What is a “Cheerful Giver?”


Yesterday, my fabulous pastor gave us an excellent message on giving. Yes, I know – this turns some folks off. Bear with me though, ok? Got some good stuff here if you hang in there.

One term or thing I thought I should research is “cheerful giver.” Other than the obvious – someone who likes to give – what does it mean for us? And I found two things, which are the following:

  1. Emulate Christ. Because He gave it all.
  2. Cheerful giving is a way of life.

But what kind of giver are you? While I cannot vouch for the total theology and doctrine of Boundless, I found the article helpful. Perhaps you will, too.

A few years ago, for reasons still unknown to me, I was asked to be part of a three-series panel discussion on giving at my previous church. Considering math is an abomination to me and I don’t do so great at spending, I was hesitant, but decided to go anyway. Boy am I glad I did!

We didn’t spend our panel discussion the way the other two groups did. We talked about giving. And giving is truly a way of life, because it involves every aspect of your life when you make it a priority.

For instance, every Sunday morning in our Connect Group, our leader asks that anyone thinking about serving could really be used in Kid City or Awana (our childrens’ groups). I squirm a bit here because I do not want to do it. But there are plenty of people who are called for this sort of service, at different seasons in their lives. While I am not called, yes, deep down I think I should sacrifice some of my time to help. But am I considering with a cheerful heart, or out of legalism?

Serving, which I firmly believe is part of giving, is something that I think mostly comes from the heart – a heart of passion and need to do it. But, truth be told, sometimes it’s just good old-fashioned have-to. As in, because I’m a Christian, every now and then I have to do something I don’t want to do. Something I will get zero credit for. Something no one will notice. Yes, it is easy to go to the church service project two Saturdays a year, and feel so very good about yourself.

But service is a life-time choice. Meaning – all the time! Who are you serving? Yourself? Your spouse and children? Helping others is great. It’s the sacrifice of our time we resent. And that, my friend, does not make us a cheerful giver.

Are you hospitable? Do you invite others to your home and share your meal with them? Or, like me, is the thought daunting? Like me, do you want everything to be perfect first? We have quite a lot in common with Martha, don’t we? Here’s part of her story.

Luke 10:38-42 – Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  John 11:5 – Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. Luke 10:40 – But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Jesus’ response is priceless. And not at all what we would expect. Watch this!

And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ”(Luke 10).

Should we open our homes and our hearts, as well as our hearth, to others? Even if it’s not perfect – not totally clean or neat, or – even worse – we think we won’t have enough? Absolutely, says the Word. Ever notice how much sweeter things taste and seem when shared with friends or loved ones? A little goes a long way. Just the breaking of bread together ensures we are thankful for the Lord and one another. God makes good things happen in those times, doesn’t He?

I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the benefits of giving. While I never advocate thinking of yourself first in these matters, it really does make a difference in your own life! God richly blesses cheerful givers. And by that, I do not mean earthly wealth. I mean spiritual blessings. Which are far more valuable than money, y’all. Will there be some material goodness coming your way? I think so. A little bit, at least. But giving out of the love of your heart sends goodness out into the world, and God reciprocates by providing for your needs.

If you have ever been in need, you can imagine how life-changing it is to have a need met supernaturally. It blows your mind. So start giving y’all, and blessings!

Advertisements

How the Loser Actually Wins With God


Good morning! Shortly, I’m meeting a friend for a workout in the great outdoors, but before I go I wanted to  clue y’all in on something I read this a.m. in my Bible study.

We start with the Book of Luke. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” “ Luke 7:47

Let’s get the backstory here. Jesus was at the home of a Pharisee, awaiting dinner. When He got there, two things weren’t done. The first is that the host did not offer Jesus water to clean His feet. The second is that the host did not offer a kiss of greeting.

It’s hard for us to imagine the world in which Christ lived, but in ancient times – and I dare say at the present time – hospitality in the Middle East-area was quite different from our Americanized version. When someone in Jesus’ day entered a home as a guest, water was offered for foot washing because people (like Jesus) in that day primarily walked – on dusty roads – and therefore had very dirty feet! Also, a kiss of greeting was just part of inviting someone into your home or perhaps even meeting them outside the home.

So, Jesus is seated at table and in comes this woman. We don’t know her name, although there is speculation that it was Mary (the prostitute, not the mother of Christ). At any rate, she washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her long hair.

Why is she weeping? Because she is accepted by Christ despite her “many sins.” The going theory is that she is a prostitute. Even in today’s culture, if a hooker walked into church and sat down beside you, there’d be some uncomfortable silences and side-long looks going on. Imagine if she walked into a dinner party and sat down beside your husband. How many daggers could you shoot out of your eyes towards her?

But if the pew you sat down on contained Christ, would He have done those things? No, my friends – He would have smiled and opened His arms!

Pay attention to the last part of this verse: ” he who is forgiven little, loves little.” It is when Christ has to forgive us of deep sins that we come to grasp how fully He loves us, and we are then able to more fully love others.

It’s so easy to judge others who are different from us. Especially if our sins are easier to hide from the outside world. Jesus isn’t giving us permission to go and sin to a great extent. But what He is saying is that for those of us who have done it, His open arms are rock-solid, and He’s ready to embrace us.

And then what? The great news is that it’s not over! Just having His forgiveness and love would be more than enough, right? But it’s not! We are then to be used as a vessel through which we love others with the love of Christ!

It sounds good. But in reality, it’s tough. The people who know us well are not so quick to forgive and love again. They’re not quick to trust us. Who could blame them? We haven’t been what we should have been.

Y’all, don’t give up, and don’t let satan win. Oh yes. He’s playing his games through people who won’t give us another chance. And there are only two things you can do. The first is to always show God’s love to those people regardless of whether they welcome you back into their lives or not. The second is to mentally shake the dust from your feet while in their presence, if they are not welcoming, and to remember that you have the love of God and your other brothers and sisters in Christ to fall back on.

Blessings today, you who have sinned much!

 

The Love of God


Ephesians 3: 18  “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”

Oh! And all God’s people said, “Amen!”

When someone is about to confide in me but hesitates, I often say, “Look. I’ve done and seen pretty much everything there is to do and see. I won’t be offended and I won’t be surprised.”

It’s the truth. If I were to list off my sins, my mistakes – well, many of you who know me would actually be offended, because it would blow your mind how different I am today than I was even a decade ago.

Beth Moore says one reason we can’t understand God is that we try to humanize Him. Oh sweet Lord, how true that is. When we try to grasp how much – or how, period – He loves us, we can come up short.

Oh, especially when we’ve lived lives unsure of the love of anyone, right? The love of any human being? And when – if we’re lucky – we find out that we were wrong – that he or she – or they – actually do love us, well – that presents a beautiful challenge.

What do we do with our lives when we realize we were living them under the wrong assumption or belief? The first thing that we understand, friends, is the depth of the mistakes we made because we believed we were unworthy of love.

So – what constitutes an unforgivable offense here? Just by looking at my life, and the lives of people I know, here’s a quick list I compiled.

“God couldn’t love me because I’ve had too many sexual partners.”

“God couldn’t love me because I lied – all the time.”

“God couldn’t love me because I manipulated people and tried to control them.”

“God couldn’t love me because I had a baby out of wedlock.”

“God couldn’t love me because I haven’t lived a mature, responsible life. I’m not a success, I’m sometimes lazy, and I don’t make as much money as I should. It’s my own fault.”

“God couldn’t love me because I have doubted His love for me for years.”

“God couldn’t love me because I got divorced.”

“God couldn’t love me because I don’t look, think, or act like all those other Christians.”

You know what? Beth Moore also said that belief is not a feeling – it is a choice. And she is right. Some days or moments it’s easy to feel God’s love. Because it was a “good” day – no one got mad at you and you didn’t make an insanely huge screw-up. Or something bad has happened and God came through for you in a big way.

But most days we’re just human. We make mistakes, hurt someone, or let someone down. Maybe we get in trouble at work, at school, or at home. And satan comes strolling into that hot mess and just tells us how worthless we are. And if you’ve heard those words come out of the mouths of people, his voice sounds an awful lot like theirs. And you believe it.

You have a choice, my friends. The choice to believe the Word, not the words of satan, not the words of people who are also screwed up and don’t know how to love you like they should.

Make the choice. And while you’re at it, encourage someone today. You never know, y’all. You never know how much they might need it.

Not My Business!


We say that a lot, don’t we? Even if only to ourselves.

Ezekiel had something to say about that – well, God speaking through him, that is. I read it just now and realized it is the reason I feel the way I do about this matter. First, read this verse:

Ezekiel 33: But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

Next, let’s consider who this verse applies to besides ourselves. Right off the bat, we know we must hold our brothers and sisters in Christ to a higher level of accountability. The unsaved do not know or believe in our ways. But is that who God is referring to when He calls this people “wicked?”

I believe God means those who are unsaved. We are to “warn” them. That means that if we see or know of someone doing something sinful, we are to tell them about Jesus, I think. Not to come down hard on them or make them angry or ashamed (although these are natural feelings that will come upon them), but to gently and lovingly reprove.

Is that going to make a wicked person happy? Or angry and frustrated? Come now – we all know why we don’t actually follow these words. We don’t want to be the bearer of “bad” news. We don’t want anyone to be angry with us. We want to be friends of all. Folks, Christ didn’t call us to do that. He didn’t call us to be judgmental and critical, but He did call us to speak truth.

Personally? I think the way to start this whole process is to SHOW, not tell. Due to a time constraint, this may not be possible, but if it is, let your actions and reactions speak volumes. This opens the door for further questions and communication. Speak. The Spirit will give you the words.

Now, what if the person doing something wicked is a believer? Does it really matter?

When you know or see something that is wrong, you are obligated to speak up. There’s no way around it. I feel personally responsible for the actions of others around me. If they’re in trouble and I did not help, I am responsible for that! If I don’t at least speak up, I am responsible for that! It’s tiring and overwhelming. Yes. But it’s part of loving others, my friends.

Does it require courage? Honor? Integrity? Of course it does. So, as I tell my boys all the time, handle your business.

Are you going to hell if you don’t confront your Christian co-worker on stealing office supplies? No. Are you going to answer for it? Yes. Are you going to hell for not telling your best friend that his wife is having an affair? No. Are you going to answer for it? Yes.

Are you going to hell for refusing to defend your spouse when others try to manipulate, hurt, offend, and cause trouble for him? No. Are you going to answer for it? Yes.

Are you going to hell for driving by a gas station and witnessing a man beating a woman and refusing to stop to help or even call the police? No. Are you going to answer for it?

You absolutely will. Courage is not the absence of fear – it is action in the very freaking midst of it. This Christian life is HARD. It is not meant to be easy and it shouldn’t be. It is a battle we fight against satan and his minions, and sometimes it requires us to do the hard thing. So fasten your seat belts and begin to see how amazingly freeing it is to follow the Word!

 

 

In Defense of Others – Part II


Last week, I posted the first of this two-part series about defending others, but today we are taking it to a totally unexpected place. At least for me. I had no idea God was going to push me in this direction!

First, let’s take a look at Scripture relating to today’s post, taken from Ezekiel 19:

10 Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard
    planted by the water,
fruitful and full of branches
    by reason of abundant water.
11 Its strong stems became
    rulers’ scepters;
it towered aloft
    among the thick boughs;
it was seen in its height
    with the mass of its branches.
12 But the vine was plucked up in fury,
    cast down to the ground;
the east wind dried up its fruit;
    they were stripped off and withered.
As for its strong stem,
    fire consumed it.
13 Now it is planted in the wilderness,
    in a dry and thirsty land.
14 And fire has gone out from the stem of its shoots,
    has consumed its fruit,
so that there remains in it no strong stem,
    no scepter for ruling.

In this passage, “your mother” refers to Jerusalem, while the “vine” is Zedekiah. The vine is taken by Babylonian kinds, who exiled the Israelites throughout other parts of the world.

We start off well. We start off vigorous. But over time, our morals and values – our beliefs – erode. And what was once a country to be proud of – The United States of America – is now a shameful place.

I’m ashamed of my country – yes. But I still believe in it. I have to defend the parts of it that are worth defending and let go of the rest! What is still worth defending in such a lost country?

The love of God. The love of family as God created it to be. The grace, mercy, and compassion we extend to others, whether they came here legally or look like me or not. Hope and passion for a better life. These are what inspire me and move me. What motivate me to help others. That’s what being American is about to me.

What is it about to you? Blessings!

 

In Defense of Others – Part I


1 Samuel 19: 4 “And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine,and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?”

I have always been what I would consider a loyal person. I first noticed this at the age of approximately four years old, when an adult – who was enraged – threw a fork at the wall in the room we were in. And, inadvertently, almost hit my brother in the head.

She wasn’t angry with him. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t care – I flew at her and attacked her. I didn’t have to think. I just acted.

Loyal? Yes. As to whether my behavior was appropriate or not, I confess – I vacillate. Part of me feels like a Sunday School teacher would forcefully admonish me for violence, especially against an adult – an elder. The other part of me is just that – me. This behavior was not an abberation – it was part of who I am – and I struggle against that part of me a lot.

However, would I be loyal to someone who isn’t loyal to me? Therein lies the rub, and the answer is “no.” I feel that if you don’t treat me with loyalty, then you’re on your own. Again – is that the right thing to do?  I don’t know, because the people who aren’t loyal to me are people I don’t trust; people I have to guard my heart from; people who expect my loyalty but don’t want to give me theirs. Again, that rub – what’s right and fair here?

One reason I really like Jonathan, King Saul’s son, was that he was loyal to his best friend – the future king of Israel, David – against his own father. Jonathan chose wisely. His father was fallen out of favor with God because he had sinned and was too proud to admit it. Part of the reason King Saul hated David so much was that it was apparent to everyone that David was now in favor with the Lord – that he had been annointed by Him. King Saul saw that his days were numbered and it drove him stark-raving mad.

For some of you, standing up in defense of someone to your parent would be an easy thing to do because you don’t respect him or her. I don’t mean in a sinful way – I mean the way Jonathan felt about Saul. On the other hand, some of you have parents who are godly men and women, and the idea of bucking that system makes you decidedly uneasy and uncomfortable.

What’s the right thing to do here? The truth, as I see it, is to defend what is right. But please note that Jonathan did not get all up in Saul’s grill, so to speak. He was calm. He was strong. He was right. And he would rather upset his father than go against God.

Are you going against God when you allow people you love – such as your parents, your spouse, your friend, etc. – to hurt another and not say anything? Please take some time today and consider this matter. Because if you are, you aren’t just hurting someone close to you, someone in an untenable position. You could be sinning against God.

It’s easy to see how angry the world is. Was it always like this, or did social media make it so blatantly obvious? There are far too many folks letting words fly when they ought to hush.

The people who are afraid to speak Truth end up getting a pass. They don’t cause any trouble, do they? Or do they? Recognize where your priorities are, and act according to the Word. God gives you the courage to do what is right. And once you begin to live your life this way, as in all other things, it becomes a habit and not something to be frightened of. Be a friend like Jonathan. Blessings!

 

The Freedom of Biblical Law


That’s an oxymoron, right? Modern-day Christians are given one axiom in regards to the Old Testament law versus the love-driven, Spirit-driven, Jesus-driven life of the New – and that is that the Law no longer applies. This belief – this precept – is pounded into us.

We like it that way, don’t we? That way, all we have to do is love. And that provides us the perfect shelter of all kinds of wonderful things – pre-marital sex and homosexuality to name two current topics of intense debate and discussion (although we gloss over pre-marital sex and living with our partners pretty quickly.) In the name of love, we can love whomever we want to – and then take it further. We can sin with total abandon.

If I haven’t lost you already, please keep reading. Because what we are being told chokes us – the Law – is in point of fact what sets us free. Christ said, “you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32). Of course He was referring to the Word, and y’all, the Word includes the Old Testament. That’s right.

Don’t be frightened by this. Consider the good news of Hebrew 10:1 in that “the Law has but a shadow of the good things to come.”

Whoa! Consider what Beth Moore said on the subject of this verse – and this doctrine – “The law poured concrete into God’s mold for human relationships, but it also whispered a kingdom to come in which order, sanity, health, and decency dwell under the safe shadow of Christ’s scepter. Jesus’ second coming will usher in a world in which children can’t be sold for sex or shot in their schoolrooms.”

The key world here is “order.” Not “sacrifice” or “altar” – “order.” The Law of the ancient prophets isn’t applicable in that we don’t have to go through a priest to get to Christ or to God, and we don’t have to sacrifice animals and food to please God and ask for forgiveness, or even to celebrate what He has done for us.

But the Law is much more than that. Matthew Henry, a wise man whom I use often to discover the context of verses that, on their own, mean one thing, but taken as a whole with a chapter or book, can mean quite another – put it like this: “Here the apostle (meaning Paul, the author of Hebrews), by the direction of the Spirit of God, sets himself to lay low the Levitical dispensation; for though it was of divine appointment, and very excellent and useful in its time and place, yet, when it was set up in competition with Christ, to whom it was only designed to lead the people, it was very proper and necessary to show the weakness and imperfection of it, which the apostle does effectually, from several arguments. As, [t]hat the law had a shadow, and but a shadow, of good things to come; and who would dote upon a shadow, though of good things, especially when the substance has come? Observe, 1. The things of Christ and the gospel are good things; they are the best things; they are best in themselves, and the best for us: they are realities of an excellent nature. 2. These good things were, under the Old Testament, good things to come, not clearly discovered, nor fully enjoyed. 3. That the Jews then had but the shadow of the good things of Christ, some adumbrations of them; we under the gospel have the substance.

First of all, what is “Levitical dispensation?” Well, “Levitical” refers to the Levites, a segment of the Israelits of the Old Testament set aside as priests. Easton’s Bible dictionary defines “dispensation” as “[t]he method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men is called a dispensation.” Therefore, how the Levites carried out God’s plan towards their fellow men, while of “divine appointment,” could not compete with Christ. At the time, it was a necessary thing for the Israelites. But Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection denied its usefulness when that curtain in the Temple was rent in two!

Matthew Henry acknowledges that the Law had its own weaknesses – and you don’t have to guess what the most important one was. It was that no one could follow it to the letter. And even if a person did, the sheer willpower of doing so would delete all actual closeness with God, because there would be nothing genuine left over to give to Him. God knew that. He wanted to give them a blueprint for how to live their lives in a pleasing manner to him and to each other. Here is the key point: to each other. He gave them direction, He provided a way out of immoral and chaotic worldly living. And when they – inevitably – screwed it all up, He gave them a way to make peace with Him, with each other, and with themselves.

But the ultimate goal wasn’t the Law – it was the love of Christ. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness do not negate the Law – they make it possible. By that, I mean they make our lives worth living when we fail. All the sins the Law listed are still, in essence, sins today. Some of them are more about what we feel and believe in our hearts rather than what we act out, but they are real, and they are relevant.

The Law brings freedom because it ushers Christ into His rightful seat at the table, folks. Just like we know our kids need boundaries for security reasons – and not just physical safety – we know in our hearts we need rules and order to survive what is truly an anarchic world – but taking it further into the depths of those very same hearts, we know we need the Law to thrive in it!

Blessings y’all!