November 29, 2016

Good Tuesday

It is #GivingTuesday 2016. Yes, it is another one of those made up #hashtag days where everyone on the Internet is supposed to be reminded that the day is special, and that as a human being (collectively speaking), each person is supposed to respond accordingly (well, unless you are a horrible person, that is to say).

When I was growing up, it used to be the greeting card industry that set all those special "national days" that encouraged "thoughtful" people to buy a card and send it to someone they loved.  Yes, it seemed like every week there was another special day that forced you "remember" to be thoughtful, to be a "cheerful giver."  Thanks to the Internet, all that is needed today is just #Hashtag. Yes, one little # and the world feels guilty and forks over money to some good cause. Oh my goodness!


#GivingTuesday

According to Wikipedia, #GivingTuesday was started in 2012 as a response to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two biggest shopping days in the USA. The day was set aside as the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The official write-up (Wikipedia) states,

"Giving Tuesday, often stylized as #GivingTuesday for purposes of hook activism, refers to the Tuesday after U.S. Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a movement to create an international day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season. Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season (Black Friday and Cyber Monday).”

I don't have an issue with giving, because after all, this is the SEASON OF GIVING, as the commercial retailers remind us. Consumerism is at an all time high, and well, what is a better way to enjoy the holiday than to give money to the less fortunate. I am all for the latter, and in fact, it does aline with Scripture. Both the Old and New Testaments stress the importance of taking care of our fellow man (men, women, and children), and we are strongly encouraged to consider the poor, the widow and the orphan. I think we can also include, indirectly, the oppressed and the marginalized in our society as well. In this way, being a cheerful giver is the Christian thing to do.

Yet, sometimes I think that we misunderstand what God desires from us when it comes to cheerfully giving to others. I mean, are we to cheerfully give to every person we meet who asks us for something (money, mostly)? Or are we encouraged to give to the family of God first, the world second? It is a good question, and it bears some research.

In the Bible, God lays out what many theologians call “scriptural priorities” when it comes to personal and familial responsibilities. There is a certain “pecking order,” so to speak, and according to the Word of God, this order is in place to help us understand to whom we are responsible. This order then provides a guideline for us, if we are in doubt (I guess you could say), but it also reminds us of the importance of caring for those in the family of God, first and foremost, before other people or even humanitarian causes or needs. Therefore, Scripture reminds us that we are to give or serve others in this specific order:
  1. God (Deut. 6:5)
  2. Spouse (Eph. 5:25)
  3. Children (Eph. 6:4)
  4. Extended family members (Deut. 5:16)
  5. Brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal. 5:13)
  6. The world (Matt. 28:19)
We can see that from this vantage point, our priorities for cheerfully giving are set toward particular people first, with the general population following. Does this mean that we shouldn’t have a cheerful or grateful heart, and as such give lovingly and willingly to others as the need arises? I think we are to do just that, but only when it is obvious and necessary. For example, the Apostle Paul discusses the importance of giving money (resources and supplies) to the church when he writes to the believers who fellowshipped in Corinth. We read in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV),

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

The context of this passage was to remind the Christians in Macedonia of the "gift" that was promised by them to help supply the needs of the Christians living in Jerusalem. Paul wanted the believers to remember their word, and to be ready to deliver the promise, as he says "not by compulsion," but as a willing gift. He goes on to provide rationale for this practice -- supply the needs of the saints -- when he says in verses 12-13,

For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.

Moreover, Paul reminds the Macedonians (and us, by extension) of the powerful promise from the Old Testament that comes when we give cheerfully. He says in verses 9-11,

As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

In my view, what Paul is saying here is that as Christians, we should give freely to the household or family of God. This means that we should support our local church as well as the global church, and we should give to those who have need within the church. Secondly, and as the Lord provides according to His promises “sowing and reaping” practice, we are to give those in need as a demonstration of our love for God and our desire to obey the great commission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world.

I am not against participating in #GivingTuesday at all, and I think the cause, if it helps people remember to support local business or charities, it can be a good thing. However, for me personally, I really believe that the money the Lord has graciously provided to me is earmarked, so to speak, for His kingdom purpose. Thus, I will give as the Lord leads, and as He puts causes and people on my heart and into my mind. In this way, my heart as it is “decided” will seek to reflect the goodness of God, and I will give as I am able to give knowing that the money is serving the Kingdom and the people of God first.

Other News

It is Tuesday, of course, which means that it is my day off. I am so happy to be home today. I am tired, and I am a bit cranky, but that is just “par for the course,” as they say. I am really happy to be home. It is quiet now, and I am thankful for the peace and the stillness in my home. My parents are out, and my son is at school, so it is just me and the “boys” hanging out together. I am working on the computer, chatting with my good friend who is texting on the job (LOL). In all, my life is peaceful and restful.

I did sleep fairly well. My new comforter came in the mail yesterday, and after I unpacked it and let it decompress (or recompress as the case may be), it turned out to be the softest and fluffiest non-down comforter I have seen. In fact, as I laid under it last night, I thought it felt just like those commercial comforters that you sleep under at pricey hotels. It had that loft, that super soft feel, and in some ways, it felt like I was sleeping under a cloud. It was so nice, so warm, and so comfortable.

My cat, Ike, has discovered it as well. Last night, before I put it on my bed, he walked around it 3-4 times before he walked on it. Once he did, though, he scrunched down in it and was out like a clock! He slept all stretched out for about 2 hours last night, right in the middle of my comforter. He finally moved about 9 p.m., and I was able to fluff it and put it under my quilt. He is sacked out on my bed right now, so I guess he thinks it “rocks” as much as I do. Thank you, Jesus! I mean, thanks be to God, for His provision of a new comforter for my bed. I have needed a replacement comforter since my old down comforter kept losing feathers. It was old, like 20 some years old, and the cover was splitting and ripping whenever you pulled it a bit too hard. Plus, I had piles of downy feathers under my bed, and my allergies were constantly reacting to the down. My prayer is that this comforter, along with my down-alternative pillow, will keep my allergies at bay. That is my prayer, of course, my prayer!

I am still waiting for the rest of my order to arrive. Hopefully, I should have my whole bed put together by next week. I am really looking forward to finally having my room redone in the way I want. It has been such a treat to be able to purchase some new things. The Lord has graciously provided for me, and I am so thankful for His gift of new bedding.

I still would like to get a new desk, but for now, I am holding off a bit on that plan. I want to make sure that whatever I do actually benefits me in the long run. I would like a new desk, some new office layout to better handle teaching, etc. Until I can move permanently, I think I am stuck with what I have now. It works, but it is getting a bit worn and frazzled. Oh, well, such is life.

My hope is that I will know soon what the Lord intends to do with me, long term. I would love to know whether I will teach online in a full-time capacity or whether I will continue to teach at multiple schools part-time. I would also like to know if the Lord plans to move me to another place next year or I will wait until 2018. I am so impatient at times. I really do want to know what the plans will be. It would be different if I had a full-time job now. I mean, I would simply know that I am set, settled, and then I would not think so much about it. I am settled in some ways, mind you. I do have two good part-time jobs that together equal one full-time paying job. I also have Obamacare health insurance for next year that I can afford. The following year will be different because my income will push me out of the Health Exchange, so I will have to fork over some mighty big payments to be covered. With healthcare and my school loans, well, I am a little concerned about how I will pay everything and keep food on the table. The Lord knows me well, though, and He has a way out of this debt and healthcare crisis. Of that, I am certain.

I am trusting Him and waiting for His promised provision. I am choosing to cheerfully give of what I have, and I am relying on His promised plan of “sowing and reaping,” so that I can be blessed, financially, materially, and of course, spiritually. The Lord is the Giver of all things, and it is up to Him to determine my way. He has this all figured out, and while I really do want to know “for sure,” I also know that I must be patient and wait. I must exercise my faith, and in that way, I must rest in His ability to lead, to guide, and to provide for me. He is good, so very good. He does know what is best for me. Selah!


In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I am thankful for the provision of the Lord, and for His goodness as it extends to me. I want so much for the Lord to have His way in my life, and that means, that I must trust Him implicitly and I must rest in His authority over me. I cannot have my way and His way. I must relent, and I must go where He sends me. I must do as He asks, and I must not let my own desires, wants or needs get in the way.

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