Challenge 62: Give in the New Year

Giving

After opening more than ½ dozen Christmas gifts from that many family members, my 5 year old wanted to know “When are we going to get some more?” and my 4 year old asked “Where’s my train?” And I was stunned at their rude audacity, ungrateful sons of mine acting like they ain’t been taught nothing good about giving and receiving! Even though we teach them throughout the year and did so right before they could open gifts, we witnessed their ingratitude about some gifts they received and their insatiability. They didn’t always say thank you and the two youngest were looking for more, though they hadn’t even played with what they got. Seeing my 4 and 5 year olds forget their manners, which really is a reflection of their hearts, showed me just how important our continual teaching about giving is. And the lesson is for adults, too.

Children are still learning to withhold their expression of inappropriate dissatisfaction, and many of those children become adults who have yet to learn this. But some of us adults cover up for others our ingratitude, but God still sees our hearts. I want you to ask the Lord to search your heart to show you where change needs to take place regarding your giving. Some of us already know we have a tendency to be selfish but have yet to take steps to give as God gave. We know that Jesus tells us to follow His example and when we do, we are obeying the two greatest commandments—to love God and to love others as ourselves. Because Soul Delights aims to help you have a healthy body and soul—mind, will and emotions—I am sharing what I shared with the children before allowing them to open their gifts. As the message came to me, I was also convicted about what I need to do, not just during Christmas but for every day of my life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life: (John 3:16).

John 3:16 is the Christmas season verse because it speaks of God the Father’s great love for humankind demonstrated by sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sin. God sent a part of Himself—God in the flesh—to be the perfect sacrifice that was required to atone for our sin. He gave the world Jesus. John 3:16 is the reason for the Christmas season and every season of our lives. This verse teaches us the importance of giving, a lesson that we all need to continually embrace.

Give to others—God gave the world the best that heaven had. God the Son came to earth—Jesus, God in the flesh—so that those who put their faith in Him might have eternal life. Though too many of us look to what satisfies us right on earth, we forget (or don’t know) that the afterlife is eternity and we need to focus on the blessing of being able to be with God for eternity. We may have already confessed our belief in Jesus, but our actions fail to show our belief. Often we fail to give the gospel of Jesus Christ to others so they too might have eternal life with Jesus. Even before giving folks the gospel, we need to give them our time, talent and treasure as sacrifices that display our love for them. These possessions, precious commodities to us, are our best, and we are required to give our best.

Give up for others—Sometimes it’s hard to give our best to others because we have yet to give up something for others. Some of us need to give up an attitude that says, “They don’t deserve this.” We may need to give up the feeling of “I don’t want to do this.” And then there are those of us who need to give up our rigid schedule so we can give to others. I find that my bad attitude, selfish desire or uncompromising time usually prevails when I don’t keep in the forefront of my mind Jesus’ sacrifice of being born to die. When I fail to have Jesus’ sacrifice in the forefront of my mind, constantly there to remind me of just how greatly He gave and that nothing I have to give even compares, my attitude warms, my feeling diminishes and my schedule changes. I give up so I can give to.

Give in to God—Sometimes we have a bad attitude or desire or an unwillingness to change our schedule to hold our ground against someone who may have hurt us, used us or otherwise did us wrong. We have vowed to never give them (or, sometimes, anyone else) another chance to do what they did to us. The person may be out of our lives, but we still cling to what we believe will shield us from pain. Now our not giving to others because we won’t give up for others has solely become a fight against God. Our vow now determines our interactions instead of the Holy Spirit determining our interactions. We are now fighting against what God wants and holding fast to our desires. Fighting against others is tough, but there is no match when we fight against God. It’s inevitable that we give in. We must surrender to God’s will, knowing that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). He can mend our broken hearts and free our captive minds so we don’t obsess about what might happen to us (Isaiah 61:1-3). When we give in, we can give up and we can give to.

As we wind down 2013 and look for abundance in 2014, let us give to others after we give up for others and give in to Jesus. He is the reason for the seasons, every one in our lives.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week identify what you need to give up and how you need to give in so that you can give to others. This process is a radical act of love toward others and yourself. Happy New Year and may 2014 be filled with radical acts of love.

Challenge 61: Tell Others What They Need to Hear

This video just warms my heart. It’s a great example of the love that Jesus had for us—veiling His glory to come to earth as a man and to die on the cross for our sins. Dying on the cross took courage and we too need to be like Jesus, be like these carolers, and have courage to tell others about our living Savior, the one we celebrate on Christmas. I hope you enjoy this radical act of love and are encouraged to love in the same vein. Merry Christmas!

Challenge 60: Know Your Limit

boundaries
This past month I have been doing a self check to see how I’m faring spiritually and emotionally. Periodic self checks are normal for me, always making sure that I am staying within the boundaries God has given me. My priorities are intimate time talking with God and being in His word; serving my family (my husband and children above all); and then fulfilling my ministry call of Christian discipleship and nutritional health and healing. After making my assessments I have concluded that I have stepped outside of the lines. I know have not remained in my bounds because though I haven’t been really physically tired I have been emotionally drained. I am an action person so when I see a need and believe I can fulfill it I often want to, and do, quickly meet others’ needs. Usually I am good with knowing when I’ve done too much. This time I was a little late. Now I feel like I want to hole up, turn off the phone and simply sit and stare one way from now on. But I know I can’t do that, and when you feel overwhelmed, you can’t either. We have to have our priorities in order so we can continually have the capacity to love others as God commands. To help us remain within our boundaries, I want to share with you what I typically do and what God reminded me that I have been telling others but haven’t done myself:

Self care is essential—We must have regularly scheduled time for ourselves. I have written how daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual getaways are important to my well being. Think of the places you like to go, the activities you like to engage in, and the people who pour into you, and make sure you are connecting with these on a regular basis. Your favorite places, activities and people will refresh you physically, spiritually and emotionally. When you are refreshed, you are refueled and have some fuel to give and some to keep for you.

Warfare is a mustLast week I wrote how Ephesians lays out spiritual warfare strategies for us to share with others and to employ ourselves. As an act of daily war against falling outside of your boundaries, use these strategies: Remember who you are; remember what you are called to do; remember who God is and what He has done for you; and remember to have others praying for you. When you remember who you are and what you are called to do, you can quickly recognize when you are trying to be someone you’re not nor do something you’re not meant to do. If you aren’t clear, say because the activity falls within what you are called to do, this is when you must remember who God is. He will give you direction about the season for the activity or perhaps tell you that activity is for someone else to do. We must remember that we aren’t called to do every activity that falls within our calling. Others have been similarly called. Some of the work is for them. We must know the difference.

When you care for yourself—without guilt—and war for yourself, you are engaging in necessary parts of loving others. God tells us to “love our neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). When we properly love ourselves, we can properly love others. If we are consistently loving others and neglecting ourselves we are imbalanced. Care for yourself. War for yourself. Get in balance and stay.

Take a Risk Challenge: If you don’t already have one, develop a self care strategy. Also engage in the Ephesians spiritual warfare strategies. When you care and war for yourself you indeed are equipped to show radical love to others.

Challenge 59: War for Others

spiritual_warfare

You may recall that in last week’s post I mentioned helping others who are in the greatest battles of their lives. Their battles have been so intense—outside of my natural ability to assist—I had to do what I should always do when in spiritual battle: Call on the Lord. He answered me, as He is so faithful to do, and gave me what to do in every situation. Each person knew that the Spirit of the Lord was ministering to her and not me. As I have continued to pray for those in great need, God revealed a weaponry arsenal in Ephesians after telling me to study the book to uncover “Ways to War.” I thought that naturally He would have me begin in Chapter 6 where we find the armor of God, but He led me to begin in Chapter 1. I just finished Chapter 1 and am excited about the nuggets I received. So today, though my Ephesians study is far from over, I want to share with you ways to war, on behalf of others and, of course, for yourself.

