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Why Not Take All of Me?


The old song by Billie Holiday talks about body parts that are no longer any good unless the one she gave them to is in her life. She ends the verse with saying, “You took the part that once was my heart, so why not take all of me?” The song emphasizes the truth that when you give someone your heart, all the rest of you goes with it.

Now, here’s what Chip Brogden has to say in today’s Infinite Supply newsletter about giving our all to God…

Infinite Supply Image for November Eighth by The School of Christ

Infinite Supply Image for November Eighth by The School of Christ
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original article at The School of Christ dot org website.

November 8

Our All for His All

“We have left all and followed You.”
MARK 10:28

Here is a golden truth: if He possesses all that YOU have, then you will possess all that HE has. Allow that truth to sink into your heart. Breathe it in and out. Let the Holy Spirit soak it into the pores of your soul and you will not be able to contain His joy and peace emanating from you. You will start giving things up that before you would have never let go. You will gladly relinquish everything.

Source: Lord of All by Chip Brogden

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It’s a short writing but with a big truth. God never asks us to do something He has not done first, so when He asks for our all, it’s because He has already given us His all. He gave us His love, and He gave the greatest love by laying down His life. He gives us what He knows is best for us simply because He loves us. In Matthew 7:9-11 (NKJV), God talks about the gifts He gives His children…

Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

And Psalm 84:11, in the second half of the verse says…

No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Now, His definition of good may differ from ours, just like ours may differ from our children’s. When their definition of good is candy and ours is spinach, they may not like it, but we give them what’s good. If it’s truly good, and if we walk uprightly before Him, He will provide it for us. If we have given Him our all, then we know He gives His all because that is good for us. So, with that gift on the table, may those who even begin to think they love Yahveh Almighty offer Him more than ever. May we look up to Him today and say, “Why not take all of me?”

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November 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pick A Hand


Whose Hands by Flickr User Tambako the Jaguar, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Whose Hands by Flickr User Tambako the Jaguar, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.
I recommend a visit to this photographer’s page if you like wildlife and stunning nature photos. His work is amazing.

Have you ever hidden a gift in your hand and then put your hands out in front of you or behind your back to let a child guess where the prize might be? It’s a fun game adults like to play with children that adds an element of effort to gift-giving. When we want to give good gifts to children, we might make them play the guessing game with us just to make it a little more fun for both the child and us. It doesn’t matter if it’s our own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or whoever. Making the gift more like a prize for them ups the value at least a little bit.

If you’ve played that game, you know that you will do just about anything to get the child to select correctly. Maybe you’ll lean your head to the side it’s in. Maybe you’ll wink on that side. Maybe you’ll lift the correct hand just a little higher or lower, or push it out a little farther, just to have a better chance that the child will pick the hand with the gift. We want the child to get the gift, and we don’t want the child to feel like a failure. We want to give the prize so much that if we are using the behind-the-back technique, we will often just change hands if the child guesses incorrectly.

Off and on, I’ve studied about the effects of prayer on God. I had heard, and even repeated, that prayer doesn’t change God, but instead prayer changes us. God is God and is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so we cannot change Him. We wouldn’t want a God that is changeable just by human requests because then we couldn’t trust Him. But, the other day I was seeking God’s instruction on this topic, and the above scenario came into my mind.

As I played the hidden gift game in my mind, but with God as the parent, I realized how much God wants to shower good things upon His children. He loves to give us gifts and prizes, but He wants interaction with us at the same time. His word says that we have not because we ask not, so if prayer is not for the purpose of changing Him, then His desire for us to ask is about that interaction. He also knows that our faith will increase when He answers our requests.

That understanding came about in the last week. My understanding of prayers that request things of God went a little deeper today. I watched an older 700 Club that did an interview with Max Lucado, and he made a statement that truly clarified things for me. He explained that prayer does not change God’s intentions, but it does affect His decisions.

As a parent or caregiver to someone we love, we will have certain intentions and a certain will that underlies all our decisions. We want whatever will protect and benefit those we love and care for. Even though we want to give them good things, if they ask for something that would go against our intentions or will for their best care, we will deny the request. As Christians, if we ask God for something that goes against His intentions or will for our lives, He will most likely deny that request. Asking Him, however, creates that interaction that enables us to discover God’s perfect will and His intentions for our lives.

