Pastor's Blog

I Could Do That!

I Could Do That!: “I could never do that!” How often have you said that? You watch the news describe the shocking fall of another famous celebrity. Bankruptcy. Drugs. “I could never do that!” You hear of another pastor resigning in scandal. Adultery. Embezzling. “I could never do that!” Except here’s the hard truth from the Bible: You could. I could. I could absolutely do “that”—whatever the sin is. The Bible gives us this warning: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Don’t ever underestimate your sinfulness. You could do that. I could do that. The root of every sin lies in every human heart. But by the grace of God, there go I. Be careful that you don’t fall!

How can we not? The Bible continues, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). If we’re that sinful, how could we not fall? “God is faithful.” We are weak, but God is strong. We are unfaithful, but God is faithful. Stay connected to God and his Word. Stay connected to Jesus and his forgiveness. Live with an honest recognition of your sinfulness: “I could do that, so may God in his grace keep me close to Jesus!”

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Speak Up!

Speak Up!: There’s a lot of hot air in our country today. People aren’t afraid to speak their minds about anything! Everywhere we turn, we hear more complaints, more anger, more opinions, more accusations. Lots of hot air. You and I are part of it. We’ve had a thing or two to say too, right? It feels good to speak our minds. To put people in their place. Think about this, though: When you speak up, how often aren’t you defending yourself? Promoting yourself? Arguing for yourself? It hurts to say it, but we’re pretty selfish, aren’t we? Our selfish hearts are so focused on ourselves. We use a lot of hot air speaking up for us.

So God calls us to change our focus: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Proverbs 31:8). Do you know whom God loves? Everyone! Jesus died to take away the sins of the world. And God in the Bible spends a lot of his “hot air” speaking up for the poor, the widows, the foreigners—those who can’t speak for themselves. Can we? For unborn babies and homeless veterans, for fleeing refugees and struggling immigrants, for single moms and lonely kids. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Whom can you speak up for today?

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Giving Thanks For God's Unique "Hobby"

Giving Thanks For God's Unique "Hobby": You know, in some way or another, God has built pockets of nerdiness into everyone’s personality.

There’s no use denying it, we’ve all got it - that little bit of ‘nerd.’ One guy likes cars, another one likes hunting. One lady collects Christmas ornaments, one of her friends likes a certain kind of pottery made in a certain way. This person is really into cooking, that person loves hiking. One guy loves Science Fiction, while his wife is big into Western Romances. I could keep going on this (here’s looking at you comic book collector), but I won’t. I don’t need to.

It’s the simple, beautiful truth that God has made each one of us unique. And our personalities are really just the total summation of our likes, dislikes, loves, hungers, pursuits, passions, interests, disinterests, strivings, longings, hopes, fears, and dreams. All of them rolled into one, all of them put together in the exact specific arrangement that God wanted - and peppered with some pockets of nerdiness.

You know God has pockets of nerdiness too. (Well, kind of).

I know, I know. I can hear you asking, “What kind of hobby can the infinite, all-powerful, eternal one have?” Well, the answer is: You.

Always You.

You’re his hobby, his pursuit, his treasure, his love, his child. He saw you from eternity, he loved you, and he was passionate about acquiring you. So he went after you. He sought you. He pursued you. He purchased you at the astronomical price of his Son’s blood. He collected you with the saving waters of Baptism. And he’s always looking at you, treasuring you, protecting you from the dust and wrinkles and damage of sin.

What a thought!

So during this season of Thanksgiving we don’t just give thanks for food and home and warmth and fun. We do give thanks for all those things (as we should). But that’s not all. We give thanks that we are his passion, his pursuit, his treasure. We give thanks that he has purchased us with his Son’s blood. We give thanks that he took the eternal, unstoppable, unbeatable arc of his love and focused it on us.

So have a happy, joyful Thanksgiving!

And feel free to nerd it up once in a while.

We thank Good Shepherd's pastor, Reverend Joshua Zarling, for this week's blog post.



