Happiness Vs. Joy

Is there that much difference between happiness and joy? I heard somewhere that the word “happiness” in ancient times meant lucky, chance or turning out well. So logic would suggest that happiness is based upon you being fortunate or opportunistic. It would make sense that if events turn out well, then you’re happy.

But joy is something else entirely. Because even when you have achieved or received, accomplished or obtained everything you wanted, your happiness could be short lived. Why? Because happiness tends to be dependent. It is dependent upon good luck, dependent upon our circumstances, dependent upon other people, dependent upon our moods, dependent upon our emotions, and dependent on how fortunate we are.

Let’s look at the difference between joy and happiness as we talked about in Sunday’s message.

Happiness is external while joy is internal. Physical and material things may make us happy, but joy comes from the heart. Happiness comes and goes, but joy, on the other hand, can stay with you for the long haul. The reason? Real joy is from God. And because it comes from God, joy lasts even in the midst of the trials of life. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. Joy is strength. Joy is internal. Even in the darkest days, when sadness, grief, and loss may threaten to overwhelm you, God’s joy is there. Joy is not an act of will-power, but a spontaneous, emotional response of the heart for all that God has done for us.

Happiness is based on circumstances while joy is based on Christ. Happiness is based on circumstances, but Joy is rooted in substance. Happiness may be about things. Joy is about Christ. Because joy is based on Christ, it cannot be taken away. Oh, you might think that it’s gone—that circumstances have robbed you of it—but it’s not. As believers, we are promised the constant presence of the Holy Spirit. We are promised His joy. Jesus’ words in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Acts 13:52 says, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Christian joy is not superficial and flimsy. Real joy is deep and firm because it is rooted in Christ Jesus.

Happiness is based on chance and joy is based on a choice. Happiness is based on luck, chance or accident. Joy is a decision. A determination of the will. We need to choose joy over bitterness, anger, and sorrow. Make a decision to choose joy every day. No matter what. Look at these great examples in Scripture: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Corinthians 8:2). “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

Questions
1. Are you looking for happiness today? What do you think will bring you happiness…a marriage, an accomplishment, a material object?
2. Have you ever accomplished what you thought will lead to happiness, only to be still looking for happiness or something to satisfy and fulfill you?
3. Do you want to have happiness or joy in your life? And Why?
4. Do you know the difference between happiness and joy? Knowing the difference, would you choose joy?

Finding Joy In Every Circumstance

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting for a cause he believed in. Mandela, met external prosecution with internal character, indomitable will and stoic sacrifice. Jailed for 27 years, he spent his time learning and teaching, even mastering the language of his oppressors to be able to communicate with them.

Paul knew a few things about suffering as well, which makes the book of Philippians all the more remarkable. In 2 Corinthians 11: 25-27, we read part of the list of those sufferings: “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul talks about “a thorn in the flesh ”Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” We don’t what the affliction was although people have speculated things such as a chronic eye problem, malaria, migraines, epilepsy, and a speech disability. We don’t know what it was, but it was a source of real pain in the apostle’s life.

No one likes to live in pain. Paul sought the Lord three times to remove this source of pain from him (2 Corinthians 12:8). He probably had many good reasons why he should be pain-free: he could have a more effective ministry; he could reach more people with the gospel; he could glorify God even more. But the Lord was more concerned with building Paul’s character and preventing pride. Instead of removing the problem, whatever it was, God gave Paul more overwhelming grace and more compensating strength. Paul learned that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9).

God is not in the rating and ranking of Christians business, but Paul may have been the greatest christian in history. He has probably done more to further Christianity than anyone living or dead. Paul wrote much of the New Testament. He still had more than his fair share of bad circumstances, yet in found joy in all of them.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This is the very first thing James writes in his letter after his salutation. Why? Because it is that important. Many Christians think once they’ve made that decision for Christ that everything will fall into place and life will be that proverbial bowl of cherries. And when trials and tough times come upon them or continue, they begin to question, “why?” It is difficult to find joy in the midst of all the junk, hardships, and painful circumstances?

