Testing

Mark 4: 24

And He was saying to them,. . . “By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.”

Last week’s Word of the Day was about our God meeting our needs. God does meet our needs. However, the passage for the Word of the Day was taken from Philippians where Paul taught that needs are met through the fulfillment of our own giving. Paul told the church that his God would meet their needs because they had met his. This is such a powerful lesson, but few grasp it. In fact, since last week I have wondered how many of you really believe me and the lessons I send. Therefore, I thought I would tell you a small story this week about the time I put God, and these scriptures, to the test.

Some years ago, I sowed one dollar into Ivey Ministries. It is the only dollar I have ever given to my own ministry. I believed God for a return. Shortly thereafter, I received a check for $50. I was pretty excited; not because I got fifty dollars, but because it appeared God’s Word worked. My tithe on that would have been $5, but I decided that if I was going to put God to the test, I had to press on, so, I decided to sow the entire fifty dollars.

I wish you to understand that at this point things became a bit more challenging for me. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it was hard to let go of the full fifty dollars when my obligation was for five, but I believed Yahweh was continuing to lead me in this area. So, believing for a hundred-fold return, I sowed the entire amount into a ministry. Then came the really hard part, the waiting.

Here is where we often fail. There was not $500 in my mailbox that week nor even that month. Time dragged on and on with no visible return on my seed. I prayed about it, I journaled with God about it, but no resolution came to my mailbox or my heart. Often, I forgot about the seed as if I had never given God that fifty dollars. It sometimes became lost seed to me. But, I have read a few things in the Bible so I would pick myself up and dust off my faith. Believe me, this was an ongoing challenge. I would stand, full of faith and believe for my harvest. Before long, though, my strength and resolve would ebb. Finally, I became convinced in my heart that God is not a man that He can lie (Numbers 23: 19). With a firmer resolution in my spirit, I began to believe in my seed and my harvest.

Now this may sound crazy to some of you, but I want you to understand how far this goes. As my faith grew, I began to realize that the seed had to produce. It is a spiritual law. The seed doesn’t get to choose whether or not it will obey the law of the Spirit. That is when things changed. I no longer whined to God about my harvest. Nope, I confronted Him. What? Yes, confronted! When I prayed, I said, “Father, you owe me money.” Not only once did I approach Him with my demand but rather, it became the way we spoke about that seed. And, guess what. Yahweh was not intimidated by my demand. In fact, He acknowledged it. Once He told me that one way He was going make up part of the return was in my new car. Inside I was like Sarah who laughed at God’s promise because I knew I couldn’t afford a new car, at least not the one I wanted. Well, time went on and I returned to talk with Him about this money. I was no longer falling back into doubt. I no longer failed to remember I had good seed in good soil. That had been, it turns out, doubt. I forgot about my seed because I had stopped believing in the return. In truth, I had lost my belief in the principal of sowing and reaping. However, my faith began to grow and my resolve stiffened. I started out testing God on this principal of sowing and reaping with one dollar and I was not giving up now.

I have taught about giving many, many times. I teach it and try to encourage everyone to give because I want you to be blessed. I thought I believed God’s Word, but I found out that when I set out to test God’s Word, it was really I who was tested. I stumbled and fell many times. I learned, though, that when you fall, when you fail, God doesn’t consider it final. He did not burn my seed in the ground when I failed in my belief. Instead, and this is amazing to me, He preserved that precious seed until such a time as He could get me to be as determined as that little seed. He is an amazing, generous and kind Father. He loves us and wants us to be blessed and He has taught us the way. He told us that if we would give, it would be given back to us multiplied (Luke 6: 38). Those are words on a page though. Does it really work? Is that actually a lesson from God?

Sometimes I pray to God for the thousand-fold return. You won’t find it in the Bible, per se, but when I look at the Bible in its fullness, I see it all over the place, and more beyond. Abraham received way more than a thousand-fold. Jesus received a greater than thousand-fold return. It is my way of speaking with God about His willingness and ability to do, “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” (Ephesians 3: 20). He is not limited to the hundred-fold or even my thousand-fold. He is super-abundant, beyond my ability to comprehend, and that is the moral of this story.

I did receive a new car and it is a blessing. I also received a gift that will mean more than $90,000 over my lifetime. These are part of the glory of Christ. I am beyond grateful. However, I have a new challenge. Is this the fullness of God’s blessing? Is He done? Shall I cut Him off here? It is certainly much more than I expected when I began. The hundred-fold return on my $50 seed would have given me $5000 and that is what I believed for. Yahweh went far beyond, but who is to say He is done? Only my faith limits Him. He is waiting to see if I will allow Him to do more. My answer is, “Do all that is in your heart Father,” because what I know is that the financial blessing is wonderful and amazing but the best part of it is that He has brought us closer together. I live in a new space of gratefulness. I see His heart more clearly and I am completely overwhelmed by the knowledge He has imparted to me through this experience. When I say, “Our God is good!” I have the weight of a mountain behind it. Those few words have more love and meaning in them than can be contained in this one universe because His goodness is so vast.

God challenged us to test Him, “put Me to the test now in this,” says the Lord of armies, “if I do not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Malachi 3: 10). He told me to test Him. I wasn’t impudent. I was obedient. Now for you few with brave hearts, I have given you the link for Malachi 3:10 so that you can easily see for yourself how God’s statement began for as you can see, I only included the end of His statement. Simply click on the verse citation above and you will be transported to the full scripture.

Maybe you too should test Him. He welcomes it and I encourage it because in the end, you are going to be very blessed.

Effect of Wisdom

Nehemiah 10: 39

Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.

To understand where this statement comes into play you need to read at least from verse 28. The context of this passage is that a group of people, Israelites, signed a document by which they made certain obligations of themselves. It caught my eye because verse 28 said that it was people who “had knowledge and understanding.” Since we saw the verse last Monday on God’s storehouse of knowledge, wisdom and understanding, (Proverb 2: 6 -7), I was very interested in seeing God’s perspective on where revealed knowledge takes us.

These people made a solemn vow to themselves, each other and to their God to give. The whole passage is about their giving. It is a wondrous passage. It speaks of giving the first fruits of all trees, crops and herds and the first-born sons. It tells how they will honor the sacred festivals with their giving. We are told that their giving will atone for Israel and provide for the priests and others who work in the house of God.

These people took on a sober obligation to support the house of God and its workers. The tithe was only part of their offering. They made a system of giving for themselves. Two thoughts occurred to me as I read this. One is, “No wonder the Jewish people always seem to have money and be the leaders in banking.” The other thought is that knowledge and understanding led them to give to the house of God. It makes me think that if we could get a revelation of what they understood, we would be givers and prosperous too. You need to understand that these contributions to the temple were what fed the priests, the Levites and all the temple workers. This was their tribute to the Lord, but it was also the upkeep of the ministers. The priests were to minister the Word to the people and go to the altar in prayer for the people. The people, in return, ministered to the physical needs of the ministers.

You know, this has not changed. Ministers are still supposed to spend their time on spiritual matters for the benefit of the people and the people are supposed to take care of the ministers. I don’t really think we are proficient in this yet. Many of us take for granted the work of our pastors and teachers and then the next thing you know the pastors and teachers become diluted in their sowing of time to the ministry of the Word. If we avail ourselves of the wisdom of God, He will show us how to live and how to give. We can see in our support of the ministry of the Word our own maturity in spiritual things. As long as we are like children, always taking and seldom giving, then we are only going to be able to partake in a child’s part. When we mature and take on the responsibility of the maintenance of the servants of God’s Word, then we will all be able to grow into a mature body. The attainment of knowledge, wisdom and understanding should change your life. This passage of scripture shows one of the ways that your life should be dramatically altered.

Further study: Nehemiah 10: 28-39

Hold On Brother!!!

2 Corinthians 9: 6 – 8

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.

Guys, we’ve got to pause the Healing Words of the Day because God has something to say. God, your Father, wants to get money to you. He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Word of the Lord is saying. God wants to talk about money, so get ready to shout. If you have a problem with money and church, repent quick, before you get to the next paragraph because Father God wants to speak to you and bless you. Please do not reject the Blessing of the Lord.

Now hear this!!!! I got back from my sabbatical Saturday. I had a GREAT time with the Lord, and He ministered many things. Interestingly enough, a bunch of it was about finances. It was a definite surprise but a welcome one. I got home in time to go see Jesse Duplantis at Agape Faith Church in Clemmons, NC on Sunday. Whoa! It was good. It was anointed and brother, you would have to be dead not to have felt the anointing in there as Jesse spoke. Glory to God! What do you suppose he spoke on? Finances. God kept right on with the theme of the whole week.

Jesse Duplantis has an anointing of increase on him. People have talked about it for years. He gives away so much, but God just keeps blessing him. This man tries to out give God. Well, guess who’s winning. But I have not gotten to the good part yet. Hold on!!

Now I’ve already told you that Jesse is a giver. He told us he was going to give the offering back to the host church. He wasn’t going to take the gift offering back with him. Nice. However, before he let us give our offering, he wanted to pray over it and bless that ministry and its leaders. What happened next is important to you!

Jesse asked us all to raise our offering envelopes. Then he walked up to me and asked me if he could borrow my offering. He just wanted a point of contact to pray over that offering. Of course, I said, “Yes,” and extended my envelope towards him. He reached out, but he didn’t take my envelope. He took my hand and laid the envelope in my hand. I scooted forward in my chair a little and he said, “Yeah, stand up.” So, I stood up! He took my hand with the envelope in it and covered it with his own hand and started ministering to me. He started praying about the hundredfold return (Matthew 13: 8), bless God!

But wait. I had a problem right there. I had just returned from the mountains and had burned through most of my cash. I forgot to get more money, so when I opened my wallet to get out my offering I just groaned. “Well,” I thought to myself, “I will just give all I have.” I didn’t think of it then, but God has brought it my attention since that in giving all I had, I was like the widow with the widow’s mite (Mark 12: 41) and she blessed Jesus with her giving.

But, back to the story, when Jesse started ministering the hundredfold return my insides roiled and I thought about that measly amount of money in the envelope. Aargghh! In that split second, I was intensely remorseful that there wasn’t a big bill in that envelope and mad at myself for not thinking ahead. You know what? No sooner did I think, “Oh darn” than Jesse, looking right at me said, “I didn’t say a hundred times. I said a hundredfold! This isn’t math. It just keeps folding and folding and folding.” WHOA! Father totally heard my thought and my regret and answered it immediately!

Here’s what I want you to know, Jesse wasn’t just praying over my offering. If you had been there, you would have seen that. It was clear that something was happening. Jesse was praying over my money and ministry. Now, here is the part that is important to you. His anointing of increase got shared to me and this ministry. Let that sink in. God has anointed this ministry for increase. That isn’t just about increasing the ministry. Read the passage above. This is about increasing you. I am to share this increase. That is why the anointing was shared with me. This is how God is going to get blessing to you, through Ivey Ministries. Now isn’t that exciting?!

Read today’s passage again. It is powerful. In fact, it is what Jesse spoke on Sunday. It went off in me then and I hope it is going off in you now. And, I understand how this works. So, you better believe that I sent off a big check to Jesse today! I am getting in on the increase. I want to reap bountifully so I am giving bountifully.

I have never asked any of you for money, but I am going to say today, “Give, so it can be given back to you.” Don’t give grudgingly. If you can’t be happy in it, don’t send money. I want cheerful givers just the same as God, but, if this ministry is ministering to you, sow into it. When we receive your donation, we will pray over it with this anointing present on us for the increase back to you. Maybe you don’t need money, but maybe you have an unsaved family member. Maybe you need healing in your body. Whatever your need is, or your want, let us know and we will lay hands on your offering and petition the Lord, our God, for the hundredfold increase.

God wants to bless you. Listen to me. This is how God is getting the blessing to you. Believe and receive. Let the Lord do all He wants to do. Cooperate with Him. One other thing. Do not delay. Do it now!

To Jerusalem

2 Chronicles 11: 16

People from every tribe of Israel who were determined to seek the Lord God of Israel followed the Levitical priests to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord God of their ancestors.

I wrote last week that my impression of Solomon’s offerings to the Lord were a sign that he sought the Lord and His wisdom. Today’s verse seems to support that idea. I am not suggesting that we need to buy the Lord’s favor, not at all. None the less, I also tire of people who want everything for free. I find this particularly true in the church. It seems to me that God and ministers should be honored in a tangible way. The people in today’s verse sought God with their hearts, their feet and their gifts.

The people referred to in today’s passage left their homes and travelled to Jerusalem to seek the face of their Lord. They did not arrive empty handed though. Do you think this is just an Old Testament idea? Maybe we don’t have to give good gifts to God anymore now that He has poured out Jesus for us. Or, do we need to make greater gifts because Jesus has been given for us? I truly believe it is the latter. I don’t think God requires it of us in the sense that He won’t meet our needs or answer our prayers, but I do think it matters to Him. I am sure He likes to be appreciated and honored for all He has done. Praise is more than words lifted up or a nice song. Praise can be very tangible. It can be a gift.

Today’s verse says two things to me: seek the Lord and give good gifts to Him. We fall woefully short these days. Why has the church come to this point? So, few people tithe? Why is that? The church is getting weak and many ministers are afraid to tell their congregants that giving is part of the faith. They do you an injustice and steal from you because giving is part of your livelihood. Look what it did for Solomon. God honored Solomon’s gifts by appearing to him in a dream and granting Solomon’s desire. Is it any mistake these two acts coincide? I don’t think so.

I want everyone who reads the Word of the Day to become very good at giving because I want to revitalize and strengthen the church. If we spend all our money on “stuff” instead of supporting the ministries, we deprive ourselves. It’s true. Giving is a way of life and an important part of serving our Lord. I would love to see the church rise up and show itself generous and loving. This is the way to change the world. We can be like the people in today’s passage who followed their pastor and made sacrifice to their King. They honored God and fed the priests all as a part of seeking God. What a beautiful example.  Why can’t we be like them?  What would it take and what would be gained?  I am sure it would be good for us.

Generous Blessing

Deuteronomy 15: 10        NIV

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

Yesterday’s Word of the Day set me thinking, so I ran a search on the word “generous.” This verse from Deuteronomy stood out to me in particular because I know that in a few chapters we will learn explicitly about The Blessing! Clearly, Moses had the blessing in mind when he wrote this because we see its operation.

I will be very honest with you. I want to be under the blessing. I want it chasing me down in the street. My life is much easier with the blessing working in it than without. Actually, something didn’t go exactly my way the other day and I was surprised. It wasn’t a big thing but it was noticeable because it frustrated my purposes slightly. On the other hand, a different matter worked out better than I could have orchestrated. The point is, I have become accustomed to the way life works with the blessing.

Now, do I give just so the blessing will work in my life? Not really, but I will say that God’s thoughts on giving do influence me. The blessing only works when you give freely, not begrudgingly. If you cannot give cheerfully, it is best to take the whole issue to God in prayer or even journal it.

Our challenges with giving sometimes have to do with brokenness in our spirits. So, if I don’t want to give, then I immediately begin to question it. What is wrong with me that I need to hold on to this? I think about people I know who are so generous and people like Sister Teresa and it reframes things in my mind. I see myself positioned differently. Then I imagine how I want to think and feel and I see myself in that posture. I see myself confident in my giving and generous. That helps me. If I am having a hard time letting go, it is a good sign something is wrong with me because that certainly is not God’s Spirit speaking within me. When we are in our right place with God, we are always generous. If we find ourselves hesitant to give, then something has gone wrong in our hearts. The most important thing to do is to ask the Father about it so that he can heal us or mend that which broke.

God wants to bless everything you touch. That is The Blessing that Moses wrote about in Chapter 28 of Deuteronomy. The blessing works through our divine connection with God the Father. You cannot be divinely connected to God and also be stingy. It just doesn’t ever happen that way. He is the supreme giver. This verse attests to that. Jesus’ life attests to that but God’s blessing flows according to the streams of life and one of the most significant of those is generosity. When we get in the flow with the Father, life bubbles along smoothly.

Be a generous giver. Not because I say so, but because it is God’s way. Speak with Him and ask Him to help you be generous in your giving and let the blessing flow in your life.

Blessed Beyond Measure

Proverb 22: 9              NIV

The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

For some, generosity seems to come naturally. Others of us struggle. I do not believe that this lack of generosity always stems from greed. Sure, some people are tight fisted because they want everything for themselves. They are, in fact, selfish. I think, though, that some of us are generous of heart but fearful. The truth is we are not as generous as we might be because we lack faith in our God and Father. We don’t truly believe He will take care of us. That is why we hold on so tightly.

I have seen much in the scriptures lately about giving and though I consider myself a pretty good giver, I have found myself challenged. I need to do more. One of the things Father has shown me is that sometimes I hold on so tightly to what I have that He can’t get more to me. The expression, tight-fisted, is apropos. My fist is clenched and that is what I present to the Father rather than a hand outstretched and open. He cannot give into a clenched fist.

I am convinced that anyone who really loves God and does a study of the scriptures cannot continue to horde their wealth. These believers give beyond the tithe. They constantly find ways to bless others. I love these folks because they continue to show me ways I can give and I am often overwhelmed by their goodness, which is one of God’s qualities. I am still living in the glow of the outpouring of gifts for the Multiple Sclerosis charity bike ride. Many of you showed the most tender part of your hearts in your giving.

If I may, I would also like to be so honest as to say, some gave nothing. I do not believe it is because they lack kindness. Some may have chosen other charities for the year. That’s fair. Others though, may suffer this depression era mentality that causes us to hold on too tightly to what we have. If that is you, I sympathize because I stumble over that line too. However, there is hope for us and I want us all to be blessed in the full measure that God desires.

Father, bless those people who so demonstrate your kindness in their own giving. Pour out upon them a blessing so large they cannot contain it. And Father, for those who have not become great givers yet, teach us by your gentle Holy Spirit that it is your way and part of our calling. Relieve us of fear and boost our faith in you and your provision. Give us stalwart hearts and bless our giving as you do those who have already learned this important lesson. Father, make us, everyone, givers beyond the ten percent tithe and Father, for those who have not yet learned to tithe, encourage them that this is your way of meeting their need. Give them extra faith in your Word. Challenge them to take this first step. Give us all hearts of the giver, Father that we might be like you, and I thank you for this and bless you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Leadership Altars

1 Kings 3: 3 – 5, 15

Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David. . . And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there . . . Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.”

Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and held a feast for all his servants.

The point of this story is the bookends. The story begins with Solomon’s sacrifices to God. Then, God appeared to him in a dream offering to grant any wish of Solomon’s desire. Then, at the end of the story, Solomon appeared before the Ark of the Covenant and made more offerings and threw a feast. It is a story of honor and sacrifice, of devotion and blessing. It is also a story of leadership. The two points I wish us to take away from this story is first, the relationship between offerings and sacrifice and God’s outpouring and two, Kingdom Leadership.

I have to believe that God showing up and speaking to Solomon in the dream was directly related to Solomon’s sacrifices and offerings. The offerings reveal Solomon’s earnest seeking of God’s wisdom. He was overwhelmed by his responsibility as the leader of the nation. Knowing it was a monumental responsibility, he sought God, making offering upon offering, humbling himself before his God. And God responded to Solomon. What would you ask for if God told you He would grant your desire? Solomon asked for the wisdom to rule God’s people justly. Wow! Not what I would have thought of.

Solomon’s leadership position drove him to prayer and to seeking God. There is no leadership teaching more impactful than this truth. Leadership should mean seeking God’s face on behalf of one’s flock. Second, in Solomon’s seeking, he made offerings to God. He laid thousands of gifts upon the altar believing that the God of Israel would honor his sacrifice. He was right. Third, Solomon’s response to God’s grant was to give more offerings and to throw a party for his servants. He blessed his servants with the blessing God gave him. He both honored God and blessed his people.

God gave Solomon what he asked for and much more besides but on both ends of this enormous blessing we find Solomon filling the altar with gifts to his King. Is it coincidence?