Worthy

Luke 7: 7

For that reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.

I promised you last week I would write on worthiness. It is often difficult to accept all Jesus and the Father have for us because in the deepest part of our spirits/hearts, we don’t believe we are worthy of their gifts. Let me cut through all the theology for you and make this easy. The way to deal with this feeling of unworthiness is to accept a simple truth. You are unworthy. Whew! Now that is over, and we can move on.

This is the way I was able to get free of my feelings of unworthiness. Once I accepted that I was unworthy, I looked to Jesus to be worthy for me. I never again have to worry about being worthy because he already did it for me. I can never earn even the smallest of the gifts they give me. I can’t earn the right to salvation, the right to talk with God or anything else. I am unworthy of their kind attentions. They love me anyway and that is where we must bask.

In a way, it is arrogance that keeps me thinking I need to be worthy. Once I understood that I wasn’t, I was able to take my eyes off myself entirely and put them on Jesus. Looking at who he is and what he has done is an absolute cure for feelings of insecurity, unrighteousness and unworthiness. If I have any worth at all, it is because of who I am in him. Wow! That is a lot of pressure off our shoulders. Love never required us to be worthy. Look at the world. We do not deserve God’s goodness. He loves us anyway and, brother, that is some good news.

Three Magi

Matthew 2: 11

Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

In western culture, the gifts of frankincense and myrrh hardly seem on par with the gift of gold. Is this, then, a dialogue on valuable gifts? Or, perhaps, invaluable gifts? It turns out that historically, frankincense and myrrh were at least as valuable as gold and many historians believe them to have been more valuable than gold.

I got this from Dr. Axe regarding these ancient oils. Visit his website at draxe.com.

Myrrh is a resin, or sap-like substance, that is one of the most widely used essential oils in the world. Historically, myrrh was used to treat hay fever, clean and heal wounds and stop bleeding. Studies conclude that myrrh strengthens the immune system with its antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

A 2012 study validated myrrh’s enhanced antimicrobial efficacy when used in combination with frankincense oil against a selection of pathogens. Researchers expressed that myrrh oil has anti-infective properties and can help to boost your immune system.

What’s more, new research indicates that these two essential oils are even more effective in combination. Two things of interest I noted as I researched frankincense in myrrh are that they are useful in treating blood disorders. In fact, I was surprised how often blood came up in the articles I read. Secondly, myrrh was used as an embalming fluid. Both of these facts seemed to foreshadow Jesus’ future. How poignant is it that the baby Jesus would be given a gift commonly used in embalming? The two were also ingredients of the incense Jews burned in the temple.
Frankincense and myrrh were very expensive and highly sought after. The trees which produce these resins could not be grown in Israel. Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt greatly sought the two, one article claiming that conquest of foreign lands was sometimes motivated by the desire for the plants which yield the sought after resins. Since the trees would not grow in all climates, the Egyptians would seize territories where they would grow so that they could have their own supply of frankincense and myrrh rather than having to pay exorbitant prices for it.

Today, many medicinal uses have been identified for these two oils. Some believe the potential benefits number in the hundreds. They can be applied directly to the skin but are often burned. Inhaling the essential oils is another healing methodology which has to be a point of interest when considering that the ancient Jews used these two resins in the temple incense. So, going to church really could be good for your health!

I hope as you read the Christmas story this year you will have a better appreciation of how valuable the gifts of frankincense and myrrh really were. It turns out that the offer of gold was likely the lesser of the three gifts. Frankincense and myrrh were very expensive, extremely hard to get and medicinally beneficial. wealth alone, did not secure the valuable oils. Three “Gentile” magi travelled from afar and gave Jesus invaluable gifts. Perhaps the fact that three non-Jewish people travelled a long distance to take the Messianic baby such valuable gifts was a prophetic message in itself.

Unto Me

Matthew 25: 37 – 40

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’

I hope you all took advantage of Giving Tuesday. If you haven’t yet, you still can. Regarding giving, I had someone say something very disturbing to me recently. I want to share it with you.

Because things are hard for so many people right now, this believer wanted to do something to help someone in real need. As we talked, she told me her ideas. She said she thought about taking money to the local church, “But,” she said, “I am not sure they will do with the money what I want.” She had doubts that the church would actually give the money to a person in need. How tragic! And yet, I fully appreciate her concern. She said, “I am supposed to give my gifts to the church and then the church is supposed to take care of the needy.” Yep! That is how it is supposed to work. Why do we doubt it actually does work out that way? So, I wanted to let you know some things about this ministry.

First of all, Ivey Ministries tithes. We give at least 10% of every dime that comes into the ministry and always have. Furthermore, we believe in giving and helping others. We give of our time and our resources. Part of the dynamic of ministry is that it is an organization of believers. Because we join together and join our resources, we are able to accomplish more and affect more people than any of us can individually. When five of you give twenty dollars to the ministry, we are able to do more than one person giving twenty dollars, say, to the food bank. Combined we can buy cases of food instead of cans. That is the idea of giving to the church, that collectively we can have a great impact. The church is supposed to be here to serve you and the community.

Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, for the rest of the story. This saint asked if she could send me the money and me use my resources to find someone to help. Absolutely! I will receive her donation within the week and the entire amount is going to help people in need.

If you ever feel like you want to do something tangible to help people with real needs but don’t know what to do, I will do my best to meet your need to be kind and generous and direct your gift to someone who needs God’s touch. Call me, email, put a note with your check. Tell me what you wish to accomplish. We can always find ways to bless people and meet real needs.

Caught Unaware

1 Corinthians 12: 1

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.

Here we find Paul writing to the church, which he established in Corinth. He had a pastor’s heart towards the people in Corinth. He wrote them letters in order to encourage and instruct them. This statement from him makes my pastor’s heart grieve though, for one thing is sure, we are unaware concerning spiritual gifts. Many people who are Christians, even people who attended church for 30 years or more are not even aware that there is such a thing as spiritual gifts much less what they are and how they operate in the lives of believers. In truth, they are not operating in the lives of believers because we are predominantly unaware of even their existence. There clearly is not enough time or space in a devotional to explore this topic at any depth but at least we can make ourselves aware.

Paul lists nine gifts of the Spirit in this chapter. The first important point to notice is that these are gifts of the Holy Spirit of God. Not one of us has to be a special saint in order to exercise these gifts. The Holy Spirit simply manifests his gifts through each one of us. The nine gifts are: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, effecting of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, a variety of tongues and interpretation of tongues. All of these work through individual believers and every single believer is qualified in the Spirit of God. They have been given to the body of Christ for our edification. Isn’t that great?

Jesus told us when he was about to leave the earth that he was going to send the Holy Spirit to us who would be with us forever. Obviously, the Spirit of God IS God. He is part of the Holy Trinity. He was with God in the beginning and when God created the earth. The Holy Spirit has specific roles which are described throughout the Bible but most specifically in the book of John. One of the words which often accompanies any Biblical discussion of the Spirit is “power.” He is the creative power of God. This is most clearly observed in Genesis where the Spirit was hovering until God spoke the word. Then the Spirit manifested what God envisioned. That is powerful imagery.

The Holy Spirit has come to manifest God’s presence in the earth. These gifts, Paul writes about, are part of that manifestation. One of the key concepts that seems to elude us modern day Christians is that they are “gifts.” They are presents from God to us. I mean, “Happy Birthday! Have a gift!” I am all for gifts and presents. I love them. Even the simplest gift brings me pleasure. Maybe some of you are like me. How is it, then, that we have allowed gifts from God to go unnoticed? It is a little frightening when I contemplate it.

The most amazing thing to me in this chapter is that Paul spends no time explaining these gifts. He does not write a treatise on what they are and how each one is distinguished or used. He seems to expect his audience to understand their uses. How far I feel we have fallen. If you are hungry for a good Bible study, researching the gifts of God’s Spirit would be a great one. Send me a copy when you are done, please!

 Making it Easy

Deuteronomy 14: 12

“You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.”

Hey, let’s make this easy on you and answer some questions about tithing and offerings. Well, first of all, yes, there are more gifts to the Lord than just tithes. There are times when you will want to give a gift which is above and beyond your tithe. Today, instead of the theology of tithes and offerings, though, I want to talk about the practical side of life. Let’s begin with some basics though.

Tithe, quite literally, means the tenth part, hence ten percent. The tithe is paid on gross income. You have probably heard it said that God gets the first ten percent. Paying on gross rather than net is what that refers to. So, if you are an employee that means you give God ten percent of your gross pay. You can do that each paycheck if you like and that certainly makes it easy. You can also do it monthly if you prefer. You could even give every week. Just find something that makes sense with your pay schedule and your life. If you own your own business, then you would give ten percent of your total income. Again, do that weekly or monthly.

Okay, now, how about the question, “Who do I send my tithe to?” Well, it should be sent to the one who is feeding you. Who do you rely on when you need help? Who is feeding you day in and day out. Are you a member of a church congregation? That church supports you by having regular weekly services and providing for your needs in other ways. When you give that church your tithe, you pay the electricity bill, the water bill and all of the other necessaries, including salaries, which allow that church to keep providing services.

This once was not to be a difficult question because we all simply gave our tithe to our local church. Today, however, we may be fed by any number of ministries through internet or television ministry. Do these ministries deserve a portion of your tithe too? Well, perhaps so. However, you can also reserve a gift for those ministries if you like. In other words, you could still give your whole tithe to the local church and send the other ministries that feed you a monthly gift. Some ministers teach not to split up your tithe. Personally, I am alright with it. I do feel we have a responsibility to the church we attend every week but I also think there is something fundamentally wrong with us feeding off of a ministry and never providing any substance back to that ministry. Take this question to the Lord in prayer but don’t be so bound by tradition that you cannot hear His leading.

What about setting up an auto payment? You have probably heard some ministers teach not to set up your tithe on auto payment. Their reasoning is very good but at the end of the day I have reasons which for me are more compelling for using an auto-payment function. One of the key reasons some folks don’t want you to use auto-pay is because your tithe and your gifts and offerings should always be purposeful. In other words, we should be engaged with God over our giving. Every time I give something to the work of the Lord I want to be engaged emotionally and intentionally in that transaction. That can be hard while using bill pay. Besides being purposeful, our giving should also always be done prayerfully. Again, this can be difficult if you use an auto payment feature. One thing you can do, though, is set up your bill pay so that it sends you an email when that payment is about to go out. Pray over that gift then. It might not be as perfect as sitting down and writing checks but I think it will work.

The real advantage to the auto-pay feature is that you don’t forget. This is a big deal for me because I travel a lot. I don’t want to get two months down the road and realize I have forgotten to send in my tithe. So whether I am on the road or in town, I know my tithe, gifts and offerings are going to be sent on time.

One other thought. I really do believe in tithes and offerings. I never give only ten percent. That doesn’t make me special. I am just more desperate for God’s blessing in my life than some other folks. Sometimes, though, when we set up our tithe on auto-pay, we disengage mentally from the whole process. That is the thing I would not have you do. I want us to all be conscious every day about what the Father is speaking to us about giving. He might have a gift He wants you to sow today that has nothing to do with your regular giving. So, my bottom line is this: first, whatever Dad tells you to do relative to who you give to, how much you give (above the tithe) or the delivery method, you should do. I strongly believe this should be something you do with the father. Secondly, if any of the technological conveniences cause you to be disengaged in this process, then I suggest abandoning them. I personally hate to miss a month, especially when I know some ministry is counting on my regular monthly contribution but you can make it up next month if you do make a mistake. Don’t mishear me. I am not saying it is okay to miss a month. I am just saying that if you do, send double next month or send a check the moment you realize. It is important for your giving to be done purposefully and prayerfully. I don’t want your bank account tithing. I want you tithing. So, if you set up your bill pay and then forget it, disengaging in an activity that should be done mindfully, then take it out of bill pay and go back to the old fashion ways.

Lastly, if you have more questions, you may use the comment function of this devotion to post your question or click here to go to our Ask Ivey webpage and ask your question there. We would love to hear from you and you will get a personal response from me. Your question might even inspire another Word of the Day because if you are thinking it, so are other folks.

Rewarder

Hebrews 11: 6

He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

People are so worried about God being a judge but the truth is that He is a rewarder. It is a perverted generation that calls God a harsh judge, a critical appraiser. He is the lover of our souls. If was for this reason that he sent Jesus here to die, because he loves us. John 3: 16 tells us so plainly that God sent Jesus so that we would be saved. What kind of logic extrapolates from this that He saved us just to subject us to harsh judgment. He already knew what He was getting when He sent Jesus. Had He not watched the decrepit nature and acts of humanity before he sent Jesus? 

It was precisely because God saw and knew how lost we were that He sent Jesus here to be our savior. Now He is able to just love us. God has always loved us, even when we were unlovely. He wants to pour out that love on us and He can because Jesus removed the sin that stood between us. God is the giver of good gifts. He is like a grandparent, He just gives us good things because He loves us. We don’t have to earn them. His love is all it takes to make us worthy. 

When Jesus comes back in all his glory he is bringing rewards, he is bringing prizes. “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and, and then he will reward each person according to what they have doneMatthew 16: 27 (NIV). The judgment is that the light came into the world and people rejected the light (John 3: 19), but not you. You love the light and have made him the Lord of your life and now he has rewards for you. When he comes, he is bringing you presents.

Isn’t that just like a grandparent too? Grandma doesn’t ask if you’ve been good before she buys you that prize. And we know it too! We just run up to our grandparents and ask, “What did you bring me?” It never crossed our minds to ask ourselves if we were worthy? 

God is a rewarder and Jesus is bringing presents when he comes. They both just want to bless you, not judge you. Go crawl into Dad’s lap and receive His blessings.

Gifted Builders

1 Peter 4: 10

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another.

God has sown his good gifts into the Body of Christ for the building up of the entire body. You have different gifts than do I. Yours are different than your best friend’s likely. That is because we are supposed to use our gifts collectively to build a stronger house. There is no purpose in two of us having the same gifts as there is no reason for us to have two plumbers and no electrician. No one’s job is more important than another’s. It takes them all in order to build a strong house. Are you gifted? Are you blessed? Those blessing and gifts are for you to use to build up others. If you are blessed, then you should be seeking out ways to bless others. God wants to bless you but he also wants you to grow up and be like him. What does that mean? He wants you to outgrow being a consumer only and become a sower. He will continue to sow good things in your life but don’t be the clog in the plumbing. Keep that blessing moving. The more you sow, the more there will be for others to sow with.