The Tithe

Standard

Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Tithing is a part of Christianity that most Christians, myself included, have difficulty with. In order to tithe, we must fully understand and commit to the reality that our income isn’t ours, but it belongs to The Lord because he allows us to have it, and when we tithe we are in truth only giving back to The Lord a portion of what is already His.

My church recently built a new building, and we are suffering financially because we followed an old model of building churches, collecting pledges from congregation members for a third of the cost and getting a mortgage for the other two thirds. Guess what happened when the church was built? People left, moved away, or didn’t follow through on what was pledged and now we have this debt. We also don’t push tithing, money is a hard subject and it is a sensitive area for the church to teach about. We are an increasingly suspicious society, so when someone comes to us with their hand out, we clam up, even though it was our Lord is commanding us to. We readily accept advice from our Pastor on our marriage, our children, our personal walk with Christ, but if he starts asking us for money then we are OUT. This then goes back to the first point I made, the money really isn’t ours to begin with.

Money is finite. You only get so much on payday and once it is dispersed it is gone. There isn’t anymore once it is all used up. Our God is infinite. He is unwavering, unchanging, always loving. We don’t say, “Well I prayed once already today and that was my limit, so I have to wait until tomorrow to pray again.” That’s ridiculous! He is always available, unlimited, like the limit on your account is nil. The reason I point out our God’s infinite reach, is because I experience it with my tithing. I often don’t tithe. I think, “there just isn’t enough money and God says to take care of our household or we are foolish.” (“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ” 1 Timothy 5:8) Just recently I was doing our family’s budget and I could not make the math work. I spent days trying to allocate enough funds to every category but there were more categories than there was money. Finally I gave up, and since it had been two months since I last gave an offering, I tithed. The next morning I got up and looked at my budget. I thought it would be another long unproductive day of trying to make the math work. But guess what? It worked. All the numbers fit in and there was even money left over. I was left not wanting anything and feeling our needs were met entirely. I told this to my mom and she told me, “You just were adding the numbers wrong”, but I disagree. I was trying to make the budget work from my limited Earthly perspective, God stepped in worked it from his heavenly perspective, and made an, albeit small, miracle happen. I truly and honestly feel that it was divine, by tithing I invited God into my finances and He not only stepped up to the plate, but knocked the ball out of the park. Tithing is a habit I will take more seriously, and I strongly encourage you do the same.

Forgiven

Standard

Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiveness. I have been forgiven therefore I shall forgive, right? I sometimes struggle with forgiving people. Usually for me it is easy to forgive, but a few times I have had to pray and pray for God’s grace and help me to let go and forgive. I do not forgive because it is good for the other person, they may not even know I had a grievance about them, it is for the health of my own soul that I must forgive. I always think of it in terms of gunk, filth, or garbage that litters my heart and soul. The anger, hurt, frustration, that tends to build up and we carry it around. It is weighing you down, you may not notice, but when you let go of it for good you feel a breath of fresh air in your soul. It’ll be like someone opened the window and let out all the stale air. You do not forgive for the sake of the other person, you forgive for the sake of your own survival.

I recently saw someone that inspired me to write about forgiveness. Many years ago, his father came to my father for help. My dad was reluctant to help him because he was very busy, but the man insisted so he eventually did. Things did not go according to how the man had wanted, so he threatened to sue my dad. My dad sought legal counsel and learned the other man had no basis, or evidence, that would warrant a law suit. It was all gossip and empty threats. My dads business was hurt for a while, but eventually it picked back up to the pace it was at originally. This other man had been damaged, but it would seem he has recovered since his business appears to once again be thriving. This was a dark and terrible time for my family. For my dad, who had been doing his job for 30 years at that point, without any incident, it made him reconsider his faith in the gift he has. I got tired of the endless gossip, people prying and asking questions. I was angry, but not as much as my older sister. She would go on a rampage defending my father and tarnishing the other mans name, which was what that man was doing to my father. So I prayed. My mom prayed, and probably countless others who relied on my dad and trusted him. After the dust settled, my dads business started to get vandalized. I often suspected the other man’s children as he had two sons, that were the same age as me. I don’t have any proof, but it was what I felt in my heart.
I don’t think about this other man any more, and I don’t know if my sister does, but I do know that I have forgiven what was done and I no longer have to spend any time on it. It doesn’t concern me at all. It occurred to me the other day though, that he doesn’t feel the same. I ran into one of his sons and he shot me a terribly awful look. This isn’t the first encounter I have had with him, and it is usually the same. He still hates me and my family, and the emotion raw as if it happened yesterday. Instead of being angry at him, which would start the cycle over, I feel sad for him. The hurt and anger has rusted his soul. He blames me and my family still to this day for what happened to his dad, and I can’t do anything to rectify it or make it better, but I do prayfor him. He has no idea the freedom he would feel if he could just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, especially if forgiveness isn’t a muscle you have used before. But like any muscle, you practise, start with a smaller weight, and once it easy for you to lift the smaller weight you go up in size until you finally have reached your goal. It’ll take patience, and transgressions you thought you let go of will surface again, and you will have to pray about it and forgive them all over again. But I promise you this, it is worth it. If you feel bitterness remember, you aren’t forgiving for the good of the other person’s involved, you are forgiving because it is good FOR YOU.

What’s Wrong With Kids Today?

Standard

My title may be a little off putting, as it is reminiscent of how every single generation prior to the current one has thought about the generation younger than them. What I am considering though is that they were right, every generation has lost a little humanity and replaced it with technology, and the “live for the moment” mentality. There isn’t anything wrong with being present, and enjoying each day as the gift it is, but it is wrong to use that for an excuse to lead a reckless and selfish existence. God has given us this gift of life to use to glorify Him, to tell the world of His love, and His hopes for our lives. Being a part of the “here and now” culture is detrimental to that gift, and is only going to lead you down a path of self loathing, damaged relationships, and right into Satan’s grasp.

I wasn’t aware how far gone we were, and how old I was getting, until just recently. I went out with a few friends for a birthday supper to a lounge. Everyone there was a lot younger than me, and I can honestly say I have never felt so out of touch with the current culture. I used to be a part of it, when I thought it was OK to get drunk on Friday and go to church Sunday. I used to live hedonistically, occasionally used drugs, and lied to myself, my family, my friends, and most importantly my God. This cycle of partying and trying to leave a clean life 5 days a week made me hate myself. I would think about the things I did when I was under the influence of something, and rehash and relive them and scrutinize myself for being so foolish, only to repeat the same mistakes on the next Friday night. Alcohol led to promiscuity, irresponsible spending, saying things that I couldn’t take back. A good therapist made me realize I was on the path to to alcoholism because I used alcohol as a tool to “loosen up”, it was a crutch for me. I had a child at the time and the thought of my son having an alcoholic mother terrified me enough to quit. I am still working on forgiveness from The Lord, I know he forgave me in an instant but I am unable to let go. The things I did have been wiped off my slate but I reflect on them often, too focused still on the past to look forward to a wonderful future with The Lord.

I am telling this story to explain how concerned I am for the new youth. It has been hard enough for me to let go of the mistakes I made, but they pale in comparison to the current mistakes being made by our young people. The nightlife is dark, there is evil in every dimly lit corner, and the Devil would have you believing he is winning if you stayed long enough. There needs to be a bright beacon of light to lead these people to new hope, a new existence, and a new love that they are searching fruitlessly for in the wrong place. They need to be covered with prayer, showered with love, and supported to all ends so they can come to amends with their lives as they are, bid adieu, and come walk with Christ.

You Like Me? You Really Like Me?

Standard

For as long as I can remember, I have been a “people pleaser”. I have no idea why I am the way I am. My name even means “loveable; worthy of love”. I constantly strive to have people see me as “worthy of love”, but often I feel my efforts are exhaustive and fruitless. If I was truly doing something that was my life’s calling, then shouldn’t it energize me and come easily to me? I often, okay always, put the needs of others before my own, and I do not speak up when I should, for fear of offending one of my friends. If I am afraid of offending them, then are they truly my friends? Are people that do not see my value as a human being worthy of my love?

Maybe I struggle so much because my motivations are not pure. Instead of focusing on what someone really and truly needs, I am selfishly trying to get them to like me. Instead of serving them because I love to serve people, I am doing it because I want to find favour with them. What is so wrong with wanting to be the “friend” tagged in all the Facebook posts, or the “friend” who gets texts all day long from people who truly do care and worry about me?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that, it’s that I am not serving Jesus when I am serving others first, for my own benefit, instead of in His name. Instead of trying to win my friends’ approval, I should be living according to The Lord and trying to win His approval. According to Proverbs 3:4 “So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.” favour comes from God first, then man. If I instead work hard to please my Father, than favour with man will come next. So how do I serve my Father? By learning how to keep my motivations pure, and doing things for others because I see a need and am able to fill it, not by doing things or buying my friends things so they will like me better. I do not want those kind of friends if that’s what I need to do to be with them. As painful as that is it may be necessary to weed people out of your life in order to better serve The Lord.

Now understanding this, and writing it, does not make it easier. I still have pain in my heart, I am overly sensitive and I am hurting. So what do I do? Firstly I pray. I ask God to bring people into my life who are good for me and will encourage and nourish my walk with Christ. Next I pray for my friends. God has been so faithful to me, I often struggle with something as silly as being impatient with my children, and I pray about it and it suddenly gets better. He will show that same Faith to you. He may not always answer the way you ask, but God never fails and he always sends an answer. He is amazing. After this, I need to remind myself and take accountability for what my role is. I need to become the friend I want and need, to other people. Ever hear the saying, “treat others the way you want to be treated”? Well it’s true–and it is high time I treat people better, set aside my preconceived judgments, learn how to be modest and squish my pride. For I have a lot of love to give, and I am worthy of other’s love.

Educated the “Smarts” out of You

Standard

I never completed my college degree. I started and switched career paths and I only have one year of study under my belt. I have many friends who went all the way, as well as family members. I have a few relatives in my immediate family who have doctorates and bachelor degrees. I have never in any way felt like a lesser human being when I talk to them. Even though they went to school longer, and are experts in their respective fields of study, they have never in any way made me feel any less intelligent. I am not saying that I am just as smart as they are, I am saying that I have as much merit as a human being as they do, and I am not defined by a certificate or a degree and they do not define me by such standards.

In college I noticed the longer someone had been a student, the less of a free thinker they became. I am not trying to state this as fact or base it on any individual study, it has only been in my personal experience. It was as if the smarter they get, memorizing history, books, languages and art, anthropology and so on, the common sense area of the brain is replaced, most likely due to overcrowding (I am kidding).

I once heard, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know”, and this statement could not be truer. It can be overwhelming to start learning about a subject only to realize the vastness and ever changing nature of it. I think it is ignorant to say, even non verbally, that since you have studied a vocation in its’ entirety you must know everything about the subject, and no one could possibly know as much as you, especially not someone who hasn’t attended the same courses as you, heard the same dignitaries, read the same journals…blah blah. Okay I realize this is starting to sound personal, but that is because it is. I am so annoyed by people who used to be friends, who are suddenly not, and the only thing separating us is a piece of paper that proves they did x, y, and z to get it.

What is true for me, and many others, is that I read a lot. I am constantly striving to learn and to better myself. And while you were in school with your nose in a book, I was with people. And it seems that some have forgotten how to relate to individuals because they are so used to relating to paper and pen. In my experience, people have more merit than books, except for the Bible. I have learned more from stopping and listening to older individuals tell stories of when they were young, from my family members telling me of what it was like for them as children, growing up in other countries. I guess the point that I am making is that colleges and universities often overlook the “everyman” and the truth is that the “everyman” has a far richer and vast knowledge base than any class could ever teach me. People are too busy talking, and following instruction, to truly stop and appreciate the plethora of experience sitting across from them. If only they could genuinely, put aside the bias of, “well he never attended this college so he must not know what he’s talking about”, and open their hearts and their minds to someone else’s story, how much more could they learn? And the best news is that it is free!

How Great is our God?

Standard

I have been thinking about our God’s awesome power, and if he wanted to, the whole world could know of His glory, in a single instant He could enlighten us. So why hasn’t he? If He wants us to know Him, personally and intimately, than why hasn’t He just showed us?

Imagine this. You are on a holiday with your family. You have taken them to the Badlands, an area that amazing discoveries have taken place. Complete and colossal dinosaur skeletons have been found there. Massive bones, crustaceans and extinct creatures have been fossilized and left for us to discover. As you walk through the rocky, dry earth you notice something that is unlike the ground around it. You creep towards the area, carefully watching the ground so you don’t disturb the rattle snakes in the grass. You finally come up to it. You are amazed, astonished that YOU have discovered something in an area that appears so barren. You call over your loved ones, “hurry”, you tell them, “come and see”! You all look at the object you have in your hand, it is beautiful, it sparkles in the sun, every colour of the rainbow is visible on its shell. It’s ammolite, a rare opal-like gemstone only found in highly fossilized areas. It’s value in the range of hundred of thousands of dollars. What an amazing find. What a rush!

