We Need A Little Christmas

Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.  (This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed.)

-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (The Voice)

Someone lost her adult son this week.  Someone else has a son with stage four cancer.  Someone else I closely know had the anniversary of losing his young son this week.  I also know someone else who’s husband left her and their kids.  I know someone who’s romantic relationship has broken up after a hopeful year.  And I know several women who lost their husbands in the past 15 months, who are grieving.  We also said goodbye to my neighbors of over twenty years, yesterday, who are moving away, to be closer to their family.

The gospel of Jesus, the good news of the kingdom, is that God has come and rescued us for time and eternity.  Jesus is emmanuel, God with us.  Jesus saves and Jesus is with us.

He promised he would always be with us and would send the Holy Spirit, who is the comforter.  This is what he told the disciples at the last supper, when he was saying goodbye to them and we get the same benefit.  Being a Christian is not just about going to heaven when you die, but having Christ in you when you live.

That is the good news.  I have this thought that we need to celebrate Christ coming often.  Christmas is not once a year, but part of our whole lives.

When someone receives Christ and believes the gospel for the first time, that day is their Christmas.  Christ is birthed in their heart or rather, they are birthed into the kingdom of God.  Then throughout our lives, we continually celebrate Christmas: Christ coming as a gift and the gift of being born into Christ’s kingdom.

We all are celebrants is the mass of Christ.  We take Christ into our lives daily in celebration.

Baby Jesus was born into a dangerous and violent time.  Jesus comes as God’s gift to save the world and redeem it.  He changes everything.

Jesus does not hand out tickets to heaven, but changes lives and teaches us to ask God to bring heaven to earth.  Jesus brings redemption to chaos and suffering in humanity.  Jesus also heals us and delivers us.

Jesus life that we share is also a life of suffering, where we are with and in him, utterly depending upon Father, and living by faith in God as our papa.

Today, right now, we need a little Christmas.  We need to come back to remembering what life is all about and what is important and what we celebrate.  The good news about Jesus is good everyday, especially when we are digesting bad news in our lives.

The good news is so good that it almost makes us forget the bad things we are experiencing.  The good news is not a distraction but the transformative event that changes everything.  We celebrate Jesus coming because he is the gift from God that redeems.

Jesus is the redeemer.  He takes us and pays for us.  And more.

Jesus does not just make the pain or sorrow go away.  His redemption is that he comes into it and is with us in it.  The good news is that we are not alone or left alone.

Jesus coming does not just cheer us up.  He comes to change everything and redeem us.  When we celebrate Christmas, with all of it’s accoutrements, like holly, trees, lights and gifts, santa, reindeer, decorations and fun foods; they all point to the gift and the joy and the celebration of Jesus coming.

The Generous Life Lived in Mercy

And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

-Luke 6:34-38
Three or four years ago, I asked the Lord where we would live in the future, and I heard ‘Merced’.  I know that the Lord often speaks to me in ‘dark speech’, parables or symbolic language and sometimes plainly.  In this instance, I looked up what ‘Merced’ means and it means mercy.
I want to tell a story from my recent life that illustrates ‘living in mercy’.  This story also links generosity with forgiveness, not judging nor condemning and living in a mercy life.  This passage in Luke 6, of Jesus words is an illustration of living in mercy and I would say that, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful’, is the key point here that everything else illustrates.
My story is that I have an old friend who took something from me, last year.  He told me, “I took it”, and I was surprised he took it and a little offended that he took it, but glad he told me, sort of.  I told him that the item actually belonged to someone else.
It was like I left a plate of cookies out for someone in particular and before they got there another person happened by and took them: a plastic container with baked delights inside.  The next day, my friend said, “Those cookies you left out were good!”  And I said, “Those weren’t for you, but I was leaving them out for someone else!”  Then I said, “Please give me the plastic tray back”, and they said “OK”, but they never gave it back.
And in a little bit of time, I forgave him and released him from any judgement and laughed about it.  I laughed at myself for making a fuss about it.  I began to live in a mercy place towards my friend.
Fast forward to this week.  I was struggling all week, with a problem I was trying to solve.  I was doing something to solve my problem and that same friend dropped by.
We had a re-do of what happened last year, except this time, the ‘cookies’ had just come out of the oven.  He boldly said, “Can I have those?”  I said, “Yes”, and coordinated with him where to leave the ‘plate of cookies’ when they were ready, because he had to go run some errands.  I saw later, that he had picked up the plate.
Later that day, in the evening, another situation presented itself where another friend of mine needed a favor actually for him and two of his friends, that I could do for them, only if I freely wanted to, but it would take some valuable time for me to do it.  I got a nudge that this would be a generous thing to do, and I did it.  He was very grateful, and thankfully received the gift.
That problem that I was working on earlier in the day was not solved,  and I was disappointed and vexed, but was persevering and planning out my next step, the next thing to try.  After the encounter with my second friend, I tested my problem again, and it had gone away.  And that is when I put this whole picture together.
This particular problem could come back although I hope is does not.  But I can pretty much count on the fact that I will have other problems.  Sometimes life seems like one problem after another.  Every problem is an opportunity to grow in our relationships with God.
When life gives us a negative, God always gives us a positive, like a compensation.  Every problem or challenge has a gift, a grace package attached to it.  We sometimes do not receive it, see it or open it; and instead, wallow in the negative, playing the victim, judging others and even judging God.
Living in mercy is a life of generosity.  And there is a principle that when we are generous, more comes back to us.  It is a matter of the heart and a merciful hearted person is a lender to those who can not repay, a lover of their enemies, who treats them well; and someone who does not at all live, ‘tit for tat’.  Merciful people live in the heart of Father who is merciful and kind.
I want to share with you how Brian Simmons translates this passage:

   “If you lend money only to those you know will repay you, what credit is that to your character?  Even those who don’t know God do that.  But love your enemies and continue to treat them well.  When you lend money, don’t despair if you are never paid back, for it is not lost.  You will receive a rich reward and you as true children of the Most High God, having his same nature.  For your Father is famous for his kindness to heal even the thankless and cruel.  Show mercy and compassion for others, just as your heavenly Father overflows with mercy and compassion for all.”

  Jesus said, “Forsake the habit of judging and criticizing others, and then you will not be criticized and judged in return.  Don’t look at others and pronounce them guilty, and you will not experience guilty accusations yourself.  Forgive over and over and you will be forgiven over and over.  Give generously and generous gifts will be given back to you, shaken down to make room for more.  Abundant gifts will pour out upon you with such an overflowing measure that it will run over the top!  Your measurement of generosity becomes the measurement of your return.”  -Luke 6:34-38 (TPT)

Free Rain Coming

You, God, showered abundant rain; You revived Your inheritance when it languished.

-Psalm 68:9
I believe that God is going to shower down refreshing, reviving, life-giving, restoring and reforming rain upon people.  The people that are going to get hit with the gracious, merciful and completely free gift of refreshment are people who are weary, discouraged, impatient, grieved, worn out and languishing.  
God has showers of free-will gifts that are coming.  There are no strings attached.  The rain is free.
God’s rain is not at all exclusive, but is outrageously inclusive.
The abundant rain from God is a free-will gift.  
God’s abundant, generous. plentiful, heavy downpour of rain is a free-will gift.  Literally: “A shower of free-will gifts thou shakest out, O God”.
The weariness we have been experiencing is like growing tired of waiting and ready to give up, discouraged: languishing.  But God is about to change all that with the refreshing rain.
The refreshing will be a confirmation.  Believers who are genuine are about to be confirmed by God.  
Massive confirmation that God is real and God’s kids on the earth are really God’s children is about to happen, when God, the plural God, Elohim, sends rain upon his inheritance on the earth.

The Little Things – Like Money

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.

-Luke 16:10

This proverb from Jesus is a commentary or a side note on a parable he just told, about “the dishonest manager”.  The ESV & HCSB title the story that way, but the NLT & NIV call it “the shrewd manager”.  Eugene Peterson has, “the crooked manager”.

