Thoughts on Retirement, Hope, Love, and Plucking Thorns

Last Friday was Valentine’s Day, and this week Alan and I are celebrating our 47th anniversary! In addition, we will both be turning 70 this year. Even though we are staring down inevitable retirement before too long, we are both feeling very vivacious and so are full of hope that there will be “life after retirement” and a future that will include all the things my father used to say were the essential ingredients for “the good life of all VIPS” (that’s all of us) . . . that our lives should be Varied, Integrated, Productive, and Social.

My father was not a professing Christian at that point in his life, so if I were making my own personal statement, I would definitely want God in the spotlight, but I do think Dad’s points are well taken. I would love to continue to be able to enjoy variety, integrity/integration, productivity, and social interaction, and in all the research studies, those qualities do come out as critical to emotional well-being and even longevity.

However, I have known more than a few loved ones (Alan’s father being one) who barely survived his retirement before being diagnosed with a terminal illness. I am seeing this more and more often, and it definitely makes me feel like I’m going to be holding my breath very tightly when we jump off the end of the retirement diving board!

One dear friend, whom I admire greatly, is struggling with her own beloved husband, who had a fabulous career and was always a rock in her life . . . but is now showing undeniable symptoms of memory loss just a few years post retirement. As we Boomers begin to time out, we find ourselves grieving losses. Our own. Those of our beloved spouses and friends. 😦 I don’t mean to discourage anyone who’s looking forward to retirement. Alan’s older brother, and my two older brothers have all retired and are aging extremely well, so it can be done! However, I want to share this timely and tender consolation from a devotional my friend shared with me:

A Valentine Devotion on the Cycles of Life
I Corinthians 13:7 NIV
“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

“Years ago I copied this paragraph from George Matheson’s book published in 1909, The Representative Men of the New Testament. He writes that we can see these same cycles in romantic love [as in the cycles of life]. It’s an old book and I loved this paragraph for its poetry and imagery more than for its realism. Today I see its realism. I will read it as my conclusion: ‘What is the common process of love’s enlargement? Take a human love; take what we generally term romantic love. What are the stages through which it is wont to pass? I think there are four. At first it is a hope – something to be realized tomorrow. Then it is a present possession but reserved as yet only for garden hours when we are free from the bustle of the crowd. By and by its range is widened – it becomes a stimulus for the great duties of life; it comes out from the garden into the city; it nerves to do and to bear. At last it reaches its climax – it comes down to trifles. It glorifies the commonplace; it finds sermons in stones and sonnets in the dust. Little things are magnified; unromantic things are glorified. We do prosaic work. We perform menial duties. We go through cheerful drudgery. We pluck thorns.'”

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (69): Seeking and Finding So Much More!

It’s easy to ask for something, but it’s a lot more work to search for something, right? Stop for a second and think with me. Is there anything you’re so passionate about that you’re willing to search for it—forever if need be? Last week we talked about asking and receiving. God invites us to ask him for many good things and says he’ll give them to us, such as guidance, grace, and strength to follow him. But, when it comes to apprehending God himself, we are told to “seek” him . . . which is a great deal harder!

Oh, to know God! Even trying to completely understand a spouse takes more than a lifetime. So, it makes perfect sense to me that finding God is not a simple “ask and receive” offer, because understanding the infinite, transcendent God is without a doubt an eternal pursuit. As Einstein posited it: “I want to know God’s thoughts—the rest are details.”  I’m not sure if a love relationship with God is the one goal you’ve been spending your life seeking, but it is definitely the pursuit of my life, and God is THE love of my life!

Why? I guess because I fell in love with him the first time I heard that he loves me (and you . . . and every one of us)! Why? I don’t know! I’m not sure there’s a real answer to “why” someone loves another person . . . true love, that is! We appreciate those who do good things for us or benefit us in some way, but that’s different from loving them! To love someone is to willingly sacrifice ourselves for their benefit. It’s the energizing power to bless them apart from their benefiting us, and there’s no logical “why” to that in my mind. Still, I want to say that although I fell in love with God initially as a response to experiencing his love for me, I have been hugely benefited from his love ever since.

What are some of the blessings that I have experienced and are available to all who are willing to seek the Lord?
*Salvation and faith.For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
*Liberty.I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts” (Psalm 119:45).
*Peace.Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).
*Hope. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
*Love. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).
*Joy and strength. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
*Eternal life.And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
*Goodness and other gifts given by the Holy Spirit.But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV).  

Is there anybody on this earth who wouldn’t love to experience all these blessings? However, these gifts are given to “those who belong to Christ Jesus [and] have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24, ESV). Living a life crucified with Christ is a lifelong pursuit of God and his holiness! “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). It’s not an easy “ask and receive” fix; it’s a lifelong commitment to seeking God with all our hearts.

Thankfully, we don’t have to do it all on our own, because Jesus is also pursuing us! “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He loves us so much more than we will ever be able to comprehend! Do you know that? Are you responding to his love by daily seeking him with all your heart? “Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified” (Psalm 40:16). Amen? Amen!!

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:26-28).

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:7, “Seek, and ye shall find.” Matthew 7:8, “He that seeketh findeth.” Luke 11:9-10, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

A Million and Ten Thousand Flowers

If you live in the Grand Rapids area and haven’t experienced Rebecca Louise Law’s “The Womb” exhibit at Meijer Garden, I want to encourage you to take time to visit before this spectacular artistic creation ends on March 1.*

What is it? An entire gallery filled with a million flowers and plants from Rebecca’s personal collection plus ten thousand botanic treasures gleaned from Meijer Garden, all dried and strung from the ceiling in delicate chains on tiny copper wires.

Why? To give you an intimate and immersive experience of feeling like you’re personally enveloped in a warm cocoon . . . complete with the comforting sound of a beating heart.

In Rebecca Louise Law’s own words: “I like to capture and treasure small beautiful natural objects to create an artwork that can be observed without the pressure of time. Preserving, treasuring, celebrating and sharing the beauty of the Earth with the world is what drives me.”

And, who is Rebecca Law? She’s a British installation artist—born in 1980, grew up in a little village in the U.K, and studied at Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures in England.

(As a fun side note, my daughter-in-law Gerlinde also studied at Newcastle University about the same time!) Law has exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Academy of Arts and the V&A (all in London) as well as in galleries in NYC, San Francisco, Athens, France, etc.

So, this is a young and upcoming internationally acclaimed artist with a heart for beauty and nature . . . and the warmth of the womb, exquisitely portrayed through blown glass and paintings which compliment her sublimely sensual experience (in the best possible way) of being encompassed in a womb of flowers.

As I wandered through the quiet beauty, I felt more than anything a silent witness to the sanctity and miraculous nature of life. And death. The natural flow from life to death in the drying flowers.

I tried to imagine 1,010,000 flowers all fresh and alive with color and fragrance. Can you imagine?

Visiting “The Womb” Exhibit at Meijer Garden with my brother

Although I’ve been back repeatedly and taken all my favorite family and friends who’ve visited since the exhibit opened last September, it wasn’t until last weekend—strolling through the halls with Alan—that we realized he’d somehow missed seeing this exhibit!

We’d been there the weekend before and meandered through all the snow-covered gardens outside.

We’d visited Meijer Garden with the family at December when we admired all the Christmas trees adorned so brightly with ornaments from countries around the world.

How was it possible that he’d missed seeing this stunning exhibition? We had to walk right past the door into the art gallery on every visit, where the name of the latest exhibit is proclaimed clearly on the wall.

Is it possible that you—like Alan—are walking right past the door to a wonderful opportunity every day of your life without taking time to read the signs or explore the goodness within? It’s so easy to focus on what we know and already enjoy without taking time to look around. In this world of distractions and time measured mechanically rather than spiritually, are you missing out?

God is a God of abundance and joy, which He offers to each of us. Jesus taught in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The psalmist also reflected this thought in the Old Testament: “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:7-9).

Looking Up from Inside “The Womb”

Although I think for many of us (at least in America), trusting under the shadow of God’s wings often leads to physical abundance, it doesn’t always. I don’t believe in a “wealth gospel.” However, I firmly believe in a gospel that brings spiritual abundance: “They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness” (Psalm 145:7).

Notice what is abundant here: goodness and righteousness. If you want a life blessed by an abundance of goodness, righteousness, and the pleasures that flow from a life lived in the light of God’s presence, then please, please put your trust in God, our refuge and fortress, and in his Son, Jesus, our Lord and our Savior!

A Photo I Took Trying to Capture the Feel of Being Inside R.L. Law’s “The Womb”

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2).

Painting by Rebecca Louise Law

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).

*This exhibit has been running since September and will continue through February until Sunday, March 1.

If you go Sunday, March 1, it will be super crowded, but you will also be able to experience the first day of “Butterflies are Blooming” in the conservatory, which is always like a gulp of springtime air for winter-weary hearts. So, if you don’t mind crowds, that would be another excellent option. Also, the first photo is from Meijer Garden’s website. The rest are mine, taken at Meijer Garden.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (67): Pearls for Pigs, Anyone?

“Don’t cast your pearls before swine” conjures up such a provocative image that pretty much everybody’s heard it. However, what did Jesus mean when he first proclaimed it? Perhaps the most common interpretation among Christians today runs something like this: “Share the good news of redemption through Christ (our Great Pearl) with everyone around you, but if they don’t believe you, don’t keep pressuring them. Instead, share the Gospel somewhere else, among those who may gladly receive Christ and the mysteries of the Kingdom of God (also referred to as treasure hid in a field, Matthew 13:44). Everybody deserves to hear the good news, but those who don’t believe and disparage the gift of God will just trample your treasure (eternal life through Christ) underfoot, possibly turning back to harm you as well.” I think this is good advice and a fair interpretation, although perhaps more narrow than Jesus intended.

Here is a more inclusive paraphrase that I believe fits the parameters better: “Don’t cast your pearls (the wisdom found in the Bible) before swine (in this case, anyone—believer or not—who fails to accept and submit to the teachings of God’s Word).” Why? “Lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6).

I mentioned last week that there is one other thing repeatedly affirmed as “holy” in the scriptures. It is the Bible. The Bible is described as “his holy covenant” (Luke 1:72), “the holy scriptures” (Romans 1:2) that is “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15). It was not written simply by various men who were limited by their understanding of the world and locked into the culture of their time period, but rather, “prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

Furthermore, the laws given in the Old Testament were not annulled by Christ but fulfilled by him. He took our punishment for failing to obey the law perfectly, but that didn’t end the value of God’s instructions to us! After the death and resurrection of Christ, Paul affirmed their value: “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). One of the things we shouldn’t give away is our confidence that God’s Word is holy: “worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness” (Merriam Webster).

Jesus warned us not to give that which is holy to the “dogs” (as a metaphor often used in the Scripture to refer to those who were without moral scruples and unpredictable). “Pigs,” on the other hand, are unclean but very predictable. Pigs are predictably dirty and have one thing in mind: satisfying their own appetites. Since pearls can’t be digested, they would be useless to a pig. In fact, casting pigs some pearls instead of slop might infuriate them. After squealing and stampeding in hopes of getting their pig’s share—only to find that pearls weren’t tasty—pigs might turn against you in anger!

So, dispersing pearls of wisdom to those whose god is their belly is a waste of time and may merit persecution rather than regenerate pigs. Extrapolating from that: God’s wisdom (found in the Word of God) is something that those who have already given up their holiness (and rejected the authority of our Holy God) will not receive. These people have become like pigs. They are intent on satisfying the appetites of their flesh, and inflamed appetites cannot be satisfied by the Words of Life found in the scripture! Falling for Satan’s “Hath God reaaally said???” is a slow process. First a person wants some forbidden fruit. Next, they refuse to accept the obvious truth as stated and try by sleight of tongue to twist God’s Words into something that will allow or (hopefully even) affirm their desires, intentionally suppressing truth (trampling it in the mud). Eventually, they become as incapable of discernment as spiritual pigs who can no longer even digest the truth, and if you offer it to them, they will be angered, preferring to feed on the slop of this world.

Where am I going with all this? It’s a warning to each of us—believers as well as unbelievers. The Bible is full of wisdom about how to live. Both the Old Testament and New Testament have guidelines intended for the good of all people. It’s the “Guidebook on How to Live” written by the One who built every model of humanity that exists and who knows how we work. These pearls of wisdom are like treasure intended to guard us from evil and draw us into the ways of life and peace. If we cast off our personal holiness and reject the authority of the Bible as the true, holy words of God . . . if we have made an idol of one or another of our appetites and don’t believe that God can really meet our need without our breaking some spiritual law, then we have cast away our confidence in God. We have become like spiritual pigs.

If you happen to read this and it makes you furious, then I wish you would pray and ask the Lord to reveal the true Truth to you, whatever it is. I’m totally open to hearing your response. On the other hand, if it makes you furious, but you have even a glimmering sense that this might be right, then I beg you to pray for God to open your eyes and heart to the truth and give you the grace to obediently follow Him, even if it means giving up something you treasure almost more than life itself. God alone is worthy of our worship!

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:34-36).

Text for Today: Matthew 7:6, “neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Dear Judy

Dear Judy,

Alan and I watched the new movie about your life, and the acting was brilliant, but it broke our hearts.

How dare anyone force a child to work 18-hour days? Where were your parents, and why didn’t they protect you from all the oppression and intimidation you suffered while growing up as a child star?

Getting you hooked on prescription medications as a child was criminal. I think today such injustice would be grounds for jail sentences . . . if people found out and cared enough.

Meanwhile, your greedy “handlers,” who were getting rich from your beauty and talent, continued to oppress you, robbing you of the pleasures of a normal childhood.

And, it didn’t stop when you grew up.

Hooked and confused, you continued to sing and dance to the tunes of the world that made you rich and famous . . . and continued your misery.

You couldn’t resist the roar of applause and approval. (Who could?) Always looking for love— but finding no one who truly cared for you as much as they cared for your glamour.

And, who could resist the temptation to want you for your face and fortune?

No, you couldn’t resist the lure of fame and fortune, even though it destroyed you and your attempts at marriage.

Five husbands and three children later, you discovered to your horror that you had given up—not only your childhood, but your adulthood, your marriages, your hope of family and love—and even your personhood.

What a tragic end for someone who started out with so much greatness and potential!

My heart grieves for you,
Kathi

. . . You know, the world isn’t kind. People are selfish by nature. I’m sure all of us could relate story after story of heartache and ruin happening today in the lives of those around us. Not just “somewhere over the rainbow” or “out there,” but right here, close in our hearts and in the lives of our loved ones and neighbors. God has given each of us the freedom to choose how we will live, but—just like Judy—we often choose very destructive habits and passions over what we know to be right and good. Yes, many are abused as children which causes disabilities and confusion, but the choices we make as adults are our own, and we are responsible for those decisions.

Don’t ever buy the line that God will never give us more than we can take. That’s not in the Bible, and it’s patently untrue. We do get into situations that we can’t handle on our own. But, I believe God allows the overwhelming circumstances so that we will be driven to Him for help, and He promises that He will rescue those who seek him with all their hearts.

Was there never a time in Judy’s life when she heard the gospel? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29). “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God promises that those who trust in Him will be provided a way of escape, but it’s up to us to take it!

Do you feel overwhelmed, and like your life is so messed up that there’s no hope of recovery? Do you find yourself not believing it possible to overcome all the pain and suffering you’re been facing everyday? “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?” (Psalm 4:6a). I have been really struck by this verse of late. There is so much trouble in the world that it’s tempting to look at the evil and miss all the good! But, then the psalmist goes on with a request: “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” And, when we ask, He answers.

For instance, I know another Judy. This lady’s husband and only son are alcoholics, but she is radiant and happy. Truly, I sometimes wonder how she does it, but I know it’s supernatural grace! I know someone who was badly abused by her step-father as a child but now is a vibrant and deeply compassionate young woman, walking in freedom and light. She has experienced the reality of “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). I knew a woman whose mother died when she was a toddler. She grew up in abject poverty, was raped while serving in the military as a nurse, and married a man who was repeatedly unfaithful. Still, this magnificent woman chose over and over again to trust the Lord, to obey His Word, and to walk in love. She has been a source of inspiration and blessing to all who knew her.

No matter what our background or our present circumstances, we can choose to do what is right and good. We can choose—one choice at a time, one day at a time—to beg God for grace to make the right choice and to “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:1-8)

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
(—Helen H. Lemmel, 1922, Public Domain)

  1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There’s light for a look at the Savior,
    And life more abundant and free!
    • Refrain:
      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace.
  2. Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
    For more than conqu’rors we are!
  3. His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (65): Casting Beams

Have you ever had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and feeling light and peace, like you can see straight into their soul? I have. I have also had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and sensing impenetrable darkness, like a black, iron curtain has been drawn to keep me from understanding their thoughts. One makes me feel loved; the other gives me the creeps! Do you know what I mean?

In today’s text for meditation, Jesus warns us not to judge others, but to “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). I want to consider and contrast the “beam” and the “mote.”

“Beam” has many meanings. All biblical translators and commentators seem unanimous in their opinion that Jesus is using hyperbole and referring to a large timber used for construction, but I’m such a concrete thinker that this word picture never really makes sense to me. You can’t have a literal beam of timber in your eye, because no eye could contain something that large. I’ve heard preachers try to explain it by saying it’s probably just a splinter that looks like a beam of wood to the person who has it in his eye. However, a splinter would totally block a person’s vision and be terribly painful. Anyone with a splinter in his eye naturally goes into a state of emergency and can hardly think of anything else until it’s removed.

No, this “beam” has gone unnoticed by the person. It is of huge significance, but it has blinded him and made proper judgment impossible, even though he is oblivious to this truth. So, that’s made me think about other possibilities for what Jesus could have really meant, and it occurs to me that a beam can also be a shaft of light.

A mote—on the other hand—is a speck . . . just a tiny particle . . . a bit of dust floating through the air and drifting across a shaft of light. If you put those two thoughts together, it makes a beautiful picture of what Jesus might have intended for us to understand on the spiritual level regardless of how we interpret his metaphor! Could it be that Jesus is warning us that when we judge and condemn others, we are most often doing it from a state of our own darkness. Our understanding has become skewed. We are not thinking God’s thoughts; we are judging based on our own selfish, self-serving opinions. Our heart has become blind, and what’s coming out of our eyes are beams of darkness that cause ourselves and others to stumble. Jesus points out, “Can the blind lead the blind?” (Luke 6:39).

Look at the orchids above. Only the ones that have been illuminated with light are clearly visible. There’s no way we could we know if there’s a tiny mite or a speck of fungus threatening the health of the flowers in the background which are out of focus and in the dark. Similarly, I think Jesus is telling us to cast the beams of darkness out of our own eyes so that the Light of life can illuminate us from within. Then, and only then, can we see well enough to know what the real needs of our friends are . . . and not simply what they are doing that irritates us!

Also, I love the vision of a mote as a tiny fleck floating along through a beam of light. Although specks of dust can be seen in strong shafts of light, most of them are insignificant and will drift into obscurity before long. I wonder if God, with his infinite patience, watches us with longsuffering, knowing that the bits of dirt in our lives will soon enough pass into oblivion, cleansed away by gentle puffs of the Holy Spirit.

Are we casting beams of light or darkness to those around us? Do you suppose others sense that we love them—or are they feeling creeped out? Does the light in our eyes illuminate or darken others? How much better to concentrate on becoming filled with Light! Then we will see more clearly to give others true help . . . and I suspect many of the motes that are so disturbing to us now will float away . . . or at least turn into mole hills. 🙂

Want more light in your soul? Look up at Jesus. Fill your heart with his Word, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). Jesus said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Shine On Us
(—Phillips, Craig and Dean)

Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us
Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your light shine on us

Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand
Fall on us
Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand
Fall on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your grace fall on us

Lord, let Your love
Love with no end
Come over us
Lord, let Your love
Love with no end
Come over us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let love come over us
Let your light shine on us

Passages for today’s text: Luke 6:39-42, “And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-6, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (64): Give and Receive~ Expiration and Inspiration

Do you find yourself struggling to balance giving and receiving? In a perfect world, it seems like giving out should be as natural as breathing out and receiving should be as natural as breathing in, but I (at least) find at times that it’s hard to give—because it’s “giving away” something I want. And, sometimes I struggle with receiving because I fear indebtedness to the one who has given me something. What if I have nothing left for myself? What if I can never repay the giver?

It occurred to me that the breathing analogy works in understanding these quandaries too. “Breathing out” could become an issue if I am afraid I’ll not have enough oxygen for my next breath, and “breathing in” could seem suspect if I’m not sure of the purity of the air I’m receiving from the other person. What if I run out of air and die by giving out everything? What if I contract some terrible disease from breathing in “germy” air?

After a rather pain-staking search of the 1392 instances of “give” being used in the Bible (at least in the KJV version), I’ve come to some pretty reassuring and wonderful conclusions. First, the great majority of verses have to do with all the amazing gifts God offers us. I’ll give you a list at the end if you’re interested, but it pretty much includes more than anything we could ever want, including abundant provisions for both physical and spiritual life.

God promises us sufficient “air” to breathe in, so we don’t have to worry where our next breath is coming from—and we can be assured that it will be good for us! We can also share our air, knowing that we’re not going to suffocate!

In light of the overwhelming graces and kindnesses of God, He asks us to give out of our abundance to meet the needs of those who are lacking. (See verses on giving “alms”—which are provisions freely given to relieve the needs of the poor, such as Luke 11:41, “But rather give alms of such things as ye have.”) God doesn’t normally want anyone to give away everything they own. (That only happened once, when Jesus was trying to teach the rich young ruler that he was making an idol out of his money). The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working hard and saving to provide for those under our care . . . and warns against laziness: Proverbs 6:6-11; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” However, He also wants us to help those who are “weak”: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak” (Acts 20:35).

I think the important distinction is this: Those who are capable and lazy should not be supported; those who are disabled and unable (“weak”) should be.

That being said, there is always room for compassion. The Good Samaritan helped the wounded man without knowing anything about the man’s worthiness or character. (At least, we as readers are told nothing.) Love sees need and tries to help. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9); “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” (Proverbs 28:27).

The bottom line as I understand it is that God wants us to work hard and provide for our own as well as being charitable and generous toward those in genuine need. God doesn’t “need” anything from us, but we can express our love for God by loving others and helping meet their needs. However, we can give God ourselves (Romans 12:1-2); we can give God glory (Revelation 14:7); and most of all, God wants us to give him thanks for all the wonderful blessings he pours out on us! “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Text for meditation: Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Appendix on Gifts God gives: If you’re feeling down and depressed, or you’re struggling to think of anything to give thanks for, here’s a small sampling of God’s blessings, many given to all mankind, and all offered to all of mankind who will receive them!

Life and breath and all things (we see in this present world): “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:25-26).

Difficulties to bring us to God: Ecclesiastes 1:13And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.”

All that we need for this life: Romans 8:32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

All things we need to live a life of godliness: 2 Peter 1:3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”

The ability to recognize God’s good gifts to us: 1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

The prospering of our efforts: 1 Corinthians 3:7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”

The holy scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

Wisdom Proverbs 2:6For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Ephesians 1:17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

Life via wisdom: Ecclesiastes 7:12For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.”

Understanding: 2 Timothy 2:7Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” 1 John 5:20And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”

Counsel and restraints: Psalm 16:7I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.”

Protection: Psalm 18:35Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.”

Help from trouble: Psalm 60:11Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.”

Strength, power, and peace: Psalm 29:11The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.Psalm 68:35 O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.”

Deliverance: Psalm 18:50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.”

The spirit of power, love, and a sound mind: 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Promises to help us partake of God’s divine nature: 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Grace: Proverbs 3:34Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” Ephesians 4:7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.1 Corinthians 3:10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Good doctrine: Proverbs 4:2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.”

Instruction: Proverbs 9:9Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”

The oracles of God: Acts 7:38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.

Favor: Proverbs 13:15Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.

Mercy: Acts 13:34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.”

Fruit: Proverbs 31:31Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Knowledge and joy: Ecclesiastes 2:26For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

The ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor: Ecclesiastes 5:18 “Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.”

Riches and wealth: Ecclesiastes 5:19Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”

Knowledge of salvation: Luke 1:77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.

Understanding of the person and work of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:3Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Light to find the way of peace: Luke 1:79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 2 Corinthians 4:6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:14Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.Revelation 22:5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”

The promise of salvation by faith: Galatians 3:22But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

Treasure in heaven: Matthew 19:21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Spiritually abundant life here on earth: 1 Timothy 6:17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.

A physical body for each of us: 1 Corinthians 15:38But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

Jesus’s life as a ransom: Matthew 20:28Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.Mark 10:45For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

A good shepherd to lead us to heaven and give his life for us: John 10:11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Jesus’s body as a sacrifice for us: Luke 22:19And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.Ephesians 5:2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Everlasting life through the blood and flesh of Christ: John 6:51I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.John 10:28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” 1 John 5:11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God: Mark 4:11And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.Luke 8:10And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.”

Rewards for our giving: Mark 9:41For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

Words to speak when we are on trial: Luke 21:15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.1 Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Power for ministry: 1 Peter 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

The ministry of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Grace and spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.”

Whatever we truly need: Luke 11:9And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

The kingdom of God: Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Grace and truth: John 1:17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.James 4:6But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

The water of life: John 4:14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.Revelation 21:6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Spiritual meat: John 6:27Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

Spiritual bread: John 6:32Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.”

Spiritual life: John 6:33For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

An example for how to live: John 13:15For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

A new commandment: John 13:34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (I notice that Jesus says repeatedly that the law came by Moses, or that Moses “gave” them the law.)

A comforter: John 14:16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”

Peace and His presence to relieve fear: John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

The words of God: John 17:8For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.John 17:14I have given them thy word.”

The glory which God gave Jesus: John 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”

Commandments to follow: Acts 1:2Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.” (I was so impressed by this verse two years ago that it has inspired me to study the “commandments” that Jesus gave us.)

The authority to help others “rise up and walk” (if not physically today, for sure spiritually!) through the powerful name of Jesus: Acts 3:6Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

Authority to build others up: 2 Corinthians 10:8For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed.”

Faith that results in soundness: Acts 3:16And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

The name of Jesus, which is the only name by which the world can be saved: Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus: Acts 5:31Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.2 Timothy 2:25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (If you have a loved one you wish would come to faith, don’t argue! Teach them whenever they’re willing to listen, but also pray for them, recognizing that God is the one who will bring them to repentance and faith.)

The Holy Ghost: Acts 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

The Spirit: 2 Corinthians 1:22 “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” 2 Corinthians 5:5Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.1 Thessalonians 4:8He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.1 John 3:24And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” 1 John 4:13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”

The Spirit, who gives us life: 2 Corinthians 3:6Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

The Spirit, who gives us many gifts for building up the body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:7-9 (and on) “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit . . .”

Assurance of Christ’s resurrection (given to all men to either accept or reject): Acts 17:30-31And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

An inheritance among the brethren: Acts 20:32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Psalm 61:5For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.”

Suffering: Philippians 1:29For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

Hope and consolation: 2 Thessalonians 2:16 and 17 “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”

Victory over death: 1 Corinthians 15:57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.