If you have a few minutes of free time and would like to be a little depressed also, there is a website where you can see how much we are in debt as a planet. At the time of this writing, the world is just under $70,000,000,000,000 in the hole (see for yourself here). Now if that is not enough to make you want to never buy anything on credit again, there is another wonderful website that breaks down how much we here in the USA are contributing to that number. Currently, we Americans are providing almost $20 trillion towards that preposterous number (look at your own risk here). I don't think I will be shocking anyone when I tell you that I do not believe the debt is going to disappear anytime soon. Regardless of how many politicians and world leaders tell us that their programs will will help deflate the deficit, this monstrosity of owed money is going to loom over our heads for a bit longer.
The sad truth of this is that we are easily captivated by quick solutions to problems that have not formed quickly. Let me ask you this - When do you think was the last time, if ever, that the USA was debt free? Was there ever such a time that we were in the black instead of bleeding red? Thanks to minds that are much more investigative than mine, we do have the answer to this question. It was January 8, 1835 when a senator rose to make the big announcement: "Gentlemen ... the national debt ... is PAID." Just over 182 years ago was the last time that our country did not have an overhang of not being under budget. Although it only lasted a year, I imagine it was a wonderful time to be alive (read more about that here).
I reiterate again though, that we have always been attracted to the quick fixes to gradual problems. Not only when it comes to our finances, but also when it comes to ourselves. We buy the magazine that tells us how to get a six pack in six weeks without the understanding that we didn't put on those extra 20 pounds in just six weeks. We complain about not having enough time as we are scrolling on our phone through the highlights of peoples lives that we barely even know. I'm even guilty of sometimes only reading the headline of an article and assuming that I know what the author truly wrote about. This carries over into our spiritual life as well. We want our solutions fast and our sins forgiven even faster. We take advantage of a God whose faithfulness already endures forever (Psalm 100:5). We are great spenders of every aspect of God's grace, when in actuality we are called to be great stewards.
In 1st Peter 4:10 he writes "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." and it is the correct way to view God's grace. We become much better stewards of not only his grace, but everything pertaining to our relationship with God when we view it as it truly is - a gift. Stewardship is realizing that my salary is not mine to spend. Stewardship is taking care of my physical body because it is the physical representation of Christ living within me. Stewardship is realizing that I love others regardless of their past because Christ first loved me. When we comprehend that everything we receive is a gift from God, the stewardship that follows is much easier to put into action. If you've ever questioned God about why he hasn't answered this prayer or given you that opportunity, maybe you should first take a personal inventory of whether you are being a good steward of what he has already given to you. Luke 16:11 puts it this way "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (wealth), who will commit to your trust the true riches?" Please do not misunderstand me, we could never repay the debt that was paid for us on Calvary. He paid the ultimate price for sinners/spenders like you and me. We can, however, attempt to share this gift with all those we come in contact with so that his sacrifice is not just spent on us.
Let's become better stewards than we are spenders,
You cannot pray the Lord's prayer & even once say 'I,'
You cannot pray the Lord's prayer & even once say 'my'
You cannot pray the Lord's prayer & not include another;
You cannot ask for daily bread & not include your brother.
For others are included in each & every plea;
From the very beginning it never once says me.
After reading this anonymous poem in a book last week, I couldn't help but go back to Matthew 6 and reread the Lord's prayer. Like almost any kid that has been raised in or around the church, it's a part of scripture that is forever ingrained in my memory. But there are moments when I feel the need to have the physical representation of the words in front of me and this was one of those moments. This prayer that Jesus includes in the Sermon on the Mount is both a solid foundation to build your prayer life on and also a reaffirming reminder of what a seasoned prayer should resemble. This time reading through it, however, was different because I realized the truth that is stated in the above poem.
Unity is a common theme throughout the Bible and we can recall many positive points in the Bible where it has been the cause of the great gain for God's kingdom. Matthew 18:20 says "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Then there is also the instance in Romans 12:4 where Paul writes "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." I would be remiss if I did not to mention Acts 2:1 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place". There are many more instances in scripture that we know of where unity was the driving force for great change, but after my exposure to the above poem I discovered another avenue where the need for unity is apparent.
In Matthew 6:13 Jesus advises that we pray "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil", which we can all agree is a necessary prayer point. This has a newfound meaning for me though, because it is no longer a request that I pray for the things that tempt me, but also for the things that tempt us as the church. Let me explain. The three temptations of sin are written in 1 John 2:16 and they are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. What do these look like when we give into them as individuals? The lust of the flesh could be sexual sin. The lust of the eyes could be wanting worldly possessions more than Godly righteousness. The pride of life could be wanting to be in the spotlight instead of shining the spotlight on God. These temptations are horrible things to succumb to, but how much greater of a tragedy would they be if they took those that were like minded and in one accord with me? An individual moral failure becomes the crack that splits a church. An individual desire for more physical things becomes a culture of materialism. An individual focus on gaining more power becomes a church that has forsaken the one who holds the world in his hand. Temptation that goes unchecked has the tendency to corrupt all that are connected. Therefore, we have a great responsibility in our individual prayers to ask for the protection and the direction of the Spirit to guide us as a church body.
The old saying is "the weakest link breaks the chain", but the repercussion of that broken link is a chain that has lost its purpose. We will inevitably mess up because we are sinners by nature, but we have the daily opportunity to put our best protection in place. My prayer is that we as the body of Christ can be lead not into temptation. It is only after putting in that request that I think we can ask to be delivered from evil. Although evil is constantly seeking whom it may devour, temptation is only powerful when we make the first move towards it. It is a lot easier to resist something when you have someone next to you resisting the same thing. If Proverbs 27:10 that says "For better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off" worries you, just remember that we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. His name is Jesus and as long as we are striving to be like him together, no temptation of this life stands a chance.
31 days ago we were all prepared to sign off on 2016 and embrace the new year with open arms (what choice did we really have?). We had already decided that the last year was ready to be retired and that this year was finally going to be the year that everything would come together. This year I'm going to lose that weight, get rid of that bad habit, organize my home, change my attitude and ________ (fill in the blank).
Well, now the first month of the new year is gone and I'm sure that all those things that were going to change have either done so or are well on their way. There's absolutely no chance that your gym membership is going unused, that you couldn't be found within 50 feet of a salad, that there are any stacks of stuff that need to be gone through or that your attitude is still right where it was (just a pinch of sarcasm).
So maybe it isn't going like you imagined it would. Just maybe you've already forgotten what it was that you set out to do in the first place. Perhaps you've even thrown in the towel and placed it on the heap of failed dreams and wishes. I am not trying to bring us all down, but I want you to see something that is very important as a child of God.
God doesn't go in for this new year or new month kind of stuff. God knows that you and I need help on a more active level than that.
Lamentations 3:22-23 "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."
So, while you and I wait for a new year or "I'll get it next month", God says "I've made a way for you to get it right each day." God's mercies are new, each and every day.
I've done nothing to deserve it, and I've surely done more than my share to hinder it, but nothing can retard the arrival of God's grace, every morning. As sure as the sun is going to rise, God's got mercy waiting for you and me. Every morning we ought to say "Praise God, it's a brand new day; great is thy faithfulness."