Monday, November 30, 2009

A Love Transmitter

You may have heard me talk before about my mom’s hearing problem. Her hearing has been less than perfect since she was a teenager, however over the past decade it has gotten far, far worse. She uses hearing aids, but what most people don’t realize is that hearing aids amplify EVERYTHING in a person’s environment. So, if she is trying to have a conversation with someone at a restaurant, for example, her hearing aids not only amplify her friend’s voice, but also the rest of the sounds at the restaurant… clinking dishes, doors opening and closing, people talking and laughing, etc.

Fortunately, she recently got a new gadget that helps with this problem. The device has two parts, a transmitter and a receiver. The person talking to her wears the transmitter on his or her neck and my mom wears the receiver. The transmitter captures what the speaker is saying and transmits it to the receiver, which then sends the sounds directly to mom’s hearing aids.

This system has been a true God send. Recently, I attended a church service with my mom where the preacher wore the transmitter for her. I asked her afterwards if she was able to hear him. She smiled and said, “Every word!” Had it not been for the transmitter, his wonderful sermon would have been a garbled collection of sounds, all of his wisdom and insight would have been lost on her.

Did you realize that we have a wonderful message to share with the world, a message of grace and forgiveness? Indeed, we have good news, the best news of all to share with the lost. But, like the sounds my mother often hears, our words will be a garbled mess if we deliver them without love. Listen to this verse from 1 Corinthians 13 “If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Like my mom needs a transmitter to send sounds directly to her ears. Love is the transmitter that sends our message directly to others’ hearts. Pray that God will provide you with the love you need to get HIS message across.

Friday, November 20, 2009

You Have Not Because You Ask Not

A friend recently told me about an issue she has with one of her employees. Apparently, this woman, who we’ll call Jane, is a very intelligent, capable employee with lots of potential for advancement within the company. In fact, my friend has considered offering Jane a promotion several times. So what’s the problem? Jane has never asked my friend for more responsibility. If she’s interested in a promotion, she sure hasn’t let anyone know. My friend feels that if Jane hasn’t at least taken the initiative to come to her and ask about the possibility of a promotion, then she must nor really want one.

We all struggle from “request anxiety” from time to time, don’t we? Jesus knows that we do, especially when it comes to our prayer lives. He reminds us in the Gospels that it really is OK to present our requests to God…He tells us, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

The key phrase here is Keep On…God values persistence in our prayers, we see that time and time again in the Bible. Think of the woman who had suffered a hemorrhage for 12 years before she was healed by Jesus. Sarah was 90 years old before her prayers a child were answered. In Luke, Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow whose request is answered by a corrupt judge only because she keeps bothering him with her pleas. Jesus ends the parable by saying, "Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”

What are you seeking today? Go ahead and boldly present your requests to God, you have the Authority of Jesus to come before His throne. You have the assurance that within God’s timing and will, what you ask for will be given, what you seek will be found and the door that you knock upon will be opened.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Give 'till it Hurts!

CS Lewis once said, in his marvelously British accent “If our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

With this statement Lewis has provided us with a characteristically eloquent definition of sacrificial giving. In other words, give till it hurts. But why? What is the benefit of this type of giving?

When we tithe to our church or give to a charitable cause, the decision we have made is about so much more than money. It’s about trust and faith. If the amount we give is so small in comparison to the amount we have, how is that leading us to trust? However, when we give beyond what is comfortable, we are saying to the Lord that we trust him to fulfill all of our needs. We’re putting our faith in his promises.

One of my favorite verses about giving is found in Malachi 3:10, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

Giving is about the heart. Notice in the following verse from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians where he says the decision to give comes from..

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Take some time today to examine your heart. Ask God to clearly show you whether your giving is done sacrificially and cheerfully. Pray that he will help you to have the trust it takes to hand everything, finances included, over to him.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Handle It!

1 Corinthians 10:13 is one of the most misquoted verses in scripture. I’ve heard it and also said it like this, “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. But the verse actually says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

I think the root of this common scriptural misunderstanding is our need and longing for a God who is in control, in both the good times and bad. And, there’s plenty of other scripture promising us that he is.

But, when we misrepresent scripture, saying that God won’t give us more than we can handle, I think that we unintentionally also misrepresent the nature of God. We’re creating an image of a deity who sits in heaven meting out misery, stopping just before we hit our breaking point. Do we really believe that’s the kind of God we serve?

Isn’t it far more plausible and in line with God’s character to believe that we suffer trials because we live in a fallen world? And, because he is our Father God, who loves us and provides for us, he offers us his strength and his power to help us cope with these tough times. So, instead of not giving us more than we can handle, he actually gives us the strength we need to handle the difficulties that go along with living in a fallen world.

Listen to this reassurance from the book of Isaiah 40:29-31…"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

So, if you are going through a trial today, remember the strength that God has promised you. Call on him to give you what you need to endure.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Walking Wounded

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Over the past 10 years, my mom has been slowly losing her hearing. It started very slightly, but has progressed to the point where she hears about half of what she should, even with her hearing aids.

Until my mom started going through this, I had no idea how difficult life becomes when someone’s hearing starts to go. Phone conversations, watching television, socializing at a restaurant, even going to church are all things that have been affected by my mom’s hearing problem. But, the one thing my mom has had the most trouble with is other people’s insensitivity to her handicap. If someone is in a wheelchair, most people will do whatever they can to accommodate that person. A person who is blind either has a cane or a guide dog and everyone realizes immediately that the person is unable to see. However, there is nothing overtly visible about someone who is hard of hearing. So, people who do not know she has a problem get frustrated with her when she asks them to repeat what they just said. And, people who know about her hearing loss, myself included, sometimes forget and get frustrated with her as well. She has said that sometimes she wants to have a t-shirt printed that says, in BIG letters, I HAVE A HEARING PROBLEM…PLEASE SPEAK SLOWLY AND CLEARLY SO I CAN UNDERSTAND YOU!

This has been a tough thing for her adjust to. But, her situation reminds me that that we all have challenges, losses and handicaps that are not outwardly visible, yet that profoundly affect we relate with others. Think about that person at church or at work who you have to walk on egg-shells around because he is so hyper-sensitive and defensive. But, what if you knew that he grew up in an abusive home, or was married to a spouse that was overly critical and verbally abusive? Or, consider that ultra-needy and way too clingy friend whose feelings are hurt when you cannot be there for her? If you found out that her parents gave her up when she was a child and she grew up in several different foster homes, you might better understand her fear of abandonment.

Now, I’m not saying that we can’t overcome past hurts. It is true that with faith, maturity and effort healing can happen. My point is this…when you are dealing with someone that you find hard to handle, remember that they may very well have a long history of suffering that you can’t see, but that drives their attitudes and behaviors. Ask God to help you be gracious and tolerant towards the people in your life who are hard to love. After all, who better to learn grace from than the One who knows every detail of your heart, both the good and the bad, and was still willing to die in order to secure your eternity with Him?