Monthly Archives: September 2012

Is the Tithe Biblical?

I recently received an email from someone calling the tithe an Old Testament practice that had no relevance to Christians under the New Covenant. Here’s what the email said in support of the author’s statement, “The Bible does not anywhere indicate that tithing is applicable or expected in our time at all. It was a system which was brought in following the exodus from Egypt and the forming of the children of Israel into a nation of their own.” Here was my response…

In looking at the Old Testament practice of tithing we see that Moses communicated to the children of Israel, we tithe “so that [we] may learn to revere the Lord [our] God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). As we all know, learning to reverence the name of God is a timeless principle—as crucial today, as in the days of Moses. Long before Moses, the Bible records Jacob’s promise to God, “Of all that you give me, I will give you a tenth” (Genesis 28:22). Long after Moses, Jesus reaffirmed the practice of tithing (Matthew 23:23)—not for outward appearances, but as an outward expression of an inward reality.

In tithing, we learn the principles of Christian stewardship and what it means to depend upon our heavenly Father and less upon ourselves. Therefore, the tithe becomes our standard, not out of a sense of obligation or to earn God’s favor, but as an act of worship, recognizing that God owns it all. However, I would also assert that the New Testament raises the bar on this principle of stewardship, with 2 Corinthians 9:7 setting forth the central New Testament principle for giving, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” In other words, God loves a hilarious giver, which suggests that we are to strive to go beyond the tithe in our offerings. In fact, I happen to know of many great men and women of the faith, who give upwards to 60-90% of their income to the Lord, not out of obligation, but out of love and devotion to God, who they believe owns it all!

I do agree that nowhere in the New Testament does it designate a percentage of the income that a person should set aside, but it does say that our giving should be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Therefore, giving was strongly encouraged and a part of the New Testament system.  And because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:23, I believe that Jesus sets the “tithe” as the standard, but in no way should that limit us in our giving. For in looking at the Scriptures, we see that we can never out give God, and if we take this biblical practice seriously, I believe we will truly experience the blessing that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). I also believe that as the church lives out this standard, which it is far from realizing, we will fulfill the Great Commission in our generation and meet the needs our communities and world (Matthew 28:18-20).

So what do you think? How might you add to the conversation?

The Prayer of Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick, who lived in the Fifth Century, was originally from Britain. He was captured and shipped to Ireland, which at the time was a violent, dark land of warlords and Druids, and endured six years of servitude as a slave. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer, and he emerged with a strong, unbreakable bond with Jesus. He grew spiritually deep and wise, and gave himself in service to his Lord. He escaped the captors and returned to Britain. Later, God strongly led him to return to Ireland as a missionary. His courageous ministry, braving danger at every turn, ushered Christianity into the entire land. This powerful prayer is often attributed to him…

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation

Why Am I Here?

The most basic question everyone faces in life is, “Why am I here?”  At the heart of this question is, “What is my purpose?” Self-help books suggest that we should look within, at our own desires and dreams. But in order to really understand the answer to this question, we must start with God and His eternal purposes for His creation. Real meaning and significance comes from understanding and fulfilling God’s purposes for putting us on earth. God created us to worship Him, and until we understand that, life just will not make sense. To discover your purpose, you must turn to God’s Word, not the world’s wisdom.  As the Scriptures remind us, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone”  (Ephesians 1:11).

In Acts 9:1- 9, Saul of Tarsus thought he knew his purpose on earth. He thought he was serving God by passionately opposing anyone who espoused ideas about God that differed from traditional Judaism. When Jesus got Saul’s attention, by temporarily blinding him on the road to Damascus, God gave him the name of Paul and called him into a new life of speaking boldly about Christ’s identity as Lord and Savior of the world.

Each of us is God’s workmanship, His masterpiece. God has crafted you with specific abilities, passions, and training to be used for His glory. Though you may be prepared and suited to be a mechanic, administrator, cart driver, or song writer, your purpose is to glorify to God.  And whatever it is, God wants you to do it well! Bring glory to God in all that you are and all that you do!

To go a little deeper on this subject, check out Pastor Doyle’s message from the weekend services…

The Best of Orange County

The Orange County Register published it’s 19th Annual Best of Orange County today. However, in a world of chain restaurants and shopping outlets, the results were very disappointing, as the popular vote favored places like Taco Bell! Seriously…who votes for Taco Bell to be one of Orange County’s Best Tacos or Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour as the Best Restaurant in Orange County? Yes, I love Farrell’s! I worked there back in high-school. And I get why it wins for Best Ice Cream, but come on readers Best Restaurant? Certainly, we can do better than that! So, here’s my own list of the Best of Orange County, based on some of categories in today’s newspaper…

Best Bowling Alley: 300 Anaheim

Best Family Attraction: Disneyland Resort

Best Grocery Store: Trader Joe’s

Best Organic Food Selection: Sprouts

Best Beach: Crystal Cove State Park

Best BBQ: Beachwood BBQ

Best Breakfast: Crema Cafe

Best Fast Food: In-N-Out Burger

Best Chinese: Fortune Cookie

Best Cupcake: Sprinkles

Best Ice Cream: Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour

Best Frozen Yogurt: Yogurtland

Best Hot Dog: Portillo’s

Best Mexican: El Torito Grill

Best Steakhouse: Park Ave

Best Italian: il Garage

Best Seafood: Original Fish Company

So what are some of your Orange County favorites?

Why Should I Trust God?

This week we started a new series, Why? The Answers to the Questions We All Have, at SCG! In the series, we’re asking the question, “Why?” out loud, as together we look for the answers to the questions we all ask. Questions like, “Why should I trust God?”; “Why can’t I do this on my own?”; “Why am I never satisfied?” and more!

At the heart of all the questions we have about God, is the question, “Can I really trust Him?” We wonder if God really loves us. We wonder if we’re really good enough for God to love us. No matter how you might answer that question, the reality is, there is a God who not only loves you, but made a way for you to know and experience life in Him. By an act of God’s grace or unmerited favor, God did for mankind, what we could not do for ourselves. At the cross, God satisfied the sin debt and adopted all who would believe in Him. God’s grace not only secures our salvation, but also sanctifies us (or grows us) to maturity.

In Mark 5:24-34, there’s a story of a woman who trusted in Jesus when others had failed her. Just being a woman in that ancient culture meant that she was not well-respected and she was most likely shunned by her community because of the nature of her lengthy sickness. But she was determined to push through the barriers and connect with the God who she believed could heal her. When Jesus healed her, He also commanded her to reveal herself. And Jesus made it clear that she was healed because of her faith…not her status, abilities or virtue! Our God wants us to come to Him as we are, unashamed and totally vulnerable, as we place our faith in Him.

Do you believe that God loves you? He proved it to you at the cross! Because of His sacrificial love, you can trust Him! To elaborate on this point, have a listen to our Senior Pastor’s message this weekend…

Ways to Promote Your Small Group

This is an exciting week for our small group ministry at SeaCoast Grace Church as most of our groups launch within the next couple of days! As our leaders put the final touches on our preparations, I wanted to encourage them to give one last push to invite others, as well as share some ideas on how they could promote their small group. Being that these ideas are pretty universal, I thought that maybe they could be helpful to you as well…

1. Invite Your Friends/Family – Pray and ask God to put on your heart the names of family and friends, who you think might benefit from being in your group. Shoot them an email, or make a call to personally invite them. When leaders extend an invitation, people feel pulled into a group, rather than pushed to join a group.

2. Post it on Facebook – Many of us have Facebook accounts,  so post something on your profile, letting others know about your group! You may be surprised who might respond. In addition, consider creating a “Facebook Groups” page for your group to post pictures and stay in touch throughout the week. Also have the members of your group “check in” with Facebook before the group starts and tag everyone there! By doing this, you might create a buzz about your group that may trigger a few conversations during the week.

3. Work the Small Group Kiosk/Table – People are constantly stopping by the kiosk on the weekends to inquire about groups! By working the kiosk, you give them a chance to meet you in person and get a level of comfort with you before they jump in! This past weekend our Run for God leaders recruited several members by just helping sell curriculum.

4. Encourage Your Members to Invite Others – Encourage the members of your group to invite their family and friends. In addition, encourage them to post about the group on Facebook or to work the Small Group kiosk! You might even place an empty chair at each week’s meeting and pray that God would fill that empty chair by next week.

