Growth Process

For the past two decades I have been journaling during my quiet time.  Recently I started to feel like I should go back and review those journals and type out the lessons.

  • There are many things that I have learned over the years that are engrained in my life, they have become part of who I am.
  • There are some lessons, that like the parable of the seed, fell on bad ground.  At the time in my life I was not in a place that those seeds could take root.  I need to be reminded of those so that I can continue to grow.
  • There are some lesson that I am still learning.  Things I know that God continues to show me time and time again, like the children of Israel because I need them to move forward in my journey.   I need to review them so I can move forward.Growthprocess

These journals are not in order.  I will do my best to date them as they happened, even if they are not typed in that order.  I am hopeful that my journey may help others.  Help others to see:

  • It is okay to start somewhere.
  • That God meets us right where we are
  • He speaks to us in a way that we can understand.
  • Sometimes it comes in waves and other times in a single sentence.

For me, I grew up in church but never learned about a personal relationship with a heavenly Father that loves me.  I could quote the scriptures and tell the stories, but they were just that words and stories.  I had to start with learning lessons in general.  Grand ideas found in the scripture that were applicable to lives in general.  Then I started to learn how to apply them to my own life.  Now I am able to help others apply the lessons to their life.  If nothing else, I hope that it helps you to grow in faith because for the most part, the person who wrote these journals, is a life transformed.  The Growth link at the top will house this journey through my journals.

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Slow down and frolic

My coworker teases me because I am slow. I have a shorter gait than she does. I rarely attempt to walk fast enough to try to keep up. It is a little joke between us.

Today as I was walking in to work, one of our maintenance men blew past me down the hall. Then he paused, backed up, and walked beside me. He said “I really need to learn to slow down.” I jokingly told him, “They usually tell me to speed up.” He walked the remainder of the way with me and turned off to his work space.

Just reflecting on that brief conversation, I thought about how often we get caught up in the rat race of life. We spend so much time trying to keep up with others. We rush from one thing to the next with very little margin built in, let alone free time. So many people I talk to say that they feel guilty if they take some time to just relax and do nothing.

frolicI lived that way; it was my husband and children that paid the price. I gave my best to others. I spent myself on those who would take anything and everything I had to offer, and give me little to nothing in return. My children and husband got the leftovers and at times even the leftovers were not much. I am grateful that somewhere along the way, I learned to slow down. I only regret it was for the most part after the kids hit thier teenage yearals and were on thier way out of the house.

I had a wise professor in my undergraduate Social Work program. She taught us the importance of taking time to enjoy the now. We would take time in the midst of a busy, stressful, and chaotic week to frolic.

Merriam Webster online dictionary defines frolic as a verb (Entry 2 of 3)
1: to amuse oneself : make merry
2: to play and run about happily : ROMP

Yes, there were probably times, as students that we took advantage of her encouragement of frolicking. We often declared the need to be outside for our class; even if we were not running around, it did make us merry. I now realize she was engaging us in self-care. It was an important lesson, that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time.

Each person’s frolic may look different. I am a joyful person, but I am not sure people would call me merry. I am not one to run and play a lot. My play looks much different than how most people play. What amuses me doesn’t generally amuse others. Its okay, I am content to live at a pace that doesn’t match others.

As someone in a helping profession, self care is important. We all have a different pace, things that give us energy and things that drain us. We have to access that regularly and work to make adjustments in our lives that take into account our pace. We have to take time to slow down and enjoy where we are in life. We have to take time to slow down and frolic.
Posted in Restoration

Shudder or scatter

There is this scene in the original The Lion King (1994) where the hyenas say the name of the king, Mufasa. One shudders at the power of the name, but says “do it again.” I couldn’t place the scene in the movie but that was the picture that came to my mind today as we sang about the name of Jesus.

The song by Gateway “When I speak your name” says:

When I speak Your name
Mountains move, chains are loosed
When I speak Your name
Darkness flees, it has no hold on me

As I sang the words, I thought there are some mountains that haven’t moved in my life. I walk around them, I talk to them, but they never move.

I realize there are some chains that still aren’t loosed. They might rattle at times, but I still let them hold me captive. I make the demons shutter at His name, but without His authority I haven’t commanded them to flee.