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Forgiven

Forgiven: People are digging up dirt on everybody. Every day brings new accusations from the past. It’s a little scary, isn’t it? If people were to search, what sins could they dig up from your past? What secrets that you hope no one ever finds out about?

God’s people in the Old Testament a had a lot to hide too. That’s why it’s remarkable to hear what God told them, “‘In those days, at that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare’” (Jeremiah 50:20). God says, “Go ahead. Try to dig up dirt on my people! Search all you want, but you won’t find anything. Because everything is forgiven.”

That wasn’t just true for them. That’s true for you too! When Jesus died on the cross, he died for every one of your sins—past, present, and future. Our world loves digging up dirt from the past. But not God. When he looks at your past, he says just one word: Forgiven!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Jesus' Upside-Down Story

Jesus’ Upside-Down Story: It was the senior banquet for me and my classmates after studying to be pastors at our seminary. We were just days away from being assigned to our first congregations. The seminary president got up to speak. The room got quiet. He told a personal story about his kids and an experience they had growing up together. When he finished the story, everybody leaned forward, waiting… He said, “There’s actually no point to that story at all, but I’ve heard that people like stories, so I thought I’d tell one.” Then he went on to give us encouragement as future pastors. What’s ironic is that I don’t remember any of the encouraging things he said. I just remember the story!

Stories are powerful, aren’t they? People love stories. Stories change lives. God knows that. So he gave us the Bible. Sometimes people picture the Bible as old and stodgy and boring. Ever thought that? If you have, I’d encourage you to trying reading it. The Bible isn’t boring. It’s the greatest adventure and action and love story ever told! Do you know who the best storyteller in the Bible is? Jesus. Jesus loved to tell stories. We call them parables. Jesus’ stories are different than the story that seminary president told. His stories always have a point to teach us about God.

But here’s a problem: Sometimes the “point” of Jesus’ stories doesn’t seem true. Sometimes it seems like what Jesus says is just plain wrong. Upside-down. Here’s an example: Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied” (Luke 6:20-21). Blessed are the poor and hungry… Does that match what you see? No way! When the wealthy Pharisees of Jesus’ day heard that, they sneered at Jesus. “What are you talking about, Jesus? Just look at us. We’re rich and loving it! Life is not the way you describe it.” Ever wrestle with that? Does what you see not match what Jesus says?

Jesus knows. So Jesus tells a story. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.” And the Pharisees in their fancy suits must have smiled and said, “Yep, that’s us! It pays to be rich!” “At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.” The people with tattered clothes and rumbling stomachs sadly nodded their heads with tears in their eyes: “Yes, that’s us. Life’s hard. It doesn’t make sense.”

Whom would you rather be? The rich man or poor Lazarus? Dressed with fine linen or dressed with sores and licked by dogs? Whom would you rather be? Can I see a show of hands? Wealth, friends, and food… or hungry, forgotten, and alone? Have everybody know your name… or have no one look your way? Blessed are the poor? “There you go again Jesus. That’s upside-down!”

Until they died. Both of them died. Death is the great equalizer. Have you heard that? Death doesn’t discriminate. Rich or poor. Black or white. Man or woman. Everybody dies. There’s a reason for that. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). How many people have sinned? Everybody! So how many people die? Everybody! That’s true for rich and for poor.

But death is where Jesus’ real story starts. All die, but all don’t go to the same place. Life in our upside-down world doesn’t make sense unless you see what happens after death. Just like you can’t understand a book by reading just one chapter, so you can’t understand life by just seeing this world. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” What a beautiful surprise! The angels carried poor Lazarus to heaven. There’s no purgatory. No waiting. Just heaven. What we see with our eyes doesn’t tell the full story. Earthly suffering doesn’t indicate a bad relationship with God. Lazarus was carried by the angels to heaven.

That means that heaven is a real place with real people in it. At least Jesus thinks so! Who welcomed Lazarus to heaven? Father Abraham. Have you heard of him? Maybe some of you can sing his song with me: “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord!” Abraham was the one God choose to be the father of the Israelites. He was the guy God promised would have a son, even though he was 100 years old. Sounds upside-down! What did Abraham do? “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Abraham hoped against hope. Abraham believed in what he couldn’t see. A man of faith. Where is Abraham right now? In heaven!

So how did Lazarus get up there? Here’s a cool detail: In all of Jesus’ parables, Lazarus is the only character who has a name. Ever noticed that? No other person in any other parable has a name. Just Lazarus. Jesus must be teaching us something! Do you know what “Lazarus” means? It means, “God has helped.” Lazarus on earth seemed unknown and forgotten. Was he? No way! Lazarus’ name was written in heaven! It seemed like only the dogs were on his side. True? No way! “God has helped.” Lazarus was loved by God! Remember the word for God’s undeserved love? Grace. Lazarus was saved by God’s grace. “God has helped.” Tattered clothes. Sores all over his body. Poor. Hungry. That didn’t matter! Lazarus was carried by the angels to heaven.

But not the rich man. Jesus doesn’t even bother to give him a name. That’s ironic, because I bet everybody knew his name on earth. I bet he was famous. But his name wasn’t written in heaven. “The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment…” Where did the rich man go? Hades. Hell. It’s interesting that way more people today believe that heaven is real than that hell is real. Do you know who tells us about heaven? Jesus. Do you know who tells us about hell? Jesus. Like heaven, hell is a real place with real people. What we see with our eyes doesn’t tell the whole story. Lots of people are going to be surprised when they die! Are you?

So how bad is hell? It can’t be that bad, right? Listen: “In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” How bad is hell? This rich man begged for just one drop of water in the midst of the fire. That’s bad! Surely Abraham will say, “Yes,” right? We expect him to say, “It’s all going to be okay.” But he doesn’t. Not even close! “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” There’s no getting out. No second chances. That’s hell!

Why would God create a place like hell? Because we deserve it. When we gorge ourselves and ignore those starving around us, there’s a hell for that. When we treat our dogs better than other human beings, there’s a hell for that. When we reject God and love our money, there’s a hell for that. I have a problem that all the money in the world can’t solve. So do you! It’s my sin! Earthly wealth is no guarantee of a good relationship with God. If my heart isn’t right with God, if I treasure money—or anything —more than him, I’ll end up in hell forever. Do you get the point? Jesus’ stories have a point! What we see on earth—good or bad—doesn’t tell the whole story!

Finally, the rich man started to get it. He got how awful, how eternal hell is, and he didn’t want his brothers to go there too. So he said to Abraham, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” I once heard someone say that we Lutherans must not believe in hell. “Of course we do! Why would they say that!” Because we don’t have much urgency in our evangelism. If you believe hell is real, you’d tell everyone you know! “Send Lazarus to my family!” But Abraham said, “No. They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” What’s another word for Moses and the Prophets? The Bible. That’s all we need. Faith comes from hearing God’s Word.

Because stories are powerful. Especially God’s story! Jesus’ little story today is part of the big story of how God has saved us from hell. Do you know it? Could you tell it? God’s story starts with creation. God made you, me, everything. You’re not an accident. There is purpose and meaning for your life. You’re God’s creation! But instead of thanking him, we sinned—Adam and Eve and us. Sin wrecks everything. God should have sent us all to hell right away! But he didn’t. He sent Jesus our Savior. You talk about upside-down… Jesus died on the cross for you and me and the sins of the whole world. You’re forgiven. For every sin. Forgiven. But the story doesn’t end at the cross. Jesus rose again and promises life in heaven to all who believe in him. It doesn’t matter how upside-down your world looks, here’s the truth: Jesus’ story changes lives. “Faith in Jesus through the Word of God,” Abraham said. “That’s what your brothers need!”

But do you know what the rich man said? “No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. The Word is not enough. That book is too old. They need more. Something big. Like having someone rise from the dead. Then they will believe!” But Abraham said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” This is so important! Faith in Jesus comes from the Word of God. If we don’t believe the Word, than nothing will convince us, not even if someone rises from the dead.

Here’s the irony: Someone did. A dead man did come back to life, but it wasn’t Lazarus. It was Jesus! You talk about an upside-down story. Jesus left heaven to open the way to heaven for us. Jesus was poor, so that we are rich. Jesus died, so that we live. What we see with our eyes doesn’t tell the whole story! The Gospel message is not about seeing. It’s about believing. Believing the upside-down story of Jesus. Victory through a cross. Those who are poor are blessed. Those who are weak are strong. Those who die, live. That’s Jesus’ upside-down story!

That story changes your life. Whether you’re rich or poor or somewhere in the middle, you matter to Jesus. He wants you to know that your outward circumstances don’t tell the full story. Life in our upside-down world doesn’t make sense unless you see what happens after death. Until you see faithless men in flames and beggars with angels. When times are good, your wealth or success doesn’t mean that you’re better than anyone else. So be careful not to trust in it! When times are bad, your suffering doesn’t mean that you’re forgotten by God. He knows your name. It’s written in heaven! So don’t trust in what you see. Trust in Jesus and his upside-down story.

Based on this Bible account: 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:19-31 NIV)

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 

 

 



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See the Unseen

See the Unseen: What you see doesn’t tell the whole story. Do you see chaos around you—a world out of control? Do you see your body wearing out—with sickness and cancer raging? Do you see troubles that lead you to doubt God’s love for you? Do you see sin and death and the devil winning? What you see doesn’t tell the whole story.

Here’s the truth:

“16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV).

May God give us grace today to see and trust in the unseen.

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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The Special Look, Smell, and Feel of Autumn...and of God's Grace

The Special Look, Smell, and Feel of Autumn...and of God's Grace: Few things enliven me more than a beautiful Autumn day.

This time of year I always find myself with an extra spring in my step, as though God has graciously gifted the gas tank of my energy levels with a robust top off. I also find myself taking more walks - ambling about in blissful contentment, relishing the pleasant introspection this season always seems to produce in me.

And the colors, my goodness, the colors!

It’s one thing to say the word ‘orange’ and know that it refers to a whiteboard marker. It’s another thing entirely to have over a hundred different shades of this color greet your eyes as you turn a corner with all the jubilation and daring of a toddler let lose on a double decker chocolate cake. There is a subtle yet intense pleasure to be found here - and I haven’t even brought up the reds and yellows yet. Nature at her most visually luxurious; as though God had designed this season solely as the optimum time for observing his glorious creation. Fall has a look all its own.

And the smells, my goodness, the smells!

Bonfires - as we all know - have a slightly better smell cast in 45 degree air rather than 75 degree air. Pumpkins and apples deserve the candles they sell so much of (and which I can’t seem to stop buying). But it’s the leaves themselves, that’s what takes the cake. The smell of millions of leaves scattered across every lawn and road and sidewalk and alleyway and forest path and windshield in sight. Fall has a smell all its own.

I could go on like this for a while (and I just might when I get home), but think everyone gets the picture: Pastor Zarling likes Fall. It has a look and a smell and a feel all its own.

And so do you.

For by God’s grace you have a look that looks a lot like Jesus’ righteousness in his eyes. You have a smell of complete perfection in his nostrils. You have a feel of unending love and mercy. And you have all of this through your Savior’s blood. All of us here at Good Shepherd’s are sinners - and often that truth is all too real for us. Yet, all of us are also forgiven children of God, who get to daily rejoice in his love. When God looks at us he sees Jesus. When he turns his face toward us, he smells Jesus atoning sacrifice. We look and we smell and we feel like our Savior, because we are covered in his perfect righteousness.

Few things enliven me more than a beautiful Autumn day.

Except for the Gospel, that is.

We thank Good Shepherd's pastor, Reverend Joshua Zarling, for this week's blog post.

 



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(Sometimes) Unpopular Things Christians Do With Their Money - Tithe

(Sometimes) Unpopular Things Christians Do With Their Money – Tithe: Can’t entirely explain it. I’ve had the overwhelming urge to write about money management recently. It might be the fact that my church will soon be partnering with a generosity/stewardship consultant for the upcoming year. Or, it might be the consumer freakout that is Amazon Prime Day– an important annual holiday in which we American consumers are reminded not to pay full price for pressure washers, flatscreens, and survivalist party straws like idiots when we could be saving 16% off. (You went and clicked on the survivalist straw, didn’t you?) And this all with that Amazon doomsday clock ticking down in the upper righthand corner of your browser. Yes, the digital sales Rapture is more panic than excitement; more an opportunity to brag to others of the deal you got rather than fill a legitimate need in life. 

