Managing Possessions

No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:32

“That’s mine! You can’t have it! Leave it alone!” Many parents have heard words like that so often that they never want to hear them again. At work you hear: “He took my parking place.” “That was supposed to be my promotion.” “Why doesn’t anyone think about my loyalty to this company?”

The concern about me and what’s mine seems to be present at every stage of life. Some stages may be more filled with it than others, but the general thought is still the same. You have to fight to hold on to what you have. You have to fight to get what you deserve.

The early Christians spoken about in our reading didn’t think that way. In fact, they didn’t claim anything as their own. Those believers did not find it necessary to talk much, if at all, about their own possessions. Possessions were not that important to them.

Why? The first reason is that these believers realized that everything they had was God’s, not theirs. They didn’t think about possessions as belonging to this person or that person. Everything belonged to God. Each one of them was only a manager of God’s possessions.

Think of that. What you have is not yours. It’s God’s and you are the manager. One person manages one particular group of things and other people manage other things. Having that understanding can change your point of view about possessions dramatically.

Another reason why the early Christians didn’t consider their possessions to be their own was that they were learning, as all of us are, that we use our possessions only for a short time. What we possess now must be viewed in the perspective of our eternal glory of heaven. Our lives here and now are only a short step in our unending journey. Everything comes from God, and he has even better things, even more valuable things, in store for us. Heaven awaits. This fact teaches us to place the right amount of value on what God has given us to use here on earth.

What More Could We Want?

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”Psalm 23:1

John D. Rockefeller was one of the richest men in the world. An interviewer once asked him, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

How many times have we told ourselves that if we had “just a little bit more” we would be happy? A higher paying job. A larger home. An earlier retirement. Better health. Successful children.

But what happens when those wants are met? Are people truly happy? And what happens when those wants aren’t met? When you find yourself unemployed. When in rough times your savings are depleted. When plans for better housing or earlier retirement have to be put on hold. When your health takes a turn for the worse or your children struggle in school. Where do you turn? Turn to Jesus and remember, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

We might not have everything we want in life, but Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has truly given us everything we need. He’s given us his word. He’s given us his promises. He assures us that our sins are forgiven and eternal life in heaven is ours through his death and resurrection.

He promises to provide for all of our physical and spiritual needs richly and abundantly here on earth until he takes us to the glorious home that he has prepared for us in heaven. There through our Savior, you and I will experience the fulfillment of his promise, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

Not long after his death, someone came up to the accountant of John D. Rockefeller and said, “We know Rockefeller was a very wealthy man. How much did he leave?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the accountant answered, “Everything!” A man who seemed to have it all was forced to leave it all behind in the end. The only things that will go with us from this life to the next are the spiritual treasures that belong to us through faith in Jesus.

What do we want out of life? What we need the most has already been fully and freely supplied by Jesus, our Good Shepherd. So, what more could we want? What more could we need?

Quality Time

A few years ago there was a statistic which claimed that the average American dad spent five minutes a day with his children. If that’s true, I sure hope those are five really good minutes!

I’m sure we can debate the validity of the statistic, but it does raise a question: How much time are you spending with your children and grandchildren? Perhaps the better question is: How are you spending that time? We certainly do lots of good things with the children in our life. We cheer for them as they run the bases in a little league game. We take them to the lake, to the movies and to the county fair. We read to them, laugh with them and wrap them up in great big hugs. Those are the good times.

What about the other times? Much of the time we spend with them is filled with impatience and frustration. We use harsh words and unloving actions. We fail to discipline and instruct with love and patience and compassion. Sometimes we are too busy for them. Sometimes we are too preoccupied to answer their many questions.

If we are honest with ourselves, too often even our “quality” time with our children is missing something. God reminds us of what we too often leave out of our time with the children who are important to us: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). Do the children in your life get to hear from you about the love their Savior has for them? Do they get to hear on a regular basis about the God who has created them and saved them and given them so many wonderful promises? If we don’t take the time to teach them, who will?

Thankfully we have a Father who gave us more than five minutes. Actually, our heavenly Father gave us much more than that: he gave us an eternity in heaven through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. We will be with our Father in heaven forever. That same Father is with us every minute of every day in his Word. Get together with the children in your life and spend some quality time with God’s Word.

Offering the True Hand of Help

It can be so frustrating. In love you reach out a hand of help and get rebuffed. “Mind your own business.” It could be as minor as a child stubbornly saying, “I can do it myself.” But it could be as tragic as a loved one enslaved in a dangerous habit, and refusing to see your offer as anything but meddling. Dangerous habits become tragic addictions. And the person seems blind to the horrendous outcomes of ruined lives and empty bank accounts or worse. How can I show that person I care and not be pushed away?

Look to the One whose outstretched hands offer help for now and for eternity! Your Savior God says, “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13 Those hands of Jesus touched lepers and healed them. Those hands of Jesus smeared mud on eyes and turned the blind into seeing. Those hands of Jesus were stretched out and nailed to a cross in a love payment for all sins, even sins of addiction. Those hands of the resurrected Jesus were shown to doubting Thomas as proof positive of power to do the impossible.

