Giving Is Not Always Easy

WHEN I’M NOT A GIVER

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.  The one who contributes, in generosity.  Romans 12:8

         There was an old man in the small town where I grew up who was quite wealthy.  His life’s goal was to amass a fortune and he didn’t care how he did it.  Was he driven by greed?  In his case, no.  Fear was his taskmaster.  He lived through the depression with a mother and several siblings.  Hungry, he had gone to work at seven years old to deliver papers in order to put some food on the table.  He had taken a vow to never be poor and his entire life was shaped by those words.

         In practice, he was stingy.  If he gave you ten dollars, it was with strings attached.  He expected repayment of some type; he was so afraid of having nothing in his hands.

         Paul describes the Christian as one who is never skimpy.  (One of the Greek implications of generous.)  He loves to give and just can’t help himself.  He almost dances in celebration when the opportunity comes his way.

         I think I know what you’re thinking.  “I don’t give like this.  In fact, far from it.  What’s my problem?” Continue reading

Is God Really Good?

At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.  Psalm 119:62

Around many dinner tables this week, a suggestion will be made. “Let’s each share something we’re thankful for before we offer the blessing.” Well known clichés will abound.  “God was good this year because….” Stories of health and provision will be told and God will be hailed as ‘good’ because of them.  But what of those who find themselves in God’s waiting room?  Their lives are still hard.  They are still ill.  Their hearts are still broken.

These are hard times. Suffering marks the church across the world.  Warm beds and full bellies are out of reach for so many, even here in the U.S., as our economy has plummeted and the value of the dollar is the lowest it has ever been.  Can God’s children still cry out that He is good?  Or, are we stuck when asked to give a glowing testimony about His character?  May it not be.

  • God is good because He gave us me Himself.
  • God is good because every day His mercy and grace are available in whatever quantities I need.
  • God is good because His Word is powerful enough to change how I think and transform how I feel.
  • God is good because He is willing to be my Father even though orphaned here by the death of my parents.

This list can fill pages.  If I change my perspective from external circumstances to my internal world, thanksgiving for who God is and what He gives me is not limited, even in suffering.  Trials and suffering do not eradicate God’s goodness.  Even on the way to Calvary, Jesus would have whispered prayers of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  Suffering is a part of this life.  For the child of God, so is God’s goodness and redemption of our pain.  For that, my heart bursts forth with praise.

If I look in the right places, my heart is full of your testimonies.  Amen

what God Does While I Wait

WHAT GOD DOES WHILE I WAIT 

When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” Genesis 42:1-2

         While I’m praying for many years about something that breaks my heart in two, it can appear as if I have a Father who withholds intervention for no good reason. He could act today, couldn’t He? Doesn’t love come running? If a parent can do something to alleviate a child’s suffering, won’t he? This is the human side of praying. God’s side is much more expansive, however.

         So much happened behind the scenes while Joseph waited in slavery. His tearful cries for deliverance weren’t deaf to his God. Though Joseph didn’t see immediate results outside of the daily grace God provided, there was so much happening behind the scenes.

  • The right Pharaoh had to be in power to dream the dream that Joseph interpreted.
  • The brothers had to live with their sin and come to a place of humility so that the forgiveness Joseph would eventually extend could be effective.
  • The land outside Egypt’s borders had to move toward famine so that desperation would make Jacob turn his eyes toward Egypt.
  • Joseph needed the humility and wisdom only borne of suffering in order to one-day lead a nation well. Good leaders are cultivated in a crucible.

         Could Joseph have guessed that God was this active? No. No more than I can while I sit in my waiting room. But God was moving history around with His index finger and all to bring about the salvation of His people. Can I not trust Him with my life? Can I dare to believe that His love for me, and His church, is that great? Waiting always has purpose.

         As I review the activity of an active, powerful, all-wise and loving God on behalf of Joseph, may I see my own story with the eyes of faith.

Write the stories of spiritual brothers like Joseph on my heart. I need to review and review how Your unfailing love works. Amen

Will The Distressed Come To You?

WILL THE DISTRESSED COME TO YOU?

When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.” Genesis 41:55

         Who better to turn to than a Pharaoh for help? People in high positions should have had all the answers and the keys to all the storehouses. Yet, Pharaoh was in over his head. He was not God’s child and his stone gods weren’t talking.

