Monday Meditation – Giving

Giving

It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go. – Nigeria proverb

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 NIV

All giving is from the heart.  Giving is first an inner choice before being an outward action.

We must ask ourselves several questions as we give.  It will help strengthen our hearts toward generosity and away from selfishness.

  1. What am I giving? Finances, time, gifts?
  2. Why am I giving? Conscience, habit, guilt, love?
  3. What does God think of my giving?

As Christians we realize that what we have is a blessing.  Being good stewards of the things we’ve been given should be a priority.

A friend of mine had stopped giving to her local church because the congregation seemed to be on a theological course she did not appreciate.  She had been giving money and time to the church but had stopped both.  She continued to attend church because she had been a member there for over fifteen years.  Even though she entertained thoughts of leaving the church, she didn’t.  She still loved the people there.

God pricked her conscience and asked her why she wasn’t giving anymore to the church.  One reason was to “punish” the church for doing what she believed to be wrong.

God asked her if “punishing” the church was an acceptable form of protest.  She struggled with the question because it seemed like a conventional way to get her point across.

However, was that really the case?  She finally concluded that her “punishing” the church was really her attempt to “control” the church. But this is God’s church and that action was unacceptable.

If things were wrong, she needed to make her case.  She needed to show she was invested in the church community.  Withholding her giving was not doing either of these actions.

As a result, she went back to teaching bible study and giving financially.  Within weeks, a ministry opportunity came up that was near and dear to her heart and the church took it on.  Now her tithe and offerings support not only the church but also this new ministry.

We must get our hearts right with God before we start trying to use our giving as a vehicle of protest against the Church.  In some cases, it may be appropriate.  In some cases, it may not.

However, we must all seek God’s guidance so that our generosity is never stunted for our own personal agenda.  Keeping in mind all those that we, as a Church in connection, can help by our generosity begs us to give and give generously.

Dear God reveal to us our innermost feelings and thoughts.  Show us how to give joyously and generously to your ministries here on earth.  Let us put away our foolish intentions and look for your guidance.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Still Small Voice

Still Small Voice

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?  (I Kings 19: 12-13 KJV)

A lady running errands has gone viral.  Why?  Listen to her testimony.

This woman went to the grocery store and saw a homeless man trying to keep warm near the entrance.  When she saw the man, she heard the voice of Jesus telling her that the homeless man liked bananas.  She should buy some bananas for him.

The woman figured on her own that he would also need some protein so she bought him a couple of small nonperishable items as well.  She also wanted to buy him some fried chicken so that he could have some warm food in his belly.

Jesus told her not to buy the fried chicken that the man needed something for later.

The woman persisted in asking why she couldn’t get him some fried chicken.

Jesus said, “I don’t want you to get him fried chicken.”

Well the woman let it go and went to go pay for her groceries.  She separated out the things she had bought for him and took it to him, wishing him a “Merry Christmas and God bless you.”

A lady came up from behind her and said “This is your lucky day.  Here’s some fried chicken for you.” She then hands him the warm meal.

Lesson:  Listen to that still small voice pricking your soul.  Even when the Spirit says no, there’s a good reason.

Dear God, Still us enough to hear your voice not only when you say “yes” but also when you say “no.”  Though we know not the reason, let us still trust you and do what you do ask of us.  Amen.

Meditation Monday: To Receive

Receive

We humans are generally “takers.” We “take” our turn. We “take” our next breath. We “take” over. We “take” charge.

“To take” is to do things alone. Taking is to get for ourselves. For example, if a person is holding out an apple to us, for us, what do we usually do? We take it from their hand. We typically grab it from above.

What if, instead of taking, we received the apple? We would place our hand below theirs. They give us the apple and we would receive it.

“To receive” is to do things in relationship. Receiving takes at least two entities.

What happens if we become “receivers?” Can we “receive” our turn? Can we “receive” our next breath as a blessing from God? Can we “receive” power from those willing to give it?

We can if we work together to be a blessing to one another, partners in love rather than enemies of opposition trying to wrest from each other what we want. Can we receive one another’s stories as we listen carefully and not take them out of context for our own needs?

What God Says About What It Means To Receive

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 CEB

We cannot take the Holy Spirit, only receive it.

From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John1:16 CEB

We cannot take the grace of God, only receive it.

Let us be receivers and not takers. Let us be in relationship with one another and not solitary figures taking what we need.

God the giver of all good things, teach us how to receive and not take. Teach us how to give and also how to receive. Help us to hold each other accountable without judgment but with mercy and good intentions. All of us are learning our way to perfection. Amen.

Meditation Monday: We Are The Church

We Are The Church

We are the church. Jesus promises to be with us no matter what.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

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Meditation Monday: Willing Hearts

Willing Hearts

Jesus is looking for willing hearts, not a dollar amount.

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. Mark 10:17-22 (NASB)

Several American billionaires have pledged to give away their entire fortunes. After securing their family’s needs and wants, whatever is left over they promise to give away to charity.

Giving from abundance is a vastly different experience from giving from scarcity. The amount of choices changes. One billion dollars can fund a lot more works of charity than $100 can.

For Jesus however it is never about the amount. The fishermen gave up everything to follow Christ. The rich man would not give up one thing in order to follow Christ. While one sacrifice was probably greater than the other in total amount, what Jesus was looking for was willing hearts.

Is your heart willing to give? It doesn’t matter if you have billions or just pennies to give; your desire to give what you do have is what brings about the blessings of God. This is what it means to have willing hearts.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” Luke 21:1-4 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father help us to have willing hearts and to be willing servants of your Word. That in giving we fulfill a part of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. Remind us that giving is more than pennies and hundred dollar bills. We are also to give our time, our compassion, our love to those in need of it, just as Christ did and does. Amen.

Meditation Monday: After Easter

Easter

Every Easter we are faced with the image of an empty tomb. Unlike the disciples we do not get the benefit of eating with the resurrected Jesus or the reassurance from putting our fingers in His wounds.

That is why the gospel that tells us of an empty tomb can speak to us powerfully even today.

In Mark’s gospel we are left with an empty tomb, a reminder and good news!

Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. Mark 16: 5-8 (CEB)

Jesus has not remained in Jerusalem. He has gone ahead to Galilee and He waits for his disciples and us there. Why has He gone back to where His ministry began? Wanting us to follow in His footsteps He has gone back to the beginning so that we might start there with our own ministry.

The resurrection is not only the reward but it is the opening of our hearts and minds to the ministry we only knew in part as we traveled with Jesus. In Mark, the disciples are constantly trying to figure out what Jesus is doing with His preaching and His actions. Now they must do. As we do now.

What will be our reaction? Will we be like those who flee without telling anyone where Jesus is as well as not joining Him ourselves? Now let’s return to the start of this devotion and now read the story as ours and a template of what we should be doing in our ministries now that Easter is over.

It is the day after Easter and Jesus waits for us in Galilee at the beginning of the journey. What is our choice?

Holy God, we thank You for supplying us with a place in Your Word. You have called us to do extraordinary feats, but You have not left us alone in doing them. Thank you for showing us the Way. Amen.

Connecting to Advance Mission Work

Mission Work

We live in a busy, fast-paced world. Time is filled with meetings, travel, budgets, family, and community. It seems 2015 was just yesterday and now March 2016 is here. It is not difficult to get caught up in our daily lives and lose track of the people around us. It is easy to never look up and see the needs of the world that surrounds us. It’s easy to never experience or connect with any sort of mission work.

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Meditation Monday: Send Me

Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964. LC-DIG-ppmsc-01269
Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964. LC-DIG-ppmsc-01269

 

“Use me God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 NIV

Send Me

In the most difficult conversations, sometimes it is we who must step forward first to listen. It is easy being the one to talk–especially if there is any passion in the discussion. It is much harder to sit and listen to another’s zealous conversation on an issue without the thought of responding but solely to listen.

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Meditation Monday: Generosity Means…

Gnerosity

God created us to be generous, and it permeates all aspects of our lives, not just in our finances. Generosity is also defined as “freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.”

There is generosity of spirit, of mind, and of heart. This generosity is to be open in our minds, hearts and spirits. It is to be open to ourselves, to others and to God. It is to see abundance in what you have, where others see only scarcity. To be open to change, not fear it. To be forgiving and forgiven, rather than holding grudges.

Sometimes this is easier done with strangers or those who are not in any way like us.

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Finding Strength to Move Forward

iStock_000051251460_Double

Recently I have been part of several conversations with local church leaders about the situations in their congregations. When talking with seasoned or new leaders in the church, the underlying tone is often “…we could do it, but…” That “but” is usually followed by reasons like limited finances, shortage of staff or volunteers, geographic location, etc., that prevent us from successfully being in a particular ministry.

When asked by local church leaders about how to encourage their churches for their ministry, I am always confident the answers are in the strength of each individual congregation. Our mission at GCFA is to be the trusted resource for the denomination and I’m honored to be asked by church leaders throughout the connection about how we can assist with strengthening their churches.

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