Scaling. It’s a term used in the world of fitness that allows room for anyone to participate. If the specific exercise is a push-up, for example, then maybe you can do ten in a row but I can only do four. The instructor’s encouragement to me would be to scale back the push-up according to my fitness level at the time. We’re not all at the same level but we can all move in the same direction. In other words, she would say, “Do your four push-ups with all the strength you have. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Scale the movement for now, keep doing what you can do, and you may be amazed in time you’re doing seven, and even one day, ten.”
When it comes to giving, the apostle Paul was clear: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). But his encouragement to the believers in Corinth, and to us, is a variation of scaling. “Each of you should give what you decide in your heart” (v.7). We each find ourselves at differing giving levels, and sometimes those levels change over time. Comparison is not beneficial, but attitude is. Based on where you are, give “generously” (v. 6). Our God has promised that the disciplined practice of such cheerful giving brings enrichment in every way with a blessed life that results in “thanksgiving to God” (v. 11).
In the 1960s, the bustling community of North Lawndale, on Chicago’s West Side, was a pilot community for interracial living. A handful of middle-class African Americans bought homes there on “contract”—that combined the responsibilities of home ownership with the disadvantages of renting. In a contract sale, the buyer accrued no equity, and if he missed a single payment, he would immediately lose his down payment, all his monthly payments, and the property itself. Unscrupulous sellers sold at inflated prices, then the families were evicted when they missed a payment. Another family would buy on contract, and the cycle fueled by greed just kept going.
Samuel appointed his sons judges over Israel, and they were driven by greed. His sons “did not follow in his ways” (1 Samuel 8:3). In contrast to Samuel’s integrity, his sons “turned aside after dishonest gain” and used their position to their own advantage. This unjust behavior displeased the elders of Israel and must have displeased God as well, putting in motion a cycle of kings that fills the pages of the Old Testament (vv. 4–5).
To refuse to walk in God’s ways allows room for the perversion of those values, and injustice always flourishes. To walk in God’s ways means honesty and justice are clearly seen not only in words but in deeds as well. Those good deeds are never an end in themselves, but always that others may see and glorify our Father in heaven.
“We’re in the library, and we can see the flames right outside!” She was scared, we could hear it in her voice. We know her voice—she’s our daughter. At the same time we knew her college campus was the safest place for her and her almost 3,000 fellow students. The 2018 Woolsey Fire spread quicker than anyone anticipated—most of all fire personnel. The record heat and dry conditions in the California canyon, along with the legendary Santa Ana winds, were all the rather small sparks needed to ultimately burn 97,000 acres, destroy over 1,600 structures, and kill three people. In the photos taken after the fire was contained, the usual lush coastline resembled the barren surface of the moon.
In the book of James, the author starts out naming small but powerful things: “bits in the mouths of horses” and the rudders of ships (James 3:3-4). And while familiar, these examples are somewhat removed from us. But then he names something a little closer to home, something small that every human being possesses—a tongue. And while this chapter is first directed specifically to teachers (v. 1), the application quickly spreads to each of us. The tongue, small as it is can lead to disastrous results.
Our small tongues are powerful, but our big God is more powerful. His help on a daily basis provides the strength to rein in and guide our words.
It used to take the steady eye and the firm hand of a farmer to drive a tractor or combine down straight rows. But even the best eyes would overlap rows, and by end of day even the strongest hands would be fatigued. But now there is autosteer, a GPS-based technology that allows for accuracy to within one inch when planting, cultivating, and spraying. It’s incredibly efficient. Plus, it’s hands-free. Just imagine sitting in a mammoth combine and instead of gripping the wheel, you’re gripping a roast beef sandwich. An amazing tool to keep you moving straight ahead.
You may recall the name Josiah. He was crowned king when he was only “eight years old” (2 Kings 22:1). Years later, in his mid-twenties, Hilkiah the high priest found “the Book of the Law” in the temple (v. 8). It was then read to the young king, who tore his robes in sorrow due to his ancestor’s disobedience to God. Josiah set about to do what was “right in the eyes of the
Allowing the Scriptures we have to guide us day by day keeps our lives in line with knowing God and His will. The Bible is an amazing tool we have that if followed keeps us moving straight ahead.
