By Grace…

By Grace

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

By grace I am saved through faith…the order of redemption is important. How many times is faith emphasized outside of God’s Grace and when it fails to move the mountain, make the way or summon dry bones and dead dreams to life – there is discouragement, disappointment and even doubt? Grace is difficult for mankind as it defies pride and calls for crucifixion. Pride prefers faith demonstrated by works and the façade of perfection. The Gift of God called Grace is essential as it is our escort through the door marked faith. Without grace this door is locked and cannot be opened. When our daughter married her true love, he waited at the altar on the frigid November day. The music played as all the groom’s men and bridesmaids filtered in and took their place. The music changed and everyone stood up as she made her way to the aisle covered in rose petals. Her father had her arm and they smiled as she made her way to the future. Turning to face our soon-to-be son-in-law, he was weeping openly at the sight of his bride. Overtaken by emotion, he held his face in his hands with tears literally running through his fingers. His love for our daughter evident in his reaction. As they joined hands to pray, our daughter dutifully bowed her head still donning the radiant smile from before, but he couldn’t stop looking at the top of her head. Trying to also bow his head, it kept popping up to look at her. It’s funny as I think about God’s Grace today – that this image comes to mind. The Bride and Bridegroom standing at the point of completion. The day that they will become one. By grace, I am saved through faith.

Grace is true love. It is the love of Jesus that flowed from His Broken Body and Broken Heart that day as a remarkable gift. Grace is the goodwill and favor of God given to His People through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. To know, understand, acknowledge and accept His Grace as enough is a requirement for real faith to be initiated in our life. Faith is the seed in our heart activated by grace. However, to try to grow in faith without being fully immersed in grace will only lead to further frustration. The edges and borders of my life are clear cut. It is a giant canvas made white by His Blood in order to become the “masterpiece” as it is called in the New Living Translation or “handiwork” her in the New International Version. I am God’s Masterpiece. Nothing in my life is without potential and purpose to be worked together for my good and completion. It all begins with His Grace. Grace does not change the details of my life prerecorded by the Lord. (Psalm 139:16) It is the access point of all the promises that He has made to me obtained by faith and trust in the Lord. However, it is all through His Grace.

John 1:16-18 (NIV) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Jesus came to provide us a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) This promise is claimed not by what we do but by the grace that is given to us by the One who “is in the closest relationship with the Father”. I am stuck today in this place called grace. Have I tried to live by faith outside of God’s Grace? Is it possible that in my zeal to please God with faith, I sometimes forget that His Grace is sufficient for me? We can only accept grace. I cannot earn it. The grace offered in Jesus Christ is completely and blood bought. I cannot do a single act or make a significant change that will make it affordable to me. It will always be too expensive. It will be more than I can do.

Some assembly required. I often read the reviews of a product before purchasing it to decide how difficult it might be to construct. Many Christmas eves filled with frustration. The box boasted five minutes of construction but the 5,000 pieces represented five days of work. There would be times that after putting it all together the darn thing still didn’t work. So what would I do? I would read the instructions again, and go over each step to see what I missed. For me, this verse today is a flashlight on my heart to determine the areas of my life where I missed the first step called grace. I am pulling and tugging on doors that the Lord will freely open because I have forgotten to remain partnered with grace? I am pleading and praying for things that can only be released by grace? By grace, I am saved through faith. Faith must be first planted in grace to produce other fruit in our life.

Acts 15:11 (NIV) No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

I can hear the invitational hymn that I grew up with playing in my head. “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy Blood was shed for me. And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee. O Lamb of God, I come! I come!” Just as I am. Jesus gives us His Grace exactly as I am. No change in me is required just to come to Him. You know my daughter was absolutely stunning on her wedding day. Her beauty inside radiated in her person outside. As perfect as she looked, she was still imperfect. Her husband didn’t see her faults, flaws or failures that day – only the one his soul loved. When Jesus sees us, it is the same way. As a bridegroom awaiting His Beloved, not based on what we can do or choose not to do. It has nothing to do with anything other than His Love manifested in His Grace which provides us access to His Presence. I can come boldly and confidently before Him not because of my faith but simply by His Grace. Oh that the church would find His Grace again, to rely on the grace given to us by the Love of Jesus and stop trying to reinstitute the imperfect law of grace given to Moses. (Romans 11:5-6) By grace, I am saved through faith.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The Lord’s Grace is sufficient for me. It is enough. His Power is made perfect in my weakness. However, it is quite another matter to boast about my weaknesses. Everyone sins. Everyday. There is no one that can overcome the flesh and walk in complete righteousness outside of God’s Grace given to us by Jesus. Who delights in weakness? Insults? Hardships? Persecutions? Difficulties? Not many people I know including myself. However, it is in weakness that I am able to fully accept His Grace. It is a humble position never a prideful state. The more I know Jesus, the more I see how much I need Him and how little I have to offer.

James 2:21-24 (NIV) Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

I shared with our small group last night the helplessness that I felt at the bedside of our son enduring the horrible effects of chemotherapy. Watching his body suffer and waste away, time after time I asked the Lord to put me in his place fully knowing it was impossible. One day as I prayed, I pleaded with the Lord. I am a mother. These children are my promise and purpose in life. God, you know that I would die for them. I heard that still small voice reverberate through my heart – “You don’t have to. I already did.” His Grace is enough. His Grace is sufficient. It is in weakness and failures that I am reminded that it is by grace that I am saved through faith.

Faith is conceived by grace. There is nothing that I can “do” to please God without faith. But I cannot have true and relevant faith without fully accepting God’s Grace and the truth that it is enough for me. Faith without works is dead. Faith cannot be productive outside of God’s Grace will also be fruitless. If you are giving your all to Jesus and it is still not enough, it may be time to revisit your connection to His Grace. His Grace is always enough. It is not reliant on the things we do.

Abraham withheld nothing from the Lord. His trust in the grace of God and faith in His Promise allowed him to journey to the mountain of sacrifice ready to give his all. However, Abraham is not the only one listed in this passage. God considered Rahab “the prostitute” righteous. Hold up! The Bible does not tell of her radical conversion. It does not detail her deliverance from her profession. Grace is enough. You cannot wash yourself clean enough. You cannot be good enough to attain right standing with God again. You cannot pay the debt that sin has slapped on your life. it is by grace, I am saved through faith. Lord, keep in your grace today. Remind me that it is enough for me and every other person I come in contact with.

Acts 4:32-35 (NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

How will I know if I am reliant on God’s Grace to accompany me through faith? It really is simple. God’s Grace is the Good News called the Gospel. Have you heard the old saying, “You catch more flies with than vinegar”? My grandmother used to say it all the time. Grace is the gospel but is this the message of our life? Faith without works is dead. But faith in God without grace is impossible. Grace is the access point that is the way to the Father through His Son. The fruit of faith fully invested in grace is found in Acts 4. Believers who believe in the Grace of God will have one heart and one mind. No longer will there be division. Grace is the commonality of Christ. It takes me out of the equation and makes Christ the constant. It says that they testified to the resurrection – they spoke truth and life to people without judgment and condemnation which are not qualities of Jesus. Jesus came to show mercy and love to all mankind offering them grace to be set free.  It says, “God’s Grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Redemption. Restoration. Renewal. Revival. All of these are the fruits of faith conceived by Grace. Could it be that our feeble attempts at faith are fruitless because we have tried to achieve them outside of grace? Food for thought. How can I be gracious if I do not know the sufficiency of grace? I cannot give what I have been not received. I cannot express what I have not personally experienced. I cannot live by faith without living in God’s Grace.

Proverbs 22:11 (NIV) One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.

 

Sow Generously

sow-generously

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NLT) Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

The story of Jack and the Beanstalk is about a boy and his poor widowed mother fallen to desperate measures. When the dairy cow stops giving milk, she plummets from provider to problem so Jack is instructed to take her to market to be sold. But Jack meets an old man who offers a handful of “magic” beans in exchange for the cow. The boy decides his offer fair and makes the trade. His mother is distraught over his ignorance and throws the beans out the window in anger. Jack is punished for his clear stupidity and sent right to bed without dinner. This famous story of a handful of seeds that become a gigantic beanstalk leading to a kingdom in the clouds which houses a giant, his wife and a golden goose is a fairytale. It is the adopted mentality of many people who throw themselves and life savings away for something as small as money.

Why are the living conditions of most believers like that of the widow woman? She was indeed all alone. She had responsibility. Just when she thought things could not get any worse, her only source of income dries up. Now what? She sends her son to sell the cow for whatever pennies she will bring hoping to make it through one more day. He comes back with “magic” seeds. She could not believe his foolishness and throws the seeds away. What if by faith the woman in the story had planted the seeds rather than tossing them aside? What if she had tilled the long since dead patch of ground by her tiny dilapidated shack and committed those small beginnings into carefully plowed little rows, watered them, and waited? Would she have produced a crop to feed her household, sell at market, and perhaps share with her neighbors as well? What is in your hand today? What is in your heart? Are you willing to take the time to plant it, nurture it, and give it time to grow? To flip the script a bit, some people are like Jack. Barefoot and fancy free, this young man did not realize how grave the situation or perhaps he did. “Magic” beans appealed to him as it would change his current situation overnight. He couldn’t believe his eyes when the beanstalk appeared. Arriving at the larger than life home of the giant, the pauper became a thief.

