Acts of Love

On Motivation and Encouragement

In-Laws, Illness, and Insight April 14, 2012

Filed under: faith,Family,Serving,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 3:18 pm
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Hoping that you all had a wonderful and blessed Easter!

My in-laws joined us for the week of Easter. Their presence in our home is always a blessing. They live about 14 hours away, so my children eagerly look forward to their visits. Both my mother and father in-law have been blessed with the gift of generosity–and not just a regular generosity: but a this-can-only-come-from-faith kind of generosity.

My mother-in-law in particular is an inspirational woman of faith. She spent the first half of her life in a small village in South Korea. She met and married my father-in-law while he was stationed there during his time in the military. The whole family moved back to the States when my husband was about five.

The Korean culture is very much a part of our family because of the influences of my mother in-law. She jokes that my father in-law is in fact a asian man in a white man’s body. We had a wonderful dinner together at the Wu-Jung, the best Korean restaurant in our area. As is common with most fantastic restaurants; it is an unassuming  little place that would never catch your attention from the outside. People wait for hours during the dinner rush, and there is always a constant stream of people picking up takeout We decided to go there for lunch. Once inside we removed our shoes and took out seats on the floor. My mother in-law proceeded to order an array of savory dishes which we enjoyed at a leisurely pace. I love this style of dinning for my kids because when sitting on the floor kids can engage in their normal fidgeting and moving about without being disruptive. Makayla also got several lessons in cooking from her Halmoni  (grandmother). Theirs is a special relationship. She is extremely patient when teaching the kids.

Unfortunately, my husband was abed for most of his parents visit. Henry woke up one morning with partial facial paralysis and extreme vertigo. The doctor diagnosed him with Bell’s Palsy and a virus. All the information we got from doctors over the week was conflicting and rather ambiguous. My husband has been speaking out a full healing for himself. He refuses to believe the lie that he is sick. It has blessed me so much to see his faith during this time. Rather than beg God for a healing, we are trusting that it was already accomplished on the cross, and that Henry’s healing is forthcoming. I know that this is going to help Henry, and those around him, to have a powerful revelation of God’s healing power.

If you are sick, or someone in your life is dealing with illness, here are some scriptures you can speak out:

* Psalm 107:20 “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Jesus is the Word!)

* Mark 11:22-24 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Use your words carefully! Do not speak discouragement, speak healing and healthy. Do not cut one another down, but speak love and encouragement)

* Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,  And by His stripes we are healed.” (Write this verse on your heart! Christ died for our sins and our healing)

* Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Believe!)

While sitting in church this past Easter morning I kept thinking of the following line from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; “Marley was dead to begin with…The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

The same is true of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We must pray for a full revelation of the Easter story, because unless it is distinctly understood, nothing else matters–not the tithing, not the bible study, not the fellowship, not the service, nothing. Nothing wonderful can come of the story unless we understand that Jesus was dead, and that He rose, because the same power resides in us through the Holy Spirit. All healing and salvation was accomplished on the cross–this is the God’s wonderous story, and it is the foundation of the insight and revelation He longs to give us.

Be blessed,

 

Stephanie

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The Fickle Season Of Lions and Lambs April 1, 2012

Filed under: faith,Family,Serving,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 6:40 pm
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Here in New Hampshire we have ended the fickle month of March, which as the old adage goes; comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The uncertain nature of this season can leave us all wary, because we are not sure if the lion has in fact left and if the lamb is here to stay. The beastly winter storms give way to the gentle lamb of green sprouts and warm rains, but any old fashion New Englander knows that the lion can return, unexpected and with a vengeance.Many of us refuse to put away our winter clothes, knowing we made need them at any  moment. While at the local garden center this week I joked with an older woman over the pansies that we may be acting on an overly optimistic impulse  with our flower purchases. The mothers pushing babies at the park declared that

“We should enjoy this warm weather now–because it could very well be snowing next week.’

We all nodded in agreement, because this warm weather could be snatched away at any minute.

Observing all this has made me think how this fickle season is so unlike the kingdom of God. Unlike March in all its unpredictability, the Kingdom of God unshakable and unchanging. His character is eternal, His promises are not fleeting, and once we abide in that kingdom, nothing can snatch it away. There is a sharp contrast between God’s kingdom and the world we live in: and the weather is not the only thing that is given to unpredictability. This past week the lottery jackpot was upwards of a half a billion dollars. People bought tickets with the fantasy that they could become a millionaire overnight (myself included). How like the American dream; our national ethos that by simply being born here we are guaranteed entry into the middle and upper class. We believe that we have the right to prosperity and success; without necessarily having to work for it. We have all been sold this bill of goods; this idea that riches will bring us happiness, this idea that our self-worth is inherent on college degrees, car titles, and paychecks. This American dream was a roaring lion in the 1990’s with the technology boom. But, what do we see happening now? People are realizing that this dream is not consistent, it is not stable, and it is given to erratic changeableness. Our riches can be gone in a second; snatched away by bad investments and failed businesses. What was once a roaring lion is now a meek and humble lamb.

Please do not misunderstand me here: I love my country. I thank God that I live in a place where I am not subject to abuse and oppression, where I am free to share my faith with others and to worship openly. I also know that simply because I am an American, and because I have a home and a car and food in my kitchen, I am in fact among the world’s wealthy elite. I am rich, and not just in a spiritual sense, and if you are reading this so are you. However, I know that many  have fallen victim to this American dream. They invested in the world’s economy and were left disappointed. We are called to be good stewards of what we have, and I would be lying if I said I never prayed to God about my husbands work life. I pray about Henry’s work life all the time, I pray that God would bless him with sales and opportunity. I do however know that our true investments are in God’s kingdom.

Because we are blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12: 1-3)

We sometimes confuse our ‘blessings’ with the materials things that are given to us. Blessings are way more than money and belongings. Blessings are the capacity to know God. There is so much in my life that allows me to have a relationship with the Lord. I am blessed that I have time to spend in fellowship with other believers. I am blessed that I am educated enough to read God’s word and study it. I am blessed that my husband earns enough money so that I might stay home with our children and be actively involved with ministry.

I will say it again: we are blessed to be a blessing.

All that God gives us we can use to bless others, that is helping them to know God better. If you invest your time and energy in God’s kingdom, you will not be left bankrupt. If you plug into the Jesus dream, rather than the American dream, you will certainly not be left disappointed. If we get too caught up in the American dream we are in danger of becoming  that camel trying in vain  to squeeze its enormous hump through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24).We can become bogged down with the never-ending desire for ‘things’. Once we get the shiny new ‘thing’ we desire, we cross it off the list and move onto the next ‘thing’. This desire can become insatiable and distracting. We will never be satisfied if we desire materials things. However, if we seek after the kingdom dream, we find ourselves thirsting and longing for Jesus. This is a healthy desire!

There does not have to be any fear or hesitation when investing your time and blessings in God’s economy. You don’t have to feel like the gardener who is worried that by planting her garden, the frost may come and destroy her work. No, God promises us that we will bear fruit.

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

 to loose the chains of injustice  

  and untie the cords of the yoke,

 to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

 and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter

 when you see the naked, to clothe them,   

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,  

 and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,  

  and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

 9Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;   

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,   

 with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry   

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,   

 and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;   

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land   

 and will strengthen your frame.

 You will be like a well-watered garden,

   like a spring whose waters never fail.

 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins   

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called repairer of Broken Walls,   

 Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58

This is perhaps one of my favorite verses. When I feel tired and worn out I remember that God promises strength to those living their lives according to His will. He promises that we will be a beautiful thriving garden watered by His very spirit.

There are lions and lambs in our world. There are roaring beasts that can consume us. There are also quiet lambs that can secretly creep into our lives and cause us to misstep. In the kingdom of God however, the lion and the lamb are one in the same.

“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Heir to David’s throne, has won the victory.” Revelation 5:5

“Worthy us the Lamb who was slaughtered–

To receive power and riches

and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and blessings.” Revelations  5:12

We live in an ever-changing world. The seasons here in New England are unpredictable and erratic. Everything seems subject to change and even disposable. What is hot and trendy today is forgotten tomorrow. We change our hair, our homes, our friends, our spouses, and our politics. amidst this whirlwind of erratic change however, there is one place we have a guarantee of return on our investment, a promise of thriving spring,  and that place is God’s kingdom, because there is no difference between the lion and the lamb and there are no fickle seasons. His promises are eternal and His character is steadfast. His love for us is unending and His dreams for us will not leave us disappointed.

“For I am the Lord; I do not change.” Malachi 3: 6

 

Preparing a Child’s Heart for Easter March 25, 2012

Filed under: Family,Keeping the House,Lesson Plans,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:37 am
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Lent is a time of preparing our hearts and homes for Easter and the celebration of the Risen King. As moms, we should also make it a point to prepare our children’s hearts and foster a sense of anticipation for this most blessed and miraculous event.

