Friday, December 21, 2012

God With Us!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  
Of the increase of his government and peace

    there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

    and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

    with justice and righteousness

    from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

    will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6,7)

With Christmas just a few days away, I wanted to visit these wonderful prophetic verses from Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet who had to deliver a lot of unpleasant news from God. In fact, in the verses just following Isaiah 9:6,7, he warns Israel about God’s anger and wrath. There are many chapters pronouncing “Woe!” to the nation. Chapters about judgment. It must have been quite a burden for poor Isaiah to be the bearer of the bad news!

But in much of Isaiah, there is also the glorious good news of the coming Savior. There are promises of hope, blessing, and deliverance. The above verses, which are read every Christmas, remind us that our wonderful God is faithful to keep His promises. These are just two of the more than 300 prophesies that Christ fulfilled at His first coming. And they focus on His name.

First, He is called Immanuel. This one name sums up the whole Christmas story. God humbled Himself, He left His throne, and voluntarily took on the form of a completely vulnerable baby to be with us! He submitted Himself to all of the pain and suffering and humiliation of the Cross - taking on the sins of the world - so that all who would believe might be with Him! And because He is with us, nothing and no one can stand against us!

Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor. How much time and money do we spend seeking counsel for our lives? How many self-help books or philosophy books line the shelves of book stores? Yet, no one has the wisdom to Counsel or give comfort to our spirits like Jesus. He not only has the words that give life, He IS the Word of life!

Mighty God. Not only is Jesus willing to give us help and comfort, but He is also ABLE to do it! He is not just the Son of God, but also God the Son. He is the Creator of the universe and He holds all things together. Nothing was made without Him. He is all-powerful, so He is able to save. Nothing is too hard for Him.

The name Everlasting Father is a remarkable reference to Jesus being coeternal and one with God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, having no beginning and no end. He is the Second Person of the Trinity. 

And, finally, this baby in the manger, surrounded by the noise and mess of animals in a dirty stable, would also be the Prince of Peace. In the midst of our dirty, messy, noisy world, He still brings peace between God and each of us who call Him Savior. Those of us who were once enemies of God are now reconciled by His blood. And, as a bonus, He also brings us the peace that passes all understanding even when our world is collapsing all around us.

Since God kept His promises concerning the Messiah the first time, we know we can trust Him to keep the promises regarding His Second Coming. In fact, look at that last statement at the end of the passage from Isaiah 9: The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this! It’s like He can’t wait, because He’s so excited to do it! Isn’t that amazing?

How I love Him! May we all make room for Him in our hearts and in our homes this season. Have a blessed Christmas! We’ll meet here in 2013!  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Amazing Grace. . .

I don’t know about you, but I seem stuck this week. I somehow can’t find the words to express what I’m feeling about the horror that we have all been focused on since last Friday when an entire classroom of first graders and six teachers and staff members of Sandy Hook Elementary School were unbelievably murdered by an insane young man. As we watched nonstop TV coverage and listened to every last detail, I found it reminiscent of the weekend in 1963 when we all sat around our black and white TV sets, stunned by the assassination of President Kennedy. I find myself still horrified, but no longer shocked. What’s wrong with this picture??

There was an immediate outpouring of national grief over the senseless killing of these babies. Facebook postings have been constant. And, somehow, the sweet pictures of Jesus holding the little child, and the picture of the teacher holding a book as she reads to 20 little ones in Heaven, and the poems about the joy they are finding in the arms of Jesus now are not comforting me. Some things just are so evil, we cannot comprehend how any good can come from them...

This is the time when people either rush in with words of “comfort” or stand back, not knowing what to say. And frankly, I think the latter is sometimes more prudent. Christian author, Lysa TerKeurst, posted this morning that this is really just a time to fill with prayer.[ click here to read ]

None of us can imagine what these parents are feeling. We can’t imagine how we would be able to get through the loss of a child. Well, a very wise woman, who had lost a three-year-old daughter, once told me that God does not give us grace to go through things in our imagination - He gives it to us when we NEED it. That’s why is is so amazing.

