The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…
"The Cheerful Giver"
I recently read the account of a woman who gratefully described a happy occasion for a loved one. "The universe chose to bless him" she wrote.
I do not know what the woman meant by her statement. I do know, and I do not mean this disrespectfully, her words have no meaning. Composed of matter, energy, and space, the universe possesses no consciousness. It does not think, nor is it capable of making well-meaning choices to bless. Of course, the Creator of the universe is conscious. He also made angels and human beings with consciousness (we might furthermore consider that animals, in a far lesser and more limited way, possess some form of awareness). However, the physical universe bears no capacity for the thought, reasoning, and choice the woman implied by her words. It cannot "choose to bless."
I pray for the woman that she will realize reality, namely, that Someone does exist who chooses to bless. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17). Yes, God is not only conscious. He also possesses the character and nature of benevolent good will. He loves to give, even at the greatest cost to Himself. He "is good to all," which accounts for the woman's happy occasion mentioned above (Psalm 145:9). The just and the unjust feel the warmth of His sun and the cooling stream of His rain (Matthew 5:45). Most importantly, He wills that all would know His saving grace in the Lord Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:4). Yes, a Giver beyond every notion of generosity exists who "loveth a cheerful giver" because He is Himself the most cheerful of givers and the source of all beneficence (II Corinthians 9:7). The purest joy graces all who know and grow in the light of such truth. Tragic blindness plagues all who fail to acknowledge the Provider of "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).
The universe exists as a thing of wonder, a "thing" of wonder. The Creator of the universe exists as a personal, conscious Being of infinitely more wonder according to His triune nature of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We look to His creation as a blessing, no doubt. But we look to God as the One who blesses. I pray the dear lady, properly grateful for her loved one's reception of a gift, will come to know and love its Giver. I also pray that we who know and love Him already will grow in our awareness of the Cheerful Giver who so loves to bless, even if it means He must sacrifice His dearest and best to make possible and just His gracious generosity.
"Thou openest Thine hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing."
"The living God… giveth us richly all things to enjoy."
(I Timothy 6:17)
Weekly Memory Verse
I will love Thee, o Lord, my strength!"
Weekly Memory Verse
Does our proposal that we should not seek to love, trust, obey, and serve God by a sense of restitution or reimbursement leave us open to the accusation that we share a message that leads to licentiousness and irresponsibility. The answer is emphatically, Yes!
"We are slanderously reported, and… some affirm that we say, Let us do evil, that good may come" (Romans 3:8).
No less than the Apostle Paul, the primary herald of God's grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ, faced charges regarding His message of a "free gift" and "things… freely given" (Romans 5:18; I Corinthians 2:12). Enemies distorted Paul's message, of course, and even friends sometimes misunderstood the full content and intent of the salvation in Christ he communicated. This was inevitable because God's truth greatly challenges the human heart and mind. Strongly affirming grace must be accompanied by equally strong affirmation that God's free gift in Christ leads to faithful godliness. How this happens will require a lifetime of heeding the Apostle Peter's mandate: But grow in grace, and in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).
What is God's role of grace? What is our role of faith? How do the two paths unite to run parallel to one another, with Christ as the unifying and maintaining bond of truth? While we can and must find adequate answers to empower a life of faithfulness to God, we also never find complete explanations to this most vital inquiry in our present lifetime. Thus, we will be tempted to take advantage of grace - licentiousness - or we will be tempted to minimize the scope and power of grace - legalism. The former possibility concerns our present consideration. It seems that obligatory service to God - we owe Him - would be the best motivation whereby we might avoid falling into the pit of "Let us do evil that good may come." It doesn't work that way, however. Seeking to serve our Lord based on such sensibilities inevitably results in failure, frustration, and ultimately, a deep sense of futility regarding the possibility of genuinely walking with God in self sacrificial love. Paul's testimony in Romans 7 of seeking to live the Christian life by obligated legalism rather than grace confirms this well intentioned, but wayward path:
"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (Romans 7:9-11).
"The letter killeth" (II Corinthians 3:6). Or, attempting to serve God by obligation rather than love slays our access to the power of the Holy Spirit made possible only by freely given gifts, received by humble trusting faith. "We have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God… the Spirit giveth life" (Romans 5:2; II Corinthians 3:6). Let us then seal within our hearts and minds that which our Heavenly Father long ago sealed in His heart and mind. Salvation and ongoing relationship with Him comes to us the freest gift ever given. By any definition of "gift," we therefore owe Him nothing
Lord, I owe You everything.
No, My child, you owe Me nothing.
But Lord, every breath I've ever breathed,
Every good and perfect gift You've bequeathed, every…
No, My child, You owe Me nothing.
Still your heart just now, let it rest, and listen.
I am grace, I give no other way.
As Abraham and Issac journeyed into the mountain of sacrifice, no mention of praise, thanksgiving, or singing (the popular definition of worship) is mentioned in the text of Scripture. However, Abraham told his servants, "I and the lad go yonder to worship" (the first mention of worship in the Bible - Genesis 22: ). Of course, it may be that Moses simply does not record such expression in the Genesis account. Maybe Abraham and Isaac did praise, thank, and sing as they ventured unto the solemn place of sacrifice. We do not know this, however, and we cannot presume upon the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures to suggest anything more than the narrative includes.
What then do we know about Abraham and Isaac's worship? Three things:
- Abraham trusted God.
- Abraham obeyed God.
- Abraham sacrificed his human inclinations to do the will of God.
- Abraham loved God in the action.
- Isaac loved God and his father Abraham by submitting to the sacrifice.
To love God self-sacrificially be trusting and obeying Him - this is worship. Indeed, one cannot fail to worship if he self-sacrificially loves God by trusting and obeying Him. Conversely, one can praise God without worshipping. One can thank God without worshipping. One can sing about God, and to God, without worshipping. All of these things can be done with insincerity and even by those who do not even know the Lord. Again, however, one cannot love God by trusting and obeying Him without genuinely worshipping. Little wonder then that the first mention of worship in the Bible omits anything other than the solemn journey into the mount of sacrifice, the journey of faith and obedience.
A believer walked down a city street one day. He looked ahead to see a man approaching him, a man he knew, but who the believer found unappealing and did not want to see. A nearby storefront offered him the possibility of quickly ducking inside before the distasteful fellow saw him coming. The believer began to do, but deep in his heart, something reminded him of Christ's love, grace, mercy, and truth. In the moment, the believer realized the encounter he sought to avoid was an encounter his Lord desired him to embrace.
"But Father, You know how hard it is to get away from Joe once he starts yakking, I mean, talking. And I have so much to do today!"
The sense of urgency regarding the encounter remained, however. The believer thus prayed another prayer, quickly because the other man drew near and the way of escape would not long linger.
"Father, I believe You want me to greet Joe, and I will. Lead me by Your grace to be a blessing of Christ to Him."
This is worship. Because in its holy essence, worship is love, the love of God known, received, and assimilated in our hearts so that it returns to Him and flows out to others. This makes worship possible in myriads of moments, in innumerable ways, and in untold opportunities whereby the Holy Spirit leads us into our own mountains of sacrifice, as led and enabled by His love. Can this involve praise, thanksgiving, and singing? Of course, and it often does. Limiting worship to these expressions, however, fails to meet the Biblical definition of this holy response to God, and means that we may fail to appreciate the fact of worship even as it takes place in our trusting, obedient hearts. This constitutes a tragedy of immense magnitude that must surely grieve our Heavenly Father, and should lead us to a place of repentance if we realize our error.