Some Thoughts on Giving

These are the words of the Savior: “”Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Tithing, giving, gifts whatever you want to call it. Everyone has an opinion on it in the Church. One study notes that only 10-25% of families give to their church. Christians in fact give about 2.5%. Along with those stats, 25% of Christians do not tithe at all. I am not here to say tithing is a New Testament idea or command, you won’t find that. Instead what you find is Christians who give over and beyond because that’s what Christ said to do. It’s blatantly clear that God calls us to give, and He loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), who gives consistently (2 Corinthians 2:16), and those who give beyond sacrificially (Mark 12:41-44). Thom Rainer the President of LifeWay puts it this way, “Tithing isn’t just about what the church does with the money; it’s about the act of giving as an act of obedience.” Not giving is disobedience.

Jesus said in Luke 14 if you do not renounce all that you have then you cannot be His disciple. Man, those are some strong words. We have iPhones, nice cars, expensive homes, and piles of things boxed up and put away we will never touch again. Yet we do not feel compelled to give to our churches. We call it legalism.

Why give? Because if you attend church then you probably believe in that church. You like it and like the people. You believe in its outreach, programs, and so on. All these things take money and on average 10 churches a week are closing their doors. Churches cannot operate without proper finances, and that takes people giving because the believe in the power of God through the Church. I am not saying you can not have nice things, I am just saying when we get those over giving or they cause us not to give that’s a heart problem.

We give because it helps “the least of these.” Our church has benevolence fund that we help individuals fallen on hard times pay rent, buy groceries, and many other things. Without faithful givers to that then those we who need help would not give it, thus we would not be faithful to what Christ commands of us.

We give because in the SBC our churches give to the Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program keeps seminary cost down for students so we can train pastors and missionaries with an excellent theological education. It funds over 5,000 international missionaries reaching the ends of the earth. It also funds NAMB (The North American Mission Board) which is planting churches that are growing and surviving at a rate of 97%, and is in the process of launching a church restoration plan. It’s simple we have been commanded to go and we have agencies who are making it happen. They need money to operate.

I am not writing this to guilt anyone into giving. These are simply some thoughts written out that I have been pondering. If we give I absolutely believe God will be faithful to use our churches.

Instead of giving all that we can to God through our churches because he made us righteous through His Son’s life and obedience on the cross we ask a question. We ask, how much do I have to give? He gave it all so eternally we can know and enjoy Him forever.

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Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 for America?

Today marks the 13th Anniversary of the September 11th attack on the United States. I was in 6th grade world history with Ms. Hart when we got the news, and all we did in Ms. McKee’s math class was watch the news. At the age of 11 I think this was the first time that I realized and processed what evil looked like. It was a tragic day, and a day we should not forget.

Around this time of year you will be seeing 2 Chronicles 7:14 posted a lot. It reads:

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Today, many Christians with good intentions will share this verse about the United States of America. If Americans will turn from their wickedness, and repent then God will hear our land. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting God to heal our land or for our people to repent. However, we do need to ask if we are applying the verses appropriately. Let’s examine.

The best way to read the Bible is context. The Bible is a metanarrative telling the story of God’s redemptive plan for the world, and saving the lost. It can best be told through 4 key components. Creation, fall, rescue, and restoration. The Bible is not about me or you, but about God and it’s purpose is to glorify Him and it reveals what we has allowed us to know about Him. This book is certainly not about the United States of America or any of us. It tells a story, a story all of us need to know, live, and surrender to so that we might know and enjoy God forever.

The context here in 2 Chronicles is that God is speaking to an individual, Solomon. Solomon was the son of David who would build the temple. Solomon was the 3rd king of Israel, God’s chosen people as we see in the Old Testament. “My people” in this verse is speaking specifically about the people of Israel as God refers to them as His throughout the Old Testament. Today Christians are the children of God, but in this context there is no doubt that God is speaking about the Jews.

The phrase “their land” is speaking to an actual piece of land, the promised land, that was set aside for Israel. It is literally their land secured to them by God in covenant He made with the people. We can see that in the Old Testament too can’t we? The book of Judges and the two books of Kings. When evil was present in the leadership and people bad things happened. When the people turned to God he healed them and their land. It was an ever ongoing cycle of the people of God. “Their land” was not the land that we as Americans inhabit so it would not be correct, I believe, to hold onto this verse as a promise to America from God.

I am not an Israelite, nor am I Jewish for I am a Christian. I am indeed a child of God and cling to the promises He has given me. However, as a Christian we belong to the Church. The Church has no land because the Church is all over the world. We may look at the United States as a Christian nation, which I would argue that not to be the case, and misapply this verse to our beloved nation. I love the United States. Being an American has allowed me opportunities I may not have had other places. Still, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is not saying that if we the United States do this then God will heal our country. There is no covenant between the United States and God. The covenant now is with those who believe and God; the covenant is with the Church.

Therefore, 2 Chronicles 7:14 cannot be applied to the United States. However, it can be applied to the Church. Not a physical land, but a physical people and God can heal us. He has already justified those who believe and we are experiencing sanctification. Even more so as we turn from wickedness, repent, and experience forgiveness. I will never forget 9/11 and my prayer today is to those who lost loved ones 13 years ago. It was a horrific tragedy brought forth by evil. I also pray for the Church today. That we be an ever present beacon of hope to our lost country, and world. That we make much of Jesus, and we see the Church grow and grow. My prayer is also for a revival in America, and the world. It starts with every believer. What are we doing today?

3 Challenges for School in 2014

school

It is my greatest pleasure to serve in student ministry. Today in the community in which I serve high school and middle school students will be heading to one of our nations greatest mission fields: public schools. There is a wide range of students from different cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. It’s a chance for the students I serve to make a difference each and every single day. I want to offer 3 challenges to my students as they approach this school year.

1) Start each day with prayer.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
 My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1,2

I cannot emphasize this enough. If you want a healthy marriage communication is crucial, if you want to maintain a friendship communication is a must, and with God the same is true. For a healthy relationship with our Creator then we need to understand that we get to communicate with Him. When we read the Scriptures we are hearing Him speak, and when we voice ourselves to him He listens. Jeremiah 9 says that we are to boast that we understand who the Lord is. If we truly understand who He is then we understand the power of fervent prayer. Prayer is powerful, and prayer is essential. As the great reformer Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Jesus prayed, if he should how much more should we? Spiritually prepare yourself for the day ahead. Praying will flow right into the next two challenges.

2) Point Others to the Cross

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Simply put, do good works and die to yourself. Not works that glorify yourself, but the Father. Because our faith we have good works. So lead out as a spiritual leader on your team, or club that you participate in. Do things that the world sees as crazy (1 Corinthians 1:18). Serve your classmates, teammates, and your teachers. Don’t see what you can do to benefit yourself, but how you can serve others to point them to the cross. If you are different people will notice. I am not talking about being odd for God, don’t do that. I am talking about sacrificially putting others before yourself (Philippians 2). People do not care what you have to say until they know you care about them. Show the people in your school that you care by serving them. If you show love and service to others it opens up the last challenge I have for you.

3) Unashamedly Speak the Gospel

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

One of my least favorite quotes is “Speak the gospel and when necessary use words.” It’s absolutely ridiculous. Yes speak the gospel with your life, but also always with words. When you start your day with prayer, then follow that with serving others questions will come up. When they want to know why you do these things speak the gospel. When they want to know why you will not do or do not believe certain things speak the gospel. When they mock or look down on you speak the gospel. The gospel saves. It saved me, it have saved millions of others, and it will save more. When you speak the gospel you are speaking the very Word of God. It has power. Back that up with prayer and seeking opportunities to serve others then I believe the reward will present opportunities to speak the truth of His word. Articulate what the gospel says, and invite this classmate to participate in a faith family. Do not leave them high and dry but let’s partner with them through discipleship. What greater joy can you have this school year than seeing your classmates walk from darkness into light? Do not be afraid and know you are not alone.

My promise to you:

I promise to do all three of these things for you. I will pray for you as you walk into places that many feel God is being forced out of today. You can make the difference and you have my supports. I promise I will support you in every way I can. With advice, by listening, and by doing what ever i can to help you and your friends. I promise to unashamedly preach the gospel as well. When you bring your friends I will speak it, when you are around I will speak it, and we will see God work and change lives. Let us pray, serve, and preach to all the school in Chesterfield County this year. Let us serve God and other together. Let God be made known and let it start with you.