Spiritual secrets for the initiated – what does God love?

Warning:  Paying attention to this posting could radically change your life!


Recent events at SPCC, particularly the most recent membership meeting, have been percolating in my spirit.  First of all, what an amazing meeting!  Thank you pastor Vince for the powerful, practical, personal word that the Lord brought through you to us.  What  great way to begin.  Thank you to our board for your commitment to fast and seek the Lord for His wisdom – it is abundantly evident that He is honoring your hearts of submission.  Thank you, members, for recognizing the leading of the Holy Spirit through those who we have selected to do the administrative work, in spite of personal hesitations or questions.  What a joy to close in corporate thanksgiving to our God for His tremendous love for us that He would allow us to participate in His plan and purpose.  It is becoming evident that if we continue to work without a net, allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, seeking the wisdom of God over the world’s wisdom or our personal experience, there will be no limit to what God will do in and through us.  It will be a new thing – the likes of which we have never seen.  


Our God is limitless!  He is the God of wonders.  His desire is for signs, miracles and wonders to follow all of us who believe, to His glory and the expansion of His Kingdom!  Our God is a God of generosity and abundance.  My vision for my brothers and sisters in Christ – especially those of the household at SPCC – is that we would all be fountains through which our incredibly generous God could pour out blessings on the world around us.  He has done it with our family, and I have to say, it is a fun and exciting way to live!  There is truly no greater thrill than to give generously, “stupidly abundantly” (to use the words of a wonderful woman I was privileged to meet on Saturday.)  If this speaks to a desire of your heart, read on.


Before you continue reading this entry, please determine that you will not allow the devil to raise your hackles at my use of the word “tithe”.  We have been robbed by that liar long enough.  There is nothing legalistic about what I am going to share.  If you aren’t ready or able to believe or accept it right now, God bless you, I love you, I was you.  The following word will plant a seed for some and blow the lid off for others.    If you want details ask me or ask Ray – we’d love to tell you all about our journey to this point.  For brevity’s sake I’ll summarize.  In 1982 we decided to follow Jesus.  We established that His will could be found in His Word.  We began to search that Word for how to live.  When the Holy Spirit would illuminate something for us or convict us of something we would make our priority to change our thinking and actions to line up with that thing.  (Some change came quickly, other change took a little longer.)  Around 1988, the Spirit began to speak to us specifically about giving.  We had a baby and a two year old.  I had “retired” from a job in the oil industry to stay home and raise our kids in the will of God.  Ray was paying child support for three children from his first marriage.  We were sinking deeper in debt, trying to make ends meet.  We had been praying faithfully and fervently for wisdom to change our circumstances.  The Word from the Lord was, “you are tying My hands”.  Now, no sane person wants to do that, so we asked “how are we doing that, Lord?”  He began to illuminate scripture such as Malachi 3:7-12.  He lovingly gave us time to go through the process of II Corinthians 7:9-11.  


We looked at our budget and realized that we could not afford to tithe.  We looked at each other and made the decision to do it anyway.  From then on the first check that was written after each payday was to God – to the church or ministry that we were currently with (after all, you pay where you eat) and/or any other need that He led us to contribute to.  Something supernatural happened – our lives were no longer limited to our budget.  On paper, we should have been getting deeper in debt.  Instead, the opposite was happening!  There was no way to make sense of it.  In fact, at first we had a couple of times that we had a special need and decided to “delay” tithing for a month or two.  Those were always the months that we got into trouble!  We might be hit with something big and unexpected, or a forgotten bill would suddenly come due.  The Holy Spirit in us taught us quickly that 90% with God’s blessing goes exponentially further than 100% without!  (Remember the loaves and fishes?  Our god is a God of multiplication!)  When we learned to repent, accept the consequences and resume tithing, God blessed our obedience in miraculous ways and turned everything back around quickly.    We got to a point that we began to have fun with it – began to push the limits.  We began to pray for revelation to give beyond our comfort zone.  What a kick that is!  (It’s even more fun when God lets you do it anonymously.)  In the 20 years since, our Father God has led us into an understanding of “alms” and “offerings” as well, but that is a topic for another time.  


