Monthly Archives: December 2014

Stuff that matters…

As is usual with the holiday season, the requests via postal mail and email for contributions has greatly increased. We live in troubling times (I wonder if Christians down through the ages don’t always say that) and the need for helping our brothers and sisters is great. By brothers and sisters I am not only referring to fellow Christians, either. I think that the illustration that Jesus gives us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan should suffice, but in case it doesn’t, let’s take a look at what Jesus said and also at excerpts from the book of James.

it’s easy to get pious and argue religion. We can study our Bibles and have discourse back in forth with both like-minded and those who are not all day long, but if people are starving and in need of basic necessities and we stand idly by, then we have missed the mark when it comes to the “first and second greatest commandments.”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

For the longest time I would attend church, pontificate on whatever topic of conversation I might be engaged in and then turn a blind eye to the suffering of those about me. How sad and disappointed I imagine that makes our Lord. When it comes right down to it, I don’t think what Bible translation you read or where you worship is all that important, certainly in comparison to your love for God and others. What you do with what you read and how you worship is what matters most.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. -James 2:14-17 (NIV)

Give of your time and resources when you can. My wife and I have discussed toning down the gift-giving to each other and focusing on those less fortunate this holiday season. Our primary gift to each other will be a gift outside of ourselves. In that way, the stocking that never gets filled (that of our Lord) will finally have something in it that pleases Him. It’s not an original idea of mine, to be sure. A friend a few years back mentioned that he and his wife started doing that.

Let’s stop quibbling and find the common ground that is Christ. Coming together as the one family in Jesus that we are, what a force for good in this world we can be. in that, we can find true religion and the saving faith that it implies.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. -James 1:22-27 (NIV)

The Light of the World

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path. -Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

“The way to get rid of darkness is to turn on the light, and the only way to destroy a stronghold of lies is to dispel them in the light of truth.” – Joyce Meyer, Power Thoughts

I love Joyce Meyer. Often, she gets right to the heart of the matter. Or, perhaps rather than giving her too much credit, I should thank the Lord– who always gets to the heart of the matter. Before I really committed to Jesus as Lord of my life, I walked in darkness, filled with fear and never knowing when I was going to stumble. Of course, when it’s dark and we can’t see, we are apt to stumble. Fear ruled my life and, therefore, governed my actions– whether I was conscious of it or not. How about you? Does fear rule your life or have you turned the light on?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12 (NIV)

Giving Tuesday.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” -Mark10:21 (NIV)

I quickly realized that this morning’s devotions that were emailed to me had largely to do with the topic of giving. I was quite sure that God was sending me a message– since I received so many messages in my inbox reminding me to give generously. Then I opened one from Greg Laurie, who talked about the fact that it is “Giving Tuesday” and asking that people send some of the money they saved from “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday” and whatever sale they encountered to support his ministry. He got me thinking more and more about the topic of giving, especially since I haven’t yet made any financial contributions to anything this week and it has been put on my heart to do so.

Like so many things, how much we give [and to where] is a topic of debate among Christians. Many believe that the Old Testament command to tithe is still in effect for believers today and a lot of folks think that, if you do so, you will reap big financial and material benefits to go along with the spiritual blessings.

Some thoughts on the topic of tithing: it is part of the Old Testament law and we are not under the law, we are under GRACE. Not only was it under law, it was actually a tax much as we pay taxes today to support those who are supposed to be working for the benefit of our society. However, that being established, under grace do we not feel compelled to give as much or more than we would if we were obligated to do so? There are many Bible teachers/preachers [whom I have a great deal of respect for] that really push the idea of tithing as a command for modern believers and will tell you that you’re ‘disobedient’ if you don’t. Frankly, I disagree vehemently with that assertion. Paul answers this issue quite well in the New Testament: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. -2 Corinthians 9;6-7 (NIV)

As I’m sure a lot of believers are aware, there are a great many preachers on television who want to send you blessings in the form of anointed prayer cloths and assorted miraculous fluids that promise health and material blessings (with the right amount of $$$). I won’t mention names– God knows who they are. It is a fact that God blesses us when we give, but how and when He does so is entirely within His purview. It is far too easy to form an attitude of expectancy when you listen to some of these preachers and I think that is wrong. We aren’t supposed to give to get— we are supposed to give because we have received love. What we love matters a great deal to God. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. -1 John 2:15-16 (NIV)

Back after a little break.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” -Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)

I haven’t really posted anything in the past several days (except for an important Bible verse on Thanksgiving Day). There, I’ve just stated the obvious. The past few days have been filled with little holiday-related projects, the bulk of which is Christmas preparation. Christmas is big in our house and involves a lot of decorating (inside and out) and also getting ready for our annual party. Every year we say we’re not going to do it, or we’ll “scale it down,” but every year we manage [somehow] to pull it off. There was one year when we lived in a small apartment that we didn’t do it, but otherwise it has been a tradition for the past several years. To me it is important– as it is not just a time of fellowship, but also another reminder of the importance of the season and the honor and gratitude owed to God our Father who sent His Son for us and the Holy Spirit our Comforter.

This has been a difficult year for us, mostly because of what my wife is going through as a result of an injury sustained at work. She has been pretty much out of work for this past year as we struggle with her recovery from an injury sustained at her place of employment. Aside from physical pain, the struggle has involved trying to keep a good attitude with anger and bitterness could so easily creep in. The future has question marks in terms of her health, career and our financial situation. That is where faith (as always) comes in handy! When I look around the world at the issues people deal with daily (many just happy to survive another day) and realize how millions might want to trade their problems for mine, it is hard not to feel immensely grateful for all that God has given me and much of what he has taken away. The Bible instructs me to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Please note that God’s Word quite specifically says to be thankful for everything, not just what I deem to be praiseworthy. When I remember that and act on that instruction, all of a sudden, I can see a star shining in the night…