Summary: This is the intro to our Stewardship Series "Giving to the Giver" and this begins by defining Jesus as the giver in our lives.
Things change, they don't always stay the same. And today you are part of change. For sixteen years April has been "Stewardship Emphasize" month at Cornerstone, or as many like to call it "Money Month."
And you may have noticed that this isn't April, it's March and yet here Denn is getting ready to talk about money. And maybe you are wondering "why?" Or maybe you're thinking "That's just not right." But take a deep breath and relax, it's just an experiment.
For years I've always regretted making April "Money Month" because Easter usually falls in April, which for some is good news because it means there is one less Sunday for Denn to talk about money. The down side is that when we have folks visiting on Easter it's really difficult to invite them back for the family discussion we are having about finances.
And so, last year after mulling over possible solution I had a brain wave, move Money Month to March. Sometimes I even surprise myself with my brilliance. As my cousin used to say about me when we were fishing, "Strong like ox, smart like fridge."
In case you are wondering what "Money Month" is, back in 2001 as a small church we were struggling with our finances and came to the conclusion that we were doing what a lot of churches do.
Each year the church board would carefully craft a budget without really knowing what our income would be. I mean we kind of knew what the previous year was, so we'd increase it by a few percentage points to show we had faith and away we'd go.
Imagine, trying to do a personal or family budget without knowing what your income would be.
Some of you are sitting there trying to figure out what a budget is.
And so, every year it seemed that we would get to a point where reality would set in and we would realize that we weren't able to meet our budget. And the solution was always the same, it would be suggested that we put the offering information in the bulletin, so people would know the dire straits we were in, and that Denn needed to preach on money.
And that never worked. So, in 2002 we decided to try something different. Each year I would spend a month teaching on the theology of stewardship, what we have, how we got it, what we do with it after we get it and how God and the church figure into that.
So now, people know that this is just part of our calendar. You know that I'm not preaching on money because we are in financial problems, I'm not trying to guilt you into giving more, well maybe there's a little of that, but mainly, I'm simply teaching biblical principles about our finances.
And then, at the end of the month we have what we call step-up Sunday and that's when we offer the Cornerstone family the opportunity to estimate what their giving will be in the upcoming year.
And if you are part of the Cornerstone family we hope that you take part, because that's what we base our budget on. On Step-up Sunday you get to determine what you would like your church to look like in the upcoming year. Because our budget for operation and staffing is based on what the Cornerstone family commits to give.
And we take it seriously. The first time we did this we discovered that we couldn't afford a full-time pastor. Which came as a shock to the full-time pastor, and I became a part time pastor.
This year our theme is "Giving to the Giver" or Giving back to Jesus.
The scripture that was read for us earlier contains probably one of the best-known passages in the bible.
John 3:16 "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
So let' start with the fact that Jesus Gives Us Himself
To understand this verse there are a couple of things we need to get our head around. And the first is we need to be able to understand: Who sent whom?
You see, the trinity is really hard to understand. This isn't a case of God the father saying, "Here am I, send Jesus."
Jesus is God. This wasn't an arbitrary decision, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit weren't huddled over in a corner, casting furtive glances at God the Son while plotting his demise.
Sometimes people will ask me if I can explain the Trinity, the answer I usually give them is "No." But that's fine, there are all kinds of things I can't explain.
I can explain how the solar system on the roof of our house makes hot water, but I can't explain how the solar system on the roof of the church makes electricity.