LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

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Location: Phila Metro, Pennsylvania, United States

Tentmaking Evangelist (Architect). An Evangelist with the Anchor Bay Evangelistic Association (non-denominational). Co-Founder of Kingdom Gospel Ministries, a ministry now in its 31st year with a mission to reconcile people of different racial, ethnic, and economic situations, and the producer of two weekly radio programs - a Sunday morning verse-by-verse Bible Study on Radio Delaware Valley and a weekly radio drama on the Wilkins Radio network. He also has archived many, many programs on the Internet. John is also a PA/NJ Architect with his own practice in its 38th year working on a wide variety of projects. Acutely interested in politics since a teenager with many articles published over the last 50 years and served as a guest on a Talk Radio show discussing race relations and on It's Your Call TV show with Lynn Doyle dealing with the subject of interethnic marriage.

Monday, July 4, 2011

WHEN WILL IT ALL END?

Concurrent with that are those who are delighted about current conditions. They look through rose-colored glasses and believe the Kingdom of God is coming through political activity, through those who don't even know God, who are often hostile to him, and whose man-made kingdom ideas have NEVER worked. They demonize all who stick to clear Biblical mandates, and cherry-pick what they want to obey from the Bible. In fact, I saw someone who says they have the five fold ministry call out a person whom I know believes and practices all that and "prophesy" to them and they 'went out under the power'. Now is that scary or WHAT? Hopefully the person just "missed it" due a personal political affinity, but the fact remains that MANY will claim to have healed the sick and cast out demons and be sent to hell by Christ. We must be awfully careful in being mouthpieces for God. So many today are saying things, but only what God is ACTUALLY saying really matters.

So where does that leave us? Well, it is important to truly examine what we believe to be sure we are in the truth. What has distressed me and dismayed me for years is that so many Christians simply repeat what they hear without being Bereans about it. They accept ideas that actually have NO basis in the scripture because they hear so many people repeat them.



THOUGH THERE ARE MANY, LET'S ADDRESS JUST TWO OF THEM...

Throughout most of church history, the belief was that Christ would return and judge the world. There was no secret coming for a "rapture" and then another one seven years later. A strange young woman a little under two hundred years ago had what she described as a vision, and the idea of a rapture was embraced by some fringe sects. Scofield popularized it in his famous reference Bible. I was taught it growing up. I was given I Thessalonians as proof text but II Thessalonians contradicted that interpretation. I was later taught that any interpretation of the Bible had to be global - it could not be a private interpretation for Americans who thought they were invincible. I wondered why the history of the church seemed at odds with this rapture theory. People have suffered for Christ since he was here physically, and people still suffer today for the gospel. It seemed like an American idea, coming a hundred years AFTER much of the harsh persecution of true Christians in America had subsided. We thought we were special. We tried to apply the scripture that "Those who endure to the end" was for "Tribulation Saints". We for sure did not want to be in their shoes. We would be getting special treatment unknown today in the Muslim world, in North Korea, and even in our own country in its early years when the persecuted who fled Europe repeated it on those THEY didn't agree with here. Let's face it, we westerners do not like pain. We do not like suffering. For Jesus, for our neighbor, for our family, for ANYTHING. Nonetheless, suffering has been integral with Christian witness for almost 2,000 years and it is an honor to suffer for Jesus' sake.

When I was informed that a Pakistani saint had been murdered, and invited to his funeral, there were no tears. There were smiles that this pastor was counted WORTHY to suffer for Jesus' sake. It was the highest honor a man or woman could ever achieve, and it was to be celebrated.

I believe we need to understand that Jesus Christ will indeed return, and he will keep us in him despite anything the world may do to us. The winds in the United States are rapidly moving toward active physical persecution of Christians. We are rapidly becoming much like the rest of the world. The intolerance of the media, draconian court decisions, a spirit of violence, truly wicked people with no fear of God whatsoever in government and hatred for the unvarnished true gospel that rightly condemns all people who refuse to submit to Christ to a literal hell, are converging and the future looks like Revelation describes it. Rather that coast into home plate thinking we will be saved from all this mess, we should be arming ourselves for spiritual battle and laying down the weights that so easily beset us and be ready for ANYTHING that comes our way. Ephesians 6 wasn't just written for the Ephesians. I preached on it June 18th, and Pastor Stevens preached on it yesterday. These instructions are needed by people the world over, including Americans in the summer of 2011.


HERE IS THE SECOND...GIVING

You may wonder why these are on the same post. I believe the truth is that they are each representative of the types of battles we face. The first above is a belief system that puts people at ease in Zion - a belief that tends to make God our servant as opposed to us being followers of him. An idea that flies in the face of the experiences of the Apostles and believers over the centuries. When the church became accepted in the fourth century, it rapidly lost its way and compromised with the world. It became powerless and eventually useless, with only a small faithful remnant continuing on. We live in a nation where 83% say they are Christian, but where any tuning of the TV or radio dials indicated it is more like 83% doctrines and ideas of demons that rule the day. Europe is the same. Even in Africa, the majority of "Christians" are NOT evangelical.

In ALMOST every church, there is a time to collect "tithes and offerings". That was the case in a very earnest and young congregation we visited yesterday. I'm sure that even if your memory of the scripture is severely challenged, you know Malachi, "Bring the tithes..."

The problem is, the practice was UNKNOWN in the early church. It was a practice in a theocracy that bears no resemblance to modern teaching. I credit Russell Kelly for the order he put these in - the ideas come from many sources and my own walk with God -

The First Yearly (Levitical) Tithe, Numbers 18: For Levitical Inheritance
Num. 18:20-21 You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any part among them; I am your part and your inheritance among the children of Israel.
And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service.

This first tithe replaced land inheritance rights in Israel and provided basic sustenance for the Levite and the Aaronic priests of the tribe of Levi, as described in Numbers 18. We no longer have this theocratic system. Pastors often have their own land and homes. They are not prohibited from having resources. Many new pastors are second career. There is no modern relevance any more than regulations on beards.

The Second Yearly (Festival) Tithe: Deuteronomy 12:1-19 and 14:22-26
Deut. 12:6-7 And there [later Jerusalem] you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the first offspring of your herds and of your flocks: And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand unto, you and your households, wherein the LORD your God has blessed you. ["Rejoice" is in verses 7, 12, and 18.]
Deut. 14:23 And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there [later Jerusalem], the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the first offspring of your herds and of your flocks; that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. ["Rejoice" is in verse 26.]

Whereas the first tithe was brought to the Levitical cities ["... the tithe of our ground to the Levites, for the Levites are they who receive the tithes in all the rural towns. Neh. 10:37b, NASU], the second yearly tithe was brought to Jerusalem for the festivals which accompanied the numerous gatherings. Also, unlike the first tithe, along with the Levite, the other Israelites, their family members, and servants, ALL ATE portions of this tithe. Also, unlike the first tithe, this tithe was an integral part of REJOICING and celebration in the presence of the LORD. It is distinctly different from the first tithe. We do not do these festivals anymore unless we are Messianic Jews who is some cases do celebrate them.

The Third Year (Poor) Tithe: Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12-13
Deut. 14:28-29 At the end of three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase the same year, and shall lay it up within your gates. And the Levite, (because he has no part nor inheritance with you), and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Deut 26:12-13 When you have made an end of tithing all the tithes of your increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within your gates, and be filled, Then you shall say before the LORD your God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of my house, and also have given them to the Levite, and to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all your commandments which you have commanded me; I have not transgressed your commandments, neither have I forgotten them.

Unlike the first tithe, the third-year tithe (in the year of tithing) was specifically for all of the needy--including the non-Israelite stranger! Its recipients included the Levites, widows, orphans, fatherless, and Gentile strangers. Also, unlike the second tithe which went to Jerusalem, the third tithe was to stay in the towns, "within your gates," at home. This could not possibly be the same as the first, or second, tithe.

As those of you who have seen my other articles on the subject know, there really is no fair way to even determine what a tithe is today. If we take the 23 1/3% from the Old Covenant, with two tithes each year and a third each third year, few would ever agree to give that. Even with the arbitrary one size fits all 10%, it is all over the place. Most salaried folks who believe in modern-day tithing give 10% of either their gross or net salary. What about company paid pensions, health and insurance benefits, stock options, etc.? That is "increase". What about the pastor who gets only half or less of his compensation in the check, with the rest in housing, education, and car allowances, pensions, insurances, etc. His true 10% "tithe" might be 30-60% of his salary. Does that sound like God? For people in business like me, who have to pay ALL their benefits out of their pay, it gets really nutty compared to the salaried worker. YET, someone told me I should tithe on my gross business proceeds, which includes office rent, utilities, employee and consultant costs, business insurances and supplies, etc! For many small businesses, this would mean the proprietor would be "tithing" more than he drew out of the business for himself!

It can get really absurd, but NO ONE addresses these matters. It is like secular evolutionists - they really don't care if anyone understands their flawed theory, they just want loyalty to it. My friends, that is NOT good enough! We need to have absolute integrity and not preach anything that is self-serving. We cannot dance around bondages of any type.

Hardly anyone has the guts to ask for 23 1/3% so they try to explain away the rest of it. Fact is, we have to be even, and not pick and choose. People today say we now have a welfare system, so that one tithe no longer applies. Well, has it worked? Hardly. And, to be perfectly frank, it the church started collecting a third year tithe for the poor, I doubt that in time it would be that much more efficient that the government, with endless management and middlemen to siphon off funds from the poor. In fact many big-time ministries USE images of the poor and desperate in order to raise money, much of it NOT going to the poor, but to salaries and TV time.

Christ came to set us free from the law, and we cannot cherry pick which ones to maintain. The early church understood this and tithing was unknown in the New Covenant. Even when Paul was in severe deprivation, he never asked people to tithe. Giving was totally voluntary and based upon what each person determined in their heart.
When the tithes came into the church a few centuries AFTER Christ, as the church was losing spiritual power, they were TAXES. They were involuntary, and they went to an institutional church with state power and were used more to build empires than to help people. Huge cathedrals were built on the backs of serfs and peasants. Does that seem familiar to modern day edifices, silk suits, large staffs, and relatively small programs to reach the lost and feed the poor where they exist at all?  Many do not know that when the church was weak, they built "tithe barns" in Germany - at least they realized that the tithe was on food, not money.  In 1188, England, France and others built buildings to hold the tithes used to fund the Crusades.  At different times there were wine tithes, hay tithes, wood tithes, meat tithes, and even cleared-land tithes.  Even today, 8-9% of the income tax levied in Germany is MANDATORY for church members.  If you don't pay, you must declare you are no longer in the faith!  The state collected for the church, and it bears an eerie resemblance to the heavy handed tactics used by some churches.  One in Philadelphia actually required their members to produce an IRS 1040 so the tithe could be accessed!  The rapid departure of people caused that policy to be reversed! Bondages of ALL kinds are antithetical to the New Covenant.  Christ won freedom for us. Why return to bondage and only the laws we find convenient?

The facts are simple - we have a New Covenant - it is better than the old. We are not under law but under grace. We no longer have an earthly kingdom, we have a heavenly one. We do not give because we have to. We give because we want to. We do not count the cost as the scribes and Pharisees did, even counting 10% of the herbs in their kitchens, but give to the need. As in Acts, when we have lands and resources and see our brother in need, we give REGARDLESS of what else we have given. Jesus did not measure out his sacrifice, and neither must we.

So you see, when we stop using man-made rules and stop extracting just the Old Covenant rules we find convenient, we will be truly under grace and do EVERYTHING God has commanded. You see, many are satisfied with giving 10% when God often requires much more. Ten percent will keep your church fiscally (if not spiritually) healthy, but it will not save the world. Only people SOLD OUT to the Lord can do that, and we cannot hold on to our jobs, our businesses, our homes, our children, or 90% of what God give us. Everything we have must be laid on the altar if we are to truly grasp the message of the gospel and follow the Lamb wherever he goes.