The Crushing Times by Lysa Terkeurst

OCTOBER 23, 2014

The Crushing Times LYSA TERKEURST

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

No one wants to have their heart crushed. But being wounded in deep places happens. Sometimes it just seems to be a part of the rhythm of life.

And when these hard times come, we feel it all so very deeply. And we wonder if others have these hard, hard moments. After all, we don’t snap pictures of the crushing times and post them on Instagram.

We just wonder if we have what it takes to survive …

… when the doctor calls and says he needs to talk to me in person about the test results.

… when the teacher sends one of “those” emails about my child.

… when someone I love closes their heart and turns their back on me.

… when I feel so utterly incapable and unable and afraid.

I suspect you know the tear-filled place from which I speak.

So, let’s journey to the olive tree and learn.

To get to the place I want to take you, we must cross the Kidron Valley in Israel.

John 18:1-2 tells us, “When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples” (NIV).

Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.

The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. In this garden is where Jesus, just before his arrest said to Peter, James and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” (Mark 14:34, NIV).

Jesus knew the crushing-heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it.

And I don’t think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in this moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.

The olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.

The crushing times are necessary times.

First, in order to be fruitful the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day.

The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life.

The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit … and so do we. We need both the winds of hardship and winds of relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.

The crushing times are processing times.

Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it this month, its bitterness would make you sick.

For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes: washing, breaking, soaking, sometimes salting, and waiting some more.

It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness.

If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well … the process of being cured.

The crushing times are preservation times.

The final thing I want to consider about the olive is not just how bitter it is, but also how strong and hard it is when picked straight from the tree. If you are harvesting olives for oil, you must pray for a soaking rain to come if you hope to get oil from the olives. It needs a hard rain of at least two to three hours so the water can make it all the way up the roots, through the tree and to the olives.

Then the olives can be picked and preserved.

And the best way to preserve an olive for the long run? Crush it and extract the oil from it.

The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.

But what about our key verse, 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are “pressed … but not crushed”? Let’s read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; …”

This was one of the biggest “aha” moments for me standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn’t the olive’s end.

Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It’s also the way to get what’s most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed … pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.

But here’s the thing I must remember as I think back about my time with the olive tree:

When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.

When I’m being processed, I forget it’s for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.

And when I’m being crushed, I forget it’s for the sake of my preservation.

I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this. Oh, how I forget.

Maybe God knew we all would forget.

And so, He created the olive tree.

Dear Lord, speak to me in whatever way You need to. Whatever part of this is for me personally, may I see, receive and be revived. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:2-4, “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (MSG)

How the **** Do I Hold Onto Hope? In This World???

As you can tell by the title of this article Hope to me and many others I’m assuming seems nearly impossible nowadays and believe me I ask myself this question here and there and unfortunately I’m not so tame about it either. I swear here and certainly think swear words here and there in my mind as well which clearly is not very Christian like behavior or thought process is it? I’m not perfect. Even though I know what Jesus did for me and I know God’s promises like Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”. I hear ya God, I get what you are saying but why the heck do my feelings get out of control and doubt creeps in???? THAT SUCKS!!!! Why can’t we all just accept you and from that moment forward everything is peachy, everything is perfect; nothing to worry about it? Well in hindsight we don’t have anything to worry about BUT tell that to our feelings! Our heart and spirit knows what’s right. It knows what is true but why is it so hard for our feelings to be convinced? So hard to let go of everything and put our faith, our hope, in something written on a piece of paper! Now I know, I’m venting, some might say ranting but I certainly am not the only one who asks these questions. I might not know where I’m going yet with this but I’m sure I will get somewhere by the end of this article. I myself am unwrapping the reasoning behind life’s struggles. I’m NOT in any way trying to give credit or testimony to the bad things or struggles in life. I am however trying to make sense of it all.

When I was Born Again, when I was baptized with the Holy Spirit, then Water Baptized, a part of me thought/wanted to or honestly hoped that “whewww this is it, it’s over”. I accepted Christ, no more struggles, no more doubt, no more problems. I’m saved and that’s it everything is right in the world and I will live happily ever after! Ughhhh boy was I wrong! HAHA Well I knew it was just the beginning but I hoped it would get easier but it didn’t. Again not testifying for Satan, I’m being honest. If anything once you accept Christ, it gets harder, a lot harder! Because now you are actually in the family; God’s family. You put on that armor and you are on the battlefield. Before you were annoying; a little chirper for God, a newsboy of sorts trying to sell God’s advertising to yourself and others when you started coming to see what he has to offer. Now you are a reporter for the newspaper, part of the organization, you’ve been hired to spread the news! You’re in the heat of the story up close and personal on the inside not the outside selling it, you’re behind the spread of it. In other words you are now held more responsible so therefore you are going to face more challenges. Every opposition out there is going to come your way because you are putting them on blast! That is what it’s like when you integrate into the family business, your father’s business, God’s business. You are in it and there is no backing out!

