Giving Our Best

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord”

Colossians 3:23

“He’s got a piece of my heart,” we say. “Do you want a piece of me?” we ask the confronter. Throughout the day, our schedules are divided into pieces: a half an hour block here, fifteen minutes there. For many of us, it sometimes feels like life is in pieces.

As John Stonestreet once said: “we do not have lives, but life.” One life. One heart, one mouth, one schedule that we can live out at once.

How, when we divide our lives into pieces in our minds and hearts, can we at the same time work with all our hearts for God? Or love Him with our whole heart, whole mind, and whole soul? We don’t often seem to recognize the whole of any of these.

Without that recognition, how can we give God our best? How do we even know what our best is?

All of the Scriptural statements about giving the best, flawless lambs (and other awe-worthy sacrifices) always frustrate me. I’ve never seen a flawless thing in my life. But my eyes are corrupt. My understanding is, too. Surely there was some standard in those Old Testament days. And there is now. Under the law of freedom in Christ as redeemed, adopted people…

The best we have to give is that which God has given us.

He has called His gifts to us good and He is the standard of good! What better to give Him than what He has declared good?

That sounds a little more feasible, doesn’t it? He never asks the impossible of us. The charge to do all to the glory of God is not there to show us how we fail, but how He succeeds in working with us, on us, and through us.

Invite God into every part and piece of your heart and your day. Ask Him into the moments you struggle and the moments of joy and praise. Offer Him the work before you so that it can be His- it will be better than what you could do on your own.

Share with Him all those pieces that He says will be made whole, and they can be wholly His and for His glory.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory

 

The Kindness Kind of Fruit

Among the many fruits listed in Galatian 5:22, kindness is one that often seems to be overlooked. Patience? We’re glad to pray for more of that. Love, joy, faithfulness? Who doesn’t need more of those in their life? But kindness…kind of seems to encompass all these.

How would you explain being kind to someone? Being nice by being patient or giving? To tell someone what kindness looks like kind of means describing all of those other fruits again.

But kindness is distinct, as each of the fruits of the Spirit are. Kindness has a quality of its own that sets it apart as a fruit with its own taste and purpose.

Not just being patient, but cheerfully so.

Not just loving, but warmly caring.

Not just joyous, but delighting beyond oneself.

Not just faithful, but concerned with others’ qualities, needs, and desires.

Scripture’s word for kindness, “chréstotés,” is understood as Spirit-produced goodness. It is not tainted by self-gain or the cruelty of sinful nature. Rather, kindness in its true form is something purely given by God according to His will and character. The definition of being kind as a fruit of the Spirit includes meeting “real needs, in God’s way, in God’s timing.

Little is sweeter than that. The right word at the right moment. The cheerful, caring gift that furthers the work of the Lord in someone’s heart. That’s kindness.

And its fruit we ought to ask the Lord to produce in us. More than our niceness or our own sin-hybrid versions of fruit, Sprit-produced kindness tastes sweet. Its nourishment provides energy and hydrates our thirsting souls.

Ask the Lord, as He shows you His kindness, to tend to your heart that you kindness might be something you can pass on as well.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

What Hope Can a Broken Heart offer?

How can our brokenness be useful to others? Offering our broken hearts to the Lord as a sacrifice and a praise is one thing. But, giving ourselves to others when we’re messy and vulnerable is another.

Though we shouldn’t recklessly hand over the reins to our heart or carelessly welcome anyone’s influence into to our hurts, there is a place for being broken among people. Scripture allows for this, explicitly and implicitly:

“Mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” –Romans 12:15-16

We are to share in other’s sufferings and grief. At the same time, sharing even in Christ’s sufferings, we are to be those who mourn and who need others to mourn alongside us. That’s part of living in harmony. According to Christ, it’s part of living in this world:

“In this world you will have trouble.”John 16:33

Recognizing that fact and admitting to broken-heartedness is part of witnessing to others, Christian and unbelieving alike.

Unfortunately, there are two lies we believe that stop us from living and proclaiming Him to others even when we’re a mess.

The lies?

  1. To make anyone want the Gospel, we have to make it attractive by having it all together.
  2. No one else will understand anyway. Our comfort isn’t in this world.

Half-truths are deceptive lies, aren’t they? That anyone understands, and cares, and has been messy and broken and vulnerable –that’s what we need to hear. That’s what the unsaved and the struggling believer needs to know before they can live the end of John 16:33:

But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Living as those who know that He has overcome the world, our brokenness is a testimony to the Lord and to the realities of this world that many people deny. It means that in our brokenness, we still have hope to offer because:

  • We can be broken but not destroyed.
  • Our brokenness does not cause us to be useless and abandoned, but loved and sufficient in weakness because our strength is in Him.
  • The stream of living water in you and me doesn’t cease to flow when our persons of clay pottery shatter. It flows all the more freely.
  • Defenses down, hearts exposed, the honesty of being broken is something this world doesn’t admit or acknowledge -not with any hope.

BUT in our brokenness, we continue. We fix our eyes. We smile. We pray. We offer ourselves to others anyway, because our worth isn’t found in the all-together we have to give. Our worth, to others and in our innermost being, is bound up in the one who was broken for us.

That’s why our brokenness offers hope. His body and Spirit were broken, separated from God Himself, rejected. Offered as a sacrifice, as our broken hearts are to be. God uses that sacrifice, raw and messy in our lives and others’ to help restore life, revert perspective, and bring us into a more intimate reliance on Him.

Imagine- when your broken heart is sacrificed to the Lord, He uses the mess to let others know the truth, His presence, and the hope He has to offer all of us. The hope we need. The hope even we as believers ignore when we pretend that brokenness doesn’t come before redemption.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

What Your Broken Heart is Worth

Photo from: Pixabay

I’ll admit, this idea hit me when I misheard the lyrics to “First” by Lauren Daigle. I thought she was singing: “before I bring my need I will break my heart.” The line didn’t quite make sense, but I was convinced that’s what she was singing, and then I read this verse:

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
Psalm 51:17

Could it be that the Lord values our brokenness? That a worthy sacrifice in His eyes is our hearts –broken? It sounds sinister, but we know our Lord is good.

It follows then, that the Lord’s desire for our broken hearts is the same as the Lord’s desire for our good. A broken heart can be a blessing. A broken heart can glorify God.

Earlier, in Psalm 51:10, we read the much loved line:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Could it be that this heart is one in the same at times?

David exemplified this as he wrote this Psalm. It was written when David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba. Convicted and mourning his sinfulness and its consequences (like his son’s resulting death,) David chose not to turn from God. He chose not to mend his grief with proof that he could be worthy again if he tried.

Instead, David offered the Lord his broken heart. It was through that sacrifice that David’s heart was made clean again and that His joy was returned. Through that sacrifice and brokenness, David was given a willing spirit again and could experience and witness the Lord’s true forgiveness.

When our hearts are broken, something is exposed and made vulnerable. What’s inside the heart (though formerly fortified) becomes available for change, healing, and growth. In fact, the healing work of redemption is nothing without there first being a need for the healing and the redemption.

When we break open our hearts (or have them broken and hand them to the Lord,) it is a sacrifice on our part. It’s a sacrifice of dignity, of a sense of control, and of our pride. To sacrifice our broken hearts to the Lord is to say: “I won’t try to fix this my way, but I will it to you for your glory and your glorious work.”

It is praise to the Lord to offer Him our broken hearts as sacrifices, because we’re offering for Him to freely correct, clean, and rebuild us as He pleases, to His glory. It is a putting aside of all the gunk we have in our hearts to return our hearts to their maker. When your heart is breaking, let it be a blessing and a praise.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

Being Empty Versus Being Emptied

photo from: mymorningmeditations.com

Who hasn’t reached the end of a day exhausted, empty, and totally wiped out? We all have moments like that, and sometimes they come after we’ve done good things. It’s often after VBS, the big retreat, or an amazing series of conversations about the Gospel that we find ourselves feeling drained.

Paul understood this feeling and alluded to it in his epistle of joy, saying:

“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” Philippians 2:17

All that comes from faith comes as a pouring out, a giving up. Romans 12 refers to this as “offering ourselves up as living sacrifices.” This was true of Christ. In His earthly ministry, Jesus lived a life of emptying Himself out. Even in the beginning, He:

“…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.”Philippians 2:7

He emptied Himself for the crowds, forsaking the appearances of wisdom and righteous reputation. In the eyes of this world, He gave up His high stature as teacher and prophet to mingle with the sinners and the poor. He gave of Himself to heal others, to raise the dead, to teach those who never listened. His heart was constantly poured out on those who He knew would betray Him.

Jesus even emptied Himself of His life on the cross.

BUT, Jesus was never empty. Likewise, Paul, in the earlier passage, said he was “poured out” yet just two chapters later explained that he is content in every situation. That’s because he knew the secret to contentment.

Indeed, Paul, imitating Christ, knew the secret to being emptied without ever being empty: To be filled with the joy and hope of the promise of God. To live as one who believes and acts on the truth that:

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”Titus 3:5-6

See, the Holy Spirit is always with us. Present and working, dwelling in us, the Holy Spirit fills us, constantly renewing us in the Lord. Jesus promises that:

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38.)

Living water doesn’t dry up. The Holy Spirit doesn’t flee. The Word of God never fails to refresh. Christ’s transforming work in us never dries up. We can be living sacrifices. We can pour ourselves out in faith. Because we can rely on the maker of water, the multiplier of all we need, and the well of life to keep us full.

Drink deeply of Christ. Be filled. As He pours out generously, so can we.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

The Faithful “If”

Photo from: www.spectrumhealth.ie

In Philippians 2, Paul explains what the “ifs” of faith can amount to. We read the words “if any” over and over again. Paul explains how the “ifs” we desire can add up to joy. Sometimes it helps to read Scripture backwards.

