God’s love creates loving people

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Perhaps the most well known Bible verse of all time. Athletes proclaim it. Many have it memorized, even if they aren’t sure they believe it or not. It is the quintessential message of God’s pursuit of a fallen humanity. But it doesn’t end with our salvation, it begins a new creation. God’s mission is not to simply save our souls but to remake what mankind has destroyed. Part of that mission is fulfilled through those who put their faith in Him. Later in the Bible there is another book that John wrote. Interestingly, chapter three and verse 16 of that book parallels our opening verse.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John‬ ‭3:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s almost like these passages should’ve been right next to each other. God’s great display of love creates a people who live by the same mission and the same standard. Generosity and sacrifice become the banner of a new people who’s hearts have been remade by their creator.

For those of us who proclaim allegiance to Christ, our hands should open to the world around us. Our lives should be spent on a higher calling. God’s love moves us to love. Not because we’re supposed to but because we want to.

Peace and love in Christ brothers and sisters!

We are but stewards, not lords

guardheartsnoopy

Back when my wife and I hadn’t been together for very long we stopped at a Mcdonald’s to grab a bite to eat. We both got different things as usual. My wife decided she would like a bite of my quarter pounder so she asked politely, which I proceeded to reject her request. She thought I was joking at first until I looked at her with a very serious expression. Well, my wife has never let me live down this humorous, yet good example of selfishness. By the way, I share all of my food with her now when she asks.

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  Luke 6:30-31 ESV

One of the character traits my wife and I work on a lot with our children is the desire to share what we have with others. It’s obvious to any parents that we are not engrained with this attribute from birth. Many never learn it in a lifetime. It is one of the most difficult traits to instill in someone because it fights against every bit of our fallen nature. From the moment we’re born until we breathe our last, the struggle is real when it comes to emptying ourselves of selfishness and pride. We walk around with a scarcity mindset like there just isn’t enough in this world to go around I have to get mine or else I’ll be left out. We’ve all been guilty of it. Granted, some are more predisposed than others to generosity but no one is predisposed to selflessness. Even the kindest and most generous people battle with this.

A phrase that I often use with my children, and try to live by myself, is that if we aren’t willing to share something we have then we don’t deserve to have it in the first place. Every time they hold back their toys I gently remind them of this. We are stewards of our possessions, not owners. One of my favorite movie serious is the Lord of the Rings. In the final installment, the wizard Gandalf rides to the great city of Ministereth. This city had been without a king for many years and was controlled by the Steward of Gondor.  Gandalf and the Steward have several choice words because Lord Denethor (the Steward) is a power-hungry snob who has lost sight of his purpose. As the vocal match draws to an end Gandalf looks him straight in the eye and says, “Authority is not given to you to deny the return of the King, Steward!”

Far too often we approach our possession in the same manner as Lord Denethor. God has placed us as stewards over this world and over the people and things in our lives. We don’t own our spouse, or our children, or our things. What we have is meant to be cared for not controlled. We can’t walk through this life with white knuckles, grasping so tightly onto things. In First Corinthians chapter four, Paul reminds us that we have nothing that was not first given to us. That logic can be applied to every single thing we have. Even if we purchased something, it was done with money that was given to us through the job, gift, or inheritance that was given to us. Nothing is ours simply by our own will and effort. There is grace in all we have. And that grace should not be trampled under feet by selfishness.

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single thing I own that I would not share with another. Some things would be more difficult to share than others. Also, I am not saying I would share everything with everyone. I obviously wouldn’t let some sketchy dude borrow one of my guns or sleep in my house. We have to use wisdom. However, we are called to share with even the bad people in life.

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42 ESV

There is sharing…and then there is sharing. We can let people borrow stuff we aren’t using or give away things that we no longer want. And those things are good. Great even. I think God is pleased with all sharing. But there is a type of sharing that is divine in nature. A type of sharing that costs us something. This is the supreme form of sharing that we should all aspire to. It’s choosing to give others preference. It’s allowing others to use, or even have, things that you still want. It is nothing less than an expression of love. And some take it to the extreme by choosing to lay down their own lives for others. According to God, this is the greatest expression of love. An expression that He Himself showed on the cross of Calvary. As we evaluate our lives from time to time, we need to remember that we are but stewards and not lords.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

 

Worshipping God’s Gifts

“The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” Exodus‬ ‭12:33-36‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Not only did God rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt, He also showered them with clothing for the journey and with silver and gold. Later on in the story we see that some of that fabric and those precious metals would be used in the construction of the tabernacle. But God would only ask for those with willing hearts to give to the cause of the project.

“And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord ‘s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them.” Exodus‬ ‭35:21-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The generosity of all those Israelites never ceases to encourage me to be more open with all God had blessed me and my family with. Since they were slaves in Egypt you know they didn’t have much. Most, if not all, of what they brought had to have been given to them upon their exit from the land. That’s because God is a giving God. As if our freedom is not enough (which obviously it’s more than enough) God goes beyond. He always gives more than we deserve. And the response of a thankful heart is to always give back to God’s mission and purposes. But, unfortunately, this passage in Exodus 35 came after a failed response by the people of Israel a few chapters earlier.

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”” Exodus‬ ‭32:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

All of us will do one of two things when God opens up His storehouses for us. We will either make gods of it, or we’ll be generous with it. We can be conduits of His generosity and let it flow through our hands. Instead, we often fall in into the trap of being dead ends. We set the ‘things’ God gives us at such a high value we never want to let go of them.

I have a saying that I tell to my kids when they’re being reluctant to share. I say, “we don’t deserve to have anything that we’re not willing to share with others.” That’s a lesson I have to occasionally relearn myself. If there is anything we posses that we aren’t willing to use to benefit or aid others, we’ve made it an idol. We are actually worshipping something that God has blessed us with. We might as well melt it down and make a golden calf out of it. Fortunately, God does not forsake us for our moments of selfishness. Hundreds of years later, in the book of Nehemiah, the Levites were recounting the story of the Exodus as the people confessed their sins before the Lord.

“Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” Nehemiah‬ ‭9:18-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I want God’s generosity to create a more generous heart in me. I want to live open handed. When God blesses me, I want to see it as an opportunity to bless others. I want to invest more of my time in the pursuit of heavenly treasures, not earthly possessions. I want nothing to be off limits for those in need.

“”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Cheers to the generous life!