Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your Pursuit Of God And A Generous Life Will Give You A Fuller & Richer Life

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 31 - Your Pursuit Of God And A Generous Life Will Give You A Fuller & Richer Life
"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers."  (3 John 2-3)    
One of the paradoxes of giving is that the giver is often more blessed than the receiver.  There have been so many times in my life where I have been blessed beyond measure when I have extended God's generosity to me and my family to others.  In fact, whenever we have been on mission trips, for example, we have always come away feeling as though we have gained more than we have given and are richer for the experience.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Your Giving Will Be A Great Help And Encouragement To Others

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 30 - Your Giving Will Be A Great Help And Encouragement To Others
"You are the light of the world...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5:14-16)    

As a leader, I am very aware that the way I live out my faith has an enormous influence on others.  This is also true for anyone who bears the name of Christ, as our lives are a testimony to God's goodness.  When we are generous, we testify to a generous God, which encourages others to see and respond to God's generosity also.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Giver & Front-line Worker Are Equal Partners In God's Work

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 29 - The Giver And Front-line Worker Are Equal Partners In God's Work

 "The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are all God's fellow workers."  (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)    

One of the things I have really grown to appreciate about leadership in a ministry context is the value of team, and the unique role each participant plays when they exercise their spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ.  God blesses us abundantly when we are united in purpose and use what His Spirit has gifted us with for His glory and honour.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

God Will Reward You For Your Faithful Generosity

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 28 - God Will Reward You For Your Faithful Generosity And Diligent Labors
"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."  (Hebrews 6:10-12)    

This verse of scripture was given to us when we left our first appointment in Palmerston as an assurance of the faithfulness of God to bless and honour the work and ministry we invested into the Corps and community.  When we honour God with our lives and are faithful with His calling, we will be blessed beyond what we could ever ask or hope for!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It Is Appropriate To Ask People How You Can Help Them

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 27 - It Is Appropriate To Ask People How You Can Help Them
"Jesus stopped and called them.  "What do you want me to do for you?"  He asked."  (Matthew 20:30-34)    

Two things about Jesus interaction with the blind men capture my attention.  First, he stopped.  Despite Jesus clear mission and journey towards the cross, he wasn't too busy to help people.  Second, he asked.  Although Jesus mission had eternal consequences, he cared about people's temporal needs.  As a task-oriented person, may I never be too busy to stop and ask.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What Is Faith?

While watching a favourite movie last night, Contact – starring Jodie Foster, it was interesting to see the age old conflict between science and faith play out.  Jodie Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, plays a scientist in search of extraterrestrial life, in pursuit of the truth about the vastness of the universe.  She encounters a theologian, Palmer Joss, played by Matthew McConaughey, who is also pursuing truth, but from a faith perspective.  Ironically, Palmer’s faith journey leads him to a pursuit of God, while Ellie’s scientific search leads her to a pursuit of “little green men!”

The plot of the movie is centred around the discovery of a message from the planet Vega by Ellie who then works with the government and a private benefactor to build a inter-galactic transporter from the data received from outer-space.  When Ellie returns from her trip into the far reaches of the universe with no evidence of the journey, her perception of reality is scrutinised by government officials who demand proof.  She is left with nothing else but faith to defend what she believes to be true:

Michael Kitz: [standing, angrily] Then why don’t you simply withdraw your testimony, and concede that this “journey to the center of the galaxy,” in fact, never took place!
Ellie Arroway: Because I can’t. I… had an experience… I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever… A vision… of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how… rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that we are *not*, that none of us are alone! I wish… I… could share that… I wish, that everyone, if only for one… moment, could feel… that awe, and humility, and hope. But… That continues to be my wish.

The once sceptical scientist had an experience that defied logic, lacked tangible proof, but demanded faith to believe what she knew to be real, had actually happened.  While Ellie and the story line is fictional, created by movie writers, her testimony provides us with a description of faith that is closely aligned with a biblical understanding of faith, which is embraced by Christians who have had a divine encounter with God.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3)

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

God Blesses You Financially So That You Can Be A Blessing To Others

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 26 - God Blesses You Financially So That You Can Be A Blessing To Others
"It is possible to give away and become richer!  It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything.  Yes, the liberal man shall be rich!  By watering others, he waters himself"  (Proverbs 11:24-25)    

This proverb is loaded with universal biblical principles - "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31); "A man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7); "What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?" (Matthew 16:26).  Yet, we live in a world where we see the two extremes of this proverb lived out.  It is inconceivable to me that a generous and relational God who created us to live in community would bless a single person with financial wealth for their own pleasure, when our entire reason for living is to bring pleasure to God by "loving God with all your heart...and loving your neighbour as yourself" (Luke 10:27)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Explaining A Relational God In A Non-Relational Way

I have just completed a tutorial paper and class presentation for a subject about Christians in a Multicultural World at Tabor College.  The focus of the paper was "Christians and the World Religions" requiring me to identify three significant hurdles that Christians need to address in order to participate at the same table.  In other words, what issues prevent Christians from engaging in inter-faith dialogue?

In addition to some thought provoking readings on the subject, I decided to present the question to our Sunday night congregation, which produced the following responses:

  • We all believe “our” God is “the” God
  • Fear of conflict
  • Language barriers – linguistic and cultural
  • Personal agendas – convince the others we are right
  • Power and control
  • Conflict between head knowledge and heart knowledge
  • Trying to explain a relational God in a non-relational way
  • Moral and ethical conflicts – place of women, unjust punishments
  • Lack of unity over beliefs and practices between the denominations

It was the response "Trying to explain a relational God in a non-relational way" that really captured my attention.  From my observation and involvement in an evangelically minded church, Christian interaction with other faith traditions is usually approached with a greater concern for theological correctness than a relational interest in a faith journey.  While I am a student of theology and understand the importance of sound biblical knowledge, I do not think correct belief is the most productive entry point for inter-faith dialogue.  This only serves to reinforce the barriers between us rather than building upon a common ground of faith.  

As human beings, who share the same Creator, regardless of culture and creed, we have been created to be in relationship with God and with each other.  It makes more sense to me to approach inter-faith dialogue from the foundation of relationship.  Dialogue based upon authentic relationship opens the pathway for a greater revelation of God through Jesus Christ.  Remember, when Paul spoke to the men of Athens he didn't correct their theology about foreign gods, but acknowledged their experience of faith which opened dialogue that led to the request, "we want to hear you again on this subject"  (Acts 17:22-32).

God Can Do Great Things

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 25 - God Can Do Great Things Through One Person Or A Group That Is Devoted To Him
""Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord"  (Zechariah 4:6)    

We have adopted the phrase in our church from the Chris Tomlin's song, "greater things are still to come, greater things are yet to be done in this city," because we believe passionately in a God who can do great things!  When we humble ourselves before our mighty God and submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit's work in our lives we can expect great things to happen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Some People Are Called To Extravagant Giving

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 24 - Some People Are Called To Extravagant Giving
"From time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need."  (Acts 4:34-37)    

I love this image of the early church where everyone was so committed to the vision that there was total buy-in by those whose lives had been radically transformed by Jesus Christ.  There was a pioneering spirit that was prepared to give extravagantly to advance the kingdom of God by serving the community.  There was a heart of generosity that couldn't help but to respond to a generous God.  This is a picture of giving that ought to inspire the Church today.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

God Has Good Works For You To Do During Your Lifetime

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 23 - God Has Good Works For You To Do During Your Lifetime
"In response to all he has done for us, let us outdo each other in being helpful and kind to each other and in doing good."  (Hebrews 10:24)  

In a culture where there is a strong spirit of competition in the pursuit of sports, success and status, the call to "outdo" each other in the area of 'service' captivates my imagination.  Imagine a world where we lived for each other, instead of ourselves.  Imagine what the Church would look like if we moved beyond "competitive tendering" for services from limited resources to build our organisations and united together to sow directly into "doing good" from the abundance of God's provision to build His kingdom!

Monday, October 22, 2012

God Has A High Regard For A Christian In Humble Financial Circumstances

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 22 - God Has A High Regard For A Christian In Humble Financial Circumstances

"The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position."  (James 1:9-11)  

I think there is a distinction that needs to be made here between just being poor and being in humble circumstances.  A wrong attitude towards money can be present whether one is poor or wealthy, however, "humble circumstances" almost suggests a form of voluntary poverty or a choice to live simply.  According to Ken Blanchard, “People with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less," which applies to those who choose to think more of others by living in humble circumstances.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Never Neglect God's House And Servants

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 21 - Never Neglect God's House And Servants

"[The leaders and the people repented and said] We will not neglect the house of our God"  (Nehemiah 10:39) 

While traveling through some historic South Australian towns during my last holidays, it struck me the time, effort and money local people invested into building the church in the centre of town.  The community united together to ensure the church was built, even when resources were scarce and often at the expense of their own properties.  Imagine the impact of the local church today if the same priority was given to building the kingdom of God than is given to building our own homes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beware Of Greed, Hoarding Or Selfishness In Your Life

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 20 - Beware Of Greed, Hoarding Or Selfishness In Your Life

"Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously"  (2 Corinthians 9:6) 

Far from promoting an anti-wealth or wealthy people message, Scripture deals with our attitude towards wealth and how we used our wealth to honour God and bless His people.  Greed and selfishness are the antithesis of generosity and does not reflect the heart of a generous God.  However, generosity sown reaps generosity in return.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Women Play A Significant Part In Giving To God's Work

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 19 - Women Play A Significant Part In Giving To God's Work

"Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them (Jesus and his disciples) out of their own means"  (Luke 8:3)

I must admit, I get a little tired of the lingering debate by some Christians about the role of women in the Church.  The Gospel writer Luke clearly highlights the integral role of women supporting the ministry of Jesus and Paul reminds us that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  We should celebrate all the gifts that we have to bring without the need to distinguish or discriminate between gender.

