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8.18.2010

You Can't Out-Give the Lord!

This is our latest toy around here and let me tell you the joy it is bringing my little girl!
She has been climbing in and out of it, reading her books and playing.  She loves it!
But let me tell you a little bit about  how it arrived in our living room...
This morning I am praising the Lord for answering me in a very tangible and clear way.  In the last 48 hours, He has demonstrated His attentive ways and I am awed at how He is reinforcing a common theme in our life.  I realize that's vague, but before I elaborate, let me back up and give you some context.

A few weeks ago, upon pondering the 7 years we recently celebrated of marriage, we were in bed one night having one of those conversations about the particular season of life we are in.  Mostly we were marveling at all that God has done for us in a short 7 years and how much our life has changed in those years.  We were also discussing our giving abilities and evaluating how we make those decisions.  We believe the Lord is very clear in the Word about tithing, and while our finances may not make sense according to the world's standards, we do our best to follow the guidelines God has given us and to remain obedient to Him.  We aren't perfect, but we are in total agreement about our priorities and I'll just leave it at that.

Anyway, over the weekend and during one of our date nights out, we were having dinner at a Japanese steakhouse that we love.  We were there early, like old-people early, and waiting for a few more people to show up so they could seat us around a hibachi table.  After a few minutes passed, they decided to seat us with only one other couple, which meant we were most likely going to get to know them a little bit.  We introduced ourselves, told them we were celebrating our 7 year anniversary and asked them a few questions too.  They were visiting from Kansas City, in town for a Pentecostal conference at a Church downtown.  It was apparent that they were also believers and we hit it off quickly.  As we listened to them, we learned that they had been married for 38 years and it was obvious that they were very much in love.  After we finished eating, Travis asked them if they could give us any advice about staying happily married for 38 years.  They smiled and looked at one another then gave us 3 things that have "worked" for them.

The wife told us to never go to bed angry.  As much as possible, resolve your issues as quickly as possible and don't start another day with division between you.  Great advice.  Her husband quoted a Bible verse, which escapes me at the moment, but basically reinforced the idea of always remaining patient with one another.  Staying calm and being slow to react, especially with your spouse.  Also great advice.  But then as they thought a little bit longer, they threw one more principle our way and I swear it was straight from the mouth of God, designed for our ears and to encourage our hearts.  I could tell they weren't sure if we believed this or not, but they asked if our Church taught tithing and we quickly said, absolutely.  They told us that one of the biggest blessings and reasons they have lasted 38 years is because they decided long ago that they would be faithful to give the Lord what they could, as everything they had was from Him anyway.  They told us example after example of their faithful giving, even when times were hard, and how God never failed to provide for them and take care of them.  It was such a surprising thing to hear from someone you don't know and yet, I know God put them at our table to encourage us in a season of life where quite honestly we are trusting Him with every penny. It was sweet and honest and full of wisdom.  We agreed wholeheartedly with them and offered a few examples of our own where God has prompted us to give and then provided above and beyond for us.  Tithing is never about an actual dollar amount, as if God "needs" our money, but always about being obedient to what He's said, making Him and His Church our first priority, and keeping the condition of our heart pure before Him.  We left that dinner, having gained great insight from people who have gone before us and had wisdom to share, but also feeling very affirmed about some things we had been discussing.  It was totally ordained by the Lord for us to be there that night, at a ridiculously early hour, so that we could sit with them and hear that word from God for our hearts and our marriage.  I thought about them a lot the rest of the night...

Fast forward to a few nights later and we found ourselves together (Travis and I) again, on our way somewhere.  As we were out, we encountered one of those situations where we both spotted a need and felt the Lord prompting us to do something.  Before you think I am blowing smoke up our own rear ends about how great we are, let me tell you that it wasn't some heroic thing and we didn't immediately pull our money out.  We quickly deliberated about whether we should or were even able, but in a quick minute we decided we should and that we would trust the Lord to take care of it.  We had no guarantee that it was the right thing, but we felt like He knew our hearts and our motive and that was that.

Hours later, when we had forgotten about the whole thing, God blew us away and gave us 2.5 times the money we had given, in a very unexpected way.  It was totally out of the blue and nothing we saw coming, but I immediately knew the Lord was reminding me, "When you obey me with all you have and you give to me, I will always take care of you."  Amazing.  We didn't give to receive, but He chose to bless us anyway.  We talked about it later and again decided that He was really using the last few days to impress something on us.

Now let me take you to the parking lot of Target, last night.  We made a quick run out before Ava went to bed, for some more storage bins...as I seem to be filling them up right and left.  As I was putting Ava in her car seat and Travis was loading up the car, a woman walked past us and then turned around and faced us.  She asked if we needed "any baby stuff?"  We both had no idea who she was or what she was talking about, so I asked her, "Well, what kind of stuff?"  She explained that the back of her minivan was all loaded up for a trip to Goodwill but she would love to give us anything she had if we were interested.  Travis nodded at me and I followed her across the lot to the back of her car.  I spotted the classic "Christian fish" symbol on the back of her car and she immediately put me at ease when she told us that she saw us with Ava and noticed that I was pregnant again, and she was hoping she could bless us like God had blessed them.

As I stood there with almost no words coming to mind, she gave us some things that we were lacking, all in excellent condition and worth hundreds of dollars, for nothing at all.  She would not let me give her any money.  We thanked her over and over again and as we drove off, we just kept saying, "I can't believe that just happened!"  On a random trip to Target, we were approached by a stranger in a minivan, and soon left with with some great things for our kids, for free.  Only the Lord could have done that...
 
And thus, the reason we now have this little play yard in our living room!
Again, the Lord just opened His hand and graced us with His generous heart.  As we were discussing it, Travis made the statement, "You can't out-give the Lord."  No matter what we're facing or how high the hurdles seem to be, when you trust Him and are obedient to Him, He is always faithful in return.  And generous in fact!  Let me end with this devotional I read today, that sums this whole thing up perfectly.  It's written by Pastor Greg Laurie....Obeying the Lord and striving to honor Him with all areas of our life, is not easy and not without sacrifice, and frankly we don't always do the right thing. But the peace and the provision and the blessing He has given us in return when we do, is well worth all of it!  I wanted to share this with you today because it's been a good reminder that God is still in the business of miracles and He longs to give His children good gifts.  Not "santa claus" kind of gifts that we demand or beg of Him, but things for our own good and for His glory.  He is the decider of that, not us. Maybe you needed to hear that today like I did.  Maybe you needed to be reminded of what He calls us to in obedience and how He promises to provide no matter what.  As I wait for another little life to join our family, our needs are great, but our God is greater still.  He sees everything we do and don't do and He longs to help us trust Him and obey Him all the time, in every season.  We don't do it so He'll give us stuff, we do it because He's worthy of our devotion and He died to secure our future with Him.  If He never gave us anything beyond salvation through Christ, it would still be the greatest gift we'd ever receive and the only thing we need.  But because He loves us so much, He also gives us so much more.  My prayer today is that I would trust Him more and obey Him sooner and without doubt.  He's proven Himself to me, over and over and in the most miraculous ways.  In fact, I have a Fisher Price tent in my living room to remind me of that all day today.  And I'm not sure who's happier about it, Ava or me!!

Enjoy this devotional about our God...


The Father's Delight

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"
I have recently ventured into the mysterious pink aisles of the toy stores. I had never tried those aisles out before. Nothing there much interested me, because they were all for girls, and I have always shopped for boys. Shopping for my sons was easy, because I bought things for them that I liked, and they usually were happy with whatever I chose. But now with three granddaughters, I have discovered that shopping for girls is different. Girls like different things. But as I have begun to examine this world and learn more about it with my granddaughters, I am having fun with it. It is my joy. It is my delight. And if anything, I have to restrain myself because I don't want to spoil them.

When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that we are adopted into God's family. And we have a heavenly Father who loves to bless us. Jesus said, "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Our heavenly Father is not stingy; He is generous. He loves to lavish things on us. He loves to bless us. As Matthew 7:11 says, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"

Not only has God forgiven us and pardoned us and taken us out of the bondage to sin that we were in, but He has adopted us as His own sons and daughters. I find that amazing. And I stand in awe of a God who would have the power and the desire to do something like that for us.

6 comments:

Peggy & Ron said...

Wow! Amazing stories. Love the little play house Ava's so taken with.

Christine said...

I feel that God has blessed me today when I just happened to stumble upon your blog.

Toni :O) said...

That is a beautifully written post and I agree wholeheartedly with you. I lost my job on May 25th. Ever since then, there have been silver linings all over the place as I still search for a new full-time job. I was able to spend the summer with my children and not worry about childcare. My dad had surgery last Thursday and I spent that day and the next three with him. I have time to finally get tasks completed that have been piling up. He has his reasons for me being let go from a job I absolutely LOVED...it's been so incredibly hard but I'm choosing to put it in His hands and guide me to something new. I have faith I will find something else...but it will be in His time and I'm okay with that. We've been through three other job losses before with my husband in our 17 years together and we'll get through this together...I do believe. Enjoy that cute tent...sure looks like your little gal is! Thanks for sharing your sweet life with all of us....I receive SO much inspiration from you and it just warms my heart to check in on you and your adorable family.

Sonya said...

Amazing! And something I really need to keep in mind for us right now too!

Holly said...

awesome steph! way to be sensitive and faithful...glad Ava loves her tent!

Leigh said...

So cool! I love hearing stories about the way God provides and meets our known and unknown needs when we trust in Him. Thanks for sharing!