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My Thing Isn’t Top Priority

Today I reread a very freeing thing. Yup, you got that right. I picked up the book Crazy Busy to reread because a) I love that book and b) I felt like I needed to hear its message again. Turns out I did.

My absolute favorite part of the book is the section about ministry. I have a really hard time with ministries because to some degree I always feel like I should be doing more. Everyone around me can make the case that the work they are doing is the most important and should be top priority and I should support it. Inside my church and outside. It’s pretty easy to feel guilty for not helping everyone with their passion. (Just like it’s easy for me to feel like the ministry I’m involved in should be everyone’s top priority!)

But that’s the thing. I can’t be passionate about EVERYTHING. It’s exhausting and draining. And that’s ok! I’m not supposed to be! That is the wonderful, beautiful thing about the church! I’m going to let Kevin DeYoung take over here for a minute:

“Every Christian must be prepared to give an answer for the reason for the hope that we have (1 Pet. 3:15), but not everyone will do beach evangelism. Every Christian should be involved in the Great Commission, but not everyone will move overseas. Every Christian should oppose abortion, but not everyone will adopt or volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. We need Christians who spend their lives improving inner-city schools and Christians whose dream is to get great theological books translated into Polish. And we need Christians who don’t make others feel guilty ( and don’t feel guilty themselves) when one of us follows a different passion than another. I read and write a lot. That’s what I do well. But that doesn’t mean anyone should feel guilty for not reading and writing as much as I do. You have you own gifts and calling. You have to be okay with other Christians doing certain good things better and more often than we do.” Crazy Busy pg. 49-50

Sometimes I fall into the trap of believing that the thing I love, everyone should love and support but that’s not the case. Kevin does clarify earlier in the chapter that there is a difference between caring and doing. For instance, all Christians should CARE about starving children in Africa, but not all Christians are called to go to Africa and do something there.

What a weight off my shoulders! This is exactly what I needed to be reminded of this week, people! I don’t need to feel pressured by other people to be involved in every. single. good. thing. and I also don’t want to pressure other people who aren’t passionate about the ministries I’m involved in. The church is a BODY for a reason and I’m SO thankful!

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2019 in books

 

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Tithing vs. Generosity

I’ve been mulling an idea around in my head for weeks but I’ve been REALLY spacey lately so I’m just getting around to putting it on…paper?

I’ve been thinking about tithing. The less money I have, the more I’ve thought about this. I’ve also found out that a surprising number of people don’t actually believe in tithing. So I looked into some verses. I think most people think of Abraham in the Old Testament when they think of tithes. In Genesis 14, Abraham tithed a 10th to Melchizedek. What I actually found is that there are numerous types of tithes in the OT. But once you move into the New Testament, tithing really isn’t mentioned (except a couple times by Jesus which we’ll go over.)

And here is where people split off in two directions. You can be in Camp A where tithing is just an OT thing and Jesus did away with it when he came, or you might be in Camp B which decides that since a common tithe in the OT was 10% that’s a good guideline to follow for life.

I think I’m going to have to pick Camp C unfortunately. What did you really expect? Hear me out:

Camp A has some serious flaws. Jesus did do away with several things when he came to earth. But he came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. (Matt. 5:17, Rom. 3:31) We don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore, but in Romans 12, we are commanded to offer ourselves as LIVING sacrifices. Also, Jesus does uphold the concept of tithing in Matthew 23:23-24 as he tells the Pharisees that they tithe but neglect to show justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He tells them that they ought to have done both. So I really have a hard time just throwing out tithing altogether simply because it’s not mentioned explicitly in the NT.

However, Camp B also has flaws. I would have a problem picking ONE of the tithes in the OT and declaring that that is the one we should all follow. I think if you add the OT tithes together you actually get about 23% of a household’s income so I’m not sure why we don’t use that figure? (Don’t bet your life on that math.)

My point really is this. The NT actually does say quite a bit about tithing but it doesn’t use that word. Is that really what is tripping people up? Besides all the times that Paul took up collections for the saints in various places, here are just three of the passages I found:

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” 2 Corinthians 8:1-7

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Are you catching the drift here? I would contend that the NT is a huge proponent of giving BEYOND what you think you can afford. Now I’ll be totally honest, some weeks I look at my bank account and think, “Gee Lord, 10% seems like a WHOLE heck of a lot!” I get that! And other weeks I know I can do more. That what I love about that last passage. What you have decided in your heart. A question I ask myself a lot is, “Okay, I give regularly to my church, but am I giving generously??” That’s a challenge for myself and for you and you are going to have to decide what that looks like.

