6 "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'
8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings.
9 You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me.
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 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 you will not have room enough for it.
When we give, if it is not "wholehearted," if it is not the whole tithe, we are "robbing God." How about in the way we live our lives? Could it be that we are not "wholehearted" in the way we give our lives, therefore we are feeling the same "curse" instead of God's blessing of "so much blessing (fruit) that you will not have room enough for it."
1. We Need to be Wholehearted
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."
Jesus teaching was challenging. Real disciples love to be called to "wholeheartedness."
Dealing with Distractions. Remember the 3rd soil in the parable of the soils? Luke 8:14 "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature."
Is that not like a lot of us (especially marrieds with children) in the Kingdom? Do you feel distracted by money, worries, and pleasures? Distractions are part of life! The problem is the way our hearts respond to it.
How can we help people to get focused? Here are some examples:
Neighborhood Field -- how about becoming the "mayor" of the neighborhood (figuratively)? Get involved and pour yourself into making a difference in your neighborhood. This will give you contact with all kinds of people who have an opportunity to see your heart for God!
School Field -- get involved in every activity you can! Get to know the principal of the school, get involved with activities, host the variety show, plan teacher appreciation days, open your home to your children's classmates and their families.
Specialty Ministries Field -- Many churches now have ministries devoted to Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Media, Special Needs, Physically Challenged, etc. Use whatever strength (or weakness) that God has given you in common with other people to build relationships that you can share the gospel. Paul's attitude was, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some"
1 Corinthians 9:22
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
Conviction about our Purpose. Remember the 2nd soil in the parable of the soils? Luke 8:13 "Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."
We have Christians who believe in the mission for a while but later abandon that conviction, becoming cynical. Why? Many disciples have shallow convictions about our purpose! Many disciples really don't know or think about why we share our faith. We are not called to be gophers, merely doing the work. Evangelism is not for us. Too often we feel, "I really need to do this." We have got to bring our people to the understanding that we share our faith because we are needed. There are so many hurts and pains in this world. The world is deeply lost and they need the message that we are giving them. If we saw a man starving for food, we would not give them food because we "need to do it," but because that man needs bread. This world is starving for the gospel, for relationships and love, for forgiveness and healing in relationships. We are not the victim here!!!
2. We Need to Grow
2 Peter 1:5-9
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;
6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;
7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
As disciples we can change anything! If we can bring our hearts back to that conviction, we will change our attitude about training. What happened to the days of fellowship where all we talked about was "What are you working on?" If you had to answer that question, would you have something that you are changing? Are we running aimlessly?
1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
When you grow, you will sow! While it can work the other way around (when you sow, you will grow), it can lack the depth that we need. Remember this quote, "I share my faith because I have faith to share!"
A few practical points: " Imitation Works. If you want to change something, find someone who is good at it and become a sponge. Imitate their faith.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Love Being Challenged. Have we given up on the idea that we need to grow? People love to change! Challenge as you would want to be challenged (this will help you not to be harsh!) " Good Point/Bad Point. Have Good Point/Bad Point sessions? If these are done with love, they can bring about the most unifying times. This will give us specific (and accurate!) things to work on and get us back in training mode!
3. We Need to Do The Impossible
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
Through unity, nearly anything is possible. If we approach this in a spiritual way (not with the heart of Gen 11) then we will have the super-human power that we need to do anything that God wants us to do!
If we can restore the depth in our friendships, then we will be able to take the mission to the next level and go into every neighborhood, every campus, every business center... This comes through our peer relationships. We need to go after building great relationships with disciples in the same situation as we are in life.