The Cheerfulness of Obedient, Smart Giving

basketWe have an abundance of “smart” electronics these days, don’t we?  Smart phones.  Smart cars.  They weren’t designed to keep us from having to actually be smart, though!  I’m talking today about giving, and how we can give intelligently by giving OBEDIENTLY.

There’s really a difference, you know.  The difference is the fruit that is borne from the seed we sow. Generosity is a noble and wonderful trait (the Bible says for us to be givers!) when it works in tandem with obedience to God.  We should indeed be cheerful and liberal givers; but it’s doubly important that we listen for God’s instructions, because foolish generosity is, well, FOOLISH. The whole of that text says this (I love the Voice Translation of 2 Cor. 9:7): Giving grows out of the heart—otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say “no,” but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that “God loves a cheerful giver.” When our giving is God-directed, it is smart giving; obedient giving which isn’t given for ulterior motives, or given out of guilt or compulsion or a need to just feel good!

A generous parent, for instance, can harm his or her child through excessive giving not tempered by wisdom.  Would you give your child candy for breakfast just because he or she wants it?  Of course not!  But would you breed a materialistic appetite in your child by enabling him or her to get every single thing the child wants, just for the asking?  Do you operate in fear of not being your child’s friend, when in reality, your child needs you to set boundaries, to say no once in a while?  Following God’s direction will keep perfect balance instead of making the child entitled, spoiled, selfish, wasteful.  You can actually TEACH your child by anointed example as you give wisely.  This applies in every area of our lives, not just parenting!  Sometimes we have to say no to ourselves!  I know I sure do!  Read on.

Remember the song, “What a Friend We Have In Jesus?”  Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer…

That familiar verse perfectly sums up our lives when we don’t listen for His voice!  Yes, it’s true.  We’ve gotten used to just asking for things…perhaps we need to return to asking for Him to reveal His will in decisions we are facing.  It even applies to our giving of our time, talent, and treasure. I know all too well what it’s like to give just because it feels good.  The importance however goes beyond my flesh feeling good, and therefore, my motivation must have a higher purpose than gratifying my flesh!

How can one be a selfish giver, you might ask…sounds like an oxymoron!  It’s taken and is still taking time and experience, and also a deeper knowledge of my Lord through intimate relationship, to know that responsibility accompanies our ability to say yes.  My ability to say NO has in times past gotten me into trouble.  Hey Lisa, can you join this club?  Can you go here and do that and can you be available at all hours for anything anyone asks?  Oh yeah…I’ve been so bogged down with to-do’s which I agreed to in order to be a people pleaser.  Then, exhausted, I would find myself bitter at having no downtime, or nothing at all left.  Often, I’ve had not one piece of fruit to show for it, because I didn’t have the courage to say, “I’ll get back to you…I really need to talk to God before I commit to this!”

Well, go back to the passage in the Bible where Saul took the spoils of war after God had specifically told him not to…and then he tried to appease God by sacrificing some of the livestock on altars to justify his disobedience of a direct order!  Talk about insulting God’s omniscience!  The Scriptures tell us that obedience is better than sacrifice.  Saul’s disobedience would eventually cost him his kingdom…even his descendants would suffer consequences because of his foolishness.  We ourselves can undo all the good of our generosity whenever we sidestep what God has already instructed.  Why would we not take the counsel of the One Who actually KNOWS the outcome?  When we have His voice, we already have the inside track to what is going to be a blessing, be blessed, and bear fruit!

Bear in mind, He will sometimes direct us to give when it DOESN’T have that euphoric, how-wonderful-it-feels effect!  Can we respond when there’s a need in our own life?  Can we be as the widow who cooks her last meal for the prophet before there’s evidence we will have enough for ourselves? Don’t stop being generous, for heaven’s sake…but lay your heart and your feelings on the altar and allow Him to direct you to good ground.  Even good ground can’t produce its best yield if you cram the seeds too closely together!  Give your acts of kindness the best chance for a harvest by being sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  Instead of it just being said that you’d give someone the shirt off your back, let it be said that you heard from God and responded with the right thing at the right time!

“In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.”  Proverbs 3:6 (AMP)

The Full Armor of God–in Camo Print

forestOk, you already know I’m a bona-fide hillbilly…so I’m allowing God’s voice to work through me today to share an interesting perspective with you.  Tough country girls will automatically feel a kindred-ness, and you guys will appreciate a teaching moment geared up in manly camo print that opens up the Scripture to another level.  Isn’t He awesome?  He brings the Word to where we are, and like the parables of Jesus, the Word always is relevant.

Here in the rural hills of West Virginia where I live, you don’t have very many straight lines of vision.  The hills are nestled close together and they often hide entire communities from one another.  A destination which is only a mile or two by the way the crow flies may translate into 15 or 20 miles of winding travel; or if on foot, a heart-pounding hike to climb over that mountain. That’s so like life, isn’t it?

Sometimes there are no roads to your destiny.  Very often, I forget that there’s anything beyond that hill which closely faces my office window, when in fact a whole world is out there past my line of sight. In my spirit life, I often have to put effort into seeing beyond the obstructions of the moment as well.  Did you know that you have an awesome destiny, even though you may not see it at the moment?  It’s there…in the dark, behind the curtain, around the corner, over the hill, across the swamp, through the tangled vines of present hindrances.  And I want to remind you that God is timing it all to  intersect with the precise opening of that portal to your life’s purpose.  You have permission, then, even an obligation, to occupy until He comes!  Not just occupying until He returns to get us; but occupying while you wait for Him to swoosh away the busy-ness of your present circumstances to reveal what you’ve waited your whole life to come into. 

I’m occupying, too.  In other seasons, I occupied as a caregiver to a sick or injured loved one.  I’ve occupied while dealing with large-scale personal problems; and I’ve occupied (sometimes bravely, others, not so much) in the place of lack, illness, uncertainty, depression, even despair.  I’ve occupied in the place of giving so much to benefit other people that I had nothing at all left for myself, my dreams, or my revelation of God’s life plan for me.  I’ve even occupied while reaping the tares of poor choices and deliberate sin.  And then there’s the present–the pesky tyranny of the urgent.  Those nagging unfinished tasks which are piled up in stacks all around me, which threaten to swallow up any time I might have to come into God’s true purpose for my life.

Honestly, even now, I can go days at a time without even considering that there is more to life than my present circumstances–a life with a view.  And I know I’m losing my foothold when those circumstances cause me to become sullen, ungrateful, and shallow.  I need to climb higher.  I need to turn down the volume of the world so that I can listen for His voice.  I need to draw from His Word strength and faith…that substance of things hoped for, that evidence of what I can’t yet see in the natural.

Perhaps you, too, are facing your own obstruction.  There’s a tree across the path.  A swollen river raging between you and God’s best for you.  The enemy has built a spite fence which makes the real estate of your life seem devalued and undesirable.  You can’t see any farther than the exhaustion of today’s schedule.  The forecast for tomorrow and next week still calls for fog, fog, and more fog.   And I’m urging you, just as I urge myself–DON’T GIVE UP!  Your destiny is STILL THERE!

I further encourage you to understand that (God’s just teaching me this as I write these words) there is a difference between OCCUPYING and being OCCUPIED.  One involves being deliberate, with a goal.  The other suggests surrender to “the inevitable,” and a sense of futility toward hope and the season of new beginnings beyond our view.  Occupying requires faith.  Being occupied, conversely, requires nothing.  Occupying says, “Yes, Lord, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Even this wilderness place in my life will lead toward a season of blessing and abundance.”  Being occupied just causes us to sigh with frustration and say, “What a waste.  This is not the life I hoped for.  I guess whatever will be, will be.  I’m such a loser.”

THERE IS HOPE, but it’s going to involve some forward thinking and action on your part!  We usually think of the whole armor of God as merely the implements of hand to hand combat; but I challenge you to put it on as WILDERNESS GEAR today!

Put on that Kevlar vest of righteousness to protect you from sharp protrusions as you cut your way through the dense forest.   Proverbs says we are to guard our hearts with all diligence, because out of the heart flows the issues of life.  That heart can’t pump life through the body if it has been pierced.  So we pray, “Father, keep my heart pure, whole, and free from injury as I put on Your righteousness.  The sharpness of my circumstances will not cause the life to leak out of me, for your righteousness guards my vulnerabilities.”

