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Archive for August, 2009

verses 6-7: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

I remember a comic strip once called Dan’l Boone (a takeoff on the frontier and Daniel Boone). This particular strip had two church members discussing church news; one said to the other “I hear that offerings are up in the church since they put Dan’l in charge of collections.” The other says, “oh, why is that?” The next panel shows Dan’l passing the plate to the two of them…tied onto the end of his rifle! As they nervously contribute, Dan’l just grins and says “Bless you, brother!” πŸ™‚

Now, obviously the strip is meant in jest. But it stood out to me, and I’ve always remembered it. We shouldn’t give to God grudgingly; we should be more than happy to give back to God. My wife once heard a sermon on these verses that states that “cheerful” actually translates to mean “hilarious”…to be a hilarious giver. Now that doesn’t mean jump down the aisle like Daffy Duck; however, we should be happy to give, overjoyed to give to God. Please keep that spirit of giving in mind next time you give at church. Remember God gives us so much…and on top of that He gave His Son to die for us.

One other thing….if you are the usher at a church, it’s okay to smile when you’re passing the plate. So many times, I’ve seen ushers, grim-faced and solemn, passing the offering plate as if they were just forced to eat a lemon! Yes, be dignified; yes, treat it seriously, for it’s a service to your church and to God. But it’s okay to smile to the person putting money in the plate. The last time I ushered, my partner on the other side of the pew and I passed our plates down the same pew. The split-second, “what do I do now” look of the poor soul, sitting there with 2 plates in each hand, was just too funny. I almost busted out laughing. It was a honest mistake, and a funny little mistimed handoff, but you know, God has a sense of humor, too! πŸ™‚

Have a blessed day in Him!

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Verse 4: “lest if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to speak of you) should be put to shame by this confidence.”

Paul was reminding the Corinthians that it was “put up” time (no shut up here!). He had boasted of the Corinthians and their zeal to give; now was the time for a collection to be made for the saints in Jerusalem. Paul reminded them of the shame that would happen if any from Macedonia came with him, after all that had been said of the Corinthian church, and they found the Corinthian Christians to be “not up to their reputation”.

Have you ever let anyone down? Everyone has had disappointments in their lives. People are human, and everyone, no matter how hard he or she tries, eventually lets someone down. But God never lets you down. He may say no, or He may say wait, but He is always faithful. Case in point I have to share: I have had a difficult situation on the project I’m on at work. We had a demonstration of our project, and some manager make disparaging remarks (not the customer, mind you, but a third party). We’ve all been on edge with deadlines, our technical lead (a very intelligent leader) has been very ill and doing his job and the project manager’s, and the situation looked to blow up in our faces the next day (today). I prayed on the way to work, knowing that the God of today is already in tomorrow, that He was already there, and prayed for His deliverance of this situation. Not only did God calm the situation down, but relationships were mended, and even the tech lead had good news from his doctor and CT scan results. I couldn’t help but praise God on the way home (and yes, I was cranking “Let There Be Praise” by Sandi Patti about 5 times in a row on the drive home!)

God is good, all the time. No matter how dark or deep the situation is, He lives up to His reputation. In your deepest need, turn to Jesus!

Have a blessed day!

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verses 23-24: “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. Therefore openly before the churches show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.”

Ever been welcomed somewhere where you really didn’t feel welcome? Going somewhere and being welcomed genuinely versus being welcomed superficially can be as stark a contrast as comparing a diamond to a lump of coal. I have also heard of places where the barometer of genuineness in welcoming was equal to the amount of celebrity or notoriety the “welcomee” had.

This shouldn’t be the way, especially with the church today. We should welcome all visitors with the same warmth, love, and belonging that Paul was boasting about in the Corinthians. He was telling them about the impending visit of Titus and the rest of the brethren. He was saying “prove to them that I haven’t been giving lip-service about you. Show them!”

I remember when our family visited the church we call home now; it was over 10 years ago we came to this church. We were warmly welcomed, greeted, helped (we had a 2-year-old boy at the time), and genuinely invited in. It wasn’t long afterwards we joined this church, and have never regretted it. Take that extra moment to greet the stranger who visits your church; for all you know, that visitor today will be the involved church family member tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

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verse 12: “For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have.”

How many times have we heard (or said to ourselves) “oh, if I could just win the lottery (or the sweepstakes, etc.), I could really give to the church or to charities.” It’s a good thing church finance committees don’t base their budgets on such wishes. I think it’s a common desire for all Christians to wish they could give more; but wishing so and actually doing it are two different things.

Look at it this way. I have a basic toolbox and set of tools at home. Now, I am no accomplished carpenter by any means (those who know me, please do not laugh!), but I do fairly well for “around the house” type jobs. If you were to ask me to do a major carpentry job, I might be willing and I might be ready, but if I don’t have a skillsaw, sawhorses, and other type equipment to do the job, the job is not going to get done very well.

We need to give according to what we have and by God’s command to give the tithe; do not give what you do not have. I think that’s one reason our nation has such a problem with debt nowadays! (and I haven’t even talked about the federal government yet!) This is not to say do not plan; you can make plans on giving, and situations can change that alter those plans. A gift from someone is truly appreciated when it is given from the possessor of that gift, not only the pledge of the gift. To quote our church treasurer again, get your financial house in order, then see about your giving!

Have a blessed day!

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verse 8: “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.”

We’re continuing through chapter 8, on Paul’s comments regarding giving.

