When my daughter came home with a carnation on Valentine’s Day, I knew who it came from though she had her questions. Today, as the flower has finally reached the point of no return, I have tossed it out and rinsed out my favorite vase. She later learned who gave her the flower, a boy who has set his sights on her awhile back. He’s a nice boy, but he is a non-believer so we have had “the talk.”
Even with a simple flower, the talk is necessary. The Bible warns that we should not be unevenly yoked. There is no need to start on a path with a non-believer, knowing that dating is only for the purpose of one day being united in marriage. The Bible warns that if we bind ourselves together with a non-believer, it will be harmful to our own faith walk. This is something we read in the Bible and something that is evidenced all around.
Today, if you are even considering dating, remember what dating is – the purpose of dating is to lead to a union – a marriage. This is a sacred thing. Don’t think that you can change a person. Don’t think that a non-believer will one day start believing so it will be okay. Heed the warning. Understand that if you have a strong man or strong woman of faith in your life, that he or she will be the other half of a union under God that will grow in Him and serve Him. Understand that if you are unevenly yoked, that the other person isn’t going to point you to Jesus because he or she doesn’t know Jesus. You will be slowly drawn away; you won’t even realize it is happening. You will likely walk away from your first love, Jesus. This may sound harsh, but I understand this too well. If you are in the dating world, find someone so in love with Jesus that they aren’t even seeking you. Pray for your future spouse and never lose sight of your first and greatest Love.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14 [NIV]
Ministry is not always easy. Many times, it is grueling. Onlookers can only capture a glimpse of what is put into a ministry. They may not see the initial planning, the preparation, and everything that goes into getting everything in place. But they also don’t see the back-end story—they don’t see the lives of those who are ministering.
No matter what we are going through, we are still able to plant. Our faithful and obedient leaders of the Early Church certainly didn’t have it easy but they pressed onward. They understood that “those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” They trusted that the harvest would come. They trusted that God would use every seed for His kingdom.
You may be struggling today and wondering how you can make a difference. You may feel unworthy or not equipped to plant. Remember that God qualifies you (2 Corinthians 3:5). Remember also that God’s word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Continue to plant the seed my friends. Some may reject it. Your testimony needs to be heard. It may not always be easy. But the harvest will come. Indeed!
“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” – Psalm 126:5-6 [NLT]
After the twelve spies surveyed the land, only two came back with a good report. Ten men came back to share their fear of the strong people of the land. When the people were speaking negatively about the situation, Caleb boldly stepped forward. The Bible says that he “silenced the people before Moses.” He exclaimed, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30 NIV).
Caleb trusted the One behind the promise. He trusted God. Ten of the spies couldn’t look past the problems they saw with the land. They couldn’t imagine that God would see them through, that God would deliver on His promise. They were stopped in their tracks, stopped by mere men.
God says that Caleb had “a different attitude than the others have.” He also was called loyal. His loyalty didn’t change with circumstances. He was loyal. Some of us have an attitude problem today. We have the attitude of the ten, instead of the attitude of Caleb; we have an attitude of fear and distrust, rather than an attitude of trust and confidence. The Bible speaks of this hope—this confidence—we should have as believers. We should be confidence for judgment day (1 John 4:17-18). We should have confidence for prayer (1 John 5:14). We should be confident His plan is perfect and He desires what is good for His children (Romans 8:28). We should be confident that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). May the Lord be your confidence (see Proverbs 3:26, Job 4:6).
“But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.” – Numbers 14:24 [NLT]
“And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:10 [NLT]
My daughter went out to eat for her first sit down dinner with a group, where she was then required to take care of her own bill and tip accordingly. She was well prepared for the trip and was excited to have some time to spend with her friends dining out. When it was time to pay the bill, my daughter figured out the tip like I taught her using a simple math trick. She rounded up as well, something else I taught her. Hey, I like my kids to be equipped.
My daughter was ready to pay, but then a few people questioned the tip she was leaving. You aren’t leaving that amount are you?!? That’s too much. A few gasped at the thought. But she was determined to bless the person with a good tip like she saw in action so many times. Nonetheless, there were more gasps and some people telling her it was too much to give. Just an FYI, it was only $5 for a $15 meal; it wasn’t something outrageous. Even so, she didn’t give the tip she planned. She listened to her friends who told her it was too much, and followed their instructions to get change and leave precisely the exact percentage down to the penny as best she could get.
Often during tip time, people do what reminds me of doing a duty, giving what had to be given by society’s terms. Like paying union dues or a gas bill. My daughter felt bad that she caved in. I told her that for the next meal, she can say she wishes to bless the person and just give what is placed on her heart. This was the first time she was in this situation, and with her innocent eyes, she hasn’t witnessed people trying to tip the minimum. All she sees is an outpouring of generosity. Today, stand bold. Don’t allow the people around you to dictate your actions. God is generous, more generous than anyone. You will never out give God. Truth. If the Spirit leads you to bless someone, whether it be a nice tip, some cash, a gift card, some manual labor, etc., listen. We are blessed to be a blessing. And it’s such a blessing to be a blessing. This world is a dark place. We are called to be the light. Don’t hide it. Shine it. Be the difference. Show the love.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” – Acts 20:35 [NLT]
Recently, someone told me that they “cannot afford to tithe.” I remember those days—the days when I thought I could not part with the money or the bills wouldn’t get paid. But I also remember the moment I got my finances in order, when I started to take a serious look at where the money was going. The Bible speaks about where the treasure is located, that’s where your heart will also be found (see Matthew 6:21). Take a look at your checking account register. Review it and you will see what has value to you. Recognize that if God is first place in your life, He shouldn’t be getting the leftovers.
You might be included in the likely 90% + readers who know I am a pastor. Perhaps you are saying, “Oh here’s a pastor asking for money again.” Please understand, I am NOT asking you for money. God does NOT need your money. He is the God of the universe. He is our Creator. But He has blessed us with what we have in our possession. It’s HIS! ALL OF IT!! Maybe you worked for it, but He blessed you with that job. Behind it all, before it all, you will find God. He is the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning, the End. He is in all, above all, through all. Bottom line (see 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, Colossians 1:17, Revelation 22:13). And tithing is a BLESSING to you! Yes, you read that right. Giving some of the money that God blessed you with to your local church to continue God’s kingdom building is an amazing opportunity you are blessed to be able to take part in. It’s a blessing to be a steward, and we are to be generous givers (see 1 Timothy 6:18). Tithing is not an obligation; it’s a loving response, a willing response to the grace of God.
God doesn’t want you trapped. He wants you free. Sometimes we are trapped by lies. Sometimes we are trapped by sin. Sometimes we are trapped by possessions. When you are trapped by your possessions, you cling to them so tightly that your possessions actually possess you. Today, look at your budget. Jot down different categories. Look to see where your money goes. Then pray about your finances. Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT). You do this and you will learn to be a better steward. You will start to loosen your grip on what God has blessed you with, and be the generous, cheerful giver you were meant to be.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
ctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
This is the year both of my kids are in high school. When your children reach high school, things immediately change. They have somewhat figured out their gifts, their talents, their interests. They have selected activities and hobbies that they truly enjoy. It’s very different from the elementary years when they dabble in a sport for a year, only to not want to take it up the following year. I’ve been through baseball season, a few soccer seasons, and even a year of karate while the kids dabbled. Today, my son plays the trombone and my daughter runs. My son is musically gifted; my daughter is a dedicated runner.
Part of the school shopping this year included a new trombone for my son and running spikes for my daughter. They both have gifts in their respective areas, but they needed to be equipped with some items to help them get to the next level. My daughter just used her new spikes for the first time, and it was amazing to see the improvement in her run on the muddy mess of a course this weekend. She was equipped to do what has been placed on her heart.
God calls us each to do something in life for His kingdom. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God” (NLT). God qualifies us. God also places people in our lives to equip us to better serve for His glory. Ephesians 4 speaks of the responsibility people have “to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (v. 11-12 NLT). Today, consider who God has placed in your life. Does God want you to help equip them for service? Is the Spirit leading you to do something to help them? Are you enabling them to stay where they are at, when you could instead equip them for the road ahead? Pray about this.
While growing up, you likely were told never to look into the sun or you would go blind. I don’t remember ever being told not to look straight into the moon. Many evenings, I love to look up and enjoy the sight of the moon. The brightness of the sun is strong. The moon does not let off great light; however, as it’s not shining light, but reflecting light. The moon reflects 3-12% of the sunlight that hits its surface. The brightness and shape of the moon in the sky is always dependent on the position of the moon in orbit around the Earth.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul wrote that we “reflect the glory of the Lord.” As children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we have the awesome opportunity and privilege to reflect Jesus. How awesome is that?!? We are allowed to mirror the image of God. Day by day, as we walk with the Lord, “we are changed into His glorious image.”
Just as the moon reflects a particular percent of sunlight dependent on its position in orbit, so we only can reflect the percent of the Light, Jesus Christ, dependent on our relationship with Him. If you are not walking closely with Him, if you do not know Him very well, if you are not abiding in Him—this will cause you not to reflect the glory of the Lord. You cannot be changed into His glorious image unless you allow Him to be ever-present in your life. You cannot mirror Jesus if you are not spending time with Him, getting to know Him and allowing Him to break and mold you into who you were made to be for His kingdom. Today, look in the mirror. Ask the Spirit to reveal to you Who you are or are not reflecting.
“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18 [NLT]
As I look at my skin, I see many scars. I have a few scars from some bee stings that caused my life to be rattled for a few weeks. I have the scar on my right hand when I attempted to cut open a brand new VCR I got for college using my house key and it did not work out well. I have a scar on my knee from falling on the ice while walking Max, gashing my knee causing me to walk a mile home with blood dripping down my leg the whole way. I have scars on my wrists from when my great aunt put my chubby self into a checkered dress a size too small, only to have my circulation a bit cut off by the nasty elastic in the sleeves (hence why they don’t make clothing like that anymore). With scars, comes pain. Each of us have scars; each of us have suffered pain.
The Bible speaks about how life is going to be when we get to heaven. We know that we will leave the earthly body behind—which means all of our scars will be gone. We also will have no more pain, no more struggles. No more of the bad knee that causes the hobble walk. No more back pain that keeps you up at night. No more headaches that make it feel like your head could explode. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 for more on the resurrection body.
We also know that there will be One Who will bear scars. In Revelation 5, we read of He who was slaughtered. We are reminded of the One Who never sinned, but died on a cross to pay for our debt, to be a sacrifice for our sins. We are reminded that the wages of sin is death, but that God has offered us life through Christ Jesus. We are reminded that we will see the Lamb, and we will see His scars. The scars remind us of His love and His sacrifice. No words can describe His love.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1 [NLT]
“Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth.” – Revelation 5:6 [NLT]
There is a big difference from being told to give something compared to giving something from the heart. I am sure there were many times that I did not want to give someone something, but I was told to do so and obliged. It didn’t mean I wanted to actually do it. I cannot remember this, but I trust that it happened because I have seen the same thing with my children over the years.
When it comes to tithes and offerings, the same thing is true. There is a difference between someone giving because they are told to give, and someone actually wanting to give—actually delighting in the giving. Paul wrote, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully’” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT). If the heart isn’t in the giving, the offering is made for the wrong reason.
Today, ask for the Spirit to reveal what is on your heart. Are you giving just to give? Are you giving because you desire to give? Are you giving so people see you giving? Are you moved to give? Is it a joy to give? Are you cheerfully giving? If you aren’t giving, ask why not? Thank God for His blessings and ask Him to reveal how He desires you to be a blessing.
“Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them.” – Exodus 25:2 [NLT]