Thoughts in the Faith

Why We Tithe 10%

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  — 2 Corinthians 9:7

In my career, I live and breath philanthropy. I have been the recipient of immense generosity in the past, and I work daily to connect donors to the causes they care most about.

Philanthropy: the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. 

TRUE philanthropy is cheerful and generous, and it is not something that comes naturally to everyone.

As Christians, my husband and I each feel that it is important to give our time, talents, and treasures wherever possible. But we are also human, and the reality is that we don’t always make the time or effort to pour into others. We can be pretty selfish, getting hung up on our own situations, and disregarding others’ needs. So when we first combined our incomes, we made it a point to put tithing in our budget. At the LEAST, we would give every month.

The “10% rule” comes up early in the Bible, starting in Genesis when Jacob vows:

If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house,and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.  — Genesis 28:20-22

The New Testament references giving MANY many times. It’s pretty clear that it is an expectation of us, not a request.

Look, I know the Bible tells us to do (and not do) a LOT of things, many of which I (and probably most of you) fail at on a daily basis. And there are plenty of months where one of us (usually always me) tries to justify why it just doesn’t make sense to give away that much when we have THIS and THAT and ALL OF THESE THINGS happening in our life. But if we go down that road, there is almost never a GOOD time to just give money away. Instead, we choose to joyfully give to the organizations that we care about and that are doing God’s work in their communities. We do occasionally use a part of our tithing budget to give to non-Christian causes that we care about, but generally speaking, tithing was asked of us in order to give back to God’s work. And honestly, we have reaped so many blessing from God these last several years, I have to believe it is in part, at least, due to our constant and (mostly) cheerful tithing.

PHEW that was a mouthful. I’m wide open for any thoughts or questions you might have. How do you give or tithe, and how do you decide when/ how much?

Thoughts in the Faith

Good Friday in the Gospels: HOPE

42777801_hyderabad416afp

My God, My God…Why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34

It’s a mournful day, so it always seemed odd to call it “good.” But I get it – without this day, without HIS SACRIFICE, none of us would have the hope and the future that we do. Without this day, there is no Easter.

This week, I’ve been reading the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion in each of the four gospels. Let me just say honestly…it’s depressing. I have not read on to His resurrection, and without it, the story of His death is lonely and heart-breaking. I cannot wait to spend time on Sunday reading through the resurrection stories and reminding myself of the glory and hope Jesus’ death and resurrection have provided us.

I don’t know where you are at with Jesus today. I don’t know if you think Jesus-lovers are wacky, or if you wish you were one of them. I don’t know if you have a relationship with Jesus, or if you’re searching for one. Regardless, I encourage you to read the stories of Jesus’ death today. Even just one of them. And all of these stories have others leading up to them, and they jump into the story and different points, so if you have the time, I recommend backing up a little bit. But if you just want to read one chapter from each story, read these!

Matthew 27

Until I read this the other night, I did not know that Judas hangs himself…did you know that?! I guess they leave that out in Sunday School…

Mark 15

Here it says that Jesus cried loudly when He breathed His last breath…The other chapters portray it more gently, saying simply that He breathed His last breath, or gave up His spirit. This chapter just seems “louder” in general.

Luke 23

I love this story, because here we get the conversation with the criminals on either side of Jesus. It so clearly paints the difference between a believer and a non-believer perspective of death and heaven.

John 19

I love the image of Jesus taking care of His family (25-27), telling John that he is to be a son to Mary now. Our families should always be our first priority! Also, Jesus’ death is less dramatic in this story – it doesn’t talk about the darkness in the sky or the tearing of the curtain. He doesn’t cry out, “My God, My God…”

There are many more similarities and differences among these stories. I feel like all of these versions together truly paint the picture of Jesus’ death, even though they come from different perspectives. It really goes to show that our relationships with Jesus are all unique, but still have the same underlying story: Hope.

Thoughts in the Faith

Add and Subtract {Lent}

It’s the usual…giving up sweets for Lent. Or elevators. Or facebook. Or alcohol. Whatever it is that grips your self control and messes with your head. We are SUPPOSED to give up something so that every time during lent we abstain, we remember the sacrifices Jesus made for us not just in those 40 days in the desert, but ALLLLL the sacrifices. Including The Big One.

In recent years though, I’ve tried to use Lent to add something to my life, as well. Something to help focus my life more on my relationship with Jesus. Recently, I’ve been reading The Power of a Praying Wife many nights of the week, but not on an entirely consistent basis. But I can tell that when I’m reading nightly, even just a few nights in a row, it’s impacting my heart. Maybe for you it could be listening to Christian radio in the morning instead of whatever you usually listen to on the way to work. Maybe it’s committing to church every Sunday. Maybe it’s joining a new bible study or church group. Maybe it’s volunteering. What is it you could add to your life that would improve your relationship with Jesus, and maybe even serve others??

So all of this to say, Happy Ash Wednesday. I’m giving up sweets. I’m adding in nightly devotionals with NO EXCUSES. Even if it’s only five minutes, I will spend time in prayer before bed every night. My hope is that every time I say no to chocolate or that I settle into bed with my bible, notebook, and devotional book, I take an extra moment to say, “Jesus, thank you. Thank you for your love and your sacrifices. Thank you for rising again on Easter. Thank you for reminding me that this life is only the beginning. Thank you for helping me keep my eyes on Heaven.”

If you’re reading this, and have gotten this far, and are thinking “well that’s all well and good but I’m not really into the Jesus thing,” I encourage you to use this time of Lent to really think about this. If you don’t pray, start. Just talk to God about the great things in your life, and about the many things you might be struggling with. Read my posts on the Gospel (part one and part two) and reach out to me if you have questions. Open a Bible and just read something. I’d suggest starting with the book of Matthew if you’re feeling like you don’t know how to begin. Ask people around you if they go to church, and where, and then go try one of those churches.

I don’t know you, but God does. And He loves each and every one of you. He formed you in your mother’s womb! He knew you before the stars were ever even made! I’m praying for you today. Peace to you today.

Thoughts in the Faith

#walk

This month, I’ve been participating in Larabar’s photo challenge on instagram. I haven’t been spot on, missing a few days here and there, but it’s still fun to try and do most days. Well, yesterday’s word was walk. Here is what I posted:

photo(42)

@larabar photo challenge day 28: my #walk with Christ has been lifelong, since before I was even aware of Him. That walk looks different with every phase of my life. Right now, it includes a church of people who meet in a movie theater and praise God with rock worship music. Through the successes and failures and joys and sorrows, Jesus has always been at my side. He is at yours too, even when you don’t acknowledge Him. He loves you as His son or daughter!

We all go through seasons in our life. As Joyce Meyer says, you are always heading into the fire, currently in the fire, or on the way out of the fire. Our relationships with the people we love ebb and flow along with these seasons. In particular, I feel like the way I view my relationship with Jesus ebbs and flows as well. But the most wonderful aspect of that relationship is that His love for me never has seasons. It is CONSTANT. He is always there for me, even when I ignore Him. And while our faith journey is just that – a journey – He is always right where we leave Him.

No matter which season you are in right now – or which side of the fire – I encourage you to have hope today. To remember that this life IS a walk. Sometimes we run. Sometimes we stop for a breather. But one thing – ONLY ONE THING IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE – is constant, and that is God’s love for you. Let Him love you today. I pray for you, my wonderful readers, all the time!! Peace as you begin this new work week.

Life As I Know It, Thoughts in the Faith

On Listening to Christian Radio

Even the strongest Christians among my friends give me a funny look when I mention that one of my go-to radio stations is the local Christian station. Maybe it’s because the Christian music many of us grew up to was simply hymns (which are lovely but maybe not what you want to turn up during your morning commute), or maybe it’s because as “Christian Pop” started becoming a thing, many of the new releases were AWFULLY cheesy. Like, terribly so.

