She Put in Her Two Cents

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Our April lesson in our series “Save the Drama for Your Mama” was on the widow’s mite in Mark 12:41-44. One thing I’ve noticed, and am guilty of myself, is people have money for what they deem important.

In Mark 12:41 we are told that “Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury:” This tells me that Christ sees our giving. He sees everything. Nothing escapes him. The verse goes on to say “and many that were rich cast in much.” That’s great, right? If you have it, you should give. And you should give abundantly. Verse 42 states “And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.” That would have been the smallest denomination in use at that time. Maybe equal to our pennies. But many commentators believe it was all she had to live on for that day. Can you imagine? Giving your entire salary for one day? Notice it was a widow. She had no husband, no one else to contribute to the family finances.

In verse 43, Jesus calls his disciples over: “Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury.” I wonder what the disciples must have thought. “Really? You do realize she only put in two mites.” “Come on! Didn’t you see that guy just put in $100!” “What do you mean ALL? You mean to tell us her two mites were greater than all the other offerings put together?!” Sometimes the disciples were a little slow (much like we are.)

Jesus goes on to explain in verse 44. “For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” God does not see the gift as much as He sees the giver. William Barclay said, “The amount of the gift never matters so much as its cost to the giver, not the size of the gift, but the sacrifice.” “When it comes to our giving, God sees more than the portion: he also sees the proportion. Men see what is given, but God sees what is left and by that he measures the gift and the condition of our hearts.” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Courageous)

I’m not talking about tithing here. I think that is a totally different subject. We’re talking about giving above the tithe. (And to be honest, do we have to wait for a special offering at church to help those in need?) Our church ladies have been known to honor ministry wives with a special offering. This is above the tithe. This is something they do from their hearts. My husband has no idea who gives what, nor should he know. But God does. Like I told our ladies, if you tell your friend you can’t participate in a special offering all the while you are on your latest smartphone driving to a salon to get a pedicure with a large Starbucks drink in hand, I would say your priorities are out of order. Smartphones, pedicures, and Starbucks are not evil. (I enjoy all 3) But if we indulge in those things, and neglect the ministry, something is askew.

I looked up what people spend their money on. Let me preface by saying these things in and of themselves are not bad.

  • Cell phones: 90% of Americans have one. 58% have smartphones.
  • Starbucks: (this hits home) though I couldn’t find an exact amount for this specific company, I did find that the average American spends $1,000/year on coffee. (yes, sadly, I am among this statistic. Though I’m sure my spending isn’t nearly that high.)
  • Pets: Americans spent $56 billion on pets last year alone.
  • Movies: (going to the theater) 2012 reported $10.84 billion on ticket sales
  • Entertainment: (buying movies, music, concerts, etc.) projected to reach $597 billion by the year 2016.

C.S. Lewis, in his book “Mere Christianity”, says, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc. is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our charitable expenditures excludes them.” When is the last time you gave to a special offering, helped someone in need, or bought a struggling single parent some groceries?

In II Corinthians 8:1-5 the Bible tells us of a church that “…in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” They gave as though they were rich. They didn’t complain about their husband’s income, their small house, their old car, (yes, I know there were no cars in the Bible. I’m sure they didn’t complain about their old donkeys either.) ūüôā or the meager provisions in the kitchen cabinet. According to verse 5, they “…first gave their own selves to the Lord…” They were fully surrendered to the Lord. “When we give ourselves to the Lord, we then give Him all we have, to be called for and disposed of according to His will. Whatever we use or lay out for God, it is only giving to Him what is His own.” (Matthew Henry) I’m not sure why we act like what we have is ours to keep. We should be giving back to the One who gave to us first.

We really should be careful in our complaining about our financial situations. I think we need to look at other situations and say, “Thank you, Lord. My situation could be so much worse.” Not to make ourselves feel superior, but to concentrate on God’s goodness and blessings. Out of that gratitude we should give, and give liberally.

Captain Levy, a believer from Philadelphia, was once asked how he could give so much to the Lord’s work and still possess great wealth. The Captain replied, “Oh, as I shovel it out, He shovels it in, and the Lord has a bigger shovel.”

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Sarah and Her Serious Slip in Sagacity

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(This lesson is from our March lesson in “Save the Drama for Your Mama.”)

I like Sarah. I think we can all relate to her. She does things right (like following her husband even when he had NO idea where they were going), but she also makes mistakes (and some doozies at that!)

In Genesis 12, God promised Abram an heir. At this point Abram was 75 and Sarah 65. Can you imagine? Giving birth to your first child at 65? (I thought 39 was bad.) Well, Sarah didn’t have the child at 65. Even though the promise was made, God was not going to fulfill his promise right then.

Fast forward 11 years. Sarah got tired of waiting. Isn’t that like most of us? We live in a society of instant gratification: TV dinners, microwaves, video on demand, ebooks, shopping online. We don’t like to wait. And neither did Sarah. So she took matters into her own hands. As was the custom of the day (just because it was “popular” doesn’t make it right), a barren wife could offer her servant as a substitute. As a result, the child born of the union between the husband and servant became a legal heir. So Sarah decided to help God along. She sent her servant Hagar unto Abram. By the way, getting ahead of God brings disastrous results. Spiritual ends are never achieved through carnal means.

Well, Hagar conceived and Sarah became despised in her eyes (Genesis 16:4). It’s another situation like Hannah and Peninnah¬† (I Samuel 1). Now Sarah is feeling the weight of such a decision. So she goes to Abram and apologizes and accepts full responsibility, right? Unfortunately, no. Here is Sarah’s dramatic¬†response to Abram. Genesis 16:5 states, “And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee:” Really?!?!?!?! What did Sarah expect? Sarah came up with the idea and she’s blaming Abraham for the result?¬† And in my head I picture Sarah all angry, bawling, boohooing, getting all dramatic. Wow. But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say “I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes.” So now she’s whining. That’s how it plays out in my head. She’s angry she’s yelling, but now she’s resorting to self-pity. “She doesn’t like me anymore. I’m being mistreated. It’s not fair.” Oh my word. Drama at its finest. Abram told Sarah to “do to her as it pleaseth thee” and the Bible says “Sarai dealt hardly with her.” In other words, she was harsh. Maybe she made her work longer hours, maybe she gave her the harder jobs, maybe she was just down right mean.

Fast forward fourteen more years. Wow. 25 years from the time the heir was promised. Twenty five years is a long time to wait, but you’ll never go wrong waiting on the Lord. In Genesis 18, Abraham is promised a son. Sarah overheard this and laughed within herself. I can so relate to this. When I found out I was expecting, for the first time,¬†after 15 years of infertility, and at the ripe old age of 39, all I could do was laugh. I couldn’t even get the words out to my husband because all I could do was laugh. So I can understand Sarah here. She was, as the Bible states, “old and well-stricken in age;” Okay, that’s an understatement. She was 89. 89!!! And she was going to give birth? For the first time? Yep. See, God sometimes uses things in our lives so we can’t claim the credit. He does things so we will point to Him and say, “Only God could do this.” And so Isaac, the promised seed, was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90.¬†(Genesis 21) End of story, right? Everyone got what they wanted and lived happily ever after. Not quite. No where in the Bible do I find Sarah dealt with¬†her grievous error or made things right. And that’s going to be evident in the next series of events.

In Genesis 21:8, we see Abraham made a great feast the day Isaac was weaned. I don’t know how old Isaac was at this point, but I can’t imagine him being younger than 2. That would make Ishmael (the son of Abraham and Hagar) about 16. At this feast, Sarah sees Ishmael mocking. Now, I have three girls, 7, 2, and 4 months and I already see the wheels turning in their not-so-innocent little heads. The two older ones are already finding ways to torment each other. It’s what they do. I don’t know just what Ishmael did, but it could have been nothing more than sibling stuff. But Sarah’s reaction is to have Hagar and the boy banished. Does anyone see that Sarah has been holding on to some jealousy and bitterness?¬†I think she overreacted¬†here. But I think holding on to all that anger and bitterness clouded her judgment. She rushed into a decision to banish¬†Hagar and not allow Ishmael to be heir with Isaac and the whole world has been paying for it since. God made nations out of both boys. Isaac the father of the Israelites and Ishmael the father of the Arab race. And the tensions are still very real today.

