Wasting Brings Wanting

Connecting Points

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Today’s Topic: Waste Not, Want Not

Today’s Text:  Luke 16:10  “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

A grandma’s wisdom is usually spot on. As a little boy I remember standing in my grandma’s kitchen in Cleveland, Ohio while she made bread. She made the most amazing bread without a written recipe. I wish she had written it down so I could taste it again, but I can still vividly remember its incredible flavor.

On the kitchen table was a huge lump of dough – probably enough for at least a dozen loaves of bread. I followed my grandma’s instructions and retrieved a large container of flour from the cupboard and brought it to her. She removed the lid, and carefully inserted her hand into the flour and grabbed just enough to spread a thin layer over the table and the lump of dough. She replaced the lid and made sure the container was out reach as she prepared to knead the dough.

Back and forth over the table she moved that dough, lifting it, folding it, punching it and squeezing it. Every once in a while she would pause, remove the lid from the flour container, and sprinkle a thin layer of flour over the table. In one such pause she asked if my hands were clean and if I would like to sprinkle the flour. What little boy wouldn’t? So I washed my hands, dried them thoroughly, and plunged my hand deep into the flour bin. Flour exploded into the air, covering not only my arms but grandma’s as well.

She stopped me with a gentle word of rebuke, and said this to me. “John, be careful. We can’t waste the flour like that. Waste not, want not.”

I asked her what that meant, and she explained in words a seven-year old could understand. “When we waste things, we will want more things. But if we use them carefully they will last longer and we won’t need more.”

I thought of that bit of wisdom from grandma when I filled me car with gas this morning. In Eau Claire we have two major competitors for automobile fuel. They are usually the same price, except when a price change is occurring. It seems that consistently one of them – and it happens to be the one I usually choose as my fuel stop – raises their prices before the other one. Such was the case this morning. A five-cent increase in gas prices was displayed on their well-lit sign. So I pulled into the other station. Nineteen gallons of gas later and I had saved a whopping $.95.

Don’t laugh – waste not, want not. It made me wonder how many other areas of my life are wanting because I am wasting? So as I remembered my grandma’s wisdom, I decided to review the five basic principles my wife and I try to live by in our management of the resources God has entrusted to us.

  • I will save more and spend less.
  • I will make good use of what I already have.
  • I will look for the best value.
  • I will budget my money, time, and energy.
  • I will not confuse what I need with what I want.

I can guarantee you that when Jesus said “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much,” He meant it. How do I know? Because I am living it!

Thanks grandma for showing me how to knead dough so I don’t need dough.

Waste not, want not.

Pastor John

Worry Weakens

Connecting Points

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Today’s Topic: Worry Weakens

Today’s Text:  Matthew 6:25 (ESV)   “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

In response to the news, people rushed to the stores to buy what they could. Within hours the shelves were empty. Warmth was the goal, and for those who trusted their natural gas furnaces and fireplaces, warmth was threatened. Electric space heaters became a priority.

As my wife and I sat layered in sweatshirts and blankies in our living room with our electric space heater near us, I began to wonder what would happen if the gas supply was completely shut down. I would have no way to heat my house except an old fieldstone fireplace that seems to suck more heat out of the room than it emits. I wondered if I should spend some money and begin to prepare for the possibilities of tragedy. I began to feel like a doomsday prepper.

Now I’m not opposed to planning wisely and having contingency plans in place. What I am opposed to is the worry that typically accompanies such plans. So is God. I want to be prepared, but I don’t want my preparations to diminish or replace my trust in Jesus Christ’s promises. I do not want to live life weakly by looking at life weekly. I want to live life fully by trusting God faithfully.

Jesus knew that worry weakens us. He spent a substantial portion of the Sermon on the Mount addressing it. Here are some sound bites from what He said in Matthew 6:

  • 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
  • 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
  • 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
  • 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Worry weakens us because it replaces trust in God’s plans and promises with trust in our own plans and provisions. The Prophet Jeremiah heard the Lord address that issue as well. 5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8 (ESV)

When Jesus visited His friends Mary and Martha, Mary came and sat at His feet, while Martha stressed over how the house looked and what to serve her Guest to eat. She even came to Jesus to complain. Jesus simply said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

The good portion of life is the time spent in fellowship with the Savior, putting all the worries and cares of life aside. When we switch those priorities, we are weakened. Everything that typically causes us concern is to be brought to Jesus. The Apostle Paul said, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)  Seems pretty clear to me – anything and everything is to be turned over to God. That means anything and everything that makes us anxious makes us weak unless we turn in trust to God.

John Newton wrote a short verse that declares the truth by which we should all live when it comes to daily worries.

What Thou shalt to-day provide,
Let me as a child receive;
What to-morrow may betide,
Calmly to Thy wisdom leave.
’Tis enough that Thou wilt care;
Why should I the burden bear?

Worry weakens.

Anxiety annihilates ability.

Trust tranquilizes turbulence.

Let Jesus calm the storms of your life and give you peace.

How Should We Respond?

Connecting Points

Monday, January 27, 2014

Today’s Topic: React with Reverence

Today’s Text:  Revelation 3:19-20 (ESV)  19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

I purposely did not watch the Grammy’s last night. After reading what made headlines this morning I’m glad I didn’t. Now I am trying to respond to what happened with a heart that totally trusts the Divine purpose of God in all things.

I will not respond to those who are opposed to Christian thought and theology except with a heart of compassion as for a blind man stumbling towards a precipice of certain death. He does not need a reminder of his blindness, or shouts of impending doom. He needs someone to come along side of him and gently redirect his steps.

Last night was a reminder to me that there is a spiritual darkness that blankets our culture in sins of self-fulfillment. My response is not directed at the culture, but rather at the one who may be caught up in the swarm who wishes to escape. My activity will be to enter the culture and rub shoulders with the culture as Jesus did, so that when any one wishes to reach out and touch even the hem of His garment, they will be able to do it by touching me.

In order to do that, I need to be in a place of intimacy with Jesus that provides grace, strength, and wisdom. I want to be alert to the presence of Jesus and His purpose in all things. I will not respond with the heart of Jesus if I have not first captured His heart through intimate friendship and fellowship with Him.

Ours is not the first culture to be caught up in the horrors of self-honoring sin. One such culture was in the days of Abraham around 3500 years ago. If you watched last night you will understand the significance of that number. In a verifiable historical event, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were about to be destroyed by a righteous, loving, and just God. As a culture they had chosen to pursue the sins of self-gratification to such an extent that they stood publicly opposed to God and His truth. God’s judgment was pending.

On His way to announce the verdict and impose the sentence, Jesus and two angels stopped off at the tent of Abraham. He knocked, and Abraham invited Him in for a meal and for intimate fellowship. Here’s how author F.B. Meyer describes the event:

Christ knocks at the door when His Judgments are in the earth. That God has arisen to shake mightily the earth is hardly doubtful. This is a day of the Lord of Hosts, when judgments are abroad upon all that is proud and haughty, upon the cedars and the oaks, upon the high mountains and the uplifted hills. But it is at such a time that He draws near to reassure us.

On the eve of the overthrow of the Cities of the Plain, He came to the door of Abraham’s tent, partook of his fare, and gave promises of assurance to himself and Sarah which unfolded the Divine Purpose. Standing before the Lord, Abraham was prepared for the tragedy of the morrow, and was permitted an intimacy in which he seemed possessed by a passion for God’s rectitude and righteous dealing.

Do not fear the things that are coming, but open to Him who knocks for admission. He has come to spend the dark hours in your fellowship, as a mother runs to her child’s cot, when a sudden thunderstorm sweeps the sky.

May my response be not one of fear but of faith that comes from fellowship with the Father. May I not respond with judgment that is not mine to impose. May I respond with compassion to seek out the few who desire deliverance from the swarm as Abraham did for Lot and his family. May I respond with courage to ask the Lord of Judgment to show grace in the midst of it as Abraham did. May I be the one who extends His arm of rescue to those who desire deliverance. May my focus always be on the one that is prepared to listen rather than the throng that is moving as a mob.

May I react with reverence and respond with reason. May my response always be one that expresses the hope that lies within me – the hope of glory, and the certainty of God’s perfect purpose.

Stain Removal

Connecting Points

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Today’s Topic: The Past is Gone

Today’s Text:  Malachi 3: 2 (ESV) For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

Right before supper last night I decided to get comfortable. Because of the extreme cold and wind chill factor all of our activities at church were cancelled, so it was an opportunity to spend a relaxing evening with my wife. I put on some comfortable jogging pants and grabbed my favorite sweatshirt. There is something comforting about loose-fitting clothes. I used to own a lot of them but they seem to have all shrunk.

The off-white sweatshirt I picked out was perfectly clean. It had not been that way the day before. Those of you who know me well know that I am usually not allowed to wear white or light-colored clothing. It has nothing to do with how it looks on me – everything looks good on me. It has to do with my sloppiness. Whether it’s eating or just every day activities, I get things dirty. Not just ordinary dirt, but hard-to-remove stains. Well, I had spilled some food on it the last two times I had worn it, and my wife had to wash it several times to get the stains out. In my defense, it’s hard to eat without spilling when laying horizontally in a recliner.

So I picked up the perfectly clean ready to be worn sweatshirt and went to the kitchen to prepare supper. You’ve already figured out the rest, right?

