How did the apostle letterPaul deal with conflict in his church? He wrote the members a letter. Paul’s letter to the Colossians reminded faithful members that they had been baptized and, therefore, had died to all their old ways and needed to clothe themselves in “bowels of mercies” – aka compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience . . . and above all, needed to clothe themselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect maturity.

Read Colossians 3:1-17 and then check out Great Bowels of Mercy preached on “Baptism of Jesus” Sunday 2018.

With love, Mark.

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DEATH AND LIFE ARE IN THE POWER OF YOUR TONGUE, says the old Proverb (18:21). Are you using your words to build up or tear down? Tongue

I’m preaching on Colossians 3:1-17 at two different services this week. Clearly, one of Paul’s concerns is how people are using their words. He issues an imperative to the good folks of Colossi about their misuse of their words: “You must get rid of  . . . abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another” (Col 3:8). It makes you sort of wonder what was going on in his church doesn’t it?

Jesus said something similar but even more direct: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles” (Matthew 15:11). What comes out of our mouths, after all, originates in our hearts.

Paul shows the church at Colossi and us a way to get our hearts right. It’s a kind of first century version of behavior modification – change the behavior and the heart will follow. First, he reminds us of who we truly are, not children of this world but God’s “holy and beloved” (Col 3:12). Then Paul issues this beautiful new directive:

“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful” (Col 3:12-15).

Use your words thoughtfully, use your words lovingly, and you’ll have the power to use your words for good. And may the peace of Christ rule in your heart today and forever!

With love, Mark.

BONUS: For Small Group, Sunday School and Youth Group Leaders, Self Study or Family dinner table reflections, check out this helpful 2 minute video: the Power of Words (part 1 and 2).

You don’t have to go to seminary be a minister of encouragement! Practice these 5 skills today!

encourage 2-3

“Encourage one another and build up each other.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Build-up without tearing down.
Those who are discouraged need thoughtful words of assurance not judgement. Instead of a critique, why not offer them a reminder that they are loved, they get second chances, and that God has not abandoned them may be enough. Read: Romans 8:38-39.

Listen without answering.
Often the best encouragement comes when people know that they’ve been heard. Ministers of encouragement don’t have to have all the answers, just the special ability to be still and listen. Read: Psalm 18:6.

Console without fixing.
This especially hard for us Type A personalities who want to move from problem to solution without first offering a little balm to those who are hurting. Read: Matthew 5:4

Identify without owning. It’s helpful if you can search your own experiences to remember times you may have felt similar to the one needing encouragement. It’s not helpful if the conversation or the issue becomes all about you, what you did, or how you resolved it. Read Galatians 6:2

Encourage without praising. 
Sometimes a trophy just for showing-up isn’t nearly as important a pat on the back, time spent together, and offering some pointers to help out for next time. Other times, we simply may need to hold-up others so they can complete the very thing to which God has called them. Read Exodus 17:12

To do this week: 
This week, remember those who have encouraged you throughout your lifetime, or those who have encouraged you lately. Who are your ministers of encouragement? How have you been encouraged by them? Tell us who has impacted your life with encouragement, and how!

God bless you all as you encourage one another!
– R. Mark Giuliano

For more check-out Need Love, Hope? Let’s Build a House! or my sermon, A Ministry of Encouragementpreached at the historic Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

LIFE AS A HOUSE: A MINISTRY OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Have ever seen the old Kevin Kline/Hayden Christensen movie, Life as a House? Beth and

House

When Paul told the church in Thessaloniki to encourage one another and build-up each other, he used a word that literally translates, “build a home.”

I watched it the other night on Netflix. In the story, Kevin Kline plays the father of a dysfunctional family. He’s divorced from his wife. She’s unhappily remarried. Their son (Christensen) is angry, lonely and abusing drugs. The teen has even considered selling himself into prostitution to feed his drug habit.

 

After losing his job, and almost simultaneously being diagnosed with a terminal cancer, Kline, an architect in the movie, decides that he’s going to spend his few remaining months fulfilling his life-long dream: building a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He forces his estranged son to come and live with him and together they build a house.

The miracle of the story (spoiler alert!) is that as they build the house together, the boy discovers hope and healing for his sadness and rage, and love is restored to the family as a whole.

It’s fascinating to me that when the Apostle Paul told the church at Thessalonica to “encourage one another and build-up each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), he used the word, “oikodomeo” which literally translates, “to build a home.” In other words, as a church, we are called to build a home for God, for faith, and for love within our church. As we do, there is the promise for healing within ourselves and our church family as a whole.

Instead of grumbles, gossip or complaints about one another, or even turning a cold-shoulder of indifference toward each other, we should encourage each other by laying a foundation of truth, building-up walls of faith, and nailing down a roof of safety and protection. And don’t forget to open some doors and windows and let love in!

Who needs encouragement in your family, among your friends or in your church? I pray that you might join me in a ministry of encouragement. Let’s make a home for love in every heart by our words and actions of encouragement.

God Bless You Today and Forever,

Mark

On November 26th, I preached a sermon called A Ministry of Encouragement. Watch it here!

In the next post, I’ll give you some tools for being a minister of encouragement!

