GENEROSITY

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Solomon understood a dynamic principle of God’s kingdom – life is experienced to the fullest when it is given away.

Proverbs 11:24-28 “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell. Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”

This principle applies to every area of our lives, and yes, even to life itself. Just think of the truths presented in Scripture to support the principle of giving:

Acts 20:24   “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me; the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Philippians 3:7  “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Mark 10:28  “Peter said to him, We have left everything to follow you!”

Luke 9:23  “Jesus said, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

All of these examples, and many more like them from Scripture, give us a clear statement that in God’s eternal plan for the fulfillment of man’s existence, there must be death for real life to occur. In John 12:23-25, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

When we admit that the life we are trying to attain is unattainable in our own strength and by our own efforts, and we choose to die to that pursuit of what the world calls life, we will cry out to the God who created all life and who is able to provide true life abundantly, and He will give it to us through His Son Jesus Christ!

Once we have received God’s generous gift of forgiveness and eternal life, we will be filled with the Holy Spirit’s power and motivation to apply the “give it away” principle to every area of our lives. If we are looking for joy, then we must give joy away. If we are looking for peace, then be a peacemaker. If we are looking for security, then we must give away our trust in the world’s offer of security and trust God alone. I challenge you to live by this principle in all areas of your life and discover the fullness that God brings. It goes beyond my explanation. I have never felt better about life and who I am than when I am giving myself away for the sake of another person. That is Christ in me, and you will feel the same fulfillment.

But what if we are looking for material blessing? Some would like us to believe that we can use this principle to make ourselves wealthier. Well, in God’s system, principles are only valid when proper motives are in place. If we attempt to use God’s principles for personal gain, we will lose. We must re-evaluate our primary motives and life principles, because the pursuit of wealth should never be what we are seeking from this life. When our motive for giving away resources is totally an act of thanksgiving and humble service to the King, God is honored and God’s kingdom receives all of the benefit. Then we will experience God’s blessings. Go back and read today’s Scripture passage and discover this dynamic principle – life is experienced to the fullest when it is given away. 

So when we talk about generosity, we are talking about more than just money. We who have been loved by God with the grace of salvation, and who in turn love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, have an uncontrollable desire to give life away, just as Jesus gave His away for us. Generosity is not an action; it is an attitude that results in action. Test your spirit today and see if the dynamic principle of generosity is active. If it is, act on it! If it isn’t, what needs to be given away so you can experience it?

Pastor John

POTHOLES

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, September 27, 2021

Our study of wisdom from Proverbs brings us to a touchy subject. We tend to get emotional, defensive, and argumentative when we discuss it. We probably need wisdom in this area of our lives more than any other because Scripture tells us it is one of the biggest indicators of the spiritual condition of our heart.  The subject at hand is money. 

Proverbs 23:4-5 “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

Whenever the church of Jesus Christ takes up a discussion on money and finances there is the potential for great disagreement and conflict. If the church were to be compared to a car, then finances would be the potholes in the road waiting to throw the car’s steering out of alignment. Simple conversations between Christians can quickly become overheated when either the giving or the spending of money is the topic. It should not be so, but there are reasons why it is, and we need to honestly reflect on those reasons.

  1. Money has captured our affections. Let’s be realistic – we love money. We love the status it brings us when we have it. We have determined that the value of who we are as a person is directly related to the amount of money we have and are able to spend. We have given money the power to determine our personal worth. We also love the things money can provide for us, because we have given possessions the power to also determine our personal worth. We have bought into the secular standards of success by believing that the more we have and are able to manage the more successful we are. Money has captured our affections because we tend to minimize the truth that God alone will fulfill our lives and give us a total sense of worth and purpose. That’s a big pothole we hit, and we need an alignment!

