Posts Tagged ‘Supplying Every Need’

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 14: Transformed by love

November 8, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Luke 19:1-10

Christmas season will soon be upon us. One of my favorite holiday traditions is re-watching my favorite Christmas movies and TV specials, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Zacchaeus, in today’s scripture, is a real-life Grinch. He’s a tax collector, the most hated man in Palestine. Like the Grinch, he literally stole from other people—and because he had the army of the Roman Empire backing him up, the people he stole from were helpless to do anything about it.

grinch

Jesus, however, like the Whos in Who-ville, loves this Grinch and invites him share a meal with him.

Even more importantly, Jesus invites Zacchaeus into a saving relationship with God. And like the Grinch, Zacchaeus repents and gives back all that he’s stolen—and then some. “Today,” Jesus says of Zacchaeus, “salvation has come to this house.”

It’s easy to see that just as the Grinch’s life was transformed by the love of the Whos, so Zacchaeus’s life was transformed by the life-changing love of Jesus Christ. And one symptom of this change was Zacchaeus’s newfound generosity.

Has your life been transformed by the love of God through Christ? Has salvation come to your house?

If so, this is the best reason to be generous in our financial giving: because God has been generous with us. God didn’t spare his Son but gave him up in order to save us. “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

If, like Zacchaeus in today’s scripture, you’re ready to receive God’s gift of salvation in Christ, begin by praying this prayer:

Almighty God, I confess to you that like Zacchaeus, I am a sinner in need of your forgiveness. I know that because of my sins I deserve nothing better than death and hell. But I also know that you loved me too much to leave me this way. I am sorry for my sins and with your help I am turning away from them now. I believe that your Son Jesus is Lord. I believe that through Jesus—through his death on the cross and through his resurrection from the dead—you are offering me forgiveness and eternal life. Enable me to receive that gift now. I promise, by your grace and power, to be a faithful follower of Jesus for the rest of my life—in this world and in the world to come. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer, please let me or someone else know. I would love to help you as you begin this journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 13: Give all you can

November 7, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Leviticus 27:30-33

In the Old Testament, God’s people were required to give a tenth of their income to God’s work and to the poor. For Christians, the tithe remains the biblical standard for giving to church.

I’ve heard some Christians object to the tithe: “Yes, but tithing is from the Old Testament—it’s from the Law. We’re not under the Law anymore. We don’t want to be legalistic—like the Pharisees.”

In a way that’s true. We Christians certainly don’t believe that by tithing we are contributing one iota to what Christ accomplished for us on the cross: we are saved completely by God’s grace alone. As I said in an earlier devotional, even 80 percent of Warren Buffett’s billions wouldn’t do anything to move him closer to heaven.

And I agree we don’t want to be legalistic about the tithe. But that goes in both directions: ten percent of our income may not be enough! God might want us to give more than ten percent!

I like John Wesley’s three rules about money:

  1. Make all you can. (We Americans like this rule!)
  2. Save all you can. (By this he didn’t mean “save it for a rainy day” or invest it so you can enjoy a comfortable retirement. He actually meant “save it by not wasting it”—being thrifty.)
  3. So that you can give all you can.

From Wesley’s perspective, then, the point of making money and handling it wisely is to give as much of it away as possible for the sake of God’s kingdom.

If you don’t want to tithe, then I invite you to follow Wesley’s three rules. But I suspect it will help you be even more generous!

Are you afraid tithing or being a more generous giver? Why? Tell God about your fears and ask him to help you overcome them. 

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 12: Pray boldly!

November 6, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Luke 11:5-13

My wife, Lisa, has an older brother, Frank. When she was away at college at Auburn, Frank was away at college at Georgia Southern. Their dad would periodically send them money when they were at school—which they would use to buy food and other necessities. Since Frank considered beer a necessity, he always managed to spend more money than Lisa.

So a few times a year, Frank would call her: “Hey! Can you call Dad and ask for money? And then when he sends it to you, can you send it to me?” And she’s would say, “Why don’t you call Dad and ask for money yourself?” And Frank would explain that he’d already called a couple of times and asked for money. It wouldn’t look good if he called again! Since Lisa never asks for money, he would gladly give her some.

And because Lisa was a good little sister, she did this for him.

Unfortunately, too many of us approach our heavenly Father the way Frank approached his earthly father: We don’t want to ask God for too much or too often. In fact, I’ve heard even pious Christians say that they don’t want to ask God for anything; rather, they pray that they could learn to “accept God’s will.”

Obviously, this isn’t at all what Jesus teaches his disciples to do. He wants us to ask!

Speaking as a father, I’m happy to give my children what they ask for—as long as it’s good for them; as long as giving it to them won’t harm anyone else.

God our Father isn’t less of a father than us human fathers! God will do things in response to our prayers that he wouldn’t do if we don’t ask.

So let’s pray boldly, especially during this stewardship season: Let’s pray that God will enable our church to have all the money we need to accomplish all the ministry that God wants us to accomplish. Let’s pray that we can be more generous with our own money, believing that God will supply all our needs.

If you’re a parent, think about the joy you’ve experienced in giving your children what they ask for. Remind yourself: God is my Father. It brings him joy to give me what I ask for. 

Or if you’re not a parent, think of a time you received something from your parents that made you deeply happy. Remind yourself: My heavenly Father wants to make me happy in that same way.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 11: Rejoice in the Lord always

November 5, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

When I answered the call into ministry eleven years ago, I can see now that I did so with an unspoken agreement with God. If I could put it in words, it would sound something like this:

“God, if I do this for you—give up a relatively successful engineering career, uproot my family, sell my house, go to seminary, make all kinds of sacrifices—I need you to ensure that everyone—including my district superintendent and bishop—will love me and praise me and think I’m God’s gift to preaching and pastoral ministry, that I’ll move up church ladder of success, that I’ll make plenty of money, and that I’ll become bishop before I’m 45!”

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but my point is this: I wanted success on my terms. I wanted things to go according to my plans.

A part of what it means to be disciple of Jesus, however, is giving up our plans. It means surrendering them to God.

This is exactly what Paul has done in today’s scripture. He’s in prison. He’s suffering. In fact, he says in chapter 1 that he’s not even sure if he’s going to survive or not. Things weren’t going according to his plans. Yet somehow, in the  midst of all this suffering, Paul has composed his most joyful letter by far: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

How is Paul able to be so happy? Because he knows that no matter what he’s going through, God is not only with him, God is working his plan through him. And God’s plans are always better than our own!

Paul’s words in verses 12 and 13 remind me of the John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. Let’s make his prayer our own:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 9: Debtors to God

November 3, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:17-18

We live in a culture that values the so-called “self-made man or woman”: the person who “pulls himself up by his own bootstraps.”

If you don’t believe me, pay attention to the way that presidential candidates of both parties tell their life stories. It’s as if they’re trying to prove that nobody handed them anything; they earned everything. They had to overcome great obstacles in order to be successful.

And I’m sure they did work hard, but…

The truth is, when we consider what we contribute to our success versus what God contributes, it’s not even close: We’re all deeply indebted to God. We’re all blessed by God beyond measure.

Think about it: Our heavenly Father has given us the gift of life and breath; the gift of time and health; the gift of this amazing world which supports our lives so well; the gift of this great nation; the gift of our mothers and fathers and family; the gift of teachers and coaches, doctors and nurses—people who’ve cared for us, looked out for us, and sacrificed for us in order to shape us into the people we are today.

He’s given us the gift of our talents and skills, which enable us to do meaningful work and create beautiful things. He’s given us the gift of music, literature, dance, art, and technology. He’s given us the gift of friendship. He’s given us the gift of romantic love.

And of course he’s given us the gift of his Son Jesus, who made a way for us to become his beloved sons and daughters through faith.

Our Father gives and gives and gives. And he asks us, in return, to also give. But even a tithe—ten percent of our income—is infinitesimally small compared to what he gives us.

Do you ever forget or take for granted the many gifts that God has given you? Take a moment right now to thank God for five specific gifts that he’s given you.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 8: Our daily bread

November 2, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 6:7-13

According to a website, I have lived for 16,675 days as of this writing. I’ve never—not even one time—gone without my daily bread. Have you?

In fact, I never worry about my daily bread. I know I’ll be O.K. today. But what about tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year?

See, what worries me most is not my daily bread, but my monthly bread or even my yearly bread. I worry about possible problems far into the future. But notice that’s not what we’re supposed to worry about. Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).

Our heavenly Father doesn’t promise to take care of us next year. He promises to take care of us today. And then, when tomorrow arrives, we can be sure that God will take care of us then, too.

Reflect for a few moments on ways in which your heavenly Father has taken care of you today. Spend time praising God for his faithfulness.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 7: Faith into action

November 1, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 14:22-33

My mother was a collector of Lladró porcelain figurines. They were these beautiful, delicate knickknacks that she put on a shelf behind glass in a hutch in the “living room”—which was a strange name for it, since no one lived in the living room. No one was allowed in to the living room unless we were entertaining Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles.

My point is, these figurines were for decoration only; they weren’t action figures. Even though, to a four- or five-year-old kid, they looked deceptively like action figures. And if I played with them—which is to say, if I used them—I got into big trouble. They were not to be used; they were to be put on a shelf, where they looked pretty and collected dust.

