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Category Archives: Grace

Tough and Tender? No…Be Strong and Tender!

tenderness___by_reearadu-d3ezzclTenderness…I knew what it was but not at the level I do today (I wonder what tomorrow will bring). Much of my early life was spent being tough and not tender, more out of necessity than choice. The details really aren’t important; understanding is and hopefully sharing it! Unfortunately, I didn’t even know how “unhealthy tough” I’d become. Even though I’ve been greatly loved by God, husband, children, and friends for decades, I had still let toughness steel me to tenderness.

Circumstances finally forced a break, with toughness giving way and making room for tenderness. It seemed to happen “out of the blue”, but in truth, it was our extraordinary God making a way during an incongruous time in my life! So much was going wrong yet so much was right. The hurt was so bad, yet it was so good. It was the best of times and the worst of times at the SAME time! The challenges were overwhelming yet I felt calm in the midst of the storm. Harsh and hard-hitting things were coming from every angle yet I felt a sort of gentleness, warmth, and softness in my spirit. So…though everything seemed wrong, everything was right. Ever felt that way? Where toughness had previously made me hard and inflexible, now tenderness was making me soft and flexible, yet still strong. What happened?

  • LoveMeTSheetI lost some precious relationships but God found me in the midst of brokenness to show me my part – I learned a lot about friendship.
  • I doubted myself and my ability to be in healthy loving relationships but God made sure I saw and was certain of His ability to put me in healthy, loving, and yes, tender relationships where we can be strong in Him.
  • I struggled with trust at a level I couldn’t imagine, complete with skepticism, wariness, and cynicism hardening me even more. Instead of coddling me, God brought conviction, leading to reckless abandonment and vulnerability to Him. Though I’ve always trusted God, now I was addicted to trusting Him.
  • Worthiness, long ago settled for me in Christ, was nearly decimated. Holy Spirit replaced my feelings of unworthiness AGAIN, showing my worth in Jesus who loves like no other.

This exchange of toughness for tenderness came through the hand of God breaking what I thought to be unbreakable. It came through the Spirit of God shattering what appeared to be shatterproof. It came through gaining what I perceived to be lost and it came through admitting I wasn’t totally and completely depending on God.

When the exchange happened, I realized how much I REALLY need Him every moment of every day and night! I can’t breathe without Him. And trust me on this one; this kind of tenderness makes a person extremely vulnerable to Him and this in turn creates humility unmatched on this earth. These three things: Dependence, vulnerability, and humility can take any semblance of toughness we maintain and create tenderness unimaginable and unexpected.

I had some questions though. “How did this happen? How did God do this to me? How does God make us vulnerable? How does He position us for dependency on Him? How does He create tenderness in us for Him and others? How can we be strong but not so tough anymore?”

Tender-Lion-WebThe answers are found by looking in His Word, where tenderness is almost always united with His mercy. He showers us with His own “tender mercies” and then…we’re addicted! In both the Old and New Testaments God’s tenderness is most often associated with His mercy. For the Hebrews (Old Testament) “tender” references the “bowels” or “seat of the most tender of affections”; especially kindness, compassion, and benevolence. For the Greeks (New Testament) “tender” also refers to the “bowels” or seat of the more violent passions such as anger and love. In English, tenderness combines these same thoughts: compassion, warmth, gentleness, kindheartedness, affection, care, LOVE in the deepest parts of our being. In truth, if we could open our hearts, God’s tenderness and compassion would pour out. His mercies, which multiply without measure, would overwhelm us!

Here are a few verses from the Psalms to fill us with His tender mercies:

Screen-Shot-2013-12-23-at-11.22.01-AMPsalms 40:11 “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.”

Psalms 69:16 “Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.”

Psalms 79:8 “Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.”

Psalms 103:4 “Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies…”

Psalms 119:77 “Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight.”

Psalms 145:9 “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”

In all these verses tender mercies refer to God’s compassion and favor poured into the innermost part of who we are. We are His creations; His dearly loved children. God is the source of all mercy and it is through His compassion that we are filled with His compassion, His tender mercies. When God broke through my toughness, even that which I was unaware of, He brought His compassion and favor to sit in the seat of my emotions and then His Word answered all the questions.

9780961519773How did this happen? Toughness came as a result of hurt, abuse, distrust, fear, doubt, loneliness, and a whole host of other circumstances. But in my toughness, I was not strong. I was just hard! How did God do “this” to me, break through my toughness with His tenderness? He did it by reminding me people I love will always hurt me and I will hurt others. Abuse, distrust, doubt, loneliness are all part of life. Fear comes at us daily. None of those things are going to stop – but toughness isn’t going to help! Jesus is! Total dependence on Him; complete reception of His compassion and favor will keep us tender!

God makes us vulnerable by showing how He sees us – as His own holy and beloved chosen ones! Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.” In Jesus, we are holy and beloved so we get to put on tender mercies. Now THAT is SOME strength! God positions us for dependency on Him by letting us be tough to the point of breaking and then He tenderly reminds us He is there in our innermost beings, deep within, full of compassion and mercy, making us strong and completely transparent before Him.

God creates tenderness for Him and others by putting a longing in our hearts. Paul says in Philippians 1:8 “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” Bowels is also translated affection, tender compassion, or tender mercies. THIS creates a tenderness causing us to love more deeply. Philippians 1:9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,” In truth, He showers us with His own “tender mercies” and then…we’re addicted!

And finally, we can be strong yet not so tough anymore through the encouragement of Christ Jesus giving us courage to be strong and tender, not tough and tender! Philippians 2:1-2 “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion (also translated bowels and mercies or tenderness and compassion) make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

If you’ve been tough, go ahead and let the tenderness of God make you strong…in Him!

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Season Our Speech With Grace? Not so Fast! Look Again!

Everyone has to eat and most people like food!  Cooking and food preference conversations are usually intriguing and mouth-watering, with the variety in tastes seemingly endless.  Because of this, choosing where to dine out can be frustrating or exhausting as we pause to think about what we feel like eating at any given time.  Should we go with Asian, Chinese, Mexican, German, American, or perhaps try a buffet? Do we feel like fast food, sit-down, or something in between?  Do we want something heavy or light?