You cannot rob the Kingdom of God. It is absolutely ours. God does not have grandchildren only children set to inherit. It is not a requirement to wait for His Kingdom to come. When God’s Will is done on earth, His Kingdom floods it. All that glitters is not gold. The Kingdom of God is paved with streets of gold or so the Bible says, so it is obvious that what we term “wealth” and “abundance” on earth is not the same as Heaven. We do not have to carve out a piece of the Kingdom – it is given to those who sow and reap supernaturally and allow God to provide physically for them. Money has the propensity to set one’s heart free to be who it was all the time. How many lottery winners boast of humble beginnings and find themselves in dire straits within just a few years? Sowing and reaping is the law that governs supernatural provision and providence in our life. On earth it may represent an economic resource, but to use it as such would be a great misrepresentation of the Kingdom that belongs to you and me.

Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

If the secret to prosperity and productivity in our life is generosity, it might be a good idea to see what that is exactly. The word generous comes from the Latin root word “generosus” which means of noble birth. You are a Child of God. You are the offspring of a King. Your current situation only reflects the sowing of past seasons. The harvest in our life today is reminiscent of what was sown in the past season. The prodigal son possessed all of his father’s worth when he lived on his property as a member of his household. When he demanded his own way, given his portion of the inheritance (out of season), what happened? He squandered it all foolishly and decided that it would be better to be his father’s servant than to remain in his own way. What did the father do? Just what our heavenly Father does when his children repent and return to him broken and empty handed. We are of noble birth. It is time to sow the right seed and reap good harvests. It begins with generosity.

Generosity is characterized by liberal giving or sharing. It is an act that is unselfish. People are born in selfishness. A newborn baby comes with a grasp reflex. If you put your finger in their hand and try to pull away, they will instantly grab hold of it. Generosity is to be free from meanness or smallness of mind or character. It represents a large, abundant or ample supply. On a side note, it also denotes a strong flavor. It also means fertile or prolific (producing offspring or fruit). If you are generous, you gain God’s Attention.

Acts 10:1-2 (NLT) In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God.

Acts 10 tells the story of Cornelius. Cornelius was a good man. Hard-working man of authority who was a devout God-fearing man. He was generous. He had a relationship with God. Peter was a Jew. He was a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was a man of ministry following Jesus Christ. Yet on the rooftop, he prayed in hunger crying out to the Lord. The Lord instructed him to eat. He was starving in his religious spirit and so God brought the two men together.

Cornelius had sown well on the earth and desired the Kingdom. Peter sowed well in the Kingdom but needed natural provision here on earth. God provided both of his sons what they needed that day. God does not show favoritism. (Acts 10:34) I believe that if we could grab hold of the importance of living in Kingdom agreement. Cornelius understood the heart of God. He needed an introduction to Jesus Christ to access the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit to bring it to earth. Peter followed God from birth, Jesus through adulthood all the way to the Cross, and even after His Resurrection had a personal relationship with the Lord – Peter didn’t understand the prosperity of the Kingdom though. Two mindsets that needed each other. God brought them together to set them both free.

James 3:17-18 (NLT) But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Sowing and reaping is not a religious act. It is a natural principle. What you sow, you will reap. For a moment, don’t think of it in any way, shape or form concerning finance. I break the bondage of financial security over your life, in the Name of Jesus. Psalm 37:25-26 tells us that the godly are never abandoned, their children do not have to beg for bread, and that they are generous givers. In Psalm 112, godly people are described as generous, compassionate and righteous. When we sow these three things in our life, they will produce the following from it. Goodness comes to them. Evil cannot overtake them. They do not fear bad news. They are confident and fearless. They are triumphant. They have influence and honor. Generosity born of a relationship with Jesus Christ when completely connected by trust which gives from the deepest pocket of our heart produces prosperity of far greater worth than dollar for dollar. We must give from our hearts trusting Him rather than our pockets.

Isaiah 32:8 (NLT) But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.

Generosity is a choice. To give from a surplus is good, to give from our lack is even better. Generosity is not about giving what we want to or can afford to. It is standing firm in generosity when empty ourselves. Trusting God is not necessary in our own sufficiency. Grace provides when who we are, what we have and what we can do is not enough. Sowing and reaping is a generous effort. To sow in finance produces more money. To sow in people builds a Kingdom that cannot be touched or destroyed. Are you sowing generously from your spirit man today? To be the living sacrifice is to give even when it is not given. (Romans 12) It is to offer the Kingdom in every situation, natural condition and even from a broken heart. God bless those who are poor in spirit and realize their need for Him. (Matthew 5:3) To sow generously is our privilege as God’s Children. It releases our inheritance here on the earth.

Deuteronomy 15:10 (NLT) Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

Practical Gifts

Practical Gifts

2 Corinthians 9:15 (NLT) Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

Giving gifts to loved ones and friends is my favorite. It brings me great joy. I am more comfortable as the giver than the receiver. When selecting a perfect something for someone else, there is tremendous pressure to please that individual. It requires knowing them. The more important the person is to us the more crucial it is to find just the right thing. Longing to see their expression when they open it, there is much anticipation until finally the moment comes. It is in the first thirty seconds that we discover if our gift is acceptable or not. It doesn’t matter what words come after the initial reaction. A person cannot hide their feelings most of the time. There is no worse feeling than a gift left unused or unwanted. I would rather the receiver tell me that they have one, don’t like it or need it so that the item can be exchanged for something of use. These are tangible gifts and not the one that is referenced in 2 Corinthians.

As believers who the Lord has invested His Spirit into there are gifts that come from the Father deposited directly inside of us. When allowed to grow and develop, it turns into generosity. A giving spirit in the natural is limited to our financial situation. The Holy Spirit cultivates a whole new kind of giving inside of us that allows us to literally give our life away. There are many famous people who have died over the years very wealthy people who had wasted souls. Feeling no love, value or worth these talented individual have numbed their pain and self-medicated to death, sadly for some an eternal death. The Gift of Love and Grace imparted to us by Jesus Christ is too wonderful for words. It is a call to action.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NLT) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 

God is very thoughtful and practical when it comes to processes. He is very straightforward though many times man complicates it. God provides seed for the farmer and bread to eat. The Word of God is the seed sown in our life. It hits our heart and is either received or rejected. When good seed comes to rest on a fertile heart, obedience is produced. The Lord grows that seed with the help of His Spirit into something that satisfies us. Not only enough for the person, but more than enough to give away. God operates in abundance that is only limited by our willingness to continue the process of sowing and reaping in our life. You will always harvest what you plant. God enriches those who give by giving more to share. Generosity is a calling on our life that must not be ignored. It is representative of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:12-14 (NLT) So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.

Two things are accomplished by giving – it supplies our life and it benefits the life of others which brings Glory to God. Obedience in giving is essential to express our deep affection for Jesus because of the overflowing grace God has given us. We must give our life away. Our faithfulness in giving allows God to give us what He promises in this process. If our resources natural, physical or spiritual are limited, it is time to evaluate our offering. The things we give above what we are required. For example, the tithe is 10% of what you get. Our giving begins in our offering which is anything more than 10%. You cannot give God an offering until you are willing to be obedient. Our life is our ministry. Every single day. Every single moment. Every single breath yields an opportunity to give something away for the Lord.

Luke 11:36-42 (NLT) Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over. “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

Obedience to the rules and regulations of the Word of God are easy. If one takes the time and self-discipline to change certain habits, our life is better simply through our own pursuit of change. Religion versus relationship. Outward change does nothing for our heart though. We can look different, act different and be different but until our heart is changed through a thriving relationship with Jesus – all we have is a religion.

When our son was fighting cancer, the insurance denied his bone marrow transplant. Not once but six consecutive times until all appeals were exhausted. We needed about $350,000 for the hospital to consider the procedure without insurance. I begged and pleaded with every entity that would listen. In the midst of this battle to secure financing for his treatment, the headlines reported that a mega ministry had been robbed. The thieves took more than $650,000 from their petty cash fund. I was speechless.

I believe that church culture is changing from building big fancy cathedrals dripping in gold to evangelist ministries that are taking it to the streets. The remnant church is rising of men, women and young people who are desperate for a move of God and know it will not happen until they take the Gospel outside the church evidenced in generosity to the waiting, watching and dying world. Small groups are on the rise. Church growth is planting rather than hoarding. In other words, rather than building bigger buildings or adding more services, they are developing leaders to move to where the people are rather than waiting for them to come to us. One of my favorite values of our church is the commitment to do anything short of sin to share the Gospel. We must have giving hearts to be an acceptable church.