Like the hyenas, I recognize there is power in the name of the King, but I am not speaking it with authority. The hyenas had no problem being in the presence of His name. When Mufasa came in authority, they didn’t shutter, they scattered.

Power is the ability or potential of an individual to influence others and control their actions. Authority is the legal and formal right to give orders and commands, and make decisions.

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. Luke 9:1 NKJV

Christ gave His disciples both, but they didn’t always use them. As Christians, we have access Christ’s power to influence and control. Too often, we give power away instead of exerting it in Jesus’ name.

Christ has given us the authority. We have the right to command and make decisions. Yet, we often fail to exercise that authority in the name of Jesus. We sit back and let the culture and environment around us to control our voice.

When we don’t exercise what Christ has given us, the mountains stay in place. We stay bound in chains when we give up our power and authority. We let darkness spread when we do not let His light shone through us in all power and authority.

We need to stop making the enemy shudder and make him scatter as we use the power and authority available in Christ.

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True value

There is a lot of talk about the worth or value of a person. This is often tied to a person’s self-esteem or lack there of. It can lead decsions we make about many things. Too often, in our consideration of our own value we fail to consider the value placed on us by our Creator. We fail to consider the price that was paid for us.

We tend to cheapen our value as we accept as truth comments that tear us down or are contrary to the Word of God. Or we allow treatment to ourselves that we would not tolerate to anyone that we love or care about and that our Creator did not design us to tolerate. Or we place ourselves in situations that our Creator never intended us to be.

I started to think about how Christ, the Son of Man could have struggled with His value had He not had a deep revelation from the Father of His worth. Men spoke against Him.  They attempted to stone Him on several occasions. His death was a brutal one. Yet in it all, He knew what His value was.

How He really did experience what we go through. I often wonder if He might have experienced it on a deeper level because He knew what perfect love was like.  He experienced perfect love with the Father. I started thinking about how those close to Him valued Him.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:1‭-‬6 ESV

Mary held Jesus in high regard. She was willing to use costly perfume to anoint His feet. One danarius is said to be a day’s wages. So she was willing to give up a years wages to anoint the feet of Jesus.   Never mind that she wiped His feet with her hair.  I Corinthians 11:15 says that long hair is a woman’s covering, her glory.

Contrast Mary’s value towards Jesus to that of his disciple, Judas.

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Matthew 26:14‭-‬16 ESV

Thirty pieces of silver was the value of slave who was accidently killed. If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. Exodus 21:32 ESV

Judas valued Jesus, a “friend” he had walked along side of and served, as a slave. He was willing to give Him over to those who sought to kill Jesus for the price of a slave.  The thirty pieces of silver eventually bought the Field of blood, a potter’s field for the burial of strangers.

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Matthew 27:3‭-‬7 ESV

Value.pngAnd then there were the secret followers of Christ. These men who followed Christ in secret.  Yet they still valued Him.

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:38‭-‬42 ESV

Some commentaries point out that this amount of myrrh and aloes was excessive, enough for hundreds of bodies. They who followed Him in secret publically honored Him in death.

Each of these scriptures is tied to Christ’s death. Mary prepared Him for death. Judas led Him to His death. Joseph and Nicodemus prepared Him for burial. Each held Jesus at a different value, thier actions related to His death spoke louder than thier words.

Jesus could have seen how others treated Him, or valued Him and discounted His own value. Instead He held tightly to what God said about Him. What an example for us to hold on to, in more ways than one.

First, how much do I value to gift that has been given to me by Christ? What am I willing to give up for Him? Does it look like the price of a dead slave or extravagant purfume?

Second, am I more focused on how others value me or how God does? Are the words I hear in my head or the scenes I play in my mind those of people? Or do I let those words pass through and hold on to the Words God has spoken over me? Am I focused on what others think I am worth or the value He placed on me? He holds my true value.

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Perceptions

My Pastor preached a message today on honor. He reference a few passages and the television show Gold Rush. One of the passages of scripture was:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44 HCSB

He talked about how the man not only got the treasure when he bought the land, but also all the dirt that went with it. He related it back to our own lives and how we all have a treasure within, but we have to dig through all the dirt to get to the treasure that God already sees. He pointed out that often other people have a treasure to give us, but it is hard for us to receive their treasure because we know the dirt in thier lives.  Our perception of them is tainted by what we know – the things they do, their past, or their struggles and allow that to keep us from receiving from them.

