Acutely Aware

Italian drivers seem crazy to me. They drive too fast, often disobeying even the most basic traffic signs, they seem to have some unwritten rules that I’ll never understand, and worse, they seem to get upset with the people who obey the written rules of the road.

Dear God, I’m glad I’m not like them (except too often I am).

This week I became acutely aware of many of my own arrogant thoughts as I observed immigrants, the homeless, drunkards, pushy travelers on and around public transportation, and people who were too slow, too fast, or too loud. It is shameful to think about how often these thoughts came into my head.

On the other hand, I acknowledge these thoughts are sinful. I have God’s Holy Spirit reminding me to turn away, to change my line of thinking before it gets worse. Until I get to Heaven where there is no more sin, I live each day with this battle. For now, I have the joy in knowing that when I repent and turn from these evil ways I am forgiven, made new. In these moments I am also reminded to pray for others (instead of cursing them), to give, to share the love of Jesus.

One of the reasons I was able to remain “acutely aware” of these thoughts as sin was because God’s word was fresh on my mind; specifically the verses for this week where Jesus contrasts the proud and the humble.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

What a great simple prayer from the tax collector. Sometimes I make prayer too complicated. This is a good reminder to just humbly go to God and start by begging for mercy.

Father God, in this moment, I beg you for mercy. All too often my choices reflect self-focus rather than kingdom-focus. Let me see others how you see them, your children, your beloved, your creation. Amen.

Humble Yourself

Today’s reading:  James 4:6-12

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:6-10).

Have you ever read the book Humble Inquiry – The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, by Edgar H. Schein (2013)?  I read it a couple of years ago when I took on a new leadership role.  The teams I had taken over included a good number of the most well-tenured subject matter experts on our product lines and supporting processes.  Essentially my very first job in the department was to lead four teams who knew way more than I did.  It was a daunting task.

Schein defines Humble Inquiry as – the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person. He outlined a simplistic three-step process to implement this method:

  1. Do less telling.
  2. Learn to do more asking in the particular form of Humble Inquiry.
  3. Do a better job of listening and acknowledging.

Almost two years in, I’m happy to report I am a believer in the art of humble inquiry. The secret to the method is to be vulnerable enough to let others see your heart.  Getting them to understand the motive behind your actions – to build a trust relationship to help achieve common objectives – is not a fast process.  I’ve found, however, it is worth the investment.

Similarly, in our text for today, James guides his readers on how to build a trust relationship with God to achieve common objectives.

  1. Humble yourself before God – yield to his authority, let him help you make wise choices and avoid many pitfalls. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
  2. Resist the devil – unlike God, remember Satan doesn’t have your best interest in mind. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
  3. Purify your heart – replace your desire to sin with a desire to be pure before God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:22-23).
  4. Be truly sorry for your sins – express remorse for what you have done. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
  5. Bow down before the Lord – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

Building a trust relationship with God isn’t fast either, but it is definitely worth the investment.  The good news is God already has it figured out. He will be by our side and help us every step of the way.  We just need to trust and obey.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act
(Psalm 37:3-5).

Wisdom

James 3:13-18 “Wisdom from Above”

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of his wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

 

This is a passage that I needed to read a few times to soak it in. First let’s take a look at two definitions of wisdom. Wisdom according to Wikipedia: “Wisdom or sapience is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight, especially in a mature or utilitarian manner.” Wisdom by Psychology Today: “Wisdom is one of those qualities difficult to define—because it encompasses so much—but which people generally recognize when they encounter it.” I then took it a part a little bit more and looked up “meekness” on Google. The first definition showing screamed at me ‘world view’ because of the example sentence: “The fact or condition of being meek; submissiveness. ‘All his best friends make fun of him for his meekness.’” That doesn’t sound very flattering or fun. Then, under Wikipedia, you see the more biblical version: “Meekness is an attribute of human nature and behavior. It has been defined several ways: righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering, long suffering willing to follow gospel teachings; an attribute of a true disciple.” So, if we do have wisdom, we are to show our works in the humbleness of our wisdom…in the teach-ability of our wisdom…in the true discipleship of our wisdom.

 

BJ asked us to focus on the character of God…and I think this reading speaks it loud and clear: “But the wisdom from above (God’s character) is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Quite the example and all character traits that you would want in your Heavenly Father.

 

Happy Wednesday and may people see your works in the meekness of wisdom.

MT

 

Living Faith

It’s been 10 days since the birth of our daughter Gianna Linn LaFrance.  At times, it can feel like it was yesterday. The miracle of birth is a true blessing.  So I wanted to find a way to connect today’s passage to her birth. In readings today’s passage of James 2:14-20  we get a chance to take a closer look at our faith.  What a great reflection for ourselves and for our children. Is it living or dead? Let’s read the scripture together.

Faith without Good Deeds Is Dead
14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

When I first read these verses by James I think about the amazing “Faith & Work” that was created by Charlie Welke and other amazing young adults at Eastview.  Here you can find some amazing testimonies and more to encourage, remind, and highlight this journey of Faith & Work(click to hear more)

Throughout the book of James and in our verses today, James offers a series of tests we can take in order to take a pulse on our faith. It is like 2 Corinthians 13:5 where we are asked as followers of God, to test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine self.   So today, with myself and our children in mind I’d like to think of it as a test, and a prayer for what God is doing and what He can do when our faith is alive.  Back in James chapter 1:2-13 James we looked at tests under trial.  How are we responding in these trials? Am I controlled by my circumstances? ( Living or Dead Faith? ) Next up in James 1 we looked at testing with temptations.  Where do I place the blame? (Living or Dead? ) Beginning in James 2 we looked at testing of how we treat the poor and needy. What are our responses? How do we show love? (Living or Dead Faith? )

Now, here in James 2:14-20 is the test of works.  Is there righteous actions? Righteous behaviors? Are we obedient to His Living Word? How am I truly living? How do I pray for others to be living? (Living or Dead Faith? )

After taking these tests, I can only put my head down and hands up while turning to prayer.  I ask for forgiveness because I know many times I can have the words, and fall short in faith. (Dead) The wonderful news is how Jesus transforms us and He is always at work on our hearts and souls. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we are his workmanship, created in Christ for good works.

My prayer for us, for our families, for my 3 children including 10 day old Gianna, is that we have a Living Faith! One that doesn’t change with our circumstances, that in all trials we face we have a faith that we are never alone.  We give it all to God. That in our temptations and desires of this world now let alone what our children face – we battle.  We put on God’s full armor, placing no blame on Him, allowing His perfect plan to take place.  I pray we recognize and take action for those in need. That our actions and words  are full of love and without judgement.  Romans 2:6 says He will render to each one according to his works.

God, I pray that in every day you give us we have a Living Faith,  a faith that transforms us in all that we do.  In our thoughts, words, and actions glorify you, and reflect a Living Faith that you have tested us on here in James.  Our lives won’t be marked by the day we were born, or the day we die, but by a Living Faith that shines for you.  Amen

Have a blessed day.

 

Progressive Refinement

 

Today’s Reading: James 1:19-27

Good Morning,  I apologize for the delay this morning.  Last night we didn’t have internet access, so this morning I made a 25 mile trek to the city to send off this post.  One amazing aspects of this journey is I saw my first moose ever. This was awesome.   Let’s get into the reading.

In the letter of James, the apostle is writing to the new church and reinforcing the teachings of Christ.  James is now an elder in the church and is witnessing some of the same issues that had been present before Christ in Judaism to continue in the new church among the Christians.   The issues that are presented are: 1.) Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 2.) Be doers of the word and not only hearers, 3.) Anyone who is doing the work of God, but doesn’t control his words is not doing true works of God.  In these issues presented there is a progressive refinement movement present where you cannot only do part of the process, but you must continually strive to get better.

In the first issue, we are called to listen and allow this to guide our thoughts and actions.  We should be proactive and not allow the situations or our feelings dictate our responses.  This is an area that is more difficult to harness without practice.   It seems that many of the early church leaders would allow their own personal opinions and perceptions cloud their judgement and this would lead to frustrations and conflict.  How many times in a day can you allow your own emotions to interfere your service?  How many times are you not fully listening to others and assuming you know what the other person is wanting or how to react?  This is an area that I am continually progressively refining in myself. As I write this, I am reminded of a situation today where I helped my son to rethink his reactions to his sisters. Progressive refinement.

The second issue, is to be doers and not only hearers of the Word.  We can listen to all the newest sermons, bible talks, podcasts, and other outlets; but if we are not actively engaging and being intentional in our service we are no better than those who do not know the Word.  In the first issue, we were not hearing the word.  Then James tells us since you are listening and hearing the word, you must continue to move forward and now be active in the word.  There are times that we have listen to the word and then we get excited and start to become active and motivated.  After a while we are back to where we began or sometimes further than where we started.  We should be intentional about the service and the way God moves in our lives.  We must engage God, through the Spirit to actively be a part of our lives and work in us for the Glory of the kingdom.

