Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The story the sunflowers tell...

Photo 1: "Self-Portrait"
This is me. A bud filled to capacity, compelled to let the voice out, tentatively beginning to bloom, prepared to burst forth.

Photo 2: "Potential"
Another view of myself. . . perhaps a view of you...

Photo 3: "Applause"
The encouragement, cheer and joy of the sunflowers. . . bursting with praise and beauty that reflects the glory of God, and encourages each of us to have the courage to shine forth in the beauty that is ours and ours alone to reveal, a beauty that was given by God to reflect a part of Him.
Photo 4: "The time is now"
A reminder...there is little time, there is no guarantee of time. The time between budding and dying is brief.

copyright 2009. Jodene Shaw.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Gifts & Talents: Hidden in Dirt or Faithfully Unveiled

On The Parable of the Talents. . . Matthew 25:14-29

~Three servants. Each entrusted with talents of different amounts by their master.
~Two are faithful, use and invest the talents, increasing with more to give back to the master.
~One fearful, hides the talent, and returns what was entrusted covered in dirt.
~Two are entrusted with more and invited to join in joy, happiness, celebration with the master.
~One loses what he has and enters darkness, weeping, anguish, alone.

In Matthew 25:29, it says,
"For to everyone who has,
more will be given.
and he will have abundance;
but from him who does not have,
even what he has will be taken away."

To everyone who has. Who has. "Who has what?" I ask. "Who has faith. Faith." I hear in my heart. She or he who has faith to use, to invest, the gift that was given by the Master will be given more and will have abundance. Given more of what? More faith, more gifts from the master. More to reign over. More joy. More joy with the Master. The first two servants were faithful.

Oh, but the third servant says in verse 25, "And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours." Warning flags fly up at these words: afraid, hid, Your talent, ground, i.e. dirt. The one that is afraid, that does not have faith to use the gift entrusted by the master will lose it. Use it or lose it. The third servant was fearful.

What lesson lies within speaking to my heart, to my circumstance...am I faithful or fearful? Do I believe more in myself or in the Master?

The third servant was afraid.
Afraid of what? Perhaps. . .
Afraid of the master.
Afraid of losing the gift.
Afraid of using the gift.
Afraid of what would happen when the gift was taken out, exposed and invested.

Perhaps, the third servant did not trust himself as much as the master did. For the master's belief and trust in the servant was shown by the giving of the gift, the talent, even if it was a small gift.

The talent still belonged to the master, just as our gifts and talents belong to the Master. But He entrusts them to us to use for His glory. If He gave them, He intends for them to be invested wisely, in faith, not hidden in fear. He is pleased with faith.

The third servant had the audacity to bury the talent in the dirt! Returning it covered in dirt, unused, undeveloped, uncared for, unappreciated, unseen. How insulting to the giver!

And I ask myself, "What gifts have I been given that I am burying in the dirt by saying, 'I don't deserve this' or 'I can't be trusted with this' or 'I am afraid I will fail' or 'I am afraid of what people will think' or 'I am afraid it won't be good enough' or 'This is insignificant compared to____'?" Two gifts come to mind: salvation and calling.

Salvation. What do I do with it as a believer? How does my salvation impact the way I live my life, the way I see myself? Do I wallow around beating myself up in self-pity and self-condemnation for sins of which I have been forgiven? Do I walk around thinking that Christ's work didn't make a difference to me in my life? Like His sacrifice wasn't enough for me? That is like throwing dirt on Him on the cross saying, "It's not enough. You hanging there on the cross beaten, bleeding, dying, humiliated, is not enough for my pitiful state." That is what it is like when I refuse to receive His forgiveness and forgive myself and instead think thoughts like, "I'll never change. I'm not strong enough. I'm too afraid. I'm not good enough." Notice "I" in thoughts. "I" thoughts are self-focused not Christ-focused. "I" as the focus will never be good enough. But shift the focus to what HE did for me instead of throwing dirt on His sacrifice by focusing on self-inadequacies. Those self-centered thoughts have the audacity to believe that "my" weaknesses, "my" sins, "my" mistakes are more powerful than His pain, than His payment, than His power, than His resurrection, than His restoration, than His Life that He freely gave!

A gift is to be received, not earned, not deserved. Received. Accepted. Appreciated, Enjoyed. Delighted in. And there is no greater gift than life, especially the Life of God given. Given when He entered the dirt and mess of this world in a dirty barn into the limits of a human body. And then given when allowed to be abused, broken, and brutally murdered to pay for all of the failures, fear, selfish-ambitions, perversions, and depravity of the entire human race. Why? So that all could choose to receive the gift of life. Restored life. Renewed life. Resurrected life. New life. Life that, like Christ, still bears the scars of the past, but has been completely restored, and now walks in the infinite power of the Spirit rather than the power of the old self of the past.

Calling. New gifts with a new heart restored by His life. He entrusts us with gifts, talents, passions for a purpose. What gifts has He entrusted to me, to you, that He believes can be used that will grow and multiply when used in faith? His gifts, talents, passions say something powerful about what He designed a person for and what He intends to do through that person. The gift, the talent, still belongs to Him, yet He has believed in this person He created enough to entrust it to be invested, used, enjoyed, delighted in. It is a gift to be received, to be accepted, to have a place of prominence in that life. Not because the one who received the gift is to be prominent, nor that the gift itself is to be idolized. But because the receiver loves, honors, and trusts the Giver enough to respond in faith and respect. He gives the talent with love, trust, and with intention based on the unique design of the receiver. He has searched and known each one(Ps. 139:1)--what is loved, enjoyed, delighted in--more than any person because He is the one who designed each one--you, me--with care, precision, intention and purpose.

In 1 Peter 4:10, it says, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Use the gift! For each others' needs. It is not selfish to use the talent given. It is selfish to withhold it. We all need the gifts that God has given each one. It is OK to need each other, because each one has not been given all the gifts and therefore is not self-sufficient. That is why we are not to be islands for taking care of ourselves, but instead each one is given gifts to care for the needs of others. When we use our gift for others in faith, we are being "good stewards" which means that we are taking good care of the gift given by God. It is about serving Him and others. Not about what people will think of our particular gift. Actually, it is a disservice to others to try to be something and someone we are not. What is incredibly humbling and touching about God is that He gives out of the "manifold grace" of Himself. Out of the "many folds"--the endless--grace of God. Grace is undeserved, kind, generous. If He was kind and gracious to give us a gift, it must be a gift we will enjoy using, that we will have a passion for. He would not give us a bad gift with grace. He knows us intimately and a "perfect" gift indicates that the giver knows just what the receiver would delight in. For in Matthew 7:11, it says, "how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" And in James 1:17 it says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." Isn't a gift considered "perfect" when it indicates that the giver deeply knew the heart of the receiver? And who knows us more intimately than our Maker?

In Romans 12:6, it says, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them." Again, a gift is given. Each one's gift is different. Each gift is given in grace. And each gift is intended to be used. In faith. Not hidden in fear.

"The body is not one member but many" and "diversities of gifts are given, but the same Spirit", for the good of the "body of Christ", as is shown in 1 Corinthians 12. And, ". . .as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful" from 1 Corinthians 4.

May we be found good and faithful servants with our gifts, rather than the opposite: bad and fearful. May it be said by my lord to me, by your lord to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:21)