Honoring God

Honoring God

Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV) Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

Honor the Lord with the firstfruits of all you produce. Love is not an emotion it is an action. It is a noun demonstrated by a verb not an adjective. Love has an extensive definition according to I Corinthians 13. Just a few verses that challenge the entire concept according to the context of worldly like and lust put in its place. One of the attributes of love is found in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The example of Jesus Christ to all mankind. It’s funny how the word “tithing” sends a jolt through people. Bristling at the thought of giving up a tenth of the income makes way for many excuses. So before you decide this message is not for you today, I am not after your money and neither is the Lord. In fact, according to Psalm 50:8-15, God is well-supplied with an abundance and needs nothing from us. Acts 17:24-25 describes it this way – “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Before you get your knickers in a twist, please understand tithing is not a requirement of salvation. Obedience is the opportunity to experience the richness and prosperity of Heaven. The work of Jesus Christ that provides us with grace is more than enough. We are made right with God by the sacrificial offering of Jesus when He laid down His Life for us and by fully accepting Him as our Savior. Yet, there is more. There is an abundance for those who decide to make Jesus Lord of their life. To honor Him and live in allegiance to His Kingdom.

Honor the Lord with… Honor simply put is to worship. To hold in high honor and treat with respect. It also means to accept as valid and conform to the request. The Lord puts it simple and straightforward through the writer of Proverbs. Honor the Lord with your wealth and the firstfruits of all your produce…THEN your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine. There are three resources from which I can give to the Lord. My time. My talent. My treasure. Time is the most valuable. Talent will result in obedience. To give my treasure or the tangible blessings in my life will produce abundance. Increasing the equity in my life. How? The seed produces like kind fruit. Sow your time. You will harvest time. Sow your talent. You will harvest talent. Sow your treasure. You will harvest treasure. What you are willing to sacrifice will be your reward.

Sowing and reaping are not Biblical principles altogether. When God instituted the principle, it was for all mankind not just His People. Therefore if a farmer sows a seed, it will grow because that is what it is commanded to do by God naturally. However, when we make the choice to obey the Lord and return a tenth of the firstfruits to Him, suddenly the same seed is blessed. Faith makes all things possible but faith is not demonstrated by what we see but by trusting the Lord with what is unseen. We give God our time. The most precious commodity of our life. We give Him certain talents. However, when it is time to sow the tangible things in life – most people choose not to. I believe God wants to bless your life today. I know He wants to bless me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) To honor the Lord in whatever you do…work heartily as for the Lord and not men. People tend to live two separate lives. A natural life and spiritual life cannot coexist. There can be only one master. You can only serve one at a time. Therefore, if you want a supernatural life it comes at the price of pride and human productivity. A spiritual life is one that is surrendered and submitted to Jesus Christ allowing His Spirit to produce a godly life working inside and making His Way out of you. To be called a Christian is to take up our cross daily not just on Sunday and Wednesdays. The Light of His Love is to shine through us always. It illuminates our homes, workplaces and every other place that is frequented. The work of our hands will produce something but until our soul prospers it is limited. When faith is the foundation of our life and the Word of God sown in a fertile heart, it produces obedience. Obedience is a form of worship that says, “Lord, I believe in You and trust You with my life.” Only the part or portion of our life sold out and surrendered to the Lord as an act of worship will be blessed. Faith only works where it is applied. God is expanding the boundaries personally set in our heart and mind to live in His Abundance and have a rich and satisfying life. What are you withholding today that is limiting your increase?

Malachi 3:8-10 (ESV) Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts. God invites us to test Him. The God of the Universe who does not need us but desires us offers us the opportunity to test Him. What is the tithe of your life? What is your contribution to God? He promises that if we tithe our life to Him that He will open the windows of heaven over our life and pour out a blessing until there is no more need. You will be satisfied. You will be fulfilled. You will live in abundance of time, talent and treasure. Not because you did anything other than put good seed of faith in God’s Soil called trust and He did exactly what He said that He would do. It’s not the lottery. It is the Word working and doing exactly what God said. This is not just about your money. It is about every area of your natural life. However, if you do not participate in tithing then there really is no reason to think God will increase your life. Why? There is no seed for the Sower.

Matthew 23:23-24 (ESV) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”

Tithing the firstfruits of our life is evidence of faith in God. It was instituted by Abraham in Genesis 14:20 when he gave a tenth of all he had to Melchizedek the High Priest. In Leviticus 27:30-32, the tithe is called holy. Deuteronomy 14:22 – it is a command. Deuteronomy 26:1-2 tells us the tithe is an invitation for God to dwell with us, live in our land, and be our source. In Nehemiah 10:35, it is described as perpetual. We are to give the best of our firstfruits (Exodus 23:19) not what is leftover but first pick of the best things in our life. Are you giving the Lord the best parts of your life today? Or just the broken pieces and leftovers? It is seed in the ground of your life sown in trust. The portion of our life given to God is the productivity of our faith. It only takes a mustard seed of faith to produce abundance and do the impossible. If your life is not marked by miracles and supernatural increase, it would be best to consider the seed of faith being sown.

What are you given to God to use for His Glory? What are you honoring Him with today? Is He getting the best part of you or just what’s left after the world takes what it wants? We would rather give an offering that sow a sacrifice of self. Fear of lack or loss will hinder the possibilities of faithful sowing in our life. It will stop up the windows of Heaven. It will bar increase from entering in. It will stifle abundance because there is nothing for it to come from. To have the rich and satisfying life promised to us by Jesus means giving up this less than enough life that we live. All of it. Withholding nothing from the sowing and reaping of God’s Kingdom but giving Him our absolute best and most valuable parts.

Luke 18:10-14 (ESV) “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

John 15:4 (ESV) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 

John 15:7-8 (ESV) If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

The Lord invites us to partner with Him now and forever. In this life, there is the challenge of integrating our spiritual and natural life into a godly one. We must abide in Christ to prosper. When I got married, my husband and I combined bank accounts. His income was greater than mine but when I looked at the bank statement it didn’t say this belonged to him and this was mine. It was our financial statement. The years that I stayed home with our children. He didn’t come to me and require a contribution to the account. He trusted me to take care of our household and nurture our children. Tithing our life is a contribution to the partnership and union offered to us by Jesus Christ. We have time to give. We have talent to give. We have treasures to give. Tithes and firstfruits that are seeds to the fruitful abundance offered in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Vine. I am a branch. From the beginning of our marriage, we have tithed in regard to our finances. It is evident not necessarily in the bottom line but the fact that God has incrementally increased us over time. He has kept us in during tough financial times. We have experienced God’s Favor in so many ways that I cannot begin to list them all for you now. But if the only area of our life partnered with God is our finances, then our finances would be the only thing thriving. It is important to continually examine our heart and hands to see what there is to honor the Lord with. Our worship is not in our words but demonstrated in faith and trust. To continually invest more and more of our life into God’s Kingdom. Sowing seeds of faith, love and trust beyond any tangible giving until our entire existence is partnered with Jesus and His Kingdom.

Mathematically the tithe is one-tenth. Do you give one-tenth of your waking hours to the Lord? If we sleep six hours leaving eighteen hours in a day, it would mean dedicating and offering God just under two hours of our day. Seems like a lot, until you consider what He can do in us with those two hours. The fundamental test of tithing is trust. Do you trust the Lord at His Word? Do you believe that He is faithful? Find something. Anything. A portion of your life that you are willing to give to the Lord and sow into His Kingdom. No excuses. Just do it.

I leave you with this story. I worked part-time as a church secretary many years ago. A woman and her young child came to the office one day. She shared that her husband would not allow her to give to the church. He would not allow her to tithe or even give an offering. So she loaded her car with supplies and came to offer to clean the church. Now there was a cleaning service who maintained the building so there really wasn’t anything to clean at that time. She seemed discouraged and went out the door. The next thing I know she is cleaning the windows on a hot summer day. The smile on her face shining brighter than the sun as she gave her offering to the Lord with gladness. She has been a living testimony to me ever since. Such a humble example for us all. What can you give today? What are you willing to offer? God is open and ready to receive us as we honor Him and wants to bless us for it.

Proverbs 22:4 (ESV) The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.

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Called To Ministry

Called To Ministry

2 Corinthians 5:10-14 (NLT) Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.

I am called to ministry. You are called to ministry as well. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – God has ordained you. He has called you to be His Ambassador. I do not take this call lightly nor do I associate it with a certain position. It is human nature to be a hierarchy to certain positions. A company has a president, chief operating officer, managers, supervisors and employees. Different levels of authority to establish order and a form of functioning. However, when it comes to God’s Way of doing things, every single living breathing person who possesses His Spirit is called to be a minister of God through Jesus Christ. Have you accepted God’s Call to Ministry yet?

Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.

The most powerful form of ministry does not always come from the pulpit of a dynamic church with great worship and a flawless performance. Most often it is from the unsuspecting saint of God who comes to pray one-on-one with the broken, to continue to pray in their prayer closet for the one forgotten in the crowd, to continually sow seeds of faith and encouragement to others and to give wisdom from their time in the Word. I believe it is like the hand of one farmer placing seeds in the ground. The one who takes God’s Word to heart and decides to reproduce it in others. One by one. Day by day. Season to season. The humble at heart who chooses to remain in the background rather than racing for the platform. The one so moved by the Presence of God after He has come time and time again that they are still dissolved to tears just at the thought of His Nearness. Those who are covered in grace and gratitude just because Jesus still saves, heals and delivers people so convinced of His Great Love that they may even seem a little crazy sometimes.

