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Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

As the Lord begins to speak to Moses on Mount Sinai, he enters into a very long discourse on exactly how to build a place of worship.  He goes into great detail over a period of forty days and forty nights just instructing Moses on how to instruct His people to erect, furnish, and attend His place of worship.  It begins in Exodus 25 and does not conclude until Moses comes back down the mountain in Exodus chapter 31.  Let’s consider these instructions for God’s holy dwelling place carefully.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. ~Exodus 25:1-9

The very first thing God tells Moses about his sacred place is that it is to be a place of giving.  Each and every person attending God’s place of worship was to offer a gift.  Each and every person was to contribute.  No one was to come empty handed.  No one was to be excluded from making an offering.  No one was to be kept from giving whatever they had to give.  God gave specific instructions on what to bring.  The idea here is that the people of God were to bring the very best things they had and offer those to the Lord.

Note…to the Lord.  Verse two tells us that the contributions made were “for me” and God was speaking.  The gifts we bring to the house of God are for HIM; to glorify HIM; to honor HIM; to please HIM.

This was the very first instruction God gave in regards to the place of worship where he would be pleased to come and dwell.  This tells us that giving and offering our very best gifts in a place of worship is greatly important to God.

We should never enter or attend a place of worship empty handed.  We are to bring our very best gifts and offer them back to God.  We ought never to forbid others from giving their best gifts to the Lord.  God commands His people first and foremost in a place where he is to come and dwell to contribute.

If we fail to contribute to God’s house due to apathy, complacency, laziness, or greed, we ought to be very ashamed.  If we fail to allow others to contribute due to pride, control, envy, or jealousy, we ought to be very ashamed.  God would not have made this instruction first, foremost, and primary if it was not of great importance.

Let’s do things God’s way, Church.  “Whatsoever is done in God’s service must be done by His direction and not otherwise.” ~Matthew Henry

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christmas

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it this year.  Christmas is just so expensive.  I don’t want the kids to be disappointed.”

My oldest practices her lines for the Christmas play.  I think of them as I wake and read John 12:3.  “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Christmas was expensive.  We can blame materialism for a lot but the truth is that Jesus led the way regarding the giving of lavish gifts.  He left the comfort of his eternal home to come to us on Christmas.  He gave up perfect peace, power, and personal priority  – all of which he possessed eternally.  He gave up those things in order to give the gift of himself to this world.  It was not a trifle or a trinket – this God-man gave what men needed most.  Jesus gave us his love, his truthful teaching, and his forgiveness.  He did this by giving primarily one thing – his time.  Not only that, but he did it in ways that meant extreme personal sacrifice and pain.  Knowing he would be (and was) despised and rejected, he showed up.  He kept showing up, in fact, showing himself true and sharing himself fully only to be accused and attacked by jealous men.

Time.  Teaching.  Transparency.  These are the ways in which Our Savior truly gave.  These are the ways in which he expects us to give.  They often must be given at extreme personal expense.

Consider the woman with the costly perfume.  What she gave was outrageously expensive.  Still, how she gave it was even more costly.  With the most religious and powerful men in her sphere looking down their noses at her, she honors Jesus with all that she has with great humility and without concern over their slander and disapproval. (See Luke 7:36-40.)

The act of giving as a Christian is not merely what we give, it is how we give it that counts even more.  Real love, honest communication, true friendship, openness and transparency within community are some of the things Jesus gave in coming to earth and sharing his time with men.  To say these things are quite expensive is a desperately understated truth.  Still, Jesus gave them knowing that they would create conflict in his life and the lives of those he loved most.  He gave them knowing that he would be despised and rejected unjustly by the very people whom he loved and who should have loved him.

He gave them not out of pride or position.  Jesus gave the most personally painful and self-sacrificing gifts to people on earth because he knew what it was going to take to save them.  He knew that no toy or trinket would do.  No false frivolity – no matter how costly – could compete or compare with the true gifts of his precious time, his truthful teaching, and his willing transparency.

Not everyone wanted Jesus to give these gifts, either.  People were mad.  With the fury of Michal when David danced, people were angry.  Irate, even.  People literally hated Jesus for what he gave.  Why?

Because they themselves were not willing to give those kinds of gifts.  It was a matter of Cain killing Able.  He was showing them up.  They were ridiculously jealous.  They were intensely afraid of him.  Well, not of him, really, just of losing their power, position, and pride because of him.  They had no time, no truth, no transparency in their hearts for Jesus.  They were not the least bit interested in loving enemies, friending inferiors, honestly confessing, or living in a community of accountability.  Just as the innkeepers had no room for his parents upon his arrival, Jesus’ entire life was replete with men and women who simply had no room in their hearts or their real lives for him. After 2000 years, an incidental in Jesus’ being welcome anywhere is still the severe intimidation of the religious folk. 

Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.  Not because we have to purchase outrageously expensive materialistic gifts, but because we are called to give outrageously expensive sacrificial gifts.  We are called to give to one another the very same gifts that our Savior gives to us.

When I woke this morning to pray, the Lord began to teach me these things in His Word and I quickly realized that I simply do not have the resources to continually give these kinds of gifts.  My heart fails me as I consider the single mother my daughter portrays in the play.

 “I don’t know how I’m going to do it this year.  Christmas is just so expensive.  I don’t want the kids to be disappointed.”  

I consider the sacrifices Jesus wants me to make, the extravagant gifts he wants me to give, and the implausible ways he wants me to give them and I repeat her line.  How, Lord?  I don’t know how.  This is expensive.  I don’t want to disappoint you, or them, or anyone.  How can I do what you want me to?

But then I remember my middle daughter’s lines and I am humbled.  I am relieved.  She is Mary.

“God, you have told me that I will carry your child.  I don’t understand this, but I am willing to do your will.  But God, I don’t know what to do.  Joseph is going to be so upset.” 

Lord, I don’t understand this, but I am willing to do your will – even if the people I love most get upset.

Yes, Lord.  Let that be my line, always and ever when you call upon me.  Mary wasn’t asking to be pregnant.  Mary was not expecting to be the mommy of the Savior of the entire world.  Mary was simply living in obedience to God when God chose to give her an extraordinary job.  At the very front of her calling, she knew people would not understand. She didn’t even understand!  She knew people would be upset with her.  But even in all of that, she submitted.  She willingly gave the world exactly what God called her to give and it was unbelievably expensive for her personally.  But consider what Mary’s gift and calling meant for the rest of us.

Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.  Not because we have to purchase outrageously expensive materialistic gifts, but because we are called to give outrageously expensive sacrificial gifts.  We are called to give to one another the very same gifts that our Savior gives to us.

My third daughter will not participate in the play.  She generally does not like to participate in life, period.  She is watching, though.  She will be watching as all the other children perform.  Hopefully, she learns by watching them that participation is necessary if one is going to give the way God calls us to give.  And giving, as a child of God, is not a choice.  It is a requirement.  It is not just what, it is how we give that matters.

So here’s to the kids who taught me my lessons today.  Keep giving, no matter how costly your call to serve Christ may seem to be.  Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.

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power

Healing begins with a broken heart.  One who has never been broken often fails to recognize pain, need, hunger, loneliness, and poverty.  One who chooses to stay broken clings to the security of neediness and ignores the pain, need, hunger, loneliness, and poverty of others for his own.  But for the one who has been broken and healed, broken and has forgiven, broken and been forgiven – that one loves much.

The more a heart bleeds, the more potential it has for love to flow out, or, the more potential it has to sew itself shut and dwell in egotistical narcissism as long as possible.  The one who has been forgiven much, loves much.  The one who has been broken much either considers only itself and its every selfish need in bitterness and fear, or, considers the brokenness in others most of all.

There are so many things that God has shown me over the last 19 days.  There are so many things He has done in me and through me during this time.  It would take a book to explain it all.  Maybe one day I will take that journey.  Or, if you ask me, I would love to tell you all about it.  For today, I have just a few truths to share.

I am so extremely, amazingly, beautifully humbled and thankful for the glimpses of glory I have seen so clearly recently.  These days He has given to me have each felt like Christmas – Christmas Eve, even.  Each day has been met with great anticipation, wide-eyed wonder, and undeserved, unbelievable gifts.

But, it began with brokenness.  The more my bright eyes beheld, the more my heart began to break.  The need in every life everywhere is overwhelmingly great.  As I sought to help and hoped to heal, I was given the greatest gift I have ever known – a gift I had not even asked for.  That gift is joy.  Real, true, unadulterated joy.  Joy inside.  Joy despite.  Joy deep.  Joy uninterrupted.

There can be absolutely no doubt this gift was given to me by God himself through the laying on of hands and prayers of a faithful, fearless fellow Christian.  Never once before this time have I ever experienced such freedom and freshness in my faith.  What God did through the prayers of his servant was nothing short of miraculous.

Not only was I immediately emptied of angst and worry, I was immediately filled with joy unlike that which I had ever known.  I was also given a great desire and urgency to pray constantly.  Me- a girl who writes books about why I cannot seem to pray and struggles to pray at all.

