Weekly Devotion

RSS Feed

Wednesday Words, October 18, 2017

FIRST WE GIVE OF OURSELVES

Growth in Giving Gathering Bible Study

1He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." 9Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." –Luke 19:1-10

 

Zacchaeus did not have a good reputation in Palestine. He was a tax collector and tax collectors were considered pariahs because they collaborated with the Roman authorities in collecting taxes from the people. The way the system was constructed encouraged tax collectors, without question, to collect as much money as they could from the people. The tax collector was paid with a percentage of what was collected. So the formula was simple, the more they could collect, the more they could keep. Zacchaeus, the tax collector, extorted and defrauded many people in his life and he was not a well-liked man. In the gospels, we hear repeatedly of tax collectors and sinners spoken of together in the same breath.

Into this scene walks Jesus who invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner. The action of Jesus is filled with grace and forgiveness which has immediate impact upon Zacchaeus. It was a life changing event as an encounter with God’s grace always is.

So how did Zacchaeus respond to this amazing change in events? He had been offered mercy and was determined to live in that life changing moment. Recognizing that his life was at the expense of his neighbor, Zacchaeus responds to Jesus’ invitation of grace in this way: “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” To this Jesus responds: “Today salvation has come to his house, because he too is a son of Abraham.” For Zacchaeus, life changed with an invitation of grace. What he considered important in life changed as well.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Does the reality of God’s grace in your life impact how you think about money, its importance and place in your life? If so, how?
  2. Zacchaeus responded to this grace filled encounter with Jesus with an expression of generosity. How would centering one’s giving on God and the gift of grace, rather than on things and issues, impact a sense of generosity and the desire to grow in giving?

Wednesday Words, October 11, 2017

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

FIRST, WE GIVE OF OURSELVES:

Giving in Gratitude

BIBLE STUDY: Gratitude and When Enough is Enough

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’ ~ Luke 12: 13-21

What captures your attention more, possessions or God? When is “enough” enough? These are pertinent questions that Jesus raises for us in this parable from the gospel of Luke. This text is one of a number of Jesus’ teachings concerning what it means to be disciples and people in mission. One important aspect of discipleship is how we view the question of possessions and their influence on our relationship with God. The questions of materialism, consumerism, and the continued desire for more are those with which we deal every day. Simply watch one hour of television and count the number of ads urging us to have more. The question for stewards is “when is ‘enough’ really enough?” Are we always looking to build bigger barns for more and more things?

A posture of gratitude helps us to mediate the question of how we deal with possessions. Gratitude fosters an understanding that what we have is given to us by God, there is enough, and we use what we have for ministry in family, church, work, community, and the world. Gratitude enables a mindset of being content with what we have and helps us to focus on what God is calling us to do with all that has been entrusted to our care. Gratitude initiates a response of joy rather than want, of thanksgiving rather than a continued desire for more.

Questions to Ponder

  1. What does this passage from Luke tell us about the quest for more and how it affects what is important in life?
  2. Scripture teaches that God is the giver of all things and that we are entrusted with what we have to use for ministry in the family, community, and the world. How does that understanding impact the question of having enough?
  3. How does gratitude, in your opinion, relate to contentment with material possessions?
  4. How would a life of gratitude and acknowledging God as the giver of all things help one grow as a disciple and to give in gratitude?
  5. How has gratitude moved you to share gifts in thanksgiving to God and for ministry this week?

Wednesday Words, October 4, 2017

Pastor Paul Cannon

FIRST, WE GIVE OF OURSELVES:

Giving in Gratitude

 BIBLE STUDY: Giving in Gratitude

 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

2 Corinthians 8:1-2

(Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

-Mark 12:41-44

Gratitude is a remarkable state of being!  A sense of gratitude brings with it a joy and delight for the gift received be it a word of grace or some other blessing that fills one’s heart with gladness.  

For the Macedonians, to whom Paul refers in the text from 2nd Corinthians, theirs were hearts filled with gratitude for the abundance of God‘s rich grace in Christ.  It was this joyful sense of gratitude that moved the Macedonians to an outpouring of gifts for those suffering affliction even while they suffered affliction themselves.  But yet, their giving in gratitude went far deeper.  In describing the Macedonians and their giving, the Apostle Paul said: “…and this, not merely as we expected, they gave themselves first to the Lord…”  2 Corinthians 8:5 

For Christian stewards, it is a strong and joyful sense of gratitude for God’s abundant gifts, especially the gift of Jesus Christ that provides a foundation of delight in one’s giving.  It is a giving that is joyous, thankful, and sacrificial.  Just as the Macedonians and the woman in the story of the Widow’s Mite, we seek to give to God all of oneself.