Some Bible experts say that this is the hardest parable in Luke, to interpret.  There is difficulty in seeing what Jesus point was, with possibly asking us to emulate a dishonest person.  But, as is often the case, the context helps us understand the text.

The context is a story about a person and their money or resources.  It is the story of allocation or investing assets or commodities.  It is a story of how to manage or do beneficial process in a financial crisis.

In the story, the manager did good business right before he lost his position.  He was a seller or a trader, who managed assets: buying, selling, and trading; for his boss.  The boss decided that the manager was doing poorly, so he dismissed him.

But before the manager packed up and handed things back to his boss, he made a number of finishing deals with the accounts (people) he dealt with, for his boss.  He lowered the amount that each owed and got each account or deal closed and settled.

We do not know if these were, “I am going out of business”, discounts; in order to not leave loose ends and make his boss happy; or if the manager himself paid the difference, blessing these customers and his boss.  Either way, his boss did compliment him on the way out; and more importantly, Jesus complimented him.

So, what is this all about, and how does it apply to Christians today?  It is about investing or generously giving money or commodities to people who are in need.  Jesus is saying that just as the boss in the story praised him for what he did for his customers, you will be praised by people who you generously give to, who are in need; in this life and in heaven.

Diametrically opposed to this generous lifestyle that Jesus teaches, were the Pharisees, who loved money.  And Jesus says that we can not love God, serve God; and love or serve money.  Money is meant to serve people who love and serve God.

Money is a great tool to bless people, because people who do not have money need money to eat and live.  God blesses us with money to enjoy our lives and to give it away to people who are in need.  How we handle our money is a barometer of our spiritual maturity and readiness to receive opportunity and responsibilities in the kingdom.

Do we love God and love people, or do we love money?  If we hoard money, if we are not generous to those in need, and if we see money and commodities that we have as only for us; then we are not walking in the generous love-way of Christ.  And unless we change direction, we will arrive at where we are headed.

How we handle dollars or our extra stuff are the little things that are very important in Jesus eyes, because they give us a reading on how our hearts are.  Generous hearted people can be given spiritual promotion or kingdom duties.  Generous hearts are identified through generosity in dollars and sense.

Declarations and Admonitions

Never give up on God, others, or yourself.

Know that God always can make a way no matter what.

There is always room for faith, hope, and love.

Rest daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly; because lack of rest creates disease in body, mind, and spirit.

Feeling hopeless, depressed, angry, or confused might mean you need rest.

Doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing.

When you move, you can be steered; so get a move on and look for guidance.

Picture: Pixabay

Ask questions when you don’t know the answer.

Say you hurt when you hurt, so you can find comfort or get insight on how you are hurting yourself.

Always be willing to forgive, when you have been wronged.

Always offer love, which is primarily presence and attention.

See how you can do more with less.

Cultivate a generous life-style, where you let others go first and give away free smiles.

Sharing is a central hub of the Christian life, so share food, stories, and time together.

Practice talking less and listening more.

Learn the value of silence.

Live in the triangle of unity, holiness, and generosity; with love at the center.

Do thankfulness first, before you recite the negative.

Make space in your life, in your heart and how you live, where you look for God’s move.

Cultivate a life of love, being loved, loving others, and loving your self; so that the signature of your life and thread that ties everything together is the love of God.


The best is always yet ahead, no matter what was great in the past.

Failures do not define us, but refine us.

If you can not “do it over”, you can try something.

Replace, “just do it”, if you don’t know what to do, with, “just do something”.

Pray always.

When you pray, you don’t have to pray coherently, you may have “no words” and that is ok.

Pay attention to your loved ones, and you will be paid attention to.

Listen to those around you.  Listening is ten times more productive than speaking.

Plan.  Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Plan for drought, death, and loss.

Also plan for fruitfulness, abundance, and multiplication.

Be flexible to modify, improve, and change plans often.

Be open to new ideas.

Do not live today, based on what has been.

See now as becoming and preparing for what your future is.

Know where you are going, and live like that person who is there.

Cultivate a generous heart daily, giving to others in any way.

Reach out to others and you will quickly find someone hurting more than you, to love.

When we focus outwardly, on others, God will touch our lives.

Whether you are rejoicing or weeping, always share with God and let Him know.

Picture: Pixabay

Bragging Rights

Graphic credit: Ron Mader (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them.  And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.  The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

-James 1:9-11 (NLT)
Did you know that you have bragging rights?  You can and should brag about how God has honored you, how God has given you dignity.  My Father in heaven is taking good care of me!  He is such a good God.

You should also know that you can brag about how God humbled you.  “Amazing Grace” should be our song.  Worship seven days a week includes bragging on what God has done for you.  He arranged for my humiliation so that I could call him Lord.

God’s desire is not to take the money away, as in “money is bad”, but to shift our dependency onto him.  I believe God wants to give believers huge amounts of money, but we can not handle it.

What does it mean that poor believers are honored by God?  It might mean that we get our esteem or dignity from God, from being God’s children.  Remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you who are poor”, or, “God blesses you who are poor”, “for yours is the kingdom of God”?

What it means is that the kingdom of God is the environment or organizing principal from which the believer lives.  The kingdom of God is the rule and reign of Christ.  The subjects of the king are honored to serve the king and be agents of the kingdom of God’s expansion on the earth.

Being “poor” is relative.  It is easier to be rich in the kingdom, if you are poor in the eyes of the world.  There’s nothing wrong with riches, but it is the heart that Christ changes.  Rich people have a challenge, to not depend on their riches for everything, whereas poorer people have the privilege of depending on God more and this is a more fulfilling life.

So, rich people have the challenge of crossing over to a life in Christ, where they find all their sufficiency in Christ.  The self-sufficient life is a life of pride.  God requires believers to be humble and embrace humility, which is the opposite of pride.

If you are used to being proud, it is radically different to be humble.  We humble ourselves or we get humbled through humiliation.  Sometimes it takes hitting bottom, then relapsing, hitting bottom again, and relapsing again; two, three, or four times, for a person to become humble.

God can arrange circumstances to humble you if you do not humble yourself.  God does this to discipline us, because he loves us as sons and daughters.  Pride is the core sin and God is going to help you get it out of your life. 

The rich people should boast that God has humbled them.  Some have experienced a rude awakening that riches do not bring happiness and that the false worship of comfort and prestige and the power that money brings is serious sin.
When the rich person gets saved they have to give up letting the trappings of wealth dictate their lives.  They come into the kingdom of God, where Jesus is all in all.  The sin of self-sufficiency has to go.
The rich person is humbled by the fact that they now realize that happiness can not be bought and they can not give themselves life through wealth.  They also need to repent, if necessary, of looking down on poorer people or using their wealth to get above poorer people in life.  
They are humbled by Christ to realize that the kingdom of God is flat.  The rich, the famous, and the well-heeled stand shoulder to shoulder with the poor, before Christ.  This is the way it is now, on earth as believers.  
To come down off that perch is a very good thing.  It is a very good humiliation.  It is a humbling to be celebrated.  That is what James is saying.
Your wealth is God’s, because you belong to God and everything you have belongs to God.  Like in the story of the rich young ruler (Matt. 10), God might call you to give up everything.  That is not “the rule” for rich people who come to Christ, but a principle that you have to be willing to give up everything.  
What we have, we are called to be good stewards of.  That does not mean being poor is more spiritual.

Everything about wealth that gets in the way of Christ and the kingdom has to go.  You can still have all your holdings, but you can not be invested in them at the core of your life.  The rich person has an adjustment to make, when they enter the kingdom.
They have you see and learn the kingdom life, which runs counter to the life of the world.  They can no longer serve money or love money.  They will learn kingdom stewardship.
The humbling is that you are not superior to others.  The rich person in the kingdom celebrates and boasts that God has awakened them out of this delusion, that the Bible calls, “The deceitfulness of riches”(Mk. 4:19).

James is filled with practical wisdom.  We need to be people who are not enamored with things that fade.  What fades?  Paint, metal, wood, fabric, food, electronics, and film are a few examples.

What does not fade?  Your relationships.  Your relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Your relationships with family and friends.  Your relationships with sisters and brothers in Christ.

Wealth is a tool for relationships, under the reign of the kingdom of God.  Use your money for people.  What if you saw your money as being for the kingdom?

There are rich people all over with new cars, new clothes, nice houses, and wealth stored up.  In Christ, this all is not suddenly bad, but the rich person’s transformation makes them different.  They still have the stuff, but the stuff does not have them.

When the rich person gets this and sees the change, versus how they used to be; it is something to boast about.  Any rich person who is afraid to become a Christian does not understand the freedom because they are slaves.  Yes, rich slaves.  They are enslaved to their riches.

Generosity is a kingdom quality or virtue.  Christ’s followers are generous.  They are lovers who show their love through generosity.

The kingdom of God is not socialism or communism.  But, we are social and in communion.  Some might look at the book of Acts and believe that the model is for everyone to give all their money to the church leaders, who then use it to care for the poor and send missionaries to preach.

My reading of Acts 4:32 to 5:11, is that all of the generosity and selling things to help other church members and so forth, was voluntary.  Believers are generous and generosity is part and parcel to being filled with the Spirit.  What if I told you that the sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit is generosity?

If you choose to not be generous, you are not excluded or punished, but you missed out on the blessing.  The NT teaches generous giving, in joy, without pride, and with no strings attached.  

In the world, some people are sad that they are poor.  In the kingdom, God turns that around.  We now have “bragging rights” because God is taking care of us.

In the world, there is an idea that money buys happiness and that wealth gives you glory.  In the kingdom, that myth is not allowed and we are given sight and are no longer under that delusion.  We are humbled from that perch of pride we one inhabited.  We have “bragging rights” because it is a glorious thing that God has saved us from pride and humbled us to know his care for us, becoming our Lord and savior.

Generosity (Not the Tithing Tax) For Christians

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop.  But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You must each decide in your heart how much to give.
And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.  “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”  And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.  Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.  And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
-2 Cor. 9:6-12 (NLT)

The Christian’s story is the story that God has generously given salvation in Christ.  You became part of God’s story of generosity.  The Gospel message is the good news about God’s generosity: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16).  God is a giver and God is generous.  When we become God’s children, through Christ, we take on God’s nature, in Christ and also grow in generosity.  We become stewards of the life of God within us and actors and voices in God’s story.

The Christian is an adopted child of God, in Christ.  We are now sons and daughters of God.  We are learning how to live in Christ, by his Spirit in our lives.  And the life we now live in Christ is a life of generosity in freedom, living in the kingdom of God.

We are by nature, now, givers.  We are in Christ, because God gave.  Giving and generosity is God’s nature and now we’ve got his nature within us and now we are generous too.

“How does this work?”, we might ask.  We are encouraged that giving will come back to us in blessings, in every dimension.  The word from Jesus is, “give and it shall be given” (Luke 6:38).  Simply stated, you can not out-give God.  Jesus has said that, when you give, God will always give back.

God’s greatest generosity was in giving Christ for the sins of the world.  We are on that same mission; co-missioners.  We have become part of the generosity of God.  We are all working out (Phil. 2:12) this great salvation (Heb. 2:3) that we are experiencing and inviting others to get in on.

This is the context or basis from which the Christian has become and is growing in being a giver or generous person.  We are generous givers, because of the gospel.  It is an inside job.  Generosity comes from the heart, and it must, to be in sync with God.

The New Testament talks about and teaches a cultivation of giving and generosity.  He gave us all, and he wants us to be like him, and he is in us with his Spirit to do it.

The Old testament Tithe was never adopted by the New testament Church.  We are never given a percentage that we should give.  We are only told to be givers, or to cultivate the generosity of the life of Christ within us.  Just be who Christ is within you.  Be a Christian.  That is what the NT teaches.

God had Paul write down that we should each decide in our hearts how much to give and then give that much.  Some have called this practically, “pray and obey”.  A situation to give to, presents itself, and we ask God in our hearts, “should I give to that and if so, how much”, and guess what?  God will help us in our conscience, in our inner man, or in our hearts, to know what a good amount is.

If the amount seems like a stretch, perhaps God is stretching our faith and wants to remind us that, “whoever gives to the poor loans to God who will pay them back” (Prov. 19:17).  But when you have prayed and get an idea of how much to give, and if it is a stretch, you have exercised a measure of faith; and you are not reluctant.  Make sure you are giving cheerfully!

You cannot give reluctantly, or grudgingly, or with hesitation.  You have to give freely.  If you do not, then there will be no blessing from your giving.  You don’t want to say, “I’m going to give till it hurts”.  Giving must come from a cheerful heart that gives freely to bless others.

Harvey Nowland wrote:

If you help others with the right motivation, you’re going to be helped. When you refresh others, you will be refreshed.

Get it? You reap what you sow.

Don’t give simply for some tax advantage. Don’t give expecting the recipients to be grateful. Most will be extremely thankful, but some may not only be ungrateful, they might even resent those who give.

So, don’t give until it hurts. And, don’t give in order to be admired for your generosity. Give because giving reflects the loving and generous God who gave His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would have the opportunity to be blessed and to bless others by giving.

Remember, giving to God reminds us who He is, who we are and what our relationship should be to Him and those things that He allows us to manage in His name.

While there may be those who encourage us to give until it hurts, it seems that God really has a much better plan. God wants us to give because it’s the right thing to do. I think that it looks as though we should feel good, even joyful, about giving – if that’s what God wants us to do.

Please, please, don’t give until it hurts. Instead, give until you feel so good about giving that you might fall down laughing (all right, maybe not that happy). But, you get the idea, so let’s remember that “God loves a cheerful giver.”

In the NT, we are encouraged to give in proportion with our prosperity (1 Cor. 16:1-2).  In the NT, giving is completely voluntary.  Some have used the example of Abraham’s one tenth gift to Melchizedek to say that tithing is what we should do, but that focus is wrong.  What we learn from Abraham’s tithe in Gen 14, mentioned again in Hebrews 7; is that giving is voluntary.

Christians should give voluntarily to Christ, as Abraham did; not under law, but under grace.  If you have no generosity, or if you do not give, then it begs the question, “are you in Christ?”  The Spirit of Christ is the most generous force in the world today.

The generosity of God in Christ is the salvation and only hope for this world.  If you say you are in Christ, but are not generous, or do not give, and give regularly, as in a, “who you are and how you live”, way; then maybe you need to get saved.

We have to take a look at our salvation if we are not generous or givers.  But the paradox is that it is a choice.  The NT is filled with a church learning generosity, learning not to live sinfully, learning Christlikeness.  We are learners too, disciples who are getting saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaved.  It is an event AND a process.  We are learning, being discipled by Jesus, to live in his generous life.
For further study: 
Tithing After the Cross, by David A. Croteau 
Should Christians Tithe? by David Allan Black

I found the graphic above at – Twelve Resources For Christian Generosity, by Andrew Jones 

Jason: Welcomed Paul Into His Home

What is more, Jason has welcomed them into his home. Every one of them does what is contrary to Caesar’s decrees by naming someone else as king: Jesus.”

Timothy my coworker says hello to you, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my relatives. 
-Acts 17:7, Romans 16:21

The man Jason was a Thessalonian.  Jason is the name that Hellenistic Jews used for Jesus or Joshua and it means “to heal”, or “one who will heal”.  The transliteration of Jason in Greek is Iason.  What we know about Jason, is that he welcomed Paul and Paul’s coworkers into his house.  Jason took Paul’s welfare under his responsibility.

Paul stayed with Jason for the three weeks while he was in Thessalonica.   The new church there would later receive the two letters that we have in the New Testament.  When a riot was stirred up by those who were upset by this new work, the rioters came looking for Paul and company at Jason’s house.  Not finding Paul, the thugs dragged Jason and others before the city officials to accuse them.

