Generosity’s Connection to Joy

I like to give gifts at random times, for no apparent reason. I think it’s fun to surprise someone with something they’ve wanted or needed, and I enjoy doing it. But I don’t like being expected to give a gift.

Have you ever felt pressured to give a gift? I’m not talking about the compulsion of the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about that time when social expectations or high-pressure tactics practically forced you to make a donation or give a gift. Call me coldhearted, but I strongly resist emotional pleas and guilt-ridden appeals.

If you’re bullied into giving, that’s not generosity. Continue reading

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My #OneWord2018: Generosity

Today (2/2) is my birthday. Yes, it’s Groundhog’s Day. No, I don’t like the movie.

As a child, I didn’t like the location of my birthday on the calendar. I never had a birthday party because snow was always a possibility. But as an adult, I like my close-to-the-new-year birthday. A birthday is a far more significant, more personal event than the arbitrary new year determined by Julius Caesar in bc45. IMO, it should be the first day of spring, a time of new life, green growth, Easter, etc. But alas, I don’t run the planet.

Resigned to leaving New Year’s Day in January, I use that month to reflect on the previous and coming years. Then I mark my personal new year on my birthday and work from there. Continue reading

Lean In, Listen, and Learn

Or Why I Listen to NPR News Even Though I’m Not Liberal and Read Desiring God Even Though I’m Not Reformed

On occasion, I meet a new friend and quickly discover we are much alike. We have the same opinions on major issues, we love God and the Bible, and we parent in similar ways. Such people are easy to love and fun to hang out with. They encourage us to be better versions of ourselves through reinforcement of our values. That’s important.

Other times, I meet people who clearly value different things and have different opinions than me. While they may be entertaining, we don’t “click” like we would if we were more alike. The other person may not respect the Bible or be a Christ-follower. She may have been raised in a different part of the country where people just don’t think like we do here in the south, honey. He may be pursuing an alternative lifestyle.

When I meet such people, I have two choices. Continue reading

The Weight of Waiting

Imagine Hannah’s heart (1 Samuel 1) as she trudged up the hill to the temple yet again without a child. Imagine her inner struggle as to whether she should continue to believe God.

We’ve all been there: times when we were ready to go but God was ready for us to wait. It’s a unique kind of burden.

It usually requires years of experience in petitionary prayer to get the perspective necessary to see some of the reasons for God’s timing. In some cases we realize that we needed to change before we were able to receive the request rightly or without harming ourselves. In other cases it becomes clear that the waiting brought us the thing we wanted and also developed in us a far more patient, calm, and strong temperament. There are other nuances and beauties to God’s wise schedule that we can just barely glimpse.  -Tim Keller Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (2014, pg. 236)

This month on Pastor’s Wives, I reflect on waiting and how God expects us to act in the meantime. Continue reading

Walls and Weapons (part 2)

swiss army knife
I cut myself taking this photo of my 20-year-old, dull pocket knife! (c) Carole Sparks

You wouldn’t attack the Great Wall of China with a Swiss army knife…or would you?

Back to our study of 1 Corinthians 10:3-5. Are you ready to “finish the imagery and find our success,” as I said last week? I’m working to memorize these verses as part of my demolition plan! Continue reading

Walls and Weapons (part 1)

You wouldn’t attack the Great Wall of China with a swiss army knife, would you?

I’m not much for war movies. Braveheart grossed me out, Saving Private Ryan made me motion sick, and I probably won’t see Dunkirk. I’m also not inspired by battle imagery. If you dig any deeper into Scripture than the Armor of God (Ephesians 6), I kinda zone out. I don’t like to talk about Satan either. You can skim back through my posts and see that.

If we’re not actively
resisting the advances of
Satan, we’re helping him.

It’s time to face reality, though, in my personal life and in the world. The spiritual battle is surging and victimizing. I wish it was fought solely by spiritual beings (like when Daniel had to wait on an answer because the angel was busy in hand-to-hand combat—Daniel 10), but it’s not. We participate in the battle, usually not by choice. Because if we’re not actively resisting the advances of Satan, then we’re helping him.

One of Satan’s tactics involves building walls between us and God—walls around our hearts. Continue reading

Three Paths We “Walk”

Last week, I wrote about becoming more Christlike as we go through life.

The New Testament often uses the word walk to talk about the process of living. (In fact, the NIV uses “live a life” in place of walk in Colossians 1:10.) There wasn’t space, however, to unpack walk. Today, let’s revisit those verses and consider three paths in which we walk (because in follows walk all three times). Continue reading