January Joy Dare: 3 Gifts From God’s Word

My three gifts from God’s Word are recent and renewing realities that my eyes have been enlightened to- realities of which my affections have been redirected, my pridefulness confronted, and hope restored.

Submission, Not Surrender

I concluded Aimee Byrd’s book, Housewife Theologian, over the weekend and found the last chapter thought-provoking. It was focused primarily on Luke 14:25-33.

“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

She states, “These strong words of Jesus are purposeful in showing us that Christ wants to be supreme in our affections.” I feel like when we hear the word “affections” these days it’s an outdated term. Too Elizabethan if you will. I love how the great theologians of old use this word so much. It holds such a depth within our language that other terms just can’t quite grasp. So our affections are in question here. We are not literally being told to deny family, but rather, our affections outside of Christ. This grace is not cheap but costly as Aimee points out in reference to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writing on this topic.

She goes on to articulate something that I have felt for years:
(especially graduating from a Christian university where I felt like this was frequently a problem)
We as believers can make our surrendering of parts of our lives appear as martyrdom instead of as she states best “full submission to the One who has given us all.”

I’m tired of hearing all the underlying “look-at-me, look-at-me!” in regards to our “surrendering” to God. (Me!) Especially prominent among housewives. Careers set aside, time given up. Let’s just stop (I’m speaking to myself here!) petting our spiritual egos and looking at our true affections. How costly is that grace to us? I find within myself the tendency to read such words and respond by looking at areas of my life that need to change. Instead of that response, let me dig deep within and consider the gospel of Christ Jesus. Let me instead commune with him. Let me instead change from this overflow and not try to white-knuckle it the other way.

My gift today seen within God’s Word is one of sweet rejuvenation, not by works but by faith through grace.

Lord, make me to give myself more to Thee, fleeing from self and to Thy springs!

A Generous God is He!

{Matthew 20:13-16}
“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Here we have an excerpt from the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. The kingdom of heaven is being compared to a master and his hired hands. After a strenuous day of work, the laborers hired the first hour found that they were being paid equal to that of those hired the last hour. To say the least, they weren’t thrilled at this news. The grumbled because they were ones that had “borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat” (20:12b). I love the master’s response because it is against every bit of entitlement that we all feel in the flesh. He first declares the grumbling laborer as “friend” then continues with the facts of grace. Didn’t the worker sign up for work? Hadn’t they already agreed on an amount? And the master was just to provide what they had agreed upon. Why then does the laborer grumble? I know why. Because I have been that laborer. How unfair has it seemed to me when I have tried so hard for something and then someone else does the task and receives more or equal praise with less work put in? It ruffles our feathers. That’s because I have entitlement issues. I think the glory due me has been jeopardized by being shared with someone I find as an unfit candidate. But our God is so good and gracious to show us otherwise.

He is generous.

The master reminds the worker that he has every right to do as he pleases with what is his. I am instantly reminded of Romans 9:20, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Of course we are to go to God and speak to him openly as Father, Redeemer, and Friend but in remembering our position we find that we aren’t really being robbed of anything. It’s actually quite the opposite. HE is the Gift-Giver. HE is abounding in generosity.

It is a gift today to look on God’s goodness in sharing with his children and being so kind as to gently rebuke our self-righteous natures.

I serve God from a heart of gratitude as opposed to heart seeking reward.

{Genesis 32:9-12}
“And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.”

I love Jacob’s humility. He sees that he had nothing and God had blessed him greatly, even so that his people were great enough in number to separate into two camps. He is scared of Esau. I imagine I would be too considering the way they left off with the stolen birthright and blessing from Isaac. Jacob refers back to God’s promise. He positions himself before God knowing that it is not Jacob that has done great things but God that has been generous and blessed him.

I’m challenged to consider where I am now and where I have come from and all the ways The Lord has been generous to me. Sometimes it can be easy to create a veneer of thankfulness over a prideful heart. I want to kill that in me. I want the reality within my heart and mind to be true thankfulness to God as the Gift-Giver.

{Psalm 18:31-36}
“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?- the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.”

David states that God has equipped him, made him able, trained him, and given abundantly. These verses resound with thankfulness. We see his enemies hot on his trails in the books of Samuel. The great thing about this is knowing David’s past. He is so transparent and makes his weakness known in various other Psalms. This particular psalm however, is victorious. God has shown him great favor! He has seen the gifts and the aftermath of such provision – God glorified!

Though I have encountered no such military battles, I relate to God’s generosity here. This is my sanctification- the battling of sin, pushing back the darkness within our culture, and looking towards the Giver.

My Identity
{Colossians 3:3}
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”

I go back to this today and find a wondrous gift. My identity. Hidden with Christ in God.

I’m glad to not find my identity in being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. Though I am all of those things, they are God-given roles for me to flourish in with gospel truth but not my sole identity. I am not defined by those titles. I am defined by Christ and his work, never my own. What a toil it would be if that were not the case. I’m thankful today for this truth found within God’s Word.

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