Season for Giving, Receiving, and Appreciation

Long-Term Benefit of Human Service

Appreciation motivates a “hunger and thirst” for righteousness that extends the benefits of human service through more people and time. We join this year’s celebration of thanksgiving and use the opportunity to discuss Christ’s teaching on appreciation as a motivator of positive human interaction.


Thanksgiving celebration at Plymouth USA
Thanksgiving celebration at Plymouth USA
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Thanksgiving is celebrated in different parts of the world at various times. In several places, the celebration is associated with harvest and appreciation for the “fruits of the land.” Also in several places, thanksgiving is celebrated near the end of the calendar year in appreciation of all that was good during the year. For example, in several countries of North America, thanksgiving is celebrated late in the calendar year, usually a few weeks before Christmas; thus beginning a season of giving, receiving, and appreciation that lasts through the remainder of the year. People and institutions exchange gifts and greetings to appreciate each other for being who or what they are and for events of the year that brought their paths to cross.

We join in this year’s celebrations: to express our appreciation to all that interacted with our program one way or the other during the year. We thank God for you and appreciate this opportunity to learn his word and share our understanding through Banking Blessings Ministry. We celebrate this year’s interactions and use the opportunity of the celebration to discuss the value of appreciation in motivating positive human interaction.

Go in peace freed from suffering
Go in peace freed from suffering
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CHRIST’S TEACHING ON APPRECIATION We examine Christ’s teaching on appreciation based on his interactions with two people he healed from persistent illness. The interactions suggest he wanted to emphasize appreciation as important to the healing, as if the healing was incomplete without it. The interactions occurred in regard to a woman he healed of long-term bleeding and a man that was the only one of ten that returned to thank him for healing them of leprosy. In both cases, he appeared to be telling them and us that their appreciation enabled them to receive full benefits of the healing. However, we know based on the biblical accounts that the physical healing was complete in each case before the recipient stepped forward to show appreciation. Therefore, his interactions with them lead us to understand that each recipient needed more than the physical healing to receive full benefit of his/her interaction with Jesus in the healing incident.

HUNGER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS His interactions with the two lead us to understand that every human service offers two potential benefits to the recipient:

  1. Surface-value or short-term benefit that arises from the service addressing an immediate need, such as physical healing.
  2. Long-term benefit that arises because the recipient’s appreciation motivates him/her to be good, not only to the provider but also to other people.

If the recipient is good to another person as a result, the other also is motivated to be good to yet others. Thus, an act of goodness whereby a person provides a service to alleviate another person’s need could benefit several more people because the recipient’s appreciation motivates him/her to be good to others that are, in turn, motivated to be good to yet others. Thus, the long-term benefit of human service lies in the potential to motivate an expanding community of people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” [Matthew 5:6] and earn blessing as Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount. This long-term benefit is more important than the short-term benefit. Christ emphasized its value through personal interactions with the two healing recipients.

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Diffusing Crisis to Manage Adversity

Paul’s Crisis Management in Jerusalem

Paul was arrested in Jerusalem by a mob that tried to kill him but were forced to surrender him to the custody of Roman authorities. He tried to diffuse the crisis by showing respect to Jewish law, custom, and heritage; the Roman commander; and his rights as a Roman citizen. Although his attempt at crisis management did not end the persecution, the attempt was successful because the persecution changed from beating and torture to detention and a series of public trials and hearings. Also, the trials and hearings became an opportunity for Paul to preach the gospel among his people in Jerusalem and Caesarea as he had in parts of Europe and Asia.

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In this installment of our study on Responding to Adversity, we discuss Paul’s interactions at his arrest in Jerusalem to learn about managing adversity by taking deliberate actions to reduce the intensity of a developing crisis. Paul was attacked in Jerusalem by a mob of Jews stirred up through public accusations against his teaching and religious allegiance. The local Roman commander rescued him from the mob by arresting and taking custody of him. We discuss his interactions with the Roman commander and with the mob to understand his attempt at diffusing the crisis.

