Gumballs and Other Gifts

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By Nate Champneys

Gift

As a father of three young children (ages 6, 4, and 2), God often teaches me and parents me through the experiences with my own children. I wanted to share a recent lesson with you.

I try to take my children on regular “daddy dates.” On daddy dates, I get alone time with each of my kids and get to focus on connecting with just them. Sometimes we go to the park and play on the playground; other times we go to a restaurant. One time we went down to the creek and made paper boats and sailed them down the creek.

But their favorite place is the dollar store. Once in a while I take them there and let them pick one item.

If you want to test your patience, try taking a 4-year-old little girl to the dollar store and tell her to pick just one thing! It generally takes about 20 minutes, and it usually ends with us standing in the checkout line … then her deciding that, after 20 minutes of going back and forth, she would rather have the item right there in the checkout line. It’s funny; I often have to coach her past certain items or even tell her “No” when she chooses an item, because I know that, even though it is what she wants at this moment, it will break quickly, or she will not enjoy it as much as another thing. Sometimes she might say, “But, Daddy, I really want a gumball from the machine!” So I’ll reply, “I know, honey, but look over here — instead of getting just one gumball, you could get a whole bag of gumballs!”

The last time this happened, it occurred to me: “I wonder if this is how God feels, as He listens to us pray?” We beg Him for something that He knows will not be good for us, or He has something better that He wants to give to us instead. We can get so upset because we are not getting the thing that we think that we want, when the reality is that our Father in heaven knows exactly what we need and is also a Father who loves to give His children good gifts.

Is there something that you keep asking God for that He has not yet given you? Perhaps you are asking for a gumball, when He knows that, at the back of the store, there is a whole bag of gumballs He would like to give you!

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

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Not by Might, Nor by Power…

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By Larry Short

“So he [the angel] said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank Elim for allowing me to serve once more on the Elder Board. It’s a privilege and responsibility I don’t take lightly. And in the intervening several years I’ve been off, I’ve truly missed being a part of this group of men who love our church and are sold-out for Jesus!

Quite a few new folks have joined our ranks at Elim in the past few years, so I thought I’d take my “first” Last Word to introduce myself and my wife Darlene to those who may not know us yet. I’m a journalist/writer by education (Biola U is my alma mater and I spent the first decade or so after graduation in a freelance magazine and book writing career). But I also have a technology background, so after this I helped my employer (for the past 22 years), World Vision, to start and manage its internet, intranet, email, and social media programs. Currently I serve as a Digital Media Manager on the Public Engagement and Social Media team there in Federal Way.

Darlene is a Puyallup school nurse and we have two grown children, Nathan and Amanda. Nathan is a tech geek married to Zeiger schoolteacher Becky (Steve and Cheryl Weller’s oldest daughter), and Amanda is married to Mike Teeter. Together Mike and Mandy are raising our first granddaughter in Pennsylvania. (They met at and still work for REI.)

Darlene and I have loved Elim ever since we first set foot in it, 21 years ago. We’ve served in a variety of capacities but for the past 14 years have led a group of young adults called Pulse. Darlene also counts offering, and I play on the worship team and assist our communications team with our digital tools.

By way of hobbies, Darlene is a voracious reader and I love cycling and wild mushroom hunting, as well as writing. We also spend a lot of time flying, either to Pennsylvania or to Southern California to visit Darlene’s 96-year-old mom.

I introduced this post with Zechariah 4:6. It’s my life verse not because I’m good at doing what it says, but because I’m a very “Type A” person who has a tendency to push hard to try and get things done in my own power, rather than to rely on God’s Spirit. God has convicted me of these tendencies over the years, so a number of years ago I adopted Zech. 4:6 as my life’s verse to remind myself that the only truly good things that happen in my life come about not because of any skill, strength, or brilliance I might think I have; but rather, because of “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” Every day I want to ask Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13) and to be in control of what happens.

We live this Christian life together, so I would ask you to help me rely more consistently on Jesus, in addition to praying this prayer yourself every morning: God, please grant us the gift of your Holy Spirit today, and work in each of us to accomplish Your purposes. Amen!

 

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Two Stories

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By Brian Sharpe

The older I get, the more I think in terms of story. All of us have a story. In some ways, we have two stories: we have our story and we have God’s story. I think the people with the most integrity understand how those stories coalesce and work together. Let me unpack this for you.

I am the youngest of four, and that shapes my story. My dad was a pastor, and that shapes my story. I moved when I was 16 to a state where I knew no one and had to start over in life, which shapes my story. I have had some wins and I have had some losses, and that shapes my story.

Every experience I have shapes how I look at life. This is normal and natural. The problem comes when the experiences that I have in life trump what God says is true. Over the years, I have had some experiences in my life that were so painful that I could have let them trump what God says. I have had instances in my life where I have made the wrong choice and consequently felt unloved. I could sit there and believe that I am unloved. I could listen to my experience and let that shape how I feel and ultimately react. Or I can trust what I know to be true from Scripture. God says that I am deeply loved, that His love for me is not based on what I do, but is based on Him and what He has chosen to do.

We have all had experiences that were not of our choosing. It could be that we were wronged severely, or it could be that, because we live in a fallen world, death came too early for a loved one. It could be because of a divorce or an abusive situation. All these situations are not what we would have chosen, but they happened. All these situations shape our stories. The question is, are we allowing these negative events in our lives to control the main narrative of our story? We cannot change these events, but we can limit the control these events exercise in our story by allowing God’s narrative to shape and to be on the forefront of our story, not in the background.

I see way too many people who allow real circumstances, feelings, and consequences to have too much control. Instead, I want Jesus and what He says to take control. He can forgive the past, and so can I. He can heal a wounded heart, so I need to trust Him in that. He can take my mistakes and the things done to me to bring glory and honor to His name. We need to receive what Jesus is giving us. We need to receive that He is making us whole, that He can make us whole in this broken, messed-up world. We have two stories, and my prayer is that we yield to God’s story and His narrative and let His narrative shape us more than our own. It is hard, but it is so worth it!

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Reflections from Oswald Chambers

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By Jim DeAngelo

One of my favorite authors is Oswald Chambers. Chambers preached and wrote extensively in the early 1900s. He saw truth in Scripture differently than I do, and this has helped me grow and see God’s work in my life from new and better perspectives. I am currently reading his book My Utmost for His Highest, which is a daily devotional. As I tend to read based on curiosity instead of by schedule, I found myself reading the inspiration for February 10 a couple days ago. It complements Martin’s sermon this past Sunday, so I thought you would enjoy the message and insight.

  • The people of God in Isaiah’s time had blinded their minds’ ability to see God by looking on the face of idols. But Isaiah made them look up at the heavens; that is, he made them begin to use their power to think and to visualize correctly. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in nature and will realize that it is holy and sacred. We will see God reaching out to us in every wind that blows, every sunrise and sunset, every cloud in the sky, every flower that blooms, and every leaf that fades, if we will only begin to use our blinded thinking to visualize it. (Click here to read the rest.)

God is in everything and is everywhere. I would encourage those who are interested in Oswald Chambers’s work to follow this link.

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