While the following advice is offered to parents, it’s appropriate for all ages. Notice the following inspired writing:
Whether supplied by their parents or by their own earnings, let boys and girls learn to select and purchase their own clothing, their books, and other necessities; and by keeping an account of their expenses they will learn, as they could learn in no other way, the value and the use of money. . . Rightly directed, it will encourage habits of benevolence. It will aid the youth in learning to give, not from the mere impulse of the moment, as their feelings are stirred, but regularly and systematically.—CS 294
As we review the financial giving in our church, we can see that there is a need to remember this principle of systematic benevolence. What is that you ask? To put it plainly, systematic benevolence is percentage based giving. It is a plan by which you give so much for tithe, so much for church budget, so much for the local conference, and so much for world budget. There are suggested percentages given on the tithe envelope for the offerings which are figures that have been determined to be sufficient for providing for the financial needs of a church. Of course God specifies the ten percent for tithe in His Holy Word. While it is appropriate to respond to an appeal for a particular ministry and give an offering to support that particular cause, these special gifts should not affect our regular planned giving to the major categories that are listed on the tithe envelope. To give only on impulse is not God’s plan. He desires that His church be supported through a faithful giving plan which can be maintained by a faithful percentage based approach.
As a church, we collectively vote each year in business session a budget, but when individuals then personally direct their offerings to their particular interests, it handicaps the work of the church. If everyone gave a consistent percentage of their income as suggested on the tithe envelope to the church’s combined budget, we would have more than enough resources to carry out the ministries of the church.
Some say that all the church talks about is money. I would argue that this is far from the case. However, our finances do serve as a significant marker as to where our heart is with God and thus we must encourage each other in this important area of the Christian walk. As we consider the inheritance God wants to bestow upon us, let us consider where our heart is today as illustrated by our tithes and offerings.
As we continue to delve into a study of the Old Testament sanctuary, perhaps it would do us well to ponder for a minute the importance of using a sound hermeneutic. Hermeneutic means the study of interpreting a written text, which in our case is the Bible. Often Bible study is equated with a brief reading of a passage followed up with a “what do you think it means” question from the lesson or teacher. But to equate Biblical exegesis (interpreting the meaning of a text) with this type of approach is sloppy to say the least. While personal application is a step in Biblical exegesis, we first need to follow a path of careful study to unveil its meaning. This requires patient and prayerful consideration of the historical background, context, language, author, purpose, and theological analysis of the book and it’s relation to the Bible as a whole. In other words, while it’s tempting to peruse a passage and quickly deduce its meaning and purpose for our individual lives, such a practice can develop with time a foundation that cripples our belief system and thus steers us toward deceptive teachings.
As we analyze the sanctuary, we find that it is rich with symbols and types. We understand the purpose of the sanctuary was not only to serve as a dwelling place for God but also as a blueprint for the plan of salvation. That being said, it is difficult at times, to know when our analysis is becoming too creative. Like with parables, it is tempting to try and explain every detail. While the sanctuary was a visual display of the plan of salvation, we must be careful to not miss the forest for the trees. We must be cautious to avoid trying to explain too definitively some of the details of the sanctuary or make more out of them than is appropriate. That being said, the Bible does give us strong evidence for the possible meaning of many of the aspects of the sanctuary structure such as its colors and materials. In some ways, I suppose it could be likened to nature which we are told is God’s second book of revelation. While discovering the character of God in nature is arguably more an art than a science, it’s still possible. What makes such a study valid is when it is informed first by Scripture.
Today we are looking at the colors of the sanctuary and while Scripture gives us some rather compelling evidence for how to interpret some of these colors, we are none the less approaching this subject much like we would when we walk amidst a garden. While we will consider context and language and compare Scripture with Scripture, we will humbly admit that at some level, this appears to be more an art than a science. But when you look close, at the very least we can read the inscription, God was here. For me, that’s enough to warrant a careful pause and a reflective moment.
At one time, Israel modeled under Solomon’s leadership a life
and wisdom that wowed the nearby leaders. The effect that the
testimony had on the Queen of Sheba illustrates what God
wanted to do with Israel if they would be faithful unto him. Of
course we know what happened. Solomon took unto himself
many wives and lost his way. Yet, it wasn’t just the wives that
hindered his faithfulness. In speaking of the construction of the
Temple, notice what the book Prophets & Kings points out:
. . . at the head of Solomon’s company of workmen there was
placed a man whose efforts were not prompted by an unselfish
desire to render service to God. He served the god of this world,
mammon. The very fibers of his being were inwrought with the
principles of selfishness.
Because of his unusual skill, Huram demanded large wages.
Gradually the wrong principles that he cherished came to be
accepted by his associates. As they labored with him day after
day, they yielded to the inclination to compare his wages with
their own, and they began to lose sight of the holy character of
their work. The spirit of self-denial left them, and in its place
came the spirit of covetousness. The result was a demand for
higher wages, which was granted.
