I spent this evening in a dinner theater with friends. We watched a well-performed musical version of It’s a Wonderful Life, which is always a nice reminder of rethinking our perspectives at this time of year. I am always brought to tears when George learns just how much people will be there for him after all he has given up in being there for them through the years.
The thing I notice about the story is that George Bailey is extremely generous with his time and money, but he’s a bit stingy with his emotions. He gives in the same way Jonah ministered to the people of Nineveh (yesterday’s post)–grudgingly. He has so many dreams he wants to carry out, and every time he thinks he’s on his way to one or the other, some tragedy strikes or something comes up to change his plans. An abundance of these events with George “giving in” to whatever call is on his life leads him to feeling suicidal.
What changes for George in the end to give him more hope? Nothing externally. His attitude changes before he finds out that his friends and neighbors are ready to be there for him and meet his needs the way he’s always done for them. His grudging giving was still giving, so it didn’t hurt his relationships in the long run, but he likely missed out on some joy through the years. A stack of days without joy can certainly lead to the dark day where George meets the angel named Clarence. (Who, by the way, gets his wings when the bell in the above image rings.)
Attitude makes all the difference in the world. As said by Charles Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.” (Click the word “attitude” to see the whole message in context.) How we respond to difficulties in life does not change how difficult they are to us, but it changes how much damage they’ll be allowed to do to our spirits. We’re not guaranteed happiness, but joy is a fruit of the Spirit of God, so circumstances can’t take it away. God’s spirit of joy is there to strengthen us to face our difficulties if we will let it.
Chip Brogden brings up a good point in today’s Infinite Supply newsletter when he points out that God sees every sparrow that falls, but He doesn’t stop them from falling. He may not take the difficulties or storms away from us, but He Himself will be our very present help in times of trouble; a shelter during our stormy times. As a matter of fact, here’s how King David spoke of God’s sheltering Spirit in Psalm 61:3-4 (NKJV)…
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
If we respond with an attitude of expectation for that help, comfort, and shelter, we will find the strength of God’s joy right when we need it. Then, no matter what happens to us, it can be a wonderful life.
P.S. If you click the movie title above, it will take you to a special on the DVD set. As of this writing, it’s $7.99 instead of $24.99 for the two-disc set that includes both black & white and color plus some bonus features.
If someone trades the cross for personal comfort, is it a trade up or a trade down? Well, if you’ve ever truly experienced the comfort of the cross of Christ, you know there is nothing better for which you can trade, so it would be a trade down. His word tells us that the way of the transgressor (one who stands beside the way; a deceiver; or one who deals treacherously) is the way that is hard. It also tells us that Yeshua’s way is the easier way because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. In addition, we have the promise that God’s commands are not burdensome.
Some people get weighed down by having their eyes in the wrong direction, and they exchange the cross for a deception of what might seem more comfortable. However, if we’re struggling like that, if we persevere, we will find that the cross IS the ultimate comfort we are seeking. The truth is, if we are facing any kind of battle, it means our backs are to the cross and we’re facing the wrong direction. We get turned around sometimes without realizing it, but once we know, God gives us grace to turn back to Him.
In today’s Infinite Supply newsletter, author Chip Brogden points out the emptiness of a life without the cross.
Apart From the Cross
“I determined not to know anything among you
except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
1 CORINTHIANS 2:2
We can quote these teachings of Jesus, seek to imitate Him as our Example, strive to walk the narrow Way, and even accomplish many good deeds in His Name. But apart from the Cross these activities are wood, hay and stubble.
In calling us to come back to the Cross, God is asking us to lay down our lives and embrace the Wisdom of death, burial, resurrection, and ascension in order to live as sons and daughters within the Kingdom of God. Apart from the Cross we can neither enter the Kingdom nor live in the Spirit, no matter how great the desire. For apart from the Cross, we do not know what it is to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. Apart from the Cross, we do not know what it is to submit to the will of God, accept suffering, and cast ourselves upon Him. Apart from the Cross, we do not know what Resurrection is.
Source: Embrace the Cross by Chip Brogden
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Plowing the fields God puts in our lives is not always easy, but it is necessary, and the crop yield will be worth it. While Luke 9:62 reminds us that looking back after we have put our hand to the plow makes us unfit to serve, the unspoken reminder there is to turn around. Of course we can’t push forward with our back to the plow, just as we can’t fight with our back to the enemy. But the cross and the word of God before us enable us to stand and fight with the strength of The Lord. His armor prepares us to face our tasks, not to run from them, and His cross brings us the surrender we need to admit our own weakness and find our strength of Christ. That’s why He says to take up our cross daily because He has provided the cross for our comfort.
Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m a cat lover. I own multiple kitties, and I spoil my kitties. I love to hold them and hear them purr, to have them snuggle next to me while I sleep, and to hear them meow at feeding time. I talk to them like they can understand me, and I admire them just for being cats. I will often do whatever it takes to not disturb them, even if it means sitting still under a sleeping cat when I would rather stretch my legs or run to the restroom.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:13 through Deuteronomy 32:18, we continue with the Song of Moses, and the verses are short enough again that I will paste them here from The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)…
He made them ride on the heights of the earth.
They ate the produce of the fields.
He had them suck honey from the rocks
and olive oil from the crags,
curds from the cows and milk from the sheep,
with lamb fat, rams from Bashan and goats,
with the finest wheat flour;
and you drank sparkling wine from the blood of grapes.
But Yeshurun grew fat and kicked
(you grew fat, thick, gross!).
He abandoned God his Maker;
he scorned the Rock, his salvation.
