Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 28 March 2022:
Ezekiel 36:1 — “Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.”
Even artists have to constrain their creativity to the commandments of God. God tells us how we are to worship Him, what is acceptable to Him.
Exodus 36:4 – “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”
Have you ever been to a church where the Pastor, Reverend, or Priest said, “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary”? I suspect not. However, today we read when the people of God, of their own free will and without any pressure, gave to the point where giving was no longer needed. The Israelites in the desert certainly had plenty of logical reasons not to give as their future was (in the eyes of men) very uncertain. While we might worry about a bad economy, they had good reason (from an earthly perspective) to be concerned for their very lives on a daily basis. Yet, they gave freely. Today, less than 4% of church members tithe (give 10% as commanded in the Bible), while most spend about 20-25% of their incoming paying off debt (much of which is owned by ungodly institutions), around 29% of their income on taxes, and about 20% of their income on transportation costs. Can you imagine the impact if Christians followed the Biblical principles of living debt free, sharing with one another, and tithing? What would happen if, tomorrow, 100% of the church tithed?
Two experiences in my Christian walk significantly changed my perspective on church finances. One occurred in the early 90’s when my Pastor stood before the church to explain why, despite supporting over 10,000 attendees, we still met in a giant tent instead of a building. He said that the church in America was spending more on building debt then to support missionaries, and he refused to go into debt to build a church. Today, he pastors in a huge, beautiful building, debt free. My second profound experience was in 2009-2011 when we attended a congregation that all worked together to construct their own church building (with the support of some builder missionaries – I did not know such people even existed). They took what was once a horse arena, moved it across the city, and transformed it into an amazingly beautiful church (quite large too). They did the vast majority of the work on their own. Mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays the congregation would meet after normal working hours to build together, eat together and fellowship. This experience completely changed my perspective on, not only church finances but also on church fellowship. It is an incredibly powerful thing when the body works together to build the church. You can imagine the intense emotion that was felt during the first service conducted in the new building that everyone had built together through much blood, sweat, and tears. This was the most cohesive and committed church body of which I have ever been a part, and the culture of mutual support extended to all areas of life – they helped build each other’s homes, shared necessities of life, and gave to each other generously; interestingly, most were barely middle class. That experience reminds me of what we read today in Exodus when everyone freely gave, not only of their resources, but also of their time and talents to construct the sanctuary. How does this relate to your church experiences?
Mark 6:26 — “And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word.”
Pride, lust, power, fear of man, and impetuous decision-making drove Herod to hideous sin which he had not originally intended and later deeply regretted. The Bible says Herod gladly heard God’s word through John the Baptist and “feared John,” but nonetheless beheaded him. (Mark 6:20) The Bible points out that Herod “was exceedingly sorry,” but sorrow is not the same as repentance.
Herod demonstrated “worldly grief” rather than “godly grief.” Worldly grief leads to death. Godly grief leads to repentance and reconciliation with Jesus.
John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance – “In those days John the Baptist came… saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:1, 2).’” Jesus began his public ministry with a call to repentance – “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 4:17);’” and Jesus sent his disciples with a call to repentance in our readings today – “They went out and preached that the people should repent (Mark 6:12).” Repentance comes from “godly sorrow” (genuine, spirit convicted sorrow) and involves the decision to turn to God for mercy and unmerited forgiveness, to turn away from sin, and to do the will of God, to “walk” with Him. Repentance involves 180-out decisive change with tangible results, the “fruit of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)
Both worldly grief and godly grief are deeply felt but produce opposite results. Consider the difference between the grief felt by Judas and the grief felt by Peter, both of whom betrayed Jesus. After denying Jesus three times, Peter returned to Jesus with a strong reaffirmation of his love for Jesus (John 21:15-17), resulting in an even deeper relationship with Jesus and a truly changed life. Even to the point of torturous death, Peter never denied Christ again. Conversely, Judas carried his worldly grief to his suicidal death, refusing to turn to God for reconciliation. Many live in pain, misery, regret and perhaps bitterness over mistakes that they have made in life and perhaps continue to make. However, God does not want anyone to live in worldly grief that leads to death, but rather God wants everyone to respond to the godly grief that comes from the conviction of the Holy Spirit, to repent, to live in obedience by the grace of God, and to have life to its fullest with godly joy.
- 2 Corinthians 7:10 — For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
- Psalm 51:17 — The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Psalm 103:12 — as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Note that if you travel north on a globe, you will eventually travel south, but if you travel east on a globe, you never reach west – Psalm 103’s choice of direction is very intentional, demonstrating an infinite cleansing of sin through Christ.)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 Mar 22: “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” (Mark 6:12) Tell others about the need of repentance today and the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Communicate the truth in love, and trust the Holy Spirit to do the convicting.
- Proverbs 24:11 — Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.