As I ate my hamburger plugged with bacon and red peppers, and dipped my crab sticks into melted butter, I suddenly noticed three dark spots on the front of my clean off-white sweatshirt. My wife noticed them as well and reminded me of how hard she had worked to get it clean. I agreed that I would clean it this time.

After I was done eating, and cleaning up the kitchen, I remembered that in the past I have used Dawn dishwashing soap to remove other stains in my clothes. So I put a few drops on each stain and let it sit while I washed the dishes. A quick spray with the kitchen faucet rinsed the butter and bacon grease right out, and the sweatshirt was perfect again. There was no evidence of a previous stain. I now know the reason why the dishwashing soap is named Dawn. Darkness is gone when dawn arrives.

The prophet Malachi declares that the Lord is coming and when He does He will be like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. Focus on the soap for a moment. The word fuller’s may be confusing. The basic Hebrew word means washing. The people of these ancient cultures washed their clothes by hand, and then laid them out to dry in the fields. That’s where the phrase fuller’s field came from. So the soap that was used for the washing was called fuller’s soap. When someone takes soap and washes something, the expectation is that it will become clean.

That same expectation applies to our spiritual lives. When Jesus Christ comes to wash us with the soap made from His blood, we must expect to be made clean. There is not enough man-made soap in the world to clean the stain of sin from our lives. We have tried. The Lord declared it through the prophet Jeremiah when He said, Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD. (Jeremiah 2:22)

But the Fuller’s Soap – which in this analogy is respectfully named Dawn – washes the stain of sin away, never to be seen again. The blood of Jesus Christ, the eternal soap for the soul, removes the evidence that the stain was ever there. When Dawn arrives, darkness leaves.

We have a choice: live with the stain, or let Jesus remove the stain. But if we choose to let Jesus wash us and remove the stain of our sin, we still have another choice. We can choose to remember that the stain was there and live in fear that we will get stained again, or we can choose to trust the Fuller’s Soap to keep us clean.

As for me, I choose to live by faith in the constant cleansing of the Fuller’s Soap. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7) I do not mean to say that I will carelessly live making a mockery of God’s grace, but that because of my love for Him I will walk in His light, knowing that when I do stain my life with the spill of sin, He never runs out of soap.

In other words, I will keep wearing the sweatshirt, not with the intention of spilling, but knowing that if I do, the stain can be removed. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Let it Go

Connecting Points

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

 Today’s Topic: Forget the Past

Today’s Text:  1 Samuel 11:13   But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.”

Noble Doss dropped the ball. One ball. One pass. One mistake. In 1941, he let one fall. And it’s haunted him ever since. “I cost us a national championship,” he says.

The University of Texas football team was ranked number one in the nation. Hoping for an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl, they played conference rival Baylor University. With a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, the Longhorn quarterback launched a deep pass to a wide-open Doss.

“The only thing I had between me and the goal,” he recalls, “was twenty yards of grass.”

The throw was on target. Longhorn fans rose to their feet. The sure-handed Doss spotted the ball and reached out, but it slipped through.

Baylor rallied and tied the score with seconds to play. Texas lost their top ranking and, consequently, their chance at the Rose Bowl.

“I think about that play every day,” Doss admits.

Not that he lacks other memories. Happily married for more than six decades. A father. Grandfather. He served in the navy during World War II. He appeared on the cover of Life magazine with his Texas teammates. He intercepted seventeen passes during his collegiate career, a university record. He won two NFL titles with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texas High School Hall of Fame and the Longhorn Hall of Honor include his name.

Most fans remember the plays Doss made and the passes he caught. Doss remembers the one he missed. Once, upon meeting a new Longhorn head coach, Doss told him about the bobbled ball. It had been fifty years since the game, but he wept as he spoke.

We all live with regrets. The memories of past failures and hurts haunt us. We spend a great amount of time and energy trying to right the wrongs in an attempt to heal the wounds. We sometimes seek revenge against the ones who hurt us.

Such was the case in Israel at the beginning of the reign of King Saul. Some men, described in the tenth chapter of First Samuel as worthless men, tried to discredit Saul and keep him from being honored as King. They spread the word that Saul was incapable of leading the nation and bringing victory against their enemies.

On another front, the Ammonites were invading part of Israel’s land and making frightening threats about gouging out eyes. When Saul got word about it, he rallied the people of Israel, and under the power of the Holy Spirit of God he came with an army of men and wiped out the Ammonites.

During the victory celebration people started to demand justice against the worthless men who had dishonored King Saul. They fully expected that their king would respond according to the flesh and want to make a public spectacle of these guys who had been so wrong. Who wouldn’t want to set the record straight?

But King Saul, with the wisdom of God, said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” The past didn’t matter. What mattered is what God was doing in the present and what He had planned for the future.