At the end of 2008 a test of our faithfulness led to another breakthrough.  At that time, Ray’s hourly job hadn’t needed him for over a month, the economic downturn was causing our retirement fund to disappear on paper, and social security was hounding us for several hundred dollars that they claimed to have overpaid us.  We were shaken in the flesh.  What were we going to do?  The Word from the Lord to us was “where is your trust?”.  Well, where was our trust – in our savings?, in our government?, in Ray’s employer?  Put that way, we could only answer, “our trust is in You, Lord.”  That being established, what was our response going to be?  We decided to make 2009 the year that we gave more.  We told the Lord that as far as we were concerned, it was all His.  We had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on our table.  As far as we were concerned we had nothing to complain about.  All we had to do was change our perspective and we could continue to give from a position of abundance, not lack.  As a result of that decision, declaration and subsequent action, fear and its power were broken!  Beloved, talk about opening the windows of heaven!  Since those words left our mouths God has flooded us with blessings for His purposes.           


Now, why has God done this for us?  Because we decided to participate in His economy.  Hear this, beloved, our generous, loving God wants to give through people.  “If God can get it through you, He will get it to you.”  He says so in Luke 6:38.  He wants us to know the joy and the thrill and the fun that He gets from giving.  God invented giving.  He says it’s good.  He gave us the greatest example we could ask for.  “For God so loved the world that He gave…”  What?  Flowers?  A greeting card?  A big “thank you”?  NO!  “…His only begotten Son.”  God gave what He loved and valued most.  He “gave ’til it hurt”, freely, willingly, with a heart full of love and excited anticipation.   


  I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t let you know that there is a catch.  It’s all about our attitude.  Look at II Cor. 9:6-7.  That’s a promise.  God honors His promises.  But take a closer look.  “God loves a cheerful giver”.  Do you know what the Greek word for “cheerful” is?  Hilaros.  Guess what English word we get from that?  Do you know what else?  That verse is the only place in the entire Bible that you will find that word!  (Bible scholars will grasp the significance of that.  Everyone else will have to ask the Holy Spirit – or ask us if He leads you to do that.)  If you are not at the place where this is possible, don’t pray for more money, pray for a greater revelation of the God you serve.  It is through knowing Him and His love for you that your love will grow and your ability to trust in His goodness will grow as well.  Our prayer is that the church of Jesus Christ in the Western world would smash the idol of the bottom line and begin to demonstrate to the world the reality of the economy of God.  If all of God’s children would walk in obedience and give as they are led by the Holy Spirit, every need would be met and the purposes of God would be accomplished, beyond anything we could even ask or think.  What a vision that is!                                                                                                                  


At SPCC God has given us a personal financial miracle.  Our incomparable, limitless, sovereign God has proven Himself to us in order to build – and test – our faith.  What He has done since this summer defies logic and conventional wisdom.  Look at Galatians 3:3.  Having begun in the spirit do we want to return to the flesh?  God will allow us to do this – after all He gave us free will – but let’s not tie His hands like that.  Let’s not limit ourselves to what we are comfortable with, to what makes sense.  Where is the faith in that?  Let us commit to following our God in simple obedience.  He is so loving, He will take us one step at a time, and before we know it we will find ourselves somewhere that we never imagined that we would be!


Practical steps:


Refuse to confess lack.  You are a child of the Most High.  Our God owns everything.  You are His heir.  Psalm 37:25.  


Recognize that money is spiritual.  There is nothing of inherent value in the bills in our wallet.  it is faith that gives them value.  


The love of money is the root of all evil.  Money itself is amoral.   It is simply a tool to accomplish the will of God on earth.


Money does not equal wealth.  Wealth comes from God.  Prosperity is an attitude – it is not dependent on your bank account balance.


Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into an understanding of these things.  Ask the Lord to direct you in a way that you cannot possibly misunderstand, and commit to respond with instant obedience.  If you blow it, repent, get up and keep going.

Shalom and Agape!

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Part 2- "The Hole In Our Gospel": Examples of Sacrifice and Suffering for the American Church

In his last post James (one?? of our college students), challenged our community to suffer for good by giving our time.?? In this post, James challenges us to suffer for good by giving our treasure.

