Monday, November 19, 2018

Aware of the Needs

13“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’  (Luke 16) 

Thoughts: On th esurface it seems like the rich go to hell while the poor are rewarded,  But the context is vs. 13 "You cannot serve God and money."  The real point here is that the rich man did not care for the poor man.  There was no generosity.  But a secondary point is that there is hope beyond this life.  For the poor this is esecially helpful.  I have heard some wonder about the need for eternal life- for they are perfectly happy with this life.  

Prayer: Lord, let me always have hope.  Let me be aware of those in need around me.  

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Not Serving Two Bosses

13“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. (Luke 16:13,14)

Thoughts: Why not?  Why not serve God and money?  Many American Christians would infer that you can live for money while living for God at the same time.  But the problem of two masters is that they both require your attention, your time, and your obedience.  Some times money may tempt you to not listen to God.  For example- Sabbath keeping.  If all you do is pursue money, you may think the Sabbath keeping command in the Ten Commandments doesn't make any sense.  But in the end, rest reduces stress and is good for us and for our productivity.  All the studies show that taking a break in a work day and a work week increases efficiency and productivity.  Jesus says if you seek Him first- then all these other things will be added to you (Mt. 6:33).
     Jesus said, in compliment to not serving two masters that "what people value highly is detestable in God's sight."  What do people value highly?  They act as if this life is all there is, this stuff, this day's reputation is all there is.  There was an old beer commercial that captured this- "You only have one life to live.  Go for all the gusto you can."  But there is a God who oversees this life and holds us accountable for the life He gives us as a gift.  There is  hope beyond this life.  But we also are called to live this life with hope in the next.  So the stuff we have should be held gingerly.  The fires in California have cost that state $85 billion in two years.  Hurricanes Michael and Florence have cost the Southeast $31 billion.  Such things teach us to not over-value our houses, our stuff, our cars, and more.  

Prayer: Lord, let me serve you first in my life, and be willing to let go of my stuff.  

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Trustworthy of Our Gifts

10“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16)

Thoughts: If you have not been trustworthy with worldly wealth- what about true riches?  In some ways how we handle our stuff and money is training for how we will handle the true and eternally valuable gifts of God.  So in some ways our financial gifts are tools to allow us to see ourselves as stewards.  Money is a concrete way to see stewardship- but we are also stewards of our time- it is a gift; of our talents and abilities- they are gifts too.  God gives us all the property we have.  It is true that we did not make anything.  But more than that, God is the provider and it is a test to see what we will do with His provisions.  Our calling by God is to be trustworthy of the gifts He gives us.  

Prayer: Lord, Help me to be a good steward of the gifts you give.  let me be trustworthy of your gracious gifts to me. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Thanksgiving Frees Us

 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim. 4)

Thoughts:  The scripture here is speaking of a freedom that is given with thanksgiving- specifically thanking God over food.  When we thank God for our food, we are blessing it, asking God to make it clean and good for us to eat.  
    I have known people who will not eat many types of food out of fear for their health.  Certainly this passage is not saying that diabetics can eat all the sugar they want as long as they bless it.  Nor is it saying to eat all the transfats or poison and all will be okay. 
     God made everything- and He made it good.  But we can take good things and misuse them. Mercury may be good for cleaning silver,or tanning leather but it is not good to eat.  
      This writer is not talking about all foods, but foods that have been forbidden religiously- food offered to pagan idols and then sold in the meat market; and plants/animals forbidden to be eaten under Jewish law.  
      Thanksgiving frees us to eat.  It frees the germaphobe from being afraid of germs.  It frees the anorexic or bulimic- because if we are thankful for our lives and how we look- we are not upset about what we eat or that we eat at all.  Thanksgiving releases negative feelings and frees us to enjoy life.
     But more than just affecting our thinking, it involves God Himself in the regular call of eating.  We are asking God to be present and to bless the food so we may be a blessing to Him.  Thankfulness to God frees us from ourselves.  It recognizes that what we have is not simply from our work, but it involves God's gift and God's blessing.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to live a thankful life.  Thank you for your provision for me- food, body, time, family, and friends.  

