Monday, August 17, 2015

God Loved, so He Gave...

If I err, I want to err on the side of generosity – in finances, in time, in thought and in works. I fall short often. Yesterday morning at church as my pastor was preparing to receive tithes and gifts, I heard the first part as he quoted John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, he gave...” but then my mind began to reflect on some personal thoughts.

My Boy is visiting a friend’s cabin on Vancouver Island. The journey there includes a ferry ride which costs just under $17 for each way. We gave him $60 with express instructions to not spend the extra money unless it was absolutely necessary. While he was there, he texted me to tell me he had bought something for me. Instead of feeling grateful, I was annoyed. As much as I love presents, a gift for me is not necessary. I intended to speak with my Boy when he returned about the value of money and honouring through obedience.

God had a different perspective about it. To my Boy, his dad and I represent heaven’s abundance. He’s never experienced deficiency in finances because he lacks nothing of necessity. That’s not to say he receives everything he wants or is spoiled (that’s definitely not true). God loves to give, and as lovers of God who are being transformed in His image, Christians should be the most generous people on the planet.

God reminded me my Boy wasn’t willfully disobedient; he loves me and wanted to express his affection for me with a gift. How can a parent punish love? My Boy doesn’t have many opportunities to earn money so what he has is because we’ve given it to him. That sounds similar to me. Everything I have comes from God; I have nothing to offer Him except what He’s first given to me. And you know what? I’ve never experienced displeasure from God when I’ve brought Him a gift – my worship, my tithes, my time. How can I be displeased when my Boy gives me a gift?

My Boy is generous; my desire to err on the side of generosity has become his value too. I’m still learning about wisdom in stewardship but I learn best when I can feel the heartbeat of the Father. I need to extend the same grace to my Boy as the Father extends to me. And for the record, I love the gift he bought me. :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Do the Next Thing...

Do you make resolutions? I don’t make New Year’s resolution per se but the rollover into new digits is an opportunity to reflect and evaluate the previous year, and consider expectations for the year ahead. For many years I’ve asked the Lord for a verse or Bible passage that will guide my year. Not everyone appreciates a clear path, but for me and my personality, having direction helps me stay on-point, even when good distractions come along. I want to finish well, and I want to always be moving forward.

Over the years, moving forward doesn’t always mean moving forward. Sometimes moving forward means not moving backward. Sometimes moving forward is small steps, like the way the earth’s oceans are receding from land – we’re told it’s happening but it’s so incremental, most people wouldn’t have the ability to perceive it.

What are your thoughts and expectations for 2015? Several men and women in public ministry have made outspoken declarations about the big moves of God for this year. Their words excite our ears and tickle our fancy (what is a ‘fancy’, by the way?). Wouldn’t it be nice if it is true? I wonder what the prophets of the day declared each new year when the Israelites were in the desert, set adrift from their old life of captivity but not yet living in their Promised Land?

I love big moves. I believe I am one of many who are on the precipice of entering the Promised Land. It sounds exciting and fast-paced with lots of action but the reality is lots of activity with very little forward movement and more [a lot more] of what sustained me in the years prior.

I wish the words of big moves were true. For some, they will be. And possibily the Holy Spirit will surprise me (he knows how much I love surprises) but truthfully I’m subdued about expectations for the year. An informal poll of friends over the past few weeks seem to have the same thoughts as myself. This is a year of abiding. It’s not lack of faith or lost hope which compels my contemplative thoughts; it’s deep faith in the words already spoken. John 15 promises: abiding in Him produces fruit. It’s gonna happen. The passage is referring to grape vines. Grapes take three years to begin to produce, and before they do, they continue to do the next thing – they grow their roots, they grow their limbs and they grow leaves to absorb the goodness of the Son (sun).

If you aren’t feeling as excited as you think you should be, relax. Do the next thing and keep abiding. If you are feeling this is your year, then go for it, but still do the next thing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Piece of My Heart

I’m enjoying the age and stage of my Boy; he’s emerging into manhood, but the vestiges of childhood still linger. He bears the wit of his father and the hilarity of his mother. It pleases me how others respond to him – young, old and peers are charmed by his charisma; and as long as homework or chores are not involved, he and I have a good, solid and well mannered relationship.

