Thursday, August 30, 2012

“It’s a New World!” You Say?

 

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

—The words of the writer of Hebrews from Hebrews 13:8

 

“Awwww! The world’s not like that today. Your just livin’ in the past!”

With these very angry words, a person who had come to me to complain about the way he had been treated at his place of employment stormed out and slammed the door. He had asked to meet with me to seek my counsel regarding how he should react to what he felt was despicable treatment by his boss.

His complaint seemed quite legitimate. He had worked very hard for many weeks to complete a difficult project. Upon presenting his results to his boss, he learned that his boss had withheld critical information from him. This information changed the scope and depth of the project completely.

Instead of apologizing for withholding the information, his boss railed against him and accused him of being lazy, inattentive, and mediocre in his work ethic. Needless to say, he felt abused and mistreated by his boss. As a Christian, he wanted to know how to respond.

I pointed him to the same Scripture passage that I wrote about in my previous blog post, Matthew 5:38-42:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

He was appalled to think that I would suggest he simply turn the other cheek and allow his boss to “slap” him again. I tried to assure him that I understood how he felt. I had spent the better part of my life looking for justice in hurtful situations. I had demanded that liars be punished, that those who despitefully used me be brought down, and that wrongs committed against me be made right. I had wallowed in self-pity, anger, and frustration. After all, right is right!

But then, in His mercy and grace, God reminded me of the teachings of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount. As radical as these words of Jesus seem in light of everything I had previously held dear, I could not deny the clarity of Jesus’ instruction to His followers.

After the man stormed out of my office, I thought carefully about what he had said:

“Awwww! The world’s not like that today. Your just livin’ in the past!”

Yes! It is a new day. Over the 65 years of my life, I have observed the moral compass of our society bending ever southward. As just one example: we have moved from television comedies in the 1950s where the bedroom was usually avoided and when it was shown had Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore sleeping in separate beds to portraying intimate relations between two unmarried people in virtually every type of television genre. And, in most cases, the bedroom scene has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot of the story.

Within the evangelical church we have largely adopted the trappings and attitudes of the secular society where materialism has become the primary measure of success, where the flash and energy of entertainment have replaced the solemnity of true devotion, and where sitting at cafe tables with Grande Caffè Mocha’s in casual clothing has replaced reverential listening to the exposition of God’s Word. Instead of focusing on obedience, we strive to meet felt needs. Instead of calling for radical discipleship, we encourage the warm fuzziness of the group hug. Instead of determining to be “in the world, but not of the world,” we find every possible way to emulate the world so our worshippers will feel “comfortable.”

Old fashioned! Living in the past! If that’s the charge I have to accept, then so be it. But I will cling to the truth of God’s Word as contained in the Scripture verse at the beginning of this blog post. No matter how much the world may change, God remains constant. He never changes!

Donald Doig has expressed this sentiment in a wonderful song that I would like to share with you.

 

 

May it be said of us that we will decide to follow the Son of God—the One who never changes. May we focus our eyes on Him and stay steadfast in following His teachings. Even when His words seem so foreign to us and so hard to enflesh, may we rely on the enabling of the Holy Spirit to do exactly what Jesus asks of us.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We praise You, precious Father, that You never change. We know we can rest securely in the hollow of Your mighty hand. You, O Lord, are our rock and our foundation.

Please continue to help us learn how to respond to Your teachings with obedience. Help us trun our backs on the evil in our world and focus only on Your truth and Your holiness. Help us to compassionately show the love of Jesus to every person who crosses the pathway of our lives.

Thank You for the constancy of Your love and grace. Thank You for the daily outpouring of Your mercy. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Radical Teaching

 

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

—The words of Jesus from Matthew 5:38-42

 

When was the last time you heard someone preach a sermon on the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post? In our current culture of always looking out for Number One, such teaching seems very radical.

Imagine what it would be like if you made a deliberate choice to live your life according to this brief paragraph from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.”

 :

 

First of all, you would never resist an evil person. If the evil person hits you, you must turn your other cheek and allow him or her to hit you again. This applies not only to physical hitting, but also to emotional “hitting” and psychological “hitting,” as well.

As if that’s not enough, if such an evil person sues you seeking your underwear—yeah, that’s what a tunic was in New Testament times—you must give him or her your other clothing, too. So, there you stand naked and the evil person simply walks away with your clothing. Imagine that!

Even more, if an evil person compels you to walk a mile, willingly walk two miles. In other words, do above and beyond what’s required of you by someone who doesn’t have any right to ask you to begin with.

Lastly, if this same evil person wants to borrow from you, give willingly whatever he or she asks.

At the heart of this radical teaching of Jesus is the compelling reality that God cares for those He loves. If you willingly give away what an evil person compels you to give, then God will supply your need. The question for every individual believer is quite simple: Do we believe what Jesus said? Are we willing to take Him at His word? Are we willing to live our lives this way?

Suppose an evil person takes your job away. That’s happened to me and to several of my friends. Do we willingly give our jobs away? Or, do we do everything in our power to defeat the evil person and obtain “justice?”

Suppose a bunch of evil people tell lies about you or say things that damage your reputation. Do you willingly give away your good name and surrender the truth about yourself? Or, do you rise up and defend your reputation and the truthfulness of what you’ve said or done?

