GIVE WILLINGLY, GRACIOUSLY

As Christians, we are quick to lay claims to God’s promises to us, where He promises to guide us and comfort us and give us eternal security, but how quick are we to give back to Him … and to others … from our bounty? God wants us to give with the same sacrificial love that He gives to us.

  • I Chronicles 29:9a (NKJV): “Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord.”
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV): “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

WHAT’S IN YOUR HEART?

HOW WILLING ARE YOU to give of your time and  your talents? Really give, unselfishly give, without counting the cost to you, giving because we serve a God who willingly and graciously gave His life for us?

Hmm?

In a recent devotional, I read the story of Israel’s King David offering his possessions for building the Temple to honor God, when he asked the assembly, “Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?” (1 Chron. 29:5b NASB20)

The text tells us the assembly leaders responded first and did so willingly, and then the entire assembly responded willingly. As a result, the entire country, from king to leaders to the assembly, rejoiced because they had responded willingly.

God uses the word “willing,” “willingly,” or a substitute term, liked “rejoiced” five times  within five verses — three times in one verse — to underscore His point.

It’s not enough, He says, to do something unselfishly, it must be done willingly.

TRYING TO FAKE IT

 THERE’S NO USE trying to fake it, either. 

The Bible tells us that while we might fool one another by smiling through clenched teeth or covering our discontent with a heartier-than-necessary “of course I’ll do it,” we won’t fool our Creator.

Consider these verses:

  • 1 Samuel 16:9b (ESV): “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
  • Psalm 44:21 (NASB20): “Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.”
  • Luke 16:15 (NIV): “And He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.’”
  • John 2:25 (NLT): “No one needed to tell him [Jesus] about human nature, for He knew what was in each person’s heart.”
  • Acts 15:8 (CSB):  “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us.”

There are more verses, but those make the point, don’t they?

REAPING THE BENEFITS

DON’T MISS THIS PART. God imparts a blessing when we give willingly and graciously.

Nehemiah 2:18 (NKJV): “And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work.”

Nehemiah 4:9 (ESV): “And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.”

In both of those verses, taken from Nehemiah’s account of the post-exilic Jews rebuilding the Jerusalem wall, we see the faithful (1) praying to God for help, strength, and direction, and (2) acting in concert with God’s will. 

It’s not enough to have “good thoughts” and wonderful intentions, our God wants us to call out to Him, to be in fellowship with Him, and to fulfill His design for us, His will for us, by acting.

It’s in the acting that we receive the blessing.

Check out this promise from God recorded in Malachi 4:10 (NASB95):

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

Here’s how author Henry Blackaby describes it:

“When you trust that God always gives His best, you will devote your heart to whatever assignment God gives because you know in that role you can experience everything God has in His heart for you.” Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God. Kindle, Loc. 431.

RESPONDING IN FAITH

NOW, IT’S UP TO US. What are we going to do with the gift of love that our Lord has lavished on us? Are we going to be obedient servants and follow through, or are we going to chart our own course? 

To word it another way, how do the experiences of David and Nehemiah and Malachi, as interesting as they may be, relate to our lives today, to your life and my life?

You can see how it relates to you as I share how it relates to me:

In my life, where I’m called to live out what I write about in my blogs, I must confess I often struggle. In my current situation, where my wife’s heart tells her we must relocate from South Carolina to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to be closer to her family and mine, I have been dragging my feet.

Not only that, and to my shame, I’ve made it a point to tell everyone that I am not pleased with the situation. Recently, my wife scolded me, saying she’s tired of hearing what a martyr I am for giving up my life and my dream to move farther South, when she insists we relocate to the North Pole (my sarcasm) just to chase her dream that (in my view) is not likely to materialize.

You can see my struggle to being obedient to the Lord.

As I gather in prayer each day, petitioning the Lord to change my heart, I find a growing countercurrent, bringing me closer to my wife, to our shared experience, and to my Lord’s guiding touch. 

SENDING REINFORCEMENTS

IT’S NOT BY ACCIDENT that a Christian friend reminded me just days ago of a Henry Blackaby book, Experiencing God, he gave me, which I’m now re-reading.

I’m now on the section where the author points out that God loves us and that His commandments are designed to benefit us and give us the abundant lives He offers.

1 John 5:3 (HCSB): “For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden.”

(See Jeremiah 29:11 and John 10:10 for additional Scriptural support.)

If we know God, Blackaby tells us, we’ll love Him, trust Him, and obey Him. (Blackaby, Experiencing God, Kindle Loc. 485)

The next section of Blackaby’s book capsulizes the point we’re exploring perfectly: “God is all-knowing — His directions are always right.”

