Our life together not only blesses us who experience it, but it provides a powerful witness to the watching world. It becomes evident to all that God is caring for us, and not just spiritually, but at the most practical levels of life. They see people who love each other, people who are protected by an unseen hand, people who obviously have a divine Source of provision, people who are inexplicably wise and seem to know what to do when problems arise. And as they watch they have to admit that living with God is good. The Hebrew term that describes this blessed life together is shalom. Its a rich word that points to a remarkable quality of life. Its usually translated as peace, but the word peace is not enough by itself. Shalom is the feeling that comes when you live in the midst of Gods blessing. And trying to explain it to someone whos never experienced it is like explaining what chocolate tastes like to someone whos never eaten any. Ultimately to understand it you have to experience it. Heres my best attempt: a joyful rest that goes deep into your soul. The warm contentment we feel when were living in loving harmony with others, when were not afraid, when we have enough and when were confident were in the middle of the will of God. Its life at its best and its not something money can buy.
Grace and obedience
Salvation comes to us by grace alone. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve it. We repent and cling to the cross of Jesus Christ and become children of God. But shalom comes through obedienceyou cant say we earn it, because no one is ever good enough to deserve Gods blessings, but to have shalom we must seek to obey what God asks us to do or we spoil what He wants to give us. Shalom is not automatic. It settles over those who walk in His ways. And it lifts when we walk in the worlds ways. What happens when shalom is lifted?
Strife grows among us (love grows cold, peace is rare, we become lonely and distrustful)
Enemies arise and grow strong (our sense of being safe declines)
Provision dwindles (food, clothing, housing, money, crops
Wisdom lifts (foolish decisions are made)
Shalom is lifting
Powerful enemies are arising (5th commandment:
that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you; Ex 20:12)
Internal strife (loves grows cold)
Leaders make exasperatingly foolish decisions
Particularly in the midst of difficult times we have the opportunity to be a prophetic community, to live in shalom when the society around us does not.
Isaac and Abimelech (Ge 26:12-17, 26-31) vs 28: We see plainly that the Lord has been with you.
Part of our prophetic witness is that we draw on Gods resources when the societys resources are failing (Elijah 1Ki 17:2-7). To do this we must live by faith. God must be our source. This kind of faith walk is frightening when you observe it from the outside, but its exhilarating when you live it on the inside.
What is the tithe?
We cant talk about living in Gods miraculous provision without talking about the tithe. Yes, of course, there are other aspects of obedience that must be present (honesty, hard work, patience, the absence of the love of money
) but it is not possible to enter into the miracle without being generous with God. Understanding the tithe will help explain why:
1) Its an ancient form of worship: recognizing God as our Source, and thanking Him.
Abraham and Melchizedek (Ge 14)
Abraham didnt tithe so God would give to him, he tithed to thank God for what He had already given. He didnt just say words
2) Remember: We are not under the Law. We dont have to tithe to go to heaven. Salvation is by grace
but blessing comes through obedience.
3) Its a covenant we are free to enter into (or not) which God promises to bless.
Ive heard people say if you tithe all you will end up with is just 90% of your income. This thinking does not understand the blessing. Much of Gods prosperity comes without Him directly using money: things dont break or wear out, health is good, food stretches, things we need are on sale, gifts (Mt 6:25-34; Lk 12:22-34).
Have you ever stepped out in faith and seen Gods provision: on a mission trip? applying to school? finding a place to live? deciding to have another child?
Telling someone about Gods provision who has never experienced it is very difficult. You may tell someone what happened to you but when you look in their eyes you can see there is no spark there. They may understand what youre saying and know what the Bible says. They may agree its the right thing to do
but theres no faith present.
In this respect its very similar to healing. People may say they believe in healing but still only come for prayer after all medical options have failed. Their real faith has been in medicine and only turn to God in final desperation. You can hear it in the prayers where they beg and bargain with Him trying to get Him to heal them.
Its sad to see the lack of spiritual development that should have occurred over years of praying for others and learning the hard lessons of what effective prayer really looks like. Theyre left flailing, trying to find Gods help in the midst of their greatest crisis. Then if no answer comes some angrily blame Him for failing to do what He promised, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they should have been learning the lessons of faith over the course of their lifetime
And facing their problems as a member grafted in to the Body of Christ. Not alone and frightened, but surrounded by love and others who join their faith with yours:
We join you in your grief and we add our faith to yours that Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through (Pres. Barack Obama, Tucson, AZ, Wednesday evening, TNT, 1/13/11).
Faith and tithing
The same phenomenon takes place in the area of tithing and Gods provision. We know what the Bible says and may say we believe it with our mouths, but do nothing because no real faith is present. Fear rules us in this area producing either perpetual poverty or perpetual discontent no matter how much I have. Im never at rest inside. Im always waiting for calamity to strike.
Recognizing the moment
It appears we are entering a prolonged season where we will need His blessing more than ever. Could our nation repent? Certainly, but theres little indication it will. Instead, there is a steady drumbeat of defiance toward God. Only a revival of the church could turn this around and right now the general trend is pragmatism: do whatever you have to do to get a crowd. It feels like the culture has moved past a tipping point. Yet, we know God can do anything and must earnestly pray for our nation and the church with hope. But regardless of what happens, we must set a different course. We must:
1) Learn to live life together, modeling a loving community in the midst of a disintegrating society.
2) Learn to live in the blessing of divine provision, walking in faith with God as our Source.
3) Pursue revival within the boundaries we can influence: our own families, church, community
Where do we start? (Mt 11:28-30)
1) Accept the yoke of personal spiritual disciplines: sleep, exercise; daily prayer and worship; gathered prayer and worship; percentage giving and Spirit-led gifts; prayer for the sick and troubled; consistent selfless service.
2) Accept the yoke of being joined to the family of God: Acknowledge and carry to the Lord bad attitudes that have formed because of past experiences or the influence of angry people. Love will always make us vulnerable. This pain is part of the cross we bear.
3) Accept the yoke of commitment and responsibility, within your family, church family and community where God has placed you.
Commitment: Ill be there, then.
Responsibility: Ill do what needs to be done to see that this happens.
In the walk of faith God makes a promise and then waits until we step out in obedience. He waits for us to move. Then after we obeyand often obey for a long timeHis miraculous blessing begins to work. Most faith comes by observing Gods faithfulness (the wow, that really worked! experience). Unless and until Im actually willing to step out and do what He says, I wont see that blessing. And this causes great frustration to those who want God to go first (and actually He has but they usually dont see that, Jas 1:17). People like this sit, bound in fear, coming up with excuses as to why its not possible for them to do what God has asked them to do. And the longer they wait the more entrenched this disobedience becomes. It becomes a comfortable habit which we refuse to change until a crisis makes us so desperate were willing to try anything.
There is a way out. We dont have to wait for a crisis. In those moments when we are close to the Lord we can repent of our sin, ask for faith and wisdom in how to step out in obedience which will plunge us into the learning process where God will test our resolve and reveal other areas where disobedience is damaging the blessing. But if we stay the course, we emerge blessed
our homes, families, church full of shalom.
1) Have you experienced shalom as its described in the introduction? 2) Has God miraculously provided for you? Tell us what happened. 3) If you tithe tell us how it has changed you.