Questions to Ponder 

1.      Both the texts from 2nd Corinthians and Matthew refer directly or indirectly to “giving oneself in response to God’s generosity.  How would you define the act of “giving yourself” in gratitude for God’s grace in Christ and the blessings received in life?

2.      In digging deeper, how are “gratitude” and “giving” connected?  Why do we give out of gratitude?

3.      What do you think is the point that Jesus was making in his story about the woman giving all she had?  

4.      What do you think Jesus meant when he drew the contrast of the other temple goers giving from their abundance and the woman giving all she had?  How does gratitude enter into this discussion do you think?

5.      What does it mean to you to give in gratitude?  How would that practice of discipleship shape your everyday living?

6.      How has gratitude moved you to share gifts in thanksgiving to God and for ministry this week?

Wednesday Words, September 27, 2017

Pastor Cathy

First, We Give of Ourselves: Giving in Gratitude

Bible Study: A Heart of Gratitude

‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~ Luke 12:32-34

Where is your heart and how do you consider all that you have been given in life, your materials goods, talents, spiritual gifts, time, family, church, and so much more? Is your heart one of gratitude? Is your heart one that takes life for granted? Is your heart one that is consumed with wanting more? This tension is all too present in our lives and impacts how we consider what we have, how we share gifts, and what we give to God.

Jesus helps us consider God’s blessings and how we live our lives in the context of God’s blessings. A heart of gratitude reflects God at the center of our lives and the one who continues to give, bringing grace  and life through the crucified and risen Christ. A heart of gratitude acknowledges and celebrates in thanksgiving this important truth of our lives and giving.

  • What do you think are some characteristics of “a heart of gratitude”?
  • How would a heart of gratitude help you to work through the pressures of materialism and consumerism that are daily around us?
  • What are ways that we could do better in saying “thank you” to God and to others for blessings received?
  • How has a heart of gratitude moved you to share gifts in thanksgiving to God and for ministry this week?

To encourage us to think about the daily gifts in our lives, we have sent to your homes a Gratitude Calendar. I hope that you will take time to do the 31 days challenge this October of daily thanking God for the gifts you have been given.  Here’s a link if you didn’t receive the calendar. 

Join us this month as we grow and give of ourselves in gratitude.

In Abundance Gratitude for you!

Pr. Cathy

Wednesday Words, September 20, 2017

Pastor Paul Cannon

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?

Or are you envious because I am generous?'”

Matthew 20:15

When I read the Gospel on Sunday, you should get a little angry.  Really!  You should!  If you are paying attention and listening to the story you will realize the injustice that takes place in Jesus’ parable of the landowner.  Let me summarize it for you:

A landowner hires laborers at the beginning of the day, middle of the day and towards the end of the work day.  When the laborers finish their work, the landowner pays the ones who did not work a full day, a full-days wages.  The laborers who were there all day expect to get paid more for being there the full day, but the landowner pays them their normal wages

Did you catch that?  Everybody got paid the same even though not everybody worked the same amount.  You should be outraged!  They were outraged.  We can unequivocally state that what the landowner did was unjust to the workers who toiled from dawn to dusk.

It was NOT FAIR … But then again, neither is grace. 

Let me say this as plainly as I can: Grace is not fair.  Maybe you’ve never thought about it in those terms, but it’s true!  God’s grace favors the newcomers.  The laborers who started work at 5pm were given the same wages as those who worked all day. A convict who finds faith in prison at the age of 80 receives the same grace as a lifelong, cradle Christian (like many of you!).

God’s system of grace flies in the face of every political, legal and economic system ever created by humankind.  The world couldn’t operate on grace!  Can you imagine a business paying its employees in this manner? Who would ever show up to work on time?

Yet grace works this way because God’s love is something that cannot be earned.  Does a baby earn the love of its parents? Can it buy it?  Can it achieve it? Of course not!  Love is cannot be earned, bought, or achieved.  Love can only be given.

And it is given freely to us all.  For this we say,

Thanks be to God!

Posts