Radical teaching—that’s the kind of teaching Jesus taught. That’s why the pathway of obedience to Christ leads to a radical discipleship.

I have to start every day asking myself if I’m willing to submit to God’s way. It surely doesn’t come easily. How about you?

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

How we need Your mercy and grace to even begin to think we can fulfill such teaching of Your Son. It’s radical teaching. Jesus wants us to be radical disciples. We don’t want to surrend our wills to His will.

Please help us, precious Father, to learn to trust You so completely that we can let everything that defines us slip through our hands without trying to defend ourselves. Help us to learn what true obedience means.

And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Being His Witnesses

 

15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.

—The words of Ananias recorded in Acts 22:15

 

The words of the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post were spoken by Ananias to Saul of Tarsus immediately following the restoration of Saul’s sight following his meeting with the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road. They powerfully predict what would happen to this former persecutor of Christians. God would not only change his name from “Saul” to “Paul,” He would change him utterly—inside and out.

Each of us who have come to acknowledge God’s gift of salvation through the blood of His Son have also had such words spoken to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Every moment of our lives, God gives us opportunity to serve as witnesses to a needy world of His amazing grace.

An example of the special ways that God chooses to use us came to mind when I read an article posted in the on-line version of Christianity Today magazine about a new game show, The American Bible Challenge, and it’s host, Jeff Foxworthy. Here’s an excerpt:

Comedy fans know Jeff Foxworthy for his particular brand of Southern-fried humor, with many of his best one-liners beginning, “You might be a redneck if ... ” In more recent years, he’s become better known as the host of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, which enjoyed a popular four-year run on Fox TV before being cancelled last year.

Now Foxworthy is gearing up for his next TV gig as host of The American Bible Challenge, a one-hour show premiering Thursday night
[That’s tonight! August 23rd] (8/7c) on the Game Show Network (GSN).

 



(Note: Your browser must support Adobe Flash in order to view this video)

 

Foxworthy, 53, looks forward to hosting the show that will test contestants' knowledge of Scripture; teams will play to win money for charities.

Foxworthy spoke to CT about his new job, his faith, his sense of humor, and his desire to make the Bible more accessible to millions of viewers.

Jeff FoxworthyHow did you end up with this gig?

Fifth Grader didn’t get renewed last year, which I really enjoyed doing. I never thought I would do a game show, but now I guess I’m now officially in that genre. So the people behind Bible Challenge asked me if I’d be interested. I had to think about it, because it’s a tricky area: Part of me was like, Do you do a game show about the Bible? But I thought, Okay, God, you know I’m an idiot, so you've got to make this clear if you want me to do this or not.

 

“What!?” you might respond. “Jeff’s a Christian?” Yes, he is. And, he sees his role as a witness for Christ as something that fully integrates with the normal flow of activities in his life.

I think today that many evangelical Christians have constructed a sorting box for their lives like the ones that the U.S. Postal Service uses to sort the mail. One of the pigeon holes is labeled: “What I do for Jesus.” The fact that it is separate from other pigeon holes explains why it simply doesn’t work. We cannot be witnesses for Jesus if we live our lives within the compartmentalized boundaries of self-designed pigeon holes.

Here’s more from the interview:

We’re living in a day with a lot of harsh rhetoric, culture wars, and us versus them. A lot of people are shouting at each other, including Christians. It seems that comedy and laughter are desperately needed. What’s your take on that?

I totally agree with you. We go to North Point, Andy Stanley’s church [in the Atlanta suburbs]. Andy just finished a whole series on that point. It’s like, you can call yourself a Christian and you can be a Democrat; you can be a Republican; you can be a white supremacist. Any group can make the skin still fit within that. But Andy finished by talking about Jesus at the Last Supper where he’s like, “Okay, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff in the last three years, but if you don’t do anything else, love one another as I have loved you.” Andy did an eight-part series on that, and I just loved it.

You know what? We’re all screwed up. And the way Christians mess things up is we act like we’ve got it going on. And if we would just stay in that place of, hey, we’re all screwed up and but for the grace of God none of us have a shot here. We need to have a sense of humor about it; that’s kind of the way I’ve always faced my comedy.

 

We need to take a lesson from Jeff Foxworthy. We need to fundamentally transform the compartmentalization of our pigeon-holed lives into one blended life dedicated to serving Christ and His Kingdom. We need to be His witnesses throughout every aspect of our daily lives. If we do that, really do that, we will become genuine partners with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Good News of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Our heart’s desire, dearest Father, is to be witnesses of Your great love and grace to everyone who crosses our pathway. Help us to rededicate ourselves to such a task.

Help us to do away with compartmentalized lives that keep the various aspects of who we are separate from each other. Instead, guide us to become people who lead genuine lives where every aspect blends together into the real person you want us to be.

Thank you for Your Holy Spirit who continually works within us to mold us into people who represent You well. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Comprehending the Numbers

 

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

—The words of Jesus recorded by the Apostle Luke from Luke 12:22-34

 

One of the marks of every civilization that has failed is the fact that the ordinary people never realized just how bad things really were. Of course, they should have known. But the circumstances of their every day lives kept them so busy that they hardly paid any attention to the bigger picture of what was going on in their land.

For example, I hear politicians and pundits throw around numbers like:

  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) takes 716 billion dollars from Medicare and uses it to fund healthcare for individuals who do not presently have healthcare.

