Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Sacrificial Gift

Does it ever amaze you how a Bible story that you have read probably a hundred times before will suddenly jump out at you and you will see something you've never ever seen before? Same words as the last one hundred times, but this time, they seem to say something so different to your heart? This has been my experience with the story of Hannah. Perhaps it's because this is the first time I'm reading the story as a mom, or maybe because I'm really trying to take my time as I read through the Bible chronologically. (Fell off the reading program wagon months ago when Ellie arrived early...so now I just go at my own pace...slow and steady, right?!)

So often when we hear the story of Hannah we are reminded of the following lessons: Hannah prayed diligently (1 Sam 1:9-18)--don't give up hope; keep praying! Hannah kept her promise to God (I Sam 1:24-28)--keep your commitments. Hannah praised and thanked God for his blessing (1 Sam 2:1-11)--we should always be thankful when God answers our prayers. These are excellent and valuable lessons that we can learn from the life of Hannah, but this time when I read the story I was smacked in the face with the reality of the depth of her offering to God.

Hannah gave God her most valuable treasure, her child. You might say, "She gave her everything." Can you imagine? As I hold my precious Eleana tight in my arms, I cannot imagine the emotions that Hannah had to be going through. She must have really lived every day with purpose during those approximate three years she had her precious son in her arms knowing that it would soon be a beautiful memory. But she was more committed to God  than she was interested in how she felt or what others thought she could afford to give. This seems to be a foreign concept to modern Christianity where it's all about how we feel and what makes us happy. I bet Peninnah (her sister wife) thought she was insane knowing how Hannah had desired a child; maybe even her husband Elkanah disagreed with her desire to fulfill the promise she made to God. We don't know, but we do know her story is recorded in 1 Samuel as a testimony to her faithfulness and sacrificial giving to God. This reminds me of another story in Luke 21:

And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury [poverty] hath cast in all the living that she had.

Does that challenge you the way it challenged me? These two women gave sacrificially to God. They literally gave everything. And God thought it an important enough lesson that He included it in Scripture for us. Hannah gave her son. The widow gave her living, leaving her even more desolate than she was when she arrived at the temple. Can you imagine? Is your heart so dedicated to Christ that you give sacrificially to Him? Or do you throw a small token in the offering plate on Sunday, donate two hours to him on a Sunday morning, really stretch yourself and pick up a canned good for the food pantry? Wow. God must really be impressed with our giving! (insert eye roll) You know, the God who gives us everything we have, including the breath we breathe? How pathetic we must be to our Heavenly Father (who, may I remind you, gave His most cherished treasure for us, Jesus Christ)! 

The Bible praises Hannah and the widow for their sacrificial giving, and He condemns those that gave little out of their abundance. "Little out of their abundance" sounds like American Christians, doesn't it? He's not interested in the dollar amount we give, he's interested in the heart behind the gift. Hannah's heart was so dedicated to the Lord, she gave her child to the temple (to be raised by a man~can you imagine doing that, ladies?! lol) The widow's heart was so captivated by her Heavenly Father that she sacrificially gave of her feeble means. Yet, we begrudgingly throw our 10% in the offering plate or think we are doing God some great favor because we gave Him some money. Sacrificial giving doesn't have to be financial, Hannah's wasn't. But, it would be a really great place for us to start, don't ya think?

What happened to these women following their sacrificial offerings? Well, Hannah had five more children! Can you imagine her joy?! She gave her sacrificial offering to God and He blessed her abundantly! Samuel is considered the greatest judge of Israel; can you imagine her pride of being the mother of someone so greatly used by God? The Bible doesn't indicate what happened to the widow, but knowing the character of our Father, I think I can safely submit the theory that her needs were fully met after she walked out of the temple that day. I can't help but think about the thrill in their hearts when God faithfully blessed their gifts.

These two Biblical examples have challenged me to examine my giving to God. Am I offering Him token gifts or sacrificial gifts? Am I content to give my time, money, and treasures only when it's comfortable? Or am I willing to give in a way that causes me to sacrifice the things I cherish? What about you? I've heard the phrase, "you can't out give God" so many times in my life, but I believe it's true. The compilation of all your earthly worth and assets cannot begin to compare to the God who owns all and created the universe. Do you think the widow thought she was giving some big, extravagant gift to God? I doubt it! I envision her sneaking into the temple and trying to slip her small offering in while being as invisible as possible (just my imagination of course). But Jesus didn't praise the many who were giving what they were comfortable giving, He praised the widow who probably gave, financially, much less, but spiritually much more.

Do we have the faith of Hannah and the widow to give sacrificially to the Savior who gave His very life for us? I'm challenged as I ponder this question today...




Saturday, October 1, 2016

When the Storm Clouds Break

I'm currently studying through the book of Ruth. As a side note, I keep hearing lessons and sermons from this book--Sunday evening church, a few weeks ago in SS, a book I'm reading for a launch team, etc. It seems God really wants me to stop and think on this story during this season of life. The thought that I keep meditating on, that I can't seem to get out of my mind is God's faithfulness even in the depths of pain and sorrow. Naomi is a prime example of a bad day, or maybe more accurately, a bad several years. She experienced, in my opinion, ultimate loss--the death of her husband and her two sons. Add to that horrific tragedy the time period we are talking about--around 1100BC. Women who did not have a husband were the poorest of the poor. They literally had nothing and had no way of making a living, so a childless widow was about as poor and destitute as you could be in that time period. It wasn't like today where a woman could go out and get a job and live on her own. It just wasn't the way the civilization of that time was set up. 

So Naomi loses literally everything (imagine being a mother old enough to have married children and trying to move your entire life--on foot--back to your homeland. I'm assuming she left most of her possessions in Moab). The only glimmer of happiness she has in her life is her daughter-in-law Ruth who has committed to stay by her side no matter the circumstances. (I hope to talk about Ruth next time, wow did she have faith!) Naomi and Ruth return to Naomi's homeland, Bethlehem. When Naomi arrives she makes it clear right away to her Bethlehem friends and neighbors that she is not the same woman who left for Moab years prior. She  goes so far as to change her name just to indicate her sad state. "Call me Mara, not Naomi." "Mara." Bitterness. I have been tempted in the past to think, "Well, aren't we dramatic, Naomi." But, I don't think she was looking for a pity party. I think she was truly in the depths of despair and didn't even recognize herself, much less her Creator God that had not left her side.

But God wasn't finished with Naomi's story yet, nor is he finished with your story. God had a beautiful twist in mind for Naomi's sorrow. As the amazing love story of Ruth and Boaz unfolds in chapters 2-4 of the book of Ruth, we begin to see Naomi's hope.We see her transform from a bitter widow wallowing in deep sorrow, to a content, happy woman who has finally seen the Lord's hand. By the end of the book, I feel giddy with excitement for how awesome it must have been for Naomi to finally see everything fall into place as her providential God had orchestrated!

We all know someone who is in a "Naomi-like" situation, maybe it's even your personal story right now. Can I encourage you that God has not forgotten you? He sees your tears, your sorrow, your pain. And He cares. Just like this story has a (kinsman) redeemer, we too have a Redeemer. Our Redeemer loves us, promises to care for us, and never forsakes us. It's true that we don't always understand the why of our pain or the pain of someone we love, but there is hope. If you're struggling right now, your heart is aching, or you feel like things couldn't possibly get worse, look UPWARD. Trust God. Learn from Naomi's story that beauty can come from ashes. You are not alone. You are not forsaken.

And it's okay to ask, "why?" I'm sure Naomi asked God, "Why?" when her husband died, again when her first son died, and yet again when her second son died. Job asked God, "Why?" Moses asked, "Why (me)?" I'm pretty sure from Naomi's own admission of bitterness that she probably questioned what God was doing. So don't be discouraged if the "why" question is haunting your mind. Know that God isn't finished with your story yet.

At the end of Ruth 1, we see a broken, bitter woman who wants to change her name so that everyone can know how broken she is. By the end of the book, we see a totally different woman~a woman who knows she is redeemed and adored by her God.  Be encouraged that God sees you! And your story, like Naomi's in chapter 1, is far from over.

