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Ministry Moments Blog
A devotion by Mona McDonald, Pursue Life Adult Ministry Vice President
“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:23
I office on the go and carry a shoulder bag that contains my work and priorities for the day. When I get overly busy, before I realize it, my bag overflows with more than what is important for the day. Sometimes I fear needing “this or that” so I cram those in my bag too. I accumulate unneeded paper, magazines, junk mail, grooming items, buried receipts, napkins filled with chewed gum and straw wrappers…real trash. Sometimes it’s so heavy and full that it spills out and I need a second bag (a suitcase, really) because I haven’t taken the time to deal with the old work, the trash or the fears of needing “this or that”. If I don’t deal with the contents on a daily basis, I no longer know what is most important and my work and priorities eventually become ineffective, exposed to many distractions and embarrassing spills.
Our heart is a wallet, a satchel, a briefcase, a handbag, even a man-bag to be filled with love, wisdom, good things and treasures. The heart can easily become a suitcase filled with hurts, wrong thoughts, deception, selfishness, foolishness, even chaos that we carry wherever we go. Sometimes we carry more in our hearts than a suitcase can hold and there is spillage. Most of the time, we have little control over what spills out. As Christ followers, our hearts are meant to spill. Paul helps us understand in Romans 5:22-23 that an overflowing heart spills out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Does this describe the trail behind me and you or is it scattered with hate, misery, conflict, intolerance, meanness, foolishness, disloyalty, harshness and out of control behaviors?
There’s a country saying, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.” Protect your heart at all costs, keep it clean and sorted. So as we go and our hearts spill over, the trail resembles the indescribable and overwhelming love of Jesus.
Father, I desperately need your help to clean up my heart so that when I do spill over, others will see Your goodness and not my chaos. Lead me to your Word every day so I can know how to guard my own heart and withstand the constant battle of the evil one to steal, kill and destroy Your work through me. Amen
A devotion by Sheryl Van Horn, ABCS Program Administrator - Southwest
“But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” - 1 Samuel 16:7
"All the seven sons of Jesse were brought before Samuel and yet God did not choose one of them. Samuel said to Jesse, 'Are all the young men here?' Then he said, 'There remains yet the youngest, and there he is keeping the sheep.' And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.' David entered into the house of his father. Samuel heard, the Lord say, 'Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!'” - 1 Samuel 16:11-12
Have you ever felt ordinary, overlooked? I know I have that’s is why I love the story of David he began as a shepherd boy but God saw more and even more than that he saw a heart that would love and follow him. David also made some huge mistakes but repented and our merciful loving Father forgave him and used him for His glory. As we deal with hurting families and fellow staff member remember to see them as God may see them.
In December the Tempe New Life Pregnancy Center held its 4th annual Christmas gift give-away for clients’ children. Fourteen volunteers gave their time that day, covering five separate rooms offering material assistance, childcare, picking out toys and wrapping toys. Many of these were first time volunteers and it was a blessing to have them! Throughout the event 157 children received new or like new Christmas presents. However, in the midst of all of the Christmas excitement of the day there were two unexpected appointments at the center – both of which were obviously God ordained.
The phone rang and it was a young woman, Annie*, calling the pregnancy center looking for information on abortion procedures. The director stepped into the office to talk with her as volunteers continued serving those in the center. But Annie said she was calling from work and couldn’t say everything she wanted to say. “I guess I can’t really talk now,” she said. “I’ll call you some other time.”
The director knew how critical every minute is for a woman considering abortion. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to counsel Annie to choose life for her unborn child, the director offered to ask a few questions that would only require simple, discreet answers. Annie agreed and through this process, she admitted she felt completely alone and said, “I’m not in a good place in my life to have a baby.”
Asking more questions, the director learned that Annie had a very loving mother – a mother who was not angry about her daughter’s situation but who wanted this grandchild. The director gently explained to Annie about life in the womb and how small she was when her heart began to beat. She reminded her that she has eight months to consider plans for how to care for her baby, but an abortion decision made now would be irreversible. Annie listened intently and seemed to understand how the center could be additional support to her if she chose to parent her baby. After a few minutes she said, “I have to go now. Maybe I will call your clinic later.”
The call ended and the director prayed that God would use her words to touch Annie’s heart and spare the life of her little one. A little while later as the director helped a young family leaving the center, a young man approached her and asked, “Is this the church office? I have some questions about this church.”
The director told him no, but offered to answer any questions he had. He explained he was writing a paper for a class at the university about comparative religions and had many questions about Christianity. He asked to see the worship center, and as they toured it together he said, “This is much larger than the mosque.” The director replied, “Oh, so you are a man of deep faith!” He looked surprised but said, “Yes, I am a Muslim. May I ask questions without offending you?” The director smiled and said, “You may ask me any question that you like and I will not be offended. You are a seeker of truth just like myself.”