The Lord Jesus still demonstrates the power to do the impossible and reaches out his hands of healing. Start with prayer and remember his promise: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 Talk to your loved one and extend your hand in prayer with him or her. Don’t pretend you can fix it. Together ask Jesus for his powerful love to reach a heart. Ask Jesus to move that heart to see and reach for the many other hands offered to help: a pastor’s hand of Scriptural counsel, a doctor’s hand of medical help, a counseling center’s hand of intervention. Be patient and persistent in your love and in your prayers. Stay close to that person and lovingly remove opportunities to indulge the addiction. Reach out in love, and remember your Savior’s promise, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

How can I help when others are depressed?

What a helpless feeling! A friend, spouse, sibling, co-worker shows all the signs of depression. The person has gone from full of energy and life to tearful, lethargic, unmotivated and overwhelmed. The change from positive and confident to pessimistic and hopeless is heartbreaking to observe. You desire to help your loved one, but how do you? What can you do? Perhaps you have tried to cheer them up or invite them to functions so that they can get out and be with other people. Maybe you have attempted to talk them out of their depression by telling them it will get better soon or encouraged them to look at the positives in their lives. Despite your efforts, does it seem like nothing you do really helps?

There are things you can do to help someone you care about who is depressed. You can be a loving listener, an encouraging voice, and a praying heart. You can remind them of the many blessings that they have and help them identify the times in their lives in which they have not felt depressed. You can encourage them to seek the counsel of a physician, therapist, or minister. However, the most important gift you can give them is to remind them that they are loved unconditionally by Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only one who understands their suffering completely. The Bible explains how God became a man, in Jesus. And He lived on this earth with all its challenges. Jesus suffered as He endured pain, hunger, fatigue, rejection, loneliness, and more. Ultimately, Jesus even experienced death on a cross. The Bible says in Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Not only does Jesus understand what it is like for us to suffer but he did all of this so that we can be saved. Jesus died for us that we may receive the ultimate blessing of eternal life in heaven. Sharing this gift with someone we care about who is depressed is perhaps the best medicine!

Where is contentment to be found?

A farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life began to long for something better. He finally decided to sell it. He listed it with a real estate broker who promptly prepared a sales advertisement for the farm. The ad, of course, listed all the farm’s advantages: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, and acres of fertile ground.

When the farmer saw the ad in the paper, he hurriedly phoned his real estate agent. “I’ll buy it!” he exclaimed. “It’s exactly the place I’m looking for!”

Contentment is a matter of perspective. How many times have you lived out the cliché, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?”

There is a place where contentment is found, and you don’t need to take a religious pilgrimage to find it. Look at the people, possessions, and pleasures in your life and see them not as your own but “on loan” from God. He gives them to you for a purpose. He wants you to take care of them, and to manage them faithfully.

Some people have received talents from God that are most appreciated by the company’s upper management. Other people have received talents that are noticed most by two-year-olds as they live securely in a loving home. Both kinds of people can be content.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” one Bible writer happily urges. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:4,12-13).

Contentment is a happiness and appreciation that comes from God tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “I’d like you to do something for me. It’s not the same as everyone else is doing, but I know you can do it well. Here’s what I want you to use.”

Rejoice! No matter what the circumstances, you can be content when you see what you have as a gift from God. Part of that gift is the purpose behind it, an improvement project that improves not just the gift, but also the one to whom it is given.

Perfection

A group of special friends comes over for dinner. You spend hours preparing for the meal. You vacuum your house or apartment. You bring out the best dishes in your cabinet. You want everything to be just perfect. Any food improperly cooked or signs of a dirty house could take away from the specialness of the evening. Everything must be perfect.

Our desire for perfection can be seen not only in the home but also in the workplace. Your employer expects you to do your job well. Mistakes will cost the company time and money. If a company is to run efficiently and profitably, everything must be just so, perfect. Further, you feel the best when you have done your job perfectly. And what about your leisure time? What is it that keeps you coming back to play that round of golf again and again? Isn’t it those few perfect shots in a round that motivate you to return again and again?

The God of the universe also is one who expects perfection in the people he has created. The Bible says, “Be perfect, for I the Lord your God am perfect” (Matthew 5:48). God knows that if his people are going to be what he expects them to be, they will be perfect.

The big problem here, as we all know, is that none of us is perfect. Some of that food that we prepared for those guests doesn’t always turn out right, our house has dirt and spiders even though we clean it often. That perfect golf shot slices and ends up just off the green. The assignment at work ends up with a mistake or two. The same holds true in our relationship with God. He has given us 10 commandments. But we break them. We say harsh words. We think bad thoughts. Being the just God that he is, our God must punish us. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Fortunately, a person named Jesus came into the world. He wanted to rescue us. Thus, he lived a perfect life. And that perfect life has been credited to us. We receive Christ’s perfection as our own. Then he died a death for all the times we messed up and weren’t perfect.

