The LORD Never Changes, and the Results?

Malachi 3:6

[THIRD IN THE SERIES ON THE BOOK OF MALACHI]

We saw in Chapter 1 Malachi reminds the people of God’s love.  Many times it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.  But Malachi condemns their half-hearted attempts to worship God with “leftovers.”  They saved the best for themselves and then gave God the crumbs.

In Chapter 2 we see the priests (“spiritual leaders”) that they were no better than the people because they viewed their ministering as drudgery that they had to put up with.  They were just going through the motions to get a ‘paycheck’ (my term); they lost the heart and the passion for worship.

My Commentary on MALACHI 3:1-18 

Some things never seem to change.

The politician who promises the most before an Election and delivers the least afterwords.  Teenagers are always sure they know more than mom and dad till they get kids of their own.  Your paycheck almost increases as much as the tax rate.  Some things never change.  We’d like politicians to keep their promises, teens who listen now instead of later, and my Social Security benefit staying ahead of the tax rate.  Change can be a good thing.

On the other hand, I’m glad some things never change,  I’m glad the sun rises every day.  I’m glad for my wife’s unfailing love.  Most of all, I’m glad that in the midst of all that changes in this world, Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the LORD, I do not change…” – God’s changelessness – what theologians call, His immutability–is comforting to me, no matter how my circumstances or feelings change, I always find Him to be sure and certain, faithful and loyal!

Malachi 3 breaks down 3 areas of God’s relationship with us that never changes–3 areas that will challenge and comfort our hearts.

HIS PASSION FOR PURITY (vv. 1-7)

I don’t like to peer into a glass of milk in the morning for breakfast and to my wondering eyes should appear, but black floaties in the glass.  If my dog, Ollie, somehow gets to the TV table to lick my plate when I left the room, and on my return, I catch him, I’m not going to eat from it!  And, in my humble opinion, water that’s not clear, isn’t fit to drink!!!  Purity will always be important in my life.

Malachi tells us PURITY is important to the Lord–so important that He is always passionate about our purity in worship and our obedience to His Word.

Back in Malachi 2:17, Israel asks the question, “Where is the God of Justice?”  They’re not just asking where He is–they’re asking God to show up and set things right.

VERSE 1 declares God answers with a personal appearance.  Jesus identifies the Messenger as John the Baptist in Matthew 11:7-10.  

But the main attraction is the LORD, whom you are looking for, whom you desire, suddenly comes to His temple and God Himself comes to His people, and Malachi says they get more than they bargained for.

VERSE 2:  But who can endure…who can stand?

The ANSWER is…Nobody!  He doesn’t come to put them on their backs–He comes to purify them, a refiner’s fire, like a launderer’s soap!  He comes to PURIFY His people like a metal worker, to clean His house spick and span.

He begins with their worship (vv. 3-4)

He will purify the sons of Levi that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.

The Levites were in charge of worship in the Temple.  God says their worship had degenerated into meaningless, mindless ritual, instead of thoughtful, adoration of their Lord.  God will purify them by bringing them back to worship Him in spirit and truth as they did in the old days (v. 4).

From the Temple, the Lord moves in verse 5 to purify the people in their obedience.

[5] “So I will come to put you on trial.  I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear Me,” says the LORD Almighty.”

God will judge those who don’t fear Him.  He will purge the land of rebels instead of just wiping them all out only because of His unchanging mercy (v. 6).

“I the LORD do not change.  So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed”

He invites them to return to Him, even though they act as if they have done nothing wrong (v. 7).

“Return to Me, and I will return to you”

On one level, this passage of Scripture reading predicts the coming and work of Christ.

Over 400 years after Malachi’s prophecy, God sends His messenger, John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ.  And the Lord Jesus Christ does come to His temple to clean it out, purifying worship from hypocrisy, and calling out people to be purified as well, through the CROSS, to live obediently in the process.

On another level, this prophecy outlines God’s passion for His people everywhere.  The Lord is demonstrating to the people of His unchanging commitment to PURITY.  He loves them too much to leave them to their polluted worship.  He loves them too much to allow disobedience to corrupt their relationship with Him.

So in mercy, He makes a personal visit to purify them–even though they don’t realize how ‘dirty’ they really are.

The Importance Of Staying Healthy –

I’m told that whenever there’s an outbreak of sickness, one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to frequently wash our hands.  Doctors say you can pick up bacteria and viruses off almost anything these days–a doorknob, a telephone, a pen, a magazine in the doctor’s office.  That microscopic impurity can make you sick, and if you get a bad enough case, you can even die.  Purity is especially important to good physical health.

Through Malachi, the Lord tells us that purity is also important to our spiritual health.

It’s vitally important that our worship stay pure–purely devoted to Christ Jesus, not just meaningless rituals.  Worship that comes from the heart that truly adores the Lord, not just from singing a song, or praying a pastor lead prayer, or your pastor’s sermon.  Pure worship comes from a place down deep inside of you from a pure heart!

God is committed to our purity–we need to be committed to being PURE for Him,

Malachi mentions another area where God never changes.

God’s Blessing On Those Who Give To Him (vv. 8-12)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on the Lord’s blessing!  So pay attention to what Malachi is going to say regarding our willingness to be blessed!

Malachi Chapter 3 is perhaps the most preached, the most taught Scripture when it comes to the issue of GIVING in the church.  Preachers have been known to use this text to shame Christians who don’t give a whole lot to God’s cause.  And (in many churches) I suppose there’s a reason for the premise–the national average of giving is 3%, with the majority of the support – in any given church – a handful of people.

This passage almost preaches itself because that’s exactly what Malachi was trying to get across to the people.  He was shaming them.  Malachi was basically telling them, if they would put into their relationship with God, they’d get more out.  The Israelites had become lax in their obedience to the law and specifically the part of that law that required them to give a regular tithe to God.  But hey, they were under the Law – we’re not!  They were specifically instructed to give a 1/10 of their income to God -we’re not…at least I don’t think so.  Actually, it’s not quite that simple.

God is the Great Giver!

He gives us life, along with all the joys and pleasure that come with it–from eyesight, to love, to the colors of the sunset.  He’s always giving.  He wants His children to be generous givers.  This may be one reason why He commands us to give to Him–so that we can learn the blessing of giving.  

He is changelessly committed to blessing those who give to Him first.

BUT…Israel had made a trade–the garment of giving for the robes of a thief.

“How can anybody rob God?  No!,” Israel replies.

You might steal from somebody else and get away with it, but how can one steal from God, Who sees and knows everything?

“But you have robbed Me!”  [Nervous laughter].

Lord, how could we do such a thing, robbing You?  [The Lord isn’t smiling]

“You have robbed Me by not giving your tithes and offerings.  That’s why you are under a curse right now!”

What was the CURSE?

Vs. 11 gives the idea where God speaks of the devourer, vines that fail to bear fruit…insects that destroy crops, a blight which keeps the vines from producing a harvest.  God makes a connection they fail to make:  WHEN YOU STOP GIVING TO ME, I’LL STOP BLESSING YOU!

But God has a remedy built-in for their situation in verse 10:

The TITHES mentioned here were offerings given to God – 10% of all they owned. 

They were to be given, not as a duty, but as a way to WORSHIP the Lord, to acknowledge His ownership of everything, out of gratitude for His gifts to them.

The storehouse was the Temple; the Levites and priests.  Give to Me what I have commanded you to give and then I will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it!

Jesus echoed the same changeless principle in Luke 6:38:

It’s an unchanging truth about God:  He always blesses those who give to Him first!

Whatever you do, don’t limit this timeless truth to MONEY, or POSSESSIONS.  Of all the things God can bless us with, money is the least valuable for one important reason.  Are you ready?  It doesn’t last!

Proverbs 23:4-5 (NIV)

[4] Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  [5]  Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

It’s true, often God will bless our giving financially, or give us more stuff. 

But the real blessing that comes from giving is eternal–the JOY of giving back to your Savior Who gave you so much; the peace that comes from not being enslaved to covetousness (keeping up with the Jones), or greed–the pleasure of seeing how God can use what you give, glorifying Him in changing the world.  The GIVING pays off in so many ways other than just more money, more stuff.

And remember this:  If you are not giving from a heart of worship, you’re not really giving to God at all!

Your giving is not a business transaction:  “If I give you this, you should give me that!”  Your giving is an important way you worship the Lord in acknowledging His ownership of everything and your gratitude for what He has already given you and about to give to you!

I remember when I was a new Christian and having a conversation with my wife after listening to our pastor’s message on tithing.  How could we as a family give 10 percent of our income to the church when we were having a hard time even keeping on top of our bills?  But we trusted in God’s provision and have been trusting Him ever since.  And God has always, and I mean ALWAYS, provided for us!

GIVING comes down to two things:

  • Who you love,
  • And who you trust.

Are you robbing God?  Or are you proving the promise of Malachi’s words here?

GOD ALWAYS BLESSES those who give to Him first.  That’s our unchanging truth.

One last thing I want to address about God that never changes is…

God’s distinction between the RIGHTEOUS and the WICKED (vv. 13-18)

“WHO’S THE ‘we’s?” (v. 14)

The Lord quotes the people’s murmuring in verses 14-15:  Does it really pay to serve the Lord?  Look around you at the wicked, evil people living the good life and we have it so hard!  Look at how all these sinners prosper and mock God, and we barely scrape by trying to be faithful followers.  Lord, it’s just not fair!!

Have you ever complained this way?  Maybe you watched all those celebrities who seem to get so much out of life than God-fearing people.  At your workplace, perhaps where the schemers, the liars, the people who don’t care one iota about God, who seem to get ahead, while the folks who love God try to live right and get run over.  It’s always been that way in the world.  The Lord doesn’t deny that’s the way it seems, but He offers a different perspective.

FIRST, He reminds the people:  I keep a close eye on the righteous.

It’s not clear who verse 16 refers to when it talks about those who feared the Lord.  Could they be the folks mentioned in verses 13-15 (maybe they had a change of heart)?  Or are they others who stayed loyal to the Lord, in spite of doubts and the doubters?  Whoever they are, God tells them, I’ve written your names in My Book and those who fear the Lord meditate,  (honor) His Name (vs. 16-17).  

And yes, Malachi is speaking openly to the Israelites, the Jews of his day.  But since Bible prophecy is multi-layered, like an onion, is the Book of Remembrance (vs. 16) pertain also to NT believers as well?  [See Rev. 3:5; 20:12; 21:27]  That’s a rhetorical question on my part.

We write down names to remember them; God writes down names to show us He never forgets the righteous (Rev. 20:17).

“They are My special peculiar treasure (My “jewels”).  I have special plans for their future.  There will come a day where everybody will realize I always make a distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous.”   (v. 18)

In eternity, serving God will pay off more than the wicked ever received in this life.  God always, always makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked.

Matthew 13:47-50

It always pays to live in obedience and serve the Lord God Almighty.

It might not always seem to pay off here on earth, but in eternity, everyone who loves and serves the Lord will spend forever glad they did!  Everyone who didn’t love and serve will spend eternity wishing they had!

Some things never change: God’s passion for our PURITY, God’s blessing to those who GIVE to Him first, God’s distinction between the righteous and the evildoers.  Aren’t you glad these things about God never change?

And remember when you get discouraged and are tempted to wonder if it really pays to serve the Lord, bringing Him the glory…when we get home, it will be worth it all! 

Amen?

____________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); The Hebrew Lexicon.

Commentary:  “Our Unchanging God” – SermonCentral.com,  by Dean Rhine, Nov. 3, 2016.

 

 

Why Do We Do the Things We Do During Church Services?

WHAT MAKES OUR WORSHIP SERVICES GENUINE?

black-and-white-shake-hands

I was saved, became a true believer in Christ Jesus in 1972.  Almost 43 years ago this August.  My knowledge of church doctrine began and grew, increasing over the years.

And then, in 2006, my spiritual life took a 180 degree turn. [See my blog: My Spiritual “Rabbit Hole” and Taking the “Redpill” https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/my-spiritual-r…ng-the-redpill/]

Our Freedom of Worship and Praise Can Pose Perils–

WORSHIP must truly be worship!

TRUE WORSHIP isn’t religious excitement, nor appeals to the flesh.  Our worship services may take undesirable directions–there may be formality with lack of spiritual liberty, or there may be lack of scriptural order and control.

Spiritual leaders are responsible in bringing people into God’s presence and making them realize “God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth”  (John 4:24 NIV).  But formality can develop in the ritual of the informal church.

Meaningless HABITS can be hard to break–

Neither Pentecostal routine nor ecclesiastical liturgy is TRUE WORSHIP.  When we in the Pentecostal churches, or any Christian church throughout the world, follow an order of service that degenerates into meaningless habit, they have nothing more than ritual.

The apostle Paul outlined a beautiful WORSHIP PATTERN for the church:  “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church”  (1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV).  

Notice TWO important words in Paul’s instructions: “everyone” and “all”.  

Furthermore, he said:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16 NIV).  

Yes, while sitting, or standing in church during church services, we too can be the “spiritual leaders”.

We are told to EXHORT, urge one another, and not to forsake “giving together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching”  (Hebrews 10:25)

CONGREGATIONAL WORSHIP DESCRIBED:

Our church services then, should all be based on scriptural instruction; that all members of the whole body of Christ should SHARE in worship as the Holy Spirit indwells them, and then yielding to Him.  Then people who fill the church pews are no longer spectators, wondering how they will be entertained.  They become “spiritual leaders.”

QUESTION:  So why then, do we do what we do on Sunday mornings?

Assessing Praise & Worship On Sunday Mornings at Church –

Have we become so self-serving that a fellowship time, or lack of it, is a make or break thing for people in going to church?

What about where we put the offering, if we include it at the end of the service, as some would suggest, should I be so offended that I don’t go back to THAT church?

Her is another issue to think about.  I know a good number of people who HATE to sing, so should we do away with singing because so many people cannot carry a tune and they are afraid someone might hear them?

I once had a pastor who said he was tempted to put up tables in the foyer of the church.  A TABLE with hearing aids, for those who couldn’t hear; cotton balls, for those who said the music was too loud; binoculars, for those who couldn’t see, etc.  In other words, “no excuse tables”– for people who needed an excuse for not attending the praise and worship services.

Excuses are always present…

I think any excuse could be made for not going back to church: the PREACHING is too long…or too short; the MUSIC is too loud or too soft; there are too many gray hairs…or young people…oh, and I cannot deal with perfume, I wish people would quit wearing  it.

Even JESUS didn’t have everyone stay…He laid out the cost, and many left…so, a more important question to ask ourselves is,

WHAT MAKES OUR WORSHIP GENUINE?

“Worship is not dependant upon environment and circumstance but most people are not oblivious to environment.”  ~ G. Raymond Carlson

Real, Genuine, Heartfelt, and Relevant Worship at Church Services –

“MEET & GREET” Purpose, or is there a specific purpose?

In a recent Twitter poll (not scientific), asking first-time church quests, what factors made them decide not to return.  The surprise factor was the number one issue–Don’t like the time spent of stand and greet one another. *[See all 7 Answers to Twitter Poll–by Thom S. Rainer @ Christian Post Contributor]  

According to the Twitter responses and comments, many quests really don’t like it, so much so that they will not return.

So what is it about this “stand and greet” time that many guests don’t like?  

#7 Answer: Not only do some guests dread the stand, meet, and greet time, so do some members –

“I visited the church and went through the ritual of standing and greeting, but many of the church members looked just as uncomfortable as I was. We were all doing a required activity that none of us like.” 

My views are mixed about the practice.  Would I not attend church because of the practice? No! But I do have issue with the timing, the placement in the order of the service, the interruption in my spirit after praise, more than the actual practice.

So I decided to ask my pastor for his views, his desires, within church services, why we do what we do on Sunday mornings

[PASTOR KYLE HOPKINS – Lead Pastor at Valley Church, located in Nooksack, Washington.]

I believe that everything has a practical purpose, but also a deeper spiritual purpose. i.e. the Meet & Greet:  It practically serves a purpose, causing people to get to know each other, meet someone new, say “hello”, etc…  It spiritually is an opportunity for us to speak into someone’s life, give a word of encouragement and share a message of knowledge/discernment; to briefly connect with someone who the Spirit would lay on our heart to meet up with them, pray for them, etc…  The order is usually where does the Spirit want to lead us and practically, what makes sense to get us there. Like a piece of music, there should be a rhythm, a flow.  I think it’s good for every service gathering to have a crescendo, building to a place that God desires to lead us during that time.

2 Timothy 3:5 (KJV)

“…having the appearance of godliness…”

ENTER HIS COURTS WITH PRAISE – Psalm 95 – “O COME,…”

The first thing I consider when driving to church on Sundays, listening to PRAISE MUSIC on the car’s CD player is, “whom is it I coming to see?”

We are supposed to be coming into the presence of the living God, the Author and Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe; the God who was, and is and always will be.

We are coming into the presence of the God about whom the songwriter said,

“Before the hills in order stood or earth received her fame,

from everlasting thou art God

and to endless years the same.”

THE FIRST THING to consider about being in our church services,  in whose presence are we standing?  Why are we even here for one hour or so?  If we are attending church weekly, just to fill up a hour or so once a week… then leave and continue living in a godless world, forgetting who we are in Christ...then are we missing the point?

Let’s go over the Church Bulletin!

There are other aspects in the order of church services that vary from church to church.  But let me throw one more element of ‘why we do what we do’ and the religious placement where it’s found.

The Tithes and Offerings…

Psalm 96:6-8 NIV Bible:

[6] Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and glory are in His sanctuary.

[7]  Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

[8]  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; …

Now see the flow, the “rhythm” of the elements place in order.  No interruptions that I can see.

“…bring an offering and come into His courts”  (verse 8 b.).

The OFFERING was given after the glory was given to His name–the BLESSING then the GLORY.

The Placement of “things we do” is Important on Sunday’s –

Although our singing can and should be the beginning to PRAISE–but it will not produce WORSHIP.  And isn’t that what we are to suppose to be here for?  The MESSAGE is important, but is it the point of our attendance?

John MacArthur gives this helpful clarification (on qty.org. “Messiah: The Living Water,” part 2):

“Worship, by the way is not music.  Worship is loving God…Worship is honoring God…Worship is to know God for who He is, adoring Him, obeying Him, proclaiming Him as a way of life.  Music is one way we can express that adoration.”

After all that is said concerning the answers to the question, “Why Do We Do the Things We Do…?”, I had to ask a follow-up question…“How much cultural freedom has been substituted for TRUE WORSHIP in our church services?”

Almost every Sunday morning after singing praises to my God, there is a sense of infilling of the Holy Spirit, a continuance of PRAISE so that I can fully WORSHIP HIM.

This is probably a poor analogy, but it is like God’s Spirit has inflated [“infilled”] my spirit with His breath, like the filling up of a balloon.

Balloon-blowup

And then, STAND, MEET & GREET time begins, and afterwards…I feel like a deflated piece of latex.

deflated-balloon-628x363-628x330

Is what we do, when we do it, a PRIORITY on Sunday mornings? The more important question becomes, “Is what we’re doing, worshipping in spirit and truth?

If your answer is “yes,” then forget all that I’ve said.  If your answer is “no,” then it’s time perhaps, to change the order, the placement of traditions on Sunday mornings, or whenever you are in WORSHIP & PRAISE.


 PHOTO CREDITS:

Hand shake–Christian Post photo insert by Thom Rainer.

Other Photos by Google Search Images [Balloon images].

BIBLE CREDITS:

As noted– New International Version (NIV), King James version (KJV).

“This Isn’t Another MESSAGE On ‘GIVING’ Is It?”

1 Chronicles 29:9 (KJV):

“Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD; and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.”

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ONE MOTHER’S TEACHING ON GIVING–

It was officially Mother’s Day on May 10th, 2015 and I thought, what better way of starting the conversation, but from a story regarding a mother’s teaching on GIVING:

A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson.  She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church.

“Put whichever one you want in the offering basket and keep the other yourself,” she told the little girl.

When leaving thee church that morning, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given.

“Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the offering, the mn in the pulpit said, we should all be cheerful givers.  I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter…so I did.”

The mother may not have agreed with her daughter’s reasoning, but at the heart of the matter is the fact–the daughter gave in the way she believed.

True of all Christians–we give as we believe. 

In 1 Chronicles 29, DAVID led the people to BELIEVE in what they are given to.

David believed God deserved a TEMPLE.  At first, God would not let him build it because as 1 Chronicles 28:2-3 tells us,

DAVID wasn’t the type of man God wanted to have building the Temple.  BUT DAVID still believed the Temple for God needed building.

And so, in 1 Chronicles 29:2, David dedicated his own wealth to the project.

DAVID’S VISION IS INFECTIOUS (verse 6):

The leaders of the assembly dedicated money for the Temple.  And then (vs. 9), “the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with a whole and blameless heart they had offered freely to the Lord.  King David also rejoiced greatly.”

“the people REJOICED because”…

The Hebrew word here for “rejoice” or “rejoiced” is ‘samach’ [Strong’s Concordance #8055]: “Samach usually refers to a spontaneous emotion or extreme happiness which is expressed in some visible and/or external manner. It does not normally represent an abiding state of well-being or feeling.”  (See Footnote [i] ).

WOW! Rejoicing after giving.  What a concept and one that I surely need to give more attention to.  Remember, the people giving their offerings in 1 Chronicles 29 are giving willingly with a “whole and blameless heart.”

And they gave and they built because they believed in a VISION.

 The “What’s Happening Now Church?”

Flip Wilson was a popular comedian several years ago and one of his characters was a Preacher.  Flip did a skit once that I watched on television, where he told about this preacher.  He’d shout out:

“IF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO SERVE GO IT’S GOT TO GET DOWN ON IT’S KNEES AND CRAWL!!!

And the audience yelled back,  “Make it crawl preacher, male it crawl!”

“AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO CRAWL, IT’S GOT TO GET UP ON IT’S FEET AND WALK!!!”

“Make it walk preacher, make it walk,”  the audience moaned.

“AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO WALK, ITS GOT TO BEGIN TO LEARN TO RUN!!!”

“Make it run, preacher, make it run!”

“AND IN ORDER TO RUN, ITS GOT YO REACH DOWN INTO POCKETS AND LEARN TO GIVE!!!”

(pause)  “Make it crawl preacher, make it crawl.”

A CHURCH CAN’T GROW IF IT DOESN’T GIVE.

And if our churches don’t give…it’ll crawl.

Inspiring People to Give–

Now when DAVID wanted to inspire people in their giving–he set the example.  He said–this is what I’m giving.  Then the leaders in the congregation stood up and set the EXAMPLE, the pattern for GIVING.

“TITHING” versus “FREE WILL OFFERING”:

In setting up the scene in 1 Chronicles 29, overlooking the “free will offering” principles would be detrimental to the whole MESSAGE on stewardship today.

Is there a difference between TITHING and OFFERINGS?

TITHING is giving GOD the first tenth of ALL your increase.  

In the Old Testament, most tithes were given from produce or herd.  But in modern times we tithe with MONEY since most of our increase is financial.

In the O.T. there were different types of tithes and different types of offerings.  TITHES were required giving according to the Mosaic Law, where OFFERINGS were voluntary.

Here in 1 Chronicles 29, the free will offerings given didn’t replace their tithes.  Their giving was above and beyond the Law of “10%”.

God trusted us with what is His in the first place:

He trusts us with an INCREASE–lets us have 90% of it–but places a 10%–the “sacred portion” aside (Deuteronomy 26:13; Numbers 18:28) which we are to tithe back to Him.  

This “sacred portion” is entrusted to us and we return it to Him.

TITHING TEACHES US Redemption–

The TITHE is the first tenth, the FIRST FRUIT of our increase.

Christ was God’s FIRST FRUIT.

When God gave to us His only Son to die on the cross for our sin, He REDEEMED us from the curse of the Law.  And when we give our TITHE, we are worshipping God by recognizing His REDEMPTION.

So then, we should recognize that through JESUS, we are redeemed and in turn God redeems and blesses the 90% that is our portion.

I remember after my wife and I were saved, our preacher gave a sermon on TITHING as many preachers try to fit in once a year, at least.  Afterwords, we both admitted to one another that “tithing” was out of the question.  We were overwhelmed at the time with debt and other obligations of a young family; we could tithe 10%!  But then, the Spiritual Light Bulb came on! God’s Word had penetrated our spirit, and we decided to be faithful and to trust God for the results.  We’ve been BLESSED ever since.

Is today’s Church suppose to adhere to the “giving principles” of the Old Testament?

Many people believe that today’s church should not follow the practice of TITHING–it was in the Old Testament–not mentioned in the New Testament except for reference.

But I say the LAW was given to help us see our need for redemption every time we tithe in honor and recognize our need for God and the amazing way He has blessed us and provided for us.

I think that many use the Gospel of Grace to free themselves from OBEDIENCE instead of discovering the GRACE OF GOD enables us to follow Him more passionately.

SO WHAT IS AN “OFFERING”, or generous giving?

1 Chronicles 29:6-8 (NASB):

[6] Then the rulers of the fathers’ households, and the princes of the tribes of Israel, and the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with the overseers over the king’s work, offered willingly;

[7] and for the service for the house of God they gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, and 10,000 talents of silver, and 18,000 talents of brass, and 100,000 talents of iron.

[8] And whoever possessed precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, in care of Jehiel the Gershonite.

[9] Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

OFFERINGS are something that you search your heart for (not your wallet), deciding to give beyond the tithe BUT NOT IN PLACE OF THE TITHE.

TITHES go to the local church but offerings are free for you to decide what to do with.  

Many people give OFFERINGS to their place of fellowship because they’re excited about what God is doing there and they know there’s a need.

Others use their OFFERINGS to support missions, a favorite radio or television preacher, maybe a local Christian para-church ministry.  ALL are great options as an OFFERING or GENEROUS GIVING.

Christian Maturity–

Christians mature (grow spiritually) as their FAITH grows in fiscal responsibility; in giving more and more generously to God’s kingdom through offerings that are over and above the TITHE.

Looking at a great verse where the Apostle Paul talks about offerings in his second letter to the church in Corinth:

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (AMP):

[6]  [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.

[7]  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].

[8]  And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

“GIVING” FOR A REASON:

Now hopefully, we don’t give to the “building project,” and we don’t give to the Pastor.  And as we see in 1 Chronicles 29, the people gave to God, to GLORIFY HIM, to build up His Kingdom.

If the attitude out there is “Yeah, sure we do”, then reread 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 one more time, or as many times as it takes, to give with a “blameless heart.”

Hopefully, you can give with a VISION; that God is going to do something special with your offerings because of your faithfulness.

It’s about BELIEF…

In 1 Chronicles 29, David says something about our believing (vss. 10-17).

IN DAVID’S PRAYER…HE PRAYED acknowledging that they were giving to the building of the Temple because… the believed God would supply.  The funds all came from God’s hands in the first place.  They were only using His bounty to build a place of worship for Him.

Other passages of the Bible speaks of this kind of BELIEF (1 Corinthians 9:6-11; Malachi 3:10-11).  

This is all in agreement with the powerful message given to us in Hebrews 11:6:  

“But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] BELIEVE that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].”

And so FAITH is important in all aspects of our Christian walk in Christ Jesus.  Especially in our giving.

TITHES & OFFERINGS:

Both our tithes and offerings (generous giving) should be a part of our lives as Believers–Christians. SO…

–GIVE “JOYFULLY” (1 CHRONICLES 29:9),

–GIVE THANKFULLY (1 CHRONICLES 29:10),

–AND EXCEL IN THE GRACE OF GIVING,

BUT NEVER FEEL PRESSURED TO GIVE!

It is NEVER about the amount you give, but about the JOY in your heart to give.

A song that almost every parent with small children have heard a million times and know the words by heart, is from the Disney movie, FROZEN – “LET IT GO”

Let me give you the words in the music lyrics that I thought might fit in perfectly to the message in our giving of tithes and offerings:

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

[TO GIVE]

set-it-free

 

 


 

Footnotes, Credits, and Commentaries:

Footnote [i]:  Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

Photos:

Google Search in 1 Chronicles 29 Images.

Bible References:

Amplified Bible except where Noted.

Commentaries:

ABC’s of Giving by Jeff Strite

Tithes vs Offerings by Patrick McCue

 

 

 

 

 

OUR “OFFERINGS”: The “Why’s” and “How’s” of Our Giving

4_cain-abel-sacrifices

Genesis 4:1-5  (N.L.T):

“[1] Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant.  When she gave birth to CAIN, she said “With the Lord’s help I have produced a man.”  [2] Later she gave birth to his brother and named him ABEL.

When they grew up, ABEL became a shepherd, while CAIN cultivated the ground.  [3] When it was time for the harvest, CAIN presented some of his crop as a gift to the Lord.  [4] ABEL also brought a gift–the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock.  The Lord accepted ABEL and his gift,  [5] but he did not accept CAIN and his gift.  This made CAIN very angry, and he looked dejected.” 

THE DIFFERENCES: Revealing the “habitude” of Giving:

Approaching and knowing God eventually determines our destiny in eternity.  In willingly accepting Him solely, the basis of FAITH in God’s provision through the shedding of blood by our Redeemer, God’s Lamb, we are spiritually of the heaven-born “seed of the woman” and restored to God’s presence in fellowship.

All that said, if a person continues down the path distorting and rejecting the Word of God–The Scripture–and relying on their own merits to earn salvation, they are interposing their own will in place of His, presuming to be as “gods”, knowing good and evil, consequently becoming the “serpents seed.”

TWO BROTHERS ATTITUDES ON DISPLAY:

I am an older brother by seven years.  Seven years is a big difference.  I remember how excited I was when my parents told me at 7, that I, was no longer going to be an “only child.”

There wasn’t graphic sonograms in the late 40’s, so the anticipation of a brother or sister didn’t come into play.  Although, I think I really wanted a baby sister (Sorry, Larry).  On ‘boy-child’ in the family would certainly enough for my parents to handle.

In growing up as “the older brother,”  and looking back on those formative years, there were FOUR THINGS that stood out in our relationship:

1.   We had very little in common.

2.  My parents let him get away with everything!

3.  We had very little in common.

4.  My parents let him get away with everything!

Okay, maybe I’m just a bit repugnant–but I think you get the point.

After I got married, had children and seemed to be struggling  with staying employed…at the same time, my brother was graduating from Seminary with a Master’s Degree, then later, a PhD.   Me, I was a college dropout, trying support s family and was “Mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore” -[ii] kind of attitude.

Although I’ve always been proud of what my brother has accomplished in life… I was always jealous, envious of the opportunities I thought was made accessible from mom and dad.  I felt somewhat cheated and wanted to scream out to everyone that would listen,  “Mom and dad always loved you best!.”

Cain and Abel–Biblical Names Had Meaning! 

Giving names to the newborns  today is much different from Biblical days.  NAMES in the Bible were significant in a variety of functions.

—  A Record of some aspects of a person’s birth.

—  Sometimes expressed the parents’ reaction to the birth of their child.

Biblical names could be also used to communicate God’s message.

Here’s a really interesting part I discovered while researching BIBLICAL NAMES GIVEN:  Names were often used to express the NATURE, FUNCTION of a person, to indicate a person’s PURPOSE in the world.  Now, that’s a lot of pressure put on a child; trying to live up to your parents expectations.

The greatest example of this type of naming is JESUS (Matthew 1:20-21)–the Savior of the world!

Adam and Eve Become Parents of Two Boys:

The name “Cain” means “gotten”, derived from Eve’s exclamation of joyful birth, even though the suffering associated with the childbirth was there…she also had seen God’s faithfulness in giving her a son.

The Younger Brother–

Perhaps Eve hoped her firstborn might be the promised Deliverer (Genesis 3:13), even though he was not in a specific biological sense, a “seed of the woman.”  In fact, he “was of that wicked one (1 John 3:12)–first in the long line of the Serpents seed.

“Abel” on the other hand, was in the household of faith and the very first mentioned in the long line of men of faith recorded in Hebrews 11, (see verse 4).  He is called “righteous” and a prophet (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:50, 51).  

The name “ABEL” means “vapor” or “vanity”, and suggests that, by the time of Abel’s birth, his mother had become thoroughly impressed with the impact of God’s curse on the word.  God had indeed made creation “subject to vanity”  (Romans 8:20).  I don’t recommend naming a child today, “Abel.”  You might just get what you ask for!

We also know from God’s word, the younger brother Abel, became a rancher.

Just a side-note before going on:  Man was not authorized until after the Flood to use animals for food (Genesis 1:29; 2:16; 3:19; 9:3).  Animal Skins, were used for a covering (Genesis 3:21) and not the “blood”.

God’s Choosing of What Is An Acceptable Offering:

God has but one standard.  He values everything based on His excellence.

When we think of the story of CAIN and ABEL, sometimes we picture the scene set forth like this:

*  Two men – brothers – Cain and Abel…

Cain's Offering
Cain’s Offering

*  Cain is a farmer;

*  Abel is a rancher;

*  Cain goes out to harvest his crops.

*  As he does, he puts together an offering to God.  Being the older brother, Cain had been giving offerings to the Lord for sometime.  It might have even become a “habit”.

*  Abel also puts together an offering to God

*  He picks out an animal and offers it to God

*  God looks at both offerings–Cain’s on the left, Abel’s on the right

*  After considering them both, He chooses Abel’s over Cain’s

*  It’s as if God is saying,  I’ll take “lamb” chops over “brussels sprouts and carrots.”

Abel's Offering
Abel’s Offering

THIS IS NOT THE SCENARIO HERE!

First, we are never told that the offerings were made together.  Each offering is made independently of the other.

In verse 3, we are told that Cain brought an “offering of the fruit of the ground.”

In verse 4, Abel also made an offering: “the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions”.  

Nowhere are we told in Scripture these offerings were made together–as if they are in “brotherly competition”.  We are simply told, they each made an offering.

God on His part considered each offering–

He didn’t make a comparison to each other–He considered each offering based on its own merit.

We see Jesus teaching His followers about giving offerings, “casting money into the treasury…throwing in large sums.”

ATTITUDE OF THE HEART in versus the ABUNDANCE of the wallet–

“And a widow who was poverty-stricken came and put in two copper mites [the smallest of coins], which together make half of a cent.

And He called His disciples and said to them,  Truly and surely I tell you, this widow poverty-stricken, has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury.

For they all threw in out of their abundance; but she, out of her deep poverty, has put in everything that she had–[even] all she had on which to live” (Mark 12:41-44 AMP).

CHOOSING WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE:

As God made His choice in accepting the OFFERING OF ABEL, and not the OFFERING OF CAIN in Genesis 4:4, 5, we see His conclusion:

[4]  Abel also brought a gift–the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock.  The Lord accepted Abel and his gift  [5] but He did not accept Cain and his gift.  This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

In studying this passage, I came to the understanding that God didn’t reject Cain’s offering because Abels’ was better, and He didn’t accept Abel’s offering because Cain’s was inferior.

Our “OFFERINGS” Viewed from God’s Perspective–

Maybe we can make some conclusions here–conclusions that certainly helped my investigation into God’s Word in how to offer better sacrifices  on Sundays or anytime–giving financially and in giving our worship!

Consider Cain’s Offering…

I think as parents, Adam and Eve might have been hoping God’s Word would be fulfilled with and in their “first-born son”:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring…

There was hope and optimism towards the “light at the end of the tunnel.”  They no doubt were certain that their first-born son would eventually crush Satan’s head.

It wasn’t long, however, that hope and optimism began to dwindle.

Disillusionment revealed..

By the time their 2nd son was born, calling him “Abel”–“Abel” by the way means; “emptiness”–life in the family began to change.  In my study, I found all this detail given, a great importance:  It tells us an awful lot about the person “Cain”.

What a disappointment he must have been to mom and dad in choosing the given names.  So much so, that when his little brother was born, they would say with regret,  OK no, not another worthless child.

Think about it for a minute:  They had hoped that their first child, be the “deliverer.”  Instead, their joy–their hope–in their first-born son would fulfill God’s promise–would be a person who became selfish, prideful and egocentric.  Cain’s every thought seemed to focus on his wants, his needs, his fulfillment.  Do you see the irony in the boy’s names they received?

CAIN, which means “of God,” turns out to be worthless.

ABEL, which means “worthless,” turns out to be the righteous one.

THE BROTHERS OFFERINGS:

It was never the CONTENT of the OFFERING at all that God rejected.  It was the person making the offering.

Notice the wording in Genesis 4:5:

“But He did not accept Cain and his gift…”

It wasn’t just the “offering” God rejected, but Cain himself.  It seems to me that Cain’s sacrifice was more of an attempt to appease God, than an act of FAITH & WORSHIP.

Christianity can sometimes be practiced today…

On Sunday mornings between 10:00 to noon.  A person goes to church every Sunday, hoping that this “sacrificial giving” appeases God…or their church.

Then, from noon of Sunday till 10:00 the next Sunday, live their lives the way they want.  No regard to a holy and just God.  Practicing all kinds of selfishness.

We are FILLED with ego and pride; live day-to-day filling our lives with things that offend our Lord.

We give bo regard to our neighbor, to the hurting, to the needy.

We have little time for devotions, prayer, and Bible study; about the only time we even remember God is when we specifically want something.

God spoke to me a few years ago on a Sunday morning, right before the musicians headed up to the stage-platform:  “Mel, what you do within these 4 walls every Sunday morning beginning at 10:30, is NOT CHRISTIANITY!” 

“IT’S WORSHIP…it’s our OFFERING TO GOD!”

God can only accept our WORSHIP on Sunday morning IF….

Our lives demonstrate our FAITH the rest of the week.

That’s where CAIN FAILED–and when he discovered his worship wasn’t acceptable to God, he became angry.

He comes to God with the OFFERING…God seeing that his HEART isn’t right…can’t accept it.  Cain, instead of repenting and changing his life, storms off angry, bitter, and jealous of his brother’s acceptance…”God always loved you best Abel” attitude.

Wrong Thinking Developed from an Unrighteous Heart Condition–

Cain says to himself:  If I get rid of my brother, no one else will know and God will have to accept me.  And his heart remains cold and unresponsive to God’s leading.

Looking at Abel’s Offering…why was God willing to accept the sacrifice?

I found the main reason, probably the only reason in Hebrews 11:4:  “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith…”

If there is but one word that makes a difference between these two offerings, this it:  FAITH.

By faith, Abel offered to God…he knew he couldn’t appease God.  Abel knew and understood that he needed God’s grace–it was God’s mercy, so he made an “OFFERING” that represented his hearts desire.  A DESIRE to follow the Lord with a broken and contrite heart.  ABEL, had sacrificed the “first-born” of his flock.

“But for CAIN and for his OFFERING He [God] had no regard”–

God regarded the person over the offering.  WHY?  Because of the brother’s hearts–not because of their offering.  I’ve grown to understand, WORSHIP is a matter of my HEART–not the matter of form.

Cain’s form was fine–nothing wrong with a “grain offering.”  He could make all of the sacrifices that he wanted to, but until his HEART CONDITION was right…he would never have a relationship with God.

CHURCH MEMBERSHIP TODAY:

Millions of people think GOD LOVES CHURCH ATTENDANCE.  They are leaders in their church and in their communities.  Teaching Sunday School, Nursery Workers, Singers on the church stage…hoping and praying all of this will make them acceptable to God.  That their GIFTS, GOOD DEEDS, TITHING REGULARLY…will “punch their ticket” to heaven.

That fact is, God has already been appeased…

Jesus Christ bought and paid for our SALVATION on the Cross of Calvary.

Our Response?  It must be the same as Abel’s.  The only way we can have RELATIONSHIP with God is through FAITH.  

What is FAITH?  

Most of us understand FAITH to mean–“trust” or “believe” and these are good definitions.  In fact, if you think about it, EVERYBODY has some kind of faith in their lives:

—  Some trust in their own deeds – believing like Cain;  “I can do the right things”

—  Some believe there is no God – a stupid kind of faith, but “faith” never the less.

—  Some trust and believe in Jesus!

They are the ones, the believers in Jesus, who have a relationship with God.

Why was God pleased with Abe’s offering and not Cain’s?  Because God was pleased with Abel and not Cain.

So it doesn’t matter what you SACRIFICE for God, if your heart is not right with Him,  He cannot and will not accept your offerings.  God doesn’t need your money put in the offering basket every Sunday…He wants your HEART first of all!

An Acceptable Offering
An Acceptable Offering

However, if you have received JESUS CHRIST as your Lord and Savior, your OFFERING…your SACRIFICE OF WORSHIP will be a pleasing aroma before the Lord.

 

Footnote:  [1]  Line from the movie “Network”.

Photos: by Photo Pin