Cheerful Giver

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7

I am the baby. My spot in the station wagon was front seat, between mom and dad. Those were the days when seatbelts, in the models that had them, were usually shoved out of sight. In a family of seven, assigned seating in the car was just one practice that kept things on schedule.

Attention to finances was another practice that made family life easier. I don’t recall ever hearing a lecture on the act of giving but I saw it every Sunday. My mother wrote the offering check. Then, with all the kids settled in the car, she handed the check to my dad for his signature. Whether they tithed or gave as they determined in their heart, I don’t know. But I do know the act of giving was passed on to me.

Even as a young adult doubting God’s existence, I gave to the church. When my paycheck barely covered expenses, I still gave to the church. My giving was out of instinct rather than devotion but I gave. When I married, my husband adopted this practice without hesitation.

Mom told me recently that her offering check routine was not intended to teach us to give. It was just the best time in the schedule to write it. It was part of her routine to have Dad sign the checks so that he would be equally involved in the family finances.

With the hurriedness of life, online finances, and children rarely in the adult church service when offering is received, it’s a little more difficult to pass on the act of routine giving. I can instruct my children to give from their allowance but I wonder how their attitudes toward money and possessions are being shaped without me knowing it.

How do I respond to the material needs of neighbors and friends? How do I respond when my kid’s friends are in our house at mealtime? What do they hear in my conversations relating to money? These are questions that God has brought to mind for me. Maybe there are others for you.

What do others see in your practices and routines? Do you give only out obligation or are you a cheerful giver?


Published on ChristianDevotions.us 3/1/2011

Settling for Suitable

The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock.
Numbers 32:1 NIV

If you don’t go, you won’t see it. Those are the words my husband felt God spoke to him as we made the decision to move 1,100 miles away. He has repeated those words to me several times over the last year.

Moving is difficult. It’s stressful and usually involves leaving the familiar to step into the unknown.

We’ve made five long-distance moves in 17 years. Our fourth move was not a place I dreamed about living but I was hoping we would not move again until our children graduated high school. After a couple of years, I was very comfortable with the idea of living there for the rest of my life. I had settled in. I was tired of moving.

Maybe that’s how the Reubenites and Gadites felt. The Israelites had moved around in the wilderness for over 40 years. God promised something great just on the other side of the river but sometimes, where we are feels good enough.

Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, could have established his line as the most significant of the tribes of Israel but he lost that blessing early on. The Reubenites fall further from significance when they request to stay in the suitable land on the east side of the Jordan rather than cross over to the Promised Land. God did not destroy the Reubenites and Gadites for their request but eventually, the descendants of Reuben became insignificant to the point that they were hardly mentioned again.

The toughest decisions are not between good and evil. They are the tug-of-war between suitable and God’s best. God can work all things for good but if we are willing to move away from the comfortable, we can participate in something far greater than we could ever ask or imagine.

If you don’t go when God says go, you won’t see the best God has promised.


Published on ChristianDevotions.us 1/19/2014

The Heart of Prayer

Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:12-13 (NIV)

I feel like a 24/7 help desk with a ringtone of “mom, mom, mom.” The barrage of questions comes at every age from preschool through the teen years. Inquiries may be humorous, puzzling, or just plain irritating. Why do they ask a question I’ve already answered? Why do they ask when they know my response? Why do they ask then not follow my directions?

In my more patient moments, God flashes images in my mind of questions I’ve asked Him. That’s when I realize this is more than questions and answers. It’s relationship. It’s confirming who they are in relationship with me and their significance in our family.

The questions are often, “can I have what I want?” They usually know the answer because they know me. But what fun it is to lavish my love on them by giving them more than they ask.

Other times they ask questions beyond their personal desires, to issues of the heart. I love these moments. It may last a few seconds or be an ongoing conversation over days or weeks. This is when I get to pour my heart into theirs.

I’m convinced that God loves our questions. He is always patient and longs to be in conversation with us because the conversation is so much more than questions and answers.

