Tuesday, February 28, 2017

On Tithing

  For those who may not know, tithing is giving a tenth of your income. Christian denominations and people of the Jewish faith have many different teachings on tithing. For our purposes, I will not go into that area. I will focus instead on why we should tithe and what God’s Word says about tithing.

  As you will see, most of the teaching on tithing comes from the Old Testament. But this does not mean that tithing was one of the laws we no longer needed after Jesus came. Not much is said about it in the New Testament because it was one of those laws that was just part of the Jewish culture.

  I think God also wants us to give to the poor and to support those who help others or work for justice in the world. I believe that if everyone in the world gave part of their income to the poor, it would alleviate a good portion of all hunger and poverty.

  “Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand.”  Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:18-20.

This Scripture is one of those that teaches that we should financially support those who minister to us in our churches—priests, ministers, pastors, elders. Another is Matthew 10: 9-10 where Jesus sends the apostles out to minister:

 “Provide yourselves with neither gold nor silver nor copper in your belts; no traveling bag, no change of shirt, no sandals, no walking staff. The workman after all, is worth his keep.”

  The law of tithing was introduced in the Old Testament as part of the law of Moses. In the Old Testament, the people gave their tithe for the support of the Temple and the priests that ministered there.

  Leviticus 27:30 says: “All tithes of the land, whether in grain from the fields or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord, as sacred to him.”  This means that the first 10% of our income is not ours; it belongs to God.

  Some people decide to give more than 10% of their income. Others can easily afford to give more than ten percent. The Bible says: “The willingness to give should accord with one’s means, not go beyond them. The relief of others ought not to impoverish you; there should be a certain equality.” 2 Corinthians 8:12. This is a very important passage because God does not want us to become poor or needy by giving to others. But I have learned, through listening to the stories of many people, that even if you have a very small income, if you tithe 10% of that, the Lord will provide for your needs.

  God wants us to give not only because it’s His Law, but out of compassion for others. Yet God blesses us in return. In Luke 6:38-38 Jesus says: “Give, and it shall be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment. For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.”

  Proverbs 3:9-10 says: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce: then will your barns be filled with grain, with new wine your vats will overflow.”

  In Malachi 3: 8-10 God scolds the Israelites for not tithing fully: “Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! And you say, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings! You are indeed accursed, for you, the whole nation, rob me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord of hosts:  Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?”

  In Isaiah 58: 10-11 God says: “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.”

  My husband and I have been tithing for many years. During that time, I have seen these Scriptures of God’s blessing on those who tithe fulfilled many, many times. The blessings are sometimes financial, but often material or in other ways.

  So I encourage you, if you do not already tithe, to “try the Lord” as they say, and see if He does not bless you as well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

God Wants Us to Look Our Best

I believe that God wants us to look our best. When we are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we become sons and daughters of God. Therefore, we are princes and princesses in God's Kingdom. As such, we should look the part.
  I don't believe there is anything ugly in God's Kingdom. Every witness I've read of people who have had near-death experiences and gone to Heaven witness to a place of beauty and light, filled with flowers and trees. In the beginning of the world, God created all things beautiful and good. It was only after sin entered the world through the disobedience of man that ugliness began to invade. So ugliness is not of God but from the evil one.
  One of the responsibilities given to God's children is to work to help make the world the Kingdom of God. Jesus said that we should pray "Thy Kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). We, as individuals, are God's ambassadors. We should look the part.
  I like to think of females as flowers and males as trees in God's garden. For flowers or trees to thrive, they must have sun, water and good soil. They also must be protected from pests and diseases. For us to look our best we need to spend time tending our bodies. Now I'm not advocating spending hours and hours exercising, fixing our hair, putting on makeup. Or spending tons of money getting Botox treatments, face lifts or hair replacement. But there's nothing wrong or vain about keeping our body fit, having a nice hairstyle, wearing makeup or dressing nicely. If we are not handsome or beautiful, it's not because God created us that way; it's because we are born into a fallen world. So it's a good thing to help ourselves look closer to how we were meant to look.
  Our personal appearance also reflects how we are on the inside. Very often people with poor self-esteem reflect that in their appearance. They dress in dull, drab colors; their clothing is disheveled; hair unwashed or uncombed; no makeup. Think of the homeless people you have seen. I remember a wedding I attended as a child. The bride was pregnant and had very poor self-esteem. She was dressed in a lovely gown, but her hair was short and chopped and she wore no makeup. It was such a contrast to the lovely gown.
  We are the "Bride of Christ". We are His Knights in shining armor. Let's reflect that on the outside as well as inside.