I don’t know about your family, but when we decide to go out, it is often more of a chore as we contemplate what would taste good right about now!  I am usually the one to say, “It doesn’t matter to me. You pick!”  Then when my husband picks I say, “Well, no, I don’t feel like eating there.”  Argh!!!!

Our taste buds are funny and even finicky!  It amazes me how diverse people are in their likes and dislikes when it comes to food, and much of that is determined by the seasonings added. The ability of some people to eat “hot” things flabbergasts me.

One day we were having lunch at a food court in the mall with some friends and my husband had bought hamburgers for us.  I was enjoying mine, sharing it with the grandkids when my husband said, “Here, try mine.”  No problem because I trust him, but within seconds my mouth, lips, and throat started burning and I was near to screaming.  I was hurting, he was smiling, others laughing, no one knowing what just happened. Turns out, as he peeled open the bun there were jalapeno peppers on his burger which he had simply “neglected” to tell me.  Once I recovered, which took a while (no exaggeration), I was still dumbfounded how he could eat an entire jalapeno burger with no reaction.  How does that happen?

Well, I might as well admit I am “seasoning” challenged!  I don’t like burned tongues, lips, or throats.  I don’t like tastes in my mouth that make me stop and figure out what just happened to me.  I guess I just want my meals to go down the gullet, with no major interruptions, while enjoying the simple taste of whatever food I am eating.  Most people would find my diet bland, I find it plain and trouble-free.  To be honest, for me, less is more when it comes to seasonings on food.

I can attribute my dislike for intense taste sensations to my Swedish heritage.  I’ve heard it said Swedes have three seasonings; salt, pepper, and ketchup.  Though this might be true in many respects, even my Dad who is 100% Swedish gets upset with me for using ketchup with steak.  By the way, should I say ketchup or catsup?  I’m not sure!

What is really crazy is that even though I am into “simple”, my cupboard is full with way too many seasonings.  Why? Seriously!  Salt and pepper are my “go to” spices!  I might venture farther out from time to time and add lemon pepper and seasoned, garlic, or onion salt but why have all the other spices? Well, they are there “just in case” a recipe ever asks for them. But I can assure you the “just in case” scenarios RARELY if EVER happen in my cooking.

While writing this, I decided to inventory the vast array of spice tins in my cupboard and then do a little research on shelf life, only to discover I had a problem.  For example, any McCormick “tin” spice was at least fifteen years old, because that’s when they stopped packaging in tins. Whoops!  Knowing this should have been the perfect motivation to clean out the cupboard, but no!  Something just feels right about keeping all those useless spices handy.

Besides, spices don’t spoil only lose strength and flavor (possibly an advantage for me if I add them to my meals).  Their shelf life can be extended by storing in airtight containers in cool, dark places, but then, who doesn’t keep their spices right next to the stove or oven where it gets warm or even hot while cooking and baking?  It would seem this is not the better part of wisdom, even though it is more convenient.

I found that shelf life for most spices is one to four years depending on whether they are stored whole or ground.  So looking at my spices I thought, “What’s another ten to fourteen years as long as they don’t spoil?”

Though the majority of my spices might be old, I assure you my salt and pepper shakers are fresh and always full, readily available right ON the hot stove!  I never worry about their flavor or potency.  They are always just PERFECT, never too strong and never too bland.

Before moving on, for you spice lovers, kudos to you for trying new things, spicing up your dinner table, and expanding your horizons giving your taste palate lots of exciting sensations.  As for me and my house, we will stick to passing the salt and pepper (and catsup).

Well, you may be wondering what prompted me to write this much about foods and seasonings.  It almost sounds like someone is complaining about my lack of ingenuity in cooking and I am trying to defend myself. (no comments from anyone who eats my food please) But really, the reason I write about seasoning is because God has something to say about it.  Go figure!

People often say we should be sure to season our speech with grace.  I hear it more now that I am doing more teaching and preaching.  I figure they are trying to tell me in a “nice sort of way” that I don’t always sprinkle what I have to say with grace.  I do listen to what people say, and this phrase “season our speech with grace” kept running through my brain as I would study the Word and prepare for bible studies or messages.

One day as I was working, rewording my teaching to make sure I added lots of grace, lots of seasoning, I heard Holy Spirit say, “Why don’t you look that up in My Word”.  My response was “What?  Look it up?” He said “Yes, look it up and see what I say about seasoning”.

So I looked it up and was surprised at what I found!  Turns out I been misquoting Scripture, and so has  everyone else who says we must season our speech with grace! Truth is we are NOT to season our speech with grace – We are ALWAYS to speak with grace.

Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

We don’t “add” grace as a seasoning like salt, pepper, or ketchup (or paprika, oregano, chili pepper, or basil) but grace is the main dish!  In its original language, it actually means our conversation should always be “in” grace not just “with” grace. This is the wonderful, beautiful reality of living in Christ.  Everything we say is in the grace of God! For this to happen we must let His Word dwell in us and fill our hearts with grace.

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

When grace is in our hearts, grace comes out our lips, because we speak out of the heart whether we know it or not.  Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

And so, as Christians we speak what is good because we want to impart Christ to others, we want to impart grace, not just season our speech with grace. Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

Once we establish grace is the main dish, we move on to seasoning our grace-filled words with salt.  Now, all seasonings are meant to bring out the flavor in food, not to hide it, and even salt enhances the natural flavoring of food, while also being used as a preservative. So when it comes to our grace-filled speech, salt is the zesty, lively, fresh, spiritual wisdom we add to it!  Just as salt brings out the flavor in food and preserves it, spiritual wisdom makes our speech come alive, invigorating and reviving our words of grace!

Scripture tells us then, that we always speak in grace, seasoned with salt SO THAT we know how to answer people.  Salt is important in all food preparation.  Adding too much hides the flavor of the food or completely ruins a meal, and adding too little salt might discourage people from trying that particular meal again because of its tastelessness. But adding just the right amount leaves people satisfied, full, and pleased with their eating experience.

