It’s not my stuff I’m giving away

The strangest thing happened the other day. Someone sent me a message that they had some toys and clothes donated.  They said if I knew anyone who needed some to let them know.  10 minutes later, Lauren from the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company called me said she had been contacted by someone who needed help with food and toys for Christmas.  I told her that it just so happened that someone just told me they had some stuff.  (I’d like to give the place credit for the stuff, but I also don’t want them to be overwhelmed.)

Diane and I are getting ready to deliver a van load to the people.  As I was going through the food pantry getting Axe Body Wash for the teenage boy and food for the family, the thought went through my mind that because these people are so far away that maybe they’ve just used and abused all the help near them to the point that they are now being told no by churches near them.  I am just being honest about thinking thoughts like this at times.  We would typically tell people from out of the area no.  But here we are, ready to send them a van full of food, clothes, and toys.

And as cynical thoughts like that are going through my mind, something else went through my mind.  It was something someone once asked someone back in upper Mason County at the food pantry.

  • “Does the stuff belong to you?”
  • “No.”
  • “Who does it belong to?”
  • “God.”
  • “Then let God deal with them.”

We are doing what Jesus calls us to do.  And unless I am pretty sure that He would not have us help someone, I think we had better do it.  It is not my stuff I am giving away.

Heavenly Father, Help me to be a good caretaker of those things You have given me control – the things that are donated to the church, and my own personal possessions.  Amen.

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The rest of the story

When I saw this picture of Olaf, a character from the movie Frozen, I was struck by what a freaky looking character this is.  If I knew nothing of the movie, I would think this snowman was intended to scare kids. Obviously Olaf is not scary once you get to know him through the movie because it changes the way you see him.

Thinking about “knowing” Olaf brings to my mind a quote from missionary Jim Elliot who wrote in his journal, “It is the heart that is not yet sure of its God that is afraid to laugh in His presence”.  Once you “know” God as He has revealed Himself through His Word and through Jesus, God goes from being this scary, unpredictable being to calling us His children and allowing us to call Him Father.  He sends the Holy Spirit to help you grow closer to Him and to help you be obedient to His will.  Once you know Him, it changes the way you see Him…. until you finally see Him face to face.  And through faith in Christ, we need not fear that day.

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The “After the holidays” Excuse

Lately the “after the holidays” idea has been creeping into my mind.  I feel like I have been using the holiday excuse to overeat.  I almost feel like I am trying to bulk up to go on the television show Survivor.  And society is not helping.  I just got an email from one company inviting me to “Take your snacking to a whole new level.”  They do not know that I already have.  I do not want to use the holiday excuse as permission to overeat, but with winter clothes able to hide 10 extra pounds, it is easy to indulge.  Eventually the winter clothes and the winter weight will need to come off.  With that in mind, to keep packing on the pounds makes no sense.  (Some of you may use the “after the holidays” excuse to overspend, telling yourself you will worry about it in January when the credit card bills come in).  If you can’t say amen, at least say ouch.

In Romans chapter 5 and 6, Paul is proclaiming Jesus’ victory over sin.  While “The Law” (think Old Testament commandments God’s people were supposed to follow) points out our sin due to our inability to follow it, it does nothing to provide a cure.  Paul is telling us that Jesus is the cure.  He says in Romans 5:20, where sin existed in large quantity, grace existed all the more.  Whatever the sin, however much sin, Jesus’ grace and forgiveness covers it.  Yet there is this warning in Romans 6:1-2.  Just because we are forgiven does not mean we have permission to keep doing wrong.  When we know better, we should do better.  I know better.

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Life goes on until it doesn’t

In the past seven days I did two funerals.  When a death occurs, a family is rocked, friends and acquaintances pause, and the rest of the world goes on like nothing happened.  As the saying goes, “Life goes on”, even though it seems to stand still for the aching hearts who just suffered the loss of their loved one.  But life does and must move forward.

Decorating the church for Advent/Christmas happened this week, just as it does every year.  It looks amazing, as it does every year.  We will have church Sunday just as this body of believers has for the last 100+ years.  The people decorating have changed, the preacher has changed, the persons in the pews have changed, but the church goes on.

