Faithful with the Little Things – by Ben Leong

October 18, 2010

Contribution Lesson-Saving with the little thingsThe Contribution Message this morning is titled, “Faithful with the Little Things”.

Introduction

Currently, I am listening to three different kinds of podcasts:

  1.  christian relationships 
  2.  finances
  3.  fitness

So you probably want to know how successful I am, right? Well, I’m doing good in one of these areas, OK in another, and  the third is so-so. That’s all I’m saying.🙂

But I have noticed that all three podcasts have an underlying similarity that I think is also key to giving to God:

Do the little things well and they add up to great things.

Practically, this means to for me to…

  1. Communicate feelings a little more in my marriage – and over my wife will feel more listened to and understood
  2. Save a little more each day (“Don’t eat that extra portion; skip desert”)
  3. Walk a little farther each day.

The idea is that if you do these things enough – then you will be out of debt, with a great family, and happy with who you are.

The idea came from Jesus

Of course we know, Jesus said it first. Turn over to Luke 16.

Luke 16:10-12

In Matthew 25:13, Jesus says, “you have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.”

The same character behind doing the little things is what makes you have character when it’s huge.

Two take aways

How has this changed my viewpoint?

1. Giving to God is more than just writing one check on Sundays. It’s the collection of little times throughout the week that you decide to sacrifice your time, heart and prayers. Not going to Starbucks for the 10th time that week or passing on that eBay auction for star wars toys. Add up these sacrifices and that is true giving to God.

2. In the final analysis, what we give to God financially is a small thing compared to the heart and character that giving generously builds in us. This prepares us for true riches.

Prayer for the contribution

The Roberto Clemente Award – by Kirk Nascimento

October 13, 2010

Introduction

Good morning.  My name is Kirk Nascimento and I am humbled to share the contribution message.  Please open your Bibles to Luke 16:8-9

Contribution Offering Lesson - Roberto Clemente AwardThe Roberto Clemente Award

Recently, my nine year old son told me that Babe Ruth was no longer his favorite baseball player.  When I asked him why, he stated that Babe Ruth partied too much and he wanted to have a favorite player that worked hard and has character. 

Roberto Clemente was the first Latino player to have 3000 hits.  But he is known for much more than that.  He stated that he believed that he was built by God to play baseball.  Roberto Clemente played the game with passion and flair, as if every game was his last.  He was also known for his use of his wealth and status to help people, specifically poor people.    He would pass away in a plane crash as he was flying to Nicaragua to serve earthquake victims

Annually, the Roberto Clemente Award is given to players who have served their communities.  Players who have received this award have shared that it is the award they are most proud of, because it is about others and what they have done with what they have been given. 

In Luke 16:1-7, Jesus discusses a manager who was accused of wasting a rich man’s possessions.  He was told to give an account of the rich man’s possessions.  The manager realized that his job was about to end and began settling the bills of the debtors for a fraction of what was owed.

Verse 8 states, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly.  For, the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.  I tell you, use worldly weath to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

The manager was commended for realizing that the “gig was up” and planned for the future. 

Sometimes I think, “why would the rich man put this guy in charge of his wealth“.  But the truth is, we are put in charge of all that God has given us

And it is our charge to leave a legacy with this wealth, as well as all that God has given us.  As we give to God, let us think about the ways our money will outlast us in our giving.

Prayer

Father, you trust us with so much – much more responsibility than we deserve. We pray that just as Roberto Clemente was able to leave a legacy, we too can leave a legacy in our schools, jobs, neighborhoods, teams and especially our families. Please use our money for things that will last beyond our life and ouor own giving. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Reference

On Albert Pujols’ website, you can read his response to receiving the 2008 Roberto Clement Award. Here is an exerpt.

“[This is] a blessing, and I’m really honored,” Pujols said. “First of all, I want to thank God to give me the opportunity to be here tonight and receive this award. I want to thank Major League Baseball and Chevy to be a part of this great award of Roberto Clemente. I want to thank my teammates, obviously, for the support that they give me during the year — every event that we do for Down syndrome or golf tournament — the fans in St. Louis and all over the United States and the Dominican Republic for the support that they give to the Pujols Family Foundation. I want to thank the Roberto Clemente family. I’m truly honored to receive this award. It’s an honor to be here.”

