Monday, July 28, 2008

To Be Rich Toward God

We are living in a time of financial crisis for many. While some folks have not yet been affected by the rising gasoline prices and ongoing inflation across the board, most families are not doing as well financially as they had been.

Fewer family summer vacations took place this year. Commuters are looking for carpool partners. In every instance spending is down. Take a look at the status of the offering within your local congregation.

While times may be difficult, this is not the time for us to stop giving to the Lord. I have heard many excuses over the years made by people who have either stopped giving or have cut back on their giving to the church. It has to do with everything from fixed incomes to job loss to extra expenses not expected. But I have to be honest - I don't understand this attitude. Does God get a raise when we do? Most of the time the answer is "No." But if we struggle for a while we tend to lose our faith.

Why is it that God gets the first pay cut? If we were honest about our spending there are things that each individual and family could change that has nothing to do with the offering. I have found that for the most part, people will cut God out and live the same way they were living, with few adjustments. Then when they get back on their feet financially, their offering does not increase again to the level of the past.

In difficult times, we should be able to see that God is the One who sustains us. Do we not ask Him to give us daily bread? If we receive it, do we not recognize our prayers to Him have been answered? Malachi asked by inspiration, "
Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation" (Malachi 3:8-9).

Malachi was pointing out that we often limit what we can do by settling for what we are obligated to do. True faith is not seen in that which merely meets the norm. It is found in the willingness to go beyond what God has asked. It is giving when it doesn't fit the budget. It is extending oneself beyond what is reasonable into uncharted waters of hope.

God was not obligated to give sinful man anything. Man left God. But when the grace of God was abundantly poured out on His highest creation, God did not spare. Instead He sent His very best. He made the biggest sacrifice He could make. Jesus, though He was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we might have true riches.

I ask of you, is there anything that you lack in true blessings? Is there any reason for giving to God less than your best? Can you have true faith? Can you examine yourself as you examine the Christ? Can you show yourself to be rich toward God?

"But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." ~ Luke 12:20-21

- Luk 12:20 -

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Last Mile of the Way

When Woodrow Wilson Kelly passed away this past week at the age of 96, my heart was saddened. He was my friend. He trusted me. He was good to my family. He was faithful to worship.

At the funeral one song chosen was "The Last Mile of the Way." As the song was played in A cappella format I couldn't help but think about Brother Kelly's last mile. I can still close my eyes and see him coming slowly up the aisle on his walker as all the members stood during the last verse of the invitation song. This past Sunday morning I thought I saw him again. I looked for him but he was not there. But the image of his willingness to follow Christ hasn't left my mind.

Only a small number of people have been blessed to witness the walk of a penitent sinner from a preacher's perspective. It is one of the most beautiful sights this side of eternity. There have been a few confessions made on the front pew during my lifetime that were so pure and perfect that I believe they rang the bells of heaven. Brother Kelly was one who wanted to do the will of God so much that he saw a need to approach the throne of grace with regularity.

As he aged, and his mental faculties began to waiver, I am sure many questioned his plea. But I don't care about that. When I see a tenth of the humility in the nay-sayers that W.W. Kelly displayed I will listen. He was a man who had lived his early life outside of Christ. His obedience in his mind was long overdue. I am confident that he would have obeyed even if it meant death. He was willing to give heart, soul, mind, strength, and every earthly possession to God.

The last mile of the way for brother Kelly was a mile of resolution and victory. He was not a perfect man, but his final example made him one of my heroes. Following Jesus is about heart. When hearts are open anything is possible. It is even possible for a man once taken in by the world and its pleasures to give up the temporal things at all costs. I imagine that by the end of his life Brother Kelly walked the aisle of repentance for a full mile...the last mile of the way.

