A New Testament Perspective on Giving

Money is often an uncomfortable topic to talk about in the church. Immediately, people begin to think filthy lucre because of the unfortunate rise of prosperity gospel teachings and ministers who try to trick persons out of their money for personal gain. Yet, the New Testament speaks about giving more than any other topic. Giving is the way of God. His love towards us was demonstrated in His giving of His special Son. Love for each other is expressed in our giving. As a body, we were challenged on our commitment to giving from 2 Corinthians 9:1-10. We learned that giving begins at the level of our attitude. It must be:
1. Willing
2. Generous
3. Cheerful
4. Planned
5. Sustained

Day 1

Good morning, family. Let us reflect together:

“I have shown you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Paul sought to teach by example how other believers ought to act towards those in need (the weak). This teaching of Jesus, passed on by Oral traditions. The admonition to “Remember” suggests that this saying had been prominent in the Apostles’ teaching but it also indicates the importance for believers to be consistent in their response to giving.

Those who give are blessed, not because of the rewards they will receive for giving or becauae they are in a superior position but because there is a pure and godlike Joy in giving. The foundation on which this saying rests is that giving is the result of LOVE and SELF-SACRIFICE.

Where the heart is full of deep, real love, and that love expresses itself by the cheerful act of giving, there is a sense of blessedness. The highest joy and noblest use of our possessions is found in blessing others.

 

 

Day 2

Good morning, Family. As we continue our reflection, we answer THE question, “Why should I give?”

Merely “throwing ” your money in an offering plate out of compulsion or grudgingly is NOT giving in God’s eyes. The type of giving that pleases God is willing and cheerful and generous.

*1.We must give because we have received from God*, having considered that *”all generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from THE Father of lights, With whom there is no variation or THE slighest hint of change”* (James 1:17).

*2 We must give because it glorifies God*: God’s glory is THE overaching concern of every believer. *”Through the evidence of this service they will glorify God because of your OBEDIENCE to your confession in THE Gospel of Christ and THE generosity of your sharing With them and With everyone”* (2Cor. 9:13). Our heart must be concerned With the things of God, for where our heart. is, there our treasures will be.

Like every other spiritual discipline, giving is an important aspect if we are to walk worthy of our calling and to be used by God for His glory! Do you truly want to be used by God, or will you turn away in sorrow like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 16-22?

 

Day 3

Good morning, family. Let us deeply consider the following: “One the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping With your income, *saving it up*, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1Cor. 16:2. NIV).
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7 NIV).

We sometimes struggle with the question of how much to give. Giving, in the first place is an act of Faith in God to supply your needs.

Paul is consistent in his writing to Corinth that giving is a matter of the heart and must pre-planned & systematic. Each of the verses indicate that giving requires advance planning and must not be done on impulse or under pressure to do so. In response to God’s grace, each household should determine the amount/percentage God wants them to give each month (not the legalistic 10%. ) and then follow through on this. We should not wait for the offering plate to be passing down the aisle and the think, “Oh, let me drop something in.”

So, how do you arrive at a percentage/amount?? *PRAY* about it!!! If you hear God says 10% that is perhaps you or the voice of tradition screaming in your head. God can be leading to give more so be open to hear as you consider how he has blessed you and you trust Him to meet your other needs.

 

Day 4

Good morning, family.
With all the bills that we have to pay and all the responsibilities that creep up on us how do I still give? In 2 Cor. 8:2-3, we learn that sometimes, giving is sacrificial. The church was giving *”beyond their ability”* or giving having need themselves but trusting God to supply their needs.

But perhaps the question of concern we must have is, “do I just take up my money and give everyone who asks?” It is not right to deprive your family of necessities to give to others (1Timothy 5:8) but we dp have a duty to the poor and to the work of the ministry, as scripture teaches.
We are to help meet the physical needs of food, shelter, clothes, etc. of others, first to those who belong to the household of faith (Galatians 6:10) and then help others who may have genuine need; like that indigent woman or man in your community. That is why as a church, we have a love basket that we ask week after week that members carry s non perishable item so that we supply those in need.

