Posts tagged ‘joy’

October 22, 2012

It Hurts

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/zen/4644044705/

It would be great to live in a world where there was no pain; physical, mental, or emotional. But if that were the case, would we learn anything about how precious life is? I write today from the point of view of a person who has lived with constant back pain for years. I have mentioned it from time to time before, mainly because I like the pity, but it has yet to yield someone to cut my grass for me. Life stinks, huh? And I am grateful to have a yard to cut.
To be honest, life does not stink and I think pain helps us to know this. I think if we will let our pain remind us of how precious it is not to have pain, we will be more grateful of those things that are void of pain. This past weekend I took my grandson camping and really enjoyed the time spent with him. But I found myself telling everyone how much pain I was in rather than how much fun I had. I should have been encouraging others to spend time with the ones they love instead of giving them excuses as to not do something that may cause pain. For that, I apologize.
Pain is a part of life. It is a teacher of what not to do. It is a motivator to push harder to accomplish a task. And it is a tool to remind us what is really important. You see this morning I was sitting at my house, in pain, and did not go into my office. There are other reasons that kept me home, but it started with pain. As I struggle to get my socks on, the pain reminded me of how grateful I was of slip on shoes. But as I sat there planning a pity party, I was reminded of a time when I could do about any physical activity and it did not hurt. As I reminisced about those days, I was nudged, I think by God, to think, “When was the last time you said thanks for all of those days of no pain?” As I thought about this, I realized that I had far more days in this life without pain than with it. I had been able to do more than many would ever hope to do. It wasn’t until recently that even the pain had put a limit on my activities. So I said thanks and took some Advil.
Here are some times in my life that pain made me remember the good and then I will sum thing up and quit bothering you today.
My mom died of cancer many years ago. It was a long battle and if you know anything about cancer, it is painful. But mom had a unique way of taking my mind off of her physical pain and mine emotional pain. She would break out old pictures of the kids growing up and we would laugh and remember the good times. I can’t remember ever sitting with my mom and hearing her complain about the pain. I could see it in her face and eyes and the way she moved, but never in her heart. She always saw the opportunity to remember the good stuff. So when she died, my last years with her were not filled with dread and sorrow, but of joyful memories and laughter. Her pain was beautifully used by God to show His grace in the toughest of times.
My dad died of heart failure. We did not have a good relationship and it was hard to get that phone call about his death when I had not talked to him in months. But, we did what all families do, we gathered to say good-bye and some began to argue over what stuff of dad’s they wanted. As this was happening, I looked on the wall over my dad’s chair and there was a picture of him and me. I had it bronzed and gave it too him when I was in the Navy. I was 4 years old and we were standing together with golf clubs in our hands and under it I had an inscription that said, “worlds greatest golfer and his dad.” It took me back to all the great things my dad was and I forgot all about the bad things that made me have so much emotional pain. In this moment of grief, God showed me that years ago He was preparing me to be the type of dad and granddad that I had become. He was giving me joy to over-ride the pain and memories that over-rode bitterness.
Recently, and I blogged about this, my dog died. It seems a bit unmanly to say that it really hurt and I cried when she died in my arms. But she was very special. I got her when I was going through a tough time in my life. I had never had a dog that I raised, it was always the family dog and I was never much of an animal lover. But she stole my heart and in the days after her death, I began to look for pictures of her. Every time I found one it was a moment of joy and happiness. I began to laugh and smile, even through the pain.
So this morning I was reminded to look for joy while the pain is there. Pain does not end joy nor does it take away good memories. Pain is not evil, it is a part of life. And life is a gift from God. This life has so many wonderful things to offer. Camping with my grandson is one of those and I was just looking at all the pictures I took this weekend to remind me. No, the pain in my back did not go away, but it was not bad enough to stop the smiles.
Jesus knows what pain is. He took a lot of pain to save humanity from our sins. His pain was physical, mental, and emotional. But through it all He never forgot the love that drove Him through the pain and to the cross. It was through that pain that we are forgiven if we believe. It is through that pain that we have hope of a life to come where pain is no longer a part of it all. But that hope and that future joy should only be a part of our focus because in this life, we have so much to bring us joy and share love with.

