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The Unexpected Benefits of Generosity

April 15, 2015 8 comments

Money is a hot topic in our culture. Everyone wants more of it, anyone can get it, few seem to keep it and even fewer gladly give it. There are spenders, investors and savers, but there aren’t nearly as many givers.

The Money Trap

In America money is king. We look to it for security, happiness and freedom. We hoard it to make ourselves feel safe from potential disasters like illness, unemployment and unexpected expenses.  We spend it on frivolous pursuits like excessive shopping, expensive dinners and extravagant vacations to temporarily gratify our appetite for pleasure. Worst of all, we pursue it tirelessly working ourselves to the bone 60+ hours per week at sometimes two or even three jobs because we believe the lie that if we could some how get more of it we would be free to retire, work less and play more.

The sad reality is that money always promises, but never delivers (at least not permanently). It promises security, but breeds worry when our bank account isn’t as full as we’d hoped.  It promises happiness, but often results in disappointment when the things we buy lose their appeal. It promises freedom, but only enslaves us to our jobs and our debts.

Promises Fulfilled

The good news is that Jesus always delivers on what he promises.  Where money fails, Jesus succeeds.  Through Christ believers enjoy eternal security in the Father’s love. Since no one can undo what Jesus has done, no one can take that security away.

Through Christ believers enjoy eternal satisfaction.  Money and possessions will always lose their appeal.  Goods get more expensive and clothes wear out, but God’s presence is never ending.  Through Jesus believers live in and enjoy God’s presence for all of eternity. This is a happiness that truly satisfies.

Best of all, through Jesus believers enjoy lasting freedom.  In Christ, we are free from the anxiety, the temporary gratifications and bondage that money brings.  We are free to be at peace in God’s provision, free to enjoy the eternal satisfaction of God’s presence and free to enjoy life without the need for a never ending pursuit of material possessions.

Image via makinghistorygrow.wordpress.com

Image via makinghistorygrow.wordpress.com

The Benefits of Generosity

One of the best ways to experience more of the security, happiness and freedom that are in Jesus is to become a more generous giver.  Here are five reasons why.

1. Generosity increases our dependence on Jesus. So much of our well-being is tied to the strangle hold that money has on us. When we give generously we have no choice but to trust the Lord to be and do for us what we were looking to money to be and do for us. It is through generosity that money’s grip on us is severed and Christ’s unending supply is realized.

2. Generosity increases our delight in God. Money is important to us because of the value that we ascribe to it. By giving it away we remind ourselves that God is infinitely more valuable than anything money can buy. It is through generosity that God becomes an infinite treasure from whom we enjoy unending pleasure.

3. Generosity increases our contentment. By giving away what we cannot keep, we discover that which we cannot lose. Generosity teaches us to enjoy more of God by wanting less of this world. It gives us a deeper experience of Jesus by making room for him to fill our hearts, something he cannot do when we let money crowd that space.

4. Generosity multiplies our blessings. This is true in two ways. First, by giving to others we get to share our joy with them.  When this happens other people get to enjoy God’s blessings with us.  Second, by giving to others we are storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven.  If we keep it to ourselves we get to enjoy it now.  If we give it away we’ll enjoy it exponentially more in the kingdom.

5. Generosity advances the kingdom of God. Church planting, oversees missions, church operations and leadership training all cost money. By investing our money into the things of God we get the joy of advancing of the kingdom of God. Why wouldn’t we want to be used of God to extend his glory in all the earth?

Money can either be a god we worship or a tool with which we worship God. When money reigns supreme in our lives we miss out on the fullness of God. By giving generously, however, we learn to enjoy God for all that he’s worth. Don’t let money take from you that which only God can give you. Jesus has secured for you everything you need before God. Give yourself room to experience more of that by becoming a generous giver!

The Best Encouragement Ever

Encouragement.  It’s something we all crave.  We all want to be told when we’ve done something well, that our efforts made a difference or that our circumstances will improve. A few thoughtful words can improve our outlook, the right words bring lasting change.

Known Challenges & Temporary Disappointment

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hosting a weekend conference with Living Hope Church.  The conference was just a short 24 hours. It started Friday night and ended Saturday night, but it required some significant work.  We had about a dozen volunteers contribute several hours worth of free labor.

