Victory Church of Red Deer
Victory Church of Red Deer
I really believe that God wants us to go higher. I really believe that God does not want us to stay where we are. I really believe that God has so much more for each and every one of us. And so this series that we started last week with Brad doing such a magnificent job, he really did, praise God, and I want to continue in that series and today is “Lift Your Hands and Worship” that’s the title of it. But I’m not going to spend a whole lot, I’m going to let the word of God speak to you and challenge you because we want to do more worship; we want to do more worship. And after you I give you these verses I hope it just stirs your whole being, because that’s my goal, that’s my heart’s desire, because I believe he’s worthy. He’s worthy of all of our worship, not just on Sunday morning, but God wants us to be worshipers every day of our lives, not just once in a while, because he is worthy.
What does worship mean? Well, worship means reverence, adoration. Reverence, yes, respect, honor, devotion. There were a few people that were mentioned last week, a passage of scripture that was referred to, and I’m referring to it again. In Matthew’s Gospel chapter two verses one and two, there were people that came to visit Jesus, the wise men, they got it, they really understood what worship was all about. And it says in Matthew 2:1, 2, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?” For we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
When you look at that passage of Scripture, they didn’t come to get something, they didn’t come to get anything from God. They came to worship him, to acknowledge the Christ child. They understood that he was king, the king of the Jews, they studied and they realized this is truth, and so they came searching for him because they wanted to worship him. Are you in that place today, to worship him and look for nothing else? See, that’s why God created us. He created us in the very beginning for his pleasure to worship him. The Bible says in Psalm 100:3, “Know that the Lord he is God, it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.” God made us; you can’t take any credit for that whatsoever, truly. God made you, and he made you to worship him, hallelujah.
But this thing about hands, lifting up of hands, what does it mean? What does it mean to lift up your hands? Now, we have all kind of ideas, and hopefully just 10, 15 minutes, because for a long time there were people who said to us Pentecostals and charismatics that we’re too emotional when we raise our hands, we’re too emotional. In fact, in some places you’re not allowed to lift your hands when you worship God. But you know what? People like Solomon, David, Jeremiah and all these Old Testament prophets would not even fit our churches today, because that’s what they believed in, it was practiced. In the Old Testament lifting up of their hands was a regular practice, and so it was with the early Christians as well, to lift up their hands.
But what does it mean? Number one, it means that you’re reaching out to God, you’re reaching out to him. Psalm 63:1 – 4 says this, this is talking about David who was in the wilderness of Judah, he was in a very tough predicament, he was in the wilderness running from his son Absalom. It was not a very good place to be at – the king of Israel running for his life. Listen what he says, he cries out to God, he says, “Oh God you are my God. Early will I seek you. My soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” He says, “My soul is like that desert that is dry and is thirsting for water.” That’s how my soul is right now; I need God. I need God, and he’s reaching out to him. He’s reaching out to God, he’s crying out to him.
And then in verse number two he says, “So I’ve looked for you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory.” He’s recalling the time when he did have an experience with the power of God. He remembers the time when he was in a place in the glory of God, and that’s what he craves for. And he’s not going to quit, he’s going to press in. Then it says in verse number three, “Because your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you.” He realizes that it was because of God’s love that’s why he experienced all those things in the past, why he experienced the power of God. He saw the glory of God, his love. Love pursues, and he understood it, and that’s why he said, “Your loving-kindness is better than life”, because life itself, what does it deliver? Problems, all kind of situations in life that are difficult. Life fades away, but glory to God, the love of God never quits. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That’s what the Word of God says, his love is everlasting, it never stops, it pursues you. Luke, God loves you, I mean that. He loves you with an everlasting life. And it doesn’t matter what situations you face in life, he loves you and his love pursues you. He never quits on you Luke, and that applies to all of us; he never quits, his love pursues us. And then he says in verse number four, “Thus I will bless you while I live.” And he’s not talking about the good times, he’s talking while I live. With every situation in life I’m going to bless the Lord. I will lift up my hands in your name, I’m reaching out to you. And when we reach out to him we honor him.
