Want What You’ve Got! (dam)

Ike Water Line

Ike Water Line (Photo credit: Dean Terry)

I woke up this morning with a picture in my mind of the dam markings at a nearby lake. My husband and I took our kids there for an afternoon walk after Christmas, and we were able to stand right up next to the concrete wall in the dried up lake bed. We joked about which of us was the shortest (me) and took turns jumping – trying to reach the bigger numbers far above our heads.

What does water level have to do with Lent? I’m glad you asked!

A few weeks ago, sitting around the living room with one of our faith family groups, we talked about some economic what-if’s…

What if people – Americans in particular – were to acknowledge that it is possible to reach a point where we actually have enough?

What if, instead of continually striving to acquire more, we were willing to draw a line to indicate our enough-level and then refuse to stockpile beyond that point?

What if believers really believed that what we receive in this life is meant to benefit others, too – not just ourselves?

And what if, acting on all of these beliefs, we were to treat everything above and beyond our enough-line as if it wasn’t even ours. As if all of that overflow was never meant for us at all, but instead is God’s way of including us in His generous economy of love?

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 says:

“This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.”

Now, you may not feel you have reached such a holy water-line yet, and you may be right. But the scripture doesn’t say that God gives you everything so that you can give it all away – it says He gives you something you can give away. In any given season of life we may be needy in some ways, but if we are willing to acknowledge God’s extravagance, we will also be able to identify areas of wealth, where His blessings have breached the enough-line and no longer belong to us.

If you’re like me, this is not how you tend to think about what is yours. Most of us are so insanely tethered to our possessions that to simply Want What You’ve (already) Got sounds like crazy talk!

But give it a little time to sink in.

Daily Questions: Where would you draw the enough-line when it comes to what you need (possessions, savings, investments, entertainment, relationships)? In which of these areas do you fall short of your sense of enough? In which do you exceed your mark? What are you willing to do about it today?

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On Your Feet! (a PINK Tuesday post)

‘Rather than “standing on the promises,” many Christians are simply “sitting on the premises.”’ [Daniel Henderson, PRAYzing! (NavPress)]

Devout bystanders. Faithful pew-sitters. Attentive audiences.

Somehow, I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, though – for some of us, the fact that we are sitting on the premises is a very good thing! Showing up is a first-step for those of us who are curious or lonely or broken. Surrounded by God’s faithful, we can find hope in hopeless situations! Church is exactly where we need to be!

The problem begins, however, when we realize that many of those who are sitting beside us have been sitting there for a very long time. Week in and week out, singing the songs and reading the words and going through the worship rituals as if on auto pilot, or maybe as if idling endlessly with no intention of shifting out of park.

Francis Chan, in his video lessons on The Forgotten God, talks about this in terms of a football team. The team huddles and the coach lays out the play. They get pumped up. They give a hearty ‘Go! Fight! Win!’ They break the huddle. And they sit down on the bench.

Into the huddle they go, again, only to enthusiastically break and head back to sit on the sideline – never making their well-thought-out plays. Never engaging the other team. Never even playing the game.

It’s one thing to show up and sit down in hopes that God will move you. It’s quite another to do this year after year, with nothing but a church membership to show for it. The extent to which our churches have become the huddle of an inactive team is the degree to which the enemy is winning the big game, my friends. And this should not be so!

Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth about God’s promises:

God has made a great many promises. They are all “Yes” because of what Christ has done. So through Christ we say “Amen.” We want God to receive glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

When we consider that the God we worship is this “Yes” and “Amen” God of the Bible, we can’t help but consider his great promises as well.

Promises to be always with us.

Promises to give us a hope and a future.

Promises to send His actual Presence to live within our actual bodies.

Promises to surround us with protection as we pray.

With promises like these from the eternal “Yes” Himself, of course we want to shout “Amen!” But then we break the huddle, head home, and find ourselves once again sitting on the sidelines while the game plays on. Sitting, as Daniel Henderson writes, on the premises. Again.

This inaction we so easily adopt is not the fruit of a life filled with Christ! In fact, Paul says that God:

makes both us and you stand firm because we belong to Christ. He anointed us. He put His Spirit in our hearts and marked us as His own. We can now be sure that he will give us everything he promised us.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

We can now be SURE! God is going to COME THROUGH!

He has claimed us, anointed us, indwelled us and marked us as His own. We wear His team colors! We huddle with those who belong to Him! We empower our coaches to teach us the plays and we work together, so that we’re all on the same play and can get into position as soon we shout “Go! Fight! Win!” Break.

