Be Generous

F81ABBC8-9EB7-2769-67EBF258A0BD8E18It’s the most generous time of the year.  For many people Christmas time is a time to be generous with family, friends and even strangers.  It’s also the end of the year and people are thinking of year end giving.  I want to talk about generosity and what that really means.

As a follower of Jesus one of my desires is to be known as a generous person.  Jesus was very generous with his time, talent and treasure.  He taught many life-changing messages and stories about being generous.  He even gave his life for our sins.

Generosity is demonstrating the nature of God by wisely reinvesting the resources that He has entrusted to us.  There are several key traits that go into making someone generous.  Without these in our lives we cannot be truly generous.

  • Loving – It is not possible to have love without generosity, but it is possible to have generosity without love.  If you have the love of Christ in you, then generosity should flow out of you.  It should be a part of your nature to be generous and look for ways to give and serve others.  1 John 3:17 says “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
  • Sowing – Generosity follows the law of the harvest.  The more generous we are in sowing, the greater will be our harvest in true riches. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
  • Honoring – Honor means “to place value upon.”  We are instructed in Ephesians 6:12 to honor our parents.  We honor civil authorities by paying taxes and following laws.  When we give to the poor, we honor the Lord and He promises to repay.  Proverbs 19:17 says “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”  Generosity is not just giving, it is giving abundantly or joyfully.
  • Grace – It is through God’s grace that we are able to give and be generous, and that giving is an expression of the grace we have in Christ Jesus.
  • Stewardship – A steward is one who is entrusted with the assets of the master and is responsible to make wise investments with them.  A wise steward understands that the assets he has under his control do not belong to him and should be returned to the master with increase.  We are stewards of all the people, possessions, abilities and talents that God has blessed us with.

Generosity brings light into a dark world.  It makes people smile and feel good.  Generosity also draws us closer to God because it’s when we are most like Him.  Giving also reminds us that God owns it all and that He is the one that can give us more or take it all away.  Being generous also breaks the bondage of greed and overcomes the love of money.

Here are some simple steps to help you be more generous:

  • Dedicate everything to God – This includes all your money, time, possessions, strength, abilities, and relationships.  Truly acknowledge that God owns it all.  That takes a lot of pressure off of us.
  • Practice living simply – Try to simplify your life.  This could mean selling or giving away some of your stuff.  It might mean giving up some luxury items so that you can live at or below your income.  It may mean saying no to some things in order to say yes to being more generous.
  • Give as God directs – The goal of generosity is to demonstrate the love of God so that others will be drawn to Him.  Start being generous by doing random acts of kindness.  You can also start giving to your local church.  Consider giving a percentage of your income.  Start giving your time by volunteering at your church, in the community or at a non-profit.

So how generous are you?  Do you see God as the provider of all wealth?  Do you see yourself as a steward of God’s resources?  Do you honor God with a generous portion of all His increase in your life?  Are you living as frugally as you can so you have more to invest in God?

Generosity is the result of focusing on God’s riches rather than our resources.  CS Lewis said this “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

Ask God for opportunities to be generous and see what happens.

Five Key Spiritual Habits

habits

We are all busy, there are many things competing for our time and energy.  Leadership can be defined as having influence in someone elses life.  If you have faith in Jesus Christ you are also a spiritual leader, because now you are an ambassador for God.  The influence we have with people, whether it’s at work, home, school or church is often a reflection on what daily habits we have.

Jesus gave us a great example of things we can do to stay focused on the right things and keep the right perspective on life.  It’s easy to drift and be consumed by the day to day activities of life unless we develop these essential habits.  So here are five things we can observe in the life of Jesus that can contribute to our development of faith, character and leadership.

  • Solitude – This is a challenging behavior because it’s countercultural.  It is a rare and often unsettling feeling to stop doing and just be.  Solitude is being completely alone with God away from all human contact for extended periods of time. It is in these times of solitude that we can seek to refill our spiritual fuel tank, hear from God, think clearly and honestly.  It helps us make better decisions, work through grief and pain and strengthen our spirit and resolve.
    • Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert.
    • Before he chose the 12 disciples he spent the entire night alone praying and thinking.
    • When a close friend John the Baptist was killed he went off in a boat by himself.
    • After a great ministry event of feeding the five thousand he went up into the hills by himself.
  • Prayer – How’s your prayer life?  Prayer is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. Regular connection with God through prayer is what sustained Jesus while he was here on earth.  For us as leaders it’s vital to be able to talk with God about anything and everything.  Prayer is the way in which we plug into God’s power, receive God’s comfort and encouragement, vent our frustrations and pain and intercede for other people.  Prayer helps prepare us for the day by focusing on God first.  Praying with people and for people is a powerful leadership principle.  Praying for your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, employees, small group, boss and other leaders is an effective way to lead and love people.  When prayer becomes a habit it becomes part of our DNA and normal way of life.
  • Bible – It’s the greatest resource known to mankind.  It’s more than a how-to manual for life, it’s an intimate love letter written to you from your Heavenly Father.  I’m currently reading through the New Testament in 60 days.  I’m on day 51 and I love it and look forward to it.  There are five practical ways you can cultivate this habit of getting into God’s Word.
    • Hearing God’s Word – That is why it’s important to go to church, to hear God’s Word and messages about how to listen and obey and put it into practice.  You can also listen to the Bible through great Bible Apps like YouVersion.  Have your spouse or friend read the Bible out loud to you, not only will you get into God’s Word it will build that relationship with your spouse or friend.
    • Reading God’s Word – There are so many great translations of the Bible that it’s much easier to read the Bible today.  I use my Bible App on my phone a lot.  There are great reading plans for all parts of the Bible.  Don’t take on too much but be consistent.  Reading the Bible daily or most days will help you lead better, even if you don’t understand everything at first.  Great leaders read a lot and the Bible should be at the top of the list.
    • Study God’s Word – This is more than just reading, this is examining and looking into the meaning and application of God’s Word.  This is great to do with other people in a small group, but we also need times when we dig in on our own.  Using a study Bible is helpful because there are study notes that explain what the Scriptures are saying.
    • Memorize God’s Word – When was the last time you memorized something?  A great way to go deeper in God’s Word is to memorize it.  Every year I lead a group of men and one of the things we do is memorize Scripture together.  Jesus used Scripture to fight against the devil and we can do the same.  When you memorize it you can recall it later when you need courage for the fight.
    • Meditate on God’s Word – Memorizing Scripture puts it into your head, while meditating puts it into your heart.  It’s focusing on a verse or several verses over a period of time.  Writing it down, reading it out loud, emphasizing different words, personalizing it by putting your name in the verse, praying the verse to God.  It’s praying while your focus on that Scripture and asking God to reveal what he wants you to know or do.
  • Trusting God – Jesus completely trusted God with absolutely everything.  In our culture we tend to only rely on or trust ourselves.  Trusting others and God is a struggle for most people.  Pride & fear fuel this lack of trust in our lives.  Many people have also been hurt or let down by important people in their lives so it’s hard to trust again.  Only in our relationship with God can we trust for complete unconditional love.  Because of God’s incredible, never changing love for us He is trustworthy.  When we understand who God is and how much He loves us it changes our perspective on life, ourselves and the world around us.
  • Intimate Community – Jesus had the 12 men that he spent significant time with.  But he also had 3 men that he was even closer and more intimate with.  It was his inner circle, the ones he did life with and passed on the leadership of the church to.  It’s vital for leaders to have soul-filling relationships with people where you can give and receive.  A safe place to share your heart, your struggles and your victories.  We need to be around people that know us well enough to tell us the truth, challenge us, question us and love us.

I hope these are habits that become a normal part of your life.  I encourage you to take small steps toward applying these habits into your daily, weekly and monthly routines.  If you do it will transform your leadership and your relationships.

 

The Heart of God

This past week I spent 6 days working with Hope Reigns doing disaster flood relief in West Virginia.  This is the third trip I have done with Hope Reigns.  They are a division of Eight Days of Hope a non-profit organization that helps communities rebuild after a disaster.

