Thinking Out Loud

January 27, 2020

Prosperity Church Offering Envelope

The front side of the envelope was fairly typical…

…it was the back side that got our attention…

There is a sense in the opening statement that all that we have comes from God and that he has promised to provide for our basic needs. By being able to give, it states that we’ve already received.

Or am I exegeting their offering envelope wrong? The second sentence doesn’t match the first. The language of Exodus — taking back the promised land — implies that something is yet to come. That we have not received all that God is about to or able to provide. 

Furthermore, Mrs. W., when she reads this, feels it’s saying that we have already received something very significant, but perhaps we have yet to claim it.

Next paragraph.

Although the word tithe is not used, the first sentence of the second paragraph begins with a statement of offering being giving the Lord our first fruits. The notion that Jesus receives this gift and then presents it as worship to the Father is new to me.

Seriously, before we skip past this too quickly, have others of you heard this teaching? The idea that we give to Jesus who then gives our gifts to God the Father?

The next sentence introduces the all-too-familiar prosperity teaching notion of giving as planting a seed. It says, I receive a great harvest, not I will receive, which implies that the process is already operative.

But in that same sentence that idea is paired with the idea of the devourer, which I believe we can read as the enemy, being rebuked. Is that was rebuked at some point in the past, is rebuked in the giving of the offering, or is constantly being rebuked at times past, present and future? I suppose a spiritual warfare element (which I do believe in) was inevitable.

Many times those of outside of prophetic churches have great difficulty following the language used. In this case, I know the words, but the verb tenses confuse.

The third sentence is fine. We are indeed blessed, both individually and as the corporate body of Christ, to bless others.

So if this is the motivation, the fourth sentence would make sense; that God has given us the means to accumulate wealth to build the Kingdom, which the language I would have used, not establish your covenant. Isn’t God’s covenant already established?

The fifth sentence is great. God is our source and supplier of all our needs.

The last sentence seems a strange place to end. A declaration that all my bills are paid, would seem to imply that I am only giving this offering if I have no other debt; or, because the envelope uses a credit card option, that I am not going into debt with my giving, which would be wise advice for parishioners, and good counsel by the church in not wanting people to worsen their financial position by giving to the church.

But it could also mean, that all my bills are paid as they arise, which, with the general exception of a mortgage or car loan, would also be a responsible framework from which to give to the church — a church that presumably would honor the other half of the financial picture and be helping out families which are in financial difficulty along with the Biblical widows and orphans equivalents — but again, the verb tense is ambiguous.

If I felt my bills weren’t getting paid and all my needs were not being met, I would see this declaration as a caution not to give to the church at this time.

But in a prosperity church context, it might mean that by faith all my bills are paid, that it is stating a position which may not have been practically realized to date. But not everyone entering this church for the first time would speak their faith dialect and detect this nuance…

…On the other hand, they could have just left the back of the envelope blank.


As I was preparing this, I discovered this item in our files, which I had used in July, 2017 as a random Wednesday Link List image. Reading this one, I at least understand the words used.

October 6, 2013

Christianity: Flying Solo

This is a rebroadcast (!) of an article which appeared here a year ago…

Increasingly, many people are following a solo track in their Christian life. With a proliferation of streaming church services, online sermons and podcasts and Christian books appearing at rate we’ve never before experienced, it’s both tempting and easy to go it alone.

In the past I’ve challenged some people to wrestle with a few questions:

  1. What do you do for Christian fellowship?
  2. What people or group comprise your covering when you need prayer?
  3. Where do you experience the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion?
  4. How do you experience corporate worship?

These are all serious questions which have theological underpinnings; and anyone who is actually maturing in their Christ-following is going to run up against these sooner or later.

But with the fiscal year-end serving as a reminder — though hopefully not fully the motivation — it’s also a good time to look at another question:

  • Where or how do you experience alms-giving or tithing?

If you are currently outside of a faith family, may I make a few suggestions?

First you should give something to whoever does provide you with teaching and nurture: The online church, the radio ministry, the provider of devotional literature you receive. I’m assuming that one or more of these exist in your life because absent those factors, plus the ones listed above, I’d question the arena in which your faith journey operates.

Second here’s a stretched analogy to help you find some giving possibilities:

Jerusalem

In our area this could include:

  • a ministry reaching youth such as a local chapter of Youth for Christ
  • a faith-based ministry reaching the poor and marginalized such as The Salvation Army
  • the local Christian radio station which relies on donations more than commercial revenue
  • the local crisis pregnancy center
  • the local Christian school which needs donation to supplement parent fees

Judea

Here you’re looking at regional ministries. In our area this might be:

  • Christian camp ministries, making a difference in the life of children and teens
  • organizations that place Bibles in prisons, schools, hotels such as The Gideons
  • faith-based group homes and residences for people dealing with addictions or family crisis

Samaria

In the original passage, Samaria is more of a descriptor of “the place you don’t want to go” than a geographic reference. To me, this represents a ministry to a select people group than a particular place. We’ve known of ministries to a select ethnic group within our country; to street people in urban centers; to Gay/Lesbians; to professionals; to people needing jobs; to people with a specific medial condition; to the elderly; to a specific arts community; etc.

Uttermost Parts

This could include:

  • worldwide Bible translations organizations such as Wycliffe or Bible distributors such as the various Bible societies or Megavoice
  • faith-based relief and development agencies such as Compassion
  • ministries raising awareness of religious persecution of missionaries and Christians in nations claiming religious liberty; and/or dealing with issues such as human trafficking
  • evangelistic organizations with worldwide impact such as Billy Graham’s

These are just suggestions.

As a Lone Ranger Christian, you are still part of the body if not a local assembly. Addressing the giving question still doesn’t address the prayer and worship and fellowship and communion issues, but it’s a place you can begin, even on a weekday.

Comments?

October 9, 2012

Lone Ranger Christianity

Increasingly, many people are following a solo track in their Christian life. With a proliferation of streaming church services, online sermons and podcasts and Christian books appearing at rate we’ve never before experienced, it’s both tempting and easy to go it alone.

In the past I’ve challenged some people to wrestle with a few questions:

  1. What do you do for Christian fellowship?
  2. What people or group comprise your covering when you need prayer?
  3. Where do you experience the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion?
  4. How do you experience corporate worship?

These are all serious questions which have theological underpinnings; and anyone who is actually maturing in their Christ-following is going to run up against these sooner or later.

But with the fiscal year-end serving as a reminder — though hopefully not fully the motivation — it’s also a good time to look at another question:

  • Where or how do you experience alms-giving or tithing?

If you are currently outside of a faith family, may I make a few suggestions? 

First you should give something to whoever does provide you with teaching and nurture: The online church, the radio ministry, the provider of devotional literature you receive. I’m assuming that one or more of these exist in your life because absent those factors, plus the ones listed above, I’d question the arena in which your faith journey operates.

Second here’s a stretched analogy to help you find some giving possibilities:

Jerusalem

In our area this could include:

  • a ministry reaching youth such as a local chapter of Youth for Christ
  • a faith-based ministry reaching the poor and marginalized such as The Salvation Army
  • the local Christian radio station which relies on donations more than commercial revenue
  • the local crisis pregnancy center
  • the local Christian school which needs donation to supplement parent fees

Judea

Here you’re looking at regional ministries. In our area this might be:

  • Christian camp ministries, making a difference in the life of children and teens
  • organizations that place Bibles in prisons, schools, hotels such as The Gideons
  • faith-based group homes and residences for people dealing with addictions or family crisis

Samaria

In the original passage, Samaria is more of a descriptor of “the place you don’t want to go” than a geographic reference. To me, this represents a ministry to a select people group than a particular place. We’ve known of ministries to a select ethnic group within our country; to street people in urban centers; to Gay/Lesbians; to professionals; to people needing jobs; to people with a specific medial condition;  to the elderly; to a specific arts community; etc.

Uttermost Parts

This could include:

  • worldwide Bible translations organizations such as Wycliffe or Bible distributors such as the various Bible societies or Megavoice
  • faith-based relief and development agencies such as Compassion
  • ministries raising awareness of religious persecution of missionaries and Christians in nations claiming religious liberty; and/or dealing with issues such as human trafficking
  • evangelistic organizations with worldwide impact such as Billy Graham’s

These are just suggestions.

As a Lone Ranger Christian, you are still part of the body if not a local assembly. Addressing the giving question still doesn’t address the prayer and worship and fellowship and communion issues, but it’s a place you can begin, even on a weekday.

Comments?

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