Not Obligation, but Love

By Freya Galindo

Mexico’s big cities contain a multitude of social problems and unfavorable conditions for many people who live in vulnerable situations. Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, is not the exception, even more so because it is a city bordering the United States.

Eleven years ago, aware of this reality, the 1stChurch of the Nazarene in this city decided to set up a civil association dedicated to the formation, development and strengthening of families: “Ministerios Verbo de Vida, A.C.” (Word of Life Ministries).

In 2014, with a desire to meet a more specific need in the area and the goal of serving their community, they decided to use their church’s facilities to open a community soup kitchen through an alliance with the Mexican federal government’s Secretary of Social Development (SEDESOL).

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On August 4 of this year, the soup kitchen will celebrate four years of serving its community. Monday through Saturday, from 7-9 am and from 12-2 pm, food is provided for an average of 100 people, most of whom are senior citizens. In addition to the donations that this soup kitchen receives from SEDESOL, it is also supported by other churches, non-profit organizations and individuals. Pastor Conrado, his wife Petry, and their two children, along with some other volunteers, are the ones who regularly cook and serve in the soup kitchen.

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Recently, as a civil association, they presented a project to the federal government soliciting support to open 5 guitar schools in different parts of the city to provide a teaching space to train children and young people in music. This program is already developed in CERSAI # 3 (Center for Social Reintegration for Adolescent Offenders) in Ciudad Juárez, with 20 adolescents.

Another of the church’s dreams for the future is to open a shelter for immigrants (another social issue prevalent in Ciudad Juárez).

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Pastor Conrado’s words are inspiring as he describes the work they do as a church through the civil association and the community soup kitchen: “We do it with pleasure, not because of obligation, but with love.”

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Thank God for churches in the city that are making a difference through serving their communities!

To learn more about this ministry, visit their Facebook page: Ministerios Verbo de Vida, A.C.

Loving, Knowing, and Being Known

“The man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:3)

On my wedding day, I was head-over-heels enamored with my wife. I thought I could never be more in love.

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However, eighteen years later the love is even deeper.  We’ve shared many tears and countless belly-splitting times of laughter.  Just one look can speak more than a 1,000-word soliloquy.  We still surprise ourselves from time to time, but more often, we are able to express what the other is thinking or feeling better than they can.

This type of love comes out of knowing each other, faults and failures included. Our whispered doubts and shouted struggles have found safety in the trust built between us.

You see, loving is vitally connected to knowing.  The more I know Emily, the more I adore her.  But it is also true that the more I am known by her, the more my love grows.

What is more powerful: to know God or to be known by God? Both are astonishingly beautiful!  And both result in loving Him more and more each day.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

The Famous Know-it-All

“We know that we all possess knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor. 8:1)

Have you ever met a know-it-all? He (or she) justifiably has a lot of information in his brain, and he wants to let the world know every bit of it.  You’ll know when you’ve met one if they cut off your story or exciting piece of news with a “Well, of course, but did you also hear that…”

There’s no better way to bring a conversation down than with a know-it-all.

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Through social media today we all seem to want the world to know our thoughts and opinions.  We work hard to graduate and get a diploma that verifies that we possess the expertise necessary in a certain area.  Knowledge is vital, and we should strive for more knowledge every day.  However, if all that knowledge is used to bring attention to ourselves or –even worse– to disrespect someone, we have missed the boat.  Knowledge very often puffs us up.  But love? Love builds both you and others up.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

8 Ways to Wreck a Marriage

Yesterday my wife and I celebrated our 18th wedding Anniversary. Outside my salvation and sanctification, Emily has probably been God’s most extravagant gift to me through the years. We have shared tears and many laughs. And we love each other more today than even on our wedding day – way more, in fact!

Several years ago, I read an article from Dave Willis (LINK:) on how to wreck a marriage.  Pick your jaw up off the floor; his purpose in writing about how relationships are destroyed was to help his readers AVOID such devastation.  So, in that spirit, and as my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, I somewhat ironically share Dave Willis’ Eight Ways to Wreck a Marriage.

As I’ve interacted with couples from all over the world, I’ve discovered most marriage problems can be traced back to a few deadly (but also very common) mistakes. Here’s a list of some of the most common marriage-killing behaviors. Avoid these at all costs and you’ll be taking a big step towards building a divorce-proof marriage!

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  1. Stop communicating with your spouse.

Communication does for a marriage what breathing does for lungs. Communication is the lifeline of any relationship, so if you stop communicating with your spouse, you’re choosing to starve your marriage of one of its most basic needs.

  1. Confide in a “friend” of the opposite sex.

One of the most common patterns I’ve seen among divorcing couples is that one of the spouses develops an attachment with someone of the opposite sex for emotional support instead of looking to their spouse for that support. The moment you allow someone else to take your spouse’s place in your mind, your heart or your bed, you’ve made a choice to wreck your marriage.

  1. Stop making love.

Sex is a God-given gift to bring fulfillment, intimacy and mutual bonding to a husband and wife. The moment you stop prioritizing what happens in the bedroom, your marriage might be headed for a courtroom.

  1. Belittle, nag or insult your spouse.

You should be your spouse’s biggest encourager, not their biggest critic! If your communication has taken on a consistently negative tone, then your marriage will quickly take on a negative tone as well.