October 18, 2012

Me Me Me…

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/keokiseu/4667820885/

Mark 9:33-34 33 Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was at home, he asked the disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 They were silent. On the road they had argued about who was the greatest.

Ministry is a beautiful thing. It allows the church to help those in need. It is a source of great joy. Unfortunately it can be a source of arguing and troubles. No, this did not start with my church or your church or even your grandparent’s church, it started with the very first people who were followers of Jesus. (see above)
The reason this happens is that we forget to put self aside and be more considerate of those in need. The Apostle Paul said that he died daily to himself so that he could live daily for Christ. Far to often Christians forget that this is needed in our lives. We forget that once we are saved, we become workers with Christ for God. We are to become like Christ to people. Christ died for people and lived for God’s will to be done.
The church is not a place to complain because someone else did something to help another. It is a place to rejoice because someone was helped by Jesus and Jesus happened to use one of His own. It is a place to find joy that others are ministering to those in need, even if we can’t or aren’t part of it. Jesus knows our hearts. He knows if we are doing things out of love or for self glory. I trust that and let Him worry about it. Meanwhile, if a person in need gets help and it is from a believer, I give God the glory.
When these disciples were arguing about who was the greatest, they were as far from being Christ-like as they could possibly be. Jesus goes on to tell them that they must be childlike, not childish, in order to become great. Children are obedient. He later tells them that if they want to be great they need to become servants. Servants don’t think that they are great, they too are obedient.
As we grow as Christians we must always be aware that not everything can be explained. Not everything can be communicated. And not everything is meant for us to do. I am sure that others who saw Peter walk on water were a bit jealous that it wasn’t them. I am sure that some may have wished it was them who received the vision of the book of Revelation. But the important thing to remember is that the people who God wanted involved were involved in the things that He wanted done. It just is not about us once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
We must also remember that others are watching how we handle adversity. Every Christian has someone watching how we handle things to see if they want to follow us or not. It is not about them following you or me, but are we following Jesus and therefore they should follow us. Some may see our attitude and be offended because they don’t understand why we are upset. It may involve a weaker person and our reaction causes them to fall away. So be careful how you react to things.

Remember that children and servants are to be obedient, not important. Jesus is the important one and so is that person who needs help. We don’t want to hurt someone who is a weaker and younger believer.

Matthew 18:6-7 6 “These little ones believe in me. It would be best for the person who causes one of them to lose faith to be drowned in the sea with a large stone hung around his neck.
7 How horrible it will be for the world because it causes people to lose their faith. Situations that cause people to lose their faith will arise. How horrible it will be for the person who causes someone to lose his faith!

August 6, 2012

Don’t Burn Out!

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pigstubs/2036448304/

 

I feel like my head is spinning. The last week has been crazy. Between traveling and church stuff and international students invading my house and little rug-rats all last week and now my friend from the Philippines is here, I can’t catch my breath. But wow it has been good. I have seen God at work in so many ways.  He even found time to give me a sanity break with my wife tonight.
It is hard to understand how people can say that they get burned out with God.
I understand that you can get burned out if you are serving your church, but maybe that is the problem. Maybe you are getting burned out because serving the church is not always serving God. (Gasp!) That’s right, I said it. Serving God and serving the church can be two different things. The church has a tendency of becoming overburdening while Jesus said His yoke was easy and burden was light. God does not cause burn out.
Now this does not mean that you will never have problems if you serve God. But God promises that when we are being productive Christians and serving Him that we will have joy and peace and love and it will be rewarding and there is nothing to get burned out about that. We have been called to ministry. The word minister means to serve. We have also been called to do all things like we are doing them for God. So if you are serving God in whatever you do and you remember that He is the one rewarding what you do, it makes it easier to serve with joy and avoid burnout.
If you are one who is feeling burn out, then maybe it is time to spend a few minutes alone with God to ask why. Be honest about what you are doing and feeling and listen for that still, small voice to say that it may be time to change. It may be time to change your attitude. Perhaps you are doing what God wants, but you are not doing it for His glory. Perhaps what you are doing is not truly a ministry. Maybe it is a church position that hasn’t changed in 100 years and is no more a ministry than clipping your toenails. FYI, I grow mine really long before cutting them and then donate them to people whose toenails fall off, kinda like the hair thing people do. Perhaps you are doing too much and you need to let someone else serve. Here is another FYI…your church will not fall apart if you stop doing something.
Burn out can happen to anyone who is not serving God or serving in a ministry of God. Feeling burned out is like when your car begins to backfire. It is a warning sign that something is wrong. The number one reason people’s cars quit running properly is because they don’t read their owner’s manual and follow the instructions for preventive maintenance. The reason Christians face burn out is because they don’t read the Bible and follow its instructions. So if you are listening for God’s voice and you don’t recognize it, it might be time to familiarize yourself with what God sounds like through reading His word.
Don’t burn out! Get fired up!

March 21, 2012

21 March, 2012 17:07

by pastortimfowler

I have been overwhelmed in the last few days by how awesome God is. I wanted to share some of the things God is doing with you. Many of you have heard about my friend in the Philippians and how he struggles from day-to-day to get the supplies that he needs to stay healthy and do the ministry that he does. Our church collected money a few times to send and he is very humble and grateful for what we did. The last money we sent was for him to buy Bibles so that he could teach his people not just the Bible, but English as well. The Bible has both his native language, Tagalog, and English side by side. He just posted some pictures of the Bibles and the people who were receiving them and it blew me away. The joy on their faces was priceless. When I saw them, God filled my heart with overwhelming joy as if He was saying, “well done”. Sure it may not sound like the awesome experience that I started off saying it was, but look at the pictures for yourself on our church Facebook page. (The Body~A Church for Anybody)
Years ago I got the experience of a lifetime when I got to go to Cuba on a mission trip. I thought that I would never get to go back, but just last week a friend sent me an invite to go with him in June of this year. Immediately I began to pray and ask God if He wanted me to go. I can’t explain the feeling of peace mixed with excitement that filled my heart. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit and is often God’s way of telling us to go or do. Then last night I dreamed that I was there seeing the friends I had met the first time I went to Cuba and we were building their new seminary building. Most of my dreams are usually weird and senseless, it may have something to do with my past drug and alcohol abuse. But from time to time when I need to have clarity about what God is saying, I have dreamed things like this. I woke up this morning knowing that I was meant to go. So I have filled out the necessary paper work and sent in my deposit.
For the last several months our church has been hearing and learning about missions and outreach. My church is an incredible place filled with people who really love God and want to love others so that they may experience the love of God. We have been doing things to reach outside our church walls and have felt as if there was still something more that we could do for our community. So as I go to the mailbox yesterday and there is an invite to meet with another pastor and old friend of mine who is launching an incredible ministry in our town that is perfect for our church to get involved in. I won’t go into the details, but it is all about getting personally involve in helping others who are in need. It goes way beyond soup kitchens and rescue missions and fills a void that is often overlooked as churches and these type ministries try to help others. The timing of this could not have been planned any better if I had tried. It coordinates perfectly with what I have been teaching and our church has been wanting to do.
Jesus said that we are to go into all the world and share the good news. Sometimes it means taking a flight to a place like Cuba or sending Bibles to the Philippians. Sometimes it means getting involved with a local outreach to help those in need. Sometimes it means we can help others go because we can’t. And most importantly, it means that we can pray for the love of Jesus to guide our own lives every day so that the salvation and love of God is taken everywhere we go or send it in His name.

December 22, 2011

From Me To You

by pastortimfowler

This will be my last blog for a few days. It will be Christmas soon and we are traveling several times. Although they are short trips of less than two hours, it is still traveling. I only get to spend time with my family like this a few times a year and this is always special since my kids have married and moved away. Christmas just keeps getting more special to me, a guy who use to despise it and regretted the whole family ordeal.
Christmas for many of my early adult years was spent acting like I enjoyed the facade of family when in reality I was bitter and hateful. After marrying my wife and meeting her family it was hard to watch so many people loving each other so openly and I had a hard time with it. But they were not putting on a front, they were real and I learned to like it. Then as I got older and God became more real to me and called me into the ministry I began to see things with a better light. It was about family and it was about getting together, but more so it was about Jesus and Jesus has given me even more family through kids and grand kids and my church. I am richly blessed!
This is the time of year when Christ is in the forefront. It is the celebration of His birth, regardless of what anyone says. And it is because of His love for me that I am no longer bitter and angry at Christmas, but joyful and at peace. It took time, but God is patient.
So for Christmas this year I get to drive to three different places on three different days and hang out with family and friends. I get to see kids smile and adults laughing and I can look in the mirror and see a once broken and bitter man now filled with Christ’s love and joy. This only happens because I took a long look in the mirror too often and saw something that I didn’t like and couldn’t fix. It was not until I personally met Jesus and allowed Him to be the meaning of Christmas and the Lord of my life that I was able to find the peace that I had longed for.
I hope that you have joy and love and peace this Christmas. I hope that your families are able to get together and celebrate and I hope that Jesus is the reason that you are celebrating. But if you are like I was and you struggle with this, take some time to get alone and see if God will meet you there. He only wants to know if you believe in Him. He will only help if you ask. God does not intrude where He is not wanted, but will meet you anytime you ask. The transformation takes time and the joy is hard to recognize at first. But with time and you seeking to know Him, God reveals this joy, gives this peace, and fills with love, even the hardest and most bitter heart, like mine.
Merry Christmas to you. Peace, joy, and love, from Christ the Savior.

November 7, 2011

Hip-Hop Joy

by pastortimfowler

Our church had a youth ministry event last night and the main part of it was a hip-hop concert. I do not care for hip-hop and don’t think that I will any time soon. I kind of feel like my dad when he use to complain about my rock and roll music. But what I do like is the message and the heart of those who were performing. These young men were reaching out to the youth in a way that I could not and would not. My calling is not a hip-hop ministry, (thank you Jesus) and is not a ministry to youth (as a group). Mine is to pastor a church that is full of a very diverse group of people.
Ministry is not my way or your way, it is God’s way of using me and you to reach those who don’t know Him. If everyone had a hip-hop ministry, people like me would likely die and go to hell. As much as I want to be cool and hip, I fall just a hop short of hip. But God did not leave ministry to be only one way and that means that everyone has a ministry if they would only seek it.
I am good friends with a young man who has been doing hip-hop for years. He has built a ministry that reaches thousands and there is no telling how many young people have come to know Jesus because of what he does. In fact, he is the one who set us up to have the artists that performed last night. I was having lunch with him one day when I told him that I just didn’t understand that style of music and had a hard time appreciating it. I told him that I knew God was using him and that it was a ministry, but I had never been able to appreciate rap and hip-hop.
He told me that he understood and prayed for me because I was getting old and out dated. (Joke) Not really, but he did take time to explain the appeal that it had for him. He said it allowed him to continually flow with a thought to a beat and not be stuck with the traditional style of verse, chorus, verse, chorus that most music has. When he explained it to me that way, it made perfect sense  why he chose that style. It did not make me like hip-hop, nor did it make me want to change my ministry, but it did allow me to better understand how effective this can be in reaching people with the message of the gospel.
I have another friend whose ministry is to feed the poor. All he does is collect food and distribute it to those on the street. Another friend has a southern gospel group who sings the oldest style of music they can find. Still another friend of mine spends much of his time ministering to hard-core bikers. I know people who consider their ministry to be praying for people all the time and those who just sit with old people as they are dying. None of these are what I would choose to do on a regular basis nor has God called me to do, but then again they all say that they would never want to pastor a church like I do. And you know what? That’s the way it should be.
What is important is that if you are a Christian, you find something to do that reaches others with the love of Christ. Although more traditional forms of ministry like teaching and preaching are fine, most people miss the boat because they only focus on such things. But God gives great joy to those who serve Him and I feel that if you aren’t experiencing joy in a ministry, you are probably not doing the ministry that God wants you to do.
I have heard it said many times from many people who if you do what you love as a job, that you will never work the rest of your life. The idea is that work is no fun but doing what you love is not work. I see too many Christians that serve in churches and are miserable and complaining that no one else will do it. Those are people who are not doing the ministry that God wants them to do. Sure we all have to do some things in life and ministry that aren’t fun, after all Jesus didn’t have fun dying on the cross. But Jesus also never complained, nor did He let anyone stop Him from doing what He was called to do. Jesus also said that He wanted us to have His joy and that comes from doing His work the way that He would have you to do it.
Search out what God would have you do, then find a place to do it and watch people come to know Jesus as you come to know great joy!

