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That’s it?

When someone gives you a gift, just accept it and say, “Thank you.”  It’s really not a difficult concept.  But when receiving from God, I still tend to struggle with this.  I feel as though I need to clean up my own mess and earn God’s help.  That is the definition of religion, people trying to impress God with what they do and to make themselves worthy of God’s notice.

Well if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this; God already loves you as much as He’s ever going to.  Do you know why that is?  Because He already loves you completely and unconditionally.  What you do or not do doesn’t change the love He has for you.  He’s a good God who wants to bless people and enjoys giving good gifts.

The story that kept popping up to me was the story of God giving Naaman a gift.  It’s found in II Kings 5.  Naaman was a great Aramean warrior, who was beloved by his king, and also happened to also to be a leper.  Naaman’s wife had a maid from Israel, who told Naaman that she knew of a prophet who could heal him.  So Naaman went to Elisha’s house.  Here’s the story beginning in verse 9 and going through verse 16.

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house.  But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!  Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.

But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’”  So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!

Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused.” 

Naaman’s pride said, “That’s it??? There must be more than simply bathing in a dirty river?  This can’t be right.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of ritual or cost involved.”  But there wasn’t.  God simply required Naaman to believe, then He healed him.  Naaman was the leader of the army that had just defeated his people in battle.  Yet still God loved him.  Yet God healed him without expecting anything in return.  That’s the goodness and giving nature of God.

This just blows my mind.

Simply Receive

While I was reading Psalm 116 this morning, verse 12 jumped out at me.  It asks “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?”  It’s a good question.  How do you repay someone who has given you something in excess of your ability to pay?  How do you repay such a good God for being who He is?

When I read the next verse it seemed like it was changing topics because it was talking about lifting the cup of salvation.  So I looked up lift, cup, and salvation in the Strong’s.  Here’s what I found:

Lift (H5375) can mean to accept, take, lift…etc…

Cup (H3583) is from a root that means to hold together.  It means container (cup).  Figuratively it refers to a portion or lot.

Salvation (H3444) is Yeshûw’âh.  It means the whole package of deliverance:  deliverance, victory, prosperity, aid, help, health, salvation and welfare.  It is everything that Jesus died to give us.

I added this all together…. Willingly accept the whole container of salvation is how you repay the Lord’s goodness.  I pondered this because it doesn’t seem good enough to me.

So, I asked Him, “How do I repay Your goodness, Lord?”

His answer,  “By accepting it.”

The truth is usually much simpler than we make it out to be.

 

Joy of the Lord

God does not want us to live sad little lives, bearly squeaking by. He doesn’t want us to be beaten down by circumstances and our enemies. He wants us to enjoy our lives even when they are difficult. He wants us to have peace that passes all understanding and joy unspeakable. He knows that when we remain in peace and maintain our joy, we are stronger.

In Nehemiah 8, the leaders were reading the Book of the Law to the people. The people realized they had been living against God’s law and they were grieved. The realization that you need to change the way you are living is good, but God does not want you to stay there and beat yourself up. Staying there makes you weak and vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. He wants you to be in a position of strength.

Ezra and Nehemiah wanted the people to understand that the Word of God should inspire celebration and hope. Not dread and fear. They told the people that the joy of the Lord was their strength.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” Nehemiah 8:9-12 NLT

The Bible is a love story. It is full of stories about hope and joy. The Old Testament shows that God never gave up on the Children of Israel. He kept pursuing them even when they ran amok. When the Children of Israel pursued God, He poured blessing on them. But even when they turned their backs on Him, He never abandoned them. Not one single day. Were there repercussions for their poor choices? Yes. But when they came back to Him, He always received them. He didn’t reject or abandon them. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the love God has for people. We were the joy set before Jesus, that made Him willing to go to the cross. And He is our hope.

Knowing that God will never leave or forsake me, fills me with joy! Knowing that despite my past choices and mistakes, I am loved, fills me with joy! Even though my present circumstances are difficult, I’m not going through it alone. I will not be swallowed up. This makes me smile in the face of unemployment and not enough money to pay my bills. I am rejoicing that God will turn everything around for my good. This joy in the face of hardship, is the joy of the Lord.

Find a reason to rejoice today. That joy will make you stronger.

Love is Practical

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” Proverbs 11:24-25 MSG

Real love is practical. It almost always wears work overalls. Do you want to be loved? Then love those around you. Here’s what that looks like…

Babysit for a single parent or give a date night to coupled parents so they can have a break. If you can do it for free, even better.

Do you feel like no one ever listens to you? Than give a listening ear to someone else.

Are you struggling to believe a promise from the Lord? Then pray for someone else to be strengthened and encourage them.

Do you have a need that is beyond what you can do? Then find someone else who has a need you can meet and bless them! Maybe give away nice clothes that don’t fit you, help clean or do yard work, pay an electric bill or drive someone to the store or pick them up for church.

Are you fighting depression or feeling miserable? Then find someone to compliment or encourage. Send a card or bring balloons or flowers. Call and tell someone you’re thinking about them.

Think about this…you can’t give a hug without getting one back.

A Willing and Able Rewarder

Your opinion and beliefs about God will affect how you deal with the ups and downs in your life.

Do you believe God is good and that He loves YOU? Not just that God is love, but that He loves YOU! Do you believe you are loved? Because you are!

Do you believe that He turns everything around for YOUR good? It isn’t enough to believe God is able to do anything. You need to know that He is able AND willing to do it for YOU.

If you begin to doubt either (or both) of these things when your situation is difficult it doesn’t mean you’ve lost faith or that there’s something wrong with you. It means you’ve forgotten your value. And it means you need to spend more time seeking Him. The Word tells us that when we seek God, we find Him. God doesn’t play games with people. He is always good. He is always love. He is always for you. And He never changes.

Remember… “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Whole Hearted

I had a dream last night that God called me into His office and I’m sitting across the desk from Him and He starts talking me about how He does not need entertainment therefore we do not need to put on a show or perform flawlessly. What He wants….longs for…desires…is for people to seek Him wholeheartedly.  The wholeheartedly part matters.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

Everyone focusus on verse 11.  God has a plan for me!  God has a future for me!  That’s great and true, because He absolutely does!  BUT don’t forget the context.  Don’t miss the seeking God wholeheartedly part. The plan and the purpose are God’s part. It’s also God’s part to listen to you, deliver you and restore you. What’s your part? Your part is to seek Him wholeheartedly.

Do you know what will be possible for you if you are wholeheartedly His????

Look at the life of Caleb. He did amazing feats even in his 80’s simply because He believed God with his whole heart. Most people remember Joshua because he was the leader after Moses and has his own book in the Bible. But Caleb is my favorite! He stood with Joshua against the rest of the Israelites. He was one of 2 people who left Egypt as an adult that made it into the Promised Land. ONE OF TWO! All because he believed God wholeheartedly. He never waivered. His attitude was “God said it and that’s all I need to know.”

Caleb’s story reminds me that it doesn’t matter what I can or cannot do. What matters is what I believe and who I belong to.

Check out: Numbers 14:24, Numbers 32:12 and Deuteronomy 1:36 for the evidence of Caleb’s whole heart approach to serving God.

PS: Caleb comes from Col-all or whole and Lev-heart. His name actually means whole heart. Love it!!

Blessing and Prayer from Numbers 6

There’s a blessing recorded in Numbers 6:24-26:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;  The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”  

I like this blessing and I am choosing to speak it over you.  But I can’t just post the blessing without you understanding just how good of a blessing it is.

– The Lord here is Yahweh (also pronounced Jehovah) which is God’s proper name in Hebrew. 

 – Bless is to prosper as the result of divine favor.  Prosper in a Biblical context isn’t just financial prosperity.  It’s to be successful at whatever you set your hand to do.  It includes relationships.  It includes ministry.  It includes your health.  It includes rest and peace.  It’s an overarching prosperity in every area of your life. 

 – Keep is to keep, tend or watch.  Usually referring to a garden or a flock of sheep.

 -Face shine upon you has to do with God’s presence and having His favor.

 -Gracious means to have mercy, have pity upon or to have favor towards.

 -Lift up countenance means to cheer up, but when it’s in reference to God it means that God looks upon you with kindness.

 -Give here means to put, set in place or establish.

 -The best part of this blessing is that peace is the Hebrew word Shalom.  It can mean hello, goodbye or peace.  But it isn’t just peace.  Shalom is an all encompassing peace.   This peace includes contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony. 

Based on Numbers 6:24-26, this is my prayer for you today.

Father, I ask that every person who reads this know that You are God.  That You are big enough and that Your grace is sufficient.  I pray that they feel and acknowledge Your presence in their life today.  That they know down to their core that You are with them and You are for them.  I pray they see You working in every area of their life. 

 I ask for Your divine favor and gracious mercies follow them, even pursue them today and every day.  I pray that You keep watch over them and their families.  I pray that You to protect them, even if it’s from themselves.  I pray that they will be restored to wholeness and be established in peace.  I pray that they will receive and choose to walk in Your peace that passes all understanding.  I ask that they maintain contentment no matter how good or bad their present circumstances are and that they maintain an attitude of gratitude.   I ask this all in the name of Your precious Son Jesus.  Amen.

 Have a wonderful Wednesday!