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6 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. 7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…. 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.  Matthew 7:6-7,11

I’ve been pondering the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) the past couple weeks. Amazing the perspective differences that come simply from reading all three chapters in one sitting over and over then digesting with God the overall and overlapping message. Our human nature loves to cling to pieces. Unfortunately, we often end up trampling the pieces and then tearing the messenger or the true message to pieces.

If each author of a book/letter of the Bible (like any gifted author of any book) has generally one main point or a thesis to address in their writing, then it would only make sense that the reader should not dissect the pieces of the text apart from each other else the whole easily loses its one focus.

In what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus is teaching the crowd the importance of trusting God and living from the inside out rather than basing your goodness or others on what is seen. Matthew 7 continues this idea by instructing us to be aware of our own issues before attempting to help others.

The question that came to me today: Is Jesus indicating that helping others out of our own righteousness (which comes from God) is like giving pearls to pigs? Since the segment on Ask, Seek, Knock ends with “do to others…,” is the instruction more related to helping others get the speck out of their eye rather than the more commonly taught idea of praying for what you want? If it is more about helping others, it seems the instruction is to let others seek God – ask, seek, knock on his door – and not to bring the attention on ourselves or what we think we can toss at them to help. Our abilities/gifts/help are limited.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

We cannot make someone a “good” person. Only God can do that from the inside. We cannot give lasting comfort to those who mourn, or give the earth to the meek, or crown with righteousness those who are hungry for it. There are people in my life that I desperately want to experience the comfort and joys that God wants to give them in this life. But if I attempt to give them what only God can truly give, it will most likely be trampled by them (I’ve seen it happen). Maybe because they will see it as me trying to say they need to be like me. Or simply because the “good gifts” I can give are mostly external stuff or words that have meaning to me because I have wrestled with God over those words.

It is the one who puts effort in asking God directly, seeking his ways, and knocking on his door; they are the ones who receive, who find and who move forward with the gifts only God can give. The unseen and the seen. And it is the unseen gifts of God that give meaning, purpose and love for all the external gifts that he gives to us each day.

The next time you notice the speck of sawdust in someone’s eye, you might want to hold back on trying to help them too much. If they ask you for advice, the best advice you can give is for them to ask, seek and knock on God’s door. Even in discipleship, the goal is to make them dependent on Jesus, not on us.

It is much easier for God to explain why they don’t always get what they ask for than it is for us to give our opinion.

There have been plenty of times that I’ve asked other people to explain what God is doing and only been temporarily, if at all, comforted or satisfied with their response. Nearly every time that I have made the sincere effort to ask, seek, and knock (and sometimes argue and wrestle) with God, he satisfies and comforts me. Sometimes the comfort comes quickly, sometimes it takes years. If I continue seeking, he continues revealing until I find the door to move forward in my understanding of who he is and the unexplainable peace of his ways.

God offers and desires the most intimate relationship. Any appreciated relationship involves effort. How much effort are you putting into your relationship with God?


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I’ve always felt the door-to-door magazine sells folks were being exploited. So I did a little research after a conversation with one today. Please read the articles below if you have door-to-door magazine sellers in your neighborhood.

This article is dated 2015: Human Trafficking: Mag Crew Kid at your door could be victim 

These articles are older but still seem relevant.
Houston Press – What Mainstream Publishers Don’t Want You To Know About Door-to-Door Magazine Sales
NYT – For Youths: A Grim Tour on Magazine Crews 

It breaks my heart but I don’t think giving them what they need for their “points” helps. If they are young, suggest they get out of the mag crew and go home. Maybe ask if you can call someone for them or get a message to someone for them. Let them know there are other options and there are people willing to help no matter what they are being told or what they have done.

DO NOT PUT YOURSELF OR YOUR FAMILY AT RISK. You can call the police to help them or have them contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888. Inviting them in your house is not safe.

For more information on Human Trafficking visit http://www.polarisproject.org/

Mag

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People, God Loves You!

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

At the end of the children’s sermon, our son Austin took the microphone from the pastor and spoke with authority, “People, God loves you!” Who is this boy? was not just a question from others in the congregation. I was asking the same thing. After his surprising affirmation of God’s love, Austin stepped forward and spoke a hope-filled prayer.

We received several comments that day. I have treasured the experience for years but I suspect few from the congregation remember it. Those who do, may only remember the boldness of a cute little boy but I wonder what God was doing in our midst through that little boy. Within a few years, the building was empty and up for sale.

It was not religious leaders or wise men who spoke the night Jesus was born. It was shepherds who “spread the word concerning what had been told them.” Luke says all who heard what the shepherds said were amazed, but not Mary. She was more than amazed. She treasured the whole experience including the words and actions of these men who came in from the fields to see her son.

I wonder what happened with all those people who were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Did they go see the baby Jesus or just make nice comments about what they heard? How long did they remember what was told them?

Bethlehem was a busy place in those days. Whether they were thrilled to reunite with family or irritated by the inconvenience of the census, most were probably too preoccupied with life to treasure in their heart the reality that was in their midst. The Savior they had been expecting for generations was being counted in their family line.

What is on your mind this Christmas season? Are you preoccupied with buying gifts, counting party guests, and doing what our culture expects? Are you amazed enough with the birth of Jesus to stop what you are doing, see this thing that has happened and spread the word of this great joy that is for all people?

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

People, God loves you! May you treasure that truth and let it overflow from your heart all year long.

