Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Great devotional that I read today...

Safety in Numbers
Today's Scripture

“Where no wise guidance is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

Today's Word from Joel and Victoria

Are you facing an important decision today? God wants to give you the answer. He wants to direct your steps. Many times, He will speak to us through the people He has placed in our lives. The Bible says that safety is found in a multitude of advisors. God designed us to live in families, communities, and congregations. We need to be open to receiving input from the people who are close to us. That doesn’t mean you have to follow everything everyone tells you, but if you’re in a particular situation or relationship, and all the people around you are giving you the same word of caution, it might be God trying to get a message to you. Take that advice and bring it before the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to confirm His perfect plan to your heart. Remember, wisdom comes from God, and wise counsel will always be in agreement with God’s Word. He will always confirm the answer when you ask Him. What ever you are facing today, be open to receiving wise counsel. As you do, you will be blessed and protected and walk in confidence down the path the Lord has prepared for you!

A Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, thank You for the people You have placed in my life as wise counsel. Help me understand Your truth so that I can make Godly choices. Keep me close to You always. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Living The Dash

Sunday afternoon I paused and enjoyed watching my son Carter get into some donuts that we had on the counter in our kitchen. He pulled the box down and grabbed a powdered donut and I think the donut ate him instead of him eating the donut. At first I quickly grabbed a paper towel to wipe him off. But I stopped. Instead I grabbed my wife and my camera phone and got a number of great shots. This one was the best. It's the little things in life that we need to pause and enjoy. The truth is that we never know how many moments we have so we need to enjoy each one that God give us!

One Month To Live

This past Sunday we kicked off an important series called, "One Month To Live." I spoke about living the dash versus dashing to live. So often I find myself dashing through life while trying to lead a growing family and church. I've found that I can easily get caught up in the 'stuff' of life without ever stopping to appreciate the important things in life. Things such as my relationship with God and my relationships with my friends and family. The Bible tells us in Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." My desire is that I would have a heart of wisdom in how I live my life. I challenge you to ask yourself these important clarifying questions. First, "what would I do if I had one month to live?" Second, "In what ways do you need to begin living the dash versus dashing to live this week?"

Saturday, April 26, 2008

One Month To Live begins tomorrow!

I invite you this week to join us in taking the one month to live challenge. Click here for more information and resources!

A great day!

Today I had a blast going with my son Caleb on his field trip to the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater. We had the chance to see the show, "Charlotte's Web." It was a cute show and Caleb really enjoyed it. More than anything it was so much fun to see how proud and excited he was to have me with him. There is no better feeling as a daddy. Here are some pics below.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Today's Field Trip

Today I have the opportunity to go on my first field trip with my son Caleb. We are going to the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater somewhere in Lancaster County. I will be chaperoning for about half a squillion 5 year olds. I'm having flashbacks of working at the YMCA about 10 years ago. Caleb is pretty pumped about our day together and it will definitely be one for the record books. These trips are what blog posts and sermon stories are made of. Stay tuned!

Comedy Night coming up in 2 weeks!

This past week I got my picture with some great guys from Westwood Fire Company. The Post Ledger did an article on the comedy night and we have one coming out in the Community Courier next week. The goal was to highlight the event and not our church but who knows how that will turn out. Funny things end up popping up in news papers regardless of how you try and frame the discussion. On another note, if you haven't gotten your tickets, we are expecting to sell out! Make sure you pick them up soon. For more information of tickets, go to!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Great devotional

Great devo that I got from Joel Osteen ministries today. I also listened to the podcast for the week yesterday and it is well worth your time. Enjoy!

Wait on the Lord
Today's Scripture

“But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Today's Word from Joel and Victoria

Do you need strength today? Sometimes it’s easy to get down and discouraged when you’re constantly looking at the circumstances of life. You may feel tired and weary from a long battle. But when you wait on the Lord, the Bible says your strength will be renewed. Waiting on the Lord means you’re putting your trust and hope in Him. You’re living with an attitude of faith and expectancy. In the natural, if you are waiting for someone like a special dinner guest, you’re probably not just sitting around the house wondering what will happen. No, you’re probably preparing for that special person by straightening the house and making sure everything is perfect for their arrival. Most likely, you started weeks in advance making the menu and deciding what to wear! In the same way, when you are waiting on the Lord, it doesn’t mean you are just sitting around, it means you are preparing for Him. Are you ready for God to move on your behalf? Are you waiting on Him? As you take a step of faith, He’ll meet you there. He’ll renew your strength and lead you into victory in every area of your life!

