Yo! Hypocrites!

5 Oct

How many times have you flipped through the TV channels and come accross some TV evangelist, preaching at the top of his lungs. Running commercials of some poor kids in Africa. Pleading with you to send them money. They say that your gift to God will help these poor people on the other side of the world.

Then, you see news stories of this same preacher driving luxury vehicles, living in multi-million dollar homes, flying in private jets. If you were able to look at their books, I would seriously doubt that not much, if any, money actually reaches the poor. Yet, they raise millions. People often get their image of Christianity from what they see on TV. I was reminded of this as I listened to Emcee One, a Christian rapper. In Lukewarm II Hot, he says it like this:

I flip through channels and stop at TBN
Now, at least TBN will talk about the Savior,
but sometimes I wonder,
watchin’ some of those mens behavior.
(Emcee One – Lukewarm II Hot)

Jesus had the same problem. The Pharisees were the most numerous and influencial of the religious sects of Jesus’ day. They were strict legalists. There were some good men among them but mostly, they were known for their covetousness, self-righteousness and hypocrisy. In Matthew 23, Jesus lays into the Pharisees. They are hypocrites and Jesus let them, and everyone listening, know it. Not only were they hypocrites, people formed their opinions of religion and God based on what they saw of these men. It wasn’t positive.

Around verse 23, Jesus berates them for making a show of tithing, by even tithing their spices but yet disregarded more important matters of the law like justice, mercy and faithfulness. In this statement, Jesus told them that they shouldn’t disregard the tithe, but emphasized that they should focus on the more important matters of the law.

It is equally important that we have our priorities straight when it comes to giving. We shouldn’t give just to be following the law or because we would feel guilty by not giving. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul tells us that we should give cheerfully and not because we feel that we have to.

So…..go and give cheerfully! 😀

Pauls P’s – A Pattern Of Giving

4 Oct

Back in the day, Paul was a very important man. He traveled all around teaching new Christians how to conduct themselves. The church in Corinth was one of the churches that depended on his sound advice. About three years after Paul had first visited Corinth, a delegation of leaders from Corinth came to visit him in Ephesus where he was staying.

In Corinth, as everywhere, except Jerusalem, Christians had no one great central meeting place. They met in homes, halls or wherever else they could. There were many Christians in Corinth but not one great congregation. There were several small groups that developed into rival, competing units and they couldn’t agree on anything. Some of the main issues that concerned these Christians were factions, immorality, lawsuites, meat offered to idols, abuses of the Lord’s Supper, false apostles, problems about marriage and many others. Paul wrote a letter to the church to address these issues. The letter is what we now call 1 Corinthians.

Toward the end of the letter, Paul addresses a promised collection that they were going to send to Jerusalem to meet the needs of the persecuted belivers. Our book calls them:

Pauls P’s – A Pattern of Giving(1 Corinthians 16:1-4)

  1. Giving should be personal-Paul said “Let each one of you…
  2. Giving should be periodic-Paul instructed them to give regularily – “on the first day of every week“. The first day of the week was the established Day for Christian Worship (Acts 20:7)
  3. Giving should be out of a private deposit – Paul said, “Put aside and save…“. Open a seperate account specifically for giving!
  4. Giving should be premeditated – Paul instructed them to do this before he came so that he wouldn’t have to “pass the hat” when he came. Our giving should involve thought, planning and prayer.

In our study of giving as it relates to Gods Way of Handling Money, we can learn from Pauls instructions to the Corinthian Christians. We should approach our giving with thought, planning and prayer and our giving needs to be deliberate. We don’t want our giving to become like another bill to pay monthly.

The Magic Cookie Jar

3 Oct

About 5 years ago, someone gave me a cookie jar filled with cookies. On the lid was written the following:

You have been given a very special cookie jar. This jar is filled with the most wonderful cookies ever made. You can eat these cookies until they are gone or you can choose to share them with others. If you eat what you need and share the rest, it will never run out. If you save the cookies, they will spoil.

I couldn’t believe it. Who had ever heard of a cookie jar that replenishes itself if you share the contents? Well, I’m a curious type so I thought, I’ll try it. I ate one cookie. It was amazing. The cookie was the best I had ever tasted. For a moment, I was tempted to just keep them for myself, but I decided I see what would happen. I took the cookies and started handing them out until they were all gone. I replaced the lid and waited. Five minutes later I looked, there were no cookies. Ten minutes later – nothing. One hour later – nothing. I started to regret giving all those cookies away! What kind of sick joke was this? I went to bed depressed. Those were the best cookies I had tasted and I just gave them all away! Well, I hoped all those who ate them enjoyed them!

The next morning I woke up. The empty cookie jar was sitting on the counter. I was still disappointed. I didn’t want to see that cookie jar again. I went to throw it away. As I picked it up, it was heavier than I remembered. I opened the lid. It was completely full again! Amazing! The lid was right! I picked up one cookie and took a bite. It was the same wonderful flavor. Wow. Should I save the rest? I thought about it for about a second. If it happened one time, would it happen another time? I finished my cookie and decided to hand out the rest. I walked down the street, handing out cookies. When they were all gone I rushed home. Right before I got home, I noticed an empty cookie jar in the trash. It looked like the one I had. It was obvious that the person who had owned that jar, didn’t share the cookies. I picked it up and brought it home. The next morning, when I woke up, both of the jars were full of the same wonderful cookies. I couldn’t believe it! I had more cookies than I knew what to do with. I started walking around town passing out the cookies. Every once in a while, I came accross an empty cookie jar. I would collect these empties and bring them home. As usual, the next morning, all of the jars were full. There were more cookies there than I could pass out in a day. I decided that I would give full jars to other people so they would pass out the cookies. As long as they took only what they needed and shared the rest, the cookie jar would never be empty.

As I watched others passing out the cookies day after day, I realized that it wasn’t the cookies that were special. It was the joy that we received by giving. The more we gave, the more we wanted to give. I started noticing others giving cookie jars to their friends. It seemed that everyone wanted others to experience the joy of giving.

That was the true magic of the cookie jar.

In the Bible, Paul also had his own cookie jar. Paul said, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Want to read more? Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Restitution

30 Sep

On Fox News the other morning, I heard them tell a story about a pharmacy who accidently overbilled the government for a medicaid claim almost 1 million dollars. The pharmacy caught the error and notified them of the error and wanted to know what to do to return the money. The government told them just to keep it and then just keep track of what they bill them and just subtract it out of the million. Don’t you wish that would happen to you?

What would you do?

Read Leviticus 6:2-5. Notice that all the instances of dishonesty relate to our neighbor yet, it is called a sin against the Lord. Remember I said one time that everything we do is spiritual? Since we are not only physical beings, but also spiritual beings everything we do has a spiritual context. God demands complete honesty. He tells us that when we sin against others, we sin against God. Doesn’t leave much wiggle room, does it?

Now, look at the penalty for being dishonest. God says we should pay the amount we were dishonest about plus a 20 percent penalty. That’s pretty stiff until you remember that the real penalty for sin is death. 20 percent doesn’t seem so much does it?

Have you ever bought something at a store and then realized that they undercharged you, or didn’t charge you for something? Did you go back and bring the discrepency to their attention?

The pharmacy did the right thing in trying to return it as soon as they caught the error. In my opinion, that isn’t dishonesty. But once they tell you to keep it, what do you do?

If you don’t attend my class, leave a comment on what you would do. If you do attend my class , we can talk about that on Sunday. See you there!

Brutal Honesty

29 Sep

I had a great laugh yesterday. It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself because some people would have been crushed. I had an appointment yesterday and I put on some clothes that I hadn’t worn in a while. When I asked my wife if I looked all right, she took one glance at me and said, “You look like a sausage!”. The clothes I had on were a “little” tight and with the shirt tucked in and the belt cinched up, she said it reminded her of link sausage. (It’s getting worse isn’t it!)

I love my wife and I appreciate her honesty. I knew the clothes were a little tight and what I really wanted to know is if they coordinated. She was honest with me. It wasn’t the answer I wanted but I’m glad she felt she could tell me the truth.

God requires us to be honest in everything. Sometimes, honesty is brutal. I heard on the radio the other day where it may not be wise to be honest in all situations but we should never be deceitful. Is there a difference? I think it’s splitting hairs. If you aren’t honest with someone, isn’t that deceitful? Luke 16:10(NIV) says, “Whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

The next time someone asks you how they look…PRAY!

Relative Honesty

27 Sep

I don’t golf. I can throw the ball farther than I can hit it. It doesn’t do me any good to cheat. Just give me a 20 on every hole. That should cover it! In fact, the last time I played, I ended up driving the beer cart!

I recently read a story on ESPN.com that was entitled “In golf, cheating is minimal”. In it, the author talks about the different ways people cheat in golf and compares it to other sports. As I read the article, I was struck at how the author was making a case for cheating in golf. After comparing the cheating that goes on in golf with cheating in other sports, he states, “While it is a sad commentary on our times that we have to use the phrase “relative honesty,” within that definition, golf is the unquestioned winner.”

God demands absolute honesty. God is the God of truth(John 14:6) and he commands us to “be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”(1 Peter 1:15-16)

When we practice dishonesty, we are acting as if the living God does not exist, and it is impossible to love God if He doesn’t exist.

Think about that while I practice my stroke….

Honesty

26 Sep

A conversation with Officer Smith:

Hi Officer Smith. You would not believe what I just witnessed! I am shocked even now as we speak!

What happened?

Well, you wouldn’t believe it. You see, as I was driving down the road, a mini-van didn’t even bother to stop at a stop sign. They just did one of those slow-and-go things and they pulled right out in front of me. But that wasn’t the worst thing. They had one of those fishes on the back. (whispering) They are Christians.

Can you believe they call themselves Christians and then don’t even bother to stop at a stop sign? Well, I never would do that. I am a good Christian – I would never run a stop sign. They are so hypocritical!

Do I know how fast I was going? Well, I’m not sure.

Oh. 10 miles over the speed limit? That’s not bad. I thought I was speeding.

I was speeding? You must be joking! Everyone knows that you can go over the speed limit a little without actually “speeding”.

10 miles over is speeding? You have got to be serious. Where were you when those other bozo’s ran the stop sign? What they did is much worse. You should give them a ticket.

Oh. OK. Just give me the ticket so I can leave. Yes. I will slow down.

Thank you Officer Smith. I’ll be praying for you.

Think about it….

Contentment

24 Sep

Here is an editorial originally published in our Blair paper. I will link to the original if/when they post it online.

What is the difference between rich and poor people? That is an awesome perspective!

Take, for example, the story about the father of a very wealthy family who took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live.

The two spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”

The son replied, “It was great, Dad.”

“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.

“Oh yea,” said the son.

“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four.”

The son continued, “We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.”

The father stood in amazement as the son continued by saying, “We have servants who serve us – but they serve others. We buy our food but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us and they have friends to protect them.”

The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

Isn’t perspective a wonderful thing? Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have instead of worrying about what we don’t have.

I guess it boils down to the fact that we need to appreciate every single thing we have – especially our friends!

Perhaps this will help us refresh our perspective and appreciation. Life is too short and friends are too few.

(Originally published in “The Enterprise”, Sept. 23, 2005 by Kenneth Rhoades.)

The AMerican WAY

22 Sep

Have you ever done something you just knew the Lord was telling you to do and then after you did it, you figured out it wasn’t the Lord telling you as much as it was all you? Did it involve a financial matter? Did it cost you money, time, relationships?

Years ago, I just knew that AMWAY was my answer to early retirement. Now, I wouldn’t ever say out loud that I got into it to get rich, but, I just knew that the Lord led me to that first meeting and I knew that I would be successful – all the people told me so! I was in the Marine Corps at the time and I wasn’t making much money. I convinced Patti that this was a Christian organization and that we could retire off of the business we built through Amway.

For years, we spent almost every evening at some meeting or another. We drove thousands of miles, up and down the east coast attending different functions. We spent thousands of dollars on overpriced products, conventions, gatherings and clothes. We didn’t make any money. I wanted to stop but I was too proud to just quit. It might just start happening the next month! Finally, we just couldn’t do it any more. Everyone of my “friends” that I talked to encouraged me to stay in. Of course, my friends had a vested interested in us staying in.

Now, I don’t have anything against Amway as a company. I am just not a salesman. I don’t like asking for people to buy something. I can’t stand rejection! It’s a personal flaw. I should never had joined. But I did. I didn’t seek wise counsel. The only people I talked to were already part of Amway. They had a biased opinion. Was it from God? I sincerely doubt it. I realize now that it was my greed all wrapped up in a “Christian” package. I wanted to take a short-cut to success. There was a period there for a few years that I tried a few more of those “make quick money” businesses. All unsuccessful. All cost me money. All without the benefit of wise counsel.

Our memory verse for this week is “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Proverbs 12:15) (Don’t you just hate it when a verse was written specifically for you? :))

I think I am wiser now. I turn down all “great opportunities” now.

Flying Turtles

21 Sep

An ancient Indonesian fable tells of a turtle that could fly. He would hold on to a stick with his mouth as it was carried by geese. When the turtle heard the onlookers on the ground saying, “Aren’t those geese brilliant!” his pride was so hurt that he shouted, “It was my idea!” Of course he lost his grip. His pride became his downfall.

For 41 years, Asa was a strong and humble king. He brought peace and prosperity to the kingdom of Judah. During the early years of Asa’s reign he prayed, “Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You” (2 Chronicles 14:11).

But toward the end of his reign, when the army of the northern kingdom of Israel confronted him, Asa sought help from the king of Syria instead of from God. Because of his foolishness, his rule weakened and his nation experienced wars. What went wrong? Proud of past achievements, Asa had forgotten to depend on the Lord, so the Lord was no longer showing “Himself strong” on Asa’s behalf (2 Chron 16:9).

Pride hinders us from seeking counsel. If we make decisions without wise counsel, it will surely be our downfall. It is also important to remember to seek the right counsel. Notice how seeking the wrong counsel affected King Asa.