Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don't Be a Scrooge

Photo by Peter E. Lee
What Is Stinginess?

Stingy. There's an old fashioned word that you don't hear used all that much in our modern day language. Growing up, I recall my mother using the word on a few occasions, and I maybe even heard it used in church. What is stinginess, though?

According to, the word stingy can be defined as reluctant to give or spend; not generous. A character from our culture that we could connect with this word and definition would most likely be old Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens's novel, A Christmas Carol. Dickens refers to Scrooge as "...a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!"

As our economy here in the United States continues to struggle and sputter along, I fear that more and more people are adopting a stingy attitude. They are reluctant to spend and give. I don't necessarily blame people for slipping into this mindset given the state of the economy, but as believers in Christ, we should be characterized by our generosity, not stinginess. Let's take a look at a couple of passages from God's Word regarding a stingy attitude.

The Old Testament

In Deuteronomy 15:7-11, God addressed stinginess with the nation of Israel:
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
In this passage, God through Moses commands the people of Israel to help any poor, fellow Israelites. He asks them to give generously without any reluctance. The Lord gives them the promise that if they will simply be obedient in their generosity to the poor, then He will bring blessing to all of their work. What an awesome reward for the simple act of helping others!

In Proverbs 28:22 we read, The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. When we are tight-fisted and eager to be wealthy, then this is actually counter-productive to wealth creation. As crazy and oxymoronish as that sounds, I've personally experienced the blessing of God as I have kept an open hand and maintained a spirit of generosity even during times of financial difficulty. God's laws governing generosity really do work!

The New Testament

In Mark 7:20-23, we read these words from our Lord:
Then He said, "What comes out of a person - that defiles him. For from within, out of people's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person (HCSB).
In this particular passage, I find it interesting that stinginess is listed along with some pretty grievous sins. Jesus tells His followers that the root cause of all of these sins come from within us. We are defiled because of the sin that spews forth from inside of us. Jesus considers stinginess to be a significant enough problem, so He lists it with these other sins.

So, Are You Stingy?

The only solution to stinginess is generosity. In A Christmas Carol, the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge takes place after he can visualize the past, present, and future results of his stinginess. Once he finally gets the vision of how is attitude and actions are affecting the lives of those around him, he knows instinctively what he must do. He needs to be generous with his time and money. He becomes a joyful, hilarious giver!

So, how about you Christian? Do you cringe and mutter "Bah Humbug" whenever the pastor and church leaders at your church talk about church finances and giving? Are you holding on to all of "your" money with clenched fists and a clenched jaw saying "It's all mine, and you can't have any of it!" Or, when you run across someone in need, do you look the other way and ignore the need?

All of us have little "Scrooges" living inside of us because we are fallen human beings living in a fallen world. Fight the Scrooge inside of you. Push back against stinginess. Live a life of generosity.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

3 Responses to the Excellence of God

Photo by ogimogi
Jesus Heals, The People Respond

In Mark 7:31-37, we read the following story of Jesus healing a deaf and mute man:
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
In this passage of Scripture, we see three responses from the people who witnessed Jesus' healing of this man who couldn't hear and who could barely speak. First, the people couldn't stop talking about what Jesus had done for this man. Second, they were overwhelmed with amazement. And third, they believed everything that Jesus did was done with excellence. Let's look at each of these responses.

Can't Stop Talking About It!

Have you every been involved in a particularly incredible situation that you can't stop talking about? Put yourselves in the position of the people that were present at this particular healing. The people that brought this man to Jesus knew that he had been handicapped for most likely the majority of his life. This man had a long-term disability and had very little hope for recovery.

I'm sure the people's thought process was that they heard about Jesus' healing of hundreds of other people, so they brought this deaf and mute man to Him hoping that Jesus would perform a miraculous healing. Of, course, it was one of those situations that you cannot believe until you actually see it take place. So, Jesus places his fingers in the guy's ears, touches the man's tongue, sighes, and then says "be opened," and the man is healed!

The people are overjoyed that the man has been healed, but Jesus commands them not to tell anyone about the healing. What do the people do, though? They can't stop talking about it! They're running around the area of the Sea of Galilee telling their friends and family what Jesus was able to do for this man. They ignored the Lord's command and told people anyway.

What has God done in your life or the life of others that you can't stop talking about? Has the Lord saved your soul? Has He helped you through a particular difficult period of time in your life? Has He provided for you materially and financially through a job loss? Has He healed you physically from a difficult illness? If so, we should be about the business of proclaiming God's healing power to those we come in contact with each day.

Blown Away!

The people who were present at this healing of the deaf, mute man were completely blown away by the healing of power of Jesus. They were overwhelmed with amazement. They couldn't believe that this handicapped man had finally been made whole. I'm sure that the people who brought this man to Jesus had faith that he could be healed. Until the actual healing took place, though, their response was probably typical of anyone else's response. They were completely surprised by the power of Jesus!

So what has Jesus done or been doing in your life and the lives of those around you that has brought genuine amazement? When you pray for healing and the healing takes place, are you overwhelmed with God's awesome, divine power? When you pray for a job that seems like a completely long-shot and the Lord provides for you, are you blown away by God's provision? God is at work all around us every day. Are you completely blown away with what He is doing for you and others?

Excellent and Beautiful

The third and final response of the people is captured in their statement, "He has done everything well." The word "well" that is used in this verse has the root idea of excellent and beautiful. When Jesus decided to heal this man, He didn't do a halfway job. He went all the way with a complete healing of the man's hearing and speech.

And that's just like God isn't it? He is an amazing, all-powerful God, who is perfect in every way. Jesus had compassion on this handicapped man and healed him with beauty and excellence.

What has God been doing in your life lately that has been excellent and beautiful? Has He taken care of your financial needs in some pretty incredible, amazing ways? Has He brought about a complete physical healing from a terrible illness? Has He answered specific prayer requests for some rather difficult and hopeless situations in your life? If He has, then give Him the praise and honor that is due Him. Praise Him for the excellence and beauty that He brings into each one of our lives!

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spending Money On What You Value

Photo by debaird
What you risk reveals what you value. - Jeanette Winterson

The Value of a Thing

We all value many things. When I speak of value, I'm talking about the importance we place on certain people or certain material possessions. We have assigned usefulness and worth to them.

For example, some place a high value on their relationships. They invest time and money into people because of the worthiness they have placed on others.

Some place a high value on their walk with the Lord. Their schedule and finances reflect that they love God and that He is a high priority in their life.

And, some place a high value on their stuff. They gotta have the big house, expensive cars, nice clothes, and the latest and greatest in technology. So, they invest a great deal of energy, time, and money acquiring all of these things because of the worth they have assigned to stuff in their lives. Do you remember the former first lady of the Philippine's, Imelda Marcos? She valued shoes so much, that while her husband was president, she built up her collection to over 2,700 pairs of shoes! If she only wore one pair of those shoes each day, it would take her over 7 years and 4 months to cycle through them all. Redonkulous!

The Value of Stuff

Is stuff really that great of a place to put a lot of value in? Stuff breaks. Stuff depreciates. Stuff wears out. Stuff clutters up our homes. And you know what? Unfortunately, a lot of Christians have placed a lot of value in stuff, too. They've bought into the mantra of the world that we all need to go out and get us some nice stuff.

I'm afraid that if we were to do a financial audit on the majority of Christians, we would find that the most believers value their stuff above all else. Their checkbooks, debit and credit card receipts, and bank statements could be offered up as evidence to support this fact. All of us spend money on what we truly value here in this world.

The Value of God's Kingdom

While Jesus was living here on earth, He addressed this problem of our tendency to pile up stuff here. In Matthew 6:19-21, 24 we read:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
As Christians, have we really absorbed the truth of Jesus' own words about money and stuff? He tells us that storing up treasure here on earth is essentially a waste of time and a bad investment, because it's not going to last. We should be focusing our resources on God's Kingdom through laying up our treasure in heaven, because our treasure is safe and secure there. Our treasure is going to last forever up there!

In this passage, the Lord also reminds His followers that we can't serve both God and money at the same time. It just doesn't work. If we're consumed with money and laying up treasure here on earth, then God and His Kingdom are going to be edged out. We have to make a choice on what we truly value most - stuff or the Kingdom of God.

We Value What We Spend Money On

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also...

Our heart follows where we place our money. If we're buying a bunch of possessions here on earth, then we are going to be concerned about our stuff. If we're investing large portions of money into the stock market, then we're going to watch the market like a hawk and be concerned with our gains and losses.

But, if we're giving our money for God's Kingdom purposes, then our heart will naturally be concerned with the things of God. If we will just step out in faith and give financially to God's Kingdom, then we will begin to value what God is accomplishing in His Kingdom.

