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Life, family, business


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On Being Grateful

Everyday we make the choice to either be happy, or to be something else.  Its easy to be depressed in the world we live in.  There are so many people to compare ourselves to, and so many things others have that we don’t. Too many times, we get lost in our “have-nots” and don’t think about all the things we do have.

Health
Family
Friends
Knowledge

Wealth is nice, and truly I tell you that you are probably a lot wealthier than you believe.  (If you don’t believe that, go visit any third world country.)  But there are so many things that money can’t buy.

You can buy all types of medical procedures, but none of them can truly make you healthy.
You can buy people off with gifts to have friends and family want to be around you, but they will never truly love you just for those material things.
You can buy a college education, but more times than not, it won’t actually make you smart, but it will train you for a better paying job.

God gives us so many great gifts, and love is at the top of that list.  God’s love is what truly makes your heart beat in your chest, and your brain think in your head.  God’s love is contagious, and when it seeps from your pores, it pours out into others.  Do you know anyone who is truly infectious?  Someone you just love to talk to because they always seem happy, and make you feel happy too?  They always have a positive outlook and always seem to lift everyone up?

That’s who we should strive to be, infectious spreaders of God’s love!  It takes some practice, but feeling grateful for everything you have is the first step.  Always think about what you do have, not what you don’t have.  Grateful people tend to get more of the good things, because they rejoice in God’s grace and mercy.

When you focus on good, you receive good.
When you focus on bad, well, most times you receive bad.

God knows what you desire long before you do.  Focus on gratefulness, and let God do the rest.

(This is a repost from my original blog.)


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How To Be Right (Sermon from 2-1-15)

Scripture Reading:  1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. <Biblegateway.com>

How to be Right

“I will never eat meat again.”  I think this is probably one of those passages of the Bible that we read, then wrinkle our forehead in confusion, and then just dismiss.  Why would Paul say he’s not going to eat meat?  Is it bad to eat meat?  It’s not bad to eat meat.

One of the things I really like, is being right.  I study and read and educate myself, and in an argument, I really like to be right.  I think I can say that most of us feel this way.  Being right feels good, it feels smart, and being wrong feels terrible.

This passage of the Bible tells us that it’s more important to love others, than it is to be right.  Paul is talking about eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols.  This meat is then eaten by the pagans, in expectations of receiving some sort of blessing from their false god.  At the time of this letter to the Corinthians, most of that region was in a famine, there wasn’t much food to go around.  Plus, most of the Christians there were converts to Christianity.  They had been brought up worshipping idols, but had received salvation by accepting Jesus as their savior.  They are now children of God.  Some of them thought it was wrong to eat this meat, and some thought it was ok.  The ones who approve of eating the meat know that only God is God, there is no other god, and therefore this meat has been sacrificed to nothing.  There’s no harm in eating it, because there is no other god.  The ones who disapprove think that eating the meat shows some allegiance to these false gods, these idols.

Paul basically says that its true, you can eat the meat, it doesn’t matter.  But here’s where it gets sticky.  So you, in your knowledge of God, go and eat the meat.  You know its ok because there’s no one else but God, eating the meat has no connections to any idols for you.  But if someone with a weaker faith than you sees you eat the meat, and they are confused and eat the meat too, even though they believe it does have connections to the idol, then you have made them stumble in their faith.  You pulled them into sin because they don’t have a mature faith yet.  They are still learning and still studying.  You know the truth, but they don’t understand it yet.

It says knowledge puffs us up, but love builds us up.  We think we are better than others because we know so much.  In this letter, Paul is saying that its good to have knowledge, but its better to help your fellow Christian follow God than to be legally right and cause them to stumble.  If you have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic, then you shouldn’t drink alcohol when they visit you.  You wouldn’t want to tempt them back into addiction.  There’s nothing wrong with you having a drink, but to be a supportive friend, it’s a good idea to abstain while this friend is with you.  And in this same example, Paul says that if you have a friend who doesn’t want to eat this sacrificed meat, you shouldn’t try to push them into doing it.  They feel that it’s wrong, and so to them, it is.  Legally by God’s laws, you are right.  You can eat whatever you want, but they haven’t gotten there yet, so don’t push them in the wrong direction.

Those of us who do study the Bible to become more knowledgeable are actually in a dangerous position.  We know what God did for us by putting Jesus on the cross.  We know that there is nothing we can do that hasn’t already been forgiven. We know that once we accept God, we can never lose our salvation.  God made us free from sin on that cross.  Jesus took every sin ever committed, and every sin that would ever be committed and he bore that heavy weight on the cross.  He died one time for all sin, and in his sacrifice, made us one with God.  He freed us from the slavery of sin.  He freed us from death.  We have God in us.

But there are those people who don’t understand the amazing thing God did for us. They think that they are bad people, they are sinful people, and they have to work hard to get into heaven. There are people who are following all the Jewish laws trying to be good enough to get into heaven.  There are people who condemn others who are different from them, trying to make others follow these laws as well.   I know that there is nothing I can do that will make God love me any more than He already does.  I can’t win His affection by being good because I already have it.  Once Jesus died for our sin, He took all that away, and made us new creations in Himself.  He won’t ever stop loving you, and once you give Him your life, you can’t take it back.

But having this knowledge, I need to share it and to be a good example to those around me.  I need to help others see how good God is so they too can share in His love.  Once you have truly experienced the freedom and peace and joy of God’s love, you want everyone to experience it!  It a joy you can’t contain!  But not everyone is there yet.  And for the weak in faith, if they see you doing something they thing is wrong, they might do it too.  You may know it’s not a sin, and it’s not a sin for you.  But if they think it’s wrong and do it anyway because you did it, then you have helped them stumble.  Stumbling takes us farther away from God.  And if we cause people to stumble, then we aren’t loving people the way God intends for us.  We aren’t loving people the way we need to in order to draw them into the family of God.

Knowledge is a great thing to have, and the more you know the better.  But another thing about knowledge is the potential for it to make you prideful.  If you keep reading in 1 Corinthians, you get to chapter 13, one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible.  The second verse says “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  You could actually be the smartest person in the world, being able to read the Bible in every one of its original languages, and be able to interpret dreams, and heal people with your faith, and perform miracles.  But if you don’t have love in your heart for your fellow man, you have nothing.  All those amazing things are for nothing.  Without love, we are nothing.  God is love. Without love, we are nothing.  Without God we are nothing.

So instead of being right, or prideful, or getting angry at people who “just don’t get it”, we all need to take a step back, and love like God does.  In spite of our weaknesses, in spite of our differences in theology, in spite of our pride and anger and self-righteousness, we need to love and have love for those around us, no matter what they believe.  For then, we will have love, and love is everything.


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Perception is Everything

(This was my sermon for June 22.  I filled in at church since our pastor was at Synod in Pennsylvania.)

 

I love the mystery of the Bible.  There’s so much literature, poetry, and so many amazing parables.   I read a lot, and I love reading to increase my knowledge of God.  God is so amazing to me, all the creations He has created; people, animals, fish, plants, the Universe.  I also love science, and I am always so amazed when scientists discover new creatures, new worlds, and new galaxies.  If you ever get the chance to see the photographs taken by the Hubble telescope, I urge you to watch.  The magnificence of the universe is without words.  I have no words big enough to describe it.  I also have no words big enough to describe the magnificence of God.  My perception of God is indescribable.

I believe that’s why the people who wrote the Bible used poetry so much.  When they tried to describe God and His amazing wonder, they didn’t have words big enough to use.  They compared God to things on Earth, even though God created those things, and He is much bigger than what He created.  I also believe that sometimes this is why people have so many disagreements on what the Bible says.  There are some literalists out there, who believe that every word of the Bible is exactly true in the form it’s written.  But this can be silly, and I’m going to show you why.  Remember, its all about our perception.

If you are a literalist, then Jesus is a big rock, and God is a bird, probably a chicken.  Psalm 91:4 says “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.”   And then in Matthew, God is compared to a chicken, a hen who gathers her chicks beneath her wings to protect them.  Now, I love chickens, but I don’t believe that God is a chicken.    I believe that the writers here intended to show us that God is our protector.  Have you ever tried to snatch a baby chick from under a hen?  If your answer is no, then I highly recommend you never try. Its not pleasant, and the hen will attack you and defend those chicks with her life.  The hen is one of the fiercest mothers in the world.  God also will protect us as the mother hen protects her babies from harm.

