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  • Sep11Tue

    How's Your Serve?

    September 11, 2018

    I’ll never forget the time Sharon and I were on staff at a camp all summer as the program directors and getting challenged to give at the end of our ministry there.   One of the board of directors stood up and spoke to us from Malachi 3:10 and challenged us not to rob God with our tithes and offerings.  I was thinking to myself...tithes and offerings, I haven’t even seen any form of pay yet!  The fact was that we were basically working for peanuts and I needed every last cent to put towards going to Seminary that Fall.  Anyways, the whole presentation really didn’t sit well with me, but God would do an overhaul on my attitude over the next 12 hours.  I’ll get back to that story later.

     

    Galatians chapter 6 presents us with the opportunity to get involved in the lives of others in a meaningful way.

     

    Others, it is all about others in the New Testament, from love each other, pray with each other, build each other up, offer hospitality to each other.  It is in moving away from self to others that we discover true freedom.  Spirit-led believers are wired to minister to each other.  We were designed to grow in community with a sense of togetherness never in isolation.  We are called to restore each other when we sin instead of being on the judgment squad saying “What is wrong with them, how could they do something like that?”  Paul quickly calls us back to our own sense of vulnerability and the realization but for the grace of God, go I. 

    Paul always brought his theology down to earth. And so it is with this last chapter and all last chapters of his letters: Paul deals with practical, everyday concerns and questions that the people were asking.

    This chapter comes off like a  “Dear Abby. Dear Paul.” I will walk through the last chapter of Galatians, issue by issue, concern by concern. The message will be in the form of a “Dear Paul Column.”

    Column 1  Questions on Restoring Relationships  v1-5

    Dear Paul. We have this person who is a friend and part of our church. He has been doing some things that we feel are wrong, and yet we are afraid to talk to him about it. We are afraid to say anything unless we offend and hurt our friendship. Do you have any advice? Signed, Concerned Friends.”

    “Dear Concerned, (I will use the New English Bible version for Paul’s responses)  If a person should do something wrong on a sudden impulse, the people who are wise and mature in Spirit must set the offending person right again, but very gently. And look to yourself, each one of you. You too may be tempted. Bear each others burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

    As Christians, are always confronted with others around us who we feel are doing something contrary to the will of God, and we are afraid to say anything about it. We are safely silent with our adult children, close friends, parents. We have learned to keep our mouths shut or choose the “bystander effect”.  We don’t want to be nosey; we don’t want to be pushy; we don’t want to give advice when it is not asked for; we don’t want to appear to think we are better than they are; we don’t want to strain our friendship with them; we don’t want to make it “testy” between us. Or maybe we are plain timid or chicken or gutless.  And so for a whole variety of legitimate reasons, most of us are reluctant to tell another person our honest feelings about what they are doing.  And so we silently watch each other. We silent watch a man have very little time for his wife because he is too absorbed in his work. We silently watch a woman become so preoccupied with her job that she doesn’t have time to mother. We silently watch children acting rudely to their parents, We silently watch a friend drink too much and become consumed by alcohol. We silently watch a friend consistently lose their temper.

    And in almost all of these situations, we say nothing. There is a certain stigma: don’t get involved; don’t push your way into another person’s problems; don’t say anything personally negative to another person if you value that person’s friendship. The social guidelines are not only firm; they are rigid.

    Because of this stigma, nobody expects honesty or gives honesty.  And it is a shame, and the really unfortunate thing is that most find it just easier to talk about people behind their back.  “Did you see how he grabbed his kid’s arm” or, “Did you see their facebook post?”

    How unfortunate. How unfortunate that honest, wise advice from loving people cannot be given, weighed in on and considered. 

    Be a weight-lifter -  as I mentioned with the children and at the very least a spotter.  Have wisdom, have courage and speak the truth in love. 

    Paul counsels: “If you do speak to others, be very gentle. If you do speak to others, be humble, don’t be self righteous, being very aware that you too fall short of the glory of God and succumb to temptations. If you do speak to others, it takes maturity to gently reprove another person. It takes a combination of kindness, love and insight, blended with wisdom, to speak a wise correcting word to a friend.

    I remember leading a missions team to Bolivia and one of the first things we did in our training time with the missionaries there was follow through on the Matthew 18 principle before we had communion.  Often when we prepare for communion we think of approaching maybe someone that we have sinned against but the principle we followed through on was to approach those who sinned against us.  It is a lot easier just to pray God forgive them, then for us to approach them.  It is something that is done with prayer and done very slowly, carefully and thoughtfully. After we addressed each other in that way, it really led to a deeper sense of understanding.  It also paved the way for a real impact as we ministered together there.

    In Matthew 23:4, it shares how the  Pharisees tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”  It was all about keeping up appearances and a legalist is always harder on others than he is on himself.  He is more interested in exposing others than in restoring them.  And this is the difference between a legalist and a gracer (a Spirit-led Christian), it demands more of oneself so that you might be able to help others. 

    Here is another letter. “Dear Paul. We have this person who is really full of themselves. She love to tell how good she is. She is also critical of others and pulls them down as if to constantly compare herself to others. She is hard to be around because she is always putting us down and building herself up. Signed. Getting Tired of It.” …

     “Dear Getting Tired of It. If a person imagines himself or herself to be a somebody, when he or she is nothing; that person is deluding himself. Each person should examine his own conduct for himself. Then he can measure his achievement by comparing himself with himself and not with anybody else.”

    We are all aware of this tendency in ourselves to compare ourselves to other people. It happens all the time, when we measure ourselves against people.  It so easy to do, people just are driven to compare, compare clothes, compare cars, compare homes, spouses, children, you name it and then we either walk around depressed because we are not good enough or we walk around

    And really it is a foolish game to compare ourselves to others and yet that is what the.  The competitive edge that we need to bring to the table is our commitment to carry each other’s burdens. Christ is the power who sets us free from the need to elevate ourselves, thinking we are better or more worthy than others; that we are more superior. Christ is the personal spiritual power who sets us free from feelings of inferiority; that we are not as valuable as so and so who has the big bank account, the big brains, the big house, the big car, the big job. Christ is the indwelling presence of God who frees us from all that nonsense about superiority and inferiority, allowing all classes and grades and types and styles of people to be friends and love one another.

    The hidden tragedy of this whole disease of comparing one’s self to another (superiority complex, I am better than others; inferiority complex, I am worse than others) is that a person is not free to love the other person. A person is so busy comparing himself or herself to others, we become preoccupied with that.  To be free in Christ is that Christ liberates us from the disease of superiority or inferiority.

    Column 2  Questions on Giving v6-10

    Dear Paul.  Why do we give 10% anyways?  Where does the money go?

    Paul is addressing a need in the church to faithfully provide for the pastor and the ministry of instruction.  The tithe is an OT principle based on the people honoring God with their firstfruits, the top of their crop! 

    Leviticus 27:30 "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD."

    This Scripture states that all the tithe, whether it be seed of the land, fruit of the tree, or one tenth of all that you earn, is holy unto the Lord. Deuteronomy 14:22-29 states that one-tenth of all that comes into your possession, belongs to God. This was God's plan to instruct His people as to the way of blessings that He had for them. God is a multiplier by nature, and He could not multiply that which was not entrusted to Him.

    The Old Testament records two other tithes; one tithe was called the "festival tithe," when they came to Jerusalem three times a year for fellowship. The expense for the festival, (travel, food, etc.) was taken from this tithe. The third tithe was given in the third year and was a tithe holy unto the Lord. It was a tithe of almsgiving for the poor and needy. All of these tithes were brought to the storehouse, and the priest oversaw the distribution of same. The first tithe was for the upkeep of the priests, since they had no inheritance. All of their income and portion was to be given to them by God's people. This tithe in and of itself, is not considered an offering. It is the minimum requirement for all of God's people.

    The reason God instituted the second and the third tithe through Moses, was that His children needed to give above and beyond this tithe. It is these tithes that God is referring to in Malachi 3:8 where His people have robbed Him in tithes and offerings. In verse 10 of Malachi 3, He challenges the people to see if they can outgive God.  You can’t.  You trust God with your finances and you honor Him first, and make it your desire to be a generous person and He will pour out blessings on you that you won’t have enough room to contain it.  Because that is what giving does, it flows over and it’s contagious

    Offerings were given above and beyond tithes.  They were given sacrificially.  Some people say well, I give to sponsor children and that is part of my tithe.  Sponsoring children is great, but God put the local church in place as the starting point for giving.  The bench mark that God gave us to start with is 10%

     So to finish my story that I started with about the day that ‘giving’ completely turned around for me was that God reminded me to trust Him in giving back to the camp that I worked for above and beyond my tithe.  At this point, I knew that God was going to show up because there was no way that we had money to pay for tuition and rent, but God was faithful.  When we arrived in London, we put our resumes out and within a day, God provided Sharon with a full time job and four days later, I had a part time job and we were able to go through school debt free!

     I am not going to tell you that if you give God $10-, you can expect to receive 10 times that in the mail like some do, but I will tell you that when you are faithful with your firstfruits and your giving to God, He will supply all of your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus!  Philippians 4:19

    1 Corinthians 16:1  Paul expands on his answer. 

    I am convinced that when people see the tithe as an instrument of blessing they will not be looking for a way to give less, but a way to give more. God will help them so that they can be generous on every occasion. The 10% tithe was a guide that God gave us to start from.

    You might ask but Jack, we are not under law, we are under grace and I would agree; however, the law wasn’t put away, it was simplified and it was written on our heart, not on tablets of stone.

    2 Corinthians 9:7

    Giving is not just about meeting the needs of the church, its about blessing!

     

    Here is another letter addressed to the Apostle Paul.  “Dear Paul. Sometimes Christianity does not seem to pay off. In the Bible, there is all that stuff about God blessing the good people and punishing the bad people. Yet I know a lot of so called bad people who have made it pretty well off. They seem to mock God’s laws and nothing happens. Their lives don’t seem to be so punished. I must confess that every once in a while, I feel like caving in and doing what they are doing. What do you think? Signed, the Questioner.”

    Paul responds: “Dear Questioner.  Make no mistake about it. God is not mocked. A person reaps what he or she sows. If he sows in the field of his sin nature, he will reap from a harvest of self destruction. If he sows in the field of the spirit, the spirit will bring him a harvest of eternal life. So let us never tire of doing good. For if we do not slack in our  efforts, we shall in due time reap our harvest. Therefore, let us work for the good of all people, but especially for the good of those who are Christians.

    You reap what you sow. This is as fundamental as the law of nature

    A consequence of living a life in the sinful nature , is that people always get hurt. People always get hurt. That is the way it has always been, and that is the way it will always be.

    Finally, one more letter to Paul. “Dear Paul. What really counts? You have been writing letter after letter after letter. Now, tell us plainly and clearly. What really counts for you? What is really important to you? Sum it all up for us. Signed, the Heart of the Matter.” …

    Dear Heart of the Matter. All the religious rituals that you have learned from childhood are not that important. Circumcision? Uncircumcision? This is nothing. The only thing that counts if a new creation; that you are a new person in Christ Jesus.”

    The new creation. The new person. The Apostle Paul, when it is all said and done, wants one thing: that we are to be new people. He echoes this theme in several of his letters:  From II Corinthians 5:  “When anyone is united to Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has begun.” From Ephesians 4: “You are made new in mind and spirit. Put on the new nature of God’s creation.” From Colossians 3: Put on a new nature. The new nature is constantly being renewed in the image of God, the Creator.”

     

    John Fisher puts a spin on the NEW this way

    A follower of Christ looks at:

    death and thinks life,
    losing and thinks winning,
    tragedy and thinks opportunity,
    brokenness and thinks humility,
    accidents and thinks purpose,
    coincidence and thinks destiny,
    despair and thinks hope,
    poverty and thinks wealth,
    wealth and thinks poverty,
    failure and thinks success,
    the seen and thinks about the unseen,
    history and thinks God's story,
    science and thinks God's laws,
    psychology and thinks Christ's wisdom,
    anthropology and thinks God's image,
    astronomy and thinks God's heavens,
    the human body and thinks God's dwelling place,
    war and thinks man's rebellion,
    the cross and thinks everything made new,
    truth and thinks Jesus.

     

    What does Paul want for us? That we are to be new people, in Christ Jesus.  Be a believer who is ready for the service of the saints.  The opportunities to speak the truth in love are best found in our small group ministry.  This is when we are supposed to really be honest with each other.  Opportunities to give come in the form of our finances, but also in the form of ministry – do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers – minister side by side, discover your passion and know that the only thing that counts Paul says is “faith expressing itself in love” 5:6.  Finally, believe you are a new creation, a new person, let that center you and ground you!

     

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