Friday, June 12, 2015

Food (Pantry) for Thought

This summer, I am blessed to be able to complete my practicum (internship) for my program at our church. This has been yet another way that God has been faithful to provide for us as we step out in obedience, seeking His will for our lives.  Not only am I able to be home with my kids this summer, I am able to use the hours we spend with our youth students in camps and mission trips toward my required 300 hours.  Totally a GOD thing, I tell ya!  
This week, SaraGrace got to go to baking camp (I’ll post on that another day), so Cade and I got some time together.  One of the things I was asked to work on at the church was the food pantry, so Cade and I tackled that this week.

My work crew

Our postal service hosted a food drive several weeks ago, and our church was blessed to receive some of that food for our food pantry.  There was SO MUCH FOOD!!!  What a blessing!  Our first task was to separate the food into like kinds, all while checking for expiration dates and severely damaged packaging.  We developed a little system and got busy. 

As the hours went on, it seemed like we were taking more food to the dumpster for being expired that what we were keeping for the pantry.  Cade would load the wagon with the expired goods and he and Emmy would take turns throwing it into the dumpster.  As we continued with this process God really spoke to me. 

Let me begin by saying that I did not even participate in the food drive, meaning I gave NOTHING as a donation.  Shame on me!!!  So I was immediately convicted there.  I realize that I am included in the intended audience for this post.

As we pilfered through the endless bins of food, it amazed us that people gave food that was so extremely expired.  I’m talking 2006, 2010, 2012.  I guess as long as we give something, even if it’s something we don’t use (or something that’s been sitting in our pantry for years), we have done something good for “the least of these” and we can go to bed feeling good about ourselves.  How often do we treat our offerings to God in the same manner?  After all, He gave us His all when He sent His son to die for us.  He bore the punishment for us as a blameless, perfect man.  The least we could offer Him is our very best.  The first fruits of ourselves.  So many times He gets the leftovers.  It may be the leftover of our day spent in a quick prayer or devotion.  It may be our leftover energy as we serve in a ministry just to check the box that we’re doing what we have been asked.  It may be that we tithe out of our leftovers after all of our bills have been paid and we have bought everything we want.  I am certainly guilty of all of these things. 

Genesis 4: 1-7  (NKJV)
1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
So what are we to do? 

Proverbs 3:9-10 (NKJV)
Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.

I have been challenged this week to give my all to my Savior, just as HE gave it all for me.  My prayer is that you will be challenged in the same way.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Just a Little Math

 "He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my 35 year old cousin who lost her brave fight with breast cancer.  There were tons of people there, and many that got up and spoke on her behalf.  As we sat and listened to the testament of her great character, and how she impacted people with her positive attitude and vibrancy for life, it hit me.  If I were to die today, what would others get up and say? 

So many times, especially in ministry, we get discouraged because we want to make a difference, and we want to know that what we are doing is important to the people we encounter.  As Christians, we want (and expect) good friends who love us like we love them, we want people to treat us as we treat them, and often times we are let down.  When we have spent time pouring into others, loving others while they don't like us very much, and continually feeling like we don't matter, it is easy to get selfish and feel entitled to the credit and acknowledgement for we have done "good" to others in the midst of adversity.

As friends and family got up and spoke yesterday, it was evident that my cousin loved people well.  She pushed them to be the best they could be.  She encouraged them.  She was a great person.  But it was never mentioned that she loved Jesus, or shared Him with any of those friends.  It doesn't mean she never did, but it wasn't what she was known for.  The interesting thing is that she knew everything there was to know about Jesus.  She grew up in church, heard about Jesus many times, but no one really knows what she did with it.  But that's what I want to be known for.  Not what SaraBeth did for everyone.  Not that SaraBeth had a positive attitude.  Not that SaraBeth loved everybody.  Those things are important.  But without loving and sharing Jesus, none of that really matters.  It is not about me, but all about Jesus.  When my friends and family stand before my casket I want them to say "SaraBeth loved Jesus, so she loved others as Jesus loved her. She shared the greatest gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those she came in contact with, and because of that, JESUS made a difference in my life."  I was reminded of the verse in John 3:30 - "He must increase, but I must decrease."  When we put our selfish desires aside, and allow God to permeate our lives, it is then that we feel loved and accepted because HE loves us unconditionally.  We are not called to share Jesus, but we are commanded.  

Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Lord, my prayer is that I will no longer seek self gratification, but glorify and exalt YOU in all that I do.  May I love others enough to share YOU with them, and love them (regardless of how they feel about me) like You love them. Amen.