Meditation: The hardest spiritual practice?

Meditation is the toughest discipline. Maybe it is just me, but I don’t believe it is. When I say “toughest” I don’t mean that it is difficult to do. I mean that it is so out of the ordinary in my life that it requires a speed at which I don’t slow to enough. Meditation as resting in the presence of God requires being unhurried. That is why it is hard for me! However, I believe there is a depth of person that I am missing out on the more hurried I live. The more I practice resting in the presence of God, the more I sense He is doing a work in my heart and soul. Below are some thoughts on how you can join me in the journey to “practice” the way of living that leads to the deeper life, a life in which we know Christ and we even begin to be like Christ. These words of Dallas Willard are helpful, “Hurry is an attitude. It’s not necessarily the same thing as speed — it’s trusting in your speed. It comes from pride and trying to do too much. Good things do not come from being in a hurry! We need to ruthlessly eliminate hurry!

Notes on Meditation:

  • “True contemplation is not a psychological trick, but a theological grace” -Thomas Merton
  • “Hurry is not of the Devil, it is the Devil.” -Carl Jung
  • Bible uses 2 different words to describe mediation and it uses them 58 times.
    • Those words mean: listening to God’s word, reflecting on God’s works, rehearsing God’s deeds, ruminating on God’s law.
  • Meditation matters because changed behavior comes from our encounters with the living God.
  • Meditation is mentioned multiple times in Psalm 119
  • Isaac in Genesis 24:63, Psalm 63:6, Psalm 1:2, etc.
  • Jesus models meditation when he goes off by himself numerous times to spend time with the Father (Matthew 14 among others)
  • Christian Meditation defined:
    • Christian meditation is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.
  • Jesus calls us to this in the parable about him being the good shepherd and how his sheep hear his voice.
  • Meditation helps us to “live in His presence in uninterrupted fellowship”
  • “In meditation we are growing into what Thomas a Kempis calls ‘a familiar friendship with Jesus.’ We are sinking down into the light and life of Christ and becoming comfortable in that posture.”
  • Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind. Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind.” We fill it with the way we rest in the presence of God and listen to his words.
  • Eastern meditation is an attempt to be detached from the world, Christian meditation is an attempt to be present with God, so we can be more fully present in the world.
  • Meditation is not the attempt to be so focused on heaven that it does not matter here, as Oliver Wendell Holmes points out “Some people are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.”
  • Meditation is intended for actual contact and communion with God; it is learning to rest in the presence of the Divine Creator.
  • Meditation cannot be learned from a book, it is learned from practicing meditation. That being said, there are some helps to get us started.

Some helpful tips for mediation:

  • Time: The time of day doesn’t matter as much as the posture in that time. It must be unhurried. It may even be helpful to set an alarm and then you know when you actually have to leave you will be warned.
  • Place: Quiet and free from distraction. If there is no possible way for that, then use headphones and wordless music to allow you to listen. If possible, a good view of God’s creation is helpful. There should be no phone, computer, smartwatch, or any other distracting device with you (if you are using them for the helps, place them in do not disturb)
  • Posture: Find the most comfortable and least distracting position. It may very well be sitting is the best. You don’t want to fall asleep and you don’t want to be thinking on how your knees hurt. It may be helpful to even place your hands palms up as in order to say, I want to receive what you have for me God.

A few ways of meditation:

  1. Meditate on Scripture: think on a phrase, a word, or an event. Allow that to take root in you as you rest on that
    1. “For God so loved” (John 3:16)
    1. “My peace I give you” (John 14:27)
    1. Place yourself in the narrative of Scripture (the prodigal, woman at the well, Peter, Paul, etc)
  2. Re-collection or Centering: Learning to rest all things in the presence of God. Physically place palms down to “let go of” whatever you are holding too tightly or is burdensome, the doctor’s appointment, your schedule, your conflict with your neighbors. Place your palms up to receive God’s peace and presence for the doctor’s appointment, your schedule, etc.
  3. Meditate on all that God has created: go for a walk and notice the beauty of God’s creation and think on the depth of his love.

All quotes unless noted otherwise stem from Richard Foster in his book “Celebration of Discipline.”