The one God desires to use the most is the one with the sincere heart. The one who is in love with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. The one broken to self and flourishing in the humble knowledge that weakness allows His Power to work. Those who seek the Lord with all their heart and do not lean on their own understanding. “Spectacular ministry” is not a spectator sport. It is lack luster if the total premise is not loving the Lord and loving others. My life is complete when I bring glory to God. How do I do that? By telling, showing and giving to others what the Lord has done for me.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT) So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

As ambassadors of Christ, it is our goal in life as an authorized messenger of God to establish peace between the Lord and other people. The invitation “Come back to God!” must be covered in love and grace in order to be accurate and appealing to others. To minister is a position that gives service, care or aid. It is one who attends to need. It is to contribute as to comfort or happiness. We do not have the power to snatch another person from hell. However, it is our opportunity to offer them a better way. The Way, the Truth and the Life while earnestly reaching for them in an effort to lead and assist them in gaining freedom through Jesus Christ. Still not convinced you are called?

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Isaiah 61:6-7 (NLT) You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches. Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ to be your personal Savior and Lord, then you have the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord living inside of you. Jesus released His Spirit to be our Holy Inhabitant and help us on the earth. He lives in our heart producing the fruit of the Spirit in abundance, not just for us, but to facilitate our ministry. He has placed a Light in our hearts to shine brightly like a city on a hill. As salt of the earth with an antiseptic quality of healing, it comes packaged as the flavorful and flamboyant Favor of the Living God. It bubbles up within our bellies until living water comes flowing out. You are prewired, prepackaged and fully prepared to be God’s Ministers.

The Lord also gives a promise to those who decide to be His Minister in this life. It is called double. You will receive a double share of honor and possess a double portion of prosperity accompanied by everlasting joy if you fill the position the Lord has called and equipped you to. Comparison is the confidence wrecking weapon of the enemy that makes people think God cannot and will not use them. God caught Moses attention in a burning bush. Moses was in hiding as he tended sheep belonging to his father-in-law. He was saved from immediate death at his birth. He was rescued and grew up in the house of Pharaoh. He killed a man. He fled into hiding. God had other plans for Moses. He spoke to him in the dark of night. Yet Moses, like so many of us, did not have confidence in His Calling but was convinced by his condition that he was not the right one for this mission. He said to the Lord, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” Who is going to listen to me? I know my faults and failures. How will I ever accurately or effectively minister to another person? God answered Moses just like He is working to squelch all of our doubt and fear – God answered, “I will be with you.”

Before discrediting yourself let God confirm your credibility – Jesus lives in you. His Spirit is inside of you. He has predestined you to be the light of the world and salt of the earth because of the God inside of you. In order to fulfill God’s Call on our life – we must love one another. There is no greater gift than for one to lay down his life for another following the example of Jesus Christ. The Word of God says that who He calls is the one who God also equips. You are called to be God’s Minister and Christ’s Ambassador to the world. You have been given this assignment and empowered to do it. So what’s next?

Romans 12:6-10 (NLT) In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:1-2 is the passage about giving our life as a living sacrifice to the Lord. To decide to worship the Lord by choosing not to be like the world or conforming to its standard but being transformed into a “new person” by changing the way you think. A pastor, minister, or preacher is still tasked with being an ambassador to the Lord outside of their paid position. If man repays you for something, it is up to us to find a place of offering. If you receive a paycheck to serve God, then to be a living sacrifice and present an offering to the Lord means serving Him off the timeclock. To be a living sacrifice is to love sacrificially. There are many different gifts that people are given. Romans 12 talks about those gifts and motivations but if you read it – love is the purpose to find an outlet for God’s Love in our life. Love is an emotion to this world. But to God love is a sacrificial commitment which He has empowered us to portray. Just because you are not called to be a pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, or serve in the local church building doesn’t mean God hasn’t called you to ministry. The ministry of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What if the miracle in you is not a mass service with thousands saved but the one who sits in the back all alone. Hiding in their insecurity bound by barriers built by hurt and betrayal – those who come across arrogant but really are just broken people trying to survive and never enter a church? You are the one who shows them kindness, grace and even encouragement. You are the one who listens when no one else can get past the persona to the person. Perhaps what the Lord has brought you through they are now going…what if…is not really what if but will you?

2 Corinthians 6:3-4 (NLT) We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. 

Will you get past what you are going through to let God use you today? Will you stop evaluating who you are not and accept who you are? If you are waiting for the right time, I assure you it is now. The right place is not in a fancy building but the place you are right now. These verses are followed by a telling reality. Paul goes on to talk about all he has endured for ministry including troubles, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, angry mobs of people, exhaustion, sleepless nights, extreme hunger, harsh conditions and some even killed. For what? To share the love of God given through Jesus Christ with the rest of the world. Living in a way that causes no one to stumble because of us. God has called us to be his ministers. Christ calls us his ambassadors. The rest is up to you and me. The Spirit gives life and freedom. To be like Christ means to give our life as a living sacrifice and personal offering to others. Grace is fulfilled when in spite of our weaknesses – we allow the Power of Christ to flow through us. Brokenness is inevitable as the Seeds of His Spirit sprout into the new creation you are called to be as God makes His Masterpiece out of your life…and your ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NLT) It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.

Left Unfinished

Left Unifinished

I Corinthians 3:5-7 (NLT) After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

For a few months now, I have been refinishing a table. It was thrown away like garbage, posted on line as a “curb side” alert. In my heart, I saw a new project piece and immediately thought of someone I knew who could use a gift. She was going through some difficulties in life and I felt the Lord impressing on my heart to bless her. It usually doesn’t take me this long to work on the furniture I find, but this process has been revealing. It seems that every time I begin to work on the table it turns out to be more of a task than before. Just sanding out all the marks and blemishes on the tabletop took days. It had been well-used to the point of abuse. The person who I have been repurposing the table for has been going through her own troubled time of transition. I know that for the last couple of years, the Lord put her in my path for encouragement, instruction and guidance through rough passages. However, just like the table, I have discovered that sometimes God doesn’t always make our work as believers a walk in the park.

I set out this weekend to finally finish the table so it can make its way to her house. I applied stain to the sanded top. I love this step in the process. To see the wood soak in the new color and watch a piece come to life. Well, not this time. The stain revealed some more imperfections that would require additional sanding and retracing some steps. After many attempts to get it just right, I walked away and began working on an old chair for our guest room. It is almost done. The painting went perfectly. The sanding a piece of cake. Recovering the seat was simple and I had enough leftover fabric to match the antique footstool. I stained the back of the chair reluctantly but it was perfect on the first try. Why is the chair taking a couple hours but this table just won’t seem to cooperate? Why isn’t the person who I have been supporting and believing God to renew and restore leaving unfinished? Why is she moving on? Why doesn’t she get it? God, have I let you down? Did I not do enough, say enough, or believe enough for the seed of Your Word to produce much fruit? Sometimes in life, God leaves work unfinished.

I planted. Oh boy, did I sow some seed in this situation. But the one day, the gate to the field closed. No more seed could penetrate the hard ground. The wishy washy rain of uncertainty seemed to wash many of them away. The leaves sprouting up looked like it might bear much fruit but alas it was all just a cover. Apollos, are you watering? There are many times that work is left unfinished but will not be undone. We must not stop planting just because we do not see God’s Increase. I think of all the people who sowed good seed in my life that was watered by others. Confirmed by more than one, just now revealing blossoms of fruit yet to come. I understand the process of growth takes time and many seasons. Sometimes, I must be reminded that God gives all increase. Human nature wants the satisfaction of seeing the harvest but with the Lord trust is obedience that continues to plant and water in the absence of harvest.

Ephesians 1:22-23 (NLT) God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

It is safe to say that my elbow will never meet my nose naturally. I cannot touch my nose with my elbow. Yet they are valuable and important parts of the same body. The cells in my nose have the same DNA as the ones in my elbow. The same brain makes them all work together. The blood that nourishes my nose is the same flow that reaches my elbow. Sometimes it is important to remember that the same body must remain connected even if they cannot reach the other. My hand and knee can reach my elbow even though my nose cannot. However, my nose doesn’t abandon my body or the elbow cease to move because of its lack of proximity. Just because the person you have invested time, energy and maybe even resources into does not necessarily “get it” or leaves our life an unfinished work doesn’t mean you were not faithful or seeds unfruitful. God evaluates our faithfulness to Him. Our dedication to love and be loved. Our commitment to Christ to become complete lacking no good thing. He doesn’t expect us to plant, water and grow. He expects us to be faithful, hopeful and loving. I am an unfinished work just like my friend. I must never forget who the One is that makes us full and complete – His Name is Jesus.

I Corinthians 13:11-13 (NLT) When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

I must be completely honest. Lately I have just wanted to drag the table I am working on out to the trash. As my frustration grew with the person, I suddenly abhorred the process of giving the gift. I know I am a terrible person. I didn’t do it. I have been rubbing, painting, sanding and staining just the same. It is hard to remember all the Christ has done for us once leaving the past behind. All the people who deposited His Love and Truth labeled the Gospel in our life. Sharing the Gospel is our privilege. The purpose of the Gospel is to love. I can give sound instruction. I can stand right by your side. I can encourage you when you are down. I can even hold you when you cry. However, if someone decides to chase after something else. Wander off into the wilderness. Or even just turn and walk way – it doesn’t end there. I am must still love them and pray for them just the same. I have done my part to plant good seed. I have tried my best to be the Light. Now I must wait and watch for the Lord to give His Blessing and Increase – in His Time according to His Plan. Lord, teach me to see that every seed comes from You. The Word I use for water to a dry and thirsty soul – it is You, Jesus. I cannot take ownership of the process that you created and divinely instituted. I am called to love. Let me love every unfinished work in my life with the unconditional and faithful love that deposits new mercy and overflowing goodness in my life each day.

Colossians 2:6-10 (NLT) And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

It looks like the table I have worked on so long will be finished today. God’s Word in my heart is to let it go. He is working all things together for this young woman as He promises to do for me as well. (Romans 8:28) This trust without borders things extends pretty far in our Christian walk as we sow seeds in every area of our life. When we choose to sow good seed in people, it is never wasted. There will be an Apollos down the road to water or maybe many more. The principle to hold on to, have faith in and find glory in is that God ALWAYS gives the increase. His Word will not return to Him void so if that is what you are sowing there will always be harvest down the road. Good seed will find its way through a furrowed, fertile heart so sometimes it is necessary to stumble or even fall to break a hard heart. Sometimes it takes a little darkness to find the Light of His Love. It is our union with Christ that gives us anything worthwhile to give. Sometimes I lose sight of the One who is doing the work focusing too much on what I am doing. My work is nothing without Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:1-3(NLT) I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” These are the words in Revelation to the church of Laodicea. Paul “agonized” for these believers who were becoming lackadaisical about their ministry and calling to Christ. Lukewarm is the term used. As believers, it is our job to sow generously into the lives of other people. We are called to love them even when the work of God in them is not meeting our growth expectation. I am a planter. I am a waterer. From time to time, I am even a harvester. However, in all things – God is the increaser. Christ is the completer. I am only his servant. Nothing good can come from my life outside of Jesus Christ. God’s Power works through the more I am humbled by His Grace. People will pass through our life like seed falling through a farmer’s hand. It is up to me to plant the ones that need planting, water the thirsty and in all things trust the Lord for increase. Human nature would be to be weary in well doing when I do not see the outcome. To become tired of investing my time in people who just don’t seem to get it. To allow unmet expectation dissuade me from my purpose. Not today!

My prayer for all people who cross my path is this: “I want them to be encouraged and kit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.” I want them to discover “all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge” that allow us to be complete lacking nothing in life. The Lord promises to perfect all that concerns me in Psalm 138:8. Today I entrust You, Lord with every unfinished work in my life. If it is in me, Lord I give myself back to You today for increase. Examine my life. Clean me up. Restore me. Lead me to the abundance and fulfillment hidden in my life. If the unfinished work is in others, forgive me for my bad attitude – Lord of the Harvest – increase their faith, hope and love today.

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NLT) Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

By Grace…

By Grace

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

By grace I am saved through faith…the order of redemption is important. How many times is faith emphasized outside of God’s Grace and when it fails to move the mountain, make the way or summon dry bones and dead dreams to life – there is discouragement, disappointment and even doubt? Grace is difficult for mankind as it defies pride and calls for crucifixion. Pride prefers faith demonstrated by works and the façade of perfection. The Gift of God called Grace is essential as it is our escort through the door marked faith. Without grace this door is locked and cannot be opened. When our daughter married her true love, he waited at the altar on the frigid November day. The music played as all the groom’s men and bridesmaids filtered in and took their place. The music changed and everyone stood up as she made her way to the aisle covered in rose petals. Her father had her arm and they smiled as she made her way to the future. Turning to face our soon-to-be son-in-law, he was weeping openly at the sight of his bride. Overtaken by emotion, he held his face in his hands with tears literally running through his fingers. His love for our daughter evident in his reaction. As they joined hands to pray, our daughter dutifully bowed her head still donning the radiant smile from before, but he couldn’t stop looking at the top of her head. Trying to also bow his head, it kept popping up to look at her. It’s funny as I think about God’s Grace today – that this image comes to mind. The Bride and Bridegroom standing at the point of completion. The day that they will become one. By grace, I am saved through faith.

Grace is true love. It is the love of Jesus that flowed from His Broken Body and Broken Heart that day as a remarkable gift. Grace is the goodwill and favor of God given to His People through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. To know, understand, acknowledge and accept His Grace as enough is a requirement for real faith to be initiated in our life. Faith is the seed in our heart activated by grace. However, to try to grow in faith without being fully immersed in grace will only lead to further frustration. The edges and borders of my life are clear cut. It is a giant canvas made white by His Blood in order to become the “masterpiece” as it is called in the New Living Translation or “handiwork” her in the New International Version. I am God’s Masterpiece. Nothing in my life is without potential and purpose to be worked together for my good and completion. It all begins with His Grace. Grace does not change the details of my life prerecorded by the Lord. (Psalm 139:16) It is the access point of all the promises that He has made to me obtained by faith and trust in the Lord. However, it is all through His Grace.

John 1:16-18 (NIV) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Jesus came to provide us a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) This promise is claimed not by what we do but by the grace that is given to us by the One who “is in the closest relationship with the Father”. I am stuck today in this place called grace. Have I tried to live by faith outside of God’s Grace? Is it possible that in my zeal to please God with faith, I sometimes forget that His Grace is sufficient for me? We can only accept grace. I cannot earn it. The grace offered in Jesus Christ is completely and blood bought. I cannot do a single act or make a significant change that will make it affordable to me. It will always be too expensive. It will be more than I can do.

Some assembly required. I often read the reviews of a product before purchasing it to decide how difficult it might be to construct. Many Christmas eves filled with frustration. The box boasted five minutes of construction but the 5,000 pieces represented five days of work. There would be times that after putting it all together the darn thing still didn’t work. So what would I do? I would read the instructions again, and go over each step to see what I missed. For me, this verse today is a flashlight on my heart to determine the areas of my life where I missed the first step called grace. I am pulling and tugging on doors that the Lord will freely open because I have forgotten to remain partnered with grace? I am pleading and praying for things that can only be released by grace? By grace, I am saved through faith. Faith must be first planted in grace to produce other fruit in our life.

Acts 15:11 (NIV) No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

I can hear the invitational hymn that I grew up with playing in my head. “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy Blood was shed for me. And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee. O Lamb of God, I come! I come!” Just as I am. Jesus gives us His Grace exactly as I am. No change in me is required just to come to Him. You know my daughter was absolutely stunning on her wedding day. Her beauty inside radiated in her person outside. As perfect as she looked, she was still imperfect. Her husband didn’t see her faults, flaws or failures that day – only the one his soul loved. When Jesus sees us, it is the same way. As a bridegroom awaiting His Beloved, not based on what we can do or choose not to do. It has nothing to do with anything other than His Love manifested in His Grace which provides us access to His Presence. I can come boldly and confidently before Him not because of my faith but simply by His Grace. Oh that the church would find His Grace again, to rely on the grace given to us by the Love of Jesus and stop trying to reinstitute the imperfect law of grace given to Moses. (Romans 11:5-6) By grace, I am saved through faith.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The Lord’s Grace is sufficient for me. It is enough. His Power is made perfect in my weakness. However, it is quite another matter to boast about my weaknesses. Everyone sins. Everyday. There is no one that can overcome the flesh and walk in complete righteousness outside of God’s Grace given to us by Jesus. Who delights in weakness? Insults? Hardships? Persecutions? Difficulties? Not many people I know including myself. However, it is in weakness that I am able to fully accept His Grace. It is a humble position never a prideful state. The more I know Jesus, the more I see how much I need Him and how little I have to offer.

James 2:21-24 (NIV) Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

I shared with our small group last night the helplessness that I felt at the bedside of our son enduring the horrible effects of chemotherapy. Watching his body suffer and waste away, time after time I asked the Lord to put me in his place fully knowing it was impossible. One day as I prayed, I pleaded with the Lord. I am a mother. These children are my promise and purpose in life. God, you know that I would die for them. I heard that still small voice reverberate through my heart – “You don’t have to. I already did.” His Grace is enough. His Grace is sufficient. It is in weakness and failures that I am reminded that it is by grace that I am saved through faith.

Faith is conceived by grace. There is nothing that I can “do” to please God without faith. But I cannot have true and relevant faith without fully accepting God’s Grace and the truth that it is enough for me. Faith without works is dead. Faith cannot be productive outside of God’s Grace will also be fruitless. If you are giving your all to Jesus and it is still not enough, it may be time to revisit your connection to His Grace. His Grace is always enough. It is not reliant on the things we do.

Abraham withheld nothing from the Lord. His trust in the grace of God and faith in His Promise allowed him to journey to the mountain of sacrifice ready to give his all. However, Abraham is not the only one listed in this passage. God considered Rahab “the prostitute” righteous. Hold up! The Bible does not tell of her radical conversion. It does not detail her deliverance from her profession. Grace is enough. You cannot wash yourself clean enough. You cannot be good enough to attain right standing with God again. You cannot pay the debt that sin has slapped on your life. it is by grace, I am saved through faith. Lord, keep in your grace today. Remind me that it is enough for me and every other person I come in contact with.

