Monday, October 11, 2010

The Best Gift is a Sacrifice

This post is the first of a series sharing insights that I encountered about various scriptures on a personal spiritual retreat I enjoyed this summer while all alone for a week in our remote Smoky Mt. cabin. (If you've never invested yourself in a spiritual retreat, I HIGHLY recommend it!)

My technique was to take one passage per day, study it in numerous translations and Bible commentaries, learn the passage's background, read surrounding chapters, read the verses aloud frequently during the day, and meditate on that portion of God's Word during long prayer walks along winding mountain trails, opening my heart and mind to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

First passage: Exodus 35: 20-22 - Moses leads the displaced Israelites in building a place of worship in the desert

1. Background verse 5: Everyone is invited (not commanded) to give what they have to the Lord as an offering (for the tabernacle). An offering is a voluntary gift, not expected or demanded. The most appreciated gift is sacrificial, something that costs the giver.

2. Their very best was desired (v. 5-9) but not required. They could get by (without penalty) with giving little or even nothing. So can I.

3. Is my heart stirred (v. 20)? Do I desire to give my best as an offering to my Papa God? Am I truly willing to give my time, gifts and abilities with no expectations or strings attached (v. 22)?

4. Gifts must be prepared in private (at home) to get the final offering perfect and ready to present to Him on the altar of my life - like practicing my speeches, agonizing over words in books, responding to readers as they share heartfelt needs with me. Effort is required to prepare and (v. 21) bring/carry/pursue publication in His name.

5. "The Message" translation: everyone "whose spirit was freely responsive" was desired by God to participate.

6. Their gifts/offerings cost them something dear. They didn't have much; they had been slaves in Egypt and left with only what they could carry. The broaches, jewelry and linens they gave were precious to them (v. 22-23).

Are the gifts I'm willing to give to the Lord's work precious to me? Are they a sacrificial offering or merely the leftovers of my best efforts directed elsewhere?

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