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Archive for the ‘offering’ Category

If you want to give, your gift will be accepted.
It will be judged by what you have, not by what you do not have.
– 2 Corinthians 8:12 (NCV)

Usually, back when I was starting out in church, I would always hear the deacon say a prayer for the offering that somehow included the Lord’s love for a “cheerful giver.”  That always seemed to hit home in its own way.  The Lord, as shared by Paul to the believers at Corinth, does indeed love cheerful givers.  Yet, we may miss the mark if we fail to see the principles that Paul shared within the context of his message in 2 Corinthians.

Giving is noble.  The Christian is expected to give to worthy causes and unmet needs.  However, we should not be left feeling guilty when we hear someone else quote Malachi as if we are in the midst of robbing God.  We may have it in hearts to give, but we may not have it in possession to give like we desire.  In essence, Paul clarifies the matter by stating: It will be judged by what you have, not by what you do not have.  That means that you cannot worry about what you do not have to give.  Your concern should be about what you have to give and your willingness to give it.  Jesus shared so when He pointed out the faith of the widow who gave two mites.  It was not the quantity of her gift that was impressive.  It was the depths to which she dug into what she did have in possession that caught Jesus’ attention and caused Him to call attention to her act of willingness.

God wants us willing to give.  We may have big hearts with small budgets.  God can bless us beyond where we are today.  We are not looking for the blessing out of giving since we are already blessed with “true riches” (Luke 16:11).  We have to be willing to give of what we have without seeking to gain what we desire.  We should give with no strings attached.  We should give to God’s glory, not seeking approval or kudos from others.  When we give according to the right principles, God is pleased and we can be assured that our gifts are accepted by Him.

Give with a willing heart.  Give out of what you have.  Give that God may be glorified through your gifts.

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Ye have wearied Jehovah with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? In that ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of Jehovah, and he delighteth in them; or where is the God of justice?- Malachi 2:17 (ASV)

If you have heard many of the sermons encouraging individuals to “bring all of the tithes into the storehouse” and receiving a blessing that you do not have “room enough to receive,” you most probably are familiar with the message of the Book of Malachi to some degree.  It has been used to urge the reluctant to release their hold on money and let God have His due as the Lord God who changes not.  It has long been used as a one-way directive from the pulpit to the pews regarding the submission of one to the Lord’s calling for tithes and offerings.  Unfortunately, this is not the entire message of Malachi.

The Minor Prophets: Micah-Malachi Volume 2 (Expositional Commentary)What Preachers Never Tell You About Tithes & Offerings: The End of Clergy Manipulation & ExtortionMalachi speaks to the priests and the people.  The prophet has a message that deals with the coming of the Lord and His messenger as well as the failure of God’s people and His priests to keep their covenants and obey His ordinances.  Read the entire message of Malachi to get the full meaning of it.  Don’t take someone else’s word for it.  Read it for yourself.

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18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.

1 Peter 1:18-19 (HCSB)

The Law of Moses calls for the best or the first to be sacrificed to God.  The covenant wasn’t asking for leftovers from those who identified themselves as the people of God.  No, the Law demanded that God receive the firstfruits.  Even in our redemption, He demonstrated that best was to be offered as a sacrifice, pure and undefiled.

Peter says that the Lamb of God was a “lamb without defect or blemish.” This sacrifice was perfect.  Peter also equated the blood to be “the precious blood of Christ.” He shares that the blood is the means for us being redeemed, reconciled unto the Father Himself by His own sacrifice of His Son.

I like the simple way Peter puts it here in 1 Peter, but the best description of the “perfect sacrifice” is between Isaiah 53 and Hebrews 10:1-18.  While Isaiah provides the prophecy that reveals the “man of sorrows” who suffered for the sinful and became sin for us, Hebrews chapter 10 gives us a clear picture of ritual sacrifice turned into redemption and reconciliation by the power of God.

But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.
Isaiah 53:5 (HCSB)

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For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.- Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)

Satan gets a lot of credit in the church.  Much of what the average Christian gives over to Satan is truly undeserved credit.  Satan is a fallen angel and a created being just like us.  The biblical story of Job demonstrates that he only does what God allows him to do.  He still must work on a limited basis.  He has no real power beyond what God affords him.

