Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are Churches Robbing God?

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10-11, NIV).

The concept of the storehouse is at least as old as the time of Joseph. He established a food reserve that saved Egypt from famine. During seven years of plenty, Joseph had the Egyptian farmers store one-fifth of their produce. Then, when seven years of famine struck, the grain in the storehouses kept starvation from the land. It is believed that a special treasury chamber existed within the Temple precinct that was administered by the Levites that served a similar purpose. Many pastors use this belief of a Temple “storehouse” and teach that each member is to bring his or her tithes into the Church, but is this really what God’s Word is teaching?

Churches do not always obey God and they do not always work to further the Kingdom of God. Some pastors and churches are building their own kingdoms. You have probably seen churches waste money on selfishness, using the Lord’s tithes and offerings to stuff their own bellies, supplement their own children’s education, et cetera. In fact, some pastors believe this is necessary to keep the numbers up. You can walk in some churches and see how the Lord’s tithes and offerings are spent on splendor and self-edification. Is this what the Lord had in mind? If local churches and national denominations had been practicing what Joseph was doing with the Egyptian storehouse, funds would be available now to feed and house the homeless from the recent economic earthquake, but churches like individuals have overspent and many now find themselves struggling. Is this God’s judgment for them “robbing” Him?

Henry Blackaby teaches that Christians should look around, see where God is working, and get involved with God in the ministry where God is working. Christian ministries are doing what many churches are not doing in meeting the spiritual and physical needs of humanity. As President of New Life Theological Seminary, I see on a daily basis the work of God within this institution. This Seminary is training those called of God in a variety of fields. Few churches support this Seminary because it is non-denominational, yet our students and Faculty blanket the City of Charlotte in leading Bible Studies, planting churches, and a host of caring ministries. I know God is at work at the Seminary, and I also know that God is prospering every church that is financial support its Mission and Purpose.

Denominations are mostly self-serving and often at the detriment of Christian ministries and institutions that our on the front lines building the Kingdom of God. Yes, I believe churches are as guilty of robbing God as individual Christians. I believe that giving all your tithes and offerings to any one Church or denomination is being small minded. I remember a man getting in my face some years back to tell me that I was wrong for spending time involved in ministries other than the church where I was pastor. I told him, “Ben, the Kingdom of God is much larger than this church. Your problem is that you are small minded. You can’t see what God is doing outside of these walls.”

The “storehouse” of God is like our financial institutions. There are Banks, State and Federal Credit unions, Savings and Loans, and the list continues. Does it really matter if you keep your money in a bank or a credit union? The essential is not the brand or the locale; it is whether the entity is a place where God is at work. The “storehouse” of God should include your local church, but it should also include your Seminary or Bible College, and Christian homeless and emergency shelters, food banks and crisis centers, et cetera. Don’t rob God; bring your tithes into God’s “storehouse” – the place where God’s work is being done!

Prayer: “Lord, show me where You are working and help me to bless Your work with Your tithes and my offerings. Amen”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eyeing the Cross

“And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39, KJV)

I was talking with a believer recently who is losing her eyesight. She is completely blind in her right eye and nearly blind in her left eye. This saint of God volunteers her time, effort, and energy to help other people in need. As we talked, she shared with me that in worship services at her church, she can no longer read the words on the large screens and can only make out the image of the pastor as he preachers the Word of God. She said that since she can no longer focus on the pastor’s face while he is preaching, she focuses on the large cross behind him. This dear saint of God is staying focused on the Cross as age and the deterioration of the body strips away her sight.

I am reminded that as we face the struggles of life’s losses, whatever they might be, we must take our eyes off of man and keep them firmly focused on the One who is no longer on the Cross. Life presents many struggles as every adult over forty and many under forty can tell you. We have many losses designed and orchestrated by God to help us realize that life is temporary. God wants us to understand that Heaven and earth will pass away, but those who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord and maintain a personal relationship with Him will life forevermore.

Therefore, face life’s losses with the assurance that Jesus is the Son of God. Stay focused on the Cross and the One who died for you and me, and seek growth in your personal relationship with Him.

Prayer: Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you and not be sidetracked by worldliness. Help me to grow in my personal relationship with you.