Those “ifs,” for instance, are based on the presuppositions that follow:

  • Have the same mindset as Christ
  • Look to the interest of others
  • Value others above yourself
  • Do nothing out of selfish conceit
  • Be united in one Spirit and Mind

Before listing these presuppositions, Paul says that these “make my joy complete” (Philippians 2:2.) Paul was not speaking merely of people doing things in faith to make him proud and happy.  He was explaining not just his joy, but the joy of those who read the Word and listen, resulting in a life that glorifies God.

These presuppositions set us up for the “anys” we long for in life. They fulfill the “if” of faith needed to move us from speculative belief into faith assured by the reality of Christ at work in you and me.

What are these “anys?”

  • If any comfort
  • If any encouragement
  • If any common sharing in the Spirit
  • If any compassion and tenderness
  • If any working out of our own salvation
  • If any of God working in us to fulfill His good purposes
  • If any shining like stars

IF we desire any of these in our lives then we need refer back to those presuppositions. And don’t we desire these?

In His grace He gives us every good and perfect gift. By His mercy we are saved without doubt after trusting Christ. But He doesn’t promise to break through our every barrier and buffer. The Lord doesn’t say that we will feel His presence and have His complete joy when we don’t walk with Him.

He certainly doesn’t promise to make us feel supported and cared for when we act for selfish reasons. In fact, Scripture says that “even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong–you want only what will give you pleasure” (James 4:3.)

So often when we wonder why He doesn’t seem near and or isn’t clearly working in our lives, we are also choosing not to live near to Him or open to His working in our lives. We live “fists closed,” as Ann Voskamp says.

On the days of exasperation and desperation that we cry out “Lord, give me anything” or “Lord, I’ll take anything!” these are the things we desire. These “if anys” are what our hearts long for as we seek to live lives that glorify Him and are filled up and overflowing with His presence.

But it’s also on those days that we tend to be willing to open our hands only to collect and hold possessively close. Our hands aren’t open to giving or to clasping palms with others in the body of Christ. Our minds aren’t open to the mind of Christ or the interests of others.

We live like one way, dead-end streets to “me-ville.” At the same time, we wonder why the love of Christ doesn’t roll on in. (tweet this!)

Longing for these “if anys” but missing the point, we change our hearts to say “if only.” If only Christ were here. If only I could feel His love. If only others showed me compassion. Then…then we could get to the pre-suppositions. But that’s not the order God created.

Start with “if any” and obey. Start with Christ first and others above myself.  Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8.) You won’t have to say “if only.”

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” –Philippians 2:1-5
This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

Love Others

photo from: everydaywild.com

Love your neighbor as yourself. This, we know well, is the second greatest commandment:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –(Matthew 22)

All other commandments are encompassed in these two. So, loving God and loving others can take a ton of different forms. Not lying is one form. Being generous is another.

But the love which Scripture tells us to have for one another is deeper than our “doing.” Truly loving others depends on our loving God, as the second commandment follows and hangs on the first. The first- love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind- is about how we are. It’s with our whole being that we are to love Him.

When we love others, it’s to flow out from that all-encompassing, defining love that we have for God. Our ability to have that love at all comes from His loving us (1 John 4:19.)

Do you see the inter-dependency here?

To love others well, we must love God with our whole being. For our whole being to love God, we must love others. For us to love at all we must experience the love of God to have love defined for and instilled in us, uprooting our corrupted version of the concept.

It’s the love of God, forceful as the ocean surging through us and shaping us like a rocky shore, that allows love to change things.

When we want our loved ones to change their minds or hearts or ways…

During the times that are tough when we long for others to grow and heal and find worth in life…

As we rejoice with others…

While we cry out in loneliness, suffering, clinging to hope…

It’s that real love that really takes affect and changes things.

We can follow endless strings of advice and wise reasoning. Our book shelves can be filled with literature on strengthening relationships, reaching those around us, and becoming more selfless. In discussion we can adopt amazing, effective strategies. When others frustrate and hurt us we can do our best to forgive and to see the good in them.

But what we really need is the love of God. What we really need, to love others, is to love the Lord and to be loved by the Lord.

His Word doesn’t say “noisy clanging cymbal” for nothing. All of our doing and trying and striving can get other’s attention. It can make noise in their life, waking them up and making waves. Without love, it never turns to music. It never gains rhythm, direction, or purpose. There is no harmony with the heart that is hearing it –without the love of God.

Start there.

As you look at others, trace your steps backwards. Step back to loving them as you do yourself, not as your style permits. One foot further, step into loving them because you love the Lord. Look to Him for the welling up inside of a more perfect love. And as you open up to be filled, step back further. Make the space for His love to be for you, too. Love because He first loved you, and that love will carry through.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.