Janet Yellen, president-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be treasury secretary, had to file disclosure forms as part of her nomination. This process revealed that Yellen collected over $7 million in speaking fees from major financial firms and tech giants over the past two years.
I suppose that’s pretty good work if you can find it! I am often amazed at the amount of money some people will pay to certain elites just to give a talk. A speech can indeed have quite a bit of value!
Our words might not have nearly as much monetary worth, but when we tell someone that they can have eternal life through Jesus—well, that’s a pretty valuable speech!
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay…”—2 Corinthians 4:7.
A few days ago a newsworthy event happened just a few miles up the road from where I live. A boulder suddenly declared its independence from the hillside to which it had long been safely attached. This massive rock rolled menacingly toward a house down below, finally coming to rest on an unsuspecting pickup truck. The truck found itself to be no match for the heavy boulder. It was totally destroyed in the encounter. Thankfully, however, no one was hurt in the incident.
The Bible describes Jesus as a Rock. Matthew 21:42-44 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’”
Jesus is the key to our existence. He is the cornerstone on whom we are to build our lives. Those who reject Jesus do so at their own peril. For if you do not choose him as your cornerstone, he will be the rock that crushes you. Jesus refuses to be ignored! Make him the foundation of your life, or suffer the consequences!
The call of Elisha, recorded in 1 Kings 19:19-21, is an interesting story. The prophet Elijah invited Elisha to come and join him in his prophetic ministry. (This reminds us of how Jesus called his disciples to come and follow him.)
Elisha appeared to have a good, comfortable life when he received his call. He was busy working the land with twelve yoke of oxen. He himself was driving one pair, which means that he had several others working for him. It seems that he had a successful farming enterprise going on. It would be quite a sacrifice to give that up in order to follow Elijah. It must have been a difficult decision to make.
Elisha didn’t hesitate. He said “Yes” to Elijah’s offer. The only request he had was that he be given time to say a proper goodbye to his parents, a favor that Elijah was happy to oblige.
Then Elisha did something that seems a bit odd. He slaughtered his yoke of oxen and burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and shared it with people. Then he set out to follow Elijah.
Why did Elisha burn his plow? Wouldn’t it have made more financial sense to sell it, or even give it away? Surely there was other wood available to burn for cooking the meat. Why did Elisha burn his plow?
He probably burned it so that he would not be tempted to return to his old life. He was making a permanent decision to leave his old life behind and go in a completely new and different direction. Burning his plow was his way of making a statement about his commitment to the new life that he was going to live.
The coming of a new year is a time when many people resolve to live their lives in a different manner. They promise themselves to make changes in their lives, small or large. I have a friend who got so much satisfaction from quitting smoking last year that he has resolved to quit again this year!
It is not always easy to keep our resolutions to live a different life. Maybe there is a way you can “burn your plow” in order to help you stay on your chosen path. You could let your decision be known publicly, like Elisha did. By doing so you can give others permission to hold you accountable to stay faithful to your promise.
Burning your plow might mean that you pour all your alcoholic drinks down the drain. It might be expressed by throwing out all your pornography. It might be accomplished by ending a sinful relationship. It could be that you need to stop hanging out with certain “friends”. Burning your plow could be expressed in giving your spouse full access to your cell phone and computer. It could mean that you give up a hobby that is threatening to destroy your family because it takes up far too much of your time.
There are times when a simple tweak of our lifestyle is all that is needed for improvement. However, there are times when the only solution is to burn your plow. What plow do you need to burn, my friend?
I got this outline from a Charles Stanley sermon. These biblical principles can help all of us who want to grow in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we work hard to instill these practices in our daily lives, we can live powerfully and effectively for the Lord.
#1—Prayer—Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” If Jesus felt the need to pray, how much more so should we? Prayer keeps us in tune with the Father and helps us stay on the path that he has chosen for us. We need to develop the habit of daily prayer.
#2—Faith—2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” Our faith is not only what saves us, it is what sustains us and helps us to keep on advancing confidently in a world filled with much uncertainty. Trusting that God is ultimately in control dispels anxiety and allows us to live confidently in the presence of the Lord.
#3—Meditate on God’s Word—In Psalm 119:15 we read, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” Of course, in order to meditate on God’s word, we first must have read it, studied it and committed it to memory. Our days quickly fill up with every kind of activity imaginable. How important it is that we carve out precious time every day to think deeply on some portion of the Bible! When we focus on God and his ways, the pressures of the world drift away and we are drawn closer to the mind of God.
#4—Obey God—Meditation on Scripture will be useless if we have no intention to do what it says! Deuteronomy 27:9 reminds us, “The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him.” Nothing prevents us from obeying the Lord. It is our choice. Sometimes obedience is costly, but it always benefits us in the end. Let’s resolve to do what the Lord says and leave all the consequences to him.
#5—Depend on the Holy Spirit—Jesus promised that his followers would receive the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). We cannot possibly succeed in life if we trust solely on our own strength. But if we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in every believer, we can say along with the apostle Paul, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).
