Monday, December 20, 2010

Give and Take

This culture has a mindset of give and take. You give to me and then I'll give back to you.

But guess what? That's the culture, and, as New Testament Christians, we are called to be opposite of culture and what is popular with the world. Just look at Romans 12:2

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

So, if we're supposed to be opposite of the world, what does New Testament "giving and taking" look like? Well, if you look at scripture it's a whole lot more giving and very little taking, except for taking part in the immeasurable grace and lavish love of our amazing Father. Which, if you think about it, is enough to satisfy us for eternity. So give into His love and take part in His grace. For those of you keeping score at home, that's a win-win situation.

My wonderful brother-in-law, Whitt, has been sharing ways to "Give this Christmas Away" on his supremely awesome blog that you should read here. The inspiration for his daily posts encouraging giving come from Matthew West's book, appropriately titled, Give this Christmas Away, and the purpose of the devotionals is to recognize that God has given to us so we can give to others.

"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." -2 Corinthians 9:11 

We are called to put others before ourselves and become servants, following the example of the greatest servant the world will ever know, Jesus Christ.

And, as I've been striving to live radically different from the world, God has heightened my awareness to different ways we can give to others, and as mom and I were standing in the check out lane at Walmart this week one of His ideas came to me.

Lets think about this, the Christmas season has become so commercialized that the hustle and bustle of the season have added two new buddies: stress and press (through the crowds). And who has to deal with these pesky little joy snatchers more than the workers in retail stores? They have to put up with inconsiderate people pushing and shoving, sometimes clawing their way to get to the best sale or to get that last toy on the shelf. Speaking of shelves, customers mess up the displays and don't put unwanted items back where they belong, they don't take the time to wait for others but are too caught up in the moment and the hunt of finding that certain gift to check off their list that they temporarily (or not-so-temporarily) lose even the simplest concern for the workers who must fix the displays, round up the carts left scattered across wintery parking lots and run the cash registers for them while dealing with a less than pleasant 'tude.

Okay, so not every shopping experience is like this. In fact, sometimes Christmas and the "spirit" of the season brings out the best in people (which the Bible says is like filthy rags...) and they're sweet, thoughtful and patient with every person they encounter, but, lets be honest, those occasions are few and far between.

But what if we purchased gift cards from stores or restaurants and carried them around with us and gave them to store workers who seem to be having a particularly rough day? Or maybe give one to the employee who seems to have joy unexplainable and isn't letting their stressful circumstances affect their attitude? Pray for the Spirit to show you who is to recieve the gift, sometimes it won't make sense but just be obedient and leave the results up to God.

Why should we give to others?

Most importantly because the Bible says too.

"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? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." -1 John 3:17-18

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." -Luke 6:35

"Give and it will be given to you; a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put in your bosom for with the same measure that you use, it will be measure back to you." -Luke 6:38

"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." -2 Corinthians 9:11

We love because God has loved us. We give because He has given to us. When we didn't deserve it. When we thought we could live without it. When we didn't want Him. When we spit in His face. When we rebelled.

So why shouldn't we pour out what He has poured into us? We are called to love the world and extend a picture of the Gospel to them through our lives. And you might notice as you read through Scripture and follow God through the highs and lows of life, that He didn't just give to us one time. No, He gives to us over and over, His mercies are new every morning. So this whole "season of giving" should be a life of giving, I mean, Jesus gave His whole life. Literally.  

Will you join me in living and giving radically to the world Jesus died for as He has so generously given to us?

Let's take less and give more this Christmas and throughout the rest of our lives.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Radically Different

That’s what we’re called to be… right?

By the way, I was going to try and see how many times I could incorporate the word ‘radical’ into this blog, but decided against it. Anyway, I finished reading Radical by David Platt this week and let me tell you it was such a blessing to read, despite how convicting it was at times (meaning from the first page to the last page).

In the book, Platt calls Christians to live as the Bible commands, radically different from the world and in the last chapter he encourages everyone to take a one year challenge:

1. Pray for the entire world.
2. Read through the entire Word.
3. Spend time in another context/culture
4. Sacrifice money for a specific purpose
5. Commit to being part of a local community of believers

So far I have number five down. The others? Well, I’m working on them. Operation World is helping with the first challenge, they feature a different country each day and you pray for them. You can even sign up to be emailed the new country each day.

Number four was especially heavy on my heart… How was I, a college student with limited funds, going to sacrifice money for a specific purpose when almost every expenditure feels like a sacrifice? As I prayed about how God would have me sacrifice money for others, He showed me exactly what I was supposed to do (funny how He does that… answer our prayers. Shocking).

So, for the next year I won’t be buying any clothes (or accessories) for myself, but will use the money I would have spent on clothes for someone else. I figure I typically spend at least $300 on clothes a year, so that’s the amount I’m starting with. I keep thinking about clean water for the world, as in building wells in Africa or the Dominican Republic but I know $300 won’t do that.

I’m going to Passion 2011 in January and they have their awesome “Do Something Now” center filled with solid ministry opportunities to share the Gospel with people who haven’t heard about Jesus as well as missions to bring health and life to the people hurting from diseases without aid in their own country, so maybe there God will show me a clearer view of where He wants the money to go.

Over the past year God has awakened my heart to global missions and this is another step in sharing the Gospel that is Jesus with the world, which is the cry of my heart at the present time.

I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for the future, I simply want to be obedient to whatever He wills, whether that be sharing the Gospel in Africa, Murray or Paducah, I just want to be closer to Him.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."” –Isaiah 6:8


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