Deuteronomy 23-25 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we bless those who serve us with generous hearts

I don’t think any novel has had more movies made from it than the beloved “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, and I enjoy them all.  From the classic black and white version with Alastair Sim to the contemporary Jim Carrey rendition, and every movie in between, I love the story of a changed man named Scrooge.  Not only was the old Scrooge miserly in his giving to the poor, but he was stingy with his faithful employee, Bob Cratchit, as well.  His treatment of Bob was the historical raw deal, overworked and underpaid.  Of course, Dickens wasn’t the first to address the subject of stinginess.  Moses had it covered long before. 

@ Deuteronomy 25
“You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” (4)  We may not feel edified by this scripture, but keep reading because it’s more relevant than we may think.  Moses was addressing kindness and mercy towards the animals that toiled for the Israelites.  The oxen crushed the grains under their hooves for hours to remove the hard outer shells, and to muzzle them would deprive them of eating some of the grain for themselves.  Solomon wrote, “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)  The sanitary conditions of this aside, even an ox deserves compensation for its labors.

Paul took this simple scripture to another level in the New Testament in I Corinthians 9:9-10, “For the law of Moses says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’  Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.”

How we treat those who serve us is important to God.  Employees who work for us, those who faithfully minister to us and individuals who make a living off of tips offered in gratitude deserve to share in the harvest.  Living the life of Scrooge is not a godly lifestyle.  It’s one thing to be frugal, but it’s another thing to be cheap.

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’” (I Timothy 5:17-18)  Paul took to heart our verse today from Deuteronomy, quoting it twice in his writings.  Those who preach and teach the Word of God “should be respected and paid well” for their faithfulness to the work of God.  The old school of thought that a pastor only works one day a week is pure ignorance.  Most pastors serve their congregations six or seven days a week and are generous with their time almost to a fault.  How cruel it would be a muzzle them by not providing for their needs.

During the Christmas Season when the spirit of giving is in the air, as well as throughout the year, let’s remember with generous hearts those who serve us in so many different roles and those who minister to us.  I want to be like the new and improved Scrooge of Christmas morning but without the nocturnal visitors.  “Ever afterwards..it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (C. Dickens)

Moving Forward: I thank God today for the generous hearts that minister to me and bless my life.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 5-9

Psalms 111-113 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He shines His light on the godly. 

@Psalm 112
No doubt over the next few months our attention will be drawn to the Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol,” and the transformation in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge who was the antithesis of Psalm 112.  Greedy and selfish, the old man held on to every cent he had for dear life and overlooked the needs of others in the process.  Then he had an encounter with the values in life that really matter and could not keep from sharing and giving and blessing.  Anything in this life we hold too tightly will prevent us from living the generous life of one who trusts in God.

Psalm 112 is a promise of success to those who fear only God, to those who revere and respect God and do not revere or respect calamity and to those whose respect for God is reflected in their behavior.  “Light shines in the darkness for the godly.  They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.  Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.” (4-5)  No Scrooges here.  Acts of generosity come from hearts that do not hold too tightly to the things they possess and from those with an eternal viewpoint.  Because of this, they live with an open hand to others.

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” (7-8)  Only with an eternal viewpoint can we live without fear of when the next shoe will drop, what news the mail will bring or what calamity lies ahead.  Those who fear the Lord do not hold too tightly to this life, knowing it is only a temporary dwelling, a stopping point on their way to eternity. They can live with full assurance that, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)  They do not fear bad news.

“They share freely and give generously to those in need.  Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  They will have influence and honor.  The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.” (9-10)  Well, if we want to see our enemy slink away in defeat, we just need to be willing to let go of the things the enemy wants.  When we give our lives and our possessions to the Lord and His purposes, the enemy has nothing to take from us.

The joy and freedom that awakened in the heart of Scrooge on Christmas morning are just a brief vignette of the joy and freedom we experience every day when we live generous lives, unencumbered by the concerns of this world.  It is a life with promise, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.  Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.  They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever.” (1-3)

Most of us have lived long enough to know that life is not without its challenges for the godly, but those who fear and respect the Lord and obey His commands walk in the promises and blessings of the Lord that have eternal value.  Does it get any better than that?  I don’t think so. 

Moving Forward:  Moving through this day with a generous heart and hand, unencumbered and loosening the grip on all that I am and all that I possess. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 25

Proverbs 19 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He blesses our generous hearts

My husband has one of the tenderest hearts towards needy souls of anyone I’ve ever known.  Because of his generosity, I’ve always said if a man came to him with a desperate need for a wife and a mother to care for his children, Tom would be tempted to help him out and give me away.  He says this absolutely isn’t true, and I guess after over 40 years of marriage, I can assume that he means it.

One time a homeless man came up to Tom at our church during the lunch hour asking for money because he was hungry.  Tom rarely gave actual cash to those in this situation but would buy them lunch asking that they work a little in the churchyard or help in some way, and this happened many, many times through the years.  When he asked this man to do some work, the man replied, “Work?  You want me to work?  I don’t work, I’m just a bum!”  Well, Tom had to appreciate his candor and shared the love of Jesus with him as they walked to the restaurant.

“If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” (17)  It’s a hard concept to accept, but it’s as if because of Tom’s generous heart in these situations, the Lord was now in debt to Tom.  It’s similar to when we take a client out to lunch on our dime, our company reimburses us for doing so.  Tom took the poor man out to lunch on his dime, so the Lord repaid him, to be sure.  Those of us who know Tom understand that it wouldn’t matter – he just loves to give.

“How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands…They share freely and give generously to those in need.  Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  They will have influence and honor.” (Ps112:1,9) I just wanted to give honor today where honor is due.

The economic downturn has affected so many families today, and many have lost their homes and jobs.  But no matter how difficult things may get for us as individuals, there are so many others who have it much, much worse.  A simple meal or bag of groceries may be the only light they see in their dark tunnel.  “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” (Isaiah 58:10)  Our giving to others brightens someone’s world, and according to Proverbs 19, the Lord will reimburse us – we just can’t lose! 

Moving Forward: Planning to do some lending to the Lord today; but because I am so indebted to Him, I won’t be keeping a record of it. 

Tomorrow @ Hosea 1-7

Leviticus 19-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides for those in need through the generous hearts of those who love Him

@ Leviticus 19
With four older brothers, the prospect of hand-me-downs was a little disconcerting when I was young.  Money, with all the amenities that it buys, was scarce in my early years, and those clothes were threadbare by the time they got to me. However, somehow beautiful clothing seemed to magically appear for me to wear from time to time.  It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that a couple of generous families in our church periodically collected clothing for me and gave them to my mom. Yes, they were second-hand but not threadbare, in fact, they were beautiful!  When I wore them, I felt like a million bucks and didn’t realize how poor we really were during those early years.  God bless those generous hearts!

“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)

God instituted the first welfare program, the first method to meet the needs of those who were without food.  Instead of seeking to get that last grain or that last grape into their own coffers, God encouraged the harvesters to simply regard those who were lacking and provide out of their surplus for them.  What a concept!  No government programs, no welfare red tape, just generous hearts representing a generous God and providing for the needs of others. Imagine that.

A few years ago I was shopping at the grocery store when a woman walked past me wearing a dress that was familiar to me.  From some distinctive alterations that it had, I realized it was a dress I had bought and worn for a while and then donated to a ministry that provided clothing for those in need.  She wore it well, and that made me smile as I remembered generous hearts that had touched my life so many years ago.

“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.  And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, ‘They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.’”(2 Corinthians 9:7-9)  When we give cheerfully to those in need, God continues to bless us to do even more.  While I have remembered generous hearts from my youth for almost 50 years, God remembers them forever, and that, my friends, is a very long time.

Moving Forward: Shrugging off the selfish trends all around me, I pray that God will open my eyes to those in need and fill me with a great big heart of generosity. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 16-20

2 Corinthians 6-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

It’s the time of year we give honor and attention to the one person on this earth we know loves us unconditionally – Mom!  The list of great qualities our mothers’ possess is endless, but most will agree that generosity is right near the top.  Only a mother would stay up half the night sewing costumes or baking cupcakes for her children.  She will give and give until it hurts and then give even more, sometimes to a fault. A mom’s generous spirit reflects the love of God within her. Her thrifty manner with coupons and sales stretches each dollar and provides for the family. Unfortunately, in our reading today the Apostle Paul had to deal with a situation where individuals were less than generous and nothing like our mothers. They hadn’t learned the secret to financial freedom 

@2 Corinthians 7
Paul had a turbulent history with the church at Corinth.  The Corinthians had been plagued with insurrection within the church, misuse of spiritual gifts and flagrant sin, just to name a few of their problems.  Paul addressed their issues with a difficult visit as well as at least one previous letter.  Many believe the letter mentioned in verse 8, called the severe or harsh letter, was lost and not recorded in the Bible; others believe it to be I Corinthians.  In any case, their response to Paul had been cold at one time.

This letter, probably needed more today than in his day, was a rough one, “I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while.  Now I am glad I sent it not because it hurt you but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways.” (8-9)  At the time of this writing, Paul was in Macedonia facing many conflicts and admitted to discouragement (6), but Titus arrived from Corinth with the good news that the Corinthian church had responded well to the severe letter and Paul was encouraged. 