Ephesians 4:7-10 (NLT) However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

Salvation gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism, the Spirit is ignited and released in our life. The Holy Spirit is not our personal assistant to do our missives but rather our partner of power to facilitate the growth that is needed to give our life away. He is the One who cultivates the gifts and callings from God in our life. These gifts and callings cannot be withdrawn. (Romans 11:29) If this were the case it would challenge the sufficiency of God’s Grace which is more than enough. Paul exhorts us to desire the best gifts in I Corinthians 12 and then goes on to say, “…but now let me show you a way that is best of all.”

I Corinthians 13 is considered the love chapter of the Bible. This is the heart of giving. Love. Love is a commitment not a feeling. I don’t always feel loving towards my husband when we are at odds but I am in love with him always. Love is not emotional but devoted no matter how we feel in that moment. Love is the basis of generosity for the believer. Our giving can never be because we have to but because we love Jesus. If my giving were able to facilitate the Hand of God, I would not need the Lord but that is not the case. You cannot buy God’s Gifts. They are produced from our heart even when facilitated by our hands. (Acts 8:18-21) Every good gift in our life is from the Lord. Everything I have can be used for His Glory.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I am challenged in my heart today to reconsider giving in my life. I can write a check, lend a hand or even pray with another person. But how can my life impact the Kingdom in every exchange? Could it be so simple? We pursue the gifts of the Spirit that result in signs, wonders and miracles. But the Word of God indicates that those who believe without seeing are blessed. The Holy Spirit promises to produce an abundance of “fruit” in my life contradictory to human nature. In Romans 12:6-18 many of these things are listed as “gifts”. I can choose to share the fruit of my life in every single interaction by choosing to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle while maintaining self-control that gives good fruit even when it is underserved or unmerited. The abundance of grace that I have received allows me to give getting nothing in return. Could it be that these the gifts that the Lord desires of us to? Lifestyles of generosity that extend from the heart not our hand?

I Corinthians 1:4-9 (NLT) I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Each day the Lord provides opportunities for us to plant and harvest Kingdom blessings in our life. One day I was walking into the grocery store just as a woman was leaving. Though her cart had just a few bags, it could’ve have been overflowing with the amount of energy she was exerting just to push it. Clearly struggling, it began to rain. As she passed, I turned and fell into step with her extending my umbrella over her. She told me she was sick and having a horrible day. I shielded her from the rain and helped her unload her cart and she was on her way. I thought about praying for her but as the rain got heavier it was clear she just wanted to go home so as I turned back on my errand I began praying for her.

I believe that this is the generosity that Christ is talking about in sharing our gifts. People don’t need us to tell them how to live. They don’t need the Bible force fed. What they need is to encounter people who are genuinely in love and committed to Jesus Christ. More than how we feel or what we have, totally trusting and believing that He supplies all our needs (physical, emotionally and spiritually) so we can give to others even strangers and enemies without a second thought. These are gifts of love that touch hearts beyond any other “thing” we could give away. Love must always be the foundation of giving. I Corinthians 12:6-7 puts it like this, God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

James 1:16-18 (NLT) So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” To fully understand Luke 6:38 is to know and understand the currency of God. The commodity of the Kingdom always has been and always will be love. There came a point in my life when money could not solve my problem. The price tag on our life demanded a sacrifice of self. Jesus paid the price that I could not pay in my sinful condition so I am now free to live in His Kingdom. I have the ability to bring His Kingdom to earth. I have the keys. Jesus gave them to me. Until I know and understand how the Kingdom operates, I will remain subject to the world’s system of giving and receiving which is limited and lacking. As I learn to give more of my life to the Lord, He will show me how to give His Love away appropriately. His Spirit will recreate my heart so that giving is an immediate response rather than forced action. I must commit myself to giving of the love that I have received.

Yes, I have a gift too wonderful for words. There are many “good” things in my life. Even more that the Lord is perfecting by faith and trust, He will see them come to pass. My role is to participate in the sowing and reaping process. To give practical gifts to everyday people. To plant love and sow souls for His Kingdom by sharing this gift too wonderful for words that can only be expressed in the generosity of offering our life to others freely. It is in the slightest gesture of sharing from the Fruit of His Spirit. It is offering a helping hand desiring nothing in return. It is to give a kind word in response to a violent verbal assault. It is to hold the door for another. It is take the Good News to the world rather than waiting for them to come to us. Our generosity is representative of Jesus who gave His All. Lord, show me where to start, what to give and how to perfect generosity in my life!

I Peter 4:10 (NLT) God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

River of Life in Me

River of Life in Me

John 7:37-39 (HCSB) On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been received because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

 

The longer I live the more aware I become of just intricate the Plan of God is for every person ever created. As the past grows larger, I am aware of divine appointments, godly setups, and faith-building exercises woven throughout my life. Steps that led to a divine destination although I was distracted, delayed and discouraged many times, yet the Lord somehow in His Perfect Wisdom led me the place that I needed to be at just the right moment to be blessed. The existence of God is without question when the summary of life’s steps lead to heavenly coordination. In the midst of our travels, there is a river within us pressing its borders, defying all odds, and running freely through us looking for a way out. I want that river to run through me. I want the love and grace that I have found in my relationship with Jesus Christ to show others that He is the most worthwhile pursuit.

 

My girlfriend and I were at a warehouse store shopping for a weekend celebration of our church’s grand opening. Purchasing and renovating a new building culminating into inviting the community to come and see what the Lord has done. There would be a church fellowship, neighborhood blitz, giveback events throughout the community blessing others with free lunches, free snacks, free water, and more free stuff. We chose organizations like first responders and our local pregnancy help center to bless and encourage. On the final day of celebration, we will have a worship service like no other. It is Pentecost Sunday. The day that marks the release of the Holy Spirit on the Christian calendar. While making our way through the store with overloaded carts too heavy to push, people began to ask what we were doing with all this stuff. Smiling, we would share with them what we were doing and celebrating. Asking, “What church?” created the opportunity to invite them to join us for service and lunch.

 

Two hours later at the checkout counter, content each item was marked off the list. I realized just how much “stuff” we had amassed. Loading it until the conveyor for our sweet cashier to go through, I was a bit overwhelmed. Finally, like all the others, she asked what we were doing with all these items. I was excited to tell her that we were giving it all away to bless our community. To share the Love of Jesus and Goodness of God with others. It was obvious she was a believer by her reaction. She got excited too speaking blessing over us on our way out the door. I believe this is what life in Christ is all about sharing those things with others that Jesus does for us. He does not condemn us but covers us with compassion and grace. He does not judge us but chooses love us completely. He gives us better than we deserve and much more than we could ever earn. Generosity is the kind of character that comes from a life of receivership in the Lord. As the river runs through us, it is far reaching. It is demonstrated in the smallest act of love.

 

Ezekiel 47:1-12 tells of a river running through the temple into the surrounding world. It is a life-giving river. As I read this chapter today, I feel the river inside of me bubbling. It is pressing the borders of my life to love more, give more, and be more as a result of my relationship to Jesus Christ. I can do nothing apart from the Lord so it must be the very essence of His Spirit that creates the churning and gurgling need to share with others what I have been given that is so undeserved. This passage somewhat defines the river’s flow through our life which begins with our salvation and continual repentance. (Verses 1-2)The river comes under the temple door flowing past the altar. We are to flourish and prosper in the Lord. Goodness and godliness are two different things. There are many good people who enter the church and decide to do better. But without a daily passage by the altar for cleansing and renewal – the river in us becomes stagnant. We need to repent before God each morning, and tell him again each night if we desire to give from a heart that can move mountains and participate in life-changing miracles.

 

The river in us requires radical obedience. (Verses 3-7) The organization of a body of water to create a flowing river requires a perimeter. As it swells the river widens but continues its mainstream flow. As the man kept moving deeper in the river, less of his person was evident. At some point, he lost control. This is how we build our faith in God. It is step by step. Though we may take a plunge every now and then the truth is it is through radical daily obedience that our river runs smoothly and consistently through us to others. It is a pattern. It requires a discipline flow.

 

When my life allow living water to flow in me and through me, those who surround my life will be blessed by the overflow. (Verses 8-12) Our witness is of powerful renewal and restoration that as it reaches more and more builds into a revival. People want the refreshment the Lord gives us. They desire to stop merely surviving but long to thrive. Our river must be productive to do its job effectively. When my river runs through me, it will refresh the lives of others and produce purity in discipleship. My river has the potential to prosper the lives of others. The completion and wholeness that I have in Jesus Christ comes from many rivers flowing into one that are a Kingdom. We are the sons and daughters of God, the river that runs through us comes from the Father and flows right back to Him.

 

Mark 1:9-15 (HCSB)  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. As soon as He came up out of the water, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You! Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels began to serve Him. After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news of God:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!”