Jesus is God’s perfect solution to our imperfection.

Real Meaning To Life

“So you’re just going through the motions again, eh?  I know what you mean.  You hear people talk about wanting to have some routine in their life, but this is over-kill!”

Your alarm interrupts perfectly good sleep marking the start of your day. Same ol’ tooth brush, same ol’ cereal, and the same ol’ clothes.  Same ol’ school, same ol’ friends, same ol’ job, and same ol’ family.

“Doesn’t God want me to be happy? How can I be happy when every day seems so routine, so meaningless?  I really do need a change.”

“Maybe one of those electric toothbrushes to remove the left-over new cereal from between my front teeth—which I’ll whiten up with some new brightener product.  Time to hit the mall and find some new outfits and add some spice to life.  Maybe I’ll meet some really neat new friends while I’m there.  And there’s got to be some better jobs out there, for someone once told me that if you find a job you like, you won’t have to “work” another day in your life!

But do you really think all these changes in your life will really bring meaning to your life?  Oh, they might for a day or two, but they’ll soon become routine.  And then what—more money spent on more changes?  You’ll go broke!

Wouldn’t it be just great to enjoy the life God has given to me right now and know it has real meaning!

There is.  It starts at the cross of Jesus.  Really!  At the cross we learn how much God loves us—SO much to send his Son to pay the penalty of our sins and give us the righteousness we need to get into heaven.  When God’s people start their day remembering God’s love for them, then life takes on a whole new meaning.

Life isn’t about me, or how much I can get out life now.  Living is about Jesus and how much he loves me.

When Jesus lives in my heart, then toothbrush, cereal, school, job, friends and family are seen in a whole new light.  Jesus puts the bounce in my step and gives me the joy of thankfully serving him because of all he did for me.  Then my life has meaning. I get to do everything for a reason—to thank and praise Jesus who loves me so much.

No wonder the apostle Paul had a life full of meaning.  He got it!  He wrote, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

What greater meaning to life can there be than knowing all I do as God’s child, I do to give God glory!  Thank you Jesus, for giving real meaning to my life!

Can God take my guilt away?

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“I wish I could take it all away,” Mom whispered to her suffering five-year-old son. He had the flu for a couple of days now, and Mom’s heart was broken. As he lay in his bed suffering from the chills and a fever, there wasn’t much Mom could do except give him some children’s flu medicine and just be there for him. Mom felt helpless and wished she could take it all away from him. She even wished she could have the flu instead of her son.

When children are sick, the love of Mom and Dad really starts to shine through. In a heartbeat, parents go to extra lengths to make sure their kids are feeling as comfortable as possible. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there. You make sure their pillow is extra fluffy. You bring their favorite juice box. You provide their favorite movie to watch. And any time you hear them call, you quickly respond with, “What can I do for you?” The love of Mom and Dad goes so far that if they could take the sickness away, even become sick instead of their child, they would. But they can’t, and it hurts.

Has there ever been a time when you wished you could take it all away? Not just a sickness of a child, but something you did that you really regret? Maybe it was something you did to end a close relationship with a friend. Maybe you said something to a family member that you wish you could take back. Maybe it was something that only you know about, but it haunts you each day.

It’s at moments like those that God’s love really starts to shine through. He knows your sin, your guilt, your regrets. But he doesn’t just wish he could take them away. He did take them away. He forgave them all! He took your sin and guilt away when he put them on his only Son. He loves you so much that he had his only Son, Jesus, die for your sins so that you wouldn’t have to. God forgave your guilt and now considers you right with him because of what Jesus did for you.

Wish your guilt and regrets could be taken away? They were. In their place he gives you forgiveness and eternal life. Now that’s a love that shines through!

Parenting

A sign along the freeway shows a picture of a worried mother with her teenage son. The caption reads, “Too bad children don’t come with instructions.”

Every parent is faced with many dilemmas, frustrations, and heartaches throughout life, and it seems like sometimes there is nowhere to turn for “The Instructions.”

But in actuality instructions ARE available. It’s just that so many parents either don’t know or overlook the instructions. It’s called the Word of God.

You see, we parents don’t create children. God does. Science can explain the process to some degree. But only the Creator can create new life.

Now, along with that new life, He wants to bless parents and children with a deeply caring relationship that will last for time and eternity.

First and foremost, the Lord God made it possible for our family bonds to last forever. God the Father sent his one-and-only Son to bring forgiveness of wrong doings, to rescue the world from death and hell, and to give us the gift of heaven on top of it all! It’s a “done deal” through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus!

Now when your family has Jesus in the center of its life, that makes for a loving and rewarding home life, too. Not easy, not trouble free, but richly blessed.

These instructions really WORK! If you could list every valuable piece of advice from books, newspaper columns, radio talk show hosts, and clinical counselors, you’d find that all the best advice has been said before—in the Bible!

Consider, for example, this one piece of advice from the Apostle Paul: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Parents, don’t toss the “Instructions” away. Take the time to read the Bible. It works.