Generosity Honors God

“…but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”
Proverbs 14:31 NLT

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see
so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Matthew 5:16 NLT

It was during the Great Depression, which lasted from about 1929-1939. In the US the unemployment rate rose to almost 25% and there was no such thing as an unemployment check. People who kept their jobs had to accept lower wages, farmers lost their farms, food was in short supply and banks failed. It was a very hard time.

Escondido and its surrounding areas were in the throes of the crisis as well. How could believers who were just as poor or needy as everyone else be generous and thus honor God? Let me tell you the story of one such family who lived off Nutmeg street on 40 acres of land with a few buildings, no electricity, no piped water, no phone, one well, and an outhouse! Robert and Wilhelmine Nielsen loved the Lord with every fiber of their being and wanted their lives to honor God. Robert had been sent out from the east coast on one of the infamous orphan trains and, knowing what being an orphan was like, he had a heart to help orphaned and needy children. His loving wife was of the same heart! They began fostering children often having 10-12 at their home including their own 4 children. During the depression years, parents would ask the Nielsen's to care for their children while they tried to regain stability. Sometimes the Nielsen's had as many as 25 children staying with them and very little, if any, financial support. The children stayed for weeks or months; boys slept in a room in the barn, and girls slept in the small farmhouse. The kids had school in a room in the barn, went to church, played, helped, ate, had chores, and felt secure. God was honored! As you can imagine, many came to Christ and lives were transformed because of believers who were generous.

Clearly, generosity isn’t just about money although it certainly is an element of provision for needs. Being generous can take lots of forms. It is patience, understanding, forgiveness, and compassion! It is giving time out of a busy day to listen to hurting people. It is sitting with someone who hurts and doesn’t need words, just presence. It is dropping a sack of groceries at the front door for a family that can’t buy anything. It is smiling at people who all are made in God’s image. It might be an encouraging word to a harried mom in a store with a crying child.

How does this honor God? It is how we say back to God, that we remember when He did those things for us. “God, I remember when my sister died, and You comforted me through believers.”

“God, I remember when I was in despair and Your Word brought me peace and hope.” “God, I remember when_______________.” You can fill in that blank! Linger a while with that.

You know God doesn’t need us to bring Him honor. He is complete! But I think it makes Him smile when we are generous to ‘one of the least' of these. This week let’s be generous in as many ways as we can and honor Him.

Francie Overstreet


Lending to The Lord

"One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed." Prov. 19:17

This verse lept out at me. When we think of helping a person in need, we don’t think of it as a prudent financial move. It’s usually thought of as a detriment, an expenditure, money gone, never to return. Here we see the opposite! We’re lending to our Father who is the true owner of everything we have. The ROI (Return On Investment) is bound to be life-changing, I’d lend to him in heartbeat! If he owns everything and is capable of reallocating wealth to the poor, why doesn’t he just fix the problem and give it to the poor himself? Rather, Jesus said, “The poor will always be with us.”

Remember when we were children, our parents would give us an allowance for doing chores they could do far better than we could? The point was to teach us responsibility. Likewise, this is meant to teach us generosity and humility. The secret is that God wants his children to partake in sacrificially giving to those in need. It’s like a family legacy! Jesus is, of course, the ultimate model. He went all the way and sacrificed his life. But look how the Father repaid him for it. God wants us to help run the family business. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8–11
Jonathan Duncan

Two Fish in a Tub

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. - Proverbs 11:24

I remember visiting a very poor village on the outskirts of southern China. We were visiting homes and listening to their stories through interpreters when one particular man, who was clearly the head of the household, took an interest in me. He motioned for me to follow him outside. When I did, he proudly showed me a tub that had two really good-sized fish swimming around in it. I’m not sure, but I think that he was showing me the food that he caught that morning . . . food that would feed his family that night. So I tried to politely express my admiration for his fish with non-verbal communication. Basically, I made the facial expression of “wow” and gave him a thumbs up. Now, anyone that knows me knows that I can be a bit expressive. Well this time, maybe I was a bit too expressive because this poor man who didn’t have two nickels to rub together got a big smile on his face and immediately found a plastic bag so he could scoop up the fish and give them to me. He wanted to give me his family’s only meal for the night!

While he put the fish in the bag, I was thinking to myself, “What am I going to do with a fish?” We were going to leave his house, walk a few miles to a van, and drive a few hours to an airport to fly back to the main city. This gift would be more of a hassle than a blessing to me, but you should have seen the joy in this man’s eyes as he gave freely out of what he had. I tried to refuse, but as he insisted I realized that the only polite thing I could do was accept his precious gift. And while I couldn’t use it, it was one of the more meaningful gifts I have ever received.

Now, here’s the point. I don’t think that because this man “gave freely” he automatically grew richer in a financial sense. In fact, the unfortunate odds are that that man will die in the same poverty that I met him in. However, the fact that he was able to “give freely” even when it didn’t seem like he had much to give, means that he lived a type of life that was richer than his poverty. He realized that there’s a certain power over circumstances that comes when you choose to let go instead of holding on to your possessions. I can’t promise you will become financially wealthy if you give, but I can promise if you can find it in your heart to give freely, you will find a richer kind of life. I hope you do.

Josh Rose
Discipleship Pastor


Expand Your World

Series: MasterClass
Text:
Proverbs 11:24-28 |
Speaker: Pastor Ryan Paulson

On Sunday, August 14, Pastor Ryan Paulson completed our multi-week summer teaching series from the book of Proverbs, MasterClass: Expert advice on living well. In his message, we learned more about how our generosity is a reflection of God’s generosity toward us.


Success!

Life as a Navy wife has taught me a multitude of lessons, but if I could summarize the last twenty years with my own simple proverb, I would say, “make the best plans possible, then expect change”. This “proverb” is not far off from what most of us experience on a regular basis and yet the mantra we tend to live by is, “make plans and expect God to bless them”. I don’t know if it is our American culture or simply just human nature, but we tend to define success as seeing our plans come to fruition. We live by the idealism that if our plans work out then we are successful, and we have God’s blessing; but if they don’t then we are either failures or we didn’t know how to plan well in the first place.
In Proverbs 16, Solomon paints a different picture. The Message communicates verses 1-3 beautifully, "Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place."
The key point here lies in verse 3, “Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place.” The point is that if we relinquish our own plans to God, expect him to take us on the best path possible no matter how crazy the journey may be, and then trust him with the rest, then our plans will become his because our deepest longing is to do God’s will. Proverbs 3:5-6 communicates a similar message, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
So is God telling us not to plan? Not at all! He has given us talents, abilities, and brains that are capable of making good, successful decisions. Yet, our very first step, and indeed our daily posture must be to seek the Lord. We must constantly turn to him in prayer, approach our shepherd with open hands, and seek his guidance in our lives. When we expect God’s best, we are guaranteed success. It may not always appear to be success in the world’s eyes, but when we long for God’s will above all else, we are guaranteed his very best!
Lynette Fuson
Care & Counseling Director

Commitment

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
(Proverbs 16:3)

If any of you reading this devotional have worked in education or mentored young people, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of discouragement that comes from pouring into a young person (or in my case, a student) and seeing what appears to be the fruit of all your labor shriveling up.

For me, to name just a few memories, it looked like working closely with a student the entire year to help them get a passing grade only for them to give up the last few weeks of school and fail my class. One time it was coaching a student through frequent instances of poor classroom behavior only for there to be no obvious improvement the entire school year. Another time I built a strong relationship with a student that broke down when I held them accountable for poor behavior or a poor choice they made because they couldn’t handle constructive criticism. Another time it looked like helping a student (whose environment largely set them up for failure) begin to flourish in their academics only for them to do drugs at school one day and get expelled, with their choices taking them beyond my sphere of influence where I could no longer support them.

It’s times like this when Proverbs 16:3 gently reminds me that even if I get horribly discouraged by my efforts to help students flourish, I can rest in God’s sovereign plan for each and every student I feel I couldn’t reach or that committed self-sabotage. Maybe I couldn’t personally help them change or maybe I can’t see the impact I made on them, but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying, because God is beside me through all my “failures,” working, moving and guiding.

This is also when I have to remember the valuable but hard lesson that as a teacher, sometimes I’m not even planting seeds with my students, I’m really just preparing the soil for them. The wonderful thing about being a Christian is that I can rest in a bigger plan outside my own efforts, and trust that God is working even when all I can see looks like a hot mess or complete failure. I am so grateful to be reminded that what we see is not the whole story!

Ashley Carr
High School Teacher


He Who Weighs My Inmost Being

Proverbs 16:2

Recently I’ve heard a question float around my circle of peers. “Would you rather be well known or known well?” It’s a deep enough question to warrant personal consideration. Given the rampancy of social media within my generation, the ability to connect with as many people as you want has never been easier. However, convenience often breeds shallow relationships. For many of my friends, it’s very easy to be “well known,” that is to be known by a wide pool of people. On the other hand, I’ve seen so many people my age, including myself, struggle with a deeper sense of intimacy. We long for deeper connection, yet cannot get past the “hey-how’s-it-goings” with our acquaintances. The deepest parts of our hearts cry for attention, yet rarely receive such care. There is someone who gives such care, should we receive it, the God who weighs my inmost being.