2.    Our Biblical understanding of giving and our obedience to it has become a pride issue for us. We try to convince others in the church to give the way we give. We even use the guidelines we believe in to justify the personal use of our funds. We engage in arguments about the validity of tithing, or proportional giving, or generous giving, or sacrificial giving, or cheerful giving. But the real issue is not the method of giving. What matters most is that we believe that all that we have is God’s and is available for His use for His glory at any time. There should never be a discussion in our minds about what is God’s and what is mine. It is all God’s, and we are simply the stewards, or managers, of His resources. Whatever we believe about the Biblical guidelines for purposeful, planned giving to the church, there should be an underlying philosophy that guides the management of our money, and it is this: I will honor the owner with every decision that involves the use of His resources. Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

I think we will stop there for today, because hitting two potholes may have already caused a major steering problem for you and I’m afraid that you won’t be able to safely drive until you get an alignment. So, as soon as you’re done, make a call to the owner of Priority Alignment and let the head mechanic, the Holy Spirit, make any necessary adjustments. If God’s wisdom for finances isn’t properly aligned, your whole life may be hard to steer.

Pastor John

WISDOM FOR RELATIONSHIPS part 5

LifeLink Devotions

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/WISDOM-FOR-RELATIONSHIPS-part-5-e17r0d8

Friday, September 24, 2021

If we are going to be people with great relationships, we must constantly put the needs of others ahead of ourselves.  God’s wisdom for this part of relationships is found in Proverbs 24:11-12.

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

There are two heart-piercing truths in these verses. First, God is absolutely and unmistakenly aware of every need of every person. And second, God is also aware of whether or not we are informed about the need. We cannot play the ignorance card with God. We cannot pretend to not have heard about the need. There is nothing that justifies our non-involvement in meeting the need. There is no priority in our lives that can be argued into first place when we know there is a hurting person that we can touch with God’s grace and love.

Think about this carefully: any decision on our part to do anything for self, when we know there is another person in need and we have the ability and opportunity to meet that need, is seen and felt by God, and will not go unnoticed or unpunished. If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” (Prov. 21:13)

The older I get and the longer I minister, the more I realize that it is not how much I know or how well I preach or how great I administrate and lead that matters most to people – it is how much I care! A loving and serving heart is the single most important asset to great relationships.

Look around, if you dare,

There are hurting people everywhere;

All they want is someone to care,

A person to share,

Their burdens to bear,

Who is always there.

Such people are rare,

Be one, if you dare.

Pastor John

If you have the time, here’s a great illustration of this principle:

Beautiful Flower in a Broken Pot

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardly taller than my eight-year-old,” I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face, lopsided from swelling, red and raw.

Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the eastern shore, and there’s no bus ‘til morning.”

He told me he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no success, no one seemed to have a room. “I guess it’s my face. I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments…”

For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”

I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. “No thank you. I have plenty.” And he held up a brown paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn’t take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was prefaced with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going.

At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children’s room for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, “Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won’t put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair.” He paused a moment and then added, “Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don’t seem to mind.”

I told him he was welcome to come again. And on his next trip he arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious.

When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. “Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!”

Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear. I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.

Recently I was visiting a friend, who has a greenhouse, as she showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, “If this were my plant, I’d put it in the loveliest container I had!”

My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of pots,” she explained, and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting out in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden.”

She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. “He won’t mind starting in this small body.”

All this happened long ago—and now, in God’s garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. 

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

WISDOM FOR RELATIONSHIPS part 4

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 23, 2021

This week we have been looking at Solomon’s advice for how we can have great relationships. His next bit of insight into strengthening our relational pursuits is this:

“Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.” Prov. 24:1-2

One of the hardest things we face in our relationships with others is when they give us advice about who can be our friend and who shouldn’t be. It hits at the very core of who we believe we are.  It seems as if they are saying, “You’re not perceptive enough to see what this will do to you so I need to tell you.”  Most of us don’t like being told we need help in any area of our lives, and especially in the area of choosing our friends. This is an incredible area of tension between parents and teenagers.

But let’s be honest. We are blinded to the dangers of certain people’s influence in our lives because of a self-centered attitude we have in the relationship: we focus only on the value and pleasure they bring to us in a purely fleshly, worldly, sensual, and materialistic way. It may even be that they have an exterior resemblance to a spiritually minded person and they seem to be trying hard to do the right thing. Don’t be suckered. They are only playing a game based on their own insecurities and desire to find value in what you give them. Their hearts are plotting personal gain and pleasure, not true self-sacrificing love.

The fact that we all have a desire to be a part of something bigger than we are as individuals can become a problem. The world and its cronies seem to have the most appealing opportunities. That’s because the basic need of our heart is for relational acceptance that offers a meaningful existence. The world thinks the local bar or tavern is the place that provides such benefits. Oh, it does offer relational acceptance, but what about the meaningful existence part. One huge aspect of a meaningful existence is security, and where is that found in what the world offers? Only Jesus Christ can provide a truly meaningful, fulfilling, and abundant existence. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly (or to the fullest).”

We have been looking in the wrong places and to the wrong people for our place and purpose. We have also been the wrong kind of people to those who are still looking as well. When Jesus provides us with the full abundance of life through His unconditional love and acceptance and empowerment, shouldn’t that make us who know Him the core group of a movement in the world that attracts people looking to be a part of something bigger than they are? Yes it should. But we are still stuck in the flesh looking for additional acceptance and approval, and we are being dragged back into the mud of mediocrity rather than standing on the Rock of real relationship.

The choices we make about who we allow to have an influence in our lives are probably the single most important choices we ever make. Listen to what God’s Word says about it:

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Exodus 23:2 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”

Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”

Proverbs 4:14 “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.”

2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be yolked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”

Now remember, we are not talking about separation from all sinners so that we never have contact with them. We must reach out to them in Christ’s love and draw them to Jesus for salvation. What we must do is separate ourselves from their influence. Think of it this way: if you are in a relationship of any kind with an unsaved person in which the major flow of influence moves from them to you, put up some boundaries quick. You will be dragged down. When you are strong enough to take a stand and the major flow of influence moves from you to them, then go for it and win them to Jesus. That will make for a great relationship!

Pastor John

WISDOM FOR RELATIONSHIPS part 3

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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One of the hardest relationships to develop and maintain is that of a parent. Within the 30 wise sayings of Solomon in Proverbs 22 – 24, there are 2 statements about the family. They hold a wealth of wisdom about how to have a great relationship with your children.

Prov. 23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.

Prov. 23:22-25 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding. The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!

There are a lot of conflicting views bantered about today about the discipline of children. Some say, “Enforce the rules and make the consequences hurt,” while others say, “Don’t have rules so as not to break their spirit and stifle their creativity.” How are we to know what is the proper approach to parenting so that our children will grow up some day to be righteous and wise so we can delight in them?

Please know that I am not a parenting expert, but I have learned a few basic principles that might help in your quest to be a better parent and raise Godly kids. Here are some fundamentals:

1.       ALL discipline should be for the good of the child and not the good of the parent. I can’t begin to tell you how many times in my early years as a father I was guilty of inflicting a consequence upon my children because it either emotionally or physically satisfied me at the time. This was so wrong, and I learned quickly by the responses of my wife and my children that discipline is not to be an expression of my hurt or my frustration, but it is to be carefully designed to produce a positive response of growth in the child. Look at what Proverbs 23:14 says – “Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” The emphasis here is on what will most benefit the child. You will have a great relationship with your child, even when there are enforced consequences for sin, when the child knows you are intent on doing what is best for them and not for yourself.

2.       There must be discipline for the child to truly know their parents love them. Because we are created in the image of God, we have a basic need to love and be loved. When we feel love, we desire to return love to the one loving us, and the method of returning love that is common to us all is to obey. When there are no rules to obey, there is no way to properly measure love or return love. God created Adam in a perfect love relationship with Himself, and gave him a rule to obey to test his love. In parenting, there must be rules and consequences for the child to feel loved and secure. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” When we withhold discipline, we withhold love. When discipline is inconsistent, the child thinks love is inconsistent. When we discipline, we give the child hope: hope of a fulfilled life and hope that they are both worthy and capable of that life. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.”

3.       The responsibility of a parent is to train the child to become the fullness of whom God created them to be, not to become what we wish they would be. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is vital that we understand the phrase “in the way he should go.” It does not mean that we as parents get to determine what they will be when they grow up. The Hebrew expression means to train them “according to their natural bent.” It is the wonderful privilege of a parent to observe the natural strengths and abilities of their child and then train them, within the context of God’s righteousness, to become all that God created them to be. So many parents make the mistake of imposing their desires on their children, and the children go through life rebelling because inside they know the real person God created has not been allowed to bloom. It would be very unwise to expect our children to pursue our goals for them when God made them for a different purpose. It is very wise of our children to pursue the fullness of what God made them to be. When they do, it brings us joy, as Solomon said in our key verse from above – “The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him.” Train them in God’s righteousness, but let God show them His purpose for their lives.

Thanks for taking a little extra time today to study this, and thanks for working hard to apply these wisdom principles so you can be a great parent. 

Pastor John

WISDOM FOR RELATIONSHIPS part 2

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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Cultural and political correctness discourage calling someone a fool.  But God’s wisdom demands that if we are going to have great relationships with others, we must learn to recognize foolishness and avoid it. In Proverbs 23:9 Solomon says, “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.”According to the Bible, this should be an easy task. In the following verses it is made clear that a fool will be easily recognized. However, it’s not so easy to recognize ourselves.  Be careful to search your own heart before you make a list of others who fit these descriptions of a fool.

Prov. 12:23  “A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of a fool blurts out folly.”

Prov. 15:2 ”The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”

Prov. 18:2 “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinion.”

Ecclesiastes. 10:3 “Even as he walks down the road, the fool lacks sense and shows everyone how stupid he is.”

2 Tim. 3:9 “But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.”

So what are the marks of a fool that we should be looking for? Here are some prime indicators:

1.      Atheism / Agnosticism – Psalm 53:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

2.      Slander / Gossip – Prov. 10:18 “whoever spreads slander is a fool.”

3.      No personal responsibility for sin – Prov. 14:9 “Fools mock at making amends for sin.”

4.      Rejection of Instruction – Prov. 15:5 “A fool spurns his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.”

5.      Quarreling and Strife – Prov.18:6 “A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating.”  Prov. 20:3 “…but every fool is quick to quarrel.”

6.      Self-confidence – Prov. 28:26 “He who trusts in himself is a fool.”

7.      Dishonesty – Jeremiah 17:11 “Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.”

8.      Hypocrisy – Luke 11:39-40 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people!’”

I’m sure by now the Holy Spirit has already been showing each of us the areas above that apply to our own lives. Let Him do His work in our hearts. It would be easy to allow Satan to influence our fleshly, carnal mind and cause us to think about other people who are guilty of being fools, but we need to resist him, flee from him, and surrender to the cleansing and maturing power of the Holy Spirit. 

You see, we will only be great in relationships if we are not the fool. 

Pastor John

WISDOM FOR RELATIONSHIPS part 1

LifeLink Devotions

September 20,2021

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In the 22nd through the 24th chapters of Proverbs, Solomon gives his students thirty basic pieces of wisdom upon which to build a life. Within those thirty wisdom statements he writes six specific instructions on relationship issues. Let’s dig into them this week.

The first one is found in Proverbs 22:24-25.

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”

This sounds pretty straightforward for us, right? Avoid people who are quick-tempered. We are already making a list of the people that fit this description.  We are thankful that we now have permission from the Bible to write them off. But have we considered the possibility that we might be the person on someone else’s list? 

