The Giver

Today’s reading from the HopeNYC daily devotional contained some admonishments regarding the path to success:

Some sacrifices are simply not worth it: (1) In your attempt to build a reputation, don’t lose your character.  Reputation is what people think you are; character is what God and those closest to you know you are. (2) Don’t sacrifice your family for your career.  If you do you’ll end up winning the admiration of those who don’t matter, while losing the love of those who do. (3) Don’t sacrifice your relationship with God for material things.  God told His people, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Dt 8:17-18NIV).  Then he drops the other shoe: “If you ever forget the Lord…you will surely be destroyed” (v.19NIV).

I want to focus just a minute on “Don’t sacrifice your relationship with God for material things.” It’s easy to get caught up in our own success, to pat ourselves on the back and say “well done.”  We throw parties for ourselves celebrating our achievements.  But are we giving God thanks at the same time?  Are we so busy pushing toward a goal that we don’t make time to talk to God?  I’m guilty of that at times.  We forget that we are made of dust, and the only reason that we walk and talk and work and dance is because God breathed life into us (Gen 2:7).  The word inspiration translates to “God-breathed” so in fact since we are God-breathed, we are his inspiration

God crafted us with his hands, but before he did that he created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them.  The psalmist David said “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).  Who indeed are we that God should spend an iota of his time concerning himself with us???  Who are we, sinful creatures as we are, that God should give us anything?  But God is a loving Father to his children.  The Bible says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17).  It says every gift! That new car?  It’s got a gift tag on it that says “From God with love!”  The $54 skirt you got for $2.57?  Praise God for it right in the store! (True story by the way, I’ll show you the receipt!)  The seat you got on the jam-packed train last night?  God saw you were tired and made someone get up for you.  Friends, the list goes on and on but the point is we need to remember that our focus should be on God.  Don’t get distracted by the new and shiny.  Give God the praise he so richly deserves for every single thing he does in your life.    

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My Friend Jesus

I woke up this morning with a rather morbid thought.  I was thinking about parents who give their lives for their children.  I don’t know what triggered it, I can’t remember if I had any particular dream relating to this.  It could be because I just got back from visiting my precious newborn niece Hailey (she is too sweet by the way!).  But I was thinking about how parents love their children so much that they would literally die for them.  I thought about parents in war zones, the ones who shield their children with their bodies.  I thought about parents of sick children who beg God to remove that disease from their child and give it to them instead.  I don’t know any parent who wouldn’t do everything they could to spare their kids from pain, anguish, and hurt.

It’s easy to think about a parent in that way.  But what about a friend?  How many friends have you had that pledged to be your BFFL (Best Friend For Life)?  How many people do you know have said they would be your “ride or die” friend?  How many of those same people are still your friend today?  I found my high school yearbook the other day and I read all the notes my friends had written for me.  One particular girl wrote me a full page letter; she’d known me since we were 11 so surely we would be best friends for the rest of our lives.  All I can say is if it hadn’t been for Facebook, I wouldn’t have known she’d had a second baby.  It’s natural, people grow up, they grow apart, and they go their separate ways.  There aren’t many people who will stick with you always.  There aren’t many who will go through a fire with you.  Oh they’ll come to a party at your house, but they won’t come to church with you.  As for me, I remembered what Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  I remembered that Jesus is a friend who sticks closer to you than a brother.  I thought about how much he must love us that he would bear the shame and torture of the cross.  I thought about how he laid down his life, and took it back up again so that we could have salvation.  I thought about how God is not wishing that any should perish, but all should reach repentance.  Now that is a friend to have!

Trust in Him!

Proverbs 3:5-6 English Standard Version (ESV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.   In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Last year I lost my job right before Thanksgiving.  I knew it was coming, the managers at that job had taken a strong disliking to me and it seemed like I never did anything right.  The day before I got fired, I was at the office until 8pm doing a project for one manager who had to leave for a charity event (actually it seemed every time there was an important project to do, it coincided with a charity event).  However, before she left, she sent out a meeting request for 9am the next day.  So not only did I know I was getting fired, I knew what time it was going to happen!  But that morning I woke up with a song in my heart, it said “Oh father give me grace to forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”  You see, Holy Spirit was preparing me for what was coming.  If I hadn’t a clue about what was going occur that day, I knew I would have burst out crying when it happened (the first rule to survive a corporate career is never to let anyone see you cry!).

My husband didn’t go to work that day, he had taken the day off to do some work at the church in preparation for our leadership conference that night.  I didn’t tell him what was going to happen; I knew he would be upset and worried.  So I went to work all by myself with my stomach in knots.  The whole way to the office, I prayed in my heart “Lord, just please don’t let me cry.”  I thought about how I should react, should I be angry, should I laugh and pretend I didn’t care?  I really didn’t care about the job, I was miserable there but I knew we couldn’t afford to lose the finances.  I walked into the office and sat quietly at my desk, a great calm came over me.  Nine o’clock came and I followed the managers to the conference room.  As soon as I heard the words, “we have decided to terminate your employment,” I felt an awesome feeling of relief!!!  I actually smiled and probably made them feel a lot better about firing me.  I even hugged them as I walked out!  I cleaned my desk, took all my stuff and walked out of there feeling really happy!

But here’s how God works in our lives, earlier that very week, a friend of mine had called and asked if I was interested in interviewing for a position at her company!  I had told her I would think about it, but as I left my office the day I got fired, I called her and set up an interview for the very next Monday!  I didn’t end up getting that job but that was God’s way of telling me that everything would be ok.  I called my husband as I walked to the train station with my bags of belongings to ask him to pick me up when I got off the train.  When I told him, he said to me “but you don’t get fired,” and he was right, I’d never been fired from any job I’ve had!  At that point, it was the closest I came to crying, not because I was upset, but because my husband was upset.  I reminded him that God doesn’t allow things like this to happen without having a bigger and better plan in store!  By the time I got home and saw him, he wasn’t upset anymore.  He had already told our pastor what had happened so when he picked me up and brought me to the church I ran straight to her with the stupidest smile on my face and she had an even bigger smile for me!  We jumped up and down and hugged and celebrated like crazy people!  Why were we celebrating?  Because while many people praise God for all the good things that happen to them, not many praise God when the storms come upon them.  I’ve learned to give God praise in the good times and praise him even harder during the bad times.  I know that he has his hand upon me in every situation and he allows us to go through adversity to build our faith.

I spent six weeks unemployed, but during those weeks, I got the chance to volunteer full time at church all through the Thanksgiving and Christmas season which is one the busiest times of the year for us.  And the very first week in January, I went back to work!