Newsletter for Dec 2009
We are blessed to live in such a technologically advanced society. In just the past 50 years we have reached the place to where a church service can be watched by people all over the world if they have access to a computer and the internet. In fact, not too long ago I read about research taking place that will enable three-dimensional images to be broadcast into homes (similar to the Holodeck, for all you Star Trek fans).
Along with all of our social progress is a prevailing “me-centered” mindset. We are raised with a unique concept of recompense for services rendered. There is an expectation that someone will give us something if we put forth any effort to help. In many cases, good wages are expected even if the job performed is sub-par. It is amazing how some people are unavailable or unable to help in their church…until you start talking about how much the job pays.
Children are trained to think this way from an early age. For example, they are taught that the quantity and quality of their presents under a Christmas tree will be a reflection of how good or bad they have been throughout the year. After all, Santa is watching so you better be good, you better not cry and you better not pout! They aren’t told that gifts should be an expression of love.
Belief in this type of reward system extends to the Body of Christ. Some ministers teach that if we do a good work for God, or if we give Him specific offerings, He is required to pour out great blessings into our lives. We are told that if we need finances, we must give, give and give to build up the balance in our “heavenly account” which garners interest at a 30, 60 or 100-fold rate.
Such teaching comes as a result of twisting the meaning of scripture to fit a popular message. Let me share a passage with you and see if it rings a bell…something you may have heard during offering time in a church service:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (Matthew 6:19-20)
I want to give you the utmost assurance that no matter what you have been taught, this passage has nothing to do with a heavenly bank account. God does not have an Accounting Department in Heaven that is run by angels who are CPA’s. There is no building in Heaven with a sign that says Messiah Savings and Loan. If this were all true, it would mean that the only way we could receive from God is if we have deposited enough in our account. In other words, our blessings would be a result of our works (our giving) instead of God’s grace and the completed work of Jesus.
Am I saying that there are never any blessings associated with giving? Of course not; but our giving is neither the foundation nor the catalyst of our blessings. The price Jesus paid and His total sacrifice is our foundation for everything. A preacher who uses Matthew 6:19-20 to motivate people to give would be wise to read the next verse:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Interpreting my “treasures in Heaven” as a stockpile of money for me to use as I please reveals that my heart is looking only to the kind of wealth that is honored here on earth. Mark my words: what is treasured here on earth is vastly different from what is treasured in Heaven.
I’ll give you another example. The story of the rich, young ruler is recorded in Matthew chapter nineteen. In it, this man has come to Jesus to find out what he should do to have eternal life. Jesus said something very interesting in verse 21,
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (Matthew 19:21)
Now, do you really believe that Jesus was thinking only in terms of money? Even though that is what some people teach, I’ll guarantee you that Jesus knew the difference between treasure on earth and treasure in Heaven!
Because of how these passages have been mistaught, someone might ask the very fair question, “If Jesus wasn’t speaking of financial blessings, then what exactly are these ‘treasures in Heaven’ spoken of in scripture?” I’m going to answer that question in a very unique fashion by reprinting a vision experienced by Vaughan Granier of South Africa.
I arrived in Heaven and was standing in a queue to face the Lord. Around me were other people carrying gifts, beautifully wrapped and carefully carried to prevent damage. Each person was careful to have their gift ready for when their name was called. I looked at my empty hands and wondered what was happening. I did not understand why I did not have a gift; everyone else seemed to. It was not as if they collected their gifts from somewhere, and it was not as if they arrived with them. Their gifts seemed to be a part of them, one with them.
I asked a few of them about their gifts, to try and understand what was different about me, but the answers were all the same. “We are sorry. We do not know about you. These gifts are the works we have accomplished for our Lord. They are the projects we did, the plans we had for our lives that we brought to fruition as Christians. This is what we are offering to the Lord; we have waited our whole lives for this. We do not understand what the reason could be that you do not have such a gift for the Lord.”
I became insecure in this and feared the Judgment of the Lord. I could only imagine standing before the Throne of Grace, giftless, and being singled out by the Lord as the only one not bearing a gift. As far as I could see, I was the only one who had no gift.
Before I knew it, my name had been called, and I walked slowly towards the Throne of the Lord. It was not that I feared Him, not in that way, anyway, but I was imagining me stepping up to the Judgment seat and saying to God, “I am sorry; all these others have brought you gifts, big and small, and there has been such ceremony each time. Their life’s work is before you and you have been please with it; I have no such gift to offer you. I do not have a significant thing that I have achieved which consumed me my whole life.”
He rose from His seat, smiled and said, “Do not trouble yourself about offering Me a gift today. Come with Me, I have something to show you. I have been waiting, looking forward to the time when you will come before Me. I received from you every day that you walked with Me, and I have kept these things to show you.”
He took me to a room, the four walls of which contained a magnificent tapestry. As I looked at it, I saw familiar scenes and details from my life but not so much MY life being illustrated, as the lives of others and the Kingdom of God, where their lives and it's purposes have touched mine. At every point where my life and someone else's touched, there began two golden threads the one leading from my life into theirs, and the other leading from their life into mine. God looked at this Tapestry with deep affection, and began to trace the golden threads with His finger. Each one, from the start to the finish of that thread.
As I watched His finger, and looked at the expression on His face, I began to see the effect of the Golden threads on the tapestry. I saw how they brightened certain sections that would have been very dark otherwise; how they drew together sometimes two, sometimes more sections with a complexity and intricacy of design that left me astounded; how in certain places they formed a basket of sorts, a support type structure that framed and held a scene from another's life; how sometimes the threads seemed to form a path between areas of the tapestry a path that enabled a flow and a progression from one scene to another with no chance of going astray.
After a long while, He turned to me and said "Do you see? Each golden thread you see before you, is an act of obedience done by you. Sometimes your obedience was taking My urging, and acting, speaking or interceding in another's life. Sometimes that obedience was your ear, tuned for My voice, and your hearing and doing what I asked. Sometimes it was others voices, or My voice, that you chose to hear and in humility, allowed My Spirit to change you.
“I know you could not possibly have seen this from your time on earth. This tapestry has been woven joyfully in secret, by my angels, who have watched and celebrated your life and your obedience to me. This has been a lifetimes work your lifetime, their joyful work. They stand in this audience behind you, honored to have woven this for you. You sent them such volumes and quality of material, that their work was easy.
“This tapestry has been made for this day, this time, and this place. It is revealed now, to be your gift to Me. These golden threads were your gift to Me every day of your life. This tapestry is the sum total of your gift to Me. You do not stand before Me empty handed, my little one. You stand before Me obedient, day by day, opportunity by opportunity, and the gift to Me that that obedience is, is so huge that you could not have carried it into My presence even if you had been aware of what it was. It is also more complicated and intricate than human hands could have woven. The beauty of a life poured out as a daily offering, and the beauty of a love expressed through the obedience that is detailed and remembered for all time here before Us, could not have been crafted by human hands. It is beyond human ability to do this thing. This work, I kept for My angels to do."
Somehow, in listening to Him, I had not seen the room change, and while the tapestry remained, it was as if there were no longer walls. We were back before the Throne of Grace, and the Words He spoke were no longer a gentle conversation. They were His Judgment over my life. As with each life that had gone before me, Heaven broke into thunderous applause at the Judgment, and as I walked away from the Throne to the place reserved for me, I began to realize that my steps were taking me past and into a gallery of people who were familiar beyond all expectation. As I saw their faces, I saw reflected in them the golden threads that I had sowed in their life, and began to see in myself, the threads that they had sown in my life. These people were my inheritance... I was awed at the richness of it all.
I trust that Mr. Granier’s vision has helped you better understand what laying up treasures in Heaven is all about. There is no money in Heaven for us to call down when we have a need. To God, the most treasured “commodity” in the universe is human life. If our heart is consumed with the earthly treasure of financial security, then every time we give we will be thinking about how much we can get back. But when the treasure of God’s heart becomes the treasure of our own heart, we will see the life of every individual as being more valuable than all the money, gold, silver and precious stones that exist in the world!
Laying up true riches is using the power in money to spread the gospel and win people to Jesus. Every person who is born again as a result of our giving is another “treasure” laid up in Heaven. When we are all up there and our “treasures” find out who it was that paid the bills for the gospel to be presented to them, we are going to be inundated with a few thousand years of hugs, kisses and “thank you’s” (Meditate on Luke 16:1-13 to see this illustrated in a parable.)
Does this mean that God doesn’t want us to have wealth in this life? Quite the opposite: He wants us to be very blessed. But the way to see wealth begin to flow into your life is to become consumed with God’s love for people and His desire for the lost to be saved. When that happens, giving won’t be just to add to your personal bank account, it will be to lay up the eternal heavenly treasure of the souls of mankind!
May His grace fill your life,