Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. It is a wonderful time of year to be alive. It is this beautiful time of the season where the leafs have been changing the sun, it seems a little bit brighter. Coolness just makes it almost glorious. If it weren't for all of those nasty leaves. They're everywhere. And they're, they're always coming and and just when you think you got ahead of it just when you've raked your yard, the neighbor's leaves blow onto your yard. It never ends. It just it's always there. And then there's those nasty pin oaks right? These are those trees that taught you Do you know what I mean? You regularly if you have an oak if you have a maple tree, they're the maple. I love maple trees because they they're this glorious color, right? They the oranges and the reds. And then they do the decent thing, the human thing. They dropped their leaves and they said There you go. You had you had your shot. There you go. And you rake them up, but not pin oaks, pin oaks laugh at you. Pin oaks are those trees that hold their leaves till deep into the winter and they just dropped them continually and go. You can try your best. But I'm going to win in the end. All right. You have different kinds of trees. You have different kinds of people. You have some people that are just joyful, right? It doesn't matter what they can't what comes at them. They're just joyful. They're just happy people. They're like, here I am. Licensed good. I've got my health. I've got friends. I've got people around me, I live in this beautiful part of the world. I see the beautiful blue sky, I see the tree. Life is good. And then you have the curmudgeons the people that are like, I look at beauty. And say yes, it's looks nice. But like I go to the beach, and I love the beach. And it's beautiful. But there's sand and the sand gets everywhere. And it irritates me. I look at the leaves on go yes, they're nice for now. But they're gonna drop someday. I look at people and I go, yes, they're wonderful people, but I bet they want something I bet there's a hidden agenda somewhere. Right? Those are the pinto jokes of our world. It is a challenge for us always. So as we think about our lives is to say, what kind of tree are you? Are you an evergreen? Right, you know, I am beautiful colored all the time. And I hold the snow and just a beautiful way. Are you a Pinto that just like I will irritate you constantly? Or are you a maple that just as a glorious color of, of joyful attitude that whenever people look at them, they said somebody ought to paint a picture like that? Well, we've been talking about generosity. And we've been talking about stewardship. And if you ever want to irritate people, you ever want to irritate churches, and I've kind of figured out how to do that over the years. Talk about finances. Well, why would that irritate people? Well, because it's the most practical I mean, everything else can be theoretical or philosophical. But money is practical. This is where the rubber meets the road. And this is what we talk about. We're going to talk about here a little bit. This is what separates the cart, the tire kickers from the car buyers. This is the one that will decide. Are you really in or are you just here for the show? We've been talking about art. And the reason that we talk about art are the reason that I think it is so important is because artists have a unique way of seeing the world. Right?
If if you look out at a landscape, and some people just look at it, and they say, Well, that's nice. How do I get from point A to point B, that kind of thing. But artists kind of see beyond the facts, you know, beyond just giving you the facts, they look at it, and they say, I see peace I see. Abundance, I see the struggle between good and evil. And I see that God's handiwork in the most ordinary, the most mundane events, God's handiwork. I hear I hear music. In the birds in the morning, I hear a symphony that is playing out, not everybody can hear that. But I hear that there's another story playing out. I also there are the artists that that know that there's a story that is playing out in your pain. And in your confusion. And in your anxiety, there is a story that has been playing out before you were born, of which you have become a part of artists get to see that kind of stuff, then they get to invite you into it, and what the essence of the gospel is what Jesus is doing is inviting you in and saying, Hey, folks, the kingdom is coming. The kingdom is here. It is all around you. Can I open up your eyes beyond just making money and help you to see what is emerging? Right, right before your eyes? Can? Can I help you to see the flowers, the roses that are blooming? And not just the thorns that will get in your way? What do you see? And so we began by talking about how can we begin to become more aware? That's why we're really here this morning, right? How do we become more aware of God's presence each and every day? How do we take this faith that we love so much this story of Easter and resurrection? Then how do we live it out? Beyond Sunday morning? How do you take it home with you? How do you take it to the workplace to the to your cubicle or to your office space to the to the friends and family? How does this play out? Because I'm convinced that once the world really sees what Jesus is doing, this is what they've been hungering for all the time that the biggest problem between what Jesus is doing and where they are, are the Christians that are communicating it, the way we communicate it, how we live it out. Sometimes they look at us and they go, I don't see that it makes that much of a difference. We need to change how we present and how we live out this truth that we have been given. We began by talking about what do you see. And last month, we talked about spiritual formation. Spiritual Formation is about awareness. The Roman philosopher Cicero, in the first century, BC, once said that gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but it is the parent of all others. Your ability to be grateful for what you have the life that you have been given? Yes. Do you have challenges? Absolutely. It's what draws you out of your comfort zone are challenges are those things that force us to see the world differently. They challenge you to give up your tinker toys. In order to stand up and to embrace the life that you've been given. Every challenge is inviting you to go a little bit dip deeper. What gratitude does, it says all this everything that you have your health, your family, the struggles, the joys, the ups and the downs is a gift from God, to reveal something to you, to teach you to show you who you really are. And so the biggest challenge then becomes Are you aware of what God is doing? We call that spiritual formation. spiritual disciplines. We talk about prayer last month, we talked about the the essence or the joy of prayer that invites you to see your life and your relationship with God differently. That's key. If you don't have gratitude, everything else falls apart.
