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An Effective Model for 21st Century Discipleship

An Effective Model for 21st Century Discipleship

Jesus showed us how to do church and small groups

Jesus modeled discipleship in a very personal and relational way without any sign of complexity. The Messiah called each disciple through a personal invitation. He only used simple words that opened the doors to a transformed life to everyone whom he invited.  

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him

 “Follow Me” are two simple words that are very clear and personal. Jesus did not say, “come to me and follow me only if you do this thing or if you know that doctrine.” He did not invite people to come and join his causes or the principles he believed in. Rather, Jesus said, “Follow ‘Me.’” Jesus called out his first disciples to a relationship with him. This simple invitation of Jesus should remain the same for all generations.  

21st Century Church

Discipleship in the 21st Century should follow the way Jesus modeled it. It must first and foremost begin with a clear and compelling invitation. Moreover, there is something more to discipleship than just the invitation. Phil Stevenson describes the invitation of Jesus as clear, consistent, and challenging.  

When Jesus invited Peter and Andrew, they left their nets at once and immediately followed Jesus. They had to let go of what they already had to discover what could be there in Jesus. In contrast, Jesus extended the same invitation to a wealthy man who had so many possessions to let go of, so he responded to the invitation by holding on to what he owns and knows at the expense of living the unknown with Jesus.

As it was in the 1st Century, so it is in the 21st Century; Jesus is inviting us to respond to the opportunity extended by Jesus to follow him. Those who respond set out on the path of discipleship, following the way Jesus modeled it to them.    

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Why Your Church Needs a Small Group Ministry?

Reasons for Establishing a Small Group Ministry

In his article, “10 Reasons Why Your Church Should Have Small Groups”, Daniel Threlfall identifies the importance of small groups. First on his list is that small groups foster close relationships and basic community. A small group atmosphere is good for establishing friendships since individuals tend to talk more in small groups.  

The second is that small groups provide a comfortable environment to welcome nonbelievers to the Christian faith.

A natural and understandable fear common among us is fear in forming relationships, especially if it involves sharing our faith and beliefs with other people.

However, inviting someone to a small group meeting provides a way to involve a nonbeliever in the church. A nonbeliever is more likely to ask questions, get answers, and form relationships with a small group of believers. Thus, small groups can be a powerful missional tool, allowing for the greater spread of the gospel among nonbelievers in the community.  

Third, small groups provide a good way to care for the needs of people within the church.

When a small group member is struggling, it is much easier for the other group members to notice. They can already provide assistance. The structure of a small group is essentially a community of friends of the same faith. As a result, friends are meant to help one another, especially if they are friends in Christ.  

Fourth, small groups allow Christians to live out their faith instead of becoming churchgoers and mere Gospel listeners.

Since members discuss the Sunday preaching, talk about their personal and spiritual battles, and/or pray for one another during meetings, small groups provide a setting for Christians to live out their faith.  

Fifth on Threlfall’s list is that small groups provide focused prayer for one another.

Threlfall noted that in a small group meeting, each of the present people took a few minutes to tell others about their particular challenges or concerns. Then, as soon as one is finished, the person next to him will take some time to pray for him. Small groups are a great place for prayer meetings.  

Sixth, small groups offer a comfortable atmosphere for openness.

One admirable thing about small groups is that members often meet in the comfort of their homes, where people can open up, listen, learn, and grow. Threlfall pointed out that this is the same with the first disciples of Jesus who are meeting in houses or being part of a household.  

Seventh, small groups allow for mutual edification among believers.

Believers tend to depend upon the leaders for spiritual food and nourishment easily. However, the Scripture states otherwise, for God also gives spiritual gifts to all believers, not just to the preachers and leaders. The whole church benefits from it.

Every Christian should minister to other Christians with their gifts, and this happens most naturally, effectively, and purposefully within small groups.   

Eight, small groups encourage better learning.

Listening to a Sunday preaching is a great way to learn the Word, but it is easy to become detached from the message, making us passive listeners. This is not the case within a small group. As a few people gather together, every individual is expected to be involved and to participate. Active involvement is an effective way to learn better.  

Ninth, small groups are a source of encouragement and accountability.

It is easy to go in and out of the church and not be noticed. This is common with megachurches, but it also happens in an average-sized church of 100 or 150 attendees.

