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Posts Tagged ‘offering’

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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Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
 – Isaiah 53:10 (NKJV)

God’s people are to live in such a way that their lives please God.  God’s people are to live to please God.

It doesn’t sound like the Christianity that many of us signed up for when we walked down the aisle of our home church and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior in our lives.  It does not resemble the only-believe sermons that echoed in tent revivals throughout Middle America during the times of Progressives prior to the Industrial Revolution of America.  No, it does not even seem to resemble any of the tenets of religious righteousness that seem to make the headlines as the Religious Right.  That doesn’t sound like the normal Christian life that many pastors, evangelists and others have spread throughout the nation and the world about prosperity, being born again, and serving to be saved. No, it doesn’t sound like any of that at all.

However, that is what the Word says.  We are to live in a way that pleases God.  We are to model our lives after the service, sacrifice and suffrage of Jesus Christ.  Isaiah’s “Suffering Savior,”  the “man of sorrows,” presents us with a humble manner of submission that we can see and reflect in our own daily lives.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. . .

Sadly, we often interpret God’s pleasure as an image of the Heavenly Father looking down and smiling upon Jesus on the cross.  That sounds far from the accurate interpretation of the matter.  God’s pleasure in the situation is the satisfied debt of sins.  The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross satisfied the debt of sin through the Lamb of God who was “without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19, NKJV).  Therefore, Jesus submitted to God and offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  As John says, He serves as “the propitiation of our sins.” Read Hebrews 2:17 and 1 John 4:10 about His sacrifice for our sins.

He paid a debt that we could never repay on our own.  He had to serve as the propitiation of our sins in order to satisfy the debt that we could never repay ourselves.  As Paul wrote, salvation is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).  He stepped up and stood in for us, only to sacrifice all and suffer for our sakes.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

1 John 5:2-4 (NKJV)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. – Philippians 2:5 (NKJV)

We need to reflect Christ’s sacrificial living.  Paul stated that we should have the mind of Christ.  Peter said that we should suffer just as Christ suffered.  James, the brother of the Lord, said that we should embrace being tested and tried.  We are to live in a manner that satisfies God.  We are to please God.

Our daily lives are to please God.  Let not Christ’s suffering and sacrifice appear to be in vain.  Do not disregard the cost of salvation.  God did not hold back.  He offered His best.  We, too, are called to offer our best.  God offered His best in Jesus Christ.  God expects us to offer our best by following the example of Jesus Christ.

Live to please God.  Live a repentant and revived life.  Live a renewed life as a new creation in Christ Jesus.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. – Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)

The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. – Psalm 147:11 (KJV)

“It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.”
-Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi quotes)

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“… but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.”- Proverbs 13:11 (NIV)

People keep using an analogy about eating elephants one bite at a time.  While I find it to be a tad bit outdated and overused, I accept the notion that you need to take things step by step.  It also holds true that one needs to start a journey with one step like the African proverb tells us.  However, too many people want to jump from one move to the next,never calculating the cost as the Lord suggested in Luke 14:28.

Ministry needs to be managed in a similar fashion.  It needs to be done with procedures in place.  Use a system for management.  Don’t let your management or leadership style dictate your system.  In many cases, churches adhere to some form of rules or guidelines for managing ministry.  Those are in place for good reason.  You can go down some slippery slopes when you do otherwise.  The IRS and other entities can get involved and your church’s 501 (c) 3 status can be placed in jeopardy due to failure to follow the rules.

Need funds to repair your existing building or build a new sanctuary? Start step by step.  Get the community involved along with the church.  Are you in an enterprise zone? Find out and see if there are redevelopment funds available.  There may be funds that would allow you to enhance or expand your church’s bookstore or school site as a part of the development project.  Who has done the research?

I pray for any pastor-leader who attempts a modern-day building campaign without a careful survey of the Scriptures.  My Bible says that those with a heart to give were the givers.  It was not 100% of the congregation for Moses or David.  People who felt motivated to give were the very ones who gave.  In the case of Moses, he had to stand before the assembly of God’s people and tell them to stop bringing their gifts.  They had more than enough at that time.  I say this to help some worried and weary spiritual leader of a local church. The givers give.  You don’t have to worry if it is part of God’s plan for you and your church.  The givers are the ones who give.

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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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Serve the LORD with gladness… – Psalm 100:2 (KJV)

We are called to serve the Lord with gladness.  The New International Version says for us to: “Worship the Lord with gladness.” So are we to serve or worship? We are to do both with equal amounts of enthusiasm.  Yes, we are to work.  Yes, we are to worship.  Why not worship while you work? The two can go together.  They can both lead to God getting the glory.

It’s not just about what we do, though.  We also need to look at how we do it.  We are to do such things with gladness.  We are to serve with gladness.  We are to worship with gladness.  service and worship are what we are to do.  Doing such things with gladness is about how we are to do it.  The Bible speaks about the Lord loving a “cheerful giver.” The Sermon on the Mount talks about those who are blessed.  When we work and worship with should have an attitude that expresses are joy in giving God our best that we have to offer.

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