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.”
-Proverbs 16:2 ESV

Many of us have read at least some of King Solomon’s collection of proverbs. We’ve experienced how his words have led countless children of God to a life of wisdom and deeper understanding of our Lord. Here, we learn a great duality between God and man. We all make plans. We all try to do things the right way. God, on the other hand, sees our hearts. Our God provides the attention to our souls that we long so deeply for. In our Heavenly Father, we find the purest satisfaction of being fully seen and fully known. He alone looks into the deepest parts of us, acknowledging us in a way no one else can. Have you ever wished in times of heartbreak and isolation to be embraced in the arms of a warm friend? Have you ever hoped someone would celebrate your biggest victories with you? Have you ever wanted someone to burn with the same passion to avenge the deep suffering and pain you’ve seen or felt? Our God, YHWH, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, three in one, He is there, feeling, rejoicing, and enduring it with and within you. Before you came into the world, He knew you. He knows you now, better than anyone else does. (Jeremiah 1:5)

I must warn you though, to receive the full attention of God is to also receive His full judgment. He weighs our spirit, meaning not only does He acknowledge you, but He determines your moral standing before Him. As our loving Creator and perfect judge, He is entitled to that. Not everyone is willing to accept that, but here is the truth.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
-2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV

We will all stand bare before our creator at some point, with nothing but our deeds to prove our innocence or guilt. Our works will either withstand fire or be burnt up in condemnation. None of it will save us, though. None of it will catch up to the extent we’ve strayed from God. There is no amount of work that a man can boast of that can save him. Thankfully, our God is just. He does not judge as we judge. His ways are higher. He proves this by His grace in Jesus. Though I am convicted before the Judge, my sentence is mercy and blessing. The reimbursements for my worst offenses are the finest clothes, a ring on my finger, and a warm embrace. I am seen, I am judged and I stand condemned. Nevertheless, I am held. It is truly an immeasurable, incomparable joy to be known and known well by the One who weighs my inmost being. Amen.

Jared Benjamin Graf
Young Adults Intern


There’s Two Sides to Every Story

There are two sides to every story. It’s just a fact. But it’s not about “sides”, it would be more accurately stated as “there are two perspectives to every story.” When we are angry with someone, or when we are really in pursuit of a result, this fact can be really frustrating. We want our way, or our outcome because in our perspective it is what is good or right. We may say or state something as a fact because through our eyes it is a fact. But many times we are seeing things from our own version of reality. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective can actually cause us to see something different and give us much more insight.

Many times as parents or adults we lay down a decision. It makes sense, we are usually in charge and we have the insight to make a well-informed choice. Believe it or not, when our kids were little and we were discussing a decision in regards to them, we would encourage them to share their perspectives with us. They had to be respectful as they shared, but they were given the opportunity to speak into what was happening in regards to them. There were definitely multiple times their perspective was eye-opening and contributed to the final decision.

Proverbs 16:2a says, “all the ways of man are pure in his own eyes,” Can we take a moment and acknowledge the verse that says “pure in our own eyes”. Our own limited perspective is what we are seeing things through. But we are human and have limits. That means that we can’t see what God sees. We have a limited and short perspective in light of eternity. Our heavenly Father has a much bigger, eternal, and perfect perspective. As we live life and view it through our lens we are seeing through foggy glasses at best, and that is why we must trust the direction and decision of our heavenly Father.

We may have good intentions or insight about something, but our hearts are limited and we battle sin and that condition of our humanness taints what we see and do. So when we step out, we must be willing to allow God to have His perfect way because He sees what we cannot. He sees where our limited perspective is lacking. When we are prideful and not willing to accept God’s direction and leading we are set for ruin and for missing out on His perfect plan.

God uses a variety of ways to help us see another side of the story. He uses His word to show us the verse we need to read. He uses the people in our lives to speak into a circumstance. He uses a situation to reveal to us a new way or direction.

My hope is that we will always be willing to see all sides or perspectives to a story so we don’t miss out on God’s blessing in our lives.

Blessings as you love and serve with great purpose,
Bonnie Nichols
Women’s Ministry Specialist


Plans

"To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue." Proverbs 16:1

Upon looking up the meaning of the last part of this verse, I found it simply means that God has the final say. This reminded me of the passage in James…

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

If the stuff you want to do, the stuff you dream about, doesn’t line up with God’s plan; you’re wasting your effort and time. When your hope is met with a “no”, hope takes a hit and your ambition wavers. One might say to seek his “yes” first and go from there.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Proverbs 13:12

The Lord doesn’t have to tell us his plans, in fact he often doesn’t tell us at all. Instead of us waiting around for a miraculous sign, we are to step out in faith knowing the Lord is on our side. He is our good Father and based on our growing knowledge of who he is, we can have hope and confidence.

Ultimately, human ambition says, ”I want more”. Godly ambition says, I want more of what God has for me. We tend to believe God has less for us than we could get ourselves. Insidious lies, indeed! God’s plan is often different from our original plans, but it’s guaranteed to be infinitely better.

Jonathan Duncan


Slay the Sluggard

Series: MasterClass
Text:
Proverbs 6:6-11 |
Speaker: Pastor Ryan Paulson

On Sunday, August 7, Pastor Ryan Paulson continued our multi-week summer teaching series from the book of Proverbs, MasterClass: Expert advice on living well. In this message, we learned more about why our work matters to God.