As they talked, the director told him the worship center was decorated for Christmas and that Christians believe God the Son was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in the body of a young woman named Mary. She said, “God made a plan before the creation of the heavens and the earth because he knew the humans he would create would fall out of relationship with Him because they chose to disobey His Word. This is what our Holy Book, the Bible, calls sin. I understand that Muslims know Jesus by the name ‘Isa Mesih’ which means ‘Jesus Messiah’. ”
“Yes, this is true,” he said.
She continued, “Part of God’s plan was that He would require a blood sacrifice to remove the sin that separated people from Himself. His plan meant God the Son would need a body of flesh that could bleed in order to be that sacrifice. God the Son would then be 100% man and 100% God at the same time, so His blood would have the supernatural power that the blood of animals cannot equal.”
“Yes!” he exclaimed, “Do you remember Abraham on the mountain? He was going to sacrifice his son, but then there was a sheep in the bushes.”
“Yes, I know the story of Isaac very well. God provided a blood sacrifice so that Isaac would not be killed. When Jesus became a blood sacrifice when he was crucified, God was providing the perfect blood sacrifice that has the ability to give eternal life to every person who chooses Jesus as their Savior, their Messiah.”
He looked very serious and said, “Muslims do not believe in forcing anyone to accept our religion.”
The director smiled and replied, “No, a Christian who is obeying God’s Word does not force our religion on anyone, either. When I was 17 years old, I first understood the story of the sacrifice of Jesus and I decided to become a follower of Him. You are a seeker of truth. I am a seeker of truth. If you walk beside me for a while, learning about Jesus, then we can walk together in our search.”
He smiled warmly and asked if he could attend a service at the church. What a joy it was for the director to invite him to church that Sunday and assure him he would be welcome!
God’s timing and His plans are perfect! His plans were much greater for this special day than anyone at the center could have anticipated. Knowing these two young people in search of truth would call and visit on a busy day, He provided the many volunteers needed to help those receiving Christmas gifts and other services that day so the director could dedicate time to helping both of these. They were different in every way! But in the loving eyes of Jesus their hearts are exactly the same – they are seeking answers to the most profound questions of life.
A devotion by Chris Chan, ABCS Assistant Executive Director
"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." – Daniel 3:17-18
The story of Daniel’s friends and the fiery furnace has all the components of a good story: good guys, bad guys, conflict that builds to a climax, and of course, a happy ending. Often overlooked in the drama of the story is the attitudes of Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego stated in Daniel 3:17-18. In the face of persecution, adversity, and uncertainty, they praised God for His limitless power and ability to deliver them. They also acknowledged that He may not. For whatever reason, God may not deliver them. Even so, it would not change their identity and their commitment to God. They would not bow down and worship anyone else.
While our daily trials and sufferings pale in comparison to being executed by fire, the fact remains that we face trials all around us that challenge our faith and identity as Christ-followers. Political leaders who oppose Biblical values. Friends who pressure us towards immoral or unethical choices. Conflict that creates division in our families and churches. It’s natural to feel fear and anxiety, and it’s easy to pray to God for deliverance. But the possibility that God may not deliver us tempts us to plan our own way out. We begin rationalizing our actions or making compromises with our beliefs to avoid undesirable outcomes.
Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego are my heroes. They didn’t blame the king, they didn’t compromise, they didn’t rationalize and try to justify disobedience to God. Instead they remained committed to God’s standard and left the rest to God, ready for any outcome. To be like them, we must ask ourselves:
Lord, in the trials and suffering of today and this week, give us the strength and conviction to do what is right in Your eyes, according to Your Word. Whatever the outcome, help us be ready, and may You always be glorified.
The end of the year is a time when many of us start thinking of ways to reduce our tax liability before the year finishes. But sometimes it’s confusing knowing what all the terms mean. Many times the terms tax deduction and tax credit are used interchangeably when they are actually separate things. Here is a simple distinction:
Tax deductions reduce the amount of your gross income that is taxable while tax credits are applied directly against the amount of money owed in taxes.
For example, let’s say you are in the 15% tax bracket with a gross income of $50,000. Your tax liability (the amount you would owe) without any deductions would be $7,500. However, if you could take a deduction of $800, that would lower your tax liability to $7,380. In this case, your $800 deduction would decrease your tax liability by $120.
In the same scenario, if you could claim an $800 credit, you would reduce your tax liability by $800. This is why tax credits are described as “dollar-for-dollar” because your tax liability is reduced by the exact same dollar amount as you give toward the credit.
Although the tax credit provided a greater impact in this scenario, you will want to consult with your tax professional to determine what deductions or credits are available to you and which are best for your particular situation.
Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries (ABCS) is a Qualified Foster Care Organization, which means all gifts to ABCS qualify for a dollar-for-dollar Arizona state tax credit of up to $400 for singles and $800 for married couples. Gifts to ABCS can be claimed as a federal deductions and state credits, which allows you to take advantage of the financial benefits of each.
Visit abcs.org/donate/taxcredit for more information and answers to some frequently asked questions.