Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Frequent Problems with Tithing #3

Profiles of Christians Who Rob God

Used with permission.[Alcorn, Randy (2003-02-01). Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Kindle Locations 4142-4233). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition].

The Situation:

Joe is an outspoken Christian known as a man of faith. He stands up at church business meetings and says he wants the church to build, raise the pastors’ salaries, and expand into new ministries. Joe challenges the church to rise to the occasion and reads passages of Scripture about walking by faith. He inspires everyone. Everyone, that is, except God and the financial secretary, who know the truth: If everyone gave like Joe, the pastors would be laid off, the missionaries would have to leave the field, and the church would close its doors.

The Problem:

Joe has great faith and vision when it comes to other people’s obedience. It’s his own obedience he has trouble with. He fails to ask himself, “If everyone gave like I do, where would this church be?” He’s quick to commit other people’s money but clings to his own. Joe is a hypocrite. He says one thing and does another. In doing so, he heaps up judgment for himself. He’ll be held accountable to God, not only for his lack of giving, but also for his hollow words.

The Situation:

Paula believes in giving but thinks that Scripture says giving should be voluntary. After all, “God loves a cheerful giver.” However, Paula is not yet to the point that she really wants to give. “Given my financial obligations, right now I just can’t give cheerfully,” Paula says. “And if you can’t give cheerfully, you shouldn’t give at all.”

The Problem:

Paula is right that God wants us to give cheerfully. But she is wrong in thinking that she should only give if she feels like it. The tithe belongs to God. It is not Paula’s to withhold, regardless of how she feels about it. Paula’s point about cheerfulness may be relevant to freewill offerings (those beyond the tithe), but not to the tithe itself, since it doesn’t belong to her in the first place. After becoming obedient, Paula will perhaps become more cheerful in her giving. But whether she does or not, she should still be obedient.

The Situation:

Dan is a seminary student headed for the ministry. He and his wife, Karla, have sacrificed to attend seminary. Knowing that God commands them to give to his work, they believe that by giving their tithe to their own tuition they are investing in the ministry, even though they don’t give to their church.

The Problem:

Dan and Karla are not God, and they are not the church. Giving to themselves is not giving to God or the church, no matter how the money is spent. The people of Israel brought tithes to the storehouse for the spiritually qualified leaders of Israel to distribute, just as the first Christians laid gifts at the apostles’ feet. The Israelites were not given the option of “tithing to themselves”—that is a contradiction in terms. It is not their tithe, it is God’s. Should church leaders or others decide to help Dan and Karla financially, that’s up to them and God—not to Dan and Karla. They are robbing and it’s hard to imagine him blessing them as they steal their way through seminary. This final profile centers not on the amount of giving, but where it goes:

The Situation:

Jim is a successful Christian businessman who wants his dollars to count. “I strongly believe in tithing,” says Jim. “Part of my tithe goes to a missions organization, part to a student ministry, a radio broadcast, and a television ministry. I believe in giving where it matters. Too much of the church’s money goes to salaries and buildings and maintenance. I don’t want my money going to clean restrooms and mow lawns. I’m not that impressed with the church anyway. The services are too crowded, the building needs repairs, and we ought to be giving more money to missions. Why doesn’t this church get on the ball?”

The Problem:

Jim fails to understand the centrality of the local church in God’s kingdom program. Jim is annoyed at the deterioration of the church facilities, yet he doesn’t want his money going to buildings. He would be appalled at dirty restrooms, yet he doesn’t want his money to clean them. He wants and expects his pastors to meet his needs, but he doesn’t want to pay their salaries. He wants the church to give to missions, but he doesn’t give to the church. The church will get on the ball when people like Jim get on the ball.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Frequent Problems with Tithing #2

Profiles of Christians Who Rob God

Used with permission.[Alcorn, Randy (2003-02-01). Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Kindle Locations 4142-4233). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition].

The Situation:

Don and Sue believe that they aren’t under law but grace, and that tithing lends itself to a pharisaical “letter of the law” approach. They believe that God’s law is written in our hearts and we should give freely without compulsion. They are proud of their mature and liberating belief in “grace giving.”

The Problem:

Last year Don and Sue’s “grace giving” amounted to $30 per month—about one-half of one percent of their income. While they laud grace and deplore the law, their actions suggest that grace is one-twentieth as effective as the law. If grace is as ineffective in motivating their sexual purity as it is their giving, they won’t be married much longer. (The problem isn’t grace, of course, but their belief that grace means God has lowered his standards and doesn’t care how we live.)

The Situation:

Ralph was laid off three months ago and collects $1500 a month in unemployment. Others in the church give him an average of $500 per month to supplement his income. Ralph says “amen” to the financial sermons and wishes he were in a position to give too. Ralph assumes that even though God says the tithe belongs to him, it surely doesn’t apply to things like unemployment, social security, benefits, gifts, inheritances, or other “nonsalary” forms of income.

The Problem:

Scripture makes no such distinction between sources of revenue. If it comes in, it’s income. God doesn’t tag monies “tithe exempt.” The source of material blessing is not the point. If I receive $500 to help get me through the month, the first $50 belongs to God. Why should it matter where it comes from? If it’s provision, it comes from the Provider.