So, rather than try to give annoying pat answers, I’m taking Lysa’s approach and I’m going to try to fill the gaps for these parents with prayer. Prayer that God’s grace and comfort will be supernaturally present for these grieving families and for the entire community of Newtown, which is reeling. I’m leaning on His sovereignty for comfort, and for His promises to one day make things right and to wipe away every tear. Our God is good even when HORRIBLE evil happens. He is just and He is able. Able to comfort and able to redeem.

May we not forget these families when the media have packed up their trucks and left the scene. May we become people who consistently remember to pray, not only for these families, but for those we know who have lost loved ones. For all those mommies who have stood over the graves of their babies. We don’t know the answers, but we know the One who IS the answer. Work now, dear Father, to bring comfort and an abundance of grace to strengthen and encourage these families. Blessed are those who mourn, for they WILL be comforted. Thank you, LORD.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Proverbs 5 Part 2: Love the One You're With!

I looked up the definition of adultery and saw that the word comes from a French word, that also comes from a Latin root, meaning to corrupt. The definition given was “voluntary violation of the marriage bed.” When someone commits adultery, he is violating or corrupting what God said was good, the marriage bed. We have already read in Proverbs Solomon’s warning to stay away from the seducing adulteress and his contention that adultery leads to destruction and death. Then in his final verses on the subject, he turns to his son with some positive advice: appreciate what you have in your own home! Stick with the wife of your youth and the blessings of her love:

Drink water from your own cistern,

    running water from your own well.  
Should your springs overflow in the streets,

    your streams of water in the public squares?  
Let them be yours alone,

    never to be shared with strangers.  
May your fountain be blessed,

    and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.  
A loving doe, a graceful deer—

    may her breasts satisfy you always,

    may you ever be captivated by her love. (Proverbs 5:15-19)

There is a book, originally published in 1979, titled Do Yourself a Favor: Love Your Wife, by H. Page Williams. It’s a humorous book with serious advice that still resonates. The author writes to men that if they find themselves married to a “hag, a bag, and a rag,” it’s because the husband has not been loving his wife. This book is still available, so download it on your Kindle or order up a copy from today! It’s a quick read, but so spot-on!

As the head of the household, the husband has the greater responsibility for how things are going in the home. And, in fact, even though Solomon seemed to be blaming the seductress for adultery, he ends this chapter with the observation that, in the end, the man must take full responsibility:

For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord,

    and he examines all his paths.  
The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;

    the cords of his sin hold him fast.  
He will die for lack of discipline,

    led astray by his own great folly. (vs. 21-23)

Did you see in verse 21 that God sees everything we do? Even that “secret” adulterous affair is in His full view ! He knows every way we turn and He knows exactly how we got there! The reality is that the man and woman who get caught up in adultery have made conscious decisions all along the path to stray. It’s our own “folly,” or vanity, or desire that has pulled us away from the marriage bed. Men, love the wife of your youth! This is not an appeal to emotion, but action. Love your wife as Christ loved the church! It’s in your own best interest! It’s essential that your children see that you cherish your wife.

Women, be captivating! Don’t forget to keep fanning the flame in your own bedroom! Somehow, after the children come, we tend to focus solely on their needs. I’ve seen many women become so completely absorbed in their children’s lives that they have no time left over for their husbands. Do not neglect him, because there will always be someone else waiting in the wings to take your place! It is in your children’s best interest that the relationship between Mom and Dad be the priority.

