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    Money is the Root of All Steeples

    Thursday, September 10, 2009, 10:20 AM [General]

     

    Church and charitable giving was down nearly 6% in 2008, and because of this, many non-profits and most churches are struggling with the change in giving patterns.  At a recent prayer gathering of pastors I attended, 66% reported difficult or dire financial circumstances.  Apparently, times are tough all over.

     

    Many churches have trimmed their budgets, cut programs, and even canceled future building expansions.  Others resolutely stick to their original plans as if a change would demonstrate a lack of faith.  A few cannot change their budgets in any practical way because of loans and other commitments leaving some churches on the brink of shutting down, building foreclosure or property seizure.

     

    Church response has been varied.  The simplest (and perhaps most effective) reaction has been to inform congregants of the need and the possible plans or changes necessary if budgets are not met.  Others resort to guilt or poor Biblical interpretation.  Watch enough late night television, and you can hear such language as “sowing seed gifts of faith” to God (the idea of sending money into a church or ministry to demonstrate faith).  This then becomes manipulative language to raise money while promising that God will return their seed gifts of faith with personal wealth. 

     

    Though I find the latter approach to increasing giving repugnant, the bottom line whatever approach a church takes is this:  giving reflects the heart.  Whatever a person cares about is what that person spends their money on.  To make it personal, whatever you spend your money on is what you care about.  If a person wants to give to a church or a charity but can’t because there is no room in the budget, the things in the budget are what the person cares about.  If a person’s budget includes giving before making purchases, then that person values giving. 

     

    There are of course other avenues of giving like the giving of time and the use of talent.  These are just as important as the giving of money.  They too reflect the heart in the same way that money does but none of them replace the other.  The giving of all three (time, talent, and tithe) reflect the heart.  Excluding giving in one reflects the heart’s priority. 

     

    For example, to give money but not time says, “My time is too important to give away.”

    To give talent and talent but not money says, “My money is too important to be given away.”

     

    Either way, whatever people choose to give, in whatever quantity, will always reflect what they care about.  If a church, or any organization for that matter, wants to increase giving, then they must increase the value of that organization to people’s lives. 

     

    Find more articles like this at www.jgordonduncan.com

     

     

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    Hope Floats

    Monday, August 31, 2009, 6:58 AM [General]

    For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Romans 8:24-25

     

    You know some of us, really struggle with hope.  It is easy to do in these economic times.  One of the causes for this struggle with hope is the frustration that comes about when we don’t get the thing for which we hope.  So, I guess hope for most folks has its limitations. 

     

    Why is that?  I would offer that our hope has its limitations because of our narcissistic nature.  We will hope in something as long as we know that we are going to get it which begs the question, “Is that really hope at all?”

     

    For example, when your children ask for something and you say that it is way too expensive, somewhere deep down inside, they still think they are going to get it.  Why?  Because most folks pretty much get their children whatever it is that they want. 

     

    Whenever we want something, we might say we are hoping to get it, but deep down inside we know we can charge it or we expect someone to get it for us.  And if we don’t get what we want?  We become disillusioned and disappointed and depressed.  You might make them wait, but aside from asking for a plane or something outrageous, most kids get what they want.

     

    In all honesty, we don’t know what hope is because we either aren’t patient enough to wait and we just go get what we want for ourselves or we just get angry and write off anybody or anything that doesn’t serve us immediately.  We are in essence spoiled brats.

     

    But Paul says here, hope is the essence of salvation.  It is only hope if it is unseen which means it is beyond our grasp or beyond our ability to get it for ourselves.  If we only hope for things that we know we can get for ourselves or for things that we know people will get for us, it is not hope.  It is impossible for us to take part in the grand redemption story that Jesus is undertaking or to properly serve our role as God’s children though unless we have a true, honest, earnest, hope and patient waiting for God.

     

    Unfortunately, what gets in our way of having hope is our low view of God.  We think He is constantly ready to destroy His children when He is actually about redeeming them.  We see every difficulty in the day to day as God’s curse and forget that God desires to redeem and not destroy His children.

     

    Spurgeon put it this way, “My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are ready to sin.  He is more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus.” 

     

    Since we are so impatient and don’t want to live in hope but instead want everything we want right now, we as a consequence live without hope or without great faith in God.  You can’t very well point people to the hope they should have unless you have hope.  You can’t tell people that God can save a marriage unless you are willing to wait and trust that He is going to save yours.  You can’t tell people about hope unless it is the thing by which you yourself live.  That is why the witness of the church is often so weak…it lacks hope.

     

    The question is, “What are you hoping for?  Who or what are you trusting to bring about the thing for which you hope?  Do you have stories of patience in waiting and hoping?  What have you learned from those times?”

     

    I invite your feedback and look forward to being encouraged by your response. 

     

    Gordon blogs regularly at www.jgordonduncan.com

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