Glamping 

Exodus 25:2
“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”

A few years ago I heard a word I had never heard before, or ever dreamed could be real. That word was “glamping.” “Glamping,” according to the urban dictionary, is “a form of glamorous camping done by urban types.” Those who “glamp” turn tents into elaborate structures with all the comforts of home. Once inside the tent, you are sure to forget you are in the wild. Of all the glamorous tents ever constructed by these wanna be campers, none could compare in beauty or cost to the Tabernacle Israel built in the wilderness. At the current value of an ounce of gold, the Tabernacle would have cost more than $50 million just in materials. The question is, where did all that money come from?

“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”

Moses laid out the building plans for the Tabernacle, then instructed the people to go home and consider what part they would play in the construction of the Tabernacle. Each family was to prayerfully consider their financial condition, in light of the work that God wanted to do. In the end, the people were to give willingly to the work.

I am sure many factors were considered as families got together to examine their finances. They needed to look at their net worth, what expenses they had to cover, and to keep in mind that the future was unknown, and they could not be certain what kind of provision was around the corner. I am sure, in addition to looking at their needs, they also considered some wants. If they gave to the work of the Lord, that would mean they had less to spend on pleasure, amusement or vacations. Another factor they needed to consider, was that by giving to the Lord, they were giving to something bigger than themselves; a work that would continue long after they were gone. So much of our expenses are spent on things that don’t last, giving to the Tabernacle was giving to something that would be used for the furtherance of the kingdom for years to come.

When considering your finances, and what to do with them, it is important to carefully examine what you have, but it is also important to consider what kind of lasting impact you are making for the kingdom of God. Perhaps it is time to prayerfully consider what investments you are making in the furtherance of the Gospel.

Pastor Jim

What’s In Your Hand? 

Exodus 4:2
“So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’  He said, ‘A rod.’”

This passage has always encouraged me. We find Moses wanting some evidence that God had truly called him, and God chooses to take what was in Moses’ hand and use it in a miraculous way. He did the same thing with the twelve when all they had was five loaves and two fish. He did it with David, when he entered the valley with a sling and a rock. He will do it with us, when we will offer who we are and what we have, for His service.

There are some stories in Scripture that I relate to more than others. However, when Joshua runs toward the Angel of the Lord, or when Abraham rises early to offer his son, I am not sure I picture myself responding in quite the same way. I think I would fit right in with Moses in this account,though. Even after God promises to use what is in his hand, and goes so far as to demonstrate how He would use him, Moses still doubts. I think it is a matter of perspective. Moses looked at how weak he was, while God looked at how strong He is.

If we want God to take what is in our hands and use it for His glory, we must be willing to trust that His strength is always revealed in our weakness. Instead of focussing upon what we cannot do, it is time to focus on what He can do.

Take some time to pray about how God may want to use you, especially in your local church.

Pastor Jim

 

Your Account 

Philippians 4:17
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”

As this letter comes to a close, Paul is careful to thank the Philippian church for their generosity. On numerous occasions they had sent aid to Paul, enabling him to continue in the ministry. Although he was not their pastor, they placed a high value on the activities he was undertaking for the kingdom, and sent financial support, as he took the Gospel around the world. Because of the sensitivity of the subject of giving, Paul is careful to sandwich it between two very important ministry principles.

 Philippians 4:11
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content . . .”

Paul was not looking at ministry as a way to make a living, or live a comfortable life. He saw the ministry for what it actually was, the call of God to bring the message of salvation to a dying world. As a result, he learned to be content in whatever condition he found himself. At times, Paul saw large numbers come to Christ and was able to focus his time and energies exclusively on ministry, since the church provided for his physical needs. Other times, whether by need or principle, Paul chose to work with his hands to provide for his needs, so as not to be a burden to others. In doing this, he learned he could be content with the call of God when things were comfortable, or when they were difficult.

Philippians 4:19
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Often, when we hear preachers talk about giving, they make it sound as though the driving force behind ministry is money. They seem to imply, if you don’t give, the work of God will not continue. In a subtle way, they are saying God needs your cash because He cannot finance His own endeavors. Paul did not see it that way. He believed God would always supply what was needed for what He calls us to do.

Philippians 4:17
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”

Paul’s reason for discussing giving was not to manipulate the people into giving more, or to help finance a vision that he was developing. Instead, he was actually concerned for their personal growth. Knowing God would always provide for His own needs, Paul saw giving for what it truly is, an opportunity to trust the Lord, and grow in Christ. The same is true whether we are giving of our time, talents, or treasure. When we come to the place where we are willing to say “I am going to take however little or much I have, and give it to the Lord” It is then, that we are investing in things that are eternal. As a result, we begin to experience growth that we have never had before. Whether it is money, or serving in one capacity or another, do not look at giving to your local church as a burden, but as an opportunity to grow. As you step forward in faith, trusting yourself and all you have into the hands of Jesus, you will find that you begin to bear fruit in your life like never before. Serving Jesus with all you are, and all you have, is the fast track to growing in Christ and storing treasures in the life to come.

Pastor Jim

 

Others 

Philippians 2:17-18
Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.”

Prior to the death and resurrection of Christ, the prescribed manner of worship of God included an elaborate system of sacrifices. Every morning, every evening, and on prescribed dates throughout the year, animals were offered as burnt offerings to provide atonement for the sins of the people. Each of the sacrifices pointed in one way or another to Christ. As the Son of God, His death provided more than all the offerings could ever do. Peter wrote,

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, . . . ” 1 Peter 3:18

It is not difficult to see a portrait of Christ in the Passover lamb, the scapegoat, or the sin offerings, but what of this drink offering? Did you notice, Paul does not refer to Christ, but to himself as this offering? The drink offering, described in Numbers 15, was designed to accompany the various offerings. If a person brought a free will offering to the Lord, to express thanks to God for who He is, and all He has done, they were to include a jug of wine as a drink offering. This offering did not provide atonement, but accompanied the offering, making the aroma that much sweeter, as it was laid upon the altar. Paul saw his role in the life of others like that. He realized, each individual must present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord, but he would spend his life helping to make the sacrifice of others sweeter.

As we follow his story throughout the New Testament, we see he exemplifies what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. His whole life was about living for Christ, as an example to others. He spent his time, effort, and energies ensuring the Gospel was declared, and the Christian was well equipped to live for Christ. He risked his comforts and even his life, to bring the message of salvation to those who had never heard.

How do you suppose our impact upon the world would change if we saw ourselves as a drink offering, being poured out on the sacrifice of others? What kind of influence could we have for the kingdom of God, if we looked at ourselves as being in the lives of others, to help them come to Christ, and grow in Him? Writing to the Corinthians, Paul said, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15

Let’s determine to live like that, impacting all around us for heaven’s sake.

Pastor Jim

 

Giving 

2 Corinthians 9:7
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

As Paul was writing this letter, conditions in Jerusalem were very difficult. Persecution, famine, and perhaps a bit of mismanagement, had left the church in Jerusalem financially destitute. In order to help those in need, Paul assisted in organizing a financial gift from the gentile churches. This passage lays out the guidelines for the giving and receiving of that gift. The principles Paul presents should help to govern our giving, which we often refer to giving as tithing. The word “tithe” means tenth and refers to the Old Testament Law where the children of Israel were required to give a tenth back to the Lord. The New Testament, while not requiring a tenth, does clearly teach the need to “give back” to the Lord.

“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart . . .”

Notice Paul writes, “each one give”. Regardless of our financial condition, we all must consider that God wants us to trust Him; part of that trust is to give from what He has provided for us. He adds, we should each give as we purpose in our own hearts. Rather than giving being a requirement of the law, Paul wants us to see it as an act of worship. Each Christian should sit down before the Lord, lay out his finances and determine what part will be given back. That can often be very difficult. For some, we fear giving because we are not sure how we will manage our budget if we give some of our income away. For others, it is complicated by the fact that we have been so touched by Jesus, we want to give it all away. We may even feel guilty about the portion we keep for ourselves. To help us in our decision, Paul gives a serious of principles that should govern our giving.

“. . . not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

If, when you give, you do it bitterly, then the best thing to do is go back to sitting before the Lord and determining why you are unwilling to give back to Him. Our giving should be joyous, as we celebrate all that God has done for us.

“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6

Paul compares giving to planting. At the end of the season, the farmer does not want to have a pocket full of seeds, but a basket full of fruit. When we determine what to give, we must consider that great spiritual benefits are derived when we give back to the Lord. In the previous chapter, Paul gives a few more principles. He writes,

“For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12

While it is important that we trust the Lord and give in faith, believing He is able to meet our needs with less than 100% of our income, Paul warns us not to give what we do not have. If you don’t have the money to give, it would be foolish to give on credit. The value of giving is not in the amount, as much as it is in the willingness to trust the Lord. Perhaps we need to reevaluate the way we are spending, if we have nothing left to give.

“And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” 2 Corinthians 8:5

Finally, those who gave to the church, first gave themselves to the Lord. When we give, we are giving to the Lord. We are trusting He will take the little we offer, and use it in a big way to accomplish His purposes. One of the great things about the church is, we are part of a much larger body. When I was in High School, I rarely had much cash.. I can remember going with friends to get pizza. We all pitched in and we all ate till we were full, but we did not all pitch in the same amount. I think I threw down fifty cents. Giving is a little like that. I take from what the Lord has provided for me, and give it back to Him; you do the same, and the Lord accomplishes His purposes with it. Perhaps today would be a good time to sit before the Lord, reevaluate your finances, and determine what He would have you give.

Pastor Jim

 

Giving 

2 Kings 12:9
“Then Jehoiada the priest took a chest, bored a hole in its lid, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one comes into the house of the Lord; and the priests who kept the door put there all the money brought into the house of the Lord.”

Young king Jehoash began his reign by repairing the Temple of the Lord. In order to fund the work, he had a large box built with a hole in the top, where people could place their offerings. He instructed the people to give as they “purpose in their hearts.” This freedom allowed each person to go home, sit with his spouse and pray, regarding what portion of their income should be given to the work of the Lord. Once decided, they would simply drop the funds into the box, without any fan fair or recognition. When the money was received, it was set apart for the work of the Lord. This is a very clear illustration of New Testament giving. Paul instructs us that we should give “as we purpose in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 9:7), and Jesus said, “we should not let our left hand know what our right doing” (Matthew 6:3). The New Testament model for giving is one that allows for “freedom.” Each one of us is free to give as we see fit. However, we must guard against misusing this freedom, by failing to take the time to sit before the Lord and determine what part of our income should be given to the work of God. There are at least two common mistakes we make that negatively influence our decision to give.

First, we think, what we have to give, is so inconsequential that it will not make a difference. This is the same thinking that keeps some from serving the Lord. Keep in mind, it was the widow’s mites that received Christ’s praise, not the golden coins of the rich (Luke 21:1-4).Giving is more about you expressing love for Christ, and trusting in His provision, than it is about the dollar amount of the gift.
Second, we often fail to give because we don’t think we can make ends meet with less than we have. We look at the bills, the kids, the desire for a family vacation, and we wonder how we could ever give any portion to the Lord on a regular basis. I think it is important to keep two things in mind. First, we are exhorted to store up treasures in heaven. When we put aside an earthly gift for the work of the Lord, we are storing up a heavenly treasure. Second, God is in the business of doing more with less. I have been amazed at the ways God has blessed me and my family, as we have served Him over the years.

He is Faithful to meet all your needs.

Pastor Jim

 

Give To The Lord 

Psalm 29:1-2
Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

When Moses pleaded to see the Glory of God, the Lord responded by passing before him and revealing His nature. He declared Himself to be merciful and gracious. The word gracious speaks of the giving nature of God. It is His desire to give what is best to man. James, addressing a group of trial-ridden Christians, reminded them, since God is gracious, every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). The message of the Bible has a whole lot more to do with what God gives us, than what we are to give to Him. Hosea reminded Israel of what God had done for them,

“I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” Hosea 11:3-4

The message of the New Testament is no different. Jesus declared,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Paul commenting on the giving nature of God wrote,

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32

When it comes to giving, God is all in. He has spared nothing. He even gave His only Son. That being said, David exhorts us to respond by giving back to the Lord. When we understand all that God has done for us, it becomes very natural for us to give back to Him. After all, what do you have that has not been given to you?

This makes me think of two questions. First, what is it that God desires from you? David reminds us, God wants glory. That is, He wants first place in your heart and life. He wants to be exalted to the highest place in your life and living. He also wants your strength. He desires your life be surrendered to Him, and your abilities given back as instruments of righteousness. One of the most amazing things about the Lord is, He can take any talent given back to Him and use it to further the Kingdom, and reserve heavenly treasures. The Bible is filled with people who took their gifts as writers, singers, musicians, cooks, doctors, hosts, artists… gave them to the Lord, and furthered the Kingdom. The second question is, what do you have to give back to the Lord today? You may have had some rough experiences in life, causing you to devalue yourself. May I remind you, that you matter to God. He loves you and wants to use you. Right now, offer your life to Him as a gift, for all He has done for you. Who knows what amazing things God has in store.

Pastor Jim

 

Sharing Is Caring

Deuteronomy 23:24
“When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container.” 

In John 12:8, Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always…”;  history has certainly proven that to be a truthful statement. Even today, with all the advances in science, medicine and technology, there are still those who struggle to make ends meet, and have to have their basic needs met. Understanding that this would be a constant struggle, God established a system within Israel whereby the needs of the poor could be satisfied. It was based upon both the grace of God and the love of His people.

Without the natural resource of a river like the Nile or Euphrates, Israel requires an abundance of rain for their crops to develop. God promised to provide adequate rainfall for the nation. It was this gracious provision of God that made abundance possible. Each year as the rain fell the people were reminded of God’s gracious promises and provision.