People come for each Sunday service but do not get themselves involved. These individuals need accountability in their lives, encouragement in their walk with God, and/or help in some way in which small groups can provide.  

Lastly, small groups cultivate leadership within the church.

Someone is necessary to lead a small group meeting or at least facilitate the discussion. Thus, there is a need for leaders other than the pastor. Small groups provide opportunities for leadership development among members within the church.

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Highlight: Beware of the Birds

Highlight: Beware of the Birds

God is the Sower. Ultimately, nothing grows if He did not plant it. He uses people to establish His purposes. Most of the time, He can use you to share the Gospel with your friend. However, it’s also only God who can make things grow. 

Sometimes, we are the field by which God sows things. Unfortunately, there are times when we become the birds who snatch away the good that God has planted in the hearts of others.

Who are the Birds?

The church can attract different sets of people. Sometimes, the people are like the birds in the parable of Jesus.

Jesus uses these parables to warn us. There would be members of the church who can steal or kill or destroy what God has been doing. The enemy is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Every Christian must be vigilant. In fact, even Christians can be stirred in the wrong direction and become birds at one point in their lives.

Some people may also take advantage of the church community. They become members not because of their faith but because they want to be served. They want to benefit from belonging to the church. However, since there is no genuine repentance and Lordship in their lives, it ends up in chaos. Church leaders must be vigilant that “birds” do not steal the seed that has been planted for the church to grow. Birds snatch up the seed. They steal the seed so they cannot take root and bloom.

As true believers, we can take comfort in the fact that we can ask for wisdom from God. We must be careful to weed out such people so that they don’t steal away the fruits that have the potential to grow in our lives. God can sow a prophetic word in your heart, but birds (fear or doubt) can snatch them away. Nevertheless, birds have a purpose in the story.

Jesus still allowed the presence of Judas Iscariot as one of his chosen twelve even when he knew that Judas was bound to betray him (Jn. 6:70). This shows us that Jesus, in fact, allows or permits evil to coexist with good under his sovereignty and use it for his purposes. 

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Highlight: The Mustard Seed

Seed: In the last post, we talked about how it is crucial to plant good soil for the seed to grow.  Sometimes, we are the farmer who can sow seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of others when we interact with them. In other times, we are the field by which God Himself sow greatness. In both cases, if the soil of the field is hard, nothing will grow.

The Mustard Seed

Scholars note that it is odd to call a mustard a tree. The fact is it’s only grown to be a shrub. Jesus certainly did not make a mistake in his word choice. The people who were listening to him understood that mustard seeds don’t really grow into trees.

This metaphor implies that a mustard seed growing into a tree is unnatural and could not happen if agricultural laws apply.  

If you notice this, you’ll see Jesus’ warnings. There will be many churches and Christians that seem to grow unnaturally. While we can chalk this up to the supernatural grace of God, this can also mean that there are perversions in the way Christians and churches are produced.  Jesus wants to warn Christians about this unnatural way of being.

Shrub vs. Tree Potential

A shrub differs from a tree.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit develops a true Christian. This individual will differ from one who has a superficial faith. The Christian can live and make decisions by the grace of God. Conversely, the other who claims to be Christian is only borne out of good works and trivial human effort. Somehow, a part of us shrivels in discomfort when we enter a church or encounter a Christian that may appear God-honoring on the outside but is truly self-gratifying on the inside. Even the least discerning of us get uncomfortable around certain people because we know that the way they present themselves is fake and unnatural.  

The Lack of Authenticity in the Church

When watermelons grow naturally, they are oval in shape, full of seeds, and are covered by a green, striped outer skin. Yet these days, we will find watermelons that are square, seedless, and monochromic. These are unnatural, produced by the interference of human hands. While we enjoy eating a seedless watermelon for its convenience, watermelons were never really designed or created to be this way.

In the same way, some churches have become perverted when it comes to their doctrines, values, and objectives; thus, they take on a new nature – one that is not of God. They may identify as a church of Christ in the same way that the mustard tree is identified as something that stemmed from the mustard seed, but the way they present themselves and what makes them up differ. They grow because they placed their own hands in the process.  As a result, we will encounter churches with resounding accusations of secularism, manipulation, abuse, purposeful connection with authoritative figures to acquire power, and unnecessary extensive expenses on marketing and advertising.

 

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Breaking Down the Parable of the Mustard Seed

What does the mustard seed teach us?

Countless churches and Christians today look to the parable of the mustard seed. We must take cues from the values that Jesus was presenting to the early believers when he spoke of it.

Still, the parable has important facets that we can only understand if we have the same context and knowledge as the ones who initially heard it.

While most had come to understand and appreciate how the mustard seed was the smallest seed known when this parable was given, there are elements that we do not inherently know due to cultural differences.

Agriculture was an important topic for the listeners of Jesus. The listeners knew the specific traits and functions of the different kinds of seeds.

For instance, apart from the fact that the mustard seed was known for its size, its quality was also something that was to be noted. Apparently, it is also famous for being an irritant.

Should it touch a person’s skin, it can cause contact dermatitis. The place of contact will turn red and feel as if it is burning. In modern times, we mix it with vinegar, oils, wine. People need to mix other spices with it before the public can commercially consume the seed.

Small in size but with great potential

Legend tells us that when Darius, the king of Persia, invaded Europe with his army, he sent a bag of sesame seeds to Alexander the Great to symbolize that there are as many soldiers in his army as there are seeds in the bag. Stepping up to the plate, Alexander sent back a bag of mustard seeds to Darius as a way of saying that while their army may be many, his army is biting and fiery. Such was the case for the mustard seed – small in size but large in potential. 

 

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The Problem with Megachurches

The Megachurch

What is it? A megachurch is a congregation with more than 2,000 attendees. The existence of megachurches has long been debated and argued over throughout modern church history.  It’s not just the ballooning number of church attendees. A megachurch has other elements such as contemporary worship and programmatic ministries. It also has charismatic leadership, membership relations, and integration of all the latest technological advancements.

 This kind of structure has seen a rise in modern Christianity. However, it goes against what traditional churches looked like in previous centuries. There may have been congregations with large numbers before, but never this much, all simultaneously. The megachurch completely took over the American Christian scene in the 1970s, and the numbers have since grown and multiplied.

In 1990, there were 300 megachurches in the United States, and by 2010, this number has grown to 1,600.

This unprecedented growth rate implies that the megachurch has, in fact, become a new organizational norm in Christianity as it supplies the needs of the modern culture and society. 

Is it just a trend?

The trend brought celebrities and notable influencers into the fold of Christianity. Nevertheless, others would digress that this is simply because being part of certain megachurches has been viewed as trendy. The sheer size alone would intrigue people. The megachurches are dabbling into television and social media. The church members would eventually become self-generating. Studies attest to this. Large gatherings of people create a social vortex. It can draw the interest of others. Interestingly enough, even the controversy surrounding megachurches causes people to attend and look at the cause of such social strain.  

Is it just the numbers?

For instance, the World Changers Ministries undertook an 800-seat dome in the 1990s for its Atlanta congregation. This drew much attention and concern from the local neighborhood associations. Eventually, the criticism ended up featured in newspapers and TV reports. This, in turn, qualified as free publicity for the ministry, and an increase in attendance was observed thereafter. However, while an 8000-attendee congregation appears controversial to some traditional churches and critics. There are plenty of other churches with larger numbers. America’s largest megachurch is that of Joel Osteen, with over 52,000 members. This may seem large, but it has nothing in number compared to South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, with over 800,000 members.

Consequently, this large number would make it difficult for the churches to keep track of all the members. Nearly all megachurches have organizational structures that aim to provide support and services to everyone involved. They employ what is known as the “seeker-sensitive approach,” that is, the practice of being deliberately welcoming to newcomers through informal set-ups and active engagements. Parking lot assistants begin the experience by courteously assisting everyone who comes along, and ushers take it a step further by heartily smiling and pouring attention to the people who walk into the sanctuary. More volunteers would accompany them to their seats and get to know them as they wait for the service to start. 

Is it effective to get people in the church?

Critics would say that this is a futile attempt and that the church is trying too hard to be welcoming. To a degree, they claim that such techniques together with the program prove to be an enchantment of sorts and the attendees go to chase an emotional high; however, reviewing its impact will show that even those who are normally uncomfortable with regular church settings will find themselves warming up and open because of these efforts.  

