The 4WD “all-terrain” vehicle…It has become the car of the pandemic. Four of the top five “searched for” vehicles are in that category. If you have a good one for sale, second hand prices are up 30%. Designed to be taken off road, over obstacles & through terrain conventional vehicles can’t manage, 4WD’s give traction when other transport falters. They move when everything else stops.
Generosity is just like that. It creates momentum, traction, forward progress when everything else wants to slow you down, drag you back, put you back where it seems safe, secure, stable… and stuck.
Paul gives the Corinthian church the keys to the 4WD of discipleship: generosity. It’s not an owner’s manual of guidelines, rules & tips, but the power of God who enlists us in his work of transforming hearts and lives by the abundant gift of Jesus Christ working through us. Paul knows God’s abundance to us is only limited by his abundance through us and as we open our hands and hearts more widely, more freely and more generously, we find the Father refilling our lives and taking us on off-road adventures where there is an oversupply of joy, praise, thanksgiving & glory. It’s a life where we see the multiplication of generosity bringing exponential blessing to others.
#4 in series: Authentic Generosity
In our world of conflicting arguments and competing narratives, of fake news & conspiracy theories…Whom do you trust?
I’ll trust a pilot to get me from A to B on time & in 1 piece. I’ll trust a Doctor, dentist, hair stylist once…sometimes I have no choice. But if I really have skin in the game…I want to know who I am dealing with. Trust is personal. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose.
So when Paul encourages the disciples of Jesus in Corinth to give generously toward helping people they’ve never met and from whom they are unlikely to receive a return, he wants to make sure they trust his motives and his mission. Trust is personal.
Paul assures the Corinthians they can rely on his integrity and those chosen to assist in his ministry. They can count on the gifts they give reaching the destination he has promised. They can trust Paul, because they’ve been entrusted by God with rich blessings, and an eternal promise.
Living generously is not a spur of the moment, spontaneous, off the cuff reactive impulse to a pressure situation. It’s a well-planned, wisely administered proactive lifestyle that arises out of the deep convictions you have about God’s love for you and his commission to demonstrate that love to others. The careful, transparent, spiritual administration of the grace of generosity is critical to seeing generosity flow where God wants it to have the most transforming influence. So join us for this deep lesson of discipleship as we explore the administration of generosity.
#3 in series: Authentic Generosity
When the going gets tough, Australians step up! That's the finding of a survey conducted to ascertain the impact of crisis on the public's propensity to give. What it discovered was Australians are inspired to go above and beyond their normal giving in times of drought, bushfire and flood. But what about when crisis hits the whole community, like we are experiencing in these sustained pandemic times? When things get tight, giving seems unwise or even impossible.
That's what makes the giving of the Macedonian church even more inspiring. They were going through some tough times and Paul notes their “severe trial” and “extreme poverty.” They had almost nothing to spare. And yet, they begged Paul for the privilege of giving and gave generously, “even beyond their ability." What inspired their generosity even when they had nothing and were under pressure themselves? That's what we will explore today as we focus on 'The Inspiration of Generosity'. It's an attitude and posture that can help you "excel" in your giving too.
#2 in series: "Authentic Generosity"
The beginning matters.
The foundation is important for any building project.
Buildings need a good foundation to stand the strain of the weight upon it and remain stable whatever stresses are applied to it. Relationships need a strong foundation of trust to grow strong and withstand the pressures of life. The early years of education are labelled as the foundation years,for what students learn in those years are critical as a base on which other learning is built.
It's no different with generosity.
The beginning matters.
The foundation is important.
Over the next four weeks we are going to explore what it means to embody Christ-like authentic generosity, one of the core values here at LifeWay, and it's crucial that we get the foundations right, so that what is built, is grounded, solid and able to support God's work in ever-expanding ways. The journey toward authentic generosity starts with the posture of the heart, God's heart that so loved the world and so loved you, that he gave. When you take hold of that, it will lead you on a journey of joyful transformation from which you will never look back.
#1 in series: "Authentic Generosity"
It’s called a “rip” – short for rip current. Surfers/beachgoers know to beware of these strong, focussed currents of water moving directly away from the shore. They pull you away from solid footing, away from safety & into dangerous water…often while you don’t fully notice what’s happening.
