We, as people, have the ability to convince ourselves of some pretty dumb things.  I’m not sure exactly how it happens, but it does, over and over again.

One of the dumb things I convinced myself of over the years was the notion that people don’t need to go to church to be Christians.  After all, being a Christian is about believing in Christ as your Lord and Savior, and as long as you do that, you are a Christian, right?  As long as I accept Christ, then I get to go to Heaven.  Being a Christian isn’t about the rules, it’s about my heart and my heart can worship anywhere.  I used to do a lot of triathlons and so I would ride my bike on Sunday mornings and claim that as “my church.”  Because what is so important about church anyway?

It’s amazing what I can justify sometimes.  That would be like getting my dream job and saying “Oh I love this company!  It’s so great to be associated with a company where I totally believe in what we do!   Finally!  I can’t wait to be a part of it.”  And then never or rarely show up to work, never or rarely do any continuing education and then still expecting to get paid and reap all the benefits.  Or a better analogy might be going through a marriage ceremony and calling yourself married, but returning to your single life.  It just doesn’t make sense.

And, I know a lot of people still buy into this idea, which is really unfortunate because they are really missing out.  I am not saying that you won’t go to heaven if you don’t go to church.  I actually think you will but ultimately I don’t make that decision.  What I am saying is that as a Christ follower, I am called to attend church.  And, God hasn’t historically called me to do things that are bad for me.  As a matter of fact, every time I do something that is contrary to his will, it turns out pretty stinking bad.  So, I have just stopped messing around with God.  It doesn’t work out to my benefit, so if He says go to church; I’m just going to go.  Plain and simple.

Over the last year I have read a couple of books, the Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel and The Purpose Drive Life by Rick Warren.  The Purpose Driven Life taught me about the importance of the church and The Christian Atheist convicted me of the fact that I was claiming to be a Christian but acting like an atheist.  The premise of the book is that we say we believe, but we act like we don’t.  How often do we choose to obey the parts of the bible that we like and then totally disregard the parts that ask us to do anything that is uncomfortable or inconvenient?

Simple question:  What speaks louder, actions or words?

Now, I LOVE my church, and I am not just saying that because I know our pastor reads this.  I really do.  What I first fell in love with was how it ministered to me.  And then, at some point, I realized that sometimes going to church is just about being obedient to God and worshipping him.  So, I got prepared to just go to church and worship Him because He kind of deserves it and maybe it’s not just about what I get, but what He gets.   But, then the church seemed to minister to me even more.  I keep waiting for the service that doesn’t speak something meaningful into my life, but it hasn’t happened yet.  It’s fabulous.  And, what I really love now, is our mission as a church.

I’ll admit, in the beginning it was awkward.  And, I think that is why a lot of people don’t go; maybe they don’t give it enough time.  We didn’t know anyone.  We saw lots of other people connecting with friends and laughing, but we would just go to the service, check our kiddo out of Kidcrest and leave.  Once we had been going for a while we might say something to each other like, “I thought that was a good service.  What did you think?”  “Yeah it was good.”  End of spiritual conversation.  Impressive, eh?  But as time has gone on, we have friends at church, I have served in Kidcrest, and now we have actual spiritual conversations.  We even have spiritual conversations with our friends.

And, now it finally makes sense to me why God wants us to not only go to church but commit to church.  I am so grateful for the messages and the blessings I have received.  I want to make sure this experience is given to and shared with as many people as possible.

I have already committed to attending church so that can’t be the challenge for today.  It’s not uncomfortable anymore and it wouldn’t be something different than I am already doing.  Today’s step out of my comfort zone is to commit financially.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:3

Until now, this has been a difficult issue for us.  Since we have been married, Mark and I have struggled with money.  For the first half of our marriage, we just got ourselves too far in personal debt.  We spent on credit cards and bought things we did not need, ultimately leaving us like $40,000 in personal debt.  Stressful.  Then in 2006 when we opened our business, we encountered a new kind of struggle, managing the money in the business.  This was a new kind of debt and a much larger scale of money.  It is still, to this day, a constant worry and frustration for us.  I would say our business is successful, but I would also say that things are always very tight.  I am happy to say we don’t have any personal debt now (except our house), but we have our fair share when it comes to the business.

I would suspect it is very difficult for many.  For one, many, many, many people are having trouble with money anyway.  So, to contemplate giving any of it, let alone 10% to the Lord, when you can’t make your house payment, is a difficult task.  To those that may be reading and are having “money issues” I’d like to say two things.  First, money problems are the number 1 issue in marital problems. So don’t confuse your frustration over money with the idea that you all of a sudden don’t like your spouse.  Our marital problems were caused by many issues, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was getting our selves too far in debt.  Second, if you don’t know about Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University, you need to investigate it today.  Our church offers classes and I am sure others do as well.   You will be amazed at how cleaning up your financial life helps your marriage.

As a result of the above, I feel very protective of OUR money.   When it comes to spending it, I will say no as often as possible.  But there are a few things that strike me here that change this equation.  1. It’s not actually our money anyways.  Right?  2.  We give thousands of dollars to charity each year through our business.  It seems ludicrous to give that much to charity and give so little to our church.  I realize God appreciates all giving, but if I believe so strongly in the mission of my church, more strongly than any charity mission, I need to be supporting it with my whole heart.  3.  Like I said before, I have already tried to live life my way and it doesn’t work out that well.  We have struggled with money from day one and maybe, just maybe, God is looking down and thinking, “I keep telling you what to do with it and how much I will bless you and you keep ignoring me.  How long are going to keep ignoring me?”

So, today’s challenge is to give God 10% and I am happy to say, we feel really good it.  I’m not sure that we don’t need to give more and I am also not trying to make light of what anyone else gives.  Remember, this has been a long time coming, so I am not here to tell anyone else what they should give.  This is what we want and feel called to give.  I’m really excited.  If you had told me 5 years ago that we would be going to church and tithing, I would have said you were on crack.  If you haven’t read all my posts, in one of them, I allude to the fact that my husband used to, not-so lovingly, refer to one of the pastors at our church as “the money man.”  It’s funny now, but it illustrates how he felt about giving to the church.  Prayer is a powerful thing and through much prayer our hearts have changed.  It’s exciting and freeing all at the same time.

May God bless these gifts we give.  We are cheerful givers!

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