You Can Never Out-give God

“Our Lord Jesus is ever giving, and does not for a solitary instant withdraw His hand. As long as there is a vessel of grace not yet full to the brim, the oil shall not be stayed. He is a sun ever-shining; He is manna always falling round the camp; He is a rock in the desert, ever sending out streams of life from his smitten side; the rain of his grace is always dropping; the river of his bounty is ever-flowing, and the well-spring of his love is constantly overflowing” (Charles Spurgeon).

I’m not one of those people who believe that with enough faith, you can name and claim vast sums of money, mansions, and other material wealth. I don’t believe God is a celestial genie whose sole purpose is to give us our every wish and whim.

I do believe that God always gives the greatest gift– God gives God.

The greatest blessing isn’t the kind that shows up on a bank account statement. It isn’t one that you list on your income tax returns.

The greatest blessing from God is that serene peace that comes from knowing God will keep every promise toward you and there will never be a moment where you slip out of God’s hand.

The greatest treasures aren’t things. The currency in heaven isn’t gold– it’s love. it’s those who will be there because of your testimony both spoken and lived out. All you can take with you is what you’ve given away, as the line from It’s a Wonderful Life goes.

I’m all for those who are financially successful. I’m all for having nice things. I also know that he who dies with the most toys, still dies, and you can’t take those toys with you.

All you can take is the love of God that you’ve given away.

 

 

Generosity Without Limits

Do not withhold good from those who need it,
when you have the ability to help” (Proverbs 3:27, New English Translation).

This verse came to mind earlier when I saw a man holding up a sign on a busy street. Basically, the gist of the sign was that the man needed money.

You can always debate whether or not to give money to people like this guy. There will always be people on both sides of the issue of who is really deserving of generosity, who is legitimately in need of monetary help, and who is not.

As I sat in my car, the refrain “do not withhold good from those who need it, when you have the ability to help” kept playing in my head. For me, it wasn’t a matter of deserving.

I probably could have rationalized myself out of giving any money. But I couldn’t get that verse out of my head. I might have gone on my way and eventually forgotten about the whole incident. But I would know that I passed on an opportunity to do good that would never present itself to me in the same way ever again.

I’m not here to tell you that you should always give money to everyone holding up a sign and claiming to be homeless and in desperate need of financial assistance. That is a matter between you and God.

I can only tell you that I rolled down my window and gave that particular man some money because I felt at that moment not to give would have been directly violating what I strongly believe God was telling me to do. I don’t say it to boast because I very nearly kept my window rolled up and drove past to where I was going with all my money still in my wallet.

One word of advice: I recommend buying people meals instead of giving cash when possible.

More than that, I recommend the next time God lays it on your heart to be generous to someone, do it. Trust that God can take paltry offerings, like those fishes and loaves from a small boy, and multiply them beyond your wildest dreams to accomplish more than you could possibly imagine.

Your job is simply to give.

 

Winning the Lottery

So, the lottery is up to something like $1.4 billion. I also read that if every single person in the U.S. had a winning ticket, every person would win $4.3 million. I believe whoever calculated that was off a few decimal places. The actual total would be $4.30 per person, enough for a value meal at Taco Bell.

I have ideas with what I’d do if I won the lottery. I’d buy one of those old houses on Fair Street in Franklin. I’d finally get my red Mini-Cooper. I’d travel a lot and go to all those places I’ve always wanted to go.

I’d be very generous. I’d give to charities and pay off people’s debts and buy really nice stuff for my friends and family. Or would I?

I believe wholeheartedly that people that aren’t generous with $1 won’t be with $1 million. If you’re not a charitable person now, the chances are that sudden wealth won’t change that.

Maybe the answer is to start looking for ways to be generous now. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve spending lots of money on others. It could mean spending time with people. It could also mean donating your talents.

The best way of all to learn generosity is to remember how generous God has been to you all this time. He saved you, didn’t He? He rescued you from your own mess and gave you everything you needed in Jesus, right?

That kind of generosity should inspire us to a kind of generosity that is most needed yet most rarely given– a generosity of loving people not because they deserve it or earn it but because God loves the unloveable and calls us to do the same.

In fact, when we tangibly love those who can never return that love, we are most like the God who loved us when we were at our worst.

But I’d still like the opportunity to prove that all those millions wouldn’t change who I am fundamentally as a person. I’m just saying.

PS If you’re a millionaire and you don’t have a bookshelf that spins into a secret room you’re spending it wrong. Give me your money.

 

2,000 Posts Later

“Though my plans disintegrate and my aspirations die, though my dreams shatter and my goals are thwarted, even if no woman is ever romantically interested in me and all my friends leave me, though I never have another visible reminder of God’s presence of of spiritual comfort, if all I have in life is God and only God, I will lift up my hands up to Heaven and proclaim that my Yahweh is good to me. My Yahweh is AWESOME!!!”

I posted this a few years back. Actually, this pre-dates my WordPress blogs and probably goes back to at least 2010.

The point is not that I wish any of these things I mentioned would happen or that I fear they will happen.

The point of what I wrote is that even in the very worst case scenarios, God will still be good and I will still be blessed and I will still lack for nothing.

God is enough.

That is the cliffs notes version.

If you only get one thing from tonight’s post, let it be that God is enough.

Make that your mantra.

If you pin your hopes and dreams on anything else, ultimately whatever it is won’t satisfy you. Nothing else has the capacity to do so. Not your marriage, not your kids, not your career, not money, not anything. Only God can truly be enough.

If you have everything you ever dreamed of and don’t have God, you really don’t have anything. If you end up with absolutely nothing but God, you still have everything you need.

So, here’s hoping for at least 2,000 more blogs and enough creativity to fill those posts so that they will continue to be both fun to write and fun to read.

Maybe I can get Lucy the Wonder Cat to be a guest blogger one of these days. You never know, right?

Thoughts On Mr./Mrs. Jenner

I’ve been thinking about the former Bruce Jenner, now known as Caitlyn Jenner. There are a lot of people applauding how brave he/she is and there are other’s villifying him/her.

Here’s what I think.

I think that if Bruce wasn’t happy with who he was, then I doubt Caitlyn will be. I think that once all the media hoopla has died down, once Caitlyn returns to whatever semblance of normalcy that she can manage, she will find out that changing the outside won’t fix what’s wrong on the inside.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my own life. Actually, it’s something that I keep coming back to again and again because I’m so forgetful.

It’s only in Jesus that you can have enough or be enough because Jesus in and of Himself is enough.

Those who chase after fame or wealth or status will eventually find that it doesn’t quite fill the vacuum inside. Nothing fills that God-shaped hole except God.

I have enough because I have Jesus. I am enough because Jesus is enough and He has me. It’s really that simple. No matter what happens from this point forward, it will always be that simple and true.

I truly hope that Caitlyn Jenner finds for herself that Jesus is enough.

I hope that I keep finding out and keep being reminded that Jesus is enough, because chasing after the Joneses and the brass rings and climbing the ladders are all so very exhausting.

Jesus is enough.

I can feel my heart-rate slowing as I read those words. I remember that it’s really not up to me to make my life work, to give my own life meaning. I remember that Jesus promised He would meet me where I was, love me as I am, and take me where I need to be.

That is enough because Jesus is enough.

 

If I Had Lots of $$$$

I was thinking what I’d like to buy if I had loads of cash, i.e. I won the lottery or a distant rich relative kicked the proverbial bucket.

Note: This is all for fun and none of it has any bearing whatsoever on reality.

I’d like to buy:

1) A red mini-cooper (preferably one with a British flag emblem either on the roof or on the side-view mirrors).

2) A Mac Book Pro.

3) One of those houses either on West Main Street, Fair Street, or one of those side streets around the heart of historic downtown Franklin.

4) The complete series of Friends on blu ray.

5) One of those ultra lightweight carbon bikes.

6) An upgraded DSLR camera that shoots HD (maybe a Leica camera even?)

7) A sizeable donation to Freedom’s Promise (who works with the victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia).

8) Being able to anonymously buy people’s dinners and pay their bills.

9) A really old Bible from the 1700’s.

10) A really old coin from the 1700’s.

11) Anything from the 1700’s.

12) A vacation in Scotland, Ireland, and England.

13) A cruise around the Mediterranean.

14) A newer and spiffier iPad with improved WiFi.

15) To stay one night at both the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and Opryland Hotel in Nashville.

16) One of those portable DVD players.

17) More vintage transistor radios to add to my burgeoning collection.

18) One really old and really big radio that still works (like the one in A Christmas Story).

I think that covers it. At least it covers all that I can think of in my tired old brain at 11:03 on a Saturday night on this first day of August in the year of our Lord 2015.

 

 

Do Not Seek the Treasure!

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 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” (Matthew 6:19).

I went to dinner with some friends and the topic of discussion turned to internet security and hackers. There was much that I did not understand and that made my brain hurt, but the gist of the conversation is this– if someone wants your stuff bad enough, they’re probably going to find a way to get it.

There’s no such thing as security when it comes to the internet. Someone (or maybe several someones) out there is smart enough, patient enough, wily enough to crack any encryption and figure out any password.

Besides, even if you manage to fend off every thief, swindler, and hacker out there, you still can’t take it with you when you die. Case in point: have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? Me neither.

Jesus told us that true treasures aren’t the kind behind bank vaults or in walnut frames behind your desk or the initials before and after your name. True treasures aren’t things; they’re people.

I heard a pastor say once that the reason the streets in heaven are paved with gold is that gold isn’t the real currency there. It’s like asphalt is here. The true currency in heaven is L-O-V-E. Not the syrupy, romantic kind in all those power ballads, but the kind that gives up its rights and lays down its life for the beloved. Like Jesus.

What’s the point to all this? I’m not saying to withdraw all your money and put it under your mattress. I’m telling you to remember that your worth isn’t found in your bank account or your job title or your degrees. Your true worth is in how much you love and how much you are loved.

The best treasure of all is knowing that the King of the Universe loves you truly, madly, deeply, and that love will never change.

The end.

PS I just remembered a great line from It’s a Wonderful Life that seems appropriate here– you can only take with you that which you’ve given away.

F-E-A-R

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“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:17-18, The Message).

Everyone has fears. Everyone.

Maybe yours is a fear that you will end up alone in the end.

Maybe you’re afraid that people will see the real behind the well-rehearsed act and the painted-on smiles and not want to have anything further to do with you.

Maybe you’re anxious over the future, wondering where the money is going to come from to pay the bills.

Maybe you’re scared that you’ll never find out what your purpose in life is.

Ann Voskamp put it best: “All fear is but the notion that God’s love will end.”

As a black pastor put it so well, fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear only shows you half the picture. Fear envisions a scenario where God either isn’t present or is unwilling to help. Fear leads you to think that the way things are now is how it will always be.

But God’s love is stronger than fear. As the song says, “Every fear has no place at the sound of Your great Name.”

When you focus on fear, you live defeated. When you focus on the love of God and choose gratitude and thanksgiving and joy, you’re showing fear the door.

Choose joy. Choose gratitude. Choose life.

I’m not saying I have fear and anxiety mastered. Some days, it can feel overwhelming. But I know that the future Jesus has promised me is more real than the present fear that I’m feeling.

Perfect love casts out all fear. Just remember that.

 

 

When Fear Ends

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Today I open a Bible and flipped around randomly through its pages. I just so happened to look down at where I landed and, lo and behold, I looked right at Psalm 27. Here’s what I read:

The Eternal is my light amidst my darkness
    and my rescue in times of trouble.
    So whom shall I fear?
He surrounds me with a fortress of protection.
    So nothing should cause me alarm” (Psalm 27:1)

That reminded me of something I learned a long time ago about fear.

What are you afraid of right now? What is the greatest cause of anxiety and stress for you at the moment you are reading this?

Imagine the worst-case scenario were to come true (which is highly unlikely– think 1 out of 1,000 times). Imagine that you get fired from your job, you flunk out of school, your checking account goes belly-up.

Now, picture this. Even in the midst of all that wreckage, God is still there. You can lose jobs, money, possessions, friends– even spouses– but you can never lose God, because it’s not you holding on to God, but God holding onto you.

I love the image that I heard somewhere. When you hit rock bottom, you find that God is the Rock at the bottom. And maybe that’s a good place to be, where you have nothing left to stand on but the One True Foundation of Jesus.

An old black preacher described fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real.” The future that fear shows you may look legit, but it is always a lie. That’s because fear will always show you a future without God in it.

God promised in His word that perfect Love casts out fear. Fear can’t stand in the presence of God’s unfailing love. The only way for fear to win is for you to doubt God’s love and believe that it has come to an end. Faith is the antidote to fear and it doesn’t have to be great faith in God. All you need is faith in a great God.

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