Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Heart of Thanksgiving, Part 1

Worship requires that we establish and maintain a heart and an attitude of thanksgiving. And oftentimes, for some folks, this requires discipline in their lives; it demands that they change something in order to establish and maintain an attitude and a heart of thanksgiving. Failure to do so robs us of many of God’s blessings.

One of the reasons so many are not walking in the fullness of God’s blessings is because of a failure to establish and maintain an attitude of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not just eating turkey once a year! I thank God for Thanksgiving and a nation that seeks to honor the Lord because of His faithfulness and His blessings in our lives. From a biblical point of view, this is not something that we are instructed to do just once a year or only on special occasions. A life of thanksgiving is essential if we are to experience an overcoming lifestyle.

I listen to some Christians grumble, mumble, and complain. I want to remind you that complaining was one of the five sins that kept the children of Israel out of the Promised Land. God does not like murmuring and complaining, so STOP IT! It’s not good for you. God does not like it. He sees your situation. He’s waiting for you to get your heart and mouth in alignment with His Word so He can do something good for you.

Read 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 16. For many years, I’ve regarded the whole first portion of Thessalonians as basic instructions for Christian living. As Paul writes, at least the way that it was translated for us in English, he gives us some very direct instructions in how to live a life pleasing to God.

Notice how succinctly he makes each statement, there’s not a whole lot of explanation. For example, in verse 16, there’s a two-word directive: “Rejoice always.” What does that mean? It means, “always rejoice”! What does it mean to always rejoice? It’s easy to interpret that there should never be a time when you’re not rejoicing! What does the word, “always,” mean? ALWAYS! Now if someone instructs you to do something and he or she says, “Always do it this way,” what does that mean? It means that every time you do it, do it this way. There is never to be a time that you do it any other way. Am I right? So hear the Word of the Lord: “REJOICE ALWAYS!”

How do you do that? I am always to be in an attitude and a mind-set of rejoicing. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around me; it doesn’t matter what people say about me; it doesn’t matter what the situation looks like. Now this can only happen if I have learned to establish and maintain a heart of thanksgiving. You will not be able to rejoice always unless, and until, you have established and worked to maintain a thankful heart. I said work to maintain an attitude of thanksgiving. Sometimes it is work. Do you remember the definition of “work” from MTS or from 7th grade Physical Science? Work literally means, “force against resistance.” 

This tells us that there are forces that are resisting our attitude of thankfulness. Just stop and selah for a moment. It’s amazing how thankful we can be and then someone might say one cross word, and it flips a switch that changes our whole attitude. Come on! Am I the only one? I see it in relationships all the time. You can be around someone having the greatest time, and then one person says one thing, huh? And bam, what happened to the attitude of thanksgiving? Then it’s like, “Well, I’d be awfully thankful if . . . mumble, mumble, mumble.”

Where did it go? Remember the definition of “work”: force against resistance. By definition, there’s going to be some pressure, there’s going to be some push back from time to time. Think it not strange. Even so, we are instructed to rejoice always! 

~ pg

Friday, December 23, 2011

Core Values, Part 4

In John 4:22, Jesus says, "You worship what you do not know. " I began to meditate on that this week. How many people are worshiping that which they don't even know? A lot of people worship money. Some worship other people and other things. Many are attempting to worship God, but don't know Him. Maybe you're like me. For many years I thought that I was worshiping God, but I was so far away from Him. Mine was a pretty feeble attempt. I knew that there was a God, but I surely didn't want to live for Him. If I had wanted to, I would have!

He says you worship what you do not know. May I suggest to you that idol worship is alive and well on the earth today. It's what drives many people to do what they do. And in verse 24, Jesus is not speaking simply of a future time of when the true worshipers would worship in spirit and in truth. He says, "And now is." Wow! Powerful words. Not only is the hour coming, but it is here! What gave Him the authority to make such a proclamation? I believe in part what He is proclaiming is, "The veil is being torn in two." Up until now, common man could come close and then no closer. The priest could come so close, but no closer. The High Priest could enter in once a year, but he'd better be tiptoeing with little bells on.

Jesus came to rent the veil in two, not only between Jew and Gentile, but also between God and man! Do we understand what we have? I don't think we do. So God have mercy on us for our failure to recognize what Christ has done for us by removing the partition between Him and us.

We who were nothing but sinners were granted access to the most holy place. Wow! You can't get into the most holy place if you ain't holy. And the problem with many in the Church is that they're trying to get there on their own. And they're trying to be holy on their own, and there isn't a way to do it, so they strive through religious ceremony right back to the Law and the pomp and circumstance. They think that if they could just do that, they'd be holy and God could accept them in. Man, we gotta be stripped of everything.

