Trusting God With Our Money

On Sunday at CrossWay Church we talked about trusting God with our money.  It was the second week in our three-week series “The Almighty’s Dollar.”

The words “trust” and “faith” are very closely related.  To have faith in God is to trust Him: to trust Him with our souls, our families, our health… and our money.  The Bible has a lot to say about how we can exercise our faith in God by what we do with our money.  Money is very much a spiritual issue.

We discussed three ways of trusting God with our money:

(1) Give first.  Rather than paying off all the bills and seeing if there is enough money left over to give to support the church, other ministries, and people with financial needs, the Bible instructs us to give first (see Exodus 23:19).  Giving first shows that we trust God with the rest.  The Scriptures teach that we should give at least 10% of our income to the church–the Bible word for this is “tithe.”  Just as Jesus took one kid’s lunch and multiplied it to feed thousands of families (see John 6:1-13), so He can take our 90% after the tithe and do more with it than we could do with 100%.

(2) Give sacrificially.  This means giving to the point that we can feel it.  It means that our giving really costs us something.  This is very different from giving a little out of our extra.  Jesus teaches about this, among other places, in Luke 21:1-4.

(3) Give cheerfully and generously.  God loves a cheerful giver!  Some people give out of guilt, but God says not to do that.  Instead, we should give joyfully, as an act of worship and gratitude.  The more generously we sow, the more generously we reap.  (See 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 for a passage about this that is so simple yet so profound that we would do well to order our lives around it.)

By giving first, giving sacrificially, and giving cheerfully and generously, we actively trust God.  We show that our faith in God is not just something we talk about, but how we actually live.

Next week: Following God with our money.

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Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 9:41 am  Comments (1)  

Jesus’ Jamaica Project

Today during the Bible story at the Training Station Preschool, Ms. Grace was telling the kids how Jesus taught His disciples that He was going away to prepare a place for them.

When she asked if any of the kids knew where that place was, one little guy who’s three or four said, “Jamaica!”

Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Loving God With Our Money

At CrossWay on Sunday we began a three-week series about money, called The Almighty’s Dollar.  Everyone’s favorite topic to hear about in church, right?

Actually, money does have great spiritual significance.  Jesus talked about it a lot.  The gist of His teaching about it is that what you do with your money reveals where your heart is.

We show people we love them by spending money on things that are important to them.  When I was still in college and working part-time as a pizza delivery guy, I bought Carolyn an engagement ring that cost more money than my car.  Why?  To show her that I love her!  (On a side note, a hint to the guys: The same principle works with spending time as well as money.)

The same principle applies with God.  Our money gives us an opportunity to show God that we love Him.  We can express our love for God by spending our money on things that are important to Him, things that have eternal significance.  In Matthew 6:20, Jesus refers to this as storing up treasures in heaven.

How do we do this?  It’s easy because the possibilities are limitless: the most obvious way is to give financially to support the work of the local church, but you can also support a myriad of ministries that help people around the globe in the name of Christ, help someone you know personally that has a need, or simply bless someone by giving them something you know they would enjoy.  Anything you can do with your money that puts a smile on God’s face is a practical way to use your dough to show God you love Him.

To read more of Jesus’ teaching about money, read Matthew 6:19-34.

Next week we’re talking about trusting God with our dinero.

Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 5:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Jesus Broke My Schedule

“How many loaves do you have?”

That’s what Jesus asked His disciples when they wanted to know how they were supposed to follow up on His suggestion that they feed 4,000 families.  (See Mark 8:1-10.)

Obviously they didn’t have enough food to feed what amounted to a small city.  They must have felt a little awkward as they looked at the huge crowd, did a quick inventory of their bread supply, and answered Jesus: “Seven.”  Seven loaves of bread (which, by the way, were much smaller than what we get at Panera Bread or Food Lion) were entirely insufficient to feed so many people.  At least, they were insufficient until they were placed in the hands of Jesus.

One of the struggles that’s been very stressful for me the past few months is time.  There never seems to be anywhere near enough of it!  Yesterday when I was reading this passage, it struck me that my time is like the disciples’ loaves.  I can hear Jesus asking, “How many hours do you have?”  In my control it will never be enough.  But if I turn it all over to Jesus, without trying to be sneaky and shove a few hours in my pocket, then it will be more than enough.  After all, the disciples started out with seven loaves, gave it all to Jesus, fed thousands of people, and still had seven basketfuls left over!

By the way, notice that after the disciples gave the bread to Jesus, He broke it and gave it back to them.  So I’m giving Him my schedule, letting Him break it, and receiving it back from Him to do His work.

What’s this look like in real time (literally)?  I prayerfully revamped my schedule.  I wrote down what I believe are God’s priorities for me and what He has called me to do.  Then I blocked off time for each one.  On paper, it’s still not nearly enough.  But it’s in His hands, and everything we place in His hands to be broken and blessed always proves to be more than enough.

Published in: on April 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Midway Praise

Last night at CrossWay Church we had our first Midway Praise.  It’s something we’re just starting to do every three months.  We had 20 people come out for some celebration, music, and focused prayer (and a short devotional, which is Christianese for sermonette).

It was great!  We started with four songs, then spent about 15 minutes praying in small groups for several specific topics.  We had one more song before a very brief message about Patrick, who I learned is the patron saint of Ireland, Nigeria, Montserrat, New York, Boston, engineers, and paralegals.  Seriously.  A lot of myth has sprung up around Patrick, legends about four-leaf clovers and snakes and green beer and Lucky Charms.  Or something like that.  But we do know some facts about his life.  He was born into a rich British family, was taken captive by raiders, and was sold into slavery in Ireland.  After spending a few years as a slave shepherd, he escaped and went back home, where he trained for the priesthood and returned to Ireland–the land of his captivity–as a missionary.  We read some verses (Romans 6:17-18,22-23; 1 Corinthians 9:19) about how Christ has freed us from captivity to sin, but rather than kicking back and being all mellow, like, “Whew, glad that’s over with!”, we’re actually to venture back out into the land of captivity to share with others the good news of freedom in Jesus Christ!

We prayed that God would transform us into a people on mission.  Then we sang four more songs and ate green food with green drinks (nope, no beer–I know you were wondering).

I’m already looking forward to the next Midway Praise: June 16!

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  

The Comfort of the Vine

Yesterday at CrossWay was the second week in a two-part series in the Book of Jonah.

We read Jonah 3:1-4:11 in which God teaches us an important truth that the prophet Jonah had trouble accepting: Souls are more important than our comfort.

Jonah didn’t give a rip about the 120,000 people in the city of Nineveh.  He actually pouted and got all whiny when they repented and turned to God!  Jonah was more concerned about the vine that God gave him to provide shade and relief from the hot sun.  When that withered and died, he really got upset.

It’s easy to get all judgmental on Jonah, but many of us have hearts that are much like Jonah’s.  We honestly don’t care too much about the spiritual condition of people around us, but when the car won’t start or our kids get sick, we’re all mad and stuff.

Let’s learn from Jonah and repent of our hardheartedness.  Let’s look through eyes that have an eternal perspective, and live by the truth that people are more important than our comfort.

Published in: on March 15, 2010 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

God’s Immeasurable Power At Work Within Us

This morning I was reading the apostle Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, when I noticed something I hadn’t caught before.  In Ephesians 3:20, he writes: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us….”

That line is often quoted about how God can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  But a lot of times it’s left at that.  So we ask God to do big, miraculous things.  We ask Him to bring a friend of ours to faith.  We ask Him to provide for a financial need for someone.  We ask Him to comfort someone who is hurting.  And we believe that He can do these things, because He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

But this morning it hit me that the verse does not isolate that phrase.  It continues, saying that God can do all these great things “according to his power that is at work within us.”  This passage isn’t saying that God is sitting up in heaven being all powerful and dropping down these amazing answers to prayer.  Instead, it says that He does “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” by pouring out His power into His people.  His power isn’t some random force floating around the universe, occasionally materializing long enough to zap someone like lightning.  Instead, His power is actually at work within His people.

That means that if I want Him to bring someone to faith, I shouldn’t just sit back and wait for God to do the work all by Himself.  His power is in me, so I should model Christ and verbally share my faith.  If I ask Him to provide for someone’s financial need, then rather than waiting for a check from heaven to appear in their mailbox, I should let His power at work within me cause my heart to be generous so that I give to help meet the need.  If someone needs comforting, rather than just expecting a supernatural mending of the heart, I should be there for them and personally comfort them by God’s power at work within me.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t work without our help, because He often does.  But this passage is not referring to those instances.  It says that when I’m praying for God to do something greater than I could imagine possible, I need to expect Him to answer according to His power at work within me.  I can’t be aloof and disobedient, but must be pliable and open to His grace coursing through me so that it pours out into the lives of those around me.

Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 10:57 am  Comments (2)  

Jonah & CrossWay Membership Class

At CrossWay yesterday we started a new series and also began our first membership class.

The series is a two-parter about the Book of Jonah.  Yesterday we read the first two chapters and a couple verses from chapter 3.  The subject was repentance, which essentially is making a U-turn.  At some point we’re all traveling down our own road, and repentance is when we make a U-turn to get onto God’s road for us.  We explored how Jonah ran away from God–he literally tried to run away from God by buying a ticket to the end of the known world.  As you might expect, it didn’t go quite the way he anticipated… not even close!  Once Jonah learned about running away from God and turning around to come back to Him, he learned firsthand about repentance and the universal need for God’s grace.

We’ll pick the series up next week and finish out the Book of Jonah.

After the worship service we shared a meal together.  We had been doing this the first Sunday of every month, but due to various factors we missed January and February.  I’ve missed it.  It was great to sit around eating and talking with everyone again!

After lunch we held our first ever CrossWay membership class!  According to the official church Constitution & By-Laws which we adopted last fall, none of us are actually members of the church.  That can be kind of problematic.  One of the requirements of membership is completion of the membership class, and since this is the first time it’s been offered, this graduating class will be the first official members of CrossWay!

The class is two parts.  Yesterday we covered our mission, vision, values, and core beliefs.  Lots of Bible study!  Next week we’ll talk more specifically about membership and our particular congregation, such as our history and affiliations.  Then anyone who would like to join will have the opportunity to sign the membership covenant.

There were 15 people at the class yesterday, which is a pretty good start.  The class will probably be offered quarterly, depending on the need and interest.

Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preschool Theology

It’s amazing how kids get it.  We have so much to learn from them.

This morning when Ms. Grace was teaching the Bible story at the Training Station, she asked them what a miracle is.  One little girl raised her hand and said, “Something only God can do.”  That floored me.  Adults write huge volumes and preach long sermons trying to explain what a miracle is, and usually leave people confused.  And here’s this four-year-old girl nailing it right on the head in only five words!

When Ms. Grace was telling the story and mentioned Jesus, one little guy interjected, “God and Jesus are the same people!”  I’m totally putting him in our preaching rotation.

Published in: on March 3, 2010 at 11:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Celebrate & Serve: Goals & Strategy

This past Sunday was the third part of the Celebrate & Serve series at CrossWay.  We talked about our goals and our strategies for achieving them.

Yesterday I wrote about our five core values: Community, Reverence, Outreach, Service, and Spiritual Growth.  For each one of these values, we have a goal for 2010–and only one, so that we can stay focused.  These goals are not huge, but they will require that God stretch us.  Since it’s useless to have goals without a plan to accomplish them, we’ve developed a strategy for reaching each goal.  Here they are:

Community: Our goal is to have 75% of our regular Sunday attenders become participants in a community group.  We will do this by encouraging people throughout the year to plug into a group, encouraging group members to constantly invite others, starting new groups, and training new leaders.  75% is about three times the national average.

Reverence: Our goal is to average 75 people in attendance on Sunday mornings.  Right now we average about 50.  Again, this is not a huge goal, but it’s a very significant increase.  Does this mean we’re all about numbers?  Of course not.  But remember, our vision is to be a place where anyone can understand and respond to the Bible, and the more people we have with us on Sunday mornings, the more people are presented with an opportunity to understand and respond to the Bible.  We will work toward this goal by starting a second service (it launches the week after Easter), encouraging and equipping people to invite others, reaching out to our community, and consistently improving the quality of our worship services.  If we reach 75, that would be a 50% increase.

Outreach: This goal is our easiest one for this year.  We aim to personally invite 2,000 people to attend the worship service at CrossWay Church (starting next year, our Outreach goals will be measured differently… more about this later on).  We will do this by creating and distributing 2,000 invite cards for five key series throughout the year, and giving them to our members and attenders to use as a tool to personally invite others.  We will also do outreach events such as Summer Bible Camp, an Easter Egg Hunt, Christmas KidsFest, and others.  (Got ideas?  Please leave a comment or email me!)

Service: Our goal is to have 50% of our regular attenders use their God-given gifts to serve others.  We will do this through classes, such as our upcoming membership class, as well as providing ample opportunities for everyone to discover and use their gifts.  Everyone will be encouraged to serve in some capacity on Sunday mornings, in community groups, and at outreach events.  We will also work with people to discover if there is a new, unique ministry that God is calling them to.  50% may not seem that high for something that seems so simple, but it’s more than double the national average.

Spiritual Growth: Our goal is to have 50% of our people reading their Bible and praying at least five days a week.  We will do this by teaching about spiritual habits and giving people the tools they need to put them into practice.  For example, we offer a daily reading guide in our worship bulletin each week, and we make free Bibles available.  If half the people devote this much time to soaking in God’s Word and praying, our church and community will never be the same.

Each month I’m going to compile a progress report to assess where we are with these goals, and we will dedicate several sermons throughout the year to evaluating where we are and recasting the vision.

This Sunday we’re wrapping up the Celebrate & Serve series, but we’ll just be getting started with living it out!

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 5:03 am  Comments (2)