The call here is to be proactive and intentional in AVOIDING the trap of adultery. Solomon had gained his wisdom the hard way - we don’t have to. Above all, remember that God is in the business of redemption and restoration. He can resurrect even a dead marriage - one that’s been torn apart by adultery. He can heal and give us the strength to forgive and move forward if we’ll let Him.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Proverbs 5: Lessons from an Adulterer

In Proverbs 5, Solomon tackles a subject he knew a lot about: adultery. Not only was he born from an adulterous relationship, but the man, himself, had over 1,000 wives and concubines. He KNEW and LIVED the repercussions that accompany this sin! Let me say upfront that I know how painful and personal this subject is for many of you. And I know that some of you have a hard time listening to this subject. For some of you it seems old-fashioned and irrelevant in a modern world where hooking up outside of marriage is the norm. For others, who are beyond the virginal age, yet find yourselves now either widowed or unmarried, this message seems meant for young people, and certainly could not be meant for you at this point in your life.

This is the problem with God’s Word. We either have to take it all or leave it. God says what He means and means what He says. And this subject, like no other makes people uncomfortable or even downright mad at God. We will be parking here for a couple of days, because it is such a serious subject.

Right off the bat, I was a little irritated that Solomon seems to lay the blame for adultery on the seducing woman! He lists all of her tricks and cunning ways, and, at first glance, it seems that the poor man has to guard himself from HER! You have to read to the end where he slams the man and lays the blame forcefully at his feet. Surely, this is a sin that entangles BOTH the man and the woman equally. But, because Solomon is talking to his son, the initial warning is against the feminine wiles:

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,

    and her speech is smoother than oil; 
but in the end she is bitter as gall,

    sharp as a double-edged sword. 
Her feet go down to death;

    her steps lead straight to the grave. 
She gives no thought to the way of life;

    her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. (Proverbs 5:3-6)

This gal may look hot - especially when compared to your wife of several years, who is still trying to shed the weight from pregnancy and is exhausted from chasing toddlers and running kids around town to appointments and sports practice. Maybe she’s a bright young thing at the office who is always perfectly dressed and who thinks everything you say is amazing. She hangs on your every word. At first you just started a little innocent flirtation, but now you can’t wait to get to work to see her! “WATCH OUT!” Solomon cries! There is danger ahead, because she will lead you to death! The death of your marriage, the death of your family, the death of your integrity and self-respect, the death of your soul!

And what happens in the end? Solomon warns that you will give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel...strangers [will] feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man’s house...your life you will groan,when your flesh and body are spent. You will be filled with regret that you would not listen and you will come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly. (vs. 9-14) An affair will lead to financial ruin, the corruption of your body, and complete humiliation. The only ones who will prosper will be the attorneys!

Now, all of us have friends, family, or neighbors who have been through the pain caused by adultery. Or maybe you’ve experienced it up close and personal. As a teacher, I see the collateral damage to the children daily. Is there any good news here? Yes! The grace of God covers even adultery! There is hope in the gospel.

Solomon’s father, David, was not only guilty of adultery but also murder! Yet, the Bible tells us he was a man after God’s own heart! David repented and grieved over his sin with Bathsheba, and God forgave him and washed him white as snow (Psalm 51). He lived with the consequences, but the judgment was completely removed and the joy of his salvation was restored. Jesus not only came to redeem sinners, He also came from a long line of sinners, including adulterers!

Tomorrow we’ll continue with Solomon’s observations and advice as he nails the man!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Proverbs 4:20-27 Plan Ahead!

Today is 12/12/12, which just happens to be the 35th birthday of my younger daughter, Emmy! Remembering that amazing morning when I barely made it to the hospital, because Emmy, always in a hurry, was born after only one hour of labor! Thank yo, LORD, for 35 years of pure JOY with her! Her older sister, Molly, is pushing 38, so I’ve reminded them that they both now round to 40 - because they also remind ME that I round to 100!!  Happy Birthday, sweet Emmy!

I want to ask you to continue to remember my former student, Jacob, in your prayers. He begins round 6 of chemo tomorrow! This has been a long three months! Pray for continued encouragement and strength for both Jacob and his mom, and for a good result from these treatments!

