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.
What’s better for you; fruits or vegetables? Is a tomato a vegetable or a fruit? How about hot peppers? Avocado? I think most of us have the idea that if it’s sweet, it’s a fruit, and if it’s not sweet, it must be a vegetable. At least that’s how I always thought of things until my first battle with someone over tomato. I was sure it was a vegetable. Truthfully, I don’t know if either is better for you since I’m not a nutritionist, but I found the information at the Mayo Clinic’s Expert Blog pretty cool. They confirmed that avocados and peppers are fruits; and would you believe that so are sunflower seeds? Click above for a list and for information on how to tell a fruit from a vegetable.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 18:1 through Deuteronomy 18:5, we have just a few short verses about the high priests and the Levites. I’m not sure if it’s Moses or God that wants to keep bringing it to the attention of the people, but it would seem that one of the two wants to make sure the community does not forget those that do the work of the tabernacle. This passage begins with another reminder that the Levites, including the high priests, do not have a share in the inheritance with Israel. Their share is literally The Lord Himself.
Because the Levites’ share comes from a portion of the inheritance of the other tribes, it is important for the other tribes to remember to bring that share to them. Without it, those who work in the service of God and His tabernacle will have no place to live and nothing to eat. The share they receive is actually God’s portion. We’ve read before how the people give land, shelter, and food to the Levites. In this reading, we see that they are to bring the first fruits of all their abundance to the high priest. According to God, the first of their increase in all things–fruit, grains, new wine, olive oil, and even sheep’s wool–belongs to the high priest because God has chosen him from all the tribes to stand and serve in the name of The Lord forever. He and his sons will serve forever.
I have met people who work in such a sacrificial capacity for The Lord, that it made me wish I were rich enough to buy them everything they could ever need, so they would never want for anything. When people truly sacrifice what they could have in their lives for the sake of doing God’s work, I believe they deserve to be cared for, so they can continue to do the work. Even if there is no longer a tabernacle and animal sacrifices that require the amount of work we’ve read about in Torah history, those who make themselves available 24/7, 365, for God’s work are a rare and special breed. Of course, I’m not talking about schmoozing and doing talk shows in the name of The Lord, I’m talking about working in the spiritual trenches.
Even those who don’t work full-time in ministry are worthy of support from those who do not work in any type of ministry capacity, and that’s why I think it’s important to support them. For those in writing and music ministries, we can purchase their wares, and if we like them, we can help their marketing efforts by spreading the word about their products. The hard part for me is trying to be a good steward with my money when I’ve got less time to read than I have space on my bookshelf. At the same time, I’m also trying to keep to the golden rule since I hope people will read my novel when I get it finished. 🙂
I don’t think any Christian disagrees with the idea of supporting those in ministry, but there are differences of opinion as to what constitutes ministry and how we should support it. In Old Testament history, we know it was fruits and vegetables, grains and oils, etc. Now, our increase is mostly in the form of money, so most are satisfied to tithe directly from their paychecks. But, since the fruit of God’s Spirit is not financial, I would like to encourage people to give more offerings from God’s fruit, and not just to those in ministry. As God shares His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control with us (Yeshua modeled all of these), let us share those same virtues with others.
If we are not receiving these things from God where we can find an abundance of them from which to share, we may need a trip back to the altar to discover what is hindering our growth. Maybe it’s as simple as needing to eat more vegetables. A regular habit of opening God’s word to get some holy nutrition may be all we need to abound in the fruits (and vegetables) of The Spirit.
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