Returning To God!

…Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.  “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.  “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’  “In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me.  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 you will not have room enough for it. – Malachi 3:7b-10

“Have we forgotten that the road is narrow!?” Asks R.D. Baker, the dear evangelist who leads the Dubai church alongside his amazing wife April!

“Have we forgotten that the road is narrow!?” Asks R.D. Baker, the dear evangelist who leads the Dubai church alongside his amazing wife April!

The heart of giving in the scriptures is such a serious matter to our God.  Here in Malachi, this heart of giving to God was a clear part of God’s people returning to Him and being in a right relationship with Him.  God was so intent in this, he even explains to them that they are under a curse because they were “robbing God.”  The element to see in this teaching is the element of “returning to God”, which is the essence of restoration and reconnecting relationally to Him.  A clear sign of being restored to God is this willing heart to sincerely give sacrificially to him.

According to the Bible, giving is also a test of our sincerity in our relationship with God and our love overall.  Consider this passage in 2 Corinthians 8:7-8:

But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.

Additionally, in these verses, financial giving is denoted as a “grace.”  This giving is also reflective of our sincere love for our brothers and sisters and our God.  We see that Paul compared their earnestness in regards to giving to discern the sincerity of their love.  As we approach the November 19th “Love Offering” – let us keep these biblical truths in mind and in our hearts as we prepare to give $44,030 to support our brothers and sisters planting and supporting sister churches all over the world. 

The church celebrates the appointment of Robb & Teresa Hamblin as Shepherds & Tony  & Shanika Stanley as Deacons!

Tony and Shanika Stanley

The church celebrates the appointment of Robb & Teresa Hamblin as Shepherds & Tony  & Shanika Stanley as Deacons!

The church celebrates the appointment of Robb & Teresa Hamblin as Shepherds & Tony  & Shanika Stanley as Deacons!

What an honor it was to have one of our gallant missionaries visit us this past week and preach powerfully for us!  R.D. Baker and his wife April faithfully lead the recently planted Dubai International Christian Church and are an inspiration to us as a church family.  It was so refreshing to hear about all that God is doing in Dubai and for us to hear in the last 10 months there have been 26 additions to the church there!  R.D. humbly shared about being in public studying Discipleship with two young men.  He noticed three men at another table who were “eyeing” them and their open bibles “suspiciously.”  One of the three men came over and interrupted their bible study.  R.D. was steeling himself on the inside to respond to “typical” Muslim persecution.  However, much to our brother’s chagrin, the man actually wanted to ask if he and his two friends could join the bible study!  The three men were from Egypt and all are studying the bible to become disciples!

Nehemiah Thompson shares powerfully about how Brent Madison has “come to his senses” to be restored to the Family of God!

Nehemiah Thompson shares powerfully about how Brent Madison has “come to his senses” to be restored to the Family of God!

God has given us several miracles of disciples “returning to God” and being restored recently!  These have been incredibly encouraging and healing for the church!  Seta Avatongo from the teen ministry, Bavan Damon, Michelle Weil and Brent Madison from the Singles ministry, and Joseph and Stephanie Ewing from the marrieds ministry. 

The family of God welcomes back Seta Avatongo and celebrates tearfully his restoration!

The family of God welcomes back Seta Avatongo and celebrates tearfully his restoration!

Sandy Lunde and Nancy Viscichini celebrate Nancy’s graduation from the Chemical Recovery (CR) program!

Sandy Lunde and Nancy Viscichini celebrate Nancy’s graduation from the Chemical Recovery (CR) ministry! 

When people return to God, the Bible teaches that “…there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents!” (Luke 15:7)  It is also powerful to note that also in Luke 15, God is shown to be “filled with compassion for [them]” and he “[throws] his arms around [them] and [kisses them!]” (Luke 15:20b)  The Phoenix church rejoices as a family to see our dear brothers and sisters return, repent, and rejoin God’s family!  “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

The men who walked up to the brothers studying the bible—and then joined them!

The men who walked up to the brothers studying the bible—and then joined them!

This year’s inspiring women’s day had 108 in attendance!

This year’s inspiring women’s day had 108 in attendance!

Equally exciting is seeing our newest shepherds and deacons appointed in the church!  We are grateful for the hard work and love the Hamblin’s have poured into our church family the past few years.  We are also very encouraged to see Tony and Shanika (Shon) Stanley appointed as Deacons of Ushering.  Tony and Shon are usually the first ones to church every Sunday and both of them work tirelessly to ensure that all the parts in the background at service are running with excellence.  Shepherds and Deacons like the Hamblins and Stanleys help lead the way in ensuring the “back door” is closed and those that need “shepherding” to “return to God” are invested in.

Jazmine Williams with her father Marliss, She has been sent to the West Region and is training for the ministry!

Jazmine Williams with her father Marliss, She has been sent to the West Region and is training for the ministry!

We are grateful that the Phoenix church has been so sacrificial for missions these past two years!  In 2015, the church gave over $72,000 (104% of its goal)!  In February 2016, we gave $11,626 (112%), in June we gave $54,368 (78%), and in November $42,970 (107%)!  This year in 2017, the church has come through and gave $95,273 (103%) in May!  So far we have given $24,150 for our November Love Offering this year!  That is 54% of our $44,030 goal!  Certainly, when we have the heart of Abel and are able to give of the “fat portions” God “looks with favor” on our offering! (Genesis 4:4)  In Mark 12:41 we see Jesus deliberately sitting down in front of the place where people put in offerings so he could “[watch] the crowd putting their money in the temple treasury.”  When a willing widow put in two very small copper coins, “all she had to live on”, the LORD Jesus Christ made a point to lift her up as “putting more into the treasury” than all the others!  Sadly, in Genesis 4, we see that although Cain gave something, his heart was not right and he was “angry” and his “face was downcast!”  God tried to reason with Cain, telling him if he did what was “right” he’d be “accepted” and to be wary of the “sin” that was “crouching at [his] door.” Cain did not listen to God and went on to murder his brother.  When confronted by God with this, his attitude was “am I my brother’s keeper?”  We must refuse to allow “critical Cain” to creep into our hearts as giving the final 46% of our love offering approaches!

It was very encouraging to see the brothers and sisters participate in our Missions Car Wash!  The creative costumes and the giving hearts made this a very fun way to raise funds for our November Love Offering.  For many of us, we may feel like we are in the “widow’s” situation – there will be tagging every Saturday afternoon so that we can collaborate and “[plunder] the Egyptians!” (Ex 12:36)  There will be garage sales by house church and brothers and sisters baking, cooking, and selling to friends and family.  Nelson Brown and Charles Day made almost $180 just selling bottled water by a sporting event for a couple of hours! 

Giving is a first step for us to “return to God!”  If our love has “sincerity” and “earnestness” then we will “excel in this grace of giving” and “bring it to completion!” Our God is all powerful and will “open the floodgates” bringing in the harvest of souls both in Phoenix and all over world!  To God be all the Glory!

We are family – to do the impossible!

JMC

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comments

1 Comment

  1. by Brent Madison on November 6, 2017  10:13 am Reply

    The title of the bulletin was very fitting as 6 people were restored to God this year. RD's post about studying the Bible with 7 men in Dubai is very encouraging as well because it built my faith 2 to preach the word wherever I go and wherever I set my foot God will give me that place.

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