Our stewardship campaign theme this year is “Defying Gravity”. The premise of the program is that just as gravity exists in the natural world, financial gravity exists in the economic world we live in. Like the gravity of our planet, financial gravity enables us to function in our daily lives. It is the invisible force that compels us to pursue our basic necessities – things like food, shelter and lodging.
 
The problem with financial gravity occurs when we feel it so strongly that it takes charge of the way we live. You go into a shopping mall to get a shirt and you come out with six other items just because they were on sale. It’s going into Best Buy for a patch cable for your television and come out with a new computer, even though your old one does what you need it to do. When financial gravity is experienced to the extreme, it’s like living on Jupiter. Because of the large mass of that planet, a person who weighed a nice trim 140 pounds here would weigh 350 pounds there. Once light steps, become a laboring effort to drag oneself from place to place and soon we’re totally exhausted. When we get weighed down by financial gravity all our energy is expended in navigating the material world. When it’s extreme, we lose the ability do anything else.
 
Jesus recognized the problem of financial gravity and addressed it in his teaching. One day a young man came to him and said, “what must I do to have eternal life”? Jesus told him to keep the commandments. He replied, “I have done so since my youth, what do I still lack?” Jesus told him, “go and sell what you have and give it to the poor and come follow me and you will have treasure in heaven”. When the young man heard this, he went away grieving for he had many possessions. The young man wanted to go with Jesus and learn how to give his life fully to God. He wanted to experience a deeper righteousness, but he could not bear to sell his possession. He knew he was tearing up the winning ticket in discipleship lottery and he wept.
 
This is the tension most of us live in. We want to follow Christ and generously give of our time, talent, and resources to do so, but we are so tied to our things that we have trouble following Christ. This stewardship campaign is designed to help us address this challenge. It involves recognizing the effects of financial gravity and beginning to see ourselves as stewards of God’s resources, as the way of breaking free of excess financial gravity. Tethering ourselves to God with thoughtful planning, so that generosity is a specific goal in our financial planning. And last, but not least, when we get it right, and begin to give of ourselves and resources generously, our trust for God deepens, and we discover great joy in helping people become what God intends.
 
One of the main ways we, as a church, help people grow in grace is through our church facilities. While we think of this as the new church, and it is, it is still fifteen to twenty years old and maintenance needs are increasing. Numerous things, including air conditioners, are starting to wear out and we need to replenish the contingency fund that enables such repairs to be done in a timely fashion. The goal is to raise $50,000 per year, in addition to our general fund giving for three years. This will enable us to restore the fund to its original $200,000 balance, even as we are paying for long term maintenance out of the fund.
 
When we commit ourselves to live as Christ’s disciples, and stretch ourselves to give generously as part of that commitment, we learn a number of things. First, when we give more than we think we can we learn that God can be trusted when financial surprises come into our lives. It’s amazing, but when we’re living as stewards and using God’s resources for God’s glory and true financial needs come along, God provides for them often in totally unexpected ways. Second, we begin to learn that there is a difference between needs and wants. Discipleship and seeing ourselves as stewards of what God has given us changes our priorities. The thing we learn is that if we ask, God will take away our longing for more. And lastly, as we invest in the work of God’s kingdom, we experience more and more of the joy of enabling others to live better lives.
 
In Christ’s Service
Rev. Harry Brown
 
 

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A Matter of the Heart

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Luke 12:34

Money and our attitude toward possessions are, at root, a spiritual issue. The ways we use money reveal our ultimate values and allegiances. Jesus put it very succinctly, you can’t serve both God and money. In short, our faith needs to shape and reshape what psychologists sometimes call “our world view”. Our world view is a set of fundamental beliefs that determine our values, actions, and decisions. Our world view determines everything from our generosity to our sexual morals, and political persuasions.

Mike Slaughter, in his book

Money Matters,

points out that the most prevalent world view among church attendees is soft secular. People with a soft secular world view believe in God, but they place their trust in and draw their values from secular culture. They profess faith in Christ, but trust their abilities, financial resources, and material possessions to provide meaning and security rather than trusting God’s promise to provide. It is difficult for soft secular people to make significant time or financial commitments to the church. They believe in God, but God is not their first priority. They live comfortably in two spheres, the sacred and the secular, but when pressed for time their default almost always goes to the secular. They bring Jesus into their world view instead of being converted into His.

Many, especially in my generation, have been taught to believe you can have it all. We are a generation of conspicuous consumption. We were the hippies of the sixties and seventies and the yuppies of the eighties. In an age of diminishing resources, we drove massive SUV’s and trucks that were designed for the rigors of mountain terrain even though we never went off road. We’ve bought things we couldn’t afford and created debt encumbered lifestyles. In the process, we’ve raised kids who are focused on individual experience who think it’s true if it works for me.

Jesus addresses such world views in the story of a wealthy entrepreneur who seeks meaning from money. A rich man had a fertile farm that produces fine crops. He said to himself, “what shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “this is what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and there I will store my surplus grain and I’ll say to myself you have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.” (Luke 12:16-19)

You know what happened next. The man turned around and died. He missed life which is what happens when we focus on money. Life is found in our ability to make a lasting contribution to the redemptive work of God in the world. The only thing that lives beyond us is what we do for others in Jesus’ name. True abundance is found in the freedom that comes from contributing to the well-being of another human being. Jesus put it this way, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. Giving is the ultimate expression of love for God and the means through which we discover meaning and purpose. We are never closer to God than when we are serving the needs of people.

In Christ’s Service

Rev. Harry Brown