11 November 2007

Planting a Seed...

Our Church held their annual MIRACLE OFFERING this morning and it was amazing. This was an offering for our future building and for our new church in Swaziland, Africa. I consider it to be a privilege to be a small part of something so big.
I just feel like God is about to do some pretty awesome things in our church and that we are on the verge of something huge. I can't explain it, but there is a sense of excitement and anticipation that you can't quite put your finger on...

Our church is a church who puts their money and actions where their mouth is. I never wonder where the money goes; I often wonder where it all comes from! HPC has got to be one of the most GIVING churches I have ever been a part of -- reaching out to the widowed, the orphaned, the homeless, the poor, the abused, the addicted, the unwanted. There's not a need that we aren't trying to find SOME way to fill. At times, I truly wonder how it's all even possible.

I am a firm believer in tithing (giving 10% back to the church), but today was an offering.
An offering is anything you give to the church over and above your tithe.
You see a tithe is not an option; it's a command. But it's a command that SO many people ignore or put last in their list of priorities.

I know that for years Clay and I believed that we did not have the money to tithe.
I rationalized not tithing with our need to pay the bills each month. You see, I thought that if I tithed, there would not be enough money at the end of the month. How could I possibly give 10% of our income when we had so many bills???
The funny thing is, after years of this kind of rationalization, we found ourselves deep in debt.
Yep. Even with keeping the money in my pocket, there was never enough money to cover our needs and wants and we kept putting more and more on credit cards.
My logic was so twisted that when I would have a flat tire or need a plumbing repair, I would think, "Wow, it's a good thing that I didn't put that money in the plate last week or I wouldn't have had enough to pay for this."
How messed up is that??

Two years ago, Clay and I were out walking on our street with our children. We had been going to Healing Place off and on for over a year and had made the decision (a couple months' prior) to become full-fledged members. While walking we started talking about tithing and how we both felt like we needed to do it on a regular basis (we had tithed off and on in the past, but not faithfully).
This was not an easy decision.
Despite Clay's position and income, we had gotten ourselves so deep in debt that our mounting bills made tithing seem illogical.
Interestingly, we had both been feeling the need to begin tithing again so we made a firm agreement, right then and there, to start that week.
a car came speeding into our street going insanely fast. My middle daughter, Natasha (who was 8 at the time) was on her bicycle in the middle of the road. Clay was carrying our 16 month old, Raisha, and Nadia was walking beside us.
As the car whipped around the cul-de-sac in front of our house, my only thought was
"He's going to hit Natasha! She'll never be able to get out of the way in time!"
I ran in front of his car waving my arms for him to stop.
The sharp curve forced him to hit the brakes and he came to a stop in front of me.
I put my hands on the hood of his car and looked right into his eyes. I started to make my way (with my hands still on his car) around to the passenger side to tell him to slow down, but the driver, sensing his opportunity, hit the gas.
The side of the car grabbed my body and pulled me to the ground and before I could roll out of the way, his right, rear tire had run over my leg.
Miraculously, not a bone was broken. The doctors were amazed.
I was so thankful to God that no one had been seriously hurt, but I have to tell you,
I was MAD.
This hit-and-run assault brought decades of repressed anger and depression to a hilt.
Years of pain and frustration (from my childhood), that I had kept pushed down for so long, bubbled to the surface. I don't fully understand why this experience was so cathartic, but it was. Thus began a long and painful journey for me. I sought solace in my Bible and in prayer because when you feel like that, there's not much else you CAN do. In my desperate prayers to God, a healing began to take place...

Despite my swinging pendulum of emotions (my poor family!), our decision to give back to God had not wavered.
Indeed, I saw this "attack" by the enemy as resounding proof that I was doing something very "dangerous" to the enemy through my obedience to God.
The next year for us was NOT fun.
Hurricane Katrina hit our state, followed by Hurricane Rita and everything was in turmoil. Due to the huge loss in our state, some of our credit card companies TRIPLED our interest rate (no, I'm not exaggerating; I have proof!) -- even though we had always paid on time before.
Our bills were mounting and there didn't seem to be any way out.
But still we tithed.

That was 2 years ago and I have to tell you that Clay and I are today on our way to becoming debt-free. We have paid off nearly 80% of our unsecured debt owed before the decision to start tithing.
But even greater are the things that God has done in my heart and in my life since making that momentous decision.

NOW, I have never felt more free. I still struggle with my temper and emotions at times, but I know God is faithful and "will finish the good work" He has begun in me. And He has given me a promise for the future -- something I did not have before.

This is my testimony and I want to stress this point:
Once we began tithing, even though money was STILL really tight and at times, the situation seemed hopeless, there was ALWAYS enough money at the end of the month.
Don't ask me how.
It was just THERE.
Sometimes it was just a nice surprise: I would have a REALLY good sale on eBay items or I would find some cash in an old purse, but sometimes, it was just plain FREAKY: like we would receive an unexpected check from an unlikely source.
The point is, it was always there. ALL of our needs were met and no bills went unpaid.
Furthermore, we have received financial blessings that have made it possible to consistently pay off our debt. Without a doubt, we could not have done this alone!

For those who think giving to the church is not important, or believe it's not even possible for you, I urge you to search your heart and give God a chance to work a miracle in your life.
God LOVES to do the "impossible," but YOU have to give Him the opportunity to do it. He's not going to force it on you. You have to step out in faith.

As they always say, "You can't out-give God." The seeds you sow in your giving today, will come back to you in BUSHELS tomorrow. And you are not just sowing into your own life, but into the lives of every person who will benefit from your gift.

But do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' for the pagans run after all these things and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
-- Matthew 6: 31-33

That's why I now give with a cheerful heart -- because I know this money is going to bless someone else's life and I have no need to worry for my own. And I know it's going to build a building where SO many more will be blessed as well. We may never know the full impact of our sacrifice today.
As Pastor Dino says,
"It's for those who are not yet here."


FeatherIron said...

Great post!

joyce said...

Whew......that was unreal. Hope your writing that in your book.
I am all about tithing and OFFERINGS. Good girl! You all are on it!!!! So many people crab and complain about it. I like it when we just can do it the simple way. Not kicking and screaming.