Measuring Our Gift

The true value of a gift is not in its price tag; it is in the cost to the giver. If your child saves part of his or her allowance to buy you a special birthday gift, would you not treasure that more than a gift given out of abundance?

We too often place value in things that on the surface may seem expensive or rare, yet they are superficial when we closely examine them. Even in the gift described above, the value is not in the gift itself but in the sacrifice of your child. Jesus explains it this way:

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Pleasing God

As Christians, we are not saved by good works; we are saved by grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards us through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. He paid for our sins, and when we accept that payment we receive redemption. To redeem something, such as a coupon, it must be acted upon. So we’re not save by Christ’s sacrifice until we see our need for it and then accept it.

However, once we become Christians, our works are very important to God. They are evidence of being a child of God. I’ve written before that a stingy Christian is an oxymoron. We should be the most caring and giving people in society, and for the most part we are. It pleases our Heavenly Father when we do good works:

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A Matter of the Heart

A stingy Christian is an oxymoron; or at least it should be. If Christians merely obeyed God’s command to tithe, it would radically change the world. Statistics I found online in a Relevant Magazine article show that only ten to twenty-five percent of a normal congregation is made up of tithers. Furthermore, only 1 out of 20 Americans tithe, with 80 percent of them giving only 2 percent. Finally, Christians tithe 2.5 percent in these abundant times, whereas during the Great Depression they gave 3.3 percent.

In his article, Mr. Holmes goes onto to described the impact the church would have if we were to tithed as commanded. He further states that giving is not a money issue; it is a heart issue. When I finally began to tithe as I knew that Lord wanted of me, it changed my heart. However, it didn’t change it about money; it changed my heart about materialism.

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Profitable Words

So now the Republican Presidential Primary race has gotten personal, where a political action group opposing Donald Trump posted a tasteless tweet about Mr. Trump’s wife. Mr. Trump responded in kind by threatening Ted Cruz’s wife and then posted a classless tweet about Heidi Cruz. This is why Ronald Reagan once said, “Politics is supposed to be be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

The nastiness of our national dialogue has descended into the sewer, in no small part because of social media. People who would never think twice about saying something to a person’s face, eagerly posts vicious and vitriolic words. I understand that our politics has always been dirty, but now we’re like pigs in a sty. We no longer notice the mud.

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Despairing of Relief

Author and Pastor John Ortberg tells the story of when he first began his preaching ministry, no less than five minutes into his sermon, he would pass out cold. He would just faint right in the middle of his message. He jokingly says this is not a good attribute for an aspiring preacher. Thankfully he’s overcome this tendency, although the feelings do arise at times.

While physically fainting can be an intimidating condition to deal with, spiritual fainting is an even greater obstacle to overcome. Whenever tribulation comes, we can either fight through it or faint because of it. It all depends on our spiritual strength:

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Rest for Our Souls

One thing I’ve learned about other Christians and myself during this election cycle is too often we see things through our own eyes instead of eyes of faith. We fear what man is and can do to us, thereby no longer fearing God and rejecting His will for our lives. We trust in our own strength and wiles instead of seeking deliverance and forgiveness from God.

Some have given up. They believe there is no hope for America and are waiting for God’s judgment to fall on our nation. This defeatist attitude comes from weariness and a misplaced focus on man. Too many churches across America have checked out of society to the point that the church as a whole is no longer sought out for its take on current issues.

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The Rest We Need

Work and responsibilities take up the majority of our awaken hours. Whether we are going to a job or raising a family, the responsibilities of our labors are always before us. It is easy to get caught in the rat race, even though we are not rats. If we allow it, toiling the day away ends up being the sum of who we are. Solomon warned against this:

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)

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The Greatest Thief of Joy

I know people who make worrying an Olympic sport. I don’t mean to insult those who worry, but I want those who are habitual worriers to lean in a little closer and listen carefully. Never in the Bible are we told to worry; quite the opposite. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we are told to “fear not” and “do not worry.” When we are commanded to do something and we do the opposite, we sin.

No doubt none of you worriers consider yourselves a sinner for this reason. I understand that, but just as important as overcoming sin, I want you to realize that worry steals your joy and affects your health. The Apostle Paul was a man greatly persecuted for his faith and in fact he wrote the following words from a Roman jail:

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A Terror to Ourselves

The devil does a good job of convincing us to sin through temptation. After we sin, he does an even better job on us by getting us to believe the lie that God would never forgive such a horrible sin. If that doesn’t work, Satan will try to convince you that your sin isn’t that bad, and that God is just trying to keep you from enjoying life to its fullest. It’s literally the oldest trick in the book; the Bible that is:

    “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made…For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1a, 5)

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Sending Heaven to Earth

If you’re like my family, one of the best Christmas traditions is watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” We especially like the part where Charlie Brown screams out during play rehearsal, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus then asks for the lights to be dimmed and he quotes Luke 2:8-14. Most call this the Christmas story.

