Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Give What You Can

April 19, 2016

“If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give.  God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t”  2 Corinthians 8:12

So often when we are asked to give, we think “Oh I can’t give much right now, I have all these expenses.”  And we end up giving nothing.  But if we love God and we want to give out of love for Him, we will have a different mindset.  We’ll think, “What can I give?”  And we’ll look for ways and means to give all we can out of a heart of love.  The same thing happens as we age.  As the years go by there are things we can no longer do, and things we don’t do as well as we used to.  We may also have less income than we used to, and less in the way of things.  But when we think with a heart of love, we discover we have sources we never tapped before.  We have more time, more experience, perhaps more patience, well defined skills we can teach, the understanding that comes from having lived through many situations and survived them.  In the same way, asking “what can I give?” opens up venues we possibly haven’t thought of before.  We may not have a lot of money, but we may find money in items we no longer use, a skill we can donate, some money we can save by doing something differently, and so on.  The trick is to think “Can” instead of “Can’t”.  Two school age kids baked and sold cookies for a couple years until they were able to build a clinic overseas.  Who would have thought two school age kids could have funded the building of a clinic?  But they didn’t think about what they didn’t have–they thought “what can I do?”

 

Should a Christian drink alcohol?

March 22, 2016

While there are prohibitions throughout scripture against drinking too much wine, it is never prohibited outright. There are religious groups who do not drink alcohol, indeed they pledge not to drink alcohol. That is because they feel alcohol is such a problem in today’s world, they don’t want to be the cause of someone else falling into sin with alcohol. They believe that though they are free to drink, it would not be pleasing to God in their situation. I think it is somewhat similar to the situation in the Corinthian church (I Corinthians chapters 8-10) that Paul wrote about involving eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Strong Christians who knew idols were nothing believed they had the freedom to eat any meat and not worry about whether it had been in an idol temple. But other Christians believed it would be a sin to eat meat that came from an idol temple. Paul said for a person who believes it to be a sin, if they eat it anyway, for them it is a sin. He also taught those who believed it was not a sin, to be careful of the consciences of others, and not to trip someone else up. We are not to act in doubt, for anything we do apart from what we know to be right is sin. So if someone is in doubt about drinking, and our doing it pressures him to do it because of us, we have put him into a situation where he might fall. Love for others doesn’t do that.

A Parable

March 11, 2016

Once there was a little baby found abandoned on the street of a third world country.  The king of a very wealthy country was vacationing there, and learned of this baby.  It was ill, malnourished, full of open sores, and nothing about it was pleasant to see.  But the wealthy king felt compassion for it and took it home with him.  As time went on, the king saw to its upbringing.  He got it the best medical care, the best food, the best of tutors and gave it his personal time and attention.  In fact, it became something of his pride and joy as he personally saw to its care and education.  As the child grew, the king began to spend time with it, playing with it, and looking for ways to bring it pleasure and delight.  As it became more mature, he spent long hours talking with it, teaching it his own thoughts and helping it learn to reason and choose.  Nearing adulthood, the king revealed that he was grooming his child for an inheritance in the kingdom, and revealed the love of his heart for this child.  He had high hopes for it, and often spoke to the child about the child’s own wishes and dreams.  And then one morning the child was gone.  The note said the child wanted to seek his own way.  The king heard from his child occasionally, and usually when the child wanted to ask a favor.  And as time went on, even those contacts became farther apart.  The king was brokenhearted.

 

Was the child ungrateful?  Did it fail to return the love of its adopted father the king?  Was it lacking in character?  Whatever the reason, it was estranged from its father.  And this, is the condition and situation of every human being in relation to its Father the King of Heaven and Earth.  Will we, individual children that we are, seek a return and a reconciliation with him?

What is Love?

March 8, 2016

“Don’t just pretend you love others,; really love them.”  Romans 12:9

What would it look like if we really loved people?  What is love anyway?  Years ago, in nursing courses, it was said “Love Thy Neighbor” meant having concern for his needs, including his physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.  In that sense, nursing and nursing care plans are filled with love.  But does that mean all nurses love their patients?  Is it possible to look out for someone’s needs in the sense of checking off a list without actually loving them?  What does it mean to love?

If I see someone going by, or standing on their lawn while I go by, or see someone in the marketplace, do I ever look at their face?  Do I read their expression?  Do I wonder about how they are feeling?  Do I speak if I can, or smile if I can’t, or wave if I’m not close enough to be seen or heard?  Do I acknowledge that person in any way?

In big cities and crowded places its easier just not to acknowledge strangers at all, and some people remain anonymous for days on end.  Psychologists say we need to be acknowledged by others and to acknowledge them in return daily to be healthy both mentally and physically.  But we don’t take the time for it.  Is it the sheer numbers of people?  Would all that smiling or speaking wear us out while making our way to work?

