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Are You on Solid Ground or Quicksand?

Apr 18, 2017

D-7817

In considering whether you’re standing on solid ground or quicksand, remember with me the parable Jesus taught about the foolish builder who built his house on sand. “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:27).

Of course it fell with a great crash—anybody knows you can’t build a house on sand! A house has to have a firm foundation. Unfortunately, many of us try to build our lives on sand. For example, have you seen anyone trying to build on the quicksand of money? Sometimes it sure looks like money is the answer to all our problems, doesn’t it?

How many times have you tried to build your life on the quicksand of money? Money can be a problem for us whether we have lots or little. In 1 Timothy 6:9, we read this: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

I confess to you that there are times when I think about how easy life would be if I unexpectedly inherited some large amount of money. Believe me, there’s no possibility of that happening. But we can think about all the good things we would do with a lot of money, how we could serve God better with a lot of money, and what a good steward we would be if we just had lots of money!

The truth is this: few people can be trusted with riches because money corrupts so quickly and easily. Solomon gave us this advice: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:4-5).

Riches are quicksand. It is a big mistake to put our confidence in money. Remember, as Paul reminded us, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). James also reminds us that those who are poor in the eyes of the world are often rich in faith, and those riches are eternal.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 23, 2016

PROGRAM D-7735

If you’re a Christian, should you participate in the typical Christmas celebrations going on all around you? Sometimes these occasions are not at all Christian, even though they’re done in the name of a Christian holiday. We need to give this some careful thought.

We are not called to be separatists, but we are called to do everything to the glory of God. So, we have that balancing act to consider as a guideline in this area.

Another biblical principle is found in Romans 14:13: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”  As Christians, we must always be careful that what we do is not misinterpreted and misunderstood, causing others to stumble.

While it’s true that we should not live in fear of what other people will think, nor is it possible to please everyone, it’s also true that sometimes we have to adjust our plans and behavior, not because it would be wrong for us, but because it would be a stumbling block to others who would misunderstand.

Consider this principle found in 1 Corinthians 9:22b: “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”  For Paul, the most important thing was to have an opportunity to tell others about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

So, within the limits of morality and the law, without violating any of God’s principles, he was willing to be whatever he had to be, do whatever he had to do to have those opportunities.

We can ask ourselves:  Would some limited participation in these celebrations give us an opportunity to talk to people—to reach out to people? I do believe and know from experience that these occasions can afford us opportunities to establish a rapport and build some bridges to those who might have thought we were “untouchable” or came from some other planet. But if so, we must carefully keep our balancing act in mind, and never allow ourselves to compromise the testimony of Jesus Christ.

That should give you something to think about during this Christmas season. Remember, even for a Christian, Christmas can become a pagan holiday if we don’t focus our minds and our activities on who Jesus is and why he came. But it can also be a time that others are more open to talking about Jesus, and let’s not miss those opportunities. Use this season to share with others the good news we have about our Savior.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 22, 2016

PROGRAM D-7734

Here we are in the midst of the Christmas season again. As much as we enjoy this time of the year, it’s very sad to see people using this holy celebration of our Savior’s birth for anything but holy purposes. And nowhere is that more prevalent than in the working world. Have you ever noticed that people who never give Jesus Christ a thought all year long are more than ready to participate in Christmas celebrations and parties?

It seems that Christmas for many people is just an excuse for indulging in very unchristian activities, especially in our work environments. Here are some principles from the Word of God to guide our response to these situations:

The first principle I would point out is that Jesus was not a separatist. He did not by example or by instruction tell us to remove ourselves from every situation that was not religious or holy. In fact, he prayed for us in John 17:15:  “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”  He said that he came to save sinners, and he mixed with those sinners, sometimes at their own affairs.

We are not called to be separatists. We won’t reach people for Jesus by staying in our corner and hoping they’ll come over to see us there. We have to reach out to them where they are.

However, that guiding principle has to be balanced with another one as found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  So, we have a balancing act here between these two principles.

When we can participate without compromising our standards, when we can join in without giving approval to un-Christian behavior, then we may be able to use these occasions as opportunities. But we need to be well aware of keeping the right balance. Jesus reached out to people in their environment, but he never allowed their environment to penetrate into his mind or his lifestyle. We are in the world, but not of it.

All too often we Christians allow ourselves to be brought down to the level of the unbelievers, instead of vice-versa. If there is any question in your mind that you will be able to keep a strong Christian testimony in the midst of any holiday celebration, then it would be wise to keep yourself separate from those questionable occasions. But you may be able to use that occasion as an opportunity to witness or build relationships, without compromising on your part.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 21, 2016

PROGRAM D-7733

You’re probably aware that there’s no biblical institution called “Christmas.”  Christmas is a tradition that people have developed through the ages, but the word is never found in the Bible.

