Monthly Archives: July 2014

Testimony About Giving, Faith and Worship

Putting money is the offering plate can be a difficult thing for many people to do. It isn’t easy to part with money, when we have so many needs and wants in life. Giving regularly often begins with letting go and trusting. Even if our hearts aren’t totally into it, God then often blesses us, and encourages our faith. Ultimately, giving should be about worship (read the excerpt at the bottom), but God meets us where we are. I think this short transparent testimony that was emailed to me demonstrates this quite well.

“The first time I paid tithe, I tossed a small check of $25 in the offering plate. My face immediately turned beet red. I was a FOOL! I watched my check get further away as it slowly flowed away. As the offering plate was passing in the next row BEHIND me I nearly fainted. I wanted MY money back. What was I thinking…giving good money away. I cringed but refrained from dipping my hand into the plate and removing my check. As a new Christian I heard of “being blessed” when tithing but I was a skeptic. That week a three figure check showed up in the mail. It was an unexpected “refund” from Uncle Sam. I knew it was a mistake so I mailed it back. Not long after…it was again returned with a letter telling me it was mine. I sent it back. Again it returned, I CASHED IT! I chalked it up as being “blessed by the IRS”. Decades later I have been financially blessed many times over because of my faithfulness to paying tithe even when I felt that I couldn’t “afford” to.” – anonymous

From the NIV Stewardship Study Bible:

“Many people seem to think that the reason we have an offering during the Sunday morning service is because the church needs to pay its bills and also wants to do good things with the money that is collected. Your church does need to pay its bills, and it probably does do good things with the money you put in the offering plate … but that is not why we have an offering during the Sunday morning service.

The offering is an act of worship, an instance in which we are invited to give up something that we value—our money—as a sacrifice to God. In many ways, it is the high point of the liturgy. We come to church to worship God and at no other point in the service are we provided with so pure an opportunity for worship as this …

We are invited to put money in the offering plate on Sunday morning not because the church needs our money but because we want and need to give it. We have a spiritual need to worship God, and through our offerings we are able to express our love and devotion for God in a way that is simple and sincere. The motivation of the giver is what counts most, not the size of the gift or the degree of benefit to the recipient (see Mk 12:42–44). The good news of stewardship is that church offerings are not fund-raising rituals but acts of worship in which we are invited to express our heartfelt devotion to the God who is so good to us.” -Powell, Mark A. NIV Stewardship Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. Print, page 1614.

Great Example of How We Are Blessed To Be a Blessing

Tuesday Testimony, from a friend. It is an amazing story about how he was blessed through the generosity of others and classes he took. God kept his life together, even though he feared it would fall apart, not only was his home blessed, he was able to bless people around the world, and the people who originally blessed him.

“Maybe 5-6 years ago, I was at a bad point in my life. I went from being nicely employed, then was unemployed for 7 months, then underemployed (but happy to have a job). However, I missed three mortgage payments in a row. I was fairly certain that I would lose my home, and worried the situation might cause me to lose my girlfriend.

Gratefully, I was in a small group that prayed for each other. I remember gathering into smaller groups for the prayer time, after the Bible study. I shared my scenario with the few guys in my prayer group. One gentleman said that he and his wife had been blessed financially, through a class at Vineyard and wrote me a check that covered the three house payments!

Because of their financial responsibility, their blessing helped me keep my house and my girlfriend. She became my wife and now we had two children. We took the Dave Ramsey FPU class and developed a budget and started living within our means. We later became small group leaders.

Through our budgeting, we have been able to support a couple of missionaries on a short-term basis, helped one girl in a 3rd world country get through high school and are now supporting a 2nd girl through high school, and we were able to bless the couple that blessed us, when they fell into hard times. “

In summary, you can never under-estimate the generosity of God, and how he loves to bless us. He too loves it when we become good stewards and bless other people, being Jesus to the world around us.

The Joy of Hard Work, Luke 19:12-27

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 19:12-27, is about hard work. Modern society’s view of work, doesn’t always agree with scripture, so let’s see what the Bible has to say.

He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ 14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ 20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ 24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ 25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ 26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Key elements of the verses:

  • The Command: Verses 12 – 13 we see the ruler leaving his assets in the hands of his servants to make profitable while he is away; “Put it to work.”  Believers are God’s servants, working with the time, talent, and resources he has given us, to make profitable for him, and for ourselves.
  • The Complainers: Verse 14 a delegation complained to a higher authority. In the context of these verses, many of the servants didn’t want the kind of king that ruled this way. People in kingdoms sometimes don’t like to work for the king, and for the benefits of others, but just themselves. Subjects might prefer to conquer and be taken care of by slaves and the spoils of war.
  • The Profiteers: Verses 15 – 19, two of the servants report to the king the profits they have produced. The king increases the number of their responsibilities.
  • Judgement: The  Verses 20 – 24, one of the servants did nothing with the money, while the king was away. The king took the money he entrusted to him and gave it to one of the harder working servants. The king was furious, he ordered the execution of the complainers.