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines perceptions as a transitive verb meaning:

1 a : to attain awareness or understanding of
b : to regard as being such 
2 : to become aware of through the senses

He talked about how it takes mountains of dirt being moved to find one ounce of gold, hence the reference to Gold Rush.  He said people don’t go looking for the dirt, they go looking for the gold, the treasure. They put up with the dirt for the reward of gold in the end. Depending on the reported source, and likely also the land where it is being mined if you watch Gold Rush, it can take between two and ninty tons (1 ton is roughly 2,000 pounds) of dirt to mine one ounce of gold. That is a lot of dirt!

As I drove home from church I was just meditating on the message. Over the years, I have realized that God can and does speak to me through some of society’s “dirtiest” people. I have worked with the richest of people and the poorest.  I have learned to receive His revelation regardless of where it appears to come from. I perceive, if He can speak through a donkey, there is probably not a person alive I can not receive something from.

perceiveYet, when it comes to me, I often believe that my dirt is too much for Him to want to use me. I know this is a lie, and have been renewing my mind that God can and does use me. He might want to use me more, but I often let my own perception of my life keep me from stepping out in obedience.

He shared the story of the Samaritan woman at the well found in John 4 and how Jesus revealed her sin which then changed her perception of how she viewed him. She went from questioning how Jesus, a Jew, would even talk to her to perceiving that Jesus was a prophet.

As my pastor shared about how her changed perception had transformed her life, I couldn’t help but reflect on the bigger picture. Her perception transformed her life, but it also changed a city. She shared what happened to her and more people came to hear Jesus and also beleived. What if we realize that our correct perceptions have the ability to not only transform our lives, but the very cities we live in?

Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” Therefore, when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of what He said. And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.John 4:39‭-‬42 HCSB

Maybe my dirt really isn’t the barrier, maybe it is just my perception of it. Jesus in a moment took this five-time divorced woman who was living with yet another, and removed so much dirt from her life that the treasure she found was enough to transform a city. She went from the ostracized woman at the well, to a spokeswoman for Christ who led many to believe. Her dirt wasn’t enough to stop her from sharing the treasure she found whe she got the right perception.

I look at my own life still, and know that there is still a lot of dirt in my life. I spent the weekend sifting through dirt in another area where I needed a perception change. So my thoughts turned to Joseph, the son of Jacob. He tends to be one of my go to people as the misunderstood younger sibling with big dreams. I find myself learning a lot from His life.

He also started out with a wrong perception. Joseph shared too soon what God had placed inside of him. He didn’t have the character yet for the vision within him. So he went from favored son with big dreams to the pit. Then he went to the palace but didn’t stay.  From there he went to prison. His dirt was pretty deep, but God was using the time and process to refine Joseph. When it came time for God to fulfill the dream He had placed inside of Joseph, his character had caught up to the vision. Despite all the dirt that had gone down in the past, the transformation was of great magnitude.  It was not only Joesph’s life that was transformed, but his brothers’ lives, his father’s life, his city and multiple countries were saved and tranformed by his perception.

Our perceptions may not save a country, but they certainly have the ablity to impact more than just our personal life. We all have influence, and that influence to others, influences more, and they influence more. It is when we have a right perception of our position and our purpose, and our passion is aligned with God’s that we will reach our cities, our states, our nation, and eventually the world as decribed in Acts:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 HCSB

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Where You are

I have not been able to get this song out of my head that we sang at church. It is a song by Hillsong Worship “You Came to My Rescue.”  Part of the song says “I called, You answered. You came to my rescue and I wanna be where You are.” It is a powerful song, with obviously a catchy tune based on scriptures.

Isaiah 65:24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and
while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer you, and show you great and
mighty things, which you know not.
Psalm 22:8 “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
Psalm 35:17 Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, My precious life from the lions.
Psalm 136:24 And rescued us from our enemies, For His mercy endures forever;

I know God’s Word is true.  I know this song resonates in my soul.  Still there are some times in my life though, I might say “I called and God didn’t answer. God didn’t come to my rescue.”  In the moment of my pain, that is a true statement. There are times in my life that I have had to walk though some really difficult circumstances where I really wanted God to intervene in my timing, AKA immediately.

whereyouareAnd yet, I realize there is not a situation that I have called out to God for that I am still in now. His answer rarely looked like I wanted it to.  His answers rarely came in the timing that I was looking for.  Every time though, He did answer. Every time, He did rescue me.

Looking back, it is not in the answer or the rescue that my thought that “sometimes He doesn’t answer or rescue” comes from. When I get to that point, where I am really calling out to Him in desperation, I really just want Him to answer. I want Him to rescue me from whatever I am experiencing at the time.  Yet rarely has my desire before I got to that moment been to “just be where He is.”

At those times I have really cried out, in desperation, needing the answer only He could bring; I rarely before had a cry in my heart to be where He was.  I am not naïve enough to believe things can not go wrong when I am truly abiding with Him.  However, I tend to have an inner strength that helps carry me through even the toughest times when I am sharing my burden with Him daily.  Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I need to stay in the place where the cry of my heart is to be where God is.  I won’t have to travel so far then when I need to call on Him.  I will know that He is answering.  I will know that He is rescuing me.  I will know that regardless of what I am up against, I am right where I am suppose to be, in His presence, seeking His help.  There may be something that I am suppose to be learning.  There may be something that You are trying to work out in me or through me.  It may be my own poor choices or the actions of others.  Regardless of the purpose, I will be where You are.

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Confessions of a Cranky Christian

I would love to blame it on

  • The full moon,
  • Mercury being close to the earth last month,
  • Not enough sleep,
  • Working too much,
  • The behavior of those around me,
  • Circumstances outside of my control
  • The series of unfortunate events that played out in just a short span

Anything to take the blame off for my crankiness over the past three days. I certainly could make the above excuses.  I could gain some sympathy from those around me to my unfortuante plight. However, while all of the above might be true, the only one responsible for my attitude is me.

CrankychristianIt is easy to make an excuse for my actions; it is much harder to accept responsibility. It is even harder to take action to change things, especially when every ounce of your being is cranky right down to the core. That is where I have been the last few days. So cranky, I didn’t even want to be around myself.

I admit, a lot of people around me didn’t realize how cranky I was.  I do a pretty good job of masking it, much better than I used to when even the dog next door could sense my crankiness.  I have learned over the years to not express the full extent of what I am thinking.  I realize I am better at hiding the crankiness, because I found myself wanting to apologize for my snappy attitude, which I did to two of my coworkers.  It was met with a “You were not snappy.”  and a “I thought you were funny.”

However, I also am not good at hiding it with those closest to me.  By the end of the third day, I had provoked my husband with my attitude to the point he asked if I wanted a divorce.  That is a word that neither of us has mentioned in over a decade.  I would not typically allow myself to take responsibility for his words or actions, because I am not.   I will certainly say that I really provoked his response in this small time frame, and that he resisted most of my cranky instigations.

I knew that my focus had been on all that was wrong in the moment.  Nothing life shattering, just small inconveniences in the larger spectrum of life.  On day three, I finally decided to stop walling in my crankiness, and reluctantly give it to God. I recognized it as a spiritual battle, because any other time I can count my blessing, naming them one by one, with a gratefulness that allows me to proudly proclaim, “I am blessed and highly favored.”  I had given away my joy, by allowing myself to focus on the things that I am discontent with, not on the amazing things that I have seen and walked through.

So here is my confession, I know the secret to fixing crankiness, especially as a Christian; although I know that it works for non-Christians too.  Crankiness, can be fixed by changing what you are thinking about.  If the focus is the negative, you will always find it.  If the focus is on the good, you will find it too.  The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:8  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.   What we think on has a powerful ability to steer our behavior.  So if you need an attitude adjustment, change your focus.

I will be the first to admit, it is easier said than done.  However, if we keep taking the thoughts captive that are not true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise, we will eventually find our attitude changing.  It took a few hours once I started doing it for my attitude to change, but it was a complete makeover, not just a mask I put on.

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Offerings

I reached into my pocket and found the folded paper that I had taken abruptly just a few hours before.  I am always amazed at how loudly some lessons come across.   It probably spoke louder because I had been praying the day before on a passage in Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  I unfolded the two crisp dollar bills and held them in my hand.  It was suppose to have been the grandchildren’s offering at church.  Instead, we were back home and I had just pulled it out of my pocket. 

