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Those Dollar Bills

For whatever reason the topic of tithing has come up on several occasions recently. Since it kept coming up I decided to take some time to think about the topic of tithing. If there was ever a touchy subject it would involve money. So much of our lives in centered around money. We humans fight over it. We worry about it. We horde it to save for the future. Many of us love money and idolize wealth. Similar God has a lot to say about money. It is discussed many times in the Old Testament and New Testament. Money is a issue for us all. For we cannot escape the topic.

Traditionally tithing is the act of giving 10% of our income to God, ie the body of Christ. There are numerous scriptures in the Bible that discuss giving 10% of our income to the church. This has brought the question in me of why? Why do we tithe? Well obviously the church needs money to be able to do God’s work and they have to be able to get money somehow. That is the obvious answer but I believe tithing goes much deeper than just giving money to the church because they need it. For tithing is not just a gift to the church it is a gift to us the givers.

My 2 little dogs like bones. They chew on them. They attempt to bury them. They hide them for later use. The bone is there treasure. Similar they dislike sharing the bone. But what if my dog Coco decided to bring the bone to me. What if he entrusted me to keep the bone for him. He would be acting in faith that I would be a good care taker, user and keeper of his bone. I would like to think this is what tithing is for us. By giving 10% of our income we are saying God I trust you. It is an act of faith that despite the loss of that 10% he will provide the means for our survival. It is an act of submission to God our lord. It is an act of obedience. And I would go as far to say if you are not willing to give 10% of your income to the church that you are worshiping money rather than God. For tithing is a act we take to show our worship is to God rather than money.

So to me tithing is not really about the money. It is about trust, faith and submission to God. It is a simple act with big consequences and it is not just about giving money because the church needs it. It is just as much about the state of our hearts and souls as it is about the money. Are you tithing? If not I question your faith.

The Church Is Not a Building

As much as I am saddened by the effects of this pandemic on the world I have to say I am excited to see people more vocal about the church not being a building. I guess this has been a pet peeve of mine for many many years. The rebel in me has been ranting to people for years about the church not being a building. I think I gave a 15 min speech to one of my doctors and fellow patients during a group therapy session while in a mental institution on this topic. It was rather animated speech although I was in a mental institution at the time so there was that but all the same. The church is the people. We are the church. Never has that been more evident then right now where the church is finding new ways to connect, gather electronically and teach through different media. It makes my heart leap inside. I guess we are being connected through electronic virtual means rather than a physical building. Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit inside us that connects us despite our location.

I did not grow up going to a traditional church. I used to say the gymnastics gym I trained was my church because it was the only source of Christian fellowship, worship and teaching I had access. After graduating from high school I started attending church regularly. I attended regularly until several years ago. I went 3 years where I only went to the church building less than a handful of times. There were a number of reasons for this. But the short answer is going to church was causing me anxiety, panic attacks, was overall stressful and I was getting nothing positive out of the experience. I was exhausted and in prayer I felt like the lord reminded me that what was most important in this season was for me to rest in him. I had few days off from work so I took my sabbath at home. Although I did not attend the church building I would not say I was not a part of the body of Christ. For Jesus said…

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Through my 3 years of not attending church it made me do a lot of soul searching regarding the meaning of church, why we go to church and why we should attend. I had to do a lot of prayer and thinking about the topic. Why should I go to church when I have other means of fellowshipping, serving, worshiping, learning, etc? If I can listen to sermon online why go to a physical building? Of course right now we all have a mandate to stay home but what about when things are back to normal? Why should I go to the church building? Similarly going to a church building is not what saves us, Jesus is our means of salvation. As an introvert, contact with people is needed in small doses but it is overall draining. If I am only thinking about my own needs, quiet time at home is more beneficial and restful to me than attending church.

I have wrestled with these questions. I would say I am still wresting with these questions particularly right now when I am in a season of change and uncertainty. But for me I believe I need to go to church because it is a place I can serve the body of Christ. It is a place I can love the body of Christ. It is a place I can help others through there own journey with God. But mostly my gifting given by God will not be fully utilized to build God’s kingdom if I am not at church using the gift. I do not go to church for the music. I can do that at home. I do not go for the sermon. I can listen at home. I do not go for the prayer because I can text others to pray for me. I do not go to tithe because I can tithe online. But there is something that can only happen in person, the interaction and rubbing of each other to facilitate growth only occurs with in person contact. Similarly the gifts God has given us take us meeting together. Life is found with the body of Christ gathering together. So why do we need a building? The only reason I say we need a building is for shelter and physical needs. We need a place to meet and most people do not like going to the bathroom in the bushes.

We as God’s people are the church. The church is not a building. But God also designed us to gather together so that our different skills and gifts are used to build up the body of Christ. We do not need a building for this but it is nice to have shelter from the rain and a bathroom to use. We are the church and I pray God will gift my current church home it’s own building in God’s perfect timing. I went 3 years without attending church and I am glad to say that I WANT to attend again. I have not had a panic attacks or severe anxiety at church in awhile. So as much as I am excited to see people vocal about the church not being a building I look forward to the days we will all meet in person again.

He Is The Source

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:5-8

So often we face difficulties in life or experience something new we have never encountered before. It makes us pause. I normally have the response of, “what in the world am I supposed to do with this?” Typically I am in a little bit of freak out mode inside myself. We are in a time where the entire world is doing just this. Freaking out because we are experiencing something we are not accustomed to. This pandemic is a large event but even within our individual lives we often face circumstances that makes us look around for help because we do not know what to do. It is a situation that is something we have not experienced before and we are at a loss of what to do. I personally like to set rules for myself as a way of self protection so when I come across something that does not fit into any of my rules I start to freak out. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THIS?

It is in these times that we should be seeking the lord and asking for wisdom. For it is the wisdom from God that will navigate us through the unknown. God promises wisdom when we ask with faith and no doubting. We humans like to turn to many things for wisdom. We turn to other people who are experts in the area we are struggling. We turn to mentors and friends. We turn to the Bible. We turn to media. We turn to books and research. We turn to a variety of things for wisdom. Similarly it can be difficult to navigate because these different source may be giving you conflicting information. So which is correct? Who do we believe? What do we follow? Which wisdom is from God?

But my personal belief is that all true and good wisdom is a gift from God. God is the ultimate source of wisdom. But similarly there are many things out there that are not good sources. Therefore it is difficult to filter through all the information.

So next time you are in need of wisdom, before you start looking to other sources, look to God. Ask in prayer for him to provide his wisdom and to show you what sources are good sources of information. Ask in faith and do not doubt his provision of wisdom. For God is the true source of all wisdom and everything else is just trash.

Trials and Temptations

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” James 1:12-18

Oh how we all battle temptations and trials. So often we are just like Eve in the garden of eden. God said do not eat that fruit but then Eve takes the fruit regardless. So both Adam and Eve sin. We follow the same cycle in our daily lives. We get tempted and deceived by our eyes. We take the fruit we are not supposed to eat and we take a bite regardless. We fall. We sin. We die. But then we are given new life through Jesus’s death for us. We are given a new opportunity to live again. Hopefully we learn from our past mistakes so this time we run like crazy from that fruit.

When Satan tempts us with the fruit instead of taking the fruit we toss it out the window. We then run for the hills. It is better to be exhausted from running from temptation then to be dead. Plus Jesus will sustain us as long as we are running toward him. It’s when we stop our running that we have to be carful to not get caught in a trap.

We all as humans have temptations. But different people have different temptation. One way of running from your temptations is to know your temptations so that you can better recognize something creeping up on you. So what are your temptations? What strategies do you have in place to first recognize your temptation, second throw it out the window and third run from it? If you do not know the answer to these questions pastoral care can be helpful.

Have You Taken The Dip of Faith?

I think it interesting to talk to people about whether they are a Christian. In the US we have so many people these days that identify as Christian. I have done much thought over the years about what defines Christianity and what defines someone as being a Christian or not. Ultimately I am not the judge, God is. But I also find it interesting when you ask if someone is a Christian and they say yes. I believe in Jesus and I pray. Ok great. Have you been baptized? No. Hmmm. This makes me scratch my head. If you claim Christianity. If you claim faith in Jesus. Why have you not been baptized? Baptism is one of the greatest steps of faith we can make. If you are not willing to be baptized I question your faith. Why are you not taking the act of faith Jesus commands us as Christians to take? Do you claim Jesus? If so, have you been baptized? If not, why not take a step of faith.

“And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” Acts 22:16

The Practice of Patience

If there was ever a time to discuss patience it would be now. We are in a season of social distancing, quarantine and our lives have all taken an unexpected turn. Similarly we do not have a end date. We do not know the future. We do not know when we will resume our prior lives. If there was ever a time for us to practice patience it is now.

We all like to make plans. Most people would say that it is a good idea to have a plan. For having plans helps us stay on track and accomplish the necessary tasks in life. Walking through life with no direction and no plan is a bit chaotic. We as humans instinctively make plans for the future. I do not think this wrong or bad per se but we should always keep in mind our plans are the product of us humans. We humans do not know what the future will bring. It is in this uncertainty that we should be turning our eyes to God and asking for his plans and will to be done. God very much knows the future. But we can make Jesus our plan. We can abide in Jesus so that we are part of God’s plan.

For people like me who prefer to do be doing something, prefer to be active and are the opposite extreme of lazy the mandate to wait and be patient is not something I like doing. The only times I have sat on my butt not doing anything have been when I was to sick or to injured to get up and do something. Even when I have been sick and injured I have been known to almost crawl in an attempt to be doing something. Patience has never been my greatest virtue. Similarly it is hard to be patient when you do not have an end in sight. How can we be patient when we have no idea what the future will hold? How do we be expectant when we do not know what to expect?

But we as Christians may not know the time but we do know the end result. We do not know when but we do know what to expect. We do have an end in sight. Jesus is the means to that end. We have the promise of eternity. We have the promise of being with our Heavenly Father. We have the promise of a new body not affected by the illness of this life. We have a promise of freedom from sin and suffering. We may not know the time. We may not know when but we should know what to expect. This is something worth being patient for. But similarly we know that until the time our father calls us home we should expect difficulty, illness, struggle and suffering. For just as Christ suffer we to suffer. But we do not suffer in vain for the promise of eternity with God is worth being patient and enduring. Amen

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.” James 6:7-12

Our Worldliness Is the Problem

My two littles dogs love each other very much. They are two peas in a pod for the most part. Most of the time they are snuggling with each other. But they also fight. Sometimes it is just play fighting but on occasion things can get heated between them. There fighting is no longer play it is full blown real. I think it interesting to note the cause of the REAL fighting. For it almost always is caused by something. Normally it is a fight over food, a bone, a chew toy or even my affections. But I have never seen them have a real fight over anything other than a worldly desire/things. We humans are not that different from my two dogs. When it comes to close interpersonal relationships most of our fight/quarrels are over things of this world that don’t really even matter. My two dogs fight over the food when in reality there is plenty of food for both of them. They fight over a bone when in reality there are 2 bones. They fight over a toy when in reality they should be playing with the toy together. They fight over my affections but I have two hands to pet each of them at the same time.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battlewithin you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:1-12

I am guilty of being just like my two dogs and just like the person this scripture is talking about. So what is the answer. We submit ourselves to the lord. We humble ourselves before him. We speak blessing, truth and love into our brother and sister. We leave our worldliness behind us so that we can put to death our flesh and walk in the spirit. But it starts with humble submission to the lord. If we all did this maybe we would have less fighting. There would be less quarrels. We would be more united as a body of Christ.

So would you join me today. Would you kneel down before the all mighty God. Would you humble yourself before him as a sinner in need of grace and mercy. Would you ask for his forgiveness. And would you submit all you are to him. Then would you stand up and be united with the body of Christ. No fighting and no quarreling. But as one body with a mind and heart like Christ that we can be united to make God’s name exalted on high. Amen.