The Grace Feeder

Titmouse on birdfeederBut to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name— John 1:12 (AMP)

I’m fairly sure that this past year hasn’t brought more species of birds to my area than what were already here, but it seems as if it has.  The difference between then and now is my personal interest in them.

Back in the winter, I bought a window-mount bird feeder and suet basket.  I’d already been feeding hummingbirds for a couple years in the summer; but the cold weather and relentless snow caused me to feel pity for the non-migrating birds and early arrivals whose meager food was far beneath the white ground.  The tree limbs and bushes were looking alarmingly bare, too.  It took a few days for them to discover this little feeding station; but once they did, they became daily regulars.

And so began my keen awareness of each kind.  Before long, there were more than the familiar robins, blue jays, cardinals, and sparrows.  Now there were cowbirds, blue-crested titmice, chickadees, finches, meadowlarks, swallows, and many others.  It wasn’t enough for me to know they were coming; I wanted to know what they were, what they liked to eat.  I took responsibility for keeping that feeder full of what is good for them. I Google-searched their descriptions so that when one came to the feeder, I would know it by name!  Even the family of gray doves who’ve lived here in the woods behind our house for the past several years began to drop by.  They of course didn’t light on the bird feeder, but politely waited for the others to knock seeds out and down to them.

And as I mused these things this morning, I thought of how blessed we are when, after accepting Jesus as our Savior, we become adopted into God’s family as real sons and daughters, joint-heirs with Christ.  We are all God’s creation; but until we accept relationship with Him, we are not yet all His children.  The same gift of eternal life is out there, made equally available to all who will receive it; but we must make the choice to do so.

While God cares for all of His creation, and longs for relationship with all of us, there are so many more blessings in store for those of us who respond to His calling.  Even those who do not accept Him are blessed daily.  He gives all of us sunshine, rain, food, life.  He gives those things anyway, out of His sheer goodness, knowing that many of those whom He blesses will still reject Him.

To those who do receive Him, however, we receive the privileges afforded with sonship even beyond eternal life.  He becomes fully vested in our lives.  He knows what we like, what our secret longings are, how to bring out the very best of the potential He birthed in us.  He begins to work all things toward our good.  He burns the dross out of our lives and makes us pure.  He prunes our branches so that we can be even more fruitful.  He makes Himself readily available to walk with us, not just in the cool of the day, but in the heat, the storms, the long nights as well.  He reminds us that, no matter what, He is with us and will never leave!  Like those birds who have chosen to come to my feeder, we come to God through pure grace.  Those birds have nothing in particular to offer me in return. They can’t help me with my housework or pay my bills.   If anything, they cost me.  I’ll be buying more feed and cleaning away messes they make; but it is my joy to bless those who will come and eat.  There’s nothing we humans could ever do to merit God’s grace.  We just have to accept it freely and know that it’s His goodness rather than what we have done.  He delights in His ability to give us what we cannot earn!

I don’t know about you, friend, but I want to know Him…and Him to know me!  I don’t want to just catch the incidental blessings He makes generally available to all of creation; I want to be treated with the distinction of being a cherished daughter.  He has agreed to be responsible for me; to always be with me both now and throughout eternity.  I want that, and through Jesus, I have that.  You can, too!

Pray with me:  “Jesus, I don’t enjoy being alone in this life.  I know that I have been blessed even though I don’t yet call myself a Christian…but my life is still empty and not the best it can be.  I’m told that relationship with You will be the element that completes what is missing.  I need that void to be filled, not with the destructive or vain things I’ve pursued which have left me disappointed; but evidently, I need for You to fill that empty part of me.  Please forgive me of the wrong things I’ve done.  I have sinned, and even my best attempts at being good haven’t made me worthy of God’s gift of eternal life.  The Bible says that You are the way, the truth, and the life, and that I must come to God through You.  I receive You now as my Lord and Savior.  Thank You for enduring the suffering of the cross, for being the sacrifice for my sins, and for raising from the dead to be my advocate before God.  I don’t yet fully understand what it means to have you as that go-between, that mediator, but I am so glad that You plead my case before Your Father.  Make me Your adopted sibling.  Wash away my sins and clean up my heart and life.  May Your Father also be my Father, too, now and forever more.  I receive eternal life through You, and I receive the favor that Your grace has bought for me.  I will not go by my feelings, but I will always take You at Your Word!  Teach me, surround me with those who will help me, and please make me someone who makes a difference in the lives of others.  I am Yours to transform, and I thank You for the promise to never leave me!  I am no longer alone!” 