The Apostle Paul understood this truth when he wrote in Philippians 3, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

We all have multiple memories of past hurts and failures. Do not let them define you or consume you. Bury them under the present Presence of Jesus Christ in your life. Do not spend time focused on death when you are the possessor of eternal life. Release the hurt and let it go for good. Embrace what Jesus is doing today.

Pastor John

Hey Beautiful!

Connecting Points

Monday, January 20, 2014

Today’s Topic: The Great Beautifier

Today’s Text:  Psalm 149:4  For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.

 We are surrounded by constant messages to be beautiful and good-looking. As soon as the Christmas shopping ads were over, the health-related commercials started. Every day we are bombarded with the lure of gym memberships, exercise programs, diets, and even pills, all promising that if we just looked better we would feel better about who we are and have a happier life.

Did you know that in 2009,  45.5 million people in America had a gym membership and spent 20 billion dollars on them. But here’s the real shocker – according to StatisticBrain.com only 33% of the people who had memberships actually went to the gym.

You see, we all want to look better, but two things keep us from getting there. Maybe we don’t want to do the work it takes to have that picture perfect body, or maybe after all the work we’ve discovered that it didn’t really change the quality of happiness in our lives. I think down underneath we all know that happiness doesn’t really come from how we look. If it did, we wouldn’t see so many beautiful people in so much trouble and even ending their own lives.

I came across a quote this morning that stuck out to me. It’s from the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote – There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.

But there can be no wish to scatter joy if we do not have any joy. So where does the joy come from so that we can scatter it to others and thereby be made beautiful?

First, we must understand that human existence in sin is the great joy killer because it is downright ugly. I mean hideously ugly. I mean repulsively ugly. Yet we have embraced it because we have been lied to by the enemy of our souls and told that it’s really kind of pretty. We have declared what is ugly to be beautiful in an attempt to make ourselves appear beautiful.

The truth is that we haven’t change our appearance one bit. In fact, it has made us uglier than ever. Every chance we get we step on our neighbors, co-workers, and friends to move ahead of them, believing that this gives us more value. We lie, cheat, and steal to fluff up our own financial pillow thinking that when we lay our head on it we will have peace. We are dreadfully ugly.

It is only when sin is conquered that beauty can be exposed. Beauty can’t be seen in the dark. Only when the light – the True Light of God’s salvation – shines on us will the beauty of life be seen. Only in the joy of the Lord can we find the strength for each day.

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

The reason for such joy is that when we renounce sin and its lies, the Lord takes pleasure in us and adorns us with salvation. (Psalm 149:4) We are made beautiful in Christ. In God’s eyes, every one of us who is covered in the blood of Jesus is eternally beautiful.

Sounds freaky, doesn’t it. People who cover their sin with cultural beauty remain ugly, but those who cover themselves in blood – Christ’s blood – are transformed into the most beautiful of all beings. The joy of our salvation is the Great Beautifier.

And when we spread that joy to others, we become beautiful to people as well, not just to God. This is what I take from what Emerson said: by spreading joy and not pain we become beautiful in complexion, form, and behavior.

Today, let people see the beauty of Jesus in you, and they will call you beautiful too.

Pastor John

 

He’s Meddling Again

Connecting Points

Friday, January 17, 2014

Today’s Topic: He Wants to Talk about WHAT???

Today’s Text:  Matthew 6:21 (ESV)  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

I must confess I am just a little bit scared. As a part of the Wise Up sermon series I am doing right now, it is important to talk about all of the areas that Christ felt were important to live wisely in a foolish world. The subject he spoke most about when it comes to practical living is the use of our money.

WHAT?  I have to go to church on Sunday and hear the pastor preach on money?

YES!

And to prepare you for the encouragement you are going to receive to know that Jesus Christ has the priority over your possessions, here is a resource I found from Pastor John Ortberg. If you come to church on Sunday you will receive a printed version of this.

THE 10 FINANCIAL COMMANDMENTS

1.  Thou shalt remember who the owner is.  Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

2.  Thou shalt embrace thy work.  Colossians 3:23-24: (The Message)  And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.

3.  Thou shalt not fall into debt.  Proverbs 22:7 “The poor are always ruled by the rich, so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power.”

4.  Thou shalt teach thy children about money.   Psalm 34:11  “Come, my child, and listen closely. I will teach you obedience to the Lord.”

5.  Thou shalt have a plan.  1 Corinthians 16:2  “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up”

6.  Thou shalt declare, “I have enough!”  Proverbs 30:15  “The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry.”

7.  Thou shalt find an alternative way to keep score.  2 Corinthians 10:12   Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

8.  Thou shalt look around.  Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD.”

9.  Thou shalt seek wise counsel.  Proverbs 11:14 (The Message) “Without good direction, people lose their way. The more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.”

10.  Thou shalt look forward to thy final audit.   Luke 12:48  Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”