The baleful influences thus set in operation permeated all
branches of the Lord’s service, and extended throughout the
kingdom. The high wages demanded and received gave to many
an opportunity to indulge in luxury and extravagance. The poor
were oppressed by the rich; the spirit of self-sacrifice was wellnigh lost. In the far-reaching effects of these influences may be
traced one of the principal causes of the terrible apostasy of him
who once was numbered among the wisest of mortals. (PK 63-
According to that last sentence, a lack of self-sacrifice was a
principle cause of Solomon’s apostasy.
We are told by Paul that we are a living sanctuary and that we
are to care for our living temple so that God might dwell there.
But wouldn’t it make sense that if a spirit of self-sacrifice was
necessary for the construction of the sanctuary originally, that
that same spirit must be a part of us also? The choices we make
every day affect the quality of our temple. While it’s true that
exercise and proper nutrition are vital to a healthy temple, we
must also use this temple for His service or otherwise we are
cleaning a pagan temple. We want God to dwell with us like He
did with His people so long ago and thus we must allow Him to
place His law in our heart as it was placed in the temple so long
ago. We should use our temple to worship Him and worship
But by God’s power and grace, may He cleanse our living
sanctuary of greed and sin, that we might perfectly reflect His
love to others.
Many of us have regrettably referred to the Holy Spirit in
conversation as “it” instead of “He.” Not that we meant any
disrespect by it but sometimes we are a little befuddled by the
identity of the Holy Spirit. Contrary to what some claim, the
Scripture makes it very plain that the Holy Spirit is a person
and is a member of the God-head. For example, in John
16:13 Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit and that
He would speak to us what He heard. This means that the
Holy Spirit can hear which only a living being can do. Then
in Acts 13:2 we find the Holy Spirit quoted when He speaks
to the early church and says, “Now separate to Me Barnabas
and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” In Acts
8:29 we read where the Spirit spoke to Phillip and told him to
“Go to that chariot and stay near it.” The Holy Spirit has a
mind according to Romans 8:27 and is loving according to
Romans 15:30. Ephesians 4:30 says He can be grieved while
Hebrews 10:29 says He can be insulted. He is a teacher
according to 1 Corinthians 2:13 and a comforter according to
John 14:16. He intercedes on our behalf with groaning
according to Romans 8:26 and Acts 5:3 says He can be lied
to. Acts 7:51 says the Spirit can be resisted and 1
Thessalonians 5:19 says we can quench the Spirit. So based
on this sampling of texts, it appears most clear that the Holy
Spirit is a person and not some mystical force.
It is also clear that He is a part of the God-head. Psalm
139:7-10 makes it clear that He is omnipresent meaning He is
everywhere. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 makes it clear that He is
omniscient meaning He knows all things. Hebrews 9:14 says
He is eternal which is a characteristic only given to God. The
Bible says God is love and it’s so apparent in that they are
always speaking about the other. Jesus focused His listeners
to the Father and encouraged them to pray for the Spirit. But
the Spirit would draw the minds of man to Jesus and the
Father spoke out loud at Christ’s baptism and said, “This is
my Son in whom I am well pleased.” So the idea that God is
love was possible before there was any other created being, in
that each member of the God-head loves the other.
I can only imagine what it will be like to engage with all three
in heaven, to hear as each speaks of the other. And yet that
privilege can be mine today inasmuch as the Holy Spirit
wishes to impart to me the knowledge of Jesus who said, “if
you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
For the next several weeks, we want to reflect upon the
person and work of the Holy Spirit and consider the great
privilege we have in having Him dwell with us now before
we even go to heaven. While Jesus walked in human form
upon this earth, He left so He could in essence draw even
closer to us through the Holy Spirit who wishes to live inside
each one of us. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, we can have a taste
of heaven here on earth through His Holy Spirit. So come,
taste and see
What should our worship hour look like in light of the judgment hour we are living in? After all, perhaps it is the judgment that should provide the context for our worship. In looking at Revelation, one is first told that this book is about Jesus in the opening lines of chapter 1. As one reads on, one quickly notices that judgment and worship are to key themes within the book. This is beautifully summarized in the book’s 14th chapter and verse 7. There we read the message of the first angel which is labeled as the everlasting gospel in verse 6. In verse 7 we see the command, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” After careful study, one can see that the language, “who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” is actually reminding the reader of both the creation and flood stories. Remember that the “springs of water” were not created until some 2000 years later when in Genesis 7 we read about the flood which we understand was an act of judgment upon the earth.
So as we reflect upon our day in light of the repeated warnings against false worship found in Revelation, we quickly realize that the theme of worship which is often hotly debated in the Christian world is no small matter. Could it be that we have failed to properly balance the call to both fear and glorify God in our worship? Could it be that without both, true worship is well-nigh impossible? And due to our struggle to keep balance in most areas of life, could it be that authentic worship has suffered as a result? Could this possible imbalance in our thinking and action serve as a key contributor to the so called worship wars found within so many Christian circles?