A Prayer for Today

Father in heaven, thank You for Your promise to renew my strength. I choose to wait on You. I choose to trust You. I choose to prepare for You to move mightily in my life! In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Busy Week & A Big Moment

Sorry I didn't get any photos up from the Baptism last week. It's been a crazy week but a really good one also. I had a blast this weekend spending time with my kids. Saturday morning was all about yard work and soccer. I'm enjoying watching my kids play soccer. This week Caleb had a big moment. He had the chance to play goalie again in his game for a short stint and he had a huge stop. The kid was breaking away from the pack and attempting to score and Caleb ran up and grabbed the ball and saved the day. The parents on the side lines (and myself) erupted in cheering. Caleb had the biggest smile on his face. It was a big moment! The fact that he was even paying attention to stop the goal was a minor miracle. It really made my day as a daddy to see him grow more confident.

The other pic that I have is of Caleb and Carter on our buddy date. We went out to Friendly's Restaurant in Gap and we had a blast together. At least until Carter made a mess in his pants and I realized that I forgot the diaper bag! It was great to spend time with my kids. I love being a dad, despite the busyness of life!

I hope you all had great weekends! Expect a lot of posts this week...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Last Night's Baptism Celebration

What an incredible night we had last night with our church family! The heart beat of our church is connecting people with their creator and I had the privilege to do just that as we baptized 15 people last night. It was exciting to see people take a step of faith and obedience to God's word. I was so humbled to be a part in this special night. There were people who have just made the decision to follow Jesus in recent weeks and others that had just never taken the step but have been followers for years. What God is doing in the lives of people in our church is so awesome that it brings tears to my eyes just typing this blog. I hope to post some photos later this week. It is undeniable that God is moving in amazing ways in our church and I can't wait to our next baptism celebration later this summer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

RISK- What Will Happen If I don't?

Have you ever been afraid to risk something? Not stupid things like driving 220 mph on rt. 30. Real Risk. Opening your heart to someone? Launching a business? Beginning a new friendship? Helping someone in need? Flying across the world to reach somebody you don't know with the message of Jesus? What keeps us back from risking things with our lives? I took a pretty big step this past week in our church by talking about risking everything with a possible move for our church location. As I've prayed and wrestled with the future of our church, as well as the future of my life, the one question that keeps me dreaming and risking more than anything else is this, "what will happen if I don't?" What will happen if I don't risk and take a step of faith with the dreams that God is giving me. Do you want to come to the end of your life and have regrets? I remember reading about a study that was done a number of years ago with a group of people in their 90's. They were at the end of their lives and they were posed the question, "what would you do if you could live your life over again?" The answer was simply this, "Risk More." Don't fear failure, if you fear anything, fear not risking! What God-given dream is God challenging you to take a step and RISK to fulfill?

What If You Had One Month To Live???

Coming this up at the end of this month we will be kicking of our new series called, "One Month To Live." I spend most of my time thinking about life, but I also consider the reality of death. I guess that's why I have life insurance. Sidebar, you should have that. Moving along. When I think about what it would be like to know that you have one month to live it is sobering. It makes you think, evaluate and consider everything about your life. That's why we will be launching this important spiritual growth series on Sunday, April 27th. It is a bring a friend day and I hope that you can make it out. I believe that this will be a life changing experience for our church over these next few weeks. As I've been praying about this series these last few months I literally get goose bumps (what else do you call them) as I sense what God is about to do! For more information about this series, go to, and join the 30 day challenge. So let's start thinking about it now, "What would you do if you had one month to live?"

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Is Our Church Moving?

It's been a pretty crazy last week and I'm pretty pumped about the future of our church. We had our annual business meeting (hate that terminology) this past Sunday and I announced that we are actively pursuing the possibility of moving our church. The deacons and elders have confirmed what God has been revealing to me over these last few months and that is that we need to pursue this dream. I am the 4th pastor to attempt to move this church off of the side of the hill in the last few decades and hopefully this attempt will be successful. If you are just hearing this news for the first time, you may have some questions. Here are a few...

Why do we need to move?
Answer. We don't. We can reach people at our current location and have a nice community church. But what if we can reach even more people at an easily accessible (more central) location. At the end of the day we could end up staying put and trying other things. But what if at the end of the day we moved to another (more visible) location that would enable us to offer more things to our community and reach thousands instead of hundreds of people for Jesus. Maybe the questions is not, "why do we need to move?," maybe it's, "why not?!"

When would we move?
We are in research and dreaming mode right now and then will come the need for collaboration and vision casting to the church body. Either way it will be a 2-5 year process. This is long term planning to reach the maximum amount of people in our growing community.

What about the changes we just made to our church?
It will take 2-5 years to move even if we had land today, so the changes that we've made to our facility will get plenty of use. The things that we have just purchased (screens, chairs) could come with us or sold to a new buyer. We wouldn't lose any of the money that we've spent. It's all investment for growth, it will pay for itself over the next year. Also, it's likely that another church could purchase our current location and continue to use it for the Kingdom of God.

What changed about the current vision?

Nothing and everything. We are passionate about reaching lost people and will change anything to reach more people. We've changed just about everything about our church over the past 5 years and now we are looking at changing our location. I don't think that we should limit ourselves by our current facility. I am thankful for what a previous generation has provided for us. We are fortunate to be debt free! I believe this only positions us to take wise eternal risks, not simply enjoy the safety of that reality. My vision for this community grows stronger and I believe that there are no limits to what God can do through our church in the coming years!

I'll continue to answer more questions in regards to this topic in the coming days, weeks and months.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Wave Church Trip

Here's a pic of the outside of the building.

Here's a pic of Paul, Richard and myself getting ready to take a tour of the Wave's Church future building.

Here's a pic of the inside of the building.

Pastor Steve took us on a tour of their new facility that is currently being built. They are building a state of the art facility that will house a church that will be 10,000 strong over the next few years. It was inspiring to be around big vision. I'm sitting in a service right now as we are getting ready to leave and go home. One of the good things that was shared was, "you don't just support the vision of the church when you are a part of the team, you carry the vision and serve." We got some good ideas and great stuff from our trip and I've enjoyed getting to know the staff of Wave Church. God is doing great things in our church and it's just begun. The vision continues to grow.

$136M Michigan Mega Millions Winner to Boss: 'I'm Out of Here'

LANSING, Mich. — David Sneath has worked at a Ford Motor Co. parts warehouse for 34 years, but it didn't take him any time at all to walk out once he discovered he'd won a $136 million Mega Millions jackpot.
"I yelled to the boss, 'I'm out of here,"' the Livonia man said Thursday after coming to state Lottery Bureau headquarters in downtown Lansing to pick up his first $1 million check... Sneath said the reality of his win has yet to sink in. "I still haven't touched base with Earth yet," he said. When he saw in a newspaper that he had a winning ticket, "my whole body went numb."
Sneath plans to buy a cottage on Mullett Lake in northern Michigan and maybe a new fishing boat or two to help him land the walleye he loves to catch. He's tired of misplacing his glasses and may get laser surgery to correct his vision. And he'll probably move out of his three-bedroom, two-bath ranch home, although he plans to stay in Michigan.
"I worked for Ford Motor Company," he said. "I won't be buying a Ford product."


Thursday, April 3, 2008

I'm in Virginia Beach...and it's not like the picture below

I'm in Virginia Beach at the annual Wave Church Network meeting. Today it is rainy and cold. No polar bear beach going here. Even though it's nasty out, I'm excited about the being at Wave Church. Wave Church is a part of the Hillsong Network of churches and is led by a wonderful man of God named Steve Kelly. I'm here with some of my great friends (the elder's from our church) and we had a really good session tonight as we joined Pastor's and Leader's from all over the region. We came to receive an impartation of vision and wisdom and I'm pretty pumped about it. The 2 day meeting is focused on the question, "What's On Your Dashboard?" Steve talked about the importance keeping margins in our lives. We need to create margins (balance and space) in our lives with our finances, emotions, social lives, marriage, family, physical life... Balance is the key to life and burnout is not what God intends for our lives. He encouraged everyone to live an uncomplicated life, live an offense free life and to trust your instincts as leaders. He reminded us as leaders that even Jesus was denied and betrayed. I felt the Lord speak some good things to me and I'm looking forward to learning more tomorrow. I'm excited about the future of our church and all that God is doing today! I'll post more pics and notes tomorrow.

Urban Legends About Giving, Part 7

I don’t agree with how my church might spend the money.
That is an understandable objection. But God teaches us to submit to those he has placed in authority over us, and not give them trouble (Hebrews 13:17). As Christians, we may have many good-faith disagreements over how money is used in the church; but only if a church is using money immorally or illegally should we consider a confrontational approach, and even then only in a biblical manner (Matthew 18:15-20). The best way to influence our church is to (1) pray. The next step is to (2) model a biblical approach to handling money. We can also shape our churches’ habits in respectful, harmonious ways by (3) talking with leaders, (4) serving on a finance committee or as a church officer, (5) leading through small group discipleship or (6) teaching Sunday school. If these avenues for influence are not available to us, or if they fail to produce the results we had sought, we may have to leave it in God’s hands, acknowledging that he may not want us to run the church. Above all, we must speak and act lovingly and graciously, refraining from criticism or gossip inside or outside the church. Remember, there are other ways to use our money for the Lord. If a church is failing to evangelize, for example, supporting an evangelistic para-church ministry may be a good idea.

My pastor ought to get a day job, like the apostle Paul; that’s a more biblical way to minister.
It is true that Paul sometimes tried not to ask certain churches for money if he feared that his motives would be questioned or that he would be associated with those trying to get rich from preaching (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:3-14). Usually, however, this resulted in him asking for money from other churches (2 Corinthians 11:7-9). Why take money from some but not from others? It seems that Paul cautiously avoided taking money from problem churches, while he joyfully raised support from spiritually healthy churches. In fact, the normal pattern for healthy churches seems to be financial support for their spiritual leaders (see 1 Timothy 5:17-19; the context of chapters 5 and 6 is largely about Christian finances). Paul defended and engaged in this practice himself, relying on the support of others when he was in need (Philippians 4:14-19). In this regard Paul simply followed Jesus, who himself relied on the gifts of others and taught his disciples to do the same (Luke 8:1-4; 10:7). In so doing, the early Christians learned how to trust God and rely on their family, the church. As if his own example were not enough, Paul explicitly tells us to share with those who teach us the word (Galatians 6:6). We as givers should follow his advice, not just for the benefit of our spiritual leaders, but for ours as well: Paul told the Philippians that he wasn’t primarily concerned with their gift for him but with “what may be credited to your account” when they gave (Philippians 4:17). In most cases, a pastor’s ministry is his day job, and it is right for the church to give him due compensation. Such an arrangement is in fact quite biblical and in keeping with Paul’s own teaching in 1 Corinthians 9.

I am up to my ears in debt. I cannot give now.
The Christian in debt has an obligation, not only to his creditors but also to God, to pay off his debts and, what is more, to stay out of debt in the future (Roman 13:8). But the responsibility to pay off debts does not cancel out the responsibility to give to the Lord. Specifically, the Bible tells us to give to the Lord from our “firstfruits,” that is, the first and best of our income (Proverbs 3:9). As Larry Burkett has said, the first check we write belongs to the Lord and no one else, not even a creditor. Perhaps it sounds harsh, but in fact, giving like this turns out to be in our own best interest. We refrain from giving because it feels financially insecure. But in fact, God promises that giving to him is the most secure financial move one can make. If he gave up his own Son for us, surely we can count on him to give us all things (Romans 8:32). For those who give, he will provide all they need at all times, even making them rich so that they can keep on giving (2 Corinthians 9:8-11). We should make it a high and immediate priority to pay off our debts, but we should also give whatever we can in the meanwhile.

Urban Legends About Giving, Part 6

I would like to give, but my spouse does not share my desire to give.
Both giving and marital unity are important biblical values, so this is a difficult situation, but not an impossible one. The marriage relationship is like the relationship between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Christ is the model husband who lays down his life for his bride, and his purpose in all this is to make us holy (v. 26). In a similar way husbands and wives should work hard to move each other toward holiness. Keeping the peace is important, but God desires obedience as well. It might take a lot of prayer and patience before husband and wife are able to give joyfully as a couple. But just as with so many difficult parts of marriage, God is more than able to bring spouses to agreement on this. A Christian should certainly not resolve to go on giving in spite of his spouse’s disapproval, but neither should he give up trying and make an excuse of his spouse’s current opinion. Rather, husband and wife should make it a high (and by God’s grace, attainable) priority to achieve joint obedience in this matter.

I don’t have the spiritual gift of giving.
This is a thoughtful objection. It is true that God gives different spiritual gifts to different people (Romans 12:6), so that some are better at certain things than others; and it is true that giving is one of these spiritual gifts (Romans 12:8). But it does not follow from this that those who do not have the gift of giving are therefore exempt from the responsibility of giving. Yes, some Christians are better at giving than others, but we are all alike called to give generously to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:7) because we have all received his generosity in Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9). It is the same with other spiritual gifts. We do not all have the gift of evangelism, but we should all be active in sharing our faith (1 Peter 3:15). We should excel in the areas where we have spiritual gifts, but we should be faithful even in the areas where we don’t.

God doesn’t need my money.
This is a good point; God doesn’t need our money. In the Scriptures he says, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. ... If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it” (Psalm 50:9-12). Indeed, those of us who are the most enthusiastic about giving do well to remember this fact. But to say that God doesn’t need our money is not to say that we shouldn’t give. He doesn’t need our money, but he does want it—not for its own sake, but as a token of our total commitment to him in response to what he has suffered for us (Matthew 6:21). And as it turns out, giving to God is actually in our own best interest. We should give to God not because he needs it, but because we need it (Philippians 4:17).

The church doesn’t need my money.
Well, yes and no. Insofar as God sovereignly builds his church and will never let it expire (Matthew 16:18), no, the church does not need our money. But insofar as God’s normal means of providing for his church is through the gifts of the people (2 Corinthians 9:11), yes, the church does need our money. In other words, the fact that God provides for the church should make us more, not less, eager to give. If we really have been changed by the gospel, then we will consider it a privilege to participate with our Lord in the work of his church.

Urban Legends About Giving, Part 5

I don’t owe the poor anything.
God teaches us that we do in fact owe the poor, although not in the way we might think. In God’s economy, serving those in need is serving him, and failing to serve those in need is failing to serve him (Matthew 25:31-46). Romans 13:8 says to owe no debt to others except love, and Jesus teaches that loving others means caring for them in the same way we would want to be loved. How would we want to be cared for if we were poor and needy while others were rich? Clearly, we would want help getting our basic needs met. If this weren’t clear enough, Jesus makes the same point in story form in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In short, providing care for the physically and emotionally wounded; being a parent to an orphan or unwanted child; providing job training and economic empowerment; and providing emergency relief after famine, war, disease and natural disasters are all possible aspects of the Christian’s debt of love. That is what we owe the poor.

Giving would chip away at my investments, and that would be bad stewardship.
Giving would deplete my savings, and that would be bad stewardship.
Giving would subject me to tax liability, and that would be bad stewardship.
It is both wrong and unnecessary to set the different components of godly stewardship against one another. These three objections share a common theme. God does indeed want us to be good stewards (Luke 16:10-12). And good stewardship certainly can include high return on investment (Luke 19:12-27), saving for the future (Proverbs 6:6-8), and the prudent payment of taxes (Matthew 22:21). But even more than any of these things, godly stewardship involves generosity. It is easy to place things like our desire for a comfortable, pleasurable retirement ahead of our responsibility to give generously. But in the words of Jesus, to do so is stupid (a literal translation of Luke 12:16-26), for this present earth will not last. God has given us the kingdom and the promise that we will possess the new creation, and the fitting response is not to be stingy with what he has given out of fear or self-centeredness, but to give generously to the poor and so lay up our treasure in heaven (Luke 12:32-34). The desires to compound our wealth, save, and carefully plan our tax liability, while legitimate, do not undo our obligation to give to the Lord and his kingdom mission. God is fully aware of the state of our bank balances and the pressing cares of this world, and he summons us to give generously all the same.

