About greiner68

Christian fiction author of "Working It Out": A committed Christian sifts through the conflicting pressures applied by work, family, the church and his own conscience in search of a Christ-like response to one of the world’s most hotly debated sins. Putting that response into practice, though, will test his faith in ways he never imagined. Kindle e-book: http://www.amazon.com/Working-It-Out-D-Greiner-ebook/dp/B006P06QBG paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Working-It-Out-D-Greiner/dp/1468190369

Trusting Jesus despite the fog: a communion meditation

Back when I was a child, Grandma used to ask my two cousins and me what we wanted for Christmas. Legos, some electronic gadget or sports equipment were the usual answers. Never clothes. Our tastes changed as we grew older, though, and our requests began to reflect the wants and needs (mostly wants) of typical teenagers. So, it shouldn’t have been a great surprise to Grandma when the oldest among us asked for a record album recently released by a popular rock band.

I can just imagine Grandma standing a few steps inside the entrance to one of those giant record stores that used to grace every respectable mall in America—handbag in hand, staring wide-eyed at the sea of wooden bins filled with vinyl discs while teenagers of every sort picked through them. As she later retold, a clerk saw Grandma standing there and asked if he could assist her with something.

“Yes, young man. I need Foghat Fool for the City.”

Having trained to be helpful, the clerk answered, “Would you like to hear that before buying it?”

“Nope. Just put it in a bag.”

My grandmother didn’t have a perfect understanding of what she was asking for, but she loved her grandson and trusted that whatever was in the bag was good.

Jesus said some pretty crazy things during his life.

Consider this small sample:

  • “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)
  • “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
  • “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)
  • “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
  • “…the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” (John 16:2)
  • “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (John 16:16)

But perhaps the strangest thing Jesus ever said might be his statement about communion:

  • Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6:53-56)

Grandma was comfortable loving and trusting, and Jesus asks the same thing of us. Love Him. Trust Him. And when it comes to communion, He doesn’t ask us to fully understand it. Instead, He simply says, “do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

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(Don’t Make) the Bundling Mistake!: an offering meditation

We’re all aware that tax season is upon us, and for 2018, we have new rules in place for deductions. Specifically, the standard deduction on the federal forms is $12000 for single filers and $24000 for those who are married filing jointly. Both of these are roughly doubled from last tax season. The idea was to simplify the return process for most filers and eliminate many loopholes.

Critics point out that donations to charitable organizations, such as churches, will likely suffer as a result of this change because the vast majority of households will opt for the standard deduction instead of making their usual donation and including it as an itemized deduction.

In response, financial experts have begun recommending a bundling approach. Bundling is the act of saving one’s donation money for two or more years and then giving one large donation, which can then be claimed as an itemized deduction. As you might imagine, this course of action makes the already difficult task of determining a church budget even more difficult as now income has to be estimated across multi-year periods of time.

With all this in mind, I wondered if scripture might have something to say. Does God’s Word speak to us about bundling?

Let me read Luke 12:13-21 to you.

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

First of all, an attitude adjustment is in order. Instead of recognizing this bounty as God’s gracious provision, the man sees it all as his: “my crops”, “my barns” and “my surplus.”

Second, he has elected to hoard the blessing God has given him rather than sharing it—perhaps with less fortunate neighbors. Clearly this man is motivated by selfishness and greed.

Finally, the man is assuming his present situation won’t change—that he can take life easy; eat drink and be merry—when in fact God is the one who determines the future. Perhaps he should have embraced a new opportunity to be generous?

Now it’s certainly biblical to follow the law of the land, but believers should never motivate themselves to give based solely on tax rules. We give because we believe in the mission of a strong and vibrant church. We give to provide for the needs of others. We give to enable the hard work involved in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. In short, we give because it’s an outward demonstration of our faith and trust in God.

Moving forward, let us resolve to hold the blessings God asks us to steward in an open hand rather than a closed fist—to choose generosity over selfishness. Who knows? Maybe this is an opportunity to re-evaluate our personal finances and give more each year rather than bundling our giving for a future none of us can predict.