Monday, June 6, 2016

                                                            Exploring the Tithe
                                                                       by Pastor Thomas Kulp

Exploring the tithe in the Lord’s view heavily involves Malachi 3:6-12.  These passages are the primary source for a dissertation of God’s instruction for the material items in life.  God makes the source of all blessings clear and that He is in control of all things.  Visiting these passages involves relating a number of Pentateuch passages that give us a backdrop of the commands that God is revealing to Israel and therefore still affecting us today.
When discussing the subject of the tithe, the need to define the word and differentiate the use of tithe and tax in context becomes necessary.  The word tithe is defined as, “The practice of offering to God a tenth of the harvest of the land and of livestock, as holy to the Lord. The idea is also used in a more general sense, meaning offering one-tenth of one’s income to the Lord.”[1]  The use of this word and concept is used in Deuteronomy 26:12, as describing the year of the tithe and in Numbers 18:21 to define the use of it to support and compensate the Levites for the work of the priesthood.  In contract the word tax is defined as, “Any form of payment levied on people by a supervising authority.”[2]  A tax is a payment from human rulers, whereas a tithe is given in obedience and thankfulness to the temple by command of our Holy God.
God gave Israel the land as their inheritance.  He made it clear that it was actually a stewardship: “The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants (Lev 25:23). One reason for this was the sinful human tendency to disconnect the gift from the giver (Deuteronomy 6:10–12).”[3]  The view is stated that God is the giver of the gift of the Promised Land, and specifically the City of Jerusalem.   Israel is but a tenant and all material goods are a gift from the Father.  With this in mind there is a necessary fact that needs revealed; God does not need the money, the money is a tool used by a loving God to support and provide for His people.  As an example, as in Nehemiah, King Atraxerxes is used by God to provide for His enslaved nation.  Vast resources are provided by God through Atraxerxes, the ruler of Persia, which allowed for Israel to return and to rebuild His Holy City and Temple.   The lesson is all is a gift from the Father, and the giving of the tithe is a heart condition issue with the nation.  “We are dealing with the same unchanging God who requires obedience and who forgives those who repent of disobedience (1 John 1:9). In a world of flux and change, he is the constant.”[4]  God has from the beginning been constant. Genesis 14:20 shows Abram giving of a tithe (or tenth) to the Priest Most High, Melchizedek and again in Genesis 28:22 the evidence of a tithe is displayed. God has revealed Himself seeking obedience and a relationship with His people from the beginning of time.  Little is asked by God but to worship Him alone.  Part of this worship is the giving back cheerfully of the generous gifts that He alone provides.
In Malachi 3:9, the call of the Father is a calling out of the people for “…robbing me”, furthermore states that the people are “under a curse” for the action and heart condition.  In Mark 12 the story of the widow’s mite displays the true heart that God desires.  The widow gave out of poverty; the widow gave all.  The widow displays a giving heart that is also revealed in Matthew 25 with the story of the talents.   Here in Malachi the same thing has occurred.  God has blessed His people with release from captivity, restoration of the land, and the ability to reconnect with His presence, yet they hold back and rob Him.   God knows the heart and knows this to be a condition that reveals another potential abandoning of Him.  Once again idols are evolving.  These idols steal away the focus on God.   God is a god of structure and as written in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change.”(NIV), therefore what was established in Genesis is consistent in Malachi and in the future times. “Turning toward God means offering Him our entire selves. We can’t claim to follow Jesus and not give toward God’s causes with our time and money. To do so would be to make our beliefs center on what we feel or think, not what we do. Faith requires action.”[5]
All of the verses in Malachi are calling His people back to total obedience and fully back to relationship to Him.   God know that the tithe is provided to support the Temple and the Priests in the Temple of God.   God’s desire is to have the priests fully committed to the work placed before them in order to serve His purposes.  A reduction in the tithe is not only a spiritual failure but also a hindrance to the functionality of the Temple in the everyday life of the nation.  The issue evolves around greed.  “Greediness is not only a mark of selfishness; it is a token of infidelity and therefore of outright disobedience. The most severe penalty for failure to conform to God’s will is curse.”[6]  The way the nation is heading will only lead to great problems.  The nation has recently returned from curse in foreign lands, and should not be seeking another act of discipline.  The deep love and care of the Lord is displayed through the prophet, Malachi, to call them out and to give them the opportunity to correct and redirect the actions.
God is not painting a picture from ten thousand feet but from a down to earth level where actions that do not follow a proper heart conditions are called out.  The blessing is that God desires to bring joy.  He promises that He will respond with an overflowing blessing. It is impossible to out-give God.”[7]  What a God that in His infinite wisdom and love sees the error, gives a call to obedience, and does the thinkable; promises overflowing blessings.
Today the lesson is still valid and the blessing or curse still present as options to a believer.   When a Christian’s heart is focused on God and the work of the kingdom then the tithe is paid before all other things.   The viewpoint in practice is all things are gifts from above and a generous God grants all 90 % of the material goods, seeking only 10% for His work.   This commentary states it wonderfully, “In bringing the tithes and offerings, the people were not only supporting the ministry of the temple, but they were also giving thanks to God for His bountiful provision for their own needs.”[8]   The amount of a Christian’s giving shows the depth of thankfulness to God.   The cycle is perpetual.  God gives to His people good gifts; His people take the first tenth of these gifts and give them joyfully to the church.  In turn the people are part of blessing others, and God seeing the heart of the giver will grant them more.  What a splendid system that God has ordained: if all believers only followed it.   A world is changed and nations spared of curse because of the obedience of the people.  Putting God first in all things.  God doesn’t want a demand tax paid but rather a heart that gives out of love.  Gifts given because of love and never duty--“Not because they “paid” for them, but because, when God’s people are close to Him, He enjoys doing them good.”[9]  What an amazing and wonderful God every Christian has placed in the heart.
In summary, God is a just God that is patience and full of grace.   God has a plan that requires obedience from His people.   Honoring God with obedience will usher in bountiful and joyous blessings.  God commanded a system that directs a tenth of fruits of the work of His loved ones to be brought to the temple.   God allows a testing of this command due to His desire to shower His children with gifts in abundant amounts.  The floodgates of blessing will be opened and His Word states, “…that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10), therefore let every believer give with a cheerful heart and allow our nation to receive the glorification of the Lord.