 

Published on ChristianDevotions.us 12/29/2010

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But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Luke 1:30-34

I laughed when I read Mary’s response. How funny it is when God invites us to participate in something unbelievably amazing and we are stuck on “what did you say about me?” or “I can’t do that, I’m (fill in the blank).”

Read the passage again. How much does the angel say about Mary? How much does the angel say about Jesus? It’s as if Mary heard the first part and didn’t hear anything about Jesus.

Mary may not understand the significance of what the angel said is about to happen but she does not run away from it. She reveals her knowledge and trust in God in what is known as “Mary’s Song” (Luke 1:46-55).

When God invites you to participate with him, don’t get stuck on your position in life. Trust his position and his word.

Read Luke 1. What has God invited you to do with him lately? When you catch yourself saying I can’t to God, listen again for the more exciting part of what he is inviting you to do. Then say out loud, GOD CAN!

Shalom

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Have you ever been afraid to pray? Not the fear of praying out loud in a group but afraid to enter into conversation with God. Most of us haven’t. In fact, studies show that 90% of U.S. adults pray. Even those who aren’t sure God exists pray to “cover all the bases.”

We tend to think of prayer starting when we begin talking to God. How would your approach to prayer be different if you viewed prayer as a conversation initiated by God? In Nehemiah 8–10 we see that praying faithfully began when the people “listened attentively” to the reading of scripture.

In this passage, the people respond to scripture with emotion and actions. Chapter nine includes what we would more typically call prayer but there is a twist. Instead of making a request of God in their time of great distress, the people make a commitment to God.

While the commitment is to obey carefully all the commands of God, three specific areas are emphasized in Nehemiah 10: marriage, the Sabbath and taking care of the house of God.

In praying faithfully, our first commitment is to be one with God as in a marriage relationship. Observing the Sabbath means we trust that his ways will meet the needs of this marriage. And, by listening attentively to God, we recognize that faithfulness involves assuming responsibility to care for his priorities and values above all else.

It’s easy to shoot up prayers to God, “covering all the bases,” hoping he will do what we ask. You don’t even have to believe in God to do that. It takes courage to listen attentively and be faithful to one whose priorities and values are so different than the world around us.

Do you have the courage to pray faithfully? What does that look like for you personally? Read Nehemiah 8–10. What similarities and differences do you see between this prayer in Nehemiah and your prayers? How might this perspective change the way you enter into prayer in your Bible study group?

 

Published in WISC Newsletter 2/15/2012 Find WISC on Facebook

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Cheerful Giver

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7

I am the baby. My spot in the station wagon was front seat, between mom and dad. Those were the days when seatbelts, in the models that had them, were usually shoved out of sight. In a family of seven, assigned seating in the car was just one practice that kept things on schedule.

Attention to finances was another practice that made family life easier. I don’t recall ever hearing a lecture on the act of giving but I saw it every Sunday. My mother wrote the offering check. Then, with all the kids settled in the car, she handed the check to my dad for his signature. Whether they tithed or gave as they determined in their heart, I don’t know. But I do know the act of giving was passed on to me.

Even as a young adult doubting God’s existence, I gave to the church. When my paycheck barely covered expenses, I still gave to the church. My giving was out of instinct rather than devotion but I gave. When I married, my husband adopted this practice without hesitation.

Mom told me recently that her offering check routine was not intended to teach us to give. It was just the best time in the schedule to write it. It was part of her routine to have Dad sign the checks so that he would be equally involved in the family finances.

With the hurriedness of life, online finances, and children rarely in the adult church service when offering is received, it’s a little more difficult to pass on the act of routine giving. I can instruct my children to give from their allowance but I wonder how their attitudes toward money and possessions are being shaped without me knowing it.

How do I respond to the material needs of neighbors and friends? How do I respond when my kid’s friends are in our house at mealtime? What do they hear in my conversations relating to money? These are questions that God has brought to mind for me. Maybe there are others for you.

What do others see in your practices and routines? Do you give only out obligation or are you a cheerful giver?

 

Published on ChristianDevotions.us 3/1/2011

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Settling for Suitable

The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock.
Numbers 32:1 NIV

If you don’t go, you won’t see it. Those are the words my husband felt God spoke to him as we made the decision to move 1,100 miles away. He has repeated those words to me several times over the last year.

Moving is difficult. It’s stressful and usually involves leaving the familiar to step into the unknown.

We’ve made five long-distance moves in 17 years. Our fourth move was not a place I dreamed about living but I was hoping we would not move again until our children graduated high school. After a couple of years, I was very comfortable with the idea of living there for the rest of my life. I had settled in. I was tired of moving.

Maybe that’s how the Reubenites and Gadites felt. The Israelites had moved around in the wilderness for over 40 years. God promised something great just on the other side of the river but sometimes, where we are feels good enough.

Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, could have established his line as the most significant of the tribes of Israel but he lost that blessing early on. The Reubenites fall further from significance when they request to stay in the suitable land on the east side of the Jordan rather than cross over to the Promised Land. God did not destroy the Reubenites and Gadites for their request but eventually, the descendants of Reuben became insignificant to the point that they were hardly mentioned again.

The toughest decisions are not between good and evil. They are the tug-of-war between suitable and God’s best. God can work all things for good but if we are willing to move away from the comfortable, we can participate in something far greater than we could ever ask or imagine.

If you don’t go when God says go, you won’t see the best God has promised.

 

Published on ChristianDevotions.us 1/19/2014

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