Where am I going with this? Hope is hard. Hope is something that seems impossible to hold onto yet vital to our very survival. Hope is letting go of everything and putting it all on the table for God. It’s going all in in the poker game and taking that chance. Maybe gambling wasn’t the most Christian like example…! It really does feel scary. For our human flesh anyway it feels scary. Let me say this though…what do you have to lose? Putting your hope in God is not the worst thing you can do. It is the best actually. To our human eyes or understanding it seems far fetched and not realistic. Believe me I’ve been there. Doubt likes to do that to us and once you become a Christian it comes on even stronger. That is not to scare you away but what it does do is actually let you know that the harder or more difficult something is to achieve, the more vital or important it really is for you and that you are heading in the right direction. In terms of Hope, what I’m talking about here…good and evil do exist and don’t you think as a Christian you are a target. You are a target for Satan to do everything in this world to keep you away from God, away from a relationship with him, away from his understanding, away from good feelings, and away from reading the Bible, which holds every single answer to all your problems. Why is it so hard for people, myself included sometimes to read the Bible? Distraction miraculously comes in…the phone rings, you get an itch, you think of something else. You honestly don’t think those are just coincidences do you? It’s some other force, an invisible force in this world getting you to turn away from the things that will help you. Now don’t get me wrong we all fall, we are human but the good news is that we don’t have to do it on our own. We all think we do but we don’t. Jesus has our back. Well that’s the hard part sometimes for the realistic. How the heck am I supposed to believe that Jesus has my back in this circumstance? Is he going to come down and appear from the heavens and deliver me from my current problem? It would appear not right? So how do we put our HOPE in him? How do we put our trust in someone or something most of us have never seen? How do we truly hold onto words or promises in the midst of chaos all around us when we feel like we need to do something? We think Hope is taking a backseat and just letting it play out. It’s hard for most of us to not do anything. Well we are not not doing anything. We are doing something and that is changing our mindset. We have to change our thought patterns. We need to think that no matter what comes it is going to turn out okay because God promises For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long”-2 Corinthians 4:17. It seems nearly impossible doesn’t it? If I’m sitting here and anxiety comes over me and I feel trapped and not sure what to do doesn’t it seem like I need something a little more than Hope? You want results and we want them now! People get impatient. People want instant gratification and hey I do to! Wouldn’t that be nice when something happens that I don’t like that I can pause, turn on a switch, and it’s gone! Poof! Well some of us can but it takes practice, it takes faith, it takes hope! I honestly am preaching to myself right here too so don’t think I am some know it all who has all the answers because I’m not. I’m writing about things that I myself need to take into consideration. I need to write this out and grasp these concepts too. I may not have all the answers, actually I do not at all but what I do know is what the word of God says. Do I need to work on increasing my faith? Absolutely! Is it hard? Yes! Am I going to give up because it’s too hard? No! It takes time, it takes practice, and it takes you and God together!

Hope comes from a lot of places. It’s hard when we don’t understand it or want to believe it. It’s literally taking a chance, a chance on God. It comes from the word of God and it sticks by changing your mind set. It’s very hard because your mind is your battlefield. In order to win the victory; which you already have the ultimate victory in the end because of Christ, but I’m talking about the individual battles we go through all the time, we need to apply what we read from the Bible. I myself have had to learn that and still do. I think okay I read my Bible today I did my part as a Christian so let me go hang out with my friends, get drunk and start gossiping. But I’m a Christian…no! HAHA I need to honestly take to heart and apply these principles and truths in my life so I don’t act like a total moron and paint that as the false image of how a Christian should be. Not to mention a representative of Christ…That is not to be confused with putting myself under laws because no law could ever keep me right in the eyes of God no matter how hard I try because I am human. What does work though is changing my actions, changing my attitude, changing my perspectives, and TRYING! God knows when we mean it or are faking it…he knows that I’m going to mess up but he knows that I am trying and that in my heart somewhere even if it is the size of a mustard seed I honestly have a desire and a want to please him.

Now back to Hope! I trailed off a bit and clearly I’m not as grounded as I should be but nowtheless I will continue here. So we hit struggles, we hit troubled times, we think to ourselves this sucks and why should I have hope when my life is falling apart here and it seems like there is no way out? I have no understanding of this whatsoever, confusion has sunk it, and I think I’m in a pit. Well I’ll give you a little tidbit of information to hold onto right now that recently gave me understanding and it comes right from the word of God. When we are thinking we’ve been suffering for so long that we can’t see the light of day and feel so beaten up and wonder what the **** is the point of this? Well this might be your answer: “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” –Romans 5:3-5 Once you get through something don’t you feel stronger? You feel like you can conquer so much more? It sucked and you never want to go back there but you got through it didn’t you? You walk away after that with hope, hope for the future and hope for your future dilemmas and struggles. I don’t hold the answers and I certainly don’t have as much hope as I should sometimes but I am working on it. Then sometimes I forget what I learned and God’s got to bring me back to square one again to get it. It’s easy to forget about God or hope when our lives are going smoothly. We think we don’t need him because our lives are going well. Well maybe just maybe he’s the reason it’s going well so you need to be thankful for those times but also prepared for when your next storm comes because don’t you want him there for it? We are humans and we don’t understand everything that happens to us. It’s just like Job in the Bible, he did nothing wrong. He was the example used by God to prove his loyalty through all the storms and things that came his way and they came all right, just about everything. In the end of that Job weathered through it and God gave him ten times the amount of riches and things he had just because he never lost his faith or hope. God knew how much he could handle and he satisfied God by holding on. Job didn’t know what the heck was going on and neither do we but we need to trust and hope, as hard, confusing, and misleading as life comes at us. I know easier said than done! Believe me I get it. We need to turn to prayer, turn to the Bible, turn to GOD! I’m preaching to myself right here because I’m not perfectly groomed, I’m not the idealistic Christian who knows how to handle everything just right. I need to rely on God and put my hope in him. It’s a working progress but God gets that. He understands and over time I will understand more and more as I go along but I need to carry through. Just like Psalm 23 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and staff, they comfort me”.

I will end with a quick reference or story that I read from a women who puts out daily devotionals. She made the comparison of us Christians to being like olives. She said that the process olives have to go through is quite the process. I’m paraphrasing here but a couple parts really stood out to me. One she talked about how bitter olives really are and that it’s a process to refine the olives and that they have to go through that sanitation process and the process of getting un-bitter to make them more usable and appealing. Doesn’t that sound like us? We need to go through things in life to help us peel away our layers and sweeten us and un-callus our hearts…Then the second thing that really stood out to me and hit home was that you know what is one of the most valued things about olives? The olive oil and preserving that. Well the process of doing that is that you need to crush the olives but not destroy them to produce the fine product within. Oh my goodness! Hello that’s us right there. As unpleasant as that sounds, we need to be crushed, not destroyed to get to our full potentials and values that lie within for us to understand and take something bad and use it as a way to help others. God knows that, God allows that, and works on us. He breaks us down to be used for him by the struggles we go through, the trials, the pains of us, and uses us to speak to or help others. He’s showing his power and glory and using YOU to tell it. Through the process of the crushing he preserves what he is going to use for others. What does he produce out of crushing us? Hope.

The Slavery of Striving by Angela Parlin

OCTOBER 24, 2014

The Slavery of Striving ANGELA PARLIN

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

“Why are you doing all these things?” she asked me over iced tea.

Her boldness startled me. Sure, I had just filled my friend’s ears with my true feelings about the craziness of my life. But I figured I was only doing what everyone else was doing. All the things I had to do.

She could see I was drowning in all sorts of good activities that were taking the joy out of motherhood. I woke up daily with knots in my stomach and struggled through days as a homeschooling mom, shadowed by four little people. I was a hurried, overwhelmed mom who wished life could somehow be different.

To my friend, it was simple. What if you just did less?

I objected immediately. I was already convinced I should have been doing so much more — and performing so much better. But as I considered her question, my yoke became obvious. I realized that in my striving, I was living under a yoke of slavery. I was missing the freedom Jesus came to earth to give me.

In Galatians 5, Paul reminds the believers that Christ came to set us free from the yoke of the Law. Or in other words, freedom from having to follow all the rules perfectly.

Obeying the Law without error was impossible. But before Jesus came, this was how followers of God had to live. Then Jesus removed this heavy burden and provided freedom through His sacrifice on the cross.

Yet, just as freed slaves sometimes ran back to their old masters, the first followers of Jesus were easily deceived into living under the Law again. Slavery was all they knew.

The Apostle Paul knew it would take effort to walk the new way of freedom, to walk in the truth. In our key verse, Paul challenged the church: Stand firm, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by this yoke.

In many ways, my striving resembled theirs. Sure, I wasn’t technically a slave and I didn’t have to worry about keeping the Law. And in my head, I knew I didn’t need to prove my worth to God. But I found myself trying to prove my significance in some way. I lived under imaginary laws and unwritten expectations.

I didn’t even know what those laws were, just that I was bent on keeping or exceeding them. Because I needed to. Or so I thought.

My friend’s direct question that day helped reveal to me I was indeed living under a yoke. I desperately felt the need to prove myself as a mom. I reflected long on that realization and continued to ask why.

Because of Jesus, I don’t need to prove myself anymore. Jesus is enough. His grace alone is sufficient. When God looks at me, He sees His Son. He sees that I am His and He is mine. The more I grasp this truth, the more I’m changed.

Do you know that weight of expectation too? Today the Word of God has good news. Instead of striving, we can rest confidently, standing firm in our freedom, our gift from Jesus.

Stand firm, friends.

Lord, help me live my days centered in this freedom You’ve given me. You did not die for me to remain a slave to perceived expectations or anything else. Thank You for breaking the bars of this yoke. Help me walk as a free woman. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Leviticus 26:13, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.” (NIV)

Romans 6:19, “Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.” (NLT)

Trust God…and Hold On! By Mary Southerland

Trust God … and Hold On! Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Lord, you are my strength and my protection, my safe place in times of trouble (Jeremiah 16:19, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I enjoy movies that have a happy ending. My family constantly teases me about my surreal perspective of movie entertainment, but honestly, life holds enough reality. Why would I want to pay good money to see even more reality made bigger and more frightening on a gigantic movie screen?

When the movie, “The Perfect Storm” was first released, the previews suggested it had a happy ending. I should have known better. But we love the water. Seriously, how bad could it be?

We bought tickets, popcorn, and drinks, found the best seats in the theatre, and prepared to be entertained. Wrong!

Every scene showed tiny boats caught in the grip of frightening waves and fierce winds. I kept waiting for the storm to die down so everyone could go home with a boat full of fish to their anxious families who were confidently waiting for them on dry land.

Crash! Another monstrous wave belted the boat and crew. By the end of the movie, I never wanted to set foot on a boat again. I was exhausted from trying to get everyone home where they would live happily ever after. I was tempted to demand a refund because of false advertising. Believe me, there was definitely no happy ending, but I did come away with a new fascination and deep respect for the sea.

I have a friend who loves to sail. When I asked him if he had ever been caught in a bad storm, he responded, “Many times!” I shook my head in disbelief, concluding that he was obviously a glutton for punishment. Of course, I had to ask, “Then why on earth do you keep sailing?” His answer was profound. “Mary, every sailor knows they will face storms. You just learn what to do when the storm hits. In a severe storm, there is only one thing to do and only one way to survive. You have to put the ship in a certain position – and keep her there.”

The same is true in our lives. When the fierce storms of life overwhelm us, there is only one thing to do if we want to survive. We must position ourselves in the right place – in the hands of God – and He will keep us there until the storm has passed. The comfort of God is faithful and strong – even during the fiercest storms of life.

The words of the psalmist are filled with confidence and hope when he writes, “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:29). We really can trust God to bring peace and to reduce the worst storm to a mere whisper.

Here’s the deal. The faithful provision and sustaining comfort of God at work in our life depends on the character and heart of God and on our willingness to trust Him.

I love my children with all of my heart. Naturally, there are times when they make me very angry. They make wrong choices and sometimes even disappoint me. But if they are hurt, sick, or in trouble, you can bet I will be there! The anger, disappointment, and even disobedience are overruled by my love for them. I have a driving need to comfort them. If my imperfect heart responds to my imperfect children that way, think about how the perfect heart of our heavenly Father responds to us.

Richard Fuller writes: “This, Christian, is what you must do. Sometimes, like Paul, you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies on you. Reason cannot help you. Past experiences give you no light. Only a single course is left. You must stay upon the Lord; and come what may — winds, waves, cross seas, thunder, lightening, frowning rocks, roaring breakers — no matter what, you must lash yourself to the helm and hold fast to your confidence in God’s faithfulness and his everlasting love in Christ Jesus.”

