Reckless Generosity

In our world, we like to measure ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. We don’t like unchanging standards. We can always find somebody who is worse, greedier, further away from God’s standards. We can do this in many areas of life:

  • Generosity: We can say, “My heart’s generous. I want to be generous. I just don’t have very much money right now. Things are kind of tight. Someday, I’ll have more money and then I’ll help take care of people who are in need.” But for now, we go on spending every dime we have on ourselves.
  • Serving: We can say, “I’m really busy right now. I’d love to serve people who are in need, but I can’t fit it into my schedule. Maybe when I have more time and get on top of things, then I will serve.” But our schedule never seems to open up and serving never fits into our day planner. 
  • Reaching Out: We can say, “I’d love to form a relationship with somebody of a different ethnicity or culture. I really want to be part of God’s solution to breaking down the walls that divide us, but it involves taking risks, and I am not up for that. I will wait for someone else to reach out to me; then maybe I can respond instead of initiate.”

But time passes and the walls grow higher and higher. We can measure our lives by comparing ourselves with others, but God does not. He sets a standard that is radically different from the constantly changing world in which we live. We need to look to his Word and discover his standard and then ask him for the strength to grow in our devotion to live with the justice, righteousness, and compassion that marks the heart of God.

God says, “I will measure my people by the one standard that counts. It’s very simple. Are people hungry? Feed them. Are people sick? Help them. Are people oppressed? Stick up for them. Are the widows lonely? Visit them. Are there uneducated children? Teach them. Are people rejected because of the color of their skin? Befriend them.”

The widow of Zarephath fed Elijah even though she had but a handful of flour and a little oil in a jug. (1 Kings 17:7–24) In this story she is recklessly generous. She gives the last of what she has to Elijah.

We should all pause occasionally to ask if we are living with that kind of generous spirit. Maybe we have an abundance of oil and flour in our jars. Maybe we only have a little. Maybe we have a huge flour jar, or perhaps a very small one. No matter what we have, we can still learn to live with a generous spirit.

Here are some questions we might want to ask occasionally:

  • Am I being faithful with my tithe to God?
  • Am I being responsive to the needs of the poor?
  • Am I learning to take risks in giving that stretch my faith?
  • Am I giving in a way that is becoming a natural part of how I live?
  • Am I noticing God’s generous provision in my life and responding with a thankful heart?

Dallas Willard says the law of the kingdom is the law of inversion, where the last are first and the servants are the greatest. This is modeled in a striking way in the life of this widow. The weakest, most vulnerable person — an impoverished, pagan, Gentile widow — becomes the one whose generosity keeps the prophet Elijah alive.

If you were the widow in this story, how do you think you would have responded to Elijah’s request? What an amazing example for all of us!

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[ This is directly from Bible Gateway e-mail Devotion, 2017-01-12 ]

What We Need From Pastors

Today, I was reading Brian Dodd on Leadership. A good word for pastors…

We want our pastors to work on their craft, to be prepared, to think of new and creative ways to communicate the timeless message of Jesus Christ. But because of the over-abundance of pastoral talent and our access to it, we no longer need slickness and craftiness.

Here are a Few Things we Need:

  1. When you stand up on Sunday, we do not need you to impress us with your brilliance and insight. We just need to know you have been with alone with God and he has marked your life.
  2. We do not need a talk. We need you to have a message for us from the Ancient of Days addressing the issues we face at this point and time in human history.
  3. We need you to have calloused knees on our behalf.
  4. We need you to elevate the importance of the Bible. It is God’s Word on paper and we want to know what it says.
  5. We need you to preach the truth of Scripture, the virgin birth, the sinless life of Jesus, and Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
  6. We need you to tell people there is a heaven and a hell and everyone will go to one or the other.
  7. We need you to challenge us to live righteous and holy lives.
  8. We need you to prioritize the pursuit of personal holiness over the pursuit of personal freedoms.
  9. We need you to be a picture of the desired destination at which you wish for us to arrive.
  10. We need you to put your relationship with God above all else and your family second.

