Grace in Giving

graceWhenever you are able, do good to people who need help. (Proverbs 3:27)

Ponder It.

  • When and how have you received grace?
  • How is God generous in the grace he gives?
  • How are you generous in the grace you give?

Receive It. Grace is a gift we freely give to others. But it’s not always easy, is it? After all, if someone doesn’t really deserve grace (by our own assessment), why should they receive grace? We’ve become so accustomed to responding based on what people deserve that we feel justified in withholding grace. We operate more on our rights, including our right to be angry, guarded, judgmental, happy, and so on, than on God’s truth of what grace is. Grace isn’t deserved. It’s not earned. It’s freely given, and the free gift of grace doesn’t just apply to the grace that God gives us. His grace is always free, so to truly extend grace to someone is to give it freely. God’s grace is always abundant, sufficient, and generous, whether he is giving his grace to us or we are giving God’s grace to others.

Because God is the source of grace, any grace that we give comes from him. We might not always acknowledge it as his grace. We might prefer to believe we’ve extended grace on our own. We might be tempted, or even trained, to believe grace is something that makes us generous and good, that it’s something we decide to put forth the effort to extend, but if there are any strings attached, if grace does not come freely, it doesn’t accurately reflect God’s grace. When we give grace, we are generous, because all of God’s grace is generous. In fact, when we give anything through God’s provision, setting aside our own control and preferences, we are giving generously and grace-full-y.

Live It. Give away something freely today. It can be tangible or not. The more value it has for you, the more generous the gift, not that the gift has to have actual monetary value, but it has value to you personally. Only give what God is directing you to give, but when you ask him how you can bless someone else or give something you’re not intended to have, you will be giving generously.

Take Courage

UntitledWhen Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage and removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He renovated the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple. (2 Chronicles 15:8)

Being courageous requires that we take courage. God gives it, but we must receive, accept, and use it.

Ask God for courage, then receive, accept, and use it well.

You will likely need it today.

Assigned Gifts

indexLook, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the Lord to work at the tent of meeting. But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work. I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift. (Numbers 18:6-7a)

We receive gifts from God. We like gifts.

God’s gifts are assigned. He designates them to us, as individuals and as communities in which He places us throughout seasons of our lives.

We like the honor, but we don’t always like the responsibility that comes along with the assignment. Assignment feels so…obligatory.

Yes. Our relationship with God includes responsibility. He doesn’t demand it, because He wants our willing response, but as our relationship with God deepens, we better understand the responsibility He extends to us. We accept it more fully. It excites us, yet burdens us, too. We know it is a blessing, and sometimes it feels thrilling, but it also feels confusing and uncomfortable and unrelenting.

When we’re honest with ourselves and with God, we listen for assignments and we let God challenge us to change and grow along the way. We receive His gifts not like we receive annual birthday gifts but as a humble recipient of an award we’re not sure we deserve. We open them with uncertainty of what we’ll do with it but with trust that God is certain and will let us discover the gift and fulfill His assignment one step at a time.

The Timing of a Gift

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The host of a women’s retreat gave me a book as an appreciation gift. In my opinion, a book is a difficult gift to choose and give. Perhaps it’s because I grew up and raised a family of readers. We had to be careful not to buy books someone had already read or books they had no interest in reading. It seems the more people read, even if you know their topics of interest, the pickier they are about the books they read, especially on those specific topics.

But I didn’t have the book the host gave me. And it looked like it was something I would buy for myself had I run across it. And I was getting ready to leave on a vacation on which I’d have a lot of time to read!

It was perfect timing, especially since the book focused on solitude.

As I soaked it up for several days during vacation, I soaked in solitude. My surroundings were peaceful. My reading was challenging, yet peaceful. My mind, heart, and soul were peaceful.

I marveled at God’s timing of picking out that book for that time. I don’t know if I would have appreciated it as much if I had read it during a busy week in the comfort of my own home. God collided the environment and my relaxed schedule with a reminder of the importance of solitude. I appreciate the gift of the book. Even more, I appreciate God’s gift of colliding content with opportunity, so I would receive His reminder in a way I would welcome it.

God is good at timing His gifts, both tangible and intangible. Pay attention to the gifts He’s presenting to you today. Trust His timing. Savor them, and invite Him to challenge and nourish you through them.

Freedom Can Be Misapplied

Everything is permissibleFreedom is not getting to do whatever we want.

“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. (1 Cor. 10:23)

In these verses, Paul is speaking, and he’s quoting a phrase, “Everything is permissible,” the Christians in Corinth likely said. Plus, he added a correction and a challenge for them to consider what is helpful and what builds (others) up. Just because we ‘re free to do something doesn’t mean it’s what we should do. Just because we believe it’s something we should do (usually because it’s something we want to do) doesn’t mean we should.

How many times do you express the right or freedom to do something as a rationalization or excuse? You believe you are in the right because you have the freedom to choose. If it’s difficult to see in yourself, try looking around you. What do others tout as their “right” because of freedom, but you disagree? Why do you disagree?

Now, consider why someone else would use a similar disagreement for something you claim as a right or freedom? How is your rationalization similar? Are you starting to see the slippery slope?

As a Christ-follower, you might throw in the added power punch of “I do it because I know God wants me to. I’m just following and honoring Him.” But are you, really? Have you checked with Him on your motivation and your heart? And have you checked with Him recently, or are you on auto-pilot? Do you truly understand what He’s prompting you to do in a specific situation? Are you letting others sway you, and possibly seeing that influence as positive? Are you jumping on a bandwagon Jesus isn’t leading? Worse yet, are you using Him name and encouraging others to follow when He’s not leading?

Freedom can be deceptive. What you believe is freedom might be bondage. In order to be free, you need to know what to choose, and perhaps more important at times, what not to choose. You have to discern, which means you have to yield yourself. You have to be humble and set yourself aside. It’s counter-intuitive. We want to think freedom is really about us, that we get to step up and do more because of our freedom. Yes, but…only when we give up ourselves. We then get to walk all over the places God has prepared for us. We have full freedom within His boundaries. And when we live in His freedom, those boundaries don’t seem limited. They seem protective and…freeing.

We don’t miss out when we live in God’s freedom. We miss out when we don’t. We miss out on the region of freedom He’s prepared for us.

Be careful not to define your own freedom. It’s not yours to define. It’s yours to receive and savor. Open your eyes, hands, and heart. God has a grand gift for you.

Jesus Is Indescribable

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Jesus is a gift beyond words. He is indescribable. We can attach adjectives and descriptors. We can point to the names given to him in Scripture and list what characterizes him best, but we cannot fully capture essence of who he is, because he is incomparable.

This indescribable gift cannot be obtained by human performance or effort. It cannot be secured by monetary payments. A gift is not a gift until it is accepted, yet God’s indescribable gift of Jesus is available to everyone who chooses to receive him. With the indescribable gift of Jesus comes a package of amazing grace, genuine forgiveness, transforming power, and eternal life.

No gift can be compared with God’s gift of Jesus. No poet can fully express him. No theologian can fully explain him. No artist or writer can fully capture him. No actor can completely portray him. The indescribable gift of Jesus is too marvelous to be adequately described and too priceless to be assessed. Yet the indescribably gift of Jesus can always be received. He is accessible. He is accepting. He is prepared to receive you.

It is through the gift of Jesus that we receive every blessing.

The Ineffective Instrument

If you use a tool for an unintended purpose, it will likely impact its effectiveness later.

Before we moved into our current house, we took on several remodeling projects. We did most of them on our own, but part of the wall in our dining room needed to come down. It closed in the staircase, which we wanted partially exposed (1) for air flow, (2) to be able to move our queen-sized bed upstairs, and (3) to open up our dining room. We tore the plaster off the wall, then hired a contractor to finish the job by tearing out part of the wall and adding a support beam. He left the final trim work to complete after we moved in to avoid it getting scratched.

Leaving the trim off the top of the shortened wall meant anything could fall into the wall, so I tried to keep our young girls away from the stairs. However, it wasn’t long before we had a small crisis. Roo, one of our Hundred Acre Wood stuffed animals, had somehow fallen into the wall. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if he had fallen in the short part of the wall. I could have easily reached down to grab him. He fell into the wall at about step number nine. He was far beyond my reached.

I didn’t have much in the house to use as I problem-solved, but I assembled a few supplies and went into rescue mode. I grabbed the broom and taped a cake tester to the handle. Holding the head of the broom, I lowered the homemade rescue tool into the wall, poke Roo and tried to retrieve him.

The first rescue attempt failed. The cake tester poked Roo, but it also came out as soon as I pulled back. I needed a hook. Since I didn’t use my cake tester much anyway, and the girls were getting increasingly anxious, I bent the cake tester to resemble a hook.

After several more attempts, Roo was rescued! He was reunited with the girls, and all was well. Except for my cake tester. No amount of bending it would return it to its original straightness. A bent cake tester won’t effectively test cakes. However, I didn’t get rid of it. I find it every now and then when I clean drawers. I’m not sure if I kept it as a testament to the Roo Rescue, or if I thought I’d someday find a use for a bent cake tester. Either way, I use toothpicks to test my cakes now.

What tool have you used for an unintended purpose and then discovered it was no longer effective for its original purpose?

  • If you use a flathead screwdriver when you need a Philips, you’ll either damage the screwdriver or the head of the screw.
  • If you use a spatula to pry wallpaper off the wall, you’ll likely bend the spatula (not to mention, who wants to use a kitchen utensil that’s been all over the walls).
  • If you use a wooden spoon as a hammer, you’ll probably splinter it.
  • If you use a lawn mower to mulch when it doesn’t have a special blade, it will probably cut your grass unevenly.

And the list goes on!

God gifts you with talents and skills. He gives you the tools you need to live life. Are you using what he’s given you for his purposes or for your own? Don’t assume you know how to use everything he’s placed in your hands. Ask him. He knows the intended use of each tool, skill, and talent, and he knows the damage you’ll do if you use it for unintended purposes.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)