November 2017 Newsletter
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Does everything we are, and everything we have, really belong to God, as we spoke about this last Sunday? Is God really trustworthy? Will God provide when we are in need?
From personal experience I can say a resounding YES! But maybe not in the ways you might think. I’ve been stretched and my faith challenged during difficult financial times. I shared a story with you when I first came here about how I came to own my home in Shawnee. After I told the story, someone came up to me and said, “If anyone had doubts about you being called here, your story would have quelled those doubts.” I hadn’t thought about that, but she was right. We need to tell our stories of the ways God provides so we can build one another’s faith.
What if we really believed what the Scripture says about generosity? What if we really believed that God’s abundant blessings are connected to our own generosity?
2 Corinthians 9:6-7: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:4 that our reward in giving comes from our heavenly Father. And, to much that is given, much is required.
In Luke 6:38 Jesus says: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (New Living Translation)
Friends, we have all been given much. Since it’s “Stewardship” season, consider these statistics from various sources, including the magazine, Christianity Today, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals:
* Americans who earn less than $10,000 gave 2.3 percent of their income to religious organizations, whereas those who earn $70,000 or more gave only 1.2 percent.
If members of historically Christian churches in the United States had raised their giving to the Old Testament’s minimum standard of giving (10% of income) in 2000, an additional $139,000,000,000 a year would become available assist in Christian based mission work.
Households of committed Christians making less than $12,500 per year give away roughly 7 percent of their income, a figure no other income bracket beats until incomes rise above $90,000 (they give away 8.8 percent).
* In fact, in absolute terms, the poorest Christians give away more dollars than all but the wealthiest Christians.
* People are giving a lower percent of income to churches in the 2000’s then they did either during the Great Depression or the 1920’s.
•The number of nonprofit 501(c)(3)s soliciting volunteers and funds almost
doubled, but the number of U.S.churches remained the same.
* In 1985, religious entities received 53% of charitable donations but by 2007 churches received only 33% of charitable donations
I know these are sobering statistics. I wonder if we all couldn’t prayerfully consider what these numbers really mean about how we, as Christians, live out our faith.
I have tithed most of my adult life. It’s never been easy, in fact, it’s been impossibly hard many times, and often still is. Yet, I have seen God provide in miraculous ways; I can honestly say I have been given far more than I ever gave.
One lesson tithing has taught me is to hold my possessions loosely, to acknowledge all belongs to God, that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, that giving frees me from being owned by what I own. It’s taught me to live more fearlessly.
I wanted to share these thoughts with you as we will be having pledge Sunday on November 19th, and to encourage us all to live out our faith in the ways we spend our time, talent and treasure. May God be glorified in our lives and in our church.
May we stand back and watch the ways the Lord multiples our blessings.