OFF THE CHAIN
November 9, 2007
ILLUS: A while back I told you a story about something that happened to me in Australia. I was invited to speak at a conference, and while I was at the conference I met a guy named Joseph, one of the other speakers.
He had just written a book and I said, “Joseph, would you sign one of your books for me?” He said, “Yeah, Ed do you have a pen?” And I begrudgingly gave him my pen because I collect pens, and I don’t want people to write with my pens because they can mess up the pen.
Yet I handed him the pen, and he began to write. I was thinking to myself, “He is bearing down too hard.” Then he said, “Hey, this is a nice pen.” And a little voice inside of me said, “Give it to him.” I said, “No.” So I took the pen, put it away, and I thought I will never see Joseph again.
He lives in Singapore so I thought, “I will never see him again, I mean, when am I going to be in Singapore?” So I kind of forgot about it. Well that night I kept hearing the voice, “You should have given him the pen. You should have been given him the pen.”
The next morning we had another session at this arena and I looked across the way, and guess who I saw? Joseph. Pen-less. And that voice said, “Give him the pen.” And I said, “No.”
While I was finding my seat I ran into another friend of mine named Sean. Sean is a big hulking figure, 6′ 8″, 340 pounds, a former NFL player. And I said Sean, You’re looking good man. You’ve got a suit on, and I like that necklace.” He said thanks. Then he sat down and I sat down on the front row.
During the session the voice said again, “Give Joseph the pen.” And I said, “Okay. I’ll do it.” So when it ended I stood, grabbed my pen, had it in my left hand—had this vice grip on it. I began to fight my way through the crowd to Joseph on the other side of the arena floor to give him the pen.
And while I did, I passed my friend Sean. Sean and I shook hands, and I felt something in Sean’s hand. He gave me this necklace. And I thought, “Wow. How cool is that? Here I am giving away the pen, unlocking my grip on the pen to give to Joseph. Yet at the same time, simultaneously, big Sean gave me this necklace.”
Well, that’s the way it is in God’s economy. Wouldn’t you agree? That’s just a microcosm of the way it is when we walk in the things of God because God’s economy is unusual, it’s uncanny, and it’s unbelievable. I call it the “un” principal. It’s just “un” when you think about God’s economy.
When we resolve within our hearts to bless someone, while we make that decision to bless, we’re going to get blessed. When we unlock our grip on what we think is ours and bless someone, we are going to have someone else unlock something and bless us. Who’s that someone else? The God of the universe.
So while I’m blessing, God is blessing. While I’m unlocking, God is unlocking. And God’s been revealing that to me, and showing that to me, through little things, insignificant things like a pen and a necklace.
If you have your Bibles turn to the book of 1 Corinthians 10. It talks about in verse 11 the fact that we—I’m talking about followers of Christ—should learn from God’s people. We should learn from history. And the cool thing about the Bible is the Bible keeps it real.
Everybody these days is talking about authenticity. They’re talking about vulnerability. They’re talking about, “Man you’ve got to keep it real.” Well, the Bible has been doing that for thousands and thousands of years.
And one of the ways that I can identify with scripture is the fact that not only does it show the strengths of people, it also shows their weaknesses; not only what they do well, but also their vulnerabilities. And we learn the same from the children of Israel.
So check out 1 Corinthians 10:11. The Apostle Paul writes, “Now these things happen to them as an example,” them being the Jews, God’s chosen people, “and they were written for our instruction.” In other words, the pilgrimage of God’s people is analogous to where you are and to where I am. So they were written for our instruction. “Upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
Now that’s a very compelling text. Now that text is even more compelling when you take your Bibles and turn to the book of Psalms. In Psalms 78, the psalmist writes about God’s people from their incarceration in Egypt until the reign of King David. And within this Psalm the writer really unpacks a lot of things. In fact, he unlocks what it means to really understand, to walk, and to live the way that God wants us to live.
So as believers we can unlock a deeper understanding of what it means to walk and to give in God’s economy. And that’s what happens in Psalms 78.
The writer says in Psalm’s 78:1, “Oh my people hear my teaching, and listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from the old, what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.” And look at verse 4, “We will not hide them from their children. We will tell the,” let’s say it together, “next generation.”
So the writer says what we have heard and what we have listened to. There’s a difference between hearing and listening. I heard the voice that said, “Ed, give Joseph the pen.” I didn’t do anything. I was passive. I heard it, though. I listened when I said, “You know what, I resolve in my heart to bless Joseph with the pen. I’m going to walk across the room. I’m going to walk across the arena floor and give him the pen.”
God began to unlock, once again, his understanding of his economy. Because when I say, “God, unlock my understanding of your economy,” guess what happens? The geological plates of your life and mine shift, and I move from greed to seed.
Because in the natural I think my stuff is my stuff. I have this greed thing going on, and don’t act like you don’t. Everybody hearing my voice right now at all of our campuses, you understand greed. We need and we greed. We greed and we need.
Yeah, I want to get it; it’s mine. Yet, in God’s economy, as he unlocks his understanding, what happens? I discover I’m not an owner. I’m simply a steward. I’m a manager. I don’t own jack. It’s all God’s. It’s seed.
So everything I do I’m sowing seed. I’m a farmer, and you’re a farmer. We’re sowing seed with the words that come out of our mouths. We sow seed in relationships. We sow seed in our marriage. We sow seed in a dating relationship. We sow seed with our kids. We sow seed in your career. We sow seed if we’re playing some sport.
We’re always sowing seed, sowing seed, and sowing seed. And Jesus talked about, in Matthew 13, the different soils where we sow the seed. Jesus said, “You better sow seed in the most fertile soil possible.” God, though, wants to move all our understanding. He wants to unlock it from greed to seed.
How many dog lovers do we have in the house? Okay. My wife and I love dogs, and we have a couple of Dobermans. So often I will see these Dobermans because they live inside. I will look at them and their brother, and I will say to myself, “You know what? They hit the lottery.”
They have an amazing life. They’re like human beings. Many mornings I will wake up and smell fresh scrambled eggs, and I will think Lisa is making me some scrambled eggs. Then when I walk into the kitchen, she is giving the dogs the scrambled eggs. These dogs, again, are like humans. And one of the scary things about the dogs is the fact that they can open doors.
I need to film it and put it on YouTube. These Dobermans are door opening dogs. They don’t like to go outside, obviously, because they’re like humans. But now and then, of course for obvious reasons, you have to take the dogs outside, like today. It is raining and cold; they didn’t want to go outside.
So I have to sometimes drag these dogs, not forcefully, but it is difficult to do. So as I’m taking them outside I have to carefully, lock the door after them, then I will run and lock the front door and the back door. They will check the doors two and three times to see if they’re locked.
Do you ever do the same thing with God? I do. You know God is walking around in our house, around in our stuff. And all of the sudden we get to feeling a little bit annoyed or uncomfortable because he is talking about our stuff is not our stuff because it’s his stuff. And then we say, “You know what God, I’ll just go ahead, and take you outside. I’m just going to take you out through the door.”
And then we lock the door and then we run and lock the other door, and then we run and lock the other door. And we’re like, “Lord, You can come into this area or that area, this room or that room. You can stay outside because now it is getting a little bit too convicting.”
Isn’t it interesting that the Bible talks so much about material possessions? It is the second greatest theme in scripture, money. Jesus capitalized money when he was talking. He emphasized it, the scripture writers did.
We get funny when we think and talk about money. So often people worship money. That’s why God talked about it. And he said that we’re to keep a loose grip on the things of the world because when you talk about generosity, when you drill down into generosity, you can talk about being generous with your talent and your time and that’s good.
Yet, to put the cards on the table, when you really drill down on the word, it’s all about the money. It’s all about the money. When we move money, God moves in our lives. I’m not saying or inferring that you become rich or I become rich once we begin to move money. I’m not talking about the prosperity gospel. That’s heresy.
That’s turning God into a messenger boy or a genie. “God, if I give you this then you’ll bless me tenfold.” That’s not scriptural. The Bible does say, though, when we walk across the arena and bless others we’re going to get blessed. And so often we’re going to get blessed in ways that money can’t even touch. Yet, God does bless financially.
You can’t limit him and put him out of that realm. Have you allowed God to unlock his understanding, your understanding, and a supernatural perspective on the stuff that you have? Because money is so powerful,l it transcends every area of our life. So God wants to unlock our understanding.
But notice this: he also wants to unload blessings upon our lives. Psalm 78:4. “We will not hide them from their children. We will tell the next generation,” What? “The praise worthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done.”
So God unlocks this stuff then he unloads the stuff in your life and mine. I’m talking about blessing. I’ve never met a blessing I didn’t like. And when I resolved in my heart to bless Joseph, the moment I made the decision to bless him with the pen, I was blessed.
I mean, I didn’t need some little chain to be blessed. I was blessed the moment I said, “Okay, I’m going to bless him.” What does it mean to be blessed? I have written an entire book about it. Pick it up. It’s called, In the Zone. To be blessed means to be on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God.
The tangible stuff would be stuff that we can see, touch, taste, and feel. The intangible would be stuff we cannot see, touch, taste, or feel. If I’m blessing someone, I am on the giving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God.
So God will unlock his blessings. He will unload his blessings on your life and mine when we move, and this especially takes place financially. “Well Ed, what do you mean, man? Are you telling me it’s all about the money?” No, I’m not saying that. Here is who is saying it, in Matthew 6:21, Jesus.
He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Isn’t that off the chain? I mean, isn’t that amazing. And so many of you are nodding your head and smiling. You understand it. You’re involved in this beautiful, uncanny, and unbelievable and off the chain economic cycle.
You’re like, “Ed, you’re right. I mean, the words of Jesus are so true.” Others are like, “Wow, that kind of makes me uncomfortable. I want to start locking the doors. I don’t dig that.” Yet, scripture tells us that this unloading thing is going to be totally off the chain.
Look what Malachi says. Malachi 3:10 says, “Will a man rob God?” That’s what God said. And he says, “Well you rob me, but you ask how? Well, in tithes and offerings.” And a tithe is simply 10 percent; it is the first 10 percent that we make. And we’re not giving, we’re just bringing it because remember, it’s already God’s anyway.
Offerings would be over and above the tithes. So “you’re robbing me,” God says, “in tithes and offerings. You’re under a curse, the whole nation of you, because you’re robbing me.” Now that’s interesting because we can either be under a blessing or a curse.
If we rob God and keep the tithe, and spend it on ourselves, we’re under a curse. If we bring the tithe to the storehouse, to The House, we’re going to be blessed. Well let me think, “Do I want to be cursed or blessed?” I’ll take the blessings, and I think you will as well.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this.” This is the only place where God says, “Test me. Test me. Just try it.”
“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.” How can you not do this? I don’t know. That’s between you and God. I mean, if you have some side deal with God I don’t know.
Now in Galatians 6 verses—whoa, something fell out of my Bible. Man, isn’t that wild? A section fell out. [Ed reads the slip of paper that fell out of his Bible] “Will a man rob God; yet, you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.
“You’re under a curse, the whole nation of you, because you’re robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. ‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord, ‘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.’ ”
A lot of us rip this out of the Bible, don’t we? We put it over here and we say, “I believe in the Bible now. I mean, I believe what the Bible says about my forgiveness. And I believe what the Bible says about my forever. I believe what the Bible says about God’s plan and purpose for my life.”
Well, a lot of us need to take this and glue it right back into the Bible because money transcends everything we do. It’s the treasure test. So often in my life it’s tough to write the check; it’s tough to bring the tithe. I know what you’re saying.
A while back I invested in a company, and I’m not a big investment guy. I don’t know much about investing but a friend of mine said, “You need to invest in this company.” Well I thought, before I invest I want to at least know a little about the company. So I had another friend of mine find out about this company. And he called me back and said, “You know what Ed? I think it’s a pretty good investment.”
But he said, “Whenever you invest, you have to be able to lose all the money. And it can’t just totally ruin you.” That’s a good rule. Don’t invest in something unless you can lose it all. So I said, “Okay I can take this money, and if I lose it I won’t be happy, but it’s not going to kill me financially.”
So I invested. I don’t know what will happen. Who knows? Well, I have an opportunity every single weekend to invest in the church, to sow seed in the soils of the church. Well, the Bible explains this. You want to know about the investment and the return on the investment?
It is right here if you want to read it. There are 66 books, and you can check it out. So here is the stuff, the study behind the company and God’s projections. I mean, it’s an off the chain investment, because when we sow seed we’re going to collect a harvest.
When God unlocks his understanding and unloads the blessings upon our lives, what are we to do with the blessings? Sit there? No. We’re to invest them.
And that’s the next thing that I want to challenge you to think about. God wants to unleash the blessings in your life and mine. And where does he unleash them? Within the best soil out there, the local church. If I plant corn, I’m not going to harvest papayas. Whatever I plant, that’s what I’m going to harvest.
People are like, man I want to have an off the chain marriage. I want to have a great marriage. And every single person here, if you’re married, I don’t care how good your marriage is or how bad it is, all of you want to have a great marriage.
But if you sow seeds of negativity, if you sow seeds of strife, if you sow seeds of boredom, if you sow seeds of predictability; guess what? You are not going to have a great marriage.
I want to have well adjusted kids. “Man, I want my kids to be reflective of the nature and the character of God. That’s what I want.” We have little kids and that’s our dream. That’s our desire.
What are you sowing in their lives? Where are you planting them? If you sow in the church, in the fertile soil, if you sow consistency in attendance, if you sow by having them up here for age appropriate teaching for junior high and high school, if you do that, if you put the seed in the fertile ground, guess what? You’re going to have a phenomenal harvest.
But you can’t sow seeds, parents, of inconsistency. You can’t sow seeds of, “Okay I’m going to make sure they’re at the football game, the voice lessons or the ballet class, or the select this or that. I’m going to bust it to sow seeds in that soil and every now and then, I will have them at church. You can’t expect a great harvest when you do that. So what you sow is what you harvest.
You sow into the church; you are going to have a phenomenal harvest. Everything we do is about seed, every word that comes out of your mouth and mine, every thought, every activity. What are you sowing in your business? What are you sowing in your thought life? What are you sowing in your friends? Where are you planting your seed?
Are you sowing seed in a church for a while and then taking it out and putting it somewhere else? The church is the place where this stuff will be unleashed. That is why Galatians 6 says, “Do not be deceived God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction. The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
And look at Psalm 78 once again, verses 6 and 7. It says, “So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born. And they in turn would tell their children and they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, but would keep his commands.”
So what is this about? It’s let go and sow. That’s what it’s about. Just let go and sow. Unlock, God. Unload your blessings, and unleash them in my life individually and also collectively.
Well I think about Fellowship Church, and I think about so many, many, many of us in the early days, how we sowed seed. I’m talking financial seed. I’m talking about money, scratch, dinero, and paper. We had no idea of the harvest that we would reap today.
Five different campuses, missionary endeavors all over the world, completing a beautiful camp for the next generation on 1100 acres in east Texas, having strategic locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Miami, Plano, and in Grapevine. Thinking about our television ministry and ministry over the worldwide web, the internet that goes all over the globe.
I think about the church that we helped start several years ago in Maceio, Brazil, whom we’re helping right now in the month of December as they deal with the impoverished, the downtrodden and the destitute. I had no idea of the tens of thousands of lives that would be radically changed by the grace and mercy of God. And that is the harvest.
So I cannot imagine anyone not taking advantage of this harvest because again, we’re 17 years old. We’re just a teenager. We’re just a teenager with a bunch of pimples. We have got a long way to go, and if we’re going to go where God wants us to go, we have to sow. We’ve got let go and sow.
I want to ask you, have you done that? You want to see God move? Move your money. I’m telling you, it’s all about the money. Again, don’t blame me. Again, I have to go back to Jesus, Matthew 6:21. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
You know last Sunday I was driving to church, and I found myself at an intersection here. I was a little bit late. And I saw all these cars lined up on the frontage road to get into Fellowship Church. There is traffic to get into church. Have you ever thanked God for the traffic that we have at Fellowship Church?
Instead of cussing, why don’t you say, “God I praise you, this is incredible. We have traffic to get into church. We’ve had to start all of these locations to get a lot of people out of here to other places. Man, this is phenomenal. We have to have police officers directing traffic in church. Man, this is not a professional basketball game or a concert. This is crazy, man.”
So I saw all of these people heading straight toward Fellowship Church. I was watching the cars go by, all types of people. White people, African-American people, Asian people, Hispanic people, young people, old people, and then I saw these kids and I’m thinking, “Man isn’t this great?”
These young people are coming to Fellowship Church, the next generation. And then the light turned red, and I saw one guy picking his nose. Now, I want to tell you something again. People can see inside your car. Don’t pick your nose at a traffic light. You will get busted every time. But the nose picker even came to Fellowship Church, and that’s okay. We’ll take everybody.
I watched other people turn left and these people turning left, they were going somewhere else. They were going shopping; they were going across the bridge to the area of commerce. And I thought, “Man that’s interesting. I mean, wow, I wish they would just make that little turn and go straight to Fellowship Church.”
And I saw a lot of kids, and I saw a lot of single adults. I saw people from all walks of life, all skin colors, turning left. And I thought “Man, we have the power—I’m talking about the local church, we have the influence, the leverage, to allow people to just turn and to go straight.”
We can have that sort of power in their life as we get out into the highways and byways, as we get out and go out into the country and pray high risk prayers and invite those people to come to Fellowship Church. I mean, it’s unreal.
Then I started thinking about the next generation and the next generation and the next generation. So what we sow, ladies and gentlemen, is all about the future. If we want to impact the next generation, it starts with this generation.
Generation now is all about the next generation. God is saying to you, “Let go. I want to unlock your understanding, I want to unload blessings upon your life, and I want to unleash stuff that you never dreamed possible.”
And what are you saying to him? Are you just hearing? Are you saying, “No, later. No, when the deal comes through. No, no, no?” Are you saying, “No,” or are you listening and saying, “Yes God. Yes. I’m ready to walk across the room and be a blessing.”
Because when you’re a blessing, this is just a benefit of it, God will bless you, and that is off the chain.