You have heard these verses and Matthew 25:14-28 being taught probably several different ways, perhaps in the context of investing, or Kingdom principles. I previously covered this as a teaching about the Eternal Significance of Good Stewardship. I stand by this article and would probably agree with the many other ways these verses are taught. However, this article will probably will be a new way of looking at these verses; because I think it is quite possible Jesus is talking about how much he loves hard work and how much he hates being lazy.

I have worked in a lot of places, and have talked to a lot of business owners, and the number one complaint they have about their employees isn’t intelligence, know how, experience or that they are nice people. Their number one complaint is finding people who work hard all day.  Often, people don’t arrive on time, miss work often, take long lunch breaks, goof off talking too much or spend a lot of time on social media.

Some people look down on hard work. You hear that work is that thing we do, in between having fun on the weekends. “We work hard, so that we can play hard,” is a worn out quote I’ve heard too often. In some societies, hard work is seen as something for people lower down the social-economic scale. The number one goal for many people is to save up enough money, so that one day they don’t have to work anymore, they can lay back and relax in retirement (read Luke 12:17-21).

However, I think Jesus wants us to always work hard. To expend a lot of effort into the things we do. In our feel-good society, we don’t elevate hard work. We preach that the ills to society are lack of compassion towards the poor and disadvantaged. I think Jesus would say that although this may be true, but one of the biggest ills of society is our attitude towards work.

Rich Nathan the Pastor of Vineyard Columbus taught What Ever Became of Hard Work? in the Neglected Virtues series. For many people hard work is a forgotten virtue (don’t worry this sermon also touched on workaholics too). It is easy to slack off, this is a temptation. Constant activity, physical fatigue and seeing others not work as hard pulls down our attitude to work hard.

I think hard work is a blessing. A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook: “I love Fridays! Not only because it’s the weekend, but it feels sweet when I’m tired and I’ve worked hard all week, then hear my master say well done good and faithful servant! (Matt 25:23) There is joy in hard work.” I honestly believe this is true.  Take some time to review the many Bible verses about work, listed here. Monday is a good day to change our mind about how we view work; so that at the end of the day or the end of the week, although we may be exhausted, we will feel really blessed. I encourage you to do this, I’ll bet you hear Jesus say to you “I’ve been with you all day and watching you work hard with integrity- great job!”

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-sixth post in this series.

Testi-money About God’s Generosity

A good friend of mine, sent me an email recently about giving, that I thought might be encouraging.  He has lived good stewardship, and gotten back on his feet financially, after deeply digging out from a failed business venture.

“I was looking at our tithe last year and it was indeed 10% but given our income amounts it was some crazy number that ended in 39 cents (or similar) and I thought that perhaps God was due at least a “rounding up”. After thinking about it – I rounded it up even more (because God deserved more than THAT). But wouldn’t you know that I got a raise a month later and when I recalculated my tithe base on the additional income it worked out EXACTLY to what I had previously rounded up our tithe to. You can’t out give God.”

In summary. This is true, you can’t out-give God. Sometimes he blesses us monetarily, but often in much better ways too. God is generous and loves to bless his kids. Tithing is often a test with our money (hence the title testi-money) and our trusting him. A good scripture reference is Malachi 3:10.

Zacchaeus’ Walk With Jesus, from Greed to Purity

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 19:8-9. In the preceding verses, we see Zacchaeus a tax collector, following Jesus, and immediately is compelled regarding his financial life.

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Zacchaeus collected taxes by going door-to-door, not like today, when we pay our taxes through the internet or payroll deduction. There is quite an advantage to collect taxes this way. Living amongst his collectees, he could see their lifestyle. The parties people threw, clothes they wore, the livestock, fields and business’s productivity was very observable. Zach surely walked the marketplace and saw money change hands, and the things people purchased. He also probably knew of their hard times and good times, struggles and pain. Yet at the end of the day, he commanded the payment amount, or he could make life very difficult. Zacchaeus had the force of law and the power of soldiers to enforce the collection of money.

If Zacchaeus was successful, he could exploit people for additional amounts, for his own lifestyle. A very nice arrangement for the tax collector, although he was a hated man. Quite a trade-off, greed and wealth for loneliness. Not a tall man either, he had to climb a tree to get a view (Luke 19:4), although he probably held himself in high esteem. But when he got down from the tree, he went from a high altitude, down to his knees, at Jesus feet, as we see in Luke 19:8: “But Zacchaeus stood up…

Zacchaeus is an Aramaic name that means pure. On one hand he was purely despised by his neighbors. He probably didn’t have a lot of friends or guests in his home, unless they were begging or bribing him, but Jesus went to his home (Luke 19:5-6). Jesus gladly went to stay with him for a while, and I’d guess at least shelter for the evening. They were instant friends, beautiful.