The final issue, you are doing these works that you have heard from God to be active in His works, we must be careful to not allow our own ambitions and desires cloud the true objective.  God is in search of you and desires you to promote the kingdom which is the true objective.  We should seek God, do His will, and remember that it is not us that is in charge. Sometimes, I forget that this is not my life and my hopes and dreams, but it is God’s purpose for me that allows me to be here and serving him.  Again James makes it plain and simple,

James  1:27  “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their afflictions”

 This is true religion.  It is not who is better than the other, it is not about who can speak better than the other, it is not about who can out do the other.  True religion is love others unconditionally, without the expectation of acknowledgement in return.   When we have question if the works that we are doing are pleasing to God, we should ask ourselves “Are we taking care of those that are not able to assist themselves and are we doing it with love?”

As we look at these issues, we must see that it is not a finite and limited progression of growth, but a constant changing and dynamic process.  We have a glimpse of the road map, but we need to continually ask for direction and clarification of the directions that Christ has for us.  Progressive Refinement.  James continues to give us insight if we are receptive to the Word.  Be Blessed.

My Phone

I promise that if you see me, I will either be carrying my phone in my hand or it will be in my purse pocket.  It is never far from me.  If I am working in the kitchen, it is on the counter near me.  The most important reason I keep it close is in case one of my children needs me.  But, the other 23+ hours in a day when they are not needing me, I am on my phone for many unjustified reasons…mainly…social media.  I get my news from my phone, updates on friends and family (and updates from people I have never even met in person) and spend more time than I care to admit observing other people’s lives.  It is a temptation for me to get wrapped up in my phone and avoid the things that I need to be doing.

For various reasons, I deleted all social media off of my phone on July 1 and am taking a break from looking at Facebook or Instagram for the entire month.  For the first few days it was just weird, every time I picked up my phone I had nothing to do but check my email and the weather.  Well, that got old real quick.  In fact, I find myself spending more time reading my Bible app, devotions that had been emailed to me, and journaling.  But, now that the month is almost half over,  the TEMPTATION is REAL!  I just want to open my social media apps back up!  

I am definitely not saying social media is bad, but when it is being used in the place of a productive activity, it is sin.  And, in my life this was becoming way to often.  

What is it that tempts you?? 

Today our passage, James 1:13-18 discusses the fact that we will be tempted.  

James 1:13-16

Whenever you feel tempted to do something bad, you should not say, “God is tempting me.”  Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone.  You are tempted by the evil things you want.  Your own desire leads you away and traps you.  Your desire grows inside you until it results in sin.  Then the sin grows bigger and bigger and finally ends in death.  My dear brothers and sisters, don’t be fooled about this.

Temptation comes when our own desire leads us away and traps us.  As long as we are in this physical body we are going to be tempted.  There is no sin in being tempted, it is when we give in to the temptation that we fall into sin.  

What are the top five self-reported temptations in America?  According to a Barna survey:

1.  60% of Americans are often or sometimes living in a state of noticeable and debilitating temptation to be anxious or worry.  

2.  60% of Americans are often or sometimes stuck in habits of procrastination.

3.  55% are often or sometimes overwhelmed by the temptation to eat too much.

4.  44% pf Americans admit that they face temptations to overuse electronics and social media.

5.  41% of Americans say they are often or sometimes tempted by laziness or not working as hard as reasonably expected in their occupations.

Is this a complete list of temptations we face?  Absolutely not, anything that lures us from God’s best plan for us is a temptation.

For me, it is really easy to get hung-up on performance and focusing on not giving into temptation.  But, I love that the last two verses of our passage today focus on Who god is and What He has given us.  It gives us all the reason to want to please Him and follow Him.  

James 1:17-18

Everything good comes from God.  Every perfect gift is from him.  These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky, but God never changes like the shadows from those lights.  He is always the same.  God decided to give us life through the true message he sent to us.  He wanted us to be the most important of all that he created.

 

Watch out!

James 1:1-12

I can hear the voices in my head that say “don’t pray for wisdom.”  They come from everyone, including friends, peers, mentors, and yes, even pastors.  Often, the phrase is followed with a nervous chuckle, or a sideways glance so that the listener gets the real message.  What is the real message?  Today, in James 1, we get an opportunity to look a little closer.  Specifically, verse 5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God who give generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

When I pull verse 5 out of James 1:2-12 and read it alone, I gain confidence.  Wisdom is at my fingertips.  All I have to do is ask.  Why wouldn’t I want to be wise?  I can’t lose.  To do so, however, is like removing Christ’s ugly death from the gospel.  It doesn’t work.  Instead, we need to consider the whole message.  Read now, verse 2 and 3.  They say, “Consider it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  It is this verse that triggers the warnings from others.  They know where wisdom comes from.  James gets it right.  It comes from “the testing of your faith.”  This, then, is the beginning of wisdom.

