"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
August 2, 2017
The past couple of months it has felt as if it's been one thing after another! Unexpected, unplanned things that Jon and I have had to deal with. There have been days when we've thought, "Good grief! What now?!" The truth is, everyone has gone through those seasons of hardness, which is no fun.
I've been wanting the flooring replaced in our kitchen and dining room for the past twelve years; essentially ever since Jon and I got married and moved into this house. The dining room has a type of indoor/outdoor carpeting that is stained and worn. The kitchen has linoleum that is scuffed and doesn't look clean, no matter how often I mop. Truthfully, one reason we have delayed replacing the flooring is because we had tossed around the idea of remodeling the kitchen and thought perhaps we would wait until we did that, but that may or may not ever happen.
For our anniversary each year we buy something together, so this year our plan was to replace the kitchen and dining room flooring. Finally!! I was so excited!! We researched and brought home 5-6 samples. We picked out what we wanted, and the time was nearing that I was finally going to get my new flooring. My patience in waiting for this was finally coming to an end; or so I thought!
We then noticed that one of the huge pecan trees in our backyard, which had been damaged many years ago, was going to need to be taken out soon. Jon was able to poke a stick into the hole in the bottom of the tree several inches, which indicates that the inside of the tree is rotted out. We had a couple of pecans taken out 2-3 years ago and discovered that due to the size of our trees most tree removal companies don't have the right equipment, because it has to be done with a crane, due electrical wires around the perimeter of our yard and how tall our trees are. Of course, that adds to the expense of having the tree removed. We need to get this taken care of soon, because we don't want the tree to fall and take out electrical lines or cause possible harm to our neighbors yards or take out our shed.
Then a few days prior to our anniversary our washing machine tore up. We had bought it the first year that we were married, so it was about twelve years old. We had replaced our dryer a year or two ago. Instead of new flooring, I got a new washing machine for our anniversary.
Our pastor recently did an awesome teaching about sowing seed and reaping a harvest; and this is something that God has continued using her to encourage the church to do. She initially used the verses from Malachi 3:10, which is a promise: "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,' says the Lord, of Heaven's Armies, 'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!'"
Jon and I have always been regular tithers, but have started giving an offering (sowing a seed) each week, in addition to our tithe. We are giving because of God's promise of opening the windows of heaven for us and pouring out a blessing so great that we won't have room to take it in!! He promised, we believe His Word, and act out of obedience. We desire all that God has said is ours!
What happened the two weeks after we began doing this was not anything like we had envisioned!
The first week after we began giving an additional offering, we were headed to church that Thursday evening for prayer when our car air conditioner started blowing out hot air; unless we were driving over 60 mph, then it would blow cool. When we took the car in to be repaired, the compressor had gone out, so we had to get that replaced.
A couple of months prior to this, a rock had hit the front windshield of our car and cracked it. Over the following weeks, the crack kept growing longer and branching off into different directions. With the summer heat, the crack kept getting bigger and bigger, so we decided that we needed to bite the bullet and go ahead and have it replaced. So we did that a couple days after getting our car back from having the air conditioning repaired.
The following Monday, I had gone online to our bank and was balancing our checkbook. I pay most of our bills online, so write very few checks. When I pulled up our account that evening, I saw that a check, which I had just written the week before, had cleared for the wrong amount. When I clicked on the check to pull up a copy of it, I realized that it had been altered. I had put the check in our mailbox on Friday morning, and it had been cashed that same evening. The payee's name had been washed (which is apparently easy to do, if you are dishonest) and a new name written in. The amount had been changed from $125 to $925.
I spent the next couple days going to the police department and filing a report, as well as going to our bank to report the check and taking the necessary steps to get our money back. An affidavit had to be filled out and signed, a fraud report filled out; and for security we had to close our current checking account and open up a new one, in case the person had copied our account number and information. After a week, the bank still hasn't returned the money into our account; but hopefully, that will happen soon. Thank God for a savings account, so we can pay our bills and not be overdrawn!
Needless to say, the new flooring is on hold for an indeterminable length of time!
So, does our experiences these past few weeks void the promise of an open heaven, when we are obedient in giving our tithes and offerings? Are some blessed when they obey, and some not? Is this promise of God pouring out a blessing, that will be so great that we can't take it all in, irrelevant for us today?
I believe that those same promises that God promised back in Malachi is as much for us today as it was for the people back then. I also believe that sometimes when we commit to obeying the Word of God and are striving to deepen our relationship with God, Satan will come to try and bring discouragement and distractions. If he can get our focus on our problems and off from God, then he has accomplished what he has set out to do. Perhaps there may even be times when God will allow trials and temptations, in order to test us and see how committed we really are and if what we have promised Him is from our heart and we are determined to hold fast to our vows, or if we are just speaking words or trying to bargain with Him to get something that we want.