Acts 4:32-35 (NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

How will I know if I am reliant on God’s Grace to accompany me through faith? It really is simple. God’s Grace is the Good News called the Gospel. Have you heard the old saying, “You catch more flies with than vinegar”? My grandmother used to say it all the time. Grace is the gospel but is this the message of our life? Faith without works is dead. But faith in God without grace is impossible. Grace is the access point that is the way to the Father through His Son. The fruit of faith fully invested in grace is found in Acts 4. Believers who believe in the Grace of God will have one heart and one mind. No longer will there be division. Grace is the commonality of Christ. It takes me out of the equation and makes Christ the constant. It says that they testified to the resurrection – they spoke truth and life to people without judgment and condemnation which are not qualities of Jesus. Jesus came to show mercy and love to all mankind offering them grace to be set free.  It says, “God’s Grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Redemption. Restoration. Renewal. Revival. All of these are the fruits of faith conceived by Grace. Could it be that our feeble attempts at faith are fruitless because we have tried to achieve them outside of grace? Food for thought. How can I be gracious if I do not know the sufficiency of grace? I cannot give what I have been not received. I cannot express what I have not personally experienced. I cannot live by faith without living in God’s Grace.

Proverbs 22:11 (NIV) One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.

 

Sow Generously

sow-generously

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NLT) Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

The story of Jack and the Beanstalk is about a boy and his poor widowed mother fallen to desperate measures. When the dairy cow stops giving milk, she plummets from provider to problem so Jack is instructed to take her to market to be sold. But Jack meets an old man who offers a handful of “magic” beans in exchange for the cow. The boy decides his offer fair and makes the trade. His mother is distraught over his ignorance and throws the beans out the window in anger. Jack is punished for his clear stupidity and sent right to bed without dinner. This famous story of a handful of seeds that become a gigantic beanstalk leading to a kingdom in the clouds which houses a giant, his wife and a golden goose is a fairytale. It is the adopted mentality of many people who throw themselves and life savings away for something as small as money.

Why are the living conditions of most believers like that of the widow woman? She was indeed all alone. She had responsibility. Just when she thought things could not get any worse, her only source of income dries up. Now what? She sends her son to sell the cow for whatever pennies she will bring hoping to make it through one more day. He comes back with “magic” seeds. She could not believe his foolishness and throws the seeds away. What if by faith the woman in the story had planted the seeds rather than tossing them aside? What if she had tilled the long since dead patch of ground by her tiny dilapidated shack and committed those small beginnings into carefully plowed little rows, watered them, and waited? Would she have produced a crop to feed her household, sell at market, and perhaps share with her neighbors as well? What is in your hand today? What is in your heart? Are you willing to take the time to plant it, nurture it, and give it time to grow? To flip the script a bit, some people are like Jack. Barefoot and fancy free, this young man did not realize how grave the situation or perhaps he did. “Magic” beans appealed to him as it would change his current situation overnight. He couldn’t believe his eyes when the beanstalk appeared. Arriving at the larger than life home of the giant, the pauper became a thief.

You cannot rob the Kingdom of God. It is absolutely ours. God does not have grandchildren only children set to inherit. It is not a requirement to wait for His Kingdom to come. When God’s Will is done on earth, His Kingdom floods it. All that glitters is not gold. The Kingdom of God is paved with streets of gold or so the Bible says, so it is obvious that what we term “wealth” and “abundance” on earth is not the same as Heaven. We do not have to carve out a piece of the Kingdom – it is given to those who sow and reap supernaturally and allow God to provide physically for them. Money has the propensity to set one’s heart free to be who it was all the time. How many lottery winners boast of humble beginnings and find themselves in dire straits within just a few years? Sowing and reaping is the law that governs supernatural provision and providence in our life. On earth it may represent an economic resource, but to use it as such would be a great misrepresentation of the Kingdom that belongs to you and me.

Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

If the secret to prosperity and productivity in our life is generosity, it might be a good idea to see what that is exactly. The word generous comes from the Latin root word “generosus” which means of noble birth. You are a Child of God. You are the offspring of a King. Your current situation only reflects the sowing of past seasons. The harvest in our life today is reminiscent of what was sown in the past season. The prodigal son possessed all of his father’s worth when he lived on his property as a member of his household. When he demanded his own way, given his portion of the inheritance (out of season), what happened? He squandered it all foolishly and decided that it would be better to be his father’s servant than to remain in his own way. What did the father do? Just what our heavenly Father does when his children repent and return to him broken and empty handed. We are of noble birth. It is time to sow the right seed and reap good harvests. It begins with generosity.

Generosity is characterized by liberal giving or sharing. It is an act that is unselfish. People are born in selfishness. A newborn baby comes with a grasp reflex. If you put your finger in their hand and try to pull away, they will instantly grab hold of it. Generosity is to be free from meanness or smallness of mind or character. It represents a large, abundant or ample supply. On a side note, it also denotes a strong flavor. It also means fertile or prolific (producing offspring or fruit). If you are generous, you gain God’s Attention.

Acts 10:1-2 (NLT) In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God.

Acts 10 tells the story of Cornelius. Cornelius was a good man. Hard-working man of authority who was a devout God-fearing man. He was generous. He had a relationship with God. Peter was a Jew. He was a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was a man of ministry following Jesus Christ. Yet on the rooftop, he prayed in hunger crying out to the Lord. The Lord instructed him to eat. He was starving in his religious spirit and so God brought the two men together.

Cornelius had sown well on the earth and desired the Kingdom. Peter sowed well in the Kingdom but needed natural provision here on earth. God provided both of his sons what they needed that day. God does not show favoritism. (Acts 10:34) I believe that if we could grab hold of the importance of living in Kingdom agreement. Cornelius understood the heart of God. He needed an introduction to Jesus Christ to access the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit to bring it to earth. Peter followed God from birth, Jesus through adulthood all the way to the Cross, and even after His Resurrection had a personal relationship with the Lord – Peter didn’t understand the prosperity of the Kingdom though. Two mindsets that needed each other. God brought them together to set them both free.

James 3:17-18 (NLT) But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Sowing and reaping is not a religious act. It is a natural principle. What you sow, you will reap. For a moment, don’t think of it in any way, shape or form concerning finance. I break the bondage of financial security over your life, in the Name of Jesus. Psalm 37:25-26 tells us that the godly are never abandoned, their children do not have to beg for bread, and that they are generous givers. In Psalm 112, godly people are described as generous, compassionate and righteous. When we sow these three things in our life, they will produce the following from it. Goodness comes to them. Evil cannot overtake them. They do not fear bad news. They are confident and fearless. They are triumphant. They have influence and honor. Generosity born of a relationship with Jesus Christ when completely connected by trust which gives from the deepest pocket of our heart produces prosperity of far greater worth than dollar for dollar. We must give from our hearts trusting Him rather than our pockets.

Isaiah 32:8 (NLT) But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.

Generosity is a choice. To give from a surplus is good, to give from our lack is even better. Generosity is not about giving what we want to or can afford to. It is standing firm in generosity when empty ourselves. Trusting God is not necessary in our own sufficiency. Grace provides when who we are, what we have and what we can do is not enough. Sowing and reaping is a generous effort. To sow in finance produces more money. To sow in people builds a Kingdom that cannot be touched or destroyed. Are you sowing generously from your spirit man today? To be the living sacrifice is to give even when it is not given. (Romans 12) It is to offer the Kingdom in every situation, natural condition and even from a broken heart. God bless those who are poor in spirit and realize their need for Him. (Matthew 5:3) To sow generously is our privilege as God’s Children. It releases our inheritance here on the earth.

Deuteronomy 15:10 (NLT) Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

Practical Gifts

Practical Gifts

2 Corinthians 9:15 (NLT) Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

Giving gifts to loved ones and friends is my favorite. It brings me great joy. I am more comfortable as the giver than the receiver. When selecting a perfect something for someone else, there is tremendous pressure to please that individual. It requires knowing them. The more important the person is to us the more crucial it is to find just the right thing. Longing to see their expression when they open it, there is much anticipation until finally the moment comes. It is in the first thirty seconds that we discover if our gift is acceptable or not. It doesn’t matter what words come after the initial reaction. A person cannot hide their feelings most of the time. There is no worse feeling than a gift left unused or unwanted. I would rather the receiver tell me that they have one, don’t like it or need it so that the item can be exchanged for something of use. These are tangible gifts and not the one that is referenced in 2 Corinthians.

As believers who the Lord has invested His Spirit into there are gifts that come from the Father deposited directly inside of us. When allowed to grow and develop, it turns into generosity. A giving spirit in the natural is limited to our financial situation. The Holy Spirit cultivates a whole new kind of giving inside of us that allows us to literally give our life away. There are many famous people who have died over the years very wealthy people who had wasted souls. Feeling no love, value or worth these talented individual have numbed their pain and self-medicated to death, sadly for some an eternal death. The Gift of Love and Grace imparted to us by Jesus Christ is too wonderful for words. It is a call to action.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NLT) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 

God is very thoughtful and practical when it comes to processes. He is very straightforward though many times man complicates it. God provides seed for the farmer and bread to eat. The Word of God is the seed sown in our life. It hits our heart and is either received or rejected. When good seed comes to rest on a fertile heart, obedience is produced. The Lord grows that seed with the help of His Spirit into something that satisfies us. Not only enough for the person, but more than enough to give away. God operates in abundance that is only limited by our willingness to continue the process of sowing and reaping in our life. You will always harvest what you plant. God enriches those who give by giving more to share. Generosity is a calling on our life that must not be ignored. It is representative of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:12-14 (NLT) So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.

Two things are accomplished by giving – it supplies our life and it benefits the life of others which brings Glory to God. Obedience in giving is essential to express our deep affection for Jesus because of the overflowing grace God has given us. We must give our life away. Our faithfulness in giving allows God to give us what He promises in this process. If our resources natural, physical or spiritual are limited, it is time to evaluate our offering. The things we give above what we are required. For example, the tithe is 10% of what you get. Our giving begins in our offering which is anything more than 10%. You cannot give God an offering until you are willing to be obedient. Our life is our ministry. Every single day. Every single moment. Every single breath yields an opportunity to give something away for the Lord.

Luke 11:36-42 (NLT) Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over. “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

Obedience to the rules and regulations of the Word of God are easy. If one takes the time and self-discipline to change certain habits, our life is better simply through our own pursuit of change. Religion versus relationship. Outward change does nothing for our heart though. We can look different, act different and be different but until our heart is changed through a thriving relationship with Jesus – all we have is a religion.

When our son was fighting cancer, the insurance denied his bone marrow transplant. Not once but six consecutive times until all appeals were exhausted. We needed about $350,000 for the hospital to consider the procedure without insurance. I begged and pleaded with every entity that would listen. In the midst of this battle to secure financing for his treatment, the headlines reported that a mega ministry had been robbed. The thieves took more than $650,000 from their petty cash fund. I was speechless.

I believe that church culture is changing from building big fancy cathedrals dripping in gold to evangelist ministries that are taking it to the streets. The remnant church is rising of men, women and young people who are desperate for a move of God and know it will not happen until they take the Gospel outside the church evidenced in generosity to the waiting, watching and dying world. Small groups are on the rise. Church growth is planting rather than hoarding. In other words, rather than building bigger buildings or adding more services, they are developing leaders to move to where the people are rather than waiting for them to come to us. One of my favorite values of our church is the commitment to do anything short of sin to share the Gospel. We must have giving hearts to be an acceptable church.

Ephesians 4:7-10 (NLT) However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

Salvation gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism, the Spirit is ignited and released in our life. The Holy Spirit is not our personal assistant to do our missives but rather our partner of power to facilitate the growth that is needed to give our life away. He is the One who cultivates the gifts and callings from God in our life. These gifts and callings cannot be withdrawn. (Romans 11:29) If this were the case it would challenge the sufficiency of God’s Grace which is more than enough. Paul exhorts us to desire the best gifts in I Corinthians 12 and then goes on to say, “…but now let me show you a way that is best of all.”

I Corinthians 13 is considered the love chapter of the Bible. This is the heart of giving. Love. Love is a commitment not a feeling. I don’t always feel loving towards my husband when we are at odds but I am in love with him always. Love is not emotional but devoted no matter how we feel in that moment. Love is the basis of generosity for the believer. Our giving can never be because we have to but because we love Jesus. If my giving were able to facilitate the Hand of God, I would not need the Lord but that is not the case. You cannot buy God’s Gifts. They are produced from our heart even when facilitated by our hands. (Acts 8:18-21) Every good gift in our life is from the Lord. Everything I have can be used for His Glory.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I am challenged in my heart today to reconsider giving in my life. I can write a check, lend a hand or even pray with another person. But how can my life impact the Kingdom in every exchange? Could it be so simple? We pursue the gifts of the Spirit that result in signs, wonders and miracles. But the Word of God indicates that those who believe without seeing are blessed. The Holy Spirit promises to produce an abundance of “fruit” in my life contradictory to human nature. In Romans 12:6-18 many of these things are listed as “gifts”. I can choose to share the fruit of my life in every single interaction by choosing to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle while maintaining self-control that gives good fruit even when it is underserved or unmerited. The abundance of grace that I have received allows me to give getting nothing in return. Could it be that these the gifts that the Lord desires of us to? Lifestyles of generosity that extend from the heart not our hand?

I Corinthians 1:4-9 (NLT) I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Each day the Lord provides opportunities for us to plant and harvest Kingdom blessings in our life. One day I was walking into the grocery store just as a woman was leaving. Though her cart had just a few bags, it could’ve have been overflowing with the amount of energy she was exerting just to push it. Clearly struggling, it began to rain. As she passed, I turned and fell into step with her extending my umbrella over her. She told me she was sick and having a horrible day. I shielded her from the rain and helped her unload her cart and she was on her way. I thought about praying for her but as the rain got heavier it was clear she just wanted to go home so as I turned back on my errand I began praying for her.

I believe that this is the generosity that Christ is talking about in sharing our gifts. People don’t need us to tell them how to live. They don’t need the Bible force fed. What they need is to encounter people who are genuinely in love and committed to Jesus Christ. More than how we feel or what we have, totally trusting and believing that He supplies all our needs (physical, emotionally and spiritually) so we can give to others even strangers and enemies without a second thought. These are gifts of love that touch hearts beyond any other “thing” we could give away. Love must always be the foundation of giving. I Corinthians 12:6-7 puts it like this, God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

James 1:16-18 (NLT) So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” To fully understand Luke 6:38 is to know and understand the currency of God. The commodity of the Kingdom always has been and always will be love. There came a point in my life when money could not solve my problem. The price tag on our life demanded a sacrifice of self. Jesus paid the price that I could not pay in my sinful condition so I am now free to live in His Kingdom. I have the ability to bring His Kingdom to earth. I have the keys. Jesus gave them to me. Until I know and understand how the Kingdom operates, I will remain subject to the world’s system of giving and receiving which is limited and lacking. As I learn to give more of my life to the Lord, He will show me how to give His Love away appropriately. His Spirit will recreate my heart so that giving is an immediate response rather than forced action. I must commit myself to giving of the love that I have received.

Yes, I have a gift too wonderful for words. There are many “good” things in my life. Even more that the Lord is perfecting by faith and trust, He will see them come to pass. My role is to participate in the sowing and reaping process. To give practical gifts to everyday people. To plant love and sow souls for His Kingdom by sharing this gift too wonderful for words that can only be expressed in the generosity of offering our life to others freely. It is in the slightest gesture of sharing from the Fruit of His Spirit. It is offering a helping hand desiring nothing in return. It is to give a kind word in response to a violent verbal assault. It is to hold the door for another. It is take the Good News to the world rather than waiting for them to come to us. Our generosity is representative of Jesus who gave His All. Lord, show me where to start, what to give and how to perfect generosity in my life!

I Peter 4:10 (NLT) God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

River of Life in Me

River of Life in Me

John 7:37-39 (HCSB) On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been received because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

 

The longer I live the more aware I become of just intricate the Plan of God is for every person ever created. As the past grows larger, I am aware of divine appointments, godly setups, and faith-building exercises woven throughout my life. Steps that led to a divine destination although I was distracted, delayed and discouraged many times, yet the Lord somehow in His Perfect Wisdom led me the place that I needed to be at just the right moment to be blessed. The existence of God is without question when the summary of life’s steps lead to heavenly coordination. In the midst of our travels, there is a river within us pressing its borders, defying all odds, and running freely through us looking for a way out. I want that river to run through me. I want the love and grace that I have found in my relationship with Jesus Christ to show others that He is the most worthwhile pursuit.

 

My girlfriend and I were at a warehouse store shopping for a weekend celebration of our church’s grand opening. Purchasing and renovating a new building culminating into inviting the community to come and see what the Lord has done. There would be a church fellowship, neighborhood blitz, giveback events throughout the community blessing others with free lunches, free snacks, free water, and more free stuff. We chose organizations like first responders and our local pregnancy help center to bless and encourage. On the final day of celebration, we will have a worship service like no other. It is Pentecost Sunday. The day that marks the release of the Holy Spirit on the Christian calendar. While making our way through the store with overloaded carts too heavy to push, people began to ask what we were doing with all this stuff. Smiling, we would share with them what we were doing and celebrating. Asking, “What church?” created the opportunity to invite them to join us for service and lunch.

 

Two hours later at the checkout counter, content each item was marked off the list. I realized just how much “stuff” we had amassed. Loading it until the conveyor for our sweet cashier to go through, I was a bit overwhelmed. Finally, like all the others, she asked what we were doing with all these items. I was excited to tell her that we were giving it all away to bless our community. To share the Love of Jesus and Goodness of God with others. It was obvious she was a believer by her reaction. She got excited too speaking blessing over us on our way out the door. I believe this is what life in Christ is all about sharing those things with others that Jesus does for us. He does not condemn us but covers us with compassion and grace. He does not judge us but chooses love us completely. He gives us better than we deserve and much more than we could ever earn. Generosity is the kind of character that comes from a life of receivership in the Lord. As the river runs through us, it is far reaching. It is demonstrated in the smallest act of love.

 

Ezekiel 47:1-12 tells of a river running through the temple into the surrounding world. It is a life-giving river. As I read this chapter today, I feel the river inside of me bubbling. It is pressing the borders of my life to love more, give more, and be more as a result of my relationship to Jesus Christ. I can do nothing apart from the Lord so it must be the very essence of His Spirit that creates the churning and gurgling need to share with others what I have been given that is so undeserved. This passage somewhat defines the river’s flow through our life which begins with our salvation and continual repentance. (Verses 1-2)The river comes under the temple door flowing past the altar. We are to flourish and prosper in the Lord. Goodness and godliness are two different things. There are many good people who enter the church and decide to do better. But without a daily passage by the altar for cleansing and renewal – the river in us becomes stagnant. We need to repent before God each morning, and tell him again each night if we desire to give from a heart that can move mountains and participate in life-changing miracles.

 

The river in us requires radical obedience. (Verses 3-7) The organization of a body of water to create a flowing river requires a perimeter. As it swells the river widens but continues its mainstream flow. As the man kept moving deeper in the river, less of his person was evident. At some point, he lost control. This is how we build our faith in God. It is step by step. Though we may take a plunge every now and then the truth is it is through radical daily obedience that our river runs smoothly and consistently through us to others. It is a pattern. It requires a discipline flow.

 

When my life allow living water to flow in me and through me, those who surround my life will be blessed by the overflow. (Verses 8-12) Our witness is of powerful renewal and restoration that as it reaches more and more builds into a revival. People want the refreshment the Lord gives us. They desire to stop merely surviving but long to thrive. Our river must be productive to do its job effectively. When my river runs through me, it will refresh the lives of others and produce purity in discipleship. My river has the potential to prosper the lives of others. The completion and wholeness that I have in Jesus Christ comes from many rivers flowing into one that are a Kingdom. We are the sons and daughters of God, the river that runs through us comes from the Father and flows right back to Him.

 

Mark 1:9-15 (HCSB)  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. As soon as He came up out of the water, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You! Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels began to serve Him. After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news of God:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!”

 

Baptism by water is symbolic of the transforming power of God in our life. Buried in the likeness of His Death, we are raised in glorious expectation of full transformation. The Lord imparts His Spirit to those who love Him and desire to become Children of God through salvation and repentance. There are many powerful attributes of God’s Spirit and the Word of God definitely confirms that He is alive and well today. When Jesus came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended on Him and God said, “This is My Beloved Son, I take delight in You! Thank you Jesus for the Holy Spirit…but wait there is more. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. No way, it had to be the enemy. No the enemy met Jesus there and tempted the Lord. Why would God’s Spirit do such a thing? Faith is not built in comfort it is refined by chaos. When our life is challenged, threatened and uncomfortable – we desire change. If you look at this short synopsis that is much more elaborate in other chapters, you will see that our new life in Christ is not all sweet, smelling roses. There still will be thorns that make us cry out for more grace which increases the capacity of our river so it will threaten to overflow its borders and reach the surrounding land.

 

Today our church will celebrate our grand opening by giving back to the community. All those drinks and food will be given away asking nothing in return. Our people are pumped. I am excited as well just to give to others. Greet them with a smile. Invite them to join us as we celebrate. While we invite them come join the party, what we are really inviting them to do is step into the river of God’s Love. It is an invitation to be saved and healed hidden in a water bottle or fresh grilled hotdog. I wonder what would happen if this was how we lived our everyday life. Looking to give away God’s Love without worrying about what we have to do, where we want to go, or the things we need to do but just started scanning the outer banks of our life looking for a way to access others.

 

Exodus 2:2-8 (HCSB) The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son; when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with asphalt and pitch. She placed the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. Then his sister stood at a distance in order to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe at the Nile while her servant girls walked along the riverbank. Seeing the basket among the reeds, she sent her slave girl to get it. When she opened it, she saw the child—a little boy, crying. She felt sorry for him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Should I go and call a woman from the Hebrews to nurse the boy for you?” “Go,” Pharaoh’s daughter told her. So the girl went and called the boy’s mother.

 

The mother of Moses was desperate. By royal order, her son was destined to die. To save his life, she had to trust God and put him in the river. The current would carry the basket holding her promise down to pharaoh’s daughter. She would be his saving grace. She still had to bundle him up, place him in the basket, and release him into the flow. I cannot imagine how terrified she must have been or how long those moments lasted until he was safe again. As the mother of three adult children, I remember the first time they drove off in a vehicle alone. Would they make it home safely? Would everything be alright? Would they make good choices? The only peace found in each moment was to ask the Holy Spirit to go with them and God’s Angels to surround them.

 

The river of life in us is meant to flow through us and then right back out of us. If we are not overflowing with God’s Love and Grace generously sharing our life with others, what is the point? Jesus said that living water would flow deep within us. We must check our overflow for freshness and purity. We must examine the contents and remove the pollution. If our flow does not press the borders of our life to reach others, we need to increase the intensity of our pursuit of Jesus Christ and request His Spirit to flow in us stronger, deeper and wider than ever before. The River of Life must run through us to make it back to the Kingdom of God. The Lord makes each step deeper so our faith and hope grow stronger so that when the storm comes it only makes the current in us stronger, and when the wind is gusting our anchor remains secure. We will not be carried away but God would love for us to get carried away by the flow of His Great Love.

 

Revelation 22:1-7 (HCSB) Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city. The tree of life was on both sides of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent His angel to show His slaves what must quickly take place.” “Look, I am coming quickly! The one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed.”

 

When we ask Jesus to be our Savior and make Him our Lord, the contents of our life will change. Daily repentance and radical obedience creates a flow of God’s Spirit in us whose current is the river of life that we were promised long ago. If our life does not overflow into the lives of others and generate some kind of refreshing and renewal, then we are not truly connect to the Source of Life. We must check each area and border removing anything that might stop the overflow of God from pouring through us into the lives of other people.

 

Reading this passage in Revelation, it all makes sense. The river that washes us and cleans us making us right with our God continues to move us deeper in faith into abiding trust that creates a rushing in our life that creates a desire to flow through the lives of others sharing the gifts of love, grace, kindness and compassion just like we have been given. As we continue through life and the river runs through us, it culminates to the day we reach Jesus. Will the contents and overflow of my life be consistent with the river that flows through the Kingdom? If the Holy Spirit is the river of life running through me, it will one day run into the River of God flowing through His Kingdom? I am asking the Lord today to make the river in me stronger and more fulfilling. To increase the generosity of my life so I always see the needs of others as greater than my own. Make me like You, Jesus so when our rivers connect it will be seamless. To You, King Jesus, be all the power, glory and honor. May it flow from my life into the nations and bring the healing you desire to them all. Does my river make glad the City of God? It is up to me to find out. “There is a river—its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High. (Psalm 46:4 )

 

Psalm 1:1-3 (HCSB) How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

 

Generous Soul

Close up on water pouring from watering can onto blooming flower bed

Proverbs 11:25 (NKJV)

The generous soul will be made rich and he who waters will also be watered himself.

As I begin to go through the closets, drawers and cupboards of our house preparing to sell our house, I find though I think my lifestyle is minimalistic, I am a borderline hoarder. Ok, not really but as the mounds of unwanted, outgrown, unused and forgotten “stuff” accumulates I realize that maybe just maybe all the times I thought that I had nothing to give it was actually hidden in my drawer, closet or high on a shelf. It is easy to give what we no longer find of value or worth. I do not think twice about the things I leave behind at the nearest charity. I am simply cleaning out my house. This is not generosity. It is not giving of ourselves. In fact, it is purely selfish in motive. We tie the word “generous” and even “charity” to our things. It has very little to do with what we have to give physically but is more characteristic of who we are becoming spiritually.

Our daughter’s birthday is today. We celebrated last Friday night. At the end of the party, I had a plethora of food leftover. There were plenty of s’more fixings so I gave it to the youth pastor for the upcoming movie night. Sunday night the remaining cupcakes induced a frenzy at the youth service. I divided the remaining barbeque to feed three households. I shared what I had. Was this the result of a generous soul? Not really. What was I going to do with a mound of marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers but no place to build a bonfire for roasting? Cupcakes are not on my diet plan. My refrigerator could not store all the meat and it was just going to waste. Do you see my dilemma? Was I giving of my heart or of my overflow? Too many times, we stop giving when it becomes inconvenient or uncomfortable. If it is too personal or too much, we take one step back from sacrifice to remain at ease.

To be completely honest, it is easier to give what we have rather than who we are to people. Relationships are messing. People have problems. If I can ease their way or give them “something” they need, it will make things better right? Maybe for that moment or in that situation, but God didn’t call us to live a generous life. He invites us to live with a generous soul.

Matthew 6:1-4 (NKJV)

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

To do a charitable deed is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. To make it a God thing, it must be wrapped in His Love. If your gift makes a way for you to share the Love of Jesus with someone else rather than drawing any kind of attention to you as a person, it is profitable to our soul. What is charity? Charity is God’s Agape Love. Agape love is the love of believers for other people corresponding with the Love of God for mankind. It is unselfish love for others as Christ loves us. To truly have a generous soul, it must move from our hand to our heart. To see what we have as a key to open doors so that the Light of God’s Love can permeate the darkness in others. If we give for recognition, it is not from our relationship with Jesus Christ. To give of anything other than ourselves is good. To give ourselves is God.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV)

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Looking at the “things” piling up in the office and thinking about what to do with them, I realize that my original intentions to “bless” someone is not enough. If I do not take the time to share the Love of God with them, talk to them, get to them, share their struggles and help them along the way – love is not a part of this offering. I can give everything I own away but it means nothing more than a burnt offering in my backyard to an unknown god if I do not cover it, smother it, and infuse it with love. God’s Love. The kind of love that I have been given with the grace that goes with it and the understanding that I have come to know in the Lord.