Displaced Horsepower

cart-horse“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33 AMP)

My devotional today is about timing, right priorities, and obedience. How many times do we get ourselves into trouble by short-cutting the process of our various aspects of living? I could list some of mine, but you’d get tired of reading about ¼ of the way through. I’d venture to say that a huge proportion of the troubles in our world have to do with lack of balance, impatience, and rebellion! The speeding ticket. The unsurmountable credit card debt. The impulse buy. The whirlwind relationship. Keeping up with the Joneses. The need for power. The addiction for material things. The uncontrolled temper. Selfishness. Am I coming anywhere close to your challenges?

We will never be put to shame if we follow God’s recipe for living. With Him at the top of our priorities pyramid, we will live within the healthy parameters of our bodies, souls, and spirits. His Scriptural instructions to us aren’t meant just to keep us under His thumbnail; as the Master Designer of all things, God already knows the boundaries of each created being. He has seen every scenario before it has had time to play out. He knows the point of failure, but He also knows the point of profound success! He knows exactly how to get you to the place of joy, peace, and overflowing blessing…and He is thrilled to share that information with you if you will hear Him and obey. Are you listening and following; or, have you crowded Him out and turned the volume up on other affections so that His voice is lost in all the drama and disarray you’ve allowed into your personal space?

Kids love “cheat instructions” on video games, but we are not kids. God’s plan isn’t to cheat us around the pathway to becoming the best version of ourselves; however, obedience to His will and His Word will feel like a shortcut compared to the harrowing, long detour we have to take when we follow our own inclinations and inevitably fail. Think of various places in the Bible where it was said a variation of, “And everyone did whatever he or she wanted.” Instead of us becoming more successful, more healthy, more benevolent, humankind becomes increasingly depraved. That expression, “follow your heart?” Don’t trust your heart! It will LIE to you! Rebellion against God’s proper order and timing can even cause something which is not created to be a sin to become a sin, such as sex outside the right boundaries of marriage.

I challenge you to sit and take an honest assessment of your life, as I am doing of mine. Are you piled high with regrettable decisions and utter chaos? It’s a good indicator that you’ve followed any and everything your flesh has suggested to you. King Solomon, so full of wisdom and yet so full of fleshly longings, ran the gamut of every pleasure and every pursuit. He denied himself nothing because he had the means to acquire whatever he wanted. Gushing with excess and finding nothing but emptiness after each new toy, trinket, project, investment, and relationship, he finally concluded in hindsight—as an older man—that to fear God and to keep His commandments is our entire reason for existence. In Ecclesiastes we see that the wise man gave himself over to backslidings in the “middle” of his life and, only after enduring sin’s consequence, concluded that the right way IS the right way.  Imagine what he could have achieved if he’d chosen to remain obedient to God?  How much peace and prosperity would his nation have enjoyed had he not compromised what he knew to be true?  Instead of co-existing with utter darkness, he could’ve spared generations and generations of his posterity from the curse of idolatry.  I don’t doubt that old man Solomon looked back with regret for the wasted years…

What causes us to feel so entitled about “having it all?” We can’t do it! We just can’t. If we GET it all, we may find ourselves emptier than ever; and like a horse pushing a buggy, realize that we have been doing everything the hard way. We want so badly to be recognized for all our hard work, our ambitions, our success, our education, our wealth, that we forget it really isn’t ours at all! Not in the sense of eternity. All that labor, that striving to get what we want in life, left behind as our spirit departs either to an eternal reward or eternal suffering.   And yes, even believers in Christ can have very, very out-of-balance lives. We can still make it to heaven when we die, but what goes with us? Are there others we’ve helped to follow God and to have rich relationship with Him, or will we cross over the threshold having never influenced the lost or shared the good news?

Remember this: when you put your life in its proper priority, you share in God’s perfect alignment of circumstances. You carry His favor into your everyday life. You exhibit His nature, and your relationships will thrive. You will rest from your labor and He will bring to pass whatever you couldn’t achieve through years and years of chasing your own rainbows. If you are all about others knowing how hard you worked to get where you are, that will be your only real reward: bragging rights. If you freely acknowledge that God has enabled you to become that champion, you will see a miraculous change in proportion to your obedience to Him! You will gain recognition or promotion or talent that you did not earn! I’ve seen it time and again in my own life…underachiever by many folks’ standards, but God has given me abilities that I didn’t have to practice to gain, didn’t go to school to learn, didn’t run in the “right circles” of influence to receive.  And yes, I am still having to choose daily to follow His lead instead of my own thing.

Put Him first today. Whatever you have to set aside in order to begin and end your day in His presence, do it. Talking to Him will set the course for the rest of those upcoming moments of your life. Listening to Him will keep you from wasted efforts, failed relationships, and forfeited opportunities. Obeying Him will put the cart where it’s logically designed to be positioned—BEHIND the horse!

“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3 AMP)