Did God pass the "test"?

Malachi 3:10 (NKJV)   

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,     That there may be food in My house,     And try 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 such blessing     That there will not be room enough to receive it. 

Back on September 1, 2013 I told you about my wife and I double “tithing” (or giving back God 20% of what He has given us during the month) in order to show our two sons that God comes through on His promises.  God promises in Malachi in the last book of the Old Testament of the Bible that He will throw open the windows of heaven and pour out so much blessing that we will not have room enough for it, if we give Him back His 10% of what He gives us.  Since we were already giving God back His 10% we decided to give Him back 20% in the month of September to give God the chance to show our sons proof that God can be trusted.

God has blessed us by giving our sons neighbors to play with after school.  Jesus has helped me to see more quickly when I’m wrong and apologize to my wife.  God has enabled us to go to church together, which is very sweet because it hasn’t happened often lately.  My younger son has been walking away from the antagonism of others, which takes great strength and I am proud of him.  God provided a mini-mentoring session for my older son through a Christian friend of a Christian friend who was cleaning my carpets (he did an excellent job with my son and the carpets – ask for referral information).  My son tithed five weeks at church tonight (partially ahead of schedule) and was totally pumped, ready to see what God would do to bless him.

Monetarily, God did some off-the-chart things for us, as well.  First, He provided a perfect stranger to pick up our dinner check at a restaurant.  Next, my wife got paid for work that she wasn’t planning on getting paid for.  Our family received a free hotel stay, including mileage, breakfast, pool, and exercise room.  I interviewed for a new job and quit my then current job on Thursday, September 5th, 2013 and got paid for the next two weeks.  Last Monday, September 23, 2013, God gave me the job I interviewed for making twice as much as I did before plus unbelievable benefits.  This fits perfectly with my wife going from 40 hours per week to 20 hours per week (which is welcome).  And as far as God’s timing, my job starts the same day my wife’s job goes to part-time.

To me, God has indeed opened for me the windows of heaven  And poured out for me such blessing  That there is not room enough to receive it.

Ephesians 3:20 – 21 (NKJV) 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. 

There is room for you at the "top".

Someone has said that Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom.  Our Lord and Master, our God, is also the servant of all.  Our greatness is not measured in how many people are working for us, but in the works of love we do for others.

This attitude does not come naturally.  It comes super-naturally.  Jesus said we must be “converted”.  Jesus said that He reveals His truth to “babes”.  Jesus said that if we hear His message and receive it [do it] we receive Him and God the Father who sent Him.

(My son has given me permission to share the following).  I am continually impressed with my 18 year old son and how he grasps who God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are and their ways.  When faced with a problem, many times he is the first to say, “Dad, let’s pray.  Let’s ask Jesus for help”.  My son is brilliant socially and is one of the leaders in his classroom.  He also reads and writes at a second grade level.

Though some in this world would overlook him, I admire him.  He’s like the child that Jesus held in His arms and gave as an example for His disciples to be like.

I’ve explained to my son that he is smart, frequently pointing out to him when he demonstrates that quality.  But I have also told him that he is wise, also pointing out that quality when he demonstrates it.  And, I’ve explained the difference.  My son loves God the Father and Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit.  My son reverences God and values God.  My son is teachable about God and His ways.  And so my son is wiser than some with multiple times his IQ.

Some value intellect.  Some value athleticism.  Some value popularity.  God values love.  Love for Him and love for others.  And true love for God always expresses itself as obedience to God.  Not that we are perfect.  But when we do sin we repent (turn around), ask God and anyone involved for forgiveness, learn from our mistake, and press on.

So my goal is to humble myself and be like my son, like the little child Jesus gave as an example to be like.  And the nice thing about Jesus’ upside-down kingdom is that there is always room at the top, or rather bottom.  All of us can serve others and be like Jesus.

16 He who hears you  [Jesus’ disciples] hears Me [Jesus], he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16, NKJV)

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” (Luke 10:21, NKJV)

  1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matthew 18:1-5, NKJV)

Giving and Receiving

Just a few minutes ago I had the most unusual, and baffling and joy-filled experience.  My wife and my younger son and I were dining at an Italian place we like.  A gentleman we had never met before was waiting for his take-out order and asked us about my son’s hoodie with the Indiana Colt’s logo on it.  We told him that my wife’s family lives in Indiana and that we had followed Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy.  I was trying to get up the nerve to share Jesus with this gentleman using Tony Dungy as a starting point.  I chickened out and didn’t say anything and the man reached over and picked up our check.  It was for over $35 and to me that is a lot of money.  So I took the check back from him.  He took it back from me and said, “I’ve been blessed, now you go bless others”.

I was stunned.  This has never happened to me before.  I asked the man if he was a Christian.  I don’t remember exactly how he answered.  My wife said later that he probably was a Christian because not that many people say, “I’ve been blessed”.

Wow, God is awesome!  This man is awesome!  I’ve never felt like this before.  He mentioned that I could leave a nice tip.  We left $10.

This man doesn’t know that today was the last day of my job.  Or, that my wife is going from 40 hours to 20 hours per week.  But God knows.  And this man obeyed God.  Because this man obeyed God, God was blessed, the man was blessed and I and my family were blessed.

I gave this kind man my blog information and I hope he reads this.  Thank you very much, sir, we appreciate your generosity, especially at this time.

I am being considered for another job with another company right now.  I would be grateful if anyone who reads this would choose to pray for me to get the job that God wants me to get.  (Also, I would be glad to pray for you about what concerns you if you would like to leave a comment).

What a day!  Thank you Jesus!  Thank you kind man!  And thank you for reading this.  Have a blessed day.

You have to be a sinner before you can be forgiven

Jesus isn’t looking for the good people, the perfect people, the people who have it all together.  If we could be perfect then He didn’t need to die.  No, Jesus said through David in the Psalms:

Psalm 34:17-18  (NKJV)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,    And delivers them out of all their troubles.The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,    And saves such as have a contrite [to repent, to turn around] spirit.

(Brackets mine)

Psalm 51:16-17  (NKJV)

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
    You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
    A broken and a contrite heart—
    These, O God, You will not despise. 

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3-4) and “those who mourn” over their sinful condition.  “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “they shall be comforted”.  Not the haughty, not the proud.  Not those who claim to have it altogether, and say they have no sin.  Jesus said God accepts those who recognize who they are and cry out to God to clothe them with His righteousness, with Jesus.

Jesus loves us sinners!

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Whatever situation I find myself in, the preceding verse promises me victory.  The problem is that at first I didn’t want the victory… I wanted to sin.  Then when I tried to resist sin, the temptation was too great, or so I thought, and I gave in.  It wasn’t until I thought through the consequences of sin that I decided I wanted victory over it.  And I truly had to want victory over sin, more than I wanted the pleasure of sin for a season.

Then, I asked God to show me the way of escape and to give me the wisdom to take it.  This puts God in the lead and and me dependent on Him, which is the best place to be.  God says to resist the devil and he will flee from you:

James 4:7 – 10 (NKJV)

7Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

This is for most sin.  One of the surprises I found from reading Dr. Chuck Swindoll, was that concerning sexual sin, God did not want me to stand and fight temptation.  No, He wanted me to RUN, to flee, to get out of Dodge.  This is what Joseph did when his master’s wife tried to seduce him.  He ran.

Genesis 39:11 – 12 (NKJV) 

11But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside,  12that she [his master’s wife] caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.

Joseph had no choice, but for us, many times the way of escape doesn’t have to be that dramatic or at the last minute.  When traveling you can ask when you check in to the hotel to have the objectionable TV channels turned off.  Also, if you can, don’t travel alone but with a trusted friend.  Do a phone check in with your spouse or accountability partner at night.  Plan ahead and do whatever it takes to stop sin before it stops you.  Jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off!  (Matthew 5:30).  Of course this was exaggeration, Jesus doesn’t want you to be without a hand, but what Jesus meant was to deal decisively with sin.

God loves people.  God hates sin, not people.  God hates sin because it hurts Him and it hurts people.  The penalty was death for King David when he committed adultery.  But God pardoned him.  When a woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus to have her stoned Jesus said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone”.

John 8 (NKVJ)

3Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”11She said, “No one, Lord.”And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”12Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John the Apostle said that if a man claims to have no sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him.  

