Sunday, November 14, 2010

Living Openhandedly

God commands Christ Followers to live openhandedly

8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.
Deuteronomy 15:8 (NIV)

11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Deuteronomy 15:11 (NIV)

Learning to live openhandedly is not always easy to do, especially when the recipient of our generosity is ungrateful for the gift. When this happened I’m tempted to close my hand and hang on to God’s provision. It seems like I have to keep relearning the lesson that my obedience is not predicated on the obedience of others.

In another century, when I was in college, I had a roommate who was there on need based scholarship. He was in need of a textbook for a class and didn’t have the money for the book. God laid it on my heart to meet this need and I did so anonymously. Imagine my feelings when my hard earned money was spent for a weekend of partying and the following week he still needed the textbook.

I learned several valuable lessons from this experience. First, if I’m going to give a person a gift to meet a need don’t give them cash give them their need. The second lesson I learned was that while it was my responsibility to properly respond to God’s prompting, it wasn’t my responsibility for someone else’s actions or misdeeds done with my gift. Their actions were between God and them and not me.

This lesson has been especially helpful when dealing with church members who have chosen not to continue to give to their church because they didn’t agree with how the leadership was using the money. Voice your concern, pray for the leadership and depending on your church don’t vote for the leadership if they come up for a vote. But always remember that these people are answerable to God for their leadership and their responsibility is to follow the leading of God same as yours.

On the other hand ungratefulness is a sin. The nation of Israel was ungrateful for God’s deliverance from Egypt. They were ungrateful for the manna that God graciously provided from heaven and water from the rock. Upon reaching the Promise Land they were ungrateful for God’s blessings and provisions. Each time they were ungrateful God would eventually judged them. They suffered plagues in the wilderness, persecution and the confiscation of their harvest by foreign invaders. Eventually they were taken into captivity because they were ungrateful and failed to be thankful and obedient turning their back on God.

Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times, after all 2 Timothy 3:1-5 seems more true each passing day.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

I guess in the end all we can do God leads is to continue to love openhandedly and worry about being obedient to God’s prompting. And let God deal with other people’s response to his leading.

With open hands & empty pockets

Pastor Val

Monday, November 8, 2010

No Ordinary Person

I’m not the most compassionate guy. Now I’m not saying that I’m totally insensitive but when God was passing out the compassion gene I think I was off reading somewhere.

Now it’s possible to be too empathetic at times. In fact this is one of the issues that the Psalmist deals with in Psalm 15. I remember having a member of one of my former churches who was compelled after many of my sermons to knock on my door Sunday afternoon to express his “concern” and disappointment over something I had said in a message that day. He would share with me how I had offended this person or that person in my message. By the end of our one-sided conversation I would despair over my calling to be a pastor.

I would go to the “offended” person to ask their forgiveness only to discover that they had not been offended and couldn’t believe that I would think that they had been offended. It soon became clear after a number of these meetings that either the person expressing concern was looking for problems or was busy picking up someone else’s offense. When I finally realized what was going on with this member it made my afternoon scourging (I mean meetings) slightly easier to bear!

That being said - we all need to be careful what and how we say things – we need to season our speech with grace.

Recently I heard about a pastor who spoke on David and how David was no one special, just an ordinary man that God chose to use in an extraordinary way. I fully agreed with this pastor’s assessment of David being an ordinary person, at least from an outward point of view. After all humans look on the outward appearance but God looks at the inside of a person – God sees their heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

This ordinary guy had an extraordinary heart – after all he is considered a man after God’s own heart. (Psalm 27:4)

This ordinary guy was chosen by God for a special task that only he could perform. Just like every one of us has been specially equipped and created to do some extraordinary thing for God, something that only you can accomplish for God in your unique way.

Each of us has been fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) created in the image of God and therefore made and fashioned in the image of perfection. Yes, because of sin we are not a perfect reflection of the God who created us. But for Christ followers we are on the journey to become like Christ as we reflect His glory in our lives both today and someday (when Christ returns) we will do so perfectly.

Ordinary? Well only by the perception of an imperfect human – but in God’s sight –

You are no ordinary person!

Pastor Val.