Author Archives: wheelsms
“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 Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. I asked the congregation to take on “The 90-Day Challenge.” Between now and December 31, 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 29:15). David took an offering to build the temple. The tithe 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 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 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%) 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. 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 Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 4, 2015. It is part of a series on Generosity. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Book Review: The Heart-Led Leader: How living and leading from the heart will change your organization and your life, by Tommy Spaulding
Author and motivation speaker Tommy Spaulding has penned a book of heart-warming and encouraging stories aimed at changing how we develop a philosophy of leadership. He believes that true game-changing leadership results from leading from the heart.
Leading from the heart means leading with love. If the word love scares you, then use passion, commitment, compassion, servant leadership, purpose-driven, mission-driven, or your choice of any similar word or phrase, because at the core these are all forms of love. In this context, love is simply an unselfish and genuine concern for the good of others. So when we lead from the heart—when we lead with love—we care deeply about serving others, about selflessness, about doing the right thing even when it’s difficult, about developing empathy and demonstrating generosity, about all those ideals that may seem “soft” but, in fact, allow us to live and lead more powerfully.
Rather than a “how-to” book of leadership skills, Spaulding has written a book describing what this type of leader looks like. Most leadership books focus on knowledge and skills. Spaulding’s book focuses on character and attitude. To help make the 18-inch journey from the head to the heart, the author describes 18 characteristics of a heart-led leader—love, humility, caring, passion, selflessness, authenticity, self-awareness, faithfulness, character, vulnerability, forgiveness, purpose, encouragement, empathy, generosity, honesty, trust, and transparency. As the author explains, leadership is not about achievements or impact. It is about building relationships.
While you can read the book in a few hours, you will want to take time to think about whether or not you demonstrate these characteristics and/or how to build them into your life. The book appears to be aimed at a business audience rather than a Christian audience. While he does not backstop his philosophy with Scripture, many of the principles and characteristics are biblical nonetheless.
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Yesterday, I finished reading Cat & Dog Theology: Rethinking our relationship with our master; Living passionately for the glory of God, by Bob Sjogren & Gerald Robison. Gerald is a fellow instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries.
The premise of the book comes from observing how cats and dogs go through life and relate to their humans. Dogs say, “You love me, you feed me, you play with me, you care for me, you must be god.” Cats say, “You love me, you feed me, you play with me, you care for me, I must be god.” (Living with a cat, I agree with the author’s analysis!)
As the authors explain, churches are filled with cats who think everything is about them. The church exists to meet my needs. If I’m not fed, I can go elsewhere. Worship should play my favorite songs. Programs should make me comfortable. I go to church to connect with my friends.
Regarding the issue of suffering, Bob & Gerald explain that when a cat is diagnosed with an illness, they respond, “What did I do to deserve this?” A dog responds like Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
The authors stress that we should approach God more as a dog would. Worship is about declaring God’s glory. I should seek to serve and minister to others. God may bring events into my life that will stretch me and make me uncomfortable if they will ultimately bring him greater glory and honor.
On Thursday, we were horrified by the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR. Many voiced the questions, “Why would God allow such a tragedy?” “If God really cared, why does he allow suffering and pain?” Without sounding overly simplistic and pious, might God allow a tragedy of this nature to turn the conversation of the nation towards faith? Could God permit a horrific event to provide an example of Christians who stood up for their faith and were martyred as a result? Might God allow something like this to drive Christians to their knees to pray despite the President saying prayers are not enough?
As Christ followers, we should approach God more like a dog than a cat. Rather than pursue our comfort, we should focus on God’s glory. As the book of Job testifies, God can be glorified through tragedy and suffering. We may never completely understand the reasons, but God has the right to do whatever it takes to bring glory to his name.
Word is coming out that yesterday’s shooting at Umqua Community College in Roseburg, OR, was aimed at Christians. The shooter asked if the person was a Christian. If they said, “Yes,” he shot them in the head. If they said remained silent or said, “Other,” he shot them in the leg. The event prompted many Christians to post the question on Facebook, “If someone put a gun to your head and asked if you were a Christian, what would you say?” While that is certainly a valid question, perhaps a more pressing one is, “Why do we wait until there is a gun to our head before we speak up for Christ?”
As Christ followers, we have the good news that forgiveness is a free gift through Jesus Christ. We need to share this message with those who have no hope.
I am preaching through a five-part series on generosity at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. Two people sent me links for websites that address the topic. I have found them to be helpful and encouraging. Perhaps you will too.
“The Heart of Generosity” is a video produced by LifeChurch.tv out of Edmond, OK. It explains their approach to teaching “irrational generosity.”
Generousgiving.org is a website and group which aims to spread the biblical message of generosity. Their site includes videos, interviews, testimonies, and conversations promoting a journey towards generosity.