At Gateway South in Austin, we are at a defining moment. To move forward into what God has for us will require each of us trusting God more than we ever have before.
We can experience the life and freedom God intends for our lives and bring that life and freedom to others. We can experience God’s loving presence and guidance all day and every day.
Life 24 seven means knowing God intimately and bringing hope to humanity wherever we may be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This week John Burke announced we will be signing the contract on our new location! He also shared on how we can pull this off together and why our willingness to give and sacrifice is so important to become the person God designed each of us to be and the people He is calling us to be together.
Watch the message here:
Notes from the message here:
All of us have One Life—One Life to live, to give, to invest—realizing this watching my dad die young—I realized nothing lasts, except God and people. How will we invest our One Life in ways that last?
This Life 24/7 journey these 4 weeks will be our defining moment, Gateway South. We’ve been portable 7 years now, you keep growing, serving and reaching people struggling with life, but we need a permanent location. It’s going to take every one of us who have benefited from Gateway to invest financially—it’s like a huge team effort.
Now, many of you are new to Gateway—many are still spiritually unsure what you believe or where you stand. And I know this plays into your biggest fears—that churches are just after your money. If you’ve been around a while, I hope we’ve earned your trust by now. Every week you’ve heard us tell people, “we don’t want you to feel pressured to give—if you’re new or spiritually seeking—this is our gift to you.” Because we never wanted people’s money fears to keep them from coming to know the God who gives all we have and provides even more as we trust him. This Life 24/7 journey will be no different. We won’t guilt or pressure you to give, no thermometers on the walls. But we are going to challenge you spiritually by teaching what the Scriptures say about willingness—in every area, including with giving. Again, if you’re new, sit back and watch these 3 weeks, and you’ll see something amazing. You’ll see people whose hearts have truly been changed by God—from takers to givers—you’ll see people who have come to see that God’s church, made up of willing people, really is the hope of the world—and you’ll be blown away by the way people give of themselves to benefit others—out of a motivation of love for God and people, not out of guilt. And if we do it right, this journey will cause all of us to grow closer to the heart of God and all we do will come from willingness.
Willingness is the key to the spiritual life if you haven’t figured that out yet. What God wants from us is relationship—loving trust in our Maker above all other things. But He won’t make us love or trust him or even obey him, have you noticed that? So the essence of what God wants is your willingness. Without your willingness, God will do very little. With your willingness, there’s no limit to what God can do in your life and through your life.
But think about this a minute—how do we love God? Well, when we love something, we sacrifice for it. The best definition of sacrifice I’ve ever heard: Sacrifice means giving up something we love for something we love even more—and it is always true that we willingly sacrifice for what we love most.
Let’s do a heart check this morning as I walk us through different motivations people have to give or make sacrifices—my challenge to you is to locate where you are and then where you want to be and stretch your heart spiritually.
LEVEL 1 – QUID PRO QUO
This is the most base motivation to give anything – to get back something in return.
Gateway is made up of people coming from just about every religious background imaginable. I’ve talked to some people who were shocked to find out it costs nothing to attend or benefit from the services, children’s programs, recovery or restore classes, lifegroups—no charge. One guy told me the religious affiliation he grew up in kept a Bulliten Board with a Black List—and if you were behind on your religious dues your name went up on the board for everyone to see! I bet that worked—nothing motivates better than guilt and shame. Unfortunately, it totally bypasses the development of the heart. Which is why Gateway has always had a different approach.
I’ve had business people come to Gateway and ask me, Why pass the bucket? Start thinking of a Quid Pro Quo way to do it. “Why don’t you just have people pay for services instead of an offering?” And they start trying to do the math to figure out what all this is worth on a Pay to Play, Quid Pro Quo basis.
