Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dwelling Among Men {Bible Study}

God's Word absolutely amazes me. There's nothing more I can say except that. Some days I just sit absorbing it, and for no reason at all am overwhelmed. Maybe it's the Spirit of the Word ministering to my spirit in a way I cannot comprehend or grasp. Maybe it's a whispering taking place between my God and my soul that penetrates on a level my mind cannot wrap itself around, yet my senses are completely aware of and stimulated by.

Have you ever experienced the Word penetrate and pierce your innermost being, but have no mental perception of what's occurring? You know there's a stirring, and you want to seize it, guard it, and then enlighten everyone else with it. But you can't. Because you have no concrete understanding of what's taking place.

I crave and savor these moments with this living and powerful Word that pierces even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The things the Word does within us, no one can understand. And it's the jewels of the Word that leave me awestruck, humbled, and not only craving more, but longing to share with you. Treasures! And who doesn't enjoy a good treasure hunt?

Here are a few of previously dug up gems that I hope to somehow impart to you! Grab your map, detective cloak and hat, and a magnifying glass and let's get diggin! You may also want writing utensils for taking notes. J

In the book of Exodus we observe God calling Moses to the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:20). Here He gave him the Ten Commandments and numerous other laws concerning servants, animals, property, feasts, etc.  In chapter 25, God gets more personal in His instructions.

Read Exodus 25:8.
What did God command they make?__________________________________

According to this same verse, what was the purpose behind this construction? _______________________________________________________________________

Prior to God giving Moses these instructions, what do we find the Israelite children repeatedly doing?
Read Exodus 14:10-12 _______________________________________________
Read Exodus 15:22-24 _______________________________________________
Read Exodus 16:1-3 _________________________________________________
Read Exodus 17:1-4 _________________________________________________

Do all of your answers have a similar response? This multitude indeed was a stiff-necked people! Who could possibly please them? And why would God desire to meet personally with them? Not only did He want to meet with them, Exodus 25:8 tells us He wanted to dwell among them. This Hebrew word dwell is shakan and literally means to lodge, settle down, abide with, reside with.

Did He fully understand how truly wicked these people were. Maybe after calling Moses upon the Mount, He came to His senses and changed His mind. After all, they did fashion and worship a golden calf, proclaiming "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!" (Exodus 32:4). Sisters, our God is a God of covenants and promises; the same God that ministered to Abraham's mistress in her distress (Genesis 21) and forgave an adulterous woman (John 8:11) caught in the act of sin. God knew exactly what He was getting Himself into desiring to dwell among sinful men.

Is there something keeping you from dwelling with God? Even following such acts of idolatry and wickedness God still desired to live among His people. No matter who you are or what act you have committed, nothing can separate you from God's love, and His desire to be with you. Jesus left throne and glory to meet with wretched men and women. What is keeping you from Him? Seek God's magnificent face. Ask Him to search you and know you, to see if there is any wicked way in you, and to lead you in confession and cleanse you with forgiveness. Write out your prayer and confession to Him now. __________________________________________________________________________

Now Read Exodus 25:1-9.
When God met with Moses, He gave him precise instructions on constructing the tabernacle. Within these commands were clear, specific details regarding design, size, colors, materials, and placement. He even declared who would be responsible for what concerning carving, sewing, and building. The tabernacle would not be a simple tent.

According to verse 2, where did the materials come from that would be used to construct the tabernacle?

Read Exodus 12:35-36
After four-hundred and thirty years of bondage, God loosed His people from slavery (Ex 12:40). According to these verses, what did the children do on their way out of captivity? 

What kinds of gifts did God grant His beloved, yet stiff-necked children?
Exodus 28:3 __________________________________________________________
Exodus 35:30-35 ______________________________________________________
Psalm 105:37 _________________________________________________________

What has God given us who call on His Name today?
Ephesians 1:3 ________________________________________________________
Psalm 112:3 _________________________________________________________
Proverbs 3:16 ________________________________________________________

These gifts were not limited to physical items stored on shelves and fingers. God's gifts are also given as talents and skills. And the Gift Giver continues to shower these gifts upon us today. The Bestower of gifts is in the business of blessing His beloved bride.

Besides the ones listed above, what are some other gifts God commits to His children?                                                                                                             
Romans 12:6-8 _____________________________________________________
1 Corinthians 12:8-10 _______________________________________________
1 Corinthians 12:28 _________________________________________________
Ephesian 4:11 ______________________________________________________

To be loosed from the bondage of this world and become a slave to the Perfect Master is another study for another day, but know this- Just as the Israelites were released from the oppression of Pharaoh and Egypt, so God liberates His people from the bondage of sin and death. And with this liberation comes treasures and riches only a King can bestow.

