KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING (article)

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING, Pastor Shah, Henderson

(Article in the Local Newspaper – The Daily Dispatch, Henderson, July 20, 2013)

Keeping your Spiritual Fire BurningOne of the saddest sights for me is to see a Christian person or a church or a ministry that began in a fire but now living in a smoke. William Booth (Founder of the Salvation Army) once said to a group of new officers, “I want you young men always to bear in mind that it is the nature of a fire to go out; you must keep it stirred and fed and the ashes removed.”

The Book of Nehemiah is a great example of how the fire went out in the life of the Jewish people. You may remember the story – Nehemiah came to help them rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. It was a monumental task. They had to face opposition from the local rulers – Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. Nonetheless, they looked towards God, worked round the clock and completed the project in only 52 days! It was clear testimony to the hand of God upon their lives. The people were full of joy and faith. They stood for hours and read the Bible and confessed their sins before God. They made a covenant with God never to turn from Him. It was a real revival!

But, by the time we get to the final chapter of the book, we see a completely different picture. Everything that Nehemiah had worked for in twelve years had fallen apart. In fact, if I were writing the Book of Nehemiah, I would have left out chapter 13. Such is not the case with the Bible. It is the Word of God and it never tries to air brush the character flaws of its heroes. How did this spiritual decline happen? It began when Nehemiah had to leave Jerusalem and go to Persia for a year. While he was gone, the old enemy Tobiah saw his opportunity to sneak back in. The priest had allowed Tobiah to set up office inside the holy temple. Keep in mind – this was the same Tobiah who had who mocked the Jewish people and tried to discourage them. Now that he was allowed in, he was doing everything possible to sabotage the work. No wonder the temple was in disarray; no wonder the people were not giving and assembling; no wonder the spiritual fire had burned out.

How did Nehemiah react to all this? In his words, it grieved me bitterly.” (Neh. 13:8) All his hard work had gone to waste. He was outraged. It didn’t take him long to recognize the root of the problem. He immediately threw Tobiah’s belongings out of the temple and had it cleansed. Next, he brought back the articles of the house of God along with the grain offering and the frankincense. He chastised the rulers for neglecting the house of God and failing to pay the Levites. He challenged the people to start giving their tithes and offerings to the Lord. He did not mince words in confronting the people about their failure to assemble and intermingling with the pagans.

What is the lesson in all this for us? It is very easy to slip back to the same old in the Christian life. The place to begin is to recognize where we have allowed some Tobiah to creep back into our lives. Remember – this Tobiah can be a person, a habit, an attitude, or some sin. They may appear to be spiritual and friendly but they are the devil in disguise. Unless you deal with them harshly, your spiritual fire will continue to die. The next step is to restore your first love. Bring back your worship, your giving, and your allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, “You are doing a lot of good things. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

LEARNING TO GIVE SACRIFICIALLY

LEARNING TO GIVE SACRIFICIALLY by Pastor Shah

Learning to Give SacrificiallyGod used Nehemiah to lead the Jewish people to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. The whole project was nothing short of supernatural! Nonetheless, the people had to give financially to the work. Why? Because God does not violate natural laws and human laws. The mortar still had to be purchased – it did not just fall out of the sky. The stones still had to be ordered – they did not just chisel themselves. The tools still had to be bought – they did not just appear out of thin air. The people had to give money towards the cost and expenses of the project.

This is very important for us to understand at Clearview. Even though God is doing a great work in our church, it doesn’t mean that the concrete, bricks, and lumber will fall out of the sky; it doesn’t mean the trusses will build themselves and the roof will grow on it. It requires our financial support.

Some of us have the wrong idea that someone else is going to pay for this. Praise God for those who are giving faithfully. But God’s order has not changed. Everyone should give according to what He has given to us. Here are a list of common excuses:

–   “Tithing is Old Testament” – Remember, Abraham gave a tithe way before Moses ever gave the Ten Commandments. In fact, in the NT, tithing is just the starting point!

–   “Just cause I don’t give doesn’t mean I don’t love Jesus or the church” – When John Wesley would visit his congregations he would ask his assistants if their Christianity had affected their pockets. That is the real test of what we believe. I love the bumper sticker: “Honk if you love Jesus.” But I like this one better: “Tithe if you love Jesus. Any fool can honk.”

–   “I would if I had some extra”—God instituted tithing to teach us that it all belongs to Him and that we are to give back a portion of what He has given us. It’s like the father who buys French Fries for his son. Then just like fathers do—he reaches over to take one and the little boy slaps his father’s hand. “Don’t touch my French fries!” Now the father knows that he bought the fries. He could take all of them. He could get angry with his son. He could throw them in a trashcan. He could do anything he wanted to with those fries. The problem is that his son is selfish. That is the same way with us when we refuse to give God our tithe. We slap God’s hand and say, “Don’t touch my money!”

–       “I give what I can”—You are to tithe on your gross not on your net. When you tithe on your net, you are in essence saying that the government not God gets the “first fruit” of our increase. If you are giving only $5, ask yourself—are you only making $50 per month? If you are giving $50, are you only making $500 a month? Young people—if you are getting paid, you should be giving your tithes and offerings. Single people—if you are working, you should be giving your tithes and offerings. Married Couples – if each of you is working, each of you should tithe. If you are on a fixed income – you should still tithe. If you are on a retirement, you should still tithe. I’ve heard people say – “I’m not a member so I don’t have to give.” Ask yourself—“Has this church changed your life?” “Has the preaching, ministry, and friendships at Clearview helped you and your family, then you should give.”

Growing up both Nicole and I saw our mom and dad giving their tithes and offerings to the Lord. We saw them struggling but still giving faithfully. They set an example for us to follow. The first check that Nicole writes in our home is the tithe check. Does it get tight sometimes? Yes it does. It is a reminder of the pain that the Father felt when He gave His Only Son to die on the cross for our sins. When we give faithfully, God does things with our tithes and offerings that are way beyond our imagination. We get much more than we bargained for.

Corrie Ten Boom said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

GETTING A HANDLE ON MONEY

GETTING A HANDLE ON MONEY by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Nehemiah 7:70-73 70 And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas, fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments. 71 Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand gold drachmas, and two thousand two hundred silver minas. 72 And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments. 73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities. When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.

Nehemiah's original wall

Overall Background: Nehemiah led the Jewish people to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. To this day, you can see the remains of that old wall and it is nothing short of a miracle! How could these people do all that and that too in only 52 days! Clearly, it was a work of God. God brought them together, protected them, guided them, and gave them the strength to work together to finish the wall in record time. No doubt it was the work of God. But if we just stop there, we will have an incomplete picture of what really happened. In chapter 7, Nehemiah gives us a report of the number of people who were involved in the project and the amount of money they gave to the building project. Meaning: Even though the whole building project was a work of God,

  • The mortar had to be purchased. It did not just fall out of the sky.
  • The stones had to be ordered. They did not just chisel themselves.
  • The tools had to be bought. They did not just appear out of thin air.

Getting a Handle on Money

The people had to work together and give money towards the cost and expenses of the project. This is very important to understand. Just because God did a powerful work does not mean He violated natural laws and human laws. Even though God was ultimately doing the work, the people also had to do their part.

Just because God is behind all that is happening at Clearview, it doesn’t mean that the concrete, bricks, and lumber will fall out of the sky; it doesn’t mean the trusses will build themselves and the roof will grow on it. It requires our financial support.


I titled this message – “Getting a Handle on Money” because how we give money towards God’s work has a direct impact on what happens to money in our own hands. In other words, how you give is how you keep.

Three important observations in this text:

I. EVERYONE WAS EXPECTED TO GIVE. 

70 And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work.

Background: Who were the “heads of the fathers’ houses?” The father’s house is the extended family unit between the larger tribe and the individual family unit. The larger tribes would be the tribe of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Under each tribe would be many extended families – the family of Arah, Elam, and Azgad. Under each extended family there were hundreds of individual family units of husband, wife, and their children. The heads of the fathers’ houses set the tone for their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren to give.

For e.g. Growing up mom and dad would always talk about giving our tithes and offerings in church. We saw them struggling but still giving faithfully. They set an example for us to give. Not like the guy who came to church with his family? As they were driving home, he was complaining about everything: “The music was too loud. The sermon was too long. The announcements were unclear. The building was hot. The people were unfriendly.” He went on and on, complaining about everything. Finally, his little boy in the back seat piped up, “Dad, but you’ve got to admit—It wasn’t a bad show for a buck.”

So the heads of the extended families gave but it doesn’t stop there. “The governor gave to the treasury” Some translations have the word “Tirshatah” which in Hebrew literally means “the one to be feared or respected.” It was the title for the governor. Who was the governor? I believe the governor was none other than Nehemiah. He was not there just barking orders but he invested his own money.

At Clearview, we believe that leaders should lead in giving. That does not mean that you should be the largest giver in the church but you should give proportionately to your income. Someone here makes $10,000 a month and they give $200 but another person makes $1000 and gives $100. Who is giving more? The one who is giving $100.

So the heads of the extended families and the governor gave but it doesn’t stop there.

