Monthly Archives: May 2016

Did You Know (10)?

DID YOU KNOW (10)

…That revelation follows generosity.

So far we have discovered from God’s instruction to His people under the old covenant, that householders have an obligation to care for certain groups of people over and above their own families. These groups were those who had no land of their own and, therefore, depended on the generosity of God’s people to provide for them.

The first two groups were those of the tribe of Levi whom God had chosen to be the priestly tribe. They would serve Him exclusively from the high priest to those who ministered in the temple daily. Without the support and generosity of the people, they would have nothing with which to take care of their families.

The third group for which the people were responsible was the family unit. God did not neglect them in His economic system. The farmer was to set aside one tenth, called the second or family tithe, of the remainder of his harvest for the family – the equivalent of a retirement policy or emergency fund. In Israelite life, they were to take this portion to the temple or, if they lived too far away, they could sell it and take the money to the temple where they could buy food and have a celebration as a family. In real terms, it was an extra portion of their provision to use for whatever purpose they needed it.

Translated into today’s terms, this portion of our income would form our retirement savings. Although it is not much in monthly terms, over the period of one’s working life, it would represent a more-than-adequate investment to take care of one’s old age. It would also be a nest-egg for any emergency not covered by one’s monthly income.

In God’s wisdom, He recognised the need to make provision for the time when one can no longer work. It is foolishness to suppose that, if we spend everything we earn now and make no provision for the future that “God will provide”. Yes, He does provide, but He does it in the form of a “tithe” to oneself to save for the future.

Lastly, there was the third tithe – provision for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the alien. Every third year, the householder was to give his family tithe to the poor. He was to take this portion to the temple where it was stored and from which the needy were fed. In this way, there should have been no one in Israel for whom no provision was made.

To recap, Israelite families who had the land given to their ancestors when they conquered the Promised Land under Joshua, were to make provision for four groups of people from their annual harvests; the first-fruits of their crops to the high priest which was calculated as one fortieth of their crop – called the terumah offering; one tenth of the balance to the storehouse for the priests and Levites – called the first tithe; one tenth of the balance again to be set aside for the family – called the second tithe; and finally, every third year the family tithe was given to the poor – called the third tithe. The balance of their harvests was theirs to enjoy.

Now we come to the exciting bit. Included in God’s indictment against Israel for failure to fulfil their responsibility was a promise.

“Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord. But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.” But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house… (Mal.3:7b-10a).

“…Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates (windows) of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.” (Mal. 3:10b).

Can you see the promises wrapped up in being generous? God made three promises to His people if they would willingly share their bounty with those in need according to His instructions.

  1. He will open the windows of heaven and pour out more blessing than we can contain. Unfortunately, once again we interpret this to mean an abundance of the increase of material things – whatever that increase means to us; more crops, more money, more wealth. However, reading it from a Hebraic perspective, what do windows do? Windows let in light and air – i.e., breath, spirit, or revelation.

 

When we obey God by providing for those who cannot care for themselves, He promises us more revelation of spiritual truth and understanding than we can ever handle.  

 

  1. He also promised His people that their crops would be protected from pests and crop failure. He would take care of their physical needs as well.

 

  1. Thirdly, the nations around them would recognise that God was blessing them. They would be the objects of supernatural favour. This is, in the end, God’s purpose that His blessing on His people, both material and spiritual would shine the light back on Him and He would get the glory.

Generosity breaks the hold that money and possessions has on us. When our money no longer has power over us, we are free to receive and understand more of God and His ways than we ever dreamed possible,

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, is now available on www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com or from me at luella@efc.org.za at R130,00 including p and p.

 

Did you know (9)?

DID YOU KNOW (9)?

…That revelation follows generosity.

Yesterday we began to explore the concept that God’s instructions for the way His people were to use their wealth, is not “law” in the sense of a military command. It is His ageless wisdom which helps us to break out of our greed and selfishness to take responsibility for four groups of people who need our support.

The first is our spiritual authority or “high priest”, the one who, according to Paul, teaches us the Word. To him must go the firstfruits of our increase. Since we are not farmers who gather in an annual harvest, our increase is our monthly income of which we are to give one-fortieth to our spiritual leader.

Our second area of responsibility is called the “storehouse” which, in Bible times was the tabernacle and later the temple. Every householder was to bring one-tenth of the remainder of his harvest after terumah to the temple where it was stored and used to support the priests and Levites who served in the temple. They, too, had no land of their own and depended on the annual tithe of the people’s crops, including the oil and wine, to take care of their families.

We know that the physical building which accommodates the church whenever it meets, i.e. the people of God, needs money to maintain the property and those who work in it. There are staff members who work there, cleaners, gardeners, maintenance and office staff who also earn their living by functioning in and around the building. From the income of tithes, the church also supports missionaries and other Christian workers and ministries.

As new believers, we were taught to “tithe”, if our church leader taught us to be “legalistic”. If not, we learned that we must give “as the Spirit leads us”. This sounds spiritual but the problem lies with our natural tendency towards selfishness and greed. What we hear, supposedly from the Holy Spirit, is not generosity but need – our need. We give less and less as our “needs” become more. We justify our failure to give by the age-old “I cannot afford to give” excuse.

God taught His people to give by percentage under the old covenant. This principle makes sense because it does not matter how much or how little we earn. Giving by percentage means that we will always have the same percentage of what we earn to live on. By being obedient to God, we become participators in His supernatural supply.

It may appal us to know that God’s percentage of giving was twenty-one percent! No, not just a tithe as some of us were taught, but 21.5% of our monthly income. God instructed His people to live in a circle on a square. Let me explain.

When you reap the harvest of your land. Do not reap to the very edges (or corners) of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your harvest a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God (Lev.19:9-10).

This is the principle of living in a circle on a square. If you have a field that is 100m x 100m, the area of that field would be 10,000 square meters. A circle with the diameter of 100m, which would fit exactly into the square, would have an area of 7,850 square meters. The area of the corners of the square which are outside the circle would be 2,150 square metres which is 21.5% of the area of the square. All this is to say that God asks His people to give away 21.5% of their income to those who need it and for them to live on the balance of 78.5% without guilt.

So far we have identified two areas for which God’s people are responsible – our spiritual authority (i.e., our pastor or spiritual leader) and the storehouse when we worship with God’s people and are fed God’s Word.

Malachi recorded God’s complaint against His people.

“Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord. But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.” But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house…(Mal.3:7b-10a).

The Hebrew word for tithes and offerings are masher and terumah, two different words meaning two different things. The first, masher, refers to the tithe to be brought to the storehouse, and the second, terumah, refers to the portion that belongs to God and is given to the high priest. When we fail to give God what belongs to Him and to the storehouse which also belongs to God, He regards it as theft! Ouch! How many of God’s people are guilty of theft?

Please stay with me because we are going somewhere. Tomorrow we will discover the significance of generosity.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, is now available on www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com or from me at luella@efc.org.za at R130,00 including p and p.

 

Did You Know (8)?

DID YOU KNOW (8)

…That revelation follows generosity.

Generosity is one of the major themes of the Bible. Jesus spoke more about money than He did about any other so-called “spiritual” topic such as prayer, faith, or salvation. Why was that? I cannot speak for Him but it seems to me that, since money plays such a major part in our lives, it would make sense for Him to teach us about the place money should play in the lives of His followers and how to use our money in a way that would benefit and not harm us.

The world is driven by money and, unfortunately, so is most crime. Marriages very often break up because of disputes over or misuse of money. Selfishness and greed are the hallmarks of ungodly people and, believe it or not, religious people as well. By “religious”, I mean people who adhere to and practise a religion which has no power to change their lives.

Does God care about the way we use our money? Of course He does! He gave His people a simple system by which they would be generous with their wealth and, at the same time be free to enjoy what He gave them without guilt. Unfortunately, there are those who pooh-pooh God’s instructions to His ancient people as “law” when, in fact, they are part of His “torah” – teaching. i.e., ageless wisdom which always works.

God’s economic system is based on the responsibility of households to care for four groups of people. I say “households” because, in ancient times, God’s people were farmers and each household produced the crops which fed them during the year. In our day, we would translate “households” as wage earners, be they husband or wife separately or their combined incomes which would represent a household.

The first group of people for which the Israelites were responsible was the high priest and his family. The high priest was the one who represented God to the people and the people to God. God required the people to give the firstborn of their animals and the first-fruits of their crops to Him. They were even instructed to give the first city, Jericho, to Him when they conquered the Promised Land. In the case of their livestock and crops, they had to offer the first of the increase to Him as a terumah or first-fruit offering, and then give it to the high priest since he had no land of his own to sustain his family.

Approximately one fortieth to one sixtieth of the crop matures first (a scientific fact). When the harvest was gathered in and bagged, the farmer would set aside every fortieth bag for the high priest as a terumah, as well as the first-born of his livestock. The terumah offerings of all the people would take care of the high priest and his family until the following season.

The equivalent of the high priest today would be our spiritual authority, in other words, our pastor. He should not draw his stipend from the tithes of the people but from their terumah offerings which God requires over and above the tithes. It is our terumah which guarantees God’s blessing on the rest of our income. Here is the principle:

Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first-fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine (Prov. 3:9-10).

God did not repeat the instruction in detail but in principle in the New Testament. Paul wrote to the Galatians:

The one who receives instruction in the Word should share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please the flesh will reap destruction: whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers (Gal. 6:6-10).

Why is it, then, that we dissect the bit about sowing and reaping from the passage and make it mean something different from Paul’s intention in the context? Although “sowing and reaping” is a principle that has a broad application, in this context, Paul is talking about increase – whatever the equivalent may be in the times. The first-fruit of our increase belongs to God and we must share it with those whose work is to teach us the truths of God’s Word.

This is an important part of God’s wisdom which works. Unfortunately, since we in the main in the New Testament era, have thrown this principle out through ignorance or the mistaken idea that it was only for the Old Testament people of God, we have greatly harmed ourselves in the process. That the first portion belongs to God is a timeless truth and, when we obey His instruction, He fulfils His promise to pour His bounty into our lives.

The first of the offerings God requires of us is, then, the terumah offering, one fortieth of our monthly income which belongs to God and which we give to our spiritual authority. This releases God’s favour on the rest of our income and, yes, actually overrides whatever causes our lack in an amazingly supernatural way! Try it!

Since this is a big subject, I shall continue to show you the principles and draw my conclusions in the next few blogs.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, is now available on www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com or from me at luella@efc.org.za at R130,00 including p and p.

 

 

 

 

Did You Know (6)?

DID YOU KNOW (6)

…That you choose the measure of your gain or loss.

Human beings have this crazy idea that it is okay to have two standards of judgment, one for ourselves which is lenient and another for other people which is based on the standard we set for ourselves but is very strict. We let ourselves off on the basis that we are “only human” or that we are not responsible; it is someone else’s fault that we said or did this or that or that we are this way, that is, we are angry, miserable, frustrated or whatever. We judge others because they did not measure up to the standard we set for ourselves.

The Apostle Paul understood human nature.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself because you who pass judgment do the same things (Rom.2:1).

Now we have to ask: How fair is that?

God is absolutely just and fair. He has a simple solution for our foolish injustice. He has determined that we set the measure of justice we receive from Him by the way we treat others. Jesus put it like this:

Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matt. 7:1-2).

If we think that we have the right to set the standard and to judge others for their wrongdoing, we must not forget that we are automatically passing judgment on ourselves as well, and that the punishment we inflict on others will come straight back to us.  

As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman’s house. He made it for Mordacai who spoke up to help the king. The king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordacai. Then the king’s fury subsided (Esth. 7:8b-10).

God’s just measure applies in other situations as well. I found a significant one at the end of Jesus’ story about the sower and the seed, and His explanation of the parable to His disciples. They asked Him why He taught in parables. He gave them a curious answer.

He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside, everything is said in parables so that,

‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:11-12). 

Why would Jesus not want them to believe? He was quoting from Isa 6:9-10. God commissioned Isaiah to go and preach to His people to harden their hearts because they had already chosen to ignore His word and disobey His instructions. Isaiah would continue to give them God’s instructions until their disobedience made them ripe for judgment. They had already chosen their course. Isaiah’s message would harden their hearts until they were carried into captivity. Through their suffering, some would finally return to the Lord.

By teaching the people in parables, Jesus was doing what Isaiah had done in the past. Only those who had a heart to believe and receive His Word would gain understanding from His teaching.

But there was an equally serious warning for those who chose to listen to Him.

“Consider carefully what you hear,” He continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him (Mark 4:24-25).

Did you get the gist of Jesus’ words? What we choose to do with God’s Word will determine whether we gain more than what we have now or lose what little we have. We can never remain neutral to the Word of God. Every time we choose to ignore what we have read or heard, we lose more of our ability to understand and respond. If we keep ignoring what God wants of us, we will eventually be so immune to His Word that we will be unable to hear or understand it.

But there is another side to the measure we choose to use. God responds to our generosity with a deluge of blessing. That’s the kind of God He is. He uses the strict measure of our choices to dispense consequences, but He give back to us in immeasurable bounty when we act out of love towards those in need. Consider this promise:

Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

This verse does not only relate to material things; it relates also to the measure of love, time, care and forgiveness we extend to others. The more we pour ourselves into the lives of others, the more God pours His love and grace into us. How much better to use a huge measure of love and kindness in our attitude and interaction with others than to judge or condemn because we can never out-give God.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, is now available on www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com or from me at luella@efc.org.za at R130,00 including p and p.

 

 

Did You Know (7)

DID YOU KNOW (7)

…That God always works through His Word.

According to Hebrew thought, God’s Word is a manifestation of Himself in another form. God and His Word are inseparable. He reveals Himself to us through what He has said and what He did and does. However, we cannot know or understands His works unless He reveals their meaning to us through His Word. There is ample evidence in Scripture that God’s Word is the vehicle of revelation and that He accomplishes His will through His Word. When He speaks, it is done.

When Jeremiah was still a child, God called him to be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah was appalled at the prospect and remonstrated with Him until God explained to him that He selected him for the job while he was still in his mother’s womb. Jeremiah could not fail because God had spoken and He would ensure that His Word would come to pass.

“Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’” …Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I have appointed you over the nations and kingdoms…I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” (Jer. 1:1-12).

God called the universe into being through His word and reconstituted it as He wanted it after the chaos the devil caused on the earth by his presence.

David recognised the purpose and value of God’s Word. Although he did not have the complete Bible as we have it today, he had enough to know that God had spoken; through the recorded history of his people, he already had an understanding of the ways of God. He longed to know more and prayed a simple, yet profound prayer that God would teach him His way.

Teach me you way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name (Psa. 86:11).

The anonymous psalmist of Psalm 119 expressed his love for and confidence in God’s word to be the all-round guide, instructor and protector of his life as long as he adhered to and obeyed what it said. Like a lamp that shone on the path and a light that lit up the way ahead, God’s Word was all he needed to keep him heading in the right direction to find his way home.

The Apostle John took up the theme and shone the full light of revelation on Jesus whom he recognised as God’s Word, clothed in flesh, filled with the glory of God’s truth, who came to live among us that we might fully understand God’s message to the world.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Jesus was not only God’s Word expressed in human form; He was also the speaking Word of God. Everything He did was the expression of God’s Word and will.

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say (John 12:49-50).

God’s Word has the power to accomplish many things:

  1. God’s Word always accomplishes what He sent it to do – Isaiah 55:10-11.
  2. God’s Word heals – Psalm 107:20.
  3. God’s Word exposes the thoughts and intentions of the heart – Hebrews 4:12.
  4. God’s Word produces fruit when it falls into good soil – Mark 4:20.
  5. God’s Word lights our path – Psalm 119:105
  6. God’s Word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness – 2 Tim. 3:16.
  7. God’s Word is a powerful weapon against the devil’s lies – Ephesians 6:17.
  8. God’s Word protects us from sin – Psalm 119:11.
  9. God’s Word keeps us pure – Psalm 119:9.
  10. God’s Word produces faith – Romans 10:17…

…and many more.

When we fill our minds and hearts with God’s Word, we have all the equipment we need for living godly lives, pleasing the Father and enjoying all the benefits of eternal life.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, is now available on www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com or from me at luella@efc.org.za at R130,00 including p and p.