Fellowship 1

2 Corinthians 8:1-5

The other day I had to have quick and cheap lunch. Since I didn't pack, that meant that McDonald's drivethrough would have to do. (Yeah, how am I going to continue to lose weight eating a hamburger????)

While at the drive through I felt really strongly that I should pay for the person's meal behind me. I've thought of doing this before, but I'm always afraid that I'll offer and then the order will be for a whole office or something and be $50! But I asked and the lady at the window told me the amount. It was about the same as my lunch and I had a $20 so I bought her lunch. The woman at the window asked me if I knew the woman behind me or something. When I told her that I didn't but just wanted to brighten her day, I think she thought I was nuts.

I have no idea how my gift was received. I drove away and I'll never know whether that woman behind me was shocked, happy, angry or whatever. But it was fun for me!

Today's scripture reading is Paul referring to the giving of the Macedonia church. If you read Romans 15:26 you will find out who they were giving to. They were not building a place to worship, nor were they supporting local beggars. They weren't even collecting for their own widows and orphans. Instead, they were giving to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Folks that they likely had never nor would never meet in their lives.

They gave because they had submitted themselves to God. They gave not from riches but from poverty themselves--and (I love this part!) they begged for the chance to give. I wonder if any pastor has ever had the congregation beg to take up an offering???

Just as I was excited to share the little I had with the woman behind me, they were excited to give what they could to support the work of God through others that they surprised even Paul and his fellow missionaries.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Ask God how you can be more like the church in Macedonia. Perhaps you are not able to give from wealth, but let them be an example to you to give yourself first to God and then to support the work of others!

Wave Offering 5

Exodus 36:3-7

When my father passed away all of our friends and relatives wanted to express their sympathy and offer help to our family. They did so by bringing us food – covered dishes, casseroles, cakes, pies, rolls. I vividly recall having so much food that had been brought in that there was no more room for any more. The kitchen counters were covered with plates of food, the kitchen table was covered, and even snack tables had been set up and they were heaped with food. The love expressed through gifts of food filled our house.

What a wonderful comfort that was. What a wonderful sight to see such abundance, all reminding us of the love and comfort that surrounded us.

In Exodus we have God commanding that a tabernacle be built along with other items for worship. Moses instructs the Israelites to bring in contributions, whatever they are able to give so that God might be honored. How did the people respond? What did the workers tell Moses? What did Moses command? Why?

This is an uplifting story, an example of the dedication the people had to God. They had been commanded to bring contributions to God, and they responded with all of their hearts, presenting offerings day after day. So much was given that Moses had to put a stop to the generosity.

Unfortunately we seldom see that kind of dedication. It is rare to have a church leader tell the members that the contributions are in such abundance that they must be stopped.

It is a wonderful example of how we should respond to our God. We are to present God with our offerings and gifts, and our gratitude should be expressed “morning after morning.” Our thanks and appreciation of God, our praises, should be lifted up to God first, before anything else is done. And we should offer such gratitude in such abundance that we are certain we have given enough that the work of God my be done.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Will you be one who fills God’s house with an abundance of gratitude?

Wave Offering 4

Psalm 95:6-8

My wife and I love to watch “The Amazing Race.” It is fun to see so many beautiful parts of the world, the different cultures, the different customs and people. And it is exciting to cheer on our favorite contestants and predict who will be eliminated each week.

In the show the contestants must complete various tasks throughout each episode, and when the task is finished someone is there to hand them their “clue” – directions for the next task. The one thing that bothers me every time I watch the show is seeing these people snatching the clue from the person’s hand and running off to do the next task. I know they are in a race and I know they are excited and want to hurry, but it bothers me that the contestants rarely say “thank you” to the person handing them the clue.

God is deserving of all our praise and gratitude and Psalm 95 offers some instructions to the faithful. What should we do? Why should we do it?

It is interesting that Psalm 95 has two parts to it. The first seven verses tell the believers to give praise and thanks to God. It also explains why we should do that – the Lord is great (verse 3), He is the Creator (verse 4-5), He is God (verse 7). The last four verses are a reminder of what has made God angry in the past.

What is interesting is that the praises are encouraged first. The warning and caution is second. The psalmist puts his praise to God at the beginning.

So it should be with us as well. We should offer God our praises in our life, not as an afterthought and not to avoid wrath, but because God is deserving of our thanks and praise. We have already received abundance from God. We have already received love and mercy from God. He is deserving of our praise and adoration. And that praise should be the first things we offer, before we do anything else.

