WHERE YOUR HEART IS PART 2
by Pastor Mike Fortune
January 31, 2009
Introduction: YouTube Vid: Souper Bowl of Caring "Stir it up"
- God isn't needy [Acts 4:32-36; Psalm 24:1; Job 41:11; Exodus 9:29; Psalm 50:12]
- He wants us to tithe our time [Acts 5:1-4; Romans 12:1-3, 9-13; Romans 15:5-6]
- Because everything is sacred [Acts 5:5-11; 2 Corinthians 4:10-12,16]
This is a big week for ordinary outreach at Toledo First. So I hope you eat your Wheaties! After the service today, members of our youth group, Youth Operate, will be standing by the doors with empty bowls of soup. If you can, please give some money to help them buy more soup to give to those in need. We get many calls each week. But even if you can't give money, whether you like football or not, please plan on joining us at church tonight for International Food Fest @ 7pm, the Souper Bowl of Caring tomorrow night @ 6pm, and the Taking Charge Community Finance Class on Wednesday @ 7pm. It got cancelled last week because of the snow last Wednesday.
Which sounds like a lot to ask I know. To come to church three times more than you're used to in one week. But gas prices are lower now. And at least I'm not asking you to preach for 28 days! Or dig wells in Africa! What I am asking of each of you this week, is when you do come, could you also invite a friend, family member, or co-worker to come with you.
We can evangelize on the pathway of life
Why am I asking you to do this? Because pastors don't get any credit for being nice to guests during these events. That's what people think pastors are supposed to do. But when an ordinary Toledo First member goes out of their way to invite or introduce themselves and tell someone else that God loves them like crazy, it really messes with people's minds! The other reason we need you here, whether you're a member or not, is because at Toledo First we are growing from the children's division up a Christ centered church shouting the Gospel with our lives. That's what we've been talking about at our business meetings every month. Shouting the Gospel with our lives means doing evangelism the way Jesus did it. On the pathway of life. As a part of normal Christianity.
In addition to that, it's also an opportunity to tithe your time for the sake of the Gospel. Which is what we're going to be talking about today. So if you're not yet convinced of such things, I hope you will consider them today. Because one of the most significant areas of our lives we need to grow in is our understanding of time. If Jackie were sharing this message, she might break into a few bars "Time after time" right about now. She still loves Cyndi Lauper. But I will spare you that 80's flashback. Instead, I invite you to open your Bibles to a passage of Scripture that at first glance seems like it has nothing to do with tithing or time, but I believe it does. Acts 5:1-11 is where we'll end up, but it makes more sense if we read Acts 4:32-37. So I'd like to begin there. Is that okay? Can we all stand a little more B-I-B-L-E? Is that the book for me? I was singing that song during worship in our daycare yesterday. Those little kids love the Bible. So let's begin there with an introduction to this guy named Barnabas in Acts 4 before discussing what happened to a couple of his friends, Ananias and Sapphira, in Acts 5.
Acts 4:32 begins, " 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet."
Acts 5:1-11 continues. " 1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. 3Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." 9Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." 10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events."
Good news people. We've got some good old fashioned fear and lying and dying in church today. Praise the Lord for His unsugarcoated Gospel truth. And may the Lord add a blessing to the reading of His word anyway!!! See why I wanted to begin with Barnabas? Acts 4 is the first time we're introduced to this guy. His name means Son of Encouragement. Colossians 4:10 says he was a cousin of John Mark. Whom Paul had no time for. So they split up. Paul and Silas going one way and Barnabas and John Mark going another. Acts 15:36-41 describes that disagreement. But Barnabas didn't abandon John Mark after John Mark had abandoned them. He kept on loving him. Showing him love and giving him grace. Tithing and biding his time. And because he did, we have the Gospel of Mark.
God isn't needy - everything belongs to Him
But that's not point number one. Point number one is: God isn't needy. A bunch of people in Acts 4 and 5 were. But not God. This becomes obvious when we read a few other Scriptures about God. The references will be on the screen. So sit back and listen to why God isn't needy. Psalm 24:1 says, " 1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Job 41:11 adds, "11Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me." Moses said the same thing to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:29. "29 When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD's." Psalm 50:12 states, " 12If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it."