October 28, 2011

That Woman God Gave Me

by pastortimfowler

Okay, its time for me to do some flirting, or at least attempt to score a few brownie points, even though I don’t need them because she is already my favorite wife. Over the last couple of weeks I have seen a couple of moving stories about couples. One, long dead, was said to be 1500 years old and were buried holding hands, and the other was a couple who died holding hands after 72 years of marriage. WOW!
I have now been married longer than any of my children have been alive. As a matter of fact, I have been married longer than a lot of people in my congregation at my church. It will be 32 years this coming July and what is really weird is that I am still very young. I got married when I was a wee child of 18. If you are good at math, you can see that I am barely over 40 years old.
In my first church where I was pastor, there were lots of old people. At my current church there are not that many old people, but that’s another story. At that other church there were 4 couples who had been married for over 60 years. That was one of the highlights of that pastorate. I was always amazed at them and how much they still seemed to love each other. When I spent time with them, I always asked them to give me advice on how to keep my marriage together for that long, and remain as happy as they seemed. What they told me was not complicated and they all gave me the same four suggestions. Keep God in you marriage. Have fun and laugh at and with each other. Flirt so much that she/he never doubts that you find them attractive. Fight fair and make up quickly. After hearing these things, I immediately knew that I had a great chance of having a long marriage. Now all I have to do is not die soon.
I wish that I could say that I married my high school sweetheart and that we dated for years and were in church forever, but that is not true. I met her at a party, and we knew each other only 6 months before we got married. From the minute I saw her, I knew that I wanted to date her, of course I was only 17 and she was drop dead gorgeous and every other guy on the planet would want to date her too, but I wanted to date her right then. Thankfully, she was open to the idea of dating me and after a few months, I figured that I better lock this thing down before she realized what she was doing. So we got married and here it is almost 32 years later and she still has no idea what she has gotten herself into.
We have a great marriage. We love and serve God together. If I had to pastor a church without her, I probably wouldn’t. She is so gifted and humble and is a walking example of God’s grace. We have fun and laugh a lot. As different as we are, we purposefully do things together just for fun. She says that I am a comedian, but no one makes me laugh more than her. We flirt, I more than her. All she has to do is walk in the room and I think that she is flirting. I still by her flowers and candy for no specific reason, and she lets me stare at her. We fight. I would like to say we fight fair, but I am not sure if that would be true, but we do make up quickly. I hate it when she ignores me and she hates it when I act real stupid. So we still work on fighting fair, and for the most part, we do okay.
I love being married to her. I can’t imagine not having her around. I hope that we live to see our 80th wedding anniversary but if not, I hope that we have one of those stories that make people go awwww, when we kick the bucket. But mostly, I want to live a life in front of people that makes them want to be married. Marriage takes a bad rap these days and too many people are trying to find true love like they are test driving cars. True love doesn’t come until you have been married a while. The longer you are married, if you follow the advice from my friends, the greater your love will grow. And don’t think that all the fun ends with marriage and age. With greater love comes great joy and greater fun. My married life is better than ever, and it will probably only get better over the next 20 years or so. I am wildly, madly, passionately in love with my wife. Staying married to her is all the blessing I need. I am very grateful for that woman God gave me.