#6—Give to God and Others—Jesus says, “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 to you.” (Luke 6:38). You can’t out-give God! If you are willing to give him your tithes and offerings and also to help those who are in need, God will provide for you. Let us not be content to give as little as possible. Let us always strive to be generous.
#7—Forgive others—Ephesians 4:32 urges us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The reason we are to forgive those who sin against us is that God offers forgiveness to those (and this includes everyone!) who sin against him. Withholding forgiveness is damaging to the soul. We are never more like Jesus than when we forgive those who have done us wrong.
Let’s all work diligently to develop these habits in our lives as we strive to live for Jesus!
Stephen Curry, 32, is one of the best long-distance shooters in the history of basketball. Now entering his 12th season in the NBA, Curry has made 2,500 3-point shots in his career. Only Ray Allen and Reggie Miller have made more.
While natural talent has a lot to do with Curry’s success, you just don’t get to be that good without a lot of practice. This past Saturday, Stephen ended a practice session by shooting some 3-pointers from deep in the corner. Someone started video recording his shooting as he got on a hot streak. When it was all over, Curry made 105 straight shots from 3-point range. That’s right. 105 straight shots from 3-point range.
If you don’t know anything about basketball, trust me, this was an amazing feat! The only way anyone could ever get that good at shooting a basketball is if they practice a lot.
The same principle holds true for Christian living. If you want to be good at it, you have to put it into practice!
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”—Philippians 4:9.
In his book Unscripted, sports commentator Ernie Johnson Jr. talks about something that he calls “blackberry moments”. He tells about playing in a baseball game when he was about eight years old. A player on the opposing team hit a ball that bounced over the fence. The left fielder and center fielder both went to retrieve the ball, but they were gone a long time. When others went to help them find the ball, they found the ball laying in plain sight, but the outfielders had discovered a mother lode of delicious, ripe blackberries, and they were feasting on their newfound treasure. Returning to the ball game was the farthest thing from their minds!
Johnson writes: “That’s what unscripted blackberry moments do. I think God has placed blackberry brambles along the paths we walk every day. We just need the eyes to see them, the ears to hear them, and the hearts to detect them. All that stands in the way is the busyness of life. We’re all so focused on sticking to the script from one day to the next…that we blow right by the unscripted moments that can profoundly impact not just our lives but also the lives of those with whom we share the planet, the workplace, or a home. If there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s not to fear the unscripted but to embrace it.”
Be watching for your next blackberry moment!
“…Make the most of every opportunity.”—Colossians 4:5.
Little Dolly in The Family Circus is always getting her words mixed up. In the cartoon that appeared in the newspaper on December 21, 2020, Dolly was singing a familiar Christmas song in her own unique way—“Oh come let us ignore him…”
Sadly, for many people there is truth in Dolly’s version of the song. Most of them don’t mean to ignore Jesus, they just get so caught up in all the activities of the Christmas season that they forget that Jesus is the reason for the season.
Let’s make sure that we don’t allow ourselves to become distracted from Jesus. Let’s make sure that we are able to sing the song the right way—“Oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”
“…Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”—Matthew 2:2.
Yesterday, December 21, was the winter solstice. Last night was the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere—the longest night of a dark, dark year. But through the darkest of nights shone a brilliant light. Many are calling it the “Christmas Star of 2020”. It was not actually a star, but rather the pairing of Saturn and Jupiter. These two planets aligned in such a way as to appear as one bright light in the sky. This was the first time since the year 1226 that Saturn and Jupiter were paired so closely that they could be observed by the naked eye. The sight could be seen from any position on Earth, if the skies were clear and there was nothing blocking your view.
This event reminded many of the star that guided the wise men to Jesus in Matthew 2.
Of course, we Christians realize that the most important light associated with Christmas is Jesus himself. He came to a dark, dark world and shone so brightly that he showed us the way to God. In fact, he himself is the way to God!
So no matter how dark the world around you may seem, understand that Jesus has the power to overcome that darkness!
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”—John 1:4-5.
Perhaps that line from O Holy Night–“The weary world rejoices”–rings especially true this year. We continually battle the weariness that comes from living in a fallen, sinful world. But 2020 has brought a series of problems that have made life especially difficult for a great number of people all across the globe. There is no need to recite once again the well-rehearsed list of all the terrible things we had to endure this year. But through the darkness of 2020 shines the light of Christmas! Celebrating the arrival of Jesus gives hope to an otherwise hopeless world.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…!”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”—Matthew 11:28.
I just realized that I haven’t had a cold this winter. Usually by this time of year I have suffered through at least two of them. I suppose the reason for my better health is all of the things we are all doing to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. The face covering, social distancing and hand washing has apparently kept me from catching a cold.
Don’t get me wrong. I miss the human contact. I look forward to the day when hugs and handshakes will be the norm again. However, it stands to reason that the more we distance ourselves from germs, the healthier we will be.
The same principle holds true with spiritual disease. The more we distance ourselves from sin and temptation, the less likely we are to engage in improper behavior.
Of course, just like there is no guarantee that we will not get COVID-19, there is no fool-proof way to keep from sinning. But when we Christians do sin, we have forgiveness because our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus.
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”—1 John 2:1-2.