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Showing posts with label Generosity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Generosity. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Giving


Introduction
We’ve been studying how the power of God transforms all believers through the Holy Spirit so that we in turn can help transform each other and the whole world.  The Holy Spirit everyone who follows Christ as Lord a special gift.  Romans 12:6-8 tells us tells us the Holy Spirit gives some the gift of Prophecy, others the gift of Serving, or Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, or Kindness.  Today, we will consider the spiritual gift of giving.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Giving Transforms Lives
When I was 21 years old, I started volunteering as a youth counselor at East Cobb UMC in Marietta.  We had a wonderful Youth Pastor, Eddie Bradford, who did a wonderful job.  I was there as a volunteer to just hang out with the kids, build relationships, and offer encouragement.  The kids seemed to respond well and I was truly blessed to be with them.  The youth of that church, like most, took several trips every year--a ski trip in the winter, a beach trip in the summer and a few camping retreats throughout the year.  It was a great time for each kid to spend focused time building relationships with each other, the youth pastor and volunteers, and of course God.  The youth's parents paid a fee to cover the cost of their trips and of course the youth pastor was on the church staff so his cost was covered.  However, I was just a poor, broke and starving college kids.  My parents weren't even able to help me pay for college (I was working my own way through) so I had no money for youth trips.  Some of those trips could cost between $300-500.  Thankfully, there were a number of generous sponsors at East Cobb UMC who anonymously paid to cover the cost of any youth or counselor who couldn't pay for a trip.  Because of their giving, I was able to go and build deep relationships with the youth and with God.  I was never even able to thank those donors, because their giving was intentionally anonymous.  But look at what a fruitful investment they made.  I have been a minister now for 20 years and those early youth trips were a large contributing factor to my decision to follow this path.  So all the lives my ministry has touched is an extension of the financial gifts of those donors at East Cobb.  Their investment has born more fruit than they could have ever imagined when they gave.  Even my family has been dramatically effected, because all three of my kids and my wife grew up engaged in a parish ministry setting.

Every Christian is Called to Give
Every Christian is called to give.  It is built into the very identity of the Christian faith.  Jesus paid the ultimate price by dying on the cross in our place.  Christ gave his life to save us from sin and death and to offer us enteral life with God.  We become a Christian when we surrender to God.  We admit we are sinners who desperately need the saving grace of God.  We repent of our sin—primarily, the sin of thinking and acting as if our life belonged to us when, in fact, our life belongs to God because He made us and gave us a purpose.  So we repent and give our life to Jesus, God’s one and only Son.
  
Jesus talked about money a lot; more than prayer, sin, heaven, or hell.  He talked about money so much because he knew how much people value money.  Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21).  In other words: if your heart truly belongs to Jesus (because you’ve surrendered your life to him), then the things you treasure most deeply (including your money) will devoted to him too.  A quick test to see how much you “treasure” Jesus is too look at your finances.  What do you spend your money on?  How much is yourself?  How much is others?  How much is given directly to the things that really matter to Jesus?

The biblical standard for giving is 10%.  That means if you earn $50,000 per year, you would give $5,000 to Jesus through the Church.  This is called a tithe.  It was a law in the Old Testament and Jesus confirmed that people should tithe (Matthew 23:23).  I encourage all of you to tithe for two main reasons. 

First of all, it will bless the Church.  If every family here at Pleasant Grove gave a tithe we would have no trouble paying off our mortgage and paying our bills, and we would have plenty left over to do all kinds of incredible, life changing ministry—to kids, youth, adults, even seniors.  The simple fact is, the Church cannot reach it’s full potential because all of God’s people do not give what they are supposed to give.  That’s just the simple Truth.  But there’s another reason you should tithe. 

It will bless you.  Giving the tithe is a spiritual disciple every bit as important as prayer, reading your Bible, attending worship, and serving.  You cannot grow the way God wants you to grow if you are not giving. Period.

So, if you aren’t giving 10% of your income to God through His Church, I encourage you to start.  Maybe you don’t think you have the faith or money you need to jump right into 10% giving.  Then start with a lesser amount and work your way there.  Don’t just talk about it.  Make a plan.  How will you work your way to 10% giving?  How long will it take?  One year?  Two?  Five?  Make a plan and then implement it.  Perhaps you could start with 3% or 5% and gradually work your way up to 10% in a year or two.  It can be done.  I know it, because Kelly and I started tithing when we didn’t have any money—in our early 20s when our combined income was probably less than $15,000 a year.  The good thing about tithing is when your income is small, your tithing is small.  If your income is only $10,000 per year, your annual tithe would be $1,000 per year (or $83 per month or $19 per week).  As your income increases, your tithe will increase; but by then tithing will already be part of your habit and you won't have to struggle with it.

Christians are called to begin with a tithe, and then go further.  Just because you are already giving 10% of your income doesn’t mean you cross your arms and proudly exclaim, “I’m done!  I don’t have to give anymore.”  Remember what the old hymn says?  “Jesus gave it all!  All to him I owe!”  Therefore, always look for how you can give more to Jesus.  You will find it is a great blessing to give.

The Spiritual Gift of Giving
All Christians are called to give.  However, just like some Christians have the gift of music or the special ability to preach, other Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit with the special ability to give in order to help transform our world.  Those with the spiritual gift of giving have a special ability to understand the material needs of others and then give generously beyond the normal standard to meet those needs.
A giver’s basic motivation is to live frugally and save as much as they can so they can give as much as they in order to help others. Givers take special delight in figure out needs that most people overlook and then meeting those needs.  Givers delight to find less expensive ways to do things, so that the Church gets the most bang for their buck.  A giver’s family often thinks they are cheap—too concerned about counting pennies—but the people to whom they give think they are extremely generous.  Saving resources brings a giver almost as much pleasure as giving them, because they regard saving as the key that opens the door to even more resources. They seem to be able to accumulate savings, even in hard times.  Lastly, most givers prefer to stay out of the spotlight.  They often give anonymously in order to avoid recognition.  Their reward is knowing God’s Kingdom is thriving because of their gift.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Givers
Spiritually gifted givers have some great strengths to offer God’s Kingdom.  They tend to avoid impulsive spending.  They understand authority and expect to be held accountable and diligently hold others accountable.  They are usually hard workers with conservative values.  They often like to be personally involved in the lives of the people in whom they've invested.  Givers manage their money well and hardly ever spend more than they make or incur debt.  Givers love to motivate others to save and to give generously.

However, with those strengths come some weaknesses givers should avoid.  Sometimes a giver’s efforts to conserve resources can degenerate into being “cheap.”  They might sacrifice quality for quantity or even miss a good opportunity altogether because they are unwilling to spend.  Spiritually gifted givers sometimes come to care more about the money than what the money can do for God’s work.  So, givers need a strong prayer life to know what God is doing and also the faith to give when God calls them to spend on His Kingdom work.  Pride can become another great weakness for givers.  They may become proud of their great resources and their ability to influence with their money.  If offended, givers may resort to withholding their giving as a weapon, letting their feelings interfere with God-given opportunities to give.  Furthermore, givers sometimes get too focused on one issue they see as a priority and ignore other issues that may be important to others or may be even more important to God’s Kingdom work.

Do You Have the Spiritual Gift of Giving?
Do you have the spiritual gift of Giving?  Do you have a knack for saving money—both by putting it away and also by getting a good deal?  Do you enjoy helping others more than spending on yourself?  Are you a hard worker with integrity, able to be held accountable for the way you use the resources God gives you?  Are you using your spiritual gift to have the greatest impact possible for the Kingdom of God?  As we get ready to close, I want you to pray about it.

As we close, I want to share one more story.  When I was a young minister—about 26-years-old and just starting out in the ministry.  I left a good paying job as the director of quality assurance at 1888 Mills to work as a youth director at a small church.  Our first child, Gavin, was just a baby.  Part of my job was to lead worship for our church’s youth group.  I had an old guitar that was barely adequate.  It seemed like it broke a string just about every time I played. Then I’d have to stop the service and take 5 minutes to put anew string on and retune (and you just couldn’t get it tuned right in that type of situation).  One of my volunteers, Eddie, called me and said, “Chris, meet me up at guitar center today.  I want to buy a guitar and I want your advice…”

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Madness of Greed


Introduction
Each of the characters in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory represent a different sin that plagues humanity.  We started by looking at gluttony.  Then we considered sinful pride.  Our topic today is greed.

Ephesians 5:3-5
3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

The Madness of Greed
Greed is a terrible sin.  We make a big deal out of things like murder and sexual immorality.  But the Word of God says greed is just as bad as being a sexual pervert.  In fact, the Word today says a greedy person is an idolater.  Imagine a person who bows down and worships a statue--thinking it is God.  That person is a fool.  They turn their back on the One True and Living God in favor of an inanimate statue made by human hands.  They reject God for something that cannot help them.  They are evil and the greatest of all fools.

Greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs.  Our desire can be for more food, money, status, or power.  It may be like Varuca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wanted the golden egg and the goose that laid it (and a party and a feast, a bean feast!).  What we want is not the issue; it’s that we greedily want more, more, more!  And no matter how much we get, it is never enough.  The ironic thing about greed is the greedy person is never truly satisfied.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! “The more they have, they emptier they feel.”

Do you think it is only a coincidence that so many in America feel empty and dissatisfied?  We are one of the wealthiest nations on earth.  We have so much!  A study was done that showed Americans spend more money on trash bags than the combined Gross Domestic Product of the poorest 90 countries in the world.  (I.E., if we take 90 of the poorest countries on the planet and combine the amount of money they spend on everything—food, shelter, clothing, medical care, the basic necessities of life to survive and everything else—it is still less than the amount Americans spend on bags to hold all the stuff we throw away into the garbage heap.)  And yet, Americans, so often, are the ones who feel empty and dissatisfied with life.  We feel like we need more.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 has never been truer.  “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! “The more they have, they emptier they feel.” 

Why is Greed So Bad?
Veruca Salt probably didn’t realize how her temper tantrum was so disgusting.  We rarely realize how awful our greed is when we are in the midst of it.  When we are consumed with getting what we want, we don’t realize (or care) how bad we behave or who we hurt; all we care about is getting what we want.  Greed can lead people to the most heinous crimes, because people will do anything (and feel justified in their actions) to get what they want.  Greed (disguised as the harmless idea that “we need it”) becomes the justification to hurt others, to steel, to murder.  Parents, driven by greed to acquire more stuff, neglect or abuse their children.  Greed leads countries to go to war as they vie for power and millions die in the process.  Greed causes one person to gorge themselves while another starves to death. Worst of all, greed drives a wedge between us and God—the source of life and all that is good.  We try to fill the emptiness in our soul with stuff when it is God alone who can satisfy.  Greed drives us away from the only One who can truly satisfy our deepest longings.

How Can We Break Free from the Madness of Greed?
First of all, we must repent.  To repent means to admit you are wrong and stop doing it.  Of course, most people will nod their head in agreement when I say we need to repent of greed.  I don’t think most people understand the full ramification of what I’m saying. So let me try to make it more clear.  Take a moment to think about what kind of sin is the worst imaginable sin of which you could be guilty?  I mean something that in your mind is so terrible, the shame and sorrow of it would almost kill you if you were found to be guilty of it.  For some, maybe this would be some sexual perversion you can imagine--something that if anyone knew about it, you would absolutely die.  If it’s not some sexual sin, maybe you killed someone or abused someone.  Maybe it would be to abandon your family.  I don’t know.  What would it be for you?  Now, I want you to understand, greed is just as horrible and disgusting and shameful in God’s eyes as whatever that other sin you thought of was.  Now, we need to repent of greed knowing it is an abomination to God.  We need to fall on our knees and admit: “I’m so sorry I’m greedy, Lord!  I was wrong!  Help me stop being greedy!”

Now, if we’re truly going to break free from greed, we’ve got to replace the darkness of greed with the light of Christ.  What I mean is, you’ve got to let Christ fill your soul.  Greed is us trying to satisfy with stuff an emptiness that only Christ is capable of filling.  You’ve got to fall in love with Jesus.  Does that sound cheesy?  I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else to describe it.  When you fall in love with someone, you want to spend all your time with them.  You crave their presence, their affection, their time.  You want to be with them more than anything else.  You spend your money to buy them gifts—sometimes even frivolously.  You don’t care because they are the most important thing in your life—more important than anything you have.  A real relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the only thing that can truly satisfy the human soul.  So instead of indulging your deeping cravings by greedily seeking material things, let Christ fill your emptiness instead.

Practice contentment. The Bible tells us again and again to learn to be content with what we have.  Hebrews 13:5, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.  1 Timothy 6:6, “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”  The secret to being happy and satisfied is not getting more.  There is nothing out there that you’re missing that you need to be happy.  Christ has already given you everything you need.  What is needed, is a change in your own attitude.  When you learn to be truly thankful for what you have and content with it, you will be truly happy and at peace.  On the other hand, if you cannot be happy, satisfied and content with what God has given you right now, you will never be able to be content with the things He might give you in the future.  So, work hard to simplify your life.  Get rid of stuff you don’t need rather than trying to get more.  Make it your goal to get by on as little as possible.  The simple life is the contented life; it is the happy life.

Be generous.  The opposite of greed is generosity.  Generosity naturally flows from a person who is filled with the love of God.  Greedy hands are closed; generous hands are open.  In Psalm 23, it says, “You anoint my head with oil.  My cup runs over.”  I love that image.  It’s like a cup that’s filled to the brim and the waiter just keeps pouring and the liquid is running all over the table.  That’s how God blesses His people.  He loves us so much and gives us the things that really matter.  He gives us so much, we can’t hold it all.  The greedy person tries to get another cup (and another and another and another…) so they can catch and save it all up.  The generous person is happy to share the abundance of the Lord.  Generous giving is a powerful antidote to greed.  It massages our stiff, greedy fingers open as we let go of things that do not satisfy.  In giving, we find far more satisfaction than we ever found in the things themselves.

Conclusion
The greatest, most generous gift ever given was the body and blood of Christ our Lord.  Jesus gave His precious life so that we can be forgiven of our greed and every other sin.  Let us then repent and turn to Him for forgiveness and grace and healing.  The life He wishes to give us is so much better than the stuff we greedily hoard.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Proverbs Day 11

Read Proverbs 11
Cultivate generosity.  Be as generous as you can in as many ways as you can to as many people as you can.  A generous person is a joyful, satisfied person.  They always feel like they're living an abundant life.  They bless others and people bless them for their generosity.  Generous people inspire generosity in others and others are generous with them.  Of course, there will be those who are not appreciative, who never say thanks, or that take your generosity for granted.  Be generous anyway because the benefits for you and others will always outweigh the negative.  And stingy, greedy people who cling to what they have with clenched fists will never really be happy or satisfied.  People won't like them that much and they will live a sad, unfulfilled life that comes to nothing of eternal consequence.  Listen to my paraphrase of Proverbs 11:24-30.

24 People who spread their generosity widely gain even more.  Those who cling to what they should give, never have enough.
25 A soul that blesses will be satisfied with more than enough and the person who refreshes others will be refreshed.
26 People will hate on those who refuse to sell them food when they’re starving, but they will sing the praises of those who sell it at a fair price.
27 Someone who always tries to do good is admired; but if you try to do evil, it will catch you in its claws.
28 People who rely on their wealth will meet with disaster, but people who do what’s right blossom like flowers in the spring.
29 People that always aggravate their family won’t inherit anything.  Fools end up slaving for the wise.

30 People who do the right thing are rewarded with life and those who win souls are wise.

Prayer
"Father, help me to be generous. Help me to see and feel that I have more than enough already and so be willing to give freely. Help me to keep my eyes open to the many opportunities to give generously. And help me to be generous in as many ways as I can and as often as I can for You have been so generous with me. Amen."