Archive for June, 2014

The Association of Fund Raising Professionals (AFP) has released its own interpretation of charitable contribution trends from last year. Please click HERE for details.

Categories : Stewardship
Comments (0)

According to a report published by Religion News Service, charitable contributions to the arts, education, and environmental concerns increased in 2013. Although religious organizations still claim the majority of charitable gifts, organizations providing religious services saw a 1.6% decrease from the previous year. You can read the study by clicking HERE.

Categories : Stewardship
Comments (1)

Barna Research has released a new study on millennials’ satisfaction with their college experience, their career expectations and their challenges finding employment in a competitive job market. You can read these fascinating findings HERE.

Categories : Barna Group
Comments (0)
Jun
10

The Profession of Contented People

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Contentment

Over the past four weeks I have been teaching a series on contentment. Up to this point, the texts we’ve used have commended contentment as a desirable trait to possess. The text in Hebrews, however, takes a more direct line and commands that we be content. Here it is.

Don’t love money; be satisfied (content, NIV) with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT)

The writer of Hebrews is straightforward and plain spoken. We can be free from the love of money and be content with what we have in light of the surpassing greatness of the power and presence of God. When God becomes the all surpassing value of our lives, that value subordinates all other values and allows us to confess three things.

1. The Lord is My Helper. There is a somewhat obscure story in the book of Genesis that illustrates this perfectly. In the 14th chapter, Abram’s nephew Lot and the citizens of Sodom had been captured by a coalition of five invading kings and their armies. One of Lot’s servants escaped and reported the news to Abram, who gathered his 318 elite warriors and set off to retrieve the captives. Abram’s venture is successful, and the citizens of Sodom are rescued along with their possessions which had been taken as the spoils of war. Wishing to show his gratitude, the king of Sodom offered the salvaged plunder to Abram as a reward for his daring rescue operation. Abram’s response is quotable. “I solemnly swear to the Lord, God most high, creator of heaven and earth, that I will not take so much as a single thread or sandal thong from what belongs to you. Otherwise, you might say, ‘I am the one who made Abram rich’.” (Genesis 14:22-23, NLT) Contented people have a high view of God and recognize that he is the source of their lives.

2. I will have no fear. Proverbs 1:7 says, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.” When the fear of the Lord is absent from our lives, we become slaves to lesser fears. Contented people become free from fear, not through courage or bravery, but by elevating their estimation of God.

3. What can mere people do to me? I like the use of the word “mere.” It’s a superlative of British origin. Jesus taught his disciples not to fear people who can destroy our bodies, but to fear the one who can destroy both the body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

As you’ve already recognized, the common theme through these confessions is a high value of God. When we have elevated God to his rightful place and esteem him above all in greatness, the exaltation of Christ in our minds subordinates all other things including our fears and the things that are threatening. Finding contentment in your life will only come when we estimate God in that regard. On the surface, our discontentment appears to be a problem we have with material things. But peeling back the layers to the root of the matter reveals that its not a matter of valuing things too highly. Its a matter of not valuing God highly enough.

Categories : Contentment
Comments (0)
Jun
04

Dump and Chase

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Contentment

When we lived in St. Louis I followed the St. Louis Blues hockey team. I had never been exposed to hockey and was trying to learn the rules to the game and the offensive and defensive strategies the teams employed. The local sports talking heads described the Blues offensive attack as “dump and chase,” which I understood to mean the players shot the puck deep into the offensive zone and chased it. I’m sure it was a little more complicated than that.

I thought about the Blues and their dump and chase offense as I prepared last week’s sermon. In the context of contentment, Paul instructed Timothy that there were things he needed to flee from (dump) and things he needed to pursue (chase).

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:9-11, NLT).

Contentment is not singularly a material problem. Its a spiritual one. The desires that captivate us are to be resisted, but resistance alone will not help us develop contentment. We have to pursue the right stuff in order to obtain the goal.

Categories : Contentment
Comments (0)
Jun
03

The Benefit of of Being Content

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Contentment

The first century Stoics viewed contentment as the state of being freely independent; self sustained and self contained without any external influences. Paul Christianized that thought, asserting that contentment was those same things in the context of a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Christ we find the strength to do what we need to do (Philippians 4:13) and we have the resources to have what we need to have (Philippians 4:19). So what is the value of finding contentment?

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8, NLT).

Paul’s words to Timothy are straight forward. Godliness + contentment = great wealth, or in the NIV, “great gain.” I understand godliness as a person’s desire to please Christ, glorify Christ, and obey all of the words that he commanded. When that is added to contentment, a person is indeed wealthy. There are two reasons why this is genuinely profitable.

The first reason is that we will take nothing material with us from the world at the time of death. The reality of death clarifies much for us. Death reminds us that material gain is irrelevant, and greed is irrational. It has been said that life is a journey lived between two states of nakedness. Job articulated that truth first, when he said “naked I came from the womb, and naked I will return” (Job 1:21).

I came across an anecdotal story about a minister who officiated the funeral service of an elderly woman. After the funeral a person approached the minister and asked, “How much did she leave behind?” The minister wisely replied, “She left it all.” So will we.

The second reason Paul offered to Timothy is that we should and can be content with the basic necessities of life. The phrase “food and clothing” was intense to be inclusive of all of life’s necessities. His words echo the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34). If we have what we need, we are complete. That verse is special to me, because it is the verse from Scripture that encouraged me to pursue graduate work. I didn’t go to seminary until I was 33 years old. I was in a large full time position in St. Louis, and was financially stable. I had a wife and two small children. The financial security of that position made it hard for me to take that step of obedience, but God assured me that he would take care of me, and that I could be content with my basic needs because He would be with me and my family.

My friend Cliff always says, “Not everything that can be counted counts.” It’s true. Godliness mixed with contentment is great wealth.

Categories : Contentment
Comments (0)