Barry, John. Malachi: Easy Doesn’t Change the World. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995.

Ellsworth, Roger. Opening up Malachi. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2007.

Knowles, Andrew. The Bible guide (1st Augsburg books ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg. 2001.

Manser, Martin H.  Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser, 2009.

Richards, Larry, and Lawrence O. Richards. The Teacher’s Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987.

Taylor, Richard, and E. Ray Clendenen. Haggai, Malachi. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Amazed. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996.

[1]Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

[2] Ibid.

[3]Taylor, R. A., & Clendenen, E. R. (2004). Haggai, Malachi (Vol. 21A, p. 414). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[4] Ellsworth, R. (2007). Opening up Malachi (pp. 71–72). Leominster: Day One Publications.
[5] Barry, J. D. (2014). Malachi: Easy Doesn’t Change the World (p. 36). Bellingham, WA:    Lexham Press.

[6]Elwell, W. A. (1995). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, Mal 3:7). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[7] Knowles, A. (2001). The Bible guide (1st Augsburg books ed., p. 399). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.
[8]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be amazed (pp. 158–159). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[9]Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The Teacher’s Commentary (p. 508). Wheaton, IL:   Victor Books.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Seven Woes

Jesus in Matthew 23, speaks directly to the religious leaders of the day.  Taunting or calling out of the issues of the day; namely a wrong message of what makes one righteous.  Jesus gives an example of direct confrontation of the battle that is fought with men that are in conflict with the will of the Father.  The recorded word is given to combat pride, greed, self-will and sin in light of the provision and providence of God.
     Jesus speaks the Seven Woes against the Pharisees and Scribes; the commanding rulers of the day.  Jesus challenged the norms of society[1] and desired to confront and give direction to the people of the Jerusalem that the pathway being preached was leading them to a false doctrine of God’s love and will for them. This conversation happened in a public forum and the gathering crowd existed of Scribes and Pharisees, in addition to the common Jews of the city.  Jesus is publicly calling out the teaching of the leaders for their contradiction with God’s Word.
     Jesus is preaching the gospel that love of God is imperative and that belief in the Messiah offers everlasting life for every Jew.  It is love and grace, not law.  The Pharisees are in direct contrast to this:
In the case of the Pharisees and their scribes there is the very serious accusation that they shut up the kingdom of heaven before men. They were in reality effectively shutting people out of God’s kingdom at the same time that they claimed they were helping them into it; in that lay their hypocrisy[2]

     Jesus baits the Pharisees to call them out, for the purpose of truth.  Christ knew the plan and the consequence of His actions.  Jesus was going to the cross to pay the price that could not be paid by anyone other than the perfect Lamb of God.  There was no other option.  Truth needed spoken; hypocrisy needed called out and the position of God and His will need to be completed.  Jesus calls the Pharisees and Scribes out for what they were; self-serving hypocrites.  This preaching from our Lord was meant to redirect the purposes of man to serve the righteous purpose of God.

[1] Life Application Study Bible (p. 1583). Wheaton, IL:Tyndale House Publishers. 2005

[2] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 579). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Does God Command Genocide in the Old Testament

Exploring the concept of following a God that would command genocide is a tough concept to grasp. Yet there are revelations that are exposed that show who God is, the intensity of his love and the depth of His protection for His holy people.  In Joshua 1:11 and 3:10, there is a commanding from God for the Israelites to dispose (or dispossess) of a nation.   This command, “According to Deuteronomy 7:1–11 the Lord would remove the inhabitants of Canaan and settle the Israelites in the land.”[1]; goes back to a promise made to Moses and shows planning and consistency of our Lord.  God desires a holy people and knowing the hearts and minds of the Israelites; God will need to have the land purified.
     Knowing that the concept of purifying is difficult, there are practical arguments that can be applied so that it is clearer to any skeptics.   In the case of a medical procedure, the goal would be to completely eliminate any germs, or potential cause for infection.  The goal would be a sterile environment.  God is wiser than any human understanding, and knows the need for a pure, clean, fresh start for His people.  Many parents would desire to remove any negative influences that would cause harm to their children.  God’s command here, as hard as it may be to understand, is to display His love and protection of His children. The Canaanites were not a pure people, in fact the Teacher’s Commentary tells, “Yet for all their material advancement, the religion and morals of Canaan were degraded.”[2]  This statement could lead us to understand that the advancements of the Canaanites may set up the Israelites for covertness. Additionally, causing separation of the Israelite’s obedience to God alone.  Idols have arisen before, and God’s desire is for sin to be absent from His nation.
     God does command genocide, defined as a complete removal of evil minded people that would be able to contaminate His holy desire for the Israelites.  God desires all to be holy, yet evil will be removed from this world in His time and in His way.  A commentary of the Old Testament adds this point; “The God of Israel would now manifest himself as a living God by the extermination of the Canaanites.”[3]  This active approach to revealing Himself is beyond the normal understanding of these events.
     In modern times, there will be a reappearance of Christ.  At this time, there will be an extermination of the evil and the preservation of the good.  These verses in Joshua are much like the days ahead.  Christians standing on the borders of the New Jerusalem, and God ushering them in to the pure and holy land prepared for them.  In these days the glory of the entry will be the goal and the understanding for purity complete.

[1] Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 326). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
[2] Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 163). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[3] Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 2, p. 32). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Focus on Him Alone

As the Westminster Catechism famously states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” Yet if I’m completely honest, I must confess I have lived most of my life trying to glorify myself in the eyes of other people. My greatest desires were to create wealth, acquire stuff and spoil my children. I accomplished all of my goals, to a certain degree, but unfortunately none of those accomplishments were the ones the Lord had in mind for my life. I used my time to build my little kingdom on earth while leaving a few spare minutes now and then for him. That’s where the words of Psalm 90 convict me. I’ve not always been a wise steward of my time. Furthermore, since I was created to glorify God and enjoy him, why don’t I start acting like it?

What does God say

For impact upfront --- Let me restate that if you truly are a Christian then you have Christ in you.  He lives in you.  Your body is His temple.  Chose to sin chose to dirty the temple of God. 
1 Cor 6:18 tells us of the nature of sexual sin--- it is internal.  You bring it into the Temple of the Holy Spirit. You!!  Not your spouse--- not your dating partner but YOU.
You have been bought at a price-- the very blood of Jesus. 
Society tells us it's okay, it's fun.  God asks, why do you defile me?
Sex is for marriage.  Therefore dating fun--nope.   Fiancé fun--nope.
If sex with another outside of marriage is not okay then sex with another inside the marriage vow is not okay either. 
I deal with many that justify sex outside of marriage yet would not condone adultery in marriage.  That is wonderful but we need to stand with the Word of God.  Intimacy in any form is sin outside of marriage. 
Non married people--- spend your energy getting to know if the person your dating is walking with God fully.
As my brother LaCrea says... "if he ain't rolling with God, don't let him roll with you."
My add--  a guy or gal rolling with God is easy to spot.  They wouldn't ask you to sin against God and defile His temple.
As the most interesting man in the world would say. Stay pure my friend.
I don't always follow the Word of God-- but when I do its Dos Blessings!!
Stay pure my friend.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Not Your Classic Christmas Letter

  There is much fear in posting this letter, yet today it was heavy on my heart to share.  Maybe someone else could relate and maybe, just maybe, it will bring a comfort.  God is good, God is great, and God comforts, builds, grows and protects.  I love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.  Here are my thoughts on this past Christmas morning:

 Here it is Christmas Day.  A time that most (not all certainly) find peace, love, and fellowship with family and friends.  My heart is broken due to severed relationships, the worst part is that the "why" is lost or unknown.  How does a family fall apart?  

     My earliest memories are of Christmas at Nane and Pop-pops.  The early morning sitting on the top step of our home on Ridgeway  and the anticipation of heading downstairs to open gifts.  It was a selfish yet joyous time.  Little thought-- but a complete overtaking of "what did Santa bring".  The next hour would bring a trip to Earl Street and the aunts, uncles and other kids sharing in a meal and laughter.  Pop-pop telling us that "there is no laughter at the table."  The family gathered in the living room and presents were exchanged and Uncle Dave would start throwing paper balls around the room.  I can almost smell the tree and the see the bubble lights aside of the tinsel.  

     Now almost 50 years have gone by and what a contrast.   No contact with that family, no laughter, and no joy.  Time has not provided a cure or even a salve to the hurt and apparently anger that exists.   Evil seems to have triumph in this family world.  Thoughts of the damage, thoughts of bad things are a barrier to the world that are around us this day.  Peace, Love, Joy, and Blessing were is this in my natural family.

     God called me almost three years ago into ministry.  How or Why isn't clear to me.  There isn't any apparent qualification.  There wasn't a worthiness or even a seeking of this calling in my life.  Yet all that has transpired in my life, is able to be used for Him.   2 Cor 1, tells us that God comforts us, so that we are able to comfort others.  Well, if the breaking of my heart for my family is able to give others peace and hope then it has a purpose.   Hours a week are spent counseling others in time of brokenness, and, yes, in times of joy and the desire to help grow them closer to God' providence in their life.  

     My heart is heavy this morning.  The sun rises over a beautiful mountain that is fully visible from my window.  God is active in my life through the Holy Spirit.   There is less of me and more of Him every day.   2 Cor 12:9 tells us that "His grace is sufficient", and furthermore that "His power manifests itself in my weakness."  Days come that little of me seems to be left and then the anger is felt, the hurt attacks, and my realization becomes awareness;  I am nothing.  My life is changed. My forgiveness needs to be real, and once that all is tried to reconcile that is it time to just leave it all go.

     You see God has given me direction and yet it is me that resists----- My life is full of love and forgiveness; of hope and peace with who I am now and where I am heading.  There is a purpose that was unknown previously, a passion for others that was hidden behind my selfish ways.   I am a sinner.  I am unworthy.  Yet He loves me and calls me to His purpose.  He desires for me to lean on Him, to become like Him, and to live one day at a time doing His work through my hands.  The wounds of my past are now tools for His kingdom.  It is I and I alone that limit that usefulness, due to holding on to hope of past relationships to be healed.

