Tag Archives: giving

What Would Jesus Do?

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What Would Jesus Do?

When someone asks you, or your ask yourself this question, consider that overturning tables, beating people with a whip of cords, and yelling at people is an option.

Seriously.

Do you remember the story of Jesus droving out the money-changers in the temple courts? Some scholars believe the stories recorded in the gospel represent not just one event, but two. Imagine that. Jesus, meek and mild, got so beside-himself-mad that he disrupted the church money-making schemes and people’s businesses.

This does not quite fit the idea of Jesus being the Lamb.  If He’s the Lamb, He’s the Lamb who roars like the Lion of Judah.

These religious leaders were allowing outright corruption in the temple courts.  People were having to be fleeced in order to worship according to the Law of Moses.  Church services were overshadowed by immorality of the greedy kind.

Greed is called idolatry in the scriptures, and yet, here it is in the temple courts.

Is this a place you would want to give generously to?  Imagine a church like this.  Would you want to contribute to the work going on there?

Now think of another story.

Jesus gathers his disciples to the side of the temple courts watching the passers-by. Many rich people are coming with buckets of money.  Jesus isn’t impressed.

Then a widow comes, and when Jesus sees her, he tells his disciples to watch.  She barely put anything in – two small coins. Yet, this was all the money she had.

This woman just contributed everything she had to a system filled with corruption which is in complete denial of the presence of the Messiah. If I were Jesus, I might have stepped up and encouraged her to make her donation to another god-fearing charity (if such existed). It’s a good thing I’m not Jesus.

No, Jesus didn’t stop her.  In fact, he praised her.  He loved her heart of generosity and dependence on the Lord.

Would the temple use this money appropriately? Did they believe and teach the right things? No! In many ways, no.  In fact, many of the leaders of this religious movement would crucify the very man praising the woman for donating to the corrupt system.

Does the integrity of the system give value to the intent of the giver?

Many people want to get a list of all the good things being done with the money in the church treasury before they feel comfortable giving.  If a church isn’t teaching to their liking or doesn’t include the program they deem necessary, they threaten to withdraw their tithe. This currently culture seems to have a strong sense of wanting to know what the money is going toward before the wallet is loosened for giving.

Giving with expectation is tyranny in the same way that love with expectation is tyranny.  Giving with expectation is a form of blackmail. Generosity is a form of love, and love is not self-seeking, so how can one justify not giving because they have no control over where the money goes?

You may not know everything the church does.  You may not even agree with everything the church does.  Are you giving to the church?

When the offering basket comes around, are you giving to people, or an idea, or a cause? Or are you giving to the Lord?

Give. Generously give.  Gratefully give.

You haven’t been perfect in the ways you’ve spent the blessings of God, and you have sinned in spite of the love He constantly showers on you. You then, though you are imperfect, will you expect an organization full of other imperfect people to be perfect?  Will you seek to be in control of “your” money?

The next time the plate or basket or bucket is passed, give according to how you’ve been for-give-n. He has truly blessed you, and you are giving in response to Him – not anyone else.

 

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The Church Needs You

Recently, a friend told me he has trouble with the concept of giving in the traditional sense to the church because it feels like he’s just contributing to a black hole. There’s no understanding of where the money is going or what it’s used for other than paying the preacher and keeping the lights on.

I really understand the sentiment.  I’ve heard this from more than one person in my time as a minister. But is it right? Should our desire to give be controlled by our understanding of the inner workings of the ministry?

The generation that I am a part of doesn’t understand generosity in the same way that generations before do.

Prior generations gave, and still give, out of a sense of ownership and belonging to the movement or organization.  It gives out of a sense of duty and obedience. More recent generations give because of compassion and a desire to help the individual or cause. The difference seems to be that the former generations still give out of a desire to help and compassion without neglecting to maintain their gift to the broader organization.

When someone tells me that they don’t feel comfortable giving because of this or that reason I get this awkward sense inside – like something is missing in their statement. This morning I figured out why this statement doesn’t set well with me.

First, giving isn’t for me. It isn’t so that I can feel better about myself. It isn’t so that I can be comfortable.  Giving is a discipline of sacrifice to help me learn that life is about others.  It is a discipline that teaches me trust of God and not of my finances. Giving is a way of participating in the kingdom of which we are supposed to be seeking first.

When I understand giving in this way I can be more free to give. I can see what I need to learn about the discipline of giving. If I am living the selfless life Jesus prescribes, then there won’t be excuses of “I don’t feel comfortable”. There won’t be loopholes of “I can’t afford it”. Remember the examples used in the New Testament about giving: the widow (Mark 12 and Luke 21) and the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8) and the church at the beginning (Acts 2:44-47).

Second, giving isn’t done out of understanding but out of faith. To say you don’t give because you don’t know where the money is being used is not faith in the leadership God has placed in the church you attend. In the same line of thought, it follows that it is not trust in God to not trust in your leaders. Yes, sometimes people who are in leadership prove themselves untrustworthy.  That is why the scripture calls for a plurality of leadership.

If a leadership squanders the money you have given to the Lord, will you fail to receive your reward for your generous heart?

In most cases, however, the church leadership diligently seeks to use the generous donations of he congregation wisely. But even so, many people refrain from giving and cripple the work of the local congregation.

You are called to be generous with your finances for the work of God in His Kingdom. When God called Abraham he didn’t give him an itenerary. When the first century church gave they didn’t need a financial breakdown or tax deductible receipt. When you give, you are giving out of gratitude to God.

So, consider the work at your local congregation. What would happen if you and your friends gave 10%? What if you gave more? If you’re in a church like the one where I serve, the run down building could be fixed or expanded. More staff could be supported as missionaries to the local demographic. More local ministries could be funded to help the hurting. More evangelism could be done through more and varied means. More foreign missions could be supported. The church could grow in new and exciting ways!

So give to God and his church. Give to the homeless man on the corner. Give to the missionary. Do each of these things simultaneously, but don’t neglect the church. She needs the generosity of her members to be healthy.


Timothy was 5

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Timothy’s sister, Sarah, was very ill and in the hospital. This concerned Timothy very much. He looked up to his big sis, and she was his whole world. Timothy was 5 and Sarah was 8.

As the treatments continued the doctors determined that Sarah needed a blood transfusion in order to save her life. They began the search for who would have the right type of blood to save Sarah’s life. Timothy even had his blood tested. He didn’t like the prick, but it was worth it for his big sister.

After the tests were completed it was determined that Timothy was a perfect match as a blood transfusion donor for his sister. They explained the procedure to Timothy, and after only a little bit of convincing Timothy agreed.

The doctors quickly got everything ready, and before he knew it Timothy was laying on a bed next to his sister. She had all sorts of tubes and machines connected to her. Her eyes were closed, but Timothy smiled as he looked at her. He was saving her life.

Not long after the procedure began Timothy began to silently weep. No one noticed at first. When Timothy’s mom realized he was crying she went to him and asked him what was wrong.

“How long till I die?”

Everyone in the room froze as the impact of the question set in. Timothy agreed to the blood transfusion, but in his mind he was giving all his blood – his very life – to save his sister. This five year old had given the greatest sacrifice so that his sister could live.

What would you give so that others would live?

There are many things that you can give to bring life to others. You can give time, prayer, effort, money, services, etc. Jesus said that the greatest love someone could show is to give their life for their friends. Then Jesus called his disciples friends.

How much do you give so that others can live?

Do you give your time, money, effort, prayers? Many people go to church each week but are merely consumers of all that goes on there. Then, if things aren’t going their way, or if they aren’t being “fed” what they desire to consume, then they are the loudest complainers. Are you one of these consumer Christians?

In 2 Samuel 24:24 David wanted to worship God in sacrifice. The landowner offered to give him the land and the sacrifice. David could have consumed these goods and given little effort to worship God, but he refused. He refused to worship God in a way that cost him nothing.

We are called to make sacrifices every day and in many ways. In our churches we are called to make sacrifices of praise to The Lord. But we are also called to give. It won’t kill you to give, but many people act like it will.

If you are giving pocket change each week I challenge you to dig a little deeper until you feel the pain of sacrifice. If you aren’t giving at all, I challenge you to get started right away. Giving is a blessing when you do it. Even God promises to pour out copious amounts of blessings on those who give in Malachi 3.

So let’s be people who give. And let’s watch together as our giving provides new ways for people to come to life in Christ.


Running Away with Jonah

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A you familiar with the story of Jonah? Jonah is a short book (four chapters) in the Old Testament in the Bible. It tells the story of Jonah in the days when Nineveh was a scourge upon the earth. Nineveh was the capitol city of Assyria, and they weren’t treating the Jews rightly.

Jonah was a prophet of God, and he was pretty used to hearing His voice. One day, however, God spoke to him to give him a message that he didn’t want to hear. God wanted Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to tell the people to repent. God wanted them to repent so He could forgive them.

Jonah hated the Assyrians and despised the people of Nineveh. He couldn’t believe God would even consider forgiving a people so evil as they. Jonah was upset. He was willing to give God’s messages to the people of Israel, but he wanted nothing to do with these Ninevites.

He decided that what God had asked of him was too much. He would go just so far for God but no further.

So Jonah ran. He got in a ship sailing for Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh. He figured he could run from God, but God is omniscient and omni-present, so it wasn’t a successful venture.

Out on the sea God caused a violent storm to come upon the ship. The sailors tried to figure out who was responsible for this unnatural storm, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Jonah confessed to his running from God and told them that in order to stop the storm they had to throw him overboard. Jonah knew that being thrown overboard into the ocean would mean certain death for him.

The sailors reluctantly agreed and threw him overboard. Immediately the sea calmed down. As Jonah sank deep into the sea a giant fish swallowed him. Jonah knew he had messed up royally. God had shown him the way to go, and he had not been willing. So, in the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed.

After three days God caused the fish to spit Jonah out on the shore. Then, God called Jonah once again to go to Nineveh. This time Jonah went, although he was still wishing for the demise of his enemies.

When he spoke the word of The Lord to the Ninevites they repented and prayed to God clothed in sackcloth and sitting on ashes (signs of genuine remorse). Jonah went up on a hill outside of town to watch God smite them, but He forgave them instead. Jonah became furious.

Jonah couldn’t see how the forgiveness of God is greater than our understanding. He couldn’t see the plans of God. He was filled with hatred and vengeance toward these people.

Did Jonah ever come around? Read the book and find out.

Lets look at ourselves in the meantime. There have been many times I’ve heard people say that they know God wants them to do this or that, but…

When we know what God’s will for us is, and we reject that will, then He is no longer the King of our lives. We have dethroned God and placed ourselves on that throne. We are very much like Jonah.

The may be decisions you are called to make in life. Will you make them? There are moral choices you are called to make. Will you make them?

We live in an age where the people in most churches live lives very similar to that of the world. When confronted with a direct command from scripture, it is not uncommon for them to say “yes, I know, but…” Is that what God wants of us? No!

The Hebrew writer tells us that if we know the good we should do, and we don’t do it, we sin. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that we are to quit sinning on purpose expecting grace to cover us. Does grace cover us? Yes! But should we abuse that privilege? No!

You are called to live a life like Christ. When faced with the hardest time of his life – the crucifixion – he didn’t tell God he wasn’t willing to go through it. He loves you too much to go against God’s will for him, though we know he really struggled with the pain that was to come.

Look at your life. Find the areas where your life doesn’t match up with the life God has called you to live. Pray to God for help in changing direction. And find people you can surround yourself with that will help you along the way. You don’t have to live like the world. Your witness will be much more effective when you make this change.

May you stop giving God ultimatums. May you follow Him with wild abandon. And may the world watch as you live in joy and peace from knowing God’s love and grace all the more.

If there’s anything I can do for you, or if you would like to comment on this article, then please feel free to shoot me a message at http://www.mrdobbs.org. Blessings to you as you follow Him.

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Why Do We Do Good?

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“I don’t do good works to be saved; I do good works BECAUSE I am saved.”

Have you ever heard that phrase? Chances are that someone has said this either to you or in relation to some church they feel are teaching a works-salvation theology. I’ve heard this more times than I can count used to explain the relationship between works and salvation.

I’m not so sure this cliché really gets to the heart of this matter.

First of all, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith –and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” This passage definitely rules out the works as being part of our salvation, or does it?

What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 gives the most popular definition, but for me it’s still a little vague. When you study faith in the scripture it is more than belief. Belief is a thought or emotional connection about something. It is a conviction, but until it has an action tied to it, it is not faith. Faith is being so sure of you what you cannot see that you act on what you cannot see. Faith by its very nature is active. According to James, faith without deeds is dead. Is this a contradiction? No.

When I come to faith in God and give my life to Him I have to make some pretty major life changes. Anyone whose life has not been changed since coming to Christ has not truly been “converted” to anything and their salvation is suspect for Christ is ever working in us through His Spirit to make us more like Him. In order to have faith I must begin to act on the knowledge that God is real and I truly have been saved from my sins. The natural outcome of this is love for God. And love is always an action when it comes to God and others (love of ice cream is action too but altogether different).

When I begin to see the scope of love from God to me, then I am faced with just how unworthy of that love I really am. It is only when I come to that reality that I begin to love others as I have been loved. To love God is to love those whom God loves.

This brings me to my second thought regarding the cliché above. every time I have heard this phrase it has been in a setting where someone (at times me) has been trying to explain to someone else that they have an obligation out of their salvation to do good works to others. Even though I have always felt this to be extremely shallow I have been caught up into teaching this technique as well. There is a hint of truth here, but it misses the beauty of salvation and doing good by a long shot.

If you told me it was your birthday then ordered me to give you a gift, then it wouldn’t feel much like a gift when you received it. Or if I gave a gift to my daughter and told her, “well, your mother said I have to give this to you – it’s my obligation as your dad.” What would her reaction be? I am afraid it would be the worst gift ever for it wasn’t given out of love.

We are definitely called, as Christians who have been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus, to do good works. Those good works are evidences of our faith. But if I am doing them out of a sense of duty, then they aren’t benefiting me or anyone else.

I don’t do good works because of an obligation due to my salvation. I do good works because God has loved me beyond my worth and comprehension. As I see His love and begin to realize that love, then I love Him back (the first and greatest commandment according to Jesus). Then, as that relationship of love grows I learn to see others through God’s eyes and love them as well (the second greatest commandment).

I don’t do good works to be saved. I do good works because God loves me, and I love Him, and I love others as well.

If you can’t accurately make that confession about yourself, then you are going through the motions. Over and over the bible condemns such actions. God would rather you be silent than lie to him in song. He would rather you keep your money than give it in frustration out of a sense of duty. But most of all, he would rather not have to worry about any of that because you are absolutely in love with Him and His creation.

I hope that the next time you hear this phrase it will spur you to remember this article. I hope you are passionately pursuing relationship with God. I hope you are loving people out of compulsion rather than out of duty – you can’t help love them because of the love-relationship between you and God.

If you haven’t begun your love-relationship with God where He has taken away your sins and given you His perfection, then I’d love to discuss any questions you may have regarding making that happen. It’s up to you. Last Friday 12 people unexpectedly died. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Don’t put off your relationship with God through Jesus another day.

If you have been going through the motions, then Jesus is calling you to come back to your first Love. The most wonderful thing about Jesus is that He has never left you; He has been there the whole time waiting for you to desire Him again. If I can pray with you or help you come back in any way please let me know.

You can reach me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. You can even comment on this article or any previous articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org.

God bless you as you do good in His name and for His sake.


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