Jason had to post bail to be released.  So, Jason not only housed and fed Paul, and gave him a secure place to sleep; but Jason also was dragged to court over God’s work through Paul and had to pay bail to be released for something that was not his nor Paul’s fault.

Jason welcomed Paul and his associates into his home.  Jason became like a person of peace.  Jason gave Paul a base.  The gospel comes to it’s hearers with power in the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 1:5), but the people bringing it are human. 

When Jesus trained the first disciples in how to do missions trips, part of the plan or way was to find a person of peace, who would receive them (Luke 10:5-9).  Some examples are Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia (Acts 16), the jailer (Acts 16), Aquila & Priscilla (Acts 18), Justus (Acts 18). A concise teaching on Persons of Peace, by Tom Wolf is here.

What Jason did for Paul was just like what Martha and Mary did for Jesus (Luke 10:38) at Jesus’ favorite place, Bethany.  What Jason did for Paul was also like what Zaccheus did for Jesus, when he welcomed him into his home (Luke 19:6).  What Jason did for Paul was also like what Rahah did for the spies, whom she sheltered in her Jericho flat (James 2:25).

Without the hospitality given, we would not have any of these stories and the propulsion forward of the gospel or salvation history.  Missions, church growth, and apostolic & kingdom activity does not work without hospitality.  

Five to ten years later, Jason was probably with Paul in Corinth (Romans 16:21).
Photo credit: Iason Sudios, in Crete, Greece

What Are You Living From?

But these other people’s deeds?  I have avoided such violent ways by the command from your lips.
-Psalm 17:4

One question for the Christian is how to live in the world.  How then, shall we live? There are two ways of life in the world.  One is living from God and the other is to live from your self.  People living from God may struggle to, “do so”, and be on a journey of learning, “how to”, and that is good.

In the other camp, there are is variety of ways that people don’t live from God.  Some purely serve their self, while others serve other gods, and there are those who pretend to serve the real God, but are fakers.  It is worth remembering that it was the (most) religious people who wanted Jesus dead.

The two ways of life in the world are the violent ways and the ways of God’s word.  Every young person has to learn to walk in the way of God’s word.  The violent way says that, “the ends justify the means”, “get all you can and can all you can get”, and “you deserve it”.

These three ways of violence are ways of pure selfishness or robbery.  The word violence means destruction or robbery.  When we do violence, we destroy or rob others.  There is much violence in word and deed in the world today.

The way of, “the ends justifies the means”, stands in opposition to the ways of God.  Doing wrong to do right is not God’s way.  You cannot cheat to get righteousness.  The way of the world is to compromise or be expedient, “for the greater good”.  That is not the way of God’s word.  Follow God’s word and not the violent way.

The violent way that says, “get all you can, for your self”, is not the way of God’s word.  The way of God’s word is to earn all you can, and to give away all you can, while saving all you can; as John Wesley was fond of saying.  Our appetites are to be disciplined.  Our souls are to first seek God, to first give to God; and then satisfaction will ensue.

The way of violence is the way of, “you deserve it”, the way of narcissism.  There were two popular self-help books, I noticed lots of my peers reading, in high school, that gave me pause, even in my young mind: “Looking Out For #1”, and “Winning Through Intimidation”.  I knew that these ideas went counter to what I had learned as a Christian, in church my whole life.

These selfish, narcissistic, human-centered ideas were violent robbery of others.  There is the violent way of success in life where you grab and take and force.  In stark contrast, there is God’s way, expressed in God’s word.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being and with all your mind”,  (Deut. 6:5 & Matt. 22:37).  Secondly, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”, (Lev. 19:18 & Matt. 22:39).  That is the summation of living by the word of God that the psalmist has in mind, from Jesus.

The advice from the psalmist who was inspired to write these words, is to avoid the violent ways of the world by living by God’s word.  We know that God’s word is a person who is Jesus Christ.  We live by and through Christ, his words and his life; and it is a cross walk, his cross and mine.

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