Today we are going to talk about purposeful living. In this last passage of chapter 4 of Proverbs, Solomon uses lots of very active verbs to show the need for intentional planning if we are going to walk the straight path:

My son, pay attention to what I say;

    listen closely to my words.  
Do not let them out of your sight,

    keep them within your heart;  
for they are life to those who find them

    and health to a man’s whole body.  
Above all else, guard your heart,

    for it is the wellspring of life.  
Put away perversity from your mouth;

    keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 
Let your eyes look straight ahead,

    fix your gaze directly before you.  
Make level paths for your feet

    and take only ways that are firm.  
Do not swerve to the right or the left;

    keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:20-27)

You can sense the intensity of Solomon’s plea here. He desperately wants his son to truly LISTEN to his words. The emphasis on guarding and keeping seem to indicate a battle in which soldiers need to be constantly alert to danger and be ready to defend. The Message states verse 23 this way:

Keep vigilant watch over your heart;

    that’s where life starts. 

We are in the midst of a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-18), and we are to be constantly prepared. Paul exhorted us to put on the whole armor of God to protect our hearts and minds. He lists several defensive pieces of armor, and one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This aligns with Solomon’s argument that is it by listening to and acting on God’s Word - His Wisdom - that we will be prepared.

If we want to stick to the right path, we can’t just wander aimlessly or passively. We need to be intentionally planning where we set our feet. We need to keep our eyes fixed straight ahead in order to avoid the distractions and obstacles that would entrap or trip us. The author of Hebrews tells us that even Jesus kept His eyes fixed on the goal in order to complete His task:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Paul tells us to maintain our focus on the prize that awaits us:

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

And again:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

The Christian life is a battle and a race. We need to PLAN AHEAD!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Proverbs 4:1-18 Listen! Listen! Listen!

There’s nothing more frustrating for a teacher than students who will not pay attention or listen to instruction! These days we practically have to do handsprings to get students to focus on what we’re saying! Few are interested in instruction - most would rather be entertained! They are easily distracted and their focus is diverted to the simplest things. Rather than pay attention to what will be on tomorrow’s test, they are more fascinated by the pair of scissors in their desks or the paper clip they just found that can be reshaped into various forms.

So I feel Solomon’s pain when he repeats three times in this chapter of Proverbs, “Listen!” Yet again, he is making the case for wisdom. In fact, this is the central theme of the first nine chapters! Why do we need to hear it so many times? Because, when it comes to God’s Word, we all have Attention Deficit Disorder!

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;

    pay attention and gain understanding.  
I give you sound learning,

    so do not forsake my teaching.  
When I was a boy in my father’s house,

    still tender, and an only child of my mother,  
he taught me and said,

    “Lay hold of my words with all your heart;

    keep my commands and you will live.  
Get wisdom, get understanding;

    do not forget my words or swerve from them.  
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;

    love her, and she will watch over you.  
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.

    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.  
Esteem her, and she will exalt you;

    embrace her, and she will honor you. 
She will set a garland of grace on your head

    and present you with a crown of splendor.” (Proverbs 4:1-9)

Here Solomon recalls the training he received from his father, David. It makes me wonder if, when Solomon was a young boy, David was assured that Solomon was actually taking it all in when David would instruct him, or did Solomon also seem to be ignoring his father’s words? Did Solomon sit in rapt attention at his father’s feet, or was he doodling? Sometimes, children hear more than we think they do! Nevertheless, at some point his father’s words resonated with Solomon, to the point that he passes them on here. How important repetition is in training our children. We must say and model the same thing over and over with consistency in order to have it “take.”

Solomon implores his son to value wisdom, because she would protect him, and she would ultimately exalt him. In fact, he insists, Hold onto instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life! (vs. 13) Then he contrasts the paths of the righteous to the way of the wicked:

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

    shining ever brighter till the full light of day.  
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;

    they do not know what makes them stumble. (vs. 18-19)

Note that there is increasing light as you move down God’s path, but the way of those in rebellion against God is so dark they can’t even see what they are tripping over! Tomorrow we’ll discover how to intentionally keep to the right path.

