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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

My Spoiled Dog

I got my wife a dog a couple years ago.  Our dog, like many others, has become like family.  To be frank she is spoiled.  She is 8 lbs and has a funny personality.  Because of this we allow her to get away with almost anything.  She sleeps in people beds, she lounges on the couches all day long, she jumps at everyone’s leg, because she knows we will eventually pick her up.  Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed about the way we treat our dog.  Caesar Millan would be ashamed of this “pack leader.”

There is however one line we will not cross with our dog.  She does not beg for food at the dinner table.  She knows better than to jump up on laps, beg at our feet or even allow herself to be seen during dinner.  It’s not that we don’t give her a special treat of people food from time to time, though we probably shouldn’t.  Rather, it’s that our dog knows she only gets the leftovers.  In the event that there is a rib bone, some fatty portions, or leftover veggies, she may find some of these in her bowl after the family has had their fill.  She never has and never will have a place at the table.

Giving God Our Scraps

As I think about my dog, I wonder if at times I haven’t treated God like my dog.  Not that I have spoiled God.   Far from it.   But have I been giving God my scraps?

The Bible speaks of giving God our first fruits:

 (9) Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; (10) then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV)

The firstfruits mentioned here, are the very best of the things God has given me.  The best of my food, resources, time and talents.  It pierces my heart with conviction as I think of the times when I have refused God a place at my table.  A table I willingly admit that He has covered with good things.  I have said in my heart, “Lord I will give you whatever hits the floor.”  Whatever leftover finances, time, energy, strength, attention.  I will scrape the leftovers in the bowl.

The First Church of Leftovers

As a pastor I am often saddened by the inability of God’s people to recognize the problem with this attitude.  I have too often seen God’s people offer their hand-me-downs to God and not bring the firstfruits of their resources, finances, time and talents to His service.  If I have time, if I have some extra left over, if nothing more important comes up.  I wonder what God thinks when we have flat panel TV’s and new carpets in our homes while our church buildings lack the resources to accomplish his mission.  I wonder how it makes God feel when we push our time into our jobs, our families, our vacation plans, but neglect to give any of our best energy to reaching out, loving our neighbors and having an impact on the world.  God is gracious and abounding in mercy, but I can’t imagine He wells up with the words, “Well done my good and faithful servants.”

God’s Place at The Table

My wife honors me at our dinner table every night.  She informs the whole family that I get the first choice of the portions at the dinner table.  The best looking cut of meat is mine to choose or refuse.  I love that my wife honors me in this, not because I want the best piece of food, but because it informs everyone else at the table that I am most important to her.

What would it look like to give God a spot at your table and to honor Him with the first of your resources, finances, time and energy?  What would that do for your relationship with Him?  What would it say to others who would see you honor Him in this way?

Perhaps it would affirm the words we as Christian’s so readily proclaim.

“Jesus Christ is Lord.”

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 One year for my birthday I received a gift from my brother. It was a NASCAR computer game, complete with a USB controller. It was my first real computer game beyond the standard solitaire loaded on every Windows PC. The graphics on the box looked incredible and I could hardly wait to get it loaded and start doing laps at Daytona Speedway. My visions of beating Jeff Gordon in the points race were shattered when I realized my machine did not meet the necessary requirements to install and run the game. To my wife’s delight, I had no choice but to head to the computer store and purchase a new graphics card for our PC so I could fulfill my dreams of chugging milk at Indianapolis. Without the minimum necessary requirements, I was never going to be able to use the gift that was given to me.

I have come to realize that faith is a lot like that computer game. If a Christian is to have faith working in their life, there are certain requirements for getting the most out of a relationship with God. Here are three requirements I found in my studies of the scriptures.

Crown Him

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV)

The first requirement is to crown Him as King. This is a most elementary understanding of Christian faith and yet so often overlooked. If Jesus has the name that is above every name, then that means His name is above mine. Working in the mail room of a law firm in college I learned that the person in charge has his name listed before everyone else. Do you live like Jesus’ Name is above your name? Every Christian who has studied the scriptures knows that Jesus is King. The sentence written on His cross was that He is King (Luke 23:38). If you are going to accept Jesus as Lord, then you have to accept him as Lord of your life. This means He is Lord of your finances, relationships, career, schedule and family. Have you crowned Jesus? Or is your name still above His? Until He is at the top your faith won’t amount to much.

Imitate Him

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 2:6 (ESV)

Along with making Jesus our King, we also have to make Him our role model. Christians today are called just like the first 12 disciples in the first century. Jesus calls out “follow me,” and he expects us to follow. To follow means to do the things Jesus did. He laid down his life for others, fed the hungry, healed the sick, spoke to the outcasts and encouraged those who were troubled. Jesus gave a clear example that is meant to be followed. The first Christians followed Him literally! They went to wedding parties, travelled on foot, travelled by boat, ate meals and watched him interact with the teachers of the Law. They saw how he acted and reacted, they watched him in the synagogue and in his daily interactions. They did this because they wanted to be like him. We should follow His example today for the same reasons. There were those in the first century that believed in him because of what he could give them, but these didn’t follow long. Only those that truly wanted to be like him followed him to the end of their days.

Glorify Him

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:31 (ESV)

You don’t have to be around someone for very long to learn whats most important to them. Jesus said that “out of the mouth the heart pours forth speech.” We talk about the things most important to us. When we have faith in Jesus that means our mouths should testify to His goodness and presence in our lives. The Christian who puts his whole trust in Jesus can’t help but testify to what Jesus has done in their life. This doesn’t mean we have to only talk about our faith all the time, but it does mean He will come up when we talk about our hopes, fears, struggles and celebrations. When Tim Tebow became an unexpected star for the Denver Broncos, there was controversy over how outspoken he was with his faith. Some affirmed him and said it was good that he took the opportunity to profess Jesus, while others said he went a bit over the top. Regardless of how you feel about Tebow, the sad reality in our day is that too few are willing to profess their faith in a day when simply having faith seems to be considered an offence. If Jesus is Lord, you will at some point be faced with the choice of giving him the credit for your life, or keeping it all to yourself.

 

Knowing the Requirements

The power of faith can only be realized with the necessary requirements. Sadly some people pull faith out of the box and attempt to live a life of faith without considering what all it implies to be in Christ. Some set their faith aside when it doesn’t seem to work and never recognize why they haven’t entered the abundant life that Jesus promised. They didn’t have software in the first century, but Jesus did touch on this subject. In Luke 14:28 He asked who would start building a tower without considering all the materials necessary to complete it. Today he might have said, who hasn’t looked to see the minimum requirements on a software box? If you don’t meet the requirements for following Him, you aren’t gonna get very far.

You definitely won’t be chugging milk at Indianapolis.

 

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