Rule 5: Give
I had an encouraging giving experience that I’d like to share. I was in our campus store, and GOD led me to purchase snacks for my employees. I was excited; I thought, “Great idea GOD!” Better, my staff was excited to receive; the look on their faces was definitely a Kodak moment! Best, a few days later, the same thing happened to me. One of my co-workers brought me a snack, and it absolutely made my day!
In the text cited above, JESUS assures us that we’ll be blessed when we give. In spite of this stark guarantee, sometimes, we cringe when opportunities to give arise. We’re full of excuses – the economy is unstable, I can’t afford it, there’s nothing in it for me, the recipient might not use the gift as I intended, etc. If we’re not careful, we risk being slaves to stinginess. And one thing is certain: you can’t put anything in a closed hand.
This recharge is a reminder of our mandate to give – GOD commanded it and is the ultimate example of giving. GOD gave HIS SON; CHRIST gave HIS life. So rather than embrace a “give me” spirit, live looking for ways to bless others.
Give … time, love, attention, compassion, grace, mercy, etc
Rule 4: Follow the rules
An interesting moment in JESUS’ life serves as the backdrop of today’s recharge. JESUS and Peter were in Capernaum, and some officials asked JESUS to pay the temple fee. This fee, although not strictly enforced at this time, was a ransom for the soul (see Exodus 30:12-16), and it was used to offset the expenses of worship in the temple. JESUS could have dismissed the fee for two good reasons: (1) HE was sinless (no need for ransom) and (2) HE is GOD’S SON (GOD owns the temple). Interestingly (and definitely intentionally), however, JESUS paid the fee, and even gave enough to cover Peter’s fee as well!
JESUS’ actions are a glaring reminder: we’re not above the laws of the land. But sometimes, we feel otherwise: we consciously break rules and even justify our disobedience. Have you ever drove above the posted speed limit because everyone else was? Have you ever browsed the Internet, checked personal emails, or used company products for personal reasons? Have you ever parked in an unauthorized space because you didn’t feel like walking far, or you’d only be in the building for a second? Maybe you’ve gone to the express checkout line with more than 10 items in your cart. Let’s face it – we’re not angels when it comes to obeying the rules.
Although we’re not of this world, we’re required to abide lawfully in this world. That’s why Paul said, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord” (Colossians 3:22, New Living Translation). Better, he said, “… For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done” (Romans 2:5-6, New Living Translation). Make sure you follow the rules – civic and moral!
Rule 3: Trust GOD
The recent economic crisis has been challenging and troubling. I personally know what it’s like to drive, hoping that my gas needle doesn’t move, because fuel is so expensive. I know what it’s like to hear about increased foreclosures and lose hope in becoming a homeowner. I can relate to hearing about downsizing and layoffs and worrying if there will be employment opportunities when I make a career transition. I’ve know what it’s like to see others succeed and wonder if GOD had forgotten me.
But just when I’m about to throw in the towel, I hear GOD’S soothing voice say, “Trust ME.” In the text cited above, JESUS encourages us not to let our needs – or the fulfillment thereof – consume our thoughts. Instead, we should devote our energy to GOD’S agenda (see Matthew 6:33). Why? Because “… (our) heavenly Father already knows all (our) needs,” and HE enjoys providing for HIS people!
No matter how perilous the times, take Solomon’s advice and “trust in the Lord with all your heart …” (Proverbs 3:5, New Living Translation). And if anyone deserves our trust, it’s GOD, for HE’S never lied or been unfaithful!
Trust GOD …
Rule 2: Stand out!
I had a convicting experience this year when I went to visit my girlfriend, Ebony, at work. She works for NCSU (I work for UNC, a rival school), and the day I visited her, I wore some UNC paraphernalia. I’ll never forget the feeling I got as I walked through NCSU’s campus; the more red I saw, the more ashamed and embarrassed I was about my attire. I even got a little nervous because I thought everyone would notice the UNC logo on my shirt. I distinctly remember walking with my head down so I wouldn’t make eye contact with any NCSU students.
As I reflected on this experience, I couldn’t help pondering how easy it is for Christians to hide the LIGHT in us. Just think about it. Have you ever eaten with people who don’t bless their food and followed their lead? When your co-workers or friends gossip, do you add your “two cents” or walk away remembering that everyone is a work in progress? When someone shares their difficulties, do you offer to pray for them or just listen, expecting time to heal their wounds? When people worry about the rising cost of living, do you panic, or do you rejoice knowing GOD will supply your needs? It’s easy to blend in with the crowd, and if we’re not careful, conformity can become habitual.
The passage listed above, however, is a reminder that GOD didn’t call us to be “closet” Christians. HE called us to stand out from the crowd, to let HIS presence be evident in our lives. So stand out; “let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16, New Living Translation).
Rule 1: Keep GOD first
Last week I had some very interesting experiences; in retrospect, it seems like GOD was trying to tell me something. Last Thursday I noticed a church van with “GOD FIRST” in large, bold letters. Yesterday at church my Pastor said, “GOD doesn’t want our leftovers; HE wants to be our priority.” In a subtle way, I think GOD was reminding me to keep HIM first in my life.
It’s no coincidence that the first commandment given to GOD’S chosen people was “You must not have any other god but me.” In other words, GOD said, “Keep me first in your life.” Keeping GOD first means making HIM a priority; nothing should be more important – or claim more our our attention – than GOD. And if anyone deserves our undivided attention, it’s GOD, for HE alone delivers and protects us!
We must remember that we’re not our own – GOD made us for HIS glory, and HE purchased us with a price. So rather than live each day by your to-do list, ask GOD what’s on HIS agenda for you.
Keep GOD first …