How To Be Rich in Faith
Yesterday was Christmas Day. It was a great day. We went to my daughter Jessica’s house. It was the first time one of our children hosted Christmas Day.
My experiment has been going on for ten months.
It is the time of year when we all cross over into a new season. I feel that I am crossing over in my faith. My eyes continually look at my circumstances for proof that being in prayer and the Word is working.
Lately I have been able to take my gaze from what is seen and fix my eyes on what is not seen, the invisible realm. It is not my natural eyes that see the invisible realm. It is the eyes of my heart.
I believe that my circumstances are changing even though I cannot see them physically changing as quickly as I want. My thinking and believing are also changing.
In the past I would read the Bible and receive a word of faith. Over the last thirty years I have received many words of faith, some wonderful and encouraging words. These words have been fairly unpredictable. They have been God’s gift to me at different times and in different ways.
Now as I read the Bible, I believe every word has the breath of God on it and in it. I have realized that I don’t read for the sake of knowledge. I read because I am thirsty and hungry.
Hungry for spiritual life.
I am only satisfied these days by words of formation instead of words containing information.
Adam and Eve chose the tree of knowledge. There was another tree in the garden called the tree of life! This explains what has happened to me lately.
I have chosen life!
It appears my mind is being fed, but what is really happening is that I am eating and drinking spiritual words for their spiritual life by the Holy Spirit into my spirit. My mind has become a little stronger because it has received a little more knowledge. My spirit is where the growth has been. My spirit can perceive spiritual truth far easier now.
That is why I can believe even though my circumstances appear unchanged or little changed.
My favourite scripture at the moment is:
“The law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
This thought that life is stronger than death has been planted in my mind and into my heart. Because I am reading these words that contain life, I have begun to expect that everything that represents death will start breaking from my situation.
My world can be split into two headings. Things that are good for me manifest out of life and things that oppose me have death behind them.
So I can put debt and sickness in the death column.
Here is another favourite scripture.
“And if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal body through the spirit, who lives in us.”
I must be better off if there is more of God’s life around me and in me. So, reading God’s Word and praying must be a good idea.
I have always struggled to maintain positive speech while in a negative situation.
My work takes me into retirement villages every week. In fact, I have been surrounded by the elderly for over 20 years. There is a speech pattern that the elderly share and it’s not often a positive one.
Their bodies and minds are slowly being overtaken by the ravages of old age. So most of their observations are based on facts.
Sarah and Abraham had the same problem.
In Romans 4:19-21 Abraham faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, since he was about 100 years old.
Some of my customers are between eighty and one hundred years old. For over twenty years I have been watching people age and die. This has affected my own thinking and speech patterns.
Abraham and Sarah received a renewing of their bodies. God enabled them to have a son, when it was physically impossible. Something has happened to me lately because I find that I am no longer influenced by an older person’s mindset.
I have been given the ability to believe for my health and my life to get fitter and better as I get older. Before this, everything was about growing old gracefully.
But now my focus has changed from death to life, my expectation has changed and so has my speech.
I am believing for God to miraculously uphold Lorna and myself in all our circumstances.
Psalm 103:5 says,” God satisfies our desires with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagles”.
Old age really had gained the upper hand. Now the life of God has gained the upper hand. All our battles are lost or won in our heart and in our believing.
This was a battle that I was always losing. This is a battle that I am now winning.
The law of the spirit of life has set me free.
I have just finished 12 months of reading the Bible and praying. From the beginning I have thought of what I am doing as a 3 year university course.
I watched my daughter Jessica do a three year course at university. How did she feel at the end of year one? Greatly relieved to finish the first year.
A popular program on television at the moment is called Grand Designs.
I find it fascinating to watch these people put themselves through trials and tribulations when they build their houses. Every time they build, they go through four different phases.
Phase one; they do all the foundations, phase two; they build the house until it is watertight.
Phase three; they fill the house with all the fittings and furnishings and phase four; they invite the television crew back to show the completed house.
Proverbs 24:4 By wisdom a house is built, through understanding it is established, through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
In most of the stories, these people have been changed by their experience.
By completing my first twelve months I have also been changed. I wouldn’t say it was a big change but it has been foundational.
My church attendance has improved. My offerings have become regular. My relationships have been shaken, most have survived.
My health has also improved.
I have met more people in the wider church.
My finances are better organised. My wife says I have become a better person. My work ethic has increased.
My believing has certainly changed for the better.
I do have more faith. Last year was a digging out of foundations. This year I expect walls to go up, a roof to be put on, windows and doors to be fitted and hopefully by the end of the next twelve months in January 2013.
I will be watertight, no leaks, and no doubts.
In the past, when I have done this sort of thing, I would not finish my course and so I would be double-minded. Not this time, I have really run this part of the race.
1 Cor 9:25. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.
One of the themes that keeps coming to my mind when I read the New Testament is the theme of the Cross of Christ.
This is not surprising because the New Testament is all about the death and resurrection of Jesus. I keep getting the urge to go into Brisbane on a Saturday night and walk around with a wooden cross on my back.
The family are quite relieved that I haven’t done this yet. By reading the Bible as I have, the story of the crucifixion has been impressed onto my thoughts and imagination.
One of the areas I have always struggled with is debt. Before I was a Christian, I had no debt. In 1979 I got saved and in 1980 I went to Bible College full-time.
I had saved up for this first year of college but I didn’t have any money for the second year.
My grandfather died that year and left me his piano.
I didn’t play piano. I am not musical.
My family have always been perplexed about why my grandfather gave it to me.
I sold the piano for $4,000 dollars and paid for my second year of Bible College. I had about $800 left after my fees. This money would have been enough to keep me for the rest of the year.
One day we went into lectures and the pastor told a story about being in America on a ministry trip and he gave away every dollar he had and trusted God. I was young and easily influenced so I gave away my $800 dollars and trusted God.
From that day till now I have never had enough money and have relied on debt. A few hours ago, I said to my wife, “Do you realize I had no debt before I was a Christian?”
Talk about digging out your foundations, I was digging down to the rock.
My wife and I prayed about that decision I had made 30 years ago. It sure sounded right at the time. Looking back from where we are now, the path we took was the wrong one. I shouldn’t give away money if it’s going to make us dependant on debt.
Do you like this scripture? I do.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anyone.
I have taken a break from reading the New Testament and for the last month I have read the Old Testament. I split it into four parts and have taken a week to read each part.
Genesis to Ruth, 1 Samuel to Esther, Job to Isaiah, Jeremiah to Malachi.
If you are at university and you have completed your first year of study, when you go back for the second year you don’t expect to be at the same level as you were when you started.
You say to yourself, ”I have completed year one, now I am going to a new level, my second year.”
Because I know what I have done, I also expect to go to a new level in my second year. If doubts or arguments come against me I just refute them with logic. I have done it. It is finished. I am moving on.
I act like a second year student. In your second year at university you are bolder and more confident. You know your way around. You carry more authority, now you are telling first year students where to go and what to do.
A few months ago, my son Samuel asked me to go with him to a large shopping mall. He said “Dad, I want to buy you a new set of clothes because I believe you are going to a new level in life!” Thank you, Samuel,!
At church recently the pastor said prosperity means going to a new level, his words had real life on them.
Here is a letter my son-in-law sent me.
Tony, I was reading the gospel of Luke last night and I believe God gave me a word for you.
He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible for God.”
Peter said, “We’ve left our homes to follow you.”
“Yes,” Jesus replied, and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”
I know that you have given up much in your life to follow after God’s purpose and will, and you have had to sacrifice relationships, friendships, money, time and opportunity for the sake of God’s kingdom and purpose.
I believe that God will repay you for the faithfulness that you have shown him and that impossibilities will become possible.
You have risked much for the kingdom but there is much to be returned to you.
Your family, myself included, is incredibly proud and inspired by you and Lorna for the relentless faith that you have demonstrated throughout your life.
That is a great letter. It is an encouragement.
Thank you, Joshua.
Here is a key to help you hold on to your new level. Don’t fix your eyes on what you can see. You may see some great results. If you put your confidence in those results you are building on sand. You may get a promotion at work but that promotion may disappear. Then what are you going to believe?
“Whatever you ask for in prayer believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
I believe my faith has increased not because of my circumstances. It has increased because the amount of God’s word has increased in my life.
How could I be worse off? I have read the New Testament every week for a year.
I must be in a better place than when I started; especially if you allow the word of God to work in you. It has gone down into my spirit. It has strengthened and encouraged my spirit.
To make her (the church) holy cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.
I have been washing myself through the cleansing word of God.
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance.
I have been built up by the word of God and I want my inheritance in every area of my life and the lives of my wife and children and their loved ones.
Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free!
Your word is truth.
I have spent a year in the truth of God; there must be a change for the better. The bible exposes the lies and distortions that oppose us. Do I sound a bit cranky? You just cannot afford to be passive.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.
Right now across Australia people are training for the Olympics. They believe to go to the next level. They don’t believe they are going backwards.
When I completed my first year, I did look to my circumstances for confirmation. I then realized that I had to believe before I could receive it.
I decided to give myself a promotion of faith.
I said to Lorna, “I have gone to a new level of faith.”
I believed what I said was true. I could prove it.
Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do.
I have shown my faith by what I have done. If someone says to me “You haven’t changed much, you look the same to me.”
I just say to them “my faith is invisible but my actions are visible, judge me by what I have done.”
If someone comes up to me and declares they are in their second year of university, I believe them. And I also believe they would be at a better level now than when they began university.
Here’s the good news; you don’t have to do what I have been doing. What you have to do is believe that every time you read the Bible you are gaining ground. Even if you are only reading the Bible a little at a time, you should believe that you are being washed and cleansed. You are being built up, you are being strengthened.
A little of the Bible can go a long way.
It depends on what and how you believe. Most people will never do what I am doing. But they can believe what I believe. Every time you read the Bible you do go to a new level.
When I was in Mildura all those years ago, we went through a lot of different phases until we closed the church because it really wasn’t going to work. During this period, I felt an urge to spend a lot of time praying in tongues.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:18 “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.”
After about three months a series of circumstances came about that enabled us to conduct some meetings on Sunday nights.
The emphasis was on evangelism and we had a great response. A few of our friends came along and supported us.
As we were leaving our house to go to the first meeting, we were in our car and about to reverse out of the driveway. We heard the phone ringing from inside the house. Lorna jumped out of the car and got to the phone in time.
The lady on the phone was ringing to enquire about the meeting and asked who we were. She had seen our advertisement in the paper.
Because of that phone call, the lady turned up to the meeting and she said she could see the glory of God on me as I preached. This lady was a centre of influence in the local area and she told a lot of people to come to our meetings.
There was a real sense of the Holy Spirit resting on the worship and the teaching of the word. When the meetings became successful, I stopped speaking in tongues, I thought it wasn’t necessary.
The times of refreshing lasted about 8 weeks. Then the life slowly lifted off what we were doing. At the time I really didn’t know what part my prayer life played in those two months.
But I have always remembered that time of blessing and wondered what could have happened? Recently the urge to speak and pray in tongues has returned.
In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
I have always found that when you are in a small confined place and you want to move to a larger place, the Holy Spirit will pray through you and for you.
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
So why do I feel to pray in the Holy Spirit at this particular time?
At the beginning of February 2012 the church I go to, announced a month of prayer and fasting.
When Lorna came home from church, she also felt to do something in that area. We both decided to fast television for the month of February.
That is no big deal! We have no children at home and now we have got rid of the television. An opportunity to pray has surfaced. More prayer can mean more anointing which can mean more happenings.
I would love to go to a new level of signs, wonders and miracles because the old level was basically near zero. It always helps to start from a low base because any improvement looks good!
I have started my second year of reading the New Testament every week. When people ask me how much time should they spend reading the Bible, I just tell them to read enough of the Bible to keep doubt out.
Don’t do it reluctantly or under compulsion because God loves a cheerful reader. When you have read the Bible for thirty years you can afford to be a bit more intense.
I mentioned in February that a season of prayer had descended on our lives. This is still happening. We have the time and none of our children are living at home.
In 1985 Lorna and I had an opportunity to go to Seoul, Korea to visit the largest church in the world for a church growth conference. When we were at the conference Pastor Cho took the delegates up to a place called Prayer Mountain. It was close to the border between North and South Korea.
His church had built a prayer chapel. The main auditorium of the prayer chapel seated ten thousand people. Because our conference group was only about two thousand people, they took us into a side room that could seat up to three thousand. The church we were going to in Adelaide had about two hundred people. All of us were impressed with how large everything was. Korea is well known for the prayer life of its churches.
Apparently, this started as a prayer revival in a missionary conference held over one hundred years ago. Pastor Cho and his church are great believers in prayer. They think Western people are lazy.
So here we were at a conference on church growth, seated on the floor of a side room at the prayer chapel on Prayer Mountain near the North Korean border.
His specialty at the time was to use the prayer pattern that Jesus taught in Matthew 6:9-13.
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread, forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever amen.
Pastor Cho taught us to use each verse as a launching pad for different topics and themes. After he taught us he said “You are lazy westerners, you must now pray for one and a half hours!”
We all started praying out loud together and after one hour we were all finding it a bit hard. While all this was happening around me, I suddenly sensed that I had a breakthrough. I somehow knew that I had just been given the ability to pray for as long as I wanted. Up to that time I had found prayer to be hard work. But from that moment on I have been able to cross into a realm of prayer that I never knew existed.
You can imagine that from 1985 until now, there have been seasons of prayer that have come upon my life.
When you get asked to preach or teach, you like to spend time in prayer to ask God for help and for His anointing. These occasions of prayer have a purpose; they are not only for you, they are for the people you are going to minister to.
Sometimes when you are praying you sense that heaven has opened and something in the spirit realm has been deposited into your spirit. If this happens to you this is a wonderful experience.
The people you minister to will sense that you have been in prayer and they will see that you have received something from heaven. Everyone gets excited when a blessing drops down from heaven. You feel that you have crossed to the other side, where provision is unlimited.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I had another similar experience to the one I had in Korea. This also happened around 1985. Lorna and I were at a small church in Adelaide. We had been given the job of running a weekly home group. This operates like a small Bible study group. My problem was, even though I could preach, I couldn’t teach. I would get to the home group and open up the Bible study and to my horror my words wouldn’t make sense. I would muddle through. It was embarrassing.
I had been praying and asking God for help. One day, as I was sitting in our backyard trying to find something in the Bible to share at our home group, I felt something drop into my spirit and immediately I knew it was the gift of teaching. I told Lorna “a gift of teaching just dropped into my spirit!”
At the home group that week I was able to open up the Word in an amazing way. Some of the people came up to me after and asked “Where did you get that from? It was stunning!” It was stunning and it has remained that way until this day. I can open the Bible at any page and start teaching. It is a gift that I didn’t have and I knew I didn’t have it. Then I knew I did have it! Pretty amazing!
A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.
One of the gifts I have wanted is the ability to see people saved.
Come follow me, Jesus said and I will make you fishers of men!
Most Bible scholars would agree that the ministry of Jesus may have lasted for three years. If we accept this as a general estimate it means that the disciples were taught and trained by Jesus for that amount of time.
I have said before that it takes three years to change a person. Our university courses usually take three years or longer. A lot of what Jesus said and did is written down in the gospels. The book of Acts gives us even more understanding of what the disciples were like after Jesus was finished with them.
One of the things that we would all agree on is that these men really did become fishers of men. Peter on the day of Pentecost cast out his net and caught about 3,000 people.
Those who accepted his message were baptized and about 3,000 were added to their number that day.
When Jesus met Peter he had the ability to catch fish. After three years of living with Jesus and being exposed to his teaching and training, Peter had a new ability to catch men.
Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.
If I spend three years reading the New Testament won’t I be exposed to the teaching and training of Jesus? Couldn’t I expect that somewhere along this journey I will find that I have become a fisher of men? If this happens it will be an easy thing to see. It will be a radical transformation.
But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The word of God is renewing my mind, soul, and spirit.
Last year I was reading Matthew 13:47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.” I told Lorna that this scripture had life on it.
The next day our new neighbour knocked on our front door to introduce herself and apologise for her chickens being in our garden. One thing led to another and five minutes later she accepted Jesus as her personal Saviour.
Lorna had to help her to her car because the power of God came upon her and she didn’t know what was going on. Fishers of men have nets and this lady sure got caught in that net.
Last Sunday morning was Easter Sunday. We had communion at church and while I was having communion, I thought I would draw a line in the sand and forgive everyone for everything in my past and use Easter Sunday to declare that anything that had happened before that day was dealt with.
I always forgive everyone for everything whenever I take communion, but I decided to do that on a certain day at a certain time.
Now the rest of the year I can keep short accounts. Now I only have to deal with recent events, anything that has happened before Easter Sunday 2012 is dealt with and doesn’t have to be carried forward into the present.
My reading of the New Testament is going well. On the weekends I read something out of the Old Testament; whatever has life on it.
In Matthew 9:38 Jesus calls himself the Lord of the harvest.
In John 4:35 Jesus tells his disciples to look at the fields and see that there are four months until harvest. Then he tells them to open their eyes and look at the people around them and see that they are ripe for harvest.
Jesus is able to open your eyes to see a harvest when you wouldn’t normally be able to see it. The Bible is full of teaching about sowing and reaping and harvest time.
We have to be careful not to put a principle before a person, but we also have to realize that the Lord of the Harvest cannot have a harvest without seed being sown, without relying on the principle of sowing and reaping.
The farmer sows the word.
If you are reading the Bible you are a farmer of the word of God.
The seed is the word of God.
But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble heart who hear the word and retain it and by persevering produce a crop.
You are also the good soil. You are God’s field. And from you a harvest is produced; up to a hundredfold.
And we also thank God continually because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God which is at work in you who believe.
You have to believe the word of God is at work in you. You have to decide you are expecting a harvest. You can’t just go on reading the Bible year after year without getting a harvest.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Are you weary? Have you given up?
Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
One way the enemy deceives us is by sowing bad seed into the same field we have sown good seed. Suddenly weeds appear and we are devastated. This often happens in relationships. We may have sown good seed into a relationship for years. Next thing we notice is that some very bad seed is sprouting.
Don’t be deceived, don’t doubt, choose to ignore the weeds and focus on the good things that you can see. The other area where we can doubt is in the area of our health.
You might have prayed and believed and spoken the word of God and your health has gotten worse instead of better.
Once again two sorts of seed have been sown. The good seed which you have deposited into the situation, then the devil has come along and sown bad seed and these manifest in symptoms of sickness.
Then you stop believing because you think your prayers haven’t worked or haven’t been heard.
A few years ago, Lorna broke her ankle. Since then she has had some pain and weakness in her ankle. For the last fourteen months, Lorna and I have been reading the bible and praying and speaking health into her ankle. And guess what?
A few weeks ago, it suddenly got worse. It was stable for about six years and when we decide to sow the word of God into our hearts, her ankle gets worse not better.
So we are being tested. When you go to University you get tested.
They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Now is our time of testing. We have to acknowledge the reality of the situation but we don’t have to embrace the message behind it. It is a message of doubt and unbelief. Lorna and I have to believe we have crossed over into harvest time. You can’t feed on the Bible and not produce a harvest of health.
My son pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words, do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.
If you try and advance in the Kingdom of God you will find that the enemy also rises up to oppose you.
Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Did you know that as soon as you hear the word, Satan comes to steal it from your heart? We have to be alert and wake up to his schemes. In this house we are awake, we are alert, but it is still tempting to think it is all a coincidence, that the devil is not real, that he is not that active. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
One of the ways we can get the upper hand over the devil is to ask God for a fresh word of faith from heaven.
Lorna has just flown to Wellington, New Zealand to visit our son Samuel, who lives over there. The day before she had to fly out, she was at work and finding it very hard to stand up on her troublesome ankle.
When she came home and told me how bad it had become, you could see that she was very anxious.
That night I opened my Bible and started to look for a word of encouragement. We got up the next morning for breakfast and I was able to tell her that I believed I had found a word for her.
I had found it in 1 Peter 2:25 “But the word of the Lord stands forever.”
I told her about the word and said I believed it meant she would be able to stand up for as long as she needed to or wanted to. Today I have just received an e-mail from Lorna.
Hello Tony, I arrived safely, the flight was very good. My good news is that signs and wonders are accompanying your word for me; my foot is so much better, it’s truly a miracle! I will stand forever. Thank you so much for your prayers. My pain level has gone right down, that is awesome. Tony isn’t that wonderful? Take care, lots of love, Lorna.
I have just changed my mind about reading the Word of God. When I started this experiment, I was reading the Bible out loud. Then I decided to read without speaking. Now I have changed back to reading the Bible out loud.
I just wasn’t happy with the progress I was making. I couldn’t feel the faith. I’m just impatient. I can’t wait another 21 months for faith to manifest. I need it now. And the only way I know to get faith quickly is to read the scriptures out loud.
I have tried it all, praying, praising, worshipping, fasting, reading books, listening to tapes, going to conferences. These are all wonderful things to do and I should keep doing them.
But if I am desperate and need an answer from God where do I go and what do I do? I have already done it all. In the end I have concluded that even though God hears the cry of the heart, he always answers the prayer prayed in faith.
Jesus was never shy about commenting on people’s faith level.
You have little faith.
I have not seen such great faith.
Your faith has healed you.
Why did you doubt?
As soon as I started again to read the word of God out loud, I knew I was in a better place. With the same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak. I don’t really understand why, I believe it works, I just believe.
Perhaps it works because I believe it does. I have not always been this convinced.
Now I am certain. In my mind the argument is won.
The judge and jury have voted with me, “Do not let this Word depart from your mouth.”
It is the end of the financial year and I am in my usual position at this time of year. It is also winter and my business does not like cold wet weather and neither do my customers. I have been doing the same business for about 25 years now. Every year when winter comes, my income goes down. Most of the year I am happy with my income, but there are always three or four months that disappoint. As you know I always tithe and give offerings.
I have always believed that Malachi 3:10-11 applies to a Christian when they tithe.
“So much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!”
My experience has always been the opposite. I have always had less work than I needed and therefore less money than I needed. I have listened to a thousand sermons on tithing and read many books on the subject of biblical finances.
My attitude has been to believe, even though I didn’t see.
Recently I prayed to God, “Dear God, your promise in Malachi 3:10 has never been fulfilled in my finances, could you please show me the truth?”
A few days later my understanding opened up in a new way. This is the idea that I came up with. Right now, I am tithing out of the Old Testament, why don’t I try tithing out of the New Testament.
I am relying on Malachi 3:10-11.
Why don’t I change that promise to another promise in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.
‘’Remember this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.’’
Each man should give what his decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.
For God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times having all that you need you will abound in every good work.
Malachi 3:10-11 promises blessing, but in Ephesians 1:3 it says that I have already been “blessed with every spiritual blessing.”
Why do I need to rely on my tithing to give me blessing when I have already been blessed?
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 promises me grace.
Perhaps that’s been my problem, I always thought I needed more blessing; maybe I have always needed more grace.
Blessing is like rain; it comes from above and waters your land. But grace is like a river or like an ocean; it causes your boat to float.
My friend is a sailor who has just renovated his yacht in his garage. He has painted it, put on a new mast and sails. He has poured out blessing on that yacht; it is blessed financially and physically.
But no matter how much blessing my friend John pours out onto that boat, the blessing will not make it float. He will have to put it on his trailer and take it to the harbour.
I will consider myself to be a rich man when I am debt free. I don’t need a lot of money to live on to be happy. I just want to be financially free. Free from a mortgage and free from the banks.
How can you be free when you owe money? It’s impossible.
You might say to me, “Don’t stop giving offerings, the church needs your money.”
My answer to that is, wouldn’t it be better for the church in the long run if I paid my tithes and also paid off my debt? Then I will have even more money to give them.
Isn’t it better for the minister if all his flock are debt free? Hasn’t he got faith to live free of debt?
C’mon pastor you can do it; you don’t have to be dependent on debt either.
For with God nothing is impossible!
If grace works like the tide, then the tide can come in so high that it floats every boat. Some boats need more water under them than others.
Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.
Whatever level of debt someone has, it is possible for God’s grace to flow into their lives to lift them up out of their situation into a better place.
The new has come the old has gone. What is old and obsolete is wasting away and it will soon disappear.
A good friend of mine has recently been dis-inherited.
Is there such a word? I better say it more clearly; he has lost his inheritance because his elderly mother took offence when they had an argument! My friend was never popular in his family.
He became a Christian and this put even more distance between him and his mother and sister.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs.”
My friend’s mother is really saying to him, you are no longer my son. Thank God that He will never say to us that we are not His children.
Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 to show us that even though we turn away from God and waste our inheritance, if we repent and return, he will forgive and restore us to our rightful place.
But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.
Your beginnings will seem humble so prosperous will your future be.
I have mentioned before that as I am reading the New Testament it is becoming obvious that the central action is the cross but the central theme is the new agreement.
In the same way after the supper he took the cup, saying, this cup is the new agreement in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Our daily lives are built on many examples of a written agreement. Your driver’s licence is a written agreement between you and the Government and police to allow you to drive a car on the road.
If you live on a farm you don’t have to get anyone’s permission to drive on the roads that are on your private property. If you are a son or daughter growing up on your parent’s farm, you have to get their permission, but it is not written down, it is a verbal agreement.
The Bible is made up of many verbal agreements that God made with different people at different times and situations.
Adam and Eve had a verbal agreement with God not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. They broke this agreement and paid the penalty.
Our driver’s licence works the same; if we speed or drink drive, we also pay the penalty. Even on your parents farm there are penalties even if they didn’t write down the rules, those rules are still there.
Some rules are unspoken because your parents think that you have inherited their common sense. When you are fifteen years old you haven’t inherited anyone’s common sense.
On our farm I was allowed to ride the motorbike and drive the new four wheel drive. My Father never ever said to me “Tony, don’t knock over a tree with the 4WD!”
He never mentioned trees and driving in the same sentence.
There was a large old dead gumtree in one of our paddocks; it was rotten at the bottom. It was about 30 feet high. I drove up to it and gave it a nudge to knock it over.
Why not? It was dead. It would fall over easily.
I was right it did fall over easily.
I was trying to find reverse when it fell onto my father’s new four wheel drive. It crushed the front of the vehicle and part of the roof. Suddenly I realized I had broken a rule that I never knew was there.
It was not written, it was not spoken but it sure existed.
When Moses came along God decided to write down every rule and law that existed.
Moses wrote down spoken rules and unspoken rules so everyone would be quite clear about what was expected of them. We call them the law and the commandments.
The old agreement under Moses works like this.
“If you behave you will receive.”
The new agreement under Jesus changed all that, it says
“If you believe you will receive.”
The old agreement under Moses depended on how hard you worked.
Paul sums it up in Galatians 3:10, all who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written; “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law.”
The new agreement under Jesus depends on believing.
John 6: 28-29
“What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent! “
I have mentioned earlier that the floods that happened to Brisbane tore people’s lives apart. Most people had an insurance policy; the problem was that a lot of the insurance policies did not cover people for flooding.
Or if they did cover them for flooding, it was storm water flooding or river flooding; not both.
Some people were flooded because water backed up in the storm water pipes and others just by the river rising. What was confusing for the people was the insurance companies used different measurements to decide what was storm water and what was the river causing the flood. There were a number of people who just weren’t covered for flooding at all.
Now the insurance companies have brought out new policies. These new policies (new agreements) cover all flooding however it happens. Everyone gets the same policy so that there is certainty.
I received a notice from my insurance company telling me that I am covered for flooding. I live on a hill, miles from any river or storm water problem. It’s impossible for my house to flood. There was such bad publicity for these companies because of the Brisbane floods that they have now gone to the extreme.
Under the Law of Moses people were never sure whether they had been good enough. People never knew whether they worked hard enough for long enough. There was a problem with doubt and uncertainty.
For if there had been nothing wrong with the first covenant (agreement), no place would have been sought for another.
If the insurance agreements had worked perfectly when Brisbane was flooded the companies would not have introduced new policies.
But they didn’t work; a lot of people’s lives were ruined.
So now we all have new insurance policies, these new policies are better than the old ones because they are based on better promises.
They promise that if your house is destroyed by any flood of any type, your house will be repaired, renewed and restored. Guess what? You will be revived; you won’t be depressed and stressed as you were before.
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction.
The new agreement that Jesus has given us is superior to the old agreement Moses gave us, because it is based on better promises.
Moses – Only behave.
Jesus – Only believe.
John 1: 17
For the law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus.
Here’s the downside of the new insurance policy, they are a lot more expensive. It makes sense doesn’t it? The more you pay the better the result.
Now here is an unwritten law that we all believe.
“You pay for quality!”
“Nothing comes cheap!”
When Moses proclaimed every commandment of the law, he used the blood of animals. When Jesus speaks to his disciples at the last supper he says; “This cup is the new agreement in my blood.”
You have an insurance policy with God himself. His son, the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to organise it and bring it to pass through his death on the cross.
He shed His blood to pay the price for this new agreement.
Isaiah NKJ 59:19b
When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.
If there are floods in Brisbane again, the people will be able to face those floods in faith instead of fear because everyone knows that their insurance policy covers them for flood.
We have the same assurance and certainty because we also have a legal document, recognised by the courts of heaven. A legal policy organised by Jesus himself. A policy document paid for by Jesus in his own blood.
A few years ago, the glass in our shower cracked. It is a special laminated glass and is expensive to replace.
I had not read my house insurance policy before, because we had never used it to claim anything. As I started to read the document, I saw these words,
“Glass shower doors are covered in this policy.” Instantly my attitude changed. My shower door was replaced for free.
If earthly policy documents work like that, how much more should policy documents that are organised from heaven work? If you were reading your earthly insurance policy and came across these words.
“Your insurance company will supply all your needs.“
You would think what a great company, what a great attitude. How much happier should we be when we open the Bible and read these words.
And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Lorna and I have just come home after going to my church and hearing a great sermon. The subject of the sermon was repentance. The Pastor told us that repentance is the foundation of our faith.
He quoted Hebrews 6:1: therefore, let us leave the elementary truths about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death (or from useless rituals).
My wife says I need to repent from my pride and become willing to accept any invitations or opportunities that come my way; she means that I have to be willing to say yes instead of no.
She is quoting Isaiah 1:19, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land!”
My reply is Romans 6:14, “I am not under the law, but under grace.”
In the gospel of Mark 14:1-9 there is a story of a woman who broke a jar of perfume and poured it on the head of Jesus.
Now some of the people who were watching this happen judged her and said she was wasting the perfume because it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.
The law will always tell you what you are not doing, but grace will always tell you that what you are doing is good enough.
Jesus told these people to leave her alone. “You will always have the poor but you will not always have me!”
She was preparing Jesus for His burial.
One group of people thought she was short-sighted while Jesus thought she was long-sighted.
He said, “She did what she could!”
A friend of mine who is a lawyer was asked to speak at church and share with the people. The story he told was very encouraging.
A few weeks later I was having a coffee with him and he happened to mention that there were probably some people in church that morning thinking, why is he up there speaking?
I said to my friend “Where did that thought come from? It is a thought from the enemy.”
I told my friend, “We are never good enough and we have never done enough, but Jesus is good enough and He has done enough.”
The devil will always argue with these negative thoughts.
We can admit that we aren’t good enough and we haven’t done enough but we can turn the argument around and say that Jesus is good enough and he has done more than enough by dying for us on the cross.
We can then declare that when we believed in Jesus and accepted him into our heart; we also had done enough.
There is only one test that you have to pass in life and that test is found in 2 Corinthians 13:5.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”
Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless of course you fail the test?
If you have believed in Jesus, then Christ lives in you by His Spirit. You have passed the test, you have not failed.
Grace is an attitude that always helps you look good.
Law is an attitude that always makes you look bad.
Lorna took some soup to a lady who had a new baby at home. The young lady’s mother was also there. Lorna had not put any cream or milk into the pumpkin soup. The young mother ate the soup for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The young mother and her mother praised Lorna for being so thoughtful by not adding cream or milk to the soup, because the young mother was experimenting to see if eliminating dairy in her diet would possibly help the baby settle at night.
Lorna had no idea the young mother had decided to go on a dairy free diet.
Grace causes you to accidently get things the right way round. Under the law everything you do is wrong. Grace tells me that just turning up for church is enough.
Grace tells me that it doesn’t matter how much money I give as long as I give cheerfully. Grace tells me that as long as I say yes to some opportunities that is enough.
Law says you are not doing enough in the church. Law says you are not giving enough money. Law says you are not saying yes often enough.
I like Romans 6:14 because it tells me that I am not under law, but under grace.
This world worships success and I have to admit I have worshipped at the altar of success. But if you have believed in Jesus you have passed the only test that matters.
You have not failed, you have succeeded.
When I went to high school, year 12 was very tough because it had a very hard test at the end of the year.
You passed or you failed. There was no in between. We did the exam in November and you did not get the results until January.
When the results came out all my classmates and friends were waiting down at the local hotel.
When I walked in the front door there was a table to the left with all the people who had failed and there was a table to the right with all the people who had passed.
As I opened the door all the people on the table to the left yelled out to me, “Tony come over here!”
They always believed I would fail and they were right.
I also believed I would fail because I had not worked hard enough. What they didn’t know was that morning when the envelope arrived in the mail and I opened it, there was a big surprise.
It said “PASS”.
I said to my friends, “I can’t join you because I passed, I didn’t fail!”
I turned to the right and joined the table of winners.
This is the story behind the story. My physics teacher that year was on the state board of examiners. He helped set the exam questions.
When I sat down to do my three hour physics exam many of the questions looked familiar. We had done these same questions many times that year and this enabled me to get a high score in physics which caused me to pass the whole exam in year 12.
I could now go to university if I wanted.
This is how God’s grace works behind the scene to lead you to Jesus. He gives you the ability to repent and believe and all you have to do is say yes.
Because you say yes; you have passed the biggest exam of the universe, you are now going to heaven. You have passed from hell to heaven. You have succeeded in the most important test you will ever face.
My son and daughter would both say in jest that they were the smartest. It was a family joke. Our family had a funny way to express this.
We would say “Who is the sharpest tool in the shed?”
When they did their last year in high school, they both received exactly the same results. The humorous talk at the family dinner table was that they were both equally as smart as each other, this appeared to put the bantering to rest.
Sam and Jess have always thought they were smarter than their mother and father. How can you convince your children that you are smarter than them?
My wife Lorna is the most loving person I have ever met, the family have always known this and our friends at the local church have always remarked about how loving Lorna is. She has an enormous mercy gift. She is always visiting people and encouraging them, she sends them gifts and she really does care.
One night at the family dinner table, the four of us were once again joking about who was the sharpest tool in the shed?
All of a sudden, I realized that Lorna was the smartest person in the family because she was the most loving person in the family. She is the most loving person any of us have ever known.
We had always acknowledged this but what we hadn’t realized was that the smartest thing you can ever do in your life is love someone.
1 Corinthians 1:19b-20 “the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise man?
Where is the scholar?
Where is the philosopher of this age?
The Bible talks to the smartest people on earth and tells them if they are not loving, they are not smart.
1 Corinthians 13:13
But the greatest of these is love.
When the woman came into the room to pour perfume on Jesus, the people in the room didn’t show her any love, they operated with an attitude of law.
But Jesus loved her and showed her an attitude of grace. The law will design a test and make sure you fail.
Grace will design a test to make sure you succeed.
The argument that you have never done enough and you will never be good enough is a destructive thought pattern that needs to be torn down.
2 Corinthians 10:4
The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world.
On the contrary they have divine power to demolish arguments and every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
We need to argue that Jesus is good enough and he has done enough.
Then we need to declare that when we believed in Jesus, we did all that we ever needed to do. The smartest thing a human being can do on this planet is to believe in Jesus and receive him into their heart. You are now the smartest person, because to believe in someone is to love them.
When I was a young preacher in Adelaide, I received an invitation to speak at the Sunday morning service of a church that was situated near the Red Light district in Adelaide.
It was pastored by a couple who in their past lives had been a prostitute and a bank robber. They were now both saved and in ministry.
I spoke about the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12, they had committed adultery that resulted in the birth of a son, the son got sick and died. When I preached that morning, I spoke about the unusual behaviour of David.
2 Samuel 12:21-23
His servants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead you get up and eat!”
He answered,” While the child was alive, I fasted and wept. I thought,” Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.
But now that he is dead why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him but he will not return to me.”
I didn’t know there was a married couple in the service who had lost a young child. When I finished speaking, they came up to me and told me their story. They had been encouraged because they felt God had moved me to mention that story to let them know God was aware of their pain and suffering. They really believed that God cared about them.
My wife met a lady who had lost her son in his early twenties. This lady told Lorna that she had received a supernatural peace that passed all understanding.
It was so powerful that she didn’t experience any pain or grief, it was incredible. To this day her heart and mind have been kept in that beautiful state of peace and rest. That’s one of the most powerful statements I have ever heard.
God does care about the saved and the unsaved people. A few weeks ago, I was at a customer’s house, a couple in their early sixties.
They had been through a real trial. The husband had just survived bowel cancer and now he had found out that he had prostate cancer. The wife had received a heart transplant. She had just spent sixty days in hospital.
They had been my customers for fifteen years and I had witnessed to them in the past. After I finished my work, I sat down with them and was able to explain the difference between earning your salvation and receiving your salvation by grace.
Sometimes when you talk to people about God you feel your words go right into them. This was one of those days. It’s amazing how patient God is, at the same time their need to accept Jesus into their hearts couldn’t be more urgent!
CONGRATULATIONS TO ME!
I have just passed the half way mark. I have been doing my experiment for over 18 months. If God is invited into our projects, He can take something that is half-finished and cause it to start working before its time.
The disciples had a similar experience with Jesus.
When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat walking on the water, and they were terrified.
Then they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
Notice that they were willing to invite Jesus into what they were doing and suddenly they were at their destination.
A few weeks ago, I flew over to Wellington, New Zealand to visit my son Samuel. I had this funny thought that I should download my writings onto a memory stick or (usb flash drive) in case I sat next to someone on the plane and had one of those God conversations, I could just hand them the usb stick. They could then read my story later on.
On the flight over to Wellington there was only one spare seat on the whole plane, it was right next to me. I didn’t have a conversation with anyone!
Sometimes one thought leads to another. I said to Samuel, “What do you think about putting my half-finished writings on the internet so anyone I meet could look it up and read it?”
Samuel told me it was probably a good idea because it would force me to lift my standards since people outside the family would be reading my story for the first time.
Samuel had a similar experience. He had been playing his guitar at an Italian Restaurant in Wellington. This had caused him to lift his standard of playing and presentation.
Exposing yourself to a wider audience and your peers is a good idea if you can cope with people’s responses. Fortunately for me the response has been very encouraging.
When I got home, I organised a website, something that I had no experience in doing and then told a few of the men I knew.
Here is the response I received from an old friend of mine who lives in Adelaide. He has a lot of experience as a minister; he is also an author of two books.
Hi Tony, Hi Lorna,
I read your story this morning, and really enjoyed it. It’s a great idea to diarise your progress over three years. Your humour comes through, very droll. Your honesty is refreshing and brave. The lessons you have learnt over the years are really valuable; I gained much from all your insights in the word, and from your spiritual evolutions particularly I enjoyed all your poignant little stories.
Well done my friend, Paul Godrich.
This was my first response from anyone, I am glad it came in first. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement.
In the meantime, I was able to talk Lorna into doing her own website. Four weeks ago, Lorna and I would have never believed or known that we would put our writings out in the public domain.
I was thinking I might put it into a small book for the family. I thought if anything was going to happen it would happen after the three years had passed. This is a quote from a book I have been reading.
“No-one around us seemed to have faith for anything out of the ordinary.”
The angel told Daniel that God was involved from the first day of his project.
The angel told Daniel, “Do not be afraid Daniel. Since the first day you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.”
We never know when God will turn up. The disciples were willing to take Jesus into the boat, and then they were immediately at their destination.
I once saw a funny video showing a man playing baseball; he hits a home run but doesn’t know it and starts to run to first base, then to second base. Men on the other team start chasing him; he thinks they are chasing him to get him out. But they are chasing him to tell him to stop running; they were trying to tell him the good news.
I have been doing my Bible reading with my eyes on a three year goal. Meanwhile I have an idea to do something in the present. For many people it is not a new idea to put your writings on a website, but for me it was a brand new idea and it was for now and not for later.
An experience I had in Bible College illustrates this dilemma. The Bible College I attended had, in years past, seen a move of God more than once. The year I was in college was in 1981, we had a visit from a pastor who came from Nagaland.
It is a state in the north-eastern part of India with a population of just under two million people. Revivals have taken place in 1956, 1966, and 1972. The result is that Nagaland is a predominately Christian state.
This pastor taught in our college for a few days. Not long after, we experienced a move of the Holy Spirit; this began at morning chapel and went for a few hours.
After this happened the pastor in charge of the college called us all together and asked the students if we would like to take a break from lectures and normal duties to seek God.
We had a vote, the majority voted against the idea.
Can you believe this? We are in college to learn about God but when we get the opportunity to experience God the majority vote against it?
The reason they did this was because they had their eyes on finishing their studies. They missed the opportunity when it came.
In Luke 19: 41-44 Jesus wept as he made his entrance into the city of Jerusalem because they did not recognise the time of God’s coming.
You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Acts 8:26-40 tells the story of a man in his chariot who is reading the Bible out loud. Suddenly Phillip the evangelist approaches him and explains to him who the words are referring to. This man gives the order to stop the chariot and says, “Look here is water why shouldn’t I be baptised?”
He broke his gaze from future events and stepped into God’s plan for the present.
When the opportunity comes don’t let it slide!
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