It is difficult to picture a day when life will not go on for us individually.  One day, something will happen to you and the world will go on.  It is also difficult to picture a day when life will not go on for the church.  But, the Bible tells us that one day Jesus will return and the grace that we take for granted today will be no more.  During this season of Advent in the church, the church prepares for the coming of Christmas, celebrating the birth of the Son of God and the Savior of the world.  However, it would behoove us to remember that one day there will be a second coming of Jesus.  And while the world paused the first time He came, the world will be rocked the next time He comes.

Go ahead and live life, buy Christmas presents, plan your Christmas Eve worship, plan Christmas dinner.  Get ready for Christmas.  But more importantly, make sure you are ready for that day when the whole world is rocked.  For now, life goes on…. until it doesn’t.  Welcome to Advent.

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What are you buying?

Nearly everyone who reads my blog has Facebook.  Many also have Instagram, Twitter, etc.  Some of my friends sell beauty cream, some sell toothpaste, some raise money for their charitable work, some sell time in a batting cage, some sell things from their graphics business, and some are selling groceries.  If you need info on any of these products, I can hook you up.

Sometimes I think that others must see me “selling Jesus”.  Most of my posts are about coming to, following, and serving Jesus.  “Selling” is not the right word as we discussed in Yesterday’s blog that what Jesus offers is free, but it was not cheap.  Jesus offers a lifestyle change.  Not everyone wants a lifestyle change.  He is not content to be an add on to improve the recipe of your life like adding walnuts to a brownie recipe or adding M&M’s to a chocolate chip cookie recipe.

While He will take you just as you are, He loves you too much to leave you that way.  He will turn your life upside down…. or in reality, right side up.  If you discover any other form of Jesus, you are not getting the real thing.  Our society loves the discounted, fake version.  And that is the version society will buy and celebrate this Christmas season.  The biggest danger in getting the fake version is that you quit looking for the real thing.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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You can find free wifi here

I love it when people park at the front of the church to connect to the internet.  We have wifi at the church that does not require a password.  I always check when I go to other churches to see if they have open access to wifi, not requiring a password.  My motto regarding this is, “Nothing says welcome like a locked wifi system.”  Several times a week people pull up to the church for free wifi.  I took this picture yesterday of someone using the free wifi.

I have been purposely repeating the term “free wifi” in the last couple of sentences to take you to today’s lesson.  The wifi is far from free.  The church pays Atlantic Broadband a costly sum for internet and phone service.  We do not even have cable and our bill is $158.29 a month.  While people who come to the church for the wifi might think of it as “free”, a price was paid for it.  It is just not paid by the people who park out front and use it.  We are happy to provide this service to the community, to high school students who have banquets at the church, and to church attenders.

And I am sure some of you can see the correlation between this and salvation.  The biggest stumbling block to salvation  (being made right with God) for some people is that it seems to easy.  Just say yes?  Free gift?  That is too easy if it does not cost anything.  If there is no cost, what can it be worth?  Oh, but it did cost.  It cost dearly.  It cost Jesus beating, suffering, ridicule, and torture to death on the cross.  While people might think of salvation as “free”, a price was paid for it.  Thanks be to God it is just not paid by the people who use it.

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An old man lamenting

I first titled today’s blog, “How did we get here?”, but quickly realized it sounded more like “an old man lamenting”.  I hope you might commiserate.

By now, we are all familiar with Black Friday, and the latest unofficial holidays: Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and most recenty Giving Tuesday.  Thanksgiving Day now officially kicks off the Christmas shopping season.  Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go, and then we eat and run.  Heaven forbid we miss the Thanksgiving Day “Black Friday” specials at Kohl’s, Best Buy, and Walmart.  We can save hundreds of dollars if we are willing to spend hundreds of dollars.  This on the day Lincoln made a national holiday during the Civil War when he proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”.

I completely understand that I not only sound like, but I probably am an old man lamenting the days gone by.  I understand not everything in the past was right, but everything in the past was not wrong, either.  It is a paradox for me.  I live in a country drifting ever further from God as I grow ever closer to Him.  And the natural result of this is that I and the country I live in are growing exponentially further apart in our beliefs and our actions.  At least society got it right when they admitted that “Giving Tuesday” only comes after the gluttony of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday.

(And if you can’t say “amen” to today’s blog, at least say “ouch”.

For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. ~ 2 Timothy 3:2 (NLT)

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