Laying Down Our Stuff

Have you heard the story of the Rich Young Ruler? It’s not the newest reality show this season, so don’t get excited. This was a parable that Jesus told a crowd gathered around Him, and it goes like this: “Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21 NKJV. Do you see what I see here? My barns, my crops, my goods… He had it all figured out for himself. He had so much, too much; he just kept piling up more STUFF, and more STUFF, and even more STUFF! He wasn’t concerned about anything or anyone around him: he was totally independent. But God said he was a fool: that he couldn’t take all of his stuff with him. Who was going to get it when he died? The New Living Translation says, “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Relationship is the key....

When Supposing Can Get You INTO Trouble!

“And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’” Acts 16:27, 28 Paul and Silas were two apostles called by Jesus to spread the Gospel, but along the way they got into a bit of trouble and were arrested. The Romans were pretty upset that these Jews were ruffling feathers by preaching in the Name of Jesus, and not observing the customs of the Romans. Particularly, they had just cast a demon spirit out of a slave girl who had the power of divination, or fortune telling. She had been following Paul and Silas for days, continually bothering and mocking them and, being weary of it, they finally told the spirit to come out of her. This made those that owned her very upset because they no longer had an income. So they took hold of the two apostles and put them into prison, made sure they were beaten with rods many times and then securely put their feet in stocks. Now the cool thing about this story is the escape. Paul and Silas were not planning one! But they were praying, maybe for their safety, maybe because they were in pain, maybe just because they couldn’t sleep. Whatever the reason, the Bible says the other prisoners were listening to them when they prayed. It doesn’t just say they heard them, it says they were listening to them! They were intrigued by the...

Although the doors were locked

Back in the fall, I bought my son a gift card to one of those escape places. Have you heard of them? They lock you in a room, sometimes in total darkness, and you play out a scenario where you must figure a way out. For instance, one of the most difficult ones from which to escape is the KGB Interrogation. The website describes it like this: The year is 1964 and the height of the Cold War. You and your team are American spies and have been placed in the Soviet Union to retrieve a sample of a mind-altering drug that causes long-term amnesia. Once injected, the drug renders the subject susceptible to mind reprogramming. Oh no! Your cover is blown and you have been arrested and taken to KGB headquarters in Moscow. You have only 60 minutes to find the drug and get out before you are interrogated, tortured or, worst of all, transformed into a Soviet agent! Most escape rooms have about a 50% success rate. This one has only a 5% success rate of getting out!! Yikes! Naturally, when your time has ended they will come and let you out of the room. Game over. You-are-not-007. You lose. Kristopher took three friends with him for his caper and they were able to escape but not until almost the very last minute. It’s quite challenging and I am sure it was fun. But not for me. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am extremely claustrophobic. Extremely. I’m not much of a fan of locked doors. Or closed in spaces. Or anything that says, “You...

Have you lost your voice?

Have you ever heard the phrase “Children are to be seen and not heard?” I always thought that was kind of sad. Even when My Three Sons were little, it was certainly a difficult task to tell them that they could be with us when we were entertaining guests but they could not be heard. John the Baptist started out that same way. He had a crazy way with fashion: he wore camel hair for clothing, lived in the desert and ate locusts and wild honey for nourishment. He preached a strange message about someone coming after him whose shoes he wouldn’t even be worthy to unloose. He was pointing the way to Jesus Christ; he was that voice crying in the wilderness. “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John …” Luke 7:28. His voice still echoes today! The parents of Jesus found their son speaking when they thought he should not even be in the company of adults; He was just a young boy. The Passover was the feast celebrated at the beginning of the Jewish year (our March or April). Jerusalem was 80 miles from Nazareth, where Jesus and his parents were living at the time, and the journey would take three days of travel. After the seven days of celebration, the caravan began the journey back home. That evening they discovered that Jesus was missing; they had assumed he was with other family or friends. They started back toward Jerusalem searching for Jesus and it was three days later that they finally found Him in the temple, listening...