My lover is radiant and ruddy; he stands out among thousands. His head is pure gold; his locks are palm fronds, black as the raven....Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun,... Songs 5:10; 6:10

The Advantages of Being Single

I was a very independent-minded strong-willed child. I couldn't wait to grow up so I could do things and have things the way I wanted. Then I got married.
  Of course, it's not good to be a selfish, self-centered person. Being married certainly helps you to grow in unselfishness and in many other areas. But it is frustrating sometimes to always have to consider the likes and dislikes of your spouse, or how it will affect him or her, in making decisions.
  If you are single, you can cook what you like for dinner or go to restaurants you like. When my husband and I were first married, he was very fussy about what he liked and didn't like. After cooking meal after meal that he didn't like, I finally sat down with him and compiled a list of the dinner choices he liked. It was very limited, but at least I was not cooking in vain.
  When you are single you can furnish and decorate your home or apartment according to your taste. I always loved Colonial style in furnishings. My husband did not. So when we first went shopping to furnish our new apartment we walked through the store each pointing out what we liked until we came upon an item we could agree upon. Surprisingly, we did manage to furnish our apartment eventually.
  There are many couples I would like to be closer friends with; perhaps have them over for dinner. But if my husband doesn't feel the same way (especially if he dislikes one of them) I can't pursue the friendship.
  As a Christian, one of the most important advantages of being single is that you are free to attend the church you like. You are free to minister wherever the Holy Spirit leads you. When you are married, your response to the Holy Spirit is limited because your spouse has to be in agreement with how you think the Holy Spirit is leading you--or at least be willing to let you do those things you feel led to do that don't affect your life as a couple. For instance, if you think the Holy Spirit is asking you to go you go to Africa to minister and your spouse doesn't want to, you can't go. Or perhaps you have a heart for the poor, and want to tithe 10% of your income. But your spouse doesn't believe in tithing. Well, you can't tithe then.
  Getting back to the secular level, when you're single you are free to plan your career according to what you would like to do. Perhaps you would like to move to another state or country. When you're married, you just can't pick up and move. Your life is tied up with another person and that person has to be in agreement with whatever changes you might like to make.
  I know many single or divorced people. Sometimes I think they look with envy upon me because I have a husband. The grass is always greener on the other side. There are many advantages to being married and I think the majority of people are meant to be married. But there are disadvantages too. Those called to be single or those single by default would be more content if they kept that in mind.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Importance of Daily Prayer

On our daily list of things to do, prayer should be the first priority. Not "if I have time" or "after I get everything done that has to be done today".
  Why should you make prayer a priority? Why do we make eating or sleeping a priority? Why do we exercise our bodies? Prayer is to the spirit what eating, sleeping and exercise are to the body. God gives us grace through prayer. He feeds us through His Word in Scripture and in His words to us through the Holy Spirit.  When we pray, God renews and revives us. In prayer God strengthens and tunes our spirit.
  It's easier to make prayer a priority if you're a morning person and don't have small children to care for. It's more difficult when you have to schedule it for afternoon, evening or before bed because the temptation always arises to do something else instead. The most important thing is to keep it in your mind as a priority for the day.
  But, if at all possible, have your prayer time in the morning. One saying I like is "A day begun with prayer is less likely to unravel." Prayer gives you guidance, grace and strength for the day. I find that when I pray in the morning the Holy Spirit often changes one or more of my plans for the day.
  If you can't pray in the morning, you can at least offer your day to God, ask His blessing on you and your family, and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and then have a more extended time for prayer later in the day. You could also read a passage from a daily devotional while eating breakfast or listen to a devotional podcast or CD while driving to work.
  Putting God first in our lives is always the best choice. If we do that, everything else will fall into place.

I am the Lord, your God. You shall not (put anything before Me).
Exodus 20:2