Joyful Giving

Is giving a duty? A chore? A burden?

Though many of us wouldn’t want to admit it, there has probably been a time when we feel that way. Who hasn’t had “something better to do” with their tithes, offerings, or other giving?

Giving ought to be a source of joy, but we have to maintain a proper perspective for this to be the case. Remember:

  • Everything we have had been given to us by God. Freely you have received, so freely give.
  • What you have is not yours; you are a steward of God’s property. There is no better use for his blessings than blessing others.
  • You can’t out-give God. He will bless you beyond your ability to bless others.

When donations were needed to build the Tabernacle, the people have so generously that Moses had to declare “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” They had to be restrained from giving.

Give freely. Give without restraint. I promise you that God will always, always out-give and out-bless.

Chains of Tradition

Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their traditions, because they often invalidated the Word of God. For example, a man didn’t have to honor his father and mother of he pledged the support he would have given them to God. For teachings like this Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, saying “for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God” (Matthew 15:6 ESV).

Traditions aren’t necessarily bad. There are some beautiful hymns in the hymn book. The marriage ceremony has evolved into something deeply spiritual and scriptural over the years. But tradition is not the word of God and cannot be confused with scriptural standards of faith.

Time and time again, tradition has impaired the worship of God. Fueds have developed over song choices. New Christians have been confused and discouraged by old English translations. Change has been rejected because we want to do things the way they have always been done. We tolerate more traditionally “acceptable” sins while often rejecting those struggling with sins we consider “more severe.” When difficulties arise, we tell people that they don’t have enough faith.

Are your traditions impairing your walk with God? Are they turning others away from the faith? Are they hindering Kingdom growth? It’s time to clean house and change whatever is harming your own faith walk or the faith walk of others- even if it may be a tradition that you so love. It’s time to break the chains.

Loving to a Fault?

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking how he might inherit eternal life, Jesus first instructed him to be obedient to God’s commands. When replying that he had done so from his youth, Christ told him that he lacked one thing- his wealth was more important to him than God. He said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

At this, the rich young ruler went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus, with one look, saw where the young man was lacking. But here is the interesting part. As Jesus’s made this assessment of him, scripture says that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

God sees our every fault. He knows the deepest, darkest corners of our souls. And yet he looks upon us and loves us- warts and all. It’s healthy to feel guilty when you do wrong and to strive to become the holy and righteous person He calls you to be- but Jesus loves you right here, right now, just as you are.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure;
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.

Exceptional Forgiveness

Forgiveness is difficult. It is something given to one who doesn’t deserve it, from one who has been wronged. By nature, forgiveness opposes our every human instinct to demand justice or desire vengeance. And the larger the offense, the harder it is to forgive.

God has not just called us to forgive the small things. We are called to offer exceptional forgiveness, grace beyond human reason.

Consider Joseph. His brothers plotted his death and sold him into slavery. Despite his outstanding integrity, his morality was thrown into question, and he was thrown into prison. There he remained for years before Pharaoh took note of him. The best years of his life had been miserable and squandered. He had every reason to have his brothers.

And yet, he forgave. He vowed to protect them and supply their needs, saying “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God”
(Genesis 50:17‭-‬19 ESV)? Joseph understood something important: only God alone had the right to NOT forgive! For the rest of us, we must offer the same grace given to us in Christ Jesus.

God is calling you to forgive. He is calling you to exceptional forgiveness, to grace beyond grace. Heed His call.

‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?Genesis 50:17‭-‬19 ESV

‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?Genesis 50:17‭-‬19 ESV

Low Spots

When driving on the roads of Kansas, there is often quite a bit of time to kill between one town and another. During this time, I will often call my wife or make other calls that need to be done. Without fail, however, a hill or valley obstructs my signal and I start to lose reception. “I’ll call you back,” I’ll say. “I’m in a low spot.”

Low spots with a cell phone are merely an irritating inconvenience. Low spots in life, on the other hand, can seem overwhelming. And no matter how great your faith, they will come. Before David became king, Saul sought his life. During this low spot, David wrote “Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me” (Psalms 142:6 ESV)!

God will not prevent you from going through life’s low spots, but He will see you through them. You may even feel that your reception is obstructed and it’s hard to hear God’s voice. Unlike a cell phone conversation, though, God still hears your cry loudly and clearly. You never have to ask “Can you hear me now?”

Your feelings may tell you differently, but God has not forgotten you. Rather, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15 NIV).

An Undivided Family

When accused of casting out demons by demonic forces, Jesus replied that “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25 ESV). This same truth applies to the Kingdom of God. When we are united, we stand. When we are divided, we fall.

Such unity, of course, takes work. We will have misunderstandings and disagreements. Or viewpoints and outlooks can differ tremendously. Through it all, it is vital that we work toward unity and peace. Differences between members of the family of God are just that- differences. In the end, every believer’s goal must be unity, love, and glory to the name of Jesus. Don’t get confused- your brother, your sister, they are not the enemy. They are family.

Jesus tells us this very truth in the same chapter of Matthew: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (v. 50, ESV). We can disagree on what direction to take or even on what God’s will is, but in the end we all must either come into agreement, our at least agree to disagree, maintaining a spirit of love, kindness, and grace for one another through it all. Our work for the Lord is too important to have it any other way. Our family in Christ is too important for us to act any differently.

Lord, help me to maintain the unity of Spirit through the bond of peace. Help me to always keep Your Kingdom in my view and to love in the midst of differences or disagreements. Help me always to remember the importance of what binds us over the temporary things that divide us. Amen.

Strong and Courageous

As God called Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, He spoke words that have been quoted again and again, encouraging generation after generation to boldly pursue what God has laid before them: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV).

Be strong. You may feel weak, but you have an untapped wellspring of infinite strength, because Almighty God is your strength, and His power is made perfect in weakness.

Be courageous. It is normal to fear change, the unusual, the unknown, but this is where God has called you, and His perfect love will drive out fear.

Finally, remember that He is with you. You are not alone. Child of God, your Heavenly Father goes with you to watch over you, prosper you, and make your paths straight.

Be strong. Be courageous. Do not fear, for God is with you.

Twisted Words

In 1 Samuel 18:3-4, we read about the deep friendship between David and Jonathan. And this scripture is a great example of the deep and meaningful relationships that Christian men should have with one another. However, that is not why I am sharing this scripture today.

You may not realize it, but many have used this scripture to promote the idea that a homosexual relationship is biblical, trying to read sexual connotations into this scripture. But I am not writing this to discuss homosexual relationships specifically, either.

Instead, I want to address how we read the Bible. Specifically, are you reading out of God’s Word, or into it? Are you seeking to understand the Bible for what it says, or for what you want it to say? Does God’s Word shape your perception and challenge you to change, or do you interpret what it says according to what you already feel and believe?

We can read the Bible the wrong way! Any words- even God’s- can be made to say something they don’t mean. Using “sound bytes” from scripture, much like media outlets use snippets of words to report whatever they wish, the Word of God has been incorrectly interpreted to justify all manners of sin.

The truth of God’s Word is this: an honest look should have uncomfortable moments. Moments that challenge and change us. If all you find is self affirmation in the Bible, you need to take a closer look. God loves you as you are, but has plans for you to be something a little better, something a little more. Look deep into God’s Word- deep enough that it causes discomfort- and embrace the better you that God is changing you to become.

Lord, I appreciate your words of affirmation, but I thank you now for your words of correction. Thank you for caring enough not to leave me as I am. Though it may be uncomfortable, I look expectantly to the greener pastures ahead. Amen.