They roused him to jealousy with alien gods,
provoked him with abominations.
They sacrificed to demons, non-gods,
gods that they had never known,
new gods that had come up lately,
which your ancestors had not feared.
You ignored the Rock who fathered you,
you forgot God, who gave you birth.
Moses is still talking about the people of God’s heritage here. He speaks of God’s love toward Israel with passionate emotion. Riding on the heights of the earth, drinking honey from rocks, eating olive oil from crags, eating the finest wheat flour, and drinking sparkling wine all speak of God’s poetic love for Israel in an almost eccentric manner. Remember, these are words God has told Moses to write, so this abundant and amazing love is exactly how God feels toward those He calls His own. He wants to spoil His children and give them the very best of everything!
So, Abba (Father) Yahveh did spoil them. He poured abundant blessing out upon Israel, and then He reminded them to not forget Him when they were taking advantage of all His blessings. But they did forget. God allowed measured troubles to come into their lives, so they would turn to Him and seek Him to fulfill their needs, but when they were comforted again, they would forget again. And then, as the poem says, Yeshurun (Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel) got too comfortable, too spoiled, and too fat. This prophesy against the house of Jacob has Israel turned to the false gods of the land and abandoning Yahveh, their Maker. As the poem says, they scorned their salvation and provoked God by worshiping false gods and demons.
The last lines show how this broke God’s heart with the personalization God adds in. He says they ignored the Rock who fathered them, and they forgot God who birthed them. The “father” and “birth” terms show the kind of deep love God has for His people as His children. Because He loved them so much, it was a lot easier for them to break His heart when they abandoned Him for gods that did not love them at all–as children or otherwise.
I remember watching one of my “furkids” play one day and thinking how he wasn’t doing anything to try and please me, yet I was pleased and amused with him just being himself. It made me wonder if God looks at people the same way. I think of how happy I get when I pick up or talk with a kitty, and the kitty expresses its happiness by purring. Does God feel as good about our praise as I do about my kitty’s purr-praise?
But for all the enjoyment I get from snuggling and purring, I can get let down when a cat becomes aloof and rejects me. I begin to think of all the times I’ve held my bladder for the sake of not interrupting a cat nap. I think of feeding the cat, watering it, wearing its fur in public places, cleaning up after it, etc. If the cat understood my thoughts, he would hear something like, “After all I’ve done for you, how can you reject me?” I may even say out loud, “Fine! Just be that way!”
It’s no fun to be rejected, and it’s even less fun to be rejected by someone or something we have coddled and spoiled and loved. God is not asking too much when He wants us to remember where all our benefits come from. We may have a paycheck because we have a job, because we went to school, because…because…because. But, God is the One who gave us the ability to learn, and He put all the pieces in place for us to get the job and continue to work. People are quick to blame God for any loss, like an accident that creates a physical disability, but they are slow to thank Him for all the days they are not disabled and are able to work, get out of bed, etc. May we all return to Him with hearts that are grateful for all His benefits, and may we repent for the days when we have acted like spoiled fat cats.
It is said that an elephant never forgets, and after many studies, men are pretty convinced of that. Well, Yahveh Almighty does not forget either. He remembers His promises to His children, and He remembers His plans for us. In today’s reading from Genesis 50:21 through Genesis 50:26 (the end of the chapter), we learn about Joseph’s last days and hours. In those times, Joseph comforts his brothers by promising to care for them and their offspring, is privileged to meet his great-grandchildren by Ephraim and his grandchildren by Manasseh and meets with all his brothers to give them an oath that God will always remember them.
After Joseph dies at 110 years old, they embalm him and place him in a coffin in Egypt. Though he asked his brothers to carry his bones up from there, the reading does not tell where they actually buried Joseph. I’m guessing because it’s not time, or it just wasn’t important for the portion which ends with the encouragement to Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened. I think this is a great encouragement on which to end our week, and from which to wish you all Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace). May you trust in the promises God has given you, and may you remember that He loves you and will never forget you. Amen!
P.S. Here’s an interesting Wikipedia page I found on elephant cognition… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_cognition
So many things in life are linked together. I love in today’s reading from Genesis 24:53 through Genesis 24:67 how the original blessing for Isaac multiplied to bless more than just Isaac. I believe that all started with the servant who took the time to praise God and acknowledge Him as the provider of the blessing.
First, the servant was blessed. He blessed Rebecca with jewelry, clothing, and a promise of a good future. Then he also blessed Rebekah’s family with jewelry, clothing, livestock, etc. The family blessed the servant and the men he traveled with. Rebekah blessed her family. Her family sent her away with blessings like, “Our sister, may you be the mother of millions, and may your descendants possess the cities of those who hate them.” And when Isaac saw her as they arrived near his tent, it says he took her to be his wife, and it comforted him from the grief he was feeling over his mother’s death.
The Bible has so many promises of blessings from God, and they are all set to multiply. He gives to us with the purpose of our sharing it with others, but we have to see it and be thankful for it before we will be able to let go and share. Oh, but once we let God take over, it can go so far. It’s like the boy who gave the two fish and five loaves of bread in John 6:1-14. What started as a small offering that fit into a lunch box filled thousands and provided 12 baskets of leftovers after Jesus touched it. If we will remember that old hymn, Count Your Blessings, and sing it to ourselves often, we can lift God up in a way that He can multiply the blessings in our lives. Sing with me…
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
May the blessings flow abundantly into and out of your life, and may you never become stagnate in receiving but always give as freely as you receive. Amen!
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