BEGGING TO GIVE

2 Cor.8:1,4 – Beloved ones, we must tell you about the grace God poured out upon the churches of Macedonia. They actually begged us for the privilege of sharing in this ministry of giving….

“From the depths of their extreme poverty, super-abundant joy overflowed into an act of extravagant generosity.” This is how Paul described the effect of grace on the churches of Macedonia. This kind of joyful generosity is un-explainable unless….. unless you add God’s amazing grace to the equation. Humans do things because of the reward involved. You put in a hard day’s work and there is a rewarding paycheck on the other side, a farmer works his field expecting a harvest. Giving finances to the ministry doesn’t compute to the natural man. The effect of God’s grace radically changes our perception of giving to God’s kingdom. The generosity Paul describes in this passage makes sense to those effected by God’s grace. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“Under persecution and desperately poor, the churches of Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) gave more than just an extravagant offering. They fully surrendered themselves to the Lord and gave out of a longing to fulfill God’s pleasure. This is the key to generous giving. First we dedicate our hearts to God, which includes our finances, then we give to God’s work as he directs us. Throughout 2 Corinthians, giving is described as a “grace” that God places on our lives, which empowers our generosity.”

What exactly is the reward that we see as a result of God’s grace that changes us. First, we see the value of God’s kingdom and the joy of redemption. When we see the lives changed by the grace of God it makes our giving worth everything. Seeing the fruit of God’s ministries alone causes us to want to give our finances to His work. Grace also opens our eyes to seedtime and harvest which is how the Lord operates His entire creation. Our tithes and offerings are literally seeds that contain God’s abundant supply for our personal lives. No wonder the Macedonians were excited about giving. Finally, our giving also comes back to us in heaven. Jesus taught about generosity with our finances as well. He said that when we give to God’s work on earth we are “storing up treasures in heaven”. Seeing the Lord’s blessing in His ministries on earth, on our personal finances in the here and now, and the blessing that will come back to us for eternity is the work of grace on us. When we see it for ourselves, we too will beg to be able to participate in the privilege of giving to the work of God.

SUPER ABUNDANT SUPPLY

Lk.6:38 -TPT – Give generously and generous gifts will be given back to you, shaken down to make room for more. Abundant gifts will pour out upon you with such an overflowing measure that it will run over the top! Your measurement of generosity becomes the measurement of your return.

Lk.8:5 – TPT – A farmer went out to sow seeds for a harvest.

Its easy to get stuck in a routine, all of us do it. Many Christians willingly support their churches with their finances but their giving has become an obligation rather than a blessing. For many of us, tithing and giving offerings is part of our world. But there is a danger when your giving becomes a debt that you owe. Even the Pharisees tithed and gave offerings. The problem that they faced was giving to the Lord by obligation. Obligated giving robs us from the blessing of God. The Lord intended for our giving to be closely associated with Him and His nature. The Lord is good, merciful, and amazingly generous. Giving as a debt blocks us from receiving the blessing of the Lord. I learned the importance of giving to the Lord as a seed with the expectancy of harvest from Oral Roberts many years ago. Here is something Brother Roberts said about seed faith giving.

“Before, I had practiced giving after I received. In other words, I was giving my tenth dollar as a debt I owed for the other nine dollars, rather than giving my first dollar back as a seed I sowed. So I redirected my giving from a debt I owed to a seed I sowed. This was revolutionary to what I had been taught by the church, but it was entirely scriptural. When I saw that seedtime and harvest in its purest form is a cause and a result, I was able to see that my giving was what actually caused me to be able to receive. I changed my lifestyle of giving, immediately. I didn’t wait; I didn’t argue. I started sowing seeds of faith and looking for God, my Source, to send me the harvests He had planned all along for me to have to meet my needs.”

The Lord literally said in Malachi that He would open the floodgates of heaven in response to our giving. This is not just a poetic phrase from the prophet, this is literally a promise from the Lord. Give your tithes and offerings to the Lord in expectancy. Let your offerings be seeds of anticipation of God’s supernatural harvest. God’s response will be shocking, as shocking as floodgates being opened suddenly.

SEEDTIME LEADS TO HARVEST TIME

Gen.8:22 – While the earth remains,

Seedtime and harvest,Cold and heat,

Winter and summer,

And day and night

Shall not cease.

Small adjustments can effect the rest of your life. Parris and I learned the importance of stewardship as new Christians. Learning to look to God as our Source and plant seeds of faith as a lifestyle has been the way we have lived for many years. As a result a number of things have happened. First, Parris and I have been blessed by the Lord in the good times and the lean times these last forty six years. Secondly, our ministry has been sustained and blessed by the Lord enabling us to be a blessing to many ministries as well as hurting people over the years. Everything from Feed the Multitudes to BTG, as well as our partnership with Second Harvesters is the results of the seed faith living we have embraced. Thirdly, many people in our church have learned giving as a lifestyle and have experienced blessing in their own lives. Here is a quote from Oral Roberts on seed faith living.

“When you give your tithes, think of it as Seed-Faith. Then a wonderful new attitude will possess you. No longer will you think of tithes as a “debt you owe.” You will think of your tithes as “a seed you sow.” That makes all the difference in the world in giving you joy in your giving, because it immediately helps shift your mind into expecting to receive a miracle harvest from God, who is a good God. You see, our giving goes all the way back to Noah to whom, when he came from the great boat in which he and his family survived the Flood, God said, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest…shall not cease”. This is God’s eternal principle of sowing and reaping, of giving and receiving…..Jesus often spoke of the farmer and his sowing and reaping. The farmer in following the eternal law given by God for His universe and His people always gives the seed to the ground first. This natural law comes from the higher spiritual law that you have to continually give to be continually renewed in your spiritual and material resources.”

So go ahead and embrace this miracle way to live as a lifestyle. You will be blessed so that you too can be a blessing to many.

OPENED THEIR THEIR HEARTS

Matt.2:10- 11 – When they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, they were overcome. Falling to the ground at his feet they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure boxes full of gifts and presented him with gold, frank-incense, and myrrh.

This was the rewarding finish of months, possibly of up to two years, of searching for the Desire of all Nations. It had started with the appearance of the sign in the heavens, the star of Bethlehem. These “wise men” couldn’t rest until they had found the true treasure. They had organized their caravan possibly consisting of several hundred men and had traveled for many miles following the promise that the Messiah would finally be born. How did these men know of this coming One? Probably descendants of those taught by Daniel hundreds of years before they were in search of the promise they had held all of their lives. When they arrived they hadn’t come empty handed. They had come with treasures, very expensive treasures, for the infant King. What else could they do? This was the culmination of their lifelong quest to find the Promised One. Here are some interesting comments from the Passion Notes.

“These “wise men” were extremely wealthy. They presented gifts that totaled a great sum of money—not tiny presents wrapped with bows, but treasure chests full of financial wealth. Although we are not given the monetary value of each type of gift, we know that frankincense and myrrh were extremely costly. These gifts would have financed Joseph and Mary and Jesus’ exodus to Egypt and supplied their living expenses for a number of years, even after returning to Israel.”

This caravan was a very costly endeavor. Why would they spend their time and their talent and then top it off with an offering of this magnitude? The answer is obvious to those who have joined the wise men on their journey. Those of us who have recognized the emptiness of all that this world alone offers us have joined the search for the One promised by the prophets long ago. Inevitably this journey ends at the manger in Bethlehem where light that eclipses the light of the star radiates from the face of the Son of God. Basking in His light, you realize what truly matters in life. We too open our hearts and our treasures to this infant King. After all, the wise men weren’t really providing for the babe, like always, He had provided all things for them.

SMACK YOUR LIPS

Eph.1:14 – Amp. – That [Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance [the firstfruits, the pledge and foretaste, the down payment on our heritage], in anticipation of its full redemption and our acquiring [complete] possession of it—to the praise of His glory.

Nothing like some good home cooking. Last week there was an impromptu Mary’s Song Banquet for ladies involved with Rodan and Fields. There was several thousand women from Rodan and Fields in New Orleans for a convention. Because of a friend of a friend being in leadership with that company, a request was made for a banquet with the Mary’s Song girls to “give back” in light of all the Lord has given us. It was an awesome night of testimonies and giving but that is not why I brought this all up. The meal was cooked by the Mary’s Song girls under the direction of Tyren George.The ladies at my table were raving over the “home cooking”. They also said it was the best meal they had eaten all week; pretty good with the amazing restaurants they all went to in the French Quarter. I guess you just can’t beat home cooked meals.