  • The current National Debt of the United States stands at nearly 16 trillion dollars.

  • The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the United States—the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within our country—was 15.094 trillion dollars in 2011

  • Total Federal Income Tax revenue for 2011: 2.3035 trillion dollars

Few people can get their minds around numbers like 716 billion dollars or 2.3035 trillion dollars. I suspect that one of the reasons we don’t have a greater sense of fiscal concern stems from the fact that many people can barely balance their checkbooks, let alone understand big numbers.

So, let me see if I can help.

First of all, I suggest that all media outlets do away with the terms “billion” and “trillion.” Instead, I suggest they replace “billion” with “thousand-million” and “trillion” with “million-million.” So, our National Debt becomes 15.094 million-million dollars. The amount of money that Obamacare will take from Medicare becomes 716 thousand-million dollars. Get it?

Now I realize that even this way of expressing big numbers leaves some people in the weeds. So, let me offer some further help.

If a person earns $25,000 per year in gross salary—that is the salary before any deductions—in four years that person will earn a total of $100,000. In 40 years, that person will earn one million dollars—basically a lifetime of employment at the same salary.

To earn one thousand-million dollars (previously known as one billion dollars) that person would have to work 40,000 years. Obviously this is impossible, but it begins to help you get your mind around how big a number one thousand-million dollars really is. Another way of looking at the same number is to say that it would take 1,000 people who earn $25,000 each year for 40 years to reach a total of one thousand-million dollars (previously known as one billion dollars).

To earn one million-million dollars (previously known as one trillion dollars), it would take one million people earning $25,000 per year for 40 years. Or, it would take forty million people earning $25,000 in a single year year to equal one million-million dollars (previously known as one trillion dollars.)

To earn enough money in one year to pay off the 15.094 million-million dollar National Dept, 600 million people earning $25,000 per year would have to give their entire salary to the government. But, our total population in 2011 was only 311,591,917 people. So, we are a little less than half the number of people short.

Then, of course, there’s the problem that not all of those 311 million plus people are employed. In fact, only about 130 million people of the 311 million total population are employed. This makes the percentage of full employment all the more important for the financial security of our nation.

Yes, it’s true that wage earners making $25,000 per year or less represent only about 25% of the total wage earners. But, even so, you can begin to see the magnitude of our debt.

The Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post is absolutely true: God will always care for His own people. Nevertheless, God’s people have a responsibility to use the minds He has given them to understand the truth about the financial plight of our nation. Even as we rest secure in the arms of God, we still have to make very wise decisions regarding the finances of our nation.

This blog post is not intended to be political. In fact, I have written about this subject before. You will find that previous blog post by clicking here. Whatever political party you believe represents your interests the best, you need to do your part to understand what you read or hear or see. After all, that’s part of being a good citizen.

Voting is also a very, very important part of being a good citizen. If, for some reason, you are not a registered voter, please become registered immediately. Then, on November 6, 2012, make certain you vote! I’m not telling you how to vote. I’m just telling you to vote. I believe this will be the most important election so far in my lifetime.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Precious Father, we want You to help us be good citizens of this nation where you have placed us. We recognize that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from You. This includes the privilege that we have of living in the country where we live.

Help us make the effort to understand what the numbers really mean when we hear radio or television news people or politicians talk about those numbers. Give us discernment in making wise choices when we enter the voting booth.

Have mercy on our nation and bring a great sweeping revival to this land. Send Your Holy Spirit to bring a great spiritual change that will turn people’s hearts back to You. Please continue to keep us safe from harm and resting securely in Your love.

Thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rebuilding Trust

 

10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

As the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post implies, the standard mode of behavior for believers in Christ, in their interactions with fellow believers, must be one of “agreement.” Agreement requires a common foundation—a common view of the “Truth.” I use a capital “T” because I’m intending to reference the immutable, unmoving, unwavering Truth that springs forth from God through His written Word. This is the Truth that the Holy Spirit communicates to our hearts when we read the Bible.

So, agreement comes about as a result of a common foundation of Truth. But, it also arises only when genuine trust is present. A lack of trust guarantees that no agreement can exist between believers. We simply cannot “agree” with people we don’t trust.

A very insightful blog post crossed my desk yesterday:

Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And suspicion?

The fruits of the Spirit included on this list should look pretty familiar to anyone who has spent time in a church. So should the final item—even though it’s certainly not a fruit of the Spirit.

It doesn’t take a new Christian long to discover that the church is full of damaged people, healthy wheat and toxic tares growing side by side. If a church leader is of the toxic tare variety, those affected by the leader’s poisonous words or deeds have to find a way to reconcile the sinless life of the Christ they follow with the hurt and confusion they’ve experienced as members of His body. To move forward, many of us re-brand our innocence as naïveté and our newly minted sense of suspicion as wisdom.

With these words, Michelle Van Loon begins her most recent blog post for Christianity Today magazine on-line. Ms. Van Loon has zeroed in on a significant problem in many churches among many parishoners: a lack of trust.

Unfortunately, as Ms. Van Loon carefully explains in her blog post:

Those who stumble while representing or leading us from the platform inject visible new reasons for creating a culture of suspicion in and about the church...

