Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

When I think about giving to God, I usually don’t think about the amount that I give to Him, because I already know what I’m supposed to give to Him, especially during “Offering Time.”  I already know that I’m supposed to give Him 10% of whatever I have earned, and then whatever my heart desires to give Him after that.  I give cheerfully, because I love God enough to know that everything already belongs to Him anyway, so I’m not really missing out on anything by giving Him my 10%.  So for me, giving to Him is really not that big of a deal, simply because my love for Him supersedes any ill-will that may spring up due to my “supposed” lack of resources on my end after having given God what is due to Him.

As God directed me to read all four chapters of Malachi, God unraveled the mystery behind tithes and offerings, the mistake most churches make by quoting Malachi 3:8-10, and what we should do as Christians in relation to giving to God.  For Him, giving is in two parts, and because we have taken those three verses out of context, we miss the BIGGER PICTURE that God was relaying to His people, both then and now.

Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV) states:

8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse —your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 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 there will not be room enough to store it.

Right away, most pastors, preachers, and teachers state to congregations around the world that we have to give God His due tithes and offerings because if we don’t, we are robbing Him of what He is due.  And in doing that, we GUILT people into giving to God 10% of our earnings plus whatever else they want to give to Him, instead of encouraging them to give from a willing heart.  Because people don’t want to sin against God and are afraid of the consequences of not giving to Him, they give out of fear, and not out of love.

Now, I am not debating the right-ness or wrong-ness of interpreting those verses that way, for it is true, we owe God tithes and offerings.  There’s no getting around that.  But God challenged me to consider the entire book of Malachi and allow Him to teach me what is important about the phrase “the whole tithe” in verse 10.  See, there are two parts to giving:  the tangible, world-view worth, and the intangible, spiritual connection attached to what we give.  It is the latter portion that we miss from taking Malachi 3:8-10 out of context.

“The whole tithe” relates to the fact that two chapters back, God was speaking to the Israelite nation about their lack of giving the BEST to God.  If we recall, back in those days, the people gave to the temple whatever resource they had to give, including livestock, grain, tapestries, and mineral ores like gold, silver, and so on.  Of their resources, they were to give 10% to the temple plus whatever else they had to give, on top of the yearly sacrifices they needed to make for atonement.  At this time, the nation of Israel had no problem giving their 10%.  Their issue was that they would give God 10% of their WORST, instead of giving Him their BEST:

8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 1:8)

Furthermore:

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king, ” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations. (Malachi 1:13-14)

The Israelites were either so greedy or so fearful of having little for themselves, that they gave God the worst animals for sacrifices, tithes, and offerings, keeping the best animals for themselves.  Instead of giving God the fattest calves, bulls, oxen, and sheep, the Israelites (and their priests) had the audacity to give God the sick, lame, and blind animals to God and offer them up to Him as though that was what He deserves for giving them life.

As God revealed this to me, I began to understand what He meant by “the whole tithe.”  For God, He is not as concerned about the tangible dollar figure that we equate to 10% as He is concerned about the tithe and offering being of THE BEST.  Far too often, we give to God out of fear of not having enough for ourselves, or we give God our worst so that we can keep the best to ourselves.  And it’s not just limited to the tithe and offering.  That goes for anything we have to offer God, including our time, our devotion, our praise and worship, our conversations, our jobs, EVERYTHING we have to give to God.

Think about it:  have we really given God our best, or are we giving our all to our bosses, our friends, our families, our spouses, our children, our own selves, and then giving God our leftovers?  Has God done so much for us, only to receive the best of what we DON’T want rather than what He is owed out of love and not fear?

God revealed to me that when He said to us that we rob Him in tithes and offerings, He’s not just stating that we rob Him of 10%.  We are actually robbing Him of 10% of our BEST, and when we know we can do better, we ought to do better.  That’s why He states in 3:10-12:

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 there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe, ” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

God wanted the Israelites to entrust Him with their best, but tested them by allowing some of their resources to not be as well-off as the best, so that they would have the OPPORTUNITY to show God that, “Yeah, I know some of my cows are looking one-eyed and limping, but God deserves the best, so I’ll keep Sicky and give God the Big One over there because I love Him and trust that He will give me more ‘Big Ones’ than ‘Sicky’s’ in time.”  In testing God by giving Him the best, God will then cause the overflow to take place, where the BEST, even after giving God what He is owed, will far outnumber the worst of the bunch, and the people around us will call us Blessed because of it.

God wants us to have it all, and to enjoy the fruits of our labor while we have the chance.  But while we’re enjoying them, we must always remember to give God what He deserves.  He wants it all, but only asks us for a sliver of the best we have.  Let us not slack off in our giving to God.  Let us give God the best we have to offer Him, for He has done far too much for us to get only the leftovers, like a dog begging for scraps at the dinner table.  Give Him the best, He deserves it.

As I was looking for spiritual guidance on the posting “As I Watch the World Burn,” I looked up Matthew 5:45, which states,

that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Knowing what I know about exegesis and context, I read further to ensure that Jesus was trying to say to the people that, because it “rains on the just and on the unjust,” good people have to sometimes suffer with the bad.  As the context reads, then (Matthew 5:43-48):

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemy.’  44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h]45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[i] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

God revealed to me that for over a decade and a half, I have misinterpreted His Word to mean that good people have to suffer with bad people sometimes because it “rains on the just and on the unjust.”  In reality, Jesus was illustrating to His people back then, and today, that we are to unconditionally love all people, the good and the bad because God Himself loves all people, and demonstrates this unconditional love by allowing His “sun [to] rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” two of His precious blessings that allow all of us, all of mankind, to exist on the planet.  If God could love us that much, even when we don’t deserve His love, then how much more should be expected of us, we who don’t have the right to judge anyone for any deeds good or bad?

It alarms me to know that so many of the past doctrines I have been taught have been based on misinterpretations of what Jesus was saying to His people, or what God is saying to us today through the texts.  Yes, it is true that sometimes, though we may be innocent, must suffer along with the guilty for whatever reason, like if I’m hanging with my fellas while they rob a store, and I get locked up though I knew nothing about the robbery and did not participate in it.  But the Scriptural reference of Matthew 5:45, as it relates to the context from which the Word was spoken, does not directly justify the reason for it.  Yes, it does rain on the just as well as the unjust, but not because we as the faithful have to suffer with the faithless.  Rather, His sun shines on us all, and He sends rain to us all, because despite the disparity between the faithful and the faithless, God has enough love within Himself to cover us ALL.

Having been revealed this, I pose this question to you.  Are there any direct Scriptural references (those that can be exegied) that correlate to the “good suffering with the bad?”  If so, what are they?  I can infer all day long that Matthew 5:45 implies that God’s love is unbiased, just as His wrath is unbiased (hence, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Health Insurance, etc.).  But if it is God’s Will, I would like to have something tangible that I can see within His Word.

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This third part to the “Looking to Jesus” series is based on a comment made in Part II by my sister in Christ mysterytopursue.   In Part II, God had revealed to me that the Bible’s primary utility is to show us who Jesus is and how He is the foundation for which all other Words of God are authenticated (1 Corinthians 3).  Without Jesus, nothing that we do matters, for Jesus is the foundation, the “Chief Cornerstone” by which all ministries, movements, enlightenments, and revelations are built upon, and if He is the foundation, and it is God’s will for these mysteries to be fulfilled, they will surely stand and transcend time, just like the Bible itself has.

Mysterytopursue commented:

Just one thing, though… I’m not sure it made it clear that God’s Word is Jesus, not specifically the Bible. The Bible’s just part of God’s Word because the Hoy spirit inspired it.

I took a moment to think, pray, and listen for God to give me further revelation on this matter, because my intention is not to cause division among the saints.  Rather, and I thank God for this medium to do so, I want to gain further understanding on matters that do cause division so that, if possible, we all may be on one accord.  So here’s what God said to me about the concept of God’s Word being Jesus.

I must consider the fact that John 1:1 states that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Furthermore, John 1:14 states that, “…the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us….”  Now, I understand that Jesus is the Word which the author John is referencing, and therefore, the Word is Jesus.  So, in essence, MTP is right, that the Word is Jesus, and as stated in Part II, the Bible is the direct reference to Jesus Himself, as He is prophecized about in the Old Testament, lives, dies, and is reborn in 4 books of the New Testament, and then written further about in the New Testament as the FOUNDATION by which I should model my life after.

BUT, the issue still remains, if Jesus is the Word, and the Bible is not, then how do I know that Jesus is the Word, if not for the words in the Bible that say that Jesus is the Word?  If the Bible says that Jesus is the Word, but the Bible is not God’s Word (God’s spoken/written words to His people), then how can Jesus be the Word?  I have to consider the fact that Jesus DID NOT WRITE anything in the Bible.  I oftentimes dupe myself into believing that God and Jesus wrote actual words in the Bible, but the reality is that they did not write anything in the Bible.  Yet, I still believe in what the Bible says, and I believe that Jesus is who the Bible says He is, even though He did not write anything in it.  I believe that He told Nicodemus that “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  I believe that He told Peter that “…upon this rock, I shall build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”  I believe that Jesus told His disciples that “In my Father’s House are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.”  I believe that He fed 5,000 men (not including women and children), that He walked on water, that He healed the sick and raised the dead, that He gave sight to the blind and talking to the mute and hearing to the deaf.  I believe that He got on Calvary’s cross and died for me, then rose again so that I may be able to receive the same Spirit that dwells in Him and perform miracles in my life in Jesus’s name for God’s glory.

But I would never, NEVER know these things about Him if I didn’t have the Bible to teach those things to me, and if the Bible are not God’s Words (divinely inspired by the same transcendent Spirit of God to be written by men), then what is the point of even believing in it?  Yes, Jesus is the Word, but I cannot discount where I got that information from.  Does this mean that the Bible is the ONLY Words that come from the mouth of God, not at all.  For God speaks to us all the time, giving us different Words that inspire us to do amazing things.  But I will always have to refer to the Old Landmark, Jesus Himself, and the way to Him is through the text that led me to Him in the first place, the Bible.

In sum, how do I know that Jesus is the Word?  For the Bible tells me so.

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When doing a research paper, or thinking of a new invention, or developing a new concept, or even writing a new message, it is customary for us, in the age of plagarism, to see if someone has done what we’re attempting to do, or to draw inspiration from what someone has already accomplished, or to gain insight on how not to do something a certain way.  We look for precedents, archetypes, examples, past histories, and anything else by which  we can gain the knowledge we seek to do what we want to do, because it is easier to take on something new when we have a guide to follow, a path to trail from.  We see it happening all the time, in technology (the iPad gets upgraded every 6 months it seems now), in music (autotune took over the music industry and hasn’t looked back since), in fashion (when did the 80’s and 90’s make a huge comeback?), and in social trends (how often do we know our friends’ business nowadays #twitter).  It is an inescapable fact that we look to the past to create in the present in an attempt to matter in the future, sometimes to our benefit, other times to our detriment, but nevertheless a necessary part of life.

As previously suggested in the last post, God’s “Words” don’t stop at the Bible.  God gives His people fresh Words all the time, Words that are relevant to the times and situations we face today, whether they are a shadow of what has happened in the past, or if they are brand new situations never discussed in the Bible.  God’s Word can be found in music, in literature, in the arts, in mathematics and science, technology, fashion, and so on.  God is inspiring people all the time to do amazing things, things that our forefathers and ancestors never dreamed of, and God’s people are being blessed all the time as a result of these inspirations, these new Words that God imparts on His people at His discretion.  So, if God is inspiring His people with new Words all the time, and we in the faith know “trees” by the “fruit they bear,” what, then is the Bible, and what purpose does it serve?

God revealed something to me that, again, made sense before, but after understanding that God’s Word is His Word, I now see His Word as something more.  My grandmother used to (and sometimes still does) tell me that when we don’t know what to do, we have to go back to the old way and walk therein (Jeremiah 6:16), which to her meant that we have to keep doing things the way we used to, ways that satisfy our personal desires and logical ways of thinking, instead of looking to someone who transcends desire and sense.  She used to say that the new ways that people are going into cannot be of God because these new ways of worship, praise, devotion, and relating to God are not her ways, and are not the old ways.  There’s no way that the “New Way” can be of God when Scripture tells us to go the “Old Way.”

But what my grandmother, as well as other Sectarians who believe that their way of worship is the ONLY way to worship and therefore denounce anyone who worships God differently, fail to realize is that yes, we are to walk in the Old Way, but the Old Way is NOT a methodology of worship, it is NOT a style of preaching and teaching, it is NOT brand of Christianity that we pick up off the shelf and conform ourselves to.  The Old Way is, and only is, Jesus Himself.

When we stop and think about how God operates, we must consider that He is all knowing AND all present, which means that He already knows what’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen, AND that he exists everywhere, every time, at the same time.  The same God that exists in 1964 is the same God that exists in 2012, the same Spirit He used to inspire Christians to establish denominations which could meet the needs of the people’s souls in the past is the same Spirit He uses to inspire Christians today to establish blogs and TV ministries to reach millions and edify their souls.  So the Bible, then, acts as the foundation, the precedent, by which we establish God’s work here on planet Earth, as the Bible, in God’s masterful planning, lays the foundation of how Jesus is the mark that we press toward, the Archetype by which we draw inspiration from, the Precedent that we look back to and understand where we are going, the Old Landmark that our forefathers sang about us going back to.  God crafted His Word to show us just how much we need Jesus in our lives to do what we do day to day, for Jesus was there in the Beginning, and He is still here today.  He lived, died, and lives now, all the while demonstrating to His people what it means to love unconditionally and to obey God dutifully.  And His brothers and sisters who lived in this world after His Ascension continued to talk, teach, and preach about Him and how He, not some methodology, is the Mark by which we are to live by.  Without the Bible, we can never fully understand what Jesus did for us, and how the same power He weilds is the same power we weild to do the things that God allows us to do.

That is why the Bible is the Word of God, for it shows us what we are supposed to look back to for inspiration, motivation, encouragement, and confirmation.  We need God’s Word to link to what God has placed in our Spirits (which is the Spirit of God dwelling in us, the same Spirit that dwells in Jesus, that dwells in time and beyond time) so that we know that we are walking in the Path God has ordained us to walk on.  The Word confirms our steps in God, so that despite the obstacles that come with what we are doing in Him, we can know beyond doubt that we are doing exactly what God has commanded us to do.

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First of all, I believe in the Bible and all it stands for.  I believe in everything written in it and through it, for it is the very thing that allows me to know about God and how to be a Christian, especially in these perilous times.  So this writing is not an indictment against my faith, or a questioning of the validity of God’s work.  Rather, this is the first of a two-part explanation as to why Jesus is the foundation of faith, and how God’s Word ties into that fact.  Without this question answered, I cannot comprehend how Jesus is indeed the foundation.

We all know that God’s Word, the Bible, was not written in one sitting.  It is a compilation of several (66) books, texts, and manuscripts written NOT by God Himself, but by regular joes like you and me, those who were divinely inspired by God to write these books about the faith, people of faith, tests and trials of faith, and the like.  These 66 manuscripts were compiled to become the Bible, the code of conduct and character for Christians old and new.

Because of this, this debate has been going on for generations (and I thank my sister in Christ mysterytopursue for bringing it to light again, for without God’s inspiration to get her to post it up, I never would have followed God’s heart on the matter):  is the Bible the Word of God, and how can it be the PERFECT word of God if it was written by IMPERFECT men?  With all the different translations that have come out since the manuscripts were written, how can we be sure that the word of God IS the Word of God and not the words of men?  And at first, I was on the fence about it, because honestly, I understand that God Himself did not write the Bible with His own hands.  He did not get a pen and pad and script the Bible.  It was, in fact, written by ordinary people.  So how can the Word of God be the ACTUAL Word of God?

So, rather than sit in my own wisdom, I relied on the wisdom of God to tell me what the answer to this is.  He showed me something that completely blew my mind and shook my faith to the core.  For me, this is life-changing, life-altering, and fundamentally restructuring, because after this, my outlook on faith changed forever.  God is the God of yesterday, today, and forevermore.  As a result, God is capable of orchestrating massive projects since the existence of time, that transcend time, for He is the only one who can exist in more than one place at one time, and in more than one time period at a time.  So if He is God, who has this capability to exist anywhere AND anytime, who else but God can get all these people to write about Him, people who have never met each other and never talked to teach other, and then have all these different manuscripts be scattered across the nations, only to be brought back together CENTURIES after all of them were ever written, and then be hand-picked to represent the fundamental building blocks of the Christian faith?!  Who else but God could inspire 30+ authors to write these testimonies about Him, so intricately that everything in it makes SPIRITUAL sense?  Who else but God could transcend time, thousands of years, ensuring that His Word remains in tact long enough to be canonized into one book?  God is the ONLY one who could orchestrate putting together a single manuscript over the course of thousands of years, the only one who has the power to divinely inspire everyone to write about Him in such a way that would touch the hearts of men and affect their spirits to say that these are the ones that represent Him; the only one who could even preserve the manuscripts long enough to make sure that they made it into the canonization, surviving wars, earthquakes, other disasters, and false translations.  That is how I know, and that is how my faith tells me, forces me in fact, to believe that this Bible, this Word of God, is in fact THE Word of God.

But I take it even a step further.  Even Jesus Himself quoted the Word of God on several occasions to defeat the enemy, as teaching tools, and as methods of confirmation of His Mission.  On many occasions, Jesus said, “It is written…,” and quoted Scripture, the Word of God, that came from His Daddy, and demons fled, Satan ran, and God’s purpose was fulfilled.  So if Jesus utilized the written words of men and called them the Word of God, how can the Bible be anything less than the Word of God.  Therefore, my answer is YES, the Bible is the Word of God.

So I believe that God’s Word is embedded in the Bible; it is the core of our existence, the reason I am a Christian.  It holds the keys to our faith.  We have to believe in the Bible as the Word of God, for only with it can we show ourselves approved, workmen who are not ashamed to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

Yet, the issue that arises from this confirmation is:  is the Bible the ONLY Word of God?  Is it possible for God to give us new Words from Him?  Is the Bible the only Word that He has given us?  Are there any other Words other than The Bible that are from God Himself?  If God can inspire those men with what were fresh words at that time, can God do that for us now?  Can God continue to inspire us with fresh words that are His?  With all the books, songs, blogs, texts, and the like that come out, have come out, and continue to come out, can we honestly say that God’s Word began and ended in the Bible?  Is God not speaking to us and inspiring us to write and speak fresh words?

If this is the case, that God’s Words are being written every day, then what is the purpose of the Bible?  What is the purpose of the Bible if it was written so long ago, in a time period that definitely does not match up with the 21st century?  What is The Bible to us now?

Let us all go back to the Old Landmark.

To be continued.

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