Monthly Archives: June 2014

Did I make a difference?

Early in my ministry in Seattle I worked with single adults. One of our leaders was Mike, a twenty‑something engineer who worked with lasers. When his company lost its funding, he was forced to find a new job … in Orlando, FL. Prior to him leaving on his cross country move, we met for breakfast. He posed one of the more penetrating questions I’ve been asked. “Did I make a difference?”

That question still hovers at the back of my mind. It shouts at me as I contemplate the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). When my life is over, I want something to show for my time on planet Earth. When Jesus returns, I want some fruit to present to him so that I can hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

When it comes times for my funeral, I hope that people don’t tell stories about what a great guy I was. I hope that people say, “He made a difference … when he did … when he said … because he loved Jesus.”


Worship is the heart’s desire

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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in A. W. Tozer, Worship


How does one change the culture of the church?

Musings for a Thursday morning, or questions I wrestle with.

  • How does one change the culture of the church?
  • How do we become more outward focused instead of inward focused?
  • How do we develop a passion for the lost?
  • How do we develop a willingness to do whatever it takes rather than settle for the easy option?
  • How do we develop an abundance mentality instead of a scarcity mentality?
  • How do we help people become generous with their time, talents, and treasures?
  • How do we help get people looking forward and let go of the past?
  • How do we stop people from standing on the brake and resisting progress?
  • How do we encourage people to take greater risks rather than strive for comfort and status quo?
  • How do we encourage people to pursue Christ and stop dabbling with sin?
  • How do we help people stop making excuses for sin, compromise, mediocrity, etc?
  • How do we get people out of the pew and into ministry?
  • How do we help people objectively evaluate our ministries rather than fixate on the forms?
  • How does one bring about revival in a church?

Much to pray about.


Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Church, Culture


Are you starving to death spiritually?

Stacey Irvine ate almost nothing but chicken nuggets for 15 years. She never tasted fruits or vegetables. She occasionally supplemented her diet with French fries. One day her tongue started to swell and she couldn’t catch her breath. She was rushed to the hospital, her airway was forced open, and they stuck an IV in her arm to start pumping in the nutrients she needed. After saving her life, the medical staff sent her home, but not before they warned her that she needed to change her diet or prepare herself for an early death.

I’ve heard people call it a famine. A famine of knowing the Bible. During a famine people waste away for lack of sustenance. Some people die. Those who remain need nourishment; they need to be revived. And if they have any hope of remaining alive over time, their life situation has to change in conspicuous ways.

During normal famines people don’t have access to the food they need. But Stacey Irvine could have eaten anything she wanted. She had resources, opportunity and presumably all the encouragement she needed to eat well. Can you imagine what would happen if all of us decided to follow her example and discontinued eating all but non-nutritious foodstuff? If we happened to beat the odds and live, we undoubtedly would suffer in the long run from nutrition-related chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

Like Stacey Irvine, we’re killing ourselves. It’s surely not for lack of resources; nevertheless, we are in fact starving ourselves to death.

Christians used to be known as “people of one book.” Sure, they read, studied and shared other books. But the book they cared about more than all others combined was the Bible. They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others. We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death.

Kenneth Berding, in “The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy & what we can do about it”, from the Spring 2014 Issue of Biola Magazine – publication of Biola University


The FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about Giving

Q: On Sunday, June 22, Pastor Mark spoke about “Worship God with your Treasure.” During the message, he used the word, “tithe.” I’ve never heard a message on tithing before. Where does that come from?

A: Most people associate the tithe—10% giving—with the requirements of the Old Testament Law, but it actually existed before the Law was given. In Genesis 14:17-20, Abraham is returning from a battle in which he rescued his nephew Lot. On his way, he meets Melchizedek, a priest of God Most High. In gratitude for God granting him victory, Abraham gives a tenth of everything to the priest.

Many years later, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, leaves home and is on his way to his Uncle Laban’s house. On his way, he has a dream about God in the desert (Genesis 28:10-15). In the dream, God promises to be with him and make him successful. Jacob makes a vow that if that indeed happens and he returns home safely, he would give God a tenth of everything (Genesis 28:20-22).

Q: That makes it sound like a tithe is just an example. Wasn’t it part of the Law?

A: Giving a tithe was an important aspect of the Old Testament Law, but it was actually closer to 23% than 10%.

Q: I’ve never heard that before. Where does that come from?

A: In the Law, several tithes and offerings were required of each person. The Israelites were to give one-tenth of all produce and all animals back to God (Leviticus 27:30-33). A second offering was the festival tithe (Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 11, 18). One-tenth of the nine-tenths that remained (9%) was to be set aside and taken to Jerusalem where it would be eaten as part of a sacred meal. A third offering was the triennial or charity tithe which was given during the third year (10% given over 3 years or 3 1/3% a year) and used to help the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12-15; 14:28-29). If you add up these amounts—10%, 9%, and 3 1/3%— the tithe is 22.3% a year.

Q: That makes me glad I don’t live under the Law. How is the New Testament different?

A: The Old Testament Law is prescriptive. It gives us a list of “Do’s & Don’ts.” The New Testament gives principles to guide us, but leaves the decision up to us.

Q: What does the New Testament teach about giving?

A: There are two key passages which teach principles about giving, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8-9.

In 1 Corinthians 16:1, Paul is writing to the Corinthians, but indicates this is the same thing he told the Galatians. This should be the normal practice of all believers and churches. In verse 2, Paul gives five principles about giving. Giving is to be:

  • Periodic—“On the first day of every week.” There should be a regular pattern and consistency to our giving.
  • Personal—“each one of you.” Each one of us is to give something.
  • Planned—“should set aside.” We are to think through what we are going to give.
  • Proportionate—“a sum of money in keeping with his income.” Rather than being haphazard, the amount we give should be consistent with our earnings.
  • Purposeful—“saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” We are to follow through with our plan and make sure we give.

Q: Are there different principles in the other passage?

A: 2 Corinthians 8-9 provides us with three additional principles. The first one is that God doesn’t want our money. He wants us. We begin by first giving ourselves to God, and then secondly by giving our resources to whatever ministry we are involved in (8:5).
The second principle is that we are to give cheerfully (9:6-7). We are to remember the law of the harvest, that we reap what we sow. In addition, we are the ones who determine the amount of our gift. But more important than the amount is our attitude.  God delights in cheerful, generous giving.

Q: What if my income is limited or tight? Do I wait until I have enough before I give?

A: The answer to that question is found in the cycle of grace giving (9:6-11) and provides the third principle to guide us in our giving. We give cheerfully (9:6-7), then God gives back so that we have enough (9:8a). We then give generously (9:8b), and God gives back so that we have more than enough (9:9-11).  We give—God gives back. We give more—God gives more back. The result of all of this is that God’s name is praised (9:11b-15).

The bottom line is that when we give of our money, the gift enriches the donor (9:6-11), supplies the needs of the recipients (12a), and promotes the glory of God (12b-15).

Q: It sounds like it is up to me to determine how much to give. Is that true?

A: Giving 10% is a good guideline, since it was the pattern of godly people even before the Law was given. But it is not a requirement. For some, giving 10% would require a step of faith. For others, it would be too little and they would not miss it.

Pray about what God would have you to give. Be faithful to what he puts on your heart. Give generously. Be joyful. Honor God in your giving.


Worship God with your Treasure

kekayaan22If the statistics are true, Christ followers don’t always live out their convictions.

  • The average person in America gives 2% of their income to charitable causes.
  • 17% of Christians say that they “tithe” (give 10% of their income to God’s work).
  • Only 5% actually give that amount.

