We’ve all heard the term “life’s not fair.” We see others receiving accolades for doing very little while we work hard and our efforts go unnoticed. This is especially true in the workplace. I can remember entering a new job with the State of Arkansas in the month of April many years ago. The beginning of the fiscal year came only a few months later, and with it came the approved increases in salaries. Each person received the same percentage increase in their paycheck. I remember some of my peers voiced their dissatisfaction in the system. They said, “Those who were just hired received the same increase as those who have worked all year long, and that’s not fair!”
There is a very familiar verse in Malachi. God tells us in verse 10 to “test me.” There is no other place in the entire Bible where we have been invited to put God to the test! So, what are the conditions of this test? The criteria of this invitation relates to the giving of tithes, and how much they are.
To begin, God tells the people through the prophet Malachi to bring in a tithe, a tenth, of their produce to the temple so “there may be food in my house.” Then if we follow this request, God says, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
There are two important aspects to these few verses where we as humans may think, “That’s not fair!” God does tell everyone to bring in the same amount to the temple – a tenth. A tenth of a hundred dollars is ten, a tenth of a thousand dollars is a hundred, and a tenth of twenty cents is two pennies. We do not all make or produce equal amounts; therefore we cannot all give the same amount. I think we can all agree some people have more than others, but the same formula applies equally.
But what about the blessings God promises? God said He would open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings. He didn’t say if you’ve given more, you’re going to get more blessings. Nor did He say if you’ve given less, you will receive less. God does not say He will open the “floodgates” to different degrees for different people. God blesses all equally, according to His goodness and mercy.
God is a merciful God. In all truthfulness, we don’t deserve anything from God other than death. But He loves us so much and has covered us with His grace. By accepting His Son as our Savior, we all receive eternal life –not in part but in FULL! Let’s praise God for His wonderful goodness, and what He has in store for us in eternity, for all His children equally!
Ever looked for your glasses only to find them on top of your head? It sounds so cliché, but it happens. People get so sensitized to the feeling of having them up there they don’t realize their presence. Or maybe you hunt for your car keys only to find them in your pocket or purse – exactly where they were supposed to be! We can get extremely frustrated looking for things, only to find them in obvious places.
How do we look for God? Do we find Him in church on Sunday morning, and then expect to leave Him there until next Sunday? This sounds like a very ludicrous question, but unsurprisingly it happens. Some people have had the wonderful experience of visiting the grand cathedrals in Europe. My nephew is one such person. He sent back picture after picture of the beautiful structures. Just looking at them one might think, “God must be present in this place.”
When is the last time you looked outside of grandeur of the large church sanctuary, outside the cathedrals, or even outside the small, historic churches with beautiful stained glass windows that dot our country and thought, “God must be present in this place.”
God is always with us, no matter where we go. And just to make it clear, God is already present where we are going, and is still in the place we just left! This thought can be comforting to some of us, and it can be concerning to others who may not know God as well as they should.
Jeremiah, one of the major prophets writes, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” When we hunt for our keys because we are running late to an appointment, we don’t look for them half-heartedly! We look for them feverishly. The same is true in the words of Jeremiah. Looking for God half-heartedly is not the way to find Him. Seek Him with your whole heart, and God says you will find Him.
It doesn’t take a lot of turning over of the couch cushions. You won’t need to remove all the papers on top of your cluttered office desk. God is waiting for you to be still, open your ears to listen, and open your heart. The Psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God.” Find time to be still this week. God will reveal Himself to you in many wonderful ways. He’s as close as the glasses on top of your head, and we don’t even realize it!
Admit it! There’s not a single one of us who hasn’t dreamed about being a kid again. We were carefree. Our only concerns were getting homework done, and trying not to get caught if we were doing something wrong. Politics was not something we cared about. We didn’t watch the news, gas prices and 401k’s were foreign. Yes, when we were kids our few responsibilities were the trash, helping with the dishes, and feeding the dogs. Life was good as a kid. But on second thought, was it?
If we wanted to go somewhere, we had to rely on a parent to take us, for example, the movies. Then we had to ask for money for the tickets, and were only given so much. We had to choose between a big popcorn or maybe a giant box of thin mints. We could only watch pre-approved movies, and heaven help us if we got caught sneaking into a theater we weren’t supposed to be in. If you grew up in a small town and you did anything wrong, your parents knew about it before you got home!!! Being a kid maybe wasn’t as glamorous as we would like to think or remember.
Israelite children didn’t have it easy either. There were specific roles they had to play in the household and in the fields. They had absolutely no rights. The children couldn’t even eat with their father. They had to eat in the kitchen with the women of the house. To say they had to depend on their parents for everything in their lives is an understatement.
The disciples still did not get what Jesus was trying to teach them at this point in His ministry. Earlier Jesus told the disciples for the first time He was going to die and be resurrected on the third day. Peter rebukes Him, and Jesus fires right back telling Peter his concerns were not on spiritual matters, but on earthly ones. He then told them they must be willing to be called a criminal by society, pick up their cross and follow Him.
After this, they began to argue among themselves. They asked Jesus who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Boy, were they competitive! Jesus summons a small child to stand with Him in the middle of a crowd – a place where no child would be allowed! He told them they had to rely on Him for all things spiritual, just as the child had to rely on its parents for its very life!
We tie our wagon to many leaders in the modern church, preferring one pastor over another or one denomination over another. In the end we will stand before our Savior, and no earthly person can stand with us. Jesus will raise us up to a wonderful inheritance. But first we must be like a child now, and completely rely on Him and His provisions.
Missing the boat. Not a position you want to be in. For whatever reason, you’re running down the dock as you see the gangway door on the ship close. You’ve known the date and time far in advance, but the world got in the way and you’ve missed what could be a life-changing trip.
The same could be true for airline flights. I have run through airports to make a connecting flight. My initial flight was late because of weather, mechanical issues, or maybe just bad planning on my part.
Many times over the disciples “missed the boat.” They were drawn to Jesus by His invitation to make them “fishers of men.” He called others with just a simple phrase, “Follow me.” In the beginning I’m certain they didn’t understand what Jesus was trying to convey to them. They saw Him heal the sick and infirmed, and even had command over the elements like changing water into wine, walking on water, and calming the seas with just a word. For you and me, I think we would believe just about anything Jesus would tell us…..maybe!
Jesus had asked the disciples who the people said He was. Then He asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” The Holy Spirit gave this revelation to Peter, but he was still missing the boat.
Peter called Jesus the Messiah, but he and the other disciples believed Jesus was on earth to set up His earthly kingdom, return the nation of Israel to prominence and unite all the tribes again under one king, and free them from the oppressive rule of Rome. If this was the case, they may have thought they were on the new king’s inner circle and therefore had their future looking bright.
When Jesus told them He must die at the hands of the officials, Peter pulled His boss aside and verbally scolded Him. It was only a few days before Peter verbalized the divinity of Jesus yet did not believe the Son of the Living God’s own words. He missed the boat and it hadn’t even sailed yet!
Do we sometimes fail to see the hand of God working in our lives? If we read the Word, we can see how Jesus wants us to live, treat others, and how to strengthen our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We can also see what must come to pass before Christ comes again as a conquering King. The ill-informed or misinformed can be swayed like a willow in the wind. Be strong! Build you faith and knowledge on the firm foundation of Christ.
When Jesus calls His church to heaven, we will all go as if on one big boat. We don’t want to miss the boat! Stay vigilant, with our eyes and ears fixed on Captain Jesus. It will truly be a life-changing trip indeed!!
When is the last time you walked into an automobile dealership, found the car or truck of your liking and said, “I’ll take that one, but I don’t want the engine?” Or maybe you preferred to have the front seats or back glass removed? How about just having the rearview mirror taken out? All these statements are ludicrous. You wouldn’t just buy half a car, now would you?
Another example would be building a house. What type of a look do you think the builder would give you if you said, “We love the plans, but we don’t need a roof!” There are few parts of a house which are more essential than a roof and we need a good one to protect us from the elements.
Wholeness is something we need in our lives, whether it’s a car, a house, and yes even a church. God has established His covenant of grace through Jesus Christ, and upon Him built the church. When we become part of His family, we receive a “welcome” gift. This gift is ours, but it is given for a purpose – to use in and build up the church, His church.
Many times, we hear people saying, “I feel like God has led us to this church.” We smile and think it’s so nice. But consider this: God leads people to a specific church for a specific reason! He knows the gift or gifts we have received because He gave them to us! He leads us where the use of His gifts are needed! None of us have exactly the same gift, but all are equally important and play a vital role in the church, not matter how insignificant we may think the gift is, like a rearview mirror in a car.
Earlier this year I had shoulder reconstruction surgery. For five weeks my arm was in one of those special slings which completely immobilized by arm. I had to learn to dress myself using one hand, eat using my non-dominant hand (which was really messy initially), and many other daily tasks. You see, it is easy to accomplish tasks when we have our whole body working together. Take away one of the parts, and things do not run so smooth, if at all!
God wants His church to be healthy, vibrant, alive, and whole. To be whole, we must be willing to use our gifts together, as a puzzle fits together to make a beautiful picture just as the creator of the puzzle intended. The only true way we can be all this is to be “Whole in One,” and the One is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Honor Him with your gifts, the gifts given to you and you alone, because you are special to Him.