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Monthly Archives: February 2020

Forgive, if you want to have a long, healthy ministry

In his book, Resilient: Key Factors in a Long and Successful Pastorate, author John Miller includes the “Capacity to Forgive Wrongs Suffered” as one of his factors. He writes,

I am persuaded that ministers who remain spiritually healthy through the years and decades have made the often-challenging decision not to hold grudges. They have endeavored to wish no ill on those who have wronged them, lied about them, betrayed them, backstabbed them, front stabbed them or abused them. In fact, these shepherds have learned through the rugged realities of ministry that forgiveness is the best medicine for healing a wounded heart.

I think the author has hit the nail on the thumb. Though difficult to do, it is so much healthier in the long run to let go of the hurts and forgive those who caused them. I have found it helpful to pray a blessing for those individuals when God brings them to my mind today.

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2020 in Books, Ministry, Quotes

 
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Addicted to social media

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2020 in Culture

 

Money Matters – PowerPoint slides & video

Here are the PowerPoint slides and video from my sermon yesterday at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. “Money Matters” asks and answers the five basic questions about giving and generosity. Enjoy.

 

Money Matters

“There are three conversions necessary to every man: the head, the heart, and the purse.” Martin Luther

Last week, we began a five-part series on Generosity at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. I asked the congregation to take on “The 90-Day Challenge.” The commitment stated, “Between now and May 10, I will worship God with my giving; I will give generously; I will give my first and my best; I will trust God to provide for my needs; I will look to see how God meets my needs; and I will share the results so others can praise God.”

A challenge of this nature, or anytime you bring up the subject of money for that matter, raises a number of questions. In this message, I want to ask and answer five basic questions: What should my perspective be about giving? What is the purpose of giving? What principles should guide my giving? Should I give a tithe? and How much should I give? The answers to the first three questions are found in 1 Chronicles 29:10-22 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.

What should my Perspective be about Giving?

God owns it all (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The first and most important principle in money management is recognizing that none of it belongs to me. Everything belongs to God. Rather than being an owner, I am a steward of what he has entrusted to me.

We give back to God what he has given to us (1 Chronicles 29:14, 16). In a very real sense, none of us makes a donation or gives an offering to God. We are simply acknowledging his ownership and giving back what already is his to begin with.

Giving is a natural part of worship (1 Chronicles 29:10, 13, 20-22). Giving is one of the many ways (prayer, service, singing, sharing, silence, etc) we worship God.

You cannot separate doctrine and duty (1 Corinthians 15:1-16:1). After teaching about the reality and necessity of the resurrection, and leading the Corinthian church in praising God for bringing Jesus back from the grave, Paul addresses the subject of “the collection.” Theology and practice, doctrine and duty are closely tied together.

What is the Purpose of Giving?

Our gifts support the ministry of the church (1 Chronicles 29:16). David took an offering to build the temple. The tithe in the Old Testament Law was used to support the ministry of the Levites and priests.

Our gifts minister to those in need (1 Corinthians 16:1). The context of 1 Corinthians 16 is that Paul is raising funds for the church in Jerusalem which is experiencing a famine.

Giving has a unifying effect on the church (1 Corinthians 16:1). Paul is raising money from Gentile believers in Corinth and Galatia to minister to Jewish believers in Jerusalem. Giving focuses the church on what is most important.

What Principles should guide my Giving?

Giving should be …

Periodic – “On the first day of the week…” (1 Corinthians 16:2a). If you get paid weekly, give weekly. If you get paid twice a month, give twice a month. The pattern of your giving should match the pattern of your income.

Personal – “…each of you…” (1 Corinthians 16:2a). Rich or poor, young or old, all of us have the responsibility and privilege of giving.

Planned – “…put something aside and store it up…” (1 Corinthians 16:2b). Don’t wait until the offering plate is passed to decide what/if/how much to give. Think, pray, and decide before you ever come to church.

Proportionate – “…as he may prosper…” (1 Corinthians 16:2c). The amount we give should not remain static throughout our lives. As our income increases, so should our giving.

Properly Protected – “…those whom you accredit…” (1 Corinthians 16:3-4). The offering should be handled with integrity and grace.

Should I give a tithe?

To answer the question about tithing, you have to understand that the principle of the tithe existed long before the Law was given. Abraham offered a tithe to the priest, Melchizedek, after God delivered him in battle (Genesis 14:17-20). Jacob promised God a tithe if he brought him safely back home (Genesis 28:10-22).

You also have to understand that the Law required three separate tithes, which totaled up to 22.3%. The Israelites gave a tithe (10%) to God of all produce and animals (Leviticus 27:30-33). A festival tithe (10% of the remaining 90%, or 9%) was eaten in Jerusalem as part of a sacred meal (Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 11, 18). A charity tithe (10% over 3 years, or 3 1/3% each year) was used to help the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12-15; 14:28-29). In essence, the Old Testament tithe was a flat tax on everyone who was part of the nation of Israel.

Beyond the tithe, there was also a freewill offering that was to be given from the heart (Exodus 25:2; 35:29).

How much should I give?

After studying the biblical passages, you are left with the conclusion that the New Testament does not teach tithing, per se. Instead, it teaches generous giving (2 Corinthians 8-9). 10% might be a good starting point, since it was the practice of godly people before the Law was given. However, it was not meant to be a requirement or a limit.

The story is told of Sam Houston, hero of Texas history, who gave his life to the Lord in the latter years of life and asked to be baptized. He was taken down to a little country stream, and the pastor said, “General Houston, you should take your glasses off because I am going to immerse you in water.” There were also some papers in General Houston’s pocket, so he took those out as well.

Then, just as he was getting ready to go into the water, the pastor noticed that General Houston still had his wallet in his pants. He said, “Well, General, you might want to take that wallet out of your pants. It is going to get wet.”

Houston responded, “If there is any part of me that needs baptizing, it is my wallet.” So Houston was baptized, wallet and all.

Give generously, and see what God does.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 16, 2020. It is part of a series on Generosity. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

How much should I give?

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church, we will continue our sermon series on Generosity. We will ask and answer five basic questions about giving back to God. Here’s a video preview of the message.

 

Who determines truth?

What does it mean to “live my truth”? Who determines what that truth is? Is it up to me alone?

I encountered the phrase in an article about retired NBA star Dwayne Wade. He was on The Ellen Show and talked about when his twelve-year-old son, Zion, came out as transgender and wanted to be called, Zaya. “I’m ready to live my truth,” was part of the reasoning behind the decision.

According to author Marquita Herald in a blog post on www.emotionallyresilientliving.com, living your truth means,

It’s important to understand that learning to live your truth isn’t about changing or “fixing” you, it’s about freeing you to be the confident, powerful person you were meant to be, and honoring that truth through actions and communication with others as well as yourself.

Living your truth means your relationships with others can be based on mutual respect rather than the disempowering need for external validation.

Support is always a good thing, but when you have the confidence to accept what’s right for you, it releases from the need for approval from others.

Based on these statements, it sounds as if truth is a purely subjective issue. It sounds as if I can determine what is true for me regardless of what others say or don’t say. But how do I know that “my truth” can be trusted?

This subjective approach to defining “my truth” is the logical end result that occurs when you reject Jesus Christ as the source of truth. Jesus claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In an exchange with Pontius Pilate (John 18:37-38), Jesus said, “… for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” to which Pilate replied, “What is truth?”

In Romans 1:18-32, the apostle Paul describes the downward spiral of society. In large part, it is due to a rejection of truth. When people “suppress the truth” (18), claim to be wise in their foolishness (22), and exchange truth for a lie (25), they end up treating truth subjectively. What is playing out in the media today is a vivid portrayal of Romans 1. We should not then be surprised when it leads to God bringing judgment on society (18).

Rather than turning inward to discover and define “my” truth, I need to turn back to Jesus. He is the one who is the source of truth. It is only when I abide in his word that I know the truth that truly sets me free (John 8:31-32).

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2020 in Culture, Jesus, News stories, Quotes, Scripture

 

Stylish warmth!

My friend, Carol Sumler, decided to knit me a new hat to keep my head warm.

Thanks, Carol!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2020 in Fun, Photos

 

If you want to be an effective teacher

“If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow.” Howard Hendricks, Teaching to Change Lives

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2020 in Ministry, Personal growth, Quotes, Tim Challies

 

Genero$ity

When it comes to money, there is a wide range of opinions.

  • “Whoever says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.”
  • “If riches are a curse, may God smite me with it and may I never recover!” Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
  • “Get all you can; put it in a can; protect that can!”

While we may pursue affluence, we live with a scarcity mentality—there is only so much to go around so you better not squander it.

