Posted in Christianity, Faith

Resolve to be . . . Industrious

Resolve to serve God this year

A powerful executive, in charge of billions in assets, notices a disturbing trend as he audits his managers’ recent business performances. He pauses over a particularly disturbing case that brings him pause. This manager, so full of promise when he began right out of college with his MBA and magma cum laude degree, has been spending more time using the corporate country club membership and expense account than in creating new business to help the corporation grow. Further inspection reveals that the manager is also guilty of not even following through on making sure his customers are up-to-date in the accounts receivable department. Books that should be well in the black are in the red.

Steeling himself for an unpleasant confrontation, the top executive calls his business manager into the office one Monday morning to ask him the tough questions. Because the business manager has obviously been sleeping on the job, the executive informs him that his days with the company are most definitely numbered. Desperate to save himself from a bleak employment outlook, the business manager does some fast thinking. If he can grease the right palms, make the right customers happy, just maybe he’ll find a new job even without a recommendation from his current employer. Calling in some of his most deeply-in-debt clients, the business manager cuts some strategic deals. He has his clients write checks for fractions of what they actually owe, forgiving the remainder of their debts on the spot.

By the end of the week, the executive chuckles over the report that lands on his desk. Seems his business manager has more savvy than he’d previously given the man credit for. Rather than firing the business manager, the executive calls him into the office and reminds him that ingenuity and a make-it-happen attitude lie at the heart of good business. The wayward business manager becomes the role model for industry.

What does such a story have to do with Christianity? Why would a parable about cheating your way out of a tight spot fall from the lips of a perfect, truth-telling Savior?

When I have read the parable of the dishonest steward in Luke 16, I have to admit to scratching my head. But as with many of Jesus’ lessons, things are not always as they appear on the surface. What Jesus is really saying when he tells the story of a fast-thinking steward who gets praised for doing what is essentially wrong has nothing to do with the treasures that concern the steward in the first place, those uncertain, earthly riches that none of us will take with us on our ultimate journey to heaven.

Instead, Jesus is wanting us to think, in part, about the effort, creativity and outside-the-box thinking people do who are primarily concerned with storing up treasures on this earth and to consider how much more we could do if we applied the same kind of effort to the gathering of treasure which really matters—the kind that gets stored up for us in heaven.

Imagine how much of a difference your experience of Christ and your ability to share His kingdom you would make if you put similar industry into building treasures in heaven as do those who, like the steward of the parable, strive to build up stores of human wealth. If we concentrate on earthly riches, Jesus tells us, we cannot serve Him. How often, however, do we fail to concentrate on the true goal of our journey toward heaven as we are trying to survive the day-to-day scrabble in this earthly existence?

This parable does not call for us to lie, cheat and steal. These are actions driven by a desire that is fueled by the evil things, by the desire for possessions that only mean something if your main goal in life is to be better than or rule over others. Being industrious for heavenly treasure requires an entirely different mindset. It means we work within the mores of the law of love. It means we choose right instead of wrong. But just because our industry requires us to stay inside the lines, it does not preclude applying our whole selves toward the success of our journey. We can think outside the box and still follow the commandments. We can sweat our way toward a positive outcome and still be in relationship with a loving God.

Some might rightfully argue that if we are not sweating in our efforts to forward the goals of heavenly treasure, then we are not in a relationship with Jesus in the first place. We either choose to serve God in this life or we choose to serve the man-made things that at times are no better than the idols of the Old Testament.  “You cannot serve God and mammon,” Jesus says in this parable.

As we define resolutions for a new year, let us do so with a kind of gusto as if our very livelihood depends upon the outcome, for the outcome of our souls certainly is tied to the choices we make in a world dominated by earthly things. What if we, like the dishonest steward, have been unfaithful with the spiritual treasures Jesus so freely gives to those who believe? How can we improve our pursuits of heavenly treasures in 2018? How can we gather souls for Christ to make up for the deficit of our previous apathy?

In 2018, no matter what your resolutions may be, consider the lessons from the dishonest steward. Your choices make clear whether you are standing on the side of the angels and eternal treasures or if you are clinging to the earthly things that ground you in the desires of a mankind that denies the deity of our powerful God. Resolve to make choices for God this year. Serve Him boldly, creatively, and courageously. We do not earn our salvation, but we most certainly prove to God the degree of our thankfulness depending upon the ways we pursue His vision for Christianity as it should be lived in a fallen world.

 

In Christ,
Ramona

Advertisements
Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Faith

This Road to Love

road-61904_640

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1: 3-8 NLT)

I have read these words from 2 Peter on many occasions, but they never cease to strike me as a clear roadmap to the kind of life that truly reflects a belief in Christ.  Still, no matter how clear this roadmap is, it also involves steps that we can only survive if we take them knowing we need God every step of the way.

