Proudly Christian . . .Eh

I learned two things this week that I didn’t know before.  Even though I am not a sports fan I am aware
that Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play professional
baseball in the Major Leagues in the States.  
And I even knew that before they started promoting the movie “42”.   What I didn’t know was that he played in
Canada the year before without a problem or incident.  The fact that he was African American didn’t seem
to be an issue. 

In 1946 Robinson played for the Montreal Royals, the affiliate team of
the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Robinson said “The fans there were just fantastic and
my wife and I have nothing but the greatest memories.” 
The other thing I discovered was that Robinson was not only hired by the
Dodgers because of his skill on the field but because of his commitment to
Christ. 

One biographer wrote “The reason, quite literally, (Branch) Rickey chose
Jackie Robinson was his strong moral character and his Christian faith.”  Ricky knew if this was going to work they
would have to have someone who would take the teaching of Christ about turning
the other cheek seriously.  

 Kind of makes me proud to be a Christian and a Canadian.  Have a great week and remember: To
see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.
  

Proud to be a Christian. . .eh

I learned two things this week that I didn’t know before.  Even though I am not a sports fan I am aware that Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play professional baseball in the Major Leagues in the States.   And I even knew that before they started promoting the movie “42”.   What I didn’t know was that he played in Canada the year before without a problem or incident.  The fact that he was African American didn’t seem to be an issue. 

In 1946 Robinson played for the Montreal Royals, the affiliate team of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Robinson said “The fans there were just fantastic and my wife and I have nothing but the greatest memories.” 
The other thing I discovered was that Robinson was not only hired by the Dodgers because of his skill on the field but because of his commitment to Christ. 
One biographer wrote “The reason, quite literally, (Branch) Rickey chose Jackie Robinson was his strong moral character and his Christian faith.”  Ricky knew if this was going to work they would have to have someone who would take the teaching of Christ about turning the other cheek seriously.  

 Kind of makes me proud to be a Christian and a Canadian.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

The Blessing of Faithfulness

Well here we are in
week four of Money Month.  If you are
visiting or new to Cornerstone this is an annual event.  A number of years ago I decided that instead
of preaching on money when there was a need in the church that I would spend a
month each year to teach the theology of giving.  The bible talks a lot about money and the
believer’s responsibility with what God has given them.  And so I have an obligation as your pastor to
let you know what that responsibility is. 
This year our theme
has been “The Blessed Life”.  Week one we
looked at the how and the who of the blessing.  
That God is not a grumpy god but a loving God who wants to see his
children blessed.  We find that in the
first chapter of the first book of the bible, we find it in the last chapter of
the last book of the bible and we find it throughout the bible. 
And according to the
bible, God’s word, when we are faithful and give with pure motives some of
those blessings are financial.  You may
want to ignore it or try to rationalize it as spiritual blessings but that
isn’t and wasn’t the context that those verses were written in.
In week two I spoke
about First Things, how God required the Israelites to dedicate to him the
First Born as an act of remembrance, to remember that they were once slaves and
God had delivered them to freedom.  We
give to remember that we too were slaves to sin and God delivered us.  We looked at how God required the first of
all that was harvested to remind his people that all they had come from
him.  And that is still true today.   And God required that the people bring the
first tithe as an act of obedience.  He
didn’t require their money, he is God, master and king of the universe, all of
this is his.  But the act of giving is an
act of worship, it is an act of obedience, it is us giving God a tangible
tribute.
And then last Sunday
we looked at the blessing that was attached to the Tithe, the ten percent that
God asks us to return to him.  Remember
we don’t give the tithe, because you can’t give someone what already belongs to
them.  You can only bring it to
them. 
This morning we are
going to unpack a little more about this concept of the tenth. 
The first time the
tenth is mentioned in the scriptures was referenced in the passage that was
read for us earlier.  And it revolves
around this mysterious figure Melchizedek.
We don’t know a
whole lot about him, and what we do know is buried in mystery. We know that he
was the King of Salem, we know that he was a priest of the Most High God, we
know that he had a funny name and we know that Abraham thought enough of him
that he made an offering of ten percent of everything he owned to him.
He is fairly obscure.  He’s first mentioned in Genesis 14 where he
is given a total of three verses.  He’s
not mentioned again until Psalm 110:4 where David makes reference to the
coming Messiah and writes “You are a priest forever in
the order of Melchizedek.”
And then nothing, not in
Proverbs, or Ecclesiastes, none of the prophets mention him.  Melchizedek’s name doesn’t come up in any of
the gospels or the book of Acts. Paul doesn’t mention him in the Pauline
Epistles or the Pastoral Epistles. Epistles are not the wives of the apostles;
it’s simply a fancy name for letters. And then all of a sudden the author of
the book of Hebrews writes 14 verses about this mystery king, drawing some
interesting comparisons between Melchizedek and Jesus.  This is really interesting, Melchizedek was
called the King of Salem which means King of Peace, we are told that there is
no record of his father or mother or any ancestors, no beginning or end to his
life that he was like the Son of God. 
Interesting.  And then we are told
in Hebrews 7:6 But
Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham.
And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already
received the promises of God.

So not
only is this the first place in the scriptures where a tithe is mentioned but
the tithe is associated with a blessing. 
Abraham tithes and he is blessed. 
In the story of King Hezekiah restoring the temple in 2 Chronicles the
people began to tithe and they were blessed. 
In Malachi we read last week that God told the people, through his
prophet, that if they tithed he would open the windows of heaven and pour out
blessings on them. 

But
what we are interested in this morning is the fact that the story of
Melchizedek and Abraham in Genesis is the first recorded instance of someone
financially providing for God’s work.  Individual’s
offerings had been given before but this is the first time that a
representative of God is given a set portion of someone’s income.