According to several research firms (Barna, NPSource, HRF):

  • The average person gives 2.1% of their income to charitable causes.
  • 17% of Christians say that they “tithe” (give 10% of their income to God’s work). Only 3-5% actually give that amount.
  • Christians give 2.5% of their income to churches. During the Great Depression, they gave 3.3%
  • 20% of American families have reduced the amount they give to the local church. Debt hamstrings one-third of American Christians.

Many pastors avoid talking about money for various reasons. It makes everyone uncomfortable, and we want people to be happy. People believe it is a personal issue, a private matter. We don’t want to offend newcomers. We want to avoid the stereotype of “The church only talks about money.”

When you study the Scriptures, you discover that there are about 500 verses on prayer. There are fewer than 500 verses on faith. Yet there are 2,300 verses that deal with money and possessions. 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. Scripture indicates that money is a barometer of our spiritual health.

In light of what Scripture teaches, our church is beginning a five-part series on Generosity. The theme of the series comes from 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.

“…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Generosity demonstrates our Dependence on God (Mark 12:41-44).

After Jesus finished his public teaching in the Court of the Gentiles (Mark 11:27-12:40), he entered the Court of the Women. Against one wall of this court were 13 trumpet-shaped collection boxes for receiving worshipers’ freewill offerings. Many people gave large amounts, and Jesus did not condemn them or comment on their gifts. One unnamed widow gave two lepta (Mark 12:41-44). This was the smallest bronze Jewish coin in circulation. Two of them put together added up to less than one penny in value.

Jesus said that the widow gave more than all the others. Most gave out of their material wealth at little cost to them. The widow gave everything she had out of her poverty. Most gave what they could spare. The widow spared nothing.

Her gift illustrates that generosity is not determined by the amount, but by the attitude with which it is given. The question is not, “How much did you give?” but, “How much did it cost you to give?”

Generosity is an Act of Worship (Proverbs 3:9-10).

If you wanted to invite your mayor, senator, governor, or president over to house for dinner, would you serve them leftovers? Then why do we approach worship with the attitude of “If there is any … money after I pay bills … time after work and bowling … energy after I take care of family … money after my vacation … time after I watch the game … then I will give, serve,  and/or worship.”

Proverbs 3:9-10 explains that we are to give God our first and best. Far too often, we give God our leftovers. We honor ourselves with our wealth and give God what we can afford to do without.

These verses point out the proper sequence—we give, and then God blesses. Too often, we get this backwards. We say, when God blesses me and meets my needs, then I will give. The proper order is … Give … honor God with the first and best … then he will bless and meet needs.

If we give a 15% tip for good service at a restaurant, why do we balk at honoring God with our finances when he gave us salvation?

Generosity is an Act of Obedience and Faith (Malachi 3:10-12).

The command in Malachi 3:10, “put me to the test,” confuses us. We’ve been told never to test God, and yet this says it’s ok. It helps to understand that there are three words for test in the Hebrew language.

  • “nasa” means testing God in the sense of challenging or disputing his presence or power and thus provoking him to anger.
  • “sarap” means testing or refining a substance such as gold.
  • “bahan” means testing with the idea of proving the dependability of something.

It is this third word, “bahan,” that is used in Malachi 3:10. We are to test God to prove he keeps his promises.

God challenges us to prove that his promises are true about giving. If we give, God will meet our needs. While this instruction is linked to Israel and the Old Testament Law, it is echoed in Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. This is a command and a promise for us today.

If we take God at his word and give generously, what might he do to meet our needs (Malachi 3:11-12)? Could he cause our car to be more fuel efficient so we spend less money on gas? Could he prevent our children’s teeth from getting cavities so we spend less money at the dentist office? Could God cause our clothes not to wear out so we spend less money on clothing? If we take God at his word and give generously, what might he do to meet our needs?

Over the next 90 days, I want to encourage you to put God to the test regarding his promise about giving. Between now and May 10, please consider making the following commitments:

  • I will worship God with my giving.
  • I will give generously.
  • I will give my first and my best.
  • I will trust God to provide for my needs.
  • I will look to see how God meets my needs.
  • I will share the results so others can praise God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 9, 2020. It is opening message in a series on Generosity. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

What does your money say about your relationship with God?

This Sunday, I will begin a five-part sermon series on Genero$ity at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. Here’s is a video preview of the first message and the series. Please join us.