Archive for April, 2012

Open Hearts; Open Doors

“Precious and Kingdom greetings from my entire family and from the 7 fellowships here in Kenya.”

We are hoping that this letter finds you well in the comforting hands and umbrella of Christ’s love. Our fellowships are so glad to participate in what you are doing for the Lord here and throughout the Continent of Africa. We have been encouraged in all of your utterances for spiritual nourishment and up-keeping.

Open Hearts – Devoted and Strong:

Brother, our fellowships here have had their spiritual lives strengthened by the materials contained in your website. The principles are not only biblical but they are very practical as well. Many have said that for the first time they have been able to establish a daily devotional life. We have been offering classes, taught in our fellowships since introduction to your ministry. The teaching materials have been important in establishing many new converts in the faith and enabling them to go on and become mature and productive Christians. Our fellowships are now successfully using these materials in a variety of ways from evangelism to descipleship. We are finding that our people are better informed, more committed and zealous believers in their homes and churches.

Open Doors – Building Kingdom Networks Together:

We have realized that God has a good plan of peace in giving you a ministry here in Kenya in order to develop and strengthen Kingdom networks. The vision of your heart is helping us to find our place in the ongoing spiritual training of the nations. The Apostolic Training Centers are being spoken of often and we are encouraged to see open doors into Tanzania. We are ready to move as God leads. It is our goal to see Christian maturity among the churches and to stand strong in the faith.

Kisii, Kenya

Our trip into Kenya & Tanzania:

Concerning your upcoming trip here in Kenya; Brother Ron, we always remember you in our prayers for God’s breakthrough as you plan to come here to expand God’s work among the saints. Also in training pastors and leaders in this Southwest region of Kenya. It is our great joy to welcome you to Kisii, Kenya. These seeds, put in our lives through your ministry are precious to us and we long to embrace all that God shall do.

“Doors are open - let the hand of God be upon us always!”

We pray for your provision, protection and devotion to the work of the Lord here. Blessings and warm Christian regards from our entire family and the 7 fellowships here in Kenya. Stay in touch and always connected.


Tithe Confusion Part 4

Jews Do Not Tithe:

Jewish Rabbis today; those who should know the history of Abraham, the Mosaic Law and the teaching of the Prophets better than the Christian Church, do not collect tithes or use the tithe system to provide the resources for their ministry. They know only Levites can collect the tithe and the genealogical records were lost in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Since they cannot determine who true Levites are; they use a patron system of so many dollars for each seat in their synagogues to raise funds for the support and maintenance of their ministry. Of course, the more prominent seats command a higher price, but the point remains… they do not tithe.

Truth Matters:

I find this very interesting, since Jesus was a Jew and we have our Christian roots embedded in Jewish history? I wonder how many ministers can prove biological descent from the Old Testament Priesthood of Aaron? What it brings to my attention, is the need to have our foundations grounded in real Biblical Truth rather than the traditions of man or the most widely accepted teachings of our day.

The Shocking Reality:

I am going to make a statement that will probably shock many Christians who have been in church for a long time and feel they know the Bible pretty well. My hope is to provoke the reader to study for themselves, like the Bereans of the Book of Acts.  We need to be people who rightly divide the word of truth, as the Apostle Paul encouraged his spiritual son, Timothy (2 Tim. 2:15). Search it out and see if this statement is Biblically accurate.

The tithe system; as taught by most Christian leaders, is not contained in the pages of the Bible!

 So Where Did It Come From:

Those who teach that Christians are obligated to tithe; that is giving 10% of their income to the local church for the support of the ministry, use three main platforms of reasoning. First are those who say we are still under the Law of Moses or portions of it. Second are those who say the tithe is part of the Abrahamic Covenant which pre-dates Moses. They say Abraham was a tither and the “father of faith”. Therefore, we should tithe. Finally there are those who say the tithe is what sanctifies our money and offers us a protection against the devourer (Malachi 3:8-12). Notice the tithe in this passage is “food” in the storehouse, not money.

The Early Church – A Culture of Honor:

The most obvious question then is how should we support the ministries we love and believe to be beneficial? The Early Church was financed by the free-will offerings of its people. There was no tithing system instituted at all! As a matter of fact, the Early Church supported itself the same way as the early Israelite society. When God commanded the construction of the tabernacle He did not use tithes, but free-will offerings of the people (Ex. 35:20-29). Likewise, the work of the ministry of the Early Church was financed by free-will offerings (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35).

The Christians of the early church were concerned about two basic things: The Apostle’s teaching and meeting each other’s needs. They understood themselves as a unique culture defined by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Their commitments were not based on some institutional rules, but the priority of maintaining a community. The members, from the least to the greatest among them were seen through the eyes of honor… which meant they responded quickly to the needs around them. Generosity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, because it is how love responds when it truly sees the way God sees (Mt. 25:34-40).   

 ”Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firstfruits of all your increase: So (and God will make sure) your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Prov. 3:9-10) …this is the Culture of Honor!

Tithe Confusion Part 3

In this study, we continue looking for answers to the confusion we see in today’s teachings of the “tithe”. I want to look at two characters from the Old Testament, Abram (Abraham) and Jacob. Since they lived at a time before the Law of Moses and are identified as people who tithed; I think they warrant at least a surface examination. They offer us some very interesting motives and insights that help us understand what the tithe meant in their day, as compared to how it is taught in our congregational settings.

Abram’s Tithe: (Gen. 14:14-24)

“Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’ — except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

4 Serious Differences from Tithe Teachings:

  • Abram tithed only the spoils of war. This leads us to believe his gift was more of a free-will offering to honor Melchizedek and keep the king of Sodom from misunderstanding Abram’s wealth.
  • Abram gave it all; 10% to Melchizedek and the rest it would seem to the king of Sodom. So Abram’s example would mean we are not to keep anything. It would also seem that less was given to the spiritual leader than the ungodly leader in this case.
  • Abram’s tithe was a onetime event. We see no evidence of a pattern of this type of stewardship.
  • Abram didn’t tithe of his personal possessions. This gift was the spoils of war and not his occupational income.

Jacob’s Tithe: (Gen. 28:20-22)

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

2 Serious Differences from Tithe Teaching:

  • Jacob’s vow was to tithe on everything that God would give him.  If he waited to receive, as it says, then why are Christians taught that they should tithe before God can provide increase? Doesn’t it seem like we have it the wrong way around? Jacob used tithing to say thanks. The modern church uses it to buy blessings.
  • Jacob’s vow was to give the tithe to God directly. Since there was at this point no temple or no priests, how did Jacob tithe? Where did he take it and who received the tithe on behalf of God? How did God intend the tithe to be received?

From these two Biblical examples we see something other than the principles of tithing we are often taught. We see the heart of giving and the ministry of relational stewardship. Abram didn’t tithe of his own possessions and there is only this one experience… he also gave 100% away. Jacob refused to tithe unless God first provided for his needs. He also didn’t have Melchizedek or any other priest to receive his tithe. If I had to guess as to how he gave the tithe, I would say he either burned it as a burnt offering or held some feast in honor of God with those who were in his family. Remember the tithe was never understood to be money, but increase in their blessed position with God. Their motive was a stewardship of thanksgiving. 

Motives of the Heart:

I really love the heart of Abram and Jacob, because it the spontaneous flow of spiritual stewardship expressed in their wisdom, generosity and thankful giving. They were offering a sacrifice. Offering a sacrifice is a Kingdom expression and part of a New Covenant priority we see in the Early Church (Acts 4:32)(Rom. 12:1-2)(Heb. 13:15). With our sacrifice, we are giving something up that we do not expect to get back. If you are expecting to receive something back, you didn’t make a sacrifice, you made an investment. That’s a big difference! The one is an act of worship; the other is a means to an end.

So no matter how we give, it begins with our heart’s motivation. Do you do it in order to get something back or are you merely giving thanks? If we are giving in order to be more blessed, our gift is not a sacrifice, but the spiritual practice of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:7). This is a good principle, but not what we see from Abram and Jacob.

Favor & Blessing:

What these two Biblical characters show us more than anything, is that God’s favor and blessing cannot be bought. The blessing of God is designed to become the most comfortable environment of the life of faith. It is given freely, because of inheritance… because its the “family environment”. We are the Children of God, accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6) and living out of an overflow of grace. We are blessed! And because we are blessed… we are a blessing everywhere we go. The relationship we have with our Heavenly Father creates the platform for our stewardship and our motivation for giving.

Tithe Confusion Part 2

My goal in this message today is to look more closely at the principles and teachings that characterize the tithe system for funding the ministry of the church. I know the challenge we face in teaching about this topic and would never want to undermine the truth that God’s people must be good stewards. So it is my goal to encourage God’s Kingdom purposes of grace and freedom. The Child of God can be equipped to practice their giving under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and with a generous heart toward others.

 Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6:33). 

Those who teach that Christians are obligated to tithe can be categorized into three main groups:

  1. Those who say we are still under the Law of Moses or portions of it.
  2. Those who say the tithe is part of the Abrahamic Covenant which is pre-Mosaic. They say Abraham was a tither and the “father of faith”. Therefore, we should tithe.
  3. Those who say the tithe is what sanctifies our money and offers us a protection against the devourer (Malachi 3:8-12). Notice the tithe in this passage is “food” in the storehouse, not money.

Why not live under the Law of Moses?

The Old Covenant or Law of Moses was a two-sided agreement between Israel and God in which blessing was hinged to Israel’s keeping their part of the agreement and God would curse them if they didn’t. It was an all or nothing package. A person was not allowed to turn this agreement into a smorgasbord of picking and choosing what suited one’s religious diet. They could not choose what to keep and what to throw out.

James 2:10 “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

Almost all denominations of Christianity have valued portions of the Mosaic Covenant and added them to the New Covenant. Without being aware of it, this has made most Christians guilty of the whole Mosaic Law, which says it all must be kept. At the same time, there becomes a growing hypocrisy in our understanding of the New Covenant. We teach about grace and want the guidence of the Holy Spirit, but keep mixing it with Laws that no longer serve the same purpose for the Christian believer as they did for the Jew. This is not to say that we cannot learn many wonderful truths from the Mosaic Law. We are just no longer in covenantal relationship with God through that covenant. We are in covenantal relationship with God through a New Covenant ratified by Jesus Christ, not by Moses.

The Issue is Spiritual Freedom:

The fact that most churches have not understood this vital point, has caused us to loose sight of ”grace through faith” and minimize the very power of the New Covenant itself. Most denominations have become very good at mixing the Old Covenant instituted by Moses with the New Covenant. They have forgotten that the Old Covenant has become obsolete while the New Covenant is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It is our freedom. The problem is that there are consequences to stepping away from grace… a loss of freedom. 

One covenant brought death (and always will); the other brings Life (Rom. 8:2). If you believe any of the Old Covenant is still binding to a believer in Christ, read what the Apostle Paul has to say about the cornerstone of the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments (2 Cor 3:4-18). The central goal of the Old Covenant is to behold our sin and make sacrifices according to how we have fallen from glory (Rom. 3:23), but the goal of the New Covenant is to behold the glory of God as it is manifesting itself in our personal transformation. We are moving from one level of glory to another level of glory by the Spirit of the Lord… its our freedom in Christ.

How Jesus has Set Us Free:

The Holy Spirit is changing us and it effects our behavior, our attitudes and our giving. Yet to live under the law of obligation (like the tithe) actually releases two deceptive realities… guilt or pride. When we find ourselves unable to live up to the standards set by those more mature than us, it releases guilt, shame and issues of condemnation. When we live according to some arbitrary religious standard and find ourselves successful without the need of faith, we become vulnerable to personal pride and boasting. Jesus came to do away with the measurements on all levels and substitute His life for any standard, perceived or real… we become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21). He became our standard bearer so that we could walk in freedom, being led by the Holy Spirit and feeling the joy of a living relationship with the Father. Its a freedom to live, grow and serve as God would have us serve.

Tithe Confusion Part 1

There is great confusion today about the concept of tithes and offerings. Most Christian leaders teach that believers are obligated to give 10% of their income to support the ministry of the local church. This is not how we see the Early Church function after the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2:44-47 & 4:32-37). It also becomes a difficult pattern to reconcile with the spirit of generosity we aim to nurture!

Many Christian publications emphasize tithing as a primary stewardship principle in sustaining a “blessed” relationship with God. A booklet titled Tithes, Offerings, and Alms states: “Today many churches do not teach tithing because they do not want to drive people away. In reality they are robbing God’s people of their blessing. When tithing is not taught, they are allowing their people to ignorantly rob God. By this they allow the devourer to have free access to their people. Then the church and the people wonder why they are not being blessed. When God’s people return again unto God, He will return unto them as He has promised.”

In this one small paragraph, entire congregations who do not tithe or teach about the tithe are condemned to the devourer. This “devourer” is usually spoken of as either the devil or his influence over their money. As long as people do not tithe according to this booklet, they have turned their backs on God and He cannot bless them. They are robbing God and under a curse! But is that the truth?

Fear-based Giving:

The booklet I just quoted is very typical of teaching that is promoted everyday among Christian Denominations and Independant Churches. I have seen it throughout the Western Church and I watch as it continually increases across the mission fields I serve. The impact has created the perception that the church at large is only interested in money. It breaks my heart to watch as well meaning leaders through poor teaching are being misinformed and bringing their people into fear-based giving rather than love-based generosity.

Teaching people to give from this platform of fear does harm to the generous heart, because it effects how we perceive God. God is good and His desire is that love becomes our motive for giving. The Apostle Paul said, “My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory, in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). In fact, the Apostle Paul never even hints about the tithe system in regards to effective ministry in the local church. There seemed to be a real awareness in the Early Church that a shift had taken place… a shift from Law to Grace and from the ministry of the “letter” to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

A Handful of Scriptures:

Those who teach the concepts of the tithe, refer to the same handful of Scriptures to justify their position and without realizing, they bring judgement and confusion into their congregations about God’s love and blessing. A “handful of Scriptures” might be helpful for those that maybe disagree with my statements so far (2 Cor. 3:11-13, Heb. 8:13, Gal. 4:21-26). Really, all of Galatians and Hebrews give insight into how the Christian’s New Covenant of freedom differs from the Old Testament Covenants of the Patriarchs, the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

Remember, We Reflect the Priesthood of Jesus Christ:

The main focus of tithing throughout the Old Testament was food! Food for the Levite, food for the stranger, food for the widow, food for the orphan and in the book of Malachi, the subject is still “food in My House” (Mal. 3:8-12). It is very sad that church leaders today do not recognize that the Early Church was not concerned about choir robes, pews, organs, retirement, building funds, retreats, new carpets, etc… it does not make those things wrong, just not central to the goal of the Church. They didn’t have any of these things, nor did they want any of them to promote real ministry! Pastors who are so interested in 10% of their follower’s income are usually building their own kingdom… which requires a lot of money. Jesus is building His Church in an entirely different way and He doesn’t need padded pews, stained glass and steeples to get the job done.

The Key is Being “In Christ”:

Knowing what it means to be “in Christ” is the key to understanding why tithing is not part of the New Covenant. In Christ all debts are paid in full, we are no longer just servants of God who live under the Law as people did before the cross and the resurrection. We live to follow the law of love (Mt. 22:36-40)(Gal. 5:14), written upon our hearts. We are now the Children of God, spiritually re-born and living by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, Himself. Our connectedness in the family of God is tied to our sensitivity to the guidence of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:4-7). Tithing was instituted for people who had a different relationship to God than we now have in Christ. Tithing is inconsistent with the most important aspects of the New Covenant and the believer’s new nature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).