The Situation:

“There’s a lot more to stewardship than money,” says Gina. “We can’t all give—but we can teach Sunday school, clean the building, and open our homes to guests. I consider that to be my giving.”

The Problem:

Gina rightly believes that stewardship involves more than money—but she wrongly believes that stewardship ever fails to include money. Her argument is just as faulty as saying, “I can’t give the church any of my time or my gifts and talents, so I’ll just give my money instead.” God expects all of these, not just some of them. We all can and should give, just as we all can and should pray. Gina is attempting to justify robbing God by “making up for it” with things she should be doing anyway.

The Situation:

“I’m so far in debt that I can’t give a dime to the church,” says Tony. “What am I supposed to do, stop my car payments? What kind of testimony would that be? And it would be bad stewardship to sell my car—I’d have to take a $3,000 loss. God doesn’t want me to be stupid, does he?”

The Problem:

Tony has already been stupid. In buying his new car, he put himself in a position to disobey God’s command to give. He violated Scripture by spending money he didn’t have. His greedy and foolish misuse of credit is what put him in this fix. Tony apparently believes that God, his church, and needy people should pay for his foolish choices. Why not take a $3,000 loss in order to get into a position to obey God? Is there any stewardship more terrible than robbing your Creator and Savior? Tony is another person who acts as if the tithe is his, not God’s. Scripture doesn’t say “firstfruits” are to be given to those to whom they will be the best testimony, but to God. If Tony ends up having a bad testimony, it’s because of his foolish choices, which are only complicated by further disobedience. He needs to ask forgiveness and learn from the situation so he doesn’t do it again. But it makes no sense to rob God in order to have a “better testimony” to men.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Frequent Problems with Tithing #1

The Life on Loan series of messages at New Life Church has generated quite a bit of discussion. Every family is unique and every situation is different. Yet, Randy Alcorn, in his book Money, Possessions and Eternity highlights twelve common situations that many families face. I hope these profiles, over the next couple days, will help you think about your situation and plan for tithing.

Profiles of Christians Who Rob God

Used with permission. [Alcorn, Randy (2003-02-01). Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Kindle Locations 4142-4233). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition].

The Situation:

Bill and Donna are in their midthirties. Bill has steady work, but there’s always too much month left at the end of their money. Bill and Donna sincerely intend to put in the offering box whatever’s left at the end of the month. But between house payments, bills, and sticking a little into savings, there’s never anything left. They feel bad, but what can they do when they’re out of money?

The Problem:

Bill and Donna don’t understand “firstfruits.” They should give to the Lord off the top, not out of what’s left—or not left. They don’t realize that the tithe belongs to God, and that there’s a word for taking money that doesn’t belong to them—stealing.

The Situation:

Joan’s a twenty-two-year-old, just finishing college. Her thirty-hour-a-week job pays just over minimum wage. She earns $800 a month. Joan’s parents still provide room and board, but she has to take care of her tuition, books, and other expenses. “I can’t afford to give,” says Joan. “I’m barely making it now. If I gave a tithe, it would be $80 a month, and I’d probably have to drop out of school. I’d like to give, but I just can’t.”

The Problem:

Joan is not only robbing God, she’s robbing herself of the opportunity to grow in faith. Right now she doesn’t believe God’s promise in Malachi 3 (confirmed in Matthew 6:33 and Luke 6:38) that he’ll take care of her if she puts God first by giving him what’s his. If God is capable of helping her get by on $800 a month, isn’t he capable of helping her get by on $720 a month? Joan’s God doesn’t seem very big—he can’t even compensate for an $80 shortfall.

The Situation:

Bob and Elaine are in their early fifties. Elaine says, “For years we frittered away our income on all kinds of luxuries. Now we’re twelve years from retirement and we don’t have anything saved. On top of that, we’ve still got two kids in college.” “We’d like to give to the church,” Bob explains, “but Scripture says we’ve got to provide for our family first. After we get our kids through school and get a nest egg started, then we’ll start giving.”

The Problem:

Bob and Elaine are keeping what belongs to God in order to compensate for their poor planning and lack of discipline. Their first debt is not to their children’s college education. Their first debt is to God. If it wasn’t tuition costs, it would be something else. Since they have no standard of giving, they’ll always find reasons not to give.

The Situation:

Phil and Pam enjoy giving. With their little blue Santa’s helper (credit card) they just gave each other a DVD player and a large-screen television. The kids got a new computer to keep them busy while their parents enjoy the city’s finer restaurants. They’re tired of their three-year-old Chevy, so they just bought a new model. “Next year I’ve got a big promotion coming,” says Phil. “Then we’ll start giving. Right now the budget’s tight. It’s not that we don’t ever give to God’s work,” Phil adds. “Why, when we were in Hawaii last month we attended a church service on the beach and I dropped $20 in the offering.”