We can face every storm with confidence, knowing that God will redeem it for good. We can trust few things in this life, but God’s faithfulness is one of them. When the hard times come, and the storms roll in, trust God, and hold on. He is with you.

Let’s Pray

Father, I am blown away by Your faithfulness in my life! Forgive me when I let fear and doubt take over my heart and mind instead of choosing to trust You. Give me eyes to see the treasure buried at the heart of every storm, and help me choose to trust You – even when I don’t understand what You are doing! Teach me, Lord. Let my life be an illustration of Your strength perfected in my weakness.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

What Is Generosity & Why Does No One Get It????

Generosity

What is generosity? What exactly is it you might ask? Well the dictionary defines it as “readiness or liberality in giving” or “freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character”. One might expect the first part of the definition, being ready to give and taking the liberty to do so. The second part of the definition might have come as more of a surprise to people. While the first part clearly is a choice, an act you take on, the second part really describes what it means to actually be generous and it uses the word “freedom”. Now that’s an interesting word to me because when you are free from something you are no longer bound to it so in other words; being generous is really at it’s core taking on the choice of goodness because you are not bound to a state of being mean spirited. That might have been the most in-depth breakdown of the word so if I was a parent teaching my child what generosity really is I would say plain and simple: generosity is an expression of love. When you give from your heart out of pure love that’s generosity and that’s what God represents. God is hands down the most generous being to date. Yes I understand this is my personal opinion and that the answer you get when asking this question depends on who you talk to but let me explain why I believe this.

First off God is a generous and loving God. I know I just briefly mentioned the generosity part but I will get into how God not only teaches and speaks of generosity but his actions speak for themselves as an example for us to follow. All throughout scripture it speaks words of generosity that come from God. Anywhere from God’s laws that he gives people straight through to God’s own personal gifts and actions as I’ve mentioned. Some might say laws, how is that generous? Sounds like someone just trying to be bossy and tell us what to do. Well yes, God tells us what to do for good reason, because he knows we need direction and a moral compass to follow. An example of one of God’s laws is this: Lv 19:9,10 “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God”. Now that right there is an example that not only does God want us to prosper yes, but also he wants us to be righteous and generous with the fruit of our labor in which he provided us. He mentions not cleaning out house on the crops and to leave some available for the poor and foreigners who don’t have much. God takes care of our needs and that’s not limited to the rich or privileged that includes everyone no matter who you are because God loves all his children. God provides us with everything and that in itself is generosity. Everything you see in nature and what this world is made of is indeed not only a creation of God but it’s a creation from him to us. He provides for us in all the ways that we need because he knows what we need better than we know what we need. An example of how God provided for us in this world is in Ps 65:9-11, “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level it’s ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.” That verse from Psalms explains how the very way we survive with water and food to the way we are able to grow crops and feed ourselves is truly a gift from God. God created this earth and created it with us in mind to take care of our needs and help us survive and that’s generosity just on a basic needs level. God gives us the tools to survive.

I first explained how God’s laws teach us about how we should be generous and then how he on just even a basic survival level is generous and vital to our very existence. He teaches us by example. Yes he tells us to provide for others, when in reality he provides for us as I just mentioned in the last two examples. In a way it’s a domino effect. He provides for us and gives and he wants us to provide for others and give as well. He wants us to follow his example. Again I tend to get a little too detailed so if I were teaching my child again about generosity and provided and example, I might say plain and simple: sharing is caring! If you really think about it and the first example from Lv 19:9,10, that’s in child’s terms what it means! God wants us to share in all that we have and not be selfish. Just the same, God himself shared with us his creation of this earth and the fruit of his labor, such as the grains and water I mentioned in Ps 65 so bottom line live by example of God!

