Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Wonder Girls Join the ThanksGiving Project

(The Savings Jar after seven days. $156.85 with simple efforts that are easy to do)

We've had some Wonder Girl adventures in the name of saving money the last two days. Things did not go well. In my defense, I have experience clipping show goats. In the interest of full disclosure, my son once took the show goat I had just clipped into the show ring. The judge said, "Son, this is a fine goat, but it seems to be limping. What's wrong with your goat?" My son, who had been taught the importance of always telling the truth, said, "My mom just tried to clip my goat and when she trimmed his hooves, she cut his foot." The judge just smiled and announced it over the loudspeaker. Everyone heard. The goat won its class. I was really glad the bloody hoof-prints were obscured by the shavings. 

I told you I had experience clipping goats. I did not claim to be good at it. 

When I got Maggie the Wonder Dog, that long Shih Tzu hair was more than the two of us could handle. I did what any former goat-clipper would do. I bought dog clippers. Commercial dog clippers. If I was going to clip the dog, I wanted to do a good job. I didn't. The first attempt was pitiful and left me considering Rogaine to speed the recovery. I thought I would get better with time. I was wrong. Eventually, I did what any former goat-clipper turned dog-scalper would do. I hired a groomer. Every month, I have paid Miss Amy $40 to do a lovely job with Maggie. It was worth it. Once Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy joined our family, she, too, had a monthly visit with Miss Amy. 

We recently missed the grooming appointment, however, and the Wonder Girls were looking scroungy. Their hair was covering their eyes and it was a mess. The reasonable thing to do was take the girls to see Miss Amy. 

Because of the saving money project, I had a better idea. I would clip both Wonder Girls. Somehow, I managed to convince Sam, my elderly and very frail neighbor to hold a dog while I clipped her. He said I must have stayed up all night long to think of such a scheme, but I should have stayed up two nights and figured out how to do it right. Needless to say, he didn't think much of my attempt. 

I managed to get Maggie clipped. That's all I can say about it. She growled at me and tried to bite the clippers. It didn't go well. I did manage to get the hair that was blinding her cut, but Miss Amy I am not! 

We took a day to recover from Maggie's clipping and attempted Mamie today. I know how it looks. Please don't tell me. She needs serious Rogaine. It's bad. Somehow, her body hair clipping was not too terrible. The head clipping can only be described as catastrophic. Sam looked down at the dog in his arms and said, "You have her bleeding in three places!" I did not. I had somehow cut the hair so extremely short in three places that you could see pink scalp. She was not bleeding, no matter what Sam says. I tried to even it out. I made it worse. He suggested I stop while I was ahead, if you could call it that. Once we were done, he summed our experience up with these wise words. "All I can say about it is at least it will grow back. Keep her inside." 

Do not even ask me about pictures. If you come to my house, the dogs will probably be upstairs. Maggie might greet you. Mamie probably won't. Until her hair grows. She has a skinned head, a lion neck, and a bear body. Poor Mamie!! I am considering a dog-kerchief or cap until it grows. 

In good concience, I cannot really say that I saved money with this clipping business and, unfortunately I cannot say that it has not impacted my lifestyle. I didn't cry and the dogs didn't bite me. That is the good news. For that reason alone, I have decided to claim a $40 savings. (I still need doggie Rogaine). It brings the Savings Jar amount up to $196.85. If you need your dog clipped, let me recommend a good groomer. If you need your goat clipped, you are on your own.  

There is a saving grace. I did it for a good cause. In a few weeks, this money will be used to bless the Kingdom of God in some way. When that day comes, all this hair clipping business will not matter at all! Thank goodness! 

The Recognition, part 19: Recidivists in Sin

But I tell you of a truth, There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:27 ASV)

And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30-31 NASB)

Jesus had said some of them would see the Kingdom of God, and that is exactly what was happening, or would be when the sleepy disciples awakened. What they would have been hearing was a heavenly conversation that we would do well to consider. Moses and Elijah were speaking with Jesus about the upcoming completion of his earthly ministry and the redemptive finale that would purchase our pardon, yours and mine, from the sin in which we have spent a lifetime. "He came to set us free" is what we often say, but more accurately, Jesus gave us the option to be free. He redeemed us, but we must accept that gift of redemption. He unlocked our prison doors, but we must choose to leave our prison. 