What does testing of our faith look like?  I don’t know the design, only God knows that, but I do know the outcome.  Think of it like an automobile test.  Engineers deliberately crash a car to show its weak points.  Not only are they trying to make the car stronger, but also a safer environment for the driver.  I think faith testing looks similar.  When God reveals our weakness, he retools us and equips us so that we can be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (v4).

When I think of faith testing in that way, I become a little braver, but I still have a hang-up.  I fear that God will apply wisdom to areas that I don’t want him to.  It likely comes from areas of my life that I am neglecting or maybe in disobedience.  When it comes to asking God for wisdom, I experience guilt or even shame because of my faulty life.  The fear these feelings produce will inevitably keep me from praying for wisdom.  Once again, we need to look closely at the scriptures for truth.  Reading verse 5, I quickly see that God gives generously.  It’s not until I look more closely that I see also that he gives “without reproach.”  Do you know what that means?  It means that God gives it without disapproval or disappointment.  Wow, really?!  Really.  God gives wisdom generously with his full approval granting us success and good fortune.

I am thankful for James 1 and the truth provided about wisdom.  I am also devastated.  He reveals my complete lack of understanding.  I see more clearly, today, that it is not wisdom that I lack.  It is faith.

Crazy Socks

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:1-2

When do you remember first worrying about what others thought of you and trying to fit in? For me, it was junior high. I began to really care about how I looked, dressed, and the brand of my clothes. I remember wearing some jeans and wondering that morning if I had grown and if they were long enough. That same day, someone made a comment about me having “high waters” on and then a girl who many of us junior high aged boys were fond of chimed in and said…”Looks like the tides are coming in, Chet.” You can be rest assured I never wore those pair of jeans again, and I made sure my pants were never too short again. In fact, my wife is going to chuckle when she reads this because I think this experience is why likely today I am still always asking her if my pants are too short (like even maybe just last week). Unless if’s for exceptional performance at something, nearly all of us are constantly trying to fit in. Even as adults, we are worried about what others think and follow to the norms of this world.

This world is always trying to get us to conform, even though Romans 12:2 clearly tells us it’s ok to be different, which is exactly what we will be, when we are following Christ. This world tries to tell us that we can do whatever we want and feel like because that will make us happy. This world tells us that rules and guidelines God gives us in His Word keep us from being satisfied. Do whatever you feel like..that will bring you happiness and peace. Then you will be free. However, God knows whatever He tells us is sin in the Bible will actually make us a slave, not free. Sin either initially gives us a sense of anxiety knowing we did something wrong shortly thereafter or gives us temporary satisfaction in the moment, but it will eventually bring us pain and hurt at some point in the long run. This world tells us that many things the Bible says are wrong are now socially acceptable. Things have changed since Bible times we are told, and the Evil One will even trick us into believing that some things are not a sin just because Jesus didn’t specifically address them. But, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us,” 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Evil One knows that if we discredit one piece of Scripture…he’s got us..because that means you have to throw out the Scriptures as a whole. We, as believers, must stand up and recognize that the nature of our faith is 2 Timothy 3:16 is true and as a result, we believe ALL Scripture to be true. We must then do all we can to live out the truth of those Scriptures to reveal the character of God.

Romans 3:23 tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Isaiah 59:2 tells us “..your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” But, thankfully the character of God is to give us that which we do not deserve as told here in Romans 6:23.. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We all have a God shaped hole in our heart due to our sin that only He can fill through a relationship with Him.

No matter how hard we try, we will fall short and sin, but Romans 12:1 tells us that we should do all we can to make our own body holy and sacred, dedicating it to Him and doing all we can to not sin. Romans 12:2 then also tells us that when we do this and do not conform to this world we will know the will of God. How many times do we ask ourselves why something bad is happening in our lives, others’ lives, or in our world today? How can this seemingly bad thing be good? What good can come of this? What is the right thing for me to do right now? Well, this tells us if we give our life up to Him, we will better understand His will and what is going on. Who doesn’t want that wisdom and the peace that will come from it?

For the last few years, a few guys in my office have been on me to get rid of my old plain, solid colored dress socks that match my suit and switch to wearing the crazy designed, multi-colored socks that don’t have to match your suit. I pushed back caring about what potential clients would think and wondering if someone would trust a financial advisor who dresses like this. Well, three months ago I was in San Diego and walked into a store with probably a 60 feet wall full of crazy socks. I began to think (or maybe it was the Holy Sprit’s divine intervention)..maybe it’s time. So, I did it…I decided not to conform with the regular old, plain socks and to get some crazy socks…to be different. Let me tell you after 3 months, I love wearing them. It’s actually fun, and I like not having to worry about matching. Covering up past sins which cause worry and anxiety is not enjoyable. Giving your body as a sacrifice and not conforming to this world and what this world says is right may sound boring and not fun. However, if you hear the Holy Spirit telling you to change the way your living through His Word or through Christ-centered friends, listen and take action. Turn away, and give your life to Jesus. You won’t have to worry about the bondage of past sins that make you a slave. It may be even better and more freeing than not having to worry about matching socks….

 

Are you a sheep?

Are you a sheep?  Or are you a goat?   Matthew 25: 31-46

When you read today’s bible verses, did you categorize yourself as a sheep or a goat?  I could definitely be a better sheep than I am right now as there is more I could be doing to give back of my time, talents and money.

As we dive into the beginning sentences, the vision painted for us is a mass crowd with God dividing us into two camps:  sheep on the right who will be redeemed and saved and goats on the left who will be condemned and lost.  The reading shares with us the characteristics of the sheep.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’   The “king” or God was not talking about himself.  He was referring to others in the world.  Did you give food to those in need?  How about those who were thirsty or needed clothes or needed help or even a hug?  If you see a homeless person on the street, do you walk by or do you give him or her something?

As I was evaluating options, so many ideas came to mind.  We can always find avenues to perform charitable acts such as serving in a soup kitchen or volunteering at an organization.  Each year at work, we have one day everyone serves.  Various events are organized in big cities and we are expected to attend and serve.  Here is Bloomington, we have worked at Home Sweet Home Ministries, sorting clothes, books, shoes, etc.  The day serves as a way to give back to the community and i s a wonderful way to serve others with your colleagues.  You walk away at the end of the day feeling very fulfilled.  My self check based on this reading is that I should do more of these types of volunteer activities as well as doing more for others.

Timing was perfect for today’s reading for me for another reason.  My son Jonathan (14) is currently in Ripley, Tennessee for his first church work camp experience.  He went to Fellowship of Christian Athletes trip in 8th grade in Missouri with Kingsley Jr. High and loved it.  Then, for whatever reason, when work camp rolled around last year, he did not go last year.  Upon return and throughout his youth group this year, he heard from his friends who went how much fun they had so he plunged right in this year.  They typically are assigned a work group with other churches so you meet new people.  At night all the work groups get back together for fellowship.  As we prepared for the trip and loaded his “work bucket” you could see he was excited but also slightly anxious.  His older brother Matthew (17) who participated when he was a freshman assured him the experience would be both fun and rewarding.  Certainly something he would not regret or forget.  Jonathan is a kind-hearted young man and I know God will allow his good nature and helping hands to show through as he gives back.  I cannot wait to hear the stories!

As you go about your week, hopefully you take the time to be sheep even if it’s “welcoming” or saying hello to a stranger on the street!

Psalm 138

What are you doing with your talents?

Matthew 25:14-30 contains the Parable of the Talents. A talent was a measure of currency in weight, worth about 6 years of wages. In this parable, a man going on a long journey leaves his servants in charge of different amounts of money (large sums – 5 talents for one, 2 for another and 1 for the last – but even 1 talent was a substantial amount).  The first two servants each took the amounts entrusted to them and worked to grow that sum. When the master returns much later, each of those servants is able to give over to his master not only the original amount left in their care, but also the same amount over again in growth from their diligent stewardship. Their loyalty and hard work is rewarded with a response of  “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

The third servant, who received the least amount, had taken his sum and buried it. While he was able to return the entire amount to his master, that was not enough. The master is not happy with this. The response actually seems pretty harsh. You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.” 

What does this mean? And how does it apply to us? Verse 15 says that each servant was left with a different amount, “to each according to his ability”. Let’s think of the talents (currency) as a different talent – gifts, abilities, etc. To each one of us, God has given a gift. ALL of us have one. Some of us have more, some of us have less, but we all have been given the ability to use what God has given us for his glory. Each of us according to our abilities.

What are we doing with our talents? Do we hide them away safely, maybe let them peek out a bit on Sundays at church, but never use them to grow God’s kingdom? Do we put our talents to use to love on people, to reflect grace to those in need, and to show generosity of spirit?

Reflect today on how many “talents” have been left in your care. What are you doing with them? Are you investing them to grow God’s kingdom or hiding them away?

Lord, thank you for your daily blessings and mercies. Thank you for the promise of your return. Help me to take the abilities you’ve given to me and not only to recognize what they are, but to actively pursue using them to show your love to those around me.