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What If

What If We Planted Seeds

What If We Planted Seeds

Series Introduction

God has blessed Eastside with the opportunity to reach thousands of people with the message that Jesus loves them and wants to change their lives in profoundly positive ways.

But we don’t want to be satisfied with what God has already done, with what He has already blessed us with.  We want to use the blessings He has given us wisely so that we can help even more people understand the life-changing power of a relationship with Jesus.


Introduction

Deep down most of us want to be generous, we don’t want to love money, but something gets in our way: fear.

We’re plagued with the “what if” questions. What if the economy completely collapses?  What if I lose my job?  What if I can’t buy groceries?  What if there’s an unexpected illness?  What if I can’t pay my house payment?  What if there’s another major terrorist attack?

  • What “what if” question causes you financial fear?


Understanding

Giving some of our hard-earned money away goes against every natural inclination because we’re all natural born takers.  We’re all selfish.

Don’t believe it?  If you’ve ever had a baby, you know that suddenly life revolves around them.  And do they grow out of it?  Well, what’s the favorite word of every English speaking 2 year old on the planet?

Mine!

But here’s where our view of money and God’s view of money is different.  Our view is when you give money away, it’s gone, but God looks at money in a completely different way.  If we grasp this it will change everything about how we view money.

When God looks at what’s in our bank accounts or investments, He doesn’t see money to be lost but rather seed to be planted.  God sees everything He has entrusted into your management as seed.

He’s given you some seed to eat.  He’s given you some seed to pay the bills. He’s given you some seed to set aside for a rainy day, and He’s given you some seed to share and be generous with.

Now when you plant a seed do you say goodbye to it forever?  No you expect it to produce a return.  The seed you keep is all you have, the seed you sow God multiples.

  • How do you currently decide how much seed to plant (i.e. to give away)?

Have a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.

You’ve got to plant seeds in order to get a return.  We understand this to be true in many areas of life.

If you want to have a great friendship, you’ve got to plant seeds in the development of that relationship. If I just invest a shot-glass full of seeds in a relationship, it’s probably just an acquaintance.  If I invest a bucket load of seeds, I might find the kind of friend that the Bible talks about in Proverbs that sticks closer than a brother.

If you want to have a great marriage, you have to put something into it.  If we all put as much seed planting into marriage after the wedding as we did before, almost all of us would have extraordinary marriages.

  • Have you seeing this principle of sowing and reaping, of planting and harvesting, hold true in aspects of your life other than your finances?

Have a volunteer re-read 2 Corinthians 9:7.

For many of us our generosity is based more on emotion than on a plan. In fact, that’s how many of us manage all of our finances.  It’s why we can go to Wal-Mart to buy bananas and come home with an 80” TV.  We didn’t have a plan.

The key question for us to answer is, “What’s my plan for generosity?”

As a church we try to model good stewardship by operating this church as efficiently as we can: our church staff is half of most churches our size; we spend less than is given so we can pay cash for things like Park Rapids, La Habra, and Bellflower; and we’re trying to strategically position ourselves for when God brings more opportunities.

We want everyone who calls Eastside their church home to follow Paul’s advice that, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart not reluctantly (don’t be a scrooge) or under compulsion (don’t be manipulated by spur of the moment emotion), for God loves a cheerful giver.”

So what’s your plan for generosity?  In service on the weekend there was a card that was handed out to help you plan your giving and to help Eastside plan for the future.  If you didn’t get one or didn’t have a chance to fill one out, you can pick one up this coming weekend or access it online.

  • What do you think about the idea of planning your generosity? Is it something you’ve ever done before?

Gene shared three principles that he and Barbara use to plan their giving that are based on what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians.

1. Priority Generosity

You can give in one of two ways. You can pay all your bills, then give God your leftovers. Or you can do as the Bible instructs and prioritize giving to God, and then trust Him for your needs with the leftovers.

Gene shared about how he set up an automatic contribution to his retirement plan nearly 30 years ago, and little-by-little, deduction-by-deduction it has grown.  It works because he never sees the money.  He doesn’t spend it because it’s in the retirement account before it hits his bank account.  And he’s done the same thing with his giving, automated it so that it’s given to Eastside every time he’s paid, before he even has the chance to prioritize something else and spend it.

  • Do you discipline yourself to give first?  If so, what has been the result?  If not, why not?

2. Percentage Generosity

Have a volunteer read 1 Corinthians 16:2.

God doesn’t look at the amount we give, but the percentage. We don’t give equally, but we can all sacrifice equally. If you haven’t already, become a percentage giver.

Sit down later with your spouse and/or family, not while you’re listing to a sermon or at your small group, and decide, “This is what we’re going to do.”

The Bible teaches about mathematical percentage called the tithe.  It literally means 10%.  It was taught before the Old Testament law, contained in the Law, and then affirmed by Jesus in the New Testament in Matthew 23.  And whenever the subject of tithing comes up there are a few FAQs, so here they are:

Q: Do I tithe on the net or the gross?
A: That depends on whether you want a net blessing or gross blessing from God. You reap what you sow. Those who sow sparingly, reap sparingly. Those who sow generously, reap generously.

Q: Should I tithe if my spouse is dead set against it?
A: Returning the tithe to God was never meant to drive a wedge into a marriage relationship. Talk it over with your spouse and attempt to come to an agreement together.  Perhaps you could say, “Let’s try tithing or percentage giving for six months, a year, just on a trial basis.  If we’re not better off, if God hasn’t blessed us, I’ll quit bugging you about it.” And leave the results up to God.  But if you can’t come to an agreement, don’t destroy your marriage over it.

Q: Will I go to hell if I don’t tithe?
A: No… but someone else might. This is why so many Eastsiders are committed to being roof-wreckers, to help people get to Jesus no matter the cost, because in reality the stakes are so high.

  • What questions do you have about tithing or giving?

3. Progressive Generosity

If we really understand that from God’s perspective everything we have is seed, and that the more we sow, the more we will reap, as we mature as followers of Jesus we will naturally increase our percentage giving to beyond the tithe because we keep reaping more.

We reach a point where tithing won’t stretch us spiritually, it becomes so natural, so automatic, it’s like breathing.

Gene shared about how shortly after he and Barbara were married, the church he was pastoring started a long-term fundraising campaign to raise money to relocate.  They had just bought a new house and were already committed to giving a bit more than10%.

They prayed for God to lead them, and after enormous wrestling, prayer, and late night conversations, on a combined salary of around $100,000 they committed to give an extra $40,000 over and above their tithe for the next three years.

Of course, several months later Barbara got pregnant and quit her job when the baby was born, so their income went down considerably. It stretched them, but they kept that commitment, and at the end of that three years they made a similar commitment for another fundraising campaign.

They participated in these kinds of fundraising campaigns for nearly the entire first 10 years of their marriage, and then moved to Chicago in 2003 and found their new church was in such a campaign.  And then they came to Eastside, and we had a three-year fundraising initiative to relocate our broadcast campus to Anaheim.

Gene said that those have been some of the most spiritually stretching and developmental times of his life, because God got more of his heart.  And it was Jesus who said that where our treasure is there our heart will be also.

Gene also said that when they have been generous, God has blessed generously, and he shared stories about opportunities for extra income that have come their way.

  • Have you ever experienced the blessings that come as a result of sacrificial giving?

Have a volunteer read James 1:17.

Paul closes 2 Corinthians 9 with the proclamation, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!“

God gave us the most generous gift ever given in history: His only son. Not only that, every good gift we have has come from Him.

Every time we express generosity from our hearts in the name of Jesus Christ, it’s like sending God a thank you note and saying, “Thank you, God. Thanks for loving the world so much that you gave your one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Eastside exists because over 55 years ago a group of people with a heart for everyone started meeting in a warehouse and they planted seeds. And for 55 years, people have been planting seeds week in and week out: seeds in the hearts of the next generation; in the lives of the broken and the hurting; in marriages and families; in the lives of spiritual explorers; in some of the neediest corners of the world.

The seed you keep is all you have, but the seed you sow God multiplies.

  • It’s always fun to give a gift. What gift have you most enjoyed giving?


Application

This is the final week of our What If… series, in which we’ve all been challenged to consider how God would move if we were to pray, go, and give above and beyond for one year.

  • Pray – Set an alarm on your phone for 5:08 PM and commit to praying to ask God to use us to reach 1% of the 5.8 million people that live within 20 miles. In fact, do this one right now.

  • Go

    • If you’re not already serving, visit eastside.com/volunteer or come to week 4 of Next Steps to learn more about how you can serve.

    • If you are already serving, talk with your ministry leader about ways that you can get more involved: maybe you move from serving monthly to serving weekly; maybe you move from serving to leading; or maybe you move from your current campus to help launch the new Bellflower campus.

  • Give – Use the What If card and make a plan to give generously.

What If We Lived With a New Mindset

What If We Lived With a New Mindset

Series Introduction

God has blessed Eastside with the opportunity to reach thousands of people with the message that Jesus loves them and wants to change their lives in profoundly positive ways.

But we don’t want to be satisfied with what God has already done, with what He has already blessed us with.  We want to use the blessings He has given us wisely so that we can help even more people understand the life-changing power of a relationship with Jesus.

Have a volunteer read Mark 2:1-5.

These four people would stop at nothing to get their friend to Jesus, including boring a hole through someone’s roof.

What if that was our mindset? What if we would stop at nothing to introduce people to Jesus?

What if for one year we were to pray like we never have before, to set an alarm on our phones for 5:08 PM and pray every day for the 5.8 million people who live within 20 miles of an Eastside campus?

What if for one year we were to go like we have never gone before: to join the launch team for our newest campus in Bellflower; to invest time in one of our weekend ministry teams; to lead a small group and help a small circle of people to make friends, follow Jesus, and make a difference; to serve with local compassion and impact our communities, or to go beyond borders with our global compassion team and impact the world?

What if for one year we were to give like we’ve never given before to help strategically position our church to fully leverage God-given opportunities to reach more communities like we have in Bellflower, La Habra, Park Rapids, and Anaheim?

  • What are some of the sacrifices that others have made that have impacted your life in a positive way?

  • What sacrifices might you be willing to make to impact the lives of others?


Introduction

We recognize that money can be a sensitive topic, but it’s also one of the issues that Jesus talks most about.  How we choose to use our money speaks volumes about our priorities and, consequently, about our spiritual life.  We would encourage you as a group to engage these discussions with grace but not to shy away from them, as they could have a profound impact on you both personally and spiritually.

You may also find that some people in your group are relieved to know that others don’t have everything figured out financially either.  Because money is often such a taboo topic, it’s an area where many people who struggle are isolated.

Contrary to what you may have heard people say, the Bible doesn’t condemn money or wealth, but it does condemn the love of money and ill-gotten gains.  And it warns about the dangers that come along with having wealth.

  • We all like the idea of having more money, but if you were to suddenly find yourself rich, do you think you’d be a good rich person or a bad rich person? Why?

Tomorrow matters.

Its easy for us to forget this because most of are conditioned for instant gratification.  We want things today, not tomorrow.

But too often the now mindset takes over when we’re thinking about our finances.  It’s the now mindset that leads to debt and financial insecurity because there were some things we just couldn’t wait for, things that we wanted today, not tomorrow.We all get letters offering to loan us money, whether it’s an offer for a $1000 payday loan or a $100,000 credit card.   They talk about loans and financing and opportunity, but you know what they don’t talk about…

Debt.

But that’s exactly what they’re selling you: debt.  They want you to think they’re selling you clothes, and vacations, and shopping, and instant cash, but they’re not. They’re simply selling you debt.

  • Why do you think we have so much trouble saying no to things we can’t really afford?

  • If you have said no to things you can’t afford in order to avoid debt, what has been the impact?  If you have taken on debt in order to pay for things you couldn’t otherwise have paid for, is that a decision you are still comfortable with or do you wish you had made a different decision?

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 22:7.

Debt takes away your freedom.  It makes you a servant. Now not all debt is bad and the Bible doesn’t say it’s a sin to go into debt, but it does give lots of warnings about the danger of debt.

Debt can be harnessed for good things: a business, to own a home, for an education, but we really get in trouble when we start accumulating debt for things that depreciate in value: clothes, cars, boats, electronics, eating out, vacations, because we think we have to have things today. But tomorrow matters.

When we realize tomorrow matters, we will change the way we live today.When we realize tomorrow matters it will change the way we pray today. It will change the way we serve today. When we realize tomorrow matters it will even change the way we manage finances today.

Have a volunteer read Matthew 25:14-30.

Now, each of these bags of gold would have been worth about $30k.  So one guy gets $150k, another $60k, and the last guy $30k, and the owner says, “Hey, take care of my money while I’m gone.”

The first thing to notice here is that these guys are not owners but rather managers responsible for advancing the owner’s goals.  The financial resources that we have aren’t really our own either, they’re provided to us by God so that we can manage them well and advance His goals.

  • How would shifting your perspective from owner to manager change the way you think about your finances?

So two of these guys invest the owner’s money and double his money.  Now, we don’t know exactly how long the owner was gone, but even if he was gone 5 years, that’s still a 13% annual return!

But the third guy was scared.  He was afraid of losing the owner’s money, so he put it in a safety deposit box so he wouldn’t lose any of it.  But, of course, he didn’t do any good with it either.

The guy who managed a huge amount of the owner’s money well?  He was given even more to manage.  The guy who stuck what he was given in a hole in the ground?  The master called him wicked—not just lazy—wicked.

Jesus couldn’t have been clearer. We will be accountable one day to God, the owner, for how we managed His stuff.

  • What is the best financial decision you have ever made?

There are really only five things you can do with money:

  1. Pay taxes.

  2. Spend it.

  3. Pay debt.

  4. Save it.

  5. Give it.

Most of us prioritize our money exactly like this.  When we get paid we pay taxes… because we have to because it’s automatically deducted from our paycheck.  Then we spend money, some on things we need, some on things we want.  And then we pay our debt, the money we’ve already spent.  And if there’s any left over, we’ll save some.  And maybe at the end we’ll give away a few dollars to God or to the people in need whom He cares about.

God, the owner of the money we’re managing, is the last among our financial priorities.   We are so often unwilling to give away money to God or to people in need whom God cares about.  It isn’t usually an intentional decision we make.  It just happens by default.

  • How do you currently prioritize the five financial priorities listed above and why do you prioritize them in that way?

Each of these five ways of using our money falls into one of three buckets:

  1. A today bucket.

  2. A tomorrow bucket.

  3. An eternal bucket.

When we pay taxes, spend it, and pay debt, that goes into the today bucket.  When we save it, it goes into the tomorrow bucket.  The Bible teaches us to be wise like the ant who stores up food during the summer in order to make it through the winter.  And then when we give it to God and causes He cares about, it goes into the eternal bucket, because when people find Jesus it changes their lives for eternity.

Have a volunteer read Proverbs 3:9-10.

The Bible teaches us that our first priority should be to put money into the eternal bucket.  If we’re managing God’s resources, it only makes sense that we would give to Him first.  And it isn’t really about money, it’s about value.  When you prioritize something financially, you’re indicating that you value that thing.

If you decide to live in a small apartment so that you can drive a nice car, you’re making a value judgment.  You value the nice car more than a nicer place to live.  Or if you decide to drive a beater so you can afford a better apartment, you’re valuing a nice place to live over a nicer car to drive.

When you decide to give to God first, you’re communicating to God that you value Him, that you’re prioritizing Him in your life above all of your stuff.

And then wisdom says that before you start putting money into the today bucket, before you start spending, you should put some money into the tomorrow bucket, because unless you’re wealthy (and maybe even if you are), once you start spending you’ll almost always use up whatever is left.

There’s a simple plan to do this.  It’s called the 10/10/80 plan.  Take the first 10% and give it God.  Take the second 10% and save it (not under your mattress, invest it wisely), and then live on the last 80%

  • What do you think about the idea that you should give, save, then spend, rather than spend, save, then give?  Do you agree with Gene that the 10/10/80 plan is a financial freedom plan?

If you’re struggling financially or trying to figure out if give, save, spend is really a good idea, we would strongly encourage you to join Financial Peace University.  It meets on Thursdays at 7 PM on our Anaheim Campus (June 15-August 10) or Mondays at 6:30 PM on our Park Rapids campus.  For more information or to sign up, email Sean Rees (seanrees@msn.com) if you live in Southern California or Ginnie Peterson-Johnk (ginnie297@charter.net) if you live in northern Minnesota.