Essentials: Generosity

Luke 20.45-21.4

God’s economy is different than ours. The widow’s offering is a reminder that God is not looking at the size of the gift, but the motivation behind giving it. God’s not after our money, but us. And yet we cannot give ourselves to Him without giving everything to Him, including our stuff.

Throughout church history, generosity has been one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. The care of the poor, the first hospitals and schools, leper colonies, providing for widows and orphans, for the downtrodden and left behind…all witnesses to the power and provision of God. Just as our Father is generous, He wants us to be generous too. Because of our so great salvation, our thankful and happy hearts should loosen our grip on our stuff and free us up to give…and to give generously. In fact, we as believers should be the most generous folks on the planet!

But so often we’re not. Maybe it’s because we have too low a view of God. Maybe we’re afraid to trust Him because deep down inside we believe Him to be stingy…that somehow He might hold out on us. And if we give away what we have, there won’t be enough for us. Yeah…but that’s not the picture that the Bible paints of who God is…think about the number of stars in the heavens, the number of galaxies, the greatness and vastness of space. In the Genesis account, when God creates the sun, moon and stars, what is their purpose? To give light to the earth, and for signs and for seasons. Seems to be a bit extravagant, doesn’t it?

What about God’s grace and His mercy and His love? His boundless, immeasurable love? The cross where the sins of all mankind were placed on His beloved Son. Every sin atoned for. Every one. So that all might be saved…if they will believe in Jesus.

So if God is so incredibly generous in these things…both in creation and in redemption, then why would He be stingy in providing for our needs? Our generosity problem has nothing to do with our wealth or lack thereof. The widow was certainly not rich by anyone’s standards. It has everything to do with our faith and obedience. So the question is, do you trust God enough to give generously?

If so, where might you start? Well, if you’ve never given before or have only given sporadically, then start by being intentional. Sit down with your family and pick an amount and give that amount regularly. Maybe sign up for online giving. Revisit your giving throughout the year to see how you’re doing. If you’ve been a consistent giver, make it a goal to increase that amount…shoot for generous. Watch how God provides. Strive to become a generous giver, not a bigger barn builder. Remember God gives generously to us so that we can then give generously to others. When we invest in the kingdom, it pays eternal dividends.

Here at Central we are striving to be generous with our finances, too. We give away 20% of our budget…both locally and globally through missions and, soon, through church planting. Definitely something to celebrate. I know some folks in Japan who are thanking God for your generosity!

Make 2020 the year that generous giving becomes a priority for you…just like the poor widow.

pro rege

This post is based on our January Series, Essentials. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Joshua and the Walls of Jericho

Joshua 6

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho…well not quite. The LORD fought the battle of Jericho. And the walls came tumbling down.

This is a story of God’s promise and its fulfillment, of faith and obedience. From start to finish, the battle is the LORD’s. He had given Jericho into Joshua’s hand well before the battle commenced. It reminds me of Paul’s journey to Rome. No matter what the obstacle…be it the plots of the unbelieving Jews or the ferocity of the storm or the fear of the sailors or the fangs of the viper…God said that Paul would appear before Caesar in Rome and Paul did. What God says, God does. He can be trusted.

But Joshua had a part to play. His was to respond in faith to what God had said. Jesus said, “Those who hear My words and act on them may be compared to…” Hearing alone won’t do. There must be a response in faith.  For us as believers, it’s important to remember that faith is demonstrated by action. To hear and not to do is not to hear. To believe and not to act is really not to believe. What is it that you need to obey God in? What response do you need to make?

What if Joshua had decided not to listen to God and instead went with conventional wisdom? He’s a military guy. What if he devised his own plans? Joshua already knew the answer to that…he knew the consequences of not doing things God’s way, of not trusting Him but instead choosing to go his own way. When the Israelites failed to trust God and enter the land after coming out of Egypt, God said you’ve got forty years to think about it. None of those who were supposed to enter would be able to. Then they decided to make a run at it and were soundly defeated. The battle is the LORD’s. Forty years of wilderness wandering. Moses unable to enter the promised land. Had Joshua decided to forego God’s instructions and rush the city using whatever military acumen he may have possessed, the results would have been disastrous. The same is true for us when we choose to ignore God’s instructions and do things our own way. And we wonder why things aren’t working out…we’ve forgotten that the battle is the LORD’s.

But what if God’s instructions don’t make sense? Last first, love your enemies, etc. Probably didn’t make sense to Joshua either, but the battle is the LORD’s. Ours is to trust and obey. Proverbs 3.5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your path.”

Presumably all of the folks in Jericho believed the Israelites were a threat. That’s why they shut themselves in their fortress. They believed that God was on Israel’s side. They had a choice to make in the moment…they could have responded in faith like Rahab. They could have acknowledged and turned to God and welcomed the Israelites in. And like Rahab, they could have become a part of the community of believers. Instead they chose to turn away from Him. And they experienced God’s wrath. Sin is serious, and God takes sin seriously. So should we. Jesus is either your King, or He will be your Judge.

Let me leave you with this. There is room for all in the kingdom. Rahab may have seemed like one of the least likely folks to make it in. She hasn’t made the greatest of life choices. And yet, when she has an encounter with the LORD, everything changes. Her life takes a different trajectory. Her past isn’t erased…it is a part of the story of God’s grace in her life. And she has the high honor of being listed in the genealogy of the King (Matthew 1.5)!

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from Joshua 6. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster