The heavy hand of the security guard at Tesco landed on my shoulder… (Introduction – PENNIES FROM HEAVEN!
Biblical Prosperity is for You!
Have you ever wished for a financial miracle? I have. Or even prayed for one? That was me in 1973, 1974, 1983, 1984, 2002, and 2003. Those days were difficult and challenging, and I learnt many lessons. I want to share them with you.
Have you ever felt that you were perched on the edge of a financial abyss, and could slip off into dark despair and disaster any day? That was me in 1984 and 2002. More lessons learned.
Have you ever wondered how you were going to manage, with your income barely covering your basic needs and outgoings? I was there during the years 1963 to 1968.
Have you ever been on the mountaintop of ‘no financial worries’? That just about describes my situation from 1975 to 1982, but I was probably unaware of how blessed I was, or of how my mishandling of it would lead to disaster. Another major lesson.
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The heavy hand of the security guard at Tesco landed on my shoulder, bringing my exit to an abrupt halt. “Got you”, he said, causing an immediate and intense flow of adrenaline that caused my heart to miss a beat, and then go into overdrive.
Suddenly, he was grinning. And then he started to laugh. “Remember me, don’t you?” he said. He pushed up his peaked cap. “It’s me. Ken. Surely you remember me. I went to the same church as you, Barrie”.
Ah, Ken. It had been some years now. My memory was not what it used to be – or was it just too full, after many years of meeting people, doing things, visiting places, and so forth? But, I recalled dimly, Ken liked curry… Indian… and we had dined out a few times when his marriage had failed. It was starting to come back to me. What an amazing piece of kit the human brain is!
“And I still listen to the tapes of you preaching”. And now he was grinning again. “Finance. Money. How to handle the stuff. My favourite tape of yours”.
I had preached at that church quite regularly during my 25 years there. In fact, I was one of a small team who had preached often while our numbers increased from around 25, to 100… and then 200… and then 300 and more. Quite an act of God in a small Norfolk town of around 4,000 people. I had, no doubt, on occasions covered the subject of finance. Money. Dosh. Dough. We all need it, but how do we get it? And having got it, what do we do with it? The Bible has a lot to say about it. Money and possessions are mentioned over 800 times according to Forbes.com – a company that deals with money, investment, business, etc. 800 times? – I guess the Lord is telling us that it is important, and that we need to understand the subject.
“My favourite tape”, Ken repeated. “Love ‘em. Really helpful. Honestly”.
I would have been hard pressed to tell you what was on those tapes. But it seemed that the one thing Ken was saying to me was that I knew something of what the Bible taught about money. And I always illustrated my teaching with examples from my own life. Why did he still play them? Some people might think that was rather sad, but I guess it was because he felt he was hearing God speak to him through them. Through me even.
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I may not recall what I taught during those heady days when our church was growing so fast, but I will always remember the excitement, and sense of the presence of God amongst us. No other church in the area was outgrowing buildings in the way ours was, and people seemed to come to faith in Christ almost weekly. And then, having bought a building, growth stabilised to some extent. We employed a pastor, like ‘normal’ churches did, and those of us who had preached and taught during the growth phase were deemed largely redundant in that respect.
There were occasions when a member of the old guard was asked to preach on a Sunday morning, and on one occasion I was asked to speak specifically on ‘Money’. Then it was mentioned to me that a local barrister from another denomination would be visiting us that morning, and I almost died. Money – how boring was that? What would the learnéd gentleman think of our humble congregation? “Come, Holy Spirit, and inject divine life into my preach”, I begged. I can only vaguely remember that morning and the preach, but a week or two after that, I heard that the illustrious man had visited, and had decided to join our church. Now, perhaps twenty-five years later at the time of writing (2018), he himself has a congregation of several hundred (Oh yes – he went on to leave the law and entered the ministry full time) where he is the preacher. No doubt he sometimes teaches on the subject of ‘Finance’.
But it was many years earlier when I found that I had to really study the Bible with regard to the subject of finance. I was asked to, as the church I was part of needed money. And needed it badly. Let me tell you about it.
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A church was meeting in our home in the early 70’s. Over a period of approximately two years, we grew rapidly from around eight to about seventy people, many of them in their teens and twenties. Together with two other men, I was deemed to be an elder. Well, I was relatively senior – I was twenty-nine! With so many of our congregation sitting shoulder to shoulder across the floor, we jokingly said that when one got up, they all got up, because they were stuck together in the sweaty heat. It was uncomfortably tight in our sitting room (especially for those on the floor), and so we moved to a community centre, where it was decided that someone should go into pastoral work full-time. An elder was chosen, but there were insufficient funds. Although we had little in the way of overheads (house churches should not really have much in the way of overheads), there was a surprisingly small amount in the collection each week. The answer, apparently, was for me to teach on the subject of ‘giving’. I searched the Scriptures with regard to the theme, ‘Finance in the Bible’, reading and studying what both the Old and New Testaments had to say on the subject, and then delivering a weekly series of four forty-five minute teaching sessions. After my first session – wonder of wonders – the collection doubled. It was still insufficient to support a full-time worker, but an encouraging increase. After session two, it doubled again. Amazingly, the amount given doubled after each of the four finance sessions. “Go on Barrie – give us a fifth one”, said the elder-cum-aspiring pastor. But I had exhausted all that I had learned from my studies, and so the series ended. The nominated elder left his secular employment, and worked for a number of years in the church.
Clearly, my teaching on financial giving helped propel our church into the league where there were paid ministers. But a number of years later I was again asked to speak in some depth on the ‘M’ word when I was part of a church that already had a paid minister, but wanted a paid building. So let me now tell you about that.
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It was around twenty years after the house church days that I found myself in a Wesleyan church. Ken was a member. It grew fast.
We felt we lacked integrity in remaining part of the Wesleyan denomination, as we were baptizing believers instead of infants, the baptismal font was being used as a birdbath in an elder’s back garden, the pews had been removed and made into pigpens for a local school that presumably included farming in their curriculum, and the harmonium had been replaced with guitars, saxophone and drums. We became an independent evangelical church. However, there was a problem, in that we kept outgrowing the buildings we were renting, having made an exodus from our own little chapel a couple of years earlier. So our church launched out to buy a bus station. The vendors were asking £175,000, and we had just £2,000 in our church bank account. The final cost, with renovation and refurbishing would be £435,000.
In faith, we signed the contract to buy the building. We started a ‘Bank of Jesus’ – people loaned money, but withdrew when they liked. Some later converted money from a loan to a gift. My function was as director of finance – ‘treasurer’ in most churches. I taught on finance, exhorted the congregation, attempted to motivate, and oversaw all matters financial. Some people gave jewelry. Most gave money. Some cashed in savings policies. The combination of a generous people and an amazing God saw the project completed with no borrowing from the banks or any other organisations. Not a penny. And along the way, the Lord opened up the Scriptures, and taught me so much more about finance.
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In this book, I want to tell you some of my own story, which is an adventure of lessons and miracles. I want to share with you some of the Biblical fundamentals I have learned with regard to receiving money, as well as principles concerning what we are expected to do with it. Whenever I teach or preach, I try and illustrate from my own life and experience, which gives me two problems with regard to writing this book.
Firstly, I have written autobiographically in other books; not about money and finance, and often in a rather light-hearted manner. Indeed, if you are amused by stories of people losing their false teeth down toilets and out of bus windows, or of a patient fleeing from my dental surgery and being chased through a country town by yours truly, then you might like to read my previous volumes. In this tome, though, I am concerned with the very serious matter of finance. Yet there is inevitably some overlap with my previous writings. I have written before, perhaps, of how I was led to buy a certain dental practice, or of the pain and heartbreak of divorce; in this book I consider the financial aspects of these, and other, situations we might encounter. Where there is a degree of duplication, I apologise. It has to be.
Secondly, there is a scripture that tells us that, with regard to giving, our left hand should not know what our right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3). The meaning is quite clear, in that we should not be giving, and then publicizing in order to win the praise of people. But I feel that writing from my own life and experience is generally the most helpful way of illustrating the Biblical truths that I wish to share. And so, forgive me if you feel I am wrong, but where I deem it to be useful, that is what I have done. I do not think you will praise me too much, as there is perhaps somewhat limited material to draw from in this area. Bear in mind too, that there is a cost to me in that I might be losing something of my heavenly reward (Matthew 6:1). Furthermore, and again in order to be helpful, I try to share something of my failings, as that might also enable you, the reader, to identify with me.
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I trust that I have learnt the lessons, and I can tell you with enthusiasm that I have enjoyed the miracles. But most of all, I have learnt that life is all about Jesus, who is our supply.
Read on, and may you too learn the lessons and enjoy the miracles, and know that what the Lord has done for me, he can most certainly do for you.
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The Bible says: ‘And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work’. 2 Corinthians 9:8.
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