Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Test me in this," says the Lord

"Test me in this," says the Lord

I have watched God OVER provide time and time again. I want to encourage you in giving, as well as share just a few stories of how God has blessed me in giving these past few years. I began to write this post last week, but surely did not come close to finishing. I am just finding the time to sit down again and write, so here it goes! 

"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." Malachi 3:10

  There is one thing that God tells us to "test" Him in. That one thing is tithing. As you begin to grow in your walk with Christ, you begin to realize that there is JOY in giving. Joy in serving. Everything we have comes from God. Everything we have belongs to God. God deserves all the credit in all we do. He wakes us up each morning and breathes life into us daily. If you are alive, He is sustaining you, and He is the one to be praised!

If the God of the universe (the God who created the Heavens and the earth, the sun and the caterpillars, the elephants and the oceans, the trees and the mountains) is telling us to TEST Him, I think it is our best interest to do so! 

 Here are just a few situations where He blessed me far beyond what I could ever ask or imagine after surrendering to His will with "my" possessions and/or "hard earned money". 

  1. A concert whose performer I cannot even recall

    I remember being in middle school while my brother Mitchell and his wife Lisa were not yet "a thing". I have memories of them when they were just friends, then when they were talking... when they started dating, and then when they got engaged. They are now married, and I wouldn't trade those memories for the world!

    I remember one of those evenings, they let me tag along to a christian concert. We were in a group with other friends from church, and it was an exciting night of wonderful, clean, fellowship. 

    (Here is what changed my heart forever that evening!).

     I love T-shirts. I really love music, and sporting things I love on my chest or back always makes me proud! That night I decided I was going to buy one, and my heart was set on it! However, when I reached in my pocket, my wallet told me otherwise. I was so bummed when I realized I didn't have enough money to purchase a T-shirt (or anything else I thought was worth buying). 

    I am very independent, and I DO NOT like to ask for help; especially when it comes to financial anything! However, I REALLY wanted a T-Shirt from this concert. After tossing the idea around of asking for a lend out, I finally decided that I would ask my brother for a little extra cash. I knew that I had the money at home to pay him back, so I didn't feel quite as needy in asking him, and being the wonderful big brother he always has been, he (acted like he) was fine helping me out. 

    There I was! I had enough money in my hand to go buy the T-shirt I so desperately wanted, and I was completely at ease with blowing that money away on a single article of clothing. Until... the offering call.

    Often times when christian musicians perform, they set aside time for offering towards ministries or other non-profit Christian organizations. At this concert, that is exactly what went down. They slowed the music, explained what the offering money was going to go towards, and the profound impact our obedience in giving would have on the lives of so many others around the world. 

    I do not remember the name of the bands playing that night, nor do I remember who the offering was to go toward, but I can promise you this: I had never before felt the Holy Spirit stir in my heart to give all I had like He did in the civic center that evening. 

    I had a tug on my heart that I still cannot explain! People were starving and dying from preventable causes all around the world, and the money in my hand that I had to BORROW was about to be wasted on a cotton piece of cloth! How selfish? How foolish? 

    I handed my brother his money back so that all I had left in my hand was mine to give. (God doesn't desire for you to give away things that do not belong to you, and that are not yours to give away). When the volunteers began passing buckets around, I knew that every dollar in my hand belonged to God, and if stepped out on faith, I was not going home with a T-shirt.

    When I dropped all the money I had in that offering plate, knowing full well it was going to save lives and that I was not going home with a cool souvenir, a weight of 1,000,000 pounds was lifted of of my shoulders! 

    I never got the "money back" from that offering. God instead opened the floodgates in an indescribable,eternal way! God changed my heart in a way money will NEVER equate to! Far beyond any satisfaction money could bring about.

    From that moment on, I never question whether God will use my tithes and offering for His glory. 

    After all,

    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."

    2. The Guitar that found its home in Africa and never came back

     Last March, I had the opportunity to go with Celebration Baptist Church to Ethiopia! We flew into Addis Ababa for a medical mission trip. We drove about 4 hours into a truck stop town called Gedo, where we stayed in a hotel whose price was the equivalent of <$4.00 American dollars per night. This town has NO running water, and the people there live in poverty that I cannot even attempt to explain.  (Read about this trip in my blog post here). 

    After reading the blog I mentioned above, you will have a better understanding of why "Testing God" in giving is so near and dear to me!

     Before a trip to the other side of the world, packing is an extremely important part of 
     preparing. On one of the days leading up to our departure, my mom, dad, and I were all in my room making certain that our check list was checked off and ready to go. (My mom and I went to Africa, but my dad stayed home). As I was putting my guitar in the case for the trip, my dad stopped me in my tracks.

    Dad: "Morgan, why don't you take one of the other guitars? That is your nice, expensive one and you know if you take it with you it is not coming back!"
    Me: "DAD, it IS COMING back! I am NOT leaving my guitar in Africa! I worked hard for the money to buy it, it was expensive, and it IS coming back with me!". 
    Dad: "Morgan, you know you are gonna meet someone special and leave it. If you take it, this house will never see it again."

    We drove to Atlanta as a mission team, and flew out from there. We stopped in North (or South?) Carolina, then flew from there to DC. From DC, we boarded Ethiopian Airlines and headed across the ocean to Africa! 

    As a team, we had A LOT of luggage. My guitar was a checked bag, and it was supposed to be under the plane all the way until we reached Addis. However, a nice man at the airport allowed me to take it as a carry on, not counting towards the bag I already had on my shoulder. This was perfect!

    We had a lot of trouble every time we tried to board the plane. The workers did not like the fact that I had two carry on's, and often times tried to force me to leave my guitar. (Where in the world did they expect me to put it?!) Luckily, my dear friend Courtney was able to clam it as her one and only carry on, and the guitar made the trip with us in eye sight :)

    Well, here is the God part! Our first 30 minutes in the Addis airport, we were informed that our luggage was lost. ALL of it. So here we are in a foreign country with none of our personal stuff, and none of our supplies for the mission trip. BUT... guess what!?!?!

    I had my GUITAR!!!! God saved the day on that one! 

    As we got on the bus to head towards Gedo (4 hour ride), I sat with my guitar case in the middle isle. At this point, we were only riding the bus with our interpreters, we did not yet know their names or who they were. A man from the front walked over to me, pointed towards my guitar, and asked if he could play it. (In all honesty, I told him to go ahead because I did not think he was capable of playing anything at all. "Why would I assume that a man from Africa could play a guitar?" was my mindset.).

    He proved me wrong! He grabbed my guitar, turned to face his two friends, and played the most beautiful song I have ever hear... in his own language!

     Sabekelf worshiping OUR Father on the way to Gedo.What a wonderful sound it
     is to hear God praised in a language and country other than my own!

    At this point, I was not completely convinced that leaving my guitar was what God wanted me to do. (My mom would say that at that very moment, she knew my guitar was not coming home). I did however know for certain that I was going to leave money for him to buy one.

    As the week went on, I found myself placing the guitar in his hands more often than my own. I saw the way he worshiped, and I couldn't help but stand in awe every time his fingers touched the fret board, and every time his lips sang with praise. 

    Toward the end of the week, he actually asked if he could buy it from me. 

    In Ethiopia, they don't have access to much. In this case, Sabe had no access to an electric acoustic guitar.  He had a guitar that he used to lead worship at the church, but he didn't have an electric acoustic that he could plug in. So, for him to lay his hands on one is pretty unheard of. 

    I had decided just the night before that I was going to leave it with him. I was not going to tell him, in hopes of making it a surprise when I left it at the end of the week. However, he asked, and I made sure he knew in that moment it was his. I told him that I didn't want anything in return... except that he ALWAYS use it to honor God, and that he give Hana (another interpreter) lessons when I leave. He promised both!

    Hana picked it up well with my instruction too!!!

     All this to say, I left my guitar in Ethiopia. I never second guessed it, and I gave it away without even thinking about what that meant for myself.

