Fasting From Spending For A Year

buy buyAfter much thought, discussion, soul-searching and prayer my wife, Sharon, and I have decided to take a fast from spending for twelve months. As daunting and impossible as it might seem we are committed to shutting off the spending flow and sticking with it no matter what the urge, temptation or challenge might be.

EXPECTED REACTIONS

For some this might seem to be an insane decision. Such ones cannot even fathom the remote possibility of denying yourself the luci surprisedprivilege of spending for an entire year. Who would ever want to do something like that and why, why, why? We live in a culture of affluence. I mean, spending is what you do in America. Americans are the biggest spenders in the world. To fast from spending for an entire year is not only insane, it is just UN-American.

THE REASON: FOCUS SHIFT

So why in the world, or at least in America, the land of buying more, are we embarking on an adventure of fasting from spending? To begin with, this is going to provide an extended time of taking our focus off of stuff. It seems that most of life revolves around stuff and material possessions. From the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night, much of our time is devoted to stuff. And much of that time is all about getting more of it. So our decision to go an entire year without getting any more of it gives us a whole new focus, at least for that year. Who knows where it might lead from there.

Materialism is the acquisition of stuff. It is get, get, get. It has been described as get all you can, can the rest and then sit on the can. What better way to break the grip of materialism then to take an extended time of not participating in the insanity of it all?

MORE IMPORTANT THINGS

Taking our focus off of buying and stuff will then enable us to focus on more important things. We can have a transfer of focus from buying to, most importantly, God. Fasting is for the purpose of turning our attention from one thing to another. In the case of eating it is to take our attention from food in order to place it on God. In the case of stuff, spending and buying, it is for the purpose of taking our attention off of these things and placing it on God for an extended period. It lowers the importance of stuff so we can draw close to him. It is a time to hunger and thirst for him rather than more of whatever.

no spendingTaking our focus off of stuff and spending also leaves us with more time to devote to other things that are far more important, like relationships. Instead of spending we can be serving. Instead of buying stuff we can to be devoting that time to being a better husband, better wife, better parents, better neighbors, and better friends. Buying is time-consuming. Not buying leaves us with more time to invest in others.

Then fasting from spending and buying will leave us with more resources to use in loving God and loving others. According to Jesus nothing in life is more important than loving God and loving others. And one of the most significant and practical ways we can express that love is through the resources we have acquired. A spending fast will provide resources that can be used to bless others and meet their needs. We serve others by transferring some of what we would spend on ourselves to meeting their needs.

And finally, fasting from spending will immediately leave us with more resources to give to God, his church and his mission in the world. Wow, what an eternal difference that will make for so many.

THE INVITATION

So, I would like to invite you to consider a similar fast, whenever the time might be appropriate for you. It might be for these reasons or for your own. This could be the most awesome and transforming year of your life. This could be the breakaway you have been needing.

Sharon and I went away for a few days and worked out some *guidelines that we will follow for our fast in order for both of us to be on the same page. I would love to share them with you, if interested.

The Power of Model

One more thing to consider. If you have kids still at home or even ones that have moved out of the house, imagine how much your model could communicate to them in a year about what is most important in life. Instead if it being stuff, spending and materialism they would see self-denial, self-sacrifice, generosity and service to God and others. This is one teaching opportunity they will never forget.

*As our personal guidelines will reveal, our fast is from new spending. Providing for upkeep and necessities is permitted, but only as detailed in the guidelines and agreed upon by both parties.

Advertisements

“A” Is For ATTITUDE

money“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” -William James

 

Let’s talk finances. Now, don’t click on another page. Just take three deep breaths and a couple minutes and read through this post.

 

The average person doesn’t really believe he has a problem when it comes to finances. He really doesn’t. As long as he’s making monthly payments on time, as long as he has some mad money he can play with each week, as long as he can continue to feed and satisfy those occasional indulgences from time to time, he erroneously believes things are just fine. Unfortunately he’s like the alcoholic, the drug addict, the gambler, or the person addicted to pornography who says, “I don’t have a problem.” But the truth is, the average American has a major problem when it comes to money, Christians included. They are horribly in debt, miserable managers of their money; and gullible beyond belief when it comes to buying things on credit.

 

Can I share a simple principle with you? If you’re paying interest on anything, regardless of the great interest rate you may have gotten or the low monthly payment; if you are paying interest on anything, are you ready for this? YOU ARE LOSING MONEY.

 

In fact, when you see the word “interest,” if you visualize two words in huge, gigantic letters as if they were written in the sky; “SOMEBODY ELSE,” that will help you better comprehend the principle. Why? Because that’s exactly what happens every time you’re paying interest. SOMEBODY ELSE is getting rich off YOUR money. Yet so many people say, “Well, you know, we got a great interest rate.” Or, “Luckily I got the same low monthly payment on this car that I had on my last one.”

 

Christian financial expert, the late Larry Burkett, said, “Christians are now paying nearly 10% of our income every year in interest alone. And yet we give only 2% back to God.”  So here’s the picture. The average Christian in America is miserably over his head in debt and walking in rebellion towards God. We definitely have a problem. But watch out if anyone attempts to discuss it. Why? Because we’re very touchy when it comes to our stuff. When it comes to my money and my finances, that’s a private matter and it’s none of your business. Isn’t that pretty much the way you feel?

 

So if someone suggests we have a problem with our finances, we immediately get defensive and go into money 3denial because none of us wants to admit we have a problem.

 

Does anyone remember Harry Truman? Not the President. The man who lived on the side of Mount St. Helens in Washington? I’ll never forget the guy; He had 23 cats. (Does that help?) Well, back in 1980 he was on Mount St. Helens. TV reporters were interviewing him while the mountain was shaking behind him. Harry’s sitting there with his 23 cats and seismologists were saying, “This mountain’s gonna blow; ” Volcanic experts were saying, “This mountain’s gonna blow.” Harry Truman said, “I don’t believe a single one of your ,experts. I’ve lived here all my life. I know this old mountain better than anybody else. I’m not going anywhere. “ And they’d banter back and forth.

I remember his sister on national television (you may remember watching). She pleaded with her brother, “Please, get off this mountain. It’s gonna blow;” “No, it’s not,” Harry insisted. “I’ve lived here all my life. I don’t have a problem.”

 

On May 18th, 1980, at 8:31 a.m., the mountain blew. It blew with a force 500 times greater than the power of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Twenty-five hundred feet blew off the top of the mountain. It blackened the sky from Seattle to New York and as far south as Oklahoma. No one has ever seen a trace of Harry or his 23 cats since.

 

Now I’m praying that you are not a Harry Truman. I’m going to assume you want God’s wisdom, God’s guidance, and God’s provision in your life. I’m going to assume you want to be financially healthy and to be free from the albatross of financial burdens, bills, and bondage.

 

lt’s possible for anyone of us. In fact, regardless of how much debt you have today, I agree with Larry Burkett, who says in seven years anybody can be out of debt. Anybody; That includes you.

money 6

 

All of us can be out of debt and financially healthy, or well on our way to it, if we really want to be. But we have to want to. But if we don’t begin with step number one, nothing else we talk about will help. We need to begin withOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD MONEY.

For more on the subject of changing our attitude click on this link:

 http://relaxedchurch.sermon.tv/pa/9792495

(adapted from “The ABC’s of Financial Freedom” by Barry Cameron)

The True Spirit of Christmas

 

spirit of christmasDuring the Christmas season, the words you’ll hear more than any other word is the word “gift.”  Starting on Black Friday we begin a month long dash to finding the right gift to give to other people around us.  In fact, the month of December is the only month of the year where everybody forgets the past and everybody forgets the future and everybody just focuses on the present. 

 

A lot of people think that the gift giving idea at Christmas time was started by the wise men, because as we know they brought the first gifts to the baby Jesus in the manger.  As the little boy said, “The wise men brought gold, Frankenstein and myrtle.”

 

But actually the first gift at Christmas was the gift that God gave.  God so loved the world that he gave.  And the very first Christmas gift was God himself – Jesus giving himself to you to be incarnate, one of us, and to die on the cross for your sins so you could have your past forgiven, a purpose for living and a home in heaven.  Jesus is the original Christmas gift.  We only give because God gave to us first.

 

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.”  

Christmas is about generosity.  The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of generosity. 

 

If it weren’t for God’s generosity you and I would have nothing.  The air you breathe is a gift of God’s generosity.  The blood coursing through your veins is a gift of God’s generosity.  The fact that your heart is beating is a gift of God’s generosity.  Every good thing in your life that you have, including your life is a gift of God’s generosity.  If God was not a generous God we wouldn’t even exist.  The universe would not exist.  It exists because of his generosity.

 

John 1:16 says this “We all live off of God’s generous bounty, gift after gift after gift.”  Every good thing in your life is evidence of God’s generosity. 

 

Here’s the key: God wants you to learn to be generous too.   God is generous and he wants his children to be generous.  If you’re a parent do you want your kids to learn to share?  Of course you do.  Do you want your kids to learn to be generous, to learn to be unselfish?  Yes!  Absolutely. So God says I want generosity to be a lifestyle not a seasonal event.  I want it to be a habit of your life.

 

But here’s the problem.  It’s not easy being generous today because we live in a very consumeristic, materialistic, self-centered world. 

 

So let’s look at why God want us to learn this quality?  Why is generosity so important?  Out of all the spirit of christmas2things in Scripture, God emphasizes this quality more than almost any other quality in life.  There are more verses on this in the Bible than you could possibly imagine. 

 

I hope you will remember these so that by the end of 2014 people will notice how much of a generous person you have grown to be. People should be able to look at you and say, that guy is a generous man!  That woman is a generous woman!  He’s got a generous heart.  She’s not stingy.  She’s generous.

 

There are only two kinds of people in life.  There are givers and there are takers.  You have to decide in life what you’re going to be.  Am I going to be a giver or am I going to be a taker? 

 

You can be a taker and live a self-centered life.  It’s not by accident that the word “miser” and “miserable” come from the same root word.  The more you are a taker the more miserable you’re going to be in life.  Jesus said it like this: “It is only those who learn to give their lives away who will ever really know what it means to fully live.”

 

What are the reasons God wants me to develop the spirit of Christmas year round – what is the spirit of Christmas?  The spirit of giving.  The spirit of generosity.  It’s not just for December. We need to do it all the time.  It needs to be a habit. Why?

 

  • It makes me more like God
  • It is a cure for selfishness.
  • It deepens relationships. 
  • It stretches my faith.
  • It blesses me back.
  • It’s an investment in eternity

 

spitit of christmas 3What’s going to happen in 2014? We don’t know what the economy is going to do in 2014, but I do know what is going to happen.  2 Corinthians 9 “God will give you many opportunities to do good, [in 2014, to be generous, to practice generosity] and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.  [In other words you plant the seed, he’ll do the harvest.]  Then you will be enriched [You’ll get more back] so that you can give even more generously.”

 

See the cycle?  God gives to you, you give to help other people, then God gives you more, then that gives you more to help other people.  It’s a cycle.  It just keeps going on and on.

 

(Adapted from Rick Warren’s “Christmas is Generosity)

What If…Campaign Begins at NVCC This Sunday, May 1

Dear New Venture Family and Friends,whatif

For over eight years now New Venture has been devoted to helping people discover a growing adventure with God. At the same time we have reached out in numerous directions with a commitment to being the authentic presence of Christ in our community. Many lives have been changed and many who were living far from God have come back to him through Jesus. All of this has been accomplished through the use of rented facilities in the community.

Now God has opened the door to New Venture to be able to acquire her own property and ministry campus. God, in his timing, knew exactly what we needed.

So, with all our energy, we pursue God’s opportunity. We pursue it for three reasons:

·        to establish permanents in the community

·         to expand ministry to the community and world

·        to exponentially share Christ with the community and the world.

 The What If…Campaignis an unprecedented opportunity for New Venture to declare to the world that God is doing a mighty work in our lives. Over the next 24 months, please join us in prayer and participation in theWhat If… Campaign.  We believe this is where God is leading us as a church, and we believe God wants you to be a vital part of reaching more people through New Venture Christian Church.  Please consider:  What if God wants to use you in an awesome way?

Steve Thornton

Lead Pastor

The new normal for Christians

There is an awful lot of talk these days about the “new normal” especially since NBC introduced “The New Normal” sitcom to its fall program schedule. I will not even begin to comment on the content and character of said program due to the adult and socially driven agenda of the series.

The media and news programs are also flooded with talk about what looks like the new normal in America. Here are a few examples of what we are being prepared for as more of the “normal” than the exception in the new America.

8% + unemployment

50% of Americans on public assistance programs

Continually falling wages and buying power

Retirement at later and later years, if at all

Muslim leaders entertained in the White House while our long time ally, Israel is snubbed

25% the new standard for tipping

The new normal in America is generating enormous amounts of concern and elevated levels of disgust. How have we fallen so far, so fast? Where will it all end? Is there any hope for a return to some of the healthier normal of the past?

All I can say is, there’s an election coming in a few weeks and if you are unhappy with some of the new normal talk and direction that we are confronted with and are experiencing daily, then get out and vote for the best candidate that is likely to change it. Otherwise, be quiet and just live with it.

The really sad news, though, is that the new normal is not just a disappointing direction of the country, it has infected the church as well. At a recent meeting of some fellow pastors our conversation centered on what seems to be the new normal for Christians. Here are a couple eye openers.

  • The average American Christian gives 2.6% of his income to the Lord or an average of $17 a week.

Here’s a piece from Crown Financial Ministries that features a sermon by author Randy Alcorn. A summary: Randy says we’re living in the most affluent society the world has ever known. American Christians control 70% of the world’s Christian wealth. The average American Christian gives 2.6% of his income.

The average amount of giving by an adult in a Protestant church is $17 a week, which is $70 a month, or $840 a year. A full 96% of American Christians don’t tithe or give 10% of their income.

Crown includes this in the piece as well: The average Christian gives 30% less than the average churchgoer in 1933 during the Great Depression.

  • Less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church. That figures out to a once every five weeks church attendance for the average Christian. That might be a little lower than your attendance patterns but it reveals an alarming condition. And the trend is trending downward all the time. Is this the new normal for church attendance? Is the church no longer a priority in the life of a Christian? Is the church relegated to a bottom five classification when it was once #1?

These and other statistics reveal that Christians are just going the way of our culture instead of shaping and leading it. It seems that lowered standards, commitment and values, that our society has embraced, have made their way into the church and Christian’s hearts as well.

Isn’t it time for the church to be the church and Christian to be just that, Christians who are serious followers of Christ rather than drifters. Isn’t it time for real Christ followers to be trend setters rather than trend followers? Isn’t it time to return to the normals of the past that were far better and more productive, both personally and for the kingdom of God? How about beginning with these two?

  •  “A tenth of all you produce is the Lord’s and it is holy.”  Leviticus 27:30
  • “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do.” Hebrews 10:25

Join with me in rejecting the new normal and sticking with the time tested standards of old.

Enough said. Let’s do it!

 

 

Gross or Net?

The thought came to me the other day while I was jogging that I need to address the gross or net issue. It came right out of the blue since it was a clear “blue sky” day.

Many times people have asked me, “When it comes to giving to God and tithing, should our tithe be from our gross income (the total amount before taxes, payroll deductions, etc.) or the net amount (What is left after everything gets taken out)?” Here’s my thinking and I believe it captures the heart and intention of God.

1. God wants us to give willingly and cheerfully, whatever the amount. “God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:7. “Cheerful” comes from the Greek word hillaros, from which we get our word hilarious. God wants us to give hilariously. It should be one of the most enjoyable things we do for God.

2. God wants us to bring ALL the tithe to Him. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” Mal 3:1 The storehouse then would have been the temple, now it is His church. Tithe literally means a tenth. He instructs us to bring a full tenth of our income to Him. Anything less than a tenth is not a tithe. Anything more than a tenth would be a tithe and an offering. He even goes so far as to classify those who fail to bring the full tithe to Him as robbers of God. “Will a man rob God? … “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.” Mal 3:8-9 God expects a full tithe.

3. When the tithing principle was set down by God there were no taxes or payroll deductions taken out before a person was paid. They were paid by the individual on their own after receiving their pay. So, from the very beginning, the tithing expectation was based on the gross amount of a person’s income rather than the net amount.

4. This is a practical observation. What are our taxes based on? Are they not paid from our gross amount? To pay taxes to the government from our gross amount and then tithe from our net amount is to make a clear statement that the government has a higher priority in our use of money than God.

We live in a financial system that allows us to have almost anything we want deducted from our pay before it ever gets to our hand or bank amount. We can end up receiving a small fraction of our total income in our net pay. When the church receives a tithe from our net amount rather than our gross, I believe we not only disappoint and disobey God, we greatly limit the power and impact of the Body of Christ.

I have to make this same gross/net decision every week myself. The tax laws in America are set up in such a way that I don’t have to pay taxes on the amount of money I spend to provide housing for my family. It is called a “housing allowance”. It is a sizable portion of my total income. It does not appear on my W2 form as income. However, I make sure my giving to God includes a tithe of my housing allowance as well. My love for God and the work of the Kingdom is far greater than a housing allowance deduction and my giving confirms that love. I hope yours does as well.

God keeps His word

A couple days ago I received this email from someone who was at our BLING-onomic$ series in February.

(Click this link for audio access to BLING-onomic$ http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57)

I just had to share it with you because it is a tremendous confirmation and kudos of some of the core concepts discussed in the series. I love to hear real life stories of how God keeps His word.

“I wanted to share a tithing story with you, feel free to share it with whomever you think it would encourage. I have always tithed 10% of my income since I have had a job and have never regretted it. I know that God promises to bless us for this, and I feel He has, but have never realized to what extent until today. I bought a house this year and so between that and tithing I saved several thousand dollars on my taxes. . . enough that I am getting some back instead of owing A LOT! Also, last week it came up in conversation at work that we could ask to not have our lunch time deducted from our pay if we didn’t have a lunch break. Well, I have never had a lunch break as the career that I am in does not really warrant leaving for 30 minutes. So, I brought this up and the fact that I wasn’t aware of the ability to not have that money deducted and they decided to give me all of my lunch break pay back for the last 6 months! Such a huge financial blessing for me! Anyway, adding up that money, plus what I saved in taxes, plus what I am getting back in taxes and it equals almost the exact amount that I spent in tithing and other support of ministries last year! God really does bless us for tithing and giving and will give us back more in return that we gave to Him. . .because not only do I get my money back, but I also get the blessing of knowing how much I have contributed to His Kingdom. . . 100 fold!”
Anyone else have a story to tell of God’s faithfulness?