Every morning the volunteers gather and someone shares a message or devotional and we pray together before heading out to the projects.  In the evening after we eat together we have a time of worship and a message and more prayer.

On Monday July 4th I shared a devotional with the volunteers in the morning.  We had been talking about the heart of God and understanding how amazing his heart is.  Here is what I shared:

As I think about the heart of God I have to think about my own heart.  My heart is not perfect like God’s, I have stuff in there that is not good.  Things like anger, greed, envy, lust and pride just to name a few.

Of course Jesus changed everything when it comes to our spirit and our heart.  He made is possible once again to be at one with God.  To be reconciled to Him and a part of God’s family.  God’s heart is for us and His desire is for all to be reconciled to Him.

When we make the decision to have a relationship with Jesus.  When we believe Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, that he took the sins of the world on himself and died on a cross for those sins and then three days later rose from the dead overcoming sin and death, our spirit is changed.  We now have a part of God in us, the Holy Spirit resided in us.  That is when our hearts start to change.

We begin to see the world differently, we see people differently, we have a new perspective on life.  We are no longer slaves to sin because Jesus is now our Master.

Romans 8:26-28 says: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them”

So since we have the Holy Spirit with us and for us and in us, we have a great advantage in life.  Over time as we mature in our faith and relationship with Christ.  Our heart changes, those things that were in there begin to become less and less and we have more of the Spirit in us.  In Galatians Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit and below is a listing of those fruits and a definition, the opposite and the counterfeit.

Be filled by the Spirit:

Love

Definition – To serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you.

Opposite – Fear: self-protection and abusing people.

Counterfeit – Selfish affection. Rescuing someone but really rescuing self. Attracted not to a person, but to how this person’s love makes you feel about yourself.

– Joy

Definition – Delight in God and his salvation

Opposite – Hopelessness, despair.

Counterfeit – Happiness that come because of the gift, not the giver. Mood swings based on circumstances.

– Peace

Definition – Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own.

Opposite – Anxiety and worry

Counterfeit – Indifference, apathy, not caring about something. “I don’t care.”

– Patience

Definition – Ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing up. To suffer joyfully.

Opposite – Resentment toward God and others.

Counterfeit – Cynicism. Self-righteousness. “This is too small to be bothered about.”

– Kindness

Definition – Practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security.

Opposite – Envy.  Unable to rejoice others joy.

Counterfeit – Manipulative good deeds. “Right hand knowing what left hand is doing.” Self-congratulation and self-righteousness

– Goodness. (Integrity)

Definition – Honesty, transparency. Being the same in one situation as another.

Opposite – Phoniness; hypocrisy.

Counterfeit – Truth without love. “Getting it off the chest” for your sake.

– Faithfulness.

Definition – Loyalty. Courage. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.

Opposite – Opportunist. Fair-weather friend.

Counterfeit – Love without truth. Being loyal when you should be willing to confront or challenge.

– gentleness. (humility)

Definition – Self-forgetfulness.

Opposite – Superiority: self-absorbed

Counterfeit – Inferiority: self-absorbed, self-consciousness.

– Self-control

Definition – Ability to choose the important thing over the urgent.

Opposite – A driven, impulsive, uncontrolled person.

Counterfeit – Willpower through pride

So we have the heart of God in us and The Holy Spirit is active every day in our lives.  We have everything we need to live life to the fullest and to deal with anything that comes our way.

Twenty “I Cans” of Success

Twenty “I Cans” of Success

  1. Why should I say I can’t when the Bible says I can do all things though Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13)?
  2. Why should I lack when I know that God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19)?
  3. What should I fear when the Bible says God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love and sound mind (2 Tim 1:7)?
  4. What should I lack faith to fulfill my calling knowing that God has allotted to me a measure of faith (Rom. 12:3)?
  5. Why should I be weak when the Bible says that the Lord is the strength of my life and that I will display strength and take action because I know God (Psa.27:1; Dan. 11:32)?
  6. Why should I allow Satan supremacy over my life when He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)?
  7. Why should I accept defeat when the Bible says that God always leads me in triumph (2 Cor. 2:14)?
  8. Why should I lack wisdom when Christ became wisdom to me from God and God gives wisdom to me generously when I ask Him for it (1 Cor. 1:30; Jas. 1:5)?
  9. Why should I be depressed when I recall to mind God’s loving kindness, compassion and faithfulness and have hope (Lam.3:21-23)?
  10. Why should I worry and fret when I can cast all my anxiety on Christ who cares for me (1 Pet. 5:7)?
  11. Why should I ever be in bondage knowing that there is liberty when the Spirit of the Lord is with me (Gal. 5:1)?
  12. Why should I feel condemned when the Bible says I am not condemned because I am in Christ (rom. 8:1)?
  13. Why should I feel alone when Jesus said He is with me always and He will never leave me nor forsake me (Matt. 28:20; Heb.13:5)?
  14. Why should I feel accursed of that I am the victim of bad luck when the Bible says that Christ redeemed me from the curse of the law that I might receive His Spirit (Gal. 3:13, 14)?
  15. Why should I be discontented when I, like Paul, can learn to be content in all my circumstances (Phil 4:11)?
  16. Why should I feel worthless when Christ became sin on my behalf that I might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21)
  1. Why should I have a persecution complex knowing that nobody can be against me when God is for me (Rom 8:31)?
  2. Why should I be confused when God is the author of peace and He gives me knowledge through His indwelling Spirit (1 Cor. 14:33: 2:12)?
  3. Why should I feel like a failure when I am a conqueror in all things though Christ (Rom. 8:37)?
  4. Why should I let the pressure of life bother me when I can take courage knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and its tribulations (John 16:33

 

Our Identity

s196959903061626_p23_i1_w364

 

This past Sunday our Lead Pastor Dwight Mason shared a great message about our identity as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.  We are Also Known As Saints – You can watch the full message here – NewPointe Community Church

When you confess with your mouth that Jesus in Lord and you believe in him and put your trust in him you are changed, and become new person spiritually.  At that point God sees you as a Saint.  In part of that message Dwight shared some very helpful info on the fruit of the Spirit.  As we mature into our identity these things should become more evident in our lives.

Be filled by the Spirit:

Love

Definition – To serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you.

Opposite – Fear: self-protection and abusing people.

Counterfeit – Selfish affection. Rescuing someone but really rescuing self. Attracted not to a person, but to how this person’s love makes you feel about yourself.

Joy

Definition – Delight in God and his salvation

Opposite – Hopelessness, despair.

Counterfeit – Happiness that come because of the gift, not the giver. Mood swings based on circumstances.

– Peace

Definition – Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own.

Opposite – Anxiety and worry

Counterfeit – Indifference, apathy, not caring about something. “I don’t care.”

– Patience

Definition – Ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing up. To suffer joyfully.

Opposite – Resentment toward God and others.

Counterfeit – Cynicism. Self-righteousness. “This is too small to be bothered about.”

 

– Kindness

Definition – Practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security.

Opposite – Envy. Unable to rejoice other’s joy.

Counterfeit – Manipulative good deeds. “Right hand knowing what left hand is doing.” Self-congratulation and self-righteousness

Goodness. (Integrity)

Definition – Honesty, transparency. Being the same in one situation as another.

Opposite – Phoniness; hypocrisy.

Counterfeit – Truth without love. “Getting it off the chest” for your sake.

Faithfulness.

Definition – Loyalty. Courage. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.

Opposite – Opportunist. Fair-weather friend.

Counterfeit – Love without truth. Being loyal when you should be willing to confront or challenge.

gentleness. (humility)

Definition – Self-forgetfulness.

Opposite – Superiority: self-absorbed

Counterfeit – Inferiority: self-absorbed, self-consciousness.

– Self-control

Definition – Ability to choose the important thing over the urgent.

Opposite – A driven, impulsive, uncontrolled person.

Counterfeit – Willpower through pride