Giving God What He’s Given You

One of the most troubling concepts for new believers can be the concept of tithing. They experience the love of Christ and they’re filled with a fire to start their new life living for Him and then the church begins to hammer them with the concept of tithing. For those that are well off financially, this may be a non-issue, but for a young new believer that is drowning in bills and debt, tithing can seem like an impossible task and quickly damper that fire. They are left feeling like they will never meet the expectations of the church in this area and thus are a failure in their Christian life. Every time the offering plate passes them on Sunday morning, they feel the glares of the congregation as they once again cannot put anything in it.
 
In addition to this, many churches put a huge emphasis on tithing in order for the church to grow. We have huge campaigns to raise money and stress the importance of giving financially as if the state of the church depends on it. Those that give more to the church seem to have more say in how the church runs and receive more attention and care than others. Very quickly, the church becomes a place of power for the rich and a place of sadness for the poor. The concept that can easily come across is that the church will only grow and be successful if we give financially to it. Money becomes our focus, and all of our actions follow suit.
 
In saying this, tithing does have a very important place in the church as we should give back what we can financially to God, whom has blessed us. When the church has money, they are able to provide tangible needs for the community and a safe, clean environment for those to worship in. The church can also do more outreach events to seek to draw others into the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Leviticus 27:30 says, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord: it is holy to the Lord.” These gifts were a reminder that everything belonged to God and a portion was given back to God to thank him for what they had received.” Jesus then later says, “ “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
 
What’s important to note is that Jesus doesn’t denounce tithing, but He does spin the concept on it’s head. He challenges and calls out the religious leaders for valuing tithing above the more important matters. Sure, giving to the church financially is helpful and appreciated, but you can have the biggest church in town and also be the most dead church in town spiritually. Jesus is saying He prefers the person that gives themselves to Him over the one that only gives their money to Him. God has given each person unique gifts and abilities. These are of far more value than anything financially. Jesus is calling us to give what He has given us for His glory. This is the greatest gift we can give Him, our life. We may not be able to give a check every week in the offering plate, but if we can give ourselves every day to Jesus, that’s what truly blesses Him and the church.
 
The church grows when the people are giving themselves not just their money to it and ultimately to Christ. Outsiders begin to see a Spirit in the Church that they don’t have and are drawn in. They see a body of people using their gifts, time, and talents for a purpose that is greater than words can describe and that is something they want to be a part of. Outreach events are worthless if people come to the church and leave after one Sunday because of the hypocrites and lack of love they experience when entering. Our focus as a church needs to be on glorifying Him and the best way we can do that is by using our gifts and abilities the best we can for His kingdom. This is what we should be focusing on when a new believer comes into the Church. How can we help them understand the gifts and abilities they have been given and how can we help them use those gifts for the Kingdom of God. When our focus is on glorifying Him, the impact the Church has on the community will grow and God will bless the Church in ways we never saw imaginable before.

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The God-given Potential in You

I remember being in high school, when my youth pastor at the time came up to me and asked me to preach to the students a night that he was going to be away. I was shocked that he would choose me to fill in. Thoughts like, I’m not the best speaker, I didn’t even regularly attend Wednesday night services, and I was only in high school went through my brain. Despite this, I felt a calling to do this and wanted to make him proud. Because of this, I studied and prepared hard before going in front of my classmates and youth family that night. As I was about to step up to the front, I felt sick with anxiety. However, once I started talking, I felt a peace flow over me, and a confidence start to dwell within me.

After the service, I was amazed at the positive feedback I received from my peers and the adults in the room. I later realized that my youth pastor saw the raw God-given potential in me, even if I didn’t notice it at the time. After that night, I went on to get a Master’s in Theology and have been the Next Generation Pastor at Laguardo Baptist for almost 3 years. Despite this, I often times still find myself feeling inadequate to do the job God has called me to. I’m reminded of all the times I have failed in the past; I look around and see others more gifted, and I question if everything I’m doing is really making a difference. However, in these moments, I remember the story of Moses.

Moses was up in age and had a hard time speaking. One day, God called him to be the next leader of the Israelites. When God told Moses this, he refused. He looked at all the things he could not do well and thought God was making a huge mistake by choosing him over someone else. However, God insisted that Moses be this leader and that he would equip him along the way. Moses finally trusted in what God could see that he could not. Moses became one of the greatest leaders in history and lead the Israelites out of slavery in the land of Egypt and toward the Promised Land.

What this reminds me of is that we all have raw God-given potential inside us to do something great for the Kingdom of God. The devil will always remind us of our past failures and our shortcomings because he doesn’t want us to see that potential God has embedded within us. In these moments of doubt, we need to look to God for direction on what He wants us to do and trust that He will equip us along the way. God knows us better than we know ourselves and can see the potential He has gifted within us that we can be blinded from by the world. Sometimes, God uses those around us to show us this potential and push us out of our comfort zones to reach it. Just like my youth pastor did to me when I was in high school, if someone is pushing you to lead or do something that you feel inadequate to do, stop and think about the fact that may be seeing the God-given potential in you that you haven’t seen yet. Trust that God knows the greatness that lies within you and may be using those around you to bring it out and step out in faith. When you do this, you’ll be amazed at how God will use you and equip you along the way.


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Trusting Your Coach

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.”

 – Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV

              It’s a tied game in the fourth quarter as time ticks away. The quarterback looks out at the defense as both teams line up for what will be the most important play of the game. At first glance, the quarterback sees the defense backed off and assumes they will play coverage, so he calls a run play up the middle with a smile on his face, thinking about how their team is about to win the game. However, right before he snaps the ball, the coach on the sidelines gets word in his headset from the coach in he pressbox to change the play, Frantically, he yells out at the quarterback to do a play action play instead and throw the ball down the field.

              The quarterback ignores this command as he believes his coach must not have seen what he is seeing. He snaps the ball, and suddenly realizes the linebacker he assumed was going to play coverage is now blitzing full speed right towards him. Seeing there is no one in the backfield to protect him, he tries to scramble but ends up with a facemask full of turf. Ultimately, the drive that looked so promising ends with defeat and regret.

              What the quarterback did not realize was that the coach in the pressbox, sitting high above the stadium, saw the opposing coach call out a blitz to the linebacker. The quarterback could not see this because he was looking straight ahead and had very limited vision of the field. The coach in the pressbox, however, could see the whole picture.

              This same concept is true in our every day lives. When faced with decisions, we can only see how that choice will affect us right now. We don’t know how our decisions will affect us in two months and much less two years from now. We see that attractive girl or guy that is funny and easy to talk to and decide in our minds they would be excellent to date. We see that party or event as a great night to have fun and something all our friends are doing. We see that getting high will give us a rush right now and we want that feeling. Meanwhile, our coach is yelling at us to call an audible and to get out of that relationship or avoid that situation all together.

              In our limited vision, we think we know best, and God is just trying to hold us back from having fun and enjoying life. We ignore His commands and date who we want and do whatever feels good to us in the moment. What we fail to see is that the “perfect” guy or girl will end up cheating on us in a month and leave us heartbroken and full of regret from the mistakes we made with them. At that party, we we’ll have a great time, until we get drunk and do some things that we can’t take back. After getting high, we’ll decided to grab something to eat and while driving to the diner will hit another student walking across the street. We will then face jail time and that person will be on a long road to recovery.

              See, God could see the whole picture. He is sitting in the “pressbox” over the field of our lives. He know what the devil will call up next and when the blitzing linebacker will be sent. He warns us to avoid certain people and actions, not to hold us back, but to protects us and give us great success in the game of life. God can see the whole picture and knows how every action we do will affect us long term. So, next time when we think we know best, we need to stop and look up at our coach. Whatever He tells us do, even if it doesn’t make sense to us, we need to follow Him full-heartedly, knowing His call will always be for our good and His glory.

             


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There’s No Snowblowing Your Issues Away

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

Living in Tennessee, we usually do not expect to have a lot of snow in the winter. Sure, temperatures will get below freezing for a few days, but a big snowfall is, most times, out of the picture. This year, unexpectedly, a large winter storm covered multiple southern states. In just a few days, we now have snow everywhere. Walking outside, you cannot tell what was the street from the sidewalk or yard. Everything in sight seems to be turned to white. While this is a beautiful sight, it is pretty funny to see everyone going out to their cars to try and get the snow off before it piles up too high.