So, let’s begin by spelling out the steps on the road to “love for everyone” that should be the end goal of every Christian.  As Peter makes clear, each step on the path to love leads to the next, as skills build upon skills to reach the greatest skill of all.  Here, then,  is the list of these skills:

  • Faith
  • Moral Excellence
  • Knowledge
  • Self-Control
  • Patient Endurance
  • Godliness
  • Brotherly Affection
  • Love for everyone

I just completed a trip to Disney World that proved my secret plan to spend the last decade or so of my life as a missionary in some country where my paltry retirement might actually keep me just above poverty level went up in smoke about as quickly as you can sing the Mickey Mouse Club theme.  Besides having no physical stamina, I ran out of patient endurance after the first three hours in an overcrowded theme park.  Self-control drifted skyward as I sighted the first Mickey sandwich ice cream trolley.  The only love I had for everyone was the kind where I would have loved for no one else to be in the park!

So, how do we achieve the seemingly unachievable?  Peter tells us we are able because of God’s promises to us: These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (2 Peter 1:4).  Becoming a Christian is as easy as admitting to God that you are a sinner who needs redeemed.  Becoming Christ-like is a daily, conscious practice of making one’s Christianity not a mantle to be put on and off, but the very act of being.

Because of faith, I seek moral excellence.  I want to say only what is uplifting and/or holy.  I strive to do what is right always.  As I grow in my ability to be right more than I am wrong, I gain a kind of knowledge that can’t be found in a book, the knowledge of ways to act in belief and the knowledge of the superior path of righteousness over worldliness.  As we realize that doing right feels better than doing wrong, we increase our ability to control the self.  When we can control ourselves so that we do not give in to the human desires that lead us further from the ways of God, we are more likely to actively be patient with our circumstances and with others.

A Godly person reflects the daily practice of sowing seeds of righteousness in good soil.  When we join like-minded people in our enthusiasm for living a Godly life, we approach the brotherly affection to which Peter refers.  Our brothers include all those who believe in Christ like we do (including, of course, our sisters as well).

When we can love those who think as we think (which is the easiest way to love), we may just be ready to step out in faith to love even those who do not believe what we believe.  Loving everyone else means turning the other cheek, as Christ instructs.  The Golden Rule is Golden because, not only does it make this world more bearable, it stores up for us the treasures in heaven that Jesus says are our end goal instead of the treasures on this earth where moth and rust can and will destroy.

Like the Fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22, the steps to love of everyone in 2 Peter is your roadmap to a healthier relationship with Jesus, our Lord.  Remembering that our relationship with God must be on the right track for our relationship with other people to have a chance of growing is especially important.

As we enter the busiest time of our holiday season, I hope to bring to mind the lessons of 2 Peter as I wrangle through the increased traffic and crowds.  I will begin by remembering why we have this holiday in the first place: because our loving Creator chose to sacrifice a piece of Himself for the sins of all of us so that we all have the opportunity to grasp with both hands the promise of eternal life.

Now, that’s a road to love that I will gladly travel.  I look forward to seeing you on the journey.

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Living

A Christian Bucket List

Some of us are list makers. We have to-do lists for every day, week, or month. We make to-do lists to plan vacation packing, school year supplies, or medical testing. We even have the honey-do lists for our spouses.
Do you have the list that is brown with age, that crinkles when you unfold it? The list you made when you were seven or ten or twenty-one? The bucket list of items you hope to do before you die, from seeing the Eiffel Tower to hiking the Grand Canyon?
But what about a Christian’s bucket list? What should it entail? Paul’s letter to the Colossians offers several important things to consider when creating your own bucket list. “Set your mind on things above,” he advises, “not on earthly things” (3:2). This axiom seems like simple enough advice, until you read his further definition of those things above as opposed to the things of this world.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry,” Paul admonishes (3:5). For those who have died to the earthly nature when they asked for Christ to be their Savior and now walk with the Indwelling Holy Spirit, these may seem like big picture evils that are usually on the radar to avoid. But for God, all sins are equal. Only we humans have graded them as better or worse.
Paul makes the extent of our requirements to the good even more specific when he writes, “But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its evil practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (3:8-10). The bar is raised to what can only seem impossibly high standards to mere mortals, but which is all possible through Christ.
Does your bucket list include to-dos like kind words, good deeds, self-sacrifices, and speaking in truth? Does it include volunteer work and using the gift(s) God gave you for the purpose to which He gave it? If my eyes are truly on things that are above, will it really matter if I see Disneyland as long as I have a neighbor who is hurting and needs my help? Shouldn’t my greatest glory be God’s greatest glory?
That’s easier said than done in a world where those who have material things are looked upon with awe and wonder. But when we realize that material things are meaningless to God, just think of the peace of mind and the endless opportunities that open up for us on this earth, and in the heavenly kingdom to come.