Giving That Transforms

givingOut of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy
and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
2 Corinthians 8:2 NIV

A farmer who had never been to the big city decided to introduce his son to city life. After perusing the luxurious hotel where they would stay—and watching a rickety old lady get on an elevator and a sumptuous blonde emerge 10 seconds later, he nudges his son and says: “Hey, Junior, go git Mama.”

Though the story is somewhat humorous, it illustrates how greed often consumes us. We want something for nothing—and instantly. In sharp contrast, God’s Word instructs us to give rather than gather and to direct our concern to others rather than ourselves.

Giving is an integral part of living transformed lives and experiencing transformed churches. Recognizing that all we have comes from God, belongs to God, and should be used for God’s work transforms our way of thinking and thus our actions.

OUR GIVING SHOULD SET AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS

Others provide good and bad examples of giving. If we have given ourselves to God, all we have belongs to him. He wants us to be good stewards of our time, talents, skills, and finances. God loves it when our example of giving demonstrates voluntary and cheerful giving. He wants us to give freely and gladly. No one should have to beg us to give so God’s work can flourish.

LET CHRIST’S EXAMPLE BE THE MOTIVATING REASON FOR GIVING

Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary—and the Father’s willingness to allow it, shows the supreme example of giving. Though Jesus possessed all the glory and majesty of heaven, he became a servant. Though he was rich and owned all things, he gave it up. He possessed a heavenly home but traded it for a stable. He chose persecution, suffering, and shame. He gave up heaven’s glory for a sin cursed world so people might experience forgiveness through faith in him.

HUMAN NEED DICTATES GIVING

Paul’s idea seems to be that no Christian should live in poverty when other believers could help alleviate it. Believers whom God has blessed should help those who suffer. Paul doesn’t infer Christians should give so much that they become poor. We should joyfully give to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This giving should come from a generous heart, not selfish motives.

PROMOTE GOOD WILL THROUGH GIVING

Giving shouldn’t be limited to fellow Christians but should include all people regardless of who they are. Giving this way and in the name of Jesus points them to him and affirms our love for him and them. Giving gives us an opportunity to tell of his love and may lead to witnessing encounters.

Martha Snell Nicholson wrote a poem entitled “Treasures.”

One by one God took them from me,
All the things I valued most,
Till I was empty-handed;
Every glittering toy was lost.

And I walked earth’s highway, grieving,
In my rags and poverty,
Till I heard His voice inviting,
‘Lift your empty hands to Me!’

So I turned my hands toward heaven,
And he filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches
Till they could contain no more.

And at last I comprehended
With my stupid mind and dull,
That God could not pour His riches
Into hands already full!

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Going the Extra Mile

running1aDon’t you realize that in a race everyone runs,
but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
1 Corinthians 9:24 NLT

Though I have been walking for exercise for a number of years, there was a short time when I tried running. I suppose I wasn’t thin enough because I seemed to keep shin splints almost all of the time. Even though I wore support mechanisms to relieve some of the pain, I could never heal. No sooner had the pain left than it would return. 5K’s were my races of choice. By the time the finish line came into view, I had exerted all the energy I could muster. I couldn’t have imagined having to run another mile in addition to the miles I had already run. Though I never won a race, the prizes for first, second, and third places were simple ribbons—and occasionally a small trophy.

Runners today receive medals, recognition, and perhaps money, but it wasn’t so in Paul’s day. A garland wreath was about the extent of their prize. Paul uses the race metaphor to illustrate the Christian life and talks about going the extra mile in this race. Transformed Christians and transformational churches go the extra mile for God. They do more than what is required.

Going the extra mile in the Christian race can be accomplished through several means and by adopting a few attitudes.

Strive for Success

Paul says to run in such a way that we win. We can live the basics of the Christian life—obeying the bare minimum of what we think God requires, or we can run in such a way to achieve success. God wants us to enjoy his best, but he also wants us to do our best—no leftovers

Do the Training

No one who decides they want to run or begin any exercise program does so without warm-up exercises. Failing to warm up leads to injuries—or at the very least much soreness. For us to be successful at something in life, we must do training. Just as most jobs require training, working for Christ requires the same. Training involves regularly studying God’s Word, prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, working in a local church, living out our faith each day, and taking advantage of every opportunity God gives to serve him.

Set Priorities

Without priorities, we will not know the success we could experience. In life, it is important to set priorities; otherwise, we aimlessly wander or don’t accomplish what we could. God, family, church, and then everything else is a good place to start.

Be Willing to Change Directions as God Leads

Be open to change as God directs. It may be God’s will for you to serve in a certain capacity for a time, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have other areas of service for you. Most people are adverse to change, but if we are to run the extra mile, we need to be willing to change as God directs.

