Newsletter January 2019 (Shannon and Glenn)

Hello everyone,

Here is a summary of the last six months of happenings in our life and ministry.

Europe trip

September was a month of preparation before our Europe trip. We had a testimony of RM’s Australian passport arriving last minute – God is never late, but He seems to enjoy cutting it too close for our comfort!

The trip was initiated by Shannon’s long term South African friends, the Swarts, inviting her to teach on their School of Biblical Studies in Norway. She went to teach the book of Deuteronomy. It was an encouraging time equipping the body of Christ, and hearing the testimony of God’s miraculous provision: the base was bought with its large farm and many buildings by missionaries with nothing! YWAM has an amazing history of purchasing extraordinary assets by faith (A cruise liner, castle, hotels and so on), without financial backing, or even paying jobs.

 

YWAM Grumerud

We really enjoyed Norway; the lack of fences and the sense of complety safety was always a delight, given the constant awareness one has to live with in South Africa. Norway is one of the wealthiest governments in the world and has a very small population, and thus people lack for nothing. Norway is as close to a paradise as one will find on this earth (in appearance), but Glenn was very unsettled by how all-powerful the state is, and Shannon how easy it is to have one’s children taken off you without due evidence, and also the soceities fall in morality (an example is a book that was brought out on why pornography should be shown to children. Thankfully a YWAMer released a book fighting against this).

From Norway, we flew to Germany then drove to Switzerland and back (3000km trip) via Bavaria and Lichtenstein, following God’s leading. The Bavarian detour allowed us to visit Shannon’s family-heritage town, Buchbach, and to visit Berchtesgaden and see the infamous Eagles Nest (a long time desire of Glenn’s).

We stayed at as many YWAM bases as could host us en route and enjoyed many divine appointments. We are excited to see what will eventuate in time from the relationships we made during the trip, but good seeds were planted for friendship and future ministry. We were also blessed to catch up with some very dear friends – Jules in Germany, and John-Mark and the Latola’s in Switzerland.

The Kehlsteinhaus (or Eagle’s Nest)

YWAM Hurlach Castle

It was an interesting transition both going to Europe and coming home. We saw many of the flaws of Europe, and the need for more missionaries on that side, but also the appeal of life there. We were hit with culture shock on our return and it took us the better part of a month to settle back into life in South Africa. All being said though, we would not leave South Africa with all its troubles for Europe unless God specifically sent us there.

Church (Power of God Assemblies)

We left our church in a good place and felt it was an opportunity for them to grow in our absence. The Spirit has laid two Scriptures repeatedly upon us in regards to the church:

  • 1Co 14:26  What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
  • 1Pe 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

All believers are called as priests, and thus can and should all minister. Overall we feel many in the church are stepping into this truth slowly. However, we did notice a “dip” in the church’s momentum in November after our time away, which flowed into the December holidays. Fortunately, the year has started well and a passion is reawakening in the family. We have also seen a purification take place in the church, with a smaller, core group of regulars solidifying now the excitement of the church plant has died down.  

The church predominately ran two weekly meetings in its first 6 months – a Sunday morning and a Wednesday night. The Wednesday night often ended up being the larger event and was where some deeper teaching took place. It eventually morphed into more of a youth meeting. The Sunday mornings have continued as they started – a beautiful time of congregation led, Spirit filled worship, body ministry and family time.

Sunday in eziMangweni

Our kids out at night

As of this year, we are focusing on fellowship and discipleship, replacing the Wednesday night meeting with two home groups. We are praying into continuing something for the youth on Wednesday nights as most of the youth sit around on the road sides in the evenings, but as always the availability of human resources is the hindering factor.

Drug abuse and prostitution among the youth are also challenges that, at this point, are out of our reach to affect, but we trust that as God adds people to us we can see what strategies He gives us to start addressing them.

Mission House

Renovations continue. Surprise, surprise. Don’t these things always take longer than expected? But we have made good progress and downstairs is nearly ready to host teams without needing to use the facilities of the main house or cottage.

When completed it will have two dorm rooms, a family room, lounge, dining room, scullery/pantry, two bathrooms and an outside braai/cooking area.

In time we will put an internal stair case in to make one large six bedroom facility. The plan down the road is for us to occupy the cottage.

God has been faithful to meet the daunting financial needs of our personal and ministry life. We have also been blessed with a local hardware store providing us with materials at cost due to our focus on community development. This generous assistance has greatly helped us get to where we are as fast as we have.

Mission teams

We have had several teams through for short time periods. These teams really bless the work in our community. It gives us the “workers for the harvest,” which is ripe! Through the love of God that goes with them in home visits and evangelism, their acts of service in the community, and the occasional miraculous healing we have seen quite a few people come to salvation, or infrequent, on the fringe believers coming to a deeper, consistent faith. Send more, Lord!

Shalack Ministries

Shalack Ministries is the NPO (non-profit organisation) our church is affiliated with and that we do community development work through.

The soccer and netball teams continue to impact the youth of our community. Our youth soccer teams in particular, organised by our ministry partner Wayne, did very well last year, with several talented players coming through. The under 15 team took part in a large regional tournament at the end of the year where they got through to the quarter final.

Our under 13 team playing on their home field in eziMangweni

The sewing ministry ended the year with approximately 20 consistent students. This first group will complete another semester, during which we hope to be able to have them “buy” (at a token price) a sewing machine at graduation, allowing them to start small businesses such as tailoring, curtaining, garment modifications or mending.

The feeding program continued on a Sunday. We were able to arrange Christmas hampers of food, clothes, and toys to bless our poorest families.

God has also been busy networking us with likeminded believers who are also seeking to impact the community and we are partnering together, brainstorming for projects for 2019 and beyond (more of that later).

Our new website is up, although still under construction. If you want to read more see; www.shalack.org

Our personal life

RM is growing quickly. He is a movement-orientated little guy and will even bounce on the lap reading stories, or move around when drawing. Needless to say, Mum and Dad are exhausted at the end of each day trying to keep up with him!

Whenever we hit a patch of tiredness or discouragement, God sends someone to uplift us, pray for us, minister with us, or otherwise encourage us. It is a joy to see God’s faithfulness in caring for our physical, mental and emotional needs, just as He does our spiritual needs. This season continues to stretch and grow us in the Lord, for which we are grateful.

Heb 12:11  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

1Co 9:23-27  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

We were able to celebrate both our birthdays and wedding anniversary during our Europe trip, so we enjoyed our various tourist sites as our special treats.

The Berg

Apart from Durban, we live a parallel life in the Drakensberg, trying to drive the 600km return trip once a month. We use this time to manage our accommodation business, including constant maintenance and renovations on our house.  It also gives us a welcome break from the city, and some valuable time with family – Russell especially loves time with his Gogo (Granny Lynn). 

Family time with Gogo

The beautiful view from our berg house.

What’s next?

We continue to work towards household sustainability, which we see as a blessing for visiting teams (fresh, free produce) and a model to those we minister to. The veggie patch is growing and producing really well. We are currently building a chicken coop and tunnel (needed for the monkeys – I’m currently picking green tomatoes!).

We continue to feel that a crèche is on God’s agenda for eziMangweni (meaning: place of mangoes). We are exploring other crèches in the area and working with a couple of other NGOs with understanding of the laws and standards involved. There is a member of our church who we feel is right to be trained for the business and she is in agreement with this, and joining us in the planning process.

We have made a friendship with a couple involved in Farming God’s way who hope to help us begin teaching and implementing this agricultural model soon.

In April we will receive longer-term missionaries with three internationals planning to join us this year for six months, and another in prayer about such. This will enable us to further walk out what we feel God’s heart is for the church this year, especially one-on-one discipleship. We also look forward to more short term mission teams visiting us.

Next Friday (8th Feb) we fly to Uganda with Glenn’s Mum, Lynn, and Qhawe, a fellow missionary, to serve for 10 days. Shannon will teach Exodus and Leviticus on the YWAM Jinja base, whilst Lynn helps with RM. Glenn and Qhawe will travel to the western border, and potentially into the DRC, to serve with contacts from Shannon’s former ministry, Redefined Ministries International.

Thoughts from the last few months

Some passages of Scripture have stood out to us:

  • 1Co 3:16-20 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
  • Rom 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

How we have been living over the last year, and the choices we are making, do not make sense from a worldly perspective. We have been challenged to lay down our all, and live recklessly by faith according to the leading of the Spirit, to see something of the Father’s purposes brought about around us in this little corner of Africa.

Bit by bit the Spirit has been helping us let go of common sense (the ‘wisdom of this world’), to shift us out of living from a place of middle class self interest.

This is the foolishness of God – putting our lives, our health and our future in the hands of an invisible Father who truly cares for us. It is the foolish desire to give one’s all to know Him and to see His will be done on earth through us, and despite of us.

It is hard to walk by the Spirit, in complete surrender, but this is the only way to live as the revealed sons of God – that is living daily with the evident testimony of God’s supernatural hand and favour in our lives.

Prayer needed for the nation

The national elections are scheduled for THIS year and it will be a major one for SAs future direction. Please invest time interceding for this nation, and for its future leaders. We desperately need righteous governance.

