It’s like sugar…

(Deuteronomy 15:7-11) 7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

If you work hard, and you still have very little, it can be truly difficult to give.  Generosity is not always a natural tendency.  It’s hard to let go of hard-earned money and resources, especially when our society tells us that the under-privileged are constantly looking for a handout. 

However, beyond what any media plays into our minds, past all of our fears and misgivings about the intentions of people who say they are in need, we are called to love.  Does love not encompass provision and care in times of hardship?  We are so quick to jump up and fix a meal for our church family member who is sick or the family who has just had a baby.  We readily make pies, cakes, casseroles and whatever else is needed for the church potluck.  We support fundraisers for the youth group and children’s department, and we give toward projects that better our facilities.  Please understand…these things are wonderful and we should continue to support such efforts, but I am also suggesting that it should be just as easy for us to respond to the need of a stranger. 

We can do more.  I can do more. 

In Jefferson County Public Schools alone, there are approximately 7,000 homeless students.  These students rely on SCHOOL to have shelter and food throughout the day.  They are the children who never miss a day because they have the guarantee of a full belly and safety.  I’m sorry, but when did this become the responsibility of the government?  Do we dare even wonder why so many look down on the church when, in the grand scheme of it all, we do so little?

Why do you think so many people were willing to listen to Christ, follow Him, face persecution possibly unto death for Him, and loved Him without question or condition?  It wasn’t because of a beautiful facility He was able to speak in, or because He put on fun social events…it was because He responded to the needs of people who were cast away.  He healed, fed, loved and nurtured the hurt, sick and poor people.  He responded.  If we are to truly be His hands and feet, His representation, His church, then we have to do better.  We can’t worry any longer about tomorrow.  Our faith tells us that tomorrow will worry about itself.

Matthew 6: 38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

It’s like sugar…

This passage always makes me think about when you are using brown sugar in a recipe and you have to pack it down into the measuring cup.  You may be measuring it with the exact same cup that you use to measure white sugar, but that brown sugar is able to be pressed down to the point that it far surpasses the amount of white sugar that you are able to get into that vessel.  When you give, maybe what you are able to do only amounts to a cup of plain white sugar, but if you give it in love and in good faith, expecting the best, God returns that cup with a packed down double blessing.  Just like that brown sugar, He will surprise you by packing your life with a more abundant blessing, and the sweetness of what He has ready to give, you can’t possibly understand. 

And remember…all that you’ve acquired, or hope to obtain…it’s all just stuff that you can’t take with you when you’re gone…stuff that was never truly yours to begin with…so you might as well give a little…or a lot…if you dare.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to have open hands and a softer heart when it comes to those in need.  Give me the opportunity and desire to respond accordingly.  I know that You will never leave me forsaken, as I endeavor to do Your work.  Amen.

“All the things we want are free…”

(1 John 2: 15-17) 15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

There is freedom in simplicity. 

I always thought by now that my life would be much different than it is.  I must admit, I have been guilty of measuring my success by the standards of society, against the “American Dream,” and by what I have seen in the lives of others my age.  I had imagined more kids, a quiet and settled life in a house somewhere on a shaded street, and a general feeling of easiness that I thought (for some reason unbeknownst to me) would come to my life.  I had been lied to by life…by the things that I’d seen and been enticed to dream of for myself…and it took growing (both in age and in spirit) to realize that this particular ideal is not for everyone…

Everything that the world has to offer comes with a price, and it’s up to us to decide (because God is merciful and allows us the freedom of choice), “Am I willing to pay that price?”  The world is full of things that have been white-washed and bedazzled…situations and circumstances that have been made to look like the norm…all of which begin to feel like expectations…and when we are not careful about our intentions and our plans, we begin to desire much more than we are ever able to attain without greatly sacrificing our time, our resources, and our core values.  That same desire then twists our dreams until they morph into pressures and burdens, and we then become oppressed by a distortion of what used to be pure intentions and innocent goals. 

