For this first installment of Serendipitously Sunday, I looked for some great idea to present itself to me. It showed up while I was organizing digital files and found a few things still in first draft stage. Provision by serendipity doesn’t mean there won’t be any editing, right? It’s a little longer than usual, but I hope readers will enjoy it and be blessed by the concepts. May you all have a wonderfully joyful week ahead.
So, I had it all planned. As soon as my retired hubby left for a day of errands, I was going to use the alone time for doing housework to surprise him when he got home. Alas, before he headed out, he stopped to tell me what he wanted me to do while he was gone. Ack! Now I couldn’t do as I planned because his request ruined my chance to give freely.
How many times have you wanted to be a giving person, and someone stole it away from you? Maybe it came in the form of a required tip percentage on your food bill. Maybe you tried giving to a hungry person, but the beggar demanded money and refused food, so you had to walk away. Maybe you love helping missionaries, but when some preacher says God will curse you if you don’t dig deeper, suddenly it doesn’t feel as good to give anymore. (Unfortunately, pulpit manipulation to give happens more often than you’d think.)
See, free will gives us the right to give from our hearts, and it allows the recipient to receive our gift with all the joy we have to share. I’m certain God created the idea of free will because He wants to receive whatever we give Him as a gift from our hearts and given with full joy.
One of the times I read 2 Corinthians 9:7, I realized it was written more to the recipient than the giver. A good receiver can bring joy to whoever gives him or her a gift. I hadn’t previously associated that with the joy of giving freely, but when I put these two concepts together, I realized something: Though God has authority to control all things, He chooses to leave us with free will because He loves a cheerful giver in all things….not just money.
It is possible to shine God’s light of truth with joy. We don’t have to tell others how their sins deny God if we demonstrate behaviors that uplift God. When we lift Him above all things, He (yes, He, and not us) will draw (not control, push, or force) all men to Himself, and we will receive the joy of another soul accepting Christ as Savior. His word gives a wonderful hymn of praise for salvation in Isaiah 12. Read the whole chapter for encouragement. Verse 3 reads, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
Yes, God’s Word has strong criticisms for the disobedient, but they are more often delivered to the religious who know better and still disobey. Those who have not yet been drawn to God must first desire to give Him their hearts before He will change their lives. He will replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh in which He can work. We cannot force that with judgment and condemnation. Our control will kill their free-will desires, and it could prevent God from receiving the cheerful gift He wants.
God takes great joy in giving us free will because we can turn that around and choose to serve Him with joy. We give our hearts to Him joyfully instead of out of necessity. Those of us who already serve Him can learn from His example how to do the same with those who do not yet follow Our Lord. In this, we can be harmless as doves, and in this, we will see more people freely and joyfully give their hearts to God–which, of course, is our intention in the first place.
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…
Our All for His All
“We have left all and followed You.”
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?”
What a marvelous array of images you get when doing an image search for the words “welcome wagon” on Flickr. I was torn between the one above, one that showed a wagon that said “Needles, California” on it (because I’ve been there, and I can tell you stories), and the one with the words “Welcome to Calaveres County” because of the tie into a famous writer. I decided on the one that actually said “welcome wagon” in the description, plus it’s a beautiful image.
In today’s reading from Numbers 7:1 through Numbers 7:41, we will read about all kinds of welcome wagons. Knowing that the term actually means “a wagon full of necessities for new residents to make them feel welcome” makes the details in the reading just that much better.
We begin with Moses as he finishes putting up the tabernacle. He consecrates and anoints all the furnishings and articles used in tabernacle service and is greeted by the leaders of the clans of Israel bringing him an offering. They brought him six covered wagons (a wagon for every two leaders) and twelve oxen. Moses receives the offerings and then directs them to be given to the appropriate Levites. He divides up the wagons to the clans based on their tabernacle service, so he gives 2 wagons and 4 oxen to Gershon, 4 wagons and 8 oxen to Merari, and no wagons or oxen to K’hat because their service only uses the holy things of the tabernacle.
The rest of the reading details the gifts received by five of the twelve tribes, and it appears they each present their gifts on a different day. The next two days of reading will details the gifts from the rest of the tribes. You can read the Scriptures for yourself if you want to see exactly what each tribe gave, and I will add notes if anything about their gifts speaks to me somehow. I do recommend that visitors click the links I provide for Bible reading because you can do so without leaving my blog, and the readings may speak to you in ways it does not speak to me.
I do find it amazing how the whole community of Israel pulled together with offerings to make sure the operations of the tabernacle were fully provided for. Of course, unlike our churches and fellowships now, the tabernacle represented their place of salvation, so it was important to keep it operational to keep the people free from sin. The tabernacle was a place where representatives met with the presence of Yahveh to keep Him from being angry with the community, so it was also necessary for going forward with day to day life.
For us now, we have The Holy Spirit (called The Ruach HaKodesh in Hebrew) dwelling within us and willing to walk with us through our daily lives. We no longer have to gather around a building or bring offerings to a priesthood in order to be free of our sins because Yeshua became our High Priest and allows us to bring our confessions and sacrifices directly to Him. That is why we can now come boldly before His throne–to GIVE Him our repentance and offerings to show we are serious about it. It actually hurts me to hear preaching that tells people to come boldly to GET something from God because I know the people are missing out by having a “taking” spirit instead of a giving one. God’s “welcome wagon” has always worked on a “give and it shall be given” basis, and if we give Him our hearts, He will give us more than we can conceive.
Why didn’t the clam want to share his lunch? Because, he was a little shellfish. I have never read anything that would make selfishness sound like a pretty thing, but there are plenty of pictures (like the one above), and stories, that demonstrate the beauty of sharing. I think we have a built-in desire to share, which is why the stories touch us so deeply. And I think it is that natural desire to share that makes social media so profitable because we can share without a monetary cost to ourselves. We don’t only share for what we can get back, but I think most of us find it easier to share with givers than with those who do nothing but take, take, take. As Scripture says in Luke 6:38 (New Living Testament)…
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 10:12 through Leviticus 10:15, we read of God’s example of sharing. Moses tells Aaron and his sons to eat the especially holy part of the grain offering by the altar, and he explains that it is the priests share. He then tells them to eat their share of the wave offering in a clean place. He says that offering is also to be shared with their Aaron’s daughters, and with the rest of the family. He goes on to explain that these portions of the offerings are to be their shared portions perpetually.
See, these were offerings given to God, but He made sure a portion of them was given back. He set the example of only taking to give, just as He set that example in nature with the way it regenerates. And I believe He is the one who put it into our hearts to give something back whenever we receive something–even if it is only our gift of thanks to the giver. He gave us His word that we can do as He says, and He gave us His example that we can do as he does. That’s why we play Follow the Leader and not Follow the Dictator. Let us lead by example as He led by example that the whole world may know the beauty of Our Awesome Creator.
I’ve shared a picture with part of this writing from Ellen G White before, but it seems appropriate again, so enjoy this beautiful portion of a chapter from her book The Desire of Ages…
Now sin has marred God’s perfect work, yet that handwriting remains. Even now all created things declare the glory of His excellence. There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. No bird that cleaves the air, no animal that moves upon the ground, but ministers to some other life. There is no leaf of the forest, or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry. Every tree and shrub and leaf pours forth that element of life without which neither man nor animal could live; and man and animal, in turn, minister to the life of tree and shrub and leaf. The flowers breathe fragrance and unfold their beauty in blessing to the world. The sun sheds its light to gladden a thousand worlds. The ocean, itself the source of all our springs and fountains, receives the streams from every land, but takes to give. The mists ascending from its bosom fall in showers to water the earth, that it may bring forth and bud.
The angels of glory find their joy in giving,–giving love and tireless watchcare to souls that are fallen and unholy. Heavenly beings woo the hearts of men; they bring to this dark world light from the courts above; by gentle and patient ministry they move upon the human spirit, to bring the lost into a fellowship with Christ which is even closer than they themselves can know.
Do you remember the children’s story called “Stone Soup”? It’s one of those stories that seems to have stuck with me from childhood forward. I’ve always believed in the idea that anything can be accomplished if only people will stop being selfish and will pull together as one. We have Scriptures that tell us that, like where Paul talks about all the members of the body being one, and we teach our kids to sing songs like “If We All Will Pull Together,” but when it comes down to it, it’s a struggle to find people who will share for the greater good.
In today’s reading from Exodus 38:1 through Exodus 39:1, we read more about the furnishings and utensils created by Bezalel and Oholiab. Yesterday, we read that the people of Israel actually gave too much, and the craftsmen had to tell them to stop bringing their offerings. Today, we actually get a breakdown of the donations and offerings the people brought in. I won’t give you the entire breakdown, but the metals given weighed in at the following amounts: Gold equaled 1930 pounds, silver equaled 6650 pounds, and bronze equaled 4680 pounds.
Now, while all of those above numbers sound like a lot of metal, (and they would be a lot of metal when it came time to carry the tabernacle from one location to another), today’s reading also does a quick census and tells us that of men 21 years old and over, there were over six-hundred-thousand. It goes on to say that the silver offering only came to about one-fifth of an ounce per person. From this we can see that when everyone comes together to give for a common cause, the needs will be more than met, and it may not even cost that much from each individual giver.
I think the thing that makes me the saddest here is that the government has gotten too involved in our giving. Their ways of forcing us to give by over-taxing to pay for things we may or may not believe in has caused people to pull even more into themselves instead of being the givers God created us to be. Even the Egyptians were giving people and sent Israel off with much of the gold they’re probably now giving. Now we’re at a point where we can’t really fight it, so at the least, I think it’s time for Christians to begin praying that our giving (no matter how compelled) will somehow be used to provide for the needs God wants taken care of. And let us pray above all else that God will be glorified in us and in our giving.
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.
At one time, I subscribed to a marketing newsletter all about the concept of what the author called “Give to Get” marketing. It talked of things like when banks would offer new toasters and blenders to get new customers. That type of marketing now might be a free e-book download to encourage the purchase of an author’s new release. People always seem more willing to buy if they first know that you are a giver.
For me, however, I read that marketing newsletter more in the interest of how it applied to real life than to sales. And from what I see in today’s reading from Genesis 42:19 through Genesis 43:15, Jacob was a fan of giving to get as well. in the story, Joseph has told the brothers to leave one of them in jail and let the others go back and get the youngest brother, Benjamin, to prove they are not spies. They discuss it amongst themselves, and they do not realize that Joseph can understand the Hebrew language they are speaking because they are using an interpreter. In verse 24, we read that Joseph had to turn away from them to hide his tears over their discussion of how they deserved the current situation because of what they did to their brother Joseph.
They leave Simeon and start the journey back home, but at camp they realize that all their money has been restored. They don’t know that Joseph requested it to be that way, so they think it is more punishment. By the time they get home, Jacob is truly scared that if he lets his sons return with Benjamin, he will then have lost three of his sons. But eventually, the famine is too great to fight anymore, and since Joseph had told them they would not see his face anymore unless their brother was with them, Jacob agrees to send him. Reuben and Judah both promise him they will give up their own sons in the promise of returning Benjamin safely.
As Jacob sends his sons back, he sends them with double the money to make sure they will pay for the first supplies in case it is an oversight. And then (this is what amazed and blessed me) he tells them to make sure to bring gifts with them. He tells them to bring spices, perfumes, oils, honey, almonds, pistachios, and whatever goods they have to bless the man in charge of the food. In other words, he wants to give something to the man in charge in order to have a better chance to get his son(s) returned to him. And today’s reading ends with all of them, their gifts, their double portions, and their youngest brother standing before Joseph.
The giving first idea is so much better than today’s idea of entitlement. It’s better than demanding. It’s better than playing on people’s sympathies. How much more are you willing to help someone who says he will mow your lawn for 5 or 10 bucks than someone who just comes to your door asking for money to feed his family? Even God is all about give to get. He made a world to put humans in. And when we did not deserve it, Scripture tells us that God FIRST loved us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If we are truly following a WWJD concept, we will also give first. Let’s see, how does the chorus of that Sunday School song go?
Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Because He first loved me.
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!
Today, we begin Parashah (portion) 5 which covers Sarah’s life and spans Genesis 23:1 through Genesis 25:18. It starts with a bit of sadness for Abraham in today’s reading from Genesis 23:1 through 23:16. In our story, Sarah has passed away at the age of 127, and Abraham is looking for a proper place to bury her in a land that is not their home. Certainly, not having his own land on which to bury his wife is adding to his grief, so Abraham is looking for a plot to buy as his own. He has set such a good example, even as a foreigner in a strange land, that everyone on the council is willing to give up their own tombs to him, but Abraham keeps seeking for something of his own.
Finally, Abraham asks the men to consult Efron the Hittite about a piece of farmland he would like to buy and use for the burial. It appears that Efron was already among the councilmen present, so he speaks up and says he’ll give the land to Abraham for free. Of course, many of us would consider that to be a blessing from God, but sometimes it can be more of a blessing to pay your way and be a good businessman, so Abraham insists on knowing the value of the land. Efron figures out what he is asking and says, “A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels — what is that between me and you?” Then Abraham gets his message and pays for the land.
Maybe it’s my female mind, but all the hidden messages back and forth did not make sense to me, so I had to ask my husband why men wouldn’t just come straight out and give a price and an exchange. He said that it enabled each man to make his offering without insulting the other. In a current world example, the exchange might go something like this…
A woman goes to get her hair done. The hairdresser offers to do her hair for free because she is the pastor’s wife. The woman says, “A workman is worthy of his wages, so please let me pay you.” The hairdresser answers, “But it’s only a 25 dollar style and cut,” and happily accepts that amount from her customer.
In the above scenario, both women are able to exchange their services freely, and it results in both women being more givers than takers. It appears Abraham had some good business sense and knew how much of a gift to God, others, and ourselves it is to have a giving spirit. And this is an awesome way that we, too, can be a blessing while we are foreigners in this strange land called life on earth. It gives clear understanding to why joy is spelled “J.O.Y.” and stands for Jesus, Others, You–in that order.
The picture below contains a portion of a beautiful message (from 1902) called The Joy of Giving by Ellen G. White. Read the full article at http://www.whiteestate.org/message/Joy_of_Giving.asp or by clicking on the picture.
Today’s reading begins Parashah (Portion) Four, which includes Genesis 18:1-22:24. Part 1 of this portion is Genesis 18:1 through Genesis 18:14, and it tells the story of when God stopped by Abraham’s house. It says that when Abraham looked out his door, he saw three men standing under the Oaks of Mamre, and he knew immediately who was on his property. The picture below from Wikemedia Commons, can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abrahams_Oak,_1880.jpg.
So, here’s Abraham just going about his daily routines, having many of the same needs we all experience on a daily basis, and suddenly he looks outside and sees God. If that happened to you, what would you do? How many people do you suppose would say something like, “Oh, hey God. I’ve been meaning to talk to You. I’ve got this list of things I’ve been needing from You, and, well, since You’re here anyway.” I grieve that many would see it as the magic lamp is here. Let’s rub it.
But not Abraham. He ran–not walked–from his tent door and fell at his feet in humble worship. He asked these visitors to be his guests; to wash their feet, have some food and drink, and to rest before they traveled on. He was beside himself trying to give to them and do FOR them rather than trying to get something FROM them.
This has always meant something special to me. I have asked myself more than once if, when I am in the Presence of the Almighty, am I more concerned about what I can get or what I can give. So many altar services are all about coming forward to receive something from God. We have services and gatherings centered around gifts and getting. Even Christmas, a time when people claim to be celebrating the birth of our Messiah, is more about getting gifts from each other than giving gifts to the birthday child. And whether it’s in the natural or the spiritual, this taking more than giving breaks my heart. And I wonder, after all God has given us in creation and salvation, does it break His heart too?
See, Abraham knew that the Creator of the Universe didn’t have to bless him as He already had. He knew God didn’t even have to stop to visit. Thankfulness exceeded his desire to request things from Him. His biggest request was that he would find favor in God’s eyes, so that He would stay and visit for a while. In return, God reminded Abraham once more that his wife Sarah would be having a baby soon. This time, it was Sarah who laughed, and I love today’s final verse in response to Sarah’s laughter: Is anything too hard for the Lord? The Amplified Bible adds “or too wonderful.”
I want to go before the throne in thanksgiving and humble adoration proclaiming how great is my God and praising Him that He reigns supreme in my life. I want to praise Him because I know that NOTHING is too hard or too wonderful for Him. And I pray this blesses Him so much that he will want to stop by and visit often.
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