Lord, How Long?

Have you ever asked that question of Him? Gracious, but I have. So many times I can’t remember them all. In fact, some of you might be asking God that question this very minute.

Actually, the sentiment comes from what I just read – Isaiah 6:11, in which Isaiah asks that of the Lord, and the answer isn’t comforting. “And He answered, until cities lie waste without inhabitants and houses without man, and the land is utterly desolate.”

Whoa. God didn’t say it was until the people thought they’d had enough, or one more week, or one more day. He said until the Earth is empty. That’s a really, really long time. How many of us can hang in there till then?

I know the context of this verse isn’t even about us in particular. I’m not taking this out of context to make the Bible say something it doesn’t. I’m just asking you, “Lord, how long?”

How long will my kid struggle at school? How long will my husband struggle at work? How long will my wife struggle to find a good friend? How long will I have to watch my mother suffer with death that won’t come? How long will it take me to forgive the man who shot my daughter? How long will I be poor? How long will it take to find someone who genuinely cares about me, and not my money?

How long, y’all? I can’t tell you that. It may be until tomorrow, or in 30 minutes, or – God forbid – the end of time. It’s not the “how long” we should be worrying about. It’s the “how” we should ask.

How, Lord, do I handle this hot mess? How, Lord, do I find joy (not happiness, which is an emotion that is fleeting, that comes and goes, but true joy – which isn’t always a feeling and is more often a choice)? How, Lord, do I wait for the answer?

Get out of your own head for a minute. Step back and look at the problem objectively – as critically as you can, considering how close you are to it. Now, here’s the fun part. Leave it there.

Yes, that’ right. Step away from the problem and don’t touch it, look at it, or think about it. For at least a few hours if you can. Come back to it. Nope? No answer yet? Leave it again. This time, leave at the foot of the Cross and leave it there.

It isn’t yours anymore – it is HIS.

What is a “Cheerful Giver?”

Yesterday, my fabulous pastor gave us an excellent message on giving. Yes, I know – this turns some folks off. Bear with me though, ok? Got some good stuff here if you hang in there.

One term or thing I thought I should research is “cheerful giver.” Other than the obvious – someone who likes to give – what does it mean for us? And I found two things, which are the following:

  1. Emulate Christ. Because He gave it all.
  2. Cheerful giving is a way of life.

But what kind of giver are you? While I cannot vouch for the total theology and doctrine of Boundless, I found the article helpful. Perhaps you will, too.

A few years ago, for reasons still unknown to me, I was asked to be part of a three-series panel discussion on giving at my previous church. Considering math is an abomination to me and I don’t do so great at spending, I was hesitant, but decided to go anyway. Boy am I glad I did!

We didn’t spend our panel discussion the way the other two groups did. We talked about giving. And giving is truly a way of life, because it involves every aspect of your life when you make it a priority.

For instance, every Sunday morning in our Connect Group, our leader asks that anyone thinking about serving could really be used in Kid City or Awana (our childrens’ groups). I squirm a bit here because I do not want to do it. But there are plenty of people who are called for this sort of service, at different seasons in their lives. While I am not called, yes, deep down I think I should sacrifice some of my time to help. But am I considering with a cheerful heart, or out of legalism?

Serving, which I firmly believe is part of giving, is something that I think mostly comes from the heart – a heart of passion and need to do it. But, truth be told, sometimes it’s just good old-fashioned have-to. As in, because I’m a Christian, every now and then I have to do something I don’t want to do. Something I will get zero credit for. Something no one will notice. Yes, it is easy to go to the church service project two Saturdays a year, and feel so very good about yourself.

But service is a life-time choice. Meaning – all the time! Who are you serving? Yourself? Your spouse and children? Helping others is great. It’s the sacrifice of our time we resent. And that, my friend, does not make us a cheerful giver.

Are you hospitable? Do you invite others to your home and share your meal with them? Or, like me, is the thought daunting? Like me, do you want everything to be perfect first? We have quite a lot in common with Martha, don’t we? Here’s part of her story.

Luke 10:38-42 – Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  John 11:5 – Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. Luke 10:40 – But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Jesus’ response is priceless. And not at all what we would expect. Watch this!

And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ”(Luke 10).

Should we open our homes and our hearts, as well as our hearth, to others? Even if it’s not perfect – not totally clean or neat, or – even worse – we think we won’t have enough? Absolutely, says the Word. Ever notice how much sweeter things taste and seem when shared with friends or loved ones? A little goes a long way. Just the breaking of bread together ensures we are thankful for the Lord and one another. God makes good things happen in those times, doesn’t He?

I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the benefits of giving. While I never advocate thinking of yourself first in these matters, it really does make a difference in your own life! God richly blesses cheerful givers. And by that, I do not mean earthly wealth. I mean spiritual blessings. Which are far more valuable than money, y’all. Will there be some material goodness coming your way? I think so. A little bit, at least. But giving out of the love of your heart sends goodness out into the world, and God reciprocates by providing for your needs.

If you have ever been in need, you can imagine how life-changing it is to have a need met supernaturally. It blows your mind. So start giving y’all, and blessings!

How the Loser Actually Wins With God

Good morning! Shortly, I’m meeting a friend for a workout in the great outdoors, but before I go I wanted to  clue y’all in on something I read this a.m. in my Bible study.

We start with the Book of Luke. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” “ Luke 7:47

Let’s get the backstory here. Jesus was at the home of a Pharisee, awaiting dinner. When He got there, two things weren’t done. The first is that the host did not offer Jesus water to clean His feet. The second is that the host did not offer a kiss of greeting.

It’s hard for us to imagine the world in which Christ lived, but in ancient times – and I dare say at the present time – hospitality in the Middle East-area was quite different from our Americanized version. When someone in Jesus’ day entered a home as a guest, water was offered for foot washing because people (like Jesus) in that day primarily walked – on dusty roads – and therefore had very dirty feet! Also, a kiss of greeting was just part of inviting someone into your home or perhaps even meeting them outside the home.

So, Jesus is seated at table and in comes this woman. We don’t know her name, although there is speculation that it was Mary (the prostitute, not the mother of Christ). At any rate, she washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her long hair.

Why is she weeping? Because she is accepted by Christ despite her “many sins.” The going theory is that she is a prostitute. Even in today’s culture, if a hooker walked into church and sat down beside you, there’d be some uncomfortable silences and side-long looks going on. Imagine if she walked into a dinner party and sat down beside your husband. How many daggers could you shoot out of your eyes towards her?

But if the pew you sat down on contained Christ, would He have done those things? No, my friends – He would have smiled and opened His arms!

Pay attention to the last part of this verse: ” he who is forgiven little, loves little.” It is when Christ has to forgive us of deep sins that we come to grasp how fully He loves us, and we are then able to more fully love others.

It’s so easy to judge others who are different from us. Especially if our sins are easier to hide from the outside world. Jesus isn’t giving us permission to go and sin to a great extent. But what He is saying is that for those of us who have done it, His open arms are rock-solid, and He’s ready to embrace us.

And then what? The great news is that it’s not over! Just having His forgiveness and love would be more than enough, right? But it’s not! We are then to be used as a vessel through which we love others with the love of Christ!

It sounds good. But in reality, it’s tough. The people who know us well are not so quick to forgive and love again. They’re not quick to trust us. Who could blame them? We haven’t been what we should have been.

Y’all, don’t give up, and don’t let satan win. Oh yes. He’s playing his games through people who won’t give us another chance. And there are only two things you can do. The first is to always show God’s love to those people regardless of whether they welcome you back into their lives or not. The second is to mentally shake the dust from your feet while in their presence, if they are not welcoming, and to remember that you have the love of God and your other brothers and sisters in Christ to fall back on.

Blessings today, you who have sinned much!