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Elephant in the Church - When it comes to money obey the commands

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The Elephant in the Church! - Refusing to Ignore the Obvious!

When it comes to money obey the commands!

Scott & Katie Messer

            I am reading a book on my iPhone called Fast Living by Dr. Scott Todd.  He starts the book by telling an old story called “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley.  I’ve heard this story; I bet you have too!           “A man was walking along the beach when he saw a boy picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.  Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”  “Throwing starfish back into the ocean,” he said.  “The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”  “Son,” the man said.  “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?  You can’t make a difference!”  After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

            I like that story.  Maybe you do too.  But couldn’t that story be rewritten for a new age?  I think Scott Todd is right here.  That story is strong on individualism – individual action resulting in individual rescue.  But make it 21st century and it might go this way, “A man was walking along the beach when he saw a girl taking a picture of a starfish with her iPhone.  Approaching the girl he asked, “What are you doing?”  “Uploading pictures of these stranded starfish to my Facebook page and asking friends to Tweet the call to action,” she said.  “The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I can get enough friends out here we can get all these starfish back into the water before sunset.”  “Little girl,” the man asked.  “what does tweet mean?  The girl rolled her eyes.  She bent down, picked up a starfish, and threw it back into the surf.  Then she gave the man a wry, twinkly-eyed smile and said, “If you want to help out, this is how you do it.”  Within hours, thousands of children stormed the beach and every starfish was rescued.”

            Now tell me, what’s the difference between the man and the little girl?  It’s was their expectations.  The man expected the starfish to die.  He thought the problem was too big.  She however was not a hostage to low expectations.  She believed they could be rescued.[i]  Allow me to ask one question, “Do you want this world to be a better place?”  I honestly want to see hands on this one!  “Do you want this world to be a better place?”  JESUS did!  And so did Paul & Timothy!  Open up your Bible today to 1st Timothy 6:18!  Paul tells Timothy who in turn tells the church, here’s how the world can be a better place.  Let’s read verse 18

            Paul says, “Command them…”  Identify the “them” here!  Verse 17 tells us.  “Command those who are rich in this present world…  The Bible defines a rich person as someone who has more than the essentials of food and clothing.  Drop down to verse 8.  We’re agreeable to that as long as the food is Chipotle and the clothing is Armani or Christian Dior or Levi Strauss!  Can you imagine eating rice and beans every day of your life?  It may be bland but it’s filling!  A rich person has food and a job to provide food.  A rich person has clothes and a covering over their head.  Go back to verse 18.  If you want the world to be a better place than do this.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds…  I don’t know if Paul ever snickered when he wrote.  But he’s using a word play here.  Christmas Presence invite card.  I love word plays like… I wear glasses. Does that mean that everything I see is an optical illusion?  I paid my psychiatrist with a reality check.  Do fishermen live in the reel world? Earl Baird asked me.  Greg, why is Cleveland Browns Stadium a safe place to go during a tornado?  Because there’s never a touchdown there.  I don’t think Paul’s word play is as funny as mine, but it’s still a play on words – rich people should be rich in good deeds. 

That’s how we change the world.  One good deed after another.  The Gift Shop was such an astounding good deed!  On behalf of Steve & Leslie Bodkin, Mark & Tracy Rush and Tim & Amy Pressler – WE were hoping for some 400 to 500 gifts.  You people gave over 2000!  Look at these pictures!  People we’ve never met left this place thinking – maybe God is real!  After all, he certainly has these people’s hearts!  If you gave to this effort – you helped make the world a better place because you did good!  Paul tells Timothy there’s moreFinish verse 18.  Command them to be generous and willing to share.  I have a question written on the back of your newsletter.  What are God’s basic commands when it comes to being generous? 

Well, the most basic command of all is tithe!  “Tithe” means ‘tenth.”  Give God a 10th of what he has given to you.  The math is easy.  Can you imagine the possibilities if we all tithed?  

But Greg, the tithe is an Old Testament command and we are a New Testament people.  Jesus referred to OT commands.  Don’t commit adultery.  But Jesus deepened the command by looking at a person’s heart.  Don’t lust!  Jesus referred to the tithe.  In Luke 18 he told the story about a religious person and a sinner.  The religious person prayed, “God, I thank you I’m not like this sinner.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”  Jesus brings up the tithe as a negative example.  Tithing isn’t the problem.  Legalism was!  A 2nd basic command of generosity is - be a cheerful giver!  Don’t give because you have to.  Don’t give to God because I twisted your arm or made you feel guilty.  Give because it giving creates great joy! 

I am going back to Zimbabwe next May.  May 17-28 to be exact.  Maybe you should come with me?  We will spend that time ministering to people in the Mushayamunda Village.  Dereck Mushayamunda will also go.  Dereck emailed this recently.  “Some of the urgent needs at the moment are getting one of the water wells powered by solar. The pump in Zimbabwe would cost $2500. This pump can push water a distance of more than a mile. We also need to continue with malaria pills supplies for the kids/orphans. We also need more nutrition drink for the kids at the village school. At this school we have 464 kids and 60% are orphans. To many this is the only meal or drink they see once or twice a week.”

That’s not acceptable to me.  Let’s eliminate hunger in the Mushayamunda Village all together.  Let’s build homes in Grand Goave, Haiti.  Let’s feed families in Westerville, OH.  How can we do that?  First, low expectations have got to go.  Robert Todd said, No more of … Poverty is just too powerful.  This world’s a mess.  This world is awful.  This whole world’s going to hell in a hand basket!  What in the world does that even mean?  Poverty is not too big for God.  Second, it takes resources.  It takes money.  Dereck sent another email.  “We will concentrate on two schools only.  At these schools we will do VBS, paint and make repairs.  All the work we will do to these schools will depend on our budget.”

 How can we make this world better?  It’s by being generous – by being willing to share.  We are not talking starfish here.  We are talking about people.

Do you know who this guy is?  Ndamukong Suh!  He plays Defensive Tackle for the Detroit Lions.  On Thanksgiving Day he stomped on the arm of an offensive lineman on National TV.  He was suspended for two games - which means, he forfeits two game checks.  Each check is worth $82,000.  Now here’s the temptation.  Go back to verse 17!  Generosity prevents you from becoming arrogant.  Arrogant - thinking proud thoughts like “I don’t need you God.  I have all that I need.”  Is there anyone here who would turn down money?  I wouldn’t.  Chip Ingram said, “God does not give you money to increase your standard of living, but to increase your standard of giving!”  Man, what good could be done with such cash!  But most of us are not going to make $82,000 a week.  That’s not our temptation.  This is our temptation.  Fear!  We are the opposite.  It’s not “I don’t need you.  It’s I can’t depend on you!”  When is the day going to come?  What would you do if the escalator broke down?  (Clip) 

These people need to take a step.  They need to start walking.  One of my fondest memories about my Dad was when I was maybe 9 or 10.  My parents would take our family to a lake called Monroe Falls.  This lake was huge and the water was nice.  Monroe Falls had a nice beach and then a long platform deck that led out into the water.  At the end of the deck were several diving boards.  My sister Cheryl and I would spend most of our time diving off those diving boards.  Well, I’m not sure what triggered this, but my Dad was sitting on the grass at the picnic area and then all of a sudden he starts walking towards both my sister and I at the diving boards.  The whole time he’s walking he’s mumbling something like “these kids can dive off the diving board so can I.”  Now I have no idea if my Dad had ever dove in the water before this day, but he was determined.  He started off slow.  He jumped on the board and then jumped in.  But eventually he stuck his arms out and off he goes.  Diving right into water!  We had such fun!  How many times does fear prevent us from experiencing God’s blessing?  When it comes to giving, you just have to dive in!

This past Friday I was up early and I was driving I started to pray.  I’m driving but my eyes are open.  My prayer was something like, “God, I’m so thankful to be alive today.  And then immediately I thought, I wonder if there’s anyone who wished they were not alive?  Can you imagine waking up in Africa wondering if today you will find food to eat and water to drink?  My prayer would not be, “I’m so thankful to be alive today.  My prayer would be – please God, let me die today!  Let’s change that prayer to, “God, thank you for something to eat today.  Now use me today to help make this world a better place!”  Jesus did.  Let’s be like Jesus!


[i] Scott Todd, Fast Living, Location: 186-193

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