“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork
, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” - Jim Elliot

Friday, March 30, 2012

Is God Waiting For Us To Win The Lottery?

Lately, people have been posing the question, "What would you do if you won the Mega Millions Jackpot?"  And most reply that they would whole-heartedly consider giving a large amount to charity.  But I wonder if we shouldn't wait to win the lottery before we become so generous... and it reminded me of this post from last June.

 Darling Ethiopian Princess with Her Treasured Toy
November 2010


Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.

Many rich people threw in large amounts. 
But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, 
worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 
“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 
They all gave out of their wealth; 
but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—
all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44 NIV

Poverty.

I grew up in what I considered poverty. Some nights dinner consisted of cold cereal. No milk. Just cereal. And it was the non-brand kind. Bills would go unpaid. Eviction would be threatened. We would hide from the newspaper delivery boy when he would show up at the door requiring payment.

But in a few days or the next day, it would be pay day. And we would go to the grocery store and eat out for dinner at Gino's and get our hair cut and maybe go to a movie that weekend. And pay our rent. And a couple bills. But not necessarily the newspaper delivery boy.

My sis and I grew up with a single mom. During a time when dads could get away without paying their child support. We didn't have a car. I wore hand me downs. And there were even times we might "borrow" things (like toilet paper rolls) from establishments, but never repay them.

I thought we were poor. And compared to the American dream... we were.

When my mom married my step-father in my junior year of high school. I started receiving allowance. Weekly. $20. (And there was ALWAYS food in the kitchen... and clothes with tags still attached in the closets... and toilet paper. The brand name kind.)

And it was then, that I started tithing. I don't remember ever tithing before that time. $2 every week. Went right into the offering. And when I started working, I would tithe on those paychecks. And when Anthony and I got married and lived on his one paycheck a month... while I finished college (on scholarships and grants and financial aid)... and we would eat boxed Macaroni and Cheese for dinner, we would tithe. We tithed in what we thought was our poverty.

And before we knew it, we were living the American Dream. Paychecks would come twice a month. We could purchase meat to go with the Macaroni and Cheese. And we would tithe. But now our giving was out of our wealth.

Wealth.

We may think we need to be wealthy to be significant givers. We think... when I have money then I will bless those around me. I will be the one doing the blessing. But isn't that kind of the American dream? We think that if we are able to give more that somehow we are more significant. Or beneficial to the kingdom cause. As if God will be more pleased with us, if our gifts are larger than the gifts of others. Than the gifts of those in poverty. But is He?

Here we see Jesus take a seat where he could see (and hear) people dropping their gifts into the temple treasury. And then calls His disciples over to watch... listen... and learn. He didn't even ask them what they thought. He just went on ahead and told them. Wonder why that is? It wasn't even a parable. He just told them flat out... her gift is of more significance. Of more value. Seriously? She put in a fraction of a penny! And they threw in large amounts! Huh?

God is not concerned with the amount that we give. He is concerned with our hearts. Our hearts to give selflessly. Our hearts to give joyfully. Our hearts to give out of obedience and love for Him. He is not waiting for us to get wealthy or win the lottery so that we can give a huge sum of money to starving children or to Ethiopia or to pay off the church debt. He is not waiting.

But He is watching.
Watching His children learn how to trust Him.
In all things.
Whether in perceived poverty... or received wealth.
Will we give what we'll never miss... or will we give our all?


Sitting across from the offering box,
he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection.

Many of the rich were making large contributions.
One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—
a measly two cents.

Jesus called his disciples over and said,
"The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection
than all the others put together.
All the others gave what they'll never miss;
she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—
she gave her all."

Mark 12:41-44 The Message


Monday, March 12, 2012

Be The Branch.

My current Bible Study is on "Secrets of The Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance" by Bruce Wilkinson. I can't help but think of this post that I wrote almost two years ago. 

 ...he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear...
Ethiopia 2010 - photography by Anthony

"I know God said He wouldn't give me more than I could bear... I just wish He didn't trust me so much."

And here's the thing... He doesn't.  He doesn't trust you so much.  He trusts Himself. 

No test or temptation that comes your way 
is beyond the course of what others have had to face. 
All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; 
he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; 
he'll always be there to help you come through it. 
1 Corinthians 10:13 The Message

Often we pray that we want to know God better.  Or that we want to be more Christ-like.  And then we are surprised when life suddenly becomes hard... or harder.

