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…Equals Whatever We Need

At a new church opening celebration a well-meaning parishioner was praying for the offering. He said, “God is so generous because He only asks for 10%, but He gives us 90%.” My friend sitting next to me said, “That’s great. We give 10%, and we get 90%. Cool.” Many of us know that God asks us to tithe 10%, but it was said in a way I’d never thought of it. I was still thinking when the senior pastor went up to introduce a guest speaker. Before he began his introduction he paused and gave a look of hesitation, the kind you give when you don’t want to do or say something, but you feel a nudging. He said, “When we give God what we have he gives us what we need. It’s not that we give 10% and get 90%. He always gives us 100% of what he knows we need.” He went on to refer to the loaves and fishes, saying, “Five loaves and two fish equals whatever you need.”

This statement has been on my mind ever since. Jesus did not perform a magic trick nor did he run to the store like an anxious housewife and buy up all the loaves and fishes at the local Safeway. Matthew 14 tells us “[he] looked up into the sky and asked God’s blessing on the meal.” Brothers and Sisters, why do we hoard our belongings, cling to our money, our house, our car, our time when if we come to terms with the fact that all of those things belong to God and not us He will give us all we need? Jesus looked up into the sky and submitted his last five loaves and two fish to God, trusting that He would give whatever they needed.

The submission to God is where I fail. I think, ‘Okay, today I’m going to lay down my life, my all to God and it’s gonna be great.’ Then the moment something looks like it’s going to fail I pick up what I just laid down and try to work it out myself. What if Jesus had asked God’s blessing on this meal to feed 5,000 and as soon as He cut off the 13th piece thought, ‘Nope! I gave it a shot, but this isn’t going to work out’? What if He had left it at that and called it a day, only feeding the 12 disciples and himself? It would have been such a waste of miracle, and yet we don’t see the potential for these miracles in our everyday surrender to God.

If we trust Him we need to show it. Just like you tell your kids or your spouse, if you love me show it. Let’s stop saying we love and trust God and show Him by laying it all down and not picking it back up. Just leave it there at the foot of the throne and see how He provides. This is a message for myself just as much, if not more than it is a message to you because I like to control things. I like to know exactly what will happen, but I do know what will happen. When I submit to Him I will experience amazing abundance.

Heavenly Father, We don’t want money or material things or even security because we want You and in You we have all we need. We use need for control as an excuse for never completely submitting to you, but we give up that excuse knowing that You are our provider and protector, our Jehovah Jireh. In You we fear nothing, not even our need for control. Thank you, Lord, for showing us grace when we have failed to submit to you, and teach us to trust in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Give me Attitude, Prayer Attitude

Ever been at a prayer meeting when someone breaks into tears of desperation? “Lord, we need you!” This heart cry made my heart ache. How could I pray without desperation in my heart? Words are not enough to show God how desperate I am. I need to change my attitude to that of desperation.

Time and time again David cried out for help, sometimes accusing God of turning away from him, even ignoring him. I never know whether to be offended for God when reading these Psalms or to be comforted that I am not the only who feels the way David did. God knows we need him, but when we come to Him in desperation, whatever the prayer request may be, He knows that we know we need Him.

When I heard this cry of desperation from my friend I remembered what I had heard on the radio just the other day. A speaker on one of those 30-second segments explained that the older she gets, the more she knows God, the more desperate she is for Him. She said this brings her comfort knowing that she will always know she needs Him. My friend’s cry for help was a shocking reminder that all of us desperately need Him no matter how good or bad our circumstances are today.

Heavenly Father, we need you. Alone we are damaged goods, but with you we are the Bride of Christ, made pure in Jesus’ blood. Lord, we accept your gift of salvation as we begin this Holy Week. We reflect on the suffering Jesus endured, His death, His resurrection, and our anticipation for His return. Only in Him are we made whole and clean. Help us to cry out to you with tears in our eyes, desperate to receive what you have for us today and desperate to give back some of what you have given. Help us to be desperate in our confession as well, that we may recognize our need for forgiveness. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Breathe by Michael W. Smith

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Listening to Your Moral Meter

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.                                                                               – Philippians 4:8

The world can be full of juicy gossip. Sometimes our everyday lives can become so routine that our mouth almost waters at the sound of a scandalous story.

For lent I have given up all but one hour of television a weeknight, a task I thought I would find difficult, but have found rest and relaxation as well as purpose in other things. Most nights I don’t even turn on the TV. The one show I do watch is Nashville. I know it is not the most wholesome show to watch, but I just love the juiciness of it after a day in my seemingly mundane life. As the clock approaches 10 p.m. I start thinking, ‘Who will break up with who this week? Will Scarlet finally go too far with her prescription drug addiction?’ I become almost in a trance while watching. In considering whether I should give up this show I tried to justify keeping it as my one guilty pleasure. ‘I deserve it. After all, I’ve given up so much already.’ In fact, just last night I turned on the TV to realize it was a rerun. I tell you, I almost went into the shaky withdrawals. I started texting my boyfriend, “How can this be? Nashville is a rerun! What will I do with my time?!?”

What seemed like a harmless TV show has turned me into a monster on the hunt for juicy gossip. My ears perk up each time I see that there might be some coming my way. Recently I was tempted to encourage some gossip, and I did. Later I was caught in the act of encouraging gossip. It did not feel good! My mind was consumed with guilt and fear of what that person might have thought about me now. Was it that person’s judgment that was causing me to fret? No, it was my own guilty conscious. I not only had to go to God in repentance with my tail figuratively between my legs, but I had to go back to the person who caught me and apologize to them and let them know I knew what I did was wrong and would correct my actions. Fortunately the person was very gracious and forgiving, but perhaps that won’t be the case next time. I must also go back to the person who I gossiped with and let them know it was wrong and apologize for playing a part in it.

When we have to justify our actions we should recognize the prompting of the Holy Spirit that we are trying to talk our way out of repentance. If you are feeling uncomfortable with something you have done you might want to examine whether it is in alignment with God’s Word. If not, turn from that sin, admit it was wrong to God and those effected by your sin. Once you have done this you shouldn’t feel guilt or continue to fret because Jesus’ blood has already washed you clean.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

                                   -Matthew 6:9-13

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Riches to Rags

Did you ever consider that when you give sacrificially without ever taking that you, in fact, are squandering your gifts from God? When you don’t take time for yourself and God you could be the wealthiest man alive but feel like a beggar.

I was talking to my friend today. She revealed to me many of her life worries, and as she continued something occurred to me. I blurted it out, “Do you realize you want the best for everyone else, but you expect the worst for yourself?” A look of shock came over her, and then she burst into laughter, “Wow!” She continued on to try to explain, but everything she said confirmed that my statement was true. I held up my hand to stop her. “On an airplane the attendant says that in an emergency you should put your mask on first, then help your child. If you are constantly helping people without helping yourself you are not only letting yourself go down but you are taking everyone else with you.” Sometimes we think we are doing good deeds to benefit others when, in fact, we are doing the opposite. By our actions we neglect our needs while teaching others how not to take care of themselves.

In Luke chapter 10 Jesus is at the home of Mary and Martha. Martha is busy doing housework while her sister rests at Jesus’ feet listening and marveling at His every word. Martha bursts with frustration. How can Mary be so selfishly idle while she slaves away in the kitchen? But Jesus gently corrects Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one…” The moment you realize that in the end Jesus will not ask us to explain how much we did for others but how much we loved Him is the moment you will truly experience freedom.

A speaker at my church explained it this way. Each day you have several tasks. Your most important and most urgent tasks should be spending time with God, resting in Him. Your less important tasks are dressing perfectly, packing a lunch, watching TV, and yes, even work. Imagine your life is big container. Your most important tasks are big spheres. Your less important tasks are small spheres. If you put the small spheres in first and then try to fit the big spheres you are going to find that there is no room for the big spheres. If you put the big spheres in first and then the small spheres the small spheres will fit perfectly in between the big spheres, and even if some small spheres don’t fit you can live without them (like watching TV or dressing perfectly). The point is, put your oxygen mask on first, take care of yourself, and you will find you are more joyful and richer than ever before.