So, how about you, Christian? Have you been investing too much time, energy, and money into stuff? Is this all you think about? Has your focused shifted off of God and on to the things of this world? Start somewhere by giving something, anything to God's Kingdom. Re-prioritize your finances so that a portion of it is consistently being invested into God's work instead of piling up more junk here on earth. Then watch how you will begin to value eternal concerns over stuff.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What and Where Is Your Rocking Chair?

Photo by ccheykain
God Whispers

Over the last few weeks, my Bible Study class at my church has been doing the small group study on the Bill Hybel's book The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond.

In one of the lessons in this study, the metaphor of the rocking chair is used to describe a time and place where one meets with God on a daily basis to read God's Word and pray to Him. Through this consistent process of meeting with God, we allow God through the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts as we hear from Him through the Word and prayer.

For one man in Hybel's church, this place truly was meeting with God in a rocking chair on the back porch of his house first thing in the morning each day. For Hybels, he found for several years that the best place for him was to meet daily with God at a small diner down the street from his house. There were just too many distractions at home when his kids were young. So, whether it's a rocking chair on the back porch, a small diner down the street from your house, or sitting in your car during your lunch hour at work, we all need a place we can meet God each day.

God Speaks Through His Word, Prayer, and the Holy Spirit

The Bible, God's Holy Word, is His direct revelation to us. In order for us to truly know the mind of Christ, we need to read and meditate on that direct revelation. After reading the Scriptures, we then pray back to God those things that we have learned from His Word. Through this process of reading and praying, we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts and minds.

At the point of salvation, each believer is given the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the mind of Christ. Consider the following passage from 1 Corinthians 2:10-16,
…these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
A Time And Place

We all need the consistency of a set time and place to get alone with God in order for the Holy Spirit to speak to us. On some days, we're going to be "on schedule" and have that quiet time with the Lord. We're going to have powerful times of worship with the Almighty Creator of the Universe and clearly know the mind of Christ because the Spirit is speaking to us. On other days, we may be "on schedule," but we're distracted with the cares of this life. We can't hear the Spirit speaking as clearly through the distracting clutter in our brains. And on other days, our schedules are going to be so crazy that we can't even make it to the "rocking chair!"

Stuff happens. Life is messy. Our neatly, planned-out schedules can get thrown off track. Don't give up, though, on the days when things don't go according to plan. Keep trying to get back to your rocking chair. Keep fighting to get back to that time and place in order for God to speak to you through His Word, prayer, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

What and Where Is Your Rocking Chair?

So, what and where is your rocking chair? Do you even really have one? Have you truly tried to establish a special time and place to meet with the Lord?

For me, that time and place is typically early in the morning down in the basement where my home office is located. The house is usually quiet in those pre-dawn hours, and I can focus on my relationship with the Lord before the hustle and bustle of the rest of my schedule completely overtakes me. But that's the best time and place for me. I'm a morning person.

For you, however, it could be your lunch hour at work or later in the evening when the kids finally go to bed. These might be better times in your crazy schedule to quiet your mind for a few minutes in order to allow God through the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Experiment with your schedule. Try different times and places and see what works best for you. When you finally do discover that time and place when and where the Holy Spirit is speaking, though, push yourself to get back there each and every day. The Lord will begin doing incredible things in your life as you allow Him to speak to you through your own personal rocking chair.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Become a visionary in your giving

If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed (Proverbs 29:18, MSG).

Photo by Jinx!
Catch The Vision

People that capture a vision for anything in their life tend to move toward that vision. For example, when a child really desires a certain toy, they are going to start saving their money in order to buy it, or at the very least, bug their parents to get it for them! When women get a vision for having a family and raising children, they (usually) start dating responsible men with decent jobs, get married, and start having babies. Men get out of college, catch a vision of a career field they would like to pursue, and begin moving toward fulfilling that vision.

As Christians, God has already given us a vision for what we should be accomplishing for His Kingdom: going out and making disciples. In Matthew 28:18-20, we read our Lord's vision in His own words for His disciples:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Once we have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives, we have already been given a spiritual vision to move toward for the remaining days of our lives here on earth. Because of the way we have been shaped individually by Almighty God, the methods of accomplishing this vision may vary in each believer. But, the overall goal is to tell others about Him and teach new believers how to grow in their faith.

