Saturday, November 08, 2008

Your Pocketbook and Calendar

Today I am going to try something different, I am going to take a sermon from Mosaic, and put that into narrative form for visitors to The Virtual Pew. It will of course be done in my unique style of using multimedia, and some street level insights.

Let’s first enter into an attitude of worship, but let’s pray first. Father, I realize there may be folks unable to attend a service today, I ask your blessings on them. I ask that your Holy Spirit would use this to reach out and touch those that need touching today. Holy Spirit Come, Holy Spirit Move, In Jesus Name I pray and ask your blessings on this service.

The first song is a song titled; Come Now is the Time to Worship. Let’s get off on the right foot, coming together to worship our Creator, our God.

Come Now Is the Time to Worship

Let’s continue in the attitude of worship, here is another wonderful song I would encourage you to sing along with and reflect on the words.

Here I Am To Worship

You know a lot of folks think worship is about them, it isn’t it is about honoring God. It is about honoring his son Jesus of Nazareth. May we truly lift up the name of the Savior in all we do.

Lord I lift Your Name on High

As we develop a relationship with Jesus, we realize that we develop more love, as we develop more love, the Holy Spirit gives us more power.

More Love More Power

I would encourage you to take a short break now, go get a cup of coffee or a drink. Maybe even give someone a telephone call to tell them you love them, then come right back for the rest of the service:

I hope you took that short break, now before getting to the message today, I want you to sing along and ask the Lord to open your eyes and ears today to hear what he would have you hear and see from today’s message.

Open My Eyes Lord

Today’s message is titled Pocketbooks and Calendars. It has to do with recognizing and seeing that our tithes and offerings are an act of worship. Hopefully God speaks to you through the message today.

Let’s get your attention to start off with. I know how most folks look at tithing, let’s take a look:

Badd Tithing Tricks

A few years ago I heard a story while visiting Willow Creek in the Chicago area. The truth of it is most of us say we don’t have time to give, we don’t have the resources to give, but in reality when confronted with certain things we can quickly see and know these things aren’t always true. If for example someone loves the game of basketball and there is a game in your area featuring LeBron James, it is likely that one will come up with the money, and make the time to go see the game. There are special events where we all do this. I will admit I fall into that category as well. Manheim Steamroller is coming to town to do a Christmas concert this year, and I made sure to put money back to take my wife. It was the most I have ever paid for a concert, but I wanted to see them and was willing to make the sacrifice with my calendar and with my checkbook.

A question I would have for you today, is, can you tell what your priorities are?

It is unfortunate that many will have no idea that today’s message on tithes and offerings is really about worship, but if a part of worship is expressing our all to God, then the aspects of worship we speak about today are among the most important, it is usually one of the most important things that helps prove what we really think about God and the Church.

I would challenge each person reading today, the most obvious sign of what is important to us is usually indicated by what is on our calendar and written from our checkbook.

Many of us hold this thing called money in high esteem. The following video tells you just a little about money:

In God We Trust

Before I look at some Scripture I want to share some of my thoughts regarding the tithe and offering. In doing this I want to look at some of the Old Testament verses New Testament concepts on tithing. It should be noted here, I am not presenting a straight forward approach as to what is the right definition of Tithing, there is a lot of debate on that subject, even some who would say we should maintain a strict 10% code, and others who say it was done away with in the New Testament. I am merely trying to point out some universal truths, and folks can take with them what they will.

First, it should be noted that in the Old Testament the concept was a strict 10% of all income and property was to be given as a tithe and offering to God. I believe the concept changed in the New Testament and now God requires for those who follow Christ 100%. That don’t mean we have to give every dollar to the church, charity, or ministry. I think it does mean we have to search and consider what God would have us give in regards to our time and our money.

Today, how much we give is a personal decision between each person and God. In this process we have to decide who gets the money and time we give. I do believe that in this process your church should always be the primary recipient. If not in a church then a ministry that you can support should be the primary recipient. That could be a ministry like The Virtual Pew, or another church like Mosaic Wichita, or even a church or ministry in your area. There are many deserving ministries, but I believe being committed to a particular ministry has benefits for you and that ministry. Again, realize on this point that other ministries are acceptable, you can also divide your gifts as you see fit and led to do so. This don’t change the fact though, recognize a ministry, or your church as the primary place to give your gifts of time and money.

