“ For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Rom. 11:36 NASB
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” James 1:17-18, NASB
My house. My health. My job. My money. My family. My stuff. My hopes. My dreams. My life.
Sometimes, we forget that all we have comes from God. Those many things before which we all too often place the pronoun “my” when, in reality, the pronoun “Yours” belongs.
It’s all God’s.
From the heart that beats and gives us life to the clothes we wear, the roof over our heads, the food we’re nourished by, the people we love and those who love us, the car we drive, the trinkets we treasure, the plans we make, the places we visit and the opportunities before us. All of them.
We may try to hold tightly to those things. We try to protect them. We cling to them. We want more of them. At times, it seems as though we are never satisfied by them. Striving for bigger and better, more than we have, keeping up with the Joneses. It’s even possible to turn those things into idols. Idols you love as much – or even more than – God. And yet.
It’s all God’s.
We may be deceived into thinking that we have control over all those things. That if we just plan carefully, those things will be safe. That if we take the right steps and make the right moves, are cautious and careful — then nothing bad will happen to those things. That if we simply play by the “right” set of rules, then we’ll win at the game of life with a perfect score and a Hollywood ending. Still.
It’s all God’s.
We can begin to covet those things. Never enough, ever wanting more. Reading the social media posts of others and deciding we are less than because they appear more than. Looking at the news and comparing and contrasting ourselves to an invisible standard that doesn’t actually exist and feeling as though the train has passed us by because our things aren’t like “their” things, feeling as though our lives pale in comparison to “their” lives – whomever “they” might be. Hoarding our things, clinging and clutching them and not enjoying or sharing them because we are afraid something could happen to them. Too occupied with getting more, ever striving, always wanting, trying to fill a hole that forever demands more and is never satisfied. Forgetting.
It’s all God’s.
Not being thankful, attitudes of ingratitude, wishing our things were different things, better things, nicer things. Spending our days working for more things, buying new things, hating old things that are perfectly good, just not new, just not “good enough” things. Afraid to share our things because we worry that if we give some away, we might not have enough. Perhaps even refusing to give to God these things He has given to us, deciding that we need these things more and being scarce and stingy in our gifts, forgetting the blessings He has so richly poured out on us. But.
It’s all God’s.
As we begin Holy Week and look to Easter Sunday, may our hearts and minds be reminded of God’s great love and gifts to us. May we remember all we have is His.
I pray that we might remember all our blessings come from God. As James wrote, every good and perfect gift comes from God. (Jas. 1:7) And Paul teaches us in Romans that from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. (Rom. 11:36)
When you were a little kid, did you ever ask your mom or dad to take you to the store to buy a Christmas or birthday present for them? They drove you to the store, they gave you the money to buy their gift – either as an allowance or as shopping money, they waited for you as you picked out the perfect present, helped you count out your money as you paid the store clerk, they gave you the wrapping paper and ribbon and may have even helped you wrap it, promising that they weren’t looking at the gift, just helping you cut the paper and offering you pieces of tape as you proudly wrapped and decorated the gift in your own perfectly imperfect, uneven folds of paper, tape festooned masterpiece.
And then you presented your gift, beaming with happiness and excitement that you were able to give your mom or dad a special gift that you picked out and you paid for and you wrapped — “all by yourself” — all to show them how much you loved and cared for them.
Do you ever picture the gifts we give to God as a little bit like that?
He gives us everything – our talents, time and treasures.
And then we get to give back to Him out of the abundance He has given us.
It’s all His. But He has shared it with us so that we could enjoy it and then we are able to bless Him and others with His gifts.
God doesn’t need us to give to Him. It’s all His, after all.
Instead, He simply wants us to want to give to Him.
He wants us to delight in blessing Him and others with the gifts He has given to us.
For some, that may mean using your gifts to make a difference in the world by serving others in your community or halfway around the world.
For others, it could be that God wants you to give your time – it could be time in prayer, in worship or time in service, time studying His Word or time just listening to a neighbor or loved one going through a difficult time, being a friend to someone in need.
It might mean giving of the resources and treasures God has brought into your life to make a difference in the lives of others through the spread of the Gospel and by meeting the very real and basic needs for people around the world and in your own backyard.
It could mean that you sacrifice something so that you can give it away to help others.
Like foregoing a favorite television show or hobby during Lent to spend time with God in study, worship or service.
Or giving up a favorite food or treat during Lent and donating the money you didn’t spend on it to an organization that is sharing God’s love.
It doesn’t have to be grand or epic.
In fact, Jesus taught us in the story of the widow’s mite that the greater sacrifice has less to do with the size of the gift and more to do with the heart of the giver.
As we stand before God with our lopsidedly wrapped, perfectly imperfect gifts of time, talent and treasure, can you picture Him beaming with the love and delight of a parent? Knowing that His child chose to bless and honor Him with the gifts He has given us, seeing our excitement as we give our small yet special gift to the Giver of all, the Giver of life.
I’m reminded of the Doxology.
“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.
Praise God, all creatures here below.
Praise God above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
May we praise Him together, thanking Him for all He has done for us by giving to Him from all He has given to us.
And may we be ever mindful, at Easter and throughout the year, that He gave His Son to save us from sin, so that we could be redeemed, ransomed and reconciled to Him.
May our praise be offered up to Him today as a gift of love and gratitude and may we give to Him as we are able, all this for our King.
And today, may we join together in prayer for the students of Parkland and for all of the victims of gun violence. As we remember the victims of school shootings and stand with the students who demonstrated this weekend — with all those who simply want their schools to be safe and to be able to attend school without fear of gun violence on their campus — may we offer love, encouragement and acceptance to these brave and inspiring young people.
1 – Do you have a favorite place? It could be your hometown, somewhere you visited on vacation, a scenic road you love to drive, sitting by the ocean or lake, your neighborhood coffee place, watching your favorite team play or even just being at home with loved ones? In the space below. thank God for that place He has given you and for the memories and peace He gives you there. Thank Him for all His many gifts to you, honoring and remembering Him and that all our gifts are from God.
2 – Do you have a favorite hymn or worship song? If so, consider listening to that song today and giving thanks to God for all the gifts He has given to you and for His great love for you. If you don’t have a favorite song right now, you could listen to a Christian radio station in your area or online and just enjoy a time of worship and thanksgiving.
3 – Is it possible that there is a “one thing” in your life that you are holding on to or always searching for more of that you want to entrust to God? Something you are holding on to so tightly but God is calling you to give it to Him, assuring you that He can handle it? Have you made an idol of a blessing God has given you? Ask God to show you if there is anything in your life that He is calling you to hand over to Him and then ask for the strength to trust Him. Ask Him to help you make Him your One Thing.
4 – As we near the end of Lent and await the joy and hope of Resurrection Sunday, we can look back on the season of Lent and on how God has worked in our lives through these 40 days. Have you had the opportunity to offer and sacrifice to God during this time? If so, how did it feel to offer a symbolic sacrifice to God at Lent?
If you haven’t had the opportunity to do so, you could choose to dedicate something symbolic this week to God – maybe taking a break from social media or a favorite show or giving up sweets or eating out through the end of Lent.
Holy Week is a week of contrasts – the week began with joyful shouts of Hosanna and praise as Jesus was welcomed to Jerusalem, the crowds laying down branches in the road before Jesus as He fulfilled prophecies of old and entered the city riding on a colt as He prepared to lay down His own life for them.
A solemn Passover meal spent with His disciples in a borrowed upper room, a New Covenant made with bread and wine which foreshadowed the sacrifice of the body and blood that Christ would soon offer for us, a plea to His Father to take this cup from Him, yet submitting Himself and His will to the Father, the painful yet predicted betrayal by one of His own disciples in a Garden where His disciples couldn’t keep watch for an hour, a disciple’s thrice denial of even knowing the Man as a rooster crowed and pierced the morning’s sunrise.
Angry shouts calling for His crucifixion by the same people who had sung Hosanna just days earlier, relentless demands made that Pontius Pilate release a violent and sinful criminal named Barabbas who had led an insurrection rather than the innocent, holy, righteous, sinless and loving Jesus.
The cruel taunts and mockings of Roman soldiers, Pilate washing his hands of this man’s blood – the very blood that would pay the price and ransom humanity, a crown of thorns painfully placed on His head, a heavy cross carried by Simon of Cyrene as Christ carried all of our sins upon Himself preparing to give His own life for ours, a hastily made sign placed above Him ridiculing His royalty, all the while He interceded on their behalf to His Heavenly Father – asking Him to forgive them their ignorance, two thieves on either side of Him – one choosing paradise, the other refusing it even in his final breath.
Jesus’s voice crying out asking God why He had forsaken Him, sour wine offered to Him on a sponge and yet more jeers from the voyeuristic crowd disbelieving and denying His deity.
And then our Savior’s cry rang out in the noonday darkened sky as the veil of the temple was torn in two.
It is Finished, He declared.
Grief, sorrow and despair from His followers, a tomb, burial preparations of myrrh to honor Him in His death – the same fragrant spice that wise men from the east gave to the newborn King of the Jews – the King of Kings – as they honored Him in His birth, the stillness of the tomb from sundown to sundown on the Sabbath day.
Sun rising on an empty tomb, confusion and chaos, disciples running, women weeping, carefully folded grave clothes no longer needed, a heavy stone miraculously rolled away.
He is not here.
He is Risen.
Followers seeing Him. Hearing Him.
Sharing the Good News.
His followers celebrating.
Eyes opened on the road to Emmaus.
A doubting disciple, seeing and believing.
Rejoicing and worshipping. Pharisees furious.
A seaside breakfast of grilled fish and bread.
Forgiveness for the disciple who had denied Him, a ministry and calling to tend His sheep.
A Great Commission given.
His heavenly ascension.
The Holy Spirit falling upon them, filling them, comforting and encouraging them for the days of wonder, worship and wandering ahead of them.
Their lives, our lives and all of the world would never be the same, Praise God!
This week we will begin studying the first of the Fruits of the Spirit – love.
Since there are nine fruits of the Spirit and we will study one fruit each week, we will continue with the study and devotionals through early summer.
You are in my prayers as we observe Palm Sunday, reflecting on the mixed emotions of Holy Week — Sunday’s excitement and anticipation, Jesus driving out those who sullied His Father’s House and used it to enrich themselves, His days spent teaching in the temple, chief priests, scribes and elders confronting and challenging Him, Thursday’s betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane, a kangaroo court, a crooked trial, lying witnesses, an unjust and undeserved death sentence that had been issued before the beginning of time as the only way to redeem humanity, Friday’s despair, Saturday’s sorrow – and then Sunday’s confusion, shock — and ultimately the celebration, joy and jubilation of our Savior’s resurrection!
How amazing God’s love and grace are that He came down to earth to give His life for ours.
How overwhelming it is that we can call the cross wonderful, knowing that it was upon that cross where our Savior died on Calvary’s hill, crying out for His Heavenly Father and Himself hearing the silence of God as God allowed Him to complete His rescue mission for all mankind.
What was meant for evil God used for good – for the forgiveness and atonement of our sins, for our eternal salvation and to bring us safely home to Him.
Just as He has done from the beginning of time and just as He will do for all of eternity.
Praising God with you as we walk through Passion Week, remembering God’s great love and reflecting and thanking Him for the wonderful cross – a Roman instrument of torture that God used to save us and to give us life and life eternal.
Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!
“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”