There are some people in our society who, once imprisoned for a crime, find that it is preferable, in some very peculiar way, to be imprisoned than to be free. On the outside, they are responsible for making good (or bad) decisions, earning a living, providing for their own daily needs. In prison, it is done for them. It may not be in the style to which they would prefer to be accustomed, but there is a certain security in it. On the "outside", one crime is followed by another, one prison term after another. We sometimes call those people "institutionalized" or "recidivists".

 Unfortunately, we can become "institutionalized" to our prison of sin, preferring to keep our bad habits, our poor choices rather than undertake the radical change that discipleship would require. We shake our heads in amazement at "recidivists" in crime, but are we not recidivists in sin? Do we not go back, time after time, to the sin that so easily besets us? 

If Jesus came to set us free (and He did), if Jesus completely accomplished the redemption for which He came (and He did), why are we not free? Why do we not get up in the morning asking our Lord for victory over every sin? It was what Jesus intended of His disciples. If He set us free, He told the disciples, we would be free indeed. He has set us free and it is up to us to choose freedom. 

We would do well to ask in what areas are we failing to accept the freedom Christ can bring? In what areas are we choosing to remained controlled by our own fleshly desires? We can be free. Christ died to set us free. May we be so tired of being recidivists in sin that we willingly embrace the freedom that Jesus won with the cross and the empty tomb. We were not born free, but, through Christ, we can live free, and we should. 

Dear ones, we live in a world that is imprisoned by sin and guilt. We know the One who can set them free, and it is our responsibility and great opportunity to live free. A lost world looks to us for an example of the freedom that only Christ can give. Let's be sure they see a freedom worth having. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The thanksGiving Series, part 7

(This is the Savings Jar after the Misto assist brought the savings total up to $137.35)

Today has been super busy. I've been working on my novel all day. The characters have had an astounding time, complete with a prayer vigil, a bona fide miracle, and an unrecognized sick heroine. You will likely not be surprised to find faith and medicine all mixed in with this story. 

Anyway, I read in the Martha Stewart magazine recently that we are all wearing out our clothes with dry cleaning. She suggested that we should start hand washing them and drying them flat on a rack. I just happened to have some Woolite and a drying rack, as well as a stack of four sweaters. I usually dry clean them, but the tag actually suggested hand washing. 

I remember a Woolite commercial about "soak your finest clothes clean in three minutes" (or something similar) so I filled the bathroom sink with water and 1/2 oz of Woolite, soaked my sweater clean for more than three minutes, rinsed it, and laid it flat on the rack. It took a while, but I got all four sweaters washed and looking good. Cost of the Woolite I used: less than 50 cents. Cost of dry cleaning four sweaters: $5.00 apiece (or $20) total savings: $19.50. 

The Savings Jar now holds $156.85. Seven days of savings. That's pretty amazing to me, and makes me think I've been throwing a ton of money away needlessly. That's changing day by day, though. There's a point here, and it is not so we can spend more on ourselves. Begin now to look for the need you should meet and save until you can meet it. 

The Recognition, part 18:

And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30-31 NASB)

What Jesus was "about to accomplish at Jerusalem" was his death, burial, and resurrection, followed later by his ascension into heaven. There was still time yet before events would unfold, but heavenly plans were being made and confirmed. When I think of the cross and the empty tomb, mostly I see the cross and the sin of the world that put Him there, my sin that made His sacrifice essential for my eternal survival. 

It's interesting that Moses and Elijah seemed to see things a little differently. The word translated as "departure" is  exodos and literally means departure or the"close of one's career". Their view was not focused on the agony but on the result. All that was to come simply preceded the return of God's Son to His rightful place at the right hand of His Father's throne. Those events were simply the final events that would complete His assigned task. The word translated as "accomplish" is another great word, because it also means "filled to the top" or "completed". Isn't that exactly what Jesus did? He completely accomplished the job of redemption, and did not leave until the job was done. What a Savior! 

There are many lessons we can draw from this, but today let us simply revel in the fact that we serve a God who, because of His mercy and love, did not stop until the job of redemption was done. All that was needed to pay the penalty for your sin and mine has been paid by our Lord Jesus. The only thing remaining is for us to accept the gift of redemption He so freely offers. We trade our sin for His righteousness, our lostness for His leadership, our damnation for His eternal reward! 
What a trade! What a Savior! 

The appropriate response to such a gift is deep and abiding gratitude for the One who has given so much to us. Today, let us offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the One who completely accomplished all that was needed for our redemption, the One who, though departed, is soon coming again! 

