Render unto God your heart.

The theme of National Community Church’s recent sermon series is I Like Giving. One of my favorite guest pastors, Dick Foth, gave a sermon last week about giving. It wasn’t the typical speech about the importance of tithing; this was something so much greater. It reflected the greatness of giving in the way God wants us to give.

Foth read a familiar scripture to us, but the way he read it—with non-verbal communication that included in a new reflection of how I’ve heard this scripture before—gave it completely new meaning to me. Foth was describing how Jesus most likely delivered the words He said in Mathew 21-21. When the scholars were trying to trick Jesus by asking Him if they should pay Roman taxes, Foth said he imagined Jesus saying, “Let me see one of those coins… then after looking at it and holding it out to the scholars, Jesus said, “Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s.” Then Foth imagines Jesus tossing the penny on to the ground as if it didn’t mean anything, saying, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” and Foth then imagines Jesus pointing to each person and saying slowly and deliberately as if looking into their hearts, “and unto God the things that are God’s.”

You see, that coin was made in the image of Caesar—just a coin, nothing that really means anything—and it was all Caesar could claim. But God—He made you and me in His image. We and the universe are all God’s and He loves us. God wants us—our hearts—not money that we collect.

When I truly thought about that it was very powerful. I write checks to help people but God wants more of us. He wants our hearts to be in it. It’s easy to give what you have extra of. It’s harder to give what you really value and don’t have as much of. To me, that is my time. Lately I’ve been living in a situation where I’ve been giving up more of my private free time to help family, friends, foster dogs, and those who need some comfort and help of others. It doesn’t come easy to me. I’m used to owning my time and loving my privacy, but giving more of me is what God wants. And the more I give up my tight hold on my time for myself, the more I get out of myself and become a better person. A more loving and caring person. Someone that would make Jesus smile. Someone who brightens other people’s lives instead of sucking the light in for me. I’m still working on it (one small step at a time), but God has been blessing me lately with opportunities to help loved ones and friends.

Jesus gave us a gift not to be surpassed. He gave us His life. We cannot out give God but we can strive to give more of ourselves.

John 15:13
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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Creative worship and storytelling.

Today my pastor (National Community Church’s Mark Batterson) went through our annual report. There were a lot of impressive numbers and any organization would be proud of the growth, the giving, the numerous missions throughout the world, and the number of people who have been positively affected by the volunteers, members, and staff of NCC.

That’s all really great, but pastor Mark reminded us several times that every number is a person and every person has a story and it’s the stories that are important. We should be sharing our stories and praising God for our blessings.

At NCC we have three core convictions. The first is that the church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. I was smiling as Mark quoted Ephesians 2:10 (the scripture that inspired the Masterpiece Fund). God is infinitely creative (if you question that, take a look out the window at how beautiful our world is). And each of us is unique and special. No one can praise God the way you can—in your own unique and creative way. At NCC our beliefs are orthodox—our methods (meeting in movie theaters) are not.

Another conviction is that the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace. Wherever we are, there goes the church. We need live our lives out in the world and spread hope and love at every intersection and with every encounter.

A third core conviction is our belief that God will bless our church in proportion to how we give to missions and care of the poor in our city. As my family decides on the recipients of donations from the Masterpiece Fund, we pray. We ask for your prayers for us and the Fund as well. Mark preached that unless God builds the house, we labor in vain. We can promote the Masterpiece Fund and ask people to contribute, but unless we keep praying and following God’s plan, we won’t grow or prosper.

As we’ve mentioned on our web site, our hope is that we can feed thousands with small donations from people such as you. We believe God will bless the contributions so we can help more people. The more contributions come in, the more we can give away. The more we give away, the more we are blessed. We may not start off with lots of readers, or facebook likes, or big donations, but that’s okay, as long as it’s blessed by God and we start somewhere doing something.

But as I said earlier, it’s all about the stories. We want to hear your story. Whether it’s about a unique person you met this week or an inspirational message about an answered prayer, share your story!

Zechariah 4:10
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
Creativity begins when we are children. Hold on to that throughout your life and bring joy to those around you.
Harmon painting at Grandma's house