Next, don those Rocky boots (smile) of the preparation of the Gospel of peace.  Peace will protect our feet wherever we go, no matter how rough the terrain.  We don’t go hiking in flip-flops, but we choose sturdy protection for our foundation.  “Father, I prepare myself for traveling through this world in which I don’t belong!  I put on the rugged footwear of peace.  Peace will not allow my surroundings to cripple me.  Peace will allow me to tread on the enemy’s head without getting bitten.  Peace will tromp down the weeds and even leave a path for others to follow.”

Grab up the shield of faith!  And though a shield is typically a full-body implement, I’m going to specify an area we need to protect while moving, and that is the eyes.  “Father, we don’t gauge our lives by what is seen, but what is unseen.  We put on the goggles of FAITH.  Faith will keep us from being blinded.  It will allow us to traverse through dark places, storms of life, and it guard our vision from sudden and unexpected projectiles.  We will see through the lens of YOUR WORD and not the vulnerable sight of our flesh.” Another aspect of a shield, in certain settings, is camouflage.  We are hidden in Christ…so our faith can serve as a shelter not obvious to the enemy.  Faith is our stealth covering.  We can see out, but the enemy can’t see in!  Faith that comes out through our confession hides from Satan when we feel afraid.

Put on the helmet of salvation…or in the case of a wilderness traveler, your HAT.  Headgear accomplishes a lot.  It protects the head from falling objects, insects, it protects us from the burning rays of the sun, and it even helps us to see better in many situations.  Salvation is the best thing you can do for your head–specifically your brain.  Since you need your head for the rest of your body to work correctly, know that a God-controlled life will set you up for right decisions.  The devil doesn’t just attack you from underneath.  He likes to ambush you from a higher elevation, too. But your helmet of salvation will deflect all the debris he tries to rain down on you!  “Father, I put on Your helmet of salvation.  My relationship with You keeps my head straight.  Salvation is my thinking cap, my hard hat, my visor, and my protector.  My soul will not have dominion over my spirit man because Your salvation allows my thoughts to align with what Your Word says.  It keeps the devil from getting into my head.  Thank you that not only is my heart protected, but my head, too!”

Don’t set out on your trek without the sword of the Spirit.  Outdoor outfitters know that a blade is essential survival gear.  Whether you’re using it to cut through the thick brush, or to chop down branches to make a shelter, in self defense from a predator, or your to kill, clean, dress, and cut up your food, it’s unimaginable to be stuck out in the elements without one.  The Word of God and His Holy Spirit accomplishes this in your life–so don’t be caught without Him!  He enables you to move forward, to build, to be not just on the defense but also the offensive.  His Holy Spirit is your comforter, and prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies!  His Word demolishes thoughts contrary to His will.  When you have it in your heart, it will keep you from sin.  “Father, I receive Your Holy Spirit and I purpose to digest and be nourished by Your Word.  Your Spirit, revealed through Your Word, is my weapon against the onslaught of evil; and as blades go, You are my “Swiss Army Knife” of tools for survival all in one.  Whatever I need in the moment, You are to me; and right now, I need the compass of Your Word to lead me in the right direction.  Thank You that all these things are part of Your provision.  You empower me not only to survive, but to be effective and to help others make it through as well.  I am bold.  I am strong in the Lord and the power of Your Might because I allow Your Holy Spirit to reign in me now.  I allow Your Word to govern my thought life and to be the final authority on all my life decisions.  Even death itself has no place to rob me of hope, because I am clothed in and armed with Your gear!’

You are not alone today, friend, and you are not defenseless as you forge through the circumstances you’re facing.  Perhaps you’re like me–more of a “redneck hillbilly” instead of a medieval knight of war–but our need is the same.  We need protection and we need to keep moving forward.  What you cannot see today, “the forest for the trees,” you will see clearly a little farther on the journey; but you’ve got to move.  Rest, regain your strength, but never lose awareness that a journey involves continual movement and change.  And since you are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), He is orchestrating ultimate good for you in spite of the mud, the weeds, the thick brush, the sharp rocks, and the walls you may be encountering.  Know that this journey ends well!  Be strengthened today as you meditate on His goodness…