Happy to Give

2 Corinthians 9

2 Corinthians 9 7 b

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

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 ESV

 

Yesterday, we talked about presenting an offering to the Lord. Furthermore, we discussed ways that you may contribute within your own lives! Today’s chapter adds onto yesterday’s as it not only tells of giving but explains how you should give– with a cheerful heart. I love love love seeing the smile that is put on another’s face after giving a really good gift. I always feel so good as I present a gift that I wanted to give rather than one that I feel pressured to give. According to these verses in 2 Corinthians 9, God loves when we are cheerful about giving too. We are not only able to “abound in good work” but are able to impact someone else in a positive way. How cool is that! As you have decided in your hearts to give, let’s remember to do so cheerfully.

-Kayla Tullis

 

 

Giving!

2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8 4

 

“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV

 

 

“For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”

2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV

 

 

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV

 

Wow. Pause and read this again. So very powerful. Let’s let this one sink in.

 

 

“And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”

2 Corinthians 8:19-21 ESV

 

Throughout 2 Corinthians 8, it is evident that this chapter is explaining the collection that Titus was sent to receive for the Lord’s people. In starting out today’s reading, I decided to highlight a few key verses (as listed above) to read before we move onto a deeper discussion.

 

So often in this life, I feel as if it is ingrained into our society to accumulate more and more so that we may be perceived as the richest, having the most glamor, and being considered high in status. Many popular songs today even send out the message to seek after selfish ambitions– more money, more things, seeking after unhealthy relationships, and the list goes on and on. However, it was so refreshing to dig into this chapter today as it speaks truth onto the matter of, not only having, but also giving. Moreover, this chapter highlights the importance of recognizing what you have, and with responsibility, using a portion of it to present it as an offering unto the Lord with willingness. I love that Paul writes about the importance of being diligent and being invested in your faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love, but also writes that presenting an offering is indeed an act of grace.

  • You don’t think you have anything valuable to offer? Think again! One of the best parts about presenting the Lord with an offering is that you do not have to have a lot to be able to give/carry out an act of ministry, contributing to the furtherance of the kingdom. An offering for one person may look completely different than an offering for another person and that’s okay!

Question:

Ask yourselves, “What do I have to offer today?”

  • Maybe it’s: time, a financial donation, investing in others, offering words of encouragement, acts of service, praying for others, etc.
  • There are several ways that you can contribute!

 

My biggest take away from this chapter is that we have a God who sent His only son to sacrifice everything on our behalf to pave the way to eternal life. It is my hope that we can present our lives as an offering to God and let His work truly come to life within us! We have the chance to do something very special to honor God and further His kingdom unto others. Are you willing to be a part of it? With grace, I encourage you to present an offering to God– today, this week, this month, this year, or all the above. Whatever that may look like in your life, seek after it. Let’s set our selfish ambitions aside and really focus on the things that matter. My friends, you are so loved! We serve a good good father. Have a great day and be sure to join back again tomorrow for our next daily devotion!

-Kayla Tullis

Make a Difference

Col 3 23

Lois and Eunice show us how God can use people wherever they are at in life to make a big difference. In today’s story, one small boy teaches us to give what we can in service of God, no matter how little we may think it is.

In the story where Jesus feeds the 5,000 (found in all four Gospels) a little boy offers his lunch, five loaves of bread and two fish, for Jesus’ disciples to feed the crowd. I wish we knew more about this boy, who he was, who he grew up to be. All we know is that this boy heard that Jesus needed food. I can’t imagine the disciples ransacking everyone’s bags looking for food. I think they must have been asking around, searching the crowd for anyone with food and this boy heard them. He saw a need, spoke up, and offered what he could. He was willing to do what needed to be done and it’s this willingness I want to focus on today.

In Colossians Paul writes “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (3:23). As we go throughout our day to day lives, we need to be willing to contribute what we can to further God’s kingdom. We already know from Lois and Eunice that seemingly small acts can make a difference. The little boy from today’s story reminds us that we first must be willing to let God use us.

-Emilee Ross

Still Giving – and Standing Firm

Luke 21

Luke 21_28

Yesterday our devotion centered on the Christmas story – as presented in Luke chapter 20.  Today takes us into Luke 21 which begins with a few verses concerning giving gifts. How fitting.  But here it is a slightly different type of gift which Jesus is referring to.   “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4).   Giving to God’s work is indeed a great place to give your gifts – whether you are blessed with a lot to give or very little to give.  God sees the heart and is delighted in the heart that joyfully gives all to Him.

The rest of this chapter is devoted to the future – including some rather troubling events: earthquakes, wars, famine, and hatred, prison and persecution as a result of believing and  testifying about Jesus.  But hope is given.  Jesus says he is telling us these things so that we will know what must take place before the end will come.  A hard day of dirty work is always made easier by knowing it will not continue forever.  At the end there will be a time to enjoy the rewards of working hard.   So too, those who are faithful through the end times can look forward to reaping the reward when the Son of Man comes again.

Jesus says do not be afraid; rather, “Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21:19).  Even while our neighbors are fainting from terror at the surrounding events, Jesus tells us to stand tall.  He says, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27,28). 

Keep Giving – and Stand Firm!

Marcia Railton

GIVE even when we don’t get what we want

Luke 6

Luke 6 pic

“But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. ” Luke 6:35-36

 

To me, Luke chapter 6 is a call to action. After being introduced to the Lord Jesus in the previous 5 chapters, we now start to gain first-hand accounts of his teachings.

 

One particular section of scripture in this account is when Jesus is speaking about love. He explains that it is easy for us to love someone who loves us, but having to show love to someone who won’t give that in return is what is a challenge.

 

When I first read this, my response was, yes of course. I should love my enemies. I should give and expect nothing in return.

 

But putting those words into practice is SO much harder than I thought.

 

We as people want things. We want to feel affection. We want to be accepted. We want to be loved. And, might I add, that all of that is valid. It is okay to feel that way.

 

But, I propose a “take it or leave it” thought to carry with you as you read: As Christians, we are called to give even when we don’t get what we want.

 

I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes we have to “grin and bear it”. We must persist. We must endure. This includes being kind to someone who wronged you. This includes waking up and going through the motions of life even when it seems unbearable. This means that we must go through the hard stuff.

 

Because if we don’t go through the hard stuff, we won’t be ready for the great big things that the Lord calls us to. Everything has a purpose. Don’t lose sight of the hope that has been gifted to you by our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

And when we think about it, after all the Lord has done for us, obeying his command to love our enemies is the least we can do, right?

 

-Leslie Jones

 

 

Reflect His Goodness

psalm 107-22

It’s been a week of thankfulness – recognizing God as the Giver of All Good Gifts, getting to know Him more and more through the gift of His Word, gratefully accepting the gift of His Son, Jesus, and being thankful even in the midst of a difficult time.

Now for the great yearly challenge – how do we continue the thankful thinking all year?

Perhaps the following quote from J.F. Kennedy will provide some help.  “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  Show your gratitude, not just by saying, “Thank You” to God and to others, but by living a thankful lifestyle.  If we are deeply thankful for the blessings that have been given we will naturally want to share those blessings with others.  Opening our home to others, tithing to our church, caring for those experiencing difficult trials, and sharing with those who have less material blessings are all ways we can express our gratitude for what has been given.  We can reflect His goodness.  He has given to us.  We will give to others.

And, most importantly, when we are truly grateful for what God has done, for who He is and for His plan of salvation, for the gift of His Son and the forgiveness given, for the Kingdom hope – we will want to share it with others.  Inviting a friend to church, sharing a devotion with the family, praying with someone struggling, telling what God has done for you, giving a Bible, donating to missions (*), posting Scripture on your social media, home, office and locker walls, and the list goes on.

Read over Romans 10.  The world is full of people who do not know the gifts they could be receiving right now – who have not heard the message.  It is our job to, “Sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:22).  What thank offerings will you present?  How will you tell of His works?  We are not responsible for other’s reaction to the saving message.  Just as Moses and Isaiah met up with resistance and obstinate people – so will we when we exercise our beautiful feet (Romans 10:15).

Look over your thankful list (go ahead and write it down if you haven’t already this week).  Prayerfully consider how you can show your appreciation for each gift.  How can you pass along the joy you’ve received?  How will you reflect His goodness?

-Marcia Railton

 

(*) Be watching for the soon-to-be released Lord’s Harvest International Gift Catalog for some great ideas on how to help provide for needs on our missionary fronts (Bibles, church buildings or rent, a pastor’s transportation, an orphan’s or widow’s care, seed & fertilizer, etc….) 

A Den of Robbers

Mark 11 & 12 (Wednesday)

Mark 11 17

Once Jesus enters Jerusalem, the timeline for Mark slows down significantly.  While the first half of the book takes place over almost a year, the second half occurs in about a week.  Mark is letting us know that this is what his gospel and Jesus have been preparing for.  Mark 11 and 12 takes a closer look at the first 3 days Jesus is in Jerusalem.

While there’s a lot that we could cover here, I’d like to focus on Jesus’s experience in the Temple and how we can better understand a well known story that we may misinterpret.

On Jesus’s first day in Jerusalem, after the triumphal entry, he enters the Temple and “looks around at everything.” (11:11).  He leaves for Bethany outside of Jerusalem – using it as a kind of safe spot – instead of staying the nights in the city.  On the second day, he goes back to the city with his disciples and enters the Temple again.  However, instead of just observing, he begins to cause a scene.  Mark tells us that he starts “to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and over-turned tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves; and he would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.”