My own leaning toward suspicion was honed after more than a decade where it seemed that my family and I went from one disastrous church situation to the next, including a porn-addicted, adulterous pastor whose secrets were known and safeguarded by his leadership team, a church that split in the wake of a wicked firestorm of unchecked gossip, and a congregation paralyzed by the effects of staff nepotism...

My damaged trust was a perfect breeding ground for suspicion. I relied on that suspicion to shelter me from further possible hurt from church leaders, and called my cynicism wisdom. The patient example of some faithful friends and family members helped me discover that godly wisdom leads to greater trust in Christ and the courage to again trust his people. This trust continues to heal those old wounds in ways that suspicion never could...

Ms. Van Loon’s blog post has brought conviction to my own heart and mind. For some time now, I have stated that “I will never trust any pastor ever again!” And, I have also stated: “I will never again trust any church leaders—especially church leaders who do not meet the Apostle Paul’s criteria for leadership listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-12 and Titus 1:5-9.”

Like Ms. Van Loon, I have very solid reasons for making these statements. My dedicated and self-sacrificing involvement in a church—and being forced out of my volunteer position after five-and-a-half years of faithful service—has subsequently led to three-and-a-half years of intense emotional pain. Not only have I experienced abusive treatment, but I have watched dear friends receive abusive treatment from the pastor and leadership of this church, as well.

I have hardened my heart toward ever again trusting pastors and church leaders. But now, the gently sharp point of Ms. Van Loon’s blog post has disturbed the deeply layered shell of self-protection I have built around my heart:

Increased trust does not mean we turn a blind eye to sin, mute the Spirit’s discernment, or clobber common sense. When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, heal and deliver, he told them, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

We’re left with a choice when we’re hurt and disappointed. We can set up camp in suspicion’s cul-de-sac, convincing ourselves that we’re still on that narrow path. Or we can exercise the trust that says to God, “Yes, I will continue to follow you” and takes a leap of faith in the form of a single step forward, toward restored relationships and believing the best about our siblings in Christ.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We acknowledge that worshipping among brothers and sisters in Christ who have fallen in sin—even as we have fallen in sin—makes us part of a family that needs to always strive toward the wholeness and release from dysfunction that You so generously long to give us. A part of that wholeness must come from trust in You that will, in turn, breed trust in our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We turn to You for help, Precious Father, knowing that You can heal the hurt that binds our hearts. Even while we continue to take a strong, unwavering stand against sin within the Body of Christ, we also ask You to release us from any sin in our own lives that stands as a barrier against fellowship with other believers.

We ask You to work a miracle of Your grace within us. Help us rebuild a healthy trust for those who have proven worthy of that trust. Make us unshakeable in our spirit by securing us to the foundation of Your perfect love. Urge us along the path of obedience You have laid out before us. Help us to act toward others in the same way that Jesus would act toward them.

Thank You for Your watchful care for us. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, August 13, 2012

“I Searched for God And He Found Me!”

 

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Romans 5:1-11

 

Gary is a very interesting guy—some would say a fascinating guy. Others might insist he certainly ended up in a different place than anyone could ever have really imagined.

Born on May 18, 1939, in Coffeyville, Kansas, he was adopted at age three and raised on a farm in a very rural area. He has described his childhood as one with no running water, no indoor plumbing, and no electricity. Molested at age seven, he began to write songs at age ten. At age eleven he contracted spinal meningitis. When he was twelve, Gary and his adoptive parents moved to Arizona.

He formed his first rock and roll band at age fourteen. And, at sixteen, he wrote his first million-selling song and recorded it at seventeen. He was on his way to stardom.

Baby boomers will remember some of Gary’s songs: “Cheery Pie,” “Alley-Oop,” and “Monster Mash.” Over the course of his lifetime, Gary has written over 2,000 songs, had over 600 of them recorded, and watched 150 of them become hits.

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s Gary states that he was searching for the meaning of life. He became part of the alcohol and drug scene and lost everything. He moved to Nashville in 1970.

In 1972, he showed up at a church on a Sunday morning stoned out of his mind. In an interview many years later Gary insisted that he had gone to church to prove what hypocrits church people really were. He expected them to throw him out.

Instead, the preacher that day preached a sermon filled with the story of God’s grace. When the minister gave an invitation to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit compelled Gary to respond. In a moment of time, the God of Grace and Glory transformed Gary from a searcher to one who had become found.

As Gary matured in his faith, he turned his God-given talent to writing songs about his Savior. And, by now, some of you realize that “Gary” is Gary S. Paxton. Since God found him in that Nashville church pew, Gary’s life has had its ups and downs—financially and health wise. But, Gary gives testimony—to this very day—that God has remained faithful throughout the years.

In 1975 Gary wrote a song that has now been recorded over 100 times in five languages. This song has its roots in the story of Gary’s life. It also has its roots in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post and in the Scripture recorded by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 13:5-6:

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

        “Never will I leave you;
            never will I forsake you.”

6 So we say with confidence,

        “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
            What can man do to me?”

Through every confusing time in our lives—even those times that seem like such a waste—God remains ever-faithful. He is always there. He is always working out His perfect will in and through us. So, the time is not really wasted!