It is the same with our speech.  We need to season our grace-filled speech with salt, spiritual wisdom, adding just the right about, at the right time, with the right words. We serve up grace at every meal, every conversation, and we season it accordingly, knowing how to answer people with not too much and not too little salt.

We rely on Holy Spirit for our main dish AND our seasoning, our grace and our salt.  He knows when and how much truth and wisdom to share with each person we converse with each day.

So….whether you are risky or safe, extravagant or thrifty,  exciting or boring in your seasoning preferences, don’t forget to use salt to season your grace filled speech, and then enjoy seeing appetites satisfied, as we just give people Jesus!!!!!

 

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Let’s Get Humble! Try It! We Are Guaranteed to Like It!

There is a story of a man imprisoned for twenty years for a crime he denied committing.  He had gone before the parole board several times over those years and was told when he admitted his guilt he would be considered for release.  However he couldn’t and wouldn’t admit to doing something he didn’t do so had resorted to silence and simply glaring at the board members each hearing.  At his last hearing he listened to the chairperson of the parole board boast of his exemplary behavior in prison and his positive influence on the other inmates giving the impression perhaps this time he would be paroled.  But alas, he was rejected!

His new lawyer was frustrated knowing he had done all the “right stuff” but still no release so decided to fight the decision of the parole board and get another hearing scheduled as soon as possible to get an explanation.  As they waited for the new hearing, the lawyer and prisoner visited several times.  This man looked like he had a chip on his shoulder all the time and maintained a hateful “glare” meant to intimidate.  While prepping him to meet once again with the parole board, his lawyer challenged him to lose the glare.  She argued it wasn’t becoming of a man who wanted his freedom to stare angrily at the people possessing the power to grant it nor was it near as intimidating as he thought. 

When the day of the hearing arrived the man showed up with the same glare, looking angry, defensive and yes, just a bit intimidating!  He listened tensely as the chairperson of the parole board said there was no new evidence to change the original verdict, thus by law he was still guilty.  And though he was a model prisoner they were still unsure what would happen on the outside. Not a good start to the hearing!

When it came time for him to speak,  he took the opportunity and began to loudly accuse the parole board of being unfair in not granting his release simply because he wouldn’t admit to the crime, and going on to defend his negative attitude by explaining the difficulties of being wrongly imprisoned.  You can imagine the despair of his lawyer as this man did “everything” she advised him “not” to do.  She was able to nudge and make eye contact with him in the middle of his tirade which caused him to suddenly stop and actually “look” at the people on the parole board.  Immediately his countenance changed and he began to share with them his struggle with hatred and anger, followed by asking the board members to forgive him for treating them as the targets of his resentment and hatred.  He realized he had directed his anger towards them instead of the person who falsely accused him and because he felt helpless to do anything about his plight he allowed his anger to fester, taking it out on whoever he could blame for his predicament.  He also now knew his vain attempts at punishing the parole board only hurt himself by elevating his own anger, resentment, and hatred. 

When he was finished speaking it only took a few moments for the parole board to discuss his case and grant him release.  By taking responsibility for his attitude and behavior during incarceration he was FREE!  This man learned that though he had been wronged by others there was no benefit in hurting others in return, living in denial, or putting up a protective shield. His lawyer said there was only one reasonable explanation for his release; the change in his attitude!  He had finally shown “humility” by losing the glare, apologizing for his misdirected hatred, and humbling himself in their presence.  His humility brought freedom inwardly and out! 

After hearing this story I thought of how lacking in humility I am at times, and how we need to grab hold of such a precious character trait as being humble!  I was driven to the Word of God and what He has to say about humility discovering it will do amazing things for us.  Humility is a very simple biblical truth – It is a good thing!  It brings freedom!  It opens the door for honor!  It enables us to look in the mirror and see “our” faults!  It builds confidence in God, not in us.  It causes us to stop trying to prove and defend ourselves.  It helps us see ourselves accurately! It attracts God’s grace!  Humility carries with it an unassuming nature not a spirit of entitlement.  There is modesty and meekness surrounding a humble person where arrogance is felt a long way off. We are to seek humility, put on humility, be clothed with humility, correct people with humility, show our humility, and be alert to false humility.

Zephaniah 2:3 “Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger.”  Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;”  2 Timothy 2:25in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,”  Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”

Without humility we will not take responsibility for our own shortcomings and mistakes.  Let’s face it – we all have issues!  But when we ignore our own and are hurt by the mistakes of others we can get in a rut of thinking everyone “has it out” for us.  We make ourselves victims, become guarded, closely watching and waiting for others to “mess up” so we can say, “See, I was right. You DID have it out for me.” 

People hurt and wound others because they are hurt and wounded.   Hurt people continue to feel hurt by others by allowing feelings of anger, pain, betrayal, and resentment take up residence in them.   Most often, like the man in the story, people take no responsibility for their situation, believing they are completely innocent, never hurtful, never making mistakes.  Of course they would never “say” this is how they feel but their words and behavior show they think it is everyone else’s fault.  The result is we look for scapegoats to carry our hurt, blaming others and then separate ourselves from those people who have the power to free us by telling us the truth and leading us into freedom.  This man was not only physically imprisoned but he had built a prison of pride, arrogance and hatred around himself, thinking he saw “clearly” and everyone else was “blind” to the truth which only kept him further bound.   Without humility we build walls and cannot even begin to hear reason! 

The bottom line is most people want honor and respect just as this man did as he sat all those years in prison waiting for someone to “hear” and “believe” in him.  The Bible tells us that before honor and respect, humility must enter our lives and rule our conduct! Look how closely humility and honor are related in Proverbs. Proverbs 15:33 “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.”  Proverbs 18:12 “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility.”  Proverbs 22:4By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.”

The most important truth here is humility before God brings honor before God!   His pleasure is what we seek in this life!  God looks for humble hearts and when we are “right” in God’s eyes, everything is right in the world!  It is an extra blessing when honor comes from men, as was the case in this story.  But knowing humility and fear of God brings honor is simply an amazing truth! 

The Word also gives a stern warning about “not” walking in humility. God will resist us!  1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’.”  Is this not a severe enough warning?  The thought of God opposing us is not a pleasant thing!  This verse speaks specifically of younger people but I’m sure most of you reading this are younger than someone else so it speaks to all of us!  Would you like to be a person who refuses to submit yourself to an elder because you are “right” and they are “wrong”?  That is not a risk I am willing to take. I am already an “older” woman yet wisdom says I should submit to my elders, even if I am not always in agreement with them. By doing so, I have discovered an unimaginable grace!   Let’s not fool ourselves by believing we can live as we like, argue with our elders, share our opinions by attacking theirs, and still experience the grace of God. The Word tells us otherwise! At the same time, this verse does not insinuate elders are “right” one hundred per cent of the time since we know we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. But as we clothe ourselves with humility we will do as He says, and experience His grace not His opposition!  

So…If today you find yourself walking with a chip on your shoulder or putting on the glare or hurting and manipulating people because you perceive they have hurt or betrayed you – stop and consider the cost!  Do you want God’s grace or His opposition?  Look in the mirror and remember that just as others are not perfect, you are not perfect.  Just as you have been hurt you have hurt others.  If you say you have “NEVER” done things like others have done to you, you are not clothed with humility! If you are controlling your life so as not to be hurt anymore, you are not clothed with humility!  If you do not submit yourself to others, you are not clothed with humility!  If you attack and accuse others of hurting you, you are not clothed with humility!

And there is good news!  We can change today!  We can seek and show humility today!  We can put on and stay clothed in humility today! We can seek God anew today!  We can be humble and let the grace of God flow freely through our lives today!  Why?  Because as my husband has been known to say, “It’s a New Day!”  People of God!  “It’s a New Day!  Let’s Get Humble!”

Bonus:  Go to www.mmmarxhausen.mypodcast.com and listen to some fantastic new day messages! 

 

A Goodwill Story of Shoes, God’s Guidance, and Goodness!

There are times in life when our own desires tempt us to do wrong.  If we allow these desires to reign in our minds it leads to sin. James 1:14-15 “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”  I did something one day I would rather keep confidential between a few friends, God, and myself but He says otherwise.  When I told God I didn’t want to share my sin with the world He said, “Pride comes before the fall.  Let your pride fall so you don’t.”  So here goes! My prayer is that this will encourage and free others to live for righteousness rather than remaining slaves to sin and its effects.    

I dislike shopping (a lot) but do like good deals so Tuesdays at Goodwill is the place to shop because it is “Tag” day when all items with that week’s designated color tag are $1.49.  My personal rule is to look only at things with that Tuesday’s tag color to avoid the temptation to purchase items at regular price. But I wanted to get my granddaughter snow pants and boots so went to Goodwill on a Thursday which is 50% off day for infant and toddler items.  Children’s clothes are near the shoes so I looked over the racks and saw a pair I liked with a blue tag which happened to be the following Tuesday’s sale color so I planned to return and get them, part of the joy of exercising self-control.  The next Tuesday I went and that pair was gone but I found similar ones with more wear and tear but no tag. Goodwill never puts that Tuesday’s color tag on an untagged item therefore I knew I would need to pay full price for less than perfect shoes.  This is where I let my desire override righteousness by taking a blue tag from another pair of shoes and putting it on the untagged shoes. Stupid and sinful!   Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”

Thankfully Holy Spirit was right there with me to say “NO, JULIE”!  It was not audible but it might as well have been. Of course I regretted even taking the first step into sin as I immediately fell to my knees as I replaced the shoes and repented of my sin.  I was shocked at my own willingness to knowingly sin but so thankful to Holy Spirit for guiding me.  Even though no one else knew what had just happened except God and me, l felt humiliated and humbled at the same time.

I couldn’t just “let it go” so continued talking with God about my actions as I meandered through the store picking out clothes to try on still feeling like a loser in the process. Eventually I had a cart full of clothes to try on so went to the dressing rooms which are always full on Tag Tuesday but this day there were four available, one of them being the big one reserved for people with disabilities though it is not “marked” as such. Now ordinarily, choosing a dressing room is a no-brainer.  Take the first one.  But there I stood at the wall of dressing rooms sensing God was telling me to go into the large one but I hesitated and argued with Him, fearful of messing up again. I must have looked ridiculous standing there talking to myself with a full cart looking at four open dressing rooms. Eventually I relented to His “prompting” and started unloading the cartload of clothes into the big room.  When I got into the room, there sitting on the bench were “the” shoes I had come to purchase.  Stunned, I wondered if He now was giving me the shoes I wanted even after I had nearly stole shoes at a lower price, and if He was, I wasn’t sure I wanted them anymore. 

On a personal note:  When I sin, confess, and repent, I generally like to beat myself up for awhile before receiving forgiveness.  I know this is pointless and even counsel others not to fall into this trap but still find myself in that place at times.  The truth is we never “deserve” forgiveness but Jesus paid a great price so we could be forgiven and when we choose not to receive His forgiveness, refuse to forgive ourselves, or play the martyr for the sake of appeasing our own guilt, we make light of His sacrifice. 1 Peter 2:24 “…(Jesus) bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness…”

So right there in a dressing room at Goodwill, God was teaching me (again) to promptly receive His forgiveness, stop pouting and feeling sorry for myself, and stop feeling guilty and beating myself up over my mistake.  So there I was, alone with God, needing to make another choice on the spot. The first time it was about sin, this time it was about forgiveness.  Would I accept His forgiveness or reject it?  I did what I knew was right in my heart. I received from Him, instantly aware this experience was NOT about shoes but about forgiveness, grace, mercy, and His love. Romans 6:17-18 “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” In less than an hour God had guided me from sin, heard my confession and repentance, forgiven me, poured His grace on me, and then rewarded me with a gift. What a mighty God we serve!

But it didn’t end there!  I tried the shoes on – perfect fit!  I looked for the blue tag only to discover it was gone except for an inconspicuous patch remaining AND there was a green tag stuck to the bench revealing someone had switched tags.   Now what? I wasn’t sure what to feel. I know God doesn’t play tricks on His people so just stood there pondering what God was going to show me next. Remember the “rule” at Goodwill?  If an item needs a tag, it will not be given the color of that “tag” day.  Remember my “rule”?  I will not pay anything more than $1.49 on Tuesdays.  I “knew” I would not get these shoes for $1.49 therefore concluded this was simply the consequence for my sinful desire and dishonesty.

But I also had to consider the possibility God was telling me to go against “my rule” and pay full price as a consequence for my actions.  So I came up with a better idea – I wouldn’t even try to purchase them thus could avoid this consequence.  How sad is that?  With this decision made, I left the shoes on the bench, tried on clothes, but while returning unwanted items to the rack outside my dressing room, I clearly heard Holy Spirit say “Take the shoes with you”, to which I clearly responded, “No!”

Now you would think after what God had been saying my reply would have promptly been “Yes, Lord!”  But no, there I stood again looking ridiculous, arguing with God. How could a simple trip to purchase a pair of shoes for $1.49 at Goodwill get so complicated?  Welcome to my world! I was now frustrated that a “quick” trip to Goodwill was taking over an hour and I was being dealt with by God the entire time. And since I lose every argument with God (good thing), I did put the shoes in my cart, all the while asking Him “What’s the use?  I am not going to get them for $1.49! And God, I’m not paying full price!”  In the midst of complaining to God I was also saying to myself, “Sure! You are willing to steal but not pay full price.  What a loser!”  Does anyone else have these kinds of conversations with yourself or God or am I alone in this?

When I got to the check-out there was a long line, obviously a set up giving me more time to wrestle with God! I mean seriously!  What are the chances there was “no” line at the dressing rooms and a huge line at the check-out? On Tuesdays there are lines at both places.  God was definitely dealing with me!  Looking at the three cashiers, I wondered which one I could convince to give me the shoes for $1.49 with just a speck of blue tag showing.  I quickly determined none of them.   I had a moment of panic when I pictured another scenario.  Maybe God was teaching me a tough lesson in honesty and was going to make me confess how I switched tags on the other pair of shoes.  I could already see the newspaper headline “Pastor’s wife arrested for thinking about stealing.  Confessed to a theft she never did!

I wanted to get away, leave my cart and escape when a fourth cashier walked up, looked in my direction and said she would take the next person in line. I recognized her from the week before so naturally I thought this was my “in” as I got in her line, still wondering how God was going to work this out.  When it was my turn I put the clothes on the counter and handed the now “infamous” shoes to her while telling an illustrious story of how I was in the store the week before, found these shoes with a blue tag, waited until today to buy them knowing it was blue tag Tuesday, couldn’t find them, went in the dressing room, found them, then realized someone removed the blue tag, but if she would look closely she could see the speck of blue to prove they had been a blue tag item. 

She listened then smiled politely and said, “You know I can’t give them to you for $1.49.” Yep, I knew that!  But rather than hanging on to my pride and accepting her response I re-painted the situation hoping to convince her I should get the shoes for $1.49 to which she simply reiterated their policy and asked if I would like a new price. I declined and thanked her for listening to my sob story as she put the shoes under the counter for restocking and proceeded to check me out.  I was thinking, “What was the point of this God?” when the cashier suddenly reached back under the counter, brought out the shoes and said, “Do you REALLY want these?” Of course I was shocked AGAIN and replied, “Yes ma’am, I really want them.”  She said, “Do you promise not to return these shoes to the store?”  I said, “I will not but if I don’t want them at some point I will donate them not return them.”  She then said, “If you promise not to bring them back I will sell them to you for $1.49.”  

I walked away from Goodwill that day with new shoes and a smile on my face. This smile was not because I got a great deal but because I had just experienced Immanuel – God with us!  God had taken time to lead me from sin and teach me a huge spiritual lesson through an everyday occurrence.  I could have left Goodwill an hour earlier after putting the shoes back when He spoke “No, Julie”.  But I would have spent the rest of the day beating myself up for stupidity and missed God’s greater plan.  It was still a painful plan as I was faced with my own obstinacy but His grace was evident the entire journey (it was only about an hour but it sure seemed like a very long trek) all the while experiencing the goodness of God firsthand feeling humbled, thankful, amazed, and completely forgiven.

“Good” “will” never be the same for me on Tuesdays or any other day!  Every time I go to Goodwill I “will” remember how “good” He is to me.  And He “will” be “good “to you as well!  Enjoy Him!  Delight yourself in Him!  He “will” give you the desires of your heart!  Our own desires lead to sin – but when our desires are the fruit of delighting in Him, He will give us our desires!  Amen! 

 

Only Believe! Really?

Tragedy, pain, disease, turmoil, and the like all have the potential to steal true life from God’s people.  They not only rob us from living a life of divine health but steal the belief in our destiny, callings, and the gifts God so freely gives to us.  I experienced this theft after a serious car accident resulting in five years of intense pain and disillusionment.  My neck and back injuries were serious enough the doctors predicted only a worsening of pain as I aged.  But they were not serious enough to risk a surgery fusing discs together which would have only resulted in further immobility.  In other words, they could do nothing to make my quality of life better, and there was great potential it would get worse. In fact, doctors told me I could eventually end up in a wheelchair because of continued disc compression along with spurs, arthritis, and other problems.  They prescribed pain killers and anti-depressants in order to cope with the debilitation progression. 

My life became a cycle of visits to doctors, neurologists, psychologists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and hospitals/clinics for further testing.  Along with the medical issues we were in a legal battle to have our medical bills paid.  During the lawyer mediations every aspect of our lives was laid bare and questioned as attorneys tried to prove I had pre-existing conditions therefore the insurance company for the lady who ran a red light and hit us was not liable.  Her lawyers questioned our marriage, family, ministry, and activities in an attempt to dig up something which would release them from the responsibility of paying for our medical bills. 

I had become weary of the cycle of medical visits and the stress involved in the legal battle, along with mounting medical bills.  Still, the thing that haunted me most was my inability to live!  I wanted desperately to thrive with family and friends, to dance before the Lord, to play guitar, and to laugh again.  Yet everything I did left me exhausted and in more pain. Hopelessness was definitely a word to describe those days. However, my family and friends continued to urge me on to “Only Believe”. There were two “moments of decision” during this process when I knew I needed to choose God or choose to live according to the dictates of man.  One moment was when the doctors said there was no hope of improvement and the other was when we met with lawyers to “settle” or go to “trial”. 

I remember walking out of the neurologist’s office the day he informed us that I would only get worse as my body deteriorated and the best he could do is help “control” the pain and I would need to learn to cope. That very day I determined to choose life though the evidence before me was shouting loudly, DEATH!  The Word says in Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”  

My moment of decision led me to “only believe” God.  I decided to limit my “doctor” visits to the physical therapist who was helping me restore strength and flexibility to my body, and a chiropractor who was aligning my spine back to its original position.  I determined to stop seeing all other doctors and having tests run because they only gave news I was already well aware of since I was living it. As you can imagine, things only got worse from that day onward though there would be better days ahead.  It was a great decision in that moment and beyond! But it did not come easily!

My second moment of decision came when we sat in a room with our lawyer who presented us with the settlement offer from the lawyers representing the insurance company for the lady who hit us by running a red light at 55 mph.  The amount was enough to pay our medical bills after lawyer fees but our lawyer informed us that because they were willing to pay our bills, it was likely they realized we had a good case and we would win a much greater award if it went to trial.  The decision was ours but our lawyer felt it would be to our benefit to go to trial if we were willing to endure further investigation, scrutiny, and distortion of truth by the other lawyers as they tried to discredit us in order to defend the insurance company.

My husband and I asked to be left alone for a short time.  We prayed and reminded ourselves the whole point in getting a lawyer was simply to have our medical bills paid not to “get rich”. When our lawyer came back into the room we told him we wanted to settle and put closure to the whole case.  I immediately broke down.  The anxiety and fear of a two year legal battle was gone in one moment with one decision.  We thank God for allowing us the wisdom to let go earlier than later.

Are you facing something and it seems impossible for you to “keep the faith” or “stand” on His Word?  I have encouraging news for you – What seems impossible to us is more than possible for God!  His promise to never leave us or forsake us resonates with truth for all His children.  God brought many Scriptures to light and made them come alive in my life and He will in yours as well. 

Once I crossed my moments of decision there was no turning back.  I was weary, riddled with pain, fear knocked at my heart and mind daily, but I knew I had to keep looking forward and upward.  God made one section of Scripture come alive to me during those dark days which brought comfort, hope, direction, and conviction.  It empowered me to stand in faith, rest in His power and provision, and wait on Him.  The entire chapter is powerful but I gravitated to a few verses as they spoke life to my body and soul. I was encouraged as I declared these verses over my body several times daily until I “believed” in spite of my circumstances. 

Proverbs 3:7-8 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.  It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.” v. 21-24 “My son, let them not depart from your eyes – Keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck.  Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble.  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

Holy Spirit would daily remind me His Word was living and powerful. (Hebrews 4:12)  He would remind me His Word comes from His mouth and does not return to Him empty but accomplishes whatever He pleases and prospers in everything He sends it out for.  (Isaiah 55:11)  When I read these verses in Proverbs I remembered His Word must accomplish what He said, and the insomnia and pain robbing me of “life” would need to bow its knees, so to speak, to His powerful Word. 

When I purposed to put God’s Word into my mind as medicine things began to change very slowly.  When I “changed my mind” from “man thoughts” to “God thoughts” I began to experience hope.  Prayer, worship, and intercession became the norm, pressing in with God at all times not just when I needed help.  There were still times I went to my room, laid on my bed and cried out to God to please take me home with Him.  I was miserable and overwhelmed at times with the condition of my body along with the emotional strain of not being able to care for my children, be the helpmeet to my husband, or worship God and minister unto Him and others.  After those times of crying out to God, He placed in me a passion for life and healing, hope and steadfastness, desire and fulfillment that has not left me to this day. 

There were five things I mentioned I received through decreeing these Scriptures; comfort, hope, direction, conviction, and empowerment.  I was hopeful and comforted because I saw and believed there would be an end to my suffering and the pain in my body. There would come a day my flesh would be healthy and my bones would be strong. In Hebrew it actually means the nerves would be healed, and when it says “strength to bones” it means a moistening or refreshing of the bones.  My mind, will, and emotions (soul) would be full of life, and my neck would be healed by the grace of God.  “Life to the soul” again means a refreshing. There would be a day I would experience sweet sleep and I would be unafraid.   

When I did not experience breakthrough on any given day, I simply believed for it the next day and this continued while I grew to “only believe” it would happen in this lifetime.  The Spirit of God convinced me it was not His plan for me to live out my days on earth in pain and sleeplessness. 

These verses brought direction for me.  These verses instructed me to make sure I did not think too highly of myself, thinking I was wise.  I was charged to fear the Lord, turn from evil, and keep sound wisdom and discretion.  This was great news.  I knew what I had to do because God spelled it out for me in His Word.  I needed to humble myself before Him, regain an authentic fear of God, turn away from the evil including all that comes against God’s will (for me that included pain), and I needed to keep sound wisdom and discretion.  In order to keep them I needed to learn what those were.  Sound wisdom is the might and counsel of God. Discretion is also about the counsel of God and being prudent (having good sense).  I needed to hear His counsel and experience His might before I could keep it.  I learned I could live without being afraid.  What a gift the Lord provides in His Word! 

Just as these directives were great news and gave me great hope, they were also convicting because I realized how completely absorbed and focused I was on myself, and I even excused my behavior because I felt I was the victim.  I was convicted for my lack of fear of God.  I said things to and about Him that did not bring Him glory and honor.  It still causes me to cry when I realize how I hurt Him during those times. I thank Him for forgiveness.  I was not keeping sound wisdom and discretion by recognizing His great counsel and might.  Conviction is meant to bring a change of heart!  He definitely changed mine during those years!

Finally I said I was empowered through these passages to live a life of faith, with no turning back, and no turning to the left or right.  I saw an opportunity to choose life as I had never seen it before.  He empowered me to rest and wait on Him. 

I pray that whatever you find yourself going through, the more impossible it appears, the more possible it is for God.  God is faithful!  He did it for me – He will do it for you!  He will fulfill His Word!  Only Believe!  He loves you!!!!

 

Abound In Everything!

     When God challenges us to rise up and be the people He has created us to be, we know it will not be easy but are assured it is His plan and we are not alone in the challenge.  He is right there with us providing everything we need each step of the way, encouraging, disciplining, leading, rebuking, teaching, and loving us.  Paul speaks an inspired word to the Corinthians about abounding in everything and then exhorts them to abound in giving as well.

      2 Corinthians 8:6-8 says “So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us – see that you abound in this grace also.  I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.” 

     You might want to read the two previous blogs to this one which discuss keys to living in the grace gift of giving.  This Scripture reveals we are to abound in everything, a key to living in the grace of giving. They abounded in faith by believing what they heard and knew about Jesus and walking in His faith.  They also abounded in speech as they spoke the Word and walked out their faith.  They did not say one thing and do another. They abounded in knowledge yet did not allow it to puff them up or cause them to boast in their knowledge. They applied knowledge (wisdom) as evidenced in their proliferation of faith and speech.  They abounded in diligence, something we need more in the Church today.  They were diligent to apply knowledge by faith, speech, and in action.  They were persistent and hard working to assure they were walking and talking in faith.  They were sober and alert, not giving into trials, circumstances, or anything trying to dissuade them from faith in Jesus.  They abounded in love.  Interesting to note here, in the original language this love is “agape” the kind of love between God and us.  Paul is saying here the same love they have for God, they had for their leaders.  They knew how to cause this remarkable love to rise from their souls, letting it live in the souls of their leaders. 

     Then Paul tells them to abound in the grace of giving as well.  He would only say this if it was an area in which they were not excelling.  Giving is usually the first thing we stop doing when life gets hectic or circumstances change.  Even the Corinthians who abounded in everything were found to be lacking in the area of giving.  We would have to admit many of us in the Church are like these Corinthians.  We may excel in faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, and walk in extraordinary love, yet we withhold giving because we do not have enough, perhaps our job situation has changed, we cannot pay our bills, or whatever other pleas we must make.  But God would have us abound in giving as well.

     Paul says this is not a commandment but rather a testing.  God is testing their sincerity of love by speaking of the diligence of the Macedonians, who gave liberally even while suffering affliction and living in poverty. It is the “grace of giving” not the command of giving.  This provided the Corinthians  an opportunity to rise up to the challenge and pass the test. We are given the same test of sincerity in love.  We know when God tests us it is for our good and  will benefit others as well.  We also know when God tests us He provides the tools we need to pass the test.  He has a sincere heart, is giving and generous, and He is filled with grace!  Therefore as we are in Jesus, we will tap into the grace He freely provides to be the giving people He calls us to be.   

          This grace in giving liberally can be witnessed again when Jesus talks to the disciples about the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44 “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury.  And many who were rich put in much.  Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.  So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”  This is a small lesson tucked in the Gospels of Mark and Luke and Jesus does not expound but simply makes His point rather assertively when He uses the word “assuredly”. To be “assured” is to be guaranteed.  This is a done deal.  Jesus is saying this widow put in MORE than all the others.  It is interesting because Jesus calls the disciples to Himself.  He does not address the widow or the rich people, nor does He suggest He is more pleased with one than the other.  He appears to be making more of an observation and then revealing a truth to His disciples.   It is obviously an important lesson for us to learn but do we understand what Jesus is saying?

     Most of us do not live in poverty.  We have shelter, clothing, food, and water. This widow most likely had these things but when it came to money, she lacked.  She obviously did not put in “more” monetarily than the rich men. I do not even think Jesus was saying she had put more in percentage wise. She only put in two mites, yet Jesus said she put in more than all those who had given to the treasury.  I believe He was talking about her heart, her hunger to hear the Word, her love for God, and her willingness to give all she had because she wanted to “give”. Jesus makes the point she gave even though she was in poverty and the rich people gave because they had extra. Just as with the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians where they gave liberally in the midst of poverty and affliction, this widow gave liberally in the midst of poverty.

     Jesus is exposing the true condition of the hearts of the givers in this story by telling the disciples what He had witnessed.  This lesson appears to be more about the motives of the rich who gave from their excess, not because of their love for God or people.  By only giving out of their excess, the insincerity of heart was exposed and when affliction would come, as it does to all, they would not give liberally. The woman’s motives were pure and natural because she wanted to be in the temple and giving her last two mites. She gave up her entire livelihood, trusting God for provision. It is important we give liberally all the time, in good times and in bad times, which reveals the true motives and sincerity of heart. This goes back to what we already discovered about giving being a test and not a command. God is testing our hearts and revealing our motives as we give.

     This parallels other lessons in the Word of God.  Take Cain and Abel for example. It was not the amount of Cain’s sacrifice making it unacceptable, it was his motives. He wanted to do it his way, not God’s way.  Think about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac.  His motives and obedience were in perfect alignment with the Lord as he was completely willing to walk in faith, trust God, and give up his son.  He was tested in giving and passed.  Another example would be the rich young man who came to Jesus believing he had followed all the commandments and was wondering what more he had to do to be saved.  Jesus told him he had to sell all and follow Him.  The young man hung his head, walked away and Jesus let him go.  Jesus knew the motives of his heart were not pure and unfortunately he did not abound in the grace of giving.

     In these scenarios, God was concerned about the condition of the hearts of people.  It is important for us to pay attention to God because these revelations help us identify and understand what is happening in our hearts and minds.  The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?  I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”  God is  looking at our hearts, intentions, desires, and willingness to abound in all things. Holy Spirit searches our hearts to find if there is anything unclean.  He knows our hearts better than we do, and reveals things to us in very real and painful ways.  Just like the rich men and the widow, today Jesus allows our true colors to be uncovered in “giving” situations. Will we give liberally with joy in poverty or abundance?  Do we believe for provision and abundant life from God? My prayer is that you and I will abound in everything: in faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, love, AND in the grace of giving.

