Great Gifts

If I asked you what the nicest gift you ever gave someone, I suspect that something would come to mind that would bring a smile to your face, or a pleasant memory to your mind. Over the years, I have given away a lot of things; I have given away three cars, various amounts of money to help people with things going on in life, and other various opportunities to bless someone. But when I think of the one gift that I will always remember as my favorite, it will likely be the rocking chair I gave Margie the first year we were married. The place I was working at the time sold furniture and whenever she came in she would always go to one certain rocking chair and seemed to really enjoy it. So, I made it a point to tell her it sold and then stashed it away to give it to her that Christmas. She has had that chair for almost forty-four years now and it still sits in our living room. She rocked our children in it, and has held her through some restless hours and trying times. If you ever visit our home, you’ll see it there and notice that the finish has been rubbed off the arms due to its years of use. That old rocking chair carries a lot of memories.

 

Paul was one who desired gifts for those he cared for also; in his case, it was not a physical gift it was a spiritual one, and what an amazing diverse gift he wanted for people. He prayed for “the Spirit of Wisdom and of revelation of in the knowledge of him,” a desire that they grow deeper into a knowledge of Christ and get to know Him better. He prays for a greater revelation of the hope that is in Christ, and for a realization of the power that He has for His people. What an amazing gift for us to receive such a spiritual enlightenment and empowerment. If we will open our lives to this gift we would be absolutely transformed into new people with new purpose. The gift I gave Margie has lasted a number of years, but the gift Paul wishes for us is eternal. I pray your life is open to receive and to be filled by the greatest of gifts, the touch of the King of Kings.

 

Ephesians 1:16-20

16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Obedience

Solomon is described in scripture as a man of great wisdom. Early in his role as King of Israel he encountered God in an amazing way, and God promised that if he would continue to faithfully serve him then he, and the nation, would be blessed for generations to come. It sounds like a sure formula for success in life and for the ability to establish a heritage for his children and his children’s children. Who wouldn’t rejoice over such promises? Who wouldn’t want to see our children be born into that kind of heritage? Yet we know that Solomon ultimately turned away from God, began to worship idols, and set his children, and the nation, up for the judgment of God to be poured out upon them. How could the wisest man in the land turn out to be so foolish? For me, it is a good reminder that being wise is still not a substitute for obedience. We can get the finest education, have a wonderful career, strive to establish a great family, but if we walk away from God we are setting ourselves and our children up for judgment.

 

Having an amazing encounter with God is not enough; we are called to walk in obedience to his will and purpose and to bring glory and honor to his name. Solomon ultimately failed the test of obedience. If he, in his great wisdom, couldn’t follow through is there hope for us. I say yes! I believe we can, if we will avoid the pitfalls that befell him. He allowed the influence of others to overcome the influence of God. Our hope is in God, and our strength is in the Godly relationships with others that build us up and challenge us to keep our eyes on God. So I choose to walk with God and with those who are also walking with him. You are welcome to join us for the adventure of a lifetime.

 

1 Kings 9:4-7 4 And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, 5 then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ 6 But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

Dangerous Pride

Luke 18:10-14 ESV

10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 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. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 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!’ 14 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.”

 

Pride is a dangerous thing; spiritual pride is downright deadly. The interesting thing is that as I read of the attitude of the Pharisee, it reminds me of the attitude that can easily begin to infect the Christian community. Of course we would never call it pride or boasting, we call it giving a testimony, and when we try to one up each other’s stories, it is not trying to make our ministry look more important or more effective than someone else’s, it is “giving the glory to God.” It also comes across when one of our primary focuses of ministry is about how many people attend ours versus someone else’s.

 

Perhaps what Jesus was trying to get across to us is that if we spend a little more time making sure our hearts are right before him, and focus on promoting the Kingdom rather than us then we will be the people he wants us to be. I just know, that I don’t ever want to fall into the attitude of the Pharisees. Father help me to stay humble before you and before others so that in all I do, you are glorified. 

Luke 17:20-21 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

 

When Jesus was talking to the Pharisees about the Kingdom of God, he was talking to people who could not see what was in front of them. It would be like playing hide and seek with a toddler and not being able to find them when they are right there, hiding in the open. Jesus was standing in front of them and they were looking past him seeking a kingdom that was not of God’s design or purpose.

 

What are we looking for in the Kingdom of God? Are we looking for special gifts and blessings for our own lives? Are we expecting an outpouring of finances to make us wealthy? Or are we looking for the presence of Jesus and opportunities to serve him and his people. What if the Kingdom is not all about me, but it is all about him? Will I be able to see him? Or will I look past him for a better offer? I pray for eyes to see, and a heart that is open to the presence of Christ and what He wants for my life today. Will you join me in seeking what he wants over what I want?

Unity

Romans 12:4-5

4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

 

I’ve been attending a monthly pastor’s meeting for the last few months. Now the fact that I have meetings to attend is no big deal, but this meeting is one that was started four years ago in an effort to build bridges between the police and the African American community. Up until recently it had not included any Caucasian pastors, but I was invited so I went and have continued to attend. It is not because I want to somehow infiltrate the group, it is because I love my community and desire to understand and care for all its parts.  I think the best attitude has been expressed by one of my dear friends, who just happens to have a skin color different than myself. Joe said it this way, “The time has come to stop talking about the black community, and just start talking about the community.”  The key is that we don’t have a black city, a white city, a Hispanic city, and so on, we have a city, and this city needs to see all its parts as equal and valuable. God did not create us to be separated artificially from one another, He desires that we will discover that we all have value and together we can build a community that brings glory and honor to God, and become the Body of Christ as it has been meant to be. I certainly am not perfect, I have lots to learn and old attitudes that still need to be adjusted, but this is my commitment; I want to love like Christ loved and care for others as He did. I pray He will keep working on me so I can keep learning to love His people. 

Experiencing Faithfulness

2 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV

1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

 

I was sitting in the Coffee Connection considering our faithful staff that gives so much to serve others and make it possible for us to financially support so many effective ministries in our community. Today’s staff was an eclectic group; there was Paul who works for the Texas Department of Corrections, he is also one of our longest serving and faithful volunteers and the guy who is so friendly that people seem genuinely disappointed to come by and find out he’s not here. There is Dawn, a true blessing to us, one of those folks who can never find enough to do and who loves to keep us organized even when we fight to stay cluttered and confused. Then there was Scott, a hard-working veteran who is not afraid to tackle anything, even the nastiest parts of dealing with the aftermath of the public roaming through the place. Last but not least, there is John, another vet and an overcomer, he has fought a hard battle over some physically disabling issues and has come back even more eager to serve and care for others than before his problems.

 

The common thread I see in all these folks is faithfulness; they give of their time, their talents, and their hearts to show people the love of Christ through their actions, their words, and their willingness to direct others into the presence of the only one who can truly change lives. Ministry is an exercise in learning to allow faithful people to be released to do what they are gifted to do. I’m still learning every day, but this I know, learning to have eyes to see the faithful people around me is one of the greatest gifts and greatest lessons I have learned. I pray that each one of us will pause long enough to look around and to consider the faithful people God has brought into our lives, it is not a gift we should ever overlook.

Experiencing the Rain

Joel 2:23 “Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.

 

I was in the coffee shop today when one of the regular customers came by; Harry has a lot of physical problems as a result of being hit by a car years ago, but he stays active by riding a three-wheel bicycle all around the area. It doesn’t matter whether it is hot, cold, clear, or raining, you’ll likely see Harry slowly cruising around the area. As I talked to Harry today, he mentioned that as he rode today he was feeling a fine misty rain in the air. Now from my perspective, inside the shop, looking out through the windows while sitting in my comfortable air conditioned surrounding it didn’t look like it was misting, it just looked like one of those normal overcast days we see from time to time on the Gulf Coast. You see it is hard to really know what it feels like outside when I stay safely inside away from exposure to the elements.

 

What occurred to me was that this is not much different than how it goes in our experience with the outpouring of God’s presence. As long as we stay isolated, and insulated, from what He is doing we can never be more than casual observers. We can sit in our safe places, wondering what it is like, perhaps seeing from a distance some evidence that something is happening, but never feeling it personally impacting and effecting our lives. To feel the rain, I have to step outd and let it touch me personally; I can’t know for sure if it is cold or warm, hard or gentle, refreshing or challenging to my comfort, unless I step out into its presence. I get to choose what I am willing to experience, I want to choose to experience the outpouring of His presence, even if it challenges me to experience things beyond my comfort zone.

John 1:1-5, 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

I spent a number of years as a volunteer firefighter in the area. One of the things that always struck me was the difference between the darkness and the light. When going into a structure during a fire you get to experience what it is like to work in little or no visibility; the combination of smoke and darkness closes in and you have to be extremely cautious with every step you take. As you negotiate the darkness, it often seems as if the structure you are in is immense and full of obstacles to your progress. Then as the fire is extinguished and the smoke is cleared out, I can walk back through the same structure and discover that most times what seemed like a huge building in the darkness has become much smaller and much less confusing in the light.

 

I find that my walk with Jesus is like my experience in the fire service. When I stumble in the darkness, the problems of this world seem so much bigger and more difficult to negotiate; I trip and fall and struggle to find my way. But I have discovered that when I am in relationship with Jesus, his light penetrates the darkness of the issues of life. When I walk with him I discover the problems I thought were so big, and so impossible to face or overcome become smaller and manageable because I don’t face them alone and he shines his presence into my circumstances. As I heard Chuck Girard once say, “We make our problems huge and our God very small; the reality is that our God is bigger than we can comprehend, and in him our problems are very small.” 

The Value of Connections

2 Timothy 4:11, Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.

I spent a part of my morning with an old friend that I have not seen in years. He dropped by Coffee Connection looking for me, so Margie called and I came up to spend time catching up. It is always good to reconnect with people who have walked through some important times in life. We talked together and prayed together and spoke about how we shouldn’t allow as much time to pass before we make time to talk about the things of life, and even importantly, about the work of God in our lives.

For Paul what makes this desire to reconnect even more amazing is that this relationship had been one that had gone from good to bad and back to good. At one point Paul didn’t want anything to do with Mark and now he saw him as a deep need for the work of the ministry. Isn’t that the way God works, the very people we don’t see as valuable he can turn into people we can’t imagine living without. Relationships within the Kingdom can be absolutely amazing; God brings us people to help us grow, help challenge us to change, and who can lead us into new opportunities to serve. And He will use us to do the same in the life of someone else.

The encouragement for us is to get connected, live connected, and share our connections with others. As a pastor friend used to say, “There are no lone rangers in the Kingdom of God.” 

What Do We Think About?

Philippians 4:8-9, 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

I remember a movie I watched many years ago; one of the characters was a young girl that was having trouble with nightmares. One of the other characters told her, whatever you do tonight, don't think of pink bunny rabbits. The next morning the young girl got out of bed all excited because she did not have a nightmare, but she confessed she had dreamed of pink bunny rabbits. Like that young girl, when we make something the focus of our thought life, it becomes all important and it begins to consume our thinking. 

When we make the lusts and the values of the world our consuming focus then why should we be surprised that we keep being drawn into temptation and personal failure. I suspect that if you lined up all the gold medal winners from the Olympics and asked what goal they focused on, their answer would be that they dreamed and thought only of winning their events. Why shouldn't we as Christians have, and keep, a winning focus? Paul gives us a formula for spiritual success to help keep us on track. When the challenges and temptations of life begin to loom large in your mind, change the focus; pray, speak of, think about, and become consumed with the things of God. This is when we will discover the fullness that comes in a relationship with "the God of Peace." 

 

Longing for a Better Game

Matthew 13:17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

 

My son and grandkids invited me to go watch the Astros play last night. It's been some time since I saw a live professional baseball game and the prospect of spending the evening with some of my favorite people made it sound like the perfect evening. And it was, sort of. The Astros won, they hit two home runs, and we got to watch security chase down a man who ran onto the field late in the game. So how could I have anything to complain about? It was a perfect evening with a perfect outcome. Yet I longed for more, I would have enjoyed a little more excitement, more hits, more base runners, things to keep you on the edge of your seat until the last minutes of the game. Don't get me wrong, I loved the evening with my family, and the win, but my human nature gave me that longing for more.

 

We've been given the greatest of gifts, and the greatest of privileges, a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Yet how many times do we as people get caught up in the "isn't there something more" kind of thinking? We find ourselves longing for some excitement, some drama that would keep our attention, and keep us on the edge of our seats?" Perhaps that is why Jesus reminded the disciples of the magnitude of the opportunity they had been given, and just perhaps we need to remember the same truth. We have been given the very best, let's spend more time enjoying it, basking in it, and inviting others to share in it with us rather than wondering what else we should be getting. 

A Knock at the Door

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 ESV

 

We had our son's family over for a meal and to spend a little time with them. As we waited for their arrival, we continued about our life and our preparations, we didn't stop everything and sit at the door, frozen in place until we heard them arrive. But when they arrived, they became our focus; we enjoyed seeing them, hearing the things they shared, and of course being able to embrace them. Having them present in our home is always a special time of joy for us.

 

Our relationship with Christ should be such that we are continuously going about his business and our preparations, but we always keep our ears open for him, for the sights, sounds, and evidence of his arrival. When he makes his presence known, then it is time to stop, and listen, and bask in the intimacy of the moment. When we open the door to him, there is no greater joy, no greater peace that enters into our life. Are you hearing the gentle sound of his presence knocking at your door, seeking to bring into your life the things you will never find on your own? Invite him in, Not only will your life be changed, but you'll discover that he has "food to eat that you do not know about.” 

God is a Consuming Fire

Hebrews 12:29 ESV “for our God is a consuming fire.”

 

I’ve been watching the reports of the massive fires burning in California. Reports by experienced firefighters say that it is the worst wildfires they have ever seen. Families who have barely escaped with their lives say that the fires escalated from a warning to a mandatory evacuation in a matter of minutes. One woman talked of driving away from her home with walls of fire on both sides of the road while the fire department was trying to provide cover by spraying water. It caused me to think of the passages in the Bible that refer to God as a consuming fire.

 

As scary as the wildfires are, they are only a type and shadow of the consuming fire of God that will be poured out on the unholy, and those who deny Him. He has offered invitation after invitation, warning after warning. He desires that all would be saved, but the time will come when every knee will bow before Him. Some will see the effects of the consuming fire and fall to their knees in praise to the one who saved their souls; others will fall to their knees and cry out “Oh, No! I never thought it was true.” Where will you be found when the consuming fire of God is released?

Run Your Race

Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," 

I saw this semi-final race when it was run, and as I looked at the picture, it is easy to focus on Usain Bolt and his amazing talent. He, by far, is a spectacular sprinter and has impacted his sport in ways that may never be matched. It is so easy to look at his face and see in him a confidence that his only concern is how much he wants to dominate his opponents in this race. But his is not the image that captures me; I am caught by the image of determination seen in the face of the British runner. Though he knows he will not win the race, he perseveres. He appears to be giving the effort of a lifetime to finishing this race to the best of his ability, and to finish as well as he is capable of finishing. Isn't this our call as Christians? It is not to be better than someone else, it is to be the best we can be. It is not to give up if someone else seems to be doing better, rather we are to keep running, keep trying, with our only goal to finish to the best of our ability. We may be the Christians whose name will never be spoken on television, or who will never have an impact beyond our own local area, but if we do what God has called us to do, to the best of our ability, then our success will not be measured against other Christians, it will be measured against the call of God for our life. 

Are we striving to serve God, to walk in obedience to the best of our ability? If so, we are winners; if not, then perhaps its time to get our focus right, and to get our hearts back in the race. Let's set our eyes upon the goal and run with all our hearts, our souls, and our might, to do less is to miss what God has for our lives.

Look Up!

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No matter where you look, there seems to be an epidemic of people staring at their cell phones no matter what is going on around them. Recently the announcer at a major league baseball game pointed out a whole group of twenty somethings sitting in the stands staring at their phones while a great play was taking place on the field. They missed everything that had happened because they were busy with texts, selfies and the like. it just seems like we cannot see outward, unless outward means looking at something  someone sent us on our phones.

Spiritually we may not be much different; we often miss the presence and the power of God all around us because we are so focused earth-ward that the miraculous happens around us and we are clueless to it all. Paul admonished the people of the Colossians to look up,  and to seek his presence for it is there we will discover life as it was meant to be. This stuff that so captivates us in this world is temporal and will fade away one day. The things of God are eternal and full of promise. Where are we focused? upward or downward? Towards God or at the dirt around our feet? The choice we make will set our destiny, and change our spiritual trajectory. So in the words of Paul, "Set your minds on things that are above." Let's live the life God has designed for us, without missing anything he is trying to show us.

Provision

“And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”1 Kings 17:2-6 ESV

 

What an amazing story of provision! But is it really possible for God to supernaturally provide for someone’s needs? Or is this just a feel good story that exaggerates the work and the power of God in the lives of people? I do not believe this is a case of spiritual hyperbole, I believe it is an example of the kind of love and compassion that our God is capable of demonstrating. Why in the world would I believe that God can do such things? I believe because I have witnessed his provision in our lives and in the lives of others. While I have never had his provision come in the form of a raven delivering food, I have seen him provide in season and right on time.

 

The first time we experienced special provision was when our daughter was in the Infant special care unit of the hospital. We were traveling back and forth to the hospital, spending money on gas, food and parking; money that we really didn’t have to spend. On one trip, just as we got out of the car, Margie looked down and picked up a $50 bill. While that may not sound like a lot to you, in 1978, to a broke young couple, it seemed like we had won the lottery. Now you may say it was just a lucky find, but I believe it was God teaching us a very special lesson.

 

The second time we saw God provide for us was when we needed to purchase some special formula for our daughter. It was a special formula we had to order it through the pharmacy in case lots. We were out of food, and out of money, we sat at our home trying to decide what to do and where to turn when there was a knock at the door. A woman we barely knew was at the door with an envelope and as she handed it to us she said, “God told me to bring you this.” It was within a few cents of what we needed to be able to pick up what was so desperately needed.

 

I am convinced that our God is capable of doing things we don’t think are possible, and filling needs we don’t think can possibly be filled. Do you know that kind of God? If not, open your heart and your mind to his possibilities, you just may find yourself being the witness to a miracle of his presence.

Stand Firm

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ESV

 

In the midst of questions and concerns about tomorrow, Paul made this encouraging and challenging statement to the Church. “Stand firm,” he didn’t tell them to be flexible in the face of a changing culture. He didn’t say that you have to be seen as nice, as understanding, and with a willingness to go along so no one gets offended, or has their feelings hurt. He says to take a posture of strength and truth and hold your ground. He says “hold to the traditions that you were taught by us,” don’t look for reasons to change what has been proven to be true and timeless and rush to new interpretations that are easier for people to accept. Paul is trying to encourage Christians to be who Christ is calling them to be, rather than to be the ones that the world admires and honors.

Which kind of Christian will we be? Ones who stand for Biblical truth? Or those who yield and sway to the whims of the world. 

Temptation

““Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” Matthew 18:7-9 ESV

 

Temptation is defined as, "the act of tempting or the state of being tempted especially to evil." It is the mind games we play with ourselves as we begin to focus on, dream about, and contemplate things which are not right for us to do or have. It can be anything from dwelling on illicit ways to get rich, to pondering something like taking drugs or sexual sin. The things that tempt us so varied that we could never make a full list of temptations, but we can realize the consequences. When we pursue that which is tempting us, we discover that the outcome is seldom as wonderful as we imagined and the price is always higher than we can pay. Yielding to temptation can lead to the death of relationships, the loss of security, it robs us of peace and joy, and worst of all, it can separate us from our intimacy with God. Playing with temptation is choosing to dance with the devil while believing we won't be corrupted by his touch.

 

One of the powerful examples of the destructive power of temptation is found in 2 Samuel 13 where Amnon was consumed with the temptation of lust. When the story plays out, his sister has been defiled, he is left filled with hatred, and ultimately, if you follow the story on, it costs him his very life. Temptation seldom leads to joy and fulfillment. It is a bitter pill that is best not taken nor even sought after. 

Snares

Psalms 141:8-10

 

8 But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord;

    in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!

9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me

    and from the snares of evildoers!

10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,

    while I pass by safely.

Focus, it is sometimes the difference between survival and destruction. I’m pretty sure all of us have seen the scene in a movie where one of the characters had to negotiate a very dangerous passage while someone else was telling them, “Don’t look down, look at me!” invariably they will look down and either freeze up or slip and have to be rescued. It is much the same way in our walk with God. We have to stay focused on who God is, where he is calling us, and how he wants us to travel. When we do we can have safe passage, when we don’t we find ourselves balanced dangerously on the edge of the trap that has been set for us.  

The Psalmist cried out asking God to keep him from the trap that had been laid for him. This is the promise, God is well able to keep us from the snares laid for us, when we look to him and pay attention to his commands. And just as in the movies, there is great satisfaction in watching the bad guys fall victim to their own schemes. God is a faithful and trustworthy protector of his people, he wants to be the hero that saves us from the wiles of the enemy and even from ourselves. 

Giving

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“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 ESV

There seems to be so much controversy these days about the idea of tithing. Some declare that the tithe is old testament and no longer applies to us today. Others declare that the tithe is an absolute requirement of all God’s people. The one thing that seems to be constant is the finger pointing and righteous indignation that flows from each group. I will not join in the throes of the battle by taking my own legalistic stance, but I will share my own attitude towards giving.

I will start by saying, I do give 10% to God, but it is just my starting point. I have discovered that I find joy and peace in giving into the work of the ministry. For me, 10% is an amount that I give without negotiation, I find it keeps my priorities in line with God’s will and purpose, and I firmly believe that God has blessed my family in ways that far exceed my “investment” in His Kingdom. I also find that 10% is not a giving limit, it is my starting point. I am free to give beyond that to support missions, to give into special opportunities, or to simply be a blessing in situations of need. It has become a heart issue. If I give 10% and beyond, but resent every cent, then my giving is meaningless and I might as well keep it, God is not impressed. Deciding to give a smaller amount because it better fits my budget shows very little faith in God. Giving has to become an issue of the heart, and flow out of my confidence and faith in God. “God loves a cheerful giver.”