It all belongs to God

1 chronicles 29:13-15
One of the most difficult and yet liberating messages the Bible has to offer is that nothing we have is ours and ours alone. I hear all the time that glory belongs to God. That all praise is to God and God alone. All things that are above and on and below belong to God. But how do we internalize that fact? How do we embrace the truth that we are simply stewards here and nothing we have, not even our own breath is our own but is on loan to us by the almighty God? 

This passage explosive this by saying first and foremost “..thank you God.” But in the next breath is asking who am I to thank you for something that is yours anyway? How can we justifiably thank God for something when we are so low and he is so high? After all, all we have is his anyway so how dare we thank God for things that are not ours? The writer goes on to say we are but strangers and sojourner. That is we are alien to God and without even a place to call our own. We are homeless and unknown to God and in that light are not worthy to be thankful to God. Worse than that our lives are finite and little more than shadow. 

David offers this in vs. 16: he will build God a house. A house with great stores and his son, Solomon, would build it and fill it with provision to the glory of God. This is to be king Solomons temple. Bankrolled by David, built by Solomon and dedicated to God. 

When I realize that God owns everything and I am only a steward of the things of this world, giving back to God is not hard. My time. My skills. My heart. All belong to God and by giving to him it extends further to be a giver to my neighbor. Jesus said everyone I meet and everyone I don’t meet is my neighbor. No one is a stranger to God because we are all his children. What father doesn’t know his own son and mother her own daughter? When I see how much God has blesssed me with family, a career, a ministry, and more, how can I possibly hold onto any of it jealously? How can I choose to selfishly hide it and use it to my own gain? Was God so selfish with me? I’d say no. 

By so willingly giving to God, it is so much more liberatingly easy to give to my fellow countrymen and countrywomen. So I too, as David did, say thank you God. Thank you for all you’ve entrusted to my care. Thank you for allowing me to be of a mind to be a giver in your name.

So thisThanksgiving as we gather with others to break bread, be sure to know that while we are here as stewards of this world, thank God in the best way you can for His blessings.  Thank God for all he has given but better than that: Thank God by building your own house, as your be been provided, to his glory. Amen. 

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Praise in the wilderness. 

Psalm 63:3-4

Have you ever been out in the woods camping? Have your ever been outside in hiking shoes, stumbling down a trail, surrounded on all sides with the prickly underbrush, tall freaking trees and the root and rock covered trail? In the distance you can hear the life of the woods all around you but not a single beast can you see. You can feel the breeze on your necklace and the occasional leaf may fall and touch the crown of your head. This is a wilderness to us in modern society. I’d venture to guess this is not the wilderness that king David was describing. He was more likely in a wilderness that lacked shade or water. Was void of comforting streams and small animals that would be fascinating but rather large ones with teeth.  A wilderness king David found himself in was more likely literally wild with unseen and seen dangers. Or mayhaps his wilderness was one of being nothing less than a stranger in a strange land. Wild because of the inability to communicate or seek help because the language and customs are alien to him. The dress and social expectations are wildly different from his own and he had nowhere assured to him he could turn for comfort. 

Perhaps your wilderness is similar. 

Maybe your wilderness is a lost job. A lost loved one. A bit of bad or completely unexpected news. Could your wilderness be a choice you made that was honest to your heart and near to God but no one around you understands why you chose that. Maybe your wilderness is feeling alone when in a crowd. Or you’re blessed with a new title and have few who share it so you’ve entered a very small circle of fellows who can relate to the stress you now know. 

If you are there, as king David was , can you yet and still feel love and comfort? 

King David says that despite his being in the wilderness, he knows the love of God is far above his understanding of life. He knows that with the love of God, life pales because he knows that in god there is life and life more abundantly. And in that knowledge he wil praise God regardless of the wild things he sees. But recognizing that is insufficient without thanks for the blessing of God’s love. While he yet has breath in his lungs he will bless him and with his breath, he will lift up His hands in praise. 

You can do it, with Him

Ephesians 3:20-end. 

I cannot think of a time in my life where I was guaranteed success. I am not able to recall a time when I knew that nothing I was about to do could fail. Oh, to be sure, I was not lacking in confidence but I was never quite assured beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could not fail at something. My mother did her level best to assure me. My friend did his best to reassure me. I had many choir directors and creature comforts all in my corner promising that I could make it through whatever may come so long as I was prepared. But the simple truth I arrive at now is that nothing I did was successful because of any of them. Nothing I succeeded in was a result of my work alone. All success and failure, attempts and misses, hits and triumphs were because God was within me. 

This letter Paul wrote to Ephesus was closed with that admonition that we recognize that when we consider our paths forward, first we must consider God. God is able to do not just all tings, but do them exceedingly. That is to say beyond our own limited expectations and abilities. His power is in us and that is such a concept that I’m afraid I cannot fully comprehend it. It seems that what Paul is saying is that God works his miracles and everyday actions though us. His power is infinite and beyond all measure. The same God who flung stars against the inky blackness of space and spun fire and dust into globes and upon those globes he placed life and life more abundantly. Now if God can do all that, what re can he do in our lives? He can do exceedingly in journal lives if we just allow his power to work in and through us. This is why Jesus said it is better that I leave you now so that I may be in you. Being in us is so much more powerful than him simply being with us. The Lord our God is all powerful and his word does not go out and return void. When he is at work within us, his will is sure to be done. 

But the last part is that once we recognize the power God has within us, we are to offer glory to his son Jesus the Christ. But what is the church (vs. 21) he speaks of? A building? A temple? A holy place? Yes, but more. Church is the people of God. This was the early church and not known as Christian yet but rather The Way. We are the church. For many, the only church a person will see is sour works here as we live our daily lives. Paul wanted the church of Ephesus to understand that God is infinitely powerful, he is at work within us as his believers, his work will be done in greater ways than we can possibly imagine, and the power within is not in a building of stone but of flesh. 

The office or the man?

There was a moment this week when the entire planet took a collective sharp intake of breath. The entirety of the connected human race listened to radios, read internet posts, and heard that a choice had been made in America that was wholly unexpected. Frankly, I too held my breath and struggled to see my path forward. Then I listened to people wiser than I, and was reminded of this:

Render unto Caesar what is Caesars. (Matthew 22:17-22, Mark 12:17, and Luke 20:25)
Let me be personal for just a moment. I’ve had a number of bosses that I didn’t like personally. They were thugs in neckties. Bullies in a suit. Biased in a skirt. I can now look back and say that I didn’t survive and thrive in those jobs or further my career because I honored the person but because I honored the position. You see God places into leadership who God wills to be in leadership. And the laws we have are there and should be honored. Without honor of either office or law we wil have anarchy. Imagine you don’t like the law against murder. Would you enjoy the result? Or the office of the Justice of the Peace. What would you do if they decided not to fulfill their duties when you claim to be in love? God doesn’t say to render anything unto Caesar except that which is his. In the end doesn’t God own it all anyway? 

So what to do? While we respect the office we are further to remember that we are to honor THE  law maker of us all and that is God himself. Honor his law above all else because honoring the leader he places is demonstrating that you honor God. To dishonor the leadership position is to dishonor God. But when you see a leader dishonor God I am reminded of Matthew 18:15-18 where we are admonished to speak with our brother if he has done wrong and offer wise council speaking to his fault. You do not disobey, you self advocate. More correctly stated, you obey by being a God advocate. 

Do I like every leader we have? No. Do I respect all of their stated policies or positions? No. But will I respect the office while offering wise God council? You bet I will. Because should I ever be in a position of leadership on such a grand stage, I’d want nothing less myself.