I told you last time that I’d share a way to give the gift of Christ this Christmas. My daughter. Molly, and her family are spearheading a terrific effort to bless the homeless that you can join. Please check out her website for information. The deadline to contribute is this Friday:   

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Proverbs 3:13-24 Wisdom Personified

After encouraging us to receive discipline as evidence of God’s love for us, Solomon begins to extol the virtues of Wisdom, personified as a woman. While it seems somewhat of a quick change in subject matter, I think the two are absolutely related, for discipline from God is designed to lead us to wisdom.

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom,

    the man who gains understanding,  
for she is more profitable than silver

    and yields better returns than gold.  
She is more precious than rubies;

    nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 3:13-15)

{When I read these verses, I’m immediately reminded of Solomon’s description of the virtuous woman, in Proverbs 31, who is also worth more than rubies! Hmm... women and wisdom tied together. It’s always struck me as funny that there is no corresponding Proverb for “virtuous” men in this book! :) } 

Solomon continues to describe the blessings of wisdom:

Long life is in her right hand;

    in her left hand are riches and honor.  
Her ways are pleasant ways,

    and all her paths are peace.  
She is a tree of life to those who embrace her;

    those who lay hold of her will be blessed. (vs. 16-18)

Finally Solomon assures us that if we will just cling to wisdom, sound judgment and discernment (vs. 21), we will go in safety and our foot will not stumble, we will not be afraid, and best of all in my opinion, our sleep will be sweet (vs. 23-24). Nothing provides a good night’s sleep like the confidence and peace that come from being encouraged and strengthened by God’s Word! In fact, Solomon promises in verses 25 and 26 that we will have no need to fear sudden disaster because the LORD will be our confidence. That’s a guarantee for good sleep that’s much better than any sleep aide can provide!

With all of the things the world has to offer - all of the gold and glitter found in the catalogs that fill our mailboxes at this time of year (which I call “covet books”), nothing compares to the wisdom of God. He alone offers what truly satisfies. He is the only gift that lasts and is truly the “one size fits all.” Jesus is the reason for the season. He is the Word of God made flesh. He is the gift we need to receive and the gift we need to give! Next time I will share with you one way we can pass that gift along.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Proverbs 3:11-12 Thanks! I Needed That!

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline

    and do not resent his rebuke,  
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,

    as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12)

When I speak with the parents of my students at Back to School Night each year, I always ask them to stop rescuing their children from consequences. If a child leaves his homework on the kitchen table, don’t rush to school with it so he won’t get marked down. If students lose points for failing to have their work, a minor consequence, they will most likely not forget the next time. Feeling consistent discipline in small things when they are little, is much more likely to prevent bigger consequences when they are teenagers.

Disciplining our children is our responsibility as parents, because it benefits them! It turns them away from bad behavior. When we take that responsibility seriously and do the hard work of shaping our children, it shows that we love them.

Today’s verses in Proverbs tell us that we should understand that when God disciplines us it’s for our benefit, as well. It’s because He “delights” in us that He disciplines us when we fall into sin. In fact, Hebrews 12:18 tells us that if we are not being disciplined, we aren’t God’s true sons!

We should want our children to get caught in their sin. In fact, I’ve prayed that for my daughters and my grandchildren since they were little. And we, too, should want to get caught! It’s only by having our sin discovered that we will see and feel the need to repent. And God promises that our sins will find us out (Numbers 32:33). As long as we feel no consequences for our sin, as long as we think we are getting away with our behaviors, we may not feel the need to repent. But when the conviction of the Holy Spirit comes upon us, when we feel the blow to the gut as we read His Word that exposes our sin, or when the dear sister, who holds us accountable, lovingly points out our sin, we are moved to repent and turn away from it.

