How much should I help my Neighbor?

Many times, I’ve had conversations with other Christians who experienced frustration when reaching out with help to another church member, friend, co-worker, or a family in the neighborhood. The frustration is usually expressed something like this, “I helped them out and now they keep asking for more help!” I have also experienced this circumstance personally. It can be a challenge to know what to do and how to respond. I think the following article sorts it out well and gives us a great framework to go by. No, it’s not easy to figure out how much to help and where to draw the line, but these are some good words on how to approach the topic.

https://bible.org/question/i-know-we-are-help-our-neighbors-and-when-we-lend-were-are-give-those-need-what-they-need-a

Am I Loving Enough?

“So now faith, hope, and love abide; but the greatest of these is love.” —1 Corinthians 13:13

My daughter, Becca, has a mantra – “Am I loving enough?” I think that expression is awesome and it really gets at the heart of what it means to love. Why? because true God-inspired love is not merely a feeling, it is action! Faith is belief in our creator and hope is a positive looking forward to all the God has in store for those who have faith. But… love (real agape God love) is the living out and demonstration of our faith and hope as we shine a light into a dark world – the light of Christ. This kind of love is shown by how we treat others, by how we respond to others, by how we reach out to others, by how we defend others…by how we help those in need or show grace to those who do not deserve it. All the verbs connected with real God sized love are action words – words that describe what we do, not how we feel. Paul made it clear when he challenged the church to show our love by our deeds – “faith without works is dead”. God can see our faith and hope by looking right into our hearts. The rest of the world sees our faith and hope by looking at our demonstrations of love.

  • Home – Does your family know that you love them through your actions or is it through words only? (some family members don’t even bother to show it with words!).
  • Church – Does the world outside the walls of the church know that you love? Corporate worship and Bible Study are very important, but if that’s all you do then it looks like you love corporate worship and Bible study – not people.
  • Work – Do people know you as that person who goes to church or do they know you as that person who cares about them and is available to help them?

Bottom line – “Are you loving enough?”

Beating the Holiday Blues

The holiday season is a wonderful time of joy? Really? For some, not so much. I love the holidays – the lights, the laughter, the people, the music, the meaning – all of it. However, there are some things I don’t like…

Such as the emphasis on purchasing gifts, the busyness, the commercialism, and the in-laws! (just kidding, I love my in-laws like a mouse likes a cat! [just kidding! I really do love them to pieces! {sometimes, I wish it was many pieces – just kidding!}])

The plain truth is that for many people, the holidays can be depressing. Dealing with family issues, memories of loved ones, the hustle and bustle, the pressure to spend more than one has, and other things can all add up to the blues. And, if someone is already a little down, seeing everyone in such a good mood, can actually make things worse.

So, I want to give everyone some permissions to help make the holidays brighter:

1) Decide not to spend more than you can spare. Definitely do not charge Christmas unless you already have the money and plan to pay the whole bill when it comes due. Make a list and check it twice. Remove all the naughty people – they get nothing (hey, it works for Santa, right?). Prioritize the rest. Then, assign an approximate dollar amount to each person, making sure the total is not more than you have allotted to spend. Then, stick to it!!! They will still love you and if they don’t, then who cares – they aren’t worth it if all they care about is how much you spend on them. (Tip: young kids usually like the box better than the gift, so just get them the box!)

2) Don’t put up with the family stuff that ruins the holiday cheer! People can’t just go around messing up everyone’s life. Say no to party poopers (and drugs)! Life is too short and will be even shorter if you keep putting up with the stress! But remember to do all things in love and be willing to forgive. (Disclaimer: don’t blame me for any fall out from this advice!) (Book recommendation: Boundaries by Henry Cloud)

3) If you already have the blues before the holidays ever get here – do something about it! Talk to someone – a friend or a pastor or someone you trust. Let others help. Don’t go it alone – It is amazing how much stronger a strand is when braided into a rope.

4) Don’t let your schedule ruin the holidays. This should be a time for cheer and fellowship, but don’t schedule so many things that you can’t enjoy any of them. Don’t automatically say yes to every invitation. Plan ahead and schedule the important things first, including family time. Leave some room for fun things and just sitting at home enjoying each other.

Don’t have a blue Thanksgiving and Christmas! Let it be a good time of great joy!

10 Tips to Build Resilience

Resiliency doesn’t just happen. While some people can naturally bear up under certain pressures better than others, for the most part it takes work. We can actually work on being more resilient.

Click on this link for some good tips on building resilience.

10 Tips to Build Resilience | Psych Central.

Unity, Liberty, and Charity

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”

I have always liked this statement. It is a great expression of what I believe scripture teaches on how we are supposed to relate to each other as the church. Although there is debate over who the quote came from, it has been around for at least several hundred years. Throughout history, Christians have struggled with how to function as one in the midst of diversity. Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Church at Corinth and Jesus prayed for unity among Christians as recorded in John chapter 17.

I like this summary statement in an article from Mark Ross:

“It calls for unity on the essential things, the core of truth in our union with Christ. In non-essentials (not the unimportant, but those things that if lacking do not prevent our union with Christ), it calls for liberty so that all might follow their consciences under the Word and Spirit. In all things, however, there must be love (“charity” from the Latin caritas, or “love”), “which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).

You can find the whole article at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/essentials-unity-non-essentials-liberty-all-things/

Is your “Church” small enough?

Gathering together as a congregation can be a wonderful experience in many ways – no doubt. However, it is important to understand that only experiencing the big crowd will not give you the fullness of being a part of your local church. To get it to the max you need to get smaller. Small groups. If you have never experienced small groups, then its hard to fully appreciate the significance. Small groups are powerful! Many people don’t feel like church has much to offer, and often it is because they have never chosen to become a part of the corporate body in a more participating way. Here are just a few reasons why you have to try a small group!

  1. Small groups offer the best environment for spiritual growth. The interactive nature of gathering together and studying together in a small group really helps the participants to grow. It’s leaps and bounds beyond sitting in the pew at big church – really! You can even ask questions! You might really freak your pastor out if you ask a question in big church (I started to write, “try it and see!” but decided not to. If you decide to try it anyway, I am not responsible for whatever happens next!)
  2. Small groups help people belong. It’s a lonely world out there without friends. Small church or big church – you don’t really get to know others until you are in a setting where you can interact. A handshake at the beginning or end of the worship service is not going to do the trick. An occasional potluck can be quite delicious, but its probably not going to wipe out the loneliness factor, especially if you bring green bean casserole! (Just kidding about the casserole…maybe not)
  3. Small Groups are the best venue for “loving one another.” As Christians get to know one another in small groups, they also learn about each other’s needs and also grow in a desire to care for and support one another – awesome! And…a small group is a built-in support group for you when emotionally or physically in need.

I have seen so many wonderful things happen in small groups – life change, spiritual growth, Christian education, reaching out to others, unity, love, fellowship, care, and so much more. Church is so much more than a building or a crowd gathered together – it is the body of Christ living life together, encouraging one another in the faith, loving one another, and serving together. Do yourself a big favor and seek out a small group to pour yourself into and start experiencing God in a whole new way – a much smaller way.

Living on the Plus Side of Zero

Recently, through some reading on personal finance, I was again reminded of the popularity of debt in our society. It’s not popular because everyone likes it, but because so many people engage in it! The percentages are astounding! If you aren’t living on the plus side of zero, then you need to start working on it right now. Do not delay. In other words, live within your means. Income minus expenses should result in a positive number! Assets minus liabilities should result in a positive number! I would never claim to be the most frugal person in the world – I absolutely am not! (I hesitated to use the word “absolutely” because these days almost everyone says it in response to almost everything! Don’t believe me? Start listening for it and you will soon be letting me know how absolutely right I am. But, it seemed like a good word to use – so I used it anyway) If you are living on the negative side of zero, then stop! The principles are basic and have been around for a long time. Spend less than you make and start saving for your future. If you are in debt, then start spending less than you make, start paying off debt, and save for your future. There is no exception to this plan. Will this plan work for you? – Absolutely!

The Spirit of Christmas

The holiday season is a great time of joy for many reasons – food, fun, fellowship, family, etc. Of all the great things about Christmas, one of my favorite characteristics is how people seem to pull together in a special way and become united in accomplishing great things for others. As you read the following story, notice the sense of unity and purpose that drives this mission. It truly is amazing.

In 1943 a mid-air collision on February 1, 1943, between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area, became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of WW II. An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot, then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named “All American”, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron. When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through connected only at two small parts of the frame, and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest; the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner’s turret. Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft miraculously still flew! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target. When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.  The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn. Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the appendage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress, taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been “used” so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane to land it. Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear. When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed. This old bird had done its job and brought the entire crew home uninjured.

What an amazing story! That crew gave it their all to hold things together and work towards a common goal. They carried out the mission in the midst of a situation that seemed doomed to failure – but it did not fail. It was nothing short of miraculous! The biblical Christmas story is very similar. The people of Israel had perhaps given up hope on the awaited “Savior.” Just like in the bomber story, the situation seemed to have no good ending. Yet, there were those who still had faith and knew in their hearts that victory would be achieved. The Bible tells how victory was achieved on that first Christmas morning – a miracle! And people have been pulling together to accomplish great things year after year ever since.

Be of good cheer this holiday season – pull together, don’t give up, expect the impossible, and do whatever it takes. These are the characteristics that make up a good story and they are the qualities of victory. We have a history of this kind of story in our great nation. Let it be our story in the world today as we spread joy and cheer and charity. The holidays help remind us of greater purpose. The joy of Christmas is not really about all that we can get; it’s about all that we can give. The truth is, there were many missions in World War II that did not end in a safe landing. But…the courage, purpose, and sacrifice displayed in each and every one of them are what make the difference in our world. “Thank you” to all those who have helped to make a difference for all of us. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Uplifting for sure!

Ever think a cemetary could be uplifting? Check out this pic!

Wheelchair free

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward  man  is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding  and  eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen  are  temporary, but the things which are not seen  are  eternal.”