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Archive for the ‘Kingdom Economics’ Category

Well, I am about to break the one steadfast rule I’ve had on this blog since the beginning.  I don’t ask for money.  I fund this ministry/website out of my own pocket and try to avoid arguments that I am selling out or support tithing because tithes support me.  But I am in a quandary.  Not one that affects the site – yet – but one that affects me personally.

As my loyal readers know, I was in the middle of a messy divorce a little while back that cost me the rental property my ex and I operated because she refused to pay the mortgage or give me the rental income to do so.  Now the  final property-related nail is coming as a result of her bankruptcy and foolishness.  I am about to be foreclosed on by my bank for the house that I am currently living in.  Now, I did my best to pay the mortgage, but unfortunately, circumstances got the better of me.  Over the last 2 years, I’ve lost a number of my sources of income as the economy kept sliding and government and tourism-related industries kept cutting back.

Despite being willing to do just about anything and humbling myself, applying for literally hundreds of jobs, I am still jobless, my income is steadily decreasing and I am barely making ends meet.  Unfortunately, the mortgage was one of those things that just didn’t get taken care of in a timely basis and now the bank has called their note due.

When I was first served, I went through my affirmative defenses – one of which being that my ex-wife signed a quit claim deed, divesting herself of this house.  To date, the bank has still not recognized it and her name appears prominently on the foreclosure papers, myself, who continued to pay the mortgage long after she stopped, is relegated to a secondary defendant.  My biggest defense was that the bank had refused to accept and properly credit some of my payments, holding the money, as a bank employee explained to me, “in limbo.”  The banks lawyers have responded to that claim and offered me two options, after adjusting for the money that was never credited ($500+, not counting the interest and fees that they didn’t credit me for).

My two options are this: pay approx. $212,000 to pay off the loan, or approx. $40,000 to cover the missed payments, interest, lawyer’s fees, etc. etc.)  And I have until 5pm on April 1st to deliver that payment to their offices in Fort Lauderdale.  Considering that I have just enough to cover my electric bill this month and am eating courtesy of Food Stamps, that is far outside my reach.

Praying for a miracle, it came to me that I might ask if people would be willing to help me out.  $40K is not really that much, in the big picture and even small donations would help whittle this down.  I am not sure if this insight came from the Lord or not.  I was praying when it occurred to me, but my only experiences with hearing God were both forgiveness-oriented, so I can’t really tell.  Usually, I get insights from the Holy Spirit where I suddenly understand or realize some deeper truth or concept and I don’t want to misrepresent my Lord.

I have committed that any money I receive from this will be paid back to the donor/patron, unless they specifically state for me not to, in which case, I will pay to help out others needs on their behalf.

Also, I would prefer to do something rather than just take donations.  As I said, every little bit helps and I do have some skills that I can apply that are of value.

I sell books, CD’s, DVD’s and toys on Amazon – my site is Books From A Rose and I have between 2400 and 2500 items currently up for sale.  If you’re looking for something, please take a moment and see if I have it.  If I don’t, I would also recommend some friends of mine that helped me get started in this enterprise, Pursel Books.  They sell a quite a number of items on Amazon and eBay and may very well have what you need.

I am a writer.  I spent almost 20 years in the local TV business, writing news, commercials and promotional spots.  You can see some of my TV work at www.YouTube.com/user/lonerangerone. I also have written some plays over the years and am currently working on a couple of screenplays.  I have done reviews for Title Trakk, and I was the Senior Editor for Television for Infuze Magazine, before we were closed down, working with novelist Robin Parrish and music producer & novelist Matt Bronlewee.  I used to write songs back in the day – one was even performed as part of my church’s worship service.

I shoot, produce and edit video.  Okay, I am an okay video shooter… Great if I have a tripod.  I am a great editor, though.  Having learned from some of the best and learned how things were done, “back in the day…” I can find a way to make just about any video look the way you envision.  I have shot VHS and BETA, DV, HD-DV, and 8mm.  I have edited on everything from AVID Media Composer (my favorite) to Media 100, Pinnacle VideoCube, Apple Final Cut, Speed Razor, Boris FX, New Tek Video Toaster, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere.  When I worked for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, I also did Forensic Video Processing and was a member of Law Enforcement Video Association (LEVA).