In Matthew 7:7 (NKJV), we get the reminder to just “ASK” for what we want. If I write the verse in three parts, one sentence on top of another, note the first letter of each sentence…

Ask, and it will be given to you;
Seek, and you will find;
Knock, and it will be opened to you.

Yep, the three first lines remind us to simply ask, or as it says in The Amplified Bible and other versions, “Keep on asking.” Again, in The Amplified Bible, we read Philippians 4:6 that tells us to continue seeking God for our requests. It says…

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

Like the old song says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” so we can know that He is able to provide whatever we ask for. Reach up in praise and touch the Hands that hold whatever provision you need. Pick a hand and know that you’ll get the prize. Both hands have the nail scars to prove they’ve earned it for you.

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty Out of Focus


Close Focus Lens Demo by Flickr User Jody Roberts, CC License = Attribution

Close Focus Lens Demo by Flickr User Jody Roberts, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What does it take for beauty to be beautiful? Perception. Whether it’s a beautiful look, sound, touch, smell, or thought, it must be perceived. We can’t smell with a stuffy nose, hear when we’re deaf, or see when we’re blind, even if those disabilities are temporary. I think we all get out of focus at times, and I think it affects all our senses.

Our lack of perception does not change the quality or beauty of the thing we cannot seem to grasp. That includes trying to see ourselves through God’s eyes, so we can trust His direction for our lives. We fail over and over, and we cannot perceive that God sees us with a love that causes Him to forgive us over and over. We wallow in guilt and feel unworthy, but God wants to swaddle us in His love and help us to understand that His worth is what matters overall.

Imagine if you created something, and you saw it as perfect and wonderful, but someone else came along and kept saying it was horrible. That’s part of the lie the enemy of our souls has tried to create in us since God placed Adam and Eve in the garden. While God gave them every tree except one, the enemy changed their focus and perception to where that one looked greater than everything else they had with God and in the garden. The enemy made them believe they were incomplete without that one provision, and they fell for it–literally.

These days, we have the blood of Christ to cover our imperfections, so God sees us through that. We have God’s written word, so we can understand how He sees us. But, we still have human eyes and human perceptions, so we often see things incorrectly and get ourselves and our lives out of focus. We may focus on a beauty or success that is not beauty or success in God’s eyes, or we may miss a God-given beauty or success completely. When we get out of focus, we end up in chaos and running around as if we are spiritually blind and deaf instead of walking according to God’s path and rhythm.

The lesson of focus has been made abundantly clear to me (no pun intended) through a week of chaos. While I did everything in my power to create a scenario for our authors to present and sell their books, every door I tried to open slammed shut. I wondered if we were missing out on God’s favor, or if we were just under attack. I was missing the mark on both accounts, and I only found my peace in God when I got my perception corrected through prayer.

Here’s what I learned: God called many people to carry His precious good news to the world. He has anointed us to present that message through a variety of methods, and many of those are in the arts. I believe our creativity is a gift from God whether we use it for Him or not. And, because it is a gift from God, it will do its best work when it is done for Him first and for ourselves last. If we get that turned around, we lose perception.

For our writer’s group, we were trying to create an event centered around sales rather than ministry. We thought success meant a lot of people coming to buy our products instead of a lot of people coming to hear a testimony of God’s gifts in our lives. Our perceptions were skewed by the cacophony of voices out there shouting words like marketing and SEO. It doesn’t help that the Christian book market is more than just a niche genre anymore. It holds its own and therefore needs just as much professionalism and proper presentation as any book topic out there. However, if we’re not careful, we can let the marketing become more important than the message.

Well, we learned our lesson, and now instead of wondering how we’re going to handle a bunch of people we can’t sell things to, we’re hoping we can minister to all of them. We did a lot of advertising, but only God knows what souls He is sending and what message He is wanting them to hear. Our job is to be sensitive, so we can perceive His voice and direction. He says in John 10:27 (NLT)… “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” If we keep our perception in Him, we can see and follow His leading, so we will not become blind leaders of blind followers. If we don’t, we may find even His beauty out of focus.

October 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God is Just


Book Cover for Shattered Justice (Family Honors Series, Book I) by Karen Ball

Book Cover for Shattered Justice (Family Honors Series, Book I) by Karen Ball
Click the book cover image to open a new tab/window for the book page at Amazon.