Some would ask, how much do I give? I think each person has to pray about an amount regarding both money and time. Then, be faithful to that amount with each agency God leads you to support. Let me give some reasoning as to my thoughts here.

First, please understand, that in a contemporary definition as has been adopted by many, I am not a “Seed Faith” person, at least in the way of prosperity teaching. I have a serious issue with the way prosperity teaching is taught in many circles. God will bless the gift, but is not always in the way people think. It must also be stated, that having financial trouble does not mean you are in trouble with God. There are many examples in the Bible to give illustration to this point.

God uses our giving to bless others, and it allows us to see him work, whether through the church, individuals, or other ministries. I know for The Virtual Pew, and Mosaic Church that the work that is done is largely dependent on the gifts and time of others. I also know firsthand that peoples’ lives have been changed, touched, and even saved, in both a spiritual and physical way.

We need to also understand that the tithe and offering is about more than money. Although money is a part of the tithe and offering, so is our time. There is that reminder for each person as was stated earlier, our time in ministry and our tithes and offerings are an act of worship.

Many people are reluctant to give of their time and money for various reasons. There are many excuses, it is as if we are afraid of something, some kind of pressure, like someone is watching over our shoulder. The following video gives a good example of what this is like for some:

Tithing linebacker

In the teachings of the Old Testament, we see a concept of people who would rob God. Let’s look at a passage in the Old Testament that refers to this concept. A note here, is that unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Contemporary English Version.

Malachi 3:6-12

(6) Descendants of Jacob, I am the LORD All-Powerful, and I never change. That’s why you haven’t been wiped out, (7) even though you have ignored and disobeyed my laws ever since the time of your ancestors. But if you return to me, I will return to you.

And yet you ask, “How can we return?”

(8) You people are robbing me, your God. And, here you are, asking, “How are we robbing you?”

You are robbing me of the offerings and of the ten percent that belongs to me. (9) That’s why your whole nation is under a curse. (10) I am the LORD All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing. (11) I will also stop locusts from destroying your crops and keeping your vineyards from producing. (12) Everyone of every nation will talk about how I have blessed you and about your wonderful land. I, the LORD All-Powerful, have spoken!

How do we rob God? We rob God by withholding our tithes and offerings. In the Old Testament, this was ten percent of all income, plus time, energy and effort. The money is easy to figure out, we all can think of how much we should give as an act of worship. I again believe God will make that clear to each person who clearly asks. The time is something else, how are you using your gifts for the Kingdom of God. While many churches have people become involved in areas they don’t enjoy, or are not gifted, the church benefits most when a person’s gifts are matched with their areas of giftedness. I think it is best to give to the church or ministries in ways that are best suited to your gifts and talents.

From the above passage, there are several key points to remember. God never changes, if we return to the ways of God, he will bless us, we return to God, as is indicated by our pocketbooks and time, the church that helps take care of others is blessed by God, and the blessings of God, as a result of the actions of the church, is noticed by those on the outside looking in.

It is sad but many often make excuses as to why they can’t give. They have bills to pay, they don’t make as much money as they would like, they work long hours, they have extra jobs, and in the words from the play The King and I, “Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera.” We must ask ourselves the question though, is shortcutting the time requests of God, and the monetary needs of ministry, robbing God?

The bible also provides an example of how one with little time, with little money can still impress God, and display a real act of worship.

Mark 12:41-44

(41) Jesus was sitting in the temple near the offering box and watching people put in their gifts. He noticed that many rich people were giving a lot of money. (42) Finally, a poor widow came up and put in two coins that were worth only a few pennies. (43) Jesus told his disciples to gather around him. Then he said:
I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. (44) Everyone else gave what they didn't need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn't have a cent to live on.

Notice in the above passage, it was the poor woman’s willingness to sacrifice that impressed Jesus. Are we willing to make a sacrifice that will please Christ, both in time and money? Notice, how much she gave, she gave everything she had. This is a difficult concept for any of us, but here this poor woman did just that. She had the faith to know God would provide her needs.

In my own personal story I have found that when I give, God finds a way to bless me whether through finance or the gifts of others. Those gifts often include meals, concert tickets, whatever. I have even found myself during tough times winning tickets on the radio to Broadway Touring Shows, concerts with the likes of Joe Cocker, and more. I have even won my wife great Christmas presents. God finds a way to provide when one is faithful; they are quickly reminded that God is also known as Jehovah Jireh, my provider.

On the amount a person gives, I believe it is a personal decision, whether you is not, giving is a command, again, an act of worship, how much you give is the option, at least according to some. My personal belief, and I use this as an example, is that if 10% was good enough for the people of old, it is good enough as a minimum for me. Each follower of Jesus has to remember our limitations are not an excuse to take away from God. He honors the smallest of gifts.

Many of us seem to have a phobia of giving. The following is a video that puts this into perspective.

Tithe Phobia

While many of us may seem to have a phobia about giving time and money, we need to realize; what we do has an impact on others around us, and actually on us, it does this in a number of ways. One of the most glaring is we see God work. There are several passages to look at here, I want everyone read these, and think about what they perceive as being some of the benefits of giving.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2

(1) When you collect money for God's people, I want you to do exactly what I told the churches in Galatia to do. (2) That is, each Sunday each of you must put aside part of what you have earned. If you do this, you won't have to take up a collection when I come. (3) Choose some followers to take the money to Jerusalem. I will send them on with the money and with letters which show that you approve of them. (4) If you think I should go along, they can go with me.

2 Corinthians 9:5-15

(5) So I have decided to ask Titus and the others to spend some time with you before I arrive. This way they can arrange to collect the money you have promised. Then you will have the chance to give because you want to, and not because you feel forced to.

(6) Remember this saying, "A few seeds make a small harvest, but a lot of seeds make a big harvest."

(7) Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don't feel sorry that you must give and don't feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give. (8) God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others. (9) The Scriptures say,

"God freely gives his gifts to the poor, and always does right."

(10) God gives seed to farmers and provides everyone with food. He will increase what you have, so that you can give even more to those in need. (11) You will be blessed in every way, and you will be able to keep on being generous. Then many people will thank God when we deliver your gift.

(12) What you are doing is much more than a service that supplies God's people with what they need. It is something that will make many others thank God. (13) The way in which you have proved yourselves by this service will bring honor and praise to God. You believed the message about Christ, and you obeyed it by sharing generously with God's people and with everyone else. (14) Now they are praying for you and want to see you, because God used you to bless them so very much. (15) Thank God for his gift that is too wonderful for words!

Acts 2:44-47

(44) All the Lord's followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. (45) They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. (46) Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, (47) while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.

Acts 4:32-35

(32) The group of followers all felt the same way about everything. None of them claimed that their possessions were their own, and they shared everything they had with each other. (33) In a powerful way the apostles told everyone that the Lord Jesus was now alive. God greatly blessed his followers, (34) and no one went in need of anything. Everyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money (35) to the apostles. Then they would give the money to anyone who needed it.

We should give because we want to, thus our giving becomes an act or worship. We can tell a number of things from the above passages. We see being able to help others from an individual to a congregational perspective. When giving appropriately, the church can take care of its responsibility of helping others within the body. There is the example and gifts of God to us. There is a great deal that could be discussed here, but my challenge is for you to think about and read these passages, think about the benefits of you stepping up and worshiping God by giving your time, your designated finances to the cause of ministry that he leads you to. If you are active in a church, or involved with a ministry, you have an obligation to support that church or ministry with your finance and time. Make sure that your checkbook has the name of those ministries written on a number of checks. You can also check your calendar, if there aren’t a number of scheduled events inked in that you have been participating on, you have to ask yourself, have I really worshiped God with my time and money? If not it is time to start.

In closing today I want us to spend a little time in praise to our King.

I Love You Lord

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