June 6, 2017 – Courage in Generosity- 1 Samuel 25:18-19, 1 Kings 17:8-16

 

Generosity

Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs. She loaded them on donkeys, and said to her young men, “Go on ahead of me; I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 1 Samuel 25:18-19 (NRSV)

Not only did Abigail respond in a crisis, but she responded generously, and with prime provender. She didn’t pack up the generic mac-n-cheese or last week’s stale potato chips.  She sent the very best of her household’s goods- not leftovers, not expired canned beets and dented cans of creamed corn, but the good stuff.  She brought out the stuff you would serve to your own family and friends.

It takes a certain amount of selflessness to give others the prime stuff we would rather keep for ourselves. But it is true courage in generosity to give the best of ourselves to others, even when it is at risk of our own personal loss.

Many of us are not wealthy as Abigail was. Many of us are at places in our lives in which we don’t have abundance to give freely and to be generous from.  It is good that God Himself is the source of all good gifts.  Even if we think we have nothing to give, God provides.  It is often when we come to the end of ourselves and of our resources that God gives to us and through us, just as the story of Elijah and the widow illustrates:

Then the word of the Lord came to him, (Elijah) saying,  “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”  So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.”  As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”  But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”  Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son.  For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.  1 Kings 17:8-16 (NRSV)

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It takes courage to be generous when we have very little. But God can multiply that very little and make that very little to be something very significant.

God calls us to come as we are, to bring what we are able, and to let Him make us His heroes through our generosity.

 

 

May 25, 2017- The Blessings of Surrender- Genesis 22:15-19

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The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba. Genesis 22:15-19 (NRSV)

Do we truly seek God’s will and are we open to the work of the Holy Spirit? Even as we ask this question, in the back of our minds we should understand that we are not the Lone Ranger.  God provides the Lamb.  He equips us to fulfill the missions He gives us, spiritually, emotionally, physically and materially. He sends us people to walk with us and to be part of our purpose as well.  He works the impossible with the ordinary, and He can make everything out of nothing.

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God does ask of us both obedience and surrender, even when we fail miserably at it. Do we have a willingness to do what God asks of us, even when it is difficult or painful, or it involves the sacrifice of something priceless and irreplaceable to us?

There are rewards inherent to obeying God and being willing to surrender to Him, even if we don’t see it immediately, or the world makes it look like no good deed goes unpunished.

Jesus taught us to store up our rewards in Heaven- to live for what really matters- instead of chasing what’s temporary. Abraham didn’t live on this earth to see his legacy fulfilled, but his obedience was rewarded.  He would not keep back any of his gifts from God, including his precious only son.

It’s a countercultural message to go against the tide of instant gratification and the “me, me, me” mentality.

Sometimes we have to sacrifice in great ways and we don’t necessarily see results. Sometimes we are called to keep working on a difficult relationship, or to walk with a person in crisis instead of following pop culture and leaving the scene as soon as the skies turn dark.  Society doesn’t necessarily reward doing the right thing, especially when the right thing is hard or costly and it doesn’t bring forth an appreciable immediate benefit.

There is blessing in obeying God. We might not see it right away, but God notices.  God cares.  God provides.

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May 23, 2017- God Provides the Lamb- Genesis 22:6-14

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Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.  Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”   And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided .” Genesis 22:6-14 (NRSV)

Scripture doesn’t really tell us if Isaac was pretty freaked out at this point.  I don’t think it’s very easy for a parent to imagine setting one’s child on fire, on purpose, either.  Isaac’s reaction isn’t that important to the point of the story,  although it was probably very important to Isaac at the time.   God provided the sacrifice.  Think of the phrase Lamb of God and you get the drift.

God was testing Abraham’s ability to trust Him and Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his gifts to God’s will and purpose, which is important.  More importantly, God was also showing Abraham that God is the One Who ultimately provides the sacrifice that covers us and redeems us.

God’s Son, given as a sacrifice to save us.  Given from God’s heart of anguish and at His great pain so that we are spared the penalty of sin and death that we have earned.

This is a great foreshadowing of the sacrifice to come.

We are powerless to save ourselves, We don’t have the means even if we would be willing to sacrifice that which is most precious to us.  God does test us and God does desire that we are willing to give of ourselves, but it is only in and through Him that our gifts can be made active and useful.

God can and does work wonders with willing hearts.  He makes a way even when the way seems impossible.  He has provided the Lamb.