Run Only for God

Jesus constantly reprimanded the religious leaders of his day for doing their religious work for show. They wanted praise and recognition from people. We should do God’s work for God, not for a pin the church might give, or for a plaque, or because we want to impress others in the church. Our aim in serving God should be to please only him.

Be an Encourager

Has anyone ever given you so much encouragement that you wanted them to stop. We all need encouragement. The Bible tells us to encourage one another, and all the more as we sense the nearness of Christ’s return. A word of encouragement is like a breath of fresh air. Christians are in this service together, and we need to encourage one another, not be jealous or try to compete with each another.

Our Spiritual Journey – Martin Wiles

path1Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.
Ephesians 2:1 NLT

Journeys can be enjoyable or dreadful.

I’ve taken many journeys during my lifetime. Having lived as a preacher’s son and then being a preacher myself, I once calculated that on average I had not lived for more than one year in any given place. Though that part of my life journey was not enjoyable, I made many friends along the way, but left them all too quickly. And then there’s been that part of the journey which included death, sickness, disease, broken relationships, and financial meltdowns. None of those were enjoyable.

More important than any life journey we might take—willingly or not, is our spiritual journey. This one we have no option but to embrace. Living transformed lives begins by examining where we are spiritually and altering what needs changing. We pass through spiritual growth stages just as we do physical growth stages. Those who don’t advance in the physical are referred to as challenged, and those who don’t in the spiritual are as well.

Our spiritual journey includes the following stages—some of which we choose and others that we don’t.

  • Spiritual death. We all start here. No one has a head start. The Bible says, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 NIV). We’re not as bad as we could be, but we are all bad nevertheless—sinful. We can’t live up to God’s expectations and standards without divine assistance.
  • Spiritual infant. There’s nothing wrong with being an infant if that’s what we should be, and we are this when we accept Christ. Everyone grows at different rates. God works to conform us to his Son’s image which will take us to spiritual maturity and abundant life, but we determine in large part how much we grow and how quickly by our response to his work.
  • Spiritual child. We can get stuck here if we’re not able to see the big picture or our need to be involved in it. Phrases we hear that help us identify the speaker as a child are similar to the ones that reveal a person is a spiritual child. Jesus wants us to be disciples and make disciples. This involves looking outside our little worlds and getting outside our comfort zones.
  • Spiritual young adult. Of the two greatest commandments, Jesus said loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and being was the first and greatest. As young adults are seeking knowledge and experiences to help them survive in the world, so spiritual young adults are concerned with what will help them grow spiritually.
  • Spiritual parent. A disciple is one who knows Christ, is growing in their relationship with him, and wants to see others enjoy the same. One who is growing is a young adult, but the one who wants others to enjoy the same is a spiritual parent.

What stage do you find yourself in?

Transformed Lives, Transformed Churches

determinationMatthew 19:16-22

What does commitment to God look like? The list can vary and be quite lengthy, including such things as attending church once, twice, or three times a week; teaching a class; serving on a committee; being morally good; not cursing, smoking, drinking, or doing drugs; making good choices; being a good parent; giving; taking up the offering; or being nice. What it should look like is loving Christ with all our beings until it changes our attitudes, actions, and thoughts.

  • Transformed Lives Are More than Motion

The rich young ruler appeared to have things in order, but he wasn’t sure of eternal life. He may have had a misconception of how it was attained, and he obviously wasn’t happy. He wanted more. Jesus went to the core of his problem by identifying things in his life that needed to go or at least be thought about differently. Jesus told him to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow him.

Rote motions cannot substitute for a relationship; nor can they bring happiness or replace attitudes that need changing.

  • Transformed Lives Involve a Vibrant Relationship

The rich young ruler did all the right things, but the one wrong thing was stealing his joy. His wealth was his god, and it got in the way of a fulfilling relationship with God.

Our relationship with God is only vibrant when we obey the two commands Jesus says are the greatest: love God with all our being and love others as ourselves. A supreme love for God leads us to alter what’s causing the void in our lives. Jesus revealed to the rich young ruler what was keeping him from enjoying a vibrant relationship with God—his wealth. Sadly, he wasn’t willing to give it up and went away sad.

When God shows us what needs to go or be reprioritized, we should be willing to act. If not, we’ll go away sad every time.

  • Transformed Lives Are Abundant

Our play toys may not be necessarily wrong—just in the wrong place. An old saying states it well, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” It’s nothing wrong with wealth in and of itself, but it was for the rich young ruler because it got in the way of his abundant living.

What play toy is causing you to miss out on God’s abundance? What are you unwilling to give up for God? Whatever it is will keep you from living a transformed life.