So God isn't needy. But his children often are even though Acts 4:34 says, "There were no needy persons among them." They had reached out to God. They had received Christ's perfect life. They had responded to his grace. And God gave them a heart transplant. And for a while, their hearts were beating in rhythm with His. But sadly, Acts 6 and Acts 15 help us see it didn't stay that way. Acts 6:1 describes a short time later how this same group started complaining because the Grecian Jewish widows were not receiving their daily Panera bread [just joking] while the Hebraic Jewish widows were. So God isn't needy. And never has been. And this is point number one. But his children often are. Whether we realize it or not. And this is why we need point number two about tithing our time. Because even on our best days, we often like Ananias and Sapphira fail to live a completely sacrificial life. So let's keep reading in Acts 5 now and see if that becomes obvious.
There Acts 5:1-2 says, "1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet." Ananias means "God is gracious" and Sapphira means "Beautiful." But what they did wasn't gracious or beautiful. Though it appeared to be. Like Barnabas, they sold some property and gave the money to the church. But unlike Barnabas, they didn't do so with all their heart. So giving money with all your heart to an organized church to help others in need isn't a bad thing. But saying you gave more than you did is. And that's what Ananias and Sapphira did.
The King James version of chapter 5 verse 4 says they "Conceived this thing." Or literally, they "Put this deed." Which implies that they thought out a plan. It was not a matter of yielding to a sudden temptation. It was pre-meditated. His sin was not that he kept part of the sale of the land that was legally his. His sin was that he lied about doing so. Saphhira's sin was not that she and her husband decided to keep a portion of the profit from the legal sale of her land regardless of how small or large the portion might have been. Her sin was that she continued the lie when offered the chance to accurately say how much she kept. And here is where we make the same mistake about our time.
He wants us to live for Him every day
As Adventists, we enjoy sharing with others the fact that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." John 1, Hebrews 1, and Colossians 1 all say specifically that it was Jesus who did this creating. From these and other Scriptures, we believe that the 7th day is the Sabbath and that the Sabbath is special because Jesus is special and He wants to especially share that day with us. The late Samuele Bacchiocchi spent his lifetime talking mostly about that. I can remember him enthusiastically saying in classes that "A week without the Sabbath is like spaghetti without the sauce. Momma mia!"
And while I experienced some very positive things and precious memories that occurred during the hours we shared with Jesus on the seventh day, truth in love church, like some other believers in the first century, we haven't done so well sharing the significance of experiencing Jesus during the other six days of the week! Which may be one reason why the writer of Hebrews 4 could say with confidence that there remains a Sabbath rest for many of us who have correctly identified the day but missed the assurance and joy of a relationship with the Lord of it.
It's almost as if we missed Romans 12:1-3 which says, "1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Verses 9-13 add, " 9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
"Therefore," Paul basically says [Pastor Mike paraphrase], 'By the grace given me I say to every one of you, 'Live your lives as living sacrifices. Never be lacking in zeal. Share with God's people who are in need. I know you won't be good at this right away. And God knows that too. So just start practicing it instead. He told the prophet Malachi something similar about money. Try tithing. And see if I don't open the storehouses of heaven so they don't have room enough to receive it. Which we'll talk about in a couple weeks. Practice hospitality. Try tithing. Choose to be joyful in hope. Patient in affliction. Faithful in prayer."
"Tithe your time, all the time" is what I hear Paul saying through Romans 12. And in case you think this was a fleeting thought, Paul returns to it in Romans 15:5-6. Listen to this one illustrating point number two. "5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
So what's the point? The point is God doesn't want lying givers. He wants living sacrifices. God would not be interested in giving us endurance to live this way and do these things if He only wanted us to live this way and do these things once a week! Are we to glorify God on the 7th day Sabbath? Absolutely. But are we to limit our hospitality and generosity and faithfulness to those days? Absolutely not! This is another teaching of God that kids just understand quicker.
Glorify God every day
Last week I reminded you how simple but not easy it is for a child to believe we're saved without a list of accomplishments and a lifetime of good works. Because they come and keep coming to Jesus without pretense. But another thing children get so much faster is that we are to glorify God every day with all our heart. As "living sacrifices" with "endurance" to use Paul's language!
Adam Bender gets this. According to the June 1, 2008 edition of the Lexington Herald newspaper in Kentucky, Adam Bender is one of several kids who played baseball in Kentucky's Southeastern's rookie league at Veterans Park last year. But what makes Adam stand out is he plays one of the toughest positions on the field, catcher, with only one leg. You should be able to see some video of him doing so on the screens while I'm talking so you know I'm not making this up. Because of cancer, he had his left leg amputated when he was one. But in spite of that, you'll see that Adam doesn't use a prosthesis and only uses crutches when he reaches base for the Astros. The article I read goes on to say that Adam has also played two years of church league soccer and quarterback in YMCA flag football games. The day may come when he can no longer keep up, but that day hasn't arrived yet. And in the meantime, Adam is playing catcher and all these other sports with all his heart.
You don't have to convince Adam to play. He wants to play. Even with only one leg! And what Paul is saying is if you know you are saved, you want to live and give. This encouragement and advice isn't limited to the church in Rome. It's for everybody. Now that we know God loves us like crazy. That there's nothing we could do to make God love us more. And that there's nothing we can do to make God love us less, twelve chapters later Paul trusts the church to talk about how much more God wants us to grow in grace and love. To God and to man. Even if what you have to live and give is less compared to others. But the cool thing is you don't actually have less to give than others because everyone has the same amount of time whenever and wherever you lived. So tithe your time! And be honest about it!
But how do we do that? I read an article entitled "Mission and Recession" recently that helped me better understand it. It was written by a pastor guy named Skye Jethani who is the managing editor of Leadership magazine and author of the book The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity. "Most American churches", he says, "Expect people to give their surplus time and money to fuel Christ's mission. But what happens if there is no surplus? What if people can't give more time or money? Here's one way to think about it."
Serve Christ during all your ordinary activities
"The average week of a working age adult includes at least 40 hours on the job, and 40 hours to maintain the family, home, and health. These 80 hours represent a person's "core time" not including 56 hours of sleep each week. That leaves most people with about 32 hours each week of "leisure time." Most churches are trying to motivate people to turn off the TV for three or four of these leisure hours to spend on mission. The most valuable and celebrated members are those who give eight, ten, or even twenty hours of leisure time to the church."
"But by predicating the mission of the church on the leisure time of its members, most churches are making two mistakes. First, if leisure time ever shrinks the church will find its mission severely affected. Which we may be facing right now. The second, and more critical, mistake is the way basing our mission on leisure-time devalues members without expendable hours. I'm thinking of mothers with 24/7 job of caring for young children, single-parent households, laborers working multiple jobs to stay afloat, or those using their leisure hours to care for aging parents. Do we write these members off because they do not have leisure time to dedicate to the church's programs and ministry teams?"
No. Because there is an alternative. If we could tap into the 80+ hours people spend every week on the job, with their families, and engaging in life's ordinary responsibilities, here's what it could look like:
- "It would mean helping people see the missional dignity of ordinary work; communicating that their jobs matter to Christ and his kingdom, not just what happens within the walls of the church."
- "It would mean elevating the role of family and household relationships as vehicles for spiritual growth and missional engagement. Yes, raising children and caring for aging parents honors God and advances his kingdom just as, if not more, than institutional church programs."
- "It would mean a radical adjustment in what the church celebrates. Not institutional expansion or programmatic growth, but stories of ordinary people incarnating Christ at work, at home, everywhere life happens."
"A church built upon people's core time rather than leisure time will not only maximize its missional impact, but it will also be far less susceptible to the unstable foundations of our debt-based economy."
All of our time is sacred, not just the Sabbath
So what do you think about that? Doesn't that make sense? If more of us tithed our time, maybe we would choose to see work as the mission field where The Barna Group says 78% of Americans will be having spiritual conversations this next week. If more of us tithed our time, maybe we would not feel guilty for taking great care of our kids and aging parents. If more of us tithed our time, maybe we would be hearing more and more stories of lives that have been transformed by the demanding grace of God. If more of us tithed our time, maybe we would more quickly see what Ananias and Sapphira missed and this is point number three: Everything is sacred. Because God is sacred. And if the whole earth is the Lord's including our time, then all our time is sacred not just the Sabbath.
So let's be honest with God about that. And not keep back a portion of any of it. Let's not make the same mistake with our time that Ananias and Sapphira made with their treasure. Because 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 says it this way: "10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."
Let's live those lives by God's grace. Honestly. Patiently. Faithfully. At work. At home. And throughout the ordinary days of our lives. If we sincerely do that with all our heart, we have nothing to be afraid of. For Christ's life is at work in us! And that is really good news.