March 24, 2015

Family

No formality, no pretence,
No fear of hurt or offence,
Where love nestles in trust,
And hope will not fall to dust,
Where in both sunshine and rain,
Joy and peace remain the same,
Where walls are for protection,
Not for obstruction...
We know it's a family not just because they say,
We know it's a family for as a family they forever stay.

March 23, 2015

Should I Give Tithe?

Forthcoming in Christian Trends

The first place to start is by asking the Christian, “Do you want to give at least a tithe of your income to the Lord?” The question is not “Are you able to give?” but “Do you want to give?” To those who are searching for reasons not give, because tithing is a burden to them and not a joy, the recommendation of Jesus would be, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mat 19:21) But to those who wish to give to the Lord anything that they have that can be better useful for the work of the Kingdom, and are only willing to know if tithing is specifically mandatory in the New Testament, this article will try to provide an answer.

Tithing in the New Testament and the Early Church History

Temple Giving as Applied to Church Giving

Jesus did not forbid tithing among the Jews. In fact, He asserted that they ought not to neglect tithing (Matt.23:23). However, there seems to be no specific commandment that Christians should practice tithing in the local church as the Jews practiced tithing in the Temple. Yet, the New Testament does lay a theological rationale for Christian giving to ministry when it applies the Old Testament scripture related to support of priests to the support of full-time Christian workers in the church.
For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us…. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you.... Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. (1Co 9:9-14 NIV)
Yet, it doesn’t seem at all that tithing was specifically made mandatory for Christians in the early church; on the other hand, the writings of the Church Fathers indicate that the early church did expect Christians to surpass tithing by considering all their possessions as belonging to Christ. Now, this was not just a matter of saying “All that I have belongs to Christ, so I don’t need to specifically tithe anymore.” Jesus rebuked this kind of an attitude in which a person refrains from practically giving anything to those he is due by declaring that all he was supposed to give is given to the Lord (Mark 7:11-13). To consider one’s possessions as belonging to God means to really use these possessions every day for the sake of the Kingdom and not just for personal use. We are told about the early church in the apostolic era that “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” (Act 4:32 NIV). Now, today, this kind of an attitude looks too difficult and almost impractical for Christians, especially in a very materialistic age. However, there is no denying the fact that this was the way Christians generally lived in the early church era. Of course, this did not mean that they didn’t have possessions of their own at all or they didn’t lock their houses; but, whatever they had they didn’t consider as theirs apart from Christ. We are told that “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” (Act 4:34-35 NIV).

Around AD 130, the Church Father Mathetes wrote about Christians: “As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners.” Similarly, in his Against Heresies, Irenaeus (AD 120-202) wrote:
And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter]; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God.
In fact, Irenaeus taught that Christ “instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, [He told us] to share (Matt. 19:21) all our possessions with the poor.”

Tithing as Minimum Standard

However, by the 3rd century, it seems that Christian giving had greatly declined and the Church Fathers began prescribing tithing as the minimum standard of Christian giving. Thus, John Chrysostom (AD. c.349-407) wrote in his Homily on Ephesians 2:10:
Woe to him, it is said, who doeth not alms; and if this was the case under the Old Covenant, much more is it under the New. If, where the getting of wealth was allowed, and the enjoyment of it, and the care of it, there was such provision made for the succoring the poor, how much more in that Dispensation, where we are commanded to surrender all we have? For what did not they of old do? They gave tithes, and tithes again upon tithes for orphans, widows, and strangers; whereas someone was saying to me in astonishment at another, “Why, such an one gives tithes.” What a load of disgrace does this expression imply, since what was not a matter of wonder with the Jews has come to be so in the case of the Christians? If there was danger then in omitting tithes, think how great it must be now.
A document called the The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, compiled probably between 375 and 380, gave instructions regarding the pastor/bishop:
Let him use those tenths and first-fruits, which are given according to the command of God, as a man of God; as also let him dispense in a right manner the free-will offerings which are brought in on account of the poor, to the orphans, the widows, the afflicted, and strangers in distress, as having that God for the examiner of his accounts who has committed the disposition to him.
However, again, there appears to be no specific reference in either the New Testament or in the writings of the early Church Fathers in which tithing was made mandatory for the church. Yet, there are several instances where it was expected that the Christian give more than the tithes; in fact, his all for the service of Christ.

Tithing by Law Vs Tithing as Grace

The above study showed us that tithing only emerged in church history when Christian giving declined, and the Fathers had to set the minimum standard of giving for Christians. Thus, tithing somewhat assumed a very legal nature in the course of history. But, from the beginning it was not so.

For certain, we know this that the commandments of Grace are tougher than the commandments of the Law. The Law only said, “Do not murder” but Grace teaches us not to even get wrongfully angry with our brother. The Law talked of tithes, but Grace demands our all.

Also, the divine institution of giving to the Lord did not cease with the fading away of the Old Testament era. The work of the Lord has not ceased. Both money and substance are still needed in the work of the Lord. If the Jews were obligated under Law to pay tithes, first-fruits, and free-will offerings towards the service of the temple and the support of the priests and Levites, Christians today are much more obligated to give towards the work of the Kingdom of God. But, they must not give out of legal compulsion but cheerfully, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor.9:7). Anybody who only calculates the minimal (tithe) that he can give to God and feels legally satisfied that he has at least fulfilled the Law and is not obligated to give any more towards the work of the Lord is not behaving as someone who has experienced the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; he acts as someone who is still under the Old Covenant of Law. Of course, one must give only as one is able and willing (2Cor.8:12; 9:7). At the same time, do not forget that the widow who cast the two mites, all that she had, was praised by Jesus as having given more than all others.

We must remember that even in the New Testament, giving to the work of the Lord and to the servant of God is the practical way in which one gives to the Lord (Phil.4:18). The Christian must not be thinking just of giving tithes; the Christian must give more than the tithes.

Where Should I Give?

Malachi 3:10 clearly commands to bring all the tithes into God’s storehouse that they may be food in the House of the Lord. In the New Testament, we see that the believers would bring their offerings and place it at the apostles’ feet. Scripturally then, the Christian is expected to bring his offerings to the local church that he belongs to and fellowships with. These offerings are then to be used by the church for the support of full-time workers, of missionaries, and for charitable assistance of the needy ones in the church (2Cor.8, 9; Phil.4:18; Jas.1:27; 1Tim.5:3-10). In case that the local church has specified tithes, first-fruits, and offerings to be given separately (for the sake of proper allocation; some allocating tithes to support of the pastors, and offerings for various other expenses in the ministry, for instance), it is noble and good to harmoniously cooperate with the order for the smooth functioning of the local body and for the work of ministry.

Conclusion

We must assert again here that the Christian must not look at tithing as a burden or as a legal obligation to grudgingly fulfill. Salvation is not dependent on tithing or not tithing. The Pharisee who tithed was not justified, but the publican who humbled himself and cried out for mercy was justified (Lk.18:9-14). However, a person who claims to be justified but is covetous about his possessions and has not gratefully understood and embraced the grace of God has no place in the New Covenant (Matt.18:21-35). Of course, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant talks about forgiveness here; however, one must not forget that this servant was not willing to forgive in the first place because he was a covetous person—one who grabbed the immense free gift of God but was not willing to part with even a little for the benefit of others. He was alien to the grace of God. But, we ought not to be so; we are stewards of the manifold grace of God; let us be rich towards God (1Pet.4:10; Lk.12:21).

March 15, 2015

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me (Psa 138:8)

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me (Psa 138:8)

The LORD always finishes what He starts. Men may start works that they leave unfinished; but, God always finishes what He starts. However, when it comes to His work in our lives, He can't perfect it without our cooperation. There are three essential things:

1. Absolute Trust and Confidence in God's Working
"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phi 1:6)

Trust implies: (a) Faith in God's goodness and His work,tTo believe in Him even when everything looks the opposite. (b) Patience (James 1:4). To let patience do its work. To never compromise with anything that goes against the will of God.

2. Understanding of God's Will and Work in Our Lives
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Phi 2:12-13)

We can understand God's will and work in our lives through the living Word of God who separates the soul from the spirit (Heb.4:12) and helps us to discern the promptings of the Spirit (Gal.5:16,17).

In an unspiritual man, desires are confused and he isn't able to discern what is of the Spirit and what is of the self; but, in a spiritual man who is governed by the living word of God, and who is mature, the distinction is clear (Heb.5:14).

The spiritual man is able to see the work of God in his life. He knows that God is working even though it seems God is absent from the scene.

3. Casting all Cares on Jesus and Being Ruled by the Peace of God
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phi 4:6-7)

When God's peace rules in our hearts and minds, the world gets puzzled because it can't understand this at all; God's peace surpasses all understanding.

When God's peace rules in our hearts, all doubts and fears of the heart are quelled and the boat sails softly, carried forward by the gentle breezes of the Spirit.

The spiritual man doesn't worry, doesn't unnecessarily hurry, but spends time in prayer with thanksgiving. And, when he does that he lays aside his will and submits to the will of God, and God perfects what He starts, He perfects that which concerns us.

Blessings of Sonship in Christ (Galatians 4)

God sent forth His Son...that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal 4:4-5 NKJ)

The poets asserted that we are offspring of God (Acts 17:28). But, like the prodigal son, we were lost, groping like the blind, in bondage to the elements of the world (Gal.4:1,2). Yet, when His Grace appeared, we saw light, we received the right to be called the children of God (Jn.1:12). He received us in loving embrace (Lk.15:20). He put His ring on our hand (Lk.15:22).He placed and positioned us as sons (Gk. huiothesia, "to place as son").

And with this placement as sons, this sonship, we received blessings:

1. The Spirit of the Son by which we call out "Abba, Father" (Gal.4:6)
He is the Spirit of prayer and supplication (Eph.6:18). He helps us in our weakness by praying for us (Rom.8:26). He is the inner witness (Rom.8:16) and the one who speaks the words of Truth in our heart (Jn.16:13; Rev.2:7).

2. Heirship. We became heirs of God through Christ (Gal.4:7)
We have received an eternal, imperishable inheritance; an eternal kingdom, and a bold access to all that belongs to God (Heb.9:15; 1Pet.1:4; Lk.15:31). What is ours is His and what is His is ours. We have free access and liberty in the house of God.

3. Spiritual Freedom. We became free from the elements of the world (Gal.4:8,9; Col.2:16,20-23).
He liberated us from the traditions of the fathers that put a hedge on us (1Pet.1:18,19). He liberated us from the dictates of human tutors (Gal.4:1-3). He brought us into the liberty of the walk in the Spirit, the Spirit of Freedom (Gal.3:4; 2Cor.3:17; Gal.5:1,5). He delivered us from false superstitions, false fears, false humility, false spirituality. He gave us spiritual freedom in the Spirit.

4. Family Likeness. We are transformed every moment into the image of the Son (Gal.4:19; 2Cor.3:18; Rom.8:29; Phil.2:5; 1Pet.2:21).

5. We are set apart from the world and the world of flesh conflicts with the children of promise (Gal.4:29)
The world cannot understand the sons of God (1Jn.3:1). The world persecutes the children of God as it persecuted Christ (Jn.15:20). But, by faith in Christ we overcome the world (Jn.16:33; 1Jn.5:4). We must learn to rejoice in persecution (Matt.5:11,12) looking to the joy ahead of us (Heb.12:1-4).


February 28, 2015

He Stills the Storm to A Whisper: An Unforgettable Boat Ride (Story with A Lesson)

An Unforgettable Boat Ride

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. (Psa 107:29 NIV)

One day, the Bible tells us in Luke 8:22, Jesus got into a boat with His disciples. There were many times that Jesus chose to have a boat ride along with His disciples. If you have been on a boat sometime, you may remember it as a very pleasurable experience. But, for those who have travelled in a boat many times, almost everyday, the ride is as common as going to school in a school van, car, or an autorickshaw.

But, this was a ride that the disciples could never forget. How do we know that? Because they spoke about it again and again, and we read about what they spoke in the Bible. You never speak about your everyday walk or ride to school in general. But, if you had some unusual or very different experience, you would surely tell. And, in case you had an unforgettable experience, you might even want to write about it. So, what was this experience that the disciples of Jesus had?

It was the experience of a windstorm. You might have heard of storms, but there are different kinds of storms, like the hailstorm, the rainstorm, the snowstorm, the ice storm, the sand storm, the dust storm, the fire storm, the thunderstorm, and the electrical storm. If someone was driving a car and suddenly there was a hailstorm, it could make them terribly afraid. The hailstones would start pattering hard on the car roof, the big icy stones could even crack the window and front glasses and cause great damage. Sometimes rain comes like a storm; then, we call it a rainstorm. In some places, during a rainstorm, houses collapse and trees fall. Also, the roads and streets become filled with so much water that people have to use boats to move around the town. That may seem very exciting, to go about in boats, but it is not really exciting after all because the water is stinky and very dirty, and one cannot even live in one’s house anymore, even at night!

Storms of all kind are very destructive. But, to people in a small boat caught right in the middle of a huge lake, a windstorm means death—it is very scary, really. So, the disciples were scared. They began rowing the boat as fast as they could, but it was not possible to fight against the winds. The winds were stirring the waters of the lake like one stirs sugar with a spoon in a glass of water. Just imagine a tiny little boat with people in it in such a glass of water. Can they fight against the spoon? A windstorm is like that spoon stirring the water. And, the disciples were really terrified. But, do you know what Jesus was doing in the midst of such danger? Perhaps, you can imagine what any person would do. Well, but Jesus was just different than all the others. He was fast asleep in the boat. That is amazing, isn’t it? Actually, it shocked the disciples.

