Thursday, August 20, 2009

The lie

Today’s Reading: Acts 5:3-4 (NIV)

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.

Good morning!

We were playing tag in the back yard with my friends when I first saw it. Lying on the driveway next to the car of Mrs. Baker, my Brownie leader, was a tiny, square floral bag with a small handle. It wasn’t much larger than a coin purse. On the front of the bag were colorful appliqu├ęd daisies. I took a peek inside and found a pretty rain bonnet, the kind my mother would wear out of the beauty salon after getting her hair done every Friday morning. I picked the bag up and slipped it into the pocket of my Brownie uniform. I immediately turned to see whether any of my friends had noticed what I had done. Everyone else was running, laughing and playing; there was obviously no one to tell.

After dinner that night, after slipping into my pajamas, I took the bag from my pocket and gave it to my mother. “Look what I found Mommy, just for you!” I handed her the pretty bag with the rain bonnet inside. Mommy seemed surprised, yet not as pleased as I thought she would be. Mother said, “Debbie, where did you get this?” “I found it on the ground today,” I proudly announced. After all, that wasn’t a lie. I did find it on the driveway. “Where was it?” Mother said, looking at me with her piercing blue eyes. Somehow, I knew if said that the rain bonnet was sitting next to our Brownie leader’s car, then she would presume it belonged to Mrs. Baker. Brownies were not supposed to lie, but in the moment, this Brownie did. “I found it on the playground at school,” I bit my upper lip as the words rolled off my tongue before I could stop them. It was such a beautiful bonnet. I wanted my Mother to have it so badly. After all, Mommy was the prettiest woman I knew, and I simply wanted to give her something beautiful to wear after she had her hair done on Friday.

I never saw Mommy wear that bonnet. In fact, she kept it in her purse until the next Brownie meeting. It was as if her Mommy radar knew exactly who the bonnet belonged to. When we arrived at Mrs. Baker's home, Mommy took my hand and went inside to ask the leader if she was missing a rain bonnet in a tiny floral bag. “Why yes indeed,” she exclaimed. “I’ve been looking for it all week.” Mother pulled it out of her purse and handed it to me. Crocodile tears began to form inside my eyes. I could feel my face flush a thousand shades of red. Trembling, I reluctantly handed the bag back to my Brownie leader. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Baker,” I said. “When I found the bag outside, I wasn’t sure who it belonged to, so I took it home and gave it to my Mommy.” She smiled and thanked me for returning something that I had no intention of ever giving back. I don’t think Mrs. Baker knew what I had done, but my mother certainly did. The disappointment and hurt I saw on her face was more than I could bear.

What does it feel like to break God's heart?

Ananias knew that he was deceiving the Apostles that day, when he withheld some of his sale proceeds, thereby stealing from the church's treasury. What he didn’t realize was how much it would grieve God’s Holy Spirit, and the damage it would cause to the entire body as a result. He couldn’t believe how Peter saw right through the lie. I imagine it was the realization of what he had done, that made Ananias’ heart skip a beat. When you choose to take something that does not belong to you, and you know that you know that you know you are wrong in doing it, can you feel your heart skipping a beat or maybe two or even three?

When we lie, we are fooling ourselves if we think the Father doesn’t see and know the deceitfulness we hold inside our hearts. It is something to think about this morning, while there is still breath in your body and your heart is beating. You and I have the opportunity to confess our sins and seek forgiveness for the lies we’ve told. Stop lying to yourself. You cannot fool God. Satan is the great deceiver. He came to steal and destroy your life, and if you do choose to turn away from the Lord, He will make your lies seem justifiable, and eventually, you will believe buy into the lie instead of God’s Truth. Today, you have one more opportunity to turn around, confess your faith in Jesus Christ, and ask Him help you see the difference between His Truth and the world’s lie. He will help you IF you call on Him, but the choice is entirely yours to make.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Full disclosure

Today’s Reading: Acts 5:1-2 (NIV)

1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Good morning!

Have you ever kept a little secret that should have been brought to light? Have you ever shared a secret that caused so much grief and pain that it totally ruined another person’s life? Which side of the white picket fence will we choose to sit on? Where will truth end and all the lies begin?

