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Posts Tagged ‘giving’

There are almost always leftovers.  You know, the food at the end of the meal that you just don’t want to throw away so you wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator.  Sometimes it becomes lunch at a future date.  When I was a child we would occasionally slip it to the dog.  Usually it still ends up in the trash, just days or weeks later when we realize it’s been in the fridge for an undetermined amount of time and we are reasonably confident that what’s growing on it is not penicillin.

There is a phrase I’ve never heard.  “Why don’t you come have dinner with us?  We’re serving leftovers!”  You see while leftovers are convenient compared to the effort to create a nice, fresh meal, they aren’t what you serve when you want to serve your best.  No, if we are inviting guests we want to make a good impression.  We want to honor them with our best effort.

I realized something the other morning as I headed out to work here in Tacoma, Washington.  The sun was just rising behind the mountains in the east.  The dark, jagged silhouettes pointed upward into the multi-hued dawn of orange, pink, and various shades of blue.  It was an inspiring sight yet again.  As I got to my exit ramp, a spectacular view of Mount Rainier awaited and it struck me – God never serves me Leftovers.  His mercy and love is new every morning.

As I relished that thought I also realized that all too often I give Him my leftovers.  I have learned that first and foremost the Lord calls us to intimacy with Him.  He wants us to walk in close communion with Him.  It is because He loves us.  It is also because He knows that it is the best thing for us.  Yet too many times I come to Him at some later point in my day.  Time alone with God often gets relegated to a lesser spot on my TO DO list and He gets my Leftover time.  If we are not careful our giving can become just another bill rather than an opportunity to honor God with our first fruits.

I want to honor God – the lover of my soul, my redeemer, my Lord, and my friend.  That means I will not serve Him my leftovers, but rather He will get the best of what I am and what I possess.  He is worthy.

Now, a second thought closely followed.  When we give God our first fruits, He is able to do amazing things with what we have left.  When we tithe (that’s 10% off the top) God is able to accomplish more with the 90% we have in our hands, than we could ever accomplish with the original 100%.  I’ve seen this play out in my life and through the lives of others on a number of occasions.  Jesus said, “Give and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”  In other words when we give cheerfully from whatever container we give out of, when we look at our container after we have poured out, it will be packed full to overflowing.

But there is also giving of our time.  I am a morning person so I know my best is first thing in the morning.  When I give God my morning, somehow He fills my day with so much more – more joy, more effectiveness, more divine appointments, and seemingly more life.

The final thought this morning brings me back to food.  My wife is a great cook.  She is from Louisiana and one of her specialties is a Cajun dish called Jambalaya.  It is a spicy rice dish that includes a lot of different meats.  She served it for our home group recently and it was delicious.  Of course we had leftovers which I dutifully wrapped up and placed in the fridge.  Over the next few days I let Lisa know she didn’t have to cook because I had LEFTOVERS, Yeah!  Lisa’s Jambalaya, as good as it is when she first cooks it, is even more flavorful over the next few days as the spices fully saturate the rice.

For me, Lisa’s Jambalaya serves as a good picture of what God does for us.  When we give Him ourselves, our first fruits, the best we have to offer He receives it as our faith offering.  What we have left – our Leftovers if you will, become saturated with God’s favor to such an extent that they are better than the original.  And that, my friend is something I look forward to.

Psalm 34:8a – Taste and see that the LORD is good.

Have a blessed day.  And don’t forget to be a blessing.

 

 

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Payback

When faced with a trick question from His detractors Jesus gave a most insightful answer – “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22:21). When I read that I marvel at the cleverness of Jesus’ answer in trapping the Pharisees.  However the real punch in this statement are two powerful truths that His answer illustrates.

Jesus acknowledges that there is a role for human government in our lives. He also endorses the collection of taxes by that government. The Pharisees seemed to think that Jesus would somehow implicate himself as “anti-government” in His answer, but He did no such a thing. Instead He affirmed that government had a right to some portion of payback because it was theirs. In Jesus day the government in Rome had established roads throughout the empire, it provided stability and security in many areas that were once lawless, it brought a level of opportunity in trade and education that many areas had never known before, it brought a common currency. In short the Roman government provided benefits to the communities where they held sway and it was appropriate for those who benefited to pony up and pay taxes. That does not endorse everything they did nor all the methods they used in bringing about those benefits but it does provide a legitimate basis for the collection of revenue for services rendered.