When it came time to harvest the field, the owners were to leave a substantial amount of fruit in the fields for those who were unable to provide for themselves. Instead of violently shaking every tree to get the last olive, they were to leave that for the poor. The same was true of the vineyard and the grain fields. Leaving this behind would mean there was always provision for those who lacked.

We see this law being practiced in the New Testament by Jesus and the Twelve. We read that they passed by a  field and plucked the grain and ate. They were not stealing, but were having their needs met by God’s provision for the poor. We also see this law practiced in the book of Ruth. We find Naomi and her daughter-in-law struggling to survive after the death of their husbands. Ruth is sent to the fields of Boaz to work on the harvest, and we read the shearers purposely left extra behind for Ruth (Ruth 2:16).

While there is nothing wrong with storing up for our future, or having nice things, we cannot do so at the expense of neglecting to express the grace and love of God to those who are in need. Jesus said, 

“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”  Matthew 6:3

It is His expectation that His people will do charitable deeds for one another as an expression of the love of God.
Pastor Jim 


Willingness

Exodus 35:5
“Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; . . .”

IMG_1459Moses had been instructed to build the Tabernacle. It was to be an elaborate facility with a solid silver foundation, golden walls, intricately woven tapestries and highly detailed furnishing. Every detail was given to Moses, including it’s size, shape, and purpose. However, two things had been left out; materials and labor.

At one time, Moses, as a prince of Egypt, had been an extremely wealthy man with all the resources of Egypt at his disposal. For a nation that had erected structures like the pyramids, building the Tabernacle would not be beyond their means, and Moses could have underwritten the entire project.

However, those days were passed. Moses had forsaken all the riches of Egypt. In a word, Moses was broke. Where would the resources come from to build? The answer is found in two words that are repeated over and over in Exodus 35: stirred and willing. After explaining to the people the vision he had received from God regarding the building, he instructed them to go back to their tents. It was there, as families gathered together, that their hearts were stirred by the Lord. They determined to offer the Lord a portion of what had been given to them. We read, those with a willing heart brought a free will offering to the Lord. For some it was golden earrings, for others necklaces, rings or other jewelry. Some brought precious stones, while others brought their abilities as an offering; making themselves available to be part of the construction team. In each case, we read they brought willingly of what the Lord had given them, and that all the labor was directed and empowered by the Spirit of the Lord. As the project gets underway, the leaders find they are facing an interesting problem. They examined the plans and realized the people had given too much. Moses has to instruct the people to stop giving to the Lord. They had more than enough supplied to accomplish the task.

We learn some very important lessons about giving and receiving from this text. First, note that Moses was only interested in building what he had received directly from the Lord. He did not take on a additional projects that were more than the Lord wanted. He sought the Lord and built what the Lord desired. Second, Moses did not attempt to coerce the people. He allowed each man to go home to his family and determine what they would willingly give to the Lord. In the church today, too much pressure is being placed upon God’s people to give. We need to encourage people to seek the Lord, and give willingly. Finally, people gave a variety of things. Those who had wealth, gave gold and other precious things, those who had skills, gave their abilities, but all who gave were richly blessed as the Tabernacle was completed, and served as a place for people to meet with God.

Pastor Jim

 

Offering

Genesis 4:2-5
“Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2015/01/img_1288.jpgAs the drama of Genesis unfolds, we are introduced to two of Adam’s sons, and given a glimpse into their lives and occupations. Abel, the younger, was a shepherd, while his older brother Cain was a farmer. It was not their occupations, but their character that determined their destinies. We read, Abel brought an offering of the flocks, while Cain brought the fruit of the ground; God respected Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. The question we must answer is why? What was wrong with Cain’s offering?

Two things stand out to me from the story. First off, back in the garden, God had already shown He rejected fig leaves as an acceptable covering for sin. Instead, He established a system of substitutionary sacrifice. This system will be further developed throughout Scripture, but will never change. We will see it in the Levitical system, established at Sinai, and it will have its ultimate fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Never will the work of our own hands be a sufficient covering for sin.

The second aspect of this story which stands out, is the reason a substitute is necessary. Cain brought the fruit of the ground because he did not understand the far reaching effects of sin. He looked at his crops that represented hours of care and labor and thought they were an acceptable offering. This was because he failed to see they were grown in fallen dirt. As good as those vegetables may have been, at their core, they bore marks of the fall. The same is true with all works. My very best efforts are always tainted with sin.

From the beginning, God established a way for sinful man to have relationship with Him, and from the beginning, men have been trying to come their own way. The way to God is paved for us by the cross; entrance is as simple as trusting that Jesus died in our place. Isn’t it time to trust in Christ, instead of clinging to your own goodness as a means to access God?

It has been, and always will be, about His amazing grace

Pastor Jim