Come quickly, Lord Jesus! 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The thanksGiving Series: part 6

(Doesn't the Saving Jar look wonderful? After only 5 days of mostly painless spending changes, I have managed to save $134.35! All of that is resting in the Saving Jar until the end of the month, when we see the final total and look for a way to invest it in the Kingdom of God.)

If you are just tuning it, you have landed right in the midst of the thanksGiving series. We are focusing on the "giving" part of thanksgiving this year. I'm reporting daily on my efforts to cut back on spending, while still living well, and corralling those daily savings in one place. It keeps me accountable for following through on my plan, which is essential to its success. At the end of the month, I plan to use that money to invest in the Kingdom of God in some way. 

Yesterday's savings was so big that there was no way to top it. I actually did a savings effort that was very wild, kinda hard, required help from Sam, and saved not as much as yesterday, but still a nice amount. It will take too long to write, though, so I'm saving it for tomorrow. You will not want to miss it. (Hint: there could be a little Wonder involved!)

I was filling up my Misto today and realized it is also part of my savings effort.   

In case you are not familiar with the marvelous Misto, it holds oil, you pump it up, causing pressure in the canister, then you spray the oil out wherever you want it. That is not the physics explanation. It's the mommy in the kitchen explanation. I've had my Misto for several years, so I'm counting use of the Misto as cost free. I bought a gallon of olive oil on sale a while back, got a great price, and the oil I put in the Misto today was less than 50 cents' worth. 

The Misto replaces the commercially available cooking spray. The last time I looked at the ingredients on the can, it included silicon. I can't see any reason to spray silicon on my food, so I have not bought silicon spray since I read the label. I checked the price of the name brand cooking spray and it sells for $3.48. To avoid a subtraction issue, I'm saying I saved $3.00 with my Misto! How great is that? The great thing is that, every time I fill up the Misto instead of buying cooking spray, I'm saving $3 again. I love my Misto. 

That brings the total savings in just six days to $137.35! When I think about saving that much in six days, just by making more frugal choices, I am astounded! Over the course of a year, savings at that rate could easily add up to thousands of dollars. It breaks my heart that I haven't been this frugal all my life. (It might be better said that I haven't been this faithful about stewardship, but I sure wish I had been.)

Anyway, we've all made a start, we are learning as we go, and it is making a difference! So, how are you doing with the frugalness project? Are you living well? Remember, this savings is not about ourselves.  It's about allowing us to invest in the Kingdom of God, so keep up the good work!

The Recognition, part 17: transfiguration

And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:29-31 NASB)

The entire series, The Recognition, began with a simple question. Who do you say that I am? Peter answered that Jesus was the Christ, Son of the Living God. The events that followed all pointed to the identity of Jesus in one way or another. He was the Commissioner and Equipper who sent them on their first missionary crusade, the Provider and Miracle Worker who fed the multitude. Now, He reveals Himself as Holy and Magnificent, as Divine. 

While Jesus was praying, both his face and his clothing changed. Suddenly, His face was changed and his clothes were white and gleaming. To be more precise, His clothing was more than gleaming. The word used here actually means "flashing like lightening"! What a sight to see! Scripture doesn't tell us how His face was changed but, considering the remarkable change in His clothing, His face must have been incredibly beautiful.

To make the scene even more remarkable, Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah, also appearing in glory (lightening flashing from them). 

Pause and consider.

It was one of those divine moments when heaven literally came to earth and Jesus  was revealed in His true divine identity. Holy and without blemish, He was both God and man. On the mountain that day, it became clear and anyone who was awake and looking could have seen it for themselves. 

Just before Jesus was transfigured, something important was happening, and I don't want us to miss it. "While He was praying..." While Jesus was talking with God, He was radically and magnificently changed. Should we not also be radically changed by intimate communication with the Almighty? Should we not have such a change of demeanor that people notice a difference in us when we have spent time with God? 

We often speak of "mountain top experiences". I'm not sure to what most people refer, but the Transfiguration is what always comes to mind when I hear those words. An experience on the mountain-top of prayer with Jesus should leave us different, and recognizably so. 

Perhaps the reason our prayer time does not leave us visibly changed is the problem of time. Our tendency is to spend a few minutes in prayer, to say a "quick prayer" or a "little prayer". When Jesus went to pray, He often stayed all night. It was while Jesus was praying that He was changed, not when He first said He was going to pray. If we spent more time in prolonged prayer, interceding before our Father, perhaps we, too, could  experience the kind of transformation that is unmistakeable.  