Praise Him

  • Finance for house renovations to create a mission house;
  • New friends and ministry networks;
  • A productive and encouraging Europe mission trip (yes, it was for missions, not a holiday :p);
  • Growth in individuals in the church;
  • Helping us emotionally with travel transitions;
  • Wisdom with the ministry as we move forward – what to do, when; how best to use finance; etc;
  • Long term missionaries on their way – this has really bolstered our mental state!!
  • For our continued protection as we work into eziMangweni and other townships in this region (spiritual and physical).

Prayer points

  • Weaning the darkness remaining in the church – syncretism with ancestral beliefs and magic.
  • Favour for land for agricultural and community projects.
  • Shannon’s visa is due for renewal this year. This sounds like an easy process (renewing a spousal visa), but is often not. Please pray for favour and all the documents coming together easily (2 months later I am still awaiting my Australian police clearance to arrive).
  • For our nation’s future, in particular for righteous men and women to rise up in government;
  • Same as last time for the church: For the saints of Power of God Assembly – that the Spirit’s work in their hearts will be deep and enduring. Jealousy and witchcraft have been the biggest stumbling blocks we have encountered. Alcoholism is another issue.
  • Favour for our renovation project and in buying our church building;
  • Our continued protection (spiritual and physical);
  • Our ministry trip to Uganda.
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Loaves and the fish

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In the wilderness on the shores of Galilee, Jesus posed an impossible challenge to his disciples. “You give them something to eat” he commanded them of the thousands spread out between them and the sea shore.

Phillip looked at the material need before him, immediately calculating the absurd cost required to meet it – at least half a years wages to buy that much bread. Others protested there was nothing to be done but send them back to the towns they had come from before it was too dark.

Andrew found a young boy who had some food left over. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”

Jesus took this insignificant offering of five rough loaves and two small dried fish, blessed them, broke them and gave them away.

When the multitude was satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” From the fragments of the five barley loaves they filled twelve large baskets.

One of the remarkable aspects on the journey of discipleship is learning the faithfulness of God’s supernatural provision. And here I mean not only those occasional and wonderful times one sees food supernaturally multiply, but in seeing His supernatural multiplication of the little we have to offer Him to bring about the great purposes He assigns to those who seek Him in Spirit and in truth.

God’s purposes for our life should scare us because they are so much bigger than our own ability and provision.

It seems to me that believers who try with one hand to live for this world, (for their pleasures and security) and with the other seek to experience God’s kingdom and supernatural favour, inevitably find themselves living out the former while seeing very little of the latter.

Jesus taught that we can only love God or money, and commanded us not to build up treasures for our self in this life, that we were to pursue first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

The measure by which we are willing to do this, to offer Him our all and everything; our right to ourselves, to physical and sexual pleasures, to a desired future, to our finances and investments, to status, or to our safety, or our lives – will be the measure by which we can be useful instruments for His kingdom purposes. And it will determine the measure of His supernatural provision that we encounter.

The great joy in our partnership with God is experiencing the impossibility of what He can bring about despite us, with the insignificant little we have to offer Him.

We may look at our abilities, or our finances in the face of the impossible commission of God and say as Andrew did, ‘what good are they among so many people’, but Jesus can take the little we surrender to Him and multiply it, to bless a great multitude.

We must not be surprised when Jesus asks of us “You give them something to eat”. Whatever the context, impossibility is the requirement of faith, and walking by faith is the path of the saint.

Nor should we be surprised when like bread he breaks up our hard heart and gives us out in service to others faith.

In the end we will not only have the testimony of God’s supernatural provision in this life, but we will one day find a treasure laid up for us that makes our earthly sacrifices pale into insignificance.

Newsletter August 2018 (by Shannon)

IMG-20180527-WA0044Looking over eziMangweni township from Power of God Assembly.

Hello everyone,

I am sorry that my communication has been slow. However, the reason for it is that the ministry is kicking off in a way only God could orchestrate!

What’s happened recently?

From last April, we supported a couple Glenn has known for over 15 years lead a local church in Amanzimtoti, near Durban. This church merged earlier this year with two other churches. Shortly after the dust had settled, we planted out with our pre-existing Zulu congregation into a neighbouring inland township called Ezimangweni (place of Mangoes).

Our church plant, called ‘Power of God Assembly’, happened at the end of May and has been one of God’s accelerated works. We continue to partner in ministry with the church we planted out of, but are now an autonomous church falling under the broader banner of Shalack Ministries International, a non-profit company that Glenn has become a director of and I a co-worker in.

The heart of Shalack is to recklessly follow the Holy Spirit, and to share God’s love with the poor, helping them bring about spiritual, social and economic change in their lives. We aim to impact as many spheres as possible (education, agriculture, business, sport) in addressing poverty, as the Spirit opens doors of opportunity.

God has led us into pioneering “simple church” that focuses on the priesthood of all believers, with no worship band and an active body ministry on Sundays.

Co 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

This approach, focused on the Holy Spirit’s leading and presence, has been well received by the congregation, and we are enjoying great times of congregational worship, followed by body ministry that can last up to an hour. As everything is interpreted, meetings usually last around 2 hours, but with every Sunday being a bit different, we are loving the experience and finding it very life giving.

Fortunately we have a strong core group of believers with us and many new Christians have been drawn in over the last two and a half months. Our ministry partner, Wayne, has established five local boys soccer and two girls netball teams through faithful work and love the past two years, and we are seeing many salvations amongst these youth. We have also seen salvations through evangelism and healing ministries.

A lot of our time is being invested into one-on-one discipleship as well as generally getting to know everyone in our congregation. We really need to learn Zulu. I am trying for a word a day, but even that sometimes proves too much amidst the rest of our work, and my greatest job of being a mum.

20180524_155752Glenn and Zamisa did a lot of work to get the property ready for the plant, including the driveway and banks.

20180812_110446A Sunday meeting with a visiting team from Cederhill church

20180822_192335Home group on Wednesday nights has become another church service

SaturdaySaturday children’s ministry after the feeding (our church space isn’t big enough for Sunday kid’s ministry and the children love being in the service).

IMG-20180722-WA0000Recent baptisms

IMG-20180703-WA0061One of our boys’ soccer teams all kitted out thanks to a local sponsor. They are doing really well in their tournaments.

Outside of the church ministry I was blessed to be asked to teach in Cape Town in June. We went as a family and loved reconnecting with the Muizenberg YWAM base. I taught on John’s literature (Gospel, epistles and Revelation). It reminded me of how much I love to teach and how much personal growth comes from it!

Our personal life (is a continuation of ministry)

Glenn and I have both been sick on and off this year. It always comes after a time of busyness or tiredness (which I feel is our continual life at the moment – first with a toddler and then from the ministry!). Yet we are constantly encouraged by the blessing we have to be in full time ministry and to run a business from home. What a joy to be able to focus on the things of the Kingdom!

Php 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Glenn and I moved into our new spacious wooden home three weeks ago. It is a huge relief to leave behind the confines of our two bedroom flat for this spacious house God has given us.

Russell loves his new home, it has grass to run around on, dogs to chase, and a sloping driveway to speed down on his motorbike scooter! He is an active boy, loving to climb, jump, run, and move, move, move! He is talking well, gaining words and speaking in two-word sentences. He also loves to draw, make puzzles, build towers and play with cars.

The Spirit has put in on our hearts to use our new house as a mission base for short term missions groups and long term missionaries. He has provided us with the finance (again, totally God; we love watching His supernatural provision!), to begin converting the downstairs: a 2 car garage with work area, plus a games room will be turned into a backpacker style area that will be able to host around 14 people. We will convert it in stages as it is a big project, involving a new kitchen, two bathrooms and three bedrooms.

Our main missions connection at this time is with YWAM (Youth with a Mission), and we are hosting our first YWAM mission team this week. Thankfully YWAMers are used to roughing it, as we are continuing with reconstruction around them.

We’ve also been blessed to have a couple of special overseas visitors this year (Fiona, Leanne, we love you!).

We now have PLENTY of space for visitors so PLEASE come for a visit. Feel free to come with a team, too, if you’d like to help with our work for a week, or two, or 6 months . . . !

What’s next?

We want to start household sustainability projects to help with hosting the teams and also so that we can replicate it in our ministry (do first, then teach). This means starting a small veggie patch and getting some laying hens. We also installed a 300L solar geyser to help with teams.

I have felt God placing the commencement of a crèche on my heart for eziMangweni. One large need in the Zulu townships is teaching the importance of early childhood stimulation. Research shows that early stimulation can affect IQ by several points, not to mention the social, physical and emotional benefits of it! However, this is not something I could do myself at this time. So I am investing a lot of prayer into it and trusting that God will bring the right people on board – just like He did for the sewing ministry (I don’t even attend the sewing any more – it has been completely taken over).

The ladies are learning to sew cloth menstrual pads as well as various clothing items and garment alterations. Many ladies struggle to buy disposable pads so whilst the pads will provide our ladies with income, they are also a form of ministry.

We are praying into buying the township house where our church meets, that is currently rented. This would enable us to do more permanent work there – build a green house, a crèche, cement the church floor, build a storeroom etc. The current owners want about 1.6x times what a property in the area is worth because there are Europeans involved. Please pray for them to be reasonable or for God to confirm that we should pay the inflated price and bless them.

