28 Jun Malachi #5 – Learn to Give (Malachi 3:6-18)
– All right, we continue our study on Malachi. If you’ve got a Bible, in Malachi 3, last book of the Old Testament, God’s final word, preparing everyone for the first Christmas and today, he’s gonna talk about relationships and resources, the things that truly are on most of our minds this time of year, relationships and resources and I was thinking about it, when I was a little boy, my dad was, I was the oldest of five kids, my dad was a construction worker, a carpenter, a drywaller, my dad literally broke his back feeding our family, one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met and dad, you’re probably watching, love you, look forward to seeing you for Christmas, but when my dad came home from work one time, I noticed he would take out his billfold. If you’re young, this is called a wallet. It’s where we used to put money and pictures, now you put them on your phone, but when we would ride our dinosaur to work, we would first put our wallet in our pocket and my dad had this big, huge fat, thick wallet and I remember as a little boy wondering what’s in that wallet and so my dad, you know, put it on the coffee table or something to that nature and I remember as a little boy going up and grabbing my dad’s wallet and opening it and what there was in there, there was money and the thickness was a lot of pictures, a lot of pictures. It was pictures of me and my siblings and my mom and our family, included some of our school photos and I remember as a little boy thinking, huh, that must be what’s most important, right? It’s relationships and resources and maybe the reason that my dad gets up every day literally goes to work to break his back is to have resources to bless those that he has relationship with and that’s a father’s heart. Amen, how many of you guys are gonna get up tomorrow and you’re gonna go to work and you’re gonna slug it out to have resources to bless those that you’re in relationship with? Well, that’s truly the context of Malachi 3. We’ve learned in chapter one and two, God says he’s a Father, so the context is that God is a Father and he has a Father’s heart, that God’s people are his children, some are young, some are old, they’re a family. God has pulled them together for a family meeting and just so you know, this is how we see church, God’s a Father, you’re a family, right? We’re a church family and God pulls his people together for a family meeting and what they wanna talk about is resources. What he wants to talk about is relationship. For them, they don’t really care about the relationship, they primarily care about the resources. They’re like, God, we want more money and God’s like, let’s talk about that after we talk about our relationship. Some of you know what this is like, you’ve got grown children. They don’t really want a relationship, they just want the resources, right? They’re like, hey, if the phone rings or they show up, you’re like, they must be out of money again ’cause that’s the only time that they actually engage in any sort of interaction or conversation, is when they want resources. Let me say this, life is about largely two things, this is what dominates our time and energy, our relationships and our resources and God wants the relationships to be first and the resources to be second and so, they are talking a lot about the resources, he’s going to be focusing on the relationship and so, that’s sort of the context that we find ourselves in, in Malachi 3 and we’ll jump right in to God is Unchanging. So Malachi 3:6-7, “For I the Lord do not change.” That’s a big statement. When we talk about God, we refer to God in terms of something called his attributes, his attributes, God is Holy, God is loving, God is just, God is sovereign. Here, we would call this the immutability of God. That is that God does not change. The key to understanding God is to have all of God’s attributes exist co-equally and consistently. Problems happen when we take one of God’s attributes, we elevate it above the rest and as a result, we have an inaccurate and imperfect view of God. So, let me just give you an example. If you take the sovereignty of God, that he rules over all things and you don’t consider the other attributes of God, you end up with something called deism. That is the God is far away and we don’t know him and he’s not really involved in our life. Some people will say that God’s only attribute is love and by love, they mean do whatever you want. God’s also holy, all of his attributes work together and here, one of his attributes is revealed and God declares, he’s unchanging, he’s unchanging. Why is God unchanging? Because he’s perfect. The reason we’re still needing to change is we’re imperfect. God gets it right the first time, God is holy, God is good, God gets it right the first time, God doesn’t need to change, he’s perfect, that’s the point. “I do not change, therefore, O children of Jacob,” family language, keep thinking in terms of family language. God’s going to stress the relationship before he gets to the rules. God is firstly about relationship and secondly about rules. Here is a parenting principle, right, rules without relationship equals rebellion, rules without relationship equals rebellion and so God here, he connects before he corrects, he loves before he leads and that’s the pattern and precedent, particularly for parental leadership and so, God here is using family language, “O children of Jacob, you are not consumed. From the days of your fathers,” so this is generational. Sometimes children will learn things from their parents, good or evil and follow in their example. “You have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” That’s the God who rules over the angelic and demonic realm. “But you say, ‘how shall we return?'” So here, God is really focusing on relationship and what he’s saying is this, you’re like kids that have run away from home. How many of you, okay, how many of you have kids? How many of your children have tried to run away? They all do, right? Some of you are single, you’re like, my child will never do that, yeah, they will, I just prophesied it, okay, it’s gonna happen. At some point, the kid tries to run away. Sometimes when they’re little, they literally run, right and sometimes when they’re older and they get a driver’s license, they run faster, right, that’s what they do and what happens is that in relationship with parental authority, at some point, every kid tries to run away. Did you try to run away when you were a kid? Be honest, I did, I can still remember, I was a little boy, I literally, I was just a little guy, I just decided, you know what, that’s it, I’m moving out now, I’m on my own. So what I did, I took a TV, an extension cord and I went outside ’cause I’m that kid, I’m gonna move out, but move out, right, I’m like a guy in his 20s, I’m moving out, but I’m still on mom and dad’s dime. So, I moved out and I built a little fort in the backyard and then I ran a hose out there. I thought, I got water, I got power, I got TV, I’m set, I moved out, I was like, maybe five years old, maybe five years old. My mom, what do you think my mom did? She pursued me ’cause that’s what mothers do, right? They’re like Markie, she still calls me that, Markie, Markie, what are you doing? Mom, that’s it, I’m running away to the yard, I didn’t go far and she loved me and she talks, Markie, why are you running away? Well, you know what, I just wanna be on my own now, I feel like it’s time, you know and then she brought something into the conversation that was a tremendous variable. She said, Markie, you have no food. I was like, oh yeah, see ’cause that’s, I had a TV, but no food, okay. So, I realized I’m gonna have to go home, okay, at some point and so eventually, I moved back home, like 20 minutes later, I moved back home. But the point is that, sometimes even those of us who were adults and we’re grown, we act like, he’s right, I’m sick of it God, that’s it, I’m leaving and God’s like, where are you going? And what are you gonna do without me? You’re like, I don’t know. Some of you have run away from God. Some of you have rebelled against God, some of you haven’t picked up your Bible, you haven’t prayed, you haven’t been to church. The only reason you’re in church right now is ’cause it’s Christmas and your parents were crying and they drug you, welcome, you know, glad to have you, we do this every week, you’re always welcome to come back. But what happens is, some of you would think, God have I run so far that it’s over? What God is saying here is you ran, but so did I and here’s what I wanna tell you, it doesn’t matter how far you’ve run from God, if you turn around, you’re back, you know why? ‘Cause God was pursuing, right. God is pursuing and that’s what he says here, he’s looking at his people, he’s like, man, you guys have all just run away, but if you’ll just turn, I’m right here, I’ll take you back, let’s work on the relationship. I don’t care where you’ve gone, I don’t care what you’ve done, I don’t care what you thought, I don’t care what you’ve said, if you’ll just turn around, say God, I’m back, he will hug you, embrace you. His heart is a Father’s heart and here’s the good news, he doesn’t change. Now what that means is, if we disagree with God, who’s got to change? Okay, you guys weren’t very enthusiastic about that, but that’s how it works, right? You’re like, God, this is all wrong! Something needs to change and God’s like, I vote you change, right? We’re like, God, you need to change. He’s like, I’m fine, your situation. This is how it works, that’s what it says in the Hebrew. So, this is what it means. When we disagree with God, we need to change. They want God to change, they’re like, God, you need to change. God’s like, actually you need to change, okay? Now here’s the good news though, this is the good news and the fact that God doesn’t change. He doesn’t change his heart or his mind or his commitment to his people. That’s amazing. You know what, if God decided to love you, that’ll never change. If God decided to adopt you as his kid, that’ll never change. If God decides to forgive you, that’ll never change. God will never wake up and say, I did love you, but I’ve changed my mind. I did adopt you, but I’ve changed my mind. I did forgive you, but I’ve changed my mind. You’re not forgiven, you’re not adopted, you’re not loved, I’ve changed my mind, God never does that. When God makes a commitment to you, the Bible says this in the New Testament, even when we’re faithless, he is faithful. That’s the kind of dad you have, that’s the heavenly Father he is and in a world where all of our relationships are fluid and all of our relationships are in flux, it’s really nice to have one relationship that is faithful. Amen. I don’t care who you’re in relationship with, all of those relationships are in an open hand. People move, relationships transition or even the people we love, they pass away and they’re no longer alive. God doesn’t change. God doesn’t quit. God doesn’t go anywhere. That’s the relationship that God offers with his people and so, this unchanging nature of God, it gives us a certainty and a security. It gives us a clarity, it gives us an absolute commitment from God. God is looking at his kids and saying, you’re not great kids, but I’m a great dad. I’m trying to work it out, let’s talk about the relationship and they immediately say, no, let’s talk about the resources. God, we don’t want you, we want wealth, money, possessions, and stuff. God, we would prefer that you weren’t a Father, we would prefer that you were an ATM, okay? And some people have this relationship with God. They want what God gives, they don’t want who God is. God doesn’t mind giving resources, but he values the relationship. So, we’re gonna get into it now, right? Living Open Handed, Malachi 3. This is one of those verses that gets widely used and abused and misapplied, okay. Most of you, most Christians have never heard anything from Malachi except for this and this is the preachers go to, you know, show me the money verse, is what it is, okay. This is the verse when it’s like God’s a pinata and this is the stick, this is gonna work, right? When there’s a desire for the leader to get money, they go to Malachi 3. The reason we took the offering before, I don’t wanna guilt you, okay? So, there is something called prosperity theology. I tend to focus on who, I’m for Jesus and not what we’re against, but this teaching is that you give to get, it’s like an investment and they’ll misuse Malachi 3. I’ve had the honor of traveling the world, I’ve been in Haiti and South Africa and townships and some of the poorest places on Earth and sometimes this American teaching of prosperity goes there and it sets up a very unhealthy church for people that are very hurting and the problem is this and I will get into Malachi 3:8-12 in just a moment, but the problem is this, they’re going to God saying, how do we manipulate and make you give us what we want? And God’s like, you can’t control me, you can’t manipulate me, you’re not going to find a way to be in authority over me and then those who would misteach Malachi 3, they would say, if you give, God will give back and what they’re doing is they’re encouraging the same heart that God is rebuking in Malachi 3. We don’t give to get a blessing, giving is a blessing. I’ll deal with it, here we go. “Will man rob God?” That’s the question. Some sins are easy to find out or easier, I should say, others are more subtle and sly. Financial sins, they tend to be a little more ambiguous. If I came to you and say, have you robbed God, you’d be like, what would your answer be? I don’t know. If I came to you and asked, did you murder Tony? That’s clear, right, you’re like, well, is he dead? Then yeah, I did, I murdered him. No, Tony’s fine, okay, then I didn’t murder him, right? The sin of murder is a little easier to call than the sin of robbery, amen. Is it just me, you all right? Men, how are the football scores? How are we doing, okay. Okay, so some sins are easier, some sins are harder, this question is one we’ve go to ask, like, well, have I robbed God? “Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.” So there are two pockets, one is the tithe, literally means a 10th, 10%. The other is contributions, it’s other giving. So, God sees his people as having two pockets. The 10% is the tithe and then there are the contributions, that includes feasts, festivals, gleanings for the poor, I’m a nerd, so I’ve looked it up and it’s hard to get an accurate total number ’cause you’re dealing with an agrarian society. If a guy’s like, I brought my fruit, the other guy says, I brought my goat, you’re like, it’s hard to pencil that out, amen. How many of you are accountants, you’re like, yeah, that would be more complicated than money. It’s their wealth, but different scholars will say that the grand total from their gross, not their net, that’s what first fruits means, gives your first and best to God, that the total giving between the tithes, this pocket and the contributions, this pocket was between 20 to 25, some would say as high as 27% of your gross income, okay and what God is saying is, you’re giving a little, you’re not giving what I have asked, okay and we’ve looked at earlier in the book, they’re bringing blind, lame sacrifices, they’re giving their worst, they’re not generous in their heart and they’re not grateful toward God. “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.” So, the leaders are participating in this and the people are like, we don’t wanna do what God wants and the leaders are like, okay, we either need to say what God says or say what the people want and what they do, the leaders, they tell the people what they want to hear not what God wants to hear and that leads to the problem. “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse,” that’s the temple, that’s the funding of ministry, “That there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts.” This little line is interesting. God says, put me to the test. You need to know, that’s the only place in the Bible that I can find that God says, put me to the test because we’re to trust God, not test God, so this is unusual. In fact, there is an occasion where Jesus walking on the Earth is approached by Satan and Satan puts Jesus to the test and what does Jesus say? If you know the story, do you remember? Jesus says, do not put the Lord, your God, to the test. It’s satanic and demonic, okay. And so, what is happening here is very unusual. Let me unpack it for you in a moment. Next slide, please. See “if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devour.” Those people and things that are destroying your income. Their businesses are suffering because of their sinning. “So that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil and the vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts,” those are their businesses. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” Now, what we’re talking about here is stewardship. I believe in your Bible, there are primarily three themes and threads that pull the scriptures together. There is sin and how Jesus forgives sin, there is suffering and how Jesus sympathizes, empathizes and comforts us in our suffering and there is stewardship, how we manage the resources that belong to God, so, sin, suffering, stewardship, those are the three primary themes of the entire Bible. About 800 times, the Bible talks of stewardship. 25% of Jesus’ teaching is on the theme of stewardship. They come to God and what they say is, we are suffering and God says, it’s because you’re not stewarding. Let me say principally, this is in fact very insightful. If you don’t steward your health, you will suffer physically. If you don’t steward your relationships, you’ll suffer interpersonally, right? If you don’t steward your soul, you’ll suffer spiritually. If you don’t steward of your finances, you’ll suffer financially. Sometimes our suffering is unjust. Sometimes our suffering is mysterious. Sometimes our suffering is caused by us. In this instance, they are blaming God for their suffering and God is showing them that their suffering is a result of their failure to steward. So, this is the big theme and idea. The concept of stewardship is this, God is the owner, we are the manager, okay? God is the owner, we are the manager and stewardship is two things, it is managing and being generous. This is like, two oars in a boat, you’ve got to manage your resources well and God wants you to be generous, okay? If you’re only generous, you’re gonna bankrupt yourself. If you are managing your resources, but not generous, here’s the truth, you’ll be generous to yourself, but not to God or others. God doesn’t, here’s the big idea, God doesn’t give to us, God gives through us, okay? God gives through us and what a steward realizes is what Jesus’s brother James says and that, is that everything we have is a gift that comes from the Father above. Let me just say this, if you will start to think this way, it will cultivate in you an attitude of gratitude. So, think of it this way, you drove here in a car, who’s car is it? It’s God’s car, hey God, thanks for letting me drive your car. When you go home tonight, wherever you live, where you live, that’s God’s house. Hey God, thanks for letting me stay at your house. When you go to bed, it’s like, hey God, thanks for letting me sleep in your bed. The people in your life, hey God, thanks for sharing your people with me. The food you eat, hey, thanks God, thank you, God, that I’m getting to eat some of your food. That’s why we say grace when we eat. It’s not just a superstitious or religious thing, it’s to remind us, right, that this is a gift that God gives. If you start to see everything that you have as a gift, it just opens up a childlike wonder and gratitude and it combats against this gravity toward entitlement, right, and so what God is saying here is that the people are coming to him and they’re like, we want, we want, we want and God is like, okay, I don’t mind giving resources, but first, let’s deal with the relationship. You’re not stewarding my stuff in the way that I have asked you, therefore, until this is corrected, I’m not likely to give you more. Similarly, how many of you, ’cause we all have stewards in our life, your bank is a steward. Your credit card company is a steward. Your mortgage company on your home is a steward. Your investments are managed by a steward. Your retirement account is overseen by a steward, meaning it’s your resources and assets, you give it to them and then you direct them what to do with what is yours. How many of you would be frustrated if you went to the bank and you’re like, okay, I’d like to make a withdrawal, they’re like, actually, we decided to do something different with your money. We know that you said to put it in savings and we put it in our pocket. Sorry, you would be frustrated, you’d be like, that’s not why I gave it to you. What if you had money and you gave it to somebody, said, okay, so-and-so’s in need or it’s Christmas time or it’s a single mom, could you please give them this gift? And then you meet the single mom or the person in need, say, hey, did you get that gift? They’ll say, what gift? Well, the gift I gave so-and-so to give to you. They didn’t give it to me. Go to so-and-so, what did you do? I kept it. No, no, no, that’s not why I gave it to you. This is how God sees everything. We tend to look at things from our perspective and here, we need to Google Earth, pull up and say, how does God see it? And what God is saying is, I gave and you didn’t steward. You thought that I gave it to you, I was trying to give it through you. This is the key, God doesn’t give to you, God gives through you. What happens is they have this mentality that God gave them and they close their hands and they’re not understanding that the hands need to be open because then some of it can pass through to others. As soon as we close our hands, God can’t give any more because this is not a posture by which to receive, right? The Bible says that he who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much, the context is finances and when God says, if I put something in your hand, are you gonna do this, are you gonna do this? If you do this and you give it, you steward it, then I can give you more and the more faithful you are, perhaps now I can allocate more resources to you because you understand it’s mine and you’re to be a steward and generous and a manager and if it passes through your hands to bless others, here’s the good news, when we give, we don’t give to get a blessing, the giving is the blessing. The Bible says in Acts, it’s more blessed to give than receive. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver. You know why, across the Earth, in the next few days, people are gonna give because it’s a blessing and those who give should not be giving to get a blessing, they should be giving to be a blessing. This is what God is working on with his people and again, it all starts with a relationship and a recognition that we have a Father who is generous and he’s good and he’s kind and he’s loving and he gives us grace and compassion and mercy and relationship and forgiveness and when he gives it to us, he wants us to keep our hands open, so that he can give through us, so that we can share in his joy, by sharing with others. Now, that’s the heart of what’s going on, they’re just like, God, we want more stuff and God’s like, how about we work on our relationship? If our relationship is better and your hearts are better, then I can give you more but until then, I’ll just be funding rebellion, okay? Now then the question is, this issue of testing God, the question is this, is this a onetime or an all time command? That’s the question. There are commands in the Bible that are onetime, not all time, meaning God told somebody to do that, but we don’t do that, not because it’s wrong, but because that was a unique circumstance. I’ll give you an example, God told a guy named Noah to build a boat, a huge boat in the middle of the desert, we are in the desert. I’m not gonna tell you that in 2019, we are launching the Arc Building Ministry of the Trinity Church and I’ll need all you guys to bring scrap wood and tools, right? Because as far as I know, it’s not gonna flood, amen. Now what if God told us, you’re gonna need to build a boat. Well, we would, first of all, check that, right, with wise counsel and God’s word. If God told us to do something, we would obey him, but he told that to Noah and his family, it was a onetime, not an all time command. There’s another guy in the Old Testament, his name is Aaron, his brother is Moses, he’s got a staff or a stick. How many of you go for a walk and you take a walking stick? God told him, throw it on the ground and it’ll turn into a snake, we don’t do that, okay. Somebody’s like, dang it, I brought my stick, we don’t do that. No, we don’t do that because that was a one time, not an all time command. He was before Pharaoh, who thought he was God and God was showing I’m more powerful than you are, I can even make a stick into a snake. It was a onetime, not an all time. Another example in the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus came across a guy, we started this in John’s gospel this year, a guy’s blind, if you remember the story and you were here, the guy’s blind, what does Jesus do to heal the guy’s blindness? He spits a huge loogie in the dirt, apparently Jesus is good at everything, including spitting, he spits in the dirt and he makes it into mud and he shoves it in a blind guy’s eye. If you do that today, you’re gonna get arrested. Amen, that’s like, hey man, why are you shoving mud into blind guy’s eyes, they didn’t even see it coming, that’s not fair, right? We’ll edit that out, that was inappropriate. He says stuff he shouldn’t, I know, that’s why we come back, it’s exciting. Okay, so that’s a onetime, not an all time, right? There are things that happened in the Bible that are all time and some that are onetime. Let me give you some of the others, so when the Bible says, husbands love your wives, is that onetime or all time?
– [Audience] All time.
– Ladies, quick response, good job ladies. All time, right, okay guys, write that down, okay. There are, children obey honor your mother and father, onetime or all time?
– [Audience] All time.
– All the parents were quick, right on that, good job parents. There are things that are onetime, there are things that are all time. There are things that are specific commands for individuals or groups. There are other things that are overarching and for all peoples, times and places. I believe that this instruction is for those people, nowhere else in the Bible does God say, test me, everywhere else in the Bible, God says, don’t test me. But here what God says is, you do not believe that I am good, so I am asking you to trust me, this is a trust test. This is a trust test for them. That being said, let me give you an example. There will be times in your life where God asks you to take your trust test. Okay, and you’d say, this is unusual God. When those occasions occur, we need to make sure we’ve heard from God, right? The Bible says don’t believe every spirit, not every spirit comes from God, test the spirits. Test it by the word of God, test it by wise counsel. I believe God here is saying, this is unique, I’m gonna ask you to do something, so that you will trust me to build our relationship. I’ll give you an example. Some of you know the story, some of you don’t, to me, every time I drive to our church home, I’m reminded of the trust test. So, when Grace and the kids and I moved here three years ago, we didn’t really know anybody, we knew maybe two people in the whole state, no friends, family, we didn’t know where we were gonna live, God had to provide a house, we didn’t know where the kids were gonna go to school and we had elementary, middle school, high school and college, so trying to find a place for everybody and then, we weren’t sure what we were gonna do to be honest with you, we considered maybe planting a church, but we weren’t resolved to that and so, the kids one Sunday, called a family meeting and said, hey, we want to plant a church as a family, let’s do it as a family project. The kids all love the Lord and so does your mom. I was like, okay. Lord, do you want us to plant a church? We felt the answer was yes. We checked with pastors and authority over us and wise counsel and they said, yeah, we believe that’s what God is saying. Well, the first question is, where are we gonna meet? Where are we gonna meet? It’s hot here in the summer, can’t meet outside. If you’re new, I’ll just tell you what’s coming, it’s gonna get hot, okay, so we needed a place with a roof. Well, here’s the problem, we have no bank account, we have no money, we have no people. Most real estate deals require one to three of those things, amen, like I have no people or money or bank account, how much land can I have? And so, we started praying and asking the Lord and so, I met with one of my pastors, one of our overseers, pastor Jimmy, he’s gonna teach at a leadership event for pastors in the Valley here for us in February and I met with him, I said, pastor Jimmy, I’m looking at places to rent, maybe three, 400 seats and he’s like, no, don’t rent, you’re gonna buy. I was gonna say, okay, I have no bank account, no people and no money. He said, you’re gonna buy an existing church, it’ll be grandfathered in, so you won’t need to bring it up to code. He said, I think it will seat around 800, it’ll be right off the 101. Okay, okay, right. I mean, he loves the Lord and I trust him, but I’m like, okay, that’s fairly specific, amen. That’s fairly specific, you know. Sometimes people say, I have a word from the Lord, he loves you, you’re like, you know, I knew that, that wasn’t super specific. You’re gonna get a church building off the 101 that’ll seat 800 and you can buy it, that’s fairly specific. So, I come back and I meet with some of the realtors in the Valley who do church work and I say, okay, I believe this is God’s will for us and they’re like, it doesn’t exist. I said, has it ever? They’re like, we don’t know of any church that meets those specifications that has sold. I was like, okay, great. So, you know, pastor Jimmy, it doesn’t exist. He said, wait, it’s coming. Okay, we hear about this building potentially being available. It had defaulted back to the denomination, there was a church that was renting it, Gideon, my youngest son and I came by after his baseball practice at night, we saw the property, he felt like the Lord would give it to us, he raised a hand, took his hat off and prayed and asked the Lord to give it to us. So, I meet with the pastor, I was like, are you gonna stay or are you gonna go? I said, could you pray about leaving? I didn’t say it exactly like that. I said, just pray about it, see what the Lord says, you know, they’re charismatic, they’ll do that. So, they prayed about it and they said, we feel like God wants you to have the building. So I said, okay, so I go to the denomination, I’m like, I’d like to have the building. They’re like, okay, how are your financials? I was like, well, yeah, I mean, yeah. I’ll tell you, we’re not in debt, you know, ’cause we don’t have anything. So I said, so how about we do this deal, we rent it, this is before we had people, so thank you for coming, I was a little freaked out. So I said, okay, well how about we rent it and then, you serve as the bank ’cause if I go to the bank, it’s gonna be a belly laugh, but no funding, okay and if it comes available for sale, we will give you an initial down payment, but then you’ll need to give us a year to raise the remainder of the down payment ’cause I got to go find some people to show up that wanna make up the difference and they said, sure. Okay, all right, so we start working on this building and I’ll never forget, it was the summer and I’m doing demo with the boys and you know, some of my kids and some of you all were here and thank you for serving and I remember we went back to the kids area and the kids area, it was like Jack Kevorkian architected this himself, it was a haunted house. Outside, it was all rocks and cactus. Which small child doesn’t love cactus? And then you go in and it’s all this maze, somebody intended well, but it did not execute well, it was a disaster and I thought, this is not a safe place for children. So we started, we’re getting ready to demo and I’m thinking to myself, okay, we could tear the walls out, but we don’t have any money to fix it, right? And I was like, Lord, what do we do? And he’s like, trust me. So, we just started knocking out the walls. I kid you not, somebody pulls in visiting from out of state, drives up, what are you doing, show him around, writes a check to take care of the kids building. Oh my gosh, okay, great, thank you Lord and then we keep doing work and I’m like, I don’t know how this is gonna work. Dozens of churches around the world that I never asked anything of started sending checks. I remember going to the mailbox, it was like Easter, it was like, woo, you know, I wonder what kind of candy we get today, this is amazing, right, and God provided and then the building lifted and we could buy it and then we needed the initial down payment, I’ll never forget, we were home, we prayed as a family, a friend called, said, hey, I was praying for you, this is how I remember the story, you know, what do you need? And I remember saying, I need money. He’s like, how much? I was like, well, it’s a lot and I still wanna be friends after this phone call, so I said how much, and he said, I could today give this amount, it was to the dollar, to the dollar of what we needed, I called the guy, I’m like, I said, we’re buying the building and we’re renovating the building and we have a building and now, I hope people show up and all along the way, every single time, God has provided. Okay and so every time you come here, yeah– Okay, is that a onetime or an all time? I’ve asked my pastor friends and they say, it’s a onetime, okay, that’s a onetime, okay. They’re all like, you what? I was like, I what, so no, this was God saying, trust me and I will prove trustworthy, okay. Now, what I don’t want to do is say, therefore, all of you, if you see a home you want, just go knock on the door and say, I have no money, but thus say the Lord, it’s my house, I have Malachi 3 on my side, that’s not what I’m saying. Okay, because some people will use Malachi 3 like God’s ATM code. If you just punch in Malachi 3, all the loot comes out. That’s not it. If you’re in relationship with God, if he has some trust test for you to take, he will tell you and in so doing, he will prove himself faithful and then, when God does provide, the key is whatever you have, don’t do this, do this. Lord, what do you want me to do with it? Who do you want me to give it to? And then God says, I could fill your hands again. So let me say this, I’m grateful for our building, but it’s not this, it’s this, it all belongs to the Lord. It all belongs to the Lord. I believe that’s the heart, I believe that is the principle of Malachi 3 and God does use this word tithe, full tithe, it raises a question, should Christians tithe? I’ll answer that ’cause if you’re new, you always get two sermons here. It’s like a Groupon, you get one 30 minute sermon and I throw in another one for free. You’re welcome, okay, so this is the second sermon. So, it just raises this question because it’s in the Old Covenant, in the Old Testament before Jesus comes, the Christians need to tithe, okay. Well, it says in Romans 6:14, to the Christians, “You are not under law but under grace.” The Old Covenant, the Old Testament was law, here’s God’s all of rules, demands and decrees, okay, law, things you have to do. We sinned, we broke the laws, we failed, that’s the whole point of Malachi, they failed in everything. The whole point of Malachi is to prepare for the coming of Jesus first Christmas. Christmas comes, Jesus comes, he fulfills all of the law, there’s no sin, he’s perfect and he gives us grace. We now live under grace from Jesus who has fulfilled the law, we are no longer living under the law, okay. That’s good news, amen? Okay, so then there’s onetime in, what it’s called the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and the New Testament, where tithing as mentioned, just one and it’s on the lips of Jesus. “But woe to you Pharisees!” These are religious leaders that are, they’re not relational. They’re like the people in Malachi, they’re yelling at Jesus when they should be listening to him, okay. “For you tithe mint and rue and every herb,” these guys are, you ever met a religious person that’s more conservative than God, right? Jesus came along and they killed him because he didn’t obey their rules and what they’re doing though, God said tithe, so literally these guys, how many of you have a spice rack? Okay, if you’re a single guy, you have salt and pepper, whatever it is, they’re literally going to their spice rack and they’re taking out 10% of all of their spices. So, they’re giving God 10% of everything. They’re really serious about this, right? They’re really serious about their resources, they’re not very serious about their relationships. They have the same problem that they had on the days of Malachi, “And neglect justice and the love of God.” How many of you are resource people, but you’re not relationship people? Okay, he goes on to say, “These you ought to have” what? You should have done that, “Without neglecting the others.” God is saying, I do relationship and resources. You were doing the resources, you should continue to do that, but you have overlooked and forgotten the relationship. It’s not an either/or, it’s both and. How many of you know this? If you’re married, if you have kids, if you love people, if you have a relationship, it includes resources, amen. It includes resources, so relationship and resources and so, Jesus doesn’t necessarily rebuke tithing, he just says, you should do it in a way that is relational. In the remainder of the New Testament, it doesn’t talk about tithing, it talks in 2 Corinthians 8-9, if you want to study it, 2 Corinthians 8-9 says that giving should be cheerful, regular, sacrificial, and generous, that’s new covenant giving that we give out of proportion and so, it is according to income. In addition, what I would say is that, living under grace should cause us to have a standard that is higher than the law, okay? And this is where some would say, we don’t practice the Old Testament anymore, I’d say no, it’s fulfilled in Jesus, but he gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we can exceed the demands of the law. Give you an example, I think it’s in Matthew 5, the Old Testament had a commandment, one of the 10, you should not murder. Jesus says, in addition to murder, you shouldn’t say terrible things about people because you’re murdering their reputation with their words. That’s a higher standard. In the Old Testament, one of the 10 commandments was, don’t commit adultery with your hands. Jesus says, in addition, you should not commit adultery with your heart. Is that a lower or a higher standard? That’s a higher standard because by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God, by the new life in Jesus Christ, not only can you keep your hands to yourself, you can keep your heart for the Lord and your spouse. So, what I would say is that perhaps some of the Old Testament requirements are a floor and not a ceiling and some of you then would ask, well, what should I give? And my answer would be, ask him because he’s the owner, you’re the manager. You need to ask the owner how he wants you to manage his resources. I don’t know what that is for you, I can’t tell you, I don’t know, he will tell you, I do know that and so at this time of year, we always, Grace and I have conversation about what are we gonna do this next year? And we ask the Lord and we pray and in different years, he said different things. When we first started the church, I felt like the Lord spoke to me and Grace confirmed it, that God said this year, just volunteer at the Trinity Church. So if you’re volunteering, thank you and the church is getting started. So for the first 18 months, we just volunteered and God, he absolutely provided. I had somebody recently say, how? Honestly, I’m still not sure how that all worked. It doesn’t make any, it’s like, God took care of us, God took care of the church family, God took care of our family, God took care of everything, God took care of everybody okay and what I wouldn’t say is, what he told me is what he’s telling you. What I would say is, hear from him, hear from him, hear from him, hear from him and do whatever he wants you to do because you know what? It’s not about the resources, ultimately, it’s about the relationship. Father, it’s your stuff, what do you want me to do this year? He’ll tell you, just do that, that’s all I’d ask and here’s what’s so great about God, when we give, we get to share in his joy. See, this is the great, you know what’s amazing, it’s Christmas time, everybody’s giving gifts, you know why? Because it’s a joy to bless somebody and God blesses people and God enjoys blessing people and when God gives through us, he’s inviting us to participate in his blessing, amen. I love you, hear my heart in this. If your relationship is right, I think your resources will get straightened out, okay, I think your resources will get straightened out. Last section, maybe, pastors always say that just so you’ll pay attention, it doesn’t really mean anything. Giving is Loving. The resources are for the relationship. So for the Christian, we don’t use God and people to get money, we use money to love God and people, right? That giving is loving. If you give encouragement, if you give time, if you give service, if you give money to the people and things you love, loving is a verb, loving is doing. “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord.” Some of you are here and you have hard words against the Lord. These people are not atheist, they’re angry, they’re frustrated, they’re unhappy, they don’t understand why it’s not working. They look at bad people, people that they think are bad and they’re healthy and they’re rich and their life is fine and they think that they’re the good people and their health is bad and their finances are bad and their life is hard. Now just first and foremost, that’s a corrupt heart. If you look out and say, God, why do you take care of all the bad people and not the good people like me? God looks down and says, they’re all bad people. So, just, there’s bad people and Jesus, right? Jesus is over on the other side, all by himself. The rest are all sinners fallen short of the glory of God. But how many of you are here today and you’re just frustrated? You’re like, I’m sick, I wanna be healthy, I’m poor, I don’t wanna be poor. I got fired and the bum got the job and you know, I love my spouse and they ran off and this other person’s terrible to their spouse and their spouse is still there. I love my kids, my kids hate me, Christmas is a disaster and it’s so frustrating. All right, don’t raise your hand, but if that’s you, you’re like, God, what are you doing, I don’t understand, It’s not working, how come, I read the Bible, you got all this stuff, I need some more stuff. You heal people, look at me, help, come on, today, now, is anybody listening? Some of you would say, I would never say that, but you think that and God hears your thoughts. Here’s what I want you to know, God can handle you. Amen, God is in heaven going, I tap out right here, they’re yelling and I don’t do yelling, right? What God says is, your words have been like you are yelling at me, but you know what? God absorbs it, God endures it because God loves you and God doesn’t change. I don’t care how far you’ve run, God is not done with you. I don’t care how freaked out you’ve been, how frustrated you are or some of the terrible things you’ve thought or said, God absorbs it, God endures it. How many of you love someone so much that you have just absorbed a lot to be in relationship with them, okay? God has relationships like that and these people and some of us, we are not where we should be but God is so good, he meets us where we are to