What Can I Give?

Every month, my husband and I give ourselves $40 for what we term “monthly money.” It’s basically an allowance, but since we’re grown ups now, we term it differently.

We save it up if we want to buy bigger purchases, but it often gets spent on coffee and eating a meal out with a friend here and there. Lately, I’ve also spent a bit each month on buying a new t-shirt or shorts. Post-pregnancy, some of this I deemed “absolute necessity” and perhaps you’d agree it was legitimate had you seen how inappropriate my once-long-shirts-turned-short-shirts looked on my new body.

All that aside, I’m back to my pre-pregnancy body weight now and my closet is full as it always has been.

{Proof. Though I'm sure you didn't need it to believe me.}

{Proof. Though I’m sure you didn’t need it to believe me.}

I clothe myself in new apparel every couple months and stock my cupboards full of food every couple weeks. And sometimes I seriously ask myself, what can I give? 

I can attempt to justify that we are poor college students living on a small income of a part-time working mom and a larger-but-still-small income of a student loan accruing interest as I type. It’s true that bills are barely paid sometimes and sometimes we don’t get our monthly money if it’s a particularly tight month (gasp). Life can be rough.

But obviously, we are rich, and obviously, I was being sarcastic. We are rich not just with food and clothes and a beautiful home and well-fed baby, but with the knowledge of Jesus Christ who paid our debts and gave us life and hope and joy.

And today I watched this film which kicked me in the face and snapped me back to reality. People are hungry. People are naked. People are sick. They are treated unjustly and have no hope for another life because they don’t know the Life resurrected and eternally living. I’ve known this, and yet at times, I’ve failed to do anything, which is far worse than having never known at all.

My heart hurt. My stomach ached. I literally felt sick.

Lord, have mercy. Bring Justice. Send help!

Earlier this week, not by coincidence I suspect (God’s funny that way), I read this verse about what happens when Jesus comes in his glory and gathers all people before him and says to those who are found righteous (Matthew 25:35-40):

Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Whoa. God’s going to bring this up, you guys!

If we know Him and love Him and follow Him, this should be a natural response to His love and mercy to us. It’s not about the stuff we acquire – we leave that behind! – it’s about what we give and how much we care for and love others – and that isn’t left behind but is revealed at the end of time!

Lord, find me faithful!

An appropriate question is: Who do we give to?* 

1. Other Christians. At the very least, the above verse is talking about other believers (brethren in the last sentence). As a community of Christ-followers, we are family and we give to each other to ensure no one is in need. It is not about me or just my nuclear family. It is about the larger family of Christ and identifying them all as family, perhaps even going to extremes to make sure that none of them are hungry or naked or homeless or in need.

Acts 2:44-45: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

Acts 4:34-35: “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

2. The Poor. And in general, God wants us to help those who are poor, hungry, sick, helpless.

Isaiah 58:6-7, 10: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen…to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?…if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”

Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

I hope that we take it seriously and pray how we can serve our brothers and sisters in the faith and serve those who are poor and hungry and naked. And then actually do it.

Lord, find us faithful. At the end of time when you return in your glory and judge the nations, may we be identified as those who carried on your work in the earth and loved one another in the faith and gave to those in need. May we be filled with your compassion, speak your truth, and love as you loved us.

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*I am not referring to tithing here, we should all be giving tithes to the local body of believers through the church. You can read a previous post on that here.

So I Press On Toward The Goal

This last week I decided to watch the first episode of Downton Abbey. I wondered what all the hype was about and wanted something to pass the time for the evening. I just wanted to watch the first episode, but of course, one led to two which led to five and then eight…they really know how to hook you, don’t they?!

I am so easily addicted to things like this. And starting from episode 1 of season 1 when there are now 3 seasons out there means I could easily spend a lot of time catching up. I could watch it for hours upon hours! And the temptation is there, no doubt! I found myself meditating on it…thinking about it throughout the day, reflecting on what had happened and contemplating what could happen.

By the end of the week, I felt a little duller toward the things of the Lord. Meditating on scripture? Is that nearly as satisfying? Reading and praying and singing songs to the Lord? It just didn’t seem as attractive or fulfilling to me…but I knew in my heart it is even more so.

Please hear me out that I am NOT saying watching TV or flipping through magazines or scrolling through pinterest and the like are evils in themselves. They can be enjoyable pastimes and can prove beneficial sometimes.

But hear this too: if our faith feels a little dry and our joy is dull, maybe it’s because we aren’t spending time in the Lord’s presence…searching to know Him through His Word and prayer, experiencing the fullness of joy that comes in his presence alone.

Maybe it’s because we feed the lesser desires of satisfying these pastime enjoyments instead of feeding the deeper need of knowing Him.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. -Psalm 16:11

Do we believe that in His presence there really is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore? Have we experienced it?

Nothing else satisfies but everything else promises to.

Everything else promises to: it’s a lie from the father of lies. And so often we buy into it – we spend our time and money and thoughts meditating on that which we are sure will satisfy. It slowly steals our joy, dulls our faith, and we become somewhat complacent with a half-hearted faith…just living day-to-day with no real sense of purpose or joy. Not dead, but not on fire for the Lord in quite the same way.

When I think of the woman I hope to become and what I hope my life will amount to, it’s become so clear to me that spending endless hours passing time was not going to get me there. And yet there are so many temptations to fill time to just pass the time.

I have to ask: What do we hope our life will amount to? And is spending time doing _______ going to get us toward that end-goal? Because if not, maybe it isn’t worth our time. Maybe our time should be more purposeful and valuable in seizing opportunities to know the Lord more and finding out that He really is real and in His presence really is complete fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

It takes discipline. It takes devotion. But let me tell you: it is worth it. When I spend time in the presence of the Lord, learning more about Him and rejoicing in this great God who saved my soul …it is well worth it and I am never left wanting or feeling dull.

So church, press on toward the goal of knowing Him more and making Him known. Resist that which is not beneficial in getting you there. It’s not always a pretty, internal dialogue. Sometimes the temptation is fierce and the flesh seems stronger than the spirit – but stand firm and keep fighting the good fight.

And while there are endless moments to let life pass by, to live for vain pleasures and waste time on unworthy causes, I hope we remain focused, devoted, and disciplined; aflame with a love for the Lord that dims our desire for anything not of Him.

I hope we live a life worthy of the calling which we have received and of the God whom we serve.

Why Won’t My Heart Change?

A couple days ago I confessed my frustration toward a certain someone to a friend.

I’m just so frustrated by her behavior. And I’m trying not to get bitter toward her. So just pray for my heart in it all…I concluded. In essence, I was asking her to pray that my heart would change so that I could be more like Christ. If my heart changed, then I would change.

My heart did need to change, no doubt. But as I prayed later that evening, my patient Savior showed me that regardless of how I feel in a given moment, I am to remain obedient to Him. And in that moment, maybe it wasn’t my heart he was concerned most about…maybe it was my mind. Because it is with my mind I choose to follow him or to not follow him. It is a conscious decision I have to make day-by-day: to deny my pride and anger and desires and submit to Him and His will, which is revealed in the Word of God.

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you… (Matthew 5:44)

I’ve read it so many times. So when I don’t like someone, do I get on my knees and pray for them? And why couldn’t I simply pray for my own heart in this matter? Because humbling myself in prayer for someone else who is an enemy of sorts is exactly what would change my heart.

So, I’ll leave you with this:

Is your heart gripped with anger, bitterness, worry, lust, envy, pride?

Well, maybe the reason our hearts aren’t changing is simply because we aren’t applying our minds to scripture, mentally understanding what he’s asking us to DO and then humbly doing it.

Psalm 40

He’s Watching Me

I walk around my kitchen and feel the pair of eyes staring at me. Every time I glance over my shoulder, there he is: wide-eyed sucking on his little fingers and watching every move I make. I smile at him and he returns the smile with a half-grin covered by wet, pruned fingers. I continue preparing dinner and washing dishes and he seldom takes his eyes off me.

Here’s some photos of the cute little guy:

A lot has changed in the last four and a half months.

I’m a mom now.

And more than ever before, I feel the influence of my life on those around me. I feel it in the two little eyes staring up at me, watching me, observing me. And as he grows, he’s learning what it looks like to live and be and do. When he sits in my lap at the dinner table, he watches my fork move from my plate to my mouth. He’s learning how to eat. When we do something as routine as walking, he’s learning how to one day do likewise.

And while it’s fascinating how much kids take in, isn’t it frightening? Because he is also learning how to respond to a rough day at work, a disagreement with the spouse, hurt feelings from a friend. He’s learning how to talk about others when they aren’t around, what to do with downtime, and what to watch on TV or the internet.

Our homes are the place where our faults and struggles are most exposed.

It’s the place where we are naked.

And perhaps it’s frightening that as they watch us, they learn from us, and one day, they’ll imitate us. It’s frightening unless…unless we are imitating Jesus. In which case, it’s discipleship, and perhaps the sweetest form.

Because it’s in our homes that true discipleship happens best.

In the context of vulnerability and honesty and love and grace, we learn our great need for Jesus and his great power to save us and transform us even in especially in our weakest moments. And our kids get to see this every day…and let’s be honest, several times a day.

