Search My Heart

I Want to Be Just Like Jami
by Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
"So encourage each other and give each other strength" (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NCV).

Friend To Friend
When Jack joined our church youth group, I had no idea that he would evolve into one of the most abrasive people in my life. In the beginning, Jack worked hard at making friends and seemed content to go with the flow, but one day, Jack decided that the stream of life was flowing in the wrong direction and it was up to him to redirect its course. The mask came off and the façade quickly crumbled and standing before me was the real deal - a genuine, authentic sandpaper person of the coarsest grade.

It started with little things like a friendly shove or a caustic comment masquerading as sarcasm. Other youth began coming to Dan or to me, sharing their concern about Jack's antics. I talked to Jack. Dan talked to Jack. Together we prayed for Jack and urged the other youth to join us. Nothing seemed to change. As a last ditch effort, we drafted two of our most mature youth to take Jack under their wing and mentor him.

During a Monday night Bible study, Dan asked one of those mentors to sing a solo. Jami was a redheaded freckled face girl whose sparkling blue eyes and contagious dimpled grin did not convey the constant pain she suffered as a victim of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Jami never complained, always quick and eager to share her faith. When she stood to sing, Jack began laughing, pointing and whispering to the people around him. Their lack of response fueled his fire, upping the ante for Jack to win this battle and capture center stage. Jami looked at me, silently begging me to rescue her and the situation. I smiled the most encouraging smile I could muster, hoping it would be enough. It wasn't. I looked back at Jack, delivering my famous and usually feared "shape up or die" glare - all to no avail. In a firm voice, Dan asked, "Jack, are you ready to hear Jamie sing?" Well, that did it! Jack erupted into uproarious laughter, "Sing? She sounds like a frog - not to mention the fact that she walks funny!" Every ounce of oxygen was immediately sucked out of the room. Everyone froze, except Jami, who fled in tears. From the faces of those youth sitting around Jack, I could tell that revenge was close at hand as they began loading their emotional guns and sharpening their retaliation knives. I jumped to my feet, grabbed Jack and pulled him out of the room.

Reaching the foyer, I whirled Jack around to face me and with clenched teeth ground out my livid question, "Do you have any idea what you just did?" The laughter vanished as pain and harsh realization spread across his face. His response was nothing short of incredible. "Yes. I embarrassed Jami and hurt her feelings." I am not often speechless, but at that moment, words simply evaporated as I stared into the eyes of someone fully aware of the pain he had just inflicted on one of the few people who accepted and defended him. "I cannot believe you!" I growled. "Jami has always been kind to you, coming to your defense when you did not deserve to be defended or inviting you to join the group when the group did not want you anywhere around them. She has probably been the best friend you have ever had or will ever have. What is wrong with you?" I knew my response was far from what it should be, but at that moment, all I could see was the hurt on Jami's face. What I didn't see was the hurt in Jack's heart. He stood, silently accepting his rightful and, I thought, well-deserved punishment without a single word of defense.

From the corner of my eye, I saw someone approaching. I was really hoping they were bringing me some kind of rusty weapon but it was Jami - with a tremulous smile breaking through the tears cascading down her face. Jack instinctively began backing away until he saw Jami's eyes and her outstretched arms. I stood paralyzed, a witness to God's supernatural presence and the restoration power of forgiveness at work before my unbelieving eyes and my angry heart. Instantly, I became the student and Jami the teacher. Both Jack and I listened quietly as God spoke through this precious young woman, the words only she could speak. "Jack, I got to thinking about why you did what you just did, and I realized something. I love you and you know that, but you don't think you deserve that love so you tried to kill it by hurting me. It won't work. Do you know why?" I saw Jack's sandpaper world being rocked by a love he could not understand, a love that was not altered by anything he did or didn't do, a love that only God can give. In answer to Jami's question, Jack gave a quick headshake and whispered, "No. I don't know why." Jami smiled, wrapped her arms around the very one who, just moments before had viciously wounded her, and with fresh tears streaming down her face, choked out words I will never forget. "I love you with God's love, Jack. Not mine. And His love will never die. I just wanted to tell you that no matter what you say or do, I am your friend - period."

Staring into her eyes, Jack experienced, maybe for the first time, the timeless and stubborn love of God; a love that would redefine his future. With a giggle, Jami playfully grabbed Jack's hand and began happily chattering about how she needed him in the front row to encourage her while she sang. And he did!

Here's the rest of the story. From that day forward, Jack was a different person. From time to time, he would fall back into old emotional habits but when he did, Jami or someone under her direction and influence would snatch him back to the new place that Jami's words of staggering kindness and God ordained wisdom had brought him. The youth who witnessed Jami's love for this unlovable one were changed and called up higher in their obedience to God, even when it didn't make sense and was completely undeserved. Jami taught me that hurt people really do hurt people. I want to be just like Jami when I grow up.

Let's Pray
Father, please forgive me when I judge others when I should love them. Help me to see every person through Your eyes of love, grace and mercy. Please guard my tongue and my heart so that I will build up and not destroy others. I want to please You, Lord; by the way I love the unlovable. Help me to grow up and become a fully devoted follower of Christ.

In Jesus' name,


Now It's Your Turn
Right now, think of the most abrasive people in your life.

Are you ready to accept and love them without demanding that they change?

Find one good point about each person and voice it to others whenever you have the chance.

What can you do to demonstrate the unconditional love of God for these people?

Do you need to ask any of them for forgiveness? Are you willing to do that now?

Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106

Placing Trust in our Strength

TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1, by Os Hillman

So the Lord sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead. - 1 Chronicles 21:14

When was the last time your overconfidence cost the lives of 70,000 men? That is exactly what happened to David. David made what might appear to be an innocent request of his general, Joab. But the minute Joab heard the request he cringed. He knew David was in big trouble for this one. You see to number the troops was a great sin in Israel because it was against the law. Why? Because it demonstrated that you were placing more trust in numbers than in the living God. David displayed enough pride to cost the lives of 70,000 fighting men. God gave him three choices of punishment for his sin. A plague was the one he chose, and it resulted in the loss of 70,000.

Throughout Israel's history, God set the stage for battles to be won, miracles to take place, and people to exercise faith. The stage was always set so that man could not take credit for what God did. Consider Gideon who was only allowed 300 men to fight an army of 100,000. Consider Jehoshaphat, who had to lead his army with his singers. God defeated the enemy. Consider Joshua, who was told simply to walk around Jericho seven times, and they would get victory. God did things in some very unconventional ways!

How does this relate to you and me as workplace believers? Well, the minute you and I place more trust in our abilities than in God, we are guilty of numbering the troops. How does He punish us? Sometimes it's through letting a deal go sour. Sometimes it's through problems with a client or vendor. Sometimes situations just blow up in our face. Other times, He lets us go on for a long time doing our own thing, but eventually He deals with it.

The lesson here is to learn daily and complete dependence on God. Use your gifts and abilities through the power of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him daily for direction and wisdom. His ways won't always line up with conventional wisdom. When we begin depending on our abilities only, God has a responsibility to make known to us who is the giver of the blessings.

Today's Prayer

Dear Lord, I pray today for the deacons and ministers of caring in the church today. I pray that they would support and uplift the pastor, like Aaron did Moses. I pray that they would help the pastor carry out the ministry of the church, looking after the needs of the congregation, going about in an attitude of prayer, and seeking Your will in all circumstances and obstacles that arise. I pray for their protection from harm and evil in any form. I pray that You will anoint, bless, and minister through them to reach people, to show them Your love, and to bring glory and honor to You. Help these ministers to see their role in Your work, and give them the boldness, wisdom, and encouragement to carry on. In Jesus' name, amen.

Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message, Copyright by Os Hillman, Marketplace Leaders

Search my heart
And search my soul
There's nothing else
That I want more

Shine Your light
And show Your face
In my life
Lord, have Your way

So with all my heart
And all my soul
With all I am
Lord, I will follow You

Hear my cry
And hear my prayer
Draw me close
I know You're near

You took the cross
You took my shame
Restored my life
Lord, I live to worship You

Without You, I am nothing
Without You, I am nothing

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