May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
One morning in late December of 2017 I sat at the kitchen table looking at the leaves blowing around by the power of the wind. This poem came to me then. I often find that life can be unexpected and unpredictable, but I know there is a Source of constancy and stability when all around me seems chaotic. I hope you know it too.
The Winds of Life
Watching a fallen leaf
Skip lightly across the ground
In the unseen air
Without a single sound.
And some of us like leaves
When the winds of life do blow,
Are carelessly tossed around
By our troubles and our woe.
We drift and flit through life
Going first from here to there
With no sure knowledge of a God
Who’d hold us in His care.
The Bible tells us that
Every hair upon our head
Is know by a mighty God
With every single step we tread.
If only we could know
And understand God’s grace
Of His magnificent love
And the Son that took our place
The son, His name is Jesus,
And He is living still-
To plead and call you to Him
To do His blessed will.
So come to the Rock,
And the Anchor that will hold,
The Messiah and the Master,
The Son of Man foretold.
In this life of struggle
When the wind is blowing strong.
There is a living Savior
To whom we can belong.
He gives us full forgiveness,
And a love that is great and true
And in all of eternity
A home and heavenly view.
© Robin Robbins House 12/27/2017
As I’ve watched on television the people of Texas deal with the effects of Hurricane Harvey, I’ve heard many reporters and commentators expressing their opinions on the rescues, recovery, and responses about those affected, their neighbors and how both citizens and elected officials around the nation have reacted to this natural disaster. I posted a video interview on my Facebook feed about one man who came from Kentucky to help out. The man told a story of how, while helping, he became hungry was helped by hospitable citizens affected by Harvey with a meal in the midst of their own loss and devastation. His heart-felt and humble testimony, while giving God the glory, was inspiring.
Video of a good Samaritan
Christian groups like Samaritan’s Purse, The Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, and many others led the response preparing to send people and supplies both now and for the long haul of the recovery. The Cajun Navy from Louisiana loaded their boats and supplies and en masse jumped in the water (both literally and figuratively) to seek, save, and serve their fellow man. The Red Cross is helping with shelters and supplies while coordinating contributions. Govenor Abbot and public officials throughout Texas have rallied together to coordinate their efforts while accepting assistance offered by President Trump from the federal government. Mexico and other countries have also offered to help and are sending aid.
In spite of thousands of what I’d say are wonderful stories and responses to the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey, there are many reporters that seem determined to be critical. They appear to feed on being divisive, disparaging and destructive as they pompously judge the thoughts and motives of elected officials, church leaders and others. I heard one reporter try to bait Govenor Abbot to say that the mayor of Houston made the “wrong call” about evacuating the city. Many in the media are not content to report on brotherly-love, self-sacrifice, and people doing the neighborly and right thing because of their faith in Christ or their patriotism as Americans. They want conflict and controversy. I for one am tired of the media pitting one group against another just to “watch the show” of one group tearing down or into another verbally and even physically.
As I was reading in the gospel of Luke this morning, I came across the passage in Luke 9:49-50 where John tells Jesus that they saw a man driving out demons in Jesus’ name and how they tried to stop him, because, as John said, “he is not one of us.” Jesus replied to John and the apostles, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” This story is also told in Mark 9:38-41. Sometimes, just like in Jesus and John’s day, people get territorial about their service and critical of others who try to serve God and man. I think Jesus speaks to this in these passages, and there are lessons to learn. As I read this passage, it also called to mind another group of Bible verses that seem to contradict this message. In Matthew 12:30 Jesus says, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” In this passage Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute (Matthew 12:22-23) so that the man could both see and hear. Those that saw the miracle were astonished and wondered if Jesus could be the Son of David. The Pharisees, when they heard about the miracle, said Jesus was of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. As such, that is how the Pharisees thought Jesus drove the demon from the blind and mute man. Jesus’ next words address the Pharisees contention and have been quoted by millions, including President Abraham Lincoln. Jesus responded to the Pharisees by saying, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” Jesus could not be casting out demons by the prince of demons. That doesn’t make any sense at all. Our nation needs to know this truth and act on it to survive as a nation. The success and well-being of our cities and our very homes depend on us working together and being united. Too often, we have let dissension, disagreements, and down-right destructiveness reign in our homes, our cities, and our nation. This is one reason why our families have failed, and the divorce rate is at 50%. Recent studies show that Washington D. C. has the highest divorce rate in our nation. Is anyone surprised? In contrast, Hawaii has the lowest divorce rate, so there may be something to being stuck on an island and having to work things out together. I say all this not to meddle or digress, but to inspire thought and consideration for how we may “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…” (Hebrews 10:23-24 NIV) I think that’s what many have done in response to the situation and needs following Hurricane Harvey. They have considered how to spur one another on to love and good deeds.
So what is the answer about the apparent contradiction between what Jesus says? I did find an interesting article that seems to have an answer to the question. (Disclaimer—Please know that I don’t give a blanket endorsement to all of what anyone says unless they are specifically quoting the Word of God. I do think that there are many scholars and Bible students that can present excellent information and insight from which we can decide what to think or believe about a Bible message or passage. As such, I just read the article written and copyrighted by Ken Collins titled “Did Jesus Contradict Himself about Who’s on His Side?” this morning. I do not know the author, except by reading what he has posted about himself, so I encourage you to think, study and decide for yourself on this question and others.) Many say that the Bible contradicts itself. I don’t believe that. I think that sometimes I just don’t have the skill or understanding to fully grasp some of the statements and concepts in the Bible. But – I keep trying, and I’m continuing to study, learn and grow. I hope you are too. As I read Ken Collins article this morning, I think that Ephesians 6:10-18 and especially verse 12 may also tie in to the discussion. I hope you will enjoy the article and dive into the exercise of studying God’s Word and discovering more fully God’s will. Read the article.
