Wednesday, March 31, 2010

To Give or not to Give

I was thirsty and I got out of bed to get some water from the bathroom tap. I had just learned that if you put your hands together just right, they could be a personal cup whenever you needed one. All I wanted to do was practice this trick whenever I got the chance. On my way back to bed I heard my parents in their bedroom bickering. I was seven years old and very curious. I went to sit down outside their door and eaves-dropped on them until my eyelids were heavy. I couldn’t understand much of what they were saying but I gathered there was a severe lack of money.

I immediately picked up the worry as if it came sweeping under the door to me and gave me no choice but to consume it. I lay in my bed for quite some time wrestling with the fact that I could save my family. I had a five dollar bill in my piggy bank. If they had that money, it would all be ok for them. They wouldn’t argue, they would be happy, they would feel better.

The next morning I saw my mom and my heart just welled up. “Yes,” I thought, “I will save my family.” I ran upstairs grabbed that bill and with more joy than is explainable, ran to my mother and gave it to her. I was beaming, “Here Mom.”
“What’s this?” she asked
“My birthday money, it’s for you and dad.”
“Oh baby, you keep this.” She said sweetly.
“No Mom, it’s for you and dad.” I insisted “I heard you talking last night and you said you needed money.”
My mom’s eyes welled up. I felt joy. I had touched my mom's heart, whom I loved. I remember her insisting, and then me insisting again. Everything in me was pouring out liquid love, the kind that gives you a high.

My mama hugged me. She stood up, kissed my head and said thank you to me. She took my money. I felt joy again rush into me. I saved my families financial crisis. Never had any seven year old walked as tall as I did that afternoon.

After dinner, I was playing with my brothers when my mother called for me. I raced down the stairs and she handed me something in a bag.
“What is it?” I was perplexed.
“It’s for you.” She smiled.
I ripped into that bag and there she was. My mom had bought me the most beautiful doll I’d ever seen. Her hair was so long and her eyes looked just like mine.
“I wanted to buy her for you, so I used your money for that.” She smiled again.
I felt that same rush again. I didn’t worry about the fact that she didn’t use that money to save the family. I didn’t even think about that. I was in love with my doll.
What I didn’t realize at that time was that doll was worth at least $30-$40.
Here I am, a woman still moved to tears by the little threads of this story that have woven into my heart and shaped me forever.

My whole life I would hear about sowing and reaping and tithing and giving, I would think about it in terms of the “reaping” part.
If you want to reap anything, you need to learn to sow. When you sow, you reap a harvest much bigger than what you sowed. That is how God is, how he works and so on. I have preached this message and I have personal testimony that proves you cannot out-give God. When you give, He gives back, and it is a lot more.

Lately, something about this message has bothered me. I haven’t been able to quite put my finger on it, but for months now, I’ve been wrestling with it. Something just doesn’t fit right. It’s true, but it’s not quite there. I was in church recently and they started in on this again before they passed the plates around. Some people might think it bothers me because it’s a message that could manipulate people if it wasn’t told right. That true, but that’s a whole other issue, that wasn’t it.

A couple weeks ago, I had a vision of a hungry man in front of me. His clothes were torn and I knew he was starving. I had five dollars in my pocket and there was a McDonalds across the street. I raced over and bought him some food and brought it back to him. Then, the vision shifted. While I watched the man eat, I felt joy unspeakable. The Lord himself came into my vision and spoke to me while the man was eating,
“Did you pray whether you should sow into that man? Did you pray whether you should give him that food? Did you ask me if you should tithe to him?”

“No Lord, I didn’t do any of that” I responded.

“Why did you run to McDonalds and spend my money that way, without asking me?”

I started weeping, “Lord” I said, “He was dying of hunger and I had money and there was a restaurant.” I was explaining myself.

Then He grinned, he threw his head back and laughed. I started laughing too, but I was confused. His eyes twinkled and he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

My vision ended with me in tears. I knew I was on the brink of new revelation and there is nothing like fresh bread to apply to life immediately. I combed through that vision over and over. He didn’t want me to pray about it. That was so odd. I always felt as though I was to pray and seek Him as to where to give. Was He saying I didn’t need to consult Him, when I felt that surge of compassion? What if I have compassion for everyone? Am I supposed to drain myself and resources and finances and time… etc…

I went to my Bible and began thumbing through the gospels looking for red letters. What was He like? What did He say and do when needs were pressing Him from all sides. He gave. He gave. He gave. Over and over He gave of himself and extended himself. Why did He do these things? He was overcome with compassion. He was compelled by the Love of the Father within Him. He didn’t seem to get resentful or worn out, although He was a man. He must have been tired. What drove Him to give of himself even unto death? He was driven as a mad man in love.

I came across John 3:16, the most quoted verse in the Bible. “For God so loved the world, He gave….” I stopped. I wondered, did the Father give because He knew he would gain the whole world? Was He like a power hungry emperor, rubbing his hands together up in Heaven saying, “I’ll give you Jesus, to get the world!” I read it again, “For God so loved the world, He gave….” His motive was driven out of love for me. He loved me so much He gave His only son.