The reason this is so funny is because people have tried all kinds of tactics to get the snow off the windshields of their cars, but to many of their surprises, no matter how hard they tried to blow the show off or push it off, their windshields were still covered. See, what most people likely did not realize was that under all the snow was a thick sheet of ice. They could snow blow the snow off their cars all day long, but that ice underneath was not going to budge. This meant that their windshields would still be covered. It was only when people started attacking the ice first with the scrapper that visions of the windshields would start to come into focus. Because the ice was so thick, it would take quite some effort to scrap that ice off the windshield and it took some dedication.

Thinking back on this, the Lord taught me a valuable lesson. Many times, in our lives today, when we are struggling with something, we want a quick fix solution. We try and snow blow off our issues by taking some medication, reading some books, or just getting some extra sleep. Although these things are effective at helping the side effects of what we are struggling with, the root problem is still there. The ice will not budge.

The only way to break the ice and truly be set free from our sins and issues is to give them to Jesus and to ask Him to break the ice in our life.

This is not always a quick fix and may involve a good deal of scrapping. Jesus will dig down into root of our issue/sin which may be scary and take time to understand and handle. He will convict us of what we truly need to change in our lives and then lead us to the truth. This process of scrapping out the ice in our lives is not always fun or easy, but in the end, we are set free from our sins and our issues. Jesus restores our vision and guides us on the path to victory. We are able to move on from the ice holding us down and walk into the warm light of His grace and truth. Allow Jesus to scrap the ice out of your life today and be set free once and for all from the sins and issues you are struggling with.


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God’s Beauty All Around Us

“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.”

Psalm 50:2

As I was driving into work, I noticed these beautiful white trees on my way. I stopped for a minute and marveled at God’s goodness and beauty. What struck me, however, is that I have been working at this place for almost 2 years and have never noticed these trees. Most days I am focused on getting to work, the many tasks I have to complete that day, and all the craziness happening in my life that I ignored all of God’s beauty and goodness around me.

I wonder how often in our lives that we miss God’s goodness, beauty, and blessings around us because our focus is inward. We are so worried about what we “need” to do that we miss what God has done and is doing for us. We are more concerned about what is happening politically, economically, or on social media than what is going on in our own hearts. We begin to blame God for all the evil in the world and for abandoning us when in reality we are the ones that have left God in exchange for our inwardly focused lives.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
 
Isaiah 41:10

God’s presence is all around us.

God earnestly wants to help us and guide us. His plan is to prosper us and give us hope and a future even in the midst of a pandemic, but we have to look to Him. We have to fully surrender our busy lives to Him, stop trying to handle everything on our own, and rest in His presence. Take a moment today to see God’s goodness and beauty around you and surrender control of the things that were never in your control in the first place. We need to pray, “LORD, here I am, use me,” and ask the Holy Spirit to give us strength to walk in the way that the LORD commands us to even when that way is away from the way we were walking.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20


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Take Out Your Thought Trash

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

Psalms 139:23-24, ESV

I struggle with intrusive thoughts on a daily basis. I could be walking outside of my home enjoying the fresh air when suddenly, BAM! Intrusive thought flies into my brain. Instantly, my mind is shaken from the peaceful state it was in and thrown into a full blown panic. I question if this thought is really true about me and/or if this thought means something about who I am as a person. So, for a while I just tried to not think about the thoughts that flooded my brain and I just let the questions I had about them float around in my brain. I thought that the more I tried to just not think about these thoughts and avoid the questions, they would naturally just go away.

 

This, however, was not the case. The more I tried to not think about them, the more I ended up thinking about them. The more I tried to push the questions away, the more I kept pondering about them. Then, God laid this thought upon my heart. This thought was that I need to stop putting these intrusive thoughts that flood my brain into a garbage can in my brain and take the trash completely out.

 

Here’s what I mean by that. When you have some garbage in your house that stinks, you can’t expect to throw it in your kitchen trashcan and never expect to smell it again. This may temporarily take care of the problem of having your smelling trash out in the open, but over time even though that garbage is in a garbage can, the smell will return and be even worse than what it was originally. The only way to completely get rid of that trash is to bag it up, walk it outside, and toss it in the dumpster far away from your home.