    1. I went home with no guitar and no case
    2. I had no guitar to lead worship with at my own church, and no guitar to record in the studio with
    3. No guitar to write songs on, and no guitar to take with me to Camp Electric

    It was not until a months later, when my dear friend asked about my guitar, did I even realize that I was "guitar-less". Anytime I thought of my strings, I prayed for Sabe and his family and the work he was doing in Africa. When she approached me at church saying "I heard you left your guitar in Ethiopia", I immediately got to tell her about my trip. When she asked "What are you going to take with you to Camp Electric?", I did not know how to respond. The thought of not having an instrument at such an important camp had not once crossed my mind. I am sure I probably said something along the lines of "I don't know. But God's will will be done in that".  

    Little did I know she was prying for information. Laugh out loud! She is such an encouragement and loves to place others before herself. She sent out a secret email to some of the ladies she knew, and then without telling me about it, invited me to lunch. After a wonderful chat at Moe's, she handed me a few envelopes and sent me home anxious to open them!

    When I got home, I was literally speechless as I broke the seals. I opened them to find letters from many different people who had pitched in to "Help Morgan get a new guitar". They wrote me notes of encouragement, and enclosed more than enough money to buy a new guitar. I was so overwhelmed that I could not even breathe! The tears began to roll and all I could do was thank the Lord for holding me in His arms... always!

    There was not enough room to store the overwhelming joy I felt that day! God is never slow in keeping His promises.

    "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." Malachi 3:10

     3. Take off your turfs, for this is holy ground

     "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:5

     Do you have something that you just LOVE to look at? Love to own? Love to collect?
    I LOVE watches and tennis shoes! I do not have a lot of money, so I also LOVE to buy clearance, but there is just something about a new pair of kicks or a nice fitting watch that makes my heart skip a beat! (I also have a thing for race/tri bikes, but they are way out of reach as far as my wallet is concerned!)

    Well, for YEARS I wanted a pair of Nike turfs. All my ball coaches wore them, all my ball friends owned them, and it seemed that I was the only ball player around that didn't sport a pair on my feet!

    For fun, this is what they look like!

    Before it was time to start preparing for Africa, my friend bought me a pair! I was so excited! I am pretty sure that I even wore them to bed the first night! I am also pretty sure that I wore them with every out fit I put on as well; at least until they got dirty and I could no longer cuddle with them!

    I decided to wear them to Africa because I was down with a knee injury at the time and needed good "walking" shoes. 

    Now, we went overseas with the anticipation that almost everything we took over we were going to leave behind. My guitar and my shoes were the exception with my luggage! I was going to wear my turfs home on the plane , guitar in hand, and I was going to leave everything else behind. (Laughing now because I should have known all along... “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9)

    My plan for the shoes was working perfectly.. wear them all the time and that way they don't have a chance to be given away. Until...

    On the mission trip we were doing medical clinics. One day, a young teenage boy came to us for help. (He looked to be about 10, as most people there are malnourished and do not grow to the standards we do in country's with simple food and water). We knew immediately that he was very sick even before he told us what was wrong. 

    He had diabetes. He had been going from home to home, church to church... begging and pleading for money to get treatments. But no one had access to or was willing to lend this young man anything. He came to us looking like death warmed over. I cannot put into words the way his face touched my heart. 

    (Can you imagine your own child dying from a disease that only costs $60.00!!!!!!!!!!!! American dollars per YEAR to fix?!?! Heartbreaking to say the least.)

    It is very hard to give money to poor family over there because the simplest hand out can change their social class instantly. As a mission team, we offered to leave money with the church to help him for many years... but knowing that the boy might not last through the current year, they would not accept.

    So, we put him on our bus and took him with us back to Gedo. 

    On the way, my mom cuddled him in her seat. Kids don't get a loving touch over there, so I am certain he felt for the first time what it truly means to be "safe in a mothers arms". As his feet hung over the seat, I noticed he had on the same shoes I had seen all over town. Rubber elf looking shoes that he out grew probably ten years ago, and soles that exposed almost his entire foot! My first thought was to take the shoes off my own feet, but I knew I needed to ask our team leader if that was appropriate. 

