Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gifts or Giver?

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We’re surrounded by so many blessings, we sometimes take them for granted. Generally, around the winter holidays, we see an upsurge on social media, extolling the virtues of thankfulness, and that’s great. Sometimes it even sticks and we find ourselves being mindful to be grateful on an everyday basis.

But, going a step beyond not recognizing the plethora of blessings God pours out on us daily, I ponder whether we often times look to the gifts of God, rather than to God Himself.

The church isn’t a building, it’s the people of God that gather together, the body of Christ. That’s blessing enough, in many circumstances, especially when it’s a congregation of hungry souls seeking after God’s best for everyone, led by a godly man or woman who won’t compromise with the world or ignore, or even hide sinfulness that threatens his or her congregation.
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But, as I look around, it sometimes appears that people look to, follow or even worship individuals within the body of Christ. Yikes!

We see how whole congregations fall apart when their leader falls from grace. We read how pastors of mega-churches are being investigated for financial fraud and mishandling of the funds their congregations have entrusted to them. When pastors are making millions of dollars a year from the giving of those who trust them, sometimes the very poorest among us, I have a problem with that. Not to say that pastors can’t prosper financially, but, I’ve often heard it said that God sends you more when you don’t let it stick to your fingers. There are too many needy people in the world that the church isn’t reaching, though giving may be at an all time high.

Looking at what some consider a polar opposite to the church, we have science, another incredible gift of God. How exciting to have the need, the drive, the ambition and intelligence to seek out the mysteries of God and His universe, the world around us, and our own bodies! It must thrill God to see us exploring all He’s given us. Observing the world around us can create peace and excitement. Discovery can be phenomenally fulfilling. Wonder is a beautiful gift in itself.

Yet, there are those who put science above the God Who gave it all to us in the first place, even denying that Someone greater than they can conceive, has orchestrated everything around us and within us.

I’ll never understand how the minds that can fathom what most of us find unfathomable and seek out great mysteries, can be locked into their own little paradigm so snuggly, that they can’t see beyond it.

Life doesn’t just happen. It’s created. To be created, there must first be a creator. That sounds like Logic 101 to me.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” – Luke 11:13 (ESV)

We all have so much in common, but our thinking can be so diverse. It’d be silly to assume that everyone thinks like we do, yet many of us carry that myth well into adulthood.

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 Art and music are often such an integral part of our lives that we don’t notice it surrounding us. Yet, there are many of us who feel that these beautiful things are the substance of Life itself; enthralled with the places it takes us or the serenity or excitement it brings us; putting pleasure before anything else.

Money is certainly something people put first in their lives, giving their lives away in pursuit of it, giving it the authority of a god over their every day comings and goings. Some people put so much effort into acquiring money; they leave no time to enjoy what it can afford them.
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Working! We have workaholics who set no time aside for anything else, not family, not vacations, not even the God Who gave them the strong hands and the brilliant mind with which they themselves into an early grave, because they’re driven to work, work, work. I’m not pondering the reasons behind it, just that it happens.

Our children! Don’t get me started. How easy is it to put them first, before the God Who gave them to us?

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When we look to the gifts God gives us instead of looking to God Himself, we make those gifts into gods. One of the most important commands God ever gave us tells us: I am the Lord your God, you shall not have any other gods before me. He doesn’t instruct us this way because He’s arrogant and selfish, thinking more highly of Himself than He ought, though there is no one higher. He knows that we’ll miss out on so much that He has for us, if we serve His gifts instead of enjoying them. We can’t really enjoy them if we don’t honor the God Who gives them to us.

When our focus is so single-minded and focused on one gift, the others fade from sight, though they’re still there to enjoy if we can allow ourselves the freedom to look up and see them. When we focus on one gift – we become slaves to the gift and to how we think the gifts benefits us.

“Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.” – Nehemiah 7:66 (ESV)

Are you seeking God for what He can give you? Are you seeking a relationship with the God Who gives? Or, are you denying yourself the opportunities to really enjoy everything life offers, by denying He’s the God of every good gift?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Light…” – James 1:17 (ESV)
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Write Anyway

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Writing, whether in blog format, or journaling or for a project, taps into my soul and my spirit, even when I’m not aware of it.

I suppose that’s why I neglect writing when I’m hurting or sad or fearful.

God wants me to turn to Him, of course, in those times of need, just as He wants me to share with Him in my joyous times and celebrations.

But, the heaviness of the hard times can weigh us down and tempt us to curl up in a ball inside of ourselves. We can convince ourselves not to reach outward and upward, but to reach inward and wallow in the grief and anguish.

Without God, I am undone, in good times or in bad. I just recognize it more clearly in the bad times.

Celebrations can cover over feelings of emptiness or lacking, because there are so many distractions while celebrating.

But, sometimes, a person can sink so low, that even amidst celebrations, they’re pretending; forcing the image of sharing in the revelry. That can magnify sorrows even more intensely.

I suppose most of us who put our blogs out there in cyberspace are really writing to and for ourselves. Those who have a larger following may cater more to what their readers want or even ask for. But, those of us with smaller audiences basically pour out our hearts, in hopes that perhaps something we say can bless someone in some small way.

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It frustrates me that my posts have become so infrequent and sporadic. It frustrates me that I feel I have less and less to share. But, it frustrates me most, that from the wealth God has given me, I feel as though my bucket is running dry.

Feelings can betray us. If I feel as though you’re judging me and you’re not, I’m feeling something that isn’t even true. Thus, I know that I know that I know that God’s eternal life springs up within me, even when I feel my proverbial bucket has run dry.

I've got a river of life flowing out of me
makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
opens prison doors, sets the captives free
I've got a river of life flowing out of me.
Spring up, O well, within my soul
Spring up, O well, and make me whole
Spring up, O well, and give to me
that life abundantly

Click here for: River of Life Song

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Should I just stick to praying for you, instead of writing to you? Or will the enemy of my soul then seek to steal that from me, also? He’s already stolen most of my songs….not this, too!

No. I’ll write. I may continue to be sporadic and sparse, but, I’ll continue to write.
I’ll write when no one reads. I’ll write when I write through tears. I’ll write – even when I don’t share it in a blog post.

But, I’ll write.

To God be the glory. He who began a good work in me, shall be faithful to complete it.  (Philippians 1:6 paraphrased, I sometimes memorize scripture via song choruses.)

“Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”” – John 4:13-14 (KJV)

Click here for: God Will Make a Way Song

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Monday, May 1, 2017

What's In Your Closet?

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Last week our pastor made mention of a book that intrigued me. I haven’t gotten it yet, but, I took note of it. From a Women’s Aglow Bible study, it’s called Shame; the Thief of Intimacy.

Sometimes shame, like other negative feelings, can bring us down. We can wear it like a cozy bathrobe, not even aware of how it’s dragging us into darkness, until it’s too late. It’s a subtle thing, we reach for it there on the hook in our bathroom, right where we left it that last time we shook it off.

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 But, shame isn’t the only thief in our wardrobe.

Throughout our average day, we may well put on something that looks more like depression, sadness, sorrow, anxiety, worry or fear.

Throughout scripture, we read about clothing ourselves; in the righteousness of God (Isaiah 61:10; Ephesians 4:22-24), in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), with praise and rejoicing (Isaiah 61:1-2)….

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)

When I show up at the elementary school to pick up my granddaughter, if I notice I’ve spilt coffee on my shirt, it’s too late to do anything about it. If I’d noticed it before I left the house, I could have changed into something clean, and avoided any embarrassment.

So, maybe one of our first steps into the day should include looking at ourselves in our spiritual mirror (the Word of God) to see if we line up with what He has to say about us. (James 1:22-25)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:22-25 (NIV)

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Pastor also mentioned something about pride being the root of a poor self-image. Say what? Didn’t make sense to me at first, but he went on to explain that pride says that what my opinion is of me, is more correct than what God thinks of me. Ouch!

So, if I feel worthless or shameful or defeated, that’s truer than what my Creator, the God of the Universe has to say about me???

Yeah, I guess that would be pride.

God knew we’d have hard days; days when we feel as if the world is moving on without us, days when we feel worthless, days when sorrow overwhelms us, and days when the bad news just won’t stop coming. As a matter of fact, we can quote His Word, saying, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.– John 16:33

His Word also tells us to put on the garment of praise in exchange for the spirit of heaviness. Here it is, tucked into some of my favorite verses.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor. – Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

So no matter how we’re feeling today, look need into the mirror of the Word of God, throw our shoulders back and admit it; what He says about us is true.

Yes, we will overcome – even this.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. – 1 John 4:4 (KJV)

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. – 1 John 5:4 (KJV)

Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? – 1 John 5:5 (KJV)

What’s in your closet?

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