That’s number one; number two quickly – we are commanded to lift our hands. In first Timothy 2:8 it says, “I desired therefore that men pray everywhere.” And I want you to understand something there – ‘men’, do you know who are the men in that particular verse? Yes, male gender, it is specifically for male gender, that’s what it’s talking about. Men, be an example, lift up your hands and worship God, that’s what it means. Come on women, ladies in this place, yes, because it seems like the ladies, there’s some men, but that’s what it’s saying to us as man, lift up your hands and worship God, we’re commanded to do so.
Number three – God loves it. God loves when we worship him with our lifted up hands. Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service.” That includes your hands, it includes your fingers, your hands, and your arms, not just the rest of the body, your hands too. I lift them up and sacrifice to worship God, to worship him, to glorify the King of kings and the Lord of lords; he deserves that, and he loves it. Look at this, James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Do you know what happens when you have a little child and your child is at a point where they begin to raise their hands, what do you do as a parent? You pick him up, you reach down and you pick up the child. Guess what God does? When you raise up your hands to him and reaching out to him, God reaches down to you.
You know something else? In Psalms 22:3, listen to this verse, “But you are holy and throned in the praises of Israel.” That means when you begin to worship God, when you begin to praise him, he loves us so much that he comes down, his throne moves and dwells amongst the praises of his people; that’s what that means, that’s what it says. Could you just imagine if you really got lost in worship, and you just simply just got in love with Jesus and you spend time in worship with your raised-up hands? The throne room of God comes down to dwell amongst you, and the power of God is released into the midst. That’s God, that’s what he loves, he loves when you do it. The devil doesn’t, that’s the truth.
Number four – it’s an offering of praise, it’s like what Brad was talking about last week about money being an offering, an offering off worship unto God. Lifting up your hands is the same thing, it’s an offering of worship unto God, offering of praise. Listen to what the Psalms 141:2 says, “Let my prayer be set before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” It’s an offering of praise unto God .
And number five, my hands are shaking, that’s how excited I am, releasing the power of God in battle; releasing the power of God in battle. Look at this passage of scripture in Exodus chapter 17, this is just one example of many, because worship was used in battle over and over again, lifted up hands. Listen to what it says here, “Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses said to him and fought with Amalek, and Moses Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was when Moses held up his hand that Israel prevailed, and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands one on one side and the other on the other side, and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”
I want you to know there is power in praise, there’s power when the child of God lifts their hands up and worship to God. There’s power, there’s power in praise. I got to give you another passage of scriptures, is that OK? I got to give you another passage of scripture it’s not anywhere, but it’s in the Bible. Psalms 149 beginning in verse number 4, this is what it says, “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people. He will beautify the humble with salvation. Let the Saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth and the two-edged sword in their hand to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind up their kings with chains that demonic forces and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the written judgment. This honor have all the saints of God.”
There is power when you begin to worship God and you are in a battle when things are happening you begin to worship God, and you submit yourself to him; do you know what that means? That means when you lift up your hands you’re surrendering to God’s power, you’re beginning to honor him. And there is victory – it means surrender and it means victory as well. Victory is yours. I remember in our home when we lived in Calgary we used to do that a lot. We were going through difficult times, we would have what they call praise walks in our house, we’d have praise walks, we’d lift our hands and go from room to room. We’d spend time in one room and we’d go to the other room and we would just praise the Lord. We were fighting a battle through praise. You can do the same, that honor is yours, you can take that and use it.
We minimize praise and worship. We need to understand praise and worship is a powerful force that the enemy does not like and wants to stop it. But, praise God, we are children of God, we belong to the Most High. We’re going to praise God, we’re going to praise God, we’re going to walk in thanksgiving, we’re going to walk in praise, we’re going to walk as giving honor and glory to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It doesn’t matter what your situation is, like David of old, he said, “I’m going to praise God as long as I live, it doesn’t matter what I face.” And I want you to understand God is for you, and not against you.
The Bible says in Psalms 100 it says this, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness, come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God, his people the sheep of his pasture.” Then it says, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Be thankful unto him and bless his name for the Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations.” Hallelujah, glory to God. That’s what the Word of God says. I can go on and on with passages of scripture. There’s another verse that says, “Thine oh Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is thine. Thine is the kingdom oh Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reigneth over all. In thy hand there’s power and might, and the hand is to make great and to give strength unto all.”
Now therefore God, we’re thankful unto you, and we’re going to praise and glorify your name. And I want us to glorify his name, I want us to lift up his name in Jesus name, I want us to sing a song. And then I’m going to come back, and we want to pray for people today. But we want to lift up the name of Jesus, he is the one to be lifted up. And when he indwells the praises of his people, the power of God will be released in Jesus’ name.
Who here loves to worship? Worship was great this morning, right? Worship isn’t just singing and dancing and raising your hands, there’s many different ways to worship, and through this series we’re going to learn how to do that. Today specifically though we’re going to start challenging different ways to worship, and today specifically though we’re going to start talking about bringing your gifts. And I know what some of you might be thinking, “What do you mean?” We talked about giving last week, I’ve already hit my giving quota for the year. But the truth is, God laid this on my heart a while back and I got to be obedient, and it’s part of this as well. So I know some of you don’t want to hear another message on giving, I know it’s tough to talk about sometimes. And that’s OK because what we want and what we need are two different things, so although this might not be what you want to hear, it might be just what you need to hear. Even the Rolling Stones kind of understand this, they got a song called You Can’t Always Get You What You Want, right and it goes on to say but sometimes if you try you might find you get what you need.
So the difference between need and want is one is based out of selfishness and one is based out of necessity. So I really want a new big TV, I want that fast car, I want a house with 12 bedrooms and six bathrooms and a 20-car garage, who doesn’t want that stuff? That’s awesome. Well, that’s not what I need, what I need is food, I need water, I need spiritual food and water as well, that’s what we need, we don’t need the giant TV. So I think part of the reason it’s hard to give God 100% in the finance area is because this is one of the areas of our lives that God doesn’t just hand it to us, and what I mean is he gives salvation freely, gives the gifts of the Spirit freely, that all comes just straight from him, no exception except you got to accept him in your heart first. But money is something else, you actually have to go and work for it, you got to put an effort in. You spend most of your week working to earn money. So I think what happens is this sense of entitlement that comes along because you’ve worked so hard for it and you feel like, “It’s mine, I worked for this, I did something to achieve this.”
However, God did give us the ability to work. He gave us the ability to think, to use our minds, he gave us the ability to be able to go out and earn money, so God did give it to you, but you do have to put in the work, So I’m going to be honest this morning, although this has been on my heart for a while it’s not exactly what I wanted to talk about, it’s not really the, “Hey, I want to get up there, I want to talk about money.” Sorry, but I just didn’t feel that. But I spoke to the guys on the Board, I told them what I was feeling and I was honest with them, and they’re like, “Well, you got to be obedient to God.” And I thought about that, and they’re right, when God puts something on your heart you got to be obedient, that’s worshiping, you got to be obedient. So today I’m being obedient, and you know what comes with that? There’s more joy in obedience than there is doing what I want. When you are obedient you gain more growth, more understanding, and you’re trusted with more responsibility. You actually grow from being obedient, you don’t really grow from doing what you want.
So today we’re going to see how to worship with our finances and how important this type of worship actually is. So my first point here is give joyfully. I’ll start in Matthew 2, it’s kind of a long verse, and you do have it so you can even read it, you don’t have to listen to me to say this one. “Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea during the reign of King Herod. About the same time some wise men from the eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem asking “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of the religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem, in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote, you oh Bethlehem in the land of Judah are not the least among the ruling cities of Judah. For a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men and he learned from them about the time when the star first appeared, then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child, and when you find him come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him too.” After this interview the wise men went their way and the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were filled with joy, they entered the house and saw the child and his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshiped him, then they opened their treasures and gave him gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:1 – 11.
