Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The choice is mine...

It's easy to get discouraged now days.

Everywhere we turn, the news is bad. Then I look at my own situation and it seems like...well, let's just say it's more than a little challenging. How can I keep from being completely overwhelmed?

That's when it hit me, I have a choice to make. Which will I believe - the situation or God's Word?

Let's look at our options.

God's Word - brings peace.
My situation - creates anxiety and sometimes fear.

God's Word - directs and brings wisdom.
My situation - confuses.

God's Word - builds me up.
My situation - wears me out.

Most important, God's Word never changes.
My situation is constantly changing, despite my feelings that it never does.

Well, it would seem that the choice is a simple one. I can either make the choice to focus on what God says or on my ever-changing situation. One brings peace, direction, encouragement and never changes. The other creates fear, confusion, discouragement, and can change in an instant.

It's up to me to choose which one will get my attention and consume my thoughts.

No matter what excuses I use, the better choice is clear.

Malachi 3:6 (MSG)

 “I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed.


Hebrews 13:8 (MSG)

For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.

James 1:17 (NIV)

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.



Friday, July 12, 2013

Tithing and French fries...

The following is an object lesson I've used in children's church to teach about tithing. Since it even caught the attention of my teenage son, I figured perhaps it was worth sharing.

Tithing is a tough concept for kids. Let's be honest, it's tough for ANYONE! I haven't always been a tither. Money got tight and I figured "God would understand" if I didn't give sometimes. However, as money has gotten tighter over the past few years, I figure I can't afford NOT to tithe!

At any rate, I decided perhaps the children in our children's church needed a little "instruction" or explanation each week as we gave our offering...this example came from one unplanned Sunday lesson, and it stuck!

That Sunday, as we prepared to take the offering - usually a few pennies or whatever Mom and Dad had given the child to put into the bucket - I decided to make sure the children understood what the word "tithe" meant. Not some deep theological explanation, but simply that it meant a tenth. If God provided them with a dime, a tithe would be a penny. If they got a dollar, it would be a dime. We went all the way to a million dollars - I'd love to be able to give a tithe on that! They understood the numbers, but I could tell we needed a little more. That's when the idea of French fries came to mind.

I asked the kids if their dad took them out to McDonalds and bought them some fries, what would they do if he then asked them for one or two of the fries. Of course, they all said they'd let him have some. He had, of course, bought them in the first place! We then made the connection that our tithe is like those fries. Our Father God provides for our needs - often with money - and He then asks us for "some of our fries".

Then I asked the children, "What if you're still hungry after you give Dad some fries and you eat the rest?" One of the children piped up, "Dad will probably buy you some more." That's it! While we may not have the money to buy those fries, the cost of a bag of fries is nothing for our father...usually pocket change! How much more will our Heavenly Father, who walks on streets of gold, provide for our needs? When we show our trust in Him by giving the tithe, we also show our trust that if we need more, He will provide. It's not a big deal for Him - He's got this!

We can also trust, that when Dad asks us to share our fries with others, He will make sure we still have all that we need.

So there you have it, a simple lesson on tithing and French fries....and on trusting that our Father loves us and will take care of what we need.

Enjoy "sharing your fries" my friends.

Matthew 7:11 (NIV)

11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV)

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

Psalm 4:5 (NIV)

Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord.
There are a LOT more references. Here's a site that lists more: Tithes and offerings

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Have we bought the lie?

Tomorrow is the 4th of July...a time of celebration! There will be hotdogs, apple pie, and probably a few impromptu baseball games. Water slides, watermelon, and water....okay, I don't have another water word. There will be laughter, honoring of veterans, and hopefully prayer for our nation, because no matter who you ask, you'll probably hear that despite our celebrating, our nation is in trouble.

Some will say the problem arises from recent court developments. Some will say the problem arises from our lack of reverence for human life. Many will point at the prevalence of government in our lives. Some will say it's the liberals. Some will say it's the conservatives. I'm thinking it may be something different. I'm thinking it goes all the way back to Genesis and a tiny little lie. A question actually.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who is MUCH more educated than me. She is, no doubt, a wonderful person. Very intellectual and has a heart to help others. I will not say a bad thing about her...but we definitely did not agree. To be honest, I'm not even sure how our conversation took the turn that it did, but within moments it became evident that she believed in evolution as opposed to creation. Her arguments were that while God created, He used evolution to do it. (I've heard this argument before.) She also believed much of the Bible to be metaphorical in nature. Needless to say, we disagreed.

Since that conversation, I seem to see articles on creation everywhere I turn! You see, I believe that TRUE science points TO creation...and while I am not a scientist, there are many scientist who agree with that point of view. If one buys into the idea of evolution for creation, there are a number of issues you must then wrestle with. For one, how then did sin enter in through one man? How did Jesus come as the second Adam and die as a sacrifice for that sin? (We disagreed on this as well, by the way.) How can you deal with Jesus speaking of Old Testament writings as fact? Either He was ignorant or a liar...neither of which I can agree with. But all these arguments are really not the purpose of today's random thoughts. It's identifying the root of our problems....

Is it possible that we bought the lie? You know, in the garden that's what started the ball rolling. In Genesis 3:1, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? Did you get that? It started with questioning what God said. The enemy craftily inserted doubt into the legitimacy of God's Word. It was the meshing of an idea that was NOT of God with something that IS of God. Verses 4 & 5: "“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Seems he forgot to include the part about the knowledge of good and evil being because they would experience separation from God's presence and the beauty of the life they knew.

Is it possible that the "problems" our nation, even our world...and yes, we ourselves face are due to buying the lie that has woven itself into our books, our tv shows, and our minds. It's a subtle one...just a little bitty question. Did God really say? Or, the idea that God's Word is a collection of metaphors, not to be taken literally? Yes, I realize there are some pretty hard parts of the Bible. I'm thankful that God does not require me to gouge out my does not sin so getting rid of it really wouldn't fix the problem. Plus, and far more importantly, Jesus died for my sin. Yes, that literally happened. It's not a metaphor or just some feel good story. Nothing I can do would "fix" the problem anyway.

I'm sure there's more to all of this than my puny little mind can embrace, but this is really just a collection of MY random thoughts. Maybe we allowed the "lie" to weave its way into our lives and before we knew it, it was like the ferns that looked so lovely in my yard until they took root everywhere and started to choke out my rose. I really didn't think it was any big deal to begin with. It was so tiny and looked entirely harmless. Yeah....tell that to my rose that it killed. (Check out my previous blog, "The Pruning Process...")

I don't want to buy the lie. I believe God's Word is true...and I want it to shape everything I do. I know I have a long way to go...but recognizing that truth is truth is the first step. Maybe then, we can truly ask for God to bless America.

But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.
2 Corinthians 11:3