    I did, and was given a "yes". I figured if I was going to leave my shoes, it may as well be to a young man whose face was already forever engraved in my head. I took his shoes off, and I could tell he was not comfortable with that. (I wouldn't be either if that was the only pair I owned). I began to unlace mine, and he looked up at me with eyes that I will never forget...

    I placed them on his feet, let him tie them, and watched as he admired his newest priced possession. We got off the bus, and my bare feet caught the eye of everyone around. 

    "The American girl is bare foot! Where are her shoes? The white girl is walking in the mud, why does she not buy a pair of shoes to put on her feet? When that girl left, she was covered... why is she shoeless now? Look at that little boy! He has a new pair of shoes! He doesn't deserve that!". I can only imagine these were some of the thoughts going through all these onlookers heads. 

    As I walked into the hotel shoeless, I watched that boy walk away, never to see him again. A friend from the team came up to me and put a whole new perspective on what I had just done...

    She reminded me of the horrible affects diabetes has on circulation, legs, and feet. She reminded me that not only did I give away a simple pair of shoes, but I made an incredible difference in the health of this young man. Tears began to flow again, and I was left overwhelmed by God's goodness and perfect timing. 

    My ways were not His ways, and I am so thankful that God reminded me of that in my giving. What I intended to use in vain, God used to humble me like never before. 

    When I got back to the states, not once did I miss my guitar or my beloved turfs. God put a joy in me from those two moments that nothing will ever quench. (Sitting here now typing this brings tears to my eyes, even a year later). 

    Just as a friend blessed me without permission in getting a new guitar, I also had a friend (may as well be my sister) bless me in giving me shoes. This friend has no idea that I ever left shoes in Africa, and the shoes that she gave me upon returning home came completely out of her own desire to bless me. I cannot pretend like that was anything other than God using her to show me that His timing is perfect and He never forsakes. 

    Since coming home from Africa, my friend has given me 4 pairs of shoes (she did not know then and does not know now that I left my own pair in Ethiopia). I love to run, as does she. When she put a fair amount of miles on her shoes, she gave them to me to use as brand new! I cannot afford these, and to have nice "running shoes" is something I am very thankful for. So Sister, thank you!

     The Lord loves to bless His people!

    "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." Malachi 3:10

    I am in NO way saying that God will always give us back what we give away in obedience. Again, His ways are not our ways! I AM saying that He has never failed me, and He will not fail you. He says to test Him in giving, and He promises to bless us in HIS perfect and all- knowing way! Whether He gives us back what we gave away, multiples what we gave and again chooses to give it back, or simply decides to give us only a still peace within our hearts, He will always come through. Even if we never see the return of our work until we meet Jesus face to face, every step taken in faith will be worth it! He welcomes our praise and our obedience!

    How does this apply to you?

    I don't know! Ask God what it is in your life that you are not allowing Him to have His hand in. (I have to do this daily). Do you really believe that He gave you everything you have, or do you just like to say that because it makes you "feel" more thankful? Do you trust Him with your money and fiances? Is He the FIRST one your stroke the check to every month, or the last one you give to in the event you have left overs? 
     Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; Proverbs 3:9
    What about your time? Do you make time to serve others, or do you kick and scream at the thought of laboring over people that cannot pay you back? If you DO serve, are you serving for an earthly reward or an eternal reward?
    For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:21
     Are you aiming to please men or the One that created all men? Are you angry because you have given to "The Kingdom" and feel God has not returned what you thought He would return? Or are you humbly and perfectly content with knowing we are not to store up treasures here, but in Heaven?

    The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.Deuteronomy 28:12

    For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:10

    Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;  not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2-3

    If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Deuteronomy 15:7

    Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
    "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:1-4
    "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Matthew 6:24

    Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.Luke 12:33

    Take a look at this video called "Do Something" by Matthew West
     Are you ready to answer a call?!

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope that it has encouraged or motivated you in someway today. 
Love to all,

No comments:

Post a Comment