Category Archives: Christian Living

What if that talent were used for God?


Frames from an early animated film, Felix the Cat.

We don’t watch movies very often for two reasons – firstly, we want to be good stewards of the time God has given us to use for Him, and secondly, it is difficult to find excellent material that we are comfortable sharing with our children. But about a week ago, we decided to rent an animated film made a couple decades ago and watch it with our adult children who are still at home. The film was a relatively harmless diversion (especially considering that the children we watched it with are grown) even if it wasn’t particularly edifying, but I had only one thought when I lay down to bed after viewing it: What if the talent that went into writing, animating, and producing that film had been used for God?

God has given each person on earth specific abilities and talents. Even those who don’t know Him or recognize Him as Lord and Savior have been blessed with giftings in music, writing, film, art, construction, farming, medicine, technology, and so on. Imagine the world we would live in if all those abilities were being employed for His glory!

While the unsaved are unlikely to use their giftings expressly to honor God, those of us who are Christians shoulder a weighty responsibility to use our health, our finances, our talents, our time, our very lives for Him. In I Timothy 4 Paul reminded Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee.” It is possible to bury our talents, to allow the good things to push out room for the best things, to use our giftings in ways that please ourselves rather than our Creator.

As we begin this new year, let’s take a few moments to reflect on the special talents God has given to us as individuals. Are we using them for Him? Are there gifts that we’ve neglected? Are there things we are doing to please ourselves that are using up our energy to work for the Lord? Let’s ask God for the wisdom to pursue the endeavors He would have us pursue and let’s purpose to improve and exercise our gifts so that He may be glorified and we may experience growth.

A special note to wives, mothers, and grandmothers: Please remember that home-making (and all that goes into it) is itself a gift — a beautiful gift that God wants to use to sanctify you and to bless your family and others. The home is a much-neglected place of ministry. Any interests and abilities that He has given you as an individual can be woven into the fabric of family life, hospitality, outreach, and entrepreneurship over the years. Satan may tempt you to look at what other women are doing to try to make you feel like you are not doing “enough” or that your gifts are being “wasted” in the home, but if you are being a faithful wife, training your children to love the Lord with all their hearts, reaching out to your brethren and the community, and setting an example for the younger women and coming alongside them, you are being a nation builder. Bless you, faithful wife. Bless you, sacrificing mother. Bless you, praying grandmother. May God be pleased to raise up many more like you in the years to come!

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Copyright © 2021

* Because the term “nation builder” can have various shades of meaning, I should clarify that I am using it as I first heard it used by Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies magazine. A strong nation begins with strong homes, churches, and communities. As wives, mothers, and grandmothers, we have the opportunity to build each of these up or to tear them down. (See Proverbs 14:1, Romans 12:4-18, James 2:8.)

Thank you, God . . . again!

The night before last one of our daughters had a sudden allergic reaction to we-know-not-what.  Immediately we put in a call to the pediatrician, treated her with appropriate medicine, and stopped to pray as a family and ask the Lord to protect her and keep it from becoming a full-blown emergency.  And He did—again.

I wondered the next morning:  How many nights of her life has this child not had an allergic reaction and not had to go to the emergency room?   The answer:  approximately five thousand, two hundred ninety-two!  And that was just one child and one possible crisis averted.  That realization made me very thankful for the multitudinous times His hands have been upon us that we may not have even noticed. There’ve been so many moments over the years when things haven’t gone wrong or when little things could easily have become big things but didn’t by His grace alone.

As we enter Thanksgiving week, let’s be thankful not only for the obvious things that we can see and hear and taste and touch and smell, but let’s make a special effort to be thankful also for all the ways God protects and sustains us when we’re not even paying attention.   I’m including a few ways that I thought of below, but I hope you’ll take time to add some personal ones of your own to the list – whether you talk about it at the table as a family or whether you quietly reflect and offer Him gratitude and praise in your own heart.  Either way, may our eyes be opened anew to the many reasons we should be saying, “Thank you, God . . . again!” every day.

— all the nights we have slept undisturbed

— all the heartbeats and the breaths we have taken for granted

— all the bills that haven’t “broken the bank”

— all the clothes and meals and heating we haven’t had occasion to worry about

— all the mornings we have woken to find our homes still standing

— all the accidents we haven’t been in

— all the bones we haven’t broken

— all the days of peace we have known (as opposed to days of wartime)

— all the fears that haven’t come to pass

— all the hours we have had sufficient strength and health to do our work

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises
unto thy name, O most High:
To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning,
and thy faithfulness every night. Psalm 92:1-2

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Copyright © 2020

Thoughts on Disease and Suffering

This article is an excerpt from a newsletter sent out by dear friends, Heap and Jennifer Him, a husband-and-wife team who co-founded Lina’s Hope in Cambodia and are still heavily involved in its day-to-day operations. This couple and their children now find themselves grappling with a stage IV cancer diagnosis for the husband/father. Permission was obtained to republish the section of the newsletter dealing with suffering in hopes that the article and the Scriptures included might be an encouragement to those facing their own dark moments and wondering, “Where is God in the midst of it all?”

We are well aware that there are no easy answers when one allows his mind to enter the Pandora’s box of why God allows disease and suffering. One answer can never fit all situations. God and His ways are far beyond our human understanding. He cannot be put in a box, neither can human beings whom He created uniquely different be put into a box. But we see in Scripture that there are many different times that God allows suffering or disease for different reasons.

Sometimes God allows sickness in order to get our attention—to show us sin in our lives and bring us to confession. In this case, the disease is God’s grace to bring us back to a right relationship with Him. (James 5:6, 14-16) So, we have been taking time to be still with God, ask Him to search our hearts and show us any sin that we need to confess to Him. (Psalm 139:23-24)

At other times, God allows us to experience sickness or other forms of suffering because He wants us to experience a new, fresh dependence upon Him so that we can experience His love and provision in greater ways than before. (Matthew 11:28-30, John 14:27, Isaiah 40:29, I Corinthians 10:13, II Corinthians 2:9) So, we are throwing ourselves into God’s arms in complete dependence upon Him, just like our new baby grandson is completely dependent upon his mama for survival.

Still other times, God allows us to suffer so that in the future, He may be able to use us to help and bless others who are suffering. (II Corinthians 1:3-5) Sometimes God allows us to suffer in order for us to be an example to others to draw other people to Jesus because every human being will suffer at some point in his or her life, and as people see how Jesus is helping us in our suffering, they can be drawn to Jesus because they see that He can help them in their struggles as well. (Book of Job, II Corinthians 2:3-5, Philippians 1:12-14) So, we are asking God to use us in this season to draw people to Him, and to guide us to those people whom He wants us to connect to.

But we also know that sometimes God allows disease, sickness or suffering to come into our lives so that He may do something wonderful and show His power and glory. (John 9:3) So, we have daily been asking God to use this cancer and uncertainty and homelessness and struggle for His glory. And of course, there are other reasons for suffering that we cannot even begin to guess that only God knows, but we do know that all of creation is groaning under the weight of suffering and death, waiting for Jesus to redeem the earth back to Himself, but that in the process, God promises to those of us who love Him and are called by Him that He will turn ashes into beauty and make something that is both good for us and glorifying to God out of the difficult things that look bad (Romans 8).

And even in death, God does not leave us, and we can never be separated from His love, for, indeed, to die is to be with Him forever. (Romans 8, II Corinthians 5:1-10, Philippians 1:20-24) Every person will die someday. The question is when. So, we are trying to remain completely submissive to God’s plans for us, whatever those are.

We are reminded that this world is temporary, and it is only a quick blink of an eye compared with all eternity and all that God has prepared for us. Even in buying a house, we do not see ourselves as buying a permanent home, but rather, that we are just paying our rent ahead for the rest of our earthly life, because eventually we will leave this house and earth behind to someone else so that we can go to our eternal home. We do not assume to know God’s mind or will for us right now in regard to His timing and purposes, but we are continually reminded that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. We are asking the Holy Spirit to help us pray according to God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)

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For more information about Heap and Jennifer, their work at Lina’s Hope, and the children they serve, please visit linashope.org.

How to Win the Lottery Every Time

We were talking recently with our children about various financial matters, reading back through an older series of articles on money management with them and talking about the included principles (important ideas such as the 10-10-80 plan where you give ten percent to God, save ten percent so to build an emergency fund, and plan to live on the eighty percent remaining) when we got to talking about risky investments and gambling, and all this led to talking about the lottery.

Lotteries, of course, are designed to make money for those who run them.  (If you were thinking that they are beneficent organizations, think again!)  They gain this money by taking it directly from those who can be enticed to “play” with their hard-earned dollars.   We were reminding our children that it’s never a good idea to buy lottery tickets; they might as well rip their money up and throw it in the trash because it’s rigged to be a losing proposition longterm.  While we were talking though these things, it occurred to me that there is a way that someone can win the lottery every time.  So I told the children that if they’re ever standing in line in the grocery store and are tempted to buy a lottery or scratch-off ticket, they can take the five or ten dollars they would have spent on tickets out of their wallet or purse and move it to their own pocket, considering it “spent.”  Then take that money home, put it in an envelope and stash it in the back of a little-used drawer.  If they are ever tempted again, they should follow the exact same steps—as many times as it takes.  Eventually, someday, they will find that envelope tucked away in the back of the drawer, and they will be a winner twice over.  First, every dollar they ever spent on “the lottery” will still be theirs to spend again on something wiser, and second, they will have learned that a little can add up to a lot over time. 

Remember that even small purchases multiply.  If you buy just five dollars’ worth of scratch-off tickets a week, you will have spent $260.00 by the end of the year.  If you continued that same habit for five years, you would have spent $1,300.00!  Who among us couldn’t use $1,300.00 (or more as this is a very conservative example, given that many people spend much more than that on lottery tickets, and that for decades running)?  Do your children a big favor:  Talk with them about money while they are young…not just one conversation, but many conversations over time.  Teach them how to give back to God, how to save for a rainy day, and how to live within their means on what remains.   Teach them that money is a tool and that God expects them to use it wisely.  He calls us to be stewards, and we will give an answer to Him someday for how we used the talents (financial or otherwise) that He bestowed. 

“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”  I Corinthians 4:2

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Pass the Salt, Please

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the disciples, Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  (Matthew 5:13)

As Christians we often hear it said that we should be “salt and light,” and indeed, the statement “Ye are the light of the world” occurs directly after the Lord’s example describing believers as salt.  Let’s consider for a moment just what it means to be the “salt of the earth.”

First, and probably most commonly known, salt enhances flavor, making foods more pleasant and more palatable.  What are potato chips or French fries without salt?  Just pieces of potato.  What’s the secret ingredient in much Chinese food?  MSG, also known as monosodium glutamate; it is one of many types of salt.  Just as salt enhances the flavor of foods, a Christian’s walk with the Lord should enhance the beauty and the atmosphere of the culture around him or her.

Imagine that the clerks at a local store are not known for their sanctified speech.  Yet over the course of years of shopping there, acting kindly, and occasionally dropping off homemade treats with tracts, it becomes common for them to stop in midsentence when seeing members of your family, to warn one another to keep the language clean when you come into the store, or to offer an apology if one of them was cursing before seeing you standing there.  That would be encouraging because it would be an acknowledgement that something is different about your family.  Of course, that “something” is not you but rather the Holy Spirit working through you and your family to reach out and touch other lives for the glory of God.

Second, salt is a preservative, keeping deterioration at bay.  In years past, families would store heavily salted meat in the fall for use throughout the winter.  In my mother’s family when she was growing up, they would save eggs in a brine mixture to use during the months when the hens stopped laying.  Throughout my childhood, I can still remember my grandmother splitting fish, salting them, and hanging them out on the clothesline to dry.  In the days before refrigeration was common, salt helped preserve families’ foods for the long term, keeping it from spoiling.  Likewise, through the witness and walk of faithful Christians, the cultural rot of modern America can be halted. 

For example, we can avoid the ever-prevalent movies, television shows, and secular music that celebrate immorality and train us to think in ways opposed to the Lord and His Word.  Instead, we can produce and/or patronize that which is true, lovely, and virtuous; and by our daily walk and conversation, we can call others to remember how our towns, our churches, and our homes looked just a few decades ago – when walking with the Lord was not only respected but was encouraged and was far more common.

Third, salt can be healing.  I grew up working on a lobster boat in the summers.  With the work came all sorts of cuts and scrapes.  By working with my hands in the salty ocean water so much, though, the injuries healed well and remarkably fast.  That gives hope that America’s downhill slide can not only be halted but can, Lord willing, be reversed.  Though the task seems mountainous, take heart; a hundred years of decline cannot be cured in an instant.  Just as a mountain is not climbed in a few steps or even with a quick sprint, America’s cultural cesspool will require a multi-generational solution.  Not only must we be faithful in our day, but we must strive to ensure that future generations carry on the battle for liberty and righteousness as well.

Fourth, salt lowers the freezing point of water.  Anyone living in the northeastern U.S. knows that water freezes at 32o Fahrenheit.  Through the winter months we check the outside temperature, knowing that as it approaches that point, it greatly changes how we drive and how long it takes to get places.  Applying salt to icy roads, however, can cause the ice to melt.  Using a solution of 10% salt and 90% water lowers the freezing point from 32o to 20o.  Increasing the salt content to 20% lowers it further, all the way to 2o.  Just as applying salt to ice causes it to melt, consider how many rock-hard, ice-cold hearts could be softened by consistent, prayerful application of the love of Christ.  And as the number of committed Christians grew, that sort of witness would become harder and harder for unbelievers to ignore as the world changed around them.

And fifth, on the other end of the temperature spectrum, salt also raises the boiling point of water.  Sprinkling some salt in your pot of water means it will require a temperature of more than the usual 212o for it to boil.  We’ve all seen boiling water bubbling furiously, letting off steam, and occasionally boiling over.  As a believer walks with the Lord, the indwelling Holy Spirit can add peace, stability, and a resistance to the heat that comes in the tough times of life.  Just as salt can help keep hotter water under control, so too can a Christian’s quiet responses in the face of adversity point others to the Master.

Was the Lord aware of all these properties of salt when He made the comparison?  Of course!  He created not only salt and us, but anything and everything around us too.  And no doubt He has hidden many more mysteries for us to discover.  As we study His Word and His world, as we faithfully walk with Him day by day, as we share His love with others, then we can begin to see change—one life, one home, one town at a time.  May the Lord grant us the courage to be the salt that will help restore our nation’s faith in Him.

“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”  (Colossians 4:5-6)

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