“Sacrifice” (Money Matters, Part 3)

While I believe that most of us really want to be generous, and most of us really do want to honor God with our whole lives (including our money), my guess is that the line for those willing to sacrifice is a lot shorter!

I don’t know about you, but the thing that scares me when I think about sacrifice (when I’m surrendering my heart to God) is, "what is God going to ask me to sacrifice?" And that answer to that question is …

God only asks for … everything!

Read Matthew 19.16-30

The heart of the economic systems in many Native American cultures is the potlatch (giveaway). Essentially, the richest person in the community was the one who gave the most away. That’s such a contrast to the "Whoever dies with the most toys wins" philosophy, isn’t it?

 

"The man who dies rich … dies disgraced." (Andrew Carnegie)

The Challenge
How much have you given to God? What possesses your heart? I challenge you, between now and the end of the year (30+ days), to practice sacrificial giving. If you are not currently tithing, I challenge you to give 10% of your income. And if you are currently tithing (giving to God 10% or more), I challenge you to consider increase your giving 1%.

Malachi 3.8b-11
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.

My prayer is that we will a people who seek to honor God with our money … as well as our whole lives!

Generosity (Money Matters, Part 2)

It’s a question of ownership: Whose money is it, anyway — mine or God’s? If I think it’s mine, I’m going to hang onto it and use it the way that I want to. But if I view it as God’s money, then I will be more likely to use it in ways that honor God.

Generosity. What does it mean to be generous? Why should I be generous? How do I know if I’m generous?

Let’s take a closer look at 2 Corinthians 9.1-15. Here’s why generosity is important: God blesses the world through generous people!

Paul writes that farmers who plant "only a few seeds will get a small crop," while farmers who plant "generously will get a generous crop." While some want to distort this verse for personal gain, Paul goes out of his way to say that, yes, God will give you a lot, but it’s not so that you can enjoy the harvest on your own selfish desires; it’s so that the more God gives you so that you can be even more generous. God blesses the world through generous people!

So, how generous are you? Do you enjoy enjoy giving? Is God blessing the world through you? I encourage you to pray, "Lord, thank you for blessing me! Bless the world through me!"

And as you give thanks to God for his blessings this week, I challenge you to find a way to be generous, to practice generosity. Perhaps you could help someone in need, or help one of our church’s ministries, or give a little extra in the offering next week. But whatever you do, be generous.

Imagine what this place would look like if it were full of generous people, cheerful givers. Think of the difference it would make in the surrounding community.

O God, thank you for your "unspeakable gift" in Jesus Christ. What undeserved generosity! And you continue to be generous to us in many other ways. Help us to be generous people passing on the blessings you give us, on to others in need. Bless the world through us, your generous people! Amen.

Heart Check (Money Matters, Part 1)

Money is one of the topics we love to avoid the most in the church. But Jesus talked so much about money (more about money than heaven, hell, and prayer combined) so it’s such an important topic that we cannot ignore it!

There are basically two views about money – the world’s view and God’s view. God’s view is that money is a resource to be used to bless others and the world’s view is, well, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins!" My prayer through this series is that God will shake our attitude toward money and that he will change our focus, because I believe that whoever dies with the most toys doesn’t win!

Stewardship is a heart issue so let’s begin with a heart check. It’s easy to get distracted and to lose focus. Money is often the number one point of conflict in marriages. I recently read that, in 2005, the average home (with at least one credit card) had credit card debt of $9,498, and the average college student had $2,800 in credit card debt. In fact, credit card debt is the number one reason college students drop out of college.

Choose your treasure wisely because your heart will follow!

Read Matthew 6.19-34

There are some great statements in this passage: "Your heart will always be where your treasure is" (Matthew 6.21). So choose your treasure wisely!

Interestingly, Jesus points out that GOD and MONEY are at polar opposite ends of the spectrum. "You cannot be the slave of two masters! You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6.24). Money will either be a tool to bless the world or it will become a slave master and great distraction!

What’s your diagnosis?
How’s your heart? What are you focused on? What changes do you need to make?

I encourage you this week to spend some time reflecting and praying. What treasure are you storing up in your life? Are you collecting "toys" here on earth or are you storing up treasure in heaven, seeking to honor God with your money?

Pray every day this week, "Lord, I give you my heart. Help me to store up treasure in heaven!"

How much more peaceful would your home be if you didn’t worry about your needs, but trusted God to provide for all of them? What kinds of amazing things would begin to happen in our lives (and in our church) if we stop focusing on collecting and start focusing on contributing?

O God, I give you my heart. Take my heart; take all of me! I have nothing on my own; everything I have is really yours. Help me to use what you give to me in ways that honor you! Amen.

Can I Get a Witness? (Acts 29, Part 3)

You can’t talk about Acts without talking about the Holy Spirit, and you can’t talk about the book of Acts without talking to about life change (transformation). Today, we’re going to talk about one more thing that I don’t think you can miss, when talking about the book of Acts: Action. You can’t talk about ACTS without talking about ACTION!

Let’s see if what I’ve discovered is also what you’ve discovered: that talking about doing something is a lot easier than actually doing it. Talk is easier than action! But clearly God’s people are people of action, and I believe …

God acts through people who make themselves available to God!

Jesus informed his disciples just before ascending, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1.8). He called them to a life of action — of actually going out and telling others about Jesus all over the world.

In Acts 6-8, Stephen is called on the carpet to defend himself against the accusations of false witnesses. In the process of defending himself, he talks about the people of action who’ve gone before him: Abraham and Moses. He also mentiones David and Solomon. But in the process, he talks about how God’s people had rebelled against God throughout the course of these events. Before he could even finish his defense, the people became irrate and stoned Stephen to death.

Stephen made himself available to God and God acted through him. We, too, must make ourselves available to God. I encourage you this week to make yourself available to God, and specifically, ask God to give you an opportunity to impact someone’s life this week! Ask God to bring you across someone’s path that you can interact with in such a way that they encounter God.

What would your life look like as we taste and see what God will do through us when we make ourselves available to God? What would this church look like? What difference would it make in our community?

O God, give each of us an opportunity to interact with someone who needs to know you love them. And give us the awareness of that opportunity. Send your Spirit to prepare the way, and then give us the words to say as we share with others about you. Amen.