Hi everyone! I trust you are all having a fantastic day!
This Sunday I will launch a three-part series called First Fruits: God’s Plan to Prosper You. We’ve done this annually for more than 15 years and it’s proven to consistently help people align themselves with God’s word and begin to experience God’s blessing on their finances. For those new to the congregation let me give a brief explanation.
Our First-Fruits offering is drawn from the Feast of First-Fruits (Harvest) found in Exodus 23,34 and Leviticus 23. Each family would harvest the grain that ripened first and offer it to the Lord. This offering was representative of the crops remaining in the field and acknowledged the family’s dependence and gratitude to God for His provision and protection throughout the coming year.
Our mission statement is Doing Life Together with God! If we want that to be more than just words on paper then, among other things, we must be honest about money and how it affects every aspect of our life including our relationship with God. According to Jesus, how we think about and use money is the truest indicator of our relationship with God (Matthew 6:21). Wow!
This Sunday, March 26, you’ll find First-Fruits cards in the seat back pockets near or in front of your seat in the sanctuary. Take one home and over the course of the next three weeks ask God to show you two things. First, what’s going on in your life that you need God’s help for this year? Consider bringing your checkbook, bank statements, bills and giving record with you to your daily devotions. Second, pray and ask God how much He wants you to give in this year’s First-Fruits Offering? If you are married this is an excellent thing to do together. On Sunday, April 9, we will bring those cards and present them to God in the offering. Then over the next 8-weeks we will watch as the Lord enables us to give this offering. Here are some simple guidelines that may help you in this process:
- This is to be above your regular giving each month. We do it every year so the Lord probably isn’t going to tell you to give a once in a lifetime amount. It should be reasonable and do-able.
- It will be doable because it will be in your possession now or during the next 8 weeks. However, some choose to do this or are better able to give at a later time in the year. No problem!
- While it will be reasonable, do-able and in your immediate possession, it should be sacrificial. Faith only grows when risk, vulnerability and sacrifice are involved. You may have to change your plans or do without something in order to obey what the Lord asks you to give.
- The Lord will ask you to give what you can give cheerfully. Don’t give if there is a hint of bitterness, cynicism or suspicion. You may need to spend some more time in prayer on other issues that are preventing you from growing in this grace. This isn’t about raising money, but about enlarging our faith and deepening our unity as a church family.
- Unity is more important than amounts. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of giving a seemingly small or insignificant amount. Psalm 133 indicates that the Lord commands a blessing where there is unity, not where there are impressive amounts of money given. Man, not God, is impressed with large amounts of money. God is moved by faith, unity and sacrifice. Whatever God asks you to give is sufficient.
As I say every year, let’s do this together. What encourages or discourages me the most is not the amount of money given, but the percentage of the church family that participates. More than anything else, we need the blessing of the Lord on our church and that is a direct response to our decision to unite ourselves and serve the Lord together (Psalm 133).
I hope this helps you catch a vision for what we can accomplish together this year. To date our First-Fruits Offering has generated over $2 million above the regular giving of the congregation. This has enabled us to complete several facility expansion projects and become debt free, meet community needs as they arise and fund national and international mission’s projects. This year we will continue helping our church in Cambodia to expand their ministry to accommodate the phenomenal growth they are experiencing, as well as training leaders and be positioned financially to respond to opportunities as they arise throughout the year. Let’s continue this great tradition with increasing levels of faith, unity and joy and see even greater things accomplished for the cause of Christ in our community and around the world!
I love being your pastor!