Not tithing, but I’m not worried: Malachi 3:11

The visiting preacher[1] said that because I wasn’t giving the first 10% of my income to this church, a ‘tithe’, then 100% of my income and all my possessions were unprotected from Satan. Wow! If I hadn’t known better, and many of those listening wouldn’t have known better, that would have been scary.

He then proceeded to make simple what is complicated and settled what is far from settled by basing his argument on one passage, Malachi 3:8-12:

“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. 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 [NIV].

Before you base your giving on the strength of this passage, can I ask you, please, to consider what I had previously found.

First up, the passage is in the Old Testament. For it to be applicable to you, you will have to get over the difficulty of applying only part of the Law:

10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[a] also said, “You shall not murder.”[b] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker [James 2:10-11, NIV]. See also Paul in Galatians 5:3.

Then there is the question of Malachi’s audience. God was speaking to Israel. Are instructions within a relationship in the Mosaic law applicable to individuals? The book of Job, and a couple of passages in the New Testament make this highly questionable. Matthew 19:23-25 says

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” [NIV].

And there’s John 9:3:

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

But let’s say, for argument sake, that the passage is applicable to you. For you to base your behaviour on a particular passage, you’d expect that passage to be primarily about that behaviour, right? But Malachi 3:8-12 is not primarily about tithing. The context of the passage shows that it’s about a nation that has turned away from God, and His reaction. The tithe is secondary.

Now we come to what the preacher called ‘the kicker’. If we give 10% to our church then the 90% is ‘devourer free’. It is protected from Satan. The devourer is rebuked[2].

Putting all the above aside – and this is the ‘kicker’ for me – a transactional tithe as described in Malachi 3:8-12 is inconsistent with the guidelines for giving in the NT. We give so that we can give more. Paul says, in Second Corinthians 9:6-11,

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God [NIV].

Let’s get…Back to The Gospel.

 

 

  1. Although this is a true account, no purpose is served by identifying the preacher in the body of this post. However, if it is important to you to see that what I say is true, contact me and I will give you a link to the sermon.
  2. You might also consider the implications of applying as prevention a passage that talks about the removal of an existing curse.

 

I’m not speaking to you: Matthew 5:14-16

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples that they were ‘the light of the world’:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Also, people do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand. Then it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine so others can see it. Then they will see the good things you do. And they will bring glory to your Father who is in heaven [NIRV].

This now applies to present-day believers. But to whom is he speaking?

In today’s world of the individual, a world in which an ‘unchurched’ Christian is both common (and accepted[1]), it is unsurprising that a Christian hearing or reading this passage would think that Jesus is talking to them. As an individual. And, in my experience, that’s what most do[2].

But that’s not correct.

Unfortunately, English makes no distinction between the singular and plural ‘you[3]’. Unlike the original language, Greek. And in the Greek this ‘you’ is plural.

Could he have been using ‘you’ in the sense of you all, each one of you individually? The context says otherwise.

The Jews of the day knew the idea of the “light of the world” well. They knew that the plan was for Israel to be a light to the nations. For Isaiah had prophesised:

Here is what the Lord says to me.

“It is not enough for you as my servant
to bring the tribes of Jacob back to their land.
It is not enough for you to bring back
the people of Israel I have kept alive.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles
[NIRV].
Then you will make it possible for the whole world to be saved.”

So, who is the plural ‘you’, today, under the New Covenant? The ecclesia, the local ‘church’, that’s who[4]. The local Christian community[5]. It is they who have replaced Israel as the Lord’s intended vehicle[6] for the ‘good deeds’ that ‘bring glory to God’[7].

As a local ‘church’ we are something (a light to the world), so we must go and do something (‘good deeds’). How do you think we are going with that?

Let’s get…Back to the Gospel.

 

 

 

  1. It is God’s plan that every believer be part of a local church [for example, Acts 2:42-47]. The power that is described in Ephesians 1:19-22 that is ours – God’s mighty strength, his immeasurable power that raised Christ – can only be fully expressed collectively.
  2. And I did. Thanks to John Dickson (The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, Zondervan, 2010) for putting me straight.
  3. ‘You’ (or ‘ye’) is the consistent translation of the original language.
  4. It is not a shared role: The “you” is emphatic in the Greek text, so that we might translate it “You, and you alone are the light of the world.”
  5. That Jesus is talking to us as the local church is supported by the wider context of the New Testament. See, for example, Ephesians 3:7-10 (NIRV): “I now serve the good news because God gave me his grace. His power is at work in me.  I am by far the least important of all the Lord’s holy people. But he gave me the grace to preach to the Gentiles about the unlimited riches that Christ gives.  God told me to make clear to everyone how the mystery came about. In times past it was kept hidden in the mind of God, who created all things.  He wanted the rulers and authorities in the heavenly world to come to know his great wisdom. The church would make it known to them.”  See also 2 Peter 3:17. 2 Peter was written to an unknown but specific group of believers. NIRV again:  “Dear friends, you have already been warned about this. So be on your guard. Then you won’t be led astray by people who don’t obey the law. Instead, you will remain safe.”
  6. The Greek also tells us that the local ‘church’ is now, not sometime when they are ready, and a definite, not a maybe.
  7. From the article in the first link:

 

Transformational Prayer Ministry (TPM) wants to redesign how we do church

Ed Smith, the inventor of Theophostic Prayer[1], thinks that everybody, in every ‘church’ in the world, needs his invention[2]. Never mind what kind of prayer it is, can any invention of man warrant such a claim?

Ignoring the fact that the Bible gives us what we should do in order to grow and honour our Lord, Ed wants TPM added to the spiritual disciplines described in the Word. And not as something that can be chosen by a ‘church’ member if they feel like it, but as something much more invasive: first, he says that TPM should be so ingrained in the nature and way of operating of their ‘church’ that it will be impossible for them to avoid; second, he says that TPM should be the default way for all of us believers to interpret our ‘daily life experiences’.

And all of this is from something that didn’t exist until 1995.

Here it is in the words of Ed and his son:

Our long term vision for TPM is to equip churches worldwide to incorporate the basic concepts and principles of Transformation Prayer Ministry into the “DNA” and culture of the Church, so that members may learn to naturally and spontaneously apply TPM to their lives as a spiritual discipline. By knowing and embracing TPM they will be able to willfully and intentionally cooperate with what God is doing in refining their faith/belief, as they submit themselves under “the mighty hand of God” (1 Pet. 5:6) and thereby “be trained” by His discipline that will produce the “peaceful fruits of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11)[3]

You can read more of their ‘…Vision for the Worldwide Church’ in their training manual, The Essentials of TPM.

Now this wouldn’t matter if they were the aspirations of somebody unknown, for a product that is unknown, but this is not the case with Ed Smith and Theophostic. A quick look on the internet shows that its being used all over the place. [Edit: link added 8,03.2021].  For instance, it’s been in the assembly I attend for many a year, and I have every reason to believe that it is still available[4]. And when it is spoken of around me, it is only to tell of its good results, and to recommend it as a solution to things in the past causing present troubles.

I don’t know what you think, but for me, let’s get…Back to The Gospel.

 

 

  1. Recently it rebadged itself and freshened up the approach, but the basic tenets remain. It’s now called ‘Transformation Prayer Ministry’ or ‘TPM’.
  2. The Essentials of TPM, Ed M. Smith and Joshua A. Smith Second Edition 2019, page 313, downloaded 5 March 2021 from https://www.transformationprayer.org/tpmstudyguide/.
  3. The Essentials of TPM, page 313.
  4. From the Safe Ministries Policy and Procedures document on the website 5 March 2021.

 

Why I’m going to stop going to church

Two facts:

  1. King James had the word ‘ecclesia’ translated in his English Bible (KJV, 1611) as ‘church’. This encouraged people to continue to think that this was a building.
  2. The primary meaning of ‘church’ today is as a building[1].

The issue: ‘ecclesia’ does not mean a building.

Success for King James. Success for the institutional church. Failure for what God clearly wanted.

Let me explain.

The Greek word that the translators for King James faced was ‘ecclesia’. This did not mean a building; it is best translated ‘congregation’ or ‘assembly’. They were the ‘called-out ones’, those who had joined the new kingdom announced by John the Baptist.

But this would have changed the meaning from the Bible at the time[2], a building, into something to do with the people. And that would give the people the power. Rather than the King. Unacceptable.

So, King James told his translators[3]

The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, as the word church, not to be translated congregation.”

And it has stuck to this day[4]. So instead of thinking of a section of the Body, we think of a building. With all sorts of negative consequences for the proper functioning of the Body[5].

Change has got to begin somewhere. For me, I’m going to try and stop saying that I’m going to ‘church’. Instead, I will say ‘We are part of an assembly called Vision, meeting at a place in Fyshwick.

Let’s get………Back to the Gospel.

 

 

  1. Put the word ‘church’ into a Google image search and you get a page full of buildings.
  2. William Tyndale’s translation, the first English translation from the Greek. (Wycliffe’s Bible preceded him, but it was a translation from the Latin Vulgate.)
  3. Andrews, E. D. (2019). History of English versions of the bible. Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House.
  4. The top selling English translations all translate ‘ecclesia’ in Matthew 16:18 as ‘church’.
  5. See, for instance, https://tedsherwood.com/are-our-churches-too-inward-looking/.

 

‘A word’ for you, Hillsong Brian

Hillsong Brian has just announced an internal promotion: his Perth pastors are off to New York. Apparently this occurred during his presentation of Hillsong’s 2021 plans.

The same report said that ‘he had received three words from God for the upcoming year: rescue, restore, and rebuild’. He connected these ‘words’ to Hillsong New York.

It is interesting that A21, the anti-slavery charity integrated into Hillsong’s website and financial supported by Hillsong (and whose co-founder, Christine Caine is due to speak at Hillsong’s ‘Colour’ conference), also has three words to describe its strategy: reach, rescue and restore.

Brian, I too have ‘a word’ for you. Not a special ‘word’ from God, but one that is woven into his Word, the Bible.

Continuing the slavery theme, you might have a look at Destiny Rescue’s model:

You seem to lurch from one crisis to another. I suggest that when you ‘rebuild’, you add prevention.

Your leaders – all Christians – need some ego inoculation, some greed inoculation, some inoculation against self. And there’s only one sure way to get that: a full revelation of the work of Christ for us (Romans 5:6-8), as us (Romans 6:6-7), and in us (1 John 4:13), which will then allow Christ to work through us (John 5:17-19). We will then automatically turn to the Word of God, a Word that has prevention strategies, we will be listening to the Holy Spirit, a Spirit that prevents us from doing harm, and we will be talking to wise saints who know us, saints who can prevent us from straying.

Romans 16:25-27. Let’s get……..Back to the Gospel.

 

Why I said no to reading the Bible

The other day I was asked to read the Bible. Now, I’m a big fan of reading the Bible. But I declined. Why?

Well, this wasn’t any ordinary reading of the Bible, privately, in a small group, or in a local ‘church’. This was the Bible Reading Marathon 2021, a public reading in front of Parliament House.

This might be OK if that was the extent of it, but it wasn’t: there were to be prayers offered and it is organised by an entity called Canberra House of Prayer for All Nations (C-HOP). And I have an issue with both.

Searches reveal that C-HOP is neither an entity in its own right (no ABN), nor a registered business name of another entity. Yet it seeks donations from the public.

Not only this, but the C-HOP website reveals a complicated operating structure. On the ‘About C-HOP’ page, it says that C-HOP has a ‘Board of Reference’:

[1]

Just under this there is a second entity introduced, Mountain of Blessing Ministries Pty Ltd:

It is highly likely that this is the company Mountain of Blessing Christian Ministries Pty Limited. Again, this is not a charity, so not entitled to any tax concessions (and therefore liable to pay income tax):

Perhaps it has no income, and just acts as a trustee. For if you respond to the invitation to donate, the money goes to yet a third entity in the C-HOP structure, the ‘Prayer Worx Trust’:

‘MBCM’ most likely stands for ‘Mountain of Blessing Christian Ministries’ (see above), but nowhere is there anything on the website to confirm this.

And nowhere is the relationship between the organiser of the Bible Reading Marathon 2021, C-HOP, and ‘Prayer Worx’ explained.

The bottom line is that I don’t have to read my Bible again to know that this setup and its explanation is inconsistent with what the Author wants.

But even if they had their governance and transparency right, I would still have an issue with the organisers of this ‘Marathon’.

C-HOP’s existence, and the prayer part of the Bible Reading Marathon, is based on a misunderstanding of Scripture:

Isaiah 56:7 is not an instruction for us today. Whether they are in their ‘house’ or at Parliament House, C-HOP are not the house of God. We, born again Christians are, individually, the house of God:

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”[a] bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory [Hebrews 3:3-6, NIV].

A personal relationship with God, wherever we are, has replaced a mediated relationship in a physical structure.

I also did not need to read my Bible again to get my second objection.

The prayers are to include prayer for Canberra and Australia:

And

I do not believe there is Scriptural support for any action by a Christian, and therefore by extension, a Christ-led organisation, to promote a nation or nationalism. (1 Peter 2:9 is talking to the local church, the ecclesia, not Australia or any other nation.)

John the Baptist announced a new nation, and this nation, the kingdom of God, is the only nation to which we, as Christians, owe allegiance[2].

Let’s get……..Back to The Gospel.

 

 

 

  1. Karen Boss is a director of the registered Canberra charity Christian Faith and Freedom Inc. Lilian Schmid is the National Coordinator for ‘Prayer Strategy for the Spheres of Influence’. Not an entity, but appears not to seek donations.Isaac and Linda Arthur are two of the directors of the registered Canberra charity Abundant Life of Faith International Ministries Incorporated.Sue Miller says that she is still the Senior Pastor of Northside Life Church in Canberra. This Church is a registered Canberra charity. She is also one of the five directors of this charity.
  2. I am also uneasy about the fact that the reading will be a public reading. C-HOP gives this support:‘Public reading’ here refers to the reading of Scripture in a synagogue or local church.

 

A little clash of the two kingdoms

Dear Pastor

I write to you to alert you to an injustice.

First, because you have many people that you are to shepherd, I’ll not assume that you know me.

I have been regularly attending the Church for well over a year now. This has not always been easy, but I do it because I believe that membership of a local church is an expectation for all believers (I am not one of those Christians who believe that it is OK Biblically to be a Christian on one’s own, or to ‘do church’ some other way.)

Without such membership the care and leadership by elders, the part that God has for me to play in the Body, and the discipline that is sometimes necessary – all Biblical requirements – don’t make sense.

The church’s statement of beliefs (on the website) imply that you agree with my stance. However, I recently found out that you don’t consider me to be a member.

This is because you say that members are not baptised attendees as the Bible says in Acts, but are only those people who have been successful in an application to join a separate legal entity, an incorporated association, that you have set up to run the church.

If I don’t join this association then I am not treated the same way as those that have. I can’t participate fully in the life of the church.

I can’t do anything about the fact that you have equated the local assembly with an earthly institution, but I want to be a full member of the assembly, so I went to apply. But to my dismay  I found that you have put a legal impediment in my way: you have said that a member must be at least 18.

I am 16.

Yours in Christ

Bart

P.S. What makes this even more disappointing is that the law does not require such a hurdle.

P.P.S. I know that you are unlikely to change this rule – especially in the short term – so maybe you think that I can just find another church. But unfortunately, my research shows that there’s a good chance I will run into the same problem there as well.

Let’s get…Back to the Gospel.

 

Are our churches too inward-looking? Evidence from their accounts

Givers of money to evangelical churches, a question for you: is your money – God’s money if you like- going to where it should under the New Covenant? That is, looking outward from ourselves.

Below are two samples of evangelical churches. Canberra evangelical churches[1] in the first and church members of Missions Interlink (“the Australian network for global mission”) in the second.

In each there is a column ‘Missions’. This column shows the percentage of the church’s spending that goes on ‘Missions’.

Canberra Protestant ‘evangelical’ churchesTotal spent[2] MissionsMissions are called / comment on the result
Life Unlimited Church Ltd2.33 million9%Missions’
C3 Church Watson Incorporated971K5%‘Missions’
Crossroads Christian Church Inc1.14 million2%‘FIEC, Bible college scholarship and global support’
C3 Church Monash Inc892K7%‘Missions’
Australasian Church Inc345K8%‘Mission support – in Australia’; ‘Mission support – outside Australia’
Fusion City Church Incorporated458KSee next columnNo direct evidence of any ‘missions’; may be some in ‘General & Specific Ministry 50,627′?
Reformed Church Of Canberra Inc188K0%Understated if missions included in ‘Special Offerings Expended – Australia-Wide’ 19K and/or ‘Special Offerings Expended – Local’ 8K; nothing overseas
Tuggeranong Baptist Church Incorporated372K7%This is ‘Tithe expended‘, so likely overstated; no ‘Missions’ or similar
Capital Edge Community Church Incorporated838K7%‘Missions Payments’
Westminster Presbyterian Church Belconnen243K5%‘Missions’
Christian City Church Belconnen Inc746K0%Understated if missions are included in ‘Conference, programme, and event expense’s 80,971.
LIFECITY CHURCH271K7%‘Global Missions – JAR Turkey Expenses’; excluded: ‘Global Missions Expenses‘ and ‘Local Missions Expenses‘, so may be understated.
Southside Bible Church Incorporated292K0%Unless there is something included in ‘Operating expenses
Calvary Chapel – United Pentecostal Church Ltd932k0%Understated if missions included in ‘Funds collected for UCPA
Canberra International Church IncorporatedStatements not lodgedUnable to calculate
Woden Valley Alliance Church Incorporated407K0%Understated if missions included in ‘Other Expenses’
Missions Interlink ‘Church’ membersTotal spentMissionsMissions are called / comment on the result
CityLife Church10.47 million9%‘Mission expenses’
Clayton Church of Christ1.44 million12%‘Mission related expenses’, so 12% probably overstates it
Crossculture Church of Christ1.87 million31%‘Missions support’, so 31% may overstate it.
Crossway Baptist Church11.45 million15%‘International Ministry Expense’, so 15% may overstate it.
Discovery Church Melbourne2.01 million1%This is ‘Vision offering acquittal’, their Gift Fund; ‘missions is not one of their programs.
Gateway Baptist Church6.03 million5%‘Missions support expenses’, so 5% may overstate it.
Lake Gwelup Christian Church397K14%‘Reach – Partner Support & Other expenses’, so probably overstated
Scarborough Baptist Church287K5%‘Mission/ministry expenses’, so 5% is likely an overstatement

Are these churches outward looking enough? It seems not.

So, let’s get….’Back to the Gospel’.

 

  1. From the ACNC Register. An ‘Advanced search’ on ‘Church’ (Charity name), ‘Advancing Religion’ (Subtype); ACT (Charity Location), ‘Registered’ (Status). Then selected ‘Large’ or ‘Medium’ protestant churches who said they shared the Gospel, and had a Financial Report on the Register.
  2. Total expenses from the profit and loss statement.