We will be travelling to Norway and Germany in October. I will teach on the School of Biblical Studies in Norway and then we will go to Germany to keep some personal connections and make more ministry connections. We feel it is important to travel as a family unit as much as possible when one of us is invited to minister away from home.

Prayer needed for the nation

South Africa continues to experience great political unrest and soaring crime levels. The national elections are scheduled for next year and it will be a major one for SAs future direction.

Praise Him

 Many of our congregation have found jobs since the church plant commenced;

 Our HOME (this is a HUGE testimony; the bank didn’t want to give us a loan because we are self-employed. Through various miracles – quite a collection – over 5 months, we are now moved in);

 Changing hearts and growing character – ourselves and those in our church;

 For what God is doing to bring hope in this present darkness;

 Wisdom with the ministry as we move forward – what to do, when; how best to use finance; etc;

 For our continued protection as we work into eziMangweni and other townships in this region (spiritual and physical).

Prayer points

 For our nation’s future, in particular for righteous men and women to rise up in government;

 For the saints of Power of God Assembly – that the Spirit’s work in their hearts will be deep and enduring. Jealousy and witchcraft have been the biggest stumbling blocks we have encountered. Alcoholism is another issue.

 Favour for our renovation project and in buying our church building;

 Our continued protection (spiritual and physical);

 Our trip to Norway/Germany – the teaching, visas and passports beforehand, connections in Germany.

Water to wine

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John 2:6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

Why did Jesus choose stone water jars used for Jewish rights of purification for His first miracle?

There would have been many empty wine amphorae available at the wedding, as these  clay vessels were the standard means of storing and transporting liquids in Jesus day.

The stone jars chosen by Jesus were vessels set aside for sacred purpose (ceremonial washing) according to the traditions of the Jewish elders. To use them to hold wine at a wedding feast would have been the height of sacrilege to any pharisee attending, or later hearing of the miracle.

Was this part of Jesus’ intention, to offend the pharisees and openly defy the traditions of the elders with his first miracle?

Is there hidden symbolism in purposefully using vessels related to the ceremonial law?

Consider that following this miracle Jesus and his disciples made a practice of opposing the traditions of the elders (that is the Rabbinical traditions of the Talmud) regarding ceremonial washings.

He purposefully used opportunities around food to provoke the religious sensibilities of the pharisees so as to rebuke them about their own lack of inner purity.

Luk 11:37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also.”

Mat 15:1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

Mar 7:1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders…) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands? 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

Remarkably He even went a step further in not only apposing the food laws of the Rabbinical tradition, but apposing the very food laws of Moses.

Mar 7:15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean)

Paul echoes Jesus words in Romans;

Rom 14:20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.

We can see that not only was Jesus starting His ministry with a display of the superiority of the Spirit over the law (the new wine created in ceremonial washing jars), He was apposing and showing the inferiority of both the rabbinical law and the ceremonial law of Moses.

The author of Hebrews shows us that the law was an attempt to ‘perfect the conscience of the worshiper’ through ‘the purification of the flesh’ (dead works).

As Jesus came to be the final sacrifice who through His blood would ‘purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God’, He used every opportunity to display this purpose and appose the works of the law.

Heb 9:8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section [the Holy place of the tabernacle] is still standing 9….. According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

Heb 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent [tabernacle]… 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Just as the Jews assumed natural water could sanctify them before God, Jesus was also displaying in this moment that His blood was the only true force that could cleanse man.

Thus the wine can also be seen as a picture of His blood, contained in and fulfilling the law of Moses.

Mat 26:27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to destroy them but to fulfill them..

We can see then that Jesus’ miracle of the water turned to wine is symbolic for reasons around the law’s impotence, but there is a clear case to be made that Jesus was also presenting Himself as a stumbling block to the Jews who sought a righteousness by the outward works of the law.

Rom 9:30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone..

 

 

Being led by the Spirit in finances

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‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’ (Rom 8:14)

Some years ago, I became convinced by scripture that in the area of my finances and in particular my giving, I needed to be led by the Spirit of God alone, and not by percentages of the law.

While I knew ‘that no one is justified before God by the law’ (Gal 3:11), rewiring my brain was no easy task. Giving a tenth made me feel justified and secure before God, thinking (as I had been taught) that my obedience would obligate Him to protect and bless me financially.

More importantly it took a few years for me to completely overcome the fear of punishment drummed into me over years by the church of what would happen if I failed to give my 10% to the ‘storehouse’.

I can only shake my head when I think of how often I’ve heard Malachi proclaimed over the church – that God will withhold His blessings on our finances and the devourer would be free to bring ruin if we robbed Him (that is the church) of our tenth.

I’m sure a psychologist would label such teachings as group control – that is using fear and reward to bring about desired behaviour. But praise God I not only still believe in the value of local church, I have the privilege of pastoring one.

God has been so much more faithful and generous to me than I could ever have imagined since I gave up tithing a few years ago, and with it my reliance on Old Testament promises, for the higher road of being led only by the Spirit in my giving.

How grateful I am to be part of a New Testament, with a new priesthood and new law, established on better promises.

Every year He has stretched me (now with my wife’s help) to give more, and to trust Him more. And every year He increases the measure back to me in remarkable ways.

I’ve lost count of all the testimonies of His amazing and bountiful provision. Year on year He has made a way before me where there seems no way to do the things He has called me and my wife to undertake, and go to the places He has sent us.

Every year my financial out flow has considerably increased, far exceeding my set passive income from my family’s resort business (over 2.5 times last year). Yet somehow there has always been enough to cover needs and even at times an abundance.

I say all of this because I want to give testimony to His goodness and generosity. In particular the last two months have been the hardest financial test I’ve faced in my years as a Christian.

With the planting of our township church in May the Spirit challenged me to give freely towards the church’s set up. He told me to do so without measure, to delete my budget and not to define my generosity by the boundaries of my limited supply.

Somehow, primarily with the generosity of those in the church, and despite the church being as poor as churches go in South Africa, it got set up in time for the celebration and God still made a way for our personal bills and staff to get paid. But both my wife and I had empty bank accounts by the beginning of June.

To add heat to the test of being obedient to the Spirits leading, we had lawyers fees to pay for a house God had enabled us to purchase through two separate loans (another miracle), a ministry trip to Cape Town to pay for and only one booking in our berg house to show for the entire month of June.

July didn’t look much better with only four bookings to show. Given that our home in the Drakensberg is an important income source for us through Airbnb beyond our passive income from the family holiday resort, we were facing a barren financial desert ahead of us. Certainly far less income than we needed to cover all of our bills.

I considered short timing our maid and even started considering looking for part time work as both my wife and I are involved full time in our missions and pastoral ministry. To say I hit a faith low would be accurate.

Seeing the lack ahead, with the Spirit and my wife’s help I did the only thing I could, I prayed, fasted and warfared (for good measure), knowing that God has called us to full time ministry, and his word promises He will provide ‘all sufficiency in all things at all times, [so that] you may abound in every good work.’ (2 Cor 9:8).

As we walked ahead in faith, despite what was a general dip in hospitality bookings in our area, the most remarkable miracle happened.

We started seeing a wave of bookings come in. June picked up as we went, nothing explosive but sufficient to pay the bills. But July just went crazy. Although not yet started it is up 34% in bookings as I write this. *

The scripture is true that ‘whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully’, and ‘give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.’

Trusting the Spirit in finances, especially when He calls us to give over and beyond what we are comfortable with, and which by sight exceeds our limited supply, is one of the hardest faith tests we can face. I don’t feel like I passed it well, but it has been an amazing learning curve.

*At the end of July our bookings were 96.6% up on last July. It has set a record for the busiest month (by bed nights) for our business to date.

 

Deconstructing the tithe

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  • The tithe in the law
  • The tithe and the patriarchs
  • The tithe in the New Testament
  • The tithe and Jesus
  • The tithe and the apostles
  • Why the tithe is proclaimed in the New Testament church
  • Conclusion

The tithe in the law

‘And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham.’ Hebrews 7:5

The tithe is a commandment of the law. From the outset we must, along with the author of Hebrews, himself a Jew writing to Jews, acknowledge this fact.

It was given to the descendants of Levi as an inheritance, the son of Israel from whom came the priesthood.

‘To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting……. 24  For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.’ Num 18:21 

The Levites received the tithe because they were chosen out of Israel as God’s portion in place of the firstborn sons.

‘Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine.’ Num 3:12

This occurred because they proved faithful in the incident with the golden calf.

‘Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him……. 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.’ Exo 32:26

The Levites were to be unlike the other tribes receiving no land after the conquest, as the Lord was to be their inheritance. This meant they had no means to provide food for themselves.

‘Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The LORD is his inheritance..’ Deu 10:9 

‘The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the LORD’s food offerings as their inheritance.’ Deu 18:1

‘To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance. The offerings by fire to the LORD God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.’ Jos 13:14

They were to be completely dependent on God and the obedience of their brother Israelites, set apart to serve the temple and be wanderers in the land.

Because of this dependence, and because the Levites were God’s portion, He made it clear that failure to provide for them was a serious infringement. To rob the people He had set apart for Himself of their provision was indeed to rob God Himself.

Those who blessed the Levites would be blessed, and those who failed to supply their needs as He had commanded would learn to fear the Lord.

‘And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.’ Deu 14:23 

‘And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.’ Deu 14:27

 ‘And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.’ Deu 14:29

Israel’s failure to provide the Levitical priesthood with food in the time of Malachi not only brought a curse on the nation, it gave the devourer access to those areas the tithe came from; their crops, orchards and vineyards.

‘Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10  Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11  I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.’ Mal 3:8 

The curse attached to Israel’s refusal to tithe, and the invitation for Israel to test God for provision and blessing by giving their tithe, were both for Israel alone, and only for the time period of the old priesthood.

When the old priesthood came to an end, the tithe that supported that system also came to an end.

‘For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.’ Heb 7:12

It is worth highlighting before moving on from the law that the tithe was only ever given in the form of food, never money. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Jewish peoples general wealth, money or income.

Where ever tithing is mentioned in scripture it is only in the form of food. It was only ever a produce offering. Those Israelites who did not produce food, did not tithe.

‘Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD.’ Lev 27:30

‘And every tithe of herds and flocks..’ Lev 27:32

‘…the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock..’ Deu 12:17

‘You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year.’ Deu 14:22

‘you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock..’ Deu 14:23

‘When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce..’ Deu 26:12

‘And the people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the consecrated things that had been dedicated to the LORD their God, and laid them in heaps.’ 2Chr 31:6

‘…The tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites…’ Neh 13:5

‘Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.’ Mal 3:10

Beyond this, the tithe was every tenth, not ten percent of the total. This is minor but instructive. If someone produced nineteen lambs, he would only tithe one lamb, not one and nine tenths of another.

‘And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the LORD.’ Lev 27:32

The form the tithe took developed over time from the desert tabernacle through the conquest and kingdom periods to become primarily about the daily sustenance of the Levitical priesthood and the temple system.

More can be said about how the practice of the tithe was also for the care of the alien, stranger, widow and orphan, or how Jews could sell their produce and again buy offerings for the tithe in Jerusalem if they lived far from the storehouse.

But it always remained a food offering, held in the storehouse, which from Solomon onward was the temple in Jerusalem. Here it was distributed out to the priests for their sustenance.

It never provided priests with monetary income, a monthly salary or a stipend, only their daily food.

The tithe and the patriarchs

One of the primary defenses for continuing the practice of tithing in the church is the claim that the tithe predated the law. That it was a general practice of the patriarchs, in particular given by Abraham to Melchizedek, and thus continues ‘through the cross’ into the New Testament as a principle of giving to God and the church.

Let us first remind ourselves that the tithe is unequivocally and inseparably part of the Mosaic Law. It cannot and does not exist apart from the law. This is clearly stated by the author of Hebrews as we have read above.

‘those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people…..’ Hebrews 7:5

‘But Abraham was before Levi and the law!’ Indeed he was, however the author of Hebrews continues to state in the same passage that Abraham tithed on behalf of Levi and the future priesthood to Melchizedek.

‘One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10  for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.’ Heb 7:9 

The author clearly links the Levitical tithe here to Abraham’s offering to Melchizedek, making it impossible to argue that Abraham tithed before the law.

Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek  was a prophetic picture of the future priesthoods (Levi and Jesus) and their position to each other.

But let us persist further and look at the two accounts of patriarchs tithing given in the Old Testament.

In both Abraham and Jacob’s cases both tithed after and were in response to exceptional and supernatural circumstances. Neither supports the argument that giving a tenth of one’s wealth to God was a common cultural practice of that time.

In his encounter with Melchizedek, Abraham made a once off thanksgiving offering of a tenth of his war plunder taken after his miraculous victory. Nowhere is he recorded giving a tenth of his general wealth.

‘After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet Abraham at the Valley of Shaveh..18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.’ Gen 14:17 

The author of Hebrews confirms that Abraham’s tenth was only war spoils.

‘See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!’ Heb 7:4

Regarding Jacob, he had an encounter with God at Bethel in which the Lord made a covenant with him. Jacob responded by making a conditional covenant in return, offering back a the tenth of what God would give him, so long as God led him, provided for him and protected him.

‘And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21  So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 22  And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shall give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.’ Gen 28:20 

Clearly these two events are responses to specific circumstances, and the stories differ in the purpose behind each giving a tenth.

That is to say they are not equivalent to each other, nor are they equivalent to, or even remotely related to, giving ten percent of ones income to a church.

The tithe in the New Testament

With the arrival of the New Testament, the Old Testament and its law came to an end.

‘(Jesus) Blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross..’ Col 2:14 

‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15  by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances…’ Eph 2:14 

‘..now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.’ Rom 7:6

‘For truly there is a putting away of the commandment which went before, because of its weakness and uselessness. 19 for the law made nothing perfect..’ Heb 7:18

‘Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?’ 2Co 3:7/8

‘But (the Jews) minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.’ 2Co 3:14

‘Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace.’ Gal 5:4

Jesus said that he did not come to destroy the law, but fulfill it. Once He had fulfilled it, it was abolished, that is brought to an end.

“Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to destroy them but to fulfill them.” Mat 5:17 *

Because the law has ended, the priesthood that served that law is also brought to an end, along with the temple and all of its required offerings and sacrifices.

The law, the Levitical priesthood and the temple now represent the old wineskin which could not contain the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

‘And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.’ Luk 5:37

We the saints made righteous in Christ, hidden in Him as co-heirs of the new living way, are now the living fulfillment of the law.

‘For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.’ Rom 8:3

We have a new High Priest, a new priesthood and with it a new law has been established, the law of the Spirit.

‘Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.’ Heb 7:11

‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.’ Rom 8:1

In this new royal priesthood, every believer has become a priest, replacing the Levites as God’s own possession.

‘But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…’ 1Pe 2:9

And we also replace the Levites as God’s firstborn portion.

‘For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.’ Rom 8:29

‘and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.’ Heb 12:23 

Not only do believers now replace the Levitical priesthood, we also replace the physical temple, receiving the honour of becoming the dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

‘Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”’Joh 4:21

‘Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.’ 1Co 3:16

Because the law, Levitical priesthood and the temple are now not only set aside but fulfilled in us, it should be obvious that the tithe and every other offering based on the old law are now also rendered completely void.

To take the tithe argument to its extreme – as believers are now both priest and temple, and the tithe was for the sustaining of the old priesthood and stored in the temple – if we were to continue tithing in the New Testament, believers would have to tithe to themselves.

For those Christian leaders who don’t believe in the priesthood of all believers, they still have no claim on the tithe as it was given to the Levites only as an inheritance. The burden falls on them to somehow prove there is a transference of the tithe from the Levites to those employed by a local church.

As churches (in the form of organizational entities) are not the replacement temple, they cannot claim to be storehouses as some interpret Malachi 3:10.

The true storehouses of the New Testament are believers since as the temple they must also by definition be the storehouse, whose treasure and provision is now the Holy Spirit.

Hopefully it should be clear to the reader that the tithe served a different covenant and a different priesthood, and both are no longer active.

Whenever the tithe is demanded in churches – or even used as a recommended guide or principle for giving, we resurrect a past covenant that legally has no hold on New Testament believers.

Beyond this, we are no longer called to measure what is God’s by percentages.

Under the New Testament, everything we have, all of our finance, all of our possessions – our very lives – belong to Him and are for His use as He asks of us. In Christ we are all called to give everything we have to God, not just a portion.

And the Holy Spirit is now our only guide, measure and rule in giving. Only in following Him can we find true freedom from obligation to a written law.

‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’ Rom 8:14

Any prescriptive principle is by definition law and the opposite of freedom, which is defined by the absence of obligation.

‘Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ 2Co 3:17

‘Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ 2 Cor 9:7 

The tithe and Jesus

But didn’t Jesus agree with tithing since He was a Jew?

Jesus commended the Pharisees for tithing as teachers of the law, but only as part of a rebuke. That is they tithed the tenth of their herbs (the only food they produced), yet forsook the righteous principles of the law.

‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.’ Luk 11:42 

But Jesus never taught tithing to His disciples.

Some argue this was because they were all Jews who tithed and thus He took teaching the tithe for granted. This argument clearly lacks a historical understanding of the tithe and the exact purpose of Jesus’ ministry.

Regarding the tithe, as we have seen it was a produce offering, thus many urban and most professional Jews never tithed as they had limited space or time to grow anything. And in all likelihood neither did Jesus or His disciples during their wondering ministry years.

But far more importantly Jesus never taught tithing because He was to become the high priest of a separate priesthood to the Levites which demanded a new law. This new priesthood had no more need of the tithe or any other offering commanded by the old law.

Indeed the tithe not only has no more reason to exist in the New Covenant, it was contrary in nature to the new priesthood Jesus instituted, as the tithes entire purpose was to sustain the old priesthood.

Further, because the tithe is law, Jesus never taught it because He was the seed who came to end the law.

‘Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made..’ Gal 3:19

And thus he only proclaimed the law or the prophets according to their relevance to His kingdom. The effective rule of the law ended with John, the last prophet of the Old Testament.

“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.” Luk 16:16 

This good news of the Kingdom is freedom from the letter of the law in every part, because the law only brings death and condemnation.

‘Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory…8  will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation…’ 2Co 3:7 

And lastly Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of the law and all its requirements, thus He has fulfilled the tithe. Just as the tithe to the old priesthood was their sustenance, provision and inheritance, so Jesus now replaces the tithe as the sustenance, provision and inheritance of His new priesthood.

What Jesus did command of his followers was living in abundant generosity, especially to the poor, and living by faith in the unseen provision of the Father. 

‘…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Act 20:35

“give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luk 6:38

‘Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”‘ Mat 19:21 

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Mat 6:31 

He also commanded that those who labour in sharing the gospel should receive material support, as seen when He sent out the twelve and later the seventy two disciples.

“Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the labourer deserves his food.” Mat 10:9

“And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.” Luk 10:7

The tithe and the apostles

Like Jesus, His apostles never taught tithing.

It is conspicuous in its absence from early church practice and theology as recorded in Acts and the epistles.

Indeed the only time it is specifically mentioned is by the author of Hebrews as we have read above. This is incredibly relevant because we have a Jewish author addressing the Jewish Christian population (those who used to tithe), and he clearly calls the tithe law.

This counters the argument that the silence in the New Testament regarding tithing exists due to it being a common practice among the Jewish Christians.

Rather the silence exists because Jewish believers didn’t tithe. They understood that the tithe was part of the law, they understood that the temple and the priesthood were obsolete – and they understood that the tithe which served that priesthood and temple was also obsolete.

This is clear in the theology of the author of Hebrews.

Another supplemental argument against the proposition that tithing was a common practice among the early believers is the council of Jerusalem (which was held before the theology of the letter to the Hebrews was established).

Here the apostles and elders appealed to the law to enforced Mosaic food obligations onto the new Gentile believers, yet they made no mention of tithing – which is no small matter – given the importance the modern church places on it for the provision of ministers and the church organization.

‘Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20  but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.’ Act 15:19 

Regarding money the apostles simply taught what Jesus had before them; sowing and reaping, abundant generosity and faith in God’s provision, and generosity towards the poor without the compulsion of the tithe or any other fleshly coercion.

‘The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.’ 2Co 9:6

‘Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.’ Gal 2:10

‘Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.’ Gal 6:7

They encouraged the sharing of wealth and practical support among each other, especially giving generously towards brothers in need;

‘There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35  and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.’ Act 4:34 

‘And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.’ Gal 6:9

‘for the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.’ 2Co 9:12

They encouraged partnering with apostolic gifts;

‘And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.’ Php 4:15 

And willingly supporting those who labour for the gospel;

‘The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should live by the gospel.’ 1 Co 9: 14

‘Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.’ Gal 6:6

‘Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. 18 for the Scripture say, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The labourer deserves his wages.” 1 Ti 5:17

Let us look finally at 1 Corinthians 9-14 which is sometimes also used in defense of the tithe.

‘Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the ploughman should plough in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.’ 1Co 9:7

Note that Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain’ in both 1 Tim 5:17 and 1 Cor 9:9. In neither instance while building an argument for the church body supporting spiritual leaders financially does he refer to a scripture from the law about tithing.

One must ask why in quoting the law to support his argument, he chooses an obscure analogy regarding the care of oxen, rather than any number of scriptures about tithing.

Yes he certainly refers to tithing in 1 Cor 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?

But he does so only as an analogous support for his broader argument that those who proclaim the gospel have a right to get their living by it.

Paul of all the apostles understood that the law is in every part ended. His appeal is simply what is stated – those who labour spiritually have a right to material provision – just as the priests of old could expect their material sustenance from the temple they served.

However, in the New Testament right to material support for ministers of the gospel is not according to the obligation of a law.

For freedoms sake we cannot bind people to give according to rote methods or principles of percentages.

The new and living way is found in the free will gifts of saints, according to their own consciences, as led by the Holy Spirit. This is the only way a congregation can be led into maturity, taking responsibility to hear God for themselves.

Why the tithe is proclaimed in the New Testament church

In modern law judges cannot rule over cases in which they have an inherent bias due to self interest. Such conflicts of interest involve any association with another entity in which there is a financial interest or benefit.

In the church its leaders are also its judges. Unfortunately those who rely upon the tithe for provision, and whose church structures are dependent upon the tithe for their financial survival, are inextricably compromised in their judgement.

That is to say leaders who are dependent on their churches for finance will lack objectivity due to their need. Thus despite the tithe being part of the law and contrary to our new priesthood and freedoms, and not being taught by our founder and apostles, it continues to be justified.

If church leaders do not stand in faith for God’s supernatural provision for their ministries, they will inevitably put the burden of that provision onto their congregation. This releases the work of the flesh (in strategies, programs and worldly principles) to draw people, keep people and ultimately grow the tithing base.

Obligated giving alone allows church leaders to calculate to some measure their church’s monthly income and plan accordingly, achieving a measure of financial stability and predictability – that is living by sight and not by faith.

It locks leaders and followers into a worldly mindset based on worldly principles, and robs them of a higher kingdom revelation, limiting freedom and spiritual development.

We cannot hold onto the law with one hand, and freedom in another. The two are opposed. You either trust in principles and percentages, or you trust in the Spirit. Either the Spirit is our guide, or the law is our guide.

Once we lay down our personal and corporate dependencies on percentages, we begin to understand more completely the liberty of walking in step with the Spirit and becoming a vessel completely poured out for His purposes.

Let us move on from the elementary principles of this world and the law, for they are weak and worthless, utterly unable to guide us towards perfection.

‘In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’ Gal 4:3

‘But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world…’ Gal 4:9 

Conclusion

Jesus made it clear that men serve, love and trust God completely, or mammon. There is no middle ground – It is impossible to be a bond slave to both masters as both demand complete devotion. The degree to which we live for the world is the degree to which our service for God is limited.

“No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.” Mat 6:24

Those who live according to the wisdom of the world are enslaved to what can be seen and measured. If we look only to our own limited supply and the provision of our circumstances, we will operate only out of that limited supply. We will live in the fear of running out and not having enough. Our obsession will lie in increasing our income, because our income is our security and our source.

We have to learn that God is our secure foundation and source of all provision.

‘John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”’ Joh 3:27

‘For us there is only one God, and he is our Father. All things came from him, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things were made through him, and we also have life through him.’ 1Co 8:6

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.’ Jas 1:17 

‘And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 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. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way..’ 2 Cor 9:8

The principles of Heaven are not those of earth. The world concerns its self with lack and receiving, heaven concerns itself with abundance and giving.

‘For He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for He gives the Spirit without measure.’ Joh 3:34

If the Spirit is our supply, then He is without measure. The vaults of heaven are always full; the great challenge is exercising the faith to rest in them.

There is a great difference between belief and faith. Our worldly desires for pleasure, success, power, significance and security always prohibit us seeing reality from heavens perspective.

‘For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.’ Gal 5:16

It’s through the child’s eyes that we rightly understand God and every other aspect of life, including finance.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Mat 18:3 

We must always remember that God sustains that which He commissions. Let Him move the hearts of His people to give as He leads, to whom He leads and as much as He leads. The burden of provision is always, only, on Him for our expenses and those of our ministry.

Let us constantly remind ourselves that the tithe is a work of the law and is thus not of faith (that is being led by the Spirit). To teach one law is to bring the church into the bondage and curse of all the law.

‘Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us..’ Gal 3: 11

Notes

* Some translations of Matt 5:17 read, ‘I did not come to abolish the law’. This creates confusion concerning the idea of the law being abolished. However the Greek word in Matthew is Kataluo – to demolish, destroy, dissolve, throw down. In Eph 2:15 the word abolished is Katargeo – to render useless, to end or make void. This same word is used in 2 Corinthians 3 and rendered ‘brought to an end’.

Notes on the Law ending

For a while now I’ve wanted to write a bit about the law of Moses and address some confusions that are common in the church around what of the Old Testament should still be obeyed and what shouldn’t, or whether the whole thing has been done away with.

Theology defines how we see God and how we respond to Him. It will either bring us closer to God in our understanding and in experience, or it will keep us apart. Either it will lead us to rest and enjoy, or to strive and compete. For this reason having one’s mind renewed with sound theology is really important.

How Christians understand and relate to the Old Testament is particularly vital in how they understand law and grace, and God’s expectations towards them. If we hold onto any obligations to earn righteousness, we will frame our understanding of God along those lines. God is either a Father who gives His acceptance, salvation, provision and protection along grounds that are entirely unmerited or entirely merited. There is no middle ground – we don’t receive God’s acceptance in some things for free and in other things through achievement. He must be either completely accepting on the grounds of grace through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, or He must be completely demanding on the grounds of our own performance according to works that earn his acceptance.

The Old Testament as it was given in the form of Pentateuch, the poets, prophets and histories, is an agreement given specifically to the Jews, for a spicific time period and is completely based on mans attempt to earn acceptance and attain righteousness. It was not an ideal system, but rather one given as punishment. We will see that it was both a curse and an expression of God’s wrath on the Jews. It nullified faith by promoting obedience to works and was completely inadequate to perfect men, while being utterly bankrupt to help them attain salvation.

Of course there was always a remnant among Israel that attained to salvation through faith, but it was the minority. The great stumbling block of the Jews, righteousness by faith alone, kept and keeps many from entering in to God’s rest. My hope is that as I dissect the law here, it will help free others who might be caught up in obligation and self-effort, or those just generally confused about the law and grace and what we are expected to keep or not keep in the New Testament church.

NOTES ON THE LAW

It has three divisions with separate functions

1. The written law: The written commandments that comprise the Pentateuch. The Prophets being a further expression of the written law
2. The tabernacle: The physical meeting place of God and man. Later the temple.
3. The priesthood: The descendants of Levi who served as Priests and Levites at the tabernacle. Only those descended from Aaron could be Priests, all others served the priests as Levites or ‘temple assistants’.

The written law has three parts

1. Moral law: describing acceptable morality and punishments for transgression
2. Social Law: describing acceptable social behaviour and punishments for transgression
3. Ceremonial Law: describing acceptable ceremonial practices for the priests/Levites at the tabernacle and punishments for transgression.

The tabernacle has three parts

1. The most holy place: Where the Holy Spirit dwelt and only the High Priest could enter
2. The inner court: Where the ceremonial items were kept, accessed by priests
3. The outer court: Where sacrifices were made, accessed by Levites.

The priesthood has three divisions

1. The high priest
2. The priests
3. The Levites

The Law is also known in the New Testament as
1. Covenant of the letter (2 Cor 3:6)
2. Ministry of death (2 Cor 3:7)
3. Ministry of condemnation (2 Cor 3:9)
4. Law of sin and death (Rom 8:2)

Why was it given?

1. To punish on-going rebellion and hard heartedness of the Jews – it exists for rebellious lawbreakers, not the righteous.

Gal 3:19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions

Mar 10:5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,”

1Ti 1:9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels..

2. To identify sin and magnify it in men by arousing sinful passions

Rom 3:20b for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

Rom 5:20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied…

Rom 7:5 the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death…

Rom 7:13 It was sin, working death in me through what is good (law), in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

3. To make the Jews realise their own powerlessness to overcome sin in their flesh by their own effort

Rom 7:16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. Rom 7:19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Gal 3:12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.”

4. To thus show that righteousness cannot come through the law

Rom 3:20a For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law..

Rom 9:31 but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law.

Gal 2:16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law… Gal 3:21 (for) if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law.

5. To bring a curse upon all who attempted to find righteousness through works

Gal 3:10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”

Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”..

Paul indicates that the curse can be understood as a hardening of the Jews hearts and minds through the law towards salvation by faith rather than through pride and self-effort, which in turn leads to spiritual death.

2Co 3:14 But their minds (Jews) were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds…

2Co 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

6. To bring judgement and justice (wrath)

Rom 4:14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 for the law brings wrath.

The love of God dictates the justice of God which is ultimately expressed through judgement. This judgement is both past, present and future. The law then is a judgement, a curse and an expression of God’s past and present wrath on those who seek to fulfil it.

7. To hold the world accountable to a clearer revelation of God’s nature and character

Rom 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

8. To hold the Jews in custody as a guardian or schoolmaster until Christ was revealed i.e. pointing them to God and instructing them in His ways. It also protected the faith of the remnant and the Jewish culture.

Gal 3:23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.

Rom 2:20 having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth..

9. To be a shadow and type of good things to come

Heb 10:1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach.

Jer 31:31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another (to conform to a set of law), or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

New Testament writings on the Law

Jesus said of the law;

Luk 16:16 The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.

Jesus being a Jew himself was subject to the law, and he obeyed it according to the spirit of the law rather than the letter (see Jer 31:31), while preaching the kingdom that had and was to come. In my opinion the Old Testament period or ‘dispensation’ ended on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples. I say this because the law was given on the same day about one and a half thousand years before (Pentecost being the feast that commemorated the giving of the Pentateuch to Moses), and the whole symbolism of the Spirit being poured out on this day was to show the superiority of and replacement by the Spirit over the Law.

Much confusion has arisen regarding Jesus statement in Mat 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfil it. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Many Christian’s use this as justification for keeping parts of the law. The Greek word here translated abolish is ‘kataluo’; to destroy, tear down or overthrow. Jesus is contrasting the pulling down of the law against fulfilling it, and he did indeed fulfill it completely through living a righteous, perfect life.

Use of the word abolish in Mat 5:18 isn’t really a good choice though (it is better translated destroy) because Paul uses a different Greek word ‘Katargeo’ at times translated abolished or set aside four times in regard to the law, once in regards to death (2 Tim 1:10) and once in regard to the offense of the cross (Gal 5:11). Naturally having Jesus say that he didn’t come to abolish the law and having Paul say that it has been, causes confusion.

Eph 2:15 He has abolished (katargeo) the law with its commandments and ordinances…

2Co 3:6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry of death, chiselled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside (katargeo), 8 how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! 10 Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; 11 for if what was set aside (katargeo) came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory! 12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside (katargeo).

However if we understand that not only did Jesus fulfill the law, it is also fulfilled in each believer who lives by the spirit and loves others as himself (see below), then the law is indeed abolished and set aside as no longer necessary for us who are in Jesus.

Rom 8:2 through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Mat 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Rom 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law… 10 Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

Two other interesting comments by Paul on the law ending for believers.

Rom 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law (conclusion/culmination) so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Rom 3:21 But now, apart from law (separate to), the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets…

Other conundrums around the law

Paul uses the same word Katargeo at one point to say something apparently contradictory to all his previous statements;

Rom 3:31 Do we, then, abolish the law by this faith? Of course not! Instead, we uphold the law.

Before this Paul writes..

Rom 3:28 we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works prescribed by the law. 29 Is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the gentiles, too? Yes, of the gentiles, too, 30 since there is only one God who will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith (alone) and the uncircumcised by that same faith.

Here Paul is arguing that the law is upheld because it has a purpose, namely pointing the Jews to faith in Jesus through the frustration and hardship that it brings on those seeking to fulfil it. It is a school master that still has work to do until all attain to faith in Jesus, or he returns. One can thus say that it remains in place for those still under it, but it is not only fulfilled in us who have the better promises, it has been abolished and set aside.

Another confusing scripture is Jesus statement that;

Mat 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus is not here teaching a prescription to works. That we have to labour until we are shown to be more righteous in acts than the Pharisees. Rather he is saying that we need a righteousness that is greater than anything established though human effort. We need a righteousness that is indeed not of human origin, but of God himself.

2Co 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

An analogy on the law and life

Imagine a sealed container filled with water. The Jews rejected access to the living water directly, so God gave them a structure to contain his presence. Only as punishment they had limited access to the water they had so often discarded. It would at times be poured out lavishly on prophets and kings, but the common folk had to wait once a year in hope of drinking any. While the water was right there, the container could not be opened by human strength. In fact the more one tried, the more it hurt and the more frustrated one got and the more inclined people became to simply possess control over others access to the container. When Jesus came the water was poured out upon those who received it by faith alone, so much so that it was as if each believer became a vessel that filled to overflowing with the living water. Having been poured out, the container was no longer necessary to those who were now themselves vessels of the presence. For them it could be set aside or discarded because it had no more use. It had become an ‘old wineskin’.

Mat 9:17 Nor do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will spill out, and the skins will be ruined. Instead, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Should Christians then read the law at all and should we take anything from it?

As we have discussed faith does not nullify the law, rather it establishes it as true and perfect for its purpose which was and is the revealing of faith for salvation through the person of Jesus Christ to those under it. Also we have already noted that it is a shadow and type of what has come and so there is much in it of value to learn from, the key is not using it prescriptively as a manual requiring our obedience.

Spiritual and moral principles do indeed continue from the OT into the NT, but not as law. In the same way as a man might change citizenship from one country to another, he will still find similar underlying principles from his previous state in the new one, but he is entirely free and without obligation to his previous government.

The old is passed and the new has come. Jesus fulfilled the heart of the law and abolished the letter. Where the church still mixes law and grace the only result will be legalism. Fusion always leads to confusion.

The clear mechanism of the law is this; God expects me to be good in thought and actions and worthy through obiedience. If I am good and worthy He will accept me. If not He will punish/abondon me. I will thus work for His acceptance and live in the fear of falling short of His judgement. The good news of the Kingdom is that there is no scale that will one day balance our good and bad deeds at judgement. Grace accepts that we do not merit God’s love though our actions, nor can we be good enough to win God’s acceptance. It accepts our spiritual bankrupcy as the starting point, our absolute need for God to justify and cleanse us, and rests completely on God’s unmerited favour to love us anyway despite our failings. As we draw near to Him, so He transforms us with His love to become more like Him in nature and character. The foundation of grace is always intimacy, acceptance and love.

Where ever the church puts in place obligations that are not spiritual but worldly – that is to do with building the church and not releasing the kingdom – that is having to do ‘good’ things for God/the church/man because it is required, then the law of religion is in place and this inevitably results in conformity, hypocrisy, hurt and many times rebellion. Only actions that arise out of our own hearts desire to please God for loves sake, will bring true life.

I’ve seen all of these reactions to religion in my time as a Christian serving in different churches and as a pastor. I always fought to keep people free and hearing God for themselves. The law is based on obedience, grace only on love. If Christians focused on becoming intimate with Jesus and leaders encouraged their people to hear the voice of God for themselves, the need for obligation and law would be utterly done away with.

We respond to love and are designed for sincere relationships, not rules and cold conformity. Churches that want growth in numbers for the sake of finance and pristeige will typically lean on impersonal systems and events to manage members. Churches that want growth in the spiritual lives of their people will lean on giving people space to hear God and respond out of love, never compulsion or obligation, even if the result might not be in the best interest of the church organisation. Whenever the organisation becomes more important than the individual, we have lost touch with the Kingdom and God’s Father heart.

What about the Tithe?

The tithe is a Hebrew origin word which literally means ‘a tenth’. It was only ever referred to by Jesus in regard to those under the law, but never taught as a principle by him to his disciples, or ever mentioned by the Apostles in teaching, or ever seen in practice by the early church.

Rather both Jesus and the Apostles focused on the concept of giving with a generous heart, way and beyond the limiting tenth prescribed by the law. The New Testament is all about the heart – and a generous heart, free of the control of mammon, will always seek to give more than a tenth to the things of the kingdom. There are some who give most of their salary to kingdom activities, none more so than missionaries who commonly give all of their income to sustain the proclamation and demonstration of the kingdom, and often their health, freedom and even their lives too.

It saddens me when I hear Malachi 3 taught in churches. A scripture that blatantly proclaims the law, putting believers into a mind-set that not tithing is stealing from God, that He in turn will not bless us or protect us and be forced to keep us under a curse for our disobedience. What a bankrupt view of God’s love and father heart.

The other common argument I hear when I bring up the issue of tithing is that it pre dates the law. In particular it is first seen when Abraham tithes a tenth of his plunder to Melkizedek the priest of Salem (Gen 14:20). Yes this was before the law was given to Moses. But no it doesn’t mean that we must do likewise, as if this is a pattern we must now follow. Indeed the entire symbolism of this act seems to be misunderstood by the church.

Abraham is the ultimate head of the Levitical priesthood as Levi was Abraham’s descendant. Hebrews 7 establishes; 1. Jesus was not of the line of Levi and thus not eligible to be a Priest (Heb 7:14) 2. He was however a priest of the line of Melkizedek (Heb 7:17) 3. Melkizedek was greater than Abraham (Heb 7:7) 4. Levi tithed to Melkizedek through Abraham (Heb 7:9) 5. The livitical priesthood was powerless to make men perfect and needed to be superseded (Heb 7:11).

The whole incident of Abraham tithing to Melkizedek, rather than being a type for Christians to follow, is in fact a demonstration of the supremacy of Melkizedek’s priesthood (which was to come through Jesus) over the Levitical priesthood (which was to come through Abraham’s offspring). Melkizedek was tithed to, he himself did not tithe.

Christians are of the priesthood of Melkizedek of whom Jesus is the High Priest. We have nothing to do with the Levitical priesthood or its obligations. We have an entirely new priesthood and entirely new law – namely the law of the Spirit and Life (Rom 8:2).

Heb 7:12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.

Heb 8:6 But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.

Abraham set an example for the priesthood that literally followed from his loins. We are not connected to that priesthood or called to be part of those ‘mortal men who collect the tithe’ (Heb 7:8).

New Testament Christians then are under no obligation to tithe, nor is there justification to teach tithing in the New Testament context. To take any parts of the Old Testament and make them prescriptive, no matter how popular they may be in modern culture, be it tithing, the sabath or Jewish feasts for example, is to put ourselves back under bondage.

Paul addressed a very similar issue in regard to circumcision during the first century. His argument was that partaking in a part of the law obligates one to partake in the whole (salvation is either by works or faith), and further more it disqualifies us from the whole of that which is new.

Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.

Jesus’ illustration of the cloth is apt here;

Mat 9:16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.

Partaking in any old testament law; moral, social or ceremonial is as indefensible in the New Testament context as holding onto every law, whether it’s stoning adulterers, or not wearing garments of mixed materials. To justify one and reject others is a logical error. Either we must reject all old testament law or accept all old testament law.

In conclusion I believe that tithing is still so popular today because churches need finance to function, and putting an obligation on church members to tithe ensures money comes in to pay the bills. If churches taught that God’s protection and blessing is not dependent on mans obedience to give a 10th of his money, it will set people free to know that God is not after their money, but their hearts.

Like the apostles did, let us leave old testament prescriptions behind us and teach generosity and obedience that arises from a man’s heart, out of love, and never from obedience to the law.

Philippines Mission (YWAM DTS)

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I must apologize to any who were hoping for updates from my trip to the Philippines. My desire to write left me for a time but I’m feeling the scratch again so here is an abridged attempt to catch up on my experiences..

Having traveled to Thailand and Malaysia before, I had some idea of what the Philippines might be like; the crowded, frenetic pace of Asian cities and the hot, sticky tropical climate. I had enjoyed both previous trips and added to this the thought of leaving the cold English winter and three months of lectures and meetings behind me made it an appealing prospect.

The purpose of the trip was to complete the outreach phase of the ‘DTS’ (discipleship training school). Unlike most YWAM outreaches this one would involve two other ministries from the UK and another DTS from Hawaii joining us at different stages along the way. Called a ‘Mega Outreach’ it consisted on average of 80 foreigners and 50 local YWAM staff and volunteers.

On arrival we stayed overnight in a hotel in Manila. On first impressions the city is a chaotic mess of weaving traffic, pedestrians, feral animals, slums mixing with decaying buildings and new high-rises. All my friends who’ve been to the Philippines have told me to ‘get out of Manila as soon as possible’ if I visited, and I totally understand why.

Our hotel rooms had been recently installed with sleeping pods, 10 per room, stacked two high. Beyond being novel, they were equipped with a light, extractor, plug and wi-fi, providing very comfortable and private sleeping space, long enough to stretch out and high enough to sit up in.

We flew on the following day south over the island chain to the large southern land mass of Mindanao. We were collected for the 40 minute drive to Cagayan de Oro (CDO) by Jeepnie, an open sided bus that has the look of a stretched Jeep with seats running parallel down the back.

CDO is one of the larger cities of Mindanao, hedged in by forested hills and spreading around a large bay in the north.  We were to stay at ‘Coconut Bay’, one of the most popular hotels in the city for local functions and celebrations. We had managed a good price and due to our numbers took up the main wing for most of our stay.  The grounds bordered onto the sea with a sea wall overlooking a beach below.

I was grateful for the sea view and fresh on shore winds, however both the beach and the sea were so badly polluted as to be of no good for swimming.  A nearby river mouth and a bordering squatter community filled the sea with sewage, dead animals, debris and tonnes of silt washed down from gold mines in the hills that turned the sea a sandy brown. Added to this the chemical run off from industrial works on the bay and it would be a poisonous soup for any foreigner. This didn’t stop the locals swimming and bathing in it of course.

Our first two weeks saw us finishing off lectures, acclimatizing to the hot weather and getting to know new faces. The arrival of new groups led to several reshuffling of rooms, which we on average shared with three to four other trainees or staff. The rooms had too few beds and we took turns sleeping on air mattresses, with some unfortunate folk staying on the floor for most of the stay. Probably the greatest blessing of our accommodation was the air con, an absolute delight in the tropics. And for that matter a working shower.

Given the number of people involved we split into six small groups working into different informal settlements around the city. Our outreach schedule followed a fairly standard routine for the next six weeks; Mondays were off or a group outing, Tuesday to Thursday we had breakfast, worship, small group meetings, lunch, afternoon outreach, supper, feedback.  Fridays and Saturdays we ministered into local schools, the boys’ prison, boys’ town, girls home and an orphanage. Sundays we ministered into 10 local churches. The daily travel by Jeepnie took between 15 to 40 minutes each way depending on the location and we often ate our dinner at the local base leader’s house.  Needless to say the days were busy.

It took me the first two weeks to deal with the culture shock, adjust to the filth and pollution, fight off sickness and slowly get to know and build relationships with the locals. I’m not inclined towards evangelism being a more introverted person, but it was a good challenge stepping out beyond my comfort zone and engaging with strangers.

The most encouraging part of the process was day by day in our small group times praying and hearing the Holy Spirit together on specifics; where we were to go and what we were to do. Sometimes it was a clear program for the day that would come together between us and at other times just a starting point and one or two appointments. Day by day I saw the hand of God leading in this and we continually met the right people in the community at the right time. A few key folk were highlighted to us and all were touched and changed by God’s presence over the weeks we ministered to them.

The last two weeks of the outreached we reshuffled our groups and moved ‘onto location’. A few groups stayed on church floors and my group moved into the local base leader’s house which was near the squatter community we were ministering into. These were the toughest weeks for me because my physical and emotional stamina was at its lowest point.

I never fully regained my health being busy, working in the slums, and eating a diet I was unaccustomed to. The far bigger challenge to me however was that at no point over the last few weeks had I found any alone time to process my thoughts, which as an introvert I need to recharge and stay centered.

The three blessings that kept me sane were having a room under the house away from the noise above, getting out for a day and having an hour alone in the quiet of a river forest, and being joined by ‘King’s Kids’, one of the teams coming from England who worked with us through the last week and largely carried us to the end.

The highlight of the last week was holding a feast for the community we’d been in to celebrate what God had done amongst them. Kings Kids supplied a roasted pig, fish, fruit and rice which fed nearly three hundred people although we probably only had enough for two hundred. Baptisms for a few locals and two of the team followed in the river with much celebration.

In hindsight the impact our team made in the area I feel was considerable. The spiritual atmosphere had been heavy and oppressive when we arrived, with prostitution, transvestism, drugs and gambling being commonplace. The family structure is all but non existent and a lethargy and hopelessness is over the men. We were treated with suspicion when we arrived, but rather than bringing judgement we chose to love on the people we met. Hearts opened and individuals made choices which began affecting the community.

A few months after returning the mens’ meeting we started there is growing and faithfully being continued by local christians. Two of the transvestites made choices for Jesus and have found work outside of prostitution and are in process changing their lives. We prayed for several sick folk and saw some healings, the most remarkable being one old mans skin condition clearing up and a woman who gave a testimony at the feast that her breast cancer had totally disappeared after the medical team had prayed for her (she was about to have a mastectomy).

One dramatic healing I experienced was praying for one of the woman on our team whose one leg was a centimeter shorter than the other. This caused her to walk with a slight hunch in one shoulder and had given her back pain for many years. With a group of friends we sat her down and prayed for her leg to grow out. This it did, about a cm beyond the other, before returning in line. Her whole back got healed at the same time and having written to her some months later, she is still free of pain and no longer walks with a lower shoulder.

The most interesting person I met during the trip was a old woman, 82, whom I met in the shanty community. She lives in a small ramshackle hut by herself and has no income apart from giving back massages occasionally, and lives on charity from the poor around her. She related to me the story how about forty years ago her husband died, thin and emaciated, from cancer. They laid his body out for the community to come pay respects and doubtlessly make sacrifices, the culture being a mixture of Catholicism and animism.

A group of Christians came around and were saying prayers when a dove came and landed on the balcony. At the same time her husband came back to life and after regaining his senses, told them how he had met a man at the intersection of two roads who had told him it wasn’t his time yet and sent him back. Needless to say they became devout Christians and her husband became an itinerant minister, quickly regaining his weight and health. To add a twist to the story he suddenly died (again) two years later from a heart attack.

The last few days of our outreach were spent back at the hotel sharing about our experiences and preparing to head back to England. I was utterly shattered by this point and only too happy to be getting back on the plane. The return was uneventful and the last two weeks of the DTS were spent at the lodge debriefing and saying our goodbyes.

523372_453382698091174_1387981788_n One can never anticipate how sad it is saying goodbye to people you’ve spent five months with in such intense circumstances. It certainly was with a heavy heart that I boarded my train after a hearty farewell, knowing I would doubtlessly not see many of the faces again.

Thoughts II

The sun is setting later everyday in this northern latitude, falling around 8:40 pm now. I’m interested to see how my internal clock is trying to adjust to the prolonged days, I find I can’t easily fall asleep before an hour and a half later than usual for me at home. This makes early mornings a real challenge for me. At least I’m not alone in this malady, most of the base skips the 7am breakfast, rising for coffee and arriving bleary eyed at the 8am worship.

The Egyptians have fared the worst adapting to this new schedule as much of the Arab world works on a late night, late morning routine – 12pm to 8am or 2am to 10am if their work allows. Several regularly miss the morning worship, haunted by late nights and held captive by warm beds.

We’re now in our seventh week of a twelve week lecture phase. By now I am quite familiar with people on base, interacting with most all day and everyday, the exception being a few Koreans, Brazilians and Egyptians who don’t speak English. Living in close community has been novel for me and something I’m glad to have experienced. There’s a deeper level of comradery, fellowship and common purpose than I’m used to. Here you live your life in the presence of others, all your faults and idiosyncrasies on display. There is a constant need to extend grace, and reflect on ones own and others behavior, and constant opportunity to encourage and challenge each other.

I think if I could have personal living space (i.e. a bedroom) to retreat to, I would happily choose communal life over the Western individualistic model. Not only are more human resources available for daily tasks, but there is much to be said for the emotional and spiritual support and input that such communities extend to each other. Like an island of trust and care in the middle of an indifferent and sometimes hostile world. I can well understand why the Israeli Kibbutzim have been so successful. 

I will say however that good, non authoritarian leadership is key here. A focus on egalitarianism, discussion through conflict and team decisions make a huge difference. Overall I have been impressed by the leadership style here at the Kings Lodge where the base leader is very involved in daily affairs, genuinely cares for the well being of the people and is truly servant hearted, often to be seen in the kitchen helping with clean up. 

On another note many of us from the Kings Lodge went away last weekend to another base about 70 miles away north of London, for an annual YWAM England gathering. It is quite a large base on 44 acres of land with several houses, a chapel and a factory, and a beautiful wood currently covered in bluebells. Needless to say I spent every available moment wandering there enjoying the blue carpet and green canopy, or enjoying the informal worship in the chapel during the evenings. 

The most challenging part of the weekend was having to brave the cold, camping with my summer sleeping bad. Summer here feels like winter back home for me and the nights are really chilly. My only consolation was watching the Egyptians the morning after our first night out. For many it was their first time camping and I’m sure an activity they won’t take away with them when they leave for home.

Mostly only staff from the other bases in England came through so the meetings were not that large with only about 300 people. I think the impression I appreciated most was how all these people and all the assets they represented in the form of land, buildings and vehicles were supported by and gained through faith. As far as I am aware no one there worked in secular jobs, and no one received a salary. 

This has been the testimony of YWAM which over the last fifty years has grown to become probably the largest mission movement internationally with approximately 20-30 000 full time staff, despite all (including the founder) being self supported. The movement has both prayed in and raised enough finance to build and buy dozens of bases, many being old hotels or boarding houses, one castle and one ocean liner (now retired and replaced by a few smaller vessels under a sister mercy ministry).

Whatever criticisms people might have of YWAM it is an incredibly effective tool for biblical discipleship and social action in the form of short term outreaches and many dozens of mercy ministries covering disaster relief, health care, water provision and sanitation, poverty relief, education and every other sphere of life one can think of.

 

 

Welsh Outpouring

I got carried away on a philosophical whim in my last post, so here’s my attempt to look back on my last two weeks on base. I will start with a post on the Welsh Outpouring. 

On the 5th of May I went for a two hour drive with a few other YWAM folk to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happening at a church in a village called Cwmbran in Southern Wales. Wales is no stranger to revival, the most well known Welsh Revival being tied to Evan Roberts in 1904-1905 which deeply impacted the nation spiritually and socially for many years after. Given the legacy in their nation the leaders at Victory church are understandably hesitant to call whats happening there a revival just yet, preferring the term ‘outpouring’ which has a less pretentious connotation. 

Since the outpouring started they have been holding evening meetings daily save Fridays and Sundays for a month and a half. The gatherings tend to last four to five hours and have been full throughout with many testimonies of salvations, radical healings and encounters with God. As we went on a Saturday there were over 700 people squeezing into the converted warehouse. I’ve never been on location where a revival/outpouring is happening and it was a wonderful experience.  

Over ten years as a christian I’ve had many experiences with the Holy Spirit in worship, during preaches, in ministry times and while being prayed for. I’ve fallen over, been sent flying backwards and fallen face down under the weighty presence of God. I’ve laughed uncontrollably and cried for so long my genes have been saturated (even though I didn’t know what I was crying about). I’ve been through ‘fire tunnels’ and crawled out under the presence or had to be carried off and left for half an hour before I could move again. On one occasion I was hopelessly drunk in the Spirit for about half an hour, quite unable to walk straight.

And beyond public encounters I’ve come to know God over the years through engaging His presence when I pray, through His conviction in my heart, His still small voice in my mind, at times through having His love poured out overwhelmingly into me. To some these experiences are normal, to others extraordinary, but from my perspective I want so much more.  My deep desire is for the supernatural to be natural in my life. To walk intimately with Jesus as some men and women do and have in the past. So going to Wales was for me another opportunity to see God working in a new way and to make myself available to encounter Him and enjoy Him a little more intensely.

The first thing I noticed as we approached the crowd gathered at the entrance was that those who were waiting in the Foyer for the doors to open had burst into spontaneous worship. That’s always a good sign in my books. As I crossed the threshold I felt waves of God’s presence that came and went with intensity as we made our way to find seats. The presence of God was heavy as we worshiped and hearts were open and exultant. I love abandoned worship like that where everyone means what they’re singing. There was a preach and ministry time following that. The preacher wasn’t particularly eloquent or powerful (the church’s pastor was resting that night), but a real sense of faith was in the building and many people went forward for prayer. Richard (the pastor) called forward Pastors and leaders for prayer so I went up always eager to get something of what God is doing.

I had hoped to stay standing for a bit longer to actually be prayed over but as soon as he put his hand on my head I literally jumped upright and fell down to my knees – the only way I can explain it is that something like a bolt of lightning went through me. I also felt God touching my body during the time of prayer and subsequently I feel much better than I have for some time (having suffered from a lethargy that I think was viral, although several blood tests have yet failed to diagnose the cause).

The experience was unique because I’ve never experienced the presence of God over a building in that way. While I’ve had powerful encounters with the Holy Spirit they are usually through the ministering of individual’s gifts rather than through a corporate anointing. I can’t say that I fully understand but it’s exciting to see God at work all the same.

For the latest news on what’s happening there, visit http://www.victorychurch.co.uk/