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.

 

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.

PERSEVERING IN FAITH: GLEANINGS FROM SERMON BY PASTOR BARRY HALL, JR.

We (Ekklesia Bible Fellowship) recently celebrated our fourth (4th) anniversary as a local assembly in Jamaica. Ours, have been a journey of F.A.I. T. H (Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him). Our journey has not always been easy though. As a new church plant, we have had our teething pains – moments when we questioned ourselves and worried about what was going to happen next. Yet, we persevered because we know the God we serve is bigger than any of our circumstance and the vision that He had given us, He is able to make pro-vision for.

On the occasion marking our fourth anniversary, under the theme: “Persevering in Faith: Impacting the Future”, our senior pastor, Barry Hall Jr., challenged a filled to capacity hall to persevere and finish well.

Hebrews 12:1-2

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The context of the letter to the Hebrews is one where the Jewish Christians were facing intense persecution for having “abandoned’ Judaism and believing on the Gospel of Jesus. Many found themselves abandoned by their families, homeless and destitute and the temptation was to return to the comforts and privileges that Judaism afforded them. It is against this backdrop that the entire book of Hebrews is written – to help them to realize the superiority of (their faith in) Jesus and why this new covenant in Him was better than the former.

In chapter 11, the writer to the Hebrews spends the time outlining many stalwarts of the faith; some who held on to the promise, many who were sawn in two, martyred in coliseums – all dying, holding on to the promise. They never gave up. They kept running. They kept striving. They are the ones who make up the cloud of witnesses spoken of in verse one of chapter twelve.

Paul likens this faith walk as a race and he says as we prepare ourselves to run this race we must:

  1. Throw off everything that hinders and the sins that so easily entangle us. If we look at athletes running in a race, as they make their way to the tracks, they are in full track suits. But as they prepare to out under starters’ orders, they remove those suits, removing that which will hold them back and slow them down. Sin slows down the walk of the believer. The sad thing is that many believers find reasons to explain away their sin. “Oh, it is a struggle”, “The devil, made me do it.” The truth is, we sin because we want to. We have developed an appetite for it. But through Christ, we have been set free from sin’s power and penalty. We must now choose to walk in this liberty that we now have by fully submitting ourselves to God’s Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and walking in obedience to His Word. God has already given us the ability to walk in righteousness (2 Peter 1:3).
  2. Run this race with patience: sticking with the writer’s analogy of athletics. An athlete puts his body through rigorous training in order to compete and finish well. It is often, a painful experience. Interestingly, the Greek word used for race, ‘agon’, is the word from which we get ‘agony’. This walk of faith will sometimes be arduous but we cannot give up. That is why we must run it with patience. Those who are now witnesses, who are not simply spectators but persons who ran before us, ran right up to the end under real persecution but they never gave up. We must never give up either. It will be hard but keep running.
  3. Keep your eyes on Jesus as you run: Don’t be distracted by whatever is happening around you. Keep your eyes on Jesus. And when you consider what He, Himself, endured just for you and considered a joy to have endured such, it should motivate you to keep running. A cross was before Him but for Him it did not merely represent shame and torture. It represented purpose.

The advent of the prosperity and name-it-and claim it teachings have distracted believers from the understanding the value of suffering and the need for believers to endure it. Athletes endure whatever pain they must to win a reward that will fade. But we run and endure for one of far great value. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” So run the race that is set before. Run and finish well. Persevere in faith.