Sunday, April 23, 2017

Taking the My out of Money: The Big Things

Two weeks ago I spoke about the little things, the minutia, the details.  In that case it was the details that would have been involved in supporting Jesus and his disciples.  And I looked at Luke 8:1-3.  In particular the verse that said Luke 8:2-3 Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
Do you remember why they contributed their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples?  That’s right because they loved Jesus and believed in the mission.  But that was 2 weeks ago when I spoke about the little things, the minutia, and the details. 
This is April, which often means Easter and always means weird weather.  At Cornerstone, April is the Month that we call Stewardship Emphasis month, or as it redubbed a number of years ago, Money Month.
Those who have been a part of Cornerstone for a while know the why and the how of Money Month, but we will catch the rest of you up.
For the first 7 years of our existence Cornerstone operated like most other churches.  In the spring, just before the new church year, we would sit down as a leadership team and draw up a budget for the upcoming year.  And usually the budget was based on the previous year’s budget with an increase, because we needed to take a step of faith.  I’m not even sure that we needed to have met the previous year’s budget before we used it as our template.
But the budget was kind of a wish list, we want to do this, we have to do this and we need to do this and then we’d put it all together and call it a budget.     
And because we’d really only done one side, the expense side we’d ultimately end up having problems at some point through the year with the other side, the income side. 
And when the money issue would inevitably come up with the leadership team there were always 2 suggestions.  Denn needs to put in the bulletin what our short fall is so people know and Denn needs to preach on money.
And I always had a problem with both of those suggestions.  Putting it in the bulletin is just discouraging and for the folks we are trying to reach it sends a really dismal message.  And the Denn preaching on money, that gets old really quick when you know the only reason Denn is preaching on money is because there are money problems.
So in 2002 we decided to do something different.  I would take a month and preach on the theology of generosity because it was April, not because we were in a bad financial situation.  And then at the end of the month we would ask those who called Cornerstone their church home to fill out an estimate of giving card, which looks like this. 
And it is exactly what it says it is. It is a card where you estimate what you will be able to give in the up coming year.  And we use those cards to set the budget for the upcoming year.  And not a nickel more, we used to say not a penny more, but then they did away with the penny.    
So two weeks ago we spoke about the little things, this week I am going to be speaking about a big thing, as a matter of fact you might even say it was a BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal.   I don’t know if you are familiar with the term but it comes from Jim Collins, the author of “From Good to Great”.  
Here is how Collins’ defines a BHAG:  A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”
And this was in the truest sense a BHAG.  We first read about it in a discussion that King David had with his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 22:7 “My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honour the name of the Lord my God,” David told him.  For four hundred years the people of Israel had been worshipping God in a temporary facility, the tabernacle which God himself had provided inspiration for to Moses.  But the time had come as a nation that King David felt there needed to be a permanent spiritual home for the people of God.  Sounds like a good idea, I’ve known other leaders who have cast the vision for a permanent place of worship.    But listen to the rest of the story that David told his son, 1 Chronicles 22:8 “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honour my name.