1 John 1:8 (NKJV)

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Therefore, we all deal with sin.  Those who brought the woman caught in adultery found this out, and so they all left.  But by what power are we delivered from sin?  The apostle Paul said:

Romans 7:13 – 25 (NKJV)

13Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.  14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  15For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  16If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  17But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  19For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  20Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  22For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  24O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  25I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 8:1 – 11 (NKJV)

1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,£ who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  3For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,  4that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  6For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  8So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  10And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

 Jesus is the friend of sinners, not so we can continue in sin, but so that Jesus can forgive our sin, cleanse us of sin and give us His righteousness and His Life.  Call on Him today, He is waiting to forgive you and give you new life!

Jesus can make satan’s lies tell the truth

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV84

 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

My mental illness doesn’t present itself as voices, either inside or outside my head.  What I contend with are feelings and thoughts.  Painful, hopeless, anxious feelings that sometimes leave me thinking that I should give up.  I call them satan’s fiery darts.  And I used to give in to them.  Then I battled them unsuccessfully.  Now, after thinking about the preceding verse, I ask Jesus to take these thoughts captive and make them tell the truth.

The truth is that Jesus loves us.  He has taken care of everything.  We do not have to perform up to standards for Him to accept us.  He accepts us just as we are.  When we trust Him to save us from the punishment we deserve, we become His children.  Two thousand years ago He took our shame and blame and suffered the punishment for it.  There is nothing else to pay.  He freely gives us His righteousness, Spirit, and life.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

The evil one, satan, attacks us when we are weakest, and attacks the weakest part of ourselves.  That’s different for each one of us.  What is a constant though, is that satan’s attacks are lies.  They may contain some parts that are true, but the message that he conveys is always a lie.

Before I had a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus, I thought I was “pretty good”.  I thought I was a Christian, which was a lie of satan (I liked Jesus’ philosophy but I did not know Him personally).  I thought the few sins I had were no big deal, which was a lie of satan (they were not few and they were a huge deal).  Satan had me completely deceived and so satan just kept telling me I was “pretty good”, I kept believing him, and so he didn’t need to do anymore to insure I was going to hell.

But once I surrendered to Jesus satan went on the attack.  I was now a threat to him.  He couldn’t change my new eternal destination (heaven with Jesus) but he could try and stop me from taking anyone with me.  My experience has been that the more closely I follow Jesus, the more I notice satan’s attacks.  And it seems like most of the time those attacks are thoughts and feelings, that is, satan’s fiery darts.

Jesus dealt with satan by appropriately quoting the Word of God, the Bible.  We can too.  Next time, I’ll post some verses that I’ve found helpful.

Spare change can change your life…

Luke 12 NKJV

13Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”14But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of £covetousness [greed], for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”16Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’21“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

 Your life can be as rich and sweet and full of joy as any millionaire’s, or even more so.  And a millionaire’s life can be as bankrupt as anyone in bankruptcy, or even more so.  Jesus said our life is not determined by what we own.  Money can solve some problems, but it can bring even more of its own, (like the desire for more money).  I was never so greedy as when I had more money (and depended on money).  I’ve never felt more free to give than when I didn’t have a job (and depended on God to provide).

Have you ever noticed that some people are strong and some are weak?  Some rich and some poor?  Some are blind and some can see?  Some are brilliant and some struggle?  Some are healthy and some are sick?  The early followers’ of Jesus had a solution to these problems.  The strong helped the weak.  The rich helped the poor.  The blind were healed or helped by those that could see.  Those who could think well helped those who couldn’t.  The healthy healed or helped those who were sick.

God didn’t give the Rich Man in the parable plentiful crops so that he could “take [his] ease; eat, drink and be merry” for many years.  I believe when God gives me more than I need it is to serve with it, not to indulge myself with it.  I find more fun in meeting someone else’s need in the name of Jesus, than in buying myself something that I don’t need.

For about the price of a coffee, roughly $1.33 a day, you can change the life of a child by sponsoring them through

Hope for Children part of World Hope International at:
http://www.worldhope.org/page.aspx?pid=511

or Compassion International at:
http://www.compassion.com/

You will give them education, nutrition, and medical care.  And the opportunity to meet Jesus.

And giving that $1.33 a day just might change your life as much as your child’s.