You become that chromogen that Pinto oak that I was talking about before. But that's not the end of it. You can't just become aware and stop there. You You now have to begin to put it into practice. Wesleyan theology is essentially a practical theology. It means that once you know something about Jesus, about what Jesus said or what he did, or what he taught, what diff When is that going to play out in your life? How is it going to change you? And so we begin by talking about stewardship. Stewardship. Stewardship is essentially what you do with what you have. After you say I do. Once you've decided to become a follower of Christ, and this is higher level stuff, this is not just part of the crowd. This is not just part of the background noise. But if you become a member and you say, Hey, you can count me in Jesus. It's about taking all of me, everything, you lay before him. Everything, you you become a member, everything that you have everything you are the storyline that you're living, The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly, you lay before Jesus, and you say, I'm all in. We as a church, one of the things I want us to understand, and when you become part of an adventure, when you believe that you are made for more, everything is part of that story, The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly, everything but prior to this as part of is the prelude that gets you to the true story that you are now living. But everything has to be laid at his feet, not just the things that are comfortable and convenient. The best way to represent that as with a map diagram, right? As Easter people we recognize with gratitude, what God has done for you. God has already reached out to you long before you are aware of his presence, you are Easter people, because God is forming. God is moving in your life. And you are here to say, hallelujah. I'm not here by myself. But that moment of awareness has got to give rise to a response. A response of gratitude. How do you express that? Can you be joyful that God has done amazing things and still be a chromogen? I don't think so. It gives rise to joyfulness, it gives rise to sacrifice and service. I want to do this. I don't have to do it. I want to do it. Because God is with me. If we don't have evangelism, if we're not sharing our faith, it raises the question whether we have faith if we have a relationship with somebody that we love, and and we treasure and they are so important to us, and yet we keep it quiet and hidden and secret and don't tell. I question whether you have the relationship you think you have. And so we get to a place of challenge. Who are we in? And who especially Are we becoming? Well, there's an old story about going to shop for cars. Do you like to shop for cards, cars? I hate the haggling. I'm not a Hagler. I like to go to the places that it's like, you know, going to Walmart or the store, you get a sticker. It just says this is it. I don't like to haggle. But I know people that love haggling, they just enjoy the debate. They love it love the the tension the back and forth. But there are a lot of people that just go and they look at cars and they they compare, you know, the sticker versus all of the accessories that you can get the seating the radio, they're probably gonna have radios anymore. With the sunroof, you know, the whole thing they love that the back and forth.
