Serving God More Than Leftovers

“And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work”— 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NRSV).

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Does your family moan when you serve leftovers or are they grateful for the meal placed before them? Maybe it depends on what you’re serving.

In a recent “Upper Room” devotional, the author wrote, “I often serve my family leftovers to save myself a little time. The original meal is usually delicious. But when I serve the leftovers several days later, I sometimes feel that I haven’t given my best.”

The writer continued by comparing leftover food to serving herself spiritual leftovers as well. She doesn’t always make time for God. He isn’t her first priority. Like many, she says a quick thank-you each morning but doesn’t take the time to appreciate the opportunities God offers her.

That love flows from the very heart of God.

The writer also admits she doesn’t read God’s Word each day.

Just as physical food nourishes our bodies, God’s Word is meant to feed our souls, and we are invited to receive it afresh each day,” she adds.

When Will You Be Good Enough for Love?

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners”— Romans 5:8 (NLT).

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Growing up, I never felt as if I were good enough. My mother expected perfection from her daughters. In retrospect, I’m sure she followed in the footsteps of her own mother. Both meant well.

When you’re raised to seek perfection, you never feel worthy. A feeling of unworthiness leads to insecurity in all your relationships. Striving to earn the love of others leads to internal conflict. Being a people-pleaser creates a false identity.

His mercies are new each morning.

Until I came to know Jesus as my redeemer and Lord, I never understood the meaning of “unconditional” love. I struggled, like others, to understand how God could love me without any conditions attached.

Pastor Charles Stanley says, “. . . maybe we just feel unworthy of His love. Well, I have news for you: No one is worthy. God’s love is based not on whether we are deserving but on His character—we need to understand that love isn’t simply something God does; it’s who He is.”

Can You Find Your Identity in Four Words?

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God”—John 1:12(NLT).

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If someone asked you to identify yourself in four words, could you do it? Recently, on a social media site, participants answered that question. I did, too. My response was, “A child of God.”

Before I turned to God during a life-changing event over 15 years ago, I couldn’t make that statement. Before I found my identity in Christ, I would have said I was a daughter, a wife, a mother, a high school teacher and a professional photographer. My identity was wrapped up in my earthly relationships and my professions. While those aren’t negative identities, they defined who I thought I was.

“I am a child of God.”

In my late 40s, I began asking, “Who am I?” I was lost. When God revealed my true identity in Him, I discovered how much God loves me and wanted a relationship with me. The shackles fell off. I was free to be the person He created me to be.

When we find our identity in Christ, He begins to work in our hearts. How?

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later”— Romans 8:18 (NLT).

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“Why does God allow bad things to happen?”

When one of my readers posed this question via email, I turned to scripture. I wanted to give an honest answer as best as I could. I didn’t want to rely on my knowledge or give a flippant reply.

We seek answers when a child is taken away from his parents too soon because of a rare disease or a freak accident. We seek answers when a college student perishes in a car crash on her way home or when a loved one receives a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis and faces a regimen of treatments with no guarantee it will help.

God never promised Christians a pain-free life.

Writer Avery Foley, who holds a masters of arts in theological studies, wrote the following in an article: “One of the most common questions believers and unbelievers alike ask is why a loving and all-powerful God would allow bad things to happen. When many believers are asked this question, they freeze, not knowing what to say. Or they weakly reply, ‘Well, we don’t know why bad things happen, but we need to trust God.’ But those of us who start with the right foundation, God’s Word, have a solid answer that is based in the history of God’s Word. But those who don’t start with God’s Word have a difficult time providing a satisfactory answer to this important and often emotionally charged question.”

Foley points out we need to begin with Genesis, appropriate because the first words of this book say, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Finding the Best during the Worst of Times

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”—Isaiah 41:10 (NIV).

 

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

So begins “A Tale of Two Cities,” written by Charles Dickens, a prolific British author. Published in 1859, this historical novel takes place during the French Revolution. If you reread Dickens’ opening paragraph, you might think he was describing today’s world.

In a sermon by Pastor John Piper, he said, “The same is true today: It is the best of times and the worst of times. Perhaps this is true at every point in the history of a God-ruled, sin-pervaded world. It was true in 1859, and it is true today.”

He will not leave you or forsake you.

Since the beginning of creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, our world has been defined by the best of times and the worst of times. As the author of Ecclesiastes wrote in the first chapter, verse nine, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Recently, a 14-year-old Owasso, Okla., student, J.J. Willis, made the news with a poem he wrote and recorded inside his mother’s minivan where it was quiet. The poem was inspired by the current political atmosphere stirring up hateful arguments—even among Christians—across social media.

In his video, Willis said “We’re all proud and arrogant, and we believe we’re always right. Things should be different.”

Finding Beauty in the Ashes of Life

The sin debt was stamped “paid in full.”

“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory”—Isaiah 61:3(TLB).

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Bright yellow daffodils began to appear in late February in northeastern Oklahoma. Because of the mild winter weather, trees are budding, snakes are slithering and mosquitoes are buzzing.

While I don’t welcome the snakes or the bugs, I love the sight of flowers and trees announcing the upcoming spring weather. Even without a harsh winter, these sights bring renewed hope, especially for those, like me, who are struggling.

Out for a walk recently, I spotted a cluster of sunny daffodils sprouting from a tomb of rocks around a large oak tree in a neighbor’s yard. The contrast between the yellow flowers and the gray and brown mottled surface of the rocks drew my attention. The flowers, pushing their way through the harshness of the stone, reminded me of God’s promises.

In Isaiah 61:3, God promises the Israelites that He will give them beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning and praise instead of heaviness. They faced challenges, but God offered hope.

In the midst of our trials—the fear, the uncertainty, the weariness, the suffering, the mourning—we can take heart in God’s promise to give us beauty for the ashes of life. We can find the beauty in these hardships if we seek Him. In 1 Chronicles 16:11 we read, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”

When Things Go Wrong, God Still has a Plan

“A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?”— Proverbs 20:24(NIV).

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For nine months, I argued with God. I didn’t want to move from the area where I’d lived for 35 years. I’d taught school there for 30 years. Planning my retirement, I wanted to write newspaper and magazine feature stories for local, state and national publications. I’d also planned to grow my professional photography business of 20 years. Substitute teaching was also on my to-do list.

A broken relationship a month before retirement left me questioning my future plans. When God revealed He had a better plan for my life, I sold my house and moved almost 75 miles to a community where I knew very few people. God had a better plan for me.

As an idealist, I often daydream about the perfect day and life without interruptions. However, that’s not reality. We can’t plan for life’s intrusions. We can’t control what others do. We can’t choose the things popping up to delay our plans.

What does the Bible say about planning?

If you’ve ever had a day when nothing goes as planned, you can relate. Sometimes, it’s a minor upset that cause the greatest problems. It’s easy to get angry, to feel as if the world is against you or to give up.

When I was younger, I had a daily and weekly to-do list. My self-worth was tied to checking off each item of my plan. When life interrupted, I wasn’t too happy. My attitude reeked of self-importance. I thought I had to prove, through my accomplishments, that I was a worthy human. Then, Jesus got ahold of me—and I’m so glad He did.

Now, when nothing goes as planned, I don’t panic. I don’t get upset by the delays, and I don’t worry about the things on my list left undone until later. As a reformed control freak and people pleaser, I’ve learned to patiently wait on God, trusting He has a better plan for my life.