Courageous Generosity

I saw a headline in the Chicago Tribune today that got my attention:

Economy Tops All Other Worries

I think most of us, if we are honest, can admit to worrying about money – at least occasionally. Although the price of a gallon of gas has come down recently, we worry that it will soar beyond $4 again soon. Those of us facing retirement worry about what has happened to our retirement funds. Those with children heading to college are worried about our college savings plans. Some of us are worried about our homes and investments; some of us are worried about our jobs – it is an anxious time.

As Christians, how do we respond to what is being called an economic “crisis?” How does our faith in God and the truth of his word shape the way we understand and react to the fear and anxiety that is all around us – and sometimes in us?

Perhaps the first thing we can do is to acknowledge that our finances are important to us – and when our finances are threatened, we become anxious or fearful. I think it is important for us to know that we can confess this very real and human reaction to God. I believe he knows and understands how we feel. The second thing we need to do is allow God’s truth to shape our perspective on the issue. What do we know about what God says about this area of our lives?

• Everything belongs to God
• God is generous and shares his blessing and resources with us
• God has not promised us endless prosperity as Americans or Christians
• God does not want us to be enslaved by wealth
• God does not want us to be enslaved by debt
• God wants us to be generous
• God wants us to invest in his eternal kingdom
• God promises to meet our needs by giving us what we need which may be different than what we want

We also know that, by any standard of comparison, even with the current downturn in our economy, as Americans we are among the richest people on the face of the earth. And furthermore, we know that history tells us that even though we are having to “tighten our belts” in the short run (and this process can be painful), our economy will rebound at some point in the future.

If we understand and accept all the above – then the following questions emerge:

• How do we manage and live through our current situation?
• What can we learn – from God and about ourselves – through this situation?

While I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers to those questions, I do have a few suggestions. How do we manage? We tighten our belts; we evaluate our priorities; make tough decisions about where we are investing our treasure; and we refuse to panic. What can we learn about God and ourselves? We can learn that sometimes we have trusted more in money than in the phrase printed on our money, “In God we trust.” We can learn that some of our priorities have, at times, been misplaced. We can learn that we can do without certain “luxuries.” We can learn that God is good even with the stock market isn’t. And, perhaps, we can begin to learn the power of what might be called “Courageous Generosity.”

What is “Courageous Generosity?” Courageous generosity is being generous in an atmosphere of economic fear and anxiety. Courageous generosity is being generous when our culture is telling us to hold tightly to that which is ours. Courageous generosity is being generous because God calls us to be generous not because our bank accounts allow us to be generous. And for most of us, courageous generosity is a frontier of faith that we have rarely been forced to experience – and yet might be exactly what God wants to teach us in and through this time.

As leaders of FBCG, we are paying close attention to what you are telling us through our offering plates. We believe you are telling us two things: first, that these are scary economic times and that it is hard to give in such a time. We know this because our collective giving this fiscal year has dropped by about 10 percent. At the same time, we believe you are telling us that you do trust God and want to trust him even more! We know this because to give at all right now is a powerful expression of faith!

We want you to know that as leadership, we are beginning to “tighten our belts” at FBCG. We are going through a process of evaluating all of our ministries for the purpose of identifying where we can trim costs and be as responsible as we can be with the resources God provides through you. We will keep you informed each step of the way.

On the other hand, we also believe that God wants to use this time for his purpose – and his purpose is to change hearts, change lives, and to use FBCG in that purpose. And therefore, we believe that God is calling us collectively to “Courageous Generosity.”

In gratitude and expectation,

Pastor Brian

Cardboard Testimonies

A couple of weeks ago we concluded a message series called "Renovation of the Heart" with a video clip called Cardboard Testimonies. In the clip, a series of people told their stories using big pieces of cardboard - on one side they scrawled the story of their lives before meeting Jesus, and on the other side they described the change that had taken place. At the close of our services that weekend - many of you chose to share your own "cardboard testimony" with us.

Here are a few of the cards we received:
Selfish self-made man; prideful, sinful, disobedient
     His child; everything I am/have came from and belongs to Him!
Afraid of rejection
    Confident of my worth in Christ
Cynical mocker
    Content servant
Angry and quick tempered
    Joyful in Jesus!
No church - little God
    Much church - very much God
Blamed God
    God forgave me and gave me peace
    Hopeful, found, man of God

I hope you find these brief and very personal expressions of life change as moving as I do! They remind me that there are stories being written every day all around us. They remind me that if we can just slow down enough to pay attention to these stories - stop,look, listen! - we might actually be used by God as he seeks to write brand new stories! Who will God place in your path today who needs to have someone listen to their story?

Or maybe it is your story that needs to be re-written. Maybe you don't like what is written on your side of the cardboard. While I don't know what is written on the cardboard of your life today - Jesus does, and he is always, always, ready to turn the cardboard over and start all over again.

At FBCG we celebrate stories of life change. We call them "FaithStories." Every FaithStory is as unique as a fingerprint - for God is infinitely creative in how he draws us to himself. But each FaithStory is also the same - because every last one of them is about Jesus and his power to transform the heart.

So pay attention to the stories around you -- and pay attention to your story - you might be surprised at all the writing going on!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has
gone, the new has come."
2 Corinthians 5:17

Celebrating Generosity

Celebrating Generosity
At FBCG we celebrate generosity wherever it appears - generosity in sharing time, talents or treasure! I want to take just a moment to celebrate the
generosity of the people who make up FBCG when it comes to the giving of financial resources.

We all know that these are tenuous economic times for our nation. We wake up every day to more bad news on the financial front. Yet, despite the
anxiety and fear that many families are feeling, our church family demonstrated remarkable generosity earlier this month. On the first weekend of our
new fall season of ministry (September 6-7) you gave just over $60,000 to the FBCG general fund; another $8,600 toward the special Benevolent
offering to benefit the "Turkey Defense Fund," and some $6,000 toward "Building on Faith." That means that, in total, we received giving of more than $75,000 in one weekend!

I believe that generosity lies at the heart of everything good God wants to do in us and in his Kingdom. Your generosity enables FBCG to minister to
children; to send teams to serve hurting people in different parts of the world; to offer help to the needy right here in our community - and so much
more! I believe God loves and takes great joy in generosity! I also believe that your generous giving in an atmosphere of economic fear is an
expression of both faith and obedience - and is a powerful statement that the Holy Spirit is living and active in his church!

On behalf of the leadership and staff of FBCG, I simply want to thank you for your collective generosity, ask for your continued faithful and joyful
stewardship throughout this challenging time --  and I pray that your hearts will be filled with the blessing and pleasure of the One who has
given us everything we have!

Together in His Service,

Pastor Brian