Shine: Dare to be Different

It can be easy to get down on yourself. Most of us experience highs and lows during our journey. What God values is different than what society holds in high regard. Not always, but usually. Looking around, we get caught up in the comparison trap. We yearn for yesterday or hunger for tomorrow while missing out on today. We may come to believe our lives aren’t worth living. Yet, God thought we were worth dying for.

What a humbling thought.

God’s grace redeemed us. Christ’s blood bought us. The Spirit sustains us. Our lives have value. We matter. We shouldn’t squander the life God redeemed. Yes, we have a past. But that past is gone. We shouldn’t continue defining ourselves by our old baggage. After all, you can’t put spilled milk back in the bottle. At least not easily. We need to get comfortable wearing our new suit, reflecting the joy we have in our Lord and Savior.

Because of Christ in us, we are no longer who we once were long ago yesterday. Today, because of God’s infinite, unfathomable love for us, we are different. We are not the same. So as a new work week begins, let us shine like the new creations in Christ we are. Show the world the difference God makes in your life. Blessings.

2 Corinthians 517

My Two Cents: Be All In

Recently, after attending an Easter celebration at my alma mater, Dallas Baptist University, Sweet T and I drove through the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. Terri’s mom, Joyce, accompanied us that evening. We were in awe of all the rows of headstones marking lives of service and sacrifice.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to honor and remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the United States of America. Rooted in early traditions of mothers decorating the graves of their sons who had fallen in battle, Memorial Day grew nationally out of the ashes of the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history that pitted brother against brother and claimed the lives of over 600,000 soldiers. The ashes of that war still glow dimly in our nation today.

Our nation’s story rests on the remains of those who gave their all for a greater purpose than themselves. They did not seek glory. They did not desire praise. They only wanted to ensure victory over the enemies that seek to do us harm.

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Sacrifice seems like a fitting theme for this annual holiday weekend. Many of us will celebrate, cooking out, consuming food and drink, maybe taking a trip out on the boat on a local lake or floating on a raft or innertube down a nearby river. We will rejoice in the freedom that thousands of men and women made throughout America’s history. We live in a land where we are free to agree and disagree. It is a privilege paid for by the blood of those who, as their generation called upon them, paid the ultimate price. Like the Cross, the further removed we become from those moments of sacrifice, the easier it is for us to forget. That’s why we pause throughout the year to reflect on the service and the sacrifice of others.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.” ~ Ruby Page (my junior high Texas History teacher).

Do you remember the moment you were saved? Do you recall when you turned your life over to Christ and how you beamed with joy and burned with an inner fire, ready to follow the Lord wherever He called you to go? Like the widow in our passage, our cup of faith overflowed.

Jesus spent a lot of his time on Earth devoted to teaching the disciples. He taught them everywhere they went, sharing valuable truths on the way between point A and point B. He loved to teach in parables (stories).

The story of the widow giving everything she had is found in two gospels: Mark and Luke.

Mark 12:41-44 (ESV)

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.

Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Mark and Luke, along with Matthew, are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they share a lot of the same material, although each often gives us their distinct perspective on the events that they communicate to us.

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In the passage about the widow, Jesus teaches us, like He taught the audience back then, about the difference between authentic faith and pretend faith. In other words, we can have a faith that is true or carry a faith that is false.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” ~ Pastor A.W. Tozer

What we believe about God should inform our attitude toward things like money and possessions. Do you share freely or do you hoard what you got? Do you pay God first or last?

Years ago, when I first came to know the Lord, my father and I had an interesting discussion about how I came to benefit from the blessings we had. Was it my Dad—my earthly father—who was responsible for providing the roof over our head and the food on the table that we enjoyed OR was it God-my heavenly father-who had provided these blessings for us?

What would you say? How would you respond? Are you a self-made individual who credits yourself with all that you have? Or do you recognize that God is the one who ultimately provided you with all that you can say grace over?

My take, from reading and studying the passage, is that the widow believed that God was the source of everything she had. She credited the Lord with providing for her. She was not worried about giving God all that she had. She trusted that He would provide for her just as He had in the past. Her faith, her belief in who God is and how God worked, informed her life. She didn’t hesitate to throw her two cents in the offering plate.

In their culture, just as in ours today, humans tend to value the amount of the gift rather than the sacrifice that went into it. That’s easily demonstrated in the cards we get at birthdays, Christmas, or other special occasions. When you open a card do you open it and read it first or do you look to see if somebody put a little sumthin’ in it? I confess, I am often guilty of looking for the cash first. I love me some “surprise money.” Trust me, if you ever want to give me something and you don’t know what to get me, I like cold, hard cash.

This incident described in this passage contrasts the spiritual poverty and physical prosperity of the scribes with the physical poverty and spiritual prosperity of the widow. It also contrasts the greed of the scribes with the generosity of the widow.

We see the widow follow her convictions. She knew where her blessings came from. What she lacked for in physical wealth, she more than made up for in spiritual riches.

Are you following your convictions? Would someone know what you believe about Jesus if they saw you going about your daily routines?

We are either pointing people to Jesus or pushing them away. Our job is to point them to Christ.” ~ Worship Pastor Mark W. Jones

By now, the disciples had learned that they needed to pay attention when Jesus uttered the phrase “Truly, I say to you” or “I tell you the truth.” Those words meant, “Pay Attention! I’m about to tell you something IMPORTANT!”

It was Jesus’ way of saying “Watch this…”

Mark 12:41-44 (NET)

41 Then he sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. 43 He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”

Luke 21:1-4 (NET)

21 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all offered their gifts out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had to live on.”

The scribes had made their donation when the widow walked up in the middle of them and tossed in her two cents. In her poverty, Jesus saw her wealth. Her riches were not stored up where moths or vermin could destroy them or where thieves could come and steal them in the middle of the night.

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The widow’s gift demonstrated her love for God, her complete faith and trust in Him, and that He would provide everything she needed. Her faith proved to be real. It was authentic. Her beliefs informed her actions.

On the other hand, the priests and the scribes—the rich men—they gave more in dollar amount, but only that which didn’t cause them any difficulty. They probably didn’t even feel the money lighten their wallet—although I can hear them now, bemoaning how much they gave.

The widow did not lust for money. She did not covet material things. She did not make idols of her possessions. She simply trusted God and recognized He was in control of the outcome She didn’t hold back. She was all in.

You can be earthly rich and heavenly poor. You can have everything there is to have in the here and now, only to inherit nothing in eternity tomorrow. You can be physically rich and spiritually broke.

That which costs you nothing is not sacrifice. Sacrifice comes with a price tag. If it cost you nothing, it probably is worth even less. Except for salvation—you and I only brought our sin to the cross. That’s our contribution. Our sin. God gave His Son-Jesus. You can’t out-give God.

God values wholehearted commitment to Him. He delights in it.

Don’t be lukewarm when it comes to God. Don’t be half in, half out. Don’t be in the world but be set apart from it so that people will know that there is something different about you. Let them see Jesus in you. That doesn’t mean you go hide up in some mountain far, far away from people. No…you do like Jesus did and walk right up in the middle of the people—the challenge is not to become like them but to reflect Christ in such a way that they want to be like you. They should want what you have. You don’t need what they’re peddling. You’ve been there done that, no need to go back. As believers, we are forever changed because of the atoning sacrifice Jesus made on that Cross some two centuries ago. Let the fire of the Gospel burn brightly in you, so that others might come to know Him too.

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Just like the freedoms we enjoy living in America today did not come without sacrifice, freeing us from our chains of sin came at a great cost.

When it comes to you, God is all in.

When it comes to God—Be All In.

That’s my two cents…

I pray you’ll have a fantastic Memorial Day weekend. Pause a moment over the weekend to reflect on the sacrifice of others. I hope you’ll consider the meaning of the Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross as well. Peace be with you and yours.

Blessings.

Mark 12:41-44 (The Message)

41 Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. 42 One poor widow came up and put in two small coins-a measly two cents. 43 Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. 44 All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford-she gave her all.”

Luke 21:1-4 (The Message)

21 Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. 2 Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. 3 He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. 4 All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford-she gave her all!”

My Two Cents

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Why Good Friday Matters

Tomorrow, March 30, 2018, is Good Friday. Kids all around the country will be out for school, enjoying an extra day to play with friends. Families around the globe will be shopping for chocolate, boiling eggs, and traveling in preparation for gatherings with loved ones. My German family members are gathering near Frankfurt, Germany to celebrate the Easter holiday. My uncle Rudiger and my cousin Oliver will be spending time with my Aunt Elke, Cousin Petra and her family. My cousin Andi is sure to be there also with his family. Here in Texas, my Sweet T and I will gather with her folks, Gary and Joyce and sister Sheri and brother David for lunch on Easter Sunday. Mom is spending Easter with friends. Many of us will spend the weekend at Easter Eve and Easter Sunday events.

Why does Good Friday Matter?

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Good Friday makes Easter possible. Without the events that took place on Good Friday over 2,000 years ago there can be no Empty Tomb to celebrate, no Resurrection to rejoice in. And yes, Easter, like Christmas, is a Christian religious holiday. At Christmas, Christians rejoice in commemorating the birth of our Lord Jesus. On Easter Sunday, we rejoice, because after His death on Friday, He rose from the grave on Sunday! Good Friday made that possible. Without Good Friday, there would be no rising to celebrate because there would have been no atoning death to rise from.

Good Friday matters because it is the day that the God of all Creation pulled off His plan of salvation through the shed blood of His precious Son on that renowned Cross at Calvary. On Good Friday, all of the promises and all the prophecies were fulfilled. God’s plan to redeem mankind from rebellion, rejection and separation became reality because Jesus, fully God and fully man, bore the punishment for all of our sins past, present, and future upon his Divine, yet human, shoulders. On Good Friday, Jesus completed his mission, carrying out the Father’s will and plan, making right that which had been made wrong.

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Good Friday matters because on that day, God’s grace and mercy rained down on all mankind, making possible the impossible, washing what had once been unwashable, making it whiter than snow. Good Friday matters because through Christ’s death on the Cross, you and I can take off our old clothes of unrighteousness and put on our new clothes of Christ’s righteousness.

 

Good Friday matters because on that day, long ago, God brought light out of darkness and made beauty out of ashes. On that day, Jesus’ blood ran red, defeating death, so we might claim the spoils of victory. On that day, God who sought us, bought us, giving the gift of eternal life for all who would hear, believe, and receive. Good Friday matters because from that day, all blessings flow.

Amen and amen. All praise and glory be to God.

Jesus is the reason for this season too.

Praying that your Easter is filled with love and joy, friends and family. Happy Easter!

Who do you say Jesus is?

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 51-52.