Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. I’m not going to lie – we get our decorations up pretty early and leave them up pretty late. The truth is, I just love this time of year. Some aren’t as into it, but I am.
I bring this up for a very specific reason…This time of the year is a great time to actually show God’s love in real, practical and tangible ways that don’t come off as weird. You can actually reach out to your family, friends and neighbours in real ways without it seeming odd.
1. You can invite neighbours over for a Christmas party
2. You can make cookies and drop them off
3. You can give small and meaningful gifts to co-workers
4. You can actually invite people to a Christmas Eve service
These are all simple and pretty straightforward things to do, and I mention them because I believe that Christmas is a time of action. The reason we gather together as Christians at Christmas is because God acted. The reason we give gifts to one another is because God acted. The reason we have hope in this season is because God acted.
Again, I bring this all up to remind you of something pretty simple… If God acted on His love for the world, so should we.
So, what might it look like to love those in your world? What might it look like to tangibly remind people that they matter? What might be a way you could surprise someone with an example of their value? The message of Christmas is thatGod surprised us with His actions, giving us something we weren’t expecting. What might that look like in your life?
I know we all live in different contexts and places, but one thing each of us can do is to show love in those different contexts and places.
So, invite people over for a party, drop by cookies, share a gift, write a note, do something. Remember, we are here today becauseGod did something, so let’s follow His leadthis Christmas.
On Sunday we opened up a bit of a difficult or uncomfortable topic: money. Most times churches talk about this, it’s because they want more of it. But on Sunday the point wasn’t that I wanted anything from anyone, I wanted something for everyone. And what I believe we all need, isn’t more money, but a better relationship to money.
The truth is that money will not fix your life, or make it better. And while at first glance that seems well…just not true. Who wouldn’t love more money? The truth is we know that it is true.
We all know people who make way less than us, but are much happier than us.
We all know people who make way, way, way more than us but whose lives aren’t full of happiness and joy.
We all know people who have maybe won the lottery, inheritance or whatever, only to see that money…vanish.
The truth is that while our culture tells us that money will fix our problems, the Bible teaches that our relationship to money is the problem. Getting a huge raise, or money doesn’t actually automatically generate more generosity, self-control, or self-discipline. And the truth is if we want financial freedom it doesn’t come from having more money, but a better and different relationship with money.
So we looked at this small passage in Acts where Paul’s preaching says this, “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” And this is so true! Expect for many of us it doesn’t feel…well true. For many of us it honestly feels better to receive a huge bonus, then it does to give and cut our neighbors lawn. But that’s actually not what Paul is talking about or Jesus for that matter. Paul is not talking about individual experiences or moments, but a lifestyle.
A better way to translate that passage for our context would be this: a generous life is wholer, better, and happier than a stingy life.
And that’s true.
When was the last time you met a truly generous jerk?
When was the last time you met a really happy, fully alive, stingy person?
It just doesn’t happen.
Jesus is right; a generous life is better than a stingy life. The trouble is that generosity is not random, it is strategic and a discipline. And disciplines are hard to create and generate.
So we ended the sermon with a few steps to starting to create the discipline to be generous so that we might find new freedom. The three steps were pretty simple and straightforward: make a budget, choose a % to give, and track your money.
Generosity doesn’t start with randomness but with a plan. So make a budget to examine your life and where you are spending and where you should be spending. Then choose a % to give. The main problem with generosity is that it is not habitual, so giving a % is key. Start anywhere but keep increasing it as you grow. And lastly, track your money. What you don’t manage soon becomes a disaster. So manage your money.
These are three simple steps, and there is so much we could get into but they will give the basis for a strong start this year. And to go deeper we are having a financial course here at the church, and if you’d like to be part of it just email the church office here for details.
So we ended with a challenge: put effort into our finances. Because no one has ever regretted putting effort into it and becoming a more generous person.
Big Idea: A generous life is happier, fuller, and better, than a stingy life
The key to financial freedom is not having more money.
Having more money will not fix your financial life.
Money will not solve all our problems.
The problem isn’t money or the lack of it; the problem is us
It’s better to give than to receive.
A life orientated around giving and generosity is the way to live.
Generous people don’t give when they have enough; generous people orient their lives so they will always have enough to give.
Having more money doesn’t give us more self-control.
A generous life is happier, and better than a stingy life.
Generosity is a discipline.
Make a budget, choose a % to give, and track your money.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you think about Andrew’s statement “The key to financial freedom is not having more money “? How does that relate to your life? Would you say your life is orientated around generosity? How can you maybe start to take some of those steps? Do you have a budget? Who can help you to create one? Can you start or increase your % of giving? How can we support you in this?
Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families
Today rather than talking about generosity, start to teach it. Start to encourage your kids to give money away. If you do an allowance, ask them to give a %. Start to teach generosity from the beginning.
Challenge for the Week: Put effort into your financial life to become generous.
People are uncomfortable with grace. It’s just true, and I get it because we raise people to react against grace. Because grace, simply put, is not fair.
As I seek to raise my three kids with Krista, one of the things I hear all the time is, “That’s not fair”. We somehow breed or develop in our kids (or at least my kids) this radar for unfairness. That leads to statements like this all the time:
Why did Asher get the bigger cookie?
Hudson’s played with the car too long.
Daddy!!! It’s just not fair!!
And in our household, in many ways, we try to be fair. We talk about being fair, and about sharing all the time. Saying, “Hudson, it’s not fair that you get all the Lego, share with your brother”. Or saying, “Asher, you can’t take all of the books and sit on them, you need to let Hudson have one too”.
But what I think is so interesting is that grace by its very definition doesn’t play according to the rules of fairness. Grace is unfair and it will always be unfair. We see grace and say, “That’s unfair” and it’s true. That’s why grace is so powerful because it gives to us things we don’t deserve, and things that, simply put, aren’t fair.
Francis Spurffod puts it this way:
Something kinder than fairness is, by definition, unfair; and once you take grace seriously it immediately threatens to produce scandalous unfairness in human terms.
It’s true. Grace produces scandalous unfairness in human terms. Which is why it’s so moving, transformative, and divine when truly given. Because in human terms there is nothing fair about grace, about second chances, about 77 chances, about forgiveness, about new starts, about welcoming people who don’t deserve it. There is nothing fair or human about it; grace is divine no doubt about it.
So today why not give a little bit of grace today. Why not be rebellious and rebel against fariness, and spread a little grace divine life today? Why not surprise someone with giving them something they don’t deserve, something that isn’t fair, something that is well…gracious.
Because the only reason that I get to follow Jesus is because God decided to be unfair and give me something I didn’t deserve. The least I can do is to try to follow his example and be a little unfair today, and give someone grace.
On Sunday we are talking about finding a fresh start in a very important area of our lives: finances.
And I know the church has a well-deserved bad rap for how we discuss finances. But the truth is it is an area many of us need a fresh start in. Many of us are stress-filled about our finances, we are worried-filled about our futures, or our happiness is so tied to our income that we can’t seem to find joy. The number one cause of divorce is also finances. So finances adds stress to our relationships. And these are many good reasons to talk about finances.
But the truth is there is one more really good reason to talk about finances. Because finances are actually spiritual. Meaning that finances are intertwined with faith.
So we are going to explore that intersection on Sunday, and how you can leave with a fresh start in your finances. And I know that most churches, when it comes to finances, either beg, berate, or bribe you into giving. And I don’t think any of that is Biblical. Instead, on Sunday I want to let God share with you why finances, giving, and generosity are so closely tied together and how when our priorities get straight he can bless you.
So that’s where we are going on Sunday, I know a topic not many of us like to discuss, but a topic that can be freeing. And that’s my prayer for Sunday that we’d be freed and find a fresh start with finances.
On Sunday we looked at this topic of greed – something that is prevalent everywhere. We looked at how Greed plays with our emotions and makes us feel poorer and worse than we always are. We end up comparing our lives with those a few notches above us, without realizing how blessed we are compared to the world. Greed so easily catches our emotions, plays with them, and then cajoles us into habits that aren’t healthy. And Greed can do this with anyone rich or poor. Greed feeds the idea that what will make us happy, secure, and important is money. But this simply isn’t true and has been shown again and again not to be true. The problem is that it feels true. It feels as if more money will make us more happy. It feels as if more money will make us more secure. It feels as if more money will make us more important. But it never does.
Paul says chasing after money in 1 Timothy 6 leads to being trapped, snared, destruction, and difficulty. And this is true, chasing after money always ends badly but we keep doing it.
So on Sunday we tried to break the power of Greed over us by recognizing two things. First, Greed robs us of life. Paul reminds us that Greed is fickle, unreliable, and controlling. But that God is a giver of abundance. He says in 1 Timothy 6: 17-18 that if we live with generosity, being rich in good deeds, trusting in God, we will experience true life. And I think this is true. The depth of life that God has for us is experienced when we care for others, when we do good deeds, and trust in him. As we serve, live, and work well – as we give generously meeting other’s needs – as we grow deeper with God – we experience the depth of life that God has for us.
So to break Greed we looked at three simple steps. The first is to focus our trust in God. Greed steals trust from God. Greed tells us that no one else can provide for us but it. But we need to give that trust back to God who is our provider, protector, and caring Father.