What did the Israelites do with the riches God gave them?
Exodus 32:2-4 ______________________________________________________
Exodus 35:5,21 _____________________________________________________

God blessed the Israelites abundantly as they danced out of Egypt with Egyptian jewels and gems. Casting off their yoke of oppression, they replaced it with another burden: golden rings and glistening riches. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights. We have choices to make with these gifts, ladies: bless God by using them for His purpose and glory, or waste them through fulfilling our own selfish lusts and desires. 

What are four purposes God has for bestowing Gifts to His people?
Matthew 7:11 ______________________________________________________
1 Corinthians 12:7, 14:12 ____________________________________________
1 Peter 4:10-11 _____________________________________________________
Exodus 25:2-8 ______________________________________________________

God grants His children riches and precious gifts most importantly, because it pleases Him. It is His character to give good things to those He loves; it is His nature to bestow blessings on His precious children. He showers us with gifts so that we may Glorify Him, edify one another and the entire body of Christ, and offer them back to Him for the purpose of meeting Him face to face.

What specific gifts has the Father of lights given you? Don't be general here ladies, but give precise answers. Some of your gifts will replicate another's, but God gives each one as He sees fit- you being the eye, while your sister is the hand, and your daughter the ear (Romans 12). List your numerous and unique God given gifts here: 

Now, dear sister, what are you using these gifts for? Spend some time seeking God and asking Him bluntly. Are you using them for any of the four reasons listed above, or are you selfishly wasting them on your own pleasure and gratification? 

God gave Aaron a gift of leadership. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I believe He also bestowed on him an artistic gift. How else could you throw gold into a fire and miraculously get a golden calf out of the deal (Exodus 32:24)? This man had talent! However, Aaron used His unique gifts to lead thousands into idolatry and wicked rebellion. Oh that we use God's gifts for their intended purpose! Search them out, sisters, and use them to Christ's satisfaction! Because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable! You never know, God may meet you face to face through your obedient usage of His bestowed gift!

Still hungry for God's bread? Thirsty for His Living water? Go here and be fed! Allow yourself to be washed in His Word.

(Ok, this is my first 'bible study format' post. Please give some useful critique and feedback. Also, please, even if you already know everything there is to know in the Word, take the time to go through these scriptures and answer the questions. You may be surprised at what God through His Holy Spirit shows you! And then please, please, please come back and share!)

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Tornadoes this Side of Oklahoma

Trial and tribulation doesn't always come in the form of tsunami waves and tornado winds.

In the world we know as real-life and day-to-day monotony, our struggles and strains are the simple moment-to-moment, breath-by-breath ordinary what's-the-big-deal issues. They're the little irritants that side swipe us throughout the day one-by-one with no respite in between. And some of us simply call them Mondays:

1. running behind schedule
2. arguing children in the backseat
3. a long evening of homework
4. one too many grocery store stops on the list
5. a depleted bank account
6. that stack of unpaid bills
7. unfinished chores
8. clogged sinks and hair filled drains
9. unbearable physical ailments
10. minor aches and pains
11. the coffee pot overflowing at 5:30am
12. that phone call from the school
13. a flashing red engine light
14. the almost empty, out-of-date milk jug in the midst of preparing mac-n-cheese
15. four bald tires
16. the report card
17. an eleven-year-old growing too fast and all of a sudden having nothing to wear Monday morning (and his nothing to wear is far unlike my nothing to wear)
18. a vacuum cleaner that blows dust about the house
19. the drawer that needs fixed- for several months now
20. a job that just keeps taking more than it gives
21. poison oak
22. waiting expectantly for a missing cat to come home
23. a bad hair day (admit it, it's distracted you more than once)
24. the number on the scale or the size on the tag
25. ph levels in the pool
26. a rebellious child
27. dusty book shelves
30. failing at people pleasing
31. far away family slowly losing a loved one
32. a hubby who works graveyard
33. and then volunteers during the day
34. and then thinks he can survive off of 5 hours of sleep
35. a small list of discouragement that could continue endlessly.

But praise God it doesn't!!! Seriously, I had to make myself stop. It was getting depressing. Because honestly everything on this list I've either experienced or am experiencing.

Did you feel like some of them weren't worth mentioning? I did. Number 11? Really? Does it truly deserve a place on the list? YES! Because if you're up at 5:30, then I know you need coffee. And if the coffee pot overflowed all over the counter rather than into the pot, then you know you needed coffee to fix the coffee mishap. But you didn't have any coffee. Because it overflowed all over the kitchen. And now what? Can you really read your devotional, and intercede without a cup-a-joe?

And then we turn on the radio. It echoes of school shootings and school buildings collapsing on helpless children. We feel guilt and shame. We experience anger and mull over questions. Why are those parents being subjected to this? Why them and not me? What if it were my child? Lord, help me to be more thankful!

And our trials begin to look so insignificant and selfish. We place them next to the worst of tragedies and what appeared overwhelming is only a minor diversion; a small distraction compared to the grandest of nightmares.

But is our nightmare any less frightening simply because another's is more terrifying? Does one mother's plea in childbearing pain lessen another's merely because her pain cuts deeper?

The struggles and wrestlings you are going through do not evaporate when devastation hits on the other side of the country. You are a mom going through trials of your own. She is a mom facing heartache you've never been asked to bear. Both are moms. Both are struggling. One mama's unbearable anguish doesn't lessen another's. It only reminds us that life is hard in Oregon, Oklahoma, India, and in the seats of our own kitchen tables and minivans.

Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in us? Is it the devil? No- "the cares of this world." It is always our little worries.
~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

We watch the storms of the desert roll on in gruesome destruction while stumbling over the bumps of Oregon's dirt roads. We walk them and run them, and we trip over them. They're not being torn up by raging wind, but they're tearing up the knees of moms falling face first over misplaced Legos and piles of clean laundry thrown into careless heaps on the floor.

And when we can't pay that water bill, we can remember the God who separated the sea and split the rock. Seriously, water has never been an issue for the one who spoke it into existence.

Casting our care upon Him because He cares for us is knowing He's mindful. He's paying attention. He's thinking and considering your anxieties and apprehensions. He's aware of the unemployed one feeling rejection after rejection. The one wanting only to give up and believe the lies. And massive tempests and colossal currents do not lessen His thoughts toward you. Our God is never so engaged with another's affliction that He disregards your distress.

Take it to Him, sisters!

The Lamb who died to save is the Shepherd who lives to care for us. ~Our Daily Bread

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Broken Bread and Poured-Out Wine

"Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." ~Luke 22:31-32

He told Peter that Satan had asked for him. He said he wanted to sift him; to try his faith and make him waver. In fact, he wanted to sift them all, but it was to Peter that He offered comfort. However, it wasn't the comfort Peter may have anticipated. He offered the hard kind of comfort. The comfort that isn't visible until the folding back of time and the looking through eyes that see the end from the beginning.

Jesus knew the outcome. Jesus knew Peter's heart. He knew this one was a rock, and He trusted this friend of His. Peter indeed would be sifted because the Father would allow it, and not even the angels could prevent it. But even in this- even in the sifting and the testing, Jesus lived to intercede. "But I have prayed for you." And what other comfort is there?

Do I need deliverance from the fire if Jesus has already prayed me through the flames? The Beloved Son- He gets what He wants! He makes His requests to the Father, and the Father hears His every word. "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail."

He didn't pray that Peter would not fail. Peter had already failed and Peter would fail again. And again. He was just a man after all. No, He prayed that Peter's faith should not fail. To look away from the Strong Man is to feel the depths of raging storm and waves.  

What does this do to a fearful, failing, flailing follower? Sinking, and stumbling, saying what you shouldn't say, and thinking what you shouldn't think. It leaves a man broken, beaten, and defeated. But maybe it's through the failure of a weak and weary follower that we see the power and faithfulness of an ever-present God. In the midst of deep water, we experience the salvation of those arms; arms that are not shortened. Arms that can save even to the uttermost.  Peter came to understand what Jesus does with such a man.

