Are You Wholly Committed to God?

My generation and even more so the generation coming after me has commitment issues.

Take marriage as an example. The Sacramento Bee, which is a newspaper in California, reported that nearly half of all Californians 18 and older are currently not married, and of those currently not married, nearly 35% have never been married. Comparing these numbers to 1960, we see that 26% of Californians were married and only 13% had never been married. These numbers are on the rise.  It has been estimated that in next 5-10 years, there will be more people who are unmarried than married in California [1].

While these are statistic for California, this trend is occurring all over the nation. People in my generation and the generation after me just aren’t getting married. One of the reasons for this trend, certainly not the only reason, but one of the reasons for this trend is our issue with commitment.

But it’s not just that we are afraid to get married. Nowadays it is difficult to find anyone who has worked for a company longer than 5 years, attended one church most of their life, or even someone who has lived in the same town. We not only lack relational commitment but job, church, and geographical commitment as well. We have commitment issues.

We aren’t to hold back with God

When it comes to our relationship with God, however, we aren’t to hold back. We are to commit ourselves wholly to Him. In verse 1 of Genesis 17, God comes to Abraham and asks him to do two things – (1) to “walk before him” and (2) to be “blameless.”

When God tells Abraham to “walk before him”, what He means is that every step, every action that Abraham undertakes would be done with God in mind. The second idea — that Abraham would be “blameless”— re-enforces the first. In order for him to be blameless before God, he must completely and without qualification, give himself over to God.

God, then, is essentially asking Abraham to be wholly committed to Him. To give all of himself over, not leaving any part back. God wants it all – His job, family, leisure time, money, and sex life.

God expects the same from us. He expects us to be wholly devoted and committed to Him. Which means we can’t section off or compartmentalize our life. We have to give God our whole self.

It is difficult to give God our whole lives

For a generation struggling with commitment issues and one that is accustomed to holding things back, giving it all to God is difficult. In reality, giving our whole self over to God is difficult for anyone, not just my generation. We don’t want to give up control over our lives. We want to be able to call the shots and have options. But God asks, and even requires us, to give up control and commit ourselves fully to Him, if we are going to have a relationship with Him and experience the blessings that come from that relationship.

How do you know that you are wholly committed to God?

To help you figure out where your commitment lies, I have listed three questions below for you to reflect on.

(1) What do I prioritize in my life?

To figure this out, all you have to do is look at the things you spend your time, money, and energy on.

When your time is crunched, what gets pushed to the side? Is it more likely to be your Bible or is Facebook, Netflix, Hulu, or some topic you are researching on the internet?

When you get your paycheck, what do you spend your money on first? Is it your tithe, missions, or something else kingdom related? Or is it something for your home, a trip to the movies, or a day at Six Flags? In other words, how do you plan your budget? Do you give God what’s leftover or does He get your firstfruits?

What do you devote most of your energy to throughout the week? Is it the advancement of God’s kingdom or your own kingdom?

All these are good questions to ask because your priorities are often revealed by what you spend your time, money, and energy on.

(2) Where do you turn when you are facing issues at home, work, or church?

Do you turn to the Bible or human wisdom? If you turn to the Bible, are you willing to allow it to direct and guide your decisions, even if it is unpopular or will require  sacrifice on your part? If you are wholly committed to God, He will be the first place you turn, and His wisdom will be the wisdom you follow.

(3) Do you just say you know God or do you obey Him?

John says in the second chapter of his first letter,

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:” (1 Jn 2:3–5)

Those who say they know God without obeying Him aren’t wholly committed to Him.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you wholly committed to God or are you holding something back?

Resources

[1] http://www.sacbee.com/site-services/databases/article60699136.html

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Post adapted from my recent sermon: Are You Wholly Committed to God? which you can listen to by clicking here.

Why Should We Work to Learn Contentment?

Our society breeds discontentment. Think about it. Every day we are bombarded with messages that tell us if we want to be happy we need more things, fewer wrinkles, better vacations, and fewer troubles. The result of being hit with these messages day in and day out is that we find ourselves discontent in our jobs, marriages, churches, homes, friendships, and with our possessions. Our continual discontentment shouldn’t shock us. Being content isn’t something that comes naturally. Instead, contentment is something that is learned. Paul says in Philippians 4:11,

For I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.” (Phil. 4:11)

According to Hebrews 13:5, it is a response that all Christians must learn, not just apostles, pastors, or super christians.

Learning contentment is not an easy process. Since we naturally gravitate towards discontentment, it takes work. Even so, we must put in the work. We must do that, first, because we are commanded to do so. I, however, know commands aren’t always the best motivators, so besides the fact that we are commanded to be content, what are some other reasons we should work to learn contentment?

Why Should We Work to Learn Contentment?

(1) When we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves enslaved

Think about the person who wants to be the head of the office, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. Yet, this person is seeking that position because of the prestige, power, and money it affords. What happens to that guy? Inevitably he is going to start working longer hours and taking on a heavier workload, in order to try and prove he is the man for the job.

The downside, however, to taking on more work and longer hours is that he ends up neglecting his family, his church, and his health. Even though his family is constantly after him for more attention. His church consistently tells him they miss him. And his doctor keeps telling him to cut back on his work and get some exercise, he keeps going.

Why does he keep pushing despite the drawbacks, consequences, and broken relationships? He does it because he is enslaved to the process of getting to the top; of acquiring a certain level of prestige, power, and money he believes will ultimately give him what he desires. His enslavement started because he wasn’t content with what the Lord had given him, nor was he content with waiting on the Lord’s timing.

So we see that when we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us we may find ourselves enslaved, which has the very real potential of ruining relationships, our health, and even our life.

(2) When we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves destroyed

Take Bernie Madoff for instance. In 2008, his world of fame and fortune came crashing down when he was arrested for running the biggest Ponzi Scheme in history.

Bernie’s scheme all started because he wasn’t content with what he had. Instead of putting in the time and effort like everyone else, he decided to make sure his investments provided the returns necessary to elevate his lifestyle. Through an elaborately calculated and meticulously controlled Ponzi scheme, he was able to create the life he desired.

Bernie’s scheme worked for almost 20 years. During that time, I am sure he thought he would never be caught, but the law finally caught up with him. When it did, the life and empire he had built through his elaborate deception were destroyed. His empire came crashing down so hard that even one of his own kids was driven to suicide because he couldn’t handle the shame, pressure, and media attention Bernie brought on his family.

So we see when we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves, like Madoff, with our world destroyed as it all comes crashing down around us.

(3) When we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are free to worship Him

In Genesis 14, after Abraham defeats King Chedorlaomer and his alliance. He brings back his nephew Lot and all that King Chedorlaomer took from Sodom. Before Abraham meets with the King of Sodom, he has an encounter with the King of Salem – Melchizedek.

When Abraham meets with Melchizedek, we see that…

“…he [Melchizedek] blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”” (Ge 14:19-20b)

Through Melchizedek’s blessing Abraham is reminded that God is the One who has given him the victory. God is the reason he won the battle and was able to bring Lot, his family, and all the people of Sodom back.

Realizing God’s hand in the matter, Abraham is driven to worship the Lord, which he does by giving a tenth of everything to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God (Ge. 14:20).

“Tithing” is a universal sign of worship. It is a way for us give thanks to God for all He has given us and all He has done for us. As well as it is a way for us to show our trust and dependence on God. When you tithe, then, you aren’t just giving money to the church, you are actually worshipping God.

Sadly, however, tithing is a neglected form of worship. The Barna Group, a research firm, estimates that only 5-20 percent of people tithe in a typical congregation. They found that among non-tithing Christians who struggle to give, 38 percent say it’s because they can’t afford it, 33 percent say they have too much debt [1].

Now, I know that there are a few who are in a season of life where they may want to tithe, but can’t. They are working towards it, but things have happened — maybe they recently lost their job — which has hindered their ability to tithe for a season. The majority of people, however, who don’t tithe aren’t in that season. Instead, the majority of people who don’t tithe fit into the categories the Barna group highlighted. They can’t afford it because they are living outside their means, or they have too much debt because they are trying to keep up with the Jones’. Living outside your means or in ever increasing debt is not only unwise, it also reveals something about your heart. You are discontent with what the Lord had given you, and your discontentment has hinder your ability to worship God.

