Archive | May 2013

Receiving Gifts

5-30-13 gift 1My mother’s family used to draw names of the kids in the family for gift giving at Christmas. One year when I was about 10, the family drawing my name could not be at the family get-together that year, so they gave me my gift early. My mom told me that if I opened it early, I would not have a gift to open when we gathered with the larger family group. Of course, I wanted to open the present immediately. What kid wouldn’t?

When we gathered as a larger family to exchange gifts, I distinctly remember feeling very left out because I was the only child who did not have a gift to open. Even though I had already received my gift, I was not a part of the excitement that others were feeling, and I certainly did not act as if I had received a gift already. My actions were of someone who had not received a gift at all!

This childhood memory reminds me of the many gifts that God has given us. Scripture tells us…

James 1:17 says that “every good and perfect gift” comes from God. So all the good that is in your life is a gift from your Heavenly Father because He loves you.

These gifts and more are available for everyone to receive and open. Of those individuals who have opened them, some live as if they have not received any gift while others are experiencing the joy of receiving a gift from the Lord. Some people are enjoying maybe one or two gifts while others are enjoying more or even all of the gifts. Some have placed their gifts on a shelf where they are getting dusty, and some have simply not taken very good care of their gift which now lies in a corner with the obvious signs of neglect.

Which person are you? Have you received the gifts offered to you by Christ? If so, have you opened them all? Are you using the gifts given to you? Or, have you taken them for granted and neglected them?

If you have any gifts left to open, I encourage you to rip off the paper and start enjoying the abundant life awaiting you through the many gifts that Christ so freely offers. If your gifts lie dusty and unused or seemingly broken and in neglect, know that Christ can make all things new again.

 Enjoy the many blessings of knowing Christ!

Picking Berries

6-23-13 raspberriesOne afternoon while helping my son rid his swimming pool of bugs, I noticed wild black raspberries growing in the woods in our back yard. I happened to be holding a large cup in my hand, so I began picking the few berries that I saw. My initial expectation was to pick a cupful of berries that I could eat on some ice cream or in some yogurt.

As I set about my small task, which I only expected to take a few minutes, I kept noticing more and more berries. I would pick a few more and then notice even more berries to pick. I ended up picking three cups full instead of only one and ended up spending half an hour instead of five minutes. During that half hour, I got berry juice all over my hand, encountered several suspicious bugs, was startled by an animal scurrying away, and was poked by a lot of thorns.

During this half hour, I also realized how much picking berries is like studying God’s word.

First, God only reveals to us what we can handle.

If I had seen the entire supply of berries before I set about picking them, I probably would not have picked any. Up to this point in my life, I was not in the habit of gardening in any way, and the fruit I picked usually was from the grocery store or road side stand.

But, I only saw a few and felt I could manage the task. Then I saw a few more and pick those, and so on for a half an hour. Before I realized it, I had picked enough berries to where I could also make something more significant like a pie or cobbler.

Similarly, the more time we spend in God’s word, the more significant the impact it will have in our lives. Since I first discovered the berry patch, I have picked berries every year and have even frozen some to use in the winter.

God’s word can fill us up in much the same way and allow us to stock up and be ready for the winter months in our spiritual lives.

Second, picking wild berries is like studying God’s word because in both instances there is a little discomfort involved.

In order to get the berries, I had to endure being poked and scratched by thorns. Likewise, in order to reap the tremendous and unending rewards of reading God’s word, I have to be willing to endure having parts of my life poked into that my flesh would rather not deal with at all.

Pain is necessary to reap rewards, whether it’s picking wild berries or studying God’s word.

Another similarity is that the longer I stick to picking berries or studying God’s word, the deeper I go and the more excited I get.

When I saw that I could fill my whole cup with berries, I got excited about the harvest. I could have collected even more berries than I did but decided to leave some for my mom and to share the fruit.

Likewise with God’s word, I get increasingly excited the more I delve into it. And the deeper I go in His word, the more excited I get at the goal of getting my spiritual cup filled to overflowing. I also get excited to share the overflowing fruit with others.

Unexpected Fruit

The berries were right in my back yard, and I didn’t realize it for several years. I didn’t have to go far to get them, and I found them accidentally. I received a great delight that day that I was not expecting, and I was inspired in a new way.

With God’s word, that can happen every day, and His word is always within arm’s reach. Lamentations 3:22-23 says Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Picking berries reminds me of the newness of God’s compassion and the faithfulness of His Word.

Even more so, it is hidden in my heart. I never have to go far to receive His truths, and I can happen upon them simply by spending time with Him on a regular basis. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Even though the thorns are somewhat unpleasant, enduring them allows me to reap rewards that I would not have otherwise received. Through the process, God’s word becomes a part of me and helps me to live a righteous life that honors God.

The Value of Friendship

5-9-13 true friendPerhaps the best definition of friendship comes from the verses on the topic scattered throughout Proverbs. Let’s gather those verses together to help in better understanding the value of friendship.

Note: Reading the verses below in the Amplified (AMP), The Message (MSG), AND the New American Standard Bible (NASB) can bring a deeper and fuller meaning to this study. Links for each of these verses in each of these translations have been provided for your convenience.

Proverbs 17:17 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – Loyalty is an important trait of friendship, especially loyalty during adversity. Loyalty is defined as being unchangeable, constant & faithful.

Proverbs 17:18 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – The Amplified version gets at the idea of applying good sense to friendship. This verse doesn’t mean never talking about money or never giving money to a friend. It’s saying to not become financially responsible for a friend. Perhaps giving money with no expectation of getting it back would be a better response.

Proverbs 18:24 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – Friends come & go, and you can only be a “real” friend to a certain number of people; otherwise, you spread yourself too thin. It’s the idea of quality of quantity. Certainly, be friendly to everyone, but realize that the more depth in a friendship the more energy and effort required.

Proverbs 27:6 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – Being hurt by a friend will happen, but it can strengthen the relationship. In other words, the benefits by far exceed the pain. Being smoozed by an enemy, on the other hand, involves a constant deceit and lack of trust that can totally destroy a person.

Proverbs 27:9 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – Everyone has different smells that are sweet to them, and this fact helps connect the truth of this verse. True friendship feels sweet to the soul much like your favorite smell makes you feel.

Proverbs 27:10 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – This verse gets at the idea that loyalty to a friend is often more valuable than family connection. The Amplified says “near in spirit,” so it’s not a location issue necessarily. The idea of never abandoning a friend is clearly the point.

Proverbs 27:14 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – This verse encourages a person to be a good (real, true, honest) friend. Flattery is not a good foundation for a friendship, especially when done too eagerly.

Proverbs 27:17 (AMP, MSG, NASB) & Proverbs 22:24-25 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – The Amplified says that a good friend “sharpens the countenance” of a person. Someone once said, “Look at the people you spend most of your time with, and that’s what you’ll be like in 5 years.” This verse gets at that very idea, and the results can be for good or for bad depending on the influence.

John 15: 13-15 (AMP, MSG, NASB) – Okay, so these verses aren’t in Proverbs, but they emphasize the value of friendship in perhaps the most important way and really culminate what Proverbs says about friendship. Laying down one’s life in the most practical sense means giving up time and energy. It’s not just a willingness to physically die for a friend but a willingness to die to self.

DISCUSSION: What definition of friendship do these verses create? In the comment section below, write down the key words that stand out most to you.

This entry was posted on May 16, 2013. 2 Comments

A Wise Woman Builds – May Application

11-1-12 A wise woman buildsRemember that our goal for studying the Proverbs 31 Woman was to have goals and standards that we can work toward to increasingly become godly women. This description should not be a heavy burden. Please never forget that.

May 2013 Application

This is a gentle reminder to always pursue deliberate application of God’s Word.

For May… Pick one of the lessons in the A Wise Woman Builds series and go through it again, doing the exercises and questions a second time.

May these monthly suggestions be gentle reminders of the potential we all have as Christian women.

Authentic Love – Part III

Authentic love graphic

If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to read Part I and Part II of this series to help cultivate the purpose and motivation behind this challenge.

Authentic Love Challenge

Think of someone you struggle relating to for some reason, perhaps even someone who has offended or slighted you in some way. Maybe someone with whom you seem to have nothing in common comes to mind. Think of someone who, for whatever reason, you struggle connecting with on anything but a superficial level.

As you think about this person, consider what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and martyr for his role in helping Jews during the Nazi regime, said about friendship.

“The aim of friendship is exclusively determined by what God’s will for that person is.”

Jonathan lived out this principle in how he devoted himself to carrying out God’s will for David. His example shows authentic love in action based on what God wants rather than what human feelings and emotions might want. (Read the entire story in 1 Samuel 18-31.)

Now, here comes the challenge. Commit to praying for the person who just came to mind. As you pray, ask God to show you ways you can connect with that person. Ask Him to show you His will for that person’s life and how you can encourage that person in his/her walk with the Lord.

Know that the first step toward connecting with this person will likely feel uncomfortable at first and possibly even a bit scary. But chances are, once you take that first, initial step, the connection becomes easier. As you seek to show authentic love toward others, God will bless your efforts.

This entry was posted on May 2, 2013. 1 Comment