If I were to give to the church, it would only contribute further to the greed and corruption among church leaders. (funny one, it would actually contribute to less stress!)
It is of course true that greed and corruption are entirely inappropriate among church leadership. But does our giving really foster these evils? For one thing, biblically speaking, we don’t give to the church; we give to the Lord. Now, it is true that the normal means of giving to the Lord is through his church. But as long as we think of our giving as mere “membership dues” paid to the church, we miss the point completely. Second, it is not our place to impugn the motives of the pastor or other church leaders. We should beware of issuing condemnations, lest we be judged in the same way (Matthew 7:1-2). In addition, the elders of the church are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17), so a critical attitude toward them is doubly inappropriate. Third, if a Christian is truly concerned that his church leaders are living in willful sin, then the thing to do is to approach them about it through biblical channels to seek their repentance (Matthew 18:15-20), rather than just angrily withdrawing one’s gifts. The question we must ask ourselves is: Do my church leaders need to repent of their greed (which is possible), or do I need to repent of my own attitude toward them (which is also possible)?

Urban Legends About Giving, Part 4

I'm saved, so it doesn’t matter how much I give, or even whether I give at all.
It is right to say that being saved is what matters most, but wrong to conclude that giving is therefore irrelevant. In no way does giving (or any other good work) secure God’s favor. However, once we have been made new by the gospel, that same gospel changes us through and through, causing us to practice generosity (and other good works) out of thanksgiving to and love for God. Thus, while a person’s giving does not in any way determine his salvation, it is an excellent indicator that salvation has come to him. It is the grace of God, not our giving, that saves us. But once we are saved, it is the same grace of God that makes us generous givers. In fact, the Bible says, if we claim to be saved but refuse to give to people in need, then we may deceiving ourselves about being saved in the first place (James 2:14-17). In other words, it is precisely because you are saved that it matters how much you give.

God loves a cheerful giver, but I am not cheerful about giving, so it’s better not to give at all.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), but this is not to say that we should wait to give until we feel particularly cheerful about it. As with so many areas of the Christian life, obedience in giving can be hard work. The joy might only come during or after the act of obedience. But the same God who loves the cheerful giver (v. 7) promises to give us the grace we need to give cheerfully (v. 8). He gave us the gift of his Son; surely we can count on him for this as well. We should all aspire to joyful giving. But the best way to cultivate joyful giving is to ask for the Lord’s help and start giving.

I don’t owe God anything.
Actually, we owe God everything. God can even require our children from us, as he did from Abraham (James 2:14-24). The Bible repeatedly refers to God as the owner of all things and all people (see Psalm 24:1 for an example), especially those he has redeemed from sin and destruction. God created us, and if we put our hope and faith in Christ, he has purchased us. This makes him not just our Savior but our Lord as well. Therefore, we owe him everything. But since he knows what is best for us, giving back to him and to others is not the same as obeying a tyrannical king. Instead, we are obeying a ruler who is also a loving Father. He wants us to experience the joy of giving. We participate in caring for others and serving God not only because he commands it but also because it is in our best interest to do so.

I don’t owe my church anything.
We probably owe our congregations and leaders far more than we know (Philemon 19), for churches are God’s vehicles to bring salvation and discipleship to the nations. Counting the ways we have been blessed by our church and other churches is a great way to learn how the love of others (expressed in their giving for missions, pastoral salaries, resources, projects and buildings) has had an eternal impact on us. Even if we see little blessing now (perhaps because we haven’t counted those blessings), we benefit immensely from past blessings bestowed by others. We should seek to provide the same blessings for others. Paul says we should owe no debt to one another, except love (Romans 13:8). Jesus and Paul agree that loving others means loving them like we love ourselves. Providing for the needs of others in our churches (possibly a nursery or a youth pastor even if you do not have children; counseling for married couples even if you are single; and especially supporting evangelism and mercy ministries for those in physical and spiritual need) is part of our debt to love others as we love ourselves. We must pray for the desire to love and serve our churches as he has commanded.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Urban Legends About Giving, Part 3

