Friday, 4 September 2015

Understanding Tithes and Righteousness (tzedakah)

Weekly Thoughts

 Self-centered/Righteous? #4 (Giving Tzedakah)

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Based on a 50 minute visitation with the Lord and unlocking key elements in the Word, this teaching totally upended all John thought he knew about holiness, and it changed his life. Most people think holiness is a sect involving long hair and dresses, no make up, and a generally bland life, but in fact it is simple and core to our being. Rather than rules and regulations, understanding holiness is actually the key to walking in love and learning to live from the inside out. (2 cd/MP3, $12/set or MP3 $10)

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Hi all,
I've been talking about tzedakah, often translated as 'righteousness' in our Bibles, and how tzedakah in Hebrew culture and the Bible is both vertical AND horizontal. Tzedakah states for a person to be right with God vertically he must also be right with his fellow man 'horizontally'.  
Giving and tzedakah
The word tzedakah means righteousness, but it so emphasizes the horizontal it is oftentranslated as almsgiving, giving, or charity. Such is the importance of righteousness, that it also means 'giving to others'.
Think of that contrast for a minute - we've been taught in traditional church that righteousness means 'right standing with God', but the very word of tzedakah means 'giving to others' which is a natural part of the flow from a person in right standing with the Father. 
Contrast why people give money, skills, talent, resources
In modern church culture people sometimes give to get - whether 100 fold return or trying to bribe or manipulate God as a means of meeting their need. Sometimes people give to remind Him they have a need and it is urgent. We've been told to "plant a seed, give to get, and God will help, you bet."
Relatively rare is the person who gives purely out of love of God and appreciation for the work of ministry someone is doing, with no return expected. That is where the true blessing is. The Rabbi's noted the same human nature in their day, and stated the most pure form of giving is to help bury the dead, for that is the one way of giving there is guaranteed no way for a person to get something back from them, lol. I prefer to say "giving is its own reward".
In tzedakah giving is a natural outflow of our right standing before God as a way of life, not an event. In Jesus' day it was taught that people who received alms - the lepers, the lame, the blind, the widows, the Levite's and priests - were expected to take from what they received and give part of it to someone else in need, so the cycle of giving and receiving in Israel never stopped, but made a big circle.
The tithe of the Old Testament was actually in 4 parts over the course of 6 out of 7 years: First fruits, First tithe, Tithe of the tithe, and Second tithe. There were no tithes given in year 7.
In years 1, 2, 4, 5, the Second tithe was taken to Jerusalem and offered to the Lord in the temple, and then taken back and eaten by the people who brought it, in a big party inviting all the poor, immigrants, Levite's, and priests to come and eat*. On years 3 and 6 that Second tithe didn't get taken to the temple, but stayed within the community, the party being for the local people only. Deuteronomy 14:22-29, 15:1-11
The First fruits once offered to the Lord in the temple went for the priest's consumption, and the first tithe went to them and the rest of the Levites. Then the Levites gave their tithe from that to the priests, and their second tithe was then given to the people. The priests and Levites were considered to be on the same level as the poor as they weren't allowed to own businesses and could therefore expect support from the people they served, but they also tithed on the tithes they received, back to the people - so you see it all moved in a big circle back to the people.
That means tithing and giving was never to support a huge structure and bureaucracy, but has always been for the direct support of God's people, including ministers.  
In Acts 2 through 6 we see people giving among themselves and to leadership to the point there were no needs in their midst, similar to the above - everyone who came up short on their obligations had their needs met by others - but when the church moved out of homes and into the auditorium in the 300's AD, it turned the relationships with people into relationships with buildings and programs.
Accountability therefore in the auditorium is measured by attendance, giving, and volunteering, while accountability in the healthy, family based churches that meet in homes, is as Jesus stated - if your brother has an issue with you, go to him and settle it. It is that simple, but requires maturity and love of all.
Understanding tithing and tzedakah
Unfortunately in some streams of the faith tithing has been given equal importance or even greater than water and Holy Spirit baptisms and the Lord's Supper. God relates to us through the blood of Jesus, not our bank accounts. You aren't cursed at giving 9.99% and suddenly become blessed at 10.01%.
The tithe isn't even taught in the New Testament letters because the NT was written by apostles doing home church and writing to people in home church, therefore giving all they had as needs arose governed by love and respect was how they lived. Christ is in you, so you and He have to get together and decide how you are to give money and to whom; resources, talents, skills, time, and to whom. You and He get together. The NT is all about Christ in you, the hope of glory. So talk to Him about it.
It is very clear that givers, those who give as a matter of lifestyle as a natural outflow of their tzedakah - righteousness - are blessed with what is, having lived in it for decades, a covering of protection and timing that non-givers don't have. When you live a lifestyle of tzedakah you'll find you'll give way more than 10% and not even keep track - because it is your lifestyle!
Jesus said those who give will have it given back to them*, and Paul said givers 'have all grace abound' in their lives, and have their giving multiplied*. Besides all that, Paul said it is right that if ministers share spiritual things which are the highest truths, then those who receive those truths should give back (lower creation) material things*. Luke 6:38, II Corinthians 9:8-11, I Corinthians 9:7-14.
In my "Through Jewish Eyes" series I even mention a term used by the Lord in Isaiah 40:1-3 that is directly connected to tzedakah as it relates to giving to others: "Comfort, comfort to my people says the Lord. Speak words of comfort to Jerusalem and announce to her that her warfare is finished, that her iniquity is pardoned: For she has received of the Lord's hand double for her sins. The voice of one who cries in the wilderness; Prepare the way of the Lord..."
To our ears, not understanding tzedakah as it relates to giving, speaking comfort to Jerusalem because she has received double for her sins because her iniquity is pardoned, is not understood.
The custom of righteousness being demonstrated by giving is seen in 'receiving double'. If a person was bankrupt before the year of release, they would write down on papyrus all their debts with a total amount, and tack that paper to their front door or gate in the hopes someone with one of the tithes mentioned above, would take some or all of their tithe and pay off their debts. If they did so they doubled up the paper and sealed it with their seal, marking the debt paid in full. It was called 'receiving double' for their debts. 
What the Lord says in Isaiah 40:2 is to speak comforting words to Jerusalem because her iniquity has been pardoned, because she has received of the Lord's hand 'double' for her sins. He is the Person who gave of His own resources to pay their debt, directly linking righteousness to giving.
He paid out of His own 'pocket' so to speak, our debts. Not because He wanted something, not because He had needs, but because He IS righteous, and that is why He gave. Vertical and horizontal.
In this series I've explained why it is impossible for a true disciple, not just a believer, but a disciple, to be continually self-focused, self-centered. To be righteous before God one must also be righteous within relationships with others. It is by our love they will know us. That isn't love held silently and secretly in our hearts for others, but love demonstrated to others. That is tzedakah - righteousness.
New series next week...until then...blessings!
John Fenn and email me at

Sunday, 23 August 2015

John Fenn

Come Join Us

September – planning a Florida trip the 24-30, details later, but if you want to host a meeting let me know.

October 13-20; visiting affiliates in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine.

Contact me at for information.

New Products
(2 CD's $15 or MP3 $5 each)
Based on a 50 minute visitation with the Lord and unlocking key elements in the Word, this teaching totally upended all John thought he knew about holiness, and it changed his life. Most people think holiness is a sect involving long hair and dresses, no make up, and a generally bland life, but in fact it is simple and core to our being. Rather than rules and regulations, understanding holiness is actually the key to walking in love and learning to live from the inside out.

Hi all,
During my ‘dream’ series on my Weekly Thoughts I shared how the Lord described a process over the next 2 years of economic turmoil affecting the whole world. Since then China devalued their currency and our stock market has seen wild swings. But the Father’s economy is not affected by the world, and as He has provided and proven Himself in times past, so will He in the future for each of us.

Yesterday Chris and I were running errands, including taking some things to the local dump/recycle station, and when we pulled in there were 3 firetrucks attending to a fire in a large semi-truck (large lorry) size dumpster.            

Chris just ‘happened’ to have a toy firetruck on his lap he had insisted on bringing with us that morning, which he’s never done before – one of those you can push a button and it has a siren and the sounds of firemen calling to each other over a radio. So he had his siren and lights going to match the trucks…I sat amazed at the Lord’s care for him.            

We were both thankful that ‘the Lord loves firetrucks too’ and I was blessed how He orders our steps, unknown to either of us a harmless fire in a dumpster happened just when Chris and I were headed there, providing an afternoon’s entertainment for Chris.            

Unconsciously led One of the biggest factors of that day is that Chris was unconsciously led to grab THAT firetruck from the house to bring with us. Chris has literally hundreds of cars, trucks, planes, and busses ranging from the small “Matchbox” metal cars to larger metal cars – all sitting in a big blue plastic bucket.            

He always brings a Matchbox (small metal) car of “Lightning McQueen” from the ‘Cars’ movies, and always his larger number 12 NASCAR metal car, but he just grabbed the plastic firetruck that morning for some reason.            

Look for ways you are unconsciously led of the Lord to do things, to go a certain direction, to encounter this or that – remembering most of Jesus’ miracles were interruptions to what He was doing. Today we get so wrapped up in what we are doing we forget to look for divine coincidences or divine interruptions to our schedule. We may not be unexpectedly called upon to turn water into wine at a wedding reception, nor called upon to miraculously feed 5,000 after an especially long day, but we may meet someone who needs a kind word, a prayer right there on the spot, or healing physical or emotional.            

I’ve seen these little coincidences referred to as times God ‘winks’ at us to let us know He is ultimately in charge, caring, and arranging our steps.            

One of the ‘required’ elements of a person’s heart is thankfulness. Romans 1:21 describes people who see God in nature yet refuse to honor Him as Creator and ‘neither were they thankful’. Psalm 100:4 says we “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, into His courts with praise.” Thanksgiving is required ‘at the gates’ before coming into His presence.

In I Thess 5:18 it says to give thanks IN all things, not FOR all things; I’m never thankful for what the devil does, but am thankful in all things. In many of Paul’s letters he expresses thanks for those he is writing to, and urges them to be thankful.

A heart that looks for things to be thankful for opens the door to communion and fellowship with the Father and Lord. For years, one of the first things I have done each morning is find something to express thanks to the Father – often it is the sunrise, sometimes saying thanks that Chris is sleeping in just a little longer than normal, often for something from the previous day or expected event of that day – but I find something to be thankful for, and when you do that you’ll find you will notice throughout the day how He has ordered your steps and provided for you in ways only His imagination could devise and time.

Remember, He lives inside us, so look down inside, in your spirit for His presence- it feels like peace and warmth- and hold onto what that communion with Him feels like, and let thanks and worship pour out of you in a conversational way throughout the day.  

House church and leadership thoughts            
In the first century words that are today known as nouns and seen on business cards and advertisements for churches or ministers, were originally verbs – action words describing function in the body of Christ.            

An apostle is a ‘sent one’, and technically speaking, one who has seen the Lord and has notable miracles in which the Lord has used them. A prophet was ‘someone who speaks divine utterances’, national and international in scope, as well as nature-related events, not just simple prophecy described in I Corinthians 14:3 as an inspired word to someone of ‘edification, exhortation, or comfort’. A teacher ‘taught divine truth’ and a pastor ‘tended to flocks’ while an evangelist ‘heralds good news’.            

Today these action words have become nouns, titles, and something seen on business cards, and in front of names on Facebook, as if ‘Apostle’ or ‘Prophet’ is their first name. Yuck, run don’t walk to the nearest exit! It is for that reason we don’t use ‘titles’ in CWOWI, for action words are to describe function in the body of Christ, not a noun announcing who a person is.  

We are all equal in Christ, saved by the same blood, but have different functions. Therefore humility and approachability and ‘being real’ are hallmarks of people who function as true apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, helps, governments, ministries of special tongues, healings, miracles, etc.  

And so it is we come to the word ‘elder’. It is the Greek word ‘presbuteros’, meaning ‘old man’. In that culture it described someone who had life experience, had strong moral character, and had a heart to tend the people of God. Those 3 elements are action words describing function – not a noun describing a person, and it is also clear in the pages of Paul’s letters that many women were recognized as elders.            

I’ve seen 8 year olds who are elders among other children; those children mature in their life experience thus far, mature for their age in moral character, and have a heart to tend to the people of God – among their own peer group. I’ve seen 17 years old who were elders among other teens. When Paul wrote Timothy descriptors of elders and deacons (those who serve) his qualifications were character, and the quality of their home life. He said nothing about if they moved in the gifts of the Spirit, or if they had any other function in the body of Christ. It was all about character and their relationships.            

Paul was talking to elders from Ephesus in Acts 20: 17, 28-30 and describing their hearts and functions, but then cautioned them that after he left there would be 2 categories of people who would harm the people: Wolves who come in from the outside with ulterior motives, to ‘devour’ the sheep, and those who would arise from within with ulterior motives to draw away people after them.            

These 2 cautions therefore reveal the exact opposite of what an elder is: They are not wolves and they will not draw people away to themselves, but will in fact always point people to Jesus.            
A wolf is someone who preys on others, has their own agenda, and has ulterior motives for entering into a relationship with someone. That is the opposite of someone who has the heart and integrity of an elder. An elder is easily identified as those of strong moral character, eager to point others to Jesus while deflecting efforts to put them ‘on a pedestal’. These people ARE interested in helping people along the discipleship process, and helping them with practical matters of life. They know they are under the authority of Jesus and so have a healthy fear of God which keeps relationships just where they should be in Christ. Look for function, not titles.  

I am way behind in phone calls to those of you who write your phone number on the offering envelopes with their prayer requests, but know that what I do is take a photo of your prayer requests/phone #, and then scroll through my phone through the day at quiet moments – even at stop lights sometimes- to pray for you, keeping them for 1 year or until I hear otherwise from you. I’m still praying for B from last December about melanoma, for instance. I say that not to say ‘look at me’, but just to let you know we aren’t some big ministry where those who donate or send in prayer requests just become a computer number. You matter, and your gifts and prayer support mean a lot to us.   We always give thanks for you!

        John and Barb

New cd/MP3 series: 
(2 CD's $15 or MP3 $5 each)
Based on a 50 minute visitation with the Lord and unlocking key elements in the Word, this teaching totally upended all John thought he knew about holiness, and it changed his life. Most people think holiness is a sect involving long hair and dresses, no make up, and a generally bland life, but in fact it is simple and core to our being. Rather than rules and regulations, understanding holiness is actually the key to walking in love and learning to live from the inside out.

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PO Box 70
Mounds, OK 74047

Righteousness---Pastor John Fenn

Hi all,
Shortly after the USSR fell apart, I led a team to the city of Ekaterinburg, a city of over 1 million people sitting astride the Ural Mountains over 1,000 miles (1600km) east of Moscow, to help start a church. Over the course of the week we went to the main train and bus station to hand out advertisement about the meetings where I would be sharing the gospel. Those were innocent days that were too short-lived. 

Their sudden exposure to the west brought confusion concerning fashions and a desperate effort to catch up. Having no context to set the decades of western styles in proper order, people would often wear clothing from various decades all at once: One man was wearing bell bottom jeans from the late 1960's with a pastel linen jacket from the early 1980's "Miami Vice" era (US TV show) topped by a baseball cap with an American team's emblem on it. One young woman was wearing a 1960's mini-skirt with old work boots and a woman's jacket from a polyester pants suit and had the big hair style of the 1980's.

It was all very sweet and innocent, and I was deeply touched by the hearts of the Russian people and their rich culture. I baptized about 400 people who had believed on the Lord that week and cherish those days.

I've been talking about the Jewish understanding of righteousness, tzedakah in Hebrew, because tzedakah says if a person has right standing before God they will live that rightness in a flow outward to their fellow man. Church culture teaches right standing with God, while leaving off the (horizontal) flow to our neighbor.

But, if all we understand is the vertical, we can be like the crowd at the bus station where no one had the context to understand how each decade of style fit together. They could not be sure what to identify themselves with, and I see many Christians like that. Whe have Christians wearing 'streams of the faith' styles from many decades all together, having no context to establish to Whom they belong, therefore they seek an identity with some movement to prove their walk with God.

Someone may clothe themselves with the intercessor movement of the 1990's like a jacket, while wearing doctrinal shoes ready to walk through the Tribulation, with spiritual pants trying to relive the Toronto blessing. Or, they can wear the 'pre-tribulation rapture' hat with the inner healing coat and have their feet shod with the cowboy boots of simple church. But no matter the 'spiritual clothing' they cover themselves with for others to see, it is still all about them and their lives in a self-centered faith.

Why Jesus healed
Jesus' life in the gospels was living tzedakah as a flow of being right before the Father, and therefore He did healings and miracles as evidence of His righteousness - not just to prove who He was, - but as evidence His life was righteous and what He said about the Father was right and people could therefore believe in Him.

Acts 10:38 says "...How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power
(vertical), who went about doing good and healing (horizontal) all that were oppressed of the devil."

Today the fact Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power and went about doing good is lost on us. Many want to have a greater anointing which they equate with a personal breakthrough or answered prayer or bigger ministry, but no one ever says they wanted to be anointed as Jesus was, to go about doing good.

Jesus did not go about 'doing good' trying to brand Himself as the newest product from heaven, He went about doing good because He IS good. And so is the Father. When He said He is meek and lowly in heart, He was telling the truth. He is meek and lowly because the Father is first meek and lowly.

When He turned water into wine He didn't advertise the fact but let the groom and bride receive the honor. Did you get that? Jesus though the Son of God in the flesh, allowed an unamed bride & groom receive the credit and honor for the wine. Sometimes He would tell people not to tell anyone when He healed them. Those are His values. That is His humility. That is how He expressed tzedakah - righteousness.

In John 9 we have the healing of a man born blind that illustrates the Jewish understanding of righteousness being vertical AND horizontal. The man is brought before the rulers who had already stated in v24 they believed Jesus was a sinner. The blind man answered in v30-33 with his statement of tzedakah:

"Now we know that God doesn't hear sinners, but if any man is a worshipper of God ANDdoes His will, him will He hear. Since the beginning of the world it has not been heard that any man has opened the eyes of one born blind. So if this man were not of God, He could do nothing." 

Why have we been given the name of Jesus?
Healing and the things of the Spirit therefore aren't side-show attractions at the Christian Carnival, with people gathering to see a leg grow out or go to a meeting to see the latest 'manifestation' where God allegedly turns people into blathering idiots, causes them to bark like a dog, or shake like a leaf in the wind.

NO! Healing is part of God the Father's own tzedakah (right-ness), that He pours out to us because He is righteous. And in the flow of living water from the throne from Him through us*, that righteousness is to be demonstrated and proven by healing acts of love towards our fellow man! *Revelation 22:1; John 7:38-39

Last week I was on a flight after visiting the Seattle/Vancouver Island/Vancouver areas. When I was seated I noticed the flight attendant holding her finger to her left ear. She kept rubbing her left ear, and I asked the Father if He wanted to heal her as clearly something was wrong. When I got the chance I asked if she was okay, and she said when the cabin door had opened after the previous flight there was a jet next to them that started its engines at that moment, and the sudden loud noise made her deaf in that ear.

I started to offer to lay hands on her but she dismissed my concern before I could ask outright to lay hands on her, quickly turning away to attend to preparations for take off. So I prayed this, "Father, I know every good and perfect gift comes down from you to us, and she is just doing her job and sustained this injury, would you touch her and heal her out of your mercy and because I'm asking you to?"

About 10 minutes later she walked down the aisle past me and I asked how she was doing, and she said, "It went back to normal just like that! Thanks for asking"...and I smiled in my heart at the Father's goodness, and the expression of tzedakah I was able to be part of.  

Today we have 'healing evangelists' who make a great show of what they do. Today we have people who run to this meeting and that looking for the spectacular, thinking that is supernatural. Today we have people flocking to 'revival centers' where they think God is concentrating His presence, so they pick up their ear plugs at the door for what is called 'worship', and wait to see who will flop, shake, rattle and roll as a sign God is in their midst. And He graciously does what He can to meet people where they are, but there is a better and higher way...

We have been given the name of Jesus not to make a show, but to change people's lives where they live, as discreetly as Jesus turned water into wine and kept quiet*, as nonchalantly as miraculously reattaching Malchus' ear* after Peter had cut it off, as graciously as healing Peter's mother in law so she could attend to her guests.* What we find in house church is that most of the gifts of the Spirit operate outside the meetings, in day-to-day life, just as we see in Matthew through Acts. It is a Biblical understanding - God lives in people, not in temples made with hands* and it is within those relationships tzedakah is best demonstrated. (John 2, Luke 22:50-51, Mark 1:30-31, Acts 17:24)

Let us remove the 'spiritual clothing' from the various streams which cause us to be self-focused, and start living our right-standing with the Father as He intended, in a flow outward in tzedakah (righteousness) alleging and proving He is good and Jesus is His Son, with evidence to support those claims by our own lives, and the good He does through us.

Next week; Understanding marriage/divorce/adultery/remarriage in tzedakah

        John Fenn and email me at

New CD/MP3 Series
Based on a 50 minute visitation with the Lord and unlocking key elements in the Word, this teaching totally upended all John thought he knew about holiness, and it changed his life. Most people think holiness is a sect involving long hair and dresses, no make up, and a generally bland life, but in fact it is simple and core to our being. Rather than rules and regulations, understanding holiness is actually the key to walking in love and learning to live from the inside out. (2 cd/MP3, $12/set or MP3 $10)

John's Schedule

September – planning a Florida trip the 24-30, details later, but if you want to host a meeting let me know.

October 13-20; visiting affiliates in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine.

Contact me at for information.

Just a word about our On-line Video Bible School - these classes, so far; Old Testament I & II, Righteousness and Our Authority in Christ - are a go-at-your-own-pace, no test, investment in your own faith and understanding of the Word and Lord. Once registered, your password is good for a whole year so you can take your time, but as I'm hearing from students, once they start they have a hard time stopping! Each class is about 45-55 minutes long, so they are in easy to receive segments...consider investing in a deeper study of the things of God!

The Church Without Walls International
PO Box 70
Mounds, OK 74047

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