What result does your time alone with God have in your life? Are you spending enough time in prayer to allow God to change and cleanse you? Transformation is not a speedy process. We must get still before the Lord and remain in an attitude of prayer long enough to allow God to do a work of transformation in us. Why not set aside some time for that very thing, and stay until the work of God in your life is done?  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The thanksGiving Series, part 5

(Here's the Savings Jar after four days. $34.45 so far!)

The Savings Jar got a big boost today because I saved a bucketload yesterday, but I didn't know it until today. In case you missed the beginning of this thanksGiving series, we are focusing on the "giving" part of thanksgiving this year. In a nutshell, I'm making consistent efforts to cut back on spending, while still living well, and corralling those daily savings in one place. At the end of the month, I plan to use that money to invest in the Kingdom of God in some way. 

On Monday, I was to the sick-to-death of the struggle point, and ready to pay any amount of money to get the last bit of formatting done in my new book. I could not making facing pages, couldn't get my page numbers where I wanted them, and couldn't construct the table of contents. Well, I could construct it but the one-click method was not working. I called the book coach. "See how much it will cost to get the designer to fix this," I said. "Send it on," she said. "I'll tell Vinnie. He can do it." 

I was delighted to hit send and be through, but in a few minutes, Vince (the designer) called. He had many lovely things to say about my formatting and publishing skills and then he said the words I did not want to hear. "There is no sense in you paying me to do what you can obviously do yourself." "Vince, if I could do it, I wouldn't have called in the cavalry!" "Ha!" he said. "I'm telling you, you can do this and while you are at it, I have a couple more suggestions." Vince went on to tell me how to do what needed to be done and said to call him "if you start pulling your hair out. I'm telling you, you can do this!"

I was pretty close to pulling my hair out before I was done, and it took hours and hours yesterday. Jacki, my book coach, kept calling. "Vince said you were sending a new text file. Where is it?" I wanted to shout, but I just kept repeating my mantra, "Still working on it. Sending soon." I decided Jacki and Vince were both big bullies! Finally, I was done. Well, I wasn't sure if I was done, but I had done all I could stand. I exported the text file to PDF and hit send. 

Today, Jacki called to ask a question about printing. "How was the file?" I asked. She was positively breezy. "Oh, it was fine. Vince said you fixed everything. You're ready for the printer." "It was right??" I demanded. "Did Vince call and complain?" she asked. "Of course not, because it is right. Relax. You did it." I was thrilled. Apparently the only one worried was me! Have I mentioned how much I adore Jacki and Vince? They have pushed me to be better than I am, and I am incredibly grateful!

All that to say that I didn't have to pay anyone to do the work I finally did myself. That horrible day of agony saved me quite a few dollars. Judging by the cost of his other designer fees, I'm pretty sure it would've been $100 for what I needed. At least. That's what's going in the Savings Jar. That brings the total to $134.35! I can not wait to see what we have in there by the end of the month!! 

So, how's your Saving Jar doing? What interesting ways have you used to save money? Keep at it. We are going to have some fun doing God-work once we get our jars full, and we will have lived well and enjoyed ourselves all along the way. 

Happy Saving! 

The Recognition, part 16: Failure to Pray

"And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, that he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up into the mountain to pray.

Now Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep..." (Luke 9:28, 32 ASV)

As Jesus promised, some of the twelve apostles would not die until they saw the Kingdom of God and, in this passage, they are just about to get a glimpse. Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to go up onto a mountain for a prayer retreat. He did not tell them about seeing wonders, so all they were expecting was to pray. 

There is something about going on a prayer retreat with Jesus that made these three incredibly sleepy (as in the garden of Gethsemane). Their tendency to sleepiness rather than prayerfulness would eventually cause them serious problems. This time they very nearly missed seeing what Jesus had for them because they were "heavy with sleep".  In fact, they were sound asleep, not praying. 

Years later, Peter would write, "Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:7 NASB) He learned about staying alert, but I suspect he regretted those times he failed to be alert when Jesus called him to pray. 

Lest we cast stones at the three for their sleepiness, we need to examine our own tendency toward staying alert or dozing. Are we praying or sleeping when Our Lord wants to reveal truth to us? When you are tired and sleepy, staying alert is a choice you make and, sometimes, a battle you must fight. Even when you are not tired, staying alert to what God is doing is a choice and sometimes a battle. It's easy to be distracted by the busyness of life, to daydream instead of pay attention, to involve ourselves in mindless distractions (TV, Internet surfing, video games) rather than focus on the word of God. Being easy does not make it prudent. 

When we, like the three apostles, fail to be on the alert, we can easily miss the lessons, the help, and even the wonders God has for us. How tragic is that? Let us open our eyes, both physically and spiritually, to God at work around us.  Stay alert. God is constantly at work around us, and you don't want to miss a thing! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Recognition, part 15: expectations

But I tell you of a truth, There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:27 NASB)

In this verse, Jesus hints at something that will happen a few days later. Some of the disciples, He told them, would not experience death before they experienced, or saw, the Kingdom of God. As we often do, they likely interpreted that to mean Jesus would soon establish His Kingdom on earth, defeat the Romans, and establish a Davidic-style reign. Knowing how we like to day dream, the disciples were probably no different. They likely envisioned palaces, regal robes, and princehoods (or at least exalted positions) for themselves. If they had only known, they would have been shocked by what Jesus would do and what was to come. 

In just a few days, some of the disciples would go with Jesus to the mountain where they would "see" the Kingdom of God, as Jesus was transfigured before them and joined by Moses and Elijah. It was not at all what they thought He meant when He said they would see the Kingdom of God, but they never forgot those amazing mountain-top sights.

Perhaps you never do this, but some us have trouble with making assumptions about the words of God. I have to be particularly careful when I decide to "claim" a verse because I want to presume that the promise it contains will unfold the way I want it to unfold. I, like most of us, would like to have my way, and for it to be an easy, comfortable way.  I have to constantly remind myself that God's way, no matter what it is, will always be better than mine. Here it is again, that business of Thy will and not my own. It runs throughout Scripture and is particularly pertinent here. 

What the disciples likely expected from these words had little to do with how events would unfold. Instead of a temporal kingdom on earth, Jesus was about to establish an eternal Kingdom that would transcend time, transcend earth. Instead of lives of ease, the disciples would be hunted like criminals, experience hardship and loss, mostly die martyrs' deaths, and be instrumental in spreading the gospel around the world. The events that they didn't expect are the very ones that made it possible for us to have the good news of Jesus today. What a good thing the truth of Jesus, rather than the daydreams of the disciples, dictated the events that followed. 

As you read and "claim" Scripture for your own, be careful to avoid "dreaming up" what the fulfillment of those promises will be. Leave the plan to God, confident that His way is best. Just like Jesus said, some of those disciples saw the Kingdom of God before they died. It may not look like what we expect, but He always keeps His word. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The thanksGiving Series part 3

(This is the savings jar after day 2. There's a total of $2.49 after using regular popcorn instead of a bag and clearing my drains with vinegar and soda)

Back in the spring, Ryan and I went to the Bahamas to see my cousin Christy and hear her musical group, C-Force, in concert. They are awesome, play Cari-classical music (basically Caribbean music that has been written down), and you should check them out on YouTube. Before I left, I enrolled in international texting. They told me to wait a few weeks after I returned to be sure all the charges had come through. I waited and watched, then forgot about it.

When I started writing about fiscal responsibility, you can well imagine that God had some refining to do. That texting package was right near the top of the list, so I stopped by the ATT Store. It turns out that, a few months later, I have still been paying for international texting. $30 a month. I'm ashamed to tell you that, but this is the evening confession and, more than likely, I am not the only one with an absurd outlay of money for nothing. I cancelled it on the spot. 

The young man helping me said, "Wow! $30 dollars a month is a lot. That ought to make a difference!" The automatic draft notice came yesterday and it is now $30 less than the previous month. That's $30 for the Saving Jar. How about that? 

The Saving Jar is beginning to look a little different, isn't it? The total in that jar after only three days is now $32.49! I've lived well, and not one frugal thing I have done has been hard at all. 

Do you have your Saving Jar yet? When it's time to invest our thanksGiving Savings Jar money in the Kingdom of God, you're going to wish you did. It's not too late, so get going today and have fun spending less!

The thanksGiving Series part 4

(Here is the Saving Jar after the first three days. Already, it contains $32.49)

In case you missed the beginning of this thanksGiving series, we are focusing on the "giving" part of thanksgiving this year. Because fiscal responsibility and good stewardship of the blessings God has entrusted to us have been themes of mine recently, I've started trying to make consistent efforts to cut back on my spending, while still living well. The idea behind the Saving Jar is to corral those daily savings in one place and, at the end of the month, use that money to invest in the Kingdom of God in some way. 

Today's savings started a few days ago, when I wanted to roast a chicken. I have a great recipe which I will share at another time. Since I was going to Sam's, I thought I'd find a good price on a chicken. It turned out that the only whole chickens were in bags of two. They were lovely chickens, but they were $13.88 for two, which averaged out to $6.94 per chicken. I might have gone for it if the rotisserie chicken rack hadn't been in my line of sight. The Sam's rotisserie chicken, reported to be the best in town, was only $4.98 per chicken, it is a big bird, and it's already cooked! What's not to love? It put it in the basket, and saved $1.96. 

With the $1.96 I saved on the chicken and the $32.49 I had already saved this week, the Savings Jar now holds $34.45 after only four brief days! Just imagine what it will hold by the end of the month! Just imagine what kind of good my efforts to be frugal can yield! 

I have used that chicken to make a big pot of chicken and wild rice soup, chicken quesadillas, and eaten it plain with stir fried vegetables. And there is still a little chicken leftover for chicken and white bean chili! The chicken was delicious and I, once again, have lived well. I didn't miss my roasted chicken at all, and I especially did not miss cleaning the roasting pan! 

This business of spending less and saving more is not as hard as you might think, and it builds up faster than you might imagine. Why not join me in the effort? Working together, we can do amazing things! 

The Recognition, part 14: Ashamed

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:24-26 NASB)

We come now to the climax of this passage. Jesus addressed the issue of denying Him to save your physical life, or denying self and being willing to give up your physical life in order to save your soul. What good is it, Jesus asked the people, if you gain the whole world, or kosmos, but lose your soul? This kosmos can mean every created thing or the universe. Even if we owned and had control of everything in the entire universe, what good would that be if we end up spending eternity in hell? There was a popular song some years ago that said, "Money can't buy you love," and it was true. Money also cannot buy eternal security. In fact, sometimes money is a deterrent to eternal security because of the temptation to trust the security of money rather than the One who has entrusted it to us. 

The last sentence in today's Scripture passage sums things up succinctly. If we are ashamed of Jesus and His words now, He will be ashamed of us when He comes in His glory. Vine's Expository Dictionary uses an interesting phrase. It says this word is used in a different passage in the sense of "God not being ashamed to be called the God of the believers." What a sobering thought! The idea that we could be such poor examples of Christ that God would be ashamed to be associated with us as our God is heartbreaking, isn't it? 

When God looks down from heaven with that great cloud of witnesses, I do not want Him to say, "if she's going to act like that, I wish she'd quit claiming Me."  What I want Him to say is, "Look at her! That's my girl! She's the one I can count on to obey.  She looks just like my Son!" Isn't that what you want Him to say about you? If so, let's be sure we act (and think) in ways that please our Lord and make Him proud to be called our God. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The ThanksGiving Series, part 2:

(This is the savings jar after the first day with the 39 cents I saved by popping my popcorn in a pot instead of using bag microwave popcorn. I know. It looks kinda bleak! The popcorn was really good, though)

In case you missed the beginning of this thanksGiving series, we are focusing on the giving part of thanksGiving this year.  I've been writing about stewardship, our extravagant lifestyles, and the better uses to which we could put our financial resources recently, and it seems a little more frugality is in order. The premise is that we can cut back, save some money to splurge on giving, and still live well. I'm planning to write about some little frugal thing every day and add the money I save to the saving jar. 

For the last week or so, I've had very slow drains in my shower and in the bathroom sink. As much hair as I have, it is usually due to a hair clog or that greasy scum mess that certainly was never on my body for one second. I don't know where that gross mess comes from, but it's not me! Anyway, the drains were clogged and needed work. 

What I usually use, with good success, is  Instant Power Hair Clog Remover. It is guaranteed to work on the toughest clogs, and costs $6.47 for a bottle that has four treatments. Since I had two clogs, I would have used 1/2 the bottle for the two clogs, at a cost of $3.23.

