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.

Famine and Fortune

Genesis 26: 1, 12

Now there was a famine in the land. Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the Lord blessed him.

I have been thinking about the economic aspect of this corona virus problem and wanting to write on it. This passage has been running through my mind for a couple of weeks now. It has everything to do with our current economic situation. However, this story about Isaac is one of the Biblical passages which can leave you scratching your head.

When Isaac was confronted with a famine, he thought about going to Egypt, but the Lord told him to stay in a town called Gerar, and Isaac did. So, the first thing we learn from this passage is obedience.

Here is the second observation. Isaac, though facing a famine, did not hoard his seed. He didn’t put everything in storage, saved against the effects of the famine. He did quite the opposite. He sowed. Now how is this resonating for our current situation? Wouldn’t it be the easiest thing in the world to hoard all your resources. Aren’t you tempted to stop tithing? You know, some people have. I honestly believe that the better thing to do is to give more. That’s crazy sounding but how is any crop going to come up if we don’t sow?

The last thing we see in this story is that Isaac reaped a hundredfold in the very same year. I am saying that these couple of verses are a message for us today and that if we trust in the Lord, we, too, can reap in this very economically challenging time.

Isaac prospered in a time when it made no sense that anyone could. And this is why this passage leaves me scratching my head, could it work for us too? And if so, what is required? Well, apparently it only works for those who: trust God, obey Him, and sow. I would add that belief is part of that trust component. This only works for those who believe. So here is the problem with testing this theory. If you believe it won’t work, you’re right! If you believe it will work, it will. What do you think?

I think this is a message from the Father to all of us. I believe He is telling us to look to Him as our source of income, blessing and harvest. I think about what Jesus said about the birds of the air. They neither reap nor sow and yet our Father takes care of them (Matthew 6: 26). What will it take from us to receive God’s bounty during this famine? How can we be like Isaac? Can I even hear what God is telling me to do?

I have a friend whose salary has been reduced by ten percent and yet she said she is not going to reduce her tithe? What? That made an impression on me. I want to be an Isaac in this land. I want us to learn how to trust God so that the famine does not defeat us but that we, instead, reap a hundredfold in this very same year. I want God to show up and show off by blessing the socks off of believers. Tell us Lord, what to do and we will obey.

Okay, now do your part. Listen for the voice of the Lord. He is speaking to you. Listen attentively. Second, obey. Yep, that word that no one seems to like these days. Third, trust the Lord and believe that what He did for Isaac, He will do for you. Sow and then gather in your harvest. I am praying that you will increase during this strained economic time and that you will look back and see how the Lord walked with you continually.

If you need prayer or know someone who does (and who doesn’t) please click on this link, https://iveyministries.org/prayer-request/, to go to our prayer request form and leave a request for our most excellent prayer team.

Jealous Much?

Psalm 73: 1 – 3

No one can deny it—God is really good to Israel and to all those with pure hearts. But I nearly missed seeing it for myself. Here’s my story: I narrowly missed losing it all. I was stumbling over what I saw with the wicked. For when I saw the boasters with such wealth and prosperity, I became jealous over their smug security.

I remember well tripping over my sense of injustice at the financial success of the unrighteous. Was I envious? Yes, and outraged. It seemed wrong to me that people who were not blessing God, were not kind and were not gracious to others should reap financial blessing while the Godly suffered lack. Truth be told, sometimes I am still bothered but I remember this, God is not mocked. As you sow, so shall you reap (Galatians 6: 7) and I have seen this to be true.

God is good to us, as the scripture says, and He is a rewarder of faith and of all who seek him. And the truth about seed is that it will produce a harvest. It always does. So, those who sow good seed reap a harvest of good. However, the harvest is not always financial. Usually you reap in kind. Tomato seeds produce tomatoes, not cucumbers so if you want cucumbers, sow cucumber seeds. Those who reap financially may be reaping other harvests they don’t desire but they know and understand how to sow for financial gain. Others reap great relationships, peace, etc. but don’t enjoy the same financial success. That does not mean they are not successful. Their success is just in a different area. Those who are smug and arrogant about their financial fortunes often fail tragically in other areas.

We certainly should not envy them because we don’t know what they have done to build their financial well-being. They may have done work or spent hours that other people are unwilling to do. Instead of jealousy, we should seek the Father asking Him to teach us. Whatever area of our lives is missing being jealous of someone else is not going to improve it. Those people may or may not have their lives together in other areas so we may not truly want their lives. The God of the harvest has taught that we can have what we ask for and we know if others are being successful, then we can too. So, really, we should be glad when someone shows us what is possible. Then we can seek God and ask Him to show us the way.

Lord of the Harvest

Matthew 13: 31 – 32

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

I must give credit for a catchy phrase to Diane Jones. In a recent conversation regarding seed and harvest she said, “It’s seed sown, not grown.” Upon elaboration she explained that our task is to sow seed, but seed sown is not immediately grown. It takes time for that seed to germinate and produce roots and then a plant. This reality is demonstrated in today’s passage. It only takes a small seed, a seed even as small as a mustard seed, but when given time, nurtured and watered, it produces a plant larger than all the other garden plants. The key here is obvious; harvests take time.

Only a fool would sow seeds today and truly expect the crop to be ready tomorrow. However, faith gives you confidence that you will receive your harvest. Cast your seed and forget about it. If you have faith that you have done what God led you to do, then you should have confidence that in due time that seed will produce a harvest. By forget about it I mean, don’t worry. Relax, have confidence that when you sow, God brings a harvest.

What do you do in the meantime? You water it with your words. You proclaim that you will be getting a crop from that seed. You thank the Father for the rain of His goodness which He sends on all your seeds. Too many times we either forget about our seed or fail in our expectation of a harvest. A farmer wouldn’t do that. Can you imagine a farmer not expecting a harvest after sowing his fields? It doesn’t happen. On the other hand, he doesn’t have to walk through the furrows everyday looking for plants poking their heads through the soil. He knows about the germination period and he bides his time.

The point of today is, sow your seed in confidence. Expect God to bring a harvest. Speak positive words about your harvest expecting it to come in. Speak confidently about the crop. You don’t have to grow the crop, just sow the seed. Seed sown, not grown. Trust our Father to produce the harvest. He will, you know.

Seed Supplier

2 Corinthians 9: 10

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

The first thing any of us needs to understand about God is that He is love and that everything He does is out of love. One of the next things to understand is that He operates by the principle of sowing and reaping. Your life and your understanding will be so much easier once you grasp that truth. So now, let’s apply this simple truth.

As you see, God is the one who provides seed to the sower. Who is the sower? You better hope it is you. He sows into our lives so that we can sow into other lives. If we are not sowers, why would God give us seed? When your harvest comes in, you give Him 10% of it, the first 10%. That is called the tithe.

Your own finances, you will find, work in much the same way. You are given your seed. You sow into the kingdom, return ten percent back to He who provided the initial seed and you get ninety percent to work with. However, you, like your father, are a giver so you continue to sow seed into the kingdom. That seed comes back to you. In the same way that we give ten percent of our harvest back to God, your harvest comes back on every wave. From the Father’s initial seed, the harvest is multiplying.

The seed that you sowed into your church or other ministry is invested into the Kingdom where another crop is produced. That ministry returns ten percent to the Father and sows more seed into the Kingdom. This is the sheer beauty and force of multiplied seed. It can cover the earth in a short time but what happens when someone clogs up the works?

Did you know that the Garden of Eden was a seed garden? Adam and Eve’s job was to take the seed from the garden and multiply it across the entire earth. It was a big job but a simple one really. When they didn’t perform their part of the equation, they broke the whole machine. Actually, the whole fight between Cain and Abel was over the tithe. Cain didn’t want to tithe. He was rebellious. Abel was joyous in his tithe and we know that God loves a cheerful giver, so Cain was jealous and committed the first murder.

God gave the first family all the seed they needed to populate the entire earth with plants and vegetables. The entire earth would have been an Eden, a utopia. Instead, they lusted after the one thing that was God’s. That tree, I believe, represented their tithe. They, like so many of us, ate their tithe. In that meal was death and estrangement. It is the very same for us today. We commit the same crime of Adam. We don’t give what we should and we consume what we should not. In so doing, we break the system that was meant to prosper us. The machine works if you work it or we can be like Adam, Eve and Cain. We clog up the flow of God’s provision and then we wonder why we are not more blessed. The only one in the family that joyfully blessed the Lord was killed so there was no good example left in the earth, only selfish, greedy people. Surely we can learn from their example and not make the same mistakes again, and again, and . . ..

Forget Me Not

Isaiah 17: 10 – 11             NIV

You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants . . . yet the harvest will be as nothing.

This is a very good commentary on how to run our business, how to operate in our lives, and indeed how to function in every area of life. The seeds of failure are sown when we ignore the God of the Harvest. Let’s look at how we avoid this ruin.

You may have been taught to dedicate things to the Lord. That is a good first step. What should be dedicated? Everything; your home, car, business, job, recreation, family, relationships, etc. Literally everything should be placed on the altar as you dedicate its function and purpose to the Lord. Putting these things in the Lord’s hands, giving them to Him, gives Him permission to function therein. Let us not stop there.

As you see from today’s verse dedicating your job or your business to the Lord is not the end. Many have done so but promptly forgotten Him. He has a role in your business. He has a function. If you cut Him out, it will be to your detriment. Think about it. What is the incentive in cutting Him out of the operation. Does He require a paycheck? Does He ask for a raise every year? You should be tithing on all business income already. The raise He gets is when He causes your business to prosper and His 10% gets larger.

Christians fail because after they dedicate themselves and their businesses to the Lord, they subsequently forget about Him or they just have not figured out how to incorporate the Lord and His wisdom into every day operations. So, we need practical advice on how to keep God in the middle of your business life.

One of the clearest ways to do that is to communicate with Him about your business. This necessarily means that you will need to have developed the skill of hearing His voice. If you lack confidence in this area, you can search the Word of the Day on our website (www.iveyministries.org) for “voice” or “hearing.” You will find a number of articles which will help you in this regard. Also, check out Four Keys to Hearing God’s Voice by Dr. Mark Virkler (www.cwgministries.org). He teaches a simple way to develop your inner ear such that you can hear God’s voice anytime you choose to.

Then, make it your daily habit to spend some time with the Lord before you begin your day. You don’t have to spend two hours travailing over what to do. Just have a cup of coffee with the Lord as you would any business partner. Discuss ideas, plans and necessary tasks. Check in during the day with Him for any further wisdom He may share. It is that easy. Just don’t forget Him. Don’t forget that He is your partner and is willing to be with you all day long. Keep God in your thoughts and in your business and your harvest will be plentiful; more than you can contain.

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.