Thursday, 9 March 2017

Witness to Freedom

Recently someone asked me the classic 'How much should I give?' question, pondering the just as classic 'ten percent tithe' approach. I think there is a simple answer:

Make it your habit to give generously, even extravagantly, as the Spirit liberates you.

If you are sitting there calculating, then you probably haven't found a liberty in the Spirit that is surely possible to discover. People seem to think that it is a percentage of their income, yet many of us in the West enjoy an excess so why not give generously from that excess and live off just what you need? For some with ample means that may translate to keeping 10% and giving 90! Again it is not the percentages that are the point, but your Spirit-enabled ability to image God's generosity in your own life.

Proverbs chapter 3 verse 28 tells you to give to your neighbour straight away rather than delay, so a further principle is to give promptly as soon as you have the money at your disposal. So if, for example, you are made redundant and receive a lump sum - then given generously from that as soon as you have received it and allow yourself to trust God for your own ongoing means.

Adopting this simplicity witnesses to the freedom that comes in becoming a follower of Jesus. You are not taking up adherence to rules, percentages or the like, but discovering the enabling liberty that God always intended. Your attitudes to these things, and the habits you adopt to work them out in practice, will be directly linked to this freedom.

It surprised me afresh that when Noah dis-embarked from the boat the first thing he did was worship through animal sacrifice. He did not calculate or hoard - for if he had then surely he would have kept the animals 'just in case'. No - he worshipped and freely gave them up, trusting in God for the outcome in the long term.

Find the same ability to 'give up' in worship, and witness to freedom!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Snares and the risk of Ministry Trophies

Gideon does pretty well in his story in Judges. The Lord reveals to him his commissioning, which he takes on. When the Midianites up the ante, Gideon does some discerning to be sure and then goes off to do battle. He allows his army to be whittled down, understanding that it is God's strength that will win through rather the raw military might.

Co-operating with the Spirit's lead he goes into battle and wins victory, and then goes on to mop up a few others. Blood and gore aside, Gideon is the victor that the people now look to as their leader. Gideon refuses this again understanding that the people should be a theocracy, ruled by God, rather than having any human king. All good for Gideon!

There is just one flaw though. Gideon asks for a wee share of the plunder. In itself surely not a big deal - they all took some plunder and that was okay right? Yet Gideon turns his gold into an ephod which became a religious symbol and object of worship. We are told the people worshipped it and it became a snare to Gideon and his family (Judges 8:27).

Now Gideon lived long and prosperous, but the ephod thing was unhealthy for him and all the people. How easy is it for us to inadvertently collect ministry trophies, which might become a snare to us? We don't need to say that we can never celebrate victory or success, but we must recognise that the line between God given success and something that actually replaces God in our worship is so very thin.

If in doubt, don't cast an ephod!