 

Baptism by water is symbolic of the transforming power of God in our life. Buried in the likeness of His Death, we are raised in glorious expectation of full transformation. The Lord imparts His Spirit to those who love Him and desire to become Children of God through salvation and repentance. There are many powerful attributes of God’s Spirit and the Word of God definitely confirms that He is alive and well today. When Jesus came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended on Him and God said, “This is My Beloved Son, I take delight in You! Thank you Jesus for the Holy Spirit…but wait there is more. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. No way, it had to be the enemy. No the enemy met Jesus there and tempted the Lord. Why would God’s Spirit do such a thing? Faith is not built in comfort it is refined by chaos. When our life is challenged, threatened and uncomfortable – we desire change. If you look at this short synopsis that is much more elaborate in other chapters, you will see that our new life in Christ is not all sweet, smelling roses. There still will be thorns that make us cry out for more grace which increases the capacity of our river so it will threaten to overflow its borders and reach the surrounding land.

 

Today our church will celebrate our grand opening by giving back to the community. All those drinks and food will be given away asking nothing in return. Our people are pumped. I am excited as well just to give to others. Greet them with a smile. Invite them to join us as we celebrate. While we invite them come join the party, what we are really inviting them to do is step into the river of God’s Love. It is an invitation to be saved and healed hidden in a water bottle or fresh grilled hotdog. I wonder what would happen if this was how we lived our everyday life. Looking to give away God’s Love without worrying about what we have to do, where we want to go, or the things we need to do but just started scanning the outer banks of our life looking for a way to access others.

 

Exodus 2:2-8 (HCSB) The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son; when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with asphalt and pitch. She placed the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. Then his sister stood at a distance in order to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe at the Nile while her servant girls walked along the riverbank. Seeing the basket among the reeds, she sent her slave girl to get it. When she opened it, she saw the child—a little boy, crying. She felt sorry for him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Should I go and call a woman from the Hebrews to nurse the boy for you?” “Go,” Pharaoh’s daughter told her. So the girl went and called the boy’s mother.

 

The mother of Moses was desperate. By royal order, her son was destined to die. To save his life, she had to trust God and put him in the river. The current would carry the basket holding her promise down to pharaoh’s daughter. She would be his saving grace. She still had to bundle him up, place him in the basket, and release him into the flow. I cannot imagine how terrified she must have been or how long those moments lasted until he was safe again. As the mother of three adult children, I remember the first time they drove off in a vehicle alone. Would they make it home safely? Would everything be alright? Would they make good choices? The only peace found in each moment was to ask the Holy Spirit to go with them and God’s Angels to surround them.

 

The river of life in us is meant to flow through us and then right back out of us. If we are not overflowing with God’s Love and Grace generously sharing our life with others, what is the point? Jesus said that living water would flow deep within us. We must check our overflow for freshness and purity. We must examine the contents and remove the pollution. If our flow does not press the borders of our life to reach others, we need to increase the intensity of our pursuit of Jesus Christ and request His Spirit to flow in us stronger, deeper and wider than ever before. The River of Life must run through us to make it back to the Kingdom of God. The Lord makes each step deeper so our faith and hope grow stronger so that when the storm comes it only makes the current in us stronger, and when the wind is gusting our anchor remains secure. We will not be carried away but God would love for us to get carried away by the flow of His Great Love.

 

Revelation 22:1-7 (HCSB) Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city. The tree of life was on both sides of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent His angel to show His slaves what must quickly take place.” “Look, I am coming quickly! The one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed.”

 

When we ask Jesus to be our Savior and make Him our Lord, the contents of our life will change. Daily repentance and radical obedience creates a flow of God’s Spirit in us whose current is the river of life that we were promised long ago. If our life does not overflow into the lives of others and generate some kind of refreshing and renewal, then we are not truly connect to the Source of Life. We must check each area and border removing anything that might stop the overflow of God from pouring through us into the lives of other people.

 

Reading this passage in Revelation, it all makes sense. The river that washes us and cleans us making us right with our God continues to move us deeper in faith into abiding trust that creates a rushing in our life that creates a desire to flow through the lives of others sharing the gifts of love, grace, kindness and compassion just like we have been given. As we continue through life and the river runs through us, it culminates to the day we reach Jesus. Will the contents and overflow of my life be consistent with the river that flows through the Kingdom? If the Holy Spirit is the river of life running through me, it will one day run into the River of God flowing through His Kingdom? I am asking the Lord today to make the river in me stronger and more fulfilling. To increase the generosity of my life so I always see the needs of others as greater than my own. Make me like You, Jesus so when our rivers connect it will be seamless. To You, King Jesus, be all the power, glory and honor. May it flow from my life into the nations and bring the healing you desire to them all. Does my river make glad the City of God? It is up to me to find out. “There is a river—its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High. (Psalm 46:4 )

 

Psalm 1:1-3 (HCSB) How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

 

Generous Soul

Close up on water pouring from watering can onto blooming flower bed

Proverbs 11:25 (NKJV)

The generous soul will be made rich and he who waters will also be watered himself.

As I begin to go through the closets, drawers and cupboards of our house preparing to sell our house, I find though I think my lifestyle is minimalistic, I am a borderline hoarder. Ok, not really but as the mounds of unwanted, outgrown, unused and forgotten “stuff” accumulates I realize that maybe just maybe all the times I thought that I had nothing to give it was actually hidden in my drawer, closet or high on a shelf. It is easy to give what we no longer find of value or worth. I do not think twice about the things I leave behind at the nearest charity. I am simply cleaning out my house. This is not generosity. It is not giving of ourselves. In fact, it is purely selfish in motive. We tie the word “generous” and even “charity” to our things. It has very little to do with what we have to give physically but is more characteristic of who we are becoming spiritually.

Our daughter’s birthday is today. We celebrated last Friday night. At the end of the party, I had a plethora of food leftover. There were plenty of s’more fixings so I gave it to the youth pastor for the upcoming movie night. Sunday night the remaining cupcakes induced a frenzy at the youth service. I divided the remaining barbeque to feed three households. I shared what I had. Was this the result of a generous soul? Not really. What was I going to do with a mound of marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers but no place to build a bonfire for roasting? Cupcakes are not on my diet plan. My refrigerator could not store all the meat and it was just going to waste. Do you see my dilemma? Was I giving of my heart or of my overflow? Too many times, we stop giving when it becomes inconvenient or uncomfortable. If it is too personal or too much, we take one step back from sacrifice to remain at ease.

To be completely honest, it is easier to give what we have rather than who we are to people. Relationships are messing. People have problems. If I can ease their way or give them “something” they need, it will make things better right? Maybe for that moment or in that situation, but God didn’t call us to live a generous life. He invites us to live with a generous soul.

Matthew 6:1-4 (NKJV)

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

To do a charitable deed is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. To make it a God thing, it must be wrapped in His Love. If your gift makes a way for you to share the Love of Jesus with someone else rather than drawing any kind of attention to you as a person, it is profitable to our soul. What is charity? Charity is God’s Agape Love. Agape love is the love of believers for other people corresponding with the Love of God for mankind. It is unselfish love for others as Christ loves us. To truly have a generous soul, it must move from our hand to our heart. To see what we have as a key to open doors so that the Light of God’s Love can permeate the darkness in others. If we give for recognition, it is not from our relationship with Jesus Christ. To give of anything other than ourselves is good. To give ourselves is God.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV)

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Looking at the “things” piling up in the office and thinking about what to do with them, I realize that my original intentions to “bless” someone is not enough. If I do not take the time to share the Love of God with them, talk to them, get to them, share their struggles and help them along the way – love is not a part of this offering. I can give everything I own away but it means nothing more than a burnt offering in my backyard to an unknown god if I do not cover it, smother it, and infuse it with love. God’s Love. The kind of love that I have been given with the grace that goes with it and the understanding that I have come to know in the Lord.

What is love? Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. It is not arrogant. Love is not rude. Love is not selfish but selfless in all things. Love cannot be provoked so it is not angry nor does it become enraged or exasperated. Love thinks no evil. Love does not rejoice in wrong or when another is caught in wrong. Love is the Truth. God’s Word is the Truth we live by. Love bears all things. Love always extends grace and mercy no matter how deep the hurt or level of wrong. Love believes in all things because its expectation is in the Lord, not other people. Love hopes all things because it is based on the Kingdom that is coming not what we see or feel today. Love endures all things. Those who endure to the end will be saved so I guess love must endure with us to be successful. Love never fails. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love is the leverage we need to extend more of ourselves to other without ever fearing losing ourselves. We are to abide in God’s Love so we are free to love.

I Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

As a believer, our very first call is to love. We are to have faith born of love. We are to have hope born of love. But without acceptance of the Love of God – everything else we do is pointless. We are to abide in His Love. Wrap it around our whole life like a warm fuzzy blanket and extend it to the world we live in. Charity begins with God’s Love and stems from it. It is the fruit of His Spirit in our life that allows us to love the way that Jesus commands us to. As we grow in Christ and His Spirit grows in us, our generosity becomes immersed in love. Charity to the believer is to love like God. It is agape love that is unconditional. It is our motivation for giving. Charity is defined by this world as generous actions and donations to those in need of aid who are poor, ill or helpless. It is something given to one in need. It is goodwill and kind feelings for those who are in need or experiencing disfavor. It is also leniency in judging others. Everyone in need did not just fall on hard times. Some are suffering from consequences self-produced by bad choices or indiscretions, their need is a product of sin or willful disobedience. This is the giving that requires God’s Love so the seed of transformation, salvation, deliverance, healing and restoration is deposited. Without love, faith and hope will never be reproduced in others through us. It all begins with love. Not natural love that requires something of others, but True Love as experienced by those He died for.

Galatians 6:6-10 (NKJV)

Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

The Word of God encourages generosity on every level. There is no greater gift than to lay our life down for another. (John 15:13) Are we truly laying down our life? Or just giving up things that don’t really matter? Is there a sacrifice of self in our giving to others beyond “things”? Everyone likes Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Many preachers will quote the Word of God right before taking the morning offering unaware that this has nothing to do with the money that we give at all. Jesus was telling us not to judge other people but to give them grace. This is that which we “give” to be returned “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” Like produces like. I can give away things and be blessed with more stuff. Or I can choose to give grace, love and time to receive God’s Favor in my life. If I sow in the Spirit, I will reap spiritual fruit. Where my treasure is, there I will find my heart. Where is my heart today when it comes to giving? I want a generous soul.

Let us not grow weary while doing good today. I will continue to give of our surplus to others. However, in doing so, I will make sure that my heart goes with it. Sensitivity to human need begins in our heart and must be given of the heart for godly use. There are many who will give of their hand today to help someone less fortunate. Today, I will give from my heart for as their soul prospers so will mine. God gives seed to the sower. (Isaiah 55:10) It is up to us to plant it in love.

Proverbs 22:9 (NKJV)

He who has a generous eye will be blessed for he gives of his bread to the poor.

The Gift and His Givers

The Gift and His Givers

John 13:34-38 (NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

For the first time in a long time, I have had the privilege of working with the youth for the Christmas program at church. For weeks, the kids and leaders have met together to prepare a piece to describe the victory of won the night Jesus made His Way to earth. Though it seems like a simple story of a man and woman great with child, navigating a lengthy journey to find no vacancy in the local inn who would labor through the night and give birth in a stable among the sleeping livestock. Babies are born every day. I am quite certain that Jesus did not look any different than a normal infant who draws its first breath. It’s funny how life works. As a woman, my body is fully equipped and able to give birth without the assistance of another. We have made it as comfortable and controlled as possible. Not that night, as this young girl produced the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. How could anyone know other than those carefully chosen by God be aware that love, real love, pure love, and true unadulterated, unbiased and unconditional love had burst into the atmosphere?

As we have worked with these young people, I have become more and more aware of the impact of God’s Gift to this world. The truth is that even though I have two sons who are less than perfect, they are mine. I love them. I cherish them and would not allow a hair on their head to be harmed for another human being. I guard them with my life though they are well into adulthood. I would never allow them to die for another or willingly give them up for you. I told these young people that very thing on a night when attention was wandering, playfulness distracting and a lack of self-control prevailed. People would come to church for this one night some to see this very thing. This might be the only chance that we have to share the Gospel with those they love and care for. The stranger who somehow drifted in. Would we do a good job? Would we give our all?

It is the holiday season. I know how busy I am. I can imagine how busy you are. We have long lists of gifts to buy. In each store, I hear couples deliberating what they will give and how much to spend on those they intend to bless in their giving. What are you giving Jesus for Christmas? He has been speaking to my heart. Each time I get overwhelmed in the tasks, get a bit grouchy or become too busy. The Holy Spirit gently reminds me that this is not what it is about. It is about God giving His Son, His Only Son that I may have eternal life. The most precious gift ever given. What will I give back? Since the season began, we participated in parties and events. I have made Christmas goody bags, wrapped gifts, given to those who need it, and so much more in a vain attempt to honor the Lord with my life. Is it enough? Only if I decide in my heart to give myself first. Any gift given is only as valid as the intent of one’s heart.

John 13:34-38 is not a Christmas story passage at all. However, it allows us to see the struggle of mankind in giving back to the Giver of Life with our own. Jesus is nearing His Hour of Sacrifice. He shares with His Closest Friends, His Disciples, His Greatest Desire. We are to love on another. Peter does not agree or disagree but asks Jesus, “Where are you going?” He wanted to go with Jesus even offering his very life to keep his Lord safe. The awful truth comes out when Jesus tells Peter before the rising of the sun, you will deny me three times. Have we denied Jesus this Christmas? Has He told us to love one another but we chose to give Him something else? Something less uncomfortable? A gift that costs less than our self? What He has asked is what He desires? Have we given Him less than our best? Have we chosen to do rather than love? Have we become so caught up in the holiday that we are not honoring Christ and His Birth? I am not pointing a finger at you but rather asking myself. Tonight as people gather together in our church, am I ready to love them? Will I receive them? Or will I be so caught up in costumes and lights that I forget the Light of the World and the Gift for which He is asking?

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

God loved me so much that He gave His Only Son. He gave His Best for me. He allowed His Son to come to this earth and endure a long separation. He watched as the people rejected, abused, tortured and killed His Child. He even turned from Him that day on the Cross as His Wrath was poured out on His Child for each and every sin we have ever committed bore down on Him. My greatest fear is losing a child. Thank God for the Blood of His Son that covers my children each day. The only choice that we have to make is will we take the Gift of Jesus and allow Him to change our life or will we reject His Gift and remain in the darkness. Do not be mistaken there is only one choice – life or death. There is no gray area. Light has come to the world. Many people love the darkness more than light. Whoever choose the Light of God’s Love will live by the truth of who they are and what they have become. To love God means that we must love other people.

Jesus did not to condemn anyone but with the sole purpose that all would be saved. When people encounter us this holiday season, do they see the Gift and the Giver? Can they tell a difference? Or have we somehow taken what was given and assumed a sense of entitlement? Do we freely offer the Love of God to others unconditionally as it was given to us? We are not called to live in the darkness or entertain it but we come in contact with people hidden in the darkness bound by sin. What is our response? Judgment or condemnation? Do we look down on them? Are we able to extend love to them from the unfathomable, unconditional and overflowing Gift we have been given from the Flawless Giver?

 

I John 4:11-12 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

When Jesus saves us, He gives us His Spirit. As we repent of our sins and turn our life fully over to Christ, there is a change in our perspective from the earth to the Heavenlies. God fills us to overflowing with His Love giving seed to the sower so we can now spread this love to others. Unconditionally. Overflowing. Neverending. This requires that our heart is changed to see others as Jesus does. It means that our expectation is no longer in what they can do for us but completely in what the Lord is doing in us. We can now love them when they let us down, step on us, betray us and overlook us because everything we need is provided mind, spirit and body in the Lord. We become complete when our love connects with others tightly bonding together the Body of Christ.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

A few Christmas ago, our youngest requested an IPod Touch for Christmas. It was really the only thing that she asked for. We decided to give her an IPad Mini thinking it would be a step up for her. It was a more expensive and much nicer gift than what she asked for. Our intention was that we would surprise her with something better than she asked for. When she opened it on Christmas day, her face showed her disappointment. When I talked to her after all the gifts were opened, she was clearly upset. “But I didn’t want that…” As a parent, my heart sank. I became angry and tearful. I was devastated that I let her down and mad at her dissatisfaction. She had an expectation. When the expectation was not met as she had planned for her own personal satisfaction, she was disappointed. However, once she began using the gift, it was soon clear that it was perfect.

Sometimes we do not understand that what God is giving us or has already provided in our life is a valuable gift. We have predetermined what will satisfy our soul and fulfill our longings. When God gives us what is best, we become like disappointed children. The Gift that God has given us is His Love. He gave it by giving us the Life of His Son. In Jesus is every hope, dream and desire that we have coming to absolute and complete fulfillment. We must hold on to our hope. We prove that we are His Disciples by loving others. Completely. Are we doing that today? I want tonight’s performance to be flawless, but truthfully if at the end of the night a single, solitary soul finds Jesus and experiences His Love – all the time, preparation and sacrifice will be worth it all.

 

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

 

Do you desire to honor Jesus this Christmas? Are you killing yourself trying to do so? Stop right where you are. I am about to let you off the hook. If you simply hand the Salvation Army bell ringer a hot cup of coffee and tell them Merry Christmas with a smile while dropping a small offering in his pot – you just got it right. If you invite someone to the Christmas play at church, pick them up so they will come, sit by them and introduce them to all your friends even though they don’t look or act saved, guess what? You nailed it. When they cut you off in traffic, instead of offering an offensive gesture, pray that they will make it safely to their destination. Hold the door for others. Smile and thank every clerk. Love. That really is all there is to give. Jesus doesn’t want our fancy clothes, expansive feast, or perfect performance this Christmas. He doesn’t even want us to make vows that we have not the wherewithal to complete. First, Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart. He has given us all of His Love. Then He wants us to love others with the passion the Lord gives us. His Love. He is the Giver. We receive the Gift. To honor Him is to become a giver of His Love ourselves.

II John 6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

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.