There are really two reasons I listen to Christian radio:

Music. I have to say that sure, sometimes the songs are a tad cheesy, of course. But many of them are uplifting, energizing, calming, and/or refreshing. There’s a little bit of everything, just like with pretty much any other radio station. If I’m tired and crabby, I hear the song I need. If I’m happy and excited, I hear the song I need. If I need hope, I hear it. If I need praising, I hear it. If I need calm, I hear it. Many, many days, God uses that radio to get to me.

way

Talk. When I lived in Nashville, I had a 45-minute commute each morning, and I religiously (see what I did there) listened to The Wally Show on Way FM. Here in Columbus, during my 5-minute commute, I listen to Mary in the Morning on The River. Now, if I had kids, hands down I would have these stations on – you never have to worry about crass or inappropriate chatter. But honestly, even riding solo, do I really want my day to start out with all that crap that’s out there? Not especially. Listening to the banter of these voices lifts me up, makes me laugh, and reminds me that we are all on this journey together. I MUCH prefer to start my day off on that note. Plus, I still get news, weather, traffic, and all that practical stuff we’ve gotta have.

Mary

So much so, that some mornings, I workout to these radio stations. I still use the Way FM app to listen to the Wally Show while I get ready for work. Hearing music with the message “you got this – life is good – you’re not alone” is a heck of a lot more energizing than most the music out there right now. Not that I don’t love that other music sometimes (I do), but I really believe that what we fill our heads with affects other areas of our life too.

Phew, well this got a little longer than I planned! Really, I just want to encourage you to try branching out a little today, whether you need a little pick-me-up or you’re feeling pretty dang good about life, just listen to something different, and maybe you’ll discover a little something new about God and yourself!

Life As I Know It, Thoughts in the Faith

We Are Broken People {Gospel Part 2}

Last week, I talked about the Gospel. It has really weighed on my heart lately to share this message more often. Also along those lines, I want to talk about the Church. How do you define church? What has your experience been? Please, share, and consider this, as well…

We are all complete hypocrites. Not a single person is without sin, from gossip and drunkenness, to theft and murder, there are a million ways we all “mess up” every single day. And while it can be easy to say, “well sure, but I’m not THAT bad,” what really makes one thing that much worse than another? We sin constantly.

It is because of this that “the church” has such a broken and shameful 2000-year history. Many tragic events have occurred throughout history in the name of Christ. It’s terrible, and while I had no part of that, it is something I recognize and apologize for, regardless. Even today, we make mistakes and hurt people day in and day out, yet many of us go about our business and to church on Sunday, put on a smile, and pretend to be great. It is this hypocrisy that often turns away non-believers. Many people I love dearly say, “Why should I go to church when the guy in the front row was out drunk last night? And the next family over treats each other terribly? What’s the point?” And really, who can blame them for feeling this way?

The point is that we are all human. Your preacher, your neighbor, your child – they all make mistakes. The beauty of faith in Christ is knowing that we can seek forgiveness, even on the darkest days. Even when we look at God and say, “I did it again, even when I told you I wouldn’t. I messed up.” He looks back at us and says, “I know, and I forgive you, and I love you.”

He forgives us. (!!!!!!!)

I don’t try to sin. I don’t think to myself, “you know what I’m going to do today? Gossip and drink too much wine and envy my friends who make more money than I do.” But I still do it, and a lot more than just that. Sometimes, I recognize it immediately. Other times, it may take quite a while for me to confront what I know to be true.

If you have left a church, or avoided them altogether, due to our tumultuous Christian history or because of your own experiences, I urge you to know that “church,” as we know it, is an organization made of humans. Measly little humans, always making mistakes. But The Church is a much larger idea. The Church is described in the bible as “the wife,” where Christ is “the husband.” WE are the church – not some building we visit on Sundays – and so we are supposed to be in relationship with Christ, just as a husband and wife are in relationship with each other. Yes, a church is a community where we share our faith, hope, struggles, and relationships. And it can take time to find a physical church that suits you and your family’s needs. But THE CHURCH is so much greater than that.

If you don’t go to church, whether it’s because of your past with a church or your view of church-goers, I encourage you to think more about it. Read about it. Spend time visiting many churches to see what they have going on. But most of all, remember that we, as people of faith, ARE the church, and the building is simply a place to be in community with others just like us.

And as I mentioned last week, a few times, please do not forget that you are loved.