My Man and I love our Boy and he loves us in return, but he really only knows one small part of the person I am. (Except for the visit to the Music Experience museum in Seattle when he saw footage of Lollapalooza festivals from the 1990s and his father confided to him that his mother was among the crazy-eyed, bare-breasted guys and girls - although, I was definitely not bare-breasted at any point.) The exception aside, my Boy knows I love him, provide for him and will comfort him, but also I am a disciplinarian and enforcer of the “rules”.

As my Boy grows and matures, I desire to extend myself to him more – to let him understand the things that make me laugh or the things that touch my heart. This past weekend, I decided it was time to include him in a part of my life I only show people who are close to me. I offered him a piece of myself he’d never seen or known and you know what my Boy did? He rejected it. He wasn’t rude about it, but the experience I wanted to share with him ranked low on things he wanted to do with his time.

As I nursed my wounded heart, I reflected on the Israelites in the desert and how God invited them into His presence, and they rejected it (Exodus 20:18-21). Only Moses, the man whom God called a friend, entered into where He was; the rest were content to know God from a distance. They had known and experienced his salvation and his provision, not dissimilar to the way my Boy experiences me to be his caregiver; the Israelites were satisfied with as much as they knew God.

It’s incredibly sad and grievous to me to think there is more of God that He desires to reveal and I (or anyone) would reject Him because I was content to stay and be where I was. Who wouldn’t agree that when someone opens up their heart and is vulnerable with us, it is a gift? Marriage couldn’t be successful if each of the partners doesn’t learn to give of ourselves and receive from another.

Sometimes I speculate how history would have been different had the Israelites understood things differently and/or sooner. I am loath to see myself as better, but I am strongly inclined to learn from the history of others, so I don’t need to repeat history.

#40lessons: God is the same now, as He was in the desert. He offered himself to people and He still offers his heart. Will I be too busy doing my own thing to respond? Will you?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fair is Where You Get Cotton Candy

My thoughts have been all over the place for the past while which is also why I haven’t posted in several weeks. I’m fed up with what I’ve been witnessing around me; I could extend my anger and frustration to what’s happening worldwide with Ebola health threats, ISIS terrorists, and conflicts in Israel but there’s enough happening close to home to keep my thoughts drowning in negativity.

Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” Guess what? It’s true. I hate it, I really do but I’m most frustrated by people (friends) who should know the second part to what Jesus said, “But take heart (have courage), I have overcome the world.” I want to say to anyone who complains life is hard, life isn’t fair, “Quit your belly-aching and believe the word. Fair is where you buy cotton candy.”

I’m baffled when people are surprised when trouble comes. A friend tells me I don’t understand because I had a good childhood, with parents who love and support me. I agree; I don’t understand everyone’s struggle but my first thought when I heard even a hint of complaint against life, “Who are you to deserve better?” Of course, I don’t actually say that. (That’s probably why my friend won’t let me minister or counsel the troubled women she speaks to; I’m only allowed to minister in prayer intercession - at a distance.)

My life is not immune to trouble or pain but overall, yes, I’ve been very blessed. I don’t deserve the blessings I’ve received, and I certainly don’t understand why I’ve received them. It’s one of the many mysteries of God, however, when I was going through hell, I took Winston Churchill’s advice and kept going. Okay, I hadn’t heard Winston’s advice at the time (as good as it is), but I did claim Hebrews 12:1-3:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

There are two plans for everyone’s life: a plan which leads to a good, and hopeful future (Jeremiah 29:11) and a plan which leads to death, pain and destruction (John 10:10). Genesis 4:6-7 says, The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Sin desires you. In every situation there is a choice – sin, which leads to death or righteousness, which leads to life. We do not need to be a victim in everything. We have choices. If we live life believing it will be fair to us, we’ve already been deceived. There is no one worthy of goodness, and apart from God, there is no goodness. We all fall short, but take heart, He’s already overcome.

