Break Out and Sprout

imageAs we know, the one who sows sparingly also reaps sparingly. Therefore, since the opposite is also true, Christians possess a powerful motivation for generosity (2 Corinthians 9:6). Yet, there remain those times we may be tempted to restrict sharing the gifts entrusted to us due to our self-imposed fear of limited reserves. Thankfully, selfish tendencies are broken as we faithfully sow seed in three primary areas:

Philanthropy: When we fear losing what we have, our willingness to give often diminishes. However, when we realize our abundance in Christ, our eagerness to share explodes for we no longer worry about what we have, but what we get to give to the benefit of others and the promotion of God’s priorities. Is there anything we tend to cling too tightly due to a mindset of limited reserve? Let’s try unclenching our hands and allow the gifts we’ve been given serve to bless others – for one day, we too may have need (2 Corinthians 8:14).

Provision: When we depend upon our own resources in order to stimulate our giving, we’ll always be restricted by how much, or how little we may have. Do we view our time, talents and treasures as things we generate, or as gifts from God we’re called to steward? When we realize all we have flows from His endless supply, we’re empowered to give without any regard to our reserves, for we know His gifts are not for hoarding, but for sharing (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Praise: What’s a distinct difference between the generosity of Christians living on mission for Christ and nonbelievers? It typically centers on who gets the praise (Matthew 5:16). For example, is it the person, institution, or God? Consider – do we give to receive recognition, or to reflect the generosity of God and express praise for all He’s done in our own lives?

Application: “Kingdom Harvest” – Galatians 6:8
When our motivations to give are to promote God’s Kingdom over our own, God is glorified, the giver grows and the gospel goes. As children of God, we are being transformed to the likeness of our Father, who was and is the ultimate expression of giving. Therefore, can there be such a thing as a “stingy” child of God?

Approaching The Throne

imageThere are various ways we tend to interact with God. Some of us keep a distant relationship – daring only to disturb Him in times of desperate need, or despair. Others of us call on Him throughout our day, and may be very informal and casual. Others are more prim and far from casual, and still others don’t give God any consideration at all. Not surprisingly how we view God greatly impacts our relationship and experiences with Him. As we study His Word, we begin to understand better the profound honor, power and privilege we have in being allowed to even approach His throne. Thus, all the more reason to regularly seize the opportunity! Three conditions of our heart help us to value and cherish this privilege even more:

Reverence: When the reality of God’s profound love for us penetrates our mind and soul, we can’t help but collapse in awe before such sacrifice. A story was once told about a little boy who shared the only blood type needed by his ailing sister. When the doctors asked him if he was willing to give his blood to save his sister’s life, he hesitantly agreed. Later in the hospital as the doctor made preparations for the transfusion, the boy asked how soon he would die after the process began. Immediately, the doctor realized why the boy had initially hesitated, for he believed giving his blood to his sister would cost him his life. However, his love was greater than any fears he had, and in the end, he was willing to make such a sacrifice. This earthly example demonstrates in a small way God’s love and sacrifice for us (1 John 4:10). What’s our attitude when we approach such love?

Remembrance: We get so busy in our routine, distracted by the demands placed upon us and drained from our daily activities that we sometimes place God and our prayers on our to-do lists to quickly check off as as we rush out the door. However, when we stop to remember who He is, what He did & why He did it, we are energized to make our time with Him more than just a part of our routine, but our reliance. For He created us, He sacrificed His Son to save us, and He works in and through us to heal wounds and give our lives purpose. Have we reserved time for God today, or quickly checked Him off? May our busyness never distract us from our gracious remembrance (1 Chronicles 16:12).

Repentance: When we refuse forgiveness to others, choose to remain in our sins and reject the convictions of the Spirit, we only serve to stifle our relationship with God (2 Chronicles 7:14). Thus, we limit the blessings and opportunities He desires to send our way. Why would we pass on such gifts and cling instead to some temporary and false sense of pleasure, or entitlement? Thankfully, God waits to forgive us and as we abandon such strongholds, our relationship with Him is empowered. What do we continue to cling to that we know must be surrendered?

Application: “Bringing Gifts of Gratitude” – Hebrews 12:28
As we draw near to God, does our heart overflow with thanksgiving? Do we appreciate the fact we can even approach a Holy God through prayer, or do we rush through it? Do we realize all we have is from Him? Do we understand the passion behind His love, and do we realize the boundless profits of simply being His child? When we consider all He has done & continues to do, it’s hard to remain pessimistic, downtrodden, or unappreciative. Rather, our prayers are filled with endless praise & gratitude.

Called To Protect

imageWe love the idea of protectors. We flock to the movies to see superheroes in action, and we love a good thriller where good overcomes evil and justice avenges wrongs. Excitingly, Christians get to share in these thrills as we seek to fulfill our stewardship role as protectors, as exemplified in the life of Job (Job 29:12-17). However, many times we neglect our responsibility in this area when we ignore, or even enable sinful behaviors in our lives and the lives of others. Perhaps the fear of offending, or losing some benefit causes us to allow the wrongs to remain, but like a cancer, if left untreated, it eventually multiplies and destroys. Thankfully, God’s Word cautions us to the dangers of lingering sins and guides us in effectively guarding ourselves and others from them (I.C.U.):

Identify: What temptations do we continue to go back to, or allow in our homes? If a dog can be trained to resist its natural instinct to eat the meat laid before it as it waits upon his master’s command, how much more can we, being in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, resist the temptations laid before us as we keep our eyes upon our Lord? Therefore, let us identify and acknowledge the problem(s) within and before us so that we may effectively defend against them (Psalm 32:5).

Confront: Once the issues are identified, they must be confronted in love. Although no one particularly enjoys confrontation, when our approach is stimulated out of deep care for a person, any judgmental overtones are diffused. Therefore, as we’re honest with ourselves concerning our own sins, our honesty with others will come from a humble heart seeking restoration, not condemnation. Consider – what persistent sins have we allowed to infect and infiltrate our homes (1 John 1:8)? Greed, lust, envy, anger and overindulgences are all examples of deeper heart issues that may be hidden for a time, but in the end, they lead only to destroy any real hope we have for peace, joy and a reliable testimony.

Undertake: Nothing gets done unless action is taken. Therefore, we must take intentional steps in protecting ourselves and others from those things that cause us to be tempted and stumble (Ephesians 6:13). What have we done to remove the contamination from our lives? What fellow believer continues to stumble without repentance? What have we been ignoring, or excusing so long it has become acceptable? May our concern be so great that we take actions to protect and trust Christ to do whatever it takes to remove the sin like a cancer, no matter how unpleasant the experience may be.

Application: “Intensive Care Unit” – 1 John 4:20
We have the honor to serve as protectors and as God’s intensive care unit, but how are we handling this responsibility? Have we proactively removed those things from our homes & lives that tempt us, or could be stumbling blocks to those entrusted to us? If we truly care about ourselves and others, we won’t cower to the world’s pressure to conform, or compromise, but stand firm in protecting the convictions that lead to righteous living.

by Dagan J. Sharpe @ CareerCall

Got Perspective?

Is losing a job you were successful in and then going without work for several months an unfair and undeserved circumstance? Honestly, it all depends on your perspective. As Christians, when hardships come, and they always will, we must rely on what we know about God, not what we feel. For example, we may feel despair during trials, but we know nothing can occur without God allowing it. Clearly, this doesn’t mean He causes all tragedies, but an all-knowing and  all-powerful God does allow them – for a reason. Therefore, if our loving Savior willingly faced an agonizing death in order to save us for eternity, we can trust in His complete provision and protection during any trial that may come our way. For in His hands nothing goes to waste and all things, even the bad, can be used to refine His children, propel His gospel and expand His Kingdom (Romans 8:28).

So, what was the outcome when months of unemployment came my way? I quickly applied three powerful truths earlier trials helped forge deep in my heart. I share them in hope that they may also encourage you in whatever challenge(s) you may be facing today:

Surrender: Many times the things that happen to us are completely out of our control. There may be no rational reason for them. So, we may naturally begin to wonder why God let them happen, but a better question for us to ask is what He desires to accomplish through them. For when we surrender our lives to Him, He assumes full responsibility and therefore, we can trust that whatever He allows, there is a beneficial purpose. This doesn’t mean we sit and do nothing, but in all we do, we surrender the outcome and its timing to Him while we seek out His lessons like treasures in the darkness (Isaiah 45:3).

Serve: How do waiters “wait” on tables in a restaurant? They serve. Likewise, as we wait on God to deliver us from whatever situation we’re in, we are to serve Him and others (Galatians 5:13) . For example, during my unemployment, I was able to start this blog, which to my amazement has reached people all across the globe! I was also able to go on a mission trip to South Africa, which grew my faith in countless ways; and I was presented an opportunity to open for my pastor during a local men’s conference where I shared my testimony as an encouragement to other men. In addition, my experiences allowed me to share and connect with others’ struggles in new ways, and commit to deeper levels of preparation for the adult Bible study class I teach at church. Interestingly, I wouldn’t have been able to experience these various blessings unless my job situation changed, and I had to be willing to seize the opportunities as God sent them my way. Consider – what opportunities has He sent you? Don’t sit idle in despair and worry – get busy serving!

Steward: When we realize all things are from and belong to God we’re less likely to try and cling to what we have, because we understand God both gives and takes with purpose (Job 1:21). As stewards, how well we manage the areas entrusted to us often determines our preparation for the trials to come. For example, because of faithful stewardship, unemployment didn’t plunge my family into a desperate situation. Rather, through our years of following the Bible’s directives for fellowship, finances and family, God provided us with the means and freedom to faithfully wait on His direction to receive His best and in His perfect timing. Alternately, poor stewardship often creates panic and desperation leading many of us to settle for whatever comes our way – whether it’s God’s best, or not. I know, for when I made life all about me, I found my health collapsing from neglect, my finances out of control, my work-life stressed and my priorities misaligned. As a result, my family was starved for my affection and God received little to none of my time – even though I professed to be a Christian. Are there any areas in your life you’re neglecting? Thankfully, when we turn our lives over to Christ, He is faithful in turning our lives around.

Application: “Prince, or Pauper Perspective?” – Isaiah 55:2
Why would we ever settle for pessimism and panic, when Christ invites us to an abundant life of fellowship with Him? God promises to supply our every need, and when He is our priority we are content in Him and satisfied with His supply. Our joy isn’t based upon the good that happens to us, but it’s consistent through all the peaks and valleys. However, we have a choice. Will we engage life as a poor victim, always complaining about the injustices and difficulties of life, or will we see it as an adventure, filled with opportunities to enjoy Christ? For me, my divinely orchestrated time of unemployment ended with two fantastic job offers. However, that’s not the only good news. For throughout the entire process, God led my every step, provided for my family’s every need, strengthened my faith, gave me new testimonies to share, encouraged others and propelled His gospel. Life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs that can only be appreciated by those in Christ. Which experience will you choose?