Archive for the ‘finances’ Category

James 5:1-6 (NASB95)
1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.
2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.
3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!
4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you. 

James 5:1-6 is directed to wealthy landowners who had joined the fellowship of believers, but still lived selfishly and oppressed their fellow Christ followers. They had not repented of their love of money, so the fruit of faith was not evident in their lives. James details the landowners evil behavior (not paying their employees and letting the workers starve to death while they lived in the lap of luxury) and warns them of a just reward for their actions.

This letter is a good directive on how to reprove someone who professes Christ, but does not live accordingly. Notice it was not that these people were wealthy, but that they valued money more than they valued their brother that their sin was so grave.  Gently confronting someone with their sin in an attempt to reconcile them to Christ is the merciful thing to do. The ultimate objective of God’s discipline is always reconciliation. He patiently bears our sin and draws us near to Him. But He is holy and righteous and loves us too much to sit back and watch us destroy ourselves.

Many times the only thing that rectifies our focus from ourselves to God is calamity. Eventually the hammer will fall. The question is: who will be left standing? The answer is: only the ones on their knees. Spend this day in prayer for our nation, hope for a people with penitent heart and revival in our land.

Isaiah 45:5-7 (NASB95)
5 “I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other,
7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.

No, believers exercise freedom under grace and, as such, the church is no longer subject to the requirements of Old Testament Law. We give of our time and of our material provision by faith, cheerfully and generously, limited only by ability and/or desire. Even if a Christian wanted to tithe as directed by the prophet Malachi, they would be unable to for, among other things, the Temple no longer exists. And while some may try to draw comparisons of the Temple to a church building, that temporal similarity does not substantiate translating the tithe and offerings of Malachi into the New Testament church requirements.

Perhaps a more accurate question should be, “Is a Church administration acting under biblical principals in requiring a tithe of its members?” Many ministries in err appeal to Malachi 3:8-10 to support that requirement and to guilt its membership into compliance. The answer to this question is again “no”, they cannot require a tithe of its members and claim biblical support. However, a church administration does not violate biblical principals if it requests monetary gifts from those who benefit from its ministry. But let me be clear, tithing is not a means to gain mercy or favor from God. The teaching that God can be manipulated by our works is not supported by scripture, in fact, the Bible teaches against this false teaching.

 

Over the course of my walk with Christ, He has allowed me the privilege to serve Him in many avenues. My favorite would be discipling and ministering to His people and reaching out to unbelievers. But sometimes I get tired. I am not superhuman, I am not callus. I have suffered in life and in doing so have acquired an ability to share the pain of others.  Compassion can only be learned through suffering. And there is a lot of suffering out there.

As you know, the financial outlook for our country is bleak at best and has resonated through every household. Mine is not exempt. Four out of twelve couples from one of our neighborhood Bible study groups have lost employment since Christmas. The injustice of bailouts padding the pockets of fat bureaucrats and their fat friends is enough to make me want to just pack up and leave . . . and go . . . somewhere. As if there is anywhere on earth not plagued with injustice.

I get frustrated. And at the same time I know that I need to remain focused for those who depend on me.

I was reading Luke 9 this morning. Jesus had sent his apostles out on their first solo mission, spreading the gospel and healing the sick. The apostles returned to Jesus and reported their experiences, and Jesus listened. Then He took them aside to be alone with Him. They traveled across a lake to Bethsaida (house of fish or house of provision), the home town of Philip, Andrew and Peter. When they arrived at the other shore there was a crowd of people waiting for them.

Luke 9:10-11

“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

Mark 6:30-34 

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Serving others is great. Listening, counseling, evangelizing, all these things are worthwhile and we should do them with joy. But don’t neglect time alone with the One who sent you. You have the power to serve and the authority to serve because He equiped you and authorized you. Sometimes it is necessary to disengage from service for a season, unplug and rest. It is not a sin to say no to busy-ness, in order to say yes to His invitation.

Is He inviting you to come with Him to a quiet place and rest? Don’t hesitate. Drop what you’re doing and climb in that boat with Jesus. Let Him minister to you. There will be plenty of work waiting for you on the other shore.

Heb. 4:16

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”

 

Mark 8:1-9 records Jesus feeding the 4000. The text begins with Jesus telling his disciples in his compassion that he is concerned about the people who had been listening to him for three days. He did not want to send them off without anything to eat. They had a few fish and loaves of bread which Jesus blessed and distributed among the over 4000 present before sending them on their way.

Mark 8:6 “He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so.”

Jesus addressed a basic need out of compassion for those who followed him, filling that need to overflowing. But it was not until the people obeyed the voice of the Lord, ordered themselves and sat down that they were satisfied. Can you imagine all of the commotion with thousands of men women and children milling around for three days and suddenly the Lord saying, “Please be seated!”

This is a reminder to me that when I am anticipating provision from the Lord, that I need to be seated. I need to be still. But before that I have to drop everything and focus on the Lord, giving Him my undivided attention so that I can hear his instruction.

Are you in a waiting pattern right now? Have you positioned yourself to hear His instruction? Sometimes if you want to be filled, all that is required of you is to be seated.

In life we all ultimately have to choose between two pains: the pain of regret or the pain of discipline.

No one but God knows the consequences of our country’s choice yesterday, but we do know that living with those consequences is inevitable. It is a reality of life. We can all blame the establishment for getting us into our current financial mess. But if we are all really honest with ourselves and examine our own bank accounts and credit debt, we are forced to admit some level of responsibility.

And so now we are promised change. Will our government begin to exercise discipline in its financial dealings? Time will tell. I feel compelled to ask, how much does it have to hurt before we are motivated to discipline ourselves? Do we have to be forced by our government to spend less because we have less to spend? Maybe change doesn’t have to begin at the top, maybe change starts with me.

We are a nation of super consumers. I am contributing to the “success” of my economy by raising four mini-super consumers just like me. I think we all realize (though some may be reluctant to admit it) that we cannot buy our way to happiness. Joy is not to be found at the end of the rainbow in a pot of gold. Perhaps if our culture valued giving more than it valued taking our current state of affairs would be playing out very diffrently. We regret the decisions of the past because we did not discipline ourselves for our future.

And my four mini-super consumers? Are they destined to live with the pain of regret tomorrow?

Not if I choose to live with the pain of discipline today.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Heb 12:11