Mundane Monday: Isolation’s Surprise

isolation

Photo Credit Flickr Creative Commons and loufi.

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It is in the unlikely places that God reaches His people with His love and grace.

Scriptures of the Day:

Matthew 14:15

When evening arrived, his disciples came to him saying, “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late. Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 15 But he replied, “They don’t need to go. You give them something to eat.”

Matthew 15:33

The disciples said to him, “Where can we get enough bread in this desolate place to satisfy so great a crowd?” 34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven–and a few small fish.”

It is sometimes not until we are in a place of want that we understand how blessed we are. Not knowing how the bills will be paid, hoping the debit card works at the register at the grocery store, not being able to afford prescription medication, or even being unable to fix our car – all things I have walked through – taught me lessons I could never have learned when provision was more abundant.

The assumption the disciples made and we often can, too, is that in those desolate places, when we are alone and it seems there is no help, it is not what we have that matters. It is Who we have that makes all the difference.

The disciples did not see how they could help the masses of people. They looked at what they had, they looked at the resources around them and it looked bleak. This makes sense in our practical world. We don’t plan on what might be, we plan according to what is in our hands. While this is a sensible approach when it comes to living on a budget, God’s math does not add up when His children are hurting or in need. In the place of isolation there is a test. A test to see what our response will be. A test of trust.

He loves to demonstrate His care and use us to do so, as well. Jesus looked at their hearts and longed to provide in a way that brought glory to God. No one could take credit for such a lavish feast. People still scratch their heads today wondering how such a miracle could occur, but that is what is so awesome about God’s provision – it always surprises us because it does not seem possible.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked means of God’s provision is us. He blesses us and watches to see how we will be sensitive to see the needs of others. Will we be His hands and feet? God is asking us today, “What do you have?” Phew. humbling. But one of the greatest joys is giving and seeing God at work in the life of the recipient.  Much like earthly parents love to surprise their children with blessings, our God waits to see if we will call on Him and also be used by Him so He can answer in amazing ways.

But perhaps the need and provision are not the most significant aspects of these biblical stories. God is using that need to open their eyes to seek Him, that we might know Him more.

Lord, thank You that You are never far off when we cry out to You. Please help us to be attentive to the needs around us, ready to help, as well.

Worshipful Wednesday: Our Generous God

God is generous

1 Corinthians 1:5-7

For you were made rich in every way in him, in all your speech and in every kind of knowledge– 6 just as the testimony about Christ has been confirmed among you– 7 so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 25:14

“The LORD’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.”

We worry about provision in a world system that requires payment for everything. Yet God says that if he takes care of the grass, flowers and a small sparrow, He will provide for us, too. Trouble is, flowers don’t spend well in our economical system and sometimes we don’t know how God is going to do it, but He always comes through.

His provision is vastly more than we could ever imagine and lasts for all eternity. What kind of God is that? The richest person in the world according to the world’s riches could not compare with the riches God has for those Who would call upon His name and be saved.

We were (past tense) made rich in EVERY way – but it might not always appear to be the case. Man looks at the outward, but inwardly God is at work in amazing ways. We received everything we needed when we were saved, but sometimes we do not perceive it.

When my kids were little, I wanted to instill in them a love of learning.  I wanted them to treasure knowledge and wisdom, for wisdom opens our eyes to see the truth, and knowing God and His truth is the greatest gift of all.  When other kids were getting electronics, my kids got books. When I would come back from Homeschooling convention, they would run up to me and wonder what devotion or new journal I got them.  I pray that sticks with them their whole lives through.  Knowing God is our greatest treasure.

When we don’t understand, we can come to Him and He will generously give us wisdom without finding fault. When we lack faith, we can run to His Word and to Him and He will give us hope.  When we are weak, we can cry out to Him and He will strengthen us. When we are depressed, He gives us the gift of joy.  When we are hurt, He comfort us. Once again we come back to the word, “relationship”.  Access to these precious gifts He has bestowed is given when we come to Him and He does not withhold.

Lord, thank You for giving us everything we need, and most importantly – the gift of Yourself and Your only Son.  Help us to be a grateful people, recognizing your generous provision for your children.

Thoughtful Thursday: True Prosperity

True Propserity

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Reconciliation with the Almighty God of this universe is the greatest wealth we can have.

Scripture:

Job 22:21-28

21 “Reconcile yourself with God, and be at peace with him; in this way your prosperity will be good. 22 Accept instruction from his mouth and store up his words in your heart. 23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; if you remove wicked behavior far from your tent, 24 and throw your gold in the dust–your gold of Ophir among the rocks in the ravines– 25 then the Almighty himself will be your gold, and the choicest silver for you. 26 Surely then you will delight yourself in the Almighty, and will lift up your face toward God. 27 You will pray to him and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to him. 28 Whatever you decide on a matter, it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways.” 

I’ve heard of people longing to win the lottery – even going to great lengths on strategies to hopefully help them land the winning number – and end their woes.  Thing is, the people who do win often end up destroying their lives.  What happened?  Wasn’t prosperity the solution to all of their troubles?

Some preachers have taught that world wealth is a given for those who are in Christ. People who are poor by the world’s standards must just not have enough faith to obtain the wealth God planned for them.  I don’t buy it and I have never played the lottery, either.

Like Paul, I have known what it is to be in need and to have an abundance.  In both times, I praised God.  I did not want to forget God when He blessed us, nor did I want to blame Him when we were unemployed and sued into financial woe.  God was faithful through it all. Both circumstances were not easy.

In times of prosperity, materialism, comfort and apathy threatened to woo us into a backslidden, religious state.  In times of financial hardship, we had to adapt and go without. We cried out to God and gained things of value that wealth could never give us.  A deeper walk with Him, a deeper trust in Him as He provided in creative ways, and learning contentment – precious treasure earned in challenging financial ordeals.

My children and I look fondly on the times when we craved food that we could not purchase due to a limited budget, then the LORD impressed on other people’s hearts to bring us that very food.  It was very specific and amazing to see God’s faithfulness in even the smallest of things.

The greatest riches we can ever achieve were given freely to us and can never be lost. Eternal treasures purchased for us by the blood of Christ, the cost for our reconciliation to God.  Nothing compares to this prosperity.

Lord, thank You for giving us Yourself, the most precious gift ever.  Please help us to be a grateful people and to share what You have given to us with the world.

Holy Week: The Wealthy King Who Became Poor

life-of-jesus-and-poor-in-spirit

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

“He became poor to show us what true wealth really was.”

Scripture of the Day:

2 Corinthians 8:9

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich.”

Matthew 8:20

“Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens, and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.””

Luke 18:22

“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.””

It is easy to get lost in the mentality of this world system – money and belongings are necessary to make it in this world.  Modern day rulers and politicians try to solve the problem of poverty by many means.  Distributing wealth from the privileged to those less fortunate, welfare, etc.  These approaches are flawed in many ways; the wealthy did not choose to share, the poor do not necessarily appreciate it, and providing merely for physical needs does not change the condition of our hearts before a Holy God.

We flee financial problems like the plague.  It is not comfortable to be in want nor to be so dependent on anyone else for basic human needs.  Being poor is not a coveted position, yet our God Who owned it all chose to surrender His position of prominence to give all He had to those who receive it.

Sometimes when we have all we need, we do not see that we have nothing apart from Christ.  He did not have any trappings to hold Him back from His mission and gave all He had to accomplish the purpose to which God the Father had given Him.  How humbling to consider that all he gave us we will be accountable to Him for how we spent it – all for His glory.  Like Schindler, the German business owner who wept at the end of WWII over how many more precious lives he could have saved with the belongings he owned, may God help us to examine the wealth He has given us now and help us spend it for eternal purposes.  More than that, may we be open and ready to see the spiritual poverty all around us and feed God’s people with His Word.

To those who followed him, He announced he had no home.  To those who were hungry, He fed.  To those who were poor in spirit, He made the richest of all.  We typically want to hide our need.  The shame of exposure of being or owning less than we had hoped is seemingly unbearable, but recognizing our spiritual poverty opens our eyes to see our need of a Savior Who is rich in grace and mercy.

Lord, You own everything.  Thank You for leaving it all to ransom our souls so we could be with You forever.  Forgive us for being so focused on temporal provisions and concerns and not trusting Your provision and seeing our greatest need of all – You.

 

Worshipful Wednesday: Our Security

Security

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Security is not found in what we think we own or deserve, but in Christ alone.

Sctiptures:

Psalm 16:1-2 (NIV)

1 “A miktam of David. Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” 

Psalm 16:5 (Net bible)

5 “LORD, you give me stability and prosperity; you make my future secure. 7 I will praise the LORD who guides me; yes, during the night I reflect and learn. 8 I constantly trust in the LORD; because he is at my right hand, I will not be upended. 9 So my heart rejoices and I am happy; My life is safe. 10 You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit. 11 You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.”

Security.  Something everyone wants deep in their soul, yet something not found on this earth.  We live in an insecure world that alters at a frantic pace.  We cannot count on anything or anyone around us fully, for everything is temporal and subject to change.  But in all the confusion of constant metamorphoses around us and a high influx of ever-increasing knowledge, we can be still, know our God and be confident in Him.

It is not until we are in a place of having nearly lost everything that we recognize all that He had given to us.  In that place of sorrow over losing what we thought was ours, we gain a new perspective.  The temporary gifts were not meant to be owned, but to be cherished and shared, praising and thanking God for the time we had them.

Any position, status, relation – all are not something we have a right to.  Humbly, we are the recipients of His grace and gifts for His glory.  We get off track when we are in pursuit of comfort and security or getting back what was ours before, instead of pursuing God.

We are each born with different circumstances we think we own or wish we didn’t.  Yet all, whether born privileged or underprivileged, can have this seemingly evasive security – in Christ.

God has good plans for us – but our hope is not in those good plans, but in Him – our living hope and security.

Oh Lord, You are my fortress, my refuge and place of joy!  I do not want to run to anything or anyone before You!  Thank you for the security You have provided in Your Word and in knowing You.  When the world screams insecurity, You hold us and speak Your promises.  I love you, Lord!

Truthful Tuesday: Prevention or Provision of Blessing

Blessings prevented

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The prevention of blessing in our lives is either caused by God’s sovereign grace or our disobedience.

Scriptures:

Genesis 16:2 ESV

“And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”

Genesis 17:1-2

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

Walking in the Spirit means sometimes God prevents or leads in a way that does not make sense.  We want the typical blessings of life and do not understand that God’s timing is best.  So it was with Sarah.  God made a promise and she was going to make sure it happened.  Whenever we have to strive to produce God’s promise, we are probably missing the leading of the LORD.

I do not blame Sarah.  I’ve done the same thing myself.  She did not want something wrong, she just went about it the wrong way.  Compromise is like that.  It happens when we follow our own inclinations instead of waiting on the LORD and trusting His timing.

What did God want Abraham and Sarah to do?  To walk before Him blamelessly.  What is intriguing about this requirement is the word “that” which follows God’s command. Waiting on God is all about relationship.  He makes a covenant with us and WE can prevent God’s blessings in our lives when we simply do not walk with Him in obedience.

We can be like a toddler, wanting what we want and all the while God is saying, “come and fellowship with me.  I want to bless you.”  Those who would seek Him would receive the blessings and the greatest of blessings which is Himself.  Those who would seek the blessings miss out entirely on the purpose of the covenant.

If we break His covenant He is still faithful, but we might not see the promise fulfilled or see it massively delayed.

Remember the Israelites in the desert?  That trip should have taken eleven days, but instead it took forty years.  BUMMER.

Even if the journey becomes difficult, walking in the Spirit and trusting in God’s plan and timing is far better than veering off course.  God might prevent us from something, but He is always leading us to another.

Obtaining blessing apart from God’s perfect will feels empty, but the peace of Christ that comes from abiding in God and walking in His ways is unsurpassed to any blessing we were seeking in the first place.

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness, trustworthiness and promises.  Help us to wait upon You, knowing Your plans and ways are perfect.

Truthful Tuesday: Whose Lead Do You Follow?

Whose lead do you follow

Romans 8:5

“For  those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

We’d all like to think that we are led by the Spirit and are making decisions that are wise, but often we do not see the spiritual realm all around us, affecting our thoughts and actions.  The impact of flesh versus spirit affects our lives and those around us.

The choices we make moment by moment are filtered by our mindset which is impacted by many factors in our environment.  Evident in our choices about what we eat (ugh . . . chocoholic confessions here for me), to the clothing we wear, the words we say and the attitudes we have toward other people, we have impressions or feelings that bombard us constantly.  If we are not careful and discerning, we can allow our perception or someone else’s opinion to affect our own behavior.

One main way this flesh is played out is how we treat one another.  Rejection of others who aren’t like us is common in the world, but unfortunately, it also happens at church. People shun others or just plain old don’t like other people who are made in the image of God.  Where does this come from?  If it is not from God, then the answer is obvious, but all too often we do not stop to consider why we don’t like someone.  We might all have different personalities, but we ought to love one another so the world can see that body of Christ is indeed different.

The truth is we are more apt to be carnal than spiritual beings and when we are spiritual, we often get in the flesh and think it is us who are righteous, when Christ alone is our righteousness.

While this is a humbling truth, maybe it can provoke us to be aware of our thoughts and behaviors.  Do they honor God?  Are they of the Spirit or of the flesh?  If we could grab a hold of this reality, Christians would turn this world upside down with godly lives and choices that no longer appear hypocritical, unconditional acceptance and love instead of judgment and forming cliques.

Pleasing self or others and seeking acceptance from God’s creation does not compare with living for the audience of One.  Like Paul, we will have to battle the flesh, but staying in the battle is far better than not recognizing the battle of the flesh versus spirit in the first place.

Lord, may You increase and may we decrease.  Help us to recognize the things that are from You and the things that are not and to walk in the Spirit.

 

Worshipful Wednesday:Favored Favor

gods-favor-550x320 - 2

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The favor of God is our greatest reward.

Scripture:

Psalm 4:2-3

“You men, how long will you try to turn my honor into shame? How long will you love what is worthless and search for what is deceptive? (Selah) 3 Realize that the LORD shows the godly special favor; the LORD responds when I cry out to him.”

Psalm 5:12

“Certainly you reward the godly, LORD. Like a shield you protect them in your good favor.”

The thrill of receiving a gift is a surge of elation, a cherished favor; but sadly, it does not last.  Nope, the hard-earned new car or house, the pretty new outfit or exciting new relationship eventually become old.  The pursuit of the next new thing is futile, as the endless cycle of newness wearing off leaves us disillusioned, wanting for more.

The irony is that the things we often desire are not worth our time at all.  No one would choose a lump of coal for their stocking over a priceless, cherished gift, yet we daily are duped into pursuing things of lesser value compared to the riches God has in store for His children.

We might not at first recognize that we are esteeming worthless things, but that is often because we are deceived.  Blinded by the desires of our flesh, we long for things that temporarily satisfy us while God has riches beyond our greatest imagination.

Often we fall short of receiving God’s best because we are impatient or do not trust in what we cannot readily see.  Like the rich man who yearned for the comfort that Lazarus had after the sorrows on this earth, we have a choice right now to put our trust in the future hope that God has for us and not look only for rewards that this world offers.

To love what is worthless when the King of kings offers Himself, instead, is perhaps the saddest deception of all.  He longs to have us look up and worship the only One of worth, Himself, and to bless us, but we choose things that do not last and ultimately our own destruction apart from the grace of God.

What is this favor He longs to give?  We have an audience with the Almighty Creator.  Not just an audience, but One Who hears us and acts on our behalf.  He is our Shield, our Protector, the Lover of our souls.  His favor is eternal salvation for those who recognize and receive the gift.  The highest favor, indeed.

Lord, help us to invest our lives in what matters – pursuing You.  May we not waste the precious gift of life on worthless endeavors, but pursue knowing You above all things.

Thoughtful Thursday: Possessive Possessions

LoveSelfishness

Inspirational thought of the day:

All that we think we own we cannot keep and it is not ours, after all.

Scripture:

Job 1:21

He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. May the name of the LORD be blessed!”

Ah.  The American Dream.  Much that is included in this utopic hope is good.  Freedom.  Peace.  Happiness.  But part of the American Dream is tied up in materialistic goals.

Somehow happiness becomes equated with owning things.  Lots of them. Or they own us.  A home that is much larger than necessary, nice things, a perfect family, involvement in a zillion things.

I confess, I bought it, too.  Still do.  But God continues to lovingly pry my fingers open to release it all to Him.

There is a comfort in owning things and having things settled, without fear of losing them.  Yet the human condition is that there is nothing certain in this life.  How does one function in an insecure world void of anything lasting?  Our future hope.

As devastating as it is when we lose something we cherished, or worse yet, a loved one passes away who is irreplaceable, there is an inner joy kindling with the inexpressible joy that we will have in Heaven when we no longer long for anything or anyone and have no fear that we will ever lose what God gives us.

Eternity is in the hearts of all men.  A desperate want for something more than what surrounds us.  We pacify this want with what we own or our earned place in this world, but that is only temporary.  Why would God create such a condition for man to live in?

Because we were not made just for this world.  We were made for eternity with Him.  We are passing through down here and it is so very hard for us to remember when things are given and stripped away that we have something far greater, beyond comprehension that Christ has already given to us.

What we are given is not for us, after all, but for His glory.

We are in the waiting room right now, waiting for our complete blessing in Him in Heaven.  While we wait, we temporary hold onto what God has placed in our lives with open hands, palm up – worshiping Him when He gives and when He takes, for He allows it all for our good and His glory.

Lord, help us to be filled with gratitude for everything You allow into our lives, even when things don’t make sense.  Give us Your eternal perspective and help us to glorify You in it all.

Mundane Monday: Unruly Rulers

Steward What You Do Have - unruly ruler

Inspirational Thought of the day:

God has given us everything from provisions to positions, yet still owns and rules it all.  

Scriptures:

Genesis 1:26-27

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.’ 27 God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

Genesis 2:18

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.'”

No one likes to be told they have to follow someone else’s rules. Ugh. Our flesh in this culture cries out, “no one can be the boss of me”. That’s our nature. God made us to rule, after all. But in what manner?

Man and woman were both made to rule over God’s creation according to His boundaries, but the tendency of mankind is to add or subtract rules to define our own boundaries to suit our desires.

We were to be stewards of all He had given, and within that work was a blessing – our enjoyment. But we can easily forget that it all belongs to Him. The One Who gives us the right to rule is still the owner of it all.

Something innate within us wants to own things, but in God’s economy, He shares it all with us freely.  While He was demonstrating love and generosity to Adam and Eve, they were pursuing their own glory and wants instead of His.  Their rulership became all about them and was no longer blessed.

He knew all that they needed, provided food and even provided for their need for fellowship – woman was made as a companion for man.  With such blessings, why would they ever want for more?

Both of them were present when they chose to violate God’s law.  Both confused the purpose of the role of dominion and what they ruled over was therefore cursed.  Even their fellowship would never be the same.  A sad ending, if that were the end of the story.

In Christ, we can see the impact of the curse in our own lives and resist evil, but it is a battle we will have to fight our entire lives.  Our flesh gets wearied by this continual internal and external conflict, but it is a battle worth fighting.  Even though the curse is evident all around us, God uses even curses for good in our lives.

When things are not perfect, the curses in our lives can be a catalyst for seeking God and seeing our need of Him.  The initial punishment meted out by a Holy, righteous, perfect Judge ends up as a blessing to those who die to self and seek God’s glory and not their own.  What an amazing God.

It is ironic that the pursuit of wisdom would lead to their demise.  A pursuit of wisdom for our own glory bears cursed fruit, but loving wisdom in order to glorify God bears eternal fruit.  If we can see our rule over what God has given us as a position of servitude instead of a position of power, we begin to see the wisdom in God’s plan and reverse the curse.

Lord, thank You for Your kind provision.  You have blessed us beyond measure and we still always want for more.  Help us to be faithful stewards and to care for everything You have placed in our hands.  May we be content and grateful, never forgetting that everything we have is Yours and for Your glory.