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  And He Observed How She Gave
By Billie Marie Zal
     
     Jesus is not so much interested in what we give; He could easily turn stones into gold bars and place them upon our porch! God has everything He needs, and he longs to share with us all that He has. It’s just that so many times we are not spiritually ready to receive from His storehouse.
     
     But little is much when blessed of God, and the widow’s mite became much because God noticed HOW she gave. In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 21, verses 1 thru 4, we read: “And he (Jesus) looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in there two mites. And he said, ‘Of a truth I say unto you that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all; For all these have, of their abundance, cast in unto the offerings of God; but she, of her penury, hath cast in all the living that she had.”
     
     So often I have been in a position where I have seen what Jesus saw in the act of giving. For giving is a grace, not something we can point to as “works.” Our giving, when an act of grace, spends itself unconditionally and spontaneously, with no secret thought of a reward. Some people would say that the poor widow made a big mistake. What would her family do? Or, if she did not have a family, what would become of her? She obviously had nothing - no Social Security, no savings account, nothing. But she gave “all the living that she had.”
     
     The trouble with us is, that we don’t see beyond the pennies we give (or the thousands, what difference does it make to God?) to the face of Jesus. And we miss out on one of the deepest joys we can ever know simply because we never truly learned how to give.
     
     When I was born again, I came out of a very liberal background. My church denomination did not stress tithing. In some ways I wish they had, but on the other hand I learned of God and that’s the best way to learn.
     
     In the beginning I did put away ten percent of what little I had. When God elected me to serve Him, He was very hard on me. I was invited to leave my position as executive secretary to one of the big produce “kings” in Chicago and “COME - follow the King of Kings” in simple faith, trusting His Word alone for my every need.
     
     I was scared. That was a tall order for someone who knew little about the “deep things” of God. But because I was so untaught, I was a good student, eager to learn. I never dreamed what God would put me through but that is another story.
     
     Anyhow, I would keep my tithe and wait upon God to indicate where it should be given. I was in the ministry in Mississippi at the time, and I noticed that so many workers for the Lord were left stranded financially simply because everyone gave all their tithes “to the church.” I met a young man who was attending seminary and he had a family who were very poor. He was working part time while trying to earn a degree. God’s Spirit witnessed to me that the children had worn out clothing and never enjoyed the few little luxuries of life that are so important to kids. This man was a dedicated Christian whose character challenged me to get to know the Lord, and grow in Him.
     
     One evening I drove past this young man’s home and was invited in for a cup of coffee. To my dismay, when they opened the cupboard doors, they had no food! They were existing on peanut butter sandwiches. When I commented upon this, his wife shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, the Lord will somehow take care of us.”
     
     Right then I knew where my tithe should go. So I took out my dollars and laid them on the table. I told them that God had led me to give them my tithe. The churches in the area were so wealthy and so many people suffered want. Something had to be wrong somewhere.
     
     I couldn’t believe what happened! This young pastor exploded. His face turned red, and he pounded the table with his fist and shouted, “I will not steal the Lord’s tithe! You are wrong! You should give that tithe to the church!”
     
     I was dumbfounded. I was not qualified to tell him that to me, every member of Christ’s Body on earth is a church member and why not share what we have if we see a brother in need? But I picked up my tithe and walked away.
     
     But there happened to be another young pastor from the same seminary who also needed assistance. He was a rough hewn man, deep lines in his face, and powerful in speech and manner. He had built his home (a beautiful log cabin) with his own hands, receiving help from no one. When he preached, he spoke with great authority. He knew what sin was. He had been in prison and one day a Christian layman came to see him and told him how much God loved him. When he was released he kept his vow to God, to tell others of what Christ can do.
     
     And so on a cold winter day, soon after the rejection of my first offering of tithes, I stopped by the log cabin to visit with him and his wife for a few minutes. My son had a horrible attack of bronchial asthma and I was discouraged, and even a little resentful toward God. I sat there, bemoaning my situation and I asked the pastor, “Why is my son so sick all the time?”
     
     He knew my resentment and he could have given me a soft answer. Instead, his eyes smoldered and he said sternly, “You don’t understand now. But one day you will know that this sickness is for the glory of God.” His words had power and I believed. I went home,
     left my little boy alone with Jesus and sat down in my living room. He’d had a high fever and I wanted to go and hover over him. But I knew that as I sat there, believing for my son’s healing, that the angels were ministering to the child and I dared not enter.
     
     As I rested in a peace that passed understanding a little poem formed its words in my heart: “I left my son alone tonight; I left him alone with Jesus . . .” I still have that poem, written on a scrap of paper, straight from the Throne of God.
     