But there comes a point where you have to differentiate the difference between whether you are a tire kicker, right? You're just checking it out. Just seeing it whether it's worthy of your money, or whether you're really invested. You're a car buyer, are you here because you are looking for a change in your life? Or are you just kind of going through the motions? Well, there is a there is a definition of whether you are a tire kicker or a car buyer. What is a tire kicker? I found this online and it says a tire kickers are those who will waste your time without ever providing any real value. They have no real intention of engaging serving or sharing. They are just stringing you along. The question is Is why did they do it? Well, maybe they do it out of guilt or power. Maybe they have good intentions but they have a fear of committing the reason, the reason it doesn't matter. These kickers of tires are not genuine. Simply put, they will waste your time. Now, does that sound like anybody wants to be a tire kicker? Do you feel which of those two categories do you think that you would go into? So when we began to where we go, when we began to think about stewardship, the question really was, is whether you are a tire kicker or a car buyer. The question is, is that just as in baptism, general generosity, as a baptism, I'm sorry, baptism is an outward and a visible sign of your connection to Christ, a decision that you have made. At some point in your life as a believer, you've made a decision to become a disciple. And the way we initiate you into that community of faith is through baptism. But that ongoing spiritual transformation, that ongoing change from the cold and aloof to the warm and inviting to the reflection of Jesus is a reflection of the generosity living out within you. That spirit that says, I feel the upwelling of God in me and I want it to flow out to everyone else. It is continually living in that spirit. Now, you'll notice if you have your sermon notes that generous people or stewardship, car buyers love to talk about money. spiritual people love to talk about money, it isn't a dirty word at all. They love to talk about it, because there's always more of it. Now fearful people hate talking about money, because it makes them uneasy. Makes them feel guilty or anxious or worried. What if they really knew what was going on? Why do churches hate to talk about money hate to talk about stewardship, it makes them uncomfortable, it becomes real, it becomes practical. And we'd like to think in terms of theoretical, grateful people, if you understand what God is doing, they love talking about money. Grateful people also love to talk about it because it reveals the potential of it. Money is a tool. It allows you to do things to change lives, to invite people to to give away the things that you cannot keep. So that you buy things that you cannot lose. It allows you to expand the world. It allows you to light a candle in a dark world. It allows you to feed children, it allows you to build handicap ramps. It allows you to reach out to people that are in need and say you can count on us they they see money, they see their money as the potential. If we invest in think about what we could do, the transformation that we could bring. Because people love to talk about money because they understand its purpose. They understand its purpose. Jesus understood this as well. Where your treasure is. How does that go? there your heart will be there's there's a it seems like there's a string. Have you ever noticed there's a string between the person's heart and their wallet?
Have you ever noticed that Andy, Andy Stanley, who's a pastor down in Atlanta once said, you haven't really been baptized until your wallets been baptized? You know, sometimes we do that, right? We want to go we go in the tank, we're gonna go get baptized, but we set our wallet off to the side. Yeah, I understand that metaphor of saying until we're willing to give it all. Perhaps we're holding back a little bit. Maybe we're not experiencing the wonders and the joy and the elation of the first century that we so often talked about, primarily because we're holding back. We're withdrawing from what God is doing. And so we began this series by talking about the art of generosity. When you see more than just money, when you're able to look at the dollars, and you see more than just digits, but you're seeing people and you're seeing potential You're seeing the transformation that can happen when we give generously, because God has given generously and he's inviting you to live his life. experience that life joyfully. Well, there's a story that you're probably all well aware of. It comes from Mark's gospel, because Mark writes in such beautiful prose, he writes in a way that experiences the depth of Jesus's emotions. And so this morning, I wanted to share a passage from Mark chapter 10, beginning in the 17th, verses one that you know, pretty well. Now, as Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and he fell on his knees before Him, good teacher, he asked, What must I do to have eternal life? Why do you call Me good? Jesus answered, No one is good, except God alone. Now you know the commandments. You shall not murder shall not commit adultery, shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony. You shall not defraud, honor your father and mother. Okay, let me just pause. This is the story of the rich young ruler, right from the other gospels, the other synoptics. So here's a young man who has it all. I mean, he's got everything, right. And he comes in, he falls down, he said, but I'm empty inside. I have all this stuff. And I'm doing, I'm doing the I'm following the rules. I'm following the rules of society. I've got a good job. I've got a three car garage. I've got a good mortgage, my 401 k is going through the roof. Well, not anymore, but you get the idea. But I'm empty. What's the point? What am I doing here? I want eternal life I want I want my life to have meaning. And not just here. And now I don't want to just compare myself to you all. I want my life to be full and abundant and want my life to be about something, not just be time well spent. Jesus said, Well, have you followed the rules? And he said, Yes. And they let me down. Being a rule follower, just doing the opposite. Just going through the rituals just showing up Sunday morning, everybody else was doing it, just showing up Sunday morning, doing the rituals, doing the routine, has left me dry, and empty and barren. Teacher, he declared all of these I have kept since I was a boy. Jesus looked at him and loved him. One thing you lack, he said, go and sell everything that you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow Me. At this, the man's face fell. And he went away sad because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. This is the Word of God for the people of God. Do you feel the tension in that? In that little story, just just a snippet one that you know so well. A young man coming, you know his life. He's given everything he's achieved everything that you can ever think of achieving, right? He's, he's, maybe he's the CEO of his company. He's his promotions, there's, you know, he's reached the top of his business. He has the money, he has the wealth, he has the power. He has everything that we would consider successful. And he said, I've reached the pinnacle. I'm a celebrity.
