Are God’s Promises Too Good to Be True?

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’”—Hebrews 13:5 (NIV).

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Telemarketers are annoying. If the salesperson is the persistent kind, he usually won’t take “no” for an answer easily. Even the nicer ones can grate on the nerves, especially if the promises seem too good to be true.

Since I signed up for the Do Not Call list over two decades ago, the number of phone calls I receive from telemarketers has declined. Another reason could be attributed to my lack of a home phone. I finally cut the cord about six years ago, depending on my cell phone—which is also on the list—for verbal communication. However, I occasionally still receive unwanted calls, including those I know are scams.

I’m always amazed at the proliferation of different scams as well as those who fall for them. In spite of repeated warnings from different news sources, people hang onto hope that they’ve won large amounts of money, vacations or other goods.

Criminals will go to any lengths to steal our money and identity. It never seems to end. While the elderly are the most vulnerable, I’ve read of those who’ve been scammed out of money through dating websites.

Listening to a radio program recently, I was amazed to learn that the number one Internet google search is “What is love?” As the commentator and his guest discussed this trend, I thought about the lyrics to a 1980 country song, “Lookin’ for Love.”  Part of the lyrics follow: “Searching for love in all the wrong places.”

Keeping Our Eyes on the Lord

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken”—Psalm 16:8 (NIV).

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Do you find it difficult sometimes to keep your eyes on the Lord? I know I do. When we find our lives spiraling out-of-control with unexpected illnesses, the death of a loved one, family dysfunction or worldwide uncertainty, it’s often easier to wring our hands in despair than to turn to the One who gave His life for us.

Jesus never promised us a life of luxury or one without pain and heartache. Look at His life, lived simply and ending in an agonizing death. But He did promise to be with us during our trials.

Recently, I was blessed to have lunch at an assisted living facility with a friend who will turn 90 later this year. As each of her table companions joined us to eat, Josie introduced me. I’m certain my friend is the oldest of the five women, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by her actions.

Before the others arrived and I could assist her, Josie had parked her walker and moved a chair from a nearby table and placed it next to hers—for me. When I realized her intent, I admonished her and said, “Josie, you should let me do that.”

Then, when the last of our table mates joined us, Josie rose to help maneuver her friend’s walker and pull back her dining room chair so she could be seated. When she returned to her seat, I said, “Josie, you have a servant’s heart.” She just smiled.

The Paradox of Generosity

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered”—Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV).

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The first time I was nudged by the Holy Spirit to give away a prized possession, I admit to reluctantly obeying. However, I can attest to the overwhelming joy I received when the woman, who was the recipient of the necklace I gave her, began to cry.

For me, it was the start of a lifelong habit to begin paying more attention to that still, small voice to be more generous with my time, my money and my possessions. The necklace I mentioned above was a gift from my sister. On the simple silver chain was a small cross. The woman who had admired it worked at a fast food chain. I learned later she worked two jobs to support herself and her family.

While I treasured the gift from my sister, I know God treasured my generosity more. But, I received a greater gift when I gave the necklace away. It’s a paradox many don’t understand.

According to dictionary.com, a paradox is “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.” Synonyms, or words that mean the same or almost the same, include contradiction, absurdity, inconsistency and mystery.  But that’s the mystery of generosity, at least for those who don’t understand God’s economy.

In an article by Michael O. Garvey, he discusses the “empirical evidence in support of the biblical admonition” that it is more blessed to give than to receive. According to Garvey’s article, a study by University of Notre Dame sociologists revealed “through analysis of measurable data, people who are generous with their money, time and associations are happier, healthier and more resilient than their less generous counterparts.”

Thanking God for the Miracle of Life

“He is not here; he has risen!”—Luke 24:6 (NIV).

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The fourth grade students filed into the Sunday school class and took their seats. Excitement permeated the air as the girls admired each other’s frilly dresses. The boys pulled at their uncomfortable neckties worn only for this special occasion. Both groups, however, chattered about the dyed eggs, chocolate candy and other goodies they’d found in their Easter baskets that morning.

The teacher wanted her students to understand that Easter was more than new clothes, bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs. She read the story of Jesus’ death on the cross, His burial in the tomb and the reality of His resurrection three days later. To reinforce the lesson, she gave each of her students a plastic egg and explained they were going to take a walk outside where they were to find one sign of life and place it in their egg.

As the students filed out the door, the teacher noticed a young boy with Down syndrome who had been attending class for a while. With his sunny disposition and constant smile, Danny was the epitome of unconditional love that God has for His children. However, it broke the teacher’s heart when the other children made fun of him. Of course, she always corrected them and attempted to help them see how special Danny was. The youngster appeared unaware of their taunts and considered each child his “buddy.”

When they returned from their walk, each student shared with the class what they’d found. One student’s egg contained a butterfly. Another egg held a worm. Other students had collected blades of grass, flowers, leaves and twigs. Only one egg had nothing in it. The students giggled because they knew whose egg it was. Silencing the students with a look, the teacher asked Danny why he had not put anything representing a sign of life in his egg.