We'll pick up next time talking about worshiping in spirit and in truth. I want to encourage you, if I may, to gain understanding in regard to the fact that God is a Spirit and that He's called us to worship Him in spirit and in truth, and that's what He's seeking. And we're going to talk about what that spirit and truth thing looks like next time because there are parts of worshiping God in truth that we may not fully understand. And when we get to a place of truly worshiping in spirit and in truth, it will bring repentance. Revelation is always intended to bring repentance.

It's somewhat like spiritual math: revelation brings repentance, repentance is intended to bring revival, and revival is for the purpose of reformation. It has to happen in us and in the Church and in the culture in which we live. And it IS happening! Reformation is a very slow process. I believe we're in a process of reformation right now, and I'm not praying for reformation anymore. I got a revelation on reformation, and I believe some things are happening. There's never been an instant reformation in the history of the world. Every reformation has taken years to achieve. We just get impatient and want it now.

I encourage you this week to incline your heart to God and truly worship Him. You can do it anywhere, in spirit and in truth.

~ pg

Monday, December 19, 2011

Core Values, Part 3

Now in John chapter 4, Jesus was speaking to the Samarian woman at Jacob’s well (which is a significant location throughout Scripture, both historically and spiritually). This is where the bones of Joseph were finally laid to rest having been brought back from Egypt. It’s also where Joshua gathered the people of Israel to renew their covenant, and he made that very famous declaration that some of us have posted on our walls: Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” After Joshua made that declaration, the people of Israel renewed their covenant to God. And as they were pledging their covenant, Joshua said, “You ain’t gonna do it.” To which they replied, “Oh, yes we are,” and Joshua said again, “Oh, no you won’t.” You can go read it in Joshua 24. Basically, he’s saying, “You think you’re going to do it, but you ain’t gonna do it.” So they say, “Yes, only the God of Israel will we serve!”

And so Joshua says to them in Joshua 24:23, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel.” “Incline” means to “stretch, to spread out, to bend.” Incline your heart to the Lord. As important as this place was, after Gideon died, it became a center for Baal worship. Oh come on, there’s going to be worship going on, and there are certain areas where worship is predominant. I believe that. There are focal points or hot spots, and if the people of God aren’t truly worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then there are other elements that will move in.

Let’s look at verse 19 of John 4; this woman is pretty amazing. Jesus asked her, “Where’s your husband, go get him.” Now she could have looked at Him and said, “Which one?” I’ve had five of them—she could have been thinking that—which one does He want me to go get? Instead she said, “I have no husband.” He said, “Indeed, you speak truth. You’ve had five husbands and the one you’re living with now is not even your husband.” You’re shacking up. Well, this catches her attention, “Sir (that’s all it took), I perceive you’re a prophet.” I want you to think about this woman also. To have five husbands and then to be shacking up, what do you think the opinion of her neighbors were? Wonder what the folks in the neighborhood thought about her? She was probably one of those that when she went out in the backyard, wives told their husbands, “You stay in here.”

Now, the account above is interesting because the people of Samaria considered themselves to worship the same God as the people of Israel, the God of Abraham. They held to the truth of the writings of Moses, but not any of the prophets. They did not hold to the teachings of the prophets of the Old Testament. Basically, they didn’t believe that they were true. And yet here she is, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” You start reading people’s mail, and they get real perceptive. So she recognizes that He’s a messenger sent from God. You know, there are two trains of thought here. One is that she rises up and begins to contend with Jesus. I’m not sure that’s exactly true. I think that she may be displaying a desire to learn after perceiving that Jesus is a prophet. She might be thinking, “If He is a prophet, He has something to give me, some truth to impart into my life. And in verse 20, she said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship.”

You think we ought to worship in that church, and we say that we ought to worship in this one! Skip down to verse 23 for a moment. “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” God is a spirit and those who worship Him MUST, not should, worship in spirit and in truth. Now this woman apparently is very sincere in her desire to learn about true worship. As I said, the Samarians are thinking that they’re worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s not unlike certain religions today. And as I said, they rejected the teachings of the prophets, and they became involved in all sorts of idol worship in conjunction with their worship of the God of Abraham.

On the other hand, you have the Jews who were all hung up on religion, ceremony, the Law, and pomp and circumstance. So now here comes Jesus and He’s making clear: worship is not contingent upon where a person is. But what really matters as in the words of Joshua, “inclining our heart toward God.” Oh, if you don’t get anything else, my friends, this week, begin to incline your heart toward God. Let’s come down off our throne. As in Revelation 4, the same way that the four and twenty elders bow down and cast their crowns before God’s throne, we need to cast ours down! For without Him, we are nothing and can do nothing, but through Him we can do all things!

~ pg

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Core Values, Part 2

I almost caught a glimpse of something recently; I was so close and was right there at the door. Sometimes I can get so frustrated when I get right to the door, and I don't get in. But it ran very closely with Revelation chapter 4. What's going on up there in heaven? And if it's going on up there, why ain't it going on down here? If it's going on up there, can it go on down here? Does God have one purpose for those things in heaven and a whole different purpose here on the earth? Or in the beginning did He create these things to complement one another, to be joined in unison? Right now, as I'm writing this, the angels of heaven are gathered around the throne of God singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord."