What is love? Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. It is not arrogant. Love is not rude. Love is not selfish but selfless in all things. Love cannot be provoked so it is not angry nor does it become enraged or exasperated. Love thinks no evil. Love does not rejoice in wrong or when another is caught in wrong. Love is the Truth. God’s Word is the Truth we live by. Love bears all things. Love always extends grace and mercy no matter how deep the hurt or level of wrong. Love believes in all things because its expectation is in the Lord, not other people. Love hopes all things because it is based on the Kingdom that is coming not what we see or feel today. Love endures all things. Those who endure to the end will be saved so I guess love must endure with us to be successful. Love never fails. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love is the leverage we need to extend more of ourselves to other without ever fearing losing ourselves. We are to abide in God’s Love so we are free to love.

I Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

As a believer, our very first call is to love. We are to have faith born of love. We are to have hope born of love. But without acceptance of the Love of God – everything else we do is pointless. We are to abide in His Love. Wrap it around our whole life like a warm fuzzy blanket and extend it to the world we live in. Charity begins with God’s Love and stems from it. It is the fruit of His Spirit in our life that allows us to love the way that Jesus commands us to. As we grow in Christ and His Spirit grows in us, our generosity becomes immersed in love. Charity to the believer is to love like God. It is agape love that is unconditional. It is our motivation for giving. Charity is defined by this world as generous actions and donations to those in need of aid who are poor, ill or helpless. It is something given to one in need. It is goodwill and kind feelings for those who are in need or experiencing disfavor. It is also leniency in judging others. Everyone in need did not just fall on hard times. Some are suffering from consequences self-produced by bad choices or indiscretions, their need is a product of sin or willful disobedience. This is the giving that requires God’s Love so the seed of transformation, salvation, deliverance, healing and restoration is deposited. Without love, faith and hope will never be reproduced in others through us. It all begins with love. Not natural love that requires something of others, but True Love as experienced by those He died for.

Galatians 6:6-10 (NKJV)

Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

The Word of God encourages generosity on every level. There is no greater gift than to lay our life down for another. (John 15:13) Are we truly laying down our life? Or just giving up things that don’t really matter? Is there a sacrifice of self in our giving to others beyond “things”? Everyone likes Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Many preachers will quote the Word of God right before taking the morning offering unaware that this has nothing to do with the money that we give at all. Jesus was telling us not to judge other people but to give them grace. This is that which we “give” to be returned “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” Like produces like. I can give away things and be blessed with more stuff. Or I can choose to give grace, love and time to receive God’s Favor in my life. If I sow in the Spirit, I will reap spiritual fruit. Where my treasure is, there I will find my heart. Where is my heart today when it comes to giving? I want a generous soul.

Let us not grow weary while doing good today. I will continue to give of our surplus to others. However, in doing so, I will make sure that my heart goes with it. Sensitivity to human need begins in our heart and must be given of the heart for godly use. There are many who will give of their hand today to help someone less fortunate. Today, I will give from my heart for as their soul prospers so will mine. God gives seed to the sower. (Isaiah 55:10) It is up to us to plant it in love.

Proverbs 22:9 (NKJV)

He who has a generous eye will be blessed for he gives of his bread to the poor.

The Gift and His Givers

The Gift and His Givers

John 13:34-38 (NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

For the first time in a long time, I have had the privilege of working with the youth for the Christmas program at church. For weeks, the kids and leaders have met together to prepare a piece to describe the victory of won the night Jesus made His Way to earth. Though it seems like a simple story of a man and woman great with child, navigating a lengthy journey to find no vacancy in the local inn who would labor through the night and give birth in a stable among the sleeping livestock. Babies are born every day. I am quite certain that Jesus did not look any different than a normal infant who draws its first breath. It’s funny how life works. As a woman, my body is fully equipped and able to give birth without the assistance of another. We have made it as comfortable and controlled as possible. Not that night, as this young girl produced the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. How could anyone know other than those carefully chosen by God be aware that love, real love, pure love, and true unadulterated, unbiased and unconditional love had burst into the atmosphere?

As we have worked with these young people, I have become more and more aware of the impact of God’s Gift to this world. The truth is that even though I have two sons who are less than perfect, they are mine. I love them. I cherish them and would not allow a hair on their head to be harmed for another human being. I guard them with my life though they are well into adulthood. I would never allow them to die for another or willingly give them up for you. I told these young people that very thing on a night when attention was wandering, playfulness distracting and a lack of self-control prevailed. People would come to church for this one night some to see this very thing. This might be the only chance that we have to share the Gospel with those they love and care for. The stranger who somehow drifted in. Would we do a good job? Would we give our all?

It is the holiday season. I know how busy I am. I can imagine how busy you are. We have long lists of gifts to buy. In each store, I hear couples deliberating what they will give and how much to spend on those they intend to bless in their giving. What are you giving Jesus for Christmas? He has been speaking to my heart. Each time I get overwhelmed in the tasks, get a bit grouchy or become too busy. The Holy Spirit gently reminds me that this is not what it is about. It is about God giving His Son, His Only Son that I may have eternal life. The most precious gift ever given. What will I give back? Since the season began, we participated in parties and events. I have made Christmas goody bags, wrapped gifts, given to those who need it, and so much more in a vain attempt to honor the Lord with my life. Is it enough? Only if I decide in my heart to give myself first. Any gift given is only as valid as the intent of one’s heart.

John 13:34-38 is not a Christmas story passage at all. However, it allows us to see the struggle of mankind in giving back to the Giver of Life with our own. Jesus is nearing His Hour of Sacrifice. He shares with His Closest Friends, His Disciples, His Greatest Desire. We are to love on another. Peter does not agree or disagree but asks Jesus, “Where are you going?” He wanted to go with Jesus even offering his very life to keep his Lord safe. The awful truth comes out when Jesus tells Peter before the rising of the sun, you will deny me three times. Have we denied Jesus this Christmas? Has He told us to love one another but we chose to give Him something else? Something less uncomfortable? A gift that costs less than our self? What He has asked is what He desires? Have we given Him less than our best? Have we chosen to do rather than love? Have we become so caught up in the holiday that we are not honoring Christ and His Birth? I am not pointing a finger at you but rather asking myself. Tonight as people gather together in our church, am I ready to love them? Will I receive them? Or will I be so caught up in costumes and lights that I forget the Light of the World and the Gift for which He is asking?

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

God loved me so much that He gave His Only Son. He gave His Best for me. He allowed His Son to come to this earth and endure a long separation. He watched as the people rejected, abused, tortured and killed His Child. He even turned from Him that day on the Cross as His Wrath was poured out on His Child for each and every sin we have ever committed bore down on Him. My greatest fear is losing a child. Thank God for the Blood of His Son that covers my children each day. The only choice that we have to make is will we take the Gift of Jesus and allow Him to change our life or will we reject His Gift and remain in the darkness. Do not be mistaken there is only one choice – life or death. There is no gray area. Light has come to the world. Many people love the darkness more than light. Whoever choose the Light of God’s Love will live by the truth of who they are and what they have become. To love God means that we must love other people.

Jesus did not to condemn anyone but with the sole purpose that all would be saved. When people encounter us this holiday season, do they see the Gift and the Giver? Can they tell a difference? Or have we somehow taken what was given and assumed a sense of entitlement? Do we freely offer the Love of God to others unconditionally as it was given to us? We are not called to live in the darkness or entertain it but we come in contact with people hidden in the darkness bound by sin. What is our response? Judgment or condemnation? Do we look down on them? Are we able to extend love to them from the unfathomable, unconditional and overflowing Gift we have been given from the Flawless Giver?

 

I John 4:11-12 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

When Jesus saves us, He gives us His Spirit. As we repent of our sins and turn our life fully over to Christ, there is a change in our perspective from the earth to the Heavenlies. God fills us to overflowing with His Love giving seed to the sower so we can now spread this love to others. Unconditionally. Overflowing. Neverending. This requires that our heart is changed to see others as Jesus does. It means that our expectation is no longer in what they can do for us but completely in what the Lord is doing in us. We can now love them when they let us down, step on us, betray us and overlook us because everything we need is provided mind, spirit and body in the Lord. We become complete when our love connects with others tightly bonding together the Body of Christ.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

A few Christmas ago, our youngest requested an IPod Touch for Christmas. It was really the only thing that she asked for. We decided to give her an IPad Mini thinking it would be a step up for her. It was a more expensive and much nicer gift than what she asked for. Our intention was that we would surprise her with something better than she asked for. When she opened it on Christmas day, her face showed her disappointment. When I talked to her after all the gifts were opened, she was clearly upset. “But I didn’t want that…” As a parent, my heart sank. I became angry and tearful. I was devastated that I let her down and mad at her dissatisfaction. She had an expectation. When the expectation was not met as she had planned for her own personal satisfaction, she was disappointed. However, once she began using the gift, it was soon clear that it was perfect.

Sometimes we do not understand that what God is giving us or has already provided in our life is a valuable gift. We have predetermined what will satisfy our soul and fulfill our longings. When God gives us what is best, we become like disappointed children. The Gift that God has given us is His Love. He gave it by giving us the Life of His Son. In Jesus is every hope, dream and desire that we have coming to absolute and complete fulfillment. We must hold on to our hope. We prove that we are His Disciples by loving others. Completely. Are we doing that today? I want tonight’s performance to be flawless, but truthfully if at the end of the night a single, solitary soul finds Jesus and experiences His Love – all the time, preparation and sacrifice will be worth it all.

 

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

 

Do you desire to honor Jesus this Christmas? Are you killing yourself trying to do so? Stop right where you are. I am about to let you off the hook. If you simply hand the Salvation Army bell ringer a hot cup of coffee and tell them Merry Christmas with a smile while dropping a small offering in his pot – you just got it right. If you invite someone to the Christmas play at church, pick them up so they will come, sit by them and introduce them to all your friends even though they don’t look or act saved, guess what? You nailed it. When they cut you off in traffic, instead of offering an offensive gesture, pray that they will make it safely to their destination. Hold the door for others. Smile and thank every clerk. Love. That really is all there is to give. Jesus doesn’t want our fancy clothes, expansive feast, or perfect performance this Christmas. He doesn’t even want us to make vows that we have not the wherewithal to complete. First, Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart. He has given us all of His Love. Then He wants us to love others with the passion the Lord gives us. His Love. He is the Giver. We receive the Gift. To honor Him is to become a giver of His Love ourselves.

II John 6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

My office looks like a wrapping paper factory exploded. As I have begun to wrap gifts and separate them according to each person and their destination, I am beginning to feel like Mrs. Claus right about now. Looking at each pile wondering if I got it right, will they be happy and satisfied. I love giving gifts to my children. Oh, don’t get me wrong I love giving to others as well. But when it comes to my children, I want them to have more than what they need but all of what they want. It’s crazy that we have content children. Their lists were modest this year in fact very few items were not things that I would not provide on a girls shopping trip. Yet, I love to see their faces when they open that one thing they really, really wanted. Like most moms, giving is a gift.

Giving is a gift. It is a quality of God in us that desires to do for other people. Sadly the enemy has made it quite stressful as we cram our doing into a few short weeks each year and pay for it every other day. This is not what the gift of giving is all about. This is not a rant about spending too much, overdoing, too much busyness or any of the other usual holiday stressors. We get enough help in that area. It is about giving. The gift of giving that gets lost in worry and fear. I don’t think it is always an act of selfishness but the enemy’s attack on our confidence in our Father’s Goodness, Love and Provision. If he can somehow convince us that we are required to meet the expectations of those we love and depend on to love us while continually raising the bar, it robs us of the joy in giving due to fear of lack. I break that over your life today in the Name of Jesus. Every good gift and perfect gift comes from the Father’s Love. He is a Good God who loves to lavish blessings on His Children. His Blessing comes without sorrow added to it.

Give and it will be given to you. I would like to reveal that biggest farce spoken from many pulpits today. Giving financially will not necessarily cause you to be increased financially. God doesn’t give like for like (thank you Jesus) because I do not want what I deserve – I am satisfied and overwhelmed by grace. Giving is an overflow of love when our heart cannot contain it and must express it. When we give from our heart and release it through our hands, we are pressed down, shaken together and now run over in joy without the sorrow of regret or fear of missing out. Giving is an act of selflessness when we choose to release what we have by faith in our Provider who indeed gives seed to the sower.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV)

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations. They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

Giving is a quality of the church that is lost. Tithing is not Old Testament but a mandate for today. Giving to the Lord of our firstfruits is covenant. Grace is afforded those who choose not to but it is still disobedience. To give but not tithe limits the increase of godly satisfaction because it is out of order. Wow, wasn’t expecting that to come out. Must be the Holy Spirit. The Macedonian churches in the midst of severe trial and extreme poverty were givers. The joy overflowing in their hearts at the Knowledge and Acceptance of Jesus Christ could not be contained or limited by their current resources. They just chose to give anyway. They “urgently pleaded” for the “privilege of sharing”. It exceeded all expectation. They gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability. Giving themselves first to the Lord, and then by the Will of God to us also. Your gift of love and generosity to the world and its people doesn’t mean a whole lot until it comes with the message of God’s Love and His Son, Jesus. We must be in fellowship for this overflowing joy to come out of us and allow us to give beyond our means and personal resources.

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NIV)

 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

I shudder to add such a long scripture as people often scold me concerning the length of these blogs. I couldn’t help myself so bear with me, please. Generosity and giving must be an action of the heart. True generosity gives beyond our surplus. When we are willing to lay down our life, our comfort, our security, our treasure for another person, God honors the sacrifice because He absolutely identifies with the person who gives like as such. God gave His All for us. It hurt God to see this world reject His Son, torture Him, and kill Him. But He allowed it for us. He loved us so much that God gave until it hurt not to mention Jesus who gave His Life for us.

Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, but oh the generous ones. We decide what to give in our heart but truthfully the Holy Spirit often nudges us first. Most people than toss it around in our mind, weighing the price, considering the cost, and then do what they think they can rather than what God tells them to do. God loves a cheerful giver. One who loves Him so much and trusts Him enough to give when the urgency hits and allows the Lord to provide seed for sowing. Those who sow in the Spirit and out of their hands will be enriched in every way. I know what it is like to live in lack. I understand poverty and sleeping on the floor of a house without power. I also know the luxury of a very nice house with all the featured comforts. The one thing that I know more than anything else is that no matter where I end up at the end of the day without Jesus there is no peace. There is no joy. There is no comfort. I cannot make my life better in any way outside of my relationship with Jesus. The more I love Him, the more I want to give. Giving to others gives me joy and peace as I am about my Father’s business. But giving to my husband, our children, family, friends and my church will never be enough to satisfy the longing of my soul. Faith produces a willing and giving heart that just wants to give more. Do you want to give? Do you feel limited today? You’re not. I rebuke the lie of the enemy off your life and ask Him to break the heavy chains of fear off of your heart so you can give. Something. Anything. It begins the process of shaking down, pressing together and running over. Faith is not a one and done process. It is a life-long endeavor of learning to love and trust Him more. Don’t beat yourself up. Just get up and take one step.

It is crazy that when I decide to do something in my heart with regards to giving. There is always enough. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Working in a church office, a woman came on a weekday to speak to the pastor. He was out of the office that day so she decided to share her plight with me. She wanted to tithe. Her husband who was a nonbeliever forbid her to give anything but a small offering. It was not enough for her. Serving in the church nursery was unsatisfactory. She needed to give more. So she pulled a roll of paper towels out of her tote bag and some glass cleaner, she then asked me if it would be alright if she came each week to clean all the windows of the church. What? I was speechless. I could only stammer enough to say, “Of course, you can.” When she left my office, I began to cry as suddenly all those I was “giving” to God from my surplus seemed small and insignificant.

Giving is an indescribable gift. To become a true giver who taps into the Gift God has hidden in giving requires a sacrifice. You don’t necessarily give until it hurts, you give all that you can. No excuses. When the Lord impresses you to do it, you do. Let’s face it, that’s usually our biggest hold up. We can all give more than we do, but choose not to saying, “I just don’t have it to give.” Is that the truth? Because I know right now between my closet of nothing to wear and pantry of nothing to eat, I can clothe an army and feed them before they go. Why would God give you seed to sit unused? He is a Perfect God. He knows our heart and willingness to give. I assure you that someone is getting the seed that I am not sowing, and I want it back. I want to be a blessing to others because it is my reasonable service to the Lord. If I give myself, all of me, to the Lord, giving is a natural reflex that is born of my faith and trust in Him. As usual, it blesses me more than any discomfort it may immediately cause.

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Grudge giving. Whoa Lord, where did that come from? Giving is an act of love. You cannot grudge and give a gift or it is not a gift at all. God is in the relationship business. Religion absolves our guilt with sacrifice. God applies grace to all that we do making it an acceptable offering to Him. It is not different when we give. All gifts must be preceded by forgiveness and covered with grace. Even in giving to another, it is unacceptable until our heart is right with all. We give unto God no matter who the recipient and He says, “I will not accept it without reconciliation with all.”

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Finally true to form, I am almost done with Christmas shopping this year. The last few years has made this a challenge, but thanks be to God the girl is back on her A-game. The kids really didn’t have extravagant lists. I love online shopping. Plus, we only have two left at home so there are definitely mitigating circumstances. I was pretty proud of myself. Except now, I am compelled to give to others committing to things that I have avoided for many years now. Heart of Worship is a favorite song that we sing in church. “I’m coming back to the heart of worship where it’s all about You…it’s all about You Jesus! I’m sorry Lord for the thing I made it when it’s all about You, it’s all about You!” You get the idea.

Why? It is easy to get caught up in life, busy and even religion so much that we forget at the end of the day and the bottom line is Jesus. He is the Life Giver. His Spirit in us compels us to be like Him and give but the world keeps telling us that we cannot afford to. Friends, we cannot afford not to. The Gift we have been given is life. Life more abundantly. If your life is not overflowing with an abundance of love, peace and joy – it could be the seed is dying in your silo. The answer is not to hang on to the Blessings of God but release them. The first church got it right. They prospered daily. All believers were together and had everything in common. They sold their homes and property so that no one had a need. This world has nothing for me. Jesus died so that I could live in His Kingdom forever. The only commodity on this planet worth anything are human souls. We should give all we have to reach them. We should empower and equip other believers beyond lip service to sharing what God invested in us with them. Giving money or any other tangible item does not “hurt” us. It helps us see that we have a treasure hidden in our hearts worth more than anything on earth. His Name is Jesus. He is the Heart of giving for it is in Him we live and breathe. He blesses us in our giving. Lord, thank you for reminding me today of the importance of giving. Make me aware of the needs of others and give me the willingness to share all that I have.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.