#thankfulforJesus

Thankful? Today is a day we celebrate Giving Thanks. It is a national holiday built around remembering that we have much to be thankful. It is rooted in a celebration of the settlers being helped by the native population. It is a celebration of receiving what you are desperate for from someone capable of helping.

It is an unpopular thought in our culture today to consider oneself desperate for anyone or anything. Desperation is a sign of weakness to the majority of us. Yet, truth is, it takes a great deal of strength, character, and humility to declare your need for another.

The #thankfulforJesus challenge I gave Fellowship this week is for us to take time to consider who Jesus is. We are thankful for Jesus because of who he is, not just because of what he has done for us. Jesus has done because Jesus is.

I challenge you to consider these truths and be thankful…
1. We need Jesus.
Ephesians 2:1 reminds us that sin causes death. We are dead in our sinfulness. We deserve hell. Hell is our deserved reality, not simply because of how bad we are, but because of how holy He is. Grace does not just make life better. Grace makes life.
2. Jesus is ALL we need.
Colossians 1:15-20 is a great reminder of the greatness of who Christ is. Jesus IS the firstborn from the dead. He lives and, therefore, we can live.
If today you had nothing but Jesus, would you be thankful?
3. Thankfulness must be expressed.
Appreciation is gratitude that gets out. Where there is no expression, there is no appreciaiton.
One day “every knee will bow and every tongue will confesss that Jesus Christ is Lord.” On that day there will be no choice. That act of worship, which every person will experience, will either be a day of great joy or a day of great dismay. Today you have the opportunity and ability to choose to worship Jesus because He is worthy.

Being #thankfulforJesus is more than about today, the Day of Thanksgiving, it is more than about Sundays and times of planned expression. #thankfulforJesus is a lifestyle of gratitude. Be thankful for Jesus in what you do, what you say, and how you serve others in the name of Jesus.

Be thankful for Jesus…and him above EVERYTHING else…and you will be properly thankful for the rest of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Generosity: It’s easy, but it’s not.

givinghands

There are many things most people would like to be true of them. Some are so obvious to us in times of introspection the question we must ask ourselves is, “Why am I not more                           ?” We do not even need to consider “Why would I be                                        ?” We know why. The issue is why not.

My current series is titled “Just Give Up.”  We are discussing four character traits I believe all of us would love to be true of us. Hospitality. Generosity. Thankfulness. Appreciation. The question we are seeking a Biblical answer to is, “What must I give up to be who I want to be?”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 teaches great truths about generosity. Read it here.

Grateful generosity is in an authentic and automatic response to God’s grace. There is no greater way to take grace for granted than to fail to give it. Generosity always exists where gratefulness exists. Grateful people are generous people. If you have not seen the videos that show how homeless people are willing to share what food they have compared to those who can purchase it for themselves, you should take a moment to watch one. It is a reminder that gratefulness is necessary for generosity.

So what must I give up to be more grateful and generous? The number one of enemy of generosity is greed. Greed is the assumption that everything I have is for my consumption. (Thank you, Andy Stanley, for wording things so clearly.) Why do you have what you have? Do you have it to have it? Do you have it to live for Christ with it?

Greed is easily tested with these two questions.
1. When do you decide what you have to give?
2. Do you decide what you have to give before or after you decide what you have to have?

Greed is not something we simply displace. It is something we must replace. Life is not lived well through an “out with the old” mentality alone. We need an “in with the new” mindset.

We must give up greed by taking up gratitude.
You must fight for an attitude of gratitude.
You have to fight for it. Once you have it you must maintain it. It is not easily maintained. My family’s situation with a house fire this year has caused us to live with the necessity to replace many material things. The simple constant chore of looking at the material has caused me to have less gratitude for what I have. (I have committed to read Crazy Love by Francis Chan for a fresh reminder.)

We must give up false security to take up true trust.
What is your hope in? The security of our lives must be in God, Himself. Generosity is impossible when that which we believe makes life have deep and rich value is also that which we would be called to give.

We must give up inaction by taking up good in action.
You will never become an activist for the cause of the Gospel (or any good cause for the record) through the inactivity of posting on social media your opinions. It is through getting involved and serving and giving that we become rich in good works. This requires each of us to intentionally live on less so that we might give more. You will never have anything to give unless you plan for it. Your “right hand not knowing what your left hand is doing” does not mean to give up accounting. People, who do not account for giving, typically give less than 2% of their annual income to good causes, charity, or others. Jesus never told us to stop accounting what we are giving. He said stop counting it up. If you do not account for it, there will be nothing to give.   I am personally committing to getting back in the practice of having a “generosity budget.” Set aside money in your regular budget so that you might be prepared when the opportunity for generosity presents itself. (Jesus taught of a man generous towards those he hired late in the day. That type of generosity requires preparation.)