This year I did two things, created a set of resurrection eggs and planted an Easter garden. The eggs are used in a daily object lesson in the 11 days prior to Easter morning. The Garden is a representation of Jesus’s tomb and a hands on way for children to engage in the Easter Story.

To make our Easter Garden Makayla and I filled a shallow glass bowl with rocks and then soil. We partially buried a small terra-cotta pot to serve as the tomb (I have seen Easter Gardens with actual  caves that people either made or bought at an aquarium supply store). We planted cat grass which grows fast, and also thrives indoors. For some detail, we created a path leading up to the tomb, placed a cross on the ‘hill’,  and put a small Lamb in the tomb to represent Jesus.

This is (hopefully) what it will look like when the grass grows.

The garden can serve as the focal point for another tradition; using resurrection eggs. Resurrection eggs are a series of plastic Easter eggs that are filled with objects and a corresponding scripture. You can either hide them and open them all on Easter morning, or place one near the garden each morning and have a sort of Easter advent. I like the later option because it creates anticipation, and you can spend more time with each element of the story.

You will need to find objects to fill the eggs with, and I am certain you have all of these things in your home already. If you do not, you can make an appropriate substitution. You can buy resurrection egg kits already made, but I like creating my own. There are lots of different ways to do it, this is just mine. So if you do want to make your own set, be creative and make yours unique for your family.

 

Here are the directions for making the resurrection eggs I put together for my family.

Egg #1:

Message — Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people waved palm branches.

Scripture — Matthew 21:1-11
Object– A donkey or a palm branch

Egg #2:

Message — Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.
Scripture — John 12:2-8
Object — A small perfume bottle or cotton ball sprayed with perfume. (There is a very strong connection between smell and memory, so anytime you can incorporate smell  into a lesson you should do it!)

Egg #3:

Message — Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples.
Scripture– Matthew 26:17-19

Object– A piece of bread

Egg #4:

Message — Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Scripture– Matthew 27:3
Object– 3 dimes or plastic “silver” money

Egg #5:

Message — Jesus carried His own cross.

Scripture– John 19:17

Object – A cross

Egg #6:

Message — Soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head.

Scripture– John 19:2
Object– a branch with thorns

Egg #7:

Message — Soldiers parted Jesus’ garments and cast lots for His coat.

Scripture– John 19:23

Object– Dice

Egg #8:

Message — Jesus was nailed to a cross and pierced in His side.

Scripture– John 19:18,37 & John 20:25-29
Object– A nail and/or a small play sword from an action figure

Egg #9:

Message — They gave Jesus vinegar mixed with gall on a sponge to drink.
Scripture– Matthew 27:34
Object– A small sponge soaked in vinegar. (make sure the sponge is dry when you put it on the egg,  you just want the vinegar smell)

Egg #10:

Message — Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.
Scripture –John 19:40
Object– a roll of gauze (the kind you would find in a first aid kit) and some spices

Egg #11:

Message — The stone covering Jesus’ tomb was rolled away.
Scripture– John 20:1
Object — A rock

Egg #12:

Message — The tomb was empty,  He was not there. He has risen!
Scripture– John 20:6-7
Object — Nothing! The tomb is empty!

I play to place one of the eggs near our Easter Garden each morning. As part of our homeschool lesson  Makayla will open the egg and then I will share the story with her and read the scripture from our illustrated family bible.  Also,  some of the items can be added to the garden or placed in the tomb; for example the  shroud from egg #  10 can be left behind on Easter morning and the rock from Egg # 11 can be rolled away to reveal the empty tomb.

These are just two examples of ways we can honor God in our traditions, and make sure that the focus is on Him, rather than some made up story about a rabbit! I hope you have a blessed Easter season creating memories with your family.

