Unbridled Praise: What The Charles Lea Center & Jacmel, Haiti Teach Us About Honoring God

Posted: March 10, 2015 in Gospel of Luke
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Luke 12:22-34 — Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Charles Lea Center in Spartanburg, SC with a group from our church. It is a former school that has been converted into an activity center for mentally challenged people of all ages. We visited on a Saturday morning and at the end of the visit, we sang Christian songs with them. The passion with which these folks sang (not caring about whether they were in tune or who heard them) reminded me of this passage. These folks just had an unadulterated love of their Father in heaven. It was a simple faith that they were displaying. They just loved Jesus and that’s it. No high minded theological discussions just a simple love of Jesus.

It was not long after that visit that I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Haiti. While there, I got to visit a Tuesday night prayer meeting at the church that was the center of activity for our mission trip, Restoration Church. In this prayer meeting, people just came to the church to pray. There was no order of service. There was no preaching. People just came to the church on Tuesday nights to pray. There was no organized service. At that prayer service, as people came in and the church filled up with people, they were all praying out loud in French Creole, the language of Haiti. As the evening drew deeper into the night, the passion of their prayers became more intense until the air was filled with the passionate words of prayer. Just think of about 150 people all praying out loud, all with passionate pleas to the Father. I felt the Holy Spirit that night. I tasted the power literally of the Holy Spirit in mouth. It was the most awesome church service I had ever been to. I could not understand a word they were saying but I knew they were intimately reaching out to their Father in heaven. Never seen anything like it before or since. These people live in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, one of the poorest countries in the world, but these saved souls pour out their praise on their Savior more deeply and intensely than any American Christians would ever dream of doing.

These stories are the first thing I think of when I consider what Jesus says, “Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.” Some translations say “seek the kingdom of God first, and all else will be added.” Seek the kingdom of God first. Everything else is secondary to that. We must make Jesus the King of our lives. He must be put first in every area of our lives. When we seek to honor God first as the clients at the Charles Lea Center do, as the worshipers at Restoration Church in Jacmel, Haiti do, everything else gets put into perspective.

Since I don’t have time to write a book this morning about all the areas of life where we should put God first, I am going to concentrate this blog on one thing. The one area that most of us give to the Lord last is our finances. We think we are the owners of the money we make rather than seeing that God gave us the talent to earn it. We often put God last in our finances. He is an afterthought. We do not put God first. God is a leftover God when it comes to our finances.

My passion about putting God first in our finances leads me to teach and write about it often. I don’t teach it without experience. I have lived life of trying to keep up with the Jones. Divorces and other events of life led me to a life of financial burden. My credit report was awful looking. It was not til I met Elena that I began to see that debt, debt, and more debt was not the answer. Getting out of debt was. Although she did not see the eternal perspective of what getting out of debt was at the time. She just taught me that it made sense to have a good credit score. God was working through her toward me. When she became saved and as I matured as a Christian myself, we began to raise God to the place He should be in our finances. First.

When we put God first in our finances, we honor God with the money we make. We give to Him first and live off the rest. We no longer buy in to the American dream rat race. When we honor Him in our finances, we honestly do not care about the latest, greatest cars or houses. As long as we have what we need to survive in the culture we live in, then everything else is just gravy. When you put God first in your finances, the debt, debt and more debt merry-go-round that most of us live on, you finally decide to get off it and start paying off debts, keeping assets longer, and work your way to being debt free some day. When you do not live off of 105% of what you make (as most Americans do), you are capable of now honoring God by giving when there is a need, seeing the importance of tithing because God commands us to give Him our firstfruits and not our leftovers. Imagine if all American Christians truly tithed their first ten percent of their income to their local churches. Average giving in American churches is $20 per person per Sunday. I dare say that if that were a tithe we Americans average making $200 per week, or $10,400 per year. True average American income is now $53,000 per year or a little over a $1,000 per week. Average giving should then be $100 per week per person. Thus it is obvious most that we are not putting God first in our finances. We put things ahead of God.

If we do not honor God with our finances, we miss opportunities to participate in Christ’s ministry in the world. When we do put God first there, we cannot help a friend in need, we have to pay for that car we cannot afford nor really need. When we do not put God first in our finances, we cannot go on a mission trip to help save victims of the sex trafficking trade in Asia escape that lifestyle with no hope, we have to pay for that jet ski. When we see the single mom struggling with medical bills and she is about to be kicked out of her home, we cannot help because we have to pay for all the money we spent on that cruise that we went on last summer. Can’t you see my friends, how much is enough? We miss the opportunities to serve the kingdom and teach people about agape love of Christ when we do not put God first in our finances. Instead this being the last area we bring under submission to Christ, it should be the first.

Trust God with your finances and all the things you NEED you will have. He will provide for you. Just let Him have your first fruits. Trust Him to provide for you. All else will be added unto.

Just as the clients at the Charles Lea Center and the worshipers at Resotration Church give God great praise with unbridled joy. God is everything to them. He is first in their praise. He is first in their life. May we take example from them and put God first in everything. God should not be a compartment to our lives. He is not a box that we pull out and play with and then put back up making sure that it does not touch the other boxes. He should be our lives. He should permeate every area. We should put Him first in every area of life including our finances. When we put Him first over every aspect of our lives, we will finally find peace and rest and most of all joy. Joy at trusting that God has our back just as the people in my illustrations do. That is joy. Joy is knowing that we are secure in God when we give all areas of life over to His Lordship.

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