One of the top three
reasons given in an extensive survey of non-believers as to why they didn’t
attend church was “because they are always asking for money.”  I don’t blame people, I guess probably
churches are constantly asking for finances but I wonder why that is.  And besides people don’t stop attending the Lions
Club or the rotary or the Kinsman and they are always asking for money. 
Every year we have
door knock appeals from the Red Cross, and the Cancer Fund, and the Kidney
Foundation and receive dozens of letters from other worthy causes and yet
people don’t say; “Hey they are only interested in money.”
Maybe the reason the world
feels negative about the church and finances is that they don’t feel like they
are getting anything in return or that the church doesn’t contribute anything
to the community.
 But then again the bible doesn’t tell us that
we are a service organization, and the only thing that the scripture requires
us to put back into society is better people and I guess when everything is
said and done that’s a pretty important contribution. 
But God never expected the
world to support the church.  From its
very beginnings the church carried its own load.  You can hunt through the New Testament and
you won’t find any reference to the early church having a bagel drive to raise
funds or having a Saturday catacomb sale or a chariot wash.  But you will find instances like Acts 2:44-45 And all the
believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold
their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
And Acts
4:32
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that
what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.
Now that is a fairly
radical concept of giving and a pretty radical concept of living.  And nobody can really say whether or not that
communal concept extended beyond the first generation of believers in
Jerusalem. 
But we know that the churches
that sprung out of the initial movement continued to be generous.  Even the Corinthian church which was
criticized for sexual immorality and theological error was commended for their
generosity in giving to the work of the kingdom. 
In Paul’s first letter to the
Corinthians he urged them to give, we can find that in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now
regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in
Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in
Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of
the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect
it all at once.
And the result of that
admonition is found in 2 Corinthians where Paul
commended the Corinthians by saying: 2 Corinthians
8:10
Here is my advice: It would be good for
you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who
wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it.
Wow, not only were they the
first to give but they wanted to give. 
Would kind of remind you of what Paul said about the Macedonian churches;
listen to this,   2 Corinthians 8:2-4 They
are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also
filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can
testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they
did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege
of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
Can’t you just hear them “Please
Paul, we want to give more, we know we’ve already given a lot but please let us
help more.” 
So let it be said
that the biblical precedent is that 1)
God’s people provide for God’s
work. 
We don’t expect the world to
do it, we don’t expect the government to do it is to be done through the giving
of the people of God.
But how much?  What are the people of God supposed to
give?  It is inevitable that when we talk
about the tithe or a tenth of our income people always say “but that is an Old
Testament concept”.  And it’s true that
it is an Old Testament concept, in fact it is first laid down in Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the produce of the
land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the
LORD and must be set apart to him as holy.”
But then again “thou
shalt not kill” is an Old Testament concept as well but we don’t write that
off, do we?
And even though the tithe wasn’t
commanded until Leviticus we actually have two instances where people gave ten
percent of what they had to God before the law was laid down.  The first instance was in Genesis chapter 14
where Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to God.  I wonder why he decided to give a tenth? 
It wasn’t written down
anywhere, there weren’t any meddling preachers, so why ten percent?  Then Jacob decides to make an offering to the
lord and we read in Genesis 28:22 “And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place
for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives
me.”
Now isn’t that
strange, of all the choices that Jacob could make he decides on the very same
amount that Abraham did.  No written
instructions.  No law.  This was before the bible said “a tithe
belongs to the lord” matter of fact it was before the bible.  He could have made a hundred choice, 1%, 2%,
and 3%, all the way up to 100%.  Could it
be that God told them?
So the tithe is mentioned in
the law and it’s mentioned before the law. 
But what about in the New Testament? 
Take the case of the Pharisees, Jesus did not like these guys every time
you see them together in the scriptures they are fighting; they mix like oil
and water.  And Jesus condemned the
Pharisees for a lot of things but there was one thing that he commended them
for and that is found in Matthew 23:23 “What
sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For
you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but
you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You
should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.
Jesus didn’t tell
them to practice justice, mercy and faith instead of tithing; he told them to
practice justice mercy and faithfulness while tithing.  He condemned them for hypocrisy, he condemned
them for neglecting important things, he called them tombs full of dead men’s
bones, he called them snakes, but he commended them for their tithing.
Remember back in 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you
should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned.
Acts 18 tells us
that the Corinthian church was started by converted Jews, now remember that the
law was pretty explicit about the tithe, if you were to tell a Jew that they
should set aside a sum of money for God’s work in keeping with their income I
wonder what amount would come to mind? 
Throughout the gospels Jesus commended people for giving ten percent or
more but he never commended anyone for giving less than ten percent.  On two occasions he even told people to give
everything they had, and when he praised the widow in the temple it was because
she had given everything that she had.
Where are we
at?  Could Christ commend us for our
giving?  We have many people in the
church that tithe and some people who more than tithe and a good number of
people who it would appear would rather die than tithe.    And
if that is the case have you remembered God’s work in your will?  We have, 10% of our estate is to go the
church that we are actively worshipping in at the time of our death.
One more than one
occasion Jesus used a person’s handling of money as an indication of their
spirituality.  The rich young ruler felt
that he had done everything he needed to do to find favour in God’s eyes, and
Jesus said “there’s one more thing that you have to do, you have to let go of
the purse strings.” Why?  Because God’s
blessing upon our lives will cost us everything that we value in life more than
Jesus. 
If there is anything
in your life that you value more than Jesus Christ then you are not a
disciple.  As long as you have something
in your life that is more important than God you are worshipping at the feet of
a golden calf.  The bible tells us that
the rich young ruler went away sorrowful. 
Why?  Because he had discovered
what he owned and what owned him.
James
Moffat made this statement, “A man’s treatment
of money is the most decisive test of his character, how he made it and how he
spends it.”  Jesus said something
very similar in Luke 16:11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will
trust you with the true riches of heaven?
If you haven’t given
God his due, does that make you untrustworthy with worldly wealth?  I don’t know, maybe Oswald
J. Smith was right when he said, “I have
learned that money is not the measure of a man, but it is often the means of
finding out how small he is.”  You
know I am convinced that some people will never be trusted with a pile because
they weren’t true to God with the little bit that they did have.  Other’s I am convinced profited because they
rendered unto God that which was God’s.
In saying that let’s
say this, 2.
God Expects us to be Faithful With What He’s Given Us.  One wit wrote these words, “It’s not what you’d do with a million, if riches should e’r
be your lot, but what you are doing at present with the buck and a quarter you
got.”  There are those who consistently
tell you what they’ll do for God, when their ship comes in.  If they’re anything like me they’ll probably
be at the airport when their ship comes in. 
God isn’t interested in what you’d do if you had so and so’s money.  He’s a lot more interested in what you’re
doing with what he gave you.
When God used Moses
he used a simple staff, what would have happened if Moses had of said, “Hold
it, let’s wait until I have a fancy rod, I could do a much better job with a
prettier rod.”  No, he used what God had
given him.  When David slew goliath it
was with a simple sling.  You know it’s a
whole lot easier to be faithful with a lot when you’ve already learned to be
faithful with a little.  If children are
taught to tithe it will be easier when they are adults to continue doing
it.  J.D.
Rockefeller Sr. One of the richest men in the world in his day said “If I had not tithed the first dollar I made I would not
have tithed the first million dollars I made. 
Tell your readers to train the children to tithe, and they will grow up
to be faithful stewards of the lord.”
A pig and
a cow were talking about what they gave that farmer, the cow said “well I give
cream and butter and milk” “hah”  said
the pig, “I give bacon, and pork chops and ham.”  “The difference” said the cow, “is that I
give well I am still alive” Some give according to
their means and others give according to their meanness, where are you?
God’s economy is not
based on greed.  When I seek things with
greed I get what I hadn’t expected.  It
started way back at the beginning with Adam and Eve.  They didn’t eat the forbidden fruit because
they were hungry; they ate it because they wanted to be like God.  Instead they got tossed out of the garden, literally ate their way out of house and
home. 
In the book of
Genesis we read the story of Abraham offering his nephew Lot the first choice
of the lands they were settling and Lot took the very best, he was being like a kid. 
I remember seeing a Peanuts cartoon once where Lucy and Linus were
taking the last two pieces of cake and Lucy took the biggest piece.  “Hey” said Linus “if I had of had first
choice I would have taken the smallest piece.” 
“So, what are you grumbling
about” replied Lucy.  Lot took the biggest piece and eventually he
ended up losing everything.
Why did David want
Bathsheba?  He already had three wives.  The greed that David had put a gulf between
him and God and eventually led to the ruin of his family.
Tithing is not an
investment.  You don’t do it out of
greed.  You don’t do it to multiply your
riches.  And you don’t give to prove how
good you are and you don’t give to gain control. 
The blessing comes
when we give to honour God.   It’s not the blessed chequebook it is the
blessed life, you don’t give to get you give to give. You give out of your love
for God and out of your concern for ministry.
Even in saying that, let’s
remember that God always repays when you give. 
If your motive is pure. 
God doesn’t settle all his
debts in this life but he is no man’s debtor. 
Listen to what Jesus told his followers in Luke
14:14
Then at the resurrection of the
righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
I don’t want to get
into a deep theological discussion on rewards and crowns and levels of rewards
in heaven, but I love the story of the man who got to heaven and Peter showed him to this
little tiny shack and said “here it is.”  
The man was flabbergasted and replied “This is it, what happened to my
mansion”  “well” said Peter “this is all
the building material you sent up”
God will take care of the
reward.  And there is repayment in this
life as well.  Mark 10:29-30 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and
I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or
mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News,
will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters,
mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to
come that person will have eternal life.
People often ask how in the
world can people tithe, I can’t make it on 100% let alone 90%.  But it’s amazing how far God can stretch that
90% when we believe that he can and will do it. 
Have you ever looked at where your money goes?  Is God’s money paying for the needs or the
wants? 
There is a great story in John 6:8-13 Then Andrew,
Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley
loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” “Tell
everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes.
(The men alone numbered 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God,
and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish.
And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told
his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they
picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people
who had eaten from the five barley loaves. So the next thing we learn is
3. God’s Multiplication Often
Begins With our Subtraction.
If the boy had of
kept his five loaves and 2 fish he could have fed what five or six people?  Maybe. 
But with his gift and God’s blessing he was able to feed five thousand.
The bottom line, nothing that I
have said this morning has made one iota of difference in your attitude toward
giving.  I have just fulfilled some
people concept of the preacher that is always looking for money.  Somebody once told me during a building
project that when I died they were going to inscribe Luke 16:22 on my
headstone, you are familiar with Luke 16:22 “Finally, the poor beggar died.”
If you tithe you are
thinking “good he really told them”  if
you don’t tithe you’re thinking “why did I bother coming this morning”  I’m not trying to guilt people into
giving.  Maybe I should get a pulpit that
I can pound on and tell you that if you’re not tithing then you are going to
hell. But I’m not sure that I really believe that.  But before we close let me run one more
scripture and thought by you, alright.
Repeatedly the bible tells us
not to test God. Old Testament and New Testament agree on that.  But there is one occasion that God says hey
test me, try me on this one and see that I’m not fooling, ok.  That is found in Malachi
3:10
Bring all the tithes into the
storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD
of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open 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! Put me to
the test!
This isn’t Denn Guptill, it’s not the Cornerstone church, this
is God almighty, the creator of the universe challenging the people of
God.  Challenging you saying if you tithe
it’s not going to hurt financially, but you will have to trust me.

