Philip Yancey Part 2 OR The Mystery Man

 

money yancy SCR3AMFR3AK via pixabay Here’s a second highlight from the talk Philip Yancey gave called “Rumors of Another World.” You can find it here: ,and I hope you’ll find the time to watch the whole thing for yourself.

This is the story of an enterprising young man who was already well on his way to wealth by the time he left high school. You see, he’d paid the front office secretary to provide him with the birth date and home phone number of every student in the school. Then, as each birthday approached, he’d call the parents of that student and pitch this idea: donate $5, and we’ll bake your darling son or daughter a cake. Then we’ll have the whole school sing “Happy Birthday.” (This was back when $5 actually amounted to something. However, I got the impression that the cakes and songs never materialized.) 

That same young man went on to college, then law school. His income reached a whole new level, though, when he invented a cushion to alleviate the discomfort of those who were painfully bouncing around in the metal seats of Ford tractors. Life was good? Actually, no, life was falling apart.

The unhappy millionaire hopped into a cab in New York City and began to talk. By God’s grace, the cab driver paid attention to the conversation and had the courage to interject with some unsolicited advice, “I think you should go see Clarence Jordan. He can help you straighten out your life.”

The man in question took the cabbie’s advice and went to see Clarence, a radical Christian living on a commune. Mr. Jordan listened to that troubled soul and said, in so many words, “It sounds to me like you have entirely too much money. Go give it all away and then come back.” 

Perhaps to the great surprise of his friends, that’s exactly what our mystery man did, giving away 2.3 million dollars, a lot of money today, and an even more considerable sum all those years ago. His next conversation with Clarence Jordan went something like this:

  • “Okay, I gave away my money.”
  • “All of it?”
  • “Yes, sir, all of it.”
  • “In that case, I guess we need to find you a job.”
  • “What sort of job, sir?”
  • “Well, what do you thing makes God unhappy?”
  • “Lots of people have nowhere to sleep at night. I don’t expect he’s very happy about that.”
  • “Then why don’t you go build a house for each person who needs one.” 

And then that man, Millard Dean Fuller, founded Habitat for Humanity.

What a great reminder that God has ways of using each and every one of us!

For a bit more of the story, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Millard and Clarence. 

Millard Fuller was the recipient of numerous awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. In September 1996, United States President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and said, “Millard Fuller has done as much to make the dream of homeownership a reality in our country and throughout the world as any living person. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Millard Fuller has literally revolutionized the concept of philanthropy.”

Accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millard_Fuller 

Clarence Jordan (July 29, 1912 – October 29, 1969), a farmer and New Testament Greek scholar, was the founder of Koinonia Farm, a small but influential religious community in southwest Georgia and the author of the Cotton Patch paraphrase of the New Testament. He was also instrumental in the founding of Habitat for Humanity.

Accessed at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Jordan

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Boxing Day

box and dog Erda Estremera Unsplash

December 26th is known in many parts of the world as Boxing Day. Why?

  • Because it’s the day we haul all our now-empty gift boxes away? Nope.
  • Because it’s the day we’re allowed to slug those who irk us? Absolutely not.
  • Because it’s a day to give to those less fortunate? Bingo!

Also known as St. Stephen’s Day, and tied to a rather varied list of international traditions, December 26th is supposed to be a day to bless those with less (without expecting anything in return.)

And so, it’s also a perfect day for me to give you the highlights of my pastor’s recent sermon about the Good Samaritan. (Thanks, Matt!)

• The Good Samaritan made the sacrifice of stopping. He gave up his plans.
• That same man, undervalued in the land where he was traveling, didn’t let his position influence his willingness to help.
• He basically opened his wallet, lavishly offering his possessions to whatever extent they might be needed.

Jesus asks us to love totally and completely at all times, sharing that love with all people in all situations, in the same way that we love ourselves. He is the ultimate Good Samaritan, and we are asked to follow him.

But can we do it? No, no way. Unless…unless we’ve asked him to take control of our lives. Then Christ, working in us, can provide lavish love to others—even those who hate or misuse us—regardless of the cost.

Boxing Day is here. And the New Year is coming. So it’s time. It’s time to ask the Lord to empower us with a new and mighty measure of love, generosity, compassion and understanding. May the True Good Samaritan change your life today!

Photo by Erda Estremera via Unsplash.com

Keep Austin Weird

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Georgetown is a far northern almost-suburb of Austin. A few months ago, I stepped out of an elevator and found myself face to face with a friendly woman wearing a bright pink T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Keep Georgetown normal.” That’s not what most people say around here. The T-shirts I’m more likely to see say, “Keep Austin Weird.”

Yes, my friends, that’s the slogan for my new hometown! Does it mean I must be weird to live here? Probably. Truth be told, we’re all a little weird. I’ve heard a couple of great sermons lately reminding me that, in some ways, we’ve been called to be weird:

Give away money—even if the budget is tight. Who knows how God may use your “widow’s mite”? And many times, when we give, we get to see how God provides for our needs anyway. I’ve been reading about George Muller and the miraculous way he provided for thousands of orphans without ever asking anyone for money.

Give away time—even though life is busy. There’s time enough to do all God wants us to do. (Of course, we may be caught up in a few time-consuming pleasantries that aren’t really part of his plan. I have to keep looking for those and weeding them out.)

Forgive—even when there’s no apology. Apologize—even when it’s awkward. Forgiveness isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command. Bitter grudges only harm us and dim the joy God has for us. If our bodies kept every bruise we ever received, think what a physical mess we’d all be. In the same way, imagine the mess that would come from holding on to every hurt inflicted on our inner selves.

Submit to authority—even when we don’t agree. (I don’t mean we should submit to sin or sinful edicts, of course.) Silent submission may require great strength and courage. The Bible is full of ways God has honored this: Daniel, David, Joseph, Sarah…

Speak with kindness and respect—even when we’re angry. Perhaps this is what “In your anger do not sin” means for many of us.

So, as I close, I’m wondering if there’s a market for T-shirts that say, “Keep Believers Weird.” No? In that case, I hope you’ll simply keep that slogan in the back of your mind this week, smiling as you follow Christ—even if that makes you weird.

 

Preoccupation or Prayer?

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Multitasking can lower productivity. A life of distraction hinders happiness. But meditation may actually impact the structure of the brain. Scientists don’t know why, but meditation can reduce anxiety, depression, and pain. Quiet time, prayer, Scripture memorization—these are all part and parcel of a meditative life and are certainly encouraged throughout the Bible. When the day takes on frantic undertones, or when we find it difficult to stay in the present time and place, there’s a good chance that refreshing our devotional habits will help.

Of course we’re called not only to prayer, but to praise, worship, and thanksgiving. Time[1] Magazine reported that people who are grateful tend to feel more content. Gratitude means noticing the good in our lives and being happy for what we have. If one of your “brain ruts” is that of constant comparison or disgruntlement, you’re dragging yourself down. Happy people are seldom bothered by the successes of others. They count their own blessings. They have a biblical perspective: all good things come from God, and he knows what is best for us. Remember, we can change those neural pathways with practice. We don’t need greater wealth or better circumstances to be happy. We need greater appreciation, mindfulness of our blessings, and a willingness to express our gratitude for them. Church helps. It’s an easy place to express our gratitude. Furthermore, when I of Sunday mornings, I think of

  • Music, a proven mood enhancer.
  • Fellowship, touted by many as essential to sustained happiness.
  • Friends. Time says stable, committed relationships matter.
  • Faith. Multiple studies assert that people of faith tend to struggle less with depression and anxiety.
  • Acts of Service: Time insists that charitable giving brings greater happiness than personal spending, and that doing acts of kindness is better still.

Does money buy happiness? No, but it does give us the opportunity to do a scientifically (and Biblically) supported happiness-building activity: spend some on other people. In one study, children as young as 2 years old were given the choice of giving another child small crackers from either their own pile or from that of someone else. They were happier giving away their own crackers! Another study showed that people who commit to doing three or more acts of kindness a week may elevate their happiness level.

Is wanting to be happy a selfish goal? I think not. The Bible talks about rejoicing and gladness and praise. And isn’t it generally unhappy people who become turned in upon themselves, sometimes spreading their gloom as they go? So, let’s make choices that bring good cheer. Currently, only 30% of Americans say they are very happy. Maybe this is the year we can up that number.

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.

Like a Good Neighbor…

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The State Farm jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!” was written by Barry Manilow in 1971. Can you hear it? Are you humming yet? And are you a good neighbor? Hmmm. Am I?

Not long ago, I attended two different churches over two weeks, and listened to two different pastors give two different sermons on—you guessed it—being a good neighbor. They both used the story of the Good Samaritan, found in the book of Luke. (You can read it here on Bible Gateway.) Thanks to Ty VanHorn and Jason Dohring, I came away with quite the bullet list:

  • Be living proof of a loving God to a watching world.
  • Be neighborly.
  • Don’t wait for someone else to be neighborly.
  • Share a card. Or a wave. (Or a text? Or an email? Or a cup of soup?)
  • Get messy.
  • Be inconvenienced.
  • Pay the price.
  • Pay attention.
  • Get involved.

And may I add a simple one? Be nice! My sister describes my husband this way, “He’s nice, but he’s not a wimp.” Being nice doesn’t equate to being weak. In fact, sometimes being nice—and being neighborly—means standing up in the face of injustice or unkindness and loving the less lovely. Why? Because we were loved first. As one of those two wise pastors said, “Being friendly takes little effort. Being a friend takes much.”

How have you been friendly, neighborly this week? We could all use a few good suggestions, so I hope you’ll post one here!

Generosity

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Would you agree with me that God is generous? While we don’t need to go any further than the gift of his Son to see his magnanimous nature, certainly the beauty of nature, his constant provision, and the hope of heaven further prove the point. We are called to be like him, which leads to the question, “Are we generous?” Am I? Are you?”

We live in a “me first” world, where more (for ourselves) is always (supposedly) better. The Bible teaches us to live counter to that culture.

  • It’s better to give than to receive.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Seek first the kingdom of God.

A truly generous life requires introspection. Gandhi said, “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Stop and think about that for a moment. Are there parts of our lives where even a tiny tweak toward simplicity might free up time or money that would make a great difference in someone else’s life? How much are we willing to do without for the sake of someone else?

Perhaps a trial is in order. Lent is coming (but any space on the calendar will do.) I’ll be giving up my beloved hot tea for several weeks. During that time, I’ll calculate the funds saved by that small sacrifice. Later I’ll send them to an organization that provides clean water in another country.** Will that small sum make a difference? Yes, it will, not to many, but to some. And some is far better than none.

Care to join me? Perhaps you’ll choose a different sacrifice, another beneficiary. Maybe you will be led to tweak your use of time instead, freeing up precious moments to serve or befriend wherever you are led. Let me encourage you, though: God wastes nothing. Whatever your sacrifice, he will use it. And you will be blessed.

‘Hope you’ll let me know how it goes!

**And if you choose clean water as the need you will help meet, consider reviewing one of these websites:

thewaterproject.org

charitywater.org

water.cc/h2oproject

saveadrink.org