Monthly Archives: January 2018

The journey to the end of ourselves – giving up OUR riches!

Parable of the Rich young Man

 Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”

 The man asked, “What in particular?”

Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”

 The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”

“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”

That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”

The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”

Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”

Matthew 19:16-26 The Message

What is Jesus’ point in this parable? Is He trying to warn us that “rich” people are probably not going to enter God’s kingdom? Maybe.

However, may I suggest that the deeper lesson for all of us is not “how much” each of us has, but how we allow it to control our living. Do we dwell on” money “ or “things” as if they are ours to have and to use for our own gain? Is acquiring “things” our goal in life? Is attaining wealth and status the center of our thoughts? Are we “saving” for retirement so we can sit around and focus on our own pleasures?

The scriptural lesson is one of “Whom” we allow and trust to be in charge of the resources God has blessed us with. Jesus complimented the young man on “behaving” in the correct manner. To be perfect, however, Jesus told him that he needed to give up the “right” to all that stuff by giving it to those in need and turning and following Him. The young man turned away crestfallen because he did not want to give up control of “his things”.   He wanted to hang onto the resources he had and all that they represented to him instead of giving them to God.

Does the scripture mean that we should give away all our money and “things” today? Maybe.

Each of our paths is unique and individually God-tailored. You may be called to give all your assets away and move as a missionary to foreign lands. And maybe you are not. It may be that He has provided you with certain resources to enable you to reach a group of people that cannot be reached by others who have been called to foreign lands!

The point is that God wants us to relinquish to Him our perceived right to these resources AND then turn to Jesus and allow Him to use us and these resources to bring others to Him. Having resources is not the problem – the problem is “thinking” and “acting” as if they are ours and not Gods.

Remember,  “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Matthew 6:19-21 The Message

My prayer for us this week is that we examine our relationship with our resources and determine if we are in control of them or if we have fully turned them over to God. If we have not, may we seek Him to determine what path we should be taking trusting that He will provide us with all we need for our journey.

R.H. Loy

Reviews & Recommendations – January

January runs fast to an end and what have you read? I have read lots but nothing to share at the moment.  That is what happens when Christmas runs to January and January blows through your birthday!

I have read Louise Penny’s last book “Glass House”.  Her detective books carry you through a small village in Canada called Three Pines.  Book to book, the characters are developed, the meaning of integrity, art, relationships, and more are explored; all while wrapped around a mystery.  Not distinctly Christian but with all things that are truthful the books echo God’s voice from time to time.  Find a listing that gives you the books in order and read from the beginning.  Don’t stop if you don’t like a particular one–just keep reading.  There is treasure in them.

Beyond a mystery, I began to think you might want a challenge for the year. That challenge might be to read about a variety of Christian women.  Not to necessarily read their writings but to read about their lives in order to see the legacy they leave with us.

The first woman I would offer is Amy Carmichael. As a young child Amy prayed that God would change her brown eyes to blue.  She didn’t like her brown eyes!  God did not answer that prayer but instead called her to be a missionary to India where brown eyes were preferable.  She was a pioneer in her work as she dressed as the Indian women did.  She was not like other missionaries of her time that kept themselves separate from those they came to serve.

Here are some suggested books on Amy Carmichael:

A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot

Amy Carmichael Abandoned to God by Sam Wellman

With Daring Faith  by Rebecca Davis.

Feel free to respond to your experiences of the books to the Crazy Book Lady at pwoolever@susumc.org.

Are we “doing” for Jesus or being “Used” by Jesus?

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

 There is a distinction to be made between “doing” what we think is “good” for God’s Kingdom and being “used” by Jesus. The distinction is important because many Christians are “working” very hard “doing” stuff that could be termed “good” but it is not at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus was talking to a Martha today, the conversation may go something like this:

“What a worker you are, but I need you to put down that spatula or hammer or clipboard or telephone and come sit over here with me.

You are working very hard – you are directing a lot of people in your works – you are trying so hard to get it right – but for whom? Did I tell you to do that? Have you asked Me?

Remember, this kitchen is not yours. This building is not yours. This activity is not yours. This fundraiser is not yours. This money is not yours. You are not on the throne.  You need to stop and turn and sit with Me.

I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) And right now you are not encouraging anyone to come to me – you are a roadblock in their journey. Everytime you “do” something that “you” think is “good” without consulting me, you are a stumbling block to someone or something else. Stop it. Seek me first and my righteouseness then all the things you need will be provided. (Matthew 6:38)

Remember my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30) If you come and sit with me on a daily basis, I will direct your path. You will not spin your wheels. You will feel my peace – the peace that surpasses all understanding which guards your heart in me. (Phil 4:7)

If you continue on the path you have set for yourself, you will continue to be frustrated, mean, angry, hard to work with, arrogant, and oblivious to others. Additionally, you will block the works I have for others to do. Stop saying “yes” to good causes without consulting Me. Your disobedience is shutting down opportunities for others to step out in faith.”