But this is the sickness of American consumer mentality. It’s literally an addiction. A paranoia. An apocalypse.

So, yeah, the idea that we Christians probably need some financial guidance is warranted. And considering the climate, the idea that some of the Bible’s directives may possibly offend the consumer shouldn’t surprise us either.

Why not begin with the point that will likely be most controversial?

1) Tithe

The first thing that probably needs to be said is that in the history of God’s people, a “tithe” (a giving away to God of 10% of what has been received as blessing) has not been controversial to God’s people. Even prior to the Mosaic Law, Abraham gave “King Melchizedek, Priest of God Most High” a tenth of everything he had (Genesis 14:18-20). Upon receiving a vision from God at Bethel, Jacob promises to give God a tenth of everything God blesses him with.

The tithe system is later codified into Mosaic Law for God’s people in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. From the regularly collected tithe, God provided for worship celebrations, for the Levites (who had no allotment of land in Canaan), and for the marginalized of the believing community (i.e. widows, orphans, foreigners, and poor). You can read all about this in Deuteronomy 14:22-29.

For a few thousand years, God’s people got into a regular rhythm of giving to the Lord their tithes, their firstfruit offerings (Leviticus 23:9-14), their best. This didn’t come naturally. The Children of Israel needed to be taught to express gratitude and trust in the same way that your children do. No one thinks it’s legalistic to teach a child to say “thank you” when someone gives them a ride or holds the door open for them. We understand that gratefulness is a necessary, learned attitude and behavior. So God programmed opportunities for his children to grow in this way. The tithe was one of these chief opportunities. The tithe was what God said was an appropriate way for believers to express 1) GRATITUDE for all that the gracious Lord had already poured out into their lives, and 2) TRUST that this same God would continue to meet all of their needs moving forward.

The tithe wasn’t controversial for Old Testament believers, but that doesn’t mean they always liked it. In one of the most scathing, but nonetheless hopeful, rebukes in Scripture, God says through the prophet Malachi:

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 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 there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:8-10

No question. For the Israelites, tithes were good. And necessary. And blessed.

The question for modern believers, however, is “Does this still apply to me?”

The tithe fell under the Old Covenant of God’s people. This included Sabbath regulations, dietary restrictions, guidelines for circumcision, etc. Most Christians are (rightfully) not overly concerned with obedience to such commands. Why should the tithe be any different if it’s baked into that Mosaic code?

The transition from Old Covenant Judaism to New Covenant Christianity is admittedly a challenging study. For our purposes here, however, as a general rule, the New Testament specifically and overtly mentions the aspects of of the Old Covenant that were culturally conditioned for that particular time and place. So, for instance, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that festival regulations and dietary restrictions and Sabbath rules are no longer necessary for God’s people when he says, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” (Colossians 2:16) Or, Stephen and Paul make it clear that Temple treks and special ceremonies are no longer necessary when they say “(God) does not live in temples built by human hands”. (Acts 7:48; 17:24) The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that special sacrifices are no longer necessary when he says, “Unlike the other high priests, (Jesus) does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:27)

These are big changes. No Temple. No sacrifices. No diet restrictions. No worship day regulations. No circumcision (Galatians 5:1-12). Massive changes.

But when you come to the issue of tithing, you notice something fascinating, from the Man himself. During Holy Week, in the midst of one of Jesus’ feisty interactions with the Pharisees, he calls the hypocritical religious leaders out on their financial management. He says:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Matthew 23:23

Notice that the Pharisees were really fastidious about their tithing, right down to offering a tenth of the herbs out of their spice racks. Jesus’ rebuke here is that they used their tithing as an excuse to not feel guilty about overlooking care for the poor and needy. But look at what he says next: “You should have practiced the latter (i.e. mercy), WITHOUT NEGLECTING THE FORMER (i.e. tithing).”

Far from abolishing the tithe, Jesus appears to uphold it.

And even if one is still convinced that the tithe is strictly an Old Testament command…fine. Consider nonetheless the very premise of the tithe. God, at one point in the past, said to his people, 

“On the basis of all the grace you’ve received from me, it is appropriate for you to give a tenth of all you are blessed with as a way of expressing 1) gratitude for blessings that have been received and 2) confidence in future blessings that will be received.”

Well, what about us? As a New Testament, New Covenant believer, on the other side of the cross of Jesus Christ, have we received more or less grace than the Old Testament believer? I don’t know how one could argue we’ve received less grace. And if 10% was the appropriate expression of gratitude and faith for the Old Testament believer, how does that become anything but a starting point for New Testament believers? 

I have zero doubts that some might consider me legalistic for even mentioning a percentage to Christians when it comes to their offerings. To that, I’d say, for starters, that I think we have very different definitions of legalism. I’m certainly not suggesting that someone is saved by their tithe. That’s ludicrous. I’m simply pointing out what makes sense in light of the gospel. It’s no different than when the Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians to not grieve over deceased loved ones who have passed away in Christ in the same way that the pagans grieve for their departed. He basically says, “That doesn’t make gospel sense. You’ll see these people again! You’re not acting in line with the gospel!” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) Paul again uses the same technique with the Apostle Peter when Peter is guilty of racial insensitivity in Syrian Antioch (Galatians 2:11-13). Paul is not trying to shame people. He’s simply telling them that they’re not acting in line with liberating gospel truths. 

Seek first

What is the gospel truth about our financial management? It sounds like this: “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.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) The idea that the king of heaven left his throne, to come and pour out his riches at the cross, so that I, who have spent so much of my life hoarding and thieving his planet, could be forgiven and now set free to live in eternal riches…that’s the crazy economics of the gospel of Jesus. And it radicalizes your finances. At that point, the only sensible thing to do then is “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, (knowing that) all these things (i.e. worldly needs) will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

We thank Pastor James Hein and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog.



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You Are Loved

You Are Loved: Toleration is a popular word in our society today. Everywhere we look, toleration is praised as the highest virtue. I suppose it makes sense. Our culture has decided there’s no one absolute truth. We’ve convinced ourselves that no religion is better than any other. We have to get along somehow. So how’s this going to work? We better emphasize tolerance at all costs! Hold on… If you think tolerance is the greatest thing, imagine this: It’s your birthday. Your spouse or your best friend gives you a present with a hand-written card. In big letters, it says, “I tolerate you!” Huh. Is “tolerance” really that great?

God offers you so much more! God doesn’t tolerate you. God loves you! “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). God doesn’t tolerate you. He loves you! God doesn’t just put up with you the way you are. Instead, he sent his Son Jesus into the world to live for us. To die for us. To fundamentally change us into something we weren’t before—the forgiven, loved children of God. In our toleration crazed world, remember that you aren’t just tolerated. You are so much more. You are loved by God himself. Jesus proved it!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Hidden Dangers

Hidden Dangers: A fin. We saw a fin. While my family and I were swimming in the ocean last month, we saw a big fin swim less than 20 yards from us. I don’t know what it was. Our first thought was that it was a shark. Or it could have been a dolphin or a big fish. All I know is that it was scary! There are a lot of scary things in our world, aren’t there? There are hidden dangers all around us. Accidents. Sickness. Violence. You don’t have to be in the ocean. Disaster could strike at any time. How can we live like this? Isn’t it scary?

The world is scary, but we have our God. Or—better yet—God has us! “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2). So, “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” (Psalm 91:5-6). It’s true that there are hidden dangers all around us, but so is our God. He is our fortress and refuge and Savior. You don’t have to fear hidden dangers. The worst that can happen is that you will open your eyes in heaven. Even if you see a fin, may God take away all your fears today.

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. ~ 2 TIMOTHY 3:16