More Blessed To Give

Today is Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

Once again, I find myself in the position of having to buy go juice on the way to work, this morning. So I must move on. Not hurrying . . . just making the best use of the shorter amount of time.


Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Psalm 86:4
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Psalm 119:10
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
Psalm 7:18

(From Daily Guideposts 2017)

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
Acts 20:35

Rick Hamlin writes about a homeless man named Franklin, who sits on a milk carton on the street, a block down from the subway exit that Rick uses every day. Over time, Rick has learned bits and pieces of information about Franklin. Franklin is estranged from his son, who battles an addiction of some kind; his wife died a few years ago; he likes to go to worship at a nearby church and goes to another one for showers and meals.

Franklin flies a cardboard sign that says “God bless you” and has a cup out for donations. He doesn’t really do anything to solicit, though, because “he’s too absorbed in a small, well-thumbed copy of the New Testament and Psalms.” Rick likes talking to Franklin “because he reads carefully and loves God, which I find hard to imagine considering the life he leads.”

One morning, Franklin asked Rick about the passage that says it is more blessed to give than to receive. “I think it’s in Acts,” Franklin guessed.

Rick wasn’t sure and said he would look it up when he got to his office. Franklin was right. It is Acts 20:35 (see above), and Rick told him that the next time he saw him.

Sometimes Rick gives Franklin things: money, food, things to read. One time Rick gave him a backpack full of food, gloves, a parka and a blanket. The next day, most of the stuff was gone. When Rick asked Franklin what happened to them, Franklin just said, “Gave it to a friend.”

“I was surprised but only for a moment,” Rick said. “After all, wasn’t it Franklin who reminded me where to find Jesus’s words about giving?”

“Lord, let me be the cheerful giver You know I can be.” ~ Rick Hamlin

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7

Father, why is it that, at times, the most generous people are the ones that have the least? Is it because they don’t cling to what they have? It also seems like the people who have the most are the stingiest. I pray that I will not be like that, my Lord. Let me taste and see that you are good, and that you are all that I need. I have a lot of stuff. I used to cling to that stuff. Not so much, now. I pray, though, that you make me even more generous with what I have. Most of all, I pray that you help me give away the most important thing, the Gospel of Jesus. The Kingdom of heaven is near. Help me to walk in that kingdom.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Prayer, Giving, and Fasting

It’s Monday morning again…that weekend went by really fast. Oh, well. And welcome to August, already.

We had another great message at The Exchange Church yesterday morning, this one by pastor Joel. He spoke to us about genuine conversion, not so much to get anyone to doubt their salvation, but to encourage us, and, perhaps, to get us to take a good look at areas where we might be lacking. The main theme of the message, and I know I’m not quoting this exactly right, was “When Christ converts a soul, that soul cannot remain the same.” And this is so very true. I keep saying I’m going to take a notebook and take notes, but I keep forgetting. There was a lot of good stuff in this one. The one down side yesterday was that our worship leader resigned. But the rest of the band is still there, so someone will step up and fill in. He has done a great job, though, and even though we have only been there a month, it hurt to see him leave because his leadership has blessed us so much.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 6:1-18
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