5. Update Your GroupFinder/Online Profile – By updating your groups profile information online and adding fun and creative pictures of your group, you say to prospective members, we’re a fun group and you should really consider joining us!

God Uses Imperfect People

Think God can’t or won’t use you? Well, you’re in good company! If you think about it, there are many reasons why God shouldn’t have called you, or me, or anyone else for that matter. But God doesn’t wait until we’re perfect to use us! In fact, the Scriptures are full of the stories of men and women, who in spite of their greed, lust, impulsiveness and imperfections, where used greatly by God to fulfill His purposes. Here’s a few examples, from the Bible’s who’s who:

Abraham lied
Sarah laughed at God’s promises
Moses stuttered
David’s armor didn’t fit
John Mark was rejected by Paul
Timothy had ulcers
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning
Jacob was a liar
David had an affair
Solomon was too rich
Jesus was too poor
Abraham was too old
David was too young
Peter was afraid of death
Lazarus was dead
John was self-righteous
Naomi was a widow
Paul was a murderer, so was Moses
Jonah ran from God
Miriam was a gossip
Gideon and Thomas both doubted
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal
Elijah was burned out
John the Baptist was a loudmouth
Martha was a worry-wort
Noah got drunk
Did I mention Moses had a short fuse? So did Peter, Paul and lots of folks!

Satan will tell you, “You’re not worthy!” But Jesus says, “So what? I AM.” Satan will tempt us to look back and sees our mistakes. But God looks back and sees the Cross. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. So say “yes” to God and watch him do something amazing in you and through you today!

Talking to Your Kids About Sex

I’ll never forget the first “sex talk” I had with my son Zach at Chick-fil-A a few months ago. It was one of the most awkward moments of parenting. But looking back, I’m glad I started the conversation when I did. Having sensed God’s prompting, I recognized that helping my son live pure and understand God’s design for our sexuality would be a challenge in today’s culture, so I wanted to start early and be ahead of the curve, so that he learns about sex from me, rather than someone else.

The other day, I was asked by a father at church about what to do in regards to communicating with his kids about sex. Here’s what I had to say on the subject:

Start Early – The key here is that you want to be the primary and first source of information for your child. The old saying is true, “If you don’t tell them, someone else will.” You want to make sure they are getting the right information about sex.

Share in Stages – Share information based on the child’s interest, maturity and ability to understand. A great book to read on this subject is Talking to Your Kids About Sex, by Mark Laaser. This book is broken down by the stages of a child’s development and offers practical age appropriate ideas of what to address, how and why.

Answer Questions – If your child is willing to ask a question, it’s because they want an answer. Many parents make the mistake of putting off the questions their children ask and never return to answer them. Either because they feel their child isn’t ready to hear them, or they aren’t prepared to address it. Whatever the reason, if you don’t answer the question, they will probably ask someone else.

Teach According to Truth, not Culture – The fact is that today’s culture is mostly wrong about the issue of sex. Culture today is trying to redefine what sex is and one of the greatest tragedies of our generation has been the separation of human sexuality and spirituality. Don’t be afraid to teach your children to be different. If they understand God’s design for their sexuality, they will live differently.

Discuss the Emotional, & Physical Aspects of Sexual Intimacy – Our children should understand the emotional aspect of sex and the damage which can be caused by premarital sexual activity, as much as they should understand the physical aspects. The emotional pain of premarital sex is usually the most damaging aspect later in life.

Make a Covenant with Them – My sister-in-law took both of her kids on a retreat, went through the Passport to Purity curriculum and gave them a purity ring to wear as a reminder of the covenant they made between God and their parents. When my niece got married earlier this year, she gave her ring back to her father to symbolize that she had faithfully fulfilled the vow she had made that day as a teenager.

Keep the Door Open – Keep having the age appropriate conversations! My conversations with Zach are far from over, but by opening the door early, I have hopefully removed any barriers that would prevent him from coming to talk to me. I have also removed the mystique of sex, by being willing to talk to him and answer the questions he has. I don’t believe Zach would be willing to talk about such a difficult subject in the future, if I had not established that freedom and practice at an early age.

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