My Pastor husband made a big announcement on Sunday. As a church we are growing beyond the space that we currently hold and have our eye on a location that would accommodate us nicely. Financially, however, it is as far out of reach as our current space was when we began dreaming of it. For us to land this location and finance the necessary renovation is as improbable as a tribe of weary desert slaves actually taking Canaan for their own. So in the spirit of the Israelites, this weekend we will be spying out the Promised Land.
We have gained permission to hold one special service in the empty space we are dreaming of. This coming Sunday evening, we will move all our chairs, our baptism horse trough (that’s what it truly is, thank you, Tractor Supply), sound equipment, coffee, and trashcans to an old department store to celebrate together and claim the space as our own. Then we will haul it all back to our current space and prepare for the future.
My husband is a fearless leader. He is not without fear and trepidation, but he leads fearlessly, meaning, he doesn’t let fear hold him back. I have been writing a new book with a working title of “The Jesus Encounter.” I am writing character studies on different people who encountered Jesus on earth. This last week has been centered on Peter. I think I married a Peter. Some days I think I married King David, the musical, passionate, tender King David, but this week he reminds me of Peter. Peter was a leader.
Here’s one way you spot a leader.
They go first. I’m not talking about the obnoxious person who is always jonesing for the first spot in the buffet line. Those folks want to be first. Anyone can jockey for position. All of us have elbows and know how to use them.
Rather, a leader is someone who is always willing to go first, when everyone else is wary.
Others are still counting the cost, evaluating the danger, running differentials, printing risk analysis charts while a leader is hearing God’s call, trusting his gut, diving in headfirst as he invites the rest of us to follow. Leaders are DECISIVE. They COMMIT. This is Peter. Peter dove into the water on more than one occasion just to get close to Jesus while others were watching from the deck of the boat. I want to be more like Peter. I am more likely to be running risk analysis while my husband is leading people forward by example. Yet, if I think about it, every single time the two of us have taken a God-initiated risk, God has redeemed it.
As I consider what it means to invite God’s people into a project that is beyond us, one that is God-sized, one that is well beyond the normal giving rate and established budget, I hear God speaking.
Is it coincidence then that my daily Bible reading schedule landed me in Exodus 35 this morning? I doubt it.
4Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. 5Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution:…
20Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments.
22So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord.
26All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair….
29All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.
I get tithing. In general, I like to follow rules. Calculating my giving to God on the basis of how he has provided is gratifying to me. I understand God’s command to tithe and I like meeting that expectation. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been easy to tithe when I worry about how far the leftovers will go, but it has been an exercise in faith over the years until now, it is second nature. In fact, it is important for me to give intentionally without letting it simply become a mundane habit.
But the situation described in the Exodus passage is entirely different territory. This is a freewill offering. For God’s tabernacle, the people gave voluntarily over and above their normal tithes. This is discretionary generous giving. There are no rules for that.
It is open season on the offering bucket.
I can’t get past the heart issue involved here. I can tithe without really even thinking about it very hard. But giving in this manner involves a willing heart that is stirred. I am praying about what that means for me. I want a stirred heart.
I am particularly struck by how people contributed. They didn’t just give from their savings account; they gave from their possessions. They rifled through their jewelry collection and offered it up for the new tabernacle. Hmmm, I’m more of a cheap, trendy costume jewelry gal, but what jewelry do I have of any value that could be sold for this new Kingdom work?
For that matter, what possessions am I currently heating and cooling and paying taxes on that I could seriously live without?
I know I have more than I need. What could be liquidated for Kingdom work? For a God-sized project?
The Israelites not only gave out of their current cache of possessions, they gave of their skill. That is impressive. Those with a useful skill set were selected to work on tabernacle furnishings. I won’t be building out a new worship space, but what skills do I have that could turn into cash for a God-sized project?
Now, I am not talking about fundraising. I am not talking about a car wash for Jesus and basically encouraging all the nonbelievers in town to fund a new worship center for Christians. But discreetly, quietly using the abilities that God has granted me, what could I create that could turn into cash for kingdom work?
I recently heard of a pastor and wife who on more than one occasion emptied their 401(k) into God-sized projects. Our journey in ministry hasn’t left us with much in that regard, but I did work for one solid year at the university in a full-time capacity and continue to get updates on that account. I am now praying about what should happen to that.
My heart is stirring….