Giving – the Very Best

Acts 20-23

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Sunday, June 11

I would like to start off this post with a short introduction.  My name is Ruth Finnegan and I am married to Sean Finnegan and we have four sons, who range from age 11 to 1 month old.  It is my joy and pleasure to be a stay-at-home mom!  When Sean and I first got married we had a lot of discussion about “how are we going to be.” We decided to set a few tenets or standards for our life together.  These were:  seek righteousness; don’t be cheap, tip generously, only use good toilet paper, and be given to hospitality.  Recently, I went to the store to stock up on toilet paper and they were out of our usual brand.  I bought a cheap package to tide us over until I could go to the store again.  Oh man! Mistake!!  Sean started declaring, “Have we lost all of our principles?? What is this, sandpaper?! Should we stop tipping too?” I burst out laughing when he said this because I was instantly brought back to that conversation early on in our marriage.  I went out and bought good toilet paper for the house and got rid of the cheap stuff.

 

Sean and I have been married for almost 14 years and we have always been passionate about being given to hospitality (Romans 12:10).  Over the years, we have had many people come stay with us.  Some come for just a night and some for many months.  We feel that God has given us much and blessed us abundantly and that it is our joy to bless others with our home (and with our good toilet paper).   I have found that you discover a lot about people when they stay with you in your home.  I thought about this as I read Acts 20:17-38.

 

When Paul was in Ephesus, his mission was certain.  He served and lived among the people, he kept back nothing, teaching them “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).  Paul was a true shepherd who cared for his flock and was very clear about his purpose.  He made sure that he was not a burden.  He took care of himself and those with him and he used every opportunity to teach and shepherd the flock there.  He truly cared for people and genuinely wanted the believers to be protected from the wolves that were sure to come.  Paul knew he had to leave and wouldn’t see them again.  He implored them with these final words:

 

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

 

And with that, he knelt down with them and prayed for them.  When Paul left, they did not breathe a sigh of relief because he had inconvenienced them.  No, they had deep sorrow in their heart because he had been a blessing to them.

 

We have had people stay with us that were all about what they needed or being served so when their time of departure came, we were thankful!   We have also had the pleasure of having guests that infused our home with light and eternal blessings!  They had eyes to see and wanted to be a blessing and help.  When we go about our lives and come into contact with others, let’s strive to be like Paul.  He was all about teaching the eternal things of life like the Kingdom of God.  He was not a burden but a blessing to the believers and sincerely cared for them.  He didn’t complain about his lot as a missionary, he was driven by the holy spirit even when it came to his own discomfort and sacrifice.  Let’s strive to encourage others and remember it is more blessed to give than to receive!

-Ruth Finnegan

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/acts-20-2016/)

 

 

 

Your Sins Hurt Others

Jeremiah 15 – 17

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Friday, March 3

Chapters 15-17 deal with the pain others feel for Judah’s continuous betrayal.  God feels sadness when we sin.  Jeremiah is frustrated and hurt (physically and emotionally) by this sin.  Our sins trap us (just like the enemies of Judah) and change us (16:10-13)
Sin has a deep hold on us.  But in chapter 17 Jeremiah reminds us that we can repent.
Repentance is explained in Jeremiah 17:5-8.  The difference in being blessed or being left with nothing is determined by our trust.
Do you trust God?
Do you believe that He will take care of you and that His way is better than your way?
Sometimes we feel like we can’t come back from our sin but God knows you can if you trust in Him.
Do you want barrenness (vs. 5,6) or blessing (vs.7,8)?
-Andy Cisneros
(Photo Credit: http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/hope/jeremiah-17-7/)

3 Steps

Isaiah 17-21

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Friday, February 10

In today’s reading, we have pretty much just oracles against other nations.  An oracle in the Old Testament is simply the Word of God.  Therefore, the different oracles about the separate nations are just the words of God, and the audience of the book of Isaiah is the people of Judah.  That means that these oracles are words from God to Judah concerning other nations.

As we have been reading, these oracles concerning other nations are usually more of a judgmental tone.  Often, God states that he will take action against these nations.  This may lead to the people turning to God, and that is present in Isaiah chapter 19.  Chapter 19 contains the oracle concerning Egypt.  In this oracle, God states he will take action for their poor behavior.  As a result of God’s action, “the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering,” (Isaiah 19:21).  Basically there are three steps happening here: The Egyptians sin against God, God punishes the Egyptians, and the Egyptians turn to God because of their fear.

We can learn a lesson from this.  We are inevitably all going to sin in our lives.  We all have sinned, and we all will make more mistakes in the future, similar to what the Egyptians were doing.  The punishment for sin is found in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.”  Death is what we all deserve.  God is not afraid to punish us if we don’t seek Him.  Similar to the Egyptians, we should then fear God and live a life that is pleasing to Him.  When we do this, we can receive eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, and God will indeed bless us.

-Kyle McClain

(Photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/book/isaiah/13)

Maybe I Should Apologize

Nehemiah 8-10

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Saturday, December 10

After the wall was completed the people gathered at the square which was in front of the Water Gate and they had Ezra read the books of the law to them and had them explained to them.  The people were so moved that they bowed down low and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.  Nehemiah and Ezra told the people not to mourn but to keep the day as holy to the LORD, to go and feast and be filled with joy because the LORD is their strength.  They were encouraged to make shelters of branches to help celebrate.  This was the custom that was known as the feast of booths or tabernacles that is celebrated to this day by the Jews.  Ezra read the law daily for the entire celebration lasting 7 days, and then there was a solemn service held on the eighth day.

After the reading of the scriptures something very interesting and dramatic happens.  The Jews separate themselves from any foreign people in their city and they fasted and smeared ashes and dirt upon themselves, wore itchy sackcloth, and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.  Then in the hearing of the people the leaders told of the goodness of the LORD to the people throughout generations past.   Telling of all His mighty deeds.  Then the people all sign an agreement to follow the commands as God laid them out in His law, and to live holy and pleasing lives to the LORD from that time onward.  This national repentance and reconciliation was done in order to please the LORD.  Whenever God’s people do what pleases Him, His blessings are soon to follow.

What catches my eye about this is that the people hold a national time of repentance.  Could you imagine what would happen if we tried to do this today?  I’m sure the news stations would be all over it in an instant.  Watch out CNN!  The interviews could be quite interesting , and could lead to some very juicy gossip to be sure.    The point is that people today rarely apologize for anything.  They  find it even more hard to change their ways .  You may have some examples of  people you know who don’t apologize when it would be appropriate to do so.  You might also know people who say they are going to change their ways but find it difficult to set any new pattern in their behavior.  Personally, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard a person struggling with addiction say they are going to quit – I would be very rich indeed!  I’m not saying that it is impossible for a person to change but it is in reality quite difficult for people to change their attitudes which are then reflected in their actions.

The Jews had this same difficulty.  They had a national time of repentance and even signed the document but as history unfolds we can see that they were not very good at keeping their promise to God.  It’s important to keep your promises to God.  Repentance is all about changing your ways.  It’s good to apologize to God when appropriate but even better is to change your behavior so that you don’t have to be in the situation where you need to apologize!  God wants us to be sincere in our words and our deeds.  Are there any of your actions that you need to apologize to God for, and change?  What do you think is the first step you can take to help change your ways so that they are pleasing to God?  God’s blessing follows true repentance.  What blessings do you think God might have in store for you when you are in right standing with Him?

-Merry Peterson