DAILY CHALLENGE: When do you praise God?

Wave Offering 3

Leviticus 23:9-10

I am part of a small group of area pastors planning to have a Christmas party this December. We have agreed that when we meet we will likely provide our hostess with a gift. That is the polite thing to do – to give a gift in appreciation of the kindness of allowing us all to gather and receive hospitality.

God gave commands in Leviticus on how to provide Him with offerings, expressions of appreciation. What command is given in this passage from Leviticus?

God provided for the Israelites under Moses by working against Pharaoh so that the Israelites would be set free from their bondage in Egypt. Once freed, God had promised to lead them to the Promised Land, a place prepared for them so that they might prosper and live out a good and blessed life.

In return for these great acts of compassion God set out certain rules and requests of the faithful. Once they had settled, planted and harvested their crop they were to return to the Lord a portion of the plenty they would receive. God asked for a sheaf of grain, a small token of gratitude for the abundance they would enjoy.

God did not need this grain for sustenance. He would not be eating this offering. It was simply meant to acknowledge God and what He had done for the people. The point was that in all that they did the Israelites were to keep God foremost in their thoughts.

Before sitting back and enjoying the fullness of life they needed to give God a small gift of appreciation.

While we may not be expected to bring a handful of grain to our altars, or bring in a bucket of vegetables from our gardens, or even a fistful of money from our paycheck, we are to remember God’s goodness in what we do. As we enter into the season of harvest and the season of Christmas, indeed in all seasons, we are to present God with our own offerings, our own gifts of gratitude for what He has done. The “Wave Offering” is a reminder that we should honor God first, putting God above all else in our lives.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remember to put God first in your life?

Wave Offering 2

Romans 12:1-2

Our most recent Bible study spent some time discussing how to live within God’s will. We talked about the need for us as Christians to seek first what God wants from us, what He expects us to do. It is not always clear when we are trying to make decisions about our lives and our finances, our plans and our desires, what exactly would please and serve the Lord.

The solution is to pray. When deliberating on which way we should go and what we should do the best way to start is to pray to God and ask plainly for some indication of the direction we should head. We all agreed that we have each, at one time or another, felt some nudge this way or that and a sense of peace when we felt the decision was within God’s will.

In his letter to the Romans Paul offers some instruction. What does he urge? What attitude should we have? What is the result?

In looking at the offerings that can be made to God the most common thoughts turn to possessions. If we want to give something to God our first thoughts often turn to money or material items. I should allow God to have this much money. I will allow God to use my car for His service, or my tools.

We often overlook the best gift we can give to God. We forget that what God frequently needs most is us.

We are to offer ourselves as sacrifices – not necessarily laying down our lives in death to serve a holy cause – but to offer how we live and behave as an offering. If we can set our own selfish desires aside and we can resist the temptations of this world – temptations to fame, success, wealth – then we can transform ourselves into a holy offering to God. We can put God first in our lives, changing our attitude to one of intentionally living under God’s will, His influence and His teaching.

The best offering to God is an offering of yourself as a living sacrifice, one who obeys God and shares His love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be a living sacrifice?

Wave Offering 1

Exodus 23:15-16

Although I enjoy the humor of comedian Jim Gaffigan, I caught him on a commercial the other day and his comment irritated me. I don’t even recall what he was promoting, but he was comparing things that were good with those that are not, and said something was “like church.”

The implication was that church is dull and bad. Worshiping God is boring and restrictive, and there are many, many people who believe that whole-heartedly. Lots of people believe God does not like fun.

But in Exodus God outlines certain activities for the Hebrews. What instruction does God give in these verses?

While it is true that there are certain rules to life, and God is not a god of “anything goes,” still the fact remains that God calls us to celebrate and have a good time. These three feasts are just the basics in God’s party plan. There are other opportunities to celebrate throughout the year.

It isn’t that God doesn’t like a good time. In fact, I believe God is one of the best at providing reason and occasion for celebration. What God wants, however, is that we keep our lives and our celebrations in perspective.

There are times of work and sacrifice. There are times of hardship and struggle. But there are also times of celebration and party. What is most important in all these seasons is that we keep God as our priority and confess that all things are of God.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates that God saved His people, whom He loved. He also saved us. The Feast of Harvest and the Feast of Ingathering both recognize that God has given us what we need and continues to provide.

As we consider our faith, our worship and our offerings, we must remember that all of the good we have comes from God. Our celebrations are permitted and encouraged, but God must be honored first in all things.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is worship a joy or a burden to you?