Month: July 2016

Recognize the Gift

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Various unusual Christmas presents wrapped

I know this woman who always talks about not having enough money.  Well, one day I decided to give her a gift.  It wasn’t much, but something is better than nothing, right?  Do you know what she said when I handed the money to her?  I don’t need it.  Trust me.  This woman wanted that money and had someone else offered it, she would have taken it, but because it was coming from me, she rejected it.

How sad it is to ask God to send you help only to reject it because it is coming from a person that you don’t like or from a person that you don’t want to receive help from.  I’m realizing now that God has answered many of our prayers, but because it didn’t come in the form or in the person that we wanted it to, we rejected it.  Sometimes pride is the thing that keeps us from receiving ‘answered prayers’.  Pride says, I know what’s best for me.  My plan is better.  I can do it better than God.  Too many me’s, my’s and I’s will lead to trouble.

Do you remember the widow woman from Zarephath?  She needed help.  There was a famine and her husband was dead.  She was a single mother preparing their last  meal.  Not only did she lose a husband, but she lost hope.  She wasn’t just preparing a meal, but she was preparing to die.  God heard, He saw and now He was sending help, but in the meantime He was dealing with her.  Before the answer had arrived, God had already commanded the woman to do something (1 Kings 17:9).

The widow didn’t know Elijah.  To her, he was a stranger – and I think that was a good thing because sometimes we become too familiar with those who have rule over us and instead of honoring them as prophets of God, we treat them as mere men.  Jesus didn’t just give men or women, but he gave gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:8).  According to Luke 4:24-26, there were many widows in Israel during the famine, but God didn’t choose them.  He chose a widow from Zarephath.  He sent Elijah to a woman who was not his ‘own people’.  Had it been another widow, she may have been like the woman at the well.  Jesus answered, “You don’t know what God can give you. And you don’t know who I am, the one who asked you for a drink. If you knew, you would have asked me and I would have given you living water”  (John 4:10, ERV).  But that wasn’t the case with the widow of Zarephath.  She recognized the gift of God.

It was the same with the Pharisees.  They knew the Old Testament scriptures.  They read about the coming of the Messiah, but when He came, they didn’t recognize Him.  He came unto His own and His own received him not  (John 1:1).  He didn’t look like what they were waiting for.  He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we would look at Him, nor [handsome] appearance that we would be attracted to Him  (Isaiah 53:2, AMP). He was called Beelzebub.  Some thought he was John the Baptist, Elias or one of the old prophets. To them, He wasn’t the Son of God.  He wasn’t the Savior of the world.  He was just the carpenter’s son.  And sometimes we are just like the Pharisees.  When God sends us what we need or what we’ve been praying for or what we’ve been waiting for, we miss it.

While the widow was gathering sticks, Elijah asked for a little water in a vessel.  That wasn’t a problem.  She could do that, but as soon as he asked for a morsel of bread – now that was a problem.  First, she told him what she didn’t have.  Then, she told him what she did have.  I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse.  I’m sure Elijah knew she felt uneasy and unsure about giving him what he had just asked for so he told her to not be afraid.  Fear not. Go and do as you have said, but make me a little cake first

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know and this is one of the reasons why Christians struggle with trusting God.  We really don’t know Him the way He wants us to know Him.  Just because you grew up in church and you’ve read the bible from Genesis to Revelation, doesn’t mean that you know Him.  If you knew Him, you would trust Him and if you trusted Him, then you would obey Him.

The thing God is asking you to do (or give) is little, but it will bring about something big in your life – if you will trust Him.  Elijah assured the widow that she would not run out, but that she would run over – but first, she had to believe.  She trusted God with her last and gave it to the man of God first.  Let each one give thoughtfully and with purpose just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift  (2 Corinthians 9:7). As a result of her giving, faith, patience and obedience, she, Elijah and her house ate for many days (1 Kings 17:15).

Look closely at the picture above.  You can recognize what those gifts are right away because of their shape and form, but if they were disguised in a box covered with wrapping paper, you couldn’t easily recognize them.  Many of us have rejected and walked away from blessings, breakthroughs and answered prayers because of the wrapping, but the gift isn’t the wrapping.  That’s just the covering.  That’s just flesh.  The gift is inside of the wrapping.

Prayer:  One version of Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus was looked down on and passed over.  We admit today that there are still areas of our lives where we look down on Him and pass Him over because our evil desires and lusts look more attractive than Him.  Create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us.  We repent of pride, self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.  Father, help us to recognize the gift of God and help us to recognize You at work in our lives.  Give us understanding where we lack it, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

It Happened for a Reason

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But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel  (Philippians 1:12, NKJV).

I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched (forcibly silenced or suppressed), the Message has actually prospered  (MSG).

Now I want you to know, believers, that what has happened to me [this imprisonment that was meant to stop me] has actually served to advance [the spread of] the good news [regarding salvation]  (AMP).

When Apostle Paul was sent to prison (sometimes without a fair trial), he was beaten also.  The jailers even fastened his feet one time in the stocks so that he wouldn’t escape (which by the way were supposed to be used on animals, not humans). I’m not saying he was never in despair.  For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life  (2 Corinthians 1:8).  I’m not even saying that he was always content.  He had to learn how to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11).  I know how to get along and live humbly in difficult times, and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing life, whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need  (Philippians 4:12, AMP).

Paul was in prison a lot.  On five different occasions, he received thirty nine stripes.  He was beaten with rods three times.  He was stoned once.  He was shipwrecked three times. Once he was in the sea all night and the following day.  Sometimes his journeys were long and hard.  Danger was all around him – in the waters, in the sea, in the country, in the wilderness.  He had to fend off robbers. He was betrayed by his own people (the Jews) and by those who claimed to be believers, but were not.  Sometimes he was unable to sleep. Sometimes he was hungry and thirsty.   Sometimes he was cold because he didn’t have enough clothes to keep him warm (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).  And even though he went through all of these things, he still told us that our affliction was light and only temporary (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Wow.

Everyone who started in faith didn’t finish in faith.  Demas left him.  Everyone in Asia deserted him, but he didn’t mention everybody’s name. He only mentioned Phygellus and Hermogenes.  The first time Paul was put on trial, no one stood with him. He stood alone, but he wished them no harm. He prayed that God would forgive them (2 Timothy 4:16).  Some people deserted him because they were afraid, some left because of ‘trying times’ while others left because they grew weary in doing well.

While others left, Paul stayed with God.  He believed the word that was preached to him.  He was willing to go through what others walked away from.  He endured because of what was at the end.  He was as faithful to God in prison as he was out of prison.  He was still praying, teaching, preaching, rebuking, encouraging others and thanking God.   He urged the churches to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). He told them not to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6). He told them what things to think on (Philippians 4:8).  He admonished them to continue in the faith and to not be moved away from the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:23) – and he wrote all of this while in prison.

Some of the things that have happened to us were ‘small’ things.  Someone talked about you.  Someone hurt you.  Someone disappointed you.  So one day you stopped.  God didn’t hurt you or disappoint you, but you stopped going to church, stopped being faithful and stopped believing, but not Paul.  All the things that happened to Paul didn’t stop him or the gospel from being preached.  Instead, it helped to further spread the gospel in prison and to other places (Philippians 1:12-13).  The things that happened to him should have scared him, silenced him or killed him, but it didn’t.  He was jailed for preaching the gospel, but he used that opportunity to write the gospel.  Because of his faithfulness, his brothers in the Lord started boldly preaching the word of God.  There was even a prison keeper who once asked Paul and Silas, What must I do to be saved?

The apostle’s prison letters didn’t sound like they were written by a man in bonds, but by a man who was free indeed.  This is because he just didn’t write letters, but he became the letter known and read of all men.  Paul was a prisoner for  Christ.  He was in chains for doing right and at one time we were in chains for doing wrong, but God can use those circumstances, too.  Look at your opportunities.  There is someone out there who wants to be saved.  There is someone out there that doesn’t want to do the things they do or be the person that they have become.  There is someone out there who needs to know that God loves them and that He cares for them.

I know some of us would rather just go to church, but this world needs us to become the church. 

Paul wasn’t sitting in prison feeling sorry for himself or talking about giving up and neither should we.  In the midst of all the troubles he and his brothers faced, Paul was still able to say, We trust that He will yet deliver us  (1 Corinthians 1:10).  If the things that happened to you were bad, trust that God will turn that situation around because He is the only One who can make it good.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to HIS purpose  (Romans 8:28).

 

I Must Be

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I: self, the one speaking or writing

must: something that has to be done; something that is necessary or very important; required, compelled

be: exist; occupy a position; arise

Jesus and his parents celebrated the Passover every year in Jerusalem.  One year as his parents were leaving to return to Nazareth, they thought Jesus was with them, but he stayed behind.  After three days, they finally found him sitting in the temple among teachers, listening and asking questions.   When his mother told him that they were searching for him, Jesus asked, Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business? 

At the age of 12, Jesus understood ‘the business’ and when he began his ministry, he chose twelve businessmen (physician, tax collector, fishermen).  So it’s not surprising that when Jesus was talking to his disciples about true discipleship, he used words that they would understand – profit and loss.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  

In terms of business, profit means a financial gain.  It is the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent.  It is what you have left after  all the expenses are paid. In other words, there should be a return on your investment.  This is the reason why the man who traveled to a far country got angry with one of his servants.  He was going away and left his servants in charge of what he owned.  He trusted them with his business.  He assigned to one servant five talents, another two talents and another one talent.  He knew them that labored among him and he gave them according to their ability.  He knew what they were capable of.  He knew what they could do with what he had given them.  Two of the servants obeyed and worked while their master was away, but the third servant hid his lord’s money in the ground.  His lord was gone for a long time (Matthew 25:19), which means he was given enough time to use what he was given, but he didn’t use his time wisely.

When the man returned, each servant had to give an account of what they did with what they were given.  The servants that were given five and two talents made a profit.  They took what they had and gained more than what they started out with.  This brought their lord joy.  He then promoted them and gave them more  responsibilities because they proved that they could be trusted with a  few  things.  The servant who had less than the other two (one talent) only gave his master excuses (vs 24-25) and as he was speaking, he revealed what he really thought about his lord.  First of all, I don’t think he really liked him because he was a ‘hard man’.  (Sometimes you need someone who’s going to be hard on you).  Also, he didn’t serve out of love. You obey those who you love and there has to be a level of trust because you will never submit to what you don’t trust.  I don’t know how many years he had been serving, but in the end he proved himself to be unprofitable, wicked and lazy.  He was entrusted with something that was valuable, but because he didn’t treat it as such, that which was given to him was now given to someone else.  What a loss.

When you look at the life of Jesus, He did more in three years than some of us have done in the 20, 30 or 40-something years God has given us.  The reason is because he didn’t refuse to learn, he didn’t refuse to grow and he was obedient (Luke 2:46, 51-52) – and many have benefited and profited because of what He did.

There is nothing wrong with wanting nice things, there is nothing wrong with wanting better and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, but the problem is we’re trying to have success without God and that’s not success.  That’s failure.  The Lord knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.  If you would use what God has given you, you will not want for anything.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you  (Matthew 6:33).

Think about all the things you are trying to obtain.  Count the cost.  Count the time you’ve wasted.  What will you lose trying to gain these things?  After spending precious time getting everything you want, what will you have left?  What will remain?  What benefit would it be to anyone for you to get everything you want only to lose you?  The Lord has need of you and you are more valuable than the things you are seeking after.

I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ  (Philippians 3:8, AMP).

We must be  about our Father’s business and not just talk about it.  We are here on the earth to be the light.  The devil wants you to be a light put under a bushel, but God doesn’t want you to hide or bury what He has given you.  We are to let our light shine before men that they may see good works and in turn glorify God.  The people have already heard. Now it’s time for them to see the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers cleansed (incurable diseases), the deaf hear, and the dead raised.

Let us be people who value his/her blessings and gifts from God and use them wisely.  When we do these things, we will be given more, but the person who does nothing with what God has given him, even the little that he does have will be taken away from him.

May we all be good and faithful servants.