October 27, 2011

Take Me To Your Leader

by pastortimfowler

Who do you know that you would follow anywhere? Maybe a quick answer would be your spouse, but remember that I said anywhere. Would it be a policeman? How about your child? Now I want to ask, who would follow you anywhere and Why.
I am getting ready to read Dave Ramsey’s new book about leadership. It came highly recommended at a conference that I recently attended and because I like his approach to money and admire what he has done with his company, I want to see what he teaches about leadership. This is a subject that try to read at least a book or two a year about and I don’t think I can ever learn enough about the subject.
I often use the question, what kind of person must Jesus have been to have thousands of people follow Him into the wilderness without any food? Remember that they did not have drive-throughs, then, and restaurants were hard to come by in the wilderness. These people must have been crazy to follow a man they barely knew out into a hostile environment unless he had some pretty amazing qualities. This is the same man who told 12 men to follow Him and they left their jobs and did it for 3 years even though He continually told them that He was going to a cross to die.
As Christians, we are supposed to lead people to Jesus, and sadly, that does not happen with most of us in any great numbers. Sure, it is not an easy task in this present age, but I believe that there is one thing that is consistent that makes it easier, Jesus. He has not changed and He gives us the guidelines that allow this to happen. Maybe we should focus on those rather than what we are currently trying to do.
Leading others is something that takes a willingness to be bold and take the first step. But it also takes an ever-present awareness of watching the steps that we take as others are watching us. If we lead others in the wrong paths, who needs a leader? We must be willing to keep heading in the right direction even if people aren’t immediately following us. Sometimes people want to see if we believe that we are heading in the right direction before they tag along.
Another key to leading others and this is important, at least to me, is that they see joy in you as you head to where you are wanting to lead others. One of the promises of Jesus said that He would give us His joy. He did not say that he would make us happy or let us find joy, but rather He would give us the joy that He already had. To often I see Christians walking around as if they had lost their puppy or something. Even in church where we gather to worship, I see long faces and people afraid to act as if they believe that God is real. And after church if you go to a restaurant you will hear the church folks talking about long-winded preachers, bad music, and that hideous dress that she was wearing. To top it off, many waitresses will tell you that Sundays are their worst days for tips. Oh yeah, baby, follow me to life eternal! Where is the joy?
Leadership is not limited to CEO’s and Government officials and pastors. If you are a Christian you should take the lead. An old friend of mine once said that you only have to be one step ahead to lead. The challenge is to act like we want others to follow. Most people like the spotlight of leadership when there is a title and a pay-check involved, but Jesus tells us that the treasures in this world will go away, but the treasure in heaven are never-ending.
If you had to lead someone to a place that was as miserable as the wilderness of Israel, and you had no food, you had better be a dynamic person. Jesus was. But He did not say lead people to the wilderness, He said to lead them to Heaven, via Him. If McD’s was giving away free Big Macs and fries to everyone that you brought to them, you would have no problem putting on the smile and enthusiastically having people follow you there, even if it were the one across town. Jesus offers the Bread of life and Living Water and a place to stay in His mansion for all eternity to everyone you bring to Him. And, you won’t have to lead them far. Just take them to the cross.

