Together... I Can Receive Blessings

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The lessons God teaches us about money and possessions are the most difficult to learn but are also the most rewarding. John Maxwell explains why giving generously is an exercise in testing and trusting God.

How would you respond if I shared that God wanted to unbelievably bless you, put a hedge of protection around you, take good care of you, in such a way that people around you would see God’s blessing on you and even want it themselves? God challenges you and me to test him in this area, to become his partner and let him do it.

Of all the lessons that I'm going to preach to you in this series, the one I'm going to share with you now will be the most difficult for you to obey. I want to tell you that up front. It will be the most difficult for you to obey, but if you do, it will be the most rewarding principle of all that I teach. I want to talk to you this morning about money and possessions.

I'm kind of excited; my parents are getting ready to have a 50th anniversary. So my brother and my sister and I have gotten together to do some stuff that we think they're going to enjoy. One of the things we're putting together is a big, thick memory book, full of about 200 pages of memories. One part of the book is where each of us tell stories, just little paragraphs of things we remember from our childhood. My brother, who God has incredibly blessed in the business world, gave me this one this week to put in the book. And when I thought about what I'm going to share with you this morning, I thought this would fit. Let me just read to you what Larry wrote concerning my father. It’s entitled, “My most important and memorable business deal.” Here’s the story: “In 1963, I was 19 and a junior in college, my father, who at that time didn’t have much financial capability, but did have an excellent reputation in the community, persuaded his local banker friend, Mr. George Fordman, to loan me $5,000 based on Dad's guarantee. I used it as a down payment on a five-family apartment complex that cost $50,000 in Columbus, Ohio. Thus my real estate career was launched on Dad's conviction, backed by his personal guarantee that the principles of proper attitude, combined with hard and persistent work, would result in success. Dad saw to it that I pay tithe on the profit from my first business deal. Thank you, Dad.”

Now, I don't have the time this morning to tell you all the stories that come behind this paragraph. My father's incredible belief in us. Remember last week, when I talked about how you and I are blessed to be a blessing to others? My father taught us that principle. One little story about my brother. God has incredibly blessed him. He just keeps growing his business today, just so he can give the money away to the Lord's work. What's really amazing is that, unknown to my dad, every time my brother would do another business deal, he put my father in for a percentage of it. He never told Dad; he just kept accumulating for him. One day he sat down with Dad and said, "Dad, I want to thank you for the first $5,000. Let me tell you what it is now." My dad was totally surprised, and he still doesn’t realize that he has any money, to be honest with you. He still eats at Denny's and is really careful. He could go buy Denny's if he wanted it. Now, folks, what I'm going to share with you right now is a biblical principle that Jesus taught, and if you will listen carefully and do what is very unnatural, and obey an issue that is tough to obey, I tell you, you are in for an incredible journey.

The Bible and Money:

There are 500 verses on prayer...

Less than 500 verses on faith...

And more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.

Jesus talked about money and possessions in 16 out of 38 parables.

I want to share with you one the principle of tithing that God gives us in Malachi 3, verse 7, “‘From the days of your fathers, you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ ‘Will a man rob God, yet you are robbing me.’ But you say, ‘How have we robbed thee?’ ‘In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there will be food in my house. And test me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘If I will not open up the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground, nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

1.  The purpose of the tithe: The tithe means 10 percent.

It first appears in Genesis 14:20, and appears 30 more times throughout the Old and the New Testament.

Its purpose: to demonstrate our commitment to God.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about Malachi for a moment. Malachi was a prophet and he addressed the children of God on the fact that they had turned away from God. As he expected, when he told them that they had turned away from God, they said to him, “Wait a minute. How have we turned away from God? We still go to church. We still give sacrifices. How have we turned away from God?” Then Malachi said, “You are not giving God your very best. You are only giving to God what is comfortable. You're giving sacrifices, but are you giving the best of sacrifices? No. You're giving lame and blind sacrifices to God. You're going to church when it's convenient.”

In Malachi, the people did not put God first in their...

A. Sacrifices.  vv. 1:6‑8

They brought polluted animals and sacrifices to God. They were giving something to God, but instead of giving their first fruits, they were giving God their leftovers.

B.  Families.  vv. 2:14-16

They were not putting him first in your families, and their families were falling apart. He talks about divorce and crumbling marriages, and how this disturbs him greatly.

C. Money.  vv. 3:7-9

That's the passage we're dealing with today. Jesus said, where your treasure is, that's where your heart is also.

There is a relationship between our possessions and our priorities.

2.  The problem with the tithe: vv. 6-9; 13-15

The problem was that they were far from God, and we find that in verse 7: “‘From the days of your fathers, you have turned aside from my statutes and you have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. But they said, ‘How shall we return?’” In other words, they didn't realize they were away from God. In verse 8, “‘How will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me.’ But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ ‘In ties and offerings.’” I love the story of the older couple who had been married many years. As they were driving down the road, from the passenger side, she said, “Sweetheart, do you notice we don't sit as close together as we used to?” The old man grabbed onto the steering wheel a little stronger and, jutting his jaw, said, “Honey, I never moved.” God has not moved.

What happens when we stray away from God?

A.  We are uncertain about how to get back.   v. 7

They said, “How should we return to you?” They had drifted so far away from God that they were uncertain how to get back.

B.  We are insensitive about the relationship.  v. 8

In verse 8, when God said, “You've robbed me,” they said, “What do you mean we've robbed you? We don't understand this at all.” They didn't even have a clue that they were messing up. 

C.  We leave a tangible trail that shows our unfaithfulness.  v. 8

The lack of giving was an external symptom of an internal spiritual problem. Giving is not a step in getting closer to God, but the result of being close to God. God said, “I know you’re not close to me, because instead of giving me your first fruits, you’re only giving me what's left over. It's evidenced by your lack of commitment in giving.

D.  Our talk is better than our walk.  v. 2:17

When we stray away from God, we still can talk a good talk but we usually can't follow it up with our walk. And that's exactly what happened to the children of God in Chapter 2, verse 17: “You have wearied the Lord with your words.” In other words, he said that talk's cheap. In fact, he said, “My ears are heavy.”

You know, we had an incredible worship time this morning. We stood and gave God what he deserves, a standing ovation. We were just brought in the presence of God. I know that had to bless the heart of God. But let me ask you a question: Do we back up all that emotional stuff with our giving? Would God say to us this morning, as he did to the church there, “I know that you go to church, and I hear your words, but I don't see it in your actions.”

3.  The proposal for the tithe:  v. 10a

Here's what God says to you and me: “I want to be your partner. Let me tell you how it works.” Verse 10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” Let's stop right there. Just circle that word, “bring.” It just grabs me. He didn't say, “Send it.” He said, “Bring it.” He said to bring it, because God wants you. God wants you before he wants your possessions or your family or your business. God wants you before he wants anything else in your life.

Notice...

A.  The percentage - The whole tithe (100%).

Now, either they were not putting it all into the storehouse or they were not giving him 10 percent. I have my feeling that they were probably violating both of them.

B.  The place - Into the storehouse.

The storehouse in this case was the temple where the people came to worship. In your case it's the church where you come to worship. It's the place where you and I get our spiritual food.

Now, many wonderful Christians mistake what the storehouse is. Let me give you three common mistakes I hear often. One is that many think the storehouse is Christian leaders, so they give their tithe to some Christian leader. Now, I want you to know, I'm a Christian leader, but the tithe isn't mine or yours; it's the Lord's. I don't accept anybody's tithe. I don't like to touch the tithe. In my last church in Ohio, I led a marvelous fellow to the Lord. He owned the largest car dealership in the county. He loved me. I remember the day he said, "Pastor, I want to do something for you. Every year I want to give you a car. You pick out any car on this lot, turn it back in to me the next year." I thought that was wonderful. Then all of a sudden I felt checked and said, “Can I ask you a question, Milt? Is this your tithe?” He kind of hung his head and said, “Well yeah, it was going to be part of my tithe.” I said, “Milt, I can't do it. You can't tithe to me.” In fact, my favorite check to write every month is a tithe check.

Another fellow from the same church, his name was Neil, said to me one day, “Pastor, I'm a little unhappy with what's happening around here so I've decided to withhold my tithe.” I said, “Well Neil, don't tell me.” He said, “Who should I tell?” I said, “Tell God. It's his. In fact, let's pray about it.” We knelt down together, and I said, “Neil, repeat after me, ‘Dear God, I've decided to rob you.’” He said, “Wait a minute. I didn't mean it that way.” I said, “Well, then, don't say it.” So don't tithe to the preacher or your favorite radio preacher, or to somebody you love.

Other people mistake the storehouse to be other Christian organizations. I personally give to about eight or nine different Christian organizations that I love, support, believe in. But that's not the storehouse. The storehouse is my church. In fact, the greatness of a church is not how much money it takes in; the greatness of a church is how much money it gives out. In spite of all the relocation process last year, Skyline gave, to missions organizations last year, $787,000. We're the storehouse, and we're to disburse it to these other wonderful organizations. And let me tell you something else, the tithe is not to unfortunate people. Maybe your neighbor or friend has a financial need, but the tithe doesn't go there. In fact, in the Bible, they took a special offering for the poor beyond the tithe. But God was saying, “Even if you don't have a lot of money, you still honor me with the first fruits of whatever you have.”

C.  The purpose - So there may be food in God’s house.

D.  The proposal - Test God in this.

Now, the only place in the Bible that God tells us to test him is right here. In fact, if you test God any other place in the Bible, you're really kind of not trusting him.

Why does God want us to test him?

A.  He knows that money is the hardest thing we’ll ever give up.

God realizes that when it comes to consecration, obedience, lordship, the last thing he'll get from you and me is money. I love the Irishman's Prayer that said, "Lord, you can have anything you can pry out of my hand." I'm going to hold on to it, God, but if you can get it from me, it's all yours.

Have you read the book entitled The Day America Told the Truth? It's an incredible book. The authors asked:

What are you willing to do for $10 million?

25%  would abandon their entire family.

25%  would abandon their church.

23%  would become a prostitute.

16%  would give up their American citizenship.

16%  would leave their spouse.

10%  would withhold testimony & let a murderer go free.

7%    would kill a stranger.

6%    would change their race.

 4%   would have a sex change operation.

I guess it was said best in the movie “Wall Street”: “The problem with money is that it makes you do things you don't want to do.”

B.  He wants to show himself to us.

My part:

  • Bring the whole tithe to the storehouse.
  • Test God's faithfulness.

God's part:

  • Personally provide for my needs. v. 10
  • Personally protect my possessions. v. 11

Can I say something about right now? There's never a good time to tithe. Do you know that? I've heard people say, "Well Pastor, we're just a young married couple, and we're trying to buy a house. But as soon as we do, we're going to tithe." No, you won't. If you don't tithe before, you won't tithe after, because when you buy it, you've got to pay it off. Then you get kids. And then when you get them about raised, all of a sudden you've got college. And when college is done, then all of a sudden you have retirement. I’ll tell you right now, if you don't tithe today, you won't tithe tomorrow. Hardest tithe I ever gave is when I made $80 a week. Every pastor likes to tell about how much they made at their first church.  My hardest tithe was $8 every week. I remember one day, as Margaret and I wrote out the check for $8, we felt that we ought to give an offering for missions. So we made out a $50 check. I was afraid we didn't have the money to cover it. That Monday I was in the hardware store. A guy comes up to me, who doesn't even go to our church, and said, "Pastor, I was fishing yesterday, and I thought about what you've done for the community, and I just want to give you something.” He pressed a $50 bill in my hand.

The partnership in the tithe:   vv. 16-18

Tithing truths:

A. God owns everything.

You and I will never fight about the tithe if we realize God owns it all anyway. Let me illustrate. Will somebody give me $100? Thanks Mark. Do you know why Mark was so quick to give me  $100? It's very simple. I gave it to him before the service. You see, it was very easy for Mark to give it to me. Mark knew it wasn't his.

You see, when we quibble over 10 percent, it has nothing to do with your budget or financial condition. It has everything to do with your faith and trust in God. When you fight about giving God 10 percent, it’s because you think that money's yours. Job said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." So we quibble and fight over it. You don't give anything to God; it's already his. All you're doing is returning what is already His to Him.

I love the apple story: “Once upon a time there was a man who had nothing,” That's us, “... and God gave him 10 apples. He gave him three apples to eat, three apples to trade for shelter from the sun and the rain, three apples to trade for clothing to wear, and one apple so that he might have something to give back to God to show his gratitude for the other nine. The man ate three apples. He traded three for shelter from the rain. And he traded three for clothing to wear. Then he looked at the 10th apple. He knew God had given it to him so he could return it out of gratitude for the other nine, but it looked bigger and juicier than the rest. And he reasoned that God had all the other apples in the world, so the man ate the 10th apple and gave the core back to God.” That's exactly what was happening in Malachi. You've been giving God the core. But God owns everything.

B.  My giving is a true test of my commitment to God.  Lk. 12:34

C.  With God, $10 minus $1 equals $10.

Try that on your math teacher.

D.  God wants our first 10 percent, not the leftovers.  Proverbs 3:9

He said, “Honor me with the first fruits, not the last fruits.” Not after you've paid everybody else and say, "Oh God, by the way, you're somewhere in my life. It's not really the top, but whatever I've got leftover, it's all yours. Just enjoy, God." He's not a fool.

E.  Tithing is an issue of trust, not money.

CONCLUSION

Do me a favor. Right now, go to your bulletin and pull out the “Partnership With God” card. I'm going to read it. [John refers to the following card created by Skyline. Create a card for your own congregation.]

Partnership with God: A Biblical Stewardship Commitment

The concept of tithing is the method of financially supporting the church and its ministry. Tithing means contributing 10% of one’s income to the storehouse — the place where one receives spiritual strength; the church they attend. Contributions to missions and parachurch organizations would be considered offerings —donations beyond the 10 percent. 

