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Showing posts with label Giving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Giving. 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, August 22, 2016

A Loan from God

Introduction
            Well, my son, Gavin, started his classes at the University of Alabama Huntsville this week.  He said he likes his classes so far.  I'm so proud of him.  He's such a diligent student.  He earned a scholarship to pay all of his tuition.  However, it still cost somewhere between $12,000-15,000 a year for room and board and books and other expenses.  So, to encourage Gavin to take responsibility for his own life, we said we would pay roughly half of that expense and he could pay the other half.  Unfortunately, we had to get a "parent loan" to help pay the extra expense.  We are still paying our own student loans back from our college days!  By the time we get Gavin through college, we will have Grace in college; and when she finishes, there will be Abigail.  So I joked and told my wife, "We are going to be in a nursing home one day and still paying back our student loans and our kids.  And none of them is going to come visit us!"
            Well, this leads us into the topic of this blog which was inspired by a John Wesley sermon from 1768 called "The Good Steward."  In it, Wesley contrasted the difference between someone who is a debtor (who received a loan) and someone who is a steward (who is hired to manage another's affairs).

Luke 16:1-2
1Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

Sermon Theme
            Someone who has a loan can do whatever they like with the money, so long as they pay the money back by the time it is due.  Someone who is a financial manager cannot do whatever they like with the money.  They are required to use the money exactly the way the Employer who hired them directs.  A Christian is one whose debts have been forgiven.  We are not debtors.  Oh how fortunate!  For we could never repay the debt we owe to God.  Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glorious standard of God."  And Romans 6:23 says, "For the consequences of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Thankfully, our debt is paid by the blood of Jesus Christ when we place our faith in him!
            Jesus doesn't call his followers debtors.  One of the most frequent ways Jesus describes his followers is the term “steward.”  We don’t use the term steward as much these days.  Perhaps a more appropriate term for us would be “financial manager,” except that we manage far more than just finances in our Christian life.  So let’s use the term manager, as in the scripture I just read—Luke 16:1, “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs…”

Steward/Manager
            First, let’s consider all the ways we are stewards (or managers) for God.  Again I must restate that we are managing far more than money.  And we are not at liberty to use the things God gives us to manage however we want.  We must use it all only the way God wants us to use it.  For to use it in any other way would be a crime against God.  So take seriously what God has given you to manage.
            God has entrusted you with a soul.  Your soul is an immortal spirit made in the image of God.  It encompasses your understanding, imagination, creativity, memory, and your will.  And from your soul spring such things as love and hate, joy and sorrow, your desires—including the desire to do good or evil—and your hopes and fears.  Now again, we are only managers of these.  God entrusts them to us to use—not so we can use them however we please, but—according to the express orders He has given us. (Of course, you will find that you are truly happiest when you use all these according to God’s will.)
            God gave us a mind.  So, we are to use our imagination and creativity, our understanding, our memory, our will all for the glory of God.  We are also to dedicate our emotions to God; we are to love what He loves and hate what He hates.  We are to rejoice and grieve, hope and fear, desire and shun all according to God’s holy purposes. Even our thoughts are not our own.  We cannot use them however we like.  No.  Even our mind is accountable to God.
            God has entrusted you with a body.  You are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14).  God gave you all your sense—sight, hearing, taste, etc.—not to use however you want, but these are on loan to be used specifically in ways God authorizes.  In the same way, God gave you the ability to speak.  He did so, not that you should speak whatever you like, but that you should speak His praises and use your voice to lead others to Christ.  God gave you hands and feet, not that you should go wherever and do whatever you pleased, but that you should work hard and faithfully to build God’s Kingdom.  For Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples…"
            God also gives us worldly goods:  food to eat, clothing to wear, a place to call home, and all the necessary conveniences of life.  In addition to all these, God puts money in our pockets, which can be such a powerful tool for God’s Kingdom if we are wise and faithful managers.
            Beyond all these, there is still more God entrust to us—strength, energy, health, time, our personality, our talents, our education, our reputation…  And perhaps the greatest of all that God entrust to us is His grace.  God saved us by His grace through Jesus Christ who paid the price for our sins.  What are we to do with this grace God extends to us? Are we to waste it?  Are we to go on sinning however we want because God has forgiven us anyway?  Absolutely not!  We are to use His grace responsibly, living our lives wholeheartedly for Him and offer the same grace to others.
            And I won’t neglect today specifically to point out that children are entrusted to us by God.  Regardless of whether they are our biological children, or adopted into our family, or even part of our church family, these kids are entrusted to us by God.  We are to care for them and do the very best we  can to nurture their faith in Jesus Christ.
            So of all these—the soul, the body, worldly goods, money, our children, and everything else—we are only managers.

Giving an Account
            We are not appointed as managers forever.  Our term in this role has a limit.  There is coming a time when we will no longer have any right to or authority over these things.  We will have to return them to the Lord.  Furthermore, we will have to explain to God how we used everything He gave us in this life.
            The time is not as far off as you think.  This life is so short.  Time goes by very fast.  One day, we are holding a baby in our arms; the next, we send them off to college; then, we find we are old and gray and only have a few years left to live.  (And this is only if we are fortunate, for many are not so fortunate and find their life cut off when they are still young or only in the middle of life—by cancer or an automobile accident or by some other tragedy that cuts life short.)  We never know how much time we really have, but we know it is always too short.  
            The time is fast approaching when we will have to stand before the Lord who entrusted all these things to our management and we will have to account—whether we used them the way we wanted or did we follow the Master’s instruction for their use?  God’s Word tells us in Hebrews 9:27, “…people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…”  
            What will you say when the Lord of all creation asks you:  “How did you use the soul I imparted to you?  Did you—to the best of your ability—use your understanding to know yourself and to know Me?  Did you apply it to understand My attributes, My nature, My will for you and the world?"
            God will inquire, “Did you use your memory to store up knowledge that would make you a better servant for the Kingdom?  Did you memorize My Word that you might know wisdom, truth, power, and mercy?”
            And God will ask, “Did you give your will totally over to Me?  Was it wholeheartedly swallowed up in My will so that you pray honestly in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?”
            He will inquire, “Did you love what I love?  Hate what I hate? Desire what I desire?  Did you dedicate your thoughts to what is “…true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…”?” (Philippians 4:8)
            What will you reply when the God looks at you and asks:  “How did you use the body I entrusted to you?  Did you use your tongue to glorify Me? Were you a witness for My Son, Jesus?  Did you speak life into the people around you?  Or did you use your tongue for idle talk, useless conversation, gossip, slander, and maliciousness?"  And He will ask, “What did you do with the gifts of sight and hearing I gave you?  Did you use the gift of taste only to indulge yourself or to build up your body and make it strong to serve Me?  How did you use your hands and feet to serve?  Were you the hands and feet of Christ?”
            What will you say when the Master looks over your life and asks, “How did you use the worldly goods I put into your hands?  Did you use the food gave you only for selfish pleasure, or to guard your health and care for the body I gave you?  Did you use the clothing I gave you to satisfy pride and vanity or to glorify Me?  What about your home?  Was it used in a manner worthy of My glory?”
            And the Lord of all the universe will pierce you with His fiery eyes and ask, “How did you use the money I gave you?  Did you invest this money for My Kingdom?  Did you employ it to do good on the earth?  Did you spend this money to help those in need?  Did you follow my instructions and tithe to the church?  Or did you cheat Me and keep My money for yourself?  Did you embezzle the funds and use them for your own selfish purposes?  What did you do with My money?”
            There is coming a time—very soon—when you will have to give an account.  God will ask you, “Have you been a wise and faithful manager?  Or have you been lying, deceitful, and dishonest?”  How will you respond when you stand before The One who sees into your very soul and knows everything about you, The One from whom you can hide absolutely nothing and make no excuses?

Conclusion
            Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Romans 6:23, “The consequences of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  We have all fallen short of being wise and faithful managers.  However, the Good News is we can be forgiven through Jesus Christ.  Here’s what we all need to do:  1) Accept and confess that we have sinned.  2)  Repent of our sins (in other words, turn away from our sinful behavior and start obeying God.  3)  Let Jesus be our Lord and Savior—follow Him wholeheartedly from this day forward.
            How you use your time, talent, and treasure reveals what’s truly in your heart.  Won't you turn to God today, confess tour sins, repent, and commit to follow Jesus from this day forward.  Thus, you may come to the Day of judgment and stand before the Lord and hear him say,"Well done my good and faithful servant."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why are We Giving Away a TV at Church?

"But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet." Luke 15:22

God gives extravagantly. 
When we deserve only reproach and punishment, God forgives and showers us with love.  His love is extravagant and it doesn't make sense! But I'm glad He gives extravagantly.

God’s extravagant giving inspires us to give. This is why we give gifts at Christmas. Even though it is Jesus' birthday, we give gifts to each other because God gave an extrordinary gift to us--His Son.

This month we are giving away extravagant gifts at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church in Dalton.  In addition to tons of other cool gifts, we will give away a Samsung Galaxy Tab, a Fitbit, and a 42 inch Sanyo TV.

What! Has the church lost it's mind and
been swallowed up in the world's materialism? Absolutely not!
However, God has blessed us beyond all reason and measure with His extravagant love and blessings.  So, we want to turn around and give extravagantly to others the way God gave to us.  That is why we give to the needy all year long through DOCUP and Family Promise and Be the Church and missionaries and many other outreach efforts. And that is why we are giving you a chance to receive a fabulous Christmas gift from the church each Sunday this month.

So come and bring as many friends as you can! Because you might just find the most extravagant gift of all--eternal life through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.






Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Truth About Tithing...

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

Luke 11:42 - “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 

Jesus talked about money a lot.  He talked about money more than He did Heaven and Hell combined.  11 out of 39 of Jesus’ parables talk about money.  1 out of every 7 verses in the Gospel of Luke refer to money.  Apparently, Jesus knew money was a very important aspect of our spiritual lives.  The way we manage our money is a symptom of our spiritual health.

In Luke 11:42, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for ignoring justice and the love of God, but he affirms their practice of tithing.  Jesus recognized the Biblical standard of giving.  A person should give a tithe, which is 10% of their income (see Gen. 28:22; Lev. 27:30, 32). 

Today, 9 out of 10 people that go to church do not tithe.  Some people say they tithe (meaning they give money to the church), but they don’t really give 10% of their income.  The median household income in America is a little over $50,000 a year.  So in order to tithe, the average person would need to give about $5,000 a year to the church (or about $100 per week).  Most people do not; therefore, they do not tithe.  They give an offering, but not a tithe.

Some argue that they don’t have to give money because they give their time instead.  That’s twisting what the Bible says, but I’ll play along to make a point.  If you want to give 10% of your time, you would need to volunteer at the church for 16 hours and 48 minutes each week.  If you’d like to do that, I can put you to work! 
            There are other arguments people make to excuse not giving as much as the Bible instructs, but all this misses a bigger point.  Jesus doesn’t want what you have.  Jesus wants you!  Jesus doesn’t want just 10% of your income or your time.  Jesus wants your whole heart.  And if you surrender your heart to Him, you will surrender everything else.  You will stop asking questions like, “How much time, money, obedience, do I have to give?”  You will have an attitude that honors justice and the love of God.  You will ask, “How much can I give?  How much can I honestly justify keeping for myself?”  For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. (Mt. 6:21)

            People who join as members of Pleasant Grove UMC make a promise to support the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witnesses.  It is not one or the other.  It’s all of the above.  Think how much good the church could do if every Christian started tithing?  Think of the wonderful children and youth programs we would have.  Think of the amazing music and worship services we could provide.  Think of how many needy people we could serve and how many lives we could change.  Think of the difference we could make if we all simply stepped up and gave a full tithe.

Here’s the thing though.  It wouldn’t just help the church.  It would help you.  Our selfish attitudes (about sin, money, gratitude, giving, etc.) only change through practice.  Giving a tithe is like spiritual push ups.  It builds your faith muscles.  Why don’t you start building yours today?  I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but I believe in God’s Word and I trust in His Grace.  And that’s the Truth as far as I can tell… 

God loves you and so do I!