Monday, August 23, 2010
Live for the future
It was a busy weekend and promises to be a busy week. Things went well at the Midland church as we let them know we were moving to the church in Stanton. We bought a card and Cherie wrote up a nice letter that was read to the class. Some had already heard we were moving in that direction and had wondered if we were just going to disappear without saying goodbye so expressed their appreciation that we didn’t. We try to do everything right, knowing the delicacy of some and the way the devil takes advantage of everything to cause discord.
The Sunday school lesson was on 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and focused on giving. Sacrificial giving was a part of that and a statement was made that God didn’t want us to give in ways that cause personal distress. I’m not sure I totally agree with that. Now in the context given about greedy preachers pushing and manipulating people to give more than they can afford that’s true and there have been many foolish enough to buy into that to their detriment. But there’s more to it than that. It’s not what you give but why that is ultimately important. For those who were fed the “prosperity” gospel where preachers tell them to give in order to get it’s no different than feeding your money into a slot machine. If the motive is to hit the jackpot you just negated the power of your gift and robbed yourself of all spiritual value associated with it. I know people who run around “Sowing” their money like seeds with the idea they will gain a financial return and benefit from it. I’m sure they will argue with me and can throw up scriptures to support their actions but they have it all turned around and have been deceived so badly.
Again, it’s not what you do but why that is important to God. God judges your heart, not your actions, and the heart is a deceitful thing. Jeremiah 17.9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings." There are many who try to impress God and all those who know them with their giving. But such show is nothing new. Jesus had much to say about those who do things to be seen by others. Mark 21.38 "Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39 and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers ; these will receive greater condemnation." The “devour widows houses” is a reference to how those with money and means often take advantage of those without and thus take from the ones who have less and are needy to further enrich themselves. Nothing new, still goes on today. Just look at the “Payday loan” industry.
After Jesus spoke those words comes this. Mark 12:41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury ; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury ; 44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."
Now we have true sacrificial giving. I suspect the widow gave out of a sincere heart and a true love of those in need for whom the collection was for. Because she was poor she had a first hand insight and understanding of the hardships faced. When I was wandering homeless in the St Louis ghetto it was those around, those who lived in that crime ridden and dangerous area, who helped me the most. Now don’t get me wrong, the people of means at the church I began attending, who gave me their leftover clothes and other things, helped me greatly. But it was the poor who’s gifts had the greatest impact, practical things like a bag of groceries left mysteriously at the door to be found when I woke up, just when I needed food to eat. The reality is that those who have often want more and are less willing to let go of anything they value. Now this is a blanket statement and please don’t take it personally. There are many marvelous exceptions to this, wonderful people who do wonderful things so understand this is just a general observance of the condition of mankind.
In Acts chapter 2 you find a description of the early church Acts 2:44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common ; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart WOW!!! Now I know this whole thought is disturbing to many, and I understand that. But I again turn to the words of Jesus, where I find the most truth and inspiration.
Mark 10:17 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 ?" 18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good ? No one is good except God alone. 19 "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.' " 20 And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." 21 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." 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God !" 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God ! 25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
We’ve all heard the “Eye of a needle” thing many times and it’s a scripture that many a pastor has wrestled with as he tries to reconcile it with those in his congregation who have much. All of this is disturbing for many, and the reason it’s disturbing is because they have much and desire to hang on to it. No one wants to impoverish themselves and thus their families. My question, a question I ask many times is “Do you really believe?” I mean Really, Really, Believe, that God is and that your future is an eternal one? The people of the first church described in Acts did and knowing that the only thing that matters on this earth is what you do for heaven. Jesus told the rich man to “Give to the poor, AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN”. That’s not sowing so you can get something back here on earth, that is Loving those around you in a real way, not just with “I love you” words that end up being empty.
Someone in the Sunday school class slipped me a hundred dollar bill as we were saying our goodbyes. I told him we had just met a lady who was in dire straits and in great need so would pass his gift on to her. Right now we don’t have a hundred dollars in the bank and could use it, but we have food and shelter so are content. We gave the money to the lady after church when we went there so I could work on her car. We aren’t worried, God will supply our needs as He always has. I mention this not to draw attention to it but to show we practice what we preach and so that you can watch as God takes care of us. This way God gets recognized and gets the glory. It’s not giving so we can get, it’s giving because we care and see needs we can meet.
In looking up scriptures as I wrote my thoughts I ran across this in Jeremiah. It spoke to me and I suspect it will speak to some of you. There’s lots to do and I’ve spent over an hour writing so it’s time to go. Remember, Love Life and live a life you can love.
Jeremiah 17.5 Thus says the Lord: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. 6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. 7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. 9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. 11 "As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, So is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, And at his end he will be a fool." 12 A glorious high throne from the beginning Is the place of our sanctuary. 13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed. "Those who depart from Me Shall be written in the earth, Because they have forsaken the Lord, The fountain of living waters." 14 Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, For You are my praise. 15 Indeed they say to me, "Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come now!" 16 As for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd who follows You, Nor have I desired the woeful day; You know what came out of my lips; It was right there before You.