Fibro fog, pain, writing sandwiched in between. Quotes. Sermon notes. Encouragement.
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Way back when I was a kid, my grandmother was the one who told me about the importance of tithing. But she told me that it wasn't just money that we should gladly give to Jesus, but our time and our talents as well. As far as she was concerned, if we were awake for 16 hours a day, then we should gladly give the Lord 1.6 hours. (She did say think that if one could not give the full 1.6 hours each day, that serving and worshiping Him for 4+ hours on Sunday - between private Bible reading and prayer time and Sunday school and worship time - helped even the scales.)
Many people say that they don't attend or belong to a church for many reasons. Some have been hurt by "organized religion". Some think churches beg for money too much. (Actually, most are trying to get their members to realize the blessings that come from cheerfully giving the tithe. I have never met anyone who has been sorry that he/she tithed.)
But what I've wondered of those individuals who claim whatever reasons for not attending or belonging to a church are...
Have you studied the parts of the Bible about the Gifts of the Spirit? Each one of us has a gift or gift mix that is supposed to be used for the glory of God. If you're not using your gifts, are you stealing from Jesus?
I'm convinced that the reason we have so many kinds of churches is that we are unique and different people. We're also in different places in our spiritual journey, a personal journey that doesn't really mirror the journey of anyone else, and at other times in our lives we need seeker churches or churches more inclined to serve up meat than milk. It's great if we can find a church that meets our needs from the time we've accepted the Lord onward, but that is not always the case. Then again..rather than church hopping or staying home, were we supposed to help the church learn how to change and grow?
That's one of my other thoughts. We're all supposed to be a part of the Body of Christ. What if the church where you're supposed to attend needs and "eye" and you're the only "eye" available? Are you cheating the church and the Lord by staying home? Or what if you have the gift of discernment and the church needs that? Are you cheating yourself out of the awesome experience that comes from serving the Lord in the way he designed? Are you cheating the Lord out of your service? Are you cheating the church out of your help?
I sang in the kids' choir as a kid, then in the intermediate (teen girs' choir) and finally in the adult choir - because I had a good singing voice and could read music.
I taught my first Sunday school class when I was in high school - a wild group of 9-11 year old boys - because there were no adults stepping up to take on the job and I felt the Lord urging me to do so.
The Bible doesn't say anything about Christians being able to stop working for Him. It doesn't say anywhere that we're allowed to retire from serving Him. In fact, the Bible gives us many examples of how God used people in their later years. Why should we be any different?
When I lived in Texas, I met a wonderful woman who showed that God can use people into their senior years. Helen was a real prayer warrior. She's the only person I've ever met who could sincerely say - and mean it - that she prayed about four hours each and every day. When she was young and had children, she woke up much earlier than her spouse and kids so she could pray for them before they awoke. She prayed during the day, and she prayed at night. That was her gift to the Lord and to the world around her.
She was over 80 when I met her and still praying for hours each day. Perhaps she couldn't kneel anymore, but that didn't matter. I helped her make up prayer calendars for everyone to have that listed a few members' names on each day of the calendar year so that we could all be praying for specific members at the same time. We had about 600 members and about 75 other regular attendees, so we put 2 names per day on the calendar. We also listed birthdays and anniversaries on that calendar. And for the days toward the end of the year that had no specific names on them, we suggested praying for church staff and community and US and world leaders.
Even when Helen got to the point that she could not make it to church each Sunday, her prayer ministry continued. She prayed for a good 30 minutes or more about each individual on the calendar for the day. Then she wrote a short note or letter to each person for whom she prayed and sent it to him/her. What a blessing it was to get those cards and letters from Helen, and knowing that someone was definitely praying for you!
Helen also wrote down many of her prayers and had done so for over 50 years. Her basement held trunks of her prayer diaries. What a legacy she was leaving for her family. From those prayer journals, the family could look back and see what was happening in her life, in their lives, and in the world around them.
Not every ministry, not every task for Jesus, has to be a difficult one. In fact, if we're finding one of our Jesus tasks to be too difficult, it might not be the one He would have us do. When you're working for Jesus and using the gifts and talents that God provided for you, it can still be tiring. But it's a satisfying exhaustion, not a frustrating one.
As we head into Fall, with a time of beautiful colors, perhaps it's time to ask God what we should be doing for Him.
At Christmas and at Easter, more unbelievers come to know Jesus than at any other time. Shouldn't all believers want to be in a church at that time, so they can greet the people who are afraid and shy and wondering what being a Christian and attending and belonging to a church is all about?
This is the only place in the Bible, I believe, where God asks us to test Him. Yes, there are those who will tell you that the tithe is mentioned in the Old Testament. But as I've said before, I have never known anyone who tithes and says they are sorry they've done so.
Malachi 3:10 NIV
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
We are supposed to be in fellowship with one another, to study together, to pray together, and to keep each other accountable. We're supposed to find our strength from God and from each other.
Hebrews 10:25 TLB
Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.
And each of us are given spiritual gifts to use to His glory. Are you using the spiritual gifts and the natural talents God provided for you? Are you using them to advance His kingdom, to reach out to others in love?
1 Corinthians 12:4-13:1 NIV
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.
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