Let me ask you something now. We spoke about rain sometimes coming like a storm. What did we call it?... Yes, a rainstorm. Suppose there was snow coming like a storm. What would we call it?... That’s right, a snow storm. What about troubles coming like a storm? What would we call it?... That’s right, a trouble storm. And what happens to people when such storms come? Evidently, as it happened to the disciples, they usually become very afraid. They panic. But, that is what Jesus doesn’t want anybody of us to do. He doesn’t want us to panic, for He Himself never panicked when there was a storm. He was actually soundly sleeping in the midst of the storm. What would you think of someone who was fast asleep in the midst of a storm? Well, first of all, I would think that it would be impossible to be asleep when there is a storm. So, it would surprise us. It surprised the disciples too.

So, the disciples began to wake Him up saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”

Now, what happened next is the really interesting thing. It was the thing that the disciples never expected, because they never ever had thought that something like that could happen. You know what, Jesus simply arose and scolded the wind and the raging of the water, and they stopped, and there was a great calm. To you this may look very normal, because you expect Jesus to do just these kinds of things; that’s why He is Jesus right? That’s what makes Him different from the disciples. But, to the disciples it was too amazing. They had never seen something like this in their life, and never thought that something like this could ever happen.

But, Jesus was not happy with the disciples. He turned to them and scolded them asking, “Where is your faith?” Actually, Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that for children of God, it is not normal to panic in the sight of danger. God doesn’t expect that of them. If they were the disciples of Jesus, they should never be afraid of storms; whether it is a rainstorm, a hailstorm, or a trouble storm.

Now, people usually wrongly associate one thing with the other. They say that every cause has an effect, which is true in many ways; but it is not always true in the way people think. For instance, there are people who think that we should not move ahead on the road after a black cat has crossed it. They say that if we do that, there will be an accident. They even tell stories of people who went ahead after a black cat crossed the road and had an accident. But, this is false. The black cat crossing the road doesn’t cause accident. But, for some people this idea has become so permanent and unchangeable that even if they may say in their head that a black cat cannot cause accident, they would still be afraid to move ahead on the road, because they would think, “Suppose, the black cat did cause the accident, then?” That is what we call little faith.

The disciples also suffered from it. For them, it was a like a scientific law to believe that a storm meant certain destruction. Some of them were expert fishermen and they might have many times heard the stories of people who got caught in a storm and lost their lives. Now, when they were in that same situation, the only thing they could think about was death; they couldn’t think of anything else. Of course, they knew the power of Jesus, of how he could feed 5000 men (besides women and children) with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. But, when it came to boat riding, their previous experience took over and they became very frightened. Now, there was nothing but death that they could think about. So, they began crying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”

It happens with elders too many times, especially when they have experienced a particular sequence of events multiple times. For instance, they see people who get cancer that they die, and also hear stories of people who die of cancer. So, they form a pattern of thinking in their mind and permanently associate cancer with death. They can think of nothing else. But, that doesn’t need to be so. There are people with cancer who got healed and cured. One doesn’t need to be frightened by it. Similarly, there are different cause-effect patterns or relationships that people form in their minds; patterns that are not necessarily true. But, the saddest part of it is that these thinking patterns prevent them from trusting in God who can calm any storm, even if it were a cancer storm or TB storm or poverty storm or misunderstanding storm. But, the children of God must learn to trust in the presence and power of God. Because Jesus is with us, we have every reason to believe that these storms cannot destroy us.

Now, sometimes it also seems that we are perishing and Jesus is just asleep in the boat, doing nothing. It seems that He doesn’t care. For the disciples, at least Jesus was bodily present with them in the boat; but, what about us? How hard it may sometimes be when we are only praying and it seems Jesus is nowhere around. It seems that He is not only invisible, but He is also sound asleep. But, Jesus wants us to trust in Him even in such situations. Jesus knew that the storm could not kill Him; the storm could not also kill the disciples, because Jesus had a work to finish first and He also had a plan for His disciples that no storm or wind could destroy.

God also has a special plan for you. He doesn’t just have a plan for you but is in the boat, the car, the bus, the room with you. Of course, when a storm comes, you must do what you can, but, you should never forget that God has a purpose for your life. Whatever storm it may be, it could even be the storm of examination fear, of not doing well in the exam; don’t panic, study well and trust in Jesus. I know of a young boy whose very good friend died in an accident, it was a very big storm of sorrow in his life. But, his parents comforted him and soon he understood that such storms are not forever. God is in control of all things. There was another boy who was really very good and loved Jesus very much, but some people started to speak very bad about him and began accusing him of all kinds of wrong things that he knew nothing about. It was a storm of accusations in his life. It was almost impossible for him to fight against all those accusations; he learnt that it is better not to try to prove himself in the midst of such storms but to have faith in Jesus who was with him in the boat in all this. Soon, all those who spoke against him were ashamed and God gave this boy great honor and respect in the eyes of the people who despised him. We must learn to trust in our Lord. He is the one who stills the storms to a whisper and hushes the waves of the sea.

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