Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tithing Part III - Robbing God—of What?

This topic has certainly spurred a lot of discussion. After contemplating said discussion, we sought the counsel of a good friend who has worked in ministry for over 20 years and he clarified things for us, from his understanding, while backing it up scripturally. To clarify my erroneous, earlier point, while there is no place in the New Testament where Christians are commanded to tithe, it should come naturally as an act of spiritual maturity. So, be generous with everything God has blessed you with. Not just your money, but your time and your talents.

Give God of the first fruits, which as Ken Wetzell told me, means to do God's work with 2.4 hours of every day, as well as actually giving of your other resources. That doesn't mean go spend that time having a bake sale necessarily, but most of us easily spend that time serving others and our families, which is doing God's work. And, we do so because it comes naturally to care for and love those God has placed in our lives.

An interesting point our friend made was the origin of two words, which sheds a lot of light. First is the word "tithe" which liteally translates as a tax. Secondly is the word "church" which translates as a gathering of 10-15 people. What we all seem to know as a church i.e. a much larger body of people that meet in a specific place every weekend and do God's work throughout the week, etc., is really an organization of churches.

So, when God's people lived under a theocracy during parts of the Old Testament, they were indeed tithing (paying tax) to their government, which essentially relates to modern times as funding the staff and programs of the Church Organization, since we live in a democracy, not a theocracy. But, we're no longer commanded to pay. So, don't let guilt be a motivating factor in your generosity, but instead, replace that negative motivator with love.

We should all give and give generously, for by clinging to our money, we're engaging in a form of idol worship. If we're truly worshiping God, we should do so with every fiber of our being, every iota of our lives. God gives us all we need, whether we realize it or not, but if we fret and worry, we're essentially telling God we lack faith that He will meet our needs and when we turn from Him in faith, often He'll pull away from us and let us find our own way... till we find out our way is the wrong way and we make a u-turn back to Him, which is to repent.

To round this out, here's the next devotional from Pastor Conley.

Malachi 3:8-9 gives us a sober warning,

"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation."

Now if you think about this statement, you have to ask, "How do you rob God? I mean, really, what does that mean?"

There are two ways we rob God when we refuse to tithe:

1. We rob God of honor that is due Him. In Proverbs 3:9 it says to, Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase. By giving God the first part of our income, we are honoring Him as being first in our lives. We demonstrate faith in His promise to supply our needs as well—and God is honored by our faith.

2. We rob God of the opportunity to bless us. In Malachi 3:10, God promises to bless us if we bring Him the first tenth of our income (the tithe).

The promise in Proverbs is that our barns will be filled with plenty if we will honor the Lord with our firstfruits (Proverbs 3:9-10).

He can bless us. He desires to bless us. Let us not rob Him of the opportunity to do so, nor of the honor that is due Him.

Thanks to Gary for his comments that catalyzed a lot of thought provoking discussion, prayer and consideration on this topic.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tithing part II

As promised in the comments thread of the first tithing post, here's the second part of Pastor Conley's devotional on Tithing.

Tithing Today?

In Malachi 3:10-11, God says,

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," says the LORD of hosts.

Those are pretty amazing promises! God says when we bring the first tenth to Him, He will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing we cannot contain. He even invites us to test Him in this area! (As far as I know there is no other place in the Bible where God does that.)

Notice, too, that He says He will rebuke the devourer. While this was written to an agrarian society whose prosperity was measured in vineyards, crops, and their livestock, you can transpose this principle right into the era in which we live. God will still bless us, and He will still rebuke the devourer for our sakes.

Years ago, in a small church in Mexico, a friend of mine was teaching on tithing. A poor man in the church got angry and stormed out. Later that day, he read the verses from Malachi again and decided to put God to the test. "Could God fulfill His promise—even in my circumstance?" he thought.

That poor villager later testified—interrupting a service and demanding that tithing needed to be taught again—"because these people need it!" He told how he had been blessed like never before since he started giving one-tenth of his earnings to the church.

God is not limited by the circumstances that surround us. He can bless us no matter where we are if we will "try Him" and bring all the tithe into His storehouse.

Friday, January 28, 2011


My daily devotional from Bayless Conley is on tithing. I'm going to re-post it here because not only do I firmly believe it's a very important part of our faith, it's something I fear far too many of us who follow Christ fail to do and do properly.


In Matthew 23:23, Jesus speaks about the issue of tithing in this way,

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."

Jesus tells us, "These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." Yes, they should tithe, but the things He lists are the most important issues.

While we will touch on these issues in later devotionals, I want to point out the fact that Jesus does say we should tithe.

The Living Bible paraphrase of this verse is helpful, "For you tithe down to the last mint leaf in your garden, and ignore the important things—justice and mercy and faith. Yes, you should tithe, but you shouldn't leave the more important things undone."

You should tithe. The first ten percent of your income, or the first ten percent of the increase that God brings to you, is called a tithe. The Bible says in the last chapter of Leviticus that the tithe is holy, and it belongs to the Lord.

So you should tithe. That is very important. In fact, I believe it is the first step in getting God involved in your finances, and an important step in you getting control of your finances.

If you are not tithing, I want to encourage you to open your heart to God's Word in this area and consider the possibilities that He sets before you.

When times are tough, as they are these days, many say they can't afford to tithe. But, I say to you, when times are tough, you cannot afford to keep God out of your finances.

Malachai 3:10 says it best:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

Angie and I are enduring tough times right now and in response, we've challenged ourselves to give an additional offering above and beyond our tithe. And, you know what, God has honored that. Yesterday he threw open the floodgates and blessed me with a great new writing job. We tested Him on it and he threw open the floodgates.

God is good, all the time. All He asks in return is that we honor Him faithfully, with our love, our time, our talents and our treasures... He gave them to us in the first place, seems silly to not give some back.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Coincidence? Maybe not…

Have you ever taken the time to sit and consider just how God puts all the puzzle pieces of your life together, like a master chef assembling a five star meal? From sayings like “God never wastes a hurt” to “each step you took led you to now”, our lives are full of clichés about this, but how often do we really stop and consider it?

I've been contemplating it a lot over the last year. Once we left our home in Arizona, there was a tangible pull to discover God’s path for my life. Now, I definitely feel I’ve found it, but I wonder how many of you either haven’t found it yet, or worse, haven’t even started looking.

Like the aforementioned meal, a Godly life requires a lot of ingredients that might seem foreign to one another. These ingredients must be prepared in the right manner, and added at just the right time, or the whole meal is ruined.

It’s the same with our lives, but thankfully God is the one in our kitchen.

However, if we’re not paying attention, we can miss out on the meal he’s preparing for us.

In my lifetime, I’ve been a musician, a mechanic and a professional writer among other things. With each one of these occupational hats came a unique set of training regimens, learned skills and enhanced talents. Let’s look at them for a moment.

Music brought with it the skill of pacing and timing. To write songs, I had to learn how to craft something sincere from nothing but a few thoughts and feelings, a song that engages the listener and evokes a gut-level response. I also had to learn how to create a set list and the importance of song placement on albums. Variation in pacing and intensity are key to a memorable record.

Working on cars as a mechanic teaches how important every part is, no matter how big or small. A car can’t operate as designed if any of the 15,000 parts are inoperative. As I went through business training for auto repair, I also learned about the communication of body language and how to read people’s physical behavior, tone of voice and facial expressions.

As a professional writer, I learned how to engage an audience, how to convey ideas without spoon-feeding the reader and how to assemble a compelling tale with tension, conflict, drama and resolution. And how best to communicate an idea verbally.

I’m acutely aware of the fact that all this really seems like a mismatched pile of odd skills, and to someone on the outside it might even appear like a lost soul searching for a goal…

For the last several years, I’ve felt a tug at my heart to enter ministry. I had no idea where that came from, as no one in my family was involved in ministry, in fact my mother and step-father are atheists.

At first I ignored this tug, but finally, last year I gave in and entered Seminary. My first class was Evangelism and mid-way through the course, I went on a Mission’s Trip where evangelism was a key to the Mission’s success. Coincidence? Maybe not…

I also felt a tug at my heart to start talking to my earthly father for the first time in my life. After speaking with him, he informed me that on his side of my family, there’s a host of Pastors, Preachers and Reverends. Was the tug at my heart to enter ministry a coincidence? Maybe not…

Last night I had the blessing of attending a class at church for volunteer teachers. The course, led by outstanding teacher and Eagle Brook Church pastor Jason Strand, delivered all sorts of great information on crafting messages for biblical teaching, the delivery of said messages and how to work with your audience to meet their needs.

To do this successfully, I’ll need to know pacing, timing, verbal communication, how to craft something sincere from nothing but a few thoughts and feelings, the importance of varying pace and intensity, how important every part is, the communication of body language and how to read people’s physical behavior, tone of voice and facial expressions, how to engage an audience, how to convey ideas without spoon-feeding the reader and how to assemble a compelling message with tension, conflict, drama and resolution. And how best to communicate my idea verbally.

Coincidence? Maybe not…

So, my question to you is, what’s God cooking in the kitchen of your life?

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

If you're still looking for the path God has laid before you, a good resource you can access (for free) is LifeChurch's Chazown Experience.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Thoughts on Encouragement to Start the Week

Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus

God gives us encouragement. It's a gift from Him. Since God never gives us a meaningless gift, I think it's important to really meditate on how important He believes encouragement is in our lives.

In fact, forms of the word appear in the bible over 60 times. That should show just how important God believes encouragement to be.

1 Thesselonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

So important, that it's not something we should keep to ourselves, but something we should always share.

Matthew 5:15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Encouragement is light. So, from this day forward, endeavor to think encouraging thoughts and when you do think of them, share them and know you're sharing the light of God's love with others. What a wonderful gift that not only blesses the receiver, but the giver as well. And, best of all in the current economic climate, it's free.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Encourage You to Encourage Others

Have you ever stopped to really dwell on how important encouragement is? How many of us just hear the word, but never really stop to think about it? How many of us go out of our way to be encouraging to others? For a select few, it just comes naturally. For the rest of us, we need to make it our goal for it to come naturally… someone’s life may depend on it.

When you hear stories of real life change from people who have done amazing things in their lives, there’s always at least one key person that catalyzed that change with encouragement. In many cases, it’s a string of people, who said the right thing at the right time, or simply had an encouraging effect over a sustained time period.

From great leaders, to inventors, to professional athletes, to men and women of faith or anyone else who has achieved far more than the average person, they all have that key common denominator.

I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about how important encouragement is. Other than my best friend, Robert, I really didn’t have an encouraging voice speaking into my life until I met my wife. Sure, I accomplished a fair deal before I met her, but most of it was done in spite of the fact that I didn’t have encouragement. Those achievements were a house of cards I’d built on a foundation of “I’ll show thems!” and “You can’t tell me what I can and can’t achieves!” that was leading me down a road to ruin. Stubbornness, not encouragement, fueled my drive.

By the time I was seventeen I was homeless, addicted to alcohol, cigarettes and fist-fights while leading a life fueled by the notion that since no one cared about me, it was a waste of time to care about myself. And, maybe, just maybe, when I was dead someone would finally care…

Thankfully, God had a plan that didn’t involve a six-foot hole and He brought several people into my life to keep me out of the ground.

Robert’s encouragement managed to pull me back from the brink of self-destruction in my late teens. If it wasn’t for him and his mom, odds are I’d be another body in a cemetery somewhere, a victim of wasted youth.

My wife Angie came along in my late 20s and helped me heal my self-image and see myself not through the eyes of negativity that had underscored my every move since early childhood, but rather through the eyes of love, which speaks the language of encouragement. Angie helped me realize life wasn’t hopeless, I didn’t need to heed the voices from my past that told me I’d never amount to anything and I really could reach for my dreams and achieve them.

We started attending Palm Valley Church in my 30s, where Pastor Greg Rohlinger and his amazing staff spoke words of encouragement to us regularly. Things I’d given up on years earlier once again seemed attainable and harmful things I’d pursued for decades, things that were more self-destructive than I knew, slipped out of my focus like the fading memories of a bad nightmare.

More recently, some very encouraging people at Eagle Brook Church have touched our lives. Angie’s boss, Moe has lifted her spirits through a wellspring of encouragement and made Angie realize that nothing is ever hopeless and as a daughter of Christ she can achieve her goals. And she’s doing just that.

For me, I’m now working in the Church’s elementary services under the supervision of the most encouraging “boss” I’ve ever had, Darcy Woods. Not only does her attitude of encouragement motivate me to reach beyond the limitations the evil one plants in my mind, it motivates me to pass that encouragement on to everyone else I encounter. If every “boss” out there adopted Darcy’s level of encouragement the world economy would certainly flow with milk and honey like never before.

Thanks to Robert’s encouragement I’m not dead or in jail.
Thanks to Angie’s I’m a healed man, husband, father and working as a writer.
Thanks to Pastor Greg I’m living as God intended and no longer swimming upstream in a river of frustration.
Thanks to Darcy’s I now know what I’m supposed to do with my life and I’m on a path to achieve it. Better late than never…

If you ask any of those four people what they did for me, I don’t know that they’d tell you stories of great effort, or lifting heavy burdens. Chances are, they’d simply say something encouraging and go on about their business.

Hopefully, there’s at least one person out there who lists me in their group of encouragers. Honestly, I’d like to make the list of as many people as I can in what time I have left on this earth.

And, I’d like to encourage you to do the same.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I’m Sorry…

We live in a world of What Ifs. Things have certainly never gone as well as they should since that fateful day thousands of years ago in the Garden of Eden.

What if Eve had ignored the serpent? What if Adam had refused to eat the fruit? What if sin had never entered the world?

I recently read Tony Dungy’s new book, Mentor Leader and he talked about a man who almost didn’t go into Ministry. The man, whose name escapes me, did finally become a youth pastor and over the course of his career impacted a younger man so deeply that the younger man became one of the 20th century’s greatest evangelists. That younger man is Billy Graham.

But, what if that youth pastor had given in to his doubts about his calling. What if he never took that path, and instead went to work in a factory or an office? What if a young Billy Graham failed to heed the whisper from God that ignited the kindling the youth pastor had built in Graham’s life?

These are examples of huge what ifs. Seemingly small ripples of decisions made in the past that have turned into tidal waves in the future, affecting countless lives.

But, there are also plenty of little what ifs that might only have smaller, yet still profoundly positive effects.

When I started this blog, it was merely as an outlet for writing my thoughts about my walk with the Lord. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get a deal with a Christian book publisher and saw this as a way to heed what God is putting on my heart, to share the Word through the writing talent he gave me.

Over the course of the last year, however, more than once I’ve had someone contact me after reading an entry on here and tell me how it impacted them with something they were struggling with, or helped clarify something God had placed on their heart. What if I hadn’t heeded God’s prompting to write those entries?

Unfortunately, over the last month there’s been more than one occasion where I had something I wanted to share on here and I just didn’t do it. Now, while it’s not guaranteed that those entries would have done anything for anyone, the opportunity for God to use them to help you or anyone else reading these words was wasted by me.

And for that, I’m truly sorry.

One thing I hope I can leave you with today, however, is the notion that you should never put yourself in a position where you look back and think “What if…?” by ignoring a prompting from God. The smallest efforts can have a huge impact on the lives of others. A simple kind word to a cashier who is having a rough day, a smile bestowed upon a friend, blowing off a wrong committed against you so that you take in something negative and give it to God instead of back to the world. These all require such little effort, but can have a great impact if you let God work through you.

How is God prompting you to make your sphere of influence more positive?

It serves the enemy if you give in to petty anger over a few unkind words. It helps his cause if you let road rage sink it’s teeth in your heart. The devil rejoices if he can convince you that it’s better to keep quiet than to say something encouraging to those you encounter.

But, you know what? In the end, God wins. So, make sure your efforts are for the winning team and don’t leave any What If moments to fall into the wrong hands. I’ve done it all too many times, but I pray God will give me the wisdom, strength and ability to minimize the moments I let them slip through my fingers and maximize the outcomes when I act on his promptings.

And, I pray he does the same for you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Interesting Prayer Conversation

Someone recently asked these questions on a message board I frequent:
“What I don't understand is when people ask other people to pray about something. Is that the idea that some people's prayers are more effective than the original person making the request? Or that if there's an army of people praying, that is more likely to influence God's decisions?”

It’s funny how I sometimes take for granted that when I understand something, everyone understands it. Well, it got me thinking and I looked through His word for answers. After posting them, I thought some of you might enjoy reading it as well. Maybe it’ll give you pause to meditate on your own prayer life, and then the strength to see your prayers answered more frequently. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Do you agree/disagree? Have something to add that will enhance the answer? Please don't hesitate to share.

My answer:

First off, the bible (which is the definitive resource when citing all things Godly) says:

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

So, we shouldn't assume we can come up with an answer to your question without consulting God's word.

Next we have:

James 4:2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

So, by not asking God in prayer, we're relying on ourselves to accomplish something or simply leaving it up to chance. However, asking with impure motives or from a life given over to sin prevents you from having a clear heart, necessary for effective prayer.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

From that, you can see that some people do indeed have a more effective prayer life. If you had two kids, one of whom ignored you, stole from you, used your name as a curse word and in general never bothered to acknowledge you unless they wanted something and the other child loved you, attended you and honored your wishes, you'd still love them both but you'd do your best to fulfill the wishes of the second child, knowing they asked for things that would be beneficial to themselves and others, while the first child would more likely be asking for things that might be detrimental.

Then, as far as asking others for prayer, you not only open up your request to others who might have a clearer heart but you also fulfill this:

Matthew 18:19 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

Hope that helps. :)

So, what do you think is the proper answer to the questions posed?