Yesterday, we explored how a church community is meant to be a gathering, sometimes even just for fun and fellowship.
You might think church has always meant a religious gathering of Christians on Sunday morning. But in the Bible’s Greek language, church had another meaning before that. The Greek word for church is ekklesia which literally means “an assembly” or “gathering of people”. But not just for its own good. It’s called out to be and do something specific. This week’s passage says gathering together is not just for encouragement to love, but for encouragement to good works.
We are meant to be a preview of the world as God wants it to be. We are meant to make people say wow. Unlike the church I described yesterday, people are supposed to look at our community (even at its business meetings) and say, “Wow! That’s how we are supposed to relate with each other, and our world, and God. I can see it now!” They are meant to see the Kingdom of God in us.
Aristides was a philosopher in Athens in the second century and he observed the first Christians, the early church, and this is what he recorded about them in 125 AD.
“They walk in humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them. They love one another. He that has distributes liberally to him that does not have. If they see a stranger they bring him under their own roof and rejoice over him as if he were their own brother.”
Aristides looked at that first church, that earliest gathering of Christians and he said WOW.
Have you ever looked at a team, group or organization and said, wow? Why? Think of the Snowbirds, or a great dance troupe.
Our church today meant to make people say wow…because of our generosity and love of one another, that spills over to the lives of others near us.
We’re intending to becoming this kind of church through our discussion groups first, and also when our discussion groups come together as one community for celebration.
Challenge: If you’re not already meeting with a group, please do. What act of generosity and service can you do with your discussion group, or family, that will make others in your life say wow? Think of one thing internal to your group that you do for each other, and one thing your group does for others.
Reminder: Last week we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
Read the Bible in Sync Today
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This week we’re learning that our money, our time and our natural skills are resources to be used in ways that will allow God’s purposes to be realized. Amazingly we are given total freedom in this. There are no set rules or specific suggestions, only the objective. The challenge is to use our imagination and our creativity in thinking out how we will apply our money, for example, to this purpose. As we learn more about God our awareness of the opportunities to use our money in this way will increase….charities, individuals, families and church ministries will all show us ways we can make a difference.
I have seen three steps many Christians move through as they grow in generosity.
It begins with casual giving. This happens at the checkout counter in a store when they ask if you’d like to give a dollar to this fund or that. It also happens in a church service when a plate is passed, and you look to see what you can give today.
But often we move from there to another type of giving: responsible giving.
I know of one person who’d grown up going to church, but as an adult, was asked to join the advisory board. She accepted, and figured it would be a good idea to be at the annual meeting for the first time in her life, since she was on the board now. Well, the next day, she reported that it was a huge eye-opener. As she saw the budget, she looked at her own givings, and explaimed, “I just realized I’m the biggest cheapskate here!”
She had just become a “responsible giver”…someone who looks at the budget, and says I’ll do my part of the good work that’s happening here. Looks at world, says I should help.
Finally, many Christians move from responsible giving to proportional giving.
This is where we don’t just do our part, but instead we looked at our budget, figured out a percentage we would give every month, signed up for pre-authorized giving, and stuck to it. We have plans for our money…work on the house, new roof, etc. but we’ll have to save up for it, because we make sure our tithe comes out first.
What percent? There are several places in the Bible that talk about tithing—which literally means giving 10% to God’s work. It’s something from the Old Testament, when God’s people, the Israelites, were to give 10% of everything to God – crops, animals, everything. Is that the rule or percent?
But we have to remember how Jesus treats many Old Testament laws – he steps them up and makes them more challenging to our hearts.
He says his disciples’ “Righteousness is to exceed that of scribes & pharisees. – Matt 5:20
For example: The Pharisees and scribes avoided murder (one of the 10 commandments)…so Jesus wants his followers to not only never murder, but to also avoid anger. He shifts them from doing the bare minimum, to an actual change of attitude.
In the same way, if the Pharisees give 10% because they have to, what do we give if Jesus always calls us to have a change of attitude?
It’s to give, not until it hurts, but until it feels good again…until our attitude has changed from one of giving what we have to, to one of giving generously, because we love to give.
How do you choose your level of giving? Only you can decide, but identify where you are today, and challenge yourself to the next level…today, not tomorrow. Jesus always said those who were faithful with a little, are the ones he trusts to be faithful with a lot, so start where you are, no matter your income, no matter how little it may seem, because if you give generously out of love, it’s important to God.
Just to be clear – I’m not just saying this to boost Redeem the Commute's income! I am encouraging you to give generously to God’s work – whoever, wherever, however it is done. So long as it is work consistent with God’s plans for this world – so long as it is kingdom work.
Giving to Redeem the Commute, helping us become a new kind of church is a great way to do that. We need your financial help to keep helping marriages and families, and developing a community that can do that for the long term. You can give at https://www.redeemthecommute.com/donate/
But God’s work is much bigger than any one ministry!
Please give to a variety of ministries. Perhaps you can find balance by giving to Redeem the Commute as your church, and a Christian relief charity like World Vision, and a medical charity that's consistent with God's kingdom plans to heal the sick and hurting. And of course you want to be ready to help people in your life in need when they ask.
In the final analysis, stewardship is about the overflowing of a grateful heart in response to all that Jesus has done for us…..and so determine how much to give by determining what God has given and done for you. Then decide how you can say thanks.
Remember that we were made to be givers, but we have been socialized by a world that has lost its direction into believing that we are supposed to be keepers.
Challenge: Map out what you can give away every month, and the right blend for you. One suggestion is to set up a monthly gift to RTC at https://www.redeemthecommute.com/donate and a monthly gift to your other charities, and a savings account so you are saving for the future needs of your family and others you know who may need your generosity. Go to http://www.mygivingmoment.ca and register your moment there!
Reminder: Earlier in this series, we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.