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

 

The Working Dead

It comes to no surprise to me that zombie movies and TV shows have become phenomenally popular in recent years. Look around. People are so busy, the world we live in is starting to look like a zombie apocalypse. Everyone is marching forward as fast as they can, eyes fixed straight ahead, as if the only thing on their mind is the satisfaction they will have when they indulge in flesh. It’s eerily true that so many in our communities are out to indulge in flesh. The only difference is, it’s their own flesh they are out to indulge in, meaning their own selfish desires are what they think brings them satisfaction.

I think the “successful career” is the most prominent selfish desire in the world today. I catch myself in this very same focus more often than I’d like to admit, thinking, ‘Woe, is me. My job is not _____. I don’t get paid ____. My work is so _______.’ It’s likely that you have filled in those blanks plenty of times as well. My friend’s employer sends out daily newsletters, which she shares with me because each one includes a very practical prayer. Today’s fit my attitude perfectly. I got up on the wrong side of the bed, and I was throwing myself an all-out pity party. I open her email and read, “…Expand our perception of the good things that life holds. Decrease our fear of not having enough, being enough, doing enough, growing enough. Amen – Joyce Rupp.” After reading this I quickly wrote my friend back and told her the prayers are always so timely. She wrote me back saying, “Me too. When I read that I breathed out a ‘lil of the sadness I was feeling and let in joy!”

Our success is not determined by the number of zeros on our paycheck or how many ladder rungs we climbed to get to the top. Our success is determined by the amount of compassion, willingness, and hard work we put into the work we do today. Colossians 3 says, “Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord…” Would people in your workplace say, “Wow! You are such a cheerful and hardworking person. You show a lot of integrity”? Or would they run the other way knowing you only have complaints or harsh criticisms to share? When is the last time you looked a client/customer/coworker in the eye and smiled genuinely, saying “Good morning”?

Instead of pushing ourselves forward with glassy flesh-craving eyes or eyes that say “I’m drowning and I haven’t slept in 6 days” perhaps we can focus on the real work, which is pleasing our Heavenly Father today. It does matter if we fall short of our employer’s expectations because it is up to them if we stay or go, but when we work for the Lord we earn favor from Him and that will grant us a lot more “success” than a million sleepless nights worrying about a life and career that scripture tells us is really just a vapor that appears and then vanishes. How will you spend your vapor?

You slaves must always obey your earthly masters, not only trying to please them when they are watching you but all the time; obey them willingly because of your love for the Lord and because you want to please him. Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, remembering that it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you, giving you your full portion of all he owns. He is the one you are really working for. And if you don’t do your best for him, he will pay you in a way that you won’t like—for he has no special favorites who can get away with shirking.     – Colossians 3:22-24

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God and Gal Pals

Have you ever stepped into an elevator with a bunch of other people and you catch a whiff of someone’s shampoo or cologne and you are instantly reminded of a specific person from your past? How about a meal that gives you the feeling of being home? Well, every time I smell cardboard or go to Target or eat a Red Vine I am immediately reminded of my friend.

My 30th birthday with Shannon

My 30th birthday with Shannon

Recently I have been really missing my dear friend Shannon. You see, boyfriends don’t like shopping for the perfect red top for the perfect right price, and they certainly don’t like sipping on lattes looking through bridal magazines in Barnes & Noble. God knows I love him, but he doesn’t share my cravings for red vines and a rich red velvet cupcake. Some things just have to be done with a close girlfriend; the kind that you are so honest with you argue one day and hug the next. I miss those days of calling her up to hang out at her house or do our weekly Target run when we just wander the store commenting on what’s new in the store and in life. And while God does not necessarily share my obsession with the perfect statement shoes or diet root beer, he does know the desires of my heart, and I can go to him even in my tears of loneliness and he will lend a listening ear.

It’s not easy to move forward when we miss something or someone, but he knows that. And unlike my dear friend Shannon he never sleeps and he never slumbers, so I can call on him night or day and he will comfort me.

By the way, I wish Shannon all the best. We talk all the time, and I plan to visit her in a couple of months. I hear they have some kind of super Target in Phoenix.