Grinning, Danny responded, “Because the tomb was empty.”

As this often shared story demonstrates, the little boy with Down syndrome had grasped the significant truth of Easter. The tomb was empty, an ultimate sign of life and an incomparable miracle.

A miracle indeed! Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. With their own eyes, the women who had seen Him die on the cross and prepared His body for burial on Friday saw the empty tomb three days later. Jesus had kept His promise.

Pastor and author Max Lucado says, “And, as we envision the moment, we stand in awe.We stand in awe not just because of what we see, but because of what we know… We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us” (Rom. 6:5–9 MSG).

Spend some time this Easter weekend thanking God for the miracle of life. Then, share the good news with someone else: The tomb is empty! He is risen! He is risen indeed!

I always love hearing from my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at carol@carolaround.com.  Also, if this blog post has touched you, would you please share it with others? It is the greatest gift you can give to a writer.

More than Bunnies and Baskets

“Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’”—John 12:23 (NIV).

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Writing this, I’m distracted by the view outside my office window. A cardinal is enjoying my bird bath while a red-headed woodpecker is gorging at the suet feeder. The difference in these two is a reminder of God’s amazing grace. He didn’t have to create such diverse beauty. But He did.

As we enter Holy Week, I’m reminded of another thing God didn’t have to do. But He did. He sent His only Son to die for our sins. How amazing is His grace!

In an article by writer Cheryl Magness, she offers eight simple Holy Week observances to prepare us for Easter.  She says, “Easter is about more than bunnies and baskets. Here’s how you can transcend the commercial, and spend more time reverently preparing for Easter Sunday.”

  1. Observe Palm Sunday by attending church. Palm Sunday was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry and life. Riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus was hailed as a King. His followers waved and then threw down palm branches in His path. Five days later, they deserted Him.
  2. During Holy Week, listen to sacred music.
  3. Read the narration of the story of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection by reading through one of the gospels. Magness suggests the gospel of Luke.
  4. Attend other Holy Week services. Says Magness, “Holy Week is framed by Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, but what happens between is what makes the Sundays make sense. Many churches offer other Holy Week services.” Those days include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. While not all churches observe these, try to find one that does.
  5. Observe a Mini-Lenten if you didn’t get around to participating in a Lenten discipline. Magness suggests engaging in an act of sacrifice or devotion beginning Palm Sunday and carrying through Easter Sunday. Give up something for that week or commit to a daily activity, like a Bible reading plan, to help your mind focus on Holy Week.
  6. Participate in a mini-fast, either full or modified starting from the end of Good Friday worship through sundown on Saturday. Magness says, “You don’t have to give up all sustenance to reap the spiritual benefit of fasting.” You might simply eat less, eat more simply or even skip a meal to draw you closer to the Lord.
  7. Unplug your TV, shut down the computer and cell phone and sign off social media. Doing one or more could also be one of your Holy Week disciplines to stay tuned in to God’s amazing story.
  8. If you do decide to stay plugged in, use your social media to proclaim the week’s events through Bible passages and links to articles about God’s mercy and promises to redeem His creation.

“The list above is not meant to be a burden but a blessing,” she adds. God’s not keeping score. But don’t miss church on Easter Sunday where you’ll hear of God’s unconditional love for you.

I always love hearing from my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at carol@carolaround.com.  Also, if this blog post has touched you, would you please share it with others? It is the greatest gift you can give to a writer.

Don’t live life looking in a mirror

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”—Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV).

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Trying to back out of my friend’s curved driveway, I had to make several attempts to keep from running over several bushes. Even with a dashboard back-up camera, it was a challenge to maneuver my car safely onto the street without doing any damage.

My friend, seated on the passenger side, admitted she wasn’t very good at backing up either. Her solution was to turn her vehicle around in the wide drive so she could leave the premises facing forward.

How often do we navigate life’s challenges, clinging to our mistakes, regretting our choices and failing to move forward because we haven’t released our past to the One who loves us more than life itself? God never meant for us carry that weight.

Holding onto the past

Letting go is one of the hardest things we face. It’s easier for us to hold onto regrets, mistakes, guilt, failures, hurt, fear, anger and worry than to allow God to use them for His glory.

British author C.S. Lewis once said, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”

Are You a Doubting Thomas?

“Thomas told them, ‘I refuse to believe this unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my fingers into them, and put my hand into his side’”—John 20:25 (GW).

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com

Are you a doubting Thomas? Maybe you’re a believer, but you doubt God could ever love someone like you. Maybe you’ve been ridiculed or bullied, struggling with your self-worth.

As a child, were you told you weren’t good enough? Did you become a performance addict with a need to prove you were likable, lovable and valuable? Do you know you’re not alone, today?

Pastor Chip Ingram says, “Many of us struggle with conceptualizing the enduring, sacrificial, infinite, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father. I think this is because we always try to put God’s love into our own human terms—and our terms always fall far short.

“Our human relationships have conditioned us to measure love by ‘ifs,’ ‘maybes,’ and ‘becauses,’” he adds. “‘I’ll love you if you do this.’ Or, ‘I love you because you did that.’”