Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Grace Gives Back (pt. 2)

God is truly revolutionizing the hearts of His people as a result of Sunday. I have received some incredibly encouraging phone calls & emails telling stories of what events have taken place in their lives & the ways God is leading them to be a blessing to others. As a pastor there are times when I cringe hearing the phone ring or seeing a list of emails, but lately I am eager everytime the phone rings or messages appear in my inbox due to the excitement of what God is doing.

Today I want to share a little bit more about why we gave cash $ away in church on Sunday & didn't accept anyone's financial gift. Above all we did this because God lead us to this decision & affirmed it in many ways. Let me share a couple ofthings this project is NOT:
  • It was not a publicity stunt for media attention or to trick people into coming to church. (If the media wants to cover this story as a result of what God is doing, great, but in no way are we attempting to draw attention from them)
  • It was not merely copying what other churches have done. (I am aware this idea is not original to me or our church. We seek not to copy other churches but we are willing to learn from them & use their ideas effectively in our context if God so leads)

Here are several core reasons we felt led to implement "Grace Gives Back":

  • To empower our people in a practical way to be a blessing to those outside our normal circle of influence.
  • To instill a greater sense of awareness in our hearts & minds of the people & needs around us we might easily ignore or fail to recognize.
  • To let our congregation & the surrounding community we are serious about reaching out (into the community) rather than merely reaching in (to ourselves inside the church).
  • To ultimately emphasize the condition of your heart is more important than your money.
  • To show the community we love them & are willing to reach out to them & meet their needs with the love of Jesus Christ.
  • To give a renewed sense of stewardship, not only financially, but in every area of our lives.

My prayer is this emphasis will revolutionize our hearts & instill within our souls the ability to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, & strength. And to love your neighbor as yourself."

Later I hope to share the process leading up to Sunday & how God orchestrated such a great opportunity in our church.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Grace Gives Back

Wow, what an incredible day we had yesterday in church. If you missed it, you truly missed a blessing. God challenged our entire church to go out & be a blessing to those outside our circle. A few months ago God laid on my heart an emphasis to empower our people to bless others. As a staff we decided to schedule a Sunday where, instead of receiving an offering as we do every week in our morning worship service, we would give what we normally receive away.

I went to our Finance Team & requested the money. We took the money(several thousand dollars) & divided it into increments from $5 to $500. I wrote a letter explaining the project & we inserted the money into envelopes w/ the letter. I preached a message from Matthew 25:14-30 on the Parable of the Talents. Then I explained, much to the shock of most, we wouldn't be taking the offering instead we would be giving it away. I told them it was the ONLY Sunday they were to take something out of the offering baskets rather than put something in.

I spent time explaining the purpose of why we were doing it & gave these rules:
  • You must use this money to bless someone outside your circle (not your closest family, friends, or fellow church members)
  • Tell us what you did with your money so we can use your story of generosity to bless others.

During the time of invitation the altar was flooded w/ individuals, couples, & families surrendering to God. God opened many eyes to the vast array of needs around us everyday that we miss or choose to ignore. This project will hopefully make us more aware of the hurting & needy around us & how easy it sometimes is to be a blessing in Jesus name. We're collecting the stories of how God is using this & we plan on sharing them over the next few months.

Throughout this week I hope to share more details of the process of making the decision to do this & the desired impact it can have on our community. We pray this is the beginning of a brand new chapter in the life of our church.

Monday, August 10, 2009

10 Month Pics

So we missed taking the 8 & 9 months pictures b/c we were moving, distracted, & just didn't get it done. Cade turned 10 months old on the 4th of July which is why he's sporting the "I Love the USA" gear. He's now over 11 months old so I'll get those pics posted soon hopefully. Poor lighting, sorry.
The mischievous grin while attempting to escape from the chair.
He cooperated well for these pics.
He's such a sweet, good boy.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Past the Provision

Eating lunch out the other day with my wife & son reminded me of something many of us selfishly do on a regular basis. In order to entertain our son while we eat we usually give him toys & snacks on the table in front of him. He kept reaching & stretching for the little tupperware bowl of snacks in the middle of the table. We had to sit him back in his high chair & show him the snack that had been placed right in front of him. Single snacks were being provided for him, yet he couldn't see it right in front of him b/c he was too busy looking for the bowl full of snacks.

Too often we want the whole bowl, or the bigger blessing (car, clothes, house, etc.), when God has given us what we need right in front of us. We miss the provision & blessings of God b/c we want what He doesn't allow us to have.

Open your eyes & see what God has provided right in front of you, be thankful for it, & accept it graciously rather than overlooking it by fixing your mind on something you don't really need.

A friend was leading in prayer to receive the offering not long ago & the opening line of his prayer pierced my heart: "Lord thank you for what you provide for us & for what you keep from us." Let that be your prayer today & everyday.