God is just. No matter what we may see, feel, imagine, or think, that is an absolute fact. Sometimes it feels like He is far away, maybe even ignoring us, but He always knows what He is doing, and He will always answer the right answer in the right time. This world has so much injustice, which by definition means justice is not done, so we may wonder what God is doing as we watch the innocent suffer and the criminals prevail, but there is an eternity of true justice in our future if we trust God.

In today’s reading from Numbers 7:42 through Numbers 7:71, we get a little more of a glimpse of what our future world might be like as we see more of Israel’s leaders bringing gifts for the wilderness tabernacle. I say it’s a glimpse of our future world because right at this moment of our reading, we’re only seeing the well-oiled workings of people in obedience to Their Creator. In addition to obedience, these men are gathering love offerings to help keep the ministry moving forward, and the offerings are abundant.

For just a quick rundown, yesterday’s reading covered days one through five in the list of those bringing gifts to the priests, and today covers days six through ten. Yesterday’s givers included representation from the tribes of Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben, and Simeon. Today’s givers include representation from the tribes of Gad, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, and Dan. On both days, the gifts included silver, gold, grains and oils for sacrifices, animals for sacrifices, and much more. And, again, I recommend reading the linked passage above for complete details.

Now, I’m going to go in a totally different direction here and use something from the reading to jump off into a quick book review. One of the leaders of Israel, the one from the tribe of Benjamin, is named “Avidan.” That is the name of the main character from book one of the Family Honors trilogy by Karen Ball. Avidan means “God is Just.”

I’ve read all three of the books in the trilogy, and they are some of my favorite books. The three books are about three siblings in the Justice family, and each sibling gets the focus of one book, though all the siblings show up in all the books. The characters all became so real to me that now, years later, I still want to find the little town in Oregon where they lived and try to meet all three of them. 🙂

Book one is called Shattered Justice, and it focuses on the story of Avidan, aka Deputy Sheriff Dan. Dan is the law in a small town that has its share of big problems. He faces more than most of us could deal with, and it shatters his sense of justice. In a “Job-like” storyline, we watch Dan go through his trials in very human ways as he struggles to find the help he knows God promises his children. As readers, we get to see the people God sows into Dan’s life to give him strength to face each new trial and an uncertain future, and we get to watch Dan discover why these people are there as he needs them.

I’m struggling to figure out what to tell that won’t be considered spoilers, though knowing things ahead of time does not hinder the reading. I read the books out of order since book two, “Kaleidoscope Eyes,” was the first one recommended to me, and I read it before realizing it was part of a series. The affect it had on my reading of book one was simply that I was prepared to cry at any moment because I knew bad things were going to happen, but the story still surprised me with just how they happened.

I want to just say, “Trust me, this book and series is worth reading,” but I know people want reasons for that, so I’ll just add that if you have ever experienced struggles that seemed impossible to get through, read this great piece of fiction with realistic events and emotions to find hope. By the time you get to the end of Dan’s struggles to come back from blaming and rejecting God, you will see how, even in the face of tragedy, God is just.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Giving What We’ve Got


Giving by Flickr User Symphony of Love, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Giving by Flickr User Symphony of Love, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I got thrown for a little bit of a loop tonight as I began the new week’s study and portion. This is apparently the first portion that would be doubled for normal years, but is actually separated for leap years, and on the Jewish calendar, 5774 is indeed a leap year. Apparently, there are 7 leap years for every 19 year cycle, and I spent almost too much time trying to learn what all of it meant, so I could share accurately with you, my beloved readers.

Well, in all I sought, I also found out that the portion is read in full on the dates I’m finding, meaning that if I am dividing it by 7 days, I would read it the 7 days prior. That means we’re actually sort of a week behind. So, though it is a leap year, I am going to read this leap year special portion as if it’s a full year, and that should put us back on track. It’s okay, though, because the subject matter pretty much stays the same–at least for the first half of the week. 🙂

So, without further adieu, I bring you the beginning of Parashah (portion) 22, with the Hebrew name of Vayak’hel meaning “He Assembled.” The reading will be from Exodus 35:1 through Exodus 35:29, and it begins with a strong reminder to work for only six days, and to rest on the Sabbath to remember it is a holy day. I say strong reminder because this one says that if anyone does any work on the Sabbath, he should be put to death. Yep, that’s pretty strong.

