Needed: A certain amount of legalism (for myself, at least)

“He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much….” (Luke 16:10)

“Let him deny himself and take up his cross….” (Luke 9:23) 

Legalism is a bad term.  It implies someone is living by a list of rules even though violating the spirit and intent of those rules.

Years ago, a lady in my church told of a conversation she had with her sister-in-law.  They were Baptist (my member) and a Pentecostal of some type (the SIL).

The kids were off to school and they were sharing a morning coffee in one of their homes.  The Baptist lit up a cigarette.  The Pentecostal said, “Did you know that one cigarette will send your soul to hell?”

The Baptist: “Are you serious?”

She was.

The Baptist said to her Pentecostal SIL, “Then explain something to me.  How is it you can hate your mother–I’ve heard you say it!–and you’re all right, but smoking one cigarette is going to send me to hell forever?”

She had no answer.  (Note: We do not intend to imply all Pentecostals are this way, or that all Baptists approve of cigarettes. We do, however, approve of morning coffee with friends.)

I suppose it’s safe to say we all need some rules. And, the first of those rules should be, “While obeying the rules, don’t forget to love, stay humble, and walk faithfully with your God.”

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Giving serious money to the Lord’s work

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse.  And no sickly animals, please.  (Malachi 3:10 and 1:13)

If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, your checkbook should reflect it.

There are people of His who need your help.  You show love to Him by giving to them.  Do it “unto the least of these my brethren,” said Jesus, and “you do it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

The Old Testament says when we give to the poor, we “lend to the Lord” (Proverbs 19:17).

That’s serious.

Some people read the story of the widow giving her two small coins all wrong (Mark 12:42).  Some see it as Jesus okaying giving the Lord next to nothing while the fact is He is applauding the woman for giving her all to God.

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How to manipulate people to do big things

“….not grudgingly or of compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver…” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Have you ever done something big, then the next day had “buyer’s remorse”?

Welcome to the club.

The important thing is that we who lead the Lord’s churches not be guilty of perpetrating that kind of thing on people.  We were not sent to coerce or con anyone into anything.  We are messengers of the King and are all about integrity and love.  What Scripture calls “grace and truth” in the Lord Jesus (John 1:14).

They called him Tommy the Cork.  Thomas Corcoran was a political fixer, fund-raiser, and go-to guy for many politicians of the post-War years.  Robert Caro interviewed Corcoran for his books on Lyndon Johnson.

He had once told me one of his most effective fund-raising techniques.  When the man he was asking for money wrote a check and handed it across the desk to him, Mr. Corcoran, no matter what the amount–no matter if it was more than he had hoped for–would look at it with an expression of disdain, drop it back on the man’s desk, and, without saying a word, walk toward the door.  He had never once, he told me–exaggerating, I’m sure, but how much?–he had never once been allowed to reach the door without the man calling him back, tearing up the check, and writing one for a larger amount.  

Manipulation means getting people to do your bidding whether they want to or not.

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I tithe, but am not legalistic about it.

God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  (Second Corinthians 9:8)

Over the years I’ve been doing this website–some 15 years now–I have occasionally written about tithing our income to the Lord through His church.  Invariably, among the responses will come some hostile attacks, accusing us of preaching Old Testament doctrine, being legalists, misleading God’s people into a salvation by works, and other such foolishness.  They could not be more wrong.  Some people–like Judas–just cannot stand to see someone expressing love to Jesus by giving generously to honor Him.

“Why this waste?” said Judas (Matthew 26:8).

I decided I would tell you what I’m doing.  I’ll save this draft and come back to it later and decide if I have permission from the Lord to post it or if I should delete it.  (Later note: I removed most of the dollar amounts, but left everything else in.)

“How much are you all giving?”  I asked that of my sister tonight.

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Two huge considerations before preaching on stewardship

I worry about pastors who never talk to their people about stewardship. Whether they call it tithing or simply giving to the Lord, Scripture is saturated with teachings, admonitions, and instructions.  This is not an optional subject for the faithful pastor.

Our people are often overwhelmed by financial bondage.  We owe it to the Lord and to them to teach Scriptural principles which will free them, will honor the Lord, will support God’s work throughout the world, and will result in Heavenly treasures for the givers.

When a pastor begins to plan a series of messages on money, here are two major considerations to keep in the forefront…

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Does your pastor have an advocate?

“The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; I Timothy 5:18).  “Those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14).

The pastor deserves a decent income.  That is a given.  It is scriptural and reasonable.

In order to make that happen, some churches need to change their ways.  And for that to occur, every pastor needs an advocate. At least one, and ideally several.

An advocate: Someone who will stand up for him, speak out for him, be his voice.

Yes, we have an advocate in Heaven’s throne room.    “…we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1).  So, in Heaven, One is speaking up for us. Are we blessed or what?

We thank God for Jesus, our Heavenly Advocate.

However….

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The delicate art of giving to the Lord

This is a work in the making.  For some reason–don’t ask me to explain; I cannot–it occurred to me recently that the matter of giving to the Lord’s work could be labeled “the delicate art of giving to the Lord.”  Here are some reasons for thinking of it in this way; you may think of others….

When we give to the Lord, so many things can go wrong.  The world looks askance at it, even friends wonder about all the money we’re giving, and so many questions arise.

I call it a delicate art, this business of giving to the Lord.  Here are some reasons for that.

One. It doesn’t look like what it is.

It may appear you are giving to poor people, to the needy, or to the gospel worker, or the church itself.  Someone may even say you’re “paying the preacher.”  One of my uncles said on one occasion, “I don’t figure I owe the preacher anything; I’ve not been to hear him preach in ages.”

In truth, I am laying up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:20), I am ministering to the saints (2 Corinthians 9:1), I am honoring my Lord by my faithfulness (see Mark 12:41-44), and I am honoring His name (see Hebrews 6:10).

Two.  Outsiders will accuse you of wasting your money.

Judas said, “What a waste!”(see Mark 14:4).  He was a thief, say the gospel writers, and cared little for the honor of the Lord.

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Top 10 reasons to give–along with appropriate scriptures

Someone once told his pastor, “Give, give, give! That’s all I ever hear from you!”  The preacher smiled and said, “Thank you for the best three-word description of the Christian life ever!”

Scripture does not simply command us to give.  It does that, of course, but over and over God’s Word gives us great reasons for being generous to everyone around us, contributing to the needy and poor, and generously supporting the work of the Lord.

I imagine there are 500 reasons for giving.  But here are ten of the best!

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Does your church need an ethics commission?

Many a pastor and/or staff member would still be in ministry today had they sought the counsel of church leaders on some practice they were contemplating.

Can the pastor start a business on the side and still receive full pay from the church? Is it all right if he markets something to the church?  Or to the members?

May the pastor’s wife be paid for all the hard work she’s doing?  How much should the pastor be reimbursed when the allotted money did not cover his expenses for a church mission trip?  What if a company doing business with the church offers to build the pastor a swimming pool (or garage or bird house!) in appreciation?

Get advice, pastor.

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What to do when flush with God’s money

“I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones.  There I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be  merry'” (Luke 12:18-19).

It happens more frequently than you might think.

A Christian brother or sister comes to a point in life when their bank account is fuller than it has ever been.  Their investments have paid off beyond anything they ever expected. Someone in the family died and left their estate to them.  Their stocks and bonds flourished in this booming economy.  A business they owned has been sold and now they have all this money.

They are wealthy by anyone’s definition.

At this point they ask themselves–and the Lord, too, we trust–“What do I do now?”

Four or five years back, an old gentleman with that very problem decided to pay off the indebtedness of our Global Maritime Ministries in New Orleans.   The fascinating thing to me was that he knew no one at GMM personally, but only that it had been begun by a Navy veteran of WW2.  The man himself had been in the Navy during that great period, and he had a place in his heart for this ministry.

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