It is NOT fun to discipline! It’s the hardest part of parenting! But, because it is our job to prepare our children to honor God, and because it is our heart’s desire that they be successful in His eyes, we need to do what it takes. We cannot ignore bad behaviors. We have all been in public and seen a child being a downright brat. And we’ve seen the parent that ignores the behavior - either because it’s inconvenient to pay attention because they have important texting to do, or because they just want to placate the child. Ignoring the behavior and letting the child get away with it just reinforces the bad behavior, and you eventually raise a child that no one wants to be around!

Sometimes we ignore bad behaviors in the church, as well. Paul, dealing with just such problems within the church at Corinth, exhorted the believers to be harsh in their discipline in order to save the soul of the offender:

... hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord... But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. (1 Corinthians 5:5 & 11)

Paul later admonished them to lighten up, because they apparently forgot that the goal was restoration: 

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely.  The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him.  Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:5-8)

Paul also warned that we not be so easy with a fallen brother that we fall in with him:

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galataians 6:1)

Yep, discipline is a tricky thing! But whether we are on the giving end or the receiving end, we can be assured that God’s goal for us is to be complete and mature. He wants only the best for us, because He is our Abba Father! So, let’s not despise the Lord’s discipline; it’s a reminder that He delights in us!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Proverbs 3:7-10 Open the Floodgates!

Before we move to this morning’s verses, I just wanted to thank you for praying for Don. The cancer committee was satisfied that the cancer has been removed and there is no need for further treatment. However, the surgeon may reopen the cut just to take a bit more margin as a precaution. He is going to speak with the pathologist about it. Don’s next visit is in two weeks.

Also, I want to ask for continued prayers for my sister, Jodi. She will be heading to Chicago at the end of this week, where she will see her doctors and they will check her bone marrow. Please pray for travel safety, protection from germs, as she is so vulnerable, and that they will find her bone marrow clear of any signs of the myeloma. She will be staying with her son, Jared, and his family, so pray that they will all remain healthy for the visit, and that Jodi will draw strength and encouragement from being with them.

Now, on to today’s passage, which like much of the Proverbs, jumps from one topic to the next:

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

    fear the Lord and shun evil.  
This will bring health to your body

    and nourishment to your bones.  
Honor the Lord with your wealth,

    with the firstfruits of all your crops;  
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

    and your vats will brim over with new wine.  (Proverbs 3:7-10)

The Message states verse 7 this way: Don’t assume you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Why is it we think we are smarter than God? If Solomon were indeed writing this to a young man, possibly a teenager, I’m sure he felt the need to shake some sense into him, as teenagers are often wise in their own eyes! But we adults frequently act the same way. We fail to seek God’s wisdom because we think we have it handled. “I can get this one, God; no need for You to bother with it! I’ve got it covered!” That’s a small step toward disaster!

Verses 9-10 refer specifically to tithing, and while they seem unrelated to the first verses, they are about living a whole life that is in harmony with God’s will. And one of the ways we show that we are trusting and relying on God (verse 5) is by committing our finances to Him. When we put Him first in EVERYTHING, including our treasures, we are demonstrating wisdom! This is the one area in which God actually encourages us to test Him:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10)

Why does God ask for our money? He surely doesn’t need it! But we need to give it! Our handling of our finances speaks volumes about what we value. When we give him the first part (and an Old Testament tithe was at least a tenth of earnings, not including offerings), we show that we understand that ALL that we have comes from Him, and that He will take care of all of our needs.

One of the practical reasons that tithing works is that when you have set aside that financial gift back to God, you find that you are a much better budgeter of what is left. Your priorities for spending shift as you begin to take on His perspective about stewardship. You also begin to see your role in the local Body of Christ as your tithes help further the work of your church.

If you pay all of your other bills first, you will never find enough money left over to give. If this is not something you have ever done or tried, I would encourage you to test God in this area. Try setting aside a tithe for a few months and see if God doesn’t begin to bless you and somehow multiply back to you what you give to Him. It is all His anyway! God promises that our obedience in this will be rewarded - blessings from heaven will pour out on us. Who doesn’t want that??