< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Joy

Monday, September 01, 2008


I’m going to go back to Rick Warren’s Book, God Can Change Your Life, because it’s so inspirational and so practical:

The second fruit of the spirit is Joy. And Joy is also a choice. It’s how we can stay positive when everything’s falling apart. As Christians, we have reason to be filled with Joy because of 3 things:

1. Our hope. This is our hope in Christ and remember, “hope” in the Bible is a done deal. It’s not a wish.

2. We have joy because God has a purpose in every situation. God uses everything that happens to us, even if it’s something bad that we’ve caused ourselves, and works it for good. Joy isn’t the absence of problems, but the presence of God. We can handle trials a little easier because we know they have a purpose, even when we don’t see it at the time: hurt can make us more compassionate, which is a step toward making us more like Jesus. Our problems also make us more mature. So our joy comes in knowing. We know God is in control. There is a reason. He is sovereign.

3. We can have joy because God is always with those who believe in Him. As believers we have been reconciled to Him through Jesus. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you! Your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned. The hard trials will not hurt you.”

This is a great verse to hang on to. It tells believers that no matter what happens, God’s going to take care of us. We will not go through it alone!

Rick Warren says you have to develop your inner joy. He says if you’ll do 4 things for the next 6 weeks, you’ll be a more positive, joyful person then you’ve ever been before.

1. Develop the attitude of gratitude. Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The most grateful people are the happiest people. So start by looking for ways to express your gratitude this week. Write a note to someone, make a phone call. Thank God.

2. Cultivate inner joy by giving. Malachi 3:10 is the only place in the Bible that says we should test God on something He says and it’s about tithing. He says if we give Him the first of our efforts just see if He doesn’t overflow our barns!

3. Develop inner joy through service. Joy comes when we get our focus off ourselves and concentrate on helping others.

4. Share Christ with others

All of this is counter to our culture, which is very “me” oriented. Gratitude? Most people feel entitled. Giving and serving? Volunteering has taken a real hit. There are lots of needy organizations. It used to be that women at least volunteered, but now they are all working too. To buy more and more things. (Which keeps them busy taking care of those things!)

Sharing Christ? That wouldn’t be very politically correct nowadays would it? Everyone else can talk about his or her religion, but not Christians. (I think that’s Satan’s doing. Christians are really the only ones he’s worried about!)

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At 4:49 PM, Blogger Russell Earl Kelly, PHD said...

The entire Law was a test. Keep all 613 commandments and be blessed. Break one of them and be cursed.

Friend, May I offer an alternative interpretation of Malachi for your study.

From: Tithing is not a Christian Doctrine
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

Malachi 3 is the Most Abused Tithing Text in the Bible. The “whole” tithe never was supposed to go to the Temple!

A. Malachi is Old Covenant and is never quoted in the New Covenant to validate tithing (Lev. 27:34; Neh. 10:28-29; Mal. 3:7; 4:4).

B. In Malachi 3:10-11 tithes are still only food 1000 years after Leviticus 27:30-34 and Numbers 18:21-28.

C. Malachi’s audience had willingly reaffirmed the Old Covenant (Neh.10:28-29). The blessings and curses of tithing are identical to and inseparable from those of the entire Mosaic Law. The rain in Deuteronomy 28:12, 23-24 and Leviticus 26:1-4 is only obtained by obedience to all 613 commandments. Galatians 3:10 (quoting Deu 27:26) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Trying to earn God’s blessings through tithing only brings curses for failure to keep all of the law. See also Galatians 3:19.

D. Beginning in 1:6 “you” in Malachi always refers to the dishonest priests and not the people (also 2:1-10; 2:13 to 3:1-5): “Even this whole nation of you --priests” (3:9). In 1:13-14 the priests had stolen tithed animals vowed to God. In Nehemiah 13:5-10 priests had stolen the Levites’ portion of the tithe. God’s curses on the priests are ignored by most tithe-teachers (1:14; 2:2 and 3:2-4).

E. Point #12 of the essay. The Levitical cities must be included in a correct interpretation of Malachi 3:10. Most tithe-recipients lived outside of Jerusalem.

F. The 24 courses of Levites and priests must be included in a correct interpretation of Malachi 3. Normally only 2% of the total Levite and priest work force served at the temple one week at a time. Subtract wives, males under the age of 30 and daughters. Therefore 2% did not require all of the tithe. See 1 Chron 23-26; 28:13, 21; 2 Chron. 8:14; 23:8; 31:2, 15-19; 35:4, 5, 10; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 11:19, 30; 12:24; 13:9, 10; Luke 1:5.

G. Nehemiah 10:37-39 is the key to understanding Malachi 3:10, The people were commanded to bring their tithes, not to the temple, but to the nearby Levitical cities. Verse 38 says that the priests were with the Levites in the Levitical cities when they received the tithes.

H. According to Nehemiah 13:5, 9 the “storehouse” in the Temple was only several rooms. The real “storehouses” were in the Levitical cites per Nehemiah 10:37b-38. Only the Levites and priests normally brought tithes to the Temple (10:38). Two rooms in the Temple were far too small to contain the tithe from the entire nation and 98% of the Levites and priests lived too far away to eat from them.

Therefore, Malachi 3:10’s “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” only makes contextual sense if it is only commanding dishonest priests to replace the tithes they had removed from it or had failed to bring to it.

While the 3:10 of the Law in Malachi is so important to tithe-teachers they ignore the 3:10 of the Gospel in Galatians and 2nd Corinthians. Perhaps those wanting to enforce the 3:10 Law of Malachi should also enforce the 3:10 Law of Numbers. They share the same context.

Christian giving is freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful, regular and motivated by love. That is enough to provide the needs of the Church.


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