Joy In Sharing

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My Musings – “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” (Robert Louis Stevenson).  Giving to those in need is “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

A Fragrant Offering – Be mindful of Christ and imitate how He gave of Himself.  “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  (Ephesians 5:1–2, NRSV 1989).

An Acceptable Sacrifice – Give sacrificially.  “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”  (Mark 12:43–44, NIV 1984).

Pleasing To God – Give cheerfully, without reservation.  “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV 1984).

My Advice – First, picture yourself in the same situation whenever you see others in need.  Then decide how you can be of help. “Love has no meaning if it isn’t shared. We have been created for greater things – to love and to be loved. To love a person without any conditions, without any expectations. Small things, done in great love, bring joy and peace. To love, it is necessary to give. To give, it is necessary to be free from selfishness.”  (Mother Teresa).

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Steve Persson’s sermon on December 1, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

 

Desperately Seeking Human Kindness

Screenshot (1513)My Musings – “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”  (Harry S. Truman).  Do it out of the kindness of your heart.  Do it simply because there is a need and you can help.  Do it for the Master.  But do not do it for the praise of men.

My Advice – The picture above could be you or me.  Care like you would want others to care if it were you.  For “what good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:14–18, NIV 1984).

Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try

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My Advice – Our commission is clear, we are to go into the world a preach the Gospel. This is our “prime directive.”  But all to often, people will not care who we know, until they know how we care.  Not just about their all important eternal destiny, but about their temporal concerns as well.  Jesus is being very clear in His instructions here.  Instructions that He takes very personally.  What we do or do not do for others, we do or do not do for Him.  How credible can our concern for a person’s eternal well-being be, if we have no concerns for their current well-being?

My Advice – We must not be so “heavenly” minded that we are of no earthly good.  The “law of Christ” is to love our neighbors and we love ourselves,  and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Surviving The Flames

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My Musings – There is no condemnation for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior (Romans 8:1), only commendation.   The only question is, what kind of commendation, what kind of reward? “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12–13, NIV 1984).  What we have done will be brought to light and tested by fire.  Will the quality (not necessarily quantity) of our service to Him be consumed, or will it survive into eternity?

My Advice – Work diligently for His Kingdom, so you will be able to hear these words from Him, “well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23, NIV 1978).  Put your whole heart into it, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV 1978).  But the time is short and storm clouds gathering.  “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:3–4, NIV 1984).

 

 

 

What Seems Right?

Screenshot (1441)My Musings – In the movie Hondo (one of my favorites), John Wayne plays a scout for the U.S. Calvary in the old west.  A man with a clear sense of what is right, honest, and just and having little tolerance for what is wrong, deceitful or unjust.  There are many memorable lines in the movie, but one in particular stands out to me.  “A man ought to do what he thinks is right.”

Unfortunately, what we think is right is not always the best guide.  In a society where right is relative, the truth is tentative and justice is just “if”, what we think might not always be the best guide.  Sad that it has come to this.  But when we think about it for awhile, it really has been like that since the garden.  The forbidden “fruit” seemed so right, but was so wrong.

For a long time now, what has seemed right to man is, if the “good” in one’s life outweighs the “bad,” then things should work out okay for the afterlife.  But in many cases, what was once considered “bad” is now considered okay or depends on the circumstances.  So what standard should one use for determining if the “good” outweighs the “bad?”  Is it a different standard for different people depending when they lived and the standards that seemed right then?  Is it a different standard for different people depending on what seems right to them?

The reality is that there is only one standard.  We are all playing in God’s “sandbox” and He made the rules.  What’s more, the rules never change.  What was right, truthful and just in the garden is right, truthful and just today.  What was wrong, deceitful and unjust when God handed down the laws, are still wrong, deceitful and unjust today.  We couldn’t keep one rule in the garden and we can’t keep a multitude of laws now.  In fact, breaking one law, even the most “insignificant,” is the same as breaking all of them, even the most “egregious.”  How could that possibly work out for the “good” outweighing the “bad?”

The reality is they never could.  They were never intended to. There is “no one who does good, no not one.”  No matter what seems right to man, it will always lead to death.  What then is the answer?  It has always been about grace, extended to man only through Jesus Christ.

My Advice – Go for the grace.  You’ll never have to wonder if your “good” was good enough.  You’ll never have to worry if Christ’s good was good enough.  If it wasn’t He would never have risen from the grave.  But He conquered the grave, He conquered death.  As a result, He can offer life to all who will believe and receive.  Now that seems right to me.

 

Good Neighbor Sam

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My Musings – As was usual in His parables, Jesus turned conventional wisdom on its head with some surprising twists.

Pleading His Case“Teacher” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, NIV 1978).  The question implies a works-based salvation (“what must I do?“) So, unlike the fairly straightforward answer given to Nicodemus, “you must be born again,” Jesus asked the legal expert what he thought.  “He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NIV 1984).  Jesus’ response appears to imply that a works-based salvation is indeed possible – “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28, NIV 1984).

Seeking A Loophole – Apparently the legal expert felt he could love God sufficiently (all his heart, soul strength and mind – really?), but might have a problem being a neighbor to some, since his only question was “and who is my neighbor.”  (Luke 10:29, NIV 1984).  Notice his question was who should be his neighbor, rather than who he should be a neighbor to.  To drive home this point, Jesus told a most unlikely parable.

Examining The Crime Scene –  “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30, NIV 1984). The road to Jericho was called the “bloody way”, with winding roads and hidden turns, where robbers often laid in wait concealed in the rocks.  A dangerous route.

The (Un)usual Suspects – “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:31-34, NIV).  Priests were Levites descended from Aaron.  They served the higher duties in the Temple.  Of course, not all Levites were descended from Aaron and were not priests.  As a result, they served in lower functions in the Temple.  But both would have been expected to have compassion, but they did not.  Samaritans were “half-Jews” of the northern kingdom who had inter-married with Assyrian colonists.  They were despised by “pure-bred Jews.”  The Samaritan was an unlikely candidate to have compassion on the injured man (assumed to be Jewish), but he did.

The Cross-Examination – Jesus turned the legal expert’s question back on him. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36, NIV 1894).  It must have been hard for him to reply, “the one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).  He couldn’t even use the word Samaritan.  To bring this parable up to date might have included a Catholic priest, an evangelical Christian (ouch!) and a Muslim or an illegal alien.  Guess which one would have compassion in the updated parable?

The Verdict – “Jesus told him, Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Attainment of eternal life is not a matter of scrupulously following the rules. “Do this and you will live” is more rhetorical “if you could do this you would live.”  The lawyer appeared to understand this because he sought to limit its application and find a “loophole.”  And so do we all.  But all is not lost.  Jesus became a “neighbor” to us to bring salvation.  But we should still have compassion and be a neighbor to all.  Not to gain salvation, but to imitate the Master.  “Go and do likewise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Now Consider Loss

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My Musings – Whether it is how we spend our time, invest our treasure or use our talent, we consider very carefully whether or not it is worth it.  Are there other “things” that would be a better way to spend our time, provide a greater return on our investment or be a more productive use of our talent?  Time, we can never get back.  Treasures can be subject to loss instead of gain.  Talent can go unappreciated.

Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Matthew 16:24–26, NIV 1984).

To follow Christ, we must deny ourselves.  Taking up our “cross” is a powerful image of just how much the “cost” can be.  And afterall, there just might be other ways we’d rather spend “our” time, invest “our” treasure and use “our” talent that we think might profit us more.  But this profit is temporal.  Do we really want to forfeit our soul for temporal gain?

My Advice – We should have Paul’s perspective. Whatever we consider profit, if it is not for the Kingdom, is actually loss (Paul goes on to call it rubbish).  And whatever we do for the Kingdom can never be lost.  It will last forever.  Exchanging the temporal, even if it is “all things” or even the “whole world” for the eternal sounds pretty profitable to me.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 3, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.