The merging of professional marketing strategies and the sacred word of God comes across as profanity for some, but against popular belief, most megachurches maintain a conservative theology. In a sense, the megachurch is simply employing what the apostle Paul modeled, which was to reach those who were lost,  

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22) 

Reaching the Youth

The intention is to do something new for a new generation.  This may be why megachurches appeal largely to professionals under the age of 45, with more than half of the attendees surveyed to at least be college graduates. If we place this information in economic tiers, it should come as no surprise that middle-class, well-educated families have been drawn to megachurches in hoards. The distinctive effort put in by megachurches to appeal to the current generation and the way they seamlessly utilize smart business practices and sound theology appeal have proven to bear fruit based on the continuous growth they reap.  

Several traditional churches do not like megachurches because they view them as threats. A common misconception is that megachurches steal the members of other churches with their modernity, but statistics show that this is not the case.vi Megachurches grow because they are encouraged to invite others as they have been invited. The overall experience they are given makes it easier for new church attendees to stay. 

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A Commandment for Generations

“The destiny of future generations depends on our action today.”

Sunday Adelaja

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

Exodus 20:5 NRSV

Number 15 opens up shortly after Israel’s defeat at Kadesh-Barnea. This failure shows that the people have not learned how to trust and obey (Num. 14). The Lord rejected the older generation and started a clean slate with the younger ones. On the other hand, God had a different message — a word of encouragement — for the younger generation: “You are going to enter the land I am giving you as a home” (Num. 15:1).

This younger generation faced 38 years of wandering, but the Lord guaranteed that they would enter the Promised Land and claim their inheritance. The children suffered because of the sins of their fathers. Their fathers did not believe and obey the Lord, and as a consequence, the blessing was delayed, even for the younger generation. It shows us that when we disobey God, even in withholding our tithes and offering, we are not only causing trouble upon ourselves but for the next generations.

It shows us that when we disobey God, even in withholding our tithes and offering, we are not only causing trouble upon ourselves but for the next generations.

The older generation of Israelites repeatedly refused to submit to God’s authority, and to the authority of God’s appointed leaders. In the present day, these are our spiritual fathers — the pastors and the church elders. Believers commit the same mistake. We see divided churches, dysfunctional families, and rebellious people judging and wandering away from the church, and never accomplishing much in the work of the Lord.

The thing is this, and we need to get it so as not to suffer the faith of the older generation of Israelites —  Unless we submit to God’s Word and His appointed leaders (Heb. 13:7-9,17), we cannot successfully claim our inheritance in Christ (Eph. 2:10), and do the work God set for us to do.

When it comes to the offering, when you fail to bring in your târumah because you don’t want it to go to your pastor, instead of keeping your wealth, you would lose it. It’s because you lose the blessing and the chance to step into your promised land because you willfully dishonored God and His appointed leaders.

The younger generation can only enjoy the blessings of entering the Promised Land if they obeyed God. It’s the same standard for them, as it was with their parents. Moses gave them four special instructions that the believers today would benefit from if they obeyed them.

First, please the Lord (Num. 15:1-21). When they do enter the Promised Land, they were to offer to the Lord. The offerings were designed to please the Lord. The sacrifices discussed in these verses were spontaneous expressions of love and gratitude to the Lord. Along with these sacrifices, the worshipper was instructed to offer two quarts of fine flour with about a quart of oil, a portion of which was given on the altar, while the rest are given to the priest.

The younger generation must heed this command to make an offering and give it to the priest in order to please the Lord.

When larger animals were sacrificed, the amounts of the meal, oil, and wine were increased proportionately. The offering to the priest was dependent on the tithe that was initially given to the altar.

Take note of this interesting point. The Jews would not become agricultural people unless they settled in the promised land, and cultivated vineyards, olive trees, and fields of grain. The Lord was already assuring them of the provision for the offering they would make. The Israelites have not even stepped into the Promised Land yet, the Lord already gave instructions for the offering. It means He is also assuring that they would be provided for in the land. God would not ask you to offer anything He has not given you.

The Israelites have not even stepped into the Promised Land yet, the Lord already gave instructions for the offering. It means He is also assuring that they would be provided for in the land.

 

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PROTECTION

EVIDENCE OF GOD’S PROTECTION

EVIDENCE OF GOD’S PROTECTION: 

King Hezekiah began his independent reign when he broke the treaty which his father Ahaz made with the Assyrians (2 Kgs. 16:7), probably during the reign of Sargon II (722-705 B.C.). Sargon’s successor Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) decided to bring Judah into line, and he led a campaign against Hezekiah in the king’s 14th year (2 Kgs. 18:13). Hoping to prevent Jerusalem’s capture, Hezekiah hid the city by concealing the outside water supplies (2 Chron. 32:3-4).