Jesus’ statement does not address the issues of how much tax, what level of benefits, etc. It only touches on that fact that the government was due payback. As I study Jesus’ life He comes across as the least political, high profile person ever. In fact in one sense it can be argued that His lack of political manuevering resulted in His untimely death (from a human perspective).  A little wheeling and dealing probably could have saved His life from the political machine at work in his day… but then we all would still be lost in our sins.

This brings us to the second half of Jesus’ statement which I hold up is far and away the more important point of the exchange – “give to God what belongs to God”. If the government provides a few roads and some military protection for the entire population then a combined group offering to pay for these benefits is due.  But Jesus’ action is ultimately a personal act.  Jesus action is intensely personal.  He saved MY Life.  He radically altered it for the good while I am living here on earth and He has promised an eternity in heaven with Him. This is way more than roads and a tenuous security, it is life that rich and full. In a very real sense Jesus bought me with His love and sacrificial death on my behalf. I belong to Him so my only appropriate response is to give Him all of me.

What does it mean to give Him all of me? Well I have figured out a few things that seem to fit into the definition of all.

First off all my finances less what He said I owed to the government is rightfully His. But if we take scriptures as a whole we see that God gave a guideline of a tithe, 10%. While He rightfully can ask for it all, He allows us to begin at 10%. I recognize that the rest is also His so when He asks for more I seek to be in a position to give more. I won’t go there today, but this speaks to being financially responsible with the remaining 90%.

Next there is my time. Since I belong to Jesus then all my time is His.  Obviously my quiet time with God is a blessed shared time with Him.  He speaks through His Word and by His Holy Spirit He breathes life into me during these times of sweet communion.  But when the quiet time ends, my time is still His.  Some persons have postulated that we give God 10% of our time.  Setting aside 2.4 hours each day for dedicated alone time with God CAN be achieved by a few and I don’t doubt that it can have benefits, but I honestly believe that God’s expectation for our time is not the tithe but the total.  Brother Lawrence, a monk in the middle ages, penned a devotional called “Practicing the Presence of God”.  In it this humble man identified that He was able to commune with God while peeling potatoes and performing the most mundane of tasks.  I believe the same concept is captured in 1 Thessalonians where we are admonished to “pray without ceasing”.  We are to live with a constant awareness of God and respond immediately to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. These promptings can be to pray, to perform a kind act, to give a word of encouragement, to provide an appropriate word of correction, to speak or sing or shout or wait – any number of God-directed acts that fit within the plan that only He sees in its entirety.  I would like to say I have achieved this… or that I have made significant progress, but the truth is while I have matured and I do better than I once did, I still have a long way to go.  However I believe this to be God’s call to me, to live fully in Him and give Him all my time in this manner.

Lastly I want to speak to those relationships and possessions that we call ours.  It naturally follows that if I belong to God, then everything that I call mine belongs to God as well.  Holding back anything falls short of the total surrender that Jesus calls us to.  He gave us the perfect example in His obedience to the Father. In leaving heaven to become a human, born in the most humble of circumstances, raised in relative obscurity and meager provision, Jesus surrendered more than any of us can imagine. But He did not stop there. He willingly submitted to a mock trial, accused of false charges He did not even defend Himself, but He accepted a punishment that He did not deserve. He truly gave everything to God… and He did it on our behalf. With Jesus as our model and inspiration we can offer every relationship and every thing in our lives for His use. For things I have learned this means not to hold on too tightly. For relationships I have learned this means to love with all the intensity that we have and hold them up to God for Him to do what He knows needs to be done.

While I would love to continue, my time is again about up. Remember to give to God what belongs to God. You were bought with a price. The precious blood of Jesus covered your sins and made you part of God’s family. You are His. Live fully for Him today and always.

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