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Monday, September 30, 2019

Read the Bible in a Year (01OCT19)

DAILY REMINDER – Today, October 1’s Bible reading is Malachi 1-4.

NEXT DAY REMINDER – Tomorrow, October 2’s Bible reading is Matthew 1-4. May God bless you with the reading of His WORD.

MALACHI’s Introduction

The book of Malachi is believed to have been written between 433-430 B.C. There is some debate amongst biblical scholars as to if “Malachi” was the actual name of the author or a title given to the author of this book. Most scholars, however, hold to the belief that Malachi was the actual name of the author. Therefore, another question is posed as to if Malachi and Ezra are the same person due to the fact that both rebuked the people for marrying foreign women after they had returned with them from captivity and in Ezra’s book, he separated them because of this sin. There is no certainty either way, but most evangelicals hold them as being two separate prophets.

The temple had been rebuilt, but the people were not experiencing prosperity as they had hoped for. Their crops were not successful, and they were in a spiritual state of depression. They had married foreign women and had not maintained faithfulness to God. Malachi spoke out against this. Malachi’s message was encompassed with charges and warnings against the people. He also gives reassurances that repentance and reformation would allow them to experience God’s blessings and informs the people about the great day of the Lord. 

MALACHI MOMENT – (01OCT19) “It is you priests who show contempt for my name…by offering defiled food on my altar…. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:6b-8). The Lord was displeased with His priests. They were supposed to be the ones to teach the people how to honor Him, but they allowed detestable animals to be given to them for sacrifices on the Lord’s altar. The Prophet Malachi was tasked with giving them the Word from the Lord regarding their sinful ways. When the Lord gave Moses the Levitical commands for the priests, they included receiving unblemished animals for their burnt sacrifices. This was evening a requirement given to Moses for the Hebrews, prior to them leaving Egypt, for their Passover meal when they were to sprinkle the blood upon their doorposts. The Bible says:

“The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats” (Exodus 12:5). The animals were a representation of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would give for the sake of the world and He was perfect in every way. The Bible says: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14). Therefore, when the priests offered such defiled sacrifices, they were dishonoring the symbolism of Christ for which the animals stood. The Lord was not going to accept anything less than they would offer to the rulers over them for He is God.
We can sometimes get into the mindset that God does not care about our service to Him. We may get tied up with the things of life and only leave room to give the Lord our leftovers. We are often busy with school, work, family, friends, and even church where we are so busy doing that we forget to set aside private time for Him. As a side note, for those working in ministry, doing the work of God does not equate to spending time with God. For example, couples who are married may spend time going to work to support the household, cooking dinner for the family to eat, going shopping to restock supplies, and doing chores to keep the house clean. Although these things are good within themselves and play an important role in the lives of couples, if they never spend any quality time with one another, their relationship will eventually crumble. Communication and quality alone time is essential for a lasting relationship and it is the same way with God. Working in the church is far from building your relationship with the Lord. The Bible says: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). The sacrifice that the Lord desires is of ourselves apart from our outward works in ministry. We do this by spending time alone in His presence. The Lord deserves the best of us and not what’s left of us. Something to ponder….

QUESTION OF THE DAY - (01OCT19)  “’And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace…. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.  But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 2:4-8).

Malachi had a rebuke from the Lord for the priests regarding their lack of proper instruction to His people. The Levites and priests had been designated to handle the things of God in His temple and to teach the people the ways of the Lord from the time of Moses. From their lips the Word of God was to be given and the people were to be shown their sins by what they were taught. Unfortunately, the priests and Levites had failed to do their job, and this failure was what caused the nation to go into captivity. Now, that they had returned from being exiled, the Lord wanted to ensure that His servants did what they should have done all along. They needed to teach the people so that they would be careful to follow the Lord’s ordinances. The Lord had had enough of the lies that spewed from the priests’ lips only to appease the masses. He needed them to fulfill the role that they were assigned to do with all due diligence. Only then could the people be led in righteousness and receive the blessings of the Lord upon their lives. Failure to do so would result in their being just as wicked as they were before their Babylonian captivity.

Many Christians may say, “Well, I’m not a priest, pastor, or minister of any sort? Therefore, I am not responsible for teaching anyone God’s truth.” Well, let’s take a moment to see what the Bible says concerning this. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). According to the Apostle Peter, we are ALL a part of the royal priesthood who is to speak of the Lord and about coming out of darkness. Too many people want to leave biblical instruction to the pastors, evangelists, prophets, and others in the 5-fold ministry. Scripture, however, tells us that every believer in the body of Christ plays a role in speaking the unadulterated Word of God. This is not limited to the pulpit experience once or twice a week, but the Lord’s Word should be on our hearts, minds, and lips daily. The Bible says, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth” (Psalm 119:10-13). For many people, you may be the only Word that they receive, but if you do not speak it, how will they know? Something to ponder….

MALACHI MOMENT – (01OCT19) “’So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:5).

Israel and her leaders had a long history of defiance towards God. They had become like their heathen neighbors partaking in all kinds of sin and debauchery. Even after their captivity, the Lord had to rebuke the priests for their wicked ways. They were unfaithful to their wives and then they wondered why their prayers were not being answered as they wept before the Lord. The Lord told Malachi to tell them that they were to be faithful to their wives. They brought disgrace upon their wives by divorcing them and the Lord was not pleased with their behavior. To make matters worse, they were robbing God of His tithes and offerings. They and the nation of Israel were guilty of denying the Lord the proper sacrifices that were due Him. The offerings and sacrifices were not to make the priests rich, but they were to supply the priests and Levites with food and to be in fulfillment of the Lord’s ordinances. If they honored the Lord with their giving, then the Lord promised to bless them in return. There giving was not about money but about obedience because everything was already the Lord’s. The Bible says: “…I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.  If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? ‘Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High,  and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me’” (Psalm 50:9-15). This was the curse and promise for Israel as part of the Levitical laws and covenant that was made during the time of Moses.

Unfortunately, there has been a great debate amongst biblical scholars and evangelicals as to if the tithing command is to be still in observance. There are some who say that it was pre-Mosaic going back to the time of Cain and Abel, while others believe that when the curtain was ripped upon Jesus’ death, all Levitical laws were done away with. This is a lengthy study for which we are not able to due to its fullest, but we will lay the groundwork for you to pray and ask the Lord to lead you on this matter.

Cain killed Abel over jealousy regarding Abel’s sacrifice being acceptable while his was not (Genesis 4). The Bible does not say exactly what type of sacrifice was required, but it seems that Abel’s sacrifice was in keeping with what the Lord later instructed the priests and Israel to give. Therefore, if this was the case, Cain’s sacrifice from his harvest would not have been acceptable to the Lord and would have been justly rejected.

Some evangelicals use the argument of Jacob’s promise to give God a tenth in return for His protection. But what does the Bible say? The Bible says: “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth’” (Genesis 28:20-22). This vow that Jacob made was conditional. Jacob begins with say “if” the Lord would do something for him “then” he would give Him a tenth. Now, if this had been mandatory, there would not have been any conditions made regarding an already established ordinance.

But, let’s back up just a little bit and visit the story of Abraham and Melchizedek. The Bible says: “After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,  and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.  And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:17-20). To give a brief synopsis of the story leading up to Abraham’s gift of a tenth, Lot, his nephew along with Lot’s family found themselves caught in the middle of a battle between several kings and were taken captive. All that they own had been plundered by their captors.  Upon hearing the news, Abraham gathers some of his men and defeats Lot’s captors as well as getting back what had been plundered. Abraham meets the King of Salem, Melchizedek, who is also a priest of the Lord and gives him a tenth of his plunder. Now, was this a mandate that Abraham give this priest a tenth by God, or was this Abraham’s own doing in keeping with the customs of the time?

When the Children of Israel asked Samuel to give them a king, God had this warning for them: “He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves” (1 Samuel 8:17). The king having a tenth, regardless of what nation it was, seemed to be the tax of the day. Therefore, even during Abraham’s time, he may have given the King of Salem a tenth in keeping with that custom. Let’s address one more thing before we move on. The tithes, offerings and sacrifices, were in the form of food and not money although Israel gave money for temple projects at times. This is why the Lord told Malachi to bring His tithes into the “STOREHOUSE” so that there may be “MEAT” in His house. He never said to bring money. “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “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. 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” (Malachi 3:6-10). So, if the storehouse was food, how were the priests able to support themselves? They were to lean on the Lord for He was their inheritance. The Bible says: “It is the Levites who are to do the work at the tent of meeting and bear the responsibility for any offenses they commit against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites’” (Numbers 18:23-24). The Levites’ job was to maintain the Lord’s house and see to the need of His people. They were not to collect wealth, but only what the Lord allotted for them to have. The Levites would not have been allowed to have flashy suits, large bank accounts, mansion homes, million-dollar jets, and the likes of what we see pastors flouncing around in today. Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the evangelicals or those in the 5-fold ministry replaced the Levites. If that were to be the case, the pastors of today would be in a heap of trouble…or maybe they really are already for deceiving the masses.

Now, since Jesus came and became the Sacrifice for us where we are no longer to slaughter animals and render such offerings, are we as New Testament Christians under a curse? Under the Mosaic laws, a person guilty of a capital offense was hung on a pole or tree. They were considered as cursed by God. The Bible says, “If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole,  you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). We as believers know, however, that Jesus died as if He had committed a capital offense, so He bore the curse that would have been ours to bear. The Bible says, For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:10-14). So, what does this mean for the New Testament believer?

Due to Jesus taking the curse for us, we are NOT under the curse of the LAW. This includes all of the law and not just the parts that most evangelicals want to use for their own financial gain. In fact, most of them are aware of this but will not teach it. Why is that? Because, as they tell you to trust God with your “giving,” they do NOT trust God with their “receiving.” Does this mean that we are not under the Malachi tithing curse? YES! But wait a minute! Does that mean that I do not have to tithe or give offerings? NO! “But you just said that we are not under the tithing curse.” Yes, that is true. Nevertheless, how are we supposed to operate in our giving unto the Lord? The Bible says, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. ‘Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you” (Matthew 10:7-13). Jesus sent out the disciples to do ministry, but they were not to take their own money with them. They were to allow the opportunity for the people to bless them with “FREEWILL” giving. Freely give and freely receive was on BOTH ends of the spectrum. The Lord did not tell them to guilt anyone into giving or make a declaration about it. The disciples, however, were to bless the house of the one who did give freely because in their giving to the servants of God, the Lord’s blessing was upon the giver in return.

We will revisit this once we get into the corresponding chapters within the New Testament where we will discuss Jesus’ teachings on money and the New Testament’s church giving to everyone who had a need. The Bible says: “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” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The Lord loves for us to give in support of His work and to bless those who are faithful in administering it. Therefore, put aside the guilt by curse method of Old Testament giving for which Jesus came to free us from, and live in the newness of the Just Shall Live by Faith New Testament way of giving for which all believers should adhere to. Something to ponder….

REMEMBER...Even though we are NOT under the curse of the LAW, if your hands are in the "closed" posture to others and the Lord's ministry, then they will NOT be in the "open" position to receive from God. Therefore, as you open your hands to give, your hands are then open to receive.

*We will revisit the subject of giving at a later time. God bless!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Read the Bible in a Year (30SEP19)

DAILY REMINDER – Today, September 30’s Bible reading is Zechariah 8-14.

NEXT DAY REMINDER – Tomorrow, October 1’s Bible reading is Malachi 1-4. May God bless you with the reading of His WORD.

 ZECHARIAH MOMENT – (30SEP19) “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.’ This is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.’” (Zechariah 8:2-3).

Zechariah prophesied the blessings that Israel would receive after their exile once they repented and came back to the Lord. Some of his prophecies were for their time and others were of the coming Messiah and His later Millennium reign. Israel was going to be in a state of peace as they restarted the rebuilding of the temple. The Lord promised to bless them as a result of their obedience. He let them know, however, that He was jealous for His people. This jealousy was not the kind that people have towards one another in the sense of covetousness or rivalry. This was a jealousy of protection from the harms of the enemy in whatever form he came because the Lord wanted the best for His people. Jerusalem was once again going to be prosperous, but Israel was not independent of foreign nations’ leadership because after the Medes and Persians, then came the Greeks and later the Romans of which they thought the Messiah would free them from. Nevertheless, Jesus will one day come to reign for 1,000 years on earth and all nations will be subjected to His rule where Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City of the Lord Most High.

We have a God who loves us tremendously. One day, we will see Him face-to-face and live with Him for all eternity. There will be no more death, dying, disease, or afflictions. It will be a time where we will experience peace and prosperity. You may not be happy with your house right now, but one day, you will have a mansion. You may not have money in the bank, but one day, you will walk on streets of gold. You may get sick in your physical body, but you will one day eat from the Tree of Life. You may have turmoil with your earthly family, but one day, you will be surrounded by the family of God. You may not be able to enjoy the finest restaurants, but one day, you will feast at the Banquet of the Lamb. You may feel defeated while here on earth, but one day, you will wear a victor’s crown. The Bible says: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Something to ponder….

QUESTION OF THE DAY - (30SEP19) “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Zechariah prophesied the Lord Jesus riding in Jerusalem on a donkey as a king riding in his chariot. The Lord was giving hope to His people as to a time when their Messiah would arrive to give them hope, encouragement, love, and salvation. Some would love Him while others would hate Him because they were not able to spiritually discern who He was. Yet, Jesus was coming to die for the lowliest of sinners where we would be free from the enemy called SIN.

When we look at the prophecy of Jesus, we can see that He was not coming to earth the first time as the King that He is, but He was coming as a servant to submit to the authority of His Father. The Bible says: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus took on the likeness of a servant to fulfill the will of the Father so that we may have life. The first time that Jesus acted royally was when He rode on the donkey and even then, He did not get the finest of animals, but used a donkey to symbolize His kingship and humility. When we follow His example, we can learn that even if we are in positions of authority, we are to be humble and meek as He was. We are to be an example to the world in all that we do so that the world can see Jesus in us rather we are at the job, school, home, amongst friends, or grocery store. Will you try to model Jesus throughout your life? Something to ponder….

ZECHARIAH MOMENT – (30SEP19) “This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:9). Zechariah was prophesying a time of trial for Israel where there would be a remnant of a third left who would be faithful to the Lord. Some Biblical scholars believe that this third would include those in the 144,000. The Lord will have His vengeance against those who refused to accept Him as their Savior, but those who are His true remnant would be refined in the fire like silver and tested like gold. They would have favor with the Lord, and He would hear their prayers when they called. The ones who perished were deceived by the false prophets who led them astray. Therefore, the Lord would be the Good Shepherd to lead His sheep in the right direction. His one staff would break the hold of the enemy who tried to defile His sheep and the other staff would lead them to safety and care. The people would then know that He is the Lord.

Many saints are being tested in the fire right now. That fire comes in many forms. The devil wants us to give up on God when we go through the heat. Many servants of the Lord experience depression, social injustice, rejection, persecution, loneliness, and other trials as they try to serve the Lord. Going through the fire is not fun on any level, but the Lord allows these things so that we can become the vessels that He requires for His use. The Bible says: I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:18). The Lord tests us like gold tried in the fire because the fake will never last, but real gold will endure. The refinement process is necessary to shave off anything that is not like God. Nevertheless, He rewards those who endure to the end so that His name may be glorified and praised. Something to ponder….