A Little Good News, Please.

I need to say from the beginning that I feel that the bombing in Boston last week was a tragedy.  But, did I have to hear about it every time I turned on the television or looked at a newspaper?  It is because of the news coverage of events like this that people feel the world is becoming a worse place to live with each passing year, but that is only because we gorge on bad news.
If you think that these are new problems then you slept through history class.  Bad people doing bad things to innocent people has been happening since Cain decided to deal with his poor self-esteem issues by killing his brother.  And people have been killing innocent people with bombs since there were bombs to kill innocent people with.
A crime of an even larger magnitude happened in Texas the same week when a company put profits above the safety of an entire town.  However, I suspect the bomber in Boston will be dealt with much more harshly than executives in Texas.
Ultimately, whether people want to admit it or not, the answer is Jesus.  Because Jesus is the only one who can change people so they value human lives more than hatred and more than profits.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

The Blessing of the Tenth

So here we are, week
three of Money Month 2013.  You having
fun yet?  For those who are visiting with
us or new to Cornerstone this is an annual event.  Each April I take the opportunity to teach
the theology of stewardship, which is a fancy way of saying we look at what the
Bible says about money, what got, how we get it and what we do with it after we
get it.  Nice thing is that means I won’t
ambush you about money throughout the year. 
And we culminate
Money Month with an event we call Step Up Cornerstone which is next week.  And we will be talking more about that later
in the service. 
This year our theme
is “The Blessed Life” and we’ve been looking at the blessings that God has for
his people.  Week one we looked at the
premise that God wants to bless his people. 
It is there in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, it is
there in the last chapter of the last book of the bible and it is there
throughout the Bible.  God is not a
vengeful God who wants us to suffer, God is a loving God who wants to bless his
children.  And it would appear from the
word of God that some of those blessings are financial.  This is not the prosperity Gospel, let’s get
that straight, if you’ve been coming to Cornerstone for any length of time then
you know I do not preach or condone a name it and claim it theology. 
But there is a
reality to the fact that God wants to bless his children.  For years my objection to this was “What
about Christians in developing countries? 
They aren’t rich?”  And then I
travelled to developing countries, and no Christ Followers in those countries aren’t
rich, but they are blessed.  And even
within their context they are blessed financially. 
But the blessed life is not about a blessed chequebook, it is about a
blessed life.  You don’t give to get, you
give to give.  As a by-product of that
God blesses those who give to his work. 
But that can’t be the motive and motives count.  Jesus’ brother James wrote in James 4:3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives
are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. And Denn may never know your motives but God certainly does.
Last week we
looked at the blessing of First Things and how the giving of the First Born was
done to Remember.  To remember that we
weren’t always free, that were slaves who had been delivered.  The giving of the First Fruit was done to
recognize that all we have comes from God. 
And the brining of the First Tithe was done in obedience to the commands
of God.
So let’s jump into
our scripture which is the “go to” scriptures for preachers and tithing. 
Malachi
3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in
my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open 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! Put me to the test!
There are times that
I think “God why did you have to put this scripture where you put it?  Just another page, just another 13 verses and
it would have been in the New Testament and I wouldn’t have had to listen to people
say ‘but that’s in the Old Testament that doesn’t count’”
And then I realize
that I’m not God and he put it exactly where it belongs.  So what about the argument that it’s in the
Old Testament and it doesn’t count, or the “I’m not under the law I’m under grace”
statement?
Let’s go back to an
illustration that I used last week.  Say
Jason asked to borrow my Smart Car on a beautiful day so he and Marla could put
the top down and go to Peggy’s Cove for a picnic, and I agreed.  The purpose of the story last week was to
illustrate that we are told to bring our tithe not give our tithe, because you
can’t give someone something that already belongs to them.  And so at the end of the day if Jason came
back and said “Denn, Marla and I like you a lot and we’d like to bless you by
giving you this car.”  I’d have to say
“you’re not giving it to me, you are simply bringing it back, it already
belongs to me.”
Let’s take it to the
next step, at the end of the day Jason says “Denn, we really like your car so
we are going to keep it.”  And I say “you
can’t keep my car, that would be stealing.” 
To which he might say “But ‘thou shalt not steal’ is an Old Testament
thing and I’m under grace not under the law”
You see where I am
going here?  And what recourse would I
have?  I mean other than say choking the
life out of him and taking my keys back because the entire “Thou shalt not
kill” is an Old Testament thing and I’m not under the law I’m under grace.
What people fail to
recognize with this argument is that grace always goes further than the
law.  It’s throughout the Gospels.  The law says don’t murder, grace says don’t
hate.  The law says don’t commit
adultery, grace says don’t lust.  The law
says love your neighbor, grace says love your enemy.  So why would Jesus change that with tithing?
He wouldn’t and he didn’t.  In Luke
chapter 11 Jesus confronts the Pharisees about the hypocrisy and he tells them:
Luke 11:42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are
careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore
justice and the love of God.  They were tithing the smallest of things in their lives, they were
tithing their winning Roll Up the Rim Cups, but they weren’t nice people.  But Jesus doesn’t tell them they should stop
tithing.  Let’s keep reading, You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important
things.
 
So with that out of
the way, let’s go back to where we started from Malachi
3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in
my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open 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! Put me to the test!
In particular I want
to look at the portion that says “I will open the windows
of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough
room to take it in! This is the word of God, speaking to God’s people
and it says that God will pour His blessings on His people.  And not just any blessing, this passage says
He will pour out a blessing so great that we won’t be able to take it in.  Would you like to be blessed? Would you like
your life to be characterized as being blessed of God?  Sure you would, so here’s the secret. 
It begins with one
very small very important word, just two letters and yet this entire promise
hinges on that word.  And the word is “if”.  God is
waiting and willing to bless His people, but, there’s another small yet
important word, the choice is always up to us if we want to be blessed.  In this case the word of God says “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be
enough food in my Temple. If you do,”  What
will happen?  God will open the windows
of heaven.
So the first
question is Why will God bless You?  The short and simple answer here is that
God promised to bless the Israelites if they paid their tithe.  So what is the tithe?  Tithe simply means tenth and throughout the
word of God the concept is reiterated that all that we have comes from God but
he requires a tenth of it back.  For the
people of God this does not mean that we give God ten percent of what is ours,
it means that He allows us to keep ninety percent of what is His.  And in this case God tells his people, “If
you tithe, if you return to me ten percent of what I have given to you then I
will bless you”  You see when we give to
God, we are just taking our hands off what already belongs to Him.
And that is the
short answer, and if that was the entire answer then we’d be finished.  We could sing a song to close and we could go
home but you would have received only a portion of what you need in order to
achieve God’s blessings today.
Here then is the
long answer the answer that is contained in the short answer.
You Will Be Blessed If You Are Obedient.  The fact that the Israelites had not been paying their tithe was only
evidence of a much great problem and that was their obedience or their
disobedience in this case. The concept of the tithe goes back to Genesis, the
first book in the Bible, when Abraham gave King Melchizedek, who was also a
priest, ten percent of his belongings as an act of worship to God. 
The commandment to
God’s people to return ten percent of what God had given them is first recorded
in Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the produce of the
land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the
Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.” It is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:22 “You must set aside a tithe of your
crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.  Throughout the Old Testament we see
God’s people responding to the command of the Tithe, when they were living in
obedience to God’s will and commandments. However when they were living in
disobedience it is often evidenced by the fact that they are not giving to
God’s work.
In fact God often
uses our giving as a spiritual barometer, because if we are finding it
difficult to give something as paltry as money how much more difficult will it
be to give important things like our time, our will and our future?
So when we are
obedient to God then he blesses us.  Now
some of you might be thinking “That’s blackmail or bribery.” No, that is
reality.  When our children are
disobedient do we rush out immediately to buy them a gift or take them to a
special restaurant?  “I am so glad that
you wrote on the living room wall with crayons and didn’t do your homework, let
me buy you something special.”  No, that happens
when they do what we want them to do.
Tithing is only a
small part of who and what we are as Christians, but is a part it can’t be
ignored.  But neither can it be a bribe
to excuse our disobedience in other areas. 
If people could just pay their tithe and then do whatever they liked
with immunity the church wouldn’t be able to spend the money they had.
God is still looking
for our obedience to His word and He will bless us when we obey Him. 
Jesus tells us that unless we obey him we
don’t really love him John 14:15 “If you love me, obey
my commandments.  When we were
children and we disobeyed our parents we felt guilty, and that wasn’t a fun
feeling was it?  As believers when we do
what we shouldn’t  do or we when we don’t
do what we should we feel guilty as well, sometimes we call that conviction and
that isn’t a great feeling is it?  By the
way, when we stop feeling guilty about our disobedience it’s not that the
action has become all right it’s that our hearts have become hardened.
You Will Be Blessed If You Are Faithful.  This goes back to the concept of all we have as coming from God, he has
entrusted us with our material possessions to make an impact on this
world.  And we can choose to do that or
choose not to do that and that is entirely up to us.  But if we choose to spend what was meant for
the sacred on the secular then God is not going to bless us.  The concept is laid out in Luke 16:10 When Jesus said
“If you are
faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are
dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.
The New International Version says it
this way Luke 16:10 Whoever can be trusted with very
little can also be trusted with very much. 
If we go back into the Old Testament we
discover that when Israel was faithful to God, then God blessed them.  When he could trust them with what they had
then he was willing to trust them with even more, and the converse was also
true.  When God’s people could not be
trusted then the blessings of God were removed.
If your boss can’t trust you do you think
you will be promoted?  If you’re spouse
can’t trust you to be faithful with your love and your emotions do you think
the relationship will grow.  I truly
believe that God blesses us based on our past performance with his
blessings.  When we aren’t faithful, when
we can’t be trusted how do we feel?  Not
good huh?
You Will Be Blessed If You Are
Honest. 
When
you take something that doesn’t belong to you but belongs to somebody else it
is called stealing.  When you take what
doesn’t belong to you but belongs to God it’s still called stealing.  If we look back into the book of Malachi this
is what God says Malachi 3:8 “Should people cheat God?
Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever
cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”  In other words you cheat God when you
keep what is his. 
So it’s not just a
matter of obedience and faithfulness it is a matter of honesty.  Many people who would never take a penny that
belonged to somebody else have no problem taking and keeping what rightfully
belongs to God.
But honesty doesn’t
just have to do with money.  We can steal
the affections of someone who isn’t our spouse, that’s called adultery, we can
steal somebody’s good name that’s called slander, we can steal the honour that
is due God and that is called idolatry. 
To take something that doesn’t belong to us is a sin, by whatever name
you call it.  And God will not bless us
in our sin.
So if those are some
of the reasons for God to bless you the next question has to be: How will God bless you?
Let’s start with the least important
blessing, You Will be Blessed Monetarily   Throughout
the scriptures this concept has been taught, if you are faithful to God with
your finances then God will reward you. 
The word “give” is used over 1100 times in the Bible and we see this
concept taught, again and again.  Listen
to Ecclesiastes 11:1 Give generously, for your gifts
will return to you later.  Or Proverbs 11:24 Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy
and lose everything. You understand the concept, that if God provides
for his work and his Kingdom through his people then it is in the best interest
of His work and his Kingdom for those who are faithful to prosper.
If I was going away for a while and told
some of my staff “Each month I’m going to send you $10,000.00 (remember this is
only an illustration) and you can use that however you want but you need to
give $1,000.00 a month to Angela.  It
would seem like a pretty good deal right? 
And say after four months Angela and I were talking and I asked her how
she was doing financially and she said “you know staff person “A” send me a
thousand dollars a month, every month I can expect it on the first day.  Staff person “B” has been sending me
$2,000.00 a month, don’t know why, I was only expecting $1,000.00 but it is a
blessing.  That’s cool, so I ask, “What
about staff person “C”?”  “Well” she says
“the first month I got $1000.00 the second month I got $700.00 and then $400.00
this month nothing.” 
What do you think I’m going to do?  I’m going to stop sending money to Staff
person C and start sending it to Staff person B. 
Which is why Jesus tells us in Luke 19:26 “and to those who use well what they are given, even more
will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will
be taken away.”
The bible tells us that the church is the
bride of Christ and he provides for us so we can provide for his bride.
R.G. LeTourneau was an American Inventor and committed Christian.  What did he invent?  Heavy earth moving equipment, much of what
they use in excavation and road work today was originally the brain child of
Robert LeTourneau.  And he became very
wealthy doing what he did, and as his income grew so did his giving but he
wasn’t content with simply giving a tithe and by the end of his life he was
giving back ninety percent and living on the other ten percent. And this is
what R.G. LeTourneau said “I shovel money out, and God shovels it back … but God has
a bigger shovel”
Most of us have
either read the book, seen the movie, watched the play or at least heard of The
Diary of Anne Frank, and Anne
Frank said “No one has ever become poor by
giving.”
Came across a book entitled “The 10 Secrets Revenue Canada Doesn’t Want You to Know”  written by David M.
Voth.  This is from chapter 6:
Charitable Giving.  “Ask people who tithe faithfully and they will tell you of
the ten, hundred and thousand times returns they have received by giving.  Universally, tithers will also tell you that
if you tithe you’ll live better on the 90% than you ever did before on the
100%.  The prosperity benefits of tithing
are so significant that it would be worth it even if it came without any tax
benefits.  However, there are also tax
benefits to tithing.” 
I came across a neat saying that kind of sums
up this point, You should give according to your income, lest
God make your income according to your giving. 
So here’s a question, could you live on 10 times
what you give to the church each week?
But the momentary
blessings are the least important.  You Will be Blessed Emotionally
When we aren’t doing what we
are supposed to be doing we feel guilty or under conviction.  And I know some of you think that I’m the one
that tries to make you feel guilty.  Not
so, I simply present the word of God, if you are feeling guilty that’s your
doing not mine.  If I did a poll right
now, some of you would feel guilty and wish I would change my sermon right now
to something pointed like Apple Pie, Motherhood and Lower Taxes while others
wouldn’t be feeling the least bit convicted. 
If I were to preach
on adultery or lust who would feel guilty? 
If I was to preach on lying or stealing who would feel guilty? If I was
to preach on unforgiveness who would feel guilty?  And guilt will tie you up in emotional
knots.  Ask the person who is having an
affair how they feel around their spouse, as the person who is stealing from
the company how they feel around their boss, ask the person who cheats on their
income tax how they feel when a letter arrives from the tax department.
And so the blessing
of Obedience is emotional freedom, a clear conscience makes a soft pillow.  Listen to God’s word in Romans 4:7 “Oh, what joy for those whose
disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.
Have felt the Joy of
knowing that your sins are forgiven?   Which lead us to the last point You
Will be Blessed
Spiritually. 
When we are disobedient
to God, in whatever area of our lives it puts up a road block between us and
Him.  You see disobedience is simply a
big word that describes a little word and that word is sin.  The bible, the word of God says in James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then
not do it.
But when you are walking as you are
supposed to be walking, talking as you are supposed to be talking and doing as
you are supposed to be doing then you are in fellowship with God, the doors of
communication are open and you are right where you are supposed to be with your
God and creator.  Is that where you are
this morning?  If not then it can
be.  The blessing that God has in store
for his believers are for those who are obedient in all areas of their lives.  For those who are walking in the light that he
has given them.  If you are not a
believer then those blessings aren’t even on the menu yet but they can be, and
in either case the choice is yours, do you obey or do you disobey? 
The promise that is here for you is found
in the last part of Malachi 3:10 . . .Try it! Put me to
the test! Do you want to be blessed, then try it and let Him prove it to
you.  

Not Safe Box

They thought their valuables were safe.  After all, they paid to make sure they were kept safe, and the things they kept their valuables in were called “safe deposit boxes.” Which I’m sure led people to believe that the items they stored in their “safe deposit boxes” would actually be safe.  And different people had entrusted different things to their “safe deposit boxes”, there was jewellery, cash, stock certificates and personal items that were valuable only to the people who had paid to keep them safe.  However, they didn’t worry about them because they knew their valuables were safe.
So you can imagine how those people felt when they discovered that their valuables along with the “safe deposit boxes” had been removed from their Hong Kong Bank and destroyed.  Sure, it was a mistake, but their belongings were no longer safe, as a matter of fact in many cases they were simply no longer. Embarrassed bank officials said, “It’s a very unfortunate and regrettable incident.”  That may have been an understatment.
There are many people who have played it safe in life and think that their valuables are safe, but I wonder how many have bothered to take care of the most valuable of all their possessions, their soul? Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

The Blessing of the First Things

The Blessing of First Things
(Many of the concepts in this message come from Robert
Morris’s book “The Blessed Life”)
Well, here we are week two of Money Month.  If you are visiting or new to Cornerstone
each year we take the month of April to teach the theology of giving.   Almost a dozen years ago I decided that
instead of simply preaching in response to any given financial crisis in the
church that I would take the time to teach those who call Cornerstone their church
home why giving is a proper response to the love and Grace of God.  You understand, God doesn’t need you to give
for His sake. God is God, the entire universe is his.  So if he doesn’t need us to give for his sake
than it must be that he wants us to give for our sake.   Our
giving shapes our response to God.
Last week I looked at the fact that God wants to bless us,
thus the theme of this year “The Blessed Life.” 
We saw how the concept of God’s blessing is seen in the first chapter of
the first book of the bible, in the last chapter of the last book of the bible
and scattered throughout the bible.
And that blessing comes when we are faithful with what God
has given us and we are obedient to the commands of Christ.  And that shouldn’t surprise us.  And while the bible talks about the many
blessings that God gives to his people it certainly doesn’t shy away from
financial blessings.  But the blessed
life doesn’t mean the blessed cheque book it means the blessed life, a life
lived in obedience in the presence of God. 
This week I want to look at the Blessing of the First
Things.  Which brings us to the scripture
that was read for us today.
At first it seems like one of those weird Old Testament
things.  You know the ones, they leave
you scratching your head and thinking. . . huh? 
And there are a few of those, things and stories we don’t understand
lessons that were for people who lived in a different land and a different
culture. 
And sometimes it’s hard for us to get our head around things
that happened in a desert 3,000 years ago.  
For that matter think back to the sixties and seventies and there are
things that are difficult to understand from fifty years ago.
But if we actually take the
time to work through this one, we get an explanation.
Exodus 13 begins with these
words:  Exodus
13:1-2
Then the LORD said to Moses,
“Dedicate to me every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring to be
born, of both humans and animals, belongs to me.”  And then God explains to Moses why he
requires the dedication of the first born. 
As a part of that explanation God establishes the Passover Celebration
so the people wouldn’t forget their deliverance.
This story in Exodus happens
right after the Exodus, that is right after the people of Israel have been
delivered by God from the slavery of Egypt. 
It is here that he establishes the celebration of the Passover so that
his people would never forget what He had done for them.  And the Passover is still celebrated around
the world by Jews for the same reason that it was instituted 3000 years ago.
But after God gives Moses
direction about the Passover Celebration He returns to the original theme.  That is the passage that was read for us this
morning, Exodus 13:11-12 “This is what you must do when the LORD fulfills the promise
he swore to you and to your ancestors. When he gives you the land where the
Canaanites now live, you must present all firstborn sons and firstborn male
animals to the LORD, for they belong to him.
It is here that God decrees
that the first of all things born to his people belonged to him.  And so this was the law, if your first born
was a son then he was dedicated to God and a sacrifice was made: not the child,
just to make that clear.    The child was
symbolically given back to the Lord, we kind of do that with baby dedications
today.  And then the parent’s presented a
sacrifice that was them purchasing the child back from God.  Remember from the Christmas story Luke 2:22-23 Then it was time for their
purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a
child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law
of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to
the LORD.”
In the case of acceptable
animals, that is those which could be eaten under Jewish law the first born was
presented to the Priests for sacrifice, the idea of animal sacrifice seems
weird to us today and somehow unbecoming but we aren’t talking about today it
was 3000 years ago.  The animal was
killed and a portion was offered to God and the remainder was used to care for
the Priests and their families. 
In the case of an unclean
animal, one that was not permitted to be eaten under the law, a clean animal
was offered.  So, something unclean could
be redeemed through the sacrifice of something that was clean, that’s the
entire gospel message right there.
And so we are told in Exodus 13:13 A firstborn donkey may be bought
back from the LORD by presenting a lamb or young goat in its place.  And then it goes on to say But if you do not buy it back, you
must break its neck. However, you must buy back every firstborn son.
Did you catch that?  If you didn’t give the animal back to the
Lord you were going to lose it anyway. 
There is probably a full sermon there. 
Personally I have never benefited from any of God’s money that I
kept.  I discovered years ago if I didn’t
give God what was his I gave it to someone. 
A mechanic, carpenter but I certainly didn’t get to keep it. 
And maybe you are still
wondering: Why?  And maybe that would
have been the same question that the children of the Israelites would have
asked.  Perhaps when the oldest child got
to be old enough to understand what was happening around the farm he would have
asked his father: Dad, I don’t understand, we are supposed to be in the farming
business but every time one of our animals has their first offspring you give
it away to be sacrificed.   Isn’t that
counter intuitive? Aren’t we are giving away our profits?
And that would provide the
opportunity for the father to tell his son; 
Son we weren’t always farmers, there was a time that we were slaves.
It’s spelled out in Exodus
13:14-15
“And in
the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you
will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the LORD brought us out of
Egypt, the place of our slavery. Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, so
the LORD killed all the firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt, both
people and animals. That is why I now sacrifice all the firstborn males to the
LORD—except that the firstborn sons are always bought back.’
The First Born Was Given In Remembrance 
And so when you write your cheque for your tithe, or put cash in
your envelope, or look at your monthly bank statement and see your debit for
Cornerstone it isn’t out of obligation, it isn’t because Denn guilted you into
giving. 
You give because your remember
that you weren’t always free that once you were a slave.  You give because you remember the grace and
forgiveness that made you a new person. 
You give because you remember that it wasn’t because of  anything you did and it was because of
everything God did. And I think that everyone of us should let our kids know
what we give and then use that as an opportunity to tell our children why we
give, what our God has done for us.
But it wasn’t just the first
born that God asked for.    
 Later in the book of Exodus we read Exodus 23:19 “As you
harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of
the LORD your God.  In some
translations this is referred to as the first fruit.  This was the very first portion of the
harvest that was gathered.  The law
didn’t require that you collect the entire harvest and then decide what you
would give to God.  This was a statement
of faith.
The first part of your harvest,
the first grain that was cut the first fruit that was picked, the first
vegetables that were harvested belonged to God. 
And remember there was no
guarantee that there would be more.  The
first harvest could be followed by a drought, or a flood.  But the giving of the first fruits was a
statement of faith. 
The first story of giving is
recorded very early in the bible.  It is
the story of two of Adam and Eve’s children, Cain and Abel.  Maybe you remember the story.  It is recorded in Genesis chapter four.  It would appear that Cain was a farmer and
Abel was a shepherd because the older brother we are told presented crops while
the younger brother presented a lamb. 
And the bible tells us that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected
Cain’s.  And some people say they don’t understand
why one was acceptable and one wasn’t.   But we should figure it out, because if there
are acceptable offering and unacceptable ones I want to give what is
acceptable. 
The answer is in the original
account of the story.  Genesis 4:3-4 When it was time for the harvest,
Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD. Abel also brought a
gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. Did you catch
that?  “ain presented “some of his crops”
and Abel gave “The best of the firstborn lambs” 
When we give to God, notice I
didn’t say if we give to God.  When we
give to God do we give him the first or the last?  When you get paid is the first cheque
written, the first online transaction performed your offering to God? 
You see if giving the first
born is a remembrance of all that God has done for us The First Fruit was given in recognition.  Recognition that all we have comes from
God.  We talked about this last week, how
easy it is to remove God from the equation, to say “I work hard for my Money”.  But who gives us the ability and opportunity
to be able to earn that money?   
Are we afraid that if we give
God the first part then there won’t be anything left for us?  That God will allow our children to starve
because we are faithful to Him?  When we
recognize that what we have isn’t ours it should make it easier to return it to
the one it comes from.  
I know it’s weird I empty my
pockets before I preach.  And seriously I
don’t know why.  It’s just something I
do, I take my keys and wallet out before I leave my office, I know it’s just
weird.
  Now suppose I got as far as the sound booth
and realized that I still had my wallet with me and so I gave it to Mike to
hold for me.  You still with me?  After the service I would expect Mike to give
me back my wallet, and he shouldn’t be resentful, after all it isn’t his wallet
it is my wallet, he was just holding it for me.
Last week we looked at the
parable of the talents and talked about how everything we have, our talents,
our abilities our resources have been given to us by God and he expects us to
use them wisely and faithfully.   And we
talked about how you would never be held accountable for what God had given me
and I would never be accountable for what God has given you.   In the same way you should be willing to do
your part, return to God the first fruit and be willing to believe that he will
honour that and that you won’t be in need because of  your faithfulness.  Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:9-10 Honour the LORD with your wealth and with the best
part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and
your vats will overflow with good wine.
So what do we have, We are to give the first born in
remembrance of what God has done for us. 
And we are to give the first fruit in recognition of the fact that all
we have comes from God.  But it doesn’t
finish there. 
There is a cool story in the book of 2 Chronicles.  It involves a King by the name of
Hezekiah.  Now I would assume that not
everyone here is familiar with Hezekiah. 
Remember after Solomon died Israel split into a Northern Kingdom and a
Southern Kingdom?  And each kingdom had
its own King.  Some were good but most
were bad.  Goes back to the old adage
that first coined by Lord Acton, the British historian, “Power tends
to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Hezekiah was one of the good Kings.
We are told this about him in 2 Chronicles 29:2 He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David
had done.
Part of what he did was to
reject the false gods that were being worshipped in the Kingdom and led the
people back to worshiping the true God and restored the temple. 
And Hezekiah knew if that was
going to happen that it would require sacrifice.   And so let’s pick up the story.  In 2 Chronicles chapter 31 we see the initial
process of re-instituting the temple worship in Jerusalem.  2 Chronicles 31:2-3
Hezekiah then organized the priests and
Levites into divisions to offer the burnt offerings and peace offerings, and to
worship and give thanks and praise to the LORD at the gates of the Temple. The
king also made a personal contribution of animals for the daily morning and
evening burnt offerings, the weekly Sabbath festivals, the monthly new moon
festivals, and the annual festivals as prescribed in the Law of the LORD.
The very first part of his plan
involved equipping and empowering the priests and Levites.  These were the men who did what had to be
done on a daily basis to keep the temple running and making sure that
everything was in place for the people to offer sacrifices and worship.  And Hezekiah knew that this wasn’t only a
spiritual exercise it was also a practical exercise. 
He knew that if this was going
to become a reality that it would involve giving.  In verse three it tells us that “The king
also made a personal contribution. . .”  
So the giving started at the very top but that isn’t where it ended, so
let’s move into Verse 4
2
Chronicles 31:4
In addition, he required the
people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and
Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the LORD.
The next verse records the
response of the people.  2 Chronicles 31:5 The people of Israel responded
immediately and generously by bringing the first of their crops and grain, new
wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a
large quantity—a tithe of all they produced.   Did you catch the last part of that
verse They brought a large quantity —– a tithe of all they produced.  Tithe is just a spiritual term for a
tenth.  The people were required to bring
a portion and the portion they brought was ten percent, we’ll talk more about
that next week. 
So what was the tithe required
for here?  The King was under no illusion
that resuming worship in the temple would be free or even cheap.  And He knew that if he simply assumed that
people would give, they probably wouldn’t or wouldn’t give enough. 
Because my sermon preparation
involves spending a fair amount of time with the people of the past I am continually
amazed at how little people have changed through the years. People’s passions,
motives and thought process were very much the same three thousand years ago as
they are today.  
And so I would suspect that
Hezekiah was probably well aware of the potential for people to either
underestimate what it costs for the temple or overestimate how much others
would give to support the temple and things haven’t changed.  Through the years I continue to be amazed
that   people either underestimate what
it costs for the church or overestimate how much others will give to support
the church.
In the first case I don’t think
it is a matter of neglect as much as a matter of ignorance.  People either don’t think about it at all or
they don’t do the math. 
I didn’t.  Until I started pastoring it never crossed my
mind.  The church was there when I
arrived to worship, it was warm, the lights were on, the building was clean,
the pastor was there and he preached the water was turned on and never once did
it cross my mind:  “I wonder how they pay
for this?”  and if that thought had of
crossed my mind I’m not sure that I would have been bright enough to have
connected the dots and figured out how much it cost. 
And Hezekiah knew that if the
people of God were going to resume worship in the temple than there were
expenses that would be involved. 
So if the first born was given
in remembrance and the first fruit was given in recognition, then The First Tithe Was Brought In Obedience   I need you to notice something here, the
tithe was not given, it was brought.  And
maybe you are thinking “What’s the difference?” 
the difference is you can’t give someone what already belongs to
them.   
Imagine if it was a beautiful
spring day, I said you would have to use your imagination here, and Pastor
Jason came to me and asked if he could use my Smart Car for the day so he could
put down the roof and he and Marla could drive out to Peggy’s cove and have a
picnic.  And I said “yes”, remember this
in only an illustration.
At the end of the day if Pastor
Jason came to me and said “Denn, Marla and I would like to bless you by giving
you this Smart Car convertible”   I would
say, in love “You are an idiot!  You
can’t give me what already belongs to me, you are simply bringing it to
me.” 
You can’t give what doesn’t
belong to you and so you can’t give your tithe to God, you can only bring it to
Him.  Nowhere in the Bible does it tell
us to give our tithe to God, it always tells us to bring our tithe to God’s
house.  In the Old Testament that was the
temple, in the New Testament it was the local church, not a university, not the
United Way not a Television Ministry, the local church. 
No listen to how this story
ends.  2
Chronicles 31:5-7
The people of Israel
responded immediately and generously by bringing the first of their crops and
grain, new wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They
brought a large quantity—a tithe of all they produced. The people who had moved
to Judah from Israel, and the people of Judah themselves, brought in the tithes
of their cattle, sheep, and goats and a tithe of the things that had been
dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them up in great heaps. They
began piling them up in late spring, and the heaps continued to grow until
early autumn. Heaps is the technical term.
Well the King came to see how
things were going and saw the heaps of stuff that had been brought to the
temple.  And he was a little concerned
that he had been misunderstood and that people were giving more than they
needed to or perhaps more than they could afford and so he asked the priests
“where did all this come from?”  and they
response is recorded in 2
Chronicles 31:10
And
Azariah the high priest, from the family of Zadok, replied, “Since the people
began bringing their gifts to the LORD’s Temple, we have had enough to eat and
plenty to spare. The LORD has blessed his people, and all this is left over.”
They brought what they were
required to bring and the Lord blessed them. 
You gotta love that. 
So what do you do with the
first of everything you get?
You realize of course that you
honour who give to first.  Is it
God?  Or is it the cable company, or visa
or dinner out?   When asked about the
tithe people are usually told that it is 10% of what they make, the reality
according to scripture is that it is the first 10% of what we make.  If you make a thousand dollars a week, the
tithe is the first hundred dollars that you spend of that thousand.  So the question is who’s getting the tithe?
Let’s pray.

End Thinkism!

I hope I’m not a thinkist.   “And what” you may be asking “is a thinkist?”  Well the short answer is someone who suffers from thinkism.  And what is thinkism? 
I recently discovered the concept of thinkism in a novel by James Grippando and I am now committed to avoiding being a thinkist.  Today it is no longer acceptable to hate or pass judgement on someone  for their gender or race, and that’s a good thing, that would make you a sexist or racist.  However in this age of instant communication, it seems quite acceptable to pass judgement and demonize someone for what they think or say. 
I’m not saying that we can’t disagree with someone’s thoughts, but it’s when we personalize it and hate someone for having the audacity to disagree with us, that it becomes thinkism.
A few years ago I wrote a magazine article that was obviously more controversial than I thought.  Online I was branded a liberal by some and a legalist by others. My scholarship and integrity were derided and simply because I dared to express my opinion, and that was by other pastors. 
And so, I will endeavor to respect the personhood and dignity of those I disagree with and refrain from thinkism.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Who Get’s Blessed?

So here we are.  “Money
Month” 2013.  For those of you who have
become a part of our church family in the past year here is a little
insight.  11 years ago we decided to take
a different approach to dealing with finances at Cornerstone.  Instead of dealing with the crisis of
finances, that is harping at you every time things got tight financially in the
church that instead we would teach stewardship once a year.

Because our church year ends in April we decided that would
be a good month and so here we are.  And
so if you can handle four messages on stewardship then you get a free pass on
the preacher harping at you about money for the rest of the year.   As part of that process we adopted what we
call “Step-up Cornerstone”.  Each year, at
the end of April, we ask those who make Cornerstone their church home to step
out in faith and fill out an “estimate of giving” card.  And just like the name implies, we ask you to
estimate what you hope to give for the upcoming year.  We collect those cards at the end of that
service and we use that figure to plan our budget for the new church year. 
And there are benefits to that, both as for the church and
for you.  For the church it gives us a
responsible way to plan our budget for the upcoming year.  For the first twenty years of my ministry the
churches that I led did what most churches do. 
Each year the leadership would pull a budget out of the air.  It was may have been based on the previous
year’s budget with a small increase for additional expenses, or perhaps
department heads had submitted their wish list for the upcoming year. 
Often it was done by committee but realistically it wasn’t
based on any knowledge of what the church income would be for that year.  Often time’s churches would talk about how
they were stepping out in faith.  But the
result was that the preacher would end up talking about money all the time
challenging people to step up and pay a budget that was not rooted in reality. 
In 2002 the leadership at
Cornerstone decided to take a different tact. 
I would speak on the biblical role of stewardship for a month each
year.  And it’s an important topic, and
it’s an important part of our spiritual lives. 
And at the end of the month we
allow the folks who call Cornerstone home to respond and provide an estimate of
what they believe they will be able to give in the upcoming year.  In affect you get to have a say in the budget
and say “This is the type of church I would like to have this year.”
I think I handle the mechanics
of it well; we try not to embarrass anyone or put anyone on the spot. If you
don’t want to participate that is fine, although we encourage everyone to take
part.   And we don’t come knocking on your door if you
aren’t able to give what you thought you’d be able to, we hope you will after
all we have based our budget on those figures. 
And we provide you with updates throughout the year about where we are
in relation to what was committed and where you are personally in relation to
your commitment. 
So, that is the intro to the
month.  Last year the theme was “What
Jesus said about Money” the year before that was “Treasures of the Heart” and
in 2010 I spoke on “Those Who Gave to Jesus”.
This year our theme is “The
Blessed Life” and the concept and some of the material comes from a Texas
preacher by the name of Robert Morris. 
The bible is full of examples
of how our finances provide a spiritual barometer for our lives.  From Genesis to the Revelation God’s word
speaks to God’s people about how they make their money, how they spend their
money and how they give their money. 
Jesus spoke about it a lot and
even reminded people in Matthew
6:21
Wherever
your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.   You notice that he didn’t say
“Wherever your heart it, there your treasure will also be.”  And many times that’s the way people quote
it.  And maybe you think that basically
it is the same thing.  But it’s not.  Most of understand that your treasure will
probably follow your heart.  That if you
have a passion for something that you will be more inclined to invest yourself there
financially.  However Jesus flips that
upside down and warns us that our heart will follow our treasure.  That where we are invested financially will
be where our passions are.  
Which is why I often tell
people I can tell their level of commitment by looking at the two most
important books in their lives, their date book and their cheque book.
If you want your heart to be in
the Kingdom then you need to put your treasure in the Kingdom.
In our world today we are
consumed with thoughts of investments and the returns that we will get on our
investments.  And sometimes I think that
we carry that train of thought over to our giving in the church.  That on that last Sunday in April when you
have the opportunity to  fill out your
estimate of giving card that some of you are thinking “How much is Cornerstone
worth to me?”  And mentally we are
weighing out the benefits of our contribution to Cornerstone. 
And I’m afraid that for some
people if the thought crossed their minds; “if people don’t give the church
will have to close their doors” their next thought would be, “Well if they had
to close I guess I would have to find another church.”
But you can’t simply use a
spread sheet and try to do the math: 
Well if the four of us went to a movie it would cost about forty bucks,
and if we each had popcorn and small pop that would be another forty, but they
only give us coffee and cookie, so we could knock off thirty, and we only go
every third week, so maybe 15 or 20 times a year.
But somehow we need to get to
the place of understanding that our giving to God is not an attendance fee that
we pay so we can come to Cornerstone, and it’s not a tip that we give because we
enjoyed the message and liked the music. 
Instead it is part of being a
Christ follower.  That from the beginning
of time God has asked that we return a portion of all that he has given us back
to him.
And still you might be asking
“what’s in it for me?”  Well if we give
in the right spirit and if we give in obedience I truly believe that there is a
blessing that is attached to that giving. 
Now before you write off what I’m saying as part of the prosperity
gospel listen to what I have to say.  We
don’t give to get, we give to give.  If
we give to get then we are giving in the wrong spirit and we will be
disappointed.   
You see having a blessed life
means having a blessed life it does not mean having a blessed cheque book.  And you can’t always quantify what blessed
is.  At some point you have to ask
yourself “Is my life better serving God then it would be if I didn’t serve
God?” That is where the blessings start. 
Let’s go back to the blessing
for a few minutes.  Do you believe that
God wants to bless his people? 
Maybe?  A little bit? Not sure?
Let’s go back to the beginning
of the book.  Genesis 1:27-28 So God created human beings in his own image. In
the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God
blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.
Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that
scurry along the ground.”   Now
let’s go to the back of the book Revelation 22:7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of
prophecy written in this book.”   And
if we go to the middle of the book we read Psalm 112:1-2 Praise the LORD! How joyful are those who fear the
LORD and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful
everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.
So the book starts with God
blessing his people and the book finishes with God blessing his people and in
the middle of the book we read about God’s people being blessed. 
And most of us don’t have a
problem with that.  In the Sermon on the
Mount Jesus tells people over and over again that if they do certain things
they will be blessed.   But even if we accept that God wants to bless
us we get a little nebulous about what those blessings might be and we get a
little squirmy if we keep reading in Psalm 112 and stumble onto verse three
that says this about those who fear God and delight in obeying his commands  Psalm 112:3 They
themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever.  Most of us really aren’t comfortable
with that statement any more than we are with scriptures like Proverbs 10:22 The blessing of the LORD makes a
person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. We don’t want to equate
God’s blessing with money. 
But apparently the Bible didn’t
have a problem with equating God’s blessing at least in some way with material
blessings.  In Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so
there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s
Armies, “I will open 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! Put me to the test!”
If you bring all the tithes then God will open the windows of heaven for
you and will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have all the room to take
it in. 
And Jesus tells us in Luke 11:28 Jesus replied, “But even more blessed
are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Did you
catch that?  We aren’t just blessed; we
are more blessed when we are obedient to the word of God.
Now understand that we aren’t obedient
so we will be blessed, but when we are obedient we are blessed.  We don’t give so we will be blessed, but when
we give God’s word tells us that we will be blessed.  And again, let me reiterate, having a blessed
life is about your life, not your cheque book. 
It is about God’s presence in your life
So let’s go back to the
scripture that was read for us earlier.  Most
of you know the story.  A man is going on
a trip and so he entrusts his wealth with three of his employees.  In the NLT it tells us that it was bags of
silver, five bags to one servant, two bags to the second servant and one bag to
the last servant.  In the original
language the term that was used was 5 talents, 2 talents and 1 talent.  And a talent was a measure of money.  And not a little bit of money but even the
guy who only got the one talent received a pile of money.  A pile of is the technical term.  Those in the know tell us that in that day a
talent was the equivalent of a month’s wages for 200 men.  Or 9 years’ salary for a skilled
labourer.  So even for the man who only
received one talent he got the equivalent of between a half and three quarters
of a million dollars. 
Matthew 25:14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by
the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and
entrusted his money to them while he was gone.
The first thing we need to
Understand is Everything We Have Comes
From God 
This has to be the premise
that we start from.  Everything we have
comes from God.   
That’s why we sometimes have
difficulty giving to God because we think that we are giving him what is
ours.  But the reality is that he is
simply asking us to return a portion of what is His.
And you might be thinking “No
pastor, I have what I have because I’m good at what I do and I work hard at
it.” So who made you good at what you do? 
Who gives you the ability to work hard? 
Who gives you life?
You see the talents that we
have in our lives are the abilities that we were born with, those God given
abilities that we have.  And we have all
been born with abilities of some kind. 
We often hear about it in
relation to musicians and athletes, how they have a natural ability.  Or sometimes someone will say something like
“They are a born salesman, they could sell ice cubes to the Inuit.”  Or “They were born with the gift of gab.”
Jesus’ brother James writes in James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect comes
down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He
never changes or casts a shifting shadow.  
I am not a half bad preacher,
and that ability to communicate is a talent or ability that I have had since I
was young.  When I was in high school I
was involved, quite successfully, in debating and public speaking, and from the
beginning I had a talent for it.   On the
other hand I can’t sing worth spit, which leads us to the next point.
Matthew 25:15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of
silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion
to their abilities. He then left on his trip.   We
Don’t All Get the Same Thing 
In the
story the three servants weren’t all given the same amount of money. And in our
lives we aren’t all given the same things, not materially and not in
talents.  And we don’t always get the
choice.   Last week I drove to NB for a
funeral, and when the preacher leading the service started the song service I
thought “I wish I had a voice like that.” 
But I don’t.  And I would have
thought that if God was going to lead me into preaching, pastoring and church
planting that He would have felt that it would have been good for me to be able
to sing.  But apparently not.  And so through the years I have told people,
I don’t sing I preach.  Angela sings.
 The thing we need to note and the thing we
probably don’t want to acknowledge is the comment “Dividing
it in proportion to their abilities.”  We
may not understand how God divides things up, we may not even agree with it,
but we have to trust that He knows what he’s doing.
And so in the story each of the
servants gets something but they don’t all get the same something.  And remember, we’re not talking a piddling
amount, even the man who got the least got the equivalent of nine years
wages.  Not bad.
You can spend your life whining
about what you didn’t get or you can focus and be thankful on what you did
get.  I would love to be able to sing,
but if I had to choose I’d still pick my ability and talent to preach.
And we can’t simply limit the
meaning of the story to talents and abilities, it also has to do with material
blessings as well.  After all Jesus was
talking about money. 

And while you may not be able to understand why you got so little I’m sure that
there are lots of people in the world who aren’t able to understand why you got
so much. 

Let’s go back to the story, Matthew 25:19 “After a long time their master
returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used
his money.  We are Responsible For What We Get 
The man who got two talents wasn’t responsible for the five talents
that the other servant got but he was responsible for the two talents that he did
get. 
While we might not all get the
same things each of us is responsible for the talents and abilities and
material things that we do get.  I
believe that God gave me the ability to communicate, but he expected me to
develop that ability.  Talent is what God
gives us, skill is what we make out of that talent.  I have an ability to communicate, but I work
hard at my craft. And if I was still at the skill level was as a high school
debater or even as a young preacher than I would have been unfaithful with the
talent God had given me.

When I was at University the president, Ron Mitchell, had a sign on his office
wall that said “what you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift
to God.”

The difference between good
athletes and great athletes isn’t always natural ability it’s the practice and
hard work that they put into becoming great. 
It was Irving Berlin who said “Talent is only
the starting point.”
We may not all be equal in
talent; but we can all be equal in effort. 
So the question for you isn’t what is Denn doing with what God has given
Denn? It is what are you doing with what God has given you?
Now listen to the result of the
servants being faithful with what God had given them.  In both situations the master’s response was
the same.  Matthew 25:21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good
and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so
now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
There was a Blessing  Not
only were the servants given more responsibility, more talents but the master
celebrated with them. The New Living Translation says “Let’s celebrate
together!”  in the Greek what it actually
said is “Enter into the Joy of your Lord.” 
Sounds like a blessing to me. 
When I was in Ghana I met a
rich man, not just rich in Ghana terms but rich in our terms as well.  And I spent a couple of hours with Johnson
and he told me how God had blessed him years before with a gift from a couple
in the states and how he invested it and it multiplied and he invested the
profits and that multiplied as well. 
And it’s easy to look at
Johnson and just see his wealth but when you started digging you discover the
churches that he had helped start, and the breakfast program that his
organization began that feeds thousands of kids, and the goat program they
implemented that puts kids through school. 
The maternity hospital they are building that will provide health care
for the women of the surrounding villages, and the microfinance programs they
have put into place.
And you wonder why God has
blessed Johnson? Why wouldn’t he, Johnson is a great investment.  I’m sure that he would echo the words of Erma Bombeck who
wrote  “When I stand before God at the end
of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and
could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
And finally  Matthew 25:29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be
given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even
what little they have will be taken away. 
Let’s not
forget that It All Starts With Our Lives  I came across an interesting theory this
week that makes sense. The man with one talent was cast into outer
darkness.  Is it possible that there is
one something that we get from God that he wants to get back? 
Is it possible that the one
talent represents your soul?  And the man
who did nothing with what he was given represents the person who never makes a
commitment to Christ. 
The two guys who saw and
increase were told “Enter into the joy of the Lord”  and the guy who did nothing with what he had
been given was cast into “outer darkness”. 
In effect God is saying that at the very minimum I expected to get your
soul back but I didn’t even get that.
The blessed life begins with
giving our lives to God, with giving the most precious and the most valuable
thing we have, our soul to God.  The only
thing we have that doesn’t come from God is our sin and he’s willing to take
that from us and in return to give us forgiveness and eternal life.
Let’s finish with a promise from the word of God, 2 Corinthians 9:10 For God is the one who provides
seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and
increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
What has God been speaking to you about this morning?  

They want his Bones back

They want his bones back!  You may recall the story from February; remains discovered under a parking lot in Leicester in 2012 were confirmed to be the bones of King Richard III, the last of the House of York.  Over five hundred years ago, Richard died in the Battle of Bosworth and the location of his body had remained unknown, until recently.

What started off as an interesting archaeological discovery and historical footnote has now turned into a bitter dispute between authorities and Richard’s descendants.  It would appear that plan to re-inter His Majesty’s remains at the Cathedral in Leicester is not to the liking of those who share his DNA.  Instead his great nieces and nephews insist that Richard would be much happier if his remains were laid to rest in York, his ancestral home, 100 miles to the North.  They claim York is a better location for Richard’s “spiritual” home.  The interesting note is that the debate has turned a little nasty.
This past Sunday, Christians around the world gathered to celebrate the fact that although our King was buried He didn’t remain buried.  And, because of that, we can be assured that he is preparing our “Spiritual” home for us, and it won’t be in York.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.