Giving God Our Leftovers

•August 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

For some time now, I have been troubled by the way so many believers treat God.  I am troubled because I can see that I, too, have been guilty of the same thing I see in others that grieves me so much.  Here’s what bothers me:  we tend to give God our leftovers.

How many times have you known of someone who contacts the church and offers to give something such as a piece of furniture, a computer, or some other thing they are about to get rid of?  Maybe you have even had a business that is going to remodel their facility and they make a charitable donation of the old furnishings to the church.  Maybe you, yourself, have even donated some old clothes, some books, a desk or chair or other furnishing that you no longer want.  So, what is wrong with that?  Why not give it to the church and take the tax credit, right?  Or maybe we are more spiritual and just give it but skip the tax credit.

Think about it.  God, who owns it all anyway, gave us His One and Only Begotten Son to die on a cruel cross for our sins.  God gave us His best and we give Him the stuff we no longer want?  It just bothers me.  Somehow it seems to me that we should give God our very best instead of our left overs.  I’ve been thinking about bible verses concerning giving and hoping I could find one or two that tell us to “bring into God’s storehouse the things you are about to throw away”, but I am having no success.  Instead, I find instruction to bring the “first fruits” and the like.  I find that God valued the small, penny-like offering a poor widow than He valued the larger gifts given by the rich.

The thing that really bugs me is that our attitude toward giving things carries over into our attitude toward giving of our time and self.  We give God our time as long as we “have time” and are not too busy with trips to the beach or lake, with family get togethers, with getting caught up on yard work, and so on.  God gets the time we have left over after we do all the things that are important to us.  He even gets what’s left of us, once we’ve done all the things we want to do.

Maybe we should all give more thought to what we give God.  Is He getting only what I have left over or am I giving God my very best in all things?  Thoughts and comments?

Three Guidelines for Living

•July 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Reflecting on simple instructions concerning how to live found in the bible, I ran across this trio of guidelines found in Jude, verses 20 and 21:

-Build yourself up in faith;

-Pray in the Holy Spirit; and

-Keep yourselves in the love of God.

While these three things are relatively straightforward, I find some value in using them as a launching pad for further study on each topic.  For instance, what exactly is involved and required to “build myself up in faith”?  The bible tells me “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).  If I am going to build myself up in holy faith, I am going to need to “hear” the Word.

Again, I look at the statement “praying in the Holy Spirit” and have to ask “what does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit”?  Romans 8:26-27 reveals that the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) helps us in our weakness because He (the Holy Spirit) intercedes for us according to God’s will even when we do not know how to pray.  He (the Holy Spirit) moves through “groanings too deep for words” to cry out to God the Father on our behalf.

Finally, to keep myself in the love of God is an interesting thought.  Just one quick starter to stimulate further research:  the bible tells me that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).  At least in part, keeping myself in the love of God means I give cheerfully, right?

This post is certainly not comprehensive.  I pray that it will serve to cause you to give some serious thought to those three guidelines provided in Jude 20 and 21.  Then dig into God’s Word to explore each one more fully.  Grace in Christ.

Intimacy of the Heart

•July 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“My heart is just not in it”.  Those words spoken by a friend who left the church and the ministry sunk deep.  Their impact is far more astounding than they may at first appear.  My friend was expressing his “felt” reason for choosing to walk away from his faith family (the church) and from his calling (the ministry).  Many of us can identify with the sentiment.  When we say our heart is not in something, we are saying we just do not have interest in continuing.  We simply quit.

May I suggest that the expression (my heart is not in it) reveals a much more serious reality?  The heart may be thought of as the center of our emotions.  To really love is to “love with all your heart”.  If our heart is not in something, we will not give it our best effort ever and we will soon not give any effort at all, unless our heart IS in it.

Consider one’s relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  In the Bible, we learn that the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength” (Mark 12:30).  Is it mere coincidence that our heart is first on the list?

Let us also remember that the heart plays a key role in the Bible’s account of the implementation of God’s grace and salvation in our life.  Ephesians 2:8 tells us “it is by grace we are saved through faith”.  Romans 10:9-10 explain “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (emphasis is mine).

Perhaps if my friend’s heart had been in it, he would still be serving God in ministry and still be actively engaged in fellowship with the body of Christ.  May God help us all to experience intimacy of the heart with our Heavenly Father!

Intimacy with God Leads to Ministry

•July 7, 2017 • 2 Comments

I heard it said recently that ministry is a natural overflow of intimacy with God.  In other words, it becomes more important for us to focus on growing more in our relationship with God, becoming more intimate with Him that to focus on ministry and service.  The premise is that our growing intimacy with God will naturally lead to more service and ministry as the presence and power of God fills us and then overflows out from us.  It certainly made me think.

