Your Legacy, Your Choice

April 3, 2016

So
here we are, April.  For those who have
been a part of the Cornerstone family for more than a year then you know what
April means. 
For
those of you who have been with us for less than a year you might think that
April is simply the month that falls between March and May.  And while that is true, at Cornerstone April
has been traditionally, at least since 2002, the month that Denn talks about
money.
And
you might think that is a bit strange, so let me give you some history and
background as to why that occurs.
First
of all, it occurs in April because this is the end of the church year for
Wesleyan Churches.  Why April?  I have no idea, but it is what it is.
Prior
to 2002 Cornerstone handled our budget and finances like most churches do.  Before the new church year, the local board
would sit down and draw up a budget for the new year.  But there was really very little rationale
for the budget.  The best that we would
hope for was we’d take last year’s budget and say “We hope to grow this year,
so let’s increase the budget by 10%” But that very seldom took into account if
we had made the budget the previous year or not.
It’s
like writing a personal budget without taking into account your income.  Assuming the money will just appear.  The problem in churches is when the money
doesn’t just appear then the pastor is instructed to preach on money. And
because the pastor only preaches on money when there is a problem it comes
across as scolding or nagging.  And most
people learn from childhood to mentally turn down the volume of nagging and
scolding. 
So
in 2002, the leadership at Cornerstone decided that instead of having the
pastor preach on money when things are tight, and then it comes off as
desperation, we would take the month of April, each year, to teach the theology
of giving, how we make our money and how we use our money.  
First
we called it Stewardship Emphasis month but some where along the line it became
know as simply “Money Month” 
And then on the last Sunday of
April, step up cards will be distributed to folks who call Cornerstone their
church home to respond and provide an estimate of what they believe they will
be able to give in the upcoming year.  In
affect you get to have a say in the budget and say “This is the type of church
I would like to have this year.”
And then we take the cards, add
them up and that becomes our budget for the year.  Not a nickel more.  And to stress the reality of that concept,
the first time we did that at Cornerstone I lost a third of my salary and had to
take outside employment for the next couple of years.
I
think I handle the mechanics of it well; we try not to embarrass anyone or put
anyone on the spot. If you don’t want to participate that is fine, although we
encourage everyone to take part.   And we
don’t come knocking on your door if you aren’t able to give what you thought
you’d be able to, we hope you will after all we have based our budget on those
figures.  And we provide you with updates
throughout the year about where we are in relation to what was committed and
where you are personally in relation to your commitment
 The scripture that was read earlier is one of many
instances in the bible when Christians were taught about and reminded of their
giving habits.  You see it’s not just
Denn who talks about money.
In
this case Paul is writing to the Corinthian church and he’s dealing with a
collection that was being received for the believers in Jerusalem who were in
the midst of persecution for their faith. 
And Paul is commending the Corinthian Church and he reaches back into
the Old Testament for the proper words and he quotes Psalm 112:9 where David is
talking about the righteous people who served God.   Psalm
112:9  They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good
deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honour.
What
Paul is speaking of and alluding to here transcends money and giving because
he’s speaking of the legacy that the Corinthians Church is leaving, in
particular I want to focus on the sentence that says “Their good deeds will be
remembered forever”. 
This
month our theme is “Your Legacy, Your Choice”  
and we really need to begin by defining what we mean by legacy.  Collin’s English Dictionary defines Legacy
this way:
Legacy:
1.         a gift by will, especially of money or
personal property
2.         something handed down or received from
an ancestor or predecessor
Sometimes
people will leave a legacy of money to an organization when they pass
away.  When Angela and I had our wills
prepared we stipulated that 10% of our estate was to be given to the church
where we were actively worshipping at the time of our death.   That would be a legacy, probably not a
really large legacy but a legacy never the less. 
And
for the purpose of my messages I want to combine those definitions and look at
what we hand down because of our giving. 
 Paul told the Corinthians that
they would be remembered forever for their good deeds, for having giving freely
and generously. 
And
so he begins by telling the church 2 Corinthians 9:6  Remember this—a
farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who
plants generously will get a generous crop.
The
first thing we need to note is that 1) Everybody Leaves a Legacy Nobody lives a
life without making some type of mark on the world, for good or for bad. 
Four
Hundred years ago John Donne wrote “No man is an island entire of itself; every
man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  Everyone will leave a legacy.
Paul
says that some farmers plant a few seeds and some plant generously, but the
reality is that they all plant something.
We
might think that we don’t do much, and while your name might be forgotten the
future will be written by what you do while you are here.  It might be a discovery made by your great
great great grand-child.  But that is
part of your legacy. 
Maybe
you’ve heard it called the Butterfly effect or the fancy name is “The Law of
Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.” 
But whatever you call it, it simply means that the smallest action can
have an incredible result.  For good or
for bad. 
Sometimes
I don’t think we give enough thought to the impact that decisions that we make
in our ordinary lives will have on tomorrow.
It
was Bill Gates who wrote “Legacy is a stupid thing! I don’t want a legacy.”  And maybe he was thinking of Windows ME or
maybe the quote that is often attributed to him, where he supposedly said “640K
of memory should be enough for anybody.”  He denies saying that, but I probably would as
well. 
But
Bill Gates will leave a legacy, whether he wants to or not, because of Bill
Gates and Microsoft the world looks different than it would have or could have
if a different operating system had of risen to the top of the pile.    And that doesn’t even take into account the
Gates Foundation and the tens of billions of dollars that have been spent on
health and education in developing countries around the world.
But
how about this, in 1968 Bill Gates parents moved their Precocious son from
public school to the prestigious Lakeside Academy a private school for the
elite families of Seattle.  That same
year the “Mother’s Club” at the school did a rummage sale.  There was much discussion of what to do with
the considerable proceeds from the sale and finally it was suggested that the
money be spent on a computer terminal for the students.  The computer terminal was placed in a little
room in the basement of the school and Gates practically lived in that room
from that day on.  In 1968 when most
university didn’t have a computer for their students a grade eight student by
the name of Bill Gates was learning programing. 
So
whose legacy is it?  Bill Gates’ or the
lady who spearheaded the rummage sale, or the mother who pushed to buy the
computer? 
So,
Everybody Leaves a Legacy
Let’s
go back to Paul’s letter:  2 Corinthians
9:7  You must each decide in your heart how much to give.
When
Paul tells his readers that they will each decide how much they will give, he
is talking about money, but to limit it to dollars is an injustice to his
writings.  Because 2) You Will Leave a
Legacy by how you spend your life
Every
one of us makes choices that will have an impact on our own lives.  I beat that drum all the time.  It goes way back to our childhood.  We choose whether we will work hard in school
or not.  I was always content to be in
the top third of the bottom half of my class, that was a choice I made.  We choose who our friends will be, we choose
what activities we will be involved in. 
And those choices that seem so inconsequential in our youth begin to
form and shape us and ultimate the legacy we will leave. 
At
some point we decide if we are going to go to university or not, which school
we will attend, which courses we will take. 
And when we graduate we choose what company we go to work for, who we
date and then we choose who we will marry. 
And maybe you are thinking, I didn’t choose to get married, I had to get
married.  Well that probably goes back to
another choice you made.   Those are all
choices that we make, and they all affect the life we will live and the legacy
we will leave. 
And
we are free to choose to do whatever we want to do in life, but we have to
understand that all choices have consequences. 
Sometimes, good consequences, sometimes bad consequences, but
consequences never the less.   It was
French writer Albert Camus who wrote “Life is a sum of all your choices.”
And
it’s not about accepting the blame it about accepting the responsibly for your
choices, both good and bad.  Because this
is the secret, once you realize that the choices you made yesterday have shaped
today then you realize that the choices you make today will shape tomorrow.
Your
tomorrow is your legacy.  You understand
that you are only here because of a choice that someone made however long
ago.  To illustrate, one day awhile ago
my son and I were having a conversation and he said “Sometimes I wish you had
of stayed fishing with your father, because I would have grown up on a fishing
boat.”   Good thinking Steve, but then I
reminded him, “If I had of stayed fishing with your grandfather then I would
never have gone to bible college where I met your mother, and while my son
might be fishing with me today, that son wouldn’t have been you.”
And
so wise choices will lead to one legacy and less than wise choices will lead to
another legacy. 
There
is a familiar verse in the book of Numbers, some of you will know it from the
King James or Authorized version of the bible, Numbers 14:18 KJV The LORD is
longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by
no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the
children unto the third and fourth generation.
But
have you ever asked yourself, “What does it mean ‘visiting the inquity of the
fathers upon the children.’”?
For
some people the answer is found in the New International Version where it says Numbers
14:18 NIV  ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin
and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the
children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’   And
they see God with a big stick punishing subsequent generations for sins
committed in the past. 
Seriously,
God is going to punish me for what my Great-grandfather did?  Most days I don’t think I deserve punishment
for what I’ve done.
