GEAR UP: TITHING

It’s Sunday night! Time to gear up for a new week. As always, the best way to do that is to PUT ON THE ARMOR OF GOD (Ephesians 6:10-18) but we also will focus on ONE area to strengthen our walk with the Lord. Just one focus to help us grow a faith that cannot fade with the demands of life and the pressures of this world. This week we will focus on TITHING!

Tithing can be a tricky sermon for preachers. They are inevitably met with accusations of only caring about money. But the subject of tithing can’t be ignored because God was very specific about it:

Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

There’s a blessing that goes with tithing.

Leviticus 27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s: it is holy unto the LORD.

It belongs to Him to begin with. Is God the Person you really want to be stealing from?

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Just in case you think tithing went out with the Old Testament, here’s a New Testament commandment!

There is a difference between tithes and offerings as well.

Tithing is 10% of your income. It should be given to your local storehouse aka your home church if you have one.

Offerings are given however you deem fit- an individual, a ministry, an evangelist. It is up to you how much and to whom.

What you shouldn’t do is deduct the offering amount from the tithe. Or decide to help a family in need instead of tithing.

The Lord has placed pastors over churches with the wisdom to use the resources to grow the fellowship and the ministry to others. Your church should be transparent about its finances, but you should also trust its leadership.

Months that have more days than money always end up having enough when you tithe first than when you wait to see if you have enough money left. Just like the widow woman and her son. God honors the cheerful giver.

The main reason, though, that you should tithe is so that your money doesn’t mean more to you than your obedience to God.

 

The Blame Game

My dad called earlier this afternoon. He was at the ER with my mom who’d fallen at the movie theater and gashed her head open.

Being five hours away in times like this truly makes me nauseous. However, knowing this, he struggled to find the right words so I wouldn’t be on the interstate as soon as we hung up. Unfortunately, his struggle took place AFTER I’d answered the phone.

“Look, I don’t want you to worry…” Pause.

“What?!”

“Hold on. Listen to me,” he continued. Another pause.

I pretty much envisioned the funerals of every member of my family during this second pause.

“WHAT?!” My heart was about to beat itself right out of my chest at this point. “Just tell me!”

“Your mother..” Another pause. Note to parents everywhere: figure out exactly what you’re going to say and how you are going to say it BEFORE dialing the number. Especially if your child has a tendency to overreact.

By the time he spits out the rest, my suitcase is lying on my bed and I’m not sure if I’m packing sweats for the hospital or a black dress for the church.

“…tripped and hit her head at the movie theater. But she’s okay. They’re doing an x-ray and then they are going to stitch her up.”

He then tells me that he wanted to call my sister and me before he sent a message through the family group text. I appreciated that as I would not have taken kindly to reading this hours later in a group thread that, for my sanity, stays on Do Not Disturb. It would’ve been almost as bad as finding out that the call to my sister had already been made. I AM the oldest, after all! 😉

All kidding aside, I’m so grateful that my sister lives near our parents. I also have two daughters, a son, a daughter-in-law, and a niece and nephew that live nearby. According to Dad most of them were squeezed into the exam room this afternoon!

Once my Mom was stitched up and back home resting, my dad FaceTimed me so I could see for myself that Mom was okay. He gave me the full version of what had happened: Mom’s hands were full and he’d already gotten to his seat in the middle of the row in the darkened theater. Mom had to go past a couple sitting on the end of the row when she tripped over the lady’s knee and fell forward, landing on her knees and hitting her head on the brackets that bolt the seats down.

I’d heard enough. “THAT MONSTER!” I yelled. Maybe I used a synonym. “She couldn’t move her legs? I hope she felt awful. Did she feel awful? Did it ruin her day? I hope she couldn’t enjoy the movie!”

I was really mad at this woman.

Laughing, Dad said, “You sound like your daughter. And your sister.” Both he and Mom went on to tell me how helpful the couple was, even getting her to the car after applying pressure to her head to stop the bleeding.

Mom insisted the lady had done nothing wrong; she had, in fact, moved her legs. Mom insisted  it was no one’s fault despite my insistence that SOMEONE must pay for this.

“Why is this family so sue-happy?” she asked.

In a moment of clarity, I realized a profound truth. No one wanted to sue anyone. We weren’t really even mad at the lady. We were powerless and helpless and had been scared. There was nowhere to direct all of those emotions so we looked for someone to blame.

Blaming someone when things go wrong helps you regain a sense of control.

Someone has to pay for our misery.

The thing is, Jesus already did.

We’re supposed to take all of our fears and sorrow and lay them at the cross, where He laid down His LIFE for us.

No matter what happens.

 

 

HELLO 2020!

The best year yet!

I’m really excited about the new year. There are quite a few reasons why. Some are circumstantial and have brought happiness. I realize that’s different from the joy you have that remains even when everything is going wrong. But it’s okay to be thankful when things are going well! Another reason I’m excited is that I’m about to embark on some new adventures. Some I’ve tried before and others are brand-new. But the determination is fiercer than ever.

It seems a little “New Year’s Resolution-y” and I generally abhor NY resolutions. (Have you ever been to the gym on January 2nd?!) But the truth is, what better time to make a new change than the New Year?

So here are my New Year’s non-resolutions that have me excited for the coming year:

Balance: I’ve tried and failed for years to maintain a work/family/self balance. I usually give 90% to one and split the other 10% with the rest. But I’m determined to finally get this in order this year. I’ve created a calendar for the first three months of 2020. I’ve scheduled out work, church, exercise, writing, cleaning, ministry outreach, and date nights each week. I’ve given myself two small “me” treats each month and one bigger one, like an overnight trip.

Health: As mentioned above, I’m going to try to focus on my health. I’m not even setting weight loss goals or trying to kick my Coke habit at this point. I’m just going to move 4 times a week so that when we go places (like beautiful walking tours) I can enjoy it instead of praying for it to be over.

Teaching: In less than 12 hours, I will officially be teaching again. However, instead of going back in the classroom, I will be teaching online. I have 20 students in China who’ve signed up for classes through EF (ironically this is the same company I worked for when I taught in Seattle a few summers ago). I’ll teach them individually, beginning at 4 AM, three mornings a week and then again on Friday nights. I’m so excited, both to teach and to add some more hours to my day.

Prayer Life/Devotions: Because my online classroom is in the church building, I will have the perfect reminder in-between or after my sunrise classes to spend some uninterrupted time with the Lord. My devotional is on my desk, my accompaniment CDs are on the sound system, and Jesus is in my heart. I can pray, meditate, and worship before the sun comes up!

Outreach/Bible Study: In addition to our three weekly services and twice-a-month services outside of the church, I’m going to begin teaching a monthly Bible study and leading a monthly Ladies Night Out trip. I’m hoping that both will be used as outreach as well as to minister to the women in our congregation. I’ve also SCHEDULED my outreach trips to the nursing homes so that it does not get deprioritized. A current near-future goal is to do some door-to-door outreach in my community. We have some new families I haven’t yet visited.

Writing: I have three books being published in 2020, two children’s and one adult Bible Study. I’m going to continue spending a few hours each week writing new books, searching for homes for all of my existing work, and maintaining the websites and Facebook pages. If I can manage to not go back to sleep when my classes end at 7 AM, I can get quite a bit done!

ME Time: I’ve scheduled a couple of hours each week to take the dogs to the dog park, allowing me an hour to walk and/or physically play with him and another hour to sit with a book or movie on my tablet. I’ve also planned two half-days each month to go to a movie and have lunch on the beach. I may even spend a few hours just roaming the aisles at Books-A-Million. AND if I ever find some original Fisher Price Little People that don’t cost an arm and a leg, you might just find me one day sitting on the floor of my new classroom playing People. Just because I can!

Marriage: I’m listing it last not because that’s where it falls priority-wise, but because I saved the best for last! First, because I will have to be in bed by 8 PM, it’s important that I cut off all work and activities by 5. Also, by continuing to cook and clean, I’m ensuring that his needs and those of our household are being met. I’ve already made menus for the month, so that by planning ahead, it will not be as time-consuming each day. But the most important thing is that I’ve blocked off an ENTIRE DAY each week for us. Whether we are going somewhere for an hour or the whole day, he needs to know that my attention is solely on him for the entire day. We have some planned activities with small expenses (The Senior Bowl football game on Jan. 25 and a Historical Homes Tour) but we also have free activities (Ocean Springs Walking Trail and Picnic; Dauphin Island BBQ).

I believe that my 2020 schedule is going to make me a better wife, mother, and friend!