Money Trumped Harmony

money controlAfter saving the life of the king of Sodom, the evil king offered Abram all the wealth he could carry away. Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich'” (Genesis 14:22-23).

Barry could quote his Bible, was faithful attending services each Sunday, and was generous with his money. The man was also a trouble-maker from day one.

Then came a day when he stopped by my office to lecture me. Some of his finger pointing was accurate, most was not. He bragged about how much money he’d donated over the previous decade and his lecture ended with a series of his personal demands. I thanked Barry for his time and showed him the door.

Throughout the week Barry called various ones in the church questioning my leadership and boasting in his generosity. That was enough. Sunday morning when Barry and his wife arrived, I invited them into my office and explained that they were no longer welcome.

I was criticized for telling the man who donated so much money to the church to leave. To them, money trumped harmony. I had no problem telling Barry to go; God was our provider, not Barry. Abram refused the money of a troublemaker. So should we.

Being There

not-the-same-as-being-there“I’m not going on vacation this year. I’m just going to watch a video about the Grand Canyon.”

“A Honeymoon? We’ll just listen to your Mom and Dad tell us about their own while we look at photos.”

“Hospitals make me queasy. My wife will tell me about the birth of our first son later from the comfort of our own home.”

“I’m not going to Great-Grandma’s 100th birthday party. Gonna watch the video on Facebook later.”

“I don’t go to church. I watch a preacher on the tv Sunday morning.”

Going to church isn’t just another routine event. It is our opportunity to hear God speak to us through His Word and fellowship with other believers around Him. There isn’t anything routine about it!

There may be times when physical circumstances make it impossible to get to church on a given Sunday, but like so many other things in life, actually being with other Christians to worship God can’t be conveyed any other way than being there in person!

Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24).

The Touch of God’s Grace

how-i-love-your-lawI hate my alarm clock. There’s hardly a day when it ding-dongs and I’m glad. I get up because if I don’t, there’s a price to pay somewhere in my day.

Sometimes the Bible is much like my alarm clock. I read it and it screeches my failure to live up to God’s perfect standard: “You’ve failed! You’ve failed!”

Shame and guilt are ordinary responses to failing God, but they must be soothed by the grace that reminds us of what God has done for us. The law of God continually accuses the sinful mind, but we delight in His law because our failure is met in Jesus. The law isn’t a motivator to “do better”, it’s a constant reminder that we need a Saviour!

Israel’s King David wrote, Oh, how I love Your law! (Psalm 119:97). Loving God’s law didn’t mean that David kept the Law perfectly or that keeping it saved his soul (Psalm 119:136, 176). Instead it meant that David knew what God said and loved it despite his inability to obey. He knew that his failures were met in God’s grace.

When God the Father laid His punishment for our sins upon Jesus, He also promised not to condemn us whose faith rests only in Jesus (Romans 8:1-2).

You know what I love? I love to be awakened at 6:10 on Saturday morning because I forgot to turn off the alarm! Of course, there’s that initial shock of being awakened, but then there’s relief that I can go back to sleep. The screeching obligation has been fully met and I can rest.

The Good News of Jesus doesn’t end once we’re saved. That screeching alarm continues to make the “Good News” forever precious to those who know the touch of God’s grace.

My Resume

my-resumeThere isn’t much to my resume. The education section is short, my work history is not much more. I grew up in a religious home, the daughter of an Episcopal priest. I barely made it through high school. I graduated and ran away from home to live in a Christian commune in California delivering newspapers, sorting carrots, picking daffodils, and washing dishes.

When I mistakenly decided I was good with God, I bought a car and ran away in the middle of the night with only $30 in my pocket. Only a few years ago did I really learn of my sinfulness and need of Saviour.

Looking back, I learned a lot during those earlier years of life. I added to my knowledge of Jesus and learned to play the guitar. I also learned and lived a lot of things I wish I hadn’t. Who knows where I’d be without those experiences, but those experiences don’t work on a job resume.

My resume for Heaven is more substantial because having Jesus is all that really counts.

As Christians, we are each writing an eternal resume of the things we’ve accomplished for His glory. We don’t have to put down our sins because they don’t exist to Him; they’re just blank space on the page. His interest is in what we’ve done to honor Him.

I’m not great, but Jesus thinks I’m amazing because of what He’s doing in me. It’s not always easy to accept, but He loves me for who I am.

By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me  (First Corinthians 15:10).

– Written by Kimberly Rice

Room Enough for All

oregon-plateHere in the United States, each of our 50 states has different automobile license plates. My state of Oregon offers 34 different looking license plates for passenger cars alone, each an advertisement for our state.

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of license plates from other states. I suspected that people were moving here to Oregon. My suspicion was right. The State of Oregon has the 6th-fastest growing population in America. People from all over the country are moving here in vast numbers.

All these new Oregonians are causing more traffic congestion. They demands schools for their children, new shopping malls, and more houses. What we native Oregonians see as an already overcrowded place is getting even more crowded.

In 1971, Oregon Governor Tom McCall said of visitors to our state, “Come visit; don’t stay. … I urge them to come and come many, many times to enjoy the beauty of Oregon. But I also ask them, for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.

Heaven has no overcrowding.

Jesus said in His Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). He went back to Heaven to prepare a place for each of those God predestined to be His children (Ephesians 1:4-5). There’s no overcrowding and no shortage of space. There’s room enough for all whom He has invited into His house.

Jesus says, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).

A Shorter Story

a-shorter-story-jpgeIn the process of renewing my US passport at the end of 2016, I learned some terrifying information. In the past 10 years I’ve shrunk an inch! Yes, I’m now only 6 foot 3 inches!

The shorter story is: All the stretching, exercising, eating healthy, and gazing at the height printed on my driver license hasn’t stopped the effects of aging. I’ll continue to get shorter until the day I’m laid out in my coffin.

In writing this blog today, I discovered exercises purporting to make me taller. There are even expensive all-natural supplements promising the same effect. These undoubtedly stretch the truth … or there wouldn’t be any short people in the world. My momma didn’t raise a fool.

I’ve spent more than enough time in my life striving for things impossible. I’ve worried about things beyond my control. My height has never been one of these worries, but there are other temptations. Like everything else, worrying about reality, fighting reality, and bemoaning reality, doesn’t change reality.

Instead of fighting the natural progression of life, instead of worrying about things that only God controls, I’ll pursue things eternal and unchanging; things that never shrink.

Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? But seek the kingdom of God (Luke 12:25, 31).

Critical Thinking

the-mindYour mind is continually soaks up information, even when you’re not aware of it consciously. God has made us to learn by what we experience, hear, and see.

My wife crochets while watching a movie. She says she can pay attention to the words and images on the television screen while counting her stitches and looking at her hands move.

Many years ago I was preaching on a Sunday night and rhetorically asked, “Do anyone care?” I paused as a tiny voice from the back of the church said, “I do Uncle Richard.” Elias was only 3 or 4 years old and laying on the floor under the pew coloring pictures. He was the last person in the room anyone would expect to be listening and learning.

And who hasn’t seen children playing, who are fully aware of the secret conversation between parents in the other room? They hear every little detail … even the ones we don’t want them to hear. No one had to sit them down at a desk for them to repeat those words you shouldn’t have said.

God marvelously created your mind. Like a sponge, it subconsciously absorbs every message, even the subliminal one that bombards it. The mind is the greatest battlefield. Everything conveys a message; from the nighttime sky declaring God’s glory to the song on the radio planting a seed that sin is acceptable; from the product placement in a movie to the names daddy calls mommy. Everything is teaching you something – whether you are aware of it or not.

This fact demands that as a Christian, you must be a critical thinker, looking for every message, and comparing it to God’s Word.

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).

God Did Not Forget

god-did-not-forgetSo Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt (Genesis 50:26).

Joseph, the son of Jacob, was both a righteous man before God and a mighty leader before men.

The Egyptians of old were keen on lasting monuments: statues, pyramids, temples. To this day you can visit the land where three thousand years ago pharaohs ruled and the reminders of the greatness of Egypt’s past still leave men in awe.

Surely monuments to Joseph adorned the landscape of Egypt during and even after his lifetime. He was the man whose divinely-gifted wisdom and leadership preserved the Egyptian empire during a world-wide famine. Yet an unusual thing happened: Joseph was quickly forgotten.

Exodus begins by explaining that there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8). New kings seldom care about old friendships, trusted alliances, or faithful servants. They want to make a name for themselves.

With a new king began a new era. The wisdom and greatness of Joseph were forgotten. His friendship and loyalty to the old pharaoh no longer meant anything. His love and service to the Egyptian people didn’t matter. Nothing about Joseph could prevent his memory from fading from Egypt’s mind and heart.

Not only did Joseph disappear from the national conscience, but the Jewish people were perceived as a threat.

Though Joseph was a nobody to pharaoh, and the Jews were considered pests, God didn’t forget His people. He heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant … and God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them (Exodus 2:24, 25).

This didn’t mean that life went back to the way it was, but that whatever was happening, God knew and was working to provide exactly what His people needed at just the right time.

Love is of God

spilled foodI walked to a corner table in the restaurant, passing a table with a half-eaten plate of food. I was sure the other half of the food was on the floor. I sat down and wondered what kind of parent would allow his child to make such an awful mess.

As I pondered, a severely crippled man in a wheelchair rolled out from the restroom hallway. My heart filled with sympathy for his affliction. He made his way through the restaurant to the table covered with scraps of food, and with hands and fingers bent in ten different directions, he began to feed himself.

It’s easy for us to become frustrated with those whose problems we can’t see or don’t know. Loving-kindness and understanding flow unhindered toward those we know and care about.

For the single mother whose only son is fighting in a far-off land in a battle that isn’t ours, we feel sympathy; but to the mother whose son is autistic and throwing his food, we shake our heads and wonder why he isn’t in a special school.

We easily feel for the elderly man wearing an oxygen man and coughing uncontrollably, but for the woman whose heartburn makes her cough, we wonder why she doesn’t just remove herself from our hearing.

The friend whose hair fell out during cancer treatment receives our prayers; while the man we accuse of being lazy is unbeknownst to us also recovering from cancer.

It’s easier to show loving-kindness toward those whose difficulties are obvious to the eye. Loving each other requires a gift from God; and thankfully, it’s a gift He’s given to each of His children.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).

You Are Not An Accident

you-are-an-accidentWhy are you here?

The other day a young man explained to me that he and I are just random blobs of carbon-based substance or a figment of some computer imagined Matrix. We are an accident of the universe and that accident makes our existence both meaningless and without purpose. This is the product of atheism and evolution.

The Bible says that God has both a reason and a purpose for my creation.

Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him (Isaiah 43:7).

Christian, you are the direct handiwork of a loving God, created for His glory. That’s a purpose to live for.