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.

_________________________________________________________________
*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.
Advertisements

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.

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?

Freedom & Life

An old friend of mine spent a couple of years in prison. I didn’t know exactly what happened to him. We lost contact and then it seemed he just disappeared. I knew he had stolen cars and gotten deep in drugs. He struggled with lust. He got involved with gangs. He was one of those old classmates that you wonder what ever happened to them.

Years later, he contacted me because he remembered our conversations about Jesus. Fresh out of jail, he still struggled with his old way of life. He struggled with lust and sexual sin. He knew that if the opportunity presented itself, he may not be strong enough to resist the drugs. We lost contact again as he stopped answering his phone. I’m not sure what happened to him.

I do know that though he was given a new opportunity at life, he remained in bondage to the old. Free from prison, but not really free at all. How true this is of so many Christians who have been freed from the eternal consequences of sin, yet remain in bondage to their old ways of life.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

The gospel is more than just a message of eternal salvation. Jesus paid our eternal debt through His death on the cross and set us free from the eternal consequences of sin. But if we accept & believe in His death and resurrection, yet remain in bondage to the old ways of life – to our anger, bitterness, jealousy, lust, pride, anxiety, and the like – then the power and intent of His death is not complete in our lives. He came to save us from our sins and to sanctify us in His truth for His purposes and glory (John 17:17).  

Our struggles with sin don’t end with salvation. But the hope of the gospel is this: He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2nd Peter 1:3). He has given us the Holy Spirit who transforms us into the likeness of Christ as we yield to His work. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is HOPE for redemption and new life.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you…For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:11-13

In light of this hope, may we deny ourselves and follow Him; take off the old and put on the new; stop walking in the desires of our flesh or the ways of the world and start walking in the Spirit so that the fruit of His Spirit can be produced in our lives and the hope of the gospel evident in our testimonies.

Praise Jesus! There is real power in His death and resurrection! We now stand resurrected by His Spirit – alive by His grace!

Happy Easter, friends. He is Risen!

I Believe

I believe in a God who restores health and who inflicts pain.

I believe in a God who gives life and allows death.

I believe in a God who promises joy and assures us of sorrow.

I believe in a God who extends mercy and executes judgment.

I believe in a God of grace, and I believe in a God of war.

I believe in a God who hates sin but who loves sinners.

I believe in a God who rejects the unrepentant but forgives those who ask.

I believe in a God who is fearful and yet approachable.

I believe in a God who is sovereign.

I believe in a God who is Love.

I believe in a God whose ways are not my own.

And I believe in a God whose ways are better than my own.

I believe in God the Father; I believe in God the Son;

I believe in God the Holy Spirit; and I believe they are One.

I’ve wrestled with these different and seemingly contradictory attributes of God — uncertain of how I felt about a God who inflicts pain, a God who rejects the unrepentant yet good person, a God who forgives those sins I wouldn’t forgive — but I am certain that HIS sovereignty is good. As we study the Bible, we are faced with the questions: do we believe in this God and will we submit to Him? And after years of seeking Him and knowing Him, I testify that in all these things, He is good, and I say with confidence: I believe. Choosing to believe in Him and submit to Him…it changes everything.

Are there aspects of God that are hard for you to accept? How have you sought Him and yielded to Him in these questions?

Struck Down But Not Destroyed

Life’s been rough the last several months.

And yet it’s been good. My husband got into medical school (yay!); five days later we packed up our belongings and moved to a new town; three days later we flew across the country to visit family; we returned to a new home and new city, continued unpacking boxes, worked over full-time,  and traveled every weekend in between.

And somewhere within all of this excitement, my body crashed and my emotions plummeted. For a girl who is orderly and routine-driven, these changes came fast and hard. It affected me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt depressed, agitated, and confused. I cried everyday without reason and my body felt sick nearly all the time.

And no, I-am-not-pregnant.

It’s been a battle. And I’ve felt more like a helpless victim than a courageous fighter. The attacks came relentlessly from every direction and I’ve been unable to get up between the punches.

I know that talk of spiritual warfare can make people uncomfortable. But I’m about to go there. So if you feel uncomfortable, feel free to exit the browser now…

“Do not overestimate the power of the enemy, and do not underestimate the power of God.” -Pastor Jon Courson, Applegate Christian Fellowship

The tempter (Satan) came to Jesus after He had fasted forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. Not when He was strong and feeling capable of spiritual warfare, but when He was weakest. Friends, we must expect the same.

The attacks came in my weakest moments, masked within the chaos of life events. It wasn’t until my husband prayed over me recently that I realized what I was fighting against. It wasn’t an emotional breakdown; it wasn’t just stress; it wasn’t just change. It was demonic. It was powerful. It was persistent. And with the name of Jesus, it fled.

Friends, we are in midst of a spiritual war. The attacks extend beyond the spiritual and hit us in the physical life we live. Jesus combated Satan’s attacks with the Word of God, and that is our weapon too. So stand firmly in His Word — meditate on it and submit to it! Do not surrender to the attacks…surrender to Jesus. In His Name there is hope, and in His Word there is victory.

The battle is not over. Pray for me. And know that I am praying for you.

Christians in a Godless World

“God, where are you in the world?” I heard three unrelated people ask this question recently as they each elaborated on different issues.

“Where are you when children are sold into modern-day slavery and prostitution? Where are you in the lives of those who are poor and hurting and sick? Where are you when men, women, and children are fiercely killed in genocides at the hands of evil men around the world? God, where-are-you and why-aren’t-you-doing-anything?”

It’s a valid question. If you’ve ever heard the stories of genocides around the world, of young girls trafficked and forced to have sex with several men every day, of the evil people who are rewarded and the righteous people who are suffering, then you know that it’s a very valid question.

God answered all three individuals with the same response: “Where are you and why aren’t you doing anything?”

We are God’s hands and feet. We are His servants to do His work. And yet we are so wrapped up in our lives, schedules, electronics, and TV shows that we remain egocentric and apathetic Christians. As Christians who carry on the Name of Christ, our lives must leave behind His handprints and footprints in our communities and in our world. We must care because He cared. We must respond because He responded.

Ultimately, Jesus’ love caused Him to offer His life as the sacrifice for our sins. Are we willing to be Christians even when the cost is great? If not, I can’t help but question whether our Christianity is self-based or a true response from a relationship with Jesus. If it is indeed the latter, it will cause us to be others-based as we follow in His footsteps.

As Christ followers, our hearts must break for what breaks His, our feet must walk where His walked, and our hands must get a little—or a lot—dirty. Though I say this statement in a spiritual sense, it is meant quite literally in a physical sense. We must respond.

“‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy…Is that not what it means to know Me?’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 22:16

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure & faultless is this: to look after orphans & widows in their distress & to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

“If anyone has material possessions & sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions & in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

Steps toward an others-based faith

  1. PRAY for the people on God’s heart: for lost souls (Luke 19:41-44); for the poor and needy (Prov. 31:8-9), for those who are in bondage and oppressed (Luke 4:16-21), for those who are sick and disabled (Matt 11:4-5), for His Church (John 17). This will align your heart with His.
  2. ASK GOD what your part is.
  3. GO in the power of His Spirit and do what He’s commanded you to do.