September 2013

September 30, 2013

Generosity is a Response

 I love Seacoast church, and the more I've gone there and followed them, the more good things I see. I came across this sermon series about money, The Elephant in the Room. Here's the first sermon in the series by Josh Walters. This one didn't really blow me away, but the rest of the series picks up:

If you get the chance, read those verses on the Zacchaeus link and the Rich Guy links below (they're short). Ray Vander Laan has a really great sermon on Zacchaeus that is somewhere here. Unfortunately, I don't know which one (so you'll have to listen to all of them!), but if you scan my old posts you may find it, should you have the time.

I highlighted a statement below: "when Jesus is Lord, God is your provider." If you really take hold of that, imagine the matter what happens in your life, you'll be okay because God is taking care of you. Jesus tells us this in Matthew 6:25-34. In 1 Kings, the first lesson God teaches Elijah is that He will provide. When that provision goes away, God sends him somewhere else to provide for him, as well as for the family through which he had allocated that provision!

God is a provider. It takes faith and a lot of trust to give your financial life over to God (which is funny, because we so easily trust Him with those parts of life that are eternal), but as we get deeper into following Jesus and knowing God, I think that this is one of the big lessons we have to learn. After all, if God can't provide for our material means, then how can we expect Him to show up in bigger ways, like miracles and changing lives?

It makes sense that this is the first lesson God teaches Elijah before his ministry really kicks in, because otherwise, he may have not had the faith to become such an amazing conduit for God's acts on earth. I doubt that our lives/ ministries are any different.

Notes from the sermon:
  • God is a giver, not a taker
  • Generosity is something God wants for me, not from me
    • When we cling to money as our god, we ultimate rob ourselves of life
  •  2 stories: Zacchaeus, a tax collector, and a rich guy who asked Jesus how to get eternal life and Jesus told him to sell everythinghe had:
    • Two responses
    • Two outcomes = two stories
    • Generosity is a response
      • It exposes the posture of my heart
        •  The rich guy wanted to know the minimum he could do to get life
        • Our readiness or refusal to respond in generosity reveals the condition of our hearts
      • It reveals the size of my God
        •  One asks Jesus to speak into his life, the other gives his life to Jesus
      • It changes the outcome of my story
    • Jesus loved both men
      • Both are invited to relationship
  • When Jesus is Lord, God is your provider
    • Makes it easier to be generous
  • Generosity produces life in us

*Some of the stuff I wrote above is derived from a Jamie Winship sermon, which I also cannot locate, but if you scan previous posts, you'll find it.

September 27, 2013

Moving In - Deleted

I was working on some notes for the Moving In sermon by Joseph Barkley, and accidentally deleted all of it...oh well, you can listen here:

It's based on Deuteronomy 6:4-12:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
I recently picked up Relient K's Forget and Not Slow Down.

I really like some of the songs on here, and for some reason was really excited about the prospect of telling people this is my favorite Relient K album. I don't like all of the songs though, and so I don't think I could say that with any honesty, much to my dismay. I'm not sure why, but there was this great desire in me to have one thing to hold on to that I could summarize as my favorite Relient K experience. As if I planned on going around all day telling people, "if you want to experience Relient K, this album is enough."

Why are we like that (or is it just me)? Why do we just want "one thing?"

In this sermon, Joseph talks about how we tend to make things our God, praying to God for that next job, spouse, house, healing, etc. We essentially use God to get those things, which is probably what our real god is. Those may be our "one thing."

Read the verse above though -- doesn't that essentially say what Jesus did in Matthew 6:33? - "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." God said love me and I will bring you into the promised land. If we make God our "one thing," we will be taken care of and get the desires of our hearts.

Joseph said in this sermon that loving God with everything doesn't mean that nothing else gets loved, but just that nothing else gets loved the same way God does. That's a good way to put it, and takes away some of the fear in loving God with all your heart, soul and Him your all.

As I re-read this, I feel like I'm trying to connect incohesive thoughts, so please forgive me if this doesn't make sense. You should probably just listen to the sermon and take what you want from it.

September 18, 2013

Technology will be the death of us...

 NOTE: This is an old post, but I have some free time, so I'm catching up.

My cell phone split in half this weekend...

This is the best phone I ever had. It was simple, durable (this isn't the phone that split in half) and had an excellent reggae version of Silent Night as my ringtone. The only downside to this phone was that it didn't have a camera, but that's what cameras are for I guess.

So as I look for a new phone, I find myself wishing I could go back to the simpler days of my little LG pictured above. But these days every phone is "smart," and we are being pushed into buying these smart phones and their expensive data plans. After a year of using my sister's old phone (she's always a step ahead of me with this stuff), I ended up with a Samsung Stratosphere II, and it was actually cheaper to buy a smart phone with all its data than to keep up my old fashioned ways.

I often find myself in this predicament -- how much do I let technology permeate my life? How much of this is useful and how much of it is detrimental? I like being able to look at Google Maps when I get lost in Inglewood or something like that; but I also hate talking to someone whose eyes are glued to his or her phone.

A wise friend who was a teacher told me that he asked his class if they thought the invention of writing was a good thing. Unanimously they agreed. He also agreed, but pointed out that, with the widespread availability of written materials, oral tradition slowly faded away. Now history is no longer passed down through the stories of our fathers, but by teachers and history books. With every advancement in technology, something is inevitably lost. Two steps forward, one step back…

So what have we lost with the internet and smart phones? I’d say the biggest things are social interaction and our memories.