72 And that which the rest of the people gave – Who are they? Everybody else.

Application: How is your giving at Clearview? Many of us have this idea – the rich guys are going to pay for this. I don’t have to give anything. Praise God for those who are wealthy and are giving so faithfully. But God’s order has not changed. Everyone should give according to what He has given to us. Young people—if you are getting paid, you should be giving your tithes and offerings. Single people—if you are working, you should be giving your tithes and offerings. Married Couples – if each of you is working, each of you should tithe. If you are on a fixed income – you should still tithe. If you are on a retirement, you should still tithe. I’ve heard people say – “I’m not a member so I don’t have to give.” Let me ask you—“Has this church changed your life?” “Has the preaching, ministry, and friendships at Clearview helped you and your family, then you should give.”

II. EVERYONE GAVE ABOVE AND BEYOND.

Gold Darics Persia

How much did the governor give? Verse 70 The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas, What is a “drachma?” It was actually aPersian gold coin called “daric.” The word “dari” was an Old Persian word for gold. It was 98% gold and 2% alloy for hardness. It weighed about 1/3 of an ounce. One Daric could buy you an ox or pay a soldier’s salary for a month. That is a lot of money!

How much did Governor Nehemiah give? 1000 gold drachmas = 20 pounds of gold besides fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments.

How much did the heads of the fathers’ houses give? Verse 71 twenty thousand gold drachmas, and two thousand two hundred silver minas. What is a “mina?” It was a Babylonian silver coin. One mina = 60 shekels. One shekel was the average monthly wage and so one mina would pay an average worker for 5 years. That is a lot of money!

How much did the rest of the people give? Verse 72 twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments. These people gave above and beyond what was expected of them. They had plenty of reasons not to give:

–       We have just returned from Babylon. We are just getting settled. We don’t have a stable job.

–       There is no guarantee if this project is going to work. What if it all fails?

–       We don’t live in Jerusalem. It’s not going to benefit us.

–       We are helping out at the building. We don’t have to give any money.

–       Nehemiah’s got all the money. Let him give. The heads of the families have all the money. Let them give.

These people could have made every excuse in the book but they didn’t. They gave above and beyond. They gave sacrificially. They gave overwhelmingly.

Listen carefully: I believe that Clearview is a loving church, praying church, singing church, going church but we have yet to be a giving church. I hear all kinds of excuses:

–       “Tithing is Old Testament” – Abraham gave a tithe way before Moses ever gave the Ten Commandments. In fact, in the NT, tithing is just the starting point!

–       “Just cause I don’t give doesn’t mean I don’t love Jesus”—Like the bumper sticker: “Honk if you love Jesus.” I heard of another one—“Tithe if you love Jesus.  Any fool can honk.” When John Wesley would visit his congregations he would often ask his assistants about their progress in the faith. He would often ask if their Christianity had affected their pockets. That is the real test of what we believe. We have yet to love God with our wallets.

–       “I would if I had some extra”—God instituted tithing to teach us that it all belongs to Him and that we are to give back a portion of what He has given us. It’s like the father who buys French Fries for his son. Then just like fathers do. He reaches over to take one and the little boy slaps his father’s hand. “Don’t touch my French fries!” Now the father knows that he bought the fries. He could take all of them. He could get angry with his son. He could throw them in a trashcan. He could do anything he wanted to with those fries. The problem is that his son is selfish. That is the same way with us when we refuse to give God our tithe. We slap God’s hand and say, “Don’t touch my money!”

–       “I give what I can”—You are to tithe on your gross not on your net. When you tithe on your net, you are in essence saying that the government not God gets the “first fruit” of our increase. If you are throwing in $5—are you only making $50 per month? I give $50; are you only making $500 a month?

Application: This is a tough message but it is desperately needed. Are we stealing from God? Are we playing safe? Are you hiding behind someone else’s giving?

III. EVERYONE BENEFITED FROM GIVING.

73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities. 

Background: Because the people gave financially, the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt. Stability, peace, security, and prosperity returned to the nation. Their enemies realized that the Jewish people were back in control and they were afraid to attack them and vandalize their cities and their properties. What’s more? When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.” Not only did they build the wall in record time but they also repopulated their original cities in record time! Just in time for the Feast of the Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of the Tabernacles. Isn’t that amazing?! Everything was a testimony to the hand of God upon His people.

When we give faithfully, God does things with our tithes and offerings that are way beyond our imagination. We get much more than we bargained for.

For e.g. The first check that Nicole writes in our home is the tithe check. Does it get tight sometimes? Yes it does. It is a sacrifice but God wants us to feel the pain when we give to Him. It is a reminder of the pain that the Father felt when He gave His Only Son to die on the cross for our sins. But every month God meets our needs in amazing ways. He always has. Not only that but He takes what we give back to Him and He multiplies it much much more.

How awesome it is to see God turning our community around and changing the hearts and minds of men and women, boys and girls!

Two decisions:

1. Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

2. Is in charge of your finances?

Corrie Ten Boom said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

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