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“All of” Giving, Not a Donation, but an Act of Devotion

“All of” giving is not a donation. It is an act of devotion. With the “all of” giver, the heart and the head converge in a different place (see previous post). This person calculates life with a different equation than everyone else.

In Mark 12 we read of an amazing scene as an unlikely widow who gives all.

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those whoa re contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, ALL SHE HAD to live on.

Mark 12:41-44

If we watch the woman give we learn the following principles about “all of” giving. “All of” giving 1) has God as its focus. 2) Gratitude is the attitude. 3) The “all of” giver understands where he gets all he’s got.

“All of Giving” – God as the Focus

In a previous post, I stated that giving is emotional before it is financial. There are many things that can hijack the emotions of giving. You either reduce your amount or decide against giving simply because it doesn’t feel right.

  • Look at this place! They don’t need my money.
  • That guy looks like he’s better off than me. Why give to him?
  • That guy needs to get a job.
  • Those people can help themselves.
  • Where does all of this money people give go?

It is easy to get emotionally hijacked in giving.

The Cheerful Giver

God understands the emotional component of giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

“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

There are two words in that verse that speak of an emotionally hijacked giver. He is reluctant. He is motivated by guilt, so he gives under compulsion. Does the Lord appreciate an emotionally hijacked giver? Maybe. I would think so. Does he hate him? I would think not. But that’s not the point of the verse. The verse is a worshipful, emotional collision between a cheerful giver and a God who loves him. It is like two friends who can’t wait to get together. It is a happy, joyous moment.

If you allow 2 Corinthians 9:7 to cast light on the scene in Mark 12, it will stop our often cold, emotionless reading of Scripture. She is the cheerful giver and the Creator of the Universe is absolutely loving the conversation he is having with his disciples about her.

Jesus Would Not Hi-jack This Woman in Worship

There is NO WAY her Savior and Creator would dare to hi-jack the emotion of this moment. He dares not to stop her as she gives all though he had logical reason in our minds and plenty of opportunity.

  • Why didn’t Jesus tell her, “Woman, this place has plenty of money, your small coins will make no difference? Keep them.”
  • Why didn’t Jesus say, “Mam, this place is corrupt. Give me 2 hours and I’ll have this place turned upside down. There will be coins spilled everywhere and you can have as many as you want.”
  • Why did he not just walk up and say, “Lady, I created the universe. Keep your money.”

Why didn’t he do any of these things? A loving God would never tell a cheerful giver to go away and He would not dare to hijack her worship of Him. To understand this scene and this woman you must understand.

She was not giving to the Temple.

She was not giving to a cause.

Her offering may have been handled by a priest but it was not given to a priest.

She was giving to God.

This was not a donation. This was an act of worship.

“All of” Giving – Gratitude is the Attitude

She is giving all she has. Ironically enough the Savior who will give Himself for the sake of His disciples is across the way discussing what she just did. In the end, she has given all for Him. He will give His all for her and them. They, his disciples, will give all for Him.

“All of” giving is a proclamation of the gospel. How can we not fail to give all when we consider that:

  • The Father has given the Son for us.
  • Jesus hung as a cursed man on a tree becoming sin for you and me.
  • He bore our sins, carried our sorrows and was pierced for our transgressions. By His stripes, we are healed.
  • Jesus rose victorious over death, Hell, and the grave.
  • He has given us His Spirit.
  • Jesus will give us a new heaven and a new earth in which we will dwell with Him forever.

“All” I will ever have is so little to give to a Savior who has done so much for me.

“All of” Giving – Understands Where You Get All You’ve Got

A person who gives “all of” does so because they realize all they have was never theirs to keep. All we have is His. The Bible teaches that we are entrusted stewards. We are managers, not creators. We are servants, not sovereigns.

The value of the two coins the woman gave was not determined by the mint in Rome. The way the woman calculated the value of the coins was in her understanding of how she got them, not in who minted them. Those two coins were not her coins. Those were God’s coins. She was merely returning them.

For the “all of” giver it is not about affordability as much as it is availability.

Again, “all of” giving is not a donation. It is an act of devotion. And it is only in “all of” giving that we can truly learn how to trust a good God and the meaning of His name, The Lord Will Provide (Gen. 22:14).

What Happened to the Woman?

I wonder what happened to the woman? The Bible never says. But the Bible does say:

Do not be anxious about anything saying ‘what shall we eat’ or ‘what shall we drink’ or ‘what shall we wear.” For the Gentiles seek after these things and your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33

My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory.