Money. Possessions. Homes. Cars. Food. The list goes on and on. The American Church is full of materially blessed people, in fact we are the wealthiest church in history. Jesus doesn???t call us to live a comfortable lifestyle. We are not called to live the ???American Dream???. Consider this quote from 1800???s preacher Andrew Murray:

???How different our standard is from Christ???s. We ask how much a man gives. He asks how much he keeps.???

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God is blessing us to be a blessing to the world, to those in need. Here???s what I mean: if all American church-goers tithed just 10% of their income, there would be an estimated $168 Billion on top of the currently tithed amount (including charitable giving). It would take about

?????????????????? $65 Billion to tackle worldwide extreme poverty

?????????????????? $6 Billion for universal primary education for children worldwide

?????????????????? $9 Billion to supply fresh water (wells, etc???)

?????????????????? $13 Billion for basic health and nutrition worldwide?? ?????????????? *(figures quoted from The Hole In Our Gospel)*

You get the picture. Read the Lord???s Prayer: ???your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.??? God wants his will done here, not just in the future. He has blessed us to make this happen. We will have to suffer the loss of a comfortable, wealthy lifestyle (the American Dream) to see this happen. It doesn???t matter how much you make, God has blessed you with something (93% of the world doesn???t own a car). I keep asking myself how can I live such a wealthy life on God???s blessing, and ignore the suffering, the starving, the dying ??? who He loves and gave me this blessing to bless others. How can I continue to keep it all to myself?


Part 1- ???The Hole In Our Gospel??? ??? Examples of Sacrifice and Suffering for the American Church

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So today???s (March 28th) talk Vince gave on suffering as the 3rd??function of the cross reminded me of this past summer and what God did (and continues to do) in my heart with regard to suffering for Jesus. Please consider what God has been challenging me with.??

Vince mentioned in his talk something to the effect of ???as North American Christians, we don???t get many opportunities to suffer for Jesus???. I think what Vince might be referring to here is a physical suffering (persecution). I agree this is hard to come by for most of us. What I believe God has been showing me is that this is??not the only way to follow Jesus??? example of suffering??for the good of others.

Last summer God began challenging me with this idea of sacrifice and suffering as a Christian. Specifically, he used a book called "The Hole in Our Gospel"??By Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision. Some of you may have heard of it. The question he asks ???is there more to our faith than just going to church, studying the Bible, and avoiding the most serious sins- does God call us to more than just this??????The answer appears to be yes.

???Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.?????(Luke 9:23-24)??

So, while keeping this idea of daily picking up our cross and following Jesus in mind, I wanted to put forth some practical challenges to present God with a sacrifice of suffering for doing good and ultimately bringing??God???s joy and peace??to our lives through doing so.

Practical Challenge #1 of 3:??Giving our Time

If we want something to happen, we make time for it. Now, I understand that life is busy with work, family, daily chores, etc??? but our time is a valuable thing to waste. It will take a sacrifice on our part as the body of Christ to go and serve and love our neighbors (whether that???s literally in your neighborhood or on the other side of the world). If we cling to our own daily life, and making that as ???good??? as it can possibly be, the world will not see the love of God??demonstrated. All we will do is talk about it. So, we have to sacrifice our time to see the Gospel go into the world, and thus ???suffer??? the loss of an easy carefree life.

???Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.??? ???Well, why don???t you ask Him???? ???????Because I???m afraid He would ask me the same question.????????Anonymous

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To be continued…

Post by: Jim MacDonald

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Holy Week @ St. Paul’s

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We have so many exciting events this Holy Week. Please join us as we remember our Lord’s death and triumphant resurrection!

There is extra child care at some of these events, so be sure to check which ones.  

Remembering the Last Supper: Thur 4/1@ 7pm

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Good Friday: Friday 4/2 @ 7pm (with child care) & 9pm (no child care.)

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Easter: Sunday 4/4 @ 4pm (child care) & 6pm (child care)

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"How to Live through a Bad Day — Part 2" by Vicki Sides

Hi all,


I received this today and it seemed timely to include it, in light of what pastor Vince taught a couple of weeks ago from Corinthians, as well as the things I have been led to blog recently.  The Lord is mightily working through the Holy Spirit to prepare His disciples.  This is His job and He is doing it well.  We would do well to take heed so that we not only respond in the spirit and not the flesh ourselves, but are also equipped to help others do the same.  Standing with you in love and peace.

Pam

Subject: “How to Live through a Bad Day — Part 2” by Vicki Sides

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Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago I wrote a letter about a book written by Jack Hayford titled How to Live through a Bad Day. As I mentioned, when Dale and I were in Birmingham, Alabama recently, we visited the Church of the Highlands where Chris Hodges was teaching a series on this book. The topic has inspired me so much that I want to stir up others to it as well. We are quickly approaching the Passover season when Jesus, on Calvary, experienced His worst days. The point we need to remember is:

Jesus went through His worst days so you can make it through yours.

Bad days happen. You can bet on it. They will come. Yet we can learn from the Master how He lived through His worst days. (By the way, a ???bad day??? is not necessarily 24 hours; it can be a short or extended period of time???a season of stress or difficulty.)

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we???re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed???that exhilarating finish in and with God???he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he???s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. Hebrews 12:2 The Message

This verse exhorts us to study how He did it. What did He do on His worst day? There were seven statements Jesus made while hanging on the cross, and each of them contains a life principle that we can learn from. I shared two of them in my last letter.

Principle #1: Forgive

Father, forgive them, for they don???t know what they are doing. Luke 23:34 New Living Translation (NLT)

Principle #2: Be Compassionate

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, ???So you???re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself???and us, too, while you???re at it!??? But the other criminal protested, ???Don???t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn???t done anything wrong.??? Then he said, ???Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.??? And Jesus replied, ???I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.??? Luke 23:39-43 NLT

Here are the life lessons we learn from these two principles:

??        Forgive those people who are intentionally or unintentionally trying to hurt you or ruin your life.
??        Minister to others who also are struggling rather than being preoccupied in your own pain.

In our previous examination of how Jesus lived through His worst days, we saw that at the height of His own pain and agony, He forgave others and reached out to help them.

Here is the next principle of How to Live through a Bad Day:

Principle #3: Be Aware

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother???s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ???Dear woman, here is your son,??? and to the disciple, ???Here is your mother.??? From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:25???27 New International Version (NIV)

Be sure to take care of those closest to you.

Here you see Jesus in excruciating pain and physical exhaustion, being humiliated and cruelly mocked, bearing the sickness and sin of all mankind. Remember to study how He did it???in the midst of His worst day, He is aware of His mother???s presence and plight. Who???s going to look after Mom? As the oldest son, even in the middle of His agony, He arranges for her care. 

This is today???s lesson of how to live through a bad day???we areto be aware of the people around us and to take care of those closest to us.

This is exactly the opposite of normal human nature when we are under stress. During difficult times, we are usually self-absorbed, self-centered, self-preoccupied???making us oblivious to the needs of others. Anger, frustration, and irritation are the normal human responses to such stress. And who usually bears the brunt of it? Our family, our spouses, our children, and/or ourclosest friends do. Do I hear an ???amen??? out there? On our worst days we do all we can to keep it together at work or in public; but as soon as we get home, we let our guard down.

That???s the worst place to let our guard down! Our home is where we need to keep our guard up the most and put a guard over our mouth.

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 NIV

We all have the tendency to transmit our irritations or trauma to those closest to us. Instead, we need to do what Jesus did and take care of them. Our family and friends should not have to pay the price for our frustrations. They may help to bear our burden,but they shouldn???t have to be dumped on or saddled with it involuntarily.

On Jesus??? ultimate worst day, He was still aware and sensitive to the needs around Him and the people closest to Him. He models for us how we are to respond on our worst days.

As disciples who come to His cross???as those who choose to follow Him???let???s make the words He spoke from that cross our focal points of instruction for our lives.

That???s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people???s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself???all the pain, all the testing???and would be able to help where help was needed. Hebrews 2:17???18 The Message

Jesus has been through the worst of days and now He can coach us through ours. He will help where help is needed. Ask Him. Then watch how He carries you safely through the land mines of your life. Not only will He give you strength, but He will give you the necessary grace.

Remember, He went through His worst days so you can make it
through yours.

Running the race with you,

Vicki Sides