A CEO/philanthropist of a non-profit company decided to challenge himself for 30 days. It wasn’t an exercise challenge or an ice-bucket challenge; it wasn’t even a diet. He did what he called, a generosity challenge. For 30 days he would say yes to every request that came his way to help. To every letter in the mail and every request on the streets. Yes, Yes, Yes…to everyone who asked him for money. Is this a realistic way to live? No. Even the most generous people must wisely say no to some requests. However, for 30 days, this man said yes. Through repetition and action he said that he ‘learned’ to become ‘more’ generous.
Who is the most generous person you know? I’m sure you have a name in your mind. It could be a friend or a parent or a colleague. Maybe it’s someone you’ve never met but observed from far away. For me that person was always my dad. He was the first to pay for a meal with friends. He never worried about having enough. It took me a while to figure out what made him this way, but when I did it made total sense. The most simple way to describe it would be, HE TRUSTED GOD. He knew that God provided, so when opportunity to give came his way, he generously gave.
Giving is a tough topic, especially in the church. You’d think it would be easy to talk about, however, there are so many negative feelings that come with the topic of giving. Who can blame us for this, we’ve been abused by TV evangelists and fraudulent leaders. Perhaps you’ve been subject to the ‘offering’ talk in a church or camp gathering and felt like someone was reaching in your pockets with aggression. As true and unfortunate as those things are, it doesn’t take away from how vital this topic is and why it’s something that we, as followers of Jesus, have to take seriously.
Giving & generosity is directly related to our trust in God, our love for him and our love for others. It also represents what is closest to us; what’s in our hand; what we hold on to and how if used well, can make a huge impact in the world.
It’s possible that the biggest obstacle to giving is the ‘percentage’ principle that’s been associated with it. 10% of everything you have must be given to God. Hello? That’s a huge chunk of change. Some might say that living with the 10-10-80 (give/save/live) rule is ideal and wonderful, just impractical. How in the world can we make the math work?
Let’s talk about where that % comes from, then how the NT addresses giving, and then how we should live these things out today.
Where did 10% come from, OT?
Leviticus 27:30 ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year… At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands”
Malachi 3:8-10 (read here)
When you narrow it down, there are 2 main reasons for this principle and this command: Trust God & Help Others.
The idea behind the tithe was to teach Israel that it’s all God’s, everything, and that we are privileged to use it…steward it. This also shows us that every part of our budget is important, the living, the saving, the giving, it all reflects our reliance and trust in God.
In every person’s life, God plants this question: Do you trust me? Giving & Generosity answers that question for us.
Note that the tithe wasn’t just money thrown away to prove Israel’s trust, it was stored and then redistributed to those in need, priests (who didn’t make an income), the poor, the orphan, the widow, the sick, etc. There was a social idea behind this tithe. We see this in the NT as well when people gave what they didn’t need to help those who needed it. An amazing way to think about community for sure.
What did giving become in the NT?
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
We see here that in the NT, giving is still about trust, but it’s also about investing and planting. Sow little, reap little, sow lots, reap lots. We also see that there’s an intelligent side to giving as we’re asked to decide in our heart what to give, not ignorantly or blindly, but according to what you are sensing in your heart and mind.
Remember this, giving is always a present action that turns into a future impact.
1 Timothy 6 says this, 17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Here’s where the NT turns what it means to be rich on it’s head. We are not rich in what we have or acquire or accumulate, but in what we give and share.
Some things to consider after reading these OT & NT texts…
- Don’t let fear stop you from giving (Matthew 6:33)
– we shouldn’t fear giving away too much, but planting too little
- Will you be a % giver or a heart giver or can both be helpful?
– start somewhere
– as good as this principal is, it’s not a law, but it it s great place to start
– % giving doesn’t make you more spiritual, it simply helps you be smart about all your finances
- Giving reinforces that it’s not about me, but about a calling to make the world around me better.
– it seems like the tighter our fists are with our stuff, the more selfish we become
– open your hands and see what God can do
- Be a thoughtful giver
– be smart about this
– giving should never be done in ignorance
“You might not be 100% comfortable with giving, but you want to get to a place where you become uncomfortable not giving.” (Andy Stanley)
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small(er) group discussion: (video wrap up)
Who is the most generous person you know? What makes you think that about them?
Why can giving be a tough topic to address at church? What are some of the negative thoughts associated with giving & church? Why?
Take time to read the 3 OT texts. Do they help you understand the tithe (10% giving)? What else jumps out at you? What resonates? What is difficult for you?
Now look at the 2 NT texts. Is there anything different about them? What resonates with you? What is helpful and/or challenging?
Look at our application statements. Is there anything you’d like to address? Fear? % giving? Selfishness? Thoughtful Giving?
Is it hard to trust God with your gift and generosity, knowing that something good will come from it?
Take some time to pray about needs in our world and community. Thank God in advance for using our or others generosity to meet those needs. Also pray that God would remove fear and increase faith
This past Sunday we had the privilege of hosting Christa Hesselink. She discussed themes from her new book, Life’s Great Dare.
The overriding theme of Christa’s story was transformation. We’ll actually be diving into this topic again in two weeks. Christa spoke from the angle of her personal story, her heart, one that involved her overcoming both cancer and the loss of her brother at the very young age 24. It’s very evident what Christa’s passion is: helping people thrive in life. How can we overcome life’s curve balls and find our way, in Christ.
Below are some quotes from the morning, with some questions for your small group discussion.
What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 17
Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
We invite wholeness, healing & abundance in every area of our lives…
- Our relationship with money and stuff
- The way we treat our body, soul and mind
- How we spend our time
- How we interact with our boss & co-workers
- Relationships with our friends
- The commitment to our families
- Our connection to this planet and all of creation
- The connection to those who are different than us
- Our relationship with our enemies
- Our care of those vulnerable and marginalized
- Our sexual lives
- Our commitment and friendship with God
Christa concluded with a reminder that everything starts and ends with love…
God isn’t transforming me to be more perfect so he can love me more, he’s transforming me so that I can experience his love more perfectly. It starts with Love and always leads to more love.
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What are some things that moved you about Christa’s story? (if you missed it, let someone in the group summarize it for you)
What are some things that hold us back from moving forward in God’s story for us?
What do you take away from the Galatians & Corinthians text?
What does ‘FULL LIFE’ or ‘ABUNDANT LIFE’ (John 10:10) look like to you?
*(if your group didn’t meet last week, and you wanted to discuss some of the questions we had on community, you can find them in last week’s POST)
This weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving. We know that many people in our country took time to be together and hopefully be thankful for something or better yet someone in their life. I was proud of my daughter when I noticed she used instagram to let each of her friends know how thankful she is for them. She posted individual pictures of them to let them know. As thankful as we are for our homes and our cars and the things or experiences we have in our lives, what we are really thankful for is people. People make our lives what they are. Yes, sometimes they make our lives difficult, but we can identify, pretty easily, the ones who make our lives great. Those are the people we call ‘community’. My family is my community, my neighbours are my community, maybe the folks you see at Starbucks in the morning before work is your community.
One community I’ve come to appreciate over my life time is the church community I am a part of. For the last 4 years it has been The Village. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it is to be part of a community of people who cheer me on, encourage me, challenge me, and are constantly helping me follow Jesus in an authentic and impactful way.
This fall we’re taking time to communicate what we’re serious about; things like Faith, Hope & Love (1 Cor 13), discovering Jesus together, Stories (God’s and ours colliding together), Generousity, etc. This weekend we dive into why we are so serious about community. The simple answer is because Jesus and the early church was serious about it.
In 2 John 1:12 we read, “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” If that was a tweet or a FB post it might look like this…What’s John getting at? Various forms of communication are wonderful, but nothing beats face to face communication – nothing beats intimate community. This is why our gathering is so important to who we are and who we want to become, because it’s there and in small(er) groups that our spirituality is formed. Sure, we can listen to online teaching (which might be better) and worship videos (which are professionally mixed and produced). We can follow some inspirational twitter and instagram feeds. But nothing can replace what we learn in community. Nothing replaces how we grow in community. Nothing compensates for what happens, in our hearts, in our lives, in our spirit, when authentic community is going on.
To help us see this, we’re going to jump in Hebrews 10:19-25.
Hebrews is an exhaustive book. It’s a NT letter with a purpose…it’s purpose is to help the Jewish Christian transition from their OT, historical, law oriented way to God, into a new way, a NT love and grace way to God. That transition and change is summed up in one word – one name – Jesus. The first half of this text lets us in on this theme…
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
This is a wonderful snippet of what Hebrews is trying to do. We are told to have confidence in Jesus as ‘the way’ into God’s presence. We are told that to draw near to God, all we need is a sincere heart and full faith. And we are encouraged to hold on to the hope we have found in Jesus. This is, simply put, the basis for any church community. We gather to surround ourselves with the story of Jesus, his death and resurrection, his forgiveness and grace. So with this in mind, the writer moves on to how that truth impacts the christian community.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
This writer, as well as the other NT writers, don’t give us an option to have a private faith. We experience Jesus in community. This is the only and best way to discover him.
Scott McKnight says this about church community: ‘I owe my primary commitment to my local church, not because it is what I want and not because it the ideal place, but because the only way for Jesus’ kingdom to take root is when local people commit to one another to strive with one another for a just, loving, peaceful and wise society, beginning at home, with friends, and with their local community of faith.’
Brian McLaren says it this way: Churches, simply put, come to be communities that form Christ-like people who embody and communicate, in word & deed, the goodness of the kingdom of God.
Hebrews gives us three things to consider about community: How it spurs us on towards love and good deeds, how it gathers us together, and how it is meant for encouragement.
The word ‘spur on’ actually means to provoke or poke or even irritate. It’s not meant to be negative, but positive. At the centre of any christian community is a prodding towards love and a poking towards doing good. If we’re known for everything else, but these two things are missing, we are failing as a christian community.
We’re told to gather together. Sounds simple, but in the first century context there was a risk of persecution. People could’ve been fearful to leave their homes for a church meeting. Even with the risk of persecution, this writer says that meeting together is worth it. So he says, ‘don’t stop meeting together’. Why throw this in? Because he, as other NT writers know, that only in the midst of community will we fully discover how to follow Jesus.
His final communal advice is to encourage one another. I remember telling a bunch of high school students a very long time ago that if they don’t encourage each other to follow Jesus, who will? This is what Hebrews is getting at. Christians encourage each other in two ways: one, how they cheer for one another and are there for each other and two, how they are able to share the truth in love, sometimes being the only warning we have before doing something we regret. Both kinds of encouragement can happen in an biblically functioning community.
Hebrews 10:19-25, as well as any other passage in the NT, shows us why we must take community seriously. It’s how we grow in our faith and how faith grows in us.
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small(er) group discussion
Community either scares you or invites you in? What side do you stand on? Is there a bit of both here for you? Why?
Read Scot McKnight’s description of community. What are some observations you’d make from it?
‘I owe my primary commitment to my local church, not because it is what I want and not because it the ideal place, but because the only way for Jesus’ kingdom to take root is when local people commit to one another to strive with one another for a just, loving, peaceful and wise society, beginning at home, with friends, and with their local community of faith.’
Why do you think it’s so important to read verses 19-23 (our understanding of Jesus) before we get into verses 24-25?
Talk about the 3 things the writer says about christian community. Which ones resonate with you the most? Why are all 3 important?
If The Village was still called _________ church, what word would you want others to fill the blank with and why?
Happening in October & November
Wednesdays at 7:30pm
Brian & Madie’s House, 127 Rosehill Blvd, Oshawa
Wednesdays at 6pm (for parents with small kids)
Brad & Carlie’s House, 5 Northgrove Cres, Brooklin
(this group is an every other week group: Oct 5, 19, Nov 2, 16, 30)
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Jonathan & Janet’s House, 22 Harness Ridge Dr, Whitby
(Except for Oct 13, there will be a group every Thursday)
Email us with any questions??? (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We started this morning’s talk with a musical rendition of Roxanne. Do you know it? Have you heard it? An old Police/Sting classic that still gets lots of radio play after all these years. If you’re wondering why, it’s because the lyrics touch some deep spots in our hearts, even if we’re not sure why? The song is about, you guessed it, a prostitute. But it’s more than that. The male character in this song is doing his best to call this woman out of a life of prostitution. He does so by reminding her of her value, by telling her that she doesn’t have to live this way, that someone is there to love and care for her, and she can walk away knowing that someone’s arms will be permanently there for her. These might be my favourite bit of lyrics,
“I love you since I knew you, I wouldn’t talk down to you
I have to tell you just how I feel, I won’t share you with another boy
I know my mind is made up, So put away your make up…
You don’t have to put on that red light…”
By showing her a greater love, he doesn’t judge, but welcomes her into a new story, a new way, a better way.
We read similar words in John 8 & John 4.
John 8 is the dialogue between Jesus and Pharisees who are about to judge a woman caught in adultery. Jesus asks them to throw the first stone…only if…of course, they have no record of sin in their life. After the famous drawing in the sand, Jesus tells gives the woman a new lease on life when he says, “Go and sin no more”. Up until then she didn’t know she could something else or be known for something else, but Jesus offers her another story to live – his story. In John 4 we read about another woman, this time a Samaritan woman who Jesus encounters at Jacob’s well at noon. It’s important to know that Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along. Samaritan’s were a mixed race, half Jewish, half pagan, descending from the Northern part of Israel. They chose to worship at a different mountain than Jews. Jews worshiped at Mount Zion, Samaritan’s chose Gerazim. Jews didn’t associate with them and were at times afraid of them. Jesus doesn’t only speak to this Samaritan woman, he asks her for a drink (another taboo). She’s there at noon to avoid the crowds. We find out through their dialogue that this woman has had 5 husbands and is now with a man who is not her husband. Jesus points this out to her, but she doesn’t seem to mind or run. It’s almost as if she’d hope that someone would speak truth to her with some kind of love and concern.
For many reasons, this woman thinks that she cannot be part of God’s story: her cultural status, her religious status, and her marital/moral status. However, Jesus, in a way that only he can, includes her with a statement that some might miss as important. He says,“There is coming a say when you will worship the Father…neither here nor there, but only in Spirit and in Truth.” This represents the collision two stories, hers and God’s. Jesus, with a few words, told this woman that no matter where she was from, no matter what she’s done, know matter how she may have been misled, she too can worship GOD, she too can be part of his grand story. Why? because it’s not about location, or culture, or back ground, or denomination, or moral perfection, or right standing, it’s about two things: Spirit & Truth.
We said in week #1 that the scripture often narrows things down for us. Jesus does it here agin. To the woman and to us, Jesus says, you are invited to worship God and be part of his spiritual family, all you have to do is worship in Spirit and in Truth.
Jesus valued her story, he shares God’s grand story, and with that instrumental conversation, he brought the two stories together.
This fall, we are looking at things that we take seriously about our faith in Jesus. Know this – we take stories seriously. Here’s how we put it. We value your story, we value God’s story and we value how those two stories come together. The collision is sometimes easy, while other times it’s difficult; sometimes our stories fit nicely with God’s, other times there are a few sparks in the journey. Either way we know one thing, our stories will always be better when they collide with God’s story.
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small(er) group questions: (video summary if you so feel to watch it)
What are some hang ups you’ve had, with your story or God’s story, that have been obstacles for the two to come together, past or present?
Take some time to read John 4:1-26. What does this story tell you about humanity? What does it tell you about Jesus? What does it tell you about worship?
Is there a difference when someone speaks the truth in love and with concern or when it comes across in another way, let’s say, with judgment?
How does Jesus challenge to worship in Spirit & Truth speak to the world’s understanding of Religion?
How has your story and God’s connected thus far? Can you give us an example? Any fireworks along the way? Any beautiful moments?