place, so I decided when the quarter was over I would pack my belongings and go home.
The same week I overheard a professor asking about a student who died. I didn’t know who it was or how it happened, but thinking about it kept me from sleep that night. Grasping for anything that might help, I got my roommate’s Bible. Clutching it throughout the night I prayed, “God, if You exist, please help me. Let me see my co-worker, Tammy, in the morning, and I’ll ask her for help.” I rarely saw her on campus, but I knew Tammy was a Christian.
Going to my first class, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Tammy was coming out of the building I was entering. I shivered from the chill running down my spine and asked if she would meet me after work.
That evening I learned it was a close friend of Tammy’s named Tara Lockhart who was killed by a drunk driver three days earlier. The funeral had been that day. Tammy was grieving the loss of her friend, yet she was reaching out to me.
Before the quarter was over I went to church with Tammy. One time was enough to spark something inside of me. Throughout Christmas break I anticipated returning to college. No longer did feelings of depression and imminent thoughts of death plague me. Instead I was filled with a desire to know God.
I returned to college and began attending church regularly. One Sunday after the service we were going back to campus. At a caution light Tammy said, “This is where Tara was in the accident that afternoon when leaving church.”
I was appalled. We hadn’t talked about Tara much. I didn’t know she attended the church where I was now a member. As weeks passed, I learned more about her and could imagine what she was like. I realized it was through Tara’s death that I was saved. I’m sure she prayed about leading others to Christ. It just happened to be in her death that she witnessed to me.
Although I went away to college feeling alone and uncertain of God’s existence, I now know I’m never alone. I will never be self-sufficient; I must rely on God to guide me every day, but I have something better than a college degree. God will supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). He knows my needs before I even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). And when I go home to meet my Maker, I know I will meet Tara also.