Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Amazing Joy of Giving

1.How many times is giving mentioned in the Bible?
2. What is the main metaphor that we have been using to describe giving? 
3.What does the word tithe mean?
4.What is the average giving of churchgoers in Canada?
5. Did Moses implement the tithe?  
6.Why does God want to test us with giving? 7.What part of the trinity does the river represent? 
8.In lessons on flow, we looked at Elijah and the widow of Zarepheth,  the widow who gave everything she had in the temple, Peter and John who said to a crippled man, silver and gold I don’t have, but in the name of Jesus walk and the widow who gave her last two cents.  What is the main lesson that crosses over all three stories?
9. How many months of a man’s yearly wage was it going to take to feed the 5000 men?
10. What kind of gifts honor the Lord the most?

Have you had a ‘defining moment’ in the area of giving?

There is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money.  We may try to divorce our faith and finances, but God sees them as inseparable.
Randy Alcorn

The joy of giving is actually part of the nature of God.  God delights in giving and when we take the opportunity to give, we allow not only the flow of His presence, but the flow of His joy to permeate us.  He sensitizes us to giving through the poverty and tragedies of others as well as the lack and trials in our own lives.  Are we able to give even when we are unsure of our financial position?  God continually wants to show us that the need will always be greater than our resources.  Are we ready to turn on the tap and let the flow be released through us?  Pray a prayer of preparation for this week to and tell Him YES! 

2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Giving is an incredible privilege  v 1-5
1st – give yourself to God
God owns it all.(period) 
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
       the world, and all who live in it;   Psalm 24:1

God doesn’t need my money and neither does the church.
God wants you to learn to give Him complete control and as for the church, we just need sold out believers who live in the power of the HS and the by product of that is giving!
We are made in His image, we are His imprint.  We can’t say we are like Christ when we are not givers. Even when giving feels mechanical, every mechanical act of giving will teach me that is less about me and more about Him.  It moves me to become less and less selfish
The desire to give isn’t about emotional appeals as good as they are.  It isn’t about a clear cut presentation as sharp as they can be.  It is about the inner motivation of the Spirit of God because when the Spirit of God touches your heart, it is a motivation that will be able to be sustained.
I can’t overstate the fact that the Spirit has to grip our hearts in response to a genuine need.  It’s been said that in regards to giving that the first thought that enters your mind is the Holy Spirit and the second one is your thought.
The condition of the Macedonian churches is not a bright one.  They were dealing with their own inadequacies but didn’t let that blind them to those who were even in more desperate need.  Paul describes these churches as those that were under severe trials and extreme poverty!
The severe trials they were facing related directly to the active persecution they were constantly under.
Their extreme poverty was the result of their land being exploited by their Roman conquerors who took complete advantage of their natural resources for themselves.  There had also been a succession of civil wars that had been fought on their soil prior to Augustus becoming the sole emperor as well.
Giving always should challenge us to go beyond our means to the place of His provision.  It has to be about faith and watching God fill up our supply again.  We are filled to be emptied to be filled again with fresh living waters again and again!  We start to realize that He is the God of infinite resources.
We give ourselves to God first.  The ability to give ultimately comes first from God.  Let me remind you again that God doesn’t need our money.  ‘The crowning point of their surrender was their complete self surrender.’  R. Tasker
Acts 20:35  It is more blessed to give than to receive.  Make no mistake about it, giving transforms us.  Often we go on a missions trip or a serving project to minister to others and yet we leave being the most blessed.

The undeniable call to excel in giving v6,7

Paul is challenging them it is not enough to have great faith, honourable speech, solid knowledge, we have to be known as those who lead the way in respect to giving.
We are His stewards.  We are in a fiduciary relationship with God.  I am called to be a manager and He is the estate owner.  As long as I keep that perspective I will do well.  It is when I get that switched around that it all goes bad very fast.  When you are a manager, it is easier to give...WHY? ...because it is someone else’ money. 
I had this experience when I went to India and my mom sent me with a large sum of money to bless individual ministries.  I can’t tell you how much fun that is!!
Now, the word steward comes from old English times.  It is definitely not a word that we hear today, but it comes from the time of Braveheart, the time of castles when there were lords, nobles and stewards.  The steward was the one who took you on the tour of the castle and knew everything about it and where everything was found and did everything at the bidding of their lord.
When you start giving, stuff happens!
Less selfish people are known to be more prosperous in relationships and in wealth.  The more you release, the more you will have.  We are most fulfilled when we are serving and giving.
Think of two triangles.  One rests upside down, on its point and rises up to spread out.  The other is in the normal position like a pyramid with the point on top. 
·         The normal triangle
How many of you have been in a pyramid scheme?  We have all heard about them and it is all about getting enough people under you to sustain your wealth.  Unfortunately what happen in the normal triangle is that the closer we get to the top, the less we give and the more we focus on the ‘take’ and so the tip represents the very slim amount of giving that is done by the majority of those in this position of wealth.
·         The inverted triangle
The upside triangle represents biblical giving that continues to give with it lines always be spread out, and the bottom at a point.  The bottom represents the desire to keep investing our money in what lasts for eternity so our focus is always upward.  God always gives us enough to live on, but it is His great desire that we will learn to give in abundance.

The undeniable call to completion in giving v8-12

I can’t overstate enough the calling we have to follow through on our commitments and not to say one thing and do quite the contrary by our actions.  Jesus was the ultimate pace setter and is our prime example of giving.  He poured out Himself completely for us, He gave us His everything.
Hebrews 12:2 Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross!
There is an incredible sense of fulfillment that we feel when we have matched our actions with our words.  It is that place where we can step back for a moment and say it is time to dance, it is time to rejoice in what God has done through us that we are ready to do it again.
In  Nehemiah 6:15 we read about the children of Israel completing the wall and what is the result in 8:10  - the call to revel that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Paul couldn’t command this kind of giving.  There is an element of spontaneity in Christian love that we don’t let giving turn into a work of the law.  However, having said that, it is clear that an ungenerous believer is not the testimony that we are to be known for.

The undeniable call to equality in giving v13-15
There is this understanding that is created in this desire to give that we are in this together.  There is a mutual realization that when we are truly there for others and meet their needs that in turn should we be in a similar predicament that they will be there for us.  It is basically saying, “Brother, I got your back.  I know you have mine and it will not be forgotten. “  We are called to remember each other and not take gifts for granted. The gift is given with no obligation or commitment to pay it back, but the sense of goodwill that will always carry on.
Paul reminds them of the truth of what took place in the desert when the children of Israel would only gather enough to meet their needs.  It was designed to teach them not to hoard, but to always be sensitive to the needs of others as much as they realized their own needs were being met.
Giving is an area of spiritual warfare.
The enemy comes in the form of crying out in complete selfishness will always squeal when we learn to give more away.  Giving also set me free from my addiction to stuff!  The disease of affluence.
We think to ourselves we work hard and we deserve it, but I have seen field workers in MX, those who make bricks in India…from sunrise to sunset they work hard for their money.

The Takeaway
1 Timothy 6:17-19

Think of your life in terms of a dot and a line.  We have two phases to our lives, one is a dot and the other is an arrow extending out from it.  Our present life on earth is the dot…period!  It begins, it ends and it is brief.  But from that dot a line extends that goes on forever and that is eternity.
Right now we are living in the dot and it is short sighted on our part to live here with that perspective.  The sooner that we realize we are going to part with our money, the better.  Yes , there is temporary pleasure in earthly treasure in the moment, but if we give them away for Him, we will enjoy eternal treasure that will never be taken away from us.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
Jim Elliott
We are most joyful where we live for the arrow instead of the dot!
I was having a conversation with one of Grace’s really generous givers as he had been looking at his charitable givings overall in 2010 and thought wow, you know, that was a lot of money, but the thing that really stuck with me was when he said, ‘did I sacrifice one day in 2010 to give and the answer was no.’
So, I was encouraged to do a little calculating this week and here is what I discovered.  There are 175 families that are represented here at Grace and most have given in one form or another. The really encouraging thing is that we are right on budget through the first two months of 2011.  Here is the stretch.  I went on the city of Guelph website and found out the average median household income.  What do you think it is?  Well it is $55919.
So you divide that by 52 weeks and that equals 1075.36.  Now take 10% of that and you have $107.54 x 175 families at Grace and you get $18819.50 which is approximately $10000 more than Grace receives each Sunday!
So, we know what the average person that goes to church gives, but imagine if we all gave 10%, what we could do in the area of missions, community outreach, how many wells could be purchased for clean drinking water, what about giving every pregnant mother in Lesotho the treatment to stop the contraction of the aids virus.  We could back more grassroots passions here at Grace like Greg’s passion to see young men trained in India.  We could send more missionaries to places where there is little or no witness, fund youth teams to spend their whole summer in missions, forget just 10 days or two weeks! There are so many more untapped passions here.
It has been researched that the majority of givers will mention tithing as the first practice that stretched them more to give.  They started and watched God provide and their hearts moved deeper into His kingdom.  Now, years later, many of these givers have learned to give beyond that… 15, 20 30, 60 90% of their incomes!
If you don’t know even where to start, I encourage you to learn to pay it forward and look at your budget at the beginning of the month. Take what you receive and use it moving forward.  Sharon and I have really been blessed by the teaching of Dave Ramsey on the whole subject of budgeting.  About a year ago, we decided to be more intentional with our finances and really take the time to set aside our money in envelopes for what we budgeted going forward.  It is a great discipline to keep you on track. It has been researched on average that most people will spend 10% more than they earn when using credit cards and they keep making them so easy to use…just tap and go!  It is a lot harder to part with your cash and you definitely think a lot more about your purchases!!
Here is the site to download a budget form.
For those of you that are already tithing 10%, ask God about sacrificial giving and as I started this series, think about Lesotho as a place for us to give a sacrificial offering for Easter.  The money for the tractor has been raised, but there is still the irrigation system.  Whatever comes in as a sacrificial offering on Easter will be given to missions!
I want to finish with a great story.

While reluctant to associate this story with suffering, there is no doubt that losing a father at an early age is painful and can cause a financial hardship. In spite of the difficulties, when you see Eddie Ogan's life, you will see someone happier than many that have much more as far as material possessions.  This story illustrates so well how it is often the people who have experienced having the least material resources who are willing to share the most because they understand the people who need help. 

As of May 1998 she was living in the Gillette Mountains of Washington State in a large log cabin she and her husband built on Clugston Creek 13 years ago. They have been married 46 years, have one son by birth, 11 adopted children, 16 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, and have had 75 foster children.

Eddie Ogan wrote the "Richest Family in the Church" as part of a missionary letter she writes monthly to all the Assembly of God missionaries.

I'll never forget the Easter of 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my older sister Darlene was 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died 5 years before, leaving Mom with seven children to raise and no money. By 1946, my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home.
A month before Easter, the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially. When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill.
Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us baby sat for everyone we could. For 15 cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to make three potholders to sell for $1. We made $20 on potholders. That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the Pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.
The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering. We could hardly wait to get to church!
On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt so rich.
When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us girls put in a $20 bill.
As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes!
Late that afternoon, the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash.
We kids had had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the fork or the spoon that night. We had two knives, which we passed around to whoever needed them.
I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor. That Easter Day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed that I didn't want to go back to church.
Everyone there probably already knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew we were poor. I decided I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time.
We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor.
We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn't talk on the way. Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church, we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they need money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?"
We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene.
Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church.
He said, "You must have some rich people in this church!"
Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100." We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so? From that day on, I've never been poor again.

Questions For Discussion
1.       Why does God tell us to give so often?
2.      What is giving a reminder of?
3.      What was the function of the OT storehouse?
4.      Is the tithe pre-law?  Genesis 14.  What does the tithe stand for?
5.      Has anyone surprised you with a meaningful act of giving?  How did that make you feel?

A    Answers to POP QUIZ
1.  Over 2500 times
2.  The river
3.  a tenth
4.  2.7%
5.  No, Abram in Genesis 14
6.  To pour out his blessings on us Malachi 3:10
7.  The Holy Spirit

8.  You never have a reason not to give
9.  8 months

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