One of the secrets, then, to being able to consistently worship God by tithing is to be content with what the Lord has given you. Abraham was content, which is why he was able to give a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek as a tithe. He could have kept it back, but he didn’t. Instead, he used it to worship the Lord.

So we see that when we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are set free to worship God through giving, not only of our money but ourselves.

(4) When we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are free to glorify Him.

In 1924, Eric Liddell entered the Olympic games. He was the favorite to win the 100 meter since he broke the British record in 1923. A record that stood for 35 years.

Liddell’s dream, however, of winning Olympic Gold was shattered when it was revealed that the 100m heats would fall on a Sunday. He was a devout Christian, who observed the Sabbath on Sunday, which meant participating in sports, even the Olympic games, was out of the question. Instead of running in a race he was sure to win, he spent the morning preaching in the Scots Church in Paris.

Why was he able to preach instead of run? He was able to give up a chance at the Gold because he was content with what the Lord had given him. His contentment freed him to seek God’s glory instead of his own.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you content? If not, in what areas do you need to learn contentment?
  2. What are some other reasons we should work to learn to contentment?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon “Why Should We Seek Contentment?“, which you can listen to here.

[1] http://www.christianpost.com/news/study-christians-who-tithe-have-healthier-finances-than-those-who-dont-95959/

 

 

 

Do You Walk By Faith or Sight?

When I was a kid, pinatas were all the rave at birthday parties. You remember how it worked. You were blindfolded, turned around and around till you felt sick, handed a stick, and sent on a mission to free the candy from inside the pinata. Sounds easy, but in practice, it’s much harder. Being blindfolded and disoriented isn’t exactly a recipe for a crushing candy freeing blow, but it was an opportunity to walk by faith. Since you couldn’t see and had no idea where the pinata was at after the dizzying spin, you had to rely on your friends to tell you where to swing. You had to walk by faith, which is the exact opposite of what Lot did.

Lot’s Walk – By Sight

In Genesis 13, due to a conflict between their shepherds, Abraham approached Lot and gave him the opportunity to choose what land he would want to inhabit. After Abraham gave Lot the choice of which land to take, we are told that:

“…Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)

Seeing this…

“…Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” (Ge 13:10–13)

As I read through the commentaries, I discovered that when Abraham offered Lot the left or right, he was offering him a place in the land of Canaan. Lot, however, looked out and saw something he considered to be much better than the Promised Land. He saw that the land to the East was well watered, and had plenty of fertile soil for crops and cattle. As well as he saw cities, cultural centers that would prove useful for trade, entertainment, and other resources. Seeing all this, Lot decided that was the better land. So Lot left the Promised Land and settled near Sodom, a city of great sinners.

While Lot started out in a tent outside the city, he eventually traded in his tent for a townhouse in the city, and he eventually ended up sitting in the gate as a leader of these wicked people.

Lot paid for his choice. He was corrupted by the people he lived among.He lost his wife when she was turned into a pillar of salt. And his daughters eventually committed incest with him. All this started because of Lot’s choice to walk by sight and not faith.

Abraham’s Walk – By Faith

Abraham, on the other hand, chose to walk by faith. Starting in verse 14 we are privy to a conversation between he and God.

“The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

With the Lord’s promise fresh off His lips, Abraham responded in faith.

So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.” (Ge 13:14–18)

Abraham’s actions show us that he trusted the Lord. He believed God would take care of him. We know he trusted God because he stayed in the land of Canaan, settling by the oaks of Mamre, as well as he built an altar to the Lord. When Abraham built the altar, he was essentially saying, “Lord, I don’t know how you are going to do it, but I trust that you can and will give me this land and a great nation to inhabit it.”

Abraham, then, walked by faith, trusting the Lord to provide, while Lot walked by sight, trusting himself to pick the best path forward. Unlike Lot, because Abraham walked by faith, he was continually blessed by the Lord.

The Take Away

  • Those who choose to walk by sight and not faith will more than likely end up like Lot, paying the price for their choices.
  • But those who choose to walk by faith and not sight will more than likely end up like Abraham, experiencing God’s leading and blessing.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you find that you trust in the Lord or self more?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon Do Our Choices Matter?