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The Greatest Gift (and Our Response)

At a Coffee with Curtis a while back, someone in attendance asked a question about stewardship (forgive me: I can’t remember the specific inquiry!). I replied with a story I heard long ago about a pastor and a church embarking on a capital campaign.

At the outset of the campaign, the pastor opened a congregational meeting with the triumphant declaration, “Friends, I have good news! We have all the money we need for this campaign!” As you would imagine, the congregation erupted in applause. As the intensity of their celebration faded, the pastor leaned in close to the microphone and somberly stated, “The problem is it’s still in your wallets.”

After engaging the good news of being “welcomed home” into God’s family of faith throughout the fall, this Sunday we turn our attention to stewardship in our Advent series The Greatest Gift. Central to the gospel message is the proclamation that “God so loved the world that he gave.” Perhaps we’ve heard those words so many times that we forget how radical it is! Christian faith is not first about what we give to God; it’s about what He’s given to us!

Those words prompt another question: What did God give? That what, of course, is a Who: "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” Recall that in first century Judaism, first-born sons had the same authority – and were given the same respect as their fathers.

Still, that prompts another question: Why did God give? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God gave so that we might live eternally! The Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” relays it well:

How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given;
so God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.

As we’ve reflected upon all we have to be thankful for this week and look ahead to celebrating the greatest gift of God’s Son this Christmas season, may we take time to think through our commitment to Good Shepherd through 2016. If you haven’t already, I invite you to think and pray about your pledge for the coming year – not as something you offer to earn God’s gift, but rather as a response to it. Remember those four P’s of giving:

Priority Giving: Is giving to God's Kingdom the top priority in your budget? As Jesus declared in Matthew 6.21, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Percentage Giving: What percentage of your revenue goes to God's Kingdom? Paul declares in 1st Corinthians 16.2, "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income..."

Progressive Giving: Are you progressively increasing your giving over the years? In 2nd Corinthians 9.6, Paul writes, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."

Prompted Giving: Are you ready to spontaneously respond to the prompting of God's Spirit as unique opportunities arise? Luke writes in Acts 20.35b, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive."

We will have an opportunity to present these pledges in our worship gatherings this Sunday, November 29th. There will be no hard sell like that pastor in his congregational meeting – only an invitation to respond to God and all He has done in welcoming us home into the Good Shepherd family of faith.

I look forward to joining you in worship on Sunday, pledging to the future God has for us, and learning about The Greatest Gift that He has given us in Jesus.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Curtis

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