Blessings,




Sunday, January 17, 2016

2016 Reading List

Taking a few minutes to look over my reading list for 2015 (see that list here) and prepare for an exciting year of learning in 2016. Did you have a reading list for last year? How'd ya do? I got through 11 of my 15...I've been pretty out of commission the past three months with Baby O so I kinda fell off the reading bandwagon the end of the year. I'm ready to jump back on this year, with a little more realistic expectation I think. I did read almost 15 books, I just happened to add a few in that weren't on the list. :)  Of the 4 I did not get to, I'm moving 2 of them on to 2016. I lent both of these out this year, so I'll use that as my excuse of why I didn't get to them! For 2016, I plan to read the following...and I'm hoping to find a few more good parenting books to read before Baby O's arrival in July. 

Here's what's on my list so far:

1. For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn


What's going on in a man's mind? From their early days, every woman has struggled to understand why males behave the way they do. Even long-married women who think they understand men have only scratched the surface. Beneath a man's rugged exterior is an even more rugged, unmapped terrain. What bestselling author Shaunti Feldhahn's research reveals about the inner lives of men will open women's eyes to what the men in their life - boyfriends, brothers, husbands, and sons - are really thinking and feeling. Men want to be understood, but they're afraid to "freak out" the women they love by confessing what is happening inside their heads. This book will guide women in how to provide the loving support that modern men want and need.

2. The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst


Are you living with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and aching with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul? Lysa TerKeurst is learning that there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. In The Best Yes she will help you:
  • Cure the disease to please with a biblical understanding of the command to love.
  • Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no. 
  • Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom based decision-making process. 
  • Rise above the rush of endless demands and discover your best yes today.


3. One with a Shepherd by Mary Somerville

One with a Shepherd is a wealth of God's wisdom and grace for the wife of a man in ministry. It is biblical, practical and personal. Whether one has been a pastor's wife for some time, or is just starting out, this book will serve as a faithful friend in equipping and encouraging the minister's wife in her quest to exalt Christ and have joy in the journey.





4. Gripped by the Greatness of God by James MacDonald

When was the last time you were truly gripped by God's greatness? Most Christians recall heartfelt resolutions around a fire at bible camp as children or a revival meeting. But what causes the fervor of those experiences to translate into a consistent life pattern?
Pastor and author James MacDonald believes that the better we understand God, the better we understand ourselves, and the less likely we are to favor our own will over God's. He writes, "God is not safe and He will not be squeezed into some neat, respectable Sunday discussion... No. To know God at all is to watch Him explode any box we put Him in with His terror, majesty, and indescribable wonder.'"

Expounding upon Isaiah's encounters with God, MacDonald prods snoozing saints to rediscover the wonder of God's attributes. He also shares candidly from his experiences in life and ministry where God proved Himself to be the Great I AM.

This book will spur new and seasoned believers alike to detest mediocrity in their spiritual walks. Ideal for individual or small group study.

5. Instructing a Child's Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp

From interaction with their peers to the instruction and correction that they receive at home, Children interpret their experience from a worldview that seeks to answer their fundamental questions: Who am I? What do I exist for? Where can I find joy? We need to provide our children with a consistent, persuasive, biblical framework for understanding the world God has made and their place in it. Instructing a Child's Heart is essential to Shepherding a Child's Heart. The instruction that you provide for them not only informs their mind; it is directed to persuading their hearts of the wisdom and truthfulness of God s ways. Impress truth on the hearts of your children, not to control or manage them, but to point them to the greatest joy and happiness that they can experience delighting in God and the goodness of his ways.



6. Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp

Written for parents with children of any age, this insightful book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child's heart into the paths of life. Shepherding a Child's Heart gives fresh biblical approaches to child rearing.





7. Raising Kids Who Hunger For God by Benny and Sheree Phillips

Biblical principles for raising kids who want to love, know, and follow God.






In addition to these books, I'm also reading through the Bible chronologically this year with my team over at Deliberate Women. I've never done this before, and I'm really excited about this year. If this is something you are interested in, we'd love to have you join us. We even have a Facebook Group where we encourage each other and share what we are learning. I'm personally using The Chronological Life Application Bible (KJV-this is the one I have), others in the group are using The Daily Bible.

I'd love a few more suggestions to add to my 2016 reading list...any ideas? What's on your 2016 list?