Photo by NewtonFreeLibrary
Give The Vision

Whether Christians may like it or not, money is included in this vision. Financial and material resources are necessary to fuel the vision of your church, missions work, and other important para-church ministries that are moving toward the vision of making disciples.

My pastor has a wonderful saying, "The gospel is free, but ministry is expensive." It takes a great deal of money to provide ministry resources, staff, and buildings for our local churches to reach out into their communities. It can be expensive to provide the resources necessary to send missionaries overseas.

If we truly believe in God's vision that He has given to His followers, then that belief in God's Kingdom work here on earth needs to be met with money. Our money should follow our faith in that vision of going out and making disciples. Many of us have been blessed by God with an excess of wealth, not for the latest and greatest "thingy" out there today, but in order for us to give back to God through the ministries of our churches and others in order to accomplish the vision.

Photo by micah.e

Live The Vision

Living the vision requires action. We must step out in faith, using all available resources at our disposal, in order to live out God's vision for the lives of His followers. We must put "feet to our faith" and do the hard work it requires to go out and make disciples. A part of that hard work is giving money back to God through our local church and other ministries.

We need to be bold in our faith to tell others about Him. We need to use our natural talents and spiritual gifts within the context of a local, Bible-believing church in order to accomplish His mission for us. And, we need to be great managers of His wealth and give back to Him as much money as we possibly can in order to fulfill the vision. When we are acting on these things, then we are living His vision for us.

Have you caught His vision for your life? Are you living out that vision through giving back to Him of your time, energy, talents, spiritual gifts, and financial resources? What can you do, today, in order to move in the direction of that vision?

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who or What Is In Your Backpack?

Life Lessons From A Movie

I'm a thinker. That's what I do. This is how God wired me. My mind is constantly churning over something I recently read in a book or online, a TV show or movie I've recently watched, or what my next great blog post is going to be about.

A few days ago, I watched the movie Up In The Air. This was a result of either a recommendation I read online or someone actually recommending the movie to me. Either way, I had placed the movie into my Netflix DVD queue and received it in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

The short version of the plot to the movie is this: Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, makes his living by traveling to various workplaces around the country and firing employees when the companies are unwilling to do it themselves. As a side job, Ryan is also a motivational speaker, using the analogy "What's In Your Backpack?" to praise the advantages of a life free of burdensome relationships with people as well as things.

Ryan thoroughly enjoys his constant travels. He would rather be in an airport terminal or airplane than to be stuck at home in Omaha, Nebraska. Through his travels, though, he begins to build relationships with two women. The first woman is also a frequent flyer who he meets during his travels and with whom he has a casual relationship. The second woman is a fellow co-worker who ends up flying around with him to see how the business actually works.

As a result of his experiences with these two woman and his job, Ryan starts to view life and relationships in a different light. He begins to re-think his entire philosophy of the empty backpack. Perhaps life is better when you have a co-pilot, when you have someone to share your life and experiences with? At the end of the moving, we see Ryan desperately reaching out to his "plus one" to share his life with her, but things don't end up as he planned. He ends up alone, reaching his goals, but unsatisfied with the results.

An Empty Backpack Can Be Lonely

In many ways, I can relate a lot to this movie. "I've been there, done that, and got the t-shirt" now on two separate occasions in my life. First, when I left home for college in my late teens, I was single and free as a bird. I had a "plus one," but then that relationship ended up not working out for me. At that point, I kind of adopted the Ryan Bingham philosophy and just travelled through life as lightly as possible to get my college years completed and discover God's design for my life. Around the time I was called into ministry, I met my now ex-wife, and we began a journey together for almost 11 years. We bought two homes together, started a family, and lived out what I thought was your typical American, Christian, family life.

My second experience with loneliness ended up when my now ex-wife firmly decided she didn't want to be married anymore. My backpack was suddenly turned upside down and partially emptied, and I was back to a state of semi-loneliness. I say semi-loneliness because now I had two young daughters in my backpack so-to-speak that I had to care for, at least half the time. But kids and spouses are two separate relationships that meet different needs. My "plus one" was gone once again, and I found myself feeling all those crappy, all alone feelings from my college years. I started focusing on what I had left in my backpack and how God wanted me to continue on in my journey.