There are many different ways to create resurrection eggs and an Easter Garden. Here are some links to some other versions of these ideas.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/03/a-family-christian-activity-for-easter-make-a-grace-garden-a-visual-parable/

http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/non-editible/other-non-edible/easter-garden.html#.T2dkLwUIHNs.pinterest

http://www.rainbowcastle.org/resurrectioneggs.html

http://www.livingonadime.com/recipes/reseggs.html

 

Grace Food March 10, 2012

Filed under: Lesson Plans,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:02 pm
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Grace Food: Pretzel Object Lesson

Ages: Ages toddler to teen

Objective: For students to have a concrete image to aid them in understanding God’s redemptive plan

Materials Needed:

Bread Flour

Yeast

Salt

Sugar

Egg

Oil

Water

Baking Soda

Sea Salt

Bible

Baking Sheet

Tongs

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Bread Machine (or mix dough manually)

Large Pot

Condiments

Procedure:

1) Prepare Pretzel Dough. (I use the following recipe and mix the ingredients in my bread machine on the dough cycle. Not sure exactly how you would prepare the dough manually)

3 cups bread flour

1 cup water

tablespoon sugar

teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

(Makes 6-8 large pretzels)

(Layer in bread machine according to manufacturers instructions; usually liquid, dry, and then yeast)

2) Give each student a piece of dough. Tell them you are going to tell them a story about God’s Grace and Love. Ask the students about the beginning of the world. Where did the story of Man begin? When students start talking about the Garden of Eden be sure to ask them to describe the garden. Be sure to emphasis that the garden was perfect, and that people and God were able to live close to each other.

3) Ask students what went wrong in the Garden of Eden. As you have a discussion about  how the devil, in the form of a snake, tempted Eve, ask the students to create a snake out of their dough. Discuss how sin entered the world and men and women were banished from the garden and thus separated from God.

4) Next, discuss God’s plan to redeem man and solve the problem of sin. Read the following verse: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). Ask students who this ‘head crusher’ is? Who is God going to send to destroy the devil and sin once and for all: Jesus! Younger  students will enjoy ‘crushing’ their snake’s head. You may discuss tools for not falling into the temptation of sin, and ways to resist the devil.

5) Next, explain that although men and women are sinners, God still loves us. Read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son that whoever shall believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” So, God can redeem this ugly snake, the sins’ of man, through love. Students can take their snake, and turn it into a heart, thus forming a pretzel!

6) Add a teaspoon of baking soda to a large pot of boiling water. Place each pretzel in the water for about 10 seconds, and then place on a greased baking sheet.

7) Brush each pretzel with egg white and sprinkle with sea salt.

8) Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until pretzels are thoroughly cooked. (cooking time will depend on how thick your pretzels are–just regularly check them so they don’t burn)

9) Serve pretzels warm, with dipping sauce of your choice. Be sure to give thanks to God for His unfailing love and grace!

A Few Notes:

* Monks used the pretzel to represent God’s love in the middle ages, this is not my idea–I just modified it slightly.

* This lesson can be modified for any age. I have done it with toddlers and high school students. Just engage the students in age appropriate discussions regarding sin.

* If you have the time, pretzels can be left to rise for one hour after they are formed, and before they are boiled. I usually skip this step and do not notice a difference, as long as the dough has been allowed to rise before hand.

 

Grace Defined March 6, 2012

Filed under: Serving,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:15 am
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Lent Day 13

Grace, a noun

* beauty of form or movement

* a sense of what is right

* a short prayer of thanksgiving before a meal

* a delayed allowance as a favor

* mercy

Grace, in the Christian context is defined as the unmerited mercy that God gave to mankind by sending His Son to die on a cross and give us eternal salvation.

Synonyms: elegance, poise, ease, pardon, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, prayer, generosity, respect, esteem, enrich, glorify, and elevate.

Antonyms: disfavor, ugliness, tactless, ill-will, spoil, insult.

one can fall from grace, have grace, extend grace, and be in good or bad graces with another person.

Grace is related to three greek words:

1) Charis: the state of kindness and favor, often with the focus on benefiting another.

2) Charisma: gracious gift

3) Chairo: to rejoice, be glad, and delight

The Hebrew word for grace is Chen, which is defined as favor, charm, and the moral quality of kindness.

Grace and Mercy are two parallel aspects of God’s character: Grace is getting the good that we do not deserve, and Mercy is not getting the bad we do deserve. Grace is God’s favor, that which God does for the benefit of His people. It is something we can never earn through works; it is totally free.

Grace conquers sin

It is a way of life

It is sufficient

It lightens our burden

It is beyond our understanding

Grace heals

Grace forgives

It is the opposite of ego

It helps us to accept

It fills our hearts

It sustains us

It allows God to see us for our best, and not for our worst

It allows us to love and be loved

It fills our churches, our homes, and our lives

It is glory with no beginning and no end

It is eternal

It is assurance and peace

It is hope and light

It is all around us

Grace is Amazing.