The Problem:

Phil and Pam are blind. They say there’s no money left to give—and they do their best to make sure of it! No matter what they say, their lifestyle proves that toys, trips, and cars are more important to them than God and others. They say they’ll give when they earn more, but they won’t. If Phil and Pam have been unfaithful with a little (more than a little), they’ll be unfaithful with a lot. Their expenditures will always rise to meet their income. Making more money will only make them guilty of robbing God more. Phil and Pam don’t understand that the tithe belongs to God, not them, and they should return to him the “firstfruits,” not “last fruits” or “no fruits.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Can I Believe the Bible?

One of the questions that individuals have to wrestle with when investigating the claims of Christ is whether they can actually believe that the Bible is true. Sometimes even people who have been Christians for a long time struggle with really trusting what is in the Word of God.

I found a great article recently called "Can I Believe the Bible" by Josh McDowell. It is well worth the 10 minutes that it will take you to read it. I think it will give you even more confidence to believe in the reliability of the Bible. This would also be a great article to pass along to a friend who may be struggling to believe that the Bible really is the Word of God.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bibles for Sunset Neighborhood!

I am blogging this afternoon to request prayer for a local mission adventure:

This past fall we were able to begin a neighborhood Bible study with three other believing couples. The Lord did a good work in our marriages and in our relationships with each other. This spring the group has begun to pray that the Lord would use us to reach out to other families in our neighborhood with the good news of Jesus Christ. We have three social events on the calendar this summer to allow people to come and meet our group and hear the vision for the Sunset Neighborhood Bible Study. We have started a Facebook group and have begun inviting other families to participate.
About a month ago God gave our son Hudson (7 years old) a vision to give a Bible to every home in our neighborhood (over 800 homes). His idea was to have a series of bake sales to raise the money for the Bibles. Two weeks ago he had his first bake sale and raised over $300 for Bibles. We found an organization that would sell us Bibles for $1 each if we bought at least 240 Bibles. So, last week we ordered our first 288 Bibles and the six huge boxes are sitting in our living room. Hudson composed a letter that he wants to insert in each of the Bibles inviting people to read the Bible and to join with others in studying the Bible. We are planning to go out tonight for our first round of passing out Bibles. Would you pray for us as you read this blog? Here are some things to pray:
1. Pray that we would boldly embrace the ministry of reconciliation that God has given to us (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
2. Pray that we would be protected from the evil one (Matthew 6:13).
3. Pray that God may open a door for our message (Colossians 4:3).


4.
Pray that God would remove the blinders from the eyes of unbelievers that they might see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4-6).

5.
Pray that people would come to faith as the read the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).
Thanks so much!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Books Added to the Library

After God's Heart - Myrna Alexander
Tongue-tied No More - Don Ashcraft
Growing as a Christian 101 - Bruce Bickel
Knowing the Bible 101 - Bruce Bickel
52 Ways to Know your Bible Better - Robert Jon Crown
Quiet Strength - Tony Duncy
GENESIS - Here is Love - Commentary for Children - Nancy E. Ganz
LEVITICUS - Here is Love - Commentary for Children - Nancy E. Ganz
NUMBERS - Here is Love - Commentary for Children - Nancy E. Ganz
The Family Blessing - Rolf Garborg
Making Summer Count - Joyce Heinrich
Too Busy NOT To Pray - Bill Hybels
Top Ten Biblical Discoveries in ARCHAEOLOGY - Timothy G. Kimberley
The Glory of Heaven - John F. MacArthur
The Love of God - John MacArthur Jr.
Parenting: Questions Women Ask - Gail MacDonald
Davinci Code - Josh McDowell
Don't Check Your Brain at the Door - Josh McDowell
Tell the TRUTH - Will Metzger
From Fear to Freedom - Rose Marie Miller
Then Sings My Soul - Robert J. Morgan
The Great Everyday Commission - Dann Spader
Living Fearlessly - Sheila Walsh
The King James Only CONTROVERSY - James R. White

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why A Week of Prayer? (Part 1)

On June 4-8 New Life Church will be having a week of prayer. We will gather at each of our three locations over the course of this week to seek God together (look for more info. in the coming days about the schedule). Maybe you are asking, why would a church do a week of prayer? Or, better yet, why should I be involved in my church's week of prayer? Let me give you three quick answers that I think will cover both of those questions:

  1. We pray because God tells us to. (Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  2. We pray because it is good for us. (Psalm 100, Philippians 4:6-7)
  3. We pray because it accomplishes God's work in the world. (John 14:12-14)
Would you take a moment right now and put "Week of Prayer" on your calendar for June 4-8, and plan to spend time with your church family in prayer that week?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Total Money Makeover Giveaway #2

We are giving away another copy of The Total Money Makeover book by Dave Ramsey to supplement our Life on Loan series. If you would like to win this copy, head over to the New Life Church Facebook page and leave a comment about something you are learning or thinking about as a result of the Life on Loan series. It's that simple. Do it by Sunday and we'll count you in!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Shared Meals at New Life Church

This Sunday the Riverfalls congregation will join the other two in having a shared meal on the first Sunday of the month. I thought it might be helpful to share a minute about why this is important enough to make a priority.

video