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Give yourself away! - WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 15

‘They gave themselves first to the Lord…then to us.’     2 Corinthians 8:5 NIV (1984 Edition)

What do people usually value more than your money? You! Think about it. What takes greater effort - writing a cheque or giving of your time and energy? Which shows a greater level of commitment? Take a moment and recall the people who’ve had the greatest impact on you: a teacher who helped you realise you could think, learn and achieve; a parent who loved you, sacrificed for you and gave you the gift of self-worth; a mentor who painted a picture of your future then equipped and challenged you to reach for it. Next to your salvation, what could be greater?

Ponder these words: ‘When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you brought to other people’s lives than from the times you outdid and defeated them.’ Too many of us see giving as more than just an act of love - we see it as a transaction - we only give to get! Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell said, ‘It is obvious that man is himself a traveller; that his purpose in this world is not “to have and to hold,” but “to give and to serve”. There can be no other meaning.’ It’s so easy to live only for yourself. In fact, it’s one of our most basic instincts - one we have to overcome each day. But we can take another path - to be generous with our love and our time. When you give those gifts, you’re being as generous as you can be!

Don’t let fear stop you (2) - TUESDAY FEBRUARY 14

‘I was afraid, and…hid your talent.’ Matthew 25:25 NKJV

The master of an estate gave each of his servants a sum of money to invest for him. One man got five talents, the second two talents, and the third man one talent. The servants with two and five talents turned a respectable profit, while the man with one talent told his master, ‘I was afraid, and…hid your talent in the ground.’ What’s the lesson here? Simply this: fear makes you unproductive! A seasoned pastor writes: ‘Fear will stop you from singing in the choir…witnessing…giving cheerfully…and walking in love with your spouse…The underlying issue is fear that God won’t do what He says. But as believers we should be so full of the Word that fear can’t get a foothold…Jesus said, “Take no thought for your life” (Matthew 6:25 KJV).

Paraphrased: Why would you even think fearful thoughts when I’ve told you I’ll never leave you…I’ll protect you…and give you everything you need to do the job? Bottom line: God is with you even when you can’t feel or see Him, and when others imply He’s abandoned you.’ Fear disguises itself behind many different faces. We want to do things our way, or we say we’re not interested, or it’s not the right time. What we’re coming up against isn’t a closed door - it’s repressed fear. If you’re wondering why you’re not progressing in certain areas, see if hidden fear is holding you back. And if it is, ask God to help you release your fears and start trusting what He says.

Don’t let fear stop you (1) - MONDAY FEBRUARY 13

‘Whom shall I fear?’ Psalm 27:1 NASB

Life’s filled with fear-inducing situations: fear of sickness, unemployment, rejection, other people’s opinions. Left unchecked, fear will steal your inner peace. But as Chuck Swindoll reminds us: ‘David met fear head-on at his front door with two questions. “Whom shall I dread? Whom shall I fear?” And he slammed the door in fear’s face by declaring, “My heart will not fear…I shall be confident” (v. 3). Then he walked back into his house, reminding himself how to counteract fear’s attacks. Prayer: “I have asked from the Lord” (v. 4). Vision: “I behold the beauty of the Lord” (v. 4). God’s Word: “I meditate in His temple” (v. 4). God’s protection: “In the day of trouble He will conceal me” (v. 5). Worship: “I will sing” (v. 6). Rest: “Wait for the Lord” (vv. 13-14).

Determination: “Let your heart take courage” (v. 14). Courage isn’t limited to the battlefield…Its real tests are broader…deeper…quieter…like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking…enduring pain when the room is empty…standing alone when you’re misunderstood…It can be as simple as saying “No”, as uneventful as facing a mountain of laundry, as unheralded as the inner struggle between right and wrong. God’s medal-of-honour-winners are made in secret…where most courageous acts occur…away from public acclaim.’ When fear nips at your heels, God says, ‘Be strong and courageous!’ (Joshua 1:9 NASB).

Dick Mills writes: ‘Every commandment…comes with the assurance that we can perform it. God doesn’t issue orders we’re not capable of fulfilling…It’s incongruous to say, “I’ve lots of courage but no strength,” or, “I’m a powerhouse of energy but I’m afraid.” Courage and strength were given to you by God. Courage motivates our will, and strength accompanies our effort.’

What she needs - what he needs - SUNDAY FEBRUARY 12

‘Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.’ Ephesians 5:33 NLT

The Bible says, ‘Male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1:27 NIV 2011 Edition). God created women to be more than a slightly altered version of men. Adam was all male; Eve was all female - as different from each other as day is from night. They thought, felt, talked, and acted differently. Their priorities differed. They needed different things from each other. And just as getting along under the same roof was essential for them then - it is for us now. And it calls for things like understanding, patience, unselfishness, mutual effort, and showing grace. Following Paul’s philosophy is fundamental to a happy marriage - the husband must understand that his wife needs his love, and the wife must understand that her husband needs her respect.

Dr Emerson Eggerichs reminds us that men and women speak different relationship languages, based on their differing needs. Yes, both need love and respect, but husbands feel loved when they’re given their wife’s unconditional respect, and wives feel respected when they’re given their husband’s unconditional love. Notice that Paul’s words are not simply wise words of counsel, but divine orders to be observed and obeyed. The husband ‘must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband’. God doesn’t require him to earn her respect, or her to deserve his love. Jesus, our role model, respected and loved us unconditionally at the cost of His life. And He calls us to do the same for each other. As the author of marriage, God knows what really works; so follow His guidance at home.

Giving at a higher level - SATURDAY FEBRUARY 11

‘She…has given everything she had.’ Mark 12:44 NLT

God doesn’t want your generosity to be restricted by fear. Either you’ll trust Him financially and experience the joy of participating in His purposes on earth, or trust your own earning ability and live with anxiety. The danger of not moving to a higher level of giving is that you can miss out on something great that God wants to do for you - and through you. Count on it; at some point He’ll challenge you to give more than you’ve ever given before. And at that moment your faith will cause you to say yes, or your fear will cause you to dismiss it as impractical. That’s a pivotal point in your life, because your response to God’s challenge will determine your future. Some levels of giving are effortless, while others make us uneasy. Sooner or later we all hit a wall called fear, and unless you recognise it you’ll never be able to break through it. As a result you’ll live with less than God intends you to enjoy. What’s the solution? Change your concept of ownership!

Adolphe Monod said, ‘There’s no portion of money that is our money and the rest God’s…It’s all His; He made it all, gives it all, and has entrusted it to us for His service.’ If you believe that, there’s no reason not to give. However, getting God involved in your finances means surrendering control of your money to Him. And that can be scary. Jesus’ model for generosity was a widow who gave her last penny, without having anything to fall back on except God’s promise to meet her needs. When you reach that point, you’re on the threshold of the miraculous.