What giving really costs

Today I did something out of the norm for me and it cost me something. What is interesting is that it did not cost me what I thought it would cost me before I did it. The cost was totally different. There are many things in life like that. We never consider the cost of simple things in life. I never considered this past year that signing up to play soccer again would cost me a broken arm. I never thought that being a parent would cost me the last of the ice cream. We rarely think about the true cost of things.

So let me get back to today. Today I did something because of the convictions in my personal life that are the result of the preaching I have been doing recently. I have been preaching a sermon series titled STUFF. The series is about money and possessions and what God has to say about them. The truths taught are probably quite different than what you normally hear about money. It is not simply about giving money to the church nor is it about if you give you will get rich. The series really challenges our assumptions about stuff and why we have it, why we get it, and how we get it.

So as a result of that I have really been thinking about how I give. I give money to the church like I am supposed to, but besides that I am honestly not a very generous person. I rarely think about giving to someone else because either I think I don’t have enough to give or because I have already spent everything that I could have given getting stuff for myself and my family. So God has been challenging me with these thoughts about stuff and how selfish I really am.
I had lunch with a friend and church member today and discussed some good old church stuff. We had a good talk about how to be more effective at being the church. Then I left my restaurant and headed to the road and there sitting by the sign was a homeless man with his own sign. He was of course hungry, homeless, and would appreciate anything.

So what did I do? Well I drove right by of course. I went on my merry little way heading back to the church thinking about how I can lead people to be better at being the church. And then God spoke up and told me to quit thinking about it and do it. So I pulled back in and walked over to the homeless man. I introduced myself to Tom and made the offer of all I thought this encounter would cost me. “Can I buy you some lunch at Whataburger?”

Tom accepted. He and I walked together over to Whataburger. I told him he could get whatever he wanted. He got a plain burger and a drink – that was all. We sat down together and we talked while he ate. We talked for 45 minutes about life, Jesus, God’s love, his story, and I prayed for him. I then walked him back to his spot asking for help and I got back in my truck to leave. He simply left me with, “Thank you and God bless.”

This encounter cost me $4.87 out of my wallet, but in all reality it cost me so much more. It cost me my nice little bubble. It cost me my nice little picture of myself and the world I live in. It cost me my rationalization that the only reason people are like that is that they are drunks and drug addicts that you can not trust with a dollar bill. It cost me my nice little world. It cost me my own picture of what being the church looks like.

Why did it cost me that? Because Tom had a job less than a month ago. He is not an alcoholic nor a drug addict – he does have some other issues though. He does not like asking for help. He hates it. He wants to work. Truth is he has a plan of how to get back on his feet. He has it all worked out in his head but he has not been able to make it happen just yet. Tom is not a bum. He is a man in need. Tom is not just some addict that can’t be trusted. He is a person that needs to be loved. Tom is not a man to be ignored. He is a man to have a good conversation with. Tom is not a man that will take advantage of you if you gave him the opportunity. Tom is a man that will order the cheapest thing on the menu if you buy him lunch and will thank you like you gave him a house. Tom is not all who I thought he was. And in learning this, I learned that I am not either.

Tom is trying to earn his way back into society, just like the majority of our world is trying to earn their way into God’s grace. He has a plan, but it is not working very well. He has the ideas, but they are falling short. He wants to, but it is not enough. Tom might get there. I believe he can. I pray that I get the opportunity to help him some more along the way, but today I offered him the best help I had. I offered him something to eat, a person to talk with, and the love of Jesus. He wanted it all. He took it all. And he appreciates it all.

Today cost me a great deal in my nice little world, but I don’t want any of it back. I know that today some of you need to quit trying to buy you way into God’s love and accept a gift. Accept it humbly and thankfully like Tom accepted mine today, but accept it. Some of you who have accepted God’s grace, love, and blessings in your life need to step out of your Christian bubble and let God rock your world. It will cost you, but it is well worth the price.

If you are thinking about coming to Fellowship this Sunday, DO IT! God has something to give you.

YES WE CAN!

“Yes we can” is one of the most powerful and effective political slogans in American history. It has brought about a great deal of change even before the change it promised has even begun. The power of that change is that people believe they can. I appreciate that President Obama has caused people to believe that truth.

Obama has brought these words to life for many people in our nation. Simply reading through the Facebook status updates of Inauguration Day caused me to realize the hope that many people now have. The truth is that we can. We can make a difference. America can change the world. I love that we have a president that is causing people to believe in the power of the people.

There is one thing about this that is very different for me though. I realized from some of the rhetoric on facebook that many people went from “No we can’t” to “Yes we can” because of the election of just one man. The fact that we can is not new. We always could. I am glad your hope is restored. I am glad that you believe in the better good that can be accomplished, but there is something that this huge shift shows about us that is not good. In the midst of your new found hope I have a challenge for you and I pray you will take the time to consider it.

I challenge you to become a person that believes we can not because another man says so. George Bush is not at fault for you being a person that did not have hope 2 days or 5 months ago. Here is the truth that you must realize. George Bush failed at many things – and you lost hope. Barak Obama will fail, too. Will you lose hope again? If his economic plan fails, will you lose hope? If he does not deliver on an ideal he spoke about during election – will you no longer believe? President Obama will see many successes during his presidency and he will also make some poor decisions. Why do I believe that? Barak Obama is simply a man. He is human. I believe he can do some great things, but he is not the savior of our nation. He is just the president of it.

I am glad that there is a generation rising up with hope and energy and excitement and patriotism. The challenge is stop being a person that is so easily swayed by the elections of men. Make this hope and belief your life, not just a moment in it. Obama will do some good and he will do some bad and his leadership will end within 8 years. Will your hope end again? Or will you accept the challenge to change where your hope is found?

Truth is I am no more hopeful today that I was yesterday. I honestly did not need a change in hope. I have always believed we could. (That statement is not meant to be a boast.) The failures of George Bush (which were many) never caused me to lose hope. Our economic situation has never caused me to think that we couldn’t. The successes of Barak Obama have not caused me to think we can – I already thought that.

If you do not mind I will share with you why I already thought that. My hope is not in the people put in power by popular opinion. My hope and trust is not in the United States of America. My hope and trust is in Jesus Christ. You might think that is just religious rhetoric – but it is true. The only point I can make to you is this – why were you hopeless and fearful a few months ago and are not today. The truth is that your life is too easily swayed. Mine is not. My hope is in this truth, “that he who began a good work in me will carry to completion in that day.” That day represents the day in which there will be no more days. I am ready for that day because I am ready for today. I am ready for today because of what Jesus Christ did yesterday and the day before and the day before and the day… You get the picture.

I am glad you believe we can. I am excited to see our nation excited, but I challenge you to change. Change the fact that you are so easily changed. I pray you will find your hope and peace in Jesus Christ (I believe him to be the only source of such peace and hope.) That is my prayer for you. It is my prayer for our nation.

Even if you do not agree with my spiritual beliefs accept the challenge to never become a “no we can’t” person again. That is not the fault of the failures and successes of our presidents. That is your fault. Stand up with our nation and say “Yes we can” and never sit back down. We can make a difference – we always could.

My Prayer for Today:

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this wonderful day. Thank you for our new president Barak Obama. I pray you will empower President Obama to make right decisions and to lead our nation wisely. I pray you will protect him from all enemies foreign and domestic. I pray you will guard his spirit and his mind from the attacks of his enemies. I pray you will give him success in his leadership and power to his steps.
I thank you for the hope and energy that our nation has today. I thank you that people are seeing past themselves for the first time in a long time. I pray, however, Lord, that you will help people see past the president, too. I pray that people will find the real hope that exists in you. The hope you have given me. I pray that they will find the strength that exists in one another. I pray that our nation will never lose hope again. Cause us to become people who do not rise and fall so easily with the popular opinion of others.
Lord, I ask that today you bless this nation. Bless us fresh and new. Give us hope that is unchanging. Give is love that is unfailing. Give us peace that does not fail.
Lord, I ask that today you will give us you. That will you continue to give us Jesus, the only one that can change us. Give us your power and truth and may we live in the strength of it.
I ask the things in the name that is above all names, the name of Jesus,

AMEN

You Got Owned!

I am not particularly a fan of trash talk, but I kind of like this statement. But only if you backed it up. When you own someone in a game you totally dominate them, which I am a fan of. I love it when LSU owns an opponent. I love it when I own Jonathan Ickles in basketball, football, etc. Particularly I like to own Jonathan because he is a fan of trash talk and I love him dearly.

So all that said; I want to get to the actual point of this blog. How does this “You got owned” statement have anything to do with our spiritual lives?

Well I have been preaching on “Stuff” this month. I hope the people of Fellowship learn some great truths about who God is and how he wants us to handle stuff. The key verse to this series is found in Psalm 24 and states “the Earth is the Lords and everything in it; The world and all who dwell with in.”

What exactly is God’s? Well, everything. God owns everything and he owns everyone. The problem is that we don’t like being owned. Every person rebels against someone else being in control or in charge of their lives. We want to make up our own rules. We want to do it our own way.

It is natural. All 3 of my kids already have this sickness. We first hear it like this, “I do it!” We are not even capable of saying what we are doing much less capable of doing it ourselves, but everybody just better stand back because “I DO IT!” We all want to do life our way. We want to live by our rules.

The problem with this mentality is that it does not work. It never has. It is what happened to Adam and Eve. Sometimes I want to yell at them because they only had ONE rule. Do not eat from this particular tree. The rest of it is fair game. But what did they do. They made their own rules. The problem is that they did not own the Garden of Eden. Honestly, they did not own anything.

So Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden. They had to go. They had not followed the rules for life in the Garden and knowledge of good and evil disallowed them from eating of the tree of life.
God gave them new rules. He gave them clothes. He gave them new shelter. He still provided, but the beauty of his ownership of them was lost. He had made them stewards of the Garden and now what they had to steward was not plush and abundant. Their work was harder.
Man has lived that way ever since. We live our lives rebelling against the owner ship of God not realizing that he owns it all whether we acknowledge it or not. We make ourselves miserable coming up with our own plans and ideals and them not working.

But then maybe, just maybe, we find comfort in such a truth as this. “You are no longer your own. You have been bought with a price.” Jesus paid the price for us. We have been owned, but to experience it we have to allow it. We have to allow He who is the Lord of everything without our approval to be the Lord over our everything by our approval. I am not sure why the Lord allows that. I am not sure why he gave us choice. I am not sure why he gave us the right to be wrong. But some of us need to quit using that right so often.

Today, consider this. When Jesus is Lord of your life he owns you. He is the king and ruler of you. You are his. That might sound like hell to you to give over the ownership of your life, but the truth is there is no greater freedom found in all the world. When your life becomes the property of God it is no longer a burden to figure out but a blessing to experience.

Jesus could have yelled at the serpent from the tomb on Easter Sunday, You Got Owned, but that is not his style. He dominates in a way like no other. The cool thing is when you allow him to own you – there is no trash talk just love. Sure he might rebuke you, but it is love. He might every once in a while put a spiritual beat down on you, but it is all love.

The best day of my life is the day I got owned. How’s your game?

(Just remember – its not really a game.)

P.S. In honor the mentioning of Jonathan Ickles in this post, I hope the Eagles own the Super Bowl this year.

The Not So New Year

New Year is always a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. I hope maybe you have taken this time of year to reflect and to spend some time thinking about what really matters in life and making some decisions about some changes needed in your life.

Sometimes the real problem is that life gets in the way of change. We want to do right. We want to be a better husband, father, pastor, brother, son, friend, LSU fan, etc. We have good causes in sight. We want the right things. The new year is a time for lofty ideals and Godly goals.

The problem is that not too much later life gets in the way and the new year is not so new. It can actually get old quickly. It seems the higher than goal and the tougher the standard the harder the temptation. So what are we to do?

Many people have sworn off New Year’s resolutions. Some eat crazy new year meals to get the year in the right order. Others simply live in frustration feeling like failures.

I want to share a passage of Scripture with you that might make you love the not so new year.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

God’s compassion, God’s grace, God’s mercy is new every day. His love never fails us even when we fail to love Him. We don’t really need new years, we just need new grace. We need God’s compassion.

So don’t give up on resolutions. Don’t give up on change. Don’t give up on the new year. Simply, don’t give up. God will not give up on you.

Don’t give up. Get up. Try again. So you ate like a pig today, don’t call it quits and decide to remain a glutton. Get up tomorrow and try again. Go for run. Walk. Do something.

So you got angry with your kids and yelled although you said you would never do it again. Take God’s grace straight to them and ask them to forgive you. Then tomorrow, don’t yell.

You are not a failure. You are a follower. Everyone falls, but followers get back up. They stand up knowing that it is by God’s grace they stand. They move forward in their life and in their faith. They are not afraid of the Not so New Year. They embrace it. They know that God is not finished when they fail. That is when he gets started.

So the year is not so new. So your attempt at change is not so new. So you are not so new. The old has not quite gone just yet. Well you know what is new. God’s compassion. God’s grace. God’s faithfulness. So tell Satan to shove it. Get up. Do something new. Do something different. Do something better. Do something.

And praise God that you can.