 

“Amazing Grace 

how sweet the sound 

that sav’d a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found

was blind but now I see”

~ John Newton

 

 

 

A Lesson on Mercy February 25, 2012

Filed under: Lesson Plans,Teaching and Learning — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 1:21 am
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Lent Day 3

Today I prepared a lesson on mercy for Makayla as a part of our homeschool time. Here is what we did:

Lesson: Jesus and Mercy

Objective: For the child to understand that Jesus teaches us to be merciful.

Materials Needed: fabric, glue, scissors, people cutouts, yarn, dowels, picture bible.

Time: 30 minutes

Procedure:

1) Using our illustrated family bible we read selections from Matthew chapter 4,6, and 7, Luke chapter 6, and also the Beatitudes.

2) We then talked about how Jesus teaches us to treat people including; feeding the hungry, loving people who hurt you, and caring for the poor and needy.

3) Using the cloth scraps, cutouts, and glue we then ‘dressed’ a figure who was in need of clothing.

Real Life Application: After the lesson and craft, we went through some of Makayla and Harper’s clothing and filled a bag which we dropped of at a local charity.

For tomorrow:

Cultivating a Heart for Mercy

 

Deliberate Acts of Jesus February 18, 2012

Filed under: Serving,Teaching and Learning — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 3:24 pm
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Likely you are familiar with ‘Random Acts of Kindness’, that is extending acts of kindness to the strangers you encounter during the day. Recently, with the youth group I lead, I challenged the students to instead perform ‘Deliberate Acts of Jesus’ in their daily lives. Some of the acts are the same; a kind word, generous giving, love, but when we use Jesus as our model we also find ourselves challenged to be humble and forgiving. furthermore, these acts are not random, but intentional. We can set out each day with an awareness that we are ambassadors, and a reflection of Christ in a fallen world.

 

I shared with the students a passage from the book, Words that Hurt Words that Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well  by Joseph Teluskin. The author recounts an afternoon spent with a friend who what trying to bring love back to New York (his words, not mine) by intentionally being kind to the people he encountered throughout the day. This meant paying compliments to construction workers, engaging taxi drivers in pleasant conversations, and leaving large tips for waitresses. We looked at the passage and asked ourselves if the acts are sincere, or phony? After some debate, we decided the acts are honest to Jesus, but may feel contradictory to our sinful nature. If we see each person we encounter throughout the day as a wonderful and amazing creation in His image, how can we not love them? We can pray for God to allow us to see people as He seems them, and to love as He loves. Then the Deliberate Acts of Jesus come from an honest and humble heart, that longs to please God and see His name glorified.

 

Words are essential when performing Deliberate Acts of Jesus. God used words to create the very universe we live in. Words can be used to praise God or curse those made in his image, words can heal or hurt, life up or break down, and Jesus tells us that words can actually move mountains! We all know how words can affect us. We likely remember a harsh word spoken to us as a child, or a kind and loving word spoken to us by a friend. Words are powerful. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul cautions believers to, ” Let no evil talk come out of your mouth, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (4:29). So, consider using these powerful word-tools to perform Deliberate Acts of Jesus. Compliment someone on a job well done, especially someone doing a job that would likely go unnoticed like washing windows or sweeping a floor. Tell a mother who is out with her children how well-behaved they are (gasp!). Call someone and let them know you are thinking of them. Thank your spouse for what they do. Tell someone they are a blessing. Some members of the youth group made a poster offering words like love, joy, and kindness to passers-by. We also made hearts and wrote positive affirmations on them, like ‘you are beautiful’, and left them in public places. Much like the man in New York, we are planing love seeds for God to grow.

 

Some Deliberate Acts of Jesus are not as easy. It might mean extending grace to someone who has hurt you, giving away some of your money or possessions, spending a day serving someone else when you would rather be somewhere different. The good news is, God promises us that we will reap what we sow. “Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing whatever good we do we will receive the same from the Lord” Ephesians 6:7-8. If we do these things in order to please and glorify the Lord, then surely the same blessings will manifest in our own lives, maybe even on this side of heaven. In Malachi we are told, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing” (3:10). You can’t out give God and you can’t out love God. Invest in these Deliberate Acts of Jesus and blessings will rain down on you from Heaven. This is not our selfish motivation, it is a promise from God.

 

So, consider this and pray that God would allow you to see the world as He sees it. Pray that He would open your eyes to the endless opportunities to be Jesus to someone in need. Heal a hurt, encourage a stranger, uplift a family member, move a mountain–plant some love seeds and watch them grow.