Giving Our Best so God Gets the Glory

I’m not so sure about this title, but it’s the only one I can think of at the moment so I’m going to let it stand. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. So many times, when we do well at something, we want to take all the glory and the credit, and we don’t want to give God any of it. It’s almost like we think we can handle all of it ourselves, and God is not necessary. But, then, when things go badly, we rush immediately to pray and cry out to God to heal or correct the bad thing and depend on Him for our strength and courage. God doesn’t want that. He wants us to talk to Him all of the time, not just during the bad times. The trick, I think, is to get the focus off of ourselves and get it to where it’s supposed to be…on God.

There is a time though when it’s tough to do that, and it’s when we are practicing something to become better at it. When we’re practicing a particular sport, a musical instrument, some kind of creative enterprise, or even just doing our best with schoolwork or our jobs, it’s hard not to think of the accolades we can get if we get good enough at whatever we’re practicing or in simpler terms, if we’re thinking about ourselves. What if we, who are Christians, changed our thinking about this? If, when we practiced something, we practiced it for God’s glory instead of our own. If, when we succeeded at something, we gave God the glory and didn’t take any for ourselves.

Examples of giving our best to God abound in Scripture. Some of these have to do with offerings or tithes, but others are more related to giving everything to God, in other words, our best. Malachi 3:10 is the best example of giving our best through offerings and tithes.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Colossians 3:17 talks about doing everything in Jesus’ name, what ever we do.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it ALL (emphasis mine) in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

I think this last example proves my point well. God wants us to do our best at everything so He can get the glory. He wants to be seen through us so others can come to know Him, and if we are His, we should want that too. May we all do our best for His glory!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

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The Comparison Trap

Comparing ourselves with others is a natural thing to do though I’m not sure it is something God wants us to do. It is made more pervasive in our society, and especially in Western society, by the constant media messages we all get saying what the “perfect” woman or the “perfect” man is supposed to be like or look like. Images of a size 2 woman in a bikini or a man with well-defined muscles represent society’s ideal.

Media messages about what men and women are “supposed” to be interested in and what happens when they’re not have also contributed to the pervasive nature of comparison. One only has to look at such controversies as Gamer Gate or the under participation of women in STEM  careers to know that women who are gamers or who are interested and have the potential to have a science, technology, or math career are not considered to be ideal women in our society.

There are also media messages about the stages of life  we’re all supposed to follow, and if we deviate from those messages, we are not considered to be as good as the people who follow them. The specific stage of life I want to highlight here is that of buying a home. At a certain point in our lives, we are supposed to have gained enough wealth or enough credit-worthiness to own a home, and if, for whatever reason, we don’t take that step, we are not considered to be as good as the people who do own homes.

A specific example from my own community has saddened me in recent weeks. We live a few miles from a large city in the United States. This area is separated into different cities, towns, and communities as I know most areas are in this country. One of these smaller cities is having a school rezoning issue at the moment, and the people in this school district are upset about all of the apartment residents they have to accommodate. I’ve read several articles about the issue, and a lot of it has to do with economics and having enough money to support programs at the different schools. But, the one thing that has especially saddened me is the comments on the articles. Many of them tell the residents of these apartments that they should go back to the large city and that they’re not good enough to live in the smaller city. Several comments used derogatory names that were racial and poverty related. It was like these people were trying to tell these apartment residents their children didn’t deserve to have a good education. I cried when I read those comments because I knew that some of the people making them might also claim to be Christians, and I also knew they had fallen into the comparison trap of thinking they were better than other people just because they owned a home and lived in this smaller city.

I believe these thoughts and attitudes make Jesus sad because comparing ourselves to others has also crept into the church, I’m sorry to say. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear I do believe that God made men and women differently, and that those differences should be celebrated not condemned. That being said, I believe there is a lot of leeway in how God made men and women and just because a man doesn’t like to play football or a woman doesn’t like having their nails done or going shopping doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does like these things. Just because a man or a woman lives in an apartment instead of owning a home doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does own a home. Just because a man or a woman serves in the background of a church instead of at the front of a church doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does serve at the front of a church. We need to make sure everyone in our churches knows they are valued and treated as such because we are ALL sons and daughters of God, and Jesus loves ALL of us. If we don’t do this in our churches, what reason will this broken world have to listen to what we have to say?