Here's the testimony! Yes, we have had a lot of extra, unexpected expenses these past several weeks, but we have always had the money to pay for whatever we were in need of at the time. We haven't had to borrow or do without. We had the money in savings to cover our bills, while we were waiting for the return of the stolen funds. So yes, God has provided for all that we have had need of. We have also had an overwhelming peace in our heart that everything is going to be okay. I admit, I was a tad stressed when having to go fill out reports with the police department and bank regarding the stolen check, but overall, I've not worried or fretted about all these things that have happened. I know that God provided our finances, through Jon's job, and He's going to continue providing for us and is going to take good care of us. He asks that we be good stewards of what He has blessed us with, and I believe that He is going to restore all that has been taken from us. He's just that good!!
Many times people mistakingly read this scripture and believe that it means that God is going to fill their bank account full of money and that they are going to become rich and never have to work again, or that they'll have everything they've ever wanted; and God has the means in which to do that, if that is what He chooses to do. But I also believe that God knows how much we can handle, and if we'll be good stewards should He choose to bless us with an abundance. The truth is, the storehouse of God is filled with much more than just money. I believe that when God opens the windows of heaven to pour out His promised blessing upon us, He's not only talking about finances; although He does provide financially and often will multiply our money, so that we can sow more seeds into His Kingdom and bless others, as well as be blessed ourself. I do believe that God is our provider, which includes financial blessing. Our Heavenly Father isn't a pauper, and as His children, He doesn't want us living with a pauper mentality. That's not humility; that's living below the spiritual realm in which our Father wants to bless us. But, I also believe that this means that He will bless us with healthy bodies, minds, souls, and spirits. God will bless us with homes, and vehicles that are dependable, and food on our table. We will be blessed with a strong bond of family and friends.
I also believe, (I don't only believe, I KNOW this) that God will open the windows of heaven and pour out spiritual blessings upon us, when we are obedient in the giving of our tithe and offering; blessings that will overwhelm us and be greater than anything we could ever imagine. Oh my, I want that much more than I want material blessings!
I want to live under an open heaven! I want to experience all that God has for me and live in His presence at all times; not just when I'm sitting in church. I refuse to be distracted by problems and issues and repairs and stolen checks; but choose to keep my eyes on God. There is nothing that I can do to fix anything by worrying or fretting; all that does is leave me stressed and weary.
Fleshly emotions and mindsets leaves us feeling spiritually weak and hopeless. Stress affects our health in so many different ways. But complete trust in God and clinging to Him, while keeping our eyes steadfastly focused upon Him, will strengthen us and cause us to be filled with faith and complete peace. Worry and faith can't co-exist; neither can fear and peace. We can't say that we completely trust God in all situations, then stress and fret over the outcome.
We also can't expect to reap a harvest of blessing if we aren't willing to sow seeds. People get defensive and uncomfortable when the pastor of a church or other believers begin mentioning giving. They feel like giving should be something private and nobody's business, or that money should never be mentioned or talked about in regards to the church. Really?!? You can't pick and choose which scriptures in the Bible can be believed and talked about, and which ones are taboo. There are scriptures that very clearly and plainly speak about giving and tithing; throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The truth is, churches have expenses and can't function without financial support. But it is much deeper than that! As individuals, we can't receive the promised blessings of God, unless we are willing to cheerfully give of the seed that God has given to us for the purpose of sowing and reaping. Period! We may have money in the bank and get by or live comfortably, but we're never going to reap the fulfillment of greater blessings that God wants to give each of us. We're going to limit what God can do, if we're not fully obeying His Word. We are capable of stifling what God is desiring to bless us with.
2 Corinthians 9:6-12 says, "Remember this -- a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your how 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 says: 'They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.' For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will provide a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving -- the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God."
If a farmer has a bag of seeds, but keeps it in the barn, will he ever reap a crop? Will that seed multiply by being left in the bag and not ever being sown? He has to go out and sow the seed and water it and care for it in order to grow a crop and see the seed come to fruition. If he only plants a handful of seed from time to time, he can't expect to go out at harvest time and have his entire field full of crops. He has to sow what has been entrusted to him, then at harvest time will have crops to eat and sell, as well as more seed to sow. A farmer can't live in fear that if he sows his seed, then he will use it all up and won't have his needs met and be left with nothing. He has to have faith that when he sows all of his seeds, a harvest will come and his needs will be met and he will have more seed to sow.... over and over again.
It is that exact same principle with us!
If you want to be abundantly blessed and have the windows of Heaven open in your life, the above verses, as well as the verses that I quoted from Malachi, tell you how that happens. Do you want God to generously provide, so that you always have everything you need with plenty left over? Then you have to sow the seed that God has given to you. You can't hold onto it, thinking that you need it more than God does. God can't bless something that we won't let go of.
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of the talents. A man going on a long trip called his servants together and gave one of them five bags of silver, two bags to another, and one bag of silver to the last servant. The servants were entrusted with caring for what their master had given to them. The first one invested the money and double the "seed" that was given to him to oversee. The second went to work and doubled what was given to him. But the last one dug a hole and hid what had been entrusted to him.
When the three servants were called before their master to give account of how they had cared for his money, the two servants who had been good stewards were praised and given more responsibility. But the last servant was reprimanded and what had been given to him was taken away and given to the others.
God has entrusted seeds to each of us. We can give generously and plant what He has given to us and be blessed with more, or we can hide/keep what He has given to us and have it taken away. I've heard people justify not tithing by saying that they need the money for their own needs; but is that truly trusting God to be your provider, if you live in disobedience in not giving as He has commanded? Others say, "I will give, when I have more to give." If someone can't let go and obey God with a little, they're not going to be able to let go when they have much. They will always find some other uses for their finances and find reasons why they shouldn't give tithe and offerings. God is not going to trust us with a lot, until He sees that we will be good stewards of a little. Others think they've done their duty in giving by throwing a little money in the offering plate each week, but not really tithing. God desires us to trust Him with our money, just as we trust Him with our heart. He will accept our leftovers, but would rather have our best.
In the Old Testament, the people were commanded to bring their best to the temple to offer as a sacrifice unto God. They couldn't bring the runt of the litter or what they didn't want themselves; but they were commanded to bring their first fruits -- their very best -- to offer as a sacrifice unto the Lord. Instead of bringing our best to the Lord, our first fruits, many want to give God the leftovers.... after they pay their bills, buy groceries, put some in savings, keep a little on hand for eating out..... then if there is some leftover, they'll give it to God. Perhaps it's sometimes a heart issue; we stubbornly resist obeying in this area, because money means more to us than we'd like to admit. We depend more on having finances in the bank than in God being our provider. What He's really asking for and desiring is our best -- our first fruits -- then trust Him to take care of everything else.
If you are uncomfortable about this subject, is it because you aren't living in obedience to the scriptures and are trying to justify your actions? The scriptures are clear: give cheerfully of your tithe and offerings, and you will reap a harvest of blessing! God will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing upon you that will be much bigger than you can even contain. Give generously and you will reap a generous crop. God will enriched you in every way so that you can always be generous. You will have plenty for your needs, with enough leftover to share with others. That's not the words or beliefs of Loretta; that is God's promise -- His words!! I want to live a blessed life where the windows of heaven are continuously opened above me, believing the scriptures and promises that God has given to me!! That is what God desires for us all.
Back in the 80s, it seemed like we heard of one "charity" after another, where most of the money was taken, misused, or just plain stolen. And we still see some enormous churches that seem richer beyond anything they need. So, it's easy to see how many people, even Christians, and even pastors feel uncomfortable when anyone tries to insist on tithing or more giving.
But, the Bible tells us to tithe, and be generous. It doesn't say we need to wait till we find a worthy charity or church. It doesn't even say we should pick and choose who we give to. If you give it to someone who misuses it, that's on them, not on you.
Still, if you just can't feel right about giving to one church or charity, find another. You can always ask your pastor for a recommendation. If they have more than they need, they will surely be happy to suggest a church that needs it.
Maybe a church that serves the deaf, and needs money to finish building its church after 2 years...
Cream Cheese Dip
(So easy, but so good! One of my favorite dips!)
5 packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 lb. Sausage
1 can Rotel (original)
Brown the sausage; drain. Add all ingredients to a crockpot and heat until the cream cheese is melted to a good consistency. It needs stirred occasionally while melting to ensure ingredients are sufficiently blended together and that the cream cheese melts in a timely manner. Great dip with tortilla chips!
People often talk about the "baby of the family" as being the one who gets away with more than the older ones and is spoiled rotten. Jon and I are both the youngest sibling in our families, so I would like to tell how it is from our point of view.
Jon tells how his older brother used to tie him up to see how long it would take him to get lose. I'm not sure that was the real reason, or if it was to keep Jon out of his hair for a while. On one occasion, Ken tied Jon's hands together then put the rope through his belt loops and tied him to a chair and set him in a closet. Jon was very skinny and limber when he was a child. He was able to get his hands untied, but couldn't get the knot lose that had his pants tied to the chair, but was able to shimmy out of his pants and get out of the closet. Another time, Ken put Jon in a dresser drawer then closed it. Jon was able to open the drawers above him and stand up behind them. When Ken came back, he was puzzled why the drawers were open. Not realizing that Jon was standing up behind them, he closed the top one!
I remember the time my parents had to go somewhere right after supper, and my sisters and I were still eating. I was sitting on the back side of the table in the corner. My older sisters told me that I couldn't get up from the table until I took a drink of buttermilk, which none of us liked except my parents. I was trying to climb under the table and over the table and everything I could think of to get away, but they had me blocked in. Several times, one of my sisters locked me outside and wouldn't let me back into the house. Yet another time, my sisters sat me up on the headboard of their bed, which was about six inches wide, and wouldn't let me get down. Their weapon for keeping me up there was a fly swatter, which they threatened to use if I didn't stay up there. They always thought they were funny, but I seldom saw the humor in these type of situations. Of course, they never did these things if my mom was around because she would make them stop.
Nothing our siblings did ever hurt us, and these are fun memories to have...now that we are older!
Don't devalue the season you're in.
The reason you are not in the next season yet is because God has more for you to learn in your current season. Trust Him to come through for you! - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon