God’s Indescribable Gift

“He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things”
Psalm 107:9, NIV

There’s that moment on every Antiques Roadshow when the appraiser pushes his glasses back on his nose and leans in with excitement.  “So, as to value . . .” he starts.  And the item’s owner looks up with humble and cautious anticipation.  This expert, who has spent all day telling people their precious items aren’t really rare or one-of-a-kind, that their genuine treasures are copies and fakes, that grandmother’s fascinating brush with fame never really happened—this expert places a breathtaking value on an object.  A thing.  A material substance made a treasure because it is unique, somehow special because of the famous person who owned it, or so wrapped up in story and history that the ordinary, everyday is transformed into a retirement fund.

I’ve seen rugs on that show worth more than my house.

At times, I watch that “thing” now deemed priceless and I wonder—what is hidden in my garage and stuffed in my closets?  What bookshelf conceals my children’s college education?  In what closet could I discover my dream home?

But, I’ve been through all my stuff and it is actually just stuff, perhaps priceless to me and valuable in my life for its utility or the way it connects me to the past, but nothing an appraiser would lose his breath over or call his buddies about.

So then I wonder, how is it that we human creatures can look at tangible objects formed of wood or stone or cloth and so arbitrarily place on them a price tag?  This one picture costs as much as feeding a village of people in Africa.  The cost of this antique toy could build a well in a village with no clean water.

Seems like something’s wrong here.  Seems like the way we assign value is a little off.

That’s one of our problems, really.  We don’t really know value when we see it most of the time.

And so when God pours Himself out for us and blesses us with good gifts, we sometimes mistake them for not enough and seek out everything that is “other” to fill us up instead.  We keep telling Him we are empty and hold our hands out to Him for more, more, more.  He offers us all that is good and true wrapped up in His presence, but it seems so simple and plain.  Not enough.  Meanwhile, we gorge ourselves on everything we believe will satisfy the deep yearnings and cravings in our hearts.

We pour into our hearts:
success
possessions
romance
position
friendships
successful kids
knowledge
food
entertainment

And it just seeps out of our souls, flowing out as quickly as we can dump it in.  We don’t value what God offers as much as this worldly buffet of good eats around us.  It’s ingratitude.  It’s sin.

Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts:

Satan, he wanted more.  More power, more glory.  Ultimately, in essence, Satan is an ingrate.  And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden.  Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity – the sin of ingratitude.  Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave . . . Our fall was, has always been, and always will  be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives.  We hunger for something more, something other.

It’s like the Israelites trekking through the desert.  God rains down on them wafers of honey they named manna,  miraculously, faithfully and abundantly every night as they sleep.  It’s tasty and satisfying, nutritionally able to sustain them through long desert marches for 40 years.  He graciously provides all they need and more and all while they rest.  No toil involved.  No effort on their part.  All part of God’s generous provision for His people.

And yet, they complained.  “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted” (Numbers 11:5, NIV).

Nothing they owned, used or ate in Egypt was free.  Everything came at high cost to them–they exchanged hard labor and 370+ years of bondage in slavery for fish and a salad bar.

Seems like something’s wrong here.  Seems like the way they assigned value was a little off.

Adam and Eve were not satisfied with the fruit God had given them for food.  The Israelites were not satisfied with the manna God miraculously laid at their feet every day.  We aren’t always satisfied with God’s Word, with His promises to us, with His provision, with His direction.

Yet, Scripture assures us that God is fully satisfying.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”  (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV).

“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things” (Psalm 104:27-28, NIV).

He “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5, NIV).

Have you felt empty, thirsty, hungry, plagued with holes that never allow you to be filled—not with joy, not with peace, not with hope?  We are offered the Bread of Life and buckets of Living Water drawn up from a well that will quench our thirst eternally.  We are offered Christ.  Christ abundantly sufficient for our needs.  Christ the once-for-all sacrifice to cover all our sins.  Christ our Peace.   “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV).

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

A Matter of God

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you”
2 Chronicles 20:12, NIV

I am a contest-enterer, but only very rarely a contest-winner.  About one-and-a-half years ago, I participated in the adult summer reading program at our local library.  Every month that I read some books (only one of my most favorite things to do in life!), I could place my name in the hat for a prize drawing.  Then the day came when the librarian called me on the phone and said I had won.  I was ecstatic!  When I picked up my little trinket of a prize at the library, it didn’t even matter that it was only worth about $5.  I felt like I had won the lottery!

My friend, Andrea Anderson at Live With Laughter has been running a giveaway fundraiser to help her family raise money for their adoption and the drawing is today (03/17) at 6:00.  She’s giving away a personalized family tree painting done by a local artist and friend.  So, of course, I have entered.  But, since I rarely win, you should enter, too, because my being in the contest improves your odds!  I also enter the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway contest every year and this past month, I’ve been entering a contest daily to win a trip to England (one of my life dreams).

Even when I play board games, I usually lose, and I certainly lose if the game involves rolling the dice, having the highest card or getting the ice cream princess in Candy Land.  I think my kids like playing games with me because I don’t let them win, and yet they always win despite my best efforts.

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day I was thinking of how I am so very unlucky, but I am so very blessed.  I’m thankful that my life is not at all dependent on luck, but is instead dependent on God’s mercy, love, and strength.   The Psalmist told God, “My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me” (Psalm 31:15, NIV).  I can have full confidence that my times are in God’s hands–my every day, my moment by moment, all entrusted to Him.

In my devotional time recently, I’ve been reading 2 Chronicles, which is one of my most favorite books of the Bible.  There is a clear, unmistakable trend in this book about the kings of Judah and Israel.  Almost every one of the kings had a life-defining moment when the nation was surrounded by a massive army that was better-equipped and more experienced than they were.

Every time a king fought the enemy in his own strength, either by amassing a defensive force or by making treaties with other nations, he was defeated.  Yet, when a king turned to God and prayed for His intervention and help, he was miraculously saved.   Often, the enemy troops would become confused and fight amongst themselves or they would simply run away in terror without ever engaging in battle.

Luck had nothing to do with it.

One of my favorite examples is King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.  Like many other kings, he faced a vast enemy army.  The Bible tells us, “Alarmed, Jehosaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3).

He was alarmed.  He was emotionally distraught about this seemingly impossible situation.  All the circumstances told him that he was about to be defeated and his people slaughtered on the battlefield.

So, with all of his fear of certain defeat, Jehoshaphat turned it all over to God.  The whole nation fasted and then he prayed with them publicly.  In his prayer, he said, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12, NIV).

Oooh, that verse sends chills up my spine.   In so many of our life situations we have no idea what to do.  We’ve worked everything out on paper and still come out short.  There is just no physical, tangible way for us to defeat the enemy we are facing.

Those are the very moments when we need to look to God, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV).

That’s what Jehoshaphat did and God answered his prayer, saying: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).  The next morning, instead of sending out his best troops against the enemy, Jehosphat “appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness” (2 Chronicles 20:21, NIV).  The singers lifted up their praises to God and the enemy was totally annihilated without Jehoshaphat’s army raising a spear.  All they had done was worship God.

Scripture tells us they named that battle site the Valley of Beracah or the Valley of Praise.   Ultimately, “the fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel.  And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for His God had given him rest on every side”  (2 Chronicles 20:29-30, NIV).

Are you in a valley, surrounded by circumstances that will most certainly defeat you?  Your survival isn’t a matter of luck, it’s a matter of God, and our God is trustworthy, dependable, faithful and mighty.  Resolve to fix your eyes on God and not on your physical “reality.”  Resolve to transform your valley into a valley of praise.   That is when God is glorified and we find rest.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Strings Tied Around My Finger

I had a crisis moment the other night.  When I was reading the Bible, it reminded me of something I had read and copied into my journal a few years ago.  So, I pulled out my recent journals and the one I needed was missing.

This might not seem huge to you, but it was sad and frustrating and a little worrying to me.  My journals aren’t personal diaries of my experiences and feelings.  They are records of the verses, quotes, prayers and thoughts I’ve had as God interacts with my life.  Oftentimes, I can vividly remember exactly where I was and what was happening in my life when I wrote an entry in my prayer journal.

The entry I was looking for that night was written while sitting at the Ben & Jerry’s in Yorktown, Virginia, eating a scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream on an incredibly sunny day.  I was struggling with some ministry issues and I copied down a quote from David Crowder’s book, Praise Habit, that encouraged me.  Of course, what really helps me remember this particular entry is the ice cream!

Losing my journal is like losing some of my testimony, the written record I keep of God at work in my life.   In the Bible, many of God’s people created monuments or kept mementos of times when God rescued them.  It was their way of remembering that God saved us then and He can save us again.

Samuel the prophet did this in 1 Samuel 7:12:  “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”  We often sing the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing without realizing that when it says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” it’s referring to this monument Samuel created.  Literally, it means “a stone of help.”

Samuel’s stone reminded Israel of how God delivered them when they repented and returned to Him.  After rebelling against God and being punished as a result, “then all the people of Israel turned back to the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:2, NIV).  Following this new beginning, this repentance and restoration, God routed the enemy Philistines in a mighty and miraculous way.  All of Israel could see that God was faithful to save them as long as they walked in obedience.

But Samuel didn’t want the people to forget what God did in that place.  We humans are forgetful creatures.  God saves us.  We praise Him.  Things are good for a while.  Then a crisis occurs and we fret, we worry, we wonder, “Is God going to let me down this time?”

We need a string around our finger to help us remember who God is.  We need an Ebenezer, a record of what God has done, so when life is hard and we need healing and provision and intervention, we can look at the monuments of the past and say, “Look what God did for me.  He saved me here, and here, and here—-and He’ll do it again.”

That’s one reason our testimonies are so important.  It’s our way of reminding ourselves and encouraging others that God is still at work in people’s lives.  Every once in a while, our pastor takes the microphone around the church and we listen to others share, at first a little hesitantly, and then with great emotion and boldness, about how God has been real to them.   I love those Sundays because the testimony of others–their Ebenezer–reveals God to me.

The Bible is like “testimony” time to me also.  God passes the microphone around and different people share how God changed them.  Jonah gets up and says, “See, I’ve been struggling with obedience lately, but God . . .”  Sarah says, “I have something to confess.  Sometimes I like to ‘help’ God out with His plans, but God . . . ”  Mary says, “I was just a really simple, God-fearing girl, but God . . . ”

All these people in the Bible are broken, sinful, and imperfect, just like me, and yet they encountered God.  Their testimonies help me remember not just what God has done in my life, but what He has done in others’ lives throughout history.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

With a biblical memory, we have two thousand years of experience from which to make the off-the-cuff responses that are required each day in the life of faith.  If we are going to live adequately and maturely as the people of God, we need more data to work from than our own experience can give us.

Our lives are short.  Our experience with God is just a fraction of His activity here on earth.  So, when we look at life through the filter of our personal experiences alone, we miss out on what the Bible offers us.  By reading Scripture, we tap into 2000 years of people experiencing God.  We read the testimonies of people who lived a long time ago and find out they needed God as much as we do and He loved them and cared for them just as He loves and cares for us.

Thankfully, I found my missing journal the next day and—amazingly, if not miraculously—it was flipped open to the exact page I was looking for.

I hope you find ways this week to create Ebenezers in your life–a prayer journal,  testimony book or verse cards.  Don’t stop there, though.  Connect with other Christians who can share their testimonies, through church, small groups, community Bible studies, and by reading Christian books.  Then, dig deep into God’s Word and read it as if it were a testimony time of the saints written just for you.  All of these things will serve as strings tied around your finger, physical reminders of what God has done and what He will continue to do.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Walking on the smooth, straight road

“Love for God and obedience to God are so completely involved in each other that either one of them implies the other too.”
~F.F. Bruce~

“If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15, NIV).

Obedience is on my mind.  That’s partly because I’m a mom and I spend most of my every day giving commands for my kids to obey.  “Brush your teeth.  Get your lunch.  Don’t forget your homework.  Practice the piano.  Move faster.  Don’t run.” If you’ve never seen Anita Renfroe sing her William Tell Momisms, a quick listen will show you how most of my days sound.  If it’s been a while since you heard her sing this, treat yourself to another listen and a good laugh.

I’ve also been thinking about obedience, though, because since the start of this year, God has been gently compelling me to take new steps of obedience, to follow Him into some new areas, even though I don’t know if it will be “worth it,” or why it’s important for me to do these things.  I don’t understand; I’m just obeying.

As I’ve meditated on obedience, I’ve realized that healing, deliverance, blessing, and provision come as we obey—not before we obey.

When we hear God tell us what He wants to do, we could sit back and say, “Okay, God, I’ll totally give that after You provide” or “God, I’ll be happy to minister in that way after You deliver me from my pain.”  I’ve been telling Him I’ll obey after He gives me the time to do it or after He shows me whether what I am doing will matter.

That’s not how God works, though.

In Luke 11:11-17, we read about Jesus healing 10 lepers.   The men were outcasts of society, who cried out to Him to “have pity on us!  It says, “When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.”

At a recent women’s conference, Lysa TerKeurst emphasized how Jesus’s instructions were so strange.  Technically, these men weren’t supposed to leave the leper colony.  If they thought they were in remission, they were supposed to call for the priest and the priest would come to them.  Only when the priest verified that they were “clean” were they allowed to go back to the village.

Yet, Jesus told them to leave and go get the priest before anything had changed for them.  They weren’t healed yet.  The Bible says, “As they went, they were cleansed.”

Sometimes God tells us to obey even before we’ve seen the provision or the healing.   I love reading about families who are adopting and their testimonies are almost always the same.  God called them to adopt.  They were overwhelmed by the financial cost and they had no money to pay for it.  They pursued adoption anyway and God provided every penny at just the right time.

As they obeyed His call to adopt, God gave them the resources they needed.

As you obey God’s call to give, He will provide.  As you obey His call to minister, He will equip you.  As you obey His call to go, He will direct your path.

The blessing is in the going and in the obedience.  In Psalm 128:1, it says:  “All you who fear God, how blessed you are! how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!” We’re blessed when we are walking on the straight road that God has directed us to take.  Our blessing is not in sitting beside the road watching others go by.  Our blessing isn’t in trailblazing our own road, heading in the direction we choose.  It’s only when we are in motion and taking steps of obedience, that we are blessed.

As it says in Psalm 128:2, 4:  “Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness! . . . Stand in awe of God’s Yes. Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!” (MSG).

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King