building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Tithe under grace”

Order of Priorities

“We are accountable to God for what He has given us and how we use it for His Kingdom.” Pastor James MacDonald laid it out for the ones listening to his message this past weekend. God gives us our gifts and talents to help the Body of Christ. For those who have mercy, there are people in the Body who need mercy. For those who have the gift of encouragement, the Body needs that encouragement. For those who have the talent of singing, join the choir or the worship team. For those who have the gift of administration, the Body needs someone to organize and manage.

We all have opportunities that we can fulfill because God has equipped us to do it. If the Body is lacking something fundamental, then someone has not stepped up and stepped into the role. As we take care of each other, unbelievers will notice. God expects us to use what He has given us. This is my take away from the message on Luke 19:11-27. Jesus also said that we are to shine our lights and not hide them under a bushel. I know there is more that I could do in the Church Body. How about you? Have you stepped up?

Time is not an excuse for not serving in the Body of Christ. If you don’t have time, then the priorities are wrong. It’s important to know what God expects of us. We have been given freedom with boundaries, which are for our protection. We are free to use everything we have been given by God; but like our money, we are to give to the Body of Christ first. Maybe I’m stretching the point too far, but it’s really important to know that God wants the best for us and the best starts with giving back to Him first – money, talents and gifts. It all comes from Him for our use; but how we honor Him with it is essential. The more we have, the more He expects from us.

One more thought about money. I get that we don’t have to live by the “tenth” rule since it was Old Testament rules. God said to bring the whole tithe (means a tenth) into the House of God – it pleases Him for us to do so. But if we no longer have to live by the Law of Moses, how much more should we give because we are living under God’s grace? A tenth of all we have is nothing in comparison to what He has given us through His Son, Jesus Christ! A tenth is the least we should give. Grace is more generous than the Law.

In Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge, Mark wrote about God being our Senior Partner (Day 36). He wrote about a man in his late 90’s who decided on day one of his business that he would give God 51% of the business. He wanted to honor God from the get-go. At some point the man felt convicted about keeping 49% for himself. The parable of the merchant who found the pearl of great price and sold everything he had to obtain it changed this man’s perspective. At that point, he became a salaried employee and put everything else in God’s Hands. This man truly believed God and God blessed his company.

That’s pretty shocking, isn’t it? But this man believed that the treasure in heaven is more essential than any treasure that could be had here on earth. It was deeply convicting to me. I remember the story of the woman at the temple treasure who put in two mites, which was all she had to live on. She believed God. Can you imagine doing that today? I can’t, but what does that say about me? Mark’s last point for that day was “What we keep we ultimately lose; what we give away we ultimately get back.” He wrote that “if we don’t hold out on God, God won’t hold out on us.”

We will all be accountable for everything God had given us. I could also mention our bodies. It is the first of the year when most people have a resolution to get healthy or lose weight. I believe also we will be accountable about how we took care of God’s temple – our bodies. I know, you know it. But sometimes we need a little push to do what’s right. This might be your push to change a few things this year. If we want different results, then we have to do something different. What are you going to do different this year?

It’s never easy to do something different, but it would be the best thing for us. God hasn’t changed. He still provides for us even in this day and age. Let’s trust Him to do mighty things for us and through us as we put Him first this year. Are you up for it?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Growing through the Motions

I was at the gym yesterday doing my normal thing – working out and watching others do their thing. I was a bit envious of a couple of people who seemed to easily lift heavy weights. There was no strain involved; just easy, smooth reps. A few young women were there lifting heavier weights than anything I have ever attempted. I realized I was trying to compare my weights with theirs. The weights are irrelevant. We all have a level we are trying to achieve in order to grow (or maintain, as the case may be). We are all in a process of growth as we go through the motions.

About a year ago while lifting weights, an older lady walked by and told me I was very strong because I was lifting such heavy weights. The weights I was lifting then was nothing in comparison to the weights the young women were lifting yesterday. But the older woman could not do what I was doing because it was far beyond her capacity at that point in her life. Just like I cannot do what I see the young women do because it is beyond my capacity at this point in my life.

As I was contemplating the comparison game, it brought to mind my pastor’s message from Sunday. The message was on generosity. Jesus spoke about money quite often. The pastor reminded us, Jesus isn’t after our money; He’s after our hearts. There can be only one Ruler of our hearts, and we have to determine who we will follow. God said He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9) – He wants no competition for our hearts.

Jesus sat in the temple courts one day observing the crowds. He saw a widow putting in two small copper coins in the offering basket (the temple treasure), and told His disciples she put in more than anyone else. She put in all she had (story in Luke 21). On another occasion, a rich young man came to Jesus to ask how he could get into heaven. Jesus looked into this young man’s heart and found the stronghold that would keep him out of the pearly gates. Jesus told the young man, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” The young man walked away because he was a man of great wealth (story in Luke 18:18-30). The problem wasn’t the amount of money he had, but that the money had him.

We always like to compare ourselves with a better model: one who can lift heavier weights or one who has more money than we do. We compare up and not down. We compare richness with one who has more than we do; not the other way around. If we live in the United States, we can consider ourselves rich in comparison to the rest of the world; no matter what we have in our bank accounts. The widow put in all she had, and the rich young man walked away because Jesus asked him to give it all up for the sake of the Kingdom.

My pastor said we are all at different levels of generosity. Some are at the base level; giving spontaneously based on our emotional responses. The next level is giving intentionally – with a set amount for a set time period. God commands a certain level of giving. It’s in obedience when we move to the next level and give a percentage of our income back to God. This is the “first fruit offering” required in the Law to fulfill the work of God. I know, we’re under grace not Law. My pastor made the comment, “we shouldn’t give less under grace than what is required under Law.” Good point. My pastor went on to explain the last level of giving; it’s the generosity level of fearlessness.

When God speaks into our hearts, He asks us to give all we have for the sake of the Kingdom. We are to hold our resources loosely. This is just HARD to do. We work hard for the money we receive! However, God is the one who has provided for us in the first place. It’s His money in the beginning. We can be good stewards with what He gives us. We can be the “widow lady” putting in all we have or we can be the “rich young man.” Will we walk away when God asks too much from us?

Fearlessness is a reflection of growth. We are not owners, but stewards of the resources God has given to us. For those of us who call Jesus our Lord and Master, our real treasure is stored in heaven. Growth comes with the amount of trust we place in the One who gives generously to His children. He is a good, good Father who gives generously. We are all at different levels in the growth process. We work in the capacity we have right now, and grow to a new level with practice. Keep lifting higher! It’s hard, but over time we will see it becomes easier and smoother with repetition. One day, we will all be fearless!

Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” Luke 18:28-30

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