Showing items filed under “Christian Groenendal”

Why Should Jesus-Followers Tithe?

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Money is one of the most talked about topics in the Bible. If you read through the book of Proverbs you will walk away with at least a Bachelors, if not a Masters in Finance. Jesus makes plenty of references to money as well. In one of the regularly quoted passages on tithing Jesus gives this rebuke to the religious leaders:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” -Matthew 23:23

Jesus affirms that tithing (along with seeking justice, mercy and faithfulness) is something that his followers should be doing. Let’s explore a few reasons why Jesus tells his followers they should tithe.

Can I share something that is shocking with you: God doesn’t need your money. God used his voice to speak and created the entire universe. He breathed into dirt and humanity came to life. He spoke and the raging storm stopped. Jesus called out and a dead man came back to life. If he can do this with his voice, he certainly doesn’t need our money. So why does he tell us that we need to tithe? I believe that he tells us to tithe because we need to develop into disciplined givers. I’m naturally a taker. I think I need more and in order to get more, I must give less. So when I freely and joyously give my tithe, God works in many ways, not the least of which is to change my heart. Through tithing I am transformed more and more into a person who is inclined to give. Personal transformation is one of the main reasons that God tells us to give.

Sometimes when I don’t feel like giving, I have to remember that God expects me to be obedient, even when I don’t feel like it. Being obedient is what creates the discipline of giving in my life and helps me submit to God’s authority. When I know that God has commanded me to do something and I choose to ignore or disobey, I am living in opposition to him. I’m telling him that what I want is more important than obeying him; that I know how to handle my money better than he does. Conversely, when I do obey and give, especially when I don’t want to, I’m learning to be disciplined in submitting to God’s authority over my life. Discipline in one area tends to lead to discipline in others as well.

While obedience in giving my tithe is important, it is certainly not the only reason God wants me to tithe. There is something powerful that happens when I faithfully take 10% of my income and hand it over to the church to be used by God. I think God asks us to give 10% because it is not enough of our income to break the bank but it is certainly enough to make us notice. I think God has designed it this way so that he begins to challenge out view of money. It makes me evaluate the position that money holds in my life and how much value I place on money.

I choose to tithe because I want to show God that I value him more than money. I want to show God that I put my trust in him, my security in him, my hope in him and so I tithe. I tithe to ensure that I don’t fall into the trap of worshiping at the altar of money. Paul gives us a powerful warning when he says:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

-1 Timothy 6:10

I don’t want to wander away from God in search of more money. There is a spiritual law at work that says when I trust God enough with my money to obey him and give my tithe, and perhaps more, he will ensure that my needs are provided for. He will also ensure that I will grow closer to him.

All too often I like to think of myself as the exception, like tithing is for everyone else. I will rationalized that “God knows how much debt I have and he wouldn’t want me to be in debt longer, so it’s not that big of a deal if I don’t tithe for a few months. I’ll be back on track soon.” No matter what my financial state is, I am not the exception! God asks everyone who claims to be a follower of his Son Jesus Christ, to give 10% of their finances to his church for his work. He gives us this command to change us. He gives us this command to test us. He gives us this command to free us from the love of money and the multitude of evils it can lead towards. Ultimately, God has given us the command to tithe because he loves us!

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your past. It doesn’t matter how bright or bleak your financial outlook feels. God wants you to be faithful with whatever he has given you. Everything we have is his. He has asked us to give 10% of what he has given us back to his church.

The time to be faithful is now.

Serving at Winter Relief as a Family

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At the end of last October, I took my family to serve for one evening of the Winter Relief program. It was a very remarkable experience and as I reflect back on it, there are three main takeaways that made a huge impact on my family. 

First and foremost, there is power in serving Jesus together as a family.

The world has a way of sucking me into believing that I am the center of the universe—that it’s all about me. Often I end up translating that into my family too! My world begins to revolve around my family and my priorities become my wife’s needs, my kid’s needs, schoolwork, soccer practice, family dinner and girl scouts. These are all wonderful and important activities. But serving as a family is different.

We prepared two large honey baked hams, then brought them to church and helped serve the homeless people who had gathered there. Doing tangible service as a family together meant that everything else had to be put on hold and serving other people took priority. It was a challenge and each person had to sacrifice something they’d rather be doing in order to serve. That’s what being a follower of Jesus is all about, choosing to follow him instead of my own desires.

Second, my children got to see me model service.

The reality is that my family is always watching me. They take notice of everything; what I do, what I say, what I like, what excites me, and my attitude towards something. Sadly, I often fall short in the example I want to set for my children and my wife. But this was one night where I felt confident in saying, watch me and do what I do. As I began to truly enjoy serving and interacting with the people at Winter Relief, my family followed suite. Soon I looked over at a table and saw my daughters (aged 9 & 6) taking seats next to a lonely young girl sitting by herself, offering to get her a drink. My son (aged 16) was doing a wonderful job serving everyone who came through his line. My wife was bringing people anything they might have missed like utensils or napkins. 

Third, my family was able to encounter real world brokenness and offer the love of Jesus in response.

Before we went to serve for the evening, my wife and I had to have some meaningful conversations with our children about the homeless. They don’t encounter homeless people very often. While all humans experience disappointment and brokenness, homelessness is a very upfront and external brokenness. I wanted to teach my children that it doesn’t matter if the brokenness is internal and hidden well or external and visible to all, the answer is the same. When people are in need, Jesus calls us to serve them in whatever way we can to reveal him.

 

Serving at Winter Relief was undoubtedly a meaningful and positive experience for my family. Even though we had to step outside our comfort zone and make some small sacrifices to get everyone there. In the end, we were able to do something to tangibly serve others and we had some wonderful and very meaningful conversations along the way.

At that moment, when my whole family was serving together, I couldn’t have been more content.

 


 

Winter Relief will be here again soon! There is a big need for Severn Runners to fill—bringing food, cooking, serving, and most of all connecting with our guests. This is an amazing opportunity for our church community to Love Well and Live Jesus! Get more information and sign up to fill a need when you follow this link:

YES!
I’M HELPING WITH
WINTER RELIEF!

 

Tools for a Successful Prayer Life

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As a church we are entering into a season of prayer. There is arguably nothing more central to the life of a Christian and to the life of a church than prayer.

In the Gospels, Jesus models prayer and emphasizes it with his disciples. He makes prayer a central part of his life. Not just when times were tough, but on a consistent and regular basis. I believe we will discover some of the reasons why it was so central to Jesus as we look at some of the resources we have for prayer. It is my hope that when you finish reading this you will walk away feeling empowered and confident that a meaningful and significant prayer life can be yours. So let me discuss a few resources from various authors (none of these ideas are original to me) that I’ve found helpful in my prayer life. Maybe they can help you too.

PLAN.

A fruitful and vibrant prayer life does not happen by accident. It will not just appear for you one day at random. Prayer must be accounted for in your daily schedule. There must be a time that is carved out and protected in your day for prayer. I know it sounds really simple but in reality it becomes very hard. It becomes a value issue. Since our time is limited, we only schedule those things that we value most. Scheduling an exclusive block of time for prayer in our day is showing God that we value him, that we are willing to spend what limited time we have talking to him. Too often in my own life, I drift away from prayer just because I haven’t done the work to schedule it. Normal life just takes over. You can fight that trend by scheduling a block of time for prayer. If you are newer in your relationship with Jesus, it’s okay to start small and schedule 15 or 20 minutes to talk with him. If you have been following Jesus for some time, perhaps you are ready for a more extended period of prayer. Whatever time you are able and willing to devote to prayer, SCHEDULE IT, or it won’t happen.

KEEP A PRAYER LIST.

As you spend time in prayer you will come to realize that there are limitless people, organizations, churches, and things you can and should pray for. Creating a prayer list is very practical way to remember some of those things that you want to pray for on a regular basis. You can list people, such as family members, church members and pastors, friends, co-workers, and that person (or people) who really annoy you or tick you off (because let’s face it, God put them in your life for a reason, so pray for them!). You can list some of the churches that you have been a part of in the past. You can list just about any organization that is doing the work making Jesus known.

Some people prefer to make a few categories for their lists. One such way to break up the categories is to make a more permanent list of people or things that won’t change. This list would include parents, spouses, family and people very close to you.

Then you could make a more temporary list that includes short range requests or concerns. These would include some significant life choices that are approaching, short range needs, or goals you are pursuing. By their temporary nature, they don’t make it on your permanent list. But here is a really important point that you shouldn’t miss.

Make sure you leave enough space next to or below the item to write down how God answers that prayer. There are few things that will build your faith better than looking upon the faithfulness of God in your own life and the lives of those whom you have prayed for over a long period of time. And PLEASE do not throw these lists away. Going over these lists with your grandchildren one day will be a testament and a legacy to pass on to them.

“Make sure you leave enough space next to or below the item to write down how God answers that prayer. There are few things that will build your faith better than looking upon the faithfulness of God in your own life and the lives of those whom you have prayed for over a long period of time."

ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE.

We have the tremendous privilege of being called children of God. As such, God passionately wants to hear from us. He lovingly and whole heartedly wants us to find satisfaction in him and him alone. He is most interested in being your Father and having a relationship with you.

If you are anything like me, you have a horrible tendency to talk to God a lot like a teenager talks to his father: I want…, I want…, I want…, I need…., I need. Rather than a burning desire to spend time with my Father and reconnect with him every day and seek his will for my life, I turn to him like my genie in a bottle who will grant me a couple of wishes if I ask nicely. God wants so much more than this from me.

Yes, God wants to answer your prayers and his promise to us is that when we ask, we will answer. But perhaps a helpful question to ask is, “What does God want me to pray for? What are the things that God is waiting to say ‘yes’ to in my life?” There is nothing wrong with asking God for things or for stuff.

But when I really spend time growing close to God, I begin to realize that what he wants to give me is so much more important that stuff or things. He wants to transform my heart and my life and he wants to transform the world through me. And that has very little to do with the size house that I live in, the car I drive, how full my bank account is, the clothing I wear, or the amount of devices connected to my home network. God wants to answer your prayers so make them worthy of his glory.

GET A PRAYER PARTNER.

Spending time alone in prayer is critical. However, finding another Christian or a small group of believers with whom you can get together regularly to pray can bring much growth and fruit to your prayer life.

If you are married, your spouse is probably the ideal partner. It will foster intimacy and growth in your marriage and with God. If you are married and you have a prayer partner besides your spouse, ensure that it is someone of the same sex/gender as you. Prayer leads to closeness and you must guard your marriage. But finding the right partner will give you a level accountability and someone to help you reflect on the question posed in the previous point (what does God want me to pray for?).

If you are a newer believer, try to seek out someone who is more mature in the faith than you. You will have the opportunity to pray with and learn from them. It is Christian discipleship at its best. If you are the more mature follower of Jesus, then seek out someone who might be able to learn from you. We are made to be in connection with other believers and prayer together as brothers and sisters in Christ with strength that connection. It is worth finding a reliable and trustworthy prayer partner.

These are just four of the many practical suggestions for prayer that I’ve encountered. These points came mostly from Praying with Paul by D.A. Carson but there are many more great books out there and I would encourage you to explore some of them.

But don’t let reading about prayer be a substitute for prayer!

Start praying, develop a disciplined prayer life and then begin to read and learn more to make it deeper.

What is Worship?

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Worship. How many of us have used that term without really knowing what it means? Is it singing songs to God? Is it what I do Sunday mornings at church? Can I do it with my family during the week or on my own in quiet moments? What does it mean to worship?

At a basic level, the word worship comes from the idea of ascribing worth to something or someone. The value that I place on any particular thing in my life shows the level of worth it has to me. Worshiping someone (or something) is a reflection of the value that you have given to that object in your life. When we worship God, we are ascribing worth to him, telling him that he is valuable to us.

So here is the reality about how God has made us: humans are created to worship. God has designed us in such a way that our hearts and our souls are ALWAYS worshiping. There is no ON/Off switch to this worship thing. It is always ON. We are always ascribing worth to things and people in our lives. So if I am always worshiping, the all-important question I have to ask myself is what is the object of my worship? What is it in my life that I place the most value towards?

Here are a couple of question that are helpful to think through when determining what you value most in your life.

  • What makes you the most angry?
  • What do you spend the majority of your free time thinking about?
  • What is your life organized around (work, kids, TV Shows, sports)?
  • What brings you the most happiness?
  • What do you look to for your security?
  • From where do you get your own sense of value or worth?

All of these questions help us evaluate what we value most. What your heart treasures most, you will find yourself worshiping.

God created us to be creatures of worship. He wants to be the center of our lives and the object of our worship. We have the opportunity to show God value and worth in our lives, to worship him, every minute of every day. The Apostle Paul offers a heartfelt encouragement to the church in Rome to worship God with their entire lives.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1).  

Paul offers us an insightful picture. My body is to be presented to God as my worship. That means that everything I do is meant to be worship, meant to be pleasing to God. Everything that I do with my hands, everything I say with my mouth, everything I dwell on in my head, every desire that I kindle in my heart—all of it is meant to be worship toward my creator. It’s overwhelming when I really stop and think about it and the implications for my life. Every moment of my day is worship. Every conversation I have is worship. Every time I interact with my boss, my children, my spouse, other drivers on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, or even that neighbor who really gets on my nerves, I have a chance to honor God, to worship God.

Singing praise and worship songs at church or even on the radio in the car are certainly acts of worship. But hopefully, my worship of God will extend far beyond the 75 minutes I spend in the church building on Sunday or some songs that I sing along to in the car while I’m driving.

Hopefully, as I set my gaze upon the Lord each morning, and open my heart to the Spirit’s leading in each moment, my heart will begin to treasure God more and more. As I preach the amazing grace of the Gospel of Jesus to myself everyday, and I consider how much Jesus loves me, I will treasure him more and more.

Because what I treasure, I will worship.

Adoption is a Reflection of Jesus

November is National Adoption Month.

My wife and I have felt a calling towards adoption for some time and it finally came to fruition about a year and a half ago. We had two foster children, who are biological brother and sister placed in our home and this past summer we finalized their adoption. That means that at the moment we have four children (two biological: 1yr old & 6yrs old and two adopted: 9yrs old & 16yrs old) in our family.

This past year has been a roller coaster and if you would have caught me on a bad day, you might walk away from our interaction confident that you aren’t called to adopt. So why did we adopt? Why should anyone consider adoption? For me, it goes back to my own adoption.

I know that I am a sinner. Of all the things that scripture teaches me, the fact that I am a sinner is near the top of the list. Because of sin, I was hopelessly lost, separated from God with no ability on my own to get right with Him. I was outside of God’s family, an orphan with no father. The Bible describes this condition as being enslaved to sin. My condition meant that I desperately needed a redeemer, a father who would take me in and love me as his own.

That redeemer is Jesus Christ. Because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, my sins are forgiven. When I was forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ, the Bible says that I was adopted into his family. When I was in sin, I was separated, I was alone, I was an orphan. But in Christ, I am adopted into God’s eternal family.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father! (Romans 8:15)

Again, Paul says that God sent his son to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons… “So you are no longer a slave, but a son…” (Galatians 4:5,7)

In both of these passages Paul shows us that there are only two conditions — we are either slaves or we are adopted children. We either have the spirit of slavery and fear, or we have the spirit of adoption.

Our adoption is what brings us into God’s family. It is a spiritual reality, a spiritual change of condition that takes place when we are saved. But physical adoption is something that is desperately needed in our community and around our world. We need Christian men and women who are willing to model Christ’s love for us and give that love to children in need.

Why did my wife and I choose to adopt? I believe that adoption is central to the gospel. Christ adopts us when we are separated from him. I believe the church can show the love that God has for us by adopting children in need. When we show children that we are willing to be their earthly redeemer, they become open to the idea that they have a heavenly redeemer.

When we considered what Christ has done for us, we felt there was no clearer picture of the gospel than to adopt children who need a family. We chose to open our family, open our home, and open our hearts to these children. We chose to take them in and freely give them the gift of being a part of our family. We took the orphans and made them sons and daughters.

There are over 400,000 foster children in the United States. There are millions of orphans around the world who need loving families. I believe the church can be the leader in helping these children find their place in a home and family that will love and care for them. Since Christ died for my adoption, I feel called and compelled to show that love and do it for others.

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