lovingly walk us to where we should be. That’s the Father heart of God, right? If one of my kids rebels, runs away, I don’t say well, that’s it, you know, best of luck. What I do is, I pursue them, put an arm around them, even if the kids, I got good kids, but even if they’re freaking out and if you had a kid freak out, I’m still your dad. You should be there, you’re here. I’m gonna just absorb it, love you, get you to where you need to be because even if you are wrong, I will not change, I’m gonna act like a loving dad. That’s the Father heart of God, okay? Some of you don’t know this ’cause you didn’t have a dad or you had a bad dad or you got a father wound and you have a hard time seeing God as Father, he told us in chapter one and chapter two, he’s a Father. This is the Father heart of God. You need to forgive your Earthly father if he’s failed you, you need to get to know your heavenly Father who never fails you and one of my great prayers, it sort of leans into the end of Malachi 4, that it says, when John the Baptizer comes to prepare the way of Jesus, that he will turn the hearts of the fathers toward the children and the hearts of the children toward the fathers, that not only does God want you men to know God is father and his heart, he wants you to share his heart, so that your children have a father that loves them, like you have a father that loves you. One of the reasons that this church exists is to do surgery on the hearts of men. That’s one of the reasons that I’m here, I love you with all my heart and here, God is modeling for us what a father looks like and how he loves and leads a family and I want this to be a message, particularly and firstly, it’s for all people, but firstly, and foremostly for the men who share that great grand title of father, amen, this is the Father heart of God. “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?'” God’s like, you’re wrong and you’re like, I don’t agree. You’re being disrespectful, how? The children of God, sometimes they’re like children. You have said, it is what? Vain to serve God, it’s a waste, some of you’ve gotten there. I volunteered at my last church, I quit, it’s over, it didn’t work, it was a disaster, those people, right. Take a break, we love you, welcome, right. Don’t be a greeter until you work that out, okay, I mean, you know. All right. “What is the profit of our keeping his charge or walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed.” God, you’re good to the wrong people, we took a vote and we decided it’s a waste of time to serve you, some people say that, “Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.” They have accusations against God in the form of questions. What they’re saying reveals their heart and how God responds reveals his heart. This is, I’ll just tell you this, God’s wonderful and sometimes, we’re awful and God’s still wonderful ’cause he doesn’t change, okay? Story continues. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another.” There was a remnant, there was a group there that sort of came to their senses first. You know what, maybe God’s not the problem, maybe we are. Maybe we should focus on the relationship and stop demanding all the resources. Maybe we should have our priorities be his priorities. There’s always a remnant, there’s always a group of people that their heart opens first and they lead the charge and they spoke with one another, the Lord paid attention and he what? Do you know that God hears your prayers? He does. Sometimes you wonder like, hey, am I talking to the ceiling? God’s like, no, you’re talking to your dad. Our Father, who art in heaven, the Father’s ear is always open, he hears “And a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.” What the people decided to do was to write a book of remembrance in the presence of God. Do you know what this is, this is recounting the faithfulness of God. Here’s my assignment for you before the year ends, you need to write a book of remembrance. Before we ask God for what we want next year, we need to thank God for what he gave this year. This is how the children of God develop and cultivate an attitude of gratitude, which works against the gravity of entitlement. We call this journaling as a Christian. I would encourage you, my covenant to God, my commitment to God is to do this and I started doing this, but to do this in totality before the end of the year and just start to look back on, and if you want to go further back, go further back. What has God taught you this year? What has he saved you from this year? Who has he brought this year? What has he protected you from this year? What has he given you this year? Right, what does he put in your hand? And then how does he want you to manage that and steward that, so that it is a blessing to others? This is a big statement, I’ve lived a ridiculously complex life, right? The highest of highs, the lowest of lows. This was for me, one of the greatest years of my whole life, one of the most enjoyable, fruitful, fun, awesome years of my whole life. The list of things I have to thank God for is remarkably long, so this is gonna take me a while and some of it was through hardship and trial and pain. God is good and God wants to see opened in his presence, a book of remembrance. It hit me last night, I’m happy ’cause all my kids are at home for a while. When they get older, they, you know, they go get a place and a car and they love the Lord, but you miss having them all in the house. Last night, our oldest daughter, she was home from college, just graduated now, she’s working on her Master’s and she was laying in bed and so I jumped on the top of the covers just to visit with her and she started asking me questions and we got to do a book of remembrance time together, father and daughter. I started telling her stories about when she was like, dad, what about this and what about that? And it led to this conversation where I started telling her about, well, when you were a little kid, did you know that this happened and that happened? And she’s like, I didn’t know that dad, I didn’t know that either, I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that. I realized there’s a lot that she knows, but there’s a lot that she doesn’t know, of ways that God provided for us and protected us and as I told her that, I thought, oh, this is in the presence of the Lord and by me telling my daughter of his faithfulness and goodness, it builds her faith in his goodness. Amen? So, start there and what that will do in the presence of God, it will build a relationship and then the resources can work themselves out. I’m not saying they’re unimportant, but I’m saying they’re in secondary priority position. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts.” You’re gonna be my kids, I’m gonna love you, I’m gonna bless you, we’re gonna work this out, it’s gonna be okay, “In the day when I make up my treasured possession,” let me ask you this, what’s your most treasured possession? Car, house, beauty, status, success? Here’s what God says, my people, that’s my treasure. You know what that means, you’re his treasure. That’s amazing and they’re looking at him saying, give us treasure and he’s like, be my treasure. The most treasured thing that we have at this church after the presence of God, is the people of God. You are a gift, you are a blessing, you are a treasure. I wanna speak that over you, so that you can rise up to be who God destined you to be, his treasured possession and for those of us who are parents, we need to have the Father heart of God and say, you, your child, you are my treasure. You may be by freaking out, screaming and yelling, demanding more stuff, still playing Fortnite and not talking to me, treasure, okay? And I’m gonna love you and we’re gonna work on this relationship, okay? Last slide, “And I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more, you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked because one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” Here, what we see is people who are very, very, very unfaithful to God. Relationally, they have failed him, resource wise, they have failed him and we see God who is very, very, very faithful. He is working on the relationship with them, he wants to work on the relationship with you, he is exceedingly generous with his words, he’s generous with his works and what God is doing here is he’s trying to get their hearts open, he’s trying to get their hands open, so that he can start to bless them and then they will realize that he doesn’t just give to them, but through them and the whole point of this is to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. This is the last book of the Old Testament. This is God’s final directives for the first Christmas. You’ve been working very hard to get ready for Christmas. This is God preparing his people for the coming of Christ and the first Christmas, that’s the whole trajectory of the Old Testament. That’s the whole point of human history. That’s where God is driving the entire story and so, it comes to pass that Jesus does come and what happens is, and think of this as you are wrapping your presents, God, the Father wrapped a present for us, his name is Jesus and he took his son and he wrapped him in human flesh and as you send out gifts, so God sent his son as a gift wrapped in human flesh and so, the Bible says that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, Christmas is all about gift giving, gift receiving, it all starts and ends with Jesus coming as the greatest gift that’s ever been given and my question to you would be this, have you received the gift of Jesus Christ? And what happens when Jesus is little, something remarkable, Magi show up, what are these guys? These are Pagan astrologers. Magi is the Hebrew word for Sedona, these are weird guys, these are weird guys. Have you been to Sedona, I mean? All right, so the wise guys, the Magis, we don’t know how many they are, but they’re following the star, they’re like astrologers, but they want to meet God. So, their hearts are actually more open than God’s children. Sometimes we think, oh, God’s people are the good people, the other people are the bad people. God’s like, that’s not how I see it. There are these men, these leaders, they’re greatly inconveniencing themselves because they want to meet with Jesus and they want to worship him, even as a baby and they arrive and the gift giving tradition of Christmas is inaugurated and they bring three gifts. We don’t know how many men there were, but we know that they brought three gifts, what are they? Gold, Frankincense, myrrh. Gold is what you give to a King. How many of you are not giving out gold for Christmas? Right? Jesus is a King and we give gold to the King, right? Gold, frankincense, what’s frankincense? It’s incense, right? How many of you right now in your home, there’s a candle that gets lit, so the home smells nice? If you’re a single guy, you don’t understand what I’m talking about. Once you get married, married men testify, the house smells different and better, okay because what women do, they’ll light incense or candles and all sorts of like, oh, I didn’t know there was an odor that was different than mine, that’s amazing, okay. That’s what frankincense is, it’s incense. Where was it lit and burned? In the temple, the holiest place on Earth, in the presence of God, where the priest would come to mediate between men and God. You give frankincense to a priest who mediates. Jesus is a King, come down to be God and man, to mediate between God and man and as incense was in the presence of the priest, they give it to Jesus as our great high priest who comes to bring the presence of God, the Holy of Holies and then the third gift, what is it? That’s a weird one. What do you use myrrh for? Dead people. How many of you are not giving, just don’t. If you have a kid, you’re like, I was reading the Bible, I’m giving you myrrh. Kids gonna do a word study and be like, you’re gonna kill me, okay, that is, they’re gonna sleep with one eye open, right? Myrrh is what you use to prepare a dead body for burial. True or false, that’s a weird gift to give a kid? True, right? It’s weird, like, hey Johnny, I got ya an electric chair and some embalming fluid, happy birthday, who loves you? Right, Johnny’s like, I was born into a Scooby Doo episode, this is terrifying. What happens is, it foreshadows that Jesus will give his life as a gift. Jesus is a King who comes down to be a priest, who offers himself as a sacrifice and goes all the way down into the grave, that God the Father sends Jesus as a gift and then Jesus gives his life as a gift. So, if you’re here today, let me just ask you, if you received the gift of Jesus, have you received the gift of forgiveness of sins? Have you received the gift of reconciled relationship with God through Christ? And some of you, you’ll ask, okay, well, what do I have to give? This is crazy. Give your sin. Jesus wants you to give your worst and in exchange, he’ll give you his best. You give Jesus your sin, he gives you his life, his death, his burial, his resurrection, his forgiveness. Amen, Merry Christmas, thank you, Jesus. So, we’re gonna take communion, remembering that Jesus gave his body and blood as the greatest gift that’s ever been given. He’s our King, he’s our priest and he is our sacrifice for our sins. I’m gonna invite the band up at this time and we’re gonna sing, amen? And we’re gonna sing and celebrate Jesus and as we sing, I want you to be asking, Holy Spirit, remind me of the things that you’ve given me, the people that you’ve given me, the insight that you’ve given me, the opportunity that you’ve given me this year. Cultivate in your heart an attitude of gratitude and singing for us as a form of prayer and God already told us that he hears and so, as we sing, his ear is open as our mouth is open and it’s a form of praying together. Father God, thank you so much for your word. Thank you that your heart is a Father’s heart, that your heart is a loving heart, that your heart is a generous heart, that God, you are a good God and God, even when we’re not good kids, you’re a good dad. You pursue us, you love us, you speak to us, you hear us, you forgive us, you bless us. God, you are amazing, you are wonderful, you are good. God, for anyone here who has run away from home and rebelled against their father, I pray that they would return now. For anyone who’s frustrated, please let them work that out with you and have it replaced with faith and Jesus, we confess Christmas is about you, the Bible is about you, history is about you, life is about you, you are a gift and you give yourself to us as the greatest gift that’s ever been given. Jesus, we come to worship you now in the spirit of Christmas, as we celebrate Jesus in whose name we pray, amen.