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ARE YOU THRIVING OR JUST GETTING BY?

 from the “Jewels This Side of Heaven” blog.

My German shepherd was starving to death, and we didn’t know what to do. Sophie got twelve, yes 12 cups of food a day and at a year old, she was only forty pounds. After many tests, the vet diagnosed her with a pancreatic problem, called EPI, which kept her from digesting her food. As a result, whatever she ate went through her system without nourishing or feeding her body. With the help of pancreatic enzymes, Sophie is now thriving.

As a culture, America is starving. So are some of her churches. Why? We live to eat but don’t eat to live. We are not feeding on the one thing we need most, the Word. God made us to have intimacy with him through his Holy Spirit, prayer, and Scripture. Without the catalyst of God’s Word, we won’t thrive spiritually.

We need to digest the Word before we can absorb it and do what it says. But if we barely open the Book how will that happen?

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit…”

The word living means God’s words are alive, and they give life. Active is the Greek word energes which resembles the English word energy. God’s Word and words are full of life and energy. God’s words are to achieve something in our heart and life. Scripture needs to become more than head knowledge. We shouldn’t let it go in one ear and out the other, because we need the Word to be heart knowledge so it can be absorbed and nourishing to our very soul.

God’s word is sharper than a sword, able to pierce through the soul and spirit. The word pierce means to penetrate or get through. This may be one reason we may not care to read the Bible. Unless the Word penetrates our heart, we will not grow and change.

Our soul is our mind, will, and emotions, and our spirit is what the Creator breathed into us. They are often at war with one another. Our spirit communes with God through the Holy Spirit while our soul is everything which makes us who we are.

So, why would the Word divide the soul and spirit? God wants us to be Spirit-driven, not soul-driven. The Spirit is love, peace, truth, patient, gentle, kind, self-controlled, faithful, and joyful. This is how God wants us to function.

The soul can be moody, self-centered, turbulent, depressed, thoughtless, self-driven, lacking self-control, and deceitful. Satan influences our soul, by manipulating our thoughts. If we are not in the Word of Truth, under the perfect power of the Spirit of Truth, we get off track.

God wants us to be Spirit-led and Word-led. One without the other is only half the equation. Unfortunately, many overdo one or the other. We become so Spirit-led we assume everything we think is of the Holy Spirit and will act and speak out without the guidelines of Scripture. However, being overly Word-lead can stifle or quench the Holy Spirit so we can no longer hear him because everything becomes an intellectual experience. There needs to be a balance.

In Hebrews 5:11-12, the author rebukes his readers for becoming dull of hearing. He says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.”

The Greek word for dull refers to “a condition of spiritual apathy and laziness that prevents spiritual development.” [1] Isn’t that how we can feel, too?

Studying Scripture takes time and effort.

God does not think less of us if we are not in his Word.

But, have you ever thought how it must sadden him to see the time we invest in things having no Heavenly value?

Do we spend too much time on our phones, iPads or binge watching our favorite shows on Netflix? Yes. Do we need to improve? Yes. Am I preaching to myself? Yes.

The answer lies in putting those things away for a set time each day and getting out our Bibles to let the Holy Spirit guide us through the Word one verse at a time. Don’t set unrealistic goals. Reading one verse and letting God speak to you through it is better than reading one chapter or an entire book just so we can say we did it.

If you are a parent, can you imagine letting your ten or fifteen-year-old still drink from a sippy cup or a bottle for each meal? Unfortunately, that is the state of a lot of churches in our country. We need more than milk; we need solid food. We need to get back to reading, discussing, and studying God’s Word. Our spiritual health depends on it.

Where Do I Do My Banking?

Offering plateOne day Jesus and His disciples were watching the offering box at the Temple. (Mark 12:41-44) As they watched, many rich people put in large amounts. (That’s good, right? The priests and their families need support, the Temple needs upkeep. The rich people need tax deductions.) I can imagine the disciples giving a group “thumb’s up” sign.

Then a poor widow woman put in two pennies. She took her little coin purse, turned it upside down, and shook out those last two coins. Or more likely…she carried them all the way from home in her hand, tucked under her shawl, having emptied the last of her earnings jar before she came. She probably slipped them into the box making no noise at all.

But, you may think, what can two pennies buy? Some people won’t even bend over to pick up a penny from the sidewalk. Perhaps the disciples shook their heads at the uselessness and sadness of such a small offering.

But Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.”

Huh?

He continued, “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Jesus explained that the rich gave a percentage of what they had, while the widow gave all she had.

More actual cash from the rich men went into the Temple coffers, but more investment value from the widow reached Heaven’s treasury.

How strange is God’s bookkeeping. He considers things of lasting value, like heart generosity and sacrificial giving, more important than obligated giving. (Philippians 4:18*)

Yes, wise, carefully calculated donations are important, but God doesn’t really need our money.  He owns everything (Psalm 50:10-12*). He can give us all we need or ever ask for from the vast riches He has. (Philippians 4:19*) God wants our heart. He loves a contrite heart, a poor-in-spirit, humble, depending-on-Him-alone heart. This He praises and rewards. This glorifies Him. (Psalm 51:16-17*, Matthew 5:3*)

“Man sees on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

 

Lord, you see my  heart. You see the discontent and greed and coveting that I hold dear, and You see the struggle I have to defeat those sins. You see my worldliness, my love of things, my stinginess. But You also see my desire to know and to love You foremost…to treasure You above everything.   

Help me release to You all I hold dear, and give You my “last penny,” my future, my life… and then joyfully depend on You, O, Creator, Sustainer, and Owner of the universe and all that is in it. (Luke 12:32-34*)

 

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*Philippians 4:18 – “I have received full payment and more. I am well supplied, having received …the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

*Psalm 50:10-12 – “For every beast of the forest is mine; the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.”

*Philippians 4:19 – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

*Psalm 51:16-17 – “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.”

*Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

*Luke 12:32-34 – “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”