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the “in control” person of Proverbs 29:11 who “keeps himself under control” and 10 being the hot-tempered person of Proverbs 29:11 who “gives full vent to his anger”, where would we rate ourselves? After you rate your anger level, consider this: anyone who is rated below you on the scale may consider you the person to avoid. 

Let’s clarify that anger in itself is not a sin; it is an emotion. But how it is expressed can be sinful. Maybe the sinful expression of anger is not a problem for us. Make sure that others are the ones telling us that it is not a problem and that it is not a self-imposed qualification.

Maybe the problem for us is the stirring up of anger in others. Proverbs 30:33 says, “For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.” People may be avoiding you because you tend to cause them stress and strife. 

Solomon then tells us why we should avoid people who are hot-tempered: because it is contagious. Angry people drag us down. Bitter people discourage us. When we are around people with chips on their shoulders, we become comfortable wearing our chips. Some people just have a terrible attitude towards life. Everything is wrong with it, and they gain some sort of satisfaction in always expressing their dissatisfaction. They tend to believe that life, God, and the government owe them something. People like this are a real bummer to our faith. We must realize the potential for the contagious disease of sinful anger to be transmitted to us through people who do not live by faith in God alone.

Now be careful before you withdraw totally from them. Someone has to help them come to faith in Jesus Christ, and that may be you or me. God’s wisdom of relationships with such people is this – get close enough to influence them for Christ but not so close that they influence you to loss faith in Christ.

Proverbs 29:8 says “Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger.” Let’s be wise!

Pastor John

MORE SELF-SACRIFICING

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, September 17, 2021

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Proverbs 22:22 “Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate.”

A young boy sat at the dinner table for several nights in a row listening to his dad pray for the needs of a family that lived across the street. As they would eat their meal he would think about that family, and wonder if anyone would step up and help the family in a physical way. On the 5th night, while dad was again praying, the boy quietly got up from the table, walked over to the buffet where dad laid his keys and wallet every night when he got home from work, picked up the wallet, and headed for the front door. When dad asked him where he was going the boy replied, “I’m going to answer your prayer.”

One of the characteristics of a self-sacrificing individual and society is the deliberate involvement in meeting the needs of the weak and poor. Deliberate is the key word. I think it goes beyond the spontaneous and usually emotional response we make to a need when we hear about it on tv or the radio or in church. Now don’t get me wrong, every gift of generosity that comes in at such times is greatly appreciated, but let’s carefully consider this area for the growth potential that it has for our lives. You see, an emotional response to anything carries with it the potential for regret. We may have given a wonderfully generous gift today in response to a need we heard about, but are we sure when the bills come at the end of the month we will not regret having made an emotional decision to do that?

I think there is a better and more mature way – to be deliberate in the planning to meet the needs when they arise. Here’s an idea: sit down with your budget book (you do use a budget book to manage your finances, don’t you?) and your spouse (if you have one), and in a time of prayer consider adding an account to your budget. You could call it P.E.R., for Planned Economic Relief, or better yet, Planned Emotional Response. Whatever you decide to call the account, it will be there when a need arises and you will know how much to give PER need. There will be no regrets later because you planned to do it and you were able to do it. You were deliberate.

I know, some of you are thinking, “Where’s the sacrifice in that?” Well, for most of us to be able to create such an account will take sacrifice because some other deliberate account may have to be adjusted. Plus, I can guarantee you that as needs arise you will still have emotional responses and want to give more than you planned, so you will still sacrifice, and then adjust your PER account. Pretty soon, everything you have becomes a resource for God, and you will have discovered the wonder and wisdom of self-sacrifice.

Let’s work together to start a grass roots movement in America to change our society from a self-centered one to a self-sacrificing one. It begins with honoring God above ourselves, and then deliberately honoring others above ourselves by considering their needs before our own.  There is not one of us who is at the bottom of the economic ladder, so no matter what our current condition, we are able to help another in need. Let’s pick up the wallet and answer our own prayers.