However, Satan is real.  He is not lurking behind some shadowy mist that drifts in and out of the atmosphere.  He is present, seeking to destroy all that can bring glory to God and tear down anything that builds the kingdom of heaven.  He is a liar and will stop at no means to kill, steal and destroy.

Satan attacks on a spiritual level.  If you leave him room, he will get between you and your spouse, you and your children, and even you and fellow believers.  His methods are divisive and destructive.  His aim is to keep us from growing closer to God.  He wants us to turn our backs on God.  He hopes that we will give up hope and seek help from anywhere but God.

He attacks at some critical times.  Check out these two examples for starters.  Later, after you have thought about it, check out the Lord’s words to him through prophecy (Isaiah 14:12-17).  It may help you understand some more about how he goes about things and why he is so persistent in attacking us.

Offering: Satan subtly seeks to convince us that the church doesn’t need our money.  After all, you hear yourself rationalizing, they’ll only waste it away with poor stewardship anyway.  That’s the type of thinking that can invade one’s heart and mind.  It’s a spiritual attack.  He wants to separate us from God.  He doesn’t mind starting with a small seed of doubt.  He’ll keep on us and at us until he reaches us somehow.  Be on guard.  Be in prayer.  Don’t give him a foothold.  Faithfully seek God out.  It’s the type of battle that can only be won by His spiritual might, not our own.

Invitation: Angels jump for joy and sing praises over one soul coming to the Lord for salvation.  Satan is a fallen angel.  He doesn’t rejoice over souls being saved in the name of the Lord.  He wants to get into the heart and mind of the unbeliever and show them how unworthy they are and why they don’t belong in church to begin with.  He attacks the unbeliever as the pastor prays and offers the invitation.  He seeks to embarrass the unbeliever and make the unbeliever fear the rejection of all of those people who seem to be staring and gawking.  He uses whatever he can to keep that person from even considering that now is the right time.  He even says that they can take care of it another day and in another way but not here and not now.  That’s junk. 

Be careful what you let get into your head and your heart at such a time.  He wants to keep you from the freedom that you will have in Christ.  He wants you to continue to be burdened by what has been bothering you for the longest.  He doesn’t want you to experience anything that is remotely close to salvation and all that it offers you.  He wants to keep you away from the church and out of God’s family. 

Don’t allow him to even start.  Learn what he is about and how he attacks believers and unbelievers alike.  Know that he will continue until he is utterly destroyed.  Meanwhile, he will seek to destroy as many as he is able to get a hold of as often as he can.  He has nothing that he can offer you that will last for an eternity.

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Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 
Malachi 3:8 (KJV)
 
 
Recently, I took some serious devotional and Bible study time to read Malachi. That’s a major undertaking when you consider what the Lord has to say through Malachi and to whom He is directing His words. The primary points of the biblical book are an accusation and warning to God’s people to act like people of God. Whew! That’s heavy stuff, even for seminary students, Sunday school teachers and simple, set apart and sanctified saints.
 
 
Old school Baptists sum up the prophetic book with quasi-biblical phrases such as: robbing God, opening up the windows of heaven, and bring all of the tithes into the storehouse.  These are certainly not verbatim and definitely not theologically sound when used in convenient contextual arenas.  Tithers hold fast to Malachi chapter 3, primarily verses 8-10, but this has nothing to do with introducing or ordaining the tithe.  It is about trusting God and upholding the practice of tithing as means of seeing that God is true to His promises
 
 
People have been utilizing such passages of the Bible to bully and beat up those who do not tithe for years.  Unfortunately, this is due to a failure to maintain a contextual view of the biblical passage and explore an expository and exhaustive explanation of the text in light of audience, intent and culture and history.  Some things may be lost in translation, but one has to keep in mind what type of Bible or study tools one uses.  A paraphrase will not give you an accurate translation since its main goal is to translate thought for thought, while a literal translation seeks to translate and interpret word for word. 
 
 
I would also like to add a warning about commentaries, especially when one is seeking a clear understanding of the text and its surrounding passages.  Understand what type of tool you have and how to use it.  The root word of commentary is comment.  When you read Matthew Henry’s commentary, it is just a comment by Matthew Henry on that book of the Bible or the entire Bible itself.  What you get is an insight into that particular person’s views on it.  If i use Matthew Henry, I am limited to the depths of Matthew Henry and the prevailing theology of his time.  Ever hear about the Dead Sea Scrolls? Were they discovered before or after Mathew Henry’s commentary? How about Martin Luther’s? Commentary usage requires careful steps to avoid slippery slopes.
 
 
Clearly, once one reads Malachi as an entire study, it becomes as glaring as Jeremiah or Isaiah, even Hosea.  The message is about God’s relationship with His people.  God desires a restored relationship with His people, but if they keep going the way that they have been going there’s no redemption or reconciliation.  God has to stop the nonsense and put the challenge before the people about testing and trying Him to see if He is faithful in delivering His promises.

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I will bless the LORD at all times;  His praise shall continually be in my mouth.– Psalm 34:1 (NASB)

There’s plenty of room for boasting when it comes to the Lord.  We call it praise.  It involves worship, blessing the Lord with the “fruit of your lips.”   Beyond what we say, it involves our very spirit in coordination with the Lord’s Spirit.  We can be lifted up in the midst of someone else shouting praises to His name as another pours out tears of relief from pain and another cries out His name in acceptance of His answers to the confusion of life.  Each of these people offer the Lord what they have to offer Him, and they offer it from the heart and in the spirit and truth.

What are you using to worship God? What about worship? Are you in it or into it?

The Book of Psalms is the Holy Bible’s hymnal of sorts.  It’s a book of praises and poems.  In several instances, it reveals that the entire volume is suitable for the wide variety of needs within the congregation on any given day.  Yet, Psalm 34 opens up with a proclamation and profession that should ignite contagious worship.  It opens with blessing the Lord at all times, praise continually in my mouthThe psalm continues to speak of how the writer will boast about the Lord so much that the “humble and afflicted [will] hear and be glad.”  Then, in verse 3, the psalm writer provides an outright and open invitation to worship together  Imagine how uplifted that congregation would be after that declarative opening  and the opportunity to get lifted up and join in the blessing.

 David wrote this psalm out of the pure inspiration of the Lord showing Himself as his protection.  David had pretended to be insane before Abimelech.  He truly was at his wit’s end at that point.  There was no real guesswork once God had delivered David from his enemies.  He could boast about the Lord.  He had earned some bragging rights about the God he served and the God who saved him. 

We don’t use extol like it appears in the King James Version.   We do understand that we can boast of the Lord’s goodness and grace.  We do know that we can brag about His mercy and His might.  We do know that we can bless the Lord for His loving kindness and His peace.  He’s done so much already for us.  There’s so much we can offer Him.  Let’s start by submitting and surrendering to His Spirit within us so that we can spark some blessing and boasting among us.

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  Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.- Luke 6:38, NKJV

Giving should come out of the heart.  We are to give, as the Lord states, a “good measure” because by that same measure we will also be measured.  When you give a little, you can expect a little back.  When you give abundantly, you can expect an abundance in return.  Giving is measured proportionally.

Giving, whether it is time, talent or treasure, should be an offering of our best to the Lord.  Many have questions about the Lord accepting one’s offering and not the other’s.  Was there more to it than what Cain and Abel brought? Look at Ananias and his wife in Acts 5.  It was their own land and their own money.  What was the big deal? Peter speaks to lying to God,not man, when we do such a thing.  It is like when you feel compelled to sign up for a special offering campaign and pledge a certain amount, and then when you are questioned about it, you go into how things have been hard and you need people to get off your back, especially at church.  Or, it could be like when you give your contribution to the church and you equate every leaky toilet and creaking stairs to what your offering should have paid for, along with the pastor’s salary.  You gave it, but you never really let it go.  You are still keeping tabs on what you technically gave to someone else.  That’s pretty much how it is when it comes to what we give God in the form of money.  Did we truly and freely give without any hang-ups and holdouts?

Our attitude is just as important as our gift.  If we carry the wrong attitude, then we bring our offering in vain.  Paul shared that we should begrudge giving or do so out of necessity.  We should come as “cheerful” givers.  In doing so, our giving is measured according to what we bring and how we bring it.

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Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal homeLuke 16:9 (NLT)

The issue is about how we use our “worldly resources.” Does what we do “benefit others and make friends?” Are we doing any good with our earthly treasures? Look at what we do with what we have and see what it is accomplishing.

If you are on the other side of the equation, we need to see where our resources originate.  Some companies seek to do good simply because their products or services are questionable such as alcohol, tobacco and some gambling institutions.  For many Christian ministries and nonprofits, it may be tempting to receive much-needed dollars to make good works work.  yet, what message would be sent by trying to present the King of Kings brought to you by the king of beers?  just think on it. Here are some simple strategies for getting support for your ministry and/ or charity during hard times like these;

  • Try companies that need to improve their public image.  Check out the news on Toyota and other companies that need good press.  Speak with local dealers who are feeling the impact of the negative press.
  • Look local.  Check out your local better business bureau and your chambers of commerce on the local level as well as local business associations and Christian business networks. 
  • Does your church have a business directory of congregates who own small businesses and purchase advertising? Check out the shepherd’s guide, “the Christians’ Choice of Yellow Pages.” See if there is something like this in your community.
  • Start with something small like gift cards, paper products or items from a wish list.  Find out who would be willing to supply or doante specific items from your wish list by distributing among local businessmen and through your email contacts.  Also, post your wish list at your local Starbucks coffee shop (after checking with staff, of course) or in the break room at your job, ensuring that you have stated your cause and your need in a brief message prior to the list of items needed.
  • Prepare an announcement for Sunday services and ask local congregations to partner with you for food drives, community events, rummage sales, and other things, especially volunteers and senior citizens.  You have to connect  it to faith and service, especially if you can relate it to the Scriptures.
  • Check out “church grants” like Urban Ministry and Church Biz as well as other church grant resources.   Also, try foundations such as Christian foundations and  other sources like Your Church.
  • Look at free and donated items as giveaways and prizes
  • Do good… others will take notice, and then they will support it by volunteering, offering money, asking what you need or simply staying out of your way.

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For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.- Matt. 6:21

I am trying to get some things in order as I continue my walk in Christ.  That’s a given for most of us who profess to believe in Christ.  Money is somewhere near the top of the list of things to get straight and in line with God’s standard.  I know and I read it, too.  Yes, money is “what is least” according to the Word.  I do agree with that.  Yet, money has a stranglehold on many of us for many different reasons.  Whether it be debt, saving, cost of living, or simply making ends meet, many people have trouble when it comes to money.  We need to ask for forgiveness, pleading with the Father for both grace and mercy, but we also need to take a realistic look at what we do with the money we do make.  It’s time for a check-up on our checkbook.

Jesus simply shared that you can tell a lot about us by what we spend our money.  Look at where you spend your money and you’ll discover what matters most to you.  People with family budgets that have “miscellaneous” and “emergency fund” listed are doing a slight shift by playing with words if miscellaneous is seeing something that I like and getting it, and if the emergency fund is for tires, brakes and other “incidentals.”  I think many of the materials published by Ron Blue, Larry Burkett, and Dave Ramsey speak to the need for people, especially Christians, to live within their means.  John Wesley’s sermon has often been paraphrased: “Make all you can,Save all you can,Give all you can.”  Money really does matter in a Christian’s life.

Try this on for size: Does what you do with your money honor God? Review your checkbook (or, if you’re like many folks, review your online check register) and see who you give most of your money to monthly.  Are supporting worthy causes or are you simply spending? Is your money going to support the ministry of the church? Are you saving anything? If there were a call for a special offering to help with Haiti or Chile, would you be in the financial position to help out or just pray? Here goes the big one.  Looking at what you have done with what you have, would you trust yourself with more? Better yet, should God trust you with more?  It’s a matter of stewardship.  Let God lead you, even with your money matters.

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I stand upon what I know and understand, especially what I believe.

I learned to love more since Marley was born as I learned to let go of my grandmother.

I lived within means and then below my means in order to keep things afloat.

My wife shared her grief and frustration, and I offered the best that I could offer her with a hug.

I cried in the dark. I prayed out in the open air.

My heart was filled with joy and my gas tank has rarely been full.

MANY would say that this is oxymoronic, but I am still standing.

I am still standing in spite of storms in my life.

I am still standing.

Here I am.

Here I stand.

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A simple solution: When You Desire to Give
Luke 21:1-3 offers a simple solution for when you desire to give and do not have much to give. The widow observed by Jesus gave out of what little she had to live on to begin with, a quite honorable act. She trusted God through her actions, not by mere words.
Trust God with what you have and give out of that. Praying for more to give makes you earnest. Giving out of what you already have makes you wise and faithful.

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