The consequences to our actions are often long-lasting and far-reaching. Look how Sarah’s decision to “help God out” has had an effect on our world today. Not only did she make some wrong decisions, she had the wrong attitude and held onto anger and bitterness. I’ve wondered¬†many times how relations in the¬†Middle East would be¬†different had Sarah¬†waited on God or had she not reacted out of anger. ¬†Remember, getting ahead of God brings disastrous results. We need to remember to wait on God, and have the right attitude while waiting.

Rahab’s Reconciliation

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I think my favorite lesson in the series “Save the Drama for Your Mama” is the lesson on Rahab. Oh my, what a fabulous story.¬† Some women limit themselves, or maybe I should say, they limit God, because of poor choices in the past. If anyone had a rough past, it would have to be Rahab.

According to Joshua 2, Rahab was a harlot. Now there are those who say that she was nothing more than an innkeeper. But as I studied the word, harlot in Joshua 2 comes from the Hebrew word porne, which is the feminine form of pornos. It’s pretty obvious what English word we get from that: pornography. So I think when the Bible says harlot, it means harlot. John MacArthur, in his book “Twelve Extraordinary Women,” says, “Remove the stigma of sin, and you remove the need for grace.” If Rahab was just an innkeeper, then this story lacks significance.

So here’s the story. Joshua, the leader of the nation of Israel, sent two spies into Jericho to spy out the land. They went¬†and lodged at Rahab’s house. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because in her profession, discretion was key. Maybe it was because people wouldn’t think twice about¬†strange men going to her house. But I do believe this was all in God’s plan. In the mean time, the king found out there were spies and sent soldiers to check it out. Rahab hid the 2 spies and told the soldiers they had left the city, but if they hurried, they could catch up.

Once the soldiers leave, Rahab went to talk to the two Israelite spies. She told them that the reputation of the nation of Israel preceded them “all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you” (Joshua 2:9) and “as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you;” (Joshua 2:11) Then Rahab, the harlot, says something unexpected, “for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord,” (Joshua 2:11b-12a).¬†This was a turning point for Rahab. She acknowledges who God is and puts her trust in Him. She would not have asked the spies to swear by the Lord if she did not believe. (Notice she said the Lord and not your Lord.)

She then made provisions for the safety of her family. (Shouldn’t we also want to see our family members trust Christ?) It was decided that at the time appointed, she must have the scarlet thread in her window (to signify which house was hers) and her family members must be in her house. She let the spies¬†down the wall and gave them instructions for their safety.¬† In Joshua 6, we read of the Israelites marching around Jericho, blowing the trumpets, and shouting and the walls falling down FLAT! (verse 20) Joshua made sure Rahab and her family were spared and she then dwelt in Israel (Joshua 6:25)

Here’s my favorite part of the story. Rahab is mentioned in the New Testament. In James 2 where he is teaching on faith and works, in Hebrews 11, where Rahab is listed among the “giants” of the faith and in Matthew 1:5. “Salmon begat Booz of Rachab (Boaz of Rahab); Booz begat Obed of Ruth; Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king;” Rahab, the harlot, is included in the geneology of King David! BUT, if you continue to read the chapter, she is also in the geneology of Christ! Amazing! A woman who could have used her past as an excuse, a woman who most of society would have cast aside, was used in the lineage of the Saviour of the world.

Too many times we make excuses. Too many times we say God can’t love us or use us because of our past. Rahab could have told the spies, “nice story, but it’s not for me.” “you don’t know what I’ve done.” “God couldn’t love someone like me.” “If you only knew the choices I’ve made.” But it’s not about us. It’s about an amazing, forgiving, loving God.

“It doesn’t matter who you are.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.