Now this brings me to the whole point of all of this, today’s verse says that the Holy Spirit is the foretaste of all the Lord has prepared for us. That first taste, or sampling of the food before a meal, tastes awfully good. It actually increases our anticipation for the coming feast. In Psalm 63 David was enjoying feasting on the Lord. He was enjoying the feast of God’s presence, enjoying what he was receiving, but smacking his lips in anticipation of more. Here is how it reads in the Message Bible.

Psa.63:3-5 The Message

In your generous love I am really living at last!

My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath;

My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy;

I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises!

The good meal at our banquet for our out of town guests last week was really only the foretaste. The real meal was when Parris, Ali Spitsbergen (the lady with Rodan and Fields), and the girls from Mary’s Song began to share what the Lord had done in their lives. The testimony of Jesus was our taste of the coming heavenly banquet. So I think I’m going to join David and smack my lips, if this first taste is this good it’s hard to imagine what the whole meal will be like.

THE GIVER

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Bring forth quickly the best robe and put it on him.
Luke 15:22
Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son is filled with amazing spiritual truth. In this one short, simple verse we see the very nature of our Heavenly Father in the life of the prodigal son’s father. He wanted to give to his son. The son had earned nothing, he had squandered his inheritance and still the father wanted to give his substance to his son. What a picture of our Heavenly Father, He is a giver. He is the source of everything that is. He existed before creation, everything that exists came from Him. His nature is constant, in other words He is still the source of all things. He not only created all things, He disperses all things as He pleases. He delights in giving. He is looking for those who will delight in receiving. Look at the two brothers in the story, the prodigal was broken with repentance. He was ashamed for his sins. He knew his father was the person to go to for restoration and provision. The elder brother was self righteous. He had done everything right and thought he deserved provision because of his service. He didn’t know God was a giver and wanted to give to those who humble themselves and call out to Him, the self righteous are left out, their pride keeps them from receiving God’s provision. Here are some thoughts from Watchman Nee on today’s verse.

“God is so wealthy that His chief delight is to give. His treasure stores are so full that it is pain to Him when we refuse Him an opportunity of lavishing those treasures upon us. When the prodigal returned home, the father had no word of rebuke for the waste nor of inquiry regarding

the substance. He only rejoiced over the opportunity his son’s return afforded him for spending more. It was the father’s joy that he could find in him an applicant for the robe, the ring, the shoes and the feast; it was his sorrow that in the elder son he found no such applicant…. It gives Him true joy when we just let Him give and give and give again to us. He wants to be the Giver eternally, and He wants to be the Doer eternally. If only we saw how rich and how great He is!”
The Lord has more in store for us than we know and even more than we can possibly receive. Maybe its time to humble ourselves so that we can expand and make room for the blessing of God.

HE TOOK THE LOAVES

Jesus therefore took the loaves.
John 6:11
I love the pictures painted in the gospels. What a masterpiece is painted by today’s short, simple verse; the little boy’s lunch in the hands of Jesus. This is the way Jesus works even today, we look to Him in our need and He wants to know what is in our hand. Recently I was reminded of a powerful lesson the Lord taught me as a young Christian. I was driving home after looking for a job after just arriving at Bible School when I randomly picked up a hitch hiker. As I shared Christ with this apparently homeless man the Lord kept telling me to give him my lunch. You see I had my lunch under my seat. But that was not the whole problem, I needed a job, I was out of money, and there was no more food at home. I remember giving this man my lunch in reluctance as he climbed out of my car. But here is the best part, when I got home there was a package waiting for me, loaded with groceries full of my favorites from my mom. What a great lesson, our provision is right there in front of us, that day it was in the form of my last lunch. Here are some thoughts from Watchman Nee on today’s verse.
“For most of His miracles, God makes use of material. Here Jesus accepts five loaves and two fishes. He might have turned stones to bread, but He did not. He chose instead to work with what was offered Him. “Bring them hither to me,” He said. What He does, He does through us. All miracles begin here, with my all in His hands. Keep my loaves to myself, and one man is fed. Give them up to Him, and shall I go hungry?

