Giving/Tithing/Alms/Offerings (Murray)

 As Christians, we are not called to hoard our money and finances.  We are instead called to give some of it away (cf. 2 Cor. 9:7).  Speaking of this, I appreciate David Murray’s points on the Christian’s financial giving.  I’ve put some of them below (they are edited for length):

  1. Giving Obeys God’s Command.  The Old Testament has way more commands about giving…than the New Testament. …But just in case we might miss the link, there are also some clear New Testament commands (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7).
  2. Giving Submits to God’s Lordship.  Every act of obedience recognizes that there is a higher authority in our lives, that there is a Lord over us who is entitled to honor and respect. …The wallet is often the last citadel to fall to God’s rule, and even when it does fall, it gets rebuilt and resecured again all too quickly.  But when enabled to submit our wallets to Christ’s lordship, we give clear and powerful testimony that he is Lord of all.
  3. Giving Exhibits God’s Heart.  God is the giver of every good and perfect gift.  He is the superlative giver.  And although God’s gifts are unprecedented, unrepeatable, and unbeatable, we are still called to copy God’s giving, to be minipictures of his infinitely large heart.  What do people think of God when they think of the way we use our money?
  4. Giving Illustrates God’s Salvation.  At the heart of the gospel is sacrificial self-giving.  That’s why when the Apostle Paul wanted to encourage the Corinthians to give more and more, he pointed them to the person and work of Christ (2 Cor. 8:7).  When we give sacrificially, painfully, and lovingly, we draw a small-scale picture of the gospel message.
  5. Giving Trusts God’s Provision.  The biggest deterrent to giving is fear, the fear that if I give away too much, I won’t have enough for this or that.  When we give sacrificially, above and beyond what is comfortable and easy, we express our faith and trust in God to provide for us and our families.
  6. Giving Widens God’s Smile.  The Lord ‘loves a cheerful giver.’  It delights him to see his people gladly opening their hearts and hands to provide for the needs of his church and indeed all of his creatures.
  7. Giving Advances God’s Kingdom.  …Think of what blessing results when we fund the mission of Christ’s church.  …Above all we are investing in the spiritual and eternal welfare of people from every nation, tribe, kindred, and tongue.
  8. Giving Promotes God’s Sanctification of Us.  Giving money, especially when it pains us, is work that requires much self-denial and self-crucifixion.  Every act of giving weakens and breaks our sinful and selfish nature, however, empowering God’s work of grace in our hearts.
  9. Giving Testifies to God’s Power.  …Even secular observers have noticed with amazement how generous Christians often are with their money.
  10. Giving Praises God’s Character.  Giving in a right spirit is an act of worship (Heb. 13:16). It is rendering God a tribute of praise.  It is saying, “You gave me everything, and here is a small expression of my gratitude and praise for all our good gifts.”

You can find all these points with more discussion in chapter eight of The Happy Christian by David Murray.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

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Focusing on Feelings?

Christians Get Depressed TooHere are some helpful words from a helpful book:

“One of the most common tendencies for those with depression is to focus on feelings and to base beliefs and conclusions on those feelings.  This is especially true of Christians.  For example, they may feel forsaken and conclude that they are forsaken.  Also, in an effort to restore true feelings, there is the tendency to read Bible passages that address the feelings.  But such a focus on the subjective tends only to make things worse.”

“We should encourage the depressed person to move away from the realm of the subjective and to instead think on the objective truths of Christianity, things that are true regardless of our feelings: justification, adoption, the atonement, the attributes of God, and heaven, for example.”

Well stated.  This is also one more good reason for us to know biblical doctrine (such as justification, adoption, etc.)!  It helps keep us standing on the unchanging promises of God rather than our changing feelings and emotions.

The above quote is found on page 97 of David Murray’s book, Christians Get Depressed Too.

Shane Lems

The Happy Christian – A Review

I try to be a positive Christian with a positive outlook on life.  Generally speaking, I look on the bright side and press on in the Christian life with hopefulness because Christ is on the throne.  But sometimes I fall into a rut of gloom, cynicism, and I think the cup is “half empty,” so to speak.  From time to time I can identify with Christians who are always gloomy, pessimistic, and critical.  The question is, how can we get out of the rut of gloom?  We should want to, since the Christian faith is not one of gloom, doom, and extreme cynicism!

David Murray answers this question in his new book, The Happy Christian.   In ten chapters, Murray tackles gloom armed first with Scripture and secondly with some helpful scientific studies and insights about pessimism and optimism.  If I can make a generalization, Murray is basically calling God’s people to a Christian optimism, or a biblical optimism based on the truths of Scripture.  The book is just over 260 pages.

The chapters go like this: To gain a more positive outlook on life 1) focus on facts more than feelings, 2) avoid so much bad news and focus on good news, 3) focus on the fact that Christ’s work of salvation is finished, 4) focus on the strengths of other Christians instead of their weaknesses, 5) focus on the blessed future we have in Christ rather than the past, 6) Find God’s common grace in the world instead of sin and evil, 7) Find things to praise people for instead of critique them, 8) give money and things away instead of hoarding, 9) View your work as a calling instead of a job, 10) be around people of different ethnicities instead of one ethnicity.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and much of it made perfect sense.  I appreciated Murray’s call to focus on the facts rather than be led by feelings (I’ve learned that over the years!), and I appreciated his emphasis on the gospel (chapter 3), which leads us to joyful freedom and service instead of a constant negative guilt for sin.  I also appreciated Murray’s call to stay away from so much news/media, since the news tends to focus on the negative and then makes us negative (I agree; I quit following the news years ago and it has helped me be more optimistic).  Murray was also dead-on when he encouraged churches to aim for joy, grace, and a spotlight on the Good News.  His chapter on praising others was also a good reminder for me to work harder to encourage and bless people with my words.

There were a few things in the book about which I was less enthusiastic.  First, Scripture citations are endnotes rather than written in the text or as footnotes (minor,  I know, but endnotes kill my reading optimism!).  Second, there was a ton of information covered in this book.  I was almost overwhelmed at times, since Murray did quite a few bullet point type lists/paragraphs.  For one example, in his discussion on the benefits of Christian hope (p. 95ff), Murray lists twelve benefits followed by eight ways to grow in hope.  The notes were good, but it was almost an information overload for me since there were many lists/paragraphs like this (e.g. ten parts of constructive criticism, ten ways of learning to praise others, nine ways to give biblically, eight ways to pursue diversity personally, ten ways for a church to pursue diversity, five truths about giving in leadership positions, etc.).  I realize all readers are different, so perhaps this is subjective, but those lists sort of bogged me down in the reading.

One other question I had about the book is the chapter on diversity.  I fully agree with Murray’s emphasis on breaking racial barriers down, since Scripture calls us to love others and since Jesus died for people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  However, I didn’t quite see exactly how diversity increases joy; does this mean that the less ethnic diversity there is in a person’s life, the less joy he or she has?  Many house churches in China can’t really be diverse; the same can be said about a church in a tribal jungle location or in some rural parts of other countries.  Also, if I have a handful of good Christian friends, can’t they increase my joy no matter what ethnicity they are?  Maybe I’m missing something; and I am honestly open to correction here!  And again, I agree that Scripture does call us away from racism and it calls us to love others based on the gospel and God’s love for all sorts of people.

In summary, I’m glad I read this book, The Happy Christian.  The church for sure does need more emphasis on the true, the beautiful, and the good since she usually talks too much about what is wrong with the world.  I’m going to incorporate some parts of this book into my own actions, conversation, and Christian teaching.  It’s always a good thing for me to be pointed in the right way of Christian optimism, since Jesus does reign!  God treats us, his people, like sons and daughters, therefore “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees (Heb. 12:7, 12)!”

[As a side, it was neat to learn that David Murray is a Reformed pastor and seminary professor.  I’m thankful he put so much time and energy into this helpful resource!]

David Murray, The Happy Christian (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015).

((I received this book from the Booklook blogging program; per FCC rules, I need to note that I was not compelled to write a positive review.))

shane lems
hammond, wi

Christians Get Depressed Too

Christians Get Depressed Too Around one year ago I did a short review on an excellent book: Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray.  In this book, Murray rightly notes that depression is caused by a variety of things, from biological factors to spiritual factors to “life” factors.  He also talks about the cures of depression.  One of the preliminary ways to fight depression is to assess wrong/unhelpful feelings and thoughts and seek to correct them.  Murray continues,

“If assessing your feelings and thoughts does not work or you can’t even get started, then I would suggest that you seek out trained medical personnel for diagnosis and possibly prescription of appropriate medication.  And please do not wait until things have gotten so bad that you ‘crash’ to a halt.  The farther you fall, the longer it will take to return.  Even a low dose of anti-depressant is sometimes enough just to begin to restore depleted brain chemicals and pick up your mood sufficiently to enable you to begin to take the steps necessary to correct your lifestyle and thoughts.  However, more serious depressions sometimes require medication for two to five years in order to permanently restore the brain’s chemistry and processes.”

“If you go to your doctor, you may find it helpful to write out some of your symptoms, how you have tried to manage them, and also what you think may have caused them.  Sometimes that initial visit can be rather emotional, and you may forget important facts.  Make a list of questions you want to ask, especially about medications.  There are a number of myths and false ideas about anti-depressants: ‘If I take antidepressants I won’t be my true self….  There will be horrible side effects….  I might get addicted…. People will look down on me….  It will mean I am crazy.’  Your doctor should be able to refute these myths and reassure you.  However, as mentioned, anti-depressants should not be viewed as a cure-all.  You will still need to work at changing false and unhelpful thinking and harmful behavior” (p. 79).

As I’ve said before, I highly recommend this short booklet on what it means for Christians to fight depression.  It’s a clear, biblical, and pastoral book written from a Reformed perspective, and I honestly believe it is one of those “must have” resources for those who suffer depression or for those who minister to people dealing with depression.

David Murray, Christians Get Depressed Too (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).

shane lems