Last week’s sermon was based on the marriage of Isaac and Rachel, and some of the biblical principles of marriage as told in Genesis 24. Pastor Reimer delivered such a great lesson on this chapter of the bible, so much so that I am going to leave this topic alone and talk instead about faith and obedience, and what God has been doing in my life most recently to encourage these attributes. Before I begin however, I highly recommend that you take the time to listen to last week’s sermon if you missed it; you can download the podcast in iTunes here: http://kozabaptistchurch.org/#/weekends/listen-online.
Several weeks ago, when I started this blog series, I wrote a post on tithing (here) and committed to not only increasing our tithe but doing it consistently. I also challenged myself to pay greater attention to my personal spending, to pay off all outstanding debts, and to cease making impulse or unnecessary purchases. Much has happened since then, and I will expand on that in a later post, but let’s just say that this challenge has not been an easy one so far.
Still, as each week goes by, I find myself more and more willing to “let go” and simply trust that God will provide, if I obey. Let me share an example of one of the “smaller” challenges I was faced with this week, and how I believe God paved the way with subtle signs to guide me as I had a choice to make.
In my quest to pay off all of our debt, I started selling a few items online, and while some items were selling, others were not, including several items of new clothing belonging to my nine year old daughter. As she and I got ready for church last weekend, we got into an argument as I tried in vain to convince her to wear one of her new outfits. My daughter has a few pieces of new and unworn clothing, many of which were gifted to her (on special occasions), or bought for her by myself, but since she favors just a few of the clothes in her closet, those are the only ones that get worn.
In my frustration, I threatened to give her clothes away to some of her friends. She didn’t respond. There was silence for a few minutes, and then I launched into a big ranting spiel about all the less-privileged children in the world. And then there was silence again.
We drove quietly to church, and as we turned into the parking lot I suddenly thought of a family that touched my heart recently with the work that they are doing in Thailand. I recalled that one of their daughters is just a little younger than my daughter Jade, and I wondered if the clothes might be better appreciated by her. The thought continued to linger in my mind through the rest of the morning.
At church, as the worship songs were being sung, I slipped out of the auditorium to get a cup of coffee. This is where the “human” side of me (picture a tiny bantering angel sitting on my left shoulder) began to mess with my thoughts and try to persuade me that selling the clothes and paying off our debt would be a much better idea than giving them away for free. Make some money, or make someone happy? “You need the money!” “No you don’t!”
I made my way back to the auditorium, and right before me, as I was about to turn the corner, stood a donation box with a sign asking for clothes and toys. One of the church mission teams was about to leave for the Philippines and was asking for new and lightly used children’s clothing. I was gently reminded that kindness and compassion supersede the satisfaction of paying off a little debt (I’ll just add that I’m not taking lightly the obligation to fully pay off our debt, but since our debt is not terribly great and there is no urgency to have it paid off, I think we can afford to still take advantage of opportunities to give).
Next, I walked back into the auditorium, and the following lyrics resounded in my ears:
- What can I do
But offer this heart O God
Completely to You
Okay God, you got my attention. And He had, literally – my arms were covered in goosebumps as I listened to the rest of the song.
A few hours after church, Jade and I met some friends at the pool on Camp Torii. I recognized a woman sitting beside the pool, as the friend of a friend, and I introduced myself. The very first question she asked me, is if I attended the church on Camp Torii. I told her no, and asked the same of her. She replied that she was a member of The Harbor church – and then the rest of our conversation followed with general self-introductory talk.
The very next morning I received, by chance (or not?), an email from the missionary family I had been thinking about. The wife had sent a belated thank you message for a donation I had forwarded several weeks ago. I took the opportunity to reply, and to also bring up the offer of sending her some clothes for her younger daughter – I wasn’t sure if she’d like, or even need them, but she replied almost immediately with a “Yes, we’d love them!” “But,” she added, “I’m not sure how you would get them here?” “Unless, you happen to know someone from The Harbor church.”
Since that email conversation earlier this week, God has continued to test me. On Tuesday this week, our dog suddenly fell ill and has had to go every day this week to the clinic for an IV and shots, and several tests/xray. Those of you with pets will know how quickly vet bills can add up, and how expensive they are.
“You need the money!” “No, you don’t!”
The desire to do good is always at the forefront of my mind, but doing good often involves sacrificing in some way – and the key to be willing to make those sacrifices is to take notice of the little “cues” that God uses to guide us in our decision-making.
I believe God guided me in this situation with several cues, and I’m happy to report that plans have now been made, indirectly, with a woman at The Harbor church, who is leading a team on a mission trip to Thailand on October 1st; she has kindly agreed to deliver the clothes for us.
Obedience. Faith. Blessings. Choosing to trust and follow God!