GROW-ing : giving/saving/living

When you have nothing to talk about, you talk about? THE WEATHER.
When you have something to talk about, we still talk about? THE WEATHER.

The weather is the easiest thing to talk about? Why?

  • Because we have no control over it
  • We can’t get blamed for it
  • We can’t escape it
  • And…it’s easy

What’s not so easy to talk about? MONEY!

You may have heard this before – that some married couples will never talk about Religion, Politics, and…MONEY. They vow that it helps their marriage! Those three things have caused many  arguments, but the weather, that’s a safe topic.

Out of the three, money is by far the most divisive. It has broken up many relationships.

If I were to ask, does money make you happy? you’d probably say, no.
But…
If I were to also ask, would a little more money make you a little happier? you may say, YES!

– – – – – – –

This week we continue our winter series :

GROW-ing…

We’ve been talking about and will continue to talk about Spiritual Formation, Generosity, Impact and Community.

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Today we continue with GENEROSITY, but will move into some practical thoughts on giving and stewardship.

Last week we walked through 2 Corinthians 9, which deals some important things about generosity:

  • It’s about investing, not losing.
  • It’s about a decision, not the dollar
  • Everyone wins with generosity
  • God’s mission is resourced through generosity

2 quotes we want you to remember:

“The kingdom that Jesus preached & lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity”

“It’s the decision, not the dollar, creates a giver!”

We said that this week we’d get into the nitty gritty of it. Well here we go.

Why even talk about this? Why talk about money?
(and please know that we don’t talk about money too often around The Village)

Generosity is a theme through out scripture. You can’t miss it. If you do, you’re reading with blinders on. Money, gifts, possessions, time – it’s all there. God gives – God calls us to give. God loves – God compels us to love.

The bible talks about money a lot. Directly 800 times, indirectly, more than 2000 times. That’s a lot.

More than 1/3 of Jesus’ parables include references on money or possessions.

Why do you think that is?

Because what we own, make, spend, keep, and owe, is connected to a deeper place – our heart.

Jesus says (Matthew 6) You can’t serve both God & Money.

  • Mammon, the word for money in this text, refers to property and wealth as a god…as an idol. It was a Chaldeon word for both god & money.
  • Jesus’ point is clear: don’t turn money into what it was never supposed to be, a god, an idol.
  • We joke about the term, “almighty dollar”, but we are well aware of it’s power.

Jesus is warning us to be careful not to let money give you orders or boss you around.

You’ve probably heard this… “Money makes a wonderful servant, but a horrible master”

Who has ever felt like a slave to money? Either by choice or by circumstance?

– – – – – – –

This is why stewardship is so important – using wisely, what’s been given to you. Using what you have – your time, gifts, skills, land, opportunity, and MONEY, well.

The reason we even use the word ‘steward’ is because we have come to the understanding that everything we have comes from God, and in light of that, we ‘steward’ the gifts of money, time, and opportunity, that we have been given to us.

Psalm 24:1 is the bases for this, “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

As people who are discovering what it means to follow Jesus, this is the worldview we start from. This is the lens by which we see the world.

If this is true…that what we have has been given to us, then we are responsible to ‘steward’ it well.

Here’s the best way I know how to steward finances: 80-10-10. This works! Many Studies, Psychologists, Financial planners, all agree that this works. People without faith in Jesus have even come to know that this works. Live on 80%, Save 10%, Give away 10%. It’s good math. It’s good human ethics.

 

But…if we believe what Psalm 24 says, then we must turn these numbers around:
10     –     10     –     80
Give       Save       Live

 

 

I GIVE…so that it’s not all about me

By giving first, I invite God back into the equation.
By giving first, I remove the chance for selfishness to creep in.
By giving first, I’m grateful for what God gives me.
By giving first, I’m living with open hands instead of tight fists.

So you’ve figured that part out. Which means you’ll probably ask this next question, How much do I give?

  • YES, 10% is either a great place to start or a great place to strive for.
  • There are some really good biblical principals that encourage this (Mal 3, Lev 27, Num 18, etc)
  • It works – it’s good – but it is an OT law. Do you follow every other OT law? Hmmm.
  • Paul says, decide in your heart what you will give. (2 Cor 9)
    • Think about it. Pray about it.
    • Be strategic and thoughtful about it.
    • Which means your giving might be even end up being more, depending how God is challenging and directing you.

Here’s the thing, I really think that giving 10% to the local church is an act of trust, of worship, of gratefulness, of community. And I also believe that if you do this, you will continue to experience God’s provision, and will continue to see all you have as God’s gift to you.

BUT…if you’ve never done this; if you’ve never given 10% of your income away (at the beginning of your budget), I want to encourage you to start somewhere, and see what God does, in and through you. If you’re at 0%, start at 3%. If you’re at 2%, try 5%. If you’re used to giving, but aren’t so consistent with it, commit to 10% at the top. It’s amazing what God will do.

Andy Stanley offers a two-fold approach: form a basic plan with a willingness to consider spontaneity when opportunities arises!

I SAVE…so that it’s not all about now

Canadians save less today than 10 years ago. 0.8%, down from 1.4% (this will eventually effect consumer spending and economic growth).

People spend almost $5000 a year in impulse purchases – that’s almost a full TFSA limit.

Seth Godin Talks about the $37000 latte.

  • $4 a day on an afternoon coffee or snack
  • 10+ years of this + the credit card high percentage debt = $24000
  • saving that same money with 7% over 10 years = $13000

I’m not telling you not to buy coffee, but if you’re buying coffee and not saving, something’s wrong.
If you’re buying stuff before you save, that’s not right.
If you’re wasting money without knowing where it’s going, and not saving for your future, it’s simply unwise.

Proverb 6:6-8 says,
Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.

There are lots of ways to save. Just like giving, you have to be strategic and decisive about it.

I LIVE…on the rest, as a mature & responsible neighbour, friend, parent, and human.

Proverbs 13:7
One pretends to be rich, but has nothing.
One pretends to be poor, but has great wealth.

Proverbs 22:6 has been quoted at baby dedications, Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Funny thing is that the verses that follow are about stewardship & generosity.

(7)The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
(9)The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.
(16)One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth
    and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

Stewarding God’s resources takes planning & training. It’s takes some work.

Why not try talking about the 90%? We (rightfully and sincerely) encourage conversation about the 10% of giving off the top. However, if we’d be wise and intentional about the rest, the 90%, we’d have no problem giving away the 10%.

Many are unable to be generous because they have yet to develop a sustainable plan for what we decide to keep.

Simply put: Live below your means. You have 3 choices: above, within, below. Which one do you think is best?

TAKE IT HOME

Giving takes TRUST
Saving takes SMARTS
Living on less takes GUTS

All 3 of these…honour God.

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Bonus Material: (sign up for our Sunday Financial Health Classes)

On Giving…
– Make a budget and when doing so, put giving at the top, before any other expense.
– Start with something. If 10% sounds crazy, start with something smaller for now.
– Pray about this. Ask God what he thinks you should give. We ask God for all sorts of stuff. We ask God for wisdom in all areas of our life. He is faithful to lead and direct you in the process with gentleness.
– Create a rhythm and routine. Give weekly or monthly or every time you get paid. Make it a first thing, not a last thing. Use our Canada Helps partner to make it easier. Or use an envelop system if you like to give cash or cheque. This helps you to be committed to what you’ve decided to give.
– Be open to God’s voice in your life. Be open to opportunities to help, to serve, to give. In the end, as much as your giving is helping (the local church, a charity, a neighbourhood need, etc) others, your giving is actually helping you to become the person God is shaping you to be.

On Saving…
– Those who don’t save are saying that they don’t care about their future.
– Those who don’t save are thinking selfishly about today, without any thought for tomorrow.
– Yes, there are seasons where saving might feel impossible or is impossible, but don’t let that be the norm.
– Save for: 1 – emergencies, 2 – retirement, 3 – future purchases, (4 – education if you have kids)
– When you get a deal on something, save the difference.
– When you finish paying something off (car, furniture, loan), keep saving some or all of that money.
– If you’re buying $5 coffees, but aren’t saving, that is not good. Buy cheaper coffee and save the difference. That goes for any small luxury.
– It’s not that you shouldn’t enjoy going out or vacationing or nice things. Please do. But, if you’re spending money on those things and not saving, then you’re doing it wrong. Save first, use what you have left to spend & enjoy.

On Living…
– All we will say here is this: create a budget, and stick to it. It’s amazing what we can live on when we create healthy parameters to live within.

GROW-ing : in generosity

When you think about generosity, who comes to mind? Think about a name or person.
For me that person was my Dad, who would’ve been 80 years old this past weekend. (He passed away 14 years ago)

Doesn’t that person, in some way, make you smile? Why? Because generosity brings a smile to our face, and a sense warmth to our heart. Not just when we’re the recipients,  but also when we are the dispensers.

Some stats came out this week about the richest people in the world in regards to their generosity. Some give away a fair bit, others, not so much. I won’t mention all the ‘low’ ones on the list, but one pops out – Jeff Bezoz, Amazon, who gives away, only, 0.1% of his annual income. This pales in comparison to Warren Buffet & Bill Gates who are in the 30-40% range.

Ironically, a “Christian Leader”, during this same time, spoke out in saying that poor people don’t contribute as much to society, because they give so much less. Terrible. Stats actually say that those with less income give (percentage wise) more than those with more income.

2 Questions:

x Why?

The more you have, the harder it is to release it? A certain lifestyle is not easy to keep up?

x What spurs on generosity?

We continue our winter series : GROW-ing

Today we land on GENEROSITY.

Generosity is a theme through out scripture. You can’t miss it. If you do, you’re reading with blinders on. Jesus talked about money, as much or more that he did about faith & hope. Why? because it’s tied to deeply to our heart. We see generosity in the form of money, gifts, possessions, time, etc.

  • God gives – God calls us to give
  • God loves – God compels us to love

“The kingdom that Jesus preached & lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity” (NT Wright)

Even though we know this, for some reason, generosity spurs on a few feelings: Two of which are difficult to swallow: Selfishness & FEAR (the biggest obstacle in giving)

Jesus wants us to grow in our generosity.

  • to and for needs
  • to and for others
  • and yes…to and for the local church (remember, as the church receives, it’s called to give away)

Next week, we’ll dabble in stewardship: what we do with the money & resources God provides.
(That will be fun. Nitty Gritty. Practical.)

Paul, when writing to the early church in a city called Corinth, takes some valuable paper space to talk about generosity. (2 Corinthians 9:6-15)

In essence, this is a sketch of what it means to be God’s people.

 

Generosity isn’t just about nice quotes & sayings that make it on a Starbucks cup with your name on it. Generosity is connected to how we see God, the world, the church, and ourselves, and others.

There are some valuable things we can learn from Paul’s words. Let’s dive in.

 

 

1 – Rules of harvest, gardening and farming, apply to finances & giving.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. ” (9:6)

Just like planting seeds, there is a correlation between what we give and what we get back. But, be careful that you don’t see this as a way to get rich. That is NOT what this is about. (by any means)

What Paul is trying to say is that generosity is about investment and not loss.

Farmers who plant, never think about the seeds they lose, but about the crops they gain.

No farmer would ever pray “God, please give me a crop, I’m not sure I’m ready to sow any seed though, but I’m trusting you get involved. And I’m holding on to my seed, just in case.”

That would never happen.

Giving & Generosity are opposite of that prayer. They would go more like this, “God, I’m going to plant these resources that I have, and trust that you will make them grow into more than I could ever imagine.”

When Paul says, plant generously and you will reap generously, he’s comparing our giving to how we plant seeds. The more we plant, the more that will grow. If you are generous in your planting, you’ll have a generous crop.

2 – Generosity is always a choice & a decision.

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (9:7)

Lowell Berry, a successful business person…in fertilizer (of all things)…was known to be generous…at home, at church, at work, everywhere. Someone asked him why he gave so much and how he gave so much. When he was 12 years old, he decided to give a portion of anything he earned. He only started earning money after college. But his decision came so many years before.

The decision, not the dollar, creates a giver!

Paul gives a few instructions:

  • give thoughtfully
  • make a decision and stick to it
  • don’t do it with resentment/reluctance
  • give with a smile

3 – Everyone wins when we’re generous.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (9:8-11)

In a nutshell, Paul is saying that when we are generous, everyone wins.

God is the one blessing & providing
We’re on the receiving end of this
We’re also on the giving end
God provides for the one giving and the one receiving
God blessing us, so we can in turn bless others

This all results in everyone being thankful!

  • the one giving
  • the one receiving
  • the one who’s been blessed
  • the one who’s blessing
  • Everyone is saying thank you

4 – Giving & Generosity aligns our life with God’s mission & agenda.

Simply put, as we said a few weeks ago, our generosity, money, gifts, time, effort, words, everything…is what resources God’s mission on earth.

Know this…God’s mission is a commitment to helping the poor, helping the broken, helping those who are discouraged, helping those who are lost. When we give, when we serve, when we’re generous with time & money, all that stuff gets done. And…we get to take part in a plan that is so much bigger than our single life or single bucket of seeds.

Who doesn’t want that level of significance? I do. I hope you do to.

When we’re generous, we get to be part of that.
Don’t leave it for others (my dad, your _____) Let’s join this adventure. You and Me and Us.

Unless we open our palms & let the seed fly, we will never know what fruit God might bring.

– – – – – – – – – – –

What does that look like for our church community?

Volunteering…everything we do…every way that we serve is about…
– making people feel at home here
– helping people discover Jesus
– loving, serving, caring, listening, …

What does this look like for me?
What seeds are you planting with your generosity?

If you don’t know where to start or don’t think you have it in you, look back at a time when someone was generous with you…invested in you. That, along with a conversation with Jesus, will get you started.

 

 That’s an exciting place to live. Let’s live there together!

GROW-ing : the WHAT, WHY & WHO of prayer

We’re back for week #2 : GROW-ing…

Remember our 2019 VISION? GROW!

  • Formation
  • Generosity
  • Impact
  • Community

Growing happens over a period of time. After a while, you look back and say, “WOW…look at how this grew, how you grew, how we grew, how this project came to life, etc.”

Sometimes, more often, growing is like the stock market. If you’re fixated on the one drop, you’ll get depressed really quickly (if you even care about it at all), but then you click the 5day or 1month or 1year or 5year view and notice that even though there were some difficult and crummy days, there has also been…STEADY GROWTH.

I posted a photo of our son this week on social media. He turned 17. An old friend, who we haven’t seen for a while said, “WHAT???” He saw a 17 year old giant, but he never saw the growing pains, the increments, the daily and weekly stuff that comes with raising our awesome some Jake.

Have you seen this 10 year challenge on social media the past few weeks? No one really knows how it started and why it caught steam. But it did. Post a photo from 10 years ago beside one from today. Simple right? Some are favourable, others, not so much 🙂

While all this was going on a friend posted… “Who cares what you looked like 10 years ago, how have you changed as a person?”

– – – – – – –

As we talk about GROW-ing, we can’t ‘not’ talk about change. In me, in us, in my heart, in my life. We have to focus on ‘becoming’ who God wants us to be…as people…as community.

CS Lewis once said, “of all the awkward people in your house or job, there is only one person who you can improve very much.” (YOU)

As people who are figuring out how to follow Jesus, change comes from you or me actually doing something about it.

We must add formative practices to our lives for there to be any real spiritual formation in us!

Last week we ended by encouraging some practices that will help us continue to become the people and community God is calling us to be.

Practicing Prayer…Solitude…Rest…Reading Scripture…Listening to God…

Let’s include community practices as well.
Worship, table conversations, small(er) groups, etc.

“Let him who doesn’t pray expect to be consigned to the whims of his own mind, will of her own ego, and the direction of his/her own thinking”

Eugene Peterson once said, “a changed world begins with me…and a changed me begins with prayer”

This gets us back to HEART & MIND. If we want to see growth in other areas of our lives, it will always start inside before we see it outside.

– – – – – – –

Today we focus on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. 3:14-21

Let’s read it, dive in, and see where we land.

What’s going on in this prayer? What is Paul getting at? Rather, where is Paul taking us? Where does he want us to land?

 the WHAT of prayer…

For this reason I bow my knee

  • Pray is about surrender
  • Surrendering to the God who ALL of us come from
  • It’s listening to God’s voice
  • It’s responding to God’s invite
  • This reminds me of a question I read a while back, “Do I measure the impact of my prayer by how often God does what I ask or how often I do what God asks?” (Tim Day)

What else is happening in prayer?

  • God gives us strength in our inner being
    • God’s Strength
    • By God’s Spirit
    • Inside of us

What does prayer impact? My insides. My heart. My mind. The things that make me, well, me.

Why is this important? Because any growth that happens in us, will always start IN US!

So many people seek results in their lives…health, work, relationships, wealth, sports, etc. Before you see any thing change in your external situation, you first have to address your internal condition.

The WHAT of prayer is about our surrender to God, and to what he wants to do in us.

the WHY of prayer…

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” 

We pray, that through faith, Jesus makes a home in our hearts.

As followers of Jesus, we want to look more like Jesus, great idea…BUT…we don’t always take the time to pray that Jesus would take residence in us…I mean truly take over.

That’s why, as Paul continues, he prays that we would be ROOTED & ESTABLISHED in LOVE. Both words that express going deeper than what we see on the surface.

He even prays that we would comprehend and grasp this LOVE of Jesus. Depth, Length, Width, Height of LOVE.

“Together…with God’s people…”

I love this line from Paul. Indicating that we will best figure this out, together, and not alone. So add to your personal practice, community practices. Church, smaller groups, coffee conversation, around the BIG table, over the phone or text, etc)

These lead us to be filled with fullness of God – JESUS.

the WHO we pray to…

We pray to one who is ABLE, POWERFUL

  • Who can do more than we imagine
  • Who can do more than we can measure

This goes back to our conversation about planting & watering & growing.

The seeds planted in prayer, in worship, in spiritual formation, will become more than we ever could imagine them to be. So, if we can trust that God makes things grow, we will, in prayer, in work, in good deeds, plant the seeds of the Kingdom…and watch God do his GROWing work.

– – – – – – –

Back to practices of prayer, scripture, solitude, community…

These are what get us to where Paul is taking us.

He gives us the big picture of prayer, but we must then create and collect a toolbox of spiritual formation, which includes personal practices & community practices.

“When you boil it all down, each spiritual discipline is simply a slightly different way to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice” (R Foster)When we, as a church…when I, as a pastor, encourage these practices, it’s for one simple reason, because God wants us to grow, and this is how it’ll happen.

– – – – – – –

Some end goals for our spiritual formation journey at The Village…

  • Follow Jesus (Discipleship)
  • Baptism
  • Live a life that lights up the world
  • Become people who pray
  • Become people who lead friends to Christ
  • Become more acquainted with scripture
  • Love God, Love our neighbour, make the world better

GROW-ing : healthy things always start growing from the inside out!

(watch this VIDEO first)

This book, which has now become a Netflix show, has simply taken off. It’s so popular. A small, overpriced, hardcover book, is flying off the shelf.

WHY?

Because people are desperate for their clutter to disappear, and many of us have no clue how to make that happen. So in comes Marie…the Tidy-up genius.

The episode I watched had something amazing happen in it: Marie paused…quieted everyone… and proceeded to take a few moments to be silent. The family wasn’t sure how to react or respond to this. What Marie was trying to do was help this family realize that their home ‘can’ be a place of peace if you simply allow it to be.

We don’t realize how much we simply need to stop, pause, be silent, and rest. It’s counterintuitive and counter cultural, but boy does it work.

Last week we participated in VISION SUNDAY: we want to GROW IN…

  • Formation
  • Generosity
  • Impact
  • Community

For the next few weeks we’re going to try and unpack those things a little more. Expand on the bite size portions we gave you last week.

What do we mean by GROW-ing?
– GROW & ING
– Now & Later. Present & Future.
– We wanna see some immediate fruit, sure, but we have to ensure that growth is continual…ongoing…

The word GROW leads us to think of size, impact, accomplishment, achievement, success, arrival – all good stuff.

However, for a church community, and for a follower of Jesus, for any of that to happen, we have to experience growth inside (heart/mind) before we see it outside.

For the first part of this series, we’re going to focus on the heart & mind.

  • Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
    • Pure heart = focused, intentional, right minded…
  • Paul said, put on or have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5)
    • If we can think like Jesus thinks, we are led to live like Jesus would live and love like Jesus would love.

Here’s the thing: If our minds & hearts can stretch and grow, inevitably, our lives will too.

Lets back track, intentionally, to the scripture text that started our year off with a few weeks ago. Romans 12:1-2.

Before we do, it’s worth noting that around this time of January, 20, 21, 22, is when people start giving up resolutions. By now they’ve either formed a new habit or have failed miserably at introducing something new into their life.

  • It takes 21 days to create a habit…
  • If you did start something new…have you succeeded or have you failed?
  • Have you developed a new healthy habit or have you fallen off the map?

We ask this question because in Romans 12, you may remember, is where Paul challenges his initial readers and us, that in order to live God’s best life, we have to:
– Let go of something
– Embrace something

The challenge is to keep going, move forward, and grow where it matters most, in our minds/hearts.

Let’s read it…as a reprise from two weeks ago.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

4 things to focus on:

Ordinary Life

Our everyday consists of…

  • Cleaning up
  • Making lunches
  • Being ‘ON’ for work
  • Dealing with a good or bad boss
  • Getting tired with tasks at hand
  • Trying to be disciplined, failing because of our lack of discipline
  • And so on…

You may recall these words from the NIV version of Scripture, “offer your body as a living sacrifice…holy & pleasing to God”. These words would confuse and mess up anyone that was used to a sacrificial system. Why? Normally, sacrificed things were dead or ceased to live when they were sacrificed. Paul says, May you be “LIVING SACRIFICES”.

Place your life, your everyday life, before God. Everything in it. Every part of it. Our fears, our anxieties, our hopes, our dreams, our confidence and our doubt.

Embrace what God has for you/me

After we’ve surrendered, now we’re ready to receive and to embrace. Paul says, that in our act of embrace, of receiving, we are actually worshiping God.

Surrender and embrace is an act of worship. In worship, we surrender and we embrace; we give up what we don’t need any longer, and hold on to what God is offering us instead.

Not sure what’s harder, the surrendering or the embracing? That moment you realize that what you thought was important, isn’t that great, or that moment you jump in, with two feet, totally abandoned to who God is?

Difficult? Maybe. Worth it? Definitely!

Don’t just fit in without thinking

Speaking of difficult, this next challenge Paul puts before us may be the hardest to both discern and avoid – Fitting in.

These seeds of surrender & embrace lead to something so beautiful: Living a life that is not stuck to or pressured by the culture around me.

  • don’t be well adjusted to culture (msg)
  • don’t get squeezed into it’s shape (ntw)
  • don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world (niv)

NT Wright says…don’t let others set the pace for you…set your own…work out what sort of person you should be…or what sort of people we should be.

Many of us get stuck on the expectations of others. And it is a dangerous place to live. Paul’s challenge is this, figure out what God expects: that will be your sweet spot, that will be your success;, that will your best life.

Be Transformed

Here’s the formative part of Paul’s challenge…

He tells us to surrender…to embrace…to be careful not to conform…

But this final word is about how the values of Jesus and the power of the Spirit can grow in us:

Be Transformed. Be changed.
Fix your attention on God, and you’ll be changed from the inside out.

How? Paul says, by the renewing of your mind.

  • important for two reasons
  • God works on our insides to effect what comes from out of our lives
  • God cares about our minds…he wants us to think through things and ponder on things, and figure out how we can best love him and love others and make the world better.

– – – – – – –

This leads us to the questions we ended with a few weeks ago:

  • What do we need to let go of this year?
  • What do we need to embrace this year?

Better yet, what are you holding on to that is holding you back?

– – – – – – –

How do figure all this stuff out? Surrender? Embrace? Not conforming? Being Transformed?

Implement these practices:
– Prayer
– Solitude
– Rest
– Reading Scripture
– Listening to God

We must add formative practices to our lives for there to be any real spiritual formation in us!

Here are a few suggestions for you/us:
– old school bible/notebook
– online tools (sacred space, you version, daily office, get on an email list or app notification, etc.
– plan, set aside, book in time, for these important things to happen
– (more on this next week/post)

– – – – – – –

Think about Marie Kondo and her gift of Tidying Up your life. She comes in, analyzes what needs to go, helps you believe it has to happen, removes the unnecessary and space filling items, and then allows you to invite the things that actually need to be there to help your life be the best it can be.

Our minds and hearts will grow…by getting rid of the stuff that’s in the way – adding the things that nurture our faith – and watching God work in us.

 

PRAYER (read this one line at a time, spending a few seconds thinking about what you said/prayed, and listening to what God might be saying to you)

 

 

I place my ordinary life before you God (every single part)

I embrace God’s best for me (what is that God? lead me there)

I acknowledge where I have fit in without thinking (this is a moment of confession, so may God’s spirit help me see where I have failed or where I’ve conformed to who I am NOT)

I fix my attention on God (take a minute to embrace God’s very real presence)

I invite Jesus to be planted deep inside of me, transforming me, changing me, renewing me.

Amen

VISION : GROW

Welcome to Vision Sunday. This is exciting for a few reasons. We had enough vision to get where we are today. We continue to see the importance of clarifying vision as we move towards ‘what-else’ God has for us, as a community and as individuals.

I don’t where glasses. So, by default, I don’t understand what others feel like without their glasses or contacts on. We’ve had this conversation in our home around glasses, as I am out numbered 3-1 in vision impaired-ness department 😉

As a church or as a follower of Jesus, it’s not that we need glasses, but we do need direction and a visual path before us to help us walk where God wants us to walk and to do what God wants us to do.

Vision – in the Bible is found about 80-120x (depending which translation you’re reading)

  • sight (Jesus healed people’s vision)
  • dream (God gives people dreams)
  • direction/plan (God gives his church a vision to keep moving forward and growing)

You may have heard (maybe) this verse from Proverbs.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. But he that keeps the law is happy. (Prov 29:18 KJV)

If people can’t see what God is doing,
    they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
    they are most blessed. (The Message)

Some vision-esque statements we’ve come back to around here since we started:

Love God, Love Others, Make the world better
Discovery, Story, Community
A safe place to discover faith
Broken people help broken people
God’s best for you, really is the best for you (just last week)

If there is one word that keeps coming to our hearts as leaders for this season, one word we want to keep in front of us, it’s this: GROW.

Before we get to what that looks like here, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.

– – – – – – –

Corinthians is a letter Paul wrote to a church in Corinth. This letter, among other things, addresses conflict…normal…not so pretty…kind of ugly…conflict. (no one ever has to deal with that???)

Chapter 3 doesn’t start that warmly…listen to how Paul begins this section: (3:1-4)

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

Live by the Spirit vs Still Worldy
Drink Milk vs Eat Solids

These two comparisons are really about maturity. About where these corinthian christians were at in their spirit journey. They are ‘seeing’ things through the lens of culture, of society, and simply following suit. We talked about this last week…

  • don’t become well adjusted…don’t get squeezed into the mold of the present age (Rom 12:1-2)
  • Be changed, Live differently, Discover God’s best…mature, loving, community minded, etc.
  • That is where the conflict in this early church came from – a lack of maturity.
  • (note: this is not an assessment of us)

Then Paul says… (3:5-9)

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

What’s going on here?

This early church is having a bit of a spat about who’s more important. They’re putting either Paul or Apollos on a pedestal they were never meant to be on. Paul is, from what we know, the key figure in this church plant, but Apollos had a part to play as well. He may have taught a few things, led a few things, encouraged a group of people.

Paul wants to get across this very important truth:

Everybody has a part to play, but God is the one who brings it all together. Every person in a Jesus community offers something of value, but God holds it together – God leads us forward.

The language or words he uses are: Watering, Planting & Growing.

Paul is setting out…presenting if you will…a vision…for community…for a healthy community…for a healthy church community.

It’s not about one person, but all people.
It is however, about one God.
We play our part, and God does the rest.

PLANTING

  • Hard work
  • You have to trust that what you planted will eventually become soemthing
  • Jesus talks about this (Scattering/Sowing seed) in Matthew 13

WATERING

  • Nurture what you’ve planted
  • Follow up with your seed
  • Sure, trust that it’ll grow, but then help it along by watering, caring, nurturing…

GROWTH

  • a bit of a mystery isn’t it?
  • We don’t see growth happening, we recognize that growth happened. (ill…kids)
  • Trust God is working behind the scenes, making things grow, and one day we’ll say, “wow, look what God did”.

We are God’s field, God’s building, he’s the one who brings it all together.

Things won’t grow without planting. Things won’t grow without watering. Things won’t grow without God. Every part of what Paul is saying is important.

OUR VISION : GROW

  • If we plant & water…we will grow
  • If we’re not growing…something is missing…seeds or water…
  • God, however is ready, we simply need to do our part

How do we want to grow? Glad you asked!

GROW in our Faith & Formation

  • we can never neglect this
  • It’s about us inviting Jesus to be planted and to grow in us (his heart, his ways, his love)
  • what does that look like?
    • Prayer, Scripture, Community worship, smaller groups, intentional discipleship

GROW in our GIVING

  • when we give, we plant seeds
  • our giving doesn’t end when the resource leaves our hand (resources = $ or skill)
    • it keeps going & keeps growing
  • giving is an integral part of a healthy stewardship/finances (10%(give) 10% save 80% live)
  • generosity is about more than money. It is anything that resources God’s mission of loving our neighbour and building the church. ($, Service, Acts of Kind, Volunteering, etc)
  • we are the answer to our prayers…God uses us to bring the healing, helping, restoring that we are praying for.
  • what does that look like?
    • Equip & enable generosity
    • Teach stewardship
    • Champion volunteers/-ing

GROW in our IMPACT

  • Loving Neighbours
  • Sharing Faith with others
    • Includes leading people to Jesus
    • Includes inviting friends to church
  • Praying for others (not just when they’re sick or hurting, but for God to get their attention)
  • what does that look like?
    • Community events
    • Woodcrest School Partnership
    • Benevolence
    • Missional giving
    • Kids / Students
    • Social Media
    • Being Present

GROW in our expression/experience of COMMUNITY

  • Be Community
  • Serve Community
  • Grow in our sense of Family
  • Grow in our passion for others
  • Desire all this growth happens in one another
  • what does that look like?
    • Sundays
    • smaller groups
    • Big Table
    • Multi-generational relationships
    • Coffee shops, living rooms, back yards, restaurants, etc.

– – – – – – –

I started a garden a couple of years ago. This summer we were overwhelmed with tomatoes. We had so many that we were looking for ways to give them away. We were able to generous in this way for one simple reason. We planted something. We watered that something. And, what do you know, it grew.

In 2019, we want us to focus on Paul’s vision for growth…and make it our own.

PLANTING
WATERING
GOD MAKING IT ALL GROW

If we do this, we’ll be able to look back and say WOW, look at what God did!!!