Freedom Friday: What I Have, I Give

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.” Acts 3:6

I’ve always loved the story of Peter, John, and the man lame from birth at the temple gate called Beautiful. At a campus ministry training event in 2001, I chose it as my passage from which to lead a Bible study. This week, I needed to lead a class in a 5-minute devotional. Since the topic of the class is the book of Acts, this passage seemed a natural choice.

One thing I love about Scripture is how it can speak different things to you depending on where you are and what you need. I originally loved this passage because I loved the story of healing. Oh, how I wanted to see God work in that way in my life! I also love the change in Peter after receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But what it spoke to me this week was very different.

“The grass is always greener” mentality infiltrates so many areas of my life. I wish I had her house, his fame, her job, or his joy. But I found lately that envy has taken root in a surprising area of my life.

Anyone who knows me for 10 minutes knows I’m a Christian. I love Jesus, and because of that, I talk about Him. He naturally comes up in conversation. And yet, I have never actually watched anyone become a Christian.

Whenever I take those spiritual gift tests, no matter what the variety, the gift of evangelist/evangelism never even makes the top 10. Teacher? Yes. Exhorter? Yes. Compassion, music, encouragement? Yes. Evangelism? Never.

Do I sometimes feel bad about this? Yes, to be honest. In fact, 2 weeks ago in class, I asked my pastor if he thought everyone has the gift of evangelism. The answer was a bit complicated, and not the point of this post. As I read Acts 3 again this week and reflected on that discussion, this came to mind:

Thou shalt not cover thy neighbor’s gifts.

I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s writings concerning the body.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” 1 Corinthians 12:17-18

Just as He wanted them to be.

I cannot give what I do not have, but I still have a lot to give. I may never be gifted at evangelism, and I’m OK with that. Instead of being envious of the skills of others, I will continue to declare as Peter declared, “What I do have, I give.”

I wrote a song some years ago called “You.” You can hear a rough recording:

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Some lines from the song are particularly relevant.

I know there are songs to be sung,
And there are wars to be won
And there are wrongs to be undone

I know there are songs to be sung, 
And there are wars to be won 
And there are wrongs to be undone 

And I don’t have that much to give
But there’s no other way to live

*****

God, I do not have that much to give – but I know that living a surrendered life is the only way to truly live for You. And so what I do have, I give.

Freedom Friday: Avoiding Moral Failure

This is a topic that has been brewing in my mind for a while. This is due in part to things I’ve been reading in the Bible (Isaiah, Acts & James right now, with a little of Hezekiah’s story mixed in), assignments I’ve been working on for grad school (a big essay on plagiarism), and partly because of life events I see occurring around me.

I also just needed to write this for me. It’s a timely reminder that we don’t just “fall into” sin. We will sin. Otherwise, we’d be perfect like Jesus 🙂 But there is a difference in the way various sins impact your faith and your life. I may lose my temper with my spouse today, and that may break trust a little momentarily (especially if it’s a pattern of mine), but if I were to have an affair, that changes our relationship in a different way.  All sin may be equal in the eyes of God (in the sense that there aren’t particular sins that are more difficult for Him to forgive or required Him to hang from the cross longer), but some sins are inherently different because of the way they impact our lives.

There are things we can do to actively avoid finding ourselves in major situations of compromise. Here are some suggestions.

1. Be watchful over your thoughts
Your thoughts matter. Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

In the article 5 Lies that Lead to an Affair, author Julie Ferwerda shares her experiences about how she ended up choosing to have an affair. She writes, “Few people fall into adultery overnight. As with other ‘big’ sins, having an affair is usually the result of a series of small compromises in our thoughts, choices, and behaviors.” And the place it began for her was in her thoughts.

It begins with a thought, a temptation. Temptation isn’t sin, as I’ve written before. It’s our choice to nurture that temptation that can become sin, rather than choosing to lay it before the Lord.

One of the Freedom Steps is Think Like a Free Person. I share there how God commands us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. The battle of freedom is a battle that begins in our minds.  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV1984)

Be watchful over your thoughts.

2. Be honest with your intentions
James says that we have “evil desires at war within you” James 4:1 (NLT). Believers are not immune from this. James writes earlier in his letter, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 (NIV1984)We need to dig deep inside of ourselves and pray that God would help us be honest about our intentions in every challenging situation.Toward the end of 1999, I had been a Christian less than a year when I met a girl who had been raised in a Christian home but whose family had walked away from God. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could do that, and I desperately wanted to help her. I do believe that initially, my intentions were pure; however, my resolve for purity quickly faded, and we entered into a physical relationship.

Jeremiah writes (17:9 NLT), “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

I wanted this woman to know Jesus, but I was still deeply broken beyond my own understanding. This is why I wrote Who’s Got Your Back? The disciples went out two by two for a reason. This is why we need community, to lay ourselves as honestly as we can before others, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), including truth about ourselves.

Be honest with your intentions.

3. Be upfront about your actions
I don’t like the phrase we often use in Christianity to describe our sinful actions. We say we “had a fall” or we “stumbled.” To me, those phrases do not take responsibility for the choices and compromises that led to that “fall.” It’s not as if we are walking down a path and all of a sudden, sin jumps out and grabs us! No. That’s in direct contradiction to the end of 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT): “When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

In the relationship mentioned above, I didn’t simply “fall” into it. I made a series of questionable choices (not all of them sinful) that ultimately led to grave sin. This is why we need to, once again, stay connected to believers, honestly sharing about our choices and actions, and even the things we are thinking of doing.

Be upfront about your actions.

4. Be desperate for the Lord
God is able. Really. He is able. He is strong enough, He is big enough, He is loving enough. He is enough. Say it with me: He is enough.
So often we live our lives, making our plans, living as we wish (and not even in a sinful way, necessarily), inviting God in occasionally. We simply forget to include God in every decision, every thought, every actions.

We need to cling to God as if our lives depended on it – because they do. “Apart from me, you can do nothing,” Jesus said (John 15:5).

Later in James 4:4b-5 (NLT), James writes, for emphasis, “I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, jealously longs for us to be faithful? He gives us more and more strength to stand against such evil desires.”

Sin is crouching at our doors, always (Gen. 4:7). Through God’s strength and power, we can subdue it and be its master.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph.” Isaiah 50:7

Satan deceives; that’s his nature. Sin is always crouching at the door, desirous of us. Yet we can receive God’s help, determine to do His will, and know we will triumph.

Lord, help us.