Friday, November 30, 2012

When Money Costs You

When Money Costs You


Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Money gets a bad rap! The Bible is often misquoted as having said somewhere within its pages “money is the root of all evil.”  But in fact – it doesn’t!  The verse being misquoted is 1 Timothy 6:10, which says “For the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil”.  Money in itself is nothing more than paper an ink.  It only becomes evil if we give it a higher priority in our lives than we give to God.  Then it becomes an idol, and we develop greed.  Out of greed come many evils.
The problem with greed for money, wealth, or riches is a trust issue.  When greed enters into our hearts, trust in God to sustain us and contentment leave.  It’s ironic that all of our coins and bills have “In God We Trust” imprinted on them, yet we don’t seek God for our happiness, but money.  We devalue His ability to sustain and care for us, as Jehovah Jirah, and choose to chase after wealth. 

We work longer than we should at our jobs for more money.  We take on second jobs and side jobs for more money.  We work during worship times to meet our “needs”.  We buy bigger houses with mortgages that keep us up at night.  We buy new cars that give us a ball-and-chain payment for six years or longer.  And we do it all to please who?
Do we really need bigger houses and new cars to be happy?  Does it really flip a switch and raise your happy meter to have a new car and pay a $500 or more payment every month? Is that making you happy?  Perhaps these are a means to something else we’re hoping to attain by having all these new treats and trinkets.

Much of the time the true goal of our endless possessions is to please other people.  It’s the “keeping up with the Jones’” syndrome.  Yet, have you noticed that the Jones’ aren’t really interested in how much you have?  Would it not be better to try to impress Almighty God than your next door neighbor?  You can’t please people and God - pick ONE.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MONEY.”  Yet, many of us live in such a ways as to profess that we believe Jesus got it all wrong!  Our actions show our heart’s true belief, which is sometimes contrary to what we say we believe.  We go in debt to own more, serving money as a slave to our credit card bills and payment books.  But it only causes the happy meter to rise temporarily.  We are never joyful and content! 

I love how Timothy explains it, when he saysNow godliness with contentment is GREAT GAIN. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these WE SHALL BE CONTENT.”  When we cannot be content with what we have, we forego the blessing of “great gain”.   My husband shared a quote he saw yesterday that said, “Happiness will never come to those who don't appreciate what they already have”.
Hebrews 13:5 parallels the issue of greed with trust in God.  It says, Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Are not God’s provisions all that you truly need?  Does He not, in all His wisdom, know how to give good gifts to you?

Do you want to put your money to eternal use?  Do you want to store up treasures in Heaven?  Jesus told the rich young man in Matthew 19:21 sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”. Would your money not be better invested in heaven that a bank earning 1 or 2% interest?  Use it to feed the poor, clothe children, house the homeless, and support those that do these things.  Giving KILLS greed.
Greed is like a welcome mat set outside the door of your life for evil and unhappiness.  God warns us not to chase after material things, but to build up our treasures in Heaven where “moth and rust do not destroy” (Matthew 6:19), and that one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).  But do we trust that His words are true?  Do our actions show that we believe Him?

True happiness lies in the Kingdom of God – serving Him.  Luke 12:31 instructs us to “seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”  Live in the image in which you were created.  Seek His righteousness, and all you need – you will have.  Matthew 13:44 compares money to the Kingdom of God’s value as it says “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then IN HIS JOY he goes and sells ALL THAT HE HAS and buys that field.”  It’s worth all the money!  Are you seeking to attain the field, His righteousness, or are you seeking wealth?
For many, their entire life’s goals can come down to one thing: to die rich.  But consider what James has to say to those that do in James 5:1-5

“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.  Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.  Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”
In Jesus name, dear friends, let this never be said of you.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Measurement of Sin

The Measurement of Sin


And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3

There is a common misunderstanding about sin.  A Biblical myth if you will that has been spread by those that want to even the playing field of sin.  That myth is that all sins are equal in God’s eyes.  Friend, nothing is further from the truth.
Do we really believe that our perfect and just God would look upon a child who steals a cookie from the cookie jar in the same way that He would a murderer?  Could God possibly see the serial killer as the same as the one that doesn’t repay a debt?  It is nonsense, but yet, because we’re often taught things for such a long time that we accept them as truth, we must drive them out with the truth, God’s Word.

In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount, and teaching the listeners about judging each other’s sins.  He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The plank and the speck represent sin.  Notice that Jesus found the plank to be an obstruction to helping someone else with a smaller, speck, of a problem.  He clearly makes a difference in the size of the problem from a plank to a speck. 

Lest you think we’ve misinterpreted Jesus’ words, let’s move on to Matthew 23:23-24 where Jesus speaks to the Scribes and Pharisees, the religiously elite of their time.  He says “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.  Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Again, the analogy of a gnat and a camel shows quite a difference in size.  But Jesus goes further to say that they have neglected the “weightier” matters of the law, which are justice, mercy, and faith.  While they paid their tithes, the Scribes and Pharisees were not giving the spiritual offerings to each other of justice, mercy, and faith. They have strained out the tiny gnat, yet swallowed a whole camel!

If we move on to John 19, Jesus is standing before Pilate being accused by those that wanted Him dead.  Pilate is questioning Jesus as to who He is and Jesus does not answer.  Pilate then explains to Jesus that he has the power to free Him, or crucify Him.  But Jesus responds in John 19:11 by saying “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”  The one that delivered Jesus to Pilate had the “greater sin”.  Jesus clearly made a distinction in sins here.
Consider this.  If all sins were equal, wouldn’t all punishments be equal as well?  The entire book of Leviticus, giving the old laws of God, pronounces different punishments on everything from stealing to murder.  In Proverbs 6:16 we read the sins that God hates.  The verse says “There are six things the Lord hates— no, seven things he detests” The list isn’t a complete listing of sins, but of seven specific sins.

So how can we judge one another’s sins?  What is the formula that God uses to determine which sin is greater?  Search the Bible from cover to cover and you will not find it.  The magnitude of a sin has much to do with who commits it.  As we grow in wisdom of God’s word we also grow in responsibility. 
Luke 12:47-48 says “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.  We do not have a ruler to measure a person’s maturity in Christ, and therefore, have no means by which to judge their sins. 

Yet, we are to correct one another as a means of sanctification.  To leave a brother or sister uncorrected to continue in their sins is also a sin.  Hebrews 13:17 says Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.  2 Timothy 4:2 also says Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”  Those who are Christian leaders, either by official position or by the respect of others, have the responsibility to give instruction to our Christian brothers and sisters.  But we do not have authority to pronounce judgment!  Correction builds up - but judgment tears down.  We are told in Colossians 4:6 to Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt”.
Yet there is one way in which all sins are equal.  All do lead to death.  Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus’ salvation is available to all – from the serial killer to the cookie stealer.  All receive Him into their hearts in the same way, and with the same faith and confidence are redeemed from their sins.  Unconfessed sin leads to hell. Forgiveness leads to heaven.  The only unpardonable sin, the greatest sin of all, is the sin of unbelief.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Mind and the Pickle Jar

The Mind and the Pickle Jar


All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” – Mark 7:23

Out of my deep love for salt and vinegar, I decided a few years ago to learn how to make homemade dill pickles.  In the process, I learned a couple of very important things. First, if a recipe calls for “a lump of alum the size of a hazelnut”, it is crucial to understand that a hazelnut is MUCH smaller than a walnut.  That became quite clear when the first batch nearly caused a medical condition known as lock jaw!  Secondly, putting in more salt simply because you like the taste of it isn’t a good thing.  Too much of a good thing…is a bad thing. 
Through trials and errors, and many wasted cucumbers, I’ve found there are two things that are key to making good pickles.  First, you must have good salt and vinegar.  Not all salts or vinegars are equal.  After trying several types of each, I’ve come to find that kosher salt and white vinegar make the best pickles in my opinion. 

Secondly, you have to control the amount of empty space you leave in your jar.  If you only fill your jar half full, the pickles are sure to go bad!  By filling the jar to the neck with pickles, you assure that only enough air is there to prevent the jar from exploding.  Any more than that and the empty space in the jar will allow the pickles to mold. 
Empty space can be a problem in our minds too, but you can’t just fill it with fluff and expect to walk away a genius either.  It takes good ingredients and filling the empty space to become intelligent in any subject.  Disregarding that fact and allowing anything to come into your mind will cause your whole person to become, well, rotten! 

In Mark 7 Jesus is teaching a large group of followers, and He talks to them about what defiles a man.  These people were religious, and would only eat certain things because they feared that the wrong foods would defile them.  They would also have ritual cleanings of their hands and table elements before eating because they wanted to keep themselves pure.  But purifying what enters the stomach has no effect on the purification of the heart, and Jesus is concerned not with the body, but the heart.
In Mark 7:18-19 Jesus says, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” The stomach does not control your thoughts and actions.  It’s what is put into your heart that controls your thoughts and actions, and it’s from those that a man is defiled.

Jesus continues in verses 21-23 saying, What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” It’s what is put into your heart that controls your thoughts and actions. It’s from the heart, not the stomach that we rot.  
But again, you control the jar!  We need to actively make a decision.  What kind of person do YOU want to be? Years ago someone told me, “If you don’t know what your priorities are, the world will quickly tell you!”  So let’s make some decisions, etch them in the crevices of our hearts and minds, and work toward those goals.  Let’s not leave our lives up to the world’s pressures and priorities.

If you want to excel at the place you are employed, then listening to negative coworkers as they fill your empty jar with negative thoughts probably isn’t the way! Find out what God’s undefiled word says about how to treat your employer, and follow God’s lead.
If you want to become a good wife, then it’s probably not a good idea to watch soap operas and “Bridezilla” and see how disrespectful some women can be to their spouse.  Read what God has to say about the relationship between husband and wife, and use His word as your role model.

If you want to become a good father, spending all day Sunday watching sports on TV isn’t going to get it done.  As skilled as those players are, most don’t have happy homes.  What does God say about how a father should instruct and discipline his children?
If you want to raise good children, you probably don’t want “Honey Boo Boo” to be brought into their minds as a role model, and you probably don’t want to fill the radio waves of your home with the voices of musicians who promote premarital sex, the “baby daddy” lifestyle, and vulgar comments toward the opposite sex!  If they are taught to live in a Christian lifestyle, these other small voices will be foreign to their ears.  Take (not send) your children to church, put them in Sunday School classes, and allow them to learn God’s word.  Fill that empty space.

If I wanted to grow my own cucumbers for my next batch of pickles, I wouldn’t plant squash seeds.  I would plant cucumber seeds.  The seeds that you plant will grow.  If you find that you’re growing things you don’t like, there’s only one thing to do.  Uproot those bad thoughts and habits, and replace them.  Fill the empty space in your mind and your calendar with what you want to grow. 
Jesus ended his sermon saying, “All these evil things come from WITHIN and defile a man.”  Consider what goes into your jar.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

That You May Know

That You May Know


When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” – Mark 2:5
Jesus had entered the town of Capernaum, and immediately gained fame among the people because of His miracles and His teaching.  He entered a house to teach those that were in it.  But it became so packed with people that Jesus couldn’t move from His place.  The doors were opened for people to listen from outside.  What a love for Jesus these people were showing by simply packing the house He was in!

But there was one who couldn’t enter, but sought Jesus like no other.  He was not able to fight through the crowd to get in.  He was “the paralytic”.  He had been paralyzed for so long that he had become known by his problem.
But the paralytic had good friends.  He had friends who cared enough to take him where he needed to go, and to believe with him that Jesus had a cure for his problem.  They brought him to the house, but seeing it was full they devised a plan to get their friend to Jesus.  (We all should have a plan to get our friends to Jesus.)

They climbed on the roof of the house, and began taking off the roofing.  They labored tirelessly to put a large enough hole in the roof of the house.  Then, raising their friend from the ground where he laid on a cot to the roof, they repositioned him, and lowered him down to Jesus.  These men believed Jesus for their friends healing so strongly that they worked for it, and yes, expected it.  They didn’t plan a way to retrieve the man and the cot back through the roof. 
Then the most amazing thing happened.  Jesus saw their faith.  He saw not only the faith of the paralyzed man seeking healing, but the faith of his friends.  In Mark 2:5 Jesus says to the man “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”   This may seem strange, that Jesus would forgive his sins rather than heal him, but in fact Jesus was healing him - eternally.  Unforgiven sin results in death.  Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death”.  What Jesus gave the man was eternal healing, not just the temporary healing of his broken body. 