But now, God.  Now, GOD! God leads my prayers in a way I have never known before in nearly twenty years of Christianity.   God is using my prayers to lead and direct me to people and places and actions and needs like never before.  He has given me a great boldness to both pray and preach the gospel to anyone and everyone who will listen.  He has taken away my fear.  He is showing me things I should and would not know.  I know beforehand things I later come to see.  He is moving me, guiding my every step by His Spirit and confirming his direction with unmistakable signs and wonders.  And I am amazed like I have never been amazed before.  And if you will not ask me about it I will tell you anyway because you can’t make this stuff up and God will have glory because of it.

He gave me new knowledge, new eyes, new compassion, new strength, new joy, and yes, even a brand new life growing inside of me all at the same time.  God gave me rest in the earthly realm and realness in the spiritual one.  His message was one of comfort, joy, healing, and hope.  Judgement, restoration, and revival are what he has shown to me.  Joy, healing, and powerful, effective prayer are what he has given to me.

God does not want His people to be stagnant.  He is moving and His people are to be moving.  He is moving his people.  Still water is dead water.  Stagnant water is diseased water.  God is building his house in great power – and that power is prayer.  His living water will be rushing through it at all times lest he shut the doors and close it up.  He spits out pretense and all who set themselves up against his purposes through prayer.  God seeks to demolish strongholds and bring boldness to his people through prayer.

The seeds are planted firmly in the ground.  May the Lord bring a great harvest of hope, healing, and regeneration through obedience to public and private prayer and the laying on of hands.  May it be what he uses to break the spirit of pride, pretense, rigidity, and position in our families, churches, communities, governments, and nations.  Amen.

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clutter

Clutter.  It’s what’s in my house.  Any mom of a band of small children will tell you as much.  Sometimes, like when I’m trying to write and a herd of decorative sheep who have been tossed from their natural habitat on the mantle to make room for toy soldiers are flopped into the overstuffed bookcase next to me, it bothers me.  Most times though, like mid-craft making or doll city building or nerd book stacking, it doesn’t even occur to me that our turn on the hoarders show is likely coming soon.  Blame it on my pack rat nature I suppose, but I actually like living in a house where things are actively happening.  “Things” to me, are so often associated with people, memories, and experiences.  I consider them all gifts which are full of life and stories.

Gifts.  They’re what Christmas shoppers are searching tediously for.  For a people who have so very much, is it not absurd to think we, or they, really need anything more?  We do not.  We’ve got stuff coming out our noses.  Even still, cluttered crazies like me shop ’til we drop.  Gifts, to me, are not usually about items, rather, communion.

Communion.  It’s what happens when one or more kindred spirits show affection, deference, love, and association towards each other.

We were out of town last weekend and missed church.  My nine year old rose to the occasion by breaking up her toast, dividing her juice, and offering her father and I “communion.”

Communion is a state of unity, togetherness, joy, and agreement.  “Stuff” cannot produce communion any more than plain bread and wine, in themselves, can produce the Eucharist.  Gifts, however, are consecrated – made holy – by the givers.  When the giving becomes more about the attitude, the respect, the realness of the giver than the gift itself, Christmas becomes communion; fellowship; camaraderie; intimacy, rather than a shallow exchange of cat lady clutter.

Maybe it’s because one of the gifts God gave me is being a “gifter.”

Gifter – noun – someone who loves to give random gifts all throughout the year to an assortment of unsuspecting giftees.

I’m not sure if that’s on the formal list of spiritual gifts, but I’m positive it’s at least a subdivision.

Spiritual gifts.  They’re what God hands down to his children for the benefit of his other children.  I wholeheartedly believe that the spiritual gifts we are given are directly related to our personalities.  Case in point: cluttered cat lady = year round gifter.  Kidding!  Honestly, though, my husband is mechanical.  He can diagnose, fix, repair, build, or modify just about anything.  His spiritual gifts have to do with service, helps, and everything that’s behind the scenes in between.  He’s not the guy singing in the choir because someone has to fix the mic, wire the stereo, build the website, and oil the hinges everywhere in between.  God made me a nerd.  I love books, reading, writing, and dialogue on differing concepts and ideas.  My strengths are not in the choir or the kitchen.  God gave us all different gifts that we might come together and share them.  Our differences are meant to unify, not divide.

Division.  It’s what happens when we place the emphasis on the wrong things.  The celebration of Christ’s birth was never meant to be about presents.  It was meant to be about the gifts of one another’s presence.  When we value people, the things they bring become infinitely valuable.  Extra people are not viewed as out of place clutter, but blessed gifts.  One gift is never emphasized more than another because every gift is important in the grand scheme of this Holy Communion – whether it be in the church or in our own homes.

Happy Christmas.  It’s what cluttered cat lady nerds say when they are finished rambling in December.

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In Ephesians 4, prisoner Paul urges his Christian brothers and sisters to “walk worthy” of their call.  His rationale is found just preceding in chapter 3.  He reasons that because Christ is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine, and because he will do so by his power and for his glory through us, we, therefore (Ephesians 4:1), must walk worthy.  How?

Humility.  Gentleness.  Patience.  Longsuffering.  Love.  Peace.

These are the ways in which we “walk worthy” of the gospel.  The goal is unity.  Paul makes himself very clear.  He reminds his readers that there is but one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.  Paul is looking for these Christians to transform from sinners who were all going their own ways to saints all going the same way.  The chief end is unity, oneness, peace, and mutual edification.  Christ wants us to do the same.

Little wonder why he uses the “body” as an illustration.  As he goes on to differentiate between different giftings, he continues his insistence on unity.  One body; different gifts.  In other words, don’t fight over them.  They are different, not better or worse.  And they all belong together; working together.  Just as we don’t cut off our hands or ears when they fail to function the same as our feet or our eyes, we ought never to disregard or dispose of other believers when we discover our differences.  Neither should those differences debilitate us in any way.  On the contrary!  Our differences ought to complement us!  As we come together and cooperate, we grow up into a mature, living, whole body.

Unity is how we will grow.

Unity is how we will stand firm.

Unity is how we will avoid being deceived.

Unity is how we will be strengthened in love.

But unity will take work.  It will require humility when pride is welling up like a storm.  It will require gentleness when being harsh seems more than fitting.  It will require patience when we’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity.  It will require longsuffering when we have already suffered longer than we could have ever imagined.  It will require love when others have proved unlovely at best.  It will require peace when our flesh begs for war.  Is it worth the trouble, church?  Paul insists.

These are the thoughts I collect as my wandering heart wonders how God will ever right the odious discord that still exists in my own life.  How do I speak the very necessary truth in love when I have been hated?  How do I exercise earnest humility in the face of raging pride?  Or worse, what of humility when the pride is mine?  How will gentleness avoid giving way to arrogance when patronizing insincerity and condescension begins?  Worse yet, what if I am patronizing and insincere?  What of when I condescend?  Lord, let it not be!

Perhaps it is not time.  Perhaps God will try my patience…more.  Perhaps he will ask me to suffer long…er.  Perhaps this learning to hold my ever untamed tongue is, in itself, peacemaking.  I don’t know for sure, but I know He will lead the way.  He will choose the time.  He will mend the brokenness and heal the pain.  I have precious little doubt that two hard-to-swallow words answer every last one of my questions: “Trust Him.” 

God help me walk straight.  Help me to walk worthy as I wait.  I know you can do much more than I have asked in ways I can’t even begin to  imagine.  For your own glory, bring harmony to your body.

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Image

Thirty-four.

That’s how old I am today.  Somehow, the number seems quite a bit older than thirty-three.  Maybe it’s because I always thought I really would enlist before I turned thirty-five.  (The Army says I have until forty-two now I hear, though.  Perhaps the Marines will make an exception?)  Maybe it’s the fact that if I were to have another child (which I would absolutely love to do) I’d soon be read a whole new list of risk factors.  Honestly, it’s probably just because it’s been quite a long year.

So how should I approach my waning drive to maintain my fanatical fitness reputation?  My fading ambitions to divide and conquer the new, the better, the undiscovered?  Am I just in a rut?  Or am I really beginning on a steady decline in motivation, in vibrancy, in zeal, in life?  Because I was always the girl who had another trick up her sleeve; another ace in the hole; another race to be run.  But now I just seem to be the one who’s been there and done that; who’s so over it; who’s thoroughly disinterested in that level of work.

I consider my present state for a moment and I realize that none of that really even matters.  Maybe I don’t need a new goal or another accomplishment.  Maybe my always-thought-I-would-do-that dreams are just grass-is-greener illusions.  Maybe that’s all any of my meager strivings were.  Yes.  When I consider the truth, I realize the absolute ubiquitous mercy and grace evidenced in my life, past, present, and future.  I recognize that no matter what I’ve done, am doing, or ever will do, I am surely abundantly blessed aside from any of it.  Aside from, not because of my own attempts to pacify, occupy, and distract myself.

And in that case, maybe certainly, it is time to call off the colorless hair counting conundrum and begin counting my cosmic contentment cards.

How does He love me?  Let me count the ways…

1.  I was given life.

2. I was given parents – two, not one.

3. I was given parents who took me to church from the time I was born.

4.  I was given a mother who did not work outside the home until I was twelve years old.

5.  I was given a father who worked hard to provide and take care of me.

6.  I was given an exceptionally, generally physically healthy body.

7.  I was given the opportunity to go to school.

8.  I was given enough intellect to comprehend the things I was taught.

9.  I was given a suitor who actually wanted to marry me.

10.  I was given the opportunity to attend college.

11.  I was given the freedom to choose which career I wanted.

12.  I was given enough food to sustain me.

13.  I was given clothing.

14.  I was given a home in which to live.

15.  I was given a job when I was in need in high school.

16.  I was given a better job when I graduated college.

17.  I  was given the best job in the world when I had children.

18.  I have been given a good husband who loves and provides for our family.

19.  I have been given a car and a really awesome bike to drive.  And a dirt bike.  And a road bike.  And a mountain bike.  Did I mention I like bikes?

20.  I have been given the ability to run.

21.  I have been given the ability to swim.

22.  I have been given the ability to write.

23.  I have been given the privilege to teach my own children.

24.  I have been given another birthday and another year to live.

25.  I have been given the privilege to serve my husband.

26.  I have been given an awesome church.

27.  I have been given an awesome pastor.

28.  I have been given a live-in mom who always helps me.

29.  I have been given a beautiful, intelligent, sweetest ever little girl named Maylee Ruth.

30.  I have been given a beautiful, intelligent, sweetest ever little girl named Addie Elaine.

31.  I have been given a beautiful, intelligent, sweetest ever little girl named Mia Jane.

32.  I have been given a really hot hunk of a hardworking husband named Timmy.

33.  I have been given the greatest possession ever imagined – a Bible.

34.  I have been given eternal life from the best friend anyone could ever have: Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

Now.  All that can only mean one thing…whatever I do not get to do or be or have or experience is a mere novelty in light of what I have been given.  I live an extreme reality – a life of irrational blessing.  Am I so dull?  Ashamedly, most days I am.  But today is my birthday.  From one who ever refers to herself as a little girl, I will remember the reasons I must celebrate.

Happy October 30.  Don’t forget to count your blessings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA1T71cNyDI

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“Mommy!  Mom!  Mommy!  Mommy!”

Maylee runs toward me with great anticipation.  

“What?”

“Mommy!”

“What?”

“Mom!”

“What?!”

Yes, she’s getting a little redundant here.  Every mom knows what’s going on here.  Every child does this.  My temptation, if I’m not looking closely enough or paying careful attention to her, is to furrow my brow and answer sternly.  Guilty.  I’ve done it plenty of times.  It goes something like this:

“What already?! Quit saying my name if I answer you!”

But I’m learning.  When I do that and impatience gets the best of me, I miss her.  I crush her little spirit and squelch her joy before she even gets to the part where she can’t wait to show me what she made or tell me what she learned.  Her countenance drops, her smile vanishes, and her great expectations of her favorite friend wanting to know her are dashed in an instant.

Instead, I raise my brow, I smile, I open my eyes as wide as they go and look her in the face.  I run toward her and I repeatedly answer, “What!”

Because, if I’m not too busy being self-absorbed and stingy, I simply cannot wait to see what she’s up to.  My response is full of the same excited expectation as her requests.  She cannot wait to show me her world and I cannot wait to see it.  I am not annoyed; I am blessed beyond belief when I see her new block tower with me and her on top or her special picture of she and I standing in the middle of a dozen hearts.  

My other two girls will do as much when they bring me cards or makeshift, self-inspired crafts.  There are Q-tips, cotton balls, misspelled words, stick figures, scribbles and repetitive themes galore.  But despite my love for order, grammar, and the nagging teacher in me, I never see those flaws when I’m graced with those kind of gifts.  No.  These are that in which I delight.  

“…But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word. ~Isaiah 66:2b

God delights in his children.  He looks only at our hearts.  He never criticizes our redundancy or gets annoyed with our misplaced, mis-communicated excitement.  He is not selfish with his time or impatient with our makeshift gifts.  He is not annoyed with our misspelled, ill-fitting words when we rush in to talk to him.  His children already know their attempts at perfection are not good enough.  He never feels inclined to remind them.  No.  He is not like us.  God looks at our hearts like a mother looks at her youngest child – raised brow, eyes wide, arms open, expectant smile.  I can almost see him extending his hand to receive what he does not need from me and hurrying to tell me how beautiful it is, how much he loves it, and how thankful he is that I chose to give it to him and no one else. 

Bank on it.  If you’re running to him, no matter how awkwardly, he is waiting to delight in you. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk9G7OyKwLM

 

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