Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Principle of J.O.Y.

“As for those who are in the present age are rich… they are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Several years ago, I ran across an article from a fellow pastor talking about a banner hanging in his church that from a distance looked like it just had a single word on it: “JOY.” Upon closer inspection, however, my colleague noticed that the banner also contained several additional words beneath it, and that the word JOY on the banner was actually just an acronym for those three other words: “Jesus,” “Others,” and “Yourself.” He noted correctly that this priority is, in fact, the secret behind having real joy in our lives.

As we conclude the commitment phase of our “Climbing Higher” stewardship journey during our morning worship services this week (Commitment Sunday is October 28th), I want to challenge and encourage each of us to consider making these three things the priority of our lives, as well -- not just in the giving of our finances, but also in the giving of our time and talents. In other words, when you and I learn to put the needs of “Jesus” first, those of “Others” next, and those of “Yourself” (or ourselves) last, we’ll discover true JOY in life!

That’s really the meaning of Verses 18-19 in the scripture above: when you and I are “rich in good works , generous, and ready to share,” then we’re storing up “treasure” for ourselves that enables us to truly “take hold of the life that really is life.” Acts 20:35 says essentially the same thing when it tells us to “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Stewardship and generosity, you see, are ways that we can discover the true Joy and blessings of life by discovering correct priorities: Jesus, Others, Yourself.

My prayer is that you’ll join me in committing yourself to be a person of J.O.Y. in all aspects of your life, but at the very least including your financial giving. After all, J.O.Y. is more than an emotional state of mind… it’s a commitment to priorities! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rice To Diamonds

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27)

A long time ago, a beggar had begged for rice and had gone to the city gates to cook a meal of it. While he was making the fire, he heard a caravan coming. He quickly moved towards the travelers. “Alms, alms!” he cried, and more loudly when he saw that it was the prince. The prince said to the beggar, “What have you to give me for the alms I might give to you?” The beggar fingered his 25-30 grains of rice and offered three grains to the prince. The prince took the three grains of rice and held them for a moment. Then he took the beggar’s hand, carefully laid the three grains of rice in the moist palm, and folded the beggar’s fingers over them. He left the beggar and entered the city. As the beggar walked back, he opened his hand. To his surprise and amazement, there lay three brilliant diamonds. He gasped and then wept, “If only I had give all! If only I had given all!”

Quite often, God asks of us as Christians, “What will you give?” In response, we too often give Him the money we think we can spare, the abilities that we can easily give, and the “left overs” of our time that we don’t really need anyway. Yet, God wants and invites us to make Him our priority, giving generously of our time, talents and money out of a grateful and cheerful heart. After all, the Bible teaches that the person who can share generously with others will discover and know life’s true riches (Read 1 Timothy 6:18-19, and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

This month, we’re all invited to consider how we can grow in our generosity towards others as we celebrate God’s generosity to us. Through our commitments of time, talent and money through God’s church, not only will we be “climbing higher” in our love for Him, but will also be surprised to discover “diamonds” of blessing from God in our personal lives, as well. So, I challenge us each of us to prayerfully consider becoming more generous in our “grains” of response to God through His church for 2013! Remember that God loves you and I do, too!



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why I Tithe



“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse… and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” (Malachi 3:10)



“With my tithe I seal a bargain, with my tithe I pay a debt.
With my tithe I serve a purpose that my God will not forget.

With my tithe I fish for sinners, with my tithe I find the lost.
With my tithe I gird the winners, with my tithe I share the cost.

With my tithe I love my neighbor, with my tithe I pass a test.
With my tithe I clothe God’s image in a form one-tenth divine.

With my tithe I build a temple, with my tithe I feed its fire.
With my tithe I still a yearning of my soul’s innate desire.

With my tithe I heal the stricken, with my tithe they rise again.
With my tithe I walk with giants, in the wake of Godly women and men.

With my tithe I walk in honor where the great and strong have trod.
With my tithe I store my treasures in the treasure house of God!”
                              [--Written by Peter E. Long]

My wife Trish and I have tithed faithful to God through our church for nearly 25 years, and God has never yet let us down, even in tight financial times. The “tithe” (the first 10% of our income) is a tool shared in the Bible that helps us be faithful to God, enabling Him to be faithful back to us.

So, are you honoring God in how you use your financial resources, starting with a tithe back to Him? Even if you’re not able to tithe immediately, are you willing to take a step forward and move towards it now so that you can eventually tithe in the near future? Remember, it’s never too late to start! God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What Kind of Christian Are You?


“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know  that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Here’s an article from a Christian magazine I thought was worth sharing considering our ministry focus for October.  As you read it, consider where you fit in...

“Someone has described God’s Church as being filled with all kinds of people:

• Some are like wheelbarrows -- not good unless pushed.

• Some are like kites -- if you don't keep a string on them, they will fly away, and then crash.

• Some are like canoes -- they need to be paddled.

• Some are like footballs -- you can't tell which way they'll bounce next.

• Some are like balloons--full of wind & ready to blow up.

 Some are like trailers -- they have to be pulled.

• Some are like swimming pools — all the noise is at the shallow end.

• Some are like advertising signs -- they keep going on and off.

 Some are like a good watch -- pure gold, open faced, busy hands, and full of good works.”

Throughout this month, we’ll be celebrating and remembering the importance of being generous …in our money, time, talent,  and our service to God – the “good works” in the above article, and “work of the Lord” and “labor” in the above scripture.

So, the real question is:  what kind of Christian are YOU?  I am so thankful for the many “good watches” we have here at East Cobb UMC!  As we serve our community and world, we are literally being the hand and feet of Jesus to others, as well as helping bring about the transformation of society into a more Christ like place.

My prayer for each of us is that we all learn to serve others the way Christ served us, put us first, and challenged us to do the same for others.  May we all learn to be like a good watch – “pure gold, open faced, with busy hands, and full of good works.  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!