There have been plenty of sayings, axioms, and quotes about one’s actions:
“Actions speak louder than words.”
“I’m from Missouri. You’ll have to show me.” (loosely quoted from Senator Willard Duncan Vandiver)
James commented in James 2:14-17 “…faith, if it has not works, is dead, being by itself.”
Jesus Himself spoke of plants that produce no fruit, urging His disciples to not be like these.

Merriam-Webster online defines “earnest” as “characterized by or proceeding from an intense and serious state of mind”. My Bible even has a footnote regarding that one of the purposes of giving is to “prove the reality of one’s love”. Though Paul spoke here of a collection for the saints, remember, giving can be in more than just money…it can include time and abilities. The bottom line here is, as Christians, we should be serious in our intentions. When we say we love God, prove it…show it! Never let it be said that you “talk a good fight” (yet another saying!)

Have a blessed day!

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verse 5: “and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”

The other day, I quoted our church treasurer: β€œyou need to get your own financial house in order, so that you don’t wind up giving what you don’t have.” The occasion to which he was speaking had to do with the dedication of our church’s new family life center. This was a goal that we had prayed collectively about for these last few years, and this day was the day we got to “move in”. It was a marvelous day. We still have a lot to do, not just future-use-wise (using this to further God’s Kingdom), but money-wise (paying it off).

It’s hard to give when you don’t have the money to give (I’m strictly speaking financially here). It’s harder still when you don’t know if you have the money to give or not. It’s similar to reaching others for Christ; how can you minister in His name, if you are not already a Christian yourself? Remember the story of Paul’s missionary work; there were some men, the seven sons of Sceva, who tried to cast out an evil spirit, saying “We command you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” The evil spirit answered, “Jesus, I know, and Paul, I know. But who are you?”

Never let that question be asked of you; if you do not know Him, ask Him into your heart today.

Have a blessed day!

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verse 2: “that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”

Paul talks about giving in this chapter and the next. Ever notice how it seems like those who can’t afford to give, are the most dependable givers? Or how those who can afford to give, are sometimes not the best givers? Could it be that those givers know what it’s like to be in need, and thus they give even out of their “deep poverty”?

Remember Jesus noted during His earthly ministry the 2 mites given by the widow woman…that she had given much more than those richer people who only put in a pittance of what they could. You may not have much financially; but God commands that we give back a 1/10th, the tithe, back to Him. As our church treasurer put it recently, “you need to get your own financial house in order, so that you don’t wind up giving what you don’t have”.

Jesus gave His all for you, you’ll recall….

Have a blessed day!

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verse 14: “For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth.”

“You are just like your father described you!” Or, imagine a statement much like that one…it could’ve been your mother who described you, or your best friend. It’s nice to have a positive reputation, and to be able to live up to it. There is a feeling of satisfaction when someone compliments you, because you met or exceeded expectations that were communicated to the complimenter by someone else. It can also be a substantial responsibility.

It appears that the Corinthians’ “best” was shown to Titus when he visited them, and Titus told Paul of this. There is an old cliche that states: “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” As ambassadors for Christ, we need to remember that every day. Yes, we are human; no, I’m not saying put on a fake front, but we need to die to self and live for Christ in all we do every day. I have said this before and I’ll say it again…you may be the only Jesus someone sees today; let them see Him in you.

I like to remember Psalm 34:2 “My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear it and rejoice.”

Have a blessed day!

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verse 10: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

A repentance without regret, leading to salvation: there are 3 important words here.

Repentance – changing one’s ways. In order to invite Jesus Christ into your heart, you must repent. God cannot tolerate sin, but He does love us. He wants us to forsake our sinful ways. Think of this humorous analogy: your mother loves you, but she’s not about to let you come into the house with muddy shoes on! Leave those muddy shoes outside! πŸ™‚

Regret – we hear a lot today in the sports news about pro athletes who have broken the law. They serve their penalty, but the public doesn’t seem to accept that they “learned their lesson” unless they show “genuine remorse”. Our Lord is not the jaded public, but He is a whole lot wiser; you can’t fool God. When we see our sin from God’s eyes, regret should be the natural result. We don’t want to do that sinful behavior.

Salvation – the saving grace of Jesus. The promise that we will go to Heaven when we physically die, if we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior in our lives; eternally to be in His presence. In the meantime, we serve Him on earth, making disciple makers.

Have a blessed day!

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verses 8-9: “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.”

Nobody likes to be punished or scolded. And sometimes we are sorry—but sorry that we got caught, not truly sorrowful for our actions for which we were caught. I never understood the phrase “this will hurt me a lot more than it will hurt you” as a child (I always thought, yeah, I’m the one getting the whipping here!), but as an adult, and especially a father, I understand it very much.

That’s true for young people and old people alike! The older we get, the more we’re prone not to want to accept reprimands. I was driving home through Auburn on Sunday, when I got pulled over by a policeman; my first thought, “what’d I do???” This nice young man was friendly but professional, and explained that, although I came to a legal stop at a traffic light and turned right, there was a sign between the lights (which I failed to see) that prohibited right-on-red. All I could do was apologize and admit I was wrong. Now thankfully, he let me off with a written warning, and though I was sorry I got caught, I was grateful that the cop pointed out I had been lax in observing traffic signs…the outcome could’ve been much worse! I was sorry that I failed to notice the signs, and prayerfully, that won’t happen again.

If God reprimands you today, accept it for what it truly is…a loving Father trying to keep His children from destruction. He’s not being mean, He loves you.

Have a blessed day!

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