Hurricane Irma Can’t Take This From Me

I walked into my room and grabbed the black duffel bag in the middle of the floor. I breathed in more uncertainty than oxygen. After joking with my sister the whole week about whether we would leave our makeup collections behind, I had reached reality. It burned my throat as I swallowed. It clouded my eyes as I closed them. In the past, I may have allowed myself to fall apart, but I did not have time to sweep up the pieces. So, I breathed. I believed.

God is good. God is here. God is all I need.

I want to say I steeled myself. My proud flesh wants to say I buckled down and did what needed to be done. That is not what happened. I was carried. God has carried me this last week and it was sweet.

Tears don’t scare me. Breaking down doesn’t scare me. Feeling alone doesn’t scare me. Being alone is daunting, but it is not what I most fear. I can say confidently after this last week, losing everything doesn’t scare me. Losing God does.

There are a lot of dreams I have held on to. There are prophecies and promises I have clung to with white-knuckled hands. I have dug my nails into my palms until they bled, but I didn’t let them go. I have carried them while He has carried me. He’s brought me this far and He’s going nowhere.

My greatest fear is losing Him the way a mother loses her husband when she forgets she’s a wife. Sometimes circumstances dictate priorities, but we pay a high price for losing sight of Jesus. He is closer than a spouse. He knows me better than any human could. I don’t want to lose Him. I don’t want to lose what I have with Him. If I had locked my mother’s house and come home to nothing, He would have been there. He would have been everything out of necessity, not out of choice.

So, I choose. I choose God. I choose my One Thing. Jesus Who saved me, You are my One Thing. Holy Spirit, Who never leaves me, nor forsakes me, You are my One Thing. Abba, Father Who gives good things, God, You are my One Thing.

There are more hurricanes in the Gulf. There are a thousand other circumstances that could separate me from my family, friends, dreams, life… There is nothing that can separate me from God except my choice.

Choose the uncertainty that surrounds Jesus and you choose a life of adventurous, unshakable love. The world can make you no such promises. The uncertainty of the world is cold and unforgiving. The uncertainty I live in today is persistent. It is, at times, overwhelming. But I am not uncertain of God.

For now, things are quiet. I am back to my routine, as normal as I can make it. Others are still suffering. Others were suffering before the hurricane and the world will continue to contain vast amounts of suffering until Jesus returns. But God is still good. God is still here. I still choose Him.

 

Wherever you go, there you are

One time in Barnes & Noble, my sister-in-law burst into hysterical laughter over the title of a book on display, Wherever You Go, There You Are. As ironic as I had always found the spine of this book as it had stared at me from my father’s bookshelf, it is becoming increasingly less funny as it increasingly describes my life.

On another more recent foray with her, I bought a small canvas which says, “Home is where our adventure begins.” At the time, I was about four months into my musical houses adventure. I arrived in the Sunshine state in June and am now preparing for my husband to return to Minnesota again for work. By the time he comes back, I will have been floating here for a year.

What I have learned is the following… Wherever you go, there you are. I’m not talking about being mindful, at least not in the sense that the book meant it. Then again, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit does require a kind of mindfulness, a willingness to be still and listen.

The Spirit of God hovered over the kitchen sink in my former house. I know, it sounds silly, but I tell you, that is where I’ve heard most clearly from Him. The few words God has given me about my life, I have received there, usually while washing dishes. I was able to go to California for a couple of weeks in October to clean out my house and say goodbye. Amidst the goodbyes that were too few and the packing that was never finished, God gave me my last word in my house.

I was washing dishes, as usual, looking at the tiles that my husband and I had picked out the day before I went into labor with my son. I looked at the window I never got around to decorating. I thought about how much I was going to miss this space where God had so often met me. I remembered how difficult it seemed to hear Him in Florida. I missed my quiet kitchen sink. As I started asking God, “What if I can’t hear You when I leave?” He interrupted my thoughts with an answer that reverberated in my mind.

“I will be with you wherever you go.”