Oh, but the scribes were there!  These were devoutly religious people, educated in the laws of Moses and the words of the prophets, but having no knowledge of who Jesus really was.  They had no understanding of faith because they weren’t ready to accept a Messiah.  They were there to learn the teachings of Jesus, but not to apply them.  They were happy to have him as a teacher, but not give him the authority that was His.  At hearing Jesus forgive sins, they were frustrated! How could this man, Jesus, offer freedom from sin? In the privacy of their hearts they murmured and said in Mark 2:7, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
But Jesus heard the mutterings of their hearts.  He always knows what’s in the heart whether it’s spoken or not.  He answered them by saying “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?  But THAT YOU MAY KNOW that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

“That you may know”, Jesus said.  It wasn’t just about the paralytic.  Jesus wanted to heal the scribes as well.  He wanted them to see that He was the Messiah, and that He has authority over sin, as God does. 
The paralytic was healed that day, and to the amazement of those that were there, he walked out of the house standing straight, and packing his cot.  But the scribes, unable to put faith in Jesus and believe in the power given to Him, were not.

Faith works healing in ways that we don’t have to understand.  Faith is placing your trust in Jesus’ power as the Son of God.  It can provide you with the eternal healing Jesus gave to the paralytic.
In Matthew 28:18 Jesus speaks to His disciples after He had risen from the grave.  He said “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” He has all authority – all power.  Nothing is beyond the reach of Jesus.  There is no miracle He cannot work, no disease He cannot cure, and no sin He cannot forgive.  When you’ve lived with a problem for so long that you’re known by it, know that Jesus heals.  All it takes is faith to believe in Him.  He did it all “that YOU may know”. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Cure for the Aching Soul

A Cure for the Aching Soul


Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.” – Psalms 32:10

Ask any Christian to name the top events in their life, and you’ll hear many of the things you expect, such as the birth of children, job opportunities, marriage, and so forth.  But one you will most certainly hear in the list, and most likely high on the list, will be their salvation.  It is the turning point of all things in life.  It is the true 180, the time when life began to have meaning, joy, and freedom.  Most can recount the day, the time, the place, and even the words that lead to the healing of their soul. 
Psalms 32 gives such a beautiful picture of what life is like before and after salvation.  King David reflects on his life before and after God’s forgiveness of his sins.  He starts in verses 3-4 describing how sin feels when it’s unconfessed and unforgiven.   

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

Sin had depressed David, caused his bones to ache, and his soul to groan.  He “kept silent”, not confessing his sins, but bottling them up inside.  He could feel the hand of God on him, day and night.  He had no rest from it.  He says it was “heavy”, as a burden.  His energy was like a season of drought in summer.  Can you identify with that description? 
Sin is uncomfortable because while you’re living with it unforgiven in your life, you’re not living in the image of God in which you were created.  You’re like a puzzle piece being hammered to fit into a space you don’t fit.  It’s confusing, chaotic, painful, and depressing.  God makes it uncomfortable for a reason. He doesn’t want you to stay there!

But then David goes on to say that he acknowledged his sin to God, attempting to hide nothing.  He said “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”, and in return God forgave him of all his sin.  Confession cleanses the soul and brings back the energy and life that was lost to the guilt and shame of sin.  Yes, it truly is that simple.  Romans 10:9 says that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  Confess your sins to God, believe in Christ from your heart, and you are saved from your sins.  He didn’t make it difficult because His desire is that all will do it.  He doesn’t want His children living outside His grace, love, and mercy.
David then goes on to describe the gift of God’s forgiveness.  To be made right with God is to be given righteousness in His sight.  When we are saved, it is the righteousness of Jesus that we are given, like a robe to cover us.  It’s not the same as man’s forgiveness, for God’s comes with blessings that are often neglected or seen as smaller than the forgiveness of sins itself.  But forgiveness from God comes with “perks”. 

He says that God has become his “hiding place” and He has preserved him from trouble.  Trouble still exists, but God has become his refuge, his hiding place, and trouble will not defeat him.  He is preserved from it. 
He surrounded him with “songs of deliverance”.  His heart was not only free from depression and shame, but now filled with song, with joy, and an understanding that God was His deliverer from all evil.  God hid him from evil and trouble.  Can you imagine what the “songs of deliverance” would sound like?  How about a few verses of “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone”, or “Love Lifted Me”, or “Blessed Redeemer, Jesus is Mine”.  Do not the words themselves flood your soul with joy?

He continues to say that God instructs him, teaches him the way he should go and that he guides him with His “eye”.  This is a spiritual “eye” that instructs, and leads past salvation to sanctification, which is the process by which God perfects the saved through His word and instruction.  It’s the process that God commanded when He said in Leviticus 11:44-45 “be you holy, for I am holy”.
The spiritual “eye” is the leading of the Holy Spirit from within.  At the time of salvation, God gives a precious gift.  Sin has separated you from Him, and He cannot wait till death to rejoin your heart to His!  He gives His very own Spirit to come into our hearts as a guide (2 Corinthians 1:22).  He lives within YOU.  And the purpose of the gift is to help YOU become more like Him.

David goes on to say “Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.” There are those that become saved, are gifted with the Holy Spirit, and yet won’t take instruction from Him.  To those God does provide the harness, bit and bridle, through His correction.  Friends, don’t let the process of sanctification become a painful one.  Go where He leads, do what He says, and continue to walk in joy and peace. 
David says in verse 10, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.  Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”  
Nothing can make your life over like Christ can make your life over.  Self-Help books come and go, but God’s word has withstood the years because His plan works.  Are you in need of a life makeover?  Turn to God, confess your sins, and allow Him to create in you a new creature. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” He will renovate your life, take out the old junk like shame, guilt and pain, and give you treasures and precious things like tender mercy, grace, forgiveness, guidance, and joy.   The sooner you confess, the sooner you receive the treasures.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rust and Decay

 Rust and Decay


So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” – Matthew 6:28-30

This is one of those “ouch” lessons, one that stings to write it.  But it’s what is on God’s heart today, so that’s what has to be written. 
As many people most likely did, I went “black Friday” shopping a couple of days ago.  Did I find some great deals? Oh, you bet I did - at least in what they price tags showed and what I paid.  But they weren’t really great deals because they weren’t needed.  Instead of buying Christmas gifts, I bought ME gifts.  What did I buy? Yes, you guessed it – more clothes. 

If there’s one addiction I would have to claim, it would be clothes.  I love the colors, the styles, and the textures from satiny to rough.  I love having something new to wear, and being able to put together new looks from my closet.  But do I need them? No!  What I actually need is more room in my closet and more hangers! 
The verses in Matthew 6:28-30 came to me today regarding clothing.  Jesus spoke them in the Sermon on the Mount as He preached to the multitude.  He said not to worry about clothing.  He said God provides for the lilies of the field which are beautifully arrayed, and He will so much more clothe me.  And then he finishes by saying “O you of little faith”.  I found that strange! What does faith have to do with clothing, or excess?  We have to read a few verses ahead to find that.

Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The problem comes from using God’s funds that He entrusted to me in the wrong way.  It’s serving me and my desires instead of Him and His desires.  
If we go further back in the verses we see that Jesus is talking about laying up our treasures in Heaven instead of our closet.  In verse 21 He says “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  As much as I thought that’s where my treasure was being stored up, the overflow from my closet says otherwise. 

Rust and decay - that’s what my closet is filled with.  Jesus says that anything we store up for ourselves here will only rust and decay, but if I would have used those same funds and given those clothes to someone who needed them, my treasure would have been in Heaven, where it would be an eternal gift to me. 
In Luke 16, Jesus tells the parable of the Unjust Steward.  A person who holds responsibility for God’s funds or blessings is often called a steward.  The parable is about a servant who is wasting his Master’s goods.  The Master says to him “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.”  The servant begins to be fearful of how He will provide for himself when He is no longer a steward and so he reduces the debt of his master’s debtors to make friends with them so they will take him in when he is without a job.  He used the debt to buy favor.  Strangely enough, His master found him to be a shrewd businessman and kept him on as a steward.