He also repaired any weak spots in the wall and built towers around it (1 Kgs. 9:24), and added to the weapon supply. He also mobilized the people under army officers. He encouraged them not to feat, but to trust the Lord — a power far superior to a nation like Assyria. Hezekiah assured the people that the Lord was with them to help them.

What was Hezekiah doing in the previous chapter? (Protection)

He was securing the tithes of the people and also making sure the priests are provided for and encouraging people to be consistent about their giving.

He took care of the priests — God’s workers. As a result, God protected Hezekiah’s reign and gave him victory.

In 2 Chronicles 32:9-15, Sennacherib boasted that no other god had been able to protect his people from the Assyrians. He was mocking the God of the Israelites, saying He was just another God. After his taunting through letters and addresses through his messengers, he would send delegates to speak in Hebrew on the wall to demoralize the people about their God.

Hezekiah took care of the provision for the priest. In return, the Lord protected him and his kingdom.

Hezekiah turned to the Lord with the Prophet Isaiah. With the help of the prophet, they prayed for divine deliverance. God gave the king assurance through the prophet (2 Kgs. 19:20-34). God sent an angel to destroy the Assyrian host forcing Sennacherib to retreat in humility (2 Chron. 32:20-21a). Hezekiah took care of the provision for the priest. In return, the Lord protected him and his kingdom. He upheld Hezekiah’s throne against the Assyrian army. This protection only comes from God.

 

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PROTECTION

PLAGUE

THE PLAGUE

THE PLAGUE:  “Require each of the men to pay money to me in order to keep him safe from danger while you are doing this [counting].”

In Exodus 30, if a person does not give a ransom for himself to the Lord, thus declaring himself to be separate from God and putting oneself outside God’s protective care, this person becomes stricken by a plague. There will be no plague among them who would give an offering. The word plague means “blow” or “affliction.”

In any case, this word implies a disaster in the Today’s English Version (TEV), and danger in the Contemporary English Version (CEV) that God would bring upon people who do not bring in an offering. It is also possible to combine the final two sentences of the passage to get a better context of it. Doing so, we can read it like this.

“Require each of the men to pay money to me in order to keep him safe from danger while you are doing this [counting].

Are you experiencing disasters or turbulence in your life right now? May I ask how are you handling your finances? Are you bringing in your tithe? If so, maybe it’s because you are not bringing in your târumah. When you are failing to do any of these things, in your actions you are saying you do not belong to God, therefore His hedge of protection cannot be around you. God is a gentle God. He basically lets you be when you reject Him, along with that His protection and favor can also be withheld.

The money offering received served as a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord. In the Bible, there are different kinds of memorials. When the people gave as they were numbered, the children are a witness to this act. As the Israelites obeyed, they are also teaching their children to obey. The parents’ act of obedience also serves as a blessing and inheritance to the next generation.  The next generation would know that they also belong to the Almighty God.

The parents’ act of obedience also serves as a blessing and inheritance to the next generation. 

 

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PLAGUE

The-Tarumah-and-The-Protection-of-God

The Tărūmāh and The Protection of God

The Tărūmāh and The Protection of God: 

“With time you can learn where to go for nourishment, where to hide for protection, where to turn for guidance. Just as your earthly house is a place of refuge, so God’s house is a place of peace.”

– Max Lucado

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing, he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 NRSV

Exodus 30 shows us another interesting purpose for the offering and how it is made for atonement. It is an offering that is used to save people’s lives. First, let’s examine the passage below:

11 Then the Lord spoke to Moses. He said, 12 “Make a list of the Israelites and count them. When you do, each one must pay the Lord for his life at the time he is counted. Then a plague will not come on them when you count them.

13 Each one counted must pay a fifth of an ounce of silver. It must be weighed out in keeping with the standard weights that are used in the sacred tent. The payment is an offering to the Lord.

14 Each one counted must be 20 years old or more. He must give an offering to the Lord.

15 When you make the offering, rich people must not give more than a fifth of an ounce of silver. And poor people must not give less. The offering you give to the Lord will pay for your lives.

