Open the Window

Malachi 3: 10

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

There is much talk about giving to the church, but it seems to me that there is little understanding. I suppose it is just one of those uncomfortable subjects. Well, let’s just look at God’s words and see what He says about it.

This one little verse says quite a bit. It contains both a command and a promise. God would that you would pay attention to both parts. The “tithe” is one tenth of your income which was supposed to be given to the church for the maintenance of those who minister: ministers, priests, etc. This tenth part is also used to minister to the needs of others. So in old times, as now, it is used to support the ministry so that the ministry can continue to perform its function. Now this ten percent was a command of God, not a suggestion.

The part of this verse that I wish to bring your attention to, though, is the part which contains the promise. God promises to pour out the substance of heaven on to you. He promises to pour out a blessing so huge that you cannot even contain it. That is what overflow is; more than you can contain. Now what do you suppose you might do with that overflow? You are probably going to bless others. So God has great interest in keeping you overflowing so that all may be blessed. Eventually those who have been blessed abundantly by your giving also mature in Christ and they begin to give. First they begin with their tithe. Then as the blessings of God overflow, they also become great givers in the Kingdom. Then their giving allows other people to be reached and blessed. I guess you see how this works.

What I want you to see is that God has a vested interest in prospering you. If you have proved that you can be trusted with money, He wants to give you more so that you can continue to bless others. He is adamant on this point and here is where I think most American Christians lose God. He is so resolute that He invites, nay orders us to test Him in this. He commands us to hold Him accountable to His word regarding our giving. Many Christians want to give without any expectation of receiving. That sounds good and I think comes from a kind place in their hearts but it is just not biblical. Satan is the only one who does not want you to reap from your giving, not God. Satan doesn’t want you to reap a reward from your giving because He knows you are going to turn around and give some away again. He can’t have that. If you keep that up you are going to set people free. You are going to cause great damage in his kingdom.

God wants you to hold His feet to the fire and require a thirty, sixty or hundred fold return from Him. Look, even dirt gives you a return if you plant a seed. Isn’t God much more rewarding than a patch of dirt. I know that you give a gift out of the kindness of your heart. And that is a great thing. God wouldn’t change that. He just wants you to understand that what is a gift to you and probably to the recipient as well, is a seed to Him and He wants you to expect a yield. He wants you to sow your gifts towards greater gifts so that He can do more for you. No matter what we want to believe, He cannot give us what we will not receive. So keep up your generosity. Even increase your giving but in your giving expect God to do something great. Require Him to keep His word to you. In His own words, “test me now in this.” You will not lose your holiness by expecting a return from Him and you will gain a new level of obedience. As you reap, listen to Him and He will show you how you can continue to bless Him and His kingdom.

Abundance

John 6: 13 – 14

So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

I am sure you recognize this as the telling of the feeding of the five thousand. We forget, sometimes, that not only were all the people fed, which actually numbered somewhere around 20,000 when women and children are included, but that afterwards the disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. What does this say to us and why did John include that detail in his narration of this event?

The first thing I see in it is the very nature of God. Not only does God not do anything half way, He actually goes above and beyond the need (Ephesians 3: 20). Our God works in abundance. He thinks in terms of overflow. We need to understand that about Him because that is the way He wants us to think too. Not only did God meet their immediate need, He also gave them food for the next day. That is worth pondering.

In addition to the idea of abundance, I believe John wanted us to see that this miracle was easy. Clearly Jesus did not struggle to feed the 20,000 since there was so much left over. John tells of the overflow as a prelude to his next statement. We know that because the next word is “therefore”. The telling of this miracle has a conclusion, a purpose. John says that when the people saw the miracle they concluded that God was on the scene. They thought that Jesus must be the foretold prophet that God would send before the coming of the Messiah. They missed it a bit but they recognized God’s hand and that is the part I like.

When God shows up, people get blessed. Great things happen. It doesn’t matter if the showing of God’s power comes right out of heaven, through the ministry of a prophet or at the hands of you and me. Whenever people get blessed, or their needs get met, God gets that glory and the attention. We can be instruments of His great grace and kindness as much as Jesus’ disciples were because we have the same Lord and the same Father. We actually have more because we have the Holy Spirit too.

Let God’s kindness be shown through you. Believe me, when people see the manifestation of God, evangelism becomes very easy.

Manifested Life

2 Corinthians 4: 11

For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

As we have seen all week, death is life. In order to live, we must die. Scatter the ashes of your old self at the feet of Jesus and live the abundant life Jesus came here to give you. That was his mission, you know, to bring you abundant life. Consider John 10: 10, “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” What does abundantly mean but plentiful supply; more than sufficient; ample. Another definition says: abounding with, rich. This definition as well as Jesus’ use of the word abundant puts me in remembrance of the 23rd Psalm where our cup “overflows” or as it says in the King James version, “Our cup runneth over.” This is the picture of the life Jesus came to give us. Or I like what God said to tithers in Malachi 3: 10, “I will . . . pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (NIV).

My point is this, from the beginning God had a plan to pour out upon us abundant, rich life. When we couldn’t receive it through the old covenant, He sent Jesus to earth to gain that abundant life for us. Still, many of us, though we confess Jesus as Lord, fail to receive cup runneth over life. The reason why, perhaps, is that we have failed to die to self and live to Christ. We are trying to live to Christ, I appreciate that, but we cannot live in the newness of life until we crucify and bury the old life. So we try and try to live the saintly life; we pray for the abundance promised us but we never seem to move into the richness of life promised us. The reason is that although we are sincere in our endeavors, our reasoning is faulty. We can never receive the new life of Christ and the richness of blessing that come with it until we put our self-absorbed old man in the graveyard. When we do, though, all of the life of Christ is able to rush in and fill us. Then the life of Jesus will be manifested in us.

Dams

Proverb 3: 9 – 10

Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce, so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.

Sometimes humans are the dullest form of intelligent life. This verse couldn’t get much simpler, and yet there is tremendous resistance within the church to giving. God has told us how to have abundance. He wants us to experience overflow. Overflow is when you have more than enough. That is a typical God plan. He never stops at just filling a cup. He runs it over. So, if we are not experiencing overflow, what is damming the flow?

It turns out that we use our intelligence quotient to construct dams in our lives. We are blocking our own flow, in other words. The principle pointed to in today’s proverb is no different than what Jesus taught. It is the principle of sowing and reaping. God is a multiplier. He multiplies what we give Him and gives it back to us. In the old days they taught us that a hundred times zero was not a good yield. A hundred times one is better but if I understand God and His ways, I can use the kingdom principles He put in place thousands of years ago and receive whatever yield I need or want.

So how do we honor the Lord from our wealth and the first of our produce? One of the obstacles some people face is that they are happy to bless the Lord but they don’t like giving to person in order to accomplish that goal. Well, as I have said before, if you cannot trust your minister with your money then you probably want to look for another church home. Secondly, I find it hard to believe we can’t find one minister in all the world who we believe will use God’s money in the way He directs them. Third, pray over your giving. God will honor and multiply your gift without regard to what the person you give it to does with the money. Your part is just to give. When you let go of it, then the rest is up to God.

So, what I want to say to you is, “Don’t worry about it.” I want you in overflow. I want no financial stress on you whatsoever. Therefore, I encourage you to pour out your gifts to the Lord, even if they go through a person, so that God can overflow your cup. Tear down the dams in your life and let God bless you.

Above and Beyond

Ephesians 3: 20 – 21

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever, Amen.

Yesterday we looked at 1st Corinthians 2: 9 which said that the mind of man has not even conceived of all the good things God has prepared for those who love Him. Many of you undoubtedly were put in remembrance of this verse from Ephesians.

This is a favorite verse for contemplating the plans that Yahweh has for us. Like Isaiah when he wrote about God’s goodness, Paul cannot seem to find words enough to express the great expanse of God’s favor and provision for us. Again, we see from this verse that no matter how big we may think, despite our most grandiose wishes, dreams and prayers, we have never thought big enough to comprehend all that God wants to do for us.

It is not enough that God does abundantly. His abundance exceeds any normal definition of abundance. Still, not enough. He wants to do for you that which is beyond anything you have ever thought or asked. Now then, how big have you dared to dream? God has a challenge for you. He effectively says to you, “No matter how much you expand your dreams, hopes and desire, I have something even greater for you!” I like to challenge God right back. “Okay Dad, I can dream this big, I say to Him.” Even then you think, “Wait, there is obviously something larger because no matter how big I think, He is thinking bigger.” That causes me to ponder my own boundaries. I purposefully push my boundaries out further; make my dreams bigger. It is quite an exercise.

It is interesting to note that the power that God is going to use to exceed my greatest expectations is already resident within me. Ponder that one for a little while. That power within you is alive and poised. Release your imagination and your belief in God’s words. Let’s see how far we can go.

No More Famine

Ezekiel 34: 29

And I will establish for them a renowned planting place, and they will not again be victims of famine in the land, and they will not endure the insults of the nations anymore.

Do you want to understand how God and His kingdom work? This verse shows us when we stop to pause and consider. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a seed (Mark 4: 30 – 31). When God restored the nation of Israel He didn’t promise to feed them. He prepared for them good ground where they could sow seed and it would produce such a crop that they should never hunger again nor be at the mercy of other nations.

God is always working through seed. That is why He tries to get us to sow our money seed. It is not that He needs the money. For goodness sake, His driveway is paved with gold. God does not need our money. He is, instead, trying to get a harvest for us. He has provided good ground so that we will never hunger. We should never be at the mercy of the Philistines either because our seed ought to produce a crop.

This is God’s remedy for us, to provide the means by which we will always have everything we need. He prepares the ground and then protects our seed. Our two obligations are sowing and harvesting. This is how the kingdom of God operates. God does not intend that His kids should experience famine. This is the method through which God intends to meet your need. Talk with Him about what seed you should plant and where that fertile soil is which He has prepared for you. Then do not be bashful. Sow generously and harvest bountifully.

Savings Plan

Genesis 41: 29 – 30

“Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will ravage the land.”

Do you have a savings plan? What is your philosophy on saving? I have always thought tithe 10% and save 10% but here is an interesting perspective from scripture.

After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams as above, he went on to advise Pharaoh. Joseph told Pharaoh to “look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance” (v. 33 – 34).

As you know, Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be this overseer and there was no one in all of Egypt with more power, position and authority than Joseph save Pharaoh himself. Joseph collected 1/5 of all that was produced during the abundant years and stored it for the coming famine years. When the famine came it was as severe as the dreams predicted. If not for Joseph’s savings plan, the years of famine would have completely swallowed up the years of abundance.

Isaac, in the time of famine, sowed and reaped a hundredfold in that same year (Genesis 26:12). This is one of the reasons I believe in tithing, even in the lean times. We know from other scripture that the tithe is 10 percent. So if you take this and combine it with the wisdom God gave Joseph you come out with: tithe ten percent and save twenty percent.  that is pretty aggressive, specially by today’s standards.  My advice with tithing and saving is, do it.  If you really can’t do these percentages now, just begin somewhere.  You know, you can pray to your Father and He may tell you to save ten percent.  That is between you two but I firmly believe He would have you on a savings plan and only an idiot would say that God does not expect you to tithe.

Our confidence must still be placed firmly in the Lord, not in our savings account. We need to follow His wisdom for our lives but He is not a God of foolishness. He is the God of the harvest. There is no harvest, however, without first the season of sowing. Further, every good farmer knows that you don’t eat all of your harvest. You must set aside part of the crop as seed for next year’s crop.

Let this example of an anointed man of God inspire you but also go to God for specific instruction for your life. Then develop your savings and giving plan according to God’s specifications. Allow Him to lead you in abundance so that you can avoid times of famine.