Hopes & Dreams

This morning I had the privilege of hearing Mr Hieu Van Le AO, Lt. Gov. of South Australia and Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural & Ethnic Affairs Commission, speak at the Onkaparinga Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.  Mr Le was among the first 'boat people' who came to Australia from war torn Vietnam in the mid 70's.  He spoke of the horrors of war he had escaped, the dangerous trip in an unsafe and overcrowded boat, being turned away at Malaysia by violent coast guards and the uncertainty of whether they would be welcomed in Australia.  His story confronted us with the reality of sadness and fear, yet with a vision of courage and hope, as they faced overwhelming odds in pursuit of a better life in a new country.

During his moving story, Mr Le shared with us a statement that captured the hearts of everyone in the room:

"We arrived with nothing more than an invisible suitcase full of hopes and dreams."

The issue of 'boat people', asylum seekers and refugees is still a hot topic debated among social networks and within the political arena today.  It is a discussion that raises strong emotions that are often driven by fear and usually incomplete and inaccurate information. A story like what we heard this morning personalises an otherwise abstract view of justice and humanity, enabling us to engage in a more meaningful discussion about human beings who are driven by desperation to take extraordinary risks in the pursuit of a better life or to escape unimaginable fear and danger.

Author and pastor, John Ortberg, says hope is “The conviction that our effort makes a difference and that we are not victims of circumstance is what keeps us persisting in the face of setbacks. It saves us from apathy, hopelessness, and despair."  It is this sort of conviction that led Mr Le to embark on a dangerous journey into the unknown, refusing to remain a victim of his circumstances, because he clung to an invisible suitcase full of hopes and dreams.

We were inspired and challenged by the courage displayed in the face of fear, the determination that overcame a feeling of despair and the hope that dared to believe for a better tomorrow.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Give In Proportion To How God Has Blessed You Materially

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 18 - Give In Proportion To How God Has Blessed You Materially

"Bring God a free-will offering proportionate in size to his blessing upon you as judged by the amount of your harvest"  (Deuteronomy 16:10)

I find myself a little challenged by this idea of giving proportionately to God's blessing when I consider how much God has blessed me in my life.  While I am far from wealthy by Australia's standards, I have been blessed beyond words, never being without.  I can never out-give God, but I pray my giving will honour a generous God who never ceases to pour out His blessings in my life!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Be Aware Of The Cautions About Growing Indebtedness

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 17 - Be Aware Of The Cautions About Growing Indebtedness

"Give to everyone what you owe them...Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others.  You can never finish paying that!"  (Romans 13:7-8)

As a young adult, a number of my peers pursued the great Australian dream of buying their own home.  While some managed this debt well and within their means, others were crippled by debt, unable to really participate in life.  When debt consumes our lives, it inhibits our ability to live generously and to put God first in the stewardship of our finances.  A conscious choice to live simply liberates us to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and our resources.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On Top Of The World

“I know the whole world is watching, and I wish the whole world could see what I see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are, I'm going home now.” (Felix Baumgartner)

I'm an adventurer at heart and couldn't help being impressed and inspired by the world record breaking jump by Felix Baumgartner.  He did something that no other human being has ever done and viewed the world from a perspective that few have done before him.  Standing on the edge of his suspended jumping platform from the edge of space, Felix captured a vision of the earth that encapsulates two significant truths about leadership.

1. Leaders See Further Than Others
Effective leadership requires leaders to have an elevated view of their surroundings to help navigate the people they lead towards the fulfilment of their organisational vision.  This elevated view enables the leader to keep the vision clear amidst the reality of their core business, to anticipate barriers or blockages ahead of the vision, and to identify new opportunities to advance the vision. 

2. Leaders See Themselves In Perspective
Leaders need to be careful that an elevated view of their surrounds doesn't lead to an elevated view of self.  The higher the vantage point, the more we are right-sized to see ourselves as only one part of a complex organism contributing to the function of the whole.  A spirit of humility is manifested by leaders who see themselves in perspective to those they lead and their leadership context.

A Group Of Leadership Gifts Can Glorify God

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 16 - In Building Projects, a Large Public Gift and a Group of Leadership Gifts Can Glorify God and Result in Great Generosity and Rejoicing

"Now then, who will follow my example?  Who is willing to give offerings to the Lord today?"  (1 Chronicles 29:1-9)

The axiom "everything rises and falls on leadership" applies in this area of corporate giving.  Leaders must lead by example if they want to motivate a group of people to give to any cause or project.  I was challenged by this truth many years ago by being asked to lead the Self Denial Appeal in my home church.  At that time I was only nominally giving to this appeal, but I knew that if I was to have any credibility in leading the appeal, then I needed to significantly step up in my giving.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Featured Blog - Corey Turner

The Oracle:  The Sky Is Not The Limit!


It is not that money itself is inherently evil, but the elevation of it to a place where it leads to a compromise of character.

The Desire For More Can Be Destructive

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 15 - The Desire
For "More" Can Be A Destructive Force To Your Life & Faith

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.""  (Hebrews 13:5)

I remember the classis line from Oliver Twist when the young orphan boy reach out his bowl and asked, "Please, sir, I want some more."  We live in a society that is constantly wanting "more."  But unlike Oliver who desired more food, we seem to have this unhealthy obsession for more of the latest and greatest possessions that hardly fall into the category of necessity.  The incessant want for more obstructs a life of contentment.