In this story, you have traveled to an area that is known to have dinosaur remains, and there has been ammolite found and mined. Although you weren’t expecting to come across it, you knew it was a possibility because of where you were. Now imagine it differently. Imagine your life, without Christ, you have never known him and didn’t even know he could possibly exist. One day you experience something so powerful and unnerving that your life will never be the same. And because of it, you learn of a God, that forgives you in an instant for everything you have done, He only wants good things for you, and He loves you more than you can even fathom. When you think about something that you have known forever, it isn’t as special as coming across and finding something out for the first time. Think back to when you read something that you hadn’t heard before and how it changed you. You can even still remember the passage or idea word for word. Think about how excited you were and you wanted everyone to know the thought you had just put together. Like when you found the gemstone, you were excited and wanted everyone to, “hurry! Come and see what I found!”. It has an affect on your life that cannot be measured, it is far reaching and extraordinary. If we knew God existed because he came to us and told us, “Hey Joe, I’m God” it wouldn’t be the same thrill as it is finding Him and learning about Him. We must come to Christ by Faith, not by sight. It needs to be a powerful, unique relationship that can only be described by having your own, personal walk with Him. He wants us to find Him, to know Him, He is waiting for you when you are ready. And when you find Him, He wants you to declare it to the whole world.

It would be easy if God came to us, took our hand, and showed us who He is. It is profound when we grab his hand and ask Him, “Father, please, show me who you are”.

Confessions

Standard

I watched “Confessions of a Shopaholic” the other night, I love that film, mostly because I can identify with the main character. She says so poignantly when asked why she shops, “because when I shop everything gets better, then it doesn’t, and I shop again.”.
This statement is so introspective, because I do the same. Shopping makes me feel, good, elated, excited, and then it goes away and I am left with the pain of regret, or the pain of being dishonest about how much I’ve spent. I go through ebbs and flows with my shopping. I can do great for a while, and not buy anything except groceries. My “winning streaks” of no shopping are more common than my “spending streaks”, but unfortunately my spending sprees are severely damaging. My addiction isn’t just cheap shoes, new jeans, or something for the house, it’s designer goods. Expensive jeans for my kids, new dresses for my daughter, designer handbags, leather boots, honestly listing them off makes me feel like vomiting. When I buy these things, the elation can last for days, but as it valley’s I feel like I need to do it again, because even though I spent $1100 dollars theres just a few more things that I NEED and then I will quit. “I got new leather boots and a jacket, but I need the Marc Jacobs handbag because it’s in mint green and I love mint green!” And so it goes, I talk myself into “needing” something and I shop again.

My husband is a natural saver, and I usually do the budgeting, and I love it. I love the “wins” when we pay off debt, save for something and pay cash, or even the “win” of having all the bills current and having enough left over to take the family to the movies. This is commonly how I feel. I just haven’t learned why it doesn’t last. I am a natural spender, so is there a way for me to “cure” this? Or do I need to instead “prepare” for the inevitable? Do I need to set aside money in every budget that can build up so that when I feel the need to go mad, its not as damaging to our financial state? Or is it simply that I have to learn how to squash the urge to shop? But would I tell my husband to squash his natural urge to save? If you are expecting answers unfortunately I am not introspective enough to give you any. I am just as confused as you are. To me the most logical answer would be to set money aside every payday and prepare for the inevitable shop, instead of it happening like an oncoming freight train.

The larger issue is, why do I buy expensive clothing, designer duds? Why can’t I just be content in gear from the local chain store? I have always been identified by my clothes. It started with my mom, now I am in no way blaming her, but I remember her closet being full of shoes, purses, nice clothes, and a jewellery box full of diamonds, and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to have things like her. And she would say things like, “I’m a doctor’s wife, I should look nice.” so in turn since I am a doctor’s daughter, should I dress smartly? Well I did. When I was a teenager I would spend my whole pay cheque on new clothes, and I even borrowed money from my parents to buy new clothes. I got into the whole pattern of borrowing money to buy clothes when I wasn’t even old enough to drive. And my outer appearance, was always important.

I do still feel outer appearance is important, and I teach my kids to brush their teeth, comb their hair, and wear clean clothes but this is a far cry from telling them to only wear certain labels. When I stop to think about what I am telling them, not by words but by actions, it frighten’s me. Sure it’s nice to be complimented on how fashionable I am, how nice my clothes are, and how put together I look, but wouldn’t it be nicer to receive a compliment of my character? Am I afraid that my character is so flawed, I need to dress the outer package up as a distraction to how ugly I am inside? People are too busy looking at the peacock’s pretty feathers to notice he is arrogant, jealous of the other peacock who has a nicer colour palette, and cruel to the hens that try to chose him as his mate?

I don’t think the answer to this is easy, but I do know that I face an ongoing battle, and it is important that I beat it, not to save myself but to save my children from the pain of decisions I have made, and the imperfection’s to my soul this has caused.