So there it was, the missing piece; the absence of love in my giving. I have spent my life giving to reap my harvest, and I have reaped. I have reaped so much, I’d sow it again. It’s a great Kingdom formula and it works every time. The church seems to think it’s our hidden secret. It’s not. If the world applies Kingdom principles to their lives, they will reap too, and so they have. “The rain falls on the just and the unjust”
It’s kindergarten basics and yet we preach it like it’s the greatest formula ever told. The reason that formula captivates us is it speaks to our inward need to grow, attain and to have. That isn’t entirely bad either. When we experience gain, we can be a blessing. The problem with formulas though is they lack intimacy.

Why do I give? What are my motives really? I realized that at times, the purest form of my motive was selfishness. Many times, I was giving to get. I was promised I’d get much more than I gave, and from a young age I learned that was true. To think though, that when I gave it was to receive seemed a little self centered. What it would be like to give the way God gave?

I immediately started asking God to remind me of a time I didn’t give to get. I wanted a reference point. That is when I remembered the story of the five dollar bill and my doll.
The Lord said, “Do you remember that first time you gave? That was so good. Do you remember your doll? Your mama did so good too.”

The revelation came full circle. I didn’t give that five dollars out of obedience. I didn’t give it out of guilt, or because of “teachings on giving”. I didn’t give out of exhaustion or emptiness. I gave it because I loved. I couldn’t keep it. A need had presented itself. I was inspired to give by the compassion in my heart. I felt joy when that money left my hands. I wasn’t thinking I’d get something for it. I gave based on a pure unaffected undefiled powerful motive. I gave from an overflow of my love for my mother. My motive was Love, just like my daddy in heaven's is when He gives to me.

Then I thought about my mother. She played the role of God in this lesson plan for me. She took my money, multiplied it and gave it back to me. She didn’t need my money; it was hers to begin with any ways. She wasn’t trying to thank me or reward me for my good deed.... she went to the store and saw that gorgeous over priced doll. She couldn’t help herself. She loved me so. She had to spend Heaven’s money to do it and she didn’t think twice. She didn’t need to pray about it either.

We think when we give and the Lord gives back to us, it’s a reward. It’s not; it’s a reflection of His good nature, His adoration for His creation. We think we had a part with our five dollars. It’s all His money we are playing our life with. He put in place Kingdom principles so that anyone on this earth could apply and see fruit from them, whether they know the King or they don’t. The advantage I have to someone who doesn’t know the King, isn’t a harvest, it’s a relationship. I get to know Him and learn His nature first hand, by the power of the Holy Spirit. I get to resemble Him and learn how to give like He did. Any fruit that comes to me as a result of giving is simply a testimony again of how much He loves me. I get to know how much He loves me.

Lovers give.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Goal

I've been considering my friends lately. What is it that draws me to certain people? What is it that steers me away from some people, and is that ok? I know I can't be friends with everyone, but I also don't want to allow hang-ups to cause me to shut the door on someone. Where do boundaries come in? Some people don't understand where is the balance? What does it mean to "Love your neighbor?" and who is my neighbor?

The people who I would consider my close friends are definitely neighbors. They love me, I can trust's easy. Then there is those people who are not trust worthy, and who I consider to be "mean or other negative adjectives". What about them? Are they my neighbor? What does it mean to love them?

According to one of my hero's, Dan Mohler, the definition of loving people means to treat that person according to their value to God. If I am able to see a difficult, mean, angry, depressed, annoying, hassle of a person according to their value to Jesus, I can love them. To Him, they were worth His blood. To Him, they are worth His blood still. Whether I think they are or not, just boils down to how arrogant I want to be about comparing my worth and theirs to our same creator.

We live in a society where the way we treat others depends on the way they treat us. People have to earn our love. When did I ever earn the love of God? There have been many times in my life where I may have given you an example of how I earned it, but I never did. He gave it to me for free. In fact, it's hard for me to wrap my mind around how He loves us. How is it that He doesn't love me more than a murderer? He doesn't even love me more than a rapist, or a pedophile. Why? How can that be? His love for me isn't based on my performance, it's based on my value to Him.

We were so valuable, He died for us...ALL! I still have to remind myself some days, that my performance is meaningless in terms of auditioning for more love. I have all His love, I cannot lose it. He loves me every moment of every day, even in the midst of my "sinning". He just can't get enough of me. He is chasing me with goodness and mercy every day. He does not see bad in me, He only sees himself in me. I am right. I am perfect because He lives in me and He is right and He is perfect. His righteousness far out weighs my deficiencies. How do I even consider such deficiencies in the light of such perfection, such bliss, such LIGHT? How can I even look at myself when He is so big, so perfect, so beautiful. It's His perfect Love that tangles me up every day I consider it. My eyes are not on me, they are on Him.

If I can't love someone, it's because I have yet to feel the love of God in every corner of me. So, when I have a difficult time loving someone, it acts as a big flashing sign that I'm in need of His love. It's not my love I'm giving's His. It needs to come from an overflow so I don't burn out trying my best to love someone on my own strength. That would suck for them anyways because then I would expect something in return...some kind of pay back or reward.

"They will know we are Christians by our Love." This is the only way someone ought to know I'm a Christian. If they find out a different way, that's fine I guess.... My goal though, my single goal is to waste my life learning how to love like He does! I don't want to learn it when I get to heaven, what's the point then. How does that help anyone?

This is my time on earth. Gratefulness and thanksgiving are my two single weapons to keep me from selfishness and Love is my gift that I can freely give. If my eyes are on me, I notice how people treat me. If my eyes are on Him, I can actually love in a way that resembles how He loves so closely, you wouldn't know the difference. My goal!