Tell Me, What Do You See?

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston.

According to CASRO (Council of American Survey Research Organization), spending on marketing research across the globe is in the $18.9 Billion. That is the money spent to collect data from people like you and me, either via phone surveys, or online paid surveys, or any other number of means.That is a lot of money, but it is well spent. It is impossible to sell products or services that customers do not want. Research gives the company actionable data into the needs and wants of the customer.

The church needs market research as well. We want to connect to people right where they live, and we love them too much to leave them there if they are far from the heart of God. The question is how can we better serve the people who live by one of our campuses? Titus 3:14 answers that question: ”Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”

Everywhere around us are broken and dying people. There are people abusing drugs, there are children begging for food, widows needing help, homeless people in torn and dirty clothes. There was a mother with two babies—she was sitting at a laundromat weeping, her tears falling down on the faces of her hungry children.

Here’s the sad part. Most of those people live within a short distance from a church. Jesus identifies Himself with the least of these—He says I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a stranger, I was naked, I was sick, I was in prison. We see it throughout the life of Jesus; He always had time for the least of these. In fact, most of the miracles that Jesus did was when He was just out and about. He didn’t plan outreach events with the disciples. He just did what He saw the Father doing, and that was loving  people.“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19.

If we sing about things like God’s love, His heart, drawing closer to Him and wanting more of Him, we are going to inherit more of His heart. His heart is for you and me, and it’s also for the “least of these.” Yet do we see them? Do we cross paths with them? Can we do everything for every need. No we can’t. Can we do more? Yes, I believe we can. And that begins with opening our eyes to see the needs of people in our community.

We cannot open our eyes if we seldom wander outside the walls of the church. Nor will we meet urgent needs if we ignore it, treat it exclusively as a spiritual problem, or refer people to professionals and wash our hands of their trouble. We have a responsibility toward those who are, as Jesus says, “the least of these.”

Discussion Question:

1. Do I see the need around me, even when the need is minor?
2. What is my/our responsibility toward those who are, as Jesus says, “the least of these?”
3. Pray and ask God for wisdom in how to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives this Christmas.

How To Be Rich Series Summary

We started the How To Be Rich series with statistics and facts that prove we are rich. If you earn $35,000 a year, you are in the top few percent of wage earners in the world. Much of the world  do not have the luxuries of a house, car, cell phone, cable TV, running water, and electricity to name just a few of the things we take for granted in the U.S.

For many of us, our problem isn’t that we’re not rich, our problem is that we don’t feel rich. The reason is simple. No matter how much you have, there’s always someone who has more. That causes discontentment because the more we have, the more you want. And the desire to feel wealthy causes us to place our hope in money instead of in God. We’re tempted to believe that if we make enough, we’ll be able to control our circumstances and create a better life for ourselves. But the Bible describes a different way of thinking about and using our wealth.

Scripture challenges us to look at our money differently because our lives are better when we place our trust in the One who richly provides. Viewing wealth through the lens of eternity loosens our grip on it and its grip on us. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 tells us that the generosity of rich people in this present age also lays up treasure for them in heaven. As you give away, your grip on wealth is released, and you open yourself up to the abundance of God’s Kingdom here and now.

Jesus tells a story/parable about a rich man who had surplus amounts of wealth. Since he was wealthy, it was assumed by the hearers of the story, he must be blessed by God, and smart. Saving for the future is an Old Testament concept. I will save it now, and consume it later was his motto, because all that is placed in my hands is for me, he had thought. Then God tells him he will die that night. Jesus says, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves on Earth, but is not rich toward God.”

We do not get credit for what we leave. We only get credit for what we give.

I hope you will remember these four points on How To Be Rich:

  1. Do good for those who can’t or won’t do good for you – that was the hallmark of first century Christianity – expecting nothing in return.
  2. Don’t place your hope in riches, but in the One who richly provides.
  3. Since you have more, do more and give more.
  4. Viewing wealth through the lens of eternity loosens our grip on it and its grip on us.

So, be rich in generosity. God will do something in you, and through you, and you will take hold of the life that is truly life.

Discussion questions:
1. Reflect back on How To Be Rich series. What did you enjoy? What made a big impression on you?
2. How were you challenged during the How To Be Rich series? How did it change how you view your wealth and your responsibilities as a Christian?
3, 1 Timothy 6:19 tells us: “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Does that idea resonate with you? Why or why not? Pray and ask God for his wisdom and help in creating “a firm foundation for the coming age”with your generosity.
4. Read Luke 12:13–21. In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus draws a connection between being rich toward those in need and being rich toward God. What is your opinion of this idea? What do you like about it? How does it challenge you?

Do Your Good Deeds Do any Good?

Mr. or Mrs. Moneybags. Let’s be honest, we want to be like them. To have their money, and to have their stuff. It is the American dream: want more, make more, spend more and to have more. We’ve been told that climbing the ladder of success, hitting it big and getting rich is what life is all about. But what if being rich was irrelevant because we are already rich. How would that change the way we live, the way we spend and the way we give? As we have been talking about the last few weeks, it is not about getting rich and making more, its about being rich and making a difference.

People have always been first and foremost interested in making a good living, but today things are different. Peter Gomes, former minister to the students at Harvard University noted that students are asking a more challenging question today. “What will it take for me to make a good life, and not merely a good living?”

So, what will it take to make a good life?

More and more people equate the quality of their life by the size of their bank accounts. But the Bible talks about our wealth existing in what we do. We need to be rich in deeds and actions, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)

Making a good life is more than money. It is all of the elements that contribute to the makeup of our life: our talents, time, helping hands, laughter, genuine smiles, know-how, encouragement, listening ability, a cup of coffee, our caring, our giving of ourselves, comfort in times of grief, and so on. Most of these things cost nothing, but pay rich dividends. “This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” Matthew 10:42 (MSG)

Being rich in good deeds requires a different mind-set. It focuses on the needs of others instead of its own sense of accomplishment or worth. It’s posture is that of a “servant.” It approaches the needs of others with a “whatever it takes” attitude instead of a calculating assessment of whether or not there is value or a return in my investment if I do this. It does not keep a running total or have a finish line when I believe I have done my fair share.

Being good at being rich means we need to be intentional about doing good deeds. In this way, we grab hold of the life that is truly life. It’s not about justification, or getting God to love us more. It is living the way God intended so that we can be rich in deeds.

1. How do you measure your life?
2. Would you rate your life as a good life?  What does it mean to be rich in the eyes of God?
3. Define “success” in your own words. What are some of the different ways that our culture defines success? What does it mean to you to be successful?
4. How can you be rich in good deeds? How can you make a difference?

Being Rich In What Matters Most

Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.” ~ author unknown

Pay it forward was a movie made in 2000 starring Kevin Stacey and Haley Joel Osment. It is a story about a young boy who did 3 good deeds for others in need. In return, all that the child wanted was that they pass on the good deed to three other people and keep the cycle going.

Haley Joel Osment’s character wanted to change the world in the movie, but Jesus has changed the world and continues to do so on a daily basis. The Bible teaches that we as Christians are to pay it forward by being rich in good deeds. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” – 1 Timothy 6:18.

There are many examples of paying it forward in the Bible. The best known of those stories, the Good Samaritan, I talked about on Sunday. A man is robbed and left on the road for dead. Two people walked around him without helping. But the Good Samaritan took pity on him and went above and beyond to give him the help that he needed without regard for time or cost commitments.( The story can be found in Luke 10:25-37).

There’s another image that comes to mind when I think about being rich in good deeds. Remember the last scene in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, when all of George Bailey’s friends show up at his home to repay him for all the good things he’s done for them over the years. George was never wealthy, and all the money they’re giving him is needed to replace some bank funds that were lost. But if you ever want to see a picture of someone rich in good deeds–and in the friendship and love that spring from them–then watch this movie this Christmas.

It is important to do good deeds because it is a demonstration of love towards others. There are so many opportunities to use our time, talents and gifts to help others, we only need to see the need. And when we help others, we lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. Basically we are building up a heavenly bank account even if we are depleting somewhat our earthy bank account.

I’m praying that God is going to use this week’s message to unleash unprecedented amounts of compassion in our community. I honestly believe that our church is the answer to the needs in the lives of those around us needing God’s power and help.


1. So we are commanded to do “good deeds”— but what does this mean exactly? How do you define a good deed in your view? What type of good deeds are we to do?
2, It is apparent from a study of God’s word that we need to be intentional about doing “good deeds.”How can we be intentional?
3. When you help others, do you tend to help others in the way they need it or in the way you want to give it? Explain.
4. What do you think it would like for you to serve others outside of your comfort zone? How do you think it would affect you?
5. How have the good deeds of others in your church helped you spiritually and in times of need?
6. What’s one good deed you’ll commit to doing this week to help someone else?

Serving Him

God is doing something right here, right now, and anybody can be a part of it. All this week we talked about giving. In the How To Be Rich series, we explained that giving is not something we have to do, rather it is what we get to do. But we are also rich with gifts from God, and we are called to use those gifts to advance the Kingdom of God.

Some of us prefer to be hitchhikers. What do I mean? A hitchhiker wants the benefits of a car without the costs involved. The hitchhiker is basically saying to the owner of the car, “ I want you to sacrifice the cost of the car, the insurance, the gas, as well as having the ability to stay awake and driving safely. The hitchhiker just chills and enjoys the ride. He or she gets the benefits of the cars without any of the responsibilities of owning a car.

There are hitchhikers when it comes to giving and there are hitchhikers when it comes to serving. Our intentions are always honorable. We will give and we will serve: “When I’m rich, I’ll be more generous.” Or “When my profession matches my level of education, then I’ll start working for the Kingdom.” And finally, “Once I’m through this busy season of my life, then I’ll make more time to do what God wants from me.”

What if you believed that what you have right now, not tomorrow, next week or next year, but right now, that you already have what makes you rich? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The sin of respectable people is that they run away from responsibility.” As we have said many times in the series, we are rich, richer than most people in the world could imagine. The question is what are we going to do with our riches? Right here. Right now.

Let me get off topic for a second and suggest that one of the best ways for you to use your gifts is to serve. Our desire is to help those who are seeking God discover how He has uniquely wired them with gifts, talents and passions and then equips them to be a solution by serving in their church, city and world. Every believer has access to spiritual gifts, so each person can discover how God has gifted them. Some discover their gifts by stepping into service opportunities they are passionate about.  To help you in the process, Northstar has developed a 301 ministry class.  We want to help you realize what makes you so unique. This class will help you discover how your personality, gifts, passions, and life experiences work together to fulfill God’s plan for your life. Find out the class schedule by talking to your campus pastor or sign up on your connection card.

We pray that, in serving here, God would mature and strengthen all of our gifts and create in every person a servant’s heart that would bleed into all areas of our life.

Permit God to guide you to the ministry in which He has created and designed you to serve. Don’t be afraid to step out and try something new. He will always enable you to do what He calls you to do.

1. Pray about and enroll in the 301 Class.
2. Am I willing to answer the call to ministry, even in the smallest of ways?
3. Am I using my time and talents to accomplish the ministry God has for me?
4. Am I living a life of gratitude by joyfully donating a portion of my time and talent back to God?

Take the 90-Day Challenge

“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 there will not be room enough to store it.” – Malachi 3:10

As I said in the daily devotional post on tithing, I understand that giving away your income can be a big – and often frightening – commitment. We work too hard for what we have. So for many, the idea of tithing, bringing the first 10 percent of our income to God seems overwhelming.

God repeatedly challenges us to trust Him with our finances, promising that when we give Him our first and best, He will bless the rest. Exodus 34:26 says “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God” and Proverbs 3:9-10, 2 Chronicles 31:5, Leviticus 27:30 all contain similar messages.

Countless people experience God’s blessings when they tithe, but often the first step is the hardest one to take. That’s why we created the Three-Month 90 Day Tithe Challenge, a money-back guarantee of sorts. To help you take that step of faith, we encourage you to start tithing on Sunday at Northstar. If, after 90 days, you are not convinced of the blessings that tithing adds to your life, we will refund 100 percent of your gifts – no questions asked.

I think you will be amazed to discover how much better you will live on 90 percent of your income trusting in God, versus 100 percent of your income and just your own strength. When we bring our first and best to God, He promises to bless the rest.

So, take a step of faith and take the 90-Day challenge. It will deepen your walk with God and allow you to experience your Christian faith in new and vibrant ways.

1. So – what do you think? Are you ready to take the 90-Day Tithe Challenge and experience God’s best for your life?

Giving Back

I’m not sure why, but talking about money has always been somewhat awkward for most pastors. Talking about Christianity in all its counter intuitive depth can also be awkward. So when you are teaching a series on money and Christianity, it can be awkward squared.

That’s because most of us have been trained since childhood to believe that money is personal, private, no one else’s business, and that it’s something polite people don’t talk about. Still, I thought it was important enough to spend some a series on, but not for the reasons you may think.

My goal in the How To Be Rich series is simply to give you some solid biblical principles and verses to consider as you live the life of a follower of Jesus. Our goal, and my desire as your pastor, is that every person that calls Northstar their home church would tithe and develop a culture of generosity. I want you to live with that spiritual discipline, acknowledging God with the first and the best, and experiencing the consistent blessing of God that comes from obedience to His word.

I’m not teaching on this subject to judge your heart or check your giving record, or to put the full-court press on you to give more money, or to condemn anyone that is not giving to the church. The truth is we don’t need the money. God doesn’t either. We shouldn’t be afraid of talking about generosity and giving because Jesus certainly wasn’t afraid to talk about it. You’ll find more than 1,000 references to money in the Bible, second only to love.

“Marty, I understand what you are saying, but, I am the one who will get their electricity cut off if I don’t pay the bill. Yes, I am a little of a control junkie, but my finances can change in a heartbeat. Stop for second and think about all the things outside of my control that could affect my family finances – a fender bender, getting sick and missing work, my wife getting laid off, and my son Joey beating all the odds and making the traveling baseball team. And what about taxes? I pay taxes too and they keep going up. It sometimes feels that God and the government are after my money. Given all that, will I have enough left to meet our expenses?

While I empathize, let me say this. God is in complete control and we should not try so hard to hang on to something that is clearly safer in God’s hands? Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” My prayer is this series will change the perception that generosity as an unfortunate obligation that leads to personal loss into what the Bible sees as an opportunity for gain for those who are followers of Jesus Christ. Take Proverbs 28:27: ”Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” And don’t forget Malachi 3:10 which says, “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 there will not be room enough to store it.”

The simple truth is this: Of all the areas of life we try and hang on to, finances are an an area where we need more of God, not less of Him. For those who are just getting started and not sure you can step out and fully tithe, it may be wise to start where your faith is and move up from there. So if you can, in faith, commit to giving say, 5 percent of your income this year with hopes of moving it up to 7 percent next year, I think God will take you up on that. At the same time, I don’t think mature believers who are living under the blessing of God should stop at 10 percent.

Remember this is not a legal requirement, but a starting point for Biblical generosity. I do not think God would condemn anyone who is attempting to bring a consistent percentage of their finances, but I would encourage you to examine your heart, be honest before the Lord, and do your best to increase your giving as God blesses you.

1. If “Money Talks”…what is our money saying about our relationship with God?
2. What is the point of tithing? In other words, what do you think God really wants from us through our tithe?
3. Pray about how you could be generous, either with time or money, during the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas?
4. Start tithing today; Start with a percentage that you are comfortable meeting. Then commit to being consistent as an act of worship and increase that percentage as your faith increases.
5. If you are a regular tither, what are some of the blessings you’ve experienced through your tithing?

Do Well? Do Good!

“Because we have more, we will give more.” – from week 3 of the How To Be Rich message.

Or, in other words, if  you are doing well, you should do good. The people who have a lot of experience doing well, have two principles they follow. The first one is strategic giving. Or, you can substitute the word responsible. Being responsible or strategic is nothing new. It is a staple in every successful business. Being strategic is the opposite of reacting immediately and equally to everything. Wisdom and experience have taught us that generosity, like so many other things in life, is most effective when thoughtfully undertaken. Using our head and heart will make our generosity go further.

True generosity is giving away something we want and need to someone who doesn’t have the ability to obtain it any other way. It is responding to the obvious need of another, without calculating how much we stand to gain or lose. Luke 6:38 tells us, “For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give—large or small—will be used to measure what is given back to you.”

The Psalmist adds his own endorsement to generosity, “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” (Psalm 112:5) Proverbs tells us “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” (Proverbs 11:25).

Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” At Northstar, we strive to do all things in a quality and strategic manner which honors God, inspires people, and accomplishes His work.

So what does strategic giving look like? Influenced by vast needs worldwide each church and each individual can be tempted to spread their giving throughout the world. This could result in support being too thin. Strategic giving means deciding where we will have a substantial impact rather than simply giving broadly. Even the largest churches with all their resources understand this concept. To achieve the most impact, Saddleback Church strategically focuses its energy in Rwanda, while Willow Creek in Chicago works intently with World Vision in the Dominican Republic. As I mentioned on Sunday, we work with a community in Kiu, Kenya. It would make little sense for many churches to work with Kiu, when so many other areas need assistance from God’s people.

Whether on a personal or the local church level, we do best by giving strategically. None of us can afford to give something to everything, so we as individuals and churches need to decide where we can make our greatest, most strategic impact. It involves seeking God’s guidance to make contributions to the things that matter to God or into the work related to building Christ’s Kingdom.


1. Take a few moments in gratitude, thanking God for all the riches He has given us rather than dwelling on what we do not have. Psalms 117:1 says, “ Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Compile a short list of what God has already blessed you with. Do you have it good? Does knowing what you have make it easier to share with others?

2. How do you define strategic when it comes to giving?

3. What do you want to achieve through your generosity? And what criteria do you use to decide what to support through your generosity? Is it important to know the answers to those questions or to simply trust God to use your giving to His benefit?

Choosing Generosity

“We make living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

I started Sunday’s sermon with a confession. Nothing too shocking. Nothing that should lead you to fire me as your pastor, at least I hope not. But, a genuine confession, nonetheless. As I stated Sunday, I was not a poster child for generosity in my youth. Many people are not. The main reason is I saw generosity as a luxury, not a necessity. I have learned over the years, however, that I was wrong,

Generosity was very personal for me. I’d rather not have to think about this subject, because like most people, I have mixed feelings about how much stuff I have. Part of me really likes my stuff and wants more of it, and part of me feels guilty about having too much stuff.  Maybe you can relate. So, it was easier to simply not address the issue and thus postpone any action on generosity into the future.

But here is a fundamental truth. The very fact that we are resistant to talking about the subject, and resistant to changing our behavior, is proof we do need to talk about it and even more importantly act on it. Because it is an area that is genuinely unsettled in many of our lives, a place where we truly need God’s direction, even though a part of us tends to resist it.

I am no longer reluctant to talk about this subject. And it is not because the church or God needs your money. We are undertaking the How To Be Rich series because I am excited about generosity making our lives better. Raising money is important, but building a culture of generosity is more important than just getting the money. A culture of generosity is built by continually giving to others. We want generosity to be a common thread that runs through the entire church. Generosity is the antidote to the greed so prevalent in the world. It’s the tangible expression of God’s love in the world.

  1. Questions:
    Is generosity a tough subject for you? If so, why? Do you believe generosity contributes to true meaning and satisfaction in our own lives?
  2. Why are Christians not as generous as they should be? Generally there are four reasons: (1) We lack the means to give generously; (2) We want more time to save more, build up our retirement, pay off debt, etc. We live in areas where there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate needs, and (4) we do not understand that giving generously is a key element in our life with God. Do you fit into any of these categories? Are these legitimate excuses?
  3. Each of us has something to give. Some have wealth, some have talents, some have time. What gifts do you have? Do you give them generously?
  4. Take some time and pray to the Lord. Ask Him to give you a truly open heart to generosity. Ask Him to take away your resistance to giving.  Ask Him to teach you how to be generous. Come up with a first step toward becoming more generous.

If Only…

If only I had a little more ________?

If I took an impromptu poll, I believe most people would write “money” in the blank. Some might have written in love, others Jesus, still others wisdom. While those are all good answers, it is not what I would have penciled on the blank. My answer would be grace.

It is easy to look around and see people and judge them by our standards. We think to ourselves, “I wouldn’t do it that way.” I wouldn’t spend so much money on a car.  They have way more than I will ever have.” Money can effect us in so many ways, including distancing ourselves from the people who may need us the most. Our level of income does not stop us from being good examples. We all need a little more grace.

It is probably easier to be a millionaire than to fully embrace the attribute of grace. It is not easy to ooze kindness, compassion, patience or love. It is easier to be jealous, emotional, impatient, judgmental, and contemptuous. The last being what I save for those teams playing Florida State.

We are known by our character as Christians and our character is not determined by our W-2. Galatians 5:22-26 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

We are to act in such a way with everyone because we are no longer our own. We belong to Jesus Christ. Galatians 2: 20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” A great barometer of how well we live up to this verse is in how we treat others. Do we interact and think in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control? Do we show grace?

Being, or not being, a person of grace is all about our attitude; our spirit. Whether we are rich or poor, we will meet people who are far from the heart of God. Whether we are also struggling because we lost our job, or in debt, or discouraged because we have not been as fortunate as others, God expects us to show those that are seeking answers that there are people who are different. People who display grace because God has been so gracious to them. This week, be a person who is known by the fruits of the spirit, and shows grace and mercy to those around her. After all, we could all benefit from the riches of having grace.

1. What amazes you about God’s grace in Jesus?

2. How can I be a demonstration of grace in my family, in my workplace, in my church and in my community?

3. In the coming week, meditate on the importance of grace in your life. How has grace changed your life? How would you like it to change your life? Ask God to show you where to make the changes.

4. In your personal Bible study, take special notice of God’s instruction on grace.