So that’s a very common story we all know, but if you look at verse two this morning, “The wise men say, “We saw his star as it rose and we have come to worship him.” So the reason they came and traveled so far was to worship Jesus. And verse nine says, “After this interview the wise men went their way and the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was born.” So we read that verse and we think, “Well, OK, they went down the block.” We don’t really understand the distance or the full magnitude of what these wise men did. Historians believe actually that they came from Persia which is modern-day Iran, so the distance actually is around 2,000 kilometers, so that that’s like going from here to Los Angeles, little ways. I don’t think they hopped on the West Jet either or Air Persia. Maybe they got in their minivan, rode down; no, I don’t think so. I think it was a long, painful journey, these guys probably took a month or two. I don’t know how long it would take, but it took a while. And the entire reason they went on that trip was to worship the one person they believed that would be their savior.
Verse 10 says, “When they saw the star they were filled with joy.” English has a hard time translating this properly from the original Greek text so ESV was the closest thing I can find and it says, “They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy,” which almost sounds like an oxymoron – they rejoiced with joy, it’s like a double whammy. So basically it means they were really, really happy about being happy, they were joyful about joy. And it’s almost impossible to describe how full of life they were, because for centuries they had hoped that one day the scripture would come true and that one would be born to save them from their sins. So from the depths of their souls they were overjoyed, they grew up hearing these stories, studying the old texts, hearing about how there’s going to be this one born, and this was their opportunity, they knew it, so they were overjoyed; they were overjoyed.
So the problem today is some of us Christians are a little under-joyed. We should be the most overjoyed people around, and some of us are under-joyed, it makes no sense to think about what God has done for us and yet to still be walking around with a sourpuss look on our faces. Think about it, have you ever come in here, walked past everyone having a bad day or whatever, go sit in your seat, worship comes on and you’re there, you got this look on your face, and you’re singing the songs, you got this look. Are you happy that Jesus came for you, that he died for you? It just doesn’t make sense; if you’re overjoyed you need to tell your face. Let’s smile, let people around you know that you are overjoyed, that being a follower of Jesus you are full of more joy than anyone else around. It doesn’t matter how bad life gets, you still have the promise of eternity and a savior who loves you. You’ve got God on your side who’s working for you and not against you. And so like Todd mentioned this morning, Jordan, this guy is always up here worshiping, he’s always joyful. Anyone who looks at this guy you know that the joy of Jesus is in his heart. That’s how we should all be when we worship just in general, we should be overjoyed because we have a savior. So don’t live under-joyed, it’s not worth it.
We just finished the daring faith series, so I’m going to dare you guys to smile, to clap when you worship and get involved with praise. Be excited and see how much better it is to live overjoyed. We should be people that are fun to be around, when people see us they should say, “Wow, that’s one of the happiest people I know.” Why? Why should it be that way? Because we’re overjoyed that we have a savior. Last year for my birthday my wife set up a surprise party for me, which is hard because I’m usually pretty good at guessing this stuff. She spent hours setting it up, making games for the party because she knows how much I love games. And when I finally showed up, she was so excited, she was overjoyed; why? Because she could put that all together, she was overjoyed that she could give a gift that I didn’t have. She wasn’t thinking, “Well, I married this guy, it’s in my marriage certificate, once a year I got to be happy for him.” No, that’s not what she did, she gave because she loves to give. And that’s what these wise men did, they gave because they loved the one who came for them. They worshiped him and they were overjoyed to bring their gifts as an act of worship, with great joy in their hearts they opened up the best of what they had and they gave it to Jesus. We need to be overjoyed people, we need our hearts to show we love Jesus. We have a savior and that’s worth being overjoyed about.
Which brings me to number two, love gives; love gives. Matthew 2:11, “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” They worshiped him, and how did they worship him? By giving gifts, they opened their treasure chest and gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh, which is expensive stuff, especially in that time. Then they were overjoyed to bow down and worship and bring their gifts to the one who would save them. They were overjoyed to give, they didn’t give under-joyed, they didn’t travel 2,000 kilometers and say, “Here you go” and walk off, “Thanks.” No, they were overjoyed, they were excited, they came there specifically to worship him.
So I used to work out of town and sometimes I would be gone for a couple days, sometimes I’d be gone for a couple months without any knowing of which one it would be. A couple days before me and Jess had our first dating anniversary, which was big because I never dated, I was home a couple days before our actual dating anniversary and I knew that in a day or two I’d be gone, and I’d be gone before our actual day of our anniversary. So we decided that we I would take her out for dinner, for a nice dinner – I decided, not we… maybe a little, and we set a budget on what we would buy for each other. We had $100 or whatever, and when the time came we exchanged our gifts, and to be honest I don’t even remember what I got her, it was just an average gift, nothing extraordinary, but it was something I knew she would like. That was it, that was our first anniversary. But what Jess didn’t actually know was before I left for work I had planned and set up a scavenger hunt in our apartment. I hid clues all over the place and then they were in places I knew she wouldn’t look. So my plan was to call her on our anniversary day and give her the first clue over the phone. My plan was flawless, so I thought. But what I didn’t anticipate was one of her friends accidentally coming across one of the clues and so she ended up calling me and asking about it, so I told her my plans and I gave her the first clue, and her and her friend went on the hunt to find where the clues led. When she finally got to the end she found a gift waiting for her, I bought her a really nice necklace that she had been eyeballing for some time. I spent way over budget, but I couldn’t help myself because when you love someone you love to give to them; love gives.
What does the Bible say about this? Let’s take a look. So this is a verse that I bet most of you know it too, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” – John 3:16. God loved the world so he gave, he loved so he gave, and he gave his only son. I couldn’t do that. As a father I can’t understand that kind of love, I understand love for my son but I don’t think I could give him for someone else. So Christmas is coming soon, and what do we do at Christmas? We give gifts. We don’t always want to give gifts, but we give gifts anyway. Have you guys ever noticed that there’s different types of gifts you get for different types of people? In my mind I think there’s about three general types of gifts you buy people – the first you buy for your wife, your kids, or someone you’re really close with, someone who’s really close to you, good friend, whatever. And if you’re buying this type of person a gift in your life, you put a lot of time into it, you put a lot of effort to find that perfect gift that you know they’re going to love. And sometimes when it’s a little out of your price range, you spend the extra even though you know you can’t really afford it, because you love them.
The second is a friend who is not as close, or a distant family member that you’re not as close to. Sometimes you don’t have the same connection, you can’t be close to everyone. So this type of gift is a little less thought-out, not as much effort goes into this type of gift, usually it’s a little more generic, cheaper, you probably won’t go over budget on this type of gift. Maybe it’s a gift card or something, it gives them the option to get something they want because you’re not sure what they want. And the third is when you go to a gift exchange and you buy a gift in hopes you get it back yourself because you don’t want to leave with something you don’t want. I may be the only one here, maybe it’s a little cruel thinking I guess, well it’s true. Why do we do that? What’s the difference here? The difference is that love gives. When you love someone you give to them, you go over-the-top to show it. We don’t love everyone the same, it’s true, but we all have a love for Jesus and God. So Matthew 2:11 says, “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they open their treasure chest and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” The wise men brought Jesus their gifts, they were showing their love for him. They picked up some really special gifts because they loved him.
So point three is God gave first. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners,” Romans 5:8. God demonstrated his love for us while we were still sinners. We didn’t even like the guy and he sent his son for us; he loved us before we even knew that we would love him. We didn’t deserve it, and there was nothing we could do to earn it. But God gave it to us because he loves all of us, he loves each and every one of you out there. God gave us life, physically and spiritually, he gave us the ability to work, he gave us minds to think, he gave us salvation, and the list goes on. God gave this first. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Well, I love God, but it’s hard to give, it’s hard for me. I want to give but it’s just not in my budget. I love but I’m afraid or I’m reluctant or hesitant.” There are so many things that could be holding you back. Proverbs 3:5 – 10 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of your produce, then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” So you see the first part there, “trust in the Lord.” “Trust in the Lord,” that’s what it says, “and do not lean on your own understanding.” Trust in him, don’t lean on your own understanding. Then it says, “be not wise in your own eyes,” so don’t try to figure it out. God knows, he made us, we don’t have to understand everything he does. He knows more than you or me, I know nothing compared to him.
Have you guys ever started a new job that you knew nothing about? When they first give you a task to do, they show you how to do it first. They show you what to do and then they let you in there to try it for yourself, and it never goes as well as it does for them. You don’t understand what it has to do with the bigger picture of the business, you don’t know. You know I got a task, they gave it to me to do, but I don’t know how it works into this, but you trust that person, you trust the person who’s showing you that they know what they’re doing, that they have experience and that they understand what it has to do with the rest of the business. You trust them and you do it. You don’t understand that, but you know that over time and with some practice you will gain understanding, and the process will make sense to you. It’s the same thing with tithing. God has shown us how to give, and now he wants us to step in and try it out, and eventually the understanding will come, which brings me to my last point.
Tithing puts you in a position where you can expect blessings in your life, and that’s a cool thing. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with your first fruits of all your produce, then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Honor the Lord with your wealth, then you will have plenty, you got to do the first part, if you don’t do the first part you’re not going to get the second part. As Mr. Rich brought up last week, there’s a promise and a premise, so honor the Lord with your wealth and your first fruits, then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. You see, you have to do the first part, we have to. If you don’t have to, then you won’t be blessed; if you want to be blessed, you got to do the first part.
So here’s another popular verse that we all know – “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my temple. And if you do, says the Lord of heavens armies, I will open up the windows of heaven for you, I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in. Try it and put me to the test.” I want to be on that side, I want to be on the blessing side. I know you guys heard that one last week and a few of these verses, with the amount of times this verse gets to your ears, but it’s not a cliché, it’s not; it’s a promise. What I’ve seen come true, not only in my life, but with other people in this church, I’ve seen it come true many times. From the people who have decided to put God first in every situation no matter what the outcome is going to be, whether they’re going to miss payments, whatever, they’ve put God first and somehow something amazing happens and it’s covered, they’re blessed. So I’ll give you a quick story about this – this last year-and-a-half was actually really tough for me and Jess. Although I work full-time, Jess was a stay-at-home mom and her maternity leave got cut off earlier than it should have, it was a couple months actually, and we weren’t ready for it, and almost overnight went from being in an OK place, being able to pay for all our bills and having a little bit left over, to struggling, not being able to pay for a good chunk of stuff. We had no idea how to make this work, but we decided that none of these bills, none of this debt, the truck, nothing of that mattered if we didn’t have God first. So we decided it was better to be behind financially with God than taking God out of the picture and doing it on our own. It wasn’t always easy, and we didn’t know how stuff was going to get paid. But we knew it was in God’s hands. And over the past year the coolest things have kept happening, from money showing up in our account from nowhere, being able to get rid of different types of bills, so that cut it down, phone bills getting lowered without asking, our landlord lowered our rent by $300 without us asking as well. We ended up not missing one single payment. I didn’t even make enough to cover all our monthly cost of living, but yet God provided and we were able to pay for everything, and some months we had a little bit left over and we could get to something nice, but God provided, he blessed because we chose to put him first. And I know I’m not the only one here with these stories, but I’m the one up here this morning.
So all the tithers here, you guys know that it’s better to live on 90% with God’s blessing than it is to live on 100% without it. It doesn’t make sense in our heads, but it’s better, it is. And so just to be clear here, tithing does mean taking 10% of the best of your first, you take your paycheck that’s the first thing that comes out and bring it into the storehouse – the storehouse is the church. It doesn’t mean taking that 10% and going to Kennedy’s Parables and buying some Christian t-shirts or CDs or something, that’s not what it means. Tithing is giving God your first 10%, it’s the best of what you have. And I’m going to show you guys another cool way tithing works to bless you. We all know the church runs off money, the pastors get paid through our tithing. Who here has been blessed by Pastor Chuck on a Sunday morning, by what he said? Now, who here has been blessed by Pastor Chuck during the week, maybe a phone call, he’s called you up, maybe he just came for coffee with you? (There’s hands all over the place.) I’m one of them, he’s had time for me. That only happens because he can live off of the money we give them. And it says in the Bible too that the Levites, the priests, which is Pastor Chuck, are to live off the tithe; that’s how it can bless you. And through that it can even bless the ones that aren’t paying tithes either.