The second thing we need to do is to be generous. Generosity breaks greed every time. This is why it’s so important to get into the habit of giving. And Paul actually gives us some great advice in 1 Tim. 6:17 he says “be ready to share with others”. Some of us to really break Greed and be free from it need to get our debt, budgets, and balance sheets in order. We need to do the hard work of getting back on track so that we can be ready to share with others. So that when needs come, we aren’t wracked with guilt from Greed, but can overflow in generosity from trust in God.
And lastly, Paul reminds us to be rich in good deeds. We need to continue to serve others, and reach out. A lifestyle of outward focus makes giving easier, and being greedy harder.
So this is where we landed on Sunday but it’s something we need to look at again and again. Because Greed is hard to break. But as we trust, give, and serve I believe not only can we break Greed, but be free from Greed. And that is a good place to be.
Big Idea: Greed robs us of life.
We think that money will make us happy, secure, and important.
Greed doesn’t bring life
The more greed captures my heart, the less I like myself.
Relativation Deprivation: comparing ourselves to those around us unequally
Greed plays on our feelings
Greed robs us of life.
Greed breaks its promises to us every…single…time.
We need to transfer our trust from Greed to God
God help me to trust in you, and not my bank account
Generosity breaks greed.
“Be ready to share”
Be rich in good deeds.
What can you do to deepen your trust in God?
Who can I give to this week?
And how can I get ready to give?
What good deed can I do this week”
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? When has Greed had a grip on you before? How did it feel? What was it like? Would you agree that many people think money will bring them happiness, security, and importance? What do you think about that? How have you personally seen Greed rob someone of true life? How have you seen Greed break its promises to people? Which of the three steps: trusting, giving, or doing good is easiest for you? Which one is hardest? How come? Which one is God asking you to focus on? How can you “be ready to share”? What are some next steps to take? Who can you share your card from Sunday with for support?
Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about the sin of greed. Why not take a moment and go through some of their toys and show them online how many kids have nothing. Take a look online and show them the type of houses many kids live in. Talk to them about kids who don’t have any toys. Then maybe consider giving away some of their toys together to a worthy place or doing a little garage sale and giving the money to worthy cause.
Challenge for this Week: Give up on greed by: trusting, giving, and doing good.
So on Sunday I was preaching in St. Catharines on Emptying Yourself. The main idea was that Jesus emptied himself, and so we are also called to empty ourselves on those around us. The idea was to see people not as interruptions but opporutnties to empty ourselves, giving away grace, hope, and life.
And so after the service I went out for lunch with two of the pastors from the church. And as I’m leaving the downtown area a man looks at me sitting on a bench near my car and says, “Sir, do you have any change, I have a handicap and would love a coffee”?
I looked in my dash and there was a $2 (which I thought was God’s provision ~ because I never ever seem to have cash). I gave him the toonie and went to get back in my car. But my sermon kept echoing around in my mind, and I wondered – “Is this emptying myself?” So I talked with the man a bit more, and he asked if I was a Christian. I said I was, and I saw that my bank was directly behind where we were talking. So I quick walked in, grabbed some more cash, and gave it to the man.
This is normally in the story where God moves in and changes lives, where people accept Jesus, and where we feel like we did a wonderful thing. Expect that didn’t happen at all. Instead the interaction with the man turned sour. He got quite angry at me for not getting out more money. And so as I gave him the money he turned and stomped off leaving me feeling a bit confused, unsure, and unsettled. I wondered to myself, “God what did I do wrong?”
But I think that’s sometimes the wrong perspective isn’t it. We focus on the outcomes, rather than the obedience. We focus on the change we create, rather than leaving that up to God, and simply following in his footsteps. These were my thoughts as I walked back to my car.
I thought maybe there is something I can learn from this…
And as I’m thinking this through, a lady drives up next to me and rolls down her window and gets my attention. She says to me, “I just saw what you did, and you are far too nice. I never would have been able to do that.” She said “I hope that he uses the money for the right things, and not drugs.” I said to her, “I hope so too, but as a Christian my calling is to give, and not judge how the gift is used”. She said she’d never thought of that before and thanked me for what I did and drove off.
As I reflect on this whole little experience I believe I learned one key thing. Focus on following Jesus, and leaving the rest up to him. Maybe I was to give the money to help the man, to help this lady, or even for me to learn something. And maybe God is using this experience to change all three of us.
The point is I think we should focus on following more than anything else. Don’t worry about the outcomes, and whether the action or gift worked or failed. Focus on being faithful and following as best you can. That’s what I learned and what I want to keep learning and most of all keep practicing.
Want to know why I love our church? Because of this:
Quite a few weeks ago, I was trying to think of how I could show my care for a family in our church. They had an important doctors meeting, so I thought I’d go leave flowers with a note of my prayer while they were away at the meeting, to get when they got home. I thought it would be a good way to surprise and encourage.