16 Receive the money from the people of Israel. Use it for any purpose in the tent of meeting. It will remind the people that they are paying me for their lives.” (Exodus 30:11-16)

The context of the passage above took place at the numbering of people for the purpose of enrolling them in the arm of Jehovah (Num. 1:3, Exo. 7:4, 12:41). Everyone who passed over to those that were numbered was to pay half a shekel to the sanctuary as atonement money. Both the rich and the poor paid the same amount 1/5 of an ounce of silver.

Both the rich and the poor both paid the same amount 1/5 of an ounce of silver.

We are all equal in the sight of Jehovah. This payment was to be a târumah (Exo. 25:2) for Jehovah for the expiation of souls.

If we relate it to today’s context, the tithes are the same for both the rich and the poor, it is the first 10%. In terms of the târumah, it is 1/40th for the generous person.

The shekel of the sanctuary, which contained 20 s, can be considered as the original shekel of full weight. There was a lighter shekel which was currently in ordinary use. The sacred shekel, according to the present valuation is worth 26 groschens. One Euro is equivalent to 13.76 groschens. In dollar former, one sacred shekel is about $2.14.

During this time, it was a huge task to take a census. However, this is what Israel will undergo. If you have ever done an inventory, you know that the only one who can order this is the one in authority. Only the person who owns whatever is counted can order an inventory. We only have the authority to count things that are rightfully ours. We cannot put our numbers on other people’s stuff. The census declares that the Israelites who were numbered are God’s.

They were His people, and He alone had the authority to count them.

Who had the right to number the Israelites? It was only God who has the authority to do this. They were His people, and He alone had the authority to count them.  According to the commentary of A. W. Pink “When God numbers or orders anything to be numbered, taking the sum of them denotes that they belong to Him and that He has the sovereign right to do with them as He pleases. The action itself says of the things numbered, ‘These are Mine, and I assign them their place as I will.” The only way to properly count the Israelites was for God’s glory alone.

There is a risk that whenever the Israelites took a census, they are in danger of forgetting this. After all, they are the ones physically doing the counting. Thus, they would be tempted to think that their great numbers were a credit to them, rather than to God. They would be tempted to think that their great numbers were a credit to them, rather than to God. It’s not a sin to take a census, but it is a sin to rob God of His glory.

They would be tempted to think that their great numbers were a credit to them, rather than to God.

King David experienced this downfall. He started saying and feeling pride about how big his army was, without attributing its number to the Lord. David got caught up in the numbers game. This boasting can be a temptation for everyone, even a temptation for churches. Pastors always want to see the latest church attendance figures, especially based on the tithes and offering. This information is indeed useful since we want to measure if what we are doing is productive. However, we cannot use it to keep score and to compare our ministry with that of another senior pastor. We are not in a competition. We are on the same team, with the desire to advance God’s Kingdom.

In this context, to make sure the Israelites remembered that they did not belong to themselves but to God, God required a târumah. He required a ransom for every man in Israel. By paying half a shekel, they were acknowledging that they did not belong to themselves, but to God. In the same way, our tithes and offering declare that we belong to the Lord, and we (as well as our finances) are therefore protected.

In the same way, our tithes and offering declare that we belong to the Lord, and we (as well as our finances) are therefore protected.

 

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Raise as a Contribution So I Can Dwell Among Them

Raise as a Contribution So I Can Dwell Among Them

Raise as a Contribution So I Can Dwell Among Them:

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.

-G.K. Chesterton

“Your happiest while you’re making the greatest contribution.”

-Robert F. Kennedy

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7 NRSV

 

A worship service in ancient Israel

In Exodus 24, God confirmed his covenant with Israel in a public worship service. This ancient worship service is similar to what we experience. It’s a call to worship, a confession of faith, a reading from God’s Word, and a celebration of communion.  It was all done in the glorious presence of the Lord on the basis of a blood covenant. Even by this day’s standard, it was a complete worship service.

The only thing the assembly did not do was take it upon offer. However, this is to be rectified in chapter 25. Moses went up the mountain again, as he waited for six days for God’s next instruction on what to do next. On the seventh day, the prophet was allowed to enter the glory of God.

The first thing God said was to take up an offering for the tabernacle. They were to set up a Holy Sanctuary so that God may dwell with His people.

