Sacrificial Giving

What do you believe about giving and worship? For the past few weeks, I have been talking about different perspectives on worship. No discussion of worship is complete without also approaching the topic of tithes and offerings.

In 2 Samuel 24 King David followed God’s command to set up an alter on the property of a man named Araunah. When he arrived the man offered to give David everything necessary for the act of worship, in response to this offer David said “I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

This statement helps to illustrate that worship should include some personal cost. In Old Testament worship that would likely include sacrificing some of the best of the worshipper’s produce and flocks. In our world the sacrifice of worship is most often in the form of our tithes and offerings. Many people have a hard time with the concept of tithing because they find it easy to associate the idea with funding the church, rather than as an act of worshipping God. It is true that the given money will be used in this manner, but this doesn’t detract from its worshipfulness.

As I have discussed worship over the past few weeks, I have defined worship as the expression of our relationship with God. The primary component of this relationship is our trust in God, this trust is more commonly called faith. Sacrifice expresses trust because we are giving up what we would trust in, instead of God. In the Old Testament they were tempted to trust in their own abilities to raise herds and grow crops. In the church age we are tempted to trust in our own ability to make a paycheck.

In both cases it is noteworthy how the guidelines on what we give is just enough that we cannot follow through unless we trust His provision. A lot of people don’t tithe, dismissing the idea with the statement, I can’t afford to. What they are saying is they don’t believe they can meet their financial obligations without that money. It is clear evidence they are not trusting God’s provision but instead are looking only to themselves to meet their financial needs. But the person who does tithe often says they cannot afford to stop tithing. This person will look at it that God’s provision is empowered by their giving. It is often phrased this way, God stretches the 90% so that it covers more of the bills than the 100% did.

When the worshipper experiences God’s provision, the relationship is strengthened. Every act of obedience strengthens this relationship, and every act of obedience is worshipful in this sense. Tithing is an important ingredient in the individual’s obedience to God, their spiritual growth and their worship.

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Universal Church

Several months back at a men’s Bible study the speaker in a video referenced the universal church. Specifically he said people often use the concept of the universal church as a chance to cop out on their responsibility to a local church.

This confused some of the men who were unfamiliar with the term, so today let me define and talk briefly about the local church and the universal church.

The universal church is a term used to describe all the saved of all the ages. The only time and place the universal church will be gathered is in heaven, in eternity. Until then the universal church is a term used to define all of Christiandom, around the world and through all time.  While this is not a Biblical term, it is useful to allow us to define the large group of Christianity.

It’s natural to wrestle a little bit with who is in the universal church, but that is actually the soteriological question. The question of who is saved. For now suffice it to say, the concept should keep you aware Christianity is not limited to one church, denomination or tradition. Neither does it extend to anyone who calls themselves Christian. So everyone fitting God’s definition of Christian is a part of the universal church.

The speaker in the aforementioned video was pointing out he knew people who joined no local church because they felt it was unnecessary since they already belonged to the universal church. He encouraged a refocussing on the local church but if it had been me, I would have gone even further.

Remember the term universal church is not in the Bible, but the word defining a local church is very commonly used.  Simplifying what could be a very long discussion, the reason why is not because God doesn’t care about the universal church, but because His method of growing the universal church is by growing local churches.

Every purpose God has for his people is expressed through a local congregation. Discipleship, happens in a faithful relationship with a group of other believers. Worship, while it can be a solo event, is Scripturally described as a congregational activity. Missions, happens when a group committed to the same goals all pull together. Evangelism is seeking an individual decision, but evangelism is a failure when the new believer is not linked to a congregation for growth.

I am a strong believer in the local church. I define it as a group of Christians who have thrown in their lives together for the purpose of serving God.  This commitment made to one another is in the form of membership, and membership is also a confession by the person they believe as we do, at least on the most important issues. When a church begins to chip away at the membership commitment they will eventually find their people don’t have unity of belief or direction.

I believe once a person makes a commitment to a local church they have responsibilities there. Churches where the members are absent or lax will be weakened. Let me finish today by encouraging anyone who happens to read this, be committed to your local church and see it as your God designed avenue for serving the greater kingdom.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

This is an American wigeon. It is a dappling duck which is found through much of the West, and sometimes beyond. Dappling is a word for the ducks which tip up and feed by pulling up the shoots and aquatic vegetation found in shallow water.

One of the noticeable features of this duck is the shorter bill. This allows it to have greater leverage than other dabbling ducks and therefore it can get to food they will miss. This difference also makes it more capable of grazing on land, so occasionally they will leave the water and uproot plants on the ground.

These capabilities allow it to fit a specific niche in God’s design. Different creatures feed in different ways. If they all followed the same feeding patterns the world would be considerably less diverse, as well as unable to support itself. Food sources would run out and all the creatures would die. But God’s plan was for different animals to feed on different things, allowing for a self-perpetuating cycle. Diversity allows for survival better than a lack of diversity.

In the Christian church we have a similar circumstance with Spiritual gifts. God designed different believer’s with different capabilities. The diversity of gifts in the church allows the church to function by allowing different persons with to serve the church in different ways.

One of the things every believer should do along the way to maturity is to consider how they were designed as individuals to accomplish their part in building up their church. This includes personality, experience, passion, and giftedness.

When considering Spiritual gifts we often think first of 1 Corinthians 12, but another passage worth considering is 1 Peter 4:10 (HCSB) “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.”