By the grace of God, we have come a long way in the past few years.  This past week was the fourth anniversary of my coming to preach in view of a call, and Sunday, May 16th will be my fourth anniversary as your pastor.  I can say unequivocably that the past four years have been the best years I have ever had in ministry, and it is solely because of the loving grace of Christ.  I dearly love and am dearly loved by this wonderful body of Christ, and I am so thankful to my Lord.

When I came as your pastor in 2006, Morningview had navigated some challenging waters during its time without a pastor, but we were doing well.  In terms of the financial picture, God’s people were faithfully giving, but the church carried a burden of debt that amounted to about 1.3 million dollars.

In our last business meeting just a week ago, we saw that, by the grace of God, our debt has decreased almost a million dollars in just 4 years!  With the sale of our Bell Road Campus to Evergreen Community Church, the sale of our Vaughn Road property to Macon East Academy, and our faithfulness to honor God in our giving, we have made amazing progress.  Now, our outstanding debt on our 8 surrounding houses (which is paid for by incoming rent) is down to only about $220,000, and our outstanding debt on our main campus (for parking lot and bus barn construction in 2005) is down to about $172,000.  TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE!

What this means for us, brothers and sisters, is that our church could be completely free of debt by 2011.  What amazing progress that would be for us to be able to divert more of our financial resources to global missions and community missions when that day comes!   But reaching that goal takes sacrifice, and that is where I want to encourage you all to continued faithfulness in giving.

Ultimately, we don’t give to support a church budget or to employ vocational ministers or to support a church facility or to pay down debt on physical assets.  We give as an act of worship unto our God.  He does not personally require our financial resources because the whole earth and everything it contains belongs to Him (Psa 24:1, Acts 17:25).  Likewise, everything we have originates with Him and has merely been entrusted to us as a stewardship from Him.  Therefore, the giving of our tithes and offerings is an act of worshipful obedience that God receives for His glory and that He uses to further His kingdom through His church.  That is why He loves cheerful givers (2 Cor 9:7), because those who are joyfully generous are actively demonstrating that they share His delight in His Person and Work.

With that in mind, I want to encourage us all to continue as faithful stewards of what he has entrusted to us.  If you are already exercising the habit of sacrificial giving, be encouraged by the blessings of obedience.  Thank the Lord for His daily supply and for the privilege of worshiping Him with what has been entrusted to you.  If you are not giving at all or not giving according to the New Testament standard of “sacrificial” giving, then carefully pray and consider what specific steps you can take and what specific measures you can put in place to wean yourself away from earthly dependencies and render unto God what He requires.  Remember that for the vast majority of Americans, tithing, or giving a tenth of your income, is the “training wheels” of giving, and true “sacrifice” requires growth in what percentage we give back in worship.

Finally, as regards our “Growing in Grace” emphasis, many long-time Morningview members have been faithfully giving beyond their normal offerings to support building programs and renovations that required us to utilize loans.  To you who have sacrificed so faithfully, the paying off of our debt is in sight!  Keep up the good work!

To others who have just come to Morningview in the past 4 or 5 years, I encourage you to be part of this blessing.  On your offering envelopes, notice there is a second line labelled “Growing in Grace.”  This designated line goes directly to paying down the debt that was incurred for the beautiful facilities we now enjoy.  Talk with your spouse and pray about how you can give beyond your normal offerings to see these projects completed and to see our debt eliminated.  And as always, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. . .”  I love you all dearly!