The delicate art of giving to the Lord

When we give to the Lord, so many things can go wrong.  The world looks askance at it, even friends wonder about all the money we’re giving, and so many questions arise.

I call it a delicate art, this business of giving to the Lord.  Here are some reasons for that.

One. It doesn’t look like what it is.

It may appear you are giving to poor people, to the needy, to the gospel worker, or to the church itself.  Someone may even say you’re “paying the preacher.”  One of my uncles was known to say, “I don’t owe the preacher anything; I’ve not been to hear him preach in ages.”

In giving to my Savior, I am laying up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:20), I am ministering to the saints (2 Corinthians 9:1), I am honoring my Lord by my faithfulness (see Mark 12:41-44), and I am honoring His name (see Hebrews 6:10).

Two.  Outsiders will accuse you of wasting your money.

Judas said, “What a waste!”(see Mark 14:4).  He was a thief, say the gospel writers, and cared little for the honor of the Lord.

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Before we tell the world, we must show them

…so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9).

Show and tell. Sounds simple enough.

Every kindergartner knows the process. You bring something to school and then tell the class what it is. What it means to you. How it works.

A few years ago, I sat at the head table when veteran lineman Frank Warren was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. His agent paid tribute to his star player.

We live in Dallas. I’ll never forget the day my five-year-old son took Frank Warren to his school for show-and-tell. Frank flew to Dallas just to do that for my child.

I sat there not quite believing my ears. This football player went to all the trouble of flying from New Orleans to Dallas for no other purpose than accompanying a preschooler to kindergarten for show-and-tell.

No wonder the agent was still speaking of it, years later. Who would not remember that?

A few years back Henry Blackaby spoke to Louisiana Baptists about post-9/11 life for Christians in America.

After 9-11, business as usual would be an affront to God…. So far, we are not being the salt and light God intended…. We have had very little effect on this society.

It should matter to every Christian that the world around us ignores us, that it does not take us seriously, and even scoffs at our faith.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.

AMC-TV was running the movie “Shawshank Redemption” twice each night. I finally sat down and watched it, the first time since it appeared maybe 20 years earlier. It was easy to see why it’s so memorable and even loved. The roles played by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman wedge themselves in our consciousness and will not turn us loose without a struggle.

As a Christian, however, I was highly offended by the warden in that prison called Shawshank. He quoted the Bible, preached its platitudes, and then was guilty of the harshest brutality and greed. He even ordered murders to protect his criminal enterprise. All the while, Bible verses were displayed prominently and the man’s Bible was a major actor in the story.

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When hope is all we have left

(This is reprinted intact from this website from March, 2010.) 

They called the other day and invited me to speak in chapel at a local Christian high school. I was delighted and told them what I usually do.

They said, “That’s fine. But another time. This time, we need something else.”

What I often do in high school assemblies, I told her, was to set my easel up on the gym floor and get two or three students out of the audience and caricature them. Then, for the piece de resistance, stand the principal before them and sketch him/her. After that, give them my 10 or 15 minute talk on lessons learned from a lifetime of drawing people on the subject of self-image, self-acceptance, and faith in the Lord who made us.

She said, “That sounds great. And we’d like to have you back to do that sometime. But we need something else from you this time.”

“One of our students is dying,” she said. “And it has shaken the entire student body. We need you to minister to us.”

The next day the student went to Heaven.

Today is Friday, the chapel service is Tuesday morning.

Get that? This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the next Sunday is Easter, and in between we’re going to have a service to talk about death and life.

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C. S. Lewis’s Christmas sermon to pagans

Note from Joe: I picked this up off the internet. Am reposting it here because I love it so much and want to preserve it nearby.  Use if you can.

Editor’s Note: In December of 2017 the world got a Christmas present – a lost C.S. Lewis work was recovered.

Stepanie Derrick, a PhD student at the University of Stirling, found the following article doing her research. It comes from The Strand a now-defunct and historically significant publication in the U.K.

We are publishing the piece here to highlight Lewis’ provocative idea that a re-paganization of the West would be useful for the cause of the Gospel.

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Making Jesus proud

When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)

What Jesus is looking for — was when He walked the dusty roads of Galilee and is today — is faith. Nothing touches His heart like encountering someone who believes in Him and accepts that He is the living Son of God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” we read in Hebrews 11:6. That’s the point.

Four men heard Jesus was in the little house down the road and sprang into action. For days, they had been waiting on this moment. They hurried down to their friend’s house and loaded him onto a pallet. (A pallet could have been something as simple as a quilt.) Each grabbed a corner and they hoisted up their paralyzed colleague and proceeded out the door and down the road. Today, their friend would meet Jesus the Healer.

At the house, they ran into a problem. The place was packed out. People were stuffed into the doorways and hanging out the windows. No one made any move toward opening a way into the house for them.

No problem.

The four, still bearing their burden of love, walked around the side of the house and up the outside stairs to the roof. (In that part of the world, people built their homes so on hot nights, they could sleep outside for coolness and atop the house for safety.) They laid the man down and commenced to tearing into the roof. (These were not large houses and the roofs were less complicated than ours today.)

We can only imagine how the folks inside felt when parts of the ceiling began falling on them. Did they laugh when they realized what was happening? Someone on top must have called, “Hey, someone in there — give us a hand.” As they lowered the pallet into the room, men on the floor steadied the paralytic with their hands and gently laid him on the floor.

By now, the crowd had moved back and the four friends entered by the front door.

Great moment, now. All eyes are on Jesus. What will He do?

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How Christians insult Jesus

Sally had been a teenager in a church I once pastored, and her parents were dear friends. Her father, a former Marine, is in Heaven now, and her mother, then in the care of Hospice, was having a little trouble coming to terms with her own impending departure.

I sent the mom a note by Sally, suggesting that she read it to her.

The note to her mother and my Facebook note said: “If we could interview a baby in the mother’s womb about to be born, we might find that he/she is frightened by what lies ahead. It’s about to leave the only world it has known–warm, soft, safe–and emerge into a strange unfamiliar world with people it doesn’t know, who all speak an unintelligible language. To the baby, it would be death. But to everyone else, it’s a birth. When you get to Heaven, you will look back and say, ‘I was afraid of THAT?!’”

Had there been room on Facebook, I would have added something more. So, two hours later, we tacked on the following:

The Apostle Paul literally taunts death. ‘O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?’ (I Corinthians 15:55) In college football, he would be flagged for showboating. Followers of Jesus Christ, you are not allowed to fear death. To do so insults the One who went to the cross and experienced the grave for you. Laugh at death. Like a honeybee that has lost its stinger, death still flies around scaring people, but it can’t do you any permanent damage.

For a Christian to fear death is to insult the Lord Jesus Christ.

I suppose the biblical word for this would be “blasphemy.” But since that word is used almost exclusively in theological realms and associated with falling from grace and incurring God’s wrath, and not a term we use in our everyday life, I’d just as soon not conjure up images of the Inquisition.

We are not talking about apostasy here. Just poor discipleship.

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The streams which form my river of tears

“Thou dost give them to drink of the river of Thy delights” (Psalm 36:8).

My friend told me she had read something I’d written and wept.  I asked what had prompted that. She replied, “It was just the Lord. They were good tears.”

That’s all she said.

I know the feeling.

Any tears I shed come in one of three situations.  I’m traveling down the highway talking to the Lord or going over a sermon and become so carried away with the joy of the Lord that the tears flow.

I’m on my knees with my face buried in a couch cushion, sometimes saying nothing, and I tear up.

Or, I’m at this laptop tapping out insights from God’s word and His promises and am overwhelmed by His goodness. (Such as at this moment.)

Men always want their wives to say why they’re crying. I quit that long ago when my wife Margaret had no answer. “I just am. I’m a woman and sometimes we cry.”  Basically, that was no answer, but it was all I was going to get.

Being a man, I want to know why I cry.

And I think I know.

My tears are made up of several components in the same way that the great Mississippi River which flows unendingly down that massive channel about 3 blocks below where I lived for 26 years is formed from various waters. The Father of All Rivers, aka the Big Muddy, receives input from the Allegheny and the Ohio, the Susquehanna and the Missouri, from streams and creeks and runoffs from fields far and near, an area stretching from western New York to eastern Montana. An incredible basin.

It’s not all just from one source.

Why are my tears flowing?  Well, they are….

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There are reasons not to believe. And some are pretty good.

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen…. By faith we understand….” (Hebrews 11:1ff)

There are good reasons not to believe in God, not to believe in Jesus, and not to believe in Holy Scripture.

A wise servant of the Lord will want to learn what they are and why people hold on to them. In doing so, he will better understand his own belief and will be able to respond to the questions/attacks of unbelievers.

This is far more important than the typical Christian realizes.

We cannot effectively counter the resistance of the unbeliever–whether he/she is a seeker, an agnostic, skeptic, atheist, or full bore antagonist–until we learn why they reject the heart of the message of the Christian faith.

Faith.  It starts with this and perhaps ends there also.

The very nature of faith means while there are good reasons to believe, there are also reasons not to believe.

The theist–one who believes in God–decides the reasons “for” God  are greater than those against Him.  The atheist–one who does not believe in God–attaches greater weight to the reasons on the negative side of the balance sheet.

To the Christian who says there are no reasons for not believing in God, that only a fool would say otherwise, I suggest you may want to become re-acquainted with the concept of faith.  Faith demands that some questions remain open and some evidence is missing.  It’s like “hope” in Romans 8:24. “Hope that is seen is not hope. For why does one still hope for what he sees?”

Question: But doesn’t the Bible say “the fool has said in his heart there is no God”? Yes, in Psalm 14:1.  But it does not say that everyone saying that is a fool. Those are two separate things altogether. A fool may eat chocolate cake, but everyone eating chocolate cake is not a fool.

Okay now…

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What ‘seeing through a glass darkly’ means

The epitaph for this generation could read: They Didn’t Know.

Nothing new about that, however. Reading the New Testament, one is struck by how often significant players in the Lord’s drama were said not to have a clue.

On the cross, the Savior summed it up when He prayed, “Father, forgive them. They do not know….”

Here are instances throughout the New Testament where that can be said.

Prayer. Matthew 20:22

The disciples did not know what they were asking for.

Ever pray that way? I have. I’ve asked the Lord to grant me success in this venture or that without ever checking to see if it was His will in the first place.

The brothers James and John wanted the places of honor in the Kingdom. And, who knows, they reasoned–perhaps it will be given to the ones with the moxie to ask. After all, isn’t it true that “you have not because you ask not”? And, they further reasoned, the worst that could happen was that the Lord would say, “No.”

He said, “No.” And more. That it was reserved for those whom the Father chose. And that they did not know what they were asking.

One wonders if a few weeks later when they saw the two thieves dying on crosses–one on the Savior’s right hand, the other His left–if they remembered this sad conversation.

The Apostle Paul said, We do not know how to pray as we should. Boy, is that ever the truth.

Help us, Father. We say as the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

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You are not the judge of your own work. For good reason.

(Note: This article first ran on our website in September 2012.  Some of the identifying notes are dated, some of the people have moved, that sort of thing.  But I’m going to reprint it as it ran then with a few tweaks.  Thank you.)

“Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening; for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)

A great many ministers are sitting in judgment on their own work. And it’s not looking good for them.

They will decide their portion of Kingdom work is not going very well, feel guilty because they are so ineffective, and grow discouraged. Instead of giving their all day in and day out over a long life of service and obedience, they turn inward, give less and less of themselves, while the visible results they so long for become more and more scarce.

Stop it.

You’re not the judge, just a worker in the field of the Lord.

Now, get back out there and trust that the Lord knows what He was doing when He assigned you to this corner of the Kingdom.

Jeff Christopherson knows.   Jeff loves to tell about something that happened to his parents.

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