Two sisters, one bicycle and Jesus

Sisters do everything together. I only had one sister but we shared everything, whether we wanted to or not. We shared clothes, secrets and Barbies. We even shared a room until I was 18 years old. We would get mad at each other, yell, scream, accuse, pinch and pull hair. All sisters do, right? One day we decided to go on a bike ride close to home. If my memory serves me right, it was the first and last time that I jumped on the handlebars of any bike. Rhea, my sister two years senior, assured me she could handle it so off we went. Everything was fine on the way to our friend’s house but on the way back down the gravel road she lost control. The only thing I remember is the bicycle shaking violently and both of us winding up in the ditch. I am sure there were tears and terror since we were both skinned up pretty badly. I must have twisted my ankle because I couldn’t stand up and we were wondering how we would get the bike, and each other, back home. Then he showed up. Towering over us and speaking with a gentle voice, he scooped me up in his strong arms and carried me out of the ditch. But he didn’t stop there; this hero carried me all the way home. My best friend in the entire world lived right across the street from our accident and her father, Fred, had seen us flip the bicycle. He came running and saw that there was no way I could walk so he picked...

Making ROOM for a King

Today, we are pondering the birth of the Savior. We have heard it most of our lives: Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because it was decreed by Caesar, but when they arrived, there was no room for them in the inn, so Mary delivered her firstborn son in a stable filled with animals, basically, the barn. Or did she? The picture I have had most of my life is of the two of them standing at an ancient bed and breakfast and a kindly elder gentlemen shaking his head telling them he was sorry he could not accommodate them. Everything was full because of the census. Even though Mary was “with child” they still could not find a place to stay, but this innkeeper did offer his stable and a clean bed of hay where she could give birth. Yikes! But a little deeper look at the Greek wording might give us some insight and a better understanding of that holy night. The Greek term translated inn (kataluma) had more than one meaning. It could be a small inn, or a group of people traveling together, a caravansary. This word is used only one other time in the New Testament… “And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.” Luke 22:11. This is the place where Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples! What kind of room does Luke say this was? “A large furnished upper room…” ...

Be the one

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.” Luke 17:15 NIV. There is a wonderful little true story in the Book of Luke where Jesus heals ten men afflicted with leprosy. “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” Matthew Henry explains in his commentary that leprosy was still thought of as a disease inflicted upon a person as punishment for a particular sin. The lepers surely knew this but were waiting at the entrance to the village to meet Jesus. They immediately cried out for mercy and Jesus responded, not by telling them they were healed, but for them to go and show themselves to the priests. This was still tradition and the priests would have to declare them whole and clean if they were to be accepted among the population again. All ten of them headed off to find the priests! They didn’t question, or if they did we are not made aware of the fact. They went in obedience and the Bible says that as they went, they were cleansed. But it is the next part that causes me to examine my thankfulness. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked...

Even if your circumstance doesn’t change…

I was privileged a few years ago to sit with a precious lady who was dying of cancer. She suffered from extreme pain; the cancer had spread to the bone. One day, while just sitting on her couch, her leg actually broke in two! To see the difficulty of her circumstance on a daily basis was so hard on her immediate family. Camilla’s situation never changed in this life; she passed away from her disease way too young. But she taught me and many others that even in our darkest moments, God is faithful and He can give us joy in spite of our circumstance. The Apostle Paul told us that he dealt with a thorn in his flesh, we could all speculate on what that thorn actually was and we would probably get a dozen responses. “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me….”                 2 Corinthians 12:7 ESV In other words, Paul believed the reason the Lord didn’t heal him of the ailment or affliction was to keep him from thinking too much of himself; to keep him from pride. Paul says he asked the Lord to remove it from him three different times. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with...

Will God give me more than I can handle?

“God will never put more on you than you can handle.” 1 Christian 3:78. Pardon? You say 1 Christian is not a book in the Bible? 1 Christian? Neither is the scripture, or the phrase, “God will never put more on you than you can handle or bear.” Wait, you say. I’ve read it! It goes something like that… The scripture that is taken from follows: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV. Tempted. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. And when you are tempted? He will provide a way out so you can stand up under it. What promises! But that’s not what you want to hear. Temptation means a desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise. God won’t allow you to be tempted with something that He hasn’t given you the power to overcome. “I think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8,9 NLT. Paul didn’t say that God didn’t give them a burden they couldn’t bear. No, he said, “We thought...

The earnest of our inheritance

In Ephesians the first chapter, Paul the apostle is addressing the church at Ephesus, but it applies to us today as well. It goes something like this: “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” Ephesians 1:10-12. I love what Paul is saying here…we have obtained an inheritance in Jesus Christ, and at the right time He will bring everything together under His authority-everything in heaven and on earth. Verse twelve says that “…we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” The Jewish people were the first that trusted in Christ. It was His purpose that they would be the ones to bring Him glory and honor. But here is the good part: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise…” Ephesians 1:13 NKJV. Now Paul is talking about you and me; the Gentiles! Those that have been “grafted in”! The NLT says it like this: “And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the...