A Christmas Challenge

Greetings.I want to wish you a blessed Christmas …. before I ‘switch off’ until sometime in the New Year. I have more great articles ready to circulate next year, & also ideas for more articles I might write (God & time willing) … on things like “Do Christians need to gather together?” “The problem of ordained/professional ministers” etcChristmas – a great time to remember Jesus, friends & family, & the POOR.I’ve been reading “Exiles” by Michael Frost – a great new book that I highly recommend for Christmas (or 2007) reading …. One of the things he says is that every culture has ‘gods’, whether they are overt or hidden. He suggests (I agree) that one of the main ‘gods’ in the west is materialism (& selfishness) … he says we need to confront / challenge this ‘god’ … particularly by living counter-culturally. We ‘rich’ Christians are typically as rich & materialistic as those ‘non-christians’ around us … or at least there aren’t overt, highly visible differences between us …. Could you spot who are the Christians in NZ / US / UK society by only looking at their use of $, spending on themselves, the poor etc???? … I suggest that this would be very difficult … as typically ‘we’ aren’t much different (apart from possibly giving $ to our organised church, which spends typically 90% on providing wonderful ‘services’ for our own use – a bit like ‘non-christians’ paying to be part of the golf club etc) … we’re not radically counter-cultural enough to draw the world’s attention to our different allegiance & values …Here’s a challenge …. for christians who are called to love the poor, give to the needy who can’t repay etc etc …. Can you / we / I … spend as much on helping the poor this Christmas as we spend on giving to the rich (our selves, friends & family) ….OR … if you / we / I don’t have enough $ to do it that way around, what about trying to only spend as much on the rich as we’ve already spent on the poor ….. (ie give to the poor first …)As we celebrate Christmas, which is typically linked to over-eating & indulgence, can we remember (& do something about) the people starving in the world, including the 30,000 children that die of starvation every day (including Christmas day)

Blessings

David Allis

Giving

Giving By David Allis – written 1999, revised 11/4/06

1. Giving Is An Act of Worship
Both stewardship & giving are acts of worship.
– God is owner of all things. When we give a gift to ministry, it is one way to thank Him for His love & generosity shown to us.
– We are called to worship God with every breath, every ounce of energy, and everything we possess. Our lives should be lived as acts of worship to God, including our stewardship & giving.
· Genesis 28:16-22 Jacob realised that all belongs to God, and used his tithe as a means of worship
· Leviticus 22:17-22, 29 God deserves only the best of what we have to offer
· 1 Cor 10:31 Everything we do (including giving) should be done for the glory of God
· 2 Cor 9:11,12 Our giving results in thanksgiving to God
· Acts 20:35 It is more blessed to give, than to receive

2. Put God First
Do we look after our personal needs first, and then give God a slice of the leftovers? NO!
The first share of what we receive belongs to God, & then we live off the rest.
All of what we have belongs to God. Lk 19:11-27
· Neh 10:3739 God is given the first fruits of all produce
· Prov 3:9,10 Honour God with the first fruits of your wealth
· Matt 19:16-24 If the rich cannot part with their wealth, they are not following Christ

3. Trusting God
One reason God asks us to be stewards & give is to test our willingness to trust Him. Our God who created the universe doesn’t need the 10%, 20% or 100% of His resources that we return to Him. He can get the job done with us or without us, through us or in spite of us. His desire is for us to demonstrate that we are trusting, obedient and faithful in our relationship with Him.
· 1 Kings 17:7-16 The widow of Zarepath provided food for Elijah out of her depleted reserves
· Luke 6:38 The measure you give will be the measure you receive
· 1 Tim 6:17-19 Put your hope in God, not in your possessions & money
· Eccl 5:10 Wealth is meaningless & unsatisfying
· Matt 6:19-34 Seek first the Kingdom of God

4. Stewardship of All God has Given Us
The typical Kiwi attitude is that we are self-sufficient & responsible for all we possess.
The Biblical perspective is different – we are merely overseers of God’s earthly domain, responsible for taking care of His resources until Jesus returns. We are called to be the wise managers of God’s wealth, rather than the creators and consumers of our own wealth.
· Genesis 14:17-24 Abram acknowledged that his victory spoils were a gift from God
· 1 Chron 29:14-18 Everything is God’s. We watch over it for Him. (also Psalm 24:1,2; 50:10-12)
· Luke 16:10-12 He will only trust us with much after we prove ourselves faithful with a little
· 1 Cor 4:2 Paul exhorted those who were being trusted to prove themselves faithful
· 1 Tim 6:6, Phil 4:10-13 Be content with what you have
· Matt 6:24 Master money by serving God with it

5. We Are Commanded To Give
1. Generously Dt 15:7-10; Ps 37:21; Prov 11:24,25; 2 Cor 9:6
2. Secretly Matt 6:1-4
3. Strategically Acts 2:44,45; 4:32-37
4. With Honesty Acts 5:1-11 (Ananias & Saphira)
5. Sacrificially Mk 12:41-44; 2 Cor 8:1-9
6. Joyfully 2 Cor 8:10-12; 9:7
7. Setting an Example 2 Cor 9:1,2,13 (your giving may encourage others to do the same)
8. Investing in the Future 2 Cor 9:6 you reap what you sow – therefore sow bountifully
Matt 6:19-21; 1 Tim 6:18,19 gain treasure in heaven – no moths, rust or thieves
Matt 19:16-24 This life is short, & then we face God
9. To Support Your Local Church (if it is a structured church)
To Build the Kingdom of God Through the Ministry of the Church
Luke 8:2,3; Gal 6:6; 3 John 8; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor 9:9; 1 Tim 5:17-18;
As a wise man once said ‘While you have temples & priests, you need tithes & offerings). It costs money to operate a structured local church – hence church members need to pay for the running costs of that church.
10. To Build the Kingdom of God Matt 6:24,33, 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19
11. To The Poor 1 Tim 6:17-19, 2 Cor 9:6-12, Deut 15:11, Lk 12:33, Gal 2:10, Prov 19:17

6. Tithing
· Tithing is the giving of one tenth of your gross income to God. Under Old Testament Law, God’s people were required to give a tithes (10%) of their gross income to God, which went to provide for the Levites (their spiritual leaders). [Gen 14:20; Lev 27:30; Deut 14:22; Neh 10:37-39; Mal 3:8-10]
· Now we are under New Testament grace brought by Jesus. We are no longer under a Law to tithe, but it remains a fundamental biblical principle, and in fact the NT principles go far beyond tithing. (ie tithing is the easy way). All that we have belongs to God (not just the first 10%), and He commands us to give generously (ie much more than just tithing).
· Experience proves that we all need to establish discipline in our lives. Many people have the concept of giving, but without a stated discipline or commitment, in practice they give little.
· Many Christians can testify to the blessing of God, as they have established tithing as the starting place in their giving, with other offerings and gifts given in addition to their tithe.

7. God’s Response
· 2 Kings 4:1-7 God’s blessing for obedience
· Matt 14:14-21 God can multiply the little we have (feeding the 5000)
· 2 Cor 9:6-12 We will always have enough to be generous
· Lk 6:38 Give & you will receive, overflowing amounts

8. Questions to Consider
1. How committed are you to the work of God? Does this commitment extend into all areas of your life?
2. What is youy starting place for giving? ie what regular commitment have/will you make?
3. In Nehemiah 10:39, the Israelites decided “We will not neglect the house of our God”
What does this mean for you?
3. George Barna said “God expects each of us to fund the church generously, He accepts no excuses for stinginess, and our lives are materially affected by our generosity”. Do you agree with this? What are your reasons?