Mob against Paul at the temple
Mob against Paul at the temple
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He showed himself respectful of the commander when he ignored the commander’s obvious but irrelevant mistake and focused instead on providing information to introduce himself. Regarding the mob, he almost won them over by presenting himself as a “son of the soil:” sharing with them the same language; laws, custom, and traditions; and respect for the same heroes and heritage. However, his peace with the mob was short-lived as he re-ignited their ire by reminding them of his long sojourn among Gentiles and his claim of common destiny with the Gentiles. Thus, the persecution continued despite his attempt at diffusing the crisis. Although he was not able to free himself from persecution, his effort at crisis management was partially successful as he asserted his Roman citizenship to win protection against torture or any punishment without trial. He would be tried publicly to determine if he did anything deserving punishment.

Preaching gospel in chains
Preaching gospel in chains
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Additionally, he used the opportunity of addressing the mob to preach the gospel in Jerusalem for the first time, as he had during missionary journeys through parts of Europe and Asia. He would go on to also preach to other predominantly Jewish audience during trials in Caesarea. Therefore, although his attempt at diffusing the crisis did not end the persecution, the attempt was successful in that it transformed the persecution into a series of trials and public hearings and, thus, an opportunity for him to preach the gospel among his people in Jerusalem and Caesarea as he had in parts of Europe and Asia.

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On Mission Despite Threat of Impending Adversity

Paul Returns to Jerusalem

Paul returned to Jerusalem despite warnings of impending persecution. He believed returning to Jerusalem was important to completing his mission. Instead of giving in to the threat of persecution, he relied on his faith of God’s purpose, declaring he was ready “not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” He stayed on mission despite the threat of severe adversity, subsequently endured through the adversity, but expanded his ministry as a result, more than he could have imagined.

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To Jerusalem via Tyre and Caesarea
To Jerusalem via Tyre and Caesarea
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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of Paul’s return to Jerusalem after missionary journeys to parts of Europe and Asia. He was determined to return to Jerusalem despite a premonition of impending adversity. Also, during the trip from Ephesus through Tyre and Caesarea, he was warned of persecution awaiting him. First, disciples that hosted his team in Tyre counseled him against proceeding to Jerusalem. Second, Prophet Agabus met him and companions in Caesarea and warned him through unusual but emphatic drama that he will be arrested and persecuted. Third, his companions and other well wishers in Caesarea tried to dissuade him from returning to Jerusalem.

Despite the warnings, Paul was determined to return to Jerusalem even if it meant walking into his own grave [Acts 21:13]: “Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Later events and Paul’s interactions with other people through the events lead us to an understanding of his determination to return to Jerusalem despite the threat of severe adversity through persecution.

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Shunammite Woman Overcomes Adversity

Compassion, Faith, and Persistent Prayer

The Shunammite woman’s compassion for a stranger led her to man of God Elisha, who prayed for her so she was blessed with a son. Later, when the son died unexpectedly, her unwavering faith and persistent prayer by Elisha restored the son to life. Subsequently, she lost her home and land while living abroad to escape a seven-year famine. However, all her losses and more were restored because she was a living testimony of Elisha’s work. On two occasions she lost something she treasured but her loss was restored in full each time because of unwavering faith and persistent prayer.

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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of interactions between the Shunammite woman and Prophet Elisha, among other (third-party) participants. The interactions began with the woman’s compassion toward a stranger that turned out to be Prophet Elisha and continued with the woman receiving an unexpected but welcome blessing through the birth of a son.

Map showing Shunem and Mt Carmel
Map showing Shunem and Mt Carmel
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However, the blessing appeared to turn into adversity when the son died after a brief illness. She responded with unwavering faith that she expressed in part by seeking out Elisha at Mount Carmel and insisting that he return to his “sanctuary” at her home in Shunem to ensure her son was restored to life. Elisha obliged, returned to the sanctuary, and prayed persistently until the child came back to life.

Several years later, the woman lost her home and land when she and her household relocated to a foreign land to escape a seven-year famine. However, when the king realized she was a living testimony of Elisha’s work (the woman whose son was restored from death), he ordered full restoration of everything she lost while she was away. Therefore, on two different occasions, the Shunammite woman lost something she treasured but the loss was restored in full because of her unwavering faith, human effort, and persistent prayer.

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Divine Favor—Mordecai Triumphs Over Adversity

Mordecai and Esther Win Deliverance for their People

Mordecai’s triumph over adversity started with King Xerxes recognizing that intense hatred by his second in command Haman resulted in a decree to annihilate Jews, including Esther, his queen. The king also recalled that Mordecai, a lowly attendant at his palace gate, foiled an assassination plot against him but was never rewarded for the courageous act. He ordered Haman executed, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and issued a decree that empowered Jews with the right of self defense. All these occurred in one evening, but started years earlier by Mordecai raising his orphaned cousin as his daughter, reporting an assassination plot against the king, and refusing to worship Haman—all because he lived according to his commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances, even in adversity.