@ 2 Corinthians 8
Paul was encouraged, things were better, and Paul took the big leap and decided to address the M word – money.  Paul was a brave man.  Citing the example of the very poor Macedonian church and their generous giving to the struggling church in Jerusalem, Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to do the same.  “I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.” (8)

As the saying goes, we know when someone is really a Christian when their commitment reaches all the way to their pocketbook.  Paul, always the disciple-maker, was willing to risk his new peace with this congregation to teach them about giving gifts.  “Give in proportion to what you have.  Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly.  And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.” (11-12)

Paul’s instruction on giving was reasonable.  Jesus was more blessed by the extravagant giving of a widow’s all than He was blessed by the considerable gifts of the wealthy in Mark 12:41-44.  I want to bless Jesus in that way.  In my heart, I want it all to belong to Him so that when a need arises, I’m not counting the cost, counting the percentages or counting the dollar signs. When there is a need somewhere, I want to give with joy, and like the widow, not miss an opportunity to bless Him.  To me, this is financial freedom. 

Moving Forward:  May I approach this day with a generous heart, blessing Him with my response to those in need of help. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 21-24

Deuteronomy 23-25 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we bless those who serve us with generous hearts

I don’t think any novel has had more movies made from it than the beloved “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, and I enjoy them all.  From the classic black and white version with Alastair Sim to the contemporary Jim Carrey rendition, and every movie in between, I love the story of a changed man named Scrooge.  Not only was the old Scrooge miserly in his giving to the poor, but he was stingy with his faithful employee, Bob Cratchit, as well.  His treatment of Bob was the historic raw deal, overworked and underpaid.  Of course, Dickens wasn’t the first to address the subject of stinginess.  Moses had it covered long before. 

@ Deuteronomy 25
“You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” (4)  We may not feel edified by this scripture, but keep reading because it’s more relevant than we may think.  Moses was addressing kindness and mercy towards the animals that toiled for the Israelites.  The oxen crushed the grains under their hooves for hours to remove the hard outer shells, and to muzzle them would deprive them of eating some of the grain for themselves.  Solomon wrote, “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)  The sanitary conditions of this aside, even an ox deserves compensation for its labors.

Paul took this simple scripture to another level in the New Testament in I Corinthians 9:9-10, “For the law of Moses says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’  Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.”

How we treat those who serve us is important to God.  Employees who work for us, those who faithfully minister to us and individuals who make a living off of tips offered in gratitude deserve to share in the harvest.  Living the life of Scrooge is not a godly lifestyle.  It’s one thing to be frugal, but it’s another thing to be cheap.

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’” (I Timothy 5:17-18)  Paul took to heart our verse today from Deuteronomy, quoting it twice in his writings.  Those who preach and teach the Word of God “should be respected and paid well” for their faithfulness to the work of God.  The old school of thought that a pastor only works one day a week is pure ignorance.  Most pastors serve their congregations six or seven days a week and are generous with their time almost to a fault.  How cruel it would be a muzzle them by not providing for their needs.

During the Christmas Season when the spirit of giving is in the air, as well as throughout the year, let’s remember with generous hearts those who serve us in so many different roles and those who minister to us.  I want to be like the new and improved Scrooge of Christmas morning but without the nocturnal visitors.  “Ever afterwards..it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (C. Dickens)

Moving Forward: I thank God today for the generous hearts that minister to me and bless my life.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 5-9

Psalms 111-113 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He shines His light on the godly. 

@Psalm 112
No doubt over the next few months our attention will be drawn to the Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol,” and the transformation in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge who was the antithesis of Psalm 112.  Greedy and selfish, the old man held on to every cent he had for dear life and overlooked the needs of others in the process.  Then he had an encounter with the values in life that really matter and could not keep from sharing and giving and blessing.  Anything in this life we hold too tightly will prevent us from living the generous life of one who trusts in God.

Psalm 112 is a promise of success to those who fear only God, to those who revere and respect God and do not revere or respect calamity and to those whose respect for God is reflected in their behavior.  “Light shines in the darkness for the godly.  They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.  Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.” (4-5)  No Scrooges here.  Acts of generosity come from hearts that do not hold too tightly to the things they possess and from those with an eternal viewpoint.  Because of this, they live with an open hand to others.

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” (7-8)  Only with an eternal viewpoint can we live without fear of when the next shoe will drop, what news the mail will bring or what calamity lies ahead.  Those who fear the Lord do not hold too tightly to this life, knowing it is only a temporary dwelling, a stopping point on their way to eternity. They can live with full assurance that, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)  They do not fear bad news.

“They share freely and give generously to those in need.  Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  They will have influence and honor.  The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.” (9-10)  Well, if we want to see our enemy slink away in defeat, we just need to be willing to let go of the things the enemy wants.  When we give our lives and our possessions to the Lord and His purposes, the enemy has nothing to take from us.

The joy and freedom that awakened in the heart of Scrooge on Christmas morning are just a brief vignette of the joy and freedom we experience every day when we live generous lives, unencumbered by the concerns of this world.  It is a life with promise, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.  Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.  They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever.” (1-3)

Most of us have lived long enough to know that life is not without its challenges for the godly, but those who fear and respect the Lord and obey His commands walk in the promises and blessings of the Lord that have eternal value.  Does it get any better than that?  I don’t think so. 

Moving Forward:  Moving through this day with a generous heart and hand, unencumbered and loosening the grip on all that I am and all that I possess. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 25