And I'm empty. It's not at all what I thought it was going to be. And Jesus invites him to find true happiness. This is the essence of what Jesus is trying to do. He's inviting him to learn about generosity, the power of generosity to awaken you to a life that you never knew before. You see, the great thing is that generosity cures hypocrisy. It'll cure hypocrisy. He comes to Jesus, he falls at his knees, he humiliates himself by falling in his knees, he calls him good teacher and Jesus says, Now, why do you call Me good? Right? Because none is good, but God. Essentially what he's telling us is you see the god life in me. And you're coming to God saying, God, what is it all about? Love with holds nothing. Okay, but joyfully gives everything I always have this cute little story that I like to tell since Lynette is not here we can talk about Lynette but she's not here. Whenever we got engaged, right imagine ladies that you your husband or your your spouses, which are probably the same thing, right? Come to you and say, hey, you know, what, what is the bare minimum I have to do to get you to marry me.
But being the bare minimum, you know, do I have to be there every day?
In terms of our finances, you know, do you want all of it or just 10%?
And yet, the question is, is in our relationship with God, do we not do the same thing? Do we not live as hypocrites? We say one thing, but we we do something else. See, one of the things that often happens in churches is whenever you're you are unhappy with whoever standing up here. How do people vote with their pocketbooks, right? They vote with their money, they withhold it and say I am displeased with how things are going. And so I am not going to contribute to my church. Now this is not new, this hypocrisy is not new. This goes all the way back to the Jesus's time. Do you remember the story of people coming to Jesus with a coin or Roman coin said, Hey, what do we do with this money? We should withhold this right? Because it's Roman. Should we pay or shouldn't we? And Jesus said he knew their hypocrisy. You see, when you signed up to be a believer in Christ, you gave everything you offered yourself and said, Here I am, Lord, take me as I am. But oftentimes we withhold and we say, But Lord, not all of me. As long as it meets my standards, as long as it falls within this time frame, as long as it doesn't ask too many hard questions. Jesus cuts through that stewardship cuts through that that hypocrisy. Generosity allows the love of God to flow through you generously. Should we pay or shouldn't we? That is not for you to ask. Jesus said, Give to God, what is God's understand, it's all his. Everything that you have everything that you've been given, he gave to you to draw the very best out of you. Generosity will cure our natural inclination to hypocrisy. The second thing that often happens is that generosity is unnatural. Have you ever noticed that that in our world in this life, it's all about me, myself, and mine? What do I get? Do I have more? Do I have more than they do? Jesus talks about money more than any other thing because it seeps in. And here's the great thing about it. You never can see it in yourself. I have never had anybody come in to the office and say, Oh, Pastor Steve, I need to talk to you about my greedy tendencies. I'm a very greedy person. Can you help me? They ever do that? Because you always see other people other people have more than I am. Other people have more money. I mean, right? They have a lot more. People have billions. You say, Oh, well, I'm not as bad as they are. It seeps in it is on natural. Generosity is unnatural, giving generously. Did you ever wonder why and Mark's gospel? Right in the middle of it? Mark inserts that little phrase, right, the man comes in said I've done all of this stuff. And Jesus loved him. Why does he include that in there? Because Mark wants you to know he's going to, he's going to ask big because he loves so much because he loves you so much. He wants to separate you from this thing, this cancer that is welling up within you. He wants to exercise. That pain that is holding you back. He wants Want You To see more of yourself? And so he said, Jesus loved him. That's why he's asking these big questions. Why he's asking you to ties, so that it doesn't hold you down. It doesn't hold you back. Generosity affirms. It's all by God's grace. He asks him, give up everything. And follow me. The interesting thing, the only time somebody turned Jesus down, saw Jesus was desperate for Jesus said, I need a life, the only thing that is holding you back is your money. The thing that is keeping you rooted to this earth,