Photo by JF Sebastian
An Empty Backpack May Be Your Calling

Here's a scary thought. Traveling alone without a co-pilot may be your life's calling. Having an almost empty backpack may be His design for your life. I don't believe the majority of people are designed to live this way, but some end up on this path because we live in a fallen world. When this does take place, we need to fill our backpacks with close friends and family. We need to fill our backpacks with God's purpose for our lives.

Even Jesus addressed this issue when He was asked about the issue of divorce. Here was his response to the Pharisees when they were asking Him trick questions on the subject:
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Matthew 19:8-12).
Now, if the issue is a backpack full of stuff, then this is an entirely different matter. The materialistic philosophy runs counter to the Christian life. We should empty our backpack as much as possible of those things that are weighing us down and keeping our focus off of God's Kingdom. In this same chapter, Jesus addressed this issue with the rich young ruler:
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:16-24).
So, Who Or What Is In Your Backpack?

In Ryan Bingham's motivational talks, he asks his audiences, "Who or what is in your backpack?" How would you answer that question? Would you take on the same skewed, jaded view as Ryan? Are you trying to get your backpack unpacked as fast as possible of people and stuff? Are you trying to go it alone with as little baggage as possible.

When it comes to people, we do need each other. If we do have a spouse, then we need to be sure that they truly are our "plus one" and that we are striving for "oneness" in our marriage. If we are single, though, by design or circumstances, then we need to fill that backpack with our friends, family, and Kingdom purpose for our life.

When it comes to stuff, seek out the simple life. Stuff never made anyone happy long-term. Go "lean and mean" and use your resources for the Kingdom instead of trying to stuff your backpack full of a bunch of nice junk that isn't going to last.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Everything You Have Is On Loan

Photo by Gage Skidmore
On Loan

"With talent on loan from God..."

If you're an avid talk radio fan, then you know this is a signature line from the king of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh. Love him or hate him, I do think that Rush has a basic understanding of why He has been so successful. He has been blessed by the Creator of the Universe with an amazing talent for talk radio.

All of us have been blessed by Almighty God with certain abilities, spiritual gifts, and financial resources. He is wanting each one of us to use these skills, attributes, and assets in a mature, responsible way to build up God's Kingdom. God is not wanting us to use these things for our own selfish gain, but rather as the means to accomplish His purposes for our lives and His Kingdom.

What God Has Loaned To Me

In my own life, I have recognized that I have several unique abilities, spiritual gifts, and financial resources. Some of these I recognized early on in life. Others came more evident to me later on as I grew and matured. For example, in elementary school, many recognized that I had a decent musical talent, and I have been blessed with several creative outlets to utilize that talent for God's Kingdom.

As I have matured and grown in my walk with Christ, I also recognized that I have been blessed with the spiritual gifts of teaching, administration, leadership, and giving. These gifts have developed and flourished as a result of my being called into the ministry. Sometimes, you really don't know what you possess until you start doing something, and then the gifts become evident as a result.

Another talent that has developed in my life over the last couple of years is writing. Again, as a result of developing an interesting in blogging as well as writing for some of my church's publications, I realized that I have a knack for crafting some well-written articles. I won't say I've arrived, but I've definitely enjoyed the writing journey up to this point in time. I look forward to seeing how God will use this talent in the future.

What Has God Loaned Out To You?

So, have you ever carefully considered what God has loaned out to you to use for His glory? Have you seriously contemplated how He has wired you? What do you like to do? What would you do, even if you didn't get paid to do it?

I would encourage you to really dig deep and examine your life. See if you can identify your natural talents, spiritual gifts, and resources that God has blessed you with. Think through how you can use these to bring glory to God and increase His Kingdom. Consider how you can benefit the body of Christ through your local church.

Many Parts, One Body

In this post, I have been making two assumptions. First, that you are a believer in Jesus Christ. You have surrendered your life over to Him and are trusting in Him alone to save you. Second, that you are a member of a local, Bible-believing church. God has created the church for His followers. He understands that we truly do need each other for our individual spiritual journey.

The purpose of our individual loans from God is to use them in cooperation with one another within the context of the church body. In Romans 12:4-8, the Apostle Paul addresses this very issue with the Christians in Rome:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Instead of being an occasional pew warmer on Sunday mornings, why not use what God has gifted you with to build up the Body of Christ? It sure is a lot more satisfying for your Christian walk when you're using everything you are for God's glory and Kingdom purposes.