By the date of the conference two of our volunteers were unable to participate in the event they worked so hard at.  Their babies were due that weekend.  They couldn’t justify leaving town when their wives could go into labor at any minute. Both men were disappointed, but knew they needed to put their wives first.

At the end of the event I publicly recognized everyone who helped with the conference.  I intentionally explained that some of the volunteers didn’t even get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It was a comment I thought would go unnoticed, but it didn’t.

Unseen Treasures & Eternal Encouragement

Shortly after the event was over a gentleman that I didn’t know pulled me aside.  He told me to inform the two volunteers who weren’t able to attend that he was praying that God would give them extra treasures in heaven.  His response caught me off guard, but it also gave me great joy!

Image via johnhartrealestate.com

Image via johnhartrealestate.com

This guy didn’t offer some hallow, half-hearted consolation such as “I’m sorry they couldn’t make it.” He was genuinely interested in their well-being.  He knew that missing out on the reward of there efforts that weekend didn’t mean they had to miss out on their reward at all.

By keeping an eternal perspective, this man was able to offer encouragement that surpasses any encouragement I’ve ever heard before.  He understood that there is more to life than meets the eye, that this world is not all there is and that those who believe in Jesus Christ will spend eternity in a place far better. His encouragement was so life-giving because he focused on the unseen treasures that last for eternity, rather than the temporary pleasures that fade with time.

Life is hard.  Disappointments are frequent.  Setbacks occur regularly. Next time a friend, family member or co-worker needs an uplifting word, choose to offer encouragement that will last.  Give them a deeper experience of Jesus by reminding them that in Christ believers have treasure in heaven that will never spoil or fade!

“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Christ Our Life

This short clip is from a sermon called “Christ Our Life” preached by Bryan Mowrey, Jordan Dillon and David Qaoud at Jubilee Church in St. Louis, MO on May 11, 2014. This particular clip is of David, my good friend, preaching from Colossians 3:4.

I share this clip with you for two reasons:

1. David does an absolutely phenomenal job of communicating what this text means, why it matters and how it applies. He rightly emphasizes the importance of Jesus Christ being the sum total of our lives and not just a modest addition to our lives. This clip is well worth every second.

2. David and I have been friends for quite some time. He has sensed God’s call to preach the Bible for as long as I can remember. He has preached several short chapels to his college football team before games and a time or two at Living Hope before moving to St. Louis, but this is the first opportunity he’s had to preach at Jubilee.

Unlike many men who desire to preach, however, David’s all-consuming desire has simply been to know Jesus and make him known. He has submitted himself to church leadership, focused primarily on maturity as a disciple of Jesus and has refused to let a pre-occupation with preaching keep him from making disciples by serving the church where he is needed most, even in areas I know he wouldn’t be thrilled about for any other reason than to serve. He has been a good friend and a great example of what it looks like for Christ be be our life.

Therefore, this clip is worth watching not simply because David has preached a great message, but because I’ve seen him live this message every day for the past five years.  The best sermons are not only preached, they are lived by the preacher.  David does that and, for that reason, I commend his words to you today.

To watch the full-length sermon click here.

 

 

 

 

Reflections from a National Champion: An Interview with Trevor Adams

February 12, 2014 6 comments

Interview with Bearcat QB Trevor Adams a week before the Division II National Championship.

The Northwest Missouri State Bearcat football team hosted their championship celebration this past Sunday in Maryville, Missouri.  The celebration commemorated a perfect 15-0 season and the team’s fourth national title since 1998.

Bearcat senior captain (now graduated), Trevor Adams, was one of the top performing athletes of Division II college football last season (2013). Under center, Trevor led the nation in just about every QB stat imaginable: he had a 192.5 passer rating, a 73% completion percentage, 3,000+ yards passing and more than 30 touchdowns.

As if that wasn’t enough, Adams was the MIAA Conference Player of the Year, a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete and a recipient of the Elite 89 Award for the Division II National Championship.  And to top it off, he led the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats to an undefeated National Title victory.  He is easily one of the best athletes in the country.

What most people don’t know is that winning games isn’t as important to Trevor Adams as winning souls.  In an interview with an Odessa newspaper Adams said “Twenty years down the road… I hope people say, ‘Trevor was a great leader for our team and unselfish and showed me God’s love and pointed me to Christ.'”

Surprisingly, Trevor’s biggest opportunity to represent Jesus came during a game against Central Missouri State where he, as the starter, was benched in the second quarter  because of a poor performance.  His backup stepped in to lead the team to a come-from-behind victory and then gave Trevor credit for the win.  A week before the National Championship I was able to speak with Trevor about that game.

The video above highlights Trevor’s responses.  His responses are specifically related to the Central Missouri game, but they are reflective of his entire career at Northwest.  Trevor takes Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12 and makes them real for the rest of us.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10: 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, formy power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

T Adams

Image via scores.espn.go.com.

Suffering Well

This past Saturday (April 6, 2013) I had the privilege of participating in a preaching training with a group of other dudes from both of Living Hope Church’s two locations.  We were each given a two verse passage of Scripture and asked to preach a sermon, approximately 10 minutes long, in front of the whole group.  After delivering our sermons we gave one another feedback: encouragement, affirmation and the dreaded correction and suggestions.  All in all the experience was enjoyable and helpful.

Enduring Affliction by the Grace of God

I was personally asked to preach out of 1 Peter 4:12-13 on the topic of “suffering well.”  This topic is personal to me because my family and I suffered through watching my dad die in front of us in 2010.  The message was recorded and I’m making the audio available here.  My hope is that it will encourage anyone who has or will go through a tough time to suffer well by the grace of God, for the glory of God.

The big idea is that we can share in Jesus’ sufferings and, through Jesus, look forward with hope and joy to the day God’s glory is revealed through our pain.  Every single one of us has, is or will experience adversity.  The question is how do we get through without losing our souls? This content will give you hope and comfort.  Please share it with your friends.

 

suffering well

Making College Count

March 13, 2012 2 comments

My high school American History teacher, Mr. Sharp, was a laid back, long-haired hippy type who had a comical fascination for pot, out-of-control drug users and bizarre women.  Sitting through his classes were like being on the set of the popular sitcom “That ‘70’s Show.” Honestly, the only thing remotely historical that I can remember from his class was a story about two teenage boys who got toked out of their minds and beat their mom to death with ping pong paddles.  It was a lot to take in for an adrenaline pumped, hormone raging 15 year-old who was about to get a driver’s license.  In fact, his off-the-wall stories were probably one of the reasons why I smoked marijuana for a time as a high school sophomore (likely in the same semester I had his class).

Yet in the midst of all the peculiar stories and odd fascinations, there was a statement that Mr. Sharp made nearly every day that is one of only two big lessons I took away from high school.  It seemed like every class period Mr. Sharp would pause, smile, emphasize his point with hand gestures and say, “knowledge is power.”  Mr. Sharp’s point was the more you know about a subject matter, the more ability and confidence you have to influence your life or someone else’s for better or for worse.

Where Knowledge Matters Most

The same is true in the Christian faith.  The more you know Jesus, the more confidence you have in his ability to influence your life and the lives of others.  The less you know Jesus, the more likely you are to defer to a life of mediocrity, quaint moralism and people pleasing at best or blatant rejection of God and his ways at worst.

What we do, learn and believe in college will likely determine who we become for the rest of our lives.  There is arguably no better opportunity to learn, wrestle with and be changed by the truth of Christ than in college because college is the time when past experiences are challenged, new ideas are introduced and truth is questioned, and contaminated, more than any other time in a young person’s life.

For that reason, it is vital that we come to grips with Jesus Christ and who he is while we’re in college.  The longer we wait, the less likely we are to develop the convictions necessary to become the men and women God intends for us to be.

4 Ways to Make College Count

1. Know, believe, live and share the gospel. God has most clearly revealed himself to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ, which is the heart of the gospel, or “good news.”  Through the gospel, we see God in the person of Jesus as he reveals himself in Jesus’ life, miracles, and teachings.  Through the gospel we see God in the work of Jesus in which Jesus substituted himself on the cross for our sin and rose from the dead to defeat Satan, sin, hell and death so that we could be restored to a right relationship with God by faith in the work that Jesus has done on our behalf.  If you want to make college count you need to begin by understanding that the knowledge of God is received by faith in the work Jesus has done, not achieved by the work that we do.  You must then learn to communicate this truth in your actions and words.

2. Read. God has given us the wonderful gift of his inspired Word, the Bible.  The Bible is our most valuable resource for knowing Jesus because it communicates to us who God is, what he has done, and what he is going to do. In the Bible God reveals himself through images of what he is like, names by which he is known, works of which he has done and attributes that he possesses.  The Bible also records for us the truth of Jesus Christ, in whom is the only power to grow in the knowledge of God. (John 14:6)

You can also grow in your knowledge of God by reading great books.  Find books written by biblically affirmed authors that highlight particular aspects of God that you’re interested in studying.  You can find books on just about any Christian subject you’re interested in and many of them can be extremely helpful.

3. Find a Mentor. One of the best ways to grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ is to find a mentor, someone who has been a Christian longer than you.  Identify someone you respect who communicates the truth of God in a way you understand and ask them to teach you what they know.  You’ll learn a lot from their experiences and what they have to teach you will likely help you in knowing Jesus and understanding the Bible. You’ll also then be able to continue making a difference by becoming a mentor to someone else in the future.

4.  Attend a good Church. Find a good Bible-teaching church that will communicate the truth of Jesus Christ in a way that is practical and helpful to you.  Learn from the sermons on Sundays, join a small group and get connected with God’s people.  It’s much easier to grow in Christ when you have other people helping you along the way.

Where’s Waldo?

February 21, 2012 1 comment

Luke 24:25-27  “25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Where’s Waldo?

Do you remember the “Where’s Waldo” books? The entire series was designed around the concept of searching for a white, Steve Urkel, in a red & white striped stocking cap and shirt, blue jeans, coke bottle glasses and a cane, even on the beach! Regardless of whether or not Waldo was climbing mountains, deep sea fishing, or at a restaurant, he was always wearing the same outfit.  You knew exactly who you were looking for and exactly what he would look like.  Every book, every theme, every scene, every page and every detail centered around finding the goofy looking guy in the ugly Christmas sweater. Underneath all the people, animals, objects, scenery and distractions was Waldo.  You were always looking for Waldo and Waldo was always somewhere to be found.

Interpreting the Scriptures

The same is true in the Bible, but instead of looking for Waldo you’re looking for Jesus. In this passage of Luke, Jesus has fulfilled his earthly ministry in obedience to the Father, (John 5:19, Hebrews 5:8) been crucified for the sins of the world (John 3:16, 1 John 2:2)  and now, having been raised from the dead (Luke 24:1-12), is spending a short, action-filled 40 days on earth as the resurrected Lord (Acts 1:3). He will soon ascend into heaven (Acts 1:1-11) to be seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2, Mark 16:19)  to rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords until his second coming (Revelation 19:11-21).

Here Luke captures a snapshot of Jesus, in disguise, walking down the road with two of his disciples. They’re wondering about the meaning of the empty tomb and Jesus illustrates the answer for them by opening the Old Testament Scriptures (Genesis through Malachi).  Jesus starts from the very beginning (Moses) and works his way through to the end (the Prophets). He explains in detail how the entire Bible is about Jesus: the promise of his coming, his law fulfilling life, his atoning death, and his Satan-defeating, sin-destroying, hell-releasing, and death-conquering resurrection as Lord, God, King and Christ.

Where’s Jesus?

Jesus is essentially illustrating for us that the Bible is his version of “Where’s Waldo”. Reading the Bible is like searching for Waldo, but instead of looking for the goofy guy in the ugly Christmas sweater, you’re looking for Jesus, the crucified Savior and resurrected Lord. Regardless of whether or not you’re reading the Law, the History books or the Prophets Jesus is always to be found.  Every book, chapter, verse and word is about Jesus.  Underneath all the stories, examples, and commands are clear pictures of Jesus as the One who would live the life we could not live, die the death we should have died and rise from the dead to be worshiped and obeyed as Lord, God, King and Christ. The key to reading any passage of the Bible is to always be looking for Jesus, because Jesus is always to be found.

Question: How does seeing Jesus in every verse help you in your Bible reading?  You can leave your comments here.

*Note: For a must read post on Jesus in the Old Testament click here.

For further study of Jesus in the Bible check out Mark Driscoll’s books: A Book You’ll Actually Read on the Old Testament and A Book You’ll Actually Read on the New Testament.

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