It's interesting that in John 4:23, Jesus says that, "The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth." True worshipers therefore worship in spirit and truth. That's point number one that I want to share. You have to ask yourself, "Am I a true worshiper?" They worship in spirit and in truth. And Jesus says, "The Father is seeking such to worship Him." God is searching, and where does He look? If God is looking to see if it's "spirit and truth worship" that is being offered, where does He look? Well, I suppose He's looking into the hearts of those who are rendering worship to Him. All religions have some form of worship. So the Lord is looking in the hearts of those who worship to see, I believe, if they are worshiping in spirit, and if they are worshiping in truth.

I'm going to bring up a touchy subject here, so please do not get offended. If you are, it's okay, but just try not to be. It would seem that true worshipers of God could and would recognize Him regardless of the culture, the environment, or the style of music being played. I've been thinking about this all week. I've heard people say, "Well, I don't like the music; I can't connect with that style of worship." Do you know what that attitude says? It says that worship is all about me and what brings me fulfillment, what satisfies my soul. We should be able to worship whether we're singing from a hymnal or singing off the wall!

I've had the privilege of worshiping amongst many cultures: American, Hispanic, North African, Haitian, Chinese, Brazilian, Trinidadian, Thai, and many that I haven't mentioned. The amazing thing is that no matter the culture-even if they're playing a bean pod and a broken accordion-I can have a worship experience and encounter God. Why? Because God is there! Anywhere God is, we ought to be able to worship Him. Do you believe God is everywhere? Then it doesn't matter what the music sounds like. WE'RE WORSHIPING GOD! It doesn't matter if we're in a jungle or an air-conditioned, carpeted building. It doesn't matter if they're playing maracas or electric guitars. It's not about the music; it's about God! It's about worshiping Him!

So if we believe God is ever-present, we shouldn't struggle with the form of worship. I get a kick out of people, "Well, you know, culture is very important." I hear about culture all the time. "We don't want to lose our culture." Oh really? Well, that goes contrary to the teachings of Apostle Paul. We need to give our culture up, our old culture, that is, and grab hold of our new culture. Welcome to the Kingdom! Everything is made brand new. "Well, what about my roots?" Some people have such tight earthly roots that they're going to have a hard time going when the trumpet sounds. What happens is that we get used to a certain form of worship, and then we just can't seem to connect with God in any way except our own. I would challenge that mentality. I would ask the question, "Is this attitude healthy, and is it accurate according to Scripture?"

Those are some points to ponder and ask yourself. Please take some time this week to reflect upon your response to God and examine your heart to evaluate if you're a "spirit and truth worshiper," or if you've been allowing your preferences to run rampant and dictate the depth of your worship experience. My prayer is that no matter where we are in our "spirit and truth worship" progress, that we take the opportunity this week to go even deeper.

~ pg

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Core Values

I want to talk about the core values of Cliffdale: Worship, Outreach, Relationship, and Discipleship. The acronym for our core values is the word "WORD." Let's spend some time talking about worship, the first core value. It is so essential. If something is essential, what does that mean? It means that it's the essence. What is the essence of our lives? The essence is the center; it is the most important point; it's the part from which everything else flows or springs.

There is nothing more essential than worship in the life of the believer, and we can prove this by examining Scripture. Worship is not something that we simply gather to do on Sundays. Worship is the very reason that we were created, and you don't have to be a Jordan Deal or your favorite Christian artist or singer to participate. All mankind has this in common: we were created to worship. Obviously worship has been perverted by the world. Isn't it amazing though how gifted many sinners are? People who have no knowledge of Christ? That's not to condemn, that's just an observation. You don't even have to be able to sing like a mockingbird; that's the beauty of worship.

How essential is worship to you? Worship is not just music; it's not just singing. I have a small paperweight that somebody gave me years ago that says, "My work is part of my worship." My work is part of my worship. What we do, day in and day out, should be viewed as part of worship. You've no doubt heard many sermons preached or lessons taught from John chapter 4. But there are probably very few Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament, that focus on worship and its power more than that passage. We have to get it out of our heads that when I say the "power of worship," that it means coming to church and singing songs, singing in the shower, or singing on the way to work. Music and songs are just one form of worship.

Do you believe in creation? The pat answer in church is that, "I believe in creation." I think that before we answer questions, particularly regarding our beliefs, we ought to consider well what the question is before determining that we are giving an accurate response. Do you really believe in creation?

We spent the last two days out in the woods camping, and you know how it is, you feel closer to God for whatever reason. You're out there with the trees and the water and the stars, and yes, the rain and the wind as well. There are certain environments or places that can allow us to have a different experience in worship, maybe experience a different level of worship. Church is supposed to be one of those places. God ordained the Church to be a house of worship. He's always had a gathering place for the purposes of corporate worship and the teaching of His Word.

Again, do you believe in creation? My youngest son and I were watching a science show the other night, and they were showing the Hubble telescope and how mankind would now be able to see how planets are formed, how the gasses come together, and how a new sun is created. And I have no doubt that the above is true. The problem is that when you leave God out of the equation, the questions remain, "Where did it all originate? Where did those gasses come from?"

So we know from Genesis 1:1 that God created the heavens and the earth. And it's an awesome thing to consider that this very same God who created the universe has called you and I by name, selected us, and called us to Himself. So how does worship work into all that? When you consider the handiwork of God, how can you not but worship Him? Again, worship is what we were created for. There were other reasons we were created, but we were fashioned to be instruments of worship and since the very beginning of time, mankind has demonstrated the need and the innate desire to worship.

In my opinion, it was what moved Abel in Genesis 4 to bring the firstborn of his flock as an offering to Jehovah; that was an act of worship. And the truth is that from Egypt, to the temple, to our present day and time, we see this desire being demonstrated through mankind. We see it in Moses, Miriam, Joshua, Paul, Silas, and the prophets. These are all examples of man's need to worship and God's desire to be worshiped. There is so much to be said in this regard. We'll pick up with this topic in the next blog.

~ pg

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Power Of Our Words, Part 2

“When the Queen had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on the table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters, and their apparel, his cupbearers, and his entry way by which he went up to the House of the Lord, there was no more spirit within her; it took her breath away.”

Queen Sheba saw such a level of excellence (1 Kings 10:4) that she was left breathless. It’s amazing! Do we have a standard of excellence? You do whether you know it or not. You’re living at your standard of excellence. You might say, “Oh, no I’m not. My standard is much higher than my lifestyle.” Oh really? Do you believe that? I would call that self-deception, my friend. I love you, but that’s what I call that. And I’m not talking about rich or poor, not having a lot of money or having a lot of money, I’m talking about having standards in our lives. Solomon obviously had a high standard of excellence, and it was seen not only in his words, but also in his personal lifestyle and in the way that he carried himself. It was also evident in those he surrounded himself with and those who worked for him.

In fact, it’s an amazing thing that the Queen also noticed the food, the seating, the service, even the apparel of the waiters. She noticed the cupbearers and how they performed their work; she even took note of the entry way by which he went into the House of the Lord. She said in verse 6:

“It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom! However, I did not believe the words until I came for myself, indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men, and happy are your servants who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom.”

Even the people who worked for him were happy. Wow! How do you do that? I walk into most retail stores and grocery stores today, and I’m like, “I’d fire half of ya!” Many times I’ll ask someone who is working in retail, “How ya doing?” Usually the general answer is, “I can’t wait to get off.” And I’m thinking to myself, “If I were your boss and heard you say that, you’d be off from now on, honey. Cuz I don’t want you here if you don’t want to be. Go do something else!”

There's nothing worse than working or being with people who don’t want to be there. You know what they do? They sit and mumble and grumble about their jobs, and they don’t understand that they’re cursing their own lives! They’re just adding to their own misery by the words that they speak.

Now going back to Proverbs, there’s so much here about words, so much about our tongue. I’ve been amazed the last several days as I’ve been researching this. So what does the wealthiest and wisest man have to say about the words we speak? Let’s go to Proverbs 16:23, “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth.” Do you know that your mouth can be taught? Hello? You can teach your mouth what to say! If that weren’t true, it wouldn’t be in there, right? How deliberate are we at teaching our mouths what to say? And it is our heart that teaches our mouth and adds learning to the lips. Some of us need some good “lip-learning.” I love the way the Amplified Bible states it,

“The mind of the wise instructs his mouth and adds learning and persuasiveness to his lips.”

Let’s talk about persuasiveness. A lot of people are confused; they think that persuasiveness is manipulation. I want you to consider how your life would change if you could become more skilled at the art of persuasiveness. If you’re in sales, is there any greater gift than that of persuasiveness? Your job is to persuade people that your product is the best and that they can trust you.

I used to attend church with a guy who was tremendously successful at selling used automobiles. People trusted and loved him, and he made big, big money! He used to donate vans to our church and was one of the top givers. Tremendous success! He didn’t do it by ripping people off; he did not fit the image of how we unfortunately stereotype “used car salesmen.” But he was very persuasive, and everybody liked him. WOW! Think of how successful you would be in marriage if you used the art of persuasion, or possibly began applying it to your finances! I mean, just think, even in the area of physical healing, if you could persuade your body that you’re healed, wouldn’t you feel better? It’s the gift, the art of persuasiveness, and it’s not being manipulative.

Persuasiveness simply means to bring the other party around to your idea or way of thinking, to get them to change the way that they think about something and come into conformity regarding a new thought process. Isn’t that what sharing the Gospel is about? Think about how successful the Church would be if we learned the art of persuasiveness. If we went out and preached the Gospel in such a way that people would come around from their old way of thinking, see the light, and understand the Gospel because it’s been given to them in such as way that they can receive it?

We used to be very aggressive with Evangelism Explosion. And what I loved about it more than anything was the persuasiveness of that thing. I could sit with somebody who was an absolute Christ-rejecter and within fifteen to twenty minutes have them on the edge of their seat asking, “What must I do to be saved?” Now THAT’S the art of persuasion. That’s not manipulation. Manipulation is control and domination. Persuasiveness is simply the ability to communicate in such a way that others come into agreement with you. Solomon was actually very gifted at this. I consider him to have been a tremendous leader by just reading about the people who worked for him.

So the Word speaks to us that it is possible for you and I to teach and educate our mouths. Let’s take the opportunity today to minister godly, persuasive words that would help bring others closer to where they need to be with God. And while we’re at it, we might want to go ahead and persuade ourselves to come into alignment with the Word as well. Vickie and I pray you have a truly wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones. May God bless you abundantly this season.

~ pg

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Power Of Our Words, Part 1

Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs. He was and still is considered to be the wisest man who ever lived, and he was certainly the wealthiest man who ever lived on the earth. It is impressive how much Solomon writes, particularly in Proverbs, about communication—about the words that we speak.

The words that you speak have tremendous power and can produce either beneficial or detrimental results. In fact, in large part, wherever you are in life right now is due to the words you have spoken. Those words are a result of what is going on in your heart and your mind.

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Your mouth speaks and tremendous power is released through the words that you let go. I would like us to look at a portion of Scripture that is very familiar for most of us. We can all quote verbatim the first half, but we do not give enough attention to the second part of the very same verse. Here, in Proverbs 18:21, we are told that death and life are in the power of the tongue. I want you to consider that once again. I know that we refer to this passage a lot, but we do so because it’s important! The words you speak have the potential to impart either death or life. It’s a life and death situation, my friend.

In the New Testament, James says that out of one side of our mouth we speak blessing, out of the other side of our mouth we speak cursing. Even though he said this ought not be so, I sometimes find it true in my own life. I might say something like, “By His stripes I am healed, but boy, I sure feel bad.” “God supplies all my needs; where are we gonna get the money?” Out of one side of my mouth flows a blessing and out of the other side a cursing. And “a cursing” in this sense does not involve witchcraft, voodoo, or any such thing. It simply means the restraining or restriction of God’s blessing in my life.

How successful do you want to be? What is it that you want to do in life? Where do you want to go? Your words have a direct correlation to the degree of your success. It has tremendous relevance on your level of influence in this life. Now we oftentimes quote, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” but we ignore the second portion of this verse: “Those who love it will eat its fruit.” In other words, we eat the fruit of the words that we speak. Our words produce fruit, whether good or bad, sweet or bitter, and we are partakers of that fruit.

The things you go through are oftentimes the result of how you have thought and what you have spoken out of your mouth. We are responsible for the words that we speak. As we use words, we either fall under the power of death, or there is the potential to attain to greater life. Our tongue can cause us to experience either blessing or lack. I like to remind folks that our tongues were involved in our being saved. According to Romans 10:10, Apostle Paul says that you have to believe with your heart and with your mouth confession is made unto salvation. We believe in our heart unto righteousness, and as a result of what’s in our heart, we speak, we confess that Jesus is Lord, and we experience the new birth; we are saved.

But I also want to remind you that Jesus doesn’t just come into our lives simply to change us. He comes into our lives to make something new, not to just change the old, but to make provision for something brand new. You’re not only being changed through the transformation of what Romans 12 speaks of; you are to experience a whole new life.

Your life ought to look different than before you were saved. And one reason it doesn’t in the lives of many people is that they never change the way they think and the words that come out of their mouths, particularly about their own life. “Daddy was a loser, so I’m a loser, too.” “Momma said there’d be days like this, Momma said.”

Now, I’ve already stated that Solomon is regarded as the wisest and most certainly the wealthiest man on the earth. He’s highly respected. Those under his authority respected him; he was also greatly respected by other kings, dignitaries, and world leaders. First Kings chapter 10 gives us an account of the Queen of Sheba’s visit. Most of you are familiar with this, but I want to make a couple of points.

“Now when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.” Now let’s just stop there for a moment and examine this. The Queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning what? The name of the Lord. So she came to him with the intent of testing him. The Scripture says that she came to test him with hard questions. Starting with verse 2 the Bible states, “She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels, spices, gold, and precious stones. When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart.” What was in her heart? All these hard questions. So Solomon answered all her questions. There was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her. “When the Queen of Sheba had seen all of the wisdom of Solomon . . .” Just stop right there, she saw the wisdom.

Now, as we read on, we recognize that she saw the wisdom through his lifestyle, in those around him, and in those who worked for him. She saw it in those with whom he had surrounded himself. But she also saw it in his words, as he was able to answer the questions with which she had come to test him! Wow! Her intention was to put him to the test with difficult questions, and he didn’t stumble or fail; he answered every one of them and at that point she realized, “I see wisdom here.”

I’ll pick up with this in my next blog, but in the meantime, this would be a good opportunity to ask ourselves a few questions such as: What do people see in my words? Do others see wisdom displayed in my lifestyle? I pray that each one of us is found faithful in the usage of our words to promote life, wholeness, and good fruit!

~ pg

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is Tithing A Law, Part 6

Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek. Why? Look at Galatians 3:8. This might just blow you away.

“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’”

What’s that mean? Abraham received a Word and a revelation from God. He could only catch a glimpse of what it meant to be blessed of God and the father of nations. He couldn’t comprehend all of that any more than you could comprehend if I was to prophesy over you and say, “There are nations on the inside of you.” For some of you, if I were to say to you, “You’re going to go to many nations,” I mean, you ain’t even been out of Hoke County your entire life. God bless you if you’re a Hokie from Hoke County; I live there myself. I’ve met people in Hoke and Robeson County who have told me, “I haven’t ever been out of this county.” I’m like, “Whoooaaa, wow, that’s gotta be exciting!” I’m not knocking it, and I’m like, wow, you just don’t meet too many people who can say that. I’m impressed, I guess. Not even a drive to Fayetteville?

But Abraham caught a glimpse of something: that he would be the father of many nations, and that nations would be blessed because of him. How could he comprehend that? He couldn’t! But it says that he had “glad tidings preached to him.” He had good news, and as a result, he caught a revelation of the will of God being fulfilled through him. And because he had received good news from God and caught the revelation of the impact his life would have, he gave tithes, by faith, to Melchizedek!

Did you get that? This tithe to Melchizedek was a real act of faith! He didn’t know Melchizedek! Nobody knew where he came from; no one knew where he went, and yet Abram paid tithes, yet why? Because Melchizedek in the Bible is a type of Christ. So when Abram rendered a tithe to Melchizedek, it was as giving to Christ.

Now when we give, when I bring my tithe, or when my wife or I lay that check or those coins in that basket, we’re not just giving to the church. Well, we are because we regard the Church as the Body of Christ on Earth. We are literally taking money that we have earned and putting it into the hand of Jesus. By FAITH! I can’t see His hand. I’ve never personally seen Jesus, but by faith, I’m taking money, and I’m giving it to the Body of Christ believing that Jesus is the Head of the Body, and His Body, according to Scripture is the Church. So when I’m giving to the Body, I’m giving to Jesus! Don’t you know I can expect a return on that seed that I’m releasing by faith? Why? Because God rewards our faith! Oh folks, I have seen this work in the last twenty-eight to thirty years in my life.

This transcends the 10%! It’s not about the 10%; it’s not about warding off God’s curse! It’s not even trying to manipulate God to open up those windows of heaven! It’s not about any of that. It’s about the motivation of our hearts. Is it faith or fear? Is it law or grace?

You know what? I’m gonna go out on a limb. I’m pretty sure that God would have met my needs if I had never given a dollar. Some of you reading this are saying, “No way.” No, I’m pretty sure that God loves me so much. Now, I might have needed welfare or drove the most beat-up car in the parking lot. I might still be living in that mobile home with the broken windows where I couldn’t pay the phone or the electric bill about half the time, you all ever lived there? You know the place I used to live . . . with the old brown Pontiac sitting up on blocks in the front yard? Yep, that one.

I do believe as a result of sowing, I have reaped. I believe that tithing as a principle, has brought me out of poverty. I will say that. Not because it’s the Law, but because it’s a law that I was taught to practice in my life. I see the results of living a principled lifestyle according to the laws set forth, not the least of which is, “Give and it shall be given unto thee, pressed down, shaken together, and flowing over shall men give unto thy bosom.”

Somebody said, “That verse in Luke 6 isn’t even talking about money! Man, it’s talking about whatever you give! It’s not talking only about forgiveness! It’s not just talking about love. Yes, it is talking about those things, but if you love God, wouldn’t we give Him what is important to us? And what’s really important to the people of God today? Don’t tell me money’s not important. Most of you will get up early tomorrow morning and go to work so you can make money! Money is important! And what we do with our money is important! Whatever we do with it, we ought not do because we’re under Law. We ought to do it because we’re living under grace—grace that can only be experienced when we walk by faith.

This is important though. I want to make a declaration over the people of Cliffdale Christian Center. I want you to be set free today from the Law. And I pray that I have never in any way, shape, form, or degree have led you into thinking that you have to tithe or else God’s going to get ya.

Now, I will say this. If you don’t obey God, don’t expect the fullness of His blessing. To the best of our ability and according to our faith and understanding of Scripture, we are responsible to obey the Word of God. If we don’t, it causes us to not experience the fullness of His blessing. I haven’t reached the fullness of His blessing. I’m going after it, and that’s what I want. Man, it’s been something. I’ve seen what He’s done in the past thirty years; I can just imagine what the next thirty are going to be like!

I know that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him, and He is a rewarder of those who obey Him. I have no right to expect His abundance and His fullness of promises if I’m living a life of disobedience. It takes faith to obey God. It takes faith for me to forgive when I’ve been offended. It takes faith for me to love when I ain’t feelin’ the love. It takes faith for me to pray for people whom I know are using me. It takes faith for me to walk in the love of God. It takes faith for me to give when I don’t see where it’s coming from. It takes faith because the just will live by faith. Are we purposing to be people who live by faith? This will be the last blog in this series, "Is Tithing A Law," which was derived from a message I shared at Cliffdale Christian Center on September 19th, 2011. Thank you for joining me on the journey!

~ pg

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Is Tithing A Law, Part 5

In Genesis 14, Abram gives Melchizedek a tithe of all the spoils. We are sons and daughters of Abraham. And we are a people who are to walk by faith. And I submit to you, I believe there's a higher principle than what we've previously assigned to the tithe. There is a principle, the law that God instituted, and it's called, "The Law of Sowing and Reaping." We can find it in both the Old and the New Testaments. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked. As a man sows, so will he reap." Paul told the Corinthians, "If you sow sparingly, you reap sparingly. If you sow bountifully, you reap bountifully!" Man, that's a law! Some of you are going to feel challenged by this message, while others will feel delivered!

It's not the Law, it's a LAW; it's a principle of the Kingdom. God instituted this thing way back in Genesis 8, as long as the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, winter and summer, will not pass away. We currently live according to the principle of sowing and reaping.

God wants us to check our motivation regarding our giving. Do we really believe that if we don't tithe, that God is going to curse us with a double curse? Cursed with a curse! Years ago I preached the double curse, I did! I had to ask God to forgive me. In Malachi it says, "Cursed with a curse," and anywhere it says that, it's a double whammy, or so I thought! Now understand though, that to "be cursed," oftentimes simply means the withholding of God's blessing or the removal of God's hand. And if His hand is removed in any area of my life, I am very vulnerable to attacks by the enemy. You might ask, "Does God ever remove His hand?" It isn't so much that God is removing His hand, it's more likely that I am restricting the hand of God. There are a lot of ways that we can bind God's hands from blessing us.

You reap according to what you sow. I know that Lisa's sister and brother-in-law own a big farm in Iowa. They grow a lot of crops, and they just recently went through the harvest season. Now Mark, her brother-in-law, he's a smart guy. He's a good Christian and a shrewd businessman, and that's a good combination! He's shrewd in a good way. Now, Mark doesn't just take his harvest and sell it all. No smart farmer would sell his entire harvest! If I had ten bushels of corn, I mean, don't you think I'm going to plan for next year's harvest? How many bushels am I going to keep for seed to plant for next year's harvest? I know that next year's harvest is going to be proportionate with the amount of seed that I sow. So, if I sow one bushel of corn and sell the other nine, give it away, or eat it (a lot of us eat it), my harvest next year is going to be in direct proportion to that one bushel's grain or seed, right?

Now, next year's harvest is important to me. I'm looking ahead; I'm not just trying to get as much as I can today, because a wise person is going to look to the future! This is called stewardship. Now, if I keep two bushels, can I expect to get at least twice the harvest as I would have received by only planting one bushel? Come on!

If I have ten bushels and plant one bushel, I can expect a harvest off the bushel. If I plant two bushels, I can probably expect a double harvest. This is called sowing and reaping; it's the principle of God; it's a biblical law. It's not the Law, it's a law of the Kingdom called sowing and reaping, seedtime and harvest.

It's biblical to expect a return on seed that is planted. Who would plant a seed and not expect a return? My son planted a seed in a clay pot he received at Children's Church, and when he planted it, he fully expected it to sprout and grow. He checked it every day! And boy, was he disappointed when it didn't! Why? Because he expected it to grow! When we plant seed we can expect a return; we can expect a harvest. That is a biblical principle set forth in the Word of God.

~ pg

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is Tithing A Law, Part 4

Every kingdom has laws and principles. The just shall live by faith! Faith is a medium of exchange. Every kingdom on earth and even Heaven’s Kingdom has a medium of exchange. In America, it’s the US dollar. Go to Europe, it’s the euro. Go to Iraq, it’s the dinar. Go to India, it’s the rupee. Go to Thailand, it’s the bhat. Go to the Dominican or Mexico, it’s the peso. Every kingdom has a medium of exchange, and what is the purpose? Exchanging goods and services. You pay, you receive, right?