Jesus never told us to set aside a day or time to celebrate his birth. Nowhere in the history of the early church do we see any indication that they celebrated the birth of Jesus. With Christmas shopping and celebrating in full swing right now, we need to ask ourselves: Should those of us who truly know the meaning of the birth of Christ be a part of these Christmas celebrations? I will share my thoughts with you.

I don’t believe it is necessarily wrong for us to celebrate Christmas and join in some of the traditions that have arisen. Jesus participated in some traditions of his day. And it is a biblical principle to remember what God has done for us in the past. So, if we use Christmas as a way to remind ourselves of how Jesus came into this world in order to become our Savior, it certainly can be a meaningful time for us.

However, for one who has accepted Jesus Christ as his or her Savior and knows him personally, the celebration of his birth should always be coupled with the remembrance of his death and resurrection, for without that, his birth has no meaning. Jesus came to die. And Jesus did instruct us to remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.

Many people who join in Christmas celebrations are quite willing to sing the Christmas carols and talk about a baby in a manger, but they’re not at all willing to deal with Jesus Christ beyond the manger. As Christians we should use every opportunity we have at this Christmas season to share with others why Christmas is important. And we should continually remind ourselves that as that baby he took on the form of man so that he could die for us in our place and become our Redeemer.

The true celebration of Christmas for a Christian includes the cross and the empty tomb. In the midst of your busy Christmas schedule, don’t let that truth escape you. The birth of Jesus has no meaning or power except that he came to die and he rose again.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 20, 2016

PROGRAM D-7732

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Have you ever thought about that? At this time of year when buying things and giving things and receiving things are uppermost in our minds, it’s very important as believers that we bring ourselves back to what is eternally important, and it is not things!

There’s a wonderful reward for those who are poor in spirit; Jesus said that they will have the kingdom of heaven. But most people miss this great offer because they are not willing to be poor in spirit. Poor in spirit means seeing yourself as possessionless. Regardless of what’s on your list of assets, if you’re poor in spirit, you know that everything you have is a gift to be used, a resource on loan to you from God. In your spirit you are a poor person.

Now, poverty is not something we would voluntarily choose. But poverty of spirit is something every Christian should desire and pursue. Why? Because it’s so easy to be possessed by our possessions and therefore to miss the eternally important values in life.

How do we achieve this poverty of spirit? It’s a life-long process. Some people literally get rid of all earthly possessions and own nothing. But for most of us it’s a change in attitude.

I had a dear friend who spent a couple of years on a missionary assignment, and as she was returning home, she gave away almost everything she had accumulated while there. And she realized as she was packing that everything she owned at that time would fit on one shelf in the closet. She said, “Mary, I had such a sense of freedom, to realize that I owned practically nothing. I was not a slave to possessions, because I had none.”

That’s the attitude we constantly need. And it takes prayer and a daily commitment to the Lord.  Very often I hold up to God all that I call my own, and I confess to God that they are not mine, they are his. For I am possessionless; I am poor in spirit.

Why would anyone want to do that? Because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Let me tell you, that’s a bargain!  I relinquish ownership of a few measly earthly possessions, and in return I enjoy the riches of heaven.

In this season when we are more than ever bombarded with materialism, ask yourself if you are poor in spirit. Do you have a spirit of being possessionless? How we need Christians in this world who refuse to be possessed by possessions.

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Christmas on the Job

Dec 19, 2016

PROGRAM D-7731

It’s Christmas time. I didn’t have to tell you that, did I? The stores have been decorated since Halloween, and the merchants are busy trying to get our money, as we hurry to buy things. In the midst of all this focus on things, I’d like to talk about the biblical principal of possessing nothing.

Seems to me that Christmas is a good time for each of us to remember the danger of being possessed by possessions. Everything around you these days is telling you that you need to buy and own things. A. W. Tozer wrote, “There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets ‘things’ with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns ‘my’ and ‘mine’…express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). What does that mean? I believe it means that those who in their spirit see themselves as possessionless are those who are blessed and happy. When a person possesses Jesus Christ and eternal life in heaven, they are the richest of all people. Nothing else can really make us rich except these heavenly possessions.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that as a servant of God he was “poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”  What do you possess? Things? If that is what you count as your possessions, you are indeed poor. But if you understand that things are simply tools to be used, resources from God, and you truly do not possess them, even if you are in charge of them, then you are poor in spirit. But you are rich because you have everything in Christ.

It is not easy in this possession-mad world to be poor in spirit. People will not admire you for it. You will not be confirmed by the world for maintaining an attitude of possessionlessness. The world evaluates people based on what they own. It’s swimming upstream to be poor in spirit.

And yet, those who are, Jesus says, are the ones who are happy. They are not possessed by their possessions, because those things are not important to them. Do you think it’s actually possible for a Christian today to live in this possession-mad world and truly have an attitude of being poor in spirit? Do you even want to?

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