Malachi 3:10 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.
Giving is not always included in material about spiritual disciplines for Christian life, but it is important not to neglect this discipline. Nowhere else in Scripture does God tell His people to test Him. When we are told to give as a test of the Lord’s goodness, we can believe that He will live up to His promises.
Take note: giving is not about money. The Sovereign Creator of the universe does not need your dollars and cents. He wants your devotion, your obedience, your love. He wants your life to be about Him and that means not holding on to earthly things. He wants to be first in your life. By giving the first of your finances, the first of your time, the best of your affections, you are showing God that He is first in your life. And that doesn’t just have to be the “tithe”.
Tithing is not about the numbers. Some bicker about how much one is to tithe (10% of gross income vs 10% of net income, etc). Ideally, we would all give much more than just 10% of our income. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the heart (2 Corinthians 9:7, Mark 12:41-44). There is no set number on how much to give, but there certainly is a command to give (Malachi 3, Numbers 18).
The principle to remember in this discipline is that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). We must give God our best, first.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
What do you think of when you think of justification through Christ? Do you think of how your sins have been forgiven? They have (Colossians 1:14). Do you think of how you are now lead by Jesus who is your Lord? You are (John 10:27). Do you think of how you’ve now put off your old self and put on an entirely new self? You have (Colossians 3:9). You’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). One thing many of us fail to think about, however, is that we have peace with God through Jesus. Oh, I’m not talking about how we’re a little more settled and a little less high strung now. Those things are true too. But, we were once the enemies of God (James 4:4) and now we are at peace with Him.
This word, “peace”, it carries with it so many thoughts, so many feelings, so much nuance. We use it in so many contexts to mean so many things. But this word, this εἰρήνην in the original language, it does not simply mean that we have an absence of anxiety. It means we have an absence of war. Jesus ushered in the treaty when He died on that cross and rose again. He allowed us to walk up to the table with God and sign the agreement, if we so choose, to be at peace. To be God’s ally. It’s then that we find rest and “peace” with all those other connotations.
As followers of Christ, we’ve now been adopted into the very family of God (John 1:12). We’re no longer strangers who battle against our Creator, but children who can communicate with our daddy. We’re not enemy combatants, constantly worried about fighting the adversary that can’t be defeated. Now, we’re on God’s side and He’s on ours. It’s because of Jesus. Because He justified us with His blood, we are given this opportunity. Because of Him, we can lay down our arms and cross over to the other side. And there we find peace.
John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
One of the most often quoted theological statements is “God helps those who help themselves”. The troubling thing about basing one’s view of God on this idea is that it’s just not biblical (The statement itself is most often attributed to Benjamin Franklin). One of the main themes of the Bible is that man is incapable of helping himself. Apart from God we are depraved, unable to life ourselves out of the pit that sin has led us to. We cannot help ourselves.
But God, in His sovereignty, chooses to help us anyway. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). In other words, He helped us though we were not helping ourselves. Even if we tried to gain some ground without God, our best efforts are useless (Isaiah 64:6). Our Lord knew we would be helpless. His plan is to be our refuge, our shelter (Isaiah 25:4), our comforter (John 14:16), our advocate (1 John 2:1). The list goes on. Why would God have such descriptive names of one who defends and provides for the helpless if we were able to doing anything for ourselves?
Secular theology may find it reasonable to accept that we must do something to earn God’s favor, but to the Christian it’s irreconcilable with The Word. God helps those who cannot help themselves. Find rest in that. Live with that hope.
Psalm 147:3-5 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably gone through some things that made you doubt that even God could bring you up from the mess you were in. Some pain is so bad it seems like there’s no way out, some problems are so heavy they feel like they’ll never end. But God is good, all the time.
There’s no problem too big for Him to deal with on your behalf, but you’ve heard that before. Let’s not focus on that part. It’s a truth that we can know in our heads and ignore in our hearts when we’re in the midst of dark times. Let’s not focus on how He’s able. Let’s focus on how He’s willing. He cares. The Creator of all things WANTS to heal your broken heart. He WANTS to rescue you out of the abyss. It’s not just that He can, but that He will.
Do you believe that? It’s not that comforting to just have a head knowledge that God is powerful. It’s tremendously comforting, though, to remember that He’s caring and that He loves you. Though He knows every star and gives them each their own unique name, He is willing and able to take care of you, no matter how big or small the problem. No corner is too dark for Him to come into. No cavern is too deep. He’s here, He’s with you, and He’ll never leave you.
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” This is as true of the heart as it is of the mind. If we fill up our lives with the wrong stuff, there’s no more room for the right stuff.
This past week, as I was teaching the elementary school aged kids in church, I spoke on this topic. I talked about Romans 12:2 and being transformed by the renewal of your mind and how that meant that you need to spend time with God daily by reading what He has said in His Word. We talked about how we can have peace in times of fear or comfort in times of worry if we have our minds set on the Lord. Sensing that the kids were getting it, but needed a bit more, I gave an analogy.
If we were to only feed our bodies once a week, we’d be incredibly weak and may even starve. That would be nonsense, yet we do it spiritually by not spending time in the Word more than once or twice a week. How could we expect to know God’s will or to have peace when we haven’t been with the one who leads and comforts? It’s ludicrous.
The truth is, to be truly healthy mentally, we’ve got to have the right thoughts. In order to have the right thoughts, we’ve got to put the right things into our mind. We’ve got to feed our minds with the Scriptures, our spiritual food. That’s how we stay fixed on God.
Can I challenge you, if you’re not already reading the Bible daily to start with a Bible reading plan? There are some great ones available online.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
You and I have work to do. We’ve each been given a calling to fulfill, a mission to accomplish, and that requires our physical bodies. It’s our job, then, to maintain the vessel God will use.
One of my only hobbies is running obstacle course races. They range from about 3 miles to somewhere near 12 miles and there are any number of various obstacles to tackle along the way. Sometimes a course is fairly easy, other times I come home barely able to walk for two days. People always ask me why I put myself through that. My answer is twofold.
First, having a physical goal ahead of me motivates me to stay in shape, to get ready for the event. That’s about the only thing that gets me exercising sometimes. Secondly, I like to sign up for these challenges because they’re uncomfortable and outside the norm. I want to push myself physically to do things that I’m not sure I can actually do. I end up praying a whole lot while I’m running the course because I need all the help I can get. It reminds me that I’m dependent on my Creator to do anything. I believe that brings Him glory.
Now, let me wrap all this physical stuff in with the spiritual aspect we’ve talked about. I have a calling to love God more than anything else, giving my body as a living sacrifice. In order to carry out His purpose for me, which includes loving other people, serving them, and all other sorts of things that require a physical body, I’ve got to keep my body operational to the best of my ability.
My body is not my own. Your body is not your own. We’ve been bought with a price and now we’re to bring the Lord glory through our bodies. We can’t neglect the physical in exchange for the spiritual. They need each other.
How are you taking care of your temple? What do you need to do to improve?
John 13:15-16 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever
Have you ever found yourself stuck in life? Maybe you had this great plan, but after time passed, you just never seemed to get to where you were headed. It could be that’s even true of your spiritual life. You’ve gone to church, tried to be a better person, and just seem to be spinning your wheels. I’ve been there.
It’s tough to be in a situation like that, when you feel like you’re doing all that you can to improve but not seeing any results. It’s infuriating, in fact. Part of the problem with our failed efforts is that we’re trying to make change on our own. It’s not possible apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.
There are seven key habits that are taught in order to improve spiritual health. These habits are not just more effort to transform ourselves; they’re daily choices we make to align what we want with what God wants. I’m going to go deeper into each of these habits over the next few days, but today I’ll just list them for you to ponder.
The 7 habits to improve our spiritual health are:
- Love Jesus more than anything else. (Mark 12:30)
- Meet with God daily. (Proverbs 8:34)
- Study and do the Word of God. (Psalm 1:1-3)
- Love other people. (Mark 12:31)
- Give the best to God. (James 1:17)
- Serve others unselfishly. (Mark 10:45)
- Share the Good News about Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:2)
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Paul’s letter to the Romans has been called the “gateway to the Bible.” This book is a very clear presentation of the gospel in chapters 1-11, so when Paul takes that gospel presentation and then says, “therefore…” in Romans 12:1, we should realize the weight of that. He’s building everything he’s about to say on that fact that sinners are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection.
As the letter to the Romans unfolds, you’ll see God’s wrath, our sin, His way out for us, our adoption into His family, and the fact that nothing can ever separate us from His love that He poured out in Jesus.
Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Paul’s saying that everything is for Jesus and because of Jesus and about Jesus. Jesus is the reason for every season. So in light of THAT, “therefore, this is how I want you to respond” is what he is saying.
The word “present,” as in “present your bodies” is an action word, and it’s THE action word in this passage. Romans 12 verse 2 says, “be transformed.” That’s passive. We’re not the ones doing the transforming in ourselves. God is doing that work. Our role is to submit. To present ourselves. Submitting ourselves to Him pleases Him and brings about a transformation that we could never accomplish on our own. Until we’ve made that move, transformation can’t happen.
Many times the reason why we fail to change is because we’re trying to do it on our own instead of letting God take care of the transformation. Failure to prepare leaves us unchanged. Have you given yourself over to the Lord for Him to transform you?