Whoa.  That’s a pretty radical departure from the Jesus who didn’t want anyone to talk about the miracles he was performing.  It’s as if the shy kid from the back of the class suddenly started burning textbooks in the auditorium screaming “You won’t do any more homework while I’m around! Ha ha ha!”  It’s a little weird.  And, the principals would be rightly concerned about what was going on (like the chief priests and scribes).

So, what is going on?  First, let’s clear up some misconceptions about what the Temple looked like.  We may think that Jesus was clearing out the Temple area because the vendors were causing problems for the act of worship.  That doesn’t really fit with what we know about the Temple.  First, the area where Jesus is clearing house is HUGE.  I mean really big.  It’s approximately the size of 11 soccer fields.  That’s massive (about 704,000 square feet).  There weren’t enough vendors in all of Israel to fill that space.

Another idea is that Jesus was fed up with the temple system completely and was overturning the model that the temple existed on.  This tends to emerge when we think that Jesus is somehow trying to move beyond Judaism and create his own new thing.  Well, Jesus isn’t.  He was and is a Jew.  Mark’s gospel itself undermines this idea in chapter 12.  On the third day, Jesus returns to the Temple (where he wrecked it the day before) and sits across from the treasury.  A widow comes and puts in her 2 pennies.  Notice, Jesus doesn’t say that she is being scammed out of her pennies, that she should do something better with her money, that it isn’t right for her to give to the current system, or that she’s being robbed by the temple.  No – he says that what she’s done is more than everyone else AND it seems to be a great thing!  Even today, this widow is meant to be a role model for us.

So, what is Jesus trying to do?   Let’s look at the text.  After he drives out the merchants, he says that the temple had “become a robber’s den.” (11:17)  Was the temple robbing people?  No – a robber’s den isn’t where robbers actually rob people.  It’s a place where robbers can go and be safe.  It’s a hideout where they don’t have to worry about the law coming after them.  I don’t think that Jesus was calling out the merchants or the temple system, but rather the leadership in the Temple for their willful blindness to injustice and sheltering those who do injustice in their midst.  His criticism of the Temple isn’t for how it works or what it does, but rather for what it isn’t doing.  I think that Jesus is taking up the call of Isaiah, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isa. 1:17)

This is where I think we can find a message for our lives and churches today.  Would Jesus level the same criticism against us today?  Not that we have vendors in the church, but that we allow ourselves to become a den for those who rob others?  Jesus’s problem with the temple wasn’t directed at the merchants or vendors but at those who were complacent in the face of wrong-doing, injustice, and evil.  Standing against injustice – especially when we find it in our own house, community, and ideals can be scary and seem life-threatening.  But, I think, like the widow, we are called to give what we have – “all that [we] have to live on” – to offer hope and justice to those starving for it.

-Graysen Pack

The Prosperity Gospel vs. Giving Generously

Proverbs 22 – Monday

Prov 22-9

Proverbs 22:4 & 9

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord

   is riches and honor and life…

Those who are generous are blessed,

   for they share their bread with the poor.

 

On any given Sunday morning, I can flip on my television and find a number of ministers promising me riches, wealth, and prosperity if I only have faith.  They usually then want me to practice that faith by making an offering to their ministry – “give us $5 so that God can return it to you one hundred fold.”  These promises do indeed sound promising, but this prosperity gospel is not the message that our Lord came preaching.

 

Just like we can twist the words of Jeremiah 29:11 and John 10:10 to fit this perspective, we can also turn to Proverbs to try to find a God who rewards those who are faithful with riches, wealth, and health.  But our interpretation of the Proverbs would be just as tortured if we tried to find its truth in the shallow waters of the prosperity gospel.  

 

Rather, let’s use the Scriptures themselves to better understand the “riches and honor and life” that is promised for those who love the Lord like we find in Proverbs 22:4.  Just a few verses later, we find the clarification that we need.  It is the “generous” who are (hashtag) blessed.


The wealth of the Gospel of Christ lies not in storing up material wealth or riches or fame, but in sharing the material goodness that we have been given with those who don’t have them.  We are blessed with lives of richness, honor, and life abundant when we give away the riches we have so that those with neither riches nor basic needs can be filled as well.

 

To close with a parable of Jesus, there was a man whose harvest was larger than his barn could store.  He decided to build a larger barn to store his crop.  However, that night he died and all his wealth was lost.  I think that the point of this parable isn’t that we shouldn’t plan ahead or have large barns, but rather that when we have more than we need, we should share it instead of store it up for ourselves.

 

We can find life, wealth, and riches only when we are generous and give the very things we think we need to hoard.

-Graysen Pack

 

 

How Generous Are You?

2 Corinthians 8-10

2corinthians-9-15-asv-preview

Saturday, June 24

 

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.           2 Corinthians 9:6

 

Paul has been talking about a collection of money that the Corinthians had promised to gather and prepare for the poor believers in Jerusalem, and he has sent certain brothers to come retrieve it and bring it to Judea (9:3-5). The collection was to be a free-will offering of monetary gifts for a relief aid to subsidize the needs of the saints in Jerusalem who were suffering.

 

To put his point bluntly, Paul uses an agricultural metaphor to convey the principle he desires his readers to understand. If little is sown, little will be reaped. If much is sown, much will be reaped. Now what is Paul teaching here. Is it that giving away a little money will result in you getting little money in life. Or giving away much money will result in receiving much money. Not at all. While Paul is openly encouraging the Corinthians to give of their abundance to help the needy believers in Jerusalem, his axiomatic metaphor is intended to set the premise that whoever does not want to give should not expect to receive, but whoever is generous should expect to receive generously. It is a simply matter of reciprocity that Paul is getting at.

 

According to the wisdom of Proverbs, the person who is willing to give will prosper and do well, and the person who is stingy and selfish will end up falling into poverty.

 

Proverbs 11:24

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

 

Proverbial wisdom is designed to demonstrate a general principle or prescribed attitude that its readers would do well to adopt. It should not be viewed as enforcing a formulaic approach to life. Even Jesus taught that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The choice for the free-will act of financial giving will result in blessings and provisions in your life. James also employs this principle of sowing and reaping when he says, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:18).

 

If we think that our giving of time, energy, or money is simply that—time, energy, and money—we will miss the way that God will turn that generosity back upon in like measure but perhaps in a different form than we think it might look. And also, often times in even exceeding degrees than the level of our demonstration of love in giving.

 

Be generous and give willingly and cheerfully, and trust that God will continue to provide your needs and bless you for your generous heart.

 

Proverbs 22:9

Whoever has a generous eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.biblepub.com/downloads/wallpapers/preview?w=2corinthians-9-15-asv)

Giving – the Very Best

Acts 20-23

act-20-35-ww-mf-9x

Sunday, June 11

I would like to start off this post with a short introduction.  My name is Ruth Finnegan and I am married to Sean Finnegan and we have four sons, who range from age 11 to 1 month old.  It is my joy and pleasure to be a stay-at-home mom!  When Sean and I first got married we had a lot of discussion about “how are we going to be.” We decided to set a few tenets or standards for our life together.  These were:  seek righteousness; don’t be cheap, tip generously, only use good toilet paper, and be given to hospitality.  Recently, I went to the store to stock up on toilet paper and they were out of our usual brand.  I bought a cheap package to tide us over until I could go to the store again.  Oh man! Mistake!!  Sean started declaring, “Have we lost all of our principles?? What is this, sandpaper?! Should we stop tipping too?” I burst out laughing when he said this because I was instantly brought back to that conversation early on in our marriage.  I went out and bought good toilet paper for the house and got rid of the cheap stuff.

 

Sean and I have been married for almost 14 years and we have always been passionate about being given to hospitality (Romans 12:10).  Over the years, we have had many people come stay with us.  Some come for just a night and some for many months.  We feel that God has given us much and blessed us abundantly and that it is our joy to bless others with our home (and with our good toilet paper).   I have found that you discover a lot about people when they stay with you in your home.  I thought about this as I read Acts 20:17-38.

 

When Paul was in Ephesus, his mission was certain.  He served and lived among the people, he kept back nothing, teaching them “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).  Paul was a true shepherd who cared for his flock and was very clear about his purpose.  He made sure that he was not a burden.  He took care of himself and those with him and he used every opportunity to teach and shepherd the flock there.  He truly cared for people and genuinely wanted the believers to be protected from the wolves that were sure to come.  Paul knew he had to leave and wouldn’t see them again.  He implored them with these final words:

 

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

 

And with that, he knelt down with them and prayed for them.  When Paul left, they did not breathe a sigh of relief because he had inconvenienced them.  No, they had deep sorrow in their heart because he had been a blessing to them.

 

We have had people stay with us that were all about what they needed or being served so when their time of departure came, we were thankful!   We have also had the pleasure of having guests that infused our home with light and eternal blessings!  They had eyes to see and wanted to be a blessing and help.  When we go about our lives and come into contact with others, let’s strive to be like Paul.  He was all about teaching the eternal things of life like the Kingdom of God.  He was not a burden but a blessing to the believers and sincerely cared for them.  He didn’t complain about his lot as a missionary, he was driven by the holy spirit even when it came to his own discomfort and sacrifice.  Let’s strive to encourage others and remember it is more blessed to give than to receive!

-Ruth Finnegan

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/acts-20-2016/)