Come. You are weary and burdened. I will give you rest. Take what I have for you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my way is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor 13:14)

R. H. Loy

If you want to follow, then let Him lead.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (emphasis added)   For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?  Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

 Luke 9:22-27 New International Version

 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

 Luke 9:22-27 The Message

The process of sanctification (refocus, rebuild, and remember) is striving for holiness of your heart and life. (1 Thes 4:3 – Wesley’s Notes on the Bible) It is allowing Jesus to lead you. It is recognizing that sometimes we are led to sacrifice, sometimes to stand strong, sometimes to pray, sometimes to watch. There is no list of do’s or do not’s. It is instead a choice to follow and listen – each of us will hear and know in a different way – that is God’s nature in us communicating to us. So going to others to discuss it is of little use. It is a journey we must seek on our own.

This process can be painful, depressing, frightening, confusing, disconcerting, humbling, and, at times, exhilarating. Sometimes, you take two steps forward and then find yourself back where you started. Sometimes you are on a roll and the layers of sin and unbelief peel off quickly. Sometimes, you reach an impasse and it seems like there is no answer. It is hard work to allow Jesus to redefine you as “His” instead of you defining yourself in terms of Him.

For each of us, the path is different. However, for all of us today is the beginning of a new day of striving for holiness of our hearts and lives – a daily commitment to allowing Jesus to lead us. Go forth and let Jesus lead!

R.H. Loy

Whose House are you building?

(This scripture is from the Old Testament Book of Haggai. Haggai was a prophet who encouraged those returning from exile to rebuild the temple of God as set forth in the Old Testament Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The dates of these prophecies were precisely stated and span a four month period from August 29, 520 B.C. to December 18, 520 B.C. Many of the Jews had returned to rebuild the temple in 538 B.C. but after completing the foundation, they were met with opposition from surrounding peoples and this coupled with their fear and distractions of their own lives caused the work on the temple to halt until 520 B.C.)

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’ ”

Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.

Haggai 1:2-12 (Version – NIV)

Do you feel like you have been in exile? Do you feel like you have returned from exile and are trying to do great things for the Lord? Do you feel like all your efforts are being thwarted? Do you feel like no matter what you do, you can’t get ahead?

That’s what God’s people were feeling. They had done great things for God and had returned to Him – returned to help rebuild his temple – but then they were met with had returned to Him- returned to rebuild the temple – but then they were met with opposition and distractions.  Neighbors started fighting with them. They retreated to their own homes, building their own lives and taking care of their own needs.

They may have been thinking, “Let the leaders figure out what we should do”; or “who am I to continue building when others are saying we don’t have the authority to build”. Regardless of the way it happened, it ended up with everyone thinking about their own needs and forgetting about whom they ultimately serve – God.

Isn’t the same thing happening now? Aren’t we struggling with our own focus? Who are we serving – ourselves or God? In our churches, aren’t we relying and waiting on our leaders to tell us what to do while at the same time failing to seek out what God wants us to do?

So this week, as you contemplate your next step in life’s journey, make sure you are focusing on your first love – Jesus Christ. Refuse to be distracted. Seek His timing and His purpose. Don’t fall into the lethargy of waiting on others to do what it is you should do for yourself. Seek Him first.

R.H. Loy

Joy made complete!

The Incarnation of the Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete.

Scripture: 1 John 1-4

If you believe the words of this scripture passage then everything in you is or will be different from the time when you did not believe.

If Jesus is the Son of God, and was seen by shepherds, fisherman, tax collectors and ordinary people, and they are telling us that they saw Him, heard Him, touched Him with their own hands and “proclaim to us eternal life” which is Him, then why are we not acting like we believe them?

If John is speaking for the other disciples and telling us that they are passing on this information about the Son of God so that we can have fellowship with them and their fellowship is with God and Jesus, then why are we not eagerly seeking that fellowship?

If they are writing these truths to us to make their joy complete, why are we not sharing these truths with others so that our joy can be complete?

Belief is a process. Ridding us of unbelief is a process. These processes begin with God drawing us to Him and our response to that pull. No matter how small our belief, Our God is mighty to save us.

Picture an hourglass filled with sand – turn it over in your mind. As our unbelief diminishes, those sands of unbelief slowly become the sands of belief. As time goes on, our belief increases as our unbelief decreases.

If that is not happening in our lives, it is because we have allowed a roadblock to hamper our process of believing. Roadblocks are allowed so that we can take a step towards believing (also called a step of faith) – those steps are like the pieces of sand which need to move from one chamber of the hourglass to the other. They are temporarily stuck because we are positioning ourselves spread-eagled across the entrance between the chambers of the hourglass – in essence saying to Jesus, “I don’t believe you can take care of this”.

It is not a pleasant position to be in. It is heavy to shoulder all that unbelief. It is exhausting to hold that position – to be strong enough to hold it all together – to control the timing – to control others – to try to stop the time from happening.

But if we can just let go, we will topple into the chamber of belief. This chamber is filled with the love of Christ, the hope that it produces and the peace that comes with allowing Him to carry the burden.

Added bonus – As we share that experience with others as the Holy Spirit directs, we will experience an indescribable joy.

So as we begin this new year, may we respond to God’s nudges and the roadblocks He allows by toppling into the chamber of belief with joyful anticipation of what God has for us to share – because it is in the sharing that our joy will be made complete.

R.H. Loy

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