OFF THE CHAIN
November 11, 2007
ILLUS: You know what happened to me the other day? It was kind of crazy. I was speaking at a conference. It was about two months ago, in fact, and while I was at the conference I met this guy and we were just talking and he said, “Hey Ed, can I borrow your pen?” Now, for most people that is not a big question, I mean, that’s not a big deal. But for me, it is pretty major because I love pens.
I’m a frustrated artist. I majored in the fine arts. I collect pens. I don’t like to give my pens to other people to use. I am just kind of weird about the pens. So he asked me, “Hey, can I borrow your pen?” So begrudgingly, I took the pen out of my briefcase and gave it to him.
I had kind of this white knuckle grip on the pen. He took the pen and began to write with it. And I was thinking to myself, “He is bearing down too hard.” Then, he put the cap back on the pen and looked at me and he said, “This is a nice pen.” I heard a little voice inside of me say, “Give him the pen. Give him the pen.” And I said to the little voice, “No, I like the pen. I need the pen. I have to write with the pen.”
So I took the pen away from him, put it in my briefcase in a special slot reserved for my special pens, closed my briefcase, and went on throughout the day. Well, that night in the hotel room I was thinking, “You know what? I should have given the guy the pen. I mean, what’s a pen? Yeah, it’s an expensive pen. The pen cost like 90‑something dollars. I should have given him the pen. I should have blessed the guy with the pen, but I said, ‘No.’ ”
Then I thought, “I probably won’t see him again so big deal.” Plus, I was saying to myself, “The guy lives in another part of the world. I mean, hey, that’s just the way it is.”
Well, the next day I walked into this conference center for yet another day of meetings, I looked across this large room, and I saw the guy at the far end. And I looked at him and I thought, “Oh no!” And then this voice said, “Give him the pen. Give him the pen.” And I kept saying, “No, no.”
I sat there and heard this speaker speak, and then there was a little break. And during the break I was walking around, and I saw another friend of mine, this big honking guy, he is like 6’8″, 340 lbs. He used to play in the NFL, and he had a suit on.
And I said, “Sean, man, you are looking clean with the suit. I mean, how do they find a suit that big?” And we were talking and I said, “Man, that’s a cool necklace.” And then I sat down for the last part of the session, and during this last session I began to really get convicted, “Ed, give the guy the pen. Walk across the room after the conference is over and give the guy your nice, $90, blue with gold trim pen. Give it to him.”
I said. “Okay, I’m going to do it.” So the session ended. I grabbed my pen in my left hand. I mean, I had a white knuckle grip on that pen. And I am walking through the crowd across the room to give it to the guy who had complimented the pen the day earlier.
As I was walking and trying to make my way through the crowd I bumped into my big friend, you know, giant Sean, 6’8″, 340 lbs Sean. And Sean gave me a high five. It was like shaking hands with a grizzly bear. I mean, the guy is just a monster.
And when I shook his hand I felt something in my hand. It was heavy, and I looked and there was this phenomenal necklace, totally off the chain. What was so funny, on Sean it was like this [Ed pulls the chain like a choker on his neck], and on me [Ed releases the chain to hang loosely around his neck], look at this. You can’t even see it in my shirt. You didn’t know it was there, did you?
And so I just took the chain, had it in my right hand, the pen in the left, and I took 4 or 5 more steps, found the guy, and gave him the pen. And then I thought, “Wow, this is a cool necklace.” Then—boom—it hit me. It hit me.
That’s just a microcosm of a major principle in scripture. Well, what had happened to me is all about God because the moment we begin to bless, the moment that we resolve in our heart to bless someone, what’s going to happen? We’re going to get blessed while we’re blessing.
So here I was just giving a pen. I mean, yeah, the pen cost $90, but big deal. I’m giving the pen and while I am doing that, I am blessed by this off the chain friend. Is that phenomenal or what?
People are always saying, “I want to live an off the chain life. I want to live life on this level.” Well to do that, to experience off the chain living, you have to experience off the chain giving. We’re made to give. We’re made to bless. We’re made to bless others.
When I say the word blessing, what am I talking about? I have written an entire book on this called In the Zone. But to give you a quick rundown: When I am blessed, I am on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God. That’s what it means to be blessed. We’re made to be blessed, and we need to be blessings in our lives.
As we get outside of ourselves and bless others, we are blessed. And that’s what it means to live life on an HNL, a ‘hole ‘notha level. God is teaching me constantly about this principal using little things, insignificant things, to hammer this huge concept home.
Well, here is what I have discovered as I have lived my life of adventure with God. I have discovered that I am not an owner; I am simply a manager. Have you discovered that? Sure in your heart of hearts you call yourself a Christ-follower. And if you’re not a Christ-follower, listen, but you don’t understand what I’m saying.
If you’re a Christ follower, though, you don’t own jack. “Well, Ed, yes I do, man. I own my house. I own this building. I own my car.” Oh, really? Well do this for me. Stop paying taxes and see what happens. Oh, you own your land? Really? You own that building? Okay, just don’t pay taxes. You don’t own anything nor do I.
Everything has been given to us by the grace of God, every single thing we have. That’s why every single financial decision that we make is a spiritual decision. Every single financial decision that we make—no matter how small, no matter how large—is significant. And it is spiritual because scripture tells us time and time again, one of the major ways to tell if Jesus is number one, if he is running the show, if he is driving the car, if he is in the corner office, is to just look at our money.
And it’s interesting because whenever I talk about money people get really, really funny. It’s like talking about sex. One of the great things to understand is the fact that you don’t own anything. I have a close friend of mine named Justin, and our family helped Justin. As a young guy we sort of adopted him and now he is a money manager. He works in Houston and he manages millions and millions of dollars.
The other day I was talking to him and Justin said, “Ed, I feel really responsible because I have to manage all of this money.” And I said, “Justin, I understand that. I mean, that is a great responsibility.” I have never heard Justin say in all the years of knowing him, “Hey Ed, I feel guilty because I have to manage all this money. I just really feel guilty. I have a case of the guilties because a guy gave me $5 million to manage or another person gave me $100 thousand. Ed, I really feel guilty.”
No, he feels responsible. If you feel guilty about what you have, you know what? You think you own it. You think you have it. It’s so freeing and so liberating to realize nothing that we have is really ours. It’s God’s. We’re just managers. We’re just stewards. I think about Matthew 25. Do you remember when Jesus was talking about the parable of the talents?
This wealthy guy had some people that worked for him and he was planning this incredible vacation to the Caribbean or somewhere, and he gave five talents to one guy, two talents to another and one talent to the other, and then he bolted. When he came back from his vacation the guy with five talents had parlayed his into ten, the guy with two doubled his, and the guy with one had sat on his and it had spoiled. He did nothing with it.
God’s favor isn’t fair. God gives certain people five talents, others two talents, some one talent. Cool man, that’s great. We’re to develop the talents as an act of worship as best as possible. We’re to understand that we’re to manage them, to manage our lives, to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. We return some of it back to God and enjoy the rest.
So really when you think about it people say, “Well Ed, you must be talking about giving today.” No, I am not talking about giving because we are not really giving anything. We are simply living. Because if we give, that means we own something. We don’t own anything so, we’re really returning.
Whenever we’re talking about this stuff it’s about returning. So just say the word return with me, “Return.” So again, you’re not giving, I’m not giving, we’re just returning something that is already God’s. And when I return it to the house, which scripture talks about, I’m simply saying, “God, you are number one in my life. You are Lord of my life. You are running the show. You’ve got the reins. You’re God, I’m not. You’re the owner God, and I’m the manager.”
While I am returning, while I’m blessing, and let’s just say while we’re giving, what happens? It meets a need in another situation. It also meets the need in this situation. It meets the need in someone else’s life, and it meets the need in my life as well.
And that’s what’s so ironic about the economy of God. As I decide and resolve to bless others, I am being blessed the moment I make this decision to be blessed. Now, some people out there say, “Okay, I’ve got it. You give to get. So I will give, and I will get. I’ll give and get and give and get.”
No. We get to give. We don’t get to get, we get to give. God blesses us as a result of giving, of blessing others, and blessing the church. God blesses us every single time that we give. Sometimes it’s financially. Yet, oftentimes, it is in ways that money can’t even touch.
I look at my life, the relationships, the opportunities, the adventure—just the plan that God has, by his grace, put me on. You can’t even put a price tag on that. And the people that I know who follow Christ and who understand it’s not theirs, it’s God’s, can say the same exact thing. So every time I resolve in my heart to walk across the room to bless, I’m going to be blessed. Off the chain living is all about off the chain giving.
I think it was three weeks ago I bought this watch. And this watch costs $150. I had worn it twice. God, again, is using these things in my life to tell me something, and I think I know, and I’m kind of telling you why.
So, I had this watch on. And it was late one Wednesday night after our student services, and a guy walks up to me that I know who goes to college, and he helps with our student ministry. He said, “I love your watch.” I said, “Thanks.” And then he says, “Man, I lost my watch.”
And I heard that voice again, “Give him the watch.” I didn’t argue with that voice anymore, I just took the watch off and I said, “Man, take this watch.” He said, “I didn’t say that for that.” I said, “Man, take the watch. It is yours.” He said thanks, “This watch awesome. Yeah, I love it.” This guy just loved the watch. I saw a need—boom—gave it, blessed him with the watch. I mean the watch, $150. Yeah, that’s okay, that’s cool.
Several weeks later, in fact it was three days ago, I was in California speaking. A guy walked up to me and gave me a watch. It’s the size of a sun dial. Look at this thing. And my friend inadvertently left the price tag on it. This watch cost 15 times more than the watch I gave to that college kid.
“Are you saying, Ed, if I bless somebody then I’m going to get blessed back 15 times?” No, I am not saying that. But I am saying God is going to bless your life. And by the way, do not tell me that this is a nice watch. I will not give it to you. Don’t try to chase me down after this service. Lightening only strikes once, right?
So we’re not owners, we’re simply managers. And when we understand that we will discover that every decision is a spiritual one. We’re blessed to be blessings. That’s why we’re blessed. God has gotten it to us and now he wants to get it through us to the greatest thing out there, the only institution that Jesus ever built: the local church.
So we’re blessed. And speaking of blessings, if you have your Bibles, turn to the book of Judges 2. Have you ever heard of a guy named Joshua in the Bible? How many people have heard of Joshua? Joshua was some kind of leader. He led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, and as you read the history of God’s people and what Joshua was about, they were claiming different parts of the real estate, and everything was going well.
Yet in Judges, it says that Joshua clocked out. He died. Joshua, a phenomenal influencer, the Joshua generation, they went into the Promised Land. They closed this real estate deal, and everything was going and flowing for God’s people. Yet, there is a verse in Judges 2 that is a scary verse. This verse disturbed me when I read it.
Because remember, if you read 1 Corinthians 10 in the New Testament, it says that we should use and understand the history of God’s people because the history of God’s people is analogous to our walk and our journey and the land that God wants us to claim. So check out Judges 2:10. The last part of verse 10 says, “Another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done.”
Marinate on that for a second. I mean, that is crazy. This is after Joshua. “Another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done.” I mean, are you ready for that? What was Joshua thinking? I mean, what was that generation doing? I don’t know. Obviously they failed to mark and mentor and influence the next generation.
They were in the zone, right? They were in the blessed place, the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. They were there, man. And they were blessed, and they were like, “Wow, we’re on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God. Whew, this is off the chain.” But, they failed to bless, to mark, to mentor, and influence the next generation.