There isn’t anything wrong with working hard to provide nice things for yourself and/or your family, but what can easily happen is, when you become so focused on (and distracted by) perfection and living up to the rest of the world’s standards, you begin to want more and more…and nothing is ever going to be good enough again.  You see, when the things of this world become your ultimate goal and prize, there is no space left in your life for Christ to live and move.  You may have the house, the cars, the gadgets…you may take big vacations and have the grandest Christmases and birthdays…but at what price?  Do you work so hard, at two and three jobs sometimes, just to maintain a way of life that you really can’t afford?  Are you so deep in debt that you can’t ever see a way out of it?  Do you miss out on making memories and spiritual connections with friends and loved ones because you are always going and working?  Do you forfeit your time in worship because your work comes first?  These are questions you absolutely must be asking yourselves.  We have to be honest with ourselves about our intentions…about the what and why of our lives…because much of the time we are paying a much higher price than we should. 

Matthew 6: 33 tells us, Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

I want to encourage you today, if you have been moving at a pace that is unhealthy both physically and spiritually…if you have lost sight of your purpose and God’s will for your family…if you have become beguiled and distracted by what the world has dangled in front of you all of your life, there is always hope…there is always peace…and there is freedom in simplicity.  Scale back financially.  Make time to sit down and truly enjoy your family.  Give as much and as often as you can.  Just slow down!!  And minimize the stuff.  Keep God at the head and the center of your life, and trust Him enough to let Him take the lead.  Let go.

Free

All those memories

Free

Didn’t cost us anything

All the shiny cars, perfect yards

Chasin’ store bought dreams

We work so hard to have it all

When all the things we want are free

– Free by Little Big Town

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I realize that I cannot love both the world and You, so I ask that You would forgive me for setting my sights on excess when I know that as long as I seek You above all else, I have all that I will ever need.  I pray that as I let go of the distractions of the world, and I fix my eyes on You, that You would help me to revel in the sweet, simple things of life that are freely given to me by Your kindness and grace.  Thank You for the freedom of simplicity that is found when I am obedient to You.  Amen.

It’s Just Stuff!

Today’s devotional is written by Liz Baker.

(Psalm 49:16-19 NIV) 16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; 17 for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. 18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed—and people praise you when you prosper—19 they will join those who have gone before them, will never again see the light of life.


Many times in my adult life, I have compared myself to others and their successes. It is very easy to get distracted by the pressure to reach certain benchmarks that society sets for us, and when these achievements are not earned within a given timeframe, that is when worry, comparison, and even panic take over in our minds. We wonder when we will ever be able to buy a home, get a newer car,  or earn a raise at work. I think this is a natural inclination for us, when you consider our culture in America and the imprint that media leaves in our minds. There is intense pressure to prosper financially. In the world of social media, we are presented with the best parts of everyone else’s lives. We see photos of new cars, new houses, beautiful families in new clothes, and exciting vacations. Everything good is made public, and that’s mostly what we see and hear from one another. There is nothing at all wrong with having nice and new things, nor is there anything wrong with sharing our excitement over them with one another. Keep in mind though, that most people hit pot-holes in the road from time to time. We ALL have our lows. So if you are in a ditch broken down with a flat tire, figuratively or literally, don’t fret. Remember that in Him are you complete. Colossians 2:10 says, “and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” Where you are right now, you have been made FULL in Him!

As we approach this beautiful season of rejoicing, Easter, let us remember a few very important things.

  1. Remember that to God we are all the same. In plenty and want, in struggle and prosperity, we are all His children. He loves us, He sees us, and He desires a relationship with us all. 
  2. Remember to collect moments, not things. None of it goes with you when you leave this life, but what you leave behind in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will never end. The seeds of wisdom that you plant now will have an eternal impact on the lives of people for generations to come.
  3. Remember not to worry! Matthew 6: 31-34 says, 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for this reminder that Your hand is upon my life.  Thank you, Lord, that You love me right where I am at in this moment.  Whether I am on top of the hill or down at the bottom struggling through the mud, You love me.  Help me to keep my focus on who You have created me to be and what You have purposed for me to do while I am blessed with life.  I will not allow comparison to steal my joy.  Instead I will be grateful and seek to live a fruitful life, influencing and loving others for Your glory.  Amen.

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