Posts Tagged ‘honoring God’

Deuteronomy 17:1

Sacrifices of Defective Animals

It so common to go to church and see people fishing through their pockets to find that crumpled up $5 bill in their pockets to put in the offering basket. So many of us give God our leftovers and not our best. And I am not just talking about obedience concerning the tithe, but that is a big part of it. We give God our what’s left of our money, our time, our talents and our resources.

 

With regard to money, most Americans live off of an average of 104% of what they make and are in deep debt. That was a description of me until several years ago when I resolved to get off the merry-go-round of debt and spending money foolishly on things that I justified that I deserved. As I have worked through paying off debts, I have made room to be obedient to God in my finances. I am now about to tithe and also give offerings above that. There was a freedom that came in that process. It taught me that I don’t have to have everything brand new, the bigger car, the bigger house, and all the toys that go with it. When we let go of those desires, we can begin to experience the freedom that God intended for us. We can be generous to our church and to the needs of people around us including our children. When we create room for obedience to God in our finances, there is trust that develops in Him to provide for us. He changes our perspective on the things that we want and need. I think that’s the biggest thing that comes from obedience to the Lord in our finances is that we have a changed perspective about money. We see it now as a tool for obeying the Lord and for helping others.

 

Have you ever been to a church meeting or chaired a meeting at church and only half the people invited show up? We honor the Lord with our time as well. When we find other things that are more important than our responsibilities at church, it defines our priorities. Just as with our money, we must create room to be obedient to God. When we look upon church responsibilities as “I will do it if I have time” kind of thing we place burdens on others. When we look at church responsibilities as optional rather than a priority then we are in essence saying to God that He is not that important to us. We must learn to give priority to things of the Lord by prioritizing it in our daily schedules.

 

There is an old saying in churches that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. This is where the talents and resources come in. Churches are desperate always for people who have talents in various walks of life. Churches are desperate to help the community around them if they only had people who would commit to and follow through on helping out with those needs brought to the attention of the churches. You have talents that your church could use right now. Many avoid volunteering at church because they don’t want to get tied down to it. That again goes to priorities.

 

This statement about not bringing defective animals for sacrifice made me think of how we shortchange God in so many different ways. Let’s read this short passage/verse together this morning:

 

17 Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him.

 

The Israelites must have been like us in that God had to lay down the law about bring defective animals for sacrifice. It was no sacrifice to bring a lame or otherwise worthless animal for sacrifice. God commanded that the Israelites bring their best to Him. That’s why it is a sacrifice. Giving up a prize animal in those days was like giving up money in the bank. God wanted to instill in the Israelites that they should give God their first and their best at all times and in everything they do.

 

There is a lesson here for us too. When we give God our leftovers in our money, time, talents, and resources, it is like bringing the worst of the flock to the temple for sacrifice. When we give our leftovers we are just trying to fit God into the array of things we worship in life. When we give Him our leftovers, we are saying to God that you are optional. You are a menu option.

 

Let us remember that God is the Creator of the universe. He knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs. He gives us the talents that we have. Then, we use those talents to provide for our families. So, everything is sourced from our Creator. Our money is His. Our time is His. Our talents are His. Our resources are His. It all comes from Him. Let us begin to place a higher priority on honoring God with our finances and with our attention to the needs of our church and our community. Let us be seen as a people who want to give God their best in everything. Excellence in everything we do for the Lord should be our aim rather than oh, it’s ok, it’s only church—it’s not like it’s my job or anything. We should want our church to be excellent rather than having to scramble to find warm bodies to fill needed positions. We should want our church to be excellent and serving the world around it rather than having to decide whether they have enough money to keep the power from being cutoff at the church. We should want to honor God through our church, through our finances, through our time, talents, and resources. No more leftovers! Let’s be excellent when it comes to God, our Creator!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 31:25-54 (Part 1 of 2)

Division of the Plunder

Lost in all the huh-bub of the election is that (1) tomorrow is Veteran’s Day and (2) Thanksgiving is just two weeks away from today. We have been so busy running up to the election and all the who, what, when, where and why that we have almost forgotten these two important holidays and we cannot forget their significance to us. We will look at the significance of both these holidays in light of the passage, Numbers 31:25-54, over this and one more blog.