Some like to say remember the reason for the season and might even refer to the above passage in the Bible. Jesus is the reason for the season and the “good tidings of great joy” indeed put Christmas in the light which it belongs.

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Not Knowing About Christmas

You’ve heard the saying that knowledge is power. Like anything powerful, knowledge can be used for evil; it being withheld is also evil. Having knowledge that a person needs to live life to its fullest and not sharing it is bad. Not sharing knowledge that could change someone’s eternity is sinful.

Christmas Eve is one week from today. I think I love Christmas Eve almost as much as I love Christmas morning. As a child, gifts from family and friends were opened on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was for Santa Claus. Right or wrong, that was the tradition in my home. The point I’m trying to make, is that as a child the real excitement for me began on Christmas Eve.

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Rejecting Cain’s Worship

thHave you ever heard someone say, “I can worship God anyway and anywhere I want?” Perhaps you’ve said or thought this. I know it is a convenient thought, but convenience is rarely the path we should take. When it comes to worshipping God, we have to do as He commands. We don’t get to pick and choose.

Many people get upset with me when I tell them this, but at least they haven’t wanted to kill me. Do you realize that the first murder ever committed by man was rooted in God’s rejection of man’s self-determined worship style? Have you ever heard of Cain?

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The Devil’s Playground

Bitterness is poison to our spirit and cancer to our emotions. Nothing causes spiritual bondage greater than bitterness. No matter the offense, we are captive to our anger and susceptible to whomever we are holding a grudge. Just the sound of the offender’s voice or the sight of him or her can set our anger ablaze. Nothing could be more unChristlike.

Jesus taught us to seek forgiveness of our debts as we forgive our debtors. Our Lord was teaching us that we cannot experience forgiveness if we are unwilling to give it. We cannot do so because as Christians we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and when we harbor bitterness, we grieve Him. The Apostle Paul teaches us how to avoid this:

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The Freedom of Forgiveness

Oftentimes when a Christian says, “I am so blessed,” it usually means something good has happened to them. We usually don’t equate blessing with trials and tribulations; it is our natural inclination. However, I think we can agree that we should praise God when life is going well, even though we tend to forget to do so.

Do you feel blessed for having your sins forgiven? Do you equate the remission of your sins on the same level of God bringing into your life bounty and good health? Remember how you felt before you gave your life to Jesus. Remember the burden of your guilt because of the sins in your life.

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Faithfully Forgiving

An unforgiving heart is a poisoned heart; it is rooted in bitterness. This bitterness is like emotional cancer running through a person’s spirit bringing grief to everyone, including the bitter one.

The ability to forgive is uncharacteristic of most people. As a species, we tend to hold grudges and desire revenge. The Bible addresses this in many places, including the Apostle Paul’s warning:

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Grace Like A Flood

One of the wretched characteristics of Satan is his desire and willingness to kill your heart. He may not be able to kill you but he’ll try to get you to the point where you see no other way out but death.

The devil is a master at deception: Jesus called Satan the father of lies. All lies germinate from his heart. His lies are rarely open and blatant. He preys on the unwitting and uninformed to bring confusion. He’s been doing it from the very beginning:

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Covered-up or Covered Sin

If you had a debt to pay and someone offered to “cover” it for you, what would you think? Or if you go out to eat and your friend tells you he or she has it “covered,” is that not a nice surprise? Being blessed by someone’s generosity is always a wonderful treat. That is the essence of grace.

Particularly in the case of a debt owed. When facing mounting debts, life can be difficult and the strain upon a family devastating to even the strongest relationships. The relief one feels knowing their debts are paid is liberating. Hopefully that person’s level of gratitude matches their sense of relief.

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Reaping What You Sow

One of the toughest life lessons I’ve had to learn is that I will reap what I’ve sown. For someone who lived a life filled with sin, it has been a long and bitter harvest at times. Realizing that I am still paying for some of my youthful mistakes is a fruit never sweet to eat. Nevertheless, God can still use the bitterest of moments for my good and His glory.

While I cannot change reaping what I’ve sown, I can change my attitude towards the harvest. I can look at the damaged haul and use it as an example unto my children and grandchildren. The wisdom that I can share with others from the evidence of my own mistakes hopefully will keep them from repeating my sinful actions. It also gives me a chance to share a universal and unchanging truth from the Bible:

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A Life of Unfolding Stories

Yesterday our pastor Brother Dennis preached from Acts 16:12-34, teaching us how to praise God in our circumstances. He said that the Christian life is one of unfolding stories. When you look at the lives of Lydia, the fortune-telling girl, and the Philippian jailer, all which became Christians, then you see lives radically changed by their circumstances.

Too often Christians lament their circumstances in life, imagining that being a Christian means living your best life now. That may preach well at churches lead by peddlers of Christ, but it is not Biblical. In fact, the Bible teaches that the afflicted life is a learned life:

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