What part of my life do I offer as a living sacrifice?  If I am honest, although at times I may sacrifice time, or comfort, or convenience, or control, I do not live a life of sacrifice.  I live a blessed life.  While I don’t take for granted that I am blessed, I feel God calling me to sacrifice my comfort, to spend more time with Him and to be obedient to the call as He shows me what steps to take.

What do I present to Him that is holy?  Christ has made us holy, so when I surrender to His will, it is a holy offering.  

What do I present that is acceptable?  As I reviewed the scriptures, His Word reveals that there are several acceptable ways to live for Him:

  • With righteousness ( Proverbs 21:3, Romans 14:17-18),
  • With justice (Proverbs 21:3),
  • With joy (Romans 14:17-18),
  • With peace (Romans 14:17-18),
  • Living a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and reverence (I Timothy 2:2-3),
  • Living with a renewed mind (Romans 12:2),
  • Learning to show godliness to their own family (I Timothy 5:4)

Living as He designed is our reasonable worship to Him.  I have found myself the past few weeks pondering how I offer myself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable.  What am I offering to God?  Here I stood with a small offering in my hand, a child’s offering.  I often feel like what I have to offer is small, childlike in the scheme of God’s great plan.  I question if my offering would make a difference, and yet I know that God takes small things and can do big things.  All we ever have to offer is what is in our hands, that is all God asks for from us.

OfferingsMy grandchildren always want to make sure they have offering for class.  However it often fails to make it to the intended destination because they don’t have pockets or hand it to me to hold.  If I remember, I will take it to them.  So often we seek the gift we want to be able to give, but yet never allow it to be used for its intended purpose.

I had taken the grandkids offering for safe keeping because the were distracting me during pray.  My granddaughter had taken out her dollar, and my grandson saw it.  He started getting upset, saying that she had taken his offering.   I thought about how many times I had discounted what I had to give because I thought someone else had that gift.

A wise friend reminds me often that it is in the expression of the gift that transformation occurs.  I know often in speaking with my kids I can repeat the same thing over and over and it seems to have little impact.  Then someone else can come along and say the same thing in a different way and they receive it as a fresh revelation like they have never heard the concept before.  The message may not make sense to me, or even to everyone, but to that one person that God means it for, they need to hear the gift as I express it, no someone else.

When my grandson reached into his own pocket, he realized he still had his offering.  He took it out and started playing with it.  He eventually dropped it.  I thought about the times that I have just dropped my offering.  Unwilling to acknowledge the gift. Unwilling to believe that God would use me.  Unwilling to express it.   I’ve left what God placed inside of me right there, hopeful that someone else would pick it up or that God would be willing to bring to opportunity again for me to pick it up and be obedient to Him.

Eventually they both gave their offering to me.  I thought about how many times I have wasted what I have to offer, giving it away for something else.  I don’t give my offering because I would rather waste time watching television, or on social media.  I busy myself with things that are good, but not things that God is drawing me to in that moment.  I choose comfort over sacrifice.

  • As I stood there looking at the offering, both grandchildren realized it was what they had intended it give.   God also sees what we are holding in our hands.  He knows sometimes we are going to miss it.  He knows when we are going to make an excuse and say someone else has it, when we will drop what we have to offer, and when we are going to waste what He has given us on something else.  Yet, in His grace and mercy, He gives it back to us.  He gives us other opportunities.  He redeems the time.

 

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Talents and Gifts

I have spent much of my life questioning how I can use my talents for God’s glory.  I think much of the time I have confused my God-given talents with His gifts.  He asked for us to increase or at least invest our talents, but His gifts are for the building up of the Church (I Corinthians 14:12).  They may complement each other, but they are not the same.

In the parable of the talents Jesus shared in Matthew 25, there is an important lesson:

The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

While the talent was a form of currency in Bible times, God has also entrusted His people with talents.  In the parable above, He praised the servants who took the talent He gave and increased it.  He asked the one who did not increase it why the servant did not at least invest it.

God has asked me to increase and invest the talents that He has given me.  The talents that He has given me can be enhanced through education with worldly knowledge.  Talents can be fine-tuned through application and experience over time.  God gifted me the talents, my gift to Him is how I grow them where He has placed me.  I have to be faithful to build on what God has freely given.

