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.
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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

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!

What If My Son Isn’t Healthy?

I hadn’t let it get to me before, despite the comments of others. “As long as he’s healthy…” I’d hear them say. But what if he wasn’t? It may make life harder, but would it make it any less blessed?

Then today, fear struck me. The possibility of Lyme disease being passed from me to my child paralyzed me for a moment. I mourned for the life he may encounter with such opposition.

Not that any other opposition is less of a fear, but the memories and possibilities of Lyme disease are all too familiar. If you don’t know about the prevalence of this disease in my life, you can read a bit about it here in my testimony. I’ve known a lot of people with this disease; I’ve seen people no longer able to keep their jobs, continue school, or enjoy former hobbies and activities as they are confined to their beds.  And of course, I know firsthand the pain of this disease and how difficult it is to treat, especially if passed from mother to child in the womb.

As these thoughts penetrate my mind today and tempt me with fear, they also challenge the foundation of my hope: Do I hope merely for that which is seen – the physical blessings of this world – or do I hope for that which is unseen – the reality of heaven?

Of course, I hope for my son to experience health and happiness. But beyond such a temporary hope, I long for Him to experience Jesus.

Hope in the latter brings me back to reality. This life passes quickly and Jesus is coming soon, so we persevere through present sufferings with our hearts and minds fixated on this unseen hope of heaven (Romans 8:18-25).

Because if I only hope for my son to be healthy and not suffer the pain of such a disease, or of any disease or ailment he may encounter, then my hope will be crushed because suffering and pain are prevalent in this world.

So I turn my hope to Jesus because He alone is able to redeem the sin and suffering we encounter in this world and the former fears fade in light of eternity and the joy of knowing Him.

While I continue to pray for His miraculous power to protect my son, I trust in His goodness and sovereignty, whether through sickness or through health, and I pray that my son would know Him who makes all things new.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…” -Romans 8:18

We’re Homeowners!

Ever had a moment when stress turned you into a different person? All of the sudden, you go momentarily insane and become somewhat irrational? I’m not proud of these moments, but truth is I’m human…and femaleand pregnant.

My doctor keeps telling us that having a baby is one of four big stressors of life and that we should not pair it with another big stressor, such as buying a home. On measures of stress, it’s good advice. My husband and I are first-time homeowners and it is truly amazing how God worked out these details! We are so excited! Here’s a photo of our little home:

But as for the stress…it’s there. Because along with the great charm of an old house comes the plumbing, and the heating/air, and the electrical wiring, and the kitchen repairs, and the walls, and the floors…so much work to do and to organize on top of working full-time and trying to support my beloved husband as he goes through his second block of medical school. Oh – and on top of being pregnant and not being able to do most of the work myself.  ;)

We are extremely blessed by God’s provision in this home and astounded by His grace and how He worked it all together!! But it is busy. And it is stressful.

You know what I love about seasons like these though? In midst of the decision-making and the budgeting and the multiple gas leaks and the foreign language of loans, plumbing, electrical, and everything-else-home-related, the opportunity exists to cling to God as my helper and refuge, to commit myself to His word, and to experience His peace on a whole new level. It exists just as much as the opportunity to stress out and become momentarily crazy.

And those moments, when I feel the weight of stress overwhelm me, I turn to God and surrender it all to Him. I choose to trust Him. I choose to wait in Him. And the cares of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace…

I hope that as you encounter those opportunities to stress out and worry over life, you instead take the opportunity to trust in Him and submit all to Him – your burdens, your fears, your attitude and emotions. Because, trust me, I get it – in that moment the stress is so real and largely consuming, but we are not to be consumed by the flesh, we are to be consumed by Him. And I can testify that HE turns really stressful situations into peace-filled, God-encountering situations as we turn to Him.

Be blessed in whatever busy season you are in, friends. Take the opportunity to know Him more intimately as your refuge, strength, hope, redeemer, provider, and friend.

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Ps. 34: 4, 7-8

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.