     When I finally entered the room there was all “glory.” The sweetness of God’s presence is unmistakable. My son’s fever had broken, he was breathing without difficulty, and he never again had an attack of bronchial asthma. My pastor friend had spoken the Truth! God’s glory was revealed to me. I learned to give my son to God, and that He is indeed the Lord of health and soundness.
     
     I learned, too, that my child belonged to God. He would keep him and bless him, and teach him. I was to praise God and believe for my son’s healing.
     
     Now I knew there was no mistake. The tithes would go to this pastor. I had heard that the tiny church which he pastured owed him three months’ back salary and he worked at Sears in the evenings just to make ends meet. When I arrived at the little log cabin the family had gathered around the table where there was very little food. I opened my purse and cheerfully waved the money toward them. “Look what God told me to give to you!” I said.
     
     “Athens,” the young pastor, simply broke up. His face, scarred by the effects of the old life, took on a look of praise and thanksgiving. “PRAISE THE LORD!” He shouted. “He has answered my prayer of faith. I ran out of propane gas some time ago. The tank read EMPTY but for days the gas kept coming through. I understand that the needle might have been a little off, but I know exactly how long the gas has lasted on that setting and no way could that tank have any gas left in it.”
     
     He continued, “Well, I decided that if the Lord could multiply the loaves and the fishes, could He not make my propane gas hold out until there was help? So I went outside one night and knelt down and literally stormed the heavens until I knew that God had heard me and would work a miracle, keeping my family warm no matter how long it took.”
     
     And then Athens said, “And now, tonight, He has brought to pass that which I believed, and there is enough here for a whole tank of propane and some left over for Christmas presents. Praise the Lord!”
     
     What a wonderful way to also enlarge MY faith. And what a difference between these two fine young Christian men. One saw only the “law” of giving while the other saw the “grace” of giving. And I realized that one congregation would receive a FULL measure of Christ through its anointed pastor while the other would suffer loss.
     
     Another lesson I learned is that giving is not confined just to money, and the “law of the tithes.” We are taught by Jesus that the greatest gift of all is to “lay down our lives for our friends.” This is Love in its perfected form and the true essence of giving. For in the laying down of our lives for another, we leave behind ourselves. This was the lesson that Jesus wanted us to learn when He taught us that the poor widow gave ALL her living to Him.
     
     When we learn this lesson we give all that we have, not counting ten percent or twenty percent, but ALL! I remember a night when my heart was heavy with doubt. I had been called to minister at a small country church in a little Mississippi community. Everything had gone wrong. My old car was breaking down, my purse was empty, and I had reached an all time “low.” A man was preaching, but nothing spoke to me; there was no anointing. And I kept thinking, “Why don’t you say something that will help me?”
     
     After the service ended, I gathered up my little boy in my arms and trudged toward the door. I felt a tug at my sleeve and I turned and an elderly, frail lady smiled at me. My heart was warmed. I felt ashamed of my discouragement.
     
     Smiling at her, I started to speak but she interrupted me. “I ain’t got nothing much to give,” she said, “but it seemed to me that the Lord Jesus told me to withhold my offering from the collection plate and give it to you instead.”
     
     Her eyes shining, she extended her time worn palm toward me, and on it was a bright, shiny quarter. If only she knew what God had done in this little act of obedience to His prompting. I tried to tell her, but she was gone. And I held that coin ever so tightly and praised and thanked the God of all heaven and earth for this lesson. He had rebuked me with LOVE. I was absolutely sure that I would never be forgotten by my Father because He showed me that a little widow woman had given her ALL to Him and I shared in that blessing.
     
     How we need a rekindling of that kind of giving spirit! People give religiously and just as religiously they take back what they have given if they can deduct it from their income taxes. We need once again to listen to young men with fire in their hearts who can call down God’s angels from heaven to keep a tank of gas filled so that their families will not be cold. We need to get to know people who are schooled in the grace of giving and never take back what they have given to God.
     
     We need to lay down our lives for those who never enjoy a word of encouragement, or a loving word of remembrance. We need to minister on a one to one basis, rather than sit back week after week in a plush sanctuary where our senses are ministered to and our spirits suffer loss.
     
     It has always been my prayer that when I stand before the judgment seat of Christ that I won’t have to be ashamed of how I gave.




News Notes for September, 2009

Flipping through the TV channels one evening I ran across an interview being done on the street by a religious group. People were asked if they could name any of the 10 Commandments. Most of them could not name more than one. When asked if they knew what the first book of the Bible was, no one knew what it was.
     
     Its easy to feel hopeless about the spiritual ignorance of this world. But I did know, had anyone bothered to do this survey in a prison, rather than on a street, they would have been surprised at the knowledge a lot of prisoners have of the Bible.
     
     First Corinthians, 1:18 says: “For the message (the doctrine of atonement) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
     
     Notice the words “being saved” in the verse. This is a process and we will never be perfected until we get There. And this is a process kept going by the POWER OF GOD, not by our own willpower.
     
     I think that some of you may have been offended by our last newsletter. And wouldn’t it have been great if God could have gotten your attention some other way, instead of thru prison time and all it involved. But from personal experience, I can tell you that it was always a tragedy or some really hard times that got my attention.
     
     There is a lot of teaching today from the pulpit, and other self help groups, and its all about how you can make yourself a better person, whether by meditation, exercise, good deeds, etc. It’s only a temporary improvement of the flesh. The flesh needs to die so that Christ can live by His Holy Spirit thru us. That is a life long process. It sounds so complicated, but the truth is that we all know when we are face to face with that THING in us that rises up and wants its own way, wants revenge, attention, things, whatever it is. When its there, its time to lay it down before God, and He by His power will work and set you free. I know this to be a fact.
     
     We know that you all like to hear a little news from our mountain. Eddie is doing as well as can be expected. He has plenty of good care. A nurse from the VA visits several times a week, and also a therapist. God has blessed Shirley with a cheerful nature and she has given herself to the care of Ed with joy, and a very willing heart. And she traded in their old clunker on a brand new Chrysler, a really beautiful car.
     
     We are all so grateful for Brian and Gail. Since Billie left us they have been in charge of seeing to all the financial needs around here, settling problems with the IRS, making decisions on improvements and repairs from the ice storm. They have spent many hours on the phone, and in person, with insurance agents, CPA’s, bank officers, etc. None of the
     rest of us here could have handled these problems as well and God sees it all. Faithful service, with a willing heart is always rewarded, if not now then at that day when we meet Him whom we have loved all these years.
     
     Jay is doing well. He works hard and is a joy to have around. I don’t know what we would do without him. He has become such a part of us. But he also has his own life, which is good.
     
     Rodney and I are fine. I still work at home and also help with the ministry all I can. Rodney has worked with our neighbor off and on doing plumbing work. He also keeps a beautiful yard and cuts firewood, besides all the mail he answers. We are thankful for our life here and feel blessed and undeserving of such Love.
     
     I had heard that Pastor Melissa Scott was allowed to show her teachings over the prison television channels in California. So I wrote to her and asked for permission to do the same thing in Oklahoma, and possibly other prisons. She had one of her staff call me and tell me that she would send us a dozen DVD’s, free of charge, so that we could pass them on to the prison.
     
     No other ministry has ever helped us, or even thought that what we were doing had any value. This is not the first time that Pastor Scott, and her husband before, have gone out of their way to help us. I was deeply touched by her love and care. It was truly a cup of cold water given in the name of Jesus.
     
     ****************************************
     
     
     The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings
     about the cross; before that cross it bows and toward
     that cross it points with carefully staged histrionics -
     but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach
     of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.
     - A. W. Tozer, The Devine Conquest, p.60
     
     
     God loves broken things and broken people. As Vance
     Havner wrote, “It takes broken soil to produce a crop,
     broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give strength.
     It is the broken alabaster box that sheds forth perfume.
     It is Jacob limping from Jabbok who has power with God
     and men. It is Peter weeping bitterly who returns to
     greater power than ever.”
     - William MacDonald, The Forgotten Command: Be Holy, p.195




Prayer Requests for September, 2009
For everyone at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, Oklahoma, for peace, and that the violence will end there.
For Ed Ewing in Dinuba, California, who is 88 years old and suffers from diabetes. He has been in the hospital having a foot amputated.
For everyone at Florence, Arizona. The administration there just allowed the return of fans.
For Freddie Lee Lott, Galesburg, Illinois, that he stays “cancer free.”
For Jimmy Huff, Colorado City, Texas, for his health. Jimmy is having a lot of problems with his legs.
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, that he will come back to the church. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Willie Clark at Iowa Park, Texas, that he’ll be allowed to visit with his son soon.
For the family of Tim Brokaw who recently suffered a massive heart attack and died. Tim was at McAlester, Oklahoma. Also pray for his friend, Earl Oswalt, who was with him when he passed.
For Willie Scott, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for his health, and for patience.
For Robert Heffernan. Grady, Arkansas, for his health, and the he will be allowed to undergo DNA testing.
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, that he will come back to the church. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Willie Clark at Iowa Park, Texas, that he’ll be allowed to visit with his son soon.
For Pastor Scott and her ministry (The University Network) in Los Angeles.
For Willie Harper, Joliet, Illinois, that he stays “cancer free.”
For Frank Williams, Jr., Death Row at Grady, Arkansas, that the State Supreme Court will rule favorably on his case.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Jimmy Huff & his ministry in Colorado City, Texas.
For all of us at Wingspread.





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