I was sitting in a meeting once where the topic of church finance came up. The topic was evangelism and the statement was, “We have got to get more people in here to pay these bills.” No one disputes that it costs a lot of money to maintain and operate a church. If we are to do ministry and mission, it takes money. However, evangelism just for the sake of paying the bills, is not good theology, nor is it good evangelism.
Another person sitting quietly in the room spoke up. “We need to get more people to tithe,” he said. The earlier gentleman said, “Tithe, I don’t tithe and I won’t tithe.” The quiet man said, “The answer is in tithing.”
I have never been so proud of the man who offered the idea of tithing. For twenty-three years I have watched this man grow, from a young man starting out in marriage and a job, to grow into the leader he is today. Twenty-three years ago he wasn’t a tither either. But he listened to the sermons, he checked it out in the Bible. He asked questions in Bible study. He made the commitment and “wow” how he has grown, in his spiritual life and his personal life.
I could have said the same thing to the earlier man. But I am only the preacher. It is in my self interest to teach tithing. My words have never had the impact that this gentle soul had in his words and challenge.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3 NIV)
It is never too soon to start!
Perhaps you are like me, I sometimes forget things. The mind isn’t the steel trap it once was. I find myself having to write down lists of things to do, to remember, or just notes. At first I was troubled by this, I guess a feeling of growing old. Then I noticed something, it was freeing – almost liberating. When I took the notes, it freed me to forget. It was one less thing to worry about remembering.
I have a friend who is now several years sober. It was a long journey and she still carries the scars of those drinking years. But she discovered the importance of keeping a journal of her journey. When she was sober, she would read in her journal about what was happening, how she felt and the pain. It was enough to relive the pain and never want to go back.
I am mindful of the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. God wrote it down so that not just this generation but all generations would remember. In the Book of Revelation when God addresses the seven churches, God says “write.” We remember. All important things are written down.
Like you, I keep an electronic calendar that I can access from the office or from my home. (I rarely carry my cell phone around.) On that calendar I put all of my important meetings or dates. On that calendar I block time for God. Do you do the same?
All of us are saddened by the outbreak of killings that are taking place across the country. It happens in urban places, rural places, poor neighborhoods, affluent neighborhoods, it happens everywhere. Wherever a group of people gather (schools, malls, businesses, etc.) a mass killing can happen.
We talk about the shooters as people who are mentally unstable. Many are unstable, but not all. Some know the people that they are killing, but some don’t. Regardless of what is behind the motive or reason for the shooting, the quick, easy and abundance of guns makes it all too possible. I remember a few weeks ago when here in Wichita a toddler was shot and killed because the child was trying to get his father’s handgun out of the night stand drawer. Why would anyone with a small child make a hand gun so available?
I admit, I am scared. Several years ago I conducted the funeral for a ten year old girl whose brother blew her head off with a gun. “He didn’t know it was loaded.” Talk about a family in pieces!
At some point we as a society have to decide that what is good for the whole of the community is greater than our individual liberties. I have problems with what is going on in Texas right now. Going into a fast food place, grocery store or even to the mall, and seeing people with a gun hanging over their shoulder is frightening. It all may be legal, but I feel less secure seeing such things.
The NRA is a powerful group. While it may be about rights, it is more about money. Don’t get me wrong. I think we should be able to have guns for hunting or sport, but, do we really need a gun that fires 50 rounds in 60 seconds? Assault weapons are designed for one purpose, to kill people. When everyone is packing a hand gun, who really is the victim? Perhaps it is time the Christian insists that stronger background checks be made. That certain types of weapons be banned. Yes, bad people will always have access to a weapon of some type, but just perhaps, somewhere in all of this madness, our society will begin to change.
When I first read about the release of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl I was angry. I was never in the middle of it all, but even I remembered questions about Bergdahl’s disappearance in the war. It didn’t make sense why a solider would put down his gun and just walk off into the desert. Was he disillusioned with the war (who hasn’t been)? Was he going over to the other side (there has been no evidence)? Out for a stroll (that is crazy)? Or, was he mentally ill (possible)? I remember various conversations with vets who have been in the thick of war. “It is hell,” they all say. You are afraid, you can’t sleep, you feel sick at your stomach and you even cry. It all looks so glamourous on TV, but in real life, it’s anything but.
Perhaps I am more bothered by his father. Learning the language of his son’s captors? Growing an Islamic beard? Actively working to free all prisoners of war? But then I think to myself, “What if that was my son?” The answer comes pretty quick, “Whatever it takes!” Love is more powerful than ridicule.
Does it put future solders in danger? Probably no more danger than they normally are in. We talk a good line of no negotiations, but we all know it happens and has happened under every administration. Most take place through third parties, some are direct that we rarely hear about. The real truth is that Bergdahl is lucky to be alive.
I will be interested in “hearing the rest of the story.” If Sgt Bowe Bergdahl deserted or defected, he is going to jail. Of course, jail in the USA may be better than captivity in Afghanistan. Or is the young man just simply mentally ill? Time will tell. Perhaps there is more to this story than any of us civilians know. (What if Bergdahl was not the issue but the excuse?) What if one or more of the released prisoners was rehabilitated? Stay tuned.
At one time I was a prisoner. A prisoner to sin. But my Father who loved me so much, came to where I was, and died for me. Love wins over hatred every time. How can I be critical of Bergdahl, when I have been Bergdahl?
We express our condolences to Jodie Lambert in the death of her mother Gene Reisig. Gene died Monday morning following a long illness. Services are pending.