Giving Our First: Excellence

Day 21: 1 Peter 4:10-11

Reading these verses, you might focus on the message that God has given you a spiritual gift and you should use it. This meaningful lesson is absolutely true. Why does this matter?

As I prepared for this devotional, God brought me to the verses in 1 Peter 4:7-8. We are living in the last days before Christ’s return. In those verses, Peter tells us to continually “show deep love for one another."

How do we show deep love for one another? By giving our best in all we do for others. It’s all about using our God-given natural abilities and spiritual gifts; be obedient to His will for you, and he will give you what you need to accomplish His plan and bring him glory.

Give it everything you’ve got. leave nothing in reserve. Give 110 percent in all God has for you to do. When you max out your efforts, then you give glory to God through Jesus Christ who gave you the strength to do so.

God has not given us gifts so we may only use 75 percent of it. Sometimes we put blame on a situation or obstacle being too difficult, taking too much time, being too busy, not feeling like it, or disagreeing with who we have to work with.

Simply put though, our perspective should shift to not view these as viable reasons but rather trials that burn imperfections out of us when we give our best and our all.

What a wonderful privilege to be part of God’s plan and to be used by him to share the good news of Jesus to the world! When you feel led by the Holy Spirit to love others, “do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies” (v11). Use your gifts and watch what God does–because you give it your best. The how is more important than the what.

Ask yourself today: What can I do differently starting right now to use my gifts with all the strength and energy God supplies?

Giving Our First: Others Before Ourselves

Day 20: Luke 16:1-9

“Live Generously” is the fourth core value of Crossing Place Church. Let’s explore the importance of generous living and discover why God’s way of managing money is better than our own.

In this parable, Jesus tells us how the shrewd steward was deceitful in handling his master’s affairs and using his resources for personal gain. Biblical teachings on money show us that money and possessions are good earthly resources when handled properly, but it becomes a problem when we worship the goods rather than God who provides them.

Once we realize that we are merely overseers of what God give us and what we have does not actually belong to us, it becomes easier to put this parable in perspective. It’s all about stewardship.

“Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” - Luke 16:9

Jesus is teaching us to live generously in this life in order to store up treasures in heaven. If we invest our resources into helping others and furthering God’s kingdom, we are creating an eternal legacy. Our earthly treasures only last a moment, but the treasures we store in heaven will last for eternity.

God’s promises in the Word are truth. He promises over and over to bless the ones who live generously and think of others before themselves. When we live His way, we not only store treasures in heaven, but we can live with confidence knowing that He will supply all of our needs.

Giving Our First: Our Talents

Day 19: Romans 12:6-8

Do you ever wonder why you are here? What your specific purpose is in our Creator’s grand design? God has graciously given each of us a very special gift to use in serving others.

Though we may share the same talents as others, God made each of us uniquely to serve Him and live out our purpose for the kingdom of God. Like our bodies, we need all vital organs to work together to survive. In the same way, we all play a vital role in the body of Christ.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, giver generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. - Romans 12:6-8

We should strive to put God first in everything we do. Though we don’t deserve his grace, He deserves all of our time and effort. Regardless which gift God has given to us, we should use it to serve wholeheartedly and for the right purpose.

This doesn’t mean that it will come easily. We must work hard and keep the bigger picture in mind in times where it might go fuzzy. Perspective is key.

God never intended for us to bury our gifts and simply wait for His return. He wants us to use the time that we have on this earth wisely. I challenge you to use your gift to serve someone today! You would be surprised at how much joy it can bring.

Ask yourself today: Am I actively using my God-given talents in a productive capacity?

Giving Our First: Our Time

Day 18: Ephesians 5:15-20

As unique individuals, God created us all different.  However, there is one area in our lives that we are all the same.  We all have been given the same amount of time in a day.  That’s right -- 24 hours.

Let’s be honest. Our society has become so fast-paced. Do you ever feel God “short-changed” you on your time?

Within tithing, God asks us to give Him back a small portion of our money to further His kingdom. Honestly, the same concept can apply to our time. 

How often have you said to yourself, “I don’t have TIME to get involved in a small group or serve on the Dream Team?” “Weekends (or evenings) are my only time to sleep, get caught up, and do something fun.”

Ephesians 5:16 tells us to “redeem our time” or “make the most of every opportunity.”  We need to look for opportunities to use our time and make a difference.

It doesn’t cost anything to sit with a friend who needs encouragement, spend a few minutes in prayer over a loved one, visit someone in the hospital or serve at the church at an additional service on Sunday.

We wouldn’t think twice of being generous to someone in need. There are 168 hours in a week. Could you dedicate your time in service to God just one specific hour this week?  Maybe just 30 minutes?  Could you turn the TV off early and pray for that loved one?  Call that specific person who needs some uplifting?

I promise you’ll miraculously find that “extra time” to get accomplished what needs done, especially when you put God in the center of your schedule.

Ask yourself today: Where can I create margin to use my time for the Lord?

Giving Our First: Generosity

Day 17: Proverbs 11:24-25

Generosity sometimes sounds like a big thing. It’s intimidating. It’s equivalent in our minds to giving up half of a paycheck, time we don’t have to give, or energy we can’t seem to muster up.

Thankfully, examples of Jesus’ generosity are everywhere in the New Testament.

The Bible says Christ was moved with compassion, graciously healed many, and went out of His way to live life to people like you and me. 

Sometimes He does ask us to be generous in major ways. For some individuals, they live this out through adventurous life changes like becoming a foster parent or sacrificially giving in faith.

But what if that same kind of generosity can be given in small doses?

People say it all the time -- “it’s the little things.” Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice of dying on the cross for us, but He also loved people with words and actions daily.

Whether we’re called to be generous in large or small doses, the Bible reminds us that "the generous prosper and those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

This idea of getting more by giving more doesn’t make a lot of sense to us, but when we put this truth to action in our lives, we will see that it is true! 

When was the last time you gave a little extra? An extra smile, an extra encouraging note, an extra coffee, or an extra visit? These things usually cost us little to nothing, but it’s just enough to show someone else a little Jesus and a little generosity.

Think about the last time you did something like that. It made your day better, didn’t it? It gave you a sense of purpose and boosted your joy! When we give a little every day, we’re blessed in return, and that helps us work our way up to giving in bigger ways. 

Ask yourself today: How will you start your generosity journey right now? 

Giving Our First: Offering

Day 16: Luke 21:1-4

In our story today found in Luke, Jesus found himself at the Temple in an area called the Court of the Women. This moment was quite intentional. It happened just at the perfect time!

Within the Court of the Women (where the Jewish women were permitted to worship) is where the treasury was also located. There were boxes in the front where worshipers would come to bring their offerings and the Temple taxes.

The poor woman we find in the story was doing this very thing. Being without a husband, she had no means of any substance, so her gift was truly a sacrifice. Still – she gave it anyway.

Jesus made a point of contrasting this widow, who gave ALL she had, with the way most of us handle our offerings. We sometimes can consider giving a percentage of our income as a great accomplishment.

Through this, we can sometimes come to resemble those who gave out of their wealth within the same story. Jesus admiringly makes mention of this widow’s generous, sacrificial offering. As believers, we too should consider increasing our giving -- whether of our money, time, or any of our numerous talents to a point beyond our convenience or comfort.

Remember this today -- God himself doesn't need our money, time or talents. He is God after all. What he does need though is for us to be carriers of his nature in light and likeness, trusting Him with our whole lives. This includes our finances!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” – John 3:16

And He gave… and He gave… and He gave some more. He graciously gives us all that we need every day. God first gave his best and only Son. Not let’s first give our best in return in every area of our life.

Ask yourself today: How can I better be a benefit to both the Kingdom and to others with what God has given me?

Giving Our First: Tithing

Day 15: 2 Corinthians 9:6-10

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-10, we see that God compares giving to sowing seeds; God instructs us that we should never give grudgingly or due to pressure put on us, but instead we should give with a cheerful heart.

God wants us to actually have a desire to give. When we give, we are using the blessings that God has given to us, to bless the lives of others for Him.

God gives us a promise. If we give with a cheerful heart and a desire to do all we can for Him, we can reap the benefits of this promise. In our giving, we see His grace in our lives, and He gives us favor as we live for Him. He’ll bless us physically, mentally, spiritually, and even financially.

Though our giving our ten percent (the tithe) is a way to put God first within our finances, the way we give within our daily life is to give others Christ.

He is the only hope for a lost and dying world, and for us to give the righteousness of Christ to others is to give them hope for tomorrow and for eternity.

When God gives us seeds to sow. He is giving them to us to plant into people’s lives. Our giving can be to feed the natural man, but the main focus is to feed the spiritual man; If we sow His seeds into other lives, it brings forth a harvest and increases the fruits of the spirit in our lives at it shine bright for Christ;

Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

If we were to tell the Lord that we have nothing to give, I believe the Lord would ask us this question, “Of what do you have to give?”

The answer should be that we can share our faith which will give them hope and we can love them as Christ loves them and in this we will be planting seeds for the harvest to come.

We can give them the love of Christ which dwells in us.

Ask yourself today:  Put your focus on that prior question. “What do I have to give to the Lord?”

Living Out First: Being Mission Minded

Day 14: 1 Corinthians 9:22-29

From a quick glance of this passage we can miss the heart of Paul’s writings. If you’ve attended church for a while you may have heard this passage as a connection to salvation. We are all running this race called life, and in completing the race we receive our eternal prize, which is salvation.

The main takeaway from Paul’s example of an athlete in this passage is all about living a life of mission and purpose.

Paul’s purpose was to preach the Gospel, start churches, and develop leaders. He was determined to live a life on mission.

“So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”

Shadowboxing is a term where boxers spar with an imaginary opponent. In other words, Paul wasn’t just talking a big game. He wasn’t merely speaking about preaching, planting and developing. He was doing it.

There’s a fine line between preparation and implementation. Paul’s approach was to prepare and implement simultaneously. He was a man centered on mission.

For us, what stage of mission are you currently at? Are you in the game plan stages? The shadowboxing stage? Or are you ready to implement everything you’ve been working hard for?

Paul understood the importance of Jesus’ return. He felt Jesus could come at any minute, so that thought operated as a catalyst to his mission. We’re granted years of life – unfortunately some have a shorter time than others.

Our lives were never meant for idle breathes, wasted words, and meaningless action. Each of us were uniquely designed to live a life on mission. A life of pursuing Jesus, introducing Him to others, and increasing Heaven’s population.

What does this look like for you? I’m not sure.

But, one thing I do know. Identify it. Get some shadowboxing in, and get to work.

Ask yourself today: Does your daily life reflect a life that’s on mission? If not, what can you do right now to change that? (Take radical steps if need be – you don’t want to miss His plan for your life)