That bench sure looks inviting – not necessarily comfy, but safe. I know. I’ve done time on the sidelines, too.

But today… today we get into the game, my friends. We wear our gear and we show our true colors and we choose to give glory to God. The God who says “Yes” to every one of His promises! The God who has laid out the plays in His Word and has called us to love and to serve – just like Jesus did.

Jesus began by showing up, but His life’s work was done by standing up to evil and by running the plays that God called. And now He makes US to stand firm as His own, with all of His promises showing!

Seriously, now. Are you going to take this sitting down?

ON YOUR FEET! 

My shoes - detail

My shoes - detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Rescue (a PINK Tuesday post)

Save Me

Image by JamesReaFotos via Flickr

 

“The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.”   –John Stott

It’s been this way since time began.

 

The fact that you are still reading tells me that nothing has changed… SUFFERING a LOSS raises questions and doubts and fears and anger as it CHALLENGES our ability to cope and adapt and recover.

But the good news today is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You are not alone in your suffering.

You are not alone in your loss.

We don’t need to look beyond our own circle of friends & family to find others who are suffering losses, too. Our stories and their stories inevitably are marked by people, places, experiences and situations where what we once held dear is no longer ours to hold.

Consider the scriptures.

Story after story about people who not only experience the mountaintops, but the depths of grief as well:

Adam & Eve

Because of a choice that they made, they lost their fellowship with God AND their home in the Garden. Later in their story, they lose a son – or, perhaps they lost TWO sons – as the one killed the other in a fit of jealousy.

Joseph

The one with the coat. Lost his family at the hand of brothers who hated him. They sold him into slavery. Told his father he was dead. This same Joseph, trying to live a godly life as a slave, is falsely accused of sexual harassment by his boss’s wife and thrown into prison for years. NONE of these losses, by the way, were a result of Joseph’s choices. He had no say. They just happened TO him.

Job

Lost his children in one horrific accident. Lost his livelihood. Lost his health. All because of things going on around him that he had no control over. It wasn’t his fault.

David

KING David. The one we know as “a man after God’s own heart”. Lost his fellowship with the Lord, for a time, because of a series of bad choices that included sleeping with someone else’s wife and then having her husband murdered. David’s loss didn’t end there. Even though he married the woman he had gotten pregnant, she lost the baby. Lost a child. Another loss.

Elijah

The prophet. The one used by God to call down fire on a soaking wet altar, putting the competition in its place. Even Elijah suffered loss. Loss of hope. Loss of perspective. He suffered from depression. Depression that was undoubtedly linked to the death threats he had received from a very powerful woman. His choice? A chemical imbalance? Does it matter?! A loss nonetheless.

Finally, the Apostle Paul.

Wrote much of the New Testament. Spoke the message of Christ far and wide with boldness and passion. This hero of the faith found himself at the end of life, sitting in a cold prison cell, alone. Lonely. And he suffered from the loss of fellowship he had known – we know this because he wrote it in a letter to his friend, Timothy. We can read it in God’s Word.

What we ALSO read in God’s Word are words like these:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

(He must be really STRONG in ME – weakling that I am.)

And,

“In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart – I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

Our God makes it clear over and over again in scripture that He is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18).

He tends to our wounds.

He is our RESCUE.

But just in case words like these sound trite and churchy to you, know that God “keeps track of every toss & turn through the sleepless nights.” Each tear and ache is entered into His book (Ps. 56:8).

There’s a Hebrew custom – the jar of tears – have you heard of it? At funerals, a tiny jar is passed around and each mourner puts a teardrop into it. The jar of tears represents the hearts that are suffering the loss of the person who has died.

I believe that God not only keeps track of the tears we shed, but that His big heart breaks for us in our suffering. And there is nothing that we are feeling or have felt that He, through Jesus, hasn’t felt before.

God is ready to do something big for you today! He’s coming alongside you in your suffering, your grief, your loss…

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God uses our experiences to prepare and uniquely position us to come alongside others who are suffering, too. The heading over this section in the Message Bible is “THE RESCUE”.

He rescues us, and then He gives us the opportunity to extend that rescue to others.

I see a rescue in your future, my friend.

Maybe it’s yours to be HAD.

Maybe it’s in your power to GIVE.

Either way, we had better get busy. There is SAVING to be done (praise the Lord)!