Friday, June 18, 2010

First Fruits or Leftovers?

Not long ago, on a Wednesday afternoon, I stopped in a clothing store to "look around" (I never know when my husband, Shane, reads my posts, but better to be safe then sorry! ha!). I was confused on the actual price of a pair of pants (not that I was buying them, of course), so I decided to ask a sales person.I noticed that all three of the store employees were assisting one woman. They were all gathered around her, each holding different articles of clothing.I walked over to wait to ask my question. As I was standing there, the young woman, whom the ladies were assisting, began to chat. She seemed very uncomfortable to have all this attention, but at the same time, she seemed very greatful. The woman was not dressed in lavish clothing, nor did she seem to even care about the styles and colors of clothes she was being shown. She laughed as she said how long it had been since she had gone shopping. There was something about her, something that just let you know she was excited... but not for the reason you would think. She just kept smiling. And then, the woman explained the reason for her smile. She said, "Tonight, I am going to church for the first time and I want to wear my best." It was then that I realized that the store employees were not just helping her with one item. She had asked for new everything! Shirt, skirt, shoes, undergarments, necklace, etc! I felt my heart break into a million pieces. My eyes welled up with tears so big that I almost couldn't hold it back. I thought to myself, "How often have I withheld the very best for my Lord?" I don't know the complete story of that woman. All I know is that she knew she was entering a Holy place before a Holy God and she wanted to present herself in nothing less than her very best...her first fruits.She withheld nothing and gave everything. I want you to know that this post is not being written to critique fashion or discuss what is proper church "dress code" for Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. Let's just get that out of the way, really quick. This post has everything to do with looking deep into our hearts and dumping out those things or people that we give our best to and then give our God the leftovers. God used this woman to remind me that we often fail to offer Him our first fruits, our very best.I guess the overall point God desires to make to me, to you, is that times have changed, but God has not. It blows my mind to read stories in my Bible about the incredible things God did for His people thousands of years ago. But the mind blowing part comes when I look up from my Bible and realize that HE IS THE SAME GOD TODAY!!!! WOW!!!!!! The God who parted the Red Sea; the God who flooded the earth, yet protected Noah, his family, and animals to begin again; the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; the God who ripped the veil when He sacrificed His only Son on Calvary so that you and I could have a relationship with Him...the same God I pray to. Mind blowing. But somewhere along the way, we, His people, have forgotten that we serve this kind of God. We have fallen into materialistic legalistic mumbo jumbo stuff that does not honor Him nor does it honor what He has asked us to do--"Go and make disciples." His own people have sought to give our best to our spouse, our children, our careers, our own selves...and this God, whom we say we are devoted to...gets the leftovers and sometimes nothing at all. This is very serious. This will not and is not being tolerated by our Lord. So what does God say about first fruits and how can we give Him what He has required of us? Obviously, first fruits are the "first" portion of a harvest. In the Bible, the first of harvests and animals were given to God. The offerings were given to God in obedience to show Him honor and prove that they trusted God to bless them with a greater harvest to follow. God's people also dedicated their firstborn to God to bless them and their household (The first fruits ceremony is well described in Deut. 26). They wanted God to bless their households...hmmm. The best was given to God...not kept for one's self. Wow. In 2010, that concept seems so foreign. We scout out the harvest, give God little to nothing at all, and keep what we want and give Him the leftovers. You may be reading this and say,"Corrie, we are not Israelites nor do we live in Old Testament times. We don't have to offer our fruits, veggies, and animals to God." But we are required to give Him our first fruits, or in other words, put Him first in every aspect of our life. This includes our finances (yes, I do mean tithing and no, I don't back down from that concept at all.),our time, our decisions, etc. First fruits are about obedience, faith, and keeping God as our first priority. Yet, as His people, our homes, churches, and our nation, does not reflect these three things. Instead, we are disobedient in our hearts, thoughts, and actions. We have replaced Him with idols of our self, our family, and things. But still we wonder why we feel as though God isn't moving in our life. We wonder why it feels as though when we pray, He isn't listening. God's word is very clear about how putting Him first in every aspect, will bring us into a closer relationship with Him, which in turn, blesses us abundantly. What about you and me? With our time, does God get the very first words that come from our mouths that morning in prayer with Him? After all, He did wake us up. Do we fit Him into our schedule or do we schedule everything around Him? Of course, He "MADE" time, but does that really matter to us? With our finances, do we give God what He requires (10%) off the top or do we buy what we need and if there is any left to drop in, we give it and feel as though we have pleased Him? Then we wonder why our finances seem hopeless. Do we parent our children the way we want to or do we seek His wisdom and read His word on how God says to parent? Do we wait when He says wait and go when He says go? We often think He isn't answering the way we want Him to so we take it upon ourselves to "fix" our families. Yet, we wonder why we feel as though we are failing. Maybe you have read this post and say, "Corrie, this is all well and true, but it is difficult for me to put God first, be obedient, and walk by faith." At least, this is what I said, and I wrote this! Ha! Then God showed me a verse that will be the wind behind my back to make Him a first priority, to walk by faith and to be obedient: James 1:17-18 says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change, like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruit of all He created." There is our motivation. WE can read those verses and be reminded that we and all we have belong to God. And by that fact alone, we know that God is devoted to those who belong to Him. This ensures His provision for our lives, fostering trust(faith)in Him, moving our feet in obedience, and placing Him at the very center of our life...that is the purpose of first fruits... Love, Corrie My prayer for today: God forgive me for not giving you my very best in every aspect of my life. Help me from this day forward to remember that I belong to you and that you love me more than I could ever know. You show your mighty strength when you move mountains for me, yet, you sit quietly beside me while I sleep at night. I place you at the very center of my life, my body, my family, my home, my church, my friendships, and my nation. May you have free reign, Lord, to do as you please. And may I glorify you by giving you back my first fruits...Amen