I confess that I want my Christian faith to be like these Lladró figurines. I want to possess faith. But I only ever want to have to use it on rare occasions. Otherwise, I’m happy to leave it  on the shelf, where it looks good, collecting dust.

Fortunately for us, we can’t be serious disciples of Jesus for very long without needing to take our faith off the shelf and put it into action.

We see this with the disciples in today’s scripture: Notice Matthew tells us that Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side.” In other words, the Lord sent them into this frightening situation—far outside their comfort zones—where they were forced to put their faith into action—especially Peter!

The result? “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Their faith was strengthened. They saw for themselves Christ’s power, which in turn gave them greater confidence to face whatever life threw their way. If Peter were ever walking on water again, chances are he would have been able to take at least a few more steps!

Think of a time in your life where your faith was put to the test. Did you “pass” the test? Or, like Peter, did you fail? Either way, how was the experience good for you?

 

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 6: The gifts you give when you’re in love

October 31, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 13:44-45

We’re fast approaching Thanksgiving, which means the start of the Christmas shopping season. Among other things, this means the return of those sappy jewelry store commercials that show a husband surprising his wife with an expensive necklace or earrings. Or a husband surprising his wife with a new car in the driveway—with a big red bow wrapped around it.

The message is simple: If you really love your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ll spend a lot of money on them without giving it a second thought!

And you know what? These commercials may be on to something.

When you’re in love, after all, you don’t ask, “How much do I have to spend on this person I love?” Rather, you ask, “How much do I get to spend—how much can I afford to spend—because what I want to spend isn’t enough. If I had more, I’d spend more—because this person is worth it to me.”

Why wouldn’t this be true of the money we give to the Lord through church? Financial stewardship is the most tangible and practical way that we show the Lord how much we love him.

Think of an extravagant gift that you bought for someone you loved. How did it make you feel to give it to him or her? Pray the the Lord would give you the same sense of joy about giving through church.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 4: Our pockets are always empty before God

October 29, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Warren Buffett is the world’s second-richest man. Several years ago, he announced that he would donate 85 percent of his $44 billion fortune to five charitable foundations. When asked to comment on this extreme act of generosity, he said, “There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.”

This statement is wrong on many levels. First, it’s wrong because there’s only one way to get to heaven, as Jesus makes clear in John 14:6 when he says that he’s the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him. And he’s wrong when he says that doing good things like giving away most of your fortune will get you into heaven. We can do nothing to earn God’s gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. Even $44 billion can’t pay for it. It’s all grace.

This is why, I think, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God belongs to little children, and unless we become like them we’ll never inherit it: Children depend completely on their parents for survival. Everything they receive is a gift, not a “payment for services rendered.”

The Warren Buffetts of the world imagine that they have to pay for everything, and their generosity comes from their own pockets. A child’s pockets, by contrast, are always empty. They know they have nothing in and of themselves. What they do have comes from their parents.

And this is the secret to generosity toward God: We know that whatever we give comes from our heavenly Father. And we give generously, the way the Lord wants us to, because we know that there’s more where that came from.

Think of ways that children trust in their parents. What can children teach you about trusting in our heavenly Father?

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 3: The parable of the pack of Mentos

October 28, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6-14

Occasionally, in the checkout line at Publix, I’ll give in to my boys’ request for gum or candy. The truth is, I have a sweet tooth, too, and I love Mentos. Let’s say there are twenty pieces of Mentos in a pack. Would I be asking too much of my son if I said, “Could you give me two pieces?” Of course not! (Two pieces in a 20-piece pack would literally be a tithe.)

But wouldn’t it be ungrateful for one of them to say, “These Mentos are mine. I can’t let you have two pieces. But I’ll tell you what I will do: I’ll cut one of these pieces into three smaller pieces, and I’ll give you one of these smaller pieces”? This would equal about one-and-a-half percent of the pack. (The typical churchgoer in America gives only one-and-a-half percent to church.)

As a father, should I be happy with that tiny portion—especially given that I bought the pack in the first place? Should I be happy with a third of one Mento in a 20-Mento pack? Should I be happy with one-and-a-half percent of a pack of Mentos that I bought with my own money?

Of course not! I’d have a right to be disappointed in my child, wouldn’t I? I’d even have a right to discipline my child by withholding additional future blessings—for instance, the next time they asked for a pack of Mentos.

My point is, we often treat our heavenly Father this way in our financial giving.

As Paul makes in clear in today’s scripture, we’re only hurting ourselves by failing to be generous. We’re the ones who miss out on a spiritual blessing from God—who, Paul says, will “enrich us in every way” and “make grace abound in us.”

Do you tithe (i.e., give ten percent of your income) to God through church? Are you as generous in your giving as you want to be? If you’re not currently tithing, what concrete steps could you make this year toward reaching that goal?