But we are also are expected to give to the work of the ministry (Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). After you’ve taken care of family, this is next in line on your list of priority. However, be careful of the ministry you give to. Any ministry that is worth its salt will be ensuring that the needy in its midst are taken Care of.
The next time you are called upon to give consider these things.

 

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What Did You Do With The Talent: A Lesson In Stewardship

Matthew 25:14-30 is an excellent narrative about stewardship. The cast includes 3 servants, one of whom was slothful, lazy and ungrateful, and their master. Every story calls for you to pay attention to detail – making comparisons and contrasts; listening to tone and mood; examining characters; understanding context etc. In this particular story, there is, for me two striking characters: the master and the slothful servant (the one who received one talent). A talent was silver (money) which weighed between 58 to 80 pounds, so the master was entrusting his servants with quite considerable money. This was the kind of money you would entrust to a trusted relative or friend, not a servant.

The other two servants were faithful but there was one who wasn’t, that is, the one who received 1 talent or 80lbs of silver. Here is something about that servant that angered the master. He was selfish. Selfishness is the biggest hindrance to proper stewardship. One cannot be a good steward and seek self-interest at the same time. That third servant had reasoned that the master might not be returning. So, he kept the money. If the master returned, he could simply return the money without loss from a bad investment (verse 25) but if not he gets to keep it for himself. He did not want to deposit it in the bank because he would have to record it as belonging to the master and could not keep it if the master did not return (verse 27). His reasoning exposed his heart of selfishness and a lack of faith in his master in his master. He proved to be a worthless servant because of this. He perhaps was even comparing what the others got to what he got instead of being grateful that the master place confidence in him in the first place to have given him so much money as a servant/slave.
The master on the other hand demonstrates that he is a fair judge. Those who did not think about themselves and how they could profit off him, were rewarded for their selflessness. And the one who was selfish was not only not rewarded but he was stripped.

The lesson for us today is to serve without seeking our own interest. To serve gladly and willingly. To serve God, not out of compulsion but from a heart of gratitude for what He has entrusted you with.

The Freeing Power of Forgiveness

Text: Matthew 6: 5-15

Illustration: Jeffrey Dahmer is an American serial killer. He was known for preying on young boy whom he sodomized and would dismember them as he had sex with them. In order to dispose of the corpses, Dahmer would cook the remains of his victims and eat them reducing them to faeces. This dastardly act is repugnant, vile, contemptible and deserving of the severest punishment. Yet, we are presented with a counter-argument during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about the freeing power of forgiveness – even for the most repugnant of sins.

Jesus is somewhere in the middle of his Sermon on the Mount and he begins a conversation around prayer and that which hinders prayer (which is one of the ways we commune/fellowship/communicate with God). Jesus begins this conversation around the state of the heart – that centre of emotions – the place where we feel; where intent and motives are formed and often here hurt festers and brings decay. He begins show expose the evil motives in the hearts of the hypocrites who do good so that they might be seen but there is no reward or praise from him in such actions because of the state of their heart. You have often heard it said that prayer changes things. I wish to invite you to consider a different thought; that prayer does not necessarily change things but it changes people – and in particular the one doing the praying.

Jesus starts to show disciples how to change the condition of their hearts through their prayer. This prayer which we often misname as the Lord’s Prayer is really the disciple’s prayer or the model/pattern prayer. In verse 8, He presents the contrast to the state of the hypocrite’s heart by teaching the disciples how to pray. The first part of the prayer invites the person to look up

A. Looking up: The counter-intuitive culture that Jesus presents in His teaching of forgiveness calls for us to look outside of ourselves. This takes a recognition and admission that we cannot do this in our own strength and we must look to HIM who is greater and stronger and more capable that we are – that is The Father. Jesus says you must call on the strength of God (Our Father in Heaven) and we must relinquish (place/let go) everything into His capable hands (Your kingdom come; Your will be done)

B. Looking in: Jesus then invites them to look on the inside – something He does many times in the scripture. When other were quick to run to judgment and condemnation of that woman allegedly caught in the act of adultery, He invited them to look at themselves to see which of them had no flaws or had done evil (there is no evil more evil than the next. All evils are equal). “Ye without sin cast the first stone.” Similarly he invites the disciples to look inward at their own shortcomings and human foibles (And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors). When we consider ourselves, we cannot be like the hypocrites and pass judgment on others no matter how offensive we think their sin is. Here, Jesus encourages His disciples to realize that just as they are deserving of forgiveness, the other person is too. And just as they will want forgiveness, they must be willing to offer same. Forgiveness begins with the recognition that you are forgiven (too many people walking around with GUILT) and having been forgiven, you must now walk in that freedom by forgiving others.

C. Looking out: Verses 13 to fifteen is where the kernel of truth and liberation lies. “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” In verse 13, the forgiven prayers this prayer because he or she trusts God and distrusts themselves. The Father won’t allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to manage/bear. But the rest is also very instructive. Because it helps us to realise that in forgiving there are benefits that we enjoy. We forgive not because the other person is deserving but because we benefit from the act of forgiving. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you”. When you extend grace (giving someone that which they do not deserve – forgiveness) to others, that grace comes back to you. It is in forgiving others who have wronged us, hurt us, or caused us pain, loss or misfortune that we receive healing. Even if the offense against you was as awful as Jeffrey Dahmer’s, holding unto that pain not only blocks your prayers, it hinders the grace that is waiting to enter your life. Grace is (unmerited) favour but it is also power. It is that same root word from which we derive charisma. The truth is forgiveness may not change the other person but it transforms you from being bitter to being gracious; from weakened and imprisoned in hurt and pain to being strong and resilient.

Conversely, when we refuse to forgive, we block grace from entering our lives “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Unfogrivenesshinders our prayers. It stunts our healing. It blocks our advancing because it keeps us tethered to that old debt (hurt/pain/offense). You cannot move on to new relationships because you are still holding on to that old hurt. You cannot love and trust again because you keep walking around with that baggage. You cannot experience peace in your life because you are tormented by that which you refuse to let go of.

Forgiveness might seem illogical and counter-intuitive but it best for you. You cannot do it in your own strength. You have to completely trust in God’s enablement and surrender to the process. It is not easy to forgive, for it goes against our human nature. But it is possible once we surrender it to God. For He will not lead you into any test that you cannot bear/manage and He will deliver you out of them all. Keep praying. Keep confessing and keep moving in the freedom that forgiveness affords.

God Will Make You Sing

TEXT: 1 Samuel 1:1-16

SUBJECT: Hannah’s prayer and vow before God

First Samuel is a continuation of the story in the book of Judges. The story of 1 Samuel begins late in the tumultuous time of the judges when Eli is judge and priest and Israel is being oppressed by the Philistines.  The book opens with a woman’s anguish. Her story highlights the truth that God is bigger than any problem that we may encounter. We must, therefore only trust Him.  Don’t give up hope. God is listening. Remember that there is purpose in everything God allows in your life.

The name Hannah means “grace” (or favour). One would expect that with a name like that, Hannah would have been experiencing the blessings of peace, provision and progeny. But it was not so for Hannah. Her life was marked by reproach and misery. Her husband had a second wife named Peninnah, which in the Hebrew means “pearl” or “jewel”. The irony is that Peninnah’s behaviour towards Hannah did not display the beauty of her own name.

Hannah could not bear children for her husband. This would be extremely hard on women in those days for to have your womb closed was taken as an indication that she was cursed by God. For Hannah, she not only had to deal with the reality of not being able to have children but she was provoked constantly by Peninnah to the point where she would not eat.

However, I invite you to look at Hannah’s attitude in the midst of her pain. Like Job, she did not charge God with wrong (Job 1:22). Instead, she recognized His sovereignty – that He was the One who opens and closes the womb – and began praying to Him to open hers. In offering her prayer, Hannah was acknowledging God’s control over all her life’s circumstances. We must recognize that there is absolutely nothing that comes upon us that God does not know about. He sees all. He feels all that we are going through (Hebrews 4:15) and He is working out them all out for our good (Romans 8:28). Yes, our situations may seem desolate and we may not see a way out but God is in control. He has purpose for whatever it is that you are going through and He will not waste your pain (Romans 8:18).

Hannah understood that her only hope was in God and so she looked to Him in prayer and mourning. Yes, you may have to cry sometimes. There is no promise that things will always be easy but there is an assurance that God will deliver you out of the storms and afflictions of your life (Psalm 34:19). He will come through for you so go through it. Don’t give up! Hold on! God is on your side. His promise towards you should remind you that whatever the challenge that has entered your life did not come to break you but to establish you and move you towards your purpose. In Jeremiah 29:11, He says, “ I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Hallelujah! His intentions towards you are good. They are not to harm you in any way. You will not break under the pressure. You will not suffer in vain. You will not live in despair. He will give you hope and a future.  Hope sounds like expectation. It sounds like there is a silver lining – a light at the end of the tunnel. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning Psalm 30:5). Are you at the darkest moment in your life? Then rejoice because your morning is nigh.

It was night time for Hannah. Her agony was recognized by those around her. While Peninnah jeered and ridiculed her, her husband was there as a support. You see, despite those who may not understand your situation – the Peninnahs in your life – God will always place someone in your life who will support you. Not only will He send you support but His precious Holy Spirit will be your help in time of weakness (Romans 8:26).

When faced with life’s challenges, many make the decision to walk away from God and throw in the towel. Not Hannah. In the midst of such profound testing, she kept following after God. Year after year she kept going up to the house of the Lord for worship, even though it meant travelling with another woman who was provoking her (verse 7). Hannah’s Prayer is a thoughtful and intense one:

“O Lord Almighty” – She recognized the sovereignty and omnipotence of God. He is God Almighty. If He could not fix her situation, nobody else could.  He is mighty to save and strong to deliver (Zeph 3:17).

“Look upon upon your servant’s misery and remember me.” – Part of walking with God is putting your request before Him. Never be afraid to cry out to God and ask Him to intervene in your situation. It is not a sign of weakness but a sign of trust.

“I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life” –  Hannah was specific in her request. She wanted a man child – a son – and she will give back that son to the Lord. Hannah’s vow was not meaningless bargaining with God. No! It was a mighty expression of faith. She knows that God can open her womb and if he does, she is willing to respond to His grace (the meaning of her name) by giving back that son to Him.

In pouring out her heart before God, He heard her and He opened up her womb and she conceived and bore her husband a child (1 Samuel 1:19-20). Her morning had come. Her time of rejoicing had arrived and her pain had ended. Hannah was no longer a reproach of object of scorn for being barren. God had turned things around. He had turned her mourning into dancing and had given her beauty for ashes. God raised Hannah’s son, Samuel, to be a prolific prophet and not one of his words fell to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19).

Hannah’s song of Joy in chapter 2 showed us that her joy in God transcended her own desire to keep her son to her side but to release him in God’s hand. It was that kind of surrender that made Samuel great but more importantly that contributed to Hannah being one of the redoubtable women of faith in scripture.

God will make you sing again. He will make you laugh again. Your brokenness was not meant to destroy you. Hannah sings in the end:

My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.

There is none holy like the Lord;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.

How Do I get to know God: Tracing God Through His Word

DAY 1

Good morning Family lets reflect on :  Knowledge of God from 2 Peter1:2

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.”

Renowned African American  educator, Burghardt DuBois was convinced that he could change the plight of black Americans if the truth of their condition was known, so he made careful scientific investigations and  presented his thesis. But several years after his presentation nothing happened. Remorsefully he came to the conclusion that ‘the availability of truth does not mean it will be appropriated’.

The church, today, spends much of its time claiming  all manner of things from  God as if we are entitled and  should have them.   Peter’s desire was that grace -God’s activity towards man to enable him; and peace – shalom- completeness, wholeness, prosperity, blessings and victory; be multiplied! But this was not wishful thinking as Peter instructed them how it could be accomplished which is by the knowledge of God.The  Greek word for knowledge has the preposition attached which means ‘towards’, ‘in the direction of’. So a knowledge that is always moving in the direction of that which it seeks to know. As our  knowlege of God and Jesus Christ increases  grace and peace  are multiplied to us. The better we know Them the more we experience grace and peace. The only way  we can gain this knowledge is by a  careful and purposeful study of God’s word .  So  lets us forget the  naming and  claiming and  start studying the word of God and appropriating it to our lives.