In other words, we need to remember 1 Corinthians 13:13. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Spiritual Warfare

There have been many sermons preached on this topic and many books written on this topic, but I think Christians today still don’t have much of an idea what it means. So, when I got this idea, I knew I would have to translate it into something I understood or something the basic layperson would understand.

Anyway, back to spiritual warfare. Here are Wikipedia’s meanings of both of these words separately.

Spiritual—1) of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. 2) of or relating to religion or religious belief.

Warfare—the set of techniques and actions used to conduct war.

Very simple and straightforward, I would think. Now, here is the definition of both words put together.

Spiritual warfare—the Christian concept of taking a stand against preternatural evil forces. It is based on the belief in evil spirits which are able to intervene in human affairs. Various Christian groups have adopted practices to repel such forces, as based on their doctrine of Christian demonology.

I think the reason Christians have such a problem understanding what spiritual warfare is goes back to where the words are defined separately. Most people understand the concept of spirit or being spiritual. This is something related to religion or the soul, in other words, something that is not material or physical.

On the other hand, warfare or conducting a war is entirely in the physical realm. The decision to wage war, the techniques and weapons, the actual battles in the field are all things that have physical results. The land and resources that the victor is able to obtain are all in the physical realm. The weapons used can cause physical damage—whether a soldier is wounded or killed.

Looking at this, it is obvious where there is confusion. People see these words as something diametrically opposite. Now, does putting the words together and defining them make a difference? It depends on where a person’s thinking is on the existence of evil in this world. Here is part of that definition again. “based on the belief in evil spirits which are able to intervene in human affairs” Evil is present in this world, but I don’t think people relate that to the events of their everyday lives. They go through such things as illness, death, job loss, fighting, arguments, or just discouraging events in their lives thinking that God must not love them very much if He puts them through these things. The presence of evil causing these events is usually not something that enters their minds. I believe most Christians would consider these things random or even caused by God because they don’t feel worthy to be loved by God.

However, I am here to argue this is not the case. Satan is using his demons to cause these events in our lives and draw us away from God. Sometimes, what he does is subtle, and other times, it is blatantly obvious. It does work though because people don’t have an understanding of what spiritual warfare is.

I believe that is why Paul wrote what he did in his letter to the Ephesians. Starting in Ephesians 6:10, he writes these words, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Again, these are more words that the people in his day might not have understood so he follows these up with physical concepts. Verses 13 – 17 say this, “Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The Ephesians would have understood how these physical tools of war related to what Paul was trying to say, and I believe they give us a tool in how to understand the existence of evil in this world.

Now, the question of why God allows evil in this world could be asked. Why doesn’t God give us a life that would be easy for us? The answer to that question is simple. Easy comes later when we’re with Him in eternity. Eternity will be when there is no evil, no heartbreak, no sadness, no insecurity, no hurt. It will be a time of endless worship of our Lord and Savior. But, that time is not now. Good and evil both exist in this world, and I believe God allows us to experience evil for two reasons. One, because He wants us to hold onto Him as tightly as we can, and two, because He wants as many people to come to Him as possible. If we get to the bottom of our rope or the pit as I have spoken of before, we will be more likely to reach out for His hand, more likely to pray, more likely to depend on Him for everything. And that is what He wants. There is no way we can do it all on our own. He is willing to help us to fight the evil. All we have to do is ask and use the tools He has given us in His Word.