As we read on past verse 7, we are given stern warning about ignoring the command given. Verses 9-11 make it clear that if we aren’t worshipping God, we are worshipping the beast or his image. As we read here about the judgment pronounced upon those who partake in false worship, we are made aware of how pivotal true worship is to our Christian experience. But what strikes my curiosity is this notion of worshipping the beast in such a way that I am either marked in the forehead or the hand? While we understand that the key issue at the end will revolve around the Sabbath which is the day set aside by God for special worship; and while we understand that the third angel’s message is “righteousness by faith in verity;” I am left to ponder what the true meaning of worship is.
Verse 12 leaves us with a simple definition of God’s people which again is a twofold description; they keep His law and they have His faith. So how do the pieces fit and when they are placed together, should they not paint a picture of true worship?
May God guide us with His Spirit, that we might worship Him as He deserves!
When attempting to fast, I think my experience has often been more like the description found in Psalm 109:24 where it reads, “My knees are weak through fasting, and my flesh is feeble from lack of fatness.” Of course I am referring to a fast that involves abstaining from food but as most realize, fasting can be partial or absolute and doesn’t necessarily have to involve food.
In the book, Ministry of Healing, we read the following: “In many cases of sickness, the very best remedy is for the patient to fast for a meal or two, that the overworked organs of digestion may have an opportunity to rest. A fruit diet for a few days has often brought great relief to brain workers. Many times a short period of entire abstinence from food, followed by simple, moderate eating, has led to recovery through nature’s own recuperative effort. An abstemious diet for a month or two would convince many sufferers that the path of self-denial is the path to health.” (page 236) Modern science seems to verify the many health benefits that fasting grants us. But is this the reason for fasting?
When we read about fasting in the Bible, the question comes as to how one should implement this into their lives. Is it something we all must practice? Is it wrong not to?
Fasting in Scripture is typically associated with prayer and thus we find direction in our search for meaning around this sometimes uncomfortable practice. Could it be that fasting places me in a better position for hearing the voice of God? Could it be that fasting is something that I learn to appreciate rather than dread? At the very least, could I come to practice this discipline more from distraction rather than mere determination?
Yes, as you can see I am approaching this topic with many questions as I sense that in some ways it’s been lost in the consumerism and abundance of our modern day. While we will consider the topic briefly in our message this Sabbath, I challenge you to study into it for yourself. As I study this discipline, I am impressed that there is a rich blessing to be had by those who respond to this invitation to fast. As we prepare for the Lord’s supper this Sabbath at church, may we gather wisdom from this important teaching of Scripture.
In case you haven’t heard, there has been a major discussion taking place within the Adventist church regarding spiritual formation, spiritual disciplines, prayer walking, contemplative prayer, and the list goes on. A search on Google verifies this concern. The problem that exists with this Spiritual Formation movement is that it involves a blending of pagan & Christian practices. Sound familiar? Of course paganism at its root involves the elevation of self over God. This is a key element to watch for.
During the early years of the Adventist church, there was a similar issue taking place which we know as Pantheism which teaches that God doesn’t just reveal Himself through nature but that nature itself is part God. It’s so deceptive that at times it can seem to be merely an issue of semantics. This is still the case today. In reading some of the material that warns about the deceptive issues out there, I am afraid some well-meaning people are judging too quickly. For example, the word “gay” used to be used to refer to happiness. Our own conference camp used the term in its name until with time; the name came to refer to those who had adopted an alternative lifestyle. So today, the terms spiritual discipline and spiritual formation are often quickly labeled as being a part of this New Age phenomenon which at times is simply unfair. I simply believe that a word of caution is in order here. Just as pantheism can be extremely deceptive, so can these new age practices. But shouldn’t we expect this type of subtle deception. Remember, this deception could undermine our relationship with Christ from either angle in that we come to place self above God. If I focus on the practice to the exclusion of God, if I feel that just by practicing spiritual disciplines I can manufacture an experience or empty myself by which God will enter, I am failing to realize that Satan is vying to come in as well. But if in my attempt to avoid these deceptions I overreact by making my faith merely a textbook experience, I am missing the beauty of the relationship God invites us to experience. Our faith isn’t just intellectual, it is experiential. But our experience must be tested by the Word and hence the basis for our new series.
In this new series, “The Biology of Faith,” we will consider some of the spiritual practices given in Scripture that describe ways in which we can grow in our relationship with God. While we will consider some of the life processes found in nature, by no means is this to suggest some type of pantheism. It is merely to use God’s second textbook as a means of understanding His grace. (see Romans 1:20) For we desire a living faith, one that is growing in Christ. Thus we will look at how life works in the natural world to illustrate the Christian life.
Like in our marriages, we must make conscious decisions to protect our relationship by what we don’t do but also by what we do do. This requires intentional listening, wooing, and time together. So with Jesus, we must be intentional about our time with Him. It’s not about just reading a book or saying a prescribed prayer, it’s about growing a relationship. It’s about knowing Him.