Eyes on the prize, baby

Sometimes God gives us extraordinary gifts. I mean, He’s already offered eternal salvation and reconciliation with Him, but even beyond that, he blesses us in unexpected and undeserved ways.

Much as I find it hard to grasp, I really do believe that God delights in our enjoyment of life. He rejoices when we receive a gift from him with eagerness and praise and thanks. He smiles on our joyfulness. Our temporary happiness, however, is not His end goal. It pleases Him, sure, but he never intended for His gifts to be either our source of joy, or our consuming focus.

As I was thanking God for one of His gifts in my life, I sensed both his smile over my happiness, but also His gentle adjure: Eyes on the prize, baby, eyes on the prize.

God wants us to enjoy the gifts we receive in this life, but never at the expense of our focus on the ultimate prize. Nothing He can give me now, can compare to the gift of Himself. One day I will step through the gates of death, and be united with Him, my ultimate prize. Any gift I receive here, is only as valuable as the extent to which it points my eyes towards the greater prize.

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When I don’t get what I want and it feels like an existential crisis.

fussing-crying-complaining_2397598There’s something I want. I don’t need it, but the more I think about having it, the more I want it. It costs a lot of money, but last night, it looked like God was going to let me have it. It looked like I was going to be blessed with a really good deal, and like the spoilt child who suddenly finds a lot of love in their hearts for their parents when they’re getting what they want, I found it easy to praise God for His goodness to me.

Suddenly life was looking good. I felt myself basking in God’s favour. I saw God blessing me even though I didn’t deserve it.

And then this morning, it was all gone, and sadly so was my joy; and tragically so was my trust in God’s goodness.

It reminds me of this quote from the funny clip below by Louis CK, which is sadly far too relevant for my generation: ‘How quickly the world owes us something we knew existed only 10 seconds ago.’

How quickly my hope in God becomes dependent on Him doing things my way.

How quickly I allow material goods to have a defining influence on my happiness.

God has blessed me abundantly. But sometimes I don’t get what I want, even when it does seem that He has orchestrated all the stars to align to give it to me. How long will I allow my relationship with him to be dependent on His gifts to me?

My family beyond my family

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My Grandad had a fall yesterday. He’s 92 and still lives in his home. He tripped by the bed and managed to drag himself, with a broken hip, around the bed to the phone to call an ambulance.

Dad was getting ready for church when Grandad called him, and he left and went straight over there. My sister and I were down south having a surfing lesson at the time, and didn’t find out for several hours.

When I finally got back, mum and dad and I sat around the kitchen table and debriefed, and then dad got a phone call. Some life-long church friends called to see how Grandad was going. They chatted for a while, asking questions, listening and just genuinely caring.

Sunday night I went to church. Dad walked in a bit late, but I watched as several people approached him to see how he was doing and to show that they cared. As I looked on, it really struck me that this is how the church is meant to be. It’s my family beyond my family. How they knew what had happened when dad wasn’t even there that morning I don’t know, but they did, and they cared. And they’ll be praying.

Growing up in the church, I never had any doubt that if something happened to my parents I’d be cared for. The Church was instituted for many reasons, one of which was to be a family. What a blessing to see it in action.

Money: When the Empty Cup Runneth Over

I know it’s not considered polite to talk about money. But I’m not entirely a stranger to the art of openly talking about social taboos, so today’s blog is about money.

I was talking last night to a friend about that amazing paradox that she and I and many others have experienced: that the more you give to God, the more you seem to have.

SAMSUNG TECHWIN DIGIMAX-340I’m not talking in some form of spiritual metaphorical jargon. I have actually personally experienced that sense of confusion on realizing that the numbers just don’t seem to add up. That there must be more money going out than coming in, and yet, somehow, my cup runneth over.

One of the best lessons that my parents taught me from a young age was to give first to the Lord. Not first when I think of it, or when I can afford it, or when I ‘feel led,’ but first every time. First when I can’t afford it. First when it means sacrifice.

I do not give in order to receive. I give as a reflection that God comes first in my life. And yet the amazing paradox is that somehow, the more I give, the more I seem to have. And I know it’s not just me.