The Church

Tuesday Devotional: Ephesians 4

bibleRead Ephesians 4:1-16

The body of Christ is ONE body.  There is no other.  Standing side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder with your sister and brother in Christ, you are united as ONE body.  This is no easy task, but with God all things are possible.  Our sin desires to be independent.  Our sin desires to be one notch above the rest, one step further than the whole.  Sin deceives us into thinking that certain parts of the one body hold special significance and priority over other parts.  Sin will deceive us into thinking that our gift or position is of more importance to the body than the rest.  This spirit of division is the antithesis to the Gospel.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is humility, unity and love.  The Spirit of Christ in us seeks unity in spite of our own comfort, desires and pride.

The Christian is called to a life of unending and comprehensive sacrifice.  Nothing about sacrifice is easy.  Why should we think that our union and fellowship with other believers would be any different?  It’s not.  Our relationships with each other in the body of Christ are often the things used by God to refine us the most.  Without the tension and challenge of seeking unity in the Church there would be no growth, no transformation and thus no life.  We need each other.  We need this tension.  We need the sacrifice.  The sin in us will turn from the challenge and seek to find any available opportunity to blame-shift, judge, criticize and reject those around us in the Church.  Seek unity.  Seek Jesus.  By the blood of the Lamb we were saved from eternal condemnation and that same blood is the only chance we have to finding unity in the body of Christ.  Allow our Lord to sharpen you.  Allow him to reveal what is in you.  Allow him to teach you.  Find your place at the foot of the Cross and welcome your brother and sister to join you there and only there.  This is not friendship.  This is fellowship, and fellowship of the deepest kind, bought at the highest price.  We have all been saved.  We have all been forgiven.  We are all beloved by our heavenly Father.  These are the ligaments that bind us together and nothing else.  Unity is not an option, it is the result of living in Christ, for Christ and with Christ.

Tuesday Devotional: Joel 1

bibleRead Joel 1

Philippians 3:8

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.

The Christian church has experienced a season of comfort.  The end of that season is drawing near.  The Church in the West is fading, being undone and overtaken.  The prosperity of the Church in the West has opened the door to idle hands, complacency, ignorance and corruption of the message of Jesus.  It is no longer commonplace to be a Christian in western society, let alone popular.  It is no longer an advantage to be a Christian in western society.

Seasons are changing.  Are you ready?  Have you sat down to imagine a life without your worldly comforts?  Have you envisioned a world where you are persecuted for your faith and are robbed of your rights?  If not, consider it.  Consider it thoughtfully.  In that scenario, how is your faith in Jesus?  How is your spirit of worship concerning our risen Lord?  Surrounded by suffering and pain, are you able to worship?

The Church in the West has become covetous in its relationship with Jesus Christ.  The message preached from many pulpits today use the name of Jesus as the gate keeper, but not “The Way.”  Many sermons today teach that you can have what you want, when you want, how you want it, as long as along the way you remember that you’re not perfect and do some bad things from time to time.

The message from the pulpit is no longer “a sword that came to bring division, not peace.”  The message today is a wagging finger of casual disapproval.  Judgment is too harsh.  Tithing too invasive.  Marriage too constrictive.  Bible study too intellectual.  But Jesus tells us to, “Come and see,” and “Follow me.”  The Church in the West these days says, “Thank you, friend Jesus, for understanding me and meeting me right where I’m comfortable.  You’re so nice.”  What if God told you to quit your high-paying job for one that gave you less pay and no benefits, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to fight for reconciliation in a marriage that is no longer fun, exciting, sexy or easy, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to decline remarriage and sexual intimacy in the future, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to share your faith in Jesus with your non-believing family or co-workers, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to wake up earlier or stay up later in order to read more of your Bible or join a Bible study, for Christ’s sake?

Do all of these propositions test the comforts of our flesh and our own comfort?  Yes.  Are all of these well within reason and under the jurisdiction of God as our Father and King to ask of us?  Absolutely.  Do all of these test our love of Jesus over anything else and our willingness to follow Him anywhere He commands us to?  Yes.  These are not extreme examples written for effect.  If we identify our lives with Jesus Christ, having only Jesus is not simply enough, it is our sole desire in this life.  He HAS to be enough.  Being a Christian is not Jesus and (….).  Being a Christian is Jesus.  Christ alone.  Is He enough for you? Or do you need something alongside Jesus in your life to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

 

Tithing: Just Giving

coins

The root of our discontentment toward tithing is our selfish obsession with money that we view as our own. If we view what we have as something that belongs to us, that we guard, tithing becomes increasingly difficult as a result of this possessiveness. However, according to God, the truth is that what we see as “ours” is not ours at all.

Uprooting this possessiveness and ownership is like a game of connect the dots. For example, if I view my car as mine, and thus for no one else to drive, I must ask myself “how I was able to purchase the car?” A job. How did I get the job? Hard work and studying. How did I obtain the skills to work for the job that ultimately paid for the car? And so on and so forth…

The fact is the money we hoard does not belong to us. It has been given to us by God, for us to use in this world for his glory. In the same way that we are suspicious about someone asking for our money unless they can prove to us that in some way our money will eventually return to us with investment capital, God has simply invested in us with the intention to provide us opportunities to reinvest what he has given, to produce capital for the Kingdom of God. As Jesus illustrated in Matthew 25, what we have in this world is given to us simply to reinvest for the corporate good of the Church, not for our own personal and private profit.

Matthew 25:14-30 

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 Tithing is based on a foundation of love and trust and without love and trust we are left anxiously insecure. Our insecurity with tithing illuminates our insecurity with our relationship to God.

Tithing is established in Genesis 14, when Abram meets Melchizedek:

Genesis 14:17-24

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodomcame out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
   Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
   who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Aside from the mysterious nature of this King of Salem, the impulse for Abram to give the King a tenth of what he worked for in the previous battle is even more surprising. To the reader this is akin to working overtime, and then handing a tenth of the hefty paycheck to a random stranger on the street. It defies financial logic. Unless, that is, Abram viewed what he had as not his own. Abram knew that the victory on the battlefield was not his own but was God’s. Thus, everything that came as a result of that battle was God’s also. In the end, to Abram, keeping everything to himself would have been as shocking to him as it is for us to see him parting with the tenth to Melchizedek. To Abram, giving to the King-Priest was entirely justified, whereas to keep everything for himself would have been the definition of injustice.