Jesus is softly calling.

But because of who He is

And because of where He’s been

Because of what He’s done

You can start all over again.”

(“It Doesn’t Matter” by T. D. Jakes)

Do I have to do everything?

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One of our lessons was on Mary and Martha in Luke 10. I soooo relate to Martha. I can be busy with the best of them. Clean the church, teach Jr. Church, work in nursery, participate in music ministry, and why isn’t she pulling her weight, doesn’t he see all that I do, etc…

I do believe Martha was blessed with the gift of hospitality. Can you imagine at least 12 people showing up at your door? No advanced warning, no text, no cell phone call to announce their coming? And then you feed them? Without a cake mix, a microwave, or frozen anything? And yet no where does the Bible say Martha griped that these men showed up or that she was burdened with feeding them. She DID, however, complain that Mary was not helping.

Here’s the scenario as it plays in my head: The men come in, everyone is cordial, and Martha sets to work. Mary, however, sits at the feet of Jesus. I think as time goes on Martha probably sighs heavily from time to time, bangs a pot around or slams a door trying to get Mary’s attention. When that doesn’t get her attention, Martha turns to good old-fashioned whining. Why do I see that in my head? Because I’m sure I’ve done that myself, once or twice. (HA!)

The Bible says Martha was “cumbered about much serving.” (Luke 10:40) She was distracted with all that she had to do. Matthew Henry says, “Whatever cares the providence of God casts upon us, we must not be cumbered with them, nor be disquieted and perplexed by them. Care is good and duty; cumber is sin and folly.” ¬†See, service is good. Service is necessary. (Can you imagine coming to church where no one had cleaned the toilets for months? Or maybe¬†trying to put¬†your children in the nursery and no one is there, or the nursery lady is grumpy?) But it should not distract us from the bigger picture-developing a personal relationship with Christ. Then Martha went to¬†Jesus and told him to make Mary work (Luke 10:40). Basically, “YOU tell her to help me, she won’t listen to me! I’m doing this all by myself and all she is doing is sitting there! Don’t you see how hard I’m working?!” (Sound familiar? Have you ever complained about how much YOU are doing? Or asking for recognition for all the work YOU have done?) I love Christ’s response, “Martha, Martha,…” (Luke 10:41) Again, I picture this in my head. Christ looks at her, almost with pity, and shakes his head from side to side. “…thou art careful and troubled about many things.” She was doing too much. She was doing more than was necessary and it was distracting her from the most important thing, the “one thing¬†is needful.” (verse 42) “To give up herself to the guidance¬†of Christ, and receive the law from His mouth.” (Matthew Henry)¬†Jesus called that the “good part.” Mary chose to be¬†with Christ, a better way of honoring or pleasing Him. She chose that personal relationship instead of the busyness of service.

Again, service is needful. The work of the church could not get done without it. The Bible calls it “your work and labour of love.” (Hebrews¬†6:10) But it is easy to get so wrapped up in our ministries, that we forget¬†to have that personal relationship with¬†Christ. Good works should¬†be a by-product of a Christ-centered life, they¬†do not produce a Christ-centered life.¬†So, are you a Mary or Martha?

Save the Drama for Your Mama

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drama masksThis year our theme for Ladies TEA has been “Save the Drama for Your Mama.” It is a biblical study of ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. There is no book for it, at least not that I know of, I just made up the lessons each month. I hope the church ladies have enjoyed studying these women as much as I have.

I am not a very compassionate person when it comes to whiny women. (Whiny men fall under the category of whiny women.)¬† I get tired of hearing excuse after excuse: “I’m just so busy.” “I can’t do that,¬†it will stress me¬†out.” “What will people say?” ¬†“You don’t know what I’ve been through.” “I can’t be on time, I have children.” As a friend of mine says, “Put on your big girl panties and get over it.” So it got me to thinking about women of the Bible. Just about any drama you can think of, these women cover it.¬†Over the next week, I’ll be posting a synopsis of the first few lessons. The truth is, God is able to do extraordinary things with us if we just follow Him.