I design, build and maintain websites.  While I am still exploring much of this field and I cannot do killer Flash opens and whatnot, I am pretty decent and very affordable.  I use Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Fireworks.  My work is available at www.StarlightstudioProductions.com, www.FASN.net, www.MartyWisher.com, www.UFTAFlorida.com, www.FamilyofGod.us, and this site, www.FinancialFreedomThroughFaith.org.  I am familiar with WordPress themes, editing them and promoting them.

I am a pretty good actor and I am a partner with the production company Starlight Productions, we do celebrity impersonations, character work and Murder Mysteries.  We just finished our first feature length film, “Light.”  I am also the sitting President of United Film & Television Artists (UFTA) a non-profit that helps filmmakers and actors with support and promoting our area as a film location.

My other company, 13/30 Productions, does media and business promotion.  We provide newsletters, websites, press releases, social media marketing, etc., all to help small businesses get the word out about their product or service to their potential customers.  I try to apply all of my skills as a designer, writer, promoter and video producer to help my clients get their message out at an affordable price.  If you need a little more Internet-based solution, my girlfriend runs Small Business Development Group, specializing in Affordable Internet Marketing Solutions and Search Engine Optimization.

I am a pretty good speaker.  I used to teach when I worked in Financial Services and I gave a few lectures/presentations on Financial Freedom for Christians.  I have written and given a few sermons that I thought were pretty good.  They are posted on this site: What Would Luther Say?, The Waiting is the Easy Part, and eternal sunshine for the Transformed mind.

I have not given up on my vision for a financial non-profit company that would help people in the same need I am in.  That will come to pass one day.  That was from God and it is often those he humbles that have the strongest commitments.

If there’s any way I can help you or work I can do for you, please let me know.  I am a hard worker and willing to do what it takes.  I serve God and when I can man, and I do my very best.

I will update everyone when I return from Fort Lauderdale on April 1st.

If you feel led to make me an interest free loan or invest in one of my talents, you can contact me at lonerangerone@gmail.com.  If you feel like helping out the old fashioned way, my mailing address appears below also.  If you do not feel led, that’s really okay, I just ask that you pray for me, regardless.    Thank you in advance, and may God bless you richly.

Paul A. Rose, Jr.


Mailing Address:

Paul A. Rose, Jr.

PO Box 151443

Cape Coral, FL 33915

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Our friend Phil Cooke has just published an article on his site entitled, “How Confidence Can Change Everything in this Economy.”  He points out what economist Ben Stein (yes, he is much more than the teacher from Ferris Bueller) has said that many in our media and government seem to want to forget, that our financial system isn’t built on printing money or regulation, it’s built on confidence.

It’s a perception issue. When investors feel confidence in the market, it soars.

Of all people, Christians should be the most confident, because even in the worst circumstances, our hope isn’t in money.

Take a moment to check out Phil’s article here, then become an example of encouragement and TRUE hope in this time of economic distress.

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This past weekend I attended a Stewardship training conference for the Lutheran churches in the Florida-Bahamas Synod.  I am the worship leader and stewardship chair for my church, Family of God in Cape Coral, FL, and I went with my pastor and another member of the church to this 1 day conference, hoping to learn something.  Sadly, all I really learned was how far out of step many in the church are.

The day began with prayer – always a good thing – then Pastor Rita, the pastor that serves as the Bishop’s right hand, er, person, did a demonstration of how stewardship works.  If you’ve been around business a while, you’ve probably seen this particular object lesson before – I believe Stephen Covey was the first to use it many years ago.

Pastor Rita pulled out a glass food storage jar and asked folks what kind of minor bills they had to pay – electric, cable, entertainment, food, etc… Then she filled a good portion of the jar with unpopped popcorn.  Turning to larger expenses, she placed pieces of fruit in the jar to indicate our mortgage, car payments, insurances, and finally, with a large grapefruit, our offerings to God.  Of course, the grapefruit stuck out considerably and the point was made – put first things first.  Which was good, and I agree – I always remind people that your tithe is specifically mentioned as coming from your First Fruits.  In fact, back when I was struggling with money, but still wanted to make Christ a priority, I forced myself into a physical discipline to reflect the spiritual discipline.  At the time, I was using a modified version of the envelope system and I forced myself, when I cashed my paycheck, to immediately take out the 10% I wanted to give back to God, so that I was reinforcing, in my mind if no where else, the First Fruits concept.

But I noticed something odd when Pastor Rita reversed the process.  She first added the grapefruit (tithes), then the mortgage fruit, the car payments fruit (a lime), then the insurances, then poured the popcorn over, leaving, about 1-1/2 inches of empty space at the top.  “And that,” she declared, “is the best example I’ve ever seen of how steawardship works.”  Well, this immediately bothered me and I got distracted trying to figure out why.  Then it hit me – here we were, at a church function, surrounded by a few dozen pastors, and NO ONE had mentioned Kingdom Finances.

You see, Pastor Rita’s example was fine – in fact it was a great explanation for the Pareto Principle, espoused by John Maxwell.  However, other than the admonition to put our commitment to God first, it really didn’t illustrate at all the Kingdom Economic principles.  After much thought, I determined what I think is the best way she could have continued the existing example, but bring God into it more:

Place the jar inside a 2″ deep baking pan.  Then take a pitcher of water and pour it over the entire container, filling up the remaining space within the jar and spilling out over into the pan.  You see, when you place God first in your finances, He responds to that – because He wants to, because He loves us – by filing us up to overflowing – providing not only for our needs, but blessing us with an abundance so that we may bless others.  Later in the seminar, during a question and answer session, I brought that up.  I asked, “I know we’re struggling in many churches just to get people to tithe (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is ahead of the ballgame – 2.5% of their members tithe as opposed to the national average in all churches, 1.9%), but why are we not even discussing offerings – those gifts that go above the tithe?”

His response was sadly typical.  While he agreed with me that the tithe should be a floor, not a ceiling, he kind of danced around the fact that there was more of a fear mentality in the Lutheran church than one of looking to bless others – despite Martin Luther‘s personal stance on this issue.

Just to finish off, at the conclusion of the seminar, wherein they handed out materials to all of the attendees that they told us to use in our churches, I noticed that absolutely nothing had been said about teaching the children stewardship.  Maybe it’s just because we are in Florida, often joked about as “God’s waiting room,” but I thought it odd that we were not encouraged to teach our children stewardship, tithing and giving.  When I inquired, I was told that I could request materials via e-mail from the speaker and he would be happy to send them to me, yet no mention was made of this to the larger group.  Which wouldn’t be as big a deal if they hadn’t interrupted our discussion just a few minutes before to explain how to handle snowbirds & part-time residents.  Apparently, they are more important to this church than raising up their children (as few as they are) in the proper Christian beliefs and faith.

On a somewhat related, but different note, an interesting thing has been happening in my area of Southwest Florida recently.  A few short weeks ago, one of our officers at the Fort Myers Police Department was shot in the line of duty.  While I had only met Andy once, I have known his wife and her family for the better part of 25 years.  As part of the community coming together, a number of officers from all of our local police agencies volunteered to stand outside of various shopping centers and Wal-Marts, collecting donations for the family, who has three very young children.  The donations collected (and still being collected in some instances) amounted to well over $100,000.

Recently, some folks have expressed some confusion over why this family was singled out and received such a huge outpouring of community support.  Now, as a friend of the family and former law enforcement officer, I have my own strongly held personal opinions about why the Widman family should be blessed in this way (not to mention Andy took the job to raise money so he and Susanna could go overseas as missionaries), but the detractors raise an interesting point – one they seem willing to back up.  And in that I support them.  They rightly ask, “Where is all of the money for other widows, where is the community support,”  and they are making a lot of noise about starting a fund for those other widows, to which I respond, ABSOLUTELY.  And while you’re at it, let’s take care of the orphans as well.  I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible…

Dueteronomy 10:17-18 “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.”

In fact, the book of Deuteronomy is replete with admonitions to leave behind a portion of your crops, for the fatherless and the widowed.  Twice in that book alone, the writer mentions that you should, “bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”

You may recall my article last year, “Why Social Security, Welfare & Medicare Don’t Work – And Never Will,” where I talked about how the church and its people have abdicated their responsibility to care for the least of these to various government programs.  While the almost universal response I got from the people who read the article can be summed up in, “Well, that’s a nice thought, but it’ll never work,” its nice to see that some others – even those without a faith foundation to fall back on – are embracing the same principles.  Now why can’t we get the church involved?

Maybe that’s just too much Jesus for them.  Maybe we should review the words of the great reformer, Martin Luther:

“There is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, between religious and secular, except for the sake of office and work, but not for the sake of status. They are all of the spiritual estate, all are truly priests, bishops, and popes. But they do not all have the same work to do.” – Martin Luther, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (1520)

Now get out there and change the world.

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Since I started doing this teaching blog a little while ago, I have gotten a variety of responses from the readers, some as comments, some as personal e-mails, both positive and negative in their feedback.  One subject that seems to spur more controversy and general angst than any other is the subject of tithing.

There are two basic points of view about tithing in churches, and I never realized the huge gulf between the two concepts – in part, because there isn’t one, just a manufactured controversy that results from too many assumptions about the other party, and secondly because of the high emotional context that many non-tithing (often also known as free-will offering) teachers operate from.

It’ll probably be easier to understand if I give you some examples.  Most of the arguments people have given me consist of a few similarities.  I’ll summarize.

The first is, “Christ established a new covenant with his followers, especially the gentiles, and we should no longer serve the old Jewish/Old Testament edicts.”

The second is, “Churches and pastors have browbeat people into giving.  The teaching on tithing has been abused to build up some church leader’s egos and for building projects and to take advantage of the poor who have less than the rich.”  This one’s usually preceded by the phrase, “I’m mad.”

Often times, these arguments are bolstered and exacerbated by the many assumptions that are prevalent in the arguments.

Tithing teachers and followers often assume that their free-will offering counterparts are using their beliefs as a crutch to give less or not at all, because they haven’t felt the Spirit move them.

Free-Will Offering teachers and followers assume that their tithing friends are legalistic, mean and teach that God doesn’t bless those who don’t give 10%.  They also assume that many tithers use the 10% as a crutch to only give the barest minimum of what they have been blessed with, and feeling smug and secure.

There are a variety of other less-prevalent arguments and assumptions, but the ones I have presented here cover a majority of what I’ve heard.  One notable exception was a gentleman who explained to me in depth why tithing was a remnant of the Mosaic law and that we are under a new covenant and not Jews and should not be bound by the Mosaic laws, then proceeded to tell me that he believed that his stance on Free-Will Offering was established in the book of Deuteronomy (I’ll pause and let the irony sink in).

I said that the controversy was manufactured and I want to explain that, because I don’t want to leave any misunderstandings out there.  I also don’t want anyone to think that I am stating that one group or another manufactured the controversy.  That is not true.  Unfortunately, there is another presence in our world that likes to create things, especially things that mock the true creation, and I believe he is the source of this manufactured controversy.

In First Timothy 2:14-17, Paul explains this: “…Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.  Their teaching will spread like gangrene.”

I believe this is what has happened here – Satan has gotten in and subtly manipulated us, using some pastor’s all-too human failings, pride and greed, to establish a controversy and an argument between two viable bodies of Christ for no apparent reason other than the controversy itself.

Now follow me here, because this is the question I have for my free-will offering friends who don’t believe in the tithe.  First, “Why not?”  But before you answer that question, let me offer my proposal for how we can resolve all of the conflict and come into a unity with regards to expressing our stewardship by giving to the Lord. 

You see, once I understood the basic principles of Spirit-led free-will offering, the answer became obvious to me. 

First, we do not deny the tithe – it is a Biblically-expressed spiritual principle, tied to God’s spiritual laws.  However, the tithe is just a starting point.  As we mature and grow in our understanding and knowledge of Jesus Christ and how His kingdom economics work, we follow the Spirit’s leading (which we can hear and discern better now) and increase our giving, our free-will offering, as we are led.

Think of the tithe as the spiritual milk that babies eat and the free-will offering as the spiritual meat that adults transition to.  The two don’t have to be at odds with one another – it makes sense, spiritually, that they should compliment each other.  We are blessed by God, in part, due to the way we handle money, and giving new Christians a standard to judge themselves by only makes sense.

Through all of my praying and preparing for writing this, I have sought God’s wisdom in this matter, and through His divine intelligence, He has given me a phrase that I think just might revolutionize the way tithing is taught and understood by most of the church.

The phrase is this: “Tithing is not legalistic, it is opportunistic.”

Now, I’m not going to argue with the people who take offense that a spiritual concept might be ‘opportunistic.’  God is a God of opportunity – after all, it is He who gives us the ability to create wealth, so why would He then deny us that opportunity.  If you don’t agree, then you might as well head over to ChristaNet or Yahoo or whatever, cause this won’t make sense to you.

Instead, I’m going to explain why the tithe is opportunistic.

You see, I believe that there are three levels of blessing that God engages in.  The first is general blessing.  We all get the benefits of that, by the very fact that we live on the earth He created.  Jesus explains that in Matthew 5: “your Father in heaven… causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The second blessing is a believer’s blessing, which is similar to the blessing the Jewish people still hold.  Paul explains in Galatians 3:

“Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.  The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.  What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.  A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Paul even points out earlier in the chapter, that those who rely on observing the law are cursed.  I repeat that the Biblical tithe is not legalistic – otherwise, it would go against God’s promises.

Finally, the third blessing that God bestows is the blessing of obedience.  You see, we’re given free will.  Anyone can do anything he likes or doesn’t like.  God does not make a distinction.  Further, we can follow or turn away and we can be obedient or disobedient to God.  However, I don’t believe that God punishes us for that – not in the way that the world thinks, anyway.  God is not sitting up in heaven with a giant SMITE button on His captain’s chair, waiting for us to screw up so that He can take away our blessings.  No, the beauty of it is, being our Creator, He understands how we work, and knows that the consequences of our actions or inactions will be sufficient in most cases.  This is especially true of those who have believed in Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and ruling still.  But by that same token, those of us who are saved by faith, should also respond to that gift with love and obedience.  In fact, we have a higher responsibility, by nature of the gift we have been given.  Again, we could chose to ignore that responsibility and devalue that gift, but where would that leave us?

You see, the tithe is not legalistic – and God does not punish or penalize us for not following the tithe.  At the same time, He does not withhold His blessings from us, if we don’t tithe – and this is the most important thing – WE withhold those blessings from ourselves!

God is standing there, willing, able and longing, YES, LONGING, to bless us with more financial wealth, more relationship wealth and more spiritual wealth and power, but He chooses to follow the rules He himself has set up, because He knows His creation.

Luke 16: 9-11 – “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

I Peter 1: 14-15 – “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;”

Why does God long to bless us financially, spiritually and relationally?  Because His desire is that we bring about a change in our world – a movement that glorifies Him and draws many many more to His promises and truth of the Gospel.

Just one more thing I’d like to point out, for the people who still object to my teaching on tithes.  I am not a pastor (in the traditional sense), nor do I represent a church.  I am a member of a church, and I have been a member of other churches.  At no point have I ever taught the tithe to raise money for myself or any church or ministry.  I teach the tithe, because I believe it is truly the way God wants us to behave, augmented by free-will offerings when the Spirit moves you.  No one should give out of obligation or fear and no one should ignore Biblical teaching because of someone else’s propensity for using the Word of God to elicit guilt or fear.  Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

As for this ministry/website/blog – everything here is paid for out of my own pocket.  When I do seminars, whether for churches or other organizations, I do not ask for any money.  I have been given money in the past, but not as a result of my request.  I don’t even have a button on here to support me voluntarily through PayPal or anything like that.  That said, I have posted a couple of flyers on the site that you can download to share with friends who are seeking Biblical teaching on finances. 

Dennis Peacocke, author of Doing Business God’s Way, points out that Paul often writes that we are given the resources necessary to fulfill our God-given calling.  In I Thessalonians 1:11-12, he writes, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.  We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 9 expresses it this way:

God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it,
   He throws caution to the winds,
      giving to the needy in reckless abandon.
   His right-living, right-giving ways
      never run out, never wear out.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!”

(The Message)

May God bless you as you prayerfully consider the words I have written here.  And may you find the level of giving you are able to handle and allow God to grow you spiritually, financially and relationally into His perfect creation.
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A few weeks ago, the articles here caught the attention of a gentleman who was struggling with what the church, historically has taught about tithing and he made several comments, which I used to establish a dialogue with him.  You can read the comments here. 

While I appreciated what he had to say, one of the things we continued to disagree on was whether or not the tithe was still applicable today as it was in Old Testament Biblical times.  One of the resources I did not have at the time, but have recently located, was this 4-part series by Australian minister Clive Pick on Kingdom Economics.

In the sermon reprint, I read the words that I wish I had been able to deliver to Mr. Lindsay, but had trouble expressing properly:

You don’t give the tithe you don’t sow the tithe, and the tithe is not an offering. The tithe is something you return. If you don’t return it, you are withholding it. Now that is the key the church needs to turn, because the tithe is the key to the release – not only of finances for the body of Christ, but also of the authority of the body of Christ.

You see, the tithe is not something we give back to God.  God has given us every good gift, including the means to earn a living and create sufficiency and even prosperity for ourselves.  For years, we’ve all been taught in churches that we give back to God in response to that gift.  But that teaching is slightly skewed, because it’s not ours to give.  In Malachi, God calls His people thieves when they do not “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…”

But the fact is, the charge is much stronger.  God says that we are stealing because we are keeping what was never ours – withholding the tithe instead of releasing it.  Rather than being good stewards, we’re pilfering from our Lord and Redeemer – essentially biting the hand that feeds us, and then wondering why His blessings aren’t flowing down from on high onto us. 

10prayers.jpgIn his recent book, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, Anthony DeStefano points out that there is something very significant about the way God addresses giving in Malachi 3.  In every other situation in the Bible, when God interacts with His people, we are warned not to test God. 

Exodus 17 – “Why do you put the LORD to the test?”

Numbers 14 – “not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times- not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”

Deuteronomy 6 – “Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.”

Psalm 78 – “But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes. Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols.When God heard them, He was very angry; He rejected Israel completely.”

Psalm 95 – “…do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.  For forty years I was angry with that generation;  I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’  So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

Isaiah 7 – “Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.’”

Matthew 4 – “Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’”

Luke 4 – “Jesus answered, ‘It says: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’”

Acts 5 – “Peter said to her, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’  At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.  Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.”

Acts 15 – “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?

I Corinthians 10 – “We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes.”

Hebrews 3 – “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.  That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, “Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.”  So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.”’”

But the terms are radically reversed in Malachi 3:8-12, where God actually challenges us to “’Test me in this… and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

If God chose this one area to allow His people to test Him, does that not place an even higher amount of importance on tithing?  Yet so many people choose to ignore the teachings, dispute their validity and argue that since some pastors in the church abused their authority in respect to the tithe, then we should ignore this particular spiritual discipline.  That makes about as much sense as saying that we should ignore the teachings on adultery and fornication because some pastors and priests twisted them to serve their own aberrant and perverted desires.

We see a lot of people out there who claim that God has called them into ministry, yet they live in poverty.  Now, I’m not saying that they’re living below their means or getting by with less – we could all bear to do some of that.  I am talking about people who, in the course of their ministry, significantly struggle financially day to day, living offering to offering, leaving bills unpaid or relying on government subsidies to make ends meet.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the problem is two-fold.  First, the people of God should be giving more to all ministries.  In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, if the church members actually tithed, we would have more money than we could spend.  But, a little more controversially, if God is not meeting your needs, then perhaps you need to reevaluate your “call” to ministry. 

Bear with me while I explain.  It is a fact that God pays for what He orders.  And I’m not talking about having a few weeks or even months shy of the full amount necessary.  That, in fact, may be God testing your faith and building your financial spiritual maturity – stripping away those things that really don’t matter so you can clearly see what does.  But, if you are consistently, month in and month out, year after year unable to pay your bills, feed your family and maintain your home, I think you might have misunderstood what God was saying to you, because He would never speak a word that is in conflict with His written word.  That is why we are told in I John to test the spirits and in 2 Corinthians to test ourselves.

One other thing I’d like to point out about giving and receiving, sowing and reaping.  In Acts 5, we see the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  I’ve even quoted a portion of it above, but let me bring the whole passage out right now:

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.  With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.   Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?  Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.  Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
      “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

I want to discuss this passage for a moment, because so much has been written about the New Testament vision for tithing, based on this incident in the early church.

 Reformed theologian John Calvin points out that when Malachi is addressing the house of Israel, the reason he employs the phrase, “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” is because the Jews were bringing as little as they could get away with in – most of the time only half of the tithe – but at the same time, pretending that they were serving God by bringing anything at all, and those who gave half were elevating themselves to positions of high honor because they were giving the most.  In Calvin’s language, they were trifling with God, performing their “duties” in such a way that the others would not see their perfidy.  Perfidy is the act of violating faith or allegiance; violation of a promise or vow; faithlessness; treachery.  So what Calvin is saying is that the children of Israel were stealing from God by not returning the first fruits portion of their blessings to Him and they were making it worse by lying about it – trying to make themselves appear more holy, and in the process mocking God.

Sound familiar?  Why are Ananias and Sapphira struck down?  It’s not because they kept part of the money for themselves.  Peter makes it clear that they were entitled to the money – even all of the money, if they’d so chosen.  The reason they are struck dead and made an example of is because they deliberately lied to the Apostles and to God by claiming they were bringing the entire amount for God’s use when in fact they had kept a portion for themselves.  And Sapphira compounds their sin by outright lying to Peter when asked directly if the money they brought was the full amount.  Again, it’s not that they didn’t being the full amount, its that they lied about it to make themselves seem more holy.

John Calvin’s words echo from when he wrote them in the Middle Ages and still ring true today: “…it is no new or unusual thing for men to pretend to do the duties they owe to God, and at the same time to take away from him what is his own, and to transfer it to themselves, and that manifestly, so that their impiety is evident, though it be covered by the veil of dissimulation (hiding the truth).” Calvin goes on to note that God offers the challenge to test himself to dispel the malicious and slanderous things some of the Israelites were saying about God – claiming God was not consistent, because He had, by His own spiritual law, withheld His blessings from the people.

But God’s words are not just for the Israelites in Malachi’s time, or for the disciples and apostles of the early church.  Are you suffering because you feel God’s blessings have been withheld from you?  While there could be many reasons why God is withholding His blessing, the most prevalent and powerful in our world today is due to people’s hearts being hardened against giving God the first fruits.  Or to use the more appropriate language, by being greedy or overly concerned with money – FOR WHATEVER REASON – they are either unwilling or afraid to release back to God some of His blessings; withholding the appropriate response of money, time or talent – and keeping themselves from receiving the greater blessings God wishes to bestow upon them.

Calvin goes on to point out that our disobedience hurts everything. It hurts God by breaking our relationship with Him. It hurts us by keeping us from God’s blessings and breaking His relationship with us. And it hurts even the earth itself, which yearns, as Paul writes, for the release of what they were created to be – a source of blessing for God’s people.  

There is a lot of talk right now about The Secret – the “Law of Attraction,” that draws all good things to the people who can direct the universe’s formless stuff with their mental powers.  The true secret is that God has created the earth to serve us, but when sin broke the world, the rules changed.  The creation still wants to serve God’s children, but we must be obedient to God’s spiritual laws to allow even the very earth to share its wealth with us.

Calvin even suggests that when God tells Malachi that he will “open the floodgates of heaven,” or “open you the windows of heaven” (KJV) and pour out a blessing – He is talking about supplying the rain that allows crops to grow – then preventing the pests/devourers and preserving the fruit on the vine until it can be picked.

Interestingly enough, at the end of the chapter, God explains what will happen when His people return to obeying His laws: “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” (emphasis mine)

Test God. I’m seriously asking. Until we see that the tithe, as well as God’s other financial principles and spiritual laws lead to a much more prosperous and happy life than anything we can create under our own power, we will never witness the true power of God. And many more souls will be lost, because we refused to obey God’s laws and supply a conduit for His blessings and salvation for ALL people. Don’t you owe it to your family and friends to try? I guarantee you, God will answer.

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Pastor Gary Keesee talks to Sid Roth about his struggle with debt and how he came to apply Kingdom Economics to his family life, resolving their financial struggles and leading to a ministry that now helps other families do the same.

Okay, apparently I can’t get the video to embed, so here’s a link on Google Videos.

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