Pay back your loan to God with interest. Use yourself up for Him.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

God Lessons at the Park

Photo by Stuck in Customs
A Trip to the Park

Just the other day, my youngest daughter and I rode our bikes down to a nearby park. Spring has definitely sprung here in our part of the midwest, and we both wanted to get out and enjoy a warm, sunny evening after a particularly brutal winter.

My daughter acts like your typical 8-year-old kid at the park. She loves to ride her bike, swing, climb the rock wall, and play on the jungle gym. I get a kick out of seeing her have a fun time, and this trip to the park seemed like an ordinary one, that is until... God showed up.

Okay, well, He didn't exactly show up in a literal sense, but as I was playing with my daughter, I was reminded several times of the unique similarities there are between my relationship as a father to my daughter and God the Father's relationship to me as His child.

So jump on your bike, follow me down to the park, and I'll fill you on what I learned about God as well as myself on the journey.

Photo by bigwavedaveo
God on the Bike Ride

When I ride bikes with my daughters, I can choose three ways to ride with them, depending on the circumstances of our trip. One, I can let them lead, and I simply follow behind. This is the best way for me to keep an eye on them at all times. Two, I can ride beside them, if there is, of course, enough room on the sidewalk or street to do so. And three, I can ride ahead of them. When I'm out front, I can lead my daughters and they can follow from behind.

You know at various times, I think God handles His children the same way that I ride bikes with my girls. Sometimes, He constantly watches us from behind to make sure we don't fall down and that no one can sneak up from behind and hurt us. Other times, He may come alongside us because He wants closer contact with us. And finally, He may lead from the front because we need His guidance on where to go and what to do.

Photo by Sara Nel
God at the Swing Set

"Daddy, push me! I want a Superman push!" Every time we go to the park, swinging on the swing set is one of my girls' favorite things to do. In order to do the Superman push to their satisfaction, I have to get behind them on the swing, push as hard as I can to get them high enough in order for me to run directly underneath them and get to the other side without getting whacked in the head by their feet. My girls love it because with a bunch of help from me, they don't need to work very hard to get going as high and as fast as possible in a short amount of time.

I think we probably do this with God the Father at times as well. God, I need your help to get me going here. Things are moving too slow for my satisfaction. I need You to give me a "Superman push" so that I can fly high and fast, because I can't do it in my own strength. There are going to be times when He will give us that big push we need to get moving. At other times, I'm sure He will allow us to figure out how to climb and fly on our own because He has lessons to teach us on our spiritual journey.

Photo by moominmolly
God at the Rock Wall

For a little kid, the rock wall can be a scary place. The little "rock anchors," you know those little foot and hand holds, can seem not very stable for little hands and feet. Then, if you get up too high on the rock wall, the little wall climbers get afraid that they are going to fall off and hit the ground!

When my daughter and I were at the park, she started climbing part way up the wall, and then immediately called me over to assist her. She was shaky, uncertain, and afraid. "Daddy, I'm not sure how to do this..." was her response as I walked up behind her.

"Honey, here's how you do it..." was my answer, and I proceeded to physically show her where to place her hands and feet on the appropriate foot and hand holds in order to pull herself up the wall. With a little guidance from me, she did it, and boy was she proud of herself for making it up to the top!

Then came the tricky part - getting back down off the wall! Again, I gave her some guidance on where to put her hands and feet and she slowly proceeded to climb back down. She needed reassurance from me, though, that I was right behind her the entire time in order to catch her if she slipped.

In our journey through life, we're going to come right up to some difficult mountains to climb. We can't figure out how to get up and over the stupid thing. We need a lot of help, so we call on our Heavenly Father to assist us, and He guides us on the path to take. We are able to accomplish what in our mind is an impossible feat with His help, and we are reassured that He will catch us if we slip and fall.

Photo by Michael Tedesco
God at the Jungle Gym

The final part of playing at the park for my daughter came at the jungle gym. "Daddy, look at me; look at what I can do!" This is when I can just be an observer and see what she can do. She seems totally fearless as she flips around a hanging bar, or uses her hands and arms to swing across a set of monkey bars. She is in her element. She has done this enough times to be totally secure in her play.

I believe the same is true in the ways God has gifted each and every one of us. When we are working in our strengths, doing what God has called us to do, then we are fearless. We are having a blast. We are showing the Father what we can do with what He has blessed us with. Eric Liddell, the missionary who was also an olympic runner said it best (at least in a line in the movie Chariots of Fire), "God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."

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