It’s not for us to crow when we obey. Our salvation is assured through grace, not our good works, but we do have this assurance: We will have done our jobs.

Listen to what our Lord says:

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” — Luke 17:10 (NIV)

PRAYER

FATHER GOD, our Creator and Sustainer, we thank You for being a gracious giver, who gives willingly to mankind, created in Your image. How shagrined we are, O Lord, to admit we are not as gracious in response with our time and our treasure and our talents — all of which You gave us to glorify You. Please forgive us and empower us to be worthy servants, just doing our duty. In the name of our Savior, Jesus the Christ, we pray, AMEN.

‘MAY I OFFER YOU GOD’S WORD?’

God’s Word is His inspired sermon to us, His creation. In it, He tells us the answers to our most pressing questions: “Who are we?” “How did we get here?” and “What, if anything, does my life mean?” If we neglect His gift, we shortchange ourselves and risk losing the abundant life He offers. However, if we grab hold of His Word, absorb it, and let it course through our bodies like blood, we will be blessed.

ISAIAH 55:1 (ESV): “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

JOHN 1:1 (NKJV): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

DISTRIBUTING GOD’S HOLY WORD

LET ME TELL YOU a tale about eight simple words: “May I offer you the Word of God?”

Recently, I had the good fortune to join Gideons International.

Those are the Bible people — the folks who place the Holy Bible in the motel/hotel rooms in a bed stand near where you’ll sleep. Perhaps you’ve reached into the drawer to read the Bible or, like me, you bring your own.

We also present the Bible to military bases, hospitals, prisons, colleges, churches, medical offices, and various public events.

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE

My first adventure was passing out small Bibles to  students, faculty, and staff at a local university. My anxiety level was high whenever someone — usually a student — approached my “zone,” the sidewalk assigned to me.

Mustering up my courage, I would utter those eight simple words, “May I offer you the Word of God,” and extend my hand with the Bible.

***

Most students kept walking, some taking a Bible, others refusing with a short wave of their hand. Never was I able to go through the basic Gospel message or God’s plan of salvation. People were busy, and we were asking them to take a moment from pressing matters.

While I had hope for even a few conversations with someone who really was searching for answers to life’s basic questions — like ‘Who are we?’ ‘How did we get here?’ and ‘What, if anything, does my life mean?’ — it never happened.

This probably was not the best place or the right time.

OFFERING ETERNAL LIFE

“May I offer you the Word of God?” the faithful servant presents a gift so precious, so faithful, so rewarding … yet so few will take it.

  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It is the Bible, the Holy Word of God, given to us for instruction, for peace and comfort, for forgiveness of sins, for the promise of eternity with our Creator.
  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It is the salve that heals, caffeine for our souls, batteries for our zeal.
  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It is the answer to life’s perplexing questions, the crooked path made straight, the narrow gate, the difficult road.
  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It’s thinking of other’s needs above our own, of not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought, of discarding the past and running the race set before us.
  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It’s being given the crown of life, a house with many rooms, streets of gold, and the river of life.

***

“May I offer you the Word of God?”

No, you say? Okay, I understand. God still loves you, and I’ll pray for you. My prayer will be that someday, maybe in a hotel lobby, or a hospital ward, or a military base, or a prison cell … in a church or even in your home, you’ll reach out for the Word of God.

It could save your soul.

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

If you are a Christian, you should take every opportunity God gives you to introduce someone to God’s Word. Jesus calls it being “fishers of men.”

Prayerfully reading God’s Holy Word keeps us in His will.

If you are not yet a believer, but you “attend” church, you should take the opportunity God gives you right now to read His Word, to savor its message, and to let it sink into your heart.

If you are agnostic or atheist or follow another religious tradition, may I offer you the Word of God? It is the Creator’s own message to His creation, the men and women He fashioned in His image.

***

If you read His Word and believe His Word, you will be eternally grateful.

Seriously. Eternally grateful.

Let’s join together in singing a hymn of praise to our Lord:

PSALMS 30:11-12 (NIV): “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”

PRAYER

Joining corporately and humbly before God’s throne.

ABBA FATHER, LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, we humbly bow before Your throne. You who made the Heavens and the Earth, the sun to rule by day and the moon and stars to rule by night, who merely spoke the words, and it was so. In the beginning, before the creation, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Then, God created. Lord, equip us to be Your faithful servants, extending our fellowship, witnessing to Your saving grace, and asking those we meet, “May I offer you the Word of God?” In the mighty name of Jesus, Your Son, our Lord, we lift our prayer. AMEN

The Meaning of Life – An Open Letter

(This devotion is an adaption of a letter I wrote to my adult daughters. I have massaged it to hide their identities and to make it useful to a general audience. May God bless you as you read through it and pray with me at the end. WP)

  • “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NKJV)
  • “Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15 NIV)

A MESSAGE BORN OF LOVE

WITH THE INCREASING TURMOIL in today’s world, this is an excellent time to reflect on the meaning of life. Since I am not a recognized spiritual “expert,” it’s easy to tune me out (😑), but I hope you’ll suffer through a few minutes, if only because I’m sharing from my heart.

GOD establishes His supreme authority very the very beginning, “In the beginning, God created …”

This is a message born out of love and concern, not from one (me) who has gotten everything right in life but one (me) who has had to learn some very tough lessons. Unfortunately, until I learned them, I may well have damaged other people along the way, but that’s what gives this message its impact.

It’s about God’s grace, not my accomplishments.

The text source above gives us two purposes for family as God designed us: one, that He created us male and female for marriage; and two, that He wants us to raise “Godly offspring,” that is, children who know the Lord.

When I was a young man busy with career and family, I did not know the Lord. Now, I do, and I want to tell others about Him because He has brought peace and joy to my life.

OUR INTERCONNECTEDNESS

You (my reader) and I together have experienced the ups and downs of a world connected through mass media and the internet, so a royal wedding in England and a typhoon in Asia are shared by billions around the globe.

GOD designed marriage as a physical, emotional, and spiritual union of male and female to begin families and provide the foundation for orderly society.

We experience it all: mass shootings here, an act of bravery and sacrifice there; devastating illness in one family, joy and thanksgiving in another.

With this perplexing puzzle and the ever present news feed, it’s no wonder so many today feel confused, disoriented, discouraged, and resentful.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. God — our Creator — has graciously provided us a way out.

We are called to join those of faith who, as one church elder phrased it, “praise God in the good times and praise Him in the bad times.”

More than anything else, I wish you would take your spiritual lives seriously and search into the claims the Lord makes for Himself, to see if they are true.

Jesus (God in human form) says He is God.

That makes him one of three things: a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. If He’s one of the first two, we can safely ignore Him.

However, if He’s the third, the Lord — the only other option — then we must worship Him.

WE HAVE CHOICES

God has given each of us a choice, with consequences, in our response. My prayer each day is that those we love — independently and with conviction — will seek the Lord’s guidance in their lives and then teach this to others, especially their children:

GOD designed the man (husband, father) to lead the family in devotions; He created the woman (wife, mother) to raise the children and encourage her husband’s leadership.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NKJV)

You, dear reader, may well be an accomplished and capable man or woman, making it very easy — seductively easy — to rest in the falsehood that your success is strictly your own doing and that you owe God nothing, that He has done nothing for you.

A quick list of God’s blessings starts with the fact that He created us, that He gave us life. He did that for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify Himself and to have Fellowship with us. That is the greatest blessing in life, to be in Fellowship with our Creator.

Don’t let another day go by without taking advantage of that free gift of God’s grace. If you are a husband and father, lead your family to worship the Lord and walk with Him daily; if you are a wife and mother, encourage your husband to start leading you and your children so they will become the “Godly offspring” your Creator desires.

The husband’s job is to lead the family; the wife’s job is to ensure he does it!

SHARING OUR GRATITUDE

Finally, I am grateful for my wife being in my life — she is my third wife but my first and only Christian wife. Despite our joy in being together, we see the hurts and sorrows that divorce brings. She and I both suffer from our divorces, and we can see our children accommodating to it in their lives.

GOD desires my worship, praise, and adoration.

Both of us love our collected children and grandchildren, and we’re both trying to present the message of redemption, fellowship, healing, and life to each of them.

God gives each of us the freedom to make our choices. However, there are consequences for our eternal destination. Either we will continue in Fellowship with the Lord forever, or we will be separated from Him forever.

You, dear reader, should not want separation from the Lord for yourself. You should want Fellowship with the Lord. He tells us to “choose life.”

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV)

Two choices: one is foolish, one is wise. Please choose the wise one for you and your families.

________

PRAYER


GOD’S holy and inspired Word guides us, comforts us, leads us, sustains us, and calls us to Him

ABBA, FATHER, we come to You, O Lord, in humility and  repentance, knowing we are unworthy to approach the throne of grace except through the blood of Jesus Christ. We ask forgiveness for our pride and waywardness and seek Your mercy, O Lord, as You reconcile us to Yourself and lead us in all righteousness for Your name sake. Lord, bring a saving grace to a darkened world and may we, Your servants, not be a stumbling block but a light in that task. We ask this in the mighty name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN