A Gentle Answer – Week Four – FBC – Devotionals for June

Scripture Focus: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” — Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

Dr. Richard Mouw, retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary and the author of Uncommon Decency has written another delightful book, Praying at Burger King. In it he says that Burger King is a perfect place to pray because you see people there from all walks of life. He goes on to say that during the many mornings when he had breakfast there he became aware of how badly the young people behind the counter were treated. He states that they were subjected to scathing and often relentless verbal abuse.

It became his mission to always say something encouraging and uplifting to these young workers. They were often surprised and grateful for his thoughtfulness. What a difference a kind word makes. Proverbs tells us that a gentle word turns away wrath. Presidential candidate Donald Trump says that if someone attacks him he hits back ten times harder. At the other end of the spectrum, one of the most endearing characteristics of President Reagan was that he most often responded to harsh criticisms with humor. He wisely turned a potentially damaging situation into a joyful one.

As Christians we are called upon, ”To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.” Titus 3:2. Peter simplifies our challenge, “Honor everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17.

Prayer Focus: Dear God, when I am tempted to verbally abuse my brothers and sisters remind me that you are the creator of us all and that when I dishonor another person I am dishonoring you. Amen.

Doers of the Word – Week Three- FBC – Devotionals for June

Scripture Focus: “You must be doers of the word and not hearers only.” — James 1:22-24

I was conducting a workshop for those who wanted to learn how to speak in public. Deep into my introduction of the materials, the young woman sitting closest to me raised her hand. “Are you saying that all of us are required to make a public speech before the workshop ends?” “Yes,” I answered. What did you expect?” “I thought that you would just tell us how to do it and we would listen.” She replied.

This exchange demonstrates what is true about so much of today’s public Christianity. We are content to hear the truth, but we are reluctant to put that truth into action. Children go to bed hungry. Expectant mothers go without prenatal care. Our prisons are full of men and women unable to read and gun violence escalates. In the midst of such tragedies, we Christians are content within our church walls. Rev. Don Kirkland says in his book, Something Ventured, “Our Christianity must be visible to others or it is not Christianity at all.” He also answers the question, what did Jesus do during all of his time not accounted for in the Bible? “He went about doing good.”

Walter Rauschenbusch, the great advocate of the Social Gospel Movement, had two tables set up in the church he pastored for new members to sign up. One table was for enrolling as a new church member. The other was for enrolling for one of the church’s social action projects. Both enrollments were required. Rauschenbusch took James seriously.

Prayer Focus: Dear God, help me to understand that being a follower of Jesus demands that I be proactive on behalf of others. Amen.

Be Thankful – FBC – Week Two- Say Something Nice Sunday

Scripture Focus: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” —1 Thessalonians 5:18

I didn’t recognize my friend. He has changed significantly since I last saw him a year ago. I learned that he suffered three light strokes in the past year that have primarily effected his central vision and his mobility. In telling me about his experience only after I inquired about his condition, he said, “I am blessed to work for a company that has continued me on full pay until I reach retirement age later this month. I may be unable to drive my car, but I can still mow my lawn. God is good to me.”

He kept his walking cane beside him. He moved among the crowd slowly but with assurance. He was quieter than I remembered. He added, “I had decided not to talk about this unless someone asked me. Other people have troubles of their own.” He is not bitter nor has he allowed his ordeal to make him angry. The first words he said to me were, “I am blessed.” On the other hand no one would mistake him for a Pollyanna. He takes life as it unfolds. Rather than concentrating on what he has lost, he counts his many blessings. He is thankful for what he can do.

The Apostle Paul reminds us to be thankful in all circumstances not for the circumstances. When we are overcome with our own problems and feel that life has dealt unfairly with us, all we need do to regain our perspective is to take a look around us at the sufferings of others. My friend is thankful for what he is still able to do. He praises God for his goodness to him.

Prayer Focus: Dear God, never let me forget that you are in charge. Let me take a lesson from my friend and praise you in all circumstances. Amen.

A Time to Keep Silent – FBC – Week One – Devotionals for June

Scripture Focus: “A time for keeping silent and a time for speaking.” — Ecclesiastes 3:7

Our society is filled with so many people who are eager to talk including me, but the Scriptures tell us that there is a time to keep silent. I was attending an assembly as a member of Boy’s State when I was in high school. The auditorium was filled with the chattering and laughter of hundreds of teenage boys. Suddenly the back doors flung open and in walked South Carolina governor and former Supreme Court Justice, James F. Byrnes. Total silence engulfed the room. No one told us to be quiet. We just knew.

When Carol and I first saw the mural depicting the outstretched arms of Jesus that adorns Sacred Heart Cathedral in Paris neither of us said a word. We were simply awe struck. Words were unnecessary. We sat in silence. A sunrise over the ocean, a sunset over the marsh or deer frolicking in the early morning can render me speechless.

When I stood on the platform overlooking the sunken battleship USS Arizona that entombed so many lives, I had no words. I experienced the same phenomenon when Carol and I walked through the American Cemetery at Normandy. This same sensation of awe grips me during the communion service. It always takes me back to my first communion as a very young Christian. The realization of why we are celebrating the sacrament is almost too much to bear. Words are useless.

Prayer Focus: Creator of the Universe, help me to realize that there are many things too sacred for words.

Candidates rebuff ‘say something nice’ challenge – Bob Allen -Baptists News Global

  JUNE 2, 2016

A South Carolina Baptist layman voiced disappointment after the three remaining candidates for U.S. president rebuffed his challenge to a one-day moratorium on incivility.

For the 10th anniversary of Say Something Nice Day, founder Mitch Carnell asked presidential candidates to agree to a two part pledge: do not say anything negative about each other and if possible say something nice on June 1.

All three candidates not only ignored a May 20 deadline to respond to the challenge, Carnell said, but if anything stepped up the negativity that characterizes much of today’s polarized political debate.

Carnell, a member of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., said the committee promoting the annual observance hoped a one-day lull in the war of words would have a positive influence leading to a more civil discussion of issues facing the country.

”We are in need of good examples of civility in the public square,” Carnelltold the Baptist Courier, newspaper of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. “The present level of rhetoric is totally lacking in respect for differing viewpoints.”

The candidates have a second chance to tone down the rhetoric this weekend. June 5 marks the 10th anniversary of Say Something Nice Sunday, an annual observance that began when Carnell observed negativity from both students and teachers when he volunteered to help at an inner-city middle school where his wife taught.

The experience inspired Carnell to write a booklet called Say Something Nice, Be a Lifter! He intended to distribute the book in public and private schools. That didn’t work out, but the idea took root after his home church passed a resolution declaring the first Sunday in June Say Something Nice Sunday.

From there the idea spread to other churches of various denominations, and Say Something Nice Day made its way into the cultural lexicon, appearing today on most online calendars listing major holidays and observances.

Carnell said in an email June 2 he has no way of knowing exactly how many churches or individuals are heeding his call to say something nice. “We ask them to let us know, but only a few do,” “he said.

Ten years into the movement, Carnell said he is pleased with response to his efforts, “but as you know we have a long way to go.”

The First Baptist Church of Charleston website offers free downloadable resources for observing Say Something Nice Sunday on the messages/resources page of the church website.

Carnell said the purpose of Say Something Nice is simple: “On this one day, do not say anything negative about any person, Christian organization or group, and, if possible, say something nice.”

His challenge to the presidential candidates was twofold, that either on June 1 or June 5 “I will refrain from saying anything ugly, demeaning or derogatory to or about anyone, especially any of the other candidates running for the presidency of the United States” and “I will say something nice, uplifting or encouraging to or about at least one person running for the presidency of the United States.”

“I understand that remarks related to physical characteristics are off limits for this exercise,” Carnell stipulated in the candidate pledge

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