“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
“But he who is forgiven little loves little.”
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
from whom the whole body,joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV
If you are among the millions of the faithful readers of my blog, you are aware of all the events that have transpired over these last several months, and what I have learned about them. My hope and prayer is that I grow in the Lord with each new adventure. I also hope and pray that, as I share these rather intimate things with you, that some of it resonate with you, and my life can serve as some sort of learning tool (Perhaps, if no other lesson can be learned, you can learn that my life serves as an example of what happens when you do NOT listen to God).
This will be my final entry in the “Transition States” series (I hope).
We live in Texas now. Getting here has been an adventure in ,and of, itself. The adventure to Texas actually began last November. We are still looking for our permanent home, but that is just a matter of time and patience.
Here is what I’d like to share with you about this adventure.
LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT GIVING, BY RECEIVING
One of my favorite “Pre-Grace” hobbies was to bash everything and everyone even loosely associated with Christianity. You can appreciate the irony of having been in a position to totally rely on Christians for help. Fortunately, this help arrived after my conversion to a state of Grace. This experience has served to reinforce my prayer to God that He turn me into a giver. Being on the receiving end of the giving process teaches lessons that I seriously doubt I would have learned under any other circumstance. I do not say that God created my circumstance, as I am fully aware that my former lifestyle is what led to my circumstances. What I DO say is, God uses our circumstances and turns them in to blessings. And if we are paying attention, we get to learn from these blessings.
Here is the first thing I have learned from receiving:
Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ESV
In order that Ephesians 4:15, “We will grow…” can become manifest in our lives, sometimes we have to see for ourselves that the Love of God is real, purposeful, and practical. How did Jesus identify the Love of GOd that is real? In John 13:34 – 35 – We read that Jesus defined the real evidence of the Love of God. Jesus said – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God’s love is very real, and is demonstrated through the Children of God. I know, I know… “Most of His children act like Satan!”. Chances are, those ones aren’t God’s children, just impostors. Let’s be clear here. I am not talking about people who SAY they are Christians. I am not talking about religious people who affiliate with a church or organization that claims to be Christian. I am talking about people who, in spite of their obvious imperfections are being driven by the Love of God to behave in a way that reflects the Grace and Mercy of God. This i snot something a person ca fake, either. It CAN be imitated, but never maintained to the depth and extent that a person, driven by the Spirit of God, walks it in their lives. It is unnatural for the flesh to demonstrate this type of love. The flesh always wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”
The Spirit of God will lead a Christian to behave in a way that appears foolishly contradictory to the flesh, and, often, in spite of that person’s misgivings, he will act in a way that surprises even himself. But the obvious reality of the Love of God will shine through, and be understood by the recipient.
Let me offer these illustrations to emphasize my point.
God’s Love is Real
As you have read in the past, my family and I were in a situation where we were utterly helpless to help ourselves. We didn’t just pray for miracles, we relied on them. Many of these miracles came through people who were moved by the spirit of God to be for us what we could not be for ourselves. When we could not pay our bills, others did. When I couldn’t feed my family, others did. When we lost our home, others gave us shelter. Some of the people who ministered to us did so knowing full well what my past was, and gave anyway. The love of God will constrain a person to do what others would not do, even when it appears to defy logic and go against common sense.
And when we received these gifts, the Love of GOd shone through them, and made my heart grow in Godly Love. When you have nothing, and others give you something, your genuine character is revealed. The Character God is trying to reveal in me is His. One of a grateful giver. For me to see this real love of God, I needed to know what it is like to witness Charity from the Children of God. The ones who walked out of Love of GOd, demonstrated a grace and love and compassion that often moved me to tears. And I was touched by the hand of GOd when the Hand of His Children were so moved.
There were some who gave expecting God to reward them. We could tell who they were, too. There was no presence of God in their giving. There was, however, the presence of scorn, judgement, resentment and some degree of hate. The gifts they gave made us hesitant to receive, but, having little choice, in some cases, we accepted the gift. Our only response was to pray for the giver that, like my heart was changed, that their heart of stone be removed and replaced with a heart of compassion. One of these givers let me know almost daily what their sacrifice cost them. They went to great pains to let everyone they knew how generous they were being because they gave to us sacrificially (Just be careful what you post on Facebook, you never know who is reading). They let me know to my face that they did not help us out of love, but out of obligation.
What did I learn from these people who gave out of scorn and obligation? I learned to love those who do not give out of the love of God. I learned a compassion I never knew I had. The “Pre-Grace” David would have behaved out of anger and pride, and caused a great deal of trouble for these people. But this David, the New Creation (II Cor. 5:17) learned to pray for hurt souls. I learned to intercede on their behalf. I learned to give back to them even when they were busy cursing me. I learned that God’s love is truly unconditional, and I love these givers unconditionally, just as God has loved me by sending me His son.
God’s Love is Purposeful
Here is where the rubber met the road, for me. The circumstances I was in were a nightmare of my own creation. I had, once again, failed my family, and put us in a very bad situation. As I was slowly learning about the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, I had to put aside many of my religious opinions and non-christian beliefs. And there were many. I did not believe in mercy or grace. I did not believe God loved me enough to forgive my past, much less answer my prayers of repentance. There were many religious Christians who went far and wide to reinforce this attitude, too. Through all my self loathing and general hatred, God used people and circumstances to demonstrate to me that His love is very real, very present, and unconditional. This demonstration of His love, directly, or through His Children, served several purposes.
One purpose was that my heart of stone should be removed and replaced with a heart of flesh. That my dead spirit would be removed and the living Spirit of the Living GOd will take its place. That the dregs of my wasted soul would be cleansed and brought back to life. Contained in the love of God was all the Grace of God, all the Mercy of God, and all the wonder of his infinite ability to restore even the bases of the fallen. He healed my broken heart, and created a new creation. As I received the love of God and the love of His children, my heart grew, and I learned how to love ion return. I learned there is a difference between a “taker” and a “receiver”. A taker grabs from others whether the thing grasped was given or not, and he takes for personal gain, no matter what it costs others. In order to receive, you have to be humbled, and share the love that is given. I cannot receive the gift of love if I am not seeking the gift of love. I cannot appreciate fully how to give the gift of Love if I have not fully received the gift of Love.
When the Love of God is shone in my heart, all fear, all doubt, all greed, all lust, all hatred, and all that separated me from Him died. What replaced it was His life, His spirit, and His love. God’s love has the purpose of multiplying itself towards humans so that humans can know that the Creator of the universe loves them enough to die for them. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son…”
Redemption is the purpose of Love, and restoration is the work of love, and reproduction is the fruit of love. God’s love is purposeful, and it is real.
God’s Love is Practical
Last July, our water bill was due. We had no money. We prayed fervently for God to help. While we were praying, the phone rang. Someone’s bible study group had heard about our situation and had raised some money for us to pay this months bills and get a few groceries. The money was on its way as we were on the phone. God taught me that He truly is my Father and takes care of His children.
Am I saying that God will be your ATM machine? No way. What I am saying is, when you need to understand what fullness of Grace and Mercy means, that you ARE a child of GOd, that you ARE loved, God will use circumstances that are very real to you and speak to you through them. He will not see your real need and send a hallmark card that says, “Thinking of You.” God will move time and circumstances and people to move according to His will so that you can see that He cares for you.
I am learning to trust God more and more with my life. And I am seeing that He genuinely cares what happens in my life.
By time November came around, I had sent out over 500 resume and applied to over 300 job openings. I was getting crickets. I couldn’t even get a job at a Quick Mart, or a 7-11, or a grocery store. On my own efforts, I had gained nothing but frustration. I am new to really and completely trusting God, and knowing that He cares for every little detail of my life.
Out of frustration, I had become really depressed and despondent over the job situation. I came to the point where I had given up completely. One November afternoon, Sandy and I got together to pray. I told her the truth. I had just given up. I quit. I couldn’t find a job, and I was done looking for one. I told her I wanted to talk to God about it, first, though. We prayed.
I told God, “God, I give up! If you want me to have a secular job, then YOU will have to make it happen.” 3 minutes after praying that, I got a phone call from the company I now work for. And working here has been a gift from God. I love where I work. I love the people I work with. This job is better than any I have had in over a decade. The company I work for was founded on strong Christian principles, and it is no big deal to stop in the hallway and pray with someone, or talk about Jesus.
God showed me he cares. His demonstration of His love was very practical. I learned from this that there is no such thing as an issue too small for God, or a mountain too big. God loves me enough to meet my every need. He loves you that much too.
WHEN I GROW UP
When I grow up, I pray that God make me a giver beyond my imagination, and beyond all reason. His love for me meant that I had to learn to receive, and meant that I had to grow. In learning how to receive, I have learned why I must give. In learning to receive, I learned that God needed to teach others how to Give.
When I grow up, I want to be Just like Jesus, and give to the point that it hurts.
I love you
Lets Be About It