Sin is a perpetual “rip” humans have to guard & fight against. Part of the fabric of our lives is an inborn tendency to pull back from God & toward our own wants, wishes, & desires…away from solid footing, away from safety & into dangerous territory…sometimes so reflexively we don’t even notice that we are entering a rip zone. That’s where we need each other to hold us accountable, to point out the danger, to guard us from being pulled out and away from God through the powerful rip and grip of sin. Today Nehemiah calls God’s people to swim between the flags of God’s Word; between God's promises to his people and his call to a faithful daily living of his holy purposes here and now. Today, as we dive into the ocean of our daily lives with confidence; his Word written in our hearts, his Spirit watching over us and working within us, and with brothers and sisters beside us for support and safety. For every word true for God’s people then, is true for us today.
#7 in series: Road to Recovery
The moment…you rediscover something great in the bottom of the drawer that you had long forgotten about. The moment…you come across a photo from years ago that brings the memories flooding back. It’s the story behind the story that triggers the emotions, reconnects you to your roots, re-establishes your present and reorients your future. For the people of Israel, this is the moment. The walls have been rebuilt, their hearts are being renewed. But it is only as they reengage the Word of God, that the real journey on the Road to Recovery comes into focus.For when people gather to hear the Word of God and understand it in the context of their lives, they discover the story behind the story; a story that revives their appetite for God, reinvigorates their worship and restores their community. And that community is commissioned to live from overflowing joy that releases healing, blessing & life to the world. Joy healing blessing & life equal to the crying need in our hearts & in our community right now.
#7 in series: "Road to Recovery"
Sports enthusiasts know it happens.
The lead car hits the wall or runs out of fuel in the last lap. A penalty kick is blocked or swings wide. The last ball of the last over clears the boundary for 6 and a match is decided. A runner/rider celebrates too soon and they’re overtaken in the last 100th of a second. It’s not enough to start something…you have to finish…and finish well. Nehemiah is in the home stretch of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. He can see the finish in record time. But it’s at that moment that we’re all vulnerable. It’s at that moment, with the end in sight that distractions pose the greatest threat. When we resist distraction and carry out the work to which God calls we honour God, bless people, and actively demonstrate God’s rule to the world in a way that enemies are defeated and outsiders are drawn into God’s salvation. Nehemiah is not just rebuilding a wall or a city; he’s restoring God’s people to theirGod-designed purpose, call & work in his world. And nothing can distract from or interfere with that effort reaching its completion.
#5 in series: Road to Recovery
"Never ask someone to do what you are not prepared to do yourself.' It's a leadership principle that every successful leader learns and which Nehemiah demonstrates repeatedly through the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall. But the rebuilding of the wall is just the first stage of a much larger and more difficult renewal project that needs to occur; the reformation of people's hearts as they are restored to their God-designed purpose and work in this world. As Israel's hope is renewed, as they start to feel safe, secure and protected again, the people revert back to old habits…living selfishly and for their own agenda. So when Nehemiah discovers a widening economic rift in God's people, he's swift to act, regardless of the risk to his influence as a leader. For just as the walls of the city need to be rebuilt on strong foundations, so do the lives of God's people. Nehemiah brings them back to their spiritual foundations, calling them to renew that covenant and live in their covenantal identity. We too are called to daily renew the covenant of grace that shapes our identity; a covenant sealed in the blood of Christ and poured out as a living sacrifice for the world. It's a powerful step in our journey on the road to recovery.
#4 in series: Road to Recovery
Pushback...resistance…it's increasing. States are pushing back against the Federal Government & each other. Councils & business are pushing back against measures that seem to be wrecking the economy & destroying jobs. More & more experts and people at the coalface are pushing back against strategies that feel like they hurt more than they help. Agree or disagree…it’s there. We shouldn't be surprised. Any time there is a perceived threat to the status quo, bold new strategies are implemented, or change is introduced, pushback, resistance or opposition will not be far behind.
Halfway through the rebuild of Jerusalem's wall, the opposition came from without and the pushback from within. But Nehemiah demonstrates a faith-filled way to Repel opposition that comes when we begin to live God's vision into life-changing reality and lead people on the Road to Recovery. While the work of God will always arouse the opposition of enemy, God is in control & continues the work of his kingdom through us, whatever the challenge. It's a timely reminder when discouragement comes and pushback occurs.
#3 in series: Road to Recovery