Posts Tagged ‘sacrificial giving’

2 Samuel 24:18-25 (Part 2 of 3)
David Builds an Altar (Conclusion of 2 Samuel)

I love this passage. You see that David does not want to offer up a gift that did not cost him anything. He wanted there to be a sacrifice for him financially before he made his physical sacrifice at the altar. David for all his sins and all his mistakes raising his kids is a man who loves God. He just has it ingrained in him that he should honor the Lord in everything that he does. He just understands that God doesn’t want our leftovers. He wants our best. He wants us to honor him by foregoing personal pleasures or taking the easy way out. He could have easily taken the gift of the land but that would have been an empty offering in David’s eyes. He loved the Lord so much that he wanted there to be a sacrifice on his part, a foregoing of what he could have done personally with the funds that were used to buy the property. He wanted to honor God by using his funds to honor God instead of himself. How often do we get this wrong?

I was one of those people until about 9-10 years ago. Prior to meeting Elena, because of divorce and earthly priorities when it came to money, I had a lot of debt and poor credit. It was when we were in California, Elena and I decided then to clean up my debts and get my credit clean again so that we could live more simply and have A1 credit and begin to better be able to honor the Lord with our finances. That involved taking bonuses from Fujikura and tax refunds and paying off debts rather than blowing those gifts on vaporous things like extravagant vacations and the like. We were able in the course of about two years to get my credit cleaned and a virtually all of my non-mortgage debt paid off. Although we had begun tithing while in California, after all the debt clean up, we were able to do more and also to live more simply with less stress financially. The first check we write each pay period is our tithe check. It comes off the top. Over the years, I have seen what others say would be coincidences but when we have had a financial need since we have been tithing, there always seems to appear an unexpected amount of cash from somewhere. He provides, always. We trust Him implicitly with our money. Sure, we have to do our part and live simply and we are doggone happy with our expenses being below our income no matter what our income is. But He has always provided. We trust Him in that. He honors sacrificial giving. I promise you. He honors simple living. I promise you.

Having said all that, lets read 2 Samuel 24:18-25 for a second time today and look specifically at David’s insistence on paying for the altar site:

18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

19 So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. 20 When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver[a] for the threshing floor and the oxen.

25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

In this passage, the concluding passage of 2 Samuel, we see David demanding that he must pay for the plot of land belonging to Araunah, even though Araunah would have gladly ceded his land to his king. David refused the free gift of land, saying, “No I insisr on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” David wanted to present an offering/sacrifice to God An offering should cost the giver in terms of time, talents, energy, and financial resources. To give sacrificially requires more than a token effort or leftover gift. God wants us to give voluntarily but wants it to mean something to us. Giving to God when it is not a sacrifice to you does not require any commitment on our part.

That brings up the question, “Why should I give to God?” Giving to God in today’s world means giving to your local gathering of saints called the local church. Why should we give to God in this manner? It certainly is not to enrich God himself. He is the Creator. He can speak anything into existence so He does not need our money by any stretch of the imagination. He has no needs and is complete in and of Himself. If He decided that He needed something, He could just create it. His mission in His Creation is in no way dependent on how much you and I give to our local church.

Our giving is an act of obedience and adoration and thanksgiving to the Lord. He commands us to give Him at least the first tenth of our harvest (in today’s economy that would mean at least the first 1/10 of our income). We are to give in obedience to His commands. We are to give Him the best of what we have right off the top. We should arrange our lives so that we can be obedient in this way. But God does not want us to give as drudgery. We are to give to Him in adoration and thanksgiving for what He has done for us through salvation in Jesus Christ. We were destined for hell because of our lifetimes of sin before we laid our life bare before Jesus and asked Him to become our Savior and Lord. There is a reason to give to the Lord joyfully if no other reason. We give to God also in adoration for his care and protection and provision for us when we are His obedient children. For those who are not tithing and more, please consider this form of obedience to the Lord. Don’t do it because you have to; do it because you get to. The Lord says test me on this. If we are obedient to Him in demonstrating to Him that we give him our first and best in our finances, he will make provision for us. He will care for us. He will. It’s not something investment and get a financial return thing. It is blessing according to God’s economy. Putting God first in your finances will change your perspective on what you HAVE TO HAVE.