As pastor, I have talked to many Christians who have faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles, mountains of medical bills, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. But amidst all that, God’s joy really is there. You can consider each trial joy, you can greatly rejoice even when you feel like you did a face plant into a mud puddle. In this series, we hope that whatever circumstances you are facing, you realize that God is all you need to have real joy in your life.

Questions.

1. What does it mean to you to rejoice in all things?
2. Sometimes short-term pain can bring about long-term joy and peace. Have you ever felt the pain you went through was worth it because of the end result?
3. Are you willing to endure short-term trials knowing there is long-term joy coming in the future?
4. Pray and ask God to empower you in a way that you feel joy no matter what is happening around you.

How To Be Rich Series Summary

We started the How To Be Rich series with statistics and facts that prove we are rich. If you earn $35,000 a year, you are in the top few percent of wage earners in the world. Much of the world  do not have the luxuries of a house, car, cell phone, cable TV, running water, and electricity to name just a few of the things we take for granted in the U.S.

For many of us, our problem isn’t that we’re not rich, our problem is that we don’t feel rich. The reason is simple. No matter how much you have, there’s always someone who has more. That causes discontentment because the more we have, the more you want. And the desire to feel wealthy causes us to place our hope in money instead of in God. We’re tempted to believe that if we make enough, we’ll be able to control our circumstances and create a better life for ourselves. But the Bible describes a different way of thinking about and using our wealth.

Scripture challenges us to look at our money differently because our lives are better when we place our trust in the One who richly provides. Viewing wealth through the lens of eternity loosens our grip on it and its grip on us. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 tells us that the generosity of rich people in this present age also lays up treasure for them in heaven. As you give away, your grip on wealth is released, and you open yourself up to the abundance of God’s Kingdom here and now.

Jesus tells a story/parable about a rich man who had surplus amounts of wealth. Since he was wealthy, it was assumed by the hearers of the story, he must be blessed by God, and smart. Saving for the future is an Old Testament concept. I will save it now, and consume it later was his motto, because all that is placed in my hands is for me, he had thought. Then God tells him he will die that night. Jesus says, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves on Earth, but is not rich toward God.”

We do not get credit for what we leave. We only get credit for what we give.

I hope you will remember these four points on How To Be Rich:

  1. Do good for those who can’t or won’t do good for you – that was the hallmark of first century Christianity – expecting nothing in return.
  2. Don’t place your hope in riches, but in the One who richly provides.
  3. Since you have more, do more and give more.
  4. Viewing wealth through the lens of eternity loosens our grip on it and its grip on us.

So, be rich in generosity. God will do something in you, and through you, and you will take hold of the life that is truly life.

Discussion questions:
1. Reflect back on How To Be Rich series. What did you enjoy? What made a big impression on you?
2. How were you challenged during the How To Be Rich series? How did it change how you view your wealth and your responsibilities as a Christian?
3, 1 Timothy 6:19 tells us: “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Does that idea resonate with you? Why or why not? Pray and ask God for his wisdom and help in creating “a firm foundation for the coming age”with your generosity.
4. Read Luke 12:13–21. In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus draws a connection between being rich toward those in need and being rich toward God. What is your opinion of this idea? What do you like about it? How does it challenge you?

Go With Your Strengths

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10)

Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift, many are given more than one gift. Wayne Gruden in Systematic Theology describes a spiritual gift as “any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.” In 2 Timothy 1: 6-7 we read these words that Paul wrote to Timothy. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

That passage suggests that we should not spend all of our time finding out what are gifts are and no time actually using them. If you are not sure what your spiritual gifts are, you may want to take a page from business and go with your strengths. Here is something for you to consider.

It is easy to find yourself working in an area of ministry where you have no interest. And while sometimes there is great need that needs to be filled, we can’t lose sight of our gifts or strengths. Our goal should always be to serve in those areas where God has given us the skills to be successful. Otherwise, we may be underutilized and the church may not reach its full potential because its members and regular attenders are not tapping into their God-given strengths.