Spiritual Practices (Disciplines)

In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic it is difficult to know what is next. In fact, I find myself often at a loss in how to plan the future. “Will we be able to gather in groups of 10 or more? 50? 250?” “When will people be able to go back to work?” “When will my kids be able to play with their friends?” On and on the questions go. Yet, in the middle of all that, I sense an opportunity. An opportunity to lean in to a deeper way of life. A life that is not caught in a relentless pursuit of what’s next. This pandemic has forced many of us to slow down.

My challenge to you and me is that in these days we might find our hope and our purpose in leaning in toward the love of God. In these days, I want to practice being in the presence of God. I want to be changed into a deeper, more thoughtful person, who is wrapped up in the heart and love of the Divine. There are practices that we can participate in that help us to be open to the work of God in our lives. With that in mind I will be posting “practices” that we can “train” together in these days to see if we can’t know a different way of living.

Therefore, my goal is to spend more time journeying toward the Spirit-filled life. I want to know the depth of God’s love and grace more than I have ever known. I want to, as Paul writes “have the mind of Christ”, and I will not get there passively. I am a beginner on the journey to the deeper way of life, but I believe it is a journey worth taking. Join with me in these days for a journey to a life of depth.

The Spirit-filled life is an invitation into a deeper way of living, a deeper way of knowing, a deeper way of being.

-Aaron Gregory

Notes on Spiritual Disciplines:

  • “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.” -Leo Tolstoy
  • “The gospel is less about how to get into the kingdom of heaven after you die and more about how to live in the kingdom of heaven before you die.” -Dallas Willard
  • “We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.” -Dallas Willard
  • The goal of spiritual disciplines is that we would take “spiritual realities into the press of raw humanity.”
  • The Spirit-filled life is an invitation into a deeper way of living, a deeper way of knowing, a deeper way of being.
  • Spiritual disciplines and this way of life is for all people from stay at home moms, to factory workers, to baristas, and accountants.
  • “Joy is the keynote of the disciplines.”
  • “The purpose of the disciplines is a liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.”
  • Spiritual disciplines help us to know Christ, the power of His resurrection and to help others to know as well.
  • You don’t have to know Jesus yet to try out the practices of spiritual disciplines it may just be that through earnestly seeking you may find God.
  • These practices are much more about our hearts than our how.
  • The goal is not religious duty, but to experience a life of relationship and intimacy with God.
  • “When we are with people, what we are comes out.”
  • “Inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received
  • Paul speaks of righteousness being a gift of God 35 times in the book of Romans
  • Practicing the disciplines is a means of receiving His grace, to be transformed. It is God’s work in us, but our partnership matters or else he won’t do the work.
  • Growing in grace requires consciously chosen courses of action
  • “law-bound disciplines breath death” We must do inward work without requiring external control. The disciplines are not laws.
  • It is about God’s work in me, not about God’s work in others. 

All quotes that are not cited stem from Richard Foster in “Celebration of Disciplines”

8 Ways for Living a Better 2020

2020. It seems like a year that is from one of those old school science fiction books. I am amazed there are not flying cars and that we don’t have robots to do all of our work (I grew up watching the Jetson’s. If you don’t know what that is…well, you are missing out.). However, some things I thought would have gotten better in my life and they haven’t.

By many metrics we live in the safest and healthiest time in human history. However, in the middle of that reality we have lost the art of charitable conversation. We live in a polarized world and unless something dramatic changes the polarization is only going to intensify. We all have an opinion and most of the time our opinions are shaped by one side of an argument with little true thought to the other side, or even an alternative way.

All of that to say, what if those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus decided enough is enough. Here is what I mean, most of the time I try to write and speak to people who do and people who don’t call themselves followers of Jesus. Today, I write this primarily for the Jesus followers.

Here is my simple challenge, if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, then decide this year (it would be great if it was a practice for the rest of your life) that you will spend more time being shaped by spiritual practices than by cable news, social media, or whatever else occupies your time. For some of us, we call ourselves followers of Jesus, but rarely spend time with Him. We have spent little time with the words and teachings of Jesus. We have little understanding of the early church and how it functioned. We pick and choose passages of the Bible to support our arguments without having a firm grasp of how to read it in a Christocentric way. Basically, we claim to follow someone, to be in relationship with someone, that we don’t really know that well.