They looked down at the faded photograph, then up at me, then over at my father, then back at me, then back at my father. Their eyes were wide as the proverbial saucers. “Dad, you look just like Papa when he was young!” My father and I grinned because this was something we’ve known for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that my children came to the same realization. While my father and I are different people, in a very real sense to see me is to see my father as a younger man: tall lanky frame, full head of dark hair, prominent nose, and rather large ears. No, I am not my father, but I am most definitely my father’s son.
A follower of Jesus named Philip once asked, “
In that moment Jesus was being straightforward with His beloved disciples and us: If you want to know what God is like, look at Me.
Once upon a time. Those four words just might be among of the most powerful in the entire world. Some of my earliest memories as a boy contain a variation on that potent phrase. My mother came home one day with a large, hardcover illustrated edition of biblical stories—My Good Shepherd Bible Story Book. Every evening before lights-out, my brother and I would sit expectantly as she read to us of a time long ago filled with interesting people and the God who loved them. Those stories became a lens for how we looked at the great big world.
The undisputed greatest storyteller ever? Jesus of Nazareth. He knew we all carry inside us an innate love for stories, so that was the medium He consistently used to communicate His good news: Once upon a time there was a man who scattered “seed on the ground” (Mark 4:26). Once upon a time there was “a mustard seed” . . . (v. 31), and on and on. Mark’s gospel clearly indicates that Jesus used stories in His interactions with everyday people (v. 34) as a way to help them see the world more clearly and understand more thoroughly the God who loved them.
That’s wise to remember as we desire to share with others God’s good news of mercy and grace. The use of story is almost impossible to resist.
About six years ago, my wife received a small rebate from something she’d purchased. It wasn’t something she had expected, it just showed up in the mail. About the same time, a good friend shared with her the immense needs of women in another country, entrepreneurial-minded women trying to better themselves by way of education and business. However, as is often the case, their first barrier was financial.
My wife took that rebate and made a micro-loan to a ministry devoted to helping these women. When the loan was repaid, she simply loaned again, and again, and so far has made twenty-seven such investments. My wife enjoys many things, but there’s rarely a smile as big on her face as when she receives an update on the flourishing taking place in the lives of women she’s never met.
We often hear emphasis on the last word in this phrase—“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7)—and rightly so. But our giving has a specific quality about it—it should not be “reluctantly or under compulsion,” and we are called not to “sow sparingly” (v. 6). In a word, our giving is to be “cheerful.” And while each of us will give a little differently, our faces are places for telling evidence of our cheer.
Attend any rodeo with riding and roping competition and you’ll see them—competitors with four fingers on one hand and a nub where their thumb should be. It’s a common injury in the sport—a thumb gets caught between a rope on one end and a decent-sized steer pulling on the other, and the thumb is usually the loser. It’s not a career-ending injury, but the absence of a thumb changes things. Without using your thumb, try to brush your teeth or button a shirt or comb your hair or tie your shoes or even eat. That little overlooked member of your body plays a significant role.
The apostle Paul indicates a similar scenario in the church. Those often less visible and frequently less vocal members sometimes experience an “I don’t need you” response from the others (1 Corinthians 12:21). Usually this is unspoken, but there are times when it is said aloud.
God calls us to have equal concern and respect for one other (v. 25). Each and every one of us is a part of Christ’s body (v. 27), regardless of the gifting we have received, and we need each other. Some of us are eyes and ears, so to speak, and some of us are thumbs. But each of us plays a vital role in the body of Christ, sometimes more than meets the eye.
The young father was at the end of his rope. “Ice cream! Ice cream!” his toddler screamed. The meltdown in the middle of the crowded mall began drawing the attention of shoppers nearby. “Fine, but we just need to do this for mommy first, okay?” “Nooooo! Ice cream!”And then she approached them: a small, well-dressed woman with shoes that matched her handbag. “He’s having a big fit,” the father said. The woman smiled and responded, “Actually, it looks like a big fit is having your little boy. Don’t forget he’s so small. He needs you to be patient and stay close.” The situation didn’t magically resolve itself, but it was just the kind of pause the father and son needed in the moment.
Echoes of the wise woman’s words are heard in Psalm 103. David writes of the Lord who is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (v. 8). He then continues by invoking the image of an earthly father who “has compassion on his children,” and even more so “the
We often fail, and are overwhelmed by what this big world hands us. What an amazing assurance to know of our Father’s patient, ever-present abounding love.