My mama was a big believer in using baking soda and vinegar, followed by boiling water, for clogged drains. Realistically, I know that baking soda and vinegar will not eat through a hair clog, but, in the interest of the story, I decided to give it a try. I paid 95 cents for a box of name brand baking soda (only because they didn't have a generic) and $1.15 for vinegar. My total outlay was $2.10 for four treatments or 1/2 that for two clogs. At $1.05 for treating both my clogs, I saved $2.18. But how did it work, you may well ask. Hold on a minute, and I'll tell you. 

Here's what I did. I put 1/4 box of baking soda down the drain. As you can imagine, it mostly made a little soda mountain. With the memory of grammar school volcanos to guide me, I stuck my finger in the center to make a pathway for the lava and poured in 1/4 bottle of vinegar. Such marvelous bubbling and spewing ensued that it was worth the $2.10 just to watch it! Once all that had settled down in both drains, I went downstairs, boiled up a kettle of water, and carried it back upstairs to pour 1/2 a kettle of boiling water in each drain. It ran right through. 

Here's what's really crazy. My mama's baking soda/vinegar/boiling water volcano method had my drain open and flowing freely in just a few minutes. My instant power stuff requires an overnight soak. It turns out mama did know best after all! 

I saved another $2.10 today, it worked better than what I usually use, and it was quicker. You can't beat that combo! 

The good news is that there is now $2.49 in the savings jar! I can't wait to see how much I have by thanksGiving! I'm praying already about how to invest that money in the Kingdom of God. You didn't think this was about saving for me, did you? It's not to late to get a jar of your own and join in the fun. I can't wait to hear about how your efforts at frugality for the giving splurge works out! 

Don't forget, there's a lot more blessings in giving than in getting. There's a lot more fun, too!

The Recognition, Part 13: the Saving

For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:24-25 NASB)

The "saving" mentioned here is a complex issue and one we need to examine carefully. The word translated as "save" in both instances is sōzō, and is a word that can have multiple meanings. To the woman with the hemmorhage, Jesus used the word sōzō when He said, "Your faith has saved you."  In that instance, sōzō meant "made whole". In this verse, however, the word is used twice and has a different meaning each time. 

"Whoever wishes to save his life" is the first use of sōzō, and in this case, it indicates the preservation of the physical life. In this instance, Jesus says that the one whose focus is to save his physical life (even at the cost of denying Christ), will end up losing his soul-life. This indicates a denial of Christ rather than be martyred (physical death). Our refusal to abandon the life we hold dear for Jesus will cost us dearly in the end.  

There is a tendency in the church today to assume that "there is grace to cover that".  There is certainly far more grace than we deserve available to cover our sins, but we, in this country, tend to be entirely too cavalier about our Lord and the life to which He has called us. Jesus, Himself, spoke these words, and we do well to take heed. "But whoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:33 NASB) What about that is not clear? You cannot have it both ways. You cannot deny Christ and, at the same time, be a faithful follower. Discipleship is costly. Jesus never indicated that it was otherwise.  You cannot stay the same and be a disciple. It is the nature of a disciple to become like the master. This decision of whether or not we will deny Christ to save our physical life is not one that can be made in the heat of the moment. This is a decision that must be made ahead of time and lived out in a consistent routine of dying to self, so that we can hold firm to our faith when the trial comes. 

The enemy of our soul would have us believe that this willingness to die for Christ is only for fanatics, not the "routine believer".  Dear ones, there is nothing in the words of Christ that offers the option of being a "routine believer".  Jesus called us to radical faith as a disciple and it was the only option He offered. 

"Whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it" is the second use of the word sōzō, and indicates the preservation of life in a spiritual sense, the saving of one's soul. In this instance, the disciple is willing to die for Christ physically, having first died to self spiritually. Jesus indicates here that the willingness to die physically for Him (which must be preceded by a willingness to die to self) may result in physical death but not the death of the soul. This is a great promise from our Lord, who said, "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32 NASB)

It is the decision to die to self that must be made, for it is only after a willingness to die to our own selfish, worldly desires that we can be willing to die for Christ physically. Does this physical death seem unlikely? Our brothers and sisters around the world are imprisoned and dying for the cause of Christ on a daily basis, and we, too, could easily face this persecution. 

There are decisions to be made. Will you be a disciple of Christ or not? Will you be willing to die to self on a daily basis or not? Will you stand for Him if it means you must die for Him? Preservation of our soul comes as a result of a choice to relinquish our life for the one Jesus offers, and it is a choice we cannot avoid. Choose well, friends. Your eternal life depends upon it.