Now
listen to the New Living Translation,  Numbers
14:18  ‘The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love,
forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty.
He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is
affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’
Let’s
read that again ‘He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the
entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’  We may not be punished for the actions of our
parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, but often times we are who we
are because of choices they made. 
Where
they chose to live.  How much value they
placed on education and their views or morality.  All of those things colour our lives.  But we get to choose the colour.  Will you live the consequences of your
parent’s actions or will you learn from your parent’s actions?
Don’t
let the past become an excuse for the present, “Well I am who I am because
that’s how I was raised” or “I can’t do much because I’m from. . .” or  “That’s what my parents were like, so I guess
that’s why I’m like this.”  In the
Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren writes  “We
are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
Regardless
of the legacy that you were left determine in your heart that you will leave a
better legacy. 
Christ
didn’t just come so we would have eternal life, he came to give us a different
life while we are here, he told his followers in  John 10:10  The thief’s purpose is to
steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying
life.
The
devil wants to steal and destroy your legacy, but Christ’s plan is for you to
have a rich and satisfying life. 
Whatever your background, whatever your heritage, whatever you are
struggling with there have been people from there who have chosen to rise above
it and leave a mark and leave a legacy and so can you.  
But
here is the great thing, Eleanor Roosevelt said “I am who I am today because of
the choices I made yesterday.”  Which
means that the choices we make today will determine who we are tomorrow. 
2
Corinthians 9:8  And God will generously provide all you need. Then you
will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
3.  You Will Leave a Legacy by How You Spend Your
Money  You knew it had to come to this
eventually right?  After all it is April.  But cheer up, we won’t be here long this
morning.
So,
let’s start up front by saying God and the Bible have nothing against money.
Through
the scriptures we find folks who were wealthy in their culture.  The Bible provides us with all kinds of
directions of how we view money, how we get money and what we do with the money
after we have it. 
Jesus
warns us of the danger of what can happen when we get our priorities about
money twisted around, but there is no glory is being poor. 
Contrary
to popular opinion Jesus did not say “Money is the root of all evil.”  What you might be thinking of is the warning
that Paul gave Timothy in 1 Timothy but Paul didn’t warn Timothy about money,
instead he warned him about priorities.    1 Timothy 6:10  For the love of money is
the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered
from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.  And you don’t have to be rich to love money
and crave money, and unfortunately too many people have traded away eternity
for a handful of dust.
But
listen up, this is important.  We will
all choose to spend our money somewhere. 
Angela and I tithe.  That is, we
give 10% of what we make to the local church. 
We believe that is a biblical concept.  And I’m not bragging I’m simply stating the
reality.
And
we are not the only folks at Cornerstone who have made that decision,
thankfully, or there would be no Cornerstone.
And
there are times that I have heard folks say, “I don’t know how you can afford
to do that”
And
I understand what they mean, because when I hear the price of beer and booze I
think “I don’t know how people can afford to drink.”  When I see the price of cigarettes I think,
“I don’t know how people can afford to smoke.” 
  
When
I stand in line at a convenience story and watch people buying lottery tickets
by the handful I think “I don’t know how people can afford to gamble.” 
And
there have been times I have thought “I don’t know how people can afford to
drive that car or live in that house or have their kids in organized sports.”  And trust me I’m not being judgemental, just
curious. 
But
the reality is that we all choose where we will spend our money. And we spend
our money on what we perceive to be valuable.
Very
early in the bible we read about sacrifice. 
It is the story of Cain and Abel the sons of Adam and Eve, the first
folks recorded in the bible.  The story
is told in Genesis, that’s the first book of the bible, where we read how Abel
was murdered by his older brother.  The
back story to the murder is told in Genesis 4:3-5  When it was time for
the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD.  Abel
also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD
accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made
Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.  
We’ve
been through this before.  Cain offered
“some of his crops” and Abel offered “the best of the first born lambs.”    And
what does that mean?  Well in the book of
Hebrews in the New Testament we read Hebrews 11:4  It was by faith that
Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering
gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his
gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of
faith.
Abel
still speaks to us as an example of his faith, because he stepped out and gave
his very best.
Each
person who comes to Cornerstone makes a decision in what they will give, God
won’t force you and Denn won’t force you. 
It is a choice that you will make by yourself.  And you will decide if you will give some to
God or if you are going to give the best to God. 
And
all we ask is that over the next few weeks as we look at stewardship and legacies
that you will commit yourself to asking God what that will look like in your
life.