Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Positively Thankful!

Have you ever noticed how easy it has become to complain, and to be negative, critical, and pessimistic?

LOTS of people in our culture today have adopted that mindset...and this week...perhaps more than any other week for when it needs to STOP!

I want to stop it--at least for myself! I want to be POSITIVE!
How about you?

This week, we take time to consider the Blessings that Almighty God has given us--from LIFE, to LIBERTY, and all our everyday blessings (family; job; food, clothing, shelter); Most importantly, He's given us the possibility of a relationship with Himself, through Jesus Christ!

He IS the source of all blessings... "Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens." (James 1:17)

So it only makes sense that, in all our 'Thankfulness' this week, we take time to thank that Loving, Wise SOURCE of all blessings.

We used to do that...all the time!
It used to be part of our culture to acknowledge and thank our Great God for His blessings and involvement in our lives, and in our country.

For Example, below is the entire text of President George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation back in 1789:

"WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;- and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; - to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

Signed: George Washington
Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789

We need people to talk that way again...WE need to talk that way again...and we can--IF we start to THINK that way again!

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Generosity...the Better Way!

If you read my blog yesterday , You know that I believe it's possible to be self-centered from both sides of the 'have vs have-not' spectrum.

Selfishness leads us to excuse our own bad behavior while seeing others' quite clearly. We can justify our selfishness by saying we 'deserve' what we can get...but if we are followers of Jesus Christ, He calls us to a much Better Way!

He calls us to be generous!
To be willing to give away our money...but also our time, our talents, and so on.

He calls us to rise to new heights of behavior, motivated by a new kind of love...God's love...for others.

Remember that Jesus, when challenged about the 'Greatest of the Commandments', said "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind"--this is the first and greatest commandment; and the second is like it: "You must love your neigbor as yourself"." (Matthew 22:37-39)

He said that the "Entire Law and the (teaching of the) prophets are fulfilled in these 2 commandments" (Matthew 22:40)

In other words, if we want to please God, then our Top Priorities are to love Him above all else, and love others as ourselves.

That means (among many other things), being generous!

Generosity is not only the opposite of selfishness, it's also the antidote to it!

If we can rise above our self-centeredness and learn to give--even when times are tough; even when it seems as though others are getting ahead (even if by unfair practises); even when we feel justified in making demands--we can experience that blessing of God working through us!

If we will focus on being God's "conduit of love" in practical ways--such as generosity--I believe He will notice. What's more, I believe He will bless us for doing so!

Jesus said "Seek first His Kingdom, and His righeousness, and all these things (ie, your needs) will be given to you." (Matthew 6:34).

We also read in the Scripture that "You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)

How cool would it be if God's people...Christ followers...would live this out consistently! How amazed would the rest of this world be if we rose above the clamor of the current 'I want what you have' mindset and became generous agents of blessing in this world!

God could do something pretty powerful in our hearts...and through our lives...if we were willing to do that. That's what He did in the early Church (see Acts 2, 4), and that's part of the reason that it changed the world--through love, faith...and generosity!

May God give us that spirit again today!

May the "song" of our lives sing--for HIS glory!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Selfishness has NOTHING TO DO with how much MONEY you have!

It's no secret, the world is in financial turmoil.

In Europe, they've got a few countries (Britain, France and Germany) propping up other countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain) in order to keep the Euro going.

In America, we've got Occupy Wall Street (or Oakland, or Houston, or Washington D.C....) movement that is calling for a more "fair" distribution of wealth. On the other end of the Spectrum, we've got politicians who are getting donations from corporations, which then get loopholes, contracts, and (especially) bailouts from the politicians. These corporations often turn around and use those bailouts for themselves--their own "corporate greed"--more than to help the people and customers.

What's a Christian to think?
What is a follower of Jesus Christ supposed to do in these times?

Let me suggest that the FIRST thing we need to do is pray. Seek the Lord. HE is our hope and our provider!

" I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!" (Psalm 121:1-2)

Our only REAL hope is not in our currency, in our goverment, in the United Nations, or anything else...our hope is in the Lord!

The SECOND thing to do, I would suggest, is to commit ourselves--again--to following Him, NO MATTER WHAT our circumstances are, and NO MATTER WHAT our circumstances become!

Whether you or I are working or not, rolling in money or not, or securely in our homes or not, we MUST stand up and follow the Lord!

That means that you and I--as followers of Jesus--must not allow ourselves to slip into (among other things) selfishness.

Selfishness is anti-Christian.

If there is one person in history who was unselfish, it was Jesus. He denied Himself, took on the form of a human, with all its limitations, then died at the hands of those humans He came to save!

It doesn't take much thought to realize that this idea is radical, compared to what we normally see and hear about on the news.

The "Fat-cat CEO's"--selfish? Yup!

The Occupy Wall Street "Protestors"--selfish? You Bet your student loan, they are!

BOTH groups are putting 'self' first--and blaming the other for doing precisely the same thing!

'Selfishness' has NOTHING TO DO with the amount of money you have! It has EVERYTHING TO DO with the kind of person you allow yourself to be, the kind of focus and motivation you choose to have, and the goals you have in your life.

We have probably all known wealthy (or at least 'well-to-do') people who are very generous. I've known some very wealthy people who are kind, generous, and sacrificial.

...but you may not have thought about how 'selfish' many of the people you've known who do NOT have much money are being!

Anyone who seems to say "I want more money, I deserve more money, I demand more money", and (especially) "I want YOUR money" is being selfish, period. We can excuse it all we want, but for a follower of Jesus Christ, there is NO EXCUSE!

We MUST rise above the current "us vs. them" mindset and set a new tone!
We MUST seek to follow Jesus--in word and in deed--no matter what others are doing.

The truth is that Europe may collapse...and if it does, America may do so as well--and then, if that happens, you and I are going to need to determine--are we going to be Christ followers who help each other, or are we going to be selfish people who only look out for our own interests?

It has NOTHING to do with how much money you have!

"Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross." (Philippians 2:3-8)