Gary S. Paxton was on a search for the meaning of life. All the while Gary was searching, God was waiting to find him. No wonder Gary wrote the words and music to this very appropriate song:

 

He Was There All The Time!
Words and Music written by Gary S. Paxton in 1975


Time after time I went searching for peace in some void
I was trying to blame all my ills on this world I was in
Surface relationships used me till I was done in
And all the while someone was waiting to free me from sin

Chorus:                                                                                        
He was there all the time
He was there all the time
Waiting patiently in line
He was there all the time


Never again will I search for a fake rainbows’ end
Now that I have the answer, my life is just starting to rhyme
Sharing each new day with Him is a cup of fresh life
And, oh what I missed, He was waiting right there all the time

Chorus:                                                                                        
He was there all the time
He was there all the time
Waiting patiently in line
He was there all the time

 

Tanica Campbell sings a delightful version of this song in the following video:

 



(Note: Your browser must support Adobe Flash in order to view this video)

 

God is always there waiting to find you. No matter what anyone may try to tell you, the time you invest in searching for Christ and His Kingdom is never wasted.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Precious Father, we thank You that Your promises remain ever-true. You are always with us. You are always directing our pathways. You are always extending Your mercy, grace, and love to us in abundance. You are always waiting to find us.

We recognize that nothing we do for You is done in vane. Even when it seems we have wasted our time trying to do our best to further Your Kingdom and others disregard what we have done and despise us for doing it, You remind us that what we have done for You has eternal value. Thank You for Your kindness in keeping us focused on Kingdom values.

And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reflecting His Glory

 

7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

 

The passage of Scripture at the beginning of this blog post represents one of the clearest comparisons between the Old Testament Law—the Ten Commandments along with many other instructions found in the first five books of the Old Testament that comprised the Old Covenant between God and man—and the freedom found in the New Testament through the power of the resurrected Christ and the New Covenant.

The rending of the temple veil upon Christ’s death on the cross symbolizes the destruction of any impediment to intimate fellowship that may stand between God and man. We have access to the Father through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We have continual fellowship with the Father and the Son through the power of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.

One of the most wonderful blessings of the New Covenant is the reality that we are never alone. The truth of Immanuel—God with us—comes alive within the depths of our hearts. Christ lives in us. We become one with Him and with the Father. (see John 17:20-25)

Our oneness with God gives us the ability to reflect His glory in everything that we do. We become living testimonies of God’s mercy, grace, and love by reflecting His glorious presence within us. Everything we say and everything we do should reflect the glory God has placed within us because we belong to Him.

A heartfelt expression of this power of the risen Christ finds a voice in this amazing Gospel song:

 

The Unveiled Christ
Words and Music written by Noah B. Herrell (1877-1953) in 1916
A Pastor of the Church of the Nazarene



Once our blessed Christ of beauty
Was veiled off from human view;
But through suffering, death and sorrow
He has rent the veil in two.

Refrain:                                                                                        
O behold the Man of Sorrows,
O behold Him in plain view;
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.


Now He is with God the Father,
Interceding there for you;
For He is the mighty conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.

Refrain:                                                                                        
O behold the Man of Sorrows,
O behold Him in plain view;
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.


Holy angels bow before Him,
Men of earth give praises due;
For He is the well beloved
Since He rent the veil in two.

Refrain:                                                                                        
O behold the Man of Sorrows,
O behold Him in plain view;
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.


Throughout time and endless ages,
Heights and depths of love so true;
He alone can be the Giver
Since He rent the veil in two.

Refrain:                                                                                        
O behold the Man of Sorrows,
O behold Him in plain view;
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.

 

Tenor soloist Dick Goodwin sings a striking arrangement of this deeply moving Gospel song.1 Please listen to this partial audio clip of his recording:

 

 

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

How we praise You, Precious Father, that You have made us one with You and with Your Son through the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. We respond with joy when we realize that we are never alone. We know that Your love surrounds us and keeps us in close fellowship with You.

Please help us to obediently follow the pathway You have laid out before us. Help us to put aside every distraction that would impede our faithful service to You. Grant us an unstoppable flow of Your mercy, grace, and love.

And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 If you enjoyed that song, I would urge you to click on this link to purchase this song or to purchase entire album.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, August 6, 2012

What does it mean to “respect?”

 

16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

—The words of the Apostle Peter from 1 Peter 2:16-17

 

Recently, a friend from Texas narrated this event that occurred at her place of business:

“I’m all about ‘respect!’”

I stared rather blankly at the individual who had just made this statement. You’re all about ‘respect?’ I pondered silently. What in the world does that mean?

This statement came after a rather long period of time where I had tried to counsel this person who had garnered a good deal of ill will. Always approaching every situation with a smile, this person displayed an unusually sharp sentiment of arrogance. A number of my colleagues had complained to me about this person’s behavior. As the supervisor of the department, it fell to me to try to get enough information to make some recommendations for improvement. Otherwise, I would have to terminate this person’s employment.

So here we sat. The person seemed dug in to a nearly untenable position. Arrogance oozed out of this person’s pores. Everything the person said was punctuated by an insipid smile that I found particularly irritating. The person advanced a genuine air of superiority. I could now see why so many colleagues had complained.

Respect. An interesting word, to be sure. But what does the word “respect” really mean? And, perhaps more importantly, what does it mean to “respect” another person?