Whether our prayers are asking when we already know the answer, a request when God already knows what we want, or a life perspective in development; I imagine God delights in pouring His heart into ours. My kids know that throwing a tantrum gets them nothing. Rending their hearts opens a floodgate of grace and compassion. They may not hear exactly what they want or receive everything they ask for, but they will receive my heart.

Do you want God’s heart? Go ahead. Pray. Ask Him anything. Then open your heart and receive His.


Published on ChristianDevotions.us 4/10/2011

The Intimacy of Sorrow

Sorrow is better than laughter because a sad face is good for the heart. Ecclesiastes 7:3 (NIV)

My son was born without a heartbeat. I could not bear to speak the word stillborn. The most difficult phone call was to the florist. The phrase “funeral arrangement” stopped with my breath.

Filled with the darkness of grief, I became captive to the tears and anger. My husband returned to work. Friends and family had offered their condolences and resumed their lives. It seemed I was the only one left grieving.

The stages of grief – denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – cycled randomly, taking years to fully fade from impact on my everyday life. How could this sorrow possibly be better than laughter?

The book of Ecclesiastes states, “with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” Therefore, in the search for meaning and understanding, the author finds that sorrow is better than laughter. It would be nice to think that we could avoid all sorrow and be wise. But wisdom cannot be separated from sorrow. According to Ecclesiastes, “the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.”

The words of those who had experienced deep sorrow brought comfort during my grief. While the desire to comfort was appreciated, the words of those who had not experienced or acknowledged their own sorrow lacked wisdom and understanding.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that all people, the righteous and the wicked, have the same destiny of death. The difference is in life. The choice is wisdom or foolishness. While joy and laughter can often bring us to a heart of thankfulness, sorrow can bring us to a place of recognizing the greatness of our God and the smallness of man. Sorrow reminds us of how little control we have over life. Sorrow brings us to the conclusion of Ecclesiastes that gives meaning to life: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every human being.”

I would not wish the experiences of sorrow on anyone but I am thankful for the dependence on God that sorrow instills in me. The intimacy through sorrow makes the joy of laughter even greater.

Be thankful for the sorrow and enjoy the gift of laughter. Both are from God.


Published at ChristianDevotions.us April 19, 2014

I should have been born in Missouri, the Show Me state. Most of my life consists of hoping for things I can comprehend and control. According to Romans 5, this way of living is backwards.

“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

This is another one of the scriptures that we like to take out of context and miss the real point. Romans is about the power of God and living by faith rather than living by the do’s and dont’s of the law of Moses.

The word “Therefore” at the beginning of Romans 5 implies that the meaning after “therefore” has to do with the words that come before “therefore.” We see in Romans 1 through 4 that the hope of Romans 5 is built on the foundation of being justified through faith.

Justified, made right.
Faith, our response to what God reveals.

Hope, according to Merriam-Webster, is desire with anticipation. Not just a vague belief or wishing that something might happen. But a hunger for what we expect in the future.

In Romans 1:18ff, we see the result of living by what man envisions according to his own abilities versus what God reveals and provides through his divine assistance. Where is the hope in living for the pleasure that last only in the moment?

God offers hope that delivers a reality that will last forever. All the unknowns in life – suffering, sadness, sickness – are made perfect through hope.

Made perfect – given meaning and purpose.

To get to that kind of hope we must persevere through the unknowns. When we don’t persevere we give in to the pleasure of the moment.

We have a tendency to mix up the words hope and faith. Faith is always initiated by God. Faith is when God reveals and we respond to what he has revealed. Faith is not just believing or hoping something is true. It’s not a wish or even trusting in the character of God. It is seeing what God is doing now and acting on what God has shown us.

Hope is not always initiated by God. Hope is the desire for something to become reality. Desire can be good or bad. To experience hope that does not disappoint, we must experience dependency on God – the one who is the standard for measuring good. Dependency means acting on what God is revealing even when we can’t comprehend the outcome.

It is in suffering – whether it is horrific or simple questioning of the unknown – that we are forced to either to give in to our own desires or persevere until we find God’s desires. Without perseverance, our character is weak and inconsistent. Through perseverance, we experience the love of God and find our true character – who we are meant to be in God’s story.

I want to live with hope that makes suffering tolerable. Don’t you? Let’s not give in or give up. I’m convinced that through persevering we discover that kind of hope.

Are you making a difference in the world?

We wonder why people are starving or why a loving God would allow suffering. The truth is, God has enabled us to relieve much of the suffering of the world.

World Vision is one of several organization that restores hope in individuals by transforming communities. Watch this video and please consider sponsoring a child through my World Vision sponsorship page. If you are not able to sponsor a child or already sponsor a child through World Vision or another organization, please share this blog post to encourage others to make a difference in this world. It changes not only the receiver but also the giver because we are designed by the Creator to contribute to life for more than our own personal comfort.

Every child deserves clean water. However, more than 1,600 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by unsafe water — that’s more than AIDS and malaria combined. Clean water, basic sanitation, and hygiene education are some of the most effective ways to prevent child disease and death.

World Vision is one of the largest providers of clean water in the developing world, reaching a new person with clean water every 30 seconds. Water continues to flow after we leave because communities have ownership of the water points and can maintain and repair them. www.worldvision.org

We are all designed to contribute to this amazing world God created. We do not exist simply to survive until we die. Will you make a difference?

World Vision Sponsorship

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Philippians 3:12

Perseverance is not about me. That’s my new discovery this morning as I think about the perseverance of Jesus Christ especially on the day of his brutal death.

I watched a little bit of The Passion of the Christ last night and woke this morning thinking of the pain Jesus endured and the emotions that he most likely experienced. We talk so much about how Jesus died for “me.” As I pondered his death this morning, I realized how self-centered even that thought is. Yes, his death benefited all mankind but he could not, and would not have persevered out of love for mankind without having an even greater passion for the purposes of God and the plan of life.

Jesus is fully God AND he is fully human. There was a humanness to Jesus that endured the pain. And it is the Spirit of God in him that strengthened his human flesh with the will to persevere. It is that same Spirit that strengthens me to persevere but I can’t want it for me. That purpose is not great enough. I must want it out of a love for God.

Like Paul, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of [that which Christ Jesus took hold of me].” But I want to want (yes, that wording is intended) to strain toward what is ahead. I’m recognizing more than ever that I don’t have it in my humanness to persevere for God’s plan. The humanness in me desires comfort far more than recognition for achievement. And I believe even if I were one who desired recognition, the perseverance for the sake of recognition would not be enough to satisfy. That kind of recognition seems to leave people still wanting something more.

Without love, all the good we do is meaningless (1 Corinthians 13). As wonderful as it feels to love other people, even that love can be rejected and limits our perseverance. Our love must first be for God. Our passion must first be for his plans regardless of how his plans impact my present personal comfort. Do I love God that much? Do you?

Take time today to think about the humanness of Jesus and his passion for God’s plan. His death allowed us to receive the Spirit of God by canceling out all mankind’s self-centered desire to achieve our own goals. We cannot live by God’s plan and our plan at the same time. We cannot live for God’s plan out of our own strength. It takes perseverance that is beyond our humanness.

As I said, I have not yet achieved this consistent reliance on the Holy Spirit but this one thing I try to do daily: forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead to win the prize for which God has created me. He has created me to love him above my own comfort and recognition. He has called me to receive the power that empowered Jesus Christ to endure unthinkable suffering. That same power is the power of God’s Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and will also raise us from the dead to a life that is greater than we can imagine. It is worth the perseverance. Jesus showed us that in everything he did.

Read Isaiah 53 and Philippians 3 over this Easter weekend. Look at Jesus in pain. Try to feel the pain. It wasn’t first for you. It was first for God and the plan of life for all creation. Try to grasp the love of God’s plan that motivated the man Jesus to persevere.


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