         Seemingly overnight, Joseph was brought out of obscurity to a place of prominence. He couldn’t have guessed that he would sleep in a palace instead of a prison floor, or that his administrative and prophetic gifts would be implemented for the salvation of his people. Yet, when God decided it was time for his advancement, nothing and no one could stop it. Who did the famished people turn to? To the one whose name they didn’t even know the day before.

         How many righteous are sitting in low places today? They are gifted, overlooked, even ridiculed. They have turned down opportunities for advancement because the pathway to the top meant compromise. The sacrifice, made out of love for God, has cost them dearly. There will come a time that others will turn to them for life-saving advice. Their quiet lives of steadfast faithfulness to God will speak volumes when those they formerly trusted shrivel in the flames of adversity. It is only suffering that exposes the difference between the two. It is only suffering that reveals the golden qualities of the ones they once despised.

         I must not weary of the quiet and steady journey of the true disciple. Drawing near to God is never the popular agenda. I will stand out like a sore thumb and bear the insults of those who have much more interesting lives. Yet, when famine affects the landscape of those around me, it might just be the hour for which God has prepared me. I may not sleep in a palace but I will be sought after for the treasures I’ve cultivated in secret with my God.

         John the Baptist, a peculiar recluse, lived three decades for a future, though short, time of influence. Most of his life was preparation for the short burst of glory when he was privileged to prepare others for the arrival of Jesus. Such is the way of discipleship. You and I must never assume that obscurity will be our ‘normal’. Ever ready, we are looking for the time when the seeds God has sown into our hearts in private will be poured out in others time of need.

I never fit in the mainstream. You made me unique and I know that my time with You will bring a beautiful harvest. Amen

I’m An Heiress But Does It Mean Anything?

I’M AN HEIRESS – BUT DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING?

If we are children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  Romans 8:17

         If I’m materialistic here, then I will think of heaven as one big indulgence of ‘stuff’.  Being an heir of God means that I inherit God Himself.  Can that mean so little to me? “I say to myself, ‘the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”  Lamentations 3:24 God promised His chosen people in Exodus that they would enter the land of promise but that promise was eclipsed by other passages where God spoke of Himself as their inheritance.

There is no more moving moment in a romance than when one lover pledges their heart to another.  Watching it on the screen, I sometimes hold my breath to hear the words spoken.  What is unfathomable is that God would make Himself the Lover of my soul and give Himself to me without any reservation.  I was His enemy, and through no merit of my own, He made me His friend because of Jesus.  Today, I will do things that offend Him, yet His heart will still stay true. As if that’s not enough, He will give me other things as His heir.  Continue reading

Can I Really Forget Hardship?

CAN I REALLY FORGET HARDSHIP?

Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:51-52

         If you are someone who has spent major chunks of your life in hardship, then you know how long life feels. Pain has become your ‘normal’ and the thought of living life any other way is inconceivable. Not only that, but the possibility that you would ever forget your affliction seems unlikely. Hardship has been your constant companion.

         I suspect that the word for ‘forget’ is the same word that is used when God puts my sins behind his back and ‘forgets’ them. He puts them out of sight and they are no longer held up in front of my face as a reminder of what I’ve done. Memories of my sin take a back seat to the joy of walking in forgiveness.

         In light of that ~ To forget former hardship is to have painful memories eclipsed by something infinitely more powerful ~ the kindness and redemption of God. It is impossible to feel the wonder of such exhilaration and, simultaneously, feel the depth of my former despair. God’s redemption is that powerful. But while I wait, all I know is the all-consuming agony of distress. Continue reading

What Is Spiritual Steam?

WHAT IS SPIRITUAL STEAM?

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Romans 12:11

         Fervent.  To boil over.  To have a spirit that is radiant.  What causes that?

         Sometimes I appear to be fervent because I’ve learned to fake it.  But other times I am too tired to pretend.  Spiritual steam, the kind that propels a train up a mountain is hard to know how to come by.  Does reading more of my Bible give it to me?

         I can learn something about WWII history, get excited, and then passionately share it.  But that’s one piece of history and the news will get old.  Bible study (apart from the reality of Jesus revealing Himself to my heart) is this way as well.  I can discover something in scripture, love what I find, but the series of facts will dissipate with time.  When I’m hurting, interesting facts from the book of I Samuel won’t give me spiritual fervor.

         The steam needed for the long haul comes from something childlike.  Love.  When I’m tired from service, I need to go home to be loved.  Continue reading