For example – you are assigned the job of lifeguard even though you can’t swim. You never learned how to swim because you were busy becoming a CPA. Meanwhile an Olympic team 400 medley swimming champion has been assigned to the accounting department even though he has never even seen a balance sheet.

Far fetched? Maybe a little. But most of us can probably relate because we have been in situations in business where we don’t have the skill set and as a result, we lacked confidence or conviction. Or in some cases we didn’t want to leave our comfort zone. Here’s the thing: if we never get into an area that utilizes our real strengths, we will never reach our full potential.

At least in business, or life, we have a pretty good idea of what we are good at. In our spiritual life, that is not always the case. And when we do know what our gifts are, we don’t know how to use them or get better at them.

Enter Ministry 301. This is a class where we look at spiritual gifts. We believe you will discover what your gifts are and even more importantly find out the best way to use your gifts. Wouldn’t you agree that it is time to start using the spiritual strengths that God has given us?

No single class can provide everything you need to know about spiritual gifts. Rather, the goal of this class is to stimulate your thinking and make you more aware of God working in your life. In order to really discern your Spiritual gifts you will need to spend more time thinking about, praying over and using your gifts. Experience will be one of the most valuable indicators as to what spiritual gifts you have. We are complex beings and God has given us wonderful passions and abilities. It is worth the time to attend the 301 class and to spend devotional time to better understand the tools God has given us to serve the church and His kingdom.

Questions:

1. Would you make time to attend the 301 class?
2. Spend time with God in prayer asking Him to show you your gifts. List what you think is a strength and ask God to give you insight. Talk to Him about the gifts. Express any doubt, fear or frustrations you may have. Ask God for clarity and confirmation.
3. Think about what moves you. What spikes your interest. For example: A person with the gift of mercy will not be moved in every circumstance they come across. Rather they learn to discern the urging of the Holy Spirit and be merciful in situations that God leads them in.
4. Take the plunge and get involved at Northstar. There is no substitute for experience. Nothing that can substitute for good old experience. Basically to get out there and try them out. As you get more involved in ministry where you think you may have a gift, you will soon find out if this gift is indeed a deep passion from God. Pray and ask God to show you where you should serve and then how to use your spiritual gifts to further His kingdom.

A Call To Action

And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.” – 2 Chronicles 31:21.

So much has happened in the 17 year history of Northstar. In just the last few years, we have torn down walls, re-purposed spaces, and opened three new satellite (4 if you count the Online Campus) locations. God has responded by continually reminding us that what we viewed as impossible, He made possible. The question is what can we do as members and regular attenders to capitalize on the momentum that has been building at Northstar as we move forward with our vision to help the whole world find and follow Jesus.

We cannot continue business as usual even though our usual business has been pretty good lately. “But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” Romans 13:1-12 (MSG).

I believe many followers of Jesus define Christianity by what we are not supposed to do, rather than defining Christianity by what God is calling us to do. Think about that for a second. We become passive and play defense trying to not do the things God tells us not to do. Now before you send me emails, I am not suggesting we just go do anything we want, regardless of whether it is in conflict with what God teaches us. That is not my point at all. I’m asking myself and you whether we could be more proactive. I’m asking what more can we do.

“OK, I get what you are saying, but what more can we do Marty?”

We can start with the church and your role in the ministry of the church. God designed each of us with a specific purpose; an assignment that we are uniquely created to do. Only we can do it. If we don’t do it, it goes undone or not done as well as it could be.  When you discover what that is and how you can meet someone else’s need with the resources God has given you, you’ve found your ministry. I believe that few things are as rewarding as responding to the needs of others. Paul quotes the words of Jesus as a standard for sharing our lives with others: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:34–35). An important step toward joyful Christian living is giving your life in service to others. Sharing your life in ministry spiritually strengthens you and those you serve. It will not always be easy, but in those times I encourage you to look to God for validation, direction, and the strength to faithfully endure. At Northstar, we will try very hard to connect you to your ministry so you can act on it and fulfill God’s plan for your lives.

Perry Noble wrote an article listing several things that will make the church come alive. One of them was service: when believers are unleashed to serve Christ by using their spiritual gifts rather than depending on the “paid professionals” to do it all, the church comes alive.

It takes all of us doing our God-given assignment to realize the vision of seeing lives transformed by God’s love. We cannot help the whole world find and follow Jesus without everybody doing their part.

Questions:
1. Are you more worried about what you are not supposed to do than what God is calling you to do?
2. Is Northstar a church where you can serve God’s people and use your gifts for His benefit? If not, why not?
3. Who are the people you care about (kids, seniors, hurting or broken people)? What are the needs you see around you that you can meet? What “causes” your heart to break that you will help conquer?
4. What are some of the positive or painful experiences you’ve had? How could God use these experiences to serve others?
5. Please pray and seek God on where you could best serve in the church. Then take the step to find out more information about it.

Do Your Good Deeds Do any Good?

Mr. or Mrs. Moneybags. Let’s be honest, we want to be like them. To have their money, and to have their stuff. It is the American dream: want more, make more, spend more and to have more. We’ve been told that climbing the ladder of success, hitting it big and getting rich is what life is all about. But what if being rich was irrelevant because we are already rich. How would that change the way we live, the way we spend and the way we give? As we have been talking about the last few weeks, it is not about getting rich and making more, its about being rich and making a difference.

People have always been first and foremost interested in making a good living, but today things are different. Peter Gomes, former minister to the students at Harvard University noted that students are asking a more challenging question today. “What will it take for me to make a good life, and not merely a good living?”

So, what will it take to make a good life?

More and more people equate the quality of their life by the size of their bank accounts. But the Bible talks about our wealth existing in what we do. We need to be rich in deeds and actions, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)

Making a good life is more than money. It is all of the elements that contribute to the makeup of our life: our talents, time, helping hands, laughter, genuine smiles, know-how, encouragement, listening ability, a cup of coffee, our caring, our giving of ourselves, comfort in times of grief, and so on. Most of these things cost nothing, but pay rich dividends. “This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” Matthew 10:42 (MSG)

Being rich in good deeds requires a different mind-set. It focuses on the needs of others instead of its own sense of accomplishment or worth. It’s posture is that of a “servant.” It approaches the needs of others with a “whatever it takes” attitude instead of a calculating assessment of whether or not there is value or a return in my investment if I do this. It does not keep a running total or have a finish line when I believe I have done my fair share.

Being good at being rich means we need to be intentional about doing good deeds. In this way, we grab hold of the life that is truly life. It’s not about justification, or getting God to love us more. It is living the way God intended so that we can be rich in deeds.

Questions:
1. How do you measure your life?
2. Would you rate your life as a good life?  What does it mean to be rich in the eyes of God?
3. Define “success” in your own words. What are some of the different ways that our culture defines success? What does it mean to you to be successful?
4. How can you be rich in good deeds? How can you make a difference?

Being Rich In What Matters Most

Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.” ~ author unknown

Pay it forward was a movie made in 2000 starring Kevin Stacey and Haley Joel Osment. It is a story about a young boy who did 3 good deeds for others in need. In return, all that the child wanted was that they pass on the good deed to three other people and keep the cycle going.

Haley Joel Osment’s character wanted to change the world in the movie, but Jesus has changed the world and continues to do so on a daily basis. The Bible teaches that we as Christians are to pay it forward by being rich in good deeds. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” – 1 Timothy 6:18.

There are many examples of paying it forward in the Bible. The best known of those stories, the Good Samaritan, I talked about on Sunday. A man is robbed and left on the road for dead. Two people walked around him without helping. But the Good Samaritan took pity on him and went above and beyond to give him the help that he needed without regard for time or cost commitments.( The story can be found in Luke 10:25-37).

There’s another image that comes to mind when I think about being rich in good deeds. Remember the last scene in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, when all of George Bailey’s friends show up at his home to repay him for all the good things he’s done for them over the years. George was never wealthy, and all the money they’re giving him is needed to replace some bank funds that were lost. But if you ever want to see a picture of someone rich in good deeds–and in the friendship and love that spring from them–then watch this movie this Christmas.