And as I’m placing the flowers, I saw a car drive into the driveway and I thought my little surprise might be ruined. Except it wasn’t them. It was someone else from our church with the same idea. They had brought homemade muffins, and food (which made me wish I’d thought of that).We both smiled as we both placed our little gifts and left.
Here is the thing – I hear of stories like this all the time. Of people dropping by with groceries for people who are in difficulty, I see people bring flowers to bless a friend on Sunday, I hear stories of people showing up to fix things, to give away money, time, and love.
I love our church because they seek to creatively care. Because they take Galatians 5:6 seriously, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love”. What is important is our faith moving us to loving actions. What is improtant is us showing our care for others.
Our church is far from perfect, I am far from perfect. We mess up and miss things. But we continue to try to put that verse into practice. To have our faith express itself in love, and this is why I so love this place.
So this week why not try to express your faith in love? Why not try to come up with a creative way to show you care? Hebrews talks about us encouraging one another in outbursts of love and encouragement (Heb 10:24). So why not do that today – leave a note, drop off a meal, send a card, offer to babysit, bring by a coffee to a friend at work. Today let your faith express itself in love and let the stories of life and love spread.
This past week I was in Germany for International Board meetings for cbm Canada (www.cbmcanada.org). This is an organization that is absolutely fully committed to breaking the cycle of poverty and disability. They practice deep transparency, inclusion, and fantastic work. I heard stories of people being changed through medical interventions. I heard stories of people receiving sight, of being included where they were ostracized before, of lives and communities being changed through their work. And what I realized was something really beautiful: it’s not just their work, but also my work.
This is something that is powerful about the day and age we live in. My life no longer can just have a local impact, but a global impact. We can spread the Kingdom of God not only here, but also all over the world. The impact and influence of our lives are not confined to our neighborhood, or even nation. Our actions can change our communities here, and in Kuala Lumpur. The point is simple, if we follow Jesus our lives should change people locally and globally. Our lives should change others locally and globally through our service, our advocacy, and our giving.
And so this week as I heard stories, I realized I was a part of those stories.
So my question to you is simple: what stories are you involved in? What stories is your life contributing to? Is your life changing lives not only here but also all over the world? Because we have an amazing gift, and a responsibility to partner with God’s Kingdom change everywhere.
So my challenge to you is this: get involved locally and globally.
If you aren’t consistently and regularly ensuring that your resources, time, and finances are changing lives globally, then I think this is something worth changing. In fact, I know it’s worth changing, because you will be investing in changing lives. So adopt a sponsor child, challenge your friends to join with you, and choose to regularly give. Obviously I’m biased as to what organization you should be involved with, but I’d rather you give anywhere than nowhere. So spend some time, research, and get involved. Because the way you live, can and should change the way others live across the world. This is both our calling and our privilege, and it’s a beautiful thing to be apart of.
On Sunday we are exploring a difficult topic. We are talking about money. Here is the difficulty though with this topic. Whenever money is talked about people can get defensive and uncomfortable. This has often been because the church has talked about money so poorly, seeming like all we care about is a bigger offering. But money, wealth, and finances do need to be talked about in church because of how it can affect our lives. Whether or not we acknowledge it money has a huge influence on our lives. Here are just a few examples:
Marriages often split over finances and fights about finances
Financial stress can bleed out into all sorts of relationships that we have
Many of us are scared about our future in relation to money, wealth, and security
And so we should talk about how to find peace, life, and hope. The truth is that if Jesus talked about money so should we, and he talked about money a lot:
Jesus talked about money more than anything else, other than the Kingdom of God
Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined
25% of all the parables have connections with money
I think the point is that Jesus knew that money is a stress, it is a focus, and it can steal our peace. So he talks about it to give us freedom, life, and a new perspective.
So here is a sneak peek into the big idea for Sunday. It has two parts but I’ll share the first part now: God doesn’t want your money. This is true, and on Sunday we’ll be exploring Mathew 6 to find out why that’s true. Why God isn’t really interested in your money, why we won’t be having a second offering, and why money isn’t the issue, it has something to do with our hearts.
On Sunday we are looking at one of my favorite books. Leviticus. My guess is that it isn’t one of your favorite books. But on Sunday was are going to be learning something unique about God, and giving thanks. My guess is that you know how important giving thanks is. On Sunday we will discover how it can not only change your life but change your community.
But before we get there why don’t you take a moment, get a coffee or a good drink, slow down, and ask yourself what can I be thankful for? Take a moment and think of all that God has given you? At first it might not seem like a lot. Maybe it might be tough but it is important. We all know people who seem overcome with bitterness and anger, being stuck in an unhealthy space. The way though to prevent bitterness from taking root is to give thanks.
So today slow down and give thanks and then share why you are thankful with someone else. And as we’ll see on Sunday, that’s the start of changing communities…