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Robbing God?!

So here’s an assumption about tithing (i.e., God’s historic method for getting people on the road to generosity):

We’re called to give proportionally to how God blesses us. If you don’t have anything, then you can’t give anything.

However, that isn’t the case for most of us. Our challenge is to believe that God expects us to give at least 10 percent, which is a clear concept in the scriptures. (Deuteronomy 16:10; 16-17)

Here’s the problem I see. People may agree with this premise, but they sure don’t practice it. If they did, the average giving of Americans would be much higher than the “less than 3 percent” averages we see every year.

I just read an article a few days ago that indicated the number went below 2.4 percent. This is the lowest ever in American history.

Maybe you’re wondering, “Where is he going with all this?”

Well, if God calls us to give at least 10 percent of our blessings back to Him, and less than 3 percent of people actually do, then wouldn’t this be considered robbing God?

Ooh, that stung, didn’t it?

Honestly, I don’t even like writing this down. It makes me really uncomfortable. (And, in total transparency, my family tithes. You never have to wonder if your Pastor is tithing. This is a commitment that we’ve made in order to honor God. I don’t say this to “toot my own horn,” but simply to say, I speak from a position of integrity on this matter.)

Okay, so if the previous statement stung, then take a deep breath and try to see the truth here.

My main objective is for you to experience joy and the blessings of God in greater measure–I wouldn’t be a good pastor if I didn’t tell you the truth.

Often people are looking for a way to step forward in their giving, so they start with anywhere from 3-5 percent. And that’s great if people are genuinely working towards the tithe and not just being lazy or selfish.

However, some take the step of 3 percent because they’ve over-extended themselves financially and can’t afford to go further. Debt always puts us in bondage and limits our ability to be generous.

So if you’re earnestly taking steps toward tithing, I want to celebrate that with you! Keep going!

I also want to address the person who’s taking the gradual approach because it’s easier. This approach is both greedy and lacking in faith.

Author Randy Alcorn writes about practicing the gradual approach: “Someone might say, ‘We’ll take this gradually. We’re starting with 5 percent.’ But that’s like saying, ‘I used to rob six convenience stores a year. This year, by His grace, I am only going to rob three.’”

See the point? It doesn’t matter how we spin it or justify our behavior. It’s ultimately still robbing God or what’s rightfully His. Period.

I’m sure I’ve offended some by this point, but I would rather you be offended than ignorant of the truth.

We’ll never experience the fullness of God’s blessings if we continue to rob God of His tithe.

So take a deep breath again. Say a short prayer. Ask God to reveal to you the truth.

So how can you move forward? Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you aren’t tithing and can, take that step this weekend. It’s always better to have God on your side when you face financial challenges, or any challenge for that matter.
  • If you’re in debt to the point that you can’t tithe at this point, then I do want to encourage you to do a few things: (a) repent and ask God to forgive you, (b) get someone to help you devise a plan to get freed up (email finance@elevationstl.com), (c) give what you can, but make it hurt a little.
  • If you’re already tithing, seek to increase your giving this year by 1 percent. Look for multiple opportunities to advance the Kingdom of God through your giving to: relief and restoration, digital missions, spaces and places at Elevation Church, or some other free will offering opportunity at your church if you aren’t a part of Elevation.
  • Are you signed up for online giving at elevationSTL.com/giving? It’s the best and easiest way to give at Elevation. If you haven’t considered it, please do. It’ll help you be more consistent and regular in your giving commitments. It also helps us plan more effectively.

I know this what a tough read, but thanks for sticking it out. The Bible is there to help us if we will orient ourselves to listen and act accordingly.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel
dtaylor@elevationstl.com

Give Till it Hurts, and Then Give Some More

One of my desires is to lead the most generous church on the planet. You may say that this seems a little audacious, but with the Lord’s help it is absolutely possible.

I’m not sure about your experience with giving and tithing at this point; you may or may not be a regular giver. But either way, giving is about stewardship and Lordship.

We are called to steward the blessings of God well, for He is Lord and we are not.

Why does He ask for a portion?

He asks because He knows what money can do to our lives. As broken and fallen people we have become dependent on money, so much so, that it becomes an idol in our lives.

God knows the danger for us, and in His mercy He rightly and wisely puts a regular discipline of giving into the rhythm of our life.

When we refuse to participate in this discipline we put ourselves in a compromised position. We ultimately reap the consequences and miss the blessings.

I remember when I was in seminary several years ago; one year, I literally made $3000. My wife was working at a bookstore for minimum wage and we were basically “American poor”.

But even in the midst of that, we were blessed. It was a simpler time. We didn’t have much, but life was good.

I remember times during that season when we literally didn’t have the money we needed to pay the bills. I also remember the goodness of God when we needed $100 for some bill. But one day we opened our front door to find an envelope sitting there with the exact amount of money we needed.

I also remember the tension around tithing. When you have so little It’s really hard to step out in faith. God knows this. Trust Him.

We learn to be generous when our giving costs us something. If we have everything, then giving might not be hard–unless the Lord requires you to give everything like he did with the Rich Young Ruler. However, it is when we have little that giving begins to form a generous heart. God uses these times as a fire where our faith and trust in Him are forged.

Sometimes I want to go back to that time in seminary; God’s love for us was so real and tangible during those days.

But then I realize, the Lord is moving in the same ways all around me as we step out to plant this church. God is blessing this church.

The Lord is providing for His people.
People pray for jobs and jobs come.
People pray for houses to sell and be rented and that is exactly what happens.

I remember an old spiritual that went something like–“He may not come when you want Him, but He’s right on time!”

Be encouraged today. God blesses us to be a blessing. Give generously and watch God work.

I can’t wait to see what the Lord does in your life as you step out in faith to trust God with your money. Remember the word in Malachi 3:10, “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 there will not be room enough to store it.” Bring it in and watch God work!

Rain down your blessings, O God, so that we might be a blessing!

There is a button (Giving) at the top of this blog if you would like to start today! Gretchen and I use the online giving feature because it makes giving so easy to do. We just enter the amount and press a few buttons and you’re done; it’s ready to be used by God through the church for His kingdom’s expansion.

I also want to say thank you for your continued faithfulness and commitment to giving!

-Daniel

Small but Mighty

Last night, we had our second launch team meeting, and I am so excited about the group that is forming around this new vision!

We are creating an Acts 2 community.
Trust me…you don’t want to miss out!

A few weeks ago, I challenged our new launch team to be the church for those in Joplin. At this point, we have collected 15 Personal Hygiene Packs full of necessary products… a small step towards keeping people healthy during devastating circumstances.

I was truly blessed by their response.
We are not large, but we CAN make a difference.
We are blessed to be a blessing!

A church that ministers to the needs of people will reap the harvest of the Lord. This means that no matter how small or insignificant you feel, you CAN make a difference.

THANK YOU Elevation Church, for stepping up and being the hands and feet of Jesus to the people of Joplin. This is the beginning of a powerful movement of the Lord.

God, use us for your GLORY!

Let me close with this prayer from John Wesley, and may this be your prayer as well…

“I am no longer my own, but Thine. Put me to what thou wilt; rank me with whom Thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by Thee or laid aside for Thee, exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Thou art mine, and I am Thine. So be it. And the covenant, which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

-Daniel

Passover

John 12:1-11

It was the season of Passover.

It was a time of celebration for Israel; a time to remember God’s faithfulness.

In this passage we see that Jesus had arrived in Bethany in preparation for Passover.  At this dinner we get a glimpse of three major characters.

Lazarus: The Guy Who Was Dead

John tells us that Lazarus was, “…the man he [Jesus] had raised from the dead.”  This was the home of Lazarus and this dinner was to CELEBRATE Jesus.  Can you imagine sitting at the same table with the man who brought you back to life?!

Question:  How could you celebrate Jesus today for the gift of life; both, now and in eternity?

Mary: The Extravagant Giver

After dinner Mary grabs a jar of “expensive perfume” made from the nard plant (Lavender was one of the fragrances derived from the nard plant).  This oil had a strong and intense fragrance; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and began to wipe his feet with her hair.

Let me emphasize that a woman’s hair was considered to be her glory and this wasn’t common practice. This was a true act of humility, honor, and extravagant generosity.

Questions:  How could you honor Jesus today by giving until it cost you something?  It cost Mary something to celebrate Jesus in this way.  What ministry has God been telling you to give to lately?

Judas: The Betrayer

Judas didn’t get it because he was so consumed with his own agenda.

Lazarus and Mary were two extremely grateful people, willing to pull out all the stops to celebrate Jesus, because he had made such a difference in their lives.  They were joyful, passionate, thankful, and grateful givers.

Judas on the other hand was none of these things. He was greedy, selfish, faithless, and religious.  He wasn’t about the relationship; he was about the bottom-line. But PEOPLE are more important than the bottom-line. Jesus came into this world to save PEOPLE.

John tells us that Judas didn’t care about the poor. That he was a “thief” who had stolen from the disciples. Judas was about to betray Jesus; sending him into the hands of religious establishment for twenty-pieces of silver.

Questions:  How are you acting like Judas?  Are you tithing (10% of your income going to God)?  If not, you are robbing God.  How about your gratitude? It is easy to lose sight of the many blessings in our life and begin the slow drift into ungrateful living.  How is your JOY level right now?

 

If your life is more like Lazarus or Martha right now—praise God!  If your life is more like Judas right now, then it’s time for a change.

The Bible tells us to repent, for God is faithful to forgive us and empower us for transformation through the Holy Spirit.

Simply ask.

Ask the Lord for forgiveness, earnestly repent of your sin, and ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that YOU can live a victorious life.

-Daniel

 

Almost Famous

The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church did an article on Elevation Church.  Check it out!

http://www.moumethodist.org/console/files/oFiles_Library_XZXLCZ/April1FullVersion_4SB2HYCL.pdf

I want to give props to Rachel Beise for the contribution of her photos.  Way to go!  Also, thanks to Dustin Keele for making our website look amazing!

-Daniel

BTW–If you would like to contribute to this new church start please go to www.elevationstlouis.com/give and make a one time gift or set up a recurring gift to help support this young church and ultimately change lives and impact the city.  All donations are tax-deductible.

Smaller Churches with BIG Faith!

I am so inspired by small churches, with crazy-big faith! There is something powerful about a church that looks at the books and knows that things are tight, or maybe even in the red, and still presses forward in faith towards what God is calling them to do.

Here is an interesting idea:

“Pragmatism is the enemy of faith.”

A while back I preached a sermon on Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand. Maybe you remember the story…

There was a crowd of people following Jesus around,  listening to him teach about the Kingdom of God. It was getting late and the people were getting hungry. Jesus told the disciples to do something about it, but they weren’t sure how they could feed everyone. All they had was a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread that belonged to a little boy.

…So, they brought the fish and loaves to Jesus and he blessed them.

Guess what happened next?

There was enough food for everyone! Actually, there was more than enough. Isn’t that just like God?

The disciples didn’t know what to do. The boy offered what he had. Jesus made up the difference.

In other words, Jesus plus anything equals possible.

Don’t you see?…So often, we (Christians) and the Church approach problems and challenges from a pragmatic point-of-view. This might be wise or practical, but it might also lack FAITH. For, God calls us to a life of faith, meaning we don’t always know what is going to happen, but, at the same time, we are called to be faithful.

The bigger we are the more we have to lose. When we have much to lose, we run the risk of not acting in faith because of the cost.

I am not promoting that we stay small to avoid this dilemma. However, I am saying that as we get big, we can’t allow MUCH and MORE to keep us from doing what God has called us to do.

May we GIVE BIG and GO BIG. And may we act in FAITH even when things are tight.

-Daniel

Abundant

I have officially taken the first step to living in a new area; i.e. currently sitting in the Fenton Starbucks.

I arrived in St. Louis at 6:00pm, after spending a few great days in Tulsa, OK, with family and friends.

It’s been amazing seeing people catch on to the vision for this new movement. At this point, a few churches have decided to partner with us in various ways. There is something so beautiful about churches helping other churches, even when they don’t have much.

Just like in Mark, when the widow gives all she had, which wasn’t much, yet it was EVERYTHING. Jesus praised her actions! She backed up her belief with ACTION.

We serve a God who has “cattle on a thousand hills”.

He has all He needs, and all we need. He is complete and in Him we can be complete.

So, why is it that many churches function with a theology of scarcity? Why do we see the glass half empty?

God is not bankrupt.

God is abundant.

Where is our faith when God prompts us to GIVE; when we are worried about money?

When we get to a point where we can’t loosen our grip on our resources, then they have become idols.

Andy Stanley talks about FEAR being at the core of our lack of generosity. We don’t give, because we are afraid.

Let me say it again.. We SERVE a GOD who has “CATTLE ON A THOUSAND HILLS!”

Followers of Christ Jesus should be ridiculously infused with this crazy kind of faith! Stop living “half-empty” and afraid!

Challenge: Step out in faith; give generously.

Lean into that fear that has held your heart tight and choose to GIVE. God will meet you; and He will bless you!

I want to create a community of people who have audacious FAITH. A Church who goes BIG!

Why?

Because I’m tired of little dreams that can be easily accomplished within our own power. I want to cast and lead dreams that are so BIG that the only way they could possibly get accomplished is by the PRESENCE OF GOD.

We serve an abundant God!

If you would like to GIVE to Elevation Church, please visit out website at www.elevationstlouis.com for more information, or email us at giving@elevationstlouis.com.

Blessings

-Daniel