For various reasons, I am going to refrain from blogging for the foreseeable future. I would like to thank those who have followed this blog for all the thoughtful and encouraging comments and wish you all well.
An insightful review of Steven Furtick’s popular book, Sun Stand Still is to be found here.
When God Does Not Show Up A quick thought or two on this post: One one hand, a difficult antidote to that shallow and narcissistic Best Life Now and Sun Stand Still entitlement mentality…..On the other hand, an honest confession of spiritual struggle, of those dark seasons of the soul.
While leaning to a more amilliennial escatology, I found this post, 4 Honest Questions About the Millennial Kingdom thought-provoking.
An informative and interesting article on tithing. Are You Tithing
Satan seeks to draw the soul into sin by presenting the sufferings that daily attend those who walk in holiness. But all the afflictions that attend the people of God turn out to their profit and glorious advantage. Afflictions are a looking glass that show the ugly face of sin. They are God’s furnace to cleanse and preserve His people. Saints thrive most internally when they are most afflicted. Manasseh’s chain was more profitable to him than his crown. Luther could not understand some Scriptures until he was in affliction. God’s house of correction is his school of instruction. Afflictions lift up the soul to a fuller enjoyment of God, and more sweet and full enjoyment of his blessed self. They keep the heart humble and tender, and by experience saints find that they can embrace the cross as others do the world’s crown. Afflictions inflame love that is cold, quicken decaying faith, and put life into withering hope. The more the saints are beaten with the hammer of affliction, the more they trumpet God’s praises.
Adversities abate the loveliness of the world that entices us and the lusts that incite us. They afflict, but never harm. They are momentary; sorrow may abide for a night, but joy comes in the morning. This short storm will end in an everlasting calm. We must measure afflictions by their outcome, not how they hurt. The misery that attends wickedness is far greater. O the gnawing of conscience that attends wickedness! There is no peace for the wicked. There are snares in their mercies and curses attend their comforts. What is a fine suit of clothes with the plague? What is golden cup with poison? What is a silk stocking on a broken leg? Ah the horrors and terrors, the tremblings that attend their souls! (from Voices from the Past, p. 288)
(addendum12/8/11 – the thoughts below are directed more towards those who preach that the Christian or his or her finances are cursed if they do not give their church a tithe (Robert Morris, Perry Noble, sundry IFBers, etc). While I personally do not believe that tithing is required in the new covenant, I certainly do not disparage those who disagree and tithe out of love of God)
Let me offer as a prologue to this essay a bit of text from the Epistle to the Galatians.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Last Sunday, I made my third visit to a local church, one where I had previously enjoyed grace-centric preaching. However, what I heard on November 13 was not far removed from what I have heard so many times at the local mega-church. What I heard was proof-texting of Biblical text. What I am struck by is the massive lack of distinction between the Law and the Gospel offered freely to those not under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Law. When I hear tithing positively preached, I hear an attempt, ultimately doomed to failure, to mix oil and water; I see Moses dressed in a Jesus suit.
Among the oft-repeated rebuttals to grace givers, one heard in the aforementioned sermon, is that you should look to ten percent of the gross income as a starting point in ones giving. Now, when I hear silly distinctions being made between giving off the net or gross, of using the Law as a starting point of obedience, my mind immediately connects such to the well-intentioned but damning attitude of the first century religious elite of 2nd temple Judaism putting up extra-Biblical barriers around the Law so as to protect people from breaking the Law. Jesus was harsh in His rhetoric to those people.
As said in previous articles, the topic of tithing is not so much about financial stewardship or generosity, but absolutely about Romans 8:1, ‘There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” If you are in Christ, neither you nor your finances are cursed by lack of adherence to the Law of Moses. To assert such is to preach, as Paul affirms in the book of Galatians, another gospel.
If not by the tithe, then how should the redeemed give? By grace, as the Spirit leads the regenerate. To whom should we give? First, to those in the church who are in need. Second, to the true teachers and preachers for they are worthy of double honor. Third, charitably to those in the world. How much should we give? We should give sacrificially. We should also be content with what we have, not coveting the newest, latest, biggest, and best, being on guard because our hearts are idol factories. Too, sacrificial giving for one may be two percent, while another may be able to give 90 percent without sacrifice. Jesus cares more about the attitude of your heart rather than the percent of income given.
You know what? Each and every one of us in the church will fail to live up to the aforementioned standards to some degree. Left to my own devices, I will covet the next digital hand-held device though I do not need it. You will covet a newer, better automobile even though what you own is serviceable. There is grace through Christ for us as we struggle, sometimes failing, against the competing gods in our hearts, for there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. It is by grace that those idols will be torn down.
I will conclude with a short and far from exhaustive rebuttal to some common arguments regarding the tithe:
1. The tithe predates the Law. So does circumcision and animal sacrifice. Do you suggest a return to these types and shadows, also? Those who assert that the tithe is relevant for the church also mention Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20. Understand this is a tithe off the spoils of war, other peoples property. It was a unique event.
2. Jesus seems to affirm tithing in Matthew 23:23. Jesus is speaking prior to His crucifixion and resurrection to those still under the Law. Too, is this text more about the lack of mercy and justice on the part of the Pharisees?
3. The first ten percent is holy to the Lord. All that you think, do, give, earn, all that you are, should be holy and Christ-honoring. You were purchased at great price; you do not belong to yourself, but you are a bond-servant to Christ. You don’t get a pass for the remaining 90 percent. Also, there were three tithes in the Old Testament, not just one, totaling 23.3 percent. (One tithe was performed every third year). Too, in a culture that had and used money, tithing was rarely money. Some might find Deuteronomy 14:22-26 interesting as to how the tithe was sometimes used, especially those who think all should abstain from alcohol.
English Standard Version (ESV)
“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
Recall, too, the Jerusalem council in the Book of Acts, chapter 15 in which it was determined what parts of the Old Testament law converted Gentiles would be required to obey. Tithing is not mentioned.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. ” – Gal 2:21
If you give ten percent out of love for God, God bless you. If you give 10 percent because you think the Law requires it of you, think carefully about the Gospel and your understanding of it. You may be placing yourself under a curse by adding to the Gospel.
(addendum 6/3/2012 – Also, remember that the poor did not tithe, that those who practiced certain occupations did not tithe, carpenters and fishermen, for example. Too, when someone desired to use money rather than bring the tithe to Jerusalem, God required a 20% penalty added. God discouraged the tithing of money (Lev. 27:30-34)
Planning on reading a Psalm a day. This is for today:
[Teach Me Your Paths]
[25:1] To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
 Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
 For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
 Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
(Psalm 25 ESV)
While listening to a Christian talk radio host, a pastor and political pundit, on the way home from work last week, I heard something quite disturbing. Among the many eyebrow lifting statements made was that God surrenders some of His sovereignty so that we may be free moral agents. While I agree that we are responsible for our actions, to say that God can surrender even a bit of His sovereignty is akin to saying that God can surrender a bit of His holiness, a bit of His omnipotence, that God is changeable. If true, God ceases to be immutable God and becomes an object not worthy of worship. We may as well be deists or open theists, and perhaps that is the unconscious and default attitude of much of the church in America.
The effect of this errant theology, if embraced, is this: I cannot trust completely a God who is not absolutely sovereign over the created order, over His created moral agents. I cannot trust that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose if He allows created beings to thwart His plans. I lose any comfort and solace from God if I find myself suffering trial and tribulation if God is not sovereign, who is, as the saccharine sentiment goes, ‘too much a gentleman to intrude on our ‘free’ will’. I could entertain such a god when life goes well, when all I need is a god who acts to enhance an already nice life with motivational platitudes, but such a god who is even able to surrender even the smallest quantum of his sovereignty could not possibly be a mighty fortress in times of trouble. I need to know that God is in control even when immediate circumstances seem otherwise.
What amazes me is that so many cling to some notion of a ‘free will’ that God respects so much that He will not act against it when the Biblical witness is diametrically opposed to such a sentiment. Biblically, the unregenerate are not free, but are slaves to their fallen nature. Apart from the grace of God, humanity is as free to choose the triune God as a zebra is free to change it’s stripes. Follows is but a small handful of Biblical proclamations on the nature of God’s sovereign rule over His creation that the aforementioned pastor/pundit would do well to dwell upon:
Ps. 103:19 His Sovereignty rules over all.
Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
Prov. 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
Ps. 135:6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in seas and in all deeps.
Pr. 16:4 The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Pr. 20:24 Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord; how then can man understand his way?
Pr. 21:1 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes
Jn. 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.
Acts 13:48 And as many as had been appointed [ordained] to eternal life believed.
I know You are the Sovereign over the universe. Lord, your breathed life into every living thing. You spoke the worlds into existence, and You hold everything together by Your might, everything from the most vast and distant galaxy to the smallest sub-atomic particle. There is no created thing, no matter how large or insignificantly small, that strays from Your meticulous control.
Not only are You immeasurably, infinitely mighty, You are infinitely good. I confess I sometimes forget Your character when I undergo trial. I forget sometimes that You are God, my God. I am thankful You are aware of my infirmities, failures, and sins, that You know my foolish doubts, yet You love me anyway. I thank you Lord, that you adopted me in spite of You knowing my frame. I am no prize that You should choose me, there is no good of my own in me. I do not deserve Your mercy, yet You extend grace to me. You draw me toward repentance. You lovingly break me, discipline me, that You may remake me, teach me. Teach me to love You more deeply and trust You more completely, to love my neighbor, to love the unlovely just as You love me.
In the name of the Messiah, Jesus,