“It takes a lot of hard work for the Pujols Family Foundation, but it comes from our heart. I thank God every day for the opportunity he gives me to be in the big leagues and just take advantage of every little opportunity. I remember as a little boy in the Dominican Republic, all I want is to be in the big leagues. All I wanted was just to be a professional baseball player. I never thought this dream was going to come true and so quick in eight years.”

“[Clemente] was not only a great baseball player — everybody on this day remembers Roberto Clemente as a great baseball player, but we today remember him as a great man that loved other people and gave back to the community, whether in Pittsburgh or Nicaragua or Latin America or Puerto Rico. And I feel that’s my responsibility, too, not just to be a baseball player, but to give back to others, whether in St. Louis or the United States or back in the Dominican Republic every year with our trip through the Pujols Family Foundation.”

“At the end of the day, when all is said and done playing this game … it doesn’t matter what you did in the field, it’s what you do off the field and the lives that you touch off the field. And I try to do that through our Foundation. I try to do that when I go back to the Dominican Republic.”

Albert has since been asked, “If you could ask Roberto Clemente one question, what would it be?

Without hesitation Albert retorted, “Why did you go? Why did you get on that plane to serve those people in Nicaragua who you did not know and had never met?”

“I would ask him that question, because I know what he would say; ‘Because it was my responsibility’. I feel the same way. It is my responsibility”.

Today, sitting alone in a place of honor, centered over the fireplace in the Pujols’ home is a constant reminder that some things in life are bigger than the game, bigger than ourselves. Some things are worth living for and even dying for.

Most things we do out of want. Some things we do out of need and very few we do out of responsibility.

Those are the things that last.

How to Live STRONG through Giving- by Scott Horton

June 30, 2010

At the end of this year, I will have been a Christian 20 years, and after writing almost a thousand checks, contribution can seem like an obligation rather than a joy.

Recently I had an experience that helped me notice something in my heart in regards to giving.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Recently I bought a mountain bike, and started riding it every day to work and back. I ride 15 miles a day, and have been doing that for almost a month-and-a-half. This, for me, is a huge milestone in my life because almost a year ago I went through a relatively new type of back surgery after being in crippling pain for years.

Friday, I took my bike into the shop to get some work done to it. I started looking around the shop, and one of the salespeople – a young guy – asked if I needed some help.

I was interested in getting a LiveSTRONG bracelet, because for me it represents overcoming physical adversity.

For those of who don’t know, Lance Armstrong (a world class competitive cyclist) contracted advanced cancer, but through aggressive chemotherapy survived the disease. Years later he started LiveSTRONG – a Foundation that raises money and awareness for cancer research and cures. The proceeds from the bracelets and other LiveSTRONG items go towards this cause.

At the end of this month it will be two years since I lost my father to colon cancer.

The salesman said that they didn’t have any right now. I was disappointed and started to explain that I had gone to the LiveSTRONG website to buy a bracelet, but they only sold them in packs of 10.

Yet I just wanted one.

He looked at me and said, “You should just buy the 10 – I did. And then I gave the rest of them out to my friends. It’s for charity, you know.”

I stood there, stunned. For someone who thought he had convictions about giving, I was more concerned about saving a few dollars than being able to give to others.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own world, in our obligation, that we forget; God isn’t looking for our money, he’s looking for our heart.

Giving should be something we’re happy to do, because God continues to give to us.

God Gives Us Candy – by Peter Huang

June 3, 2010

 

Introduction: God gave us a daughter, twice

Jennifer and I moved to the Westside as a young couple from 3000 miles away, warmly welcomed into the congregation. A month later, our first daughter was born. God performed a miracle and He gave us the gift of a child. At some point, the child goes her own way. And while we can influence her actions, we are helpless to change the heart. So, God does another miracle, and he changes the heart. And she makes her own decision to repent and to be reborn in the waters of baptism as a Christian. God gave us another gift. He gave us the gift of a daughter – the same girl, but a new creation.

God gives us candy

Matthew 7:9-11 (NIV)

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

I enjoy giving candy to my children — it’s a cheap way to buy affection, but it’s also a way of saying, “I’m thinking about you“.

I’ve recently started a tradition of coming home from work with a small sweet in each of my jacket pockets. When I tell the kids that I’ve had a “heavy, burdened day” and that they can help me “lift my burdens”, they know that’s a code word to reach into my jacket pocket where they can find their sweets.

Several weeks ago, I gave each of the kids a larger treat of chocolate. And I asked if I could have a bite. After all, it was mine before I gave it and it seemed reasonable that I could sample the gift.

One child reluctantly agreed with the strict provision that it would just be a tiny bite. Anxiously, she watched to ensure that Daddy wouldn’t take undue liberties with her prized gift. The other child saw the injustice and sacrificially offered more, “Daddy, you can have a big bite out of mine.” Overcome with guilt, the first child upped the ante: “Daddy, you can have the whole thing!”. So, I took the candy, began to put the whole bar in my mouth as the child watched with trepidation and horror — and I took a tiny bite.

Relieved, both children then took their treasures and began to enjoy them — pleased that they had not only received a gift, but also guilt-free in the knowledge that they would have given it all away.

Sharing with  God

I can’t help but think about the candy that God freely hands us day-to-day. So, why would God ask for any of it back? After all — it’s ours; we earned it. We hold on — then we reluctantly give a little back. And when our hearts are soft, we offer to give more — and we soften our hearts. So, when we give to God, maybe it’s not God who’s receiving something, but maybe we’re just receiving another gift.

What has God done for you lately?

In Nehemiah 9 and 10 we see that when the Israelites rebuilt the temple during the time of Nehemiah, they formalized a system of contribution to repair and perpetuate the upkeep of the temple. This was prefaced with a reminder of how God had moved to bless Israel — they were set apart; blessed; given a covenant; rescued from slavery; led through the desert; provided with laws; and given a promised land.

Nehemiah 10:39 (NIV)

The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their  contributions of grain, new wine and oil to the storerooms where the  articles for the sanctuary are kept and where the ministering  priests, the gatekeepers and the singers stay.  “We will not neglect  the house of our God.”

Prayer

Whom Are You Seeking Influence From? – by Mark Shaw

March 17, 2010

Proverbs 1:8-19
8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
9 They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.
11 If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul;
12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse”-
15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths;
16 for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood.
17 How useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds!
18 These men lie in wait for their own blood; they waylay only themselves!
19 Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it.

Statement of Focus
How are your “reactions” shaped? By spiritual or unspiritual people?

Digging In
The Bible tells us that we are very much a product of our environment.

In verse 10, we are told that “sinners” (and we all sin), try to influence us.

In verses 11-14, we see many tactics that the world uses.

  A sense of belonging to a group – “be a part of our group”

  “Let’s take advantage of this person or situation”

  “Let’s surprise someone”

  “Let’s get all kinds of valuable things” – Isn’t that what commercials are based on.

  “Let’s fill our houses” – that’s the goal of marketing

  “Let’s share this plunder” – again the sense of belonging to a group or gang

But the Bible says to think of the long term consequences.

So the question begs, “Are you listening to your father’s and mother’s instruction?” Or are you listening to the worldly influences all around you, including the world of marketing & commercials?

Or if your parents didn’t try to train you in Godly living, are you listening to your spiritual parents?   Paul referred to Timothy as his son.   Are you a Timothy without a spiritual parent to go to for advice and help?   Then find one. They are all around you here in this room.

Share
Share about the areas where you are most tempted to listen to the world rather than the instruction of your mother and father.

Prayer

In Light of God’s Will – by Mark Shaw

February 10, 2010

Proverbs 1:1-7
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;
3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young-
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-
6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Statement of Focus
It all starts with fearing God

Digging In
God, in his glory, is like the sun.
It is difficult to look directly at it.
But without it you can’t look at anything else.