The tithe does not apply to Christians today, only to Old Testament Israel.
It is true that the tithe not the standard of Christian generosity today, for Jesus called us to give far more than 10 percent. In fact, the tithe was never the standard of Old Testament generosity, either. The tithe (as a mandatory gift equaling a tenth of one’s income) actually only applied to crops and animals from the promised land, not to all income in any time and place. Nor was 10 percent ever “the standard,” for there were three tithes (two every year, one every three years) and many other offerings and gifts that were also part of Jewish life. The idea of the tithe is still present in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23), but it is never explicitly applied to believers. Instead, almost all Christians are called to more extravagant freewill giving in response to the gospel of the Lord Jesus, who exhorted us to give 100 percent (Luke 21:1-4). The tithe may be a helpful guideline insofar as it reminds us to give proportionally to the Lord as he blesses us, since he owns it all anyway. But by New Testament standards, settling for 10 percent can be a recipe for condemnation from Jesus if we neglect true generosity, just as it was for the tithing Pharisees (Matthew 23:23). Biblical generosity is loving God with all we are, loving our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:25-37) and imitating the sacrificial example of Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 John 3:16-18).

Christians are under grace, not under law, so the obligation to give does not apply to me.
The law/grace distinction in scripture is often misused, partly because the teaching is difficult to understand, but also because we sinners tend to seek out ways to dodge obedience. It is certainly true that Christians are under the principle of grace, not the principle of law. In other words, we attain righteousness not by behaving in the right way, but by trusting God for his salvation (Galatians 3:11). But this is not to say that we ought not to behave in the right way. The fact that we are saved by grace does not make adultery, for example, an acceptable practice. The law—God’s will for how we ought to live—is still a perfect standard and guide for us (Romans 7:12). But grace—God’s gift to us—makes obedience a possibility and a reality. Grace is not only forgiveness for past sins (although it certainly includes that), but also empowerment for future obedience. Grace does not mean that God does not expect us to give generously; it means that he will give us the strength to do it and the reward for doing it.

The Bible says that each man should give what he has decided in his own heart to give. So I am free to give as much or as little as I choose, even not at all.
It is true that the apostle Paul says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Corinthians 9:7). We might think, then, that the apostle is giving us liberty to be as selfish as we like. But curiously, this verse is situated in the middle of a passage urging Christians to give generously (vv 6-15). How can this be? Paul’s point is not to give license for selfishness, but to cultivate a love of generosity within his listeners. He does not want to “hold their hands” through the giving process. Rather, he wants them to feel free, creative and excited to give far beyond the ten percent benchmark. Because Jesus has accomplished our redemption and the age of the Spirit has come, Paul’s logic goes, appealing to the tithe laws is unnecessary. Yes, this is a sort of freedom unfamiliar to the Old Testament Jews. But it is a freedom to excel in good deeds, not a freedom to sin.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Urban Legends About Giving, Part 2

The Bible is about religious and moral issues, and not about money at all, let alone charitable giving.

It is a common idea that the Bible has only to do with so-called religious matters, e.g., church attendance, individual conversion, and personal piety. But this is a misunderstanding, probably derived more from cultural hearsay than from careful reading of the Bible itself. Really, it would be fairer to say that the Bible is about everything. The Bible covers the waterfront of human life because the gospel of God’s redemption covers the waterfront of human life. In the words of Scripture, God is reconciling all things to himself through Christ (Colossians 1:20). “All things” certainly includes money and material possessions, so it is no surprise to find that the Bible speaks plainly and frequently about these things. There are philosophies that separate reality into “spiritual” and “material” spheres, but Christianity is not one of them. In the Bible, all of life (including the use of money) is spiritual because God is involved in it. When we take the time to read the Bible carefully, we find that it has much more to say to us than we may have realized, not least of all about our giving. Start by reading these key Bible verses on money and stewardship.

The Bible commands us to give in secret, so we shouldn’t be talking about this.

Jesus’ admonition to “not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” is not a prohibition from public giving of all sorts. In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus is warning against doing things for the purpose of impressing others, but this does not mean that everything about giving must be strictly private. As sinners reconciled to God, David, Barnabas and the Macedonians inspired others with their public generosity, and Paul publicly expresses his gratitude for the generous giving of his congregations (see 1 Chronicles 29, Acts 4:32-37, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9:1-5; Philippians 4:14-18). In fact, because of the dangers of love of money, consulting openly with other believers about our stewardship practices can be very wise, even necessary. It may also inspire others to give, and give them opportunity to praise God for our generosity (2 Corinthians 9:11). If our motivation is to impress others, it is better not to mention it. But if we need help staying faithful, or if we can encourage others, it may be appropriate to share about our giving.