But Quid Pro Quo is not how God wants His church to work because it doesn’t reflect the heart of God who freely gives everything…nor does it develop the hearts of people to be more like him. Some will decide the reason they want to give to help Gateway South have a home is simply because you’ve received but never given back—that’s not a bad motivation. To realize, I can’t just keep benefiting but never support this church. Maybe you think, I want what a building will offer me or my kids or my friends. That’s a good start. It’s what you’d expect to do for any other organization. But there are other motivations that develop spiritual maturity.
LEVEL 2 – GIVING FROM GRATITUDE
This is a higher motivation because it is not just about getting something back or even meeting a need. This reflects a spiritually maturing heart when people give out of gratitude to God. The Scriptures talk about this kind of giving:
“What can I give back to God for all that He has given to me?” Psalm 116:12
This is where giving of ourselves takes on a spiritual aspect—where we do it not just to get back or meet a need, but as a heart expression of Gratitude to God.
You know, our society spends billions of dollars each year on marketing trying to get us to think about all we don’t have and still need to have. A study reported on National Public Radio revealed that regardless of our income level, we all tend to think we need about 23% more than we have now, then we would say Enough. This is true of those who make $25,000 or even those who make $1,000,000! More is never enough.
The wealthiest man in the world in his day was Solomon. He once wrote:
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” Ecclesiastes 5:10
Our society has taught us to always compare up! Yet we never feel wealthy, content, secure, happy, or generous. We could choose a New Game. Gallup Poll just did a global survey and found: “the median global per-capita household income is $2,920.” Most of the 7 billion people on the planet will make 3K/yr! So if we don’t already have enough—nobody does. IF you earn $25,000/yr you probably feel poor compared to Americans, but compared to 7 billion other people, you’re top 10% wealthiest on the planet!? Make $50k or more, you’re the top 1% wealthiest ever! If we’re ever going to feel as wealthy and blessed as we are, we have to quit that game—starts with Gratitude. Gratitude is the antidote.
To help in this, work through the Gratitude Exercise which are the Next Steps from this week.
When God starts to work in a person’s heart—when he or she starts to see beyond the Marketing Madness of our Consumer society to say “God, look at all you’ve given to me—I want to give back to you.” That’s the sign your heart’s growing.
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. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. – 1 Corinthians 9:6-8
LEVEL 3 – SPIRITUAL OBEDIENCE
There’s a higher level of motivation that often requires greater sacrifice—spiritual obedience. At the level before, it’s the beginning of a reorientation of your heart, where you decide out of gratitude to God you want to give something back, but this doesn’t really cause any reorientation of our lives. Spiritual Obedience does. Spiritual Obedience tests the sincerity of our hearts to a new level of spiritual maturity because it costs us something. For thousands of years, God has set out two tests that stretch our hearts.
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing….” Proverbs 3:9-10
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. – Malachi 3:10
For people who claim to love God, God says honor me first-not after you see if there’s anything left over. And do it by redirecting the first 10% of all I’ve given you toward my purposes in my house—the local church you’re involved in (the storehouse was at the local temple).
Why this benchmark amount? Because to truly do this requires a reorientation–truly putting God first. This is the only place where God says, “Test me” because he knows our fear is we won’t have enough. So as a reminder he says, “Just test me—see if I don’t resupply as you step it up to trust in obedience. This shows a new level of love when don’t just give lip service to putting God first, we rearrange our lives and say “no” to ourselves enough to say “yes” to honoring God with the first 10% toward His work in the world—that requires a new level of sacrifice.
See here’s the thing about money—it’s a force for great good—it’s Spiritual Power to love God and people. God wants us to enjoy it, be grateful, and generous and he doesn’t want to take from us, but flow more through us. We should make all we can, give all we can, and save all we can. But there’s a Spiritual Power that wants us to trust in money more than God, because then it can rule us with fear, greed, anxiety and cripple God’s church. That’s why Jesus said these very challenging words:
“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:20-24
The reason God tells us to tithe 10% is a test of our true love—He doesn’t ask for 80% or even 50%, but the first 10% because it does cause us to stop trusting the Spirit of Money more than God. It breaks that spiritual force that keeps us never content, satisfied, or feeling wealthy or generous no matter how much we make. Some of us need to just decide these two weeks—I don’t know how yet, but Lord, with your help I’m gonna be Spiritually Obedient—if you decide you’re willing, ask Him to show you how, and watch–He will make a way.
You’ll get to know God. There was a Harvard Lawyer atheist used to come to South. He heard me teach on this and say, “Look, this isn’t about Gateway, God says test him and give 10% to his local church, and watch what He does. If you think we’re just charlatans after your money, fine, then I challenge you to give 10% to another local church—I know some good ones—and see what God does. Then get fully involved there when he comes through. This guy did that—he didn’t give to us—but within 6 months he came to faith in Christ and told me, he tangibly saw God doing things through that to show him he’s real. He was here for years until they moved.
This is a test of our hearts, not our ability. In two weeks, we will have tangible data to know where the hearts of the people of Gateway South are—I’m praying we pass with flying colors to bless thousands more for years to come through this permanent location.
LEVEL 4 – LOVE
The highest level of motivation is love. God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. (See Romans 5:8).
Sacrificial love is the heart of Christian faith. Authentic, mature Christ-followers who regularly tithe to the church they serve in, may give to other non-profits above that, and usually once sometimes two or three times in a lifetime will be prompted by God to step out and make a huge, high-risk, sacrificial gift. It’s happened several times in my life. One was putting my savings into starting this church. One Life (building the McNeil Campus) was another. I think about the 1000s of lives changed through all the services, meetings, classes, conversations through that building. Every one of us who invested made it possible. Jesus promises you’re investing in a payout that’s eternal and lasting. Store up your treasures in Heaven where they can’t be taken away from you, Jesus said. Life Giving Life was another.
The Scriptures tell a story of woman named Mary, who had experienced forgiveness and healing and life because of Jesus. One night as Jesus was at a dinner party, Mary came into the room with a jar of costly perfume. Probably her life savings as people would often store their savings this way. The text says it was worth year’s wages, maybe $50,000. She poured it out on his feet as an act of love. Judas, who would betray Jesus got mad:
“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. – John 12:5-6
Mary decides to use all her savings and pour it out in this extravagant sacrifice of love for Jesus. People stare in disbelief. It made everyone uncomfortable to see such sacrifice. Jesus praised her act, and said it would never be forgotten for eternity because love made her do it. Judas was terribly disturbed by it.
People will say “I’m not giving to a church, I’d give to the poor.” But that’s often a smokescreen—like Judas used—to just keep more for himself. Our building at McNeil has allowed us to serve 1000 needy families a year with groceries they couldn’t otherwise afford, Jobs for life, a spiritual family. You’ll be able to do good for 1000s of needy people, every day of the week, spiritually, physically, and relationally, through this building because of who we’re becoming, and the impact will ripple out for decades.
Last thing: I’m in this with you. I make a fixed salary set by a volunteer Board (our books are open), we give 10% to Gateway. We also support 4 kids through World Vision and Mission of Hope, and made a sacrificial commitment to Life Giving Life. Kathy and I are praying about adding a year to Life Giving Life South’s building.
Will you pray and just be willing to let God stretch your heart to a new level? If we will all just do that, we’ll all be amazed. You can never out-give God.