So before I end this, before I wrap it up a bit I’m going to show you another cool story that most of us know but doesn’t get used very often, and it’s in Genesis 4:3 – 5, “When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as the gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift, the best portions of his firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gifts, but he didn’t accept Cain and his gifts, and this made Cane very angry and he looked dejected.” So first we see something, we see that Cain gave, he gave some of his crops as a gift to the Lord, he brought it. But I think if it was a Christmas gift it might have been the equivalent to a Tim’s card, not much thought went into it. He just gathered up the leftovers and grab something and gave it to God as a gift. Then we got Abel, and it says that Abel brought a gift, the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock – if it was a Christmas gift, it’d be that one you’re getting for your spouse, it’s be that one you’re getting for that person you love, you’re going over the top because you love them. That’s how Abel gave, he brought the best, not the leftovers, not the last sheep, not the misfit sheep, he brought the most valuable of his flock as a gift to God. Here we see they both gave, they both gave to the Lord, and the difference was their hearts. Cain gave from abundance, there was no joy when he gave, he gave the leftovers, the scraps and kept the best for himself. But Abel, he gave joyfully, his heart was for the Lord and he wanted to show it by giving his best.
Now look at this – the Lord accepted Abel and his gifts, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. Not only was the gift rejected, so was Cain, he didn’t accept either one. That verse does go on to say that he had a chance to do the right thing and give properly. But that’s why your heart needs to be in it. If your heart is not in it, you’re not giving for joy, you’re better off not to give. If you’re giving for the wrong reasons it won’t be accepted. God doesn’t want your best because he needs it, he wants your best because he knows that for some reason our hearts are connected to our wallets, there’s a really tight connection there. He knows that where you put your money is where your heart is; he wants your heart, and that comes from your money because it’s connected. When you give your life to God you give him everything, even your money. God doesn’t need our money, he doesn’t need anything. But he gave to us, he gave to us anyway and he wants our hearts. He wants you to put him first and he wants you to demonstrate it, because God first showed us how much he loved us when we were still sinners.
So today I’m going to challenge you guys all to give, not because the church needs your money, not because I want you to give, but because of your hearts. Give this part to God, I’m challenging you to give from your heart to demonstrate to God that he is first in your life. And it doesn’t matter how much you give today, if you have a quarter and it is from the heart, if you have $10 and it’s from the heart today, then give that, show God that he’s first in your life in this area. Don’t be like Cain today, don’t just give because I’m up here saying I think you should. I’m not pressuring anyone. If you feel pressured, that’s the wrong reason to give, and if it’s not from the heart it won’t be accepted anyway, so you’re better off to keep that money. Imagine what it was like for those wise men, they bowed and worshiped the one who was born to save them. He was born to save you and I from our sins, so we need to give to him as an act of worship, giving is worshiping God. So is there anyone here who would say, “I want to be a worshiper when I give”? Because I want to be a worshiper when I give.
Now, some of you might be here and you might be deciding, “I want to give my first tithe.” You might be thinking, “I haven’t been putting God first in this area of my life, and today I want to change that. Today I want to start putting you first in this area of my life.” And this might be hard, but if there’s anyone like that, can you raise your hand? There’s people all around guys, you’re not alone, that’s amazing. I know someone is going to come up, Todd, and do the tithes soon, but I’m going to pray first, I’m going to pray and close this, so let’s all bow our heads.
Father I thank you that you are changing hearts and that your Holy Spirit is speaking to us. God I pray that as we give today it would be out of a heart of worship. And I thank you for those who have made a decision to put you first in this area of their lives, I pray that you would bless them Lord. I pray that you would bless everyone here. And I thank you for this opportunity today. I thank you that we get to come and worship you. I thank you that you came and died for us, and now we get to worship you. So Lord, I pray that if there’s anyone here that that still feels that way but hasn’t changed, that you would just keep that in their heart and that maybe that would sink in. I pray that you would bless us all, and I thank you for your love, in Jesus name I pray, amen.