"But as for me, I will walk in my integrity;
Redeem me and be merciful to me. My foot stands in an even place;
In the congregations I will bless the LORD." ~ Psalm 26:11-12

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lessons on Teamwork

Some of the best lessons come from unexpected places. One of the best lessons you can ever find about teamwork comes from geese. When they fly to a warmer climate during winter months they work together:

1. They take turns flying point. When they travel in their famous V-formation the leaders take turns. In doing this they save their energy and everyone has the opportunity to share the hardest job.

2. They uplift one another. By flying in the V-formation every bird creates an extra lift for the bird behind them. Experts have concluded that they get 70% extra help from this formation, because it is easier to fly behind another bird.

3. They help the sick and wounded. Most people don't know this, but when a goose is sick or wounded and is forced to go to the ground, at least two other geese will go to the ground to help. These helping geese will stay with the troubled bird until it is able to fly again.

4. The honkers fly in the back. Maybe you have been on a lake before and you have heard the geese honk as they fly over your head. Where is the honking coming from? It comes from the geese that follow behind. Why? Perhaps it is to say to the geese working hardest in the front that everything is fine in the back. Perhaps it is for encouragement. Perhaps it is a honk of appreciation for the work of the leadership.

What a great lesson to learn from God's creation! By nature we should also help each other. So:
1. Take you turn at the helm and relinquish it at the proper time. 2. Realize that the work you do is helping the work of others. 3. Never forget to help those who need help the most. 4. Always encourage those who lead and sacrifice for others.

"...from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." Ephesians 4:16

Special thanks to Chuck Swindoll for the research done on geese that inspired this article...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


In 1991 the Men's Health Magazine reported that the average male is: 5' 9" tall and 173 pounds. Is married, 1.8 years older than his wife and would marry her again. Has not completed college. Earns $28,605 per year. Prefers showering to taking a bath. Sends about 7.2 hours a week eating. Does not know his cholesterol count, but it's 211. Watches 26 hours and 44 minutes of TV a week. Takes out the garbage in his household. Prefers white underwear to colored. Cries about once a month--one fourth as much as Jane Doe. Eats his corn on the cob in circles, not straight across, and prefers his steak medium. Can't whistle by inserting his fingers in his mouth. Prefers that his toilet tissue unwind over, rather than under, the spool. Will not stop to ask for directions when he's in the car.

In a book, American Averages, written in 1980, Mead, Feinsilber, and Doubleday reported that on an average day in the USA: 1,169,863 people take a taxi, 176,810,950 eggs are laid, 21,000 gallons of oil are spilled from tankers and barges, 63,288 cars crash, 28 mailmen are bitten by dogs, 2 billion $1 bills are in circulation, industry generates nearly 1 pound of hazardous waste for every person in America, 1.1 million people are in the hospital, the U.S. Postal Service sells 90 million stamps, handles 320 million pieces of mail and delivers 833,000 packages, 180,000 people buy new radios, 500 million cups of coffee are drunk, 10,205 people give blood, $54,794 is spent to fight dandruff, bricklayers lay 22,741,000 bricks, amateurs take 19,178,000 snapshots, 9,077 babies are born, 2,466 children are bitten by dogs, 5,962 couples wed, every one of us produces nearly 6 pounds of garbage.

Now of course each one of us still makes our own decisions. We are not exactly average. None of these things may well describe you. But I wonder if a survey was taken concerning our spiritual lives, where would each one of us fall along the curve?

According to U.S.A. Today, May 25, 1994, 48% of church-goers attend an average of once a month. According to Psychology Today, 1988, the percentage of mothers who said they wanted their children to develop a loyalty to church in 1924: 50. In 1978: 22. Now it somewhere around 15%.

We often complain about how American is losing its religion. I get email forwards daily concerning the dwindling influence of Christianity in our culture. But are you contributing to it? Does your lack of daily Bible reading fall below average? What about your attendance to Bible class? What about your involvement in fellowship or evangelism? In what direction is your spiritual life going? Is the time spent with God less and less or more and more?

God is not concerned with averages. He is concerned with your soul. He wants you to be better than average. He wants you to be excellent.

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." ~ James 1:22