This is as raw as it gets, friends. And what an opportunity it is to show that the gospel transforms our entire life and every day and every moment is an opportunity to LOVE JESUS.

Not to confuse that with being perfect. Or not sinning ever. But I’ve heard parents say that parenting is sanctifying…amen to that one.

So as those little eyes observe me day in and day out, on days when I am sleep deprived and on days when I feel a little more put together, I hope he observes really imperfect people who really love Jesus and really follow Him in the nitty gritty of everyday life. I hope he learns to love and follow Jesus in his own marriage someday, in his relationships and church family and work, with his money and time. I hope he sees the power of Jesus to save and believes it by faith.

And to that endeavor, I rest on the hope that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2nd Peter 1:3), which means that He is able to transform me more and more into His likeness (for his own glory!) as I submit to Him. Seriously…so thankful for this hope! Because without His help I am helpless and so are my kids!

Who is watching you?

We are all being watched and followed. It may be your own kids, or perhaps other kids who look up to you, or maybe it’s your friends, or your siblings, or your coworkers, classmates, enemies, or cousins. This day in age, maybe it’s your twitter or blog followers. What are they learning from you?

What’s Your Response?

A sower went out to sow his seed. The seed was the Word of God. As the sower spread the seed, people heard the Gospel!

Yet many who heard the good news chose not to ground themselves in it and lived a life outside of His will. The result? Some fell away from temptation. Others were consumed by the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life, which overtook them and they yielded no fruit.  

How have you responded? Where are you on this chart?

If you find yourself believing with joy for a while, but falling away in temptation, root yourself in His Word. Commit yourself to being watered and fed daily by His Word, plant yourself in a church and have community with other like-minded believers, and put into practice what you read.

If you find yourself consumed with the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, remove yourself from the sin that so easily entangles (Heb 12:1), deny yourself and follow Him (Mark 8:34). You may be hearing the word, but you are not yielding fruit because you continue on in the cares, riches, and pleasures of life. This world will pass away – live wisely!

Regardless of how we’ve responded in the past, I pray that we will become hearers and doers of His Word, keeping it and bearing much fruit for His glory and kingdom! Because when we all stand before His throne at the end of our lives, faced with the reality of how we lived in response to His Word, I want to be found in His truth, clothed with the righteousness of Jesus, living and remaining in His grace. And you will too.

Keep the faith, brothers and sisters, Jesus is coming soon!

Unearned Kindness

How far will God’s kindness go? His mercy and graciousness toward me is so undeserved, and sometimes I wonder, when will it stop? I can’t do anything to deserve it. And yet sometimes I fear that if I don’t “do better” in my Christian walk, He’ll take it away.

I still have so much to learn of Him, and I recognize that these thoughts only expose how much I don’t know of His grace or of His character.

Because really, does our good works earn us the grace and blessing He pours into our lives?

There is no doubt that God rewards those who seek Him, so I’m not advocating a spiritual laziness because God’s grace will cover our lack of discipline. But in no way does our attempts toward holiness merit His grace or kindness or mercy. Rather His kindness and mercy is meant to lead us toward greater holiness.

I feel increasingly undeserving of His goodness; and I am undeserving. But because of His goodness, I am led continually toward repentance. I hope that as we realize the magnitude of His grace, we do not trample on it in pride or hardness of heart, but we repent, turn to Him, and love Him because He first loved us.

“…Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

“…[He] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” 2 Timothy 1:9

Thank you, God, that you alone are worthy. And that your kindness to us through Jesus has changed us and given us hope beyond compare. I pray we’d look to you and respond to your kindness and give glory to the work of Jesus who has clothed us with His righteousness. Amen.

Seeking Him in the New Year

It’s a new year. But it’s also just another day, another opportunity to seek the face of God. And I hope – I pray – we do not pass the opportunity that alone has power to transform and to redeem, to give hope and to restore life. May we be filled with a knowledge of Jesus Christ, of His death, resurrection, and return, so that our lives would be wholly consumed by the glory of God.

“Oh Godstrip us of the meager desires that consume us day-to-day and put an ache in our hearts for your will to be done, for your kingdom to come, for your glory to wholly transform us so that we no longer live for ourselves or for this world, but that our life would be found completely in you, Jesus, and in no way apart from you.

I pray your church would be a people redeemed by the blood of Jesus so that His work would not go futile in our lives.

May we not diminish the work and name of Jesus Christ by not allowing it to completely redeem and transform our broken lives, to conquer the sin and death we’ve lived in. But may the work and name of Jesus Christ be magnified in us as we surrender every facet of our lives to Him so that the wholeness of His work and power and life may be embodied in us.”

Be filled with His truth, brothers and sisters, and seek His face today. It is in His Name – the Name above all Names – that we pray, Amen.