 

The same rule applies to our thought life. When we get that intrusive thought that says we are unworthy, incapable of doing something, especially like sharing our faith, or even that intrusive thought that seems totally contrary to what we actually believe, if we just push it aside and never actually deal with, it will come back even stronger in the future. It is only until we take time to deal with it, bag it up, and totally remove it that we find freedom from it. So, how do we do that?

 

The devil will always throw thoughts in our mind that are contrary to who we are and that seek to pull us away from God’s plan for our lives. When these thoughts come in, we need to stop and examine the thought. If that thought does not align with what God’s Word says about us and who God says we are, we need to bag it up. We have to assure ourselves that that is not an indicator of who I am or what I do. I am defined by who God says am I, which is fearfully and wonderfully made, and God sees my heart. He knows who I am truly am despite what the devil tries to flood my brain with. It doesn’t matter what flows into my brain, it matters what and most importantly who is in my heart.

 

Lastly, we need to spray some air freshener in our minds to rid it of any lingering smells by spending some time in prayer that God restores our confidence in who He says we are and that He would help us move forward and continue to experience His joy. We should spend time in God’s Word each day soaking up the truths He says about us to remind us of who we are in Him and to bring our thoughts and focus back on His truth. Then, the last thing to do to truly rid our minds of any lingering smells from those thoughts is to talk to someone else about them. Share your struggles with a trusted Christian friend, pastor, therapist, or mentor. When we have others who can listen, pour truth into us, and pray for us, that gives us the extra power and motivation to completely move on from those thoughts and start living the life God desires for us to live again.

 

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”

 

– Psalms 139:13-18, ESV


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Fighting Our Rescue Swimmer

“Stretch out your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of foreigners,”

Psalms 144:7

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Guardian. The whole movie follows a class of recruits on their journey into the United States Coast Guard. They met their instructor early on in the movie and are in for quite a treat. The instructor of the class was a famous rescue swimmer himself. His main role as a rescue swimmer was to dive into rough waters and save those drowning in the ocean or stuck on a sinking ship. This is an incredibly dangerous job, even life threatening. He would have to walk through fires, move barriers, and dive deep into the ocean to save people. One thing he told the recruits early on was that if you want to be in the United States Coast Guard you have to be willing to save people who do not want to be saved. Whether that person wants to be saved or not, their job was to do everything in their power to save them.

In real life, when rescue swimmers attempt to save people stranded in the ocean, many of those needing rescued fight with the rescuers, push them under the water, or refuse to move. We may think to ourselves how could this ever happen? Why would these people not want to be saved? I think there are several reasons for this. People are scared, they feel like no one can save them, they feel like they are better off not being saved, or they are too prideful to allow someone else to help them.

The sad reality is that people do not respond like this in only their physical lives, but they also respond this way in their spiritual lives. By ourselves, we are sinful, broken, and hopeless. People have tried for centuries to fix their own lives only to discover that they more they try to fix their lives, the more broken they become. We need someone to rescue us. We need a Savior.

The great news is that we have the perfect Savior. The God of the universe sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to come into this world and save us from our sins. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for us, and rose again three days later. He is alive today, reaching out His hand for us to grab onto. All we have to do is let go of ours sins, fears, and pride. We turn to Him and ask Him to save us. When we do this, His mighty hand restores our brokenness, and one day He promises to bring us to eternal safety and peace in Heaven, away from the rough and dangerous waters of this world.

The sad news, however, is many people will never grab hold of His outstretched hand. No matter how deep the waters become around them, they will refuse to be saved. They may refuse this because of fear, pride, or doubt. They believe they are not worthy to be saved or they still believe the lie that that can fix all their problems on their own. When the storm ends for these people, instead of arriving in a perfect, peaceful place, a new storm in their lives will begin.

The truth, however, is that if you are still living, the Savior’s hand is still outstretched for you. No matter how many times you have pushed Him away, ignored Him, and tried to handle things on your own, He is still swimming after you. All you have to do is let go and let the Savior of the world rescue you and save you from all your sins. As soon as you give your life to Him, a new life in you will begin. The Savior has arrived, now it is your turn to allow yourself to be saved.

Are you willing to let the Savior rescue you? Why don’t you ask Him to come into your life today, thank Him for forgiving your sins and ask Him to direct your life from this day forward. The following is a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

The rescue starts now!


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