It is human nature to try to convince ourselves that things are not as bad as they seem. If we spin the truth long enough and in just the right way, we may be able to self-justify why we make some of our biggest mistakes. But does it right a wrong? As I think about it, I’ve yet to meet the perfect family, with cookie-cutter children, who live fairytale lives with virtually no problems at all. There is only one I know who walked a perfect and sinless life here on earth; He is God made man. Fully human yet fully divine; the Lord of life, and his name is Jesus. He never withheld anything back from His heavenly Father. So why do we try so hard to hold back the things that have never belonged to us in the first place?

Sapphira loved her husband. She trusted him. She was fully aware when her husband sold that piece of property to donate to Christ’s cause. She knew its full value and that he intended to keep some of the proceeds from the sale. I imagine the conversation to justify this wrongful act sounded something like this: “Honey, no one will ever know that we did not give it all. We didn't know Jesus when we purchased that property. He did not see how hard we worked for years just to pay it off. With what little we keep for ourselves, we can use it to take that dream trip we’ve always wanted to make – a two week cruise around the Mediterranean! You know we deserve this. This money belongs to us! I am convinced the Apostles and our new faith community will never find out or even blame us for our decision. It can be our little secret.” Then Ananias planted a sweet kiss on Sapphira’s blushing cheek just to seal the deal. It kind of reminds me of how Judas kissed Jesus’ cheek just before he was taken away by the Roman guard.

So here’s the question I wrestle with today: do you think Sapphira should have kept her mouth shut about the money? Should she have risked her marriage to betray her husband’s dishonestly in publicly confessing the sin? We may think we can fool each other and may even deceive ourselves along the way. It is not possible to fool or deceive the Lord, no matter how hard we try. Jesus sees not only what we withhold in our bank accounts; He knows what we withhold from Him in our hearts. How much are you unwilling to give back to the Lord? What price will you and I ultimately pay for not giving full disclosure?

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The gift of encouragement

Today’s Reading: Acts 4:36-37 (NIV)

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Good morning!

Have you ever been around someone who is a constant encouragement and support to you? I’ve been blessed with many people in my life, who seem to know just the right thing to say at just the right time. When I’m especially discouraged, I turn to Barnabas, and seek hope for what may seem to be a hopeless situation.

I think this is why I really like Joseph from Cyprus in Scripture, most recognized by his nickname, Barnabas. His name means Son of Encouragement. He’s the kind of guy that makes you feel instantly better just knowing he’s around. Biographical information on Barnabas states he was Levite from Cyprus, but did not work in the temple. Barnabas had the courage and determination to introduce Paul of Tarsus to Simon Peter. He encouraged Mark to accompany Paul on one of the first missionary trips. Even in the fray of disagreement, Barnabas remained a constant encourager, seeking relationship and love between the Apostles and the early church. He was one amazing man!

Encouragers tend to be big givers by nature. They give whatever they have to help the cause. Barnabas knew that it would take financial resources to help spread Christ’s Gospel to the people who had not yet heard. He was one of the first believers to willingly sell his personal possessions and give it away to the Apostles to help spread the Word. Maybe you have the heart of an encourager, but do not have a field to sell. Is there something else you would willingly put out there on E-bay, and the proceeds used to spread Christ’s love around the world? Everybody has something they can give, even you.

Yesterday afternoon, my husband Jeff and I had a Barnabas stop by to visit with us after worship. This couple is such a source of encouragement, and has been an integral part of our lives for many years. Because Jeff is recovering from surgery, he was unable to lead worship yesterday, which for most pastors, is pure torture. It was such good news to hear about the encouraging message that was preached, knowing the Good News continues to be proclaimed, and that our congregation is pumped and primed to share Jesus Christ outside the walls of our church. After they left the parsonage, we thanked God for all the encouragers in our life, who help us through times of discouragement.

You can be a Barnabas today. You may be blessed with the financial resources to be able to give something away that can make a lasting difference for another. If you can give it, then give it with gusto! You may be able to share your time with someone who is hurting and struggling to see the light of day. If you are willing to offer a ministry of presence, then give your time away with joy! A simple smile or a handshake to a stranger on the street, may mean more than you realize to someone who has not been noticed or spoken to at all.

When Barnabas showed up, people recognized Jesus Christ living and working through His hands and heart. We can all be sons of encouragement to each other, as we find new ways to give our resources, our wealth, our blessings, and our lives away so that others may live. Get out there and be a blessing to someone else today, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles.