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Tithing vs. Generosity

I’ve been mulling an idea around in my head for weeks but I’ve been REALLY spacey lately so I’m just getting around to putting it on…paper?

I’ve been thinking about tithing. The less money I have, the more I’ve thought about this. I’ve also found out that a surprising number of people don’t actually believe in tithing. So I looked into some verses. I think most people think of Abraham in the Old Testament when they think of tithes. In Genesis 14, Abraham tithed a 10th to Melchizedek. What I actually found is that there are numerous types of tithes in the OT. But once you move into the New Testament, tithing really isn’t mentioned (except a couple times by Jesus which we’ll go over.)

And here is where people split off in two directions. You can be in Camp A where tithing is just an OT thing and Jesus did away with it when he came, or you might be in Camp B which decides that since a common tithe in the OT was 10% that’s a good guideline to follow for life.

I think I’m going to have to pick Camp C unfortunately. What did you really expect? Hear me out:

Camp A has some serious flaws. Jesus did do away with several things when he came to earth. But he came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. (Matt. 5:17, Rom. 3:31) We don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore, but in Romans 12, we are commanded to offer ourselves as LIVING sacrifices. Also, Jesus does uphold the concept of tithing in Matthew 23:23-24 as he tells the Pharisees that they tithe but neglect to show justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He tells them that they ought to have done both. So I really have a hard time just throwing out tithing altogether simply because it’s not mentioned explicitly in the NT.

However, Camp B also has flaws. I would have a problem picking ONE of the tithes in the OT and declaring that that is the one we should all follow. I think if you add the OT tithes together you actually get about 23% of a household’s income so I’m not sure why we don’t use that figure? (Don’t bet your life on that math.)

My point really is this. The NT actually does say quite a bit about tithing but it doesn’t use that word. Is that really what is tripping people up? Besides all the times that Paul took up collections for the saints in various places, here are just three of the passages I found:

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” 2 Corinthians 8:1-7

“The point is this: 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. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Are you catching the drift here? I would contend that the NT is a huge proponent of giving BEYOND what you think you can afford. Now I’ll be totally honest, some weeks I look at my bank account and think, “Gee Lord, 10% seems like a WHOLE heck of a lot!” I get that! And other weeks I know I can do more. That what I love about that last passage. What you have decided in your heart. A question I ask myself a lot is, “Okay, I give regularly to my church, but am I giving generously??” That’s a challenge for myself and for you and you are going to have to decide what that looks like.

Another thing I’ve come across personally and I’ve discussed it with others is that sometimes it can be much more fun to give to things besides your church. Organizations that are good, you love, and you are passionate about. Oh, that’s a struggle for me. I think both are important but I cannot give to the organizations and neglect my church. I’ve heard the argument that you’ve been burned and now you don’t trust your church with your money and I would say that you first need to examine your heart and motivations for giving. Are you cheerfully giving or coming up with an excuse not to? And secondly, if you REALLY don’t trust your church financially, that’s a problem that you should address with your leadership.

I love that the believers in Macedonia gave beyond their means and begged Paul to take it for the saints. What a precious blessing that must have been for them! And what a great example for us.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in church, uncategorized

 

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Loving Christ’s Bride

Church can be a lonely place for some people. I would argue that church can be especially lonely for a single person. Even a simple thing like, “Where should I sit today?” is a stark reminder that you are by yourself in the huge sanctuary. (I just attach myself to a family 🙂 )

Sometimes though, I think we make it lonelier than it should be because we aren’t obeying God’s Word. Clear as mud? When I moved to Ohio and switched churches, it was kind of lonely. I’m by myself out here in a church where basically everyone else is related to someone else in the church. No kidding. And to be clear, I’m a faithful church-goer. Sundays and Wednesdays and small group. So what was missing? It hit me this week.

It seems to me that the trend in church talk is all about “connection” and being “plugged-in” but there’s a lot of people that certainly don’t feel plugged-in. Churches want to make sure you are at service and in a small group. But not as much is said about serving. And I really think that is the key. THAT is how you get to know your church on a deep level. Maybe it’s not always fun but it’s worth it in so many ways!

Let me give you an example: I’m on the Outreach Committee at my church. It’s something I’m passionate about. If you’ve heard me talk about it recently though, you probably heard some complaining out of me. Why? We had a big event that we planned for last weekend. And we planned it in a very short amount of time so it took a lot of communication, most of which happens over text. I don’t have service at work so all of my texts come in as I drive home. Text after text after text. My record JUST FROM THE COMMITTEE is 49. It was a little bit overwhelming. Whine, Whine, Whine.

So the event came and it went really well, if I do say so myself! But looking back, do you want to know what the biggest blessing was? All that dang communication beforehand! I literally cannot believe I just said that! But seriously, THAT’S where I got to see the hearts of the people I was serving with, where I learned to love them more, and where our unity grew. And out of that grew a deeper love for the body of Christ and our Lord himself.

What a beautiful thing! What a blessing serving your church really is. So I would encourage you that if you are feeling a little lonely at church, yes, make sure you are going to service and small group. But also, SERVE.

You don’t want to miss out on it.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2019 in church

 

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Pressuring Missionaries

Almost every week at my church we have what we call a Ministry Minute. They can be about all sorts of things like missionary updates, outreach opportunities, community events we are helping with, etc. It’s to make sure everyone is aware of what is going on and how they can be involved. But recently we’ve started doing something really cool: we’ve been able to Skype our overseas missionaries during that time and get their updates directly from them. It’s super neat. Way to go, Tech Team!

A couple of Sundays ago, we were Skyping a couple in Spain (ok, just how awesome is that?) and a thought occurred to me as they were telling us ways that God was working through them.

We expect a lot from our missionaries. I was sitting listening with this huge smile on my face and suddenly I felt how much pressure these people must feel from us. (My smile probably whipped right off as I worked this out in my head.)

But think about it. Missionaries come back to the States to either raise support or they may be on a break but everyone everywhere wants to know what God is doing and how he’s working. You know what? What if they are in a spiritual desert?? What if they feel like they are preaching to stones and NO ONE is responding? Would they feel like they could be honest with us?

Also, do we ask people in our own church those questions with the same earnestness? Do you want to know what the Lord is doing in your friends’ lives just as much or are you only interested in the far away?

I’ve been thinking this over and been feeling a little bit more compassionate towards the missionaries I know this week. The more I thought about it, I realized it really applies to anyone working in ministry! They aren’t Jesus. They are people who need to be loved and encouraged just as much as you and I and are often far away from everyone they know. Maybe pray a little more for them as Christmas comes next week.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2018 in church

 

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A House of Prayer

I had a new revelation at church this week. Cue the flashing lights and trumpets! Everyone leans forward in their chairs! Because, as we all know, everyone wants to learn about new stuff! But what I actually mean is, God did NOT reveal something other than his Word to me, he revealed something about his Word as it relates to my life. Sorry to disappoint. 🙂

Anyway, the past few weeks, I have felt really BUSY at church. My brain has felt scattered and cluttered, filled with things I need to do while I’m there. I usually walk to church and on that short walk, my mind starts coming up with people I need to talk to when I’m at church and I start planning how I’m going to fit it all in. For instance, this Sunday alone, I had 4 people I needed to talk to about different ministry things, I needed to connect with the other Young Adult leader about some things, I’m the secretary of a committee and needed to confirm a meeting for this Wednesday, AND I had a meeting right after service. It’s a lot to fit in if you count trying to find all the people and talking with everyone else you bump into.

And the problem is, IT’S ALL GOOD STUFF. And it all does need to get done. But by the end of church I was frustrated because first of all, my list wasn’t complete, and secondly, there were other people that were hurting at church and my heart WANTED to talk with those people but because of my “to-do list”, I didn’t have time.

And that’s when my focus cleared up. Verses from Matthew and Mark quickly popped into my head and I realized that I had made church a place of business instead of keeping it a place of worship and prayer. Once my “have-to” stuff became more important than ministering to those that needed it, God quickly convicted my heart. And I’m so thankful he did!

I also realized that there was absolutely no need for those things to be done on Sunday. In my mind, I just always say, “Oh, I’ll see them at church and talk to them then.” BUT I DON’T NEED TO! Why in the world do I have phone calls, texts, and emails if I’m not going to use them?? I don’t NEED to push everything to Sunday because it can be done before then. What I need to do is restructure my mind to think this way and diligently plan ahead of time.

Ok, so maybe this wasn’t a new revelation for you at all. But it was for me. And now I have a list of things to do before Sunday gets here. I’m sure things will still pop up on Sundays but that’s ok. I’m praying my mind and heart will be able to focus a little bit more on the reason I go to church this coming week.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2018 in church

 

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What I Wish MY Church Knew About ME

In case you didn’t think memory loss was real, I’ve had this paper sitting on my desk for about a month now with blog ideas scribbled on it so that I wouldn’t forget them. I purposefully left it there to remind me to write a post. And what do you know today I sit down to write and behold, my paper (okay, to be honest, it was a prayer sheet from church…but hey…I have to write on whatever I find at the time…) was gone! I looked all over for it and then remembered that I cleaned off that area earlier this week and could I possibly have thrown it away?? Noooooo…surely not. So I went to my bedroom trash can and looked through it but no old prayer sheet. 😦 And I can’t search my main trash can because I did some crafting this morning and there is glitter and modge podge in there and EVERYONE knows you can’t open that back up.

All that to say this is pretty much the only post I remember from the list and I’m still waiting for the others to come back to my brain so this is what ya get today!

It has come to my attention that Sunday is usually the hardest day of the week for me and almost no one at my church knows it. It’s my fault. I’m really good at putting on a fake face, so good that I fool myself sometimes. I’m still learning to be more open with people. I know I need to work on it.

Sundays are hard because they require a lot of energy. Mental, spiritual, and emotional energy. There’s also pressure to be “put together and cheerful” although there shouldn’t be.

Sunday School starts at 9am. I walk to church (duh) which I love to do. Don’t get me wrong- I am surrounded (literally) by people who go to my church and would gladly give me a ride but I like the 11 minute walk there. If it’s raining, that’s another story lol. SS is great because it’s more interactive than church. But it requires more thinking and concentration- first energy drainer.

There is a half hour in between SS and worship to fellowship. My heart really likes that time because I get to talk with people and find out how they are doing. But sometimes it can be really hard, if I’m feeling lonely or tired, it’s hard to put myself out there and engage others- second energy drainer.

Worship is my favorite time because as stated before, I LOVE music! I wouldn’t trade the singing time for anything. But I also said before that the noise hurts my head most days. A lot of Sundays I think to myself, “Which would you prefer, Lord? Do you want me to stand up and be silent or would you like me to sit and actually sing? Because I’m not sure I have the energy to both stand AND sing right now.” -third energy drainer.

By this time, I’ve actually made it to the sermon. I will listen as much as I can but I won’t be able to tell you what it was about later. For instance, I can tell you my Pastor right now is preaching out of Titus on elder qualifications because we are in the middle of a pastor search but probably anyone who follows our Facebook page could say the same thing. Pretty sad, huh? Once in a while, something particular will catch my attention and will stick but not often. And taking notes actually makes it worse as weird as that sounds. I usually remember more from SS because of the interactive nature of that setting than from the sermon- fourth energy drainer.

And then I will walk home (or sometimes get a ride) to fall asleep on my couch for a while. Later that night, I’ll either go to small group or Sunday night church- fifth energy drainer.

You might be asking: why do you go if it’s so hard? I’ve asked myself that too sometimes and occasionally I need to leave early to give my brain a break. But it’s worth it. It’s worth it to fellowship with my brothers and sisters, to worship our Lord together, and to learn more about Him. My struggle is infinitely less than what he went through for me and he still counted the cost and thought it was worth it. What a good God!

But if you see me dazed or sleepy on a Sunday or doing something unusual (like the fact that I usually take off my shoes during the service lol…) come ask me about it and I’ll gladly explain.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2018 in church

 

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What I Wish the Church Knew About Singles

Disclaimer: Everything you are about to read is going to be highly biased. I’m not kidding myself- I know that very well. I know that I’m basing all of this on my own experiences and on the experiences of others in my church. Your experience may be totally and completely different. Feel free to dump my opinion in the garbage if you don’t think it’s true. 🙂 Also there has been such a long break between posts because of how much thinking and praying went into this post.

My family would probably call me a sneaky or snoopy person. I prefer the word observant. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had the ability to somehow…um…gain information that no one else had. For instance, Mom and Dad would be planning a secret family vacation and somehow, I would be the only kid who would knew where we were going. Accused often of eavesdropping (probably true), I like to think that I just happened to overhear things that no one else did. On top of that, I love to people watch. Sit me in a coffee shop and I’m a creeper- extraordinaire. I watch what people do, but more than that, I watch their facial and body expressions. Yup, creepy, right?

So over the last few years, I have gained some knowledge in the area of singles in the church. Not only by being one, but by watching others. And I’m here to share that knowledge with you all. This is not a desperate cry for HELP! nor is it a guilt trip for the church. I’m not trying to sound petty or sarcastic, although it may come across that way at times. Please take it as a friendly post from a friendly person. Here goes:

  1.  Singles are not scary human beings. This may seem like an odd thing to say but I have a reason. I think it’s pretty “stereotypical” for singles to complain about being left out of things at church. I also think that hospitality is one of the least taught on commands in Scripture. Let me say this: It is VERY rare for a single person to get an invitation to a family’s house for dinner. I think people feel awkward inviting just one person over. But several times I have seen it happen that as soon as there’s a couple, it’s easier for others to invite them. But the Bible commands hospitality to all, even strangers. Not just those you are comfortable with.
  2. Singles LOVE kids! This is along the lines of the last one. Most of the singles I know in my church love to be around kids. I asked for advice when writing this post and my best friend said that even to be invited over to a family’s house with the parent’s still there (AKA, not always to babysit) and just to hang out with the family. She mentioned reading stories to the kids and playing with them. Just being a part of the family.
  3. We are busy people too. This one might get a lot of “but, but, buts” coming from people. I’m saying it with a grain of salt so take it that way. Listen, we ALL have the same 24 hours in our day and we ALL choose what to do with those hours. After work, singles can choose whether they will stay home and watch Netflix, just like parents can choose how many sports their kids will participate in. Sometimes there is an assumption that if you are single, then you MUST have an abundance of extra time on your hands and you absolutely must be using that to serve or you don’t love Jesus. Now there is some truth that we don’t have a family and kids to take care of but there are singles I know that are some of the busiest people and it IS with serving! Yet they are always expected to do more because they are single.
  4. Singles are adults. I hear a lot of unhelpful/untrue statements from married people. Things like, “It’s such a shame that some guy hasn’t snatched you up yet” or “You’re going to make a wonderful wife” or “God has the right guy out there for you.” These statements give us the idea that singleness is just a transition state and actually lend towards discontentment. Also, you do not know whether a person will get married or not. It’s not up to you! Please leave the matchmaking to God and treat singles as full adults, instead of something hanging in between teens and married adults.
  5. Singles know we don’t know everything. After reading this post, you may be thinking, “You sure don’t!” Haha that’s ok. I know it. I’m thinking of one area in particular. A lot of times when you hear singles talk about marriage, if a married person is around, you will almost surely hear them pipe up, “Hey! It’s not all it’s cracked up to be!” Or something along those lines. First off, thank you for making God’s covenant design look soooo appealing. -_- Secondly, we aren’t 12 anymore. We have real expectations of marriage. We don’t expect Disney marriages. We know that marriages happen between two sinners and there are bad days, months, even years. We know that there are dishes to do, toilets to clean, bills to pay. And that’s not even adding kids into it! We know that getting married is complicated. But think back to when you were single…did you desire to be married then? Please realize that YOU are our example of Christ’s union with the church and we need good examples. They are few and far between. Actually, my best friend and I tried to think of some really good marriages (knowing that it’s only what we see from the outside) that we would look at and say, “Yeah, I would want my marriage to look like that.” We thought for a looonngg time and barely came up with two out of all the couples we knew. Please remember that none of us know everything and we can all learn from each other.

If you made it this far, congrats and thank you. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time as I watch the singles I know and I observe my own heart. By God’s grace, I’m praying we all grow closer to each other as we get closer to Christ. Feel free to comment below with any thoughts you have.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2018 in church

 

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What is Church Membership?

My Young Adult group at church has been reading this book and it got all of us thinking: what does it really mean to be a church member? Is it filling out some forms and saying your testimony before a congregation? Is it showing up on Sundays and Wednesdays (maybe) to be fed with God’s Word? Does it mean you have to serve in the nursery once in a while or teach a Sunday School class every so often? What exactly is it? And what ISN’T it?

As we studied, it became very apparent that most people, including us, come to church to get something. We come to be fed. We come to be nurtured and encouraged. We come to be served, whether that’s by those doing worship, providing childcare, or even holding doors. And we have come to expect those things. In some ways, this is appropriate. The church SHOULD be providing for the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of those who come in. The congregation should leave feeling encouraged and cared for.

Are you ready for the kicker? YOU ARE THE CHURCH, PEOPLE!! You! You are the person who is called to care for the person sitting next to you during service. You are the person who should strive to encourage others and make them feel truly cared for and to ask how their spiritual life is going. YOU! It’s not up to the church leaders. We have gotten so used to saying, “Well, if the church would only do this….” that we have forgotten that WE are that “church.”

What if, instead of coming to church expecting to GET something out of the service or out of worship…we came with the mindset of…”How can I GIVE to my church today?” How can I serve my church? How can I feed my church? What does that look like in real life?

Our group has been learning a lot lately about what it means to truly love each other and how to care for the church. As I have been challenged, I would also challenge you to look at your own heart: do you go to church to get or to give? How can you better serve Christ at your church?

This might be a daily mindset struggle (it is for me sometimes!), but I think in the end our churches will reflect the character of Christ so much clearer and this verse would actually become a reality:

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in church

 

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