Keep Your Gifts

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Happy post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas season! It’s full speed ahead from here on out people, so hold on to your Santa hats. I’ve lost count of how many “simplify the season” Advent reading plans or books I’ve seen this week. It seems like every year the stores come out with more “stuff” to help us simplify. It’s kind of ironic.

I thought I’d share a little excerpt from an amazing book I’ve been reading by David and Jason Benham called Living Among Lions; How To Thrive Like Daniel In Today’s Babylon. The kids and I have taken our time in this book, we’ve been reading bits and pieces since the summer, and I find I keep returning again and again to it as we navigate our way upstream in a world that wants to carry us downstream with the masses. If you’ve never studied Daniel in-depth, this is a great place to start. The parallels between his life in Babylon and our current culture of crazy are amazing. I’m fascinated by the ability he had to know and hold on to his identity in a world turned upside-down. As we plunge head first into the season of gifting and buying and just general ‘wanting’, I thought I’d share this:

“Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” Daniel 5:17
Daniels friends let it be known that the God of heaven was their King. Daniel himself kept his windows open and prayed in defiance of a king’s decree. Later in his life, Daniel refused the king’s gifts because his faithfulness to God didn’t have a price. He refused to be bought.
By gifts we mean the goodies of the world that stand in the way of the greatness of God’s kingdom. They come in any form of fame, fortune, or promotion promised by getting along with the world.
Daniels life didn’t have a price tag. His services weren’t for sale. No amount of worldly gifts for kingly accolades could deter him from his mission. He was a man of deep conviction, dedicated commitment, and undeniable courage; the grace of heaven was far more important to him than gifts of men.”

How are you ‘getting along with the world?’ Some of us are in deep. Most of us could probably stand to take a step back and think about it. Sometimes we need to tell the world, “keep your gifts.” This is the time of year where we have all the ‘stuff’ on our minds. We need to buy, we want to receive, the circle of ‘stuff’ is in full swing. In yesterdays mail, I received no less than ten shiny catalogues full of tempting things promising me nothing short of Christmas bliss if I would just place my order. All those things are great – until they aren’t. I think we’ve all been there when those scales tip in the other direction. The mall one week before Christmas. The credit card we should never have maxed out. The comparisons we make when someone else has what we want.

The thing I love about Daniel and his friends is that they were able to live and actually thrive in a world that was hostile to them at every turn. They never compromised with Babylon. They never idolized their gifts. There was a stubbornness about them that we would do well to have today – not in a hardness of heart/unkind way, but in a full surrender to what God wants over what the world says we need.

In this season of fancy packaging and gifts galore, lets take some time to evaluate just what we are seeking after. Contrary to popular belief, none of us really need the gifts from the mall as much as we need the security Jesus brings us. It’s almost cliche and that’s a sad thing, but can we please reel it in a bit starting in our own homes? No amount of shiny things, beauty treatments or perfectly decorated cookies is going to keep you sane or happy this season. The empty promises of the catalogues are just that. There are good gifts to be had and there are things we need to take a pass on.

Help us Jesus to value what is true and lasting over what compromises our heart and leaves us grasping for more.

Everyday Supernatural

“The secret of a Christians life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical everyday details of life.” Oswald Chambers

The SUPER natural becomes natural to us. God’s very best becomes the norm. What an amazing idea!

The truth is though, life teaches us something different. We don’t experience this at all. Sometimes, yes, amazing miracles or provision occur and we are shocked and thankful. Often, we put our faith into something half hoping it will work and half expecting it not to. We make excuses for why this or that happened and we move on. Well-meaning teachings or people combined with our experiences lead us down a path of resignation. We want to see supernatural things, but we certainly aren’t bold enough to expect them.

Certain false beliefs have crept their way into our hearts and minds. They’re comfortable beliefs that allow us to explain away our disappointment or confusion. We fall back on them when things don’t really work out. They are also barriers to experiencing more. Here are some that I know I have believed:

  • God is capable of (insert prayer, need, desire here) but I don’t think He’s willing to do it for me.
  • God is sovereign, if He wanted to (            ), He would just do it. He doesn’t need me.
  • I must not have prayed hard enough. My faith must not have been strong enough.
  • All things work out in the end, que sera sera!

First things first: God is no respecter of persons. (Romans 2:11). The same grace has been extended to all mankind. He doesn’t hold back blessing from some and give it to others. He extended His grace to all. We must believe and know that He loves us and is willing to do great things for us. God isn’t wishy-washy toward us!

Oswald Chambers said this supernatural life becomes natural to us “as a result of the grace of God.” Ten thousand AMENS to that truth! His grace was and is totally independent of us. It is a gift. Nothing we did. So… if all these supernatural blessings, healings and provisions are the result of His grace toward us… why don’t we experience more? Why don’t they happen more often?

We Have A Role To Play!

If His grace alone made all these things happen, the world would be problem-free. Everyone would be saved. There would be no need to pray about anything. We know that isn’t true. The Bible says that Israel limited God (Psalm 78:41). Even Jesus was limited in what He could do because of the unbelief in His home town (Mark 6:5). We humans limit what God can do through our unbelief. He does need us. Our faith is a conductor that directs the supernatural power of God and makes it work! It is what moves things from the spirit world to the physical world. Faith is just our response to His grace! When the two meet up, amazing things happen! The idea that “God will just work everything out” while we sit by and hope for the best is dangerous.

I often see many well-meaning Christian-isms that promote this kind of thinking: “Let go and let God!” “Nothing can stop God!” “What is meant to be will be!”… Not true.

So we have a part to play. Our faith is important. But oh the pressure of having enough faith! Now we swing in the other direction. “I have to have big faith! I have to get better faith!” What does that even mean? I don’t know, but I know we tell ourselves things like this all the time. If something doesn’t work out – and if we know that God isn’t the variable in all this – we blame ourselves. My faith must have been weak. God is disappointed in me. Maybe next time.

Our faith is a gift. It isn’t wishful thinking and it isn’t false hope. Solid faith doesn’t create something out of nothing. It’s just coming into agreement with what God has already done. In the same way He provided forgiveness for our sins, He provided for supernatural things. Faith is just our acceptance of what He has done and our releasing it into being. The pressure is off! We aren’t failing God or disappointing Him, we are sometimes just ignorant of how His kingdom works.

We Give Up Too Easily

In Daniel chapter 9, the Lord showed up with an answer as Daniel was still in prayer. The angel Gabriel assured him that “at the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved” (v. 22-23).  How encouraging! The minute he set out to pray, the heavens heard and responded! But in the next chapter, things didn’t go as well. Daniel prayed for three weeks with no result. Verses 2-3 show us that he was a mess. He was mourning. Not eating. Finally, something happened. A visitor showed up with a message. “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days.” (Daniel 10:12-13)

Twenty one days between the time Daniel prayed to when the answer manifested. It’s clear that the Lord heard both of his prayers immediately. He sent out His answer immediately. But there are things going on that we are unaware of. Spiritual battles in the heavens. What if Daniel had compared this prayer with the previous one and said “well, the answer isn’t coming, I give up.” Yikes! The answer was coming, it just needed to be prayed through! So praying once and throwing up our arms if things don’t work out isn’t a good idea. It isn’t wrong to keep praying about a matter. This reveals that our prayers can be answered but not necessarily manifested. It is so important that we do not get discouraged if the answer doesn’t come immediately! People often get disappointed and say “oh well, sometimes God just says no.” More often, we have given up and resigned ourselves that the answer isn’t coming.

The Bible is clear, God is for us and has fantastic, supernatural provision for those who are in Christ. His arms aren’t crossed and He isn’t mad. We don’t have to convince Him of our needs. He already knows and is ready to move on our behalf! Most Christians don’t really believe that though. We live with a kind of fatalistic attitude that “it is what it is” and we hope for the best while preparing for the worst. But New Testament believers have the very power and authority of Christ at our disposal. He commanded us to use it! Instead of spending our time begging God and trying to make Him answer us, we need to join Him and receive from Him. We should be expecting supernatural things in our lives. We should be operating in the very power that Jesus used. We are not beggars any longer. The supernatural isn’t for super-saints, it’s for everyone. Jesus said true believers would operate in this way and that messages would be confirmed with signs and wonders. (Mark 16:17-20). It’s for everyday life. What amazing things would happen if us Christians really believed what the Word says about us???

It’s not the what the world teaches. It isn’t even what most churches teach. But it is what God Himself desires for us!