Gifts on the other hand, are a spiritual gift from God that can only be developed through time with Him.  They can only be fine-tuned through obedient expression.  They are meant to build up the Church, both locally and globally.

gifts and talentsHe asked for us to increase or at least invest our talents, but His gifts are for the building up of the Church (I Corinthians 14:12).   I have spent much time cultivating the talents He has given me, while at the same time resisting the use of His gifts outside of those talents.  I am thankful that He allowed to grow in Him and be comfortable in some of His gifts as I invested my talents.  I recognize that the success I saw in those I was brought along side of, the transformed lives and miracles, were His working of gifts through me.

However, I recognize that I have not been faithful in the obedient expression of His gifts because I have withheld them outside of that comfort zone.  I may have shared them with members of the Church, and in such helped build up members of His body.   I have not always been faithful to use those gifts where He has planted me.

His Word says in I Corinthians 3:17 that whatever we do should be done in His name.  That thought really brought me conviction tonight.  I have been praying for years that the Church would rise up and not just go to church, but really be the Church.  I long for the day when the needs of our communities are met not by nonprofits and government subsidies, but by the Church as it was at the beginning of the Church.  I know that it will take every person doing their part, and yet I had to admit if I was honest, I hadn’t been doing my part.  In the world, yes.  In the church, no.  I pause on the brink of action, and yet want others to jump the hurdle.

I reflected on my own life, and I am grateful for those people who answered the call “Here I am Lord.”  Those who share their gifts to build up the Church.  I wonder where I might have ended up if it hadn’t been for the gifts of encouragement shared with a little girl in a messed up home.  Or the gift of teaching that planted God’s Word in a real way so that when I strayed the Holy Spirit would have something to draw me back through.  Or if some had said no to the expression of the gift of mercy, how a homeless mother of three might have taken a different path.  Or if the words spoken through the gift of prophecy over my life had not pulled out what the world had tried to bury in me where I might have gone.  I don’t want to stand in the way or be a hinderance to another who is walking down a path that God has called me to minister to through His gifts, and I know my talents aren’t usually enough.

Are there areas in your life where you rely on your talents and hold back His gifts? How are you investing your talents?  How are you allowing God to grow your gifts? What keeps you from using your gifts to build up the church?  How can you give God your whatever and surrender both your talents and His gifts to be used in Jesus name?

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Pray for more…

Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9:35-39

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People were drawn to the Jesus and the gospel, but there were not laborers to shepherd them. Sheep without a shepherd are prey to many things. I read a book on Psalms 23 about four months back that discusses the many pitfall of sheep without a shepherd. I never realized how much care they need. Some of the things that I remember are they easily go astray because they follow others, they are stubborn, and they are easily distracted. They will also tend to stay in a place to long and starve because they eat up everything. They also need special tending to because it is easy to get stuck upside down if their coats get to heavy. And they are prone to infestations. No wonder God calls us His sheep. And no wonder Jesus was so concerned about all these people following Him and learning but not having a shepherd to tend to their regular needs.

As I read this passage I pictured a surgery. I have never been in surgery, so I sought out a friend who worked in surgery. I asked her who all was in the surgery room, and I was actually surprised by how many people are needed. As we talked a student who is training to be a scrub tech joined our conversation.

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I noticed

I didn’t hear it and it would have been easy to miss it completely with everything else there is to see. A single leaf falling from the tree. I dont know if an animal had knocked it off, or if a wind gust had brought it down. It caught my attention, despite the other leaves on the ground because July is not the time for falling leaves, it is summer!

It silently floated down, gently swaying back and forth as it fell until it finally landed on the ground beneath.  There on the ground, it will eventually die because it is no longer connected to the branch and tree that brought it life.  Did the other leaves notice it’s absence?  Did the branch feel it detach?  Did the  tree feel a piece of itself die?

I am reminded in John 15 of Jesus’s words:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.  John 15:4-6

NoticedWithout disciple, it is easy to slip away from the relationship we have with Christ due to the busyness of life, the distractions of the world, and the competing interests for our attention.  One day passes and turns into two, and then a week, and then we find that months have passed and our relationship with God has faded into the background.  We find ourselves with our backs against the wall and needing His help.  We call out to Him and He answers, but we could have avoided the situation all together if we had just abided with Him continually.

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