Good morningHope City Church! It is so good to be with you guys. My name is Pastor Peter, I’m so glad you’re here today. Tiffany and I were away last weekend spending time with our new friends over at SOCO Churchin North West Arkansas. It was great to be with them, learning from them, and their staff team and particularly their lead pastors Brad and Jessica Hampton. Tiffany and I learned a lot and want to be the best leaders that we can be for our church, and our community. But there is nothing better than being home with all of you guys!
Last week, Pastor Justin preacheda message that was so encouraging and inspiring! Right? It made me want to start serving all over again! If you missed last weekend, you NEED to go back and watch on our website, or listen to the podcast. It was so so good. What a timely message for our church. Thank you Pastor Justin for sharing that word from God with us.
We’re in our series called The Red Letter Challenge… We have been exploring the words of Jesus and particularly 5 of the big ideas that He talks about and shares with us His church. Being / Forgiving / Serving / Giving / Going. Whenever someone spends a lot of time talking about one particular item, it usually means that it’s something that is important to them. And it only makes sense that what is important to Jesus should be important to us!
One of the most amazing things that Jesus says to us is this little one liner right here… Look at this:
10The thief comesonly to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. [i]
What a gift that is! Everybody wants to live a meaningful life. A full life. I keep thinking of that commercial from the late 80’s… It’s one of the most famous P.S.A. campaigns of all time, remember this one? This is your brain… This is your brain on _____________(DRUGS). Of course… everyone remembers that. What was the last thing that they said? ___________________. (ANY QUESTIONS). The mindset behind this campaign was that if you could show people the negative impact a decision was having on them, they would steer clear of that negative decision.
Jesus is offering us the very same gift. He is saying, this is life without me… and this is life with me… Any questions? Well, yeah, we’ve got a lot of questions, actually… We’ve been tackling 5 of these big ideas throughout this series, When we pay attention to the words of Jesus, we find that we experience the type of life that Jesus meant for us to experience.
Can we all agree that there is nothing more draining than buying a product and realizing that it doesn’t live up to the hype? Or that it doesn’t provide what it promised? Consumers call this buyers remorse. Very often when our life is based upon consumption, or what’s in it for me, we feel drained of meaning and value. Consumption drainsus of meaning. Because our meaning is found in what the items we consume bring. And in the day and age of planned obsolescence, is it possible that companies know that consumers will not be happy if there is a newer model out there? And because of this, we have this urge to consume more and more of their product.
None of us run around saying, man I remember when I upgraded my iPhone that was the most spirit filled moment of my life! Or, when I purchased that purse, I felt closer to the Lord. Consumption drains us of meaning. But Generosity fillsus with purpose.
When I purchased an engagement ring for Tiffany, there was nothing I wanted more than to give it to her. It was burning a hole in my pocket. I knew that when I gave it to her it was going to change the rest of my life. It would determine what my future would look like. I couldn’t wait to give it to her. I made a plan, I got an extra job. I saved in order to give her this gift.
I have had the privilege of representing you and saying to people in our community that, we wanted to take care of a bill, help with a project, or care for a need through your generosity. Those moments are filled with purpose. They are the ones we talk about. Recently we had a singlemom who was in need of household items. Pantry type items, food, soap, shampoo, toilet paper… basic needs. And because of your generosity, we were able to step in and put that generosity to work.
We’ve all spent money in ways that we wish we could take back and get a refund on. Take a stroll through the local goodwill. The local salvation army. You’ll see hundreds of items that were consumed and no longer fill the owners life with purpose.
What if there was more to living than spending? What if giving was part of the key to healthy living? We’re going to see today that OUR GIVING CAN HAVE AN IMPACT ON OTHER’S LIVING.
Jesus knows this… This is why he talks about giving so much. It’s not because of what He wants FROM YOU… it’s what He wants FOR YOU. InMark chapter 12, page 693we find Jesus teaching a group of people in the temple courts and an incredible little scene takes place right in front of Jesus. There is so much for us to learn today about generosity from this interaction. Take a look.
41Jesus sat downopposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich peoplethrew in large amounts. Mk 12:41
(GRAB BAG OF COINS)Remember when the banks used to have a coin machine that would count your coins and give you cash? Well, I used to hunt around and get all of the coins out of the couch, under my car seat, and from wherever else I could find them in order to get Tiffany a Christmas present. I’d roll up into the Bank lobby and take a GALLON SIZED ZIPLOCK bag and pour it into the machine…. The machine would start whirring around, sorting and counting the coins that I found and saved. It would be making all kinds of noise. And mean while in my head it was raining dollar bills.
The same thing was happening here. These rich people would come strolling up to the temple treasury, or the offering bucket and they would give their bag a little shake… (SHAKE THE COINS). Just to make sure that everyone knew that they were there. Than they would have taken their coins and just like me they would have poured them (POUR COINS INTO OFFERING BUCKET)into the offering bucket there in the temple treasury. Jesus and His disciples are witnessing this all playout right in front of them.
And then another player comes on the scene…
42But a poor widowcame and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.[ii] Mk 12:42
She rolled up with a Ziplock… but it wasn’t a gallon size, it was SNACK SIZED, you know the kind that have the little portion control markers on the side. Just to remind you how small it is. We’ve got rich people with gallons of coins, and a poor widow with two small coins, known as a mite. I love these artists renditions of this story. Look at this.
Africa:Imagine the woman, it says that she is a widow, so she was powerless… she would have had to be out working hard. I love how the artist depicts this with the basket still on her head and a baby in her arms. Because to this woman, stopping work was not an option. Work was a matter of life or death.
Surrounded: Look at this next picture. Here is a woman who is reminded of all that she doesn’t have, and all that others do have… She has two little mites. A mite was 1/64thof a Denarius. A Denarius was worth a day’s wage. So all combined she had a couple pennies. They were nothing… In today’s wage… this would be worth about $1.50. And here are all of these other people pouring out their gifts. Could hers even matter?
Jesus looking on:Don’t forget that Jesus was sitting on the other side of the room from where the offerings were put. And something about this interaction caught Jesus attention. It caused Him to call His disciples over. Look what He had to say:
“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” [iii] Mk 12:43–44
That’s what we call God’s Math, some kingdom math. Do you hear what Jesus said? SHE PUT MORE IN! If it were up to you and me, we probably would have valued the rich guys gifts more… because there was MORE TO VALUE! She only dropped in two little coins, $1.50.
If you’re taking notes, I want you to write this down…. Pt. 1 SACRIFICIAL GIVINGGETS GOD’S ATTENTION. What was it about this woman that was so special? What about her grabbed God’s attention? She gave what she had. See, kingdom math says that when you give from all you have that is greater than giving from just one of your accounts, or one of your checks.
It’s easy for us to give from our leftovers from our reserves… but what about if we give from the money that we need to live off of? There is something about sacrificial giving that honors God.
Do you know what is sacrificial to me? SHARING MY DINNER PLATE. After years of dating and now 15 years of being married, Tiffany has learned that I’m not very good at sharing food. Not sure why… but when we sit down to eat somewhere… whatever food I got, I intend to eat that food. That’s why I ordered it. If you wanted what I got, you should have ordered it, right? But she’ll say things like… can I just get a bite? NO YOU CAN’T GET A BITE. That would mean that there was less there for me now. Let me tell you, I’m a work in progress. I’m trying to get better. But now, when I say, “hey, do you want a bite? Or, this is so good, you should try this… it gets her attention.” Because I’m giving her a portion of my food, and that feels sacrificial…
When we give in a way that says, there may not be as much left for me to consume, that gets the attention of God. What would it look like for you to give sacrificially? Or maybe another way of me saying this is, what area of your life could God be inviting you to sacrifice?
Look at it one more time…
44They all gave outof their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” [iv]
Everything she had to live on she gave. There is something for us to learn here. In a consumer culture, we need to learn that IT IS OKAY FOR OUR STYLE OF GIVING TO IMPACT OUR STYLE OF LIVING.
Consumer Culture wants you to chase the next trip, the newest car, or the latest comfort. But Jesus is impressed with people who Pt. 2 TRUST GODMORE THAN MONEY. There is a way that makes sense to the world around us… And then there is a way that makes sense to those who follow Jesus. There are countless stories of men and women who like this widow gave everything they had to follow Jesus, to serve Him, and it may not have made sense financially. It may not have made sense from a career trajectory, but they chose to Trust God more than money. They chose to put their trust in something that was there before them and would be there after them.
We started Hope City in January 2017, and it was exciting. We had no idea what God was going to do, we only knew that God had called us to start Hope City Church, and to be #FORsarasota. We set out with everything we had to make that happen. Tiffany and I and a launch team said, we can do this, and not only can we do this, we need to do this!
January was exciting… February was exciting, and March came along… It got less exciting and more scary. We had the lease with the school, we had the operational expenses of running the church, and we had a mission that we believed God had put in front of us. And yet, I was watching as our bank account was getting smaller and smaller. It was getting tighter and it got to the place where I didn’t know how I was going to put food on the table.
One Sunday during these difficult days, Matt started strumming his guitar, and he was leading the church in the song Cornerstone by Hillsong Worship… Look at the opening lyrics:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust is Jesus’ name
And I knew that I had to have a moment with the Lord. What was it going to be for me. This was His church, but it felt like my problems. All I could do was kneel before God, and say, Jesus, I trust you. I knelt right here on the side stage and declared that I was going to TRUST GODMORE THAN MONEY. It wasn’t easy… it didn’t feel good. It was a decision. It was a choice.
There will be times in life when trusting God will test your limits. It will push your boundaries. It will stretch you and change you and grow you… But isn’t that the goal? What did Jesus say, I’ve come that they may have life, and life to the full. By the way that doesn’t mean life to the most comfortable, or life to the easiest. It means a full life. And I can’t think of anything that is more exciting than following Jesus and trusting Jesus’ lead.
This widow woman not only trusted God more than money, she also shows us one more thing. If we’re going to increase our generosity, if we’re going to follow Jesus to this full kind of life, we need to Pt. 3 PLANTO BE GENEROUS.
What did she do? She came with everything she had. She determined, she decided, here’s what I’m going to do. She said I’m going to bring all the coins that I’ve got and give them. This wasn’t an afterthought for her. She came prepared with a plan to give.
It’s easy to fall into the rut of saying, I want to be generous… I want to be someone that gives of what I have, but then not actually do it. Remember my 37 year old issue of sharing food? I’ve made a plan in my head now of how I’m going to grow in this area. Early on when my meal comes, when there is still plenty on my plate, I offer Tiffany a bite. I’ve got a plan… I have to work the plan. And then do you know what happens? Slowly but surely I become less stingy and a bit more generous.
If every other area of your life requires careful planning, why do you think that we don’t need a plan for generosity? We would never buy a house without a plan. We wouldn’t change our health without first coming up with a plan… Why would we say we’re going to grow in generosity without planning it out?
This past week I saw an article that here in Sarasota a local barcame up with a plan to be generous… Our very own Siesta Key Oyster Bar decided that they were going to make a difference and contribute. We all witnessed Hurricane Dorian, we’ve seen the pictures of what happened there… Well this little bar had a tradition where people would staple dollar bills to the walls. They looked at their kitschy décor and said, we can take what we’ve got and make a difference with it. They set out to take down every last dollar and donate it to the Hurricane Restoration work in the Bahama’s.
They came up with a plan and worked the plan. They were able to donate over $14,000! Can you believe that?
At Hope City we want to help you PLANTO BE GENEROUS. In a way to help people plan to be generous and work the plan, we have several ways that you can give. You can give online, you can give in an envelope, you can text to give… You can even give stocks to Hope City. We’ve had people say, my stock portfolio has grown tremendously, and I want to donate some of my stocks to what God is doing here at Hope City. As part of your plan you can also set up your giving to be recurring so that it happens on a set day and time.
This is what my wife Tiffany and I do. Our plan is that every year we are more generous than the year before, and so we have set it up for our tithe to be recurring. We want the first transaction that hits our bank accounts after being paid to be us giving back to the Lord’s work here at Hope City.
Here’s what we know to be true from this poor widow. GENEROSITY INSPIRESYOU, HONORSGOD, AND CHANGESTHE WORLD. Jesus knew that this life to the full, this kind of life that we all want is found when we give ourselves away. When we give of our time and talents through serving… and when we give of our treasure we find life! When we use what treasure we have to bless and care for others it inspires us, something inside of us changes.
Generosity shifts the focus from what’s in it FOR ME to what can I be FOR?
Here at Hope City we have said from day 1 that we are #FORsarasota. This means that we will do everything that we can to serve our city. For too long the city has known what churches are against rather than what they are FOR. Here at Hope City we are FOR people because we believe that GOD is FOR people. As a part of your generosity plan, I hope that you’ll consider giving to Hope City. I hope that you’ll consider setting up a recurring tithe and offering to our church. We will grow at the rate of your generosity. But we don’t want something from you… we want something for you.
So, here’s what we’re going to do about it. Our friends over at the TWIG, a non-profit organization here in Sarasota County that serves Foster Kids and their families have reached out again and asked… Hey, so would HOPE CITY be willing to do another Bags of Hope campaign? WE SAID YES… because that’s what Hope City does… we bring it. We show up… we are generous. We go above and beyond to be #FORsarasota.
We’ve got an opportunity for you again… on your way out you’re going to receive one of these Bags of Hope. And here’s what I’m asking you to do. This week would you go out and purchase new socks, bras, and underwear for foster kids? Very often Foster Kids get moved from place to place with only the clothes on their back. And the TWIG has made it their mission to be #FORtheFosterKid. And we want to support them. This is a practical plan to grow your generosity!
Let’s do this together. Watch as your Generosity Inspires you, Honors God, and Changes the world. Okay Hope City? Are you with me? Let me pray for you!