Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give Thanks (with a Grateful Heart) – Part 2

I’m exploring the issue of being thankful in light of what the Bible tells us. I’m hoping that by doing so, Thanksgiving Day this year might be a little more meaningful for you and your family. This is the second of two posts on the topic of thankfulness.

IV. Your Life Is an Offering

Although most people are not working in full time ministry, they can still live out their faith in their everyday lives. We, if we are people of faith, should make our lives an offering to the Lord.

1. Show Thanks by Serving God

How do we do that? We make our lives an offering by serving God out of gratitude for all that God has done for us. We should also do it out of love for God. Because we want to know, love, and serve God, we join the church at some point in our life.

When we join Christ’s community of grateful believers in the United Methodist Church, we make certain commitments by answering in the affirmative to these questions:
As a member of Christ’s universal Church, will you be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?
As a member of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?

Let’s look briefly at each of these because they are the key components of the Christian life:

a. Prayers

“Your Prayers” means you’ll support the work of the church by praying for the church every day. It also means we’ll pray for each other – that’s why we have the prayer time in the service – so we know how to pray during the week. Praying for each other during the week keeps us spiritually connected to each other and to God.

b. Presence

“Your Presence” means you’ll regularly attend worship, joining the community of believers as we have been commanded to do. No only is God worthy of your regular attendance at worship, but you will be blessed as well.

c. Gifts

“Your Gifts” refers to supporting the work of the church financially by your regular offerings. Offerings are given as a sign of our appreciation for God’s provision by giving back to God some of what he has entrusted to us. Giving is a spiritual discipline just as much as prayer, worship, Bible study, and serving in various ministries.

d. Service

“Your Service” refers to participating in the ministries of the church. We need to have various ministries and people participating in them, so that the church becomes a vibrant community of faith.

e. Witness

“Your Witness” refers to telling others about Jesus and inviting them to church if they don’t currently have one. In a broader sense, your witness also means you live your life in such a manner as to bring glory to God in all that you do. People should see your life and think, “I want what she has.”

I encourage you to prayerfully look at each aspect of your commitment: your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Regarding your gifts, the best way to do that is to look at your giving as a percent of your income.

2. Look at Percent of Income

If your giving is one or two percent of your income, that’s not showing much gratitude to God. If you are giving five or so percent, that’s not bad but falls short of the biblical standard. Hopefully you are working your way up to 10%, which is what the Bible says is the preferred percentage. If you think 10% is a lot, think of what you pay in taxes: federal, state, and social security taxes amount to something over 30% of your income. Want to reduce those taxes? Your offerings are tax deductible if you itemize.

a. God’s Provision of Transportation

As you increase your percentage giving each year, you’ll notice that you are being more and more blessed by God. For example, as Sue and I increased our percent giving over the years, we saw God’s blessings in a number of ways.

One way was God’s provision of cars to us, which was important because I used to put on about 30,000 miles per year with my daily commute. God is so generous that once we even got a free car! When Sue’s Aunt Doris decided to give up driving, she gave Sue her car with only 8,000 miles on it. Not only was the car free, but Sue drove it for many years, and it is still on the road with its new owner.

One day in 1989 I noticed a blue Pontiac Grand Am parked on the front lawn of a house with a “For Sale” sign on it. After seeing that car still there after a week or two, and knowing that my car would need to be replaced soon, I stopped in. I believe God directed me to this guy, who became my source of four reasonably-priced cars over a 10 yr period. Buying these used cars in a private deal saved us a lot of money.

When I bought my last car from him, the red Grand Prix I had up until 2 years ago, he showed me what he had just bought as his next car. It was a bright red Corvette. He said, “Here’s your next car!” I said, “I don’t think so.” So the moral of the story is: increase your giving and watch how God will bless you – perhaps in unexpected ways.

V. Conclusion

I think the bottom line is that Christianity isn’t a religion, but a relationship. It isn’t an add-on to your life, but it is a way of life. Christianity is counter-cultural in that we no longer have the world’s priorities but we have God’s priorities. As transformed people we have the mind of Christ, was we read in Philippians 2:3-5:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. NRSV

If you are living that way, I hope this is an encouragement to you – that you are living as God wants you to live. Then you also know that because you are generous and are thankful to God, you are constantly refreshed with God’s joy. Hopefully you will continue to live a life pleasing to God, serving his church through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. May our lives be a sweet-smelling offering to the Lord.

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