Just like when we have a building project for our church, and we take up a special offering for it, the Lord commanded Israelites to take up an offering specifically to build him a sanctuary. The people were to fund the building of a sanctuary so that He can dwell among us.

Giving and Commitment

Giving to God is a significant sign of our commitment to Christ. Our willingness to give back some of what we own is a strong indicator of spiritual health. A Christian who is not giving is probably not growing. Stewardship helps a Christian grows. When a Christian is giving to the Lord, then he is exhibiting stewardship. A lot of Christians are embarrassed or timid to talk about money. They view their finances to be a private matter, and it’s none of the church’s business.

A person who wants to hear the Word would hear a sermon on giving because finances is an important biblical theme. More than 400 Bible passages talk specifically about money, and a lot more than covers principles for Christian stewardship. Exodus 25 is one of those passages. The instructions God gave a talk about the Christian’s duty to give our best to God — from each of our hearts — for his holy work.

 

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Raise as a Contribution So I Can Dwell Among Them

SOCIAL JUSTICE

SOCIAL JUSTICE

The Bible has repeatedly stressed the obligation of the believer to aid those who are in need.

SOCIAL JUSTICE: The Bible has repeatedly stressed the obligation of the believer to aid those who are in need. The purpose why the Lord provides for us is for personal sustenance, and to help others who need it. When we only use our income for personal gain, then we are moving into social injustice. We are not doing our part to contribute to society. Even when the bible stressed this obligation to help the less fortunate, there is no specific term for it.

Tzedakah is something the Rabbis adopted to apply to charity, in the context of social justice.

Tzedakah’s literal meaning is “righteousness” or “justice,” as in the famous biblical phrase, “Tzedek, Tzedek, tirdof” (“Justice, justice, shall you pursue”; Deut. 16:20). Charity is not merely a generous or magnanimous act.

For the Israelites, giving is the performance of a religiously mandated duty to provide something to which the needy have a right. By providing the chance to carry out an important mitzvah, the poor man gives the giver more in accepting the alms, than the giver does for the poor man in giving him charity. How come? The poor man allows the giver to be blessed a hundredfold.

The blessings come according to the individual’s obedience to God’s divine laws and commands.

God determines who He is going to bless with wealth and who is going to be poor. He is the ultimate owner of all human possessions. The blessings come according to the individual’s obedience to God’s divine laws and commands. Understandably, the one who has faith in the Lord would obey, and be blessed. On the other hand, the one who doubts the Word of God would ignore His commands and would find himself in lack. A person who believes in the Lord should be willing to give whatever he or she has to fulfill the divine will of the Lord.

Leaning towards social justice:

There is a need to consider the Jewish view of charity. Christians focus on charity as motivated by the love for fellow human beings. The Jewish view is more realistic and leaning towards social justice. They believe in giving to those who need help and doing it because it is right — as they have the resources and they have the need.

It does not mean that Jewish ethics have no concept of love or philanthropy. Instead, they believe in going above the requirements of the law, as an act of lovingkindness. As in the last chapter, there are different kinds of givers. Aspire to be the generous giver and set apart a portion of what God has given to you to bless others.

A Divine Attribute

Having the tzedakah spirit, or a philanthropic spirit is a divine attribute since God upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widows (Deut. 10:18). If God does so, then the one who gives to those who need it partners with the Lord. Giving to the poor is regarded as an essential element of the righteous life. It is not enough to simply fast and do your devotions. What good is that if there is no fruit?

Action must back up your faith. Action reveals the faith of the person.

The prophet Isaiah castigated those who fast and do nothing afterward. He is telling the believers to fast and share their bread with the hungry or take the poor into your home. Action must back up your faith. Action reveals the faith of the person.

The Prophet Ezekiel (16:49) prophesied about the destruction of Sodom because of its lack of charity: they “had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” King Solomon talked about the noble wife giving generously to the poor, her hands being stretched out to help the need (Prov. 31:20).

Here’s another passage that is interesting, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full” (Prov. 19:17). How amazing is this Word? When you are generous, it is the Lord whom you are lending to, and it is also the Lord who would pay you back in full. King Solomon also wrote to do what is right (tzedakah) is more desired by the Lord than sacrifice (Prov. 21;3). The Lord values the one who goes beyond what the Law says.

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SOCIAL JUSTICE