Another thing I’ve come across personally and I’ve discussed it with others is that sometimes it can be much more fun to give to things besides your church. Organizations that are good, you love, and you are passionate about. Oh, that’s a struggle for me. I think both are important but I cannot give to the organizations and neglect my church. I’ve heard the argument that you’ve been burned and now you don’t trust your church with your money and I would say that you first need to examine your heart and motivations for giving. Are you cheerfully giving or coming up with an excuse not to? And secondly, if you REALLY don’t trust your church financially, that’s a problem that you should address with your leadership.

I love that the believers in Macedonia gave beyond their means and begged Paul to take it for the saints. What a precious blessing that must have been for them! And what a great example for us.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in church, uncategorized

 

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Loving Christ’s Bride

Church can be a lonely place for some people. I would argue that church can be especially lonely for a single person. Even a simple thing like, “Where should I sit today?” is a stark reminder that you are by yourself in the huge sanctuary. (I just attach myself to a family 🙂 )

Sometimes though, I think we make it lonelier than it should be because we aren’t obeying God’s Word. Clear as mud? When I moved to Ohio and switched churches, it was kind of lonely. I’m by myself out here in a church where basically everyone else is related to someone else in the church. No kidding. And to be clear, I’m a faithful church-goer. Sundays and Wednesdays and small group. So what was missing? It hit me this week.

It seems to me that the trend in church talk is all about “connection” and being “plugged-in” but there’s a lot of people that certainly don’t feel plugged-in. Churches want to make sure you are at service and in a small group. But not as much is said about serving. And I really think that is the key. THAT is how you get to know your church on a deep level. Maybe it’s not always fun but it’s worth it in so many ways!

Let me give you an example: I’m on the Outreach Committee at my church. It’s something I’m passionate about. If you’ve heard me talk about it recently though, you probably heard some complaining out of me. Why? We had a big event that we planned for last weekend. And we planned it in a very short amount of time so it took a lot of communication, most of which happens over text. I don’t have service at work so all of my texts come in as I drive home. Text after text after text. My record JUST FROM THE COMMITTEE is 49. It was a little bit overwhelming. Whine, Whine, Whine.

So the event came and it went really well, if I do say so myself! But looking back, do you want to know what the biggest blessing was? All that dang communication beforehand! I literally cannot believe I just said that! But seriously, THAT’S where I got to see the hearts of the people I was serving with, where I learned to love them more, and where our unity grew. And out of that grew a deeper love for the body of Christ and our Lord himself.

What a beautiful thing! What a blessing serving your church really is. So I would encourage you that if you are feeling a little lonely at church, yes, make sure you are going to service and small group. But also, SERVE.

You don’t want to miss out on it.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2019 in church

 

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The Idols of Life

If you don’t live in Ohio (or northeast US for that matter), maybe you don’t know that we had a wonderful, huge snow storm come through this weekend. It was great. Everything was closed, no traveling, the works. Which for someone who LOVES snow, that means that I spent the days with friends: sled riding, watching movies, playing games, and making waffles. It was superb.

It also meant that all the churches were closed on Sunday so my best friend and I decided to watch a sermon online. The one we watched was about idols. The argument was that although people may have a variety of “surface” idols in their life (aka: food, money, kids, clothes, cars, you-name-it), they all boil down to four “core” idols. Have to say, I couldn’t really find a whole lot of Scriptural backing for this idea but the logic was okay.

The first idol he mentioned was Comfort and the second was Approval. As he explained I really examined my heart and thought, “Nah, I don’t think those apply a whole lot. Probably sometimes.”

The third idol was Control. As soon as he said that word, I look at Natalie and said, “Weeeeelllll, this has been great but I just remembered that…” Yeah, I didn’t get away with it. She pulled me down and said that if she had to listen to her idols I had to sit through mine. *sigh*

We both know. I like control. I’m very organized and structured naturally and it gives me a feeling that I can control the world. One of the things he mentioned in the video is that people with this idol often will do everything because they would rather do it themselves and be SURE it will get done than have someone else do it. Ouch, man. That hurt. I literally winced.

And the problem with this idol is the blatant lack of trust is displays. A lack of dependency and trust in the Lord. Like somehow I can do things better than he can and I know better than the Creator of the World. But I don’t. And boy did God have to YANK that control right out of my hands in order to teach me that! These last couple of years have taught me just how little control I have. (And how much he DOES have!)

Sometimes I need a good smack…err…reminder that I’m not in control and of Who is. And of how grateful I should be for that!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Prov. 19:21

P.S. The fourth idol was Power. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in sermons

 

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Before I Say Yes

Guys, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon. Totally. In fact, the wagon is so far ahead of me that I’m now running behind trying to catch up, gasping for breath. What wagon, you ask? The NO wagon.

I don’t know about you but opportunities to serve and help out are like flies on a hot day. They are swarming around me. And by nature I’m very much a YES! person. That word jumps into my mouth before I can choke it down. But over the past couple of years, I’ve had to watch it. My body and brain have been through a lot and I’ve had to step away from a lot of commitments. I learned to say NO.

Until recently, that is. Christmas came around and suddenly I found myself doing all these things. New Year and my schedule is packed. How did this happen? I ask myself. Ah, I fell off the NO bandwagon. Let me be clear that all of these are GOOD things! All of them! Some of them were asked of me, some I volunteered for, and some nobody volunteered for so I…ummm… volunteered for.

An idea that’s pretty popular in my church (and I think a lot of others too) right now is to “say YES before God asks you.” I first heard this phrase in relation to missions. And I get it- really, I do. I understand the heart attitude it’s driving at. The attitude that gives up what you desire in order to obey the Lord. The attitude that made Isaiah say, “Here I am! Send me.”

But sometimes, the RIGHT answer is NO. This is a rarely taught concept in the church. I was telling my schedule to someone the other day and he said to me, “You know you don’t have to save the world every month, right?” That really stuck with me. It is okay and sometimes RIGHT to say NO to good things. I would rather do a few things excellently than all things half way. Or more accurately, I would rather do a few things excellently and not have to take a week to recover every month because I’ve drained myself of everything I have.

The more I thought about this, the more I thought it would be wise to have a plan. A decision-making plan. So I literally wrote one up the other morning. It’s pretty simple:

Before saying YES:

  1. Have I prayed about it?
  2. Does this honor and glorify God?
  3. Does this move me towards my life goals for this year?
  4. Does this conflict with any previous commitments and/or work schedule?
  5. Is the THOUGHT of this already stressing me out?

This has been SO helpful for me already! Freeing really! The first two are musts, the third is almost a must. That fourth is negotiable. My schedule is flexible but I want to stay committed to the things I’ve said YES to first. The Bible actually has a lot to say on following through on your word. (Eccl. 5:5, Matt. 5:33-37, Num. 30:1-2) So that’s important to me. That last one is a big one for me. Stress is a huge thing for someone with epilepsy and constant headaches. If just thinking about committing to something is giving me more stress, it’s probably not a good idea to do it. I’ve found the stress doesn’t go away, but usually increases. 🙂

I want to be wise with the time and energy that’s been given to me. It’s not endless (believe me, I KNOW.) So if I say NO to something you ask me to do, you can know that I’ve thought it through and prayed about it and it’s almost NEVER because I don’t want to do it. I just can’t always say YES.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in growing

 

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Pressuring Missionaries

Almost every week at my church we have what we call a Ministry Minute. They can be about all sorts of things like missionary updates, outreach opportunities, community events we are helping with, etc. It’s to make sure everyone is aware of what is going on and how they can be involved. But recently we’ve started doing something really cool: we’ve been able to Skype our overseas missionaries during that time and get their updates directly from them. It’s super neat. Way to go, Tech Team!

A couple of Sundays ago, we were Skyping a couple in Spain (ok, just how awesome is that?) and a thought occurred to me as they were telling us ways that God was working through them.

We expect a lot from our missionaries. I was sitting listening with this huge smile on my face and suddenly I felt how much pressure these people must feel from us. (My smile probably whipped right off as I worked this out in my head.)

But think about it. Missionaries come back to the States to either raise support or they may be on a break but everyone everywhere wants to know what God is doing and how he’s working. You know what? What if they are in a spiritual desert?? What if they feel like they are preaching to stones and NO ONE is responding? Would they feel like they could be honest with us?

Also, do we ask people in our own church those questions with the same earnestness? Do you want to know what the Lord is doing in your friends’ lives just as much or are you only interested in the far away?

I’ve been thinking this over and been feeling a little bit more compassionate towards the missionaries I know this week. The more I thought about it, I realized it really applies to anyone working in ministry! They aren’t Jesus. They are people who need to be loved and encouraged just as much as you and I and are often far away from everyone they know. Maybe pray a little more for them as Christmas comes next week.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2018 in church

 

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Living With and Without

Hey did you guys know life gets busy around Christmas? Nope? Just me? Okay well then I apologize for not posting but I’ve been enjoying the season and being busy serving where God puts me. Annnnyywaaays..on to the today’s post!

