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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Your Story is Enough

Learning how your story is enough to bring people into relationship with Jesus Christ.

Recently, I was working a typical day, doing paperwork and answering phone calls. As I was just getting back from lunch my phone rang again. I was annoyed at first because I had so much paperwork to do that day, and I did not feel like having a long conversation with someone at that moment. Despite this, I answered the phone. The man on the other end asked me if I could send him a Bible.

The organization I serve gives out Bibles regularly so this was not an uncommon occurrence. I would typically respond with a yes and then ask the man what his address was so we could send someone in his area to give him a Bible. I started off by following the typical procedure, but I felt the Holy Spirit push me to ask this man if he wanted to know more about Christianity or if he just wanted a Bible. To my surprise, he said, “Yeah, I guess I want to know more about Christianity, too.”

Be Attentive to The Voice of God

One of my first responses was to say, “Great, let me send you some resources on what it means to be a Christian and what happens next.” Although we have plenty of resources on what it means to be a Christian that would be helpful to someone searching for answers, the Holy Spirit pushed me again telling me, “You are the resource.”

This really struck me. So I sat back, calmed my mind down from all the things I needed to do that afternoon and I asked the man, “Can I tell you what it means?” He agreed. For the next 20 minutes I had a wonderful conversation with this man about what it truly meant to follow Jesus, what He did for us on the cross, and what He promises those who follow Him for all eternity. As the call was concluding, I found myself leading this man through a prayer to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

Many times, in my life, I get so caught up in all that I have to do that I miss the most important thing God is calling me to do that day. God opened an incredible door for me when that man called, and I would have potentially slammed it shut if I just gave him some resources and sent him on his way. Often times, my days are extremely busy, but that day I learned that I have to make sure my day is never too busy for what God wants me to do. That task is the one that no matter what happens, I cannot miss.

Insecurity Inhibits Your Witness

Many times, I believed the best thing to do for people asking about Jesus was to give them a resource because I felt I was not prepared to share with them. I felt like my knowledge and experience was not enough. I felt like someone else was much more qualified to share Jesus with them. Better yet, the resources I would give them would explain things much better than I ever could.

That day God challenged me by reminding me that I am a follower of Jesus and have received His Holy Spirit. He reminded me that I know exactly what it means to follow Him because I am living it. I realized that my story has power because the power of Jesus has been breathed into it. Jesus reminded me that I am enough, not because I have incredible knowledge and experience, but because He who lives in me is greater than he who lives in the world. The God of the universe was on my side, helping me every step of the way. I am worthy in His eyes.

I began to understand that Jesus is calling me to share my story with those around me. Wow, the Savior of the world desires to use my story to bring others to Himself. How awesome is that! What is even more incredible is that our Savior desires that same thing for each and every person! He has given each of us a unique story for a reason and He cannot wait for us to open it up for the world to read. Why? Because people can see the love and grace of Jesus Christ throughout the pages of our life. The question is, are you willing to be God’s open book?

Becoming God’s Open Book

God has taught me that that my story is the most powerful testimony I have. My story has power, whether I think it does or not, because Jesus is the climax of my story. He gave me that story for a reason, and His desire is for me to share it with the world around me. Many Christians never do this because they do not feel like they are a good speaker or somehow will “mess it up”. This is why many Christians like myself, instead, give people a resource or a Bible to read.

The truth is that God does not call the equipped, but He equips the called. God wants us to give our weaknesses to Him so His strength and power can shine through. When we come to Him in complete faith and ask Him to guide us and lead us His spirit brings a peace that surpasses all understanding giving us the wisdom and confidence to say what God is laying upon our hearts.

Moses had a speech impediment and tried to run away from what God was calling him to do. He, like many of us, did not believe he was equipped to speak and lead others. But God desired for him to do so. When he fully surrendered to God, he began to see God use him in ways he never imagined. Ultimately, Moses became one of the greatest leaders in history and lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt with God’s hand upon him.

It is God Working in You

When we are weak, scared, and lack confidence, we can rest assured that our heavenly Father is watching over us waiting to lend a helping hand. I ran across a verse recently that really spoke to me about this. The verse is found in Acts 4:13 and it says, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (ESV) What I find so inspiring in this verse is that Peter and John were uneducated, common men, yet the people were astonished because they knew they were with Jesus. In that moment what spoke to these people was not how educated, talented, or popular Peter and John were, but Who lived and breathed through Peter and John. This surpassed anything else. This is what the people took away from this encounter.

The next time Jesus opens a door in in my life to witness to someone, I am going to be confident in who He has called me to be and rest assured knowing that He will guide me through. God has assured me that I am enough. Not because there is any good or power in me. But because Jesus Christ is working in me both to will and to do according to the good pleasure of our Father in Heaven.

I now know that we do not have to be afraid when someone asks us to share Jesus with them. Instead, we can rejoice because God is about to use us in a powerful way for His kingdom. In fact, the person I am witnessing to will see and feel the Spirit of God within me and they will be astonished by the One who lives in me. No matter how educated or well-spoken I may come across, if I allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me, the only thing they will take away from that encounter is who Jesus is. This is more than enough. I may not feel equipped, but God will equip me and His Spirit will guide me through.

I am worthy in His eyes, and my story is enough.

 


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