Cycles Of Reciprocity

imageReciprocity dictates that to whoever is given, also gives. Wikipedia defines it as responding to a positive action with another positive action. Therefore, it stands to reason that as God gives to us, we are also to give. God blesses us with spiritual gifts, eternal life and sanctification, but most importantly, He has given us His Son. Thus, we have plenty to give in return and to continue the cycle of reciprocity in the following ways:

Receive: Even though God freely gives, it is up to us to receive His gifts. For example, do we accept in faith His Son as the atonement for our sins and giver of eternal life, and do we accept His peace, joy and other promises revealed in His word, or doubt them? In summary, God gives, but will we receive (Mark 11:24)?

Reflect: If and when we receive the gifts, do we then choose to share them, or try to keep them to ourselves? I recall as a child, whenever it would snow, I would try to keep the snow in my freezer. However, it never worked, for the snow would eventually turn to a block of ice, or simply fade away. Likewise, the gifts from God we try to hoard may soon harden, or fade, for they are never meant to be kept for ourselves, but to benefit others and reflect God’s glory (Matthew 25:29).

Reproduce: How do we reproduce the divine gifts we are given? If given love, do we give love? If given joy, do we give joy? Whatever we are given, do we return and reproduce it in our lives for the benefit of others? For as we know, whenever we give to others, we give to God and whatever it is we give is returned pressed down and running over (Luke 6:38).

Application: “Play Ball!” – 2 Corinthians 9:6
If we enjoy eating at a particular restaurant, we typically return there often and refer other people to it. In addition, if we enjoy being with someone, we usually find ways to spend more time with them. However, what would happen if all we did was take from our friends and never gave anything in return? Or enjoyed a meal at a restaurant and never paid for it? Clearly, we would lose the benefits we once enjoyed. Likewise, as God graciously gives to us, why would we ever hold back from giving back to Him? Much like a game of catch between a father and child, each one takes turns throwing the ball – the question is, do we trust God to throw it back?

Focusing Faith

imageMy need for glasses and contacts started while I was in elementary school. To correct the problem, my doctor had me look through a variety of lenses and then like focusing a camera, he helped me to once again see clearly. Likewise, God works in our lives in a variety of ways to help sharpen and focus our faith so that we are empowered to live out our time on earth most effectively for His glory:

Surprise: Just as we enjoy surprising those we love with good gifts, our Heavenly Father treasures those times He gets to surprise us with His loving grace. These are the countless blessings that come our way totally underserved and many times not even asked for (James 1:17). Then, as our faith is strengthened, we begin to see more fully all God has done and continues to do for us – resulting in our overwhelming gratitude and praise.

Skepticism: Just like any good attorney willingly provides the evidence to prove their case, God has provided and continues to give us all the proof we’ll ever need to know He exists and is with us always (Romans 1:20). Often times any skepticism we may have in regards to our situations and/or His involvement in our life provide the perfect opportunities for Him to demonstrate His love for us even further. The question is are we honestly seeking His confirmation?

Surrender: The moments we acknowledge our inadequacy without Christ and our dependency on Christ are the moments we eagerly surrender our lives to Him. I wish I could say this surrender is a one time event, but as history proves, we all struggle to remain steadfast in this area (Luke 9:23). For although our salvation is secure, we still face the temptations to take up our own cause through the desires of our flesh, the world’s multiple attractions and the devil’s lies. Thankfully, the more aware we become to these attacks, the more we rush to the Throne declaring the faithful hymn’s decree, I need thee, every hour, I need thee!

Application: “Living Light” – John 12:36
Why does God allow us to remain here once we’re saved and invest such care in sharpening our faith, rather than call us home? Because, we have the profound opportunity to be His appointed representatives here on earth, reflect His love and bring light into the darkness. Thus, we get to share in helping others receive the truth, the hope, the promise and the rewards of being His beloved children – and what tremendous gifts they are!