Okay so I’m going to touch upon generosity in the character of God and Jesus Christ his son. Jesus Christ, God’s only son is probably the best example of generosity that God could show us in his image. The very essence and being of who Jesus is, is generosity. When you look up the word “Generous” in the dictionary, it should just be a picture of Jesus. Let me explain why. Every single thing that Jesus did was to serve others. His very reason on this earth was for us, God’s children. It is written, Co 8:9 “You know the grace that has come to us through our Lord Jesus the Anointed. He set aside His infinite riches and was born into the lowest circumstance so that you may gain great riches through his humble poverty” Oh man! Jesus chose to come as a servant for the people. He was a people’s king. He didn’t come bearing gold and jewels; he came as a humble servant for us. He lowered his very self to get on our level to help us. Now I could name numerous examples from the bible where it is written about the miracles he did, miracles of pure generosity. Jesus healed people of Leprosy, blindness, physical ailments of cripples, demon possession, womanly bleeding, and so much more. Jesus demonstrates generosity on not only a physical and survival level but on a spiritual and eternal level. He came for sinners. He physically healed the sick, would associate with sinners and criminals, and genuinely cared for them. He was humble. He didn’t act like he was above anyone else; he would go where others claimed would be unclean or unholy. He would go against the grain and set an example of what it’s truly like to be generous. He showed unity not separation. He came to heal people and give them eternal life. That’s generosity. I could go all day about Jesus’s generosity but let me close this out with probably the most concrete example of generosity that I can come up with that’s from the bible. It’s probably the most famous verse too. Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” Whoa, what! I mean God sacrificed his son for us. He sent him here to earth to offer us eternal life and had a separation from Jesus (which must have been extremely painful on an emotional level) for him to die, defeat death and give us eternal life. If that’s not generosity then I don’t know what is! God and Jesus sacrificed it all for us. Jesus died for us! Not to mention he was completely innocent. He sacrificed himself for sinners, people who have gone against God in order to give them another chance at redemption, another chance to be with God for all eternity. That’s hands down thee most generous thing. Bottom line God is generosity. He created, he is it and he wants us to use it, become it, show it, and share it. Generosity is God and to be generous is to be like Jesus.

Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder by Tracie Miles

OCTOBER 10, 2014

Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder TRACIE MILES

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

All they saw was a piece of useless junk. But I saw a precious treasure.

Years ago on a cold winter morning, my young children and I were sitting around the kitchen table chatting about the gifts they wanted for Christmas. When my daughter expressed a desire for a new baby doll, memories from long ago came to mind.

I remembered running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to see my new doll sitting in front of the tree. She had big chocolate brown eyes, silky hair and a long ponytail that cascaded down her little pink ruffled dress. But her greatest feature was the cord in her back. When pulled, it wound all the strands of hair back into her head, transforming her long locks into a short bob.

As I shared how beautiful and special this doll was to me, Kaitlyn said, “Awww. I wish we could have seen her.” My eyes lit up with excitement as I shared with them that I still had her! I scurried to the closet, dug out the box and held up the doll with pride, thrilled to share a piece of my childhood with my children.

After a few seconds of awkward silence, Morgan spoke up with child-like honesty: “Mom, she is ugly!”

Then Kaitlyn said sheepishly, “Yeah Mommy. She kind of looks scary.” Little Michael was too stunned for words.

We all shared a laugh, but as I gently tucked my doll back into her box, I caught a glimpse of what they really saw.

They saw an outdated toy covered in scuffmarks with missing eyelashes and oversized bulging eyes. They saw tangled, fuzzy red hair that had been pressed against the side of a box for 30 years and a faded dress that was stained and ripped.

Yet because she was valuable to me, I saw beyond her imperfections. My love alone gave her value, and no one else’s opinions would change that.

As I stood in the aftermath of my kids shunning my doll, my thoughts wandered back to the years I spent questioning my own value — years wondering if the sins of my past or the failures of my present had stolen my value in God’s eyes. Years not realizing how precious I was to Jesus.

Apparently the disciples wondered about these things, too.

In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus knew He and His disciples would soon be judged and persecuted. To calm their fears, He offered encouragement of their worth with the story about sparrows.

In biblical times, sparrows had little value, other than being cheap food for the poor.

Jesus shared with His disciples how God loved the little sparrows, even though they were worthless in the eyes of the world. He assured them God’s love for them was immeasurably more.

Jesus wanted them to understand He saw beyond their imperfections, sins and fears, and beheld them as valuable, no matter what anyone else thought. He loved them simply because they were His. He alone gave them great value.

Like the disciples, Jesus values each of us, no matter what. Nothing we have ever done or endured has lessened our value in Christ.

You see, real value is in the eye of the beholder, and Christ is the Beholder of us all. Our value not only makes us precious to God, but it also makes us usable for amazing purposes in His kingdom that we would have never imagined.

Might you see yourself through His eyes today and embrace who you are because of Whose you are?

Lord, I struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness due to the hardships I have endured and the mistakes I’ve made. Help me see myself through Your eyes and accept how valuable I am in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)