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It’s not the size of the gift…

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It’s funny, in an odd sort of way, how we Christians try to impress the Creator. As if we mortals could do such a thing. Sometimes it seems as though our positions, titles, and degrees have gone to our heads to the extent that we actually believe God is fortunate to have us.

Do you suppose the Almighty notices how many letters follow our names? Or what prestigious school we graduated from? Or how many Facebook “friends” we have? Thankfully, we serve a God whose ways are “higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

I personally believe it would take a lot more than that to impress God!

Of course, there are other ways we common ordinary types try to impress the Lord. Take giving, for example. I’ve known people who go out of their way to make sure others know how generous they are with their church giving. Jesus had a thing or two to say about those folks (Matt. 6:4).

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Contrary to what some would have you believe however, its really not the size of the gift that matters to God. Take this familiar story for example:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said,“Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.””    Luke 21:1-4

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When the poor widow gave her two mites, or the equivalent of less than a penny, Jesus said that she had given much more than the rich people who had given large sums of money. How is this possible?

The rich gave of their great abundance. They had money to spare. What they gave would never be missed. Their gift required no real sacrifice on their part. I see this played out today as I read about the ultra wealthy and their giving in the local newspaper near my home.

Someone will give a million dollars to a charitable cause, and at first glance it sounds almost unbelievable. That is until you realize that the person making the donation lives in a twenty five million dollar home, and likely has several such residences around the world. This is giving from their abundance.

Not making any judgements here, just offering it up for perspective. I’m pretty sure we’d all like to be in that situation!

The poor widow,on the other hand, though she gave little,gave out of the abundance of her heart what to her amounted to a great sacrifice. Her little offering was all she possessed. Yet she gave it all,holding nothing back.

You could say she was a sacrificial giver, but I think it goes beyond that. Her giving spoke volumes about her priorities. Her priority was to participate in the offering being collected for the treasury. In other words, she was not to be denied this opportunity to worship.

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The Bible doesn’t speak to this, but have you ever wondered if she hesitated in turning loose of those coins? She knew it was all she had, and no doubt it would be some time before she had two coins to rub together again. So it may have been a natural thing to hesitate in participating in this offering, especially if she had children to support.

Even though the above scenario sounds plausible, I don’t believe she hesitated for a second when she came to this offering. Again, this poor woman came to participate, not be a bystander.

For you see, that’s what worshipers do…..they actively participate, even if it means giving out of extreme circumstances, and they do it cheerfully (II Cor. 9:7)!!

No, it’s not the size of the gift that matters to God, but the size of the giver’s heart.

Giving to impress our Lord is pure folly, yet giving out of the abundance of our hearts is a sweet smelling sacrifice to Him.

Have a great day of worship!

Ron

Giving to the Lord: just money or is there more to it?

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Last night my daughter and I were having a discussion on giving to the Lord’s work, specifically in the areas of tithes and offerings. I always love having these types of discussions with her because her perspective tends to mirror those of her generation. Which, btw, don’t always line up with my own!

We talked about the origins of tithing, the Law, the how’s and why’s of Old Testament  giving, and finally how Jesus and Paul spoke of giving in the New Testament. To be sure, like most millennials she had lots of questions, which, believe it or not, I actually enjoyed.

We spent a fair amount of time talking about giving to receive a blessing, vs. giving as an act of worship. Since she has been raised in a Christian home, she has learned by observing her parents that giving to the Lord’s work is not optional, but rather a part of worship.

She has also heard conflicting views on the subject, particularly among those who espouse the “sow your best seed now to receive a blessing” crowd that permeate the airwaves today. Being a very bright young woman, it thrills me to know that she will not be numbered among those who succumb to such error (insert proud dad smile here).

We also talked a lot about the motivation to give to the Lord’s work. Do we give out of fear? Do we give because there is a “church rule” about giving? Do we give because that’s just what we do? As I said, she’s a bright young lady and has a lot of questions!

Our discussion concluded with the understanding that giving, like most everything else related to the Lord’s work, ultimately is an issue of the heart. We give to the Lord not to receive a blessing, but rather as one more type of personal worship. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

We know that the Lord loves a cheerful giver (II Cor. 9:7), and as such we should not give grudgingly. As an act of worship, I believe giving should be looked upon as one more thing that we get to do for the Lord, not another thing we have to do.

For me, the highlight of our discussion was when she asked me “what about the poor, those that have nothing to give. Does God still bless them”? I think at that moment I saw my daughter in a different light, because she has a heart for the poor and underprivileged. I pray that she guards her heart well as she grows older and that she always remembers those less fortunate than herself.

Thankfully, she understands that as Christians we have an obligation to help the poor and to work to make their plight easier if possible. I wish all of us could come to the same conclusion because I think we could have a tremendous impact on our communities. If I really think about it, I can think of few things more pleasing to God than to aid the poor.

Tossing money into a basket or plate is one thing, the motivator behind our giving however is what is important. Giving from the perspective of a grateful heart is a wonderful part of our worship. A part that all are invited to participate in.

Have a wonderful day!

Ron

 

How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

Church 2016: it’s all about the numbers

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A typical week finds my email inbox filled with the usual plethora of junk mail,solicitations,the occasional plea for money from a Nigerian princess,and a host of other offers “too good to be true”. email pic

On second thought, it’s just about all junk mail these days.

I have noticed a trend however in the emails I get from various ministries,and that trend involves numbers.Lots and lots of numbers.

Here is a small sampling of what I’m talking about:

“Do you want to see your church attendance grow by 30%“?

Five Reasons Church Announcements Cause Problems”

Seven ways members can actively prepare for sermons”.

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan”

Ten Sentences That Make Pastors Cringe”

“Avoid These 5 Bad Habits that Kill Church Growth at All Costs”

35 Random Thoughts and Tips on The Reading of Books”

Seven Church Facility Trends”

Five Reasons Why the Large Single Site Church Is Declining”

Umm…I think you get the picture.

Numbers. Apparently that’s what it’s all about.

Lest you think these samples are fictitious let me assure you that they are all from nationally known ministries and various denominations.I’m really not sure why I even get some of these because I sure didn’t subscribe to all of them.Wait…that’s why it’s called spam,right?

I’m not sure what’s behind the church’s fascination with numbers,but I can tell you that it resembles the world’s obsession with growth strategies and expansion planning with an uncanny resemblance.

Coincidence maybe?

I think not. From where I sit on the front row I hear an incessant clamoring for more,more,more.

More people in the pew.

More money in the offering plate.collection-plate-370x280

More and bigger facilities.

More of everything.

Except Jesus and His love.I can’t remember the last time I heard the call go out for more of Jesus.

What’s driving this insatiable appetite for more and bigger everything in the church?

I am of the belief that our carnal,or sin nature is the driving force behind all of this.Our nature is to want more of the things of this life more than the things of God.

It’s a heart issue.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.    Luke 12:34 NKJV

The church’s treasure is no longer Christ and His glory.It is in showing to the world that it is on equal footing with it’s wealth,opulence, and abundance.

In doing so the church has aligned itself with another church we read about in Revelation chapter three,the church of Laodicea.

Long gone are the humble shepherds who care for the flock God entrusted to them.In their place are PhD’s from the business community who know how to obtain financing and create mammoth structures that reach toward the heavens,yet know precious little about matters of the heart.

I cannot help but wonder how our Lord must grieve over this present generation.He who has given unto the church the words of liberty and life surely must wonder why that is not enough.

Why is the church not satisfied?

Why must the church always have more of everything but God?

I firmly believe in organization and structure in the church.But do we really need someone to tell us how to increase attendance by 30%?

Why isn’t 2% or 4% or even 5% sufficient,especially if the growth is real growth and not yet another bunch of church hoppers looking to have their ears tickled?

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan”? Really?  How about this for a “strategic growth plan”…

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2Ch 7:14 NKJV

Sounds to me like there needs to be a return to the old paths and cry aloud to a Holy God who said He would hear from heaven.

That is of course,if you’re all about the numbers….

Ron