Downsizing…of Sorts

Then he said, “I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones.
Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.”

Luke 12:18 NLT

“Where are we going put it? I think we’re turning into hoarders.”

My wife and I both have asked the question and made the statements. Our love for antiques…especially furniture, keeps us adding to our collection and trying to stuff them into a small townhouse. On a recent move, we decided we were going to downsize—of sorts. Not that we were going to sell anything. We would simply transfer some things from our townhouse to the storage shed.

There were a few items we decided we could live without seeing or using. We loaded them into the back of our SUV and transported them several miles away. Perhaps our kids will want them someday. Or, maybe we’ll once again live in a larger place before we die. And of course, all of our stored pieces are assets we can sell if we need money.

Jesus told about a rich man who was a hoarder—but he wasn’t into downsizing. He was into upsizing. His crops produced more than normal. His barns were full. There was nothing for him to do but build larger barns, store his goods, and eat drink and be merry. Life was good…or so he thought, until God confronted him and told him his life would end that night.

Whether I downsize in actuality, I need to at least downsize in my thinking. Possessions are for this life. I will always love antiques and continue collecting them—and sell a few along the way. But I’m intelligent enough to know I can’t take them to heaven with me when I go.

God gives us things of this life to enjoy, but they are for the earth, not heaven or the new earth. Possessions are tangible, corruptible, breakable, and can be stolen by thieves. Placing my security or faith in them will always lead to disappointment.

My possessions bring me joy, but God expects me to use them to help others and also advance His Kingdom. Seeing what I have as temporary helps me do this with the right attitude and avoid the rich man’s. He was selfish and thought only of himself. And, if by chance, my possessions turn my focus from God, I need to downsize.

Don’t let your possessions possess you. Downsize.

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Squirrel Determination

Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands.
So his hands held steady until sunset.

As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.
Exodus 17:12-13 NLT

His determination paid off; he had emptied my bird feeder and satisfied his hunger.

I decided to take my new cedar bird feeder to the church and hang it outside my office window. Soon, birds of many varieties showed up. So did squirrels.

On one of my trips to fill the feeder, I noticed both side panels were missing. I picked up the panels from the ground and carefully slid them back into the grooved slots. No squirrel could do this, I thought. Thinking someone was playing a prank on me, I silently blamed it on the young guys who maintain our lawn. But I was wrong on both accounts. The next day, I noticed the top of the bird feeder was cocked sideways, and again one of the panels was almost out. Now I knew who the culprit was. Because of his determination to get sunflower seed, Mr. Squirrel was destroying my feeder.

Tittle tattle may lose the battle—and so will laziness. Moses and his counterparts, Aaron and Hur, were not about to let that happen. As Joshua the military commander carried out God’s command to fight and defeat the Amalekites because of their wickedness, Moses mounted a mountain and raised his arms. When his arms tired, Aaron and Hur sat him on a rock and held up his arms. As long as his arms were raised, the Israelite army prevailed.

Determination can apply to any number of life areas, but it is a must where my spirituality is concerned. Without determination, I won’t prepare financially for my or my children’s future. Without it, I won’t do my best in my profession or place of employment. Apart from determination, life will topple me instead of me conquering it.

More drastic, if I’m not determined, my focus on developing spiritual disciplines, serving, worshiping, and loving others will suffer. And this will affect my existence more than slacking on anything else. The Israelites battle with the Amalekites was more than a physical encounter; it was a spiritual war. Only with squirrel determination—fueled by the power of God’s Spirit within me, can I win my daily battles with temptation and make choices that please God.

Be determined to be the person God created you to be and to get what God has planned for you.

Serving with Joy

Don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.
Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13 NLT

I noticed the handicap van they drove and knew it was my time to serve.

Saturday morning. My wife and I were in the middle of packing for our move later in the month when we ran out of boxes. She suggested I stop by McDonald’s and grab us lunch after I picked up a few boxes. As I waited in the drive-through line, I noticed an older couple in a handicapped accessible van pull slowly through the parking lot and take their place behind me.

Monthly, my daughter pays for the person behind her when she buys food from Chick-fil-a. I had never done this before but on this day felt God’s Spirit nudging me. I questioned myself. What if they have 10 more people in the van with them? I decided to act rather than doubt. When I approached the window to pay for my food, I told the attendant to put their tab on mine. It was an insignificant amount, but the feeling I received by obeying God’s prompting was unsurpassed.

Believers have been freed from sin’s penalty. The blood of Christ has washed their sins away. Rather than using that freedom to indulge in sinful practices, Paul says we should use it to serve others. By doing so, we are obeying the second greatest command—serving Christ, and advancing God’s Kingdom.

Serving others will bring joy if I do it with the right attitude. Serving with reluctance won’t work. When I serve reluctantly, I feel hesitation because I’m doing something I really don’t want to do. Serving with joy requires letting God change the way I look at situations. What I give through my act of service is not being forced from my hand. Rather, I’m allowing the act to slip away as a form of appreciation for what Christ has done for me.

Nor should I serve with ulterior motives. If I brag about what I’ve done, the spotlight shines on me instead of God. Jesus said not to let my right hand know what my left hand was doing. He also warned about standing on a street corner and announcing what I’ve done for Him. My motive in serving is for God to receive praise, not me.

Serve with joy, not because you feel forced or because you want recognition.

Loving a Neighbor

The second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Mark 12:31 NLT

The note was attached to the door; the decision had been made.

At nine years of age, he was doing what most boys his age did in the summer: romping and playing. Until his sister noticed his yellow eyes. She ran inside to tell their mother who took him to the emergency room. The local hospital transferred him to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Two days later, he had a new liver.

This family was our neighbors, but we knew nothing about their tragedy. We only knew we hadn’t seen anyone home for three weeks. Initially, their youngest son did well. Then his body rejected the liver. They made several trips back and forth to Charleston, and each time we waited for an update.

During their last trip, my wife noticed the local power company tape a notice on their door. She knew what it was, caught the deliverer of bad news, and asked how much the bill was. The mom had not been able to work due to the circumstances, and the dad had missed numerous days himself. If $450 dollars wasn’t paid by the next day, their power would be turned off.

“Why don’t we take a love offering at church,” my wife asked.

Since no one but us knew the family, I didn’t know how the people would respond. But I decided to take a chance. We’d had the child on our prayer list. On Sunday morning, the church gave $406. When I announced the total at the evening services, someone quickly donated the remaining balance. As soon as the power company opened Monday morning, my wife paid the balance.

Loving my neighbor is a good feeling—whether they live right beside me or not. Doing so also helps me obey what Jesus said was the second greatest command. Only loving God with my entire being surpasses it.

Opportunities to love my neighbor—whoever and wherever they might be, abound. But like my wife, I must be attentive to the working of God’s Spirit in my innermost spirit if I’m to see them. If I live life selfishly, I’ll miss most, if not all, the opportunities God sends.

Ask God to open your eyes so you can see opportunities to love your neighbor.