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All In: Giving

We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

 

You go Winston!  The older I get the more pressed I feel to “make a life.” More than anything else, this has meant trying to figure out how I can be more generous.

Now I’m not saying this is easy. I’m not saying I don’t spend any time counting my nickels.  I’m not saying there aren’t times when generosity is somewhere well below the top priority in my thinking.  I’m not even saying that I don’t daydream about a new patio or an elaborate vacation anymore. But I am saying that I think more often and more deeply about how I can follow God in His expansive and aggressive generosity.

We just finished a series of lessons on giving at Gateway.  We called this series “ALL IN with my finances.” In this conversation, the idea of being all in became important in two ways.  First of all, we realized we cannot be all in with God without being all in with our finances. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  In other words, Jesus is saying, “Hey, the next time someone asks you to make a list of the things that are most important to you, if you want an honest list you should consult your checkbook.  There you will find your priorities laid out very clearly.”

If being all in with God is a desire for us, and it is for many of us, then we have to be all in with our finances!

I didn’t have time on the Sunday when we talked about Matthew 6 to talk about verse 24, but Jesus makes a fascinating application there.  He starts by quoting a proverb: “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”  Straightforward enough.  What fascinates me is the application.  He concludes, “You cannot serve both God and money.”  So what he does here is to say “Money can be a master! In fact, you can place money on par with where God should be in your life.  Literally!  And when you do that you cannot be all in with God.  You cannot be rightly connected to Him.  Money, if we allow it to master us, can become a spiritual inhibitor.” Wow!

The second reason the idea of being all in became important in our conversation was that being all in financially means being generous.  Many of us have spent quite a bit of time considering our finances.  We’ve read books or been to seminars.  Some of us spend time occasionally evaluating our investments.  We balance our checkbooks.  We may even track our spending.  All of that is critically important, but according to the Bible none of that is really the key to being all in with our finances.  I repeat: being all in means being generous.

Paul put it like this, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.   In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Did you catch the “so that” in Paul’s teaching?  If we want to grab hold of the life that is really life, then we’ll be generous and willing to share. So, even though we make a living by what we get, we actually make a life by what we give!  You go Winston Churchill.

 

The Call of God on Our Lives

Check out this quote:

 “A lost person or article is still what it is, still valuable in itself, but in the wrong place, disconnected from its purpose and unable to be or do whatever it is intended to be or do.”  (David Winter, What's in a Word)

I can’t help but think of last week when I was looking for a flathead screwdriver in our garage.  That screwdriver was somewhere, and, wherever it was, it was still a screwdriver.  But it was separated from its purpose because it was lost. 

Okay, that may be a bad example because Diane would argue that a screwdriver in my hands is still cut off from its intended purposes but you get my point.  That’s us apart from a life-giving connection to God.  We are still what we are – still capable of some extraordinary things, still with noble longings, still trying to give and receive love, but we are disconnected from our real purpose and cut off from our authentic selves. 

Last week in service we talked about the call of God on our lives.  Throughout the Bible we read testimonies of people whom God has called: Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, the disciples and many more.  These people became who they were intended to be because God literally spoke into their lives in a way that they could hear and understand Him.  I also know many of these kinds of stories personally from hearing them over the years from others and from some experiences of my own. 

Being “called by God” is incredible and life-changing and amazing and several other powerful adjectives! 

But what if you’ve never heard God’s call?  What if, when you hear these stories, you feel something more like frustration or self-doubt or doubt of God or the story-teller?  I had someone ask me after church this week: “Does God not call some people?  And does that mean something is wrong with them if He doesn’t?”  Is such a person doomed to never being found?

This is one of those kinds of questions that deserves more than a short blog-answer.  However, since I’m writing a blog (partly because I never found that screwdriver) here’s a short blog-something-to-consider.  I think there are 3 likely reasons why we end up feeling this way:

1) For some of us, we’ve actually had experiences of being directed by God, or confronted by God, or even radically altered by God … but we just forget them.  I don’t mean we literally forget them, but we let them drift so far away from our thinking that they are no longer part of the equation when we’re making decisions or when we’re thinking about ourselves.  I’ve certainly ended up doubting my experiences with God at times because of this very reason.  I can’t help but think of what Luke says about Mary when she heard the things that were being said about her newborn son Jesus.  “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  (Luke 2:19)   For some of us, we need to do some treasuring.

2) For others of us, there is simply too much distraction in our lives.  This can take the form of sheer noise: soccer practice, karate, spend the nights, academic club, piano, softball games, baby showers, project deadlines …  Or this can be because we have too many other seemingly important things in our lives.  If we’re honest, it may be that we’re really relying on our children’s success or our bank account or our list of accomplishments to give us purpose and security.   Moses tells the Israelites, “If from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  (Deuteronomy 4:29)  This must be a big deal for God because he repeats Himself in Jeremiah (29:13) and in Jesus (Matthew 7:7).   So let’s consider for a moment: have we wholeheartedly sought Him?  He rarely screams over extraneous noise.

3) Finally, some of us are just plain resistant to God.  We may be mad at Him or we may be fiercely disappointed with our lives.  We end up feeling like and acting like a 14-year-old boy who thinks that everything his parents say is either ridiculous or irrelevant or both (I’ve had some experience with this).  We do not want to be bothered.  “Hey, show me something real and tangible and big or I think I’ll just go my own way.”  If you’re in this place, you’re in good company, but you’re not in a good place!  God does not respond to demands!

Here’s the thing: when I’m in one of those places I still am what I am.  I still have noble longings; I still do some good things.  I still feel like myself … sorta.  But it’s the sorta part that usually drives me back to Him.  It’s the sorta part that bothers me when I’m alone or when it’s late at night.  Because somewhere deep inside, I know I’m disconnected if I’m not living underneath His call.

I pray that you are treasuring God’s call on your life today.  And if you’re not, I pray that the deep sense of “sorta” will drive you to seek Him, wholeheartedly and without resistance. 

 

Posted by Ed Allen with 0 Comments

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