Rich in Faith

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5, NLT)

Yesterday, as we (my church family) were praying for churches that we’re working towards establishing in El Salvador and Ghana, I began thinking about the impoverished communities where these churches will be built. As I prayed, in my spirit I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 8:2 which states, “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” Of course, in context, Paul was writing this to the church at Corinth, regarding the churches in Macedonia, who, though having very little, gave freely and abundantly to the believers in Jerusalem, who had even less. But I was reminded yesterday, that the believers in other nations and cities who are lacking basic every day needs, are in the same boat! They may have very little in monetary and dietary value, yet they are rich in faith and joy. How is that possible?

Well, let’s recall the Israelites in the desert, after God rescued them from Egypt. Did God not provide for their every physical need on a daily basis? Just as the Israelites were forced to a position of complete reliance on God for daily sustenance—manna, quail, water, and even clothing—these churches in nations with very little, recognize that God is the giver and sustainer of life! They have faith in His faithfulness and ability to provide for their every need, even though their current situation tells them otherwise.

I believe, in America, faith like this is difficult to obtain because we have so much! Having much isn’t a bad thing, but when we come to rely more on the things that we have, rather than the Giver who provides them, our faith and relationship with Christ are impacted negatively. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold so tightly to the things that God has so richly blessed us with, but always remain in a position of obedience, thanksgiving, joy and compassion that moves us to help our brothers and sisters in need.

Lastly, a few weeks ago, as I was helping out in the kid’s church on a Sunday morning, the speaker described a pitcher pouring water into a cup and the cup overflowing, as an example of Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” And as he spoke on this, I immediately pictured one of those fountains in my head, in which, a pitcher pours water into one cup, which, inFountain turn, pours water into another cup, and then into another, and so forth. I remembered that God blesses all His children—whether financially, spiritually, with knowledge, or other gifts—but we aren’t to keep the gifts to ourselves! We’re to allow it to pour forth into the lives of others, so that they, in turn, can do the same.

Therefore, let us remain in a position of submission to God, seeking His face daily, and allowing Him to continually pour into and bless us, so that we can pour into and bless those around us. Let our faith be not in the things we have, but in the One who gives them; and may our hearts be full of joy and faith, knowing that God is faithful and just (Psalm 111:7; 1 John 1:9), trusting that He cares for us (Matthew 10:29-31), and having full confidence that He has and will continue to provide for us, strengthen, and protect us (Psalm 31:22-24; Isaiah 40:29-31; Romans 5:17-18). In Him we place our hope!

This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1 Timothy 4:10, NLT)

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Perfection in Weakness

The young women in my Wednesday night Bible study have been working through Priscilla Shirer’s study of Gideon for the last few weeks. We’re down to the last two weeks of the Bible study and last night we discussed week four of the study, which is about Gideon’s offering of food to the Angel of the Lord. (If you didn’t already know…The title used to describe the Angel of the Lord, “Malak Yahweh,” is used to describe the “eternal, pre-existant Christ.” This is why I’ve capitalized it here, in case you were wondering.)

Gideon goes through tremendous work to prepare this meal of goat meat, broth, and bread for the Angel and when he offers it to Him, He tells Gideon to place it on a rock, and to pour out the broth over the meat and bread. Then the Angel touches the rock with His staff and the meal is consumed in flames (Judges 6:19-21). It’s been a while since I’ve studied this portion of text, but I recognize that this was a sacrificial offering to God, on Gideon’s part. He slaved over this meal, only to pour it out before God, and have it used in a manner that he probably didn’t expect or, perhaps, desire.

Priscilla goes on to talk about 4 things we must do in offering our gifts to God: 1) Prepare it, 2) Present it, 3) Put it down, and 4) Pour it out.

Yesterday, while I was driving to church I started thinking about how often I pray that God use me in whatever capacity that He chooses and I even spend time preparing my gifts/talents to be used by Him, but then when I feel like He’s asking too much of me, I pull back. I brought this up during our Bible study, as well. How often do you do this? We ask God to use us and fill us with His Holy Spirit, but then the moment the task seems to large, we pull back because we’re afraid we won’t be able to complete the task He’s calling us towards!

But isn’t that the point?!

The point is that the task IS too large for us…if we try to do it on our own! But when we become completely vulnerable, walking in faith, and trusting the calling God’s placed on our lives, no matter how large (or small), that’s when we reach the point of no return. We then have no choice but to allow—expect and desire—the Holy Spirit to give us the strength, courage, and tools we need to complete our calling, because we CAN’T DO IT ON OUR OWN. When it seems we can’t go on, and the task is too large, and seemingly, impossible, that’s when God is most visibly seen and His power magnified. Just like Gideon’s army of 300 against the abundant Midianite army, the Holy Spirit can use us to accomplish the goals God has in store for us, but always in a manner that glorifies Christ and points the world in His direction.Captain America

What I’ve realized in my own life is that I must go beyond simply preparing my offerings/talents, to presenting it, putting it down, and pouring it out. I can’t continue to prepare my offerings/talents, presenting it before God and then pulling it back in fear when God says He’s got bigger plans. I can just picture myself in Gideon’s position…the Angel asks me to place the meal on the rock and pour out the broth over the meal and I ask “you want me to do what?!” (Lol)

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who questions God’s plans and becomes afraid of the seemingly insurmountable tasks He’s called us to. However, I truly desire, and plan on, changing my response; stepping out on the promises of God and relying on His strength and power, when I am deficient and weak.  What about you?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

What are You Passionate About?

Who’s your most favorite band or musician? What about actor/actress? Do enjoy a specific author? Or a certain series of books or movies? Or your favorite, athlete–football, basketball, baseball, or soccer player?

What would you do if you had the opportunity to meet that band or musician, spend quality time with that actor/actress? Discuss with your favorite author, the idea behind their most recent novel or movie? Or play a game with your favorite athlete?

Most would jump at the occasion!!

However, what if you were given the opportunity to meet them and you decided you’d rather keep your distance? What if they were in the same room with you and you decided you’d rather listen to them on your iPod, or watch a movie, read a book, or watch a game?

Sounds insane, right?!

And yet, that’s just what we do when we go to church or attend a Christian conference; when God’s moving and His presence is obviously present, we stay in our seats! It’s what we do when we sit at home and rather than open our Bibles or pray, we find ourselves filling our time with everything else that God has so graciously blessed us with. God is in the room with us! He wants to spend time with us. He wants to speak to us, one-on-one. He wants to share His plans with us and love on us, but we’re content to stand at a distance. We’re satisfied enjoying His gifts, but we completely ignore the Giver; even when He’s standing in the room with us!!

Some of us will see our favorite artists in concert over and over again. We’ll spend money and time on all our favorite and newest CDs, movies, books, movies, and games…but try to get us to study–not just read–our Bibles, spend time in prayer (2-way communication with God), or spend some serious time in worship on our own (outside of church) and you’ll have a battle on your hands.

What it comes down to is that it seems many of us are more passionate about the things God has blessed us with rather than the Blesser, our God, our Lord and Savior; the One who gave it all for us! We’ll head to the front of the stage at a concert, scream, shout and dance, and yet remain restrained before the Lord of the universe.

So, what are you really most passionate about??