Monday, August 1, 2022

What Must be Freely Given?


VIDEO: What Must be Freely Given?

We know that God has instructed through the Holy Spirit that everything Agape Christian Fellowship provides is to be freely given, because this is His way. One of the hardest teachings we come across as we do the Courts of Heaven (CoH) Academy is the challenge to separate ourselves from a global church system where the ‘normal’ these days is to charge upfront for what belongs to and comes from God. 

This includes: 

  • Copyright worship music 
  • Teachings and revelation, including seats in a conference, and classes
  • Prayer, counselling, and personal ministry

The reason why many find it difficult to accept this teaching is that this is opposite to the way most of the body of Christ has been operating. Charging for things in the church has been introduced and has increased greatly over the last 50 years. For most of us, it’s the only way we've seen the church operate. People have been so indoctrinated by a church culture, where you pay upfront for the things of God, that many just accept it as God's way of doing things.

However, just because the majority do it a certain way doesn’t make it right. The only true measure of what is right is considering how it stands up against the word of God. Truth has never been about following the majority. In fact the Bible says:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.   (Matthew 7:13 BSB)  

So blindly following the majority is not always a good idea! 

Many Christians will argue that the songwriters, authors, teachers, ministers, etc. deserve payment for their time. It is important to note that we don’t disagree with that, for the Bible states: 

"You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The labourer deserves his wages." (1 Timothy 5:18 ESV)

In that verse “the laborer deserves his wages” (or reward/compensation) it is referring to those in ministry. However Jesus doesn’t want His Bride operating under the world's business model, but rather under God's biblical model.

Most of us are familiar with Matthew 10:8 where Jesus commands his disciples “freely you’ve received – freely give.  The ESV translates it very clearly:   

And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. (Matthew 10:7-8 ESV)

Jesus sent the disciples out to minister to people – healing, teaching, and deliverance from spiritual bondage. He is very specific, telling them just as you received all of this from me at no cost (ie. received without paying), likewise you are to freely give to others (ie. give without pay).    

But why does God want all ministry to be free?

 1. God is a generous God

And we as the church are meant to reflect the nature and character of God. 

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  (Isaiah 55:1 ESV)

We know these represent spiritual items, the Holy Spirit, the living water, the milk of the Word etc. Just as salvation (the most valuable gift) is free, likewise every aspect of God's kingdom is also to be free i.e. you can come without money as it is without price.

2.  The Church is meant to be set apart from the world

In the Book of John, Jesus talks about us being “in this world but not of it.” In other words, God's people don’t operate under the same principles as the world system but rather, the ways of God's kingdom.

In fact, often the kingdom of God functions the exact opposite of the world's ways. 

World  - the greatest is the person at the top

Jesus -  the greatest among you shall be your servant


World – look after number one (yourself)

Jesus – whoever loves his life will lose it


World – It’s more blessed to receive

Jesus – It’s more blessed to give than to receive

Unfortunately, rather than being a point of difference and a testimony to a fallen world, the church has, in many places, embraced the world's business model for finances rather than God's ways. The business model of the world is that you pay for your goods upfront.

  • If you go shopping you pay first before you can take the goods.
  • If you want a job done, you agree first on the price before you get it done.

That’s normal business. God's system is the opposite. You receive the ministry first, in whatever form that comes. There is no charge, no agreed price, no obligation or debt. Then, the person receiving the ministry gives back in response, whatever God puts on their heart to give.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)

(Paul says)  If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? (1 Corinthians 9:11 ESV)

The point here is in the kingdom of God, you sow before you reap. Not the other way around.

For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17 NKJV)

Peddling - comes from the Greek word kapéleuó: which means ‘to make a trade of’

Commonly used: to trade in, deal in for purposes of gain. 

Thayers NT Greek lexicon (defines kapeleuo)

To be a retailer, to peddle. To make money by selling anything, to do a thing for base gain e.g. an inn-keeper, wine merchant, a petty retailer, a huckster. 

Helps NT word studies

Defines the word in context as – To act as a unscrupulous merchant ie. a huckster who profits by peddling the word of God. Of people marketing the ministry for personal gain.

In summary, the word peddle means ‘to make a trade’ i.e. I will give you something IF you give me something in exchange. Can you see how far removed that is from the command of Jesus to ‘freely give”?

All genuine ministry for the Lord cannot have an advanced price tag to pay before the ministry is given. Why? Because then it is no longer ministry, but commerce, trade, employment or entertainment. 

Can you imagine what a difference there would be in the world if the church was obedient in this area?

Most people have heard the phrase “oh the church just wants all your money.” Unfortunately there's a lot of truth in this – as in some areas the church has been guilty of running more like a business than a ministry.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:2 & 7 that leaders are to be above reproach and to have a good reputation even with those outside the church. What should have been an amazing testimony of generosity, trust, faith and unconditional love by giving everything freely has instead become an area of attack and bad reputation in the world's eyes.

And we will see further through the following scriptures that God is not happy with this.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-13 ESV)

The account of Jesus in the temple the most well known record of Jesus getting angry that we have in the Bible. It occurred near the end of His ministry and it was clear He didn't want His Father’s house in any way associated with money dealings or mammon. What most don’t realize is that it was actually the second time Jesus cleared the temple. Jesus also clears the temple right at the start of his ministry as recorded in John chapter 2. When Jesus does something twice we need to take extra note! After the first incident Jesus states 

To those selling doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!”  (John 2:16 ESV)

The phrase ‘marketplace’ is from the Greek word emporion. This means a trading place or market-house. Jesus is clear here that he does not want the world's system of commerce operating in his church.

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV)

Imagine if this occurred in the time of the disciples: Paul is with the Corinthians having a wonderful time of worship.

Paul - “Wow that’s a great hymn to worship our Lord. I’m on my way to the Thessalonian church. I’ll share it with them.” 

Corinthians - “Sure, no worries. We’ll just put our copyright on it.  Please make sure they pay us a fee before they sing the song or there could be legal issues.”

Imagine what Paul would say!! I don’t believe he would be at all happy with such an ungenerous, controlling response. 

Yet, we see this kind of thing going on now in the church and we think it's just normal.

During COVID-19, churches began live-streaming services over YouTube, including some services with worship. YouTube algorithms began shutting down services because they were violating broadcasting rights on these Christian songs! 

Here is another scenario from Acts 8:

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John.. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14,17-19 ESV)

Now here. Simon offers money upfront in order to receive prayer. On the outside this kind of looks okay. Simon is following the apostles around; he seems to want to learn God’s ways and the Bible does say “eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

If Simon asked this of the church today, I wonder what the response would be? 

Many may say, “Okay Simon, you're giving a faith offering (or sowing a faith seed) - we’ll lay hands on you!” But look at Peter’s response: 

But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. (Acts 8:20-21 ESV)

Note Simon's sin here was not charging for the things of God. He's on the opposite side of the transaction! His sin was that he was going to pay for it, like commerce. Immediately Peter corrected Simon and warned him there would be consequences if he continued in that mindset, and that he needed to repent. 

An Old Testament example. Micah 3 tells of how Israel's leaders have turned away from God’s ways and were leading His people towards destruction.

Then I said: “Hear now, O leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel. Should you not know justice?” (Micah 3:1 BSB)

The prophet addresses a number of areas where they have gone astray, but we see in verse 11 that he brings this charge against them: 

Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD, saying, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster can come upon us.” Therefore, because of you, Zion will be ploughed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, and the temple mount a wooded ridge. (Micah 3:11-12 BSB) 

Here we have the leaders – teachers and prophets at every level – charging for the things of God. Note they say they are doing nothing wrong! 

V.11  “Her priests teach for a price” 

Price - comes from the Hebrew word mechir (mekkeer): which means “price, hire”

The same word is used in this verse:

Also Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and Keveh; the king’s merchants bought them in Keveh at the current price. (1 Kings 10:28 NKJV)

That same word ‘price’ (Hebrew word mechir) is here used for buying horses. Obviously in buying horses, a commercial trade is happening. 

This same word/description is applied to the priests. They are guilty of operating just like the world.  

The same word mechir is used again here:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. ( Isaiah 55:1 ESV) 

God lays out here that His system is without ‘price.’ Yet Israel, just like so many of today's churches, had disregarded God's way and taken on the world’s way. There was grace for a season, but God tells Israel very clearly that judgment is coming, destruction is coming.

I was speaking with another Christian about this and they didn’t agree. So I asked them to show me one place in the Bible – anywhere over the thousands of years of church history where things were charged for upfront. They couldn’t. Yet there are many scriptures where we can show the opposite, where it is not God’s way.     

In July 2020, Lynn Hardy brought a prophetic word from God about a coming correction/judgment to the body of Christ in this area (similar to how the prophet Micah brought the warning discussed earlier). This is class 401-9 in the CoH Academy called ‘God's Way.’ It's about the need to be separate from churches that are under the influence of a Jezebel spirit, and that this spirit has infiltrated churches through compromise, especially in the area of charging for the things of God including worship music.

As a confirming sign that this message was indeed from God, it included a prophecy that the very next month “the waves south of San Francisco will break out over the barriers.”

This city’s name means Saint Francis, who was guilty of selling his father’s things which didn’t belong to him, just like churches have been guilty of selling our Heavenly Father’s things. That is the reason the prophecy was linked to that location.

Lynn said, “I believe this is going to happen next month in August of 2020. The Lord has said this first correction will be gentle. There would be little loss of life.”

A lot of prophecies can be very vague with room to move – like “God’s going to bring revival in the east next year.”

We need to consider that this prophecy is very specific. 

  1. Time-specific – next month, August 2020.
  2. Location-specific – south of San Francisco.
  3. Event-specific – waves from the ocean break over barriers.
  4. Outcome-specific – little loss of life. 

The chances of all this coming to pass in the natural would be a huge coincidence, one in millions. This was also streamed live online on YouTube, including Lynn saying “thus saith the Lord.” If it didn’t happen, she would lose a lot of credibility as a prophetic voice.  

The very next month on August 27th, hurricane Laura crossed the coast inundating the states of Louisiana and Texas.

In Lynn’s follow-up message titled ‘Fall of Church Leaders - Confirming Sign’ (this class is in the 401 Removing Charges section in the Academy), she shares how this prophecy was fulfilled with Laura breaking many barriers, including physical and metaphorical ones.

As I was reviewing this, it really stood out to me just how literally this prophecy was fulfilled. I’ll summarize this and add a few facts about the waves, which were not yet available at the time of Lynn’s previous message. 

1. Time  – Hurricane Laura occurred August 27th 2020.

2. Location – Laura crossed the coast at Cameron, about one degree south of nearby San Francisco, Texas.

3. Event – Laura sent waves breaking over barriers.

What are the barriers to the waves? 

In the Book of Jeremiah chapter 5, the prophet is declaring judgment to the people of God. Interestingly, in the middle of this he points out God's ordained barrier to the sea. 

Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. (Jeremiah 5:22-23 ESV) 

The prophet points out here that the sand/shoreline is the barrier for the sea. According to official weather reports, hurricane Laura caused a massive storm surge of about 18 feet high (5.5m) or the height of a two-story building, which is why it was called  ‘unsurvivable’ for anyone caught in its path.  This traveled about 30 miles inland. One expert describes it this way: “This type of coastal flooding includes wave action. As coastal flood waves propagate, high water conditions on structures and land will vary. Coastal wave height flooding is created by the crest of the wave riding on top of the surge.” 

An article from a local newspaper the Daily Advertiser reads: 

A tremendous wall of seawater taller than 17 feet that moved ashore with Hurricane Laura, sweeping some Cameron Parish homes off their foundations, appears to be one of the highest storm surges ever recorded in Louisiana.

Hal Needham, who was on the ground doing field surveys after Laura, said his research shows a surge of about 18.9 feet at Rutherford Beach in Cameron Parish.

“It's historic,” Needham said. “It's a tremendous amount of water that will really be unbelievably destructive, because not only are you putting almost 19 feet of salt water above normal, but it's usually moving very fast so it can destroy houses or really anything in its way.”


-- photos –
17.1 FT AGL second story bathroom Louisiana about two miles (or three and a half km)

As you can see, the waves literally did break over the barriers!
 
4.  “Little loss of life.”

Forty-one people died from this incident in the US. Although tragic, this is a lot less than it could have been for an event of this size.

Officials said if Laura had made landfall slightly further to the east or west there could have been a much larger loss of life, citing the Galveston hurricane of 1900 that had a smaller 16 foot surge in which 6000 died.
Hal Needham said “it was a destructive surge, the silver lining here is that it happened in a more rural area." 
 
So you can see all four aspects of this amazingly specific prophecy came to pass, which God said would happen as a confirming sign of that message. 

We would be wise to pay attention to the message!

In addition to these events, there was further confirmation. On August 20, exactly one week before Laura hit, Lynn brought a follow-up message (in the 401 Removing Charges section of the Academy called ‘Loss of Anointing & Removal of Leaders’.)  In this message Lynn shares the parable of the ten virgins and a dream where the interpretation is that leaders will be removed as they have not walked correctly in God’s ways, especially in the area of charging for the things of God.

In my country, it was night time when Lynn was giving that message and my wife and I were sleeping. With no knowledge at all of the message being given, my wife had a dream about a leadership couple who are both pastors of a large global denomination that focuses on worship. At the time my wife received this dream, we were still struggling with accepting that worship music, along with other things of God, had to be all free. However, the timing of this dream, and the interpretation of it, convinced us that this was indeed from God. 


Unfortunately, worship ministry has become known as the “worship industry”. 

But can you imagine what would happen if tomorrow, all the churches suddenly started doing it God’s way? What a testimony to God it would be if these ministries, who have sold millions of albums and had many millions of paid streams, suddenly announced tomorrow that all that music was free! Free to download from their websites, and free to use in any way we like. All copyrights lifted. Likewise, all the books, teachings, courses - everything, freely available.

All they ask is that IF people are blessed by this in any way that they would give back a gift in response.
 
Imagine if the church did it God’s way - the world would be astounded.
  • They wouldn’t be able to attack the church about money. 
  • The church would gain a reputation of being incredibly generous and genuinely loving. 
  • Poorer people and nations wouldn’t be prejudiced against by not having as much money to purchase “the things of God” as richer people. 
  • Imagine the growth and fruit that would be released as the church closed the door to that spirit of mammon, control, and Jezebel.
  • The church would prosper financially as the Holy Spirit is released to move on people's hearts to respond in like generosity.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38 BSB)
It takes faith and humility to let go and do it God’s way. To us, it may not seem the smartest strategy! But remember - “God's ways are higher than ours.” When He commands us to do things a certain way, we may not understand but God has His reasons. At the end of the day, even if we don’t understand we are called to obey. That’s what faith is. Then the church can walk in God’s blessing, rather than in His correction, which is sadly playing out in the body of Christ, even now.


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