Through scripture, we see that God chooses to allow those who love Him and believe in Him to be tested and tempted.  He is not counting on you to bear it by yourself.  To do it on your own.  He is all about bringing you to a place where you think you cannot bear it on your own... so that you will see Him help you come through it.

I don't think God wanted us to concentrate on the phrase, "he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.I think He wanted us to focus on the words, "God will never let you down... he'll always be there."

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...

"God wants to chain me down... put a yoke on me."

Nope.  He is saying... as opposed to doing it on your own.  If you take on His yoke... He is going to carry the weight.  He is doing the hard work.  You get to walk along and work with Him and watch how He does it.

 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? 
Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. 
I'll show you how to take a real rest. 
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. 
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 
Keep company with me and 
you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

How do we do this?  How do we walk with Him?  Work with Him?  Watch how He does it?

Read the Bible.  Pray.  Do a Bible Study.  Go to church.  Find a godly mentor.  Spend time in God's beauty.  Journal your thoughts.  Read a book by a Christian author.  Listen to praise music... remain in Him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. 
If a man remains in me and I in him, 
he will bear much fruit; 
apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:5

YOU = the branch.  Not the vine.  That's His job.  If you are trying to be a branch without the vine... well, that is just not going to work out, is it?  The branch is nourished and strengthened and able to live ONLY dependent on the vine.  And that is how He knows that you will be able to bear it... because you are dependent upon the vine.  Dependent upon Him.

So today when you are facing a temptation or a trial that you think is beyond what you can bear... remember that you are not alone.  You do not need to carry the load on your own.  Stop trying to be the vine.

Be the branch.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Withholding What I Don't Even Use

It is a Mezuzah.  I had asked Anthony to purchase it when he was in Israel so I could give it to a friend as a gift.  At the time she was a new friend to me who had at one time visited Israel and I wanted to give this to her knowing that she would understand its importance... and perhaps it would bring peace to her home.

Anthony returned home from that trip in November 2010.  And the Mezuzah is still sitting in my office.  In the box.  (It was taken out of the box for the first time so I could take this photo.)  Actually Anthony had brought home two Mezuzahs that trip and I just couldn't decide which one I wanted, so I kept them both.  Both in their boxes.  In my office.  Until I could decide which one I wanted to keep.  Here we are a year and almost 3 months later...

"...the sin of hoarding is more than just having.  It's having without using.  The wickedness accelerates in the waste.  In part, hoarding means withholding what we don't even use from others who'd treasure it." ~ Day 1 of Week 6 of the James Bible Study by Beth Moore

Beth Moore discussed this thought in more detail during the DVD Session 7... and then I reminded myself how on Day 1 of Week 4 the Shema was discussed which are the words that are written on a scroll and placed in the Mezuzah.  And I had actually placed the other Mezuzah in my bag that week to show the ladies an example.  But I never did pull it out to show it... and I wonder why I didn't bring this one to show...

Today I received an e-mail from a young friend that I mentor.  She attends Bible Study with me.  And this study has been convicting her, too.  (I received her permission to share this e-mail.)

Hi there,
 
It was hard.  I'm a bit embarrassed by how hard it was.  But I had 33 handbags.  I'm keeping 15 and donating 18 (though I'm going to let my sister-in-law go through them first, so might only be donating 15 or so).  There are 4 Coaches in there, and quite a few other higher end choices! 
I have 2 shopping bags of Ann Taylor, Casual Corner, CABI and J Crew clothes.  Three coats and a full gallon size Ziploc of high fashion jewelry.  Some nice pieces - I just have an excess - obviously.
 
Realistically, I'm keeping 15 handbags!!!  And enough jewelry, coats and clothes to be a diva.  So I'm at peace with this.  If GHM Boutique can sell this stuff to feed people - I'm not using it...so I'm okay with not having it.  Freedom...from stuff...one step at a time.
 
You can do this, too!
love you, 

I love how she encouraged me at the end!  She's right, I can do this, too!  And I am starting with this Mezuzah!  I was sitting next to the friend to whom it rightfully belongs during the DVD Session 7 and leaned over to her to let her know that I had something that belonged to her.  I know she will be thrilled to receive it... and I am thrilled to have this very personal example of how I was holding on to something without treasuring its worth and making sure it was given to someone who would.

"All of us are accustomed to the saying 'use it or lose it" 
but, the fact is, we're going to lose it all anyway.  
We're not taking one ounce of this stuff with us when we die." ~Beth Moore

What about you?  I think YOU can do this, too!  And if you already have, I would love to hear your story.