In response to a concern I had about the article written by Ken, I want to say that I believe that we all make choices every day in our lives to seek, serve and be subject to God or not. I believe that Jesus was sent as the Son of God to serve His Father’s will and be offered as a sacrifice to save all mankind from sin and eternal death. I believe that God gives us the choice to accept Him and His free gift of redemption through Christ or not. I believe we all choose by our actions, and even by our inactions, whether we will accept Jesus as our Savior or serve ourselves and satan.
Finally, my desire is like that of Paul, who said in I Timothy 2:1-6 “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men— the testimony given in its proper time.” I hope that everyone reading my message will be encouraged and be voices for unity and peace in our homes, cities, and nation. I hope that we will continually seek God and share his wonderful message with our families, friends, and even our foes. Let us think on these things….
Robin’s Roses Photograph by Robin House
At the opening bell this Wednesday, January 25, 2017, as the U. S. stock market opened it topped 20,000. Reporters all over the world carried the story as the floor of the stock market erupted with cheers. Video graphics of fireworks displays were shown and a sense of excitement prevailed. The stock market had been flirting with 20,000 for almost a month, and now the record had been reached. Discussions about whether the number was a fluke or would hold were made. Experts discussed whether 20,000 was just a new beginning benchmark for a new optimism in America since the presidential election. Many asked themselves if they should get in the market now or sell before the possible fall? People looked to experts in stock predicting to learn if they had waited too long to seize opportunities. They questioned if they should keep investing or pull back?
In II Corinthians chapters eight and nine, Paul writes to the Corinthians about their plans for giving and thereby investing financially in the gospel and others. Paul reminds the Corinthians of their commitment to giving a year previously. At the time of his writing, the Corinthians had not yet fulfilled their promise. Paul reveals in II Corinthians 9:1-5 that he had been boasting to the Macedonians of their commitment to give. He said that the news of what the Corinthians planned to do had inspired the Macedonians to give also. He reveals in chapter eight of II Corinthians that in spite of “severe trial, their overflowing joy and extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” As a result, Paul wanted to make sure that the Corinthians were prepared to fulfill their promise. He didn’t want the shame that would accompany an unfulfilled commitment when it came time to gather the funds. As a result, Titus and others were sent ahead of Paul and the Macedonians to assist the Corinthians to complete their commitment before Paul arrived. Paul wanted to make sure that the gift they promised was “ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.” How many times have we forgotten a gift for a party or shower and had to inconveniently rush out to get something? Or how many times did we just skip the party, because we were unprepared or unwilling to bring the expected gift or party food?
Sometimes today we are enthusiastic about an opportunity or project we’d like to invest in and make ambitious commitments to help or participate only to, with the passage of time, forget our promises and lose our ardor for the project. It is easy to do. Time flies and sometimes we lose track of what we promise. Sometimes after making a commitment, we don’t plan or think at all about that date in the future when the “bill” will come due. Procrastination is an easy habit to keep. In II Corinthians 8-9, Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to not delay and to be prepared. In II Corinthians 9:6, Paul reminds the Corinthians that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” In the next verse Paul reminds them that, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Both of these statements have to do with planning, preparing, and being proactive to do what we say we will do.
What about us today? What do we commit to each day? Do we prepare for the promises we have made? Are we cheerful in our commitments? What kind of “farmers” are we? Do we sit on the porch swing of life moving back and forth but never really going anywhere expecting to reap a crop we have not planted? When we do sow the seed, is it sparingly? Paul makes clear that sowing sparingly can only reap a sparing crop. What kind of harvest do we want and expect in this life— and what harvest do we want in the next one?
In II Corinthians 8:10-12 Paul says, “And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it will be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” In II Corinthians 9:8, Paul continues telling the Corinthians that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Here’s the question. How can one fail when God is able and willing to help us? The answer is, we can’t. Like the Corinthians in Paul’s day, when we serve to supply the needs of God’s people, our generosity will reap great rewards and overflow to thanksgiving to God in our world by those of the world.
To sum it all up, is a bull market on the run? Time will tell. The stock market will always go up and down. Gains and losses will continue. Should we get in the stock market or sit it out? Each person must answer that for himself. The bigger question in life is this—Do we have the courage and commitment to plan, prepare and generously plant into others today? With God’s help to make us able, there is no need to be afraid to invest in the good things that are of eternal consequence. There is no better season to plant and invest in God’s will than right now. When we watch carefully each day, we will recognize the opportunities we have to sow (invest) generously in our church, community and culture. Remember that God even supplies the “seed to the sower and bread for food.” Just like he promised the Corinthians in chapter nine verse ten, God will help us – “increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” When we invest ourselves in others and in the ways God wants us to, our mission and enthusiasm will be clear. When we fulfill our commitments, God will be praised even by the ungodly in our world. We will bloom in beauty like a rose for all to see. When we work in God’s field to generously plant, we will reap a generous harvest. It is a law of nature, like gravity. When we keep our commitments, God’s grace will abound to us, so that in all things at all times having all that we need, we will abound in every good work.