Posts tagged ‘giving’

Collections For The Saints

It was a desperate time in Jerusalem. Poverty roamed the land, not caring about its next victims. The young church in Jerusalem was not exempted from this suffering. Word of their plight had reached their brothers and sisters in the churches of Rome, Macedonia, Achaia (Romans 15:26), Galatia and Corinth (1 Corinthians 16) whose loving response was to seek the advice of the apostle Paul as to how they could help their fellow believers in Jerusalem. Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to gather funds from the churches and send it to relieve the saints in the Jerusalem congregation. Paul responds to this specific collection to a question that had been posed by the church at Corinth.

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4 ESV)

By beginning the paragraph with “now concerning”, Paul is referring to a question that had been posed to him in writing prior to this letter, just as he had done in chapter 7 verse 1. What we have here is an example of many congregations of saints pooling their resources to help others within the Body of Christ in a time of need. The motivation here is clear — love. This was a true “love gift”, unlike what is talked about by television evangelists. In Romans 15:26, Paul uses the word “koinonia” which has unfortunately been rendered as “contribution” in some translations, because they all saw this as an expression of fellowship with other suffering believers. What Paul had described earlier in chapter 12 was indeed the case.

that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:25, 26 ESV)

This event also serves as a biblical example for some things, but not for others. Here’s what I mean by that!
Example number 1 – from the way Paul speaks of the first day of the week, it is obvious that this was the day on which they were already meeting. Paul does not write that they should start meeting on the first day of every week. He is, in effect, saying that they should collect this money when they have their regular meetings. Paul even mentions that this was what the churches of Galatia were doing, so this is not the day that only the Corinthian church gathered together.
Non-example number 1 – That being said, this is also not an example of something — the ongoing method of supporting the local church. Think about this for a second. Why would Paul have told them to take up a collection on the first day of every week if they were already taking up collections on the first day of the week? If this were some sort of binding example, why didn’t Paul insert the phrase “from now on, on the first day of every week”? One must be careful not to take a biblical example and stretch it beyond its original intended application.
The fact is, there is no prescribed method for how the funds for the local church are to be collected, or how often that is to happen! Does that mean it is wrong to take a collection on Sunday? Certainly not! With a lack of divine instruction on methods or frequency of collections, each congregation of saints is free to do was is wise and expedient for their particular situation. Want to pass the plate? Fine. Want to just have a box in the corner where saints can drop in offerings on their own? Go ahead. The error lies in taking and example of a special collection designed for a specific need with logistical planning and make it binding on every collection in every church for all time when teaching about the ongoing support for the church. Doing so is a mishandling of scripture and “going beyond what is written”. Of course we do not want to swing the pendulum too far and change what is written, like baptism by sprinkling, or communion with cake and ice cream. That being said,what we have in the New Testament on this matter is liberty to decide locally the most appropriate method for supporting the local work. Whether that is a collection plate, a box in the back, or giving online, give with a smile and not under compulsion (i.e. tithing).

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)

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Why Would He Do That?

It is perhaps the best known verse in the New Testament, if not in the entire Bible. It is the most commonly memorized, the one most frequently on signs at football games. It is John 3:16. And it should be that way, for there despite its milky appearance, this verse is loaded with meaning and significance. So lets take it apart and see what we can find in there.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV)

“For God so loved”
First and foremost, this verse is not telling us about a ourselves. This verse gives us a look at the character of God. God is the initiator in this relationship. He was not responding to mankind’s collective plea for help, for at the time we were not just ignorant of God, we were His enemies. Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrates His love for us in this”. As the apostle John later writes in his first letter, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (I John 4:10).

“…the world”
God did not pick out just a few elect persons to save. He did not come and make provision for the salvation of one man. No, Jesus was sent to “seek and save the lost”. To do that, a sacrifice was needed that was sufficient for everyone.

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (I John 2:2)

“that He gave”
The God who is love personified, became a person to show us His love. Love does that. It gives. God wasn’t sitting up in heaven having feelings for us. He acted and demonstrated His love.

“His only begotten Son”
When infinite love gives, the gift is of infinite value. God did not create an angel and send him down to be our sacrifice. He is so in love with us that He gave that which is dearest of all to His heart — His Son. I have three sons, and I cannot imagine willingly sending one to be tortured and killed for my enemies. But the infinite love of God did just that.

“that whoever believes in Him”
While the gift is sufficiently valuable for all, it is only efficacious for those who accept it. It is just like when a doctor writes you a prescription so you can recover. You can leave the bottle on your nightstand for months and years, and it will do you no good whatsoever. You have to take it for it to work. In the same way, if we don’t believe in Him, we will not be saved. And thankfully the invitation is to “whoever” which is a group that includes each of us!

“should not perish but have everlasting life.”
We were all condemned to die. We were without God and dead in transgressions and sins. But Jesus came to give us life (John 10:10). We, who were His enemies, now will live with Him forever. The next verse, john3:17, says it this way.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)

We were already condemned. His mission was to save us. God loves us and did everything to provide us a way back to Himself. And that is what the Lords Supper is about.

As we look at the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, we are reminded not only of His broken body and His blood that was shed for our redemption. We also recall the love that motivated such a sacrifice for ones as undeserving as us. Yes, it is love that causes grace, that saved a wretch like you, and you, and me!

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An Incarnation Celebration

I realize it’s August, but there is something on my heart that I need to share. And it can be summarized in one word – Christmas.

Yes, Christmas. It’s going to happen again this year, and there are some predictable things that will come with it. People will stress out about gifts to buy, going into debt again this year. Children will spend days wondering about what they are going to get, although some will give presents, too. The suicide rate will spike, and some marriages will finally break from the strain. Children will be told that Santa will bring them presents, so as to avoid offending anyone with stories about the birth of Jesus. Businesses will make the biggest money of the year, and it will all be over. Trees and wrapping paper will be recycled, and some things will be re-gifted.

BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!

Let’s wind the clock back. Not to our childhood, but further back. 2000 years back! While many will read the Christmas stories in Matthew 1 and Luke 2, John summed up the incarnation succinctly in just one verse.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NKJV)

The Word becoming flesh, known as the incarnation, is a pivotal moment in history. It is the intersection of humanity and eternity, where the very creator of the universe condescends to commune with His creation. Without the incarnation there would have been no salvation. That is worth celebrating!
But do we really celebrate this incarnation by commercialism and rituals borrowed from ancient pagan rites? No! Now some may say that it doesn’t matter what the symbols and practices meant to pagans long ago, it just matters what they symbolize to us today. I would submit that it only matters what those things mean to God, not to us.

So I ask, how do we rightly celebrate the supreme gift given to us at the Incarnation? By giving gifts. But not the kind I wrote about above. We should celebrate by giving ourselves, the same way He gave himself for us. This year can be different. What a perfect time to begin living out in our lives the compassion of Christ. So often Jesus was “moved with compassion” and met the needs of others. We, too, can give to the poor, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, and teach our children that the real meaning of giving is not just to write a check and walk away, but to be the very hands and feet of Jesus as we minister to those who He came to save!

So why write something like this in August? Because we can start planning now! Find a need and plan to fill it. Make it intentional. Don’t just hope an opportunity presents itself, but actively seek out ways to be a blessing in Jesus’ name this year. Oh, and please don’t just give to some church fund and excuse yourself from active participation. Don’t fall into the trap of “I gave at the office so my obligation is covered” and miss out on a rich blessing!

We can do it if we plan to do it. Make this year different. Build memories of Christmas with something other than what I got this year. Be the manifestation of the love of Jesus to someone this year. Introduce them to this Jesus who is “the Word made flesh” and have a true Incarnation Celebration this year.

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In Two Places At Once

 

It is often said that if someone could find a way to be in two paces at the same time, they could patent it and be rich. But we all know that for mere mortals, it is impossible to be in two places at the same time. The same is true in the spiritual realm. Consider the following examples from the Word and see if it is true.
Places you cannot be simultaneously:

You cannot be in unforgiveness and be receiving forgiveness at the same time.
Jesus gave his followers a somber warning. We cannot expect God to give to us the very thing we refuse to give to others.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”(Matthew 6:14, 15 NKJV)
That is deadly serious. Who wants to stand before God with unforgiven sin? And the results are not just in the hereafter. Unforgiveness also damages out relationship with God. Our prayers go unheard and we are effectively isolated.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2 NKJV)
What offense committed against us is worth the equivalent of spiritual suicide?
Unforgiveness also defiles those around us.
“looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15 NKJV)
This can happen when we stop believing that the Lord will take necessary steps for justice, and take matters into our own hands. We are glad to have been forgiven, but judge others as unworthy of that same grace. Hint: No one is worthy of forgiveness. That’s why it’s called grace!

You cannot give little while receiving much.
Jesus himself shared this eternal principle with his disciples.
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)
To paraphrase this, you can’t change containers. The container you use for giving is the same one you will be using for receiving from God. Years later, Paul put is this way:
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NKJV)
Where this falls apart for us is when we say we believe that God will take care of our needs,, but hold back for ourselves just in case he doesn’t come through.

You cannot be in the light and in the darkness.
There is no mixture of light and darkness in Christ. Thus, if we are walking with Christ, we cannot be walking in darkness. If you are in darkness, then you aren’t with Christ.
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7 NKJV)
When we get into unbelief, and stop believing the He came to give us abundant life, we start trying to have a little “happiness” based on what we want instead of what God says is best for our lasting good.

You cannot serve God and mammon.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 NKJV)
Mammon is not just another term for money. Mammon is the mentality that says our goal in life is to earn money, to the neglect of more important things. Mammon makes money on idol and turns us into its slaves. And our God will not tolerate idols in His presence. Mammon lies to us by saying that we need to make sure God doesn’t plan to give us as much as we want, so it’s up to us to make up the difference in the amounts.

You cannot walk in love and walk in hatred.
“He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11 NKJV)
In the final analysis, hatred is the quickest route to darkness and away from God. God is love, and we are supposed to be dwelling in Him. Hatred is antithetical to walking in love.

We would all benefit from a thorough self examination. Or better yet, examine ourselves in light of the Word of God and act on what we see. God has promised to aid us and give us the grace and power to repent and drive this double mindedness from our lives.

1. Have I truly forgiven those who have trespassed against me from my heart?

2. Do I walk in the light, or is my life a cover for secret sin?

3. Is money a servant that I use, or has it become the mammon and master?

4. Is there any hatred in my life? How do I feel when certain people are mentioned?

5. What am I going to do about the answers to these questions?

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