Pastor John

WHAT CARING LOOKS LIKE

January 19, 2005

In our current 40-day focus on becoming people of wisdom, we are looking this week at the social and personal responsibility we have to care for the poor, the weak, and the oppressed. We discovered on Sunday that the Bible has much to say about the contrast between being self-centered and self-sacrificing, and that Godly wisdom produces a self-sacrificing nature within us.

I have discovered that there are two main reasons why people are stuck in the self-centered mode when it comes to caring about the needs of others:

1.      Some people believe they are the needy ones and people should be caring for them. They may very well have a need, but they exploit it for personal benefit. They have an inverted pride that somehow makes them feel valued when they can get the attention of others. It is a self-centered bondage of Satan that destroys their ability to reach outside of themselves to give to others.

2.      Some people believe they are above need and don’t want to be negatively influenced by touching the poor and needy. They tend to have thoughts like, “We had to struggle to make it, let them” or “If I help them I may get sucked back into it myself.” Any and all attitudes like this are also prideful and self-centered.

On the other hand, I have discovered some traits of the self-sacrificing person that are the product of the servant heart of Christ’s character dwelling within them. Let’s look at one of them today.

The first character trait of a self-sacrificing person is that they are dedicated to honoring God with everything in their lives. 

Their money is all for God’s use – not just 10% of it as a tithe, but 100% is available for God’s use. They know what it means to give offerings over and above their tithe to meet the needs of others. They have a generous spirit. 

Their possessions are available for God’s use at any time. We have a man in our church who models this trait. He has been blessed with the financial ability to own lots of stuff, and yet everything he owns is available to any one of us when we need it. All you have to do is go to his shop, sign it out, and bring it back when you’re done. God owns it all, and it all is used to serve the brothers in the Lord.

Their time and talents are God’s and they allow their lives to be interrupted to help others. Nothing about their schedule is self-centered. When God moves, they move with Him. When they see a need, and they have the ability to meet the need, they do it. Sometimes even when they don’t have the ability, they serve anyway, because their desire is to honor God, and they know they do that best by serving others.

Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) There was nothing self-centered about Jesus, even to the point of giving up His life for the needs of others. There is no greater love. There is no greater honor to the One who loves us than to live that way ourselves.

When others look at our lives, which of the two people we described today do they see – a self centered one, or a self-sacrificing one? The choice is yours.

Pastor John

THE SOLUTION TO INJUSTICE

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Every year we celebrate Martin Luther King Day in America. The day is set aside to commemorate the life of a man who fought against injustice and prejudice and sought to uphold and defend the rights of the oppressed. Dr. King was a champion of civil rights, who sought to bring a vision of hope to oppressed people by giving them a dream. One of the foundations of the dream was that each person, oppressed or not, is responsible to better themselves through education. But Dr. King had a different view of education than most. He believed that education without moral application was a deadly social disease. He wanted us all to be people of wisdom. 

In 1947, well before his days of social and political activism, Dr. King laid the foundation for wisdom in his own life and for the lives of people he would influence. In an article printed in the Maroon Tiger, the student paper of Morehouse College, King wrote these words:

Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end. It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals. (emphasis mine)

What a great statement. But he was not done. Later in the article he goes on to make this point as well:

   We must remember that intelligence is not enough.  Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living. (emphasis mine)

That’s wisdom – intelligence plus character – knowledge plus experience – reason plus moral application.

As people who are pursing wisdom, let us seriously consider the areas of prejudice and pride in our own lives and surrender them to the nature, character, and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May we as people of Godly wisdom:

1.  be dedicated to honoring God;

2.  be deliberately involved in meeting the needs of others;

3.  defend the rights of the weak;

4.  deliver the oppressed;

5.  be devoted to the sanctity of all human life.

Serve others well today, my friends, as a reflection of the heart of God.

Pastor John