As you think about your money, your day-to-day spending, your investment, your career decisions, do it all in the light of God.

Do it all by starting with the fear of God, the respect for God.
This is in fact the only way to see everything else in life clearly!

Share
Share a situation where you can easily make decisions without considering God.

Prayer

A Story of Marital Unity – by Brian and Karen Plymell

February 3, 2010

Preparation

This contribution lesson was presented at a marriage retreat, and is very appropriate for a family ministry setting. Both Brian and Karen shared vulnerably as they walked the church through the passage.

Lesson: “Giving into Fear vs Giving into Faith”

Acts 4: 34- 5:1
There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.

We want to share about a couple who was unified.  Ananias and Sapphira gave in to each other’s faith…and later to each other’s fears.

Karen:
How inspiring! This couple was ‘together’ in their decision to sell their property to help the poor and build up the Kingdom.  Initially, they gave into each other’s faith and decided to do something great for God.

Imagine them laying in bed the night they decided, inspired by Barnabas-

‘”Yes, let’s sell that land and give the money to the church.” 

Brian:
Acts 5:2
With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Somewhere along the way they struggled with their decision to be generous and gave into each other’s fears:

Maybe one was fearful about the economy

Maybe one of them realized what else they could have done with that money.

Maybe one felt that since so many other disciples were giving so much money they didn’t need to give it all

Acts 5:3
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

They feared what men would think more than what God would think.  They lied. They held back. They gave in to each other’s fears…and died.

Karen:
We have faced similar struggles deciding about giving.

In our family, I have the gift of administration and so, I manage the checkbook.  I tend to be the practical one.  Sometimes even legalistically.

“Have we met our pledge?” I can be satisfied with that.

I miss the inspiration that comes from being extra generous with the blessings that God has given us.

Last spring- we had extra money left over from a bonus. I debated whether to tell Brian because he would want to give it away.

Wives need to work together with their husbands to make faithful decisions about giving.  Be unified- Give in to faith

Brian:
I have the gift of generosity and tend to get inspired to give before Karen does.  Whether it’s increasing our pledge, missions, cutting expenses so we can give more: My temptation is to make a ‘generous’ decision before bringing Karen into it; then I get nervous about how awkward the conversation will be.

Karen really helped me make a faithful decision by talking through the details; then she got excited about the impact that the extra contribution could make.  Her faith strengthened my faith.

As husbands, it is our job to be both generous and unified. 
Husbands need help their wives make faithful decisions about giving by communicating, praying, listening and then taking unified action. 

Be unified- Give in to faith

How Jesus Spent Money – by Mark Shaw

January 26, 2010

1.     Scripture
John 13:27-30

As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

2.     Statement of Focus

Jesus reputation was to spend his money on either (a) the needs of his group or (b) by giving something to the poor.

3.     Digging In

This scripture reveals the disciples’ expectations of Jesus in regard to money.

The situation is this. Judas leaves with a clear task in mind. As the apostle in charge of the money, everyone assumed he was fulfilling an administrative task.

But I find it fascinating to hear exactly what Jesus’ reputation was.

It says that, “some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.” It was typical of Jesus to either (a) spend money on “what was needed” or (b) give money to the poor.

I typically break down purchases into 4 areas: Needs, Wants, Luxury and Giving

And although there are other examples of wealthy disciples, it is challenging to hear that this was his reputation.

In fact, we do see him celebrating and feasting with “the sinners” and also partying at a wedding.

But it appears that Jesus’ top two categories for money spending were (a) his/their needs and (b) giving money to the poor.

4.     Upward Call

The upward call for each of us to ask ourselves, “What is my reputation for spending money?”

I won’t go further than that. I won’t judge how you spend it, but I find it valuable to ask ourselves what our spouse or kids or friends expect when they think of how we spend our money.

May we grow more and more to develop the heart and thus the reputation of Christ.

5.     Prayer