Faithful Administration of our Money

Right now I’m reading a really good book called The (Don’t have) To Do List by Anthony Delaney. It’s all about the things you no longer have to do if you’re a Christian. Like: you don’t have to please everyone, you don’t have to be afraid. I highly recommend it. Here is an extract from the chapter called I Don’t Have To Be Fearful Over Finances:

_20180125_192229

Many people say that ‘money is the root of all evil’. Look again:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1 Timothy 6:10)

The Bible says money is neither good nor bad, God sees it as a minor thing. Jesus called it a small thing. What you do with the small thing is the big thing.

Think about what’s in your pocket or your purse right now. You can’t determine where the money in your hands has come from. It could have been in a very rich man’s wallet. It could have been someone’s last bit of change. It could have been stolen, or funded a crime. You don’t know its history, but now you have the power and responsibility to decide its future.

Most people would be shocked to discover that Jesus talked more about money than heaven or hell. In fact he said that what you do with your money would be the acid test of your faith! So, is it genuine – or counterfeit?

What will you use it for? How much have you wasted so far? Will you spend it on yourself, give it away or put it in a bank?

Faithful administration vs. frantic acquisition

There’s no such thing as a self-made man. Everything you have came to you because God gives it.

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. (Psalm 24:1)

That means nothing truly belongs to us, it actually belongs to God, and he’s watching how we handle it. We think of wages as what we’ve earned. On the contrary, whenever we receive money and material things, we’re not getting what we deserve (otherwise poor beggars in poverty right now are just getting what they deserve aren’t they?)

The truth is we should cultivate the attitude of gratitude. We are recipients of the grace of God. According to many passages, including for example the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, we’re like managers of a trust fund and will be held to account for what we’ve been given. There’ll be no money in heaven, and the streets are paved with gold. Right now God gives us time, talents and treasure to teach us and test us. The key attitude to it should be faithful administration rather than frantic acquisition. Ultimately God wants you to care more about giving than getting.

God especially uses money to teach us to be generous like him. I read in the paper the other day that the average teenager in the West will easily have a million pounds go through his or her hands before they retire. An awful lot of money comes to many of us, if we added it up over a lifetime – and how many of us when we are eventually called to account by God will shake our heads in disbelief that we squandered an incredible amount?

The problem is money doesn’t pass through our hands does it? Instead it gets stuck in our grubby mitts, or doesn’t get passed on the way he’d want it to.

[The (Don’t have) To Do List by Anthony Delaney pp.76-77]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

Advertisements
Posted in faith, Thinking Thursday | Tagged | Leave a comment

There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See

In John Chapter 9 we read of the healing of the man born blind.
He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” (John 9:11‭)

Healing of a Man Born Blind

There are a number of different reactions to the healing. It sparks a debate. Who is this man?
The crowd says: “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:32‭-‬33)

Darkness echoes the creation. This man is recreated, comes to Jesus and confesses him as God.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35‭-‬38)

Yet the religious leaders cannot bring themselves to acknowledge Jesus because he did it on the Sabbath. No good Jew would work on the Sabbath. There have been examples of sportsmen refusing to compete on a Sunday. But it’s possible to get so caught up in the fanatical details that you miss the greater truth of what God is doing.

1. Let go of your Pharisee.

So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. (John 9:15‭-‬16)

Don’t be like the Pharisees and be so obsessed by the rules that you miss what God is doing. You could call it a religiously transmitted disease. Have a Pharisectomy (!). Don’t lose sight of the glory of God in your life.

2. Let go of our ignorance. 

The disciples make a crass connection between sin and suffering.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1‭-‬2)

Sin in the world causes suffering but not on an individual basis. Your cancer is not the result of your sin. The glory of God is displayed in healing, but also in our suffering keeping close to God. Leave room for the glory of God, the mystery. Not everything can be brought down to simplistic answers.

3. Count the cost of discipleship. 

His parents were reluctant to say who healed him. They were afraid of the consequences.
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:18‭-‬23)

The Christian life is not easy, there is a cost to following Jesus. You can’t be a secret Christian. You can’t always be part of the ‘in’ crowd and stay true to your faith.

It may be difficult to be a Christian, but it’s dull to be anything else. Better to live in the fear of God than live in fear of men.

Continue to anchor your life on the grace of God.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35‭-‬38)

[adapted from a sermon by Steve Jones at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

Posted in faith, Thinking Thursday | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Little Things Mean a Lot

22

Is your wedding ring just another ring or does it mean more than that?
Is wine important? It might be important at a party, you wouldn’t want it to run out half way through. But what if it was a wedding party? How embarrassing would that be? Suppose you came from a culture that placed a huge emphasis on hospitality. If the wine ran out you would be shamed in front of the whole neighbourhood. When Jesus turned water into wine he saved the whole family from that shame, but even that was not the real significance of his action.

The story of this, Jesus’ first miracle, is in John 2:1-11. John uses the miracle to show more about Jesus, not just the miracle. Not everyone at the wedding was aware of the miracle. Jesus didn’t make a big show of it, he taught some important things, but just to a few people.Jesus_turns_water_into_wine

In verse 4 Jesus says to his mother, ‘My time is not yet come.’

Jesus wants us to think about what is his time, that will come? Jesus didn’t do this miracle to help Mary out. He was teaching Mary and the disciples and those who were in on it. How do we react when Jesus doesn’t do what we ask him to do?

Mary tells the servants to do what he tells them, confident he will do the right thing.

In verse 10 the master of the feast says, ‘You have saved the best till last.’

How many miracles have you missed this week? Are we looking with the eye of faith? God is at work but we miss it.

Jesus wants to say something about who he is. The best is yet to come.

Verse 11 ‘This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.’

This echoes a messianic prophecy:
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord , “when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. (Amos 9:13‭-‬14)

Jesus is saying ‘I am the Messiah’

This reveals the glory of Jesus. To the Jews only God had glory. Jesus is the Saviour and will come again.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 11:40)

We will share in his glory 

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:29-31)

The disciples put their faith in him, so as we read this we can put our faith in him.

Don’t lose your expectation
Don’t lose your perspective
Don’t lose your faith

[Adapted from a sermon by Pete Orphan at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

Posted in faith, Thinking Thursday | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Five Year Road to Glory

Don’t turn away from this post because you’re not a novelist: this is great advice for all of us. Copied from Randy Ingermanson’s site.

Randy Ingermanson

The Road to Glory for Novelists

How do you reach your goals in fiction writing as fast as possible? Is there a shortcut that will get you there quicker? What’s the secret to finding the road to glory for novelists?

This is the time of year when people make those dreaded New Year’s resolutions. Some of them stick, but we all know that most of them don’t. Why?

The problem is that we all want a quick success. We all want a five-day rush to glory.

I want that. You want that. We all want that. It’s not a crime.

It’s just a mistake.

There is a road to glory, but it’s not a five-day trip. It’s not a five-week trip either, and generally not a five-month trip.

But a five-year road to glory is quite possible. If you make a five-year plan right now, and if it’s the right five-year plan for you, then in five years, you will be amazing.

So if you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution, think long-term, not short.

The Five-Year Road to Glory

You should be asking now how anyone could possibly sprint for five years.

Short answer: you can’t.

The road to glory is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

And the road to glory is not paved with good intentions. That would be the road to hell.

The road to glory is paved with good habits. A set of things you do every day, every day, every day for the rest of your life.

And it’s easy to make the mistake of trying to set up all those good habits right now, when the good feelings from New Year’s Eve are still with us. Just set up fifty excellent habits that will put you on the road to glory.

But that’s not going to happen. It’s hard work to build a habit. Extremely hard work. It takes about three weeks of doing the same thing every day before that habit sticks. You can’t possibly build fifty habits all at the same time.

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about creating a habit of writing every day. That’s a great habit to have. It’s one of many you’ll need on the road to glory.

And what are the others? What is the list of habits you need in order to ride the road to glory?

I wish I could give you a simple list, but that would be simple-minded.

Every writer is different. Your list is not my list and my list is not yours.

But here’s the thing. You don’t have to know the whole list right now.

All you need to know is the next one on the list.

One at a Time

Start with the writing-every-day habit that I blogged about just lately. If you didn’t start that habit two weeks ago, read that blog post and start now. Do it for a solid month.

And during that month, be thinking about what the next habit should be. Maybe it’ll be daily exercise. Or a daily reading plan. Or daily flossing. Or daily something else. It could be anything that will make you a better, stronger, smarter, more productive, more amazing writer. You have a whole month to figure out that next habit. Pick a dynamite one.

When next month rolls around, start that new habit. Maintain the old one, but start the new one. And remember, keep it ridiculously easy for the first three weeks. After that, you can ramp it up if you need to. Building a habit is hard, so make the actions of the habit as easy as you can when you’re starting out. Eventually, those actions may get quite demanding, but by then, the habit will be in your blood and in your bones.

A Habit of the Month

One new habit, every month, for the next five years.

Call it the Habit of the Month club.

That’s my prescription for the road to glory. It’s the slow road, yes, but it’s the one most likely to get you there.

If you choose your habits well, build them carefully, and maintain them conscientiously, in five years, you are going to astonish yourself by what you’ve achieved.