In Philippians, Paul writes he can do all things, through Christ who gives him strength. The strength which Jesus lends us is supernatural, but the verse doesn’t mean supernatural phenomena as is often interpreted. What Paul is saying is that he can maintain inner joy, peace and all things of the Spirit, no matter what the circumstance or situation. Paul didn’t belabour or complain that life wasn’t fair, he fought back and ruled over the thought that he must give in to the tragedy around him.

Even my Man was complaining about something this past weekend. I looked at him and agreed: life stuff sucks at the moment, but he didn’t have lines of defense available. There seems to be a message being taught that says we are saved by grace and there is nothing further we must work at. Even Paul, the greatest defender of Christian grace, said he worked out his faith with fear and trembling.

Overcoming something is hard work; it’s never easy but it can be rewarding. Have you ever seen American Ninja Warriors? Their fitness level didn’t just happen. If I attempted to try anything like that now, I’d damage my body severely. Would I have a right to complain life isn’t fair if I was hurt as a result?  

My eye is on the prize, I want to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your Master’s joy.” I don’t want to be taken out or disqualified because I failed to do my part. To win the prize, I prepare. It takes discipline and hard work and perseverance. I’ve given up food, sleep, time, and even good opportunities to pursue the prize – it’s part of my working out my faith with fear and trembling, just like Paul.

I am not be the most merciful, or compassionate counsellor but I am good at reminding my friends of this: In this world, you will have trouble, but have no fear, Jesus has prevailed and overcome, which means you can overcome as well. Now do what he has commanded you to do and rule over the sin that desires you.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Created to Worship? I don't think so...

Yesterday during song worship at the Sunday morning gathering, the worship leader began sharing what was on her heart. She said, “We were created to worship. We were born to worship God.” I felt a familiar rebellious thought begin to invade my mind. I hate being told what to do. (Clearly, I have authority issues. I’m working on them.) I don’t want to be told to worship.

I consider myself a worshipper but worship, like love, must be given freely otherwise it’s not authentic or sincere. Since I was a child with a rebellious nature, I’ve struggled with a so-called Christian’s requirement to worship. I had no trouble with the disciplines of Christian life – reading my Bible, praying, doing good works, fasting and interceding, but I drew the line at worship being mandatory. Despite my rebellious heart towards worship, I understood even as a child, worship was/is an internal response.

My heart attitude towards worship began to change several years ago when I was challenged by a volunteer who worked with girls trapped in a cycle of drugs and prostitution. She gave God [genuine] praise for each night a girl was kept safe, and off the streets. It didn’t matter if it was for one night, or one month, or one year. I began give God praise for blessings in my life, even if the matter wasn’t totally resolved. I praised God in the process; and in the process, my heart changed.

My knowledge and understanding expanded again when I heard Bill Johnson say, “We praise God for what he’s done, we worship God for who he is.” I was confronted by lies and untruths I believed. I didn’t differentiate between praise and worship, except for praise songs were a little faster, more drums and got your toes tapping and worship songs were slower, more contemplative, and they typically ended the singing portion of a Sunday morning service. Praising God for what he did, does, and will do makes sense. Worshipping God for who he is makes sense too, the problem is, many Christians (me included) don’t know who God is.

It’s impossible to worship what you don’t know.

These are the thoughts swirling around my head yesterday, and as I’m attempting to meditate on truth, and not lies, my mind simultaneously began to think of what the Lord promised Moses when He commissioned him:

Exodus 3:12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
God gave me a new understanding (a lesson, if you will) about what He planned to do for his people. It wasn’t a plan to get them out of Egypt so they could worship God, as if he needs validation. He is complete in himself. A few verses later, God declares his name to be I AM WHO I AM. He is complete, and needs not requires any validation from us or any of creation.

God rescued his people to show himself to them, so they could know God, intimately and relationally. It’s impossible to worship what you don’t know. God is so complete in himself, he knows when we, his people, get to know him, and his heart, the only response is worship. Throughout their salvation and exodus from Egypt, there was many exhibitions of God’s power and might and there was much to praise him for but he wants us to know more than what he does, God wants us to know him. When we know him, we worship.

#40lessons: God wanted to bring his people out of Egypt to worship him, because his intention was to show himself to them. You can’t worship what you don’t know, and to know God is to worship him.
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