Philippians 4:19

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:10

Only in eternity will we meet the woman and know what became of her, but I do know that according to His Word, Jesus did not let her walk away empty handed. I imagine any one of the following possibilities:

  • Jesus walks over to the woman and says, “Mam, we just had a picnic on a nearby hillside and we had a bunch left over. Andrew! Could you please bring those baskets of leftover fish and bread. Mam, you can have all you want.
  • Maybe Jesus directed her to a great place to stay outside of the city. “I know a great family we stay with quite a bit. It is a man named Lazarus and his two sisters. They are extremely hospitable. Lazarus was pretty sick recently, but he’s fine now. Why don’t we go have a meal with them?”
  • Maybe Jesus gave her an invitation. “Mam, we are going to have Passover together in a couple of weeks. I would love for you to come.”

The Bible indicates that there were several women who travelled around with the company of the disciples. I wonder if on the Day of Pentecost, this woman was part of band of disciples in Jerusalem who were the first to experience God’s outpouring of His Holy Spirit.

I can only imagine!

Conclusion:

With such a Savior, when we ask the question of how can we afford to give all? I think the answer is how can we afford not to give all?

I think there are 3 essential questions that help us recalculate all.

  1. How did I get it? The problem with the rich, young ruler that went away sorrowful was that he had great possessions and his great possessions had him. He could not release them because they defined him. Understanding our life as a steward is an extremely worship, liberating way of life. If I never had it, it is no problem if I lose it.
  2. How can God use it? Giving all doesn’t mean that you have to go to church this Sunday and empty out your bank account. But “all of” means that it is all available. As a steward of God’s stuff, you are always looking for how God can use it. How can you leverage all you have and all you are for the sake of the gospel?
  3. How can I give it? I know some will accuse me of being partial as a pastor when I say this, but I believe in and practice storehouse tithing. I believe that the first 10% of my income is to be given to my local church as an offering to God. I’m not here to argue with you, I’m just telling you what I do and what I will continue to do. The rest of it is always on the table. All giving is not financial. There is giving that is hospitable. There is giving that is helpful. Ultimately, I am the one that has to be in the offering plate!

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blog post by Brian Branam

Divine Intervention Through Bad Things, God’s Good Reason part 3

In my previous post, I stated that God’s good reason for bad things offers us an explanation for why we are as we are. Unfortunately, we are subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20). But this is not all bad as the Bible says that God has subjected us futility in hope. What is that hope? 1) It is that we would come to terms with the reality of our fallen nature. Something is wrong. And 2) it is the hope that we would realize that the solution is beyond ourselves.

The great news is that God has not left us alone to flounder in futility. In God’s good reason he offers us DIVINE INTERVENTION through bad things.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:26-28

This is a magnificent statement both in its sympathy for us and in the solution offered us.

Sypathy

God gets who we are and where we are. He knows we have “weakness.” Being flawed from our fall in sin, being subjected to futility is no easy thing.

Because of our weaknesses, God also sympathizes with something that happens to us often. We don’t know what to pray for as we ought. Prayer is a basic practice of our faith. If we get it wrong in our weaknesses, it makes our situation doubly hard to navigate. So you have to love this, God has offered us the help we need even in our prayer life because more often than not, we just don’t get it right.

Why is it that we don’t know how to pray as we ought? Perhaps it is because of our emotional state. Maybe we are misguided. At times we do not know what to pray for as we ought simply because we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t have all of the information that we need to pray for as we ought. Admittedly, I don’t have the spiritual maturity I need to pray for things as I ought. There are times I want something that God doesn’t want. I OUGHT not to ask for that! I’m stubborn!

However you want to quantify it, we all understand that sometimes when you pray, you just don’t know what to say.

Solution

So God gives us a solution. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.”

The Bible teaches that when a person repents of sin and turns to Jesus for salvation, that part of God’s work in this is to give us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit regenerates an otherwise spiritually dead person and gives them new life. The Spirit seals us for the day of redemption. The Spirit of God equips us for service. The Holy Spirit is a marvelous but often ignored gift of God to us. If you want to know more, check out some recent messages I shared at Liberty on the Holy Spirit.

How does the Spirit help us in prayer? Romans 8:26 says that he intercedes, which means he steps in between. The Spirit gets involved. He becomes our advocate.

The passage also says that He does it with “groanings too deep for words.”

The beauty of this passage is that the creation groans with us but the Spirit of God groans for us.

Here comes another marvelous truth. Even though we don’t quite know what to say when we pray, the Spirit intercedes for us with “groanings too deep for words.”

There are no Words . . .

If you come to a place that you don’t know what to say when you pray; the Spirit of God prays perfectly for you in a way that cannot be described by words. There is no vocabulary sufficient to describe how the Holy Spirit prays for you. Because of this you and I can have comfort and confidence!

Our comfort:

And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Romans 8:27

Our confidence:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

We are comforted by the interest God takes in us and the intercession the Spirit provides for us. Our confidence then is that even when life is bad, God is working it, according to His will and His purpose, for good. Left to articulate a plan and a prayer to God that takes a bad situation and brings it to a good end – we are not spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually capable of doing so. But the Holy Spirit gets it right for our good and for God’s glory.

When you have no words to pray, remember that there are no words to describe how the Holy Spirit perfectly prays for you.

Finding God’s Good Reason in Our Bad Things

So let’s try to do what we just said we cannot do – articulate the plan and path God is taking in our lives to bring the bad to good. The Bible just said that the Spirit’s prayer for us in these things has no sufficient vocabulary with which to explain it, so what I am about to say is in the total scheme of it all, baby talk at best. My aim here is to encourage you, but as a disclaimer here, again, there is no language sufficient to do so.

So let’s go back to some of the scenarios I offered in the first post of this series.

Addiction was not God’s will for your life. That was the work of the enemy provoking your own desires, luring you away in temptation to steal, kill, and destroy you. But through that addiction, you reached the end of futility. You came to the end of yourself and you reached out for hope. You came to salvation in Jesus Christ. What the enemy meant for evil to destroy you, God used it for good so that you – and all who hear your story may be saved alive (see Gen. 50:20).

Take every loss and trauma, quantify that incredible pain and realize that it wasn’t good. God agrees with you in this. But despite what the enemy has taken, the Holy Spirit of God has been praying for you in a way that cannot be put into words. In answer to those prayers, God our Father has been working to accomplish His will in your life – and THAT will be good and will bring glory to Jesus.

The Flip

If you still don’t see it, let’s flip it around.

Let’s say none of the negatives ever happened in your life. Let’s imagine that you get the world the way you want it. You have plenty of insurance and you are proficient at avoidance. If you get it all the way you want it, never coming to the end of yourself, never turning to God – THAT would be the ultimate tragedy!

A Decision to Make

God’s good reason for bad things hinges on a decision. The creation looks beyond itself for rescue from futility – how about you?

Romans 8:17 says that we are children of God. It says we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ; PROVIDED we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

We have no choice about suffering. The world is as it is, subjected to futility. You and I do have a choice in who we follow in our suffering. Will you turn to Jesus? Will you suffer WITH and FOR Him? If so, you coming to Christ in faith IS yet another of God’s good reasons for bad things.

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Death by Devotional

I am about to sell you something that will kill you. I stand at the head of the line of a long list of professionals that should also admit the same. Alongside of me should come Mr. Mayfield ice cream man, the guy who sold you your car, the cashier at your favorite sporting goods store, and a vast number of servers, cooks, and clerks at your favorite restaurants and leisure spots; each of us a testament to the adage “too much of a good thing.”

Ice cream, good. A gallon a day, bad.

Your car, good. Your car going too fast, bad.

All the stuff you can buy and do at the sporting goods store, fun. Any of it crashing upside your head, concussion.

Food and fun, always good. Living only for food and fun, always bad.

So what is it that I am selling you to death? A devotional!  

A devotional?  

On my website, I have listed the Grace, Hope, and Love Daily Devotional. I think it is a fantastic collection of Scripture and applicable stories that would be a blessing to anyone who reads it, but I am warning you not to misuse it. Too many people misunderstand the intent of a devotional book. For them, something that was written to help their spiritual walk has become spiritually crippling.  

So that your devotional reading can be a blessing and not a curse, here is a list of cautions and encouragements when it comes to using devotionals.

A devotional book is not a devoted life.

The word devotion in Scripture is a powerful one. In the New Testament it is often translated from a word that entails three concepts; to beware, to believe, and to apply. This should be a daily expectation of the disciple seeking counsel from God’s Word. We need God’s Word to reveal, redeem, and repair areas of life of which we need to beware and/or be aware. We need our faith informed so we may more strongly believe. We need God’s Word applied so we may obey.  

A devotional book is purposed to help you with this endeavor in a daily, structured way. But devotional reading is not a devoted life. The word devotion in its strictest sense speaks of what you give yourself to. Devotion is not a something you read, it is something you do. We do not need a Bible reading plan as much as we need a Bible doing plan. Just because you are reading a devotional book does not mean you are giving yourself to the Lord in a devotional life.

A devotional book is a start not a stop.

Many great pastors and Christian thinkers have written devotional material to help shepherd and feed God’s people. There are many notable ones in churchdom, but one of classics is Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. The title reflects a constant theme in Scripture. In the creation week, there was evening and morning.  David called for those who were truly devoted to God’s Word to meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1). Morning and evening, evening and morning is the rhythm of creation set in motion by God.

Many people purchase devotional books that they use either first thing in the morning to get them going, or perhaps they use them at night as they seek to still the busy mind. I find no fault with either.  Yet the concept of morning and evening as devotional reading is not meant as a discipline of consideration – as in to make sure you do it daily, but as a discipline of meditation to make sure it guides your thoughts throughout the ENTIRE day; as in starting with the morning and keeping you throughout the evening.

Devotional books are quick reads to get you going, but the deeper call of God is for Bible intake, memorization, and study. I like to use material written by Warren Wiersbe as part of my devotional reading. He is about as meat and potatoes of a Christian author as they come. But he is not my stop, as in, I read it and now I have fulfilled the discipline. Rather, a Wiersbe’s book alongside God’s Word is my start, as in I will ingest it in a way so that I DO NOT stop thinking about it throughout the day – morning and evening!

A devotional book is text, not context.

Devotional books will often give you a verse or a chapter of Scripture to read and give you an immediate application of that passage to life. Awesome idea! In that sense, a devotional provides you a text. Where a devotional fails is that it does not provide you the context.

Use a devotional, but read the Bible. Find out where those verses are IN Scripture. A devotional may tell you that this verse came from Ephesians, but what in the world is an Ephesians? Where is it? What is it about? 

Ephesians 2:10 is wonderful. Ephesians 2:10 in context is a masterpiece. 

I am a big advocate for having a paper copy of the Bible. Learn where the books of the Bible are located in the canon of Scripture. These books form the collective story of God.  

A devotional book is a bloom in a garden. Its intent is to pluck something sweet and fragrant that will inspire you, but the greater glory is the garden from which it came. Sure, the blooms are beautiful, but if you never walk the garden you really won’t smell the roses.  

The Christian life is not meant to be lived verse by verse. We are sovereignly immersed in the story of God. Each text/verse of the Bible exists within the larger context of God’s story. Use your devotional to point you to curious places. Use your Bible to walk the garden paths.

A devotional is application, not exposition.

One of the reasons people enjoy devotionals is because they quickly get to the point. Many people find it challenging to read the Bible, understand it, and know what to do with it. Yep, me too.

Devotionals cut out the legwork. Don’t bog me down with long, arduous explanations of what passages say, just tell me what they mean.

I recently had a conversation with a doctor about feeding tubes. Odd topic, I know, but sometimes a necessary one.  

As many doctors tend to be, he is an eclectic fellow, a highly intelligent man who walks to the beat of a different drum. In demonstrating to me the ease of use of a feeding tube, he demonstrated to me how one can conveniently uncork the tube, pour in a bottle of nutrients, re-cork the tube, chunk the now empty can of nutrients into the trash and go about the day. He said, “It would save me a whole lot of time having to eat.” I assure you, he was laughing when he said it, but I also think he was somewhat serious about the prospects of installing one on himself.

Devotional books are spiritual feeding tubes. They will give you what you need, but wow, what a joy it is to chew!  Feeding tubes may be faster, but there is a flavor in food you will soon miss if you do not have to break it down in your mouth.  

Sometimes a tube is necessary, but insane if we want one merely out of convenience. God gave you a tongue, not a tube!

While it is true that what we need from God’s Word is application, there is a flavor that emerges from the hard work of exposition that helps us taste and see that the Lord is good. The Bible is not a ‘How To’ guide for life.  It is a story.  It is a poem.  It is a command. It is a revelation. It is a multi-course meal robust with the flavor of God. Don’t forget to chew!

A devotional is personal insight, not personal investment.

One of the things I like most about the Faith, Hope, and Love Devotional is that it gives you insight into God’s Word from 52 pastors, teachers, authors, and evangelists. It is an indispensable resource full of wisdom. These people have a journey with God that is curious to me and I love hearing from them.

But wouldn’t you like to hear the voice of God for yourself?

One of the great truths of Scripture is that we have a God who desires to be with His people. The Bible is filled with image-rich words that communicate the opportunity we have to be close to God. One of the words we translate as “prayer” in Scripture speaks of intimacy, not merely request.  

Prayer is not shouting aimlessly into the heavens, prayer is communing with God. Prayer is not an announcement over a megaphone, it is a conversation at the table.  

The only way to have a personal experience with God is to make a personal investment in His Word. Use a devotional book, but devote yourself to Bible study.

It is a worn-out metaphor for many things, but the Christian life is not a microwave, it is a crock-pot way of living. We would like to think that a few convenient seconds is all we need to be like Christ. Devotional books ARE NOT intended to be the Bible nuked for you!

There is NO devotional author worth their salt who would ever advocate his or her book as a replacement for the Bible. Their intent, my intent, is not to replace Biblical reading or meditation. Our intent is to inspire you to start somewhere and to help keep you there daily.  

At some point, the devotional book should be a gateway into something greater, not an end in itself. We have to simmer on Scripture if we are ever to truly appreciate the flavors of God that are there. There is no shortcut to the good stuff! 

So let me ask? What is your routine? Do you read the Bible in the morning or at night? Do you use a devotional to help you in devotion? Do you read other Christian books or commentaries? Which ones? Please share with the rest of us.