Well, the Kingdom of Heaven has a medium of exchange as well. It’s called, “faith.” Faith is the medium of exchange in God’s Kingdom, just as currency is the medium of exchange in earthly kingdoms. And I think this may be one of the reasons that Scripture speaks so much in regard to money, wealth, and prosperity. It talks more about money than hell and heaven!

So it’s an important issue, particularly to God, and stewardship is an equally important topic. We need to talk about that. Now, I want you to keep in mind that faith is a principle. It is not simply a formula by which we live. Many have tried to utilize faith more as a formula than as a principle.

A principle is defined as follows: “It is a comprehensive and fundamental law, a rule or code of conduct, a primary source, the origin.”

Faith is a principle. On the other hand, many try to use it as a formula.

A formula is, “A set form of words that is used in a ceremony or a ritual. It is a conventionalized statement intended to express some fundamental truth or principle, but it has become conventionalized.”

Sayings like, “Oh, I’m blessed nonetheless.” We think that’s faith. We complain over here and then say, “You know my dog died, my house burned down, they came and repossessed my car, but I’m blessed, nonetheless.”

And so out of one side of our mouth proceeds cursing, while at the same time, and out of the other side of our mouth, comes blessing. And all the while the Scripture says that, “The just shall live by faith.” And faith is not denying your house is burning while flames engulf it. Faith is a principle and not simply a formula, not a catchphrase.

Now, Paul is speaking to the Galatians because they’ve been bewitched by Israelites who were trying to subject them to the Law. Church, we must not allow ourselves to be led astray. Another word for “bewitched” is to be “beguiled” or to be “deceived.” Paul makes a very clear point here and in other places where he is writing to believers. He states that we are saved by grace, not by works, lest any man boast. The great Martin Luther revelation was that we are justified by grace, through faith.

Faith is the dynamic that releases the grace of God and causes a man, woman, or child to be saved; it’s by grace. And Paul says, “You’ve begun in the Spirit, now don’t allow yourselves to get into the flesh.” And so today, I want you to ask yourself why you give. Why do you bring an offering to the Lord? Why do you pay your tithes? Why do you bring tithes to honor God? If it’s simply to avoid a curse, then you are living in bondage to the Law. That’s called, “F.E.A.R.” I don’t want God to curse me, so I’m going to pay my tithe. Do you really think that God is such a manipulator? He’s not manipulating you, and He’s not looking for you to manipulate Him with the following: “I’m going to tithe so God can open up the windows of Heaven so that He will pour me out such a blessing that there will not be room enough to contain.” That’s trying to manipulate God!

Jesus said, “Except our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees.” That’s what the Pharisees lived by, the Law. Jesus said, “Except your righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees, you will not see the Kingdom of God!”

And why didn’t Jesus talk more about tithing? Over the years, you must have asked yourself that. As many times as we’ve had opportunity to give at offering time, we’re always using the same Scriptures. You know why? It’s because in the New Testament, there’s not much written about the tithe. In fact, you can look it up under “tithe, tithing, tithes, tither,” I bet you wouldn’t find more than six examples, probably four.

And in one of them, Jesus was talking to the Pharisees. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”

Nowhere in the New Testament does it command us to tithe. Why? I just had to ask that question the other day. “God why didn’t you just make it plain?” Well, because when the New Testament was written, it was a given. The Israelites, they knew they were supposed to tithe. They were tithers! Think of the rich young ruler. “I’ve don’t this, this, this, and this . . .” And it was answered unto him, “Yeah, but one thing you lack.”

Why is that? It’s because God is looking for more than the tithe. It’s not so much what we do, but why we do it. It’s called the motivation behind one’s actions. Jesus didn’t have to address the issue of tithing. People in the synagogues were doing that. He said, “Except our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees.” Even the Jewish community and heathens regarded the Pharisees as the most righteous group of people on the earth. These were righteous people! They appeared to live according to the Law of God. They went to great extravagance and extremes to abide by the Law of God, and they were faithful to tithe.

Jesus said, “That’s okay, but what you’ve neglected to do, which is even more important, is that you’ve neglected to do justice, you’ve neglected to show mercy, you’ve neglected to walk by faith!” Wow, might I remind you that if you’re tithing to avoid the curse according to the Law given by Moses, I want to give you a heads up. You probably owe God a whole bunch of money. I’m just saying.

According to the Law of Moses, there were three tithes: the Levitical Tithe, the Festival Tithe, and the Welfare Tithe (to take care of every three years in order to provide for widows and orphans). So if you’re only living according to the 10% rule so that God won’t curse you, you ought to be thankful God is not the IRS, or you’d be getting a dirty letter in the mail that told you how much you owe in penalties and back fees! You don’t even have to call Bender and Bender. I just gave you some tax relief, as ultimately, the tithe was like a tax.

It really boils down to getting out from under the idea of being subject to the Law in regard to tithing and beginning to operate under the principle of sowing and reaping. There’s a bit more that I’d like to share in regard to this topic, and I’ll include that in my next blog.

~ pg