Friday, August 28, 2015

Loving Your Gay Friends

It's not hard to love somebody, is it? Well, of course it is! Jesus challenged us over and again to love, not because it was easy but because it was right! In fact, Jesus compares those who only love "easy" with the most selfish people of his time... the tax collectors.

Matthew 5.46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

So as a Christ follower I have to put in the work so that I may love like Jesus. Often this is difficult because I am lazy, ill informed, and selfish. In order for me to love someone I often have to understand what it is like to walk in their "moccasins". I may have to have some frank and uncomfortable conversations with my friends who live a different lifestyle than I. And for many Christians, that is stressful. Nevertheless, it is a gut check for believers. Will you come out of the closet as a follower of Jesus?

Be Loving
When Jesus came to the woman at the well in John 4 he had a situation. First, it is unseemly for He, a man, to be conversing with a woman. Next, she her Samaritan theology is a mess. Thirdly, Her lifestyle of promiscuity is also glaring problem. But Jesus loved her. He loved her with the intention of giving her the truth. He prophesied to her in a way that she brought others back to see Him! Yet he didn't withhold truth.

Is it possible for us speak the truth so compellingly that it will provoke a spiritual curiousity that draws them closer? So often the disciple of Jesus speaks out in angry confrontation rather than love. Perhaps we need to be more dependant upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit to speak with these friends who are living in a fashion that is damaging their soul.
Be Honest
If you are uncomfortable celebrating the homosexual marriage of your friend tell them that in a loving way. Rather than blaming your church for not being progressive enough, tell them what it is that Jesus said that makes you uncomfortable. You don't have to preach, just talk.

"Look friend, I really want the best for you. I think we have been friends long enough that you know I am a follower of Jesus.  But I am so convinced that this is damaging to you that I can't join your celebration. Sorry. I hope you can respect my faith and my decision."

Be Dependent
Be dependent upon the Lord, that is. Too often we are so codependent we cannot imagine disagreeing with another. We live our lives as slaves to other peoples opinions. Disapproval is the ultimate rejection. What if they don't want to be your friends any longer? Get off the cross! Its not about you, right? It is about communicating truth.

Be Busy
This is not the time to delay. This is about eternal destinies. The further down the rabbit hole to hell our friends go the more damaged they become. Likely, they will not snap out of it without some loving truth told. Sure they will have found new friends who agree with them regarding their lifestyle but will you be remembered as a truth speaker?

Love them enough to speak out.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Grace-Giving vs Tithing

Frequently people will speak about New Testament giving as opposed to the tithing principle of the Old Testament. Tithing is the principle of giving that God instituted in Genesis (before the law, by the way) that required an offering of 10% of all the increase from the Israelites. I find this a very strained argument. Frequently it is proffered by those who mask their stinginess with religion. But let’s look at the NT record to see if Paul is differentiating between the two. We will find the teaching in question in 2 Corinthians 8-9.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

I guess the first thing to notice is that Paul is lauding the generosity of these folks and holding them up as an example to be followed by the Corinthian followers of Jesus. He teaches them that giving is a privilege that believers may share. He recognizes that this generous giving sometimes exceeds what common sense would dictate. This is likely because they are sacrificially joining together with his mission. Further, he calls this action a grace that may be excelled in.

“ I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”

So called grace giving is an act of love for the Lord that he ‘measures against others’ giving. But it takes faith and so he challenges their faith by reminding them that they can expect a supernatural supply in response to their sacrifice because the very purpose of Jesus becoming poor was to bring plenty (literally riches) to his followers. He further challenges them with a timeline for this benevolent gift that is going to be given to the poor in Jerusalem. He reminds them that Christ judges the gift not by what is in the basket but by what is left in the pocket. Cf Luke 21.4

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
Paul explains that equality of giving is not in view merely equality of  sacrifice.It levels  the playing field,eases suffering, and gives everyone the opportunity to practice generosity. That the privilege is in the giving not the receiving.

“So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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.”

Paul reminds them of their pledged support and urges to finish the work. He encourages with the axiom of scripture that he who sows sparingly can expect little in return but he who sows generously,cheerfully, and of his own volition can expect God to come through for them big time. Of course, the amount that is given is not to be compelled by church leadership but by the faith in the heart of the disciple.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Once again they are reminded that God’s able and willing to replenish the supply of your resources so that you will be able to step to every giving opportunity. Giving to God,the Apostle reminds us, guarantees all you will need everywhere you go, every time. This biblical mandate to sow a financial “seed” brings supply and increase and enlargement of your reward. God does not limit his blessing to merely financial enrichment but in every way he is our supply.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:5-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

And all this beings praise to God in the lives of the receivers, and the givers, and the onlookers!

So Grace Giving is the financial gift of love cheerfully and sacrificially given to the work of God. It is proportional to each man's income, given in faith, with the expectation of divine blessing and reward for giving it. It is an act of obedience that every believer should practice, indeed, excel in. See the difference between Tithing and Grace-giving? Me neither! Giving to God has been an obligatory act of worship since fresh out of the garden (Gen 4.4) and 10 percent was the figure that started long before the old covenant (Gen 14.20). So why not start obeying by faith the Lords mandate to give today?