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Scott W. Hahn: Owe nothing to anyone but love

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

“Paul opens with the counsel that readers should owe nothing to anyone. In what ways he intends readers to apply this directive is not explicit. It can plausibly be taken as a warning against racking up unnecessary financial debts. Christians (and others) are unwise to borrow and spend beyond their means, as this is poor stewardship of the resources that God has entrusted to each. Paul’s teaching is a call to avoid the burdens of debt insofar as possible and to make every reasonable effort to climb out of debt when it is incurred.

The Apostle does make one exception to this rule, however, since the debt we have to love one another always remains outstanding and is never paid in full. Everyone we encounter, inside or outside the family of faith, is entitled to our charity. And, of course, for Paul love has everything to do with practical service and bearing one another’s burdens; it has nothing at all to do with sappy sentimentalism. Readers can get a sense of what he means by reading the lyrical description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.

Paul adds that the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. This is remarkable. The verb “fulfill” means “to satisfy what is required” or “to accomplish in full.” But to appreciate the significance of Paul’s statement, remember that the Torah presents 613 prescriptive and prohibitive commandments touching on all aspects of Israel’s life, worship, and social organization. Underlying this great diversity of precepts an essential unity of purpose: to teach God’s people how to love. Consequently, Paul can say that love for another meets and exceeds the requirements of them all.”

Scott W. Hahn in Romans (CCSS; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017) 234-235.

The Apostle Paul states plainly that the ideal pattern for us as Christians to follow is to live within our means and owe nothing to anyone but a perpetual debt of love. When we do this, we fulfill the whole law of Christ, or in plain terms, we walk according to His design for us as those He redeemed or literally purchased with His blood.

The availability of credit in antiquity was nothing like we have today in modern settings with credit cards, consumer debts, and other forms of debt instruments. Back then families lived in multigenerational units on land families often owned for many generations. The notion that everyone took out a 30-year mortgage to buy a home was non-existent.

So how do we avoid debt and aim at love today? We are asking ourselves that in real-time. While our son graduated from college debt-free and daughter has one more year toward that goal, might their future spouses bring debt into their marriages? If so, we’ve already talked as a family that our plan will be to help them eliminate it as soon as possible.

Early in our marriage, we rented and saved for nine years. Then we made the mistake of following the cultural pattern of having a mortgage which made presumptions about the future and limited our freedom to serve. So instead, we chose to sell the house and buy a simple townhouse to have bandwidth to live, give, serve, and love richly.

Speaking of loving richly, I want to honor my wife, Jenni, as today marks our 26th wedding anniversary. I blessed to have a wife willing to live simply, give generously, and love richly rather than hoarding for false security on the one hand or overspending beyond our means on the other. We avoid debt and talk often about ways to love others well.

This way of living is not something we figured out overnight. Why? It’s both countercultural, which means few people live this way, and radically biblical. Our greatest joy is watching our grown son and daughter, Sammy and Sophie, avoiding debt and aiming at love in everything they do. Join us. We often say, “It’s the only way to live!”

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DeForest B. Soaries Jr.: Plastic Shackles

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

“Consumer debt gips millions of people in plastic shackles every bit as powerful as the iron chains that once bound slaves. A bold, even audacious, statement, I know, particularly considering the historical atrocities of slavery in our country. As a descendant of some of those slaves, I do not make this analogy without recognizing the gravity of its implications. I do not make such a comparison lightly or for the sheer effect of its cultural shock value, although the ongoing enslavement of millions of Americans should shock and concern all of us.

While many of my fellow African Americans may be particularly upset or offended by my literal comparison, I find that enslavement is the only adequate word to express the dire, life-draining, debilitating condition in which we find ourselves today… We’ve come to accept, as normal, a lifestyle in which we are always behind, borrowing from our future earnings to assuage our present bill collectors to pay for a forgotten past… This pattern of widespread behavior is historically unprecedented.”

DeForest B. Soaries Jr. in Say Yes to No Debt (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015) 17, 20.

I am shifting my focus for the foreseeable future to one of the leading limiters to generosity: debt. My posts will aim at shining biblical light on this dark topic. From the lips of the wise sage, Solomon and, much later, Soaries, a pastor from New Jersey, we start by proclaiming the truth that debt is enslavement.

Soaries gives it the name “plastic shackles” because it often starts with credit cards and their relatively high interest rates as compared to other forms of debt. Debt make promises about products and services that actually limit a person’s ability to live, give, serve, and love like Jesus. In that sense, it may be one of Mammon’s greatest tools.

Why does everyone fall for it? Soaries notes that greed is celebrated by advertisers who employ celebrities to convince us to buy things with money we don’t have. Common forms of debt range from consumer products to education. We believe the messages that “everyone is doing it” so we fall into its trap.

We must call out advertising messages that are lies. When marketers says we “deserve” something or “have to” possess the item they are selling, we must call it out. Do this with your spouse, your children, or whomever is with you. We must help each other avoid debt because it limits our living and our generosity.

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Karen H. Jobes: That alternate society

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10

“Most commentators construe hospitality at the time Peter wrote to mean that Christians are to welcome fellow believers into their homes as overnight guests. Because suitable inns were few and far between in the first century, this form of hospitality was no doubt both a practical necessity and a mutual courtesy. And since Peter is addressing believers scattered all over Asia Minor, they probably have opportunity to assist traveling Christians from other towns and provinces in this way, especially perhaps the courier who will carry Peter’s letter.

However, there is nothing in the immediate context to suggest that such hospitality specifically focuses on hosting overnight guests. In fact, the repetition of the reciprocal expressions in 4:8 “for one another”; 4:9 “to one another”; and 4:10, “serve one another”, suggests a hospitality that functions within and among the local community of believers. If so, Peter may be expecting his readers to open their homes for the purpose of Christian worship and fellowship, since at that time the local church had to meet in the homes of its members.

This form of hospitality could be quite costly if it marked the family as a target for anti-Christian persecution. Furthermore, to welcome all Christian believers into one’s home without grumbling requires one to maintain a certain openheartedness toward all. The exercise of love that Peter says is above all would be necessary if the local church was to have a place for all believers to gather together.

It is this quality of openheartedness toward one another that is a basis for a Christian hospitality willing to minister to other believers even in the absence of warm feelings and even when relationships are strained. Moreover, such openheartedness toward fellow believers would allow the opportunity for hospitality beyond the official meetings of the church. If their pagan friends and even their own families are ostracizing Christians, those distressed believers are to find a warm welcome in the homes of other members of the Christian community.

The church is to be that alternate society where Christians find a place when shunned by unbelievers who live by different values. In a hostile world, the church is to be a place of safety and well-being for its members, a place where common beliefs unite more than differences divide. The Christian community is a colony of the holy nation of God among the nations of the world.”

Karen H. Jobes in 1 Peter (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005) 280-281.

Father in heaven, make us an openhearted, generous people who appear as “that alternate society” in a world filled with hostility and brokenness. Help us extend hospitality with gladness and without grumbling so fellow believers experience the love of God through our living, giving, serving, and loving, and so the watching, pagan world can see what a warm welcome really looks like. By your Holy Spirit, please graciously draw those onlookers into the family of God too. Make all this so we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Elisha L. Magoon: The vernacular of heaven

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

“Hospitality is the vernacular of heaven and needs to be more widely inculcated in practical exemplification on earth. Gentle warmth opens the pores of our body sooner than intense heat. The wild rose of the wilderness and its kindred flowers more delicately nurtured in our gardens shut themselves up alike when the sun retires and the chilling damps of night approach.”

Elisha L. Magoon in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 388.

What does hospitality look like in “practical exemplification” in your life? In plain terms, how is your generosity expressed through “gentle warmth” or “thoughtful gestures” toward others?

Christian generosity thinks about the needs of others and meets them in practical ways. How can you use what you have to serve those around you in generous, thoughtful, and warm ways?

On my travels this past week fly fishing with my son, Sammy, in various wilderness areas, I saw many flowers cared for by our Father in heaven. He gave them water to drink and warm sun to blossom by day.

It reminded me that we can be be generous and hospitable knowing that our Father in heaven will care for us too. When we trust in His faithful care, it frees is to function according to the vernacular of heaven, or in a word, hospitably.

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L. Carroll Judson: Arrived at their majority

Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil — this is a gift of God. Ecclesiastes 5:19

“Banish all inordinate desires after wealth. If you gain an abundance, be discreetly liberal, judiciously benevolent, and if your children have arrived at their majority, die your own executor.”

L. Carroll Judson in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 1013.

As I have come to the end of this week-long fly fishing trip with Sammy, after earlier this summer having spent a week with Sophie on a teaching trip to Egypt, I am convinced that both our children have “arrived at their majority” as Judson put it.

They both work hard, live contented lives, and love and serve generous. They’ve matured into young adults (which is what “arrived at their majority” means), so the focus of stewardship changes for Jenni and me.

In fishing circles the saying goes like this: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Figuratively speaking, Sammy and Sophie have learned how to fish, so we can let our owns hands be our executors.

Thank you Lord for the gift of time with my son and daughter this Summer. Thank you for growing them into mature young adults. Now, help Jenni and I put to work all we are and all we have every day of our lives holding nothing back. Amen.

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Joseph Hall: A certain thing

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

“Everyone would have something, such perhaps as we are ashamed to utter: the proud man would have a certain thing, honor; the covetous man would have a certain thing, too, wealth and abundance; the malicious would have a certain thing, revenge on his enemies; the epicure would have pleasure and a long life; the barren, children; the wanton, beauty; each would be humored in his own desire, though in opposition both to God’s will and his own good.”

Joseph Hall (1574-1656) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 178.

Is there a certain thing that you desire? On trips like this one that I have enjoyed with my son, Sammy, I am reminded that every fly fisherman desires to catch fish, and we caught many of them. But for our own good we must have one desire above all others. We must make the LORD our greatest desire.

What’s this got to do with generosity? We will never be generous if our desires are linked to things. God’s will for our lives is that we desire Him above all else, when we do, we are rightly positioned to enjoy and share His good gifts. In the days to come we hope to make videos of our trip. We made memories worth enjoying and sharing.

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Francis Quarles: Rest

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3

“If thou desire much rest, desire not too much. There is no less trouble in the preservation, than in the acquisition of abundance.”

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 794. I hope you like the new header photo of Upper Deep Creek outside of Lakeview, Oregon.

Sammy and I took this week to go fly fishing because we desired some rest from our work. It’s restful to pause and enjoy God’s creation together.

And it’s only possible to rest when our focus is not preservation or acquisition of material abundance, for no amount or money and things is ever enough to satisfy.

Only in Christ do we have everything we need. He leads us to a place of peace, joy, and contentment that positions us for generosity. He’s a good shepherd who guides us along the right paths.

He’s also been gracious to lead us to quiet waters like the stream pictured above. For another glimpse of the kind of fishing we are doing this week, check out this video: Chewaucan Basin Redband Trout Fly Fishing.

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John Greenleaf Whittier: Starvation and Sharing

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9

“Starvation cannot be argued with: the gaunt spectre cannot be laid by speeches and resolutions. We must share our abundance of bread with the hungry. We are a great brotherhood, children of Him who our ancestors called the All-Father, and it is not for us to ask the old question of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 892.

In abundance, God has supplied more than enough food for everyone, but not everyone has enough because humans don’t share as brothers and sisters. The result is death and starvation.

As Sammy and I track down rare cutthroat and redband trout in the Northwest, many such as the Humboldt Cutthroat struggle to survive because their habitat has been poisoned by mining and trampled by uncontrolled cattle grazing.

Our stewardship impacts both our brothers and sisters as well the creation in which God has placed us. We are both our brother’s keeper and stewards of creation (cf. Genesis 2:15). Bad stewardship results in starvation. Sharing brings life.

To take a peek into the world of this troubled trout, check out: Humboldt Cutthroat Trout Fly Fishing.

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Christoph Sturm: Woods and Forests

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Psalm 96:12

“Divine wisdom has dispersed woods and forests in more or less abundance all over the world. In some countries they are at great distances. In others they take up several leagues, and raise their majestic heads to the clouds. Neither the constant use made of it so lavishly by mankind, nor the ravages of accidental fires, nor severe winters have yet exhausted these rich gifts…”

Christoph Sturm (1740-1786) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 1034.

It’s summertime in America, a time when people often explore the woods and forests that God has scattered across our land. Many go camping. My son, Sammy, and I like to explore God’s creation by going fly fishing.

There are about 60 species and sub-species of trout and salmon that God placed in the woods and forests of America. We’ve caught and released 27 of the 60 up until this trip. We hope to locate more this week.

Enjoy the woods and forests. They are gifts from God! As stewards, leave them nicer than you found them. If you can’t make it outside, then we will bring the experience to you. Check out: Goose Lake Basin Redband Trout Fly Fishing.

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Desiderius Erasmus: Cannot be gathered and kept

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Psalm 24:1

“Great abundance of riches cannot of any man be both gathered and kept without sin.”

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 813.

As stewards we own nothing. God owns everything. To gather and keep for ourselves is both stealing from God and failing to use all God supplies rightly. Regardless of what society says or does, it’s wrong! It’s sin.

Sammy and I are fly fishing in Southeastern Oregon looking for various species of cutthroat and redband trout. We try to catch, film, and release them. Some time later Sammy produces videos to share the blessing of the experience.

One summer we aimed at catching 500 fish. That year we landed 541. What if we kept them all for ourselves? You might cry, “Foul!” You might say, “There’d be none for anyone else.” You’d be right!

Many of the species we target have not been stewarded well. As variety of factors leaves them nearly extinct, we treat each trout we catch as a gift from God, and we release each one as our gift to the next angler.

For a look at the kind of fly fishing we are doing for native trout, check out: Owyhee River Basin Redband Trout Fishing.

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