Mercy Ministries

As we discuss 'Mercy Ministries' as an outward expression of the body of Christ to the world, the word 'ministries' can almost make this discussion seem too clinical.  After all what we are in fact discussing is the heart and character of our Father in heaven.

Genesis 1:26 - Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.  So then the original blueprint, or spiritual DNA for mankind was to walk in the likeness or attributes of the Father.  Exodus 34:6-7 says "And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

Every aspect of the vision for Shilohouse concerning operation of the five-fold ministry and the restructuring of the church into home based ministry is for the purpose of liberating the body of Christ to corporately walk in the likeness of the Father. 

As I have through fasting and prayer come into a greater awareness of the lateness of the hour we are living in; I can tell you that bearing one another's burdens will become critical for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to go forward in the midst of the gathering storm.  We are members of one another, and as such every unanswered need is the result of disobedience to the Lord in the area of giving or tragically in today's church; many times unmet needs are the result of misplaced giving.

What do I mean by this?  Every financial resource that is being squandered through the institutional framework of the modern church needs to be refocused upon the desire of the King for His love and mercy to shine through the body of Christ.

The Words of the King

It was the Lord Jesus who taught "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.  For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." (Luke 6:35-36) 

He also said "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."  (Matt 5:7) 

It was the Lord who set the example; going out amongst the lost sheep of Israel:  "Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”   When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’   For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  (Matt 9:10-13) 

He knew His Father's will: "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)

The Heart of the Father

Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
By His name Yah,
And rejoice before Him.
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
(Psalm 68:4-5)

God has always had a higher purpose for kingdom finances than what is currently being practiced in the modern church.  He will Himself administer justice... "For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).  

His eye has always been towards the downtrodden... the afflicted...

"You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow’s garment as a pledge. But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing. “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow." (Deuteronomy 24:17-21)

To summarize up to this point...

He has shown you, O man, what is good;

       And what does the LORD require of you

          But to do justly,

          To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?  (Micah 6:8)

Perhaps our Lord Jesus had the words of Micah in mind when He spoke this rebuke: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (Matt 23:23)

The Purpose of the Tithe

For further clarification concerning tithing and it's relationship to genuine mercy within the body of Christ: CLICK HERE

Tying into the discussion on defining lawful use of Kingdom resources we need to consider the following scriptures

"At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do." (Deuteronomy 14:28-29) 

"When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them." (Deuteronomy 26:12-13)

Working with these two scriptures and others later in this discussion I believe a strong case can be made for saying that most if not all of the tithe should be set aside for " the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow... who are within your gates.

To better understand how this works in a "New Testament church", lets see if these definitions bear witness:

Within your gates - The realm of responsibility and authority in a local congregation (Not membership in a religious system) Preferential treatment to those "within your gates" is encouraged by Paul in Galatians 6:9-10 "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."  NOTE: While "household of faith" speaks of a realm of responsibility far beyond our local congregations, it is critical to remember the order and strategy for advancing the Kingdom of God when the Lord Jesus said Jerusalem... Judea... Samaria and then to the end of the earth.  While we need to hear and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit by allowing our priorities to be altered as He wills; typically Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and then to the end of the earth means our spiritual authority and responsibility begins in our immediate circle of influence and expands as we are faithful to where we are planted.

The Levite - every believer as defined by 1 Peter 2:4-l0.  Remember what was said in the tithing section though "Paul in writing to Timothy said "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry."  Paul was counted faithful through the working of the Holy Spirit... and having been called, he was later separated into the ministry  This course again is open to any that God has called into five fold ministry. (This is a vastly larger number than most within the institutional church are willing to acknowledge).   The separation, and the inclusion of this 'levite' in the "daily distribution" does not automatically happen just because someone has a seminary degree, but rather their needs should be met only after truly being counted faithful as a bond servant who meets the criteria of THE FIVE FOLD MINISTER - "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24b). 

It is time to admit to ourselves that we have missed the mark on this and as a result many hirelings have crept into the congregations of the Lord unawares.   A final thought for anyone who considers themselves a five fold minister.   While Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:11-12:  "If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?"  Yes... as a five fold minister you have a "right" to reap material things, however I believe Paul put forth a more perfect way when he taught in 1 Corinthians 12:14 that - "...the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children."

The Stranger - the Hebrew word for this indicates a sojourner or a guest, the root word meaning one who has turned aside.  My thoughts in this lead me to believe that to the Body of Christ; a stranger might be someone who has turned aside from their walk through life, seeking rest or lodging and having a need.  Financial assistance for those in this grouping should be led by the Holy Spirit as these situations require much discernment.  The reason for being more careful in these situations, is that unless they are believers that have come; having been sent from another congregation, they may not be under the authority of Christ;  being more prone to take advantage of a favorable situation. 

This truth however should never change our willingness to help someone in need.   Scripture says "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels" (Hebrews 13:2).  In this  we are reminded not only of the potential of those we might receive, but Romans 12:9-12 speaks to us of the need to practice hospitality:  "Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing (the daily distribution?) to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality."  Scripture also says in 1 Timothy 3:2 that hospitality is to be practiced by those whose maturity places them in a place of greater responsibility: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach..."

The Fatherless - Includes those who lack a spiritual and/or paternal father. In the Hebrew tongue there are two meanings to this word; the first is to be an orphan, and the second speaks of the spiritual psychological damage of being orphaned - to be nothing or not exist; a non-entityThe Greek meaning of this word is comfortless.  Obviously the deep wounds of being fatherless can only be healed by genuine relationship with Our Father in heaven, and by the indwelling comfort of the Holy Spirit.  I believe though that many practical challenges in the natural exist as a result of being fatherless.  Jesus has given us to be His hands and feet in these situations though.

Many give up hope at an age when most feel that they should be doing their part to contribute to society and are judged as slackers or lazy.  However the condition of being fatherless also results in many within the church lacking life skills and job skills necessary.  Does this give them a life long excuse? Obviously not!  However we as the body of Christ cannot just turn our backs on these situations.  We need to be make disciples and teach and bless and serve those who are fatherless.  Sometimes they will have financial needs as a result of lacking wisdom in some areas because they were never taught the life skills that would help them meet these financial challenges.

Also there are many younger women who have fallen into sin; becoming single mothers, and came to a saving knowledge of Jesus as a result of the challenges of being a single mom.  These women and their children most definitely would fall into the category of fatherless.  Turning to the church needing help:

 

Isaiah 58:5-8 says

Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the LORD?


“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?


Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
 

Remember it is not only our calling to walk in His likeness, since defending the poor is the essence of who the Lord is as

Psalm 10:14says: Our God is "...the helper of the fatherless"

In verse 8 (and much of the rest of Isaiah 58) there is tremendous promise of renewal ,and refreshing for the body of Christ as we walk in obedience to what God has called us to.

The Widows - The name implies someone who has lost their spouse, and in most references implies that this person is female (although not exclusively).  The implication in the name is that she has lost her husband through as a result of his death; not a divorce.  This being said though there are many older believing women who have been divorced by their husbands, this problem being more and more common today as many men have forsaken the wife of their youth.  We need the Holy Spirit to guide our decisions in these situations. 

Paul though made very clear that there were those who were "widows indeed" (having no believing family to help them).  These widows definitely would be recipients of the "daily distribution."    According to 1Timothy 5:9-10 "Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.

Try to remember though; these guidelines which Paul gave to Timothy are not for the purpose of limiting expressions of mercy in the body of Christ, but they are given to clearly communicate a level of responsibility to the body of Christ as to when a widow should always receive help if needed.

Remember that Psalm 89:13-14 declare of God:

"You have a mighty arm;
Strong is Your hand, and high is Your right hand.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Mercy and truth go before Your face.
"

The LORD GOD requires these in the midst of His people.  Lawful use of the kingdom resources is absolutely essential in establishing "righteousness and justice in His Courts."

Remember only AFTER we have properly dispensed through chosen - called out deacons can we say to the Lord "I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them." - (Deuteronomy 26:-13b)

Some will ask... What about the building?   To those asking this; I respond that both the tabernacle in the desert, and the temple in Jerusalem were built without using the holy tithe.  The tabernacle was built with the spoils of Egypt, and the temple was built from the treasury of King David.  We should set this concern aside and instead as was stated in the tithe article 'we should give our best gifts to the true church – God's people'

Let us use kingdom resources supplied through the cheerful giving of God's people as the Word of God directs and remember this is not about being cursed, rather it is about the motivation of our hearts as our Lord said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15) and also: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love." (1 John 15:10)

 This is not about being placed under the law again; but instead it is about appropriating the Grace we all need to pick up our Cross and follow Him.  While there are many examples, it is clear through these next three scriptures that this was Apostolic doctrine in the 1st Century church as well:

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans (fatherless) and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27)  In other words if we are not showing forth His mercy to the fatherless and widows, somehow our corporate expression is impure and defiled before Almighty God.

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?   If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,   and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."  (James 2:14-17)  Saving faith is alive and causes us to be doers of His word and not just self deceived hearers.

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.. (1John 3:16-18)  If we are not reaching out to a hurting world then how does His love abide in us?

Remember this is about being restored to the likeness of  Our Heavenly Father

Psalm 103:8

The LORD is merciful and gracious,

Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.

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