While driving through the Ozarks for a rare day of fly fishing on my favorite trout stream, I read this on a church sign:
“Search God's Word for Promises that Match Your Requests;
and then Remind Him of What He Promised.”
I probably should have just kept my mind on the prospect of a great day on the trout stream, but I seem to be powerless to overlook my tendency to read things some people say about God and His word, and then think to myself, “Huh?”
Is this really how we are supposed to feed ourselves on God's living, life-giving Word?
Are we really supposed to decide all the things we would like for God to give us and then look for out-of-context "proof texts" to justify our asking for them?
Is it wise for me to think of myself as the one who should be reminding the Sovereign God of what I think He has “promised”?
Does He have a memory problem such that He needs us to remind Him of what He inspired people to write in His name??
“God, will you please create in me a clean heart?”
Prophecies and Proclamations of Faith - Are They Trustworthy?
In the last few days, there have been prophetic declarations that believers should “have no fear because the cure will come in a few days.” On the other hand, one world renowned faith teacher declared, “Any fear of the coronavirus will cause you to get the virus because of your unbelief.” So, what are we to believe?
The Bible is filled with both faith and wisdom, and they are not contradictory. In this time of worldwide panic AND justifiable concern, believers need to be an example of both. It seems clear to me God’s Word teaches us that wisdom is taking sane precautions and faith is trusting Him for the final outcome. As believers, shouldn’t we do both and be an example to the world?
We Have Many New Covenant Examples to Follow:
When Paul made his last visit to the Temple, the other apostles told him there was great anger in Jerusalem towards him and some had sworn to kill him. Paul decided to take a few other men and go to the Temple to make Jewish vows to calm the crowd. Paul knew this didn’t add to his relationship with God but considered it wisdom. As a result, he was arrested and eventually ended up in a Roman prison. Rather than regret, he often wrote that his “chains” were furthering the Gospel and told his friends to never be ashamed of his imprisonment. Wisdom and trust that God will use the outcome for good.
Question from our AskMark Page:
I see verses referring to the "character of God", "the nature of God". Would you explain what these mean?
In fact, it is the most important question for a person to ask about God, and answer correctly, based on what He has said and not on human logic. Everything depends on whether God is trustworthy, whether He tells the truth. Our eternal lives depend on His truthfulness; His trustworthiness. So, our eternal lives depend on understanding His character; His nature.
In traditional theology, God’s character or nature, is generally defined as:
-Omniscient- “all knowing”
-Omnipotent- “all powerful”
-Omnipresent- “everywhere at all times”
Although these academic words help us understand certain things about Him and what He can do, they fall short of really helping us understand Him, how He feels, how He longs to relate to us, and how He wants us to relate to Him.
AskMark Question From Alaska: In your sermon, you said ‘God cannot be disappointed in us...that would be illogical because He already knows our future.’ According to the NIV God does have regrets and logically this means He can be disappointed. What are your thoughts on the matter? If God can have regrets and therefore be disappointed in those He has appointed, does this mean God makes mistakes as well?
The short answer is: No, God is not disappointed when His children mess up, God does not have regrets, meaning He never wishes He had done something differently, and He cannot change mind or His nature.
However, this short answer is not nearly enough. Truth cannot be based on my opinion or anyone else’s, but His. And this question is far, far too important to simply give an opinion. This question speaks directly to the eternal nature of God and why we can depend on Him completely, wholeheartedly, and throughout eternity.
To answer this based on biblical truth, we must dig deeper. We must look at both how words are defined and what God says about Himself. So now for the necessary, much longer answer.
(I am well-known for my very long answers to short questions. 😊)
1- Understanding how words are used in Scripture.
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.
God frequently speaks in Scripture using anthropomorphic human terms that we can understand. God is a spirit. As such, He does not have hands or feet or wings though some verses use these terms so we can understand. Yet, He is infinitely more complex in His emotions than we can possibly imagine. God is fully capable of feeling “sorry” for the people He loves while fulling knowing what would happen long before it does. And as the eternal God who knows all things, “the end from the beginning,” He is never surprised and would never choose to do anything differently.
A life filled with the fruit of the Spirit is attractive to those who have any desire to know God. New Covenant Grace empowers us to grow in right behavior, bearing His fruit. And that makes the Gospel attractive, desirable, magnetic.
Meditation is a very important part of our fellowship with God. Don’t be afraid of it. Meditation was God’s idea long before New-Agers thought of it and Eastern religions perverted it. What makes the activity of meditation healthy or unhealthy comes from what we meditate on.
New Age thinking generally tells us to meditate by emptying our minds of everything and focus on the material things we want to possess. This tends to promote greed and prideful self-sufficiency. Eastern religions generally teach to meditate by emptying our minds of everything on allowing the "powers of the universe" to fill us. This can be extremely dangerous due to the unseen spiritual forces that delight in messing with people's minds.
As believers, if we focus on human effort, just "trying harder," then we frustrate, or neutralize, the transforming grace of God. But, when we humble ourselves by acknowledging we can't change ourselves, we activate His grace and the miracle of transformation begins.
After spending over three years with His handpicked disciples, Jesus willingly laid down His life, rose from the dead, and before returning to the Father He spent His last 40 days teaching them about the Kingdom of God.
“He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
(Acts 1:3 NIV)
Why Would This Be “New”?
The Kingdom of God was not a new concept to the Jewish disciples. But a Kingdom where the King would actually rule from inside the hearts and the mortal bodies of His people? Now that was a new concept. But should it have been “new” to them?
This understanding of the “inside out” Kingdom of God, of how the King is going to live and rule within the hearts of believers, should not have been a new idea to the 12. The Old Testament fully explained the coming of the New Covenant and how it would be implemented. (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…just to name a few.)
Even To This Day…A Veil
But, because of their upbringing within the Second Temple Jewish community of the early first century, they had a “veil” over their eyes when they read the Old Testament promises about the “New Way” that was coming. This is Paul’s explanation:
"Was it a pagan holiday? Is it still a pagan holiday, today?"
These are questions sincere believers ask every year around this time. To answer these questions requires an understanding of the ancient world, reading Scripture as it is simply written, and the desire to ask with integrity and then act with consistency.
Let's address the last one, first. Xmas!
There is no doubt that most nonbelievers leave Christ out of Christmas. Not knowing Him as Savoir and Lord makes it perfectly logical that they would. They are simply acting out of what they are. It is also true that some, perhaps many, believers get caught up in the secular idea of Christmas and miss the opportunity to teach their children about the true "reason for the season!" But, to react to the word, "Xmas," as if it was sacrilege is to misunderstand history.
We recently received a question concerning tithing on our AskMark page:
What about tithing? And the use of Malichi in teaching it as a minimum amount of giving...
Is this a reasonable teaching or is it a misuse of Old Testament requirement in teaching giving today?
Thanks for the question! It is one that many people are asking right now. As more people begin to see that the New Covenant is based more on the responding to the Spirit inside of us and not threats or demands, questions about things we've done based on Old Testament practices naturally come up.
What Was The Purpose of Tithing in the Old Testament?
The word "tithe" means 10%. It was the basic principle of giving in the Old Testament. It is important to realize that Israel was a nation with all the expenses a nation of people would incur. The building and upkeep of the Temple, the support of the Levites who had no land to farm for their own support, the huge expense of maintaining a monarchy, king's palace, servants, gifts to honor and maintain relationships with other tribes/countries, armies to defend various parts of the kingdom, and many more costs.
In the New Covenant, we are His temple, we are all priests, and we do not maintain a monarchy, palace or nation. But, we do have poor who need our help, we do need facilities and equipment to make it possible to minister, and we do need qualified full time workers to help feed and care for the sheep.
Is Tithing Taught in the New Testament Epistles?
The word "tithe" is not used or taught in the epistles of the New Testament. And to use the "curse" passage in Malachi 3 is a serious misuse of the verse since Christ has clearly "redeemed us from the curse of the law."
However, we should not completely ignore the biblical idea of giving 10% to the work of the Lord. In writing to the churches in Corinth, Paul does refer to what the Law teaches about giving as an example for us to consider. He does draw a connection between giving in the Old Testament for the support of the ministering Levites and giving for the support of those who are fruitful enough to the church to enable them to be "full time" in the work.
1 Cor 9:7-14- Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9
For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13
Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. NASU
So Where Does That Leave Us?
In the New Covenant:
Galatians 6 tells us the law of sowing and reaping is in the New Covenant and we must grow in our ability to use it correctly and benefit from it. Paul made it simple by stating, "He who plants a little, harvests a little."
Sadly, some manipulate people for selfish, greedy reasons. But that doesn't negate the true purpose of the law of sowing and reaping.
The real reason for this law? To grow our faith and trust in God to take care of us. All the trials we face are designed to enable us to grow our trust in His faithful care. But, we have no control over when and how those trials come. But we do have a real measure of control over our giving. Choosing to give or not give is the only way we can actually choose to challenge our faith and grow it by choosing to give more.
The heart of the matter of giving is this:
New Covenant Grace will always lead us to do more than Law ever could.
Mark Drake is an internationally known author, teacher and leader. He focuses on equipping leaders around the world in New Covenant Grace.