My office looks like a wrapping paper factory exploded. As I have begun to wrap gifts and separate them according to each person and their destination, I am beginning to feel like Mrs. Claus right about now. Looking at each pile wondering if I got it right, will they be happy and satisfied. I love giving gifts to my children. Oh, don’t get me wrong I love giving to others as well. But when it comes to my children, I want them to have more than what they need but all of what they want. It’s crazy that we have content children. Their lists were modest this year in fact very few items were not things that I would not provide on a girls shopping trip. Yet, I love to see their faces when they open that one thing they really, really wanted. Like most moms, giving is a gift.

Giving is a gift. It is a quality of God in us that desires to do for other people. Sadly the enemy has made it quite stressful as we cram our doing into a few short weeks each year and pay for it every other day. This is not what the gift of giving is all about. This is not a rant about spending too much, overdoing, too much busyness or any of the other usual holiday stressors. We get enough help in that area. It is about giving. The gift of giving that gets lost in worry and fear. I don’t think it is always an act of selfishness but the enemy’s attack on our confidence in our Father’s Goodness, Love and Provision. If he can somehow convince us that we are required to meet the expectations of those we love and depend on to love us while continually raising the bar, it robs us of the joy in giving due to fear of lack. I break that over your life today in the Name of Jesus. Every good gift and perfect gift comes from the Father’s Love. He is a Good God who loves to lavish blessings on His Children. His Blessing comes without sorrow added to it.

Give and it will be given to you. I would like to reveal that biggest farce spoken from many pulpits today. Giving financially will not necessarily cause you to be increased financially. God doesn’t give like for like (thank you Jesus) because I do not want what I deserve – I am satisfied and overwhelmed by grace. Giving is an overflow of love when our heart cannot contain it and must express it. When we give from our heart and release it through our hands, we are pressed down, shaken together and now run over in joy without the sorrow of regret or fear of missing out. Giving is an act of selflessness when we choose to release what we have by faith in our Provider who indeed gives seed to the sower.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV)

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations. They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

Giving is a quality of the church that is lost. Tithing is not Old Testament but a mandate for today. Giving to the Lord of our firstfruits is covenant. Grace is afforded those who choose not to but it is still disobedience. To give but not tithe limits the increase of godly satisfaction because it is out of order. Wow, wasn’t expecting that to come out. Must be the Holy Spirit. The Macedonian churches in the midst of severe trial and extreme poverty were givers. The joy overflowing in their hearts at the Knowledge and Acceptance of Jesus Christ could not be contained or limited by their current resources. They just chose to give anyway. They “urgently pleaded” for the “privilege of sharing”. It exceeded all expectation. They gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability. Giving themselves first to the Lord, and then by the Will of God to us also. Your gift of love and generosity to the world and its people doesn’t mean a whole lot until it comes with the message of God’s Love and His Son, Jesus. We must be in fellowship for this overflowing joy to come out of us and allow us to give beyond our means and personal resources.

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NIV)

 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

I shudder to add such a long scripture as people often scold me concerning the length of these blogs. I couldn’t help myself so bear with me, please. Generosity and giving must be an action of the heart. True generosity gives beyond our surplus. When we are willing to lay down our life, our comfort, our security, our treasure for another person, God honors the sacrifice because He absolutely identifies with the person who gives like as such. God gave His All for us. It hurt God to see this world reject His Son, torture Him, and kill Him. But He allowed it for us. He loved us so much that God gave until it hurt not to mention Jesus who gave His Life for us.

Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, but oh the generous ones. We decide what to give in our heart but truthfully the Holy Spirit often nudges us first. Most people than toss it around in our mind, weighing the price, considering the cost, and then do what they think they can rather than what God tells them to do. God loves a cheerful giver. One who loves Him so much and trusts Him enough to give when the urgency hits and allows the Lord to provide seed for sowing. Those who sow in the Spirit and out of their hands will be enriched in every way. I know what it is like to live in lack. I understand poverty and sleeping on the floor of a house without power. I also know the luxury of a very nice house with all the featured comforts. The one thing that I know more than anything else is that no matter where I end up at the end of the day without Jesus there is no peace. There is no joy. There is no comfort. I cannot make my life better in any way outside of my relationship with Jesus. The more I love Him, the more I want to give. Giving to others gives me joy and peace as I am about my Father’s business. But giving to my husband, our children, family, friends and my church will never be enough to satisfy the longing of my soul. Faith produces a willing and giving heart that just wants to give more. Do you want to give? Do you feel limited today? You’re not. I rebuke the lie of the enemy off your life and ask Him to break the heavy chains of fear off of your heart so you can give. Something. Anything. It begins the process of shaking down, pressing together and running over. Faith is not a one and done process. It is a life-long endeavor of learning to love and trust Him more. Don’t beat yourself up. Just get up and take one step.

It is crazy that when I decide to do something in my heart with regards to giving. There is always enough. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Working in a church office, a woman came on a weekday to speak to the pastor. He was out of the office that day so she decided to share her plight with me. She wanted to tithe. Her husband who was a nonbeliever forbid her to give anything but a small offering. It was not enough for her. Serving in the church nursery was unsatisfactory. She needed to give more. So she pulled a roll of paper towels out of her tote bag and some glass cleaner, she then asked me if it would be alright if she came each week to clean all the windows of the church. What? I was speechless. I could only stammer enough to say, “Of course, you can.” When she left my office, I began to cry as suddenly all those I was “giving” to God from my surplus seemed small and insignificant.

Giving is an indescribable gift. To become a true giver who taps into the Gift God has hidden in giving requires a sacrifice. You don’t necessarily give until it hurts, you give all that you can. No excuses. When the Lord impresses you to do it, you do. Let’s face it, that’s usually our biggest hold up. We can all give more than we do, but choose not to saying, “I just don’t have it to give.” Is that the truth? Because I know right now between my closet of nothing to wear and pantry of nothing to eat, I can clothe an army and feed them before they go. Why would God give you seed to sit unused? He is a Perfect God. He knows our heart and willingness to give. I assure you that someone is getting the seed that I am not sowing, and I want it back. I want to be a blessing to others because it is my reasonable service to the Lord. If I give myself, all of me, to the Lord, giving is a natural reflex that is born of my faith and trust in Him. As usual, it blesses me more than any discomfort it may immediately cause.

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Grudge giving. Whoa Lord, where did that come from? Giving is an act of love. You cannot grudge and give a gift or it is not a gift at all. God is in the relationship business. Religion absolves our guilt with sacrifice. God applies grace to all that we do making it an acceptable offering to Him. It is not different when we give. All gifts must be preceded by forgiveness and covered with grace. Even in giving to another, it is unacceptable until our heart is right with all. We give unto God no matter who the recipient and He says, “I will not accept it without reconciliation with all.”

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Finally true to form, I am almost done with Christmas shopping this year. The last few years has made this a challenge, but thanks be to God the girl is back on her A-game. The kids really didn’t have extravagant lists. I love online shopping. Plus, we only have two left at home so there are definitely mitigating circumstances. I was pretty proud of myself. Except now, I am compelled to give to others committing to things that I have avoided for many years now. Heart of Worship is a favorite song that we sing in church. “I’m coming back to the heart of worship where it’s all about You…it’s all about You Jesus! I’m sorry Lord for the thing I made it when it’s all about You, it’s all about You!” You get the idea.

Why? It is easy to get caught up in life, busy and even religion so much that we forget at the end of the day and the bottom line is Jesus. He is the Life Giver. His Spirit in us compels us to be like Him and give but the world keeps telling us that we cannot afford to. Friends, we cannot afford not to. The Gift we have been given is life. Life more abundantly. If your life is not overflowing with an abundance of love, peace and joy – it could be the seed is dying in your silo. The answer is not to hang on to the Blessings of God but release them. The first church got it right. They prospered daily. All believers were together and had everything in common. They sold their homes and property so that no one had a need. This world has nothing for me. Jesus died so that I could live in His Kingdom forever. The only commodity on this planet worth anything are human souls. We should give all we have to reach them. We should empower and equip other believers beyond lip service to sharing what God invested in us with them. Giving money or any other tangible item does not “hurt” us. It helps us see that we have a treasure hidden in our hearts worth more than anything on earth. His Name is Jesus. He is the Heart of giving for it is in Him we live and breathe. He blesses us in our giving. Lord, thank you for reminding me today of the importance of giving. Make me aware of the needs of others and give me the willingness to share all that I have.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Pain in the Sacrifice

Pain in the Sacrifice

 

Psalm 4:3-5 (NLT)

You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for himself. The Lord will answer when I call to him. Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Offer sacrifices in the right spirit and trust the Lord.

It has been six months since my daughter and her son moved from our hometown in Florida to New Hampshire. Just six months since her brother ended treatment and four months after their marriage, I wasn’t ready for them to go. God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes so elusive is His Plan that it seems as though maybe He stopped paying attention. I know this is not the case. However, the day before it is time for them to return after a brief visit came too soon. My heart ached when the email came that it was time to check-in to the flight that would leave in 24 brief hours. To some who have lost children or have children wandering in the world, perhaps you hush me or condemn my sadness. I should just be thankful. I’ll take that and I am. Yet, I am still so sad they do not live close enough to share life with us other than through modern day technology. God has a plan. I know it. Why do I still hurt inside? Why do I feel loss in the distance between us? My heartbreaks to think beyond today.

In the British Dictionary, sacrifice is defined as “surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable or preventing evil.” If there is no value or worth to that thing that is given up, it is not a sacrifice. A sacrifice cost something and is always more than we want to give up. Otherwise, it is not a sacrifice. Do we still need to sacrifice? Yes. As a believer each day surrendered to the Will of God is a denial of self that sacrifices our way for His Way. If you do not feel a loss in giving, it is clearly not a sacrifice. If there is not some form of discomfort in the release, it is not an exchange. I want Jesus to fill my life with His Presence. All day and every day, I seek to do His Will. This means there will be sacrifice.

Psalm 40:6-8 (NLT)

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand—you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings. Then I said, “Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures:  I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”

 

I finally understand…but it doesn’t mean I like it. God no longer requires sacrifices and offerings as prescribed in the Old Testament because His Son Jesus paid for every sin that you and I have ever committed and will ever commit. It is paid in full. So now what? Why is sacrifice necessary? Why do we have to give things up? Truth is that no one is required to sacrifice anything if they don’t want to. We have been given freedom in the midst of permissibility to choose if we will do what we want to do or what is most beneficial.  Each day we choose between blessing and cursing as His Mercy covers us washing away the sin of yesterday and added potential to the day ahead.

What God wants from us is to take joy in doing His Will. Following His Instructions and taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by His Son. When we do His Will – the windows of Heaven open over our life. Sacrifice now is based on our heart’s desire and full intention to do the Will of God even if it is painful. Every time our daughter gets on the plane after a visit, my motherhood holds its breath until she comes back again to see us. I have four other children who I feel the exact same way about. Our oldest son lives in Texas. He is finding his way in life. Our next son lives just two hours away, no longer requiring constant care, he is continuing his education and finally living in the freedom of his remission. We have two more daughters at home who are growing up so fast. My heart aches at the thought of an empty nest and the possibility that these too will fly far from home. Our children are saved and love God. They each have a desire to serve Him some quietly while others boldly. Doing the Will of God does not always feel good. Trusting God is not always easy. But those who dare to do so in the midst of a breaking or broken heart will please the Lord in their giving.

Psalm 51:17-18 (NLT)

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

 

I can feel the protective Hand of God guarding my heart today. Our life is changing. Our children are growing up and times are changing in our life. My job as mom is slowly but surely coming to an observer rather than participator as each child reaches adulthood. I offer opinions not directives. It is moving me from my comfort zone into a place that I am not comfortable. God is not asking me to sacrifice my children as He did Abraham and Hannah. But He is calling me to trust Him more. I will candidly admit that I just don’t understand why these two have been called to ministry so far away or why the Lord has not allowed the soreness in my heart to heal. Why is it so tough every time we say goodbye or remember they are not here? Loving is a sacrifice. When we give love unconditionally, it produces an inner vulnerability. This is to be our way of life. To trust the Lord when we don’t understand and even when it hurts. To joyfully praise and honor Him with thankfulness just because He lives knowing His Will is best and will produce more than we can even comprehend. I am sure Abraham shed tears all the way up the mountain and Hannah cried all the way home from the Temple, but both honored God with a sacrifice. Their children lived on to become notable characters in the Word of God and point the way to our Savior. I hope each one of mine children will do the same. Loving the Lord enough to be notable when it comes to their sacrifice of self just to know Him more.

Psalm 50:14-15 (NLT)

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.

 

Though I may shed a few tears today or be a bit cross, I am thankful for my children and their commitment for Christ. I am sore from this sacrifice as my heart breaks with each departure, I know that they are adding to the Kingdom in their plight. If you are feeling heartbreak in the midst of your walk with Christ today, I understand. But more importantly what others may not understand is a sacrifice for you, the Lord honors it. He loves us when we trust Him more than those we love knowing that He did not give His Son in vain. If you are suffering from a broken heart, He will heal it. If you don’t understand, He will give you wisdom just ask. If in our life we do not suffer loss or feel that there is a cost in our pursuit of the Lord, there is no sacrifice. His Glory comes to those who feel the sting of sacrifice and its lingering soreness but choose to continue just the same. I trust the Lord. I am thankful for His Will and the Glory it will produce in our life enough to rejoice in the release of our children to follow His Way even when it hurts.

Psalm 116:16-19 (NLT)

O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains. I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people— in the house of the Lord in the heart of Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

Just Look Around – A Devotion

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Luke 6:28-31 (NLT)

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

 

With my new motto glaring at me from the other side of the room, I am reminded today that “there is always, always, always something to be grateful for.” I consider myself a “thankful” person who tends to be optimistic about things most of the time but for some reason Christmas has always been a struggle for me. I am not sure why but will confess that for most of my life I have fought depression over the holidays for no real reason. God has finally broken me of that but at a very high price. It took three years of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas visiting doctor’s appointments, accompanying our son to his infusion treatments, or escorting him to radiation that finally broke me of my holiday funk. I refuse to be overtaken by anything but joy this Christmas as I think about what the Lord has done in our life. Yes there have been many struggles. There has absolutely been a great deal of pain. But just as promised, the Lord has brought us through them all. Our son is currently cancer-free, just finished school and will soon be home to eat all our food. Our daughter is spending her first Christmas with her new husband. Our wanderer/adventurer/soldier son will cruise in soon. Thankfully we still have two “not-so-little” girls at home to celebrate the season with us. We are making new traditions. We are doing things a little differently mixing it up if you will. No longer will we rush past the holidays to get to the New Year but enjoy our family and life that we have been given.

Rah, Rah, Rah! My elation is also tempered by the realization that there are many who are still struggling this year. One particular family whose daughter is fighting the same cancer our son has been battling is in a hospital room as we speak. The family has been through many traumatic events over the last year some health-related and others not related to their health at all. I keep up with their journey on Facebook and check in with mom off and on. She is overwhelmed and rightfully so. It is hard enough to focus on one child who is gravely ill but quite another to manage your family with it. My heart and mind think about those who are not able to provide a nice meal for their family this Christmas while I pour over Pinterest for ideas. I think of the parents who are struggling to give their kids gifts when ours have more than enough. I have been there before. As a single parent of three small children with no assistance, my grandparents would send money for me to provide for them. I would use it to make them dinner and provide gifts for them squirreling some away for the next month’s deficit. I was so very thankful when the discount toy store opened in the mall with all of last year’s gifts at a fraction of the cost. Those days are long gone but as they flash through my mind, the Spirit presses my heart to remember. My greatest calling in this life is to be a blessing. Bless those who curse me. Pray for those who hurt me. Offer others more than they demand. When others take, let them have it. Do to others as I would like them to do to me now and back then when I was struggling. It’s time to take a look around.

Luke 6:36 (NLT) You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

 

I must be compassionate. Compassion is not part of human nature although some people are giving by nature, we do not want to give beyond our personal comfort. God is love. He has called us to love one another. Jesus commanded us to do so. To give our life to Christ requires that we give our life to others just as He asked. What better time to try than Christmas? The media tells us to give until it hurts. Buy, buy, buy. Overload, overload, overload. It begins with helping those around us. Smiling at the mom holding up the line with three squirming, squealing children. Holding the door for the person who is in such a hurry or struggling to get by. Allowing others to go ahead of you in line. Letting the crazy driver have the parking space opting to walk just a little farther to preserve the peace. Our sinful nature tells us that we are entitled to fairness but the Spirit of God inclines us to give up our way to have His Way. His Way is love and compassion for all people. His Grace says they get it whether they deserve it or not just like me. His Mercy is new every morning so mine should be, too. I must see to the needs of others in order to prove that I trust the Lord to meet all my needs. There is always someone who is praying for what you already have and take for granted. Maybe it has been given to you to meet their need. Perhaps we would see them if we choose to take a look around.

Luke 6:37-39 (NLT)

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

 

When we decide not to give to someone in need, when we have the means to do so – it is an act of judgment. Did I really just write those words? God is speaking to me directly today. I condemn others when I decide what they need and don’t need based on my personal assumptions rather than listening to their cry for help. Who am I? Faith says, “Give and you will receive!” I used to take so many things for granted. I really did. When the health of my child became my greatest desire and deepest need, everything changed because my perspective did. No longer looking at what the world thinks makes us successful and important, I began to see the importance of the Fruit of God’s Spirit. When money could not heal our child, Jesus did. When money could not meet our need or give us the desire of our heart, Jesus did not once but five times so far. Now I see that time is our greatest commodity, so this Christmas rather than worrying so much out perfection I have changed my perception. Time is the only thing that I have that cannot be replaced. I should share it with those who are important to me. I should tithe it because it is valuable giving some of it away. There is a promised attached to our giving. “Your gift will be returned to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.” There is no mixed words or hidden implications for “the amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Before you stroke a healthy check for the offering or dig into your pockets for a few dollars for the homeless guy by Walmart, this is not a bad thing but is it what you really want back. Is money enough? I don’t think it is what God is after – He is calling us to give compassion this Christmas in the form of time, talent and treasure. We are His Hands and Feet. We are His Body. Money is not the answer but the Love of God is. Again, you still should give if your heart is led to do so but make sure that you are being led by your heart.

Luke 6:43-45 (NLT)

 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

 

The next time you are sitting by the tree, drinking a cup of your favorite hot coffee, looking at your Christmas list, why not inspect the fruit on your tree. What fruit is your life producing? I am doing the same with mine. I want new traditions this year. No more depression, worry or stress, but a season of joy, peace and love. I will not get it if I do not give it. I don’t just want to be a good person. I want to be God’s Girl this Christmas. It’s time to take a look around.

 

Luke 6:46-49 (NLT)

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

 

Our life is built on a foundation of faith. We are called and conditioned to prosper in this life. Everything God does has meaning and purpose whether we can see it now or not – we know it as a condition of His Great Love for us. We must become compassionate. We must love others and treat them as we want the Lord to treat us. We are called to love one another. It is the only commandment that Jesus Christ gave us to do. You get to decide what you will give. Faith demands it. Confident hope cultivates it. Opportunities surround us. We must just look around!

John 13:34-35 (NLT)

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

The Better Blessing – A Devotion

The Better Blessing

Deuteronomy 15:10 (NLT)

Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

 

It is not my intention to step on anyone’s toes today, but simply feel the pressure of the Holy Spirit treading upon my own. See the Lord has invited me to give to others and I have been hesitating. Please don’t be judgmental! You know you do the same thing, too. The Holy Spirit (in your gut) tells you to be kind, gracious and generous in your dealings and you choose to ignore it when logic reminds you that you do not have it to give. Each time the Lord impresses on our heart to give and we shy away in reluctance we miss the better blessing. In fact, we miss the mark entirely when it comes to holiness and righteousness that encourages us to be like Jesus Christ who gave His All for us. This is not a giant guilt trip but rather a great door of opportunity that stands before each one of us today as we venture out to live our life as “temporary residents” on the earth. Our time here is limited yet we choose to live for today instead of thriving in the confident hope we have for an excellent future. We do not give our greatest gifts in our abundance but the highest heavenly reward comes when we give by faith even if it make us uncomfortable or uncertain in the moment. Such an abandonment of this life to purse His Kingdom will make us “wealthy” in so many ways beyond today. It is definitely the better blessing.

Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT)

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

For those of you who do not think that the Old Testament holds relevance after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us move into the New Testament to find the purpose of generosity to those who are fully covered by His Grace. We owe no man anything except love unless we choose to go into the bondage of indebtedness to them. The encouragement found in belonging to Christ is total freedom. Freedom from the “things” of this world. The comfort of His Love is that He will meet our every need according to His Plan and Purpose for our life. The Holy Spirit leads us step by step to walk in the Shadow of Jesus Christ who only goes where the Father tells Him to go and does only what the Father tells Him to do. So being led by the Spirit, following Christ means that we live in the Presence of God which leads us right back to Deuteronomy 15:10 because God does not lie or change His Mind. We are to be generous to the poor. This includes every person who we come in contact with who lacks any good thing. When we choose to identify the needs of others and generously meet their needs, we have followed the example of Jesus Christ. We must live with the same attitude as Jesus to have the better blessing.

Selfishness is not characteristic of God. He is generous giving His All for mankind to come back into right standing with Him once again. The God of the Universe withheld no good thing from us giving us full access to His Throne to come boldly in our time of need. Anyone else who does not have such a privilege requires our immediate attention including our generosity and compassion which are qualities of righteousness. We have no lack. We have all that we need. It is from this knowledge that we give not necessarily our bank account. To be generous means liberal in giving and/or sharing and unselfish. It is to be free of meanness or smallness of character so obviously this goes much deeper than our wallet. Generosity produces fertility in our life for it is another thing that defines one as generous. To those given much, much is required. But in the Kingdom of God, we must use it or lose it. “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29)

 

Luke 6:28-31 (NLT)

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”  For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.

God gives seed to the sower. Those who plant generously will get a generous crop. We decide in our hearts what to give. Giving is a heart condition. It begins within us and moves to the outside of us. To give under pressure is to respond to a demand, but generosity is a seed that begins in our heart. When we act on it, it is planted in the Kingdom of God and subject to His Prosperity. Such deeds are remembered forever. It motivates God to give us everything we need and more because He want to bless our obedience. Our tithe is obedience to God. It should not even be something that we discuss as it is clearly outlined in His Word that ten percent belongs to the Lord outright. Where is the struggle? It is faith struggle. It is a trust issue. It is an attachment to this world that must be severed. What breaks on bondage in this world? When we stop looking to the world to satisfy our soul and begin to live a righteous life it will result in giving. “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

Those who are generous will overflow in resources which is not always money. You have exactly what is needed to meet the needs of another person but it is up to you to decide if you will give it in faith and confident hope that God will supply your every need. I believe yet I still struggle when God encourages me to give and I feel I need that which is required. This giving thing that He is talking to us about to day is material and spiritual. It encompasses all of our natural life. If you can see it, feel it, touch it then it is something that can be given away for the Glory of God allowing His Goodness to flow to you and through you in every good work. This produces a reward in Heaven that is always the better blessing.

Luke 6:28-31 (NLT)

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

 

Let’s “but God” for a minute. But God, what about those people who constantly take from us? What about those who spitefully use us? What about those individuals who just suck us dry never giving anything back in return? What about the things that are taken from us? We are to give to anyone who asks. Ouch! This is a tough one for me because just like everyone else there are times when I judge the one who is asking according to my own principles, ethics and morals for life rather than succumbing to the Gospel that says, “Give to anyone who asks.” Gut-wrenching to think of the times that someone has asked and I have denied them. The person who wants to cut in traffic. The beggar at the corner who clearly “needs a beer”. To humble myself before the Lord and accept all that He has for me requires that I give to the least of these. It is not my job to judge the life condition of others but simply meet their need. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. This is not beat them to the punch and indeed will require a few blows to our pride until we have a humble spirit willing to be generous to everyone we meet rather than playing favorites.

Proverbs 11:23-25 (NLT)

The godly can look forward to a reward, while the wicked can expect only judgment. Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

 

The generous will prosper. This is totally contrary to how the world thinks or acts. Philanthropists give from their wealth and abundance but God wants us to give regardless of our current situation. Why? Righteousness should produce generosity and compassion in our life that is unconditional based on God’s Love and Gifts to us. We have no sense of entitlement any greater than the next person because God does not have one favorite. We are all His Favorites will the potential to be blessed equally and rewarded fully. This is our right and privilege as Children of God and residents of His Kingdom. However, that means that we must live as “temporary residents” in this world to have it. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’ And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” (I Peter 1:16-17) We decide to be holy or not. It begins in our giving of our life to have all that God has promised. Our reward is primarily in Heaven. This must be the focus of our life because to be quite frank nothing we obtain in this world can be taken with us to Heaven. Only our soul, so we must strive to prosper in our soul to be reunited with God the Father through Jesus His Son. This is the greatest blessing of all secured in our righteousness with God. Those who are righteous will give freely and become wealthy as their soul prospers so will they.

Psalm 112 (NLT)

Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed. They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever. Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly. Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor. The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.

 

Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate and righteous. God has shown me some ideas for the future. Business ideas to bless my family. I know that these things are simmering on the back burner of my mind until it is time to set out to accomplish these dreams. But for now…right now… the Lord has been laying on my heart to give some things away that I have been reluctant in doing due to fear of lack. I am being candid with you. Will you be honest with yourself today? God sees through us and even past the façade of confidence we present to the world to the scared heart that beats inside of us. He knows your confidence level today and your giving gives you away. Those who share freely and give generously to those in need do so from a satisfied heart that has found total contentment in godliness. I want to be that person. I want the better blessing. I believe that my obedience in this calling will set the precedence for my future business plan based on the Word of God I have shared with you today. The current economic struggles of the world today make it hard to give with such uncertainty of the future. But I have a hope that is secure and will never lead to disappointment if I choose to invest my faith in Christ instead of the world around me. When I trust the Lord and choose to obey His Leading and Urging to give my life away including that which is tangible and of earthly worth – I am promised a better reward. That’s the one I want.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (NLT)

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.

Will you be the one who plants generously today? Those who decide to give with their heart today and not their head will receive from God’s Abundance in every way. I believe that with all my heart now I want my hands to follow this faith to become generous givers. Stop overthinking your gift today. If God says give it, just do it. This puts the responsibility back on the Lord to be faithful to His Word, you just need to wait for His Blessing to reach you. When you give in the right attitude, you will have a satisfied heart even when it seems that you have gained nothing in return. God loves cheerful givers. The more you give the more cheerful you become as His Peace, Love and Joy overtake you! God will remember every good deed that you do forever. The Lord promises to enrich all who give so they can continue to be generous. Giving will change your life for the better forever. It is definitely the better blessing!

Isaiah 32:8 (NLT)

But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.