1 John Chapter 3– What Stands Out

As I continue my meditative reading of the letters of John, this is what stands out for me in Chapter 3:

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17

How often do you and I do this very thing every day? We pass by the homeless man on the corner without a thought; we ignore the fact that our consumer goods are often produced by people who are enslaved or exploited; maybe we even excuse ourselves from helping the person next door who lost his job, or the fellow church member with big medical bills. We can’t give to everyone and everything, right?

It’s true. It can be overwhelming. However, it’s a clear command, and the Bible has a lot to say about helping others. Here are just a few verses:

  • Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.
  • Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to act. 
  • Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Matthew 25:44-45 They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
  • Luke 3:10-11  ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’ 
  • Romans 12:13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 
  • James 2:14-17 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

So, what should we do? Well, pray; pay attention; when you see a need you can meet, don’t hesitate. Don’t worry about helping someone who is “undeserving” — we usually don’t have enough information to judge that correctly. Educate yourself–find out about what’s going on in the larger community and the world–remember everyone is our neighbor. Discover your our unique spiritual gifts and then use them in a way that benefits those around you. You may not be called to serve meals at a mission, but maybe you can help in a support position. Maybe you don’t have much excess income, but you do have time. Speak up when you know someone is struggling–maybe you can’t meet all the needs yourself, but together a group you are part of can.

I hope this gives you a few ideas. Remember the parable of the talents. Nobody who used their talents to make more was condemned. We can’t do everything but we can each do something.

For more posts about generosity see:

Spend Yourself

Walking With Jesus–Devotion #10

Being a Biblical Christian, part 2

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society on Boasting by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

I have reviewed several of the Slugs and Bugs stories by Randall Goodgame, and liked this one the best.  The tempo of the rhyming was bouncy and did not seem forced.  It’s a sturdy, colorful book (about the same size and format as the popular Dr. Seuss books) that youngsters will enjoy.

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society on Boasting

The story reminds young raccoons (and children) that we should not boast about our good deeds, or compare our gifts to the gifts of others.  Each one should give cheerfully, as he is able.  The lesson is a good one, and the illustration youngsters will be able to easily grasp the example used to illustrate it.

The ending Bible quote is:

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31

VERDICT:  I give it 4 stars.  It is nothing out of the ordinary, but I liked it.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society on Boasting

If you would like to read other reviews in this series, see the following posts:

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

Are We Still Friends? by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

Which Shape Should I Be? by Paula Kennedy–Book Review

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

This is the third in Randall Goodgame’s “Slugs and Bugs” series for children that I have reviewed.  It is also the one I like least.

The book tells the story of a secret raccoon society that encourages members to give their belongings away, going against the normal raccoon tendency to slyly finding and appropriating things that belong to others.

The illustrations are colorful, but not exceptional.  The narrative lacks rhythm and bounce.  Some of the word plays and puns will not be understood by the age group the story is aimed at — for example, “we put the pie in piety.”  Piety is a concept that would be almost impossible to explain to young children.  Also, will children of this age make the connection that raccoons are known for stealing?

The message of generosity and sharing is a good one, but I didn’t find anything else to recommend this book.  I probably wouldn’t buy it.

The illustrations are colorful, but not exceptional.  The narrative lacks rhythm and bounce.  Some of the word plays and puns will not be understood by the age group the story is aimed at — for example, “we put the pie in piety.”  Piety is a concept that would be almost impossible to explain to young children.  Also, will children of this age make the connection that raccoons are known for stealing?

The message of generosity and sharing is a good one, but I didn’t find anything else to recommend this book.  I probably wouldn’t buy it.

VERDICT:  2 stars

If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can follow the link below:

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society

 

If you would like to read reviews of others books by Randall Goodgame, you can check out these previous posts:

Are We Still Friends? by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

Who Will Play With Me by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

 

 

 

Time to Confess

“Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

I hate to admit it, but I’m not a cheerful giver.  I always want to hang on to things and people tightly.  Now this can be good — it makes me loyal and persevering in relationships, for example;  but when it comes to being generous, it’s a bad thing.  I could make excuses and tell you I have an anxious personality, so I get worried that I may not be able to take care of myself if I give away too much.  Or I could explain that my grandparents grew up during the depression and they taught me to be excessively frugal and worried about money.  None of this gets me off the hook, however.  God wants me to give cheerfully to others, and often I don’t.

What do I do about this?  Well, as with other spiritual disciplines (and giving is a spiritual discipline), I start where I am, and try to grow.  When I’m asked to give financially, I give an amount I am comfortable with, and then I give some more.  When I’m asked to give of my time ( and I find my problems with this often come about because I don’t want to disrupt my plans or routine), I remind myself that I’m retired now, and my plans can usually be postponed or changed without causing a problem.  I also have the advantage of having a generous, godly husband and two daughters with the gift of mercy.  When it comes to matters of giving, I try to let one of them take the lead and I follow their example.

Has it worked?  Well, I still don’t always give cheerfully.  I’m seldom spontaneously generous.  It will never be my gift.  But I have grown.  I’m not where I ought to be, but I’m not where I used to be, either.  As our author, Michele says, I’m a work in progress, both saint and sinner.

I’m open to other suggestions.  Readers and authors, how do you practice generosity?  Have you grown in this discipline?

Image result for saint and sinner image and ok with it

 

Biblical Relationship Advice

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Free Gifts

“But the free gift is not like the trespass.  For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” Romans 5:15

A couple of things that happened recently made me think about the idea of “free gifts.”

The first was a story someone read at a Christmas party I attended.  It was about a little rabbit who was feeling very alone on Christmas Eve.  He had no family and the only things he had to recommend him were his ability to hop and his warm, furry coat, neither of which seemed very important.  However, in the course of the story, this bunny learned that these two attributes were gifts –free gifts, and they became very important when the time to use them was right.

The second was a conversation I had with an acquaintance.  We were talking about church, and this fellow told me that he was a Christian and regular church-goer, but sometimes he became angry and frustrated with his congregation.  “They” always seemed to be hounding him — to give more, to do more.  “I’m already doing my part,”  he said.  “I don’t need to hear that message over and over.  Now those people who only come at Christmas and Easter, they’re the ones who need to hear that stuff!”

Here’s the chain reaction these two things started in my mind.  I thought about all the “free gifts” that are mine through God’s action in my life.  Wonderful things like salvation and eternal life.  Then there are the more tangible “free gifts” I get just for being part of St. Paul’s:  encouragement, friendship, sympathy–not to mention some extra love and attention when I need it!

There are also the “free gifts” God has given me in my own unique set of abilities and talents.  Like the bunny, I often don’t think they are much, but at the right time and place God uses them.  I realized that because of all these “free girts” God had given me, I wanted my gifts to Him to be free, too.

That’s not easy.  I often give my gifts at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons.  I give because someone asked me to or because I think I ought to;  I take a job because I feel guilty or am afraid nobody else will do it.  When that happens, I don’t feel good about giving.

A free gift requires a different focus.  It means taking the initiative to think about what I would like to do, and how my gifts fit in.  It means examining each request for my time, talents or contributions honestly to decide if the gift is within my ability to fulfill freely (without strings).  This doesn’t mean I never stretch and go beyond my comfort zone.  It means sometimes saying no without guilt when it’s not something I can do well.  Most of all, it means remembering all the “free gifts” God has given me, and how I should use them to the best of my ability (remember Beth Ann’s post about the parable of the faithful servants).

If I can give my gifts feely,  I won’t feel guilty (because I’m giving what I can) and I won’t feel angry(it doesn’t matter what others give, I’m giving what I want to anyway) and I will be thankful.  The gift of grace with abound.

I’d like to blog about this more and hear from others.  What are your gifts?  How can you use them?  Do you offer them freely to God?  Do they carry a sweet aroma that reminds others of Christ?

 

 

Caring for the Body

For no one every hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cares for it, just as Christ does the church because we are members of his body.”  Ephesians 5:29

In a number of places in the Bible, the church is called the Body of Christ.  Think about the verse above and how you care for your own physical body.

Do you nourish it? (most of us do that only too well).  What about Christ’s body?  Do you nourish it by participating regularly in worship and Holy Communion?

Do you exercise your body so it will stay healthy? Maybe you walk or spend time at a gym. How about Christ’s body?  Do you keep it healthy with disciplines such as studying the word of God?  Do you practice good deeds in an effort to grow stronger and more mature in Christ?

What do you do to keep your body looking good?  Do you buy nice clothing, use “lotions and potions”, go tanning, have your hair styled? What about God’s house?  Do you contribute to its’ maintenance with your money, time and talents?  Or do you just take for granted that it will always be there for you?

When your physical body develops an illness or weakness, you probably go to the doctor for advice.  How about the church?  If there is a problem there, do you take it to the Great Physician in prayer?  Do you give it some extra tlc and attention so that the difficulty can be resolved?  Or do you walk away and avoid the issue?

What about bad habits? Many of us have given up smoking, eating certain foods or drinks, etc.  when we discover it is having a bad effect on our body.  What about the body of Christ?  Are we willing to give up “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and all slander.”?(1 Peter 2:1)

The Church is Christ’s body and He loved it(and all its’ members, including you) enough to die for it.  Do you love it at least as well as your own body?  I hope I remember to do this.

A Quote From Corrie ten Boom

The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation.

Jesus had a short life, by our standards, but the his donation to us was unmeasurable.  How should we live in view of that amazing gift?

A Sacrificial Example

He (Job) said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there;  the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;  blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Job 1:21

 

My friend, Paul, was a good man and he was dying. After retiring from a successful career, he spent much of his time volunteering at the local rescue mission, working with alcoholics and addicts.  He was a faithful, generous member of our congregation and an example of Christian living to all who knew him. 

 

The rare and aggressive form of leukemia which Paul contracted did not respond to treatment.  Yet he did not rail against his fate or question God’s goodness. He simply continued to use the time God had given him.  Each time he was hospitalized he pushed his IV pole through the wards, handing out Bibles and telling others about Jesus. 

 

Paul knew that everything he had belonged to God:  his time, his money, even his life.  He spent it all wisely.  His life was a “living sacrifice.”

 

Gracious God, teach us to remember that everything comes from your hand.  Help us to use all our circumstances as an opportunity to praise and thank you.  Amen 

 

For further reading check out Lamentations 3:1-24; Philippians 1:12-30; Matthew 26:36-42; Psalm 23

Who has been an example of living sacrifice to you?