Jesus welcomed this man of scorn and greed with love and friendship. In Jesus, I believe Zach saw the Kingdom of God. He saw Jesus’ purity, and his own purity quite lacking. He saw his own sin of living for himself, of greed, and putting his trust in money. Zachaeus wanted no more of his past behavior and wanted to demonstrate his new heart right away, when he said Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

In summary, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior, and are following him with your life, you have a new heart (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus righteousness is imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Jesus we have pure hearts; all of our names could be Zacchaeus!  Jesus called out to Zacchaeus in his spirit, he pointed to the thing in Zach that was his religion; the love of money and possessions. He immediately wanted to tithe one half of everything he had to the poor, and give back to those he stole from, four times the amount he took. I call that repentance, and putting on a new lifestyle, a new garment of living (Romans 13:14). What is Jesus saying to you today about what you hold on to, your honesty, your greed, how best to repent of it, and how to walk with Jesus in your finances?

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-fifth post in this series.

Being Interruptible to Bless Others

A friend recently emailed to me this story about how God used him to bless someone.

One Sunday afternoon when I was 22 years old, I sat down with my girlfriend at a nice airport restaurant while waiting on a flight. Travel activity was low that day, so the restaurant was all but empty. Our server was a man who looked to be about 45 years old. He was cheerful and considerate, but also quiet, almost to the point that I wondered if his smile might actually be hiding a deep sense of sadness. As we finished eating, I felt a sudden tugging in my heart to do something that I had never done before. When he brought us our check which amounted to about $30, my heart started racing. My hands trembled and my as I wrote “$90.00” in the tip line. For some reason, I was nervous. We waited until the waiter was out of sight and then quickly slipped away from our table. We practically ran away from that restaurant, laughing as we imagined the surprise that would soon appear on our waiter’s face. We wondered aloud about what God had in mind. What if the waiter had prayed earlier that day, asking God to provide exactly that amount of money? Not only was this experience a total rush, but it brought us much closer as a couple and had a major impact from that moment forward on my attitude toward giving. It was the best $90 I’ve ever spent.

In summary, I think it is important to be interruptible. Meaning that you conduct your life in such a way that you are aware when God is trying to get your attention to say something to you, maybe it is to encourage, warn you, or to use you to bless others that you come into contact with.  This is an excellent example of what can happen you if you are open to it.

Being Aware of Opportunities to be Generous

Here is an excellent story about a man who gave his last two dollars to bless someone else. He learned several lessons, and you will to.

As a middle school teacher my voice is usually my craft, without it I am already defeated in a classroom. One Friday I was beginning to lose my voice and my throat was becoming scratchy. I left school that day craving one thing, cough drops. I knew it would relieve the pain but I only had $2 cash left for the week according to my Dave Ramsey budget which I was sticking to. I pulled into CVS parking lot and made a b-line toward the door. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy approaching me. “Oh no” I thought in my head. I got to the entrance of the store when I heard a loud voice from behind “Hey buddy…” I could literally see the cough drops sitting on the shelf in the store. I turned around “yeah man whats up?” Praying in my head he doesn’t ask for money. “Do you have $2 you could spare so I could catch a bus uptown, I forgot my wallet.” Part of me wanted to bolt through the door and pretend like I didn’t hear anything but I said sure. I opened up my wallet and handed him my last two dollars. I still continued to go into CVS hoping God would bless me with some FREE cough drops but that wasn’t the case. They were $1.80 and I just gave away my last two dollars.

I left feeling upset and agitated even though it was only two measly dollars but I knew God wanted me to give that money away. The next Monday I came into the school forgetting about my miserable throat and the $2 cough drops I never purchased. My day was normal just like any other until I had a little 2nd grader come up to me and pulled on my shirt from behind. I said “how are you darling” she responded “I saw you give that man money the other day.” I was taken back, what do you mean? “He needed help and you helped him. That was nice of you.” Again later in the day one of her other siblings came up to me, a fifth grade. “Mr. Jones (named changed) I saw you give that man money, that was generous of you. I want to help people like you do one day.” My first reaction was to ask how they saw me but before I said anything she spoke up “My little sister, brother and I were waiting in the car in the parking lot and saw the whole thing.” God knew that would be a teachable moment and I had no idea the impact it would have the kids around me. Not only did it remind me that people are always watching but that God is always watching and developing our character. He also reminded me to never have a grip on money so tight that I miss what He is doing and the opportunities He gives us to steward his money.

This story exemplifies well, that we should be aware of our surroundings wherever we go, looking for ways to be good stewards, show generosity and love to those around us, and to be open to ‘Jesus Moments,’ Matthew 25: 35 – 40.

Modesty, A Forgotten Virtue, But Key to Good Stewardship

Is this word still applicable to this age?

“It is a good thing for man to live in moderation. It is commendable when a man is able to control his lusts and desires, so that he is not a slave to his belly and is no longer driven by the powers of his fleshly desires (1 Co 6;12). Well, those who earnestly practice godliness can achieve this kind of life. They are called to live in moderation. They dress neatly and respectfully, they eat moderately and gratefully, and they enjoy themselves in an edifying manner, doing all things necessary to maintain or sweeten this life. They do not satisfy their lusts but to strengthen themselves (Ecc 10:`17). Is this not a beautiful calling?”

Teellinck, Willeem (1579 – 1629). “A Moderate Life.” Afterword. NIV Stewardship Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. p. 1585. Print.