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Celebrating Mordecai: king's second in command
Celebrating Mordecai: 2nd to king
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Mordecai overcame adversity because of unwavering commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances. He endured hardship due to living in captivity, modest economic conditions, and a conspiracy against him and his people that was hatched in reaction to his refusal to compromise worship. While living through the hardship, he raised his orphaned cousin as his own daughter and guided her to become the queen of the land; reported an assassination plot against the king and earned recorded credit for the report; and refused to worship Haman, an agent of the king that people honored in a way that connoted worship. Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered a sequence of events that initially increased the scope and intensity of his adversity but ultimately led him to overcoming the adversity.

As we discuss in a previous bible study under Finding the Bigger Picture in Adversity, Haman reacted to Mordecai’s “disobedience” by issuing a decree under the authority of the king to annihilate all Jews on a chosen date. The decree became law through all 127 provinces under King Xerxes. Jews protested and mourned everywhere. Mordecai protested at the king’s gate until he convinced his stepdaughter Queen Esther to appeal to the king against the annihilation order.

Concerned about going to king uninvited
Concerned about going to king uninvited
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Queen Esther initially was reluctant to appeal to the king because she was concerned about violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and maybe win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment [Esther 4:16]: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

Esther’s appeal to the king was successful. The conspiracy against Jews was overturned. Another decree was published on the king’s authority that gave Jews the right to assemble, protect themselves, and destroy their enemy. Thus, Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered an event sequence whereby he triumphed over the conspiracy against him and his people, defeated his enemies, and overcame poverty. This study focuses on Queen Esther’s appeal and Mordecai’s triumph over adversity as a result.

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Finding the Bigger Picture in Adversity

Example from Mordecai-Esther Interaction—
Understanding Adversity through Bigger Picture

Queen Esther initially was reluctant to honor Mordecai’s request that she appeal to the king against an edict to annihilate Jews. She feared violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

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We continue the study series on Responding to Adversity with focus on Mordecai’s life in captivity. We examine his life during the period in terms of three interactions. As we discuss in a previous study under Living in the Image of God through Adversity—Example from Mordecai, the interactions underscore Mordecai’s commitment to worship and serve God and living to uphold the commitment even in adversity. Also, the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to propel Mordecai over his adversity.

The interactions are: (1) he raised his uncle’s orphan daughter as his, (2) reported an assassination plot against the king, and (3) refused to worship an agent of the king even while facing a threat of execution for his refusal. As we discuss in the previous study, he not only raised the daughter but guided her to winning a contest to become the new queen of the land. Also, her position as queen cleared the way for Mordecai to report an assassination plot that he uncovered and earn recorded credit for the report.

Worshiping Haman
Worshiping Haman
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This study focuses on events that arose from the third interaction: Mordecai had declined to honor king’s agent Haman because the type of honor demanded of him conveyed connotation of worship. He would not perform the act of honor because it would violate his commitment to worship God, and only God. His refusal to worship Haman ignited an event sequence that initially caused his adversity to grow in scope and intensity before ultimately leading him to triumph over the adversity.

 

 

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Living in the Image of God through Adversity

Example from Mordecai—
Worshiping and Serving God Even in Adversity

Mordecai’s interactions with others show he was committed to worship and serve God, determined what the commitment meant in every situation, and interacted in a way to uphold his commitment. He did this while facing severe adversity due to being the descendant of a captive exile in Babylon. In a subsequent study we show that living in the image of God in spite of his adversity propelled him to triumph over the adversity.

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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a sub series on Mordecai, descendant of one of the Jews that fell captive to Nebuchadnezzar and lived in Babylon as exiles for several decades. We examine Mordecai’s life in captivity, focusing on adverse circumstances that befell him and three interactions with others as he lived through the adversity. We discuss the interactions to show how they relate to the meaning of a commitment to worship and serve God. Further, in subsequent studies under the sub series on Mordecai, we highlight how the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to lead him to triumph over his adversity.

The sub series helps us understand the life of Mordecai as an example of living in the image of God through adversity and lifting over the adversity as a result.

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