What if we just acknowledged the people we see often?  Would that be too much?  Or would that smile and word nourish someone’s mind and emotions for another day?  Would it nourish our own mind and emotions for another day?

What about marriage and the family?  How much time do we spend interacting with our families?  The gift of listening without interruption is a precious gift.  And we learn more about our loved ones.  We appreciate them more.  And those gifts of being available to them nourish them, and nourish us.  What if we said “I will silence my phone for 2 hours each evening”, and spent that time in face to face conversation at home?  I wonder how many divorces would be prevented if we honored each other that way?  I wonder if we would have happier, better adjusted, higher achieving kids.  I talked to a boy the other day who said both his parents were working and going to school.  Then he sighed and said there was no one to listen to him anymore.  So I listened, even though he wasn’t my boy, because it may have nourished his little heart and soul for another day.

What is my life about?

February 26, 2016

“How would you answer Jesus if He asked you why you are following Him?” We all need to ask ourselves this question. It can be very enlightening. I know it was for me personally. When I first began to follow Jesus, I wanted to know what would be my eternal fate. Would I go to Heaven? I needed security that way. I had just experienced a lot of death of those I loved, and I wanted to know what that was all about. What happened eventually, as I followed Jesus and learned more and more about Him, experienced His guidance and His answers to my prayers, is I began to really, truly love Him. I didn’t want Heaven as much as I wanted Him. Now I can say that while I am still very sinfully selfish and fight that selfishness all the time, I really love and appreciate Jesus. I want my life to be about helping others love and appreciate Him too. I want it because Jesus deserves all my love and the love of everyone. He is really, truly, wonderful. So don’t be discouraged if right now you mostly want to know what your life is all about and what following Jesus means for you personally. If you search the scriptures to get to know Jesus, and begin to spend time with Him in real, honest, emotional prayer, you will come to love and appreciate Him deeply yourself.

Who is my Boss?

February 24, 2016

“We must obey God rather than men”  Acts 5:29

When should I ever disobey the laws of my government?  We are seeing, for the first time in the United States, civil laws which require obedience that violates the  conscience of some people.  For the first 200 years or so of this nation, laws were based, more or less on the Judeo-Christian tradition.  That was discarded by progressivism in favor of law based on majority rule.  Right and Wrong in a progressive democracy is decided by majority rule, and so is free to follow changing cultural mores, changing technology, changing ideas about science and changing ideas of what it means to be human.  The democratic majority is assumed to always get it right.

Speaking with a progressive, someone with traditional values is amazed at the utter lack of understanding about conscience.  Some progressives seem to feel that obeying the laws is always the right thing to do no matter what, and there is simply no higher authority to give anyone qualms about it.  Therefore some can be totally comfortable with the horrendous practices of late term abortions, if the law allows it.  Their mantra is:  your beliefs may be true for you, but not for me, and you can’t force your beliefs on the majority.  In other words, there is no absolute truth and no absolute morality.

Following such logic, it was totally correct for the Nazi officers to run the death camps.  The law was the law, and the Nazi party was democratically elected and authorized to make the laws of the land.  Individual conscience did not trump the law, and the party recognized no authority above their own.  Yet, when the allies conducted the Nuremberg war crimes trials, they did not recognize following legally justified  government orders as an excuse for what was done.  Why?

Compassion Fatigue

February 12, 2016

“He was deeply disturbed by their indifference to human need.”  Mark 3:5

When did you first hear the term “Compassion Fatigue”?    It is actually a medical or psychological term, and it was first described in disaster response workers.  It was a form of stress where the worker saw so much suffering for so long, that they were experiencing a special form of burnout.  They ceased to be able to feel emotion.  They couldn’t feel sadness, anger at the situation, joy at gains made, or  well, anything.  It was called “Secondary Traumatic Stress”.  However, if you hear the term today, it can refer to something different.  It can refer to the amount of human suffering before our eyes on the television every day–suffering about which we can do nothing–that we start to take an indifferent attitude toward it, not feeling much of anything.  It can also refer to the frustration and finally indifference someone may feel toward the panhandler they have seen on the corner every day for the past four years, who never moves on or improves.  Was this what Jesus was disturbed about?

In Jesus day, the streets seemingly were filled with beggars.  People begged because they were too disabled to work, and their were no programs, homes, or charities to help them.  Obviously these were people whose families could not or would not help them.  There were so many, and it must have seemed so endless, that people just walked on by, ignoring them.  This deeply disturbed Jesus.  So, how are we to respond?

I believe the best way to handle things like this is to recognize while we can’t do everything, nor likely even anything big, we can do something!  And that something we do keeps us engaged.  The fact we are doing something we are able to do, alleviates the frustration that the problem is just overwhelming.  We can learn more, or meet someone we’re helping, and that helps us feel care.  Even if its just a small financial sacrifice, or an occasional gift of our time, it keeps us involved.  When we can’t stop to talk with that panhandler because we’re driving and its not safe, we can still offer a prayer for his wellbeing.  It keeps us from being indifferent.

Who’s in Charge?

February 10, 2016

“I have been given all authority in heaven and earth. ”  Matt 19

Do you ever look at all the chaos in the world and wonder if the downhill avalanche has any brakes?  Is there ever an end to the disorder, a barricade beyond which it won’t go further?  Many people wonder.  Some put their hope in human wisdom.  They believe we humans will figure out what does and doesn’t work and we’ll never go so far as to destroy ourselves.  Others aren’t so sure, and they may be in the majority.  Consider the myriad of apocalyptic books, movies and tv shows that have been produced in the last 10 or so years.

The words above are the words of Jesus.  Many of his followers have never given them any thought because they are the first words of the “Great Commission”, which is:  “Therefore go and make disciples in all nations.”   Concentrating on what we are supposed to do, we fail to see what was said first.  Jesus said all authority, ALL authority now resides in Him.  If that’s true, what does it mean?  What are the ramifications of Jesus holding all the authority in heaven and earth?

He holds the earth in its place–its not about to wobble off its axis and get out of its orbit–at least not right now while the earth continues.  He holds the universe in its place.  The galaxies and stars all move in a rhythm and speed that are orderly and predictable.  He holds the weather–even if we think we control it.  Its laughable however, how many times the weather channel changes its predictions even over a 10 day forecast  We don’t control the weather or the climate, and aren’t even that good at predicting it.  We could cut our carbon emissions to almost nothing, yet several volcanoes, an underground volcano or underground fissure could change the weather dramatically.

What about the affairs of humans?  Jesus controls the histories of the nations, controls who rules them, controls who wins wars, and allows human plans to succeed or fail.  If no one can grab control, commit crimes, lie, cheat or steal except as Jesus allows, why does He allow it?  He does not thwart human will when the outcome fits His plans for ultimate good.  Look at this:  “All things work together for good for those who love God and are fitting into His plans.”  Romans 8:28.

Its a comfort to know Who is in charge.

Why Do We Get Sick?

February 9, 2016

Why do we get sick?  What is the usefulness of it?  Is it punishment, as some of the ancients believed?  Is it meant to teach us something?

After having the worst bout of flu in memory, I pondered these questions.  During the time I was ill, I was useless to anyone.  I depended on others to help me, I had to back out of commitments, and even my prayer life was bland and superficial.  What was the use of it all then?

One thing I think came out of it was the humility of having to depend on someone else to do things one is quite incapable of doing at the time.  We are so prideful in this culture.  We truly hate to ask others to do for us.  It seems demeaning.  But if loving one another involves caring for one another, think of the joy we experience when we help someone who really needs and appreciates our help.  When we need help and are gracious recipients, we allow someone else to have that joy.  But it involves humility on our part.

Being sick also reminds us of our utter dependence on God.  He gives us our health, our abilities, our resources and meets all our needs.  Often we take our health for granted, air for granted, food for granted.  But when we are so sick we can’t eat and have trouble breathing, we become acutely aware of our need for Him.  Perhaps that reminder now and again is needed to keep our selfish minds close to Him.

One Man and One Woman for a Lifetime

February 3, 2016

“Don’t you read the Scriptures?”  he replied.  “In them is writted that at the beginning God created man and woman, and that a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever united to his wife.  The two shall become one–no longer two, but one!  And no man may divorce what God has joined together.”

No human made this up.  It was not the church or the culture, or any wise humans.  These were the words of Jesus.  Humans have throughout history tried every conceivable way of doing the marriage relationship differently than this.  But just as we have only one life, we, in God’s eyes, have only one marriage.  If we protect our  marriage, nurture it, constantly strive to improve it, exercise it, and keep it healthy, it should last our lifetime.  Unlike our bodies, marriage tends to improve with age–that is the reward of all the striving to understand, forgiving, giving sacrificially and growing it requires.  Nurture the love, nurture the spouse, and put more into it than you put into career, children, hobbies, etc.  All those things change, but the marriage was made to last.  Long married people will tell you there is nothing as satisfying and rewarding as “old love”.  You have made memories together, you have achieved things together, you hopefully have children together, and now you smile and laugh at things together as you remember them.  You have learned to treasure your differences, you have fewer misunderstandings, you know one another as no one else does, and you enjoy each other.  You have each other’s back, and you know you will take care of each other.  This was what God originally intended.