Now in Act 4:11, the Bible says “Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.”  I don’t believe that Jesus is an actual rock, or piece of stone.  He was a living breathing son of God who walked on this earth and is now at the right hand of God.  What this really means is that Jesus needs to be the foundation, the most important part, of our lives.  He has been rejected by many, however, He is the basis of our faith.  If you don’t believe in Jesus, I don’t think you can call yourself a Christian.  Jesus is the essential to our faith.

So God’s not a chicken and Jesus isn’t a slab of granite.  We can see how the writers use comparison to show us about God.  They used their perception of God and compared it to something they thought had similar qualities. We see this throughout the Bible.   The primitive people of the Old Testament were violent and war-like, so they assumed God was too.  Jesus showed us that God is love.  God didn’t change, we did.

I want you to imagine you are taken back in time to the time or Moses, or Noah, or even the disciples.  Now, try to describe our technology to them.  Try to describe a tractor.  How would you make them understand how GPS works?  How the computer works, how the planter is told how much seed to plant, and spray to spray, and how this enormous machine drives itself for part of the journey.  Could you explain to them how the telephone works?  Or how a smart phone works?  I actually have a smart phone and I have no idea how it works.  Would you start with a wagon or a chariot to describe a tractor?  And the telephone?  I mean, these people don’t even have soup cans and string to use as an example! Can you see how difficult it would be to explain?

There’s a segment in Dr. Wayne Dyer’s presentations where he asks everyone who has ever tasted a mango to raise their hands.  He picks one person who has, and one who has not.  He then asks the person who has, to describe the flavor of a mango to the person who has never tried one.  Its pretty funny actually, and when they are done, the  person still doesn’t know what a mango tastes like.  There’s no way to know until you try one.

Its like how God’s love works.  I could explain what it feels like to someone who doesn’t believe in God, and I could compare it to the love of a parent for a child, but its so much more than that.  God’s love is bigger then that.  When you hold your new born baby in your arms and feel that swelling of love and care and joy in your heart, that’s a  big kind of love; but that’s still not as big as God’s love.  We love because God first loved us.

The Bible also tells us what Jesus told His disciples when He was here on earth, and these are things from the Bible that should be taken to heart as they are written.  Jesus told many parables to His disciples: stories that illustrate God’s workings to us.  He talked a lot about seeds and how they grow because that was something His followers would understand.  In the same way as the older stories, Jesus helps us understand by comparing God to things on earth.  But Jesus truly does understand how God works, and He truly does know exactly how the universe operates.

Imagine yourself as a small child with chubby legs and chubby little cheeks.  You see your daddy and run to him and he sweeps you up into his arms and you hug his neck. You know you are safe in your daddy’s arms and you are filled with love and joy and happiness.  You can feel that sensation of love in your chest.  That’s who God is; He is our Abba.  Abba is an Aramaic word that literally means “father” as spoken by a child.   And we get to call God our Abba.  Jesus died on the cross so that we could  claim God as our Abba, and we can be that small child running to our Abba with outstretched arms, a smile on our face, and overwhelming love in our hearts for our daddy who loves us.  In Matthew 18:3 Jesus tell us that  “Truly I tell you, unless you be converted and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Those are words from Jesus Himself.  What does that mean?  If we don’t change and become like little children, we will never enter heaven.  Think about little children.  How can we become like small children?  Matthew Henry says “Children, when very young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable, and willingly dependent on their parents.”

So we do really need to change our thoughts, and we need to change our hearts into the hearts of children.  We must become humble, and not try to rely on ourselves, even though the world tells us that we should.   We need to have open minds to absorb the teachings of God’s love, and not have closed minds like the world wants.  We need to read our Bibles with the heart like God’s, full of love and joy, not seeking to hurt others or justify our own short comings.  The next time you feel disconnected from God, remember to be that toddler with a beaming smile and heart of gold.  That’s what He wants.  He wants your heart.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the words of parts of the Bible, we forget that its a story to help us understand God’s love for us.  Its the history of how God’s people came to know God better.  Its a story of the evolution of people’s understanding of God and how God works.  We don’t know it all, and we never will.  But have you ever had an “a-ha!” moment where some parable or a selection of verses all of a sudden made sense to you?  That’s God’s voice in your brain helping you understand.  God’s still small voice; you really need to listen for it.  You need to take time in silence to hear it.  With all the noise of our modern world, sometimes its hard to find a quiet place.  Jesus would retreat into the wilderness to talk to God.  When’s the last time you took even a few moments in peace and quiet to just be in tune to God, and to feel His love in your heart?  Prayer doesn’t mean you have to talk, or ask questions, you can simply feel with your heart and your mind and offer up the feeling of gratitude to God for all the greatness He has shown you in your life.

I have read several interesting books over the past few months that suggest that God listens more to your heart and your feelings than to words.  The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is who interprets for us so that our words are suitable to God, but that God knows our hearts always.  So what we feel in our hearts is then our true prayer that God hears.

That was a new idea for me.  I grew up where prayer is just asking God for things, and thanking Him for things, and asking Him to not give me things that I don’t want.  But this makes more sense to me.  God says He knows what we need and what we desire before we ever ask for it, so maybe then instead of just asking for things, we should send our thankfulness for His love and grace instead, and ask for wisdom to know His heart.

The Bible shows the perception of God changing from angry God to loving Abba over the course of those pages.  Remember, God hasn’t changed, only our perception of God has changed.  Jesus is the one who really helps us understand God’s heart, for us, His little children.  So I ask that you go about your week with the goal of changing your heart to the heart of a child; loving, caring, honest, and humble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Disappointed by Disappointment

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I have a problem.  I’m ready to admit it and get it out of my life.  I worry too much about what other people think of me.

It’s really a fear of disappointing people, and this is the issue I’m working on getting out of my life.  When I was a child I was a disappointment to my dad; I was the firstborn and I was a girl and he wanted a boy.  This sounds quite trivial I know, but its something that I’ve been dealing with for quite some time.  I wasn’t what my dad wanted.  My mom was happy with me, my grandparents were all happy with me, so why does this one little thing matter?

I believe that each of us has trials in our lives, and problems that result from all kinds of weird things that happen to us, or untruths that we grow up believing.  But this belief isn’t true for me.  I’m happy that I was a girl.  I’m happy with me, I love me.  And I know that I was created this way, as a female, for a reason.  I believe that God makes each one of us exactly the way He wants us to be for His purpose.  

But I also believe that what we experience in our lives makes us stronger and makes us into who we are as adults.  I consider myself to be a very strong woman, both mentally and physically, and spiritually.  I also get very defensive when someone tries to tell me what to do.  I don’t work that way.  I have to decide to do something, no one can make me do it.  I may be a little stubborn.  (I get that from my dad and his family who were amazingly stubborn.)  But this can be a good thing too.

A good thing? Remember, everything we experience can be a positive thing as long as we believe it is.  My stubbornness manifests in me sticking to my guns, not giving up or giving in, and if I truly believe something in my heart, no one will change that.  It makes me a stronger person, someone not scared to say what I mean, and say what I think.  I can look back and see that me trying not to disappoint people was all in my head.  I can’t disappoint anyone but myself.  Anyone who feels disappointed in you is really just disappointed in the fact that they were wrong about you.  Their idea of what they wanted you to do and what you did, were not the same.  Its their belief system that was wrong, not yours.  You can only satisfy yourself and your own belief system.  The fact that my dad didn’t get what he wanted is not my problem. 

(You can’t always get what you want.  The Rolling Stones were right.) 

So if I can take my own advice and remember this, I will be a much less anxious person, and will have a load off my shoulders.  There’s no reason to worry about disappointing anyone except yourself.  On that  same note, you won’t disappoint God either, because He knows your heart and your desires better than you do, and He loves you no matter what. 

What issues are you dealing with that may be something in your own belief system?  Have you dealt with this in your life?  What did you do to get out of this mindset?