Here are a Few Things we Need for You to Know:

  1. We need you to know how much we love and admire you.
  2. We need you to know how often we pray for you.
  3. We need you to know how much we appreciate the fact you could make far more money consulting or in corporate America but you choose to pastor sheep like us.
  4. We need you to know how much we look forward to hearing you each Sunday.
  5. We need you to know we have you and your family’s back.
  6. We need you to know we were glad you were there at our most defining moments – weddings, funerals, baptisms and baby dedications.
  7. We need you to know how sorry we are for saying stupid, uneducated, and ill-advised things we deeply regretted later on.
  8. We need you to know we should have paid you more.
  9. We need you to know that if you need anything, all you have to do is ask.
  10. We need you to know how glad we are you did not resign this past Monday but decided to come back for another Sunday.

Print This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post [ Brian Dodd on Leadership ]

Statements that Kill a Church

Six Statements That Can Kill a Church

Words can kill churches because they often have deadly actions behind them. As we begin this new year, please allow me to share six statements that I have heard from church members whose churches have died.

Please hear that last statement again: These are statements from church members whose churches have already closed their doors. I am convinced these statements were major contributors to the churches’ demise.

We pay our pastor to do evangelism.” The common meaning behind this statement is that the members have no intentions of sharing their faith. A church with non-evangelistic members is a dying church.

Without our money, this church would be in trouble.” Ouch! The key word here is “our.” Members with this attitude do not give with an open hand; they perceive the money they give to the church is their money, not God’s money. This tight-fisted non-stewardship, if prevalent in the church, is a sure sign of sickness or death.

This church is not meeting my needs.” For certain, members’ needs should be met. But have you noticed that, often times, the most needy members are the first to complain and the first to leave? We should certainly care for the needs of the flock, but the attitude of the members should be that of serving instead of being served.

We pay the salary of the pastor and staff, so they should listen to us.” This deadly statement has two major inflictors of pain. First, the money is treated with a tight fist, as I noted above. Second, the money is used to control leaders. I served in a church where a member made that statement to me frequently. Years after I left, I learned he never gave a dollar to the church.

We will let the next generation deal with change.” When older generations make this statement, they are resolutely refusing to make necessary and immediate changes. Sadly, the next generations won’t stick around in such a church to make the changes.

I was here years before the pastor came; I’ll be here years after he’s gone.” This statement is one of power and control rather than service and giving. It’s about out-lasting each pastor to keep the church just the way the member wants it. It’s a statement that was commonly heard in churches that have closed their doors.

I remain an obnoxious optimist about our local congregations. But, sadly, many will die in this year and the next. Most of them will have had members who made these six deadly statements.

Print This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post [ This is directly from Thom Rainer’s blog ]

Calling God Father

One of the most well-known statements of the Christian faith is the Lord’s Prayer, which begins with the words “Our Father which art in heaven.” This is part of the universal treasury of Christendom. When I hear Christians in a private gathering praying individually, almost every single person begins their prayer by addressing God as Father. There’s nothing more common among us than to address God as our Father. So central is this to our Christian experience that in the nineteenth century, there were some who said the basic essence of the whole Christian religion can be reduced to two points: the universal brotherhood of man and the universal fatherhood of God. In that context I am afraid we have missed one of the most radical teachings of Jesus.

A few years ago, a German scholar was doing research in New Testament literature and discovered that in the entire history of Judaism, in all existing books of the Old Testament and all existing books of extra-biblical Jewish writings dating from the beginning of Judaism until the tenth century A.D. in Italy, there is not a single reference of a Jewish person addressing God directly in the first person as Father. There were appropriate forms of address that were used by Jewish people in the Old Testament, and the children were trained to address God in proper phrases of respect. All these titles were memorized, and the term Father was not among them.

