“Me first” giving

When my husband preaches on giving, he doesn’t apologize. Why should he? Jesus talked about it, and it comes up in Scripture from the Old Testament to the New.

A phenomenon I have noticed is the kind of giving evidenced in many circles today. I’ve labeled it “me first” but it could be called “Jerusalem” or something else. Let me explain. We’re going to cover two kinds of giving:

  1. Personal
  2. Church

I hope you’re curious.

1. Personal—What we personally give. When we have a “me first” giving plan, we cover our own expenses first and then give God the leftovers. Do you know what usually happens? There’s not much left over, and rarely does the giving to God amount to a tithe (tenth). Do you know why this phenomenon? It’s because the Bible outlines how people should give, and “me first” isn’t it.

What is it? Let’s see what the Bible has to say. Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:8-10). Some commentators say (and rightly so) that, in the New Testament, we are not under the Law but under grace.

Some say that the tithe isn’t a rule for the church—although Jesus said tithers do well (Luke 11:42) and in Hebrews, Abraham is praised for tithing.

1 Corinthians 16:2 says to give regularly, and Philippians 4:18-19 talks about the church people’s generous offering as being an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. Then, Paul assures those who gave: my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

When you read all that the Bible has to say on this subject, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that God expects generous, joyful giving—and the tithe is a starting point.

2. Church—What the local church gives. “Me first” giving in the church is characterized by a “Jerusalem first” mentality. Spend all the money on the local church (our Jerusalem) and then what’s left over in larger circles around Jerusalem: Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (from Acts 1:8).

The problem with this thinking is that this verse actually says, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. There are several ands and a both in there—see my highlights—which means that we’re to be witnesses in all those places simultaneously. Our church’s responsibility is to our community and all the circles around it, including foreign missions.

What we find in churches with a “me first” mindset is that they spend virtually all their money on the home front and very little on evangelism elsewhere. This results in token evangelism outside of their community.

It’s easy to get into wrong giving habits.

Some have explained, “I can’t give this month because such-and-such came up, and I must pay this bill.” Sadly, these are the same people who don’t tithe and have things come up quite often.

Or they say, “The New Testament says we’re to give as God prospers us, and God hasn’t prospered me this month, therefore I can’t give.” Those same people have never given on a regular basis, and seriously, God hasn’t prospered them? The Bible says He “daily loadeth us with benefits”, including salvation (Psalm 68:19).

“I am poor. God can’t expect me to give.”

Jesus and His disciples were near the box where people placed their offerings, and a widow put in two mites. And he (Jesus) called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Mark 12:43-44. The story includes verse 42.) I am sure Jesus blessed her and supplied all of her needs. Aren’t you?

Why the disconnect about giving?

The problem is that we’re going at it backwards.

A biblical giving plan obeys Scripture.

  • Give a tenth—first—from your total income. Jesus said, But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Luke 11:42).
  • Give on Sundays. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come (1 Corinthians 16:2).
  • Give generously—with a joyful spirit. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
  • Help others—especially other born-again believers, widows, and orphans. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).
  • A biblical giving plan requires faith in God’s provision. I love this testimony from David in the Old Testament: I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread (Psalm 37:25). God promises to meet our needs. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11). But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Instead of “me first,” let’s think “God first”—and then watch how God works. I know He will bless.

Fiction review: Refuge at Pine Lake

Refuge at Pine Lake, by Rose Chandler Johnson is the first book in her Pine Haven series.

From the beginning, I was drawn in to the main characters, Robin Lancaster, and Matt McLaughlin, both of whom end up for different reasons at the same holiday house on the lake.

The house belongs to Robin’s family, and it’s where she feels peace and calm. One of her motivations for going this summer is just that. She wants to use the time to write and paint—and see her hunky boyfriend, Caleb Jackson, her high school heartthrob.

Matt is a widowed professor and veteran, who needs some time to heal and rest from his traumas. A friend books him into the house on the lake.

Thrown together, they alternately avoid each other. Dealing with their past—and Caleb—keeps this book moving along. I confess I lost sleep in order to finish it in two nights.

This is a lovely book, entertaining, well written, and sweet. Mrs. Johnson goes from strength to stronger in Refuge at Pine Lake. I loved her phrases such as: lapis blue eyes, bruised face turn a multitude of plum-purple hues, mind-controlled by electronic devices, and the color of the sky before a storm.

Mrs. Johnson’s loves for good cooking, Georgia, and people come through loud and clear. I loved the relationship between Matt and an elderly neighbor, the dogs, and many other elements in this book.

This book is clean with no bad language. There is a lot of kissing but no details and nothing further than kisses. Also, dress is casual (shorts, etc.) as one would expect in a lake house setting. No revealing clothing besides shorts and one mention of bathing suits. Refuge at Pine Lake is decidedly Christian in tone and lead characters. This book is suitable for you and your older teen daughters.

I give this five stars and my hearty recommendation.

So, you want to be married?

You are a single and would like to be married. What can a Christian girl do?

You’ve been told to wait. You’ve waited … and waited … and waited.

You’ve been told to use this time in service to the Lord. You’re doing that. You have a lovely relationship with God and are actively serving in your church. You are considering being a missionary abroad and putting out feelers.

Your Prince Charming hasn’t shown up—if he even exists. Is there anyone out there who might sweep you off your feet? You still feel you were meant to be married, but it hasn’t happened and doesn’t show any signs of happening. Are you wired wrong? Have you misunderstood God’s will?

Maybe you’re supposed to be single.

You begin to question.

Before I take on your predicament, I sincerely believe that God uses singles and that He has designed two equal in quality but different lifestyles for both men and women. For women, God, through his single servant Paul, says: There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband (1 Corinthians 7:34).

If you are single today, you should be caring for the things of the Lord and keeping yourself holy in body and spirit.

You’re doing that. You still would love to be married.

Let me give you some practical help.

Examine your life habits.

Here are four suggestions for forming friendships, the best basis for any marriage:

  1. Keep yourself smelling good and looking good. Some singles sadly forget that men have eyes and noses. Be clean, comb your hair, wear pretty clothes. And, don’t forget your best asset: a gorgeous smile. Whenever you are in public, look as good as you can.
  2. Be out in places where other people gather. By that, I mean guard yourself from being a hermit. Go out. Make friends. A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly (Proverbs 18:24a). Where do Christian people go? Of course, be active in your church. Also do things with groups of Christian friends. Go to special occasions meetings. Be where you meet others. Be friendly to all—girls and guys. Become known as a friendly person.
  3. Pray. Ask God to work. Ask Him to find your future husband. Seriously, many girls panic way too early. When I was 18, I despaired of ever finding the one for me. A wise young counselor told me, “But you only need one.” Hilarious as that sounds, it’s what I needed to hear. I decided to be single, if it was God’s will—and soon met the man I married three years later. As soon as I gave up, the Lord dropped him in my path. I knew my husband was special the day we met. I don’t guarantee your story will match mine, but I can guarantee that surrender to the Lord’s will is the beginning of His showing you the way. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  4. Be joyful and sweet. Display the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25).

I am an older woman with many younger, single friends. Some are genuinely happy and serving the Lord, though they would also be happy if Mr. Right showed up. They are not hiding away in their homes. They are attractive, glowing girls. I fully believe that God can bring the right person to them in His time—and that He will, if it’s according to His plan.

I also have many single friends who are older. Many of these women are beautiful, capable, fun women—some of them over forty. You know what? God is using them in unique ways all over the world.

What’s God’s will for you? I have no idea.

But, if you’re single, you can be sure God’s will is for you to be pure and serving Him.

For an article about catching men, you may see it here. “Did Ruth Chase Boaz?” is here.

Women of the Bible 11: Who am I?

As a child, I was trafficked into slavery and purchased by a rich family. Away from parents, home, and country, I became a lady’s maid. At first, I cried and cried. I wanted my mommy and daddy.

After a few years, I could hardly remember what they looked like. I feel bad that I cannot even remember their faces. I am still a little girl and not yet a woman.

My mistress makes sure I do my work, but she also speaks kindly to me. I am thankful. I have heard stories.

When my master becomes ill, I am sad. Will I lose another father? Will my mistress always be depressed? Will I be sold?

I find it hard to sleep these nights.

This morning, I told my mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy.”

Word of my suggestion reaches the ears of the king, who writes a letter and sends ten talents of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of clothing to the king of Israel, along with my master and his servants.

When the king of Israel reads the letter, he is so disturbed that he tears his clothes and says, “Am I God?” He knows he cannot heal my master. The prophet of Israel hears about the king’s actions and sends a messenger to my master. He tells him what to do in order to be healed. But, my master is a proud and powerful man, and he is insulted. He thinks the prophet should have come in person and done some kind of a show while healing him.

My master scoffs.

His servants convince him to obey the prophet’s directions, and he finally does.

He looks down at his skin and notices it looks brand new. He is completely healed.

I am glad for him. My mistress is happy again. Both my master and mistress are beginning to believe in the power of my God.

I praise my God for answering my prayers.

Who am I?

Who is my master?

In which nation do I live?

For bragging rights, who was the king of that nation, the one who wrote the letter to the king of Israel?

Avoiding nasty people: is it Christ-like?

I think we can see this issue from two angles. What should a Christian do about the nasty, negative people in his life?

  1. Avoid trauma triggers, so as not to have a serious emotional reaction
  2. Love people as Christ loves them, unconditionally

Many years ago, I suffered harrassment. I won’t go into details, but when the phone rang, I would begin to shake. It didn’t matter who was calling, but just hearing the phone ring caused me to have a totally involuntary reaction. My husband answered the phone for a while. I avoided it altogether because of a series of traumatic experiences I’d had. I’m happy to say this is totally in the past.

Being in the ministry, one naturally comes across some evil people. A few of them are abusive in the extreme. Are we supposed to cultivate a palsy-walsy friendship relationship with them, when they’ve refused to listen to counsel, change, and are abusive? I don’t think so.

It seems to me that we can be civil with everyone, but we don’t have to place ourselves beside abusive people more than we absolutely need to be.

Jesus preached in synagogues—where the whole spectrum of Jewish people worshiped. Some received His words, and some merely considered them. Others outright opposed Him.

Sometimes, those who opposed sought Him out to trip Him up with words—always failing. He sometimes refused to answer their questions or answered with His own questions. At other times, He answered quite clearly and contradicted their false beliefs. We can learn a lot from Jesus about how to handle critics, conscious that we must rely on the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Jesus taught that He seeks and finds those who are lost. I am thankful for His example: seeking the lost and trying to bring them into the fold.

Those who oppose us as to the gospel are actually opposing the Lord, but we can persist in praying that the Holy Spirit will get through to them and they will be saved. We cannot expect those who don’t know the Lord to act like believers. When opportunities present themselves, we can point people to Christ.

As to believers who oppose us, who actively do us harm—and won’t resolve the problem after we have gone to them one-on-one and tried to win them (Matthew 18:15-17), there may come a time when we part ways. It will be seldom, thankfully, but it can happen. We should still be civil and kind, but we don’t need to be good friends with that person.

Separation always has the end goal of reconciliation and restoration. If that person realizes his sin and confesses and asks for forgiveness, it should be given. I think we can be cautious and watch to make sure that person is sincere, but we should be willing to help that person come back to the Lord, church, and back into fellowship with all.

What does the Bible say about these topics?

This is about the person who professes to be a born-again Christian: But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). Notice the distinction between those without and those within. God judges unbelievers, but we’re not to have close friendships with those who say they are Christians and live like unbelievers.

Another cause for separation is with people who say they are Christians but divide the church and teach false doctrine. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17).

But, what about the people who are not in our churches, those around us who may rub us wrong? Jesus said, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:44, 46-47)

Love those sandpaper people. Be friendly. Reach them with kindness.

What do we expect of people who don’t know Christ? They don’t have the Holy Spirit in them and aren’t motivated to resist temptation. Unsaved people are carnal, of the world, thinking about pleasure rather than God. We can’t expect anything else.

How do we reach people? Love. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Galatians 5:14).

Jesus loved sinners. But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That’s Christ-like love.