Declarations of the Heart


“Declarations of the Heart”
John 3:16

Where would you and I be if Christ did not have an extravagant, giving heart? Giving begins with Jesus. John 3:16 is often referred to as the heart of the Gospel. This beloved verse proclaims that God loved us so much that he gave himself for us. God’s essential nature is giving. You and I can never, ever out give God.
Every year our church conducts a stewardship campaign because every Christian needs to examine their giving to Jesus Christ through His church. Most of us have a budget. A budget is a tool that helps us plan the use of our income. If your budget does not include systematic giving to Christ’s church, I want to challenge you to prayerfully consider giving to Christ through Emmaus as part of your budget. If we wait until we see what is leftover in our bank accounts at the end of the week or month, we will never give. Money has a way of disappearing. But if we plan and budget our giving, we manage our resources in a better way.
The standard of giving is the tithe. Tithe literally means tenth. The Bible teaches us to tithe as a way of acknowledging God as the giver and provider of all we have. When we tithe, we set aside one tenth of our income first as a way of declaring with our heart that God is first in our lives.
The hymn of the month for January has been: As Saints of Old Their First Fruits Brought. Throughout the Old Testament, the People of God were reminded to bring the first fruits of their crops to the place of worship. Giving is an act of worship. We give back to God out of gratitude to God. We give back to God out of love for God.
If you honestly believe tithing is out of reach for you, start where you can and work your way towards tithing. Consider giving a percentage of your income each time you are paid. As your financial condition improves, increase your percentage.
When the Stock Market is as jumpy as it has been lately, it is easy for us to become anxious and fearful about money. When we read that stores are closing and people are losing their jobs, we naturally wonder, will I be next? The older we get, we naturally worry if we will have enough money to live on in our golden years.
We need to put things into perspective. I was very grateful that I was able to join our youth group last Thursday as they participated in Caritas at Sandston Baptist Church. I thank Rev. Tiffany for her leadership. As we went around serving homeless men dinner, one man shared with me he was so grateful for the snow. Because of the impending weather forecast, Sandston Baptist was allowing the men to stay at the church all weekend. He was grateful because it meant he did not have to be on the street during the day. This is a wonderful ministry and I hope we will become involved in a greater way next year. By the way, next year the church will be housing families. The words of this man haunted me all weekend as I sat in my warm home watching the snow fall. I had a refrigerator full of food. I lacked for nothing. I can’t imagine living on the street.
We may think we cannot afford to give, but when we consider what we have compared to others, we realize just how rich we are. Compared with the most of world, you and I are rich indeed!
You and I have been corrupted by a culture that tells us we must consume to feel good about ourselves. The more we have, the more we want. We are always on the look-out for the new and improved version. I have an iPhone 5. By the time I upgrade, Apple will probably be out with a iPhone 10! What are they up to now, an iPhone 7?
Let’s be honest. Can you name one person you admire and respect because they have kept everything they have for themselves? Our heroes are those who give generously and sacrificially. Jesus pointed to the widow in the temple who gave her last coin. She gave quietly without fanfare. She gave out of her poverty. (Mark12:42-44)
We give to acknowledge that all we have belongs to God. We are mere stewards of God’s resources. We give out of gratitude because of all that God has given us. We give because giving sets us free from our culture’s obsession with consumption.
Next Sunday, January 31 is our Celebration Sunday. This is the Sunday we set aside for you and I to declare the intention of our hearts. What will you commit to give Jesus Christ through His church in the coming year? Next Sunday we will invite you to complete an Estimate of Giving Card. If you are tithing, is God calling you to give over and above a tithe? If you are giving systemically, is God calling you to move to tithing? If you are not giving in a regular way, is God calling you to begin to give systematically? Only you can discern what God is calling you to do. Please make this a matter of prayer.
For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

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