Can it be that God cares more about me knowing Him and relating to Him than He cares about what I do for Him or in His name?  As I began to research and study the question, I came across a passage I had never really seen in this light- “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” [Matthew 7:21-23]

May God help us all to know Him, to truly know Him intimately, that we may be found faithful to Him always.  May the knowledge of Him fill us to overflow in works that are pleasing to Him: not because we seek to please Him by our works but because He fills us so much with Himself that His works are done through us.  To Him be all glory forever, amen.

Papa Joe’s Legacy

•June 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A friend of mine hosts a site called “Manly Training” and he’s currently running a series with articles from a number of contributors about our fathers’ legacy.  You can read the one I contributed at https://manlytraining.com/2017/06/09/papa-joes-legacy/ and would enjoy your feedback or comments.  To God belongs the glory and praise for al things.  Grace 

Whose Side Are You On?

•June 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Matthew chapter twelve and verse thirty in the New Living Translation of the Bible says “”Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.”  That’s a significant statement.  Jesus teaches us the principle so many of us forget when we move passively through life.  For example, a husband who does not actively engage in strengthening his marriage is actually working to weaken his marriage.  A worker who is not intentionally seeking to improve his performance and thus strengthen the company for which he or she works may be detracting from the company’s bottom line and potentially undermining his or her own job security.  The principle Jesus teaches in this powerful statement (Matthew 12:30) is particularly important for churches engaged in building and growing.  A modern proverb that communicates much the same message says, “one bad apple spoils the bunch”.  In other words, one voice of murmuring and complaining in a local church can weaken and undermine the efforts of the whole church.  One voice spreading discord and division can weaken the resolve of many.

As I think about the principle Jesus taught in Matthew 12:30, I am resolved to be intentional in working and speaking to strengthen the cause of Christ.  I want to be an agent for good in my marriage.  I want to be a positive contributor to the organizations of which I am a part, especially God’s church.  What about you?  Whose side are you on?

Two Words and Three Circles

•May 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Make Disciples.  Two simple words.  My understanding is in Greek there is one word- an imperative command which translates into the two English words “make disciples”.  It is the imperative Jesus gives to those who follow Him.  When Jesus invited a couple of fishermen to follow Him, Jesus said He would make them fishers of men.  Jesus taught the men who followed Him to call others to follow as well.  Jesus still calls us to follow Him and when we do, when our lives are transformed by an encounter with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are to become fishers of men.  We are to make disciples.

The challenge is so many of us offer excuses for failing in our responsibility to make disciples.  We say that we don’t know how.  We say it is too hard to memorize a bunch of bible verses and then recall them in sequence when we are engaged in a conversation inviting others to follow Christ.  The good news is that someone has come up with a simple, down to earth presentation of the gospel that any of us can use, if we just will!  Check out the information when you google for “three circles gospel”.  You’ll find a very simple way to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to broken people (and we’re all broken at some point because we are all sinners) without using terms many today do not even understand (for example, the concept of “getting saved” is completely foreign to many people outside our church culture).

Basically, the three circles gospel enables us to use three circles to pictorially show the gospel.  One circle is labeled “God’s Design” and we use it to talk about God’s plan in creating man for relationship with and the glory of his Creator.  A simple line from that circle to the next circle shows how we tend to drift or depart from God’s Design.  We can label that line “sin” and use the line to talk about how the path away from God’s design leads to the second circle labeled “Brokenness”.  We use this second circle to describe what brokenness is like (it’s emptiness, life without purpose, disappointment and discouragement, etc.).  Then, we draw two or three short, crooked lines away from the second circle and talk about how we all try to find an answer for brokenness until we finally realize the answer we need is not within ourselves.  That’s when we draw the third circle labeled “Gospel”.  Here, we talk about the bible’s word for good news and explain that what we could not do for ourselves (i.e., fix our brokenness) God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  We talk about how Jesus, God in the flesh, came down to earth to die for our sins and then rose again to give us eternal life and restore our connection to the God who created us.  To finish the gospel presentation, we draw a line from the second circle (brokenness) to the third (the Gospel) and we write “repent” and “believe” above and below the line, explaining how repent means we turn from our own path and choose to follow Christ.  We invite the listener to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again to give us life.  Finally, on the line between the Gospel and the first circle (God’s design), we write “recover & pursue”.  Then we explain that as a follower of Christ we are empowered to recover and pursue God’s plan for our life which is to grow in our relationship with Christ and Go back to those who are broken and invite them to follow Christ as well.  Simple, isn’t it?  Why not try it today!  See what God will do when you “go and make disciples”!