 

Getting Free by FIRST Giving Ourselves to God!

    Giving of our time and finances is a grace gift from our heavenly Father.  (Read blog “Struggles With Giving and Getting”).  Money is an issue in every person’s life and learning how to manage it rather than it managing us, learning how to make it, learning how to get and/or stay out of debt are all major topics in our world today.  Financial advisors are sought out to aid us in managing our money and planning for the future.  Though I am not opposed to any of this, I do believe seeking the Word of God for wisdom in this area will take us a lot further in getting free from concern about money and the future.  Our ability to “give” as a means of receiving freedom will probably not be addressed by advisors operating in world standards except as a tax benefit.  Giving is a God given gift of grace to all His children and we can learn some important “keys” to aid us in getting free from worry concerning finances and in being great stewards of God’s gifts. 

     2 Corinthians 8:1-4 reads “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering of the saints.”

     This section of Scripture is amazing in that “they” (the Macedonians) implored the “us” (the apostles) with urgency to receive the gifts they were offering.  The Macedonians were living in poverty at this time because Christians were being persecuted with their possessions seized.  Yet they were giving to the apostles.  To implore means to beg or plead.  They were begging the apostles to take what they were giving even though they themselves were experiencing lack and were being afflicted.  Not only were they pleading but they were doing it with urgency, which means they were requiring immediate action.  Has that every happened in your family, church, or workplace?  The children, congregation, or employees urge and plead with the parents, pastors, or bosses to receive gifts and fellowship of ministry? 

     This is a remarkable revelation containing a key to getting free from worry in finances and having more than we need: “Give according to our ability and beyond our ability”.   Paul used the Macedonians as an example to move the Corinthians to give liberally no matter what their circumstances. They gave as liberally in affliction as if they were rich.  The giving far exceeded what they were naturally able to give.  We cannot understand this in the natural, but in the Spirit of the Lord it is natural to give above and beyond. He gives the ability to give beyond our ability, if only we give Him our ability.  When we choose to keep it ourselves, He will not force or grant us the privilege and excitement of giving beyond our ability.   

     The apostles needed to be convinced by the people to receive what they were offering.  I discussed this in the aforementioned blog as well concerning our personal reservations about receiving “too” much from the congregation.  Pastors and church leaders today should cry out for God’s wisdom in this area because of the financial abuse witnessed in the Church.  We should desire to be above reproach, suspicion, or accusation.  Indiscretion of funds, injustice, greed, or any number of other things has been a snare for many leaders in and out of the Church.  But we must also ask ourselves why did the Macedonians implore the leaders?  What was occurring in their lives which caused them to “WANT” to give to their leaders?  We might think it was because Paul and others were “great” leaders, wonderful preachers, and good people so perhaps they were “moved” to give to them.  We often times determine what we are willing to give based on what we get, or on the apparent success of the person or organization, or on our perception or agreement with their leadership, ministry, or cause.  Maybe we just feel sorry for them and want to “help them out”.  The truth is the Macedonians did not “rate” their leaders or determine whether to give liberally for any of these reasons, nor should we. 

     The motivation for them to implore their leaders was being “in tune with the heart of God.”  They took joy in knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior, trusting He would care for them in the midst of deep affliction.  They walked in the grace of giving because they FIRST gave themselves to the Lord, the second key to gaining freedom from worries concerning money. 2 Corinthians 8:5  says “And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” We need a fresh revelation on giving ourselves completely to the Lord in order to release all control, worry, and fear concerning finances. 

     We present ourselves to God by giving all we have and are, sanctifying ourselves for Him alone to bring Him honor and glory.  We are then willing to allow Him to work His will in us.  By surrendering our entire beings to Him we are giving Him what is already His own. When I was growing up in the Lutheran church and the offering was received, we sang “We give Thee but Thine own, whate’er the gift may be, all that we have is Thine alone, a trust oh Lord from Thee.”  What a beautiful proclamation of giving to God what He already owns, declaring whatever we have is His because He chooses to trust us with His possessions. 

     Once giving themselves to the Lord, THEN they gave themselves TO the apostles BY the will of God. When we take the next step, giving liberally of our finances, we are carrying out His will, giving His money as He desires it to be given.  We can certainly give or bestow gifts for charitable uses without first giving ourselves to the Lord.  However, God does not operate in that realm.  All we have belongs to God and above all else His desire is for us to be in relationship with Him.  Then we will overflow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  When we do things in the right order by first giving ourselves to God, we comprehend all we have is a gift from Him, our whole desire is to use His gifts to bring Him honor and glory, and whether in poverty or richness we will give liberally as He gave.  Giving ourselves completely to Him allows us to see His revealed will and our desire is to obey.  We do not look for excuses, try to get out of giving, find ways of using money elsewhere.  We simply follow His directives. 

     Basically, when we take our eyes of the money and our giving and put them on our Lord Jesus Christ, giving every part of ourselves to Him, life changes.  We will get free from worry about finances and will stop wondering who we should give money to or how much. We will live in the grace of our Lord Jesus and experience this grace in the area of giving.  As we are in Him, He will reveal His will, and like the Macedonians, we will give liberally no matter the circumstances, and we will implore our leaders to receive our gifts and the fellowship of our ministry.  Is this something that happens overnight?  Probably not!  But the beautiful benefits which will come by devoting ourselves to the Lord, surrendering every part of our being to Him can never be measured by money or time.  However long it takes, as long as we dedicate ourselves to Him and lavish our love upon Him, everything else diminishes in comparison to time spent in the presence of our loving Savior. 

     If you still wonder if it is truly possible to give liberally at all times, whether in deep affliction or whether in times of prosperity let me share the ability of our God with you one more time.  2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you, that you, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may have an ABUNDANCE for EVERY good work.” And the prayer I leave with you comes from verses 10-11 “Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in EVERYTHING for ALL liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2010 in Grace, Love, Uncategorized

 
 
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