Purses With Holes In Them
Haggai 1:6-7, Mal. 3:6-12
Influencing the Ebb and Flow of Christ’s Return
Billy Graham, in his book Approaching Hoofbeats, makes the point that throughout history humanity has heard, in various degrees, the distant sound of the hoofbeats of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, depending on what was happening on the planet at the time.
If you don’t know who or what the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are, you will find them described in the post tribulation world of Rev. 6. This is where, upon the removal of us as believers and with it the restraint on evil, the world is plunged into a nightmarish tribulation period.
It is the emergence of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse including the white horse of pestilence, the red horse of bloodshed, the black horse of financial collapse and famine, and the pale horse of mass death.
This nightmarish scenario has been restrained by the presence of Christians all over the world.
Billy Graham’s point was that throughout history the hoof beats of these horses have been heard to various degrees (almost like the minute arm on the doomsday clock being adjusted depending on current world conditions).
What he meant by that is that the closer we have come to Jesus returning to take us away the louder the sound of these hoof beats become.
Graham suggested that we are actually the ones who create the conditions that cause Jesus to come back and take us to heaven.
This is dependent on what we do here on earth, either hastening or delaying his sweet return.
That was the point of the book. Had it come from anybody other than Billy Graham it would have been ignored as the musings of a mad man.
The truth of the matter is that we do control in many ways the timing of Jesus’ return. That the sound of his appearing ebbs and flows just like the sound of the hoof beats come and go, depending on what we as Christians do on earth!
We Have the Means to Do It!
One of the most startling passages of the New Testament is Matthew 24:14, which is set in the midst of a teaching on the challenges of living in the end times when many will oppose the Christian witness.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
This clearly links the end of this age, which is what the return of Jesus signals, with the gospel being preached in the whole world.
Since it is us who takes the Gospel to the four corners of the world, our commitment to seeing that happen influences the return of our Lord.
If we are not committed to seeing that happen then we in fact can delay the return of our Lord.
Now it’s true that no one knows the hour nor the day when the conditions are ripe for his return save the Father in Heaven, but throughout history that moment has ebbed and flowed depending on our commitment to world evangelism.
Sometimes it’s been closer, other times more remote.
The challenge we face is 7 billion people and the fact that God knows no grandchildren; which means each of these 7 billion needs to hear the Gospel in such a way as to make a personal decision for Jesus.
As daunting as that is, the opportunity we have in our times is unbelievable. With everyone wired, we now have the online tools to engage much of this world with the claims of the Gospel.
The Most Expensive Undertaking in This World
Yet doing that is unbelievably expensive, because at the end of the day it is not virtual communities that Jesus had in mind when he told us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” (Matt. 28:19, 20) but real communities.
While going may be virtually easy, especially in the forbidden places of our world, the making of followers of Jesus always happens within physical communities we call local churches.
So while sowing the seeds has, in the onset of the online world become very doable in our days, the bringing in of that harvest, the threshing and the storing, remains as it always has been, namely within local storehouses called local churches.
If the sowing is an expensive undertaking, how much more is seeing viable local congregations established, like this one here as well as all over the world, that can harvest the fields ‘white unto harvest.’
For our church to be a center of outreach that sows the seeds over the airwaves or online, in our neighborhood or wherever we live in such a way that people come to Jesus and grow in Him takes great resources.
Ø To see NEMBY as a place where kids come to faith, or to see the same thing in our Kids Ministry takes resources.
Ø To see us stage a weekly radio broadcast along with online preaching and teaching takes resources.
Ø To launch a weekly food event as a way of engaging our neighbors takes resources.
Ø To see us effectively help people in their faith and to integrate them also takes resources.
Ø And then to have us do that internationally, be it in Thailand, Haiti, France, Colombia or Africa, takes great resources.
Ø For us to partner with Camp Crossroads or Eden’s Spiritual Life Dept. as places for spiritual formation or even to partner with our MB Conference in church planting in Canada takes incredible resources.
All of this is to say that seeing the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in our lifetime is the most expensive undertaking this world has ever seen!
Our willingness to finance the Kingdom of God in this world determines where the ebb and flow of Jesus’ return goes.
Becoming a Kingdom Financier
If you want Jesus to come back sooner rather than later, then help finance the Kingdom of God. If you want to see more and more people come to know Jesus, then write a cheque.
If you want to see churches like this one become viable thriving faith communities where people come to know Jesus and grow in that, then be a financier of the Kingdom.
To do that God wants to change your financial position!
No, not through a lottery win nor through some other windfall, nor by you figuring out how to better hold on to what you have so that you can keep as much of it as possible.
That’s not how God wants to change your financial position. But instead God wants to do it through the tithe, the offering and the seed money.
The tithe is at the heart of God’s financial system, and if you commit to that system you will prosper. No, this is not prosperity gospel or a get rich quick scheme, but instead these are Biblical principles that have withstood the test of time.
If you are a child of God and come under God’s financial system, far from hurting you, tithing will actually prosper you not for prosperity sake but for kingdom finance sake.
“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors 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 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. 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.”
Lest you think that this was for those under the Mosaic Law and thus doesn’t apply to us, let me set the record straight by reminding you that the principle of the tithe was instituted long before Moses, which is why it says:
“ ‘I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors 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.”