The first Jewish rabbi to call God “Father” directly was Jesus of Nazareth. It was a radical departure from tradition, and in fact, in every recorded prayer we have from the lips of Jesus save one, he calls God “Father.” It was for that reason that many of Jesus’ enemies sought to destroy him; he assumed to have this intimate, personal relationship with the sovereign God of heaven and the creator of all things, and he dared to speak in such intimate terms with God. What’s even more radical is that Jesus says to his people, “When you pray, you say, ‘Our Father.'” He has given to us the right and privilege to come into the presence of the majesty of God and address him as Father because indeed he is our Father. He has adopted us into his family and made us coheirs with his only begotten Son (Romans 8:17).

Print This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post [ This is from R.C. Sproul, through Bible Gateway ]

10 Ways to Prepare for Christmas

I found this article at Family Life: Good information in a hurried life…

It’s hard to believe that we are only a few days away from Christmas. The holidays can come and go before you know it. This year, slow down and truly experience this special season centered around family, joy, giving, and most importantly—Jesus. Here are a few ideas to help you prepare your heart for Christmas.

1. Reflect. Take note of the many reasons you have to be thankful this Christmas. Spend time thanking God specifically for ways He has provided for you—spiritually, relationally, financially, etc. Praise Him for His goodness, grace, and faithfulness in all seasons of life.

2. Gather. Spend uninterrupted time with the people you love. If necessary, limit the activities and parties you commit to so that you can focus on time with your family instead. We often rush through our busy Christmas schedules and miss time to really be present in the moments we are together with our loved ones. Make memories together as you celebrate Christmas.

3. Sing. This may seem a little silly at first, but spend time singing your favorite Christmas songs aloud. Pay close attention to the words, thanking God for His incredible gift of our Savior. Sing these traditional carols as worship songs to the Lord.

4. Celebrate. Jesus, the One who holds all things together, chose to enter the world in the humblest form—a small, helpless baby. Jesus’ birth is the greatest gift we will ever receive and that is definitely a reason to celebrate! Embrace the joy found in the birth of Immanuel—God with us.

5. Listen. Practice the art of truly listening to others as you gather with family and friends. Whether you’re having dinner, opening presents, or sitting around and catching up with those you haven’t seen in a while, pay attention to what is said instead of thinking about how you will respond. Truly listening is one of the best ways to show your loved ones that you care.

6. Remember. Reflect on the fact that our Savior was born specifically so that He would one day die for our sins. Thank Him for His willingness to enter this messy, broken, hopeless world. Rejoice in the Father’s love, reflecting on the reality that He sent His only Son to pay the price for sin—our sin. Remember what He went through on the cross to save us.

7. Enjoy. Christmas is a beautiful season—sparkling Christmas lights, decorations hung with care, memorable moments with family. Appreciate the little moments. Slow down long enough to delight in the beauty all around.

8. Read. Study the story of Christ’s birth. Instead of rushing through the reading of Matthew 1 or Luke 2, take time to meditate on the words. Read the passages slowly, taking note of the details you may have missed before. Ask the Lord to help you notice new things as you read the story with fresh eyes.

9. Pray. Lift up those who do not know Jesus in prayer. Pray for the lost and hurting. Ask God to open your eyes to opportunities to share the gospel with those around you—with family, friends, and even strangers. Pray for those who are all alone this Christmas; pray they will encounter Jesus and find hope in the One who loves them and will never leave them.

10. Worship. Christmas is the perfect opportunity for worship. Worshipping God encompasses so much more than simply singing. Worship is a way of life. This Christmas, seek to honor Him with the way you live. Speak words to others that breathe life, not discouragement. Love the people in your life selflessly. Humbly serve your family. Praise God with the little moments in your daily life.

Print This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post [ Written by Tessa Morrell, Editorial Manager, Family Life, and Brentwood Baptist Church. Copyright © 2014 by Brentwood Baptist Church. ]