Lord make us truly thankful for these and all your many blessings.  Bless this food to our use and us to your service.  Make us mindful of the needs of others.  In Christ's name, amen.  

Norman Rockwell "saying grace" 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

1Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his a ;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.  (Psalm 100)

Thoughts: This is a great Psalm reminding us to be grateful for what we have.  There are many studies that show gratitude is a sign of mental health and a well life.  It moves us away from self-centeredness.  Thanksgiving allows us to do real giving.  It brings joy and hope for life, enabling us to appreciate what we have instead of just looking at what we wish we had. 
     When we are grateful, then the next question is to whom should we be grateful?   The Psalmist had no doubt.  We sing with joy to the Lord.  We know that He made us- and all we have is a gift.  When we are grateful, we want to come to Him in worship- we do not want to stay away.  The petty objections to worship (the nursery is too small, the sound system is not right, the songs are too slow, the preacher doesn't preach the way I want, the heat is a tad too hot, etc) melt away.  We do not worship (and should not stop worshiping) because of such things.  In our consumer culture, we think the church does not cater to our needs, and therefore we can just move on.  But then we miss the gratitude, and the joy of worship.  I remember Mr. Anderson in my Asheville church.  Mr. Anderson told me every week it was a great sermon- and always smiled.  My head was big until about a month later I realized Mr. Anderson was completely deaf and never heard a word I said.  I later communicated to him my puzzlement that he would say this each week when he never heard.  He said, I did not come to hear you, I came to worship God.  He appreciated my being there, and I appreciated being in His presence.  We are not to be entertained.  I have worshiped with saints outside underneath trees because they could not afford a building at all- but they smiled with gratitude to God for His salvation and love.  Of course, a church should do all it can to help people feel good in worship.  But there is a balance. 
    We do not worship because the church is good or the people are good.  we worship as the Psalmist says, "Because the Lord is good.  His love endures forever and His faithfulness to every generation."  HE is worthy of our praise and gratitude.  

Prayer: Lord, may my eyes be fixed on you, and not my own comfort.  Give me the ability to worship you wherever saints are gathered in your name, with gratitude in my heart.  

Grace and a Pledge

7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19) 

Thoughts: The grace of God is not fair by regular human standards.  Regular human standards say that God only helps those who help themselves.  But fortunately for us, when we mess up, or are unable to help ourselves- even by circumstances beyond our control- God still helps.  The poor people that Zacchaeus taxed could not help but be taxed.  They also could not help that Zacchaeus converted and decided to give money back to them.  All the people thought Jesus was doing wrong by going to a sinner.  But if Jesus never went to sinners, none of us would be saved from our sin.  God recognizes grace is necessary even when we do not see the need for grace. 
     Jesus said that salvation had come to his house.  This happened in two sense: 1) Zacchaeus had changed.  He showed his change in concrete ways when he met Jesus- he made a pledge.  The pledge was to give to the poor and make restitution for his wrong.  Pledging such things is a sign of a good- god influenced heart.  2) The play on words- Salvation came to his house- but what house?  The same house that Jesus came into.  So salvation- Jesus- came into Zacchaeus.  Jesus is the Savior.  When He comes to us- and we let Him in- salvation comes to us.  We show this by a change of intentions- indicated by a pledge of good will.  

Thoughts: Lord, thank you for your grace- your salvation- that comes to me.  Help me to renew my intentions and my love for you in response to your love.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We do not Provide for God

7“Listen, my people, and I will speak;
I will testify against you, Israel:
I am God, your God.
8I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
9I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
10for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
12If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
13Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14“Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”(Psalm 50)

Thoughts: The idea of giving to God is mollified.  God doesn't need food to live.  The Pagan ideas of God- you had to feed God in order for that god to live. The true God made everything- all the cattle, all the fields, everything.  He never grows hungry or tired.  Instead He longs for us to call on Him for help when we are hungry and tired.  Our weariness is a reminder that we are not God.  But God does not grow weary or faint like we do.  He is the eternal energy- the source of eternal life and hope. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you provide for me instead of the other way around.