Thief of Joy

“Don’t look to the left to comparison or to the right to competition, look straight ahead to Jesus.” Gail Ficken

2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”Comparison

We need to refrain from comparing ourselves to anyone else because God doesn’t want us to be frustrated and feel unworthy of the lives entrusted to our care.

Comparing our lives with others is unfair-to them and to us. It’s unfair to them because if we become jealous of what they have, what they know, how they look, etc., we start to resent them. Then we can no longer appreciate them as the wonderful person God made them to be.

It’s unfair to us because it limits God’s plan for our lives. Comparison says to God, ‘I want to limit Your work in my life to this and nothing else. I just want to be like this other person.’

But God has an individual plan for each of us. His plan for you is greater than you could possibly imagine. Rejoice in God’s plans for others so you can rejoice in God’s plan He for you!

CompetitionWe find our joy not in winning or losing to others, but rather in the ultimate victory of our Savior Jesus! In Jesus, we find our fulfillment, our purpose, and our joy!

Our worth comes from the God who made us and saves us! Our value rests in the name of Jesus who gives us his victory!   My need to find worth by comparison with others melts away when I have all I need for eternity in Jesus!

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Political Amnesia

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

We are forgetting our beginning!   As a nation, amnesia has settled into one of the primary reasons we exist: Religious Liberty.

Edwin Meese III reminds us that:

“America was founded to be a beacon of liberty, particularly religious liberty. The framers of our Constitution sought to preserve religious liberty to such an extent that they made it the first right protected in the Bill of Rights. In countless instances we’re seeing government exceed its proper constitutional role, ignore the constitutional limits placed on its power, and interfere with the constitutionally guaranteed liberties of its citizens — especially eroding religious liberty.”

Meece sites recent examples of this failure to protect individual religious liberty:

In August, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment does not protect a Christian photographer’s right to decline to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony-even though doing so would violate the photographer’s deeply held religious beliefs.

Christian adoption and foster care agencies have been forced to stop providing those services because they object to placing children in same-sex households. Other cases infringing on religious freedom are aimed at a baker, a florist, a bed-and-breakfast, a T-shirt company, a student counselor and even the Salvation Army.

We have a distinct call as Jesus followers to respect the leaders of our nation. President Washington reminded Americans in his Farewell Address. He added: “And let us with caution indulge the opposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.”

As a pastor, I have a charge to engage in the betterment of the political process. It is in the realm of my responsibilities to:

  • help those under my care to be active in their faith
  • know what we believe and why we believe it
  • use my Christian freedom to extend freedom
  • encourage voting that honors liberty
  • support godly values

In the United States, we are doubly blessed! We have great freedoms and great resources. Both are a gift from God’s goodness and both require accountable stewardship.

For further discussion on this necessary discussion that influenced this blog, I encourage you to visit the following site:

http://www.heritage.org/issues/religion-and-civil-society/religious-liberty

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Psalm 33:12 ESV)

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)

You Owe It to Yourself to Read This Book!

Randy Alcorn has written a book, Prolife Answers to Prochoice Arguments, that ought to be read by every Christian. In his book, Randy logically and biblically answers every major argument put forth by the pro-choice groups. Below is a sample of the chapter titles and discussion headings in his book. The chapter heading is the argument for abortion and the discussion is the pro-life answer to the argument. You owe it to yourself to read this book!

Chapter 1: “It is uncertain when human life begins; that’s a religious question that cannot be answered by science.”

  • If there is uncertainty about when human life begins, the benefit of the doubt should go to preserving life.
  • Medical textbooks and scientific reference works consistently agree that human life begins at conception.
  • Some of the world’s most prominent scientists and physicians testified to a U.S. Senate committee that human life begins at conception.

Chapter 2: “The fetus is just a part of the pregnant woman’s body, like her tonsils or appendix. You can’t seriously believe a frozen embryo is an actual person.”

  • A body part is defined by the common genetic code it shares with the rest of its body; the unborn’s genetic code differs from his mother’s.
  • The child may die and the mother live, or the mother may die and the child live, proving that they are two separate individuals.
  • Being inside something is not the same as being part of something.

Chapter 3: “The unborn is an embryo or a fetus—just a simple blob of tissue, a product of conception—not a baby. Abortion is terminating a pregnancy, not killing a child.”

  • Like toddler and adolescent, the terms embryo and fetus do not refer to nonhumans, but to humans at particular stages of development.
  • Semantics affect perceptions, but they do not change realities; a baby is a baby no matter what we call her.
  • Prior to the earliest abortions, the unborn already has every body part she will ever have.
  • Every abortion stops a beating heart and terminates measurable brain waves.
  • Even in the earliest surgical abortions, the unborn child is clearly human in appearance.
  • Even before the unborn is obviously human in appearance, she is what she is—a human being.

Chapter 9: “Even if the unborn are human beings, they have fewer rights than the woman. No one should be expected to donate her body as a life-support system for someone else.”

  • Once we grant that the unborn are human beings, it should settle the question of their right to live.

Chapter 10: “Every person has the right to choose. It would be unfair to restrict a woman’s choice by prohibiting abortion.”

  • Any civilized society restricts the individual’s freedom to choose whenever that choice would harm an innocent person.

Psalm 139:13-17

For it was You (God) who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know [this] very well.
My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all [my] days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.
God, how difficult Your thoughts are for me [to comprehend]; how vast their sum is!   

The credit for the direction and substance of this blog is based on the work of Pastor Rick Powell:  (http://www.pastorrickypowell.com/life_matters_with_pastor)

Toxic Charity

Is Our Charity Really Charitable?

I encourage you to read a thought-provoking book called  Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton.  His writing challenges us to look at the motivation behind charitable giving to those in material need.  His book centers on the damage done to the recipients of toxic charity with (1) deepened dependency and (2) diminished dignity which both lead to (3) disempowerment.

In a simple summary statement:  When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.

Mr. Lupton points out that:

For all our efforts to eliminate poverty—our entitlements, our programs, our charities—we have succeeded only in creating a permanent underclass, dismantling their family structures, and eroding their ethic of work. Therefore, our poor continue to become poorer.

The book hit home for me when he pointed out:

And religiously motivated charity is often the most irresponsible. Our free food and clothing distribution encourages ever-growing handout lines, diminishing the dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency.

Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.

Lupton gives these suggestions to those seeking to empower people and not create dependence:

  • Don’t subsidize poverty.
  • Reinforce productive work.
  • Create producers, not beggars.
  • Invest in self-sufficiency.

Lupton acknowledges that, “The hard part is rethinking the entrenched giveaway mentality and restructuring an established one-way charity system.”

He suggests churches and non-profits ask these questions:

  • Are recipients assuming greater levels of control over their own lives or do they show up, year after year, with their hands out?
  • Is leadership emerging among the served?
  • Are their aspirations on the rise?
  • Is there a positive trajectory?

This book has me thinking of my often self-centered motivations for giving.  Give the book a read, and let me know what you think.