His words filled the room. After a moment, I realized that what He had said was a verse, even several verses. This was the most ancient of promises. God had made this promise over and over in the Bible and He was making it to me as well.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:18 ESV

Even as I continue to wade through the thick currents of confusion and waiting, God is with me. He steadies my feet and calms the waters, He lifts me up as I learned to walk closer to the surface of the sea. He knew where He was taking me when He told me we would be leaving California. I don’t even need to know myself. As long as He is with me, home will be where He is.

As if I needed one more reminder, my sister-in-law brought me home her latest find. A small jewelry tray with a verse written on it. Unbeknownst to her, I had been looking for one. She had bought one for herself and one for me. God knows just when our knees are buckling, He’s faithful to repeat Himself when He knows we are trying hard not to forget. Now, His words will be before my eyes every morning.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Service Requires Identity

I’ve been living in the Gospel of John for the last few weeks. I leave it playing on my phone during the day, I read it when I sit down with a spare minute, I’m even hearing my son start to walk around quoting pieces of it on occasion. I’ve been trying (because heavenly things can only be grasped in the Spirit) to immerse myself in His Truth. I want to better understand the Deity of Messiah – His love, His sacrifice, His humility, His adoption – I want to truly be planted in Him. There are many things that pierce my consciousness every time I hear them, but one in particular has been pulling at me lately.

Most Christians are familiar with the account of Yeshua washing the disciples feet before instituting the last supper. I never noticed that this account is only given in the Gospel of John. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all address the disciples’ discussion of who would be greatest in the Kingdom. However, the act of Jesus washing their feet is only in John. It’s not this account, per say, that I get stuck on. It’s the sentence immediately preceding the short account.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. – John 13:3-4 ESV

Why does John say this before going on to tell what happened next? There are many accounts in the Gospels of Jesus doing things that were just not done. Talking to the “unclean,” and even touching them – not done. What happened? They were healed and made clean. Talking to women – not done. What happened? They were healed, saved from stoning, lifted from shame, and given the ability to believe. Getting up from a table, at which you are the honored Rabbi and Teacher, to take off your outer clothing, tie a towel around your waist and wash dirt off of your students’ feet – definitely not done. So why does John make a point of saying what Jesus knew before He did this?

Yeshua knew who He was. Yeshua’s identity was not based in what He did for people, what He said to people, or who people thought He was. He knew Who He was. John wrote this (by the leading to of the Holy Spirit) for our benefit. We need to understand as a people consumed with image, what people think, what people don’t think – we need to understand that our identity comes from one place: God.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13 ESV

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:15-17

If I am a child of God, then I can do what God’s only begotten Son, Moshiach, whom I am to imitate, did. He was not afraid to lower or debase Himself in the midst of His disciples because it meant nothing to Him what they thought of Him. He knew Who He was.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand. Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, If I do not wash you, you have no share with me. – John 13:6-8

Just a side note – I heart Peter. He makes me feel better about myself because, for as many people say they are Peter, I so am. Constantly jumping the gun with my mouth, making bold proclamations about what is right, what I think, what we should do – that is so me. I’m praying for God to move from pre-Holy Spirit Peter to post-Holy Spirit Peter. Another blog for another day.

If Peter could not accept Jesus as a servant who washed his feet, how would he ever accept Yeshua, the Suffering Servant Moshiach, Who would allow Himself to be cursed on a cross, hung on a tree, to bear the sins of the world? Peter and the disciples, people who were not used to being lifted up before others, thought that by standing with Jesus, expecting a reigning King who would obliterate the Romans at any moment, argued about who would be the greatest. Why? Because most of them were fisherman! They were not people of respect, not esteemed by their people, they did hard work and looked forward to being in the court of the King.

Paul, on the other hand, came from the feet of the Rabbi Gamaliel. He was all set up to be one of the most respected, paid-attention-to, everybody-listens-to-me leaders in the Jewish world. To be blinded, thrown off his horse and addressed by God, only to find out that he is persecuting the One who he professes to follow so zealously – his call was the embodiment of humiliation. He knew where he came from, he knew who he was and he knew who he served. His take on identity and service was very different than that of the quibbling disciples.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3: 4-11

Yeshua said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 ESV).  He said also, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).

