Gifts, Things, and Their Proper Use

Today is Monday, the second of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,426

We had a wonderful time with our church group, yesterday morning. We managed to do all of the things that we are supposed to do when we gather together. We fellowshipped, we read Scripture, we broke bread (the Supper), and we prayed. There may or may not have been a lot more fellowshipping than the other things.

C and I stopped by Lone Star BBQ for lunch (and tragically neglected to stop at Sonic for drinks), and we watched the Rangers while we ate lunch. I did eventually go back out for the Sonic drinks.

The Texas Rangers beat the Braves in one of their best wins to date. Final score 7-3, and it was yet another win for the starting pitcher, this time, Taylor Hearne getting his first win. The Rangers scored first, in the opening inning (and I do believe that the announcers said that was the first time that has happened, this season), and never looked back. They were ahead for the entire game. This improves their record to 8-14 for the season. Also, they won the series, which may also be the first for the season. They remain in last place, but are only two games behind the Athletics. The Rangers are off today, traveling to Philadelphia for a two game stand with the Phillies before heading to New York to face the dreaded Evil Empire.

The Boston Red Sox lost the game and the series to Baltimore, 9-5. How embarrassing. They are now 9-14 for the season, still in fourth place, but only a half game ahead of those Orioles. They also have the day off today, and will be playing the LA Angels in Boston, tomorrow.

The New York Yankees continue to hold the best record in MLB, but only a half game ahead of the cross-town rival Mets. The Cincinnati Reds have now lost six consecutive games, and continue to be the worst, at 3-19. There are still ten teams out of thirty who have yet to win ten games. The Rangers are tied for fifth-worst, with Baltimore. But they are only a half game behind Boston and the Other Sox.

Today should be an easy day for me. C did some laundry over the weekend, so the only thing I’m washing is our comforter because a cat barfed on it last week. I bet you would have been just fine not knowing that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lost In,” by Daryl Madden

Focus upon me
Control here this day
Lost in stress and fear
Can’t find the way

Turn to the horizon
Of light birthed to shine
Lost in peace and beauty
A taste of the divine

Surrender of the will
With offer of a prayer
Lost in emptiness
I need a Savior here

Found in Your Presence
Embrace of our God
Lost in love and wonder
Eternally awed

Father, may I be lost in Your love and wonder, this morning.

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided above.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.
(Psalms 24:1 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the rain received overnight
2. for a really good church gathering, yesterday morning
3. for the saving work of God, through the Son and by the Spirit
4. for the goods and possessions that the Lord has allowed me to use and take care of for Him
5. for the generosity that He has placed in my heart, when it comes to sharing those goods and resources

So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?
(Acts 15:10 NLT)

“Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the LORD your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!”
(Joshua 23:14 NLT)

“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”
(Joshua 24:14-15 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “save.” There are different meanings to this word, as is frequently the case.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV)

This verse, of course, signifies one meaning of “save,” the one in which God saves us, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. And God is passionate about saving. His highest purpose, outside of glorifying His own name, has been to reconcile creation to Himself.

We also, however, speak of “saving” in context with work, these days. Ever since computers became a prevalent part of the work environment, saving has become of utmost importance. In fact, when I interviewed for my library aide job, I was asked a question.

“If a patron needs help with a document they are working on, what should be the first thing you do?” (I’m paraphrasing . . . I don’t remember the exact wording of the question.)

Embarrassingly, I got it wrong. They even warned me not to overthink the question, but I did, anyway. The answer, which was obvious after they said it, was “save.” We all got a good laugh about that, and I still got the job.

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
(John 5:17 NIV)

The Holy Trinity is passionately at work to save us. “We are all a work in progress, and He is constantly working to help and heal, save and sanctify, strengthen and supply.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I praise You for Your passionate work of salvation. There is much that I confess that I do not understand about it. My thoughts and beliefs on it have changed constantly throughout my life. But the one thing that has remained constant is that my salvation is by grace through faith. And You have kept that faith alive in me. I thank You that You are always at work, and I pray that You help me see where You are working, that I might join in and work with You. Help me to stay in the easy yoke of Christ, so that the burden is light.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
(Psalms 139:13 NIV)

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
(Psalms 139:16 NIV)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
(1 Peter 4:10 NIV)

When I was being knitted together in my mother’s womb, God gifted me. One of those gifts emerged early in life, as I began playing piano in third grade (I think). It became evident, as I continued learning, that piano would not be my only musical talent. It was soon apparent that I could carry a tune, as well, and then I learned guitar and, and finally, trombone.

Through the years, I went through college and then seminary, learning even more about music, and, more specifically, about using it in the service of God. While I never had a full time position at a church, I served for many years as a bi-vocational music minister, and then “worship leader,” as it came to be called.

During all of those years, my love for the Word of God was also increasing and flourishing. Little did I know that, while I was being knitted together in my mother’s womb, the gift of prayer was being nurtured. That particular gift didn’t emerge until about a decade ago, when, during a hiatus in the music ministry, I strongly felt God’s urging to venture into the area of intercessory prayer.

I began, and still do to this day, posting a single, simple question on Facebook, every day.

“What can I pray for you today?”