DAY 2

Good morning Family, today we reflect on the purpose of  having a knowledge of God.

2Peter1:3 tells us “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything  pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us”

How can finite man come to knowledge of an infinite God? Zophar long ago asked, “Can you by searching find out the  deep things of  God?” (Job 11:7) It was not left up to man to discover the  things concerning God but He revealed them in His word. And in knowing the word we find authority (power ) to live godly .

Chuck Swindoll listed the following six reasons why it is important to pursue knowledge of the Scriptures:

  1. Knowledge gives substance to faith.
  2. Knowledge stabilizes us during times of testing.
  3. Knowledge enables us to handle the Word of God accurately.
  4. Knowledge equips us to detect and confront error.
  5. Knowledge makes us confident and consistent in our walk with God.
  6. Knowledge filters out our fears and superstitions.

Godly living is not dependent on the binding of  spirits or invocation of supernatural power but on complete obedience to the revelation of the knowledge of God’s word.   Knowledge of God  produces godliness in us. Let us seek to gain knowledge of God through the study of His word.

DAY 3

Good morning Family,  today’s  encouragement  ‘Be faithful to grow in the knowledge of God.

As Peter concludes his epistle on false teachers that had infiltrated the Church the  charge is   “Therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:17-18

We live in an age where scant regard is given to the discovery of the truth of scripture. Worst even there is complete disregard both of the hearers and the preachers of the impending judgment given by Peter for those who would perverse the word. The Apostle  implores the church to be watchful and resist those who twist the word leading people astray. Peter says excuses will not stand if you  fail because he has given a warning  about  these persons and  of the consequences   to those who lead and also  follow.  He commands  against complacency and  exhorts his readers to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

If we are not rooted and grounded in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ  which comes from a purposeful  study and application  of scripture    it will be easy to be swept off our feet and  loose our spiritual balance by the false teachings which swamp our culture. Lets remain faithful to growing in the knowledge of God.

DAY 4

Good morning, Family.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:  The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and  the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 1:17-18 KJV

Paul is praying that God would give believers a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the true knowledge of Him. What becomes clear is that to know these important truths requires God to reveal them. In Eph 4.18 he describes our previous state as , ” darkened in  understanding, excluded from the life of God because of ignorance “. Sin blinds the minds of unbelievers rendering them incapable of first, understanding the truth of the gospel and second the truths of God. It necessitates God to open blinded eyes to believe in Jesus as Saviour (2 Cor. 4:4,6). Our finite minds have to be enlightened by the Spirit of God to understand the deeper truths of His word.

This prayer of Paul includes an intellectual grasp of the Scriptures. We cannot obey what we do not understand. It engages our emotions to desire relationship. This brings us  into a greater submission to His will and conformity with His purpose . When we know  His plans, (the hope of His calling and glory of His inheritance  we become strengthened in the inner-man and will live victoriously as believers .

Psalm 19:7 reminds us that the Law (Word) of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making the “simple” wise. The Word of God makes us wise and formidable against false teaching.

DAY 5

Good morning Family. Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesians 3:18-19 “may be able to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

These verses express the heart of Paul  for his fellow believers to understand the fullness,  vastness and completeness of  Christ’s  love . The Apostle  prays  because only by Divine intervention can our finite minds comprehend the great love that Christ’s gives. Such love  surpasses human  knowledge.

John McAuthur does a good contrast; human love lasts until it is offended. Christ love lasts despite every offense. Human  love is  for what it can get. Christ love is  for what it can give.

Paul knows that when the child of God grasps the magnitude of this truth it will  result in deep gratitude, manifested  in a life  yielded to the will and purpose of Christ born out of a deep sense of obligation. The book of Romans describe it as a living sacrifice which is our reasonable response to His love demonstrated through  His mercies and grace. Being filled with all the  fullness of God that is  being under God’s complete control and emptied of self.

These are critical elements for victorious Christian life.

Paul’s prayer, then, is that we live victorious Christian lives  fitting of our calling.