If you do not tithe, you are encouraged to practice this biblical principle for the next three months. First, you decide to commit the FIRST 10% of your weekly income to the storehouse. After that 90 DAYS, if it has created a financial crisis, or you did not receive a blessing, your money will be returned.

MY PART: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse and test me now in this.”

GOD’S PART: “...open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Malachi 3:10)
----------------
MY PART
Recognizing God's desire to become a partner with me, and desiring the reward promised in Malachi 3:10, I step out in faith by committing the FIRST 10% of my income for the next 90 DAYS to the Lord through _______________. I will begin tithing _______. I already tithe _______.

Name _______                                                                                                               
Address _______                                                                                                            
City, State, Zip
_______                                                                                                
I need giving envelopes - Yes or No _______

Now, folks, I want to stop here for a moment. There are two boxes you can check. Some of you have never tithed before and right now your ol' hearts pounding. You're saying, "How am I going to meet my budget. I can't even do it without giving God 10 percent." Folks, that's the problem. You've got to bring God into the plan. God can do more with your 90 percent than you can with your 100 percent. Let me tell you something. Tithing is not a money matter; it's a trust matter. Either God can do what he said he can do or let's all go home and not come back. Amen? When I withhold, what I really say is, "God I don't think you can take care of me."

Let's pray. Our Father, right now, in this next 60 seconds I pray you will encourage first time tithers. I pray the people who need to take a step of faith and obedience to you will say, "God, I am going to trust you." And Lord, as they get their pen out and check that box, give them faith to believe that you are a God who can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or think. That they can trust you with their life, with their money, with their family, with their business. They can trust you. In Jesus' name I pray.

All right, look at your card and take your pens out. Some of you already have tithed for many years, and you can check that box. But if you're not tithing now, I encourage you to take the most important decision of faith outside of your own salvation, check “I will begin tithing.” Let's test God like he tells us too. Let's trust God and see if he won't do what he said. Okay. I'm going to fill mine out. You just take a moment to fill yours out, and then in a moment we'll collect them. Turn it over. Send it to the nearest aisle right now. Those on the end, hold them. Ushers, I want you to come forward. Today people have made a commitment before God to give him the first 10 percent. Folks, you are about to take an unbelievable journey in trusting God.

Let's pray. Father, right now, I pray that you will give a sense of peace and courage to those people who obeyed this principle. God, this whole walk with you is trusting you. And today some of us for the first time said, "Okay. I'll trust you with my money." Lord, as they bring the first 10 percent to the storehouse next Sunday, I pray, God, that you will open up the windows of heaven as you promised and take care of them in every area of their life. We can trust you because you're God. In Jesus' name. And God's people said amen. God bless you.

"Together...I Can Receive Blessings" (Malachi 3:7-12)

The Bible and Money:

There are____verses on prayer.

Less than____verses on faith.

And more than____verses on money and possessions.

Jesus talked about money and possessions in ____out of____parables.

1.  The ____of the tithe.The tithe means ____ . Its purpose: to ____ our____to God.

In Malachi, the people did not put God first in their...

A.  _______. vv. 1:6-8

B.  _______. vv. 2:14-16

C.  _______. vv. 3:7-9

There’s a relationship between our_______ and our _______.                 .

2.  The_______ with the tithe.  vv. 6-9, 13-15

What happens when we stray from God?

A.  We are_______ about how to_______.   v. 7

B.  We are_______ about the _______. v. 8

C.  We leave a tangible_______ that shows our _______. v. 8

Giving is not a step in getting closer to God, but the result of being close to God.

D. Our_______ is better than our _______.  v. 2:17 

3.  The_______ for the tithe.  v. 10a

Notice...

A.  The percentage - _______.                                                                .

B.  The place - _______.                                                      .

C.  The purpose - _______.                                          .

D.  The proposal - _______. 

Why does God want us to test him?

A.  He knows that _______ is the hardest thing we’ll ever _______. 

What are you willing to do for $10 million?

___ Would abandon their entire family.

___ Would abandon their church.

___ Would become a prostitute.

___ Would give up their American citizenship.

___ Would leave their spouses.

___ Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free.

___ Would kill a stranger.

___ Would change their race.

___ Would have a sex-change operation.

B. He wants to _______ to us.

My Part:        

  1. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.
  2. Test God's faithfulness.

God's Part:    

  1. Personally provide for my needs.  v. 10
  2. Personally protect my possessions.  v. 11

4.  The_______ in the tithe. vv. 16-18

Tithing Truths:

A. God owns everything.
B. My giving is a true test of my commitment to God. Luke 12:34
C. With God, $10 minus $1 equals $10.
D. God wants our first 10%, not our leftovers. Proverbs 3:9
E.  Tithing is an issue of trust, not money.
 

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