So, everyone knows that each year - at about this time of year - November - Early December our minds begin to turn to the next year and the next year's plans and responsibilities. For us in church leadership that means making a budget from which we are able to "live and move and have our being." And as such, we are in search of numbers and of knowing what you are thinking and praying about regarding your giving for the next year.
There are many of us who live from pay check to pay check, there are many who are on fixed retirement incomes, some have a little retirement nest egg that's wrapped in the fragile styrofoam of uncertainty these days. Friends, we understand all of that - believe me.
We joke about this sermon and call it the Sermon on the Amount! but it's not about the amount. It's about the heart behind the amount!
Jesus talks about money, as much or more than he talks about salvation! In fact, in some cases the two are inextricably tied - bound together! Think of the rich young ruler - righteous and upstanding citizen of the temple, doer of the law in all its tenets, by his own accounting - yet one thing remained: Go sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow me? Why was Jesus so "hard" on this guy? Why didn't that admonition come with the other invitations to follow Him that his disciples got, each and every one.
Well, it actually did! It was implicit in the invitation Jesus gave - the one He gives to each and every one of us!
It was actually what the disciples were doing - leaving home and family and businesses to walk with Jesus on the dusty roads of Palestine. And it was what the rich man was unwilling to do. Leaving his comfort and luxury to keep in step with Jesus and with the Spirit of God.
You see that is what the call is about. Following Jesus is about keeping in step with Him, just like He kept in step with His Father and was empowered by the Holy Spirit - same way we ... can be. He was our 100% model. That is the "magic" of the incarnation, that we begin to anticipate in ADVENT and celebrate fully in CHRISTMASTIDE.
A couple weeks ago I spoke on the Word and the desire of God for us that we be free! Paul said it is for freedom that you have been set free! That freedom is from the Lord, who is the Spirit. And friends, that freedom, is what our giving is all about! Jesus wants us to be free from the inside out, and as long as we are bound up with fear of the future, with the pressure of money and its domineering nature, we cannot be truly free. The world thinks that this has to do with simply making more money! We speak of being financially FREE - a state you achieve when you have "enough." But the question is always, "how much is enough?" Again is not about the amount!
The Bible tells us that our inner well-being is actually tied to this reality in our lives! Paul refers to it as "contentment." He says I've learned to abound and I've been abased - living on almost nothing - I am content in whatever state I am found." How can that be? Because Paul was free!
Paul was free from the concern of "money" as a master! As a master, money is a heartless task master! A slaver as cruel as the worst stories of slavery that you've heard or seen! The purpose of the scriptural teachings about money is to set you free from that slavery - slavery to fear, slavery to a driven kind of life, slavery to stuff! That which you desire and accumulate eventually become a kind of prison, doesn't it!
I just want to reference our epistle lesson from last Wednesday evening. We watched the HEAVEN DVD, so I didn't get to comment on it - but its worth commenting on.
In 1 Cor 9, Paul is talking about the church's giving - or a plan to give a gift, which he is traveling around and collecting for the Jews in Jerusalem who were suffering dramatically at this time under the hand of the Romans.
Here is what he says:
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,
"He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
The point of Paul's teaching here, as he urges the church to make good on its promised gift, is to teach some basics of Kingdom economics.
1. What you give, GOD views as "seed." And the law of "seed" is "the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly - the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully!" What you sow is what you get. Something
every gardener - every farmer knows!! If there is no planting, there can be no harvest.
2. Every harvest is about enrichment! Harvest is a joyful time of reaping all that we have sown - simply reaping, and harvest is built in to the equation - it is the reward itself at the end of the day! What CS Lewis called an "appropriate" reward. It is the natural end - the consummation of all the work that has gone into the day of harvest.
3. God applies this law simply to your giving! "Each of you must give" Paul says. "not under compulsion, but from the heart, without reluctance." FOR GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER.
4. You've heard me say this before - the word that is translated "cheerful" here is the word from which we get our adjective, "hilarious!" God loves a HILARIOUS GIVER.
5. And with that kind of giving, a law is set in motion! The law of sowing and reaping. A law so inherent in creation that it is just part of the fabric of our lives - most of us aren't even aware of it, it is so common. We take it for granted. But here is where God gets into the act:
God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work ... (take out the OT Bible reference) ... He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.
6. The enrichment for you is not about your comfort, but about God's praise! It is not about "conspicuous consumption" - the mantra of our age, but about hilarious giving. A giving that creates and partakes in the joy of the God of the universe! A giving that is rooted in FREEDOM that looks like the freedom of the Creator! And that points to the freedom of the Creator, in thankfulness and praise.
7. There is a mutual testing that is going on in our giving: God is testing us and we are actually invited (this is the only time) to Test HIM! God invites us - He actually challenges us to try and "outgive" Him! The hidden benefit of the law of sowing and reaping is that God uses the measure you use! He measures back to you according to the "bounty" of your sowing - just like we said above, except his promise is that it will be "pressed down, shaken together and poured out into your lap - a blessing that you cannot contain."
Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Thanks be to God for his indescribable plan! to use you and me to bring about his glory in the earth!
We are sending work sheets around electronically. I have a few here if you want to pick up - they will be available on my blog and in a special Constant Contact today or tomorrow. Please consider your gift and what it means for us here at REZ.
The Constant Contact goes out to almost 300 each week. Everyone has an opportunity to be a blessing here! From a one time gift to a weekly commitment, its all a blessing, and God will bless you with the same measure you use! It's the law!
Remember - NO SEED SOWN = NO HARVEST GROWN!
Let us pray:
Thank you Lord for your indescribable gift! The way you made the world to work and the freedom you want to give us in our lives for your glory.
Help us, Holy Spirit, to give what will make us free; to set aside the bonds of fear and greed that so easily ensnare and entangle us, and to give with hilarious freedom and joy.
Meet every need, Lord, so we can be blessings to those around us. And finally, set us free to trust in YOU, not in money, in these days of uncertainty. Help us, Lord, to cast our cares on You, and to trust in you in every circumstance, whether it be in abundance or in need.
Let us live, Jesus, to the praise of Your Glory, for it is in Your blessed Name we pray,
Check all that apply; ( ) Member of REZ ( ) Regular Attender/Giver ( ) Occasional Attender/Giver ( ) Non-attending giver ( ) One time gift ( ) Special needs/projects giver ( ) Friend of REZ on Facebook ( ) I/We receive the weekly CC email or ( ) I/We would like to receive it.
My / Our giving commitment ;
( ) Annual $____________________
( ) Quarterly $___________________ X 4
( ) Monthly $ ___________________ X 12
( ) Bi-monthly $ ___________________ X 24
( ) Weekly $ ___________________ X 52
( ) Special $ ___________________
Total Giving Commitment $_______________
( ) I am interested in talking about giving non-liquid assets to REZ. (Car, business interests or stocks/bonds/insurance assets) (This may be accomplished by setting up a donor-advised fund through the National Christian Foundation and can have huge tax benefits. Ask Fr. Phil for info or to set up a consultation appointment)
( ) I would like to give through my bank, bank card or other fund transfer methods. We encourage you to set up a regular transfer through your bank's automatic payment system. We can help you get it set up.