Worship

Tithing: Joyful Giving

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The Christian character amounts to nothing without love, and tithing amounts to nothing without joy. It’s not difficult to understand why or how tithing and joy are rarely seen in each other’s company today. As we discussed, giving what we believe belongs to us is an act that our sinful nature automatically opposes. Giving what we have means that what was once ours is now gone; we have less while someone else has more. We often find joy in receiving and possessing an abundance of one thing, and giving destroys that passion of ours, “to get.” But God is absolutely clear that giving in His name must never be done without joy. To give under a shadow of obligation, resentment or bitterness is a gift that he warns us not to give in the first place.

 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.      

 Isaiah 1:11-15

“The multitude of your sacrifices—
   what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
   of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
   in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
   who has asked this of you,
   this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
   Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
   I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
   I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
   I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
   I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
   I am not listening.  

 

Isaiah 43:22-24

“Yet you have not called on me, Jacob,
   you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel.
You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
  nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
   nor wearied you with demands for incense.
You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
   or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
   and wearied me with your offenses. 

Jeremiah 7:21-26

“‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’

 

Malachi 3:6-12

“I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Joy is among the fruits of the Spirit Paul identifies in Galatians, a characteristic of the Christian spirit. This joy is not a joy that one talks themselves into or practices. Likewise, it is not a joy void of the reality that suffering continues to persist in the broken world we live in. The joy of a Christian goes much deeper than that. The joy of a Christian stems from its foundation, which is forever and always Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ is to have been saved by him. To be saved by him is to know that without his saving grace we were destined to die. Joy in tithing stems from that very same foundation. The joy of tithing contradicts our typical impulses or desires. Born out of the spirit of God, this giving defies the logic and rationale of the sinful human mind. The Christian character thrives when worshipping God, and to tithe is to lift others up by giving of ourselves. Ultimately, to sacrifice out of love for another is the most powerful emulation of the Father and his son Jesus Christ and thus, the truest form of worship.

Spiritual Gifts: Tongues

gifts

For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on tongues.

The gift of tongues is often a polarizing topic of discussion. Some Christians are raised understanding that the speaking of tongues is commonplace in the Christian life. However, others have lived a Christian life for many years and have never been in an environment where the speaking of tongues ever occurred. Since two separate groups living lives devoted to God can have such different experiences in regards to the speaking of tongues, why has it become so synonymous with the gifts of the Holy Spirit? While “speaking in tongues” can be left for a different time, at its heart, this particular gift has very little to do with “words,” “sounds,” or “body language.” In fact, at the heart of speaking in tongues is simply “worship.” Worship that is not corporate, but deeply personal and intimate.

When we read the account of Pentecost where the Apostles were baptized by the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues, what is most important is not so much that they were “speaking in tongues” but that for the first time they were caught up in deeply personal worship, not simply for, but with the creator God and according to his will. This worship was unique to them personally and was not necessarily for the benefit of the group.

The gift of tongues is entirely about the personal celebration of God. While all Christians possess a deep joy in being Christian and being known by God, someone with the gift of tongues has a specific means by which to express that particular celebration of God. When the non-Christian world uses the phrase, “speaking in different tongues,” they do so to express the presence of different languages, accents or dialects. Thus, speaking in tongues is known by everyone, Christian and non-Christian, as a way of communicating that is uniquely understood by one group but not by another. The gift of tongues is similar within Christianity. For example, someone who has been gifted to compose music for the worship of God has a unique ability to craft melodies to produce a song that glorifies God.   While most people might not understand the process of songwriting, composition or musical theory, when hearing the final product in the music, it is clear that God is beautiful and beautifully good to us. Similarly, if a person finds true celebration of God in creating recipes that illustrate his provision and creativity in a delicious and beautifully nutritious meal, this also is a tongue that many people cannot understand the intricacies of, but can all come away worshiping the creator God as a result thereof.

While there are many who do speak in tongues, Scripture tells us that if traditional speaking of tongues does not express a celebration of God, then as Paul has said, it is simply the sound of an obnoxious cymbal.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Associating the gift of tongues with music or food might seem radical, but I believe that these unique abilities in all of us achieve the designed purpose of speaking in tongues in the first place. That purpose being the personal expression of personal celebration of God. Some people possess a unique quality, skill or even tongue that allows them to experience this deeply personal worship and in turn bring glory to God by sharing that gift with others, while never assuming that all must possess that gift in identical form.

 

Thursday Reflection: Why We Eat, Part 4

pen-and-paper_400x295_39This is the final installment in the Why We Eat series! For Parts 1-3, see here and here and here. 

This reflection is inspired by 1 Peter 2: 2-3.

Today we talk about Necessity.

Living in modern western society I am blessed with an abundance of provision.  Compared to the rest of the world I live extremely comfortably. My needs and wants are met on a daily basis.  Awareness of this fact does little to help me relate with the many living around the world in extreme poverty.  The number of individuals with little to no food to eat compared to those of us who always have enough food is horrifying.  Due to this unfair reality, I cannot fully understand what it means to be literally starving.

The word “starving,” used in the way that it is supposed to be used, describes, to me, one of the worst physical challenges.  I cannot imagine going without food for days, weeks or months.  I have heard of various accounts of people who have endured such hardships and the testimonials are painful in description alone. I pray that with each passing day we can see more people fed and fewer people dying of hunger, although the obstacles to this miraculous feeding of the millions remains stubborn and strong.

Although I cannot fully empathize with someone who has experienced hunger to this degree, and not to trivialize hunger in any way, I do know what it feels like to be hungry.  I do know what it feels like when your stomach begins to alert you that food is needed.  In this moment, it is difficult to think of much else.  At first, hunger is the deep pains of the abdomen.  Next, hunger inflicts headaches, weakness and perhaps dizziness.  The search for sustenance becomes a top priority, distracting you from any other task.  This is a state of physical emergency that is impossible not to acknowledge.

This prompts the question: do I really hunger for God?  Do I need God like I would need food in this situation?  Do I feel weak and without strength in his absence?  These questions can be humbling and convicting but are, nonetheless, vital to a Christian life of honesty and integrity.  Living a Christian life is not intermittent snacking out of boredom.  Neither is it one where we force feed out of respect for a host.  In the life of a disciple of Jesus, existence without him means death and existence with him means life.  It is that extreme.

There is a reason that Jesus compared himself to bread.  To the ancient world, bread meant more than fulfilling carbohydrates and plentiful calories as it does to the bread-loving world of today.  Bread, to the world that Jesus preached, symbolized “life.”  At the feeding of the 5000, Jesus says these words:

John 6:35

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus is telling us that to take part in a relationship with him is to be ultimately and completely satisfied.  To eat of this bread Jesus describes means to never feel in need and to never want to go without.  This understanding of the Gospel of Jesus leaves no room for Christianity lived on the foundation of boredom or politeness.  God does not want us to come to his altar just because.

“Just because” is void of thought, intention, and meaning.  God put all of those into his creation, and He knows what He desires.  God desires us. Quite simply, he desires that we desire him. True worship comes when that desire is met and reciprocated, when we feel our hunger for Him and Him alone.