First Fruits

Posted in Giving, Victorious Living by PCraig on July 31, 2010

I had someone ask me about the difference between firstfruits offering and the tithe, so I thought others might be interested as well, so I figured I’d write about it. 

Tithing is a biblical practice of giving to God 10% of your total income.  The practice was instituted before the law of Moses (Abraham tithed) and after when Jesus affirms it (Matt. 23:23).  We actually see that people enjoyed giving above the tithe in the book of Acts when they would sell their homes and bring the money to the apostles as an offering. 

Firstfruits is actually a part of the tithe as well.  It means to offer to God the first of all your crops or produce.  By doing this a person is honoring the God who provided the entirity of their harvest.  When a person tithes off the top of their income, they are providing a firstfruits offering to the Lord.  That means, before paying any bills or spending any of their income, you write out or mail out your tithe check to God. 

When you consider that “the earth is the Lords and everything in it”, then bringing our tithe (10%) shows the generosity of God to allow us to spend the other 90% at our discretion.  He says if we will do this that He will open the floodgates and pour out many incredible blessings upon us while also protecting us from the devourer (Malachi 3). 

I personally believe that I can do more with 90% with God’s blessing than I can with 100% without His blessing.  You simply can’t out-give God and He won’t be in debt to anyone.  This is why we often encourage people at church to try the 90 day challenge of tithing.  Give God 90 days of tithing and see if you don’t feel better about yourself, see God’s hand in your life, and experience unexpected blessings during that time.  I’m not saying put money in and you’ll get money out, but I know that my family has been blessed in many, many ways by our faithful tithing over the years. 

God dares us to try it and see if He can’t prove Himself in our lives in various ways.  So, why not give it a try?  You can’t pay what you don’t owe, so you have to “bring” the tithe with you to the storehouse.  Simply take your total income, and when you get paid write the first check to God’s storehouse (your church) and honor Him with those firstfruits of your income and see if you don’t experience more of Him by walking in obedience.

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Play To Your Strengths

Posted in Gifts, One Year Bible, Strengths, Victorious Living by PCraig on July 29, 2010

I wish I was good at everything, but the truth is there are some things I’ll never be good at no matter how hard I try.  For example, I may dream of playing in the NBA, but no matter how hard I train, my chances of being on a team are about zilch.  On the contrary, there are some other things in which I’m pretty good at and could even become great. 

Every leader should discover where their strengths are and where they are not.  A good leader will then begin to develop their strengths and delegate their weakness.  In today’s reading of the One Year Bible, Paul explains this in Romans by comparing each of us a a body part.  Just like many parts come together to form your physical body, likewise we all come together to form one spiritual body (His church).  He further develops this idea by saying that if you have the gift of serving – then by all means serve.  If you have the gift of encouraging – then get out there and encourage someone. 

This principle works in reverse: if you are gifted to encourage then don’t spend the bulk of your time trying to serve because you’re not that good at it.  Plus, someone else around you IS really good at it and wondering why you’re doing it all wrong!  Dare to be what you are, what God created you to be and let others do what they are gifted to do and you do what you are gifted to do. 

Allowing those around you come along side and carry what you were never meant to carry makes you a team player.  Maybe not on the NBA, but for a championship team nonetheless.

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The End of the World

Posted in End of the World, Second Coming by PCraig on July 28, 2010

Many are talking about it.  Movies are made about it.  Theologians and scientists debate about it.  It’s the end of the world. 

What most agree on is that it is inevitable.  The questions for many are “When will it happen?” and “How will it happen?”  I’ve got a better question: “Will you be ready for it?”  If you know something is coming and you don’t know when exactly it will take place – then, how should you live?  Shouldn’t you live like it could happen any minute? 

If we don’t know exactly when it will happen, (The Bible says no one knows except God Himself) then how should you treat your spouse, your parents, your friends, or strangers?  See, this brings up a whole new set of questions.  If we don’t know when the end of the world will occur, then what movies should we see?  What TV shows should we watch?  How should we dress?  What is most valuable in light of eternity?  Where should we invest our time, talents and treasure? 

This weekend, I’ll be tackling this topic in the conclusion to our ON DEMAND series.  I hope you’ll be there for this important message that will answer the most important questions about The End of the World.  Below are some teaser links that reveal some truths about biblical signs we are living in the last days. 




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Who Do You Listen To?

Posted in Counsel, Hearing God, Wisdom by PCraig on July 26, 2010

Who you listen to is crucial in the decisions you make which leads to the outcomes you experience.  With that in mind, you better be careful where you get your advice.  The Bible is full of illustrations of this, for example: 2 Chronicles 18 tells the story of Jehoshaphat (King of Judah) aligning himself with Ahab (King of Israel) for battle.  Jehoshaphat wisely suggests that before they march into battle to “first seek the counsel of the Lord.”  However, Ahab invites 400 prophets to come who only tell the king what he wants to hear.  So, they all give the thumbs up!

Instead of being satisfied with this, Jehoshaphat suggests hearing from a “prophet of the LORD” for a second opinion.  Ahab reluctantly calls for a prophet that he despises because he never prophesies “anything good” about him.  Sure enough, this prophet tells that calamity awaits and sure defeat, and Ahab says “I told you he never prophesies good about me.” 