  1. Keep secrets from your spouse.

Secrets in marriage are as dangerous as lies. If you start hiding money, conversations or anything else from your spouse, you’re choosing to sabotage your relationship.

  1. Blame your spouse for your problems.

Couples who make it are the ones who choose to work together to find solutions. Couples who don’t make it are the ones who blame each other instead of supporting each other.

  1. Surround yourself with people who don’t know or don’t like your spouse.

The wrong friends can wreck a marriage. If you surround yourself with people who support your marriage, your marriage will probably improve. If you surround yourself with people who don’t support your marriage, then you need some new friends.

  1. Give up.

The couples who make it aren’t the ones who never had a reason to get divorced, they are simply the ones who choose to find a way to make it work. They’ve discovered that a “perfect marriage” is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other!

Fear…and Popcorn

By Cathy Spangler

“God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Fear is a pretty built-in thing.  We teach our kids to “fear” a hot stove or traffic.  Fear protects us from danger sometimes; in other words, it’s quite often healthy to be afraid.

So why does the Bible say, “Fear not” a jillion times?

Moments ago, I let my horse, Popcorn, out to pasture.  When I opened the gate, he looked at me like I was threatening him.  He snorted and backed up.  I realized then that my jacket was flopping in the wind and it was scaring him.  None of the other horses even noticed my jacket…they were just excited at the freedom of getting out.  After I softly encouraged him, my horse finally got the nerve to pass me and gallop away as fast as he could.

Popcorn is a 21-year old quarter horse gelding that I bought about 6 years ago.  He had “trust” issues when I first started riding him; he was always scared of something.  Once when my husband and I were on a trail ride, an automatic sprinkler came on near us – the kind that goes back and forth.  Popcorn was terrified and spun in a circle because I would not let him run away.  He tripped, fell, and pinned my leg under him.

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After an overnight hospital stay, I recovered.  But I realized that now I also had a problem with fear.  When I rode Popcorn and he got scared, I became scared, too.  A year later, Popcorn got spooked and fell down with me again!  I wasn’t hurt this time, but fear was something I had to master to even get on him. 

When I brought this whole issue to the LORD, He pointed out that my fear was not just relegated to riding Popcorn.  In fact, my fear was keeping Him from using me in different areas of my life.

I’m afraid to drive in cities.

I’m afraid I won’t be liked or effective.

I’m afraid to get up in front of people.

I’m afraid of conflict or confrontation.

It seemed like God was saying, “I tell you to ‘fear not’ because fear comes between us.  Your fear needs to be replaced by trust quickly or this spirit of fear will get a foothold.  It is robbing you of your power, your love, and your sound mind!  Get rid of your fear by stirring up your faith!”

Because of his continued fear, I can no longer ride Popcorn.  It is so disappointing!  That horse is a beautiful, sweet, little guy that I cannot use at all.  May it never be said of me that God loves me, but He can’t use me because of my overwhelming fear.  No – I’m repenting and renouncing my fears.  I am replacing fear with faith, and saying to myself every day, “I DO NOT HAVE a spirit of fear, but of POWER, LOVE and a SOUND MIND!”   

How about you?

Leading Difficult People

By Dan Reiland

It’s probably true that the most difficult person I lead is me. 

That might be true about you too. 

But beyond that reality, there are those who seem to be genuinely unaware of the negative impact they have on others around them. And there are a few who appear to get a strange sense of satisfaction from creating problems and getting reactions from people. 

These difficult people might be a volunteer leader, a coworker, a staff member, even a family member. It can be almost anyone you are responsible for leading.

When you allow difficult people to “get away with it,” any environment can become toxic. 

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So how can we better lead difficult people and survive to tell the stories?

Let’s start with what doesn’t work.

5 common responses to difficult people that do not work:

  1. Avoid the person and the situation.
  2. Give in and surrender. Give them what they want, let them have their way.
  3. Allow the behavior to continue. You don’t give them what they want, but you allow the person to continue with negativity, gossip, etc.
  4. Pass the responsibility to deal with the person to someone else to handle the situation.
  5. Power up and conquer.

Scripture gives us insight to a better way:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

The context in this chapter starting with verse 9 is loving people. Verse 17 says “don’t repay evil for evil,” and vs. 19 says “don’t take revenge.” 

The passage provides in principle, the practical insight we need to deal with difficult people according to God’s heart.

It tells us how we should see people. Especially when you read verse 17, “be careful to do the right thing.”

Here’s a great practical summary:

  • • I am responsible for how I treat others.
  • • I may not be responsible for how they treat me.
  • • I am responsible for how I react to those who are difficult.

Set your heart first:

A) Difficult isn’t a disease.
Don’t run from difficult people you need to lead. It’s natural to recoil from difficult people, but it doesn’t help.

While it may be counter-intuitive to move toward difficult people, it’s important to accept that it’s part of your responsibility as a leader. 

It’s easy to love your friends and followers, but the real test of your leadership is how you influence those who test you. 

B) Forgive and let it go.
One of the most disheartening situations in ministry are leaders who become hurt, bitter and live with regret. 

This may primarily relate to the more extreme situations, but it still happens all too often. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s always the best path.

This article will continue in the next post.