Poured out, filled up

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I don’t know about you, but I have to remind myself regularly that God’s way of thinking and mine are quite often at odds with each other.

That’s why Jesus had to tell so many parables.  He was describing a culture that his disciples had never heard of and were struggling to understand.  Most of the time they still didn’t get it.

Quite often I miss it too.

Many years ago, I was sitting in bed with my young children, reading them the story of the Little Red Hen.  I assume you are familiar with this children’s fable, but if not, here is a summary.

The Little Red Hen, who lives in a farmyard, fancies some nice freshly baked bread.  So she asks her farmyard friends to help her go harvest some wheat for the flour.  One by one, the pig and the duck, the rat and the cat, all say no.  They are basically lazy and can’t be bothered.  So she goes and harvests the wheat herself.

Then she asks for help to thresh the wheat.  Again her short-sighted mates decline.  So, she does it herself.  The same thing happens with milling the flour and baking the bread.

Soon a beautifully baked loaf emerges from the oven all golden brown and the smell wafts its way around the farmyard.  Of course, her predictable friends all come running, hoping for a slice.  At this point, the Little Red Hen gets her moment.  ‘Oh no!’ she exclaims, ‘you didn’t help me harvest the wheat or thresh it or mill it or bake the bread so you don’t get to help me eat it’.  And she promptly tucks into the freshly baked treat to enjoy it all by herself.

I can still remember the pleasure that I felt as I was reading this to my kids, snuggled together in bed.  ‘Oh I love this story’ I thought to myself.  ‘ I love that clever, hard-working hen.  She’s so responsible, so independent, so gutsy. ‘

I guess I related to her.

I’m a first-born, responsible type of gal.  I play by the rules and I work hard.  As I sat there with my kids under the duvet, in the middle of a life that was too busy and church responsibility that felt unappreciated, I comforted myself with the thought of blessings that would compensate me.  I salivated at the thought of these golden baked rewards that I had earned, special rewards just for me.

But I had it a little twisted.

Because there is absolutely no place in God’s Kingdom for entitlement, only gratitude. 

And, the blessings that come from obedience are for sharing.

Every good thing I do or have comes only from Jesus.  I cannot even worship Him without the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.  I can’t be a good wife or mom on my own.  I cannot serve Him, love Him or love others without His grace on my life.

And gratitude is so incredibly powerful.  It kills ego and it grows into selfless generosity.

If I really believe that every good thing I have is from God, I will be happy to share it.  I will never expect special treatment or privileges.  I won’t keep track of the things I have done for God, expecting my equally large slice of reward. 

I will be blessed and filled-up in order to pour out.

I will feel able to give out encouragement and love and acceptance because I know there are endless reserves of them all in Jesus when I am in need.  I will be open-handed with my time and my friendship, not waiting for proof that someone is worthy of them.

And there is such freedom in this kind of generosity.  I am free to stop thinking about myself and worrying about my needs.  I am free to love and give extravagantly and to let others shine. I am free to keep giving without any thought to stocktaking.

Because this Kingdom has a King and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

He modelled this topsy-turvy Kingdom living when He left behind privilege and made Himself nothing.  He was rejected by His own creation and betrayed by friends.  He healed and performed miracles that were met with antagonism and unbelief.  He was alone when in obedience He went to the cross and was crucified.

And after all of this, He was raised to life and received His reward, the keys of life and death, which He freely shares with His beloved humanity, without reservation.

There is no place in this Kingdom for Little Red Hens.

It is a Kingdom of gratefulness and generosity where egos die and freshly baked gifts are sliced and shared and all blessings become worship.

Take time to be thankful today.  Find someone to share your blessings with.  Find someone to share yourself with.  Be generous with your words at every opportunity.  Joyfully live the upside-down, kingdom life.  Fill up and pour out.  Smile at a grumpy person.  Forgive someone who hasn’t even noticed they have hurt you.  Share something you earned with someone undeserving.

Let gratitude for God’s overwhelming, unmerited grace colour everything you do and say so that all who cross your path will know, without a doubt, what kingdom you belong to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Risky Kingdom Business

 

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I have never been a risk taker.

I like to play it very safe.  I have no desire to gamble with my money and extreme sports do not interest me in the slightest.  I did try a snowmobile once when I was 24 but honestly, I drove like a grandma on a mobility scooter.

I also went white water rafting when I was a teenager.  I can still remember how my life flashed before me with each tiny rapid on the relatively tame river.  Never again.

But, today God spoke to my heart.

As I opened my Bible this morning, underneath my quilt with a warm coffee in my hand, I read Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25 with fresh eyes.  So often we need fresh eyes for familiar stories or we can overlook the depth of truth that goes beyond Children’s Bible pictures or Veggie Tales cartoons.

One of the servants in this story is also risk-averse.  He always plays it safe and hedges his bets.  And if you think that this cautious planning should be applauded, you are wrong.  The Master’s reaction is harsh.  There is no praise for this carefulness, only disappointment. It is an uncomfortable parable.

And it teaches an uncomfortable truth.  I cannot please God without taking risks.

I am so tempted to soften that sentence, to try and qualify it.  But I can’t.  The bible won’t let me.

Hebrews 11.6 says, ‘Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.’

You see, when I talk about risks I don’t mean bungee jumping or stock market trading. I mean obedient faith.  I mean doing what God says to do, despite the possible dangers.  I mean stepping out and stepping up, opening my mouth or opening my wallet.  I mean saying yes to God when it looks impossible or ridiculous or costly.  

In the parable, the servant who hides his talent does so out of fear that the Master isn’t a good man.  The writer of Hebrews makes a similar point.  In order to please God, we must believe that He exists but also that He is good and that He desires to reward His children.

You see, we will never dare to take risky faith-steps, to lay it all on the line if we aren’t utterly convinced of God’s power, but also His goodness.

And in the Kingdom of God, there is just no alternative. The keep-what-you-got and squirrel-it-away kind of life is not an option Jesus ever presents to His followers.

No, this Kingdom is more of a ‘throw-your-bread-on-the-water’, take-up-your-cross-and-follow-me, lose-your-life-to gain-it kind of following.

It is the kind of life that ‘wastes’ precious perfume on Jesus because everything we have is for His glory, not our own.  It is a Christianity that turns the world upside down and might land you in jail or in the lion’s den, but your worship will always have the victory.  It is a kind of living where the end is certain, but only uncertain faith-steps will get you there.

It is a faith that dares to try again and believe again, despite the fear of failure. It is a faith that steps out of the boat because those few moments with Jesus on the water are always worth it, even if we get wet.

It is a kind of spiritual walk that serves God with no self-consciousness or comparison and never worries about being perfect, just being obedient.

Read Hebrews 11 today if you dare.  Read those names.  Read how they lived and how they died.  Read how those men and women of God held nothing back.  There never considered contingency plans or risk assessments or insurance policies.

They left everything on the field.

Because they were Kingdom people and they served a King.  And that King once dared to leave the comfort of heaven for an audacious plan of redemption.  He chose love and obedience over self-preservation and safety.  He emptied Himself and He humbled Himself and He offered Himself to people who were free to say no.  This is the God we serve and follow.

And the only answer to a God like this is ‘yes’.

The only way to follow Him is wholehearted.

Because the only risk we have to worry about is wasting our lives on things that don’t matter.

And, the only truly safe way to live is to give Jesus everything and follow Him wherever He leads us.

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