Social psychologists have much to say on this topic. One particular strategy that has gained in popularity of late is called “Emotional Intelligence.” A chief proponent of Emotional Intelligence (EI)—sometimes also referred to as “EQ”—Daniel Goleman, by his own admission, has rooted much of his paradigm in thinking forged and shaped during a pre-doctoral traveling fellowship in India among the Eastern mystics and meditationists. EI emphasizes building a strong sense of “self,” getting in touch with your own emotions, developing a heightened awareness of the emotions of others, and applying techniques that will drastically reduce arguments and conflicts with others by affirming their “right” to feel as they feel. To some extent, EI seems to offer value to those who have difficulty getting along with others and who choose to employ the principles of EI in their interactions with others.

However, the most significant problem with EI, from a Biblical perspective, is that it is founded on the principle that “truth” is relative. “Truth” becomes whatever an individual feels is true for him or her. To ardent supporters of EI, any acknowledgement of absolute truth—the kind of truth upon which the whole of Christianity is fashioned—sets up a barrier to congenial interaction between two feeling people. Thus, EI adherents strive to short circuit any attempt by others to base behavior on an absolute standard of truth, as defined in God’s Word.

A person deeply involved with EI—one who has built his or her life on the principles of EI—will find people quite offensive who base their actions on the guidance of the Holy Spirit through Scripture. They will “feel” disrespected. They will come to believe that their feelings are not “validated” by the imposition of Scriptural truth. They will often accuse Bibically faithful individuals as being hostile, conflict-generators, harmony-disrupters, and other similar negative terms.

Another problem that arises with some EI practitioners is that people with a fundamentally damaged sense of “self” can take up the principles of EI and use them in a very manipulative way. For example, someone who has low self-esteem because of, say, a physical trait—such as diminished physical stature—may find EI useful in disguising their unrest with self.

In this example, a short person who has developed “short-person-syndrome” as a defense mechanism against feelings of inadequacy, may join his or her SPS-generated arrogance with EI. The person’s arrogance will distort the ordinarily benign empathy of EI, changing helpful EI principles into tools for manipulating others. Such a person might place such an emphasis on “respect,” that claims of being disrespected becomes a hammer to force others to conform to the person’s opinions, beliefs, and decision-making preferences.

Sociopaths, especially those with at least a college- or graduate school-level of education, have been known to latch onto EI as another valuable tool in their manipulation toolbox. Using the principles of EI, the sociopath can execute his or her deceptive agenda of excercising control—to manipulate the behaviors of others—in order to achieve his or her secret and selfish personal goals.

Of course not everyone who has studied and applied the principles of EI has done so with an evil intent. EI offers a number of very attractive “answers” to the question: “Why can’t I get along with others?” Some individuals have greatly improved their social interactions by applying EI techniques. The danger arises when knowledge of EI falls into the hands of someone with distorted or ulterior motives—whether or not those motives are “known” to self. (It’s possible for individuals with untreated behavioral disorders, or mental illness, to be quite unaware of the motives driving their behaviors.)

To give you a bit more insight into the way EI-oriented people think, I offer the following quotations from the writings of Steven Paul Hein, who hosts a series of websites on the subject of Emotional Intelligence. In quoting Mr. Hein, I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting he is misusing the principles of EI in the manner I have described above. Rather, I am quoting from Mr. Hein’s websites simply because he appears to ardently value EI, because he has chosen to publicly declare in writing his beliefs concerning EI, and because I believe he fairly represents the thinking of the many passionate devotees of EI whom I have encountered. I do not personally know Mr. Hein and have no reason to suspect that he uses the principles of EI in any other than the most benign manner.

Hein asserts that EI has five key components—although on different pages of his websites he often modifies this list by adding other qualities or rearranging their preferential order:

Respect

Empathy

Listening

Caring

Understanding

Notice how “respect” holds a primary position in Hein’s thinking. This quotation concerning his mother may reveal an underlying reason:

During the same trip I was reading someone else’s online diary entry about their parents when my mother walked in. I was nearly crying because the entry was so sad. I decided I needed to be more emotionally honest with my mother so, I told her in tears that I did not feel respected by her. I had never said this to her before. She hugged me and started to cry. She said “Of course I respect you.” I said something like, “Maybe you think you do and really believe you do, but I don’t feel respected.” We cried together some more but we never talked about why I didn’t feel respected. It would have helped me if she would have asked me why I didn’t feel respected instead of just insisting that she did respect me. Sadly, if we had started to discuss it “rationally” she would probably have interrupted me, invalidated me, denied most of what I was saying and my perception of things and defended herself. That is one of the reasons we have never fully reconciled, though we are more at peace than we were from 1995- 2001.

I include this quote from Steven Paul Hein’s website not to denegrate nor to disrespect the expressed feelings of Mr. Hein. Rather, I include it solely to illustrate for you the contextual mindset that often drives some, if not many, individuals who have become strong adherents of EI.

Notice the significant emphasis on feelings: “I don’t feel respected.” I have often heard this same accusation from many fervent EI disciples. They base their view of the world on feelings. I suspect, though I have no empirical evidence to support my suspicion, that if they were to have the highly respected Gregorc Style Delineator administered to them, they would have a significantly high dominant score as “Abstract-Random.”

These enthusiastic disciples of EI put feelings on the highest plane—above competence, achievement, productivity, and effectiveness. Thus, in a group relationship, the EI adherent places the greatest value on mutual respect, empathy, listening, caring, and understanding. All other aspects of the group dynamics take a place of lower value.

In the workplace, the EI proponents do not really care all that much about efficiency, accomplishment, task orientation, discipline, competence, effectiveness, and excellence. They only really care about whether or not they feel respected, et. al. They want a pleasant work environment where everyone always cheerfully gets along with one another. They want to always have their feelings validated, even if the productivity and excellence of the workplace suffers. They quite willingly sacrifice excellence on the altar of having their feelings validated. They even may truly believe that if the work environment offers a caring, feeling-rich cocoon, all of the other goals of the business will fall into their rightful places.

Here are some more quotations from Steven Paul Hein on the subject of “respect” that will help you understand some of the thinking on which an ardent EI person stakes his or her claims:

On a practical level respect includes taking someone’s feelings, needs, thoughts, ideas, wishes and preferences into consideration. It means taking all of these seriously and giving them worth and value. In fact, giving someone respect seems similar to valuing them and their thoughts, feelings, etc. It also includes acknowledging them, listening to them, being truthful with them, and accepting their individuality and idiosyncrasies.

Respect can be shown through behavior and it can also be felt. We can act in ways which are considered respectful, yet we can also feel respect for someone and feel respected by someone. Because it is possible to act in ways that do not reflect how we really feel, the feeling of respect is more important than the behavior without the feeling. When the feeling is there, the behavior will naturally follow.

Okay. That gives us some idea how one very fervent EI adherent defines “respect.” But where does he believe respect comes from? Here’s more from Steven Paul Hein:

Real respect is something that is earned. One earns another’s respect by voluntarily doing the things mentioned above, such as taking that person’s feelings, needs and thoughts into consideration.

Respect seems to be like a boomerang in the sense that you must send it out before it will come back to you. Respect cannot be demanded or forced, though sometimes people mistakenly believe that it can, as I discuss below.

Since a baby has no concept of respect, and feels only its own needs when born, the only successful way to teach a child what respect is, is to earn the respect of the child as they slowly grow into a thinking human being.

The way this is done is first of all by attending to the child’s natural needs, such as to be fed and nurtured. As the child grows, his needs change. He has increasingly sophisticated psychological needs. He begins to express his own views, his own preferences, and he has an increasing need for freedom, autonomy and independence. This is when the adults in his life can treat him with increasing respect and thereby earn his respect in return.

It doesn’t make sense to think of respecting a baby in the same way that we say we respect an adult. Yet on some level the two concepts are similar. This similarity has to do with our voluntarily helping that person with their needs. In either case, we must first accept the needs. For example, if a baby needs to be fed at three in the morning we don’t do it begrudgingly if we respect his natural needs; we simply accept that the infant has a natural need to eat at that particular moment. Likewise, if an adolescent or an adult needs to talk, we accept this need and we show respect by listening voluntarily.

“Okay,” you may say, “My head is spinning with all this psycho-babble. What does the Bible have to say about this pattern of living?”

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Apostle Peter sets a tone that does not tolerate any “system” that abridges freedom by turning it into a means of covering up evil. Sadly, some EI people use their emphasis on feelings to distort and manipulate others. They hide behind a pattern of victimhood. They declare they are not receiving proper respect. Then they act—sometimes in the most insidious ways—to extract behavior from others that will accomplish their selfish and well-hidden goals.

The Bible teaches that respect plays out a much different way. Respect—and more importantly, love—comes from the following truth:

  • Every person is made in the image of God. We are all God’s “creations”—His “creatures”)

  • Believers have value and worth because, before the foundation of the earth, God chose us to belong to Him. Believers have moved from “creatures” to “children”—see John 1:12-13)

  • God loves us with His everlasting love

  • God sent His only Son to die in our place on Calvary’s cruel cross

  • God covered our sins with the blood of His Son

  • God raised His Son from the dead to vouchsafe our place in eternity with Him

  • Jesus instructs us very specifically in Mark 12:28-31:
    28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

    29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
    You may not realize that, in each case throughout these verses wherever the word “love” appears, the original New Testament Greek language text uses only one of the four Greek words for love: the word agape, or “God-breathed love.” We cannot manufacture the kind of love Jesus instructs us to extend to God and also to our neighbors. This love must come from God, through the power of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. It is not a love that you can create by changing your behavior to emphasize Emotional Intelligence.

    Further, please notice in these verses that love for God must involve all four domains of human life: heart, soul, mind, and strength. Said another way: emotional domain, spiritual domain, intellectual domain, and physical domain. God wants to breathe His love into us and then have us return that God-breathed love to Him by means of all four of our human domains.

So, if you encounter someone who frequently accuses you or others of not respecting him or her: Beware! He or she just might be someone who has taken cues from EI and distorted its normally benign intent into a tool for manipulating others.

EI has helped many people learn how to sensitize themselves to the feelings of others. It has helped people get along with each other in a more collegial manner with less conflict and less unnecessary arguments. But, like many psychological tools, it can be misinterpreted, misapplied, misused, even abused. It can become something very different than its foundational proponents ever intended.

Life is far more than “feelings.” Feelings have an important role in shaping the healthy lives of people. But feelings cannot consistently dominate every human transaction without creating a dangerous imbalance. Good relationships with “self” and others require a balance of facts and feelings. That’s why the Gregorc Style Delineator discloses that God has given each person some measure of Concrete-Sequential, Concrete-Random, Abstract-Random, and Abstract-Sequential. Even those who the Instrument discloses as having a very high score in one dominant Mind Style still have some measure of the other three Mind Styles as a part of their true “self.”

God’s way for His children—those of us who belong to Him—is to approach everyone with kindness, gentleness, tenderness, and agape—God-breathed love. However, in your approach to others—as you reach out to them with the love of Christ—you must never sacrifice the other qualities God makes very clear in His Word that He expects from those who belong to Him: excellence, efficiency, effectiveness, competence, determination, diligence, faithfulness, and above all else, truthfulness.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Father, we ask you to guard us and protect us from people around us who want to mold us into becoming something that would not please You. Help us to remain as “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Keep us from falling prey to systems of the world that distort Your truth and corrupt Your well-laid foundation for our obedience to You.

Thank You that we can rely on the truth of Your Word, the Bible, to give us the direction for our daily living. Help us to actively submit our wills to Your perfect will for us, so that the principles of Your Word will come alive within our hearts and minds.

And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How much should I give?

 

10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

—The words of the Prophet Malachi from Malachi 3:10

 

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

 

“When they pass the offering plate in church, how much should I give? These are tough times. I’m barely getting by. My family has to make many careful decisions every week. Even if I come to understand what God expects of me, do I really have the faith to trust Him to provide if I give what I should?”

Offering Plate

These are all very good questions. In the Scripture passages at the beginning of this blog post I have chosen to include the two most popular statements regarding giving: one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Both of these give wise counsel. But, neither of them really digs deeply enough to answer the questions listed above in a way that would prove helpful to most people.

Pat McGeachy, in his book Traveling Light,1 offers some helpful advice that draws on these two Scripture passages:

Even with a good budget, the ends never seem to meet. But that’s the point! Budgets aren’t for making ends meet. Money isn’t an end. Budgets are for making means fall into line! The ends we want are what Paul calls the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). A budget won’t buy them, but governing our money wisely may free us to find them.

Let’s begin with what we’ll give away. If you wait until you have paid for everything else and then start looking for leftovers to share, there won’t be any. But if you start with your gifts, by an amazing miracle you will almost always find that there is enough left over to meet the necessities. (I didn’t believe that either until I tried it on a dare with myself, but it does work.) Okay, what percentage of my money shall I give?

All Christians know the word “tithe,” which simply means 10 percent. But to some the word has a hateful sound. Let’s face it, a tithe from one person is harder than a tithe from another. If you made three thousand dollars a year—which is thirty times as much as most of the world’s people make!—a tithe of three hundred dollars might mean shoes or beans for children who otherwise might go hungry or barefoot. But if you made $300,000 a year you could probably squeak by fairly well on the $270,000.00 left over after the tithe. In fact, taxwise, you would be better off to increase your giving to charitable causes. So we just can’t say: Make it an automatic 10 percent and let it go.

What do you do then? Why not take a hard look at what you are actually giving now. What is it? Two percent of your gross income? Five percent? You know a lot of us got into the habit of putting a quarter into the plate when our parents gave it to us as children, and we’re still operating at that level. Now set yourself a goal of increasing it a little (maybe one or two percentage points a year) until you get to a place that you honestly consider a sacrificial level. Don’t stop at 10 percent. I know a family that puts aside 30 percent of their income into a special bank account each month. At the end of the month, they take pleasure in writing a check for 10 percent to their church, another 10 percent to regular causes in their community, and (here’s the best part), they save the third portion to build up interest until something really special comes along. Then they have a family council and decide how to spend it.

Can you imagine how much more fun it is to decide what to do with a surplus than to have the usual squabble over what to trim? But never mind about what the Joneses are doing. You and I have to establish our own budgets, not somebody else’s. And no simple formula will work. The tithe means 10 percent.

But is that 10 percent to the church, or 10 percent to all charitable causes? And do I take it off before or after income taxes? The answer is none of these things. That figure of 10 percent, which used to be a legal obligation on the ancient Hebrews, is still a good starting point for Christian giving, but it isn’t the end we seek. To give the whole tithe to the church, before taxes would merely be a duty fulfilled and no grounds for glory (see Luke 17:10). We can’t stop there. Like the rich young man, we have to go the whole way (Mark 10:21).

The truth remains: we can all give more. How do I dare make that statement? Because unless you are a very unique individual, you are not giving anything close to 10 percent of your gross income. I know that because I see frequent published reports from both denominational and non-denominational churches. Why the average giving to churches hovers at around two to three percent. That’s a mere pittance of what God’s people should return to Him. After all, He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17)

So, the question needs an answer: How much will you give? Before you answer, remember that every penny you withhold from God keeps the ministry of His body, the church, from fulfilling the responsibilities He has given us. Whether it’s planting a new church or sending a missionary to a foreign land, it takes money to make that happen. It takes your money. And, it takes my money. Let’s give generously, as unto the Lord.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Precious Father, help us to examine our own giving. Prompt us, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, to determine to give back to you a carefully chosen and appropriate portion of all that You have so graciously given us.

We acknowledge that everything we have and everything we are comes as a gift from You. Help us to be good stewards of what You have given us. Keep us from being stingy with our gifts to Your church.

And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 Traveling Light, Daniel Patrick McGeachy, Abingdon Press, pages 87-89.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.