Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Of God and mammon

What’s that funny word at the end of the title, you ask?  It’s the King James Version word for money, God has a lot to say about money in His Word, and I will expound on some of it below.

My mother used to say, “Money is the root of all evil,” but she, along with many others, have misquoted the verse.  It actually reads, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” (emphasis mine) (1 Tim. 6:10) Money in and of itself is not evil, since we need money to purchase food, clothing, housing and other necessary items, but loving money is evil.  Another verse that relates to this is “You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24(b), Luke 16:13(b)) So here's the bottom line - what’s more important to you, God or money?  Jesus said that where your treasure is, there your heart is also. (Matt. 6:21, Luke 12:34) We should love God more than we love money.  If we love money more than we love God, then our heart is in our wallet and in our bank accounts and not focused on God. Jesus says to seek God first, then all these things will be added to you. (Matt 6:33, Luke 12:31)

Jesus says that we should not store up treasures on earth, but in heaven, where things do not rust or rot.(Luke 12:33(b)) So you ask, “How am I supposed to store up treasures in heaven?”  Jesus told the young man who wanted to know how to be perfect and have eternal life that he should sell what he had and give it to the poor.  (Matt. 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33). As you may recall, the young man walked away sadly, for he had great  possessions.  In Luke 12:16-22, Jesus tells a parable about a man who had so many crops, he had no room to store them, so he tore all his barns down and built a bigger one. He thought he could lay back and take it easy, since he had enough to last for years.  However, God came that night for that man's soul, and all his goods went to others.  If we share our treasures with those who need them, we are storing up treasures in heaven. 

We see from Scripture that God does not bestow great wealth on all those who believe in Him, contrary to what the wealth and prosperity preachers teach; otherwise, all believers would be rich, and people would get saved because they wanted to be rich. Paul supported himself by working as a a tentmaker.  He didn’t make a living from his preaching.  A study of Scripture reveals that Job and Abraham were rich men.  But what about those believers who are blessed with monetary gain?  Paul instructs that those people should give to the poor (1 Tim. 6:17-19), and Job and Abraham shared their fortunes, Job with widows and orphans, (Job 31:38) and Abraham with his employees.  Paul says that we should be content with what we have. (1 Tim. 6:6)
For those of us (myself included) who worry about how the bills are going to get paid, let alone purchase needed items or take care of repairs, Jesus has some words of wisdom for us.  He tells us not to worry, or in some Bible translations, not to be anxious. (Matt. 6:25, 31) Jesus tells us that we are worth more than the lilies or the grass that God clothes. (Matt. 6:28-30) The Father knows we need clothes and food, and that He cares for us more than for the sparrows or the grass.  (Matt. 6:31-32) Paul writes that God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)

Our family, like many others, has had a hard row to hoe financially this year.  My husband is only working part time and we have been having a difficult time paying our bills. He is looking for another job, but when you’re over 40, it’s hard to get hired.  I thought the Lord was leading me to start my own Thirty-One Gifts business, but when I paid for the kit, our mortgage check bounced.  I have not had much success with the business. I think that this is God’s way of telling me, “No, this is not for you.” Then in September, my husband had to have shoulder surgery, and he was off work for 8 weeks.  He didn’t qualify for workers’ compensation, nor was he eligible for short-term disability.  He is now back to work, but is getting grief from some of his co-workers about not being able to perform the job duties that they were used to having him perform. Back in October, I almost lost my job at the law firm I work at when the partner I was assigned to left the firm and took one of the associates that I was assigned to with him, leaving me with only one associate to work for.  The law firm was going to terminate me, but the partner persuaded them to let me keep my job.

We also have home repairs that need to be taken care of.  Instead of whining to the Lord for money to get this stuff fixed, I have decided to take a different tack.  Thank you, Lord, that although the tree in the front yard has been dead for a year and a half, the tree has not fallen down.  Thank you, Lord, that although the gutter on the back of the house is coming off, it hasn’t fallen off yet.  Even though we can’t drive hubby’s truck because we can’t afford to purchase the annual license plate sticker and get the driver’s side door repaired, we live close enough to the Metrolink station so that I can walk there on the days that hubby works so that I can take the Metrolink to work.  I am thankful that we could sell some jewelry to help replenish the checking account last month when a check bounced.  I am thankful that I still have a job and that my husband has a job.  I am thankful for a couple of Internet friends who I have never met who have assisted us financially in our time of need.  Please bless them, Lord.  I write these paragraphs not to beg for assistance, but to show what we are going through. I'm sure we're not the only folks going through financial difficulties. 

God has been after me to write this blog post for a long time, but I kept putting it off.  I can find a hundred and one excuses not to do something, can’t you?  I was reading in Haggai the other night about how the people were slacking off on rebuilding the Temple after the return from Babylon and God withheld the rain and the crops until they had done what He told them to do. I realized that God was speaking to me – get that blog post done I want you to write!  Could it be He is withholding financial blessings from us until I get this blog post done and published?  I don’t want to speak for God as far as that (as mentioned above, I should be content with what I have and I don’t want to sound like the “name it and claim it folks”), but I should be listening and obeying when He tells me to do something, regardless of whether I get any rewards or not.  Please forgive me, Lord.

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted last!  I hope this post was edifying.  Thanks for reading and see you next time!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's like a heat wave - a poem

It’s soooo hot
The thermometer exploded
The mercury slithered out and left
For cooler climes.
I wish I could leave too
But it’s hot and dry everywhere
And not just here.
No relief in sight,
Say the weathercasters in the comfort of
Their air conditioned newsrooms.
The children play in the fountains
And the water from the fire hydrants
Finding only temporary relief.
The grass in my yard dies
From lack of rain
But the weeds grow just fine.
It’s much too hot
To expend the effort
To get rid of them.
Is it fall yet?
I check my calendar.
It’s only August 1.
Still closer to fall
Than on June 1.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Always and for all times

This blog post was inspired by my reading of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 this morning. These three short verses have a lot of instruction for us as Christians.  They’re short but packed with power.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV):  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Rejoice always.  Paul didn’t say rejoice when you feel like it, or only when everything’s going well.  “Always” means all the time. The thesaurus in the Microsoft Word software I’m typing this with (Word 2010) lists adverbs for “always” as continuously, continually, constantly, at all times, or for all time.  It means rejoice when things aren’t going well, or when a loved one is sick or has died.  It means rejoice when you’re going through a relationship breakup, or when you’re estranged from your children or other family members.  It means rejoice when your financial situation is going south, either from job loss or other circumstances.  I know from personal experience that it’s really hard to rejoice when you’re in physical or emotional pain, but we’re told to do it, so we need to suck it up and rejoice. Rejoicing in the midst of pain takes our minds off of ourselves and our problems and turns them to God, our Father and our Comforter. For a good primer on rejoicing in the midst of pain, listen to the lyrics of the song “Praise You in This Storm” by Casting Crowns.  If you’re really down and can’t think about a single thing to rejoice about, you can always rejoice that God saved you that and Jesus died on the Cross to save you from your sins. That should be enough right there to lift your spirits.

Pray without ceasing.  Again, Paul didn’t say to pray when you feel like it, or when there’s a major crisis in your life and you need to be rescued.  “Without ceasing” means all the time, just like “always” means all the time.  A friend of mine has a keychain with a little tag on it that reads, "Pray."  That's a good reminder. You may ask, “Pray even when I’m in the bathroom?” Sure - what a perfect place to pray!  The bathroom door is shut and you have privacy – I hope. LOL!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into the bathroom stall at work, shut the door, and started praying for work situations that are going awry.  Praying without ceasing keeps the line of communication going between you and God.  Sure, God knows what you’re going to say before you say it, and He knows what you need before you ask for it, but He wants to hear it from you anyway.  This ties into the previous verse – when you rejoice when you don’t feel like it, the praise will calm your soul and then you will be calm enough to pray.    

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Give thanks when my heart is breaking because my spouse is leaving me?  Give thanks when my child is not living according to God’s will?  Give thanks when I’ve lost my job and my financial situation is dire and I don’t know how I’m going to get my next meal?  Yes, in all these and more, we are to give thanks to God.  Is your child giving you fits?  Thank the Lord that you do have a child – there are folks who would love to be parents but can’t.  Didn’t get the raise you were hoping for?  Be thankful you have a job – there are many that don’t.  Again, if you can’t think of what to give thanks for, you can always give thanks that God saved you and that Jesus died on the Cross to save you from your sins.

These instructions are from God Himself through Paul and this is what He wants us to do - He wants us to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, because it’s His will in Jesus for us.  It’s hard for me to remember these things because after all, I’m human and God made me with feelings and emotions.  That’s the fleshly side of us, which rears its ugly head when we’re faced with difficulties.  But I’m going to keep reminding myself of these instructions, and hopefully, someday I’ll remember to do these things without thinking about it. 

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading – see you next time!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

That book on the shelf

(With apologies to David Lee Murphy, the songwriter of "Dust on the Bottle")

Sittin' on the shelf, all lost and lonesome,
Is a Book with all you need to know,
How to live your life and love Jesus,
If you read it, your faith will grow.

It's got what you need, son, it's between those covers
(Why dontcha) Take it down and take a look inside?

There shouldn't be any dust on your Bible,
It has everything you need to survive,
There shouldn't be any dust on your Bible,
The more you read it, it gets sweeter with time.

It's sittin' on the bookshelf wanting you to read it,
There's wisdom and great things inside,
When life is hard and you are seeking,
Let God's Word be your guide.

Reach up on the bookshelf and dust off the cover,
It's just been waiting for you to see the Light.

There shouldn't be any dust on your Bible,
It has everything you need to survive,
There shouldn't be any dust on your Bible,
The more you read it, it gets sweeter with time.

God's Word is so sweet and I've learned some great things,
After all these years, there's one thing I've found
I say the good Book, well, it's like a fine wine
The message keeps getting better as the days go by.

There shouldn't be any dust on your Bible,
It has everything you need to survive,
There shouldn't be any dust on your Bible,
The more you read it, it gets sweeter with time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The perfect recipe

My niece enjoys baking, so on Thanksgiving, she made an 8" X 8" pan of brownies.  She asked if they were too chewy, as she thought she might have put too much vegetable oil in them.  I said no, they were just fine and I asked why she thought they might have too much oil.  She said she didn't have any measuring cups at her dad's house.  I rectified this at Christmas - I got her a gift bag with a glass measuring cup, some measuring spoons, baking sheets, etc.  She was very excited. I felt good knowing I purchased a present for a teenage girl that she actually liked.  I guess I'm not as square as I thought. 

Baking is not very difficult if you have all the right ingredients in the amounts called for in the recipe and you follow the recipe instructions precisely.  Upon reflection, I was struck by the similarities between baking and the Christian life.

Baking is a conscious decision.  You have to decide to bake something – it’s not an everyday activity like cooking a meal (unless you are employed as a baker, of course).  Deciding to repent of your sins and praying to receive Jesus into your heart and make Him the Savior of your life is also a conscious decision – it doesn’t just happen.  The first thing you have to do in order to be a Christian is to be saved - that is, to repent of your sins and ask Jesus to be your Savior.

In order to bake something correctly, you have to refer to the recipe, which tells you what ingredients you need and in what quantity, the order in which to mix the ingredients, how to prepare the baking pan, the temperature at which to set the oven, and the length of time to bake.  The Bible is the instruction book, or the cookbook, if you will, for the Christian life. 

Once you are saved, what ingredients make up a Christian life?  Here’s a few:

1.  Read the Word.  In order to know the Lord better and how He wants you to live and treat others, you need to read your Bible on a daily basis.  It’s even better if you can join a Bible study group where you can discuss the Scriptures with like-minded believers.

2.  Prayer. In order to have a relationship with God, you need to spend time with Him in prayer.  He wants us to communicate with Him, to let Him know our needs and desires.  Corporate prayer with other Christians is also very good.  

3.    Join a Bible believing church, attend Sunday services on a regular basis and participate in fellowship activities.  Spending time in worship helps you grow closer to the Lord.  Spending time with other Christians in worship and fellowship helps support your walk in the Lord.  Fellow Christians will share your joys and troubles and they'll pray for you and with you. 

4.  Go make disciples.   Jesus told the apostles that they should go into all the world and make disciples.  We are to do this also. We should love the Lord and be so excited about our faith that we want others to know who Jesus is and how they can be saved. 

Sometimes, though, whatever you're baking doesn't come out like it should.  Perhaps the oven's thermostat is off and the cake doesn't rise.  Maybe you used much water in the recipe and the batter is too thin.  Maybe you left the cookies in the oven too long and they burned.   In the Christian life, mishaps like that are called sin.  As the baking mishaps separate us from the yummy baked goods we thought we were making, sin separates us from God.  We have to throw away the baking mistakes and start all over.  When we sin, we go before the Lord and repent, asking for forgiveness.  His death on the Cross covers all our sins.  We can start the recipe over again and try harder next time. 

That's all for now.  Thanks for reading!