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I love the Lord as much as a broken person can; love and loved by my husband; blessed by 5 amazing little people who have helped me to learn much about me; grateful to serve even more as God gives them to me; blessed every day to be a home school teacher; college student; I hope to change the world by loving as many people as possible, because there is nothing greater than loving another.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tithing as Worship

Of all my years in believing in God, some were walked well, others not so much, and in that time, I've known many men of God. None (Save My Husband) have helped me grow so much in so little time as my pastor, Rev. Bernard Smith. He is a scribe first, in my honest opinion, then a teacher and pastor. He LOVES the word of God. He's a good match for me, because I LOVE the word of God, too. I'm a teacher; I just can't help but devour the richest meal ever written. He has taught me about tithing in a way I never understood: as worship, and helped me to understand deeply that, "Obedience is better than sacrifice." I admit, I have never understood tithing as worship. I just didn't get it. I thought, "Why on Earth would God give me money to handle my business, but then take it back as...worship? Huh?" So, this entry is in appreciation for the Pastor who loves like none I've ever known and to his wife who does the same. She is a remarkable women -- she has to be -- and wants to be. Her humble and meek spirit quietly bless me every.single.day. I am grateful for your example, First Lady, and I hope my rambling honor you well.
Anyone who knows me can attest that time and talent are no real sacrifice for me. I enjoy serving and I particularly like to serve where my strengths lie. Perhaps, this is why I now understand how tithing is worship and why, for me, it matters. I sacrifice time to serve in my strengths and while it requires obedience, it requires more sacrifice of little matters, than obedience. I gladly give my time and talent to the Lord -- in plain language, it's no big deal. That's how I know, "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:30 is TRUTH. It's also being confirmed through tithing as worship.

I could hardly bring myself to sacrifice money. We have so little and my children benefit from electricity and water. They often have need of material things like socks and shoes. How could I sacrifice their needs and well being to tithe? Selfishly, the times there is an extra dollar or two, I'd rather enjoy a $1 movie and candy bar because it's a rare treat (my justification, not  a whole or honest truth) The answer to "how" is, I can't. If I don't have it to give, then I can't give it, but here's what I've learned. God provides ALL our needs. My kids have never gone without any of those things, despite my $0 checking account balance. Where cash does not flow, family and friends are tools of currency for the Lord; so why on Earth was I unwilling to offer a couple bucks to the offering? Why was I robbing God?
At first, I would not receive that I was robbing God because I gave so much to Him in other areas, then I really, truly HEARD...."All things come of thee, oh Lord. And OF THY OWN have we given unto thee." It's funny how you can recite something so many times, in vain, and not even realize your vanity. FINALLY, it came to life in my dense skull and I got it.....it's not like any of my strengths are mine to hold and it's not like any of the money I have is mine because I've earned or deserve it. It's all from Him. It's all for Him.  If I believe this, if I live this, if I offer this as truth to those who know me, then why was I coveting God's money?
Oh....robbing God. Yup, I said it. I had always been taught that verse in Malachi 3:10, ""Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse...." But somehow, I missed this part, "so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (emphasis added to bring out 3 distinct points)

You see, I spent some time, as a young adult, in a church that heavily preached prosperity. You know the kind.....God will make you rich. YUP. I said that, too. The kind of church that basically promoted lots of materialism as a measure of your faithfulness. Yuck. While I appreciate the Lord would have His people prosper, I do defy that prosperity lies in financial and material wealth alone. I believe, out of that principle, and my personal stubborness and rebellion to such thought, I was turned off to tithing. I really wanted to be sure my relationship with Christ had nothing to do with money. It turns out, my end has had more to do with it than I understood. 
I studied tithing in the Old Testament. A different reality than our world, for certain. Much more communal, so I gave myself permission to be a receiver of tithes and offerings, in my impoverished state. I knew that the purpose of tithing, in a Joseph and grain sense, was a part of the body's provision to the people. The community of Christ. Since I was and am generally broke, I was content to let those with thicker wallets be the hands and feet of God's money. I was content to operate in my strengths, in all honestly not sacrificing money for the church...also not walking obediently for God, as I was not bringing any money to the storehouse.  Then, this comes to life through a tiny little church, with very little money, "...so that there may be food in My house..."
You see, for the first time in my life, I am a member of a church where I am not at or near the top of the poorest families list. In fact, I'm in a church that is almost the opposite of my long term church experience. There are fewer families in the Haves than the Have-Nots. For the first time in my life, I see people with greater spiritual prosperity than I, yet less financial resources.
I am humbled.
Remember me...I was content to let those with thicker wallets be the hands and feet of God's money.
I had accepted poverty. I had decided God would not make me financially prosperous because I had determined my place. Wow. My place was set in my 20's. How foolish I was. As if the Creator of the heavens and earth can be limited to two mere decades to establish a person's place in His kingdom. Wow. My youth and arrogance have gotten me in so much trouble, so many times!
Now I need to be those feet, even though my wallet is no thicker.
I went to my pastor and told him I wanted to tithe, but did not have any money to do so. His teachings in Acts 4:32-35 taught me about the Christian church and  
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. " 
Could I share what I had and reduce the need in my church body? Even while I sometimes had personal need? I found a resounding, yes! in my heart. 
My husband, in truth without malice, is the financial authority in our home. He makes decisions of how our money is spent. His determination is we can hardly manage our bills and sometimes need benevolence, therefore we have none to give. I appreciate his perspective. So,  I prayed and promised. Moreso, I changed.  You know, birthday money, a little typing or babysitting job where you get a couple bucks. Yes, I've tithed on less than $10 and was grateful there's a place to tithe "Pennies from Heaven" in my church. I tell you this, not to elevate myself, but instead to elevate Christ. Recognizing that even in my state of affairs, my affairs were prosperous beyond those of others. I have so.very.much.And if I'm honest, there is something, somewhere I can give.
Then I continually hear,  
"and test me now in this." 
Wait a minute. Who am I to test, God? Yet, in this instance, He says, ""and test me now in this." My pastor has helped me to learn what it means to test the Lord, without disrespect...it's more of what I would call, open your will to the promises of God.  How can God operate and fulfill his promises, the precious things he wants so desperately to give his people, if His people are not open to the promise? He is unable because of my disobedience. If I was not bringing anything to the storehouse, how could he, "open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows?" If I don't fulfill the first part of the verse, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse;" I can't expect Him to fulfill His part of the verse. That's why I needed to claim the promises of God --- not to receive the promise, but to be Obedient. Obedience is better than sacrifice because it opens the floodgates. Sacrifice drizzles out a few drops and allows a taste of the promise. Obedience IS BETTER than sacrifice -- it leaves God and man fulfilled.

So, how does worship  come into play here? Well, worship is no sacrifice for me. I LOVE, love, L.O.V.E. to worship. Honestly, I could spend all day in prayer and song. I would have made a descent nun :) I could worship and serve orphans happily! So, to incorporate tithing into worship was not in my radar, then it happened. Shortly after my pledge to the Lord and my commitment to obedience in this area, I am now able to tithe weekly with a little babysitting income. The first week I was able to pay all tithes and even share testimony of such at church. I cried like a baby. It strange how the Lord can give you strength to carry on and when the burden is lifted spiritually, it is also cleansed from your body and mind. I have rarely wanted to dance so much, to sing so much, to shout THANK YOU, LORD as I did while putting that little white envelope in the little white church. It turns out, my tithe is part of my witness to God's fulfillment of His word --- how about that! It turns out, that my little tiny bit of paycheck, and my littlier tiny bit of offering isn't about "how much" at all...except for how much He loves us.
It's worth repeating, Obedience IS BETTER than sacrifice -- it leaves God and man fulfilled. My obedience is tithing has opened His willingness to fulfill his promise. His loving kindness brings about worship, keeping me obedient there, too. Tithing also fulfills, the two great commandments as found in Mark, Chapter 12, 
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.e 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’f 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’g There is no commandment greater than these.”
32“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
I am loving my neighbors and church family as I love myself: deeming them receivers of "my" money. I am serving the lost beyond personal contact, for the glory of Christ's church, which are more important than my sacrifice. I am pointing to God and announcing His greatness as I witness to the True Prosperity He brings. His faithfulness endures forever! 
Tithing is really not about money. I'm glad I learned that...it only took me 23 years of walking with God :) I only hope that I remain faithful and in doing so, my obedience allows my pleasure in glorifying God through continued worship of all kinds, in word and deed and cash! Be blessed!
Be Blessed my brother,
Be blessed my sister,
Be blessed wherever this life leads you,
Let me encourage you,
Let me speak life to you,
You can depend on God to see you through,
You can depend on me to pray for you

You might be hurting,
You might be crying,
You might be worrying and frustrated to,
Let me encourage you let me speak life to you
You can can depend on God to see you through,
You can depend on me to pray for you
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/b/bishop_paul_s_morton/be_blessed.html ]
Pray I'm gonna keep on prayin,
Pray I'm gonna keep on prayin for you,
Pray I'm gonna keep on prayin,
Pray I'm gonna keep on prayin for you
You can depend on God to see you thru,
You can depend on me to pray for you

Bridge:
I see you in the future.
And you look better,
I see you walking in favor and prosperity too,
Let me encourage you,
Let me speak life to you,
You can depend on God to see you through,
You can depend on me to pray for you

I pray for you,
You pray for me,
And watch God change things,
Repeat 1x

I pray for you,
You pray for me and watch God change things
Repeat 6x

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