I once was standing behind a group of people that were obviously friends, but in this group of five everyone was on their phones instead of talking to each other. I looked at the phone screen of the guy in front of me, and he wasn’t even looking at anything! Just flicking around between screens on his phone. I wanted to tell them, “Talk to each other! You have four other people right next to you!” But I didn’t. Cell phones fill awkward silence, but as a good friend once told me, “Awkward moments are what makes life interesting.”

Furthermore, we don’t have to stop and ask for directions anymore. We don’t have to buy things at stores anymore. We don’t even have to talk to our friends to keep up on each others lives. The internet and smart phones have replaced all of this.

As for memory – everything is reference based. I once asked a guy who his favorite bands were. He thought for a moment, and then whipped out his phone to see what he had been listening to. His memory of his favorite music was tied to his phone! I kind of freaked him out when I told him to put away his phone and tell me who he liked without it. Maybe I was a bit harsh…

And maybe I’m being a bit harsh now. Is my anti-technology stance distancing me from relating to people? Will I be left behind in the dust of phone books and brick-and-mortar stores as the rest of the world embraces iPads and their digital identities?

This is the great conflict of my life. A slow-moving, old-fashioned guy from the South surrounded by the latest-and-greatest in the entertainment capital of the world. Should I embrace the digital age or hold fast to a simpler life?

September 9, 2013

Age and Expectations - Part 2

 As the title suggests, here is the rest of my thoughts on Age and Expectations, established in a prior post and initiated by viewing this video:

So, back to the original point about the video: should we be concerned about where we are in life compared to others? Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." I wrote a blog post about that verse earlier. God made us to do something. Society didn't make us to do anything, but expects something from us. So who do we please - people or God?

Something about all of this doesn't sit well with me though. Maybe it's important to gauge our life's progress by others - isn't that a standard of maturity? If all my friends have awesome jobs and houses and families, and I'm still living with my parents and delivering pizzas, is that okay? Who's to say...but that hypothetical me is probably not going to get many dates.

I once heard a middle-aged woman who worked in ministry talking about how all her friends had retirement funds and bolstered savings accounts. She then said that her and her husband had measly amounts of both, mostly because they had chosen a different path in life that was less lucrative financially, but more centered on ministry. She asked her husband, "Should we be worried about the fact that we don't have those things?" Ultimately, they landed on "no."

I mention these verses often - Matthew 6:19-34, where, in it, Jesus says:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Later, He continues:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

I've been finding recently that there is a difference between the way Jesus does things, and the way Christian culture does things. The latter is some hybrid of the American Dream mixed with Western Christianity. I often find myself between the two fronts - on one side hearing that God will provide no matter what, so don't spend your time dwelling on where you are going to get money, but invest in the Kingdom of God. The other side says to be a good steward of your money and work hard to provide for your family.

I think the problem is that both are good, and you can invest in people and God's kingdom in both circumstances. And maybe there are degrees of both that should be adopted - I would never say that it is okay to not provide for your family if you are perfectly able to do it. As a good friend once told me, sometimes choices aren't between good and bad, but better and best.

So if you made it this far (I commend you), you can probably see that all of this is a work in progress, with a lot of unanswered questions. But hopefully it has you thinking...

September 5, 2013

Age and Expectations - Part 1

This is a really powerful video:

It really shows the consciousness of our society and what we're most concerned about: being normal, particularly when it comes to milestones we "should have" hit by our age (or with those we may have hit prematurely when it comes to "10-17 and pregnant").

Our society really associates age with milestones, and that's understandable. I often think to my parents who, by my age, had a house and two kids. My dad still works for the same company he did when he was my age and had way more responsibility than I have now. I often compare myself to him and wonder why things are different...

To be fair it was the late-80's/ early-90's and things were much better economically, and the culture varied socially. Plus, Home Improvement was on television, which makes everything better. But you can't help but make those comparisons and tests that, by such-and-such age I need to have experienced such-and-such. And according to this video, the two biggest expectations are relationships/sexuality and career.

I used to feel the same way, as a kid who often struck-out with the ladies in high school. I didn't kiss a girl until I was in college, which I was mortified to admit to anyone prior to it happening. That was weird and I didn't want to be weird - ultimately, it's about being "normal."

I recently read that, in order to change the culture of an organization, you have to make your ideal culture the social norm, so that if people deviate from it, they will be looked down upon by their peers. "The inner conformist is stronger than the inner activist," the article reads. It's not about being a good person, but about being cool. Man, that's so a whole, humans just want to fit in more than anything.

Normal is changing though, isn't it? I think my generation is comfortable with a new normal (as the show suggests), but I think that this emerging culture is nothing but a general acceptance that "we aren't where we used to be, and that's okay." Is it? Probably, but there are consequences.

I'm still finding my way career-wise, which may mean I end up doing something more enjoyable than the previous generation, but may not be able to retire when my parents do. I got married later in life, which means kids come later - a trend I see more and more. Kids coming later is more dangerous when it comes to miscarriages and the such, but not always. Again, we may have to work longer in life to support those kids, but if I enjoy my job, that's not so bad, right?

The things that scare me about it are that culture seems to be more selfish. It's a very "me-centric" society we live in, where life is generally about what we can get out of it. What can this relationship do for me? What can my company offer me? How does my church feed me? That's a dangerous road to go down because most people would say those aren't bad things. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, right? But that's not what Jesus says:
  • "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
  • "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Luke 9:24).
  • "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it" (Luke 17:33).
  • "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39).
  • "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it" (Matthew 16:25).
  • "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:35).
  • "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).
(Those quotes are pulled from here.)

This is getting pretty long, so I'm going to make it a two-parter. To be continued...