Now personally if I was David I would be a little confused, after all he might have shed blood but he was just following God’s commands and for the most part he was defending Israel against the Philistine and Amalekites and everyone else who thought they should have a piece of Israel, some things never change. 
But I’m not David and I’m not God.  And the issue here wasn’t an issue of whether David was obedient or disobedient instead it was a matter of God’s timing and apparently, God’s temple was to be built during a time of peace and not one of conflict because God told David that Solomon would be able to do what David could only dream of doing.  And that was to build the temple. 
I think it says a lot about David that even though he knew he wouldn’t get to build the temple he did his very best to see that the temple got built, the temple didn’t just magically appear, it happened because people gave to make it happen and that takes us to the scripture that was read earlier.    1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy Temple.”
So the first thing is that It was Sacrificial Giving   Not only did David tell the people that he was going to give in front of God and everyone he tells them exactly how much he is giving.  1 Chronicles 29:4 I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the buildings Now David could have simply said “I’m really, really, really committed to this and so I’m going to give a bunch of gold and silver.”     But he didn’t, he said I’m giving 224,000 lbs of gold, 464,000 lbs of silver.  Now we don’t know what that was worth in their economy. There was no currency as we know it in Israel at that time, but in today’s dollars that much Gold would be worth close to 10 billion dollars Canadian.  And to quote Senator Everett Dirksen “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money”.
And it wasn’t just the king who gave, let’s keep reading in 1 Chronicles 29:6-7 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly. For the construction of the Temple of God, they gave about 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron.
Now understand, the tithe was already a part of life for the Jewish people, including the King.  They were already contributing 10% but this wasn’t their tithe and this wasn’t in place of their tithe, this was over and above their tithe.  And if they were like most people in most cultures than I would suspect that the gifts that were given for the temple cost these folks something, there were other things they could have used those gifts for, bigger homes, nicer chariots, new robes and yet they opted to give it, sacrificially to God’s work.
From the looks of it they gave some really neat stuff.  Gold, silver and precious stones.  If you get into the description of the temple being built it was the very best of everything that was used.  Why?  Because apparently just good enough wasn’t what Solomon and the Jewish people wanted to present to their God.  They wanted their offerings to mean something and in order for it to mean something it had to be a sacrifice.   A sacrifice is by definition, a sacrifice.  It is when you give up something of value for something or somebody who you think is more valuable than what you are giving up.
Often I hear people say “Well today people aren’t familiar with sacrifice.”  Sure we are.  In each of our lives we all are familiar with making sacrifices, perhaps not for God but you will make sacrifices for something.  Maybe you will make sacrifices so your children can be in sports or band or go to a private school or get a tutor.  Or maybe you’ll make sacrifices so you can drive a nicer car, live in a better home or have a better retirement. Some people make sacrifices for causes that aren’t nearly as noble.  If you smoke what is it in your life that you sacrifice for your cigarettes?  If you drink, what is it you give up to buy a case of beer or a bottle of liquor?  If you gamble what else could you or should you have spent that money on?   You see when you choose to spend money on one thing instead of on something else you have made a sacrifice.  For better or for worse.
And the amount of the sacrifice is directly proportional to how much you care for the person or object you are making the sacrifice for.  Care a lot, sacrifice a lot, care a little sacrifice a little. 

You cannot love much and give little. 

And it doesn’t have to do with how much you spend instead it’s how much you sacrifice.  What might be a sacrifice for me might not be much of a sacrifice for you. Does that make sense? 
When we were building this building our theme for the capital campaign was “Not equal giving but equal sacrifice.”  And that is still the reality; God doesn’t call for equal giving he calls for equal sacrifice.

So when it comes to what you give to God is it sacrificial or is it just superficial?

Let’s go back to 1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy Temple.”  So you remember whose words these were right?  They were King David’s.  The most powerful and richest man in the Kingdom.  So the next thing we discover about this story is that It was Top Down Giving  It would have been so easy for David to have said “We are going to give a bunch of money to build the temple, and by “we” I mean you.”  
David didn’t expect his people to do something that he wasn’t willing to do. And it didn’t stop with David, the story goes on in 1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly.
All of the leaders of Israel came to the party because they believed in what was being done and they wanted to be a part of it and they wanted to demonstrate their commitment. 
I think it says something about God when we read in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  God, creator of the universe loved us so much that he what?  He gave.  And what did he give?  He gave his one and only son.  Do you remember what Jesus told the apostles during the last supper?  Luke 22:20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.  So the example set for us by God is one of giving and sacrifice.  He doesn’t just demand that his people give, he gave.  And he gave the very best he had to give.
And God continues to give.  Do you believe that all you receive comes from God?
At Cornerstone you can be assured that those in leadership are givers.  Over 7% of our weekly budget comes from our staff, and one of the requirements of being on the leadership team at Cornerstone is that you are a sacrificial giver.
And David not only told the people he was going to give he told them what he was going to give, remember 1 Chronicles 29:4-5 I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the buildings and for the other gold and silver work to be done by the craftsmen. Now then, who will follow my example and give offerings to the Lord today?”  I wonder if there were people who were upset because David publically declared how much he was giving?   Maybe they didn’t mind that he said he was going to give but they were a little cranky because he named amounts.
Cornerstone went through a capital campaign in order to raise the initial capital needed for this building and as a part of the process Angela and I along with some of the leaders told the congregation how much we were going to commit to our building project over that three year period. 
And I know that there were some folks in the congregation who wondered why I had to state it publicly. Why I didn’t just stand up and say “I’m really, really, really committed to this and so I’m going to give a bunch of money.”     
I don’t think David did it to prove how special he was, everyone knew that David was the richest man in the Kingdom.  It wasn’t going to benefit him much because 25 verses later he died.  I don’t think he did it to shame people into giving. 
When I decided to tell the church how much I was giving it wasn’t so you would think, “Wow that Denn is a great guy.”   If you are going to base that on money there are a lot of people out there that can do more than I can do, does that make them greater?   I certainly didn’t do it to shame people into giving as much as I was giving. 
The reason that David announced for everyone to hear the amount of his gift was for one reason and one reason only.  To show that he was committed to the process.  Listen again to his words
1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction.”
The reason I tithe to Cornerstone now is the same reason I announced how much my contribution would be the new building, because I am committed to seeing our vision accomplished.  And for anyone who cares I can show you my T-4 and my giving receipt from Cornerstone.  In other words I am willing to put my money where my mouth is.
Neither myself or our staff or the leadership team expects others here to do what they don’t do.
Let’s continue with the story, I love the line in 1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly.  Did you catch the last three words?  All gave willing.
It was Voluntary Giving  This was not a tax that the king imposed to build the temple it was voluntary.  The people of Israel caught the vision for building the temple and they wanted to be involved. 
And when everything was said and done we read in 1 Chronicles 29:9  The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD, and King David was filled with joy.
And that wasn’t the only example of people giving willingly, listen to what Paul wrote about the church in Corinth 2000 years ago, 2 Corinthians 8:10 Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it.
And then there were Paul’s comments on the Christ followers in Macedonia  2 Corinthians 8:2-4 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
You probably remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts.  If not, here’s a recap.  They had seen how others in the church had sold property and given it to the church so the kingdom could advance.  So they sold a piece of property and gave the proceeds to the apostles for the church.
And that’s fine but they didn’t give all of the money only a portion of it, and that was fine. 
But they told the church that they gave it all and that wasn’t fine.  We pick up the story in Acts 5:3-4 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”  And if you know the story the fear of the Lord came over Ananias and he dropped dead.  But it wasn’t what he gave and it wasn’t what he kept that was the issue, it was that he lied to God. 
And really, your giving to Cornerstone is voluntary.  We don’t tell people, “Unless you give you can’t come to Cornerstone.”  We don’t hold you up by your feet after the service and shake you to make sure we got all your money and we don’t ask for anyone’s T-4 to make sure they are tithing.
Let me end with two thoughts:  In the Old Testament God asks his people a rhetorical question through the prophet Malachi and then he answers it himself in Malachi 3:8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”  Interesting, when we don’t give God what is due God then the bible says we are cheating God.
And I know that sometimes we just can’t get our heads around the math, how can we give when it seems we spend all that we have now.  Leonard Nimoy said “The miracle is the more we share, the more we have.”  When you think about it that’s not logical but those that share would tell you it is a reality.
Why did David and the leaders of Israel and the people give to see the temple constructed?  2 reasons ,they are deep so you want to write them down this could have been all the of the sermon  They gave because they loved God and they gave because they believed in the mission.

No comments: