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amen good morning I’m Steve one of the pastors here it happened in march of 2004 penny and I were in Hawaii it’s the only time we’ve ever been there we were there with some other pastors for a week-long conference with Wayne cordero who is a pastor and author who lives there and I remember I think it was the first day he said to us tomorrow morning I want you to show up at this park at five in the morning with some like shorts on and jogging shoes we’re gonna exercise and I thought sure I’ve been playing racquetball once a week for a hard hour several games in that hour I must be in pretty good shape right so we show up and it’s still dark and there’s this big park with a sidewalk all the way around and it’s a mile loop around it and he said we’re to run two miles I thought I could handle that and we took off and the first mile went

okay and it was somewhere in the second mile when I just had to start walking and I remember I think it was God saying to me you’re not in as good a shape physically as you thought you were and you’re not in as good a shape spiritually as you think you are it was a wake-up call for me I wasn’t tending my soul I wasn’t paying attention to rhythms that would help me keep healthy physically emotionally spiritually a second wake-up call came also when we were living in Bellingham Washington our kids were young and it was Christmas morning I don’t remember which year but as was tradition we were all on our jammies and we went down to the Christmas tree and it felt like greed was the highest priority that morning what’s for me open the present put it aside do I get any more what else is for me how come she gets more than I do

how come he you know the feeling maybe you’ve had that on your family and penny and I said something’s got to change we thought Christmas was about Jesus and giving to others and it’s become this day of hoarding I’ll tell you a little bit later how we resolved that we’re in this advent series looking at the minor prophets mine are not because they’re not important as Alex taught us but just because they wrote small books and today we’re in Malachi the very last book in the old testament if you know where Matthew is page back a page and you’ll find Malachi in a sense Malachi is also a wake-up call the name Malachi means messenger or one who carries something heavy that needs to be shared and he writes as one of the last voices perhaps the last voice to the people of God before about 450 years of darkness and waiting for

Jesus to come we see in this book God’s and it’s typical of all the prophets God is concerned about certain things and he gives kind of a warning if these certain things don’t change this is what’s going to happen that’s typical of how all the prophets write and the first wakeup call or message from God is this I love you but I’m not pleased with you if you look at chapter 1 verse 1 or 2 I have loved you right from the beginning of the book God is reminding them I love you but in verse 10 he says very clearly but I’m not pleased with you is that possible to say both of those things I love you but I’m not pleased with you if you’re a parent you understand that right there’s times when we tell our man I love you there’s nothing you can do to make me not love you but I’m not pleased with your choices right now or your actions right that’s what God is

saying to his people what were some of the things that God was displeased with here’s what the bible says here’s a whole list of them you bring unacceptable offerings you turn up your nose at me you don’t honor my name you’ve turned away from me your teaching causes others to stumble you pick and choose which laws to follow you marry people of other religions you don’t keep your marriage vows you’ve twisted you have a twisted understanding of good and evil you practice magic there’s adultery lying underpaying employees taking advantage of of widows and orphans and foreigners they were withholding tithes and offerings and after this long list of people say but God you don’t care about us like they have the audacity when they’re doing all of these things to say God you don’t care where are you don’t you notice us I wonder if

sometimes God would give us a wake-up call I wonder what he would say to you or to me I I feel like he often does that in my life he says hey Steve let’s this isn’t this isn’t where I think you want to be if you’re a devoted follower of mine the message continues but I haven’t given up on you there’s a whole list of things that God says I’m not pleased with you but chapters three and four he says very clearly I haven’t given up on you here’s the glimmer of hope during this time of darkness and remember we talked about advent as being kind of a dark season of waiting and wondering when will God come through here are the glimpses Malachi chapter 3 see I will send my messenger who will prepare away before me chapter 4 verse 5 see I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the lord comes do you know who

he’s talking about john the Baptist in the new testament we read these words john says I am the voice of the one calling in the wilderness in Matthew Jesus says of john Elijah must come first and he has come already referring to john mark uses these verses to describe john the Baptist so 450 years earlier the prophet Malachi is saying there will be hope there will be a messenger he will prepare the way for the messiah and then there’s this glimmer of hope from chapter four but for you who revere my name the son of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings and you’ll go out and leap like calves released from the stall most scholars feel that that phrase the son of righteousness is also a reference to Jesus john Wesley in his famous Christmas carol that we just sang earlier hark the herald angels saying writes these words hail

the heaven-born prince of peace hail the son of righteousness light and life to all he brings risen with healing in his wings you know where he gets those words from Malachi that prophet writing over 400 years prior to Jesus coming then Malachi steps in with some harsh words these are words from God and of all the complaints that God listed in those chapters he zeroes in on their way they spend their money and because Malachi devotes so many verses to that in chapter three we’re going to talk about that for a few minutes this morning and maybe it’s appropriate at Christmas time when we’re spending money on different gifts and we’re trying to be generous in many different ways maybe it is appropriate that we also mention what the bible teaches about giving back to God says you’re ripping me off have you ever had something

stolen when we lived in Bellingham I had a little 14-foot aluminum fishing boat with an outboard motor locked to the back of the boat but the only place I could park it was out in front of the house and one morning I woke up and the motor was missing someone had broken the lock and taken the motor and if you’ve had something stolen you know what it feels like first you’re angry and you feel violated and who would do this and then I’m looking at all the pawnshops like who’s trying to sell a motor out there where’s my motor right never found it I wonder how God feels he uses this same imagery you you’re cheating you’re like stealing from me and in God can anticipate what the people are thinking and he says will a mere mortal rob God yet you rob me and you ask how are we robbing you God in tithes and offerings you’re

under a curse your whole nation because you’re robbing me bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house and test me in this says the lord almighty and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will be not enough room to store it you’re withholding tithes and offerings so God implies that it’s it was theirs to give and they were choosing not to give it they had gone from tithing to tipping God bring the whole tithe why what would go through people’s mind to make them decide I’m not gonna give God much or as much as maybe he would want me to give I could imagine people thinking well I don’t feel like giving oh a tithe well that’s too much I can’t afford that or what am I going to get out of it I’m giving to God and I feel like I’m not getting anything

back from him or I’m already giving some of my time to him why should I give some of my money or God the cost of living is going up I can’t afford to give or I’m already volunteering with my talents isn’t that good enough or I’m on staff and they don’t pay me very much why should I give back to God or I honestly don’t have anything left at the end of the month or it’s just not a priority I really don’t even think about it much what is this tithing thing anyway the word tithe means a tenth now you most of you can calculate a tenth if I have five thousand dollars a tenth is 500 right you drop one zero at the end of any number that’s the tenth of it where did this idea of tithing show up in the bible it actually shows up before the law was given we see Abram coming back from a battle he’s got all the bounty he meets a priest melchizedek and he gives

him a tenth just out of gratitude thanking God for the victory Jacob in genesis 28 has a dream and he says God I want to give you 10 a tenth of everything I have then in Leviticus we see God teaching his people that it was becoming a law that you one out of every ten of animals was God you just they would walk under a stick and you couldn’t pick and choose um oh I’m gonna give God the worst one or no you just the tenth one every tenth belong to God in numbers 18 God explained that this is how I’m going to provide for the workers in my house the Levites they’re not going to get an inheritance but you’re all going to give and then they will be provided for and then in the same chapter he says to the Levites and oh by the way you should tithe of the tithe people are giving to you and you should also give a tenth back to God but then

there was more there was jubilee celebrations where they were to give every third year they were to give another tithe to help support the orphans and the widows and the poor some scholars have calculated that all those old testament tithes probably added up to 23 percent that they were obligated to give and then there were offerings that was above the tie that was just it’s time to rebuild the temple bring in or build the temple bring in jewelry or whatever goods you have and sometimes their giving was so generous there’s one point where Moses had to say stop we have enough thank you for your generosity those were free will offerings let me summarize what I see in the bible especially the old testament but throughout God’s desire with the tithe was that there would always be an abundance in his house why to take care of

his servants to provide for the poor the widows the orphans and for community celebrations there were several times in their yearly calendar where God said stop working take a week and just come and celebrate come and worship bring lots of food like a party for God and with God there are many other teachings in the old testament about giving I just picked up a couple more the wise have wealth and luxury but fools spend whatever they get I think if you find yourself in a spot where you’re spending every dollar every month the bible would say that’s kind of foolish maybe you need to re-evaluate how what’s happening or some people are always greedy for more but the godly love to give now many people say is this just an old testament thing this tithing idea actually Jesus talked more about possessions and money than he did

about hell and heaven combined in fact his first topic favorite topic was the kingdom of God and the very next topic he talked most about was our possessions why is that because Jesus saw money as a competing God he said you can’t love both God and money so you say well we’re in the new testament we’re all under grace we’re not under the law and I agree we’re under grace so under grace would God want us to be more generous than the law or less generous than the law there is this one passage in Matthew 23 where he says woe to you teachers of the law and pharisees you hypocrites you give a tenth of your spices mint dill and cumin these are like little leaves or little seeds right and you can see these pharisees dumping out a pile of these and actually counting one cumin seed goes to God I get to keep the other

nine one mint leaf goes to God I get to keep the other nine right they were very particular about that but Jesus says but you’ve neglected the more important matters of the law like justice and mercy and faithfulness you should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former he could have said tithing is outdated it’s not important but he reaffirms the tithe but he said it’s more of a heart issue it’s not a money issue first of all because things like justice and mercy and faithfulness and compassion loving God and loving others those are the things that are most important to Jesus and as we develop a heart of compassion we also want to give back to God tithing can easily slip us right into legalism and Jesus always pulls us away from legalism and I am not here to guilt anybody into giving anything that’s Jesus doesn’t do that that

that’s not the way of Jesus he always moves us towards a genuine change of heart but legalism says this okay good I’ve checked the box I gave my tenth I get to do what I want with the other 90 percent and I think Jesus would say wait it’s all mine don’t think of the other 90 as yours but how can you steward all of it on my behalf a heart of generosity says how can I give more so why is tithing such a big deal to God does he want my money no he wants my heart he wants me to become more and more like him and he was a gener he is a generous God Jesus explained it this way where your treasure is that’s where you’ll find your heart so I don’t know if you keep a checkbook still or if you have credit card statements or a budget but if you look down that it’s that is actually a list of your priorities for example if your car payment is more

than what you give to God it’s a statement of priority it’s not it’s just a mirror it’s not meant to be condemning it’s just it’s just a fact these are my priorities where your treasure is Jesus says that they’re your heart will be also so we by becoming generous people we reflect a generous God so loved the world that he gave it’s probably the highest expression of love is giving Jesus said even to the point of giving our life for someone else greater love has no one than this did you know that on the average Christians give about 2.5 to their church and I wonder if God would say to some people today you’re kind of ripping me off too that’s maybe how he feels about that as you consider whatever you choose to give to this church or whatever church you might want to give to I think the bible would teach us to give a percentage the bible would

teach us to give regularly on a scheduled basis and to give to God first not at the end of the month to see what’s left but priorities get paid first if if we have a house payment we pay that first because we don’t want to lose our house right or a car payment or whatever else we have priorities get paid first the bible encourages us to give to God first off the top when I teach or coach young couples in their pre-marriage coaching I teach them to pick a percentage five if they want to 10 if they choose to and then develop a budget or a spending plan around that south is so blessed to have so many generous people who love to give to the church I was taught to give I was always taught that the first the first dollar out of every 10 is God’s to give it to the church and I think in my early years I did that because I thought I should and now I love

to give I do it because I want to but for penny and I in our 39 years of marriage we’ve always given 10 to the church and then other missionaries and missions and eight you know the poor all the other things we like to support for us is on top of that and except for the last four years when I ran a bakery I was we were on a pastor’s salary those years and we felt like we wanted penny to be home and and not be a working mom she worked plenty at home and so we lived on little and God always provided I’m here to tell you that God always provides I remember when my salary was thirteen thousand a year I remember when it was twenty two thousand a year when it was twenty four thousand a year God always provided we didn’t go out to eat much we never drove new cars we washed Ziploc bags we clipped coupons we did whatever it

takes but God always provided now I get we give generously because it’s an expression of our love for God and our love for his church it helps us grow in generosity it pushes back against that world’s mentality that we’re consumers and God sees us as managers or stewards of what he’s entrusted to us you may disagree with me and that’s fine but I think if you don’t tithe when you make thirty thousand a year you won’t tithe when you make three hundred thousand a year because it’s not a money issue it’s a heart issue it’s a matter of priorities did you know that our church tithes out of every hundred dollars that is given to our church this year eleven dollars goes out to support missions and missionaries we’ve already given away seventy one thousand dollars since July first twenty of that went to afghan refugees and over fifty thousand

to the missions agencies and missionaries that we love to support here’s just for a minute let me explain here’s how our church finances work Alex and I meet with the with the board of elders and we think we look at the numbers carefully about what we anticipate will need for the next year and we do this in the spring because our fiscal year starts July 1. so in this fiscal year um we’re projecting we’ll need about a 1.2 million dollars and then we divide that into 52 weeks and we come up with a weekly number and so this week our ministry plan I told you that the fiscal year is July one our ministry plan would say that we would need 530 000 as of this week and year to date actual giving has been 460. so there’s about a 70 000 difference now we anticipate some people love to give end of the year gifts and all of that may be gone by the end

of December we don’t know but that’s how that works in our church here’s God’s message put me to the test just try me on this one I don’t know where God says that anywhere else in the bible but when it has to do with giving of our finance he says go ahead and test me just try me out if you’ve never given a certain percentage and you want to try God test God out do it he says here’s what the text says test me in this says the lord almighty and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it one of the signs that we’ve drifted from God is that we stop giving to God and remember God wants to have an abundance in his south so that all of his servants are well taken care of so that we’re able to take care of the needy folks among us and in our community

who come to us for needs the widows the orphans and that we can have good celebrations have you ever put God to the test when it comes to your finances and giving this season of giving gifts is a great time to reconsider our and reevaluate our own giving I told you that we had a wake-up call in our family one Christmas morning here’s what we decided it may not be for everybody this is what we decided Christmas day is going to be a day of giving to others so we’re not gonna open any gifts on Christmas day we we’d as a family would pick a different day and call it our gift giving day that’s really original isn’t it um this is our gift-giving day often it would be a day or a few days before Christmas which our kids loved because they got their gifts a few days before their friends did and that was the day that we didn’t go anywhere we stayed

in our jammies we went down to the tree we just enjoyed opening gifts and this is how we did it if you bought or made a gift for someone you take it to them and present it to them and then you get to watch we all get to watch as they open that gift and then the next person and then the next person we started learning to ask a different question at Christmas time of our kids and other kids we started asking what was the favorite gift that you gave this Christmas you know the other question that too many people love to ask kids but it just started to change their mindset and what did we do with December 25th it became a day of giving I’ll share a few ideas that we did um one or more years we took our kids and served meals at the local rescue mission we talked to them December 25th is Jesus birth supposedly Jesus birthday when we

celebrate and it’s about giving to others we took homemade goodies to the 9-1-1 operators who had to work Christmas day and the police officers in the fire department and we thanked them we know that you’re a it’s a sacrifice you’re not at home with your family thank you for serving our community today we visited nursing homes and we would ask the supervisors tell us which of your residents has no family in town they won’t get any visitors today and we became their family we knocked on their door we had a plate of cookies we sang Christmas carols and we went in and visited with them and if they would let us we would pray with them one year we took candy to the local jail enough for all the officers and the inmates we would often go visit grandma and grandpa when they were in the nursing homes on Christmas day we

would prepare a meal in our home and invite singles and people who don’t have family in the area new people in church and widows and whoever God would put on our heart to invite and so we would join together and make the meal and serve others on that day I don’t know what can you do to help make Christmas into a season that is shaping you into a generous person shaping your kids and your family and your grandkids into generous people I want to leave you with some questions you could ask yourself when is the last time I took a serious look at how much I’m giving am I coming to God empty-handed am I tipping God or tithing do I want to give more to God and this is a key question do I want to give more to God and you and your honest answer may be no but at least ask yourself if not why not because again it’s a heart issue what

are my excuses for not tithing can I or can we bump up our percentage this next year I told you that the church gives 11 this year I’d love for it to be 12 next year and 13 the next and 14 the next the last church I served at they had dropped down to 2 in in their giving away before they realized what had happened and they said our goal is 20 and they bumped it up one percent a year just to practice what they preach like we teach giving a percentage but we also practice that we can do that in our families as well is this all I can give does my giving reflect generosity am I doing my part to make sure that the church has an abundance how much do you want me to give this is a key question ask God I’m not here to tell you what you should give ask God seriously God what do you want us to give what would be right for us there are seasons in our

life when we come needy and all we just we need help we have nothing to give but there are also seasons when we have an abundance and we want to ask God what do you want me to give does the way we celebrate Christmas reflect a heart of generosity I don’t know maybe those questions will help you process some of what Malachi is saying today and then a few suggested practices give some of your money to God this week it doesn’t have to be a lot but just something letting go of some money and just saying God I love you I want to express love for you by giving to you make a plan for giving regularly maybe as you think about January and the new year and you get all the Christmas gifts paid off and you’re thinking about what the next year’s going to look like you’re going to be able to give more if you have a plan some

people call it a budget or a spending plan but sit down and look at your income and your expenses the third would be give some money to a needy person this week again I would say you do this because of what it does for you not for them okay it just put it out of your mind whether they’re going to use it wisely or squander it or buy this or buy that with it just give it away because that act of opening your hand and handing some of your money to some stranger does something to you in your formation of becoming more like Christ talk about giving with your kids they should know if you tithe and or give and how much and who you support financially and why you do that how about reevaluating the way that you celebrate Christmas again I said it before God’s desire is not first of all for your money it’s for your heart

and as an expression of love then you might find yourself that you want to become more and more generous in your giving this is Francis havergal she was an English poet and a hymn writer from the 1800s starting at four years of age she began to memorize scripture eventually she memorized the psalms Isaiah and most of the new testament she wrote hymns like these like a river glorious who is on the lord’s side and take my life and let it be you notice the jewelry box next to her in this picture she writes that she called it a jewelry cabinet and she says it was fit for a countess and then one day God said I want you to get rid of that I want you to give that away and so she did and she began to write the words of a song that go like this take my life and let it be consecrated lord to thee take my moments and my days let them flow in ceaseless

praise let them flow in endless praise take my silver and my gold not a might would I withhold take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose take myself and I will be ever only all for thee she understood that at the core of being a generous person is giving our life to God that’s really what he wants our heart our life everything about us and maybe you’ve been listening this morning and you’ve been thinking about giving and other gifts and Christmas but the deeper question is does God have your life have you ever come to the point where you’ve said you can have it all God yeah it includes my money and my savings and my health and my resources you can have it all I just want to give it all to you that’s what this song is about let’s stand and sing together