Tell others (and you must):

Remember who you are!—Paul immediately announces his name and title, suggesting who he is, which includes one who belongs to God (Ephesians 1:1). When you belong to God, there are certain family privileges that you receive. You can talk directly to the Father (Ephesians 2:13-18). You can expect that God will answer you (Psalm 34:17). You have access to comfort right inside of you (John 14:16-18). You can expect that God will take care of you (Psalm 34:18-19). He said He would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Of course, there are many more, but these are the few that come to mind.

Remember what you are called to do!—Paul knew that God called him to minister the gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles and this letter to the Ephesians (1:1). When you focus on what you are called to do, your focus shifts from what’s weighing you down to what lifts others’ up. God has ordained for every believer to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). When you are doing God’s will, you are drawing close to Him and He is drawing close to you (James 4:8). When you are closer to God you are resisting the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

Remember who God is and what He has done for you!—The majority of this letter is reminding the Ephesians of who God is and what He has done (vv. 3-13, 17-23). When you remember that God is the one who blesses believers with all spiritual blessings and that He has adopted us as His children because it pleased Him to do so, you know that He can do what He has done before because the Lord is the “same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Remember to have others praying for you!—Paul told the Ephesians when he heard of their faith in Jesus and their love of the saints, he prayed continuously for them. His wasn’t just an ordinary prayer of “Lord, bless them,” but was specific to what he knew they would need to continue to have strong faith and continue to love the saints. A major prayer was for the Lord to give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” When you have wisdom that comes from God you will receive an unveiling of who God is (Isaiah 11:2-3). When you have the knowledge and understanding of who God is you will have greater faith in Him and know what He has in store for you, what He wants you to do and how He wants you to do it. Having others pray for you fortifies your soul and spirit, brings you healing and manifestation (Ephesians 5:16).

These are the methods to use when in warfare, which essentially is at all times for the “devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8-NKJV). In order to resist the devil so he flees from us on a daily basis, we can use the above weapons. But when the warfare gets thick for others, we can love them by warring on their behalf. We can speak life to them by reminding them of who they are, what they are called to do, who God is and what God has done for them and by praying for them. Going beyond ourselves to use our spiritual weaponry for others truly is a radical act of love.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week war on behalf of others by using the methods above, knowing victory can be theirs through your obedience to spiritual warfare, a radical act of love.

Challenge 58: Love in Your Weakness

When you have nothing to give, go to the One who never exhausts in His giving. This is what I always have to remember when I am constantly relied upon to help those in need and I have few clues, none at times, about how to help them. My cluelessness was magnified these past five days. In the midst of giving thanks for my loving husband and children, harmony at this year’s holiday gathering and a personal life of peace and tranquility, I have collided with others’ truths—their not so thankful days of marital challenges, financial struggles and physical and emotional woes. They needed a word, direction, some type of comfort, and I knew I had nothing to give. But God tells the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak, and when the strong get weak, we have to let God bear our infirmities:

“’….My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” 2 Corinthians 12:9).

We always need the power of Christ to work through us, so weakness (like being clueless when others are looking to you for clues) is actually a gift. And without fail I remember this when called upon to support hurting wives and those on the verge of giving up on life. I have nothing. God has everything and when I look to Him for His power, his grace—that divine empowerment to do what I ordinarily can’t do—I am imbued with the Lord’s wisdom to know when to mourn with those who mourn; preach the word of God when I should, and “patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage others with good teaching” (Romans 12:15 and 2 Timothy 4:2). When I know that God is my strength, I can “be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not” (2 Timothy 4:2). I can best bear the infirmities of the weak when I am weak. This is the best way to love others who are in need.

Take a Risk Challenge: Be okay with not knowing how to help others, knowing that the One who knows will give you just what to do and what to say. Your weakness truly positions you to love others in a radical way.