If I could go back and meet any one Bible character it would definitely be Paul. (Jesus being exempt from this theoretical question, of course.) I love Paul. His testimony, life, example, writing…everything. I love his rhetorical and sarcastic questions in Romans (he cracks me up) and his love for all the saints. Yup, he’s my favorite.

In Philippians 4, Paul talks about how he has learned to be content in whatever situation God has him in. He has learned to live with plenty and to live with nothing. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve been thinking about finances. (I work at a bank for goodness’ sake, people!)

I never really worried much about money in the past. I always had more than I needed and I lived what I considered simply. In 2017, when it became clear to my doctor and I that I needed to take a break from working, things changed. It meant I needed to move into an apartment and (gasp!) actually pay for housing. It meant no income until I could go back to work. It just meant a lot more expenses in general. And I was prepared but it was still a little nerve wracking.

There was one Sunday I never want to forget. It was right before I was going to be done at the Farm and I was having a really rough time emotionally, physically, mentally- all of it. I had just finished up a conversation with a lady who meant well but was stressing me out with details that I didn’t have yet. I just wanted to trust that the Lord had things figured out that I couldn’t answer yet and that wasn’t good enough for her. I walked around the corner and (in my usual, fake fashion) I flashed a smile at one of the elders of my church as I started to walk by him. But he didn’t let me walk by. He pulled me around and I realized it was a group of elders there. They didn’t ask me if I had everything figured out; they put their arms around me and prayed with me. And that wonderful man is now in heaven getting some reward for calming and encouraging a discouraged heart at that moment.

But at some point, I did have to think about money. It just wasn’t then. God SO blessed me that I had plenty saved so that I didn’t “have” to worry during my rest time. It was still in the back of my mind that I didn’t have any incoming money, just outgoing, but I knew how much was there and I kept an eye on it. 

In general though, I don’t spend a lot. But I found out that when finances got tight, I didn’t get to spend money on the things I loved doing. Random baking adventures for my friends kind of stopped because suddenly butter looked really unnecessary. Not that I COULDN’T have bought it. It was more evaluating the need.

This year, as I looked at coming off my Dad’s insurance, panic came into my mind. I knew there would be a 3 month gap between coming off and when my work insurance kicked in and I was honestly scared. I prayed and worked my butt off to organize because in case you forgot, meds are REALLY expensive. And just when I thought I had it all figured out that I could get a 90 day supply before coming off insurance, that fell through.

Do you know what I learned? To be content with and without, in every circumstance. Over and over again, I have to remind myself that God has ALWAYS supplied my every need. Sometimes that’s been through other people saying, “Hey, I’m going to get that for you. I know you CAN but I don’t want you to have to worry about it.” And that’s really humbling, folks.

But wait, there’s more. I’ve had money show up anonymously in my church mail box. I’ve had my medications drop in price for NO REASON. To the point that the pharmacists can’t figure it out! This last time I went to get my most expensive med and it wasn’t ready yet. She looked at me hesitantly (they always do) and asked if I was aware of the cost. I said yes and confirmed it. When I came back 20 minutes later, it had dropped over $300!!! I just stared at her. She had no idea why. I’m convinced God creates computer glitches in my favor. That’s literally not the first time that’s happened to me.

Maybe this post sounds to you like a plea for help or money. Oh no, it’s not. It’s an exclamation of praise! And it’s an encouragement. I know a lot of people that worry about finances. Sometimes it’s still a mind struggle for me and I rehearse God’s faithfulness to myself. I’ve never been in need. And I’ve certainly never been in need to the extent that Paul was!

It’s also a reminder to continue to be generous even when you don’t have much. I remember hearing a sermon as a kid on finances and my pastor said as an example that the first check he writes out every week is the one to the church. And I remember thinking, “Huh? What’s the big deal?” Yeah…I get it more now. The temptation is to let that be the last thing because it’s not necessary like a bill and THAT’S exactly why you put it first! I’ve been blessed to remember that this year. I’ve gotten creative with how I choose to bless others. Sometimes, all people really want is a listening ear. It doesn’t cost anything to go to the nursing home and read your Bible to an elderly lady and listen to her story. There are ways to give that involve money and there are ways to give that don’t; both are vitally important.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on enough tonight. What has God taught you about finances and trusting him through it?


 
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Posted by on December 13, 2018 in contentment

 

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