It is important to do good deeds because it is a demonstration of love towards others. There are so many opportunities to use our time, talents and gifts to help others, we only need to see the need. And when we help others, we lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. Basically we are building up a heavenly bank account even if we are depleting somewhat our earthy bank account.

I’m praying that God is going to use this week’s message to unleash unprecedented amounts of compassion in our community. I honestly believe that our church is the answer to the needs in the lives of those around us needing God’s power and help.

Questions:

1. So we are commanded to do “good deeds”— but what does this mean exactly? How do you define a good deed in your view? What type of good deeds are we to do?
2, It is apparent from a study of God’s word that we need to be intentional about doing “good deeds.”How can we be intentional?
3. When you help others, do you tend to help others in the way they need it or in the way you want to give it? Explain.
4. What do you think it would like for you to serve others outside of your comfort zone? How do you think it would affect you?
5. How have the good deeds of others in your church helped you spiritually and in times of need?
6. What’s one good deed you’ll commit to doing this week to help someone else?

Serving Him

God is doing something right here, right now, and anybody can be a part of it. All this week we talked about giving. In the How To Be Rich series, we explained that giving is not something we have to do, rather it is what we get to do. But we are also rich with gifts from God, and we are called to use those gifts to advance the Kingdom of God.

Some of us prefer to be hitchhikers. What do I mean? A hitchhiker wants the benefits of a car without the costs involved. The hitchhiker is basically saying to the owner of the car, “ I want you to sacrifice the cost of the car, the insurance, the gas, as well as having the ability to stay awake and driving safely. The hitchhiker just chills and enjoys the ride. He or she gets the benefits of the cars without any of the responsibilities of owning a car.

There are hitchhikers when it comes to giving and there are hitchhikers when it comes to serving. Our intentions are always honorable. We will give and we will serve: “When I’m rich, I’ll be more generous.” Or “When my profession matches my level of education, then I’ll start working for the Kingdom.” And finally, “Once I’m through this busy season of my life, then I’ll make more time to do what God wants from me.”

What if you believed that what you have right now, not tomorrow, next week or next year, but right now, that you already have what makes you rich? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The sin of respectable people is that they run away from responsibility.” As we have said many times in the series, we are rich, richer than most people in the world could imagine. The question is what are we going to do with our riches? Right here. Right now.

Let me get off topic for a second and suggest that one of the best ways for you to use your gifts is to serve. Our desire is to help those who are seeking God discover how He has uniquely wired them with gifts, talents and passions and then equips them to be a solution by serving in their church, city and world. Every believer has access to spiritual gifts, so each person can discover how God has gifted them. Some discover their gifts by stepping into service opportunities they are passionate about.  To help you in the process, Northstar has developed a 301 ministry class.  We want to help you realize what makes you so unique. This class will help you discover how your personality, gifts, passions, and life experiences work together to fulfill God’s plan for your life. Find out the class schedule by talking to your campus pastor or sign up on your connection card.

We pray that, in serving here, God would mature and strengthen all of our gifts and create in every person a servant’s heart that would bleed into all areas of our life.

Permit God to guide you to the ministry in which He has created and designed you to serve. Don’t be afraid to step out and try something new. He will always enable you to do what He calls you to do.

Questions:
1. Pray about and enroll in the 301 Class.
2. Am I willing to answer the call to ministry, even in the smallest of ways?
3. Am I using my time and talents to accomplish the ministry God has for me?
4. Am I living a life of gratitude by joyfully donating a portion of my time and talent back to God?

Take the 90-Day Challenge

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” – Malachi 3:10

As I said in the daily devotional post on tithing, I understand that giving away your income can be a big – and often frightening – commitment. We work too hard for what we have. So for many, the idea of tithing, bringing the first 10 percent of our income to God seems overwhelming.

God repeatedly challenges us to trust Him with our finances, promising that when we give Him our first and best, He will bless the rest. Exodus 34:26 says “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God” and Proverbs 3:9-10, 2 Chronicles 31:5, Leviticus 27:30 all contain similar messages.

Countless people experience God’s blessings when they tithe, but often the first step is the hardest one to take. That’s why we created the Three-Month 90 Day Tithe Challenge, a money-back guarantee of sorts. To help you take that step of faith, we encourage you to start tithing on Sunday at Northstar. If, after 90 days, you are not convinced of the blessings that tithing adds to your life, we will refund 100 percent of your gifts – no questions asked.

I think you will be amazed to discover how much better you will live on 90 percent of your income trusting in God, versus 100 percent of your income and just your own strength. When we bring our first and best to God, He promises to bless the rest.

So, take a step of faith and take the 90-Day challenge. It will deepen your walk with God and allow you to experience your Christian faith in new and vibrant ways.

Questions:
1. So – what do you think? Are you ready to take the 90-Day Tithe Challenge and experience God’s best for your life?

Giving Back

I’m not sure why, but talking about money has always been somewhat awkward for most pastors. Talking about Christianity in all its counter intuitive depth can also be awkward. So when you are teaching a series on money and Christianity, it can be awkward squared.

That’s because most of us have been trained since childhood to believe that money is personal, private, no one else’s business, and that it’s something polite people don’t talk about. Still, I thought it was important enough to spend some a series on, but not for the reasons you may think.

My goal in the How To Be Rich series is simply to give you some solid biblical principles and verses to consider as you live the life of a follower of Jesus. Our goal, and my desire as your pastor, is that every person that calls Northstar their home church would tithe and develop a culture of generosity. I want you to live with that spiritual discipline, acknowledging God with the first and the best, and experiencing the consistent blessing of God that comes from obedience to His word.

I’m not teaching on this subject to judge your heart or check your giving record, or to put the full-court press on you to give more money, or to condemn anyone that is not giving to the church. The truth is we don’t need the money. God doesn’t either. We shouldn’t be afraid of talking about generosity and giving because Jesus certainly wasn’t afraid to talk about it. You’ll find more than 1,000 references to money in the Bible, second only to love.

“Marty, I understand what you are saying, but, I am the one who will get their electricity cut off if I don’t pay the bill. Yes, I am a little of a control junkie, but my finances can change in a heartbeat. Stop for second and think about all the things outside of my control that could affect my family finances – a fender bender, getting sick and missing work, my wife getting laid off, and my son Joey beating all the odds and making the traveling baseball team. And what about taxes? I pay taxes too and they keep going up. It sometimes feels that God and the government are after my money. Given all that, will I have enough left to meet our expenses?

While I empathize, let me say this. God is in complete control and we should not try so hard to hang on to something that is clearly safer in God’s hands? Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” My prayer is this series will change the perception that generosity as an unfortunate obligation that leads to personal loss into what the Bible sees as an opportunity for gain for those who are followers of Jesus Christ. Take Proverbs 28:27: ”Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” And don’t forget Malachi 3:10 which says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

The simple truth is this: Of all the areas of life we try and hang on to, finances are an an area where we need more of God, not less of Him. For those who are just getting started and not sure you can step out and fully tithe, it may be wise to start where your faith is and move up from there. So if you can, in faith, commit to giving say, 5 percent of your income this year with hopes of moving it up to 7 percent next year, I think God will take you up on that. At the same time, I don’t think mature believers who are living under the blessing of God should stop at 10 percent.

Remember this is not a legal requirement, but a starting point for Biblical generosity. I do not think God would condemn anyone who is attempting to bring a consistent percentage of their finances, but I would encourage you to examine your heart, be honest before the Lord, and do your best to increase your giving as God blesses you.

Questions:
1. If “Money Talks”…what is our money saying about our relationship with God?
2. What is the point of tithing? In other words, what do you think God really wants from us through our tithe?
3. Pray about how you could be generous, either with time or money, during the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas?
4. Start tithing today; Start with a percentage that you are comfortable meeting. Then commit to being consistent as an act of worship and increase that percentage as your faith increases.
5. If you are a regular tither, what are some of the blessings you’ve experienced through your tithing?