In a day of extreme national poverty, the prophet Malachi brought to Israel God’s answer to her problem. It was: bring the whole tithe into the storehouse—and see! It takes only a tiny stopper to close a very large bottle, so withholding from us its entire contents. And heaven is like that. Often for us there is no miracle simply because we give God nothing to work on. He asks only a very little—what we have! But He needs that.”
So there you have it, the miracle has been in your hand (or in your pocket) all along. It doesn’t take much, it only takes trusting in the Lord. After all, He has you in His hand.

12 LARGE BASKETS FULL 

Matt. 14:20 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained.

Feeding the 5000 has been part of our ministry for over 20 years. It really came in a most unexpected way. It was 1990 and our church was running on empty. We had done everything we knew to do and we just couldn’t make ends meet. We just couldn’t pay our bills. Have you ever been in that predicament. I kept asking the Lord for a financial breakthrough. You know what I mean? Really Lord, just send us a millionaire. That’s when I had the most unusual impression. Help people who have no way to help you back. In other words lend to the Lord. That was it. Find the hurting, the homeless, the sick and the worn out and watch what happens. That’s how we started Feed the Multitudes. The Lord taught us how to depend on Him for the impossible. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this miracle.

“They did all eat, and were filled. Those whom Christ feeds, he fills; so runs the promise of God. They shall be satisfied. As there was enough for all, they did all eat, so there was enough for each, they were filled; though there was but little, there was enough, and that is as good as a feast. The blessing of God can make a little go a great way; as, if God blessed what we have, we eat, and have not enough. There was to spare; They took up of the fragments that remained, twelve baskets full, one basket for each apostle: thus what they gave they had again, and a great deal more with it; and they were so far from being nice, that they could make this broken meat serve another time, and be thankful. This was to manifest and magnify the miracle, and to show that the provision Christ makes for those who are his is not bare and scanty, but rich and plenteous; bread enough, and to spare, an overflowing fulness.”
After the people had been fed there were 12 large baskets full. These baskets were the size of a man and there was one for each disciple. That was no coincidence. Could it be that is how God meets our needs? It is in helping others that the Lord provides for us.

HE NEVER FORGETS

HE NEVER FORGETS

Heb. 6:10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.

Humans have a short memory, “what have you done for me lately?” The Lord is not like us, He remembers everything. His record keeping is perfect. The only things He ever forgets are the sins that were held against us until calvary. If you are a Christian, your entire past is nonexistent, nailed with Jesus Christ to the cross. When we stand before the Lord as a Christian, only our works since conversion will be reviewed, the rest is forgotten. This is where it gets interesting. He remembers everything. He remembers every tear (they are stored in a bottle in heaven), He remembers every prayer (they are in His incense bowl before the throne), He remembers every offering (they are being accumulated for our eternal reward).
Yep, He remembers everything. He remembers every soul we witnessed to, every act of kindness we performed, every time we preferred others in countless opportunities. I wonder if our lives would change much if we realized He was taking notice of everything that happens.
One amazing example of how observant He is is the story of the widow’s mite. It says in the scripture that He was standing in the temple treasury watching how people gave their offerings (by the way, He still does that today). He said that this woman, whose offering was less than a penny, had given more than the rich because she had given everything. His judgement system is quite different from what we are used to. He has a huge advantage, He looks at the heart and judges our thoughts and intentions, nothing escapes His notice. Matthew Henry had some interesting comments about this verse.

“Good works and labour proceeding from love to God are commendable; and what is done to any in the name of God shall not go unrewarded. What is done to the saints, as such, God takes as done to himself. Those who expect a gracious reward for the labour of love must continue in it as long as they have ability and opportunity.”

Recently the Lord gave me a word for someone in one of our services. Many years ago this sister had been very involved in ministry. Ministry was her life. She lived it and breathed it every day, until tragedy struck in her home. For years she has not been in the position to serve in the active ministry, she has been taking care of her family. The Lord gave me today’s scripture verse for her. “He said he would never be unjust to forget her labor of love that she has shown to the saints.” Yep, He remembers everything. You never know how life is going to change. If you have the privilege and the opportunity to serve the Lord in some ministry capacity, do it. Do it with your might. You don’t know how much time you have. When you stand before Him yourself, you won’t regret your work of love. After all, you will be glad He never forgets.

You Give Them Something to Eat

The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 is the only miracle of His earthly ministry recorded in all four of the gospels.  It is a great picture of the Christian life.  In this miracle we see Christ as the Bread of Life, our spiritual food.  This is the food that satisfies and sustains us and also the food we distribute.  In this miracle we see the connection between ministry to the natural needs of man and at the same time touching man’s greatest spiritual needs.

In comparing the various accounts of this miracle some interesting observations are presented to us.  We see great crowds following Jesus because of the healings He was performing.  They had been following Him for three days and the food supplies were greatly diminished.  The disciples, always aware of the natural circumstances, wanted to disperse the crowd.  They realized there was no way to deal with the needs of the growing crowd.  Jesus took this opportunity to “test” His disciples.  “You give them something to eat,” He said.

The disciples were astounded.  What could they do?  They did not have the money to buy food.  They were far from the nearest markets to buy food.  His request seemed impossible.

“You give them something to eat”.  John said that Jesus was testing His disciples because He knew what He was going to do.  Jesus was trying the hearts of the disciples, attempting to get them to look beyond themselves, their own resources and abilities.  He wanted them to turn their eyes upon Him, the creator and sustainer of all things.

Today, the Lord loves to test our hearts, challenging us to look beyond the limitations of the natural world.  We all tend to get stuck with our limited resources rather than looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

In 1990 I was in a desperate place, our church was in the midst of a financial crisis.  We had experienced the demise of the oil industry in New Orleans, which was catastrophic to our economy.  We had also been at the epicenter of the religious scandals that rocked Christianity in the 1980’s.  (By epicenter I mean Airline Highway in New Orleans.  No one in our staff was personally involved.)  I was desperate and looking for a financial solution to our immediate problems.  The Lord heard my cry and gave me an answer, the way out of our trouble.  This answer was not what I was expecting or looking for, His ways are not our ways.

What the Lord told me to do was to hold a Free Food Festival for the hurting people of New Orleans on July 4.  This was the beginning of Feed the Multitudes which we have been putting on for the last 21 years.

That first event was incredible.  We had several thousand people from the poorest of the poor areas in New Orleans.  They come from the projects, from the missions, and homeless from the city streets.  What a great celebration.

The business community embraced this event and most of the food and supplies were given for free.  The Lord provided and fed the multitudes just like the days of His earthly ministry.

But that was not the greatest miracle that happened that day.  Something special happened in the hearts of our people our hearts were changed by God.  That was the miracle that we needed.  Physical provision is easy for the Lord, but what He is after is our hearts.  That is why He tested His disciples, “You give them something to eat.”  He knew what He would do, He was changing the hearts of His disciples.

Today our region is in crisis again.  There has been another catastrophic human failure that is threatening our way of life in Southeast Louisiana.   Especially effected are the fishing communities in the bayou region south of our city.  Recently I attended a Pastors gathering in Bayou Blue and listened to the Pastors from the bayou describing the effects of the oil spill on the people in that region.  Many of these precious people are totally dependent on the seafood industry.  Their families have lived this way for generations.  They have no other way to support themselves.

While I was listening to these Pastors, I felt like the disciples so long ago.  Thousands of people who cannot feed themselves in need and then came the familiar voice, “You give them something to eat.”

Of course I immediately began to search for reasons and arguments to eliminate His request but there was no escape. “You give them something to eat.”

After this strange meeting we decided to respond.  Feed the Multitudes 2010 is already upon us.  This year we are connecting Feed the Multitudes to the crisis in the gulf.  We will add to outreaches to Feed the Multitudes this year both taking place on the bayou in Dulac.  On July 8 we will be having a rally at 6pm and distributing 1000 bags of groceries.  At a later date,  we will be having a second outreach in Dulac distributing 5000 bags of groceries.

We are looking forward to these events as an opportunity to be a blessing to the bayou community and watch the Lord open people’s hearts.  How will we pay for these groceries?  The Lord knows what He is going to do; all we can do is respond to His request, “You give them something to eat.”