My habit this month is to get up every morning at 6:30 AM. I have particular trouble getting out of bed in the morning. It’s not about the earliness of the hour. It’s just as hard to roll out at 6:30 as it is to roll out at 9:00. Once I actually roll out, I don’t have any trouble getting moving. But it’s that three seconds of putting feet on the cold floor and sliding out from under the warm covers. That’s hard. The best solution seems to be to do it fast, like ripping off a Band-Aid. Sure it’s awful, but do it fast and get it done. So that’s my Habit of the Month, this month.

I’m on Day 3. In a month, I hope to be solid on this, so I can move on to something more fun.

That’s my plan.

What’s yours?

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

Posted in miscellaneous, Thinking Thursday | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bah Humbug?

It has been thought for a long time that Christians took over a pagan festival to create Christmas. That’s not all we have made use of. We take other things and adapt them.

Father Christmas

For example, Santa Claus is adapted from St Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra in modern Turkey. He used his money to give to his parishioners in secret to help them through Christmas. He was made a saint, yet opinions changed and his sainthood was downgraded in the 1960s. 

Mince pies used to be large oblong and stable-shaped and the spices were meant to remind us of the gifts of the Magi from the East. In the days of the English Civil War, eating mince pies was stopped by the church as idolatrous.

In the 17th century the church decided they could only sing one carol which was sound enough in doctrine. Of course, a lot more quality carols have been written since.

Today we often see Christmas as a battle between the Saviour and Santa.

Bah Humbug

We need to be careful that the church may become the ‘bah humbug’ of Christmas.

People in the first Christmas story made mistakes but God used them anyway. The Magi were pagans, outsiders. They made a costly journey, prompted by God without being aware. They arrived and made a wrong assumption:a king would be born in a palace. But God provided the star again and graciously redirected them. Sometimes as we get near we can rush into things without thinking.

My pastor is chaplain of the local Rugby Club and heard a player singing Silent Night (but only knew the first line!). Pastor didn’t criticise but welcomed his singing, which led to a good conversation, and then he came to the carol service where he learned the rest of the words and heard the gospel. 

When Joseph heard Mary was pregnant he decided to divorce her, the righteous thing to do, but God redirected him to a more gracious path.

How do we respond to others who are celebrating Christmas in their own way?

Do people think we are the ‘bah humbug’  of Christmas or that we know how to celebrate?

Do we turn our nose up at inappropriate gifts or rejoice in the intention behind it?

Lots of people who don’t believe in Christianity do wonderful things at Christmas. In the supermarket the container for Food Bank donations is overflowing. In Swansea we have the Mr X appeal, where people buy an extra child’s gift and donate it for distribution to the poor.

Angel means messenger. Will we be messengers this Christmas?

Hidden Christmas Timothy Keller Recommended book: Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller 

[Adapted from a Christmas sermon by Pete Orphan at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

Posted in faith, Thinking Thursday | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Whose Hand on Your Shoulder?

The One Show presenters

Heard on the last One Show BBC TV programme before Christmas: The presenters went to the church next door and asked the vicar for his message to the viewers this Christmas. His message was very short but so much to the point. I’m paraphrasing:

A mother sat by the bedside of her dying six year old son and a vicar put his hand on her shoulder and said, ‘I know how you feel.’

The mother jumped up angrily and said, ‘You don’t know how I feel, don’t give me platitudes.’

The vicar said, ‘Last year my eight year old son died. I do know how you feel.’

God loves us so much that he gave his only Son at Christmas and Easter. He knows how you feel. Who better to have his hand on your shoulder?

May God bless you this Christmas and draw you closer to him.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

Posted in Thinking Thursday | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Your Third Word

This post is based on a Bible study, which I unfortunately forgot to note so I could credit them. Apologies.

I Am _____

God introduced Himself to Moses with just two words: “I AM.” Typically that phrase needs a third word to complete the sentence. But because God is everything and everyone and everywhere that He needs to be in every moment, His name doesn’t need a third word.

You and I, on the other hand, need that third word to anchor our identities to specific, tangible, descriptive terms. But completing the “I am ___” sentence is not as easy as it sounds.

We fill in the third word blank all the time with automatic and subconscious nouns and adjectives, but we seldom stop to question whether we’ve gotten our third words right.

Different Perspective

Here are some third words I hear all the time, both from my mouth and my mind: Unqualified. Stupid. Strong. Driven. Screwed-up. Loyal. Stuck. Hurting. Overwhelmed. Blessed. Capable. Disappointed. Broken. Hopeful. Jaded. Content.

Which of those do you identify with? Circle them mentally.

What word of your own would you write in?

How does all this compare with God’s assessment of you?

These are enormous, confusing, and brave questions. And getting them right will take a lifetime. But I challenge you not to ignore them. Dig deeper into who God has called you to be, ask the tough questions, and allow God to define you. Give God the final say on your third word. Only there will you find your true self.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk

Posted in faith, Thinking Thursday | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment