Trust His Heart (Even When It Hurts)

It's always a challenge to trust someone's heart, whether it's God or our brothers/sisters. But it makes a huge difference in our experience in that relationship; it can make the difference between growth and suffering.

Spurgeon wrote: ‎”God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”

When others (whether God or man) do something that we don't understand, or something that hurts, the enemy accuses them before us. He often declares, “Look what they did to you! You can’t trust them! That hurt you! They did it on purpose!” Implicit in his accusation is the assumption that we have the right to judge God, to judge our brother or our sister. The accuser of the brethren accuses them before us, and invites – tempts – us to join in that accusation. He tempts us to join his work against those whom we have trusted.

But we actually have the choice: We can often look past the event to their heart. With God we can say, “I am confident that God will not do something for the purpose of hurting me. If I can't trust my understanding of what He's doing, at least I can trust his goodness; I can trust that he is FOR me! He has my best interests in mind.” And it helps take the sting out of it.

And if our brother or sister does something that we don't understand, something that hurts, we have the option of looking past that “something” to their heart. We can't say that every brother, every sister has our best interests in mind, but often, they do, and yet the enemy still accuses them before us. It is appropriate to look past the thing that we don't understand to their heart.

If we can say, “I don't understand, but I know that they're FOR me,” then we can trust their heart, instead of our understanding of their actions. It doesn't fix the problem (and there will always be problems among human beings), but it takes out some of the sting, and it silences the enemy's accusations, which are much of the source of pain.

Sometimes we have to say, “Yeah, that was stupid, but they didn't know any better.” Maybe it's because they're immature; maybe it's because they didn't know we're fragile in that area; maybe it's because they're going through their own storm right now.

Often enough, I have been led to declare, “I don’t know that they are for me, but I will not assume otherwise. I don’t even know that they didn’t know any better, but I will not assume otherwise. They may have done that to hurt me, but I will not join the enemy’s accusation against them!”

Still the enemy accuses them before us, tempts us to be their judge and jury, tempts us to take our eyes off of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and focus instead on the offense, on the pain (real or imagined) that it causes.

If we choose to partner with the father of lies, we will believe his accusation, assume evil of our brother, and join his accusation or resent him, and thus is a “root of bitterness “planted in our heart. We don’t often intentionally choose to partner with the accuser, but if we respond with accusation, resentment, bitterness, then that is in fact the choice we have made. Ouch.

If we instead choose to partner with the Father of Light, then we can choose to trust that in the midst of it all, He has our best interests in mind, trust that he will bring good out of the evil, trust our brother’s heart. I’ve heard some starry-eyed brethren insist that if we’re focused on God, then it won’t hurt. Bosh. That’s denial.

A wound is a wound, and while it’s not profitable to focus on the wound, neither is it profitable to pretend it’s not there. But if we respond in trust – of God, and of our brother – then it’s a lesser wound than the enemy’s plan, and it can be healed more quickly, more completely, and more profitably: we can learn from the wound.

Graham Cooke teaches that the wise response is not to become hard in an attempt to be un-woundable. The wise response is to learn to be healed quickly.

Father, let us respond as Jesus did, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” and as Stephen did, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” The devil’s got more than enough followers anyway; I won’t add my name to that list.


Diversity as Maturity.

I've been thinking (a dangerous task for an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning, I understand).

I suspect that we can learn a lesson from disagreement: the degree to which we are able to remain in relationship with someone who holds opinions contrary to our own is an indication of the maturity of our relationship. If I can continue to be friends – not an acquaintance: real, genuine, share-your-lives friends – with someone whom you disagree about significant subjects with, that is a sign of maturity in the both of you, an din them.

There are many among us who appear to be compelled to be right in their relationships (or to bee seen as right, which – unbeknownst to them – is NOT the same thing). There are numbers among us people who cannot abide the idea of divergent thought among friends! Free will? Predestination? Grace? Judgment? Pre-trib? Post trib? Sola Scriptura? Revelation? Gay marriage? Abortion?  There are some who seem to think that it is their calling in life to convince others that they are right, and if we’ll only shut up and listen to them, our eyes will be opened and we’ll see the error of our ways and repent from disagreeing with them.

They demonstrate their immaturity.

Jesus Himself is a fine model; let no one say that his choices are the result of immaturity! And yet His best friends, the men with whom He shared every aspect of life while he was on this planet, did not even understand the things He most treasured. One of His best friends so completely disagreed with both His end and his means that he sold Him out for a month’s wages. And yet Jesus – until the very betrayal – was as good a friend to him as to Peter and John.

Consensus about doctrinal issues, or political, social, vocational issues, is not a requirement for mature friendship. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed, but nobody said there needed to be any more agreement than just agreeing to walk together as friends.

Our unit, we remember, does not come from what we have learned, what we believed, what nation we were born in; our unity comes from our Father: if we are children of the same Father, then we are brothers. If one of us has an agenda ahead of the Father’s agenda, then that other loyalty is the issue, not the fact that we’re somehow, mysteriously, brothers, sons of an amazing Father.


I Have Misunderstood the Tithe

Tithing is a difficult topic to examine objectively for many reasons. One of the most hidden and un-talked-about reasons is the issue of benefit:

If those teaching me a principle get their paycheck from my believing what they teach, then their teaching cannot be objective. It might be factually correct, but they are not the right person to help me understand the truth of the subject.

In my history, the people who taught tithing were nearly always the people whose paycheck came from my tithe. I have almost never heard anyone whose paycheck came from people’s tithes ever question the need for people to tithe to their church. I cannot help but question their objectivity. Worse, I have known pastors who will not allow anyone in their church to even ask questions about tithing. And we’ve heard stories of religious groups who make membership conditional on tithing. They’re called cults.

Tithing is a topic where truth is best revealed by personal study, by prayer and counsel of the Holy Spirit, and by consulting with knowledgeable, faithful friends whose objectivity is not so desperately compromised by the topic.

God taught it to me this way: Never ask the car salesman if you need to replace your car. Never ask a real estate agent if this is a good time to buy a house. Never ask a pastor whether you need to tithe. It’s not fair to put them into that position.

Note that there are at least three ways to compromise objectivity on the subject:

a) If you believe what I tell you, you'll be morally obligated to give me lots of your money.
b) If you believe what I tell you, then I won't be alone in believing it, and my position will be easier for ME to hold.
c) If I choose not to give 10% of my money to you, then I’ll have more money to spend on me.

It is not only those whose paycheck comes from the tithe that are compromised on the topic.

I’ve made a list of some of the difficulties that I have with the tithe as it is preached in American churches in this generation:

1)       All of the Biblical teaching about tithing is in the Old Covenant. Remember, please, that the New Covenant began with the Cross. Jesus mentions tithing, but does not teach it, but he is speaking to Old Covenant Pharisees during the time of (the end of) the Old covenant. The only mention of tithing after the Cross is in Hebrews 7, where it is used as an argument that Jesus’ New Covenant has more authority than the Levitical priesthood.

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)

2)       It is manipulative. While not all teaching on the subject of tithing is manipulative, a great deal of it is based on taking Old Covenant scriptures out of context and laying that burden on New Covenant people. The most blatant case is Malachi 3, where we hear the oft-quoted, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house,” but we never hear the introduction to that section: “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.

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.

3)       It misses the point. The purpose of the Old Testament Tithe was a party.
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.

4)       It supports the wrong goals. The goals for tithes were never to build buildings, pay for clergy or create programs. The Tabernacle was funded with offerings, the Temple was funded from David’s private wealth, essentially a sugar-daddy. The Levites made their own living like anyone else, though the priests did eat of sacrifices (not tithes) brought to the temple: their priestly work paid for the priests who did the work.

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.

5)       It violates the principles of fatherhood. The model from both Scripture and culture is that fathers provide for their children; it is not the children’s responsibility to provide for their parents.

Note: there is, of course, an exception, but that only applies when the parents are old and cannot provide for themselves.

6)       It creates an artificial separation: Clergy vs. Laity. Jesus was pretty adamant about removing the differentiation between clergy and laity: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 

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.

7)       It’s too cheap. In the Old Testament, we “owed” one tenth of our increase in the tithe (“tithe” means “a tenth,” or “ten percent”). But if we eliminate the Old Testament law about tithing, then we’re left with Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.

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.

Having pointed out problems with the contemporary system of tithes, let me put some limits on this:

1)       Generosity is healthy and Biblical. While it’s difficult to support a New Covenant tithe from the Bible, the idea of giving generously is well grounded in the New Testament.

2)       There is power in numbers. Several thousand people giving money to a single cause can accomplish more than all but the richest of individuals. Even billionaires Bill Gates & Warren Buffett, two of the richest of individuals in the world, recognize that the contributions of many accomplish more than the contributions of a few.  

3)       “Not tithing” does not equal “Not giving.” It only means “Not giving a specified amount because of a law.” The alternative to tithing is not “I keep it all and spend it all on me!”

4)       Tithing is an effective reminder. Those who give “to God” are using a very powerful tool (their money) to remind them of the reality that God is their provider. It is not the only powerful tool (a love relationship also works), but it is a solid way of remembering.

By way of a conclusion, I offer this exhortation: This is a good time to question what you have been taught about tithing. This is a good time to study the subject on your own; I’ve added a great number of hot-links to relevant passages specifically for that purpose. This is a good time to get in God’s face, and ask Him to teach you about how He wants you to handle your giving. And this is a great time to participate in conversations with godly people on the topic: don’t preach; ask questions. Listen to answers and opinions.

This is a lousy time to respond in greed: to stop giving in order to spend money on yourself. The principle of Sowing and Reaping is still true. And selfishness just stinks.

Be generous. Be free in your generosity. Reflect God in your finances.