Pastor Edgar Mayer;
For more sermons and other writings check out pastors homepage: http://www.geocities.com/mayeredgar
Cornelius story provides still
another key to our life with God. Listen again to the opening Bible
Acts 10:1-8: At
This is interesting. According to the angel a monument a memorial (not unlike the Anzac memorials that we know) with the name of Cornelius on it ascended before God in heaven (honour came to Cornelius in heaven) and God for that reason in response sent an angel to him on a mission of blessing. God was pleased with Cornelius and found it impossible to ignore him. Why? As Christians and as those who are thinking about becoming Christians we want to know because we also want God to be pleased with us. How are we to live? What concrete actions are at the heart of our relationship with God? The answer is in the Bible verses. I repeat them Acts 10:1-8: Cornelius gave many gifts to the poor among the people and always prayed to God The angel said to him, Your prayers and gifts to the poor have ascended as a memorial before God
We are left in no doubt. God took note of two things the prayers of Cornelius and the money which he gave to the poor. God desires this kind of double-action in every Christian. At one time Jesus was asked by a Bible teacher Mark : Of all the commandments, which is the most important? Jesus answered by saying Mark 12:30-31: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. This was the theory love God and love your neighbour which Cornelius then lived out in practice. He loved God by praying to him always and he loved his neighbours by giving them much money.
We could now go down the track and expand on what it means to pray always. For instance, another angel proclaimed in the last book of the Bible Revelations 14:7: Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water. Worship him for who he is and what he has done. In the same vein another verse says 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus.
When we pray, we give praise to God and at the same time we also exercise an immense privilege. There are promises attached to prayer. I give you two more Bible references Hebrews 4:16: Let us then [because we have peace with God through Jesus Christ] approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Prayer is a privilege because God answers prayer.
We could now go down this track and say much much more about prayer but for the purpose of this mornings message my guess is that we do not struggle as much with prayer as we struggle with the second part of the Christian double-action, that is: the giving away of money to the poor our money. This is not a comfortable subject and some of us may even think that talking about dollars and cents in church is not spiritual enough (hard cash is of the world not church) but the truth is that Jesus himself always talked about money. He preached more than twice as much on giving than on prayer and the angel explained to Cornelius that his prayers and money giving together ascended as a memorial to God. Both melded into one before God just as the two commandments of loving God and loving others seem to have melded into one. Together they are the most important commandment.
Jesus even explained that at their deepest level the commandments of love do become the one commandment of loving God. He said Matthew 25:40: Whatever you do [original: did] for one of the least [for those that are hungry or thirsty, naked or sick or in prison] , you do [original: did] for me.
However before we stress too much about where this may go the good news is that God knows the value of money and does not object to us having some. Whatever we give to him, will return to us with interest. According to the Bible it is like a farmer sowing seeds in spring time and reaping a manifold return at harvest time. Seeds multiply. Money multiplies in God. Cornelius gave much money to the poor but then it became a memorial ascending to God and therefore God sent an angel to him with much more favour in return. The Bible again and again confirms this principle: Give and you will receive empty your pockes and they will be filled again with more than enough from God.
Bible abounds in references to this.
Luke 6:38: Give,
and it will be given to you. A good measure,
pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Jesus said Luke 18:29:
No one who has left
home or [family]
for the sake
According to the Bible and this last reference God is so committed to making our money multiply that he invites you to test him in this. Give, he says maybe for the first time: Try me in this and see whether I will not in return throw open the floodgates of heaven for you and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
This is the good news. We are serving a rich God whom we can trust with our giving. Yet and I say this before you open your wallet and start giving when we delve deeper into the Bible teaching the whole subject matter of money does become more difficult even scary after all. Even the last Bible reference was not only positive. God accused his people of robbing him because they were not paying the tenth of their income plus offerings to him for the upkeep of temple worship. Therefore, he announced to them that they were under a curse. Strong words! Alarming words because: What do they mean for us? Does a Christian rob God when he does not give the whole tithe to God that is: ten percent of his income and is he therefore at some stage under a curse?
But why with the promise of open floodgates would we hold back money from God? Why did his people in the past? God knew why and he exposed their reasoning saying to them Malachi 3:14: You have said, It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements The people in the past lost faith in God no longer believed that serving him would bring anything in return. You need faith to start tithing.
Another problem was greed. Giving money away goes against the grain of most of us no matter what is promised in return. Only human greed cancels out all of Gods promises. The Bible teaches James 3:3: When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. Wrong motives greed frustrate prayer. God will not release anything in response to that.
Cornelius did not give his money to the poor for selfish reasons but as an act of worship to God. He was devout and God-fearing and Peter therefore preached about him in this manner Acts 10:34-35: God accepts people who fear him and practice righteousness Therefore, any church sales-pitch which appeals to your greed like: Give to become rich. If you want a better car, put more in the offering plate is bound to end in tears. Greed is not God-fearing and is not righteousness.
Furthermore, God does promise to open up the floodgates of heaven for us but the blessings are not always in the form of prosperity and not always for ourselves. Cornelius did not receive a good investment tip from the angel as much as that may be needed today in the midst of a global financial crisis. Cornelius and his family and his friends received far more than money. God granted them salvation, repentance unto life and the baptism with the Holy Spirit Acts -46 the Bible says: the Spirit came on all who heard the message they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. God set up Cornelius for the future eternity which is far more important than dying with the most toys on earth. [Consider also how Cornelius charity ended up leaving a mighty inheritance for his children who also received salvation and Spirit baptism because of him.]
We need to be careful here. The Bible teaches us words of wisdom 1 Timothy 6:6-10: . godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil
you one example which may
illustrate how this can work out in practice. A pastor from the
This family gave everything and were suffering in persecution. Where then were the provisions of God? Abundance did not come to them at that time but God proved faithful. He can be trusted to supply what is needed. The pastors wife wrote this about the years of hardship: God helped us greatly while my husband was in prison. There are two special miracles that Id like to share with you from this time. With only Yuns mother and me left to run the farm, things were desperate! We had no clue what we were doing. We decided to plant sweet potatoes, but didnt know how to do it. I found out later that we should have planted the roots about two feet apart. I had planted them just a few inches apart. All summer long our neighbours who heard about my foolishness mocked us and made fun of us! The news spread rapidly and I was the butt of many jokes. Then in autumn, all our neighbours started cursing because they had very poor yields from their harvest. Their sweet potatoes were only the size of tennis balls. When we pulled up our sweet potatoes, we found they were almost the size of basketballs! It was a great miracle and everyone knew God had taken care of us.
Our neighbours respected us more from that moment on and they didnt view my husband as a cursed criminal any more The second miracle took place when Isaac was three. We had to exchange a portion of whatever crops we produced because we owned no animals or fertiliser. Therefore it was imperative we had a good harvest, or we would not be able to buy food to eat or the other items we needed to survive.
This time I didnt know how to
plant wheat seeds. I placed them so
close together that they carpeted the soil! Just a week before the
harvest, a severe hailstorm struck. Ice the size of tennis balls fell
sky. I rushed outside when the hail started and could already see that
our neighbours wheat fields had been completely flattened by the
mother and I fell to our knees and cried out, God, have mercy on us!
miracle happened. Our field was the only one protected by the Lord. All
wheat was standing upright, untouched by the hail. Everyone elses
the whole area had been obliterated. People came out of their homes
storm subsided and saw how the Lord Jesus Christ had protected us. It
another powerful testimony to them. While we enjoyed thick, healthy
year, our neighbours had no harvest and were forced to use what was
their crops as food for their animals. Looking back, despite the hard
the Lord was faithful to us
Yun: The Heavenly Man,
God was faithful to his promises in this case, not granting prosperity but the miracle of survival during the familys worst years. How are you hearing this? Is this acceptable to you?
continue with going deeper. Jesus
attacked the rich with a vengeance and much of what he said makes us
even today. I
give you a further sample of his sayings Luke 6:24: .
to you who are rich, for you have
already received your comfort. Luke 16:13: You
cannot serve both God
and Money. Luke 18:25: .
is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man
Jesus pushed this line to the utmost limits of anyones comfort zone and in the end demanded that we give up everything for him, saying Luke 14:33: . any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 12:33: Sell your possession and give to the poor. This then became practical and real among the first Christian about whom the Bible records Acts 2:44-45: All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods [when required], they gave to anyone as he had need. Acts -35: No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had There were no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Wow! This is confronting and by now somewhat confusing. What is on Gods mind? On the one hand, he teaches the principle Luke 6:38: Give, and it will be given to you He promises to open floodgates of rich harvests in return to our giving but, on the other hand, he asks us to let go of all of our possessions. What is going on here?
The answer is that God is absolutely committed to breaking the stronghold of money in our lives. God is a jealous God and he knows that many a time we trust in money more than we trust in him. We think that money buys insurance buys power buys status buys pleasure buys sex appeal buys independence. We love money and we fear losing money. But God to our great discomfort is absolutely committed to breaking what money has become in our lives before he again trusts us with lots of it.
Howells raised millions of pounds (in todays currency) for the
[Abbreviate and retell this section
from Norman Grubb: Rees Howells
Twenty pounds may not sound like much money but God step by step taught Rees Howells to live by faith in him and not faith in what he could provide for himself. He was to give up everything and all control for the floodgates of heaven to open for him always. [By the way, did you notice the principle by which Rees Howells prayed until he had the faith for receiving the money. When the faith came the boldness and certainty of faith he knew that God would give according to his faith.]
not an easy walk. Another example
from his life. [Abbreviate and retell this
section from Norman
Grubb: Rees Howells Intercessor,
the time for the train had come. The
Spirit then spoke to me and said: If you had money what would you do?
Take my place in the queue at the booking office. Well, are you not
preaching that My
promises are equal to current coin?
You had better take your place in the queue. So there was nothing I
except obey. There were about a dozen people before me. There they were
by the booking office one by one. The devil kept on telling me, Now
only a few people in front of you, and when your turn comes, you will
walk through. You have preached much about Moses with the Red Sea in
the Egyptians behind; but now you are the one who is shut in. Yes,
I answered, but, like Moses, Ill be gloriously led out! When there
two people before me, a man stepped out of the crowd and said, Im
cant wait any longer, but I must open my shop. He said good-bye and
thirty shillings in my hand! It was most glorious, and only a foretaste
the Lord would do in
seems to be a nerve-wrecking way to
live. In the end they were singing all the way to
Only as we have said in the beginning both are worship and both are spiritual (cf. Romans 12:1) and even with God actions speak louder than words. We cannot pray and propose to love him but then not practice mercy and pay the cost of serving him. Then as a church we need people who are confident that handling money seeing it multiply by faith is their main spiritual work. The Bible does talk about the grace gift of contributing to the needs of others (Romans 12:8; cf. 1 Corinthians ) and we need people who grow in this gift of financing kingdom work.
Are we ready now to make this very concrete and practical? How much are you to give? A good starting point is what God told his people from the beginning. I read from the Bible Leviticus 27:30: A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. The meaning of the word tithe is a tenth part. Ten percent was to be given back to God and as a starting point we may do the same. Freewill offerings are on top of that but the ten percent were to be returned to God first before considering all of our other needs as the Bible teaches Proverbs 3:9: Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.
How does the figure of ten percent strike you? Is it too high? Is your income too low to meet this standard? One day Jesus was watching what people put into the offering box and I read from the Bible Luke 21:1-4: Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. I tell you the truth, he said, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.
Jesus praised the poor widow for giving to God everything that she had. It wasnt foolish of her but an act of great sacrifice and worship. Jesus was pleased with her. We may think that two very small copper coins or (today) cent pieces are not even worth putting into the offering bag. What can anyone buy for that? Yet, God takes an entirely different view. He views the small amounts as a testing ground for us. He says in the Bible Luke 16:10: Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much (cf. Matthew 25:23). If we can be trusted to be faithful with a small income, he will be able to trust us with much more.
Are we still nervous? Hear God assuring us again Malachi 3:8-12: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse 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
Tithing is a good starting point for giving back to God. However, then we can go further in our faith. We are a rich people and therefore Jesus words apply to us Luke 12:48: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. 1 John 3:17-18: If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
you think? With faith in God how
far can we go? What difference can we make in this city and nation? I
with a testimony from Heidi Baker. She writes (
Then he put a simple poor man's cup next to his side and filled it with blood and water. He told me it was a cup of suffering and joy, and asked me if I would drink it. I drank it and then started to give it to the children. It became drink for them. Again he said, I died that there would always be enough. Since that day, I have taken in every orphan child he has put in front of me, and have asked my co-workers to do the same.
For the next ten years, I learned a lot about provision for the poor. With delight, I have watched God place bread in our hands for the children to eat. By his grace, every day there is somehow always enough food. Since the vision, we have gone from caring for 320 children to over 6,000. My heart is so full of praise and gratitude to God for how he has blessed us with all these beautiful children. I have stood in awe as God has grown us from a few churches to over six thousand in ten years time.
Jesus has given us fresh bread from heaven. We live to be in his glorious presence. He has poured out his love to us without measure. He has called us to bring the lost children home. I love him more than life! Every breath is for Him.
First Heidi cried out: No! No! There are too many orphan children. I cannot take care of them! But then she looked into Jesus eyes and heard him say to her: I died that there would always be enough. From that day Heidi never said no to a single needy child. She kept giving what she had and trusted Jesus that somehow there would always be enough. [I am sure that a memorial in her name has also ascended to God in heaven.]
What about us now? How far can we go with the Christian double-action of praying and giving? Maybe we have to test this out in stages. We begin with tithing and then slowly get to a place where we also never say no to a single needy person among us. Jesus said: I died that there would always be enough. Therefore pray and give according to you faith and there will always be enough. Amen.
Listen To Me
One afternoon, I told Maria, I
want to leave everything behind and move to
Then I went to talk to my pastor, Brother Gomelski. After giving some thought to what I was telling him, he said, You have worked very hard to obtain what you have; you didnt steal it. Therefore, use your assets for God only when he asks you. That moment I felt as Abraham did when he lifted his knife, ready to kill his son. When God saw his servant didnt hesitate but was willing to carry out his orders, even handing over his own son, God stopped Abrahams hand. God realized that my treasure was not composed of my material belongings but of my love for him and for the lost. Today I realize that it would have been a mistake to give up everything, since for many people, including my family, it would have been more of a scandal than a blessing.