[I know some people may say, “Spending millions on a building—that’s just wrong. Why such extravagance?” If you’ve been thinking that, you haven’t attended an information meeting yet to find out why this is our most cost-effective way to serve people for decades to come—to learn why leasing would cost us even more, come today. But some will say, “I’m not giving to this, I would give if it was to something important like caring for the poor—but not to a building.” Let me challenge your heart motive on this—first, as we demonstrated last week, we want to care for needy people in Austin and as a church we are committed to not just giving once, but every year in multiplying ways with time, ability and money to really make a difference. But if that’s really your concern, then go through this process—stretch yourself to give sacrificially like you never have before and give it to the needy. But just don’t fall into the Judas trap—Judas concern was not for the poor—it was a smokescreen to keep back more for himself. ]
When someone is motivated by the love of God, she starts to see the world differently, with spiritual vision—She looks around and realizes, this world’s in trouble—people live in quiet desperation, they drink and drug themselves to destruction, they can’t learn to love, so they divide and divorce and destroy the very thing they longed for as kids. They grab hold of anything that promises a little peace and satisfaction, but nothing but the love and power of God can keep them afloat. And motivated by a deep sense of love for God that translates into loving compassion for people—they start to see His picture of His church as the hope of the world—that One Life is of infinite value to God, and with His love and His power, One Life can change. And that One Life can in turn change One Family, One other friend, and those people in turn can change One community. And that One community functioning together as God’s church under his direction, they can change a whole city.
That’s what motivates me and Kathy. And I tell you this only to say, “We are doing the same thing we’re asking you to do.” We did this table exercise—we put it all out on the table before God—thanking him for all we’ve been given. We already tithe to this church—we do it willingly out of obedience and because we believe in what God’s doing here. But we’ve been given so much, and we see this moment as determining the future impact of this church—if this building comes down and our church is homeless, it will hinder the impact on people’s lives. Those who were here before we got this building know that’s true. So for us, it’s not about building a building—it’s about One Life after another changing. So we looked at all we’d been given. This year, out of the blue, Zondervan Publishing heard about the unique things happening at Gateway—how we are truly seeing God use our church to reach our most unchurched generation—and they gave me a contract to write a book to help church leaders and small group leaders, called “No Perfect People Allowed.” I’ll be honest—first we had all kinds of great plans for all kinds of needed home improvements and purchases and vacations, but as we started praying, we realized God’s given us this to give to One Life. So those purchases will have to wait or come from somewhere else. But as we prayed, we realized, that cost us nothing. We can give that with no sacrifice except opportunity cost. We looked at ways to cut expenses, but there weren’t a lot—most extra goes to developing our kids and as we prayed, we felt that’s not a place to sacrifice. We prayed about what we had in an IRA and college savings, but felt we were to keep that. But remember last week I told you about money I had saved for my dream boat before going into ministry. Kathy had saved a good bit too. We’ve been living by the Good Sense principles we teach here, giving first, saving, and living within our means—we’ve invested that nest egg for 17 years now, and its grown a lot. But we decided to step out and trust God with the future and commit the amount in our savings over the next three years.
I’m not telling you that to say that’s what you should do, but that we believe God is doing something extraordinary through all of you—His church—And this is one of those 1 or 2 crisis moments in a lifetime where our willingness to sacrifice can multiply for years to come changing lives. Its an investment for us. I can’t read the stories in that One Life book we gave you without being so overwhelmed with love for God and gratitude to participate in something so important. Love makes us want to do it—nothing else could!
And my prayer for our church is that people would take steps into deeper and deeper motivation for whatever we do—moving closer and closer to heart that’s so filled up with love for God and love for people, that sacrifice is not really that hard—because we are giving up something we love for something we love even more—my prayer is that we will all say “Love made me do it.”
Imagine all the unchurched people in Austin who are spiritually searching, but don’t know the God of Grace who wants a daily relationship them. I met with a guy recently who is not a Christian, but is open and seeking. He said to me, “I have the dream life…dream job, I’ve had beautiful girlfriends, everything I could want…something’s still missing. He realized it’s probably God, and he’s taking steps toward trusting God. I met two of his friends at the 5 year who said they may start coming. Two other people at the five year told me they are not Christians, but now they’re wanting to come explore because they see something authentic in this place. God’s doing something among us, drawing people He loves back to himself—imagine all your friends, my friends—but we need a place they can come and sit and safely learn, get connected to small groups and ministries and grow. That’s why we need a home. We stand in the Gap—fear or faith will decide.
Imagine all the people who will find healing. A woman wrote, “I have been emotionally abused by family, raped at the age of 12, defeated by alcohol, drugs and eating disorders. Today I am a member of Gateway’s Comfort and Hope small group. God is doing in me what I could not do for myself. I am a survivor, I am clean and sober. I am joyous, happy, and free!” Imagine all the people who will hear of Gateway and come to our new facility—and find this kind of healing and hope. That’s why we need a home. We stand in the Gap—fear or faith will decide.
Imagine the ripple effect of our compassion efforts. Do you know a guy from the Netherlands came to church and got an envelope. He doesn’t go to church, but was in town on business and his friends told him about Gateway, so he came out of curiosity and left with $20. He said, “My first thought was “why bother, I’m busy, I don’t go to this church. But I also felt challenged. I couldn’t stop thinking about it even back in the Netherlands. A woman in my office stopped by and I told her what happened at your church. She knew the Parable of the Talents and said she helped arrange Christmas dinners for the outcasts of Rotterdam—we are going to figure out a way to add more to it…thanks for the valuable lesson. Just imagine the ripple effect as we launch out from our new home—with a bigger Food Pantry, Clothing Closet—possibly Transitional Housing and Jobs programs—think of all of us who could help underpriviledged kids get computer skills…so much possibility still. Imagine the impact on our Austin. That’s why we’re doing this. We stand in the Gap—fear or faith will decide.
Think about the Epidemic of Divorce—what will turn that tide? We just had our first “Before You Divorce” six week seminar. The leaders said 4 couples came in ready to divorce, all 4 left ready wanting to fight for their marriages. There wasn’t a dry eye when one man said in front of the group, “When we first married I thought I couldn’t live without you. Over time I felt I couldn’t live with you. After the last 6 weeks, I again feel like I can’t live without you. Imagine how many couples in Austin could benefit from that. How many marriages might be saved? But we need a place to grow and expand minsitries like that. That’s why we’re doing it. We all stand in the Gap—fear or faith will decide.
Think about students—think about how many lives you will have a part in turning toward God. This High School student writes, “3 years ago, when I was 13, I got into drugs. By age 15 I was smoking crack, shooting up, and running away for months at a time. I hated everyone. I ended up in a rehab center where I was introduced to the first True Christians I had ever met. I realized there’s only one reason I’m still alive…God wanted me to be. I’m now a dedicated Christian, back living with my family and going to Gateway, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” Our New Home is going to be down the street from McNeil Highschool and Westwood High. If we get creative and are willing to pray and invest—think of the potential life impact our church might have on these young lives—and the impact their lives can have when headed on the right trajectory. That’s why we’re doing this. We stand in the Gap—fear or faith?
Think about kids – we already are crunched for space where more kids can come and learn they are loved and valued by God. Our Kids Quest kids are participating in this with us—they are collecting cans to recycle and put toward One Life. Matthew was telling them in our New Home, we will have room to invite friends who may not know the love of God yet. And one little boy said, “I’ve been saving up for a ???, and I’ll collect cans, but I want to give my savings.” His parents couldn’t believe it b/c they knew how much he wanted that ??? But he said, “I want other kids to know God like I know him???” When I heard that, I thought, “God, give me the faith of a child—he gets it, doesn’t he.”
We have this incredible opportunity to be involved in something much bigger than ourselves—Something God can use to impact literally 1000’s of lives for years to come. And you and I can see it happen, get involved making it happen, and say “I played a part in that—because I stood in the Gap…and I trusted to do what I sensed God wanted me to do.” And it may be a large financial sum, or it may be the smallest amount—but when we trust God and do it—He uses it and multiplies it and resupplies.
- In which ways have you struggled to trust God?
- What do you need to surrender?
- In what ways are you going against God’s ways?
- How does God want you to seek Him?
- In what ways is God stretching you to sacrifice?