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Archive for the ‘robbery’ Category

While I’m never really one for government regulation (yes, I’m a Reagan conservative), I have to praise the President for his recent legislation forcing more transparency from the credit card companies.

I want to be clear about this:  Credit card companies provide a valuable service; we don’t begrudge them turning a profit.  We just want to make sure that they do so while upholding basic standards of fairness, transparency, and accountability.  Just as we demand credit card users to act responsibly, we demand that credit card companies act responsibly, too.  And that’s not too much to ask.

obama_sc_04_01_2007-731285And that’s why, because of this new law, statements will be required to tell credit card holders how long it will take to pay off a balance and what it will cost in interest if they only make the minimum monthly payments.  We also put a stop to retroactive rate hikes that appear on a bill suddenly with no rhyme or reason.

Every card company will have to post its credit card agreements online, and we’ll monitor those agreements to see if new protections are needed.  Consumers will have more time to understand their statements as well:  Companies will have to mail them 21 days before payment is due, not 14.  And this law ends the practice of shifting payment dates.

Lastly, among many other provisions, there will be no more sudden charges — changes to terms and conditions.  We require at least 45 days notice if the credit card company is going to change terms and conditions.”

I would disagree with some of what President Obama said.  For starters, I think his ongoing domestic policy proves that he doesn’t “…demand credit card users to act responsibly,” and I am afraid to praise too liberally (pun intended) this new policy, as I am sure that there are some provisions that are not necessarily for the benefit of consumers.

Further, if you’re going to force some regulation, I would have liked to see a strengthening/tightening of the bankruptcy rules again.  Obviously, the most recent changes didn’t help as bankruptcies were on the rise even before we got into this time of “economic challenge.”

And I’m still waiting to see someone in Washington or the media start looking at our economic futures positively – there is a future, things will get better, but only if we stop wallowing and start telling people they can have hope – REAL hope.

Well, at least he’s not using the regulation as leverage to take over Mastercard, Visa & American Express… At least not YET.

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Carl Emerson, over at Freedom Analysis, posted an extremely insightful article on the “stimulus” debate that I wanted to share with my readers.  Regardless of your political leanings, this is something you need to consider…

The Kool-Aid is flowing in Washington, D.C.

Sadly, lawmakers are actually batting around the notion of passing what is currently being estimated as an $800 Billion “stimulus” package.

First let me say that if we actually had $800 Billion “in the bank,” as it were, my opinion on this might be different. But the fact of the matter is that we are talking about borrowing this money… on top of all of the money we’ve already borrowed.

And before you write off my opinion as somehow “partisan” or otherwise neatly in support of one “side” or the other in this debate, let me hit you with a bit of common sense:

You can’t borrow your way out of debt.

This is a lesson learned the hard way. I’ve tried it. Let me tell you… it simply doesn’t work.

A National Addiction

We — as a nation — are addicted to debt. And so far we — as a nation — have not felt the sting of it. Sure… many families have learned that excessive borrowing against an asset which varies in value can land you in foreclosure.  That stings.  But as a nation, we’ve not yet faced the painful consequences of all the borrowing that we have done.

This is precisely why we continue to debate this bill as though it were actually a plausible solution.

Once you realize that you have a harmful addiction, you must do any and everything in your power to end the addiction. No matter how painful it may seem (or actually be).

But we — as a nation — have decided that more of our destructive vice is preferable to detox.

The fact is that it used to be a shame to “mortgage the farm.” It meant that you had managed things poorly. It meant that you had not planned well enough for the future. It meant that you weren’t planning well enough for your heirs.

Granted, in an agricultural enterprise, there are years (and sometimes series of years) where drought or other conditions affect the crops and things go badly. But everyone knows this and it’s all the more reason why shrewd farmers plan for it by storing things up.

But our pattern of handing off responsibility every few years and electing leaders — at the national or state level, in all branches of government — who are more concerned about short-term results, their approval ratings and their “legacies” than they are about the real impact of their decisions has made it all too easy to dig ourselves deeper and deeper into this devastating hole.

And whether it’s been done ignorantly or with complicity, we the people have enslaved ourselves through the actions of these leaders.

It’s been done by Republicans and Democrats alike. It’s been done by Independents and others. It’s all too easy to simply borrow more than it is to address the real issues. And as anyone who treated their home equity like an ATM machine during the real estate boom years can tell you, it’s all fine and good until you can’t borrow anymore.

And then the pain of dealing with the real issues is far greater because of the multiplied impact of the debt.

As the ancient proverb says:

The borrower is servant to the lender.

We have enslaved ourselves. And most of us don’t even know it yet. We’ll realize it one day when we wake up with the sting and the scars of the whip extracting its “pound of flesh.” And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

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Yep, it’s a buyer’s market right now, and, thanks to my ex‘s failure to pay the mortgage, despite collecting the rent every month (from the Fort Myers Housing Authority – a HUD, section 8, Housing Choice Voucher Program, no less), the duplex is scheduled to be sold at the Lee County Justice Center, 1700 Monroe Street, Second Floor, Fort Myers, FL 33902, Monday, October 20, 2008, at 11:00am.  Of course, if I had the $17,000 we currently owe on the mortgage, I’d be fine.  But I don’t.  I barely have the $408 for filing the divorce papers she insisted in.

527 SE 6th Ave

527 SE 6th Ave

If you’re looking for a nice rental property at a cheap price, I would recommend making plans to be there.  We owe $208,000, plus or minus, and the current property appraiser‘s value is just under $140,000. When the market recovers, it’ll quickly climb back to the $215,000 or better.

It’s a nice little place, with, at the moment, still one renter.  It’s located at 527 SE 6th Ave, Cape Coral, FL 33990, close to schools, the Cape Coral Hospital, Police Headquarters, Fire Station 2, City Hall, Cape Coral’s Historical Museum and Cultural Park Theatre, and minutes away from Del Prado and Wal-Mart or Pine Island Road and Target.  Take a drive by, check it out and stop by the courthouse this Monday, around 11am.  Thanks!

Update: The duplex sold for a mere $35,000, to CitiMortgage, their only bidder.

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On September 29, 2008, I had one of my best days ever on this website.  In fact, I had the second highest hit count ever.  The next two days following also had similarly high hit counts.  Why?  Because of an article I wrote back in April of 2007, titled, “Wachovia Looking Forward to Screwing Customers, Shareholders.”  You can utilize the link to read the whole article, but the gist is this, Wachovia purchased a company known as Golden West Financial Corp, which specialized in “creative financing,” vaulting Wachovia to the #2 slot as an owner/servicer of such wonderful mortgages as Option ARMs and Income-Stated loans.  I went on to predict that 2-4 years from then, that Wachovia shareholders and customers would feel a serious pinch.  Well, depending on who you talk to, whether it was inevitable or was accelerated by the media’s need for ‘forced panic,’ my prediction was about 6 to 24 months off.

Let me be the first to say this, cause I haven’t noticed anyone else pointing it out yet.  The terrorists won.  Go figure.  Let’s step back a few years to September 11, 2001.  If you’ll recall, almost everyone who predicts such things was claiming that the terrorists who flew the planes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon were doing it, for a large part, in an attempt to destabilize the United States economy.  What they did instead was rally Americans to stand beside each other and re-created the sense of community that many citizens had lost.  In fact, due to Americans coming together, the economy actually rose significantly.  Yes, the stock market fell, predictably, but it recovered a lot faster than such events in the past and things seemed very rosy for the American public and the American dream.

Flash-forward seven years and the economy is doing just what the terrorists hoped it would, crumbling under the weight of Capitalist greed.  You see, regardless of which political side you stand on, it’s hard to deny that there is one thing that got us into this mess – greed.  From the family who wants to buy a home larger than they can afford, to the mortgage broker who gets them that mortgage, knowing they’ll probably end up in the hole, but happy with his commission check, to the banks who approved such loans, looking for larger paydays, to government regulators and so-called watchdogs who turned a blind eye to such practices, to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who bought the mortgages, knowing that they probably weren’t good investments, but assuring the investing public, that mortgage-based securities were the safest non-insured investments.

And now, we have an $811-Billion bailout package, approved by Congress and the President.  And no, I didn’t misquote that – pull out your calculator and do the math.  For that matter, who needs the bailout?  JP Morgan Chase had the wherewithal to purchase Washington Mutual, Citi grabbed Wachovia (or did they?) and Bank of America picked up Merrill Lynch and Countrywide.

Personally, I am of the opinion that this nation could use a revisit to the Great Depression reality check.  This bailout is not going to help in the long run, just delay things again a little more.  And if our legislators and Chief of State want to really help, they’d send the American public the money, in the form of individually-coded vouchers that they could only utilize to pay their mortgage or rent.  That way, the banks get bailed out, people get to keep their homes, and the economy has a chance of gently recovering.  Trust me, in the long run, the 11% interest they’ll charge the banks for the bailout cash won’t scratch the surface of the long-term effects of this action.

You may be wondering how even the Republicans can support this bailout.  The answer is easy.  You see, we don’t have a true Capitalist society here in the United States anymore.  We haven’t since – guess when – that’s right, the 1930’s, when our esteemed government tried to fix the last Great Depression.

You remember, when Congress and FDR passed “The New Deal” – various legislations creating Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the FDIC, extending mortgages past seven year terms, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (which pays farmers NOT to grow crops), and most importantly, the Banking Act of 1933 (the second Glass-Steagall Act), which paved the way for the elimination of the Gold Standard.

For the uninitiated, the Gold Standard states that gold is the standard of value for a country’s currency.  In other words, a hundred dollar bill could be redeemed for $100 worth of gold.  You may recall your grandparents talking about gold certificates or silver certificates – those are currency, which, by definition, still fall under the gold standard.  What is most important about the Gold Standard is that it defined the value of our money by “hard currency.”  Without that definition, our money is barely worth the paper it is printed on – as many folks are now learning.  Nixon sealed the deal back in August of 1971, completely eliminating the gold standard, which has not been used by any country since then.  Instead, we use a Fiat money system, which means that our money is intrinsically useless; it is merely a medium of exchange.

From FDR’s own inaugural speech,

Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

…there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

There must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments. There must be an end to speculation with other people’s money. And there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency…”

So all we have to fear is fear itself?  Did I mention how much it cost the US government to finance the various aspects of Roosevelt’s New Deal?  Somewhere between $10 and $20-Billion, over a nine year period, ending with World War II.  Yes, that’s right, just in 1936 alone, the cost was $9-BILLION!  $9-Billion, in 1936! Taxes went up, up, up, needless to say.  Do I need mention that almost all of the programs FDR initiated that still exist today are already Billions of dollars in arrears?  Now we’ve initiated a single bank bailout program that will INITIALLY cost nearly 80-times the total payout for FDR’s programs over a 10-year period.  Hey, maybe we can get Germany to try and take over the world again.

In all seriousness, have we learned nothing from our grandparent’s generation who lived through this mess back in the 30’s?  Apparently not, since we’re on track to fall once more into the well.  Now, there were some really great things that came out of FDR’s reign in the White House.  For one, labor unions and other workforce reforms were put into place that are still in effect which have had a positive effect on our economy – although I would suggest that many of the labor unions have run their course at this point.

But back to the United States economic policies – since FDR’s New Deal, American capitalism has actually been a form of Socialized Capitalism.  Adam Smith would be rolling in his grave.  Again, this was not necessarily a bad thing, as it did help American workers get back on their feet and curtailed industrialist greed, at least temporarily.  In fact, John Maynard Keynes predicted that if the reforms were carried on to their logical conclusion, that we would be working shorter hours and earning more money in just a few decades.

Unfortunately, his theories did not fully anticipate the government’s attempts to siphon-off man hours to help fight the 1950’s Cold War with Russia.  Or the continued movement of women into the workforce that began in 1950 and rose significantly through the 70’s and 80’s.  Not to mention the fact that there is some evidence to suggest that longer working hours leads to sustained inflation, which leads to longer working hours, which leads to – well, you see my point.

So now that we have Socialized Capitalism, where we routinely bail out individuals – to a point where we need some sweeping reforms of the welfare and unemployment programs – so why not bail out corporate America when it gets greedy and overreaching?

This isn’t new news.  Larry Burkett predicted this back in 1991, in his classic, but now out of print book, The Coming Economic Earthquake.  The book includes a chapter that gives a fictionalized account of how things might play out in 1999, if Larry was right.  What’s scary is how very un-fictional much of his story sounds now.  Economic Journalists Neil Howe and Phillip Longman pointed out back in 1992 that government spending for entitlements was out of control and if not curtailed would eventually result in disaster.  Meanwhile Pastor Gary Keesee may have wished his latest book, Fixing the Money Thing, wherein he explains a number of the concept his Forward Financial Group have used to help people out of debt, had come out a few weeks later (or maybe a few months earlier).  In the early chapters, he lays the groundwork of what is happening in the country and also has vision of the future, which turns out to be a little more conservative, but still a horribly scary picture of what our next few months may look like.

And in the end, the terrorists have won.  No matter how this eventually plays out, they’ve proven that Americans are greedy, capitalist fiends.  What’s more, we’ve also managed to prove that our grand system of capitalism is a fraudulent, failed beast – after all, if it really worked, we’d let these banks flounder and recover on their own.  And neither candidate is willing to say which of their programs they may have to eliminate to help pay for this bailout.  My guess is, regardless of who gets elected, we aren’t going to see another personalized economic stimulus package, but rather, higher taxes across the board, for everything from income to foreign goods (tariffs) to telecommunications to tobacco and alcohol and sales – anything to help “stimulate” the economy by saving some bank CEOs’ butts.  The same banks that now charge fees for everything from using the ATM, to cashing a check, to talking to a teller or processing a payment over the phone or Internet.

The worst part is, the American people, as far as I can tell, are largely against the bailout, but the politicians, by and large, ignored literally thousands of calls to the switchboard – not by some artificial grassroots organizations, but from hundreds of actual citizens, taking an interest in the government, trying to let our elected officials know how they thought the bailout should be handled.  They were, unfortunately ignored.  Now, while I’m not usually one to jump on the bandwagon – I usually lean towards the idea that there may have been information that elected officials were privy to that the public is not – I think in this case, Congress and the President should have listened to the people.  And just in case you wondered, here are links to which people voted for and against the bailout – in the House and the Senate.  You might want to take that into account when you head to the polls later this year.

I wish I had more answers to offer, but I don’t, other than to offer a couple of words of wisdom from God’s Word, spoken to the Israelites, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?  …Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.  Remember the day… if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.  When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.  For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.” (Deuteronomy 4: 7, 9, 29-31)

And, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15)

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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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I want to point our readers to an excellent article by a true debt crusader in Canada.  George Boelke wrote a book called It’s Your Money: Tools, Tips & Tricks to Borrow Smarter and Pay It Off Quicker and the Spanish language version, Quedese con Su Dinero, a couple of years ago now, and despite losing a huge chunk of money when his publisher went under, has continued to campaign across the country, explaining to consumers about how they should see credit and debt and why they should wonder, “Who’s in your wallet,” rather than what (The fine print is killer, folks)

Anyways, I encourage everyone to check out George’s latest article, “Kinky Mortgage Loans & Predatory Lending: It’s A Crime – But It’s Legal?,” published on the American Chronicle website.  Then ask yourself, are you an unwitting victim or a contributor to the problem?  One of the things George doesn’t mention is that there are a lot of people out there who have NO IDEA that they have Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM’s), Interest-only Mortgages and Option-ARM’s, because, while it was “disclosed” to them, the mortgage broker and/or bank glossed over that paperwork while they were signing all 110 pages of your mortgage agreement. Even if you’ve been using the same mortgage company for years (ahem, Countrywide), don’t assume you’re immune.

I also would advise you, if you have any credit cards at all, to check out George’s book, which can be ordered directly from him here. You can check out George’s other insightful articles on debt, credit cards and your family, here.

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