That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~1 Peter 1:7

And Peter came to know the danger of the devouring enemy; an enemy that seeks to destroy. An enemy that asks for us by name, and accuses us night and day.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. ~1 Peter 5:8-10

And who doesn't want to be perfected, established, strengthened, and settled? Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die. I'd add to that- everyone wants to be holy but no one wants to experience the refining process. Just as gold must be immersed in harsh chemicals and put through extreme temperatures in order to remove all its impurities , we too must face difficulties and trials because it is the testing of our faith that produces patience. And when patience has its perfect work in us, it produces perfection and completeness, that we may lack nothing.  (James 1:3-4)

"But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Is there ever reason to doubt the purpose behind the sifting? Satan asks permission and our Protector either grants him a short leash or all together refuses his request. In the end, when the impurities are expelled, and the surface reflects the Son, will we strengthen our brethren? Because every temptation is common among men. When we've been through the sifting, we will find that  "…He may make us broken bread and poured-out wine with which to feed others." We become the one our sister needs for holding up weary hands while the battle rages on in bloody uncertainty.

So beloved sister, don’t think it's strange that you are being tried in this fiery furnace. Don't look at it as some strange thing that is happening to you and you alone. Rather, rejoice! Rejoice that He gave Satan that short leash and remember that leash is never longer than His strong arm. Delight in the knowledge that He sees fit to immerse you into the depths of pain, uncertainty, and doubt. Not because you are able, and He only gives you what you are capable of enduring. No, delight that you, the one weak and incapable, will be strengthened by the One who is adequately sufficient to supply all your need. Because when the temperatures reach their peak, you, yes you, shall come out as gold.

…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…   ~Hebrews 5:8-9

And while you are being made perfect, and your faith is growing ever stronger, because He lives to plead on your behalf, you may not even be aware of the outward change that is occurring. And the reflection of His Glorious Son shall shine as bright as the stars making some coward in your presence- because His presence has taken up residency. Don't cover it up as Moses did. Let the sifter sift, the impurities recede, and the Sufficient One satisfy your holy need.

Should the Lord say to our enemy… "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." …will we trust our Protector's perfect plan?

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mind.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
~Isaiah 43:1-2

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

To be Judge or Judged {Are you a Subject or a Predicate}

If I sit as an observer, watching the unfolding of a court case, and witnessing the final verdict offered by the judge, I am nothing more than a spectator. If I then go and tell others of the outcome, sharing on the judge's final ruling, I have become a reporter to some degree. When I begin sharing the judge's conclusion and offering my opinion on the verdict, I then make myself a critic of the judge himself.

There's a misconception in our society today. There are those who suppose that individuals merely reporting what the judge has already ruled are actually making themselves a judge. This is simply not so. To judge and to report on a judge's ruling are two entirely different deeds. As Christians, we believe that our God, the Righteous Judge, has already ruled and therefore judged sin and sinners. He has proclaimed what is and isn't right or wrong. When we, observers of His Ways and His Word, share with others that which He has already judged, we are in no way making ourselves judge.

Looking back at my original example of an observer in a court hearing, it wasn't until I began evaluating the judge's final ruling that I began evaluating the judge. And when I began evaluating the judge, no doubt it was at that moment that I put myself in the place of judge. Not only did I put myself in the place of judge, but I put myself as judge over the original judge.

And so it is in our society today: rather than be judged by a Mighty and Perfect Judge, we have attempted to place that Judge on trial and begun to judge His final verdict according to our standards of moral right and wrong. We, merely spectators and reporters, nothing more than the dust of the earth who are here today and gone tomorrow, are weighing the motives and intentions of the only True Judge; the creation has begun judging the Creator of all we are and see.

Who do we think we are to even consider judging such a Judge?

"The ancient man approached God (or even angels) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock… the trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the bench and God in the dock,"
~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Classroom Conversations

These last nine months I've had the opportunity to have some interesting conversations with my students. I wish I could write them all down and never forget a moment or a word! Here is a glimpse into my 4th and 5th grade classroom!

~~~~ The Empty Sacrifice ~~~~

Student #1- "Mrs. Stephanie, if someone didn't know Jesus, but they did a really amazing thing by saving someone else's life, and dying themselves instead, would they get to go to heaven?"

Student #2-  "Well, what does 1 Corinthians 13 say?" (We just finished memorizing this chapter as a class)

Student #1- "So yes, they would go to heaven because they were showing love to the other person by dying for them."

Me- "But what does the Bible say about getting to Heaven? Can we get to Heaven by the good things we do?"

Student #1- "If we are showing love, yes."

Me-   "If we could go to Heaven by only doing good things and loving others, why would Jesus have needed to come and die for us?"

Student #2- "Ahh! 'And though I give my body to be burned…' that's what that verse means…"(And this teacher's heart is overflowing with pride because yes, they are hiding His word in their hearts! It's coming to mind in uncertain situations!)

Me- "Exactly!" You can do amazing works and good deeds and love people like no one else, but without Jesus as your savior you cannot go to Heaven. It is only by His death and resurrection that we get to go to Heaven."

Student #1- "But 1 Corinthians 13 says the greatest of these is love."
Me-"Yes, and it's talking about God's love. We cannot have God's love if we do not have God in our lives."

Student #1- "That's really, really sad."

Me- "Yes, it is very sad. There are a lot of really great people in this world who spend their lives doing selfless things for others but do not know and follow God and will not be able to spend eternity with Him. This is very sad."

The reality of Hell is no joke. Even 4th and 5th graders can feel the weight of it.

~~~~ Who are they Worshiping? ~~~~

While reading about Hudson Taylor (missionary to China), we found him before a temple, overwhelmed as he watched devoted Buddhists worship deceased ancestors and images of stone. Hudson was astonished at the sincerity with which they worshiped.

Me-"What does it mean to worship deceased ancestors?"

Student #1- "It means worshiping your dead relatives that have become angles."

Me- "Really… so do you think when we die, we all become angels?"

Student #1- "Yes. We wear white robes and have wings."

Me-"Hmmm, I wonder why people think that. Let's think about Genesis and when God created the earth. Did Satan already exist, or did God create him when he created Adam and Eve?"

Student #2- "I think he already existed."

Me-   "I think you're right. And what is Satan? What was he before he rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven?"

Student #3- "He was a beautiful angel!"

Me- "Yes, he was! And he became very proud and wanted to be like God. The Bible says that when Satan rebelled against God, many, many angels decided to follow Satan instead of God. What do we call those angels now?"

Student #4- "Demons?"

Me-   "Yes. They are demons. Satan and the demons sinned against God didn't they. Do you think Satan and the demons can get saved and follow God again?"

Student #2-  "No..."

Me-   "I think you're right. I don't think they can either. You see, God sent Jesus to die for our sins, but not for the sins of angels. This shows us that we are a different creation than the angels are. Angels cannot be saved like we can, can they? Do you think angels are mighty and powerful?"

Students-   "Maybe…" (Now they're starting to doubt what they know to be true.)

Me-   "Yes, they are very mighty and powerful. Every time we see an         angel appear to someone in the Bible, that person becomes very afraid! I think angels must be amazing creatures! One angel even binds Satan for a thousand years during the reign of Christ." (The students begin talking about their many eyes, wings, and different faces.) "These angels are amazing creations of God, but for some reason God didn't send His Son to die for them. They cannot get saved. God sent His Son to die for us. He must love us so much! It seems like He chose us over even the powerful angels! And He sends His angels to minister to us and sent them to minister to Jesus. So, what happens when we die now that we know we don't become angels?"

Students- "We either go to Heaven or Hell."

Me-   "That's right. So when Hudson Taylor saw these people worshiping their ancestors. Who do you think they were really worshiping? Can we worship and talk to people who have died?"

Students- "No because they're not here. Maybe they are worshiping no one."

Me-   "That's right. Or maybe they are worshiping demons. When people talk to dead spirits, they are definitely not talking to people that used to live on this earth. Remember, evil is real. Satan is real. The demons are real. But God created them and He is more powerful than they are. They cannot do anything without His permission. We should not be afraid of them, but we should always remember that they are real and they are not on our side. And never forget that God loves you more than even the most powerful angel!"

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Brave ~Five Minute Friday~

For God has not given us spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a
sound mind. ~2 Timothy 1:7

I hear this verse often in Christian circles. I quote it myself for encouragement and reminders that our God is big and we shall not fear. What I hadn't realized is the context of this particular verse. Do you know what the one directly preceding it says:

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you
through the laying on of hands. ~2 Timothy 1:6

Paul  is speaking to Timothy about spiritual gifts! And this is something I'm still thinking on. Here's a confession- ever since posting my thoughts yesterday about gifts, I've been considering going back and deleting that last part- the one that says 'God has given me a gift to teach others with His Word.'

Why is it so hard to confess a gift to others? Why do we acknowledge the gift and then turn around and deny the gift? Do we think accepting and sharing and using the things God purposefully gives us is some sort of prideful act? Why do we think that way?

When I give my children and gift and they actually use and share it- do I conclude they are being prideful and selfish? Sometimes, yes. And that must be our problem.

We are sinful people who have issues with accepting that what God gives us is a gift of grace and not something we deserve or have earned. This includes our spiritual gifts. I'm pretty sure He even gives us gifts we're not capable of using. Gifts we must stir up. Gifts that require His hand in helping us build.

I have a suspicion that God gave Aaron, Moses' bother, a gift of leadership not because he earned or deserved it, but because God chose Aaron. Simple as that. I also wonder if He gave Aaron and artistic gift, which was in turn used against God and for the worshiping of an idol.

But since God's gifts are simply God's grace given to His unique created people, there can be no room for pride or self exaltation.  And the fears we may have are that of becoming boastful, discovering we were wrong about our gift and embarrassing ourselves,  or being rejected by others as we step out in faith believing God in His gift. Because ultimately it really is His gift meant to be used for His body and His glory.

It takes a brave woman to trust God and others with your precious gift.


Lisa-Jo offers the challenge week after week:
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..
Oh and Ahem, if you would take pity and turn off comment verification, it would make leaving some love on your post that much easier for folks!
OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on:::


(I always edit. I'm a terrible typer. Maybe a little prideful too.)

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rejecting and Returning Gifts

Recently I was reflecting back years and years ago. You know those memories that haunt; the ones that leave your cheeks bright red and make you feel guilt over something long ago forgotten by everyone but you.

It was Christmas. I was maybe seven or eight, and I wanted one thing and one thing alone: Chrissy. She was a 'My Size Baby' and there were none quite like her. I tore into boxes and packages wrapped in Santa Clause and snowflakes. Disappointment followed disappointment and eventually it set in- there was no life size doll under the tree for me.

When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. I returned every gift that year simply because I didn't get the one gift I thought would turn my world upside-down. What a childish child I was. I can't even recall what I did with the money I received from my returns, only that I didn't come out with enough to buy that life changing doll. I would be miserable for the rest of my life.

How and why did my parents put up with me? What in the world were they thinking? After all the searching through ads, standing in lines, deciphering this gift or that- and I simply turned up my nose and rejected the many gifts purchased and wrapped just for me.

How disappointing that morning must have been for them. They sat there anxious to see the expressions, hear the squeals, and catch the moments in pictures that would bring back memories for years and generations. Instead they saw dissatisfaction and ungratefulness; felt frustration and rejection.

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards
of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the
oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God
supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through
Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion
forever and ever. Amen.
~1 Peter 4:11

God has carefully and meticulously bestowed spiritual gifts to each and every one of us. These gifts are unique, and they are necessary for the entire body of Christ. He has intentionally given you gifts that are unlike my gifts. Do we turn our nose to the gifts God has skillfully woven into our being because we see another gift? Are we looking at something more useful or satisfying; something grander and greater?

If God is a God that can feel disappointment and rejection- and surely He is- does He not ache as we carelessly cast aside the unique gifts He offers us- the unique gifts He offers his children? I've been on both ends of the equation. I've been the rejecting receiver and the rejected giver. I've disregarded the precious gifts along with the heart of the beloved giver. I've also labored exhaustively in search of the perfect gift- needing to show through my giving how cherished, treasured, and special an individual is, only to have my intentions and thoughts tossed aside like soiled rags.

Have you seen the joy and surprise on the face of a loved one because of your gift? Have you experienced the satisfaction of watching that loved one use and share that gift? Nothing compares to those emotions. How fulfilling. How gratifying.

To even attempt rejecting God's gifts to us, as I did my parent's gift to me as a child, in search of something more fulfilling, is nothing less than telling God His gift to me is worthless and useless. To reject His perfect gift in search of a greater gift is to reject the perfect God in search of a greater god. What foolishness this is and fools we are. In refusing our gifts, we come to find we have nothing left, and the gift we are striving for will always be out of reach and unattainable. We will be left miserable for the rest of our lives.

How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully
receive from Him the little things?
~Dietrich Bonhoefer

What has God gifted you to do? Are you called to encourage, lead and guide, discern and teach, labor through servant hood by reaching out to widows, opening your home with hospitality, feeding the hungry, going as a missionary, sending missionaries, receiving missionaries, ministering through music, offering words of wisdom or discernment? Not only do we disappoint and reject Him by casting aside our gift, but also by neglecting to recognize that gift. Seek out and ask for your gift! Obey and glorify God through the usage of an irreplaceable gift He has placed in you and you alone.

Now's your time to share with me. Let's stir one another up and share one another's gifts. God has given me a gift to teach others with His Word. What has He gifted you to do? Walk in obedience!

For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. ~1 Corinthians 12:14-20

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