Life of Giving

This Tuesday past is a new holiday of sorts. “‘ Giving Tuesday’, a global day dedicated to giving back.” The common purpose? “To celebrate generosity and to give.” (The nationaldaycalendar.com)

With the past weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals compelling us to consumerism, Giving Tuesday is a welcome, heart-warming holiday.

While it’s great to dedicate thoughts and actions toward celebrating generosity and giving to others, as Christians, should that giving attitude not be a way of life?

How convicting to read Psalm 107:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever.” (NIV)

Psalms 118:1 and 136:1 echo those instructions and praise.

Giving to other people and causes reflects Christ’s attitude and love.

Giving God our sincere words of praise with a heart full of gratitude also celebrates generosity.

His generosity.

While reflecting on His generosity this past Tuesday, or even most Sundays in church, I am reminded I am called to live a life of thankfulness and a life of giving.

What does that even look like?

Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)

To act justly is to care for those with less. ( I John 3:17 NIV)

To love mercy is to have the heart of Christ (Ephesians 3:17 NLT)

To walk humbly with God requires us to submit to him. (James 4:7 NIV)

When we live putting Micah 6:8 into practice we are living a life of giving.

Giving of ourselves.

Giving gratitude to God.

And, generously paying our personal blessing forward.

Like Christ, whose life exemplified living a life of giving.

He Is With HIM, Part IX

“He is not here, He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” Matthew 28:6 (NIV)

After a quiet yet distressing Sabbath, Mary and Mary rushed to Jesus’ tomb with heavy hearts.

Their beloved teacher, the One who knew them, the One who loved them, had died.

It was still too much to comprehend.

The day literally began with a bang. On the way to the tomb, there was a violent earthquake. The shaking of the ground could not begin to compare with the quaking of their hearts. How to process the death of their dear Jesus?

At the tomb, what did the ladies find? The expected guard detail was all unconscious and the tomb was not sealed, as it should be. In fact, the stone had been rolled away.

Atop said stone sat yet another surprise: an angel, glowing white.

Heaping shock and surprise on their already fragile minds, Mary and Mary listened to his words, “He is not here, He has risen just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.”

Peering into the tomb, it appeared the angel knew something; Jesus was not there!

Too much had happened. It was too hard to know what to think! Shaken and fearful from recent events the ladies hurried to find the disciples.

As their feet fairly flew down the path, an indescribable, unmistakable joy welled up inside each one. What if the angel were right?  Jesus had said He would rise up again. No one gave it much thought, after all it had never happened before.

The tomb was empty.

The tomb was empty.

The angel reported Jesus had risen.  If Jesus walked out of that tomb, that changes everything!

Though it may have taken ages to process they would find the truth.  Jesus really was the Son of God. Why did He die? He chose to follow the Father’s bidding and offer Himself as a perfect sacrifice to obliterate the deadly eternal consequences of sin on humanity. Through His death and resurrection He created a bridge between God and us.

That empty tomb changed how Mary and Mary mourned Jesus’ death.

The empty tomb changed how the disciples counted their time with Jesus.

The empty tomb should change how we do life.

Jesus truly is God’s son. He was perfect, without sin. He willingly obeyed His Father when He was sent to bear the burden of humanity’s (yours and my) sin.

We no longer need to shed innocent blood like a sacrificial lamb, (See Leviticus) to approach God. We only need to believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness in His name.

Yes, the empty tomb changed everything. It changed everything for those alive 2000 years ago and for every person who lived since.

How has it impacted you?

 

Prayer: Dear Father God, I pray that as I repeatedly hear Your love story of my salvation, I don’t allow familiarity to dull my senses.  Your love is the greatest love the world has ever known.  May I know that love personally and reciprocate it to You. May Your love shine through me and my interactions with others. Amen.

Lessons From Tipper, Part IX

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one single sinner who repents than over 99 righteous who did not need to repent.” Luke 15:7 (NIV)

 

A single, mournful bark.

A low, drawn-out whine.

A momentary glance into the living room confirmed my suspicions. A black canine behind was slowly inching toward the sofa. Her face was already hidden from view under the furniture as her gaze was locked on her target. Another pitiful whine escaped from the confines of the couch.

I quickly counted the tennis balls scattered around the carpet: one, two, three. I smiled; she usually had four.

“Tipper’s like God,” mumbled our daughter as she half-disappeared under the sofa graciously retrieving the lost ball, “She always goes after the lost one.”

Smiling, I recalled the story in Luke 15. The illustration was of the Father leaving the 99 sheep safe in the fold to go searching for the single lost sheep.

My smile caught as I though about Tipper leaving her three beloved balls, safe in the middle of the floor while parking herself as close as possible to the lost ball. She refused to move and mournfully whined while her family bustled around her until someone extracted herself from her busyness to help the dog rescue her one wayward ball.

What about us? Do we leave the soul-saving to a single over-worked and under-paid pastor while we savor our personal busyness?

Sometimes a pastor might be like Tipper. He will get as close as he can to a hurting soul, but he might need us to reach out and pick up where he could not go.

If Jesus would leave the 99 to search for one, we need to leave our other 99 things to do so we might encourage and rescue others. If our “Father in heaven is not willing any of these should perish,” (Matthew 18:14) then we should not be either.

Reflections:

Do I have any idea how often I overlook a need, imagining someone else is already providing it?

How might I reduce my commitments so that I will truly see others when I look at people?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for the simple illustration You gave so we might understand how precious each of us is to You. And so that we see how important it is that we make certain to not overlook one in a world of millions.  Please open our eyes so that we may truly see what work You have for each of us to do each day, whether that be to encourage or to rescue.  Thank You for Your example of encouragement to and rescue of each one of us. Amen.

 

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, November 17, for the next post.

No “Justs”

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

 

Outside my door, a cacophony of voices arose from the first floor of the hotel atrium. Seven hundred women excitedly conversed, practiced speeches, pitched proposals, and met one another. Encouragement rang out amidst the conversations. This was a godly Writer’s conference.

Upstairs, clad in heels and a suit, I sank onto my hotel bed. In just a few minutes I would walk downstairs and have the chance of a lifetime: I would pitch my book to a publisher. My five-year-in-the-making, 85,000 word novel. My heart and soul poured out among the words and phrases. My long-term hopes and dreams hinged on the outcome of this weekend.

Before I descended those stairs, I needed to pray.

Closing my eyes, I opened my hands before me, giving God all.

Lord, You know the dream in my heart. But Lord, I want to serve and honor You. I only want to walk down the path You have prepared for me. If I’m on the wrong path, please guide my steps back to where I belong. If I am to continue, please guard my dream and show me how to accomplish it.

Thank You, that at the end of today, as well as at the end of my life, all the matters is that I did what You called me to do.”

Swallowing hard, I murmured the next words, “If I’m not called to write, if You are calling me to just serve You as a wife and a mother, I will be content. Thank you that no matter if I one day write batches of best-selling novels or never write another word, You could not love me more. I thank You that there is no hierarchy in service to You. Regardless the path You place me on, I am still Your dearly loved daughter, thank You!”

Brushing away a tear, I stood, peace flooding my being. I then confidently walked into an interview that would clearly define my writing dreams. I did not sell a book that day. I came home from that conference with something better: a sincere certainty that in God’s eyes, I can never be any more loved than I am today.

I don’t know what your hopes and dreams are. But one thing I pray you do know: no matter what you do or do not accomplish today, tomorrow, or this decade; God could not love you more than He does today. His love is unconditional. You do not need to earn your way into heaven; He’s already issued a personal, handwritten invitation.

You don’t need to ‘prove’ anything to Him.

You don’t need to demonstrate you are worthy of any credentials following your name.

He knew you before He created you. He knew your gifts, your hopes, and your dreams, because He gave them to you. He knew your weaknesses, which temptations would catch your eye, and how your heart would struggle. He knew it all.

He knows it all.

And, He still calls you His child.

There are no “justs” in our service to God. You are not ‘just’ a teacher, a construction worker, a student, or a trash collector. Whatever He has given you to do has great value to Him, because if you do it with all your heart, you are glorifying Him.

The knowledge that I served God today in even the little things warms my heart. But there’s even more- He rewards obedience. And the best reward ever is a closer relationship with Him.

Reflections:

Do I ever feel I’m “just”? Can I see my service to Him in the tasks He has given me for today? Read Romans 8:5

What dreams do I have that presently feel disconnected from my given tasks of today? Read Jeremiah 29:11

If I never achieve those dreams, do I realize that I could never be loved more than I am today? Read Romans 8:34-38

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for loving me so much, that You sent Your son to build that bridge that carries me back to You. I do not need to achieve any goal or prove any thing. I simply need to accept Your invitation. Thank You! Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by next Monday, September 21, for the next post.

Servant Leadership, Part IV

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“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:16-17

“Valentines Day is on a Saturday this year, how perfect,” the young newlywed smiled ruefully,” at least for all the couples out there.”  She envisioned what they would do to celebrate if her husband were home today. They could begin by enjoying a leisurely breakfast together.

But no, her knight-in-shining-armour left for work before dawn.  He was not scheduled to work.  He would not be paid overtime for his efforts.

No.

He was a design engineer.  Because of a customer rush request, he had asked his manufacturing crew to work extra to accomplish the job.

On Saturday.

On Valentine’s Day.

Never mind the plant was three hours away.  This young college graduate, “this young buck,” as the workers called him, was not asking his middle-aged blue-collar workers to do something he wouldn’t.

On Valentine’s Day, he left his bride of six months, and drove three hours to the factory were he’d donned denim and rolled up his sleeves.

Nothing was beneath him.  You would not hear him mutter, “It’s not my job.”  His actions and attitude won the respect of both his bride and those factory workers that day.

In John 13, Jesus, the disciples’ teacher and Lord, surprised ‘his own who were in the world,’ by taking on the role of a servant.

Simon had too much respect to allow the Lord to perform such a lowly task.  Only the lowest of servants would wash someone’s sandy, soiled, sweaty feet.  Higher-ranking servants would balk at such work.  And yet, here was their teacher, their Lord, about to perform the lowest of tasks.

Why?

To show them, that nothing is beneath him.

To show us, that nothing should be beneath us.

You need to serve others as Jesus has served you.

Just like that young engineer, Jesus was saying, “I’m in this business with you and I’ll do whatever it takes.”  For Jesus, the goal was for others to see God.  If that took washing other’s feet, break out that towel.

Reflections:

What task do I balk at performing, why? How could performing those tasks potentially draw others to God?

Read John 13:17.  How have you been blessed by serving others?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for such an example of servitude.  Please place a servant heart within me.  May the actions I do draw others to You. Amen

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, April 6, for the next post.