This is increasingly becoming my heart’s cry. Exactly what Paul, Shaul, said is how I feel. I want to know Yeshua HaMoshiach, Jesus Christ. I just want to know Him. And the more I know Him, the more I realize that my position in His Kingdom becomes increasingly irrelevant when I realize who I already am in Him.

I am a daughter of God. I am a servant of the One true God.

Who are you?

He is speaking. Dare to believe.

God still speaks. And you cannot afford to close your ears.

Several months ago, God started impressing on me this sense of great urgency for His Presence. I knew something was coming, something big. I have felt its arrival on the horizon for years, but it was always too far for me to put my finger on. After this last year, full of so many things I never could have predicted, I found myself getting too tired to keep waiting. I found myself reaching for anticipation, fighting apathy, clawing my way through complacency, as this last year ground to a halt. But, by the grace of God, I can say I was faithful in this: I was listening.

God’s timing is perfect. People do not want hear that – I don’t want to hear that – when they are walking through their trials, but it is the God’s honest truth. For every great testimony in God’s Kingdom, there was a person who walked through that story so you could be encouraged. You don’t get to receive the fulfillment without the faith. You don’t get to receive the deliverance without a desert. You don’t get to receive the promise without preparation and perseverance.

Abraham was 75 when God told him that He would make of him a great nation, and he was 85 when Hagar bore him Ishmael, but he was 100 years old when Sarah finally bore him Isaac. Jacob received a promise from God when he slept on the mountain at Beth-El, but he did not receive its fulfillment until he left Laban’s house 21 years later. Joseph received his dreams at 17, but didn’t take the throne until he was 30. Jacob was 130 when he and Joseph were reunited – a fulfillment for both Jacob and Joseph. I could go on with countless other examples, but the fact is they had to faithful and listening to receive wisdom in the battle and the fulfillment of their promises.

God has spoken Words over my life. I treasure them in my heart. They are what drives me on. Our lives as followers of Yeshua need to be rooted in the Word of God, but God’s Word doesn’t end there. The Holy Spirit is our companion and guide. He speaks to us and through us. He uses other believers to do the same. All of His Words are in unity, they do not contradict one another. This is why we must know the Shepherd’s Voice.

When the battle is upon you, the trials are abounding, and you can’t find the strength to go forward, you can turn to Him and seek Him. His Word says that He will be found by you in that moment. But, how sweet it is when He has already given you a Word to carry you through your season of testing! How wonderful to know the end before the beginning! That is why you can’t afford to miss what He’s speaking to you.

The battles will not end in this life. As long as we live, there will always be another mountain, another valley, another time of silence. You need instructions. You need guidance. You need a Word to see you through. He has all of it waiting for your ears. He has purposes and promises just for you and He will speak them to you, if you only listen.

And you need to know His Word. You need to know His character, so that you are not led astray. You need to check a word spoken to you in your own heart or through the mouth of someone else against the Word of God. But before you reach that step, you need to hear from Him, yourself.

Find some time to be quiet. Read and meditate on His Word. Instead of giving Him a laundry list of desires, give Him your attention and your worship. Wonder at His goodness and faithfulness. Realize your own failings and shortcomings. Recognize His Sovereignty in your life. Accept the Answer, Yeshua, Who was sent to make a way for you and reconcile you to God. We have all fallen short. The one who hears from God is not a “better person,” but we must all be better seekers of Him Who is speaking. Out of all the things you prioritize in your life, make God the First and the Last. It’s only sounds like a cliche if it’s not your reality.

“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:6-11 ESV

 

 

Unrepentantly Blessed: The Blessing of Money and the Kingdom of God

Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.

I have a myriad of thoughts in response to this, so this one post actually turned into three. Read all or none, it’s up to you, but I couldn’t make it one long post and hope that anyone would get through the whole thing.

Unrepentantly Blessed: It all started with Abraham...

