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We’ve never done well with choices. Ever since Adam and Eve chose the fruit over obedience mankind has consistently chosen self-gratification. Ironically, satisfying our physical desires never lasts. The body constantly demands more to fill the emotional side of us. It’s a futile attempt because nothing we can see, taste or touch will satisfy forever. Someone once said that within the soul of every person is a God shaped hole. The only thing that will fill the void is Jesus. But here’s the kicker. You have a choice. Will you continue to try to fill the void with the temporal or will you choose the narrow road and follow Christ? It’s your choice and your decision will determine your level of satisfaction and contentment.

Your passions drive your actions. When your actions revolve around yourself, (your own comfort; your own desires; your own strengths) your passions are focused inward and your joy is dependent on fulfilling those passions. When you are passionate about Jesus Christ your joy is not based on yourself but on the realization that Jesus is passionate about you. Your actions are based on Your mutual love for each other. Jesus is passionate about you and he wants you to be passionate about him. That’s why he said if you love me, if you’re passionate about me, If your desire is for me, then you will naturally to have the things that I have promised you.

The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9

Society tells us that there is blessing in riches. Oh, we don’t say it out loud of course. We say “It’s more blessed to give than receive.” We say “Money can’t buy happiness”. The reality is, businesses spend millions of dollars each year in advertising with glitzy signs, clever slogans and the famous ‘Super Bowl Ads’ all in effort to tempt our insatiable palate  which constantly screams for more!

How many times have you said, or at the very least thought, “If I win the lottery I’ll…”

The reality doesn’t match up with the practice all too often. Unfortunately, it seems to be true more in the Christian realm than I’m comfortable with. In our defense, generosity is risky. Part of the problem is defining ‘the poor’. Jesus said we’ll always have the poor with us. He commends those who give even a cup of water to the needy for their thoughtfulness.

In those honest moments we have to admit that there are many people with very little who are actually very rich in character. They are the ones who work hard to try to get ahead but just never seem to make it happen. They are the ones who struggle with a variety of health issues. They are the ones who would give you the shirt off their backs…if they had one.

generosity 10.6.15Then there are those who are, for lack of a better term, are leeches. They have discovered that they can actually make a pretty good living by taking whatever they can get. It is these people who are, in a sense, poor twice. They are the ones who take advantage of our generosity and use us. Within non-profit, and especially ministry circles, they are the ones we look out for because they will use our resources without any conscience.

The struggle of my heart is this. Was Jesus ever concerned about being taken advantage of? Did he ever scrutinize those in need as to their character? The reality is, I think not. He didn’t put any stipulations on who benefitted from his generosity.

When you give, do you give according to your perception of the need or do you give in the name of Jesus. Do you give the cup of water to the thirsty when they are capable of getting it themselves or do you hold back and judge their character.

Often, as I write this blog I try to leave us with answers. But today I must confess I have none. I see the dangers of being taken advantage of, but I see the example of a Savior who was unconcerned about motive. Ten lepers went away healed. Only one had the character to return and say thank you.

PRAYER: Father, we confess to you today that we often hold too tightly to what you’ve given us because of our penchant for determining need from a human perspective. Help us have open minds and open hearts to give to those with open hands as you would have us give. Amen.

When the Lord saw their change of heart, he gave this message to Shemaiah: “Since the people have humbled themselves, I will not completely destroy them and will soon give them some relief. I will not use Shishak to pour out my anger on Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 12:7

“I know it’s wrong but God will forgive me and I’ll be okay.”

I freely admit, I’m guilty of it myself at times. Somehow though, when I hear other people say it, it’s more ominous than when I say it myself. Yeah, I know, that’s a pretty shabby defense. Somehow, those of us who call ourselves believers buy into the lie however. We give our allegiance to Jesus. We proclaim his love, grace and mercy. We ‘take a stand against evil’ in our world, yet think nothing of doing little, unimportant  sins on a daily basis. You know the ones I mean. Our cursing, swearing, judgmental attitudes, the harboring of anger, bitterness or guilt and our greed are all displeasing to our heavenly Father.

Sometimes we assume that God’s forgiveness will remove us from the consequences of that sin, but nowhere in scripture is that the case. Israel, God’s chosen people, constantly strayed from his law and suffered the consequences for it. The story in 2 Chronicles is an example of that. King Rehoboam lived a sinful life and the people followed his example shamelessly right up until the Egyptian army was knocking on their door.

When the leadership saw that God’s punishment was imminent the repented of their sin. The Bible says they did more than ‘pray about it’. It was a change of heart. As a result God saved the nation from extinction. However, he didn’t completely remove the consequences of their behavior.

2 Chronicles 12:8 tells us that although God held back total destruction “… they will become his subjects, so they will know the difference between serving me and serving earthly rulers.”

God promises to forgive our guilt but sometimes He lets us endure consequences to teach us to rely on him. While we are blessed with the promise of forgiveness and eternity with Jesus, we should never take sin of any kind be taken lightly. Remember, the ground may be level under the cross, but there are no ‘little‘ sins. All sin should be taken very seriously in our lives.

PRAYER: Father God. My own words convict me as I’m aware of my tendency to diminish my sin in view of the sin of others. Forgive me for taking sin lightly and help me live in holiness before you by the power of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus name, Amen.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.’ Matthew 5:13

How we feel about ourselves is extremely important in our family relationships, work relationships and virtually every other aspect of our daily lives. Psychologists refer to our view of ourselves as our ‘self-image’ and it includes our feelings, emotions, intellect and experiences growing up. It encompasses a person’s entire being.

Jesus often taught us about who we were when we lived in relationship with the Father. This week let’s take just five of these statements. I call them the five ‘You Are’ Statements of Jesus.

The first ‘You Are’ statement comes from Matthew 5:13. This passage is one of the beginning sections of the great ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Jesus says to his listeners, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.’

The first thing we need to do is to realize what salt meant to the people of Jesus’ day. Salt was extremely valuable, especially in the ancient world. In fact, its value cannot be under estimated. Roman soldiers received their wages in salt. The Greeks considered salt to be divine. The Mosaic Law required that all offerings presented by the Israelites contain salt. (Lev. 2:13)

When Jesus told his disciples that they were “the salt of the earth”, they understood the meaning of that statement. They were a valuable commodity! The same is true for us today. You need to realize that no matter where you are in life, Jesus Christ sees you as a thing of great value.

In our day, salt may not hold the same value as in Jesus’ day, but it still has many useful analogies for our lives. Salt enhances the flavor of our food.  In the same way, we as believers in Jesus Christ are called on to add flavor to the lives of those around us. When I was in college a friend of mine came to my apartment to babysit my two small children while I went out. When I returned, she had taken it upon herself to make Peanut Butter cookies for the new boyfriend she wanted to impress. She offered me a cookie and it was a good thing she did! She had mistaken the container of salt for sugar. The cookies were inedible because they were all salt.

A good lesson for us to learn is that salt, when used properly, is not overpowering. Some foods require more salt than others. Some require less. In our life situations we need to seek Godly wisdom to know how to add just the right amount of salt to each situation; in other words, just the right amount of living our faith is important to show the love of Christ to others.

Not only does salt add flavor to food, and life, it also acts as a preservative. Those listening to Jesus knew the preserving function of salt. Salt was added to fish and other foods in order to keep it from spoiling in the hot, Judean sunshine. We, in turn need to make a stand for what is right in our world. However we should do so in a loving, gentle manner. That means we take a stand for God’s Word without being judgmental and offensive. Jesus exemplified this by the fact that he was a friend of sinners.

Jesus says one more thing about salt. He offers us something of a warning when he says, “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Jesus warns us that salt can become contaminated, corrosive and even poisonous. When this happens, it’s worthless and must be thrown out. It’s so worthless it can’t even be used on fields as fertilizer. This thing of great value can become a thing of danger or disappointment.

Sometimes we make decisions and choices that destroy our testimony for Christ. We lose, in a sense, our saltiness through disobedience. The good news is that there is always hope. You can never be so ‘un-salty’ that God cannot use you! I John 1:9 reminds us that if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. Confession and repentance restores our saltiness so we can be used effectively by God. It may take some time for others to trust us. It may take some time for this new saltiness to make a difference. But we can know, because of God’s promises, that he will restore us completely through his Grace and the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

My prayer for you today is that you will be salt to those around you. If you have lost that saltiness I pray you will go to the Father and ask Jesus for forgiveness. Jesus didn’t say ‘some of you’ are salt, he said YOU are the salt of the earth, and if he says it, it must be true.

PRAYER: Father God I pray for those struggling today. I thank you that we are the salt of the earth. Help us to be that flavor in our relationships that brings others to saving faith in you. Amen.

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