We must give up value in having to take up value in living.
Why do you have what you have? Do you have it to have it? Or do you have it to live for Christ in and with it.

We must give up false limits to take up the freedom to give.The wording ready to share is the idea of giving liberally. This is probably the only time I will ever teach you to be liberal, but liberal in giving. People who give liberally ask a different question than those who have set up false limits for their generosity. Stop saying “I cannot do that” and ask, “What can I do?”

This mindset for life is impossible unless you remember the supreme value of the Gospel.  We have been given so much. Give because you have been given.

We all want to be generous. It is easy to do because you actually want to do it. It is hard to do because you do not want to do what is necessary to be able to do it. Yet, if you read this far, you probably do really want to. Give up the greed. Take up the challenge to budget to give. And live in the freedom to give.

The Ministry Of Interruptions

Do Not Disturb

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling…1 Peter 4:7-8 (ESV)

Let’s begin with an honest confession- I am a bit of a control freak. Sure, the label isn’t particularly flattering, but in my case, it’s undeniably appropriate. I like things to be the way I like things to be. I crave structure, order, and organization, and I find incredible comfort in maintaining a neatly ordered existence.

This tendency serves me well in many areas of my life- budgeting, scheduling, and keeping a well ordered home, car, and office. But when it comes to relationships, it has too frequently been not a help, but a hindrance. Why? Because unlike numbers, calendars, and inanimate objects, people don’t fit very well into my predetermined “boxes” for them. Relationships with living, breathing human beings are necessarily disruptive, by their very nature messy.

As a follower of Jesus, this is far more than just a “quality of life” issue for me- and if you’ve given your life to Him, it is for you as well. The Bible commands us in the above text to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Set aside your gaudy, Martha Stewart-ish conceptions of what “hospitality” looks like, and consider this definition instead- to invite and welcome others into your life. In short, a hospitable life is an open life.

Let’s dig in a bit here- What is a hospitable life “open” to anyway? Primarily, to the interruptions inevitable to life in community with people. Full disclosure here- I don’t like to be interrupted. At best, it frustrates me momentarily (in Peter’s terms, it leads to “grumbling”), and at worst, it makes me downright selfish- and somewhat allergic to the practice of biblical hospitality. This craving for control, an inability to graciously receive interruptions, “closes” my life off from others more quickly and firmly than almost anything else.

If you’re anything like me- and even if you’re not, because we are all by nature wired to serve ourselves- we must “just give up” the control of a closed life and embrace instead what one author calls “the ministry of interruptions.” Now I’m not saying that every interruption that comes your way needs to be taken, but I am saying that before we dismiss them out of hand as a distraction to be ignored, perhaps we should approach them from a different angle.

What if, instead of resenting others’ interruptions, we can began to view them as unexpected opportunities, divine “appointments” in which we might experience God in a fresh way, and be used of Him to share His love and truth with others? What if we recognized a craving for control as the selfish idol that it is, and instead embraced the reality that if our lives truly are surrendered to God, that He has the complete freedom to set the agenda for our days as He sees fit?

Now I know what you’re thinking- How do I do this practically, and actually manage get anything done? Here’s one idea- Organize your life for interruptions. I realize that seems contradictory at first glance, but follow me here. I see two practical ways that you can do this- One, plan the practice of hospitality into your life with regular rhythm, and two, live with enough margin (i.e. unscheduled time) to recognize and receive the opportunities that by definition you can’t plan for. Here are two “real life examples” of how I’m working to put this principle into practice…

  • Invite another individual or family into your home for dinner. Plan in advance for your kitchen to end up a mess, and for your kids’ toys to be strewn from here to only God knows where. Instead of expending your energies ensuring that everything stays as close to its proper order as possible, be present with your guests. Listen and laugh a lot. Show them that they are more valuable to you than your compulsion to keep things “neat.”
  • Take your daily “to do list” and immediately eliminate one thing from it. Transfer the time and energy you would have spent on that item and look instead for an opportunity to engage a friend, neighbor, or coworker in authentic conversation, to meet a need that you’ve seen but previously ignored, or to pray that God would give you eyes to see where He is at work in others’ lives, and join Him in it.

God isn’t against plans- I’d actually argue that to live with one is a wise and God honoring thing. But when we cross the line to become slaves to those plans- and thus unavailable to the opportunities and people that God might want to bring our way- we need to check our hearts, and ask God to engage us afresh in “the ministry of interruptions.” God make us a people who practice- with passion, and joy- radical biblical hospitality.