The church I pastor will be spending a considerable amount of time looking at the practices of the followers of Jesus in the hopes that we will look more and more like the one we claim to follow. But, 9 Sundays in the spring is not sufficient to truly know and follow Jesus! Let’s you and I commit to following Jesus more closely than we follow anything else (sports, politics, sales, stock prices, etc.). So here are a few ideas as we begin the new year, the new decade, to become people who look, act, and live more like the one we claim to follow…to be clear I am working diligently to fully embrace these ways of living myself. This is not a call to perfection, but a call to persistence. These are not in order of importance, they are all important.

  • Begin each day in silence

Our days are filled with so much noise. Whether it is our phone, the television, or our car radio,  there is always noise, so much so that we don’t know how to live with silence because it is so rare. In the silence is where we can be truly introspective. With more silence we have the ability to hear in the middle of the noise of daily living

  • Spend less time on social media and watching television

What if we set a personal rule that we would track our time online and watching television and our spiritual practice time would at a minimum equal that time. In truth, I don’t believe you have to be a spiritual giant to do this, but it would require living intentionally.

  • Live Intentionally

Plan out your day. As much as is humanly possible, plan out how your time will be spent. Sure, we all have emergencies, but most of us spent all of our day reacting to circumstances rather than preparing for the day ahead. If you are saying, “well, I have to work, and my kids have ____. “ Me too! However, I have control (for the most part) of when I wake up or when I go to bed, so do you! We can plan out time with friends (this is required to have good friends and to be a good friend), for rest, exercise, and for prayer. It is no less valuable to schedule prayer time than for it to be spontaneous.

  • Spend time with Jesus

To be a disciple is to follow someone in every way. It is to be in relationship with them and to live as they live. If we are to be a Christian, it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We get to know him through His words (I am always amazed at the way people either don’t know what he said, or attribute things to Him that he never said…or never would say!). Spend time in prayer, reading the scriptures, reading good books on spiritual formation, in a small group of followers of Jesus, in corporate worship, on and on this list could go. Be discipled by someone and allow someone to hold you accountable. 

  • Rest

Sabbath is not something we talk much about. Unless someone is arguing for why Sunday is sacred (although the Sabbath biblically is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) or something we don’t talk about Sabbath. This is a practice that I am admittedly not good at. Taking a Sabbath rest is not something that I have not done well…and I have paid for it. I sense myself having less to give those I love and less ability to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Not only should Sabbath become a practice of yours (and mine), but so should rest. Imagine the extra sleep we could get if we spent less time on so much of what we waste time on.

  • Listen More

We all have an opinion, and most of us are happy to give it to others. What if we listened to others and didn’t just hear what they said, but we actually listened. This is the epitome of genuine conversation, good debate, and frankly good friendship. 

  • Serve Others

Find a person, group of people, or organization that is doing something that is making a positive change in your community and join them. Whether this is in your church, your neighborhood, or wherever, by making a positive change in the community it will help you see the world differently. 

  • Love others and be Kind

It sounds so simple, but I know it isn’t. I would take it a step further for the followers of Jesus, “do to others what you would have them do to you.” Seriously. We mostly get if you would not want the same thing done to you, don’t do it to others! Jesus’ words actually take it a step further and say, if you wish it was done for you, then do it for someone else! 

This list is incomplete, it was getting long so I stopped writing.  What would you add? Will you join with me in trying to practice these ways of living?

Skip the Clearance Aisle

We are in the season of lent. It is a season marked by confession, repentance, and fasting. However, it is also a season in which we recognize extravagant love. If you are a part of The Lakes Community Church and  following along in the New Testament reading plan (it is on the church website, http://www.lakescommunitynaz.com, if you want to start today!), you will know that today we read from Mark 14. There is a brief exchange in the text that I want to mention,

“3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. 

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Normally, I am a pretty frugal shopper. If I need a new shirt or pair of pants my favorite stores are typically places where I can get a good deal. I like TJ Maxx. I am not a guy who shops at Nordstrom’s…unless maybe there is a big clearance sale. That being said, there are moments I want to show someone how much I love them and I may buy something at full-price. Ask my wife, that is true love.

To some of my other frugal friends that still sounds like a bad idea, but I recognize that sometimes love does something out of the ordinary. Extravagant love is something that is beyond the normal. It is something that doesn’t always make sense from the outside, but it is something we do without thought or care to what others think.

I don’t want us to miss in this season of confession, repentance, fasting, that we do all this out of recognition of the sacrificial love of Jesus. Christ on the cross is as extravagant as love can be. This kind of love is not found in a clearance section or a discount store. This kind of love is so extravagant it cannot be purchased at Tiffany’s. May you and I receive the extravagant love of Jesus and may we give the extravagant love of Jesus.

Chick-Fil-A Lessons for the Church

Last week produced an odd experience for me…I ate at Chick-Fil-A three times in the same day. Before you assume it is an unhealthy desire for an incredible chicken sandwich (it is), please know that there are no Chick-Fil-A’s within thirty-five minutes of where I live and each of the Chick-Fil-A’s I stopped at were over thirty-five minutes apart. These particular stops left with some unique observations and thoughts.

Stop One: Breakfast chicken may not sound good to you, but there is something right about a bagel that includes egg, fried chicken, and cheese. The experience was a good one. The store was at best half-full, but the people were inviting, the store was clean, and they made a good effort to learn my name…plus the coffee was hot and that is always a winner.

Stop Two: This Chick-Fil-A was hopping. It was dinner time and the place was packed. There were people directing cars in the parking lot, there were extra workers behind the counter, the place was clean, and there was an efficiency that said they were expecting our arrival. In fact, I had barely ordered and turned around to find the group I was sitting with and one of the workers came up to me with my tray of goodness (there was a piping hot Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich and hot waffle fries…everyone should serve hot waffle fries) and looked at me and said Aaron, this is for you. She had watched me order and knew my name. In a sea of faces she knew who she was looking for (the reality probably is that she had done the same for dozens of others, but one always feels special when someone remembers your name).

Stop Three: I had never stopped at Chick-Fil-A three times in one day, but this seemed like a good day to set a record. Plus, the long lines at the last one had led to me skipping going back up for a milkshake. Two hours later in the car I was still thinking about that milkshake…so I stopped at a Chick-Fil-A. It was nearing closing time and my experience was quite different than the other two events. The place was a little dirty, the workers were not all that diligent, and there were insider conversations behind the counter that I felt like my presence had interrupted. There were people there working, but they were not really wanting or ready for new people to show up. The milkshake was good, but the experience was not what I normally see in a Chick-Fil-A. If it was my only experience I may or may not go back (it was not my only experience and I believe it to be an anomaly).

So, what do these three experiences have to do with the church? Local churches produce all three of these experiences every week. Our church has modeled all three at times. The first “church” is the one that is ready, eager, clean, and expecting your arrival. It may not be packed, but they are determined that you will have a great experience and will leave known.

The second “church” is large, but the size is not a deterrent. They are ready for you, their efficiency is a big part of their effectiveness. You feel welcomed even in the large group. Their intentionality and thought to detail help you want to return.

The third “church” is too many of our churches. It is a little cluttered or dirty. There are clusters of conversation in which the new person is not invited. The service includes all kinds of insider language that the new person does not understand. There is not really an expectation for new people to come and many of the people are not thinking about them any way. One of the biggest problems in this church is if you ask the people in the church, they believe they are really friendly…and to those there, they may be

The first two of these models help further the work of the church. The third is a part of the decline in the church. Hospitality should be a mark of the church. The truth is that should extend beyond a weekend gathering, but for many people it is the first experience of a local church. Let’s learn from the good models of Chick-Fil-A…let’s learn names, be gracious, get prepared, think of others first.

 

#forthelakeshore

#’s are an interesting thing. When I was growing up they were a symbol on a phone. I don’t mean a cell phone because those were not quite around when I was little. Eventually, I learned that the # symbol was used to signify a number or pounds that something or someone might weigh. Today it is a symbol that most commonly refers to what is known as a hashtag. Wikipedia defines hasthags as the following: “A hashtag is a type of metadata tag used on social networks such as Twitter and other microblogging services, allowing users to apply dynamic, user-generated tagging which makes it possible for others to easily find messages with a specific theme or content.” It is that last line that I hope we will all grab on to, “…which makes it possible for others to easily find messages with a specific theme or content.”

What does that mean for us and why #forthelakeshore? What if over time people began to associate this hashtag with a specific message? What if the message was used in describing an idea? What if that message was wrapped up in the idea that Jesus and His Church are all in for people?

The idea behind #forthelakeshore is simple…God is for this community and so are we. We believe God is for you, for your future, for your family, and for this community. Said differently, God is for us, for our future, for our family, and for our community. Are you catching the theme?

All throughout various media sources, from cable news to social media, we see a constant message about what God and His Church are against. In other words, the world knows what the church is against, but do they know what the church is for? Unfortunately, some of that message comes from those who are a part of the church and call themselves followers of Jesus. We are wanting to change the narrative. We want people to know what God is for…them (and by virtue, us).

Our hope and prayer is that at least along the West Michigan Lakeshore we can change the story of what people think about when they think about the church, Christians, and God. All of this to say, let’s use whatever platform we can to help write a new narrative about what people say or believe about God. We can encourage local businesses, schools, and organizations that God is for them and so are we! If we all use this hashtag well then when someone searches using the hashtag they will begin to see a new message emerging, a message of hope and love.

We are #forthelakeshore

From Reject to Champion

John Shuster, John Landsteiner, Matt Hamilton, and Tyler George are not names most people know. Although that is changing. One used to work at a Dick’s Sporting Goods Store and is now a bartender, one is an engineer, one runs their family’s liquor store, and one is a technician for Spectrum Services. This is a list that doesn’t make you think of great things. However, over a couple days This past February they took over the curling world and won Olympic Gold.

Their story is the type of thing that movies are made from. John Shuster was dropped from the US National Team following the last Olympics. He recruited a couple guys, one who also had been dropped, and they spent a year working without the support of the National Team. They labeled themselves “The Rejects”. This “reject” team overcame the lack of funding, their personal jobs, the time away from family, and they eventually earned their spot representing the US National Curling Team.

Fast forward to now and they have people talking to them about movie deals, sponsorships, and people are even talking about Matt’s mustache. This group of four guys who look like they could be guys you run into at your local bowling alley, grocery store, or anywhere, are the guys who are Olympic Gold Medalists.

They could not have done this on their own. Their story is centered on a belief in one another and in their effort together. Other people may not have seen them as worthy of another shot, but they believed their best was still to come.

I believe this is how God sees us. God desperately wants us to know that we are always worthy of another shot. Even if we feel undervalued, even if we feel unwanted, even if we feel rejected, there is still hope for us. God does, through Jesus, what the US Curling team did, he takes the broken and brings them together to create something better than they could have done on their own.

The Church is to be the people who know there is something not whole in their life and yet, they come to find that together they can do incredible things. What if we truly began to work together for the greater good of what God has? What if we believed God could multiply our effort. What if we truly embraced that none of us is a “reject” and that all of us are worthy of “gold”. What if we made sure that everyone we have ever met is deeply loved by God? I can only imagine the impact that we might have…we might literally change the world.

The day after…

Last night was the Super Bowl. It was a game that was watched by millions of people. It was a game that epitomizes the idea that we should be strong and powerful. It is a game that awards the stronger, bigger, faster, and team who executes the better game plan. It in many ways summarizes the way many of us think about life.

However, I cannot help to think about how Jesus calls us to another way of life. He calls us to vulnerability. He calls us to confession. He calls us to become least and not the greatest. He calls us to serve others and not to think too highly of ourselves. It was interesting as there was a Dodge commercial about serving others that played during one of the commercial breaks and in that commercial they played a part of a sermon from Martin Luther King Jr. The message was powerful…it was the wrong context, but still powerful.

The wrong context seems to define so much of our spiritual lives. We buy into the bigger, stronger, faster, better planned out, type of faith. That works some of the time. However, I cannot help, but think we might be better served if we confessed more to one another. What if we took down the façades and we began to embrace the words of James (5:16) more seriously…”Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” I think we believe the prayers of a righteous person are effective, but I am not sure we always believe that the first part is part of what helps us become one of those righteous people.

My prayer for our church and The Church is that we would be even more and more of a people who are radically defined by our “realness,” our confessions. This is not to say God wants us to live in sinful ways of life so that we can confess more. It is to say that the more righteous (right with God), that we become, the more we will recognize our need for confession. Confession makes us feel vulnerable. It is raw. It is authentic. It is a mark of faith in God and one another.

What would it look like if we didn’t try to be bigger, faster, stronger, better planned out followers of Jesus, but we became more real, genuine, and authentic? What would happen if we confessed more? What would that message to the world be? I cannot help but think we might see a more powerful movement of prayer in our lives. I cannot help but think we would not become better servants of one another. I cannot help but think that our lives would then be in the right context and we would be bigger, stronger, and faster in God’s eyes…even if the team we wanted to win the super bowl didn’t win. (I’m a Colts fan…I was rooting for the Eagles!)

New Year, New Sense of Purpose

As we are just a few days into the new year I am not sure we are past the point of making new year’s resolutions. Maybe, you have already failed in some of your new year’s resolution. Or maybe, you are like me and you made one to cut back on desserts for the first three weeks of January to compensate for the last three weeks of December (It is easy to not fail at a resolution if you make it for just a few weeks and you use words like “cut back” instead of “cut out!”).  Either way, my prayer for you and I this new year is a rather simple one to pray and not so simple in terms of living out. The prayer is this: “In this new year may we have a deeper faith.”

It is easy to make a resolution about having a deeper faith, but the hard part is living in ways to make that happen. Our sermon series to start the year has been on stewardship. In other words, how have we managed our time, our gifts and abilities, and our money? I could write quite a bit on each of these items, but I wanted to focus in on the issue of time.

Time is the one resource we cannot replenish, we can earn more money and we can learn a new skill, but we cannot add more time to a day. We cannot go back and change the way we use time. We can determine how we will use our time as we move forward.

Maybe you are like me and you often feel like there is not enough time? I could use about five more hours per day. I want to make sure the church/my job gets my best, but I want to make sure my family gets my best. I need to go work out or else I need to eat less (that’s unlikely to happen). I almost forgot I need to spend more time in prayer because my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. I need some alone time so I can think about all I need to get done. There is just not enough time!

Paul writes about a few ways to view time in Ephesians chapter 5 when he says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…” Paul begins with a statement that we should not miss. He makes the statement that we are to live as wise people. This seems simple enough, but I believe most of us never ask ourselves if what we are doing is wise or if it is unwise.

Andy Stanley in a sermon used a line that has stuck with me for years and the line is quite simple, “In light of my past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what’s the wise thing for me to do?” This question gets to the heart of what we value. If growing in a deeper relationship with Jesus is a value for us then this question will help lead us in a direction that takes us to a deeper relationship (I am not discounting the work of God’s Spirit, but am assuming we are recognizing the Spirit is always working). If growing in a relationship with Jesus is not a value then Paul’s words still have some value for us.

Finally, Paul says we are to “make the most of every opportunity.” Are you? Am I? Am I making the most of every opportunity with my wife? My children? My friends? My job? The church? Jesus? This is a question we can ask in terms of nearly every aspect of our life. This is a question that I believe we will all look back one day and hope we can see the answer to this as a “yes.” Let’s not waste another moment.

If you and I will ask ourselves these two questions: 1. In light of your past decisions, your present circumstances, and in view of your future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do? 2. Am I making the most of every opportunity? We will see God work in our lives and when we look back we will not say we wasted our time, but we will find that we will have been wise and we will be able to say we made the most of every opportunity. Join me in this new year in asking these questions!

(Previously Posted in 2016)

Generosity

Generosity is a word we like to use, but the implementation is not always good. Sure, we are happy to throw the change in our pocket in the red Salvation Army kettle as we walk out of a store. We are happy to give gifts in gift exchanges. We are willing to buy a nice gift card for someone who has done something special or who has taught our child.

How often do we really practice generosity? The kind of generosity that is planned and executed throughout the year, not just because someone is ringing a bell. The kind of generosity that may even hurt a little financially.

The kids of our church are learning about generosity right now and it reminds me to evaluate my generosity. Just like you, I only have so much time, so much money, and so many other resources. The question you and I must answer is, are we living generously? Do I plan to give? Or do I just give occasionally so I feel better about myself? What about you?

Have you ever stopped to think how the Christmas story is the story of incredible generosity? Somehow, the God of all, came to Earth as a child. I know that picture is hard to swallow.

The birth of Jesus says so much. It says that God wanted us to know He is with us. It says God’s intention was never that we were alone in the world. It says that God’s intention has always been and will always be to be in relationship with us. It says God empathizes with us. It also says God loves us.

The birth of Jesus ushered in, in a new way, what all the Scriptures point toward…a loving God who relentlessly pursues people. The gift of Immanuel “God with us” is generosity in flesh. The eventual death and resurrection of Jesus and the message of God’s grace are models of generosity and gifts of grace.

My prayer for you and I is that this holiday season we may go further than just throwing our lose change in the red kettles. My hope and prayer is that you and I would evaluate our lives and learn to live from gratitude which leads us to generosity. Maybe the saying really is true, “it is better to give than to receive.”