Sight Unseen

I still listen to a fair amount of radio, especially if I am driving somewhere.  My go-to station is ESPN radio which mainly features talk shows but also broadcasts games.  I also listen to NPR from time to time, especially if they are sharing news about international humanitarian issues.  As a kid I religiously listened to the “Hot 5 at 9” on a local top-40 station to know which songs were climbing the charts, and I still get a nostalgic feeling from radio.

Of course TV is a big upgrade from radio in many ways.  You not only hear what is going on but can see the corresponding images.  In this day and age there are probably over 1,000 channels you could access in one way or another depending on what service you utilize.

These days there is something even better.  A couple of months ago my wife and I upgraded our cell phones.  Our new phones work much more efficiently.  The camera is better, the audio quality is a huge upgrade, and most importantly, we are able to quickly access virtually any data we want from internet to maps to countless apps.  Plus you can access any radio or television programs you want as well.

What do these three mediums for disseminating information have in common?  They all rely on invisible technologies.  Can anyone at ARC (besides Arlin) adequately explain the science behind radio signals, cable television, and cell service?  And yet we have unwavering faith in these unseen forces.  If anyone makes the comment “I only believe in what I can see”, I give you permission to grab their cell phone, smash it on the ground, and say, “then I guess you won’t be needing that anymore!”

My point in this article isn’t to extoll the benefits and downfalls of various technologies but to suggest that if we believe in the forces behind radio, television, and cell service as being real and dependable, how much more real is the spiritual realm all around us and in us and through us?  We tend to think of the physical world as true reality and the spiritual realm as some wispy, thin layer of existence behind the scenes.  In chemistry terms we might say that what we see and touch in this world is like a solid, and the spiritual world is like a gas.  But I’m here to tell you that what is unseen is even more real and concrete than what is seen!  God, as well as His angels and children, are eternal spiritual beings.  On the contrary, what we see in this life is like “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4)

Here’s the clincher.  As powerful as current technologies are, the Holy Spirit is infinitely more potent…and what is the device through which God speaks to the world?  What is the spiritual radio, tv, or cell phone?  The Church!  You and Me!  We who are children of God are the platform through which God chooses to reveal His multifaceted love to the world as we proclaim His Word to all the nations.  So just as people trust the science behind technology, may they look at our lives and stand in awe of the Holy Spirit’s technology powering, informing, and daily updating our witness!

Cory Grimm

 


Marinating in God’s Love

A good, juicy steak is a culinary favorite at our house.  T-bone, sirloin, ribeye… it doesn’t matter.  Toss it on the grill, sprinkle with a little seasoning, and let it sizzle to perfection.  Mmmm… my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  We seldom buy steaks from a grocery store, but prefer purchasing a quarter of beef from local farmers and having it processed to our own specifications.  The convenience of having meat in the freezer, knowing where it came from, and saving some money, all add to the pleasure of a delicious meal.  However, this has not always been true.  Several years ago we were enticed to purchase a quarter of beef from an acquaintance that turned out to be anything but pleasant.  We were able to use the other cuts of meat from this animal, but the steaks were nasty; tough and chewy and full of gristle.  When we did try and grill the steaks, half of it would end up in the garbage.

A friend suggested marinating the meat and gave me a recipe to try.  The instructions called for a little of this and a little of that, stir it all together, pour it over the meat and let sit for 4-24 hours.  That’s it.  Let. It. Sit.  I wasn’t expecting this simple process to change my gnarly beef, but the next day the meat on my plate was as tender and flavorful as any I have ever had.  It was transformed from barely edible to amazing all because I let it sit and soak in the goodness I had prepared for it.  Apparently my friend was right!

God also knows a thing or two about marinating.  The goodness he has prepared for us is overwhelming and he tells us over and over again to rest and sit still in His goodness.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him… Psalm 37:7

Be still, and know that I am God… Psalm 46:10

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.  Isaiah 30:15

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.  Mark 6:31

According to the dictionary, marinate means to soak, souse, immerse, to let sit, for the purpose of tenderizing and flavoring.  Just as I was skeptical about the change that would take place when I marinated my steaks, I have also been doubtful of the benefit of marinating my soul.  It sounds like a good idea but who has the time, right?  Well, I have found that without marinating in God’s word and soaking in his love, I too can get a little tough and gnarly.

This year I have been trying to focus on God’s Presence; learning about it, asking for it, being aware of it.  In a devotional I am reading, author Chris Tiegreen advised that “if we want to have any awareness of God’s closeness, any sense of His Presence, any hint of His voice, we have to clear the clutter out of our minds, sit with Him, and be still.  There’s no other way.”

With so many distractions that draw our attention away from God and a host of things we “should” be doing it’s hard to just sit with him and enjoy his company.  But there really is no other way.  I challenge you to join me in sitting with Jesus.  No demands, no prayer list, no agenda.  Just sit.  And listen.  Instead of trying to chew threw another day, start your morning with a good soaking.  If this is something new for you, start slowly.  Try 10 or 20 minutes, but do it every day.

My prayer for myself and each one of you is that we would marinate in God’s love each and every day and that our hearts would grow tender toward Him and to everyone around us!

Erin Jacobsma

 


Labels

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

These are a few words from the story of creation. More specifically, the part of creation God said was “very good.” We have all probably heard and read this verse countless times in our lives. Even the youngest among us hear these words at a very early age in Sunday School. Yet, even with its familiarity, it took a while for a portion of this verse to really grab my attention and pause for deep thought and consideration. You and I were created “in the image of God”. It is pretty incredible to sit and think about how the creator of all things has created you in His image.

Not only were you and I made in God’s image, everyone we encounter has been made in His image and is loved by Him. Each of us is created to reflect the character of our Creator and we are all valued by Him. No one should ever be degraded, belittled, or cursed. James 3 says “9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” People are precious to God, and at times our words are right and pleasing to God, glorifying His image. At other times, because of our sin nature, our words are destructive and hurtful to God’s very own masterpiece.

In youth group we recently talked about how we label people in a variety of ways. Everyone shared positive and negative labels we have given or received on little pieces of paper and placed them on a board. As a group, we reflected on these labels and how they make us feel, and even how easy it can be to place labels on people we encounter. One individual shared of how she caught herself labeling a lady in a store as she judged her because of the things she was saying to the clerk. Another recalled, on our mission trip to Benton Harbor, how they had labeled a group of residents “lazy” as they watched us clean up their neighborhood. When we sorted all of our little papers into categories of “Negative” and “Positive” we were surprised to learn how much easier it seemed to be to come up with negative rather than positive labels for others. Much like it seemed easier to place a negative label on the board, we are also quick to believe the negative labels others put on us.

As we continued to discuss our topic, the verse above from Genesis 1 popped into my head. I shared the verse with the group and reminded them we are all made in God’s image. Which left us to consider, if we wouldn’t label God with these negative labels, why would we do it to others? And as children of God, why would we believe the hurtful labels others place on us?

Have you ever stopped to consider we are all made in his image? As you encounter others, I challenge you to look at them through the eyes of our Heavenly Father – Holy and dearly loved by the Creator of all things.

Becky Ossefoort

 


Sitting With Papa

A couple of weeks ago Vicki and I had the pleasure of driving down to Sioux Center to watch our granddaughter’s soccer game. After 15 minutes of practicing dribbling, passing, and taking shots on goal, Rilyn’s Gold Team was ready to take the field. The kindergartners play on a much smaller field, maybe 25 yards by 40 yards or so and with six players from each team on the field at a time.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched kindergarten soccer, but basically it’s a herd of 12 little boys and girls all chasing the ball at the same time in hopes of getting an opportunity to kick the ball towards the opponents goal. They run and kick and run until someone gets kicked or knocked over at which time the whistle is blown signaling a break in the action to rub the owie or to wipe the tears.

After about 20 minutes of some pretty intense pursuit of kicking that little white and black ball, it was time for substitutions, and so Rilyn got a chance to rest. Then, after about 10 minutes of sitting on the sidelines, I began to sense that Rilyn wanted to get back into the game, so I got up from my comfy lawn chair next to Vicki and I walked over to where she was sitting and I sat down beside her. Apparently feeling a little embarrassed that I would come sit by her and her other teammate, she said, “Grandpa, you can’t come and sit by me.” Although, after I affirmed her efforts on the field, I think she was glad I came.

I had only sat with her for a minute or so when it was time to substitute again, and so fully rested and hydrated; off she went to engage the little traveling herd with renewed passion. Again she played her little heart out, once nearly scoring a goal, only this time after about 15 minutes she was ready for more rest and water. And much to my surprise, rather than going to sit by her other teammate, she came over to the side line and crawled onto my lap. My heart was filled with happiness as I thought about how her reasoning had gone from, you can’t sit by me to I want to come sit on your lap.

As I reflected on our experience of watching Rilyn’s game as well as attending the Hiller Lectureship event that Cory referred to in last week’s Not So With You article, I was reminded again of the importance of rest. And not only rest because I’m physically unable to keep going at a frantic pace, but unhurried rest because I just love sitting with Papa.

Jesus knew the importance of rest.  Mark records Jesus saying to his disciples, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while” Mark 6:31 KJV.  Dallas Willard would make a play on those words by saying, “If you don’t come apart and rest for a while, without rest, after a while you will come apart.”

When thinking about the rhythms of work and rest, I also love the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28-30, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

May it not be so with you and me that we would resist our need for rest, but rather that we would find great joy in “getting away” with Jesus.

Grace to you, and shalom, Mike Altena

 


How Is Your Soul?

How is your soul?

That question has a special place in my heart, because Grandma Grimm used to ask people this on a regular basis, and not just people at church.  She would use this question as a sort of spiritual pick-up line while at the grocery store or waiting for a bus ride.  As I have mentioned before, Grandma Grimm was a great influence on my faith and she was a legendary evangelist, not only through words but also deeds.  I believe she had a healthy soul and desired the same for others.

On Tuesday of this week the ARC staff had the privilege of attending a seminar in Sioux Falls which began by asking, “How is your soul?”  Before we could answer that question, we had to first define what the soul is exactly.  Of course we know Scripture and even Jesus himself mentions the soul on several occasions:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  (Deut. 6:5)

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” (Ps. 42:1)

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  (Mark 8:36)

The speaker also gave this helpful definition: “The soul is the place inside us where God is most present.”  Then we spent the day assessing the health of our souls and discovering how to incorporate practices that help to connect us more deeply with God and be led by Him as we follow Jesus and lead the church.  People may not realize it, but ironically sometimes Pastors and other church staff members are as much or even more neglectful of their souls than other people.

Probably what stood out to me most from the seminar was the example of Moses, who might be the leader in the Bible we know the most about.  As the speaker pointed out, we know his entire life story, from birth to death, and God transformed this humble man over time in profound ways.  How did God do that?  Through intimate times of silence, solitude, and reflection… normally in a desert setting.  Okay so you’re wondering if this is going to be some strange article about being more like monks and other ascetic-types who shun the world and spend their time in meditation, emptying of self, and yoga.

No that wasn’t the direction this seminar took.  The speaker was very practical and realistic about the unique time period and culture in which we live and the many demands for our attention and time.  And yet she insisted that the more time we are in leadership, whether at church or work or family obligations, the more time we need in silence with God to prepare our souls.  Specifically she helped us learn the value of daily silence/solitude, weekly Sabbath/rest, and occasional retreats where we unplug completely.

How does that sound to you?  Refreshing?  Intimidating?  Exciting?  Scary?  Just one more thing to add to the already busy calendar?  The truth is God misses being with us, and our souls miss God, too.  The speaker said, “You might be surprised what your soul would say to God if given the chance.”  Are you giving your soul a chance to speak to God and hear from His voice?  How is YOUR soul?

Cory Grimm

 


Symbols

Without any further description or information, most people could identify what each of these symbols represents.  These signs are part of our everyday lives.  Our brains have been programmed to recognize them.  Some symbols provide us with instructions or warnings, while others elicit feelings of loyalty or dependability or maybe the lack of.

Another highly recognized symbol is the model of the cross.  There are many variations with the design, but it’s form is universal.  The cross is an image of brutality, severe torture, and pain, but also of great love and sacrifice.  We tattoo crosses on our body, wear them on chains around our neck, and affix them to the bumpers of our vehicles.  We talk about the power of the cross, the words of the cross, the stations of the cross, and taking up our own cross, but the cross is incomplete on its own.

The cross is a necessary part of the plan, but it is not the end of the story.  Yes, it is through Jesus’ death on the cross that our debt has been paid and we can experience the forgiveness of our sins.  It is through the brutality of the cross that we get a glimpse of the height and depth of our Savior’s love for us, but without Christ’s resurrection, the cross is meaningless.  It is through the resurrection that we are given new life.  Jesus conquered the grave, conquered death, conquered the enemy, conquered the past.  The resurrection changes everything.

I wonder if part of the reason that we don’t experience the abundant life is because we are stuck in the shadow of the cross and have not moved on to live in the glory of the resurrection.  Oh, we sing about it on Easter Sunday and proclaim that He’s Alive and Our God Reigns, but on Easter Monday we retreat to the shadow of our sinful desires, mundane activities, and worldly ways.  We go back to what our heads know instead of what our hearts long for.  A popular song for the season states that “Every morning is Easter morning from now on!  Every day’s Resurrection Day, the past is over and gone!”  What an amazing transformation this world would see if we all lived with the awe, excitement, and new life that we sing about on Easter.

If the cross is a symbol of our forgiveness, then Christ’s resurrection and the empty tomb symbolizes our victory.  But when was the last time you saw someone wearing an empty tomb necklace?  I love the depiction of the cross in our Worship Center.  I don’t know the thought process behind the architect’s design, but when I look at the cross, I also see the empty tomb behind it and the light of new life radiating outward for all to see.

As you celebrate Easter this year, I pray that you think beyond the popular symbols of eggs and bunny rabbits, and will walk today and everyday in the power of the resurrection.  Romans 8:11 “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.  And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same spirit living within you.  (NLT)

Erin Jacobsma

 


How We Talk

How we talk says a lot about who we are.  Listening to a persons words can inform us of their nationality, ethnicity, or where they grew up.  Looks can be deceiving, but our verbal articulation is almost impossible to change.  By appearance, Miles Brown looks like your average Rock County native, but when he begins talking, you immediately can tell that he’s not from around here.  His speech gives him away.

There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today and even more dialects.  Even in the same language, there are variances of terminology, lingo, and slang that give clues to our background or heritage.  When I am far from home, I am always surprised when people ask if I’m from Minnesota.  I was not aware of a Minnesotan accent, but apparently there is one.

The way one speaks also gives us a good idea of the mood they are in or their attitude.  Our chitchat can be confident, timid, sweet, sarcastic, or downright snarky.  Our words express our feelings and beliefs.

As Christians, the world around us should also be able to recognize us by our words.  Sadly, that isn’t always the case.  As I searched the concordance of my Bible to find some good scriptural support for the things I planned on saying to you in this article, the Holy Spirit had a few things to say to me too.  I can testify that the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword.  Here are a few of the words that the Holy Spirit pierced me with.  Maybe you need to hear them as well.

  • Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
  • Matthew 12:36-37 “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • Luke 6:45 “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
  • Proverbs 13:3 “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”
  • James 1:26 “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
  • James 3:6-10 “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell… It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
  • Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder, and your hand over my mouth!  Forgive me for the careless and hurtful things I have said.  Cleanse my tongue, so that those who hear my words would recognize You.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Forever Changed

Have you ever had an experience, good or bad, that you were certain would change your attitude or behavior forever? And maybe the experience did bring about lasting transformation, but maybe it didn’t.

I can think of many in my life, here are just a few examples. When you’re playing baseball with some friends, don’t ever stand too close to a teammate who is swinging a bat.  And when you’re operating a torch designed to cut steel, don’t ever run the flame over top of your hand.  There is no point in ever drinking so much alcohol that it impairs your ability to function or causes you to vomit.  After attending our Marriage Encounter weekend I was sure I would always love Vicki like Jesus loves his bride, the church. Or after attending several Promise Keepers I was confident I would always make time for my kids. And then after returning from a mission trip to Haiti, I was sure I would never complain again.

This past Wednesday night, our Young Emerging Leaders lesson with the 7th-12th grader focused on “The Meaning of the Cross” and in particular why Jesus had to die on the cross and how it changes everything for us. This lesson was a follow-up to the previous lesson which focused on how Jesus was crucified. Well, before each YEL meeting begins the leaders gather to discuss our approach to how we are going to teach the lesson. And while we were having our discussion, one of the leaders noted that “the kids in my group say they already know how and why Jesus had to die on the cross.”

When reflecting on her comment, feelings of both happiness and curiosity immediately emerged in my heart and mind. I was blessed to hear that the kids in her group had a clear understanding of how and why Jesus died on the cross, and yet I was curious about whether or not Jesus’ death has actually resulted in a changed life—forever.

One of our focus points of our lesson made this claim: Trusting in what Jesus did on the cross produces changed lives.  I wondered if that is true for our youth. I wondered if it was true for me; does trusting in Jesus produce a changed life?

In I Peter 1:13-22, Peter suggests Jesus’ death on the cross should result in the following transformation of our lives. “13So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control….14So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  16For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” 18For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake….22You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”

So how about it, has your trust in what Jesus accomplished on the cross changed your life forever? More action? Growing self-control? Increasing obedience? Less backsliding? Deeper reverence? A Jesus kind of love?…

Forever changed, Mike Altena

 


Bad Call

A few weeks ago Vicki and I traveled to Montevideo to watch a first round tournament game of boy’s basketball between the Thunderhawks and the Benson Braves.  Some dear friends of ours have a son, Travis, who is a senior and we were excited to watch him play.

Montevideo got off to a good start with the Thunderhawks scoring a few quick baskets.  Then about two minutes into the game one of the referees called a foul on one of the Thunderhawk players while he was attempting to rebound a Benson shot.  The Montevideo coach was livid; apparently from his perspective the ref had completely blown the call.  A great injustice had taken place against his player and he wanted the ref to know it.

The game resumed with the Montevideo coach harassing the ref as he passed him by.  After the two teams had made a couple of trips up and down the floor, our friend’s son, Travis, was charged and found guilty of committing a foul while a Benson player was attempting a short shot near the basket.  Travis appeared to be disturbed by the judgment, but not nearly as distressed as was the Montevideo coach.  And once again the coach felt it was his responsibility to inform the refs that they had committed another injustice against one of his players.

And then, just four minutes into the game, the ref called another foul on the Montevideo team, and you got it, the coach became enraged and began petitioning the refs to dismiss the charges.  Meanwhile, Travis was still processing his resentment over the injustice against him a few minutes earlier so he thought the break in the action would be a good time for him to express his feelings to another ref about their job performance.  Apparently, while processing Travis’s comments, the referee felt he had crossed the line when sharing his feelings, and so he discerned that Travis deserved a technical foul.

Then after receiving the technical foul, Travis immediately thought to himself, well that’s not fair, and so then without thinking, he again expressed his feelings to the ref that the technical foul was not warranted but rather “that is bull@#$%!”  And yep you know it, the referee felt even more disrespected so he gave Travis his second technical foul.  And with that, Travis was on his way to the locker room for a nice long warm shower.

As you can imagine, in the 90 seconds while all of this was unfolding, the Montevideo fans are silent until they discover with great dismay that one of their star players has just been ejected.  And so while a Benson player is shooting the six free throws, and while the Montevideo fans begin to express their chants of outrage, I began to reflect on how people react when they feel they are unjustly mistreated.  Again it was a reminder that anxiety often makes people stupid.

On the way home my thoughts drifted to the injustice on the night of Jesus’ arrest, mock trial, mocking, beating and crucifixion.  Was it really fair that Jesus was despised and rejected by mankind?  Was it fair that he took up our pain and bore our suffering?  Was it fair that Jesus was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53)?  Doesn’t it make you want to petition the Father and tell him what a “bad call” it was to make his Son become sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God?

No of course not!  In his wisdom, God knew the only way to overcome the injustice of our sin was grace!  Thank God for that call!  And may it be so with you and me that we would have the wisdom to know when to confront injustice, when to extend grace, and always to remain self-differentiated.

Grace to you and peace, Mike Altena

 


A Heart of Stewardship

In consistory meeting the other night the deacons and I got into a discussion about tithes, offerings, and stewardship in general.  I asked them, “If an attender of ARC engages you in a discussion about giving to church, how would you explain what you believe and what the Bible teaches?”  We had a good conversation about that topic, and one of my favorite stories in the Bible came to mind regarding offerings to God and tithing in general.  The story involves Abraham and Melchizedek.

After Abraham’s nephew Lot was taken captive in an epic struggle between nine small kingdoms (Gen. 14), in which five kingdoms battled the other four, Abraham gathered his hired men and some allies and set off to rescue Lot.  He asked God to make him successful in this pursuit, and God did.  Afterwards, Abraham was confronted by two kings, the King of Salem and the King of Sodom.  The King of Salem, named Melchizedek and called the “priest of God Most High,” blessed Abraham.  Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder he had gained while rescuing Lot and defeating his captors.  There are earlier examples of people giving offerings to God, but I believe this is the first time a tithe, or 10%, was mentioned.

As a side note, when the King of Sodom asked Abraham for some of the plunder, or at least to trade goods, Abraham refused.  He knew this king was evil, and he didn’t want to enrich him or receive any goods from his hand.  There is an important stewardship principle in that decision.  It matters not only how we use our resources, but from where the resources are obtained.  It seems there is such a thing as dirty money.

Getting back to Melchizedek, the book of Hebrews tells us much more insight explaining who this mysterious character really was.  Chapter seven includes these phrases:

  • His name means “King of Righteousness” and “King of Peace”
  • Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life
  • Melchizedek the priest was before, and greater than, the Levitical priesthood

From that description I think it was safe to say that Melchizedek had some sort of divine, or at least angelic, identity…maybe something like the three visitors to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18.  Hebrews goes on to explain that Jesus is also a high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  He was clearly one of the most mysterious characters in the Bible, but my point for today is that when Abraham gave him a tithe it wasn’t based on Old Testament Law, tradition, or duty.  Melchizedek was long before the law was given to Moses.  Without being commanded to tithe, Abraham gave by faith out of the gratitude of his heart.

As the deacons and I continue to learn and converse this year we are considering how we can help more people catch a vision for giving faithfully and sacrificially to God.  We believe this is important, but we also recognize that stewardship involves more than just giving a certain percentage of our income.  We are still reading the book, “How Much is Enough?” in which Arthur Simon writes, “Tithing may imply that the other 90 percent is off-limits to stewardship, and that if God gets 10 percent, the rest is ours.  The point is that God should get it all.  All of it – and all of life – belongs to God.  We have simply been entrusted to use everything in the best, most loving, and wisest way possible for the purposes of God.”

Like Abraham we are called to devote all of our time/treasures/talents to God.  That is really the heart of stewardship.  And like Abraham we give our tithes and offerings by faith out of the gratitude of our hearts.

Cory Grimm