Despite the statistics, when was the last time you heard a sermon about money and giving? Most pastors avoid the subject. Many people say it’s a private matter and should not be addressed from the pulpit.

There are about 500 verses in the Bible on prayer. There are fewer than 500 verses on faith. But there are 2,300 verses in Scripture that deal with money and possessions. In fact, Jesus said more about money than he did about any other subject, including heaven and hell combined. Over 10% of the New Testament relates directly to financial matters. Because money is a barometer of one’s spiritual health, it needs to be addressed from the pulpit.

AA012120We need to change our minds when it comes to the subject of money and giving. It begins with having a correct understanding that God owns everything (Psalm 24:1) and giving is an act of worship (Proverbs 3:9-10).

Many of us respond with a “Yes, but …” to the instruction, “Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9). “Yes,” we admit, “giving is an act of worship, but since I’m not wealthy, I don’t have to give,” is our reply. Unfortunately, many of us are ignorant of the facts about wealth. 40% of the world’s population, 2.6 billion people, lives on less than $2 a day. 15 percent, 1 billion people, live on less than $1 day. 4.5%, 0.3 billion, live on $108 a day, and they are all in the USA. If we live in the USA, we are among the world’s wealthiest people. Thus, we should be the best worshippers of all.

The verse goes on to say that we are to honor God with the “firstfruits of all your produce.” Far too often, I give God my leftovers. If I have money left at the end of month, if I have time left at the end of the day, if I have energy left at the end of the workweek, then I will worship God. God wants the first and the best.

Once we honor God, “then your barns will be filled.” Many of us get it backwards. We say, if God blesses, then I will give. Scripture teaches that we give to God and then he blesses us.

Malachi 3:8-10 goes so far as to say that many of us are robbing God of the worship that belongs to him because we withhold our giving. We miss out on God’s richest blessings because we won’t give.

We’ve been taught that we are never to put God to the test. And yet, Malachi 3:10 explains there is one area where we are specifically to test him.

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

What might God do if we took him at his word?

Granted, you could say that Proverbs 3:9-10 and Malachi 3:8-10 are Old Testament scriptures written to Israel and not applicable to us today. That is true. But the apostle Paul presents the same principle in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 where he lays out the cycle of grace giving.

Cycle of grace givingThe cycle begins when we give to God (6-7). Like the woman who gave her last two pennies (Mark 12:41-44), our generosity is best determined by what we give when we have little. After we give, God’s pours out his abundant grace to us (8a).

The question is, what might this look like? Going back to Malachi 3, verse 11 adds, “I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that I will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear.” If we give to God, could he cause our clothes to last longer … tires to go farther … car to get better gas mileage … groceries to cost less … neighbors to offer free babysitting … health to remain strong … employer to increase our salary …? If we step out in faith and give, how might God bless us?

We give and God blesses. But the cycle doesn’t stop there. Because of his blessings, we then give more back to God (8b), which God follows up with even more blessings (10-11). As a result, needs are met (12a) and God is glorified (12b-15).

Put God to the test. Take him at his word. Honor God with your money and see how he meets your needs.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 22, 2014. It is part of a series on The Heart of Worship. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.



Tired of waiting?

Tired of waiting in line? Got better things to do with your time? Short of patience yet filled with places to be and things to do? Then hire a professional line sitter!

Hate long lines? Consider a professional line sitter” tells the story of Robert Samuel, who founded S.O.L.D. or Same Old Line Dudes, a professional line sitting company that fields requests to wait (and wait and wait) for everything from sneaker launches to concert tickets. “Whatever you want, we wait for it,” he said, provided you’re willing to pay $25 for the first hour and $10 for each additional half hour.

In a culture where time is worth more than money, it’s not surprising a business like this sprang up. However, I doubt very seriously whether or not God will allow someone else to take our place when he wants to work in our lives.

Psalm 130:5–6 (ESV)   I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

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Posted by on June 21, 2014 in Culture, News stories, Scripture, Time