Sunday, July 31, 2005
Abounding & Hilarious Generosity
"Hilarious Giving" was the topic of Rev. Duncan Graham's sermon today at the quintessential country church! It was a takeoff on the Pastor's alternate translation of the phase "cheerful giver" from 2 Corinthians, Chapter 9. Photo of Pastor Graham by Angela Wylie.
MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 9:00 A.M.:
Pastor: Rev. Duncan Graham
Greeter: Roger Schneider & Matthew Stanley..
Sound: John Futral.
Ushers: George Jordan & Roger Schneider..
Song leader: Angela Wylie..
Piano: Pat Hollingsworth.
Fill My Cup Lord; Wonderful Words Of Life; Sanctuary; The Solid Rock.
Call to Worship & Opening Prayer
Morning Prayer & Lord’s Prayer:
Tinney Chapel Pastor, Rev. Duncan Graham, began by talking about pirates as a lead-in to the topic of treasure. After all, doesn’t everyone recall childhood experiences of hiding imaginary treasure, for which a homemade treasure map tells how to find it where a big X marking the spot? Just like the pirates of old used to do! There was a time, the Pastor said, warming to his subject, when people would locate a treasure, and sell their belongings to finance a search for it.
He mentioned Jesus talking about treasure in Scripture: A man finds a treasure buried in a field, then sells all that he has to buy that field to get the treasure. The Pastor also mentioned Jesus’ reference to a pearl of great price, for which a man sells everything he has in order to buy that one pearl. The lesson for us, said the Pastor, is how important treasure may be to people.
“We are told in Scripture that the greatest treasure of all is the Treasure of Jesus Christ,” concluded Pastor Graham. “That was the point of His miracles, really, when He talked about the pearl of great price or the treasure buried in a field,” explained the Pastor. “It’s like coming to the Kingdom of God where one finds the One True Treasure that is Jesus Christ.
“If one takes the cross and turns it sideways, we can see an X marking the spot of our Pearl of Great Price that was sacrificed for us,” added the Pastor. “And that’s the greatest Treasure of all, because Eternal Life in Jesus Christ is the greatest gift we can have. It’s greater than our health, which is more important than wealth. So, I give you this cross this morning to look at and every once in awhile think about that X that marks the spot for all that Jesus is and has done for you to save your soul.
“Let’s pray: Gracious Heavenly Father, help us all to remember, Lord, the Eternal Truth that You died on the cross that we might have the greatest Treasure of all: You and Your Kingdom. For that, we give You our heartfelt thanks. In Your precious Name. Amen.”
Tinney Chapel Pastor, Rev. Duncan Graham, chose as his sermon title, “Abounding & Hilarious Generosity,” which was based primarily on 2 Corinthians 9:1-15. To read the New Living Translation of this Scripture, click HERE
The Pastor began by reminding the congregation of his recent sermon series, “Long Live The Rural Church,” and again emphasize that Tinney Chapel is located in a UMC District in which every church is technically a rural church. “Every town in this area is, in the strictest sense, a rural type setting,” said Pastor Graham. “So, our concern is the strengthening of the rural church.
“And I remind you again that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, which last met in 2004, expressed a great concern that the rural church seems to be losing its membership and its strength over the years because the rural church has historically been the backbone of the Methodist Church as a whole for many years.
“I began preaching to you on the subject of spiritual life in the rural church, which I certainly would identify as the number-one concern of the rural church, or any church,” added the Pastor. “If a church is not alive spiritually, then you had just as well write Ichabod over the door because certainly the Glory has departed. Secondly, the church has to be alive, numerically: In a growth mode! Always! Wherever it’s found! Because if the church is not growing, it is dying! There is no middle ground, no state of existence in which a church just maintains the status quo. Grow or die is just one of the principles of Creation.
“Thirdly, of course, finances are a very integral part of what keeps a church going, what keeps it alive,” emphasized Pastor Graham. “We were having some discussion recently in our Finance Committee: There has been a concern lately in our church over the decline of finances. Perhaps more factually: the lack of growth in finances within our church. This has been the bane of the rural church at large throughout Methodism where the rural church is faltering financially.
“That, perhaps comes from a variety of things,” suggested Rev. Graham. “When you look back, four or five years ago, this church was raising about $40,000 a year income, but over the past several years, we’ve been raising close to $100,000. So, in one sense of the word, we are ahead of where we were, but if we are not going forward, we are going backward, and that’s a lot of the concern. But, during that discussion, someone registered the thought that until they got involved in the finances of the church, they had never given a thought to how the bills were paid. Perhaps everyone should have the opportunity to serve on the Finance Committee, so they may know and understand that what we give helps keep the church here and the church doors open.
“But it’s more than that, much more, and that’s what I want to get to today as we look to see what we can glean from the Word of God, which is the standard by which we need to govern our lives and ourselves,” declared the Pastor. “Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth somewhere around 55 A.D. to 57 A.D. Jesus was crucified, died and resurrected somewhere around 30 A.D. to 33 A.D. That would put Paul’s writing of this Letter somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 years after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to Heaven.
“So, it’s a fairly recent experience after all the things that Jesus did and displayed before His followers,” added Pastor Graham. “All that which happened to Jesus happened in and around Jerusalem. But, Paul is over here talking to Christians that he has preached to and converted in Asia. So, we might ask, why should people in Macedonia or Corinth be at all concerned about those people back in Jerusalem: different nation, different race, in a sense? Why take an offering to send back there? Should they not be more concerned with their own needs?”
To answer that question, Pastor Graham referred to Scripture in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 8.
Pastor Graham dwelled a bit on a verse in Chapter 8 which explained that, though the Macedonians had been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty still overflowed in rich generosity. “That doesn’t make much sense, does it,” questioned the Pastor, rhetorically. “Think about that. Didn’t those people realize they were poor? What in the world did they think they were doing? They gave not only what they could afford, but even more.
“And, they did it of their own free will!,” he emphasized. “What got into those people? Could it be that they loved the Lord more than did others? Could it be that they experienced Jesus Christ in their lives in such a way that they just had to give, even beyond what they could afford? They begged to give! Now, I’ve been in pastoral ministry since 1962, except for a hiatus for a little while, and I’ve never had anyone come to me and beg to give! In fact, I’ve never heard of a preacher that I’ve known who had someone come and beg to give.
“I don’t know how it would feel to have someone come up to me and say: Hey, brother Duncan, please let me give,” declared the Pastor. “After you picked me up off the floor, I would say: Sure, give to whatever the need may be! That Church in Macedonia must have been something else again. Now, Paul would go on, in that same Chapter, to say to the Church at Corinth: You are really a blessed Church!
“He told them they had leadership, talent and blessings there, all the resources, everything you could possibly need to be a great church and a leader in the Church for all the world. But, Macedonia has been the leader, and has done so without the resources that you have at Corinth.
“It’s a glorious thing when a church so loves the Lord that it’s willing to go beyond itself to serve the Lord and to give help to others in need,” declared Pastor Graham. “And, that’s exactly what Macedonia had done, and that’s what Paul is stirring up for Corinth to do now: To give to such a need. And, Paul says some interesting things: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.
“That’s one of those dynamic principles of the Universe,” he added. “It applies to corn and such, but it also applies to the blessings of life. It applies to your talents, to the way people love you. If people aren’t going to love you much, all you have to be is unloving yourself. You will reap a harvest for whatever you plant or sow. Everybody in a rural area ought to understand that better than some city dweller perhaps, who has never had the experience of planting and reaping, sowing and reaping.
“That’s just the way things happen, and very often it seems that those who are least able are the ones who do the most,” added the Pastor, who then told a true story about a 7th grade teacher named David Collins and one of his students, a poor boy who wore hand-me-down clothes, was quite reticent, introverted and something of a loner, named Willard P. Franklin. The story concluded with a school drive for financial contributions to help local needy families to which all students were asked to contribute. On the designated day for the contribution in Mr. Collins’ class, all the students had forgotten about it, except Willard. Even though he was likely the last able to afford it, Willard’s nickel contribution was the only one collected that day.
“When he deposited his nickel, a faint smile crossed his face, prompting Mr. Collins to infer that Willard might now be ready to join the world, an event filled with potential blessings for others in the school who had yet to know Willard at all. When Mr. Collins saw the list of the area’s needy families, he was a tad surprised to find the first family on the list was that of Willard P. Franklin.
“Sometimes those with abundance don’t give,” said Rev. Graham. “While those who have the greatest need give the most. I look at the Church in Macedonia, and I am awed with a great respect for the expression of their relationship with Jesus Christ. I look at Willard P. Franklin and think that something must be going on in that home that is teaching him something about sharing and giving more than what we normally may run into. I wonder what we might all learn if we could sit around the living room or dining table with a family like that. And learn from them what they are conveying to one another. To their children. How it’s spilling over into the world they live in.
“The Scripture that I read to you this morning says that God loves a cheerful giver,” added Pastor Graham. “In other words, He loves givers that give not because they are pressured or because they know it’s expected of them. Not because they are trying to give more than others give. But He loves the giver who gives out of a gracious heart. Out of a generous heart.
“It’s not how much you give; it’s what you do with what you have,” he declared. “And the attitude with which you give. If you read Greek, the word that is translated as “cheerful” is also the word that we get “hilarious” from. So, another translation is that God loves a hilarious giver! A hilarious giver! Can you imagine: What if everyone started giggling every time the offering plate was passed? And started laughing out loud when they put something in the plate? How contagious that might become? If people dismissed the pained look on their face when they put something in the plate, and replaced it with a big grin?
“Can you imagine what might be going on in a church when people start feeling happy in their hearts when they have the opportunity to give?” suggest the Pastor. “But, make no mistake: When you give here, you do not give to Tinney Chapel Church. That’s the biggest mistake we ever make. When you give at First Methodist, you don’t give to First Methodist: You give to the Lord. And, your giving is a direct relationship to how you and He are relating to one another. The person who really loves the Lord will give to the best of their ability. Probably like the Macedonians: More than they can afford!
“Paul’s message is that when we give in that way, God is going to make sure we do not lack for any need in our lives,” said Rev. Graham. “I’m not telling you that you are going to get rich if you give a lot. Rather, I’m saying that God will meet your needs. And, God will bless you in many ways through the way you give to Him. You do not give to a preacher. I don’t care who the preacher is, or how great he is or how lousy the preacher may be. Believe and preach this everywhere you go: You do not give to a church, a preacher, a church board, a finance committee. You give to the Lord! And, what your relationship is with Him is between you and Him.
“That’s one reason I don’t try to look much at who gives what,” declared the Pastor. “I don’t care who gives what! And I don’t ever want to let it affect the way I feel towards somebody. I simply want to be sure you know the blessing of giving: Between you and the Lord!
“The rural church is lacking, by and large, because people do not understand the value of giving or what The Word says about giving,” explained Rev. Graham. “It’s not often preached or talked about in churches because preachers always get a lot of flak when they start preaching about money. But, the Truth is that Scriptures tell us that God is very concerned about the way we give and our ability to give. You may not give much if you don’t have much, but it still pleases God greatly when you give according to what you have.
“someone may give a bag of gold,” said the Pastor. “And the Lord is not as pleased with their gift because it was easy for them to give that bag of gold when maybe they could have given 10 bags of gold. Whatever you are able to give, and you are faithful in that, God, Paul says, will be faithful to you. Jesus put it this way: Never make the mistake, and I’m paraphrasing, of trying to hoard up treasure for yourself, a big bank account, treasure here on earth, because there will be things in this world that will come against you and try to get everything you’ve got.
“It will be stolen or it will rust away or mildew away,” the Pastor explained. “So, Jesus said, rather, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where these things do not happen. What that says, I think, is that one of these days when you get there you will experience a Great Blessing and Reward that you know not of. Let’s pray:
“Oh, gracious Heavenly Father, we pray today that You may open our hearts to understand Your Will and Your Word and Your Way. And that we may be faithful in our giving unto You. Oh, gracious Father, if any are offended by what I say, let them realize that their offense is with the Word of God. But, oh Lord, we want to honor You and glorify You. And, so Lord: Use us in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS TOPICS:
WISE ONES, Frankie Brewer: Meeting Human Needs.
LADIES BYKOTA CLASS, Peggy Boyd: The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
TINNEY CHAPEL MEN, Bill Knoop: Faith for Earth's Final Hour, by Hal Lindsey.
OVERCOMERS, Jenna Nelson: The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
YOUTH, Ronny Ellison: Life Lessons from 1 & 2 Peter, by Max Lucado.
CHILDREN, Linda Hallman: Elijah & Elisha.
Life Lessons # 275, from studying “Living In God’s Will,” via Proverbs 10-31, a study by Roger Hahn with modifications by Joe Dan Boyd.
- Haste makes waste; slow and steady may win the race.
- Being rich is not a sin, but commentator Vernon McGee says the important thing is how money is accumulated.
- Everyone, no matter how intelligent, can profit from good advice. Commentator McGee reminds us that God gave Daniel to be an advisor to both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.
- Wisdom & judgment are superior to great wealth, brute force or “main strength & awkwardness,” to use an old secular analogy.
- Strategic, or long-range, planning is a key to success in most ventures.
- There’s no such thing as too much good advice. Successful people often depend on a variety of advisors representing various fields of expertise, a practice often regarded as the “mastermind principle.”
- Man proposes, but God disposes. In other words, God will always have the final say, no matter how well we may plan our future.
- A man’s heart deviseth his way: But the Lord directeth his steps. –Proverbs 16:9 KJV.
- The wisest of our counselors: God and God’s Word. As Vernon McGee says: God told Moses that he needed Him to lead him, and so do we.
- Nothing clever, nothing conceived, nothing contrived can get the better of God. – Proverbs 21:30 The Message.
- Do your best, prepare for the worst—then trust God to bring victory. – Proverbs 21:31 The Message.
- Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place. –Proverbs 16:3 The Message.
- Many proverbs emphasize the importance of planning, and the greater the input into planning, the more likely a plan is to succeed. Plan your work, then work your plan is a paraphrase of Proverbs 24:27.
- Human wisdom, or common sense, helps us discern God’s Will & strive toward what Paul called “the Mind of Christ.”
Our regular First Sunday Lesson on Healthy Churches. Read Chapter 4, Characteristic Number 3 of Healthy Churches, in Stephen A Macchia’s book, Becoming A Healthy Church: 10 Characteristics.