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Misfit Toys

I know I have been posting regularly on Monday for the last few weeks, but I had some words I just needed to get out today. For the last few weeks I’ve been feeling the sting of not feeling good enough or normal enough to be in the church. I have a friend who says I give a voice to what most Christians are afraid to voice, and I’m starting to think that is true. In the church, we pretend things are normal and don’t speak of the things that are on our hearts. We pretend things are okay and don’t spend time on our knees praying for each other. We put up shields as I’ve spoken of before, and we leave church lacking in the things Jesus wants to give to us. It has made me feel isolated and alone. Not sure where I first heard the phrase I am using for today’s title, but I think it fits my feelings. Today, I feel like I’m a misfit toy.

God was able to use people in Scripture though that started out as misfit toys. Peter denied Jesus three times, but became a leader in the early Christian church. Paul started out by killing Christian believers, but after his experience on the road to Damascus, he became one of the earliest missionaries and spread the Gospel over the known world at the time. There were misfit toys in the Old Testament as well. Moses stuttered. David had an affair. Jonah ran away from God and was swallowed up in the belly of a whale for three days. I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the point.

I’ve realized something though. There is someone who is always there for me. When I feel awkward about not having the right kind of family, I have Jesus. When I feel ashamed or think people are ashamed of me because I live in an apartment and not a house, I have Jesus. When I long for friendship and it’s just not there, I have Jesus. When I think people talk to me because of the things I do and not because of who I am, I have Jesus. When I get tired and want to cry, but don’t feel like I can, I have Jesus. When I need a hug, but feel awkward about asking, I have Jesus. When I don’t think I’m contributing, I have Jesus. When I am a misfit toy, I have Jesus. Jesus is always there, always in my heart when I can’t voice or even write my feelings. (and it’s rare for me not to be able to write my feelings down) He is there when there is no one else, and I am so grateful He died for me on the cross. He died for you too, and if I don’t communicate anything else today, I want to tell you that. All you need to do is believe, and it doesn’t matter if you are a misfit toy.

God’s blessings on you all today!

Sharing our Gifts for God’s Glory

For the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing about what we’ve been doing at my church to encourage people to share the gifts God has given them within the body. This all culminated in the event we had yesterday where each of the ministries had tables set up, the leaders were available to talk to people about their ministry and sign-up sheets were also available.  I was helping people at the table for my husband’s ministry, and from where I was, it looked like everything was going well. The leaders will be following up over the next few weeks, and I know everyone is hopeful this will translate to more people sharing their gifts for God’s glory in our church and in our community.

What I want to talk about today is my own journey. Over the last few weeks, I have felt a calling to do something, to share my own gifts within the body. I had actually started the planning for it and was starting to get excited when I had some people approach me and tell me I would be stepping on toes if I tried it. It derailed and discouraged me. You might ask what this gift is. It has to do with writing, of course. God has given me the gift of expressing myself. The gift of writing down my thoughts so I can understand what I’m thinking more clearly. And, because my writing makes my understanding clearer for myself, it helps other people to understand what I’m talking about better. Or at least, that’s what I’m told.  🙂

After our service yesterday, I felt a vague dissatisfaction which lasted for the rest of the afternoon up until this very moment, as a matter of fact. Things started to become clearer as I read my Scripture reading for the day earlier this morning. There was one particular verse that came right out at me. It was Luke 21:33.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

This verse brightened my thinking and really encouraged me. Now, of course, Jesus’ words in general are encouraging, but how does this relate to my own thoughts of sharing the gift of my writing? It’s simple. God’s words will never pass way, like the Scripture says, and if He is wanting me to write, He has a plan and a purpose for it. I don’t want to be egotistical and say that my words will never pass away. Not my point at all! Writing is my gift though. It is the gift God wants me to share for His glory. He doesn’t want me to care about what others think or if I’m stepping on toes. He just wants me to write–for His honor and for His glory. For His honor and His glory alone!

Now, I have to overcome this fear I have — of upsetting Christian brothers and sisters, of stepping on toes, of not feeling worthy, of not having courage. I’ve done a lot of things over the past few years that have required courage, especially with my faith. I’m just having trouble stepping over this one hurdle. I think that’s the point though. God wants us to depend on Him and Him alone as we share our gifts within the body and within our communities and not worry about what anyone else thinks. Easier said than done, I know, at least it is with me.

May we all depend on God and God alone as we consider where He is leading us to share our gifts for Him!

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!

A Response to God’s Generosity

First, I need to apologize to my pastor for appropriating his sermon title from yesterday. This title reflected what he had to say well as it does for what I have to say today. So, again, apologies.

God’s generosity. When you think of the word generosity, the first thing that comes to mind is money, right? Come on, you can admit it. That’s why we have so many people in the Christian world claiming that if you just follow this list or this formula, God will be generous and bless you with a great deal of money. This is so far from the truth it’s almost funny.

Don’t get me wrong. Money is important in this day and age. We need to make sure we are giving enough money to support our churches, their staffs, and the work we are trying to do to make sure the gospel is shared in our communities and around the world.

But, money is not the point of this post today. God has blessed us, not only with money, but with everything in our lives. I’ve talked before about the gifts He has given each of us. He doesn’t mean for us to keep these gifts hidden. He means for us to share them for the benefit of His Kingdom.

Matthew 5:14 – 16 says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

God wants us to shine and to glorify Him, and we can’t do that if we are keeping ourselves hidden. He wants us to pour out the blessings we receive from Him onto others so all can come to know His Glory. This is not something we have to do for salvation, but something we should want to do so others can know about Jesus’ love and how much He loves us. This love is not meant to be bottled up, but to be poured out on others, poured out. I’ve not been the best at doing that, but I want to be better. I want others to see Jesus when they look at me and not have my selfish self in the way. May we all have that same desire!

God’s blessings on you today!

Being Comfortable Has No Place in Christianity

Two weeks ago, I wrote that my Monday morning blog topic this year would be related in some way to either what I heard or what I experienced in church the day before. As this is only the third Monday of the year, I don’t want to congratulate myself just yet, but I think I’ve made a good beginning in being consistent with posting in this blog.

My pastor’s sermon yesterday was the second part of what he spoke on two weeks ago. It was mainly about the qualities of leadership, and how, in the church, the word leadership should always be accompanied by the word servant.

In my first blog entry of 2016 which referenced the first part of this sermon, I touched on the issue of control, and how we, as believers, should be giving up control to our Lord and Savior and what He wants for our lives.

I want to go a little bit further than that today and talk about how being comfortable has no place in Christianity. In this day and age, especially in the Western world, we are all about being comfortable and having things be convenient for us. This trend, unfortunately, has slipped into churches where people won’t even consider serving in some capacity because they’ve never done it before or think they don’t have time for it. We sit in our seats expecting to be blessed and not ever thinking about the ways we can bless others. Now, of course, this is not the case all the time. I know many people who are Christians whose lives are a blessing to others. They think about others before they think about themselves and are generally the first people you see taking up the mantle in our churches and getting the work done that needs to be done.

But, that’s not the case for many of our church members, and I think the main reason for this is because we, in the West, have become too comfortable. Jesus didn’t mean for us to be comfortable. He expected those who believed in Him to be about His work. There are innumerable examples of this in Scripture. I will only post a few.

Jesus says this in Matthew 7:11. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

In Romans 12:6, Paul says this. “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 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.”

And, finally, in 1 Peter 4: 10. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I think the last verse says it all. We’re to be using our gifts in service to others and not just receiving blessings. God has given us these gifts and the capability and courage to use them. These gifts are not a condition to our salvation (That would be grace versus works, and grace wins every time.) They are an outgrowth of our salvation and should be something we want to do as we seek to live for our Lord and Savior. I’m going to be taking a big leap this year in using my gifts for His glory. There is always a chance I’ll fail, but the cost of not trying is too big, and the cost of remaining comfortable is not something I’m willing to endure anymore.

May we all use our gifts for His Glory!

God’s blessings on you all today!