When we invest in the kingdom through our local church, we get to make investments that have eternal dividends. We get to see people’s lives changed. We get to see our church reach people who need desperately to hear the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is a hopeless world out there and we get to finance the battle for souls. Do you not want to be part of that? Getting to change lives through Jesus Christ is much better and more eternal than some big fine house or that newest car or that third car or that nice boat or those season tickets to Clemson football or anything that requires more and more money and attention. Instead of paying for all that and then giving God the leftovers, let us move toward giving to God first and then living off the rest. We cannot pick and choose what we want to obey. He commands us on this. If we just give God our leftovers, it costs us little but obedience to the Lord. Let us put God first in our finances and you will see your heart change toward money.

I find it interesting also that David wanted his offering to the Lord to cost him something. To him, offering up a gift to the Lord that was given him by someone is no offering at all. Many of us are the opposite of David, we give God what we have left over, which often very little or nothing. We give God that extra $20 in cash that we have left over from our weekend activities. We may even give God that extra $20 every week and call it tithing. But when we do that we are making obedience to God with our money a low priority. To live our lives on 90% or less of what we make is strange to the American way of life. Most of us live off 104% of what we make, according to recent economic studies. Yes, most of us spend more than what we make (and wonder why we can never pay our credit cards off). But, yet, we honor the Creator of all things with our leftover cash. We may our material pleasures more important than honoring the Lord. Let us be sacrificial, spend less than what we make. Begin giving to the Lord first. Maybe it starts with 1% for you. Start budgeting so that you can give to the Lord in honor, obedience, and thanksgiving. Cut back on all those meals out. Take your tax refunds and pay off debts instead of blowing them on vacations, new car down payments, and so on. Work yourself toward living off of 90% or less of what you make. The Lord will bless it through changed attitudes about money, wealth, and what we use our money for and whose money it is to begin with. The Lord will bless it with timely provision. He provides for those who honor and obey Him when it comes to financial priorities. I can testify to that!

Let us be like David and give honor and thanksgiving and adoration to the Lord with our finances.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 1:19-28
Samuel’s Birth and Dedication

It is at this point every year that we begin our budgeting process for coming year at my church. The new calendar and budget year are really not that far away. This year, 2017, is winding down. As of this morning, there are only 50 days left in 2017. Next year, 2018, is right around the corner – just over 7 weeks from now. It is now that we start thinking about the dollars and cents of ministry. It is time to prioritize what we can do and what we cannot. Sometimes, there are tough decisions to be made. To hire for a much needed position within the church or not to hire. To spend money on certain ministries or not to spend. To replace equipment or not to replace equipment. Tough choices sometimes. It all comes down to what we feel that God is leading our people to give on an annual basis.

When reading today’s passage, it made me think, being our church’s finance director and all, about “what if…” What if God’s people were sacrificial in their giving? What if we gave in the way that Hannah did? So many of us Christians nowadays do not think in this way. Often we are no different than the culture around us. Many of us see it as someone else’s responsibility to give sacrificially. So many of us are just like the culture in that we live off more than we make. The typical middle class American lives off their salary plus credit. In other words, we live off more than we make. The society seems to think who has the newest, most expensive toys wins the contest in the end. We as Christians are often no different. We think we have to have the newest car. We think we have to live in the neighborhood that’s just beyond our means. We think we have to have the latest electronics. We think we have to have the boat and the jet ski. We think we have to have an expensive vacation every year. But when you think about it from an eternal perspective, the old saying holds true, “You can’t take it with you” and “you never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”

That is why it is one of my passions to teach God’s people about biblical financial principles. I have lived that life of chasing the rainbow and never being satisfied with what you have and always wanting more. I have lived the life of maxxed out credit cards. I have lived that life of too much month and too little paycheck. I have lived that life of creditors calling me to the point I dreaded hearing my phone ring. It took my wife and I a good long while to get free of our smothering of debts. We had to quit renting houses at the beach that cost almost $3k for the week. We had to quit blowing bonuses and tax refunds on additional stuff and start paying off debts with them and not acquiring new debt just because we paid off an old one. Even recently, we downsized our home and mortgage. We cut our mortgage payment by 1/3 by getting a smaller house. After living in our previous house for seven years we realized that we did not use half of that house so it was time to downsize. What if we had started living that way from the time we left our parents’ homes. What if we had lived frugally from the beginning of our adult lives.

One of the things that we learned early on in this process was to honor God with our finances. We could not tithe at first but we began to get our way there a percentage point at a time. We made honoring God first a part of who we are as people. The first check we write when I get paid is to honor God. We learned to live off the rest instead of living beyond our means. I want to teach our people the peace that comes from “living off the rest”. I want to teach people that honoring God with our finances changes our perspective about our things that we have to have. The freedom of heart that has come from putting God first in our finances has enabled us to appreciate why He commands us to tithe. As with all things, God gives peace to those who honor Him. We trust him with our finances. We as a result are able to give more than just our tithe now. We have opportunities to help others now that we would have had to forgo in years past. Being able to use our money to demonstrate God’s love to others has reminded us of why we work hard to keep our finances under control.
What if more of God’s people learned what we have learned? What if more people gave to the church more than the spare $20 bill that they might have in their wallet on Sundays? What if more people saw honoring God with their finances to the point they could be obedient in the tithe? What if people lived off less and gave more? What if just our people at our local church did that? What if that did happen? What if we as a people at our church became sacrificial givers? What if our church’s budget was 2.5 to 3 times bigger than it is now if all of our people tithed or just gave more sacrificially? Imagine the ministry that we could do through our church. Imagine the quality of the people we could hire to lead our ministries. Imagine how many more lives that we could touch with the gospel. Imagine how many more ways we could reach into the community and show them the love of Jesus Christ. Imagine if our people started thinking with an eternal perspective. Imagine each of us living off 90% or less of what we make. Imagine a people focused more on being generous. Imagine a people putting God first in their finances so that they could put forth the gospel first with their paychecks rather than the car sitting in the driveway. Imagine us being a sacrificially generous people. Just imagine that!

That’s the thing I thought of this morning as I read how Hannah, so deeply desiring to have a child, sacrificially gave her son up to the Lord. She gave til it hurt. What if we had that kind of heart of sacrificial giving? Let’s read 1 Samuel 1:19-28 now:

19 The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, 20 and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[a] for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”

21 The next year Elkanah and his family went on their annual trip to offer a sacrifice to the Lord and to keep his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “Wait until the boy is weaned. Then I will take him to the Tabernacle and leave him there with the Lord permanently.[b]”

23 “Whatever you think is best,” Elkanah agreed. “Stay here for now, and may the Lord help you keep your promise.[c]” So she stayed home and nursed the boy until he was weaned.

24 When the child was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They brought along a three-year-old bull[d] for the sacrifice and a basket[e] of flour and some wine. 25 After sacrificing the bull, they brought the boy to Eli. 26 “Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. 27 I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. 28 Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they[f] worshiped the Lord there.

In this passage, we see that to do what she promised (1 Samuel 1:11), Hannah gave up what she wanted the most – her son – and presented him to Eli to serve in the house of the Lord. In dedicating her only son to God, Hannah was dedicating her entire life and future to God. Because Samuel’s life was from God, Hannah was not really giving him up to God. Rather, she was returning him to God, who had given Samuel to Hannah in the first place. These verses illustrate the kinds of gifts we should give to God. Do you gifts cost you a little (Sunday mornings, a comfortable donation of time and/or money) or are they gifts of sacrifice? Are you presenting God with tokens or are you presenting him with your entire life?

Let us resolve to live off less and give more sacrificially? Let us resolve to arrange our finances such that we can give more to our church and assist in the spread of the gospel in our community, nation and world. Let us arrange our finances so that we think first of eternal things instead of temporary things. Let us arrange our finances so that we can think of others instead of ourselves. Let us arrange our finances so that we can be sacrificial givers instead of wishing we could give anything. Let us arrange our finances so that we can invest in the eternal destinations of the people in our community. Let us be able to participate in leading people to our doors where they can hear the gospel preached and react to it. Let us be sacrificial because eternity is at stake. Let us help assure the eternity with Jesus in heaven for more and more people because we were so concerned about it that we gave up our pursuit of new houses, new cars, new toys. What if we had a sacrificial mentality to spread the gospel? What if our finances reflected our concern for the salvation of the world rather than our next new toy?

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 2)

The Levites Dedicated

It was August 15, 2010, a Sunday. The second Sunday after Elena and I had moved back to South Carolina from our time in California. But before I talk about that day, a little background is in order.

I had been out there for 2 ½ years, Elena for one. During the time that we were in California together, we had become part of a wonderful church, Livermore Alive Community Church in Livermore, CA. It was at this church that I actually started to grow from a spiritual baby into something more than a spoon-fed, what-can-you-do-for-me baby. I grew into a spiritual toddler, so to speak, and maybe even a spiritual teenager while there. It was there that Elena accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord. While I had been a spiritual baby for a long time (since my salvation in December 2001), Elena grew up quickly. She devoured being a child of the One True King. It was there that we were nurtured by our pastor, Luke Brower, and his wife, Felisha. They were our mentors even though they were about 10 years younger than us. Luke and Felisha were classic California. Laid back. Low key. Satirically funny. Luke’s sermons were excellent but low key and cerebral almost. He made you think about Scripture in the deepest of ways. He preached through books of the Bible rather than being topically oriented. That was a change for me. My dad and most ministers I have been under preached topically. So, Luke’s sermons were deep into a book of a Bible. He was like this low-key, but awesomely interesting college professor. His sermons were like lectures but they were so captivating. Learning as well as being moved by his word pictures. Alas, though, after 2 ½ years getting the accounting function at my job cleaned up and operating smoothly, it was time to move the accounting function to South Carolina so that all accounting for Fujikura’s North America businesses would have their accounting done all in one centralized administrative center in the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC area. It was a bittersweet day when we had to move back to South Carolina. We had such an amazing time in that one year in Livermore that we did not want to leave it and the dear, dear friends that we had made there. But yet at the same time, we loved the fact that we would be back home close to our girls and our families.

 

So, we get back to South Carolina and move into the home that we still live in today. We move in on Friday, August 6, 2010. That next Sunday we were desperate to find our “Livermore Alive” in South Carolina. The first church we attended on Sunday, August 8, 2010, which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, just was NOT it! We were used to modern worship and well-thought out sermons and a casual style. Although it was the kind of location we were used to. This church met in a meeting room of the local YMCA just down the road from our house. Livermore Alive met in a school gymnasium. So, it was similar in the whole set-up/breakdown mobile sound system with folding chairs kind of church. But man the music was like mountain gospel with banjos and such and the musicians had a talent level much below what we had grown accustomed to in California with Jesse Craig and Luke Brower and the amazingly talented musicians that were in Livermore Alive. And, oh my, the pastor’s sermon was a yawner and lacked Luke’s passionate delivery. Scratch that one off the list. We’ve got to find a church home. I need that. Elena needed that. We needed that.

 

By God’s design (we are still there 6 years later), we ended up at LifeSong Church in nearby Lyman, SC that next Sunday. LifeSong was an amazing church with an amazing founding pastor, Jeff Hickman, and amazing musicians. It just felt like home. However, the first Sunday there, if my wife had her way, we would not have come back. You ask why? Well, Elena was a new baby Christian at that time and had spent most of her life outside the church. Although she grew up Catholic, after about age 8, there family quit attending mass altogether. So, her first exposure to Protestant church was Livermore Alive when we were in California. Remember, I said Luke, our pastor there, was low-key. His sermons were like conversations at the dinner table. However, Elena though growing up in the South had not been exposed to Southern church, particularly Baptist church in the South. Jeff Hickman is as passionate a preacher as they come. He delivers the Word with skill and passion. He is an amazing speaker. On that first Sunday, though, LifeSong Church was at a crossroad. Continue with five, yes five, services every weekend or build a new building. The church was busting at the seams. So, the first Sunday, we were there, it was the beginning of a sermon series and a capital campaign called “Radical”. Combine passionate preacher and a sermon series called Radical, being radical in our giving and our service to Christ, you see what’s coming. On the way home, I asked Elena what she thought and whether she thought we should go back or keep searching. My wife, of laid back sermon delivery in California and no exposure to passionate Southern preachers, said, “All he talked about was money AND he YELLED at us!” The Holy Spirit guided my conversations with her to get us back there and we have been there ever since – a journey under the leadership of senior pastor Jeff Hickman that has led us closer still to the Lord and into leadership. Jeff pulls no punches when it comes to God’s Word and he will passionately lay the Word out there even if it makes you uncomfortable. No watered down gospel here. And I thank God for his leadership.

 

But, I still think of that first Sunday and my wife’s humorous statement. He talked about money and he yelled at us. Jeff is a passionate Southern preacher. Don’t think of some old guy with a suit on that is pudgy and has to loosen his tie and wipe his brow with a handkerchief kind of old school Southern. Think hip dude with jeans and a t-shirt (though seminary educated) kind of Southern preacher. His volume increases with his passion about a point he’s making. And that first Sunday was about being radical compared to this day and age of selfish desires to keep our money to ourselves and see how many toys we can get. He wanted us to be radical in being obedient to the Lord. He wanted us to think about what’s going to last – our toys or our investments in the eternity of our fellow man. He wanted us to be radical compared to our world where we simply think of ourselves and not of others. The Bible calls us to give sacrificially to the Lord and trust that the Lord will use it to reach more and more souls in the name of Jesus Christ. Being obedient to the Lord with our money is a radical thing in this time of me-me-me in which we live. So, yes, maybe in his delivery to a first timer exposure to passionate Southern preachers, he did yell at us. And, yes, he did talk about money. It was radical to Elena and challenging to me. The question was, are you being radical in your obedience to the Lord when it comes to giving of your time, your talent, and especially, your resources.

 

That first Sunday at LifeSong and exactly what these grain offerings and sin offerings and wave offerings were was what came to mind as I read through this passage once again this morning. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on vv. 8-9 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

Since we live in the time since the completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system (it was completed at the cross with the once and final sacrifice for all time in Jesus’ death on the cross), we may as modern men and women have a difficult time understanding the offerings that are noted in this passage. There is a grain offering, a sin offering, and a wave offering. It is hard for us to understand and some of it may even seem distasteful to us. For today, let us concentrate on the grain offering.

 

According to www.gotquestions.com, it says,

 

A grain offering is a type of sacrifice described in the Old Testament (Leviticus 2) that the Israelites offered to God. A grain offering would have most likely been one of wheat or barley, depending on what was available. While other sacrifices had very specific instructions from God as to how they were to be offered, the rules governing grain offerings had some flexibility.

 

A grain offering could be given to God either uncooked or cooked in an oven or pan (Leviticus 2:1; 4—5). The requirements for the grain offering were that it had to be finely ground and have oil and salt in it (Leviticus 2:1, 4, 13). It could not have any yeast (also called leaven) or honey in it (Leviticus 2:11). When a person brought a grain offering to the priests, a small portion of it was offered to God, with some frankincense, on the altar. The rest of the grain offering went to the priests (Leviticus 2:10). No specific amount of grain was required for an offering; people were free to give what they had.

 

It’s interesting to note that during the Israelites’ forty years of wilderness wandering grain would have been quite scarce. This made grain offerings more costly and precious for the people to offer to God. Giving a grain offering in those circumstances represented the Israelites’ complete dependence on God to provide for their needs each day. Jesus fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17), and we no longer have to do sacrifices as they did in the Old Testament. But, if the grain offering is similar to our offering of worship, it’s interesting to consider: how much does our worship today cost us?

 

That brings us back to that first Sunday at LifeSong Church those six years ago now. It was Radical Sunday. It was the beginning of a church of people being asked to look in their heart and make sacrifices of scarce resources. How much do we care about the Lord? Do we worship Him as long as it does not force us to make sacrifices? Do we really love the Lord enough to decide that it is better to make tithing and making offerings above the tithe a number one priority? Do we really trust the Lord with our finances? Do we trust that He will make provision for us when we are obedient in our giving? Are we willing to make that radical sacrifice? Are we bold enough to begin now to quit chasing after things in this life and invest in things of eternity?

 

As we begin closing in on time to start our budgeting process for budget year 2017 at LifeSong, it is a question that we must consider as this local body of the general body of Christ known as His church. On an annual basis, we average about 750 attendees on any given weekend. We have though only 450 or so giving units/families in our church. What if all of our attendees gave to the church? What if all of our attendees gave sacrificially (the tithe and more) to the church? We are known in our community as a church that does things for the community, that cares about the community? Imagine if we all, who claim LifeSong as their home, gave radically. What if we trusted the Lord enough to let go of more than the $20 bill that we happen to have in our wallets on Sundays? What if we all were radically sacrificial in our giving? Imagine what we could do in our community and our region. Imagine the love that we could share with those who do not know Christ as their Savior. Imagine the lives we could touch with the gospel in our community, in our nation, in our world. Imagine our pastors not having to struggle to make ends meet. Imagine them not having to worry about sending their kids to college. Imagine a church where meeting payroll and paying the bills each week was simply done and not sweated over. Imagine the things that we want to do to spread the gospel that we don’t do know. What a radical thought that is?

 

Can you and I be radical? Can we arrange our lives where we quit pursuing stuff so much and trusting the Lord with the first 10% or MORE of what we make and living off the rest? Can we be a people that does not try to theoretically create an argument for not giving the tithe just so we can justify trading cars every two or three years, so we can justify the buying the house that is above our means, so we can justify our jet skis and boats and summer vacations? Can we be that radical? Can we be like the Israelites in the wilderness of the Sinai desert where grain was like gold giving grain offerings to the Lord? Radical indeed. How much do we really trust the Lord? How much grain are we willing to part with? How obedient can we be? Radically obedient! Are you radical? Am I?

 

 

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?