Monday, July 28, 2008

Tithe, Tithe Let's Preach the Tithe

What is the tithe? The Bible says that it is a tenth. A tenth of your increase... the things God blesses you with. Malachi 3:10 says "Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. I truly believe this verse of scripture, just as I believe all scripture. I have been a tither and have seen God bless me greatly. I also know that tithing is not a requirement for me to receive from God.

Many preachers teach that if you do not tithe you are not going to receive anything from God. This includes healing, provision, blessings and guidance.Or that if you are believing God for something and you haven't seen it happen yet, then you need to tithe if you are not already tithing. If you are tithing, then you need to sow a monetary seed or a bigger monetary seed.If you do this, then what you are believing for will happen. They teach on the tithe to frighten and threaten people into giving. They make a huge production out of the offering. They preach sermons on the dangers of not tithing. They quote Malachi 3: 8-12 and explain that we are robbing God when we don't tithe and that when we do that He rebukes the devourer and we are blessed.... that we receive healing because we are tithers, that circumstances change for our better because we are tithers and that bad things won't happen to us because we are tithers. That we should find good rich ground to sow our tithe into so we can get more back. Give more offerings so we can reap more and more. Get into faith for bigger and better houses, cars, clothes, etc. We should never be satisfied where we are materially or financially..... that would be not using our faith. We need to constantly be believing and using our faith to get more and more material things. We MUST tithe so we can reap.

They don't preach on Malachi 3:1-7, that talks about giving offerings in righteousness, about God's judgement against manipulators, adulterers, those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, the fatherless and those who turn aside the temporary resident from his right and fear not the Lord. What good does it do to tithe if you already have incurred His judgement because you do not treat others right.

Yet after all this was written, Jesus came! He came to set us free. He loved us so much that HE died on the cross for us. He became sin for us so that we didn't have to be ruled by sin, by our flesh and so we didn't have to pay the price for our sin. He became poor so that we could be rich, have provision through Him, and have our needs met according to His riches in glory. He was beaten until He was no longer recognizable as a human being so that we could walk in health.

Oh how we belittle the great, unimaginable, inconceivable price that He paid when it is implied that the tithe has anything to do with us receiving any of this that He so lovingly purchased for us with His own precious blood.

Malachi was written when God's people were under the law. Now we are under the law of love. Faith works by love, not tithe. Why don't we have more preachers that teach love (how to treat others) and then use their faith for God to move on peoples' hearts to give. Why don't they be an example of something that people would want to give to instead of an example of money extractors.

II Corinthians 9 begins talking about an offering that is to be given to the Saints in Jerusalem from the Corinthians. Then in verses 5-7 he says,"That is why I thought it necessary to urge these brethren to go to you before I do and make arrangements in advance for this bountiful, promised gift of yours, so that it may be ready, not as an extortion (wrung out of you) but as a generous and willing gift. (Remember) this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly, will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously (that blessings may come to someone) will also reap generously and with blessings. Let each one (give) as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous,"prompt to do it") giver (whose heart is in his giving).

I am a tither and a giver because I love Him and I want to give to Him, not because I have to or I am afraid of what will happen if I don't. Yet I want to give to a ministry that is an example of love and not law, humility and not pride, one who gives to the poor and needy, not to the most prosperous ministry or person they can find because they think that this will bring the greatest financial harvest on their seed they have sown.I want to give to someone that is an example of the love, caring and compassion of Jesus and not an example of how to use His word to get rich.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Word From God

What exactly is a word from God? Service after service in charismatic circles ministers in the pulpit deliver "words from God". They may come with or without a message in tongues first. They are usually to well known members in the church or others in the ministry that may be attending the service. As the years have gone by and I began to look back on certain things that I thought were so supernatural and spiritual about the church I had attended, I began to realize some things about these "words" that were delivered.

First, when it was the pastor delivering the word, it was always to someone well known in the church, a prominent person... or someone that he knew of a situation already going on in their life. If it was a guest minister, they usually had a word for our pastor or other visiting ministers that they knew, or a word for our church concerning a church wide situation that was already going on. Every now and then someone visiting would give a general word for the church that was concerning the future. It was never for someone sitting as far back as the third row or behind.

Second, if the word delivered to an individual didn't happen the explanation was that they didn't line up or that they didn't receive the word. Concerning the words given to the church in general, some did happen, however, you couldn't tell if it was really God doing it or if it was the pastor making it happen. Many of the words were so general it could take decades or more to see if they were correct.

Third, and enormous amount of emphasis was put on these words. They were transcribed, typed up, made available , printed in bulletins, and brought up over and over. It seemed to be such an exciting thing for someone to have a "word". Everyone would stop and give their undivided attention when a "word" came forth.

I do believe in the supernatural from God. I do believe that He can speak a word to someone. I do believe in tongues and interpretation. Yet, I believe the words should not have a personal spin on them. I think that if they are truly from God, they should happen. I think they should be about the kingdom of God and not about money or things. I believe they should glorify God and not the ability of the man that delivered them. I believe they should excite people about Jesus and not the man that gave them. I believe that they should point us to the Word of God and get us excited about it and about Jesus.

God gave us His word. It is the infallible, complete expression of Himself. It is Jesus in print. It is every answer we will ever need. It is the solution to every problem. We should be so much more excited about the Word of God than we are about a word a man says that he heard from God.

I have seen so many people become confused or disillusioned because of a "word" that was given to them. I have seen many make mistakes because a minister told them to do something and said that it was God.

We have the Holy Spirit on the inside of us. He is our teacher. We are God's sheep and WE hear His voice. We have His word. The Word. I believe that I will test "words" from now on and measure them by the Word. I will also determine who I will listen to by the fruit that their public and personal lives produce. No fruit..... I am not interested.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Love or Control

A thought came to me the other day. What place does control of others have in the walk of love and service to God? Why do some pastors and preachers use manipulation from the pulpit to control their congregation. They try to control what the members do, who they fellowship with and who they talk to. They even try to control what they talk about. They constantly manipulate them into giving more and more. They use fear tactics to try and keep anyone from leaving to attend or even visit other churches. When their children become adults, they exercise a huge amount of control over their lives and even their grandchildren's lives. Many who attend these churches follow these wrong examples.

A need to control shows fear and a lack of faith. Fear of what will happen if the people are not controlled. Fear is the opposite of faith. Shouldn't they trust God for everything. What if some don't tithe? Isn't God capable of supplying their needs? Isn't He capable of speaking to His own sheep and leading them to give? What kind of faith is it to constantly beat them over the head with messages about giving more money? What if some leave? Can't God bring more people in? More fear. What if some talk and say something wrong? So. Isn't God big enough to handle that? Jesus didn't worry about what people said about Him. Maybe that is because He was full of faith and love and He was without fear and sin.

God is love. He is the total definition and example of love. If there were any place in love for control then God would control us to some degree. Yet He is just the opposite. He never forces anyone to do anything. He never pushes Himself on anyone.....He is a gentleman. He tenderly and gently invites us, courts us and calls us. He stands at the door to our hearts and knocks.... not busts down the door. He won't even open it. He waits on us to open the door to out hearts and invite Him in.

God willingly and lovingly created us with a free will. Knowing how the human race would use that free will, He formed a plan before the foundation of the world to send a sacrifice to redeem us from the situation that our free will got us into. Even though He loves us with jealous love, a love that no man can fathom or understand, He chose to create us with 100 per cent FREE WILL, and absolutely zero control over us. He then sent His only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for all who would accept what He did for them. He sent us His Word to teach us how to live our lives for Him. Yet after all this, He never makes or forces anyone to accept Jesus. The choice to follow Him is OURS.... not His.

1John 4:18 says, "perfect love casts out all fear".... I believe that perfect love casts out all control.
I choose faith and not fear. I choose to allow people to be who they are and not manipulate. I choose love and not control.

Monday, July 14, 2008

People....Trash or Treasure

Could it be that the way that we choose to treat the people around us reveals the truth about how we feel about them? Do we view each and every human being that God created in His image as a treasure or do we view some of them as trash?

I had noticed over the years that there was a distinct difference in the way that people who attended the church were treated.It was as though people were sorted into groups according to how much money they made, how they dressed and what they could achieve using their faith. There were the "elite", the "prominent and preferential", the "desirables", the "commoners" and the "undesirables". Each of these groups of people had their own characteristics and their own level of acceptance with the pastor, the pastor's family,some of the pastoral staff and, of course, other church members.

First and foremost.....the elite. These were the pastor and his family and the super spiritual prophets and teachers invited to minister at the church. The ones who were ushered out into the sanctuary from behind the stage along with their entourage after the service began and made their timely exit before the service officially ended. This way they could be ushered out of the building or to the set aside area of the building where they were to be served a meal so that they didn't have to come in contact with the common church people.

Next......the prominent and preferential. These were the big money people. Those who were all about making the pastor and his family feel petted, pampered and served. The ones who took them on trips and bought them things.

Then came.....the desirables. The upper middle class church members. They were nice dressers and regular givers. They lived in nice houses and drove nice cars. They were heavily involved in the serving ministry. They may have not been where they are now when they first came to the church, but they were moving up, the money was coming in, they were a success in progress... they had faith. They set forth the image that the pastor wanted his church to have

Now these first three groups of people had a pretty good life at the church. They were welcomed and accepted. If something good happened to them or they came into some good favor or a large sum of money they may have even gotten their name mentioned from the pulpit during a sermon or been asked to share about their good fortune with the congregation. During the services it was not at all uncommon for the pastor to have "a word from the Lord" for them or for members of their family. Many had regular seats that were reserved for them towards the front or on the front row. In times of crisis or trouble the majority of them could easily get an audience with the pastor to get help in their time of need. Some even had his cell number. The majority of these people were heavily involved in the servants ministry so the pastor, his family and his staff were very appreciative of them. They may have even taken the time to converse with them casually before of after the services. Some may have been invited to personal functions or out to lunch etc. Some may even been invited to eat with the special ministers, or invited to serve them food to them at their special dinners.

After that came.... the commoners. These people were just your average, run of the mill, everyday people. They ranged from those who came every time the doors were open to those who only came occasionally. Some served in the servants ministry and were regular givers and some did neither. Some may have been poor, in need, confused, abused, looking for direction, needing counsel, had questions about the Bible, needed fellowship, or needed someone to love them and show an interest in them. They may have felt lonely, sad, used, betrayed, disillusioned or abandoned.

Finally came..... the undesirables. The ones who were the down and out, nothing seemed to go right for them, no matter how they tried or believed or confessed, their situation didn't seem to improve. They may have had holes in their clothes, drove a rattle trap car, looked unkempt, dressed a little promiscuously, asked or said the same things repeatedly. Some were there every service and some may have only shown up once and never came back. Then there were all those in between.

These last two groups some were accepted and some were merely tolerated. Some more easily than others. Some were just endured until they finally left. Regardless of the situation, there was no way they could ever obtain an audience with the pastor. No matter how they may have longed for recognition and personal encouragement none ever came. Needless to say there was never a "word from the Lord" for them during a service. Yet it seems that in Jesus' ministry, He was here for these just as much as anyone else if not more so, the ones He spent time with, the least of these.

James 2:2-5 (NIV) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say," Here is a good seat for you,"but say to the poor men, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor (or back row), have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers:Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love Him? But you have insulted the poor.

I realize this is not exactly what I saw happening when a pastor favored the wealthy of his flock and basically ignored the poor, after all in this passage these appear to be first time visitors and the practices I am talking about were a constant ongoing thing. Yet it is obvious that something is horribly wrong with these practices. It is appalling.

I pray that these pastors will wake up and realize what ministry truly is and discontinue practicing what they have twisted it into. Too many people need to see Jesus and this does not resemble Him in any way.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Protecting the Anointing

I have heard so many pastors and preachers in some circles talk about how they need to "protect the anointing". I began thinking on the fact that if it is really "anointing" from God, where in the Word of God are we taught to "protect" it. Why is it only their (pastors and preachers) anointing that needs to be protected? Aren't we all anointed to do the work of the ministry? Aren't we all part of the body of Christ. Aren't we all kings and priests? Yet we never hear sermons about protecting our anointing.......we hear sermons about serving and giving.

Jesus never seemed concerned with "protecting the anointing". On the contrary, He seemed to thrive on being with others. He wasn't upset by their questions, being crowded in a mob of people, or them asking Him to pray for them when it wasn't the formal invitation. He even loved it when little children ran to Him in groups wanting to love on Him and have Him love on them. Now that is anointing.

The anointing of today seems to be a fragile and touchy thing. All kinds of things can disturb it. Having to talk to church members, being asked to pray for or with someone, having to counsel people, being asked questions, not flying on a private airplane, not having all accommodations in order.....the list could go on and on.

What good is an anointing like that? I am told that it is so that the pastor/preacher can deliver a profound and unsurpassed interpretation of the Word of God. Something that will change lives. Something that will cause things to happen to the hearers of this message if they will do it. How am I to believe this when they portray the anointing to be so lame.

Shouldn't the anointing of God be powerful, strong, sure and true? How can such small things disturb it to the point that the ones endowed with it must be petted, pampered and secluded or something will harm it.

We are all anointed. Anointed to serve Him, minister to others, love the lost, show the love of God to others, love our mates, raise and minister to our children, rightly divide the word of truth, and hear from God.

If I am going to put any value in what a pastor/preacher who claims to have the "anointing" is teaching it needs to be someone who WALKS OUT the anointing they have for all to see their fruit, not someone who just talks the "anointing".

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Well Done

When I get to heaven, what do I want to hear God say to me? I think the thing that I long to hear the most is "Well done, good and faithful servant." As I look in the Word of God at the life of Jesus, I want to see what I can do in order for Him to look at me and say, "Well done good and faithfull servant".

Believeing for money, a house, a car, a vacation, for a good job, for good weather on an important occasion, clothes, jewelry, someone to let me have what I want, to have good health, a parking place etc. is not going to cause Jesus to look into my eyes and tell me "Well done good and faithful servant". I don't think there is anything wrong with making God the center of every single aspect of my life and expecting Him to meet all my needs acording to His riches in glory. I will admit that I ask Him for great parkng places all the time and He provides them. However, I do not for one second believe that this should be the focus of my faith or my walk with Him.I know of more occasions than I can count that He has spoken to me concerning even the smallest aspects of my everyday live just to make things better for me, but that is just one drop of water in an ocean of what faith in God is all about.

I want Him to be proud of me!!! I want Him to see me do without something that I want so someone else can have it, not insist on my way, not always have to be right, go out of my way to make someone feel loved when it is not convenient for me, put others first, truly love and be loving toward someone who hates me, do what is right when no one else around me is, forgive those who wrong me instantly whether they are sorry or not, not insist on my own way, be kind, be patient, do a job well when no one is looking, be happy and content in Him and above all be a servant.

I want people to be in Heaven because the life I lived. Yet I know it won't be because of the things I got by using my faith. It will be because of the love I lived by living my faith.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Where is the Love

In the last few months that I was attending the church that I had attended for over a decade I began to question a multitude of things concerning the leadership there.

Why are over 80 percent of the sermons predominately about money?

Why do they try to make congregation members fearful of leaving that church and insinuate that even if they leave to go to another Bible believing, reputable church that bad things will happen to them?

Why are other churches and denominations constantly talked about negatively from the pulpit?

Why are people who attend the church or have attended the church called ugly names and criticized from the pulpit?

Why are there no programs directed to reaching out to the lost?

Why does the pastor never visit the congregation members who are in the hospital?

Why does the pastor rarely attend the funerals of congregation members who have died or immediate family members of congregation members that have died?

Why does the pastor not want to be around the congregation members or meet with them when they are in need of counsel?

It seemed like all these things pointed to a severe lack of love rather than a ministry built around love. In looking at the ministry of Jesus it is evident in the scriptures that his ministry was all about love and not about money or position. He was all about being a servant, not about being served. He was all about giving and not about collecting.

Jesus WENT to those in need, those hurting and those who were sick. He went to weddings and funerals. He made it clear that He was here to seek and save those who were lost. He didn't use fear tactics to get people to follow Him or make them afraid to leave, and He never insinuated that you could get things from God by "sewing your best financial seed". He never criticized his disciples or his followers in His messages. Even when His disciples came to Him and were upset because someone who was not one of them was casting out devils in Jesus name did not speak negatively about them. On the contrary, He said that if they were not against Him then they were for Him.(Luke 9:49-50). In The Message translation it says "He who is not an enemy is an ally". So why would a loving pastor criticize other churches and denominations?

Jesus was the example of love. He was the complete fulfillment of love. He taught us to live love, not just walk in love. Faith is wonderful but faith works by love. If love is not evident, faith is useless. Love is action. Love is the work of the ministry. You say you have faith? Show me your faith by your works (love in action toward others). Faith without works is dead. Why don't we get back to love and then our faith will mean something.