That’s the call, friends, of the church. Christianity is just one generation away from extinction. We have the opportunity to mark, mentor, and bless and influence the next generation. Well, how do we do that? We have to become a generous nation. How do we bless the next generation? It starts now, in this generation.
So just take a panoramic view of this venue. This didn’t just happen in a vacuum. We had a lot of people here. I’m talking about full-court followers of Christ, who thought about the next. Who sowed seeds for the next generation, and now look around. We are reaping a harvest because there is no way I can reap, until first of all, I sow.
There is no way I am going to receive the blessings until I bless. What are you doing with your blessings? I don’t know about you, but I have never met a blessing I didn’t like. And, again, I don’t bless someone to say, “Okay, I am going to get blessed. I am ready.” That is just a result of it. That is just an off the chain implication and process that occurs once I live in this area. But can you believe it, there rose up another generation who did not know the Lord. They failed to mark, mentor, and influence the next generation.
At Fellowship Church we are all about the next generation. I mean, for us to do nothing, for us to sit here in our neutrality is for us to allow the evil one to dominate, stagnate, and obliterate our young people. Because if you keep on reading in the book of Judges, I mean, it gets worse, man.
Here are God’s people—I mean the people who were living in the zone. God’s people who were supposed to be taking cities for God. They began to worship other gods and then Jeremiah 32 tells us, check this out, the parents began to sacrifice their kids to idols. Unbelievable. I can’t believe a parent would sacrifice a child to an idol. Man, that’s sad. I have a hard time with that.
Moms, dads, could it be that we’re doing the same thing? I mean, take a look at the media in our land. Take a look just at the movies that are being cranked out. Take a look at some of the programs our government is involved with, some of the things they support in the arts and other areas.
Think about education. All those areas do not support the only institution that Jesus ever built, the local church. The church is the hope of the world. Jesus didn’t say, “I’m going to build a hospital.” He didn’t say, “I’m going to build the school.” He didn’t say, “I was going to build a 501c3.” He said, “I will build My church.” That’s why people like you and me have to wake up and smell the espresso and invest in the next generation.
How many of you have a checkbook? We all have checkbooks. I was thinking the other day, you know you can take your checkbook or my checkbook, and if we could hire a ghost writer, they could write a story about your checkbook and mine without even knowing us. Because in my checkbook and in your checkbook, you know, a ghost writer could tell, okay, this is important, this is not important, and this person is really into that. A story could be written.
Well, here is the question: Would the story be a tragedy like, “Ouch, man, what were they smoking here? Why did they do…?” Would it be a tragedy that talked about a waste of money or a comedy? Because see as a believer, as a coast-to-coast follower of Christ, the story written about your checkbook and mine should be a comedy.
It should be like, “Hahaha, I can’t believe they’re writing that check, man. Haha, this doesn’t make sense. This is just totally off the chain, man. Look at that.” What does scripture say? God loves a cheerful giver. Do you know what the word “cheerful” means? In the original language it is pronounced hilarious. We get the word hilarious from it. “Hahaha, I can’t believe I’m returning 10 percent of what I make to the local church. Hahaha.”
You know, I have known some people who have tithed, who have brought, who have returned 10 percent to the house for a long, long time. And I have never met one who said, “You know what, I have tithed for a couple years, and I quit. It just didn’t work.” I have never met someone like that, ever.
Now, I have known a lot of people who have tithed for a long time, like myself and Lisa, and have gone through difficult seasons where it so tough to write the check. We had to just sit back and die laughing, “Have we lost our minds? Hahahaha.” I’m serious. And I’m not saying it is easy for us. It is a struggle, like with anyone else. We discovered a long time ago that we’re blessed to be blessings.
So I want to thank you for blessing the greatest entity in the universe, for returning what is God’s to his house. I want to thank you for investing in the next generation because if we can invest in the next generation, it starts with now. So yes, you know, a watch is fine, you know, a pen, whatever. But those are microcosms that reflect a major principle in God’s scripture and that principle is the most exciting adventure anywhere.