Posted in Malachi, Revelation

No Compromise

“Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” Revelation 22:10-11

Why is God telling those who do wrong to continue to do wrong? Shouldn’t He tell them to repent? He’s not writing to those who are in the world in this book, but to “His servants” (Revelation 1:1) who are living in a culture of compromise and will be tempted to backslide.

The message of this passage could be paraphrased like this: “Don’t plan on the people around you changing – they might not. Instead, make sure you don’t change and give in to the culture of compromise around you. Be separate in your desire and make sure the pursuit of your life is different from the worldly people around you.”

This text is from the last chapter of the New Testament and is amazingly close to another passage in the last book of the Old Testament. “‘They will be mine’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘on the day when I make up My treasure possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who don’t.’” (Malachi 3:17-18)

Whatever else you do, choose to live holy before the God who saved you and before the generation around you. Make sure you don’t just believe differently, but actually live differently. Anything less is deception.

Posted in 1Timothy, 2Corinthians, Ecclesiastes, Genesis, Luke, Malachi, Proverbs, Psalms

Monopoly Money

“Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb; and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.” Ecclesiastes 5:15

If you play Monopoly by the real rules a game should take about an hour. During that brief period Monopoly money has value – you can buy property, improve property, and pay your debts with its currency. But when the game is over you put everything away, put the box on the shelf, and there is no longer any worth in those dollars. It will be seen that the same is true of our money on planet earth.

Compared to eternity our time here is called a breath or a vapor. Money has value during this time and how we use it is one way God tests our hearts. Jesus said, “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth who will trust you with true riches.” (Luke 16:11) A few verses later He went on to say: “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13)

How do we pass God’s money test?

  1. Recognize we are stewards, not owners. We are to love God and use money; not love money while trying to use God.
  2. We are to give back to God the first fruits of our income (Proverbs 3:9-10) which Scripture defines as a tithe or ten percent. (Genesis 14:20; Malachi 3:10-11)
  3. We are to be willing to share in any good deed as God leads us. (2Corinthians 9:7-8)
  4. As riches increase, we are to guard our hearts. (Psalm 62:10) Money is a useful servant but a terrible master.
  5. We are to trust God as our Source and be thankful because He “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1Timothy 6:17)
Posted in Malachi, Matthew, Philippians

The Mystery of Giving

“You (Philippians) sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more, I am amply supplied…Your gifts are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:16-19

We use giving boxes at our church instead of receiving offerings and rarely even talk about the importance of giving as part of our worship. It’s our response to a culture where many believe the church just wants their money. God loves people and He doesn’t want a system where anyone thinks you have to “pay” to stay in His grace.

Yet the self-sufficient God is mysteriously interested in our giving. He has placed, in giving, a number of incentives so His people will want to give freely to that which He values. Paul gives us three in the passage above:

  1. We increase our heavenly account. “I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” In Matthew 6:20 Jesus invites us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” in the context of giving, not to be seen by men, but by the Father in heaven. You can’t take money with you, but mysteriously, it seems we can send it ahead by investing in God’s interests.
  2. We please God by our sacrifice. “Your gifts are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Money is real to us, and God knows it. For most of us, giving more to God’s work means choosing for the present to have less stuff, or go on fewer vacations, or at least, having less in our retirement account. It is meaningful to God, a fragrant offering, when we choose to worship Him in this very tangible way.
  3. We secure future provision. “God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ.” Although we make a present sacrifice, God is committed to being the only true Benefactor in His kingdom. Those who give do not need to fear, He Himself has resources to draw on and will see to it that all our needs are provided for. He encourages all of us to test Him in the area of tithing, for instance, and promises to “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10)
Posted in Malachi

Setting Your Heart

“‘…if you do not set your heart to honor My name, ‘ says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor Me.” Malachi 2:2

It needs to be about Him. In Malachi’s day the priests who made sacrifices and represented God to the people were living in a place where God couldn’t bless them. They were sacrificing their lame and blind animals to God, and saving the good ones for themselves. Their lives were very religious, but it was all self centered instead of God honoring.

God loves us and wants to bless us, but our lives won’t work right if they are about us. Jesus taught us to pray first, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed (honored) be Thy Name,” and then to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” When we set our hearts to honor God and re-orient our lives around this theme, a huge weight comes off of us.

It no longer matters how we appear to others but only how He appears through us. We no longer have a mortgage or a car payment, everything belongs to Him, so we trust Him to help us fulfill obligations we have made. If we do our best and fail, it’s fine, because it’s about His success which often looks very different than ours.

We were created to be second, not first. Our sin nature is such that we easily put ourselves first without even thinking about it, which is why we often need to reset our hearts to honor Him. We do it by sincere prayer: “Father, honor Your Name through Me. May Your kingdom advance (not mine), may Your will be done (not mine), for Yours (not mine) is the kingdom, power, and glory forever.”

You may think that you lose all sense of yourself by setting your heart to honor God, but the opposite is true. Jesus said that whoever loses their life for His sake, will end up finding it. We were made to honor God so when we aim to do it, everything feels right.

Posted in Luke, Malachi

Confidence In God’s Provision

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38

It was November of 2004 in Minnesota when I received the call no homeowner wants to get. It was from my wife.

“Tom, it’s raining in the house.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked.

“Here’s what it means,” she replied, “I’m in our bedroom watching water drip through the ceiling onto our bed.”

I quickly grasped the problem as fear took hold of my heart. This was not a broken pipe – there were no pipes in our attic – this could only be a leak in our roof. It had been raining for days and apparently enough had leaked into the attic so that it was now coming through the ceiling of our bedroom!

We were a single income family living on a pastor’s salary with one child in college and three other children still at home. There was no extra money, no “rainy day fund,” though this was what we literally needed at the time.

We received a bid for a newly shingled house (that included removing the old shingles) from a roofing guy at our church for $5,800. Patching was not an option and the work had to be done quickly because winter was coming, so I needed to make a choice.

I had a talk with God. I reminded Him that we were His and that everything we had belonged to Him, and therefore it was His roof that was leaking. I reminded Him that I was a faithful tither and beyond, and that He had promised to open up heaven and pour out resources in my time of need.  He said He would rebuke the devourer for my sake. (Malachi 3:10-11)  I told Him that I was going to accept this bid unless He showed me a different way, and that His reputation was at stake if I couldn’t pay the bill.

In my journal at the time I recorded six different sources of money that came unexpectedly into my hands in the two weeks that followed my prayer. The roof was fixed, the bill was paid, and God’s reputation was intact!