“Role” Call

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The problems of the world are so big, what good can one person do? At times, the odds against us simply appear too overwhelming – but just like a single grain of sand can tip the scales, so can one believer’s call to duty be the tipping point for change:

Called To Obedience: Is there anything too great for God? Despite the disasters that seem to be escalating all around us, we are never alone. For not only is God with us, but we also have each other. Just like Elijah, when he felt as if he stood alone against the world, God reassured him there were others, courageously fighting the good fight in faith (1 Kings 19:14-18). Do we feel alone in our obedience, discouraged if any good comes from it? Let us remember our rewards won’t always be visible today, but will await us after our pilgrimage here on earth is complete.

Called To Opportunity: How often are we presented with opportunities to help others and serve God in doing so? It may be in such mundane things as taking out the trash, helping a neighbor with their yard, or simply speaking an encouraging word to a stranger. Whatever it is, may our eyes always be open to the opportunities that come our way to be the “salt and light” in this world (Matthew 5:13-14). For even when we find it most difficult to smile, God’s spirit is greater than our emotion, and He will fuel our efforts when surrendered to Him and done in faith.

Called To Over-Abundance: Christ promises that our time on earth with Him will be lived more abundantly than without Him (John 10:10). Even though this clearly doesn’t mean we will all be consistently healthy, wealthy and wise – it does mean we will posses an internal peace and joy that surpasses all understanding, despite our circumstances and be infused with spiritual gifts designed to be deployed for significant impact in this world. Therefore, it is when we actively choose to share the gospel and these various overflows in our life with others that we are most fulfilling our Kingdom roles in making disciples and multiplying disciple-makers.

Application: “Freedom’s Flight” – Galatians 5:13
Christ has broken the chains of sin and death that once entangled us, but what do we do with this new freedom? Do we dare to sit, sour and soak in a life dedicated to gorging ourselves with worldly pleasures and pursuits; or do we turn our gratitude to God and dedicate our new lives to His service, committed to reflecting His love to all, even when the all appear most unlovable?

“Let It Go”

imageWhy is the song, Let It Go, from the movie Frozen so popular? Some studies have already been done to try and figure that exact thing out. One theory suggests it could be because it speaks to the internal burdens we all choose to carry around, which exhaust and strain us. So, when we seize the opportunity to cast them all aside, we experience a sense of freedom we have never known before. Ironically, this freedom is exactly what Christ promised us many years ago. This freedom however can only be known by those who have received Christ and surrendered their lives, along with our burdens to Him. Then, over time, as this truth transforms our life, we mature in our faith to the point we are empowered to let other things go as well:

Love: No longer do insecurities, pride and ego drive our love, but Christ begins to work in and through us so that we are able to love the way He loves. This means, we no longer cling to those we care for selfishly, or jealously, but freely. Thus, we love without strings and with clarity – so that it’s never confused with lust (Ephesians 5:2). We are free to be bold and confident with our feelings and those receiving such devotion learn what love without limitations can truly be. What a gift we have to give! Have we experienced it? As Christians, we receive this type of love everyday, and through Him we learn to share it.

Life: There’s so much life has to offer! However, when we live with only ourselves in mind, we quickly discover the proverbial “hole” that can never be filled. This is of course because it is the reserved place only Christ can fill when we surrender our life to Him, and begin living for His purposes and His kingdom, not our own (Acts 1:8). This is also when we begin living life to the fullest – have we let it go?

Limits: When we mistakingly view our job, income and/or relationships as the primary sources of our identification and provision, we automatically place limits on ourselves. This is because God is the single source for all things (Colossians 1:16). Everything else are the resources He provides. When we realize this powerful truth, we get to view life more as a divine adventure where every peak and valley serve as opportunities to draw us closer to Christ, mature our faith and empower our service to others.

Application: “Confidence Counts” – 2 Corinthians 4:5
If we doubt God, we will doubt most everything else, but when we have confidence in Christ and receive the promises revealed in His word, our fears and insecurities will begin to break down for He becomes our sufficiency. He then clarifies our reason for living, defines our life purpose, frees us from sin and grants us eternal life. Have we let go to receive this abundant life? May we renew our surrender today and dare to go wherever He may lead.