“They think that the promise of what I will do for them when they come to me is enough to blunt the pain, but they stop at the promise; they don’t actually come to me to let me heal them.”
Adjusting the Target
“They think that the promise of what I will do for them when they come to me is enough to blunt the pain, but they stop at the promise; they don’t actually come to me to let me heal them.”
The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?
· If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?
This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.
I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.
On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.
So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.
But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.
I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.
Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.
What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:
· I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
· Honor is more important than “the best” price.
· The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.
Not Reluctantly. Not Under Compulsion.
Should believers ever charge for their services, for the exercise of their God-given gifts?
Many people quote this verse (from 1 Corinthians 9), “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”
Then they use it to judge each other.
They use this verse, often quite forcefully, to say, “I should have the freedom to give you what I want for your services (or products). You should not make your prices compulsory!” The most frequent examples are authors, counselors and conference speakers: they are “reluctant” to pay $80 an hour for professional counselling, or $40 for a weekend of worship and teaching at a conference, so they pull out this verse to justify their outrage at having to pay for the services they voluntarily choose to make use of. “That’s a gift from God. How dare you charge me for what you got for free?”
Some have been audacious enough to suggest, “Well, if you don’t want to pay for that conference (or book, or counselling), don’t buy it. Nobody is forcing you.” This is generally met with yet more outrage. “It’s my right! Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!” (And this is an excellent illustration of a spirit of entitlement in action.)
It’s interesting that we can recognize the foolishness of this when we apply this “principle” in other places. “Walmart shouldn’t have prices. We should be free to pay whatever we want!” “Chick fil A shouldn’t have prices on its menu!” or “I’m going to have my car's engine rebuilt, but I don’t think I should pay the mechanic. After all, those skills are just a gift from God.” I’m pretty sure those wouldn’t be received well.
I find it curious that these people are not willing to let the conference speaker do the same thing they demand for themselves, to “decide in [her] own heart what to give.” Rather, these outraged consumers insist that authors and public speakers make their life work available for whatever they themselves have decided in their heart to give in exchange.
In other words, “It’s for ME to decide if I want to give you money, but YOU don’t get to decide if you want to give away your life’s work!”
Don’t we see the hypocrisy in this?
Perhaps it is significant that I’ve never heard anybody use this verse to defend someone else. If we’re going to apply it to ourselves, then it applies to our brothers and sisters, doesn’t it? Yet nobody has ever said, “This conference speaker should give what he has decided in his time to give, not reluctantly and not under compulsion. He should not be required to work for the rate that I want to pay him. That’s his choice, not mine!”
The verse in question (2 Corinthians 9:7) doesn’t actually apply in this conversation, anyway. Paul is not laying this down as a general principle for doing business in this. Not at all. He’s talking about receiving a voluntary offering for an impoverished church. He’s not talking about demanding things from other believers. He’s certainly not talking about how we demand others run their businesses and ministries!
Bigger picture: Are we not sons and daughters of the King of Kings? That makes us royalty, doesn’t it? Royalty never (not ever!) go around demanding goods and services for free. In fact, royalty goes out of their way to out-give others, to demonstrate generosity. That is our heritage, not shaming people trying to feed their family with the tools God has given them.
We, as sons & daughters of the greatest King of all, should behave like royalty, not like begrudging beggars, particularly with one another.
Offense at God Stops the Promises
Why the Cheap Stuff?
A couple of years back, I was in a meeting where an apostle spoke. He spoke from his apostolic office, from his place as a father in the faith; his message was powerful. I watched as gold dust appeared out of thin air all over his black suit. By the end of the message it looked like he was wearing a rhinestone suit.
I ran to the side of the stage, and watched from up close. It was still amazing. Afterwards, I went up to rub my hands in the glittery stuff that was all over the pulpit, all over the stage where he had stood. A friend of mine had a brush and a container, and was gathering the dust up.
One recent weekend, at a friend’s birthday party, as we were sharing testimonies of God’s goodness, I watched cut gems show up on the carpet. Some of them appeared in front of my eyes. I gathered up a small handful. They don’t look to be anything spectacular (though they are pretty) until I remember that I watched them appear from thin air. Whoa.
|I watched many of these appear from thin air.|
Any time something unusual like this happens, myriads of voices shout “deception” and point to the fact that they’ve never seen this happening in the Bible! But then we’ve never seen flush toilets or computers in the Bible either, and we seem to be OK with those. And then there’s the detail that the Bible itself says that it doesn’t tell nearly all of the story (John 21:25). I don’t pay attention to those nay-sayers. But that doesn’t answer the questions.
Here’s where it takes a left turn I didn’t expect. A friend gathered up some of the gold dust from the cloud that appeared in church, and had it analyzed. It’s not gold. That didn’t surprise me, as it was swirling around in a way that the heavy metal couldn’t, but to have it confirmed: this is some sort of plastic. That’s weird.
My friend that gathered up the gold dust that had showed up around the apostle in the black suit had a unique view. As a videographer, he was watching the gold dust through the lens of his high-quality video camera. Zooming in close to the man’s shoulders, he looked to see where the dust was coming from. He watched it appear over his shoulders, from little disturbances in the light over his shoulders; he called them little portals, pouring glittery dust out, all over the man standing there preaching.
Some of the gold dust made its way to a jeweler, who analyzed it: this wasn’t gold. It’s not even a metal. “It’s a polymer of some kind.” Wait. What?
And the gems. Some gems have been analyzed by jewelers. Some are perfectly cut, so perfectly that it confused the jewelers. Many were not. A few appeared to be topaz or amethyst or other gems suitable for jewelry.
I’ve had some folks get in my face and declare that because it’s not real, metallic gold, because they’re not real rubies and sapphires, that proves it’s fake. Nonsense.
I suppose some of it could be faked, but not all of it. Seriously, I watched – I watched closely – as gems and glittery stuff appeared from thin air. I saw it happen with my own eyes, while I was on guard for falsehood and pretension. I’m convinced, both in my spirit and in my observations that at least some of what happened is absolutely real.
But then, why plastic instead of real gold? Why cheezy gems? Isn’t God capable of raining down diamonds and doubloons on his children?
As I asked the question, Father pointed me to the statement that often dominates the conversation when these topics come up: “Oooooh! I wish that happened to me! I want gems. I want gold dust!” These kinds of things, even when they’re cheezy plastic gold, poorly cut tiny gems, draw attention to the gifts.
Now I’m convinced that it’s good to appreciate the gifts Father gives, but I suspect that he’s not real fond of it when his gifts bring out the avarice in his children: “I want! I want!” And if there’s that much avarice with the cheap stuff, what will happen when he does pour out rubies and Krugerrands?
Honestly, I don’t think we’re ready for the real thing. If every time we worshipped Father, millions of dollars of worldly wealth (often referred to as “pavement” in the language of heaven; cf Rev. 21:21), would we worship God for his worth, or for the gold and gems? How about the people around us? Would they be paying attention to Him who sits on the throne, or to the stuff clanking on the floor around us?
And I suspect that this is part of the reason why signs and wonders – though they are increasing – are still relatively few and far between. We’re not really ready for the real.
If every person we touched was healed, if hospitals were emptied when we walked past, we’d never have a moment’s peace. We’d be offered millions of dollars just to come to this person’s mansion and heal this corrupt politician, that movie star, kidnapped for drug lords or terrorists.
Nope. Not ready yet.
A Change of Seasons
I Have Misunderstood the Tithe
The conclusion of the Hebrews passage on tithing is verse 11: “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?”
By contrast, the New Covenant addresses the Old Covenant Law this way: “By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union with himself into one new man and make peace.” (Ephesians 2:15)
This was speaking to the priests, not the people. It’s manipulative to tell the people that this passage is commanding them to give their money to the pastor/priest.
And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. Deuteronomy 14:23
Even the Malachi 3 section, which we now understand is commanding the priests, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house.” This is about helping others celebrate God, even if they were too poor to chip in for the food: being broke is no excuse. This is consistent with Deuteronomy 14.
The typical tithe-funded church budget (and I know whereof I write) spends between 60% and 90% of those tithes on salaries and building expenses. Therefore even if the Old Covenant law of tithing applied in the New Covenant, it does not apply in the way that we’re applying it.
Note: there is, of course, an exception, but that only applies when the parents are old and cannot provide for themselves.
The idea that some people (“clergy”) are supposed to do the work of the gospel: visit the sick, teach the Word, and so on, while other people (“laity”) are supposed to pay them to do that work is not found in the pages of Scripture.
The truth is that I don’t owe God a tenth of my increase; I owe him all of me: everything I own, all that I am.
One day some years ago, my family and I were out driving on a sunny Sunday afternoon, talking about our need to replace the vehicle we were riding in. We happened upon a small car lot, so we drove through, looking to see what they had that was interesting.
Within seconds, we were greeted by a salesman with slicked back hair, a polyester tie and big toothed smile: the quintessential used-car salesman. He proceeded to tell us why it was in our best interests to trade in the vehicle we were driving for a similar car of the same make and mileage for “only a few thousand dollars more,” and we could make payments at “only 12% interest.” I imagined him licking his chops, as he looked on us in our tired station wagon.
It was clearly not in our best interests to do business with this gentleman. My daughter called him a shark.
I came away from that experience with a new principle for my life: “Never ask a car salesman if I should buy a car.” The reason is obvious: some car salesmen have difficulty separating what’s good for their commission check from what’s good for my household, and their recommendation – their “expertise” – is self-serving.
Another illustration: imagine a judge presiding over a trial in which his brother-in-law is the defense attorney. The reason judges recuse themselves from cases like that is because the public cannot trust their impartiality: they have a conflict of interest: do I serve justice, or do I help out my family?
I see this happening in the church with alarming frequency: I see self-serving principles taught from the pulpit without any acknowledgement of the conflict of interest. I hear doctrines taught as truth, which clearly benefit those teaching them, and which sometimes do not benefit those being taught. And nobody questions either the doctrine or the motive.
What am I talking about? I’ll state these doctrines more bluntly than they’re taught from the pulpit, but this is the content being taught. I’ll state them very directly in the interest of clarity:
* You must tithe in this church where I get my paycheck or else you’re stealing from God,”
* If you’re not in this building every Sunday morning you’re in town, the devil’s gonna getcha!”
* If you don’t teach in Sunday School, our children are all going to hell!” or
* Give $1000 to my ministry and God will give you [fill in the blank]!”
Let me digress long enough to clarify what I am not saying: I am not saying that the doctrine of tithing is incorrect. I am not saying that the doctrine of covering is heretical, or that there’s something wrong with teaching Sunday School. I believe in tithing and I believe in raising our children as a community.
I’m also not saying that we should reject any teaching that could possibly be construed to the benefit of those teaching. I’m also not saying that the people who teach these things are necessarily teaching them out of self-serving motives. An ethical used car salesman can give me good advise about cars; an honest judge can judge fairly even when his family is involved; a televangelist truly can speak about money without greed in his heart. A true pastor or can invite people to join his church without thought of personal gain – financial or otherwise. It can happen, but it’s hard to have confidence it’s actually happening.
I am saying that it’s kind of awkward that the only people teaching the doctrine that individual believers must belong to an organized Sunday-morning church are the leaders of organized Sunday-morning churches. I’m saying that it’s confusing that the only people teaching that the Old Testament laws about tithing apply to New Testament believers (and who also teach that the rest of the Old Testament laws don’t apply to New Testament believers) are generally the same people whose paycheck comes out of that offering basket they want me to fill up: they may be teaching the truth, but it sure appears that they’re going to benefit more than I am from that teaching.
I’m not convinced that the system is corrupt, or that just because a pastor benefits from our obedience to his teaching, that he is necessarily teaching from a self-serving heart. I know a lot of pastors, and frankly, the vast majority of them are men and women of integrity. I have watched one or two of them struggle with the very issues I’m writing about here. But I’ve watched many others – particularly in small churches, where the size of Sunday’s offering determines whether they get a paycheck this month or not – where the line between their doctrine and their need becomes seriously blurred.
Obviously, a response is appropriate on the part of leaders and teachers who teach doctrine from a motive of self-enrichment, and that response starts with repentance for trusting something other that God as their provider. It may or may not be appropriate to acknowledge the conflict of interest publicly: the real response of a right heart must be towards God first, and only then towards man. As leaders, we must guard our teaching, our counseling, our hearts from mixed motivation.
Interestingly, as believers, our response to this dilemma is old news: after we forgive them, we as the Body of Christ in the pews need to examine the Word for ourselves, not just live off of what is fed to us by others. I’m not advocating an abandonment of all that is taught by paid pastors; I’m advocating that we test the things taught us, that we “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
The Wind of God
In this week’s posting, I want to look at something that God did in
This happened on Feb. 28th, 1999 at the Anglican church, in a special Sunday afternoon youth service in Pond Inlet. Pond Inlet is a small, predominantly Inuit community in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of
The Lord visited them that day with His miracle power, which was manifested in a very loud sound. They were recording a cassette tape of the meeting, and the sound of the Lord's wind and mighty fire was recorded. Here are some excerpts from the video on You Tube, where you can hear the recording and testimonies of that day:
"An invitation was offered for Youth who felt they wanted to come closer to God." The worship leader, Louee Arieak, was praying over the youth at the altar, "I felt so close to God... He kept giving me this verse that says, 'Blessed are the Pure in Heart, for they shall see God.' "
"Something started to happen, that was beyond our control."
"Fire went right through me!"
"It sounded like a jet, but I started to think, there are no jets in Pond Inlet".
"It was so loud, that everything started to shake, All the people started to shake."
"Fire !!!! Fire !!!! Hallelujah!!!!!! OHHHHHHH!!!!!"
When the sound first started, Pastor Moses Kayak tried to stop the sound by first adjusting, and then even turning off the sound board. But still the sound, and the recording, continued. "It shouldn't have been recorded. It's only by the miracle of God."
The pastor recounts the story. He was "... completely humbled, to the point where he wanted to continually come before God, kneel... and ask for cleansing of the heart - to become pure before Him."
"My name is John Tugak. I played the guitar that nite there at the service. The sound started just barely noticable like a tv with no signal. Then it built up louder like as if a big plane flew over but the noise was there longer than usual. Saw the pastor trying to adjust and fix the noise with the sound system but it continued. I even saw him turn off the system but it didnt help. Then I realize, and I believe the sound is from the presence of the almighty God. I still believe, and have never experience anything like it! If the sound was from the sound system, it would break as it was too loud for the speakers to handle it. The speakers cannot make that kind of sound and shake the building. The sound was amazing!"
Here's the story of what happened:
And this is a report from a few years later:
Please tell me what you think.