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!

Advertisements

Nothing Trivial

As a parent, there is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t want my children to feel like they could come to me about. I’m not just thinking about all of the big things they will face in life. I also want them to be comfortable sharing the little things. There is nothing trivial about a parent-child relationship. The same can be said about our relationship with God.

The moment we start making things off limits to bring before the LORD, our closeness with Him begins to shrink. Why is it that kids don’t come to their parents about certain things? They either don’t trust them with the information, don’t think that their parents will care, or they want to hide it. The same is true to how we relate to Yahweh.

If there is something that we aren’t bringing to God, I would like to suggest it’s perhaps it’s born out of some sort of mistrust, deception, or apathy. Maybe God could care less about whatever it is. Maybe I’m not proud of something therefore I’ll just avoid the whole prayer thing. Maybe the love of God really isn’t so big to forgive me of what I’ve just done. Maybe I can just handle this on my own. I’ll get God involved as a last measure if I can’t iron it out. Maybe God really won’t help me out here. Those are all lies that, no doubt, everyone reading this post has told themselves at one time or another. I’ve told myself every single one of them.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalms‬ ‭8:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God is infinite, and that can scare us. After all, how do you approach someone who is absolutely perfect in every way? Why would the creator of existence itself care one bit about my issues? Love, that’s how. A love far greater than any human is capable of demonstrating. It’s a perfect love, therefore it’s unfamiliar to us. We read about it. We were shown it through the life of Jesus. And yet, we doubt it. Even the most ardent believer battles with it at times. We have never been shown perfect love by another person, nor have we ever given perfect love ourselves. Therefore we translate our failures and the failures of others into our views of God. We retreat from Him time and time again because thats how we’ve related to those in our lives. We keep bits of ourselves back. We disclose what we want and work through everything else.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians‬ ‭4:4-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What will it take for you, for me, to become an open book before the LORD? Do yourself a favor first off and admit that you’re not. Every one of us are holding back somehow, in some way. He’s not too busy for us. He’s not above our needs and worries. His love is not limited. We can trust Him, far more than any of us do.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These Moments are not our Last

be-strong-and-take-heart-all-you-who-hope-in-13780217

Jacob finds himself wandering in the wilderness, estranged from his family, alone and on the run. (Genesis 28)

Elijah flees to the mountains to escape the tyrant king and queen. He feels exiled as a wanted man. His faithfulness to God has put him in eminent danger. (1 Kings 19-20)

Daniel is cast into a pit of hungry lions, whose soul purpose is to rip criminals to shreds. But Daniel is no criminal. He is the unfortunate recipient of envy and hatred by other in the king’s court. (Daniel 6)

The Apostle Peter is imprisoned for doing what he believed was the call on his life to proclaim the gospel. (Acts 12)

You know what each of these stories have in common? They are examples of people in some of their lowest moments who got to experience the wonders of God. While Jacob was adrift in the wilderness, God showed up to renew His promise. While Elijah was trembling on the mountainside, God showed up in the wind to whisper His love once again. Surrounded by hungry lions, Daniel received a visit from the Angel of the Lord. The chains were loosed from Peter’s wrists and the prison gates flung open that night as God stepped in to rescue him.

These dark moments were not their last. Instead, they allowed each of these men to see and experience glorious things. Dear reader, I’m not sure where you are in your life. But if you’re desperate. If you feel like you’re drowning or suffering. There is always hope. God’s wonders may be right around the corner.  Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep hanging on. The Lord is with you where you are.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

How are you viewing God?

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.

Job 38:4 ESV

We all have a way of looking at God. People have been trying to define Him since the beginning. Humanity either places Him in a box of their own design, tries to ignore His existence altogether, or allows God to define Himself. Those are the only three options we have as His created beings. Those who choose to turn a blind eye to God are simply disregarding the amazing discoveries of science that have only served to prove God’s existence. A simple starting list include: the complexity of the human body, the vastness of the universe as well as the fact that it had to have a beginning, the pinpoint accurate calculations for how the Earth is designed to sustain life, the laws of how nature operates, DNA, the 100 percent validity of the Bible, and fulfilled prophecies that could never have occurred outside of divine intervention. People who choose to not acknowledge those things are simply choosing to not look at God. This post is not meant to address that. Instead, it is meant to look at the other two camps for defining Who God is.

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
    and caused the dawn to know its place

Job 38:12 ESV

Microscope vs. Telescope

For everyone who is searching to know Who God is, they will come to their conclusions based on what tool they use. In order to fit God into a box, we have to shrink Him down. We have to make Him smaller than ourselves. That looks like creating categories for Him, or saying phrases like, “I couldn’t believe in a God that does that.” It’s apple-picking scripture to design a God that looks good to you. It’s separating God into an Old Testament version and a New Testament version. It’s believing that Muslims, Jews, and Christians all believe in the same God. It’s saying that all paths lead to God. It’s rubbing a lamp and treating God like your personal Genie. It’s defining God based on our experiences rather than viewing your experience through Who God says He is. To make God so small means we have to be viewing Him through a microscope. To do that is to strip God of His majesty. It makes Him lesser than humanity.

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
    that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go
    and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

Job 38:34-35 ESV

On the other hand, there are people who view God as infinite. There is always something new to learn about God. They gaze at Him in wonder. He seems so big at times that it can be so overwhelming. Somethings about Him are unknown, while others are in plain view. He is beautiful and vast and so much larger than all we know. For these people, their lives are defined by Who God is. Their very identity stems from being created and loved by Him. To view God in this way is to view Him how He’s made Himself known. It’s to take scripture as a whole. It’s to see the story of human existence as being designed and told by an omniscient being. That’s what happens when we view God through a telescope. He’s not our size, and He’s certainly not smaller than us. Don’t try to limit a limitless God.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Psalm 29:2 NIV

Self Inflicted Tyranny

hqdefault

Worry is one of the most self-crippling ailments. It’s also one we have complete control over, yet it’s how we punish ourselves the most. We worry when we have too much and we worry when we don’t have enough. We ultimately find things to worry about. Much of what we worry over is way beyond our control. The mind seems to seeks it out. When one thing has passed by, we find another worry to take its place. Anxiety, stress, depression, addictions, and the use of coping devices are all manifestations of the worry plague. It’s the black death of our own making. Worry destroys us emotionally and physically. It doesn’t have to be this way. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its difficulties but it does empty today of its joy. Choose joy this day. Choose life this day. Choose hope and optimism because our God is greater than whatever we are walking through.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

*This post was born out of a very stressful time in my life. Inspired by my supportive wife and my amazing God. We all need reminders from time to time. God bless you, brothers and sisters!

Arguing with God

Two Angels Guiding Lot and His Daughters from Sodom 19th-Century Print

It fascinates me that no matter how good God is to us, humanity will inevitably find something to argue with Him about. It plagues us from birth. I have lost count of how many times my children complain about even good things. For example, I buy them a gift or give them a treat, but it’s not good enough for them. Maybe I take them out to dinner or we have a movie night at home but it’s not the exact place they wanted to go to or the movie they were just ‘dying’ to see. I’m sure I was the same way when I was little. You’d have to ask my mom. All little kids are that way to varying degrees. Sadly, many people don’t ever grow out of it either.

I was listening to a podcast on Genesis 19 a few weeks ago and it dawned on me that I was seeing the same thing play out in the bible that I see at home with my kiddos, only on a much grander scale. Lot and his family were essentially arguing with God’s goodness. In this chapter. Angels are there to rescue a man named Lot, and his family before God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities were beyond wicked. And Lot and his family, while not blameless by any means, must have been set apart from the wicked people around them. So God wants to save them, and they actually argue with how He wants to do it.

First, they all lingered and didn’t take God’s message seriously (Genesis 19:14-16). The angels literally had to drag them out of the city to be saved. Once out of the city, they even argued about where God was sending them (Genesis 19:18-20). It was the equivalent of saying, “I don’t really care that you want to save me and I really don’t like how you want to save me.”

That story line has been repeated in every generation. Think about it. Anyone who rejects the message of the gospel are arguing with the fact that they need saved and also the method by which God wants to save us. Non Christians see the gospel message as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). Why would someone need to die so I could be saved? Why do I even need to be saved? Lot may have battled with similar questions. We know at least that Lot’s wife longed for some part of her city. Why else would she look back as she was fleeing. For Lot, God came to rescue him from disaster and death. For us, God did the same in Jesus Christ. But so many people aren’t taking the message of the gospel seriously. How many people do you know are lingering and not acting? How many times have you heard someone say that the gospel is close minded? How could God only make one way to be saved? How about the fact that God made a way to be saved? Why isn’t that good enough for the majority of people in this world? Why isn’t that seen as absolutely incredible by more people? I would venture to say that it’s because we like to make our own options.

We like to create our own reality and have things on our own terms. This applies to far more than eternal salvation, it applies to our day in and day out living. We want to be blessed in certain ways. We want to be rescued in certain ways. When our own perceptions and expectations aren’t met, we grumble. A key struggle to life is finding that place of contentment, where we can trust in the goodness of God, especially when our expectations are not being met. The place where we can rely on His greater wisdom. The place where we can truly believe that He cares for more for us than we do for ourselves. We are better off in His hands rather than our own. Left to their own doing, Lot and his family would have burned with the rest of the city. We would all make an equal mess of our own lives in the absence of our Makers hands.

The Bible is riddled with examples of God bringing redemption through unfamiliar and unusual means. Joseph saving Israel through his own slavery, Gideon’s army being reduced to minuscule numbers, God raining down manna from heaven during the wilderness journey, a young man defeating the fiercest warrior with a sling and stones, parting a sea in order to walk through on dry ground, and marching around a massive wall to bring it tumbling down, just to name a few. God specializes in the unexpected. But so many of us cling so hard to our expectations rather than relying on God’s faithfulness.

But God is good. No matter your present circumstances. God is faithful. Even though you may not see Him working. God’s heart is for you. Always, no matter what.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8 (ESV)

 

My God, my Children, and Me

father-child-hand2I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting and how God looks at me as His child compared to how I see my own children. I had a friend of mine named Connor tell me, before my first daughter was born, that God was going to show me a lot about His feelings towards me through my experience in fatherhood. He was so right!  I’ve learned so much about grace, love, and sacrifice that I never really knew before. And since my second daughter has been born, it has only heightened my experience.

God has so many beautiful characteristics that I’ve been learning more about. And one of my favorites qualities has to be His patience. Lord knows I give Him opportunities every day to be patient with me. We all do right? We either wouldn’t be here, or our life would look very different, if He wasn’t a patient God. But have you ever wondered why? Why is God so patient with us? Why is He so patient with all the ‘bad’ people in the world? I Know I wouldn’t be nearly as patient with me as He is. And we certainly aren’t as patient with others as He is. Yet another reason why we would all make lousy gods.

I feel like being a parent has given me a unique insight into the realm of patience. (And all the parents in the world said, “Amen.”) Let’s face it, kids provide a lot off opportunities for us to grow in patience. Dinner time, nap time, clean up time, play time, road trips, and on and on. Our patience is tried. But this in not a wrap on children. This is more a comparison between us (as grown ups) and our children.

Have you ever watched your children from a place where they were completely unaware of your presence, just to see what they were going to do? There’s a situation, and your children are presented with a choice to do what was right or what was wrong. So you watch, hoping that they make the right choice. As a parent, there is an urge to intervene, always. The natural desire to steer our children in the right direction has been written on our hearts. But there are times when intervention is not the right course of action. There are times when a parent needs to observe, to hope, and to pray. Because our children need to learn to fly and apply the lessons they’ve been taught. Besides, obedience untested, is no obedience at all.

I would love to say that my kiddos pass the obedience test with flying colors, every time. But they’re human, just like us. I’d like to say I pass the test every time. But I don’t. And I imagine God, being our Father, observes us day in and day out. Sometimes He intervenes, and sometimes He doesn’t. But every time, He is watching, and hoping that we make the right choices.  This illustration has limits though; I get that. Since God knows everything that will ever happen, He already knows every choice we will ever make in life. (That’s both scary and extremely comforting!) Nothing we do is a surprise to Him. Unlike with human parents, hoping their children make the right choices, God already knows before the choice is even presented. Granted, there are times that parental intuition kicks in and you know what your kids are going to do or say before it happens. But that’s rare in comparison to an omniscient God.

I think God’s all-knowing nature makes His patience even greater. Think about it. If you knew all the mistakes your children were going to make, how much patience would it require for you to allow them to mess up and then to find their way back, guiding with care and love, just as our God does? You’d probably be like me; ready to jump in so that our children would have a mistake free life. You’d want to make the path to the good life obvious. You’d give them an instructions on how to live, how to relate to others, how to view themselves, and continually remind them of your love for them so they never forgot. You’d try to introduce them to people who’d be a good influence in their life. You’d give them all of their needs plus so much more. Sound familiar? This is exactly how God has reached down to humanity since the dawn of our existence.

As parents, these are the things we try to do. Only we operate with limited knowledge, limited experience, and not to mention, we’re all flawed. And even the best parents cannot lead their children into a fault free life. Why? Because even the best parents have faults. Parenting is trial and error. Parenting is like nothing else in the world. It’s so hard, and yet, it is so fun! I have two little girls, and they are amazing. They make me laugh. They make me want to cry. The can turn the hardest days around with a simple “I love you daddy.” They can frustrate me, but they also fill my heart with so much joy.

I think we have the same effect on our Heavenly Father. Don’t you think He longs to hear His children say. “I love you daddy”? There’s no doubt we frustrate Him, even though He’s already seen the road map of our lives. But His children are His treasure. You bring Him so much joy. He knows your screw ups. He knows your faults. Yet He died for you anyways. There is no length too far that God has not already gone for you and me. There is no list of bad choices that will make God lose his patience with you. His heart is for you. It always has been.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.

Psalm 103:8 (NASB)