All of It

Jesus said, “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 14:41-44

Back in my Air Force days, somebody challenged me directly with this verse. He told me to put my entire paycheck into the offering when it went around during church.

I didn’t make a lot back then so I came up with more excuses than grains of sand at the beach. He just folded his arms and smiled. After I spent the better part of an hour explaining why I couldn’t put in my entire paycheck, I relented. My reaction to his suggestion was evidence that I should do it!!

I remember at the time that it was extremely scary before I did it, but once I put it in, it was wonderfully freeing. While I was still in the Air Force I acted on that challenge several times. I didn’t go hungry or without clothes. In fact, I was probably freer doing that than holding onto the check.

But that was then, twenty years ago. This is now.

What’s changed? Time. Life. Bills. Cares. Family. I had those back then. Fear? Yep, still the same. Fear that the God of the Universe wouldn’t look after me if I put a lot extra into the offering plate?

Pretty silly fear, isn’t it?

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Love Love Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

We all know it as the Love Chapter. We’ve heard countless sermons on love and this was the main chapter. The entire chapter is worthy of a read every time we read just a single verse. Read it before you continue.

Through time, the world can really beat us down, can’t it? We get cynical and skeptical. So, let’s take these verses down to the bare minimum.

Since many a preacher could lay out this chapter much better than me, I’ll suffice to leave you with one important question, a question that can be applied to the nine evidences of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). This question might change the way you think and act every single day.

Do you love others more today than you did a year ago? Do you love others more than you did a month ago? If you do, keep it up, and ask it again next year (or next month).

If you don’t, why not?

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Itty Bitty Seeds

“…some [seed] fell on rocky soil…some fell among thorns…other seed fell on good soil.” Mark 4:3-20

Seeds.

You never really know where they’ll fall. You hope for the good soil, sometimes see the thorns and rocks, but where it falls depends on many many things.

Jesus makes it clear that the seed is the Word of God (v13-14). You never know the situations people are in. Just when you think someone is ready to believe, that person turns totally against you. On the other hand, you may think that people aren’t even paying attention to you. but wham! you are witnessing a changed life.

Seeds. Lots and lots of seeds.

Little bitty seeds. Insignificant acts of kindness in a harsh world. Seeds of patience. Seeds of strength. Seeds of courage.

Plenty of opportunities. Plenty of seeds.

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Military Strength

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength…But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him… Psalm 33:16,18

We in the United States love to boast of our military strength. We can do things militarily that the Biblical authors couldn’t even have imagined (and much of it remotely). But still, Scripture tells us that we really shouldn’t be putting our hope in our military. We have this power, but if God’s hand isn’t upon us, it’s meaningless. It’s pretty humbling if you think about it. And when we fear Him, His eyes are on us.

While we shouldn’t put our strength in our military, we should pray that in those situations when they do have to act, that they do so courageously and boldly. Pray for the thousands of troops who have to make difficult decisions in split seconds.

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Good Servants

“Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest…For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” Matthew 25:14-30

In the parable of the talents, the two servants the master praised had done something with the amount of money they were given. The third servant buried his in the ground. It took less than an hour of work, and he was finished. The other two found creative ways of earning more. Scripture doesn’t tell us what they did but they weren’t sitting on their hands.

If we’re honest, we also have to ask what we are doing with what we’ve been given: talents, gifts, money, intellect, drive, passion. Are we investing those energies and resources? Are we [watching TV / surfing the internet] our life away? It is much too easy to fritter our lives away, isn’t it?

What one practical thing can you do today to invest in that Heavenly Kingdom?

Just one.

That phone call of encouragement. That email. That bouquet of flowers. That apology letter. That seemingly ordinary compliment on a job well done.

It doesn’t take much for God to multiply or reward our efforts, but it does take effort. And before you know it, you will have doubled what God had originally given you.

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Fiery Furnace

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.”
He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Daniel 3:24-25

We all love the story of three of Daniel’s friends in the flaming furnace and how God miraculously rescued them. But God was also doing something greater. Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace and saw not three but four people walking through the flames.

Four people.

And even King Nebuchadnezzar got it right, “the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Probably the fourth person walking in the fiery flames is what theologians call the “pre-incarnate Christ.” He was revealing Himself (thousands of years before walking the Earth) to a modern day ruler.

But I think there’s a greater point here. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego literally put their lives on the line for God. They would not bow to the King’s 90-foot idol. Now they were facing the consequences of that disobedience. They are tossed into the furnace and the heat was turned up seven times hotter than it normally was. They began to walk and the pre-incarnate Christ is seen walking by them, with them…together. They were not alone! (Imagine the stories they would tell their children and grandchildren when it was all over!)

Most of the things we face in life are minor in comparison to what the Three in the furnace faced. Rest assured, when you are risking it all for the sake of Christ, He is right there with you! And even in what seems like a fiery furnace, He is right there with you.

(And imagine the stories you’ll tell your children and grandchildren when it’s all over!)

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Persecuted Church

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:11-12

Many of our brothers and sisters around the Christian world face persecution  daily. And we hear stories of how they’ve held up under some very intense and  brutal persecution! Hallelujah!

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying,”The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.” Simply put, it means that the church seems to thrive and blossom under  persecution. When people are killed because they are Christians, the church grows.  It’s clearly an upside down way of thinking.

Fortunately we haven’t experienced persecution as our Brothers and Sisters in the  East has. Certainly we are insulted for our beliefs in the West but we haven’t been beaten because of them.

Pray right now for strength and boldness for these dear people in China, Sudan, and North Korea. Of course, there are other countries that mistreat Christians. Those three countries have been in the news quite a bit lately. Pray that God will continue to do a mighty work in those lands!

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Envying Sinners

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 23:17

I think Proverbs is pretty clear about associating ourselves with those who we might consider sinners. There seems to be a phenomenon in our nation of “Star worship” or “Stargazing.” Many flock to Hollywood to see the Rich and the Famous, and buy those national magazines that assault us in the grocery store lines. Entertainment Tonight! is huge.

But you say, “Eh. They’re just movie stars. Give ’em a break.”

Occasionally we get a glimpse into their private lives and thoughts. I would venture to say that the majority of the Hollywood stars think directly opposite to what we think on most issues. They’re not in our camp, so to speak. And yet, we hang on their every word.

Look for a moment at their private lives and you’ll see why we shouldn’t be envying them.

Why should we envy the numerous divorces that he has or the decadent and loose lifestyle that she has? Do you think we meet eye to eye on abortion with them? They have it all: glamor, riches, and fame. Are they really that happy as a community? Drugs, booze, sleeping around, abortion, immoral behavior. It’s all there, and yet we tend to glamorize what it would be like with all of that fame and fortune. Think we would be any different?

Radio talk show host Dennis Prager reminds us that Hollywood does the rest of the world a great service: they show us that you can have it all and still be very empty.

That’s something to consider next time we (secretly) wish we had more money than we know what to do with and are recognized in every restaurant we go into.

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A Different Hunger

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 15:32-38

When we look at the story of feeding of the 4000, we get to see Jesus’ compassion and power to transform small things into much larger things. But within that story is a part that gets overlooked. Why did Jesus have to feed all those people? The text tells us. “They have already been with me three days…” These thousands of people were there to hear Jesus teach for three days.

Think about that.

For three days they were hungering for the truth, hungering for what was real, hungering for God, no doubt hanging on his every word.  They wanted what he had so badly that they either forgot about eating or couldn’t break away. The Master was teaching them, and obviously what He had to say was important.

I can learn from that.

But ultimately I have to ask the questions: when was the last time that I truly hungered after God? When was the last time I was willing to sit at his feet for something other than a few minutes at a time? When was the last time I forgot about food and just basked in Jesus’ teaching? Sadly, I don’t remember.

Perhaps a deeper question for me is, why has it been so long?

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