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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Squirrels hide their nuts - trees given them away!

Astonishment is a state of amazement, surprise, and overpowering wonder. If you have ever been astonished at the ways another acts when they don't seem to be concerned that anyone is watching them, or perhaps the totally selfless giving of another, you probably have experienced this sense of amazement or wonder on occasion.  Some ways we might experience such astonishment are when a newborn is brought into the world, the unexpected bonus is placed in our paycheck, or the small child takes his first steps.  What it does to us inside is often expressed on the outside.  We begin to emanate a kind of cheerfulness and glee.  There might be a moment of stilled awe, but eventually the emotions begin to bubble forth and the ability to contain our "awe" is no longer possible - it spills forth.  God has a way of bringing about such awe within us - delighting our soul, raising out spirit, and filling our thoughts with all types of wonder and awe.

God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, "He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon.  His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out."  This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.  (2 Corinthians 9:8-11 MSG)

God's blessings are not just a matter for our own personal blessing - in fact, they are just the opposite.  Although we might enjoy them immensely, experiencing the tremendous awe they inspire within, we are given much so we might give much in return.  God's blessings in our lives are always more for the "other guy" than for our own enjoyment.  Even when his blessings come in the form of a transformed life - finally being set free from some enslaving habit - God wants us to "give" out of that transformation, so another might experience the same transformation!  

I like the expression "God is more than extravagant..." - it says it all, doesn't it?  "More than" expresses something we have a hard time laying hold of at times, because we live in a "finite" world and don't understand the "infinite" world of our God.  "Finite" blessings come to an end, don't they?  "Infinite" blessings have a way of continuing to "awe" us over and over again - even as those blessings spill over into the lives of others.  Extravagance is often thought of as being a little too much of an "over-spender", while stinginess is though of as just he opposite - being a little too much of an "under-spender".

God is neither - his "extravagance" is really just going beyond the bounds of what is deserved or is justifiable in our lives.  If we were at the mercy of God to "give" based upon what we deserved, we'd be miserable people!  If we were at the mercy of God to "give" based on what could be justified in our lives, we'd be working a long, long time to show some form of justification for the great gift he has given in his Son!  We neither deserve, nor are we justified to receive the gifts he bestows - this is why we call them extravagant!

It is because of his mercy and grace that we receive "out of" God's reckless abandon.  It isn't that God doesn't think before he shares his tremendous blessings with us - it is that he doesn't focus on whether we deserve them or not.  He focuses on what we need, not what we deserve.  That one thought should evoke a moment of awe in each of us - because we give based on what another "deserves" - what they have earned.  He gives based on what we could never earn and would never be good enough to deserve!  This is why we call his "gifting" as extravagant, awe-inspiring, and life-transforming!

God's purpose in blessing our lives is so we can give away what we have been given - a concept contrary to our natural instinct.  A few years back, I had the privilege of going to the Teen Challenge facilities here in Phoenix.  It was for something they called "Saturday Sunday School" - a bus ministry outreach to the areas of Phoenix plagued with poverty, gang activity, and socioeconomic issues.  These kids ranged from the little tots to the teens.  They'd come in droves - bus load after bus load.  

One thing which will never leave my heart was the unselfishness of the older brothers and sisters toward their younger siblings.  Cookies were shared, often with the older siblings going without - passing their cookies down the line in order that the younger would have their fill.  They "gave away" what others might have held onto or enjoyed themselves.  Why?  I think it was because they had learned to provide because the adults in their lives had not done a very adequate job of it themselves.  This example spoke deeply to me of how God goes about meeting the needs no other had the ability to meet. His sacrifice on our behalf was without boundaries - his eyes were on our need, not his own comfort.

I don't know about you, but God has given me many a "cookie" in my life.  I sometimes squirrel away what God gives, thinking it just for me.  Then there are other times I find I am passing it along so others may have their needs met in full.  I hope we all can become better at being less of a "squirrel" with God's extravagance in our lives.  Just sayin!