Grace Harbor is Following Jesus at All Costs
By Nathan Brewer, Pastor • Grace Harbor Church, Oklahoma City, Okla.
As most pastors and church members are keenly aware, the holidays and January brought so much illness to our people. This season has stretched and challenged us in ways we haven’t ever experienced, and I don’t say that on my own testimony alone as a young pastor, but by the testimony of pastors who have been at this much longer than I have! It seems easier and more likely to grow discouraged, but my prayer for others and for our church is that we would live lives in full submission to Jesus.
At the end of Jesus’ sermon, Matthew 7 records that the crowds were astonished by the teaching of Jesus because He was teaching with authority and not in the way that their leaders had taught. While it took the whole sermon of Jesus for the crowds to come to this realization, it is a realization and conviction we must come to today. It is right for us to say “yes” to Jesus (or surrender ourselves to Him), even before we hear and understand all of the things He commands of us. I’ve heard one person say that we are to “put our yes on the table.” If Jesus truly is the king and the authority, we don’t get to judge whether or not His words are worth following. We simply submit to Him, and understand that “wherever He leads, I’ll go.” This is uniquely challenging for many right now. We are prone to allowing other things to lead and direct us, but we must follow Jesus at all costs.
We are holding a “family meeting” (aka business meeting) this coming Sunday with all of our members and regular attendees to share with them what it looks like for us as a church plant to be moving toward coming off of outside support, and how this is an exciting thing for a church to be doing. If I am honest, it brings some uncertainty; but more so, it brings an opportunity to trust God and not be anxious.
Our church is really seeing growth, and it seems that each month we are adding to the number of folks visiting and staying with us. Yesterday we had a neighbor who lives in our community visit our church who is not a believer. He is from India and really seems to be seeking and open to the gospel. After church, he attended one of our home groups and spoke so highly of the way he felt welcomed. We are praying for him and are sharing the gospel with him!
Latest Happenings of Grace Harbor Church (March)
Grace Harbor continually sees the provision and grace of God as He leads us into new places and as we meet new folks in our community. Over the last month, a young man from India has begun asking our group to pray for his dad who is in India and is enduring some intense illness, both physically and mentally. Two weeks ago, his illness had him in the intensive care in India and things were looking very bleak for him. This past Sunday, our friend shared with us in our small group that his dad had been released from the hospital and is doing very well. You could see some of the shock on his face as he shared this with us, and I believe some of that had to do with the fact that we had prayed and that our God had responded.
This young man has no category for these things, and I am not sure he has ever really been around a group of believers. This man is hearing the gospel preached each week in our Sunday gathering, and then hears it again during our small group time. I believe God is really beginning to draw him. We are amazed by how the Lord seems to be working in this man’s life. Later this month, he will be returning home to India for several weeks to help his mother care for his father. We would be overjoyed to see the gospel really take root in this man’s life, and see him carry it back home with him when he visits later this month. Help us pray for him! God knows his name.
We are praising God for the blessing of life, as two of our families have welcomed babies in the last month. One of those is the Mobly family. Baby Zane Mobly was born very early and had some challenges, but the Lord has given him great strength and health, and it is possible Zane will be going home soon.
Latest News from Grace Harbor (April)
March was a very busy month, for a great reason and challenging reasons. I’m sure I am not alone as a pastor or church member who currently feels the weight and reality of the heaviness many of our folks are experiencing. This may be something I have written on before, but it is hard not to as God has called me primarily to be an under-shepherd for the flock He has gathered at Grace Harbor.
We have many walking through prolonged seasons of illness, as well as those who are directly involved with caring for family members who are dealing with intense illness. As challenging as this is to see our folks having to endure, our church has just been so wonderful in caring for one another. Not all of the opportunities to serve are because of illness, but also because of new babies being born.
On a more positive note, we have had roughly 15 folks visit in the last month, and nearly half of them have been with us multiple weeks since their first visit. We have four new covenant members joining our church at the end of April and are praying the Lord continues to add to our number.
Closed Minds, Opened Mouths
By Jesse Spurlock
I saw a revealing bumper sticker the other day. Apparently, the person considered himself open-minded and wasn’t interested in hearing any opposing views. His bumper sticker read, “If Only Closed Minds Also Had Closed Mouths.” I’m not sure what message he wanted to get across, but since I’ve never heard anyone other than a liberal use the term “closed-minded” with reference to an opposing viewpoint, I
assume he was a liberal.
It is speculation on my part, but since we had just gone through the elections, I suspect it had something to do with that. During the campaigning, I know the liberal element was very unhappy that Christians were expressing our opinions, especially about “gay marriage.” (The quotation marks are intentional. Any marriage other than God’s ordained union is not a marriage.) Anything said about marriage as being only between a man and a woman brought an immediate charge that we were closed-minded. They obviously wanted Christians to have closed mouths. I think it is safe to assume the bumper sticker had reference to that.
Many today state we are supposed to have open minds about everything. They even give the impression that being accused of having a closed mind about anything is a high insult. However, there are some things that call for a closed mind. When God declares a truth, it isn’t subject to debate and therefore the issue is closed, as our minds ought to be about it.
If someone tells me homosexuality is an alternate lifestyle when God declares it to be an abomination, what is there to discuss about that? What is wrong with having a closed mind about it?
When God’s Word teaches that life begins at the point of conception, what is wrong with having a closed mind about whether it is a sin to perform an abortion?
In truth, everyone has a closed mind about certain things, so the issue isn’t so much about closed minds as it is about the issue involved.
If I jump out of an airplane at 30,000 feet with a parachute, I will surely be killed. That’s something I have a closed mind about. Anyone with any sense will also have a closed mind about it.
How about death? Should we have an open mind about that? The Bible tells us “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after that the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Having an open mind to other options is very foolish.
When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). My mind is closed to any other consideration.
What most of the ones with “open minds” want is that everyone will pay attention to what they’ve got to say and not give any opposing view. Much like the boss I once had. His philosophy was “when I want you to have an opinion, I’ll tell you what it is.”
Now, I’m not closed-minded about everything. If the subject is based on man’s opinions and suppositions, I’ll gladly consider another viewpoint. I’m especially open-minded when God says, “Come now, let us reason together…” (Isa. 1:18). Having a closed mind with God is very hazardous to our health.
Although the bumper sticker about “closed minds” sounds humorous, I suspect that humor wasn’t the intended point.
Are You Guilty of Tithe Evasion?
By Narita Roady
Tax season is hot here. Receipts are being unearthed, pens are flying and sweat is pouring off many a brow trying to meet the deadline and wondering what will be owed. When Jerry was in accounting, a client received notice that their unemployment taxes were due. In the fine print, they saw the tax was referred to as a contribution.
Politely they returned it with a note stating they chose not to contribute! Quickly, a reply came that it was not a choice!
Yes, we must obey Mark 12:17, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” but who wouldn’t love to choose what to pay the IRS? Most would pay nothing. Some view taxes as robbing them of money that is rightfully theirs, yet how many Christians think nothing of robbing God? Mark 12:17 continues with, “and to God the things that are God’s.”
The church has no IRS with a fraud division to go after delinquent tithers and impose penalties or threaten imprisonment. Yet while God’s children would never think of not faithfully paying their taxes, far too many Christians fail to see their responsibility and obligation to give to the Lord as He has prospered them.
Did you know that only 4% of professing Christians tithe? Do you realize the Lord generously allows us to keep 90% of His money, and He only asks for 10% back! In reality, non-tithers do to God what they accuse the government of doing to them, but the government demands and God doesn’t.
There’s no denying our tax dollars are misused in some areas, but they still allow us to live in the greatest country in the world with privileges beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world’s population. Without taxes, our country would collapse, much like many of our churches are doing today due to lack of funds.
I love the old saying, “Excuses are like armpits. Everyone has a couple and a lot of them stink!” Tithing is no exception. Let’s look at just a few, maybe you will recognize one of yours:
• Tithing is a personal thing between God and me. True, it is very personal what we choose to do with His money. What we do with His money shows Him how trustworthy we are. Just read the parable of the talents in Matt. 25:14-29 if you want to see God’s point of view. It is so personal that it determines how many spiritual blessings He can trust us with: “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11).
• What I chose to do with my money is my business. This translates, “God, stay out of my finances, I can take care of myself;” so He does. Suddenly, all sorts of bills and financial problems arise. People with this type of thinking get mad at God and accuse Him of not caring for them. The Bible clearly shows man what to do that he might be blessed… but he ignores it. Despite all our wrong, He still provides for His children. Their difficulties stem from their disobedience and leaving God out. He does far above what He should for them in view of their rebellion. The truth is, people are getting what they asked for, minus the wonderful blessings He wants to pour out upon them.
• Tithing is a Sunday morning thing. I wasn’t in church, or I didn’t have any money until later in the week. Tithing has nothing to do with a day, a time or a place. It has to do with a heart that obeys God and is committed to Him. Sunday is when we bring that tithe to the Lord. He will gladly receive it any day or time. It is a sincere expression in a very materialistic world to show one’s true belief in God and His power. After all, how can a person say they trust the Almighty God to save their soul, but cannot trust Him to provide for them financially? Such double-mindedness shows serious doubts as to how much they truly believe God is who He says He is.
• I’d like to tithe but, by the end of the week, I have no money left. Too much week, not enough money? This is the result of tithing incorrectly. The minute we receive a paycheck or any income, at that very moment, we should set aside 10% for the Lord. That keeps it safe and sound from being spent. It should be the first check we write, no matter what day it is! Would a responsible individual wait until the day their electric bill is due to see if there is money to pay it? No, they would set aside funds as soon as the amount is known. Why not even more so with God’s money? I am not advocating not paying our bills, but I would rather owe someone else than God. God can help pay our bills; our creditors will never help us pay God back.
• I would like to tithe, but I just can’t afford it. Look at it this way, we can’t afford not to tithe! Debt is the reason Christians believe they can’t tithe, which is a by-product of misusing God’s money. Just admit it, a lot of bills are due to folks buying things they don’t need. So many wonder why they are having such a tough time financially — it is because they are robbing God!
Tithing when finances are short shows that God is more important than anyone else. How arrogant to expect Him to provide and take care of them when they rob Him! It’s a pretty sad deal when a person won’t even give Him the measly dime He asks for on every $1 He blesses them with! We aren’t giving Him anything out of our good graces; we are handing over a small portion of His money that He has loaned us. We steal from Him when we keep it for ourselves. Get the idea? It is not our money.
• When God blesses me with more money, or I get my bills paid off, then I can tithe. When hard times come, giving to God first shows faith in Him. Such faith opens the door for Him to take care of our needs. Too often, Christians slam His hand in the door when He is trying to reach out and give. Then they wonder where He is and why things are getting worse!
• Tithing is an Old Testament law, and we are no longer under the law. Abraham gave to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:19-20) before the law, and God blessed him. He later affirmed tithing in the Mosaic Law (Num. 18:21). New Testament tithing is clear in Matt. 23:23: “…for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Rarely do believers question whether the 10 Commandments should still be obeyed, but arguments arise in this area of money. Should Old Testament laws no longer matter? Then which ones will you choose not to obey? Thou shalt not kill? Thou shalt not commit adultery? If a person arguing this gives 10% or more regularly then their issue is not monetary. But if those disputing tithing are giving less than 10%, then one needs to look at why they find this Scripture so offensive. Could it be a faith issue? Could it be a control issue? Could it be a greed issue? More likely it is a spiritual issue. Seriously consider doing a heart check. A good place to start would be I Tim. 6:10 and Matt. 6:24.
Face it, churches everywhere are in trouble financially because a shameful number of God’s people ignore His plan to provide for His church. Everyone wants a nice church and faithful pastor, but too few want to support it. No church should ever have a money shortage nor should pastors be forced to work a second job to support their families. These are signs that there is a problem in the hearts of the people.
Christians want to pick and choose what they will withhold from God, but they don’t want God to withhold anything from them. God’s churches need fewer tippers and more tithers. Which one are you?