Monday, September 23
Theme for the week:
Disciples Take God's Word Seriously

In many places, Jesus warns His disciples about the unhealthy attraction of worldly treasures, be it money, assets, pleasures, etc. (see Matthew 6 and Luke 8). One phrase of Jesus that captures the heart of the matter is this, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). As a way to combat the impact of worldly treasures, he then encourages His followers to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” often recognized as (1) fellow people and (2) the things we do for them in the name of Jesus. Clearly God treasures people – and they will be present in heaven. This week we focus on being generous for the sake of the kingdom by investing in people. Here is our identity-in-Christ statement:

• Because I am already rich in Christ, I am willing to be generous with worldly treasures to bless others whom God treasures.

2 Corinthians 8:1-12

The Collection for the Lord’s People

1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

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Pondering Point

A lesson to keep in mind when it comes to being generous is NOT to get caught up measuring treasure-gifting against someone else’s giving.

There is a much better comparison to be made. A measuring stick the Apostle Paul uses points toward the relationship between how much you have been given by God and how much you are giving out of that. Using the language from 2 Corinthians 8:12, your gift finds acceptance with God based on what you have, not what you don’t have.

Paul had encouraged them earlier to set aside a portion of their income weekly in order to be generous when the need arose. On one hand, a person ought not feel bad for a small gift when it’s proportionate to their income. On the other hand, a person ought not feel virtuous about a large gift that is still disproportionately small to their level of income.

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Father God, may my heart treasure You above all things, and may my earthly treasures be used to honor You in generous ways. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, September 24
God’s Mission

John 6:1-14

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

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Pondering Point

A treasure is not always in the form of money. It can be resources, time, or even unique abilities. For example, when there is a crowd of hungry people and you are the only one with food, you will have plenty of would-be friends lining up to share your treasured resource.

That might have been the case for the young boy who had a meager five barley loaves and two fish. As the disciples themselves remarked, “how far will they go among so many?” Well, never underestimate what God can do with your ‘treasure’, no matter how insignificant you think it to be. How far can it go? Well, you will never know if you keep it to yourself. But give such a thing to God and who knows, he may turn around and use it to bless thousands of people.

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Father, remind me to give freely and generously, AND to neither diminish nor magnify the impact of my gift-giving based on its size in the eyes of men. In Jesus I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, September 25
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

2 Corinthians 9:12-14

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God…in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.
~ Apostle Paul

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Pondering Point

Who is thanking God for you because you are applying your God-given treasures to meet their needs? When people receive blessings out of a bounty you have, it is a form of God’s grace coming through you to them. Isn’t that an awesome picture? Let’s be conduits of grace!

Looking back to last week’s parable of the minas (Luke 19:11-27) and taking risks for God with His resources, Jesus acknowledged that those who are faithful with small things will get the chance to manage greater things. One of the best things we can invest our resources in is people. Add the thought that God’s grace flows with that giving and you have a beautiful picture of the work of God in action.

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Father God, let me become for You a Christian conduit of grace, a kind channel of mercy, and a generous pipeline of love for my world in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

Thursday, September 26
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

1 Chronicles 29:10-20

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.

14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”

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Pondering Point

I love the humble attitude, the spirit, and the amazing generosity of King David (and his people) in this account. Read the entire chapter of 1 Chron. 29 – seriously. This one-time giving event went to the building and upkeep of the temple, but was still an investment in God and His people, His treasured possession. Let’s use David’s prayer to assess our attitude and spirit toward giving back to God.

Review the week

Do you consider everything you currently have as coming from God? Do you seek to honor God through what you give? How so? (Think of church, non-profits, neighbors in need, family, etc.). Would you consider yourself a generous giver? Who might be watching your heart, actions and attitude toward giving?

Repent (if necessary)

Repent for losing sight of your resources as being given by God (and still are His in a very real way). You might need to repent of being stingy with your God-given resources.

Return (as necessary)

for losing sight of your resources as being given by God (and still are His in a very real way). You might need to repent of being stingy with your God-given resources.

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[Create your own prayer for recentering yourself in Jesus' eyes.]

Friday, September 27
Discipleship Point and Prayer

When someone finds favor in God's eyes, the things that count the most will be there in ever-increasing fashion. Humility will never mean an absence of problems. It will not mean comfort and ease, but it will bring an assortment of circumstances and experiences that God will blend together to make life rich and full of depth and meaning.
p. 158, Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
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Humility Prayer

Father God, keep me from pride amid the times of abundant resources; keep me from bitterness amid the times of scant resources. Keep my spirit content and generous at all times, like the Apostle Paul at all times (Philippians 4:11). Amen.

Discipleship Point about Money

What attitude and practice should disciples have regarding money? Disciples live with a healthy fear of the money God (mammon), knowing that it has the power to command devotion. A way to put limits on our greed and to laugh in the face of mammon is to begin our practice of giving with a minimum of a tithe of our resources to the Lord's work.

(Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p. 221).
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Discipleship Prayer

Father God, help me develop a healthy fear for the power of money to command one’s devotion. Help me put limits on such earthly treasure through a financial vision that allows for only one God in my life– You! Amen.

Saturday, September 28
Scripture's Story for the Week

Malachi 3:6-18

Breaking Covenant by Withholding Tithes

6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

Israel Speaks Arrogantly Against God

13 “You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord.

“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”

The Faithful Remnant

16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.

17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

While the story itself comes from Malachi 3:6-18, consider reading the whole book (just over ten minutes) to get the rest of this story. This blessing is clearly conditional based on the upcoming behavior and attitude of God’s people in response to God’s words through Malachi.

What do you learn from the story about God’s character and His attitude toward “stuff”? Since God’s character does not change (“I, the Lord do not change” v.6), how might a dialogue go between you and He over giving? What does God treasure (see v.17)? What about you – what do you treasure? Where, when and how are the blessings revealed according to this reading? Consider these questions as you ponder this story from God’s Word.

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Father God, the thought of robbing you disturbs me. Let it not be so in my life. I want to be counted among those who “fear the Lord and honor His name.” May I freely give what I have graciously received. In Jesus I pray. Amen.

Sunday, September 29
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

Malachi 3:10

So says the Lord Almighty, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” 

If you did not do so yesterday, do yourself a favor and read Malachi 3:6-18 to get the context of this blessing (the whole book is just over ten minutes on audible). Ask yourself who gives first in this account and be ready to defend your answer. Look closely!

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