Putting God to the test?

Malachi 3 NIV

6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
9 You are under a curse —the whole nation of you—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 you will not have room enough for it.
11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, ” says the LORD Almighty.  

12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Until you experience the blessing God gives in response to tithing you may be reluctant to give God back His ten percent of what He gives you.  At least that’s what I think my sons are experiencing.

Several years ago I challenged my older son when he was about 12 years old, to test God and see what God would do if my son tithed. My son tithed seven dollars and we watched what God would do.  God said to test Him in this and so we did.  Within a few days I was given four free tickets to a first run major kids’ movie.  God blessed not only my son, but his brother and mom and dad.

I didn’t stick with teaching this to my son and now, ten years later,  my son is not interested in tithing.  I don’t plan on giving up on teaching him and his younger brother though.  My wife and I are going to double tithe and ask God to bless my wife and I doubly (so that we doubly don’t have enough room for it) so that my sons will see that God can be tested and also see that God comes through on His promises.  This test will be for the month of September 2013.  I will report back with developments.

Practice what I preach?

The Pharisees, religious and political leaders of Jesus time, failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah their beloved Moses talked about.  This was because they did not believe or obey the Scripture they had memorized and talked about each Sabbath.  They were, as Jesus pointed out to them, hypocrites.

What does that mean for me?  It is easier to write about Jesus than it is to actually follow Him.  I get convicted while I type the words to some of these posts.  How much time do I spend in meaningful conversation each day with my wife? with each of my sons?  Do I give my best at church? at work?

I realize that I need to let Jesus order my world, let Him set the priorities and manage my schedule.  And I do that by obeying Him when He nudges me to set the computer aside and listen to my family.  Jesus will give me the time to write, that is not the problem.  The problem is that I not use my family’s time as writing time and crowd out what is more important.  My family, my church, and my work come first.  In that order.

I believe this struggle of priorities will be ongoing.  I also believe that by putting into practice what I already know to be true from the Bible, the way will get clearer, if not easier.  And by relying on the Holy Spirit, to guide and empower me, the end result will be the balance that God is looking for from me.

Please feel free to hold me accountable to this.

Nobody’s perfect

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.   Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:5-6 NKJV

Being truthful in my head is very hard.  I decide what I want because I want it. Then I pretend I really want it for another reason, a “good”, acceptable reason, a “righteous” reason.  I deceive myself, but almost no one else.  God wants me to tell the truth to myself.  If I read the Bible and see all the “good guys” as me and all the “bad guys” as someone else, I’m missing everything.  The Bible is a mirror to show me who I really am.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:22-25 NKJV

Most of the Bible heroes were flawed!  Abraham lied and let another man take his wife to save his skin.  David got another man’s wife pregnant and then killed the man to cover it up.  Jacob’s name meant deceiver and he lived up to it.  Noah got drunk and exposed himself.  Moses was a murderer.  Peter, the “rock” of faith, denied Jesus and called down curses on himself to keep himself from suffering Jesus’ fate.  Paul ruthlessly murdered men, women and children who would not betray Jesus.

If God can work with a crowd like that, and turn them into role models for us, do you think He can work with someone like me? or you?  Well, not if I lie to myself and tell myself I’m really not so bad, and nobody’s perfect, and my good outweighs my bad, and who are you to talk and… and… and….

Jesus “redefined” sin so that no one would feel left out:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire….“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Jesus, Matthew 5:21- 22, 27-28 NKJV

God desires truth in the inner parts.  Before Jesus can cleanse me of my sin I have to admit I have sin for Him to cleanse.  If I deny the true motives for my actions and cover it up with “righteous lies” Jesus can’t help me.  I have to be ruthlessly honest within myself.

Okay, so if I’m honest with myself, humble myself and agree with God that I have rebelled against Him, what do I get?

Peace with God.  And peace within myself.  And the ability to see and treat others differently.  More compassion, less judgement, less demands.  Jesus grants us forgiveness and grace (i.e. kindness we don’t deserve) and we can pass it along to those who hurt us.  We absorb the sting of their attacks, and we offer them kindness and understanding in return.  This isn’t natural, it’s supernatural.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who works through you as you allow Him to work through you.  This fulfills the second half of the verse: And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

To help with the process of confession you may want to ask someone you trust if you can tell them your sins as you confess them to God.  This takes guts and I haven’t done it much.  I will report back to you after I have talked with my accountability partner.

Pastor Dr. Charles F. Stanley observes, “Obedience always brings blessing”.  And Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”.  May God grant me and you the grace to always confess our sins, so that we can reap the blessings and freedom Jesus always wants to give us.