What Are We Doing With Our Excess?

Do you and I have boxes of stuff we haven’t looked at in years?  Do we have closets full of clothes that don’t fit us anymore?

Are we just letting all this ‘stuff’ sit there and accumulate?

God tells us what he wants us to do with our excess in Deuteronomy 24: 19 &20. “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it.  Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time.  Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.”

This was unheard of at that time.  The farmers went over all their fields twice so they could keep the entire harvest for themselves.  Every.little.bit.of.it.

God wanted to make it clear to everyone that the Israelites were different – they were his.  One of the ways he did this was by creating laws to protect the weak, the poor and strangers.  Nobody else had laws like this.

The majority of us don’t have crops…..but we have a lot of ‘stuff’.

What are we doing with our excess stuff?

What does God tell us he would like us to do with it?  Are there poor people or strangers or widows who could benefit if we cleaned out our garages, sheds and closets?

I’ve never had the urge to keep a lot of stuff.   I’m on the minimalist end of the spectrum – always parked 2 cars in a 2 car garage, don’t like clutter.  Most of my adult life I have taken the time each year to go through each box and every closet in my house to purge things I haven’t used.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any extra ‘stuff’.  I have moved several times in the last 10 years so I am very aware of how much stuff I actually have.

I moved out of state a year ago and I decided to be extremely critical of what I packed because this was the first time in my life I was putting anything into storage and it would have to stay there until we got a place to live.  So I not only gave away things I hadn’t used in the last year, I also gave away things I had only used once or twice in the last year.  Sure – I might be able to use whatever it is ‘someday’ but could I find it when I wanted to use it?  And, most of the time, I still have something that works fine as a substitute.

It’s a year later and I don’t miss any of it.  It makes me smile to know that someone else is using all that stuff rather than having it packed into my house, taking up space and gathering dust.

It was all excess.

Please help us be generous with our excess, Abba Father.

Equal, But Different

I love it.

God is not limited by cultural rules.  He created justice, he is just and he acts justly.

Whenever we see God’s actions and directions not lining up with current culture, we need to take note of it.  We know that God is right and our culture is wrong in every one of these instances.  Sometimes it takes our culture thousands of years to catch up to what is right.

The historical account of Zelophehad’s daughters in Numbers 27 is one of my favorite examples of this.  I’ll just call them Z’s daughters.

At that time in history, women were considered to be the property of men and most men had more than 1 wife.  When Z died without having any sons, Z’s five daughters asked to inherit his property.

What!?

That just wasn’t done.

Women didn’t inherit property.  They WERE property.

When Moses took this case to God, God said, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right.  You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.”  Numbers 27:7.  He stipulated that they had to marry within their tribal clad so that the land stayed with in the family.  If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense since the land was physically divided by clans.  This kept everything organized as God had designed.

I bet there were many long and heated discussions by the male leaders of the families as they gathered around the campfire at night!  This story is only 4 paragraphs in the Bible but I’ll bet the arguments against doing this could fill up several scrolls if they had all been written down.

I’m sure the same concern came up that was discussed with King Xerxes later in the book of Esther.  If these women received this request now, they are just going to ask for more and more.  A dangerous trend was starting!  But we read that they made the right decision and obeyed.

It took thousands of years but – yes, women inherit and own property now.  As recently as the 1950’s women were generally considered not capable of inheriting and running large properties and businesses.  But way back in ancient times, God knew he had created women equal to men.  Different, but equal.  He set a spiritual leadership hierarchy in place within marriages that has everything to do with order and process and nothing to do with intelligence and aptitude.

And our culture has finally caught up to God’s truth in this area ….. in most cases.

Please help us live by your truth, Abba Father.

Hold Loosely

Stuff

Boxes of stuff.

Rooms of stuff.

Garages, sheds and basements full of stuff.

Stuff we’re not using but someone else would use it – if they had it.  Stuff that hasn’t fit us for many years but we still can’t give it away.  Stuff that’s broken and we’ve never found the time to fix it but we still keep it because we can’t part with our stuff.

God never meant for us to keep all of our stuff for ourselves.

God told the Israelites that their 50th year in the Promised Land was supposed to be a Year of Jubilee.  During this year, all of the poor people who had sold themselves as slaves were supposed to be freed and all property which had been sold was given back to the original owner.  It was intended to be a year consecrated for redemption and freedom.

Does it surprise you that my research shows that there is no evidence that the Year of Jubilee was ever observed?

I’m not surprised.  Many of us like to hold our belongings and our stuff very close. A lot of us  don’t want to give stuff away, if it has to go, we sell it.  We worked hard for these things.  We earned them.  Some of this stuff might be ‘worth something someday’.

Well, a lot of our stuff could be worth something to someone else who has less than us today if we could just loosen our grip on it and give it away.  Some of our stuff is broken and worthless and shouldn’t even be given away.  The bottom line –  we need to be able to let go of it.

The Israelites couldn’t do it, either, so they lost the chance to see God work in a supernatural way in their lives through celebrating the Year of Jubilee.  They didn’t experience the joy and freedom of having open hands when it came to their ‘stuff’.

God wanted the Year of Jubilee to be a holy year for the Israelites where they would see his provision for them as they gave the property back to the original owners and set the slaves free.

But there’s no evidence that it ever happened.

I was personally challenged by this many years ago when my husband and I decided to sell the house we lived in for over 14 years and go into Apartment Life ministry.  This meant we were moving from the 4 bedroom, two-story house with a pool where our two children grew up to an apartment.  We knew God was calling us into this ministry so it had to happen.

I remember walking through my big house packed with awesome memories and full of stuff crying with my hands open, pointed down, asking God to help me hold all these things loosely.  We sold and gave away rooms full of ‘stuff’ and moved into the apartment where the small amount of things we had left fit very nicely.  What a great lesson about how much I had that I didn’t need!  Since then, my hands hold onto people and God tightly but I hold onto ‘things’ very loosely,

It’s a great way to live – holding tightly onto God while loosely holding onto my belongings.  It’s awesome to see God obviously working in my life as I have more time and energy to spend loving him because my ‘stuff’ takes up less space in my life.

If your stuff owns you to any degree, take the challenge – start holding it loosely today.

Please help us hold loosely to everything that is not about loving you and loving others, Abba Father.

You Probably Have Heard of It

You may even have felt that you were one –

a scapegoat.

This is where someone who is innocent is punished for something someone else did.  I know I have often heard this term used when a big corporation is sued for something they did and they fire a person with a relatively minor role in the situation who was just doing what their bosses told them to do.  The corporation does this so it looks like they took action to remedy the issue.  This minor player is a scapegoat – taking the blame for everyone else who had a hand in the bad decision.

Did you know that this term comes from the Bible?  Thousands of years ago the Israelites actually had a scapegoat.  God started this ritual in order to temporarily deal with the sins of the Israelites.  He told the head priest to lay both of his hands on the head of a goat and

‘confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion and sins of the people of Israel.  In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat.’  Leviticus 16:21

Then the scapegoat was driven into the wilderness, carrying all the people’s sins with it.

Until the next time they sinned.

You can see how temporary this was.  I think God used this process to help make the people aware of all of their sins and to visually show them their sins had to be paid for and taken away.

This is a very clear message about how much you and I need a Savior.  Something had to be done about our sins.  You and I can’t rebel and disobey over and over again while having a personal relationship with a Holy God.  Someone had to paid the price and provide a way for us.

And his name is Jesus.

He is the Way.

And the Way is open for everyone.

Jesus paid the price for our sins – once and for all.  We are saved from the penalty and condemnation of our sin by recognizing our Savior and putting our faith in him.

You and I don’t need a scapegoat anymore.

We are saved through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross – erasing our past, present and future sins from God’s sight.

Thank you, Jesus.

My Story

It’s a story of redemption.  I can see God orchestrating his love and grace in every step.

It’s clear to me that the story of Ruth is the story of everyone who has put their faith in Jesus.  Without him in our lives,  you and I would both exist in a famine, without purpose, without hope, stuck in our guilt and shame.

But in Jesus we have found our kinsmen redeemer!  Hallelujah!

Jesus paid the price of our sins for us so we could become a part of his forever family.  Now we live under God’s umbrella of grace and blessing.

“Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsmen redeemer.”

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

 

He Always Responds

The next step I’m suppose to take is often not clear.  There are a lot of blind curves on this road I’m on – I can’t see what lies ahead.  I’m usually pretty sure about the final goal but the specific actions God wants me to take to get there are smothered in a fog of options, questions, and unknowns.

When I’m in one of these ‘unclear’ spots on my road, I ask for a confirmation from God that I’m on the right path – or not.  And he always either gives me a confirmation or opens up my eyes to a change in direction.

So I know how Gideon is feeling in Judges when he is putting out fleeces, asking God to confirm that he is doing the right thing.

For me, I have decided not to ask God to do a specific ‘sign’ for me.  It feels too much like asking God to do a trick.

I’ve developed my own process of asking God to give me clear guidance sometime today and I will be watching.  When I do this, I try to stay extra aware of anything that could be encouragement from God telling me to “keep going’ or something that opens up my eyes, helping me understand a different direction I should be taking.  I believe my process works because it acknowledges that I know God is always trying to guide me and show me the way.  Asking for a response today also helps me maintain a special awareness of God moving in my life in the next 24 hours.

And he always responds.

And then I smile.   Of course he does.

Thank you for your faithfulness, Abba Father.

 

Compromise

Compromise is often a good thing.  You and I have to be good at compromising in our relationships so that we don’t always need to have things go our way.  A big skill in having a good marriage is knowing when to compromise and when to stand your ground.

I don’t have to read much of the Old Testament to know that the Israelites were not wise about when to compromise.  As they intermingled with the pagan people living around them, we regularly see them compromise on things like their values and their commitment to God.  Those are exactly the areas that should have no compromise.

God told them repeatedly to totally demolish the people who were living  in the Promised Land as they took over their inheritance …..but they didn’t.  God knew the Israelites would be attracted to the pagan gods and the pagan way of life which would lead them away from him – the One True God.

The Israelites compromised and, of course, it happened.  They intermarried with the pagans and started worshipping worthless idols.  Their values got lost in the evil and empty pagan culture they lived in.  They foolishly forfeited the faithful heritage handed down to them from Abraham and Moses.  They traded all that in for man-made wooden idols.

They compromised.

And they lost.

As I read this, God is reminding me not to compromise when it comes to my faith and what I believe.  God’s Word is my compass.  The values and idols of our current culture should have no influence on my commitment to my relationship with God.

Everything can and will change around me, but God stays constant, true and faithful.

No compromise.

Thank you, Abba Father.

I’m Stepping In

Stepping up.

Making the first move.

I often ask God to direct my steps.  My prayers regularly include requests for him to show me an opportunity to do what he wants me to do.

Because I’ll do it – I just want to know that its his direction and his timing.

And God responds.  Right before my eyes, he will give me an opportunity to do something he wants done or say something he wants said.

Every time one of these opportunities presents itself, I have to take the first step of faith forward, not knowing what the next step is and never knowing how this is all going to work out.

I just have to take that first step and obey.

So the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land is significant to me.  God told the priests carrying the Ark of the LORD to go first.  God told them he would make a way for them but, first, they had to step into the Jordan which was running at flood stage.

The overflowing water of the Jordan river was roaring down its path…..

and they had to step in.

An act of faith.  An act of obedience.

As soon as the priest’s feet touched the water’s edge, the water stopped flowing.  They had to commit and then they saw God respond.  In the middle of a rushing river, God opened up a path for them to the Promised Land.

It’s important for you and I to understand how this process works.  Too often we want to see God move in our lives but we haven’t stepped out in faith.  We want God to invite us to do great things but we haven’t stepped up to the plate on the things we already know God wants us to do.

For example, Jesus told us clearly, “Love God and love others.”  These are the two main things I need to be about – I already know that.  No question about it.  I find that when I’m focused on doing these things I already know I need to be doing, I see God part the waters for me.  He blesses my last step and reveals my next step.

But the first step of obedience is mine.

Where is God asking you to take that first step of obedience?  Go ahead – step into the water and watch it part in front of you.  It will be worth it.

I believe, Abba Father, so I’m stepping in.

The Cost of Disobedience

It’s hard not to draw some kind of parallel between what’s happening with the Coronavirus and what we read in Deuteronomy 28.

It’s difficult to read in the Bible about the curses of disobedience – plagues, ruin, captivity and disease.  Then there is the most horrible curse where they were eating their children so they wouldn’t starve.  Unbelievable!

We think that this couldn’t happen today except – it is.  We continue to hear of current situations where parents are cruel and unfeeling – and their children suffer and die.  Babies are legally killed every day.   Nastiness, violence and slavery are not things of the past.  It’s happening today in the communities where we live.

And now we have the Coronavirus.  Is it a modern-day plague?  God often used plagues in the Old Testament as a form of punishment for disobedience and he also used them to get the attention of his people when they had wandered too far away from him.

Have we wandered too far away?

God knows that each step we take away from him leaves Satan more room to move.  As our distance from God grows, so does evil.   Satan whispers in our ears the same lie he told the Israelites, “You’ll be okay, go ahead and do whatever you want to do.”

The truth that God tells us is we are not okay when we rebel and disregard God.

Have you seen the movie, “The Shack”?   Awesome movie – just make sure you have a bunch of tissues handy when you watch it.  It was really interesting to see that God was portrayed as female at the beginning of the movie and later he was a male because he said the main character of the movie needed a father at that time.  One conversation the main character  had with God is now seared into my brain.  The main character asked God why she  punished people.  And she said, ” I don’t need to punish anyone.  The consequences of your sins are punishment enough.”

As believers, we live under the New Covenant of grace so I don’t believe God punishes us for our sins any longer.  But as our perfect Father, he lets us pay the consequences of our sins and the sins of others while he walks with us through those experiences, teaching us and guiding us.

We punish ourselves when we disobey and wander away from God.  The consequences of our bad choices are often painful and long lasting.

Do you and I think we can do whatever we want and still be okay?

It’s a lie.

Please fill our minds with your truth, Abba Father.

Choose to Obey

God asks you and I, “Do you want to be blessed?”  He tells us how in Leviticus 29.

If you are careful to obey my commands, I will shower my blessings upon you.

You will be fruitful and prosperous.

I will keep you safe.

I will bless you with peace.  You will sleep well – not fearful of anything.

I will remove all threat to your safety from your life.  Your enemies will fail.

Don’t worry about being outnumbered by the evil ones – I am on your side.  I will look upon you as my favorite child – providing for you and always being faithful.

My blessings will overflow in your life – one on top of another.

I will walk with you and live with you.  I will be your God and you will be my child.

I am the Lord your God who sent my only son to die for you so you might believe and live with me forever.

I gave you freedom so you can choose to stand faultless before me.  You can choose to walk closely beside me everyday.  You can choose to love me and listen to me.

You can choose to obey.

Thank you, Abba Father.