Rather than listen to this one godly prophet, they take their advice from the crowd and go into battle only to suffer great defeat.  The same thing will happen to us when we take our advice from a crowd.  I would rather listen to one wise person than a crowd of fools! 

Just because a number of people are saying the same thing doesn’t make it right.  We will only bring trouble into our lives if we surround ourselves with advisers whose only thought is to tell us what we want to hear.

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Dreams & Visions

Posted in Dreams by PCraig on July 26, 2010

Yesterday in service I shared about the various ways God uses to speak to us, but I left a couple out:  dreams and visions.  It wasn’t so much intentional, as I believe that dreams and visions are a rare thing that God uses.  In addition, it causes some people to think that dreams they have came from God that were more the result of overeating.  Let me be clear, God can and does use dreams and visions to communicate to people, but not every dream is from God. 

How do you know if a dream is from the Lord?  It will line up with God’s Word and principles, and it will come to pass.  A vision is more like a dream that you have while awake and the same rules apply with it. 

We should not seek dreams and visions but rather the One who gives them.

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Why Me?

Posted in Faith, One Year Bible, Questions, Victorious Living by PCraig on July 24, 2010

One of the biggest questions I hear people struggling with is, “Why is this happening to me?  I’m a good person, so why should I be dealing with this?”  Usually when this question is asked it is in regard to BAD things happening.  Rarely do I hear a person asking, “Why is all this good coming my way?”  Where are the people asking about GOOD things happening to them that are undeserved or unearned? 

Anyway, in today’s reading of the One Year Bible we find a partial answer to this question from the book of Romans.  Here’s the question it raises, “Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?”  In other words, should we believe that if our lives don’t run according to our plan that God doesn’t love us? 

The answer is provided in Romans 8:37 “No, DESPITE all these things, overwhelming victory is OURS through Christ, who loved us.”  Paul says that God already proved His love for us by sending His Son to die for our sins.  What more do you have to do beyond dying for someone to show that you love them?  So, never doubt God’s love. 

The greatest victory that you and I have is not just getting this month’s bills paid, our bodies healed, or a new job.  By far the most phenomenal thing that you and I have to consider is we are bound for an eternal heaven with God and are assured of His presence every day of our lives.  So what if we encounter opposition and difficulties along the way, because when you and I get to heaven we’ll ask, “Why should I get to live in a place like this?  Why me?”  It’s all because of Him!

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Posted in Distractions, Purpose by PCraig on July 22, 2010

I don’t know if you are like me, but it seems my life is full of potential distractions.  There are emails, advertisements, social networks, and countless other things screaming “Spend time with me!”  Charles Garfield once wrote a book called Peak Performers.  In it he wrote about his study of peak performers and he found that among their common characteristics was the ability to remain balanced.  They kept their lives in balance between professional and personal, vocations and hobbies. 

Distraction is a chief enemy of the Christian.  If we are not careful, we will allow distractions to deter us from the very object of our salvation, which is Jesus Christ.  How do you know if something is a distraction?  

Therefore…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2

 A distraction can be anything that keeps us from keeping God #1 in our lives and living out our life purpose.  God called each of us and gifted us for a divine appointment that will lead to fulfillment and inner peace.  The enemy will do everything in his power to provide another option.  The bottom line is: it’s not worth the trade-off. 

 Pray for discernment this week to determine what things may be distracting you from being as effective and fruitful as God intends for you to be.  Then ask for the courage to do something about it.

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Hearing God

Posted in Hearing God, Prayer by PCraig on July 21, 2010

I’m getting prepared for the third part of our series ON DEMAND.  This weekend’s topic came in second place in the text voting for sermon subjects.  The title is:  How To Hear From God.  If you have ever struggled to hear from God, never heard from God or desperately need to hear from God then don’t miss it! 

Here’s a taste: we’ll examine the ways God speaks, how to position yourself to hear, and posture yourself in prayer.  I can’t wait to preach it!

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Have Some Fun Together

Posted in Fun, Life Group by PCraig on July 19, 2010

Still sore today after our boating trip with our Life Group this weekend, but man did we have fun!  I would encourage each of our Life Groups to do something fun together this summer.  Here’s just a few ideas: miniature golf, boating, swimming party, cookout, picnic, attend a concert together, go to the State Fair together.

Doing something fun together takes you out of your normal routine as a group and puts you into a relaxed setting where you can get to know each other better.  For example, the group I attend didn’t know I could do a double somersault off of an inner tube until last Saturday!  (I didn’t know it either until it happened)

It’s summer, have some fun with your fellow Christ-followers and build friendships.

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Just Pray

Posted in Prayer, Stress, Victorious Living by PCraig on July 15, 2010

Last weekend we talked about How To Handle Stress in the first message of our ON DEMAND series.  So, how are you doing?  Any improvement from the week before?  I know for me, it’s been a real pressure week with still trying to catch up from my summer break and new things to accomplish.  With all that added together with other things in my life, it would be easy to get stressed out. 

Here’s what I did instead…I prayed more.  And guess what?  It worked!  I even did some internet research and discovered scientific data that shows that daily prayer reduces stress; boosts positive  energy; and promotes health, vitality, and longevity. 

When you are faced with the urge to be negative or are feeling stressed to the max, stop, be still, plug-in to the ultimate power, and recharge your batteries. 

I have too much to do, to not pray.  Wow, I can already feel myself getting poised for a great day!

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