{re}fresh

Month: March, 2014

God’s Blessings Are Going to Cost You

by Mike McKinniss

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  Matthew 13:44-46

Among the many persistent promises that the Lord gives to his people throughout scripture is a pledge of an abundant life, which I do not take as simply a spiritual hope.  That is, I believe God’s intention all along was to provide for his people and, ultimately, all the people of the world all of the material blessings that make life possible.

But it’s taken me some time now to realize that these promised blessings rarely seem to fall out of the sky on a direct course for my lap.  (Alas!)  In fact, there is one particular lesson I’ve been confronted with lately, one that, if I’m honest, I haven’t been all that eager to learn.  The lesson is this: God’s blessings, even the material ones, are going to cost us everything.

During the last holiday season, as for so many others, my personal finances were particularly tight.  I had prepared a personal budget for the upcoming year and was freshly shocked at just how tight it was going to be.  At the same time, I was being challenged by the Lord to embrace a more generous lifestyle.  Funny how these things seem to coincide.

At one particular Sunday morning church service, as the offering was being called, a number flashed through my mind.  It was a large number for me and I had every reason to discount it.  I’m a tither; I give regularly from my monthly income.  And the dollar amount that entered my mind that morning was, frankly, a lot.  Technically, I had the money to give, but I also knew I couldn’t afford it.  I knew I would need it soon for one bill or another.

Nevertheless, I believe it was the Lord’s prompting and I decided to go for it.  While others marched forward to place their gifts in the plate, I pulled out my phone, called up my church’s website, and punched in my offering: a 21st century gift to the Lord.

Afterwards, I was equal parts joyful and terrified–happy, because I had quickly obeyed; fearful, because my budget had just gotten significantly tighter, possibly to the point of being unreachable.

This feeling lingered for the better part of a month, through the Christmas season, full as it is with gift buying for friends and family.  I took my time alternating between confidence (God, I’m counting on you to come through on this!) and trepidation (Goodness, how the cost of Christmas gifts escalates!).

Finally, the lesson hit home when, in the course of about ten days, I was given Christmas gifts of my own.  Twice I received, quite unexpectedly, financial gifts, each one equaling the exact amount I had given that morning several weeks earlier.  I had received twice what I had given, and all it took (as if it were so easy) was patience and trust.

And this is what I am learning: that God’s promises of abundance are real and they are for every aspect of our lives–spiritually, materially, and so on (as if we could really separate any of these, anyway).  But I am also learning that the Lord’s abundance, while far greater than what we already have, is still going to cost us everything we have.

To learn more about Mike McKinniss, please visit our contributor’s page.

The Widow’s Mite

by Rob Dunne

widows-mite

Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:42-44

It wasn’t a feast fit for a king. Though the food tasted good, there wasn’t a lot of it. That didn’t matter. The motive behind it was pure. More than that, it was incredibly generous. After a week of vacation bible school, the parents and leaders of the local church wanted to provide us with a meal. As we said our goodbyes, the pastor explained how big a sacrifice this was for them. The families had given out of their lack rather than their abundance. Their selflessness meant going without for a few days.

This reminds me of the poor widow and her two mites. As poor as she was, she gave everything that she had to God. Why would someone do that? Why would someone so impoverished give everything that she has knowing full well that she will do without? Clearly, she understood the love of God.

Contrast that with the story of the rich young ruler. He arrogantly approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus lays out several of the laws from the Ten Commandments. The young man boasts that he has kept all of the commandments since his youth. Lovingly, Jesus responds that he lacks one thing. He tells the young ruler to sell all of his possessions, give them to the poor and follow him. Dejected, the young man walks away because he cannot perceive of giving “his” things away.

Sometimes our possessions possess us. Rather than recognizing that everything we have belongs to God, we hold on to them like grim death. What we fail to realize is our stuff is getting in the way of the abundant life that Jesus promises us.

Our value comes from an active relationship with the God of the universe. Daily He tells us how much He loves us and that He created us with a purpose and a destiny. Stuff on the other hand tarnishes and fades, causing us to seek the latest and greatest so that our value comes from our ability to keep up with the Jones’
next door.

The parents of those bible school children knew that God loved and valued them. They understood God’s love for them and that gave them the freedom to love us in the same way. The rich young ruler missed the mark. He had an opportunity to break free from the lie that our possessions define who we are. Jesus offered to show him how to live life the way that God intended, a life of selflessness where love compels us to put others before ourselves. Had he seen life through the lens of eternity, perhaps the young ruler would have allowed true love to define him and break free from the bondage of materialism.

What in your life is interfering with your ability to receive the love of God and share it with the world around you?

To learn more about Rob Dunne, please visit our contributor’s page.

More and More Again

by ivyjonah

Photo by Jina Lee (c) 2007, via Wikimedia Commons.

Living to the fullest, abundantly. John 10:10

The paper was a bit wrinkled. On it was a drawing of two people. Thrusting it towards Maggie, the Camp Head Counselor, I stood there rocking back and forth on my heels, hoping for a “Wow, who is this lovely couple?” I told her it was a Bride and a “Broom.” Yes, that is what I called the man back then.

I’ve always had a fascination with weddings. I love the gowns, décor, flowers, colors and the celebration. I still scour through bridal magazines.

My career was as a floral designer, which gave me an upfront look into weddings. I’d meet a bride with a blank palette. She would describe her vision.  Each came in with unique ideas for style, types of flowers and colors. I would then execute her dreams into reality.

There used to be this show called “The Wedding Planner.” The wedding planner met with a couple to hear their preliminary wedding plans. He then informed them that everything will be changed, her gown, her bride’s maid’s gowns, the flowers, venue, décor, menu and the cake … all changed. They have no idea, until their wedding day, how this will unfold.

On the day, when all was revealed, the couple was inevitably speechless. Their faces show that everything was beyond expectations.

When I was newly saved, I heard teachers that spoke in error. I was led to believe I would get rich, get all worldly goods I desired. Plus, I believed, with faith, nothing would go wrong. No one would ever get sick in my family. Life would be a bed of roses. This, I was told, was the abundant life Jesus promised.

I thank God I shortly received good Bible based teaching that told the truth and not a fairytale.

Then what is the abundant life?

The Greek word for abundance is perissos, which means a quality so abundant and over the top of what one would expect.

Life, in its fullest sense, means eternal life. But Peter tells us about growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). This suggests that abundant life, here on earth, is about learning and practicing and even failing and recovering. We learn to endure and overcome in our life’s circumstances.

The very simple fact that we are children of God, life on earth exceeds what it would be without Him. But even this life pales in comparison to what the Lord has promised us. Eye has not seen or ear has not heard, nor entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Back to weddings, do you think about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? I do. It is not my reality yet; I think back on weddings I’ve attended, as well as the couples on the show.  I think, “Lord, no matter how extravagant our plans, what you have for us far exceeds anything we know. Wow!”

Lord, I try to think of 5 things every day to be grateful for. I know being able to live an abundant life is meant for today. I know we are not to look back and “live in the past” but it is profitable to do so, when we can compare today and yesterday in order to say thanks.

To learn more about Linda Maynard, view our Contributors Page.

Run from the Wrong Battle

by mandyade

Boxer of Quirinal via Wikimedia Commons

Boxer of Quirinal via Wikimedia Commons

His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. John 10:4b-5

Do you receive criticism from your own head? We have a Good Shepard who feeds us life with His own hand; anything that comes from His hand is good for us to receive. But there is a stranger who tries to feed us with junk; if we receive his lies they will poison us.

As a minister I would often experience accusations in my mind after ministry. At first I would think about them and try to take them apart to figure them out. I would get into a spiral dive with my thinking and my attempts to free myself would entangle me more. What I was doing was engaging in a fight that I wasn’t called to fight. As I grow I am learning to run from the wrong battle.

Not every enemy that comes looking for a fight is worthy of our time and attention. There are many battles not intended for us to engage in. We don’t have to dissect the enemy’s weapons to win; all we need to do is resist him. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

“Resist” means push back and say “NO.” We say “NO” by:

  1. Ignoring and not giving time or attention to lies.
  2. Intentionally receiving truth from Jesus hand.

My friend had a mysterious dream: She dreamt that she was innocently drawn to look into some shadows, out of these shadows came ugly creatures to harass her. A dark table appeared with food and the host invited her to come to the table. He said, “Now that I’ve whet your appetite…”

The mystery of the dream was that she did not have an appetite for the creatures or the meal. God used the dream to show her that her constant introspection was harassing her and the more she engaged in “innocent” thinking the more she was compelled to go deeper. Though she didn’t like the thoughts, she had an appetite to go there with her mind. Her attention to lies created an appetite for them. She realized she needed to leave the battle and start receiving only what the Shepherd says. The Shepherd’s truth would win the battle for her.

The food that the Shepherd feeds us with is the most potent weapon against lies or bad thinking. When we receive truth from Him our battles are won without the big fight that we expect.

It’s important where we feed:

  1. Feed on the truth that God says about you. His truth is always encouraging and full of hope. Worldly sorrow will lead to hopelessness and death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
  2. Spit out self-consciousness. Under the Law of Moses the people were constantly sin-conscious, under the new law we are intended to be conscious of God’s gift of righteousness to us. We mirror the image we focus on.
  3. Spit out devil-consciousness. We win when we are feeding on what Jesus is saying and doing- not when we are feeding on what the enemy is saying or doing. Resist the enemy by ignoring lies (not giving them time and attention) and focusing on truth (giving time and attention to what God says).

To learn more about Mandy, please visit our Contributors Page.

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