The assembling in the title is about Moses bringing the people together to share with them what God showed him on Mt. Sinai. He will tell them the details of building the temple, including calling together the craftsmen who God anointed to create certain portions. Before actually giving them the descriptions, however, Moses first asks for an offering. He does not demand anything, cajole anything, use any kind of guilt or manipulation, or any other tactic to collect an offering. Instead, Moses asks for God-directed offerings. I love the way it actually states it in “The Complete Jewish Bible” where it says in verse 5… anyone whose heart makes him willing is to bring the offering for Adonai.

The rest of the reading goes through the items and craftsmanship that will be needed for the temple, and it asks for each thing with a request something to the effect of, “let it be given by the one who feels God is telling him or her to offer it.” How pleasant that true giving comes from listening to God as He speaks to our hearts. He knows our hearts anyway, and whatever He judges for us in this life will come from what He sees our hearts give more than what He sees our hands give. He will tell us what we can give, and He will tell us what He wants us to give. Nothing more. Nothing less. And, above all, with no guilt.

To bring this home, I’ll share it this way: I have never been your average “Suzie Homemaker” type of girl. I won’t show up with pies, casseroles, cleaning gloves and mops, if you are in need. I’m much more likely to send e-mails out to a prayer chain, or call people, or call businesses to make arrangements, or Google some information for you. I asked God why I was not strong in the gifts I saw in most women, and He basically told me that I could not be strong in everything. I must do what He calls me to do regardless of how the rest of society (including a church society) thinks I should do things. And the same goes for any one of you who is reading this. Be thankful for both your strengths and your weaknesses. Let God tell you what to give, how to give, and when to give. Let your gifts be one-hundred percent inspired by God that your rewards may be one-hundred percent returned to Him in praise.

February 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Blessings Flow


Flowing Waterfall

Flowing Waterfall by Crystal A Murray
At Papa John’s Corporate Park in Louisville, Kentucky

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!

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Good Gifts Go Bad


The last half of today’s reading from Genesis 11:1-32 is the genealogy of Shem, the oldest son of Noah. But before we get to that point, we get to hear a story about good gifts being used for the wrong purposes. The key verse here is Genesis 11:4 where it says, “Then they said, ‘Come, let’s build ourselves a city with a tower that has its top reaching up into heaven, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth.’ ” The rest of the story is the familiar tale of “The Tower of Babel” (aka “The Tower of Confusion”) where God confused their languages, so they could no longer work together to create things for their own name.

In this story, God has given men the whole earth and all they need to create a life for themselves. He has given them language to communicate with each other. He has given them bricks and mortar to build shelters for themselves. He was their Ultimate Provider then just as He is our Ultimate Provider now. But they forgot that even when they had to work for something, It was God who created the ability to work and the products to work with or from.

With all those gifts, including the gift of unity that was so strong even God said it could make nothing impossible for those who worked together, where do you hear any words of praise echoed to God, or any thoughts of working with His will or plans? You don’t. Instead, these men took God’s provisions as their own, built with them according to their own will, and then used them to make a name for themselves as if it were all their own from start to finish. They forgot that God is the Author and Finisher. They failed to realize that unless The Lord builds the house, all labor is in vain. (See Psalm 127:1.) They allowed the fear of being scattered to overtake them rather than asking God where He would have them to go. They let all the good gifts of God end up being used for selfish, prideful, fearful, and other bad reasons.

Today, there are many gifted people doing the same with the gifts God has given them. They become haughty and act as if the world cannot live without their gift of entertainment or prophecy. If something they have to offer is that important, it’s even more important that they keep it in line with God’s perfect will. Even our faith must be an act of obedience, so if we’re obeying our Creator, where do we get bragging rights? I pray frequently that God will keep me in check when someone positively comments on something I have done–be it singing and writing or helping and encouraging. I know I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, and I also know I can do nothing apart from Him. I know that, even when I am doing His will and accomplishing things through Him, it is only by His grace. According to His word, even my desire to serve Him is from Him. Philippians 2:13 in the Easy-To-Read version states it this way: Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it. So, there is nothing to boast in except Him. May we always keep that perspective that none of the wonderful gifts He pours out on us will go bad.

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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