Not only was Jacob long before the Mosaic Law, but Jesus was long after it, and it was Jesus who said:
“You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matt. 23:23
Practise justice, mercy and faithfulness Jesus says, without neglected the giving of the tenth.
You do that and the Lord will prevent pests from devouring your crops and the vines in your field will not cast their fruit before their season.
You do that and the Lord will open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!
Not so that we can hoard it, but so that we can bless the nations by bringing the beautiful Gospel of the Lord Jesus to every human being.
Two Financial Systems
The key to this is operating under the system you are in. If you have given your life to the Lord, then you are in God’s financial system based on releasing the tithe. Anything less than that will cause you not to prosper.
If you have not given your heart to the Lord and are not a child of God, then the idea of giving away or releasing the tithe makes no sense whatsoever.
The world does not release finances. The world raises finances. In the world of philanthropy we use the term fundraising and that is what the world does. It raises money.
In the kingdom we do not fundraise, we do fund-releasing.
The world raises funds any which was it can. The mighty dollar rules in the world. So you grab as much of you can get and hang on to as much of it as possible, even if you have to cut corners, cheat a little, steal a little and lie a little.
The world is tightfisted and stingy; it grabs as much as possible and lets go of as little as possible.
This is what the Bible calls “unrighteous mammon” and those who are of the world and operate in the world as one of their own should do quite well in that system.
The Example of Zacchaeus
A great case in point was Zachaeus. The Bible calls him a chief tax collector and a wealthy man. He was somebody who was of that system and operating within its principles of hoarding, cheating and tightfistedness, and he prospered as a result.
He became incredibly wealthy on the backs of the poor. That is the world’s financial system.
God’s financial system is the exact opposite, and those who are in a covenant relationship with God will not prosper if they remain in the world’s financial system of hoarding, being stingy and holding on to as much as you can.
If Jesus is not in your heart then that’s how you get rich. But if he is and you live like that you will never prosper.
Those in the kingdom who operate under its system release their funds. This is called sowing and reaping. You sow and you will reap.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.” Prov. 11:24-26
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Cor. 9:6
It’s like the old saying, “There was a man some called him mad, the more he gave the more he had.”
To the world this seems like madness but to us this is God’s way.
Zacchaeus did exactly that. You know the rest of the story; of how he came to believe and call on Jesus as his Lord, which Jesus confirmed when he said that salvation had come to his house.
What happened is that Zacchaeus moved from the world’s system to God’s system, and with it his financial plan shifted.
Not only did he pay restitution for all this fraud in a way that was way beyond what the Lord required, but he also began to release his finances in a way that he never did before.
“Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor.”
Thus he began to operate within God’s financial system.
I can almost guarantee you that he guaranteed himself a tremendous release of kingdom finance, not for his personal wealth but to finance the Kingdom of God in his day.
I’m not saying that we should all begin by releasing half of our possessions to the Kingdom of God. Zacchaeus was a very wealthy man, and for him to give half of his possessions away was not a problem.
This is not about you becoming poor anymore than this is about giving half of it away.
Releasing the Tithe
The call is release 10%, or the tithe, of all your income into God’s kingdom.
The economy of God is based upon us releasing our tithe, an amount that God has always laid first claim on.
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” Lev. 27:30
Clearly, the Lord considers the first 10% to be his, which makes this non-negotiable. In many ways, this should be the first payment you make. This is not discretionary money that is left over at the end of the month.
Not releasing it first, is to withhold what God has claim on, which makes it robbery.
I realize that is strong language, but notice what the Lord said in Malachi:
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” Mal. 3:8-10
So why would somebody on purpose withhold the tithe? No one on in his or her right mind would set out to rob God.
There’s usually three reasons why people without their tithe:
Ø They haven’t been taught this and thus are unaware
Ø They’ve been disgruntled with the church and thus withhold or redirect their tithe as if the tithe belongs to the church
Ø They feel they can’t afford it or seek to find other compensation such as volunteer hours etc.
Rebuking the Devourer
The truth of the matter is that if you are not tithing, then you will feel as though you can’t afford it for the simple reason that the 10% that should have been God’s, you will not be able to use.
It will slip through your fingers and dissipate in front of your eyes. So those who claim they can’t afford to tithe are in a way correct.
Not only is there no financial blessing, abundance and increase but the extra 10% you thought you had will have been devoured.
You can never keep your hands on the 10% that belongs to the Lord. Either you will give it to the Lord or the enemy will devour it.
Do you ever feel as though there isn’t enough? That’s the devourer.
“You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1:6-7
Tithing reverses that!
By tithing you will stop the devourer: “I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe.” Mal. 3:11
By tithing you will remove the curse: “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.” Mal 3:9
By tithing you will open up the storehouses of blessings: “Test me in this, 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.” Mal 3:10
You would not be worse off at all by tithing, since you can’t keep that 10% anyway. But divine protection will come over the other 90%, which will make it feel like 100 % plus, AND the windows of heaven will be opened which will make it feel right off the scale.
Not only will no pests devour your crops and no fields drop their fruit before its ripe – which is what protecting the 90% from the devourer is all about - but also over that 90%, will come the blessing of heaven so much so that the floodgates of heaven will be opened and you will not be able to contain all the blessings!
“Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.” Mal. 3:12
“Test me in this,” God says. See if it ain’t so!
In doing so, you provide the food for God’s storehouse in terms of releasing the funds to usher in the return of the Lord.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” Mal 3:10
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