Pastor Bob’s Report
A Few Thoughts about Money and Giving
"Render unto Caesar," said Jesus, "the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."
This was Jesus’ response to the Pharisee’s question about what to do with the coin imprinted with the Caesar’s head. Now, in doing the calculations involved in that statement you can be sure that the IRS will calculate how much we owe to Caesar. The question that remains is: “How much do you and I have that belongs to God?”
If one studies the Bible carefully, Jesus talks about money not just here in this passage but in many other places, so I thought I should share a few thoughts with you about this topic as we approach the end of this financial year and plan for the next. Some pastors try to find creative ways of dealing with the subject of money. In one church, the minister announced that if his congregation reached a certain fund-raising goal, he would permit them to place a clock on the pulpit. If they exceeded the goal by $1000, he would let them plug the clock in. If they exceeded the goal by $2000, he agreed to look at it!
That's one way of dealing with money, but I would like to find a middle ground. What are the things we owe to God? First of all notice that our gifts to God are a kind of "paying it forward.” We don't give our gifts to God in order to get something back. We don't give to God because we hope to receive special favors in return. We give out of gratitude for what God has already done in our behalf.
Now there is a trend among some churches that fosters the idea that if we give a lot to the church, then God will make us prosperous in our homes. Or if we sow lots of money, we will get lots of money back. If I were to say to you that God will prosper you because you give your offerings to this church or to any other church or charity, I would be guilty of the worst kind of false teaching. Our gifts are given out of gratitude of recognition that in the end everything we have comes from God and belongs to God.
Second, we need to recognize that God doesn't need our money, but we need to give. There is an old story that goes like this: There once was a wealthy man who was determined to take it with him when he died. He prayed and prayed until he convinced the Lord to let him bring his wealth inside the pearly gates. There was one condition: He could only bring one suitcase with him. Therefore, the rich man filled his suitcase with gold bars. Then one day, he died. St. Peter greeted him at the gate and told him he could come in, but his suitcase would have to be left. "But I have an agreement with God," said the man, "to bring one suitcase in heaven.
"That's very unusual," replied St. Peter. "Let me look inside that suitcase." The man opened the suitcase to reveal the shining gold bars. St. Peter was amazed. He asked, "Why in the world would you bring more pavement to heaven?" There is nothing we have that God needs! God doesn't need our money. When we give our gifts to God it is not be-cause God needs anything. It is we who need to give!
Now you are probably asking: “WHY DO WE NEED TO GIVE?” We need to give in order to keep all that we have in perspective. We need to give so that our passions don’t become the total focus of our lives. We need to show that it is God who rules our lives, not our possessions.
AND THERE'S ONE THING MORE that needs to be said: Our giving to God is supposed to come off the top, not from what we have left over. There is a story that has been repeated in many places over the years and it is a true story I am told. It seems that there was a church who needed a new treasurer, so they asked the local grain elevator manager to take the position. He agreed under two conditions: one, that no treasurer's report would be given for the first year, and two, that no questions be asked about finances during that year. The people were surprised, but finally agreed since most of them did business with him and he was a trusted man. At the end of the year he gave his re-port: the church mortgage of some $68,000 has been paid; the congregations pledge to the Mission Work of the de-nomination has been paid twice over; there were no outstanding bills; and there was a cash balance of $11,252!
Immediately the shocked congregation asked, "How did you do it? Where did the money come from?" He quietly answered: "Most of you bring your grain to my elevator. Throughout the year I simply withheld ten percent on your behalf and gave it to the church in your name. You didn't even miss it!" People who give to God from the first fruits will know the joy and the satisfaction that comes with truly trusting God.
Finally, let me say this so that you do not go away thinking that this is just another pastor asking for more money for the church. That is not my purpose here. What I do care about is whether or not you give yourself to God and regard God as the source of all that is in your life and your living. And I care that you live your life accordingly as a people of gratitude and a people of faith.
Pastor Bob Schoenknecht
Pastor Tom's Report
Pondering the Season - Here We Go Again………..
For most people in our little corner of the world November marks the beginning of the Holiday season. First comes Thanksgiving a great day of remembrance for all gifts which God has bestowed upon us. Thanksgiving is the kick off but it is followed by Black Friday, that cultural phenomenon when, according to urban legend, the profit and loss statements of many business change color, from Black to red or green or whatever color they use to denote a profit. Most of that spending is done in connection with finding the perfect gift for those we love, or should love or just put up with because we are somehow connected to them by birth or marriage or whatever. As the season continues we get involved in all kinds of holiday festivities, we decorate, we shop, we attend parties and we shop a little more, we sometimes attend special dinners and make special dates to go shopping with others. We work so we can pay for it all and finally when Christmas arrives we again return to theme of thanksgiving, unfortunately, sometimes we’re just thankful that we’ve made it through another holiday season.
But seriously, these next two months can be (and I hope they will be for you) a time to count blessings, and a time to give thanks to God for the friends, families and communities of which we are a part. For me it will be a season of thanking God or doctors and nurses and hospitals and dear friends (like all of you) who have kept me in prayer during my recovery from surgery. Just remember to thank God for whatever is on your mind right now. That it seems to me will help keep the season in perspective.
So what advise can your Pastor give you as you brace yourselves for this crazy wonderful season that is about to ramp up for another year? What advise that will help you remember to pray? Well here it is: I encourage you to make a little table tent or to hang a piece of paper on your bathroom mirror, with the words, REMEMBER THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. If that is too stale or cliché for you think of something new. But whatever you write, make it something that will reminder you that the perfect gift has already been given. The gift of a special Child, the Christ child, who was born in a manger to remind us that God’s love is for all. And may that love that was given for all be in all of us this season.
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