Jesus says in verses 10-12 say, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?  And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?
What Jesus is saying is that if God cannot trust me with “unrighteous mammon”, aka money, then He cannot trust me with “true riches”, which are more than money can buy.  And if He cannot find me faithful in how I choose to spend his money, they why should He bless me with more?

Wastefulness isn’t just throwing out food that wasn't eaten.  It’s also in buying in excess of what we truly need.  It’s in mismanaging God’s funds that are meant to bring good to the world we live in.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

That There May Be Food In My House

That There May Be Food In My House


“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” – Malachi 3:8-10

Paul could have been writing this old gal’s testimony when he said in Philippians 4:12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Today I have no needs by the pure grace of God and understanding of His perfect mercy.  But there was a time when the needs were many and deep. 
I was in the third grade, and my dad, who worked construction for many years, was out of work.  We had been told that there would be no Christmas presents that year, and from what we saw on the dinner table each night, I believed it to be true.  In fact, I believed it to the point that I hated Christmas day’s arrival.  While most kids were anxiously waiting and marking the days from their calendar, I was dreading that day. 

When Christmas morning came, I stayed in bed.  There was no reason to rush out of bed. The night before the floor under the Christmas tree was so bare that the gloss from the hardwood reflected all the lights.  The day had come and instead of jumping out of bed, and forcing my brother to wake up as most years, this time I laid there trying to think of answers I would give when all the kids at school would ask “What did you get for Christmas?” If I said “nothing” they might turn their backs on me.  I knew very well, popular kids didn’t like poor kids.
I finally did get out of bed, and found that in fact there WERE a few presents there!  And when I looked closely, some actually had my name on them.  That was the year of the xylophone with all the colored keys and the two red plastic mallets.  I beat and banged on that thing for days, months, and kept it around forever.  It was a prized possession because it filled empty space under the tree, plain and simple.  Now I had an answer for the kids that would ask what Santa brought.  The embarrassment was gone.

Today it’s very different.  By the grace of God I’ve been blessed to provide for my own kids in abundance every year as many parents do.   The financial blessing to do that comes directly from God.  Since I was a child, any money I received, whether it was from some chore I did or from a gift, I was forced  to tithe on it by two parents who were strong enough at the job of parenting to be sure I did what was right (another blessing).  If I got a dollar, I gave a dime.  I didn’t argue with it because you didn’t argue with your parents without facing consequences.  As I became an adult and worked to put gas in my first car, and put myself through college, I continued tithing.
But there was a time after I married and had kids that I rebelled in giving to God.  I robbed God. Malachi 3:8-10 says that not tithing is robbing God.  That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?  It’s a sin not against the church or organization you would give to, but against God.  And because I did not tithe, I went through some financially rough times.  The Word says “you are cursed with a curse” when you don’t tithe.  The only reason a person who knows God’s word would not tithe is if they love the money more than they love God, which makes money an idol.  I wasn’t able to pay all my bills for a while, and then I remember the verses in Malachi 3 that I’d been taught all my life. 

The turning point was a $300 check.  I was tight on money to pay bills to the point that I had to shuffle them, pay partial amounts, and make payments on the total.  I didn’t have the money to give to the church because God stopped blessing my finances.  One big check came in a time when I was able to earn far more than normal.  My tithe of 10% would have been $300.  That was a lot of money then, and it still is today.  But I chose to give it to God and continue shuffling bills.  Within a few days’ time, I got a $300 check in the mail from a doctor’s office.  I called to see why and they explained that the insurance had overpaid, and would not accept the funds back.  Come on now…say it with me….the Lord works in mysterious ways!  I was able to catch up my bills, and I never stopped tithing after that. 
He is so very good to me!  I have very little formal education in the field in which I’ve been employed for over 25 years, yet He has provided me with a job among some of the most talented software developers in the nation.  He’s allowed me opportunity after opportunity to learn on the job, and now I get to work from home every day.  He gives me the tools to do what I love daily, which is writing these devotionals.  He gives me loving children, a husband I adore, and my family is still alive and well. 

God says in Malachi 3:10 “and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”  I submit to you that the biggest blessings He gives are not financial at all.  Consider the other blessings that are far greater, such as health, family, wisdom in His Word, friendships, and the list is longer than my arms!  But God says “try me NOW in this”.  He says it not just to me, but to YOU.  His blessings are stored up for you as they were for me. 
I’m not just sharing my story to brag on God, but it is my pleasure to get to brag on His greatness.  I’m sharing it because it’s time my friends move on to financial security.  The ONLY way to do that is to learn to give.  But I realize not everyone has a church to give to.  You can still give.  And if you’re already giving to a church, don’t stop there – give MORE and be blessed more!  There’s are simple way to do it even when you are shopping for Christmas gifts. 

When shopping at a store, save the change the cashier gives you.  If you’re shopping with plastic cards, then be sure your pockets are full of change, silver and green, before you go.  Each time you see a bell ringer, drop it in the bucket.  You’re helping feed and clothe the hungry.    
When you are shopping online, go to Google and enter the store name, followed by “coupon code” or “promo code” before you check out.  Finding a coupon online this time of year is easy!  Most of the time you will at least be able to save the shipping costs.  Whatever you save, donate to an organization online.  There are many, but Nashville Rescue Mission is one that God put on my heart.  The part of Malachi 3:10 that says that there may be food in My house” speaks to my heart for the hungry.  They have a Facebook Page, online donation site, etc… that make it easy at This is a Christian program that helps the homeless and those suffering from addictions and problems of hard life.  Being Christian lead, you have an opportunity to assist in saving a life.

There’s another way that is so easy.  Clip Coupons!  Clip the ones you won’t use, and sign up via email for the others.  Nearly every store in every mall, and most chain restaurants have an online e-mailed coupon program.  Subscribe and print the coupons – even if you’re not using it yourself.  Sometimes I find I have a coupon I can’t use, like a $15 one yesterday for Elder Berman.  It’s a joy to give that to someone in line and bless them.  If it’s grocery coupons, just leave them on the shelves with the product.  Someone will take it!  And if you use it yourself, take your savings and give it away.  Had you not had a coupon, you would have spent the money anyway.
Lastly, just outright GIVE!  There is joy that comes from knowing that you’ve blessed another person.  Maybe you have coats you can’t use, shoes, or clothing.  Shelters are everywhere that need them, even in your own towns. 

And don’t be disappointed if you don’t see big fat checks come in the mail!  There are other ways to receive blessings.  Jesus talks in Matthew 25:34-40 of a blessing we will receive for our giving in Heaven, when He says, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”
If you love Jesus – if you really LOVE Jesus – how can you not give to Him? 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Dirty Little Secret

The Dirty Little Secret

Then He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’” – Ezekiel 8:12

Imagine if one day someone walked up to you and said, “I saw what you did last night at your house!  I was there.  God brought me there in spirit and showed it to me.”. What if they then began to tell you every step you took, everything you did, what you watched on TV, and what you had said in the privacy of your own home.  How would you feel?  Would you be amazed and wonder if they’d planted a bug in your house and were playing some sort of joke?  Would you rethink in your mind what went on at your house the night before to determine what things they saw?  Would you be ashamed, enraged, or fearful? 
Ezekiel was given that exact opportunity, as is retold in Ezekiel 8.  God, through the Spirit of Prophecy, came to Ezekiel while he was sitting with the elders of Judah.  God came to him in Spirit as a man clothed in fire.  He lifted him by a lock of his hair “up between earth and heaven”.  He took Ezekiel back to Jerusalem and showed him the “seat of the image of jealousy”. He took Ezekiel to the temple, inside the north gate, and showed him an image that made him jealous.  It was the idol of Baal that King Ahaz had removed from the center of the courtyard, and set at the north gate. 

God said to Ezekiel in verse 6, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.” Then He showed Ezekiel a hole in a wall and told him to dig it out.  When he did he came to a hidden door.  This was the door the priests used to go into a room of idols, and worship the idols in there that lined the walls of the room.  In the very temple God had instructed Solomon to build for Him, they had created a temple of idols.  There Ezekiel saw seventy men worshipping the idols. One he knew by name, Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan.  These were the family leaders of Jerusalem, the spiritual heads of households.

God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’” Not only were they worshipping idols, but they blamed their sin on God, saying He had forsaken them.
Then God took Ezekiel to the door of the north gate of the temple.  Looking outside the courtyard through the doorway, he saw a group of women who were weeping for Tammuz (Adonis), a Greek God.  The worship of Tammuz included several immoral acts.  Then in verse 15 He speaks to Ezekiel and says “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.”

He took Ezekiel inside the temple, between the porch and the altar, where he saw twenty four of the priests of the temple with “their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east”.
How does God react to being ignored by His people?  In verse 18, He says “Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.” The image of jealousy that Ezekiel saw was God’s very Spirit at seeing His people chase after other loves and worship everything but Him.  He is jealous for us.  His love for us is a possessive, monogamous love.  What we do in secret, He still sees.

We walk through our day to day lives clothing our attitudes and actions in a guise to filter what people see of who we really are.  We change our language in public, we hide our frustrations and anger, we become polite and friendly to those we don’t like, and all the time we think we’ve hidden who we really are.  We keep our private sins private, or so we think.  That’s exactly what the Israelites were doing in their hidden practices of idolatry, and they had thought “the Lord does not see us”.  Yet all the time, God’s anger was burning hotter and hotter, until out of His pure jealousy for them He snatched Ezekiel up by the hair to show him what they were doing in secret, and told Him of His great anger toward them. 
God does not endure hypocrisy.  In Romans 2:3 it says “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” In Luke 12:2-3 Jesus says, Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.  God may not bring a prophet to your hiding place and reveal your secrets now, but one day He will.  God sees your dirty little secrets.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Your Brother and Your Neighbor

Your Brother and Your Neighbor


If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” – 1 John 4:20

Today is Thanksgiving, and around every table of turkey today we’ll gather as families, as friends, and enjoy a day of simply returning thanks to God for the greatness of His mercy and provisions for us.  God loves a grateful heart, and I cannot think of a better way to show gratefulness than to do what Christ said was the greatest commandments of all. 
In fact, when asked by the young lawyer how he could inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to follow these commands as the law would justify him. Luke 10:27 says You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.

Loving God is easy.  It’s not hard to love someone who shows such great and generous love.  But what about that second part?  What about “and your neighbor as yourself”?  The young lawyer quickly followed the commandments by asking “And who is my neighbor?”, wanting to make a check-list of those he should love, and no doubt hoping certain people were not on the list. 
Many of us are doing the same thing as we read the commandment.  We’re thinking “Surely God does not expect me to love that onry cuss! Even He would not expect me to love him!” or we silently pray “Dear God! After what she has done to me, surely you understand why I cannot love her at this time!” But God makes no exceptions to this rule.  Your neighbor is everyone around you, whether they live beside you, or are in line in front of you at the supermarket.  Your neighbor is every child of His that you come in contact with, today, and every day. No exceptions.

1 John 4:20 takes it a step further and says that if you say “I love God” but you hate your brother, you are a liar.  It says “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”  It goes on to say “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also”.

So, who is your brother? Your brother is your neighbor, which we just discussed, is everyone.  Regardless of race, social standing, what they do in their spare time, how many tattoos or piercings they have, how low they wear their pants, what religion they are, how different from you they are, what they've done to you or what they think of you – they are your brother and your neighbor.

Today we will gather with family members and friends, dear and not-so-dear, and offer up thanks to God for His goodness toward us.  Let love rule the table.  Find a way to love your brother and your neighbor.  Consider that God created them for a special purpose, just as He did you.  God finds value in them.  Can’t you?  Even if it’s nothing more than understanding how beautiful the sound of silence is around them, find a way to love them and be thankful for them.  This is His will for us.  We are not to be a deep well of His love, but a pipeline of His love, without a cut-off valve.

Today I’m thankful to live in God’s love.  Though I’ve done plenty to hurt Him, plenty to disappoint Him, He has never stopped loving me, never once taken me out of His favor and blessings, and has been as near as a whisper since I was 8 ½ years old.  I’ve dethroned Him from my heart many times, placing people and things I thought were more valuable over Him.  But each time I fail, He forgives, and stretches out open arms of love to me.  It’s a love as deep as the ocean that drowns all my sins, all my lacks of obedience, and all my frustrations.  If He can love someone like me, surely I can love anyone He decides to put in my path.  And because He loves you, you can open that pipeline and love others as well.