The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

–Reinhold Niebuhr


You Are Not Your Own…

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We have many people and organizations which would claim to “own” us throughout our lifetime. When we are born, we are issued a numbered document called a “Birth Certificate“, which, in reality, is little more than a “Certificate of Title“, whereby the state is claiming “ownership” of us. We become subjects of the state. Not long thereafter, the federal government issues us a “Social Security” number. Again, this is little more than a “Title“, wherein the federal government lays claim to “owning” us. As we progress throughout our lifetime, we collect more numbers, such as a “Drivers License” number. By tracking these three numbers, a person can be tracked and manipulated, regardless of where they go. When we get married, we get yet another document, a “Marriage License“, which is also numbered. The state is thereby claiming legal authority over our marriage. Do you really thing that you are “free“? Think again…

If you are not a Christian, you might be surprised to learn that you are ultimately “owned” by God. He is our creator, and He has the ultimate right to our allegiance, whether you accept His “ownership” or not. For a Christian, being “owned” by God should be a source of great comfort.

You are not your own…

1 Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him. (Heidelberg Catechism)

I sure do, and sometimes it looks like I shed like a dog. I can’t run a brush or comb through my hair without there being a few “stray” hairs on it. All I know is that they originated from some part of my head, but God knows where every one of them came from – exactly. “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7) God knows every intimate detail of our lives, including how many hairs are on our head (and our body).

Trouble everywhere…

Unless you are totally disconnected, in which case you wouldn’t be able to read this blog, no matter where you turn, there is trouble – evil. There are wars in many parts of the world, planes being shot out of the sky, a punk, petty dictator in North Korea demanding that an uncomplimentary YouTube video be taken down, and the list goes on and on. Evil seems to be getting the upper-hand, unless you have read the book of the Revelation and are convinced that God is still on His throne, and will squash Satan like a cockroach. That should lead us back to “You are not your own”…

Jesus said: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:4-7)

The same God and heavenly Father who counts the hairs on our heads and watches over the sparrows is lovingly watching over us.

Angels watching over us…

I read a story recently about a young girl who decided to take a shortcut home through a very dangerous alley. It was dark, so she should not have gone that way, but she did. The next morning, another young girl was found raped and murdered exactly where she had walked, but it wasn’t her. When the murderer was caught, he mentioned that another young girl had walked through the area only a few minutes before. When asked why he spared her, he told the officers that “She had a man with her“. That “Man” was an angel, sent by God to protect her. “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12)

A few years ago, I was in an automobile accident which should have been my last, but it wasn’t. God had reasons why He didn’t allow my vehicle to roll and tumble on the highway, and this blog is part of it. I was able to get out of my vehicle shaken, but otherwise unharmed. That angel deserved hazardous-duty pay that day. I could have been a blood mass in a badly-mangled vehicle, and another statistic.

This doesn’t give us license to be foolish and do stupid things, however God sometimes uses these events to bring us to our senses.

What do you “own”?

Do you live in a big home with an even-bigger mortgage? If you are paying a mortgage, you do NOT own your home, because you are only a couple of missed-payments away from an eviction-notice. The bank owns your home, and you are only allowed to live there as long as you are making the payments on-time. Furthermore, that home owns you, because you have to do what it takes to be able to pay that monthly-payment.

Where is the title to your vehicle? If you, like most, do not have the title in your possession, you don’t own that vehicle. The bank owns it, and you are only allowed to use it as long as you keep making the payments on-time. If you miss a couple of payments, the bank will send a tow-truck to repossess that vehicle. You only own it when you have the title.

I know about not really “owning” a home or vehicle, because a home, which my wife and I had bought in 2000 got foreclosed a couple of years ago because we could no longer make the payments, and by the time we tried to sell it, the housing market had already taken a dive. I also had to let a vehicle be repossessed because I couldn’t make the payments any longer. I didn’t “own” either one. The bank was simply allowing us to live in the home and me to drive the vehicle…as long as we were able to pay the payments.

I know where the title to my current vehicle is, and it is not in the possession of some bank for finance company. It is also not the latest model or the fanciest, but it suits me just fine.

Those are the big-ticket items, but there are numerous other things that really “own” us, because we are indebted for them. How about that big-screen TV or the entertainment-center that you put on your credit-card?

What about “your” time?

How much of “your” time actually belongs to you? Does an alarm clock wake you up in the morning, before you are really ready to get up, at least five days out of every week? Do you hit the door running in order to make it to work “on-time“? Does your boss tell you when you have to be there and how long you have to work? Can you go on vacation any time you choose? If you told you boss on Friday afternoon that you will be on vacation for the next six weeks, what would his reaction be? “Be here Monday morning, or you don’t have a job?”

Maybe you are one of the “luckyones” who is “self-employed“? Do you “own” your own company? Either way, you have as many BOSSES as you have customers, because if they are buying your goods or services, they are your BOSS. If they are paying your bills, they are your BOSS. Just ask Don, one of the Elders in my church, who is a General Contractor. Recently his crew did some work at a bank, and it ALL had to be done after-hours and on the weekend. He missed a Sunday at church because of that project, because the bank required a “responsible-party” and the buck stops with him. “Your” business OWNS you, not visa-versa.

Rather than developing this further, if you haven’t read it already, I invite you to read my article entitled “Priorities – Time“, where I have done a much more thorough job of developing this particular topic.

What about “your” money?

Many people seem think that they “own” their money, but I beg to differ. Do you take home every dime you earn? Of what you do take home, how much of it is already committed before you ever see it? Are you able to spend every dime you take home without regard to housing, food, clothing and transportation? Is your health-care actually FREE? If you wanted, could you save every dime of “your” money?

For the vast majority of people here in the US, the answer to the first question is a resounding “NO“, because several other entities enforce their claim on a part of your paycheck. Those who work strictly for cash, ie. under the table, may be able to take everything home they earn, but those jobs are few and far between. Ultimately, not even those moneys escape the tax-man, because there is always “sales-tax“, alias – “consumptiontax“. For the rest, there are those “with-holdings” which come off the top before you ever see your paycheck. “With-holding” simply means “forced forfeiture of pay“. Governments have declared that they have the right to tax and take some of your money before “allowing” you to have the rest. Income-tax, both federal and state, and “Social Security” are forced forfeitures. Many people also pay for their “health-insurance” through payroll “deduction“. One of the problems is that most people have no say in how large those “with-holdings” are, so it really amounts to legalized-theft. Some people also pay “union-dues“, which regardless of whether they are getting any real benefit from the union, they still have to support it.

Do you have debts? Do you have to pay for vehicle insurance or homeowner’s insurance? How about vehicle “registration” and property taxes? If you are like most people, the answer to the second question is probably “most of it“, because more and more people are eye-ball deep in debt, and paying huge sums of money to “protect” what they are paying on.

Do you need to eat? Everyone I have met has to eat at least once in a while, and preferably regularly. Do you produce all of your own food? If you need to eat and don’t produce all of your own food, then some of “your” money has to be committed to sustaining your life with food, which means spending money for food.

Is your housing provided “free of charge“? Very few people in the US are provided with free housing, so some of “your” money must be committed to providing housing for yourself and your family, if you have one. Even though I own the RV I live in, I have to pay rent for the space it is parked on. I also have to pay for electricity and propane.

Where do you get the clothes you wear? Even if you make your clothing yourself, you still have to buy the material to make it. How do you maintain your clothing? All of these things cost money.

How do you get around? Are you able to walk to work, the grocery store, and wherever else you need to go? There was a time when communities were small enough that walking was a viable means of transportation, but that time is past. Some of “your” money must be committed to transportation, and that includes public transportation, if that is available and goes where you need to go.

Are you able to go to a “free-clinic” for all of your health-care needs? For that clinic to be free for some, others have to pay extra for your free care, and that often comes from some of those taxes you and other paid. There is no such thing as “free” health-care.

If you had to answer “Yes” to any of these questions, then the answer to the last question has to be “No“. Even if you wanted to, you could not save every dime that you take home.

How much actual “disposable” or “discretionary” income do you have? Probably not much…

Do you “own” “your” money”? The obvious answer has to be “NO“.

I am not going to get into the topic of Tithing here, because that is another discussion in its own right. Whether you tithe or not is between you and God. I do tithe, willingly and voluntarily, because I want to support the work of building God’s kingdom here on earth.

“Self-made” man?

Were you responsible for your conception and birth? Did you pick your parents? Did you tell them when to conceive you? Did you pick your gender? Did you pick your complexion? How about your hair-color and eye-color? Or maybe you got some say in how tall you are and your frame-size? Guys – did you pick your penis-size? Ladies, this applies to you also. Maybe you got to decide you large your breasts would be? All of those things were determined by the complex set of genes which you inherited from your parents. Only God knows the whole story. As the father of four children, we never knew the gender of each child until she/he was born. We could have gotten an approximate date of conception for our last two, but not for the first two. All we knew each time my wife got pregnant was that we were the parents, and the baby would look something like us. There is a strong family resemblance, but that is as far as it goes. I couldn’t deny any of them.

Did you pick your birth-date? Did you pick the hospital you would be born in? Did you select the city, the state, or the country you would be born in? Did you pick your ethnicity? How about your cultural-heritage, or your language? Did you tell your parents wht religion you and they would practice? Did you pick the neighborhood you would be raised in? Maybe you got some say in the schools you would attend… Did you pick whether your parents would be rich or poor? Did you tell your parents how to raise you?

Self-made“? Can you answer “Yes” to ALL of those questions? If so, then you can claim to be a “self-made” man…

Benevolent masters?

As we look around at what is happening across the world, it really isn’t a stretch to realize that those who claim to “own” us don’t actually care about us. The are NOT “benevolent masters“. They view us simply as “assets“, for as long as we ARE “assets“, to be used and discarded when we are no longer “useful“. When we are no longer “useful“, we become “liabilities” to be discarded and replaced. I didn’t make this up. It is straight from the mouth of someone who is one of the master “string-pullers” in our global society.

God is a very different kind of “master“. For those who are His children, He is our loving and caring Heavenly Father, and as we have already seen, not even a hair can fall from our head without God taking notice. We can say with the Psalmist: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.“(Psalm 23:1)

From Psalm 139:1-16 we read:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

This Psalm speaks not only of God’s intimate knowledge of us and our lives, but His very personal part in our creation. Even though most people may think that our individual collection of genes is the result of a random “which sperm got there first to fertilize the egg“, Psalm 130 certainly gives me a picture of God ushering the sperm which He selected into that meeting. He created me, He created you, exactly as He intended us to be. God also cares for us throughout all this earthly life, and for all eternity, if we are His children.

Jesus, in speaking to His disciples, said: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Who is YOU belong to?

It should be obvious by now that we really do NOT “own” ourselves, because there are many entities which claim title to all or part of us, but this has more to do with your ultimate “owner“. Have you laid claim to the offer of the grace of the living God and given your life to Him, or have you sold your soul to Satan for a mess of porridge and earthly fame and fortune? Satan will only use you for his own ends, and then take you kicking and screaming into the pit of hell. God will be your protector and provider in this life, and then take you to be with Him for all eternity.

The choice is yours. I pray that you have or will hand the title to your life to the living God, through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.

In Christ,