There are so many things I could say about these four verses. But the key is that we are not supposed to flaunt our “righteousness.” Remember…somewhere in Isaiah, we are told that our righteousness, before God, is no better than filthy rags. So even when we do “good” things, like give to the poor, it is still flawed. And see what Jesus says? If you you do it for the praise, then that IS your reward. I once knew someone who took this passage so literally that he didn’t even declare his offerings on his tax forms! He always gave cash anonymously. I won’t take it quite that far. However, I’m quiet about it, and don’t desire any accolades for anything I do. And when I’m leading worship, I don’t really desire to have people come up and tell me what a great musician I am or how good my voice sounds or anything like that. If someone comes up to me and tells me they really worshiped or felt the Lord’s presence during worship that I was leading…that’s something that gets me pumped up, because it’s the Lord that’s getting the glory, not me. But when we give gifts, either offerings to the church or gifts to the needy, it is to be between us and God.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Here, Jesus moves from giving to praying, but still within the context of what we do for what reasons. I still remember, from my childhood, people who loved to pray “in church.” They would put on their “prayer voice,” and pray for 15 minutes. And the same people would pray pretty much the same exact prayer every time they prayed, too, with a few variations. And once again, Jesus talks about our Father rewarding us for doing something “in secret.”
Prayer is a strange thing. We are told to pray, but it really seems to be an individual thing. Even that very popular passage, Matthew 18:19-20, is taken severely out of context by many people. Hear me well, here: THOSE VERSES ARE NOT ABOUT PRAYER!! Those verses are about church discipline and dealing with a brother who sins against you. According to Jesus’s instructions, prayer is to be done by the individual, in his own room (or even closet, if you’re reading KJV).
Then Jesus gives us the Model Prayer. Many still call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” But notice: He said “pray LIKE this.” He didn’t say, “Pray this exact prayer every time you pray.” It’s a model. A pattern, if you will. We should start with some praise, acknowledging God for who he is. Then we move to submission, desiring his will to be accomplished. Then we move to asking for daily needs, which, apparently, our Father desires for us to do. We can ask for forgiveness (if we have forgiven others!), and then we can ask for protection and guidance. Jesus is quick to point out that, if we are not able to forgive others, then we cannot claim to be forgiven, ourselves. Once again, these are very difficult teachings. This prayer is also found in Luke 11. And apparently, that part about “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen” was added in later manuscripts by someone else.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Jesus gives pretty much the same instructions on the subject of fasting. If you’re going to fast, don’t make it obvious. If I am fasting, I am not to walk around with a sad face, looking miserable because I’m so hungry. Once again, it is to be a private thing, between me and my Father.

2 Kings 15
Back to the history for a time, we see Azariah becoming king of Israel in Jerusalem. Only 16 when he became king, he reigned for 52 years. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” (v. 3)
During Azariah’s 38th year, Zechariah became king over Israel in Samaria. This is not the same one that was a prophet, made especially obvious by verse 9, which says he did evil in God’s eyes. He was assassinated by Shallum, who reigned in his place. Please note that some of these kings seem to go by more than one name. Because it is said that Shallum became king during the 39th year of Uzziah’s reign. So Uzziah must be another name for Azariah. But Shallum only reigned for one month because he was killed by Menahem. He also did evil in God’s eyes. He apparently just died, so his son Pekahiah reigned in his place. He was killed by Pekah, who then reigned in his place in the 52nd year of Azariah’s reign in Judah. He also did what was evil in God’s eyes. (And when he sneezed, it was a “Pekah-choo.”) (I’m sorry…I couldn’t help it…shout out to anyone who gets that reference.) Pekah actually managed to reign for 20 years. He was struck down, though, by Hoshea, who reigned in his place. But before we can talk about Hoshea, we find that Jotham, the son of Uzziah begins to reign in Judah during Pekah’s second year. He did what was right in God’s eyes.
This is all so convoluted. All these evil kings in Israel, and even the “good” kings in Judah do not remove the “high places” and still make offerings on them. Can this all be traced back to Solomon’s failure to follow the Lord’s commands? I don’t know.

Ecclesiastes 10
This chapter contains more “proverb-like” sayings, most of which continue the last them of chapter nine, dealing with wisdom versus folly. One noteworthy verse, though (not that any of them aren’t, mind you), is verse 20. Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter. Be careful what you say, and to whom you say it. Best to not even think bad thoughts about the “ruler” (in our day, this would included our bosses, I would think). You never know who you can trust.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Dennis Jernigan writes a devotion for today based off of this Scripture, in his book, Daily Devotions For Kingdom Seekers. At the outset, I think that he has, perhaps taken it slightly out of context, based on translational differences. He quotes the NASB, which uses the word “speculations” where the ESV uses the word “arguments.” Now, the KJV uses the word “imaginations” at that point, so who knows? Nevertheless, the devotion, I believe is worthy of a look.
Dennis speaks of constantly looking back in our lives…hashing and rehashing events of our past. Then he speaks of looking forward, as well…trying to figure out what’s going to happen in the future. Both of these activities are vain. We cannot change our past. There is nothing that can be done about it. Other than repentance and accepting the Lord’s forgiveness, and moving on. Or forgiving when we need to forgive, as well. We cannot see what the future holds. We believe that we can prepare for the future, but can we really? I can save all I want for that “rainy day,” or that “emergency,” but I really don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Perfect case in point…millions of people pretty much lost their entire retirements in the recent stock market crash. They thought they were prepared for the future, but they had no idea what the future would bring. Only God knows what is coming in the future. (I think this is where the “speculations” part came in…trying to “speculate” on what would be coming.) But what we DO know is that God holds our hands. He holds the future, and he will do what is best for us in his plan. We need not waste time trying to figure out what’s coming. We need to focus on what is here and now. “Jesus is constant and He is our hope. Anything else we place our hope in is vain imagination.” Amen, Dennis.

Father, I sincerely pray that you help me avoid the two traps that Dennis has spoken of. I can’t change the past. I can repent (and have, many times) and I can accept your forgiveness (and forgive myself, as well). I can forgive others (which I have also done). But nothing can be changed, therefore, it is pointless to worry about it. I can’t even change the future, because you have that pretty well set in order, as well. Therefore, any kind of worrying or fretting that I can do in either direction is, purely and simply, sinful! I pray by your Spirit that I will be able to focus only one now. You have me in your grasp, and you will never let me go. That is pretty much the ONLY aspect of the future that I can be sure of. I praise you for that, and ask again that I might have the wisdom to live in that truth.
Father, may I live by the teachings that Jesus brings us in Matthew. In our giving, in our prayers, and if we should fast, let them be in private, between you and us, only. (Hmmm….so here I am, putting my prayer on the Internet, for all to see…) On that subject, Father, I think motive is the key. I don’t do this so people will think I’m holy. I don’t do this to appear “uber-spiritual.”
I pray for wisdom, Lord, as described by the “preacher” in Ecclesiastes. Let me not be guilty of “folly.”

Father, I pray for this day. I pray that Christi will have a good day at her job, with little stress. Let my work day go smoothly, and I pray for Stephanie to day, at home, that she might be able to keep herself occupied and maybe even do something constructive or productive. I pray for her upcoming school year. Make it her best one ever.

Am I violating the principles of Christ here? That’s a good question…one which I must ponder deeply.

Grace and peace, friends.

God Loves A Cheerful Giver

Straight to the devotional this morning. For the stuff that usually precedes that, go to THIS LINK. I decided to split them up. I already had that other blog, but wasn’t writing much in it. I wanted to go back to keeping this one purely spiritual, the way it started. So all the baseball, work days, and other stuff will be over there from now on. Thank you for reading!

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
2 Corinthians 9
1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated–to say nothing of you–for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

Paul begins with a bit of a reminder that the people are going to be showing up to get the collection together. He wants things to be done right, in a rare case of being concerned about how things appear to other humans. The thing is, the zeal of the Corinthian Christians has inspired others. So he doesn’t want them to show up and the collection not be ready. So it’s more than just “appearance” that he’s concerned about. He’s concerned that the reputation remain intact, and that others are not disappointed to the point of losing their own excitement. It is very important that their gift be a “willing gift.”

6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 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. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Our blessings, when we practice giving, will be in proportion to the gift. However, Paul is quick to point out that each should give “as he has decided in his heart.” Notice…he leaves the amount up to the individual! Paul does NOT preach tithing! He does not want anyone giving “reluctantly or under compulsion.” Why? Because “God loves a cheerful giver!” Don’t get me wrong. Tithing is great. We practice it. However, the idea that it is required because “ten percent belongs to God” is not an entirely Biblical concept. It comes from a severe misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Old Testament Scriptures. Yes, it is the LAW. That is true. (I heard a preacher say that before the offering one Sunday at a church that I won’t consider attending again.) Let me (and the entire New Testament) remind you….WE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW! If a person is tithing faithfully, and gives every penny begrudgingly, as though he were writing a check to the IRS, his gift is WORTHLESS!!! Do you get that? It means NOTHING! God does not desire that kind of gift. He wants us to give cheerfully, and whatever we have decided. It would be better to give 3% cheerfully than 10% reluctantly.
After speaking of God’s provision, and the way that the gifts would glorify God by producing thanksgiving to him, Paul bursts into a single-verse doxology. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
It might also be noteworthy to point out that this doesn’t necessarily speak of financial reward, when it speaks of blessings that come from being generous. There are some who preach that, if you give them lots of money, God will bless you with even more. Some of those men have served prison sentences for their corruption. I quote Paul, who, at another time in his writings said, “Their condemnation is just.” We should never let greedy people distort the message of God. We ARE, however, promised that the Lord will meet our needs if we are faithful to give. And so far in my life, I have found this to be true.

2 Chronicles 25
Amaziah became king in Judah, and did what was right in the Lord’s eyes. Not quite wholeheartedly, but he did do right. There’s a story in verses 5-13 of a battle against Seir. Amaziah had assembled his army and had also hired 100,000 men from Israel. However, a “man of God” came to him and warned him not to let the army of Israel go with him because “the LORD is not with Israel, with all those Ephraimites.” (v. 7) So he sent them home. They became angry and raided some of the cities of Judah (even though the king paid them anyway!). Amaziah and the army of Judah were victorious without the army of Israel.
Sadly, Amaziah brought home the “gods” of Seir and set them up to worship them. A prophet came to him to confront him, but Amaziah stopped him. The prophet said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.” (v. 16)
Later, Amaziah was defeated by Joash and Israel, and a wall of Jerusalem was broken down. All the gold and silver vessels were carried back to Joash, along with all of the king’s treasures. Amaziah was later killed in Lachish.

Psalm 143
1 A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
3 For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
7 Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge!
10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
11 For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.

There are some great prayer verses in this Psalm of David. He begins by pleading for mercy, and points out that “no one living is righteous before” God! And how true that is. We would do well to remember that.
He also points out the value of meditating on the Lord’s works, and declares that his soul thirsts for the Lord like a “parched land.” This is reminiscent of Psalm 63.
He asks for guidance as he prays, “Make me know the way I should go.” He prays for instruction, to learn God’s will. “Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” We would all like “level ground” on which to walk. It makes the journey so much easier. But in verse 11, the true motive is seen. “For your name’s sake, O LORD,” he cries. His main concern is for the reputation and name of the Lord! THAT is exactly where we should be!

From The Valley of Vision


Lord Jesus,
True God, everlasting Life, Redeemer of sinners,
I give my body, soul, intellect, will, affections to you.
I call the day, sun, earth, trees, stones, wind, rain, frost, snow,
my home, bed, table, food, books, drink, clothes,
to witness that I come to you for rest of soul from the thunders of guilt and dread of eternity.
Grant me
a circumcised heart that I may love you,
a right spirit that I may seek your glory,
a principle within which you will own,
an interest in the blood that cleanses,
the righteousness that justifies,
the redemption that delivers,
that I may not be found a hypocrite on Judgment Day.
For the sake of your cruel death take my time, strength, gifts, talents, usefulness, piety,
which in full purpose of heart I consecrate to you.
Let not sin find a place in my heart to becloud my vision,
and may no foolish act wither my gifts.
Preserve me from the falls by which others stumble,
that your name may not be blasphemed or wounded,
that your people may not be grieved,
that your enemies may not be hardened,
that my peace may not be injured.
Give me a heart full of love to yourself and to others.
Let me discover in this life what I am before you,
that I may not find myself another character hereafter.
Prepare me for death,
that I may not die after long affliction or suddenly,
but after short illness, with no confusion or disorder,
and a quiet discharge in peace, with adieu to brethren.
Let not my days end like lumber in a house,
but give me a silent removing from one world to another.
Inscribe these petitions in your book, present them to your Father,
Set your Amen to them, as I do on my part of the covenant.

Father, I pray for some of the same things as the above prayer. I certainly pray for a right spirit so that I might seek your glory. And I echo the prayer of David, as your name and glory are all-important. Whatever I ask for, if it is not so that your name might be magnified and glorified, then I ask amiss. The desire of my heart and life is that you be glorified. Your name is worthy of all praise and glory.
I pray that you continue to keep us generous. I praise you for your faithfulness to us, throughout our lives. You have held true to your promises, Lord, and my faith and confidence in you will continue. Let us not falter in our generous spirit as we get older.
I pray that my life will not be like Amaziah’s, who began well, but finished poorly. Let me not take on the false gods of other people, Lord. Let me remain faithful to you for my whole life.
And yes, even like the Puritan prayer, I would pray for an easy death when my time is up. I see nothing wrong with that prayer. But most of all, I pray that my life will glorify you, before that time comes.
I pray for your return, Lord Jesus. Let it be soon! I am weary of this world.

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi to have a better day at work. I pray for my day to be peaceful like yesterday was. I pray that we would both be successful in our jobs, and give the glory to you.

Let your giving always be cheerful. God loves a cheerful giver.

Grace and peace, friends.