It has been well-received and appreciated. It seems to be understood that it is a sincere question, from the heart, with a sincere desire to do exactly what it asks. Some days, even for an entire week, sometimes, there is no response. Other days, there are quite a few. I do not gauge the “success” of the post by how many prayer requests I get. In fact, I don’t gauge the success of the post at all. It is there, just like these daily devotional blogs, for anyone who needs to see it. And if there is a response, I try to always pray right that minute (as soon as I see it).

The point of all of this is that we never know what gifts might emerge at any point in our lives. I still play the music. Mostly in the form of an electronic keyboard, now, and occasionally the guitar. I still sing whenever I get the chance. The trombone seems to have fallen by the wayside, for now. I went through a stint with a community band, back a few years ago, and have considered getting involved with them (or a different one) again, now that I am semi-retired.

But my bigger thrust, these past few years, has been prayer. So I’ve written all of this because maybe there is someone out there, today, who things that they have used up their gifts or maybe even that they don’t have any. Everyone has a gift from God, I promise you. It may not be an “up-front” gift. Prayer is more of a “behind-the-scenes” gift. It might be a pretty smile that can lift someone’s day. You just never know.

Father, I thank You for the gifts that You have given me, throughout my life. I thank You that, just like the psalmist, You knit me together in my mother’s womb, and that You had written all of my ordained days in Your book before I was even born. This is one of those pieces of “salvation” that I struggle with understanding, that whole dynamic between “free will” and Your sovereignty. And I’m not launching out into that, today. I’m simply thanking You for what You have done in my life, and for what You will do, going forward. I have no clue what awaits me, in the rest of my life, but I do know that I look forward to it. What I also look forward to, as You well know, is being Home, where I can worship You forever, and, as I understand things, maybe prayer won’t be necessary any more.

According to Eugene Peterson, “almost half of [Jesus’s] parables are concerned with the wrong and right attitudes toward money.” Jesus talked about money more than He talked about most other subjects. “He warned of the perils involved in getting money–in keeping, in hoarding. And he spoke of giving money.” The making of money was not the end in itself, but a means to an end. Money can be a great servant to mankind, but it can also bring great peril. “Many have started out to get money and have found that money has gotten them.”

I’m reminded of a song by one of my favorite rock bands, Rush. The song is called “The Big Money.” It’s the opening track on their 1985 album, Power Windows. That is my favorite album of theirs, having quite a few really good songs that have some very thoughtful lyrics.

Big money goes around the world
Big money underground
Big money got a mighty voice
Big money make no sound
Big money pull a million strings
Big money hold the prize
Big money weave a mighty web
Big money draw the flies

Sometimes pushing people around
Sometimes pulling out the rug
Sometimes pushing all the buttons
Sometimes pulling out the plug
It's the power and the glory
It's a war in paradise
It's a Cinderella story
On a tumble of the dice

Big money goes around the world
Big money take a cruise
Big money leave a mighty wake
Big money leave a bruise
Big money make a million dreams
Big money spin big deals
Big money make a mighty head
Big money spin big wheels

Sometimes building ivory towers
Sometimes knocking castles down
Sometimes building you a stairway
Lock you underground
It's that old time religion
It's the kingdom they would rule
It's the fool on television
Getting paid to play the fool

Big money goes around the world
Big money give and take
Big money done a power of good
Big money make mistakes
Big money got a heavy hand
Big money take control
Big money got a mean streak
Big money got no soul

I think that Jesus’s attitude (and, subsequently what ours should be) about money can be summed up in two lines of that last verse: “Big money done a power of good; Big money make mistakes.”

The word we always hear when the “church” speaks about money is “stewardship.” What is a steward? It is a person who manages someone else’s goods and possessions. Jesus says we are stewards and God is the owner.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
(Psalms 24:1 NIV)

Everything that exists belongs to God. “The natural world, the world of people, the world of things, the world of the spirit–the earth is the Lord’s. . . . It is false and arrogant to say that any of it is our own. it has been put in trust to us. We have received it to enjoy it, to use it, to increase it, and to distribute it. But God is still the owner. We only manage his resources, taking care of the life and goods that he has given.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson, except for the part from Rush)

Father, I am very grateful for the many gifts, goods, possessions, and resources with which You have gifted me. Over the years, I know that I have made bad decisions and choices regarding some of these. But I also am aware of how my attitude has changed about possessions. I no longer look at any of these things as “mine.” Everything that I can see belongs to You. Everything that I cannot see belongs to You. I cannot rightfully consider anything to be “mine.” You have allowed me to take care of things. Even the people in my life are Yours.

Tozer wrote about this, showing how material possessions, or “things,” that You created before Your crowning creation of “man,” eventually pushed You off of the throne of man’s heart. When sin entered the world, Your gifts became a potential “source of ruin to the soul” (The Pursuit of God). Things took over our souls, which also pushed out any possibility of peace. We cannot have peace when we are constantly fighting over and trying to manipulate things.

So I praise You, Father, that You have moved things out of the central shrine of my heart. I confess that there are times when other things do temporarily move in, but Your Spirit works within me to alert me and help me move You back into Your rightful position in my life. This all sounds rather arrogant, and I don’t mean it to. I do understand that the earth is Yours and everything in it. I believe that the entire universe belongs to You and that You are sovereign over everything that happens within it. I pray that all my worship and prayers reflect that, as I go forward in this life.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.