A member of my congregation shared this beautiful little story with me. Thought it might be a great way to start your week. I hope your days are filled with blessings better than biscuits! – RMG

Biscuits

A visiting Pastor was attending a men’s breakfast in farm country. He asked one of the impressive older farmers in attendance to say grace that morning. After all were seated, the older farmer began . . .

“Lord, I hate buttermilk.”

The Pastor opened one eye and wondered to himself where this was
going. Then the farmer loudly proclaimed, “Lord, I hate lard.”

Now the Pastor was worried. However, without missing a beat, the farmer prayed on, “And Lord, you know I don’t care much for raw white flour.”

Just as the Pastor thought he should stand up and stop everything, the farmer continued, “But Lord, when you mix ’em all together and bake ’em up, I do love fresh biscuits.

So, Lord, when things come up we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we just don’t understand what you are sayin’ to us, we just need to relax and wait ’till You are done mixin’, and probably it will be somethin’ even better than biscuits.

Amen.”

May God Bless You Today and Forever!

Mark

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

 

You know why you’re thankful, but do you know how to show it?

Expressions of Thanksgiving

Some people express gratitude with hearts and hands. How do you show your thanks?

“Have you seen those sour-pusses in the choir?” One of our church teens was grumbling at me as if he had proof that Christianity was a lark.  Another teen came to my rescue in a way that cracked me up. She said, “If your heart feels like smiling, why not inform your face!”

I was thinking about that teenager’s humorous comment and the state of our hearts today while reflecting on Thanksgiving. Sometimes our heart is filled with gratitude but we don’t always express it well. Sure, once a year we sit big-bellied around the awesome fruits of a bountiful fall harvest and name the reasons why we’re thankful. But how do we let our thankful hearts inform our daily living? How do we say “thank you” with our hands as well as our voices?

Some people volunteer or make donations to special causes. Others express their gratitude by signing-up for a special walk or run to bring attention to a good cause. Still, others channel their gratitude into opportunities to extend forgiveness to others. It’s been said, after all, that “thanks is for giving.”

I’d like to hear from you. Please offer a comment and share with others how you let your thankful heart inform your life and your actions?

Thanksgiving Blessings!

Mark

Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to God with songs of praise! – Psalm 95:2

A $20 Blessing

Posted: October 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

20 dollars

Do you remember, as a kid, how thrilled you were to tear-open a birthday card and discover money in it? Oh, the joy you felt when a one dollar bill slipped from the card and floated down to your lap! I recall as much as a twenty-dollar bill dropping out from a card, my hand quickly snapping it back and stuffing into my pocket for safe keeping away from leering older brothers.

I was reminded of that twenty-dollar delight this morning when I showed-up at one of my favorite coffee shops to do some writing and realized that I had forgotten my wallet at home. The barista at the counter tallied up my order – a 16 ounce latte and an apple-cinnamon muffin. An instantaneous moment of panic washed over me when I reached around to my backside for my wallet and felt only, well, my backside. No wallet. Just an empty back pocket. Dread!

Quickly, though, I remembered that I had been carrying around a folded-up twenty-dollar bill in my front pocket for days. These days, I tend to use my credit card for most purchases. It’s a great way to build up points for travel. It also means that cash, when I happen to have it, can hang around in my pockets for weeks.

Not only did I have enough cash to pay for my coffee and muffin, I had enough to pay for the postage on the priority envelope I needed to send from the post office on my way home. What a relief to have twenty-dollars on me today.

It got me thinking, though. What a blessing twenty-dollars is. In this day and age of automatic payments for everything from salary to purchases, donations and other forms of gift-giving, I sometimes forget the value of a buck. Not only is twenty-dollars in your pocket a lot of money when you’ve forgotten your wallet, it’s a lot of money, period.

$20 will get you and your sweetie two movie theater tickets to see latest blockbuster in Cleveland. The popcorn and Goobers will be extra.

$20 will get you and your buddy a couple of upper bowl tickets to a Cleveland Browns home game . . . if you can stand the heartache.

$20 will pay your Netflix streaming bill for almost two full months so you can watch Season 2 of Stranger Things with me and the rest of the world on October 27th.

$20 is more than double the U.S. federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which hasn’t been increased since 2009.

$20 dollars would mean the world to someone living India where, according to Business Insider, the minimum wage is a mere 28 cents an hour. A minimum wage worker in India would have to put-in over 70 hours of work to slip a twenty-dollar bill in a birthday card for one of his children.

$20 will buy a pair of winter gloves and a hat for a child of a low income family here in Cleveland.

$20 will purchase a warm blanket or, if you shopped carefully, a good coat for one of the thousands of women and men living on our city streets or in our shelters.

Please understand, I’m not trying to pack your bags for a guilt trip, here. It’s just me. I’ve been rethinking the value of twenty-dollars ever since I forgot my wallet this morning. I feel just a little more appreciative of the money in my pocket, plastic or paper, and for both its buying and sharing power. I was blessed by the reminder. Blessed to have forgotten my wallet.

By the way, Sunday is my birthday. If you’re still looking for ideas, I’ve got a suggestion.

– RMG