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.

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.

Do You Need a Spiritual Check-up?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life”–Psalm 139:23-24 (TLB).

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From the posts I’ve read on social media and remarks from friends, I’m certain most of us are glad 2016 is behind us.

Although 2016 was a challenge, I held out hope for a promising ending. However, I was confronted with disappointing news several days before the end of the year. It wasn’t just one piece of news—it came in a bundle of three—all on the same day.

I turned to trusted friends, asking for prayer. The next morning while writing in my prayer journal, God’s Holy Spirit revealed an answer to my “Why?” The reply came, “We each have free will.”

Have I fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit?

We can choose to follow God’s leading or we can select our own path. I trust the path others have chosen is the path God has prepared for them. I must walk forward, faithfully, on the path God has prepared for me.

While each day offers an opportunity to examine our spiritual lives, a new year is especially conducive to searching our hearts and our lives to see if they line up with God’s plans. Ask yourself the following questions:

Are you ready to start a prayer revolution in the New Year?

We need a battle play for prayer!

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” – I Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV).

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Unless you have no access to media, you know that the word “divisive” would best describe 2016. Lines were drawn. Anger increased and hate-filled words filled the airwaves and appeared on Internet sites. Christians were not exempt.

I don’t want to dwell on the ugliness, but we, as Christians, need to seek unity, stand firm in our faith, show grace to those who do not and hold our leaders—at all levels—accountable. But even more important, there’s one more thing we must do. We must pray for the wisdom and well-being of our elected leaders.

We can learn from the words found in Ezekiel 22:30. “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”

Prayer creates a revolutionary spin on the natural tendency

to resist or resent authority.

We are the ones who must stand in the gap for our leaders. We must lift up our nation with all its faults before the throne of God and pray that He continues to work in our midst.

 In “The Battle Plan for Prayer” by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, the authors write: “Since the influence of people in these positions can cause such a ripple effect, and because their various roles are fraught with hard choices and difficulty, the Bible commands us to pray for all those in leadership over us. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-2 above)