October 12, 2011

Dru To Be Daddy

by pastortimfowler

I just heard today that a good friend of mine Dru, and his wife are expecting a baby. It is one of the sweetest times a couple can ever share. There is something about that news that never gets old and almost always brings great joy to those who hear it. I thought that I would give a few bits of advice to my friend and you can feel free to share it with others who are new-found parents.
First: prepare for the next few months to be crazy, but remember it is only nine months. Pregnant women are moody. They want to eat weird food at all hours and then cry because they are gaining weight, even if the doctor says she is right on track. If you tell her she is showing, she will cry, if you don’t, she will say you don’t care. You can’t win, so get use to it.
Second: prepare for lots of sleepless nights. Babies will cry and do their best to mix up their nights and days and you will suffer the loss. But, this only lasts a few months and pretty soon they will they figure out that sleeping is far better than the stupid things you will try to do to keep them quite and put them back to sleep.
Third: enjoy the baby years because the terrible twos are, well about two years away. Once a child begins to walk and talk they also learn to play one parent against the next. They learn manipulation and mind control and can and will embarrass when you least expect it.
Forth: Children always grow up but they never go away. NEVER.
Fifth: This is the greatest experience you will ever experience. You can only fully understand this when you look back in 20 years and every hard time will be worth it and every laugh will be louder and every tear will be worth it.
The Bible says that children are a blessing straight from God. If there is anything that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is this. Children are the greatest source of joy, the greatest source of love and the greatest thrill of you life, so enjoy it. They grow up way too fast. But if you are as blessed as I am, you will get the greater blessing of grand-children.
Congratulations! Life as you know will soon cease to exist.

September 15, 2011

We Love To Give

by pastortimfowler

Early this morning I read the Old Testament book of Esther. It is a strange thing that not once in the whole book does it mention God. Yet the theme of salvation and deliverance run throughout. At the end of the book, Mordecai proclaims an annual feast and celebration called Purim, that involves the giving of gifts to people all around you. It is a celebration that sounds a lot like our modern Christmas celebration.
I do not know of a more joyful time than Christmas morning when you get see someone opening the gift that you thought so hard about and looked for days or weeks to find just the right thing. Or watching a child get that toy they have talked about all year-long. I love seeing a mom get that home-made gift from a child who is so proud of what he or she made and mom beams with love even if the gift is obviously made by a small child. What about the young woman who parades her new engagement ring around, showing it to everyone and the guy who gave it to her smiling with great pride as she does?
Giving gifts is a wonderful thing that is full of reward and joy for the giver as much as it is for the receiver. There have been times when I have heard people during a birthday party shout from the crowd, “That one is from me!” because they are so excited about giving the gift. Yes, giving is a wonderful thing and we love to give.
Then there is church. We spare no expense on gifts for our spouse, children, or even friends. We are willing to go into debt by the thousands of dollars during Christmas in order to give. But when it is time to give at church, we suddenly become cynical. We forget that giving brings us joy and we turn into Scrooge as we grumble to reach into our pockets for change.
I think part of the problem is that we are thinking about giving to an institution called the church instead of giving to a God who loves us enough to forgive our sins and allow His Son to die in our place so that we can have eternal life with Him. It would be a lot more difficult to give my wife something if I constantly thought about what I was giving to the institution of marriage instead of the mother of my children. But because it is personal, I give with joy. We need to get that mindset with giving to God.
The church is God’s way of being personal with people. We are His arms and feet and lips. It is organized and sure there are flaws, but only because humans are flawed, not God. But the church is how people who don’t know God, get to know God.
The Bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. That does not mean that we are not loved if we give begrudgingly. It means when we give with joy, He receives with joy. We love to bring joy to children when we give. We love to bring joy to our spouse when we give. We need think about bringing joy to God when we give. We love Christmas and birthdays and giving to those in need. God loves us so much that He gave His Son. So when it comes to God, shouldn’t we love to give?

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