 

First, tomorrow, we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. It is the day on the calendar that we celebrate both our living and dead servicemen who have made the sacrifice to serve our country. Originally, it was a holiday to celebrate the peace that came with the ending of World War I. It was call Armistice Day back then. Armistice is an expensive word, a fancy word, for peace (or the lack of conflict). It is celebrated on November 11 each year because the cease-fire that ended World War I went into effect at 11pm on November 11, 1918. So, the cease-fire went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month so it is fitting that November 11th is Veterans Day. Over the years though Armistice Day, a celebration of the end of World War I, morphed into a celebration of our brave men and women who have served our country, some of who gave their life in that effort. It was President Reagan, in 1986, who said it best when he said,

 

“Veterans Day gives all Americans a special opportunity to pay tribute to all those men and women who throughout our history, have left their homes and loved ones to serve their country. Their willingness to give freely and unselfishly of themselves, even their lives, in defense of our democratic principles has given our great country the security we enjoy today. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, through war and peace, valiant patriotic Americans have answered the call, serving with honor and fidelity.”

 

Thus, tomorrow we give honor to those who have chosen not to pursue the safe course that most of us choose. These men and women have chosen to go into service to our country knowing that at a moment’s notice they could be placed in harm’s way. They serve to protect the interests of the United States and do not question whether those interests are right or not. They just serve their country and defend our way of life. They love their country and are willing to serve. They find it a higher calling. They are willing to be away from family and friends for extended periods of time to live a life of vigilance, honor, duty and fidelity – a way of life that is bound by these characterstics, a way of life that we should employ in the non-military world. These men and women are willing to give their lives for the brothers in arms and for our country. There is no more honorable way to die than in service of defending freedom.

 

It was the willingness to sacrifice time, talents, personal resources, and their very lives that we honor on Veterans Day (when we celebrate both living and dead soldiers – whereas on Memorial Day we celebrate only those who have died). I thought of that because of the willingness to give was what I thought of here when I read through this passage as follows:

 

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the family heads of the community are to count all the people and animals that were captured. 27 Divide the spoils equally between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community. 28 From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the Lord one out of every five hundred, whether people, cattle, donkeys or sheep. 29 Take this tribute from their half share and give it to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part. 30 From the Israelites’ half, select one out of every fifty, whether people, cattle, donkeys, sheep or other animals. Give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.” 31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

32 The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 33 72,000 cattle, 34 61,000 donkeys 35 and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.

 

36 The half share of those who fought in the battle was:

 

337,500 sheep, 37 of which the tribute for the Lord was 675;

 

38 36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the Lord was 72;

 

39 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the Lord was 61;

 

40 16,000 people, of whom the tribute for the Lord was 32.

 

41 Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part, as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

42 The half belonging to the Israelites, which Moses set apart from that of the fighting men— 43 the community’s half—was 337,500 sheep, 44 36,000 cattle, 45 30,500 donkeys 46 and 16,000 people. 47 From the Israelites’ half, Moses selected one out of every fifty people and animals, as the Lord commanded him, and gave them to the Levites, who were responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.

 

48 Then the officers who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing. 50 So we have brought as an offering to the Lord the gold articles each of us acquired—armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces—to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord.”

 

51 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted from them the gold—all the crafted articles. 52 All the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds that Moses and Eleazar presented as a gift to the Lord weighed 16,750 shekels.[a] 53 Each soldier had taken plunder for himself. 54 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds and brought it into the tent of meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord.

 

Moses told the Israelites to give a portion of their war plunder to God. Another portion was to go to the people of who Israel who stayed behind. Similarly, the money we earn is not our own. Everything we possess comes directly from God because it is He who gives us the talents that we use to earn it. Thus, everything we own is the result of our ability to earn money and our ability to earn that money comes from the talents that God gave us. As a result, we should always give a share of what we earn back to God. It is a sign of thanksgiving to Him for giving us the abilities to provide for ourselves and for our families. Without God giving us our talents, that are unique to each of us, we would not be able to earn wages. Then, it is selfish and dishonoring to God not to obey His command and give a portion of it back to Him. Are you honoring God in this way?

 

Just as our military men are giving back to the country that they love by going full-on, all-in, in service to their country, so should we be willing to give back in the same way to God. Usually, to a man (or woman), each military persons says that they owe a debt of gratitude to their country so they sacrifice to serve her and are willing to defend her with their lives. What if we viewed our money in relationship to God in this way?

 

Most of tend to give only what we have left over to God rather than sacrifice our personal pleasure and give 10% or more of what we make to the Lord. We do not determine to live our lifes off on 90% or less of what we make so that we might honor God for giving us the abilities we use to earn money. What if our soldiers decided to give our country what was left over? I will serve our country when I have a little time left over in my time wallet. What if our soldiers decided to serve only when they had an extra 20 minutes in their time wallet just like how we tend to give to the Lord when we have an extra $20 bill in our money wallet?

 

Let us honor the Lord in the same way in which our fighting men and women of our military serve our country. They are being sacrificial by not choosing the easy way. They could live a life of pursuing selfish desires but, no, they live sacrificially in service to their country. They make time to serve the country that they love. They have made it a priority in their lives. In the same way, we should make giving to the Lord a priority in our lives. We should honor the God who gives us our talents. We should obey His command to give 10% or more of what we earn to the Lord. We need to learn the life of generosity rather than the life of selfishness. Our fighting soldiers give generously of their time, talents, and resources to serve our country and do so willingly. We should be giving to the Lord out of the joy of thankfulness for how He has given to us and blessed us with our talents. We should be giving to the Lord out of thankfulness for what He has done in us through our salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 21:1-4 — Yesterday, we talked about how we must rewrite Scripture to avoid shining the light of the Bible on our own shortcomings when it comes to giving unto the Lord. Today, we will talk about honoring God with our finances and trusting Him with the results.

How do we honor people in our lives? We give them awards. We give them special recognition. We give them gifts. When we do this, we are saying you are important to me. You are worthy of the praise that I am giving you. Men, how do we honor our wives? We remember anniversaries. We shower them with flowers. We also honor them by opening doors for them. We honor them by telling them that they are beautiful. We honor them by giving required answers such as, “No darling, that dress does not make you look fat!” We honor them by taking them on romantic getaways for the weekend. We honor them by providing for their needs and making them feel secure. We do so many things to honor our wives and to let them know that they are important to us.

What if? What if we gave them some flowers we found in a trash can on our way home on the day of our anniversary, or her birthday, or some other important occasions. What if for a romantic weekend getaway we gave them a weekend at a Days Inn in Duncan, SC (no offense to Duncan. I live there and I am proud of my town but its not romantic getaway place for sure). What if you went out with the boys on a Friday and showed up at home at 10:30 telling your wife that its time for your date with what time’s left in the evening? What if…? You get the picture. Giving your wife your leftover time, giving your wife your leftover gifts, giving your wife just what you can scrounge up is not the secret to a happy marriage.

I use this illustration to point out that if you wouldn’t dare to treat the lady in your life in this manner, why then do we treat God this way. He is supposed to be the most important thing in our lives. We are told to put God first in our lives. We are told to love God with all of our mind, heart, soul and strength. Our love affairs with our wives are supposed to be symbolic of the way we are in love with God. We are to love God and put Him first in our lives. We are to love God and put Him first in every aspect of our lives. We are even supposed to put Him ahead of our spouses. All of us buy into this concept. I believe it to be true. If you do not get your relationship with God right, if you don’t put Him first in everything that you do in life, none of the rest of your life works properly. None of our relationships work right when we put something above God. However, there is alway a but, as the old saying goes. Why is it that we treat God like a left over pork chop in the fridge when it comes to our finances. We rewrite Scripture so that we can ignore his command to give him a tenth of what we make at least.

We give Him the leftover $20 bill from our Saturdays out on the town. We give Him the leftover $20 from our Saturdays at Death Valley or Williams-Brice. We give Him the leftover $20 after we pay for the Jet Ski. We give Him the leftover $20 after we pay for the house that we cannot afford. You get the picture. Your wife would not stand for you just giving her hand-me-down gifts of your leftover time so why do we treat God in this way. We should shower Him with praise and no place is this more evident than giving Him praise in our finances. Let us give Him praise by arranging our lives where we live off of 90% or less of our income so that we honor Him. If you stand and give praise to the Lord and say Amen when you hear that He knitted you together in your mother’s womb, but yet say it is your talents and your money, then are saying that you do not believe that He gave you your talents. Let us praise Him with the full honor and glory that He deserves in every area of our lives. Let us give Him praise by honoring His Word and accepting all of it as valid to our lives.

Do you trust God? Apparently, most of us don’t when it comes to our finances. We feel like we are throwing our money away when we give it to God. There is no obvious benefit to it, many of us think. How can I pay for all the things that I have to pay for and still give to this black hole for which I see no return on my investment. Have you ever thought that it is all the things that you have to pay is the reason that there is this constant state of emergency when it comes to your finances. When you give to the Lord through your local church, it has nothing to do with bankrolling the pastor team’s lifestyle. It has nothing to do with funding church outreach, church programs, etc. It has everything to do with trusting God. Do you trust God enough to take Him at his Word. This is one area of life that God invites us to test Him. In Malachi 3:10, He says it. The Lord said, “”Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” He says this after He curses Israel for having robbed Him by not bringing the best of the best as an offering to Him. When have lived our lives for our things that we want and have only leftovers for God, there is a lack of trust there.

I know this for a fact in my own life. Chasing the American Dream of having what everyone else has regardless of my financial situation left me in such a bind that I could not make ends meet even when I was making good money. It wasn’t until my wife suggested that I clean my credit up and get all my debts paid off. Although it was just her concern for my credit that motivated that fateful conversation, it was the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Slowly but surely over the years we began paying off my debts and worked our way into tithing. Now, talk about a change in perspective. When we give God the first fruits of our labor, it changes your perspective on things. We no longer care if we have the finest house, finest car, we have found peace in living off much less than we make. There is peace in that. That is the blessing. It is the peace in knowing that we are obeying God. It is peace in knowing that we have never done without when we have trusted God with the tithe. It is peace knowing that we are not leaving a legacy of debt to our children. It is peace knowing that we don’t have to have the latest and greatest (because guess what, within six months it’s going to be replaced by the newest of the latest and greatest). Giving God the first fruits of your money changes your perspective toward things of God rather than things of this earth. It gives you a new perspective on helping others rather than acquiring new debt. The devil wants us broke and overextended. Because when we are broke and overextended, our mind is not on God. Our mind is not on others. We are caught up in the me factory of endless payments. We are then ineffective.

Do you trust God with your money? He invites you to honor Him with your money. He says test me in this. He says test me in obedience to His Word. Do you trust God? Do you honor God?

Luke 16:1-18 — In vv. 10-11, Jesus hits us square in the eye when he says, ““If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?”

Our integrity is often on the line when it comes to matters of money. God calls us to be honest even in the small details of life that sometimes we often ignore. If we are not trustworthy with our money, no matter how much or how little we have, we cannot be trusted with greater riches of the kingdom of God. How often do we cut corners morally when it comes to money. Nobody will know. Everybody does it. God sees how we use every dime we have. There are several ways that we show God how trustworthy we are when it comes to money. First, how do we honor God with our money. Second, how transparent are we with our money dealings. In the business world, we have to issue financial statements to our senior management and to the outside world. We have to go through year-end audits where our financial statements are picked over by the auditors to make sure that we are using our stockholders resources in a wise, efficient, legal and moral manner. What if we were required to personally issue financial statements to the outside world on a regular basis? What if we had auditors come in at the end of the year and validate our the rightness of our financial statements and the financial dealings that they represent?

First, how do we honor God with our money? In Randy Alcorn’s book, The Treasure Principle, he references a saying, “show me your checkbook. Show me what you invest in, and I’ll tell you about the depth of your spirituality.” I have also heard the saying expressed this way, “show me your checkbook and I’ll show you what you worship.” The sentiment is this is that our financial dealings are a reflection of our relationship with our Creator. If we are dishonest with our money, if we worship things more than we worship God, it is reflected in our personal financial statements. If people would create their own personal financial statements each month like most businesses do, we would see in black and white what is important to us and how we deal with others financially. If we created financial statements, would it show that you swindled a friend to make a fast buck. It would show up in your personal financial statements. There is another old saying from sports, “ball don’t lie” (meaning that a person’s true talent will come out when they get in the game). Checkbook don’t lie. Financial statements don’t lie. If we honor God with our money, our financial statements will reflect it. Cutting corners on taxes, spending money in dishonorable ways, spending money on things that are far from God, all of these things would be reflected in our personal financial statements. Let us take account of how we honor God with our money. Are we being God honoring with every dime we spend or find? Jesus says that if He can’t trust to have integrity with our worldly money, how can He trust us with the riches of the kingdom.

Second, how transparent are you with your money? When I was speaking of personal financial statements earlier, would you be willing to share them with others. Are you willing to let others see what you spend your money on. Outsiders looking at what you spend your money on. There are some husbands and wives out there that have separate checking accounts. What does this say about what they spend their money on? What does this say about their marriage? If you don’t share your finances, your checking account, with your spouse what does this say about us? Excuses are that we each have our responsibilities and we pay for them. We have debts that we brought to the marriage that the other should not have to be touched by. All of this seems a nice argument. However, it boils down to not trusting your spouse or not being willing to share what you spend your money on with your spouse. It just amazes me when spouses don’t share the basics of family finance, the checking account. What if we were required to issue personal financial statements to our spouses to view? What if you together were required to issue personal financial statements to a friend that you respect highly? What if? There is also an old saying that says, before you do something think about whether you would want your mother reading about it in a newspaper the next day. What if we thought about how we spent our money in this way? If you knew your checkbook was going to be a headline in the newspaper tomorrow would you spend it on what you’re spending it on. I am not trying to guilt anyone into to good behavior here but the point is clear, Jesus wants us to be open and transparent in our dealings with money. We should want that as an act of worship to Him. Our money, what we spend it on, should reflect integrity, honesty, morality, and be God-honoring. Our checkbooks should be an open book for the world to see, warts and all. Our dealings with others when it comes to money should reflect these same principles. Let us not go to church on Sunday and agree with the preacher when he says we should love our fellow man but yet go to work next week and screw our co-worker over to get a raise, to get more money. Let us not read this passage and agree with it and go out and sell a car to a stranger knowing full well that the transmission is about to fall out of it. Let our dealing with others financially reflect a God-honoring sense of integrity.

The love of money has sold many a man’s integrity down the river. None of us are perfect and we all have cut corners morally when it comes to money. Have you been completely honest always when it comes to money? Sometimes our pragmatic needs outweigh our morality and we fail when it comes to money. However, for the Christ follower, our integrity when it comes to money speaks to the world around us. As well, when we are dishonest with money or in dealing with others about money, the Holy Spirit should be making us feel sick to our stomach. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and we grieve Him when we are dishonest in our money dealings. Jesus tells us that He wants us to have the riches of the kingdom but He says how can I trust you when you cheat on your taxes? How can I trust you when you screw someone over to make a buck? How can I trust you when you do something immoral to get more money? Let us really pray about this issue. Our dealings with money reflect to the world who we are as Christians.

Help us Lord to think about how we act about money. Help us to honor you with our dealing with money. Help us to reflect Christian principles in how we use it, obtain it, spend it, think about it, you name it. Help us to use it as a tool that uplifts rather than destroys. Help us to use it to develop trust rather than distrust. Help us to use it to right wrongs rather than to create wrongs. Help us to use it to make the world a better place rather than a more immoral on. Help us to use it to fight injustice rather than create injustices. Help us to use it help others to lift themselves out of their situation rather than to create situations that oppress others. Help us to use it to show the love of Christ to others. Help us to honor you with it in all the ways we use it. Amen.