     My desire would and always will be to reconnect.  If only to send and receive a card or text with a neutral sentence.   The damage is done, and the pain exists only because I cannot put it behind me.    God and I have talked and His Word didn't change at all for me.  1 John 1:9, "if we confess or sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."  The Word of God comes alive in our life.  Roman 8:28, grants us the peace of knowing that "all things work for the good of those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose."   

     God has blessed me, though I don't deserve it.  I have asked for your forgiveness for all that exists between us.  My earthly self wishes for reconciliation, but I realize that it always possible, if only by His grace and His timing.  I am truly sorry for all my part in this relationship.  There was a part of me that always tried to please you and to live a life that would make you proud.  In this I failed and again am sorry.  God has taken me through many valleys, and in the end brought peace and victory for His kingdom.  In my brokenness, it is He that exists in those cracks and wounds.

     It would be my understanding that you wish to have no contact and in my truth that you wish to erase me from your mind.  The pain of even typing that is severe, yet the reality may agree with the perception.  My heart cries...How can a mother and father not speak to their only son....   I will always pray for you all.   Your peace, and joy and your presence in God's eternal paradise is extremely important to me.  I realize the need to forgive, lest I not be forgiven.  You are forgiven for all the harm that was real or perceived by me; forgiven for all the hurt and pain; forgiven for ugly words spoken... You are forgiven.  You are free from the bondage that I applied....  I pray someday that you will forgive me. There is a deep want that if reconciliation doesn't happen in this world, than may it occur in the next.

   The the peace and love of God be with you all.  May He make His face shine upon you and grant you everlasting peace.  May His love overflow in your heart, mind and soul, and may this life be lived for Him.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Needing an I-Exam

     On Wednesday of this week, it was time for an eye exam.  The room was set up with all types of great instruments to look deeply into my eyes and after thirty questions, like 1 or 2, 3 or 4, they determined my prescription.   There was an assessment reached that my eyes were short of perfect and that assistance would be needed in order to see 20/20 and read more comfortably.

     As the exam was being administered my mind wandered to the things of God.  Maybe we should have an I-exam regularly.  Are we seeing things 20/20 in God's view or do we need some assistance?  There is a Spirit inside of every believer that directs our paths, yet there can be a failure to see properly.  Proverb 3:5-6 teaches that we are to trust in God, and not lean on our own understanding.  I problem.  Do you see it?

     As a young man, far younger than I am now, there really wasn't an I-problem in my mind.  Understand that my whole life existed completely for me and my happiness; there wasn't much I worried about but myself. No problem, that was who and what I was at the time.

     I wanted to improve myself, self-examine myself, please myself, grow myself, and tell others how great myself was in all things in all ways.  Unfortunately, that also included a time factor most, if not all, of the time.   I, I , I all the time.

    At about 25 years old, the I was not producing the happiness factor to the degree that I, myself, desired and in fact there was disappointment and a feeling of being lost.   A mentor lead me to accept Christ.  Please understand there wasn't much room in my heart for Christ at this time.  There was a lot of self-love and it was seeking to starve the new found Holy Spirit in me.

     Hebrews 12:2 states, "... fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith."(NIV)  If we are honest with ourselves we all have I-problems, our I's are usually fixated on self.  We all need to accept the corrective lens of the Holy Spirit and submit our pride to Jesus.

     The simple fact is that once we accept the lack of focus, and move the I out of our heart and mind, the Spirit is able to grow and change us.   Ephesians 4:30 tells us "do not grieve the Holy Spirit, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (NIV)  We need to focus on Him alone.  Seek His ways and die to the I's.

    My prayer for you (for me) is that we are able to see better the work of Christ.  To see that we all have an I-problem, and need to go to another and have it evaluated regularly.  Then we can accept the prescription and improve our God view and allow it to be our only view.

   So get the I out of your eye, and let your heart fully and completely belong to God.