Unrepentantly Blessed: It all started with Abraham…

Unrepentantly Blessed: Sowing and Reaping - Gittel Fruma

Unrepentantly Blessed: Sowing and Reaping

Unrepentantly Blessed: The Radical Giver - Gittel Fruma

Unrepentantly Blessed: The Radical Giver

 

Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 3: The Radical Giver

You can skip the next couple paragraphs if you’re following from Parts 1 or 2. For those of you who are just seeing this blog, the next two paragraphs give some context to where this blog is coming from. If you’re now joining the soapbox, you can read Part 1: It all started with Abraham…  and Part 2: Sowing and Reaping, or just pick up where we are. Depends how much brain power you’re willing to spend on the subject.

Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.

Yeshua had a lot to say about money, as did Paul, as did the entirety of the Scriptures. Wealth is a powerful thing. It is can be a sacred and wonderful thing when wielded in the hands of one who knows and loves God. It can be a twisted and perverted thing in the hands of those who don’t acknowledge God and use it for selfish aggrandizement. Money, in and of itself, is a creation of God. It is how we now place value on things and barter in the common marketplace. Before there was “money” in the current sense, God spoke of abundance, harvest, rain in due season, fruit on the trees and vines, livestock, etc. God still works in all of these areas, but most of us don’t ride donkeys or plant grapes, so money is what we use in place of these things.

Here are the most quoted phrases of Yeshua in regards to money: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30). People love to throw this verse around. However, after this, Yeshua says that with God all things are possible. Even after Peter points out that they (the disciples) gave up everything to follow Him, Yeshua says that they will receive “in this time” houses, lands and family, in addition to the age to come because they followed Him. The reason it is so difficult for the rich to enter heaven is the second most quoted of Yeshua regarding money, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). If you continue reading, Yeshua goes on to another famous passage about how we should not worry because God will take care of our needs. He says “seek first” His Kingdom and His righteousness.

God’s Kingdom and the possession of wealth are not mutually exclusive things. When we make use of these things for the Kingdom of God, wealth becomes a powerful means of working God’s purposes in the world. Yeshua Himself relied on material support for His ministry, so if money was a terrible thing by all means, surely He would not have made use of it. Luke 8:3 references, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s household manager, another woman names Susanna, “and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” In addition to using their means, Joanna is also named as one of the women who went to put spices on the body of Jesus and found the empty tomb. Clearly, she ministered not only out of her checkbook, but with her hands as well. Judas is referenced as having charge of the money in John 13:19, so we know that Jesus handled money and used it for His ministry. When He sent Judas out after dipping the bread in the bowl with him, the Word says that the disciples thought he was buying something for the festival or giving something to the poor, meaning that Yeshua Himself gave to the poor on a regular basis.

The way that God calls us to give is a little understood thing.

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Most people get this verse on a cerebral level. I should give and I get back. That makes sense, right? The chapter continues in v. 10, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” God will “supply and multiply your seed for sowing.”

If you are committed to sowing your seed into the Kingdom of God, He will supply you and multiply you with more seed, so that you may continue sowing into His Kingdom, and thus “increase the harvest of your righteousness.” In v. 12, Paul goes on to say, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.”

This chapter should make one thing abundantly clear. We are not in any way “burdened” by our ability to give. We are blessed materially, spiritually and “in every way” (v. 11). We are to be cheerful, not reluntant (v. 7), overflowing in many thanksgivings to God (v. 12), submitted through our faith in Yeshua, and – most importantly – bringing glory to God (v. 13).

None of these are new concepts. Yeshua and Paul are only reiterating and expounding on the laws and wisdom put forth in the Law of Moses and repeated throughout the prophets and writings. “You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land'” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11).  Psalms and Proverbs speak extensively about how to take care of the needy and give justice to the poor (Psalm 41:1, Psalm 82:3-4, Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 22:9Proverbs 29:7 ).

Another book of the Bible that brings great insight on how we are to give is James. James 1:9-11 says that the rich should glory in his being made low, because he will pass away like the grass of the field and fade away in his pursuits. It is not necessary to say this of the poor because no one takes note of them. However, the rich men are the ones people pay attention to, so James reminds them of the inescapable fact that everyone will return to the dust regardless of how high and mighty their position may be today. In James 1:13-15, he explains that temptation is not something that God puts us through, but that we are instead tempted because of our own desires. We desire wealth. It is not wealth itself that is sinful, it is not even being tempted by what wealth offers that is sinful – as Jesus was tempted and did not sin – it is giving into temptation and allowing wealth to become your focus that is sinful. In James 3:13-17, he says that “jealousy and selfish ambition” are “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” and that they result in “disorder and every vile practice”. It is so easy to be consumed by these things when you think about your money and what you can obtain with it. We need to realize that it’s not just acting out our faith with works that God wants for us, but for us to be “unstained by the world” (James 1:27) in every way.

James 5 begins with a searing rebuke on the rich. However, again, this is not a warning to everyone who has material wealth. The verses clearly say why they are receiving a rebuke. “You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.” Clearly, he is speaking to people who were only interested in their own selfish gain, who abused others to keep what they wanted, did not pay what they owed and did not lift their hand to help the righteous.

“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2-3). If we are truly invested in the will of God, we are not asking for our own sakes, but we are asking for the sake of His Kingdom.

Your tithe is the minimum you give to God’s house. Let me repeat that. Ten percent of everything that comes into your hand does not belong to you, it belongs to God. You are not “giving” anything. If you do not give it to God’s ministers, you are stealing it from God (Genesis 14:20, Genesis 28:22, Leviticus 27:30-33, Deuteronomy 14:22, Numbers 18:21, 26, Malachi 3:8-9). In the absence of a temple, your tithe belongs to your Church or Synagogue. Paul states clearly that the worker of God is worthy of his wages (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9, 1 Corinthians 9:3-14) and our tithes are one of the means by which we pay them. If the widow was praised for giving all she had, let us so be praised. I promise you, she did not go hungry for sowing her seed into God’s Kingdom.

We should supply those doing the work of God above and beyond our tithe, as Paul says in Galatians 6, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

One of Yeshua’s “woes” to the Pharisees was because they tithed, but they “neglect[ed] justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42). Let us commit ourselves to joyfully sowing into the Kingdom of God by every means that we have available to us – with our money, with our time, with our words, with everything that we have in us, that God may multiply our seed for the sowing and that Yeshua’s Name may be glorified in all the world by our faith and deeds.

Luke 12:48 is the final word on what God entrusts into our hands. In this life, whatever He gives you, be it talent, money, gifts, wisdom, whatever – it is all to be used for the Kingdom of God. It all comes with responsibility. You will give an account to God for everything you did in this life and your position in eternity will be given accordingly (Romans 14:12, Matthew 16:27). But don’t labor for your position – either here or in heaven. Don’t put your focus on anything your eyes see, because it’s all dust. Don’t put value on your wisdom, your perceived control or your current position in life. In an instant it’s gone.

At the end of the day, all things come back to the same place. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives every second. Our relationship with Him needs to be most important things in our lives. He is life. He’s here. In the room. Right now. Belief in the saving power of Yeshua’s sacrifice and constant attendance to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit – the allowance of God’s will to be our will, the putting away of our own desires to do whatever He tells us – is the only way we will get through this life and be told “well done”. There is no other way.

Throw off your chains, be they of money or mud. He’s calling you right now, if you would only hear His voice. Let us put aside any hindrances that would keep us from Him. As He leads us into all truth, let us be faithful with all He puts into our hands.

 

 

Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 2: Sowing and Reaping

You can skip the next couple paragraphs if you’re following from Part 1. For those of you who are just seeing this blog, the next two paragraphs give some context to where this blog is coming from. If you’re now joining the soapbox, you can read Part 1 – It all started with Abraham… or just pick up where we are. Depends how much brain power you’re willing to spend on the subject.

Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.

Money, like all other things on this earth, is governed by the law of sowing and reaping.

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” This is the proclamation God makes at the end of the flood in Genesis 8:22. These are laws that we live by on the earth today. Before I go any further, let’s get something straight. The law of sowing and reaping applies to both spiritual things and physical things. You cannot take all the places in the Bible where the Lord talks about physical harvest and spiritualize it, just like you can’t ignore that actions have spiritual consequences as well as physical ones.

The law of sowing and reaping works as powerfully in the earth as does the law of gravity. For this reason, we see echoes of this solidly Biblical principle in other Eastern religions (i.e. karma) and in modern culture (“you get what you give,” “what goes around comes around,” etc.). Again, sowing and reaping can be physical or spiritual or both.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” – Hosea 10:12

This is a word spoken of spiritual harvest in a time when Israel was seeking after idols and pridefully trusting in its own strength.

“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” – Matthew 13:23

In Yeshua’s famous parable of the sower, the Word of God – the Good News – is that which is sowed. The harvest comes in the fruit of his life. We are not saved by our actions – being “good” will NEVER get you to heaven – but your place in the Kingdom of God is determined by what you do in this life. We who believe in Yeshua should be set apart in this world because of our actions.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38

Here is where people start to stumble. This verse comes at the end of Luke’s account of the beatitudes. In v. 20, Jesus starts the beatitudes by comforting the poor, because the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. In v. 22 and 23, He says “When people hate… exclude… revile… and spurn your name on account of the Son of Man” (not just for any old reason, but because you stood up for Yeshua’s name and Gospel), “then your reward is great in heaven.” In v. 24 and 25 “woe” to the “rich” and the “full” because “you have received your consolation” and “you will be hungry.” If this is condemnation to those who have material wealth as opposed to those who take their comfort in the security of their riches, then v. 38 does not work. If, however, you follow the mandates set out in v. 30-36, you believe in and follow Yeshua, and you do not cling to your wealth, then you will receive the good measure.

Furthermore, Malachi 3 says that your money is the one area in which you can test God. In speaking about the judgement that he is bringing on Israel, He says,”Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts” (v.5). “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you” (v.7b – 9). What are we to do to become right with God? “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts” (v. 10-12).

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were a nation with no need? But God doesn’t stop there, He says that he will rebuke the devourer – indicating that He himself is not destroying the fruit of their labor, but has withdrawn His protection due to their actions – and that all nations will call them blessed because they will be a land of delight.

As my review of the patriarchs in the first blog demonstrated, God does reward us with material blessing for turning our hearts toward him. God repeatedly withdraws His material blessing from Israel and allows other nations to overtake their land – even sending them into Babylon – because they were not faithfully serving Him and turned away to other gods. God equates this practice with adultery and, as laid out in the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy, God blesses them when they follow Him and withdraws His blessing when they don’t. In this way, we sow spiritual things and reap physical ones.

We live in a nation experiencing unparalleled blessing. Few times in history have been marked by a country experiencing the level of material comfort that we do in this nation. Only God knows why that is right now. He makes His plans in ways that we do not understand. However, it is clear throughout the Scriptures that God moves nations around as He sees fit. When one becomes prideful or destructive, especially towards Israel, He uses another one to bring it down. When one has shown mercy and kindness to His people Israel, He blesses it. This was laid out in the original blessing to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you.” That is for nations as a whole.

For individual Christians living in places afflicted with poverty, disease, persecution and other trials, here is what the Bible says:

First of all, everyone who boldly proclaims the Name of Jesus and His Gospel will experience persecution. Period. Even those who are wealthy and use their money to further the Kingdom of God. There is no escape from persecution and trials if you are a bold witness for God. That is what Jesus said would happen and it is part of the cost we count when we put our faith in Him. It’s not the standard Sunday school message because people want to keep seats filled, but that’s what the Word of God says.

Second, while we will all experience trials, God means for everyone to be provided for. While we may live in areas affected by famine and lack, God still wants to provide for us. It is His delight. He provides for us at all times (Psalm 37:4, 18-19; 23-26)

Psalm 37 paints a beautiful picture of how the Lord cares for those who follow Him. God says He will give them the desires of their hearts (v. 4), they will not be put to shame in evil times and will have abundance in famine (v. 19), they might fall, but the Lord will uphold their hand (v. 24), the righteous will not be forsaken or left begging for bread (v. 25), He helps them and delivers them because they take their refuge in Him. Psalm 145:15 says that God gives them their food in due season. Matthew 6:25-34 reminds us that God will supply our every need, even as He does those of the birds and the grass of the field. We need only trust in His provision.

God provides for His children through miracles and wonders that we do not even hear of in this country. God provides for His children through the support and assistance of many different organizations that bring food, clothing and other forms of material support to those in need. Compassion International and Voice of the Martyrs are two organizations in particular that labor to bring support to the darkest of places. God provides for His children when we of greater means go to other countries to dig wells, build houses, plant fields, and physically help our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Regarding God giving us the desires of our hearts, another short story. A few months ago, when my husband and I were in the depths of financial hardship, we had no money for extras. I had really wanted to get a balance bike for our son. I didn’t tell anyone about this desire. One day, I sat looking at wooden balance bikes on Amazon. The cheapest one I found was $80-plus. I thought to myself, “Well, that’s not happening,” and closed the window. Less than a week later, my husband came home from a job (he works in construction) and told me that a customer had given him two bottles of wine, a book for our son, and – you guessed it – a wooden balance bike. I was so overwhelmed with love that God would give me exactly what I asked for so quickly for nothing. I promise you that experiences like this are the norm among those who are faithful to God with their money.

Third, the law of sowing and reaping works even if you don’t have a lot to sow. 2 Corinthians 9 explains how we are to give and what we are to expect in return. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (v. 6-11).

It is not up to me to compare what something in my country costs to what it costs in another country. To compare different countries’ salaries in dollars is a useless practice because, at the end of the day, our needs are the same no matter what paper you use to pay for it. If we were paid $10 a day for work in this country, we would not have enough to live on. However, since money represents a system by which we exchange useless paper for usable goods necessary to live, it doesn’t matter what number is printed on your paper or what your paper would be worth in another country. What matters is that God supplies our needs where you are and the desires of our hearts. The Word of God does not return void. God backs up His Word.

Finally, God uses people to accomplish His purposes on the earth. When Jesus gave bread to thousands of people from a few loaves and fishes (twice), He demonstrated that He is more than capable of providing for people by miraculous means. I have no doubt that miracles like this continue to this day where there is need. However, we are called to support the orphans, the widows, the downtrodden, the stranger, the poor, and all of those persecuted for the Name of Christ. We are to consider ourselves in chains with those in prison. Idle talk is not enough.

Beyond the law of sowing and reaping our material gains as we seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness by backing up our faith with deeds, is the fullness of what God wants from those He blesses.

If you can handle more… Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 3: The Radical Giver.

 

Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 1: It all started with Abraham…

Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.

Let’s start with what material blessing is and where it is first mentioned in the Bible. The first man who the Bible pointedly talks about being materially blessed was Abraham, but let’s start at the beginning.

When Adam sinned, death and sin entered the world (Romans 5:12). The specific curse that came as a result of Adam’s actions is that the ground would be cursed, thus he would toil and sweat to get food (Genesis 3:17). Poverty, hunger and lack are direct results of sin. They are NOT from God.

Abram’s is the first case in which material blessing is talked about in the Bible. This blessing begins when God calls Abram out of his home and says, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”” (Genesis 12). God says He will give him an entire land as an inheritance (Genesis 12:7, Hebrews 11:8). “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2). He and his nephew were so prosperous that the land could not contain them, so they parted ways (Genesis 13:5-7). He has 318 fighting-able men in his household (Genesis 14:14). God gives Abram the promise of an heir and tells Abram that his descendants will be enslaved, but that after “they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15). When Abram goes to offer his son, Isaac, God repeats that he will be blessed (Genesis 22:15-18). Genesis 24 begins, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.”

In Genesis 24:34-36 this blessing is passed onto Isaac. In famine, God tells Isaac where to go and says that He will bless him there (Genesis 26:3). Isaac sowed the land and got back a hundredfold, “The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy” (Genesis 26:12-16). When Isaac blesses Jacob, he says he will have “the fatness of the earth” and “plenty of grain and wine” (Genesis 27:27-29). When Jacob flees his house, he works a total of 20 years (Genesis 31:38, 41), God blesses Laban because of Jacob (Genesis 30:27), and Jacob eventually leaves Laban a very wealthy man (Genesis 30:43, Genesis 32:10).

Joseph experiences hardship as a young man, but eventually rises to a position second only to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:40). When he brings his family to the land – still during a famine – Jacob comes down with “livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan” and Joseph gives them the land of Goshen, providing for them so they do not experience poverty (Genesis 46:5-7, Genesis 45:10-11).

Moses grew up in Pharoah’s courts (Exodus 2:10), after becoming a murderer and a fugitive, he married the daughter of the Priest of Midian and tended his flocks until God calls him to Egypt (Exodus 2:21, Exodus 3:1). Faithful to His Word, when Moses leads the people of Israel out of Egypt, they leave with the wealth of Egypt (Exodus 3:21-22, Exodus 12:35-36). Even after forty years in the desert, their clothes and sandals did not wear out (Deuteronomy 29:5). Before the people of Israel enter the promised land, God lays out the blessings and curses for Israel if they follow the law of God, which speak of material blessing as well as others (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

God gives us the ability to gain wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). Proverbs says that wisdom grants inheritance to those that love her and fills their treasuries (Proverbs 8:20-21). I could go on, but I think I have more than made my point.

Material blessing is a blessing and it’s from God. Period. It’s Biblical.

That having been said, there are certain parts of the world that have greater abundance than others. Why that is, only God knows. However, to say that Christians in America experience more material blessings than Christians in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Iran, etc., is not an false statement. It might offend Americans who don’t know what to do with their blessings, but it is a fact. Blessings they are.

A short story to demonstrate my point: A few months ago, I was talking with a close friend about our children. Her son is six months older than my son, who was almost 2 years old at the time. She started the following sentence, “Yeah, I’m so blessed to have a healthy son, I mean… ” She trailed off because she thought she had offended me. Are you wondering how this statement might be offensive?

My son has an immune disorder that affects his blood. In Yeshua’s name, it will be healed, but right now it remains. It started when he was 17 months old, I will discuss it more in my book, and it has continued until now. The nature of it is indefinite and the doctors cannot give any indication of when it might change or stop because they don’t know. My friend knew all this and in saying her son was healthy, she suddenly realized that she had reminded me that my son was not.

“You can say it’s a blessing to have a healthy child. It is a blessing.” I assured her. Any parent will tell you the same. We live in a broken world. Sin and death pervade this darkness, leaving their filthy stain on all of us. Things happen in this life as a result of the fall that are the work of devil. Just because something happens on earth does not mean it’s of God. But it is still not wrong to call a blessing a blessing. I wish my son was completely healthy, but not allowing other people to say that having a healthy child is a blessing will not make my son well anymore than saying I am not blessed to have material wealth will make anyone who is hungry get fed.

The fact that we, in this country, are entrusted with a greater measure of blessing goes without saying. We cannot complain about this blessing by calling it a “burden” or shirk our responsibility to use it as God would like us to because that implies some cognitive discomfort on our parts. To carry on the health vs. wealth comparison, this mindset is the equivalent of complaining about being able-bodied because now people might depend on you for physical help. If you think that’s a stupid comparison, tell that to my husband who gets calls once a month to help someone move.

Sorry to wax Spiderman here, people, but with great power comes great responsibility. It’s not just Marvel, it’s Biblical:

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. – Luke 12:41-48

What does Jesus say the wise manager does? Gives them their portion of food at the proper time. James tells us that you can’t just wish your brother to be warm and fed when he’s cold and hungry. We are called to action. We are called to be unstained by the world.

We use the world’s wealth to further the Good News of Yeshua’s death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God where He awaits the time when He will return and call His faithful servants into glory. Until that day comes, we are to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, with whose direction, our paths are made clear in every way. We cannot live apart from Him. The Holy Spirit is not a ghost or an apparition. He’s a person, not a holy idea or a holy inclination, He is real and speaking right now to all of us – conviction to those who do not yet serve Jesus and instruction to those who do. He will tell you what to do with your blessings if you are faithful to listen.

Think I’ve exhausted this subject? Oh, I am just getting started… Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 2: Sowing and Reaping