The Surrendered Giver


Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message…..

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, NIV).

My husband is a surrendered giver. I struggle with giving. I tend to blame my reluctance to give on the fact that I grew up in a shack on the edge of town. My mother often worked two and three jobs a day just to put food on the table. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a middle-class family, lived in a very nice house in a beautiful neighborhood, and never had to worry about having his needs met. You can see where my rationalizations took me. Yep – to a place of sin.

God wants us to surrender everything we have to Him because the reality is that giving is the antidote to selfishness. I can choose to be selfish or selfless. But I need to live in a way that searches for opportunities to be generous. Over the years, Dan has taught me so much about what it means to be a surrendered giver.

We are to give as much as we are able to give. Two years ago, we downsized so that we would have more money to give away. We both drive older used cars. There is nothing wrong with buying a new car or a bigger house – unless it affects our ability to give.

The church in Macedonia saw giving as a privilege. We need to do the same.

We need to look for opportunities to give. Love gives. For God so loved the church that He … gave! A surrendered giver gives out of gratitude for what God has done in his life and is willing to stretch and develop a generosity reflex when presented with a need.

Jesus measures what we give by what we have left. Do you tithe the ten percent we are challenged to give? How would you respond if Jesus asked you to double your tithe? Whoa! That is a lot to ask – right?

We have a friend who attended a conference where the speaker challenged each attendee to double their tithes and see what God would do in their lives. Our friend accepted the challenge and has seen his business mushroom into a huge success. Today, he not only gives a double tithe, but he also gives to meet the needs of many in our community. He is also one of the most humble and unassuming people I have ever met.

Another friend has a great way to look for opportunities to give. He has two accounts. One for his living expenses and then there is his God account. He is a Day Trader. Each morning he gets up and says, “Where are we going to give today, Lord?” I know this attitude absolutely delights the Father who is the ultimate surrendered giver.

The reality is that if my checkbook does not reflect my faith, I have an immature faith. God does not need my money. He wants me to give so He can bless me!

How about you? What kind of giver are you?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

In Want or in Plenty: Real Ways to Create Contentment in Your Life

Thank you Kathi Lipp for today’s message…

On that sunny August day, I thought my life couldn’t get much worse.

Recently separated from my husband and with no support from him, I was teetering on the financial edge. My kids and I had just moved in with my parents, and I was desperately looking for a job to support my two middle schoolers.

I thought about our old life where the only thing I needed to get them ready for a new school year was a debit card and a couple trips to the mall. With school only a few weeks away, I didn’t know where I’d get the money to buy clothes and shoes or pay for annual physicals.

That was fifteen years ago.

Today, I do have enough, but the dread of not having what I need can still make me sick to my stomach.

We live in a tiny house, but one that is situated in the most expensive county in the US, with plenty of food, enough money to buy clothes we need and go out to dinner occasionally. Even take an occasional vacation.
This is the land of plenty. No doubt about it.

But what I’ve discovered? There are benefits and drawbacks to both.

When I was in want, we pulled together what we needed with the help of my parents, hand-me-downs from friends, Goodwill, and a small amount of surprise money that showed up in our mailbox. We didn’t have extra, but we had exactly what we needed.

Living in want is a scary place to be, whatever your want may be. But the other thing I discovered about living in want? It gives you plenty of room to see and experience God’s provision first hand, evidence of God’s care and provision for me and my kids.

Now, living in plenty? Whew! Finally, you can be relieved of the day-to-day worry about how you’re going to pay the rent, or the next car payment. But there is a drawback to living in plenty: You can forget to notice all the miracles around you.

We falsely believe we are making things happen—and that can even turn into thinking if only people were as ______________ (conscientious, hard-working, smart, etc.) as us, they would not be in want.

And suddenly we forget about the love, graciousness and strength only God can provide in both of these times.

So how do we stay content in a world that actively works to keep us discontent?

Limit your time around agents of discontent.

Where does your discontentment grow? For me, it’s looking at Pinterest or home decorating sites. I see all-white country chic homes and am transported into another world—until I have to come back to earth and see my stained carpets, saggy couches and 1970’s bathroom. Not only can I become dissatisfied, I can project that dissatisfaction onto my husband, who works hard to provide for me.

I’ve learned to limit myself when it comes to my house. Currently, we are replacing our carpets with flooring. Instead of spending months perusing different websites, I’m heading to Home Depot. No muss. No fuss.

Get radically, ridiculously grateful.

This is an exercise I do when I need to recalibrate my gratefulness. Notice how many things you have directly around you.

As I write this, within a foot of me are:

2 Bibles
A notebook and pen
A coffee cup with hot coffee in it
A banana peel from the banana I just ate
A tray a good friend gave me
A couch I’m sitting on
A quilt my mom made me
My dog cuddling with me
Just noticing the blessings in my immediate surroundings changes my perspective.

Here is what I know from reading God’s word: We need to set our hearts on God and not our circumstances. We must learn to live both in want and in plenty.

God will meet us, no matter our situation. Our ability to be content is not determined by our circumstances, but our connection to Him.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

The Lesson of a Beekeeper

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message…

A beekeeper once told author F.B. Meyer how some of the young bees are nurtured to ensure their healthy development. The queen lays each egg in a six-sided cell, which is filled with enough pollen and honey to nourish the egg until it reaches a certain stage of maturity. The top is then sealed with a capsule of wax.

When the food is gone, it is time for the tiny creature to be released. The wax is so hard to penetrate that the bee can make only a very narrow opening. It is so narrow that in the agony of exit, the bee rubs off the membrane that encases its wings. When it finally does emerge, it is able to fly.

The man telling the story said that a moth once got into the hive and devoured the wax capsules. As a result, the young bees crawled out without any effort or trouble. But they could not fly.

When a crisis hits or a pit seems to swallow me whole, I want out – fast! I look for the nearest exit that will allow the easiest escape. But sometimes the easy way out or the simplest solution is not God’s plan.

God loves me enough to teach me that the purpose of the pit is to purify and then to restore. God is in the restoration business. He is not interested in my comfort as much as He is committed to my character. And sometimes it takes an excruciating struggle to emerge with a lesson that can only be learned in the darkness. Some things simply cannot be learned in the light. It is through the struggle of the trial – the journey out of the pit of darkness that the very best part of us takes flight.

Two of my favorite words in the Bible are “But God.” Those two words create an eternal backdrop that changes everything.

  • Everything looks different when God comes.
  • Everything is made right by His presence.
  • Every problem is resolved when God is factored into the equation.

To survive and succeed in life, we must refuse to fix our gaze on the “little things” that are meant to divert God’s purpose. If we really want to become a strong warrior, our glance must be on the circumstances of life and our gaze must be on Him. When we instill that spiritual discipline as a reality, life becomes the joy God meant it to be.

  • Stress will give way to peace.
  • Doubt will give way to faith.
  • Fear will give way to trust.
  • Darkness will give way to light.
  • Defeat will give way to victory.

Does that mean we will float through each day without facing trials, defeats, enemies or impossibilities? No – it simply means that the backdrop against which we view those dark moments will be replaced with the truth that God is enough.

When the stress of life threatens and it seems you can’t go on, rest in the truth that the same God who called you will provide everything you need to accomplish His purpose in your life.

Have a ThirtyOne-deful day!

Unlocking the Power of Praise

Thank you Rachel Wojo for today’s message….

My 21-year-old daughter, Taylor, stares at me as she sits propped up in her hospital bed. Not many young adults would ask for a hospital bed in their room, but she hasn’t been able to ask me for anything in 15 years. I attempt to read the communication in her eyes and will her body language to reveal her needs and desires. She’s been a frontline disease fighter since birth and since age 4, we’ve faced the eventual outcome of no cure and no treatment. My thoughts turn to prayer, an instinctive reflex I’ve cultivated for all these years, but somehow, I can only be silent.

Though I can find no words in the moment, I long for God’s presence. Just as my girl will move her leg over to touch mine so she can simply know that I am here, so I find myself seeking moments to be still and know that He is God and yes, He is here. I remind myself that prayer begins with praise. Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name.

How do I find words to praise God when my child, my heart existing outside my body, is suffering? Limbs that once ran everywhere have withered down to skin and bone. Hands that once grabbed with lightning speed can barely hold a sippy cup to her mouth. Voice box that once chimed “Mom-my” is lost, never to be returned on this earth. Though together we’ve practiced gratitude day after day, frankly, we are running out of things to be thankful for.

But Jesus didn’t begin His prayer with thanksgiving. And the praise didn’t begin with things God has given. Nor did it begin with God’s work. Jesus first reminded God of Who He is. With this epiphany, the prayer that I couldn’t begin starts to form as I grip my girl’s hand. Just as Jesus began his prayer with words of adoration, so my prayer reflex is stimulated to follow his model.

Praise is the most powerful tool in our prayer arsenal. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. (Hebrews 13:15, NIV) As today’s truth explains, the blood of Jesus sacrificed on the cross provides our direct access to God. As a result, we are privileged to enter the presence of our Father and whisper praises directly to Him! When we stand before the Almighty God, we come as we are. It doesn’t mean we have a complete understanding of His work in our lives. It simply means our hearts are trusting and believing Him to be the ever-present, never-changing God who loves us beyond our comprehension.

When we can’t find praise in our hearts because we don’t understand what God is doing, we can always praise God for Who He is. He is the God Who never changes and has loved us since the beginning of time. Praise Him!

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

When You Feel You’re Not Good Enough

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message:

“I’m not ___________ enough.” You can fill in that blank with smart, talented, gifted, spiritual, outgoing, attractive, or any number of positive attributes. But the root source of each one of those blanks is rooted in “I’m not good enough.” Period. It’s one of the Enemy’s favorite deceptions to hold God’s children hostage to a life that is “less than.

“I’m not good enough” is an insidious lie that keeps God’s best at bay for many of His children.

The Enemy tries to get us to focus on our flaws rather than on our faith. When we focus on our faults, we take our focus off God, who equips us; the Holy Spirit, who empowers us; and Jesus, who envelops us.

The Bible does say no one is good enough to earn his or her way into heaven (Romans 3:23). Salvation is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). However, many have taken the truth that they are not good enough to earn their way to heaven and transferred it to “I’m not good enough—period.” But through the finished work of Jesus Christ, and His power working in you and through you, you are good enough to do everything God has called you to do and be.

Giving in to the lie of “I’m not good enough” will paralyze you. It’s the coward’s way out. I might have just hurt your feelings, but listen, I’m talking to myself, too.

I was asked to speak to a group of teenage girls not too long ago. I thought, I don’t do teenage girls. They scare me. I’m not cool enough. They won’t listen to me. I’m going to sound stupid!

Yes, after all these years of writing and speaking, I still struggle with feeling not good enough. I haven’t conquered it yet. God still stretches me and challenges me to see if I truly believe He is enough to work through me.

By the way, I did put on my cool jeans and my gladiator sandals and spoke to the girls. How did it go? I’m not sure. But here’s what I do know. I am not responsible for the outcome of my obedience. God is.

Stepping out when “not good enough” is heckling at you to step aside is scary. Shrinking back and not moving forward is safer. But it is also boring—not the life-to-the-full Jesus came to give.

Henry Blackaby challenges us, “When God invites you to join Him in His work, He has assigned a God-sized assignment for you. You will realize that you cannot do it on your own. If God doesn’t help you, you will fail. This is the crisis point where many decide not to follow what they sense God is leading them to do. Then they wonder why they do not experience God’s presence and activity the way other Christians do.”

I don’t want to be that person. I don’t think you do either.

Courage and confidence follow obedience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood backstage at a conference with the words “I’m not good enough” screaming in my head. But when I step out in obedience, and do what God has called me to do, the power of the Holy Spirit overpowers the lies of the Enemy who told me to just go home. And God does amazing things.

God has given you everything you need in order to do what He has called you to do. You are enough.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!