Friday, October 30, 2009

Sticking with It

Galatians 6:9

We've all heard that nice guys finish last and some of us hear Billy Joel's voice when we read "only the good die young." Let's face it, doing the right thing doesn't always seem like it works out as advertised. There is such a strong current flowing away from faith today that it can be an exhausting swim toward the things of God. Not only so, but the good we do on the behalf of others can seem like a waste of time when we measure the results.

If you've ever thought, I didn't realize it would be this hard, or, I can't seem to get victory over the sin in my life, then you may have thought of giving up. Don't give up! Giving up is giving in and giving in is playing into the hands of the Evil One (1 Peter 5:8).

I was greatly encouraged by a card I found on my dresser this morning. It had this verse written in blue:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at just the right time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
 God calls us to do good. Though people's hearts remain cold, or good deeds go unappreciated, or sin gets us down--don't give in! Believe this promise: God always rewards faithfulness. Sometimes it happens when we least expect it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Generous Farmer

Luke 20: 9-16

When we demand from God we rob him of the joy of generosity. This idea threads its way through a parable Jesus taught. The story is about a farmer who hired out his land to workers and left on a journey that kept him away all summer. At harvest time he sent someone to collect some of the fruit, but the workers refused. Three times the farmer patiently asked to no avail. In a last ditch effort he sent his son hoping the workers would respect him, but they took him out and killed him in a hostile take-over scheme.

The problem here is entitlement. Like the workers, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that God owes us. When we have spent time and effort we expect payment. That's the way we are. But we must not forget that it is never God who owes us but rather we who owe him. The hymn writer Isaac Watts expressed it this way:
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away—
’Tis all that I can do!
But let us not forget the generosity of God. He loves to bless his children (Matthew 7:11). In fact, he gave us the greatest gift ever given when he gave us his son Jesus. Such a gift can never be deserved. So, let us remember to be grateful. When we stop trying to put God in our debt we restore to him the joy of generosity.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Four Maples

Colossians 1:16
I just finished identifying trees for a project my daughter Anna has for science class. We now know there are four different types of maple trees within a couple hundred yards of our house. There are Silver Maples by Mrs. Carter's, a Red Maple at the park, Norway Maples dying in the grove and a Sugar Maple into which I'd love to pound a tap for syrup! There are many more varieties of these wonderful trees in New Jersey, but these were enough to get me thinking about our Creator.

The Bible says, "For by [Jesus] all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." (NIV)

We, like the maples, are all God's creation. We have worth and dignity because we were made by him. So think about this the next time someone puts you down. Kids in school can be cruel, but their mocking tones are thinly veiled cries of insecurity.  Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered why you can't look more glamorous or hide new wrinkles? Do you know that you are beautiful in God's eyes?

Men thrive on productivity and affirmation. We tend to buy the lie that our worth is bound to our successes and failures. God doesn't think so. He created you and he loves his creation.

So, next time you look at a maple leaf (or anything wonderful that catches your eye in nature) remember your Creator (Ecc. 12:1) and be encouraged. If he cares enough to make so many varieties you can be sure he cares about you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thanks for the Rain

1 Thessalonians 5:18
It's raining here in Whiting, NJ and it won't reach sixty degrees today. My back is stiff and the coffee isn't knocking the sleepiness out of me as fast as I'd like. I'm trying to get myself in a good state of mind to face the day.

Some people let just about any adversity get them down. Others seem to roll with whatever comes their way. I want to be like some of the seven year old boys on my soccer team who think rainy games are just as good as sunny ones.

The Bible tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess. 5:18) and rainy days make application difficult for some of us. But rainy days seem mild compared with the bigger problems in life. We suffer from illnesses, family problems, flat tires when we're late for work, etc. and sometimes we just want to be miserable. But, the point Paul makes is not that life is always fun, or we should run around shouting for joy in the streets when our house goes into foreclosure, he is merely stating that no matter what we are going through-- no matter how hard it gets--there are always things to thank God for. In fact, there are things we would never think to be thankful for if not for the trials of life. For example, it is the rain outside my window that makes me thankful for  the warmth and dryness that comes with a roof over my head.